The 6 Smartest Reads of 2016 are not only amazing romances and stories, but they are impeccably written. When I read these books, I was blown away by the syntax and diction utilized by the author, causing me to feel everything these characters felt. Their stories and plot lines are intricate and complex, and there are so many layers to the story that is rich, vibrating with life. These stories also deal with heavy life issues, and maybe that is why they appeal to me as well. Literature is social commentary on life, how the author sees it play out, and each one of these books have fantastic themes that resonated with me as a reader. More than any of that though, these books moved me, made me feel, and really what more can you ask for in a book?
This book completely rocked my world. The trauma that occurs from the victimization of the two main characters is unparalleled, and Elizabeth Finn makes the reader experience the anguish with them. I’m not going to lie, those scenes were hard to read, but ultimately necessary to their story. It explains so much of their dynamic, how they interact, and the emotional impact of what occurred. More than that this story focuses on this idea of our actions affecting others, and how our choices ultimately do affect the lives of other people. This story is so much more than the violent act that occurred. It is at its heart a story of redemption, of healing, and of moving forward to grab the life you deserve!
“I deserved better than what I gave myself. I deserved to recover from the trauma that happened to us and go on to live my life. I’m the one who took that away from myself for ten years – from Helene too, because my actions impacted her just as much as they did me. None of us can do anything in this world only to ourselves without affecting another. We’re all just dominoes lined up waiting to fall.”
Kane and Helene were the best of friends until a nightmare devastated them… Hopes were destroyed, dreams shattered, a budding teenage love torn to pieces. Eleven years later their lives are nothing like they once were. Time has changed them … and not for the better.
Helene is smart, driven, and accomplished—her education and achievements a smoke screen hiding the frigid and fragile child wounded long ago.
Kane is equally obsessed with his coping mechanisms—fighting … drinking … screwing … compulsively destroying himself one vice at a time.
When their paths collide again, their past becomes an obstacle no coping mechanism in the world can protect them from. But confronting the past so they can heal in the present is no easy task. Can Kane reach Helene and recapture what used to burn so warmly between them, or will his own self destructive demons pull her into his hell?
A woman determined to look forward. A man always looking back. A love desperate to be restored.
WARNING: This book contains darker subject matter and violent content that may be difficult for some readers.
#MCM post on Kane
This book created such a gut-wrenching reaction from me that I literally was texting my friend every 2 minutes with my reaction to this book, especially as the story was reaching its resolution. Even though it tore my heart our and put it back together, this would still be a go-to read for me to pull me out of any book slump.
This story is one of heartbreak and pain and ultimately redemption. A. Meredith Walters creates this beautiful story of homeless kids. As a reader, you get to see their struggle to survive and the hardships they endure, but you also get to see the families that they create. The bond between Yoss and Imi comes alive and is almost palpable for the reader, and their lives together are full of tragedy. As the reader, the author’s words make your heart hope for them as kids and break for them as adults. Their journey is full of ups and downs, and it seems as though all the trials they endure will be for naught, and, although I won’t reveal the ending, the reader will be left satisfied with the resolution of their story.
“We had felt like a force of nature. Unstoppable. Destined. We thrived on the passion and confidence of youth that left no room for doubt. We loved each other. And in the ugly world we had inhabited, it was a light we had clung to.”
He found me in blood and tears.
I stayed with him through darkness and fire.
We loved each other in the moment between innocence and bitter truth.
We were the kids easily ignored, who grew into adults we hardly knew.
We weren’t meant to last forever. And we didn’t.
He ran away.
I tried to move on.
Yet I never stopped thinking about the boy who had fought to keep me alive in a world that would have swallowed me whole. He was the past that I buried, but never forgot.
Until the day I found him again, years after believing I had lost him forever.
And in cold, resentful eyes, I saw the heart of the man who had been everything when I had nothing at all. So I vowed to hold onto the second chance that was stolen from the children we had been.
Sometimes fate is ugly. Life can be twisted.
And who we are can be ruined by who we once were.
For two people who had survived so much, we would have to learn how to hold on before we were forced to let go.
**trigger warning- contains mature themes that are intense and imply abuse, though are not graphic**
#TBT Post on One Day Soon
A.M. Johnson is one of my favorite writers. Her talent is ridiculous, and every single time I read a book created by her, I am moved emotionally. Part of the reason I am so affected by her stories is that she can write emotionally flawed and complex characters who I love. They are flawed and real, and, although their stories are tragic, the characters achieve redemption and happiness at the end of her books. I also adore her integration of music into her writing. I feel like she must take a considerable amount of time selecting songs to integrate into her stories, and I find myself downloading a ton of her selections after the book is over just so I can listen to them and remember these amazing characters she creates. I almost look forward to the playlist as much as the story. And, as I said before, A.M. Johnson gets to me emotionally like most authors can’t. I connect to her stories and her characters. I cry for them, root for them, and cheer for them the whole way through the book.
“I love you for letting me be broken, and I love you even more for wanting what’s left of me”
Sleep, it was luxury I didn’t have.
I could hear it then, in the dark light of night, in the dusky morning…
The click of the trigger, the smell of her blood, the sound of the rain.
I never thought I would see her again.
She was a ghost.
She was dead.
When Maggie Wright pushed her way into my life, she brought the phantom with her, and I was helpless to her pull.
Everything I had, all of it, had been taken from me ten years ago. I had nothing but the shirt on my back, the memories that still burned through my veins, and the regret I drowned in every day.
I am Ryan Hartford…and I have nothing left to lose.
Full Review of Sacred Hart
This story is beautiful and raw. The characters, especially the heroine, Penelope, are real and their emotions are conveyed so effectively that you feel it in your heart and gut. I am mad for her, wrecked with her, and happy when she finds her way on her own. This story is hard to read, especially for married women, because it plays on many of our fears, losing our identity for that of our husbands and/or children. Watching her journey of self-discovery was beautiful, yet at times so emotionally draining and hurtful. The ending is simply perfection and exactly what needed to happen. This book has put E.M. Abel on my must-read-everything-she-writes list, and I definitely like to revisit Brandon and
“If things ever get to the point where either of us feels the need to fake it, we walk away. Life’s too short to waste it on pretending.”
Love was my weakness.
In the light of the truth, no one can hide.
Derek had ignited a spark inside of my heart, a hope for a love I never expected to find. However, our connection lacked the substance it needed to burn. Weakened with resentment, our relationship crumbled under deception, slowly dissolving into ash.
I had sacrificed myself for him and paid the price.
By the time Brandon entered into my life, the longing in my heart had turned cold. But fate was not done with me. His crystal blue eyes and fluid touch revived a wish that had been frozen in time. He gave me hope once again.
Hope is a dangerous thing, especially when you dare to dream.
*Warning: This book contains adult content and drug use.
#TBT Post for Liquid & Ash
Monica Murphy is another one of my favorite authors, but this story of all of her stories has stayed with me throughout this entire year. The trauma, the redemption, the reconciliation, really the whole entire journey from book one to book two is wrought with emotion. Her descriptions and development of the plot line is beautifully tragic, and the reader longs for the two of these people, who are both victims, to finally find peace and love. This duet is truly one of the most gorgeous pieces of writing I have encountered.
“I’m damaged. I probably always will be. But I can at least pick up the pieces the best that I can and carry on. It’s the only thing to do. Life is what you make it.”
Never Tear Us Apart
Crazy how eight years can disappear in an instant. One look at Katie Watts, and I’m a fifteen-year-old again–the one who risked everything to save a terrified girl from her twisted kidnapper. She’s grown-up now–beautiful, quiet, composed–and telling her story to the world. A story that involves me in more ways than you can imagine. She used to call me her guardian angel. Sure, I risked my life, but she was worth dying for.
I need to make contact with her. Just to ensure that she’s safe.
Somehow we reconnect. We become friends . . . but I want more. I want to make her mine. And she wants me too. Does she know who I am? Has she figured me out? Not yet. But she will. In the meantime, I need to make sure that whatever hold that animal had on her is gone.
So, yeah, I’m stealing these moments with her. Savoring them. Knowing, dreading, that she’ll soon find out who I really am. And everything will fall apart. All because of that twisted, perverted monster sitting on death row. Her kidnapper. A convicted serial killer.
Never Let You Go
The truth hurts, they say—and my pain cuts deep. While I was falling for Ethan, he was deceiving me the entire time. He held a huge secret, protected by his lies. When I discovered what he was hiding, the truth shook my world, threatening to ruin us forever. Ruin me. But I soon realized that what we share can’t be destroyed.
The connection between us is too strong. It always has been. I can’t deny him any longer. And I can’t deny my truth: I’m in love with Ethan.
I don’t want to let him go.
While we’re trying our best to make this relationship work, other forces are fighting against us. My family, who wants to keep me safe. The media obsessed with my tragic past. The public that feeds off of it. Even Ethan’s father—the man who nearly destroyed me all those years ago. He’s doing his best to finish the job.
Despite my love for Ethan, the doubts creep in, clouding my mind. Is he worth the pain? Will our love survive, or will we have no choice but to end it—end us—once and for all?
#WCW Post for Katie
A.L. Jackson’s writing is refreshing and beautiful. Her words make me feel as though I am living the story with the characters. Their pain and heartache and their joy is written so vividly that I felt as though I could reach into my Kindle and touch it, and, at times, as though I was experiencing their journey with them. Ultimately, the conclusion I drew after binge reading this whole series is that A.L. Jackson is truly a one-of-a-kind writer.
“Loving her might be the best mistake I ever made.”
A Stone in the Sea
Sunder lead singer Sebastian Stone is no stranger to trouble.
It follows him wherever he goes.
From his track record, he should have known Shea Bentley would be a problem. But the soft, innocent Southern girl was all he could see. All he wanted to see. Now they’re both drowning in a sea of desire, sinking hopelessly into a world of lust, and their passion refuses to let them up for air.
No matter how much he wants that to be enough…Shea has an inescapable past. One she would do anything to keep running from.
But some secrets never die.
If her history is dragged from the depths, it could tear his world apart. He has to decide if she’s worth fighting the tide or if they should just sink like a stone in the sea.
Drowning to Breathe
The danger in pretending is it becoming real…
Sebastian Stone, Sunder front man and guitarist with a rap sheet about ten miles long, escaped to Savannah, Georgia, to get away from the trouble he’d caused.
Not find more of it.
The moment he saw Shea Bentley, he saw beneath all her sweet and innocence to something that went deeper.
Their relationship was built on secrets; their love built on lies.
Sebastian never imagined how deep her secrets went.
When the past and present collide, Sebastian and Shea find themselves fighting for a future neither believed they deserved. Their passion is consuming and their need unending.
Now, holding the truth in his hands, Sebastian is faced with sacrificing everything he’s come to love to protect Shea and his family.
Two pasts intertwined.
Two lives bound.
Will their demons drown them or will Shea and Sebastian finally learn to breathe?
Where Lightning Strikes
Do you know what it feels like right before lightning strikes? How you can feel the current running through your veins? The trembles of warning that ripple through the air? It was a thrill Tamar King chased all her life until it became the very thing she had to escape.
For the last four years, Tamar King has hidden herself in an isolated world she created. She was safe. No one could touch her. Until Lyrik West walked through her door.
He’s the lead guitarist for Sunder and everything she can never have. The dark and beautiful rock star becomes everything she craves.
Lyrik’s life has been devoted to his band and that success has cost him. Bitter, hard, and filled with regret, he refuses to lose himself again, but from the moment he sees her, he wants one night with Tamar King.
The gorgeous bartender is more than he bargained for. Their attraction is consuming. Their desire overpowering. With one touch, they ignite.
But is it worth the cost of getting burned?
She’s a gorgeous nightmare and he’s a wicked dream…
She is his strength and he is her weakness. And this time he won’t let her go.
Edie Evans is gorgeous.
She’s also the definition of off-limits.
But that didn’t stop me from sneaking into her room to comfort her at night.
But guys like me? We destroy everything, so it should have been no surprise when I destroyed us, too.
The night I sent her running, I thought I’d never see her again.
Until I saw her standing like a vision in the crowd.
Austin Stone is dangerous.
He broke my heart and I refused to give him the chance to do it again.
It’s been years since I’ve seen him, and now I can’t do anything but stare at the gorgeous, tattooed man playing onstage. I should run. I know I should. But like a fool, I run straight back to him.
Our desire is overpowering.
Our need unrelenting.
She is my hope.
He is my weakness.
We should have known a passion this intense would burn us right into the ground.
Bleeding Stars Series
Full review of Wait