2016 was quite a reading rut for me. I think I set my Goodreads goal at something like 100 books, but by the summer it was definitely apparent that I was going to struggle to get even half that. Some of that was due to increased hours at the library, but some of that was just due mental exhaustion. Despite that, I did read some truly exceptional books last year - and no, I'm not at all surprised that they are almost all romance novels - and I wanted to share them.
The Devil You Know / Jo Goodman
Our hero, Israel McKenna, has been dragged through the countryside behind a horse and has no memory of the events that led him there. Our heroine, Willa Pancake, nurses him back to health but isn't sure she can ever fully trust him. I adored everything about this book - from the quiet blooming relationship to the subtle humour and witty barbs that are traded back and forth. Goodman has a way about writing westerns that makes me what to immerse myself in the world and never leave. 4/5
The Score / Elle Kennedy
Edge of Control / Megan Crane
Though it's the third in Crane's post-apocalyptic/dystopian-Viking series, I think Edge of Control is definitely her strongest outing. Crane manages to take three tropes - reunited lovers, enemies to friends, and going undercover - and twist them all into the package of an alpha hero and an alpha heroine. Riordan and Eiryn - battle-tested warriors of their clan - have gone undercover into enemy territory on a spy mission. Along the way they deal with their past, as well as some uber hot instances of sexual submission and dominance. 4/5
Underground Airlines / Ben Winters
I loved the concept of this story, right off the bat, and it hooked me pretty much instantly. It's present day, nearly everything is the same, except that the Civil War never happened and therefore slavery still exists. The exploration of race, freedom, and just the general world-building of how things would be different was so evocative and well done. I loved this story, even if it was hard to read in some places. 5/5
The Hating Game / Sally Thorne
Lucy and Joshua have worked at the same publishing house for a few years now, and they've hated each other ever since day one. But when they're both up for a promotion, the tension gets ramped up about 1000 percent. Just as they reach their boiling point, Lucy and Josh realize that they may not hate each other quite as much as they thought after all. This was an adorable read with some excellent and witty banter between the protagonists. I loved pretty much every interaction they had, and I adored watching them inch closer to realizing what everyone knew already: they loved each other. 5/5
Off the Rails / Jill Sorenson
This book was something I never thought was going to happen - largely because Sorenson has a bit of a habit to write wonderful secondary characters deserving of their own novels, and then (I think, due to contacts) never bring it to fruition. Ian Foster, a dedicated federal agent, is ordered to track down ex-lover and illegal immigrant, Maria. What follows is sweet romance between two damaged individuals who realize it's better together than alone. It's also a travel romance, and Sorenson delivers an extremely well researched look inside the plight of the illegal immigrant and what exactly they go through and risk before they even set foot in the United States. Though this book may require reading the first in the series (Caught in the Act), it's well worth the effort. 5/5
Tuck Everlasting / Natalie Babbitt
Considered a classic, this short but sweet children's novel tells of the complications that arise when Winnie meets a family that happens to be immortal. Basically, I loved this book. Babbitt writes about some heavy subject matter - death, life, and immortality - but manages to explain the points of view in such a way to let the reader ultimately decide - if you had the chance, would you live forever? 4/5
Here's what I read for the last quarter of the year - a little slow, numbers wise (and I didn't manage to reach my Goodreads goal for 2015 -- off by 7 books!) but still, the books I did read were absolutely wonderful ... most of the time. So here it is: the last of the 2015 recently reads.