Cheers, friends, and welcome to our next round of Best Books of 2017, this one coming from Lindsey! She has a great mix of books on her list, and, of course, don’t forget to enter to win two eTitles from the picks!
Strike up the Band (Wilde Love: Book Three) by Sam Burns – I actually love this entire series, obviously, but my favorite is book three—readers need to start with book one! – Jake and Brian’s relationship, I am not sure how to classify it other than it is more of a slow-simmer. There is definitely a romance, but there is a reason for the ZERO heat rating. If you have read the prior stories, it shouldn’t be a shock to know Jake identifies as homoromantic asexual, with no desire for sexual intercourse. I appreciate the fact the author stayed true and consistent with Jake, and didn’t all the sudden change him into someone he previously hadn’t been. He is blunt, to the point of being mean, he has little interaction with those around him, and is slow at warming up to anyone. Because Jake remains how Jake has always been, another thing that set this story apart was there was no insta-anything. I applaud the change, as I definitely don’t want to read the same regurgitated story over and over again. It was delightful to experience something new in the Wilde Love universe.
The relationship really evolves from being stuck with each other, to friendship, then grows from there. Staying true to the series, this book is more than just about the MCs. It’s about all the band members, and friendship. I love, love, love that about this series, and it played a big role in what hooked me.
Pieces of Me by Melanie Hansen – I’m going to throw this out there so there aren’t any surprises for those who don’t like them but… Holy cliffhanger, Batman! Yes, there is a cliffhanger and it left me chewing my nails, wailing, “Why isn’t the next book available?!?”
This is the start to what I hope will lead eventually to an epic HEA. Because after what I just read? I am cheering like a loon for Scott and Rylan. Even so, I readily admit this book will definitely not be for everyone. It’s tragic, heartbreaking and runs through a gamut of emotions I can barely even find appropriate superlatives to describe. There are happy moments, but for the most part both these young men are struggling, first as teenagers stuck in pretty abysmal situations, then as adults struggling to better themselves while carrying some pretty hefty baggage, which has molded them into a certain type of mentality and behaviors.
We Are Fallingwater by Xavier Mayne – What made this story stand out? For one, it made me think about so many different gender roles and stereotypes out there that get overlooked. It took on some topics that I know I generally don’t think about, and I had to take a long, hard look at my own misconceptions. Arlo is such an intriguing character, with an open heart and an equally open mind, and through his views on gender roles and fluidity, I had a lot of “Wow, I never considered that!” moments. Books that push me beyond my comfort zone and force me to take a good look at myself are ones that I really enjoy. It challenged me to see situations from a different perspective, and I respect a story that makes me check myself. I realized through this story that although I try to not put people in boxes, without realizing it I still do in certain areas.
Willow Man by John Inman – Look, I’ll be honest, this book is not for the faint of heart. It also just may give you weird, gloomy, dreams. The story revolves around present day Woody going home for the first time since horrible things happened, things that are alluded to, initially. But as Woody’s past collides with his present, and the longer he is at home, those snippets of memories turn into full flashbacks. For me, flashbacks aren’t always the easiest thing to incorporate into a story; it has to be done a specific way to bring the most out of what I am reading and match the flow and pacing of the story. Lucky for me, in this case it was done so excellently, giving just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat before being thrust back into the present.
Last Dance of the Sugar Plum by Claire Davis and Al Stewart – I am not even sure how to write this review. How can you write a review when you are still trying to put the pieces together in your own head? Seriously, this book had me guessing (often incorrectly) and biting my nails, from beginning to end, and left me completely dumbstruck more than once.
The entire plot is intense and captivating. I felt as confused and crazy as Jonathon did. This was an insane ride, an eff-with-your-mind-what-the-heck-is-even-happening story that kept me completely glued to the page. I have never read something like Last Dance of The Sugar Plum, and it was both refreshing and annoying. I was annoyed because I usually have some ideas of how it will all play out in a story, or the clues mesh into something I can piece together; sometimes I miss certain key elements, but I usually have called something correctly. But that wasn’t the case at all here. I didn’t know what was happening, and just when I thought I’d got a handle on it, BOOM!, it was all twisted up again, flinging me into a completely different direction—the more I knew, the less I knew. I was in a maze with Jonathon, Anton, and Harry, and I kept hitting a blocked path only to have to pull back and try again.
Poison Marked by TJ Nichols – Wow, I am somewhat in awe of how quickly this story grabbed on to me, and how complete it was despite its shorter length.
The whole story takes place in little more than a day, and a lot happens during that timeframe. It absolutely worked. Having the entire plot take place in little more than twenty-four hours rather than trying to fit in a more intricate plot over a longer period of time allowed for the balance of romance and suspense. The plot was sufficiently complex for the limited pages, and managed to pull off a few whoppers. No worries for those who adore this particular genre; there is still political machinations occurring, lovers in a seemingly unwinnable situation, an extremely unlikeable villain, and an HEA covering all the bases of what I had hoped for.
Red Dirt Heart 2 by NR Walker – What I love about NR Walker’s writing is that her characters are so relatable, and the problems they face are written in a realistic way—the reader gets to know them, flaws and all. Charlie and Travis are fairly opposite in personalities, which makes for a lot of self-created angst. Charlie is so stubborn and has a difficult time facing his insecurities, often due to pride, ultimately creating some pretty fantastic communication problems. His fears still rule him more often than not, and he takes a long time to work through what he should do, choosing to converse with himself rather than talk to his partner. He keeps his feelings inside and lets them stew, all the while pushing those around him away, and becoming a bear to deal with. Yet, Charlie has such a huge heart, with a sensitive side that very few get to experience, and how much he loves and adores Travis just pulls at my heartstrings. Travis, in comparison, is honest and very open with his feelings, trying to face what happens head on. When he pushes Charlie, sometimes Charlie pushes right back, especially when Travis is forcing Charlie in a direction he isn’t comfortable with. Even with communication problems the two have by being so inherently different, the love they share is tangible, and when they overcome one of their obstacles it just brings them even closer.
Surrender the Dark by Tibby Armstrong – General feel? Surrender the Dark was highly enjoyable as far as the world building. Bravo to the author for finding a new spin to what sometimes can become a bit of a predictable plot. I also really applaud the way the enemies-to-lovers storyline was portrayed. Oftentimes when I read books with that specific premise, I find it lacking in the true hatred and anger that makes them enemies, and instead, find protagonists who are merely annoyed with each other with a underlying attraction that has keep the “feud” going. In this case, the hatred is there in neon lights, and understandably so, thanks to the prologue. I was a little meh about the romance aspect. That’s not to say it wasn’t there, the focus was just elsewhere, and so, when the “romance” portion came into play, it felt a little flat and maybe even a little rushed. Honestly, I was so involved in everything else happening it wasn’t a super big deal for me, though readers who like a lot of steamy on page scenes might be more let down.
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