Wednesday 28 December 2016

Donna's Top 20 Reads ~ 2016

This is one of the most difficult things to do. Each year I read some truly amazing books and I read  A LOT of books. This year was just over 360. Out of those 360 books I gave 44 books that shiny 5 star rating. I don't hand them out willy nilly, the more I read, the more I review, the more I blog my 5 stars get fewer and fewer. I do find I am more picky and choosy but this is because my ratings are defined by some outstanding books. The authors are delivering and are pushing our expectations and laying new benchmarks to rate other books. This is a good thing though, authors are honing their craft and making their books stand out. A win win for us readers.

I will be posting my annual 5 star list, but I wanted to pick out a few books that really stood out for me, all for a variety of reasons...I was aiming for a few...errr I got carried away, so ended up at twenty.

My top 5 should all be at Number 1, the first five books were standouts for me.

1) Anything But Minor (Balls in Play #1) by Kate Stewart

Kate Stewart has had an outstanding year and is one author that I truly feel has flown under the radar for far too long. Her books are usually those emotional, gut wrenching, angsty reads that I crave, adore and love, this author kills emotion EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. So when Kate Stewart announced she was writing a romantic comedy I was like WTH!! This author has had me in tears so many times it is ridiculous, but this time she did still make those tears flow, but this time it was tears of laughter. Kate Stewart delivered Alice, I want to be Alice, I adored Alice. If you need a pick me up...PICK UP THIS BOOK and love Alice like I did.

2) From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

I do not read historical books. I have tried and tried but this is one genre that does not float my boat. When Amy Harmon announced she had written a historical novel, I internally cringed. I have loved everything this author has written and Amy Harmon has never let me down, but historical... I didn't want to break my 100% Amy Harmon record, but curiosity got the better of me and I dived in. I think that Amy Harmon won me over with this one because this wasn't your typical Downton Abbey type romance read, Amy Harmon gets you by taking a real life event and bringing it to life in flawless, breath taking, gut wrenching prose. I could not put this book down. Amy Harmon has had an amazing year... two books in my top five and in two different genres, there is no limit to this womans talent.

3) All the Ugly & Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Bryn Greenwood pushed everybody's boundaries with this book. She delivered a taboo subject with stunning prose, she made an awful situation, somehow beautiful. I fell in love with this woman's writing. I did not condone the contents of this book, but, I understood that this was set in the seventies, times were different, laws were different and love was "free"...along with the drugs. At the end of the day, this was Wavy's story. This is an excerpt from my review "Bryn Greenwood, I have nothing but praise for you. THIS book is going down as one of my favourite all time reads. The writing was superb, layers upon layers of soul searching, gut punching prose that was totally captivating from start to finish. Thought provoking, compelling, honest, conflicting and so emotional. Something that you know is wrong, so wrong…yet somehow black and white become grey. Life is full of grey areas…is this one of them? Only you can decide, it is your soul to search, your heart to breach, your emotions, your thoughts and opinions. I’m in limbo still, my heart tells me one thing, my head another. I’m currently Stretch Armstrong being pulled both ways…which way will you be pulled?" AMAZING BOOK!

4) The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

So, Amy Harmon decided to test me this year...this is the second genre I do not read...fantasy. The fact that Amy Harmon has two books in my top five is testament to just how talented this author is, to make that two in my top five in two genres I don't read...that is one hell of an accomplishment. The Bird and the Sword is simply stunning. Another unputdownable, beautiful, visceral read that will have your imagination running a mile a minute. This is another one of those books that deserves to be a film. So many scenes were depicted in vivid detail that I read this book like I would watch a film. I experienced this book, Simply amazing.

5) Memoirs Aren't Fairytales and Scars from a Memoir by Marni Mann

I have read every single book this author has written and once again, Marni Mann is one of those authors that flys under the radar to so many readers. Marni Mann is amazingly talented, she gets me every single time, whether it is a dark read or an emotional read. I had put off reading these two books because I knew that they would decimate me. These were the first two books that this author had written, these were DEBUT books. To deliver such soul crushing, heart wrenching, emotional reads on your first attempt is an incredible achievement. This book was written from the heart and you can tell with every single word. I had floods of tears reading these duet, I read both books back to back in just over a day. These books had my rapt attention. These books were unputdownable. Everybody should read these books, even kids, and for the younger readers there is a YA version. This duet is a lesson and anyone reading this book will walk away knowing that the lesson has been well and truly learned.

Memoir's Aren't Fairytales

Scars of a Memoir

These next reads are in no particular order and more than earned every single one of their five sparkly stars!!

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

This is how love/hate should be written. Fun, flirty and chemistry was off the charts. I loved EVERYTHING about this book and this was a DEBUT!! Super talented author.

Win Some, Lose Some by Shay Savage

This book has THE BEST FIRST KISS IN THE HISTORY OF FIRST KISSES. I adored this book from start to finish.

Swear on this Life by Renee Carlino

This was one the best second chance romances I have ever read. The concept and delivery was unique, this was a novel within a novel. This was poignant and emotional. Adored this book!

Wild Abandon by Jeannine Colette

Jeannine Colette was a new to me author and since I read this book I have read every single one of her books. "I adored everything about this book, from the visceral scene setting, to the intense emotion, to the ebb and flow of angst, to some fantastic characters including the secondary’s, to the amount of research into Napa and wine that must have gone into making this such a believable story and for me personally, a journey through the Napa Valley experiencing everything along the way."

Happinesss for Beginners by Katherine Center

This book! This book! I loved it with a passion, sometimes you start a book and you know you are going to love it, you fall in love with the characters, the authors voice and you just know that you are going to read something spectacular, well that is how I felt reading Happiness for Beginners.

Wicked Dix (Hard Love #2) by Monica James

This book contains one of the most emotional, heart breaking scenes I have read in a long time and this was purely character driven and is testament to the talent of Monica James. This duet was a fantastic read.

Isadora (Masters Among Monsters #2) by Ella Frank

This series is one of the best paranormal series I have read, but this has Ella Frank's stamp written all over it. Intensity, chemistry, fantastic plot and of course some M/M. M/M Vamps are awesome!!

Down to my Soul (Soul #2) by Kennedy Ryan

Intense, emotional, passionate, one of my favourite love stories. 

The Heart (Reluctant Romantics #2) by Kate Stewart

This book ticked every, single one of my boxes. The emotion was INTENSE the tears were plentiful and my heart ached. Two broken characters who thought their propensity to love was gone...until they found each other. Stunning story.

Elude (Eagle Elite #6) by Rachel Van Dyken

This book was Andi's book, Andi made this book, Andi is this book. Andi is one of the best heroines I have read about in a long time. This was an emotional read but Andi was as kick ass as they come,

Stroked Long (Stroked #2) by Meghan Quinn

"Meghan Quinn is an author that I stumbled across last year and this is the fifth book of hers I have now read and have once again fallen in love with a truly unforgettable story. With a Meghan Quinn book, you are guaranteed to laugh your arse off, that is a no brainer but with Stroked Long she delivered that and something more. Stroked Long was emotional, it plucked every single heart string, I wanted to crawl into this book and give our hero a hug. I wanted to cuddle him and coddle him and for an author to nail a male character like that, one that struggles every single day, one where his past constantly debilitated him was testament to this writer’s incredible talent. I dare anyone not to fall in love with Bodi Banks."

A Love Letter to Whiskey by Kandi Steiner

This book ticked all my boxes, my first read by Kandi Steiner and certainly won't be my last. Intense character connection and so emotional, This book was perfect for my emotional self.

Legend (Real #6) by Katy Evans

Remington "Riptide" Tate has been at the top of my BBF list for years now. Sometimes an author has that knack of embedding her characters into your heart and soul and Katy Evans is a master at that with me. We see a different side of Remy in this book and this was a perfect ending to one of my ALL TIME favourite series EVER!

For All the Evers by Debra Anastasia

Debra Anastasia brings her 'A' Game with this book. Simply stunning, breath taking, imaginative and one of the best books I have read by this author.

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