Jayne’s Best of 2016
Here I go down to the end (again) reading 2016 releases like mad for my Best of List. Looking back at my reading list I had a pretty good year. I have lots of B grades and many B+ but this year I had enough A grades that I decided to use just those. It’s a mixed bag this year with romances, cartoon cats, novellas, historicals, contemporaries, historical fiction and a middle grade children’s book. They’re listed in order that I read them.
Fully Ignited by Shannon Stacey
I liked the second book of this series but it is this one, book three, that earns a best of spot due to lots of issues not only being trotted out but actually resolved in a realistic manner.
I enjoyed the whole “We are family” vibe thing of the tight firefighting community. Yay for the believable conflicts of the rank difference, exploration of a woman’s life on this job and delving into the heart of the fear these people and those who love them must deal and come to terms with. Double yay that neither Jamie nor Scott morph into different characters or yield their agency and that not everything is wrapped up in a neat bow.
No Place Like Home by Jennifer Kacey
I went into this novella with no expectations and it lit up my reading world.
OMG squee! Can I say how much I loved this novella? All right, let me get started. Cinderella theme? Got it. Heroine who can walk and talk at the same time? Yes and more on that later. Hot, sexy hero who goes for what he wants and has a secret weapon at his disposal – and I’m not talking about his service weapon or hand cuffs- ? Oh yeah. Plus great friends and fun times. This is a happy smile story.
The Dutch Girl by Donna Thorland
This has become a series I make sure I know when the next book is due out.
I had a good time reading this. Any romance book that can get me thinking of land rights, politics, and women’s education plus deliver on a lovely HEA – the yearly gift from Gerrit to his beloved wife is boss – and has a kitten in it gets an A-
Breaking Cat News by Georgia Dunn
I saw the cover for this and jumped all over requesting it. Then I started reading the webpage religiously. And buying mugs (seriously, check out the one with all the cats reading) and t-shirts. The strip even has its own cat kibble-opera, “Our IX Lives.”
There’s nothing that escapes their notice or their interest. If it happens, Lupin, Puck and Elvis will be there to cover it! A
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match by Juliana Gray
Trying another new-to-me author yielded big benefits with this novella as well.
Fabulous, understated humor, clear and clever depiction of characters, a tight plot – I was bubbling with glee reading it. It’s not only light and funny though but is also tinged with deep sympathy for Penelope’s desperate, quiet dignity in the face of those who due to money need not bother with her feelings or those who have had what she longed for and never got. Her position in life might financially and socially be far below Olympia’s but her wit and presence quickly, as he admits, leveled the power balance between them. Their back and forth conversations are delightful as is the Duke’s increasingly desperate attempts to control the situation – both his hoped for romance and catching the anarchist.
One Sexy Mistake by Sarah Ballance
Wow, I read a lot of novellas this year.
This one is cute and funny and (fairly) believable. A quick pick me up romance that left me smiling and wanting to read bits of it again so I could smile some more. It might be the last (?) book in a series, and usually I loathe jumping in at that point, but this one makes me want to go back and read the others without even having much of any sequel bait dangled in front of me.
Heartbeat Braves by Pamela Sanderson
I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
I loved the humor in the story, very deadpan and laid back but with a zing. This is a book that almost reads itself with great dialog that zips along almost effortlessly carrying me with it. The characters felt real to me and I got invested in them. Strong women? This story has them. The conflicts with the universal problems of elder care, tension between parents and children could happen to any group. But the story is deeply grounded in Indian characters instead of just wallpapering the book with them. References are made to the differences between tribal practices, languages and traditions. But it doesn’t come across as a social studies lesson. It doesn’t shy away from the problems faced by modern Indians either. Yet there’s plenty of romance, an upbeat ending and a hook I don’t mind that gets me excited to read the next book. It absolutely earns its A grade.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
This one isn’t a romance – though there is a wedding at the end – so much as a window onto a world 150 years gone.
The description of the journey across the Texas landscape is as important to the story as is the developing fatherly relationship between the courtly 71 year old gentleman and the young girl adrift and lost in a world she no longer knows. I think the time devoted to showing the variations of the Texas countryside is well spent but the pace is deliberately as gentle as the 10-20 mile per day journey. The people met along the way are fascinating yet not just “characters” nor do they feel like 21st century people dressed in corsets or frock coats.
The resolution of what will become of Johanna is much as I thought it would be given the hints and the way the story develops. Really Captain Kidd couldn’t have done anything less and kept his honor or self respect. But as much as he helps her adjust to her new life, she helps him feel needed and aware of the things in life which really count. The trip to these realizations was lovely to read and well worth the time I invested…
Darn it. I said no more dogs on covers would lure me. Obviously I lied to myself.
Charlie is a great character – not because she’s always good or thoughtful or pleasant. She’s often not. But her first person POV stays true as that of an 11 year old whose world has been pulled apart and who feels powerless to fix it despite the fact that it was already broken. All she can do is wish and try to control the anger and fear that is bottle up inside her. Her acting out feels true for someone testing and trying to see if she’s loved and will get a real home for good. Her realization of what she truly wants and her trust in those around her takes time and patience since her home life until now has been unsettled and chaotic. But in the end, she and Wishbone both find a place to call home and people who love them no matter what.
I really liked One Sexy Mistake too! I still need to read the Shannon Stacey one, but it’s on my list. Thanks for your post!
I am the opposite. I was a bigger fan of Shannon Stacey’s Controlled Burn (book #2), but enjoyed Fully Ignited as well.
I need to check out some of these novellas you have listed.
I bought 4 of these books over the course of the year on your recommendation alone Jayne!
“News of the world” sounds great. Many others do too, but must not be tempted further :-). Thanks Jayne.
Yay. I enjoy these year end lists! And this one reminds me that I want to read Heartbeat Braves – must move it up my wish list.
No mysteries this year. Bummer. I usually enjoy Shannon Stacey so will mosey on over to look at this series.
THANK YOU!!! :*