Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Favorite #Books of 2016 #amreading #amwriting

I can't believe it's time for my annual write-up of favorite books!  I read some really fantastic ones this year, which I'm excited to share.  I enjoy reading almost every genre, so there are a few represented here, but of course I have my preferences.  Some of my picks don't necessarily fall neatly into a single genre, either, and I guess it's no surprise that these are my absolute favorites, given that I also write in a mixture of genres (steamy romance combined with haunting mysteries).  So I'll start with those two novels, which both have elements of three different genres.

Mixed Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Suspense

Who could resist this cover?
The Lost Girls by Heather Young - Parallel stories unfold in this beautiful blend of historical fiction, literary fiction, and suspense.  A little girl's disappearance from the family's summer lake house in 1935 is never solved.  But in her final year of life, one of the girl's older sisters records the story in a journal, which she leaves, along with the house, to her grandniece, Justine.  As Justine fights her own demons by seeking refuge in the remote house on a Minnesota lake, we slowly learn the details of that fateful summer.  This haunting novel captured my attention immediately and kept me turning the pages.  A poignant and captivating debut.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase.  This book, like The Lost Girls, melds two stories: the lives, and tragedies, of the four Alton children as they spend a summer in the late 1960s at their Cornwall estate, nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall, and the implications of these past events on an engaged couple 30 years later.  Black Rabbit Hall is itself a compelling character, Gothic and atmospheric, a place where time seems suspended.  The prose is beautiful, the writer's voice unique, and the comparisons to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and several of Kate Morton's books are well-deserved.

Historical Romance

Highland Surrender by Tracy Brogan.  A strong-willed beauty must marry the future chief of a clan she despises--for good reason.  But there's much more to this novel than just an enemies-to-lovers trope.  This is a great combination of Scottish history, political intrigue, murder mystery, family secrets, and hot romance.  Plenty of solid conflict, sexual tension, and lush descriptions...if you enjoyed the Outlander series, give this a try! 


It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways - Well-written and eye-opening, this book is filled with valuable information presented in an easy to understand and often humorous way, despite the seriousness of the topic.  How our bodies and hormones react to the processed food that has become so prevalent in our society is explained in layman's terms, and a guide is offered to help "reset" your metabolism to experience positive changes in health, energy levels, and eating habits (and for many people, weight loss is an inevitable side-effect from cutting out so many harmful foods).  If you haven't heard of Whole30, it's basically an eating plan that focuses on only natural and healthy foods, to be initially followed for one month.  My experience about halfway through the month I did it can be found here.  


Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell.  I love every word Tawni O'Dell writes.  She's done it again, combining past secrets, a new mystery, family bonds, and compelling characters into a beautifully written page-turner set against the struggling, and often dying, mining towns of Pennsylvania.  In this book, the discovery of a teenage girl's body leads a small-town police chief on a daunting and intriguing quest for justice. 

Historical Fiction

The Wars of the Roses Series by Conn Iggulden: Stormbird, Trinity, Bloodline, and Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors.  Since we were getting ready for a trip to London, I wanted to immerse myself in a book involving some English history.  Having remembered another favorite (fantasy) series of mine, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (see my 2015 post), was inspired by the Wars of the Roses, a did a Google search and found this series.  I was hooked immediately--this author brings each battle to life in a way that makes you feel like you are there.  But aside from that, we are given enough information to understand the characters' goals and motivations, along with the incidents that lead up to the various conflicts.  The settings are described in amazing detail and the pacing is very well done.  These books truly enhanced my experience in London, especially our visit to The London Tower.

If you're interested in any of my past lists, see:

Favorite books of 2012

Favorite books of 2013

Favorite books of 2014

Favorite books of 2015

I'm thrilled that my 2016 release, Haunted Souls, recently ended up on a list too...this military romance + ghost mystery set on Cape Cod came in second among the Top 10 Books of 2016 at Read Freely! 

Hope I've offered some helpful recommendations for readers here--and I'm always looking for great new reads, so feel free to share your favorites in the Comments section below.  Happy reading and Happy 2017! 

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