Thursday, January 1, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

Happy New Year, everybody! Today, I thought I'd post about my favorite books of 2014. These books weren't necessarily published in 2014; I just happened to read them this year. 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I've been meaning to read Outlander for ages now and finally got around to it. Man, did I love it. Yes, it starts a wee bit slow, but the build-up is worth it, and once the timeline slips back into the past, I was delightfully sucked in. This is a book to savor, not only for the abundant historical details, but also for the sometimes poetic phrasing. But be warned: this isn't a book for the faint of heart. The villain in this book is a true sadist capable of incredible cruelty and sexual violence. 

Though Outlander is at times brutal, it has many, many beautiful moments to savor, and if you love those fearsome Highlanders, Jamie Fraser will be the best book boyfriend you've ever had. If you love the book as I much as I did, you also have to check out the Outlander series on Starz. Very faithful to the book! 

(Psst! The Kindle edition of Outlander is on sale for 1.99 right now!)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - As always, Tartt has a gift for descriptions that evoke the very essence of things in such an incredibly precise way. Again and again, I was struck by how efficiently she conjured up things so clearly in my mind that I could almost feel and smell them. I had some quibbles with this book, but it's earned many of the accolades that have been heaped upon it. I can't wait to read what Tartt conjures up next. 

(Psst: The Kindle edition of The Goldfinch is on sale now for 6.99!)

Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant - I loved Showtime's "The Borgias" even though I know it's not all that accurate. How could you *not* love the juicy story of a family unafraid to bribe, murder, or conquer anyone who stood in their way? Showtime billed them as "the original crime family" with plenty of reason. So when I learned that Sarah Dunant had tackled this infamous family, I had to pick up the book and dive in. 

In Blood & Beauty, Dunant sets out to give us a far more accurate accounting of the Borgias' bloody misdeeds, and the result is no less engrossing. No matter how despicable the Borgias are (especially Rodrigo and Cesare), you almost want to root for their tremendous ambition and utter disregard for the rules. Though the start of the book is a wee bit slow, hang in there -- it's worth it. Dunant plans to write a second book about the family, and I'll be picking it up when it comes out. Highly recommended for those who love historical fiction.

Fifth Grave Past the Light, Sixth Grave on the Edge, Seventh Grave and No Body by Darynda Jones - I read all three of these books in the Charley Davidson series this year, and they just keep getting better and better. If you love humorous, sexy paranormal romance, I highly recommend this series! 

Reaver and Chained by Night by Larissa Ione - Larissa Ione is one of my favorite authors. I've loved her Demonica/Lords of Deliverance series for years, and the Moonbound Clan Vampire books are quickly becoming a second favorite. As always, the sexual chemistry in these books is off the charts, the conflicts are extremely tough to surmount, and the world building and detail are phenomenal. If you love sexy, gritty paranormal romance, you will love this series!

The President's Vampire and Red, White & Blood by Christopher Farnsworth - I really enjoyed Blood Oath, the first book in the Nathaniel Cade series. If you haven't been following along, Cade is a 150-year-old vampire who works for the President of the United States as a defense against all the things that go bump in the night and just might destroy the country. Both books are scary good fun, fast-paced, and addictive. Can't wait for the next book... and why the heck hasn't Hollywood made these into movies yet? I'd *love* to see these on the big screen! 

Recommended if you like fast-paced supernatural suspense. 

Indelible by Karin Slaughter - Gripping from start to finish--very well done! I really enjoyed learning more about Sara and Jeffrey's past. Slaughter has a real gift for portraying relationships in all their strangeness and complexity. She does a great job here of showing how mistakes made in the past (at different times) have unexpected consequences years down the line. (I really don't want to say too much about this book, because I don't want to ruin the plot.) Her deft plotting and character development elevate this book above many in the genre. Highly recommended for anyone who likes thrillers or mysteries. As usual, Slaughter doesn't spare you the gore, so be forewarned.

(Psst: The Kindle edition of Indelible is on sale now for only 1.99!)

The Russian Temptation by Nikki Navarre - This book had me purring with pleasure. There's so much delicious stuff wrapped up in these pages! I greatly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Russian Seduction, so I was really looking forward to The Russian Temptation, and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was blown away. This book grabbed me right from the start, and I was immediately wondering how the heck these two would ever get to an HEA. It seemed downright impossible, even though the sexual tension was through the roof. A US ambassador and a Russian hitman? Not happening!!! But it did, and I loved every minute of it. I'm saying absolutely nothing about the plot, other than that the twists and turns keep on coming, and there's never a dull moment. I hope there are more books coming in this series (please, please, please write a book about Maxim!). I'm officially a Nikki Navarre fangirl.

(Psst! The Russian Temptation is on sale now for 1.99!)

The Vampire Queen's Servant by Joey W. Hill - I picked this book up because I loved Joey W. Hill's Natural Law. Yes, she writes erotic romance, but she puts a lot of story and character into it, and her writing is loaded with emotion and oftentimes beautiful. "Lush" is the main word I'd use to describe this book. It's meant to be read slowly and savored rather than gobbled up in a frenzy. I occasionally got a wee bit impatient with the pacing in the beginning, but once I accepted it, the book unfolded beautifully, with a rich, complex story to tell. 

While much of the story involves the developing relationship between Lyssa and Jacob, there are a number of intriguing hints about the larger vampire world surrounding them, and Hill invests Lyssa with some unexpected powers and characteristics. And on top of that, Lyssa has a terrible secret that could kill them both (and that explains some of Lyssa's more objectionable behavior). I'll be reading the next book in the series to find out what happens next to Lyssa and Jacob!

Memoirs of a Gigolo, Volume Eight by Livia Ellis - I'm a huge fan of Livia Ellis's erotic series about Oliver Adair, an impoverished young earl who turns to prostitution to save his family estate. Ellis is one hell of a writer -- the storytelling is complex, the character development is deep, and the story is unpredictable. Yes, there's sex (and plenty of it throughout the series), but it's almost beside the point. I'm invested in Oliver, and I want to see him grow up and get his happy ever after. Highly recommended for fans of sharp, well-written erotica. 

Ford: Slack/Taut by J.A. Huss - Not your typical new adult romance. Ford is cut from very different cloth than most romance heroes, and at first you may not like him at all, especially at the start of Taut. I came to like him very much by the end of Slack, but he's never a completely cuddly person, and that's okay. He's a very human one, and he's struggling with a couple conditions that don't make life easy. Some good twists and turns throughout these two stories. I hadn't read any of the earlier books in the series (these two stories make a standalone bundle), so I'm going to have to go back and pick them up to see what I missed. Recommended for anyone who likes unusual heroes and storylines.

Made: A Sempre Novel by J.M. Darhower - I loved Darhower's Sempre and Sempre: Redemption. One of the most intriguing characters in the books is hit man Corrado, and I pounced on this book the minute I knew it existed. The story is a bit slow in places in the beginning, but it picks up once he joins "the family business." The ending felt a bit rushed, but I really enjoyed getting to learn more about Corrado and the DeMarco and Moretti families. I highly recommend reading Sempre and Sempre: Redemption before Made. Even though much of Made takes place before the events of Sempre and Sempre: Redemption, Made will spoil some of the big reveals and twists in those books. Recommended if you enjoy Mafia stories!

(Psst: Made: A Sempre Novel is on sale now for only .99 cents!)

Other notable books

The Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day - I haven't read the fourth book yet, but the first three (Bared to You, Reflected in You, Entwined with You) are best kind of soap opera--sexy, tempestuous, twisty, and not above a catfight or two. This is primo book crack!

The King and Immortal by J.R. Ward - J.R. Ward wraps up her Fallen Angels series... but then ties it into the Black Dagger Brotherhood series! Both books are must-reads for lovers of hot, sexy vampires and sinfully sexy fallen angels. 

Beach Blanket Bloodbath by Mark Henry - Another snarky entry in the blackly comic misadventures of Amanda Feral, everyone's favorite zombie/fashion plate/supernatural celebrity author. Some editing errors tripped me up at times, but the number of times I laughed out loud more than made up for it. Where the heck is the next one???? I've been looking for A Night to Dismember, but it seems it's not out yet. I need my next Amanda fix!

Balustrade by Mark Henry - A creepy, twisted, erotic horror story. Imagine "Rosemary's Baby" crossed with a really twisted episode of "The Twilight Zone," and you have some idea of what you're getting into. Yes, it's extremely explicit, so expect that too. While this story does have a sense of completion, a number of big questions are left unanswered, which is only fitting, since this is a trilogy. I'll be picking up the next one to find out what's *really* going on. Recommended only if you aren't easily offended and enjoy being thoroughly creeped out!

Read anything in 2014 that you can't recommend enough? I'd love to hear about it! 

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