Best Of

Christine’s Top Reads of 2016

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Wow, what a year! 2016 was filled with amazing books and new to me authors.  I had a goal of 150 books to read this year and I finished with 170.  Out of all these books I had 15 that stood out and stuck with me after reading them. 5 books are brand new to me authors, one was her first novel.   So in the order I read the books here is my top reads of 2016!  ~ Christine

 

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Taking Mine (Breaking Habits #1)

Taking Mine by Rachel Schneider isn’t a cookie cutter traditional romance you find released each week. In her debut novel Rachel has created a layered romance with a twist that had me unable to put down my Kindle till the end.

Lilly hasn’t had it easy growing up, raised by her older brother Kip, her parents non existent. Lilly learned to make ends meet by any means possible, going without and using her feisty personality to get herself out of trouble. Growing up around her older brother in a shop has given her a certain set of skills. In walks Justin when Lilly least expects it. Justin is wild, sexy and just what she’s trying to avoid. Justin is persistent and weaves his way into Lilly’s daily life. Will Lilly let her guard down to let Justin in? Is Justin the one to be able to earn her trust in all things?

The beginning of this novel was a bit of a slow burn but it’s worth the wait. About half way through you’ll be hooked – I didn’t want to put it down. I found the crime/mystery twist refreshing and even emotional so emotional I was wiping tears trying to focus on my kindle. This book had everything – action, mystery, laughter & tears. You’ll be so attached to these characters by the final chapter you won’t want to see “The End”, I know I didn’t. Fantastic Debut – 5 Stars!

 

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L is for Luminous

L is for Luminous is freaking fantastic! Amity Cross has created such a page turner in L is for Luminous that I couldn’t put it down so much that I didn’t go to bed the day I started it till after 2:30AM because I needed to see how this finished.

Lux Dawson is a geeky sci-fi writer who needs a break. Lux has had a rough start in life and is barely scraping by. When she gets stuck in an elevator at a comic convention the last person on the earth she thought she would be stuck with is Jude Atwood sexy star of televisions hottest sci-fi show in America. Jude has it all – a hit tv show, a gorgeous Hollywood girlfriend and screaming fans who would want more? After the door are forced open Lux & Jude lives will change.

I loved this book so hard. It’s geek references where on point. I love television and love behind the scenes stuff so a glimpse into that world really held my interest. Amity had me hooked and believed these characters struggles and what they needed to over come. It’s not your traditional romance and I loved it for that because it felt real! 5 freaking fantastic stars to L is for Luminous by Amity Cross.

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Pucked Over (Pucked #3)

Helena Hunting has a Hat Trick with Pucked Over the 3rd novel in the Pucked series. The wit is back in Lily thoughts – a little tamer than Violets mouth but hilarious no less. We met Lily and Randy in Pucked Up (Miller & Sunny’s Story). I can honestly say I didn’t like Lily but it was her meddling ways in Miller & Sunny’s relationship that left a bad taste in my mouth. Lily’s redemption is Pucked Over!

Lily LeBlanc hasn’t had an easy start at life, working 2 jobs & supporting herself through University. Lily’s father is a ex-pro hockey player who didn’t want anything to do with her and her mother being a puck bunny in her younger years has instilled in her that all hockey players are unfaithful users. Lily loved figure skating and on the brink of her Olympic dreams – daddy dearest stops the payments. Just getting out of a 7 year relationship with her high school boyfriend the last thing Lily wants is to jump into another relationship but can she do casual sex? Randy Ballistic, NHL Player, loves what he does. Randy grew up only knowing hockey, his father an ex-NHLer as well, he saw the dark side of the business. Randy saw how his mom dealt with his father’s inability to keep it in his pants and swore to himself he would never do that to some one else so casual relationships are his standard. Funny thing is emotions don’t follow rules…

I loved this story so hard! It had everything for me, laughs, hot sex & a great story with emotional twists. It’s told in Dual POV which is perfect because reading Lily’s thoughts really made me love her and Randy showed more of a softer side which for the strong hockey player made him more endearing. Bringing back the previous characters we’ve fell in love with in the previous books was fantastic the Pucked world is one we all want to live in. You can never have enough of Violet’s fowl mouth (Pun completely intended!) and the sappiness that is Miller & Sunny’s cutesy relationship. Pucked Over I’m pretty sure will stand as one of my best reads of 2016 and we are still in January! 5 Stars but if I could it would be more…

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Wishbone

L. Sommers has hit it out of the park with Wishbone book one of the Game On trilogy. This sexy romance between Alli & Chris, a.k.a. Shane McCall, #1 pitcher for the San Diego Sun Devils left me speechless. Alli Bane is fresh from leaving her long time live in boyfriend she’s flying to San Deigo when her plane misses it’s connection in Dallas. Chris/Shane can’t stop looking at Alli he see something even through the heartache that is drawing him to her. Stories are shared, wishes are made and a closeness that either can explain is had over an evening. Fate intervenes a few weeks later after each of them think they’ve lost each other, but things have changed and walls have been put up and trust becomes a huge factor. Can a connection made in an airport evolve to more?

I love a good sports romance but this the emotional pull these characters had on me was something else. I could not put this book down – devouring it in two sitting! The story wasn’t wrapped up in a neat little ball but had layers that made you want to find out more and the sub characters are so well developed that I’m just itching to know more about them. The feels this book brought out in me – oh my… I can not wait for the next book in the series! 5 bat flips for L. Sommers Wishbone.

PS – How hot is Wishbones cover? Oh my Matthew Hosea… Wow

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Red Card

Carrie Aarons has done it again! SCORE! Red Card is funny, spicy & intriguing all rolled into one amazing package. Leah Watson life has been turned upside down when her high school sweetheart and top prospect for NHL draft dumps her after years of planning their future together. Now Leah must grab hold of the reins of her own future and an opportunity to study and intern with a top PA company is just what she needs to get her life back on track for herself. Killian Ramsey, British football’s star and bad boy, is a broken man but puts on a cocky face to the media. When Leah walks into his life he knows he has to have her at all costs, even if that means forcing her to work for him. When things become to real for Killian will he go back to his old hateful guarded ways? Will Leah break her promise to herself to not put someone’s future before her own or will she fall back to what she’s only known?

This book floored me! I read it in one day, I couldn’t put it down. The chemistry between this two characters is undeniable and the heat was off the charts! I loved the fish out of water aspect with Leah traveling to London and experiencing living in a different country. Killian back story was heart breaking and I understood why he took out his pain the way he did. Leah’s personal struggle to break the mold she’s put herself in before and not repeat her mistakes is realistic and completely relate-able. I truly wish I could give this book more than 5 Stars because it deserves it. Carrie Aarons doesn’t disappoint again! Truly a go to author in my books!

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The Slam

The Slam by Haleigh Lovell is a smart, sexy, grounded friends to lovers romance with a twist. Ender Hemsworth, tennis star of UC Berkeley, lives with his brother while going to school. When the brothers receive a letter informing them Adelaide Vikander is to be picked up from the airport and will be taking their spare-bedroom while going to Berkeley as a first year, past memories are brought up of summers spent in the outback in Australia. Adelaide was diagnosed with Asperger’s as a young teen and had a hard time socially with people growing up but can’t wait for a fresh start with people who don’t know her. Both Ender and Adelaide find ways to coach one another but in doing so sometimes, in the name of science, lines are crossed.

It’s hard to put this book into words how original it is. Adelaide’s Asperger’s causes her to bluntly ramble on facts and take things very literately, which makes for some fantastically interesting facts. It’s not often, while reading a romance, I learn interesting odd facts. I devoured this book in less than 12 hrs and it only took that long because I had to sleep! The dialogue is some of the wittiest I’ve read in ages. Both of these characters are so relatable you can help but fall in love with them. This book will have you on the edge at one moment, laughing the next and heart melting soon after. Oh and chemistry between our leads is white hot and pantie melting to say the least! The only part I didn’t enjoy was coming to the end of the book. I truly hope we will see these characters again – pretty please!

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Jersey Girl by Rhonda James is a best friend’s sister romance with heart, so much heart. Cassie Rivers heading into Sophomore year of College she transferred to GLU not only for a change but to be closer to her brother, Scotty Rivers star goalie for hockey team and drafted by the Red Wings, in his final year of school. A music student, Cassie’s just looking to fit in and make new friends and really find her way in life, needing to get away from a ex who won’t take no for an answer. When she wakes up wrapped around a hot as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks man who she can’t take her eyes off. Brantley Cage thinks he’s dreaming when a beautiful blonde is wrapped around him in his bed, only it’s not a dream and it’s soon to be a nightmare when he finds out she’s his roommates sister and he can’t touch her. Bro-Code states you will not touch a friend’s sister but Brantley can’t get Cassie out of his mind, those eyes, that body, he’s hooked. Brantley is juggling so much, school, hockey, work and friends can he just be friends with a girl when he’s known for being a player? Why does what’s forbidden always taste sweeter?

Sweet baby this book was everything I needed and more. I laughed, I cried (a few times) and I smiled a lot while reading Jersey Girl. These two characters took me on an emotional ride through realizing that love can strike when you least expect it. Love will blindside you and take your breath away, like a hard check into the boards. Oh, the “feels” this book gave me. I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. Cassie is adorable, emotional, looking to reconnect with her brother before he leaves for good for the NHL. I really felt for her just looking for just a piece of the closeness she once shared with her brother, hold on to the hope he’ll respect and acknowledge her talent at some point. Brantley is a swoon worthy hero on skates battling his own personal demons to overcome his fear of relationships all the while he can’t let go of his friendship with Cassie and wants more but respects her so much he doesn’t want to hurt her or his relationship with his best friend, Scotty.

This book was amazing, epic and I adore and worship the ground it walks on. Rhonda James has created a masterpiece with Jersey Girl and I can’t wait to see what comes next with these characters. No pressure but Davis’s story is going to kill me I just know it. If you’ve enjoyed Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus series or Sarina Bowen’s Ivy League series you’ll fall in love with Jersey Girl too! 5 off the charts Stars for Jersey Girl by Rhonda James.

 

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Toward the Sound of Chaos

What would you do if you were broken? Would you just live day to day and not take a chance on what could be the best thing to happen to you? Or would you take your life back despite the broken pieces and try to become whole again? Towards the Sound of Chaos is a beautifully broken second chance love story. When I say second chance it’s not that these characters know each other before hand it’s that they are taking a second chance at life.

Ellie Mason, single mother to an autistic son, Spence, has good days and bad days. Running from her past life Ellie settled in Fairhope, Alabama and made a life for herself and her son. All her energy is spent on Spence and caring for his needs but she can’t help herself and look at the tall,dark and handsome marine veteran even if he doesn’t give anyone the time of day. Jake Tucker came home from the war broken. Held captive by the enemy and tortured, Jake has PTSD and survivor’s guilt along with a physically damaged body to go along with these. Nuke, his dog, is the only company he has but when he comes to the rescue of Ellie and Spence something changes and maybe just maybe he can let someone in. Or will Jake let his demons overshadow the best thing to happen to him in years?

Hauntingly beautiful is what this story is. Each chapter drew you into the story more and wouldn’t let you go. Ellie is such a strong, beautiful character just trying to do the best for her son who requires so much attention all the while trying to fight the fact that she needs love and attention as well. Jake is so broken and damaged and all the time you are reading about his fight with his demons you know that this is what some veterans are faced with each and every day. This book emotionally gutted me at times, I really wanted to throw my kindle which shows that Carmen did her job. I became emotionally invested into these characters and that makes for an amazing ride. If I could give this novel more than 5 stars I would but I can tell you this – this book will be on my best of 2016 list and possibly on the top of it. 5 Massive Stars for Towards the Sound of Chaos by Carmen Jenner

 

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Lethal Temptations (Tempted #5)

Leather & Lace… Temptations… Addictions… Forbidden Love… Lethal Temptations is the 5th book in the Tempted series by Janine Infante Bosco. Set over the timeline of the past two novels in the series and going beyond, Lethal can be read as a standalone but it would be better enjoyed if read in series order.

Dominic “Blackie” Petra, vice president of Satan’s Knights MC, has demons following him we can only dream of in our worst nightmares. Haunted by the loss of his wife, addictions to numb the pain and tormented by the idea of bringing someone else into his hell hole of pain, Blackie has isolated himself even from his brotherhood. His light, an angel, someone who’s always been around and loved him even at his lowest but does he see her? Lacey Parrish, daughter of Satan’s Knights president, might be young in age (19) but has felt a lifetime of pain and torment. Fallen in love with a man much older than her, unattainable, and broken now all she can hope is he see’s her for who she really is. Darken by her own demons can Lacey hold them at bay to bring them both into the light?

I’ve been addicted to this series since the start and I’ve been waiting for this book for what feels like ages. Leather & Lace. Blackie & Lacey’s story is heartbreaking, soul searching and emotional ride that I knew would break me. Lethal Temptations not only broke me but also rebuilt me, piece by shattered piece. A knight and an Angel. A tragic love story with light at the end of the road. Janine is amazing at what she does and this felt like a master piece. Thank you for bring us these characters and this story. By far Lethal Temptations one of my favorite books of 2016. 5 Massive Stars…

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Lumbersexual

Lumbersexual is a sweet and spicy romance set in picturesque Yosemite National Park that will grab a hold of you from the 1st page and not let go till “The End”. Maggie Washington, recent college graduate, is packing up and spending a summer working in Yosemite National Park. Not sure what she wants to do with her degree this summer Maggie goal is to find herself what better place is there than Yosemite. Maggie hasn’t had luck with men, always being friend-zoned or a fling but when tattooed, bearded and flannel wearing Court walked into her life she can’t help but wanna roll around in front of a fire on a bearskin rug with the hunk. Court Thompson has a reputation with the ladies – love them and leave them – an expert at a summer fling but when he sees Maggie for the first time he falls hard. Court challenges Maggie to take on her fears and live outside the box but doing so has her questioning her live goals. Can a summer fling mean more? What happens when the leaves fall, nights get longer and colder?

Lumbersexual is a breath of fresh air. Sweet and spicy with just the right amount of heat and that’s not from the campfires if you know what I mean. Leslie has created a beautiful love story between two souls in a perfect setting that is fast paced but doesn’t feel rushed. I loved the picture Leslie painted of Yosemite and as a Canadian girl who loves our nature to me this was not just a setting but a third character in the story. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves romance novels as this novella has a little bit for everyone! 5 ooey gooey s’mores for Lumbersexual by Leslie McAdam

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Steadfast by Sarina Bowen is the 2nd novel in the True North series and tells the story of Jude whom we met in Bittersweet. So different than Bittersweet, Steadfast is heartbreaking story of second chance love with a hint of mystery and multi-layered. Overcoming addiction, rebuilding and dealing with loss is at the heart of Steadfast. Both our leads lives are changed because of addiction in a blink of an eye and the outcome is harrowing.

Jude Nickel’s life changed when he drove his classic porsche into a tree which killed another passenger. After serving his time for the crime readjusting to life beyond the prison walls as a recovering addict and the last place Jude wants to be is home in Colebury, Vermont. In a small town news spreads fast and when you’re the ex-con who killed the chief of police’s son you have a pretty big spotlight on your every move. Jude’s father owns a small auto repair shop so to earn some money and experience Jude, 6 months clean, tries to keep busy and away from old habits. Jude didn’t expect her to still be in Colebury, she should have been in New York or some other school off chasing her dreams but instead she’s here and even more beautiful. Sophie Haines life changed on a spring day losing her brother and having her boyfriend jailed for his death. Sophie dreamed of being a singer but after the family loss her mother shut down emotionally and physically her plans changed and dreams shattered. Blamed for her brothers death by her father and never let to forget it Sophie hopes for a day she can move out of her ‘cold’ family home. Drawn to each other like a moth to a flame Jude and Sophie can’t deny their attraction and chemistry even after years have past and events can’t be undone. With so much against them it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I can’t even express to you how much I adored this book! It’s emotional, heartbreaking and sensual all rolled into one. Jude is broken coming off the lowest point and fighting the twinge of addiction every single day why trying to piece back together his life. It’s hard not to fall for Jude and side with him and his struggles. Addiction in some form has touched every one so even though we don’t know Jude we all know someone with a similar story. Sophia has been broken down emotionally and physically from her family that she’s just a shell of the person she once was before the accident. A victim herself she never places blame and fights through it all hoping things will get better. This book will break you and rebuild you but I didn’t expect to feel this attached and invested to the characters from the start. The touch of suspense that Sarina added to the story as perfect and kept me glued to my kindle. 5 Black Forest Cakes for Steadfast by Sarina Bowen, if I could give it more I would – this is for sure on of my favorite reads of 2016

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Eminent Love

Eminent Love by Leddy Harper is a story of lost love told by the male POV. Loss, heartbreak and choices are at the heart of Eminent Love beautiful tale of true love. A truly refreshing change in storytelling for me. Flipping from present day to 6 years in the past to tell the story of Creed & Layne relationship.

Creed is so focused on school and his plan in life when asked to take out his roommates sister to the movies he want to say no and focus on his studies but his gut tell him to take a chance. Picking Layne up he’s stunned by her appearance and feels an instant attraction knowing he’s going to break all the rules he’s set for himself. Layne is shy and self conscious of her appearance but willing to take the time to get to know Creed and agreeing to a second date.

I won’t tell you anything else about the story as you must read it! This book gutted me. I was sobbing like a small child and needed to take breaks because I couldn’t see my kindle through the tears. This was my first novel I’ve read by Leddy Harper. She has a way to leading you to think one thing and it’s completely opposite, which I love when that happens! Her writing is beyond my expectations and having this story told from the male point of view I think made it that much more emotional and original. Hands down a top pick for best of 2016! 5 Stars for Eminent Love by Leddy Harper

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Stroked Long (Stroked #2)

Stroked Long is the second book in Meghan Quinn’s “Stroked” series. This sexy emotional read hooked me from the prologue and didn’t let go! Bodi Banks has experienced trauma that few have had to go through and excelled in a sport that even fewer can. As an Olympic class swimmer Bodi relies on routine but that has bled over into his personal life as a coping mechanism. Challenged with the task of opening a foundation he’s pair to work with Ruby Hearts, a feisty awkward art major who is under employed. Ruby can’t believe she’s going to be working alongside the incredibly hot Bodi Banks, whom she and half the planet have a crush on. Though it doesn’t take long for Ruby to notice that Bodi is very closed off but when she can get past that wall for a few seconds it’s completely worth it.

This book was the complete package! Romantic, funny, heartbreaking, emotional and frustrating and I adored it. Following Bodi & Ruby’s journey to love was a complete pleasure and so easy to read. I’m happy to report that the scenes with Bellini are fantastic! We see a different perspective and I thoroughly enjoyed it – Muhahahaha… I didn’t enjoy Stroked because of Bellini but honestly I now see why she was essential to the series – I know I said it! Stroked Long can be read as a standalone and you’d still enjoy it so whatever you do don’t miss out on this amazing story that will be in my top of 2016 list! 5 double stuffed oreo stars for Stroked Long by Meghan Quinn

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Beauty Mark

Beauty Mark by Stephie Walls is a roller coaster of a journey about love and loss spanning over 12 years. This multi-layered romance doesn’t follow the typical tropes and from the first chapter I was hooked. Callie Clark has always wanted to be a writer, though stuck in a dead end job in a cubicle she sets out on a plan to change her path. This is Callie’s story of finding love, overcoming heartbreak and learning to let others in. I’m keeping my summery super short because I don’t want to give away one single thing about this story so you can experience this beautiful story as it’s meant to be. The cast of characters throughout this story will grip you as much as our lead, if not more at times. You’ll run the entire range of emotions – possibly a couple of times – while reading Beauty Mark. This was my first full length novel by Stephie Walls and I can tell you right now it won’t be my last. 5 stunningly beautiful stars for Beauty Mark by Stephie Walls – One of my top reads of 2016!
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The Coach and the Secret (New Hampshire Bears #5)

The Coach and the Secret by Mary Smith is book I won’t soon forget. It’s heartbreaking, emotional and at times very hard to read. Mary warns the reader in the description/blurb this is a adult story and deals with domestic violence and even though I knew what I was getting myself into – nothing prepared me for this story. It was a gut wrenching and at times ripped my heart out but the way this story is told gives you hope for coach and his daughter and niece. I finished this story in less than a day. I couldn’t put it down. The Coach and the Secret was a difficult read but this novel is my top read of 2016 and believe everyone should read this important story. All proceeds are being donated to a victim of domestic violence. Beyond 5 Stars for The Coach and the Secret by Mary Smith

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