Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bambi's Top 10 of 2017

Hiya my lovely readers!
This was a big year for me personally, culminating with a huge move across the country. While this was great and I'm so excited for the new adventure - it put a dent in my reading time. This is actually the first year since I graduated law school that I have read less than 200 books! However, despite the quantity being lower, my reading list did not suffer from quality. I added a number of new reads to my favorites list this year, and they are listed below in no particular order. As in year's past - rather than numbering my favorites from 1 to 10, I prefer to say why they made such an impact.

Best New Fantasy Romance

My Review / Amazon
If you are a regular follower, you probably realize that I love the fantasy romance genre and I often lament that we don't have enough authors writing stories in this arena. So I tend to get excited when I find a new and captivating story in a fantastical realm. 

How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is the first book in Kerrelyn Sparks' The Embraced series, which features a gaggle of girls who were raised in a convent on an isolated island. I really enjoyed the world building for this first book and loved that we were provided with an entire history for the magical races and characters. Sparks delivered a rich plot full of danger and political machinations.

Most Fangtastic

My Review / Amazon
This past year Juliette Cross has provided us with the Vampire Blood series, based loosely on fairy tales. The Red Lily is the second installment of the series and gives us a new take on Little Red Riding Hood. This story made it into my top picks due to the delicious and fang-i-fied hero, Nikkolai, who was attractively arrogant in a fun and flirty way. As a representation of the Big Bad Wolf, Nikkolai had that dangerous bad boy edge, which was enhanced by his vampire abilities. Nikkolai also provided us with one of the most titillating quotes of the year:
The things I want to do to you, sweetheart. They are not good. But they would feel... delicious.

Most Swoonworthy Heroes

My Review / Amazon
Shockingly, Rhenna Morgan was a new-to-me author this year. Although I had met her in the past, it took me a while to get her books onto my TBR. Let me tell you, that I am kicking myself for not picking one up sooner!

When I think of heroes that I just might drool over this year, Rhenna's Men of Haven series is usually the first to spring to mind. The Men of Haven are a brotherhood of alpha men who have become family not by blood, but by loyalty, respect and friendship. These are alphas with unexpected depth and discernment, and I really need to bring one home with me (preferably Axel). If you are a fan of contemporary romance, and men with an edge, you can't go wrong with this series.

Best Conclusion to a Series

My Review / Amazon
So this category might be somewhat of a misnomer, because we aren't absolutely sure that it was the conclusion to the trilogy. Ilona and Gordon have explained that there were only three books planned, but they have left open the option to self-publish more books. I'm definitely hoping we get more... however, this was an explosive conclusion to the Nevada and Rogan's romantic story arc. I loved all of the intense action, but felt that it was balanced with intense attraction and chemistry between our leading couple. This series also has great secondary characters who are just screaming for their own story.

Best Continuation of a Series

My Review / Amazon
Breath of Fire was a very important book in the Kingmaker Chronicles. It added a good amount of world-building and back story that I was craving in the first book, A Promise of Fire. Our heroine, Catalia Fisa, also experienced a tremendous amount of personal growth and became a kickass and sympathetic heroine, representing hope for people across the land. This series has great action and some unique magical abilities that captivated me from beginning to end.

Most Unique Characters

My Review / Amazon

It's not surprising that the next installment of the Soulwood series made it into my top 10, as the series made the list last year as Best New Series of 2016. I am so enchanted by the heroine of this urban fantasy series, Nell Ingram, a widder-woman who escaped a cult and is making a life of her own in East Tennessee. Nell also has some unique supernatural abilities, similar possible to a naiad or some kind of tree nymph. Her character and some of the secondary characters are wholly unique in the urban fantasy genre, as least in my frame of reference. I could read these books over and over and never get tired of them.

Best Young Adult

My Review / Amazon
Laurie Forest took a lot of heat for this book earlier in the year. She became the victim of a misinformed and targeted social justice campaign before her book was even released. However, I am never one to follow the hive mentality, so I picked this book up to make my own decisions about its content. I was more than pleasantly surprised by this book, even more so as it was the author's debut novel. 

This is a provocative young adult novel set in a fantasy realm with numerous supernatural races who are all prejudiced against the other. The story follows our heroine, Elloren, as she goes through a period of enlightenment and personal growth. Along with new friends and allies, Elloren seeks to change society for the better. From racism to sexism to homophobia, this was a book that made you think, explore and analyze all points of view. The drama and angst helped draw the reader into the story and I felt like I was making a journey along with our heroine... right until I got stymied by the cliffhanger. I can't wait for the next installment to be published in, hopefully, 2018.

Best Brainy Book

My Review / Amazon
I love when A.D. Starrling has a new release as I know her books are going to feed my brain, and Origins was no exception. This is the prequel to the Seventeen series, an action-packed intelligent storyline that never fails to get my adrenaline pumping. 

I could not be more impressed with the detailed and rich history that A.D. Starrling has created for her supernatural races. You can tell that she has meticulously researched any history and technology that plays a part in her books. Origins was set during ancient Sumerian civilization and was full of historical detail, political intrigue, war and strife that drew me in and wouldn't let go. Starrling goes above and beyond with her character development so that it feels like I really know who each and every person is and what their motivations are. I not only enjoyed all the action and intrigue in Origins, but it had an epic love story as well that kept me turning pages late into the light.

Best Setting

My Review / Amazon
The Time in Between is the third installment of the Magdalene series, set on the coast of Maine. The setting of this story still pops up in my dreams months later. Our heroine is restoring a wonderful lighthouse in Magdalene, and the idyllic setting that Kristen provided had me wanting to build my own lighthouse in the desert of Arizona! I also loved that this couple was a bit older, one of my favorite aspects of many of Kristen Ashley's characters. This was a second chance romance so full of strife and angst that my emotions were tied up from the beginning. This one will make you ugly cry, so grab the tissues before you start reading.

Biggest Surprise of the Year

My Review / Amazon
The Hookup was a big surprise for us because Kristen announced it kind of late in the year, and no one seemed to know that she was working on a completely new series. When my favorite author embarks on something new, I get excited! And believe me, the Moonlight and Motor Oil series is something to get excited about. The story is vintage Kristen Ashley with engaging characters and an emotional hook that will have your heart in knots before the first chapter is over. I was totally in love with both the heroine and the hero, and loved that they were adults with minimal drama who understood the importance of communication. This book was sweet, sappy, a little sad, and definitely steamy - all the best things.

So that's it for 2017 readers. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and that you stay safe and warm this New Year. I'm looking forward to engaging with you over our favorite books in 2018.

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