It’s that time of the year again where I have to condense all of my reading into a list of ten. This has been a painful chore and I have agonised over the decisions made here, at the time of writing this I’ve read 203 books this year so narrowing this list to just 10 books is a painful endeavour. I could easily do ten books per genre I read!
There are books I’ve loved that I’ve had to leave off just because I only had ten spaces. Some of these have appeared in my most popular reviews over the last week which I think speaks for how they’ve appealed to a wider audience and that they have not just spoken to me individually. It would have been easy for me to only pick fantasy novels for this list because I find them so memorable, but I forced myself to look at the other genres I’ve read and picked my favourites from those as well. The Top 10 aren’t in a preference order, actually, I’ve put them in alphabetical order to keep things fair 😉
Allison’s Adventures in Underland by C.M. Stunich
This was a real last minute entry as I only read it roughly ten days ago, but it blew me away, it’s also one of two C.M. Stunich books which made it into this list. I have read more of her books this year than any other author so I guess it was inevitable that she would make a double appearance. Underland is a dark, warped, and very sexy shadow of the Wonderland we know from the childhood fairytale. This was basically my perfect retelling, I normally hate retellings, sometimes I think they are OK, but this one nailed it for me giving me all the dark and twisted ideas that run through my own head plus so many more. Stunich surprised me, wowed me, and teased me from cover to cover. I read it in one sitting because I couldn’t even contemplate putting it down and leaving these character and this world for even a minute.
Blackwing by Ed McDonald
This is an epic book, the main character in this book, Ryhalt is definitely more of an anti-hero. He’s not attractive, he’s an alcoholic, he swears too much, he fights too much and he leads a band of misfits. But my God, did I love this man. He may like to think of himself as going against the grain but he probably had the most attuned moral compass in the whole book. The worldbuilding in this book was vivid and sent you to some dark and lonely places. This was not a world you would want to end up in. You know how sometimes you can imagine living in a fantasy world, despite the wars and evil monsters? This was not one of them! I flew through this book, I loved it and I’m so pleased the story will be continuing with another book.
Godblind by Anna Stephens
Wow, what can I say about this book, it’s dark, it’s bloody, it’s pretty much fantasy at it’s gruesome finest. Told from aprx 10 points of view (sorry can’t remember the exact number) we get to know the characters in this book intimately, and not just the good guys. Anna Stephens gets us closer to the bad guys as well, my favourite character in the book was one of the evilest characters and I’m literally chomping at the bit to see how his character develops in the next book. Not only does the book cause pain and suffering to almost every character on every page, with one of the most brutal torture scenes I’ve ever read, but THAT ENDING! Christ, it was one of the most epic cliffhangers I’ve ever read, it would take something huge to beat that I sat flicking my kindle into oblivion looking for more pages that just weren’t there, before I dissolved into fits of WTF, followed by distraughtly messaging Anna Stephens to make sure there was going to be a second book! (N.B. I’ve since met Anna in person and had a good chat with her and she now knows I’m not a complete loon…I think!)
Groupie by C.M. Stunich
This was my introduction to C.M. Stunich and reverse harem under the guise of reverse harem (I had read them before I just had never heard the term before). So much in this book touched home for me, I’m a rock chick, I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with bands (I used to do freelance music journalism), and I’ve got a lot of baggage in my past that screws with my head. As I started reading Lilith just got under my skin and I fell in love with her, her vulnerability her tenacity and also her free spirit. Then the guys in the band, each one of them an individual but together beautiful and strong. Her and them together it was just meant to be and the way that Stunich wrote it was just stunning, this is a book I will re-read over and over again. I was so deeply connected to these characters, their trauma, their pain, their longing, their love. This book touched me deep at my core and it’s not one I will ever forget.
Raising Fire by James Bennett
Everybody needs to read this series, it’s as simple as that. If you like dragons, urban fantasy, and/or magic you just can’t afford to miss this series. Raising Fire is book two in the Ben Garston series, it was probably second in my list of most anticipated novels of the year, I was chomping at the bit to read it and bought it the day it was released. I was not disappointed, in fact it was far better than Chasing Embers because we got to see so much more of Ben’s vulnerabilities and that for me made his character grow and get under my skin even more (and if you’ve been following the saga you will know I’m completely in love with Ben Garston)! There is a lot of violence in this book, new characters, betrayal and some really interesting chinese mythology woven in.
Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Skullsworn is the first Brian Staveley novel I’ve read, I had no idea what to expect going in but to be gutted from the inside out was not it. Brian Staveley wove together a deeply harrowing fantasy novel which also drew on all those elements I love about romance novels and then left me a quivering wreck at the end. I don’t remember a fantasy novel ever leaving me feeling so emotionally broken before, the writing was exquisite, the world building had me living in the world with the characters and even now six months after reading it I think about that novel and the characters constantly. I will be fitting in some catch-up sessions for Brian Staveley’s back catalogue because I have definitely been depriving myself of this man’s work.
The Lost Sentinel by Suzanne Rogerson
I had high hopes for The Lost Sentinel, actually, I had set my hopes unreasonably and unfairly high. It wasn’t possible for poor Suzanne Rogerson to meet what I was expecting from her second self-published work. Except she did. I sat down to read The Lost Sentinel and she blew my freakin’ mind! What appears on the surface to be straightforward quest fantasy is anything but. Suzanne Rogerson has woven a complex world of magic, treachory, and war. Yes, there is a quest, but there is so much more to this fantasy I got pulled in and became completely absorbed, tears running down my face as beloved characters are killed off and the unexpected just keeps happening. Suzanne Rogerson is masterful when it comes to sculpting a fantasy novel and waiting for the second book in this series is painful!
The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
The Ninth Rain is the first part in a new series by Jen Williams and it didn’t disappoint. Giving us a new world, new characters, new creatures, and even aliens this book was everything I hoped for from Jen Williams and more. I finished and felt that lead weight of “oh hell now I have to wait a year for book two” because all I wanted was to pick up book two then and there. (I’ve just finished reading the ARC of book two and it was so worth waiting for 😉 review to follow in the new year.) I’ve said it before, I will say it again, my collection of Jen Williams books will continue to grow but her writing is addictive, you just want more of it. I would happily read her work 24/7, I love the pace, the flow, the style. It’s emotive and the worldbuilding blows my mind every single time. There is a reason this lady is my favourite Fantasy author, I just can’t get enough of her work!
The Vixen’s Lead by Tate James
Tate James came out of nowhere and knocked me on my ass. The Vixen’s Lead is a stunning paranormal/urban fantasy reverse harem and it has every single thing I would want from one of these novels. A kick-ass heroine in the form of Kit Davenport, student by day, master-thief known only as The Fox by night. Then there are her men, an unlikely group of ally’s who save her life and then step in to work with her. They include brothers and a geek (who I’m particularly fond of). The best thing is this is really slow burn so in this first book very little happens in terms of the romance side of things, the main story is being set up, there’s plenty of action and we get to know Kit. This is such a solid story and I was gutted when the book ended, I was just glad that I was a little late to the party so could download the second book straight away (which would have made it onto this list if I’d had space) and pre-order the third and fourth books…yes I may be a bit addicted!
Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney
It’s always hard to review a book by a friend, there’s that risk you won’t like it then you have to tell your friend you didn’t like their book (yeah I’ve been there), then you read one like Watching Glass Shatter and you finish it and think “how do I know somebody who can write something like this?” It’s awe-inspiring. Watching Glass Shatter is about a family facing grief, and their own secrets, five brothers and a mother trying to decide what to do with a devastating secret told to her in a letter in her husband’s will. As the secrets her sons hold unravel she has to decide what to do for the best of her sons and the family as a whole. I can’t remember a book affecting me like this one did. I sobbed for two hours solid as I finished the book, got through an entire box of tissues, and I felt as though each and every member of that family was connected to me. I loved them thoroughly, I felt their pain, their joy, and their grief.
So that’s it…what are your top books of the year?