Monday, December 5, 2016

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2016

This year I've had fun with my "Book Dragon" reviews. I wasn't feeling well most of the year, and then my mother unexpectedly died in September, but even so I managed to read and review 60 books this year (I read all or parts of a few other books I just couldn't review for various reasons). Most of the books I read came from the talented authors of Clean Indie Reads, and it was difficult to pick just 10 that I particularly liked and want to recommend, but here they are, beginning with #10:

#10: Out of Time by Loretta Livingstone
My review: "4.5 stars for this compelling time-travel story. Marion from 2006 is sent by a magical tree to the year 1191 to save an important historical figure's life. The peril this causes, both to Marion and Sir Giles, makes this book difficult to put down. Both major and minor characters of both times are well-drawn, and the ending is thought-provoking and resonates with this reader's heartstrings. The occasional head-hopping was a bit distracting, but the pace moved steadily, neither too slow nor too fast. Recommended for anyone who is intrigued by time travel and/or 12th century England."

#9: Audette of Brookraven by Shari L. Tapscott
My review: "I think this may be my favorite of the Eldentimber series! The plot was totally and delightfully unexpected with so much mystery and suspense. I guessed the wrong "bad guy" at first, and meeting the new magical beasts was, well, magical! It was also wonderful to see Grace again, as well as glimpses and mentions of other favorites in the series. I highly recommend this book and the entire series to anyone who loves medieval fantasy romance with dragons and other magical creatures!"

#8: Finding Faith by Melanie D. Snitker
My review: "I didn't mean to read this book before #3 in the series, but I "took a peek" and couldn't put it down, since it was about Serenity and Gideon, two of my favorites from #1. I cheered Serenity's courage in choosing to move to a new place in order to find a better education for her autistic son. I fell in love with the new male protagonist, Austin, who has his own past tragedies and hasn't let them break him. This reader burned through the pages hoping these two wonderful people would be able to overcome the obstacles to their happiness. I recommend this for fans of inspirational clean romance."

#7: When Sparks Fly by Ines B. Yao
My review: "After reading this intensely engaging story, I can definitely say the title is perfect! The cover is so beautiful and was my initial draw, but Regina, the MC stole my heart immediately. I alternately ached for and rejoiced with her during the ups and downs of best friends, romance, unpredictable bosses, and The Enemy! All the major and minor characters were so well drawn, they became real people to this reader, and the settings were so interesting and flavorful, I felt like I'd visited The Philippines. I love the inclusion of words from the local dialects, interesting foods (that you can smell and almost taste) and the glossary at the back. This is a must-read for fans of sweet romance with a bite (and no, there are no vampires, just an unexpected wild cat)."

#6: 8 Notes to a Nobody by Cynthia T. Toney
My review: "This is a stellar debut novel with a captivating voice by a talented writer. The main character, Wendy, is realistic and sympathetically portrayed, so much so that the book drew me in and transported me back in time to the end of eighth grade with all those up-and-down emotions, from joy to angst. The author holds nothing back in dealing with the serious problems affecting today's youth: anorexia, depression, divorce, alcoholism, and suicide, yet all are portrayed in a sensitive, caring manner, and the main character grows in wonderful and sometimes unexpected ways. Highly recommended for ages 13 and up!"

#5: Cry of the Sea by D. G. Driver
My review: "This fantasy was so well-written and grounded in the real world, the fantasy element was absolutely believable! The author uses all five senses to bring the reader into the world of these fabulous characters. June is so REAL I kept wondering if the author had based her on a living person! She's a realistic teen--mature in many ways but still self-conscious and endearingly awkward. This reader connected strongly with her and will be reading the next in the series! The most intriguing part of this story was how realistic the mermaids were portrayed. You won't find Ariel in this story! Recommended for anyone who loves YA fantasy and clean reads, though there are a few mild curse words."

#4: Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors by H. L. Burke
My review: "I had NO idea what to expect with this book, but *wham* the story gripped my throat at the beginning and didn't let go until the final page. I love the title character, her mentor, and the computer she befriends in the deliciously creepy mansion. Lots of twists and turns in the plot, and riveting suspense. Highly imaginative and fun to read. I wanted to buy some goggles like Nyssa's, and she had some cool tools! I look forward to the next in this new series!" (Note: I actually recommend every book in this fun series!)

#3: The Gladiator and the Guard by Annie Douglass Lima
My review: "I loved Ms. Lima's first book, The Collar and the Cavvarach, and looked forward to reading this one. I was not disappointed! The stakes are even higher, the emotions run the gamut, the nail-biting scenes made my heart beat faster, and I became even more invested in WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! If you like adventure stories with well-drawn characters and many layers of deeper insights into the human experience, you must read this book!"

#2: Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile
My review: "The cover alone made me want to read this book, but the idea of Darcy and Collins switching bodies was so intriguing, I devoured this book. It's so well-written and SO much fun to read this deliciously twisty plot. Hile has stayed true to Ms. Austen's P&P characters but managed to make some of them larger-than-life! I plan to read this one again and recommend it to anyone who loves Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, or well-researched historical fantasy!"

#1: Cora and the Nurse Dragon by H. L. Burke
My review: "This is one of the best novels I've ever read! The story was compelling and full of suspense, the characters were well-rounded and believable, the setting was unique-historical with fantasy elements, and the dragons, well, the dragons were fantastically rendered! The writing was superb, sucked me in from the first page and didn't let go until the sigh-worthy ending. I whole-heartedly recommend this to dragon lovers of any age, but young readers especially will enjoy the story and feel like they've made several new friends, both human and dragon."