Cindi’s Books of the Year: 2016
2016 has been a strange year for me. It’s been rather difficult for a variety of reasons, one of which was losing my sister a few months ago. My reading and reviewing had to take a backseat to everything going on in my real world. For that reason I didn’t read anywhere near the amount of books I’ve read in years past. While my list of favorite books this year isn’t nearly as long as it normally is, that in no way takes away from the fantastic books that are on the list.
I met a young man who’d been bullied to the point of wanting to end it all. With the help of a caring teacher he managed to come out on the other side. I revisited beloved characters as one of my all-time favorite series came to an end. I watched the bonds of friendship grow stronger as college friends battled demons that tried desperately to separate them. I cried real tears and felt the heartbreak as life as they knew it changed in ways they never could’ve anticipated. I felt the fear when a young woman faced … something … in her new home that was trying its damnedest to destroy her. I read an anthology of horror shorts that included the first story I’d ever read by a favorite author. I even went on a cruise with two best friends who pretended to be married after one was left at the altar by his fiancee.
I didn’t read a lot of books this year but those I did read have stayed with me. Not all received 5 stars but they still deserve to be on this list for reasons I mention in the individual summaries. As with my previous books-of-the-year, only my #1 is numbered. The others are listed in random order.
Thank you to every author who writes the stories we love. Thank you to our followers for your loyalty. Thank you to my amazing blog partner who has been forced to carry the entire load almost all of this year. There are no words for how much I appreciate you and all you’ve done. Thank you most of all for your friendship.
Congratulations to all the authors!
My #1 Book of 2016
Big Love by Rick R. Reed
Bullying, Coming Out, Contemporary, Family, First Time, Romance
Published by Dreamspinner Press on April 4, 2016
Where do I begin with this story? I read Big Love months ago and I’m still touched by it. Maybe it’s the mom in me that had me in tears more than once as I watched a young man, Truman Reid, suffer horrific bullying at the hands of some of his high school classmates. Even typing this all these months later has me misty-eyed over what the poor child went through. I know Truman is a fictional character but these things happen to people every day in the real world and it absolutely breaks my heart.
Then we have the grownups in the story, Dane and Seth, two teachers at Truman’s high school. They do everything in their power to make the young man’s life better. This, as they discover the love they feel for each other along the way.
Dane was married to a woman for years and has two teenage kids of his own. He loved his wife dearly but only after her tragic death is he able to finally be true to himself. With help from Seth, he’s able to. This in no way takes away from what he felt for his wife and I applaud the author for the sensitivity shown as Dane and his family came to terms with losing her.
There’s so much more to the story than what I summarized here. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best, most touching books, I’ve ever read. My love of this author is well known so it should be no surprise that one of his books is my favorite book of 2016.
The Rest of My Favorite Books of 2016
The Rest is Illusion by Eric Arvin
Contemporary with Some Fantasy, College, Coming of Age, Friendship
Published (Second Edition) by Wilde City Press on July 8, 2016
The Rest is Illusion took me back to the Valley. The Valley is a place that feels like home to the reader. I’d been there before in Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men and again in Azrael and the Light Bringer. While in the Valley in those two books I was on the outside looking in when it came to a university just on the edge. Verona College was mentioned, and even shown a time or two, but I wasn’t allowed inside. In The Rest is Illusion I was. What I found there was true friendship between four very unique characters.
This book was Eric Arvin’s first published novel but I hadn’t read it before this year when the second edition was released. On one hand, I wish I would’ve read it a long time ago. On the other, I’m kinda glad I waited because I’d read Mingled Destinies and Azrael and was already familiar with the world. The Rest is Illusion is more contemporary than the others but there are still a few paranormal aspects. I felt like I was coming home in a sense. If you’ve read any of the books in this series you know exactly what I mean.
This book made me laugh. It made me cry more than once. It even made me angry a couple of times. I felt so many emotions as I read this story and I ended it thankful once again that I had the pleasure of reading such a phenomenal story by one of the best storytellers out there.
Left of Centre by Zathyn Priest
Contemporary, Disability, Humor, Mental Illness, Romance, Short Story
Published (Second Edition) May 18, 2016
I read the first version of this story back in 2011. I was brand new to the genre and had just discovered Zathyn Priest strictly by accident. One of his books was actually my first read in the LGBT genre.
Left of Centre will forever be one of my all-time favorite stories. There’s humor, a bit of sexiness, and a wonderful cast of characters. Brandon is one of them. He’s a ho and not ashamed of it. He gets his kicks having cyber sex with random strangers online. Brandon is also very shallow. When he meets a young man, Enigma, he’s put in his place in more ways than one. I laughed so hard throughout this entire book. Even now I giggle remembering some of the scenes in it. It makes me want to go back and read it again when I’ve already read it several times.
I always love when Zathyn Priest releases another book. He was my very first favorite in the genre and that hasn’t changed in the five years I’ve been reading his books. Sure, this is a revised edition of one I’d read before but that doesn’t matter. I think I loved it more this time around.
Dirty Heart (Cole McGinnis #6) by Rhys Ford
Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Romance, Series Finale, Violence
Published on March 18, 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
I had been waiting for Dirty Heart to be released since I first read Dirty Kiss (#1 in the series) in February of 2013. When it was finally published I was hesitant to read it. You know how it is when you have a series you love and when it comes to an end you’re nervous that all questions won’t be answered. I needn’t have worried because Rhys Ford ended this series brilliantly.
Have you ever read a series and loved all the characters? That’s the Cole McGinnis series for me. From Cole to sweet Jae, to Claudia, everyone’s favorite surrogate mother, to everyone in between, I adored them all. Jae and Cole had to go to hell and back a few times before they finally found their way but they managed it just fine, with the help from the others. All questions were answered that had been in the background since the first book. Not only did the author give the characters the ending they deserved but she had me falling in love with them all over again. This is how you complete a series. I loved it.
Unhinged by Rick R. Reed
Addiction, Anthology, Ghost, Grief, Horror, Incubus, Romance, Vampire, Violence
Published by Wilde City Press on September 20, 2016
I couldn’t not include Unhinged on my books of the year list. This is an anthology of horror shorts, four of which I’d read before when they were available individually. My love of this author’s work all started with his horror. It actually started with one of the shorts in this book, How I Met My Man. At last count I’ve read around 40 of his books since I read that one in October of 2012.
There are six stories in Unhinged and I loved each one. I actually enjoyed the four I’d read previously more this go ’round. If you’ve never read Rick’s horror this is where to start. I guarantee that you’ll be entertained and seeking out more. I adore his romance books but I always find myself going back to his older, horror stories.
I now I have a signed paperback of Unhinged, an early Christmas present from my blog partner/friend. Until she reads this – along with the rest of you – she has no idea that she sent me one of my books of the year for 2016. 🙂
The Man in Black: A Ghost Story by Jordan Mason
Ghosts, Historical (1973), Horror, Some Violence
Published on March 4, 2016 by Jordan Mason
Anne is a young woman who is forced to move to the poorer part of town. It’s a huge change for her because she’d grown up in a wealthy household and had never wanted for anything. Now she’s forced to work and is just scraping by. She’s barely moved into her new place when creepy things begin to happen. She starts feeling things and is convinced she’s being watched. Then she sees the man in black…
This is one of those books I got really lucky with. I was on Amazon looking for a short horror story when I ran across this one and decided to take a chance. I’m really glad I did. A very entertaining, quick read.
Honeymoon Hoax by Devyn Morgan
Contemporary, Friends-to-Lovers, Out-For-You, Romance, Short Story
Published on January 27, 2016 by Smith Associates
I didn’t give this story 5 stars. I didn’t even give it 4.5. I gave it a solid 4. So why is it on my books of the year list? Because it’s the perfect story if you want to escape reality for a little while. It’s very unrealistic and the characters have more than a few bonehead moments. It’s overly sweet and sappy. But here I am months after finishing it and I’m still smiling thinking about it. That’s the sign of a good book for me. I would read this again.