2016 has been a heck of a year. I have to say that reading has been a bright spot, though. I think I’ve had more DIK and B+ reads this year than I have for a while. In trying to narrow it down to a top 10, I’ve had all kinds of fun looking back over my books – and I think I’ll have to reread some.

The Hating Game
by Sally Thorne

Definitely my favorite read of the year. I forget which of my friends at AAR first started pushing this book (our review is here) but I’m thrilled that this one popped up on my radar. It’s a smart, funny and refreshing read. I’ve never worked in publishing, but I’ve worked in highly competitive offices so I could relate to the heroine’s adventures as she tries to secure her promotion and fend off her rival. If you’re in the mood for some romantic comedy, check this one out. I’ve already read it more than once.


A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

This book (my review is here) deals with the heroine crafting her own identity and trying to figure out how she wants to live her life at least as much as it covers her romance with the hero. That adds a fair amount of depth to what is otherwise a sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic story of a woman who falls in love so deeply and so immediately with an Italian man that she agrees to marry him and move to Italy in the space of weeks. And then they have to find their way as a married couple. This story is deliciously romantic, and I also enjoyed the inspirational angle, which is a fairly unusual one. The heroine is largely ignorant about matters of faith and many of her spiritual influences are Roman Catholic rather than the conservative evangelical Protestants seen in many inspy novels. Oh, and since the heroine’s dream is art and art restoration, we get some fascinating glimpses into that world.  A/BN/iB/K

Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz

Apparently I was in the mood for sexy and funny in 2016 because those are the adjectives I’d use to describe this novel (my review is here), too. Normally I wouldn’t call Reisz a comfort read (she’s a fantastic writer but tends to cover a lot of uncomfortable subjects), but this book really does fit that category. It’s a friends to lovers story that unfolds as our heroine comes home for a visit to find that her brother’s best friend has suddenly grown a lot more interesting – and hot – over the years.  A/BN/iB/K

Good Earls Don’t Lie by Michelle Willingham

I’ll admit that the cheesy title of this book (my review is here) didn’t quite do it for me. However, this is a sweet, heartfelt historical that just charmed me. For some reason, this was a year when I really needed the sweet stuff. This story of an impoverished Irish earl in search of an heiress so that he can save his people from starving captured my interest. And when he fell for a strong, determined lady who was definitely not an heiress? Then it captured my heart. A/BN/iB/K

The Improper Bride by Lily Maxton

I love a romance (my review is here) where the tension between the characters actually makes sense. This tale of a wounded marquess and his intelligent housekeeper just made me happy. The plot could have been cheesy, or the power imbalance between the nobleman and his housekeeper could have made things creepy rather than endearing, but the book stood out for me because the author avoided both of these pitfalls rather deftly. The result is a wonderful read. A/BN/iB/K

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

When I wrote a blog asking for good creepy Halloween reads, a reader here pointed me to The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I loved it and have never looked back. Simone St. James is definitely an autobuy for me. In this latest novel (our review is here), we meet war widow Jo Manders. Though her husband disappeared years ago and World War I has been over for a few years, Jo still lives with her mother-in-law. After travelling for some time, they settle at the family’s country home and there Jo’s world gets turned upside down as she finds herself surrounded by all manner of secrets. I figured out one of the larger secrets early on, but I still loved this book. St. James excels at creating a deeply eerie, unsettling atmosphere and this book had quite the gothic mood to it.  A/BN/iB/K

The Sinner by Amanda Stevens

Speaking of eerie, unsettling moods, Amanda Stevens is another one who does this quite well. This novel, the latest in her Graveyard Queen series, features an intriguing mystery but the dark, menacing mood created by the author made me feel jumpy more than a few times while reading it. The series follows cemetery restorer Amelia Grey. Though based in Charleston, her adventures take her to different parts of South Carolina as well. However, it is the reason behind her knack for stumbling into mysteries that makes this series work. Amelia can see – and speak to – the dead. Throughout the series we see a continuing story arc as Amelia’s uneasy relationship with her gifts evolves. And then there are her human relationships; Each book in the series develops that a bit more, too. I know who I want her to end up with, but I’ve been enjoying the journey.   A/BN/iB/K

The Trespasser by Tana French

French is a truly gifted writer. Even when I don’t entirely adore her stories, I love what she does with language. For those who haven’t read her, she writes about the Murder Squad detectives in Dublin’s police force. Each of her books stands alone and is told in first person from the point of view of a different detective. This book (0ur review is here), involving the mysterious killing of a young woman in her home, is a more standard police procedural than some of French’s other books. However, her narrator, Antoinette Conway, the only woman currently on the squad, really makes the book. I found the mystery engaging, but I found the narrator’s attempts to understand her world unforgettable.  A/BN/iB/K

Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen – I’ve read thrillers that messed with my mind before, but this standalone book (our review is here) from Gerritsen takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster as well. Dual storylines have been popular in recent years and the author uses that technique to great advantage in this story about a violinist who discovers a mysterious, haunting piece of music in an Italian antique shop and the piece’s Jewish composer living in Italy during the rule of Mussolini. Their lives converge in unexpected ways, and this unsettling story stayed with me for quite a while after I read it. A/BN/iB/K

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This one is nonfiction and while not expressly political, its release in 2016 certainly made it very relevant. Vance writes of his early years growing up in a segment of American society largely forgotten and overlooked – the white working class. More specifically, the portion of the white working class that came from Appalachia to the Rust Belt and found themselves adrift(to put it mildly) when their manufacturing jobs disappeared. Instead of a dispassionate study, Vance gives readers a deeply felt window into the good, the bad, and the ugly of the world where he grew up. Readers may not always like all of the people he writes of, but hopefully this book will help us all to understand. A/BN/iB/K

And my Honorable Mention – Levi’s Will by W. Dale Cramer – I read this book for the TBR Challenge and while not published in 2016, it certainly bears mentioning. This tale, following the life of a man who leaves the Amish faith, is by turns exasperating and moving. The author digs into both the positive and the negative sides of Amish life and the result is a novel far different than anything I’ve read in ages. A/BN/iB/K

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.