This has been a tough reading year for me, as it has been for many of you. I wanted to escape the news cycle, but I was unable to focus my attention on my favorite stories. The one book I read from cover to cover that perfectly matched my state of mind was Dancing in the Rain by Kelly Jamieson. It’s poignant from beginning to end as it documents the loss and reassembly of family.

When has-been hockey star Drew learns that he is a father to a little girl, the product of a one-night stand in college, his emotions are all over the map. Complicating his feelings further is the fact that her mom Sarah is dying of cancer and wants him to meet her. When they eventually meet, it’s not love at first sight. But there’s something there, and Drew wants to get to know his new pre-teen daughter. When Sarah’s sister Payton arrives to help provide hospice care for Sarah, Drew is drawn further into their family.

This story is packed with emotion, oftentimes difficult emotion. I think I read the entire book with a lump in my throat. It’s real, honest emotion though, not contrived and sappy fluff just to manipulate the reader. I adored this story of a tiny family that comes together to support one another, proving that sometimes it’s the family we choose that has the most impact.

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Other favorites this year include:

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine, a psychological thriller that takes a favorite trope (heroine in peril) and delivers delicious tension. Gwen Proctor emerges from the ashes of her marriage to a serial killer stronger than ever and ready to protect her kids at any cost. Their itinerant life lands them at Stillhouse Lake, and Gwen finally believes she can release the breath she’s been holding. But then the letters begin to arrive from the state penitentiary and Gwen must decide whether or not to hold her ground as the threat looms closer. The remote location and a few well-placed bodies up the creepiness factor exponentially. This is the first book of a trilogy, so don’t expect complete closure at the end.

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I also adored Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai, who does complicated family relationships like no other. The yearning and pain between Livvy and Nicholas is palpable, the electric current between them crackling off the page. Throw in a vivid cast of secondary characters with a bit of a family saga and this is basically my catnip. Keep your eyes peeled for subsequent novels starring other characters.

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Also in the running for favorite book(s) is the new series by Loreth Anne White, starring Detective Angie Pallorino, who kicks ass and takes names in The Drowned Girls. She’s a detective working sex crimes. When the bodies of young women who’ve been genitally mutilated begin to turn up, she’s paired with the new lead detective in Homicide with whom she unwittingly shared a torrid evening. Angie has a spine of steel though and will put her new partner through the paces, all while battling demons of her own. Read it for the damn good crime story, but also read it for the multilayered main characters. More books and adventures are planned.

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I’d be remiss not to note how much I loved N. K. Jemison’s Broken Earth trilogy, which concluded with The Stone Sky. When The Fifth Season debuted, it delivered a gut punch, followed by Book 2, The Obelisk Gate, and finally a TKO with The Stone Sky. It’s not a romance, but it’s poignant, emotional, and meaningful in the best way.

The Fifth Season: A/BN/iB/K | The Obelisk Gate: A/BN/iB/K |      The Stone Sky: A/BN/iB/K


And finally, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read or listen (the narration is phenomenal) to The Hate U Give, please go forth and do so now. A.C. Thomas has created a novel for the ages, one that comes along only once every few decades. It will twist you inside out, so have tissues ready.

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