Best Reads of 2016

I read a lot of books this year. While not as many as I'd hoped, I managed 49 books. I have narrowed it down to six books and one series.

2016 was the year of the series for me. I read a total of seven series in various stages - either the entire series, some beginning books or I finished up a series. Personally, I love series. It makes me happy to follow the characters through the phases of their lives. I think I've mentioned before that I'm rather nosey and it's always a curiosity for me to know what happened later. After the happy-ever-after, were they truly happy? Did they have children? Did they buy the house with the white-picket fence? I think some of you would argue that it shatters the illusion - knowing all that. And with some books, I would agree with you. But the majority of books that I read, I want to know more.

Here are my best reads of 2016 in no particular order:

Dying for Rome: Lucretia's Tale by Elisabeth Storrs - This book retells the historic story of the tragic girl whose death inspired the men of Rome to rise up against a tyrant king and establish the Roman Republic. Was she a victim or a champion? A pawn in political schemes or the catalyst for rebellion? In this vivid short story, Lucretia’s character is explored to reveal a tender portrait of a young girl misused by men who transforms into a woman with a passion for justice.

This whole series has captured my imagination and undivided attention. I took Latin in High School and since have been fascinated with Ancient Rome. Dying for Rome: Lucretia’s Tale opens Short Tales of Ancient Rome, a new Elisabeth Storrs’ short story collection investigating the legends and history of Rome from a fresh perspective. I picked up this book while I was waiting for Juno's Call, book three in the Tales of Ancient Rome series, to be released. Storrs' writing instantly grabs your imagination and pulls you under her spell. These books are not ones you can just set down - they will have you forgetting to handle the housework, ignoring your children's homework questions and basically being worthless until the last sentence. They will also have you stalking her Goodreads page for new releases!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life ...and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I've heard for years that this is a great series but I just never had the time to read the books. Then a friend lent me her copy of the first season of the show and I knew after one episode that I had to read the books. So I put the show on hold, bought the first book and read it on and off for a month. It took me about two weeks to get into the book but once I made it halfway, the book picked up steam and I didn't want to put it down. I had to find out what happened. It is the first book in a super long series and I found some of the scenery scenes and emotional scenes to be repetitive. But the story, the romance, the love, the fantasy of it - it's a great one. One that captured my imagination and my heart and had me reading through three more books in quick succession. I plan to finish the series in 2017.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - EVERY DAY THE SAME: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. UNTIL TODAY: And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

This book surprised me. I was all set to have another Vanishing Year read, but the more I read the more I had to find out what happened. I had an inkling of who the bad guy was, but I was never sure! I was fascinated with the story, with Rachel's struggle with sobriety, with Rachel's struggle in general - her personal story was super intriguing. I really enjoyed reading the knotted relationships and trying to guess how it would all unravel in the end. I'm looking forward to watching the movie now!

Twin Piques by Tracie Banister - Forensic accountant Sloane Tobin and kooky pet psychic Willa may have the same face, but that’s the only thing these identical twins have in common. How she can read the hearts and minds of animals has always been a mystery to Willa, and her rotten luck with men is equally baffling. Although she’s been looking for “The One” for what feels like forever (A teenage marriage to a French mime and dating a guy named Spider seemed like good ideas at the time!), optimistic Willa refuses to give up on love. When she meets Brody, the handsome rose expert hired to save her grandmother’s garden, she’s instantly smitten, but why does he keep sending her mixed signals? Does he return her feelings, or is their attraction all in her fanciful head? Unlike her twin, Sloane has zero interest in romance. Her passion is her job, where she uses her gift for numbers to take down slimy embezzlers and asset-hiding spouses. When she’s assigned two high profile cases, Sloane feels confident the promotion she’s been angling for is within her grasp. But will her plan to climb the corporate ladder be thwarted by difficult clients, her co-worker-with-benefits, or – most surprisingly of all – her own sister? And how’s she supposed to stay focused on the drama at work when her childhood friend, Gav, moves in next door and the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore? To get what they both want, can Willa and Sloane band together and rely on each other’s strengths? Or will their differences drive them apart once and for all?

I've read and reviewed all of Tracie's books and I had a blast reading this one. I sped-read through this book, it was that good. I couldn't put it down and I didn't want to. Sloane (I love that name) and Willa (this one too!) are some of the most relatable characters you've ever "met" and I really enjoyed getting to know them. I would really like to get to know them better with a sequel (hint, hint) but I don't imagine I'll get my wish. This book had the comedic relief, the drama of romance, the swoon-worthy male characters and an interesting plot that made you want to turn the page.

The Family Plot by Brea Brown - Whitney Faelhaber is a strong, independent woman. Just ask her, and she’ll tell you. Over and over again. When her favorite aunt passes away and bequeaths to her what feels like an entire life in Small Town, USA, Whitney’s supposed strength and independence meet their biggest challenge, to date. Leaving her family, a boyfriend, and a budding career in academia, Whitney moves to Morris, Maine, to settle her aunt’s numerous affairs and take up running Velvet Printing, Aunt Vel’s pride and joy. “Culture shock” doesn’t begin to describe Whitney’s intro to Morris. To make things even more uncomfortable, the townsfolk seem intent on matchmaking her with the local oddball, Eric Mulligan. But romance with anyone—much less a socially awkward mortician—is the last thing on Whitney’s agenda. Her goal is to learn everything about her aunt’s business as quickly as possible, so she can return to her “real” life in Boston and oversee things from afar. As Whitney digs through her aunt’s finances, looking for spare change to fund the operational fixes that will allow her to escape back to Boston, she discovers some strange discrepancies with no obvious explanations. But Weirdo Mulligan seems to know more than he’s letting on. And when Whitney finally drags the truth from him, it changes her entire view of the aunt she thought she knew… and the course of her own life.

I haven't read all of Brea Brown's books, but of the ones I've read, this is my favorite. I first read this book as a beta reader (like a screening for a movie) and I fell instantly in love with the characters, the story and the setting. I am a Maine girl, so reading this book was like taking a quick trip home. When I read the final version, I had a serious case of book hangover. It took me at least a week to pick up another book - I was so hung up on these characters and the story. This is another book that I feel needs a sequel or maybe a series, I would really love to know what the rest of Whitney and Eric's story will be. And there are a couple of secondary characters in the story that reached in and stole a piece of my heart and I think it would be so cool to find out the rest of their story too. But I digress - this book will restore your faith in humanity and romance...Whitney & Eric's slow slide into a true and lasting love will leave tears rolling down your cheeks when you're finished.

Out of My League by Brea Brown - Maura Richards has a plan for her life—it involves not having a plan. From biding her time at a long-term temp job to ending relationships before they get too serious, Maura’s only commitment is to being noncommittal. When she meets Jet Knox, the starting quarterback of her beloved hometown football team, she dismisses their encounter as a thrilling brush with celebrity she can drag out at parties for a few years, and nothing more. Jet has other ideas. He’s someone who’s made a living setting—and scoring—goals. Wooing Maura is his latest objective. Everyone in Maura’s life seems to have an opinion on her relationship with the All-Pro QB, but with so many swirling opinions, rumors, and doubts, Maura must rely on the judgment of the very last person she feels she can trust: herself.

Yes, more Brea Brown...but another swoon-worthy effort from one of my favorite authors. This one is about a non-committal woman named Maura and a hunky football quarterback named Jet. Football is one of my favorite sports and you can find me most Sundays in front of the television watching whatever game I can get. Going behind the scenes in this book was something of a treat and a special look at the lives of our favorite players and their significant others. This book is the first in a trilogy - The Underdog Trilogy - and I'm super excited for the next books to be released!

The Titan Series by Cristin Harber - Fall into Cristin Harber’s world. She has three bestselling series: Titan, Only, and Delta. They operate in one “world”, meaning that if you start in one series, you might recognize a passing character in another book! She writes military romance, romantic suspense, new adult, and contemporary romance in all book lengths and in several formats. Her men are all Alpha with a heart of gold. And the female leads are strong, smart and amazing. These books are fast reads, impossible to put down and will have you swooning by page five. You can't go wrong with this steamy series!

And there ya have it - my best reads of 2016. I hope you enjoyed this post and that it gave you some ideas for your own TBR pile.

Happy Reading!
~Heather

Comments

What a thrill to see TWIN PIQUES on your list, Heather. I'm so glad you thought it was worthy! ;) Like you, I've been reading a lot of series books this year. You've given me a few new titles/authors to check out. Thank you, and Happy New Year!

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