Donna’s favorite reads in 2015

The December column is always my favorite because I get to look back at my favorite reads from the year.

Duke City Desperado2015 saw the third book in the Duke City series by Max Austin released in June. DUKE CITY DESPERADO was a fun frolic through the misadventures of Dylan James and his buddy Doc who tried to rob a bank through the drive-up window.

Yeah, most of us would see the folly in this right from theDuke City Hit start but Doc, well, his perspective was skewed. It comes as no surprse that Doc was immediately captured but Dylan manages to stay about a half-step away from the law through a crazy set of circumstances that only Max Austin can deliver.

517UBdb43dL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Each book in the series stands alone with one common element: Alburburque, New Mexico. If you like crime from a slightly tweeked angle you’ve got to give the Duke City series a go.

 

 

The Jamie Sinclair series by Nichole Christoff is a hit for me. The debut 51U7daFZDcL._AC_UL320_SR242,320_was THE KILL LIST where Jamie and the baggage she calls “ex-husband” try to rescue his three-year-old daughter from kidnappers. In the course of her investigation she meets her love interest Adam Barrett who feeds stray dogs. Ladies, can I get a collective *sigh* on this?

51JHDkkSCwL._AC_UL320_SR240,320_THE KILL SHOT  goes international as Jamie tries to understand what send Adam rogue.

THE KILL BOX dives into Adam’s past when he returns 515VW7PtWhL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_home unexpectedly and Jamie is hired by his grandmother to investigate his bizarre behavior.

Tightly written, with great insight to military life, Christoff delivers a fast-paced series for the romantic suspense crowd. I definitely recommend you grab all three.

41nV2oVnGZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Another series that grabbed me was the urban fantasy series HIDDEN by Colleen Vanderlinden. I stumbled onto the books from a free give-away on FB and didn’t stop reading until the last book.

The first book, LOST GIRL, introduces us to Molly Brooks, a telepathic vigilante with a passion for finding lost girls. 519utj1FxaL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Fast paced, funny and heartwrenching this series delivers a host of fascinating supernatural characters in a highly imaginative world.

From the first page to the last this series is gold. I haven’t delved into Ms. Vanderlinden’s other series but they are certainly on my TBR pile.

 

Up From the GraveUP FROM THE GRAVE was the exit in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. I enjoyed the strong willed vampire killing Kat and her teacher/husband Bones escapades and all the characters from that world, many have found series of their own.

While this wasn’t the best book in the series it is still a must read once you’ve dived into the tale and I do recommend that you enter their world.

 

Bronze FoxThe paranormal adventure BRONZE FOX by Diana Green was a delight. Tobias is a fox-shifter and Etty a street-wise ball of fire are teamed up in an adventure that is part Stargate, part steampunk and all adventure. Author of the Dragon Clan series, Ms. Green has written a wonderful tale. The only complaint I had was that I would have like the romance to take a little longer, I was enjoying the dance. BTW, Ms. Green also designed the gorgeous cover.

51CRFtWro3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This year saw the final installment in the Unknown Assassin series by Allen Zadoff. The first book I AM THE WEAPON introduced us to Boy Nobody. Taken at an early age and transformed into a teenage assassin, Boy Nobody was always the new kid in school, becoming who ever he needed to in order to get the job done. All went well until he started asking questions.

I loved the series and the final book, I AM THE TRAITOR gave a satisfying I am the Traitorending to these fast paced and intriguing books. This award winning series has been translated into over a dozen languages and has been optioned by Sony Pictures. Great for teens and adults.

 

An Untamed StateRoxane Gay delivers the powerful tale of Mireille Duval Jameson in AN UNTAMED STATE. While visiting family in Haiti Mireille was ripped from her fairy tale life and held for ransom. Knowing her father would never pay, this strong-willed woman fought to survive the horrific abuses inflicted on her by her captors.

The true power of this story comes in the second half of the book, after Mireille has been released by the kidnappers. Her journey back from the trauma was something I could not stop reading.

 

51HRGdMz39L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I requested a review copy of this book because Barney Teegarden just seemed like the kind of guy whose company I would enjoy. I was right. COMING BACK by John Inman was a wonderful tale of people who look out for each other with tenderness and humor. I look forward to grabbing the first two books in this series.

 

51sUwrukhPL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This last book in my list of 2015 favorites is THE SOUND OF GLASS by New York bestselling author Karen White.

The generational effects of domestic violence are at the heart of this story. The story opens with a tragic plane crash in 1955 near the home of Edith Heyward in Beauford, South Carolina that deposits a suitcase in Edith’s yard and leaves the reader with a mystery.

Fast forward to 2014, Merritt Heyward loses her firefighter husband but inherits his family home in Beaufort where she meets the brother-in-law she didn’t know she had. Arriving in Beaufort on Merritt’s heel is her too-young stepmother, Loralee, and her half brother, Owen.

White brilliantly guides us through the awkward interactions of four people who seemingly have little in common as they grow to become a family. Rich details, compelling characters and numerous secrets keep you engaged until the last page. I loved this book.

Donna writes the review column The Eclectic Express for the Book Breeze.

Shannon’s Favorite YA Books of 2015

51DJsk1deRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve enjoyed a lot of really good Young Adult, New Adult and Middle Grade fiction this year. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. For now here’s a 5-Star round-up to kick-start your holiday shopping for that favorite reader.

DREAMER’S DAUGHTER Book 9 of the Nine Kingdoms by Lynn Kurland Berkley Trade ~ January 2015 ~ 5 Stars

Aisling of Bruadair’s quest to restore her country’s rightful rulers to their throne has been long and difficult. Now, after a lifetime of lies, she’s confronted with an unexpected truth: Bruadair’s salvation may lie within her. But the path to harnessing her newly discovered magical gifts threatens to lead her back through a past that may well spell her death. With his own magic restored, Rùnach of Ceangail has come to terms with the fact that the simple life he once coveted is no longer an option. Instead, he is determined to help Aisling fulfill her quest, even if his part of the bargain includes facing evil mages with power far greater than his own. But once they reach Bruadair, Rùnach and Aisling discover that nothing is as it seems, and not only must they accept their past, they must also embrace their destiny—before the enemies drawing near succeed in extinguishing all the light in the world…

517vc6G-JkL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_THE MARKED SON Keepers of Life by Shea Berkley Entangled Publishing ~ August 2012 ~ 5 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Dylan Kennedy always knew something was different about him, but until his mother abandoned him in the middle of Oregon with grandparents he’s never met, he had no idea what. When Dylan sees a girl in white in the woods behind his grandparents’ farm, he knows he’s seen her before…in his dreams. He’s felt her fear. Heard her insistence that only he can save her world from an evil lord who uses magic and fear to feed his greed for power. Unable to shake the unearthly pull to Kera, Dylan takes her hand. Either he’s completely insane or he’s about to have the adventure of his life, because where they’re going is full of creatures he’s only read about in horror stories. Worse, the human blood in his veins has Dylan marked for death…

51HptXUnFZL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_THE TRAGIC AGE by Stephen Metcalf St. Martin’s Press ~ March 2015 ~ 5 Stars

This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.

Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities. Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at. The tragic age.

51KHx4sVA6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_TWIST by Karen Akins St. Martin’s Griffin ~ April 2015 ~ 5 Stars

Bree Bennis finally has it all—a non-comatose mother, an uber-hot (albeit anachronistic) boyfriend named Finn, and a new-found mission to protect the timeline from those who would skew it for their own gain. But when she leans over one day to smooch said boyfriend, her lips meet those of her arch-nemesis Wyck instead. The timeline has been altered, and Bree is caught in the crosshairs. But when she goes back to repair the damage, she is stopped by none other than her Future Self, who delivers an urgent message: Someone is kidnapping Shifters from the distant past. It’s up to Bree to stop them. But first, she has to figure out who… and why.

To follow the trail of chronocrumbs, Bree reluctantly accepts her new undercover gig as Wyck’s girlfriend. Everything goes spiffy until Finn shows up in the 23rd century on the eager arm of a gorgeous fellow Shifter, Jafney. Even as Bree struggles with jealousy, she battles the nagging dread that Finn might be better off with someone less chronologically complicated. Her worst fear is confirmed when Finn becomes the kidnapper’s next victim. As Bree zeroes in on the culprit, it unravels her life one timeline-change at a time. She realizes that she alone has the power to save herself and everyone she loves. But to do that, she may lose Finn forever.

51rUB5EIlsL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_CAMP PAYBACK by J.K. Rock Spencer Hill Contemporary – April 2014 – 5 Stars

Alex has big plans for camp this year, starting with making it the best summer ever. Having fun and breaking some rules will get her the payback she wants against her parents and her ex-boyfriend. Because of his disgusting texts, she’s headed to a super strict all-girls school in the fall. Then she meets Javier and revenge doesn’t seem nearly as important as getting to know the troubled loner determined to keep a low profile at camp. But Alex’s trouble-magnet personality and Javier’s need to stay in the background don’t mix nearly as well as their irresistible chemistry. With her home life eroding under her feet and her last year of summer camp speeding to a close, Alex wants to make her mark on the world and squeeze every bit of fun out of her time with Javier. Too bad her old plans for revenge turn back on her just in time to ruin everything. Will she lose Javier too?

51aTPsPd4fL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_CAMP FORGET-ME-NOT by J.K. Rock Spencer Hill Contemporary – October 2014 – 5 Stars

Playing it safe and fitting in may have rocketed Kayla West into the “In” crowd at Camp Juniper Point, but it’s left her lonely. The only person she’s ever been herself with was her former best friend, Nick, an outsider that pushed her to join the most popular girls cabin two years ago. Too bad being a Diva meant pressure to break up with Nick. Of course, Kayla had her reasons, but Nick can never know the real one. She always thought she’d forget him one day and move on. Until he returns to camp a super-hot Olympian snowboarder. Now, every girl wants him and Nick seems determined to show her what a mistake she made. Or at least, she thought that’s what he wanted. But when Nick starts sending her private notes–just like he used to–she wonders what kind of game he’s playing. Nick’s attention is making it tougher to stay in the background and play it safe, forcing Kayla to make a decision–stay on the sidelines and get overlooked? Or take a chance on trusting Nick and, maybe… herself.

51BgqdyrfGL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_PRETENDING TO DANCE by Diane Chamberlain St. Martins’ Press – October 2015 ~ 5 Stars

Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can’t have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly’s past and her family–the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison’s Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father’s death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?

61pjGi7Ds7L._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_CLOSER TO THE HEART Book 2 of the Herald Spy by Mercedes Lackey DAW, October 2015 ~ 5 Stars

Mags was a Herald of Valdemar. But he had once lived the brutal life of a child slave. When he was Chosen by his Companion Dallen, his young life was saved, and he slowly adjusted to being well fed, educated, and treasured as a trainee in the Herald’s Collegium at Haven. Singled out by the King’s Own Herald, Mags would thrive in his secret training as a spy. His unusually strong Gift—an ability to Mindspeak and Mindhear anyone, not just others who were Gifted—made him a perfect undercover agent for the king. Sequel to Mercedes Lackey’s Closer to Home, this adventure continues Mags’s journey as Valdemar’s herald spy.

41H3ngdkMRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_THE GIRL IS TROUBLE by Katherine Miller Haines Roaring Brook Press, July 2012 – 5 Stars

Iris Anderson and her father have finally come to an understanding. Iris is allowed to help out at her Pop’s detective agency as long as she follows his rules and learns from his technique. But when Iris uncovers details about her mother’s supposed suicide, suddenly Iris is thrown headfirst into her most intense and personal case yet.

WHAT YOU SEE by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Unknown-1WHAT YOU SEE by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Mystery/thriller Released Oct 20 by Forge

Why would a father abduct his own child? A wedding is planned in Jane Ryland’s family, but there’s a disaster instead. Nine-year-old Gracie -who was supposed to be the flower girl-has been taken by her stepdad. Where are they? Is the girl in danger? Reporter Jane Ryland learns there’s a limit to the bond of family-and learns to her peril what happens when loved ones are pushed too far. Meanwhile, Detective Jake Brogan’s got a doozy of a case. Solving the case should be easy, but the pictures and surveillance video lead him to a dark conspiracy of extortion and stolen lives. Jane and Jake must explore where their loyalties llie – to each other? To their families? To their careers?

HIS SOUL TO KEEP by TW Knight

51eGf+tABKL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_HIS SOUL TO KEEP (Book 1 of the Dark Knights of Heaven) by TW Knight

Where fallen angels battle Hell’s demons, find their lost souls, and discover love while hunting for a prophecy that holds the key to either their redemption or their destruction. Saved from certain death, Cassidy finds herself bound to an angel cast out of Heaven. Rail has vowed to never fall in love, but fate has different plans. Heaven abandoned them, but they did not abandon their calling. Now soulless and exiled from Heaven, forced into an endless war, some will fall while others rise to find their destinies. They are the Dark Knights of Heaven

Review: DARK PLACES by Reavis Z Wortham

51GGuOMirHL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_DARK PLACES (Red River Mystery) by Reavis Z. Wortham

Poisoned Pen Press Mystery/Thriller

A first-rate period piece with rare moments to catch your breath, Dark Places delivers one power-packed scene after another. Balancing the multiple story lines effortlessly, Wortham skillfully keeps the reader on course, as Ned tracks his runaway granddaughter, Pepper, who is determined to get to San Francisco and join the Flower Children. He picks up a traveler, the enigmatic Crow, as he traverses the famous Route 66, leaving unsolved deaths and murders in the capable hands of Sheriff Cody Parker and Deputy Anna Sloan back home in the little town of Center Springs, Texas. Ned’s grandson, Top, does his best to “man” the house while Ned is on the road and take care of Aunt Becky, but he is struggling to fit into the town, faced with local bullies and the going is rough. Infused with blasts from the past—drive-in movies with speakers hanging on car windows and trips to the little snack shop in the middle of the cars; hippies and their crazy vans, drugs, and runaway kids; outlaw motorcyclists; Route 66’s tangy little towns, bus stations, and diners; and charming ten cent RC colas, Dark Places vibrates with robust drama, violence, tension, and familial relationships. Complex plotting, believable characters, extraordinary dialogue that is true to the characters, and remarkable settings bring each scene to life.

Review: RETURN TO DUST by Andrew Lanh

514mHsWVC8L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_RETURN TO DUST by Andrew Lanh

Poisoned Pen Press Mystery

In this crisp, well-written book, Lanh once again takes readers into the closely connected community of the Vietnamese, as he did in his first Rick Van Lam book, Caught Dead. When the intrepid private investigator sends flowers to the funeral of his infrequent housekeeper, he becomes mired in the complicated labyrinth of her life. An unassuming, somewhat nosy woman, Marta Kowalski’s death reopens her Pandora’s Box of evil: writhing jealousies, vicious rivalries, and venomous cruelty. Lanh takes readers into the difficulties and prejudices Rick faces as an Amerasian, not welcomed by the full-blooded Vietnamese. But his sidekick, Hank Nguyen and Hank’s wise Buddhist grandmother receive him in friendship and provide valuable information to unravel the death of Marta. Was it really suicide or something far more sinister.