BREAKING NEWS UPDATE!!! I’ve changed the list from TOP TEN to TOP TWENTY FIVE, ’cause you know what? After scrolling through my 2016, 4.5 star reviews, I realize I LOVED them almost (if not AS much) as the 5-stars, so I’m adding ‘em. This list of books are what made my 2016 reading year awesome!
Ooooooooooh you guys. I went darrrrrrk this year. Oh yes, the majority have love stories (nothing better than love!!), but not always “romance”.
Because in reality, “love” can be a wonderful thing (I have a few of those down there), sure. And love can be a terrible thing. I was in the mood for emotionally tumultuous (or scary, or shocking!!) love stories, and it seems the more risqué ones won my favor this year.
In the immense words of Tarryn Fisher:
“A woman’s heart was an awful curse.”
And my favorites demonstrate that over and over again. But you guys still love me, right? In REALITY, I love LOVE. The hurty stuff is great… in books. ONLY in books.
HERE ARE MY 2016 FAVORITES:
1.) It Ends with Us: A Novel by Colleen Hoover <— This book meant EVERYTHING to me. Not only was it written by my favorite author (one of my few absolute auto one-clicks/must-reads even without reading the blurb, kind-of-authors) but it was so freaking HONEST. HONEST!!!!!! This is the first word that comes to mine when I think of this story. Go in blind if you can, knowing that anything good (and bad) can happen… and will. That’s all I want to say about that. Part of my HUGE love for this book was that surprise that I didn’t even see coming (she sucked me in with “sweet love” and spit me out with “truth”). But what cinched my big love for it, was that the author did not shy away from reality. NOT ONCE. THIS was right. This was exact. This is real. I’m not going to say anymore (I don’t want to ruin it for you), other than this was my #1 favorite for 2016, and my #1 favorite of all time for this author (and I LOVE every one of her books. In fact… for the longest time, none could touch her very first one – Slammed – for me). Until this one. Here’s my 5-star book review!
2.) An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur <— Some of the best writing (and storytelling) I’ve ever read has come from this “new-to-me” author, that has quickly become one of my die-hard favorites. Her prose is exquisite, her detail brings everything to life, and is just enough and never too much… but she GOES there. She goes where it’s ugly, and emotionally tumultuous. Such risqué storytelling embedded in beautiful words. She states her goal is to write “intelligent romance” and that, it is. But it veils real life drama and detrimental passions. Love and heartache are the central themes, and she’s ALWAYS a must read! Here’s my 5-star book review!
3.) The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir <— Meet my BOOK-BOYFRIEND of the year!!! This is no alpha-male my friends. At least not from what I gathered in this tale (as it was not a love story, or a competitive “bad-ass” story), but OMG I CRUSHED SO HARD ON HIM!!! And this was before I saw the movie. Yep!!!!!! I was lucky enough to read this book before the movie, and I delighted in how clever, how amazing, how capable he was at survival. And not just survival. I’m talking about SURVIVAL ON MARS!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT. THE…??!!! YES! He was left by his crew (they though he was dead), and this guy kept himself alive in all sorts of “MacGyvery” ways!. You guys… it’s not just like THAT either. He was HILARIOUS. Personable… relatable, and so darn funny, I laughed with him (yes… WITH him) all the way through. Even during his most horrific struggles. This man? My perfection (at least per this book) . I’ve crushed on nerdy book-guys before, but NOBODY can beat Mark, and his aweseomness. When I accepted, of course, that he was not “real”, I marveled at the fact that the AUTHOR came up with all of these survival solutions to keep “Mark” alive (I mean AWESOME – yet not boring – detail about all of the Mars-y stuff that I usually don’t care about). Not only was I so into it, I BELIEVE he would know his stuff if he was stuck there. Hrmmmmm… maybe brainy-funny is the new “alpha”? Well… anyway. All that to say… I think I have a crush on the author. *snort* Don’t tell him, please. I’m trusting you guys. Here’s my 5-star book review!
4.) Undecided by Julianna Keyes <— This was my PERFECT “New Adult” love story , with a slight love triangle, unrequited love, and total emotional confusion, but done perfectly due to the writing and the wit! “Nerdy-ish” girl moving in with super-popular guy (both attending the same college), ’cause he wants to buckle down and study. He doesn’t want temptation, and he certainly doesn’t need a distracting roommate (sexy, or party-animal or otherwise). Neither does she. They’re both fighting for the schooling-survival. And while he doesn’t remember her… she certainly had a bone to pick with him (yet, despite her “bone”, she’s SO into him, but does her best not to let it show). She let’s his memory-lapse slide and takes advantage of the great “roommate” deal. The tables turn however, when his annoying best friend enters the scene. I LOVED THIS ONE! This is pure “old-school” new adult romance awesomeness. Written exactly right, we know the characters, we love them, and we love and hurt with them. My #1 “new adult” book of this year. P.S. I miss the old book cover. I just can’t get used to the new one. So I posted the old one, ’cause it personifies the story perfectly. My 5-star book review!
5.) Bad Mommy by Tarryn Fisher <— This one is pure Tarryn Fisher, at her story-telling best. Her deeply introspective, raw and gritty, yet eloquent writing proves this one to be more than just a creepy “stalker-type” book. It explores friendship, love, trust, and the ultimate betrayal. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but emotional and psychological instability is just destructive, and down right scary. But, while it does have that “dark-read” edge to it, this book was bigger than that, narrating the main character’s personal journey of emotional revelation and the ultimate “fight-back” for her life, and her dignity and her happiness. Does it all work out in the end? Ah ah ahhhh. It’s a Tarryn Fisher book. Anything goes, and my lips are sealed. But!! I will say the very last line had me gasping! Here’s my 5-star book review!
6.) The Score (Off-Campus Book 3) by Elle Kennedy <— OH BOY. This author (and series) is the ultimate in “old-school” new adult romance laden in hilarity, and romance-angst! And I think this might just be my favorite of the series, and you guys KNOW I love the whole series!!! I wish I was part of their cool/nerdy group of awesomeness. To tell you the truth, as hot and talented as the guys are, they’re dorks, and that’s what makes me love them the most! It’s kind of similar to the others in a way, yet even if the “roll-out” is similar, each story, each set of characters, and each journey is its own. You know… the whole college kids (namely, the college hockey team) and the “good girls” that know the bad-boy college jock’s reputations. And best of all? Dean’s reputation is the worst, and he (and his heroine) are the star of this show. Let the fun and misgivings begin! Here’s my 5-star book review!
7.) Hausfrau: A Novel by Jill Alexander Essbaum <— Oh boy how to possibly describe this one? Unconventional, unique, and best of all? Socially unacceptable (she’s married and terribly lonely living in her husband’s country, and seeks outside gratification). Yet… as much of a train wreck as this story was, we (well… I) couldn’t hate her. All I saw was a downward spiral getting worse and worse, someone that needed help, love… something. And there were so many things that triggered it. Whether it was in her head, or warranted, I’ll let you decide on that. The writing is outstanding and elegant, even considering the difficult subject matter. Here’s my 5-star book review!
8.) Full Tilt by Emma Scott <— THE GRANDEST of love stories!!!! Wow. One of the rare ones that made me cry this year (’cause I was avoiding crying… mostly I wanted to be incensed, enraged, and rooting for the underdog), but this one was just… pure. And I’m still “Maryse”, at heart, ya know? I still love the deep, true soul-mate type love stories that have a journey to explore, and a heart (or two!!) to fill. (big floppy tears be damned!!!) Why the tears? Oh you KNOW I won’t tell you that. But if you’re looking for uplifting book love, and growth, and everything that comes with it, THIS is your book. And what made it even better? It’s sequel (All In (Full Tilt Book 2 <— P.S. I gave this one 4.5 stars, so consider it a part of this “Best of 2016″ list). Here’s my 5-star book review!
9.) Take Me With You by Nina G. Jones<— The ULTIMATE Stockholm Syndrome dark-read “love story”. Notice I didn’t say “romance”, because there is NOTHING romantic about this one. I’d even venture to say it’s the best “dark read” I’ve read so far! Combining my favorite “feels’ of a few of my past favorite dark reads (think Comfort Food mixed with Captive in the Dark and Room), and you’ve got the creepiest, most emotionally compelling, horror/psychological thriller “romance” ever! <— LOL! There, I said it! This author holds NO punches (if you need a trigger warning, consider the WHOLE book a trigger). But it’s all necessary in the grand scheme of the life the heroine now finds herself surviving, and the author tells both the heroine and the anti-hero’s world’s with such brilliance and psychological exploration, that you’ll find yourself connecting with all of them… and questioning your own sanity! Here’s my 5-star book review!
10.) Low by Mary Elizabeth <— TOTAL THRILL RIDE that had me biting my nails, and hyperventilating all the way through (without putting it down once!!!!!!) Such an unlikely love story, but pure and true in the connection… and well… they had to do what they had to do. She was from a more affluent lifestyle, and he was from the wrong side of the tracks, but love (and security) was lacking… for both of them. Until they found each other. They did whatever it took to stay together. Tumultuous? That’s not even the half of it!! Unique, exciting, and the ending was just… WOW!!!!!!!!! Jump in my friends. Let this author take you on a street-smart adventure. Here’s my 5-star book review!
11.) Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas <— This is totally a “cheat” book on my list, ’cause it was actually released a few years ago (and much-loved then!), but I just read it this year, and it rocked my world, so it stays! Crazy psych-thriller story about a group of best friends that go on vacation in another country together, and one ends up murdered, and another is accused of her death. It’s scary, it’s intense, and EVERY one is suspect (and sort of unlikeable). Even the victim had something a bit “troubling” about her and it kept me guessing BIG TIME. And once things got really rolling… my jaw dropped!!!!!! And stayed that way. Here’s my 5-star book review!
12.) The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata <— SLOW BURN ROMANCE at it’s best. Why? ‘Cause it involves the BEST of the best football star that is a brooding, no-nonsense, uninterested JERK! And not in the “player” sense, either. He’s one of those reclusive types that is singularly focused on his goals (and a woman in his life is not one of them). He treats his assistant as if she’s disposable (even after years of her being his right hand), and while he pays her well, the “thankless” job is starting to wear on her. And so she quits. And then the fun begins! Here’s my 5-star book review!
13.) Here to Stay (The Fish Tales Book 3) by Suanne Laqueur <— Definitely not a standalone (this book rounds out this uber-angsty heartache trilogy), but it is the book that cinched the entire series for me as a 5-star favorite. I can’t tell you anymore, other than PLEASE READ this entire trilogy if you’re in the mood for an amazing love story that’s both perfect, and completely devastating and imperfect at the same time. It has the “whole” feel, with a supporting cast of family and friends, events, and tragedies. What an amazing saga! Here’s my 5-star book review!
14.) How to Date a Douchebag: The Studying Hours by Sara Ney <— Hilarious and goofy, this book won me over with the fun banter, and the realistic reactions that had me hooked. Another “old-school” new adult feel, written JUST right for me. You know… the whole popular-player and the “nerdy girl”, but she gives him a run for his money! Literally. What makes this one even more addictive, is that we get all of that awesome “just friends” slow burn that drives him crazy, and makes him act even crazier. LOL!!!! Sleeping together in the same bed, but with a boundary of pillows between them… all that good stuff! SO MUCH FUN, and the perfect read for those that love books like the “Off-Campus” series, and “Beautiful Disaster“, and “Undecided“. Now you get the picture. Here’s my 4.5 star book review!
15.) Behind Closed Doors: A Novel by B.A. Paris <— This one is definitely a dark psychological thriller in every aspect, because the heroine is living (or I should say, trying to survive) a horrifying nightmare of an abusive marriage. This one kept me up at night and gave me panic attacks. Seriously. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. And the reason it was allowed to continue had my heart in my throat. I was scared of where else this one would go. And what… an… ending. Here is my 4.5 star book review!
16.) Evelyn, After: A Novel by Victoria Helen Stone <— Another darkish psych-thriller (not too dark, but definitely a whole “husband gas-lighting” theme to it) exploring a devastating reveal, secrets, and a wife’s downward spiral as she tries to cope with what she’s learned. And the more she attempts to adapt, and release herself from her binds, the more she succumbs to her broken heart and her scattered mind. I won’t say more than that, since the fun is in the journey, and what a journey it is. Here’s my 4.5 star book review!
17.) Author Anonymous by E.K. Blair <— Shocking and scandalous, this is the ultimate train-wreck “love story/anti love story”. And what makes it extra crazy? It’s a true story, and it just might be about an author we “know”. YIKES!!! You may or may not connect to the heroine, but you won’t be able to look away as she makes one bad choice after the next, and reveals one crazy secret after the next, and opens herself up in a way we’ve never read before. You will cringe, swear, and worry, and maybe even despair with her. Or you might call it quits and throw it across the room, but one thing for sure, is that you’ll never forget it. This is one of those more… tawdry GUILTY “guilty pleasures”. If you’re in the mood for a shock-value jolt, this will deliver it. Here is my 4.5 star book review!
18.) Transfer (The Retrieval Duet Book 2) by Aly Martinez <— Yep. I’m on a darkish-read roll, and this one is the perfect sequel/conclusion to this awesome duet. Another wife escaping her vile abusive husband, while trying to keep her tiny daughter safe. But this duet is loaded in quite the twist (or two) that was gasp-worthy, and stressful, and this one kept me on the edge of my seat the entire way. I was FREAKING out! I don’t want to say another word, so you can discover it all for yourself. You MUST read book #1 first, to get full impact (this one involves TWO couples, but both stories must be read together, as they are merged). Here’s my 4.5 star book review!
19.) Ricochet (A Vigilantes Novel) by Keri Lake <— And here’s my other “cheat” book, ’cause it was released in 2015, but I read it and LOVED it in 2016!!! A psych-thriller indeed, and this one has TWO villains… or maybe more. And this isn’t a case of better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know, ’cause her own personal HELL is with her famous politician husband who violently abuses her behind closed doors. And I mean the most horrid of abuse (trigger-warning for sure!!!), but it’s when she’s kidnapped by a team of famous hacker-like masked vigilantes that she finds her relief. Can you believe that?!!!! Being KIDNAPPED by those that HATE you… and THAT is better than what your life used to be? That is THIS book, and there are twists and turns, and scariness and a gasp-worthy reveal (or two) that had me enthusiastically disturbed! P.S. This is one of the hottest cover-model book covers (in my opinion). Here is my 4.5 star book review!
20.) The Goal (Off-Campus Book 4) by Elle Kennedy <— Yep! She’s on here twice!!! This whole series rocks, and here’s yet another awesome “old-school” new adult installment that fits perfectly into the series. It had me laughing out loud and hurting (although not too painful) and loving all over again. I won’t say more (and even would recommend you NOT read the blurb) ’cause there was a surprise reveal that I totally enjoyed, and made the story that much better (but it’s actually mentioned in the blurb). For me, it was much better to go in blind! This author and her “college-aged” characters will ALWAYS be on my radar, because she writes ‘em like I love ‘em. When it comes to what I’m “in the mood to read”… it’s usually ALWAYS these (and I want more LIKE these – but in their own unique, comedic, angsty way, if that makes any sense?). Here’s my 4.5 star book review!
21.) Pull Me Close: The Panic Series by Sydney Halston <— So well written and unique, because she’s the recluse in this one, and I mean severely agoraphobic. And her very small entourage hasn’t totally clued in yet. Alone in her safe apartment, handling all of her “needs” as best as she can within the confines of her walls, she’s forced out when she has to go to her sister’s bachelorette party (to save face, and keep her agoraphobia a secret, and to TRY and finally face her fears). Overwhelmed, she has a panic attack right there in the club, and one of the club-owners (two gorgeous twins own this bar) comes to her rescue. And the other one thinks she’d hiding something and wants nothing to do with her. And the story truly begins here. Awesome slow-burn, and you feel her fear, but it’s the reveal (and the truth behind the reveal – it’s sort of a true story…) that makes this one extra special! Here’s my 4.5 star book review!
22.) How to Save a Life by Emma Scott <— Emotional, incredible, and magical. These two “outcasts” start off as strangers, but become everything to each other through the most incredible bond. I said magical, and this one has a touch of that, as they become connected on a more esoteric level, and I loved it. Gorgeous though he was, his peers found him to be a “freak” due to his ability to predict stuff from the images and feelings that jolt through his mind. It’s all in the life journey with this one. From the personal back stories (the events, memories and childhood perceptions, long-standing guilt and shame that make the characters who they are when we meet them), to the characters meeting and merging the very issues that keep them from truly connecting with anyone else, this one is all about feeling completely unloved, unsafe, and then finding home, once and for all. Even if “home” is just ONE person… no matter where they may be. Here is my 4.5 star book review!
23.) Too Late by C. Hoover <— This is Colleen Hoover’s “dark side” and it’s gritty and raw and at times, hard to read, and I was incredibly surprised (and titillated) that she went there. Definitely trigger-warning worthy, as the heroine’s seemingly perfect boyfriend turns out to be absolutely psycho, and she can’t leave. The danger she’s in, along with all sorts of crazy plot twists (some of them, far-fetched, sure and some of them so real, so exact, it’s scary) makes this one thrilling read! Even with a few of the… er… facepalm moments that kept me from giving this an all out- 4.5 to 5 star rating, this one was absolutely unforgettable and hard to put down. It’s undeniably a stand-out in my reading year. Here is my 4 star/4.5 star book review!
24.) Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch <— My first book in this genre (techno-thriller) and it had my head spinning in anticipation and dread. What a crazy story, and yet, despite my lack of knowledge and full understanding when it comes to Quantum physics… it made sense. At least for the most part. Sort of a time-travel, or parallel universe travel situation that has the hero desperately trying to survive, and find his way back home to his wife and children. It’s got it all. Marveling at the incredible discovery, dismay and despair. And love. All of it for love. I didn’t thrill over one of the reveals (and how it played out) as much as I did the entire book, so this story fluctuates, for me, between 4 and 4.5 stars. That said, it’s a must read for anyone wanting something exciting, unique and unpredictable, that will keep you glued and on the edge of your seat. Here is my 4 star/4.5 star book review!
25.) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon <— And here’s my third cheat of the list (I read it in 2016, but it came out in 2015) and it was riveting, nerve-wracking, and had that ultimate jaw-dropping ending that makes this one absolutely unforgettable too. So unforgettable that it’s going to be movie! She’s a recluse, but not because she wants to be. Fun, intelligent, happy (ish) “Maddy” is allergic to the world. Literally. She can’t leave her home, and lives in a sort of “uncontaminated bubble” of pure air, pure food, and the loving support of her mother (who’s a doctor – thank goodness for that!) and her trusted nurse, that has pretty much raised her. She doesn’t have access to the outside world, but doesn’t feel like she’s missing anything… that is, until she sees her new neighbor, and develops a crush. Oh oh. Let the fun (and drama) begin! Here’s my 4.5 star book review!
But those aren’t the only awesome ones I’ve read!! Check out ALL of my: