Cheers, everyone, and welcome to the third day of our Best of 2017 celebration! Today we’re featuring Cassie’s top reads of the year, and, of course, there’s also a chance to win two eBooks from her list, so be sure to check out the Rafflecopter widget below to enter!
The Impossible Boy – Anna Martin – I think my favorite part of the whole book is that there’s no villain. I kept waiting for one to pop up, and I was totally dreading it. I was enjoying the journey with the MCs so much, riding their ups and downs, it felt like adding a “bad guy” would derail the whole thing. I was so worried some total @$$hole would pop up and ruin it all. And I realized most of the other books I’ve read with similar non-binary characters have taught me to expect this—the bigot, the hyper (and badly) religious family, the abusive ex, etc. Those characters are around for a reason, of course, but life is often hard enough to lend plenty of conflict and compelling drama to a story, no evil required. It was a really nice change, for once, to have the driving conflict of the book not be centered on an attack from the outside.
A Destiny of Dragons – TJ Klune – There is just something special about Sam and co.—their shenanigans, their sass, their mis-adventures, their love for each other—it’s all so much fun. The Lightning-Struck Heart was a treat, and now the series (Tales from Verania) is set up to be the gift that keeps on giving in A Destiny of Dragons. Best of all, it’s got some length to it, which I always find super exciting. Thank you, TJ Klune!
So, all the things we loved about TLSH are alive and well in A Destiny of Dragons. The writing is hilarious and irreverent. It feels like both a send up of and an homage to the fantasy genre. I loved it, and frequently found myself cackling crazily while making my way through the story. The characters continue to be awesome, with deepening relationship dynamics for all—so clearly, some wrenches have to be thrown in there. The resulting tension sets off cascades of snark in all directions that are truly a joy to behold. And the glorious drama all plays out against Sam’s struggle with his destiny. The team, as a whole, is getting mobilized to address said destiny with Sam, and they strike out on the beginnings of the resultant Epic Quest™.
Bonfires – Amy Lane – I LOVED this story. It felt so refreshing, beginning to end. Aaron and Larx are older than the typical romance characters, they’re established in their lives and families, they know who they are and what they want, and they’re experienced enough to know how to get it. And it was FANTASTIC to read about two men who are comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Go add this one to your library now, if you haven’t already.
The struggles in this story all come from outside the growing relationship—another perk of older MCs. They’ve got problems, because LIFE, but they’re navigating them with considerable aplomb. Aaron’s and Larx’s lives are immediately enhanced by the other’s presence, and watching them begin to intertwine their lives is extremely satisfying.
Femme – Marshall Thornton – I love this story. It’s got a message—seriously, you cannot miss the moral of this story—it’s blatant, and it’s timely. But for all that, it never feels heavy-handed or like you’re being beaten about the head and shoulders with it. Possibly that’s because the writing is just so dang funny. The dialogue is hilarious, and Lionel is an absolute campy hoot, without being too much of a caricature. I enjoyed every moment and was cackling out loud within the first five minutes of the book.
The Rebuilding Year – Kaje Harper -The story is basically gay for you, in the sense that neither of the men had been in, or even considered, a relationship with another man up to this point in their lives. I’m not usually into that trope, but it really worked for me in this book. The characters are older—Ryan early 30s and John upper 30s—and they both have bigger things to be concerned with than burning all their angst on being suddenly in a gay relationship. Yes, there are growing pains, but Kaje Harper does a really excellent job of only giving them as much play as they deserve and not belaboring inner monologue drama. Ryan and John are fully realized and sympathetic characters outside of their relationship, and their romance is more interesting for being played out against their external plotlines. Harper works the slow burn hard, dancing the MCs nearer and nearer before finally sparking them off each other. The Rebuilding Year is possibly the best written GFY arc that I’ve read in the last couple years.
Lord Mouse – Mason Thomas – I enjoy high fantasy. Throw me some wizards or elves or dragons or whatever, and I’m fine with it; though, I know that’s not the case for everyone. And even I can get a bit overwhelmed by the weird, un-pronounceable names, crazy-detailed maps, and knotty political tangles that seem to be the bread and butter of typical high fantasy fare. That being said, Lord Mouse might be the most accessible high fantasy book I’ve come across yet.
Mouse isn’t anything special, really. He’s not magic; he doesn’t have a best wizard friend or ride a magical unicorn into epic battle against denizens of the deep. He’s just good with his hands and works hard at his trade, for reasons of his own. Through the course of the story, he does bump up against a bit of magic—because that’s the world he lives in—but by and large, the true trappings of high fantasy don’t impact his day-to-day much. And, they don’t have much to do with this story. It’s actually really refreshing—high fantasy for the normal guy.
The Worst Best Man – MJ O’Shea – M.J. O’Shea gives a wonderful showing in The Worst Best Man. It’s a second chance story (woot, woot!), where fate throws the two MCs back together after a painful, years-old break up. Both August and Christopher are easy to like. August, being particularly so, plus being fun to root for. I really liked the push-pull between them as August tried to fight getting pulled back into Christopher’s orbit. O’Shea does a great job of making the relationship struggle seem real and painful for August (and Christopher, too), not skimping on building it back up from the ground before throwing them into the physical bits. The only thing lacking for me was a moment when Christopher gave his peers a true set down in regards to his feelings for August. He eventually goes for what he wants, of course, but I was really waiting for him to tell them all to sit down and shut up and to explicitly stand up for August with his so-called friends. It never felt like he did.
*Must be 18 years or older to qualify
*No purchase necessary to win
*Some books may be available exclusively at Amazon, requiring an Amazon US account
*Void where prohibited by law