A few notes about my selections—some of these books were released in 2014/15; I just discovered them this year. Also, I decided to limit this list to full-length novels. You will notice that I like to genre-jump with my reading depending on my mood and what I'm writing myself. (I didn't read Foodie Fic at all while working on Mixing It Up, then went on a Foodie Fic binge once I released the book.) Without further ado, here are the dozen books (in alphabetical order) that made my reading year special. I wholeheartedly recommend them all!
1) A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn (Historical Mystery): This book boasted one of the most unique and entertaining heroines I encountered this year, Veronica Speedwell, a Victorian Era lepidopterist who gets caught up in a web of intrigue, murder, and conspiracy relating to her parentage. I can't wait to read the sequel, A Perilous Undertaking, which will be out next month.
2) Flirtinis with Flappers by Marianne Mancusi (Time Travel/Fantasy/Chick Lit): This book was the last of the Timeless Love trilogy, a series that I mainlined over the summer. I loved all three of the books, but this one ended up being my fave because I adore the 1920s (the era the heroine travelled back to), I thought the romance was deliciously steamy and gripping, and there was a twist in the final act of the book that was a jaw-dropping shocker.
3) Gamer Girl by Glynis Astie (Chick Lit/Fantasy): This is really two books-in-one as each chapter opens with the protagonist disappearing into a virtual world where she's a fierce, butt-kicking fairy. How the author ties the characters and relationships in the game into what's going on in the heroine's real life is incredibly clever and I found Meri's journey to be a compelling one.
4) How to Look Happy by Stacey Wiedower (Chick Lit): One drunken rant about her cheating boyfriend and bitch of a boss on Facebook and interior designer Jen Dawson's life is forever changed. The power of social media and how it leads us all to have unrealistic expectations is explored in a very funny and engaging way in this book.
5) Melody Bittersweet and The Girls' Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French (Cozy Mystery/Paranormal/Chick Lit): This book was quirkily charming in the way only a British novel can be and packed an emotional punch that took me by surprise. (I had tears streaming down my face while reading the scenes where ghost whisperer Melody helps a trio of ghostly brothers resolve their issues and move on.) I loved the characters in this book and look forward to reading the next Melody adventure when it comes out.
6) Mug Shot by Caroline Fardig (Cozy Mystery/Chick Lit): I read all three of the books in the Java Jive Mystery series this year, but this second one was the biggest page-turner for me because this was when things got real for heroine Juliet. Her archenemy, Cecelia, is murdered, her best friend/Cecelia's boyfriend, Pete, stands accused, and her maybe love interest, Ryder, is involved in the investigation. The climactic scene at the end of the book when Juliet faces off against the deranged killer was the most suspenseful and nerve-racking thing I read all year!
7) Scared Witchless by Amy Boyles (Cozy Mystery/Paranormal/Chick Lit): The Bless Your Witch series is just plain fun. The author's writing style is breezy and engaging and I love her unique take on witches and magic (queen witches, witch police, intra-coven magic-stealing—it's all here). This first book is a great introduction to the characters who are all well-defined and interesting and the local color provided by the small-town southern setting adds a lot to the story.
8) Styling Wellywood by Kate O'Keeffe (Chick Lit): This was the first book I read that was written by a Kiwi and set in New Zealand, so that alone makes it memorable to me. Aspiring stylist Jessica Banks is the heroine of the story, and she grows a lot both personally and professionally over the course of the book. I liked how relatable and flawed Jessica was and how the story zigged when I thought it would zag. The Will They?/Won't They? dynamic between Jessica and her longtime friend Ben was delicious, and I appreciated that the author explored some pretty profound issues via Jessica's past and the guilt she felt. A very strong and engrossing debut. I've got the other two books in the series on my TBR pile.
9) Summer at Sea by Beth Labonte (Chick Lit): Hands down the funniest book I read all year. I snort laughed several times while reading it. The author has a deft hand at finding the comedy in any situation, and she's equally good at building romantic tension. I fell in love with both Summer and Graham and rooted for them throughout the book. Their journey toward coupledom makes for a great read, and I can't wait to read more about them in the just-released sequel, Summer at Sunset.
10) The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (Women's Fic/Foodie Fic): When the story opens, pastry chef Olivia's life is in shambles. Not having many options, she ends up working in the kitchen of a country inn in Vermont where she slowly but surely finds a new lease on life via the friends she makes and a surprising romantic connection. Like Olivia, I quickly became attached to all the characters in this book and was touched by how she was embraced by the townspeople and started to feel like she'd finally found a home.
11) The Gargoyle Gets His Girl by Kristen Painter (Paranormal/Chick Lit): I've read three of the six books in the Nocturne Falls series now and continue to be awed at the imagination and creativity of this author. Her world-building is just incredible! I picked this book as my fave of the series so far because the two leads were so different. (I've read a lot of books with supernatural creatures and Willa and Nick were my first fae jeweler/gargoyle security guard.) Beyond the romance, this book delves into the fae world and all the court intrigue and politics there, all of which I found very interesting.
12) Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis (Women's Fic/Foodie Fic): How could I not love this clever riff on the classic enemies-who-fall-in-love-under-assumed-identities plot? The kooky supporting characters in this book are an absolute delight, and I enjoyed seeing pastry chef Sophie's evolution after she's left at the altar and loses her fancy job then has to reinvent herself by going to work in an old-school Jewish bakery. This book left me with a smile on my face and a craving for some freshly made bread!
What were your favorite reads of 2016? I'd love it if you'd tell me about them in the comments below. I'm always looking to add to my TBR pile and I'll need lots of books if I'm going to reach my very ambitious goal of reading 100 books in 2017.