2017 has been hard. Hubby’s job fizzled and he was stuck searching for a job without warning in a very expensive area to live. When none of the possibilities moved fast enough, we had to leave the PNW that we loved to return to the southeast (which isn’t quite so beloved). Even reading wasn’t easy. Most of the books I read were re-reads of previous favorites while the new books failed to wow me. I started one new series and gave up after the second or third book. Tried another that was extremely promising – the narrator is a favorite of mine and the concept interesting. The first few were wonderful – funny, snarky, and sexy, but a few more books in the FMC stopped being cute and tumbled headlong into TSTL territory. When I skipped a huge chunk of the middle of the eighth or ninth in the series and didn’t feel like I’d missed anything, I realized it was time to set that one aside. So… I’m still searching, especially since some of my favorite series are ending, like Kate Daniels and Iron Druid..
But, since the year is wrapping up, I’ll try to name the books that I read for the first time this year that did impress me. Like last year, this isn’t a list of what is objectively the best book published in 2017, only that I read these books during the calendar year and found them to be the best to me. Not all were published this year and the variety is less than before, though I have added a couple of categories.
Best Paranormal Romance — Silver Silence by Nalini Singh
Silver fucking Mercant. I’ve always like Silver, once the right hand of Kaleb Krychek and now leader of a worldwide emergency response network, and Valentin is just what she needed: bold, brash, and unwilling to lose his Starlight. Some parts seemed to resolve itself too quickly, but Valentin more than made up for a wobble in the plot. While no one can replace Kaleb or Vasic in my warm and gooey heart, Valentin can make a good, snuggly third choice.
Because he, more than anyone, knew that sometimes, love wasn’t enough. Sometimes, people changed so deeply that the change broke love itself.
Valentin Nikolaev, Silver Silence, Nalini Singh
Best Contemporary Romance — Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh
We get to read how Sailor Bishop, the married younger brother of Gabriel Bishop in Rock Hard, met and married his school teacher wife, Isa. I loved everything about this story. The only thing I missed was the poetry and subsequent ribbing by the rest of the Bishop-Esera clan that was mentioned in Rock Hard.
“I’m no poet, Ísa. I can’t give you fancy words. But I know what we have is special. It’s worth a fight.”
Sailor Bishop, Cherish Hard, Nalini Singh
Best Fantasy (Romance) — Entreat Me by Grace Draven
A gorgeously written take on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, times two! The main couple are Louvaen Duenda, a widow caring for her father and gorgeous younger sister, and Ballard of Ketach Tor. While he is truly beast-like during the magic fluxes, raging and mindless, Lou isn’t the kind, gentle sister. She’s more of an ill-tempered shrew who defends her family with a fierce determination and will. I adore them both. The second couple are Ballard’s son, Gavin, and Lou’s sister, Cinna. While theirs is a less-fraught love, there’s still the beastly elements to consider.
“I’d challenge gods and queens to make you mine, Ballard. Conquer a kingdom or two if necessary.”
Louvaen Duenda, Entreat Me, Grace Draven
Best Urban Fantasy — Midnight Labyrinth by Elizabeth Hunter and Wildfire by Ilona Andrews
I had a terrible time picking just one, so I didn’t. I did, however, pick one straight UF and one with a stronger romance plot because they’re both soooo good but for different reasons.
Midnight Labyrinth is the first of five full-length novels in the Elemental Legacy series featuring Benjamin Vecchio, adopted human nephew of Giovanni and Beatrice, and Tenzin, super awesome ancient wind vampire. While it launches the new story arc, reading the preceding novellas are highly recommended, and not just because they’re awesome. It gives better backstory into how things are slowly turning from Ben, the child, to Benjamin the adult making his way as a human in a world of vampires. Tenzin watches over him, gets him into trouble, and sees what he could become.
“This is the fun part, Benjamin. This is the revenge.”
Tenzin, Midnight Labyrinth, Elizabeth Hunter
The heavy-on-romance UF novel is Wildfire by Ilona Andrews. This is the third in the Hidden Legacy series, possibly the last unless more books are either picked up by Avon or they find time in their hectic schedules to self-publish them. It almost wraps up the storyline and completely wraps up the romance. Nevada fully comes into her powers, as do the rest of her family, and once more saves Houston with Rogan’s help. There’s sexy times and funny times (I especially liked the testing of Arabella) and everything’s in place for a happily ever after if not for the mystery of Caesar’s identity. Still. So. Good.
I had been hugged by a giant, superintelligent, pacifist bear. I could do this. I could do anything.
Nevada Baylor, Wildfire, Ilona Andrews
Best Steampunk — Mission: Improper by Bec McMaster
Following the events of the London Steampunk series, Mission: Improper kicks off a new story arc with Caleb Byrnes, former Nighthawk blue blood, and Ingrid Miller, a fierce verwulfen. The Duke of Malloryn has formed a secret team of blue bloods, verwulfen, mechs, and humans called the Company of Rogues to aid the new coalition government. When people from all of the races go missing with little to no evidence of where or how, Caleb and Ingrid are paired up to investigate. Sparks fly and things get… interesting. I love this world and this book was a wonderful leap back into it.
He was going to throttle her. Slowly. Or maybe kiss her. He hadn’t quite decided.
Caleb Byrnes, Mission: Improper, Bec McMaster
Best Ending — Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig
I normally can’t stand cliffhanger endings, but this one didn’t leave me raging so much as screaming “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!” I really, really need The Raptor and the Wren, like right now. The rest of the book rocked too, but then again, I adore Miriam, even at her snarkiest (perhaps especially at her snarkiest).
I would straight up fuck a snowman right now, she says. Just to cool down.
Miriam Black, Thunderbird, Chuck Wendig
Best Audio Narrator — Lorelei King and Holter Graham
I couldn’t choose one over the other, so I chose both! Shut up. It’s my list.
Lorelei King narrates Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series, and many, many more. Her strength as a narrator lies in her emotional range, but shines brightly when the character is more than a little snarky. I’m picky about my audiobook narrators, but she’s my favorite female reader.
Patricia Briggs just has great luck with narrators, because Holter Graham reads her Alpha and Omega series and I swear I’d listen to that man read a phone book. He is a master of accents yet his female voices aren’t so high-pitched as to be ridiculous. He’s a joy to listen to and is the main reason I have that series in audio only. He also reads a lot of Stephen King as well as Anne Bishop’s Ephemera series.