January 1, 2015

Shera’s Top 10 Books of 2014

Hopefully everyone is finding this post after having one heck of a awesome New Year count down.

For those of you who follow it’s been clear that this year has not been the best of reading years for me. Yeah, I’ve been in a reading slump from to many factors plagiarized reviews, exhaustion, and so many other things. However, since I always do one of these and I think each year deserves sometime to shine on the books that made it a glorious reading year. Even if overall the year kicked my booty in other ways.

Now these are my, Shera’s, top 10 books of 2014. This list is based on books that I’ve read in 2013, so it’s not just made up of books released in 2014. (Because of the mentioned book slump I did not keep up with the releases. To be honest I read a lot of comics this year.) If you want to see my reviews just click on the title links.

***This top ten list is in no particular order and only one author’s book in a series can be picked. (I’ve changed to rule since that makes more sense.)***

alienatedAlienated (Alienated, book 1) by Melissa Landers

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Alienated was the first book I read in 2014, and it hit the spot. Going in to Alienated I knew it was a romance, but it added so much more as politics and the prejudices entered in and made this book an adrenaline rush. What I like is that the romance builds. Neither party just falls in love.

They’re both foreign to each other. They begin to understand each other and become friends. Friendship to romance is my ultimate love for romances. More authentic and it pulls on my heartstrings just right.

cruel-beautyCruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty universe, book 1) by Rosamund Hodge

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

My review has so many quotes because the writing is sensational. Cruel Beauty is the ultimate fairy tale retelling that I’ve read . . . in what feels like ages. Fairy tale retelling are another one of my book vices, especially when it’s Beauty and the Beast. Cruel Beauty brought so much original material that ties to the B&B tale is lose crafting. The universe is superb. Oh, the characters. Oh. “No one is innocent and by the end of the book I felt every character had poison in their hearts.” It feels my heart with joy to say that about a book. No really just read my review.

There’s a reason this book had so much buzz this year, and why things are heating up fast for the next book that’s coming up.

the-lineThe Line (Witching Savannah, book 1) by J.D. Horn

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

Move over, Sookie Stackhouse—the witches of Savannah are the new talk of the South. Bold, flirty, and with a touch of darkness, debut author J.D. Horn spins a mesmerizing tale of a family of witches . . . and the problem that can arise from being so powerful. As Charlaine Harris’ series winds down—and as Deborah Harkness’ series heats up—Witching Savannah is new contemporary fantasy that will be sure to enchant new readers.

Mercy Taylor, the youngest member of Savannah’s preeminent witching family, was born without the gift of magic. She is accustomed to coming in a distant second to the minutes older, exquisite and gifted twin she adores. Hopelessly in love with her sister’s boyfriend, she goes to a Hoodoo root doctor for a love spell. A spell that will turn her heart to another man, the best friend who has loved her since childhood.

Aunt Ginny, the family’s matriarch, would not approve. But Mercy has more to worry about than a love triangle when Aunt Ginny is brutally murdered. Ginny was the Taylor family’s high commander in the defense of the bewitched line that separates humankind from the demons who once ruled our realm.

A demon invasion looms now that the line is compromised. Worse yet, some within the witching world stand to gain from a demon takeover. Mercy, entangled in the dark magic of her love spell, fighting for her sister’s trust, and hopelessly without magic, must tap the strength born from being an outcast to protect the line she doesn’t feel a part of...

In this riveting contemporary fantasy, Horn delivers the full betrayal, blood, and familial discord of the best of Southern gothic.

So I’m going to start sounding like a broken record, but it’s been hard finding good UF debuts. The fact that there are so very few debuts for new series sucks. So when I picked up The Line it felt like a pure rush to be so blown away. It’s one of the best debuts in what felt like forever. A shiny beacon of light in my reading slump.

Horn does a beautiful job creating such a rich and vibrant Savannah, probably one of my favorite book versions of Savannah to visit.

embrace-the-nightEmbrace the Night (Cassandra Palmer, book 3) by Karen Chance

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

Recently named the world’s chief clairvoyant, Cassandra Palmer still has a thorn in her side. As long as Cassie and a certain master vampire—the sizzling-hot Mircea—are magically bound to each other, her life will never be her own…

The spell that binds them can only be broken with an incantation found in the Codex Merlini, an ancient grimoire. The Codex’s location has been lost in the present day, so Cassie will have to seek it out in the only place it can still be found—the past.

But Cassie soon realizes the Codex has been lost for a reason. The book is rumored to contain some seriously dangerous spells, and retrieving it may help Cassie to deal with Mircea, but it could also endanger the world…

All right. All right. I’ll admit that I went back to the Cassandra Palmer books when my book slump was spiraling out of control. This third entry has always been my favorite. Now I also did it so I could read on to book 4 and more! Because this series has so much in it, especially because this is the book that the full force of the time travel hits. No one does time travel like Chance.

(Confession, I still have to read book 4 and more!)

heart-of-obsidianHeart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling, book 12) by Nalini Singh

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

From publisher site

Get ready for a major event in the smash-hit New York Times bestselling series—a secret finally revealed, and fans are guaranteed an epic surprise.

In 2006, Nalini Singh introduced the beguiling and sensual Psy/Changeling world in Slave to Sensation, which spawned a series that has had readers and critics cheering. Througout the incredible 11-book run there has been one question that has tantalized Nalini’s legion of fans. Now, in the eagerly-awaited twelfth book in the series, Nalini Singh finally reveals the answer to the biggest Psy/Changeling mystery—an answer so surprising we wouldn’t dare spoil it. Even if we knew.

Features a secret so shocking, the title can’t be revealed until publication.

Hands down Singh is the BEST Paranormal Romance author ever. Ever. No really. I feel 100% confident in this claim. Many series and authors fall prey to PNR tropes, mainly the authors own tropes. (*cough*Cole*cough*) It feels like PNR series are all the same anymore. Or if they have a strong start they piddle off into . . . .

This is the high point of the series. Where all of the actions and reactions are leading up to this huge repercussions. Not to mention that this is the “secret character” that every fan has been waiting book after book, after book for. Every PNR series has that one male lead that fans have been “dying” for. After Heart of Obsidian all the PNR series I love and follow pale in comparison.

The secret is keeping the romances fresh and intense. But key is the world building. No really. Most PNRs never become ambitious enough to create a world like this, let alone to develop it soooooo much over 12 books. The universe rivals most PNR worlds, UF, and fantasy worlds. Singh is the Queen. Boom.

clean-sweepClean Sweep (Inkeeper Chronicles, book 1) by Ilona Andrews

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night....Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

It took me a while to fall in love with the Kate Daniels universe. The first book in the Edge series was great! But this is the book that sold me on them. Because this is the third universe they’ve created in the Urban Fantasy genre. Oh, I loved it!

It blends sci/fi with fantasy and creates an intense world that blew me away. While fans count down the days until the next Kate book, I’m all giddy for the next Inkeeper Chronicle. Because the humor, world, and characters were all spot of for me.

murder-of-crowsMurder of Crows (The Others, book 2) by Anne Bishop

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside's shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

To be far the first book is A-mazing. This second book did the opposite of what I always fear of second books, dismal let down. Murder of Crows was perfection. Perfection. Bishop is the queen of dark fantasy. Now imagine her taking an altnerate universe of our world where humans are not at the top of the food chain. It’s the Others and humans are just meat.

This is another series that has created a stir this year with the second entry. It’s safe to say this is a Urban Fantasy book that needs to be read by fans.

burn-for-meBurn for Me (Hidden Legacy, book 1) by Ilona Andrews

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire…

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

It amazes me as well that Andrews made it again on my list with another new series. Which is a whole new shiny world for Urban Fantasy fans to gobble up. While it took me a moment to fall into the world, once I did it was love. Sure I keep fervently repeating—and I will stand by it—that Andrews male love interests have the same framework behind them. Rogan takes a slightly disturbing turn with his Alpha dominate image. One that both chills and thrills.

However, what I like more is the setup of this world and the family dynamics that Nevada has. Considering the Kate Daniels series and Inkeeper Chronicles don’t really have family dynamics to them.

The first Edge book showed readers that Andrews no kids and family dynamics and it’s a treat to find it in their new books. Oh, and the magic and world is too good to miss.

venomVenom (Elemental Assassin, book 3) by Jennifer Estep

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

What kind of assassin works pro bono?
It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.

To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists.

At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer . . . who is about to save her life.

Another series that I challenged myself to take on and finish. After rereading the first and enjoying the the sequel. (Yeah for the awesomeness of book 2s!) Three just wowed me. Because Gin is one of the best and toughest female leads in the UF genre. Not to mention that the world is top notch. What blew me away is that book 3 mixes in long lost sisters, getting rid of asshole exes and setting up the next love (Oh, he’s epic), but helps setup the first official steps towards Gin’s revenge. Who doesn’t love a revenge story, and with Gin Blanco at the helm it’s going to be one heck of a bloody ride.

poltergeistPoltergeist (Greywalker, book 2) by Kat Richardson

Grab it: Goodreads | Amazon

Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died - for two minutes. Now she's a Greywalker - walking the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she's discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of "strange" cases.

In the days leading up to Halloween, Harper's been hired by a university research group that is attempting to create an artificial poltergeist. The head researcher suspects someone is faking the phenomena, but Harper's investigation reveals something else entirely - they've succeeded. And when one of the group's members is killed in a brutal and inexplicable fashion, Harper must determine whether the killer is the ghost itself, or someone all too human.

Richardson’s Greywalker series is a classic UF. It was one of the series at the front of the line when the genre blew up. While some readers do say it’s slow, there’s a reason it’s still chugging along and with pretty high reviews.

While the main character is a loner and it can make reading just about her lonely, this is a stepping stone for her opening up herself to the world and so on. However, what makes this book on my list is the fact that ghost stories are sooooooo over down in the genre. No really. There’s so many. The problem is that things have gone stale. So as a read the scientific and magical blend of a poltergeist my mind was in love. Richardson has done her research feeding fans on both levels of the make believe and research done on hauntings.

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