Friday Feature: 2016 Reading Challenge & Favorite Reads

I cannot believe it is already time to talk about whether or not we achieved our 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge! Once again the year has flown by and looking back, I’m not sure where the year went, but I can tell you I spent A LOT of it reading!

I played it safe and set my goal for 300 books. Once again, I am surprised to discover that I not only met the goal, but I also surpassed it!

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Kathy has
completed her goal of reading
300 books in
2016!
hide

(Please feel free to friend me).

Life handed me a few unexpected surprises this past year, so once again, I am going to play it safe and set my goal for 2017 at 300.


Now for the hard part: picking my favorite reads from the past year. It took A LOT of consideration, but I finally managed to narrow my selections to:


Women’s Fiction

Title: Results May Vary by Bethany Chase
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages

Summary:

From Bethany Chase—whom bestselling author Emily Giffin calls “a great new voice in fiction”—comes a wise and delightfully relatable novel about a woman’s journey to rebuild her life, and her heart, after a stunning betrayal.

Can you ever really know the person you love?

She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, art curator Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

Compassionate and uplifting, Results May Vary is a bittersweet celebration of the heart’s ability to turn unexpected troubles into extraordinary strength.

Read my review HERE.


Contemporary

Title: When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 496 pages

Summary:

Love and loyalty made them sisters. Secrets could still destroy them.

As children in foster care, Cecilia and Robin vowed they would be the sisters each had never had. Now superstar singer-songwriter Cecilia lives life on the edge, but when Robin is nearly killed in an accident, Cecilia drops everything to be with her.

Robin set aside her career as a successful photojournalist to create the loving family she always yearned for. But gazing through a wide-angle lens at both past and future, she sees that her marriage is disintegrating. Her attorney husband is rarely home. She and the children need Kris’s love and attention, but does Kris need them?

When Cecilia asks Robin to be the still photographer for a documentary on foster care, Robin agrees, even though Kris will be forced to take charge for the months she’s away. She gambles that he’ll prove to them both that their children—and their marriage—are a priority in his life.

Cecilia herself needs more than time with her sister. A lifetime of lies has finally caught up with her. She wants a chance to tell the real story of their childhood and free herself from the nightmares that still haunt her.

As the documentary unfolds, memories will be tested and the meaning of family redefined, but the love two young girls forged into bonds of sisterhood will help them move forward as the women they were always meant to be.

Read my review HERE.


Historical

Title: The Last Road Home by Danny Johnson
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Historical (’50s, ’60s & ’70s), Literary Fiction
Length: 304 pages

Summary:

From Pushcart Prize nominee Danny Johnson comes a powerful, lyrical debut novel that explores race relations, first love, and coming-of-age in North Carolina in the 1950s and ’60s.

At eight years old, Raeford “Junebug” Hurley has known more than his share of hard lessons. After the sudden death of his parents, he goes to live with his grandparents on a farm surrounded by tobacco fields and lonesome woods. There he meets Fancy Stroud and her twin brother, Lightning, the children of black sharecroppers on a neighboring farm. As years pass, the friendship between Junebug and bright, compassionate Fancy takes on a deeper intensity. Junebug, aware of all the ways in which he and Fancy are more alike than different, habitually bucks against the casual bigotry that surrounds them–dangerous in a community ruled by the Klan.

On the brink of adulthood, Junebug is drawn into a moneymaking scheme that goes awry–and leaves him with a dark secret he must keep from those he loves. And as Fancy, tired of saying yes’um and living scared, tries to find her place in the world, Junebug embarks on a journey that will take him through loss and war toward a hard-won understanding.

At once tender and unflinching, The Last Road Home delves deep into the gritty, violent realities of the South’s turbulent past, yet evokes the universal hunger for belonging.

Read my review HERE.


Young Adult

Title: Liars and Losers Like Us by Ami Allen-Vath
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 240 pages

Summary:

Keep calm and make it to prom night—without a legit panic attack.

For seventeen-year-old Bree Hughes, it’s easier said than done when gossip, grief, and the opportunity to fail at love are practically high-fiving her in the hallways of Belmont High.

When Bree’s crush, Sean Mills, gives her his phone number, she can’t even leave a voicemail without sounding like a freak. Then she’s asked to be on Prom Court because Maisey Morgan, the school outcast nominated as a joke, declined. She apologizes to Maisey, but it’s too late. After years of torment and an ugly secret shared with their class’s cruel Pageant Queen, Maisey commits suicide. Bree is left with a lot of regret…and a revealing letter with a final request.

With Sean by her side, Bree navigates through her guilt, her parents’ divorce, and all the Prom Court drama. But when a cheating-love-triangle secret hits the fan after a night of sex, drinks, and video games, she’s left with new information about Sean and the class Pageant Queen. Bree must now speak up or stay silent. If she lets fear be her guide, she’ll lose her first love, and head to prom to avenge the death of the school outcast—as a party of one.

Read my review HERE.


Honorable Mention

Title: The Mother by Yvvette Edwards
Publisher: Amistad
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 256 pages

Summary:

The author of the critically acclaimed A Cupboard Full of Coats makes her hardcover debut with a provocative and timely novel about an emotionally devastated mother’s struggle to understand her teenage son’s death, and her search for meaning and hope in the wake of incomprehensible loss.

The unimaginable has happened to Marcia Williams. Her bright and beautiful sixteen-year-old son, Ryan, has been brutally murdered. Consumed by grief and rage, she must bridle her dark feelings and endure something no mother should ever have to experience: she must go to court for the trial of the killer—another teenage boy—accused of taking her son’s life.

How could her son be dead? Ryan should have been safe—he wasn’t the kind of boy to find himself on the wrong end of a knife carried by a dangerous young man like Tyson Manley. But as the trial proceeds, Marcia finds her beliefs and assumptions challenged as she learns more about Ryan’s death and Tyson’s life, including his dysfunctional family. She also discovers troubling truths about her own. As the strain of Ryan’s death tests their marriage, Lloydie, her husband, pulls farther away, hiding behind a wall of secrets that masks his grief, while Marcia draws closer to her sister, who is becoming her prime confidant.

One person seems to hold the answers—and the hope—Marcia needs: Tyson’s scared young girlfriend, Sweetie. But as this anguished mother has learned, nothing in life is certain. Not anymore.

A beautiful, engrossing novel that illuminates some of the most important and troubling issues of our time, The Motheris a moving portrait of love, tragedy, and survival—and the aftershocks from a momentary act of cruel violence that transforms the lives of everyone it touches.

Read my review HERE.


Christian

Title: Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction
Length: 336 pages

Summary:

“I felt torn between two worlds. Each with its own mystery. One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing.”

It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing.

At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.

Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.

Read my review HERE.


Biggest Plot Twist

Title: Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 288 pages

Summary:

A novel of infatuation and obsession, Unnatural Deeds has an electrifying ending that readers won’t see coming.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, not that she cares what anyone thinks. She and her homeschooled boyfriend, Andrew, are inseparable. All they need is each other. That is, until Zachary Zimmerman joins her homeroom. Within an hour of meeting, he convinces good-girl Vic to cut class. And she can’t get enough of that rush.

Despite Vic’s loyalty to Andrew, she finds her life slowly entwining with Z’s. Soon she’s lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel Z’s secrets. Except Z’s not the only one with a past. Victoria’s hiding her own secrets, secrets that will come back to haunt her…and destroy everything in her path.

Read my review HERE.


Young Adult Mystery

Title: Aftermath by Clara Kensie
Publisher: Merit Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 288 pages

Summary:

Charlotte survived four long years as a prisoner in the attic of her kidnapper, sustained only by dreams of her loving family. The chance to escape suddenly arrives, and Charlotte fights her way to freedom. But an answered prayer turns into heartbreak. Losing her has torn her family apart. Her parents have divorced: Dad’s a glutton for fame, Mom drinks too much, and Charlotte’s twin is a zoned-out druggie. Her father wants Charlotte write a book and go on a lecture tour, and her mom wants to keep her safe, a virtual prisoner in her own home. But Charlotte is obsessed with the other girl who was kidnapped, who never got a second chance at life–the girl who nobody but Charlotte believes really existed. Until she can get justice for that girl, even if she has to do it on her own, whatever the danger, Charlotte will never be free.

Read my review HERE.


Contemporary Mystery

Title: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 377 pages

Summary:

The next blockbuster thriller for those who loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl... “a finely crafted novel with a killer twist.” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train)

On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them. Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner, says, “I read I Let You Go in two sittings; it made me cry (at least twice), made me gasp out loud (once), and above all made me wish I’d written it . . . a stellar achievement.”

Read my review HERE.


Gay Mystery

Title: The Next One Will Kill You by Neil S. Plakcy
Angus Green Series Book One
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre: Contemporary, M/M, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 207 pages

Summary:

If Angus Green is going to make it to a second case, he’s needs to survive the first one.

Angus wants more adventure than a boring accounting job, so after graduating with his master’s degree he signs up with the FBI. He’s assigned to the Miami field office, where the caseload includes smugglers, drug runners, and gangs, but he starts out stuck behind a desk, an accountant with a badge and gun.

Struggling to raise money for his little brother’s college tuition, he enters a strip trivia contest at a local bar. But when he’s caught with his pants down by a couple of fellow agents, he worries that his extracurricular activities and his status as the only openly gay agent will crash his career. Instead, to his surprise, he’s added to an anti-terrorism task force and directed to find a missing informant.

It’s his first real case: a desperate chase to catch a gang of criminals with their tentacles in everything from medical fraud to drugs to jewel theft. With every corner in this case—from Fort Lauderdale’s gay bars to the morgue—turning to mayhem, Angus quickly learns that the only way to face a challenge is to assume that he’ll survive this one—it’s the next one that will kill him.

Read my review HERE.


Historical Mystery

Title: Desolation Flats by Andrew Hunt
Art Oveson Series Book Three
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Historical (30s), Mystery
Length: 385 pages

Summary:

In the summer of 1938, as war clouds loom overseas, auto racers from around the world gather at the Bonneville Salt Flats west of Salt Lake City, intent on breaking the land-speed record. But when Clive Underhill, a wealthy English motorist, mysteriously disappears and his younger brother, Nigel, is found dead, Art Oveson of the Salt Lake City Missing Persons Bureau is called to investigate.

Suddenly, Art’s best friend and former partner, Roscoe Lund, becomes the number-one suspect in Nigel’s murder, prompting Art to follow a murky trail involving homegrown fascists, bigoted ex-cops, a string of homicides, and a German auto racer with a mysterious past. And, through it all, FBI Agent Frank Oveson tries to prevent his “kid brother” Art from discovering dark truths that may threaten his life.

Tony Hillerman Prize–winning author and historian Andrew Hunt transports us to 1930s Salt Lake City in Desolation Flats, this engrossing, detailed mystery that shows what goes on behind the scenes in the supposedly clean-cut Mormon capital.

Read my review HERE.


Gay Romance

Title: Whistle Blower by Dev Bentham
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, M/M, Romance
Length: 214 pages

Summary:

Money can’t buy happiness. Jacob Nussbaum knows this better than anyone. He’s a corporate lawyer deep inside a huge New York firm, where he works overtime, sacrifices any chance at a personal life, and has been selling his soul for years. With a secretary as his only friend, he trudges on, until his whole world is blown apart by a manila envelope of photos—evidence that one of the firm’s partners is the dirtiest lawyer in one hell of a filthy business.

In search of the truth, Jacob travels to a small northern Wisconsin fishing resort. There he meets Ben Anderson, a brutally lonely man, who knocks him off his feet. Ben prompts Jacob to reevaluate his life. He’s a dozen years older than Jacob, still recovering from the death of his long time love, and doesn’t want to leave anyone a widower. But a jaded New Yorker on a soul-searching mission might be just the man to convince the grieving Ben that it’s never too late to begin again.

Read my review HERE.


Historical Romance

Title: The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance
Length: 320 pages

Summary:

Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

Read my review HERE.


Christian Romance

Title: The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer
Banister Falls Series Book Two
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 317 pages

Summary:

Planning and Post-It notes are the epitome of Evie’s life. But when she meets Jack, her life gets more than a little complicated.

Thirteen years ago, Evie’s firefighter husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her to raise their young son, Cody, alone. Now, Cody is marrying the love of his life, and as he packs up his belongings, the house feels as empty as Evie’s heart. But for all her planning and mad organizational skills, Evie could never have anticipated the dramatic shift her life is about to make.Tattooed, rough-around-the-edges Jack raises quite a few eyebrows in the tight-knit community of Banister Falls. Where Evie’s life is stream-lined, Jack’s approach to living is moment-by-moment. But as Evie gets drawn into Jack’s world—a world that isn’t as safe or predictable as the one she’s worked so hard to create—he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems outside the walls of the church.

Jack doesn’t make Evie feel comfortable, but he definitely makes her feel something. Something she hasn’t felt since Max passed away—or, maybe ever. Because even though Jack isn’t anything like her late husband, he just might be everything she needs.

Read my review HERE.


Contemporary Romance

Title: Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber
Rose Harbor Series Book Five
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages

Summary:

The much-anticipated conclusion to Debbie Macomber’s beloved Rose Harbor series, set in the picturesque town of Cedar Cove, Sweet Tomorrows is a vibrant and poignant novel of letting go of fear, following your heart, and embracing the future—come what may.

Nine months ago, Mark Taylor abruptly left Cedar Cove on a perilous mission to right a wrong from his past. Though Mark finally confessed his love for her, innkeeper Jo Marie Rose is unsure if he’s ever coming back. The Rose Harbor Inn barely seems the same without Mark, but Jo Marie can’t bear to lose herself in grief once more. Determined to move forward, she begins dating again, and finds companionship when she takes on a boarder who is starting a new chapter herself.

Recovering from a twice-broken heart, Emily Gaffney, a young teacher, is staying at the inn while she looks for a home of her own. Having given up on marriage, Emily dreams of adopting children someday. She has her eye on one house in particular—with room for kids. Although Emily’s inquiries about the house are rudely rebuffed, her rocky start with the owner eventually blossoms into a friendship. But when the relationship verges on something more, Emily will have to rethink what she truly wants and the chances she’s willing to take.

The inn seems to be working its magic again—Emily opening herself up to love, Jo Marie moving on—until Jo Marie receives shocking news.

With Debbie Macomber’s trademark charm and wisdom, Sweet Tomorrows brings to a close the journeys of cherished characters who feel like old friends. Macomber has created an enchanting place in the Rose Harbor Inn that readers will never forget.

Read my review HERE.


Erotic Romance

Title: Downtown Devil by Cara McKenna
Sins in the City Series Book Two
Publisher: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Ménage, M/M/F, M/F, M/M, Romance
Length: 347 pages

Summary:

From the author of Crosstown Crush comes the second sexy novel in the trilogy that explores the illicit pleasures of ménage à trois.

At the edge of thirty, Clare is feeling restless. Even though she’s gainfully employed and pursuing her passion for photography, she can’t shake the feeling that something’s missing. Then she meets Mica. A perfect subject for her portrait exhibit, Mica is sexy, exciting, and everything Clare desires.

One night with the charismatic stranger is all it takes to leave her craving more. But the intensity Mica brings isn’t confined to the bedroom, and Clare wonders if this summer fling might turn more adventurous than she anticipated—especially as a curious energy starts to simmer between the two of them and Mica’s handsome roommate, Vaughn.

As the three-way tension mounts, Mica makes a sinful proposal. It’s an invitation Clare can’t pass up, and an erotic encounter she’ll never be able to forget. Caught up between two irresistible men, Clare is about to get all the excitement she’s been looking for—and then some….

Read my review HERE.


Whew, it was harder than I thought it would be to pick my favorite reads of 2016! But there you have-all of the books that made my favorite list for the past year.

How about you? Did you participate in this year’s Reading Challenge? Did you meet your goal? And are you going to participate in the 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge? What were your favorite books form 2016

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9 Comments

Filed under Reading Challenge

9 Responses to Friday Feature: 2016 Reading Challenge & Favorite Reads

  1. Suze

    Hiya Kathy
    I did do the GR Challenge – I set 400 and just made it but it was a struggle and i felt pressured to read at times! (Daft I know, it’s not an important pressure) so in 17 I shall drop back to 350/370 (not sure yet of number)

    • Book Reviews & More by Kathy

      Congratulations for making your goal!!!

      I know exactly what you mean! I like the challenge because it keeps me reading, but there were times I’d look at my progress and think to myself, “you need to read two books today so you can get further ahead.”

      Next year, I’m going to try to do a mid-year check. That way it’s not such a struggle to pick my favorite reads lol!

  2. Angie Malone

    I came close to my goal of 250 but missed it by 24 books. I’m going to try the same goal for next year. Congrats and thanks for all the great recommendations.

    • Book Reviews & More by Kathy

      Aww, I’m sorry you missed your goal, but congratulations on getting so close!! I think you’ll meet it next year!!!

      I’m glad I put some books on your radar that you might otherwise have missed 🙂

  3. Cindy DeGraaff

    Congratulations on meeting your goals! What an interesting bunch of favorites, too. Thanks for sharing! Happy New Year!

    • Book Reviews & More by Kathy

      Thank you! LOL-I read a lot of different genres so it’s kinda fun to try to narrow down a favorite from each one!

      Happy New Year!

  4. H.B.

    Congrats on making your goal. I met mine too so, yay, to that too =D I’m a bit behind on writing book review for the ones I’ve read though and haven’t had the time to even marked them as read on goodreads. You have a great mix of genres.

    • Book Reviews & More by Kathy

      Congratulations on making your challenge, H.B.! It’s pretty much automatic for me to add my books to Goodreads, change them to “currently reading” when I’m reading it and then rate it when I’m finished with it. I don’t review the books I read for “pleasure” but I’ll occasionally make a comment or two about it.

  5. Timitra

    Way to go Kathy!!! Awesome list!!! I set my 2016 goal at 75 books and ended the year with 194 books read, my 2017 goal is 50 books