"In the stories of old, a hero is the one who sweeps in with a drawn sword and noble face, to kill the Dragon and free the princess. In the stories of old it never seems to dawn on the princess that she should be careful not to put herself at mercy of those who would do her ill in the first place. I don't live in the stories of old."
2018 is here and with it comes a batch of highly anticipated reads. But before I fully dive into the new year looking for some new favorite books, it’s time to take a look back at the best books of 2017. I read 138 books last year, including quite a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 31 new (to me) authors and discovered some wonderful authors (like Rebecca Brooks, Santino Hassell, Stefanie London, and Heather McCollum) whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my eighth A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.
I read a number of excellent books in 2017, but I did manage to narrow the list down so I could spotlight my 17 favorites of '17 – the ten best new reads and the seven best re-reads.
Note: My picks weren’t all published in 2017 (one is even a 1930s classic), but all were new-to-me reads for the year.
Also note: The books are alphabetized by author as I love them all equally.
2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
5. Fair Game (All’s Fair, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon
6. Fair Play (All’s Fair, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon
1. Rock Chick (Rock Chick, Book 1) by Kristen Ashley
2. Quinn’s Hart by Cassandra Gold
3. Azagoth (Demonica Underworld, Book 1) by Larissa Ione
6. Angels Fall by Nora Roberts
7. High Noon by Nora Roberts
This boxset has three imaginative tales set in a high school full of magic and mischief. I don't read many teen/young adult books and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was pulled into Lucy's adventures at Amaris High. Each book finds Lucy in a new mess of trouble and takes her on quite the adventure. Reminiscent of the Harry Potter series, the stories are fast-paced and fun, the characters are interesting, and the dialogue and situations are witty and often hilarious, and the world-building is fantastic. Much like any high school, friends can become enemies and vice versa with bullies, cliques, and the rumor mill. It's a world of teenage angst (but not too much) mixed with magic and werewolves.
My review cross-posted from Wit and Sin
A warning to anyone about to start Illegal Contact: make sure you leave yourself time to read the entire book in one sitting. Santino Hassell has a compelling writing style that makes Gavin and Noah’s love story impossible to put down. Even if you’re not a football fan, this is one sports romance you don’t want to miss.
Gavin Brawley isn’t your typical hero. He may be gorgeous and talented both in the bedroom and on the field, but he’s also got a short temper that he lets fly. Add in an attitude and an unwillingness to be anything but straightforward and it’s easy to see why he’s a public relations nightmare. Gavin isn’t wholly the jerk the media makes him out to be, but he’s got a chip on shoulder and the forced confinement of house arrest (even if that house is a mansion) makes him even more irritable. So why did I find him so compelling? What sold me on Gavin from the start – even when he was at his most disagreeable – was that he’s utterly and completely loyal, protective, and caring when it comes to his friends. I loved peeling back the layers of his character and watching Gavin grow and change over the course of the story. He’s never going to be the smiling sports star pictured on your boxed cereal, but he does become an ever better, more well-rounded version of himself.
Noah Monroe is the catalyst for Gavin’s change, and I flat-out loved him. Noah is one of the most relatable protagonists I’ve come across in quite some time. When he applies for the job of Gavin’s personal assistant, it’s not because he’s a football fan or a celebrity-chaser. He’s simply a recent college grad drowning in student loan debt and desperately needs a job. Noah may be smart, no-nonsense, a bit of a geek, and look like a sexy Clark Kent, but he’s also an over-thinker with flaws of his own. Noah isn’t cowed by Gavin’s temper and his straightforwardness with the other man about how he comes across is part of the reason why Gavin starts to examine his own attitude.
Noah and Gavin don’t hit it off from the start; in fact, they piss each other off more often than not. The sparks fly fast and furious and I loved watching Gavin and Noah go from antagonizing one another to respecting each other to becoming more than cranky football star and overwhelmed employee. While there’s definite attraction in the beginning, the romance is a slow burn. I loved that Gavin and Noah actually got to know each other before the love story kicked things into high gear. And when the sexual tension between the two men boils over…watch out, because you’re in for some dirty, sexy fun. I loved these two together, but even after they start to fall in love, you know things aren’t going to be easy. Coming out as bisexual could destroy a career that has saved Gavin, and homophobia isn’t something you can wave a magic wand at and make disappear. I won’t say how things work out, but I will say that the ending of Illegal Contactleft me with a huge smile on my face.
Illegal Contact is the first book in Mr. Hassell’s Barons series and I can’t wait for more. Noah and Gavin are complex, interesting characters and their love story is layered, engaging, sexy, and surprisingly sweet at times. I also fell in love with Gavin’s teammates and best friends Simeon and Marcus, and I cannot wait to see what Mr. Hassell has in store for Simeon in Down by Contact. Until I find out, I’m content to keep re-reading Gavin and Noah’s story – their romance is just that addictive.
FTC Disclosure: I received the e-book edition of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.