Joanna’s Favorites of 2016

I joined the team of Red Hot Ladies in January and challenged myself to expand my reading choices past my usual go-tos. I’ve had my eyebrows raised and I’ve found writers I will love forever, from long-established authors to newbies who’ve contacted us at the blog and offered their work.

Throughout the year I’ve been editing my own novel, which is my new favorite and never ending pastime. Seriously – help, I can’t stop. Much respect for my co-reviewers, who published, drafted and dreamed big their own books this year – you guys rule and your work is sublime. On with my other favorite reads from the past twelve months:


Magic Binds (Kate Daniel #9) by Ilona Andrews

I’m pretty sure this novel will be on Jen’s list too. I love this series and rate this book as one of their best. The development of the relationship between Kate and Roland, her doting/murderous father, is fascinating. Curran made me laugh out loud, as did the side characters just being their excellent selves. The story is fast paced, compelling and tense, with little let up, and the world of post-shift Atlanta is just as awesome as it ever was.

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

I don’t post YA reviews on this site but this book, the conclusion of the Winner’s Trilogy deserves attention. Rutkoski’s prose is exquisite and the love affair through this tale of two nations divided by war concludes in a way that had me hugging my kindle and wiping away a tear. Whip-smart strategist Kestrel, and noble, worthy Arin are on opposite sides of the fight and their deep love, their betrayals, their suffering and their sacrifices to protect the other makes their emergence as winners all the sweeter. I cannot tell you how well this is written. Your heart will break, your feelings will be manipulated, you’ll hide and not want to finish the tale, but it’ll all be alright in the end. I promise. Start at book one, obviously.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Undecided (Burnham College, #1) by Julianna Keyes

This is the classic NA player-falls-in-love college romance, and it was right on the money for freshness, cuteness and with the right amount of love and angst. Crosbie, our hero, is a muscle-bound auburn-haired sexy, sweet and dear fellow, and I’m still half in love with him months on. The title and cover might say love triangle but there’s no deciding needed. The angst comes from another direction. Nora, our heroine, has a secret which bites her on the ass just when everything is looking good, and it hit me right in the center of the feels.

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Score (Off Campus, #3) by Elle Kennedy

Hum. So, another player-(of hockey)-falls-in-love college romance but a totally different feel. Dean is our hero and he’s a happy whore. Allie winds up sleeping with him whilst on the rebound from her long-term boyf, and Dean can’t get enough. He has to pull out the big guns to convince Allie to a round two with him, and even bigger guns to get her to commit to forever. She’s a nest builder so the guy who sleeps with everyone isn’t top of her list for settling down, but hey, a guy can change, right? (Wrong. Seriously, that never happens in real life. This, dear reader, is another reason we need books.)

Click to purchase: Amazon

Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas

I’ll read anything by this writer. Shopping list? Schedule? Bring it. This is a teen angst tale of a young couple, Misha and Ryen who fall for each other as pen pals. When they finally meet, things have gone bad for one and the other isn’t exactly the solace they were seeking. The draw between them, however, is undeniable. As per form, this is sexy, tense and dramatic, with bad kids doing bad things and entertaining me to hell and back.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Bittersweet (True North, #1) by Sarina Bowen

A more adult contemporary book, with grown-ups (mid-late twenties) in the beautiful countryside of Vermont. This novel is set on an apple farm with big gruff Griff being said farmer, taking on Audrey, restaurant company intern who’s come to buy his produce on the cheap. They realise they hooked-up in college and the attraction again looms large. Think lumbersexual meets very likable heroine with little angst and lots of lovely foods described along the way. Yum.


Burn Down the Night (Everything I Left Unsaid, #3) by Molly O’Keefe

This is explosive, dark and gritty. There’s little comfort or niceness in MO’K’s tale. We have Joan, a stripper and an avenging angel who is taking on bad men. She rescues Max, an ex-motorcycle club president who doesn’t take well to waking up in chains. Joan treats his injuries but can’t trust him. Somehow, between these two messed up characters, this becomes a HEA, but it is tense and hot AF as they battle their enemies together.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Hold Your Breath (Search and Rescue #1) by Katie Ruggle

A sweet romance and murder mystery set in the icy wastes of the Rocky Mountains. The whole series has been published this year with a different couple in each book taking the mystery through to its conclusion. This first book has grumpy dive rescue leader Callum and fun new recruit Lou. She messes with him, he falls for her in his own stern, super-serious super-handsome way. It’s very cute, slow burn and has forced-proximity where Lou needs overnight protection. I loved it. (Shout-out to book 3 hero, George, because I love him.)

Click to purchase: Amazon

Honorable mentions (all of these are just as awesome):

  • Bad Neighbour by Molly O’Keefe
  • Managed (VIP, #2) by Kristen Callihan
  • Wilder (The Renegades, #1) by Rebecca Yarros
  • My Perfect Mistake (Over the Top #1) by Kelly Siskind
  • Wicked Sexy (Wicked Games #2) by J.T. Geissinger
  • Wolfsong by CJ Klune

Happy reading and have a great 2017.

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