Byrne After Reading’s Top Ten of 2014

I’d thought about posting this list closer to the end of the month, but since everyone’s out doing their Christmas shopping, I figured y’all might want a handy list to take with you. So here are my top ten picks for 2014, in no particular order (all* books were released in 2014):

1) Ignite Me Tahereh Mafi – The conclusion to the Shatter Me trilogy was every bit as good as I could have hoped for. Juliette came to own her power and realize she was strong enough to stand alone, and her confused feelings over Warner were exactly right. And Warner…Warner Warner Warner. If you weren’t convinced by the end of the book that he was the best guy for her, there’s something wrong with you. (VBC review)

2) The Silence of Six EC Myers – Max just watched his best friend commit suicide, and now he’s got to decipher the final text he received before the government does. Six felt like a Hackers for the 21st century, and I loved every minute of it. (Byrne After Reading review)

3) The Secret Place Tana French – I should just put this one at the top of the list, because it was easily the best book I read all year (of course, I might be biased; she is my favorite author). Stephan Moran’s been looking for a way out of Cold Case to the Murder squad, and when Frank Mackey’s daughter Holly comes to him with a clue for a murder that happened the year before, he thinks he’s found it. In true French fashion, we’re given a story that’s as much about solving a crime as it is about plumbing the depths of humanity, a story of love and friends and family and the bonds that tie us together – and the stresses that break them apart. (Byrne After Reading review)

4) Shield of Winter Nalini Singh – After Kaleb’s story, I had to wonder what could possibly happen next in the world of the Psy-Changelings that would make me want to continue reading. Winter is Vasic’s story, and the broken Arrow is so torn apart on the inside it’s almost like his skin is the only thing holding him together. Silence has fallen, and the malignancy eating away at the Net is growing larger. In a last ditch effort to save their race, the E-psy band together to fight it off – putting Ivy, an empath, under Vasic’s protection. Their relationship grows by fits and starts, and while the ultimate pay off is never in doubt, they have to fight for it every step of the way. If you haven’t read this series, I can’t recommend it enough. The first few books are a bit on the meh side, but each installment is stronger than the last. (VBC review)

5) Magic Breaks Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels wants nothing more than some time alone with Curran. But to get it, she has to figure out who murdered one of the Masters of the dead – and then she has to deal with her father, who has a tendency to kill his offspring. From the moment she said “Here, kitty kitty”, I loved Kate and her snarky, punch first attitude. Every adventure with her and His Furriness has been engaging and entertaining and worth spending an entire afternoon on the couch. (Byrne After Reading review)

6) Spark John Twelve Hawks – Jacob Underwood is a model employee. He kills the people he’s told to kill and doesn’t ask questions. That changes when he’s told to eliminate Emily, and all the questions he hadn’t asked in the past few years start coming out. A creative and thought-provoking thriller, Spark was one of the most original stories I’ve read in a while. (Byrne After Reading review)

7) Alice Close Your Eyes Averil Dean – Alice has lived for revenge since she was young, and she’s finally found the perfect man to implement her plan. Jack’s everything she could hope for, and then some. It’s the some that gets her into trouble. A twisted, bleak mindfuck of a novel, Alice Close Your Eyes was technically released in 2013, but I didn’t read it until this year (*which is why I’m counting it for 2014). This book is the one that proves you should not shy away from the things that make you uncomfortable, because it makes for a story that digs its claws in and leaves you bleeding when it’s done with you. A year later, and it’s still on my mind. (Byrne After Reading review)

8) Murder of Crows Anne Bishop – Meg’s settled into life in the Courtyard, and Simon’s mostly reconciled himself to a friendship with the strange not-prey. The blood prophet’s urges to cut are getting stronger, though, and Simon’s determined to protect her, even after he realizes he’ll need to use her. Something’s working its way through the Others, and he needs to figure out what it is before it spirals out of control. I loved Written in Red, and I loved Crows, and I’m sure I’ll love Visions in Silver. These are not the romanticized version of a shifter. They’re vicious and clever and have little use for humans – and it’s a welcome change in a world of sparkly vampires and bare-chested werewolves. (Byrne After Reading review)

9) Hold on Tight Serena Bell – Mira and Jake raced their way through a whirlwind romance almost ten years ago. A chance meeting at a rehab clinic brings them together again, and Mira drops the bomb she’s been holding since Jake left – he has a son. After losing his leg to an IED, Jake has to learn a number of things all over again. When he finds out he’s a father, he’s got a few others to add to the list. But the real challenge is whether he wants to. Tight was not a happy romance. Mira and Jake fought for every moment they had together, and the amount of growth they experience was incredible. (Goodreads review)

10) Hotelles Emma Mars – Recent journalism graduate Elle’s ready to marry her prince, David, the head of a media empire. Following through on secret lessons orchestrated by his brother, Louis, is not part of the plan. But she does, and learns more about herself, her sensuality, her own passions and desires, than she could have ever imagined. While a bit overlong, Hotelles packs a wallop of a sensual punch, something missing from so many erotic romance stories today. (Byrne After Reading review and discussion)

There were a few others that could have made this list, but these were the ones that stuck out in my mind in a year full of books. Got any recs? Leave them in the comments!

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