Only Ever You by Rebecca Drake
A mother loses her child for 45 minutes...only for her to be taken again three months later. Soon, the parents become the prime suspects. The whole book was suspenseful with many twists and turns. Every time I thought I had the story figured out, it surprised me. If you love psychological thrillers, this is a great read.
The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
I only read this book a few weeks ago, but it has stayed with me. I've mentioned before I think the best kind of thrillers are the kinds that you can't say much about without spoiling it. This thriller is GOOD. It's insanely twisted and just when you think you know what's going on the author says HAHA and throws another plot twist. It alternates from the girl before (Emma) who was killed in the house the current girl (Jane) is renting. There were a few uncomfortable moments, but the ending really sealed the deal for me. If you love thrillers, you have to get your hands on this one!
Honorable Mention: Find Her by Lisa Gardner (review here)
Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino
It's been a long time since I've felt this emotional while reading a book. I knew Renee Carlino could write after reading Before We Were Strangers, but this book is a million times better. The story captivated me from the first page. Emiline, a creative writing professor living in San Diego and struggling with her own writing, is recommended a debut novel from J.Colby. From the first page, Emiline realizes the novel is written about her by the boy who was everything to her growing up...who she hasn't seen in 12 years. The past and present is intertwined perfectly with a book within a book format. As you read the book with Emiline, you get to see Emiline and Jase's love develop, and you truly feel all the pain Emiline experienced growing up. The book absolutely consumed me-I could think of nothing else until I finished. It's not perfect. There were several things that bothered me, and the ending felt a bit rushed, but it's five stars for me based on how emotionally invested I got and how much I want to tell everyone I know about it.
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
I have always wanted to read a Colleen Hoover book. In fact, I have several of her books that have been hanging out on my Kindle for years waiting to be read. After reading It Ends with Us, I think I need to move them up higher on my list. I went into this book not knowing much about it. I thought it was just a love story. It's not just a love story. It's beautiful, heartbreaking, raw, and truly eye-opening. Even before I got to the Author's Note, I could tell the author had experience with the topic from the way it was written. I started this book blindly, and I don't want to give anything away because I think that's the best way to read it. You go into it not knowing anything and come out shaken by this powerful read.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This book was such a guilty pleasure! I like the royal family, though I didn't know much about Kate and William's love story (I knew they met at St. Andrews, and it took him a while to propose). Of course, I had to look up more of their story while I read The Royal We, and this novel does loosely follow the same timeline. I really thought this book was fun. As much as I liked Bex and Prince Nick, I thought the supporting characters really made this story. It was longer than I expected, but I didn't really mind. I was in the mood for this kind of novel, and I'm glad I read it.
Honorable Mention: The One You Really Want by Jill Mansel (review here) and One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review here)
Best World War II Historical Fiction
I usually read a lot of World War II historical fiction, but this year I only read five books. Thankfully, they were all good!
Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson
I love Ronald H. Balson's writing. Last year, Saving Sophie was one of my favorite reads of the year, and I liked Karolina's Twins just as much. Lena's story of her life during World War II and her current search for the twins was beautiful and heartbreaking. I guessed the big "twist" early on in the book, but that didn't detract from the novel. If you're a fan of World War II historical fiction, this one is a must read!
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Even though I've read a lot of World War II historical fiction (and non-fiction), I feel like every time I pick up a WWII book, I learn something new. I had never heard of Caroline Ferriday and barely knew anything about the Ravensbrück "Rabbits." The thing that stands out to me about this book is a decent chunk of the story occurs after the war is over. It was interesting (and heartbreaking) to read a book that truly how difficult it was to glue a life back together after such unimaginable trauma. If you are a fan of WWII historical fiction, I think Lilac Girls is worth a read.
Best Other Historical Fiction
A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock
(c/o Blogging for Books)
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Alternating between Vera's senior year at university in the 1910s and her socialite life in the 1920s, A Fine Imitation really portrays why there is more to life than money. Even though she has everything she could possibly want, Vera is terribly lonely until she meets Emil Hallan, the artist invited to paint a mural in the pool room of her building. As they begin to get to know each other, Vera begins to question whether her life of privilege is worth being miserable. It's written well, and both timelines were woven together beautifully at the end.
Honorable Mention: The Winemakers by Jan Moran (review here)
Best Books That Don’t Fit a Category
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
I think it's almost impossible to review this book without spoilers, so I'm going to be super generic. Jason Dessen is kidnapped one day heading home from the bar and wakes up in a totally different life. This book sucked me in. It's intense and overwhelming at times (the physics parts weren't my cup of tea). I thought the twist was unique, and the ending was interesting.
Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon
This is the best time travel book I've ever read. It's a love story, but it's so much more than that. It's a coming of age story. A story about second chances, of feeling stuck and fighting to get out of it. It's slow at first but gets so much better. I loved all the characters. I don't usually tear up while reading, but this book got me. It's truly beautiful.
No Ordinary Life was a fascinating account of how sudden child stardom affects the child and the rest of her family. Molly is discovered after a viral YouTube video, and her mother Faye becomes her manager while still being a mother to her two other children and dealing with a broken marriage. I loved the behind the scenes look of making a television show, and Faye and Molly were both great characters. No Ordinary Life hooked me in from the first page, and I couldn't put it down!