Well, it took me forever to get
this done but, at long last, here’s
my list of favorite books I read
last year. The first 4 really are
the top 4; after that, they’re all so
close I can’t rank them 😉
#1. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan from William Morrow, September 2016
Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.
Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.
From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.
#2. The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake by Terry Shames from Seventh Street Books, January 2016
Nonie Blake is back home from a mental institution where she has spent the last twenty years, and people in Jarrett Creek are worried. Maybe too worried, for within a week of her return, Nonie is murdered.
Chief Samuel Craddock thinks the only possible suspects are members of her tight-lipped family. Ever since Nonie tried to kill her sister when she was fourteen and was sent away to the institution, the family has kept to itself.
Clues are scarce and Craddock is stumped. So he checks with therapists at the mental hospital to see whether they can add anything useful to his investigation. But he discovers that she has not been there for ten years. Now Craddock has to find out where Nonie has been all this time.
Soon Craddock finds himself dealing not only with murder, but layers of deception and secrets, and in the midst of it all—a new deputy, one Maria Trevino, sent by the sheriff to beef up security in the small Texas town.
#3. Eyeshine by Cy Wyss from Nighttime Dog Press, November 2015
PJ Taylor is a reporter with a difference: she turns into a cat from sundown to sunup every night. In this first adventure, follow PJ as she chases thieves, drug dealers, and even a murderer. Can PJ solve the mysterious drowning death of cantankerous old coot Chip Greene? Or will a local special needs boy end up taking the blame? Be prepared for twists and turns along the way as PJ applies all her feline senses to this diabolical situation.
#4. Dark Energy by Robison Wells from HarperTeen, March 2016
Five days ago, a massive UFO crashed in the Midwest. Since then, nothing—or no one—has come out.
If it were up to Alice, she’d be watching the fallout on the news. But her dad is director of special projects at NASA, so she’s been forced to enroll in a boarding school not far from the crash site. Alice is right in the middle of the action, but even she isn’t sure what to expect when the aliens finally emerge. Only one thing is clear: everything has changed.
#5. A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum from Seventh Street Books, April 2016
Amanda Baron died in a boating accident on the Ohio River in 1953. Or, did she? While it was generally accepted that she had died when a coal barge rammed the pleasure boat she was sharing with her lover, her body was never found.
Travis Baron was an infant when his mother disappeared. After the accident and the subsequent publicity, Travis’s father scoured the house of all evidence that Amanda Baron had ever lived, and her name was never to be uttered around him. Now in high school, Travis yearns to know more about his mother. With the help of his best friend, Mitch Malone, Travis begins a search for the truth about the mother he never knew. The two boys find an unlikely ally: an alcoholic former detective who served time for falsifying evidence. Although his reputation is in tatters, the information the detective provides about the death of Amanda Baron is indisputable—and dangerous.
Nearly two decades after her death, Travis and Mitch piece together a puzzle lost to the dark waters of the Ohio River. They know how Amanda Baron died, and why. Now what do they do with the information?
#6. Beneath Still Waters by Cynthia A. Graham from Blank Slate Press, March 2015
The swamps and bayous around Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas have always been dark and mysterious, but on this summer day two boys stumble across the remains of a baby girl, headless and badly decomposed. Hick Blackburn, a reluctant sheriff with a troubled past is called to the scene. With nothing to go on except the baby’s race and sex, the task of discovering who she is and how she died challenges all of Hick’s investigative skills. But Hick faces a deeper challenge. The vision of the infant has left him shattered, a reminder of a war crime he has tried to lock away, a crime that has begun to eat away at the edges of his life, destroying him one relationship at a time.
With the aid of his deputies, Hick will begin to piece together his investigation, an investigation that will lead him to question everything. As he is forced to examine the town he grew up in, he will come to terms with the notion that within each of us lays the propensity for both good and evil. His investigation will turn up lies and ignorance, scandal and deceit, and the lengths a mother will go in order to hide her shame.
#7. Renovating the Richardsons by Virginia Smith from Harvest House Publishers, February 2016
Things are finally starting to fall into a steady rhythm in the small town of Goose Creek, Kentucky. Millie Richardson is hard at work renovating a drafty Victorian house into a B&B. Her husband, Al, is busy writing checks for the renovations. And the new vet, Susan, has finally found acceptance from the town—not to mention a hunky new boyfriend, Justin.
But things never stay quiet for long in Goose Creek. The inner-county softball game is coming up, and Millie volunteers Al as team manager. But the softball team is a disaster. If they’re not going to embarrass themselves in front of the whole of Franklin County, Al needs Justin to play. But Justin lives just outside the city limits, and the rules say that players must live in town.
As if that weren’t enough to keep the town gossips busy, a massage therapist has come to town and opened up shop. Imagine—a massage parlor!—in Goose Creek! No decent Creeker will stand for it.
It’s up to Al and Millie—again—to save the day.
#8. The Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann from Seventh Street Books, August 2016
Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.
As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.
#9. The Branson Beauty by Claire Booth from Minotaur Books, July 2016
The Branson Beauty, an old showboat, has crashed in the waters of an Ozark mountain lake just outside the popular tourist destination of Branson, Missouri. More than one hundred people are trapped aboard. Hank Worth is still settling into his new role as county sheriff, and when he responds to the emergency call, he knows he’s in for a long winter day of helping elderly people into rafts and bringing them ashore. He realizes that he’ll face anxiety, arguments, and extra costs for emergency equipment that will stretch the county’s already thin budget to the breaking point.
But he is absolutely not expecting to discover high school track star Mandy Bryson’s body locked inside the Captain’s private dining room. Suddenly, Hank finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation, with the county commissioner breathing down his neck and the threat of an election year ahead of him. And as he wades deeper into the investigation, Hank starts to realize he’s up against a web of small town secrets much darker and more tangled than he could have ever imagined.
#10. Thirst by Katherine Prairie from Stonedrift Press, February 2016
Explosive violence rocks Canada’s Slocan Valley after the shooting deaths of three teenagers in a bombing attempt at the Keenleyside dam. A joint U.S.-Canada military force locks down the Valley to protect Columbia River dams critical to both countries but martial law incites more violence.Geologist Alex Graham refuses to let politics stand in her way. She evades military patrols to slip into a restricted zone in her hunt for a silver mine to claim as her own. But her plans are derailed by an intentionally set fire that almost takes her life.
Someone wants her out of the Slocan Valley.
When Alex discovers a gunshot victim in an abandoned mine, she fears she could be next. But she s never been one to wait for trouble to come to her and she tracks a suspicious man seen once too often in the lonely mountains.
All eyes are on the dams, but the true threat lies elsewhere.
#11. The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn from Atria Books, July 2014
Chet and Bernie, the best canine/human P.I. team in the business, encounter a prison work crew that includes Frenchie Boutette, an old pal they sent up the river. Frenchie begs Bernie to go find his brother Ralph, a reclusive inventor who has disappeared—along with his houseboat—from the bayou. Not long after, Bernie fends off a deadly attack from a member of a shadowy gang called the Q’s. The attacker dies without revealing anything.
In bayou country, Chet and Bernie meet the no-good Boutette family and their ancient enemies, the maybe-even-worse Robideaus. At first it looks like Ralph’s disappearance is tied to a dispute between the two families over a load of stolen shrimp. But Chet turns up a buried clue that sends them in a new and dangerous direction involving the oil business. The more they find out about Ralph and what he knew, the less their chances of surviving to do anything about it. Now they’re up against Big Oil, shadowy black ops figures, and the Q’s—plus Iko, a legendary bayou gator with a big appetite…
#12. Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie from Henery Press, November 2016
They say opposites attract, and what could be more opposite than a stuffy literary writer falling for a self-published romance writer? Novelist Aaron Mite meets Laurie Lee at a writers’ colony and mistakenly believes her to be a renowned writer of important fiction. When he discovers she’s a self-published romance author, he’s already fallen in love with her. Aaron thinks genre fiction is an affront to the fiction-writing craft. He often quotes the essayist, Arthur Krystal who says literary fiction “melts the frozen sea inside of us.” Ironically Aaron doesn’t seem to realize that he’s emotionally frozen. The vivacious Laurie, lover of flamingo-patterned attire and all things hot pink, is the one person who might be capable of melting him.
#13. Michelangelo’s Ghost by Gigi Pandian from Henery Press, October 2016
Can treasure-hunting historian Jaya Jones unmask a killer ghost?
A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters…
When Jaya’s old professor dies under eerie circumstances shortly after discovering manuscripts that point to a treasure in Italy’s Park of Monsters, Jaya and her brother pick up the trail. From San Francisco to the heart of Italy, Jaya is haunted by a ghost story inexorably linked to the masterpieces of a long-dead artist and the deeds of a modern-day murderer. Untrustworthy colleagues, disappearing boyfriends, and old enemies–who can Jaya trust when the ghost wails?
#14. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hat Mew’d by Alan Bradley from Delacorte Press, September 2016
In spite of being ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is excited to be sailing home to England. But instead of a joyous homecoming, she is greeted on the docks with unfortunate news: Her father has fallen ill, and a hospital visit will have to wait while he rests. But with Flavia’s blasted sisters and insufferable cousin underfoot, Buckshaw now seems both too empty—and not empty enough. Only too eager to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, to deliver a message to a reclusive wood-carver. Finding the front door ajar, Flavia enters and stumbles upon the poor man’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. The only living creature in the house is a feline that shows little interest in the disturbing scene. Curiosity may not kill this cat, but Flavia is energized at the prospect of a new investigation. It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one’s spirits. But what awaits Flavia will shake her to the very core.
#15. Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore from William Morrow, August 2015
In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing—and you know that can’t be good—in New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore’s delightfully funny sequel to A Dirty Job.
Something really strange is happening in the City by the Bay. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Death Merchant Charlie Asher is just as flummoxed as everyone else. He’s trapped in the body of a fourteen-inch-tall “meat puppet” waiting for his Buddhist nun girlfriend, Audrey, to find him a suitable new body to play host.
To get to the bottom of this abomination, a motley crew of heroes will band together: the seven-foot-tall death merchant Minty Fresh; retired policeman turned bookseller Alphonse Rivera; the Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus; and Lily, the former Goth girl. Now if only they can get little Sophie to stop babbling about the coming battle for the very soul of humankind . . .
#16. Admiral by Sean Danker from Roc, May 2016
“I was on a dead ship on an unknown planet with three trainees freshly graduated into the Imperial Service. I tried to look on the bright side.”
He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer.
Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.
#17. You Are Dead by Peter James from Minotaur Books, October 2015
In Peter James’ You Are Dead, the last words Jamie Ball hears from his fiancée, Logan Somervile, are in a terrified mobile phone call from her. She has just driven into the underground car park beneath the apartment block where they live in Brighton, and seen a man acting strangely. Then she screams and the phone goes dead. The police are on the scene within minutes, but Logan has vanished, leaving behind her neatly parked car and cell phone.
That same afternoon, workmen digging up an old asphalt path in a park in another part of the city, unearth the remains of a young woman in her early twenties, who has probably been dead for 30 years.
At first, to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his Major Crime Team, these two events seem totally unconnected. But then another young woman in Brighton goes missing and another body from the past surfaces. At the same time a strange man visits an eminent London psychiatrist, claiming to have a piece of information on the missing woman, Logan, that turns out, at first, to be wrong-or so it seems. It is only later Roy Grace makes the chilling realization that this one thing is the key to both the past and the present-and now, beyond any doubt, he knows that Brighton has its first ever serial killer.
#18. Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman from William Morrow, May 2016
Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected state’s attorney representing suburban Maryland—including the famous planned community of Columbia, created to be a utopia of racial and economic equality. Prosecuting a controversial case involving a disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death, the fiercely ambitious Lu is determined to avoid the traps that have destroyed other competitive, successful women. She’s going to play it smart to win this case—and win big—cementing her political future.
But her intensive preparation for trial unexpectedly dredges up painful recollections of another crime—the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Justice was done. Or was it? Did the events of 1980 happen as she remembers them? She was only a child then. What details didn’t she know?
As she plunges deeper into the past, Lu is forced to face a troubling reality. The legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. But what happens when she realizes that, for the first time, she doesn’t want to know the whole truth?
#19. The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta from Touchstone, May 2016
It was her word against his…until she disappeared.
Emily Shapiro has gone missing. A freshman at a Michigan university, Emily was last seen leaving a bar near Beta Psi, a prestigious and secretive fraternity. The main suspect is Dylan Highsmith, the son of one of the most powerful politicians in the state. At first, the only clue is pieced-together surveillance footage of Emily leaving the bar that night…and Dylan running down the street after her.
When prosecutor Anna Curtis discovers a video diary Emily kept during her first few months at college, it exposes the history Emily had with Dylan: she accused him of rape before disappearing. Anna is horrified to discover that Dylan’s frat is known on campus as the “rape factory.”
The case soon gets media attention and support from Title IX activists across the country, but Anna’s investigation hits a wall. Anna has to find something, anything she can use to discover Emily alive. But without a body or any physical evidence, she’s under threat from people who tell her to stop before she ruins the name of an innocent young man.
#20. Four Furlongs by Carol Wright Crigger from Five Star, May 2016
Smart and sassy bookkeeper China Bohannon is a modern 1890s career woman who’d rather sleuth than type. China is in charge of the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency office on the day a fourteen-year-old girl shows up seeking the detectives’ help in a case of what she’s calling murder. Neva Sue O’Dells jockey brother has been killed during a race, the horse he was riding — the dead-on Derby favorite — lamed. Neva claims her mother and grandfather are involved, having been paid a lot of money to rig the race. Who paid them? Neva doesn’t know, but she wants China to find out and somehow bring those who harmed her brother to justice.
#21. The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter from William Morrow, September 2016
With the discovery of a murder at an abandoned construction site, Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is brought in on a case that becomes much more dangerous when the dead man is identified as an ex-cop.
Studying the body, Sara Linton—the GBI’s newest medical examiner and Will’s lover—realizes that the extensive blood loss didn’t belong to the corpse. Sure enough, bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate there is another victim—a woman—who has vanished . . . and who will die soon if she isn’t found.
Will is already compromised, because the site belongs to the city’s most popular citizen: a wealthy, powerful, and politically connected athlete protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers—a man who’s already gotten away with rape, despite Will’s exhaustive efforts to put him away.
But the worst is yet to come. Evidence soon links Will’s troubled past to the case . . . and the consequences will tear through his life with the force of a tornado, wreaking havoc for Will and everyone around him, including his colleagues, family, friends—and even the suspects he pursues.
#22. The Room with the Second-Best View by Virginia Smith from Harvest House Publishers, September 2016
Excitement is in the air in Goose Creek, Kentucky, as the small town prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary and the veterinarian’s upcoming wedding. But trouble is brewing in this provincial paradise…
Al Richardson agreed to open a B&B with his wife after his retirement in two years, but Millie secretly invites some guests to stay for the wedding. She plans to be the most gracious Southern hostess—until a tumble down the stairs leaves her unprepared for their quirky and cantankerous first guest.
Meanwhile, the town’s anniversary plans are in a state of chaos as the celebration committee scrambles to raise the necessary funds—an effort spearheaded by a “newcomer,” which ruffles the townsfolk’s feathers.
Goose Creek has lasted 150 years. Can it survive the next month?
So there they are. How about
you? Want to share at least one
favorite from last year?