Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Heather and Tami's Top Ten Reads for 2013 and Giveaway

As we say hello to 2014 we wanted to take the opportunity to look back on our year in books - and what better what to do that than share with you our top ten reads for 2013?

It's never an easy task choosing your top ten, but we've managed to construct a list of ten books each - well Tami cheated just a little bit!.   Because there were so many to choose from we've also got a list of honorable mentions - books that we loved and want to highlight to you all as well.

And - because we loved these books so much we've created a giveaway so you can love them as much as us.  There's ten books from our list up for grabs so be sure to enter the rafflecopter at the bottom of the post.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

My pick of best book of 2013

Have you ever read a book that just left you speechless? Left you wanting more even though you received your happily ever after? I'm still at a loss of words on how absolutely stunning this books is. There's not many books I can honestly say I wish I'd written and this is one of them. It's witty, heartwarming and soul searching. It grabbed on to my soul and never let go. It's been several weeks since I finished it and I'm still gushing about it. I've told everyone to read it. You will not be the same when you finish it. Bravo Amy Harmon!

Fighting Redemption by Kate McCarthy

This was a recent read for me but one that struck a chord.  Apart from the fact that it was beautifully written, the intensity of the emotions it evoked made it incredibly powerful and memorable.  Ryan and Fin's connection was just beautiful and their struggle to accept what was possible was not an easy one to read.  Being set in Australia (and written by an Australian) I could really relate to places and characters.  And I just loved the honour given to our servicemen and women - it reminded me just how much they give and how grateful we should all be to those that chose a life in the armed forces.  Oh, and Kate McCarthy released a bonus chapter on her blog - which you MUST read (here), but only once you've finished Fighting Redemption.

A Different Blue by Amy Harmon 

Again another book by Amy Harmon. I loved A Different Blue. It was different than anything I'd read and dealt with several different topics. My heart broke and I cried for Blue Echohawk. It was a powerful read that kept thinking about it long after I'd finished.

Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino

"you have to teach your heart and mind how to sing together
... then you'll hear the sound of your soul"

There were so many things I loved about Sweet Thing.  For me it is one of those books with so many messages that it should be read multiple times.  I loved watching Mia struggle, I loved Will's passion and patience and the way he never lost sight of himself, even as he sought to be there for Mia.  This one is definitely on my re-read list and one I hope many others will enjoy.  And the best bit?? There's more to come ... Sweet Little Thing is a novella from Will's perspective and and is currently scheduled for release in March 2014!  CAN. NOT. WAIT!!

Falling for Hadie by Komal Kant 

This is was a book I'd picked up on a whim. I knew nothing about the Author but once I started it, I couldn't put it down. I balled my eyes out and the story was nothing short of amazing. I didn't know until after I'd finished and went searching for more that there was another book that actually was before this one. This obviously can be read as a stand alone. It was a moving and powerful story. I love the overall message of this book. Now I have to read everything by Komal Kant. She's an amazing Author and more should know who she is.

The Things We Can't Change Parts 1-3 by Kassandra Kush

This series has been simply amazing - I am in love with Evie and Zeke and cannot wait for part four to find out what will happen for them.  This story tackles a number of difficult subjects: an abusive relationship, self harm, dealing with peer pressure, "class separation" and deals with them all incredibly well - so well that you find yourself invested in the characters regardless of the role they have in the story.

The dynamic between Zeke and Evie is just fantastic - as they struggle to understand what it is about each other that keeps them coming back, as they recognise their similarities and fight against their differences this beautiful friendship unfolds.  I can see myself re-reading this series many times (although Kassandra I'd really like to read Part 4 please, really soon!!).

All the Pretty Lies by M. Leighton

I stayed up until the butt crack of dawn to read this book. I had to be up by 5:00 for work. I could not put it down. I love Sloane's character but Hemi? Hemi is something else. Dude, Hemi is my top book boyfriend at the moment and I don't see it changing any time soon. I saw so many possibilities with this series morphing into a crap load more books, which left me so excited when I saw that book 2 would be arriving shortly. Best new series bar non for me. If you haven't read it, you are sorely missing out. Plus, I kinda dig the Author a lot. :)

Heartstrings by Heather Gunter

No this isn't here because Heather wrote it, it's here because it truly is one of my favorites for this year.  In fact, I've unashamedly fallen in love with Will even though he is way too young for me ;)  Heartstrings is a really powerful story, for many reasons.  For me I think it sends a message of hope to people that have suffered through a sexual assault.  I can't help but feel a little proud of Heather too - this was a personal and painful experience for her and her willingness to share it is something that deserves recognition.  

Tori is a character that many people love.  She is sassy that's for sure.  But she's also grappling with her experience and trying to find a way to move forward.  With Will, Charlie and Maverick's help she manages to do just that, but it's not an easy journey.  Lucky for Tori, she's got Will by her side ... lucky, lucky Tori!  Oh, and a little bird tells me that we will get to spend just a little more time with these four before their story is completely told! 

Amazon| Barnes & Noble
Book 1: Love Notes - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wait for You by J. Lynn (Jennifer L. Armentrout)

I read this book while camping with my kids during spring break and I stayed up all night long. I couldn't put it down and I had to finish. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep until I knew what the hell happened. LOVE Cam. I mean LOVE him. He's in my list of best book boyfriends. He's a keeper anyway because he cooks. That is a sign of a keeper. If I remember a book and the character names after I've finished then we've got a keeper here. Wait for You was absolutely awesome. 

Fading (and Falling) by E.K. Blair

Fading (and Falling, which is Ryan's perspective) was one of the most powerful reads for me for the year. My book hangover was intense after finishing Candace's story. In my review, I wrote:

"Fading is intense. It is heartbreaking, it is graphic, it does not shy away from the impact of a brutal sexual assault."

It seems strange that such a horrid event can be connected to one of my best reading experiences for the year - but for me observing the recovery for Candace (and the struggle for Ryan) allowed me not to focus on the event itself, but what would come from it for these two amazing characters.

Captivated by these covers, engrossed by the stories - E.K. Blair has created something wonderful in these books.  Each of them is powerful in it's own right, but when read together you are totally immersed in these characters and this story.

Fading - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Falling - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Freeing (Companion Novel) - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Falling Into You by Jasinda Wilder

For me Falling Into You was powerful and gripping and is about the power of forgiveness. It gives me goosebumps all over again just thinking about it. Nell and Kyle destined to be until tragedy strikes. Nell feels and harbors guilt and Colton might just be the one to ease her pain. Little does she know that he also has his own demons to overcome. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book. Need I say more?

The Rapture Trilogy by Phillip W. Simpson

I read this series early in the year and absolutely loved it.  Sam is an amazing character, half demon, half human waging a battle to prevent evil taking over the earth.  Simpson has an incredible writing style, one that had me immersed in this world and able to visualize in great detail the various environments and characters that formed the story.  I was incredibly connected to Sam and wanted so much for him.  The expectations of him throughout the trilogy were huge and he delivered time and time again.  The Rapture Trilogy certainly appealed to my love of paranormal and while the subject matter has obvious religious connections, this was not over powering.  The romance element is light, although there is definitely a love story entwined in these pages along with a good versus evil epic tale with an outcome that is never certain and that will keep you turning pages until you discover exactly how things turn out for Sam.
Rapture - AmazonBarnes & Noble
Tribulation - AmazonBarnes & Noble
Apocalypse - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sins and Needles (The Artists Trilogy #1) by Karina Halle 

What first grabbed me was the cover of this book. It spoke to me and screamed, "Read me!" So, I did. Completely different then anything I read. It's gritty and different but a good kind of different. It had me at the first page until the very last. Ellie is difficult to say the least. She has many issues and they aren't going away any time soon. And then there's Camden, the inked stud muffin. Okay, so he certainly has issues as well but I like him. He holds a hell of a lot of resentment towards Ellie. They grapple back and forth that at times had me chuckling. It has twists and turns and I just freaking loved this book. 

Book 2: Shooting Scars - Amazon| Barnes & Noble
Book 3: Bold Tricks - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Temporary Bliss by B.J. Harvey

It's unusual, but the reason Temporary Bliss is on my top ten list is Mac, the main FEMALE character.  I loved her!! While I know there will be some who won't like Mac at all I was in awe of her capacity to be up front about what she wanted.  What was even better was watching her have to deal with Delicious Daniel, also known as the smoking hot volcano of fine and the chemistry between the two was fabulous.  There is also a cast of other characters that I fell in love with.  Consequently I've got the second book, True Bliss, loaded on my kindle ready to read so I can find out what happens for Kate, Mac's best friend.
Book 2: True Bliss - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Light in the Shadows by A. Meredith Walters 

The story of Maggie and Clay continues. When I finished this book I was in absolute awe of the Author. Here's a story about the healing process of bi-polar disorder. While never pretty and not a disorder that you can miraculously heal from, she writes about it beautifully. This touched home for me because I have a loved one that is bi-polar. The title says it all A light in the Shadows. I would definitely read the first book so you understand everything that Maggie and Clay go through. But it's a powerful story, about love and what you would do to hang onto it. I could gush and go on and on about this book. I'm a huge fan of A. Meredith Walters.

Book 1: Find You in the Dark - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Present Perfect by Alison G. Bailey

Present Perfect is an absolutely beautiful story about the importance of the present, about living in the here and now, not fearing what might be, but grabbing what is with both hands and reveling in everything it brings, regardless of how short lived it might be.  I just loved this story.  I loved the characters, I loved everything about it.  Alison G. Bailey even managed to have me reeling twice before the story concluded as she flipped things on their head.  If you're not one for crying in public it is probably best to read this in the privacy of your own home as there are definitely tear jerking scenes a plenty.  But don't let that put you off!

If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1) by Courtney Cole 

I had to include Pax in my list. Pax has issues a plenty. But you can't help but feel compassion for him. He's determined to ruin his life completely until Mila saves him. This story is about forgiving yourself and realizing that you alone have the power to change. This is the first book in this series for Courtney Cole. While I'm a fan of her earlier work as well, I love that this series deals with taboo topics, things that young people go through. Drug addiction is very real and I appreciate where the Author went with this story. Fantastic book!!!

Book 2: If You Leave - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Book 3: Before We Fall - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Distractions by J.L. Brooks

Stay alert, Violet. Distractions will be your undoing.

Distractions was one of those books that really got to me.  It was incredibly cleverly written and it gave me a book hangover of the worst kind.  I found myself reflecting on the story and characters for some time after I finished it, even re-reading sections, which is not something I do often.  It does require a level of concentration to read, but I think it is absolutely worth the investment of time.  There were twists and turns that were unpredictable and the ending was nothing like I thought it would be and yet everything I hoped for.

Running On Empty (Mending Hearts #1) by L.B Simmons

I've never been able to give this book any justice when I talk about it. I always sound like a rambling idiot. One of my favorites of 2013. One, I adore the author but the book itself is amazing. Her characters are so strong and the banter, even better. Grab it, snatch it, read it and LOVE it! 

Book 1.5: Recovery - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Book 2: Running in Place - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Friend-Zoned by Belle Aurora

Friend-Zoned is awesome - plain and simple.  The chemistry between Tina and Nik is intense, not to mention the other characters in the story.  It has humour, intrigue and some hot and steamy scenes as well.  I found myself foregoing sleep so I could read just one more chapter (always the sign of a good book).  This was an amazing debut for Belle Aurora that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Book 2: Love Thy Neighbour - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Heather's Honourable Mentions

#1 - Rome (A Marked Men Novel #3) by Jay Crownover

Wait til everyone reads this book. They will go bat shit crazy for Rome. I did, but then again, he's always been my favorite Archer.

Rome-Amazon | Rome-Barnes & Noble (available for pre-order)
Book 1: Rule - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Book 2: Jet - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Book 4: Nash - Amazon | Barnes & Noble (available for pre-order)

#2 - Music of the Heart (Runaway Train #1) by Katie Ashley

Jake. Need I say more? Katie wrote a story a book about rockstars, which I generally stay away from. However, this isn't your average 'rocker' story. I know, I'm weird and I'm good with that. It's just that they generally end up all being alike. The same story told and retold over and over again. This is one is not and I devoured it. I also love that Abby stands her ground with her beliefs and she's not afraid to state them. I love strong women like that. Fantastic beginning to a new series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Book 2: Beat of the Heart - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

#3 - Bad Things (Tristan and Danika #1) by R.K. Lilley

Wowzers! I was sunk from page one. I have a list of book boyfriends and Tristan is definitely on there.It was more than I could have ever expected. Love this book.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Book 2: Rock Bottom - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

#4 - Haven from the Storm by Sarah Dosher

This book was written beautifully and deals with subject matter that most aren't willing to venture to. Loved every second of it.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Before the Storm - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

#5 - Beautiful Broken Rules & Beautiful Broken Mess by Kimberly Lauren

I know I chose two but I loves these characters to bits and they are brothers after all. These are books they've read in one sitting and I can't wait for more from this author. She's wonderful and I get to meet her in April. I'm beyond stoked.

Beautiful Broken Rules - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Beautiful Broken Mess - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tami's Honourable Mentions

#1 - Unbreakable by Rebecca Shea

This was an amazing debut by Rebecca Shea.  I don't cry often when I read books, maybe a quiet tear here and there, but Unbreakable broke me.  And I'm just going to mention one character - Landon - *sigh* - can't wait for his story in Undone.

#2 - Finding My Way and Crossroads by Megan Keith

I know, I know it's two books again, but they're a series and once you read Finding My Way you'll definitely want more Nick.  These are two gorgeously written books about, well, finding your way in life with characters that you will fall in love with.

 Finding My Way - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Crossroads - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

#3 - Irreparably Broken and Irreversible Damage by K.J. Bell

Just loved these two books - Tori and Brady are gorgeous.  I'm not gonna lie, there will be tears when you read these books, particularly with Irreversible Damage, but the stories and characters are amazing and K.J. Bell has the most beautiful writing style.  *Sigh* I might just have to go an read them again ...

Irreparably Broken - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Irreversible Damage - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

#4 - Vain and Greed by Fisher Amelie

OK, clearly I have a problem with the concept of choosing one thing ... when it comes to books it's a virtually impossible task, so you'll just have to forgive me.  I am a huge, HUGE, Fisher Amelie fan and have read all of her books - if you haven't you should, they're awesome.  I'm loving the Seven Deadly series, Vain is book 1 and Greed is book 2 and they're fabulous - I can't wait for the rest in the series!

Vain - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Greed - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

#5 - Nowhere to Run by Nina D'Angelo

This has to get a mention as my first review for the Into the Night Reviews blog.  It was also a fantastic read so worthy of a mention in it's own right, but it holds a special place in my book list because it was the official start of my amazing blogging journey.

Nowhere to Run - Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Book 2: Nowhere to Hide - Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Ten lucky winners will win a book from our top ten lists

- here's the list of prizes up for grabs -