It’s that time of year again! As you know, there is nothing more that I love than challenging myself when it comes to the books I read. Whether it’s a new author, series, a genre that takes me out of my comfort zone or being able to tackle some books that have been on my tbr for far too long; I live for a good reading challenge. In the past few years, I stepped up my game not only with the books that I read but also by attempting to clear out that never-ending to-read list. As always, my challenges have been hard, but a ton of fun at the same time.
For 2023’s Reading Challenge, I really wanted to once again challenge myself and kick my never-ending to-read list’s butt!! And I am more than ready for the challenge……
Re-Read a favorite book A book by an author new to me A Contemporary Romance A New Adult Read A Biker Novel A Paranormal/Fantasy Romance A Sports Romance A Romantic Comedy A book chosen for its cover An Accidental Pregnancy Romance An Older Brother’s Best Friend Romance A Holiday Romance (any holiday) A Forbidden Romance A Billionaire Romance A Jilted Bride Romance A Workplace Romance A Fake Relationship A Marriage of Convenience My Favorite troupe A book with a red cover A Book with a One-Word Title A Book with a pink cover A Book with an illustrated cover A book set in a different country from where I currently live. 10 books on my TBR 6 New Releases A Rock Star Romance A Book picked by a friend A Dark/Taboo Romance A Historical Romance A Reverse Harem Romance An Enemies to Lovers Romance A book that will make you Ugly Cry A book with an Age Gap A book with Friends to Lovers A book with a Blue cover A Book with a White Cover A Book with no people on the cover A Book that will be made/has been made into a movie/tv show A Diversified Read A Romantic Suspense A Book with a black cover A book, where the main character is/, was in the military A Small-Town Romance A First Responder (Police Officer/Firefighter/EMT) A Second Chance Romance A Dystopian/Science Fiction Romance A Grumpy/Sunshine Romance A book with a yellow cover 2 Books that’s been on my tbr for 3 years or more A Book with a Purple Cover A Book by my favorite author A Royal Romance A book with a Cowboy on the cover A YA Book An Insta-Love Romance An Opposites Attract Romance A Forced Proximity Romance A Romance With A Bearded Man On Cover A Fighter/MMA Book Romance A Bad Boy Romance A Bully Romance Romance A Mafia Romance A Gothic Romance A Stand-alone Novel Finish A Series I Started 2 Novellas 3 Duets 1 Box Set
2022 has been another crazy and stressful year that has thankfully left us with a lot of good reads and hope for 2023. Despite all of the challenges 2022 brought us, it has been one heck of a year for amazing reads. This year, I read over 362 books, discovered lots of “new to me” authors, and trying to narrow that list down was tough. I have just read so many amazing, life-changing, blow-me-away, knock-my-socks-off books. Amazingly enough, this year, I was able to keep my list at 14. These 14 books have given me all the feels. They’ve made me laugh, cry, swoon, and taken me on some of the best journeys.
I hope you enjoy my top 14 and the quotes I’ve pulled….
“People say you fall in love, but fall is such a sad word when you think about it. Falls are never good. You fall on the ground, you fall behind, you fall to your death. Whoever was the first person to say they fell in love must have already fallen out of it. Otherwise, they’d have called it something much better.”
“He wanted to be around me as much as I wanted to be around him. No matter the time or distance between us, the want was always there. It had always been there. And being around him again in this city made me want him more than ever.”
“You know, sometimes I think we get caught up in the idea that our jobs make or break us as humans, when that’s not the case at all. A job is a means to make money and provide for yourself. I think it’s the relationships we cultivate, the energy we put out into the world, that define us. You could be a billionaire with all the riches in the world, but that wouldn’t mean your life was truly rich.”
Keep reading for a look inside The Queen of Quintessence!
“I want you to be with me. I miss my friend, my love, my mate.” Something flickered in Phoenix’s eyes, and I thought I might have cut through. Then the shutters went down. “I’m not who you think I am. I don’t deserve to hear your laugh, to inhale your scent, to touch your skin.” Emotion warred within me. Grief and rage. But it was rage that won out. I gave him a hard shove. “I’m the one who gets to decide who’s worthy of me. And I choose you every time.”
For More Information on Tessa Hale’s books and where to contact her, visit her website: https://bit.ly/3FDGULk
#1 New York Times bestselling author of The Selection series Kiera Cass is back with her most epic novel yet—a sweeping enemies-to-lovers standalone romance.
“Love has a sound. It sounds like a thousand heartbeats happening at the same time.”
Princess Annika has lived a life of comfort—but no amount of luxuries can change the fact that her life isn’t her own to control. The king, once her loving father, has gone cold, and Annika will soon be forced into a loveless marriage for political gain.
Miles away, small comforts are few and far between for Lennox. He has devoted his life to the Dahrainian army, hoping to one day help them reclaim the throne that was stolen from them. For Lennox, the idea of love is merely a distraction—nothing will stand in the way of fighting for his people.
But when love, against all odds, finds them both, they are bound by its call. They can’t possibly be together—but the irresistible thrum of a thousand heartbeats won’t let them stay apart.
Kiera Cass brings her signature sparkling romance to this beautiful story of star-crossed lovers and long-held secrets.
“Love doesn’t look like anything.” “Love has a sound. It sounds like a thousand heartbeats happening at the same time. It sounds like the rush of a waterfall or the still of the world at daybreak. You can hear it at night, lulling you to sleep, and, in the middle of your darkesst days, it breaks through like a laugh.”
“It had been fascinating to watch how love chipped the jagged edges from someone, made them sharper in some ways and softer in others. It left me, for the first time, awed by the prospect. Love is complicated. Compicated, but so unexpectedly beautiful.”
“It was so easy. I understood now why anyone dared to let someone else have control over their heart. She could do whatever she wanted. She could throw my heart back into that hurricane, and I would thank her for it. I was hers. I was Annika’s. And there was nothing to be done about it.”
I have been a fan of Kiera Cass’ books for quite some time. She captured my heart with the Selection series and stole it once again with A Thousand Heartbeats.
From the moment my eyes caught the cover of A Thousand Heartbeats, I knew I had to read this book. I mean how could you possibly go wrong with the enemies-to-lovers trope in a fantasy setting? And let me tell you, this book does not disappoint. I was sucked into Lennox and Annika’s story from the very first page. Despite being from two very different backgrounds, Annika and Lennox’s background was very similar. Both of them were broken by the direction their lives took, but their sense of duty kept pushing them along. Lennox and Annika are destined to be enemies but for these two fate has other plans. And so begins an unforgettable, fantastical story of love against all odds and the duty their lives have thrust upon them…
A Thousand Heartbeats is a fantastic read from beginning to end. I loved the plot and the rich scenery. I loved the characters, flaws, and all. I will be the first to admit that this book does start out a bit slow but, honestly, that is to be expected with a fantasy novel. But I promise the pace does pick up around the 40% mark.
As far as characters go, I absolutely adored Annika and Lennox. Annika might have been a princess, but don’t let her status fool you. There is so much more to this girl than meets the eye and she is so much stronger than people give her credit for. And Lennox, 100% had my heart from the beginning. There was just something about him that intrigued me. I loved his sense of duty and how he was desperately trying to right a wrong. Together, these two were destined to be enemies and I love watching their relationship grow and change throughout the story.
In the end, A Thousand Heartbeats was everything I was hoping it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this story. If you’re looking for a Young Adult Fantasy novel with an enemies-to-lovers/starcrossed lovers vibe, you won’t want to miss A Thousand Heartbeats.
*I was provided an ARC copy of this book via the publisher & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
USA Todaybestselling author K.A. Linde returns to the Royal Houses series withHouse of Curses: the story of Kerrigan Argon, a half-Fae, half-human as she seeks her place in an unforgiving world filled with magic, mayhem, and romance. Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, and V.E. Schwab.
Against all odds, Kerrigan Argon passed her dragon training. She’s now an official member of the Society. Everything should be well. But somehow, nothing is.
Her dark prince, Fordham Ollivier, has disappeared in hopes to beak his curse.
An unwanted wedding looms in her future.
And the council election draws ever nearer. An election that she’s been unceremoniously nominated for.
If all of that wasn’t enough, the Red Masks, an anti-half Fae, anti-human terrorist organization, are gaining ground. All because they have a spy inside the mountain, inside the Society itself.
Someone is leading these monsters.
And Kerrigan is determined to stop them at all costs.
K.A. Linde is the USA Today bestselling author of the Avoiding Series, Wrights, and more than thirty other novels. She has a Masters degree in political science from the University of Georgia, was the head campaign worker for the 2012 presidential campaign at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served as the head coach of the Duke University dance team. She loves reading fantasy novels, binge-watching Supernatural, traveling, and dancing in her spare time.
She currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband and two super-adorable puppies.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The End of the F***ing World in this dark young adult comedy about four unlikely friends dealing with the messy side of grief who embark on a road trip to Graceland.
Asher Hunting wants revenge.
Specifically, he wants revenge on the drunk driver who killed his mom and got off on a technicality. No one seems to think this is healthy, though, which is how he ends up in a bereavement group (well, bereavement groups. He goes to several.) It’s there he makes some unexpected friends: There’s Sloane, who lost her dad to cancer; Will, who lost his little brother to a different kind of cancer; and eighty-year-old Henry, who was married to his wife for fifty years until she decided to die on her own terms. And it’s these three who Asher invites on a road trip from New Jersey to Graceland. Asher doesn’t tell them that he’s planning to steal his dad’s car, or the real reason that he wants to go to Tennessee (spoiler alert: it’s revenge)—but then again, the others don’t share their reasons for going, either.
Complete with unexpected revelations, lots of chicken Caesar salads at roadside restaurants, a stolen motorcycle, and an epic kiss at a rest stop minimart, what begins as the road trip to revenge might just turn into a path towards forgiveness.
Four for the Road is a dark and intriguing novel about four unlikely friends dealing with the messy side of grief. This book is a far cry from what I normally read, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the premise of this story. And don’t let the fact that this is a young adult book fool you. This book wasn’t afraid to pack a punch and definitely had me wanting to see what would happen next.
Four for the Road is quite the book to experience. It’s a messy, dark tale of grief with romance and humor sprinkled along the way. And while the writing was a bit all over the place, I couldn’t help but think how well the chaotic flow worked for this type of book and how it perfectly echoed the tone. There’s beauty to be found in a book like this and while the story is heartbreaking and certainly not for everyone, I’m glad to have stepped out of my norm and check this book out.
*I received an ARC copy of this book via the publisher, Simon & Schuster, in exchange for an honest review*
Tessana Allisand might have proven that she’s the oldest living daughter of the dead king of Elysia, and that she’s the rightful heir to the Seat of Power, but that doesn’t mean she gets to be queen . . . yet. Forced to wait until her twenty-first birthday, Tess is supposed to be learning how to navigate court life and all the ways she will one day rule the realm. But circumstances and her nefarious uncle keep getting in the way of her education.
A kingdom in turmoil . . .
While Tess is pampered with the luxuries of castle life, the rest of the kingdom suffers under the oppressive thumb of the Ring of Shadows. And while no other ruler seems all that concerned with the evil rebels intent on destroying everyone and everything, Tess alone must find a way to stand up to the dark magic threatening to choke the life from her precious kingdom.
A love shaken by distance . . .
Tessana and Taelon found each other in the depths of the Blood Woods. And just like when they were children, their affection for each other saved the realm. But now, with separate kingdoms to fight for and royal duties to attend to, life is pushing them in impossibly opposite directions. Tess wants nothing more than for Taelon to be at her side. And yet, she will never ask him to leave his own kingdom for hers. Fate seems determined to keep them apart. But it was love that brought them back together. And love that will defy titles, crowns, and destiny.
The swooshing noise fired in the distance. Swoop. Swoop. Swoop. I was only mildly adept with a bow, but I recognized the release of an arrow. But never had I heard so many at one time.
“You’re under attack,” Caspian snarled at my ear.
I lifted my head and looked around at the chaos bursting into action around us. Guards scrambled to dive out of the way of incoming arrows. But too many were slicing through the air and coming too fast. Wave after wave of ill-fated projectiles. I watched a young man who had only just been promoted from page to my protective service get hit in the chest and fall over the balcony’s edge, his scream of pain and panic renting the air as he plunged to his death.
I clung to Caspian’s tunic, terrified and shocked. Another body fell behind me. I did not have to look to know it would be another of my guards.
“Where are they coming from?” I gasped as an arrow crashed and toppled just feet from where we lay. We were high above the castle grounds, and there weren’t buildings or other structures anywhere near this side of the castle. It was all gardens and rolling hills. And miles away, the sheer façade of the Diamond Mountains.
“The turrets.” He ducked his face into my neck as another arrow came whizzing by. It was the most intimate I had ever been with a man. Even Taelon had never pressed his face against my bare skin like this.
Obviously, now was not the time to be thinking of such things. Both of us could die in the next instant. Probably should be more focused on surviving than the way Caspian’s rough jaw scraped against my throat, or the way his chin dipped and brushed my bosom.
But then he inhaled deeply. I felt the breath move through him, down the length of his taut body.
He lifted his head again and smirked. “You smell of oranges and honey.”
There was such an intimate knowledge of me in his voice that I nearly forgot about the arrows completely. Caspian wasn’t like Taelon at all. That had been true since the first moment he spoke to me. But in this way especially. Taelon was nothing but a gentleman, proper, sweet, respectable. Yes, he was roguish and playful too. Clever. Calculating. Wise. But with me, there was always an invisible boundary of regard. Capsian was the opposite. His eyes glinted with carnal things, his hands flexing on my body where he held me—one hand on my outstretched wrist, the other at my hip. His voice was smoke and sandpaper. His skin hot against mine. And still, the arrows zipped by, miraculously missing us. But barely.
“We need to get inside,” I reminded him.
He refocused and looked to the right and to the left. The ballroom and its balcony were set into the castle, nestled between two gradually extending walls that ended in towering turrets. The design gave the ballroom privacy, tucking it away with only a view of the gardens. While I could see nothing but Caspian’s profile and long neck, the bowmen must be set up in the guest rooms and using the windows to get a line of sight on their targets.
Swoop. Then a sick crunching sound made my stomach beat against my spine.
Caspian growled in pain, his body contracting from the impact.
“Caspian!” I shrieked as he became limp over me, crushing me beneath his surprisingly substantial weight. He did not answer. “Caspian, please!” He still did not answer. “Dragon’s blood, Caspian, do not die on top of me!” Still, he did not answer.
I clutched his shoulders, my fingers brushing the hilt of an arrow on his right side. I breathed a small sigh of relief that it didn’t seem to have gone through his heart. I stilled long enough to feel a shallow breath move his chest up and down. Shaking him gently, I tried to rouse him while the party inside finally realized what was going on.
Women screamed, glasses shattered, and guards began moving outside. But as soon as someone stepped onto the patio, they were felled by a barrage of arrows.
I heard someone shouting about the princess and wondered if they could even see me beneath Caspian’s unconscious body.
“Caspian, please,” I begged, shaking him again. “I promise, I will give you a fair shot at being my consort if you will just wake up!”
I knew he hadn’t heard me, not really. But he did suck in a deep breath and make a pained growl against the pain.
His head jerked upward, and his gaze found mine almost instantly. “I’ve been shot.”
It was inappropriate to laugh at a time like this. But was he serious? “I realize.”
In this thrilling conclusion to These Hollow Vows—the sexy, action-packed fantasy by New York Times best-selling author Lexi Ryan that started it all—Brie finds herself caught between two princes and two destinies while the future of the fae realm hangs in the balance.
After Abriella’s sister was sold to the fae, she thought life couldn’t get any worse. But when she suddenly finds herself caught in a web of lies of her own making - loving two princes and trusting neither – things are not quite as clear as she once thought.
As civil war wages in the Court of Darkness, Brie finds herself unable to choose a side. How can she know where she stands when she doesn’t even know herself anymore? In this darkly romantic thrill ride, the more Faerie is torn apart from the inside, the clearer it becomes that prophecies don’t lie and Brie has a role to play in the fate of this magical realm – whether she likes it or not.
“Once upon a time, there was a little girl with blazing red hair who was destined to save a kingdom.”
These Twisted Bonds is the heart-pounding and thrilling conclusion to These Hollow Vows. Picking up right where These Hollow Vows left off, These Twisted Bonds will take you on a thrilling and unforgettable journey that will keep you on your toes right until the very end.
These Twisted Bonds captivated me from the very first page. I was completely obsessed and consumed by this story. I had to know what would happen next, how things would play out in the Fae realm, and who would finally win Abriella’s heart.
Now, I will say, I’m not usually the biggest fan of love triangles but found myself hopelessly obsessed with this one. Just when I thought I had chosen a side, something would happen to leave me wondering if the person I picked was the right one, and let me tell you, I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
The only issue I had with this book was that I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed. Everything seemed to wrap up really quickly and after everything these characters endured, I would have liked to have the conflict/fight play out a little bit longer. Like really make these characters earn their happily ever after. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved this story and the characters, the ending just left me needing more.
Overall, I thought These Twisted Bonds was a fantastic read. This story completely consumed me and wild horses couldn’t make me put it down. I loved the world this author has created and all of the characters we met along the way. I loved getting swept up in Finn, Abriella, and Sebastian. The twists and turns kept me on my toes and I had the best time trying to figure out what would happen next.
These Twisted Bonds is a story of love, friendships, and the bonds that tie us together. It’s a story of duty and loyalty. A story about making hard decisions and sacrifices. A story that will tie you up in knots and keep you begging for more.
*I was provided an ARC copy of this book via the publisher & NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review*
Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.
Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.
Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?
Emily Thiede’s exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!
Three weddings and three funerals-Alessa’s gift is supposed to save the world but ends up killing every suitor she touches. With only weeks left to save her island home, time is running out for Alessa to not only find a suitor but stop the invasion. Alessa’s task is anything but easy, and when a powerful priest casts doubt among the faithful, Alessa quickly discovers that not everyone is on her side. Desperate to survive, Alessa seeks help from Dante, an outcast who has been marked as a killer. Will Dante be able to help Alessa or will his secrets destroy everything? There’s only one way to find out….
What an exciting ride! This Vicious Grace is a little slow to start, but don’t let that discourage you. This book has fantastic world-building and a plot that will leave you on your toes.
Alessa is strong, yet determined to live up to the expectations the gods have set before her. Her mission: find an acceptable suitor, harness his power, and save their island community. Sounds easy enough, except everyone she touches ends up dead. After an attempt on her life, Alessa doesn’t know who she can trust, and that’s how she finds herself with the mysterious Dante. Dante could care less about Alessa’s agenda, but for reasons he can’t quite understand, he takes Alessa up on her offer. Together, these two make quite the unexpected pairing. Their chemistry leaped off the pages and had me dying to know what would happen next.
This Vicious Grace is a heart-pounding and refreshing fantasy novel that will keep you glued to the pages. This story is filled with magic, mystery, and intrigue. At times, I wondered how this could possibly be a debut novel, as the words just flew off the pages and consumed me. I fell in love with the characters and am absolutely dying to find out what happens next. This story took me by surprise in the best way and I look forward to checking out more from this author in the future.
*I was provided an ARC copy of this book via the publisher & NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review*
Crown of Crimson, an enthralling dark fantasy romance in the Underworld Gods Series from New York Times Bestselling author Karina Halle, is now available!
All Hanna Heikkinen wants is to be reunited with her father again. After all, that’s why she ventured into the dark and dangerous fantasy world of Tuonela, the Land of the Dead, in order to save his life. But this time her devotion to her father comes at a cost—her growing relationship with Tuoni, the God of Death himself, who held Hanna captive in exchange for her father’s life. The last thing she expects is to feel remorse at leaving Death at his castle of Shadow’s End without even saying goodbye, and yet he’s all she can think about.
Death has always prided himself on never trusting the living, but Hanna’s apparent betrayal has left a scar fathom’s deep. Vowing revenge on his future bride, and making sure she upholds her end of the bargain, Death sets out across his realm to steal Hanna back, which only fans the flames between them. But Death and Hanna aren’t just fighting each other—malevolent Old Gods are rising to power within the realm, magic is being poisoned, and buried secrets are brought to light, secrets that may cause Hanna to lose everyone she loves dear once again.
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books. Halle is represented by the Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.