Fourth Annual Best Books of the Year Awards!

Golden StarsYou’ve been waiting for this all year, haven’t you? 🙂  As I read throughout the year, I write reviews for most of the books, and every month post my “recommended reads” list on this blog. Only those books that rate at least 4 stars are included.

I don’t  finish 3 star books. There are too many others I want to read to spend my time on a book that makes me say, “meh.” This year, 27 books ended up in my DNF file, most of them for mediocre writing or unbelievable story lines. The execution did not live up to the story’s promise.

But 73 others did, and I rated them 4 or 5 stars. From among those, I select my favorites and bestow the year-end awards. In my humble opinion, the objective difference between a four-star and a five-star book is negligible. The difference is the reader herself–how that particular book resonates with that particular individual. So, my assessment is subjective.  But I do have criteria:

  1. A book must be well-written.
  2. It must have a good plot. This may sound like a no-brainer, but many of the books I read are spanking romances in which the plot is a thin excuse upon which to hook spanking.
  3. A story must have legs and linger in my mind. Many stories are enjoyable at the time I read them, but months later I can’t remember what they were about.

A few more things to know about the selection criteria:

  1. I generally know at the time I finish a book if it’s going to be a year-end winner or not. But I review my list to see if I overlooked any.
  2. The books selected aren’t necessarily published during the award year. This is the year I read them.
  3. Perfection isn’t a hard requirement. Some books that wowed me weren’t necessarily perfect, but something about them made them stand out from the crowd.

To see the complete list of books I read in 2014, click here.

Now, are you ready for the winners?

Okay, here goes…

For out-of-this world character development…

281_ProgrammedRevision_4_Programmed to Please by Jenna Ives. (Science fiction romance). A woman pretends to be a sex-bot to bring down an arms dealer. She’s a human trying to act like a robot trying to act like a human. The character’s actions were so spot on. Programmed to Please kept me turning pages from the very beginning.





For keeping me guessing from the very beginning…

ArchetypeArchetype by M.D. Waters. (Science fiction). A woman wakes up in hospital with no idea of who she is or how she got there. But it’s not a simple case of amnesia. As a line in the blurb said, “One man is her husband, another is her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which.” Awesome read.






For meeting and then exceeding all expectations…

Husband'sSecret_USThe Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. (Women’s fiction) While her husband is out of town, a woman stumbles across a hidden letter written by him that instructs, “To open in the event of my death.” Of course, she opens the letter and learns a secret that unravels three families. I expected disaster, but when it occurred, it surprised me. Great story tension.




For breaking all the rules…

Livia Grant weaves multiple H/h relationships through each Passion series book.

Livia Grant weaves multiple H/h relationships through each Passion series book.

Wanting it All by Livia Grant. (BDSM romance. Debut novel!) When a husband discovers his wife’s infidelity, he drops her off at The Punishment Pit to be worked over by a professional Dom until she agrees to sign divorce papers. Everything about this book broke the “rules.” The wife/heroine did something truly bad (as opposed to speeding or swearing, which are common excuses for a spanking), the story “hero” was not the husband/love interest, the subplot was nearly as strong as the main story—and the book was written in present tense. But everything worked. Wanting it All was raw, real, and compelling.




For poignancy and realism…

aching to submit

Aching to Submit by Natasha Knight (BDSM romance) A woman aches to tell her husband she is submissive and needs to be dominated, but cannot find the right way to tell him. And then he finds her coming out of BDSM club. Her yearning is so real, the reader can feel it.





 For taking it out of the dungeon but then ending up in the dungeon…

Bound-Inked-600x900Bound and Inked by Sheri Savill. (BDSM romance) This is a BDSM story that is set in a tattoo parlor, where the inking session becomes a BDSM scene (taking it out of the dungeon). Unique, real. Well-written. When it was first released under another title, it was derailed when it got adult tagged and ended up in the Amazon dungeon. This is also a good example of how to write a novella well: limit the scope and focus in.





For her evil genius…or why didn’t I think that…

Corbins-Bend-Logo MountainThe Corbin’s Bend series, developed by Thianna D and written by multiple authors.(Spanking Romance) Corbin’s Bend is a fictitious housing co-op community in which all the residents are spankos. Each author writes of a different hero/heroine who live the community, but use other authors H/h’s as their secondary characters. Loved the spanking community concept. The Corbin’s Bend development and execution offers something unqiue and special for spanking fiction afficionados. (Disclaimer: I wrote one of the books in the series, I judge the series on its own merit and not because I participated).

For being a book authors can’t afford not to read

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071]The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing by the Indie Voice. (Nonfiction). Look at the cover. Who wouldn’t want to read it? 🙂 The Naked Truth tells you everything you ever wanted to know about self-publishing but didn’t know who to ask. Chock full of tips and how-tos. Plus, the various authors of the book share their personal publishing journeys, which are amazing and inspirational just by themselves. Even nonIndie authors could learn a lot from this book.



So there you have it. A big thank you to all the authors who entertained and informed me in 2014.

♥ ♥ ♥

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23 Responses to Fourth Annual Best Books of the Year Awards!

  1. Wow, thank you for including my book Cara. It’s the hardest book I’ve written to this point, my poorest (but still beloved) performer and so very close to my heart and I appreciate the acknowledgment.

  2. Great list, Cara!
    I also loved Aching to Submit. It was fantastic.
    Now it looks like I need to add some more to my list to check out.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve been looking for some new things to read. I just checked out The Husband’s Secret—holy cow, it’s been out for over a year and it’s ranked #89? Wow!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I think that’s one of the few true “best sellers” I read. I tend to read the books of authors I know. What is also interesting–and a lesson for other authors–is that 6% of the reviews are 2 stars or less and almost 17% are 3 stars or less. This book has been selling like hotcakes, and I LOVED it, but not everyone liked it. You can’t please everyone.

  4. A great list! I definitely agree with you about Archetype. Loved it! And I’m going to be checking out some of the others on your list. 🙂

  5. Cara,
    It’s like a dream come true for me to be on your year-end list. Thank you so much! As you know, I’m a long time follower of your books and your blog. I have found many of my favorite books by following your recommendations, which is what makes your recommendation of my debut novel even more amazing to me. Thank you, as well, for sharing your first-hand experiences as you venture into self-publishing. As always, you are paving the way for those of us hoping to follow in your footsteps.

    Happy 2015,

  6. Laurel Lasky says:

    A wonderful list. They are also my favorite ones. I agree especially about Livia Grant’s debut novel, Wanting it All. It’s become one of my favorite to reread.

  7. Debbie Challinor says:

    A great list giving much deserved credit to all those wonderful authors. I too loved Livia Grant’s debut novel, Wanting It All. It’s one of my all time favourites. Thanks for compiling the list. I’m off to add to my Amazon wish list right now.

  8. Thianna D says:

    Thanks, Cara, for including Corbin’s Bend – and I now have a list of books to add to my TBR pile. Heading up my list? Archetype!

  9. I already had several on the list, but bought the others you mentioned just now. Thanks for the recommendations, Cara. Reading 100 books a year. Yup, great goal. Let’s see how close I can get in 2015. I also want to try to post more reviews. I was clearly a slacker in 2014.

  10. I have my eye on a couple of those. Sherri Savill’s tickles me in the all right places 😉 Off to add some more books to my TBR list! Happy New Year 🙂

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