My Top 10 Books for 2009 and Honourable Mentions

It was very difficult for me to come up with a Top 10 list of books from those I reviewed this year because there were so many splendid and exceptional books, therefore I’ll do what I did before, I’ll cheat a little by adding a list of Honourable Mentions because all of these books really are worthy of being on anyone’s list of Top Books.

My No. 1 — Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger was not a difficult choice because I knew the first time I read it that it would be almost impossible to topple from its perch. This is such a superb book, and if you have not read it you should run, not walk, to buy a copy. It was a struggle to decide on the rankings for most of the other books and I was still undecided at posting time about a couple of them 😀

Here now is my list of Top M/M books for 2009 and it would be remiss of me if I didn’t thank MaryM for recommending the top 2 books.

My Top 10 Books for 2009

1. Almost Like Being In Love by Steve Kluger

This is a story about a high school jock and nerd who fall in love in their senior year, only to part after an amazing summer, to attend college in different States. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Twenty years later they meet again after one protagonist, Travis, decides there is something missing in his life and that “something” or someone is Craig, his long lost love, so he puts his life on hold and sets out to find him.

The book will have you in stitches, but it is also poignant. The ending was the right one and I was pleased that Kluger was able to find a way for everyone to be happy, without creating heartbreak for someone else. Almost Like Being in Love is one of the most memorable books I have read and it will bring tears to your eyes as you travel with Travis in his obsessive compulsive search for his one true love, Craig.

Ultimately the story is about love, getting second chances, and the loyalty of friends who endure just about anything in the name of friendship. I reviewed this book back in October and read it at least 4 times since then, which for me is an indication that it’s a truly wonderful, unforgettable story. Books like this don’t come along often!

2. The Dreyfus Affair by Peter Lefcourt

This is the offbeat story of baseball star Randy Dreyfus, whose life — on the surface, at least — seems a winning streak that will never end. His manager tells him, “You’re 28 years old. You got the best swing since Ted Williams. You’re the fastest white guy in the league. You’ve got a nice wife, a family, you’re pulling down two point three a year, not to mention the TV and merchandising money.” However, Dreyfus has one huge problem — he has fallen in love with D. J, the team’s black second baseman.

When Dreyfus and D. J. are caught in the act under the most bizarre circumstances, the political and professional fallout affects the World Series and the White House alike.

What did I love most about this book outside of the relationship between the guys? The humour. The dialogue was laugh out loud funny but some of it was touching as well. When I reviewed The Dreyfus Affair back in June I predicted that it would make my Top 10 and it was definitely clear sailing as it ended up at #2 — not bad for a book that was written in 1992. A bit of trivia, this book parallels an actual scandal that happened in France at the turn of the century, a story of spying with a background of anti semitism.

3. The Dark Tide (book 5 in the Adrien English series) by Josh Lanyon

This is the last book in the Adrien English Mysteries and in the end, while the plot is important, it’s all about the characters as we renew our acquaintance with Adrien and Jake. Adrien is Adrien, much loved with a few faults but nothing too destructive. The fans love him because he is normal like most of us, so we relate to him, especially as he had a serious illness which prevented him from being an alpha hero. Despite his still precarious health he seemed to be the stronger of the two protagonists in this book, as he makes demands and shows that he’s no one’s door mat.

Jake is now retired from the LAPD after 20 years, when he came out of the closet at last, and he is now working as a private investigator. His layers and vulnerabilities are so exposed in this book that it’s as if he’s naked at times. Some readers will feel vindicated, others will feel that the end was appropriate, there will be those who will want more, more, more and last, a few fans will feel that Jake has not been punished enough.

Josh Lanyon’s writing is skillful as always and his prose is among the best, but I thought that at times he played with the readers’ heartstrings by piling on memory after memory. He saves his best for last as his characters shine as never before. The Dark Tide did something that most series don’t do well — it completed the series and characters arcs in a way that made sense and did not compromise either.

4. 9-1-1 by Chris Owen

Chris Owen’s 9-1-1 is one of the most delicious books that I have read over the years. 9-1-1 was released in 2005 and I read it shortly after. I was hooked. I didn’t think that she could equal Bareback, another memorable Chris Owen book that was released in 2003 which was on my 2008 Top 10 List but she proved me wrong. This is without a doubt the best M/M/M menage that I have read to date, bar none, and I have read quite a few. To quote what I said in my review “This book is erotic writing at its best. The characters were rich and fully developed, the story was well plotted, the pacing was just right, and the excitement is off the scale as the readers are thrust into the trauma of the guys’ everyday work life when they try to save lives and have to cope emotionally when they can’t.

If you don’t read another Chris Owen book you must get 9-1-1. This book takes love to a whole new level and when things go bad your heart breaks …”

It’s no exaggeration to say that this exceptional book should be on the bookshelf of every reader of M/M romance

5. PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price
(PsyCop: Partners, which contains books 1 and 2, Among the Living & Criss Cross; PsyCop: Property, which contains books 3 and 4, Body and Soul & Secrets)*

This series is the standard bearer for Jordan Castillo Price’s trademark of excellence. I read and reviewed book 3, Body and Soul first, 2 years ago and knew that I had to get my hands on the previous 2 books — it was that good. This writer has the most books on my list of top books this year and part of the reason is I’m catching up with her excellent work, but also I can’t get enough of her characters and plots.

If you have never read this series and you like paranormal stories then you have no excuse for not getting into bed with Jacob and Victor. I won’t describe either the characters or the plots here since this is something you should discover for yourself. I will only say that this writer is one of the best in her field and when you start one of her books you become addicted and so immersed in her world that everything else seems irrelevant.

*The last book in this series, Camp Hell was reviewed by Jenre

6. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ mansion on the Italian Riviera.

This is a book that you won’t easily forget and you will want to read it more than once because it really resonates as it’s a story with memorable characters, and it’s told with passion and eloquence about the intimacy between the protagonists. Call Me By Your Name gives an unflinching and honest look at two people who are in transition. Their love story only lasted six weeks but it left an indelible mark on both men, which impacted their lives forever. The fantasies, the sex, the eroticism — it’s all there in brilliant colour. Call Me By Your Name is firmly on my keeper shelf.

7. (tie) The Cross of Sins and Riddle of the Sands by Geoffrey Knight

If you’re looking for the ultimate adventure you don’t have far to go. Geoffrey Knight’s first books in his Fathoms Five series give the words “terrifying” a new meaning. Here’s how I described the series

“How do I review a book that defies description? Fathom’s Five: The Cross of Sins is an adventure that I could not put down. This story is a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark, James Bond, the Da Vinci Code and every other hair raising adventure that’s been around for decades, including Jaws.

And this is only the beginnning as the author takes readers around the world with his 5 sexy, gay, hot looking protagonists who sometimes have sex with each other but not always. 😀 The stories are out of this world and you have to hold on to your seat and your cowboy hat in these sheer escapist adventures as the guys fly, ride camels, zoom on high powered motor cycles, ski, and throw caution and everything else to the winds and let the gods decide their fate.”

I hope that the author can live up to the quality of the stories in the first two books and you will definintely be in for the ride of your life if you take a chance on The Cross of Sins and Riddle of the Sands.

8. (tie) Faith & Fidelity and Love & Loyalty by Tere Michaels

These two stories are a change of pace from the others and if/when you read the books you will understand why they are a tie on my list.

Faith and Fidelity is a relatively simple story about a man’s heartbreak and finding a new love, but there’s a twist. Evan Cerelli never expected a year after his wife’s accidental death that he would meet and fall in love with someone else. Most of all he never would have dreamed that the new person in his life would be a man.

The first few pages of this book were very sombre and depressing and I almost didn’t continue reading. Evan was burying his wife of 20 years who had been killed in an automobile accident. He had been in love with Sherri since high school, had never been with anyone else and it was heartbreaking to witness the grief, not only Evan’s but also that of his four children. But I persevered and am I glad I did or I would have missed a wonderful love story that resonated long after I finished the book.

I had this book for almost 2 years before I read it the first time because I don’t do well with angst-filled stories, but the wonderful characterizations and the struggles that Evan endured coping as a single father of four, then unexpectedly finding himself attracted to another man, were so well done I couldn’t believe this was Tere Michael’s first book.

Love and Loyalty is another wonderful story about two unlikely protagonists. Jim Shea is a workaholic cop who has absolutely no life outside his job as a detective, hasn’t had a date in a year, and his straight roommate with whom he fancied himself in love had just moved out and got married. He’s certainly not open to a relationship with anyone and the most unlikely person that he would become involved with is a Hollywood screenwriter who is writing the story of someone who was a victim in one of his recent homicide cases. The love affair didn’t seem to have a chance in hell, but Tere Michaels proved once again what a gifted writer she is as she navigated the relationship pitfalls and delivered a truly superb story.

9. Fire Season by Lex Valentine

This is a fabulous story about dragon shifters and I raved about this book when I first read it because it was so incredibly exciting and I’m still pimping it to anyone who will listen. Lex Valentine is a new to me author, and another writer, Patric Michael, recommended that I read Fire Season and I owe him a lot for a book that I enjoyed tremendously and still do. Here’s part of what I said in my review —

“Can I say upfront how much I enjoyed this delicious book? Dragons have always fascinated me and Fire Season took my love for these wonderful paranormal creatures to new heights.

Lex Valentine is a gifted writer as she creates a world for her dragons that is so real I could taste and feel it. Her writing is engaging, vibrant and fresh and her characters are incredibly three dimensional and larger than life. She does an excellent job on Holden by showing his difficulty as a straight man in accepting that his mate is male, and the fight for dominance between his dragon and his human side, in addition to the difference between emotional acceptance of his mate and sexual expression between him and Garret both as dragons and men.”

This book is a true delight and you won’t regret picking up a copy.

10. (tie) Strange Fortune and Out of the Blue by Josh Lanyon

My last two books are by Josh Lanyon and the first one, Strange Fortune, is a departure for him as he had never written speculative fiction before. To tell the truth I didn’t know whether he could pull it off but I must say that I was impressed and amazed at his imagination. Here’s part of my review “In Strange Fortune the reader enters a civilization steeped in tradition where the past is as relevant as the present. Some of the action sequences, especially towards the end, are horrific and involve powerful dieties who have their own agendas and are blinded by power.

You will have to have a strong stomach for the big ending, but if you love adventures, especially of the epic variety, you will definitely love Strange Fortune. As always, even though the plot is complex, Lanyon’s strength is in his characterizations and he excels here as the characters are all well drawn. …this is a brilliantly written book and I’m amazed that Lanyon was able to do such a great job in an area where he was previously a neophyte.”

Out of the Blue is one of my favourite Josh Lanyon stories this year because of one character, Cowboy.

This is a World War I adventure which should be depressing because of all the casualties but strangely, I found this story to be uplifting. Here’s some of the reason why I enjoyed this story so much “Have you ever felt so immersed in a book that it seemed you were part of the action? Out of the Blue will have that effect on you. The adrenalin of the suicide flights, the courage displayed by the airmen in rescuing their comrades while under heavy fire, the firefights in the air, the drone of the aircraft, the crashes as planes went down in flames with their pilots still shooting at the enemy, the camaraderie among the pilots — the battles were all too exciting at times!!

The era seems to have been accurately described by Lanyon – the music, the atmosphere, the clothing, the speech were all wonderfully depicted and there wasn’t anyone who was a caricature. Of all the characters in this book the most remarkable and memorable was Cowboy who made Bat seem like a pale reflection, even though Bat was the captain in charge of this band of flying aces and was just as brave. …… The only member of the group who was confident he would come out of the war alive and return home was the irrepressible Cowboy. Somehow I believed that he would make it.”

Full reviews of all of the books can be found through the links provided

Honourable Mentions for 2009 in no particular order

Cut and Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Caught Running by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Sweet Oblivion series by Jordan Castillo Price (Brazen; Snare; Fluid; Swarm; Elixir)
Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary series by Jordan Castillo Price (Payback; Vertigo; Manikin; Tainted; Rebirth)
Deadly series by Victor J. Banis (Deadly Nightshade; Deadly Wrong; Deadly Dreams) **
Dash and Dingo by Sean Kennedy and Catt Ford
Bring The Heat by M.L. Rhodes
Nottorno by Z.A. Maxfield
Old Poison by Josh Lanyon
Passion by M.L. Rhodes
Longhorns by Victor J. Banis
High Line by T.A. Chase
Orientation by Rick R. Reed
Heaven Sent series by Jet Mykles (Heaven, Hell, Faith, Purgatory and Genesis)***
Edward Unconditionally by Lynn Lorenz
The One That Got Away (reissued) by Madeleine Urban and Rhianne Aile
A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan
A Bit of Rough by Laura Baumbach
Striking Sparks by Jordan Castillo Price
The Back Passage by James Lear
Somebody Killed His Editor by Josh Lanyon
Hard Fall by James Buchanan
Esprit de Corps anthology [Victor J. Banis (Coming Home); Sanamtha Kane (Islands); George Seaton (Big Diehl); Josh Lanyon (Out of the Blue)] Hidden Conflict anthology [Alex Beecroft (Blessed Isle); Mark Probst (No to Reason Why); E.N. Holland (Our One and Only); Jordan Taylor (No Darkness)] The Sweet Flag by Jeanne Barrack

**Deadly Slumber was reviewed by Aunt Lynn but having read it, I would rate it just as highly as the other 3 books in the series

*** I haven’t reviewed Genesis or Faith but I have read them and they definitely belong on the list with the others

What are your favourite M/M books for 2009?

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

45 comments

  • Hi Mary
    Thanks again for my two top picks.
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    I’m really surprised you didn’t like the PsyCop series – you are the first reader of paranormal books who has said that to me. This is an outstanding series and the humour and sex were both off the scale. I guess I should not recommend Jordan’s other series which are in the Honourable Mentions. 😀

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    Your list has a number of my favourites. Bareback was on my list last year. I had read this book when it was first relesed in print almost 7 years ago and have re-read it numerous times. It’s on my all-time Top 10 and 9-1-1 is not far behind. 😀 A Note in the Margin still resonates, because even though I don’t like books with a lot of angst this was one of the few to leave such a great impression.

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    If you’re really interested in Fire Season it’s available in print which I know is your preference.
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    Keep those recs. coming for this year.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the shout-out!! I am glad you enjoyed those two stories so much that they became your favorite reads of the year 🙂 I must have been dozing at some point though because I can’t recall seeing anything about the Lex Valentine dragon book before; I’ll check this one out. 911 is a longtime favorite of mine too; it was the second M/M book I ever read, IIRC. Geoffrey Knight’s books I already have but have yet to finish – sidetracked by Kirk and Spock, I’m afraid – and Love & Loyalty is on my radar. Dark Tide I am patiently awaiting in print. The Psycops books didn’t do much for me, though; one of the very few times we’ve been in disagreement on a book/series, I am sure 🙂
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    As for my own top books of the year, I gave my list of books read a quick check and I realized I didn’t even read enough to make a full top 10. So off the top of my head, my favorite new-to-me books I read in 2009 are, in random order:
    -Faith & Fidelity
    -Almost Like being in Love
    -Bareback, Chris Owen
    -Zero at the Bone, Jane Seville
    -Helping Hands, Shayla Kersten
    -A Note in the Margin, Isabelle Rowan
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    There were probably at least one or 2 more, especially prints I would have to rummage through my room to find, but those will have to wait. It still doesn’t make 10. Umm.
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    However, if you want a top 25 of best Star Trek slash fanfics, that I have plenty of titles to offer. Lol.

    Reply
  • Justacat
    I’m so glad you decided to give us your list because even though I read so many books each year there are some here that I haven’t heard of. One of the reasons I love doing this each year is the contributions from the readers so that we all get to find out about other books that are well loved.
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    No problem on taking up space – I’ll just charge you rent. 😀

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    Although you have many much loved books on your list, some of them I had never heard of such as Reclaiming Love, and Eight Nights and Daybreak. Most of your books were on my list or if they weren’t I couldn’t include them because I decided that I and the guest reviewers could only list the favourites that we reviewed. I love Ethan’s charactefrs but I never get to review his books because Lynn grabs them first – I think she’s an even bigger fan if possible. 🙂 Collision Course was, I believe, on my list last year together with so many other wonderful books.

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    Thanks again Justacat for taking the time and I think that many other readers will be taking out their well used credit cards to get their hands on some of your recommendations. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  • The thought of trying to pick ten favorites out of the hundreds of m/m books I’ve read this year is incredibly daunting to me, so I intended to save myself the effort and simply observe this thread and not contribute. But then I thought about how much I enjoy and value reading others’ lists, so I figured I might as well give it a stab, just in case a reader discovers something on mine that she or he might not otherwise have read. (And I should note that though I’ve read most of the books on Wave’s list, I have not yet read Almost Like Being in Love.)
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    This is only a very rough order – the ones nearest the top are probably my most favorite, but other than that there’s no attempt to put them in order of preference.
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    1. The Dark Tide and the entire Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon. I’ll gladly hop right on this bandwagon; I loved these books before, and Dark Tide is such a wonderful, perfect finale that it only made me love the series more (I must admit to being a huge Jake fan). And I adored Somebody Killed His Editor – can’t wait for the next book in this series.
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    2.Camp Hell and the entire PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price. I *adore* these, and as much as I wouldn’t mind reading a novel about Crash, I never, ever want this series to end. I am so in love with Jacob and Vic, and this series gets better and better. I also love the author’s Channeling Morpheus/Sweet Oblivion series, and the concluding book in the series, Elixir, exceeded all my expectations.
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    3. Collision Course, by K.A. Mitchell. I think this author is so under-appreciated; I think she’s one of the best writing today, in terms of writing skill, relationship and character development, and the ability to write absolutely integral scorching hot sex scenes! I also love Regularly Scheduled Life by this author, but Collision Course is my favorite.
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    4. Downtime, by Tamara Allen (originally released under the pseudonym James Allen; re-released in mid-2009 by LuLu; this author also wrote Whistling in the Dark). I got this on LuLu, but it has since disappeared – I believe the author plans to re-release it soon with a new cover. That’s my understanding, at least. It’s one of my all-time favorites, a time-traveling mystery and charming but never sappy romance, with protagonists that you just fall in love with. I’ve re-read it so many times.
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    5. Tigers and Devils, by Sean Kennedy. Such great characters – great character and relationship development. A long, always-satisfying read, another one that I go back to repeatedly.
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    6. Hard Fall, by James Buchanan. I think this author gets better and better and has a real gift for drawing interesting, complex characters and relationships and telling interesting stories. This is one of my favorites – along with the Inland Empire series.
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    7. The Rest of Our Lives, by Dan Stone. I always long for just a bit more to the ending of this one – and yet something draws me back to it over and over. It’s gentle but with just enough bite, unique and absorbing, with protagonists whose vulnerability always moves me. Very underrated, I think; I’d love to see more from this author.
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    8. Like Coffee and Donuts, by Elle Parker. A really well written, well crafted, engrossing whodunnit with an interesting and believable romance thrown in – not cookie-cutter stuff at all.
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    9. The Elegant Corpse, by A.M. Riley. The mystery (or rather, the resolution) left a little to be desired to my mind, but the characters were absolutely compelling, the relationship utterly fascinating. I’m definitely intending to read more by this author.
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    10. Fire on the Mountain and sequel, Snow on the Mountain, by P.D. Singer. Nothing deep to these – just great settings, nice stories, really likable protagonists; there are many books like them, but these are better written, with more complex characters and relationships, relationships, better character and relationship development, and more interesting and well developed storylines – just more depth and written with more skill than the norm. I really want more of these!
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    *
    Honorable mention; some others I enjoyed:
    -Faith and Fidelity, by Tere Michaels. I wasn’t a huge fan of Love and Loyalty, but I loved this one.
    -As You Are, by Ethan Day. I really like this author’s stories and writing, but his endings sometimes strike me as too abrupt after a lot of relationship angst; this one still suffers from that a little (to my mind at least), but strikes by far the best balance and is the best of his. I think he’s getting better and better.
    -The Deadly series, by Victor J. Banis. Unique and compelling; there are elements of these books that I believe a less skilled and confident writer could not pull off, but VJB makes it work and makes me want more.
    -Eight Nights and Daybreak, by Keira Andrews. Don’t see much about these, but I love them – college kid learning about himself, falling in love, learning what loyalty means. Sweet but with enough of an edge, good story, good writing.
    -Hell Cop and Hell Cop 2, by Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale, & Nicole Kimberling. Love the interweaving of the characters among the stories; love the fun, over-the-top world.
    -Reclaiming Love, by V.L. McElfresh. In many ways this is the type of story I usually don’t go for – and yet something about it draws me in. An abuse-recovery, stalking, finding love again story but with enough to it to distinguish it from the masses.
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    Oh wow, that took up a whole lot of space – hope that’s not a problem… And I hope there’s something new or interesting in there for someone!

    Reply

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