I review many types of stories but there are some I like to read a whole lot more than others. One genre that’s always been a challenge for me is historicals, so you won’t see a lot of historical books on my list because I suck at reviewing them and I’m usually only interested in the stories and not the datelines, which just about sums up why I suck at reviewing this genre since dates are so important in these books. 🙂 I know my limitations, believe me, which is why the guest reviewers on the site have such varied tastes – I wanted to ensure that every type of story was reviewed here because I know that our readers are not one dimensional. I’m sure by now you have probably figured out by the types of stories I review that I love sports, action/adventures, humour, fantasy, science fiction, paranormals, murder mysteries, contemporaries and a bit of horror so I’m not doing too badly.
This year there were many terrific books released and it was even more difficult than last year for me to pick a winner. More than half of my Top 10 or Top 12 (two were ties) were series books and one was a sequel. The top 2 were a toss-up so I decided to cheat and go with a tie since there was no clear-cut winner. As usual I included a list of Honourable Mentions, books that could just as easily have made it into the Top 10 or Top 12 they were that good and very little separated them from those at the top. Now I have to make that Top 11 since it seems I can’t count. 🙂 Justacat informed me that I only have 11 books in my Top 12 (are you now totally confused) so I added a book to my Honourable Mentions that I wanted to all along but thought I had too many.
1. Fish & Chips (tie) by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban. There is no doubt that this book was the turning point in this series. Fans were either going to move on, or be enthralled by the growth of Ty’s and Zane’s characters and their relationship. Like all great writers Urban and Roux realized they had to fish or cut bait at this point and they gave us what we wanted and needed – in spades. Fish & Chips is a wonderful mix of romance, adventure and humour and the characters absolutely glowed. They were flawed, sarcastic, got on each other’s last nerve, and were so realistic I could imagine them walking in the door at any minute. Here is how I summarised this book:
Fish & Chips is book 3 in this series and is more than a worthy follow-up to Sticks & Stones. The story takes readers on a journey that gives us more than just a glimpse into Zane’s and Ty’s budding new relationship, it busts it wide open as they realize how much they want to mean something more to each other than the hot sex. We also get an up-close and personal look into the addictions that drive Zane and pose a real threat to any hope he has of getting Ty to commit to something long term in the romance department. He had to face the fact that he would always be an addict.
F & C gives the series a new level of excitement, suspense and tension, and the emotional vulnerability of the protagonists will grab fans by the throat and not let go until the very end. Fish & Chips had many highs but for me one of the most enjoyable elements of the book was the deepening of the romantic relationship between Ty and Zane, to the point that I was moved to tears as they showed how much they really cared for each other as they are at last open and vulnerable and make it clear who is the most important person in their lives. Of course being who they are this state of euphoria didn’t last all that long, because there was always a crisis or an argument, but while it lasted it was so beautiful you would be hard pressed not to be moved.
Is it any wonder that this book is my joint No. 1 for 2010?
1. Life in Fusion (tie) by Ethan Day. This writer’s books are a joy to read because he’s really off center and his characters reflect his twisted view of life and joie de vivre. Life in Fusion, the sequel to Sno Ho, exceeded all of my expectations and rocked on all levels.
LiF is that exceptional sequel that makes the original, wonderful as it is, seem like a springboard to something that’s so much better, and eclipsed it. Ethan Day’s characters are difficult to describe because they are just as unique as their creator and the first time you read a book by this author you’ll be hooked just like the rest of us. LiF is an excellent example of the magic this writer weaves through his characters. We met Boone and Wade in Sno Ho where they parted after a week of wild sex when Boone was dumped by a former BF and Wade showed how much he wanted Boone in his life. Life in Fusion opens immediately after Boone said goodbye to Wade and he’s having panic attacks about moving to Summit City, Colorado in 6 months to be with Wade.
If I were to summarize Life in Fusion I would say that it’s Boone’s journey into adulthood over the course of several months. All the characters who touched his life and helped him find out who he really is were incidental to that journey, but he had to travel part of the road alone. The train wrecks that happened, while they were hilarious, at times were poignant and moving. The best parts of this book are the characters, and if some of them were larger than life that’s because Ethan Day doesn’t appear to believe that his characters should be ordinary, therefore he imbues them with personalities that I have never seen in other books. Purists or critics may feel that the author invites disaster with so many unusual (some would say crazy) 🙂 people in his books, but somehow here he created a world and a wonderful slice of life in LiF that will keep you entranced and amazed. I think this is Ethan Day’s piece de resistance.
3. Mind Fuck by Manna Francis. This is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and intense stories that I have ever read. Mind Fuck is book I in the Administration series and is set in the near future dystopia of New London. I’m not sure whether this book should be classified as science fiction or urban fantasy, but it definitely is not a romance (at least yet yet) and it’s quite possible that you may end up not liking any of the main characters, but what awesome writing from the brain of Manna Francis!
Mind Fuck is a mind blowing tale and Toreth, the main protagonist, is a compelling figure whose job gives him almost unlimited power to arrest and torture those that the Administration feels are threats to its objective of global domination. The plot is the stuff of dreams if you like futuristic stories, and even if you don’t, because the characters are so wonderfully drawn and incredibly flawed that you are sure to be fascinated by them and the story.
This not to be missed book is dense with detail and shows how corrupt and morally bankrupt the Administration and a large percentage of the characters are as they served their own personal agendas. (This book is available as a free download from the author’s site)
4. Sticks & Stones by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban is the second book in this series and Ty and Zane are spending a short holiday with Ty’s parents in the mountains of West Virginia. Zane had not recovered fully from their last case, and both men recognized that things were not right with their professional and personal relationships and they both hoped that this trip could help repair what was wrong so that they could be partners again.
Sticks & Stones is a revelation and a game changer between two characters who had gone through so much but found that there was still a long way to go. This book is a great deal about Ty’s emotional journey – being open and admitting his feelings for Zane who also experienced his own epiphany. These two men who were bisexual in Cut & Run had a lot of personal baggage to resolve. This story is a study of human nature as the two characters’ layers are revealed and their motivations explained, and I think that readers will get a real sense of who they are at this point in their relationship.
5. Fires of Ballian by ML Rhodes is boook 3 of the Draegan Lords series.
When you have high expectations about the sequel to a much loved and highly anticipated series, most of the time they are never realized and you end up disappointed because the author didn’t deliver. In the case of Fires of Ballian M.L.Rhodes met and exceeded my expectations. Her writing is brilliant, the tension is electric, the characterizations are superb and the world building is incredible. What more could any fan of this series want? Her imagination is the reason why fans kept clamouring for her to finish this latest book so that they could lose themselves in a world that was so awe inspiring it took their breath away. Some series grab you by the throat and never let go – this is how these stories have impacted me since I first read The Draegan Lords. Fires of Ballian continued my love affair with this world and the characters that have enchanted me from the very beginning.
Book 4 of this series has not been released and there are many unanswered questions. Like every other fan I wonder if Byram will achieve his wish for world domination in a new campaign that promises to be the greatest yet, or if the draegans will be be victorious. This series has had so many thrills and chills I can’t wait to see if the author can surpass the excitement of the previous books and bring it to a satisfactory and exciting conclusion, not just for fans of action/adventure, but for romance readers as well.
6. Blood Heat – Dangerous Ground 3 is Josh Lanyon’s third book in his wonderful adventure series with Taylor and Will, Special Agents for the Department of Diplomatic Security. Here’s how I began my review:
Whenever I start a new book by Josh Lanyon it’s like a box of dark chocolates because I know that when I taste it, behind the delicious rush as it hits my tongue will be the bittersweet, melting, rich flavour that is orgasmic. Blood Heat, the third book in the Dangerous Ground series is definitely the darkest chocolate.
Special Agents Taylor MacAllister and Will Brandt have been partners for 3 years and lovers for 4 months. They are still getting used to being lovers, working out relationship issues and a few other grievances. Their major issue? Will had been offered and was considering taking a prestigious job in Paris which Taylor feels will be the end of their relationship. He believes strongly that Will should give up the promotion, even though he understands what it would mean to him to lose it.
If you’re looking for a romance where the love was exquisitely portrayed you don’t have to look any further than Blood Heat. This couple had never been very open about their feelings or demonstrative about their affection for each other, at least not at the same time, and it was no secret that they found it difficult (especially Will) to express their feelings. In Blood Heat all the emotions are on the surface and the barriers are down as they face the real possibility of 2 years apart, should Will accept the assignment.
Blood Heat is as much a tender love story and kick-ass adventure, rolled into one incredible package.
7. Talker by Amy Lane is neither part of a series nor a sequel and it’s a story I can’t forget.
Tate “Talker” Walker has spent most of his life hiding his scars under a bright punk facade, and until he sat next to Brian Cooper on a bus, it worked. But Brian has spent his whole life being the invisible man, and he’s used to looking below the surface. What he sees in Talker is a fragile and lovable human being.
Talker is not a lighthearted story but I would urge you to read it because you will be moved by Tate who had suffered so much rejection in his short life that he had no feelings of self worth. Brian was determined to show him how much he was loved.
Great characterizations are what I look for whenever I pick up a book, even more than a wonderful plot with all the bells and whistles, and in Talker Amy Lane excelled with two well drawn protagonists who were very different but recognized that their greatest need and gift was each other. This story will move you on all levels and your heart will ache for Tate, a damaged and broken man, and Brian who made him whole.
8. Driftwood by Harper Fox. If you love adventure, if you want to read a story that will enchant and excite you, if you hunger for wonderfully flawed characters with whom you will fall in love, and a location that reeks of atmosphere, Driftwood serves up all this and more, in spades.
Driftwood is Harper’s second novel. All Dr. Tom Penrose wants is his old life back. He’s home after a hellish tour of duty in Afghanistan, but while the village is the same, he isn’t. His grip on his control is fragile, and it slips dangerously when Flynn Summers explodes into his life. The vision in tight neoprene nearly wipes them both out in a surfing mishap—and shatters Tom’s lonely peace. Thus begins an adventure and romance set in Cornwall. I never knew that the Cornish coast was so wild, rugged and beautiful. The location was so much a part of the story it seemed alive – talk about atmosphere! Harper Fox achieved something that few authors are capable of doing well – she made the location into another character in her book.
The pace started off at breakneck speed and never let up so I had to buckle myself in for this incredible ride. The book was the stuff of dreams if you love adventure, with crisis piled on top of crisis, the good guys and the villains fighting to the death. WOW! There is so much packed into Driftwood that you will need to read it more than once to get the full breadth of the story.
9. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Lynn Lorenz is another standalone story that touched me. This book is set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and is about two dissimilar men (except for their financial circumstances) who will break your heart and make you love them despite yourself.
Scott is a “skinny white kid” according to Tony’s description, who is barely ekeing out a living in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina took its toll on the city in 2005. New Orleans is devastated and the people who remained there were in the worst circumstances possible, like Tony who hadn’t had anything to eat for 2 days because he couldn’t find work and was looking to score by robbing someone since he wasn’t going back to selling his body in order to eat. No selling drugs for him either. Scott was in a slightly better situation than Tony because he had a job at Tiffany’s Waffles and Wings where he bussed tables and waited on the customers. He even had a small bank account with a few dollars set aside for a rainy day.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a story about how people cope with losing everything except their self respect, living among rats and cockroaches, and doing just about anything in order to put food in their bellies. All of the “things” that we take for granted such a nice home, a job, food on the table, good clothing, hot water for a shower, loved ones, are all denied these “refugees” in their own country who are raped and robbed, not by “terrorists” but by their fellow citizens who are looking for quick fixes to their problems. This story is also about being thankful to find a job that pays $2 an hour because it helps to restore your sense of pride in yourself. Tony and Scott are wonderful three dimensional characters and Lynn Lorenz portrayed them not as objects of pity, but as people who would make anyone proud because they did their best not just to exist but to thrive.
10. Dear Mister President by Adam Fitzroy (tie). The married President of the United States has a relationship with another man, apparently with the consent and approval of his wife and daughter. Is it possible for the President to continue in office in the glare of the world press?
This story was imaginative and engrossing and hit all of my hot buttons because I love political intrigue. When USAF Colonel Chad Ryan accepts a new job on the White House staff he is soon making friends with the First Family – and with charismatic and troubled President Douglas Ford Kearney himself. They have scarcely begun to explore their feelings for one another, however, when it becomes apparent that their relationship is under threat from enemies both within and without.
The blurb is great and the story is even more exciting. 45 year old USAF Colonel Chadwick Ryan had saved the President’s life by taking a bullet meant for him 6 months ago. As payment for his bravery, when he recovered he was offered the position of Deputy National Security Advisor, replacing the current incumbent who was retiring. When Chad met President Doug Kearney he realized that he was attracted to the 56 year old President who was not only married to a very beautiful woman 15 years his junior, but had a teenage daughter. Their feelings for each other soon escalated and when the Vice President found out the prose was simply delicious. 🙂
This is part of the blurb –
Dying with dignity. Passing on one’s own terms. Approaching the end in a caring, nurturing atmosphere. There are plenty of reasons people check in to Hospice House…but Eddie Flynn’s just there for the morphine.
Wishink Well reveals to readers of the Petit Morts series something that we have probably always suspected, that Chance is more than just someone who could help out in a pinch in situations where he was able to get potential lovers together, or ensure that a crook got his comeuppance.
I think that Jordan’s brain went into overdrive in the characterizations and plotting of this story and I was sucked into Eddie’s imaginary world, or maybe it was his reality that I was living. I don’t know, but it sure seemed real to me. Some readers may not ‘get’ Wishink Well which would be a pity because it’s so different and very creative, and while it does require the suspension of disbelief, what a wonderful story this is from that fertile brain of Ms Price. You may think due to the subject matter that this story would be depressing, but on the contrary it’s uplifting and entertaining and Eddie was very funny. His mind was not always full of death and dying, sometimes it was quite the playground.
A Vintage Affair by Josh Lanyon
Resistance by LM Turner
Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton
The Dark Farewell by Josh Lanyon
Sno Ho by Ethan Day
His for the Holidays anthology
Stirring Up Trouble by Z.A. Maxfield
The One That Stayed by T.C. Blue
Duty & Devotion by Tere Michaels
Son of a Gun by A.M. Riley
More by Sloan Parker
Out of My Mind by M.L. Rhodes
One Less Stiff at the Funeral by Sean Kennedy
Baymore’s Heir by Lynn Lorenz
Not Knowing Jack by K.A. Mitchell
L.A. Heat by P.A. Brown
Out on the Net by Rick R. Reed
Blessed Isle by Alex Beecroft from the Hidden Conflict anthology
Soothe the Burn by T.A. Chase
I’ll Be Your Drill Soldier by Crystal Rose
Trust Me If You Dare by LB Gregg