For the last 5 years I have been publishing my Top Ten Books and Recommended Reads and I can’t believe this 6th year will be the last one. Sometimes you like my choices and at others you wonder what I have been smoking, and I’m sure this year will be no different 😆 My taste is definitely not for everyone, which is the way it should be on a review site, and the reason for our success is that the tastes of the guest reviewers’ are completely different (except for Raine and Sirius who I think are twins or have the same head on different bodies, I swear) 🙂 so there’s something for everyone.
I hope my recommendations will help a few of you in some small way in selecting books that you might have missed this year. As you know, I can only recommend on this list those books that I have actually reviewed, but I have many favourites that are not here. Some of the books released by Josh Lanyon this year that were reviewed by Tj come to mind, as well as the two books released by K.J. Charles that LenaLena reviewed, and many others. You will notice that there are a few ties on the list because I reviewed so many excellent books that I had a very difficult task, starting with No. 1, and even the rankings of the rest of the books are interchangeable. So let’s get to the main course: Here are my top books of 2013 and Recommended Reads.
No. 1 Spook Squad (PsyCop #7) by Jordan Castillo Price (tie)
This book is a game changer for Victor who is burned out and pissed off about cases that his investigative work helped the police bring to trial, only to have them tossed out by the courts and the murderers back on the streets in no time, courtesy of jurors who don’t feel that talking to and getting leads from the dead are valid police investigative techniques. The writing is brilliant, and the mystery (and its solution) is incredibly complicated and well played. Although this story is told from Vic’s first person POV, Jacob’s personality shone and is so clearly defined that his presence is felt even when he’s not in a scene.
This well written, complex, gritty, intense story is even scarier than the previous one, GhosTv.
No. 1 Kick Start (Dangerous Ground 5) by Josh Lanyon: (tie)
Josh Lanyon is a wonderfully gifted writer and I have always enjoyed his stories, especially this series, but this year his writing has changed – it has become deeper, more introspective, and he is taking risks he would have never dreamt of a few years ago (at least that’s my opinion). He has written a YAOI romance which is a huge risk, but his biggest one to date was in changing the dynamic between his two heroes Will and Taylor, in unbelievable ways. I look forward to his new releases as his writing style continues to evolve.
Will and Taylor have been two of my favourite MCs since I read Dangerous Ground, the first book in this series, and I enjoy their differences and all of their adventures, but in Kick Start it was the intense emotion and heightened tension and their inability to deal with the stresses these caused, despite the deep love between them, that moved me. No longer were they secure and confident and living the high life in exciting jobs and places. They were now unemployed, facing an uncertain future with all that entailed, just like ordinary folk, and they were ill equipped to deal with the pressures and stresses.They were clearly unaccustomed to coping with life’s whims and they made many blunders in trying to solve their issues by using the same skills they had employed in their previous job, which proved to be woefully inadequate as real life doesn’t work that way. They finally realize what’s most important in their lives – each other.
No. 3: Raining Men by Rick R, Reed
Only an incredibly talented writer could have made Bobby, who had such loathsome character traits, into someone I would root for, and Rick Reed did just that. A masterful job! Raining Men is about a lot more than Bobby’s sex addiction which drove him to do unspeakable things, it was also about the man, someone who was kind, who loved his mother deeply, and was good to animals. One scene that really touched me was when Bobby visited his mother several months after his father’s passing and found her devastated, and how he brought her out of her depression.
Bobby was laid bare in Raining Men. His thoughts, aspirations, actions, the way he spiralled out of control – nothing was left to the reader’s imagination and if you’re like me you will cry for Bobby. This book could easily have been No. 1 on my list.
No. 4 Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run book 7) by Abigail Roux
I have written pages and pages of reviews over the years about this series that I started reading (with great reluctance, I might add,) 5 1/2 years ago and now I’m it’s greatest fan. The MCs Ty & Zane have driven me crazy since the first book that wasn’t supposed to be part of a series, and book 8 is on the horizon and scheduled to be released in March. The passion, love, disappointment, anger and a host of other emotions expressed so well through her characters makes Abi Roux one of the best writers in this or any genre. This series started out with the writing pair of Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux but a couple years ago Madeleine retired and now Abi is going it alone, with great success.
No. 5 Death by Silver by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold: Here’s a surprise – a historical fantasy on my list of top books for 2013 from two authors whose books I had never read before.
Death by Silver is magical in more ways than one – an enthralling murder mystery with suspense and romance rolled into a fantastical Victorian London. I was definitely enchanted. If you’re looking for a superb tale told by two talented writers who drew their characters lovingly, I would strongly recommend that you try Death by Silver which has everything you could possibly want: a solid mystery, superb world building, magic used in ways you could not imagine, two friends on the way to becoming lovers while engaged in trying to expose a murderer on a killing spree, not to mention that some of their helpers were also criminals. What more could you possibly want? In some ways the denouement reminded me of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot and I absolutely loved how the case was resolved..
This author has been flying under my radar (apparently) for years but I only discovered her books this year, and what a bounty! I have put these two books on my list because there was no way I couldn’t after I read them. Sense of Place and Clarity of Lines have wonderfully crafted characters, a complicated plot, scintillating dialogue, and most of all, a romance in the best sense of the word. The story centres around Thomas Elkin, a 44 year old architect and his 22 year old lover an up and coming architect and also the best friend of Tom’s son, and if you think that the plot is improbable, think again as N.R. Walker wrote a series that stopped me in my tracks. I won’t tell you anything more about these books except to recommend that you start with Elements of Retrofit, the first one. These are two great MCs who stole my heart and made me believe!
I discovered Brandon Shire very late in the life of the site and immediately asked to interview him after I finished reading these two books, because they impacted me so much and were so different from 99% of the books I had read in this genre. I have grouped them together because they are the same story (one is a sequel of the other) and if you haven’t read them you are in for a hit to the solar plexus.
Some authors write standard paint by numbers books, others are artists who envelop readers in their characters and their world and seem to write for the love of their craft, regardless whether they make any money from it. To me Brandon Shire is in the latter category, a true artist whose characters come alive on the page and stay in your consciousness long after you finish reading. His books defy being pigeonholed and range all over the spectrum from Cold, Listening to Dust, The Value of Rain to Afflicted. One of the reasons I love his writing is because his stories are difficult to categorize in terms of genre, and so far they are all awesome reads.
In Afflicted and Afflicted II the prose and dialogue as well as the characters are unique, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, as you would be hard pressed to find characters like Hunter and Dillon elsewhere. Hunter is a blind man who craves sex and is so openly sensuous that his emotions and desires spill on to the page. As for Dillon, he’s a high priced escort when he meets Hunter and he wants him like no other man. I’m still not sure how these guys wormed their way into my subconscious because they are not the typical romance heroes, but I swear they’re still there.
Please read both of these books if you want a different experience from the typical romance novel. Brandon Shire is a force you won’t soon forget.
No. 8 Shock & Awe (A Sidewinder Story) by Abigail Roux
As I mentioned above, I’m a huge fan of the Cut & Run series and the MCs Ty & Zane. Whether or not you’re a fan of the series, I think this little jewel should find its place in your collection of memorable M/M romances. Compared to the C & R books, Shock & Awe may seem somewhat like a delicious appetiser before the main course because it’s only 94 pages, including a bonus story Bait & Switch, but don’t be fooled by its length as it’s packed full of emotion, caring and action. The MCs in Shock & Awe aren’t Ty & Zane but two supporting characters from C & R, Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott .
This is how I ended my review “I think you will love this book because of the writing and the characters and I can’t say enough about the lines that just kept on coming. It’s hard to be funny but Abi made it seem like a piece of red velvet cake, sumptuous and delicious, and when you bite into it it’s even creamier than you imagined.”
No. 9 The Only One Who Knows by L.A. Witt and Cat Grant
An intense, emotional love affair in the military that almost destroyed the careers of two Navy SEALs. What impressed me most was the excellent writing of Cat Grant and L.A. Witt and the accuracy of the world they created. If you’re looking for authenticity in a book about the military it’s a good bet that you’ll find it here. I believe this is the first time that these two writers have collaborated and the integration of their individual styles was flawless – I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended or even who had written which MC, which is the way writing partnerships should work in an ideal world.
The Only One Who Matters by L.A. Witt and Cat Grant, the sequel is even better than the first book.
No. 10 Laying Ghosts by James Buchanan
James is one of my favourite authors because his writing and his characters are authentic. Feliz and I did duelling reviews on this book because we couldn’t decide who should write it as we each wanted to do so, 🙂 since we had split the series between us in the past. It turned out that it wasn’t much of a duel as she loved it as much as I did.
I met Deputy Joe in 2009 in Hard Fall reviewed here and I’ve been in love with him ever since. He is honest, a good ‘ole boy, unsophisticated, driven, loves his parents unconditionally, and his voice is so distinctive I felt as though I had met him at some point in time. His back country speech, thought patterns and approach to life permeated every aspect of the book effortlessly, making him seem even more real if that’s possible. There’s one person for whom he would do anything – Kabe Varghese, his ex con boyfriend who holds his heart in the palm of his hands and those feelings were returned in spades.
I hope that James continues to write these characters because they are part of the reason why M/M is so diverse and popular with readers.
No. 11 The Backup Boyfriend by River Jaymes
River Jaynes is another new writer I discovered this year and does she pack a punch!! I was so impressed by her writing that I profiled her on the site recently.
This is a heartwarming, moving story with two MCs who overcame personal demons and hangups to fall in love and stay together. The characters were intricately drawn, cleverly layered, and just when I thought I knew them, a new and unexpected aspect of their personalities would emerge, making them even more nuanced. I really love River James’s writing and her characters. Alec, the more laid back protagonist, surprised me when he showed his mettle and took charge of bad boy Dylan in a Da Vinci inspired filthy sex scene in the garage that was so hot the pages were probably on fire. He showed Dylan who was “the man” and that scene blew my socks off because the sex was explosive and mind blowing, and even if Dylan didn’t want to have feelings for Alec he was falling off a cliff into no man’s land while Alec was screwing with his mind. This scene has to be experienced to be believed and I’ll never think of axle grease the same way again.
I hope you enjoy the books I have recommended which include stories by new-to-me writers as well as well known authors, and I hope this list of books will provide hours and hours of reading enjoyment and expand your auto buy list.
Here are my Recommended Reads for 2013:
Recommended Reads (in no particular order)
Winter Wolf – A Werewolf Romance on Snow by S.P. Wayne
Enigma (A Russ Morgan Mystery) by Lloyd Meeker
Blood Red Butterfly by Josh Lanyon
A Boy and His Dragon by R. Cooper
Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding by Marie Sexton
Thorns by Feliz Faber
Everyone Loves a Wedding by Chris Owen
Brad’s Bachelor Party by River Jaymes
The Moon’s Dirty Light (Werewolves in Baltimore #1 by H.L. Holston and Eleanor Bruce
If you’re interested in previous recommendations from past years from the guest reviewers or me, go to Navigation at the top of the site, then hit Archives and scroll through to the month of December each year – the recommendations are always posted around the end of December. You can do this in your spare time. 😆