Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 My Favourite Reads

My Favourite Reads of 2014

2014 was a wonderful year for me. For the first time ever I almost exclusively limited myself to one genre – M/M – but despite that fact I can’t help feeling I’m only scratching the service of what’s available for me there. I didn’t quite manage to reach my goal of 150 books, although I got very close. I can’t say I’m too disappointed about that since I managed to write far more words of my own than I could ever have imagined. My reading goal for next year will be lower in the hope that my writing will continue to develop as it has over the past 52 weeks.

All books listed below fall in the M/M genre unless indicated otherwise.

Like many bloggers who write about the books they’ve read I will share my favourite reads of 2014 in today’s post. Unlike many of them I refuse to limit myself to a top 10 (or any other top). Instead I will give you two lists. And, just to clarify, these are books I read last year. While some of them were also published last year, others are older.

The first list contains mainly books or series that received a higher than five score, although there will be one or two titles which received a slightly lower rating but managed to leave an indelible impression on me. The titles are listed in alphabetical order and all of them have been linked to my post about the book on this blog.

The Slave, The Soldier & The Master by Kate Aaron
This book is Gay by James Dawson (NF / YA)
Precog in Peril by Theo Fenraven
Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford
Strain by Amelia C. Gormley
Only Love by Garrett Leigh
King Perry, King Mai & The Butterfly King by Edmond Manning
The Saint by Tiffany Reisz (M/F)
Queers & Consent by A.J. Rose
Ball & Chain by Abigail Roux
Return on Investment by Aleksandr Voinov
Static by L.A. Witt

The second list contains book which scored a five, more than deserve to be mentioned, but didn’t quite imprint themselves in my memory and heart as much as the books listed above did. Once again the links will bring you to my post about the book.

Bonds of Denial by Lynda Aicher
Ed & Marchant by Sue Brown
Wolf Bound, The Haunted Maze by Theo Fenraven
The Devil’s Brew by Rhys Ford
Stripped Bare by Eileen Griffin & Nikka Michaels
The Secret Loves of Julia Caesar by Noelle Harrison (M/F)
Running Wild by S.E. Jakes
John & Jackie by T.J. Klune
The Candy Man by Amy Lane
Lip Service, Room Service by Nikka Michaels
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonski (YA / LGBT) 
The Last Good KnightThe King by Tiffany Reisz (M/F)
The Mark of Cain by Kate Sherwood
If it Drives, Hostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov & L.A. Witt
Damian’s Discipline by K.C. Wells & Parker Williams

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Candy Man by Amy Lane

Pages: 132
Date: December 30, 2014
Grade: 5
Kindle / Own

The blurb:

“Adam Macias has been thrown a few curve balls in his life, but losing his VA grant because his car broke down and he missed a class was the one that struck him out. One relative away from homelessness, he's taking the bus to Sacramento, where his cousin has offered a house-sitting job and a new start. He has one goal, and that's to get his life back on track. Friends, pets, lovers? Need not apply.

Finn Stewart takes one look at Adam as he's applying to Candy Heaven and decides he's much too fascinating to leave alone. Finn is bright and shiny—and has never been hurt. Adam is wary of his attention from the very beginning—Finn is dangerous to every sort of peace Adam is forging, and Adam may just be too damaged to let him in at all.

But Finn is tenacious, and Adam's new boss, Darrin, doesn't take bullshit for an answer. Adam is going to have to ask himself which is harder—letting Finn in or living without him? With the holidays approaching it seems like an easy question, but Adam knows from experience that life is seldom simple, and the world seldom cooperates with hope, faith, or the plans of cats and men.”

My thoughts:

“He wanted a job, he wanted to get back in school, and he wanted to find his own place before June. Friends? Lovers? Pets? Need no apply.”

So, the moment has arrived. I’ve just finished my first book by Amy Lane. Most if not all my reading buddies have been raving about her forever. Most if not all of them have also been mentioning hankies and snot sobbing. I’m not very good with angsty books; the urge to walk away from them too often wins out over the curiosity to find out how it will end. But, I love a good story well told. Rumour had it Candy Man wasn’t too angsty so I thought it might the right title for me to sample this author. I was right. In fact I was so right I’m now kicking myself for not taking the risk earlier. I guess late is better than never, and now that I know what I’ve been missing I’ll make sure to catch up as I can. 

So, about this book and its author: let me begin by saying I loved Amy Lane’s writing. It felt as if she were sitting next to me, telling me the story. I could almost hear her voice – even if I’ve no idea what it might sound like. The words flowed with an ease I envy and pulled me along, deeper and deeper into Sacramento and the character’s lives.

I liked the mildly magical touch to the story. I adored Darrin – Candy Man’s owner -  knowing who Adam would be and what he needed before even meeting him. I enjoyed his meddling, whether Adam appreciated or not and I’d like to think we might see him interfere in other lives in the future.

Adam broke my heart from the very first page. His pain and angst flowed off the pages to the point where I could almost feel and taste it. And yet, he continues to try and do the right thing. If he’s stand-offish or tries to push someone away it’s not because he’s selfish, it’s because he wants to protect the other person from what he considers his own badness. His conviction that his badness is contagious and could hurt others was devastating.

Finn was Adam’s exact mirror image. Happy go lucky with a heart of gold and enough confidence to carry two people forward, his determination to make Adam believe he is good enough, worthy of friendship and love and as deserving of a happy future as everybody else, was uplifting and ensured an almost constant smile on my face while I read this book.

And then there’s Amy Lane’s words, some of them so beautiful they made me stop and read them multiple times before continuing with the story.

“Right now you and me are – we’re a sketch. And we could be a real great picture someday, with ink and oils or watercolour, and hell, we may even be a movie. But not right now.” - Adam

It is somewhat ironical that hot upon the heels of a review in which I said I don’t usually like romantic comedies and rarely find my sense of humour in sync with the author’s, I find myself reading Candy Man and laughing out loud on several occasions. I may just have found myself an author whose sense of humour hits my funny bone in exactly the right spot and way. I don’t know. I do know it gives me yet another reason to read more of Amy Lane’s books. Who knows, one day I may even be brave enough to try those angst-fests.

“’s one thing to deal with a bad situation ‘cause that’s what you got stuck with from the very beginning. But if you’re making a fresh start, maybe you don’t have to carry all that bad bullshit with you. Maybe the stuff that hurts should be the first thing to go.” – Adam

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Gift

THE GIFT by V.S. Morgan
Pages: 32
Date: December 28, 2014
Grade: 3+
Details: no. 113 1 Night Stand Series
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

At 22, rancher Wyatt Malone sacrificed almost everything, including the Dom he served and loved, to raise his younger brothers. Now, with the ranch running well, his grown up siblings surprise him with a trip to a Caribbean paradise and a date from Madame Evangeline's 1Night Stand. Taking his courage in hand, he fills out an application that bares his soul for a single night of surrender to a nearly forgotten passion. 

Rafael is a Dom without a sub. His desires exceed the available men in the dungeon he frequents and memories of rejected love keep him aloof. Can the submission of a Montana cowboy free him or will the date be nothing more than another meaningless scene?

My thoughts:

It has been a while since I last read a 1 Night Stand story but I’m glad I reconnected with the series. The stories in this series are both predictable and enjoyable. You know exactly what to expect when you start a 1 Night Stand short; a hot story about two lovers who think they’re meeting for one hot night and instead find or rediscover someone they want to build the rest of their lives with. Yes, it is predictable but it is also a lot of fun.

I enjoyed this story. It was sweet, it was very hot and it came with a happy ending to make me smile. The BDSM theme didn’t hurt either. While I liked the idea behind the story, I found the story telling a bit abrupt at times. Other than that though, I got precisely what I signed up for one I one-clicked this book.

Meant To Be by Zahra Owens

MEANT TO BE by Zahra Owens
Pages: 24
Date: December 28, 2014
Grade: 4
Details: Short Story
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

Stuck in an airport during a blizzard, Kai meets Toby and they hit it off immediately. After a passionate exchange in the airport bathroom, Kai doesn’t expect to ever see Toby again, but it turns out they’re on the same flight to Seattle. 

Five years later Kai and Toby are still together, but their long-distance relationship is becoming a strain on them both, leading to a decision that will change their lives forever. 

My thoughts:

This is a short story and most of the storyline can be found in the blurb so I’m not going to say too much about Meant To Be; I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story for you.

What I can tell you is that this is a charming story about lust at first sight turning into love shortly after. I can also tell you it is very well told. It is short and yet manages to span five years without me ever feeling I wasn’t given enough information. While there isn’t room for in depth descriptions of the characters I did feel I got to know them, or at least enough about them to appreciate them as well as their relationship.

In fact, if you’re looking for a quick, sweet and hot story which is also well written and complete you should probably pick up Meant To Be, especially since it is free on Amazon right now. I have no idea how long it will stay free so make sure you don’t hesitate too long. This should be an easy decision.


LONE WOLF by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt
Pages: 360
Date: December 28, 2014
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 4 Bluewater Bay
            Received from Riptide Publishing
            Through NetGalley

The blurb:

“Hunter Easton is screwed. Fans, producers, and his agent are all chomping at the bit for the next book in his wildly popular Wolf’s Landing series, but he’s got epic writer’s block and is way behind deadline. Then he reads The World Tree, a fanfic novel by his online friend “Lone Wolf.” It isn’t just a great story—it’s exactly what the series needs.

Kevin Hussain is thrilled when “Wolf Hunter” wants to meet up after reading The World Tree. When Wolf Hunter turns out to be Hunter Easton himself, Kevin is starstruck. When Hunter tells him he wants to add The World Tree to Wolf’s Landing, Kevin is sure he’s being pranked. And when their online chemistry carries over—big time—into real life, Kevin is convinced it’s all too good to be true.

The problem is . . . it might be. The book deal, the sex, the money—everything is amazing. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Kevin is left wondering if Hunter really loves him, or just loves his book.”

My thoughts:

Regular readers of my reviews may have noticed I’m somewhat of a fan of Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt, both when they write together and when they publish solo works. I adore their writing; it draws me in, sounds exactly right to my ears and their characters always come alive on the page. Lone Wolf was no exception to that rule. I found myself in the middle of the story before the end of chapter one. Both Hunter Easton and Kevin Hussain captured my interest from the moment they were introduced and the fact that both of them are authors and the stories centres around writing and all the pitfalls an author may face, only increased my interest.

By now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t rate this book higher than 3.5 stars. Let me try to explain.

I saw that both authors have described this book as the closest they will ever come to writing romantic comedy. Now, I know I lack a sense of humour, or maybe mine is just not like everybody else’s. Because I’m well aware of that ‘flaw’ I usually avoid romcoms.  In fact, if I’d read that description before requesting the book I might not have gotten it at all. However, I wouldn’t call this a comedy. It is light hearted, for sure. It is also sweet and I can’t deny it made me smile on several occasions but those were indulgent smiles more than laugh out loud moments.

This book had me veering between deep fascination and a feeling of ‘get on with it already’. On the one hand I couldn’t get enough of the background into writing, fanfic, writers block and everything else related to publishing. Books about writers and publishing always fascinate me. I mean the authors of those books know what they’re talking about, so apart from a good story you are also getting background information. What’s not to like?

On the other hand though I got bogged down in the story at times as well; everything seemed to take longer than it needed to. I’m not sure I can explain exactly what I mean here and I’m well aware these are personal rather than general observations. For me a lot about this story was ‘too’ something or another. Kevin seemed a bit too insecure and fragile, Hunter a bit too unobservant and stand-offish. The agent seemed to take Hunter’s breaking of the rules a bit too easily, the contract came together a bit too quickly and yet the story as a whole felt a bit too long.

Having said all of that, I enjoyed this book far more than I struggled with it. Because, as always, it is written in such a way it almost seems to read itself and features characters I enjoyed spending time with – even if I did want to slap them on more than one occasion.

So, while Lone Wolf wasn’t my favourite book by these two authors, it most definitely was an enjoyable, sweet and at times angsty story with a nice and occasionally cynical insight into the world of publishing. As much as I would love all the books by my favourite authors to be five star reads, I guess that is unrealistic. As long as Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt continue writing stories I can lose myself in, they’ve got a fan for life.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Angel in a Book Shop by R.J. Scott

Pages: 108
Date:  December 26.2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: Received from Love Lane Books
            Through Love Romances and More

The blurb:

“What happens when a broken man has to trust in the impossible?

Chapter One is an antique book shop and is the last tangible thing Joshua Blakeman and his mom have left of his father. Nestled in a quiet square a few steps from London's St Paul’s Cathedral, it is boarded up with whitewashed windows and no new stock. The place is a sad reminder of loss and it has to go, but destroying a business that has been in his family for generations is not a role Josh is looking forward to.

Michael is the owner of Arts Desire, the shop next door. With his rainbow pride mugs and his sunny outlook, he is the complete opposite of what Josh thinks he needs in his life.

But, when Josh and Michael become friends, Josh learns that finding true love starts with making big decisions—and that everyone deserves their own Christmas miracle sometimes.”

My thoughts: 

I adored this Christmas story. Angel in a Book Store had all the ingredients to not only make this a perfect read for the time of year but to make it a wonderful read, regardless of when you might find yourself picking it up. What’s not to love about a book featuring two men, both in need of finding love and both having good reasons to be wary about their feelings and the future?

Poor Josh has been through so much when he first visits his deceased father’s bookshop and meets Michael. Between bad decisions when it came to his love-life, a scandalous departure from the bank he worked for, and the secrets he keeps from his mourning mother it is no wonder he has a hard time keeping it all together and faces panic attacks whenever his emotions get stretched too far.
From the first time Josh meets Michael there is a connection between the two men, although Josh is initially reluctant to acknowledge and subsequently embrace it. Watching Josh as he moves from trying to resist the pull he feels towards Michael to almost desperate to push things forward was beautiful and mesmerizing.

The reader knows more about Michael than Josh does. Short paragraphs at the start of each chapter give us an insight into Michael, his history, his thoughts and his feelings. I loved this aspect of the book and the manner in which it allows us to gradually learn more about the mystery that is Michael. When a book is written solely from one perspective I often find myself wishing I could have known more about the second protagonist. In this book I knew enough about Michael to fall for him and understand why Josh fell in love. The fact that the reader is aware of Michael’s doubts and fears – even if Josh isn’t for most of the book – enhanced my reading experience greatly.

For a relatively short story, Angel in a Book Shop is wonderfully complete. We really get to know the two characters, are given a clear picture of their world, their thoughts and their background. At no point did I find myself wishing I knew a more about one thing or another. The beautiful words and vivid descriptions turned reading this book into an almost sensual experience.

Angel in a Book Shop was my first book by R.J. Scott and I’m looking forward to reading earlier (as well as future) books by this author.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Moment of Impact by Karen Stivali

MOMENT OF IMPACT by Karen Stivali
Pages:          130
Date:           December 21, 2014
Grade:         4+
Details:        No. 1 Moments in Time
Copy received from the author
Own / E-book

The blurb:

“Outside Collin Fitzpatrick’s dorm room is a dangerous place. Beyond his door the students of his small, conservative college think he’s straight, as does his Catholic family who'd disown him if they learned the truth. Inside, he’s safe with his incredibly sexy roommate Tanner D’Amico. Their room makes a perfect place to hide away and fall in love. The moment they cross the line from roommates to lovers, Collin becomes caught between their heavenly passionate encounters and the hellish reality that someone might find out and destroy everything. Tanner's not used to being so confined, and wants to show the world how much he loves Collin. But Collin’s not sure he’s ready for the impact stepping outside will make.”

My thoughts:

“I didn’t mean to see Tanner D’Amico’s cock. I really didn’t.”

The quote above has to be one of the best opening lines in a book I’ve ever come across. It certainly made sure the story had my attention from the very first moment. And the rest of the story kept me captivated. It would be hard, if not impossible, to not get sucked into Collin’s turmoil as he comes out of his shell and learns to admit to the feelings he’s been hiding from the world for years.

This is a story-line all of us have read before. What makes it special is Karen Stivali’s wonderful gift for storytelling. She injects exactly the right balance of sweetness, angst and humour into her stories to keep me hooked and turning the pages.

It is impossible to read to read this book and not find yourself totally caught up in Collin’s struggle. Caught between his attraction to and growing feelings for Tanner and his fear of what coming out as gay will be mean for his life and his relationships with his family and friends, Collin finds himself torn between bliss and panic most of the time.

Tanner is a wonderful breath of fresh air. His interactions with Collin are just the right balance between understanding patience for Collin’s fears and frustration at having to keep his feelings a secret. The way Tanner is presented on these pages make it perfectly understandable why Collin is smitten and had me falling for the young man too.

Because Collin has little or no experience with intimacy – never mind sex – the reader gets to join him on a very sensual and – it has to be said – hot voyage of discovery. Tanner being a more experienced and very sexy guide did the story, and my reading enjoyment, no harm at all.

This is the first book in a trilogy about Collin and Tanner and I can’t wait to see how their story will continue and what hurdles they’ll have to overcome before Collin can fully commit to what I trust will be a happy ending.

I think it’s safe to say Karen Stivali very successfully made the transition from M/F to M/M. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; she tells a wonderful story regardless of who her main characters are.

This book will be released on January 7th. More information can be found on the Dreamspinner Press website:

Friday, 19 December 2014

Family, A Holiday Novella

FAMILY, a Holiday Novella by Brigham Vaughn
Pages: 84
Date: December 19, 2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: No. 3 Equals
Own / E-book

The blurb:

"After too many holidays alone, Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker decide to invite Russ’ family to spend Christmas with them. Russ wants to repair the fractured relationships with his father and sister, and Stephen wants to feel like he’s part of a family. 

But when Russ’ sister, Addie, brings an unexpected guest, it makes an already challenging situation more complicated. The Christmas Stephen gets may not be as perfect as the one he imagined but perhaps happiness can be found in the flaws."

My thoughts:

Over the first two books in this series, Equals and Partners, I’ve gotten quite attached to both Russ and Stephen. I’ve been invested in their relationship and happiness from the very first moment they got together and enjoy every glimpse into their lives as it comes my way.

The wonderful thing about these stories, for me, is the steady and realistic progression of the relationship between Russ and Stephen. If you’re anything like me you often wonder what might happen next to the characters once you finish a book. The Equals series gives you the opportunity to see what comes after the happy ending.

Brigham Vaughn impressed me with the way in which she portrayed a fragmented family coming together during what is a very stressful time of the year. The balance between politeness, tolerance and learning how to deal with each other was both realistic and intriguing. And I love that she didn’t make it a miraculously perfect get-together but rather showed the characters carefully laying the foundations for what may well turn into a wonderful family bond, over time.

As always Brigham’s writing is smooth and precise. This author doesn’t run away with herself or with her words. Instead she paints a vivid picture with clear brush strokes, allowing her readers to see the action and hear the dialogue.

I am very much looking forward to my next meeting with Stephen and Russ. Like I said, I’ve gotten quite attached to them.

“You know how much I wish I could change your past for you, Stephen, he said when he drew back.
I know, Stephen’s thumb caressed his jaw. But it’s enough you’ve given me a future.”

Buy Link:

The Series:

Book One: Equals

 Book Two: Partners

Released Today: Family, A Holiday Novella by Brigham Vaughn

Family, A Holiday Novella

(Equals Book 3)
By Brigham Vaughn

The blurb:

After too many holidays alone, Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker decide to invite Russ’ family to spend Christmas with them. Russ wants to repair the fractured relationships with his father and sister, and Stephen wants to feel like he’s part of a family. But when Russ’ sister, Addie, brings an unexpected guest, it makes an already challenging situation more complicated. The Christmas Stephen gets may not be as perfect as the one he imagined but perhaps happiness can be found in the flaws. 


Peter clapped him on the back. “I’ve known you for a lot of years, Stephen. I saw you with Jeremy and after his accident. I saw you when you believed you’d never fall in love again. This relationship with Russ—it’s made you a new man. You may not see it, but it’s changed you.” 

“I know it has,” Stephen acknowledged. Peter left, and Stephen sought Russ again. He was in line at the bar now, and he held up his empty glass, mouthing “be there in a moment”. Eager to go to him, Stephen set down his own empty glass on a deserted table as he crossed the distance between them. Russ, distracted by something the person in front of him said, didn’t notice Stephen’s approach. 

Stephen leaned in, whispering in Russ’ ear as he rested his hands lightly on Russ’ hips. “Dance with me?” 

Russ turned to look at him, surprised. “Are you sure?” 

“Sure I want to put my arms around the man I love? Yes.” The earlier doubt he’d felt was gone. Peter had some valid points, and what Stephen wouldn’t give to feel Russ in his arms right now. Over the years, he’d conditioned himself to expect less than others, simply because he was gay. Straight couples didn’t think twice about dancing with each other during the holiday party. Why should he? 

About the Author:

Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell. After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked. Now she’s eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. In the little time that isn’t spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year-old home. Brigham lives in Michigan with her three cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.

Brigham Vaughn’s Website:

Buy Link:

The Series:

Book One: Equals

Book Two: Partners