Hey, everyone! This time of year you’ll see a bunch of these lists popping up, but I always love to share my favorite reads, so I’m hopping on the bandwagon. 🙂
Note: While these are the books I read and loved in 2014, not all of them were actually published this year. They might just be new-to-me, but I want to show them some love either way. These are all books I rated 5 stars. I’d include my 4-star reads, too, but we’d be here all day. 😉
Now, in no particular order:
Phoenix (Death Rose #1) – Melanie Tushmore
I really can’t praise this story enough. Set in the 80s, in the height of hard rock and glam metal, we have the story of artist, Alex, and his ultimate crush, guitarist Danny Death. We see Alex as a youth when he first encounters the band and follow him into adulthood. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Meatworks – Jordan Castillo Price
I think my quote from earlier this year says it all:
Life in Desmond Poole’s world is dark and messy and full of self-destructive choices. He’s not your traditional romantic hero, and Meatworks is certainly not your conventional, feel-good romance. The characters are damaged and their path to love rocky. Yet that in itself is the appeal. Jordan Castillo Price breaks molds and defies formulas. Her work is always a breath of fresh air for its grittiness and realism. Meatworks is no exception. If you’re anything like me, it’ll dig its hooks in you and refuse to let go, even weeks after you reach the final page.
These characters are flawed. They’re real. And as always, JCP is a master of her craft.
Hell & High Water (THIRDS #1) – Charlie Cochet
If you’re into M/M and you haven’t heard of Charlie’s THIRDS series, where have you been hiding? For the paranormal lovers, these books have it all. Shifters, alpha males, action, humor, smexiness, mystery. Even if you’re not a paranormal fan, you might enjoy this series. It’s definitely worth checking the first one out.
Better Than New – Charley Descoteaux
This was such a gem. It was a free short story, part of the Love’s Landscapes offerings, and dealt with a disabled hero and some hurt/comfort. I loved it from start to finish, and I highly recommend it.
Static – LA Witt
This book meant so much to me for such personal reasons that I left a comment on LA Witt’s Facebook wall to thank her mere moments after finishing it. It’s labeled as a shifter book, but it’s really so much more, and addresses gender identity issues in a way I’d never read before.
The Border – Kim Fielding
It’s no secret that I love Kim Fielding’s writing. She wrote a couple of my favorite books in the entire genre — Brute and Speechless — and her stories are never lacking in emotional depth and the sort of prose I can only hope to aspire to. This little novelette packed so much story into so few pages. It earned a spot on my favorites shelf, and I’m sure I’ll reread it again and again.
Life After Death (Infected #3) – Andrea Speed
Another not-so-secret love of mine is Speed’s Infected series… but it took me a long, long time before I worked up the courage to start this book. If you’ve read the previous books in that series, you might know why. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into details, but I will say that my emotional journey with this book — and the entire series — will stay with me for a long time to come. Forever, in fact, since I have a tattoo in honor of the main character, Roan.
As He Watches – Finn Marlowe
This is another freebie, part of the Love Has No Boundaries stories offered from the M/M Romance Group in 2013. I have a bit of a fetish about men in lingerie, and this book hits that spot in such a good way. It’s BDSM, there’s some humiliation, and it’s hot as almighty hell. I’ve already read it twice.
Protection – SA Reid/T. Baggins
This book wrecked me. WRECKED. I only downloaded it originally because it was free on Amazon, but boy, am I glad I did. I only had the vaguest idea what it was about before it started, which was both a curse and a blessing. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but if I had, I might not have taken a chance on reading it, and that would be tragedy. This book was amazing, and definitely a standout among the books I’ve read this year.
Tequila Mockingbird – Rhys Ford
What can I say about Rhys Ford? She is amazing in every single way and has a mastery of the language I doubt I’ll ever possess. Her Sinners series is one of my faves. Love, sex, mystery, music, and characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Read her books!
That Last Thing He Needs – JH Knight
This was a great story that reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows, Shameless. This is the story of Tommy O’Shea, who is struggling to raise his seven siblings without any help from his drug and alcohol abusing parents. At its heart, this story was about family — the one you’re born into, and the one you build for yourself. I loved these characters and I’m so happy to have had a chance to be part of their world for a while.
Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1) – Megan Derr
Megan Derr is one of my longtime favorite authors in M/M. I reread her stories constantly. Her Princes of the Blood series started earlier this year with Of Last Resort, which I absolutely loved. We have a plain hero rejected by his fiance when he decides to undergo the “Blooding” to try to become a Prince of the Blood. No one expects him to survive, but of course, Raffé surprises everyone, himself included. If you’re a fantasy fan, definitely check this out. The other books are just as good.
Sixty Five Hours – N.R. Walker
This is yet another free read, and it is fantastic. We have humor, enemies-to-lovers, hot sexy-times, and Walker’s engaging style and strong characters. Really, what more could you ask for?
Mark Cooper versus America – Lisa Henry & JA Rock
Yay for more lingerie! Love, love, love this book. So hilarious, so well-written, so frickin’ hot! Go forth and read it!
The Other Guy – Cary Atwell
This is a book I don’t even remember why I purchased. Something about the cover drew me in, maybe, and it sat on my Kindle for ages until I was on vacation earlier this year. Man, did I regret not reading it sooner. It was amazing. Funny, engaging, friends-to-lovers, which is one of my all-time favorite tropes. I enthusiastically recommend it, especially to those of you who like “fade to black” or non-explicit sex scenes.
(Watch Me) Break You – Avril Ashton
Avril’s stories are often dark and gritty, but man, when her characters fall, they fall hard. The emotions are intense, the sex is always scorching, and you can rely on her for a happy ending despite the odds. Plus, she includes all sorts of interracial/multicultural relationships. This is why she’s one of my faves, and this book did not disappoint. It contained all of my favorite things about Avril’s writing, plus ventured places she hadn’t gone before, which I appreciate.
Then the Stars Fall – Brandon Witt
This was a family-focused story that also deals with grief and the prejudices involved with being an openly gay man in a small, conservative town. There were kids and pets and lots of vivid secondary characters, plus a slow-burn romance, which I tend to adore, as I love sexual tension. It was lovely. I even bought the paperback and asked Brandon to sign it at GRL, I loved it so much. And it’s another one for the readers who prefer non-explicit stories.
Brothers of the Wild North Sea – Harper Fox
Wow. I would probably call this my second favorite read of the year. I can’t describe how much I loved this book. The history, the magic, the enemies-to-lovers romance in the truest sense of the term. Harper Fox is a brilliant author with such immense talent I can’t help but feel awed when I read her stories. They are really a gift. This book was gorgeous, and nothing else I say can do it justice.
Second Skin – Genna Donaghy
This book was fun and different and has gotten a lot less attention than it deserves, in my opinion. I loved everything about it, the characters, the story line. Everything.
Bone Rider – J. Fally
Brilliant! This was easily my favorite book of the year. I loved it so much. Humor, action, romance. Simply awesome. Some people might not be fans of all the different POVs, but I thought it really worked. It couldn’t have been told any other way. I will buy anything else J. Fally releases without question based on my love for this book. It really felt like watching a movie, a la Die Hard. I gushed about it everywhere.
And those were my favorite reads this year! I might add to this list if I read something amazing between now and New Year’s Eve, but for now, these were the books I enjoyed reading most.
What were yours? Any books to recommend?
“ Music chooses you. ”
~ Almost Famous.
~ ~ ~
“Oh, what bands do you like?” Laura asked.
“Yeah,” Natalie chimed in. “What music you into?”
“Oh, I mostly listen to classical,” Alex said.
Laura and Natalie stared at him, their mouths slightly agape. “Classical?” Natalie said with disgust. “Ugh.”
Laura grinned, then fished around in her bag. “Here,” she said, handing him a cassette. “This is our favourite band. The first album. Do yourself a favour and listen to it.”
“Er, thanks.” Alex turned the cassette over in his hands, scrutinising the front. He liked the art work. It was a stylised skull with roses all around it; there were even roses in its eye sockets. A guitar was sticking out of the skull, almost like a sword in a stone. The words at the top said Death Rose.
~ Phoenix, Melanie Tushmore
~ ~ ~
Welcome to the Phoenix blog tour.
I’m starting with a linear approach, as the story begins when our hero, Alex, is a young lad still at school. I based him very much on my own experience of being somewhat of an outsider, too obsessed with his chosen subject (art) to have taken much notice of himself., or the goings on around him… until that point where everything changes and you see a whole new world opening up in front of your eyes.
For me, it was discovering music. And it wasn’t just the music on its own, as I’d ‘liked’ music and certain groups before, and been to shows, but that special moment where you discover the band that will change your life, that it’s much more than just music.
The band that changes your life is as much about the musicians as it is about the music you hear. Their music speaks to you, and it’s like a switch being flicked on inside your being. Suddenly you need more, you need to read interviews, pin up posters, wear their t-shirts and go see their shows…
And thus the obsession begins!
~ ~ ~
Young painter Alex Tatton has always loved music. When a tragic accident takes away his parents, he turns to a darker style of music and discovers the rock band, Death Rose. Feeling isolated from his own life, Alex develops a crush on guitarist Danny Death who, despite the name, is vivacious, full of life, and has a reputation for being ‘the nicest guy in rock n’ roll’.
After a gig, Alex finds Danny to give him a signed painting. Danny is everything a star should be: charming, sexy, a beacon of light in Alex’s otherwise dark life, and after meeting him Alex is determined to see him again—and this time he wants more than just an autograph.
Content: Contains explicit content.
~ ~ ~
Even with the AAA pass hanging from his neck, like some sort of illicit medal, Alex still couldn’t believe he was being granted access to the Death Rose dressing room. Giddy with excitement, he followed Danny inside.
The room was plain, but full of open bags and suitcases spilling their contents, promising clothes of sexy black leather, spandex, studded garments and more. When he imagined who’d be wearing them, Alex felt hot. The warm air in the room didn’t help matters.
There was no one else here, though voices filtered in from the hallway. The entire structure was temporary. Sounds eked through: music, shouts, bangs. Alex was about to ask where the others were, just for something to say, when Danny stopped in front of him and turned. Alex almost stepped away, about to apologise for getting under his feet. Danny’s arm snaked around his waist, drawing Alex to him. Alex barely had the wherewithal to look up as Danny’s mouth pressed against his.
It felt like a dream, too surreal. Alex opened his mouth and kissed back while he was still living the fantasy. Danny’s kiss was fast, full of want, but altogether too brief. Suddenly he pulled back, half turning away. Alex was left reeling, his lips wet and his nose full of Danny’s smell.
Voices preceded the arrival of people into the dressing room. With a shy glance from Danny, Alex realised this was why he’d stopped, and silently cursed whoever it was for interrupting them. He pressed his lips together, preserving the feel of Danny’s lips on his.
The people who’d entered the dressing room were arguing. Nicky D. Muir, Death Rose’s drummer, was being apparently told off by a pudgy, older man with a tan, wearing glasses. “Don’t push me, Nicky,” he said, as Nicky grumbled and collapsed into a battered couch.
Danny glanced at the pair over his shoulder, but otherwise kept his back to them. He didn’t seem overly concerned with the row unfolding.
Alex took the opportunity to risk a look at Danny’s body, wondering if Danny was hard, like he was. He so wanted to reach out and feel, onlookers or not. God, what he wouldn’t give to touch Danny … But nerves held him frozen. He would follow Danny’s lead, wait for his cue.
Alex’s eyes wandered. There was a suitcase open, balanced on a chair. Alex hadn’t noticed its existence until Danny rummaged inside it. It had to be his. Clothes of black and some varied colour escaped at either side.
Danny said quietly, “What do you want me to wear, Alex?”
The continued argument in the room was mildly distracting, but Alex’s focus was on Danny. Even so, he was sure he’d misheard him. “Pardon?” he stuttered.
A smile teased Danny’s lips, like he was about to laugh. He picked out a pair of black, spangly leggings. “What do you want me to wear? To be honest, I don’t think I can get away with leggings right now, unless you get my guitar for me so I can hide this stiffy.”
Alex’s groin flooded with warmth, making him even harder. He laughed, feeling dizzy with nerves and want. His next words came out more breathy than he’d intended. “I wouldn’t mind seeing that.”
Danny looked at him, like he had to check if Alex meant it. His eyes seemed larger, searching. Again, Alex had a small stab of realisation that perhaps Danny wasn’t as sure of himself as he’d assumed.
Either that or he was a pretty good actor.
Who cared, Alex thought. This was better than his fantasies of Danny. This was real. The desire must have showed in his eyes, on his face. Alex did nothing to hide it. A dirty grin spread over Danny’s lovely mouth, then his hands went to his belt. “Help me with my shoes, gorgeous.”
His words were barely audible, but they were the only thing Alex heard. Heedless of where he was, Alex dropped to a crouch. It seemed only fitting to kneel before someone like Danny, like he’d been born to please this man.
As much as Alex wanted to lean in and bury his face in Danny’s crotch, he kept himself in check. Perhaps he was still in shock at the situation, it all seemed too good to be true. What if one hasty move prompted Danny into action? Would Alex be expected to suck him off in a backstage dressing room?
Alex’s blood heated, and his dick clenched. I’d do it, I would. But … what would happen after? Would he throw me out, never speak to me again?
He swallowed, and tried to concentrate on the simple task at hand. Get Danny’s shoes off. Danny’s jean-clad legs were stuffed into black cowboy boots, and now Alex was closer he noticed patterns of rhinestones up the sides of the boots as they caught the light. Danny raised one foot, and Alex gripped the boot, wriggling it free. His whole body thrilled at the task. It wasn’t how he’d envisioned undressing Danny, but for now, this would do.
One boot off, and Alex helped rid Danny of the other boot. He noticed Danny’s black socks, saw one was actually inside out. Just that tiny detail made Alex’s heart expand to painful proportions. He longed to be the one to dress Danny, and undress him, every day for the rest of his days. Make sure he wore his socks the right way round.
Alex tried to quash down his impulsive thoughts. A potential hook up was one thing, and seeming more and more likely by the minute, but anything more than that? Hollie was right. He was only setting himself up for a fall. A big one.
He must have paused, as Danny said softly, “Hey? You okay?”
Alex snapped out of it. He resolved to deal with the fall out when it happened. He could just paint his experiences for the rest of his days. Being with Danny now was like having a real life muse. Raising his head, Alex looked up at him, memorising every detail. Danny’s belt was undone, his hands poised at his fly, waiting.
Alex promised himself he would paint this picture one day. Smiling, he bit the bullet and said, “Sure am.”
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
Tush’s 80s playlist
Mötley Crüe – Live Wire
Ratt – Round and round
The Cult – Rain
L.A. Guns – Never Enough
Aerosmith – Young Lust
Hey, all! Later today I’ll be leaving for my first trip overseas! Needless to say, I am BEYOND thrilled. 😀 I’m making the trip with Sue, my best friend and sister cat. ❤ First stop is Rome, where we’ll be from 6/22 to 6/27. We’ll be hitting up the major sights in that city and taking a day trip to Tuscany while we’re there. Then on to Paris from 6/27 to 7/1, where we’ll be meeting Terry Milien and his husband. Terry is another of my best friends, and we’ll be meeting face to face for the first time in Paris, which is just awesome. We’ll be celebrating Pride together, and then Terry and his hubs are coming with us to London, where we’ll be visiting the Harry Potter studio on 7/2.
I’m staying in London from 7/1 to 7/12. While in town, we’ll be doing some touristy stuff with Marie Sexton and Rowan Speedwell, and I’ll hopefully get to meet Melanie Tushmore in person for the first time. We’ll generally try to see as much as we can before heading up to Manchester on the 12th for the UK Meet (if you’ll be there, come say hello!). After the Meet, I’ll be heading back to France, where Terry will be picking me up. I’ll spend a few days with him in Belgium before taking a train to Cologne, Germany. There, I’ll be staying with my friend, Carolin, who I haven’t seen in over a decade. My family hosted her for a school year when I was in high school, and now I’ll be hanging with her family for a few days before I head back home.
As you can see, it’s going to be a whirlwind trip. I’m equal parts nervous and excited, but I’m hoping everything will go well! I’ll have my laptop with me, and all of my hotels have wifi, so I’ll likely be able to update occasionally. Be on the lookout for pictures and news of my traveling exploits.
Hope everyone is having a great summer!