Abigail Roux, Aleksandr Voinov, Amelia C. Gormley, Amy Lane, Andrea Speed, Anyta Sunday, Astrid Amara, Ava March, Beau Schemery, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Carole Cummings, Charlie Cochet, Cornelia Grey, Dani Alexander, Diana Copland, Eden Winters, Edmond Manning, Elyan Smith, Ethan Day, Ginn Hale, Hayden Thorne, Heidi Belleau, J.C. Lillis, J.H. Trumble, J.P. Barnaby, Jennifer Cierra, John Goode, John T. Fuller, Jordan Castillo Price, Josh Lanyon, Joshua Martino, Kaje Harper, L.B. Gregg, M.J. O'Shea, Maria McCann, Marshall Moore, Mary Calmes, Missy Welsh, Nicole Kimberling, P.D. Singer, Paul Alan Fahey, Piper Vaughn, Rhys Ford, S.A. Reid, The Year In Reviews, Violetta Vane, Z.A. Maxfield

2012 – A Year In Reviews

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time of year when we all wonder where the days and weeks and months have gone, the time to reflect on some of the great books we’ve read throughout the year, the time of year I scratch my head and wonder if I’ll ever live long enough to read all the books I want to read (The answer? Pfft. No.), the time of year I wonder how the flip I manage to read as many books as I do in an entire year, and then wonder how I’m supposed to compile a list of favorites that doesn’t include more books than some people read in a year’s time. Top Ten? Piffles. I can barely pick the top ten in a single sub-genre, let along manage it for an across the board list. So, do I get a little creative in my selection methods? Probably. Is it honest? Definitely. Do I feel badly for leaving some amazing books off my list? Certainly. But I have to draw the line somewhere. ::sighs:: And for that I apologize to all the very deserving authors out there who should be recognized and celebrated for their brilliant work.

Quite a few of the books that made my list this year weren’t even published in 2012; that’s just when I finally got around to reading them. ::slow:: There is one book, however, that was published in 2012 that has managed to make me do something I’ve never been able to do in three years of putting together a year in reviews list: name a top pick for Best Book of the Year. Yep, that’s a first for me.

And since I’m always looking for the “next great read”, if there are books you’ve read this year that didn’t make my list, leave a comment and share so I can add it to my ginormous reading pile. :)

So, without further ado, here’s my list of Favorite Books of 2012:

Category One: Best Contemporary by a New To Me author

1. Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
2. A Reason to Believe by Diana Copland
3. Aaron by J.P. Barnaby

*Honorable Mention: Inertia and Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley*

Category Two: Best Contemporary by a Favorite Author
1. Armed & Dangerous by Abigail Roux
2. Sidecar by Amy Lane
3. Acrobat by Mary Calmes

*Honorable Mention: The Rare Event by P.D. Singer and One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea*

Category Three: Best Historical – 20th Century
1. Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov
2. Protection by S.A. Reid
3. Roses in the Devil’s Garden by Charlie Cochet

*Honorable Mention: Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper

Category Four: Best Historical – 19th Century or earlier
1. As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann
2. When the Music Stops by John T. Fuller
3. The Affair of the Porcelain Dog by Jess Faraday

*Honorable Mention – His Client by Ava March

Category Five:Best Young Adult/Coming of Age (Contemporary)
1. End of the Innocence by John Goode
2. Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trimble
3. How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

*Honorable Mention – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz*

Category Six:Best Young Adult/Coming of Age (Fantasy and/or Historical)
1. The 7th of London by Beau Schemery
2. The Winter Garden and Other Stories by Hayden Thorne
3. (In)visible by Anyta Sunday

Category Seven:Best AU/UF/Fantasy
1. Infected: Shift by Andrea Speed
2. Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory by Jordan Castillo Price
3. A Token of Time by Ethan Day

*Honorable Mention: Irregulars by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Ginn Hale & Astrid Amara*

Category EightBest Short Stories/Novelettes – All Sub-Genres
1. Clouds’ Illusions by Hayden Thorne
2. Bounty Hunter by Cornelia Grey
3. Zones by Elyan Smith
4. Portside by Elyan Smith
5. The War at the End of the World by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
6. Same Time Next Year by Eden Winters
7. Tinsel and Frost by Eden Winters
8. Oscar’s Soul by Missy Welch
9. Singing Alone by Jennifer Cierra
10. The View from 16 Podwale Street by Paul Alan Fahey

Category Nine: Best LGBT Non-Romance
1. Fontana by Joshua Martino
2. The Infernal Republic by Marshall Moore

Category Ten: Best Series – AU/Fantasy
1. The Wolf’s-own Series by Carole Cummings
2. The Rifter Series by Ginn Hale
3. The Infected Series by Andrea Speed

Category Eleven:Best Series – Mystery/Suspense
1. The Cut & Run Series by Abigail Roux
2. The Cole McGinnis Mysteries Series by Rhys Ford
3. The Romano and Albright Series by L.B. Gregg

Category Twelve: Best Series – Erotic/Kink/BDSM
1. The Dark Soul Series by Aleksandr Voinov
2. The Bound Series by Ava March

Category Thirteen Best Series – Contemporary
Tied for First place: (Seriously, I can’t choose)
1. The St. Nacho’s Series by Z.A. Maxfield
1. The Johnnies Series by Amy Lane
1. The A Matter of Time Series by Mary Calmes
1. The Tales From Foster High Series by John Goode

And now….

Finally, it comes down to my choice for Best Book of 2012, which goes to the brilliant and beautiful King Perry by Edmond Manning. I can say, with all honesty, I’ve never read a book quite like it in my entire life. Simply put, it is the reason I read and read and read, because every so often I find a book that leaves me both speechless and wanting to shout its praises from the rooftops at the same time. If you haven’t read it yet, do. Soon. Like maybe right now, soon. :)

Now it’s time to get to work on adding to my list for next year!

Heidi Belleau, Violetta Vane

Galway Bound (Layers of the Otherworld 1.1) by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

“For the voyeur, fiction is what’s called going all the way.” – William H. Gass

Well, seems I’m a story-bound voyeur, i.e. – “an obsessive observer of sensational subjects.” Who knew? Okay, I confess… I knew a little bit. Okay, a lot bit. But please, Cormac Kelly and Sean O’Hara most definitely qualify as sensational subjects, so why, in the name of all that’s sexy as hell, would I want to look away?

The erotic vignette, Galway Bound, takes place a year or so beyond the end of the epic The Druid Stone, during a time in Cormac and Sean’s relationship where life and work have done little to continue fanning the flames of their passion. Oh, they love each other, to be sure; they’re just looking for a little somethin’-somethin’ to spice up their sex life, and holy hotness, did they find just the thing. It seems that Sean’s discovering he very well may be a sexual submissive, and Cormac? Well, Cormac’s no stranger to BDSM and has no issues with giving his man exactly what he needs. He even has the toys to do it, and he’s not at all afraid to use them.

If you haven’t read The Druid Stone and want to read a short, steamy, and kinktastic little love scene between two men who’re all about pushing boundaries and limits through dominance and submission and denial and fulfillment, then Galway Bound provides just that, and does it beautifully.

If you have read The Druid Stone, became invested in the relationship between Cormac and Sean, in their journey and all the adventure that came along with it, then Galway Bound is a lovely scene between the two men who’re beginning a new journey of building trust and exploring new and sensual ways of redefining what it is they’re involved in and all the possibilities that it holds for their future.

Either way, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane have written a provocative and evocative scene that made me wonder if I myself have any limits at all on what I find thoroughly seductive.

Buy Link

Carina Press, Heidi Belleau, Violetta Vane

The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

“Sometimes up out of this land a legend begins to move.” – William Stafford

Sean O’Hara is a Cuban/Irish American with a steady job and dreams to pursue, even if the rest of his life isn’t quite so steady. His only family tie is to a cousin, but otherwise, Sean has no other connections to either side of his ancestry. The world of his subconscious, however, is a very different story; it is a place he’s become tethered to by a generations old family curse that causes him to relive the same nightmare over and over again, in an Ireland that hasn’t existed since 1920. In order to regain control of both his life, and quite possibly his sanity, he must pursue even the most unlikely of answers to the questions that were lost nearly a hundred years in the past.

Cormac is descended from a long line of Druids, and he knows as well as anyone that when it comes to the sidhe, anything’s possible, especially when the walls between the here and the there are at their thinnest. Sean is very much in need of Cormac’s talents, but Cormac, in spite of all he knows that exists in the slantways realms of reality, is skeptical of Sean’s story, not to mention is suspicious of his motives, though that quickly changes when a trip to a fairy mound turns dangerous and a stone that Sean has in his possession opens a floodgate of questions and painful memories for Cormac.

Everyone knows you never bargain with the sidhe, everyone knows there’s a price to pay if you try and aren’t very careful with every nuance of the transaction, and everyone should also know you never, ever question fairy tales because as soon as you do, those fantasies of the world that’s just on the other side of the space between could very well become a reality. And when it does, the reality could very much become the nightmare.

Some books you just can’t help but think of as epic, and for me, The Druid Stone is definitely one of them. It is steeped in Gaelic legend, in a land where the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha Dé Danann once reigned—and still do if you believe. It’s the coming together of mythology and the journey of two men who must heal their pasts before they can reconcile their futures.

The Druid Stone is a romance, as well as the romancing of a country that is itself a perfect fairy tale. This is a book filled with wonder and lore and magic and danger and sacrifice and the bridging of that tenuous gap between a common goal and an uncommon bond, and I adored every word of it. It’s a plot heavy book, definitely not one you can read with your brain in neutral, that sweeps you along through a myriad of twists and turns, through time travel and through the lives of the two men who move the action along, sometimes with a methodical precision, sometimes at a break-neck pace, always with an eye toward keeping the reader engrossed in every moment of the journey.

The Druid Stone is available for purchase on August 6, 2012, HERE.

Heidi Belleau, Small Gems, Storm Moon Press, Violetta Vane

Small Gems – The War at the End of the World by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Joseph is a man with a ghostly doppelganger, a Fetch, a soul-collector that is a minion of Death, a shadow that has followed Joseph since he was a boy battling a disease that has now been virtually eradicated from the world. Though Death seems to have marked him as her own, Joseph has escaped her clutches and is now a journalist, chronicling the Winter War in Finland, straying headlong into danger and tempting fate again and again, placing the Fetch in the unique position of defying his mistress but only delaying the inevitable.

Without Joseph, the Fetch does not exist. Without Death, the Fetch has no purpose. The Fetch is the one who follows Joseph, who walks through the valley as Death’s puppet and Joseph’s shadow, but he has become resentful of his purpose and has committed what ought to be the impossible—he loves the one whose soul he is to take. But nothing is fair in love or war, and temptation is poisonous and life is fragile. Fate is fickle. And the Fetch is ultimately committed to do his duty. But…

“This can’t be the end.”

Because death is the ultimate mystery, and who’s to say we get only one chance at life?

I’m not even going to pretend I was able to wrap my wee little brain around this story the first time I read it. The first read through was informative and beautiful, the prose poetic and spare and the setting atmospheric, all at once, but I wasn’t sure I got it the first time through. The second time I read The War at the End of the World, it was to absorb and experience and try to understand it in whatever way I could, for the mythology and mysticism around which the story is woven.

I’m still not sure I “get it”, but it sure is a beautiful tale of the inexplicable and mysterious journey we all eventually take, and it left me saying, “This can’t be the end.”

Download The War at the End of the World for FREE HERE.

Heidi Belleau, Loose Id, Violetta Vane

Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

There’s nothing I love more, in terms of fiction, than the surprise of a book turning out to be something so much more than I’d expected it would be when I started reading it. Sometimes it’s the characters who are a revelation. Sometimes it’s the story itself. With Hawaiian Gothic it was both, and it was terrific.

Part paranormal fantasy, part legend of the islands, part love story that transcends the boundaries of the earthly plain, this is the story of military veteran Gregorio “Ori” Reyes and his painfully poignant relationship with his best friend Kalani Lihilihi, a connection that itself transcends the boundaries of friendship, though the bond was never spoken of nor acted upon until tragedy both separated and then reunited them in the unlikeliest of ways.

Theirs is the story of an accidental curse and the aftermath of a devastating hate crime that left Kalani lying to waste in a hospital bed and left Ori serving a stint in Leavenworth prison, dishonorably discharged for his efforts to return to Kalani’s side.

Ori’s desperate attempts to rescue Kalani from the grip of the powerful bond that tethers him somewhere between dead and alive leads them on a metaphysical journey to an incredible realm where the danger is all too real. It is ultimately a journey where sacrifice becomes the key to escaping the in between and the question becomes on which side Kalani will choose to fall—and whether Ori can let him go.

It is a journey where secrets are revealed, secrets that, for Kalani, are imperative to who he is—or who he believed himself to be. It is a journey of healing, for both Ori and Kalani and for the man who helped them find their way back to each other, a man who finally righted a wrong done to a son paying the price for the sins of the one he called father.

Action, suspense, danger, mythology, fantasy, and the ultimate love-overcoming-all-odds romance transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary in Hawaiian Gothic and placed Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane on my “authors to watch” list. I guarantee I’ll be getting to know their work better in the near future.

Hawaiian Gothic is available for purchase June 12, 2012, HERE.