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Best of 2020 – Part 2

I had a really hard time picking my Best Of for this year. I always do, but I read SO MANY awesome books, this year. I couldn’t cut it down to a Top 20, so I divided it into genres: graphic novels, novels, yaoi manga, and webtoons. I’ve mostly been reading manga/yaoi this year, because 2020 was so stressful I could hardly concentrate. Which is not bad, for having read 300+ books this year. There is NO order, because they are all equally brilliant.

I hope you find something you like. Just in time for you all to do some last-minute Christmas shopping.

The overall story shone through, captivated me, and left me completely in love with both Tyson and Sean. I utterly loved how cute and sexy it was, as a whole. Sean is just so stupidly squishy and adorable and lovely, and Tyson is a sarcastic manhore of an asshole, and I love them both equally. I loved the progression, because though it was quick, there was a longer timeline of progression and Tyson was always very careful to take things at Sean’s pace.

Overall, I loved it and I’ll definitely be buying the paperback.

The Pitch Perfect emo kids never knew they needed.

“Everyone remembers the moment they fell in love with JJ Keswick.”
Me? Page one.
When did I fall in love with Jude?
“You know I’m in love with you, right?”

Fake It is a journey through 90s alternative music, where Jack shows us how the facade of JJ Keswick slowly fades and morphs from the public image of a rich, drunken frat boy to the reality of a scared, lonely kid who just wants to be loved. All the pills, all the booze, and all the one-night-stands in the world can’t solve JJ’s problems…but maybe one doe-eyed guitarist with determination can.

I can’t wait to listen to the soundtrack, buy the paperback, and read the rest of the series. This is one series that will stay with you.

No One Likes Humans is an interesting take on a space-opera sci-fi novel, with a predominant mystery and a secondary romance plot. I enjoyed the overall story, the way the characters interacted, and how it all unfolded, but I did find some issues with the editing that meant I couldn’t give it the best rating. No One Likes Humans is original, clever, with a riveting mystery and a warm, constant pulse of chemistry between the main characters. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

The Dead Letter Office: Book 12

With a mad dash to hide a ghost cat, reclaim a lost jewel, and divert a haughty son who is set on exposing all of Jasper’s last remaining secrets, The Dead Letter Office combines romance, Ancient Egypt, mummies, and a touch of military brash to a brand new mystery. One that I fell madly in love with, from page one.

It reminded me of the TV movies, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, aka Lost Letter Mysteries. The combination of a mystery to solve, a touch of romance, and the excitement of making a discovery. Add in the historical context, the extensive world building that has gone into the Read by Candlelight series, and it’s a sure-fire hit. Add Egyptian ancient history and I’m a goner.

Acsquidentally in Love is a unique take on tentacle romance. With a dash of romance, mystery and suspicion, Acsquidentally in Love is a twist tale that delves deep into the main character, Sloane’s past, present and future. It combines a chance encounter, a missed opportunity, two mysteries, a murder, and a cold case that spurs the characters towards their end goal.

I really enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to reading more. I do have a slight hesitation over how the series will continue. The book would have made a top notch solo novel, as it ended on a perfect HEA ending, wrapping up every character’s storyline. Everyone had found their happy, the case was resolved, and there was only one tiny aspect that wasn’t explained and it wasn’t really enough to imply further stories, so I’ll be intrigued to see where the author takes the series, going forward.

A Summer of Smoke and Sin is a unique steampunk story about love, justice and self-discovery. It is clever, hot and takes you through a world full of secrets, lies, and deception while navigating a beautiful love story worthy of the perfect ending it was given.

the story was beautiful, clever and brilliant, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. For that reason, I’ve rounded up instead of down. This is definitely a story I’ll be reading again, and I’ll be buying it in paperback, too.

I’ve been a fan of T.J. Nichols for a very long time, and I’ve loved everything of theirs that I’ve read. This book is no exception. Despite the minor flaws, I still fell madly in love with Nathanial and Jericho.

Book 1 was lovely and adorable. I fell instantly in love with the characters. Benjamin was so sweet and wonderful. Cavin was a bit tarnished and world-weary, but a perfect pairing for him. Loved Sam, too. He’s so young but so sweet and jaded.

Book 2 was exciting, because I FINALLY got a book where one of the MC’s had to grovel, and actually did it properly. I was in mad love with Oscar and Julian, though I saw the bad times coming, and I was still surprised. I absolutely adored the ending. Oscar was a bit like a kid with a new toy, when Julian arrived in his life, and Julian was so naive and battered by life, with one focus.

Book 3 was a surprise. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, at first, because I wasn’t overly keen on how Rob behaved in the first few chapters. Then things began coming together and it was adorable! Linus was a lovely character and I loved him for the entire book, no doubt whatsoever.

Overall, an amazing trilogy/collection and I can’t wait to read the prequel. I wish it was available in paperback, because this is one of those that I’ll be re-reading again and again.

Chasing Ghosts is the first in an intriguing new series from Dean Cole. With a dash of romance, a touch of chills, and a whole lot of mystery, Cole brings together a group of diverse characters to experience a ghost hunting weekend they’ll never forget, weaving a spell over each and every one.
Giving off vibes that blend The Haunting, Rose Red and a dash of Shaun of the Dead, there is just enough romance and humour to balance out the creep-factor. Meaning even I – who really doesn’t like to be scared – was able to read this at night, without nightmares. Which I’m extremely grateful for.

Chasing Ghosts went from a story I expected to be mysterious and scary, to a story that captured my heart and made me eager for the next Quentin Strange mystery. The memory with Amy and that final goodbye were touching; the mystery with Joe made me cry; and the flutter of romance with Will gave me hope. All built together to make me love Quentin’s quirks and his subtle charm. I went from not liking Kat to being firmly rooted to her character development, and eager to see her succeed.

This is the CUTEST story ever, with every teen-boy cringe moment you can image, when crushing on a straight boy.

It is NOT YA!
Let me say that again, for those in the back…THIS BOOK IS NOT YA. But you should still read it. It doesn’t take itself seriously, it sets you up for cliche heaven from page one, and you shouldn’t take it seriously, either. It’s a fun, happy read with a few dark moments, that is 100% NOT YA, because it has some seriously 18+ moments. It’s cute, funny, silly, and light. There are dark topics, but they’re second-hand.

I was tentative, going into this, but I was so intrigued by the plot that I just had to give it a go. And I’m glad I did. I loved it.

It started a bit slow. Demetri was so resistant to everything, a feisty character for sure but a bit stuck in his ways and obtuse, that I wasn’t sure how it was going to proceed. But once it started in earnest, I fell completely into the story, the plot, and the characters. I actually really loved Maelstrom and Demetri, especially together. Brainbox was annoying at first, but grew on me. And I loved that this wasn’t your typical yaoi where the relationship was forced (in all ways!) but Maelstrom actually worked really hard to comfort, seduce and make Demetri feel comfortable in the relationship.

The plot was…original. Clever. It took the concept of Prohibition Era and the mafia, added magic, vampires and sirens, and created something completely unique and incredible. It played on and against typical stereotypes for those aspects, but never relied on them or used them to instantly explain the world. It actually took time and care to develop real world-building.

It was an action-packed adventure, following Garrett through the trials of romance in a time when gay love was both forbidden and dangerous, yet I think Bill said it best when he said the world was too focused on the aftermath of the war, and Prohibition, to care. It was smart, funny, engaging, and I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

The Harp and the Sea is the first intriguing novel in the Magic in the Isles series. Full of mystery, action, romance and adventure, it has everything you could hope for in a historical novel. Historical accuracy, with a touch of fantasy, and characters you fall in love with instantly, allow you to delve headlong into this long-ago period of Scottish History that touched this Scottish lassie’s heart.

The Harp and the Sea took me home to my deepest Scottish roots, and reminded me equally of why I love my country so much, and how deeply we betrayed ourselves in the past. Filled to the rafters with a roaring adventure, magic, mystery, mayhem and forbidden love, it has everything you could want in a historical novel. Clans clash, a harp plays, and the sea drives two man together as often as it tries to tear them apart.
In the end, while there were inconsistencies, and some issues with the plot, I fell in love with Robbie and Ian. Their love, their adventure, and their fight for freedom, victory and the welcome of the Bonnie Prince, grabbed me and refused to let go. The book is a monster, divided between Robbie – searching for a cure to his curse, and lost in the passivitiy of its sway – and Ian – hankering for victory, but willing to put his life on the line for the man he loves.
It has bags of potential to be a re-read, permanent favourite, and I can’t wait to read more in the series. I’m looking forward to getting this one in paperback, and seeing what else these two authors bring to the series.

O.M.G. Loved every minute.
I actually ordered the paperbacks before I even finished the boxset.

Book 1 began with a brutal start, an intriguing concept, and an MC that was a perfect bland between sympathetic, intriguing, and travelling on a journey I wanted to follow.

Corey won my heart, right from the start. He was such a happy place, a beautiful soul and a lovely character that I would love to read more about him.

I LOVED the entire series. From characterisation, plotting, how it the story unravelled, pacing, and the twists. It was perfectly done and I look forward to reading more. I see the note at the end says there is more to come – so far, a short story on the author’s website that is free to buy, and 2 follow-up series that require you to be a member. I’ll be waiting until those two series become available to the general public, after the note of how this series changed from the original concept on the website to the published version.

I’ll See You Again is a love story that is equal parts romantic and familial, exploring the harsh realities of life, teen drama and loss while Cyrus navigates the bloom of first love.

In the end, I really enjoyed the overall story for what it was, how it explored the concepts and relationships within, and the subtle characterisation that let us watch each character grow and evolve over the span of nearly two years that the book progressed through.
The romance was beautiful. The growth of the characters was refreshing and realistic. While Cyrus’ story was often serious, it had enough moments of light and joy, of love and friendship to keep the story from feeling oppressive or heavy.
By the time story ended, I saw Cyrus for the complex, yet teenage, character he was and the trials he had successfully endured. I appreciated Nico for what he added to Cyrus’ story, but my feelings for both character flipped constantly while reading. While the story had quirks and twists abound, throughout the timeline, the story never strayed from where it was heading.

I’ll See You Again began as a teen drama and blossomed into a story of first love and self-discovery. It’s a story of faith, love, and family that manages to balance real life with a dream of the future. Cyrus didn’t immediately capture my heart; he slipped in a little at a time and overwhelmed me.

*heaves adoring sigh*

Wow.
From the cover and the description (and having read the author before) I expected something a bit more raw and dirty, a bit less dreamy. But, I got EVERYTHING I wanted, by the end.
The cover absolutely left me with Godzilla vibes, as did some of the descriptions at the beginning, which was pretty masterful and genius, because the “monster” proves to be a dragon! Which was incredible and unexpected, but also perfect.
The dual POV starting at 70% gave it that perfect touch of letting you see things from the “little thing’s” POV, which was just what I needed to round off this beautiful storyline.

“When is a monster not a monster?”
“When you love him.”

*heaves adoring sigh*

On my 3rd or 4th re-read of this book…and it is still beautiful, still wonderful, and still makes me feel all gushy.

The build-up of the relationship, the underlying tension for the first half of the book, and the way Katsugari doesn’t obviously age but the small things remind you how young he must have been when Akihito was little, are all special little nuances I love.

Ugh, so much UST and amazingness to come…

This was really cute. I loved that the main focus was on the investigative work, and the romance was woven throughout. It was a bit of an insta-love deal, but I didn’t mind. I’m intrigued to see where it will go from here. I’d say it’s a solid 4.5*, but I’ve rounded it up to 5 because I enjoyed the overall art, storyline and characters.

This was a seriously cute story. It’s just the beginning of a long journey, for the two MC’s, who are both battling different demons.

I really loved Yoshinaga from the start; he was such a lovely character, so deeply conflicted and struggling. I wasn’t sure what to make of Hagegawa at first, because he was so firmly homophobic, but the more the story evolved, the more I realised it was learned-behaviour, not really something he felt strongly about. He just assumed that gay meant predator, as if Yoshinaga wasn’t safe to be around because he was gay and constantly ogling other boys, as he’d been taught he would. But once he got to know Yoshinaga better, Hagegawa made the bold and smart move to do more than just assume; he went onto the internet and looked up what it meant to be gay, and then gave Yoshinaga the chance to show him what it was really like. The bond between the two was beautiful to watch blossom.

I’ll definitely be reading Vol. 2, to continue the journey. Because this is only the start of a beautiful friendship, and I’d love to see it evolve into more.

OMG, this was SO good! At first, I wasn’t a fan of the old school style of artwork, with the long bodies, angular faces and big hands, but I slowly got used to it.
I loved every minute. Sharp, funny GFY and bi-awakening. Really explores porn stars, actors, models and the LGBT of each with care and realism. I didn’t realise this was part of a series when I picked it up at Kobo, as it was the only one there, but I’m now going to buy the other volumes.

Secret XXX is an adorable, cutesy love story between Shouhei and Mito Itsuki. Itsuki works at the rabbit-specialist pet store that Shouhei is addicted to – despite harbouring the secret of his severe allergy to rabbits! It’s one of the fluffiest (with a hint of steam) stories that never fails to be good, even on the third or fourth re-read.

Therapy Game is a continuation of Secret XXX in spin-off form. The two main characters – Shouhei’s brother Shizuma, and Itsuki’s brother Minato – met and were introduced in Secret XXX, but go through their own journey here. This is a part-revenge, part-love-story, part-therapy, part-Bi-Awakening and it’s both bittersweet, lovely and heartbreaking.

Ranmaru never disappoints!
There was a whole lot of story, without feeling like we were being bombarded with information. Back-story to both MC’s, without being crammed or unnatural. A really good exploration of Shangri-La, the Birds and the Teasers. A really great, original concept that gives the story room to breathe.
It wasn’t rushed, it wasn’t PWP and it wasn’t all the things I was afraid it might be, when I read it was about a male brothel. This is one of those brothels that is well-run, with a respected/rich owner who takes care of his Birds first and clients second. Everyone is happy, loved, respected and well-treated, but Phi is an exception without anyone realising it, with a dark past that it slowly being explored.

WOW!
I mean…wow.

I picked this up because it had a super adorable cover, and I was really intrigued by the concept of the blurb. But what I got was…SO much more!

Cheat(er) Code began as a touching, realistic portrayal of one sweet guy’s search for self-confidence, and ended up a super cute, funny, remarkably emotional journal of self-acceptance. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional attachment, and I appreciated the strong message of safe-sex and acceptance, the self love that evolved through Kenny’s journey. The innuendos of the video game characters added humour and fun.
This begins as an X-rated version of Wreck It Ralph and ends in a beautiful story of self-appreciation, reminding you to love yourself for who you are, and don’t settle for loving someone who can’t do the same.
Come pay-day, I’m buying this in paperback, because this is a solid re-read.

O.M.G. This is just cuteness overload!
The military/warship euphemisms…killed me!

Favourite Quote:
(for context, this is when a girl hits on Ishibashi at a party, so Kokubunji intercepts!)

“There’s already an attack at the port by an enemy ship.
I need to lightly threaten with warning shots, first.”

I’ve been a fan of Ranmaru’s since I read Coyote, and this one is just as good. My only point of caution is that the two MC’s look VERY similar to those of Coyote, just with their hair-colour switched. Yes, their personalities are different, but still. It’s a bit close for my liking.

I loved the story! It’s very Gay-For-You/Bi-Awakening, coming out, 1st time, virgin. This is a super cute standalone, so you get the complete story in one volume, which I loved. All the characters had such great personality, and I loved how the chemistry was a slow-burn, despite “testing” their relationship with ever-increasing physical contact.
I would LOVE to see a sequel or spin-off where Diego gets his top, if possible. 😉

There Are Things I Can’t Tell You is a super cute story of unrequited love and self-acceptance. The main characters, Kasumi and Kyousuke, met as kids, but both have their own personal issues, at home and with accepting themselves, flaws and all. After a confession of love led to them spending 5 years apart, they’re reunited and it’s getting harder to ignore the feelings brewing between them.

The story deals with some interesting issues, in a really sensitive, sweet way that lets you bond to the characters through their trials and problems. Together, they fill the gaps in each other’s lives, but the things they’ve left unspoken could end in heartbreak if they don’t start talking.

The plot was intriguing, clever, and had a few nice twists that I didn’t see coming. The romance was super cute, slow burn and unrequited love. With both characters in the closet, the bulk of their former friendship is told in flashbacks, which are easy to distinguish by their ages. The adult story is charming and gets hot in places, while the childhood story is super cute and lovely.

Overall, a brilliant story told in one volume. I’ll be buying the paperback soon.

Wow! This was a really interesting concept and really well done. I’m a huge fan of Ranmaru, and this is no different to the others I loved.
Humanoids that look, think and feel, with illegal “data” from real people is the main idea, and it’s so cleverly explored through Arata’s experience as the humanoid and his experience with his new “owner” Mr Maki. Maki is recovering from a lover’s betrayal and loss, and doesn’t take it well with the fact Arata has the face, voice and memories of his lost lover, Ren.
Rowen – the man in control of Arata’s future, who gifts him to Maki – is such an amazing schemer. Maki has a bit of a sadistic side, with a kinky, BDSM way of torturing Arata for being the living memory of Ren.

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