2018 – Part 2

My Yearbook of Awesome Books has come around again. I hope you find some favourites or some potential next reads.

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Vice City 1-2, by S.A. Stovall

After twenty years as an enforcer for the Vice family mob, Nicholas Pierce shouldn’t bat an eye at seeing a guy get worked over and tossed in the river. But there’s something about the suspected police mole, Miles, that has Pierce second-guessing himself. The kid is just trying to look out for his brother any way he knows how, and the altruistic motive sparks an uncharacteristic act of mercy that involves Pierce taking Miles under his wing.
Miles wants to repay Pierce for saving his life. Pierce shouldn’t see him as anything but a convenient hookup… and he sure as hell shouldn’t get involved in Miles’s doomed quest to get his brother out of a rival street gang. He shouldn’t do a lot of things, but life on the streets isn’t about following the rules. Besides, he’s sick of being abused by the Vice family, especially Mr. Vice and his power-hungry goon of a son, who treats his underlings like playthings.
So Pierce does the absolute last thing he should do if he wants to keep breathing—he leaves the Vice family in the middle of a turf war.

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Review:

“I loved every inch of it. It was gritty, tough and serious at times, but with lighthearted moments in between. It wasn’t dark, though, as some books go. It didn’t delve into the truly horrifying aspects in a way that would make you turn away and not be sure if you wanted to finish it. It simply told a very realistic story about a gang enforcer and how he navigated his familiar world with a newbie who, as each day passed, looked more and more like a shining light of revelation. I can’t wait to read the next book! My fingers are itching for it already.”

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The Architect and the Castle of Glass, by Jade Mere

Chasing his dream will send him into a dark and twisted nightmare.
Tahki’s only goal is to become a world-famous architect, even if that means betraying his father’s wishes by abandoning his comfortable life for one of unpredictable danger.
After Tahki blindly accepts what he thinks will be a dream job, his skills as an architect are put to the test as he is given the bizarre—and slightly unethical—task of turning a remote castle into a new-age machine for Prince Dyraien. The castle provides a challenge unlike any he’s had before, and Tahki finds the only way he’ll be able to succeed is to swallow his pride and work alongside Rye, a guarded young man who is quick to see the flaws in both Tahki and his work.
Yet the looming deadline proves to be the least of Tahki’s troubles. When a horrifying creature begins to haunt him, Tahki turns to Rye for help. The more he learns about the history of the castle, the more terrifying the hauntings become. Even with Rye by his side, Tahki realizes achieving his dream might send him down a dark path from which he can’t return.

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Review:

“For a debut book, I can honestly say that I have only ever been this excited and this firmly rooted in the plot, characters, and execution twice before: once for Sean Kerr’s Dead Camp series, and once for the impeccable Wehr Wolff Castle, by Bentley Summers. This one is right up there, and will be joining the other two on my paperback shelf just as soon as it’s available to buy.”

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The Damned, by Cullen Bunn

During prohibition, gangsters grew rich on our vices, and rivalries between criminal organizations resulted in open war. But unknown to the masses, a more sinister power controlled the crime cartels, using greed, gluttony, lust and other sins to fuel a more lucrative trade: mortal souls. Enter Eddie, a mortal who lost his soul long ago. Caught in the middle of competing demonic families, any other human would’ve gotten the ax long ago. But Eddie’s got a special talent that keeps him on his feet. One man’s curse is another man’s gift. THE DAMNED is hard-boiled noir with demons, and the team behind THE SIXTH GUN is bringing it back with new colors, a new format, and a new ongoing tale of tommy guns and hellfire.

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Review:

“This was an awesome, original story about old school mobsters. It had a really nice 1920’s vibe to it, with the added intrigue of the paranormal element. Having demons acting as mobsters was really clever, especially the way that the authors used curses and deals between humans and demons to add another layer of the paranormal to the plot.
There was great plotting, storytelling, and a host of really well explored characters. The world building was brilliant. On top of that, the ending was intriguing and I can’t wait to read more.”

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The Raven Prince and Other Stories, by Jean-Paul Whitehall

Our Lady of the Axe: In a Regency England where magic used to be real, Eleanor, her dear friend Diana, and three young girls are kidnapped. It will take all of Eleanor’s strength and courage, plus a magical axe and cleavage (not that kind) to set them free, and foil the man behind the kidnapping.
Edging: Will a mistake about meaning make a mess for Tommy and Vince? Or maybe lead to something more?
The Plan That Didn’t Gang Aft Agley: Jack’s plans have a tendency to go way agley. He hopes his special plan for Billy at football practice is the one that won’t.
Family Be Damned: Look for the two Br’er Rabbit moments. One: She wasn’t unhappy Tommy got paid to take her to the eighth grade dance. She even slipped him $25 to agree. Two: Her mom made her older brother take her to the dance. The $50 she paid him was just a sisterly bonus.
The Raven Prince: Sixteen-year-old Mike hopes he can blend in at his new school. Except he’s short, slender, goth-looking with the shiny black hair, black eyes and thick lashes, wears an elegant suit and tie, and drives a Mercedes convertible. He’s also gay, a raven shifter in a human school and eventually he has to be the Raven Prince.
Standing up to the bullies who rule the school—Preacher’s Son, Banker’s Son, Sheriff’s Son, Principal’s Daughter—isn’t blending in. When the Four can’t get to Mike, they go after him through his best friend, Johnny, the devoutly straight wrestling star who doesn’t care about the gay thing.
If Johnny is hurt, will it take the Raven Prince to get justice? Raven justice?
100% of the author’s royalties will be donated to a local LGBT youth organization.

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Review:

“While I enjoyed each and every story that was contained in this collection, the first and last had the most lasting impacts on me. While this collection is generally about love, I also feel that it’s just as equally about friendship. Every couple here were friends before they became anything more. Their friendship led them through hardships, through trials and heartache. Those friendships helped them fight and change and shift into new, stronger, better people.
If this is how his short stories feel, then this is definitely an author I want to read more from.”

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His Boy, by Dean Cole

Charlie Stone has problems. He’s just found his boyfriend and his new BFF in bed together, and only because he failed to show up for his fortnightly back, crack and sack wax. Furious, he storms out of the house and speeds away from the gates of his luxury life into the unknown.
When he finds himself stranded on the side of the road in a remote village, his future looking bleak, his dreams wasted on a fairy tale that turned out to be a nightmare, he’s not expecting the handsome but shaggy-looking bookshop owner, Nathan Marshall, to come to his rescue. A Divine intervention if Charlie ever saw one. But the village is foreign land to glamour puss Charlie, who’s more at home shopping for the latest trends and getting his hair coiffed than trekking through muddy hills in jeans and wellies. And Nathan’s never even seen the inside of a beauty salon, let alone considered having that tumbleweed on his chest waxed.
Hope seems lost until Charlie discovers that an amateur dramatics group are looking for budding stars to fill in two of their starring roles. Could the village offer more than babbling streams, scenic moorland and the smell of horse manure? Could it offer a chance to claim back the dreams he thought he’d lost? And, more importantly, could an unlikely romance be brewing on the horizon? Even when the dark pasts of this unlikely pairing come back to haunt them?
A darkly comic look at love, death, dysfunctional family and emotional trauma. Gay romance. Gay romantic comedy.

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Review:

“Overall, this was a plot based romantic comedy that hits the feels with a sledgehammer. Yes, this is a romantic comedy, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a journey of self discovery, of self reflection, and, as Nathan puts it, an awakening.”

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Only You, by Kay Doherty

Case Holden hates his life. Made rich at a young age, he slipped into a lifestyle of partying with multiple boyfriends who only wanted to be with him for what he could give them. After confiding to his aunt that he’s miserable, she extends an invitation for a visit. Case plans to spend the time in small town Clover City to reprioritize and plant his feet on the road to happiness. He does not expect the Clover City sheriff to step into his world and wreak havoc on his emotions.
Two years ago, after the death of his partner, Rawley Kane moved to Clover City, trading the painful memories and big city madness for a less stressful existence. Even as sheriff, his life is uncomplicated and quiet. That is until Case Holden rolls into town and reminds Rawley just how lonely he is, and of everything he’s been missing.
Case is everything Rawley shouldn’t want. The man has six boyfriends and a life back in Denver, not to mention he’s quite a bit younger than Rawley. No matter what he tells himself, he can’t get enough of the young man. And Case has made it clear Rawley is the only one he wants. Now if they could just get past Rawley’s guilt and Case’s insistent boyfriends, they just might stand a chance.

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Review:

“In the end, I can only say that it was pretty perfect. From the chemistry, the characterisation, the plot, and the writing style, it all came together in a great book that dealt sympathetically with some very serious issues. It’s a story of self-discovery, of healing, of emotional torment, of self-acceptance, of recovery, and of the realities of PTSD. But it’s also a story about growth, love, change, and letting go of the things that hold a person back and stop them from moving on.”

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The Perfect Cup, by Dominic Clark

Brad’s life is in a free fall. He lost his job and will soon be without health insurance—not good considering he has a heart condition. He thinks he’s screwed until his lifelong friend Zack offers to marry him to share the benefits.
But Brad’s straight, right? He can’t marry another guy! At least, that’s what he tells himself at first, but he soon finds himself doing exactly that: marrying his best friend. It doesn’t take long before he realizes that this marriage is more than one of convenience as he starts to ask himself: Has he been harboring deeper feelings for Zack all along?
Zack runs a steampunk-themed coffee shop. He loves his work, his oddball chihuahua, and his social life, but he’s missing just one thing: a partner to share the joy with. When Brad falls on hard times, Zack offers to do everything he can to help. He never expected, however, that it’d be Brad helping him.
A rival appears in the form of an authentic Italian barista, claiming he will take the title of Chicago’s Best Espresso from Zack. Though Zack is discouraged, Brad will stop at nothing to help him find the perfect secret ingredient to win the competition.
A hungry lake, a gourd of unusual size, and explosive cheese are only some of the encounters Brad and Zack have to deal with on their journey to find The Perfect Cup. This light romantic comedy is the perfect pick-me-up, second only to a shot of Zack’s espresso!

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Review:

“Overall, this really is The Perfect Cup. Super cute, fun, lovely, and full of humour, it’s exactly what I needed to break me out of my reading slump. Light, warm, full of heart and hope, it’s exactly what the blurb promises it will be “the perfect pick-me-up, second only to a shot of Zack’s espresso!” Read it. You won’t be disappointed.”

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Secret Seth, by Ki Brightly

Tyler Faulkner lived for his work, constructing Hollywood sets. His designs were perfect, and he expected equal perfection from his crew and himself. But, talented as he was, he felt trapped. A creative clash with a producer left him out of more than just a job, and Tyler decided that maybe a new beginning was exactly what he needed.
Seth Goodwin was reliable. So rock-steady that his father made him a partner in the family construction business over his older brothers. Seth’s job was simple—he took a highly skilled crew out on the road to build ridiculously expensive projects for rich clients. Their success prompted Seth and his dad to hire a new designer.
Seth wasn’t so steady around Tyler. Tyler didn’t simply draw art; he forced it into reality, elbowing his way into Seth’s work crew and life, whether he wanted him there or not. But Seth had a secret he’s been keeping for a long while, and Tyler, flamboyant and verbose, wasn’t someone who fit in a closet, unless he was looking for the perfect shoes to go with his outfit. Would Seth and Tyler be able to make it work? Or would everyone’s secrets catch up with them?

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Review:

“Overall, it was a fantastic story. Sweet, lovely, fun, snarky in places, but full of heart and romance. Sure, there were a few small editing issues, but they were minimal and few to count. In the end, it was a really sweet contemporary romance, with just a little bit of drama, a lot of family love and heart, and a sudden but satisfying ending followed by an adorable Epilogue.
Just about everything I could ask for in a romance novel.”

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Salt Magic, Skin Magic, by Lee Welch

Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave. His sanity is starting to fray. When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive. John soon finds himself caught up in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are changed.
To set Thornby free, both men must face life-changing truths—and John must accept that the brave, witty man who’s winning his heart may also be about to break it. Can they escape a web of magic that’s as perilous as love?

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Review:

“Salt Magic, Skin Magic is one of those fantasy novels that takes you on a journey. It’s the perfect blend of historical drama, mystery, and fantasy with just a touch of that hot chemistry that is suited to all genres. With intense drama, well rounded characters, and a mystery to solve, this story has everything you could ever ask for.”

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The Legend of Gentleman John, by T.J. Nichols

Banyn, a fae, escorts the souls of children to Magh Meall, but one Christmas, he comes for a lad who isn’t quite dead, and he breaks a rule rather than wait while John fights a battle he’ll ultimately lose. So begins a long-running affair that crosses the border between life and death, the human and fae realms, and even oceans to strange countries with different gods and rules.
John Rourke renounced a religion that had no place for him and returned to the old ways. Convicted of theft, he is sentenced to transportation and suffers brutal punishment—until he escapes to live on his own terms as a bushranger. When vengeance against his tormentor consumes him and threatens his life, John finds he has only one holiday wish—to see his fae lover one last time.
A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2018 Advent Calendar “Warmest Wishes.”

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Review:

“The Legend of Gentleman John is a short story with heart, and meaning. Through characterisation, and John’s relationship with Banyn, I got sucked into a beautiful story from page one, that didn’t let up on the emotional heart-tugging until the very end. I cared, I hoped, I cried, and I ended this beautiful story with a heartwarming feeling that *finally*, in the end, everything had turned out as it was meant to.”

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