Cindi’s Books of the Year: 2017
2017 hasn’t been a good reading year for me as far as quantity. After a death in my family in July of last year a lot of responsibilities were thrown at me, on top of health issues that have now (hopefully) been resolved. I admit to not handling all of it very well. My apologies to those I still owe reviews to. It would’ve been unfair to the authors had I read and reviewed during those times because I wouldn’t have been able to give the books my undivided attention. If I missed reviewing a book it wasn’t because I didn’t want to read it. It was simply lack of time and the above-mentioned issues.
I may not have read a lot of books in 2017 but I did read some really good ones that have stayed with me.
I met a young man who just wanted to have a normal life. An addict, he was finally free of drugs and working his way back. The new, drug-free version met and quickly fell in love with a man he’d known briefly in his past. The problem? The man didn’t recognize him from before. Had he, he would’ve run in the opposite direction. You know how secrets are. They almost always come to light.
There was a cute nerd who met his Mr. Right under the strangest of circumstances. I laughed out loud when he was hilariously outed as a virgin over a family dinner. Then I smiled from ear to ear when he and Mr. Right finally came together as a couple. I grinned when I watched a man with a massive ego get shot down for the first time in his life by the one who would later love him for who he was on the inside, not the outside. I got to know a young man who was willing to walk away from a real chance at love in order to keep his small extended family together. I absolutely fell in love with a thirty-eight-year-old man who took in a much younger one in order to help him follow his dreams. I cried sad tears for a man who was a prisoner in his own home, drugged constantly because it was believed that he had a severe mental disorder. Then I cried happy tears when someone he thought was a figment of his imagination turned out to be so much more than that. There was also a high-priced male escort who thought he was God’s gift to women who finally met his match. And there was a young man who never felt like he belonged with his parents and learned later that he’d actually been switched at birth.
I met a lot of interesting characters in 2017.
As in past years, the only book numbered is my #1, though each one on this list could’ve easily taken that spot. All other books are listed in complete random order. If you’ve read my review of my #1 pick you’ll know why it was singled out. The story was personal to me for a lot of reasons and it took me back to some pretty difficult times in my not-so-distant past.
I want to send a special thank you to the best friend and blog partner anyone could ask for. I’ve been AWOL most of the year. Instead of downing me for it, she encouraged me to take care of me when she was dealing with her own issues away from On Top Down Under. Kazza, words can’t express how much I appreciate you, your support, and friendship.
I also want to send a big thank you to our followers!
Congrats to the authors! I look forward to seeing what’s in store for 2018!
My #1 Book of 2017
The Perils of Intimacy by Rick R. Reed
Contemporary, Addiction, Age Gap, Opposites Attract, Second Chances
Published by Dreamspinner Press on May 1, 2017
Have you ever read a book that’s so real emotions slam into you without warning? That’s The Perils of Intimacy for me. I lost two close family members to addiction. For that reason, I tend to shy away from any book that has addiction as the main focus. I lost count of how many books I’ve read that had the main character suddenly addiction-free simply because he/she found love. Those of us in the real world know that’s not the way it is. As I state in my review, if love was enough, my sisters would still be here today.
Everybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge Rick R. Reed fan. Even so, I was hesitant to read The Perils of Intimacy. I knew I’d read it eventually because of who wrote it, but I admit to being somewhat nervous about starting it. I needn’t have been. The story of Jimmy and Marc brought out emotions in me that only this author can. I feel like a broken record when I say that the reason I’m such a fan is because he writes real stories about real people. But it’s true. It’s especially true for me in The Perils of Intimacy. I admit to shedding a lot of tears while reading this book. If you read my review, you’ll know why.
Congrats to Rick R. Reed for being the author of my #1 book of the year for two years in a row. I’ll forever be grateful for your kindness, your realness, and your talent as a true storyteller. I’ve always said that you’re my comfort author. That will likely forever hold true. Your books have gotten me through some very difficult times and I appreciate you – and your words – more than you can know.
Full Review – The Perils of Intimacy Purchase Links – Dreamspinner Press, Amazon
The Rest of My Favorite Books of 2017
Heart Unseen (Hearts Entwined, #1) by Andrew Grey
Contemporary, Gay Romance, Disability
Published by Dreamspinner Press on April 7, 2017
This is one of those books where a main character gets knocked down a peg or two. Trevor, a proud man-slut, gets shot down in a bar by a hot guy he hits on. What he doesn’t know is that the hot guy is blind. In other words, Trevor’s unable to use his looks to get a date for probably the first time ever. Don’t take that to mean that Trevor’s a bad guy. He just has a lot of confidence and a huge ego. He’s a bad boy and loves nothing more than playing around a little and then moving on to the next guy. He can’t do that with James, the man who shoots him down. Trevor, if he wants to get anywhere with James, has to win him over in other ways.
What a sweet story. Trevor, who doesn’t believe in relationships outside of the love ’em and leave ’em kind, has found a man he knows he can fall in love with. James, on the other hand, is Mr. Independent and makes Trevor work for it.
Andrew Grey wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Love Comes Silently. Heart Unseen reminds me of that book in a lot of ways because one of the main characters has a disability but he doesn’t let that hold him down. A fantastic book.
Full Review – Heart Unseen Purchase Links – Dreamspinner Press, Amazon
We Met In Dreams by Rowan McAllister
Historical Gay Romance, Disability, Virgin, Paranormal
Published by Dreamspinner Press on February 27, 2017
I almost never read historical romance books. I go through phases, just like most people do, with what I read but I usually stick with all things contemporary. I’ve read some pretty amazing historical books, but honestly, they’re few and far between for me. I’m glad I took a chance with We Met In Dreams. I think my blog partner was shocked when she saw the review because she knows me so well. 🙂
What a beautiful story. It’s one of those that can’t fully be described in a review. You have to read it. A young man with a mental illness is confined to the rooms of his family mansion in Victorian England. Late one night there’s a man in his room that he’s convinced is a ghost or a figment of his imagination. Over time, the ‘ghost’ returns and the two develop a sweet friendship that develops into much more.
I can’t say more other than to tell you to read the book. Even if, like me, you avoid historical romance you’ll love this. It’s not at all what I was expecting.
Full Review – We Met In Dreams Purchase Links – Dreamspinner Press, Amazon
Step by Step by K.C. Wells
Contemporary, Age Gap, Gay Romance
Published by Dreamspinner Press on March 13, 2017
Ask me what I love in books above all others and that will be two man characters who have a substantial age gap between them. It’s something I’ve always leaned toward when looking for something to read. Step by Step was perfect. There’s a seventeen year age difference between Jamie and Guy. Jamie, twenty-one, is down on his luck. Guy overhears him on the phone and knows – because someone helped him once upon a time – that he’ll be offering to help the young man. Jamie doesn’t know him from anybody so he’s skeptical when the much older man suddenly appears and offers to take all his problems away. There’s no catch and no expecting Jamie to ‘service him’ or anything like that. Guy just wants to pay it forward because had another man not stepped in to help him he wouldn’t be the successful businessman he is today.
What a sweet and sexy story. The romance is kind of a slow build but it has to be, otherwise Guy would appear to be the perv Jamie initially suspected him of being. When everything comes together it comes together beautifully.
Full Review – Step by Step Purchase Links – Dreamspinner Press, Amazon
Family Man by Devyn Morgan
Contemporary, Gay Romance, Family
Published by Devyn Morgan Books on July 17, 2017
Another thing I love in books? Kids. If you read what I said about the book before this one (re: age gaps) you’re asking, “Huh?”
I like different things at different times, obviously. 🙂
Family Man is my second Devyn Morgan book to be added to a books-of-the-year list. Last year it was Honeymoon Hoax, that’s as different as night and day from Family Man. The author’s books have kind of turned into a guilty pleasure for me. In Family Man, Jacob is so focused on taking care of his sister and nephew that he often forgets to do things for himself. His (awesome!) cousin Cody talks him into going with him to the only gay bar in town. There, he meets a guy (aka ‘Cowboy’) who has him eager to let his hair down (so to speak) for one night only. No real names are exchanged. What’s the point for a one-night-stand? They have a great night of sex believing they’ll never see each other again. Not only do they see each other, but they’re forced to interact often because ‘Cowboy’ turns out to be Jacob’s nephew’s new teacher.
There are a few bonehead moments of misunderstandings but everything comes together, as we knew it would. The setting is a small town in Alabama. Those who follow my reviews know that I (an Alabama girl) normally avoid books set here like the plague. Kudos to the author for not making us all look like backwood redneck hicks.
I really enjoyed this book. And Jacob’s an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. How could I not love the guy? It pains me that I can’t change the link of that from orange to red. 🙂 ‘Bama fans will get why. *grin*
Full Review – Family Man Purchase Link – Amazon
Switched by N.R. Walker
Contemporary, Family Drama, Friends-to-Lovers, Gay Romance
Published by N.R. Walker on December 25, 2016
Technically, Switched was published in 2016 but the date fell after 2016’s Books of The Year were published on On Top Down Under. I’m including it for that reason.
Iz (Israel) never felt loved or accepted by his parents. His father was especially difficult. An executive at his father’s business, he was never given credit for all his hard work. Not just that, he also felt disconnected from those who were supposedly related to him. It turned out there was a reason he felt that way. They weren’t his real parents. On the day he was born he was accidentally switched at birth. Finding out didn’t make Iz love his family any less. Suddenly things just made sense. Through all the ups and downs of finding out the truth, one man stood by Iz – his best friend, Sam. Sam was the ultimate friend. He was there when Iz needed a shoulder. He needed that shoulder a lot because finding out the truth didn’t make his other problems magically go away.
I love a good friends-to-lovers story and Switch is probably the best one I’ve ever read. I fell in love with Sam the minute he was introduced and I loved him more and more as the story played out. A very unique love story.
Full Review – Switched Purchase Link – Amazon
thrust by Sylvia Bartel
Contemporary (Hetero) Erotic Romance, Escort, Insta- Love
Published by Sylvia Bartel in December, 2016
Like Switched, thrust was published in December of 2016. It’s also the only non-gay romance book on this list.
I should’ve hated this book for a variety of reasons. Hell, I shouldn’t have even picked it up to read. Ten inches of real estate? <— in the blurb. Really??? Not to mention that I could sit here and type a long list of reasons why I almost never read het romance these days. It’s a good thing I’m a little shallow on occasion and will sometimes buy a book simply because of the cover. 🙂 Otherwise, I’d have missed out on a damn good book.
Look at the cover and you’ll see why.
I hated the male MC for the first half of the book. Alex, a high-priced escort, was a vain, obnoxious jerk. He thought he could have anybody he wanted. If they said no, he pushed until they gave in. He was the type of man I despise in the real world. Then he met Olivia and everything changed. He changed. I liked Olivia for the most part but I really fell in love with Alex in the second half of the book. He made the story for me and he’s the reason I’ll be seeking out more books by this author.
It’s sexy. It’s funny in a few places. It’s a very nice love story with a female lead who wasn’t depicted as a doormat once she met the male. I bet you can guess why I no longer read het. 🙂 Oh, she had a few TSTL moments but not enough to have me disliking the story.
My review (link below) is very NSFW. The photo/quote I’m using here is the cleanest of the bunch.
Full Review – thrust Purchase Link – Amazon
Sex Ed by Z.B. Heller
Contemporary, Family, Laugh Out Loud Humor, Opposites Attract, Humor
Published by Z.B. Heller on May 31, 2017
Z.B. Heller is a brand new author to me. This book was being read by a lot of people on Goodreads so I wanted to see what the big deal was. I’m really glad I did. If a book can have me laughing out loud it’s usually a winner for me. I literally giggled throughout this entire book. From the crazy family members, to the best friend who really had the hots for the main character’s sister, to the MC getting – ahem! – caught in a sex toy and having to have it surgically removed….. yeah, I was laughing my ass off. Imagine meeting the love of your life when you arrive at the emergency room with your, well, anatomy, stuck in a device and you’re totally convinced it’s going to fall off before you even have a chance to use it for what it’s meant to be used for. The guys reading this are probably cringing but it was hilarious the way it was described. Did I tell you said guy with the stuck sex toy was a virgin? Poor thing. He just wanted a little time with his new toy because he wasn’t getting any from anywhere else.
Some of the jokes and comments were somewhat in poor taste. Because I have a sense of humor, and I don’t get offended over every little thing, I enjoyed the hell out of them. I will seek more out by this author. Sex Ed definitely deserved to be on my Books of the Year list.
Full Review – Sex Ed Purchase Link – Amazon
Fabulous post, Cindi. I love the GIFS and the thoughts behind each book. I am behind on reviews as well. I ended up mood reading because of life, we’ll catch up. We always support each other here on the blog and away in our private lives. 2017 was not a kind year in a lot of ways but there’s another year for us coming up. 2018 has to have some great real life situations ahead and some great reading material to match – I feel it in my waters, lol. You may not have been up for a lot of… Read more »
Thanks, Kazza. I loved going back and rereading my reviews and remembering why I loved the books so much. We do support each other both on the blog and off. I say we’re pretty lucky. I’m eager to get 2017 behind me and to see what’s in store for 2018. I didn’t read a lot of books but the ones I did read were really good. The Perils of Intimacy was personal to me. I think I read it at the perfect time. You’d love Switched, I believe. It’s the best friends-to-lovers book I’ve read. The other books listed are… Read more »
Wow…what a wonderful thing to wake up to on a Monday. Thank you so much…I am honored, humbled, and very flattered. So glad the book touched you in the way it did–it was deeply personal for me to write as well, so I’m doubly grateful for the honor, both as a writer and as a human being. Happy holidays!
You’re welcome, Rick, and thank you for the way you wrote the story. You showed that addiction doesn’t just go away when somebody stops using. It’s a daily struggle. I appreciate that. And I loved Jimmy and Marc. 🙂
Happy holidays to you as well!
I enjoyed reading your overall post. Such a wonderful array of books. The common problem of addiction in families and friends. You’re right love isn’t the cure. I wish it were. I don’t know many people untouched in some way. 🙁
Switch is such a favorite book of mine. I haven’t read Thrust because m/m is my default but your thoughts are so honest I have to at least check it out. 🙂
Thank you so much, Dee. No, love is definitely not a cure for addiction, though a lot of books make it seem so. What I loved so much about The Perils of Intimacy is that Jimmy is still fighting it every day of his life years later. That’s how it is in the real world.
Switch is an amazing book. My new favorite friends-to-lovers story. I think you’ll either love or hate Thrust. I don’t think there’s an in between. If you read it I hope you’ll pop back in and let me know what you think.
Thanks for stopping by.
I also love to read stories where the characters have a big age gap. I know I would enjoy The Perils of Intimacy and Step by Step…both by great authors, too. I have Switched on my Kindle. Just need to catch up on my reading. 🙂 Hoping 2018 has great things in store for you. 🙂 Happy New Year!