Kazza K’s Books of the Year 2013
I have read some very good books over the 2013 reading period. Not all the books I read this year were released in 2013. Only books released this year are included on this list of my Books of the Year – one exception being a book released on Dec 31st, 2012. It is not an easy task organising this list because it is akin to comparing apples to oranges. This is why only the top book is ranked.
I also want to say that not all the books I read are on this this blog. Not all the books I read are even reviewed. There are reasons – some books I simply didn’t feel strongly enough about to write a review for. Some reviews are purely elsewhere, for various reasons – Goodreads / Amazon / different publishing sites. Those who read my reviews know that I am long-winded. I am. I’ll own it. So I have to feel a fair degree of passion to review a book, it can be a lengthy process for me. But I enjoy sharing my thoughts. No matter what, all reviews are 100% honest and that is always the policy of On Top Down Under Book Reviews.
While I have a chance, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the authors who give me immense joy. I can wake up every day and be transported somewhere else for a while and that, to me, is simply fantastic. Thank you for allowing me time to escape. Time to dream. Time to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. We all need a little escapism from time to time, and to dream…..
Thank you to the supporters of this blog. Whether you pop on by occasionally or often. Put simply, you are terrific and appreciated so much. It is nice to know there are fellow book fanatics out there. On Top Down Under’s blog stats suggest a heck of a lot of fanatics. Thank you to Cindi for being the best blog partner I could wish for. It helps make this blog so much fun. Behind the scenes here is a blast.
Please note that all books listed have links to the full review and the publisher, if there is a publisher. Also note that quite a few of my reviews, if you go into them, are NSFW. Without banging on any more, here are my favourites for 2013 and a brief “why” they areon my list –
Kazza’s 2013 Book Of the Year is Paradise at Main & Elm,
Barry Brennessel (LGBTQ (G) Fiction)
Released: October 30th, 2013
I was spellbound from the moment I started reading Paradise at Main & Elm. When I finished the book, and then the review, I knew with absolute certainty that this was my book of the year. There is a sweet romance at the core but the romance isn’t always written as front and centre. It is so much more. It is an ensemble cast with parents, family and neighbours playing integral parts as well. It is a wonderful psychological study of our homes, our neighbourhoods and the people they hold within them. Yet Ezra and Adrian are always at the forefront – whether that be dealing with their demons, both past and present, or trying to get back to one another and to the apple orchard in New York where you know they belong. I fell in love with both main characters but Ezra stole a piece of my heart and he won’t give it back. That says a lot about a book to me. That it touches me profoundly in some way. Beautiful writing that resonates, perfect dialogue, inner monologue, psychology and characterisations all cement Paradise at Main & Elm as my number one book of 2013.
Racing for the Sun, Amy Lane (MM, Contemporary, Romance)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released : April 26th, 2013
When I saw the premise of this book I knew I had to read it and it didn’t let me down. The book immediately grabbed me around the heart, squeezed, and didn’t let go until I finished. Ace and Sonny are a brilliant and inspired pairing. They are real-feel, everyday characters. The characterisations were wonderful, perfect for who they are, as well as the secondary characters. The dialogue excellent. This book was so wrong at times it was so right. It was draining, it was a rollercoaster, but overall there was the right amount of hope for who these characters are. I don’t even like street racing and I was interested in Ace and Sonny and their dream, well, Sonny’s dream, but if Sonny wanted it Ace would make it happen. Wonderful, angst-ridden, sexy and memorable.
Blessed Isle, Alex Beecroft (LGBTQ (G) Historical Romance, Age of Sail)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Released: December 31st, 2012
This missed the cut for last year’s favourites. I had never read Age of Sail before I read Blessed Isle. Alex Beecroft is a remarkably talented author who makes you experience every moment with the characters she has created. Her words so rich and lush paint such a beautiful picture. Harry and Garnet were so vividly real. The seas they sailed on. Their time in history. The time spent cast away on an island near Tahiti. The love that grew for them both. Two very different personalities drawn to one another. Fearful of being caught and facing the gallows simply for loving someone of the same sex. If you love and respect beautiful writing, characters who you cheer and chew your fingernails for that fit their time period perfectly, yet don’t because of who they chose to love. If you simply love Age of Sail, then Blessed Isle is a must read.
Easy Ryder, Deanna Wadsworth (MM, Retro, Coming of Age Romance)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released: August 23rd, 2013
A cracker of a read. Easy Ryder’s backdrop is the 1976 Bicentennial Indpendence Day weekend. Eighteen year old Michael Ryder leaves his abusive family in small town Pennsylvania to chase after a better place. Somewhere people will accept and embrace “fruits” like him. He’s briefly seen Harvey Milk on the TV and he knows he has to head to San Francisco. Luckily for Michael, he runs into sexy, enigmatic, Harley-riding, ex Vietnam War vet, Snake – someone who helps and protects idealistic Michael. It’s a cross country journey with two amazingly well written characters. An absolute page-turner. Plenty of action, plenty of white-hot sex, and plenty of emotion. I loved the characters and the writing in Easy Ryder. I lived and loved during this period in my own life and I can say that the feel of the 70’s was perfectly reflected here. A sexy, pitch-perfect retro read.
Bone Rider, J Fally (MM, Sci-fi, Action, Romance)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released: October 28th, 2013
First time published author and what a way to start. This is one hell of a statement that J Fally is on the scene. This book has been a real surprise for quite a few readers. I liked the premise when I saw it but I was blown away by the uniqueness of the tale and the telling of the story. It shouldn’t work – so many points of view, alien symbiotic sex with a human host, and a stalker-love-obsessed mafia ex of the newly acquired alien host. Bone Rider is well named, well executed, entertaining, funny-as-funny can be, oddly and madly romantic with some charming prose, sweet and clever dialogue. An alien “Bone Rider” who meshes over opportunity, and then via physical ability to fit well in Riley, the human host…not to mention mutual bonding over alcohol, orgasms, bar fights and John McClane from Die Hard. Seriously. What’s not to love?
Six Ways From Sunday, Mercy Celeste (MM, Contemporary Romance)
Publisher: MJC Press,
Released: April 12th, 2013
Last year Beyond Complicated was my book of the year. This year Mercy Celeste makes my BotY list again. I certainly lived Six Ways From Sunday when I read it. I felt every emotion that Bo and Dylan felt and I’ve re-read it and felt it again. This is a terrific offering that takes you on an emotional ride of Bo and Dylan as friends, to Bo and Dylan discovering each other intimately for the first time, to Dylan up and leaving to enlist. Bo makes it big in football, but it isn’t the same as when he played alongside Dylan. When they reconnect it is as men and the feelings they have are powerful, until something tragic comes along and I nearly threw my Kindle out the French doors. What happens from here tugs at everything you have inside. Sexy, emotional, romantic, passionate – classic Mercy Celeste.
Velocity (Impulse Book #3), Amelia C Gormley (MM, Contemporary Romance, Trilogy)
Released: March 2nd, 2013
The final book in the Impulse Trilogy and a fitting way for me to farewell Derek and Gavin. I remember reading Impulse and really enjoying it, then Acceleration and loving it, then simply needing to read Velocity. Such a timely piece of writing by Amelia C Gormley – a relationship develops between two men who are so different. The thing is, Gavin may well be HIV+. The whole series is so responsible and compassionate in the way it treats a possible sero-discordant relationship – the initial reactions, the worry, the issues they both face and then the two working as one, making it a true relationship irrespective of the outcome. The series is not action packed, they are very much character driven books and if you like that, as I often do, then this trilogy is a must. The writing is simply beautiful throughout.
In Another Life, Cardeno C, (MM, Contemporary Romance, Holiday Season)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released Dec 1st, 2013
I had never read anything by Cardeno C prior to a month ago when I was asked if I would like to read/review More Than Everything. When asked to read/review In Another Life the premise really appealed to me. I hoped it had the oomph to back it up. It did…and then some because I was never quite sure which direction it would go. It has two MC’s I thoroughly felt attached to. I liked the theme of sometimes love can save a life as well as the idea of soul mates and opportunities we can be given for any number of reasons. The writing was humorous, sharp, emotional and sweet. Economical in word count, but not in emotions, love, passion and the fact that you get to think about what has happened without detracting from the absolute love story at the heart of In Another Life. Shiloh and Travis, and their lives, are truly lovely.
Pup (Guards of Folsom Book #1) SJD Peterson (MM, BDSM Series, Contemporary Romance)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released: April 19th, 2013
I have read the first two books in the Guards of Folsom series and I just loved Pup. Tag Team could so easily have been on this list but Micah and Tackett are my guys. I loved this (primarily) character driven story. I enjoyed the BDSM components of the book. I thought that SJD Peterson handled the relationship really well – the initial determination of Micah, the sincere but futile attempts by Tackett to distance himself, the sheer frustration at times for both men working through what their relationship entailed – Micah’s ADHD, and the age difference that bothered Tackett. Very well written with humour, charm, passion, eroticism and great depth of character. I loved the way their relationship was handled from beginning to end. Micah and Tackett, a hard act to beat in this series…so far.
Run To Me, Diane Hester (Psychological Thriller)
Publisher: Random House Australia
Released: March 1st, 2013
Random House were nice enough to allow me an ARC of this book. We mostly review LGBTQ writing on this blog and this is a mainstream psychological thriller. The author is an ex-pat American now living in Australia. As an Aussie, I am proud to claim her as one of ours because this is one heck of a (debut) novel and I’m waiting on more now. Take one woman who claims her young son was thrown from a bridge by teenagers – people she knew believe it must have been her. Her husband leaves. Shyler is traumatised, depressed, withdrawn and now hides away in a remote town in Maine relying on selling some carvings. Here she meets up with Zack, who is young and has nasty people after him for something he witnessed. Shyler thinks Zack is her (deceased) son, Jesse, and this makes for a confusing but incredible journey for both. There are several characters, including the antagonists and a local doctor new to the area, whose lives intertwine and make for terrific, edge-of-your-seat reading.
Under a Crescent Moon, Mercy Celeste (MM, Contemporary Darker Romance, Paranormal Elements)
Publisher: Totally Bound
Released: October 25th, 2013
Mercy Celeste. Again. Why is that? Well, it’s partly due to the out and out crazy passion. The main characters had me going nuts right from the start. Right from their first defensive / offensive dialogue, their angst-ridden inner monologue and their first troubled fuck to their last. Xander and Taylor, what a messed up pair of uncommunicative bastards…and I loved them. The sex was off-the-charts hot. The angst delicious, the setting of New Orleans perfect and added to the whole ambiance. The secondary characters off-beat, and the premise was carried out with great OTT passion. I loved the chemistry, heat, angst, the taboo that lay between Xan and Taylor, and the quirky nature of the whole book. Its primal nature. It was very Kazza K.
Lust in Time (MM, Historical Romance, Anthology) CC Williams, Kayla Jameth, Tilly Hunter, Julian Siminski, Stevie Woods, Jeff Mann, Kenzie Mathews, James Thorpby, K Vale, Michaael Roberts, Salome Wilde, Steve Rudd, Barry Brennessel, Richard May, Landon Dixon, Rob Rosen.
Publisher: MLR Press
Released: February 22nd, 2013
I remember reading this and being blown away. I bought it because I had just read Alexios’ Fate by Kayla Jameth and 496BC was in this anthology. Sixteen stories that were unique but complimented each other with the theme of a time period. The stories range from romance to erotica and it works really well. I also gained some new authors to add to my list. One of them is the number 1 book this year. Because of Barry Brennnessel’s short in Lust in time I have read several more of his books. A terrific book. A terrific anthology.
Crack the Darkest Sky Wide Open, (LGBTQ Fiction, Anthology), Eric Arvin, Abigail Roux, SJD Peterson, Jason Huffman-Black, S A McAuley, TJ Klune
Publisher: Self Published, amazon.com
Released: May 17th, 2013
Well, looky-here. Another anthology. My review for this book is on Goodreads as my blog partner Cindi read this first and told me I must read this book. My second born was being held to ransom so I thought I should really read it. Nah, he’d go willingly 😀 All jokes aside, what a fabulous collection of authors and what a fabulous anthology. You know how you read most anthologies and only a couple of stories resonate? Not the case here. Extremely polished stories by every author. I pretty much loved them all. SJD Peterson is an author I read and is already on this list and the others lived up to their reputations. This is a darker anthology for the most part – allegorical, obtuse, hauntingly beautiful, exceedingly well written. For my blog partner Cindi’s viewpoint, click here.
Chase The Storm, V M Waitt (MM, Cowboy, College Student, Contemporary Romance)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released: May 13th, 2013
Another first time published author and another cracker of a book. The angst level was high, the characterisations very sure, with two distinct voices throughout in Elijah and Chase. I do love a book with a cowboy and a do love a book with an age difference and one where the characters have to work for their HEA. I got all of these things. Deeply erotic and deeply emotional I lived the experiences of these two men – Chase being such a hard-arse, so sad originally and Elijah being so full of hope and needing to be anywhere but with his family to broaden his horizons. I eagerly look forward to more from V M Waitt.
Aden, (Vampires in America #7) DB Reynolds (MF, Paranormal, UF, Contemporary Romance)
Publisher: ImaJinn Books, amazon.com (for e-book copy)
Released: November 26th, 2013
Book #7 and Vampires in America is stronger than ever. This review site concentrates heavily on LGBTQ writing more than het, but I cannot wait for each new book in this series. The vampires are strong, powerful and aggressive. The women give as good as they get and are no shrinking violets. Aden definitely is more of a step back into the UF roots of the series but it retains the sexy ease that the others all have. Aden is looking to become the new Vampire Lord of the Midwest and help a journalist, Sidonie Reid, get to the bottom of a slavery ring that is operating out of Chicago. Slavery is something that is well known to the old and powerful Aden. Terrific writing, strong characters, world building and excellent storylines all help make Vampires in America a must read. Aden is one of the best in this strong series so far.
Honor C, C Zampa (MM, Contemporary Romance)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released: May 29th, 2013
Honor C is a very emotional and impactful read. It looks at two men, Honor Castillo and Jorge Villagomez, who have loved each other since younger. But Honor is not gay. His father will not allow it and neither will Honor. He marries, has a successful career, but something is missing. His wife is insecure and feels Honor is cheating. He isn’t, it’s just that he likes men and she definitely is not a man. Jorge re enters Honor’s life when he moves back to town and all Honor’s emotions and feelings resurface that have been buried deep. The way the closeted denials of a man impact his marriage and those around him is detailed so well. All three primary characters Honor, Rebecca, and Jorge, have a strong voice, and that is what helps make Honor C so powerful. Wonderful, emotive, realistic, compassionate writing that made me fall for Honor C.
The Beginning of Knowledge, Anne Brooke (MM, Darker Sado/Masochistic theme )
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Released: May 1st, 2013
Not long. Not a love story. There are no HFN’s or HEA’s here. It is a short and dark exploration of kink, power, degradation and humiliation. How someone who is normally so empathetic and genteel in his life and his work – helping students fit in – who has never been in any sort of S&M relationship can give over to something that is dark, base, primal and addictive. How the man with the attitude, and who is so sure of himself, encourages a lot of pain and degradation, needs it. An interesting look at addiction and that people are quite complex beings who can surprise themselves. Another fabulous read from Anne Brooke.
Nights in Canaan, Kendall McKenna (MM, Historical/Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance)
Publisher: MLR Press
Released: March 15th, 2013
This was a bit of a deviation for Kendall McKenna and I loved it. It was clever, entertaining and deeply passionate and emotional. It looks at (for want of a better term) good vs evil. Enemies over the millennia who rise again and again to battle it out in the Land of Canaan for the human race and their own respective sides. There is responsibility, there is respect, there is a deepening of feelings and there is great passion. This does not have a HEA but what it does have is realistic. I see it as hopeful but not everyone will agree. I know that Kendall McKenna’s shifter and military books have been more keenly sought after, but for me Night’s in Canaan is some of her best writing to date.
Strength of the Wolf (Tameness of the Wolf #2), Kendall McKenna (MM, Paranormal Contemporary Romance)
Publisher: MLR Press
Released: September 6th, 2013
And speaking of Kendall McKenna’s shifter books – this has been my favourite of them thus far. It has such passion, slightly less military focus – although it is definitely still there – and more relationship focus than, say, Strength of the Pack. I loved the two leads, Tim and Jeremy. I know there is a lot of Noah and Lucas love, but for me Tim and Jeremy are better. Tim was someone I liked in book #1, and here he carries on being the good man you know him to be. He is kind, caring, sure, disciplined and strong with Jeremy. Jeremy needs all of these things that Tim offers when he doesn’t have a pack to teach or guide him through the transition into the Alpha wolf he will become. Tim fills the role perfectly. Another technically well written book that is also highly sensual and erotic.
Debut Published Author of the Year:
Why did I choose Cate Ashwood for the above title? Because she has released four titles in 2013, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. I love discovering new authors, just for the record. That is backed up by the fact that I have several debut published authors on the list above and I’ve read more that didn’t make the list – but they’re reviewed on the blog. Some of the authors I have on my Books of the Year List include – J Fally, V.M Waitt, Diane Hester and Devon McCormack. But Cate Ashwood has released four titles this year and I have sought out each one. I don’t often read many authors whole catalogue, yet here I am having read every release by this author all within her debut year. That says a lot. Two of the books are the first two books in the Hope Cove series. It is such a gentle, sweet series that I have already earmarked the third, which will be released next year. There is a diversity within Cate Ashwood’s writing, yet they all have these endearing characters at the core of each story. Keeping Sweets is about the porn industry, Riding the Board about professional synchronised divers, and Hope Cove, while a series, has different and uniquely charming protagonists at the core in Brokenhearted, book #1, and Wholehearted, book #2. I can’t think of much better reasons to name Cate Ashwood my debut author for 2013. Below are the books released by Ms Ashwood in 2013. The link for all four reviews together is here:
Erotica of the Year:
This next category is some real fun for me and also a hard choice. Why hard? Because I read A LOT of erotica. I have a lot of erotica to choose from. Erotic writing holds a special place for me because of my profession and because I know people can get a bit funny about it. They call it “porn without plot, one-handed, sticky fingered reading…” which is okay, because they generally play a role in getting people’s fantasies going. And there’s nothing wrong with igniting passion and fantasy. But there is more to it than just that. To write hot sex, good sex, sexy sex is a real skill, and all of these books below have interesting story lines to go with their sexy, kinky eroticism. Erotic kink, fetishes are different for each person so I’ve tried to be diverse in my choices. Please note that if you check these reviews out erotic pictures form a part of my reviews. After much deliberation my four favourite erotic books of 2013 are –
Clipped, Devon McCormack. #1 Erotica 2013
Publisher: There is no buy link for Clipped as it has been picked up by Wilde City Press and will be re released in 2014. Congratulations to Devon McCormack.
Released: October 7th, 2013
This book by debut author Devon McCormack was an absolute blast for me to read, but it also had me saying ‘ouch’ more than once or twice. It is a paranormal themed, yaoi-inspired, reversal of good-and-bad-as-we-know-it erotic read. Kinzer is an angel who witnessed his lover killed and he has been ‘clipped’ and placed in rather… unpleasant circumstances on Earth. To save us mere mortals he has to find Maggie, the woman who is carrying the antichrist – the antichrist is good here. In the beginning he rescues Kid who finds himself willingly tagging along. Not long after finding Kinzer’s angel-allies and friends, Kid and Kinzer are split up and Kid ends up tagging along with another angel, Treycore. Basically, there are angels with swords, a reversed good and bad, twists, plenty of action, some budding romance, HUGE cock-a-saurus’s, sword play and it’s plenty erotic. I can’t wait for Kid and Treycore to get a story of their own. Bring it! For the passion it inspired and the fun and sexy reading I had to name Clipped my favourite erotic read of 2013. I look forward to more from the world of Clipped and from Devon McCormack.
Publisher: Kennedy-Empire (amazon.com)
Released: July 2nd, 2013
I loved this book. It’s a theme that I like, Daddy-Kink. No, it isn’t about a father and a son, rather an older man who Riley has known for a lot of his life and looks up to. “Uncle Kirk” is Riley’s father’s good friend, and Riley sees him as the sexy older man that he wants. He’s eighteen now and he wants to push the envelope and see whether forty two year old Kirk wants him as well. And he decides to push the boundaries at his college baseball physical, Kirk is his doctor. Riley doesn’t mind fucking guys his own age, but older men do it for him. Lots of Keegan Kennedy favourite themes and fetishes here – feet, socks, large men, differing cock sizes… flirting with taboo. Magnificent Pretense, a big favourite of mine.
West Texas Rivalry, Keegan Kennedy
Released: November 12th, 2013
Rob and Anders. What a good pairing by Keegan Kennedy. Not a kink or fetish book this time. It’s two jocks – one the home town boy, one a new student from California. There’s only one place for the most popular guy in the senior year and the starting quarterback on the school football team. Rob is jealous, he’s pissed that Anders can just come in and take the things he is has worked for and is owed in his senior year. The thing is, Rob is about to discover that he can have the things he wants and Anders as well. Really nice erotic MM writing from Keegan Kennedy makes this another Kazza K favourite.
Confessions of a Gay Rugby Player (Book #1), Patrick Darcy
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Released: May 14th, 2013
You have to love the Irish – they love their Rugby, they love their alcohol and in the case of Conor, he’s an Irish Rugby Union player who likes to combine the alcohol and the playing of Rugby with plenty of hot sweaty man-on-man sex. He is not opposed to the opposition after the footy is over if the situation arises, which it most certainly does here. Conor gets to play a bit before the main course, which happens to be the hot Latino, Tonio. Sexy action, a bit of Rugby, interesting characters, humour, and some nice Irish turns of phrase make it a really fun, sexy read. It is well written erotica by Patrick Darcy that makes it stand out.
That wraps it up for Kazza K’s On Top Down Under Books of 2013. I hope you have read some of these, like the sound of some of these, or are now going to read some of these books. They have one thing in common, I thoroughly enjoyed them all. Good reading!