* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.
This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC; DNF means *did not finish*].
Last Look, by Mariah Stewart -- highly recommended for those who like suspense/mystery (with professional players -- FBI) with a hint of romance -- Ballantine, 5/07
(This was engaging, and I liked the slow reveal of the mystery. Stewart seems to take us through the steps just as the 'pros' have to do it, so you see the missteps as well as the 'aha' moments. I could've used a little more romance, but it was still enjoyable.)
Dark Truth, by Mariah Stewart -- recommended for those who like mystery (police and FBI, this time, along with amateurs) with a hint of romance -- Ballantine, 10/05
(I liked this, though I can tell it was earlier in her writing career. I figured out 'whodunnit' about a chapter into the book, but it was still enjoyable reading along to see how the characters discovered the truth. I will say, the romance was even more slight in this one, and the 'bad' guy kind of turned on a dime. :/)
By His Own Hand, by Neal Griffin -- highly recommended for those who like an intriguing murder mystery (with pros -- police/sheriff) and a hint of romance -- Forge Books, 4/18
(This was very interesting, though I can tell it was written by a man. :D Male authors focus on such different aspects than females, in my experience. Anyway, I liked the slow reveal, I liked the grittiness (though it wasn't ridiculously graphic), and I liked the complexity of all the characters. This is the third in a series (same characters but not connected mysteries), but I had no trouble getting to know the characters. Griffin didn't really delve into the emotions much, and the relationship was established. All in all, interesting.)
Consumed, by J.R. Ward -- recommended for those who like mystery (firefighters, this time) with the focus more on the romance -- Gallery Books, 10/18
(I didn't love this one. I skimmed the middle third (or two thirds?). The characters just didn't appeal to me that much, and it really bugged me that the female (whose name escapes me) judged her love interest so harshly. Basically, the romance didn't work for me at all, and the characters seemed a little over the top. Just not my style, I think.)
Tailspin, by Sandra Brown -- recommended for those who like Sandra Brown -- Grand Central, 8/18
(This started out in an intriguing way -- a crashed airplane with an organ on board and a doctor who stole the organ -- but it fell into something fairly predictable too quickly for my taste. I go through phases where I read Sandra Brown, but I often forget in between how formulaic these become. I skipped to the end, and yep, it (the killer) was who I thought it was.)
Love and Snowball Fights, by J.R. Loveless -- recommended for those who like angsty but sweet male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/16
(This was very sweet, although the MC had a rough, rough life (and man, I hurt for the poor guy). Also, he fell in love quickly, and his love interest didn't react fast enough for my taste...but it was a sweet holiday tale.)
Chase the Stars, by Ariel Tachna -- this is the second in the Inherit the Sky, series, and it's highly recommended for those who like the series and those who like male/male romance in the setting of an Australian sheep farm -- Dreamspinner Press, 9/12
(I somehow missed this one when I read the series, but I definitely enjoyed it. It's the story of Chris and Seth (brothers) and how they came to Lang Downs. There's a bunch of Mac and Caine in this one too, so I liked that, as well.)
Loving Jay, by Renae Kaye -- recommended for those who like contemporary male/male romance (kind of a coming out tale) set in the UK -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/14
(This was entertaining but didn't really stand out much. I liked the MCs, and the fast-moving romance is nice (some sex, as well). Liam is the narrator, and therefore we only see Jay through his eyes. It's fine but not outstanding, I'd say.)
Crocus, by Amy Lane -- highly recommended for those who read the first (Bonfires) and those who like a contemporary novel about an established relationship (male/male) with adult/teen kids involved -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/18
(I enjoyed this almost as much as the first. I think the two adults (a principal and a sheriff) are well-drawn characters, and their 'kids' (both adult and teen) are nicely done, as well. The entire cast of characters, really, is enjoyable and fun to read about, even with the drama all around.)
A Deeper Blue, by S.E. Harmon -- highly recommended for those who read the first and those who like coming out tales of athletes (one of the MCs is a professional football player) -- Dreamspinner Press, 10/18
(So this is the second, and I didn't read the first. :D I read enough of the summary to suspect the first would only frustrate me, and I preferred to get their story (Kelly and Blue) after all the angst. In this book, they're already together, but Blue still hasn't come out to the larger world (including his dad or anyone on his team). I really liked the progression of Blue's thinking throughout the story, and I thought Kelly was realistic in his frustration and worry as Blue keeps putting it off. It was an interesting tale!)
Love and Payne, by Charlie Cochet -- recommended for those who love the THIRDs series and those who like Austin (and Zach) -- Dreamspinner Press, 9/18
(I didn't love this one. It was okay, but Sloane and Dex aren't even in it (they're on their honeymoon), so it's really just focused on Austin and Zach. It was fine but a little forgettable.)
Stay With Me, by S.E. Harmon -- recommended for those who like contemporary male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/14
(Meh. I didn't really like this one. Mac seemed a little erratic, and Jordan drove me crazy (he couldn't decide if he liked guys or not, so he kept leading Mac on). But since I didn't love Mac that much, it was hard to be invested in their so-called relationship. I'm glad I didn't read this one of her books first (I wouldn't have picked up any others)!)
P.S. I Spook You, by S.E. Harmon -- highly recommended for those who like paranormal suspense (with a male/male romance, to boot) -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/17
(*This* is the one I read first, and I loved it! I love both Rain and Daniel, and the fact that they'd had an earlier relationship (which didn't work out -- for mysterious reasons, at first) only added to the tension of the story. I liked how Rain was working to redeem himself for something that didn't really need redemption, and I liked Daniel's skepticism warring with his feelings for Rain. It was just a really enjoyable story, and I'm so hoping she writes another about these two.)
Spring Break at the Villa Hermes, by Xavier Mayne -- recommended for those who like fun (though highly unlikely) contemporary stories about gay (or suddenly gay) men -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/15
(Okay, this was really fun, though totally unbelievable. :D Essentially, one established gay couple ends up spending spring break with 6 college guys who all have secrets. During a hurricane, the secrets are revealed, and of course, it turns out that 2/3 of the guys are suddenly gay (or bi or gay-for-you or...). It made me laugh, and I like the guys enough that I enjoyed the romp, even though it's not even remotely realistic.)
Pins and Needles, by A.J. Thomas -- highly recommended for those who like mysteries (amateurs) with male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 8/17
(I enjoyed this. I liked the tattoo stuff (one of the MCs has tons of tattoos and works in a tattoo parlor) and the mystery, as well (even though I thought it was pretty obvious who was behind it). The balance of lawyer to tattoo artist/engineer was interesting, as well -- though I would agree with a critique I read about the disability aspect being downplayed quite a bit (the tattoo artist has one prosthetic leg and the other as severely injured/weak). However, since I don't really want to read about the ins and outs of that, it was fine with me.)
A Kind of Romance, by Lane Hayes -- recommended for those who like contemporary gay romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/16
(This was okay. I enjoyed the romance between Zeke and Benny, though it was pretty corny in many places. Plus, both seemed a little unwilling to commit, and the lack of decision was annoying (to me, at least). Still, the secondary characters made up for a lot.)
[Too Hot, by Avery Giles -- recommended for those who like mysteries (firefighter/arson) with a male/male romance thrown in -- Riptide Publishing, 10/18]
(This was pretty good, although the romance between the two flies along -- until they have the typical miscommunication that trips them up. That always annoys me, and this was no different (it was mostly on Charlie's head, and it really bugged me that he blamed Eli for mistrusting him when Charlie was lying from the beginning). Still, I did enjoy it.)
The Mystery of the Moving Image, by C.S. Poe -- highly recommended for all who like the Snow & Winter mysteries (antiques dealer and police detective) -- Dreamspinner Press, 9/18
(I loved this! I feel like each of these gets better, even though I loved the other two, as well. :D I just really like Calvin and Sebastian. Their relationship is so real, and Sebastian is quirky and wry and so unique. The mysteries Poe comes up with are incredibly original too -- all of them involve something old/historical/antique/etc. I can't wait for the next one!)
The Hike, by John Inman -- recommended for Inman fans and those who like horror -- Dreamspinner Press, 9/17
(This was okay. I don't really like horror, so that part didn't appeal to me. But I did enjoy the two MCs (established though new relationship), and I thought the tale was realistic enough to truly spook a bit. The pacing was also good, and I liked the humor thrown in here and there, as well.)
Well, there we have it! Let's hope I get better at entering these as I read them instead of waiting months...sigh. :)