2020 Favorite Reads – Sheri

If there was ever a year I needed an escape, 2020 takes the cake. And all the pies and cookies and every other sweet baked good on the planet. Wow, What. A. Year. I know in the future, I will look back and remember how resilient we were. How we dug deep, then deeper and helped one another and…survived. We will honor those unfortunate souls that did not, remember the heroes, and focus on what helped us get through. In all honesty, there was a stretch when I struggled to read. I couldn’t concentrate and my anxiety ran free. But as the months slipped by I was forced to face the mounting uncertainties and roll with the punches. It was during that time that I turned to my kindle to rescue me. To take me away from the overwhelming stress I battled every day. I know each and every one of us will have a different story, unique in our own ways, and I’d love to hear yours. My personal quarantine days included loads of baking, puzzles, projects, and unexpected homeschooling. This post is always about reflection and celebration and despite the many hardships, I was extremely blessed this year. Thanks to all the healthcare warriors, frontline workers, my blue line family, and my book family…I am more grateful than you’ll ever know.
So let’s get this party started!

….*dum-ba-badump*…
In no particular order, here are my most treasured books and series from this past year…

“Stormhaven and Necropolis” by Jordan Hawk
– As this year began, I began a journey back in time. Whyborne and Griffin quickly swept me away and I couldn’t get enough. I began a lovely book binge and devoured the first half of this series in a matter of a few weeks. These two books, in particular, knocked me off my feet. I am powerless to their charms. I relish in their affection and can’t seem to get enough of them. Whyborne and Griffins fans know exactly what I mean…and if you’re not part of this elite group….why not? Seriously, hop on this marvelously manic adventure, it’s too good to miss. I can’t wait to dive back in and finish this spectacular series!
Stormhaven AMAZON Necropolis AMAZON 

 

“The Edge of the World” by Garrett Leigh
– As always, Garrett brings vibrant and memorable men to the pages. Exceptional writing pulls you into their lives and I couldn’t wait to discover everything there was to know. They discover that knowing and accepting your past can help shine a light on your future. Standing at the edge of the world can be scary as shit but also take you on a trip to the clouds…if you’ve imagined that’s a place filled with comfort food and breathtaking tunes you might want to check this out. Actually, there’s no might about it. Go on…and give them all my love.
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“The Mating of Michael” by Eli Easton
– Loved this series and above all, I loved this book. Fan meets favorite author and falls in love? Yes, please! They had a tentative beginning that blossomed into a delicate friendship. I loved how they overcame obstacles together. I loved how they loved one another. I think Michael is a treasure and couldn’t wait for him to find his beloved. It wasn’t an easy path but the best things never are, are they? Thanks for this one Eli, it warmed me to the core.
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“The Parable of the Mustard Seed” by Lisa Henry
– Stop. Listen. Do you hear that? No? Me neither. But I can tell you what’s happening in this silence. A new book scar is healing on my heart. *deep breath* Yeah, this is one of those books. So many threads are spun together and I was awestruck with each and every one. John and Caleb share a special love, nothing, and no one can ever compare or compete between these two. This book is for…only those looking for an unforgettable story about a boy and his rescuer and how one day, he rescued him right back.

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“Mean Machine” by Alexandr Voinov
– When it comes to Voinov, I always expect the unexpected. This particular tale revolves around a fight. I’m not talking about in the ring. Admittedly we do witness many ringside bloody battles and I held my breath for each one. There is so much that I never knew! But the ultimate fight doesn’t involve gloves. Brook is fighting for his life, his freedom, and most importantly, his redemption. If you’re searching for something that packs a punch, this heavyweight is a sure-fire winner.
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“Off Balance” by Jay Hogan
– I’m still dipping my toes into Hogan’s wonderful writing but now I want to dive straight in and immerse myself completely. There is so much heart in this book. But not only are the feels in full effect but it’s passionate, lively, and overflowing with courage and hope. I believe courage and hope go hand-in-hand. You must be brave to dream and daring to trust. Anyone interested in witnessing a remarkable counterbalance to lost dreams and the beauty of fresh wishes becoming reality…this is exactly what you need.
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“His Horizon and His Compass” by Con Riley
– I love it when reading a story becomes a physical experience. I always adore slipping into one of Riley’s worlds but this particular case was special. I was sitting on the edge of my seat and biting my fingernails as the emotional storm crashed and calmed. Riley delivers a multifaceted tale with rugged terrain that swept me off my feet. I JUST finished His Compass and am still seeing stars. These stories are anything but smooth sailing but if you’re searching for a family-focused journey with heartache, humor, and heat….hop on, you won’t want to miss these incredible voyages. 
His Horizon AMAZON  His Compass AMAZON

 

“Unfinished Business 1~ The Making of Jonty Bloom 1.5~ Jonty’s Christmas 2~ A Long Way Back‘” by Barbara Elsborg
– My favorite series of the year!! I always adore Elsborg’s witty and quirky characters but Jonty slipped through a crack in my heart and nestled in for the long run. Jonty is remarkable and I dare anyone to tell me differently. Add Devan, Tay, and Ink and I was head over heels in love. For me, this was the perfect package; remarkable writing, courageous characters, and a riveting tale as they embark on sexy self-discovery and redemption. Absolutely stunning. And sandwich in a sensational and sexy holiday tale that will make you laugh and cry…possibly at the same time!
The Making of Jonty Bloom  AMAZON  Jonty’s Christmas AMAZON  A Long Way Back AMAZON  

 

“A Sweet Man” by Jaime Reese
The Men of Halfway House have secured their spot on my absolute joy list and this new release was a sunny spot during a time of dark clouds. These two, Bull and Ben, made me so happy. I swooned, I full-body sighed, and I smiled almost the entire time. This spirited and sensual love story captivated me and I have all the confidence you will find yourself rapt as well. If you’re searching for a concoction of sugar-coated with a sinful center, this exceptional pairing is just what you need.
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“Beautiful Beast” by Roe Horvat
– Adorable meet-cute leads to a holy-hotness-not-to-be-forgotten first kiss with cute and sexy texting in between. Kevin craves a particular dynamic and power roles that Joakim is more than happy to oblige. Explicit desires quickly went from whispered cravings to a fulfilled frenzy of passion. I’m not only devoted to Roe’s words but also this series for good reason. If you’ve savored these “other” couples as I have, you won’t want to miss their return and the newest duo joining the group.
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Sometimes There’s Stars” by Suki Fleet
– I don’t know how Suki does it, but they present their best new couple every time. This story only took me until 13% and I was overcome with a surge of emotions, left wonderstruck before it barely began. It’s a heartfelt and heartwrenching story that will remain with you long after the sensational ending. If you want to discover more about the boy who is bottled sunshine personified, this is for you. I have no doubt Peri and Echo will leave their mark on your heart. I’m happy and proud to add another Fleet scar to mine…for some scars are special.
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There we go! I may have included an extra this year but all things considered, I’m allowing some wiggle room and extra book love. I always have a blast looking back at my favorites and 2020 was no exception. Since I can never keep it to just ten (ahem, eleven this year), here’s my honor list of books that shined a bit brighter and deserve a nod of appreciation: “Marc Jillson & the Gazebo” by Anyta Sunday, “Spring Strings” by Lily Morton, “Redemption” by Garrett Leigh, “Tic Tac Mistletoe” by NR Walker and “The Christmas I Know” by Nicky James. I truly adored my holiday stories this year and they lifted my spirit when I needed a boost.

2021 is a year of hope.
I hope you stay well and healthy.
I hope you find happiness and joy in the most unexpected places.
I hope we all move forward with compassion for our friends, neighbors, and strangers that cross our path.
And I hope you are showered with love, surrounded with peace, and filled with a deep faith that we can and will weather any storm…but hopefully with unlimited books at your disposal.

Thanks to all the creators for finding sunshine in the dark and sharing it with the rest of us. The comfort of a good book took on a whole new meaning this year.
Cheers to a bright new year!
And as always…
I hope the new year brings you health, laughter, love, and books that will…. shake any funk.

Hugs,

sheri

“Mean Machine” by Aleksandr Voinov

about

For a boxer ravaged by guilt and in deep denial of his desires, a fight beyond the ring might yield his greatest prize. In a dystopian UK devastated by austerity and ruled by corporate interests, Brooklyn Marshall was a happily married London police officer—until an accident resulted in the death of a protester connected to a powerful family. Now he takes out his anger and pain on his opponents, fighting for the company that took him into stewardship after his conviction and disgrace—and which all but owns him. Wealthy barrister Nathaniel Bishop fulfills his dream of a family when he adopts a daughter. He can’t resist researching her allegedly violent criminal father, but Brook isn’t at all what he expects. He’s fascinating… and maybe worthy of redemption. Through legal sleight of hand, Nathaniel thinks he can overturn Brook’s conviction. Brook has learned the hard way not to trust anyone, let alone a privileged man who’s purchased his “time.” But as they get to know each other, he allows himself to hope. With his fights getting deadlier, hope might be the only thing to carry Brook through.

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2019 Favorite Reads – Sheri

*blinks* And that’s a wrap on another year! Gracious me, it’s hard to believe. My grandmother always told me that every year that passes picks up speed and I didn’t exactly grasp what she meant. But now I’m beginning to see what she was saying. The one thing I’m trying to do more as these years fly by is to ‘be in the moment‘. It’s easy to lose yourself online or get swept up in the latest fiasco but those things will pass. They may leave a mark but eventually, they will pass. It’s been hard watching authors suffer from the heavy strains and hardships of 2019 and I can only hope 2020 brings a brighter lighter year for everyone.
Reviewing has begun to lose its luster and I’m not quite sure how much longer I’ll continue…I said I would keep at it while it’s still fun.
This is my seventh year and I’m holding onto the enjoyment for now.
Who knows what the next year will bring?
Until then, thank you amazing, strong, resilient authors…
please, keep doing your thing!

….*drumroll*…
In no particular order, here are my most treasured books and series from this past year…

“Memory of Scorpions: 1~ ‘Scorpion’ 2~ ‘Lying with Scorpions’ 3~ ‘A Taste for Poison'” by Aleksandr Voinov – This impressive series was rereleased and I couldn’t be more grateful. How I missed it the first time I’ll never know. Scorpions are a badass elite group, an exclusive team that members are born into and comrade takes on a whole new meaning. This intense and powerful series left me awestruck time and time again. Filled with devotion and betrayal as well as destruction and passion, I couldn’t get enough. Voinov delivers a potent trio with piercing emotions that leave an everlasting impression. If you’re looking for a wild ride that includes: fantasy, historicals, soldiers and unparalleled romance, look no further.
Scorpion AMAZON Lying with Scorpions AMAZON A Taste for Poison AMAZON

 

“Strays” by Garrett Leigh – I’m not ashamed of my addiction to GL specials. They are sincerely one of my most favorite things. True to course, as with anything penned by Leigh, the emotional upheaval here was intense. Nero and Lenny have a compelling and piercing story to share. I was caught, bound, and unresisting…desperately lost to the pages. If you can handle a punch in the gut on the road to a love story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced…grab a seat and prepare for a story full of real-life and loads of heart.
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“Family Camp” by Eli Easton – Since this is Eli Easton, there is a lot to like. I always enjoy her smooth writing and was instantly hooked with this improbable pair. She delivers a powerful punch with this emotional and touching story; it’s full of passion, determination, and dedication. If you’re in the mood for a labor of love that includes the first stitches of a patchwork family who will tug on your heartstrings…welcome to Family Camp.
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“Thrown off the Ice” by Taylor Fitzpatrick – Wow…what to say without saying too much? That’s tough. I was consumed with the tale of Mike and Liam. This is an epic story that burned a scar on my heart and I feel honored to wear its mark. I held onto every word, every page, every chapter…begging not to fall. If you take a chance on one story this year, this should be it.
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“Cowboy Seeks Husband” by Leta Blake & Indra Vaughn – This was FUN. A new to me writing collaboration and hope it’s not the last book they share. Both Walker and Roan are driven to desperate measures when they agree to participate in the new gay bachelor reality show, Queer Seeks Spouse. I smiled, snickered, wept, and melted. If you’re looking for the full monty of feels, this little lion and his cowboy are exactly what you need.
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“Paint it Black” by Amy Lane – I love this crazy group of misfits and could read about them till they are old and gray. This is Cheever’s chance and I cursed him and cheered for him…and loved him. This is Blake’s new beginning and I cried for him and believed in him…and loved him. Hurt. Healing. Harmony. Their road is rugged with wicked turns, but they figure out together they can make it through anything. Together they are a force to be reckoned with…because with love, there is always light. Beneath the Stain groupies need this book. And if you don’t know Outbreak Monkey, start at the beginning and…good luck.
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“Love Me Whole” by Nicky James – If you’re looking for a stellar example of soulmates, this might be the most precise portrayal I’ve ever seen. Dissociative identity disorder is complicated. Oryn’s daily battles are exhausting and almost inconceivable. And their love is cautious yet all-consuming. Vaughn and Oryn are a perfect example of pure, powerful, unconditional love. Anyone willing to take a chance...Love Me Whole is one of the most tremendous love stories that I’ve ever read.
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“Finding Home: 1~ ‘Oz’ 2~ ‘Milo’ 3~ ‘Gideon’” by Lily Morton – When it comes to Morton, I find myself somewhat of a broken record. I gush and squee and blather on but I just can’t help it. Because…every time it’s true. I think I have a favorite or perhaps she’s outdone herself only to be proven wrong again and again. I absolutely adored Oz. I still do. And yet, I am just as smitten with Milo. And then Gideon elbowed his way to the top. If you haven’t read this insanely amazing series yet, you really really should. If you are looking for vivid and vivacious stories of two unlikely men finding their perfect match, stop here!
Oz AMAZON Milo AMAZON Gideon AMAZON

 

“Soul on Fire” by Tal BauerRuthless. Unforgiving. Haunting. Elliot and Ikolo meet under dreadful conditions. It seems impossible to consider romance existing in the middle of an Ebola crisis in the Congo. And I would argue that this is not a romance. But it IS a love story. A hauntingly beautiful love story. Souls catch fire…and they weren’t alone. I won’t lie, this book hurts. But it also gives you hope. And there’s no greater gift a book can give you than that.
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“Those Other Books: 1~ ‘The Other Book’ 2~ ‘Adam Only’ 2.5~ ‘One in Between’” by Roe Horvat – I’m a needy greedy reader when it comes to Horvat. It doesn’t matter what it is…it’s tantalizing and divine. Exquisite writing will take your breath away, concentrated pages pack a powerful punch, and sex may dominate but the tenderness is far more seductive. These ‘other books’ are erotic masterpieces and I felt fortunate to witness such breathtaking moments. I can taste the hope. Feel the love. With any luck, you will too.
The Other Book AMAZON Adam Only AMAZON One in Between AMAZON

 

Ta-da! That’s it.
I enjoyed reliving my best of 2019 and hope you did too. Of course, I always have trouble narrowing down my favorites…so here’s my honor’s list of spectacular books that deserve a shout out: “Everybody in the Place” by Suki Fleet, “Fated Hearts” by Garrett Leigh, “After Ben” by Con Riley, “Whatever it Takes” by Barbara Elsborg and “The Christmas Deal” by Keira Andrews. I continue to soak in the amazing stories of my ‘absolutely-must-read’ list and have found a few new names to watch out for.

Despite the highs and lows, 2019 has been good to me. I feel so lucky for the endless blessings I have received, not to mention all the awesome books! I will continue to strive to not take anything for granted and relish in all favors, big and small. I’ve found my way back to Goodreads this year and am thrilled with my new friends and was happy to see familiar faces still there.
As I close the final pages of this year I just want to say…
Hold your loved ones close and don’t forget to celebrate today.
Remember self-care is immensely important.
Find what makes your heart lift and don’t let it go.
And pass along a smile whenever you can.

Cheers to a bright new year!
And as always…
I hope the new year brings you lots of laughter, love, and books that will…. shake any funk.

Hugs,

sheri

“Moonstruck” by Aleksandr Voinov & L.A. Witt

about

Anthony Rawson is screwed. Fans, producers, and his agent are all chomping at the bit for the next book in his wildly popular Triple Moon series, but he’s got epic writer’s block and is way behind deadline. Then he reads Axis Mundi, a fanfic novel by his online friend “SirMarrok.” It isn’t just a great story—it’s exactly what the series needs.
Samir Daoud is thrilled when “Ulfhedinn” wants to meet up after reading Axis Mundi. When Ulfhedinn turns out to be Anthony Rawson himself, Samir is starstruck. When Anthony tells him he wants to add Axis Mundi to the Triple Moon series, Samir is sure he’s being pranked. And when their online chemistry carries over—big-time—into real life, Samir is convinced it’s all too good to be true.
The problem is … it might be. The book deal, the sex, the money—everything is amazing. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Samir is left wondering if Anthony really loves him, or just loves his book. 

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“A Taste for Poison” by Aleksandr Voinov

about

Even the hand of a king is stung when it reaches for the scorpion.

After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.

Kendras—former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions—is sent with his elite mercenary force to bring Death to justice. But when Kendras learns who’s hiding behind the mask, he must choose between his lover Graukar, newly appointed general to the king—and King Adrastes himself.

With no man to call master, the Scorpions could flee the danger and intrigue. But Kendras cannot abandon the man he once loved—or the man he’s growing to love—without first uncovering the real threat to the Empire. 

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“Lying with Scorpions” by Aleksandr Voinov

about

If you lie with scorpions, you’d better have a taste for poison.

Now that Kendras’s lover Adrastes has claimed the throne of Dalman, Kendras is tangled deeper than ever in politics and intrigue. As the new leader of the Scorpions and Adrastes’s one true friend, he and his men stand between Adrastes and those who wish him dead.

And many do. Adrastes openly challenges the ocean priesthood for power while establishing himself at court and brokering with the realm’s various factions. He means for the Scorpions to become a fearsome legion again, but Kendras must first learn how to be a good officer and recruit to replace the fallen. His choices will determine the future of a group steeped in hundreds of years of history and tradition.

As both Kendras and Adrastes settle old scores, a new enemy arises in Commander Graukar, a war hero loyal to the old order. In his formidable mountain fortress, Graukar may hold the balance of power. But while Adrastes aims to either rule or destroy Graukar, Kendras finds himself doubting Adrastes for the first time, and sharing more with Graukar than he ever thought possible.

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“Scorpion” by Aleksandr Voinov

about

You learn your wisest lessons from your enemies. Assuming, of course, you survive the encounter. 

Kendras is a casualty of war: injured, penniless, and quite possibly the last surviving member of the only family he’s ever known—the elite fighting force known as the Scorpions. When a steel-eyed stranger offers him medicine and shelter in exchange for submission and a secret task, Kendras has no choice but to accept. He is a Scorpion; he’ll do whatever it takes to survive.

But his true goal is to rebuild the Scorpions. Neither Steel’s possessive nature nor Kendras’s shattered foot can keep him from finding the last of his brothers… or the mysterious leader of the Scorpions, a man who held Kendras’s heart long before Steel tried to take it for himself. The goal is simple, the situation anything but. To rescue his leader and escape from Steel for good, Kendras must fight through a morass of politics and intrigue, where enemies are allies and even allies have hidden agendas.

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