Favourite Reads of 2020

I’ve had a lot more time for reading this year and have been able to read 40 books and clear the majority of my review queue which is great! I have read so many great novels in 2020 and have listed below the standout ones for me. I recommend you checking them out!

The Life Siphon series by Kathryn Sommerlot

The Life Siphon (The Life Siphon #1)

The Mage Heir (The Life Siphon #2)

The Loyal Whispers (The Life Siphon #3)


Serial Investigations series by Rhiannon D’Averc

Bloodless (Serial Investigations #1)

Blood Evidence (Serial Investigations #2)

Blood Alcohol (Serial Investigations #3)

Blood Sucker (Serial Investigations #4)

Blood Sport (Serial Investigations #5)

Blood on Poinsettia (Serial Investigations)


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The Gemini Connection by Teri Polen


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Born to Liberty (Light from Aphelion #3) by Martine Carlsson


Blood Winter

Blood Winter by S.J. Coles

Review: Blood Winter by S.J. Coles

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Blood Winter

Vampires are attempting to integrate into human society. When Alec MacCarthy first meets a ‘haemophile’ in the flesh, it’s not the obvious dangers that frighten him.

Alec MacCarthy, Lord of Aviemore and largely-forgotten descendent of a once-proud family line, keeps the wolf from the door of the crumbling family mansion by restoring classic cars.

He leaves the real world alone and wishes nothing more than for it to return the favor. But in a reality where haemophiles—still colloquially known as vampires, despite the publicity campaigns—have come out of hiding and are attempting to integrate into human society, the real world is rapidly becoming a disrupted and conflicted mess that threatens to trouble even Alec in his remote Scottish hideaway.

When he unwittingly attends a Blood Party to please a friend, he has his first meeting with one of these mysterious and dangerous beings. Terje is like nothing he has ever encountered before…literally. His reactions are as troublesome as they are undeniable.

Alec’s snap decision to help the haemophile rather than sample his sense-heightening and addictive blood sets them both on a path that will lead them into a tangled web of intrigue with consequences that will change their lives—and the world—forever.

Purchase: Amazon

Goodreads: Blood Winter by S.J. Coles


Review

*I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

Reclusive Alec MacCarthy, the Lord of Aviemore and last of his family line has no interest in the world outside his father’s mansion home. He passes the time by restoring classic cars in a distant kind of existence rather than actually living a life, and Alec likes it that way. Outside his Scottish highland home haemophiles – vampires – are now known to the world and are doing their best to co-exist in human society. However resistance on both sides inevitably leads to bloodshed. When Alec is tricked into attending a blood party, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to captive haemophile Terje. In a moment Alec’s well-intended actions set in motion a sequence of events that no one could have predicted and will have consequences that will effect and change the entire world.

Blood Winter is one of the best vampire novels that I have read in a long time. It is everything that a novel in its genre should be. Dark. Gritty. Bloody.

Alec’s character is brooding and lonely and he has all but given up on living a real life. Then he meets Terje and slowly you see him come alive through the pages as his initial fear both of what Terje is and their connection morphs into true feelings and a romance that is both dark and touching at the same time. On the surface, Terje is mysterious and dangerous, but underneath there is a tenderness to him and an ability to feel just as deeply as any human. Together the two characters complement their individual personalities and the connection between them is undeniable.

The world-building has been carefully crafted and planned, adding in a balance between detail and mystery that leaves me hoping for the possibility of a sequel. Both sides, human and haemophile, clash constantly and are both to some degree at fault, but the conclusion leaves hope for a positive future outcome.

If you like dark, realistic vampire-human romances then I cannot recommend Blood Winter enough!

Review: Blood on Poinsettia (Serial Investigations) by Rhiannon D’Averc

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Will and Ram have survived everything JM Coil could throw at them – and everything they could do to themselves.

But now, Serial Investigations London face their first Christmas apart in years. Will’s in rehab and Ram is stuck at home, wishing his favourite person in the world was by his side – and wondering how he can keep a roof over their heads with no money coming in.

Join the boys for a Christmas interlude in this novella, set between the events of Blood Sport and Blood Diamond. With no crimes or cases, get to know them – and their feelings for each other – a bit better before jumping back into the action.

Haven’t read Blood Sport yet? This book contains spoiler for books 1 – 5 in the Serial Investigations series. Make sure you catch up before you dive in!

Purchase: Amazon

Goodreads: Blood on Poinsettia (Serial Investigations) by Rhiannon D’Averc


Review

*I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

After the events of Blood Sport, Will and Ram are now faced with being apart at Christmas. With both of them having acknowledged their feelings for the other, it is especially hard and despite the separation they try to find a way to let the other know that they are still thinking of them.

Blood on Poinsettia is a very sweet and touching novella set in the Serial Investigations universe. It focuses mainly on the fallout from Blood Sport. Whilst it does not include an investigation, it builds on the character development of Will and Ram as well as the relationship between them. The result is a very heart-warming and moving read. I just love these guys so much. They both have their own inner demons and struggles that they are doing their best to overcome, not just for themselves now but each other too.

I loved how the other was constantly in their thoughts and the ending was poignant and with hope for the future between them. If you enjoyed the Serial Investigations books then you will love this addition to the series!

Blog Tour and Review: In Strange Woods by Claire Cray

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: In Strange Woods

Author: Claire Cray

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: August 28, 2020

Cover Artist: Sneaky T

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romantic Mystery, M/M Gothic Romance

Trope/s: Instant attraction, Hurt comfort, Tortured protagonist, Family secret,

Long lost relative, Country boy/City boy, Rural romance, Fish out of water

Themes: Healing, Found family, Redemption, Heritage, Belonging, Homecoming

Heat Rating: 3 – 4 flames

Length: 71 370 words /204 pages

It is a standalone book.

Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

In the stormy coastal woods of the Pacific Northwest, roots run deep and passions run wild.

Blurb

Reeling with grief after the mysterious massacre of his wealthy family, moody New York photographer James Worthington Crane decides to take his downward spiral somewhere far away: to the rural Oregon Coast, where he’s just inherited a random piece of property hidden somewhere in the woods upriver.

But when James pulls into the decaying seaside town of Brooks, everyone thinks he’s someone else—an elusive local outlaw named Beau. Now James must fight through his grief to unravel a tangled web of family secrets and forgotten history…with help from a soft-spoken local hunk named Hunter Quaid.

Hunter’s been on his own since he left his fundamentalist family at the age of fifteen. It’s taken years of hard work to build the steady life he has now, fixing up seaside houses while living alone in a trailer by the river. Then James blows in like a winter storm, disturbing the peace and stirring up a hunger like nothing he’s ever felt.

As Hunter helps James search for the truth, their lives intertwine in unexpected ways—and they begin to discover what it means to find out where you really belong.

Continue reading

Review: The Vanishing by Arjay Lewis

Former NYPD detective Liliana Slavik is still recovering from a nervous breakdown, after a shooting that killed her fiancé and ended her career. Seeking refuge in her peaceful hometown, she soon discovers hundreds of people have disappeared in the Pine Barrens nearby. She becomes determined to fight through her panic attacks, team up with the man who betrayed her, and solve the sinister secret.

Liliana uncovers information about the famed Jersey Devil as well as Native American lore which tells of monsters which haunt the vast New Jersey forests. But, the anxious investigator knows there’s only one way to reveal the truth. She must enter the woods herself…

Can Liliana face and defeat the terror before she becomes the next missing person?

Purchase: Amazon

Goodreads: The Vanishing


Review

*I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

When former NYPD detective Liliana Slavik returns to her hometown after losing her fiancé in the shootout that ended her career, she finds herself becoming involved in investigating a series of strange disappearances in the town. Teaming up with her ex-boyfriend who is now on the local force, Lil soon starts to suspect that there may be a more supernatural explanation for the missing people. That it could be the work of the Jersey Devil.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Vanishing. I’m not familiar with the Jersey Devil story and I went online to find out more before starting to read The Vanishing. I loved how the author weaved the tale into the novel, but with their own spin on it as well.

It has all the ingredients needed to make a truly terrifying tale; a mysterious creature, local legends, missing people, a brave lead with her own inner-demons to overcome and an epic final showdown. This was all put together flawlessly to create one of the best horror stories I have read in recent years. I knew it was going to be good – no great – from the opening scene. A classic horrifying opener in which a man is carried off by the Jersey Devil. It had me gripped from the start and I had to read more.

This is an excellent horror story based on local legends and I highly recommend you putting this on your Halloween TBR list!

Book Review: Born to Liberty (Light from Aphelion #3) by Martine Carlsson

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Born to Liberty (Light from Aphelion #3)

by Martine Carlsson

Lissandro is in danger in the Windy Isles. To rescue their closest friend that they haven’t seen since their dispute, Louis and Selen must leave the safety of the progressive capital. Louis requests a diplomatic visit to King Dywel, a man he publicly humiliated when he spurned Howell’s beautiful daughter to crown Selen—a man—as his queen.

From their arrival in the Howells’ castle in the coastal city of Kilcairn, the tension between the royals is on the edge. But beyond the nonstop petty humiliations that Louis and Selen have to endure, a far greater threat is being hatched in the Isles. When young girls go missing, Selen is resolute to expose the mysteries hidden within the castle’s walls.

Purchase: Amazon.com

Goodreads: Born to Liberty (Light from Aphelion #3) 


Review

*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

The Kingdom of Trevalden is thriving under King Louis’s rule and the changes that he is introducing to the medieval society to guide it towards a republic. However when Louis and Selen fear that their old friend Lissandro is in danger they do not hesitate to depart the capital on a rescue mission to the Windy Isles disguised as a diplomatic visit.

King Dywel has not forgotten how Louis rejected his offer of his daughter’s hand in marriage and subsequently crowned a man as his Queen. From their arrival Selen is subjected to humiliation at the hands of their hosts, however this is only the beginning. Soon the royal couple is forcibly parted and each has their own mission. Reuniting with former friends and allies, they soon realise that the Howells are not the only and greatest threat to everything that they have built and hold dear.

I literally could not wait to start reading book 3 in the Light from Aphelion series and it did not disappoint. The first novel in the series combined two genres; historical and fantasy and book 2 and 3 added a supernatural element which I absolutely love. This is expanded on so much more in Born to Liberty. You learn so much more about Lissandro, his past and his complicated relationship with Grimmr. Grimmr is the antagonist in this story, however, I felt as though he was as much of a lost soul as the other main characters in some respect and I could feel some empathy with him. You could still feel how much he cared for Lissandro despite of everything.

The author’s decision to part Louis and Selen for the majority of the novel was right one as it gave both characters a chance to stand on their own independent from each other. Due to the stereotype of his title and the mind-sets of many of the supporting characters, Selen was beginning to lose himself in Louis’s shadow, and it was great to see how he overcame this. He was never the weak person that he feared he was and it was so good that he got the chance to prove it to himself. His relationship with Louis is as strong as it always was, but deep down Selen had his doubts. These are finally put to rest and it was done in the most touching way possible. I think that scene was possibly my favourite of the entire series. And of course I was overjoyed when they were finally reunited once more.

The world that author created was expanded upon much further in book 3. The rich and vivid detail that she compiles into her work is without fault and I found myself easily immersed into their world. I won’t say too much about the ending as I do not want to spoil it, but it is absolutely perfect for Louis and Selen given what they had been through. Despite it being the end of the series, the door is left open and I would love for the author to revisit them in the future or perhaps even a prequel!

Book Review: The Gemini Connection by Teri Polen

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Planet Tage is dying, and the best hope of saving it is gone.

Seventeen-year-old identical twins Evan and Simon share an extraordinary bond, a trait that’s both useful and invasive. They use their connection in their work at Scientific Innovations. Evan is a Mindbender, someone who enters the minds of scientists to spark ideas, join thoughts, and battle nightmares. Simon is a science prodigy and Tage’s best chance of survival.

Unfortunately, their unusual link often bleeds into their private lives. When Evan discovers his brother is keeping a secret from him, he lashes out and ignores requests to talk, and even pleas for help. By the time Evan tunes back in, he finds their connection severed and Simon missing.

He suffers a terrible case of survivor’s guilt. Moreover, he’s desperate. The fate of the world rests on Simon’s return, and Evan is willing to do anything to get him back—even working with his greatest rival, who also happens to be Simon’s boyfriend.

Evan finds allies among enemies and adversaries among friends. When nothing is as it seems and everything is depending on him, he must explore a dangerous aspect to his twin connection he never knew he had.

If he fails, he’ll lose both his brother and his world.

Purchase: Amazon.com

Goodreads: The Gemini Connection by Teri Polen


Review

Rating: 5 stars

Twins Evan and Simon are complete opposites. Evan is a mindbender. Someone who can enter the thoughts and dreams of others. He is the best that Scientific Innovations has yet his parents are more focused on his brother’s more academic gifts. Yet this doesn’t come between them, if anything it makes their bond stronger. Evan and Simon are also linked to each other’s minds, but when Evan learns that Simon has been keeping a secret from him he shuts his brother out when he needs him the most. A year later Simon is missing and Evan is tormented by his guilt at not heeding his twin’s calls for help. He then finds himself having to put aside his grievances with Simon’s boyfriend in order to bring his brother home and also save their entire world.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this novel from the author and I am so happy I did as its one of the best books I’ve read this year!

The Gemini Connection is a fast paced and extremely imaginative science fiction novel. It switches between brothers’ viewpoints focusing the events occurring now and also one year ago. I really liked that the author wrote the novel in this way as you learn more about both Simon and Evan as the story progresses, and also how events from the past year connect into the present storyline. The technology is very well imagined and explained so you’re not trying to work out how some of the futuristic inventions could work practically. The story was an emotional one too and you really got to feel how much the twins cared for each other and their partners too.

I highly recommend you picking up a copy of The Gemini Connection, you won’t be disappointed and I look forward to reading more books by the author!

Book Review: After Vertigo by Amanda Meuwissen

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In a flash, the world changed. A solar flare—later dubbed Vertigo—activated the DNA of more than half the world’s people, granting them special abilities. Brilliant scientist Benjamin Krane might be Powerless, but his inventions are the only thing giving the police a fighting chance against super-powered evil. Ben doesn’t have much of a life beyond work, and when he gets wind of a robbery one evening, he decides to test his newest invention personally….

A thief, rogue, and shameless flirt, Grey Miller—aka the Streak—likes shiny things, but he doesn’t hurt people. When Ben catches him—and proposes they team up against the real bad guys—Grey doesn’t know whether it’s the offer or the man he can’t resist. But one thing’s for sure—they’re an ideal match in more ways than one.

With a psychotic supervillain’s catastrophic plan moving forward and everyone he cares about in danger, now might not be the best time for Ben to give in to Grey’s seduction, no matter how tempting. Grey is a man of secrets, and if Ben wants a future with him, he’ll have to learn to trust Grey—and himself.

Purchase: Amazon.com

Goodreads: After Vertigo


Review

*I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

When a freak event alters the DNA of over half of the world’s population, the police find themselves in danger of becoming overwhelmed against those with their newfound abilities and bad intentions. Scientist Benjamin Krane creates inventions to combat these powers. When he decides one night to test out a new invention in person, he finds himself teaming up with a super, despite having no powers himself. However his unexpected teammate Grey Miller – the Streak – seems more interested in flirting with Ben than saving the day. Yet when a supervillain emerges, Ben and Grey must learn to trust each other if they want to thwart the villain’s evil plan.

This a really fun and fast-paced superhero novel. The two main characters, Ben and Grey, are very likeable and intriguing in their own ways. Ben is extremely intelligent, but he struggles to make connections with people and before meeting Grey he kept mainly to himself. Grey is self-assured and extremely outgoing, however he has his secrets. The two of them are complete opposites, but this is why they work so well together. Each personality complements the other.

The writing itself is great. Everything flows well and I love Grey’s wit and sense of humour, even if Ben sometimes doesn’t appreciate it! The pace is quick enough to keep the story moving, but not at all rushed. It’s extremely clever how seemingly insignificant events feed into the plot and contribute to it until it all fits together at the end. The final confrontation is on the edge-of-your-seat stuff and it had me guessing right up until the last second!

Series Review Tour and Book Review: Serial Investigations by Rhiannon D’Averc

SERIES REVIEW TOUR

Serial Investigations by Rhiannon D’Averc

Serial Investigations follows a private detective duo, Will and Ram, through tricky cases, mortal danger, and the horror of (maybe) unrequited love for your best friend – with plenty of demons to battle along the way.

The stories need to be read in order.

Overall Heat Rating for the series: 2 flames

Goodreads Series Link

Warning: All books contain depictions of alcoholism, anorexia, and violent crime/murder.

BOOK 1

Book Title: Bloodless

Length: 70 000 words/ 240 pages

Release Date: April 29, 2019

Genre/s: M/M Crime/thriller

Trope/s: Slow burn friends to lovers

Themes: Identity struggle, murder, unrequited love

Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

How do you solve a murder…

… When you’re the prime suspect?

Blurb

A body cut up into pieces and left in Highgate Wood. It sounds like the most exciting case that private detectives Ram and Will have had to deal with since leaving their FBI training and returning to London.

As each new body is piled up amongst the trees, the stakes get higher – and Serial Investigations London embraces their first real challenge.

But Ram’s lifestyle – staying out all days of the week, drinking too much, and having sex with a different man every night – soon catches up with him when the police realise there’s just one link that connects the bodies.

And it’s him.

Will faces a battle around the clock to prevent his best friend from being put away for life – and while the two of them face their own demons, there’s a secret hanging over their heads that might just bring it all crashing down.

If you’re a fan of BBC’s Luther, Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole, or sharply witty gay men, you’ll love Serial Investigations. Jump into the action from the very beginning with Bloodless, the first book in a series you won’t dare to put down.

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Book Review: Blood Sucker (Serial Investigations #4) by Rhiannon D’Averc

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A dead body posted on social media. A vampire stalking the streets of London?

Will and Ram’s private detective partnership seems to be unravelling. After they ended up sleeping together, the tension between them is at an all-time high – and the unsolved Simon Shystone case is haunting them and their police contacts.

DI Alex Heath normally wants their help, but when a murderer posts images of his victim on social media, the chase is on to trace his digital footprint. With his superiors breathing down his neck, he might not be able to bring Serial Investigations London in on one of the biggest cases of their career.

They should be focusing on the artist who seems to have disappeared without a trace from his home studio. Could his latest commission have something to do with it? And will they be able to handle finding another client turned up dead?

Things are spiralling out of control for Will and Ram – and this time, they might not have each other to rely on. 

Purchase Link: Amazon.com

Goodreads: Blood Sucker (Serial Investigations #4)


Review

*I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

Will and Ram have another missing persons case to solve when local artist and recluse Jack Motterhead goes missing. His older brother Ben hires them to look for him and they are both hoping for a better outcome than their last missing person’s case. There is also the possibility that the so-called London Vampire is another serial killer when he posts about his murder online. Frustratingly Will and Ram find themselves shut out of this investigation, however it still manages to distract them from their original case.

Ram is finally getting some help with his drinking and is doing really well, despite one or two setbacks. Will’s eating disorder is getting worse as things between him and Ram continue to deteriorate. Both of them are filled with conflict over their night that they spent together and instead of talking about it, they just push each other away at a time when they need each other the most.

Book 4 definitely has a darker tone than the previous book in the series. Will’s problems are getting much worse and I really felt for what he was going through. He truly believes that he is worthless and has convinced himself that Ram couldn’t possibly love him, which is so sad as it is obvious just how much Ram cares for him. Ram in comparison is getting better, but he’s convinced himself that Will isn’t interested in him romantically. Several incidents occur which drive them further apart and by the end of the novel it looks as though they are going their separate ways for good.

The main case itself was not as bleak as the ones that they’ve undertaken in previous books which was a nice change and even though their relationship was in tatters Will and Ram still came together to solve it.

It looks like Coda is now ready to reveal his true plans for them and I cannot wait to read book 5 to find out who he is, what is going to happen and if Will and Ram can reunite after everything that has happened.