Friday, December 30, 2016

Bayou Book Junkie's Favorite Books of 2016 ~ Tracy's Top 16 Favorites

Bayou Book Junkie's Favorite Books of 2016 ~ Tracy's Top 16 Favorites

Over the years, reading has always been one of my first loves. As a teenager, I loved "Sweet Valley High" (ironic that I grew up to have a set of twins. Mine are Megan and Amanda, not Jessica and Elizabeth, though). I also absolutely loved Christopher Pike's books, which I think paved the way to John Grisham, whom I'm a huge fan of. I also love YA urban fantasy, memoirs, and true crime books. Besides gay romance, these are just a few of the other genres I love to read, but the message here is: I was and am always reading something.

As a blogger/reviewer you read a lot of books and one of my co-bloggers decided that this year we should pick our top 10 (I wasn't gonna name names, but since she outed herself... yeah, it was Jaymie and I did want to strangle her when she'd ask, "have you made your list yet?"). Yeah, 10 books? That wasn't happening, so I've picked my top 16, and let me express, it wasn't even easy to just pick 16. Some really stellar books I've read this year were left off this list and I'm so sad about that. These 16 books are books that while not all of them are the best-written books I've ever read, they are books I loved, or that touched me in some way. Books that left me with a huge book hangover. Something that I have a love/hate relationship with. You want a book to be that good, but when you're on a tight reading schedule it can make it extremely difficult to try to move on to the next book. So, in no particular order, here are just some of my favorite books and a portion of their reviews for 2016!

Anthony (A Survivor Book #4) by J.P. Barnaby 

5 Stars

I absolutely loved Aaron and Spencer, but I'll be honest I haven't read Ben, because as good as it sounds, I just can't do BDSM. When I saw Anthony had been released I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. This was an amazing read that I just couldn't put down. Anthony and Brendan don't even meet for the first time until 40% into the book and usually, I'd be really upset with this, but JP had me so enthralled I didn't even notice. Anthony was such an interesting and intriguing character I couldn't get enough of his story. I loved seeing the layers peeled back and discovering what was beneath all that teenage broodiness. It also doesn't hurt that Ms. Barnaby is such a talented writer she could probably make the phone book an interesting read. I know that's not the correct analogy, but hey, it works!

This story is well-written and captivating. From the moment I picked it up, it engaged me and held my attention. I loved watching these characters grow and change. I adored Anthony's snarkiness when he finally began to come out of his shell. And watching him make real friends was so heartwarming. I loved Patrick. He was the ultimate older brother not only to his brother Brendan, but to Anthony, as well. Brendan, well he was a different story. Honestly, I hated him on sight, but as he grew closer to Anthony and I got to know him better, I fell for him, too. There was an undeniable chemistry between Anthony and Bren. The sexual tension was off the charts and the sex was hot, yet passionate and loving, as well. 

The mystery of the "Jay" storyline was well-written, but so sad. The ending was realistic. It's more of a HFN rather than a true HEA, but this is an 18 and 24-year-old, so while it's happy, it makes no promises. I know JP Barnaby has her reasons for retiring, but she is such a gifted writer that when she puts her pen down, it really will be a great loss the literary world. I can't recommend this book, as well as Aaron and Spencer, enough. These are dark books with damaged characters, but in each book there's a light at the end of the tunnel waiting to lead them out of the sadness and into happiness.

Pictures of You (90's Coming of Age #1) by Leta Blake

5 Stars

I graduated the same year as Peter, so Leta did an amazing job at taking me back to my high school years. The stories in the news, and music all made me just a bit nostalgic for my youth. 

I don't want to give a lot away, so I'm just going to say a few things. This book was well-written, flows well and Ms. Blake hooked me from the very first word. She drew me into Peter's life and made me feel. I felt his joy, happiness and love, but also his fear, frustration, anger, jealousy and heartbreak. I couldn't put this book down. I absolutely loved it, even when I REALLY wanted to punch some people in the face!! 

This was an amazing start to Peter's journey, and I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the next three books. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for Peter!! Highly recommendable!! 

You Are Not Me (90's Coming of Age #1) by Leta Blake

5 ++ Stars

I sat on pins and needles waiting for this story and hounding Leta on FB. This book was more than worth the wait. In this leg of Peter's journey, Leta manages to recapture the feeling of this time period of the early 90's. She transports me back to my "just out of high school" days. I loved watching Peter grow and explore his sexuality more openly and unashamedly. I adored watching him interact with Robert, Barry and Daniel, but I also loved seeing him make friends with Minty, Windy and Antonio. They added a depth to the story and accepted Peter into their fold so easily. I loved that Leta addresses AIDS, and getting to know Bobby was enlightening, yet heartbreaking. AIDS was such a huge issue in the gay community at the time and as sad as it is, Leta handled it gracefully and seemed informed. In fact, one of my favorite quotes of this story was by Peter. 


My heart ached with sadness, fear, and guilt too. There were men out there like me, men whose only crime was love, and for the expression of that love they were dying.


It's so profound and true, and it touched me so much I had to go back and highlight it and share it with y'all. 

The story is well-written, entertaining and paced well. I was up until 3:30 in the morning, because I couldn't make myself close my iPad until I was done. I'm so looking forward to seeing where Peter's journey takes him next. Leta has promised a HEA and I'm keeping my fingers crossed it's with Daniel, whom I love and think Peter has an amazing chemistry with. I can't say enough how much I loved this book and this series so far, and I'm waiting kind of patiently for the next leg!! Highly recommend!!

Chasing The High by Beth Michele

5 Stars

I've never asked for an ARC or any book for that matter without reading the blurb, but this offer didn't really come with one. It just came with the tagline and I wasn't disappointed. This was an amazing read. I loved Drew and Sam. The chemistry and tenderness that they shared was present from the very beginning. I loved the natural progression of their relationship. Even though it takes place over a fairly short time period it was paced very well and felt like a much longer time period than it actually was.

I adored watching Sam and Drew grow, open up to one another and watching them fall in love was sweet and just a little magical. This was a well-written story. The characters were lovable and engaging. The storyline was interesting and it held my attention. This story is filled with sweetness, romance, steamy sex and most of all love. While this is not the author's first book, it is her first MM story. I'm looking forward to reading more from her in the future. Highly recommended!!

Weight of the World by Riley Hart and Devon McCormack

4.5 Stars

Note **You'll notice this is the only non-5-star book to make my list and it's because of the subject matter, and the authors' handling of it. I've stood in Zack's shoes and been talked off the ledge, and I can say from experience, this book not only touched me, but the subject matter was handled beautifully, with grace and dignity.**

This was an emotional read. It deals with a very heavy subject matter, the aftermath of a suicide and who is left behind to ask why and what could I have done to help save this person, but it was handled very well. I loved that not only did we get Zack and Tommy's POV's, we also get a few chapters from Rob's POV, and this went a long way to making Rob feel like a true part of the book and not leaving him as just a part of the backdrop. Tommy and Zack were both likable characters. They had an amazing chemistry and the sex was explosively hot and plentiful. 

While the book was dark in places, it wasn't all doom and gloom. Zack and Tommy share some passion, tenderness, love and laughter along the way. Very enjoyable and highly recommended!! 

Zac's Mulligan (Guarding the God's #1) by Ann Lister

5 Star

The worst part about starting a book by Ann Lister, is it'll end. You want to get to the conclusion, but you also want to read the story slowly to savor each word, because you know you'll have to wait close to a year before the next one is released. Ann always makes them well worth the wait though, and Zac's Mulligan was no exception. As with all of her MC's, Zac and Ben share an undeniable chemistry almost from their first on page scene together. This story was a slow burn, and you could cut the sexual tension between Zac and Ben with a knife. I kept waiting for that first kiss. I felt we'd never get there, but once we did... well, holy hotness, it was electric. 

This story was packed with heartbreak, emotion, sweetness, romance, smoking hot sex, but most of all love and friendship. There was even some twists I never saw coming. Highly recommended!! 

Open Road by M.j. O'Shea

5 Stars

It's fitting that I loved this book, because this book is about love. Love that you could feel between Reece and Angus from almost their first scene together. As they traveled that love grows. The love Reece and Angus felt for one another came off the pages at you. They had an amazing chemistry and connection. When they finally do come together, it's magical.

I loved that I got to take this journey with Reece and Angus. Seeing all these cities through their eyes, especially my own hometown of New Orleans, was a really awesome experience. It was so detailed I felt I truly took this trip with them.

The is a well-written story packed with emotion, heartbreak, sweetness, adventure, laughter, healing, friendship, family, but most of all, love! It left me feeling the warm and fuzzies, and the only thing that could have made this book better was for there to be more of it. I didn't want it to end. Highly recommended!!

Wild Animals I Have Known: Polk Street Diaries and After by Kevin Bentley

5 Stars

This was very candid look at gay life in the late 70's and 80's, and into the early 90's in San Francisco. It was an interesting, intriguing and very erotic read. Kevin's writing is witty and humorous. It kept me entertained and turning the pages. I found I couldn't put it down, I had to see where his journey would lead. To see if he would ever find the love he seemed to so desperately desire. 

Shifting Gears (Crossroads #2) by Riley Hart

5 Stars

I did this all backwards, after reading book three in the series, Test Drive, I knew I had to read Nick and Bryce's and Landon and Rod's stories. After I finished Test Drive I went straight to Amazon and one-clicked the first two books in the series. I meant to start with book one, but I opened book two accidentally, and well, it starts out in an adult toy store, so score!! 

This was an awesome book!! I loved both Rod and Landon. I wanted to knock their heads together at times, but I still adored them. These are two men with major daddy issues. Rod's dad was a homophobic twat, while Landon's dad took off when he was just 12 years old. Both men are convinced for different reasons that relationships and love won't work for them. While I loved Landon's backstory, Rod's backstory was just heartbreaking. 

I loved watching Landon and Rod fall in love. It was a beautiful sight to witness. The chemistry between them is electrical, and the sex was passionate and smoking hot. This book was a little of an emotional rollercoaster. It was sweet, romantic, angsty, humorous, and heartbreaking. I loved the characters, and I adored the secondary characters. The book is well written, it flows well and I couldn't put it down. 

Very enjoyable and highly recommended!! Now on to book one!! <3

The Spiral Down (Fall Up #2) by Aly Martinez

5 Stars

Okay, so when I didn't want to haul off and punch one or the other, and sometimes both of the main characters, I absolutely adored them. Some couples just fit, and after Henry and Evan addressed their fears and learned to trust each other, they were the perfect fit! The story was well written and paced well. It held me captivated from the first word, and I couldn't put this book down until I was done. I wasn't ready for it to be over, but I was left with the warm and fuzzies at the end. The sexual tension between Evan and Henry was palpable and the chemistry electrical. The sex, OMG, the sex was HOTTT!!! This book was hilariously funny at times, and had me laughing out loud. 

I loved the secondary characters. Although I see this is a part of a series, and I haven't read book one, Levee and Sam, from book one are significant characters in this book but, but I never felt lost. This can definitely be read as a standalone. 

This was an angst filled, sweet, funny and smoking hot read. It was intriguing and entertaining, and the author threw a curveball at me I never saw coming. It was just kind of perfect, and I don't say this often, but I'll probably be rereading this again in the future! Highly recommended!! 

Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton

5 Stars

I. Couldn't. Put. This. Book. Down!! It was an amazing coming of age novel. Watching Nate discover and accept who and what he was and how he felt about Cody was a beautiful thing. The love these two boys shared was beautiful and captivating. The determination they had to make sure they could find a place to go after graduation so they could remain together and be themselves was awe inspiring. I love the time period the book is set in. Nate and Cody are only a couple of years older than me, so I adored seeing the TV shows, comics, music and other things I grew up on mentioned throughout the story.

This book was a well written and flowed well. Ms. Sexton kept me hanging onto every word. I wanted a conclusion, but I didn't want the book to end. Nate and Cody had an amazing chemistry and connection. The author left me with a solid HFN, yet wanting so much more, in a good way. I would love to see what the future truly holds for Nate and Cody, and maybe Ms. Sexton will be kind enough to give us even a small glimpse one day. I know I'm keeping my fingers crossed!!

An amazing and touching story, that left me feeling the warm and fuzzies!! Highly recommended!!

Beyond The Music (The Rock Gods #7) by Ann Lister

5+ Stars

I adored this story. Jayson and Cooper may be my favorite couple, but this was definitely my favorite story in the series. I know the subject matter is deeply personal to the author, and that shined through in the writing. I can't imagine taking such a difficult aspect of your life, and putting it into words, and making it someone else's story. Ann did an amazing job. She made me feel, and to me, that's amazing when an author can do that. I felt Linc's pain, anger, frustration, loss and sadness. I also felt his happiness at his accomplishments. 

The love between Linc and Aaron was magical and beautiful to watch blossom in front of my very eyes. It came off the pages at you, it was so strong. The book has a bit of insta-love, but Ann made that work as well. Aaron and Linc's days are told in such detail that everything doesn't feel like it's happening as fast as it does. The time frame feels longer. These characters had an amazing chemistry, and I absolutely adored them together. I loved Aaron's patience and compassion when it came to helping and caring for Linc through the rough patches. I loved that he cared enough to never to give up on him. I loved watching Linc learn to accept Aaron's help, and embrace the love he felt for Aaron.

As with all of Ann's previous books I've read, this one too is well written and well paced. A very enjoyable and amazing book-end to this series! I loved it and highly recommended it!!

Unquiet (Resilient Love #3) by Melanie Hansen

5 Stars

I knew just from the synopsis this would be an emotional story. Melanie didn't disappoint. It was so heartbreaking to watch Eliot spiral so far out of control. Eliot's mental illness was well researched and realistic. I love that when the story ends, like any true person with a mental illness it's still an everyday struggle. Things aren't perfect for either of these men or their relationship and they never will be. They have to fight and sacrifice everyday to make it work. 

This story was very well written. It flowed well and the characters are well developed. As I said the book is very realistically written and at times extremely heartbreaking. But the love that these two men share is powerful and I'm grateful to have been able to take this journey with Loren and Eliot. I love Melanie's writing and look forward to much more in the future!

A Kind of Truth by Lane Hayes

5++ Stars

So, I've read all but one of Lane's books, and I knew from the very beginning this would be my favorite. I fell in love with this couple long before they fell in love with each other. Rand and Will were opposites, but had enough in common to make them a perfect fit. They balanced each other perfectly. The chemistry was electrical and the sex was passionate, loving and hot as hell!! 

I adored the storyline and I loved NYC as the backdrop. This was well written and it flowed so well. I couldn't put this down and I ate up the pages. I wanted the HEA, but not the end. 

My review will never do justice to how much I loved this book or these characters, so I'm just going to stop now and say, I loved it and I highly recommend it!! Just go one click it!!!

A Kind of Honesty (Kind of Stories #3) by Lane Hayes

5 ++ Stars

There is a lot of dialogue in this story, which I absolutely loved!! It amazes me at times that some authors possess such talent, that they can keep me hanging onto every word even a mundane conversation at a coffee shop, between the main characters about music, yoga and life. The music and yoga being things I don't grasp the way they do, yet their words held me captive. Lane possesses this quality in spades!! 

I loved getting to see not only the members of Spiral, but the other main characters from books one and two. While you get enough backstory to be able to read this as a standalone, the first two books are just as amazing as this one, so please don't skip them! 

This story is so well-written and paced well. It's pretty low on the angst and we get a lot of time with Tim and Carter as a couple, even if it's not official. The drama stayed mostly in the background and was handled well. This story is filled with sweetness, romance, laughter, friendship, extremely hot sexy times, but most of all love. Love you could feel it coming off the pages at you!! The ending left me smiling and with a case of the warm and fuzzies, yet wanting so much more, in a good way! Highly recommended and I can't wait to see what Lane has in store for us next!! 

Switched by N.R. Walker

5+++ Stars

I not only loved the characters and their story, but the "switched" storyline was absolutely fascinating to read about. I can't imagine what my reaction would be if someone told me my parents really weren't my parents or my children weren't really my children. It has to be devastating. I loved the message in the story, that you don't have to share DNA to be family. This is so true. I have friends that I am closer to than my own family. 

I don't have a whole lot more to say. Sometimes you read a book and you just don't have the words in you to do the book justice. This is the case for Switched. It was a captivating read, filled with heartbreak, sweetness, family, love and smoking hot sex. Go one click it, you won't regret it. Then again, I've never found a book yet from N.r. Walker that I've regretted. Highly recommended!!


  1. More to add to my list. Weight of the World and Switched looked really good.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  2. I just bought the Lane Hayes books above and Shifting Gears was a great read. I've added a number of the list above to my wishlist/TBR now too. I really want to read Open Road by MJ O'Shea.

  3. Wonderful books listed I'd love to read "Switched" by NR Walker and "You Are Not Me" Leta Blake.


  4. Oh boy, such a good list of books and they all have stellar reviews too. I think I'll want to give Chasing The High by Beth Michele and Open Road by M.j. O'Shea.
    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

  5. Thanks for sharing your list! I've read a lot of them already, but Chasing the High is one I would like to read.


  6. I love this time of year when everyone's favorites come out! I want to read N.R. Walker's Switched sooo bad. I have Marie's Trailer Trash, but I've put it off because I thought it might be too gut-wrenching. You've made me reconsider. :) Thank you and happy new year!