Review of A Token In Time by Ethan Day

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Rating: 4.85 stars

Zachary Hamilton comes from a family endowed with special gifts.  He has them as well and it has cost him everything.  Zachary doesn’t want his gift and his family doesn’t think he should have it  either.  To “return it” is to die so Zachary and his love, Nick, have been on the run  from the Hamilton family since they were teenagers.  Living as fugitives has been hard and each time they think they are safe, the Hamiltons find them yet again.  Then Zachary and Nick land in Los Angeles, California and their luck seems to change.  A benefactor appears out of the blue, offering them a store for their antique business and a place to call home.  And for a while they are happy.  Until a bullet shatters their lives and Nick dies in  Zachary’s arms.

Zachary is consumed by his grief, refusing to leave his apartment until Dave, his assistant in the shop, pulls him out of his house and back into their shop.  As Zachary tries to determine his next step regarding his family, he receives a phone call from a lawyer.  It seems that Mark Castle, a famous movie star from the 50’s has died and left Zachary the entire Castle estate, including an ancient relic.  This powerful token will change Zachary’s life and those around him if Zachary has the courage to use it. And so begins A Token In Time.

Well, what an amazing story.  I read it twice before sitting down to write this review, not because I needed to but because I wasn’t ready to let  go of Zachary and Marc and all who come with them, past and present.  I have been a fan of Ethan Day’s books but A Token In Time represents a departure from the light comedic fiction I have come to expect from him.  A Token In Time fluctuates between contemporary and historical romance under an umbrella of the supernatural and it does so beautifully.  The story of Zachary Hamilton and Marc Castle flows like a Mobius strip from the year 2008 back to the 1950’s and around again and never hits a false note.

Ethan Day has certainly done his research into life in the 50’s and it shows without it coming across like an information dump.  When Zachary (and the reader) land in Los Angeles circa 1958, the surprises are endless and sometimes very funny.  Stereophonic Hi Fi is new and wonderful, Coke is Coke, and gas “costs a friggin’ quarter”.  And the lack of the internet and Star Bucks come as an unhappy surprise to a young man accustomed to the everyday pluses of life in 2008.   Oh it’s so great to tag along with Zachary as he visits the West Hollywood Sears store and has to pick out pants that most certainly aren’t low riders!  Ethan Day’s deft touch with comedy is everywhere without overwhelming the dark and angst filled romance behind A Token In Time. Ethan Day brought the 50’s vividly back to life so much so that I was reaching for the iTunes store before the end of the book to recapture the sounds of the times.

And lets talk characters shall we?  I have loved Ethan Days previous creations but the characters he has brought to this story are remarkable and have so much depth to them as to be unforgettable.   Zachary is a complicated young man, beautiful, gifted, and still so full of joie de vivre through all his pain. But he doesn’t fully come to life until he falls onto the sand and into 1958. Free from the mechanisms of his family, he starts to blossom and the love affair between Zachary and the reader snaps to life as well.  Marc Castle too is rendered here in gorgeous Technicolor from his golden tan to white movie star smile.   We come to love him dearly the more we get to know him.  And don’t get me started on Jonathon Reed, Max, Maddie, and  Leo.  The author keeps adding characters so real, so damn lovable that I wanted to hold onto them for dear life and not let them go. I am going to beg here, Ethan Day.  Please consider giving us Jonathon and Max’s story.  Pretty please?  With fuzzy swinging dice on top?

And lurking behind all of this is a constant menace, the dark we hide from, the monsters we know are under the bed.  Skillfully, the dread increases, the anxiety ramps ups a notch after notch much like the music from the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. We know where the danger coming from in both eras but not how or when it will strike. And strike it does in stomach churning, heart stopping ways.  Mystically, brutally rendered evil to balance the joy and love that infuses the rest of the story.

So why not give it 5 stars? Only because of the way the story begins.  A minor quibble but it took me a little while to get accustomed to the manner in which Zachary and Nick’s back story is told.  I found it a little jumpy at the beginning, but it soon settles itself out and the reader gets sucked in this wonderful page turner not to be let out until the very last word of the epilogue.  And you will love the end.  Really, you will.  And now I will say no more.

Cover:  Winterheart Designs did the cover and they did an outstanding job of it.  It looks like it came right off the book jacket of a novel from the 50’s, both in color and illustration.  It really couldn’t be more perfect. I would love to have a copy of it for myself, framed and hung on the wall, it’s that good.

Available from MLR Press, Amazon and ARe.

Poulet au Riesling and the Week Ahead

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Sunday arrives so quickly it seems and its time to get prepared for the week ahead.  Our April is ending in no less confusing manner than the one in which it started.  We had warm, wonderful weather in March so April decided to have an identity crisis as well.  Our weather has been cold , almost frigid, blustery, and finally brought us a measure of rain so badly needed.  If you live in Western Maryland, it also brought about 6 inches of snow, more than we had all winter long.  I am thinking that the tomato and pepper plants will wait until May as usual.  March had fooled me into thinking they could be planted earlier.  No longer.

Monday:                      Review of A Token In Time by Ethan Day

Tuesday:                      Review of One Man’s Treasure, Bellingham Mysteries #4 by Nicole Kimberling

Wednesday:                Review of Face Value (Sanctuary #3) by RJ Scott

Thursday:                    Review of After Anna by Theda Black

Friday:                          New Author Day – Sarah Black and her novels

Saturday:                      Marathon Cowboy by Sarah Black

 

 Poulet au Riesling

 

A sale on chicken meant more new chicken recipes to try out.  This week it is Poulet au Riesling, Laura Calder again, basically chicken in wine!  I know you have probably heard this before, but when choosing a wine to use in a particular dish, always choose one you would drink on its own.  Great ingredients mean great food.  Riesling is not a wine I hear about often.  So when I asked at my local Wine shop, I was directed toward Polka Dot Riesling, a white wine from Germany with a tart fruity flavor and clean finish.  Just lovely, mid range in price, perfect for having a glass while you cook.

Ingredients:

6 chicken legs, split at the joint (or a 3-pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil  plus more butter for frying
4 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Cognac -buy a small airplane size bottle if you don’t otherwise use it.  Works great for 2 recipes.
1 cup  dry Riesling
1/2 cup chicken stock
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
Chopped fresh parsley or tarragon, for garnish

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the fat in a saute pan and brown the chicken on all sides, working in batches. When all the chicken is browned, remove it to a plate and add the shallots and garlic to the pan for 1 minute. Pour in the Cognac to deglaze. Put the chicken back in the pan. Pour in the wine and stock, cover and cook until the chicken is tender, about 20 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, melt a little butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms until golden. When the chicken is cooked, remove it to a serving platter and keep warm. Boil the cooking liquid down to sauce consistency. Stir in the creme fraiche and mushrooms. When hot, taste and correct the seasonings. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Review of Winter Love by T. T. Kove

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Rating: 3 stars

Lasse and his friends head to Oppdal ( a ski resort in Norway) for a vacation filled with fun, partying, and lots of skiing.  After a day on the slopes, Lasse gets into a confrontation with a man named Armas who won’t take no for an answer. Coming to Lasse’ rescue is Markos, Armas’ brother and fellow vacationer. Markos and Lasse are instantly attracted to each other and spend the rest of the vacation together.  But Markos is Finnish, and the vacation is coming to an end. The stress of a long-distance relationship is only one of the tests their love comes under as Markos and Lasse struggle to keep their winter love  alive.

Upon finishing the story, I wondered why I found it so dissatisfying. On the surface, the story is plausible and well constructed, the characters of Lasse and Markos likable. Further reflection crystallized several problems I had with Winter Love.

The first is characterization or the lack thereof.  All of the characters here are so bland as to be interchangeable, with the exception of the group slut, Oliver, and homophobe Armas, who sleeps with men.  Otherwise, you can switch out Markos, Lasse, Dimitri, and Mathias with each other based on personality alone and no one would notice.  It’s just one note character after another. When  glimmers of depth or layering comes up, or when we think that a backstory is about to be discovered, it is either immediately forgotten or dropped.

These lapses in character and story development are so frustrating that the reader is tempted to skipped ahead to see if it (whatever it is) comes up again.   And of course, it doesn’t.  At one point, Oliver is described as being bitter, which would give meaning to his promiscous behavior but it is never mentioned again.  Also during the epilogue, Lasse wonders if he should bring up  his past as a alcoholic and drug addict to Markos’ parents and the reader starts going “what? what?” because this is the first mention of this side of Lasse’ character. Had we had a backstory on Lasse earlier, it would have made him a more relatable person, instead we have a bland personality masquerading as a main character.

Plot lines within the story are handled with the same nonchalance as character development.  A major character in one of the main story lines threatens suicide because of a trauma that has driven a major section of the plot. He then disappears for the rest of the book, leaving the reader to wonder why this character was introduced at all if he could be so easily discarded.  Also disturbing is the manner in which the potential for suicide is treated by the other characters.  One singular moment of tears then nothing.

T. T. Kove is Norwegian so the thought did occur to me that some of the issues I had with the story might be due to translation or language difficulties.  Also, I have not read any Norwegian fiction so perhaps story development or plot outlines diverge along cultural lines.  I am not sure.  I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt, rather than using Winter Love as a standard for her prowess as a writer.

Cover:  Beautiful cover by Megan Derr.  I loved the image but wish the author’s name could be more legible.  A larger font in the same color as the title would have been better.

Review of Two Tickets to Paradise Anthology

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Rating: 4 stars

Two Tickets to Paradise is a collection of 15 stories of men, alone or with a partner, traveling by car, train, plane, and the occasional time travel in search of new experiences and romance in destinations both home and abroad.  What they find runs the gamut from first time love to love rediscovered after considerable time apart. Can you buy a ticket to paradise? Within these stories, the men find the answer to that question and so much more.

After reading this anthology, I found it difficult to come to a rating, as some of the stories floundered, stuck in the mundane and predictable while others soared into great heights of emotion and romance.  The stories that have remained with me are:

J.L. Merrow’s All At Sea, a tale of youth and young love on the Isle of Wight. The characters here have hidden depths, delightful dialog, exquisite scenary and an ending I am still smiling over.

Chelle Dugan’s Off The Tracks, a middle aged man who believes that love has passed him by takes a train trip into the past and gets the chance at love he’s always dreamed of. Realistic characters, vivid descriptions of the Grand Canyon, combined with flashbacks to the 80’s.

Sean Michael’s Something Different, a story of two ex-lovers reunited in Las Vegas after a separation of 10 years.  What can I say?  It’s a Sean Michael’s story, so the sex is hot, the characters memorable and hope for a HEA is on the horizon.

Mal Peters’ Perpendicularity.  The high altitude setting of the French Alps is the perfect location for Kyle, an Olympic snowboarder, to spend Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend.  But an unplanned breakup, sees Kyle alone in the resort chalet until the smell of baking bread and a succulent pork tenderloin lead him to a young personal chef and a change of heart.  Just the descriptions of baking bread and smells emanating from the kitchen won me over, add in the characters of Kyle and Dylan, and you have a story that is a delight to read.

B.G. Thomas’ New Lease is the penultimate story and reason alone to buy this collection. Wade Porter is alone is an oceanside cottage mourning the loss of his long-time lover, a married man who only saw him for two weeks out of the year at their bungalow near Key West.  With the loss and his age wearing him down,  Wade sees no reason to continue living until he meets Kent, a man who has just moved in next door. Kent too has lost a partner and gradually shows Wade the path out of depression and into the true meaning of love.  I was still crying over this story hours later so be warned!  Get those tissues handy.

Zee Kensington’s Krung Thep, City of Angels is the final story of the anthology and my final recommendation.  Marco has dreamed of traveling and for his first trip abroad or any where actually, chooses to go to Thailand.  Marco is the typical innocent abroad who lands in the steamy, packed streets of Krung Thep also known as Bangkok.  Clearly out of his depth, his journey is almost derailed by his inexperience until he meets seasoned journalist, Chris, who writes for travel magazines.  Chris takes him under his wing, and introduces Marco to the sights, tastes and people of Krung Thep.  The author did such a great job with the vivid descriptions of the food markets, pungent odors of the food stalls, and feel of swampy heat rising from the streets that I felt like I had been there. From the bouncy innocence of Marco to the weary self isolation of Chris, the characters felt alive right down to the sweat rolling down their backs.  I wanted to continue on their journey with them, seeking the paths to paradise.

Cover:  Cover Artist Steve Walker.The cover says it all, because how can you show the range of the stories contained within this anthology?

Reviewed for and copy of anthology obtained from Joyfully Jay

Anthology available from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and ARe..

Review of Oscar Leopard’s Spots #2 by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 3.75

Oscar Travis has always been the odd cat out in his Snow Leopard shifter family. He is physically smaller and his coloring is different. And he is the youngest of four brothers in a family that had been isolated by their shifter nature and geography from those around them. But if those differences weren’t enough, the childhood shock and disfigurement caused by getting caught in a steel trap ensured him of a sheltered position within his close knit family, while leaving him vulnerable to schoolyard bullies.

When Levi, his brother, takes a cougar as mate, everything changed. They now know there are other shifters out in the world. Lyndon, his new brother in law, is being threatened by his cougar shifter father and hunted by his siblings. During one such attack, Oscar had to kill one of Lyndon’s brothers in order to protect his family and that has left him traumatized to the extent that he is not eating or sleeping. When his father takes him to San Antonio to track down Lyndon’s father, Oscar decides a trip to a gay bar will alleviate the stress he has been under. Instead he ends up being targeted once again because of his size and looks by a group of men intent on the pretty boy in front of them. Only the intervention of Josiah Baker, alpha wolf and future mate, keeps the event from ending in disaster. But Oscar can’t handle either the situation or Josiah, and flees, leaving his mate to track him down.

As the situation with Lyndon’s family worsens and there are more attempts on Lyndon’s life, Oscar and Josiah must come to some reconciliation of their status as mates if they are to help save the family and find the happiness they seek.

Oscar is the second in the Leopard’s Spots series and should be read in sequence to get the full backstory of the Snow Leopard, Cougar, and Wolf families involved (see review for Levi here). The character, Oscar, is introduced in the first book, and to me he was immediately the most interesting character. While Oscar may be small in stature, he is large in attitude and deeply troubled by events that happened in his childhood. Because Oscar is small, pretty, and has a disfigured hand, he was an easy target for bullies in school, something he never told his parents. Then he figured out that he liked boys instead of girls, and the school bullies daily harassment threatened to turn lethal. Oscar dealt with these threats by not telling anyone, a common problem. Instead, as he aged he became aggressive at almost every instance. And this is the state Josiah, a large and imposing figure, finds him in. He realizes that Oscar is hurting emotionally and tries to find out the source of his pain. Then just as the relationship dynamics are getting interesting, the familiar story of large mate/small mate starts to play out as the duo accept their mated status, help protect the family from the cougar shifters, and my interest is lost.

Being bullied at school and its effect on Oscar was a key component of his character’s development. An added facet of this story is that as a shifter, Oscar had the physical tools to take down the kids threatening him, but couldn’t use them without outing his family’s secret. This added more stress to an already stressed out child who was already used to internalizing his problems and made Oscar a very relevant character in these times. All this combined to make Oscar a character multidimensional and worth remembering had the story gone in a different direction. What a story it would have made to see a shifter deal effectively with this situation that now grabs headlines daily.

I think that this book represents a missed chance on the author’s part to speak about the problem of bullying and its long term effects on its victims. Bradford clearly started to address this as it is brought up again and again throughout the story that Oscar has been damaged emotionally by his past. But then Lyndon’s family drama takes center stage with an abduction, Oscar and Josiah resolves their differences and mate, then its back to solving the problem of the cougar shifters. Been there, done that.

Without giving anything away, I will say the ending seemed too quick and unsatisfactory given the buildup it received. And this is a shame because Bradford can write convincing, realistic characters and put them into situations that we can recognize and empathize with even as their shifter nature removes them from our reality. This is the way Oscar started out. I just wish this is how Oscar had ended.

I will continue with the series as Oscar’s cousin heads to the Himalayas’ and the secret of the Snow Leopards. The promise of a better story and Oscar’s family history pulls me forward.

Cover:  Cover art by Posh Gosh. Once again, a beautiful cover that speaks for the story.  Great graphics and font style.  Just lovely.

First posted on Joyfully Jay where I am a guest  reviewer.

Review of Levi (Leopard’s Spots #1) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating. 4.25 stars

Levi Travis is feeling overwhelmed during his family’s annual get together with the constant reminders of happy couples and families.  A little time alone in the woods in his shifter form, a snow leopard, will shake off the last of the family reunion hell or so he thinks.

Lyndon Hines is running from his past and a mysterious stalker that has tracked him through many states.  The trucker who gave him a ride has left him by the highway tired and hungry. The woods bordering the road look too inviting to pass up.  Lyndon, in his cougar form, is exploring the woods on the Travis family ranch when a musky aroma catches his attention. It’s Levi dozing in a glade.  Levi is startled as he has never met another shifter outside the family before. But Lyndon is everything Levi wants in a man, strong, dominant, and a shifter. Instant attraction flashes into a frenzied mating.  But afterward Lyndon flees and Levi is left hurt and confused.

The stalker finds Lyndon again and both men must put aside their fears and confusion to come together to save each other before its too late.

This is the first book in the Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford and she sets everything in place here for the books to come.  The reader is immediately introduced to Levi’s family and their shifter history.  Levi’s family is a large one full of likable and  endearing characters.   Characterization is one of Bailey Bradford’s strong suits and that is evident in this story. I loved them all, especially his youngest brother, Oscar.  Oscar has the second book in the series.

I like Levi too.  His physical body shouts dom while his actual nature is more submissive, something he has never been able to convey to the few sexual partners he has had. Lyndon on the other hand is as territorial and aggressive as his cougar’s nature. Lyndon’s character comes from a background of parental neglect and abuse. The author has added enough layers to each man that they are easy to sympathize with and understand. Both have been raised isolated from other shifters but in very different circumstances.  I can see the difference in histories playing out nicely over several books, including the theme of nature versus nurture in different shifter societies.

My one quibble here is that in setting the stage for Oscar and the second novel in the series, Bailey Bradford has made Oscar such a strong character that he almost takes the stage away from Levi and Lyndon.  I say almost because the blazing hot sex scenes between the two shifters are enough to bring out the fans.  Oscar will have to wait for his book.

Lastly, when I have read about or watched movie/shows about shifters, there seems to be two varieties.  Those that shift seamlessly from person to animal.  You know, one minute a person then instantly a wolf mid-leap (think Twilight commercials). And then there are those Werewolf in London transitions that are so popular as well.  You know, the torturous breaking of bones, stretching of skins, fangs emerging from bloodied mouths sort of thing that takes time and getting naked before hand. ( Reviewer’s note: when it comes to Joe Manganiello’s Alcide from True Blood, the more naked the better is my opinion).  The two types of shifters here each transition in a different way.  Cougars shift instantly into form while the snow leopards are more of the second variety.  I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t going to be a factor in the books coming up as I have not seen both types in one story before.  Either way it is an interesting take.

I am looking forward to Oscar’s story and exploring more of Bailey Bradford’s view of shifters.

Cover:  Art by Posh Gosh. Well, isn’t this just a gorgeous cover.  Gorgeous cats, gorgeous men, great fonts.  What’s not to love?  Again, my only quibble is with the model types here.  Both men in the book are large, masculine and hairy.  Not exactly the body type of the young man in front. He is more in keeping with Oscar.  Where is a truly hairy chest when you need one?

Bully by Carter Wolf

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Rating: 5 stars

A student walks down the hallway at his high school. As he passes by, one student after the next avoids him, one student ignores his hellos while another ducks down a different hallway to escape him all together. Puzzled, he continues on until he hears a school morning announcement over the loud speaker. A student has committed suicide, and while they are refraining from mentioning his name due to a police investigation, grief counselors will be available to all students who need them. It stops him in his tracks as he thinks back to an empty chair in home room that morning. He knows who has committed suicide. He should know for he is the one who drove the student to kill himself. He had bullied and terrorized the student for 3 years and the student finally broke. He killed him. And everyone knew it.

So begins a remarkable and painful short story on bullying, GLBT youth, and how it affects all around them. The story is told, not from the victim’s point of view but from the victimizer – the bully. There is a shocking twist to this tale but that never takes away from the story’s impact, but adds an additional emotional layer that will give you much to think about. Carter Wolf does a wonderful job of bringing his characters to life and making the reader feel the impact of their actions. This is a realistic portrait of a teenager in trouble here and all his thoughts and emotions are true to his age. This short story carries a large emotional knockout the rings true to the subject at its core. Bullying and bullycide are front and center in all of the media as we are confronted with an increase in young people dying at all ages and all countries, unable to face another day of terror and harassment. Read this book, and tell another about it. Support The Trevor Project. Make sure you have a box of tissues handy. You will need it.

Note:  Bully is still a free read at Amazon for their Prime Customers and $2.99 for those with regular accounts. Get It Here!

Cover:  Stark and plain.  Perfect for this story dealing with bullying and bullycide.

The Week Ahead and Another Great Chicken Dish To Try

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It’s a blustery rainy day here in Maryland and the storms from the south are scheduled to arrive this afternoon bringing high winds, more rain and perhaps even hail.  So long to my newly blooming roses and irises in the backyard.  Sigh.  From the 80’s back down to the 60’s, our Spring is having a wild time of it this year and so are my gardens.

Today I finished up my review of Ethan Day’s A Token in Time for Joyfully Jay but my lips are sealed until it is published there first.  So what is coming up this week?

Monday       Review of Bully by Carter Wolf as promised

Tuesday       Review of Earthly Concerns by Xavier Axelson.

Wednesday Review of Levi, Leopards Spots 1 by Bailey Bradford

Thursday     Review of Oscar, Leopards Spots 2 by Bailey Bradford

Friday           Review of Two Tickets To Paradise Anthology by Dreamspinner Press

 

Tonight I am preparing  Chicken in Vinegar, another easy and great tasting chicken dish made from ingredients that most people will have in their pantries.  Again my thanks to Laura Calder (French Cooking At Home) for this easy, great tasting dish with a couple of changes from me.

 

 

 

 

 

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces or equal amounts of chicken thighs, or legs, whatever you have available.

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter, plus another tablespoon for finishing
1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1  can of diced tomatoes drained
1 bay leaf
1 large fresh thyme sprig
2 good handfuls chopped fresh parsley
DIRECTIONS

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan and brown the chicken, a few pieces at a time. You’re not cooking the chicken here, just making the skin crisp and giving it color and flavor. Five minutes per side is about right, more so if you have only dark meat. Remove the chicken to a dish.

Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and boil down by half, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, and pour in the stock. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme.  Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken to a clean dish and keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan, pressing to get all the juices through, and whisk in the last spoonful of butter and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

I served this with some Quinoa flavored with garlic and basil before and will do so again.  It works so well together.  So quick and easy you will make this a staple.

 

When a Tit Should Be A Nip Or Leave Those Orbs Alone!

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It is rant time on Scatteredthoughtsandroguewords because my breaking point has been reached, people!!!!  Since I became a guest reviewer on Joyfully Jay and started my blog, the number of books I have been reading has gone off the charts.  So it won’t surprise you all that some of the books I have been reading have been less than stellar and some have been just outstanding. The quality of the books has been all over the place but some truly awful world usage has popped up again and again.  And I can’t take it any more! So to all authors out there (and you know who you are), please I am begging you, cease and desist from the following:

Orbs: The use of the word orbs when describing eyes. No, no, no, and absolutingfuckatively no!  Eyes may be described as many things, windows of the soul, soulful, leering, squinty, bedroom, vacant but never an orb. Unless you are describing an alien, no that still doesn’t work.  Then its eyes on stalks, like these beauties pictured here.  Orbs are spheres, globes, balls, spheroids, spherules, circles.  One can say “My what a lovely orb you are carrying today, destruction of the universe on the agenda?” What I don’t hear or want to hear?  “My what lovely gray orbs you have? From your mother’s side of the family?” Yet, I have picked up two books in a row (and read several more) in which the main character describes the hunk in front of him with blue gray orbs, or fiery orbs, or who cares what color orbs.

It stops me cold. Especially when the author has done a wonderful job otherwise.  So please stop. Run over to Val Kovalin’s site and read/buy the article How To Describe Eyes  on obsidianbookshelf.com.  Then laminate it and stick it above the laptop or whatever you use to write with. When you get the urge to splurge with the vocabulary and start to type orb – stop.  If you have already done the deed, then become acquainted with Find and Replace.  Use it often. Find “orb” replace with “eye.” It’s simple.  I am begging you here! Don’t make me come find you!

Of Tits and Nips: There I was, happily ensconced in bed with my Kindle, reading this smoking hot sex scene.  I have my glass of wine and I’m popping bon bons like bullets shooting out of a AK 47 as the two main characters finally strip off each others clothes as a prelude to some hot man love.  John/Ethan/Insert Name runs his hands lovingly over Zane/Troy/Adam/Whoevers chest and then gives his tits a twist. Wait! What?  Did I just read that right?  I quickly put down the bon bons and scan that paragraph again. I enlarge the font and read “Hank/Ralph/Morey then proceeds to lick and bite Stan/Harry/Mordecai’s tits like a milk-starved calf reunited with his mother.”  Yep, it’s still tits.  The Kindle gets cold in my hands as I contemplate a chest and sex scene gone wrong.

When I think of a man’s chest  (and the good Lord knows I do), it’s those wonderful sexy nipples that grab my attention first.  Large or small, tight or at ease, all colors, it doesn’t matter.  I just love them.  I like to look at them. I like to read about them. Except when they are described as tits.  Right or wrong, to me the word tit has feminine connotations.  Woman have beautiful tits, gorgeous breasts, outstanding tatas, basooms, gazongas, whatever.  We have oodles of names for womens breasts.  Men who gender identify as women and men transitioning to women have tits. But men? Straight or gay men? Well then, it’s nipples all the way or nips if you prefer.  If you have a man nipping the nip in a story, I am allfor it.  Go on, lick that nip! Have your way with it! Just please don’t call it a tit.  I have read descriptions where they were called tight buds, and I am okay with that.  Nubs?  That’s good too.   Rub that nub !  But tits? When you get the urge, just take a gander at the picture above. And just say no.

 
Smiling Crookedly:  This is just a minor pain that is looking to evolve into a major one with each new book that I read.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I love characters that have that snarky, crooked grin. Usually it is pasted on the face of some scalawag trying to get a rise out of our hero and that grin just says you know he will succeed.  But lately, some authors just can’t leave it at one or two references a story, or even a chapter.  Once they start, the use of that crooked grin just steamrolls until it is the only facial expression that one character has.

I love it when the character beams, smiles from ear to ear, or has a broad or shy grin. And what has happened to the scowl? The frowny face?  The leer?  Please let us not forget to have our characters frown, glower, glare, grimace, give the occasional black or dirty look.  I do see lots of smirks these days as well.  Let’s not forget our characters can still be smug, snicker, and have a smothered laugh every now and again. This is just a cautionary plea to all authors.  Please don’t botox your characters into facialimmobility and one expression hunks. The characters,your stories and the reader deserve far better than that.  Just picture your male ideal, leaning in that oh so sexy manner against the wall, watching you.  Could you take a crooked smile all day or after a few hours or so are you ready to slap his face off? See?  Let’s keep those crooked smiles at a minimum please.  Thank you.

I am winding down here.  Just writing about these things will give me nightmares. Oh, and I am sure this is only Part 1 as other poor or overused word choices come to mind.  So let me leave you with a visual to make some of this come together
.What do you see when you look at these? Are those orbs on tits? Or eyes in jars?  Can orbs with crooked smiles and tits be far behind? Thoughts like these will send me running into the closet and shutting the doors. *shudder*   You authors out there !  You have the power to stop this!  Use the force wisely!  We beg you!

And send me those words that make you hurl when you see them in a story.  I am making a list. And checking it twice!

And stay tuned for more Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Bullying and a Must Free Read

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Good morning all.  On this lovely Friday here in Maryland, I am going to bring up a not so lovely topic – that of Bullying.  Bullying is a subject seemingly on everyone’s minds.  From blogs to books, from newspapers to TV commentators and even the movies, we see the victims, we listen to their stories and we wonder what can be done to stop it.  Some say bullying has always been around and that  the child/person should just “buck up” and deal.  While the first part is true, bullying has always been around, the second is sickeningly false.

More and more it seems that the one who is bullied now sees suicide as their only solution in ending their torment.  Look at all the suicides we have heard of and think of  all those children whose attempts we don’t know about.  I would suspect they are legion.  And what do we hear after learning of the death?  Someone invariably says “If only I knew….”  And then it comes out that someone did know and didn’t do anything.  Or they didn’t know what to do.  So much sadness and pain.  Such an unnecessary loss.

National Prevention Week is coming up.  It’s May 20 -26th.  So I will be writing more on this topic later.  But right now, the story Bully by Carter Wolf is available for a free download for Amazon’s Prime customers and for $2.99 for regular accounts.  It is worth every penny.  My review of Bully will be going up on Saturday but don’t wait until then.  Get it or buy it now.  You can find it here at Amazon.

And don’t forget to take the Prevention Pledge!  Here are some sites on Bullying.

Bullying Statistics

Child Bullying School Bullying Bullycide

The Trevor Project