April 2013 Book Reviews

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Unbelievably, today is the last day  in April and the start of something new for Scattered Thoughts.  I am going to post a summary of each months books reviews on the last day of the month.  Hopefully, this will make it easy to find a new book to read, a book review you might have missed or a book you just might want to reconsider.  It also helps me gather my  Scattered Thoughts when it comes to the year’s Best of in  December.

It was a very good month, with some remarkable stories from new authors and beloved writers and everyone in between.  Trust me, there really is something for everyone here this month:

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           April 2013 Review Summary

5 Star Rating:

Collusion by Eden Winters

On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Beautiful Disaster by Willa Okati (4.25)

Brute by Kim Fielding (4.5)

Fire For Effect by Kendall McKenna (4.5)

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick (4.75)

Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune (4.5)

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout

by Andrea Speed (4.25)

Loving Hector by John Inman (4.25)

Masked Riders by Lucius Parhelion (4.5)

The Fight Within by Andrew Grey (4.5)

The Good Fight by Andrew Grey (4.75)

Unearthing Cole by A.M. Arthur (4.25)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie (3.75)

Love You Like A Romance Novel by Megan Derr (3.5)

Sensei by Karenna Colcroft (3)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Astral Mage by Hurri Cosmo (2.75)

Review: Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout by Andrea Speed

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Rating 4.25 stars for the book

Rating: 4.5 stars for the Josh of the Damned series

Josh of the Damned The Final CheckoutJosh Caplan, night clerk of the Quik-Mart was sure he was going to be fired after he (and his friends) stopped the Quik-Mart Corporate offices from opening a store in the hell dimension world called Dev.  But when he showed up for work, everything thing seemed normal or as normal as it can be when the convenience store you work in is next to a hell portal that  opens each night to let all sorts of amazing and hellish creatures come through to visit the store.  From werewolves in the parking lot, zombies needing a meat burrito to a lovesick Yeti, Josh Caplan has seen it all come and go on a regular basis.  Of course, Josh also has a handsome, cool vampire boyfriend named Colin and a less than competent necromancer, Mr. Kwon, as a boss.
But once a CEO, especially a jerk of a CEO like Clark Ryan IV, has an idea in his head, you just know that trouble is coming and it does.  In the last of the Josh of the Damned series, Josh, Colin, Mr Kwon and Bobo the Yeti must face a triple feature of threats to the Quik-Mart as well as all humanity and win.  Among those our intrepid group faces is a giant slug, Medusa’s sisters and of course the worst of all, corporate America.  But as Josh has said before “Dude, I’ve said it like a dozen times! Think of me as the minimum wage Gandalf —you shall not pass.”  And how can you not believe him?

I love, love this series.  I mean, it has it all. Josh Caplan, a night clerk so intrepid by nature, that he moves through life with an acceptance and ease that is almost shocking if it wasn’t’ so delightful. And he has plenty to keep him company from his stoner roommate, Doug, vampire boyfriend, Colin, Necromancer boss, Mr. Kwon, superboss, Medusa, lovesick compatriot Bobo, Gary the Tooth Fairy, and so many more.  Each more fantastic, sarcastic, and outrageous than the next.  In The Final Checkout,  Andrea Speed gives us the final 3 chapters in the Josh saga which of course revolves around the Quik-Mart Corporation’s plan to open a branch in the hellworld, Dev.

When I try to come up with reasons why I have taken this series to heart, the more obvious ones are front and center.   Andrea Speed’s humor which is evident in every aspect of the series, from the names (Kevin the Vampire Slayer to Harvey Mangoat to Gary the Tooth Fairy, just hysterical) to the small details such as Colin giving Josh a tablet because Medusa needs to talk to him and Josh assumes its an iHell (Dev’s answer to the iPad) because, well who wouldn’t?  It’s topical, sarcastic, funny as, well, funny as hell and yet, still contains a lot of heart, no, let’s make that emotion because well it just might contain a real organ or two as well.

Andrea Speed’s world building is perfection too.  Not too many details to bog down the story, just enough to make Dev feel authentic and hellish when Josh, Doug and Colin enter that dimension.  I also like that creatures that appear almost cartoonish in the Quik-Mart become more viably demonic on Dev, their home world, a lovely touch.

The truth of it is that it wouldn’t matter how funny the names or how humorous the situations, without characters whose vulnerability and endearing personality traits make them easy to connect with , then this series would seem a little hollow.  But not to worry, Andrea Speed brings the same detail she uses in her world building to constructing her characters.  All of her creatures, human and otherwise, are beautifully layered beings, with just those odd quirks that make them notable both inside and out of the genre.  You don’t have to tell me that Bobo is much more than he/she/it? seems, I just know it.  And Mr. Kwon, the not quite so capable necromancer who is afraid to tell his family just how bad his skills are?  Priceless.  Medusa and her sisters take sibling rivalry to the next level, while still making it oh so identifiable.

What can I say?  The plots are hysterical, the dialog giggle inducing and the characters (except for the corporate bunch) totally adorable. Please don’t pass The Final Checkout and this series up.

The three stories here are

1. Clerk of the Living Dead.  Zombies attack the Quik-Mart and Josh and Mr. Kwon must deal with this unusual occurrence along with the entrance of Kevin the clueless Vampire Slayer.  I think that this is my favorite of the three.  Josh and Mr. Kwon’s reaction to Kevin had me in giggles plus high props for the Buffy reference.  Josh gets a new bracelet or cuff as he would prefer we call it.  We find out more about the evil plot the Corporation has in store for everyone while Josh and Colin try to take their relationship up to the next level.

2. Plaything of the Gods.  Medusa needs Josh and Colin’s help in dealing with her sisters on Dev.  For the first time, we get to know Doug, Josh’s stoner roommate who delivers pizza.  I loved Doug and his assistance in things brought that “out of body” touch to the proceedings, nothing like a stoner’s viewpoint on Hell and its inhabitants to keep things “unreal, man”.  We also learn more about Josh’s new role as a Guardian, oh and there’s a giant slug that’s blocking the way to the Quik-Mart that has to be removed too.

3. Josh vs. Destiny.  The final showdown between corporate plans for domination and Hell.  Well, you figure it had to happen sometime, why not with Josh as our hero?  The CEO and its evil assistant Harvey Mangoat, (yes, really) vs. Josh, Mr. Kwon and his crew.  Timing is still everything and it starts when Josh and Colin are trying to have a romantic weekend, their first.  The course of true love or lust never runs smooth, and Hell is here to prove it.  Bobo is back (my favorite) to help in the final checkout.  Loose ends are tied up and Josh gets a fabulous apartment to have sex in.

I am going to miss these guys (and things).  I hope Andrea Speed can be convinced to give us a look in every now and again to see how everyone is doing.

The Josh of the Damned books should be read in the order they were written in order for the characters and plots to make sense.  Here they are in order they should be read:

Pretty Monsters (Josh of the Damned, #1)

Peek-a-Boo (Josh of the Damned, #2)

Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1 (Josh of the Damned, #3)

Night of the Dust Bunnies (Josh of the Damned, #3.5)

Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #2: The Final Checkout (Josh of the Damned #4)

Cover art by LC Chase is shear perfection.  I want a poster of it, really I do.

Andrea Speed also provides a soundtrack for The Final Checkout.  It’s amazing.  Listen to it here.

And finally, if this is your first introduction to the madness that is the Josh of the Damned series, read (courtesy of Andrea Speed) the opening pages of The Final Checkout:

Clerk of the Living Dead

There was an odd sort of comfort in just not worrying that you were about to die. Well, sort of.

Josh went home in the morning, certain he’d get a phone call about not bothering to come in for work tonight, that his last check would be mailed to him, but he was so unconcerned about it all that he just brushed his teeth and went to bed. So this was the end of his short career at the Quik-Mart—so what? There were plenty more low-income, no-hope jobs in the sea. Besides, he couldn’t have let those company guys through the portal, or reality would have imploded and everyone would have been killed. He’d picked the lesser of two evils.

When he woke up to find Doug on the couch, smoking a bowl and watching American Dad, his roommate told him there’d been no calls for him. Weird. Did it really take that long to get a message back to the home office? Or were they up to something? Since the portal didn’t open until nightfall, the home office was limited in what they could do during the day. He was sure this was some mix-up, but he got dressed and headed to the bus stop anyway.

Cindy, the early evening clerk, was finishing her shift when he showed up, and the Quik-Mart looked the same as always. She had no message for him, so he started working as normal, wondering if they were going to fire him mid-shift. Or maybe they’d be coming back with more guys this time? Not that it would help them. Bobo could probably crush the entire army, and with Colin helping, he could do it in half the time.

Colin showed up with the first lizard customer of the evening, although they weren’t together (well, as far as he could tell). Colin had a weird look on his face, one Josh figured was either worry or an upset stomach. Did vampires get indigestion?

Colin came up to the counter and pulled something out from his coat. It looked kind of like an iPad, only it was way thinner, black, and when Colin gave it to him, Josh discovered it was lighter than most paperbacks. Whoa, was there an Apple iHell now? “This some new kind of tablet?”

Colin shrugged and shook his head, sending a mixed message. “Medusa wanted to talk to you.” His expression was grave.

“So, what? This a new way to knock me out?” As Josh inspected the tablet for some hidden Taser nodes, the screen popped to life, and even though it was riddled with interference lines, he could see the brass figure of Medusa sitting behind her desk, wearing those same glasses as before, her hair rippling around her like it was caught in its own private windstorm, her lips so red it made her mouth look bloody. Her suit today looked to be an almost violent blue.

“Colin told me what an excellent job you did yesterday,” she said, her voice coming out staticky, but clear enough that the lizard in the chip aisle jumped and almost dropped his bag of Ruffles. So they all knew what she sounded like, huh? Maybe she broadcasted end-of-year messages, like the Queen or Lady Gaga.

“Um, oh. Well, he deserves credit, too. Him and Bobo. The Quik-Mart guys would have ignored me if they hadn’t been there.”

She smiled, but it seemed predatory. Her lipstick probably wasn’t helping. “Everybody received their due credit. As it is, Josh, I could use an agent who can work in your dimension regardless of whether the vortex is open or not. I’d say you passed the first test with flying colors.”

“Um, huh?” He kind of knew what she was saying, but he couldn’t quite believe it. Was this whole thing—from Medusa tasking him to stop the home office, to the stupid parking lot battle—a test?

“How would you like to work for me?”

Josh looked at Colin, but he stared back blankly, his expression giving nothing away. “Umm . . . do I have a choice?”

Her grin grew wide enough that it nearly threatened to split her face in half, and her snakes quivered like they were waving goodbye. Or laughing at him. “What do you think?”

Oh shit. Not until this moment had the job of burger flipper ever seemed so damn good.

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 29th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626490062
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/
series: Josh of the Damned

The Week Ahead in Reviews and Scattered Thoughts About Writing

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Sooo, here we are again at the beginning of the week and for me not much has changed.  I did manage to get several flats of flowers planted last week,  did clean out some clothes from decades past to give away,  and had my Dad over last Saturday afternoon.  Read some wonderful books, got a few new authors to add to my automatic must read list, and realized that spring equals moles holes and dirty dogs, so scheduled the terrors three for grooming.  Ah, plans…….

A visit to Good Earth Nursery yesterday saw me come home laden with more flowers to plant, where I have no idea but I had to have them.  For some people its shoes or purses, for me its plants and books.   Went to Johnsons and saw two Koi whose scales glittered like a disco ball while resembling a Dalmatian, so got them too while looking for Mother’s Day presents.  Haven’t named them yet, might not as that Great Blue Heron is still around to say nothing of raccoons and other fish loving wildlife that visit my yard.  I will give them a year and then see if I think its safe to bestow names on each of them.

Family will be arriving in a couple of hours, just to sit around on the patio, get caught up on the weeks events and happenings and munch out on appetizers.  So I need to get moving, those dips won’t make themselves and neither will the Sangria.

But lately several books have got me thinking about world building in stories, the importance of getting it just right, and the balance between too much and not enough.  Some writers seem to do it effortlessly, and for others it is a goal not achieved no matter how hard they have obviously tried.  So look for my post on world building in fiction later on in the week.   Now before I head to the kitchen and gardens, here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, April 29:               Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout by Andrea Speed

Tuesday, April 30:               April’s Book Reviews

Wed., May 1:                         Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler

Thursday, May 2:                 Chateau d’Eternite by Ariel Tachna

Friday, May 3:                       Scattered Thoughts on the Importance of World Building in Fiction

Saturday, May 4:                   It Takes Practice by Willa Okati

 

The last two days might switch around depending on how the week is going and how scattered my thoughts are by then.  I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and great week ahead.  Stay dry, stay warm, and if the days are as lovely as this one, stay outside as much as possible.

 

Review: Unearthing Cole by AM Arthur

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Unearthing Cole coverFleeing an abusive relationship, Cole Alston returns home after the death of his estranged mother to settle her estate and sell off the house and all her possessions. Cole has been dreading such a day as both his parents were hoarders and the property more resembles a junk yard then home, the same as it was when he lived there growing up.  As full of painful memories as it is, Cole feels he has no choice.  He needs the money to relocate to Canada as his ex continues to stalk him but the task before him seems overwhelming and he doesn’t know where to begin.

Jeremy Collins owns the local antiques business in town.  For years he has been trying to get Cole’s parents to sell some of the things they have accumulated on their farm to no avail.  When Cole returns to town, Jeremy gets in touch with him, first to buy some of the things at the farm. Then Jeremy gets to know Cole and it is Cole’s vulnerability and pain that draws Jeremy to help him get rid of years of hoarding while helping him uncover his past.  Slowly as the men clear away years of clutter and trash, they start to build a relationship of affection and trust, amazing given Cole’s background.  But there is still so much in their path to happiness, including Cole’s anxiety, and his past in the form of his ex boyfriend.  Will Cole be able to clear away his pain and emotional baggage before he can move forward to a new life.

Unearthing Cole tackles some very serious topics within its plot and does it very well.  It is the first book by A. M. Arthur that I have read and I am really impressed by the way Arthur handles this difficult subject matter while maintaining our connection to a very wounded young man, Cole, and his potential love interest, Jeremy.  Cole Alston has had a traumatic upbringing as both his parents were hoarders during a time where very little was known of what is now diagnosed as a mental illness.  All Cole knew was that he had no parental support and his parents seemed to love their “things” more than himself.  Arthur correctly imagines what the life of a child raised under those circumstances must have been like in heartbreaking detail as well as the consequences of their development into adulthood.  Cole is insecure and low self esteem, wanting a home and someone to belong to above all else.  This outlook and lack of stability has dire consequences when Cole picks one person to hook up with in college.

If you have ever, however fleetingly, seen parts of that Hoarders program on cable, then you have seen the pain and anger of the families of the hoarder almost burst from the screen, years of abuse pouring forth from children, partners, relatives and friends who have failed to stop the hoarder from accumulating things without regard to what is happening around them.  Horrific on all accounts, including the puzzled, blank expressions of the hoarders themselves who can’t begin to fathom what they have done, including the filth they are living in.  And Arthur gets it all right, from the descriptions of Cole’s house to the pain and anger he carries within him.

Added to that almost unimaginable background, Arthur extrapolates what that upbringing would have done to a child and gives us a Cole who ends up in an abusive relationship that takes him years to escape.  Arthur makes it all seem so logical and realistic and perhaps that is the worst part of it all, the ease with which the abuser was able to take over Cole’s life.   And throughout the story, the reader is there, inside Cole’s tormented mind as he struggles to reclaim himself but to do so he must face his past, strewn out before him across the outbuildings, yards, and crammed full house of his youth.

Jeremy Collins has his own unique layers, he is bisexual, a widower, and now lives in a small town  not always accepting of alternate lifestyles.  He is familiar with loss and pain, and is uniquely positioned to help Cole uncover his past, helping the real Cole to emerge along the way.  I like him as well.  There aren’t many other characters introduced here, the main story revolves around these two men, their past histories, and the situation before them.  Again, I think that Arthur handles their delicate dance towards a relationship with care and authenticity with regard to all of the obstacles presented by Cole’s background.

And that brings me down to the issues I did have with the story.  I felt that the ending and denouement was rushed, especially considering the buildup and emotional impact of seeing his abuser once more.  That was frustrating and over far too quickly given their past, and the damage that had been inflicted.  I did like that this ended in a HFN as opposed to a HEA which would have felt out of place given the characters and background.  Had this story been lengthened just enough to flesh out the ending that the rest of the story deserved than the rating would have been much higher.  As it remains, I still recommend this author and Unearthing Cole, it’s memorable, and the characters haunting in their pain.  Don’t pass this one by.

Cover art by LC Chase is as haunting and memorable as the book.

Book Details:

ebook, 170 pages
Published March 20th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13
9781623804343
edition language
English

Sneak Peak at the Sequel to The General and The Horse-Lord by Sarah Black (Excerpt)

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Early this month, we had a guest blog by author Sarah Black and a giveaway of her latest book, The General and the Horse-Lord.  Well, the response was wonderful and the book’s reception has been great.  I gave it 5 stars (as have other  reviewers) and picked it to land on Scattered Thoughts Best of 2013.  So I was delighted to hear that Ms. Black was hard at work on the sequel, The General and the Elephant clock of Al-Jazari.

Recently Sarah Black posted an excerpt on her blog.  It was wonderful so I asked permission to post it here for those readers who loved The General and the Horse-Lord as much as I did.  I think it will blow you away.  At the end of the excerpt, watch the You Tube vid on The Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, such an elegant and amazing invention. Thank you, Sarah, for bringing it to my attention.  Here is the promised excerpt:

The General and the Elephant clock of Al-Jazari by Sarah Black

John received a couple of interesting emails the next morning. Gabriel was up and gone early, with plans to stop by his house and have breakfast with the kids. The first email was from an old colleague and fellow Brigadier General, David Painter. John didn’t particularly like the man. They had worked together several times in the past. Painter was good, had what John would call episodic brilliance, but his work tended to be sloppy. He didn’t always put in the time and research that John felt was needed for their work to bring about lasting change. He also tended to be sloppy in his dress, in his personal manner, as if his wild and original mind meant the same rules didn’t apply to him. But they knew each other well, both strengths and weaknesses. John winced at the name on the email, thinking Painter was exactly the sort of man he did not want to discuss his coming out with in any detail. Not that he had much choice, since he’d splashed every bit of privacy he’d ever had across the cover of Out magazine.

The second email was from Abdullah, a very polite thank you note to himself and Gabriel for rescuing him yesterday. John looked at it for a moment, appreciating Abdullah’s good manners, and then he replied: Are you sending me an email from the garage? Or have you skipped town already?

The answer came moments later: I’m in the garage.

If you would like, you can come into the kitchen and speak to me in person.

Abdullah wrote back: I’m about to climb into the shower. See you in a few minutes.

John shook his head at the screen for a long moment, and wondered if Abdullah and Kim emailed each other from the bathroom. No, email was dead, he’d read that somewhere. Instant Messaging? Texting, that was it. So much easier than speech, apparently. Maybe they would evolve right out of their vocal cords, and human communications would consist exclusively of written messages and a few grunts and gentle hoots, like the Great Apes.

John turned back to the first email, wondering if he needed to complain about the younger generation first thing in the morning, every morning, or if his time would be better spent doing pushups.

“Hey, John, long time. I saw the cover of Out. It’s making the rounds in DC, everybody saying they knew it all along and wondering what took you so long to grab your cojones and tell the truth. Your pilot looks like he’s held up well.”

John could feel his blood pressure spike, a drumbeat behind his eye that might be an aneurysm getting ready to blow.

“I heard you quit the university. Little dust up with the locals? Well, you were always a sucker for a boy in trouble. That’s why I’m calling on you. I’ve got a couple of boys in serious trouble, former Rangers, in lovely Tunisia. They’ve been working for me as contractors in Algeria. I could go in and level the fuckers and get my boys out of there, but things seem a bit fragile in northern Africa right now. Maybe a peacemaker would be a better choice. And no matter our differences, John, you were a peacemaker. You always brought home the right solution. That was your great gift, understanding the right solution to the problem. So how about you hop on a plane to DC and talk to me about these boys? I heard your pilot went to law school. Why don’t you bring him along? I’ve got a couple of plane tickets at the airport for tomorrow, and a hotel reservation. First class, if you care about that shit. I’m assuming you two can share a room? Appreciate it, John.”

He forwarded the email to Gabriel. John Painter knew how to hit the soft spots. “Just give me a little job to do, and I’ll follow you anywhere, you fuckhead,” John said to the kitchen wall. He walked back to their bedroom, pulled an overnight bag from the closet shelf.

Kim found him putting a load of clothes into the washer. “Hey, Uncle J. What’s up?”

John looked at him for a long moment. Kim had his hands on his hips, had prepared himself for a royal ass-chewing. He was a brave kid, John thought suddenly, and the affection he felt for the boy was suddenly on his face. Kim reached out and hugged him, his face buried in John’s neck. Even at twenty-three, his first thought had been to come find his uncle and face the music. But John had no time right now to get into it.

“Kim, I’ve got to leave tomorrow, go up to DC. I don’t know any more than that.”

“What can I do?”

John shook his head. “Everything’s done. I’ll need you to watch over Billy and Juan if Gabriel comes with.”

“Sure, no problem.”

“Keep everyone safe,” John said, and Kim’s face flushed.

“I hear you. You can count on me.”

“I always do, kiddo.”

He followed John to his bedroom, studied the clothes laid out on the bed, and the passport. “Not that white shirt. Take the gray one. You have to leave the country? Where are you going? I can keep an eye on CNN for a sudden flare in hostilities.”

“Not exactly sure, but I heard talk about Algeria and Tunisia.”

“Oh, God.” Kim sat down on the side of the bed. “Tunisia, isn’t that where Arab Spring turned from smoke to fire?”
John glanced at him. “Nice metaphor. And yes, it started in Tunisia. But we don’t have to assume that’s the only trouble that can brew. It’s still a Muslim country at the end of the day. Lots of ways for Americans to get into trouble.”

“That’s what this is? A rescue mission?”

“Seems likely, but I don’t really know. Kim, you know that stupid magazine came out this week and every jerk at St. Matthews High School is going to mention to Juan that they’ve seen it. I’m worried about him.”

“And the Horse-Lord says he needs to just suck it up and take it like a man?”

“No, it’s not like that.” John sat down on the bed. “He wants Juan to stop making Martha crazy with his behavior, using this issue as an excuse to act out every hostile teenaged impulse, and he also wants to let the adults handle issues of bullying. The school authorities, or the police.”

Kim was nodding. “Right. That is so not going to happen. Have you both forgotten Juan is fifteen now?”

“He’s not one of your baby gang-bangers, Kim. He’s an Army kid. He has braces and goes to Catholic school and lives in the suburbs.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m worried, too. He’s hardly talking to me anymore, or Billy. It’s like he’s grown up really fast and he’s tough inside. He’s strong in his anger. Young Luke is turning toward the dark side.” Kim grinned for a moment. “I wonder how I would show that in a picture? Maybe I’ll get him to let me take his picture. Feel him out a little bit.”

“Whatever you think is best, Kim. I usually try to stay out of sight until a crisis looms. He’s not speaking to me, either.”

“You’ll keep yourself safe, won’t you? And the Horse-Lord? Just because I’m grown up doesn’t mean I don’t need you anymore.”

“Now you have Abdullah. Is that what I’m to understand? The two of you, together?”

Kim nodded, pulled at a loose thread on the bedspread. “Yeah. I think so. I think we’re going to be like you and Gabriel. Two bodies, one heart, all our lives. That’s how it seems to me, but I don’t want to jump the gun. It’s early days yet. Half the time we start a conversation getting along and end the conversation fighting and I have no idea why.”

“You’re just feeling your boundaries, defining yourselves to each other. That’s what I’ve always wanted for you, a real relationship, a family of your own. You guys can even adopt kids if you wanted. I’m really very pleased, Kim.” He looked at what Kim was doing and frowned. “Don’t pull on that thread. I’ve got some scissors in the bathroom if you need to clip a loose thread. I know how much you spent on this new bedspread.”

“Speaking of that.” Kim stared at him until he put the tie down on the bed.

“What? We’re not going to talk about the furniture again, are we?”

“No, we’re not. But there is something I want to talk to you about. Uncle John, you need to update your style.” Kim raised a hand to quell any protests, but John was too surprised to complain. “You’re still wearing your military haircut, still wearing suits that look to my eye about twenty years out of date. I mean, a single breasted navy blue with three buttons? Please, stop torturing me. You need a makeover, and you needed it, like, yesterday.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“You’re out now. You have to maintain a certain style, up your cool factor just a bit. You have an image to maintain now you’re out of the closet.”

“Why?”

“Because people will judge you by your clothes. For God’s sake, nobody would believe you’re related to me! This is my rep too, Uncle John. You’re about to go back to DC, and you need to stroll in with some killer style, not like some lonely, bored, miserable retired general who’s mooning around, thinking about the glory days. DC has seen plenty of those. You want to blast in there and have the town talking about you.”

“I think that ship already sailed, Kim.”

“Talking about you in a good way. Look, you’re a winter. You shouldn’t be playing about with all these muddy blues.” Kim was flipping through his ties.

“What are you talking about? It’s the middle of summer.”

That got him a pitiful look. Kim stood up and crossed his arms. “What I am talking about is gunmetal gray with teal accents, made by Emporio Armani. What the Army cares about is the work. But you’re about to jump into a new shark tank, Uncle John, and in this shark tank they care about money. I will not have those dickhead bluebloods look down on you because of your clothes. We’re going shopping tonight, after supper.”

John’s mind was flipping frantically through any reasonable excuse. “But what about Abdullah? He just got here.”

“He’s not going anywhere. I know more about this than you.” Kim’s face softened, and he looked at John kindly, a doting smile on his face. “I know more about this than you, and I’m not going to argue anymore. We’re going to buy a new suit, along with two shirts and ties, and one leisure outfit. I repeat, I will not argue with you. I know there is available credit on your Navy Federal Visa. You paid off the furniture already. If you argue with me,” he said, holding up a hand to stop John, “I am going to start going to the plasma bank and I will sell blood until I have paid back every cent I spent on the couch.” John had no doubt, looking at the angle of his jaw, that Kim meant every word.

What the hell was a leisure outfit? John looked down at himself, jeans and a faded chambray shirt. Kim closed his eyes as if he were in pain.

“These are weapons, Uncle John.” Kim was speaking as if John were a little slow. “This is a new war, and these are your weapons.”

Review: The Astral Mage (The Captains Of The Wolf #1) by Hurri Cosmo

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Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

The Astral Mage coverKyruis has had a life full of woe.  Shuffled from one foster family to the next, unwanted because he is different, a freak of nature, Kyruis has never felt safe, never been safe a day in his life. Kyruis a wanted man. He’s an Astral Mage, better known as a “Soul Giver”, a race of people who can bring people, animals, things back to life by reattaching their energy or souls.  Now most people believe that Astral Mages are but a myth so few exist in the galaxy.  But for those who know better,  the Astral Mages are captured and traded for the highest fee and that is Kyruis’ current fate.

Kyruis is a prisoner on a spaceship, captured and sold to the highest bidder when pirates attack the ship he is on.  Captain Tilbarr of the spaceship Wolf brings Kyruis on board his ship, he has no idea that not only has he found a true Astral Mage but also the one person who makes him feel alive and in love.  But the Confederated Authority, the governing body for planets, is hot on their trail and it wants Kyruis at any cost.  Just as Tilbarr realizes how much he has come to care for Kyruis, Tilbarr also realizes that he might have to give the Astral Mage up or lose his ship and his friends in the bargain.  When the Captain must choose between love and loyalty to his crew, can there be any winner?

The Astral Mage is the first book I have read by this author and it appears to be the first in a science fiction series.  However, I think that although this book shows some promise, I will be stopping here with The Astral Mage.  Let’s go over some of the more winning aspects of the story.  Cosmo works very hard at building a detailed and interesting universe in which to place the story.  At the end of the book, the author has placed a  complex and lengthy Terms and Definitions section that covers construction  elements and minerals, names of the Wolf’s crew to extinct bird species and insects.  One glance at this part of the book and you have the pros and cons of this author’s writing.  Hurri Cosmo is so absorbed in her world building that minutiae that is not relevant to the story basics is included but not a lot of information about the titular race of the story. For example, here is her entry for Screaming Vulture Beasts:

Screaming Vulture Beasts: They are large birds that live in several of the extremely deep craggy valleys that exist on Velel. They are brutal beasts that rip apart their living prey when they capture it, usually in flight. Ancient history of the planet denoted tribes would throw livestock off the cliffs to keep the beasts fed so they would not feed on the people. In modern day, though, the beasts have become wary of the people knowing they can and will kill them if they come close. There are warning systems in place that warn the towns and cities as well if the birds approach. They have become more of a tourist attraction although to get close enough to watch them feed is still considered very dangerous and ultimately stupid.

To be honest, I don’t even remember them in the story as interesting as they sound. But this story is so jammed packed with “stuff” that the important facts and issues are overlooked. There are pages of entries like this. But her entry for the Mages? This is the sum total, already given in the same words in the story:

Astral Mage: The Soul Givers. There are also “carriers”, who are the only ones able to give birth to an Astral Mage. The blood line started to dissipate due to inter-relations with other species. A full-blooded carrier is rare and full-blooded Astral Mages are even rarer.

The author gets so lost in the extraneous details that she forgets the focus of her story is that of the Astral Mages and that happens from the beginning.  We begin the story of The Astral Mage with Kyrius a prisoner on a spaceship rocketing to a destination where he is to be handed off to some unnamed buyer.  Kyruis is a rare almost mythical creature but the Captain of that ship treats him as he would a whore.  This makes no sense considering the fees that are being paid for Kyruis and has been inserted to bring a prurient angle to the story.   You know the author is in trouble when things so south right from the beginning.  Then the story switches focus from Kyrius to Tilbarr, the Captain of the Wolf who attacks the ship Kyrius is on and the book becomes The Captain of the Wolf (The Astral Mage #1) instead of the other way around.  And once the attention is on Tilbarr and his feelings about the mage, it remains there for the rest of the story.  While the reader is patiently waiting to learn more about the Mages, their history, genetic makeup, anything about mages, we get more information about cargos, and metals, and insects and things we really don’t care about.   One of the first things I wanted to know was why only one type of mage?  That doesn’t make any sense either.  Surely if there is one type of gift or magic, there are others.  But as we are given absolutely no information, who knows?

Then there are the characterizations.  Cosmo can’t decide if Kyruis is a young, innocent victim in need of a savior or a sexually experienced being with hidden resources and strengths, wounded faun or clever mouse, child or sex object.  Cosmo swings back and forth between the two with a rapidity that will give the reader whiplash.  The same divided characterization haunts  Tilbarr as well, seasoned pirate or gullible sailor with a need for love?  Honestly, the wavering characteristics make it hard to believe in any of the characters you meet while reading this story. That lack of believability has always meant a lack of connectivity for the reader as well and it shows here.

So while there are some nice points and creative aspects to The Astral Mage, in the end it is overwhelmed by too many extraneous details, weak characters, and a missing focal point.  I would give this a pass, there are better m/m science fiction stories out there.

Cover design by Lee Tiffin doesn’t make any more sense than the book does.

ebook, 243 pages
Published March 16th 2013 by Silver Publishing
ISBN 161495903X (ISBN13: 9781614959038)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttps://spsilverpublishing.com/the-astral-mage-ebook-p-1414.html
seriesThe Captains Of The Wolf

Review: Masked Riders by Lucius Parhelion

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Masked RidersWhen ex union cavalryman and now California rancher Jesse Putnam is summoned by his wealthy aunt and boss to come to San Francisco for a meeting.  he uses the night before to visit a bawdy hotel where he  could satiate his illegal desires for men.  But  nothing prepared Jesse to seeing his sexual companion of the previous night standing in his aunt’s office, apparently an employee of hers as well.

Wardley Bridger, now his colleague, is there to help Jesse investigate the peculiar goings on at the ranch in California  where the profits are less than they should be and rumors are rife over bad management as well as potential illegalities.  Previous investigators have come up empty handed so the men are going in undercover as ranch hands to see if they can ferret out the truth.

On s their journey south on a trail that  stretches out from the dusty Pueblo of Angles into the brush-covered hills of Ranchero Los Robles, Jesse and Wardley find they have much in common, from a love of fine literature to beautiful horses and finally a illegal sexuality that they don’t have to hide from each other.  When a ghost rider appears at the ranch, threatening their investigation, Wardley and Jesse find that the truth jeopardizes evverything, including their burgeoning love affair.

Lucius Parhelion is one of the first names that pop into my head when someone asks for a recommendation for m/m historical fiction about the American West.  Parhelion’s stories are told with an authentic, dry tone that seems to come up  from the very soil and arid climate of the land the characters ride over and exist on.  The author’s stories are factual, full of information and dates that locate the story in a specific time and place.  But these details always serve to enhance rather than obfuscate or weigh down the discourse.  Here is a sample:

Jesse shut the ledger hard enough to stir the smoky air. Above them, the nine years of accumulated spider webs that gave the Cobweb Palace its name, swayed gently. The proprietor felt that spiders were lucky. The patron confronted by a spider might or might not agree.

“I assume that our leaving the steamer before San Pedro would have something to do with obtaining mounts.”

“Well, there are horses a-plenty at the Playa Negra, but given what Mrs. Gifford said to me about due speed, I can’t see her being happy with our taking the time to ride all the way down from north of Santa Barbara to Los Robles.” Bridger shook his head while smiling, a rather mild reaction to Ada.”

Parhelion easily inserts the name of The Cobweb  Palace, an establishment that opened up in 1856  at the foot of Meigg’s Wharf , in a lovely blend of fact and fiction, a trademark of this author I have come to expect from all of Parhelion’s stories.

Masked Riders is composed of 11 chapters, each with an amusing and old sounding title, such as Chapter VIII   — You May Lead a Man Towards Aiming, but You Cannot Make Him Hit.  The opening paragraph is perfectly suited to title and content:

If there was one lesson Jesse had been grateful to learn during the late rebellion, it was the difficulty of actually hitting a man with a bullet. He’d never expected to feel that particular gratitude again. He’d been wrong.

There are many issues discussed within the story, plight of the Celestials as the Chinese were called as well as the freed slaves who came west after the war was over.  Parhelion gives the reader a real feel for the state of western society and the many layers it was comprised of through descriptions that paint such a vivid portrait of the people and land that I could almost feel like I was walking the streets or riding along the trails. The author’s characters are as strong as the historical setting they find themselves in.  From Jesse and Wardley to Aunt Ada, a tower of strength and intellect in a diminutive body, all are fully fleshed out and totally human.

At  90 pages, I always end up wishing for more of a drawn out resolution to issues the men find at the ranch, although the ending was perfect in its realism and tone.  If you love westerns, this is for you.  If you love beautifully done historical novels, this is for you.  If you love a realistically portrayed growing affection that turns into something more, than this is for you.  Masked Riders is a wonderful introduction to the works of Lucius Parhelion.  Don’t pass it or the author’s other works up.

Cover illustration by BS Clay.  Beautiful cover, luscious, and perfect  for the trail to the ranch and a relationship.

Review: On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

On A Lee Shore coverWhen his last ship is lost at sea and he is the only officer to survive,  Lt Christopher “Kit” Penrose finds his reputation tarnished, leaving him unable to secure a new position on another ship.  Things are looking grim when his godfather, Admiral Tregarne of the Navy Office suggests that Kit work as an aide to Sir George Wilberforce, traveling on the Hypatia on a mission for the Navy.  Kit is desperate to get back to sea and accepts the job, even though it means he is little more than a lackey in the eyes of the other sailors.

At sea, the Hypatia is attacked by pirates and three men of the Hypatia are taken aboard the pirate ship, Africa, impressed into joining the pirates crew or suffer dire consequences.  One of those men is Kit whose training as a sailing master is highly prized by pirates in need of his skills.  The Captain of the Africa is the notorious pirate, La Griffe, known as Griffin to his crew.  Forced to obey the Captain and live by the pirates rules, Kit soon realizes that not all of his assumptions about pirates and the pirate life are correct.   These pirates seem honorable, leaving the ships and crews they attack alive and able to sail away once the pirates have taken the booty they want off the ship.   Captain Griffin is a real enigma, intolerant of abuse, a graduate of Cambridge, he is honorable in a way Kit never expected.  Griffin is also very handsome, and charming when the occasion arises, leaving Kit confused and if he were to admit it, attracted to the man in every way.

The longer Kit stays on board, the less sure he becomes about where his loyalties lie.  Is it with the Admiralty and the Navy or with Griffin, the Africa and a crew that now welcomes him as one of their own.  And his heart is just as confused as his head.  Things come to a head when another pirate ship clashes with their own, and Kit must make a decision that will haunt him no matter which way he decides.

What a glorious book!  I picked it up and immediately found myself at sea on a vessel so yar she sped through the waves like a porpoise, sails booming in the wind and the mast creaking as the ship rocked in the currents.  Elin Gregory plunges us into a world where the British Navy ruled the seas, the East India Company is doing brisk trade and pirates are taking advantage of the situation by plundering every shipping lane of the era. And Gregory does so by rendering the time period and events taking place in vivid detail along with marvelous descriptions that bring it alive on every page.  Elin Gregory has gathered her historical facts and blended them beautifully with her fiction to create a sumptious banquet for the mind and soul.

When she describes Kit on his way to Moorgate, you can understand why the sea would have its appeal to a Cornishman like Kit:

Kit had been aware of the clock chiming when he left Mother Carey’s. He had not caught the hour, but he knew it was late, not perhaps midnight but certainly eleven. The streets were busy. Night soil carts and delivery drays headed out against the tide of incomers bringing goods from the countryside to the city. Men pushed barrows, horses and oxen strained against their harnesses. Lanterns flickering above doorways and on corners and torches carried by linkboys accompanying chairs, coaches, and pedestrians, made great leaping shadows in which anything could lurk. Kit walked quickly and with care. It was important to stay alert. Too many of his acquaintance had been robbed after such a night out. He kept to the broadest roads and had climbed most of Gracechurch Street before he was approached.

“Call you a chair, sir?”  The linkboy was a dirty scrap of a youth with bony wrists showing at the cuffs of his jacket. He bounded along at Kit’s side, torch bobbing.”Or I could light your way. Only a farthing, sir. I’ll see you right.”

Contemplating shoes soaked in horse piss or worse, Kit gave the boy a short nod. “I’m bound for close to Moorgate. If that is too far, best say now.”

“Ha’penny if you want me to take you past the Wall, sir.”

“Fair enough.” Kit agreed and placed the boy on the inside of the pavement. A half penny wasn’t cheap, but the light was welcome.

You can almost feel the grime and filth of the streets climbing up Kit’s boots.  Kit’s plain outfit is in direct contrast to his best friend, Tristan, a diamond if ever there was one.

“Ah, there you are!” Tristan set his three-cornered hat on his glossy curls and tucked his hand into Kit’s elbow. “Good man, good man. Dear Lord, as you love me, Kit, smaller strides.”

“If the shoes hurt why are you wearing them?” Kit asked, moderating his pace. “They make you walk like an old duchess with corns.”

Tristan snorted. “Fashion, dear boy. If one wants to do well at work it’s best to look as though one has no financial worries. As long as they all think I’m being very good at what I do on a whim, they’ll keep promoting me to try to pique my interest.”

“Bloody silly reason for promotion,” Kit growled, and Tristan gave his arm an affectionate squeeze.

“Maybe you should try it?” he suggested. “You look like a Quaker. That’s not going to give them any faith in your fighting spirit, now is it?”

Kit glanced at Tristan’s tightly curled wig, his exquisitely fitted coat, the riot of embroidery on his waistcoat, those ridiculous shoes whose heels brought Tristan up to equal Kit’s height. Kit own attire, mostly shades of sensible hard-wearing brown, including his own naturally curly hair, did look penny-pinched in comparison.

Before you realize it, you are walking shoulder to shoulder with Kit, taking the clothes, mannerisms and news of the day as commonplace as Kit finds them.  And it’s not just Gregory’s ability to make history come alive that pulls the reader into the story, it’s her characters and plot as well.

Every character you will meet in this book is as unique an individual as any I have met in real life.  Whether they be scoundrel like Captain Wells or loved, somewhat addled pirate Denny, all will be remembered after the story is done and most of them quite fondly too.  I love the complexities to each character.  Each pirate and each Naval officer have their own merits as well as seedy elements to their character.  Some are horrific, no matter which side of the law they are on.  And the of life of a sailor can switch from an easy berth to one of hardship and abuse depending upon the captain and crew.  Equally amazing is the ages that young men went to sea, as early as 8 or so.  It is all here, a even handed portrait of life on the sea, made all the more remarkable because it is a backdrop or foundation for both a love story and tale of adventure and not the focus of the story itself.

On The Lee Shore is not your typical love story.  Remember, during that age, it is not only dishonorable but a hanging offense to love other men. So it is not surprising that Kit pushes down his “unnatural” desires at the beginning, hiding them in furtive glances and nameless encounters.  But the pirates ways and expansive viewpoint, along with a certain Captain, starts to free Kit from his conventional notions and the reader is along every step of the way.  It is a realistic journey with nary a case of “instalove” in sight.  Kit and Griffin engage in a slow dance around each other, complicated by their stations aboard ship, Kit’s identity as a Naval officer as well as Griffin’s as a pirate.  There are other obstacles as well, but I will leave that joy of discovery to the reader.

Within this book, you will find fast paced action, breath taking adventure, piracy on the high seas, booming cannons and a future fraught with danger and pain as well as love.  Trust me, once you pick this book up, you won’t want to put it down.  I didn’t and once finished, wanted to start the journey all over again.

I had to look up the nautical term “lee shore”, and found that it meant a shore, towards which the wind is blowing, and to which there is the danger of being driven aground on shoals or reefs.  A lee shore is to be avoided, and yet Kit feels himself to be on a lee shore throughout most of the story, uncertain, sometimes adrift in his emotions and thoughts.  But Elin Gregory knows her craft and you can be sure she leaves her men sailing smoothly into fresh waters under clear skies, their future interesting as their times.  I really wish I could be there for the rest of their journey, but I am delighted with the tale I got.  You will be too.

Published By
Etopia Press
1643 Warwick Ave., #124
Warwick, RI 02889
http://www.etopia-press.net
On A Lee Shore
Copyright © 2012 by Elin Gregory
ISBN: 978-1-939194-44-2
Edited by Jennifer Fitzpatrick
Cover by Mina Carter is just outstanding and matches perfectly with the story within.

Review: Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Into This River I DrownBenji Green is still trying to cope with the loss of his father, Big Eddie Green.  Big Eddie was not only Benji’s father, “the best Father in the whole wide world”, but Big Eddie was also his best friend, his confidant, the person who kept Benji centered, made him feel loved and safe.  It’s been five years since his death by drowning when his truck overturned in a river but to his son it feels like yesterday. Benji tried leaving to go to college but it didn’t work out. Now back in Roseland, Oregon, Benji runs Big Eddie’s Gas and Convenience, just as his father had before dying when Benji was 16.

Benji lives with his mother and her two sisters in the house he grew up.  He is surrounded by places and things that constantly remind him of Big Eddie and he often feels as though his life stopped when his father’s did.  Benji’s nights have always been haunted by nightmares of the river in which his father drowned, mile marker 77 and images of blue feathers swirling around as the waters raged higher.  Benji’s days are haunted too. Fleeting touches of a hand pressed to his neck and grasping his shoulder, a feeling as though someone is there beside him yet when he  turns there is nothing.  But lately, the nightmares have grown worse, more intense until Benji’s feels like he is drowning just like his father.  Sometimes the images come to him during the day, leaving Benji uncertain as to what is real and what  is not.

The whole of Roseland is beginning to feel as though it is waiting, waiting for something to happen.  And when it does, when improbably a man falls from the sky, leaving an impression of wings on the ground, then everything changes for Benji and everyone around him.   This is that story.

It has taken me several weeks before I thought I could make an attempt to write a somewhat rational, less impassioned review of this book.  Trust me this is not the one that would have been written after I completed reading Into This River I Drown for the first time, or even the second time.  I love books and rarely react to them in a dispassionate manner.  I like some, love some, feel disappointed by others and on some occasions, feel so disconnected to the stories, that I feel nothing, a deadly reaction to be sure. Authors never set down to write a story where the reaction by a reader is “huh, I could have been doing my laundry” but I have come across some of those in my time as well.  Into This River I Drown has certainly engendered a multitude of strong feelings in me, because rarely am I absolutely furious with some authors and their stories.  And I will say right now that this book absolutely infuriated me, it had me bawling my eyes out as it pulled feelings about my father and my relationship to him, and had me nodding my head in acknowledgement if not agreement on some issues of faith and religion.  I feel in some parts this is a milestone work for T.J. Klune and a book that undercut itself at the end.  Does this sound like an emotional rollercoaster of a ride?  It should because that is exactly what this book is about.

After having read all of Mr. Klune’s previous works, from BOATK to Burn, and including Tell Me It’s Real, I was not prepared for the tone and narrative that I found within Into This River I Drown (ITRID).  All the characters of the BOATK universe have singular voices that identify them immediately.  The same goes for the scattered, funny and somewhat frazzled outlook of Paul Auster and his friend, Helena Handbasket, from Tell Me It’s Real.  And while Burn is my least favorite story this author has written, I could still tell that it was one of TJ Klune’s by the characters involved and their dialog.  But in ITRID, TJ Klune takes his writing to another higher level.

I found his characters to be richer, with more depth and dimension than anything he has given us to date.  Whether it is Benji, his aunt Nina who is so special in so many ways or his friend Abe, these people will speak to your heart as well as your mind. Now don’t get me wrong I love Bear and the Kid, they are outstanding. But the people of Roseland are something different indeed.  You will find yourself involved in their lives, connected to the town in ways you could never imagine.  There are only a few imperfections that I could see, one that jumps quickly to mind is the character Gabriel who seems far too contemporary rather than unworldly,  Same goes for the Strange Men as they are called. But more than that I cannot say which is very frustrating for a reviewer who does not want to give away spoilers.  This entire book is a spoiler, something I have never really run into before.  Almost any detail I could refer to might be the one spoiler that reveals a significant plot point to the reader.  And I won’t do that.

Into This River I Drown also brings an intense, emotionally laden group of topics at its subject matter.  First and foremost is that of the father and son dynamics, something that has been the focus of many memorable books, poems and movies, whether you are talking about Field of Dreams or the New Testament.  At times I felt as though my heart was being pulled out of my throat, some passages hurt so bad.  Here is an example:

EDWARD BENJAMIN GREEN “BIG EDDIE”

BELOVED HUSBAND AND FATHER

MAY 27 1960—MAY 31 2007

Fifteen words. Fifteen words is all there is to describe the man who was my father. Fifteen words are all that is left of him. Fifteen words that do nothing. They do nothing to show what kind of man he was. They do nothing to show how when he was happy, his green eyes lit up like fireworks. They do nothing to show how heavy his arm felt when he’d drop it on my shoulder as we walked. They do nothing to show the lines that would form on his forehead when he concentrated. They do nothing to show the immensity of his heart. The vastness that was his soul. Those fifteen words say nothing.

The only time my mother and I ever really quarreled in our lives, with any heat behind it, was deciding what his marker would say. She wanted it to be simple, to the point, like the man himself. He wouldn’t want the superfluous, she told me. He didn’t need more.

I railed against her for this, anger consuming me like fire. How dare you! I shouted. How dare she keep it so short? How could she not make it go on and on and on until those who made such markers would have to harvest an entire mountain for there to be enough room to say what he was, what my father had stood for in his life, all that he had accomplished? How could anyone understand the measure of a man when those fifteen words said nothing about him?

Into this treatise on father and son relationships TJ Klune adds the issues of faith, family and religion. Through Benji and the townspeople of Roseland the author expounds on God, religion and faith, especially their effects on those who have lost their belief in all three.  Even if you are a non-religious person like myself, you will still find yourself lost in thought as one element after another is presented for examination and discussion.  I found this element to be as strong in feeling and discourse as the central focus of fathers and sons.  For me, there were some minor missteps when the plot turns to the heavenly aspects of the story but otherwise its inclusion was just as well done as the rest of the story.

So why was I furious? One reason and one reaon only.  Towards the end of the book, TJ Klune ties ITRID into his Burn series, making this almost a prequel of sorts.  I was beyond flabbergasted when certain Burn elements were remarked upon by characters in this book, features such as the character Seven, a child who burns and sentences such as “The Split One has crossed into Metatron’s field.”  Really?  Why was it necessary to take this book and make it part of Burn?  Other readers won’t find this objectionable but as I was less than enthralled with his world building and characters within that budding series, to find it pulled in at the last minute to this story, well I found it appalling, almost negating the importance of the father son relationship so the author could set the stage for actions to follow in the Burn series.  Infuriating actually as I said before.  Still do.

However jarring I found this aspect of the book to be, the rest of the story still contains so much beauty, heartache and spellbinding storytelling, that if I were you, I would overlook that element and take Into This River I Drown for the remarkable work of fiction it is.   Here is Benji remembering the last time he saw his father:

 He lifted his hand from my shoulder and ruffled my hair. I didn’t know it then, but that touch, those fingers in my hair, would be the last time I would feel my father alive. I would see him again, but he’d be cold under my hand, life long since departed.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have clung to him. I would have looked him in the eyes to see that spark of mischief, that undying intelligence that belied his gruff exterior. If I’d known the inevitable, I would have said everything I felt in my heart and soul. I would have told him thank you for being my father. I would have said that if I’m ever going to be a good man, it’s going to be because of the way he’d raised me. I would have said that building Little House together and fixing up that old Ford until it was so cherry were the best times of my life. I would have said that I didn’t think I’d be able to go on without him.

I would have told him I loved him.

But I didn’t. I didn’t because I didn’t know. I didn’t even say good night. Or good-bye.

How can that not leave you in tears?  Writing like that is the reason I love books.  Writing like that is the reason I will tell you to pick this one up and read it more than once.  Into This River I Drown is a remarkable story, full of life’s greatest joys and greatest sorrows.  Don’t pass this book by. Let it make you furious or sad or happy or any of the  other emotions it will pull out of you.  Because it will be worth it.

Cover Photo by Kyle Thompson, Cover Design by Paul Richmond.  This emotionally charged cover is perfection.  One of the best of the year that I have seen so far in marrying composition to story to great impact.

ebook, 400 pages
Published March 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623804094 (ISBN13: 9781623804091)
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3665

A Cluttered Sunday and the Week Ahead In Reviews

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Somehow I’ve done it again.  It  creeps up on me with all the discretion of a whispering wind, but its effects can feel more like a nor’easter by the time I realize it’s occurred once more.  It starts with one project, maybe overhauling one small section of a garden, then spreads to cleaning out the library, and then, like some  giant amoeba, slides gelatinously over every aspect of my life, sinking me in projects, expanded plans and , oh yes, clutter.  Clutter of the gardens, house, Kindle, and mind, making me plant my butt in my favorite chair, mouth dropped to the floor as I stare in horror at the chaos I have created.

I have ferns, hostas, primroses and toadlilys amassed by the backdoor, the library looks like  the yarn fairy and the book gnome had a brawl, throwing their wares willy nilly around the room, cook books are spread open in the kitchen to various receipes needed to cook for Mothers Day (have to try them out first you know, another thing on my list to do), and Kirby has found the mole holes, gleefully rolling about in the muck.  Dogs to wash, add to list.  My Kindle is loaded with books to read and review.  And I promised one author to beta his book immediately.  So many promises and things waiting for my attention. Then the tsunami arrives.  My father becomes seriously ill due to the effects of new medication.  Things come to a complete standstill until he is home once more.  Then the reality of Dad getting sick (this man never gets sick) hits my Mother, she gets ill, and things remain in status.

Now both parents are back at home and doing well.  But the effects are still reverberating through my life.  As I sit amongst the clutter of my life, I can only think, my parents were seriously ill and I am stunned.  At their age and mine, this should not surprise me, but it does, hitting me with an emotional wallop I was in no way prepared for.

So I need to move forward and start to clear away the chaos that life, generously helped along by moi, has created.  The plants will start to go in the ground  on Wednesday when they say it will be warmer, the books I will tackle one at a time, the library will see its books reshelved and the yarn organized starting tomorrow (ever so slowly), I will apologize to Brandon once more about his novel and get to it, and slowly, ever so slowly order will be restored.  Sigh.  Even without my parents getting ill, I can see that things were getting a little out of control.

How does that happen again?  Oh yeah, life.  I know there are people out there this never happens to.  Organized, compartmentalized gems of folks.  I just don’t know them.  I often wonder what their lives must be like, with uncluttered surfaces that gleam and spotless floors with nary a dog toy in sight.  I do know that will never happen here.  Welcome to my world, lowered expectations!

Now I had a thought at the beginning of this post……I just don’t know where I put it.  It’s somewhere under the yarn or maybe out in the garden.  It’s time to go look for it.  In the meantime while I am gathering up my scattered thoughts, here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, April 22:              Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune (yes really)

Tuesday, April 23:              On A Lee Shore by Elin Gregory

Wed., April 24:                   Masked Riders by Lucius Parhelion

Thursday, April 25:           Unearthing Cole by AM Arthur

Friday, April 26:                 Astral Mage by Hurri Cosmo

Saturday, April 27:             Scattered Thoughts On World Building in Fiction