Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Adapting InstinctsZoologist and primate specialist Carl Anderson’s thoughts are consumed by one man and one kiss whose message remains unclear to Carl.  And it is not just the kiss that has unsettled his life, but  the fact that the man who kissed him was a vampire, one of many who live all around him hidden to most of human society.  This fact was revealed to Carl through events involving his best friend Andreas Nikandros and his vampire lover Titus Antonius Calidus (Loving Instincts).  Those events saw Carl caught between the vampires and the vampire hunters, including another of Carl’s friends, Matthew.  At one point Carl and Andreas were threatened with death and one of Carl’s rescuers was the vampire warrior, Egill Dalgaard.

Egill Dalgaard.  Viking warrior and member of vampire society’s ruling body, the Tribunal, is used to having complete control of his life but one special human has upset his calm and ordered existence.  Egill cannot get Carl Anderson out of his thoughts since he first met the human and helped save his life.  And that one kiss has insured Carl’s place in Egill’s nightly dreams.  There are so many reasons why a continued association with Carl is ill advised and just one reason to do so.  Egill hasn’t felt this way about someone in a very long time, and for that reason alone Egill cannot let this human go.

Carl’s thoughts are still so divided and upset.  There is Matthew, mixed up with the vampire hunters, on one side and Egill Dalgaard, viking vampire on the other.  Carl’s life is now full of fearful glances at the dark, and longing too.  But the vampire hunters are still out there , posing a threat to Carl, Andreas, and the vampires Carl has come to know and respect. Any relationship Carl and Egill might have will be threatened by a variety of forces all around them, including the Tribunal.  Carl has always been afraid of confrontation, but if he wants Egill in his life, then he must decide on which path to take, including one that will take him away from his humanity.

Adapting Instincts is the fourth book in the Instincts series by S.J. Frost, a series that shows continues to deliver wonderful characters and a deepening overall story arch that runs through the entire series to date.  In this latest installation, all of our favorite couples are back and fully involved in this book’s narrative.  We have the original couple of Andreas Nikandros (now a vampire himself) and his eternal partner Titus Antonius Calidus,  Vampire Samurai Ryunosuke Kimura and his vampire lover Daniel Valente (my favorite couple) and now brought into the center are viking vampire Egill Dalgaard and human Carl Anderson, friend and former coworker of Andreas Nikandros.

Adapting Instincts picks up three months after that last events of Loving Instincts (Instincts #3), events that have left reverberations through all the lives of those involved, human and vampire alike.  One of the strengths of S.J. Frost’s writing is her wonderful world building and complex narrative.  While each book normally revolves around one main couple and their romance, multiple plot threads and characters weave themselves throughout the romantic relationship, acting not only as a foundation but as the perpetuator that lends the story momentum and depth. Coexisting with the daily conflicts that arise with being a human, Frost contrasts that with the rigid societal structure of the vampire world.  It makes for a fascinating and absolutely addicting read to see how the two worlds will not only collide but continue to mesh as vampires and humans interact.  The first three books are full of conflict and harrowing events for all the couples involved, so it makes  sense for the fourth book to deal with the aftermath and emotional letdown.  With two exceptions, most of this story concentrates on relationship issues, those between Carl and Egill.  And while that choice simplifies the storyline, it also carries with it a more lightly layered plot as well, lacking the depth and complexity of those books that precedes it.

After the emotional events, that is a very realistic way of dealing with the aftermath of the kidnappings and near death experiences of book 3.  I really enjoy the character of Egill, former viking warrior and formidable vampire lord.  Stolid and controlled, it is lovely to watch such a character react to love entering his life after such a long existence.  Frost does a great job with Egill’s personality, making him both realistically regal and yet vulnerable too in his tightly controlled mien.  Carl, on the other hand, felt a little too passive for me to connect with.  True, he has a poor self image and his need to avoid conflict puts himself and others in terrible situations. It is hard to connect with a character that you want to give a shake to most of the time.  Carl’s indecisiveness is just unattractive to me so it helped immensely that Frost gave us Davy, the Black-headed Spider Monkey.  Davy, along with all the other marvelous animal characters in this series, adds a touch of humor and endearment just when the story needs it the most.  By seeing Carl’s relationship with Davy, it helps connect us to a character that lacks some of the vivid personality traits of the others in the series.  I loved Davy and hope that the author will bring him back into the series somewhere down the line just as she did with Dakarai, Andreas’ lion, and all the other animals who a such a delight in the series.  Here is your first introduction to Davy:

Carl stopped outside the habitat for the spider monkeys. He released the cart’s handles to place his hands on his hips, fixing Davy with a disapproving look. “Really? Is that necessary?”

Davy quit banging the bowl on the mesh and stared up at him with intelligent black eyes.

Carl swore the monkey was trying to play innocent. A smile broke over his lips despite trying to stay stern. It was all Davy needed. The monkey scurried up the mesh to be at eye level with him, reaching through with his left hand, the one missing the index finger. Carl held a finger toward him, and Davy wrapped his others around it. The warm, soft leathery feel of Davy’s palm made him grateful he’d been able to save the monkey’s hand. When Davy and the others came to the zoo, starved and sick from the poor care they’d received in a backyard zoo—or deathtrap, as he called it—Davy’s hand was so infected from a baboon biting his finger off, he didn’t know if he’d be able to save it. But he had, and after months of diligent care, Davy and his brothers were healthy and sassy.

The interplay between man and monkey is telling.  It is humorous, affectionate, and clearly a wonderful relationship.  Even when you are fed up with Carl’s dithering about, moments like this will keep the reader invested in his character and his future.

Is this book a stand alone?  No, it must be read as part of the series and in the order they were written, otherwise key elements will be lost or misconstrued.  I love this series and absolutely recommend it.  Start at the beginning and work your way through.  Instincts shows no hint of slowing down, as new characters are introduced here as well as persons left over from the last book such as Matthew.  And the fact that all the other beloved characters will be there as well is just the icing on the cake.  If you are already invested in this series, I guarantee you will enjoy this book too.  Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) carries the main plot thread forward while satisfying us with another romance completed.  Great job, great story, wonderful series.

Here they are in the order they were written and should be read:

Natural Instincts (Instincts #1)

Enduring Instincts (Instincts #2)

Loving Instincts (Instincts #3)

Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4)

Cover art by Winterheart Designs is evocative in design and tone.  I thought the two landscapes a nice touch.

ebook, 210 pages
Published March 14th 2013 by MLR Press
ISBN 1020130040
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=SJF_ADIN
seriesI

Review: Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Damned If You Do collectionWhat does a male succubus (yes, you read that right, a male succubus) do when he is set free on Earth by an accidental summoning? Why, go looking for his next delightful meal and loads of hot, sexy fun of course.  That is exactly what Rael does after being set free.  But there is another succubus in town, one that is killing the people it is feeding upon, not just enjoying them and leaving them happy.  On the trail of the succubus killer is Detective Lars Thornsson of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency. Lars is half human half Valkyrie and all around gorgeous gay male.  When Det. Thornsson and his hard as nails partner, Chelle Rochelle,  show up at the nightclub looking for the killer show up at the nightclub looking for the killer, Lars has all the club boys drooling. This fact not lost on Rael who decides the detective is just the man for him. Then Lars and Chelle  find Rael instead of the true killer and take him in to headquarters for questioning.  Almost immediately lust and mutual attraction sets in and when the killer sets her sights on Lars, there is nothing Rael will do to keep his man  safe and at his side forever.

The Damned If You Do collection includes all four of the Rael and Lars stories that chart their relationship from beginning to HEA, which is saying a lot when you consider one is a sexy male succubus and the other a half Valkyrie half human. .Listed below is each story and a mini review of each wild zany romp:

Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection is composed of the following four stories which were all initially released separately:

A Calling for Pleasure cover1.  A Calling For Pleasure: The first in the Rael and Lars series.  We see how Rael makes it into our universe, his immediatel impact on Lars and his investigation as well as the start of their relationship.  Wild, wacky, and great fun.  Rael is a charming, sexy and endearing character as his beloved Lars.  Lars is huge and hugely vulnerable, with a sarcastic hard as nails partner  Chelle Rochelle and a wise and wry Police Captain, perfect for keeping within the stated genre and having fun with it.

At 25 pages, it is the shortest story and it shows in the lack of depth in the characterizations and plot.  Its cute, funny and fast.  Really, it just sets the stage for the longer and more involved stories to come and that’s fine when it is in a collection.  You can move on and still be satisfied that you read the first in the series.  It also has my least favorite cover as Rael is described as lithe, gliding and sex on two legs.  That model is just too muscular to be Rael.

Rating: 3.75 stars

Blast From the Past Rael and Lars22. A Blast From The Past: Lars and Rael are living together much to the chagrin of his cop partner, Chelle Rochelle.  Lars continued involvement with Rael is also kept hidden from his captain and coworkers.  Both Lars and Rael are afraid that Rael will be banished back into Hell, something Lars and his squad do with regularity to supernatural offenders.  But this is Rael and trouble is his middle name.  So of course, Rael’s ex boyfriend, Lev, enters the picture, determined to get him back, no matter the cost.  At the same time, someone demonic is setting fires all over the city and its up to Lars and Chelle to find the perpetrator and send him home.

This is such a cute story.  Its short at 68 pages but is still longer than the first story. The plot is more involved, the action swift, and the resolution perfect for the story setting and characters.  Everybody here is over the top in characterization, almost into the parady column but somehow is all works together.  I especially appreciate that with each new investigation, the characters increase in complexity along with the case the book revolves around.  Merrow gives us more back history for each person as the story progresses.  And as we learn additional facts about them, the more fully realized each character becomes.  Also each story also sets the framework for the next in the series.  Great job, and great little story.

Rating: 4 stars

3. A  Wish Too Far Lars and Rael 3A Wish Too Far:  Someone is peddling little pink pills out on the streets.  Those pills, called Wishes, are exactly what the Chinese philosopher has in mind when he said “Be careful what you wish for” because the wish always comes with a painful twist.  Det. Lars Thornsson and his partner Chelle Rochelle of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency  need to find the pill pusher and fast before someone is seriously injured. Rael thinks he knows the drug dealer but why would his cross dressing childhood friend do something like this?  Lars and Chelle’s case goes off the tracks quickly when Rael gets involved but the outcome will shock everyone in the case.

This 73 page story has a little more depth and pathos to it.  The cross dressing being, Shax, is a more vulnerable character with a darker past then we have seen in the previous stories.  The author manages to bring a more fully realized character into the fold while still keeping the humor intact.  Again the story is fast paced, the action and plot threads twisting around  faster than you can shake a canister of salt at it, and the ending is one I didn’t see coming.  My  second favorite story of the group.

Rating 4.25 stars.

Damned If you Do Glutton for Punishment4. A Glutton For Punishment: Once again Rael is the center of attention and it gets him nothing but trouble.  Rael and Lars relationship remains in the closet.  Unhappy with hiding, Rael takes to cooking for his man and is soon discovered as Rael’s talent for gourmet cooking lands him a job on the popular show Devon’s Plate as a guest chef.  But when the show’s host, Devon LaGrande goes missing, all suspicions land on Rael as the cause. With Rael being the center (again) of one of Lars’ investigation, Rael has to move out of their apartment and pretend to be his coworker’s partner, much to his and Lars chagrin.  Then Rael starts to receive threatening letters and the search is on to find the person responsible before Rael disappears too.

At 136 pages, this is the longest and most complicated story of the group.  There are several plot threads being juggled here, and the author does a great job of keeping us involved and in the loop, no matter how crazy a direction the story takes, and it takes quite a few.  Rael has become more than a sexy caricature of a succubus by this time and the reader is more invested in his and Lars future.  Lars and Chelle also have more dimension to them and as the story brings all the threads together in a happy ending, the reader leaves more than satisfied that Rael and Lars have a wonderful future ahead of them.  My  favorite story of the group.

Rating: 5 stars

I think this group of stories works best as a  collection than as separate books.  Had I purchased them separately and read them that way the individual story ratings might have been lower.  But because I was able to read them one after the other, the plots and increasing character depth flowed smoothly together and made for a very satisfactory read.  This is not a collection to be taken seriously.  It is to be enjoyed as the lighthearted fun romp that it is and who doesn’t need one or four of those?

I love J.L. Merrow as an author.  She has the ability to write this lighthearted romp and then pull us into the darker stories like her wonderful Pricks and Pragmatism without so much as a blink of an eye or should that be flick of a key?  If you are a first time Merrow reader, enjoy this paranormal series for the fun it represents and then start in with her other stories, perhaps Trick of Time, another favorite of mine.  I am sure you will be adding this author to your must read list shortly thereafter.  She is definitely one of mine.

Book details:

Ebook, Paperback, 280 pages
Expected publication: June 24th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626490236 (ISBN13: 9781626490239)
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/collections/damned-if-you-do-complete-collection
series

Review: Moments by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Moments coverJacob Riley, star of the time traveling TV series End Game has messed up again.  Issues with drug addiction, alcohol and sex have left Jacob Riley disenfranchised from all around him, family, friends, even business associates.  Jacob has done jail time and been in and out of rehabilitation clinics to little affect on him and further disillusionment to those desperately trying to help him.  Jacob remains deep in denial about taking responsibility for his current situation as he is arrested again.  Now his TV series is on hiatus and his career foundering because of his self destructive habits and bad attitude. No one wants to continue working with him and his father sees only one way out for his son.  That would be Mac’s , an education and support center located in the low income  area of L.A. run by Ethan Myers.

Ethan Myers opened Mac’s as a way to deal with the death of his partner and to  continue contributing to the needs of those around him, just as his partner Mac would have wanted.  But while Mac’s is successful in its mission, Ethan and the center face numerous problems from the safety inspector who wants to shut them down because of needed repairs to the gang members hanging around the area.  Ethan Myers thinks the last thing he needs to deal with is a spoiled, drug addled brat of an actor but the check Jacob’s father hands Ethan is too big and too necessary for their survival to turn down.

The first meeting is nothing but a clash of wills and preconceptions with the first round going to Ethan.  But there is four months to get through and neither man wants to admit his growing attraction to the other.  Between strong wills and need, will Jacob learn to accept that love and responsibility is the key to his future or  will his past pull him and Ethan down for good?

RJ Scott has a clear eyed view of addiction and its effects on the person in the center but all of those around them.  Moments pulls us into the ugly mindset of Jacob at the beginning of the story, making it clear to the reader what his self destructive life style is costing him and how it is hurting those next to him.  Jacob is deep in self denial, easily placing the blame for all his problems everywhere but where it belongs, on himself.  Jacob is a dislikable piece of work, and Scott has done her homework on addictions when creating a portrait of a man whose life is spiraling out of control.  It is realistic, and absolutely believable.  It will take half the story before the reader will start to connect with Jacob but we do and then we start to hope that he will find his way clear.

Scott’s other characters are equally complex and endearing, from Ethan to those secondary characters whose lives are enriched by Mac’s. Scott gives the reader a real feel for the spirit of community that exists in such a situation as well as the dangers that are inherent by locating the center near active gang influences.  The author has a number of plot threads in motion in the story, almost too many to fully explore in this length book. I could wish that the gang element had been enlarged, especially considering the importance it plays in the lives of three characters so central to  the story.  Certain gang members appear, act accordingly as gangs would and then disappear for the rest of the novel.  And another surprising element occurs late in the story with no hint that it might occur earlier in the narrative.  It would have been nice to have laid a foundation for such actions earlier because for me to have that person act as they did made no sense as far as their personality and character was concerned.  Sorry to be vague, but necessary so as not to give away any spoilers.

But those concerns aside, Moments has a terrific story to tell and RJ Scott delivers it concisely, and with great clarity about her subject.  I connected with these characters and that kept me by their sides every step of the way to the end.  Don’t hesitate to pick this one up!

Cover art by Posh Gosh is lovely but I can’t think what it has to do with the storyline.  And yes, he has his hands on his pants, get out your glasses!

Book Details:

294 pages

ebook
Published February 25th 2013 by Total-E-Bound (first published October 23rd 2010 by Silver Publishing)

Memorial Day

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Thoughts on Memorial Day…

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep – Mary Frye (1932)

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow;
I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain;
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush;
I am in the graceful rush.

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.

I am the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

The month of May has always been a month of celebrations, from Mother’s Day to birthdays to important anniversaries. For me and mine, May is a time for family, either by choice or blood, and of any configuration.  For me, it is a time to celebrate those that I love, whether it is their birth, or mine and my sister’s (for my Mother), and anniversaries which helped bring all of us together.  And if the weather cooperates, than even my gardens appear to be celebrating as the azaleas, dogwoods, and all the flowers burst into pastel hues in anticipation of the intense colors of summer.

With all of these emotions and thoughts directed towards celebrating those we love for most of the month, it  seems more than fitting to end May with Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembrance of those who lost their lives keeping us safe and making it possible to celebrate all those birthdays, and anniversaries of people and  families we hold so dear.  My grandfather is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and this year, we buried my uncle close to him in a ceremony so moving that people were stopped all over the vast landscape as the sounds of the gun salute rang out over the hills and the trumpet played Taps.

Vietnam Vet Memorial 2Rolling Thunder passes by my parents farm every year on their way into the District and my father, a veteran of the Korean war, goes outside and salutes them as they pass by.  Our media here in the metropolitan area is full of pictures and videos marking the solemn day of remembrance as flags are put at every grave at Arlington and the crowds swell at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as that of the World War II one nearby.  If you have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, then you have not experienced the power and overwhelming sense of loss that pervades that site. The  Wall itself a marker of the high cost of valor and service to our country in the names of the men and women lost reflected back to us.  In that black stone reflection, we see the list of names in chronological order and our own reflections, the recipients of their sacrifice.  For me, never has a memorial to our dead felt so alive, awash in grief, and sorrow and gratitude.Vietnam Vet Memorial

For most people, this weekend brings barbecues and picnics, gatherings of families and friends.  Take a moment and some quiet if you can, and remember.  Remember and pause to thank those who lie buried here and abroad, claimed and unnamed, for their sacrifice.  Because whether we acknowledge it or not, it is being reflected back to us across the picnic blankets and tables just as much as it is from the black wall itself.

Enjoy your Memorial weekend for those of you who live in the US or Americans abroad.  Spare some thoughts and prayers for those now gone and for those they left behind.

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.

-Sir Walter Scott

Arlington Cemetary overview

A Time for Remembering, Memorial Weekend and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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The month of May has always been a month of celebrations, from Mother’s Day to birthdays to important anniversaries. For me and mine, May is a time for family, either by choice or blood, and of any configuration.  For me, it is a time to celebrate those that I love, whether it is their birth, or mine and my sister’s (for my Mother), and anniversaries which helped bring all of us together.  And if the weather cooperates, than even my gardens appear to be celebrating as the azaleas, dogwoods, and all the flowers burst into pastel hues in anticipation of the intense colors of summer.

With all of these emotions and thoughts directed towards celebrating those we love for most of the month, it  seems more than fitting to end May with Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembrance of those who lost their lives keeping us safe and making it possible to celebrate all those birthdays, and anniversaries of people and  families we hold so dear.  My grandfather is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and this year, we buried my uncle close to him in a ceremony so moving that people were stopped all over the vast landscape as the sounds of the gun salute rang out over the hills and the trumpet played Taps.

Rolling Thunder passes by my parents farm every year on their way into the District and my father, a veteran of the Korean war, goes outside and salutes them as they pass by.  Our media here in the metropolitan area is full of pictures and videos marking the solemn day of remembrance as flagsVietnam Vet Memorial 2 are put at every grave at Arlington and the crowds swell at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as that of the World War II one nearby.  If you have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, then you have not experienced the power and overwhelming sense of loss that pervades that site. The  Wall itself a marker of the high cost of valor and service to our country in the names of the men and women lost reflected back to us.  In that black stone reflection, we see the list of names in chronological order and our own reflections, the recipients of their sacrifice.  For me, never has a memorial to our dead felt so alive, awash in grief, and sorrow and gratitude.Vietnam Vet Memorial

For most people, this weekend brings barbecues and picnics, gatherings of families and friends.  Take a moment and some quiet if you can, and remember.  Remember and pause to thank those who lie buried here and abroad, claimed and unnamed, for their sacrifice.  Because ,whether we acknowledge it or not, it is being reflected back to us across the picnic blankets and tables just as much as it is from the black wall itself.

Now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, 5/27:                     Memorial Day

Tuesday, 5/28                      Damned If You Do Collection by JL Merrow

Wednesday, 5/29:               Moments by R.J. Scott

Thursday, 5/30:                  Adapting Instincts by SJ Frost

Friday, 5/31:                        May Summary of Book Reviews

Saturday, 6/1:                       A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven

There you have it.  Enjoy your Memorial weekend for those of you who live in the US or Americans abroad.  Spare some thoughts and prayers for those now gone and for those they left behind.

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.

-Sir Walter Scott

Arlington Cemetary overview

Review: The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

The Unforgiving MinuteRyan Betancourt has finally made it, all of his hard work has finally paid off and he is on the World Tour with many of the star players he grew up watching and idolizing.  One of those players is Josh Andrews, the star of the tour and current golden boy of tennis.  Ryan has had a huge crush on Josh since the first time Ryan saw Josh play a match.  So Ryan is eager to meet his idol, and is crushed when his first encounter is with a cold, aloof Josh surrounded by his retinue.  Ryan has always approached tennis the same way he has people, with an open heart, and no suspicions about ulterior motives or possible head games.

Josh Andrews can never remember a time when he has not played tennis.  He has a obsessive former tennis champ as a father who has directed his childhood and every moment as an adult to one goal, winning tennis games.  Sidelined by a knee injury, Josh is now back on track to win, no matter the costs.  A life spent on the courts means Josh is well aware of the negative aspects of the  game, from court politics to the ways the unwary can be hurt by those around them.  Josh is not eager to open himself up to anyone outside his circle, let alone an up and coming unknown.

Ryan’s manner of playing and his attitude has turned him into a crowd favorite and that same attitude has him returning back to the one player who holds him at arms length, the closeted Josh.  As Ryan slowly breaks down Josh’s defenses, a true friendship and then more develops.  But the sharks are circling on and around the courts, including one who intends to take them both down.  As the stresses build, can Ryan and Josh continue to win at tennis and finally at love?

I loved every page of The Unforgiving Minute and it was another book I didn’t stop reading until it was over.   Sarah Grainger uses the world of professional tennis to give us a heartwarming and stirring story of love on the courts.  Everything you want in a terrific romance is here.  We have two tennis players, one who has finally arrived at the top level and one who has been there for years.  Grainger also provides both men with backgrounds completely opposite to each other which helps not only to explain their outlook on the game of tennis, but their outlook on life as well.  The author’s well rounded characterizations which extends into completely different playing styles and discipline further enrich this romance by pulling the reader throughly into their worlds, involving us in the regimen necessary to continue to play at the top of the professional game.

In the author’s note, it tells us that Sarah Grainger lives in the Cotswolds and loves to ramble about with her lab.  Well, honestly, after reading this novel, I was sure she had spent all her time playing tennis because of the familiarity and love of the game that pours forth from every page. The reader learns about the strategy, the different court surfaces, and the rules and regulations the tennis players abide by.  By the end of the book and during a stirring, gut wrenching match, we are not merely spectators but feel as though we are sweating on the court along with the ballgirl.  I mean there are some wonderful blood pumping, exhaustion inducing descriptions here of the players and their matches. If you have never watched a tennis game before, you will want to after reading this book.

But it’s the characters here that will draw you into the story and keep you there.  I am not just talking about Ryan with his “baby giraffe” runs across the court after a ball, or Josh, so disciplined and yet terribly vulnerable.  True I adored them both, but there is also Elaine, doubles player, Ryan’s best friend and scary person.  I loved her and her attitude.  There are the great characters that exist in Josh’s retinue, from the masseuse to the cook.  All fully realized people who bring a authentic feel and depth to all the interpersonal relationships that matter to the main characters and the game of tennis.

Here is a little excerpt and window into the life of Ryan after a match:

AFTER beating Michael Kreissig, Ryan was on a high. He was through to the fourth round of the Australian freaking Open. He was grinning as he sat down with a bit of a thump on one of the couches in the treatment room.

Tim, the in-house sports masseur, strolled over, flexing his hands. His wonderful, miracle-working hands. The first time Tim had treated Ryan, Ryan had proposed marriage. It had only been when the words were already out of his mouth that he’d realized he should be more careful; what he thought of as harmless banter might not be taken too well, even though everyone except Elena and Tommy probably assumed he was straight. Thankfully, Tim had been unfazed. He was apparently used to proposals from the players, whether of marriage or full-time employment. He’d also turned Ryan down with unflattering swiftness.

“What can I do for you today, Mr. Betancourt?”

Ryan laid himself down on the couch on his front, resting his head on his folded arms. “You can make it all go away, Tim, then run off to Bali with me.”

“You only want me for my hands.” Ryan couldn’t see Tim’s face from where he was lying, but he sounded suitably lugubrious at the thought.

“Well, yeah. And your knowledge of physiology.”

“Irresistible as you make it sound, I don’t think my wife would agree.”

“She could come too. Hey, does she give massages?”

And for that, he was subjected to a very firm deep tissue massage. He wasn’t entirely sure if it was reward or punishment, but he couldn’t stop the groans that it drew from him as Tim worked his magic.

With even a small excerpt, you get Ryan’s sense of humor and outgoing spirit, his closeted status and easy approach to the people around him.  Adorable, immensely likable, and so easy for the reader to connect with.  How could you not love him?  But Josh will capture your heart with the same ease he wins matches.  There are so many levels to this person and Grainger reveals them slowly to us and Ryan over time, until we care for him as deeply as we do Ryan.

As I said I loved The Unforgiving Minute, and  it’s a terrific introduction to Sarah Grainger if this is your first book authored by her. It was for me and  now I am off to see what else she  has written.  This book will make you want to do the same.  A must read recommendation from me to you!

Cover art by LC Chase works perfectly for the story within, although I have to say I wish one model was grinning away, just as Ryan would.

Book details:

ebook, 236 pages
Published April 26th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380518X (ISBN13: 9781623805180)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Review: The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown

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Rating:  4.5 stars

The Isle of....Where?Liam Marshall and Alex Griffin were best friends for most of their lives, they were each other’s support and confidant through each milestone and every trauma life dealt them.  For Liam especially because Alex was there for him when he was outed in high school and when his parents kicked him out for being gay.  For Liam Marshall, his friend Alex was home, no matter that Alex was straight and Liam gay.  When Alex turned 35 he received a diagnosis of colon cancer.  Then their positions switched. Liam became his friend’s total support, moving in with him and caring for Alex until his death.  But Alex is not through looking after his friend, even when dead.  Alex had left specific instructions as to how and where he wanted Liam to bury his ashes and left him the money for Liam to do it.

That’s how Liam found himself on the Isle of Wight, on a train to Ryde to empty Alex’ ashes in the water off the pier at the edge of town, a place Alex had loved.  But Liam can’t bring himself to honor Alex’ last request, because then he will be truly alone for the first time in his life.  Despairing and in tears, Liam is comforted by a stranger, Sam Owen, who seems to know just what Liam needs.

Sam Owens is on the Isle of Wight visiting his grandmother, Rose, a formidable woman and his best friend growing up.  When he spies Liam breaking down on the pier, he comes to Liam rescue and then determines to take care of him for the rest of his stay in Ryde.  As the week progresses, Sam takes Liam around the island showing him all the places he grew up and the people who know Sam and his family so well.  Soon friendship and even love are replacing the grief in Liam’s heart.  But Liam lives in the US and Sam in London and Liam’s time to return is almost here.  Can Liam and Sam believe enough in each other to make their future work?

The Isle of…Where?, along with The Sky Is Dead, has quickly cemented Sue Brown’s place in my “must have, must read”  list of authors. Brown’s ability to pull a reader quickly and directly into her narrative is striking.  The prologue from The Isle of Where? is a perfect example.  This  is a paragraph midway through the prologue:

 Liam was by himself when Alex died, lying on the bed and stroking Alex’s dark-blond hair so that he wasn’t alone. He knew Alex wasn’t really there anymore. His spirit or soul had already gone, leaving behind a shriveled husk of a man. His throat raw, Liam tried hard not to show his grief in front of his best friend. What was left of Alex wasn’t going to slip away to the sound of Liam’s tears.

By now I am bawling like a baby, already heavily invested in Liam and Alex and feeling just as devastated by his death as Liam is.  And I haven’t even begun Chapter 1!  Liam’s grief is a tangible element here.  We not only understand it but grieve with him.  And when Liam is unable to let Alex’s ashes go into the water, we get that too.  Liam’s grief is all encompassing,not only for the loss of Alex but for himself, now bereft of home, family, and best friend, as Alex was all those things rolled into one.

Sue Brown demonstrates a remarkable ability to get inside her characters minds and hearts.  These people live, breath and hurt as realistically as you or I do.  And its not just the main characters I am referring to.  Its everyone you will meet on the island, from the many Owens that pop up everywhere to one of Sam’s ex boyfriend and his current partner, Nibs and Wig and everyone inbetween. But the heart of this story is Liam and Sam, two characters I came to love and understand over the course of their story.  Liam is older than Sam, thirty-five to Sam’s twenty-seven and at first that distance seems not only chronological but emotional.

Liam has had a much tougher time of it than Sam (at least we think so at the beginning).  Kicked out of his family because he was gay, Alex was Lian’s only support, in every way possible.  Liam moved into Alex’s house and stayed close to Alex even though his marriage and divorce.  Liam’s high school experience as being a gay teen consisted of a series of beatings and taunts that humiliated and hurt him.  In fact, the only relationship Liam was ever successful at was his friendship with Alex, as Liam finds it hard to open up to others emotionally or to trust people.

Sam, on the other hand, comes from a loud and boisterous loving family, one who accepted his homosexuality with ease along with a box of condoms and a book on gay sex.  Sam is open, giving, a nurturer by every definition of the word. But there is a darker more frail side to Sam that is only slowly revealed.  Sam has a need to be loved and an almost overwhelming desire for a family of his own that made him vulnerable and naive in some respects.  These two men totally complement each other but how much so is only revealed towards the end.  Liam’s possesses hidden strengths that will surprise not only Sam but the reader as well.  These are complex characters but the layering runs deep and it takes time to get underneath the surface to the core of each man.  Time and patience.

The Isle of…Where? builds slowly to a relationship of love at first sight, an odd and seemingly contradictory idea.  But it is not only true but it works as well.  We meander around the island with Liam and Sam, listening in on their conversations, Sam’s errands, the coincidental meetings of the villagers Sam knows so well, and watching as Liam deals with his pain and grief.  There is no drama, no excitement, just two men spending time together while learning about each other.  Then as the friendship (and more builds) we meet the rest of the Owens clan, the speed of the romance picks up and declarations of love are made.  The momentum is unstoppable, and at that point who would want it too?

Its in the second half of the book that Sam’s deep neediness really makes an appearance, but so does its basis in his personality.  To anyone other than Liam it would be overpowering.  But remember who was Liam’s foundation prior to Sam and it all becomes clear.  Sue Brown never forgets her characters backstory and its affects on the person they are in the present.  Some of the strands are subtle but they are there.

The author’s love and familiarity with the Isle of Wight shows in her settings and descriptions that enrich the story with the feel and flavor of a village that depends on tourists and the vacation trade to get by, a seasonal flow tempered by age and habit.

My only issue with the story starts once Liam returns home.  The narrative feels rushed, especially considering the pace of the story prior to this section.  I wish it had either been expanded or cut short before bringing us to a gratifying resolution.  None of this, however, takes away from a truly heartwarming story that moves easily into the realm of the comfort read.  This is not the book to read when you are craving excitement, danger or the adrenaline pumping narrative of hardened men, kinky sex (although there is a little of that here), and exotic places.  This is the book to pick up when you have that cup of tea or coco, are wrapped snuggly in a beloved blanket and have the  time to spend with characters and a place that will earn its way into your heart.

Toward the end of the book, Liam hears Alex in his head and Alex is saying:

“Breathe, Liam. You have Sam and now you have a family. I promised you a vacation with sun, sea, sandy beaches, and hot men. Didn’t I deliver?”

Oh,yes, Alex, you certainly did.

And so did Sue Brown. I loved this book and hope you will find its charms just as endearing.

Cover art by LC Chase is perfect for the men and the story within.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published June 29th 2012 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1613727089 (ISBN13: 9781613727089)
edition languageEnglish
settingEngland (United Kingdom)
Isle of Wight, England (United Kingdom)

Review: Still by Mary Calmes

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Rating 4.75 stars out of  5

Still coverSilvan Cruz and Walter Wainwright fell in love at first kiss and never thought they would part.  Now years later with two grown children, their marriage has stagnated into a series of fights, long hours apart and miscommunication.  So when Silvan suggests that they get a divorce rather than continue on as they were, Walter agreed immediately and before either man knew it, the divorce papers were filled out and they were living separately.

But while pride and circumstances are keeping them apart, the love and passion they feel for each other has never died.  Walter wants Silvan back but Silvan is sure that Walter has stopped loving him.  Is it too late for love to find a way home for  them both?

I always look forward to a new story from Mary Calmes because I know I will feel happy and satisfied by the time it  ends.  It is both a homecoming and a journey with friends, all rolled into one heartwarming tale of love.

In Still, you have a title that can be taken in several ways.  Still in that after 17 years together Silvan and Walter’s marriage has reached a point of stasis.  Their children have grown and moved out yet Walter still puts in long hours as an expensive and highly rated lawyer, leaving Silvan at a home emptied of sounds and action, alone without his lover.  With a marriage gone still and no growth or change in sight, Silvan pushes for change in a disastrous manner, he asks for a divorce.  But on the opposite side, Still also stands for the love and passion Silvan and Walter have  for the other, even after all these years together.

Mary Calmes takes this all too common place occurrence in long established unions and provides us with a sweet, romantic road home to love and a happily ever after she is known for.  When the story opens, it is March 2013, and the separation has already taken place.  Silvan is living in a loft apartment and working as a set designer for a theatre and we hear him musing on his current status, clearly unhappy but unable to see a way forward.   And we hear from various other points of view, from their children to their friends, that Walter’s feels much the same, still living in the house they both loved and unhappy as well.  Then Calmes takes us into the past to see how Silvan and Walter’s romance began and the author’s magical ability to make the reader feel the joy and deep attraction of new lovers for each other let’s us see just how perfect Silvan and Walter are fas a couple. And for each moment in their past happy lives, we flash forward to the present and a very different picture.  Mary Calmes makes Silvan’s yearnings and hurt realistic and touching  and all the while she is building up our frustration that these two men are remaining apart.  It’s a great juggling act and one she accomplishes easily.

There is a slice of danger added to the mixture of romance and love recaptured, an element that Mary Calmes will often introduces into her stories.  It does elevate the readers fear that our couple will be denied their happily ever after, if not by themselves, then by an outside factor we didn’t see coming.  But because it is Mary Calmes that the reader can feel safe in their knowledge that the couple will passionately reunite and the sex will be very hot indeed.

I did wish that we had seen more of their married life together, from their picture as a family to the stress brought on by an empty nest and lack of communication.  Being told that it had degenerated into a series of arguments, fights, and  loneliness is not the same as a flashback to the actual time in their relationship.  If anything, I think that would have made it all the more poignant and their separation more grounded in realistic marital problems.

Still is a wonderful story and one you won’t want to miss.  It brings home all the deep joy, contentment and yes, sometimes, hurt and pain, that couples experience over a lifetime together and makes it real.  It is so very satisfying to know that Silvan and Walter will still be together, still be in love,  still very much a  happily married couple who spends the rest of their lives together.  And that will leave you still smiling long after the book is done.  Highly recommended by Scattered Thoughts.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Lovely cover but I would have loved to have seen the young couple contrasted with their present day counterparts, otherwise it is just another lovely couple on a cover with no ties to the story inside.

Book Details:

ebook, 190 pages
Published May 15th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380695X (ISBN13: 9781623806958)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3810

Review: Closet Capers Anthology

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Closet Capers coverCloset Capers contains a series of stories revolving around mysteries or capers if you will.  From a riverboat gambler trying to find out who is trying to ruin his good name to a thief who continues to steal cans of coke from a office refrigerator and everything in between, this anthology mixes the romance with a little detective work to uncover new and different paths to love.

Closet Capers stories are:

Kitsch Me by Mari Donne
Leveling Up by Jude Dunn
Philip Collyer vs. the Cola Thief by Amy Rae Durreson
A Kiss in the Dark by Eli Easton
Calberg’s House Specialty Blend by Skylar Jaye
Small Change by Danni Keane
Lawrence Frightengale Investigates by Aidee Ladnier & Debussy Ladnier
The Whole Kit and Kaboodle by Ari McKay
Le Beau Soleil by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
Joie de Vivre by Pinkie Rae Parker
Made Good Under Pressure by Maja Rose
Tempest for a Teacup by Andrea Speed

I love the idea of mixing romance and detective work, how better to sleuth out the mysteries of the heart?  The stories contained within this anthology  run the gamut from a 1800’s riverboat gambler to a lovely story about a cable tv horror host and a missing Cadillac.  A number of these authors are unfamiliar to me, like Aidee Ladnier and Debussy Ladnier of the wonderful “Lawrence Frightengale Investigates”.  For me, buying an anthology means getting a quick introduction to authors I might not have found any other way and for that alone, it is always worth buying the book.  And of course, there are authors involved that I love, like Andrea Speed and her “Tempest for a Teacup”.  I loved that story, it was one of my favorites of the group.

Closet Capers gets off to a strong start, wobbles a little in the middle and finishes with the best of the stories included.  Here are my teacup reviews in the order they are placed in the book:

1. A Kiss in the Dark by Eli Easton

4 stars.  An anonymous kiss during a blackout at a office Christmas party disrupts Lester Lane’s life as he tries to figure out just who the great kisser is and why the person won’t come forward to admit it.  A cute story with adorable characters make it easy to overlook the fact that the reader can spot the drive-by kisser from the beginning.  Totally enjoyable and one of the longer stories.

2. Calberg’s House Specialty Blend by Skylar Jaye

3.75 stars. Lawyer Jonathan Mayer needs his coffee in order to function, specifically he needs Calberg’s Houe Specialtiy Blend.  But one morning Jonathan arrives to find that Calberg’s coffee shop is closed and his desperately needed morning cup of the Speciality Blend vanished with the store.  What follows is Jonathan trying to find out what happened to his beloved coffee shop and finding love with its former owner.  This story had great characters but could have used a little extra length to fill out the story resolution.

3. The Whole Kit and Kaboodle by Ari McKay

5 stars.  Dr. Grey Harris, history professor at Hartwell University has a mystery on his hands and it comes in the form of the new librarian, Henry Adams.  Grey knows that Henry is gay and the way the shy librarian gazes at him when Henry doesn’t think Grey is looking tells Grey that the librarian is attracted to him.  So why won’t the man go on a date?   The answer to that question is not only surprising but over the top charming as well.  Ari McKay has combined great characters with a intriguing mystery that ends up being one of the best stories in the anthology.  I am still smiling over the ending that is completely satisfying in every way.

4. Le Beau Soleil by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

4.25 stars.  It is 1855, New Orleans, and riverboat gambler François “Frankie” Deramus is hearing the first of the rumors that not only threaten his livelihood but his great love, the riverboat he owns and operates.  A gambler is only as good as his reputation and up until now, Frankie’s has been flawless.  But recently, some of the top gamblers have been refusing to play with him, referring to whispers of tricks and cheating.  Frankie has to find the culprit and quick before he is ruined.  Enter Michael Murphy, former soldier and now  private investigator.  Its up to Frankie and Michael to find and confront the person intent on ruining Frankie before the riverboat sails from New Orleans.  Time is running out but the attraction between the two men is running high.  Nothing like lust and mystery in New Orleans.  Moss does a terrific job in capturing the flavor of the times with the setting and secondary characters in the story.  I really enjoyed the tone and quality of the writing.  My only quibble would be the ending and the length, otherwise, great job.

5. Leveling Up by Jude Dunn

4.25 stars.   Game designer Adam Chandler is running late for his anniversary with Ben Randal, his partner and love.  Ben has arranged dinner for them at a restaurant and hotel downtown but when Adam arrives, he is mistaken for a man named Chandlis and the mistaken identity pulls Adam into a mystery he never expected, a mystery that also asks where is his lover?  Dunn delivers a sharp little story, full of likable characters and a neat little twist to keep us and Adam guessing.  Throughly entertaining little read.

6.  Kitsch Me by Mari Donne

3.25 stars.  Brian is obsessed with all things Hawaiian, including the hula dancer objects found at a store called Cunning Collectables.  But with his salary and the little money that his lover brings in, Brian and Craig are barely making ends meet at their barren little apartment.  Brian is curious about all the weird things that Cunning Collectables offers for sale, things like Lord Shiva in a tortilla or a tree trunk with a knot that looks like a Star of David.  A little investigating brings a most unexpected answer, and the trip of a lifetime.  Donne has a neat story buried somewhere inside Kitsch Me.  Unfortunately, somewhere towards the end, it just turns so unrealistic that you can run whole semis through the holes in the plot.  Up until then, it is a nice little story with interesting characters.

7. Made Good Under Pressure by Maja Rose

2 stars.  Awkward narrative ruins this story about Billy in New York City, 1926.  Written in a manner certain to bring to mind David Attenborough narrating a nature film, this peculiar style of writing makes this story almost unreadable.  Here is an example:

Billy’s just a glorified errand boy at the moment anyway, so after the day spins to a close.

Everything is pretty much, Billy cocks his head, Billy rolls his eyes, Billy thought that, Billy, Billy, Billy, and before you know it, the reader is so disconnected from Billy and his story that it almost becomes a DNF.  Unfortunately, one of the longer stories (or at least it felt that way), skip quickly over this one and head to the next.

8.  Tempest for a Teacup by Andrea Speed

4.5 stars.  One look at the young man asking for help, and private investigator Jake Falconer wanted to say no before even knowing what the case was.  Sarcastic, morally flexible Jake still ends up taking the case of the missing Morkie, much to his chagrin and his cop boyfriend’s delight.  Tempest for a Teacup is one of the shortest stories in the anthology but it is still long on laughter and full of memorable characters that will leave you laughing in appreciation even after the tale is finished and the doggynapper uncovered.  One of my favorite, I mean really a Morkie called Princess? That’s perfect.

9. Small Change by Danni Keane

4.75 stars.  Dom is the site attendant for Little Lexington, a model village of endless charm and timeless beauty.  Dom makes sure that all the people, houses, streets, everything is kept in perfect order, adding new elements as needed.  The little village and its perfect unchanging order give something to Dom he has never had anywhere else, stability and an unchanging future.  So when someone starts tampering  with the little figures he has so painstakingly created, Dom is determined to find out who is upsetting his village and Dom’s life.  So sweet and a little sad, Small Change brings a different feel to the anthology, giving the collection a touch of pathos and depth that has been lacking up until now.  As the story slowly unfolds you learn more about Dom and his need for the stability of Little Lexington, meet the person who has brought change to Dom and the village and get a delightful ending too.  One of the strongest stories of the collection and a new author for me as well.

10. Lawrence Frightengale Investigates by Aidee & Debussy Ladnier

5 stars. Lawrence Frightengale, aka Larry French, and his lover cabaret singer Myrna Boy (also known as Nicholas Benson when out of drag) are getting ready to ride in the annual Out & About Parade in the classic black Cadillac El Dorado convertible. That car had once been owned by the original host of Channel 11’s Terror Time, Harry Ghoulini, the morbid magician.  Now Lawrence Frightengale is the host of the resurrected show and for the first time, he will be riding, along with his lover and cohost, in the historic Cadillac convertible.  But when the car is stolen, the tv host and his cohorts must find the black convertible before the parade starts or lose their jobs in the process.  Who would want to steal the El Dorado? Who is after Lawrence Frightengale?  The answers must be found quickly as the parade is soon to start.

Wow, this story is such a delight in every aspect.  I grew up with Count Gore DeVol here in the DC area but I am sure that everyone will fondly remember a corny dramatic horror show host somewhere in their past.  The authors Ladnier are careful to treat the horror show host with affection and in loving tribute to their shows.  These are fully realized characters, the setting authentic and the mysteries, yes two, nicely planned and resolved.  The main characters are endearingly quixotic and yet oh so relatable that the reader will be left wanting more of their exploits or at least their cable show.  Love this story and the authors.

11. Joie de Vivre by Pinkie Rae Parker

4.25 stars.   Jules, a chef, has inherited his Aunt Mathilde’s country home, a place he remembers fondly as his escape from his battling parents and a person to whom he was always accepted as who he was.  During the years Jules spent training to be a chef and opening his own restaurant, he had not been to visit as often as he wanted and now returns to the only real home he has known to settle her estate.  Aunt Mathilde’s house is in dire need of repair but clearly someone has been there after her death.  Her cat is missing and so is her box of recipes, so important to Jules as Mathilde taught him to appreciate great food and cooking.   Who has been in the house? And where are the cherished recipes?  The answer lies in Jule’s past and a motorcycle he hears in the night.

Again, another lovely story, full of the ambience of the French countryside and the love of great food.  Vivid descriptions bring Aunt Mathilde’s crumbling french country home to life, from the decrepit plumbing to the disaster they call a roof.  Jules is well drawn, the mystery man less so.  I wish that Parker had fleshed out all of her characters, not just Jules and the ending felt a little more realistic than the one that occurred in the story.  Still, the charms and ambience of Joie de Vivre outweigh the few issues I saw and carry the story into the must read realm it deserves.

12. Philip Collyer vs. the Cola Thief by Amy Rae Durreson

Rating 5 stars

The collection ends on a strong note with a story by Amy Rae Durreson.  Philip Collyer vs. the Cola Thief takes a everyday office occurrence, that of an office communal refrigerator and stolen food and elevates it with humor and and a touch of realism in this tale of one man’s obsession to identify the person stealing his cola from the office refrigerator.  The reader gets it when Phil’s frustration mounts when not only does his precious cola, the one thing he anticipates daily, is taken and not only taken once, but taken every single day.  The culprit is unknown but leaves post-it notes to taunt Phil with their absence.   While the culprit is easy to spot, his motives are not and when revealed are very surprising to all.  Phil gets over his frustrations and issues with the thief a little  too easy for me but still the resolution is nicely done and will make everyone very happy.

If you love a sense of mystery, if the detective in you wants romance as well as something to solve, pick up this anthology and sit back and enjoy.  There is something for everyone inside.

Cover by Paul Richmond is quite delectable, or should that be detectible, and perfect for the stories within.

Book details:

ebook, 282 pages
Published April 22nd 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN
162380650X (ISBN13: 9781623806507)
edition language
English
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
If you want to see what some of the authors thought, head over to Joyfully Jay where I am a guest reviewer.  Lucky for everyone, we will be seeing more of Lawrence Frightengale and crew in a full length story.