Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Review: Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

handle with careBen Lethbridge spent most of his life taking care of his little sister when his parents were killed.  It was a job no eighteen year old should have to shoulder, especially a diabetic one.  But Ben did it and with love and patience, becoming the parent, guardian and security for his 6 year old sister.  And when his sister grew up, the lessening of those duties made Ben a party boy, determined to make up for those years he missed out on while she was growing up.  But the excess to which Ben partied and drank was too much for his fragile body to handle and now he is paying for it by living on a home dialysis regimen and waiting for a kidney transplant that never seems to come.

The highlight of Ben’s day is his delivery boy coming to his house to drop off a package.  Ollie is a young, purple haired skateboarder whose bright personality and gorgeous body is the stuff of Ben’s dreams, day and night.  But not only is Ben not sure of Ollie’s sexuality, Ben feels unlovable and downright unsexy due to the tubes running out of his abdomen, his swollen physique, and strict daily regimen he is locked into.  So, other than a casual greeting with Ollie, all Ben does is look. And dream.

But one day a package Ollie is delivering breaks and Ben’s gay porn CDs fall out. In the ensuing mess, it comes out that Ollie is as gay as Ben had hoped. And Ollie’s kinks mesh with Ben’s status.  As with everything else in Ben’s life, nothing is ever easy and that goes for a relationship between Ollie and Ben. Can both men overcome the obstacles between them or will Ben let this chance at happiness slip away.

Handle With Care has so many terrific unexpected elements to it not normally found in m/m romance novels or any romance novel actually.  Myles gives us two main characters whose physical traits, and past histories make them unusual to say the least.  Her first MC is a young man responsible for his own (mostly) physical decline.  Ben Lethbridge was a 18 year old diabetic when his parents death made him responsible for his young sister as her only guardian.  Myles makes us understand why Ben would party to excess when he was finally able to let go, while remaining factual as to the physical  ramifications that such an abuse of drugs and alcohol would have on a diabetic.  Now in his thirties, Ben is living with the consequences and they aren’t pretty.  Josephine Myles gives us graphic descriptions of exactly how Ben goes through his daily regimen that is barely keeping him alive.  This happens early on:

Three hours after Zoe left I hooked up the catheter tube in my belly to an empty bag and started to drain out all the waste dialysis fluid. I’d infused a dialysate bag not long before she’d turned up, so I had to wait for it to diffuse before opening the parcel. It might sound silly, but I had problems getting it up with all the dialysate fluid inside me. I’d look down and see my bloated abdomen and that bloody tube sticking out of me, and any trace of arousal just evaporated. I’d just start thinking about how the fluid was sloshing around inside my peritoneal cavity, getting more and more toxic as it leached all the waste products out of my blood.

In some ways, I’d have preferred to stay on the haemodialysis, which was only three hospital visits a week, but what with the diabetes, it didn’t work so well for me. I felt terrible most of the time and kept having crashes. Peritoneal dialysis was better at keeping my blood sugar level, even if it could be a hassle having to infuse and drain four bags a day.

As the fluid drained out, taking all those toxins with it, I ripped open the cardboard wrapper and pulled out the latest acquisition to my library. I was getting quite a collection. Like I said, I had to get the variety somehow, didn’t I?

Vivid, matter of fact, and perhaps more than the reader would  want to know.  And this is perhaps the mildest of the descriptions of the reality that Ben faces daily as a man who needs a kidney transplant and lives a fragile life according to a medical regimen.  Ben has a disease that many live with and more than a few mishandle it as badly as Ben does early on.  He loves his sister, and has been her main support and companion for her entire life.  Ben is intelligent and holds down a good job, albeit at home due to his physical condition.  He seems like an ok guy. And while there is much to admire about Ben, there is also elements of his personality that made it hard for me to like him.  Is he human? Absolutely but does that translate automatically into a character we can care about and relate to?  I don’t think so.  For a character to have a disability or a disease is not enough to make that person someone the reader would automatically connect with.  They need a good or great core at the center to go along with whatever else is happening to them.  Ben, unfortunately, is also a bit of a curmudgeon.  He makes assumptions about everyone and everything, not always nice ones.  He has a next door neighbor who fills her garden with gnomes and other statuary.  Here is his thoughts on poor Mrs. Felpersham:

Ollie to be at the door on Monday morning. What I was expecting was Mrs. Felpersham, the old biddy who lives in the gnome-infested house next door and who insists on calling round once a week to ask how I’m doing. I wouldn’t mind if it were purely an innocent enquiry, but I swear she’s just looking for a chance to snoop around my flat and pass judgment.

In fact Ben rarely has a nice thought about any one with the exception of his sister.  And that gets old fast.  I kept telling myself that this was supposed to be reflective of Ben’s mental and physical state at the time.  And while it may have been realistic, it didn’t make him any more accessible as a person.

And it’s not just Ben.  His sister, Zoe, is as understandable and unlikable as he is.   She is young and protective of her brother/guardian.  In fact, due to Ben’s illness they have switched places with Zoe acting almost as Ben’s caregiver and sole companion.  She cooks all his meals for him due to his dietary restrictions and acts as his only friend outside his house.  Not exactly a healthy relationship but that never comes up.  She wants Ben to date, she wants to control who he dates.  She throws fits of anger and jealously that seem real given her personality and circumstances but do I like her? Again, no.

And then there’s poor Ollie, our young purple haired skateboarder who dreams of opening his own cafe.  I actually liked Ollie the best but Myles has burdened poor Ollie with a back history as a doormate/domestic servant with benefits with an older man who took advantage of him.  The history Myles created for Ollie seems authentic and potentially realistic.  So does his behavior with Ben and that makes Ben’s actions later more than a little repugnant and hurtful.  Ollie is young, ebullient and in financial straights.  I understood and liked this character.  Just not his choice of lovers, and that includes Ben.

I think my biggest issues here have to do not only with the characterizations but the relationship.  These all felt like very real people.  So were the events that happened to them, from the accident that killed Ben’s parents to the transplant that Ben undergoes to save his life.  The location, the events, everything is beautifully layered and fleshed out but no matter how hard I tried (and truly I did try), I just never got the attraction between Ben and Ollie.  That pull or magic that needs to be created on the page in order for the reader to buy into their love for each other seems utterly missing.

Josephine Myles is a terrific writer.  She thinks outside the norm when it comes to her characters and plots.  Sometimes they work and other times while we see the potential of the story, the actuality comes up short as it did here.  I liked the chances the author took with her characters in this story.  I like seeing people with disabilities or more common diseases being represented in romances as they deserve to be.  I only wish I had liked these a little more.  If you love Josephine Myles, then maybe you will feel differently than I do about Ben, Zoe and Ollie.  But if you are new to this author, skip this one and proceed to her many other books.  There is sure to be one you will love waiting for you on her shelf.

Cover art by Kanaxa is both lovely and touching.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 149 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 160928965X (ISBN13: 9781609289652)
edition language English

Review: Demolished by Astrid Amara

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

DemolishedWhen Calvin Quarry meets up with his anonymous hookup, he is startled and upset to find out that the man is none other than Felix Bracks.  Felix Bracks was responsible for the death of Calvin’s closest friend in high school and several of their classmates.  Calvin flees from the encounter, horrified.  But Felix pursues him, calling and texting Calvin over the next week or so.  Felix wants Calvin to hear his side of the story.  While it’s not something Calvin wants to hear, eventually he gives in and listens to a version of the story that differs greatly from the one he knew.

Felix Bracks has spent years as a social outcast because of that accident in high school.  Physically and emotionally scarred, he thought he had recovered.  But feeling the distain and hate from Calvin after all these years, hurts him.  He is attracted to Calvin and wants the man to like him.  But Felix only tells Calvin part of the truth, keeping the full story to himself.

When Calvin’s cousin Robbie gets involved in something sinister, something that is derailing his life, Calvin decides to investigate.  After all Calvin is an journalism major, this is something he knows how to do.  But as Robbie falls deeper and deeper into trouble, Calvin’s investigation starts to lead him not only to Robbie’s problem but Felix’s past as well.  As the past starts to intrude on Calvin and Felix’s relationship, will they be able to trust each other or will the revelations from the past demolish the love they have found with each other?

Astrid Amara is an automatic go to author for me.  I love her stories, especially her holidays with The Bellskis which rank among my favorite.  So when I heard she had a new story coming out, I was thrilled.  Demolished has all the elements I have come to expect from this author.  Great characters and an mystery that involves the reader emotionally as well as mentally.

Amara starts us off with Calvin agreeing to meet his online hookup, Bikenut, in person for some hot, and decidedly casual sex.

After four weeks of online flirtations and cybersex, Calvin Quarry finally got up the nerve to meet Bikenut in person.

Meet wasn’t the correct term. Screw worked better. Bikenut agreed to host. Cal would knock on the man’s apartment door five times, walk in, and he would be grabbed and taken aggressively and quickly. Then he’d depart.

It was the kind of online hookup Cal always dreamed of engaging in but never had the nerve to. But after weeks of conversations online with the guy with the username Bikenut, a series of photographs showing the man’s impressive endowments, and the guy’s general sense of good humor and intelligence, Cal gave in to his fantasies and arranged the meeting.

But from the moment, Calvin and his online buddy meet face to face, everything starts to go wrong.  Because Bikenut turns out to be Felix Brachs, the boy Calvin and his community love to hate.  Felix was involved in a car accident turned fatal for several high school students, including Calvin’s best friend and secret crush.  For that alone Calvin has hated Felix all these years.  Amara does a wonderful job in making Calvin and then Felix, open and appealing young men.  We understand the emotions each person is feeling and can relate to each of them, easily seeing that horrendous event from both sides of the story.  As created by Amara, these are earnest young men with their futures ahead of them.  But both Calvin and Felix have a joined past that they need to put behind them before they can go forward.  The author’s characterizations give Calvin and Felix each a layer of vulnerability that goes hand in hand with their youthfulness.  Each has experienced past angst and trauma, from the devastation of the accident to their coming out as gay youths.  And in every scene, Astrid Amara makes us feel their pain and confusion with a vividness that is heartbreaking.

Robbie is another wonderfully engaging character.  Younger than Calvin and Felix, Robbie is in trouble.  His grades have fallen, he is sullen and keeping secrets.  All the hallmarks of drug and alcohol abuse.  Robbie’s situation becomes increasingly grave over the course of the story and the reader’s anxiety over Robbie’s future deepens as clues from the past intertwine with revelations about Robbie’s current predicament.  For me, this is where Amara really shined.  Amara’s portrait of Robbie, a youth in trouble,  is  both realistic and grim and handled with sensitivity.  The author ticks off the boxes of the parental check sheet of things to look out for to see if a child is in trouble.  But she incorporates that knowledge seamlessly into Robbie’s personality and behavioral changes noticed by Calvin and Robbie’s parents.   We watch it happening, we see the missteps by Calvin that we know can be laid at his youthfulness and inexperience, and the dread just seeps into the reader, spreading over the story as we wait to see how it will all play out.

I have a few quibbles with Demolished.  The first of which I am not sure really mattered in the end.   Perhaps I have watched far too many police procedurals on cable, but I could see some of the plot twists and turns coming, including the biggest of them all.   That said, the journey to  that point was so suspenseful and thrilling it didn’t matter so much that I knew where we were headed to begin with.  The other quibble was the almost instantaneous love that sprang between a young man with hatred in his heart and the object of his distain.  I wondered if Calvin could really push all those carefully hoarded feelings away and fall in love almost immediately with Felix.  Maybe or then again, maybe not.  That was a harder bump in the road to get over.   But once I accepted their relationship, the story moved forward quickly, attaching my feelings in the process.

If you are new to Astrid Amara, there are so many books out there for you to start with.  Whether it is the science fiction of Hell Cop,  the contemporary holiday romance of The Carol of the Bellskis, or the mystery romance of Demolished, you can’t go wrong.   Start here and work your way through her backlist.  Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington, the wildly quirky town that is home to another one of my favorite authors, Nicole Kimberling.  I have never been to Bellingham but feel a road trip coming on.  What a place it must be to have such wonderful authors residing there and writing such amazing stories.  No matter, Astrid Amara is a terrific author. Begin your journey with her here.

Cover artist, Valerie Tibbs, has created a terrific cover for Demolished, the red is the perfect color in tone and emotion for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 165 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Loose-ID
ISBN13 9781623004156
edition language English

Author Spotlight: Meet Lee Brazil!

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ST: Good morning, everyone.  Today’s guest author is Lee Brazil, author of the wonderful Chances Are series in the Pulp Friction offerings.   Good morning, Lee!

*pats chair and hands Lee a cup of coffee*.

“Don’t mind the terriers, they will ask their own questions later”  *shoos away dogs*

LB: Good morning! Thank you for inviting me over to talk today. For those who don’t know me, I’m Lee Brazil, author of m/m romance with Breathless Press, Silver Publishing, Evernight, and Total E Bound. I’m also a member of a writing association known as Pulp Friction.Chances Are cover

*sips coffee*

LB: Which is what Melanie invited me to discuss today. Pulp Friction came about as a mash-up of old fashioned pulp fiction writing and modern romance. Laura Harner suggested it to us, and the three of us jumped on the band wagon quickly. Originally, it was supposed to follow a strict format of 8 thousand words, and other tried and true pulp strictures.

ST: “Tell me about Chance.  How did he come about?”

LB: When Chance was born, I knew keeping it with in those bounds was going to be impossible. Telling his whole story, getting across the complexity of who he is in eight thousand words wasn’t going to happen. So it became a serial.

ST: “When we think of Pulp Fiction, we think tough, wise-guy detectives who have seen it all.”

LB: Chance is my version of the hard boiled tough guy, he’s known grief and pain, and disappointment, and that’s where we meet him, wallowing in his past. He presents a cold and unfeeling persona to the world and tells himself he’s happy with what he has.

That’s Chance in the first book, Chances Are, where that façade begins to crack. As the stories progress through small mysteries and tragedies and life happens to Chance, the cracks grow bigger and wider and eventually the walls fall down, blasted to rubble by his stalwart friends and a feeling he hadn’t been aware of growing inside.

ST: But that changes, doesn’t it?

LB: When he wasn’t looking his heart was sneaking people in, from the drunkard cop who sits at his bar every night, the cocky but dependable Gerry the bartender, the melancholic chef Blake and all Chance’s old buddies from his days on the force, Wick and Marcus and Zack the civilian. Turns out, he’s never been as alone as he thought.

And into this mix comes Rory. The golden-skinned, golden-haired open-hearted antithesis of Chance’s lost love. He finagles his way into Chance’s bed, and into his life, seeking more at times than Chance is willing to give.

Chance’s own sense of integrity eventually convinces him that his relationship with Rory is wrong, but events transpire that force him to take a deeper look into his closed off heart and make changes in his life. In the end, Chance learns to let go of the past, to embrace the possibilities of the future and to allow himself to be happy.

And the stubborn mule headed ex-cop turned my whole pre-drafted story line upside down in the second installment of the serial. Because that’s who he is. A man who has to follow his own path even when it wanders through hell.

ST:  I just love Chance and the entire series.  I can’t wait for the next book to be released.  Thanks for coming by today, Lee.

LB: *sips coffee. Thanks for joining while I blather about my sexy ex-cop. You can pick up the latest Chances Are book, Chance in Hell at ARE, Smashwords, and Amazon on September 1. In anticipation of that release, I’m offering a discount of 33% on the first four stories at ARE from August 28th until September 4th.

If you want to know more about me and my work, you can find me at the following places on the web:
Lee on FB http://www.facebook.com/lee.brazil
Lee on Twitter @leebrazil
Lee Blog http://leebrazilauthor.blogspot.com/
Pinterest http://pinterest.com/leebrazil/
You Tube http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKmjXLWlO4c2_5ZZQigbeZg?

Books in the series to date in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Review: Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Ghost of a Chance book coverChance Dumont thought he couldn’t survive when his first love, Cannon, left him.  It took Chances five years before he thought he could take a chance on another man and a relationship.  Then Rory, a young submissive cop came along and further complicated Chance’s already complicated life.  An attack on Rory made Chance understand that he loved Rory and could move forward again with a new relationship.  But the aftermath of that attack and the return of Cannon shattered Rory’s recovery.  If that wasn’t enough, a dead body in the men’s restroom of Chances Are bar completed the detonation of Chance’s and Rory’s fragile relationship due to trust issues.  At the time, Chance felt there was a fifty fifty chance that Rory had done the crime. So Rory left and Chance has not seen him since, though not for lack of trying.

No one has seen Rory.  The man has  vanished, taking with him all the hope and promise that Chance had just recovered.  Now  months have passed since Rory’s departure. Chance hasn’t left the sanctuary of his home, not once.  His constant companions are empty beer bottles and greasy pizza boxes and everyone is worried about him.  Chance hasn’t even been to his bar, a shocking situation that his friends and employees don’t know how to handle. If there is even a ghost of a chance of getting Rory back, Chance will take it.  But where to start?

Ghost of a Chance is the fourth book in the Chances Are series and in some ways it is a return to the emotional issues in first story in the series Chances Are.  Once again, Chance is recovering from a relationship gone wrong.  But this time, its his fault that the relationship didn’t succeed and the guilt eats at him constantly.  Chance knows that the issues he carried with him from the first failed relationship made him doubt himself and Rory from the beginning.  His ex boyfriend’s return didn’t help either.

Once again, Brazil paints a portrait of a man whose actions and self doubt triggered the events that demolished the beginnings of a new love.  It is a great on so many levels.  Chance’s inner turmoil, his guilt, and his downward spiral into pity and drunkenness is authentic and believable.   Told from Chance’s pov, we hear every inner argument and counter argument as Chance fights his way past the current events that have left him alone once more.  It’s a tough inner battle that Chance fights and the conclusions he draws are not always complimentary ones.  He knows where he failed but doesn’t know how to correct his mistakes.  How human and how understandable.

Chance must first fix himself and to help him do that are characters from the other Pulp Friction series.  From Wick Templeton to Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah from the Triple Threat series, all are present and accounted for as they help Chance recover once more and move forward with a plan to bring Rory home.   Here is a taste of Chance still hiding away in his house:

Even if I couldn’t explain what exactly I wanted, I could close my eyes and put a face to it. I wanted Rory. With us, it was not a game. It wasn’t a scene. It was how we were, and I should have fucking told him that. Maybe if I had, he wouldn’t have gotten tired of waiting and he’d have stayed and we’d be spending Friday night in the usual way, putting off gratification as long as possible while I sat in the bar and he knelt on the bed, and an invisible thread of arousal thrummed between us, ratcheting tension higher and higher until the whole bar seemed to snap with sexual tension.

Instead, I sat on my back patio watching a sexual disaster in the making cut his dad’s grass and giving one of my oldest friends the brush off while I concentrated on getting drunk as efficiently as possible in the vain hope that I’d be able to sleep tonight.

Brazil has created a wonderful character in Chance and then gave him the perfect voice for his character and personality.  I love Chance and everything about Chances Are.  In fact as Chance or his grandmother would say, chances are that everyone will find something to love about this series.  It’s short but seems so much larger in scope and characterization.  The characters and plot are terrific, the emotions realistic and its impact authentic and human. There’s more coming and i will be there for every new installment.  You will be too once you start on their adventure.  Go back to the beginning and Chances Are.  Meet Chance Dumont, Rory, Gerry and the rest.  You are going to love them as much as I do.

Note:  Series contains elements of bdsm and D/s.  It works perfectly within the series and for the characters involved.  Even though readers who prefer their sexual encounters to be on the vanilla side will enjoy the kink as explained by Lee Brazil and Chance.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, 36 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
edition language English
series Chances Are

Review: Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Fifty Fifty Chances Are coverChance Dumont, owner of Chances Are bar and his lover, Rory, are still trying to deal with the aftermath of Rory’s attack and the return of Cannon, Chances’s former boyfriend.  It’s not going well.  Rory, a cop, has still not been declared fit for duty.  But truthfully the trauma of the attack has left Rory fearful and he may never heal enough to be a cop again.  And Chance?  He’s trying hard to be the lover Rory needs but their relationship is strained and fragile, just like Rory.

When a man is found naked and dead in the bathroom stall in the men’s room, his identity points to Chance and Rory as suspects.  Chance knows he didn’t do it but did Rory?  That’s the question and no one likes that the answer might be that its a fifty fifty chance that Rory did.

This series is just amazing.  It continues to get better with each new story.  It deepens in intensity and in emotional layering and I can’t get enough. We left Chance and Rory trying to pick up the pieces of their relationship after Rory has been attacked in Second Chances Are, and it’s not going very well.  And it can’t because the relationship started on tenuous terms and has never found a firm foundation.  The men aren’t communicating, primarily because one is traumatized and the other doesn’t want to upset him further.  It’s a realistic portrait of two men at the very first stages of recovery and they are still trying to find their way past the pain.

Lee Brazil packs a lot into 34 pages.  Great characterization, wonderful plot, and tremendous dialog and with each new story it gets better, more layered, more authentic.  Chance was a complicated man in the first two books but not always likable, something the character himself acknowledges. But here as Chance struggles to put Rory first instead of giving into his impulses for revenge, he becomes more human, more understandable.  He is so frustrated, as is the reader that we instantly relate to him.

Trust is the issue and focus here.  So many areas where trust is lacking.  There is the trust missing between Chance and Rory. Plus Chance still doesn’t trust Gerry, his bartender who stole from him and both men are struggling with that fact.  Rory can’t trust himself or anyone other than Chance, maybe.  Then Brazil shatters the tentative trust established between Chance and Rory with a murder that either man might have done.  The emotional detonation that occurs reveals to all involved just how fragile the binding was that held them all together.   It’s angry, it’s hurtful, and it’s damaging on many levels, but is it permanent?  That’s the question that Brazil gives us to answer and the answer remains elusive by the end of the story.

Again there is an element of bdsm and D/s but it absolutely works for the characters and story.  Don’t let it put you off.  And for you  romance lovers, well, it’s coming.  Romance and love is not an easy thing for Chance Dumont. Its hurt him deeply in the past and he hasn’t been able to get past that emotional trauma.  Now he is finally ready but is the man he loves?  Brazil is stringing that aspect of the series out for us and it is making it  even more enjoyable to anticipate the outcome.

It’s hard for me to believe that Fifty Fifty Chances Are is only 34 pages in length.  It has the breadth and scope of a larger book.  So does the series.   Really, the author’s work here is immaculate.  Pick it up but start at the beginning and work your way through.  There are four stories so far and I know that more are coming.  Lucky us.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, 36 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
edition language English

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Had A Dream speech, and This Coming Week In Reviews

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MLK on the MallIt’s the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech on Wednesday and yesterday tens of thousands of people gathered to commemorate that momentous occassion and to remind  the world that his dream still needs to be fulfilled.   Racism still exists and we as a nation still have such a long way to go for all to be equal under the law and in each other’s eyes.

Just in time for his anniversary, the MLK statue on the memorial was “fixed” so that awful truncated version of MLK’s speech is now gone,  That was just another example of how this man and his message is still misunderstood by some, in this case the Chinese artist and a group of architects responsible for that statue..   IMLK statue am not a fan of that statue.  To me it belongs in Tiananmen Square not Washington DC, it exemplifying the type of statuary so often seen in the communist nations.  Where is the man of passion?  Where is the man of fire and vision?  I don’t see him in the statue but instead look to his speeches where he and his dream will live forever.

Martin Luther King’s “I Had A Dream” speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Now to the week ahead in book reviews.  I have the second series from the Pulp Friction authors and a guest blog from Lee Brazil this week.  I love these series and can’t wait to bring the third one to you the week after next.  That will be the Triple Threat series by Laura Harner.  I also have two books by authors who are always on my TBR list, Astrid Amara and Josephine Myles.  Be sure to grab those up as well.

The weather is exquisite.  Present are those clear blue early autumn skies that make you smile and stay outside until twilight falls.  I heard my first flock of snow geese go trumpeting overhead last night, the first of many that signal an early fall.  The whitetail deer herds are also reforming early.  That would account for the over 15 of them in my neighbors yards last night.  Did it make the terrors three crazy?  Why, yes it did!  As well as every other dog in the neighborhood.  Almost time to start winter proofing my gardens but not just yet.  I will enjoy them for a little longer.  So its time to gather up my Kindle and my knitting (and of course the dogs) and head outside to enjoy the day.   I hope you will enjoy yours too.

Monday, Aug. 26, 2013:                     Fifty Fifty Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013:                     Ghost of Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Wed., Aug. 28, 2013:                            Author Spotlight: Meet Lee Brazil

Thurs., Aug 29, 2013:                           Demolished by Astrid Amara

Friday, Aug. 30, 2013:                         Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

Sat., Aug. 31, 2013:                              A Summary of Scattered Thoughts August Reviews

Review: The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings

Standard

Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

The Queen's Librarian coverLucas Tripp is the Queen’s Librarian.  He is also her cousin, her much poorer cousin.  He has a mother who loves to spend money and six sisters, four of whom need husbands and expect Lucas to find them suitably wealthy ones as their status  (and their mother) dictates.  Lucas also runs their family estate, takes care of their offerings to the gods and tries to find time to spend with his patient and oh so gorgeous boyfriend Alex Booker.  But nothing is running according to plan, any plans.  One of Lucas’ sister is being courted by a renown womanizer who  just so happens to be his boyfriend’s brother. Then when another sister finally settles on a suitable  suitor,  the man disappears amidst a flurry of speculation and  a tinge of magic.

Before Lucas realizes it, he is in the middle of a multitude of mysteries.  Where did his sister’s suitor disappear to?  What happened to the rains?  Who is the man who keeps popping in and out of his life and rooms, only to mutter a mysterious foreign phrase or two and then disappear?  Everything seems to come back to The Stone Circle and the Daimin but what does it all mean?  Lucas must find the truth, get his sisters married ,save the towns harvest, and make his cousin, the Queen happy.  Oh, and find time to spend with his boyfriend.  What is a Queen’s Librarian to do?

Carole Cummings’ Wolf’s-own series was fantastic and one of my favorites last year.  So when I saw she released a new book I couldn’t wait to read it.  I was expecting marvelously intricate world building, multilayered characterizations and a tight, deep story worthy of the first two elements.  Unfortunately, I found none of that here.  In fact, The Queen’s Librarian is almost the antithesis of those amazing stories and it seems she planned it that way.  In her dedication, she mentions that Fen of the Wolf’s-own series was the reason for this story. In her own words:

“Fen, because if it hadn’t been for the bleak despair that was his headspace, I would never have needed Lucas and Alex to brighten up the path away from his angsty abyss.” – Carole Cummings

Unfortunately, everything that was right with Fen is wrong with Lucas.  Once again, it all comes back to characterization as the key to a story and at the heart of this story is one character so diffuse that he lacks a core personality to relate to.  Lucas Tripp is one of those flighty, scatterbrained characters who dither and mumble and stumble their way through their life and the story.  You can always count on them to be forgetful, naive to the point of stupidity, and have the focus of a Magpie.  Have I left out any characteristics of this type of personality?  Oh, right, they are also unaware of their good looks, kind, and prone to a punctuation free, never ending style of inner monologue.

I have seen quite a few of these characters lately.  Some I loved because they were so well done or their dialog was fun if not downright delightful.  Others not so much.  Unfortunatelyl, Lucas falls into the latter category.  I will give you a sample of Lucas and the narrative you will encounter:

THERE was a bit of a scuffle, with Bramble assuming he and his muddy paws would be welcome in the house and Lucas begging to differ. Lucas won. Just barely. And Cat seemed a little too pleased with it all, so much so that she deigned to greet Lucas with a stretch and a serpentine saunter over to her milk bowl—on the shelf over the stove to deter Bramble from slurping it—rather than her usual slow blink and yawn. Or, in Bramble’s case, her usual glare of death and warning extension of claws. Lucas obligingly fetched her the last of the milk and let the reverberating contented purr that rumbled through the quiet of the little house soothe him as he stripped and changed. His clothes smelled of pub. He hadn’t noticed it when he’d dragged them back on this morning, or when he and Alex had been walking home, but now… drat it all, had he spilled ale all over his shirt? Or maybe taken a swim in it?

He tossed the shirt into the growing pile in the corner. There was a basket under there somewhere, he was sure of it, that he was going to have to gather up one of these days and present to Miss Emma. The anticipated oh-whatever-are-we-going-to-do-with-you look that always came along with the occasion was what held him back. He should learn to wash his own clothes… someday. He should also learn to cook. Toast and cheese and the occasional egg did not a satisfying diet make. And if he learned to cook, he wouldn’t have to spend so much time up at the main house, suffering through yet another not-quite-lecture about Why Certain Young Men Should Have Already Given Their Mothers Grandchildren. As if there weren’t enough of the little creatures about the place for supper every Sun’s Day. Sometimes Lucas wondered if Pippa and Nan weren’t actually in some kind of competition for who could produce the most children in the shortest amount of time.

Thank God they weren’t Lucas’s problem anymore. He was going to have to dump his wages from the Library into the estate’s coffers again, he could see it coming now. He’d been hoping to at least buy Clara’s handfasting dress for her, but he wasn’t as optimistic now as he’d been only a week or so ago. Slade had taken the news of his prospective wife’s poverty extraordinarily well, almost weirdly enthusiastically, actually, nearly doing backflips to assure Lucas that he was in love with Clara and not her supposed dowry. And he hadn’t even been drunk yet. It endeared him almost instantly to Lucas, and even Alex had been soppily charmed. Of course, there was still the meeting with Slade’s parents to get through before everything was official, and the Queen had to approve, if Lucas ever got the chance to put the request to her, but Clara wanted this, and it was a love match, not a contract of convenience, so Lucas would make it happen.

And this is pretty typical of all 224 pages of The Queen’s Librarian.  It just goes on and on and on as Lucas goes on and on and on.  He rambles, he dithers, he’s myopic and the narrative reflects that in descriptions, dialog and plot.  It made my eyes glaze over.  For me to find this type of personality charming, I need to feel that the character has a solid foundation beneath all that fluttering and I never got that from Lucas.  His is a personality so wispy it’s almost airborne.

The plot of The Queen’s Librarian suffers from some of the same elements that mark this book’s characterizations.  It rambles yet the reader can clearly identify the villains almost immediately and determine where the plot meander off course.  It’s a dense morass of words that makes it hard to find your way through the storyline.  And there is a neat plot here but it is buried so deep under layers of extraneous words that it gets lost. The best part of this story is actually the last quarter (or less) of the book.  The story gets a dynamic turn as the “aha” moment arrives, magic splatters off the walls and finally we see some action, instead of the constant rambling discourse that is the trademark of the majority of this story.

If I were to pinpoint the things I liked about The Queen’s Librarian, I suppose it would be the dog, the actual plot underneath it all, the Queen and her Consort.  He seems like a fellow I would share a bit of candy with.  The rest of the characters are a likable enough lot but would I spend another 224 pages with them? I don’t think so.  I certainly couldn’t read this book again.  As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t give this a 3 rating.  Sigh.  For some of you, perhaps, just the fantasy aspect alone will make the story acceptable or better.  For everyone else, I will recommend Cummings Wolf’s – own series to start with.  Those books contain remarkable stories, with memorable characters and a substantial, intricate plot that flows through the series.  Read those and leave this one alone.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  The cover is delightful, light in tone and design.

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages
Published July 26th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808693 (ISBN13: 9781623808693)
edition language English

Review: Burden by Annmarie McKenna

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Burden coverIt’s Detective Keegan Monroe’s first day off after a long undercover assignment and all he wants to do is relax and enjoy his coffee.  But his day is shattered when a  man dives in front of him throwing them both to the ground.  Then a gunshot goes past them as a murder attempt fails.  The man laying on top of him is stuttering that he couldn’t let him kill Keegan.  Suspicious of his savior, Keegan takes the man into custody for questioning.  But at the precinct some astonishing facts are revealed. The suspect is a former I.A . police detective.

Detective Brennan McGuire has been struggling to adjust to the brain damage he incurred when his car went over a cliff during an investigation.  Along with stuttering and the massive physical scarring caused by the accident, Brennan also has long and short term memory problems which make it almost impossible to cope with the requirements of every day life.  Brennan can’t remember the accident or much else about his life as a police officer.  But something sparked in the depths of his traumatized memory when he saw someone aiming a gun at the man at the table and he reacted.

During the investigation into the shooting, Keegan and Brennan find themselves falling first into bed and then into a relationship.  But their romance triggers Brennan’s repressed memories of his accident with startling results.  Now Keegan and Brennan find themselves with not one mystery but two to solve and some very determined people who want to make sure that Brennan never remember.  Can Keegan and Brennan find love while keeping each other alive?

I think Annmarie McKenna has the makings of a terrific story here but several issues, including the ending, leave it at that – just the ingredients and nothing more.  I loved the idea of a brain injured detective whose traumatized brain holds the key to his injury and much more.  It’s a great plot tactic because it pulls in those readers who love the hurt/comfort element while upping the tension and anticipation in the story for the moment when the character remembers the past and pulls it all together in a satisfying denouement.   And it works for most of the story. Right up until the author throws it all away.

Detective Brennan McGuire’s life’s a mess.  He can barely remember the social niceties that get people through the day, let alone  pay for a cup of coffee. As created by McKenna, he is an object of sympathy and engages our affections immediately.  I liked her treatment of his brain trauma.  He is still touchy and snarky even if he can’t remember the simplest thing like a pepperoni pizza or to shake the hand offered to him.   His is a beautifully layered portrait of a man coping with brain trauma and not always succeeding.

Keegan Monroe is a somewhat less effective character.  As a detective who immediately gets sexually involved with a suspect, and a brain damaged suspect at that, Keegan appears to have a less than solid grasp on police ethics, not to mention the appearances of taking advantage of someone in recovery.  I got that the sparks flew between them.  McKenna does a more than credible job making us believe the men can’t keep their hands off each other.  But the facts about their relationship and Brennan’s physical and mental state kept me from throughly investing myself in their affair.

The author does a good job in plotting out the mystery for the readers.  She slowly gears up the anxiety over the safety of the men as more and more facts about  Brennan are revealed. But all the suspense and anticipation is demolished in an ending that is rushed and incomplete in terms of motives and facts.  I was, in fact, astonished when I came to the end.  All that build up and the reader gets nothing for their time and effort spent on this story.  It pretty much just stops with no real explanation, no satisfactory reveal of  all the criminals, and certainly no resolution to the relationship of a detective and a still brain damaged individual.

And that is a shame because this book could have been so much more.  With a longer, more fully developed ending and perhaps even an epilogue, this could have been one of my “must read” recommendations.  But as it is, I will say that if you are a fan of Annmarie McKenna, then pick this up.  But if you are looking for romance, a terrific mystery and an ending that will leave you satisfied, then head elsewhere.

Cover by Angela Waters.  This is just a generic cover that has nothing really to do with the story.  Grade C for effort.

Book Details:

ebook, 117 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 1619218291 (ISBN13: 9781619218291)
edition language English

Review: Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape Series) by Z. Allora

Standard

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Subtle Inneundos coverMax and Chad fall in love at eighteen and form a band.  That band, Euphoria, rises to the heights of the music charts and popularity in the 80’s.  Although still very much in love, Max and Chad’s romance hit hard times just five years later, due to the pressures of being rock stars and Chad’s addiction to drugs and alcohol.  Both their relationship and the band dissolves in an explosion of pain and betrayal.

Now twenty years later, Max, a wealthy music writer and producer, receives a mix tape from Chad, its message clear.  He wants a reunion with Mac and their old band.  And on New Year’s Eve, the concert Chad had always wanted their band to play.  Will Max take one more chance on a love he has never forgotten or will old wounds keep the lovers separated forever?

Subtle Innuendos is a short story in the Mixed Tape series from MLR Press.  At  64 pages, this is one story that could benefit from a much longer version that the one that was published.   Basically a story of two young lovers reunited after twenty years apart, I felt that Z. Allora had the basic structure for a good story but none of the musculature needed to fill it out.

The story starts in Springtime New York City 1986 when the boys are eighteen then flashes forward to The Present as a forty-five year old Max receives his mix tape in the mail.   The narrative flips back and forth between the past and the present, revealing bits and pieces of the boys lives.  I don’t mind this style of writing, especially when it is well done.  My problem here is that the author doesn’t spend enough time in either era to really give us a taste of the mens relationship or back history.  Instead of depth, what we are given is more in the nature of snippets or flash fiction and that just doesn’t do the job.  Allora tells us about Chad’s addictions and gives us pretty much one scene to demonstrate said addiction.  But in order for us to feel the angst and pain this causes to both men we need much more than casual statement and one explosive outburst.  The same goes for Max’s continued feeling of love for Chad, even after 20 years apart.  Max still has his pictures, and feelings for Chad but those emotions never feel authentic because we are not given the scenes necessary to bring those feelings alive for us.

There just is no depth here, either of characterization or plot.  Had this story been novel or novella length, that would have given Z. Allora the necessary space needed to fill out both characterization and plot, both of which are needed to enrich her story and the reader’s enjoyment as well.  This is a nice story but it could have been wonderful.  Recommended for fans of Z. Allora and the rock star genre.

Cover Art by Deana Jamroz.  Lovely cover, works for the story inside.

Book Details:

Published June 2013 by MLR Press
edition language English