Review: Clipped by Devon McCormack

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

 

Clipped cover

What are mortals to do when everything they thought they knew about Heaven and Hell are reversed?  God is planning their annihilation and Satan is their only hope.

Once God and Satan were lovers and the Earth was created as a gift for Satan.  But when Satan left God, his fury was apocalyptic. God intends to destroy the Earth and all humans.  It is left to Satan’s fallen angels to thwart God’s plans and save all humanity.

The demon Kinzer and his fallen angel lover, Janka, are agents of Satan, sent to spy on The Raze, a group of angels who are working with God to bring about Armageddon. When someone exposes their true allegiances, the Raze rips off Kinzer’s wings while torturing and killing his lover, Janka. Now wingless and powerless, Kinzer escapes. His mission? To track down all Satan’s allies to warn them about a traitor in their circle.  The hunt is on for the Antichrist—a powerful weapon that could prevent the apocalypse and both sides are getting nearer. It’s up to Kinzer to protect the unborn child and his mother.  And if he can avenge his lover’s death while doing so, then even better.  But first he has to stay alive….

Clipped is a story sure to instill strong emotions and reactions in all who read it.  It is a book that readers will either love or hate. Or even hate to love. Its plot contains religious content that some readers might find offensive. And  its rough, and brutal sex scenes are sure to turn off those looking for romance and/or sexual relationships that are consensual and with not a lot of bloodshed. To those readers, I say this is probably not the book for you.  But some of you are going to love it and with good reason.

What drew me to this story? That amazing cover for one.  Its dramatic and powerful.That kneeling winged man just cries out for his story to be told.  And, truth be told,  the story found within does contain both of those elements.McCormack’s plot is also unusual enough that its reversed theology is both interesting and fascinating in concept and details.  McCormack’s idea of flip flopping the roles of Heaven and Hell is intriqing.  By upending the idea of good and evil and the roles that Satan and God play, not only with each other as lovers but as the guardians of Earth, McCormack has designed a world where he can throw out all previously conceived notions of angels and demons and create his own pantheon of celestial creatures and infernal agents at play.

Within McCormack’s wonderfully twisted world, God rules over a unequal hierarchy of preternaturally exquisite beings called higherlings.  We know them as angels.  Not all angels are created equal in God’s eyes.  Some are created just to be ethereally beautiful, so much so that they are privileged,  Janka was one such being.

In McCormack’s words “… Janka was privileged, granted all that he desired from the Almighty. He’d been one of Heaven’s most desirable creatures. He was doted on, loved, adored. It left him, like so many of the Almighty’s elite, filled with a natural conceit. When Janka gave orders, Kinzer resisted. He fussed and barked. He wasn’t going to listen to a higherling, especially not one that had been afforded such luxuries…”.

These were luxuries that other less well crafted heavenly beings would never attain.  I loved this.  An entire line of what is basically heavenly himbos who were created by God to be sublimely gorgeous.  And that ‘s it. Big on beauty, and also big in their sexual appendages (think elephantine in length).  Not, however, big on the brains department.  That was saved for those lesser beings, also pretty and well endowed (inhumanly huge in every way although not prodigiously so), just not gloriously unimaginably over the top like the higher ups. That latter one is Kinzer.  Who abandons his current lover to be with this exquisite creature so high above Kinzer’s station as to be unobtainable. But obtain Kinzer does to his eternal regret. I’m not sure McCormack ever made a good argument for  this change up in lovers.  You just have to take it on faith that Janka’s beauty was too much to resist. Yes,beautiful, irresistible twits are everywhere, even in Heaven.

And with such inequality comes revolution, an ex lover  who rules in Hell and the fallen.  And now its God versus Satan and a rush is on to save the world from a spurned lover.  Yes, not from Satan, but from a revengeful and petty Almighty bent on smiting to oblivion his gift to Satan, now his ex.  So now we have two teams and the object of their mission is to find the mother of the Antichrist, who along with her unborn child, will determine the fate of Earth and all humanity. The teams consist of spies for both the Leader (Satan) and God.  On God’s side is the Raze, a group of sadist higherlings that report directly to the Almighty.  The mother of the Antichrist?  A drug addled whore who, realistically enough, thinks she is going crazy.   During one such battle to find the mother, the two groups came together.  Kinzer, a fallen, knew that someone within his team had betrayed them to the Raze.  He was brutally dewinged and his lover killed before his eyes.  All great stuff when creating a compelling story.

Its what happens within that narrative framework that didn’t exactly work for me. The major sticking point here would be the type and quantityt of brutal, painful sex that overtakes the actual storytelling.  One particular human is involved….a young boy called Kid who was kidnapped off the streets and is forced to work in a depraved brothel where anything, and I do mean anything goes.  It is here where a captured Kinzer finds himself deposited by his nemesis.  The action found within this brothel includes rape with not only multiple partners but cutlery as well.  Its crude, bloody, and its descriptions are as graphic and raw as the events taking place.  I predict that some readers are going to stop reading here.

McCormack can definitely write a scene because he will be able to pull emotions from his readers with characters that you will care about in a situation that is as intense as it is dramatic.  It is how you feel about rape, non consensual sex and torture that help form your feelings toward Clipped.  If those things fall  outside your reading comfort zone, then you most likely will want to skip this story because things only increase in intensity not lessen.

Why?  Because the Kid, who has huge emotional (and why wouldn’t he) issues as well as an abusive past history, continues on the run with Kinzer and not in a romantic way.  But there will be sex between the mortal Kid (who has a mortal’s body) and an immortal with the aforesaid ginormous sexual member.  So more forcing, more bloodshed and yes, quite a bit of angst and horror.  This is not a romance by any means.   Even the fallen on fallen sexual encounters  include brutality and blood.  Definitely not for the fainthearted.  I can see that such painful sex might be indicative of the Fallens status.  Not worthy of love and kindness, only brutality and pain.  I kind of get that.  And it does work in small doses.  But I am talking almost continual sex scenes of all combinations, and somewhere the plot gets lost for a while as the demons get their daily dosage of pain and sex in.

I also found it amazing or amusing or both that the devilish and heavenly creatures are as poor with their communication skills as the humans they deride. Because had several of the main characters actually talked to one another, this would be a much shorter novel.  That didn’t bother me, I just found it funny. What did make me flinch? Well, all the sexual degradation and humiliation not withstanding, it is the ending that peeved me the most.  It just ends on an astonishing event.  Boom, over and done.  I was flabbergasted because the fight scene was wonderful and I wanted to see how McCormack was going to resolve it, twists and all included.   But he didn’t . It ended on a cliffhanger.  It wasn’t until I went searching through various interviews that I found out that the author intends to turn this into series that I was mollified somewhat. Only somewhat.  Just my opinion but if you are going to end your story in that manner, let the reader know that this is a series or that a sequel will be coming.  Don’t let them think that a standalone story is missing an ending.

Anyhow.  Yes, there’s more to come.  And for some of you that will be a wonderful thing. There are enough elements here that I can understand that.  Others of you have already left the room by now having found out that this is not the story for you.  I get that too.  Like I said you will either love this or hate it.  I will leave it up to you.

But this amazing cover?  That will be on ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best Covers of 2014.  That is genuinely a heavenly (or devilishly) gorgeous cover.

Cover art by Wilde City art director.

Buy Links:       Wilde City Press            Amazon                 ARe

Book Details:
Kindle Edition, English
229 pages
Published April 9th 2014 by Wilde City Press (first published January 1st 2014)
ASINB00JQUYN6C
edition languageEnglish

Publishers Warning: This title is erotic and contains homosexual content, graphic sex, violence, and strong language. Readers uncomfortable with rough sexual situations should not purchase this book.

ScatteredThoughts May Summary of Reviews and Best Covers of the Month

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May 2014 Book Review SummaryMay in block letters

for ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords

 

 

*Key: S seriesC contemporary

F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
HR-horror
N-Nonfiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

What an incredible month. May was chock full of fantastic stories and outstanding covers.  Oh, that every month was as full of riches as this one.  There are standalones from new authors like Chase Potter, JK Hogan and Leona Carver. Saugatuck Summer, intense contemporary fiction from Amelia C. Gormley, is a must read. Plus Hostile Ground, a terrific team novel by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A.. Witt, that I  hope will become a series.  If you love to laugh and cry just a little, John Inman and David Pratt are well represented here with Spirit and Looking After Joey respectively. And many of my favorite series saw new releases this month.  SA McAuley’s Borders War series got a new story, so did Shira Anthony’s Mermen of Ea and the Pulp Friction 2014 group of authors keeps us entertained and glued to our seats with new releases all around.

There is plenty here for everyone, no matter what your favorite genres are.  Check them out, see what you missed, and add to your TBR pile!
5 Star Rating:

Daylight Again by SE Jakes C,S
Powerless by SA McAuley SF, S
Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley, C

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Backburn by Laura Harner (4.75) C, S, PF 2014
Forever is Now by K. Vale (4) C, S
Hostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov, LA Witt (4.75) C
Knight of Fire by S.J. Frost (4.25) F, S
I Survived Seattle by J.K. Hogan, (4) C, S
Into the Wind by Shira Anthony (4.75) F, S
Looking After Joey by David Pratt (4.25) F,
Love Comes Home by Andrew Grey (4), C, S
Moving Earth by TA Webb (4.5) C, S, PF 2014
No Ocean Too Deep by Leona Carver (4.5) F, S
One Night by RJ Scott, C (4), C
Spirit by John Inman (4.5 stars) C
Stealing the Wind by Shira Anthony (4.5) F, S
The Race for Second by Chase Potter (4.75) C
3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Clipped by Devon McCormack (3) SN, S
Double Takes by K.Vale (3.5) C, S

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

None
Best Covers of April 2014:

DaylightAgain_500x750HostileGround_500x750Looking After Joey coverNo Ocean Too Deep Carver_Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

IntoWindStealing the Wind coverSaugatuckSummer_500x750Spirit cover

 

 

 

 

 

Clipped cover
Photographic Covers:
Daylight Again, Cover by L.C. Chase
Hostile Ground, Cover by L.C. Chase
Looking After Joey, cover by Wilde City Press

Non Photographic Covers:
Clipped, Wilde City Press
No Oceans Too Deep, Cover by Tanya Rehulak
Saugatuck Summer, Cover by L.C. Chase
Spirit, Cover by Reese Dante
Stealing the Wind, cover art by Anne Cain
Into the Wind, cover by Anne Cain

 

 

Review: Backburn (Fighting Fire #3) (PF 2014) by Laura Harner

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Backburn coverNothing between Park Ranger Rob Hammond and disabled firefighter Scott McGregor has ever been easy.  From their early romance and traumatic breakup to their reunion in Scott’s hospital room where Scott was recovering from injuries that killed most of his crew and cost him the profession he loved.  Scott had hoped that with Rob’s reappearance, their romance and relationship was back on track.  But with one ill advised phone call to Rob’s mother, Scott has derailed that hope even though he refuses to admit it.

Scott is also having problems with PTSD and his nightmares are getting worse. The stress and strain of operating Mountain Shadows and the problems that have been popping up recently aren’t helping either.  Strange and horrifying things are happening around the campground and Scott aims to get at the causes even if he has to investigate it by himself..

Rob Hammond is faltering under the weight of the secrets he has been keeping and his efforts to become a wildland firefighter.  He is just beginning to realize that Scott’s PTSD is worse than Scott had let on and Scott’s phone call to his mother brought up painful past problems that he had pushed aside.   A run in with an old acquaintance and another call from home make Rob realize that he had some hard decisions to make and that they need to be made soon before everything he hopes to achieve goes up in flames.

When one man finally understands what he wants, the other person’s reality combusts.  When you fight fire with fire, will both of them and their relationship be burned beyond compare?

What is a backburn?  A backburn in firefighter terms means to create firebreak in path of brushfire: to prevent a brushfire from spreading by lighting another fire in its path

Reading this series is like walking towards a fire.  With each new story acting like a new step forward, the reader and Harner’s characters get closer and closer to the flames.  As the heat and the danger combine, it increases incrementally the treacherous nature of the situation these characters find themselves in as the story proceeds. Then it explodes in a ball of fire at the end in a way that will leave you dazed, a more than a little fearful and standing at a precipice with no where to go.  And you will totally love it.

Scott and Rob, the troubled duo at the heart of this series are back and in worse shape than ever.  Scott is living in denial about practically everything going on in his life.  And that state of delusion has made Scott act ill-advisedly where his and Rob’s past is concerned.   One phone call to Rob’s mother shatters Scott’s hopes about their future and Rob’s plans for them as well.  Harner also brings in the realistic element of Scott’s PTSD and his continued avoidance of any treatment.  When Scott breaks down when undergoing traumatic flashbacks to the fire that cost him everything, we are able to feel the weight of those memories and the pain they are still able to cause.  Not only do we understand why Scott is acting so impudently but we can see the consequences coming even if he doesn’t.  We can like this character even if we don’t like his actions.

Rob too has so many layers to his character.  And like Scott, we also won’t like certain aspects of his past or his persona.  But also like Scott, Harner provides us with enough personal details and back history that once we put his actions within context then that conduct starts to make sense.  Rob grows more as a character here than he has in past stories.  That growth will trigger decisions and events that we will not see coming, another marvelous element to these stories.

Fires and the devastation that comes with those who choose to become firefighters is a prevailing element here.  We see the sacrifice that is called for when someone decides on becoming a firefighter and the pain and sorrow that will follow in its path.   That Scott loves and misses his profession is clear.  So is the ultimate sacrifice his crew made and the survivor guilt that is overwhelming the only man left alive by that fire.  Harner’s vivid descriptions and emotional scenes bring Scott’s inability to deal with that fatal fire to life in breathtaking detail.  That people choose to do this challenging, dangerous, and necessary profession makes me grateful and awed.  In Scott McGregor we can see and feel the cost as well as the dedication needed to be such a firefighter.  That’s thanks to Laura Harner as well.

The ending is emotionally devastating and will leave you hanging.  This used to bother me.  But in a series and in the hands of an author who does this cliffhanger so well, it works to keep us on the ledge and happy to be there.  I can’t wait to see what happens next and so will you.

If you are new to the series, in fact the entire Pulp Friction 2014 interconnected stories, start at the beginning to get the most from these authors stories and characters.  I have listed all the series and stories below.  I consider Backburn and Fighting Fire (along with all the rest of the Pulp Friction 2014 group) to be one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014.

Cover art by Laura Harner

Book Details:

64 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN139781937252816
edition languageEnglish
seriesFighting Fire #3, Pulp Friction 2014 #9

 Buy Links:          Amazon              ARe

About Pulp Friction 2014: Laura Harner ~ Lee Brazil ~ Havan Fellows ~ T.A. Webb The Pulp Friction 2014 Collection. Four authors. Four Series. Twenty books. One fiery finale. Spend a year with an eclectic group of strangers brought together through circumstances, as they are tested by life, and emerge as more than friends.

The strongest bonds are forged by fire, cooled in air, smoothed by water, grounded in earth. Although each series can stand alone, we believe reading the books in the order they are released will increase your enjoyment. There will be five rounds and one final story written by all four authors.

Round One of Pulp Friction 2014:

Firestorm (Fighting Fire# 1) by Laura Harner
Cold Snap (In From the Cold# 1) by Lee Brazil
Blown Away (Where the Wind Blows# 1) by Havan Fellows
Higher Ground (Earthquake# 1) by Tom Webb

Round Two of Pulp Friction 2014:

Controlled Burn (Fighting Fire #2) by Laura Harner
Cold Comfort (In From the Cold #2) by Lee Brazil
Blown Kisses (Where the Wind Blows #2) by Havan Fellows
Moving Earth (Earthquake #2) by Tom Webb

Round Three of Pulp Friction 2014:

Backburn (Fighting Fire #3) by Laura Harner
Cold Feet (In From the Cold #3) by Lee Brazil
Blow Hard (Where the Wind Blows #3) by Havan Fellows
Tremors (Earthquake #3) by Tom Webb

 

Review: Moving Earth (Earthquake #2) (PF 2014) by T.A. Webb

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Moving Earth coverNow that Charlie Turner has moved out of his family’s home, he has time for a personal life for the first time in ages.  After his father died, Charlie was busy working and raising his grief stricken younger brother while his mother mourned.  Now living in his own cabin on Mountain Shadows campground, Charlie is ready to reclaim his private time and he knows just who he wants to spend it with…..Amos Greene. Aloof, gorgeous, and sexy Amos Greene.  But outside of sex, does Amos want him back?

Amos Greene has more than a few personal demons to deal with.  Past experience has taught Amos that when it comes to romance, you keep it cool, keep it impersonal and temporary.  Then Amos meets Charlie Turner when Charlie comes to work on Amos’ art gallery.  Charlie isn’t satisfied with temporary and he certainly won’t settle on being just a one or two night stand.  And little by little, Amos starts to give in to Charlie’s insistence on a relationship with small steps forward and through all the walls Amos has erected over the years..

But strange, dark things are happening at Mountain Shadows and Charlie’s brother just might be in the middle of things. Soon Charlie finds himself in the middle of an investigation, and draws Amos in with him.  What they find out will have repercussions for them all….

 

Moving Earth is a perfect title for a story about families and relationships on shaky ground.  The second the T.A. Webb’s Earthquake series, the story picks up right after the end of Higher Ground.   Charlie Turner, a absolutely lovable character, has shouldered his family’s burdens after the death of his dad.  That meant trying to be everything to his teenage brother who is grieving and in emotional shock.  Not quite father, not able to be the fun big brother, Charlie is trying hard to fill a role that isn’t his and its not working.  His brother is rebelling and afraid especially when Charlie moves out of the house into his own cabin at his mother’s insistence.  Webb understands complicated family dynamics and it shows in the dialog and descriptions of the family interactions that come into play in Moving Earth.

In a story full of complicated characters, each with their own baggage of personal issues, Damon Turner, the troubled younger brother, almost steals the story away from Charlie and Amos.  Smart mouthed and snarky, Damon hides his fears and anger behind his aggressive behavior and disturbing circle of friends.  This is the character we fear for and want to hold close.  His actions towards his brother and classmates are cries for help.  It makes Damon believable and someone we can relate to.  And Charlie’s anger at and concern for his brother is something we get as well.  Damon’s feelings about his brother’s sexuality are all over the place.  Damon is at times both hurtful, hurling epithets at Charlie and then with an about face, he is accepting of his brother and Amos. In total, Damon is that teenager is search of stability and love who has had his support jerked out from under him in the most traumatic way.  Clearly Damon isn’t dealing with it very well, nor would any teenager in his place.  T.A. Webb navigates this tricky, prickly time for the brothers with sensitivity and authenticity that just deepens the whole feeling behind Moving Earth.

Poor Charlie.  Between his brother and Amos, almost every relationship he has or wants needs an amazing amount of work.  Charlie has to force Amos to look at him in a different manner than Amos’ previous sexual conquests.  I liked the fact that Charlie is not a doormat here and that he demands the respect he knows he deserves.  And Amos, with his pain-filled awful childhood, is a tough character  to crack open. It must be Amos’ decision to open up and become vulnerable once more in order to accept Charlie and his need for a real relationship.  This is a delicate juggling act that Webb handles as well as he does the one between Charlie and Damon.

As with all the interconnected Pulp Friction 2014 series, there are several mysteries running through all four stories and series.  Here the author starts to amp up the suspense that surrounds the riddles of the dark events happening at Mountain Shadows campground.  Dead, mutilated animals are being found in the woods nearby and who is behind this is anyone’s guess.  There will be clues and perhaps some false trails laid but all are quaranteed to keep you glued to this story and all the series that go with it.   And the ending here?  It will startle you and send you back to the first book looking for clues and more information.  Loved it, hated it (for leaving me hanging), and definitely wanting more.  Much, much more.

Did all this happen in 40 pages?  Why yes it did and that fact alone continues to amaze me.  Its like wondering how all those things fit into the magician’s hat.  It’s astonishing even as I marvel that it all works so wondrously well.   I love Webb’s Earthquake series for its complicated sibling relationship as much as I do for its equally complex romance.  Don’t pass this up but start with the first story Higher Ground.

The Pulp Friction 2014 (and 2013) series can all be read separately but they work best when read together to get the full impact of the characters, their intertwined relationships and the intricate plot all these terrific authors have devised.  I highly recommend them all but make sure to start at the first story in each series and build up from there.  I have listed the stories as they are being released below.  Not listed as yet is Round Four but that is coming.

Cover art by Laura Harner

Buy Links:         Amazon         ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 40 pages
Published April 30th 2014 by A Bear on Books (first published April 29th 2014)
ISBN139781310924866
edition languageEnglish
seriesEarthquake #2, Pulp Friction 2014 #8

About Pulp Friction 2014:  Laura Harner ~ Lee Brazil ~ Havan Fellows ~ T.A. Webb The Pulp Friction 2014 Collection. Four authors. Four Series. Twenty books. One fiery finale. Spend a year with an eclectic group of strangers brought together through circumstances, as they are tested by life, and emerge as more than friends.

The strongest bonds are forged by fire, cooled in air, smoothed by water, grounded in earth. Although each series can stand alone, we believe reading the books in the order they are released will increase your enjoyment.  There will be five rounds and one final story written by all four authors.

Round One of Pulp Friction 2014:

Firestorm (Fighting Fire# 1) by Laura Harner
Cold Snap (In From the Cold# 1) by Lee Brazil
Blown Away (Where the Wind Blows# 1) by Havan Fellows
Higher Ground (Earthquake# 1) by Tom Webb

Round Two of Pulp Friction 2014:

Controlled Burn (Fighting Fire #2) by Laura Harner
Cold Comfort (In From the Cold #2) by Lee Brazil
Blown Kisses (Where the Wind Blows #2) by Havan Fellows
Moving Earth (Earthquake #2) by Tom Webb

Round Three of Pulp Friction 2014:

Backburn (Fighting Fire #3) by Laura Harner
Cold Feet (In From the Cold #3) by Lee Brazil
Blow Hard (Where the Wind Blows #3) by Havan Fellows
Tremors (Earthquake #3) by Tom Webb

 

Review: Saugatuck Summer (Saugatuck #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

SaugatuckSummer_500x750Topher Carlisle likes to think of himself as fabulous. Topher knows he looks fabulous, now only if he felt that way on the inside.  He is turning twenty one and stands on the precipice of adulthood with life changing decisions rising up around him. Gay, gorgeous and of mixed race, Topher’s upbringing has been anything but normal.  Or happy.  Or safe. His mother is a drug dependent alcoholic whose mental health issues threatened his health and his sanity growing up.  His other relatives are little better, giving him support on their terms, which were both emotionally and physically abusive.  And while most people only see a flamboyantly gay, intelligent and perhaps superficial young man, the inner Topher is the one who continues to battle with his depression and thoughts of worthlessness.

Supporting himself through college on a swimming scholarship, Topher’s education might be cut short if he can’t get in condition to compete for the team in the fall and earn the money he needs for board.  Luckily for Topher, his BFF, Mo is bringing him with her to the family beach house on Lake Michigan.  A summer of swimming and, hopefully, part time work, should just do the trick if Topher can stick with the program, but that is something he rarely does.   And something totally unexpected and disasterous happens….his bestfriend’s father is handsome, closeted…and it turns out, available for an affair.  An affair that ruins everyones lives before the summer is over.

Now homeless, friendless and desperate Topher needs help in the worst way. And it comes in the shape of a artist named Jace who asks to paint his portrait and sees beyond the facade Topher has erected to protect himself from further pain.  And he just might be the answer to this young gay man’s prayers…if only Topher will give him a chance and let him in.

What?  Don’t recognize the book by the synopsis above?  Not even close to the blurb you read that starts out  “Hi, I’m Topher Carlisle: twenty-one, pretty, and fabulous”?  Not surprising because that light, somewhat comedic summary has little in common with the dark, heartrending story that is Saugatuck Summer.  Just like you, I was expecting a sort of coming of age story featuring one of those fabulous characters who burbles on in an almost stream of consciouness, missing an editor gate sort of inner monologue.  You know light, kind of frothy, with hints of angst here and there.  That is not, as I said, Saugatuck Summer.  What I got was darker, deeper, and totally involving featuring a mess of a main character who is not instantly likable.  All of which is much, much better than anything I had originally anticipated.

Instead of light romance, Gormley gives us Christopher “Topher” Carlisle, a chronic depressive who is half black, gay, and on the cusp of turning twenty one.  A traumatic event sent him into a downward spiral last year in college, turning him into a black hole of depression and making him unable to attend classes or stay in shape to swim.  We meet Topher as the summer starts.  His bestfriend, Mo, has invited Topher to stay with her and her family at the summer vacation home on Lake Michigan free of charge.  There Topher can swim himself back into shape and get a part-time job to help pay college expenses in the fall. Sounds great, right?  And it would be for anyone but Topher who is also self destructive and possesses of poor self image.  He is, as they say, his own worst enemy and proves it over and over again to himself to be certain.

Gormley establishes that the reasons why Topher acts the way he does are grounded in his abusive past which continues to haunt him as he cannot bring himself to cut all ties to his mother and his family.  The author doesn’t dump all the horror that is Topher’s family on the reader at once which is probably a good thing because the ghastly mess that is Topher’s family and upbringing is made more effective when it is revealed in segments of painful revelations as Topher relives scenes from his childhood and other memories that refuse to stay buried.  Topher himself is aware of his self destructive tendencies.  He is the product of years of therapy and doctor ordered medications that help with the depression.  But as the cause of most of his pain is only a phone call away, a complete breakdown is a possibility in any given stressful situation.  Over and over again, Gormley’s Topher will bring us to tears even as we want to give him a shake in frustration over his actions. We get it and him.  It will take a while to accept Topher as he is such a deeply flawed young man but when you do (and you will if you give him a chance), then his journey out of the darkness and into a reality where he just might find happiness is one you will wholly invest yourself in. You will love this young man and every step he takes, forward and back, are ones that you will take together.

Ah, yes, the cheating.  I know that for some of you, just the mention of cheating will have you crossing this off your TBR list.  And that the man who cheats is not only married but Topher’s best friend’s father might send the rest of you running for the proverbial door.  To all of you, please put that issue aside and read this story.  Brandon, the father, has his own demons to fight and he also is a flawed, impulsive human being.  Brandon knows that this affair will end badly but like Topher, he can’t help himself.   Again, Gormley provides a solid and realistic rationale for both men’s actions.  You don’t have to like what  they are doing, just understand that each man, or almost man in Topher’s case, has so many dark skeletons in their closet that it makes this jump into bed almost a given.  Everyone here is so authentically human, painfully so that no matter how awful their actions seems, you still end up empathizing with everyone who gets pulled into this mess.  And that includes the two main participants.

Gormley does an outstanding job with all her characters here.  Mo, the best friend betrayed by both her father and Topher, is a portrait of loyalty and heartbreak.   A married couple, Robin (an art gallery owner) and Geoff, his partner and tattoo artist, who turn out to be the grounded gay couple who helps save Topher by providing a framework of knowledge and friendship that Topher has never had before.   And finally Jace, the artist who sees deeply into the troubled Topher and still wants to pursue a relationship. Each and every one is a stunner of a character.  And their importance to this story and Topher is beautifully rendered in scenes that will make you laugh and cry and want to be a part of that village that starts to raise Topher up out of the hole made by his upbringing and family.

Is this an easy book to read?  No, not really.  But it is a wonderful one.  It will pull you in, involve you emotionally and mentally.  It will tear you up as you watch Topher breaking on the shoals of his illness and family history.  And finally it will move you to tears and happiness as Topher finds his way to love and a future.  Thankfully, Amelia C. Gormley realizes that there will never be an easy resolution to someone with Topher’s illnesses and past, only better ways to handle them with the right therapy and a balanced doctor proscribed plan of medication.  So the ending is marvelously conceived and wonderfully realistic.  I loved it as I did Topher and everyone else found within the covers of Saugatuck Summer.

Saugatuck Summer  is a book not to be missed.  It will be one to be remembered.  And Saugatuck Summer will be on my Best of 2014 list at the end of the year.

Cover artist is LC Chase.  That cover is beautifully deceptive.  You only think it shows a lovely peaceful beach scene but look at the gathering storm clouds and the portent is clear.  Just an amazing cover, one of the best of the year.

 

Of Special Note:  Be sure to check out the Saugatuck Summer soundtrack by singer/songwriter Casey Stratton .  This soundtrack is the soundtrack for Topher’s life.  Stratton’s music and lyrics are found throughout the story, linking events, memories and happenings together in a seamless strand of melody.  I found a new musician to love with this story.  Visit his website.  I think you will find the same.

Book Details:

ebook, 363 pages
Published May 19th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published May 17th 2014)
original titleSaugatuck Summer
ISBN139781626491168
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/
seriesSaugatuck #1

Buy Links:   Riptide Publishing               Amazon                         ARe

Review: Hostile Ground by L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Enemy territory is a dangerous place to fall in love.

HostileGround_500x750After three undercover cops died while investigating a Seattle crime lord with international ties, Detective Mahir Hussain was chosen next to infiltrate the drug ring and finish the job they started.  His superiors reasoned that Mahir had an advantage the other officers didn’t, the first and foremost being that Mahir is gay and currently lacking a partner. The drug ring operates out of a disreputable nightclub in one of the worst districts in Seattle and its head of security is known to only hire gay men. Mahir is also a Muslim and of Arabic descent which makes Mahir work that much harder to prove himself while taking on jobs that others might flinch at, including this one.

Mahir joins the club’s security team but only after passing his inspection and initiation by Ridley, the drug lord’s right hand man.  And as only gay men are allowed to protect the strippers, Ridley knows exactly how to test each man that applies for work there….by testing his sexuality up close and personal. A test that Mahir passes with enthusiasm to his surprise. Ridley is not only cold and intimidating but extremely dangerous and dangerously handsome as well.  Mahir finds himself getting in deeper than he expected….deeply involved with the sexy, ruthless Ridley and  pulled deeper into a crime organization that is more than it seems from the outside.

Mahir knows that his position is shaky.  He must find the answers he needs as well as the evidence to convict the criminals. And Mahir must do so quickly before he is discovered to be a cop and the ties and emotions he feels towards Ridley become too deep to cut. Mahir Hussain is a man on hostile ground. Will he be able to save himself when the danger is to his heart as well?

Undercover cops in danger is a terrific and exciting element for any story and in Hostile Ground, it is only the jumping off point for the action and adventure that Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt have in store for the reader with this marvelous tale of crime, passion, and deception.  With Voinov and Witt at the helm, mayhem and hot, dangerous liaisons are sure to follow.  And one half of the explosive duo here is a not only a total surprise but my favorite characters in the story.  That would be Mahir Hussain.

To have your tale unfold from the viewpoint of an American Muslim of Middle Eastern descent is not only unexpected but adds a dimension of tension and potential for bigotry not found to often in the m/m genre or any genres I can think of outside the role of villain or conspirator.  Having Mahir Hussein, as a main character in a m/m story, someone who is both a Muslim and of Arabic descent, who is also the romantic “lead” is both fascinating and compelling.  That Mahir faces discrimination and hostility in both his law enforcement profession and from the criminals in his undercover role just points out that bigotry and race hatred has no boundaries.  Between the “camel jokes” Mahir makes before anyone else can and his interaction with his strict Muslim brother who refuses to accept Mahir’s sexuality. we are given a broader picture of the consequences of his heritage, sexuality, and religion within society, whether that society is legal or not.  Mahir is such a great character, flaws and all, that the reader will fall for this intense and complicated man from the outset.

Mahir’s character is grounded by his family, estranged brother included.   The authors have given Mahir a young, gay nephew whose troubles with his father and family mirror those that Mahir went through earlier in his life.  Seen through both their eyes, the struggle to remain a part of the tightknit conservative family while staying true to who you are and who you love becomes understandable with its familial pull and emotionally explosive issues to resolve.  I loved the nephew too, so young, troubled, and in need of love and support from his uncle.

Ridley, the head of security for the crime boss, is deadly, ruthless, and sexually commanding. Ridley is both a threat and the magnet that is pulling Mahir into a relationship he never expected and a sexual role that is outside his comfort zone, or so Mahir thought.  Prior to Ridley, Mahir has always been the person in command in the bedroom and elsewhere but Ridley expects submission and obedience.  How Mahir handles that change in roles is both challenging and extremely hot to read about.  Witt and Voinov up the suspense and action as the relationship between Mahir and Ridley gets as out of control as the situation they find themselves in.

Things I would have loved to have seen expounded on was Mahir’s role within his family and his nephew Kinza, mainly what happened to Kinza who I adored. Plus a little more transition between the last two chapters and the epilogue.  It all happens so quickly at the end (as it would when that action was going down) but a little more explanations after the climax would have fleshed out the resolution as deeply and completely as the rest of the story felt.  I know that is asking a lot as the book is already at 362 pages, but a complex plot needs that complexity mirrored at the end and I am just not sure that happens to its full potential.

As with all reviewers, the challenge is to talk about the book  but leave out the information that spoils the plot and the ending.  That is particularly tough here where the plot has more layers than an English Trifle. You must first navigate your way through all the layers of this story that the authors have constructed, to figure out all the hidden subterfuge, the antagonists and their roles, and exactly what the criminals are hiding, selling and willing to kill for….well, that’s a deep and complex dish.  It’s very satisfying but the smallest additional information would reveal the wrong thing at definitely the wrong time.

Do I recommend Hostile Ground?  Absolutely.  It’s hot, sexy, surprising, and action packed.  It’s a love story and a thriller.  What’s not to love?  Add an undercover Muslim detective, a commanding and dominant sexy criminal, a young, naive gay nephew and more secrets than any one cop can handle, and you have a recipe for an entertaining and hard to put down story.  Grab this up and begin your investigation on Hostile Ground today.

Cover art by LC Chase.  Chase gives us a dark and sexy cover which totally works for this story and its characters based in Seattle.

Book Details:

Word count: 96,600; Page count: 362
Kindle Edition
Published May 11th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ASINB00K9YM52I
edition language English

Buy Links:   Riptide Publishing           Amazon               ARe

Totally Bound Tour Stop & Contest for Sierra Cartwright’s Crave (Bonds #1)

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Sierra Cartwright_Crave_Kindle__600x315Sierra Cartwright’s Crave Totally Bound Publishing May 2014

To celebrate the release of Crave Totally Bound are giving you the chance to win a Kindle Fire HD! Enter here for your chance to win!

 

Contest:  From the internationally best selling, author Sierra Cartwright comes the first story in her new series Bonds, Crave.  The competition for the Kindle Fire HD runs from the 26th May to 4th June with winners being announced at Totally Bound’s facebook release party on 4th June. Open internationally, must be 18 to enter.  Visit this site to enter and for more information. 

 

 Crave (Bonds #1) Blurb:

Crave (Bonds #1) coverShe still craved him… The sight of a collar in her boyfriend’s drawer had stunned Sarah. Panicking, she had fled. But no other man has ever been his equal.

Two years ago, the woman he’d hoped to collar and marry disappeared. So Reece McRae is stunned to find his former girlfriend on her knees, behaving as the submissive he’d always wanted.

Is it too late? He should refuse her, but an undeniable sexual attraction consumes him.

Sarah had been under Reece’s spell from the moment she met him. When she found a steel collar in his drawer, she panicked. The idea of a lifetime of his relentless demands, sensual and otherwise, suffocated her.

In the years they’ve been apart, she hasn’t met his equal. Now, convinced one last night will vanquish his memory, she sets out to seduce him.

The Reece she returns to is even more determined to have his way. Is she now strong enough, brave enough, to surrender to his love?

Reader Advisory: This book contains sensual torment, flogging, anal sex and sex in public.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: May 30th 2014 by Totally Bound
ISBN139781784300289
url https://www.totallybound.com/crave
seriesBonds #1

Excerpt:
Humidity drenched the evening air. Noise from the hotel faded into the background. Potted plants lined the sidewalk, and a few palm trees swayed in the light breeze.
As she neared the restaurant entrance, she saw Reece.
He was waiting in the shadows, shoulders against the stucco wall. Her heart stuttered before surging on, thundering in her throat.
This man dominated her thoughts along with her body.
“Good evening, Sarah,” he said, taking her hand and raising it to his lips.
His old-world charm had always undone her. “Reece,” she said.
“You look lovely.”
She knew his compliment was sincere. As she’d learned, he never said anything he didn’t believe.
“You’re wearing panties?”
Despite the heat, she shivered. “I am.”
“Again, that’s remiss of you.”
“I had no idea it mattered to you.”
“It does.”
Even in the fading darkness, she felt the power of his gaze and heard the tension in his tone.
He gripped her shoulders and moved her so that her back was to the wall. Her insides turned molten.
Reece McRae overwhelmed, consumed her.
Helpless, she linked her arms around his neck. As he demanded entrance to her mouth, she yielded.
His tongue met hers, and she tasted his passion. This was the man who’d captured her heart as well as her body so many years ago. And it was a reminder of why she’d run. When she was this close, her brain function shut down. All that remained were her base needs. She’d do anything, surrender everything.

Like the sound of Crave? You can buy it here:Sierra Cartwright_Crave_Kindle_Social Media Patch

Author Bio:

Born in Northern England and raised in the Wild West, Sierra Cartwright pens book that are as untamed as the Rockies she calls home.

She’s an award-winning, multi-published writer who wrote her first book at age nine and hasn’t stopped since.
Sierra invites you to share the complex journey of love and desire, of surrender and commitment. Her own journey has taught her that trusting takes guts and courage, and her work is a celebration for everyone who is willing to take that risk.

You can follow the author at:

Website
Twitter
Totally Bound Author Page

A Totally Bound Publishing Book Tour

 

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Author Spotlight: Writing with Humor by John Inman (contest)

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spotlight on books

Spirit cover

 

 

 

Author Spotlight:  John Inman On Writing with Humor

 

The stories of John Inman are a true favorite of mine.  I think of John Inman and his stories and immediately I start to smile. He has the ability to convey the emotions and thoughts of real people with startling issues in his stories through humor, frankness, and acceptance.  Interspersed, of course, by the occasional moments of angst.

“Laughing through our tears”  is probably a phrase most readers would associate with this author, whether it is through his books, Shy, Hobbled, or the recently released Spirit.   I invited John to talk a little about how he combines the authenticity of every day problems and real life difficulties with humor.  John has brought a copy of his latest release, Spirit, to give away.  To enter to win leave a comment and an email address where you can be contacted.  The contest ends June 4 at midnight. 

 

Writing with Humor by John Inman

I was recently asked how and why I temper the impact of real issues with humor.

Well now, there’s a question and a half, huh?

Questions about why I write the way I do always go flapping over my head like distraught pigeons, because I honestly never know how to answer them. My motives are a mystery even to me. They always have been.

I do know there are times when I’m trying to delve into serious issues in a story and it’s an uphill battle for me to not start cracking jokes or going for a laugh. I’m talking about my writing here. In real life I’m much too shy to shoot for a belly laugh from anybody. I’m the guy sitting in the corner behind the potted palm slurping down cocktails to calm his frazzled nerves and trying to be inconspicuous. On paper, however, I’m fearless.

I honestly had not thought about it before, but behind every one of my comedies — SHY, HOBBLED, SPIRIT, LOVING HECTOR, SERENADING STANLEY — (I’m leaving out PAULIE because the only serious aspect to that story was the fact that everybody wanted to get laid, and I mean seriously.) Taking those other stories in order, the serious issues are Social Anxiety, Murder and Kidnapping, just plain Murder, Physical Abuse, and with STANLEY, an apartment building full of crazy people and the MC’s Inferiority Complex.


Even my serious novels have a good deal of comedy interwoven into the story. Take A HARD WINTER RAIN, for instance. With all the people being violently mowed down left and right, that one simply cried out for mood lighteners. So I gave them to the reader through the gallows humor of two homicide detectives chasing down a serial killer. JASPER’S MOUNTAIN, too, had its lighter moments. How could there not be an underlying comedic tone when the main character had three dogs, two cats, a couple of baby pigs, and a shitload of alligator lizards infesting his mountain retreat?


I think even in the most serious story lines, there is a need to lighten the mood now and then. I realize I go a little overboard with my humor sometimes, but still it serves a purpose. I know when I’m reading a long, sad, morose tale of abuse or angst or heartbreak, I require an occasional chuckle just so I won’t set the book aside periodically and toddle off to the bedroom to blow my brains out.

When I was a high school kid back in Indiana about a thousand years ago, I remember my English Lit teacher giving us an assignment to write a story about ancient Rome. Growing up in Switz City, Indiana, with a population of 212 people, and with only one stoplight, one feed store, one tiny market where the clerk doled out change from a cigar box, and about a gazillion churches, I had, of course, never been to Rome in my life, ancient or otherwise, and unless I was sorely mistaken, I was pretty sure none of the other kids had been there either.

So instead of writing a story about something I knew absolutely nothing about, I wrote a commercial. A commercial like you might have seen had ancient Rome been bombarded with endless hours of mindless television shows like we are. (Yes, even as a kid I hated TV.) Remember Cal Worthington and his dog Spot (who was actually a tiger) hawking used cars all over TV? That’s the type of guy I based my commercial on. Only Cal wasn’t Cal anymore. He was Calicus. And he didn’t sell cars, he sold chariots. Calicus stood there in his lot full of used chariots, his toga flapping around his pale skinny legs, touting the wonderfulness of his inventory in a loud booming voice, while his bigass pet elephant, Spot, followed him around like a Corgi.

I fully expected to get an F on the assignment, but strangely enough Mrs. Donahue (who I always thought hated my guts) –see? I was paranoid even then — well, Mrs. Donahue gave me an A+ and asked that I read my creation in front of the class, which I refused to do because I was just too damn shy. My best friend at the time, Linda Strietelmeier, of brave German stock, took pity on me and offered to read my story to the class in my stead.


I still remember the kids laughing at my silly commercial as Linda stood at the podium reading it out loud. Even sourpuss Mrs. Donahue cracked a smile or two. I sat there looking down at my lap, blushing up a storm, and loving every fucking minute of it. Looking back now, I do believe that day was the beginning of my need to write comedy.

It isn’t a pretty story, I know. But it is my own. And as true as the day is long.

So in answer to the question, how and why do I temper the impact of real issues with humor, the answer is — I have no choice. It’s just what I do, what I am, how I write. There is no big mystery to it. I’m just doing what I enjoy doing. And in truth, I think the answer to the question is pretty simple.


Not only am I simply wired that way, but maybe even more to the point is the fact that I’m doing it because that’s the kind of writing I like to read.

And what better reason is there than that?

 

Author Bio:

John has been writing fiction for as long as he can remember. Born on a small farm in Indiana, he now resides in San Diego, California where he spends his time gardening, pampering his pets, hiking and biking the trails and canyons of San Diego, and of course, writing. He and his partner share a passion for theater, books, film, and the continuing fight for marriage equality. If you would like to know more about John, check out his website at—-

 

Follow John Inman at:

If you are unfamiliar with John Inman and his stories, I have listed a few,ok a lot of my personal favorites below.  Check them out and prepare to start laughing.  It’s the only way to go.  Those marvelous covers are by artist Paul Richmond except for Spirit whose wonderful cover was done by Reese Dante.

Loving HectorShy coverHobbledSpirit cover

 

Review: Love Comes Home (Senses #3) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Love Comes Home coverArchitect Gregory Hampton’s son, Davey, is playing in a Little League softball game and having difficulties with pitching and hitting where he had none before.  Then a stranger approaches Gregory with a startling suggestion…that Greg should take Davy to an eye doctor for an examination. The diagnosis is frightening. Davey has a genetic occular disease that has just kicked in with the result that Davey’s sight is degenerating rapidly, and eventually he’ll go blind.  Suddenly life is all about helping Davey adjust to his impending loss of eyesight and a romance with the handsome businessman he just met has to be relegated to the background.  Or does it?

Wealthy businessman Tom Spangler had no sooner met architect Gregory Hampton and arranged to go on a date when a call arrives to disrupt their evening.  Sometime during the evening, Greg’s son Davey had completely lost his sight and a traumatized son is in need of his father.  After ferrying them both home, Tom waits to hear from Greg.  And while he waits, Tom researches how to help Greg and his son, Davey even though he is not even sure the man and his son will accept his help.

One of the things that Tom has researched is beep baseball. Here balls and bases make sounds to enable the visually impaired to participate in Little League. When Tom spearheads an effort to form a team so Davey can continue to play the game he loves, it draws Tom and Greg closer and brings Davey back to the game he thought he would never play again.  But Greg’s ex wife has returned with a plan in mind for Davey that will reject everything that Greg, Tom and Davey have worked so hard to accomplish.  With a threat to Davey’s happiness at stake, what will Tom and Greg do to ensure his safety and future?

Love Comes Home is the third story in the Senses series and it is a lovely one.  The previous story focused on Howard who is blind and his lover, Gordy, both of whom are a strong presence here in Love Comes Home as part of the village of people who help Davey accept his blindness and move forward.  Once again, Andrew Grey’s story is centered on someone who is blind but in this case it is a young boy who turns blind almost overnight due to a genetic ocular disease no one knew he had until puberty sets it off.  Up until then Davey is a highly athletic, normal boy being raised by a single dad, Greg Hampton.

Andrew Grey’s characters comes across as totally believable human beings, albeit  sometimes a little too nice given some of the circumstances they find themselves in.  Gregory Hampton is high on my list of favorite characters here as a  single dad who puts his son first, including his own wants and needs.  His reactions when informed of his son’s diagnosis seems so authentic as he reels between denial and acceptance, not for himself at first but for Davey.  Then later, Grey shows Greg’s own grief set in and its both wrenching and  raw.  Davey too feels all too authentic as a young boy who thinks his life is over until he is shown how to move forward with his disability by a close knit circle of friends.  Tom, however, is a little more too, too everything.  Too wealthy, too handsome, too great a boyfriend and potential stepfather to Davey.  I just wish he had a tad more flaws to make him less a knight in shining armor and more a lonely man looking for love who finds a family as well.  A flawed human being for me is always the more interesting and absorbing person to read about.  Tom seems almost too perfect to be read and that lessens the romance for me as well.

Andrew Grey has indicated that he has done a mountain of research towards this book and it shows.  From the classes that Davey is immersed in to teach himself how to read and write Braille or to simply function in every day life, the author moves his characters through the necessary steps towards Davey’s independence and acceptance at exactly the right pace for a family still trying to deal with Davey’s disease and altered lifestyle.  It’s a wonderful journey and it culminates in Davey’s introduction to Beep Ball and the formation of a team of children like Davey in that they are sight impaired.

Ah, Beep Ball.  What a splendid sport. And through Grey’s descriptions we are able to visualize how Davey and the other kids step forward with enthusiasm for some and trepidation for others to have fun, be a part of a group and play a sport that was thought impossible to participate in for some kids and parents. We get the laughter, the dropped balls and the tears that flow as parents realize just what it is that they are seeing.  Be prepared for a sniffle or two yourself.  This really made the story for me.

Romance is well represented here.  There is the slowly evolving love between Greg and Tom, marked only by the hiccup arrival of Greg’s ex wife.  That part of the story seemed odd and less realized.  Absent for 2 years, she appears with demands about her son’s future.  It never comes across as though that is her true reason for her appearance.  The reader will keep wondering when “the other shoe” will drop and her hidden agenda will be revealed.  But that aspect is dropped and the resolution between all the parties comes off as a little contrived.  This is probably my biggest issue with this story.

But that element aside, I loved this story.  Davey and his journey towards acceptance of his blindness, the manner in which Howard and Gordy helped Greg through the challenges they all faced, the realistic and heartwarming manner in which  I felt I knew this group of friends by the end of the story….those are all terrific reasons to buy this book.  The romance too will keep you smiling as well as the picture of a new family formed by love at the end.  So charming, so heartfelt, and imminently enjoyable too.

Cover design is both lovely and relevant.

 

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published March 7th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 6th 2014)
ISBN 1627986626 (ISBN13: 9781627986625)
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
seriesSenses #3

Books in the Senses series include:

Love Comes Silently (Senses, #1)
Love Comes in Darkness (Senses, #2) (Howard and Gordy)
Love Comes Home (Senses, #3)

Memories, Memorials, and Memorial Day and the Week Ahead

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Memorial Day.  Two words that bring forth powerful emotions and memories of both of those from our past as well as our present.  We think of the past and those deceased while at the same time our memories are full of family celebrations, and the laughter and love that speaks of life itself.

I was thinking of both of those as I watched the film on the news of the inauguration ceremony of National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC.  The pictures brought forth a profound sadness as the cameras scanned over the survivors and their families as well as the exhibits, stopping here and there for closeups and personal stories.  A staircase that was the only avenue for some to freedom and life stands bone white, covered in ash.  Bent, blackened metal framework from parts of the structure from the towers loom upwards over the crowds within the museum, much like the towers they once helped support.  All chilling and stark reminders of that day and our national tragedy.

But for me it was the small items that were so poignant and personal that they made the pain and loss intimate and immediate once more.  A red bandana World Trade Center 9:11 Museaumfrom a young man who sacrificed his life to make sure others got down safely.  His mother was present,full of pride for her  son, as she stood next to his photograph and his red scarf now enclosed in glass. It was the scarf that the survivors he helped down that day remember him by.  Over and over again, a young man in a red bandana grabbed people, moving them towards safety and life.  The expression on her face, so full of love, loss, and grief, was visceral as she looked at the scarf.  Another survivor was there looking at the black, dusty shoes she donated that she wore that day as she walked down all those flights of steps. She ended up caring them as she ended up finally walking down in her bare feet because the pain of going down all those steps made wearing them impossible.  Small item after item, watches, cell phones, glasses, standing side by side next to the physically imposing and massive items from the World Trade Center bombings, like a fire truck and or large pieces of masonry from the Pentagon, yes that’s there too. And there is a wall of photographs of those that died that day.  Every race, every gender,, every age….all represented there.  Forever remembered, forever immortalized.

It made me think of another wall, one full of names on black marble.  Here in Washington, DC, where huge crowds will gather on this weekend to Vietnam Vet Memorialremember, to grieve and to celebrate lives now gone.  There will be Rolling Thunder, and parades, and the echoing refrain of Taps heard over Arlington Cemetery this weekend. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, my favorite of all Washington memorials, stands as one of our more  striking and haunting memorials. The pictures found there aren’t on the wall but will be left by loved ones, friends, family, and fellow soldiers who come to commune with the dead and their memories.  There, as well as in New York City, the memorials will help all of us remember and help to mitigate the grief left behind.  Powerful images, powerful emotions, and a powerful almost unimaginable amount of loss.

Take a moment this Memorial Weekend and remember.  Do something that will celebrate their life as well as remember their loss.

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Now for the week ahead here at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords:

  • Monday, May 26:        Love Comes Home by Andrew Grey
  • Tuesday, May 27:        Author Spotlight: Writing with Humor by John Inman
  • Wed., May 28:              Book Tour:  Sierra Cartwright’s Crave
  • Wed., May 28:              Hostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov and LA Witt
  • Thursday, May 29:      Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley
  • Thursday, May 29:      Clipped by Devon McCormack
  • Friday, May 30:           Moving Earth by T.A. Webb
  • Saturday, May 31:        Back Burn by Laura Harner
  • Saturday, May 31:        May Summary of Reviews/Best Covers

 

 

 

Vietnam Vet Memorial 2

 

 

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.