A Barb the Zany Old Lady audiobook Review: My Christmas Present by Toni Griffin

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

my-christmas-presentAfter four years away, when Lucas finishes uni, he arrives just in time for the Christmas holiday season. All he wants is to work on his dad’s best friend’s cattle station and to capture that man’s heart for Christmas. He’s had a crush on Mitchell since he was a young teen, and though he had a few experiences with guys while in college, it’s the “almost forty” man who captures his attention and won’t let go.

Not knowing that the feeling is mutual, he decides he only has a few days to make his intentions known. But Mitchell is an expert at evading the sexy young man who captured his attention around the time he turned eighteen, so he doesn’t give Lucas many chances to try. Enter Lucas’s father Ben, who happens to be a lawman. What he does to help the ill-fated pair along makes a great Christmas present for both. After all, a father wants what’s best for his son, and if he happens to help his best friend along the way, it’s win-win.

This was a very short, very sweet, very fluffy, sexy story. Well narrated by Ryder Watkins, it would make a great stocking stuffer, birthday gift, or just a short, fun afternoon of listening. If you like cowboys, Aussies, or age gap, this one fits the bill.

The drawn cover is of a sexy cowboy sitting at a kitchen chair out by the corral. It makes sense after you read the story, but it is indeed colorful and attractive.

Sales Links

Mischief Corner Books

Amazon

Audiobooks Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition
Published December 18th 2013 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC (first published December 2nd 2011)
Edition LanguageEnglish
CharactersLucas Winters, Mitchell Morgan settingAustralia

A Melanie Release Day Review: Chosen Pride (L’Ange #3) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

chosen-prideJon Slade finally met his mate, but instead of it being the happiest day of his life, it became the saddest when wolf shifter Kelvin MacCurdy chose his obligations over their fated bond, leaving Jon to pick up the pieces of his shattered dreams. Lucky for him, Roman Howell, his boss and the owner of L’Ange, saw promise in the forlorn lion and put him to work so he wouldn’t have time to sit around and lick his wounds while he waited for his wounded spirit to heal.

Then the wolves make an official visit to L’Ange, and Jon finds out Kelvin’s pining for him is taking its toll on his position as the king’s champion. Though Kelvin’s training and the expectations of others steer him toward an intended mate, Jon has an unbreakable hold on his heart, and it’s no longer possible for Kelvin to keep himself from where he truly belongs.

But the conclave brings more than Kelvin to the château. It also brings a challenge to jackal alpha Quade Danas, a threat that Quade and Roman, Arman and Linus, and Jon and Kelvin may have to fight in order to keep L’Ange’s family intact. Jon never wanted to lead a pride, but the loyalty and devotion to one is ingrained in him. Kelvin was raised to punish anyone who questioned his king, but the calling to protect others runs through his veins just as deeply. To come out on the other side of the battle together, Jon and Kelvin will have to hold the darkness of solitary pride and broken hearts at bay—and find strength in belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Mary Calmes’  L’Ange series became a favorite of mine from the very first story Old Loyalty, New Love.  An old chateau, a mix of shifters, dark men with mysterious and painful pasts?  Yes, yes, and hell yes!  And as with my deeply loved Mary Calmes stories and series, a connecting story thread that both pulls at your heart and mind.  A vast estate that seems to beckon to isolated, wounded shifters and an Alpha set to  rule them  all.  An estate huge enough to hold the promise also of mates for them all as well.

Jon Slade, a lion shifter, was one such lone male without a pride who was taken in by Roman and Quade (after a rocky start).  His story began in the last amazing tale,Fighting Instinct (L’Ange, #2).  Chosen Pride picks up in the resulting aftermath.

If you had to ask me why Mary Calmes has such a large and loyal following, I would point to her ability to create characters such as Jon Slade.  Golden, strong, and unbelievably beautiful on the outside and yet now broken by the rejection of his mate.  Calmes makes  Jon and his heartbreaking situation so real, so painfully cruel that you almost bleed for Jon,  Doesn’t matter how pretty, how strong Jon is because those qualities won’t help him here.  Not even the strength of a lion can bring him his mate.  The irony.  The author has the reader so invented in Jon and his plight that you can’t even think about putting this book down, not for a minute.

There is also an equal tragedy going on with wolf shifter Kelvin MacCurdy.  He’s caught up in a vicious tradition that regards him as little more than a beast within his society, something to be breed for size and strength, nothing more.  We’ve gotten to know him during the last story too and become wrapped up in his complicated life and turmoil that led to him rejecting Jon to Jon’s and our astonishment and pain.

In Chosen Pride, Calmes brings out the best in her characters, and her series thread.  Other main couples appear in strong supporting roles necessary to both this story and the series.  There also a fox shifter that’s a sexy delight.  The minute I finished the story and went back and started it all over again wanting to see what details I had missed the first time around.

There’s several clues here, about the journey to another kingdom, the perils that await there.  I expect that Mary Calmes will use that in an upcoming book.  She doesn’t lay false trails.  Now I’m anticipating a journey that will make my heart stop and angst as well.  I can’t wait.

This is an amazing series.  So don’t start here.  Go to the beginning story and proceed from there.  It will become a favorite of yours as it has mine.  Its one I highly recommend.

Cover Artist: Reese Dante.  Such a gorgeous cover.  Its perfect for Jon and I love it.

Sales Links

        

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Expected publication: December 26th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634779010 (ISBN13: 9781634779012)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series L’Ange:

A Lila Advent Calendar Review Day 22: The Vampire’s Dinner (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by T.J. Nichols

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

the-vampires-dinnerFor vampire Charles Redfort, Christmas is a bitter reminder of the day he was killed by a werewolf. After fleeing the vampire army he was created to serve in, he has lived in exile in England. Once a year he allows himself to tell the truth about his life over dinner. Then he eats the man he’s hired for the night.

Blake Wells is an engineering student by day and escort by night. He works Christmas because he doesn’t want to see his father, and his mother doesn’t want to see him. When he meets Charles, he thinks he’s gotten a bonus present that he can’t wait to unwrap. But as the truth is revealed, Blake will have to think fast to live until morning and convince Charles to give up his lonely life.

The Vampire‘s Dinner is a refreshing change from the standard Christmas story. I liked Charles best. It’s easy to feel all his years of disappear and loneliness as we learned of the events he had lived over the centuries. Even so, he still has some humanity left in him and when meeting Blake, it becomes an obstacle in his well-designed plan.

Blake might be working as an escort, but he has his life organized to perfection in order to graduate from college and get a job in his career field. His life hasn’t been easy, but he had persevered and it’s now closer to his goal. Meeting Charles presents a new opportunity.  

This short story is well-paced, funny, and smexy; all in one unusual plot. The banter and the negotiations between the main characters leaves the reader hoping for more in the future. It does have a satisfying ending with a HFN but it has a lot of potential for a longer story, and perhaps other couples in the same world.

The country descriptions and the food tasting were another great detail integrated by the author. As well as the hotel setting and the characters’ descriptions.

The generic cover is definitely Paul Richmond’s signature style but doesn’t go with the story.

Sale Links: Dreamspinner | AmazonARe

ebook, 39 pages
Published: December 1, 2016, 
Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 1635331846 (ISBN13: 9781635331844)
Edition Language: English

An Ali Audiobook Review: A Fortunate Blizzard by L.C. Chase and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
a-fortunate-blizzard-audiobookThere are worse things than being stranded in a blizzard.

Artist Trevor Morrison has always appreciated the little things in life, treating each day as a gift. And with good reason: he’s been on the transplant-recipient list for too long now. When he learns just how numbered his days truly are, he resolves not to take them for granted. But he won’t be unrealistic, either—which means romantic commitments are off the table.

Marcus Roberts seems to have it all. He’s handsome, financially sound, and on the fast track to partnership at a prestigious law firm. In reality, though, his drive for success has meant no time for friends or relationships. Add in the fact that his family discarded him long ago, and he’s facing yet another holiday season alone.

When the biggest snowstorm to hit Colorado in decades leaves Marc and Trevor stranded at the same hotel, a chance encounter and a night of passion leads to more than either of them expected. Finding comfort in each other is a welcome surprise, but time is not on their side. Either they find a way to beat the odds, or they lose each other forever.
I really enjoyed this wonderful holiday tale.  Trevor and Marcus get caught in a blizzard and are both stranded at a hotel.  They are immediately attracted to each other and spend a magical few days getting to know each other.  Marcus wants it to be more but Trevor refuses due to his health problems.  But after going so long without anyone to care about or having someone care about him Marcus isn’t about to accept defeat and since this is a Christmas story, miracles happen.
I thought both MC’s were well done and I really felt for both of them.  I thought Trevor’s concerns were realistically done and my heart went out, not to just him, but to his family and Marcus as well.  You could feel everyone’s grief at the impending loss.  The ending was very touching and I may have gotten tears in my eyes at one point.  I think this is one of the best holiday stories I’ve read over the last few years and I really recommend it.
This was narrated by Nick J. Russo and I thought he did a very good job.  Both of his voices for the two main characters were good and I never had a hard time figuring out who was speaking.  All of the side characters were also well done, including Trevor’s mother.  I find some male narrators do don’t female voices in a way I enjoy but that was not the case here.  I enjoyed this audio alot and would really recommend this medium if you’re planning to read this story.
Cover by L.C. Chase:  I like the cover but I don’t love it.  It doesn’t stand out to me and the models on the front don’t match that well to the descriptions of the MC’s in the book.
Sales Links
Audiobook Details:
Listening Length: 4 hours and 15 minutes
Audible Audio, 5 pages
Published November 8th 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published August 2nd 2011)
ASINB01MQDPLN3
Edition LanguageEnglish
CharactersTrevor Morrison, Marc Roberts settingColorado (United States)Literary AwardsINDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards (2015)

A Caryn Review: Boots by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

bootsOK, I have to admit it.  I love retold fairy tales!  I love how an author can take a recognizable skeleton plot and add, change, twist, and fold it into something entirely new.  I discovered them when my kids were in elementary school (East by Edith Pattou is one of my all time favorites), and have been reading them ever since.  And I was so happy to find that they are a fairly popular sub-genre of M/M romance (Brute by Kim Fielding is my favorite here!)

The other fun thing about retold fairy tales is when an author will weave in elements of other myths, other folklore from other cultures, and combine them with a fantasy world, or, like in this one, with the contemporary world.  Ms. Martinez combined the European “Puss in Boots” with the Japanese Kasha, or cat demon, but then she created her own background for why he was in present-day small town Pennsylvania.  And when a book sends me to Wikipedia to look up the references and find out where and how the author departed from canon mythology, I call that successful!

The book starts when the unfavored third son, Willem, inherits only $300 and the family cat when his father dies.  Although he thinks this was just his father’s last jab at him, he’s going to make the best of what he has, and after all, he’s always liked Puss.  He’s been laid off from his job, lost his apartment when his boyfriend cheated, and is essentially homeless but doesn’t want to impose upon either of his brothers, even though winter is setting in (this was the only part of the story that bothered me – if Willem is such a good and reasonable guy, why does he let something like pride drive him to the streets?)  He is shocked when Puss starts talking to him, but is so low that he’s willing to believe in magic if it finds him a warm place to sleep.  The cat informs him that “Puss” is a terrible name, insists that Willem call him Kasha, and sets out to help him get back on his feet.  Kasha is a demon who has been exiled to the human world, and is moved from one master to another in order to help them find what they want and need.  When one mission is accomplished he moves on to the next in an endless circle of servitude, so he’s learned to take what joy he can from that life, but he’s been burned enough times by cruel masters to be guarded about his purpose and abilities.

Willem is different, though.  Despite his past mistakes, he is a good and generous man who doesn’t accept or want Kasha as a servant/slave and still feels that it is his responsibility to take care of Kasha.  Kasha can also manifest as a man (with some cat parts that makes the sex both funny and kinda kinky) who is conveniently gay and Willem is just his type.

The rest of the story is the classic sacrifice and redemption that makes any good fairy tale work.  I enjoyed it, but was never able to really get behind either who these characters were before they met, or what it was about their connection that made them worthier of blessing in the end.  There was a little punishment kink introduced that was both gratuitous and unconvincing.  Kasha’s personality was a little more fleshed out in terms of what made him into a somewhat jaded and suspicious man in the beginning, but I just wasn’t convinced of the love between the men, and certainly not that it was responsible for either of them making the grand gestures that a fairy tale requires.

I really like this author though, and I’m going to be reviewing another of her fairy tales in this blog here soon, and I’ll be hoping for a little more!

Cover art by Posh Gosh is perfect for the book (except that Kasha had green eyes, not yellow!)

Sales Links

Pride Publishing

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Book Details:

ebook
Published November 8th 2016 by Pride Publishing (first published April 16th 2011)
ISBN139781786514967
Edition LanguageEnglish

A VVivacious Advent Calendar Review Day 26: Scrooged Over (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by David Connor

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Rating – 5 Stars out of 5
 
scrooged-overDeke and Dudley are radio jockeys, co-hosts of the ‘Deke and Dudley Morning Show’. When Deke starts of on his post-Thanksgiving anti-Christmas tirade Dudley the yuletide overachiever is shocked. An on-air argument leads to a wager that whoever gets more listeners on their side wins and the loser needs to spend an evening with a blind date of  the winner’s choice.
 
As Dudley gears up to prove Deke wrong, things don’t work out as planned – the Christmas lights don’t work, the cookies go bad, Dudley’s cats puke on his wrapping paper and his holiday cards don’t get sent out. As Dudley’s Christmas looks like it is headed towards disaster, he submits himself to the blind date, all the while hoping that the blind date will turn out to be Deke himself
 
This story makes for an awesome read. I loved how this story set the record straight on what Christmas is all about. I especially liked how the author managed to send out the message despite the consumerism that surrounds Christmas nowadays. I also liked the fact that this story manages to show us that Christmas means the same things to people even if they find themselves participating in its rampant consumerism, even if  they drive themselves crazy trying to get everything perfect because they work that hard because they want to make Christmas as memorable as they can for their loved ones. In this story there is a point where Deke tells Dudley that Deke and his siblings don’t let their parents buy them anything for Christmas because of the one Christmas they ruined by being very ungrateful, so nowadays they send their parents for a cruise every Christmas. This is followed by Dudley’s statement that probably Deke’s mother would love to give them gifts because that’s how she would want to spend her Christmas, making her kids happy.
 
I loved a lot of nuances in this story. I loved how Deke and Dudley end up together. I especially loved how Dudley stood up for himself and for his love when he made it clear that he wanted to be with Deke.
 
This story is really amazing. I loved the characters in this story. They were all very amazing, what with Dudley who fits the phrase yuletide overachiever to a tee and Deke who is busy rampaging against all things Christmas. Also, I loved Dudley’s grandfather he was like the cherry at the top of the cake pushing and prodding Deke and Dudley together without being subtle about it in the least.
 
I really loved Dudley. This story is written from Dudley’s perspective and by the end of the story I had fallen in love with his character, the guy who is trying so hard because he wants to make this Christmas special for the people around him.
 
This story is a splendid take on the spirit of Christmas and it will have you smiling till the very end.
 
Cover Art by Bree Archer. I loved the cover; it really captures the spirit of this story.
Sales Links
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Book Details:
ebook, 69 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331889 (ISBN13: 9781635331882)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

An Alisa Review: Russian Blau (Dragons Schooled #1) by Emily Carrington

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

russian-blauIce dragon Blau Lepa seeks nothing more or less than to be a professor at SearchLight Academy. He’s wanted to teach his whole life, and considers it a sacred calling. When he meets Professor Rob Boyle, he’s instantly attracted. But both he and Rob are convinced that teachers and students shouldn’t have sex, not to mention that Blau’s afraid to bond with a human who will pass away so quickly.

 

On top of his scruples, Rob’s suffering from a broken heart. Eventually he gives in to his attraction and finds being dominated by Blau fills him with soaring desires and heals his wounded heart. But is that enough to make him decide to throw away his humanity and accept magical powers so that he can spend all eternity with his lover?

 

Blau is in his last semester of school with Charlie, Rob’s former lover and friend, as his advisor.  Rob and Blau have an immediate attraction, but don’t act upon anything until they are manipulated together by Charlie.  Once they both let their walls down they can work on their connection to each other.

 

We get to see both characters’ points of view which helps as they both have their own struggles in this story.  I felt Rob’s getting over his heartbreak from Charlie was quickly resolved and just kinda done instead of work through.  Blau’s biggest fear is loving someone who isn’t immortal and he would have to watch them die.  I felt that there were some back stories in this that I was missing regarding Charlie and Rob’s former dragon student (it looks like this series references characters from some of the author’s previous series) which would have help some of my confusion at points, but for the most part I liked the story.

 

Cover art by Fiona Jayde is a sweet picture of Blau and Rob.

 

Sales Links: Loose Id | Amazon | ARe

 

Book Details:

ebook, 68 pages

Published: October 24, 2016 by Loose Id

ISBN: 9781682522325

Edition Language: English

Series: Dragons Schooled #1

In the Spotlight: The Weather Baker’s Son by Peter Grover (author interview)

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The Weather Baker’s Son (World of Love) by Peter Grover
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reamspinner Press
Release Date: December 21, 2016

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Purchase it here

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Thank you Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Reviews for having me on your blog!  My book, The Weather Baker’s Son, second one issued in the Dreamspinner World of Love project, takes place in southern France.  I have ensured much local color is found in the book.  Here are my answers to your questions:

  • Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?

Most often from the memory of a place and the sights seen in that place.  Sometimes it does involve the journey along the way as well. The quirky things one sees in someplace new are always an inspiration. I am also working on a project that is inspired by an event that occurred 2,000 years ago, and how it impacts people today.

  • Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And  why?

I am currently a hybrid or plantzer.  I started as a pantzer as I love to dwell on certain scenes, almost as standalone and create the vibe around them, the interaction between the characters as well as add any of the local beauty that should be incorporated. As a result, and as predicted by those who are planners I have had to delete much, rearrange other things and waste a lot of time. But at the same time, I have enjoyed my distractions.  However, the advantages of planning have not been lost on me.  I have been practicing planning from day one with a new project which is now several months into writing while at the same time being a pantzer again with another project. I have found the one being planned interesting to do and have gained a great appreciation for the complexity of the process. The planning is indeed helping me but occasionally I need to break out of the process to sketch an entire chapter just for the love of it!

  • Contemporary, supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction narratives or something else?  Does any genre draw you more than another when writing it or reading it and why does it do so?

That’s a hard question as all have attracted me over time.  I was a voracious reader of science fiction as a youth.  I also studied at university the great classics of European and Latin American literature for many years and have degrees in modern languages. Regarding my own current writing however I am mainly drawn to contemporary narratives.

  • Can an author have favorites among their characters and do you have them?

Yes and yes! In The Weather Baker’s Son I am in love with the weather baker’s son in every way and also have a more subdued affection for the weather baker herself! They are definitely my favorites characters.

  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snow storm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?

Authors could be any or all of Ogden Nash, Oscar Wilde, Amy Lane, Kim Fielding, Damon Suede, Anna de Noailles.

  • How early in your life did you begin writing?

Probably around the age of 9 and into my teenage years but I never did anything with the output and much of it is lost. Then came a long career as a legal wordsmith in a commercial environment. While it may sound dry I really enjoyed it and I believe my opinions were respected for their thoroughness and clarity.  Only now am I back into creating fiction for my own enjoyment and hopefully that of my readers.

  • Were you an early reader or were you read to and what childhood books had an impact on you as a child that you remember to this day and why?

I come from a family of voracious readers and we all read constantly and early on.  As my parents both did shift work we were not often read to, but we were always encouraged to read! I would say I especially enjoyed science fiction, notably the greats like Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury but I would also devour non-fiction, such as history and biographies.

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About The Weather Baker’s Son

Nature’s call of desire among golden fields and intoxicating red-lipped poppies seems to proclaim a path to love and healing in southern France. Yet Peter, an American university student struggling with self-doubt following a failed love affair, is determined never to be hurt again. While on a vacation with his widowed mother, Peter is smitten by Gaston, a handsome local baker. Gaston, less bold than Peter, is drawn to Peter as well but fearful of the loss of family esteem—particularly the respect of his cousin Mario, who looks up to Gaston. Their friendship grows into more as Peter continues to visit the bakery, but their increasing intimacy does not go unnoticed. The road to fulfillment becomes increasingly obscured, and internal doubts and external events spiral out of control. The arrival of a handsome stranger, suspicions of murder, and the threat of harm might spell the end of more than just their relationship.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.

About the Author

Peter Grover has received no end of inspiration from his life with his husband and a gaggle of ghosts in a Gothic Victorian house.  Peter has now arisen from a pile of dusty law books to relaunch his background in languages and literature, early passions before his career. Combining these passions with his many travels for work and pleasure has allowed him to illustrate local poetry, arts and landscapes that draw the reader into other, often exotic worlds.  Peter loves to hike the deserts and mountains of the Southwest US in the winter while enjoying the lush scenery and lakes of Central Canada in the summer.