A Caryn Review: Safety Protocols for Human Holidays by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Highly recommended as the cutest, funniest bit of holiday fluff I’ve read in a long time!

This sci-fi story is set on an interspecies ship traveling in the distant universe.  For the most part, there is only one of any individual species on the ship.  There is only one human, Jen, and the captain is concerned that she is broken, because she is not “behaving within previously observed species parameters”.  The captain is concerned about the safety and well-being of everyone on the crew, and so he assigns Security Officer Raskli, a Growlan, to investigate the change, to see if she can identify the problem, and fix it.  Why was Raskli chosen for this task?  Because the ship’s doctor said “you are both members of lactating placental species”.  Ha!

Raskli’s investigation into humans, and Jen in particular, is laugh out loud funny.  One of her first observations:

[Humans] ate everything.  It was a wonder than any other life on the planet had survived.

When she thought she had sufficient background, Raskli decided that she should become “friends” – a somewhat unusual concept to ritualistic Growlans – with Jen, and looking for a friendship ritual, followed the interspecies manual instructions for “dating”:

The initiator of the date will sometimes bring a small offering to the domicile of the acceptor.  Angiosperm blooms or boxes of sugar-and-cocoa-bean globs appear to be traditional for one-on-one dates, while offerings of substantial, meal-oriented food or fermented drink are more common for group dates.

This was the most adorable little meet-cute you can imagine.  Raskli’s heart was in the right place despite her awkwardness, so Jen accepted her friending request and the two proceeded to get to know and like each other despite the huge cultural differences.  Since the story is told from Raskli’s point of view, we get the outsiders perspective of humans and their quirks, and the author did a fabulous job of making fun of all the crazy things we do.

When Raskli was able to identify that the holiday season was exacerbating Jen’s feelings of homesickness and loneliness, she decided to put on a ship-wide celebration, and started researching.  In addition to our Western standards like Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, she also found references to solstice, yule, saturnalia, rohatsu, and others, and decided to just use them all.  In addition to the “traditional large sacrificial plant” that was “large, possibly radially symmetric, sloping limbs with many sharp spikes.  Looks fierce”, there were “shining spheres” and “glitter snakes”.  I was having so much fun reading how the decorations that have become so commonplace to us might be described by an alien who has never seen anything like them before!

The romance between Raskli and Jen was perfectly sweet.  No other word to describe it!  The story was just the right length, the various alien crew members all existed in almost perfect harmony, and at the end of the story I just couldn’t stop smiling.  I’m going to keep this around to re-read when I need a little happiness!  Brava, Angel Martinez!

Cover art by Freddy MacKay was exactly how I pictured Jen, sitting in front of a window that looked to be straight out of Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  Very appropriate!

Sales Links: Mischief Corner Books | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, First
Expected publication: December 9th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: Olympia Knife by Alysia Constantine

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

The first word that comes to my mind when I think about Olympia Knife is strange. Closely followed by sad. And kind of creepy. I’ve never read anything like this and I was a bit unsure whether I liked it or not. But it’s so unusual and memorable, I just had to give it the full five stars.

First things first: This is classified as literary/genre fiction and as such doesn’t have much of a love story and definitely not your run-of-the-mill HEA. The ending is very open and leaves many questions unanswered. I’m not always a fan of open ends, but in this case it fit the tone of the whole book perfectly.

I love circus settings, especially historical ones. They give you so many possibilities. It can be utterly magical and charming or it can be utterly terrifying and creepy. Olympia Knife was definitely more creepy than charming, though it did have a bit of a magical air.

People keep disappearing in the middle of their acts, Olympia keeps turning invisible and there are some other otherworldly things going on, so I guess this would qualify as Fantasy. The circus acts, especially those in the sideshow, are all fakes and don’t have any magical abilities. The correct genre correct is probably magic realism, combining reality with some fantastic elements. It’s an unusual genre and I really enjoyed it.

There isn’t all that much action but I didn’t mind. This was a very slow book and it was all about the atmosphere of the book. I was completely immersed into the world and it sometimes took a while for me to resurface.

At times, this book does get pretty brutal and very intense. It was a hard read and it really took a lot out of me. “Olympia Knife” is such a gritty, intense and heartbreaking read. It’s one of the most extraordinary books I’ve ever read.

If you’re looking for an easy, magical romance, this is definitely not the book for you. I think this is a case of love it or hate it. And I loved it. I’ll have to keep an eye out for future releases by this author. If you’re easily triggered, you might want to check out the content warnings on the publisher’s page.

The cover is utterly gorgeous. It’s the kind of cover that I’d love to have in my physical bookshelf, just to show it off.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 212 pages

Published November 2nd 2017 by Interlude Press

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Shamwell is a sleepy rural village in Hertfordshire, England, and a place I’ve grown to love over the course of four Shamwell Tales novels by J.L. Merrow.  Slipping into one of these stories is like visiting a small village full of people you instantly like, all intimately connected to one another, full of humor, past histories, human frailties, and tons of love.

As read by Mark Steadman, one of my favorite narrators, Out! comes alive, vibrant, as one again I fell into the story of Mark and Patrick’s rough road to romance and love.  I can close my eyes and forget that it’s just Mark Steadman, one person, narrating the story.  He swings so easily between characters and voices, creating nuances and dialects even from person to person.  And this story deserves a certain flair!  We are talking about the Shamwell Players as well you know.

We have humor (sometimes laugh out loud humor), tough subjects such as Mark Nugent dealing with the realization that he really doesn’t know his daughter, that he had unknowingly checked out of her life, that he was a closeted dad, well, closeted period.  So many issues to deal with, including a bitter ex wife.

Patrick Owen is someone I loved in the previous stories and wanted to have his story here.  He’s remarkable in that he’s personable, loving, and relatable.  As are all J.L. Merrow’s characters.  They have staying power.  We get involved in their lives in Shamwell, caught up in their romances and drama and hopefully their HEA’s.  The books are a true joy but in the audiobook version, Mark Steadman launches the story anew, bringing a vibrancy to the tale and the characters that make me feel that I’m hearing it for the first time.  It’s breathes a true believable romance that we connect with and people we love.

I absolutely recommend Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator).  Both the story, the author and  the narrator!  Grab up the whole series!  You can’t go wrong.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is adorable and perfect.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Audible, Amazon, iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 7 hrs. 51 min.

Published October 19th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published January 19th 2016)
Original TitleOut!
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Shamwell Tales #3

Andrew Grey on Writing Characters and his latest release ‘Heart Unheard (Hearts Entwined #2)’ (author guest blog)

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Heart Unheard (Hearts Entwined #2) by Andrew Grey
Dreamspinner Press
Cover artist: L.C. Chase

Available for Purchase at Dreamspinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Andrew Grey here today talking about the challenges of writing a hearing impaired character.  Welcome, Andrew.

 

 ~ Andrew Grey on One of the Challenges of Writing a Hearing Impaired Character ~

There are so many things I want to say about this story.  When I decided to write a deaf characters I expected a number of challenges, but the hardest one wasn’t what I had anticipated.  What I needed to do after Scott’s injury, was develop an entire communication system for him.  He didn’t have a way for people to communicate with him other than through the written word.  I found that stifling and it made me realize just how difficult the hearing impaired have when interacting with the world around them.  I grew up with an aunt who was very hard of hearing.  Most people she barely understood, but the tone of my voice was able to get through to her.  But it took extra effort on my part to make sure she understood what I was saying.  It was that same kind of effort that I had to put into the story to build Scott’s methods of communicating.  The whole process helped me better understand just how hearing loss can cut a person off from the rest of the world and how a little extra effort and care can make all the difference.

Blurb/Synopsis

The attraction between Brent Berkheimer and Scott Spearman peels the wallpaper, but Brent is Scott’s boss, and they’re both too professional to go beyond flirting. Their priorities realign after Scott is badly injured in an accident that costs him his hearing, and Brent realizes what is truly important… he wants Scott.

Scott first pushes Brent away, fearing a new romance will just add to his problems, but perhaps he will find unexpected strength and solace in Brent’s support as he struggles to communicate with the world in a new way.

Just as they decide the chance of a happy future together is worth the risk, Scott and Brent discover darker challenges in their way—including evidence that the “accident” Scott suffered may not have been so accidental.

Excerpt

Scott was in a small room, the bed surrounded by monitors with a number of tubes and cords hooked to him. His usually robust cheeks were sallow, his normally intense eyes closed, his pouty lips pale.

“Please remain quiet.”

“Of course,” Brent said as he pulled forward the small chair and sat next to the bed. He didn’t ask her a bunch of questions about how he was doing because Brent knew she couldn’t really tell him anything without specific written permission.

The nurse checked Scott over and left the room.

“Hey, Scott. It’s Brent. I wanted to stop by and see you.” He blinked as Scott’s chest slowly rose and fell. “I read somewhere that people can sometimes hear things when they’re out like this. So I hope you get better.” He turned to make sure no one was around to hear him, then leaned closer. “I should have told you how I felt.” He sniffed and took one of the tissues from the box on the tray table. He reached for Scott’s hand and slid their fingers together. Brent probably didn’t have a right to do that, but he wanted Scott to know he was there.

To his surprise, Scott’s fingers squeezed his just a little. At first, he wasn’t sure it was real, but Scott did it again. Brent gently rubbed the back of his hand but received no further movement in response.

“Are you Brent?” a man who had to be Scott’s dad asked. He looked so much like him, only an older, more weathered, and very worried version, with touches of gray in his hair.

“Yes,” Brent whispered, setting Scott’s hand back on the blankets, his cheeks heating. “I was just trying to make a connection with him. I think he might have squeezed my hand a little.” He wondered what Scott’s dad—and then his mom as she followed him inside—must be thinking with him holding Scott’s hand.

“He did that last night before we left. It’s the only indication that we’ve had that he’s there and knows we’re here.” Scott’s mother approached, and Brent stood to give her the chair. She sat, gently stroking Scott’s hand. “Is there something between you and my son?” She lifted her gaze, and it was like she was looking deep into his soul. It was immediately evident where Scott got his amazing eyes, even if hers were red and definitely filled with concern. “I heard what you were saying to him before we came in.”

“Don’t mind Carolyn. She has bat-like hearing sometimes.” Reggie stepped to the other side of the bed, looking at Scott. If Brent were to hazard a guess, Reggie was willing his son to wake up. The worry and sheer willpower were written on the lines of his furrowed brow.

“Reggie,” she said gently, then turned to Brent. “Scott talked about you all the time. I think he may have a crush on you.” She looked him over. “I can see why, but aren’t you a little old for him?”

Brent nodded. “That’s why nothing ever happened.” He turned back to Scott, not believing he was having this conversation. “I’m his manager and….” There were so many reasons why he’d never said anything to Scott, though all of them seemed too stupid now. Scott lay on the bed, largely unmoving, and none of Brent’s reasons mattered. All that did matter was that Scott would recover and get better again.

“I see,” she said, as though there were some great meaning behind Brent’s words. “He told me about the time the oil gun sprang a leak and he got sprayed. You got the oil shut off and him out of there and cleaned off so fast, before it could get in his eyes.”

“He told you that?” Brent closed his eyes, stifling a groan, as his cheeks had to be turning beet red. He’d cleaned Scott off and had damn near kissed him just because he was relieved Scott was all right. Just as he’d gotten close, Scott had opened his eyes and their gazes had met, but Brent had backed away. His cowardice had taken over the way it usually did.

Carolyn nodded. “He said you were gentle and made sure he was okay before everything else. Then you apparently took apart the equipment, fixed it, and made sure that didn’t happen again.” She smiled. “Scott tells us stories about work all the time, and many of them featured you.”

What was he supposed to say to that? Brent wanted to hide and lick his wounds somewhere. It seemed that the teasing and flirting Scott had done was more than just playing. Brent had never been sure, but now he knew. Scott had cared and might have been truly interested, but now it might be too late.

“That’s so nice to know.” Brent couldn’t help looking at Scott and wondering what might have been if he had just had the guts.

 

 

About the Author

Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Author Links

Amazon Author Page

Barnes and Noble Page

Dreamspinner Press

Facebook

Facebook Group All the Way with Andrew Grey

Goodreads

Twitter @andrewgreybooks

Website

For Other Works by Andrew Grey

(Please Be Sure To Stop by His Website to See All of His Works)

The Titles Below Are for the Heart Unseen Novels Only

Links go to Amazon

Heart Unseen Book 1

Heart Unheard Book 2

Release Blitz for Joanna Chambers’ Merry & Bright (giveaway)

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Length: 59,000 words approx. 
 
Cover Design: Natasha Snow
 
Blurb
 

Humbug

Quin Flint is unimpressed when his gorgeous colleague, Rob Paget, asks for extra time off at Christmas. As far as Quin is concerned, Christmas is a giant waste of time. Quin’s on the fast track to partnership, and the season of goodwill is just getting in the way of his next big project. But when Quin’s boss, Marley, confiscates his phone and makes him take an unscheduled day off, Quin finds himself being forced to confront his regrets, past and present, and think about the sort of future he really wants…and who he wants it with.

Mr Perfect’s Christmas

Sam Warren’s new job hasn’t been going so well so the last thing he’s in the mood for is the obligatory office Christmas party, particularly since Nick Foster’s going to be there. Nick–the guy whose shoes Sam has been trying to fill–seems to take very opportunity to point out where Sam’s going wrong. But when Sam receives an unexpected Secret Santa gift at the party, he’s forced to question his assumptions about his rival. Could it be that he’s been misinterpreting Nick’s actions all along? And is it possible that his reluctant attraction to Nick is reciprocated?

Rest and Be Thankful

Things haven’t been going well for Cam McMorrow since he moved to Inverbechie. His business is failing, his cottage is falling apart and following his very public argument with café owner Rob Armstrong, he’s become a social outcast. Cam needs to get away from his troubles and when his sister buys him a ticket to the biggest Hogmanay party in Glasgow, he can’t leave Inverbechie quick enough. But when events conspire to strand him in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm, not only is he liable to miss the party, he’ll also have to ask his nemesis, Rob, for help.

Author Bio

Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. She spent over 20 years staring at blank sheets of paper and despairing of ever writing a single word. In between staring at blank sheets of paper, she studied law, met her husband and had two children. Whilst nursing her first child, she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna lives in Scotland with her family and finds time to write by eschewing sleep and popular culture.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

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Quinn Anderson on the Inspiration for her latest novel ‘All of the Above’ (guest blog, tour and giveaway)

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All of the Above by Quinn Anderson
Riptide Publishing
Cover by: Natasha Snow

Read an excerpt/Buy it Here

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Quinn Anderson here today on tour with her latest release All of the Above.

✒︎

Thanks for joining me on my blog tour. I’m Quinn Anderson, author of the Murmur Inc. series, and I’m here to share some inside information about All of the Above, coming out November 20th. Stay tuned to hear fun facts about this novel, learn where I get my ideas from, and find out more about the characters. Leave comments on the tour posts for a chance to win a $10 Riptide Publishing gift card!

How I got the Idea for AOTA by Quinn Anderson

I get ideas for my novels from all sorts of things. Random inspiration. Song lyrics. Sometimes I even sit down and make a point of thinking up new ideas. In the case of All of the Above, I actually thought of the title first and then crafted a story to go with it. I was making dinner with my best friend, and I asked her if she wanted chocolate, wine, or a movie date for her birthday. She laughed and said, “All of the Above,” and BOOM. I thought, “That would be a perfect title for a novel.” From there, the whole thing just flowed together. By the time I’d finished plotting it, I loved how strongly the quiz/question theme ran through the narrative, all the way to a very special ending that I hope you’re all going to love!

About All of the Above

 

Brendon isn’t in a rut, per se—he just always seems to be in-between things. Jobs. Degrees. Boyfriends. He never finishes what he starts. The perfect path is out there somewhere, and if he can just figure out what it is, he’s certain everything else will fall into place.

 

The last thing he expects is to meet his soul mate in the pages of a magazine quiz. “Who Is Your Perfect Man?” by Matthew Kingston seems like a road map to his future husband: the author himself. Brendon may not have his life figured out, but if Matt is as romantic as his quiz, Brendon can check “true love” off his to-do list.

 

When Brendon fakes a meet-cute between them, Matt proves to be as wonderful as he hoped. The more Brendon gets to know him, the harder he falls. But Brendon has a confession to make: how can he explain to Matt that he arranged their “fated” meeting? Brendon can’t tell if he’s found his soul mate, heartache, or all of the above.

 

Available now from Riptide Publishing!

 

About Quinn Anderson

 

Quinn Anderson is an alumna of the University of Dublin in Ireland and has a master’s degree in psychology. She wrote her dissertation on sexuality in popular literature and continues to explore evolving themes in erotica in her professional life.

 

A nerd extraordinaire, she was raised on an unhealthy diet of video games, anime, pop culture, and comics from infancy. Her girlfriend swears her sense of humor is just one big Joss Whedon reference. She stays true to her nerd roots in writing and in life, and frequently draws inspiration from her many fandoms, which include Yuri on Ice, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Buffy, and more. Growing up, while most of her friends were fighting evil by moonlight, Anderson was kamehameha-ing her way through all the shounen anime she could get her hands on. You will often find her interacting with fellow fans online and offline via conventions and Tumblr, and she is happy to talk about anything from nerd life to writing tips. She has attended conventions on three separate continents and now considers herself a career geek. She advises anyone who attends pop culture events in the UK to watch out for Weeping Angels, as they are everywhere. If you’re at an event, and you see a 6’2” redhead wandering around with a vague look on her face, that’s probably her.

 

Her favorite authors include J.K. Rowling, Gail Carson Levine, Libba Bray, and Tamora Pierce. When she’s not writing, she enjoys traveling, cooking, spending too much time on the internet, playing fetch with her cat, screwing the rules, watching Markiplier play games she’s too scared to play herself, and catching ’em all.

 

Connect with Quinn:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of All of the Above, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 25, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!