A MelanieM Release Day Review: Ithani (The Oberon Cycle #3) by J. Scott Coatsworth

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Oberon Cycle: Book Three

Time is running out.  After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani—the aliens who broke the world—have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.  The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.  Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the ability to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise….

After finishing the book, I knew writing this review was going to be frustrating.  Why?  Because it’s going to be hard to find the words to describe just how incredible Ithani, the final story in The Oberon Cycle truly isJ. Scott Coatsworth left himself quite the task in pulling together all the plot threads and overall monumental trilogy arc and bring them all to all rousing conclusion that not only is beautifully imaginative, but thoroughly satisfying.

But the author accomplished that task and then went further.  This book is magical in its reach and edifying in the joy and depth of its conclusion.  It stretches out past time and space,  it encompasses the past, present, and future with equal verve, heart-stopping action and suspense. It brings to many a deep abiding love in so many forms, a search for self and what that means and, oh, yes the astonishing winged aliens of several species.  Plus the probable end of not one but two worlds.  There are multiple cultures, languages, sciences to understand and embrace along with all the characters that Coatsworth has created.

It’s an absolute tour de force.

I am certainly not giving out any details.  Even now, thinking back on elements and tiny narrative jewels the author will deliver to the reader, I remain so grateful and stunned at the twists and turns he built into Ithani.  Ones that even now continue to astound and delight.  I’m a fan of Coatsworth’s science fiction series the Liminal Sky and, here we find a major storythread that links this trilogy to that one.  For a reader that is not familiar with the Liminal Sky Series, will they feel lost?  Not at all.  This element is beautifully explained and threaded into the plot line, it’s important and as vital as any element in the narrative.  But that it’s linked to another series altogether?  Only those who know and adore the Liminal Sky  will be dancing in dazed joy over this narrative inclusion.

That’s just the way this whole novel goes…like dancing lights above a lake.  It will entrance you, pull you in, leave you to wonder at it all.  And then make you want to take the journey all over again.

I highly recommend the entire Oberon Cycle trilogy, starting with Skythane, then to Lander, and finally to this magical, incredible conclusion Ithani.  It’s February and I already have an addition to my Best of 2019 list this year.  That would be Ithani and the Oberon Cycle.

Cover Artists: Anna Sikorska.  I love the drama and eyecatching colors of this cover.  Great job.

Sales Links:

Buy Now: Dreamspinner Press Buy Now: Amazon KindleBuy Now: AmazonBuy Now: Barnes and NobleBuy Now: KoboBuy Now: iBooks

Book Details:

Paperback and eBook 290 pages
Expected publication: February 19th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN 1644051125 (ISBN13: 9781644051122)Available on: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genres: Romance, Sci Fi
The Oberon Cycle:

Skythane

Lander

Ithani

A Free Dreamer Review: For the Clan by Archer Kay Leah

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Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Canada, 2165 AD. The Water Wars and a decimated economy have taken their toll. Anyone who doesn’t live in a military-patrolled metropolis lives in a clan. But being in a clan doesn’t mean safety.

And for a Ven like Roan Lee, it doesn’t matter where he lives. Safety is a luxury. So is freedom.

Roan is desperate to escape the governtary’s exploitation and torture. He is nothing to them but 54σK1, an artifact born from a genetic mishap. When the chance to escape arises, he makes a run for it—and encounters the lover from his past, twisting his future into a second chance he never expected.

As leaders of Clan Teach, Jace Ama and his wife, Cayra Diega, have enough difficulty keeping their people safe. When Roan is thrown to their feet as a prisoner, their marriage becomes an additional challenge. Jace still loves Roan, but where does that leave Cayra?

For the Clan” wasn’t my first book by this author, but it was the first MMF book I’ve ever consciously picked up. Not so long ago, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance, simply because of the relationship dynamic. But then I decided to give every book with an interesting blurb a try, no matter the pairing. And I’m so glad I did, because I absolutely loved this book.

Strangely enough, the first word that comes to my mind when I think about this story is “beautiful”. Something about it just made me feel really happy, even though a lot of horrible things happen and life definitely isn’t easy for our protagonists. I think it might be because of the wonderful love story we get to witness. Roan’s situation seems so bleak and utterly hopeless and it was so amazing to watch how love gave him hope again. I loved all three MCs and their dynamic. There was no bitterness or jealousy, even if it wasn’t always easy. They’re strong with and for each other, but they can also be weak and know that the other one will catch them.

The book is incredibly well written. This is actually my fourth book by Archer Kay Leah, but while the three other books I read were something between “okay” and “good, but not great”, this was a masterpiece. It was easy to fall into the world the author created and get lost in it and in the feelings of the MCs. The descriptions are all so vivid and the landscape felt very alive.

But there’s more to this book than just a wonderful love story and some pretty hot sex scenes. The world building was really well done too. There’s an explanation for everything, without ever giving an “info dump” feel. It was woven perfectly into the plot, just like how great world building is done.

There’s a lot of action and fighting going on. I was breathlessly anticipating what would happen next. The plot was very well thought out and had real depth.

If you like dystopian futures with brave heroes in a wonderful relationship and aren’t easily triggered by violence and horrible background stories, then you should read this book. You won’t regret it.

The cover by Natasha Snow is perfect for the story. It’s dark and violent, but also hauntingly beautiful.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 228 pages

Published May 25th 2016 by Less Than Three Press

A MelanieM Review: Hat Trick (Harrisburg Railers #8) by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Stan Lyamin has seen many of his dreams come true. He’s found his soulmate, loves Noah like his own, hoisted the Cup, and has his Mama living with him in his new country. But his fantasies of a loud, loving, madcap home overflowing with childish laughter linger. When a distant family member passes, Stan and Erik immediately agree to take in the two orphaned children, but that means a trip back to Russia for Stan, an idea that both exhilarates and terrifies him.

Erik’s world tilts on its axis when a phone call wakes him and Stan in the middle of the night. Abruptly, Stan is returning to Russia, making deals, working with people who know people, and fully intending to bring two orphaned children home. The red tape is overwhelming, and Erik is alone in Harrisburg with the nearly impossible task of finding a nanny who can speak fluent Russian. Being on his own is one thing, but add in fears about Stan’s safety and team issues, and Erik is finding everything hard to balance; not least of which is spending quality time with Noah.

When their family expands from three to five, the journey won’t be easy, but love can always find a way.

Sometimes, especially now, you just need a story, that makes you laugh, feel absolutely wonderful down to your toes,  and makes your heart feel all shmoopy. That would be the latest in the Harrisburg Railers series, Hat Trick (Harrisburg Railers #8) by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey.

This story has every element that’s guaranteed to make your face ache because it’s smiling so hard with the love and warmth that is overflowing from the characters and plot here. Yes, it feels that good.  Children, dogs, a grandmother, Elvis, well, not him exactly, but glitter, red tuxedos and so much more.  Plus you get Stan!!! Who I have to admit is my favorite Railer, he just is, fractured English and all.

Goalies, real and fictional, are just that special breed of human.  They take quirkiness to a whole new level and these two authors have always been able to bring that to the goalies they have created for their different hockey romances, Harrisburg Railers included.  But meeting him, heart to heart, is his soul mate Erik, another Railer.  Their relationship and deep love as well as  family is here, and it’s beautiful.

I love how the authors treat the expansion of Stan and Erik’s family, the careful consideration of the child already there, the patience and care with the new children coming into the fold.  It’s loving and endearing.  Plus we get the madcap too.

In the end, as usual, I’m left wanting so much more.  I can never get enough of Stan and Erik. I’m clearly obsessed here.  They make me feel great and just when I needed it the most.  I’ll probably be rereading it again instead of the news.

I love this series.  Such a variety in couples and plots.  Drama, suspense, hilarity, and romance.  And love of course, so much love.  I highly recommend them all.

 

Cover art: Meredith Russell.  I just love this cover.  It’s pertinent to the story and so clean and adorable.  Perfect!

Sales Links:

Amazon US | UK | CA | AUFR |DE (and other territories)

Apple Books | KOBO | Smashwords |Barnes & Noble

Book Details:

ebook
Published February 10th 2019 by Love Lane Books Limited (first published 2019)
ISBN 139781785641466
Edition Language English
Series Harrisburg Railers #8

Harrisburg Railers Series:

Changing Lines | First Season | Deep Edge | Poke Check | Last Defense | Goal Line | Neutral Zone | Hat Trick | Save The Date (30 June)

Artists and Book Covers Spotlight: Meredith Russell. This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Artists and Book Covers Spotlight: Meredith Russell

If you’ve read a book by RJ Scott or V.L. Locey to name two authors quickly off the top of my head, well, then you’ve seen the covers of Meredith Russell.  If you read some or all of the stories  in The Christmas Angel series by various authors, then you’ve seen the covers of Meredith Russell.  And of course, if you’ve read Forever In The Sun (co authored with RJ Scott) or Fallout,  you’ve seen a cover created by the artist for a book she’s written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plus if you are a follower of either RJ Scott or VL Locey or the MM Hockey Romance Group, then you are familiar with the adorable chibis that Meredith Russell draws of the characters of the Harrisburg Railers hockey players and their mates and families.  I’m hoping she will extend it to the Rush soon.  Here is the first chibi she drew.  It’s Tennant Rowe! The others can be found here at

Railers Chibi-style promo pieces

Adorable, right?  If you are a fan of the Harrisburg Railers series by RJ Scott and VL Locey, then you know Ten is featured in a very special story that’s to be released this summer, June 30th 2019.  Here’s a look at the cover by Meredith Russell, of course|
Now onto our interview….

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Meredith Russell on Art, Book Covers and Much More

  • How long it takes to put together a cover draft and whether or not they make multiple drafts to show authors/publishers?

Making a draft varies author to author for me. Some come with ideas, or a set style they’ve adopted, or images they’ve found themselves and so we go down one route and a single draft, and it’s a rather painless process. Then others need to see something to help decide what they actually are after from a cover. I’ve never really paid a lot of attention to exactly how long I spend on a draft. There are various stages I go through – getting any info or ideas from the author, looking at what images are available and which might work together, some back and forth with the author as to whether images fit with what they’re after, and finally the cutting/pasting/making etc of the draft. The time adds up but usually after a few days I have something to show them and a starting point to tweak into something final.

  • How much of your covers are original art and how much do you rely on using content purchased elsewhere (like Shutterstock

I work pretty much exclusively with images from stock sites so I am limited in some ways to what I can find on them and how I can maybe manipulate them into what we need. However, I would love to venture into digital art but I haven’t found the time to devote myself to figuring it out or getting the resources I’d need. I’ve had fun creating some simple drawings for RJ Scott, and a couple of others, who have had me turn their characters into little cartoon people though.

  • How much input comes from the author and/or storyline?

Again it varies. Some authors have a set idea of what they want. Some (naming no names lol) come to me requesting a man with brown hair and give me a couple of details about the story’s setting. I do like to know about the storyline or at least key moments or places that can be incorporated into the cover.

  • How did you get to become a cover artist?

What feels like a long time ago now, I used to do bits of fan art, mostly fanfiction banners for myself and some other writers. When RJ Scott went on to self-publishing she asked me to create her a cover and it went from there.

What mediums do you use? 

I work on a pc. I do have a pen and tablet that I use for drawing the cartoon characters (see above), but also a lot of those do actually start out as pencil and paper sketches that I then digitize and use as a guide.

Do you have a favorite cover you have done? 

Oh that’s a tough one. I recently did a set of seven covers for a series called The Christmas Angel. I liked how they turned out along with the challenge some of them offered considering they were all set in different time periods. A few others I really like include Liam Livings’ And Then That Happened, RJ Scott’s Boy Banned, KC Wells’ A Christmas Promise, and an as yet untitled merman cover I created as a premade that Amber Kell bought off me. Somebody should poke her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite cover artist yourself?

I do. I really love Jay Aheer’s work. She does some beautiful pieces.

Did you look at book covers or were influenced by book covers as a child?

I don’t think so much as a child. I was more about the title and blurb, particularly considering what was popular in way of covers back then, or at least for the kinds of books I was reading. It wasn’t until maybe early twenties where I started being tempted by pretty covers, quite a few being the YA type books, or having a striking female model on them.

What do you find most rewarding as a Book Cover Artist?

I just really enjoy getting to work with the authors. I enjoy the sharing of emails, building a working relationship and even friendships.

If you could ask yourself a question, what would it be?

It would be, ‘Have you remembered about that request you got over on Facebook?’ Seriously, I have a terrible memory and am constantly emailing myself or telling people to send details in emails as my inbox is something I have open all day whilst on my computer and can easily check on my phone when I’m not at my desk.

From the Christmas Angel series…

For both the Author and Cover Artist:

  • What or how do you see the role of the Book Cover?

Firstly, as an attention grabber. If you’re looking for something beyond the regular authors you read, the title and cover are the first things you’re exposed to so it helps if they make an impression. And secondly, covers can be a way of making a brand for authors. It might be they all have a set look – so maybe a single model on the cover, or simply keeping the font for their name consistent for all their books.

  • How has the eBook format changed that , if any?

I don’t think it’s changed it too greatly, in that whether you’re walking a row of books in a store or scrolling through online pages of somewhere like Amazon, covers are there to grab your attention.

  • What trends do you see in Book Covers in the industry? Past, present, and future?  {for example the rise of the naked half male torso, model overuse, generic covers ,etc.)

I think like with everything styles come in and out of fashion. There was the time of the headless models, shirtless torsos, two models, touched up single image covers,  Recently, for me at least, it’s been focusing on a single model on covers, for example The Christmas Angel series and having just one of the characters on there. And unfortunately, because cost is a factor for many authors when paying for cover art, repeated use of models from stock sites is difficult to avoid, but it offers artists the challenge to try and use them differently.

  • How do you feel about them?

Personally, I think the only trend I didn’t like was the headless men one. I know it was a way to make use of limited models in the earlier days, plus allows readers to form their own image of the character simply from whatever descriptions the authors wrote about them, but for me, I just wasn’t a fan. Otherwise, each trend has its place and does its job. There’s a risk of all books looking the same, but that’s then up to the artists, and also the authors and their input, to put their own twist on what’s popular.

  • Anything you would like to share with our readers?

If you’re interested in my work both as an author and cover artist you can view details at my website meredithrussell.co.uk, or find me over at Facebook https://www.facebook.com/meredithrussellauthor. Thank you.

 

About Meredith

Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.

Meredith Russell’s Media links
I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s spotlight with Meredith Russell.  It has been a joy getting to know her further.  Please check out more of her artwork and stories at her website listed above.
We have more Artist Spotlights Scheduled. The schedule to date (with links in case you missed one):
February 09:  Aisha Akeju
February 10:   Garrett Leigh
February 17:   Meredith Russell
February 24:  Reese Dante
March  3           Paul Richmond

Cover Artist Giveaway:

Please don’t forget to leave comments or questions for our artists to be entered into our Book Cover Artist Giveaway, a Gift Certificate for $10 the person chosen.  Please leave a email address where you can be reached.  Open until St. Patrick’s Day.
Now for this week’s reviews and tours.  Happy Reading and Listening!

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, February 17:

  • Artists and Book Covers Spotlight: Meredith Russell.
  • This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • A MelanieM Review: Hat Trick (Harrisburg Railers #8) by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey

Monday, February 18:

  • Release Blitz Milo by Lily Morton
  • Amy Lane Author Guest Post
  • Harmony Ink YA John Goode
  • An Alisa Review: Port in a Storm (Kitten and Witch #1) by K.L. Noone
  • A MelanieM Review: Wolff (Redemption #1) by J.J. Harper
  • A Lucy Review: Shine (Uncorked #4) by Shea Balik
  • A Free Dreamer Review: For the Clan by Archer Kay Leah

Tuesday, February 19:

  • Book Blitz for Blood Lust by L.E. Royal
  • Cover Reveal – Broken by Colette Davison
  • An Alisa Release Day Review: Diplomatic Relations (The Sci-Regency Series #4) by J.L. Langley
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Ithani (The Oberon Cycle #3) by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: My Fair Brady by K.C. Wells
  • A Lucy Audio Review: Rocking the Cowboy by Skylar M. Catesj and  Colin Darcy (Narrator)

Wednesday, February 20:

  • Ostakis by Angelica Primm
  • Review Tour – Sam Burns – Eagle In The Hawthorn (Rowan
  • Cover Reveal,- The Rising by Morgan Brice
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Diplomatic Relations (The Sci-Regency Series #4) by J.L. Langley
  • A Lucy Review: Sweet (Uncorked #5) by Shea Balik
  • A Free Dreamer Review:  Eagle In The Hawthorn (Rowan Harbor Cycle #8) by Sam Burns
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Review: No Fae is an Island (Endangered Fae #4) by Angel Martinez

Thursday, February 21:

  • BLOG TOUR Salute to the Stud by Beth Laycock
  • An ALisa Review: The Romantic by Elodie Parkes
  • A MelanieM Review: Gage (Redemption #2) by J.J. Harper
  • A Lila Review The Mercenaries of the Stolen Moon by Megan Derr
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Foreign to You by Jeremy Martin

Friday, February 22:

  • OLD SINS by Charlie Cochrane Tour by Charlie Cochrane
  • Release Blitz – Jay Northcote – Better Place (Rainbow Place #3)
  • DSP PROMO Andrew Grey on Reunited
  • Book Blast – Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling
  • An Alisa Review: Ace of Hearts by Caitlin Ricci
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Broken Alpha (The Alpha/Omega Verse #1) by D.C. Juris
  • A Caryn Review: Salute to the Stud by Beth Laycock

Saturday, February 23:

  • Release Blitz Signal – Kris Jacen – Step Up With Me
  • “Ithani” by J. Scott Coatsworth Mark (OWL) Tour
  • A MelanieM Review:  Step Up With Me by Kris Jacen
  • A MelanieM Review Waiting on the Rain by Freddy MacKay

A MelanieM Review: Peony Lanterns by Patricia Correll

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Mitsu has been Shiro’s personal servant and best friend since they were both six years old, and he’s been in love with him for nearly that long. While Shiro takes lovers of both sexes, the gulf between their social classes is so vast that Mitsu has never spoken his feelings aloud.

When Shiro meets the beautiful Lady Keiko, he’s instantly infatuated. His affection soon turns to obsession, and Mitsu resigns himself to a life of unrequited love.

But as Mitsu looks deeper into Keiko and her motives, he realizes that Shiro is in grave danger. He will need all his courage– and some help from a master of the occult– to save the life of the man he loves.

Peony Lanterns by Patricia Correll is a short but exquisite Japanese historical romance.  The story carries its historical accuracy and the authenticity of its era throughout the tale with the lightness of a Sakura petal, a tribute to it’s author’s ability to fold facts and cultural elements gently into her story. The focus here is on Mitsu, his feelings for his master, Shiro, and the current drama/mystery playing out between Lady Keiko, Shiro, and the brokenhearted Mitsu who carries a deep love for Shiro.

It unfolds naturally and then the pace picks up as does your heartbeat, racing as the revelations come one after another.  Even as the world building expands, the author never misses, either with the narrative or with the details.  She keeps the reader hooked to the action and the drama unfolding , hoping that Mitsu;s bravery and love will prevail.

I would love to see more in this universe, more with this couple.  It’s just amazing in every way.  I highly recommend this story.  It’s quite the gem!

Cover art is beautiful and works within the culture and times.

Sales Links: Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 91 pages
Published February 12th 2019
ASINB07N12QDLH

A Stella Release Day Review: How to Be a Movie Star (How to Be #2) by TJ Klune

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

Josiah Erickson wants to be a movie star. The problem with that is so does half of Los Angeles. But he’s on his way, what with memorable roles as a TV show background cadaver and a guy in a commercial for herpes medication. All he needs is his big break. And that break may come in the form of a novelist who goes by the enigmatic name of Q-Bert.

Q-Bert, who is ready to make his directorial debut in a film Josy would be perfect for. Q-Bert, who Josy may or may not have a friend-crush on, and potentially something more. Being demisexual can be confusing.

From the City of Angels to the small mountain town of Abby, Oregon, Josy will give his all to make sure his dreams come true—even the ones he never thought possible.

This was another amazing release by TJ Klune, if you already read How To Be A Normal Person, you will be happy to know Gus and Casey will be here in this new adventure too, along with the We Three Queens. I was over the moon, knowing what great journey this story would have been. It couldn’t have be otherwise, since I’m used to the author incredible mind.

I fell into Josy world and I wanted to stay there with him forever. Yes, following Josy and his thoughts wasn’t easy, things were always over the top, sometimes I had to reread some sentences cause I wasn’t sure I understood well his words, but I loved him since the first pages. He has a big heart and it’s clear till the last chapter how a beautiful person he is. And then there’s Quincy, writer, movie director and so much more. It can seem both MCs are frail, but they aren’t, they are both so strong and sure of their dreams. It hurt me to read about Quincy and his long battle with depression, still seeing him build a community among his readers and be an example for people who struggle each day was lovely and emotional, especially in a couple of scenes  (he was stoned in one of them but it was just a little mistake).

There are a lot of second characters, all of them memorable and so unrealistic, I laughed a lot, cried a little and spent an amazing time reading How To Be A Movie Star. It’s a light book but it reads so many topics, some more heavy, that will make you think over and over.  This was simply another winner from one of my favorite authors.

The cover art by Reese Dante is clean and simple as the cover of the first book in the How To Be series is, I like it

SALE LINKS      Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 350 pages

Published February 12th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN13 9781640807822

Edition Language English

Series How To Be #2

Release Blitz for In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: In Case You Missed It

Author: S. M. James

Publisher: May Books

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs

Genre/s: YA LGBT romance

Heat Rating: 1-2 flames

Length: 98 000 words/400 pages

It is a standalone story.

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Add on Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

 

 

Blurb

Brooks is convinced his life is totally, one hundred percent happy. 

Until Darien tracks him down.

Darien was supposed to be the guy he kissed once and remembered forever, but now he’s back in Brooks’s life, with easy smiles and big ideas.

The first of which … show the homeschooled Brooks everything he’s missed out on. But as the pair work through a spring of playing catch up on life, it becomes obvious to Darien that Brooks has a secret. 

And as things heat up between them, Brooks’s secret might just be Darien’s worst fear.

Because Darien has always lived in the moment. 

But Brooks has always lived for the future he knows is inevitable. 

When life is set to tear them apart, will love be enough to keep them together?



All books in the #lovehim series are stand alones. The series number is the recommended reading order.

 

Excerpt

We cross the front of the school, head past the football field, and into the courtyard. It’s eerily quiet, with filtered sunlight and a soft breeze breaching the concrete quad.

Darien heads for a bench that runs along the base of an enormous tree and flops down onto it. I sit next to him and silence settles gently over my shoulders. The courtyard is surrounded by buildings on three sides, and I vaguely remember one of them as the science wing.

“So this is where you’d eat at breaks on a nice day. Cameron and Chels sit there, and some of the others here, and over there.” He points to an opposite bench. “We’d sit right here, of course. Since you’d be in all the nerd classes, we’d be inseparable over break.” He grips the back of the bench and leans into his hands, grinning over at me.

I swing a leg over the back of the bench so I’m facing him. “And you’d be such a shameless flirt, I’d have to find new friends to save you the embarrassment.”

“No point.” He shrugs. “I’d just follow you there too.”

The thing is, I believe him. I don’t know how anyone can be so effortless about how they feel. He doesn’t try to hide it, but he doesn’t push me either, and the fact he can be so unashamedly into me, makes me want to give him more.

But he’ll get over it. And I have to help him.

I lean away from him a little. “So, is there anyone here who’s caught your eye?”

“There’s this one guy …”

His tone makes me arch my eyebrow. “He wouldn’t be me, would he?”

“See? You’re too damn smart.”

I duck my head as I hold back a laugh. “Seriously though. Nothing is going to happen between us, so it’s okay if you find someone else.”

“Yeah, we’re not doing this.”

I frown. “What do you mean?”

“We’ve been over this, like, a thousand times. Jesus, Brooks, I get it. I just want to spend time with you, as friends, and I don’t need you trying to push me onto someone else.”

“Darien …” I reach for his arm and he shrugs me away. “I’m sorry.”

“Good. Now no more mentioning that shit, okay? My memory is fine, I can make my own damn decisions.”

“You’re right.” But how does he make the right decision when I’m keeping a huge part of myself from him? I take a couple of short breaths, the very real possibility of telling him, looming at the front of my thoughts.

“Here.” Darien finally takes off his backpack and unzips it. He’s packed a heap of food, some I haven’t seen before, and he slides away from me on the bench to set it out between us. “Dig in.”

Lunch is delicious, and I try some of everything. Darien talks me through some of the foods his mom made, like zelnik and tulumba, and it’s so damn good, I’d hang out with him just for the food. After a week of barely eating I don’t hold back, but I didn’t bring my enzyme tablets with me, so it’s close to pointless.

Darien takes some more photos after lunch as we explore the school. He fills me in on little bits and pieces about his first two weeks, and we wind up under the bleachers. He dives into his bag again and pulls out two cigarettes.

I give him a flat look. “Fuck no.”

He smirks. “Goodie two shoes.”

“Nope.” I shake my head, trying to think of how I can get him to put those freaking things away. “I just don’t see the point in sucking on something that can fucking kill you.” My words come out way harsher than I mean, but if he starts on one of those things, I’m leaving him here.

His dark eyebrows furrow, and something goes on behind his eyes that I can’t quite make out, but he just shrugs and grinds the smokes into the ground. “Thank the lord. Don’t think I could have stomached it, even for you.”

I relax a little, though I’m not sure I really believe the words.

He steps closer. “You know, there are other things people do under the bleachers …”

It takes me a second to catch up, and my focus automatically drops to his lips. My stomach is a riot as I try not to focus on how good our first kiss was, all those months ago.

Darien smirks and steps back, breaking my runaway thoughts. He pulls a marker from his bag. “We have to mark we were here, otherwise it doesn’t count.”

“That, I can do.” I take the marker from him and uncap it with a click. Reaching above my head, I hesitate a second, trying to figure out what to write. In the end, I go simple.

BL + DM.

“Those letters look good together,” Darien says. His voice is low and warm and reminds me of summer. His fingers slide down mine as he takes the marker from me.

He reaches up and his shirt pulls higher on his back, leaving this smooth strip of brown skin exposed. The pull to touch him is so strong. I need to feel his skin under my fingertips. It’s a physical battle to hold back, and just as I’m about to fold,

To reach,

To touch,

To give in to him, Darien finishes up, and steps back to survey his work. I blink a few times to try and lessen the fog in my head, then turn my focus up.

He’s drawn a heart around our initials.

 

 

 

About the Author 

S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.

While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.

​​Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBTQ characters.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website

Facebook

Instagram

Bookbub

Goodreads

 

Giveaway 

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of the following:

$30 Amazon gift card (AU or US only)

2 x paperbacks (That Feeling When or To Be Honest) (International)

3 x eBooks (That Feeling When or To Be Honest) (International)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

RELEASE BLITZ SCHEDULE

 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

A MelanieM Review: In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5 (caution spoiler due to trigger)

Brooks is convinced his life is totally, one hundred percent happy.

Until Darien tracks him down.

Darien was supposed to be the guy he kissed once and remembered forever, but now he’s back in Brooks’s life, with easy smiles and big ideas.

The first of which … show the homeschooled Brooks everything he’s missed out on. But as the pair work through a spring of playing catch up on life, it becomes obvious to Darien that Brooks has a secret.

And as things heat up between them, Brooks’s secret might just be Darien’s worst fear.

Because Darien has always lived in the moment.

But Brooks has always lived for the future he knows is inevitable.

When life is set to tear them apart, will love be enough to keep them together?

Several things.  First, I haven’t read the other stories in this series and now I know I must.  Secondly, I haven’t made S.M. James an author on my auto scan list and now they are.  All based on the strength of this remarkable book.

That’s In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James a story of a first time deep love, a heartbreaking reality, and the ability to find hope and brightness where you might least expect it.   This story could have gone so many ways but the author took a subject matter, Cystic fibrosis, an inherited genetic disease that has no cure and gives it a face in Brooks

I debated saying something in my review about the issue with Brook’s because it’s not listed in the synopsis.  But this is something that could be a trigger for many people, especially those who have lost children or someone to terminal illnesses, not necessarily CF, and the subject matter is dealt with realistically and bluntly. CF is a disease without a cure  (and its natural progression of an early death) that Brook has lived with his entire life. No, the story, told from both Brooks and Darien’s povs, is how their relationship changes their outlook, on their lives, a relationship, and even their future together.

It starts with their meeting.  We are there in the mix, learning about each of them as they do each other.  The secret that is a barrier between them that will crumble as their feelings grow. It’s the effects upon Darien and the reader as we grapple with the knowledge upon revelation of exactly what all the coughing has meant, what Brook’s has been trying to hide behind his “asthma”.  Honestly, I have no words for the authenticity of the dynamics between Brooks and Darien, the beauty of the “realiness” that exists here, and the pain felt over the grim physical reality of Brook’s situation.

But S.M. James gives these young men and the readers so much more.  The depth of feeling and love, the incredible families and support, and an unexpected path for them both that the reader will love.  There is no cure for CF, not in real life and certainly not in this book.  But the joys and heart found here will carry you through, as it did me and find you laughing through the tears.  So much happiness , it will amaze you.

In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James just blew me away.  Beautifully written, incredible characters, heartwarming, heartbreaking plot, and an  great ending to remember.  I highly recommend it and it’s sending me running to grab up the rest of the series.  Never has a contemporary story flown by so quickly.

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs is nice but there is an even better artist’s rendering of the drawing used for the tour of the 2 characters that I loved even better..

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Expected publication: February 12th 2019
Edition Language English
Series#lovehim #3

More On Book Covers And Cover Artists ~ This Week Garrett Leigh! Our Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Author and Artist: Garrett Leigh

More On Book Covers And Cover Artists

 This Week the Fabulous Garrett Leigh!

Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh

When I am looking at book covers, I can spot a Garrett Leigh cover just at a glance.  It has a certain style, a tone, a composition that states that yes, this cover was created by Garrett Leigh, and no other.

When sending out Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words questions, Garrett Leigh not only snapped immediately to mind because of the instant recognition factor in her covers but because Leigh is also an author as well.  Leigh is in a unique position in that a Garrett Leigh novel can have (although not always) a Garrett Leigh cover, one perfectly tuned to the story and characters within.

I can think of only a few other author/artists off the top of my head in a similar position.  Meredith Russell, LC Chase are among them.

So we are lucky to have Garrett Leigh here today answering our questions about books, cover artists, the future of covers, and much more.  Check it all out below.  Also the link to Garrett Leigh’s design website, Black Jazz Design.  Don’t miss out on the gallery there and all the many book covers.  Such a delight!

From Garrett Leigh:

Cover Book and Cover Artist Questions:

  • How long it takes to put together a cover draft and whether or not they make multiple drafts to show authors/publishers?

The time frame varies from job to job. For example, I’ve worked on a series cover today, book 6, that took me half an hour, as we already knew which model we were using, and exactly how the cover would look. Over the weekend, I did a job for a publisher that required three markedly different drafts, before one was chosen to work on further.

  • How much of your covers are original art and how much do you rely on using content purchased elsewhere (like Shutterstock)

I’m a photographic artist, so most of images come from stock sites, or my husband’s collection (he is a pro photographer/videographer). Stock sites are invaluable, though.

  • How much input comes from the author and/or storyline?

Again, it depends on the job. Some authors have a clear idea of what they want, and the book is already written, and some have no clue and want their art before they start writing the book. When working with publishers, you also have to consider house style.

As far as the story itself is concerned, the most important aspect is the tone. I wouldn’t want to make a super gritty thriller cover for a cute holiday romance.

  • How did you get to become a cover artist?

Entirely by accident. I wanted something specific for a book of my own, so I made it myself and went from there.

  • What mediums do you use?  

Photoshop, Illustrator, Daz, Wacom.

  • Do you have a favorite cover you have done?

That’s like asking me to choose between my children, but I do have a few I don’t like. And no, I’m not saying which ones, haha.

  • Do you have a favorite cover artist yourself?

Loads. We’re super lucky in the romance genre in that there are dozens of stellar artists to choose from. And I’m good friends with a few too—Kellie Dennis, Jay Aheer, Meredith Russell.

  • Did you look at book covers or were influenced by book covers as a child?

Not that I can remember, but I mainly read Enid Blyton, so…

  • What do you find most rewarding as a Book Cover Artist?

When a job “clicks” and the author is over the moon. It makes the trickier jobs worthwhile.

  • If you could ask yourself a question, what would it be?

Where the hell did you put the spare laptop you bought for camping last year?

For both the Author and Cover Artist:

  • What or how do you see the role of the Book Cover?

The cover is equally, if not more, important as the blurb. I choose my books with my eyes first, and if a book has a crappy cover, I’ll scroll on by unless it’s been specifically recommended to me.

  • How has the eBook format changed that, if any?

eBooks have been around as long as I’ve been a professional artist, so I honestly couldn’t say.

  • What trends do you see in Book Covers in the industry? Past, present, and future?  {for example the rise of the naked half male torso, model overuse ,generic covers ,etc.)

Chalkboard cursive fonts are still in, with warm happy colours. But the moody black and white hero is a long time favourite in the romance genre.

  • How do you feel about them?

Naked torsos? I’ve produced many covers with torsos, and read many books with them on the cover. I think they’re awesome if they suit the book.

  • Anything you would like to share with our readers?

I bought a cheap laptop last year so I could write on a camping trip. If anyone has any ideas as to where I might have put it, that would be amazing.

About the Author/Artist:

Bonus Material available for all books on Garrett’s Patreon account. Includes short stories from Misfits, Slide, Strays, What Remains, Dream, and much more. Sign up here: https://www.patreon.com/garrettleigh

Facebook Fan Group, Garrett’s Den… https://www.facebook.com/groups/garre

Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer, cover artist, and book designer. Her debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards, and was again a finalist in 2017 with Rented Heart.

In 2017, she won the EPIC award in contemporary romance with her military novel, Between Ghosts, and the contemporary romance category in the Bisexual Book Awards with her novel What Remains.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with photographer Dan Burgess.

Contact Garrett Leigh at:

Website
Twitter

 

 

 

 

More to come next week with author/artist Meredith Russell .  Meanwhile keep checking out our reviews and our covers below.  What do you think of them?  Do they grab your attention?  I love quite a few this week.  Have a great week.  Happy reading to all!  And Happy Valentine’s Day!

This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

 

 

Sunday, February 10:

  • More On Book Covers And Cover Artists ~ This Week Garrett Leigh!
  • Our Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • A Lucy Review Full Bodied (Uncorked #2) by Shea Balik

Monday, February 11:

  • Release Blitz NOBLE HOPS by Layla Reyne
  • Release Blitz – Outlaw Girls – Miss Merikan
  • PROMO Foreign to You by Jeremy Martin
  • An Alisa Review: How Not to Blend  (Lovestrong #1) by Susan Hawke
  • A Lucy Review: Snowed In: Jonah and Cooper by Kris T. Bethke
  • A MelanieM Review: In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller

Tuesday, February 12:

  • TOUR Kicking up My Heels by Liam Livings
  • Release Blitz – In Case You Missed It by S. M. James
  • Andrew Grey on Rebound
  • An Alisa Review: Stepbrother’s Secret (Men of Meadowfall #6) by Anna Wineheart
  • A Stella Release Day Review: Rebound by Andrew Grey
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: How to Be a Movie Star (How to Be #2) by TJ Klune
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Familiar Demon (Familiar Love #2) by Amy Lane

Wednesday, February 13:

  • Release Blitz – Damaged by Tricia Owens
  • PROMO The Vampire’s Quest by Damian Serbu
  • Blog Tour – Darkness Dawns by Zakarrie Clarke
  • An Alisa Review: Square One by Dale Chase
  • A Stella Release Day Review: How to Be a Movie Star (How to Be #2) by TJ Klune
  • A Jeri Review: Damaged by Tricia Owens

Thursday, February 14: Happy Valentine’s Day ❤️

  • Release Blitz for Sam Burns – Eagle In The Hawthorn
  • An Ashlez Audio Review: Road of No Return: Hounds of Valhalla MC (Sex & Mayhem #1) by K.A. Merikan and Wyatt Baker (Narrator)
  • An Alisa Review: Hidden Hearts (Bad Valentine #3) by Clare London
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Blood Echo by L.E. Royal
  • A MelanieM Review Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane

Friday, February 15:

  • Tour and Giveaway:Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane
  • Release Blitz – Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling
  • A MelanieM Review: Peony Lanterns by Patricia Correll
  • A Lucy Review Blush (Uncorked #3) by Shea Balik
  • A Lila Review: Faeted Box Set By Caitlin Ricci
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Review :Royal Guardian (Rise of the Symbionts #1) by Jo Tannah

Saturday, February 16:

  • A MelanieM Review: Little (Trenton Security #2) by J.M. Dabney
  • Release Blitz – Nell Iris – Snowed In: Nen and Anani

 

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Hexhunter (Hexworld #4) by Jordan L. Hawk

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Detective Bill Quigley first met Isaac, the mastiff familiar, the night Isaac was rescued from the witch who kidnapped and tormented him to force his magic for illegal uses.  He’s head over heels for the quiet young man who works for MWP (Metropolitan Witch Police) but Isaac doesn’t seem to return his regard. In fact, Isaac seems quiet and withdrawn most of the time; definitely not someone who’d appreciate Bill’s advances. So when Sionn, the owl familiar who works with Isaac, asks Bill out, he accepts and it seems to be with Isaac’s blessing.

But Isaac does indeed like Bill—he just feels inadequate and worries that his magic is tarnished after what happened. Plus, the witch Isaac’s familiar is attracted to doesn’t want him, and Isaac knows Bill only has a little magic and likely wouldn’t be interested in someone with damaged magic like his.

There’s plenty of time for a slow-burn attraction in this story, and that’s what happens. Just when it seems Bill might settle for Sionn in an effort to forget Isaac, an attempt is made on their lives and Isaac and Bill are thrown together in painful circumstances.  They can’t deny their attraction after that and that day begins a slow return of Isaac’s confidence and starts their journey to a lasting relationship.  Along the way there’s plenty of adventure and a dastardly scheme involving kidnapping children and experimenting with hexes to tailor the form the adult familiar takes so that the wealthy witches can have what they want.  Add to that, a surprise in the form of Bill’s half brother and the story has so much to offer that readers, like me, will get lost in the pleasure of this author’s highly creative and imaginative mysteries.

I am looking forward to much more in this wonderful hex world and most definitely I’m hoping Sionn gets his own book.  That little owl has a lot to offer!  I highly recommend this story and this series to readers of paranormal and mystery MM romance.

The cover by Jordan L. Hawk is done in a style similar to others in the series: above the title a profile of a man matching the description of MC Bill Quigley and below the title is the shadow of a mastiff, which represents MC familiar, Isaac, and it’s set against the background of an old street map of New York City.  Very creative and attractive.

Sales Links:  Buy from Amazon

Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Smashwords

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Expected publication: February 8th 2019
ASIN B07MM5SL79
Edition Language English
Series Hexworld #4