Review: When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

WhenAllTheWorldSleeps_500x750_0Daniel Whitlock is back in his hometown of Logan, South Carolina, after serving time in prison for killing a man. The man Daniel killed was another local boy, Kenny Cooper, someone who savagely beat Daniel because he was gay.   The problem is that Daniel doesn’t remember burning down Kenny’s house with Kenny in it.  Daniel is a sleepwalker and has been since he was a child but no one believed him when Daniel told everyone that he had been asleep when he burned Kenny’s house to the ground. Convicted with time served, now Daniel has returned home to a town that hates him and a family that won’t speak to him.  Isolated in a cabin in the woods, Daniel chains himself to the bed each night in hopes that he can sleep.  Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn’t.

When Daniel is found causing trouble at the local bar, its up to Logan cop Joe Belman to break up the fight and take Daniel home.  Like everyone else in town Bel has never believed Daniel’s defense of sleepwalking.  But now faced with the reality of a Daniel who doesn’t remember the fight at the bar, Bel’s attitude towards Daniel starts to change. When Kenny’s friends retaliate against Daniel, Bel agrees to watch over him, to keep Daniel safe by any means…including tying him up and handcuffs.

Watching over Daniel, dominating him to protect him, brings out a side of Bel he never knew existed.  And as he slips into a relationship with Daniel, one that deepens by the day, Bel finds himself looking at his hometown and its citizens in a new and harsh light.  It’s not only the town that won’t leave Daniel alone but his own fears and demons too.  Only with Bel does he find any measure of peace…now if only he can let himself believes he deserves it and that Bel will stick with him no matter what.

Not many books these days leave me speechless, let alone exceed any expectations I might have had from the blurb given.  But When All the World Sleeps is that treasure of a book that leapt over my perceptions and conjectures into a triumph of storytelling.

Truthfully, it’s the characters first that surprised me. I was unprepared for damaged Daniel Whitlock and his somnambulism.  And how deeply this character would affect me.  His pain and anguish over the past, and not just Kenny, is so profoundly real that I could swear I saw Daniel’s blood and tears wash over the Kindle’s screen as certain scenes unfolded.  He is steeped in guilt and confusion.  By returning to Logan, all the memories and problems that Daniel carries with him just intensifies for him and the reader on an almost hourly basis.  There is little mercy to be found in this small town with its almost biblical memory and cemented social judgements, whether it be against gays or convicts or those that happen to live outside the town’s proscribed idea of normal.  And oh the danger if someone just happens to be all of those.  That is a marked man, whether it be open taunts or concealed hatred.

Joe Belman, or Bel as he is called is another remarkable character in a sea of them.  Bel is someone we watch grow emotionally throughout the story.  He starts off as just another typical Logan citizen, holding much the same viewpoints and values as all the other close-knit family members and small town denizens.  Logan is so central to who Bel thinks he is that it would never occur to Bel to live anywhere else, so strongly does Bel identify with the town and his family and friends. But all that starts to change when Daniel reappears in Bel’s life.  There is a fundamental change that has to happen before Bel can see Daniel as someone other than a liar and killer, and that change happens slowly and with great realism.  Henry and Rock achieve something remarkable here with Bel.  His changeover in attitude and feelings towards Daniel feels so authentic in his doubt, stubborness, and finally acceptance that the authors pull the readers along with Bel’s introspection and emotional discoveries about himself and Daniel.  It’s intimate, it’s a ground swell of emotion that never stops breaking and its breathtaking in its accomplishment in making me, and all the readers so vested in these characters and their delicate relationship that any swerve off the path for them is as painful for us as it is devastating for them.  Bel is that singular voice in the night, the one that stands out in the sea of small town secrets and listening to him soon becomes as addictive as it is necessary.

Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock certainly understand the small Southern town mentality, one I am familiar with myself.  There is a delicate emotional balance that is necessary to achieve for appreciating and comprehending the complexities of life lived within its confines.   My father escaped it as early as possible, his brother never did.  The pull of a small hometown can sometimes be so strong in its depth of history (familial and otherwise), of its deep cultural and societal roots that establish themselves within a person never to  relinquish their hold, that some people never leave its jurisdiction, whether that be physical or emotional.  Henry and Rock get that and have made it come alive here within the pages of When All the World Sleeps.  The good, the bad, the indifference to the sufferings of those the town cannot abide or understand…its all there, laid out for the reader who has no idea of the charms and pitfalls that exist in such an atmosphere and makes it accessible.

When there is a bdsm content in a story, especially where it is a major element in a main character’s emotional makeup, I always wonder how its treatment will let me relate to the story and the character(s) involved.  Again, Henry and Rock take a multitude of difficult subject matters and by combining them, make us understand the demons that haunt Daniel and the methods chosen to help him deal with them.  Its another outstanding accomplishment that such methods seem utterly reasonable and necessary for both men, including Bel who is new to the whole idea of domination and submission.  Bel does his homework on the subject, researching and having open discussions, well as open as is possible with Daniel, on the toys and tools to be used to make Daniel feels safe enough to sleep. There is a natural progression from ignorance to total participation as a dominant and partner from Bel.  As there is an answering growth and recovery from Daniel at the end of the story.

With all the hatred that floats throughout this story, the self hatred, the hostility and animosity from the town, the pain and rejection that seems to be a matter of course for  several of the inhabitants here, there are also scenes of incredible tenderness and raw sexuality.  There is a moment with body markers so memorable in its tenderness and awkward eroticism that I didn’t know how to respond… then it gets to the end and I what my response should be…cheering for the bravery that is both Daniel and Bel, celebrating their almost impossible union and the milestones they have reached.  Hard not to reach for a tissue after that.

But the authors are not through with us or Bel and Daniel.  They are carefully constructing their plot, laying out the foundation and then the rest of the plot building blocks with the same attention to detail they did with the facts about sleepwalking and therapy.  Daniel is a superb artist, drawing both day and night and remembering only by seeing the results on paper when he awakes. The chills brought forth from the drawings ups the level of rising anxiety as events start to rush towards a climax.  And while the events speed towards a resolution, the plot never feels rushed or incomplete.  This is a narrative that leaves nothing to chance or is weighed down by extraneous or inconsequential elements.  The book is 405 pages long yet it never felt that way to me.

This story is so complete that I don’t feel a need for a sequel.  It ends as it should.  I think this is one of the finest books of 2014.

Cover Art by Amber Shah.  Again this will be on my Best Covers list.  The tones and the atmosphere achieved here are perfect for the story and characters within.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing       All Romance (ARe)        Amazon   Buy it here

Book Details:

405 pages
Published March 24th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published March 22nd 2014)
ISBN 1626490791 (ISBN13: 9781626490796)
edition languageEnglish
review posted back in 2014

A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart Series by N. R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5 for the Series 

Red dirt Heart Cover

 

Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might.

And with those words, N. R. Walker introduces us to one of the most heartwarming, delightful, and throughly addicting series that is Red Dirt Heart!  Red Dirt Heart revolves around the complex and totally embraceable characters of Charlie Sutton of Sutton Station and Texan Travis Craig.   Per N. R. Walker:

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely, it’s the man with the red dirt heart.

But that brief synopsis doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of these stories. Through 4 books we trace Charlie and Travis’ journey towards love, relationship and a permanent home with each other.  Along the way we fall in love with not only Charlie and Travis but the red dirt desert of the Northern Territory that Charlie loves so much.  It doesn’t happen immediately but gradually in scene after scene as the stark, red hot environment claims the heart of Travis just as surely as Charley does.  And this is not a romanticized version of the red dirt country.  No, its comes complete with venomous snakes and spiders,  extreme temperatures that are lethal if caught unprepared or lost, and an almost alienness, a sense of solitude that can comfort or kill depending upon the circumstances.   And we learn to respect and love it for exactly what it is.

The same truth can be said about Charley…complex, abandoned, self-doubting Charley.  So easy to connect with and understand, Charley is a character as layered as the desert, full of extreme swings in his decision making, as durable and elemental as the red dirt he loves so deeply.  The Sutton Station is a part of Charlie, although he has yet to learn exactly how much and what large boundaries that station family includes.  For the Sutton Station comes with Ma and George, farm employees who are more mom and dad to Charley than his own. There’s Billy (an Aboriginal), and  several other workers that over the course of the stories form a close knit family to Charley and Travis.  But it’s not Charley that is the impetus for this shaping of people and events, no, its the arrival of Travis Craig that throws Charley and the status quo into shambles.  Delightfully so.

When Travis arrives, he meets a closeted, closed off Charley just waiting for a love he’s sure he doesn’t deserve.  And one of the things that makes this beginning of their journey so compelling is that the readers live inside Charley’s  head, an element that brings us so close to this bruised man that we love him immediately.  Books 1 through 3 are all told from Charley’s point of view.  In a neat feat of writing, N. R. Walker gives us the ability to see through the haze of Charley’s confusion, self doubt, and desire to realize that Travis is falling deeply in love with Charley even if Charley can’t see it.  Even as Charley is internally arguing with himself, busy throwing obstacles in their path to happiness because of his fear and uncertainty, we see Travis always in Charlie’s orbit, watching and urging Charlie forward.  What an addicting, captivating and yes, throughly charming pair and instantly we are invested in their happiness and future together.

What a troublesome road it is for Charley and Travis.  Outside of Charlie’s two step relationship dance, there’s immigration laws and visas, and the reality that Travis is an American citizen whose family (who loves him dearly) lives in Texas.  There complications that abound with Ma and George, orphaned animals that quickly grab onto your heart as much as the rest of the Sutton Station crazy, warmhearted group of individuals.  We get lessons in the mineral layers of dirt, learn what a bore is (no it has nothing to do with a person), and in general, see what it takes to run a station as large as Charley’s.  Those of us readers not from Down Under learn bits of Australian english and phrases, enough to instill the urge to travel and see it for ourselves.    As I say in my review for Red Dirt Heart 4, this series is as much a love letter from N. R. Walker to her country as it is about a deeply abiding love between Charley and Travis.

Along with way, there are some heartstopping moments so painful that tissues will be needed, white knuckle events that will make you feel suspended, frozen, until you (and the characters) are able to move forward and past them once more.  Those will be balanced with scenes of joy, laughter, and romance, such as Charlie understands it!  I laughed, cried, and laughed again through all the highs and lows, and even quiet moments of reflection and contentment that flow from these stories and the series as a whole.

Just a memory of a dialog or scene can send me running back to grab up that book, and before I realize it I’m lost once more in Red Dirt Heart romance and setting of Sutton Station and Charley Sutton.

Now the series is ending with Red Dirt Heart 4.  I’ve read the story, wept a little (ok ,more than a little. a lot) and said my happy goodbyes.  Told this time from Travis’ point of view, it’s a wholly satisfying, totally engaging series finale and gives us and Travis and Charley a glorious happily ever after.  It ends just where it should, no more, no less.   The Red Dirt Heart saga quickly became and still is one of my all time favorite series. It will be among the top on my rec lists as well as Best of.  N. R. Walker’s writing was vivid, at times lyrical in her love for her country and the Northern Territory, and full of the human spirit and endurance it takes to not only live life on the desert but to embrace it with all that you are.

But don’t take my word for it,  pick it up and start your journey into red dirt territory and the hearts and minds of Charley Sutton and Travis Craig.  It’s easy to read them in order as they are titled Red Dirt Heart 1 thru 4!  Elegant and simple.  Just don’t expect the same simplicity inside.  Be prepared to fall madly and completely in love with Charlie, Travis, Sutton Station and yes, the red dirt of  Australia’s Northern Territory.  What an amazing trip it is!  A real journey of their lifetimes! Begin it today.

All covers are the creation of Sara York.  I loved them.  They brand the series as a whole while each cover has elements important to that story.  Great job.

Sales links can be found on each individual review page listed below:

Red dirt Heart CoverRed Dirt Heart 2Red Dirt Heart3Red Dirt Heart 4 cover

Down Under Author: N. R. Walker

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DownUnder_January Is Banner

 NRW logo

Meet N. R. Walker!

N. R. Walker is the author of the Thomas Elkin series, the Red Dirt Heart series (both Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Must Have, Must Reads) and other books listed below.

To get to know N. R. Walker a little better, the author agreed to an interview. Look for the interview below and the Down Under Scavenger Hunt word found somewhere within.

✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍Author Bio 1

Who am I?

Good question…

I am many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer.

I have pretty, pretty boys who live in my head, who don’t let me sleep at night unless I give them life with words.

I like it when they do dirty, dirty things…but I like it even more when they fall in love.

I used to think having people in my head talking to me was weird, until one day I happened across other writers who told me it was normal.

I’ve been writing ever since…

*********************Author Contacts

Contacts/Follow at :

  Please note – NOT safe for work or kids


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Author Books Stories Down Under1 copy

 

Reddirtheart3300Red dirt Heart CoverRed Dirt Heart 2Red Dirt Heart3

 

 

 

 

Books:

Taxes and TARDIS
Ten in the Bin

 

Blind Faith coverThrough These Eyes cover (BF2) Young man in the cityThe 12th of Never (BF3.5)

 

 

 

 

Blind Faith (Blind Faith Series #1)
Through These Eyes (Blind Faith Series #2)
Blindside (Blind Faith Series #3)
Twelfth of Never (Blind Faith Series #3.5)

 

Elements of Retrofit coverClarity of Lines coverSense of Place coverSixty Five Hours cover

 

 

 

 

Point of No Return (Turning Point #1)
Breaking Point (Turning Point #2)
Starting Point (Turning Point #3)

 

Point of No Return coverBreaking Point coverStarting Point coverLearning to Feel cover

 

 

 

 

Elements of Retrofit (Thomas Elkin Series #1)
Clarity of Lines (Thomas Elkin Series #2)
Sense of Place (Thomas Elkin Series #3)
Red Dirt Heart 1 (Red Dirt Series #1)
Red Dirt Heart 2 (Red Dirt Series #2)Best Books of 2014
Red Dirt Heart 2 (Red Dirt Series #3)
Red Dirt Heart 4 (Red Dirt Series #4) just being released!

And my free reads:
Sixty Five Hours
Learning to Feel
His Grandfather’s Watch

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Contests and Giveaways:

1. Today’s Giveaway (thank you,N. R. Walker) is an eBook copy of Red Dirt Heart 4. Enter using this Rafflecopter link here. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

2. Down Under Scavenger Hunt – find the Hunt “word or phrase” in bold green . Collect all the words from each author and submit the list in writing no later than midnight on February 1st. Make sure you include an email address where you can be reached. Prizes will be given to 5 people selected, from 1st place to 5th! Happy Hunting.

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Author Qand A

Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing fiction about 4 years ago, after reading fan fiction online. I wrote fan fiction first, but then original characters started telling me stories. 😉

Q. Were you a reader as a child?

Yes. Loved reading. I loved adventure books mostly.

Q: Title or characters or plot? Which comes first?

A: Usually the characters, though sometimes the title is crystal clear from the very beginning. I normally have the characters talking to me for a little while before they tell me the plot.

Q: Do you have a favorite character that you have written?

A: I do love Charlie Sutton from my Red Dirt Heart Series. He’s a true Aussie farmer; hardworking, loves his family and friends and puts himself last, every time. He’s flawed, he’s frustrating, and he’s wonderful.

Q: Favorite book/story you have read as an adult?

A: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Just wow.

Q: Do you have a certain regimen that you follow as a writer?

A: I know it’s cliché, but write every day. Set hours if you can, or the same time slot every day, if real life allows it.

Q: Do you have a specific writing style?

A: My writing style consists of listening to what the characters tell me, and hoping for the best. LOL

Q: How do you think books written from authors in Australia or New Zealand differ in style, language, and culture?

A: There’s an Australian/Kiwi-ness in our everyday dialect that we can recognise straight away in a book, which I just love. Our genre is so Americanised, so to read Aussie books with Aussie characters (by Aussie authors) is like putting on a favourite pair of jeans. I have written books set in both America and Australia, using American and Australian characters respectively, and for me the language/setting/culture to do Australian is SO much easier. I think (some) authors – I know this is true for myself – become Americanised in their writing. I know even now when I write in real life (not for books) I find myself using American spelling. I think this is why I have LOVED writing my Red Dirt Heart Series so much. Having Aussie farmers in the Australian outback… doesn’t much more Aussie than that.

Q: If you were a tour guide, what would you like a visitor to see and what impression would you want them to take away with them when they leave?

A: The people! Aussies are so laid back and welcoming and the saying “no worries, mate” is a fabulous mantra.

Q: What are your current projects?

A: I’m working on my first paranormal romance. It’s a modern day vampire story that delves into Ancient Egypt (sort of). It’s very different from what I usually do, and it’s been a lot of fun to write so far.

Q: What’s next up for you?

A: Red Dirt Heart 4 was released January 9th, so my next release will be my paranormal romance, hopefully early March.

Thanks so much for having me!

A MelanieM Review: The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

The Shearing Gun coverHenry “Hank” Woods has always known he was gay but coming out as a teenager saw Hank thrown off his family’s farm and estranged from his father.  But Hank persevered, and now at the age of twenty-five, Hank owns his own farm in Australia’s rural southwest. Raising his own flock of sheep and growing crops often isn’t enough so Hank supplements his income from the property with seasonal shearing.  Over the years Hank’s talent has earned him the title of “shearing gun”—an ace shearer able to shear large numbers of sheep in a single day, a title that brings a higher fee and an increased number of jobs.  And Hank won’t risk any of his hard earned gains or trust that the large sheep bosses will hire a “gay” shearer, so Hank remains firmly in the closet.

Enter Dr. Elliot Stockton-Montgomery, a city-born and educated transplant to the country. Elliot’s reasons for choosing to practice in the small close-knit community of Dumbleyung in Western Australia are many. Primarily, Elliot is paying off this college debt by agreeing to work in a rural area needing doctors until his loans are paid off.  But he soon figures out that being an out gay in this somewhat conservative area is not a wise decision, although he isn’t sure how successful he is at hiding his sexuality.  Especially when he comes in contact with Hank Woods.

When a football injury brings Hank to Elliot’s attention, an inappropriate sexual glance, a stuttered apology, and a rejected doctor’s prescription of rest afterward kickstarts their friendship.  A friendship that slowly turns into something more.  But Elliot is truly a brilliant surgeon and the offers pour in daily from the large cities and hospitals looking to lure him away.  And Hank?  He’s still in the closet. And in Elliot’s mind and heart, a closeted existence and hidden relationship is not a place he wants to be.

So many hard decisions to make and obstacles to overcome to HEA.  Will the chance for love and a lasting relationship be enough to bring Hank out of the closet and keep Elliot happy in a small rural town?  Both are about to find out the answer in The Shearing Gun.

The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye is one of those heartwarming, enduring stories I will go back to read over and over again.   For many reasons this story captured my heart and imagination and has refused to let them go long after I finished this story. It is both a comfort read suitable for cold nights and comfy airchairs as well as a heartwarming romance that never gets old. I think when I look back on 2014, Renae Kaye will be in the top five of those authors whose stories I loved and list of new authors discovered.

Australia is a country I have always wanted to visit and the profession of sheep shearer, a prime element here, has always fascinated me.   I have watched sheep shearing contests here at Maryland’s Sheep & Wool Festival where shearing guns  from around the world compete for prizes.  But The Shearing Gun made these men and women and their profession come alive in a way that merely watching them on a stage never did.  Kaye’s descriptions of a day’s shearing, the “zone” the shearers get into where the cuts are precision made, the fleece slides cleanly off, and animals switched swiftly in and out, all to raucus tunes and the smell of lanolin and sweat.  Well, the visceral impact of those descriptions and scenes upon the reader is enormous.  I swear I could feel the swelter of the tents and buildings filled full of animals and people, a cacophony of sounds, and smells, and the heat that goes on and on. And the people involved, each with their own role to play in getting huge flocks of sheep sheared in a short amount of time, what variety in sex, age, and training.  It’s amazing. The exhilaration and pride of the quick clean shear, the rush and enthusiasm of the moment, it just flies off the page to our delight and wonder.

Everything here is on a large scale, from the enormous herds brought in to shear, the high volume of food consumed (and described in rich detail), right down to the quality of fleeces and sheep per hour a shearing gun can cut.  All these elements fill this story full of rich layers giving it a depth and dimension that makes every part of The Shearing Gun sing with life and love.  This story is a vivid journey, both for the reader and for two men on the path to happiness and a forever relationship.

How I fell in love with the characters I met in The Shearing Gun.  And not just the main characters of Hank Woods and Dr. Elliot Stockton-Montgomery, no, its also Middy, Big D, Little D, Old Doc Larsen and Gloria, and all the rest of the inhabitants of Dumbleyung.   And yes, there is a Dumbleyung, which I discovered to my joy.  Dumbleyung,( population 605 as of 2011) and the Shire of Dumbleyung, well, just the names alone have a magnetism all their own, just as Elliot discovers early on.  Dumbleyung is as much a main character of this story as all the others.  Do I want to go there?  Yes, most emphatically so.

But before I fell in love with the townsfolk and Dumbleyung, first I met and loved Hank and Elliot.  The story is told from Hank’s pov and Renae Kaye imbues this character with a unique voice and regional perspective.  We never forget that the land and his farm are a deep part of who Hank is.  His love and knowledge of both are almost on a cellular level and the author is able to relay this to the reader by bringing us into Hank’s mind and heart.  We are there when he arrives in the clinic expecting to see Old Doc Larson and meets city doc and transplant Elliot instead.  What follows is amusing, telling, and so authentically perfect that I have to include a small excerpt below:

“My apologies,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t realize I hadn’t introduced myself. I’m Doctor Elliot Stockton-Montgomery. How do you do?”

In my mind I winced at his pretentious name and pretentious words and wondered if it hurt having that plank permanently stuck up his arse. “Shit, Doc. I’m here at the clinic on a bloody Sunday; how the hell do you think I’m doing?”

That earned me another twitch of his mouth. “Yes… well.” He cleared his throat. “So tell me what you’ve done to yourself and we’ll see about fixing you up.”

“Meself?” I snorted. “You think I’d do this to me-self? Nah, it was them bloody mongrels from Corrigin. They can’t kick a footy straight, so they hit you hard to try ’n’ knock you out so’s you don’t know which is the arse end of your dog. Them wallies jumped on me in the second quarter. Three of them. It was fucking Big D MacDonald who took me for a flyer, and then his brother and cousin used me like a trampoline. Hard. The wankers. I showed them, though. Got me a fifty-meter and thumped that red turkey through. Then three more times that quarter and once in the third before Coach yanked me because I dropped a sitter when I didn’t use me sore arm.”

The Doc blinked a couple of times through my explanation, but to his credit he didn’t drop his eyes. “Let me get this straight,” he asked. “You were playing football against a team from Corrigin, whose skills were poor, so they tried to make up for it by rough play. One player threw you to the ground and two others sat on you. You received a penalty and a shot at scoring. You scored a goal, then four more before, until about forty minutes after your initial injury, the coach of your team made you stop playing because you didn’t catch the ball cleanly?”

I frowned at him. “Yeah. Isn’t that what I just said?”

 

Yes, there are AUS terms and profanities galore, luckily, there is also an Australian glossary provided by the author.  I ended up using it to my endless amusement.  The humor as well as Elliot’s “fish out of water” situation is highlighted by the dialog the streams out of Hank’s mouth even as he’s bleeding all over the floor.  But Elliot’s education is just beginning.  After rejecting (obviously) Elliot’s prescribed 8 weeks of rest, Elliot ends up at Hank’s farm and ends of spending the day working alongside him.  Last excerpt (I could quote this story all day):

He climbed into the middle of the bench seat without prompting and regarded me with a puzzled look. “Then why the fencing lesson today unless you wanted to prove that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was?”

I turned the key and pressed in the clutch, waiting for him to put me in first gear before answering. “It wasn’t about proving you were smart or not. It was more about teaching you what we do as farmers. So when you get a guy in who requires stitching up because he tried to do a two-man job by himself, you won’t make him feel like a child for his stupidity. Because he knows it was wrong, but if he didn’t do that job right then, it could’ve meant losing a year’s worth of crop because the cattle got in the paddock. Farming’s a harsh business. We don’t have the luxury of waiting around until someone pops by to help us. We work our guts out. And that bull that just broke the leg of the guy in your clinic? He may be angry with the animal, but that bull is worth the money, because selling him next year will pay the mortgage for two months. And the guy who caught pneumonia because he worked twenty hours a day in the rain to get his crop in? Well, it was either that or walk away from the land his family has farmed for over a century.”

I stopped at the gate and jumped out to open it. He was waiting for me when I climbed back in. “Do you think I made you feel stupid?”

I was through the gate and back out to close it again before I answered him. “You didn’t make me feel stupid, but you didn’t listen to what I said. There’s no way that any man in this district could simply rest for eight weeks. So you need to be aware of that and change your medical advice. So why don’t you tell me not to lift with my arm, watch not to bang it, and that I’m going to need help over the next eight weeks? Give me painkillers because you know I’m going to need them, and tell me that I’ll be right to go back to full duties by the end of August. Can you see the difference, Doc?”

He looked thoughtful and nodded.

 

A friendship has begun and we are only on page 26.   But the heart and soul of Hank is right there, for Elliot and the reader to see and fall in love with.  The more we get to know Elliot, his character and heart opens up before us much the same way.  Trust me when I say these two men are characters you will find almost impossible to let go of at the end of the story.  I still haven’t and I expect that I won’t anytime soon.

The author also addresses the very real challenges a gay or bisexual man will face in such a small homogeneous community, and the various responses one would expect…the bad, the good and the indifferent.  This aspect of the story feels as real and complex as all the other elements that make The Shearing Gun one of the best of the year.

Run, don’t walk to the computer and pick this story up.  It’s not only one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words highly recommended reads but will be at the top of my favorite books of the year.  Happy Reading!

 

Cover artist Paul Richmond.  It works perfectly for the cast and plot of this story.  Alive, a little rough and always colorful.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback    All Romance (ARe)  amazon     The Shearing Gun

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published September 19th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published September 18th 2014)
ISBN139781632160461
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: One Holiday Ever After Anthology by Tere Michaels , Elle Brownlee , Elizah J. Davis

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

One Holiday Ever AFter coverThe holidays are times of reflection, celebration, and coming home to those you love and who love you back.  It’s a time to reconnect with who you are and who you hope to be.  And sometimes, if you are lucky, this is also a season of miracles, of love found and a home discovered.  From New York City, to the winter isolation of the Maine woods, to the quaint, small town charm of Idaho, the men in these stories have different holiday desires. They’re looking for familiarity or fresh starts, but they have one thing in common—their happily ever afters might be waiting in the last places they think to look.

This season I have three top anthologies, all holiday collections.  One Holiday Ever After is among them, primarily because of the excellence in stories and heart from Tere Michaels, Elle Brownlee and Elizah J. Davis.  Before One Holiday Ever After, I was really familiar with only Tere Michaels, but after the wonderful stories from Elle Brownlee and Elizah J. Davis, I have searching out to find more stories by these authors.  Did I have favorites among the three stories?  Certainly but only by the smallest of margins.  Here is the story synopsis and my shortened reviews:

Holiday Roommates by Tere Michaels

As an out of work actor Nate Brandywine needs an emergency roommate for the month of December. During a humiliating gig as a Christmas elf at a NYC department store, he meets Sean Callahan, his producer and a man struggling under the weight of a past-due loan. Sean’s desperate for a place to stay in the city for a few weeks. A month of sharing a workplace and an apartment with someone you can’t stop flirting with? Maybe the holidays won’t be so terrible after all.

I love Tere Michaels and this short story just highlights why.  The characters of Nate and Sean are so believable and vulnerable that the reader will take them into their heart.  The secondary characters are as wonderful as the primary ones and the story’s plot is a realistic one that will pull you in immediately.  A great way to start a must have anthology.

Holiday Sanctuary by Elle Brownlee

Chris Declan is trekking through the wintry wonderland of rural Maine, searching for inspiration and himself, when he’s lost in a hug snow storm. The surprise blizzard that finds him seeking refuge in Paul Bak’s secluded cabin. Paul Bak’s secluded cabin is a prime spot to research and watch birds, a perfect place for an isolated Ornithology researcher. As the snow cuts them off from all around them, making the best of being snowed in together soon becomes a comfortable friendship with fireside chats, a quaint holiday celebration, and more. But despite their growing closeness, there’s one thing they avoid—what will happen when the snow clears and the holidays end.

Elle Brownlee had me at the name of Paul’s cat, Myn.  It’s short for…well, I will let Paul explain it:

“It’s for Moamyn.” Paul steered the conversation away from, well, wherever else it might have gone. But he couldn’t stop wondering after that last comment. “A long time ago in a land far away, the aforenamed and possibly apocryphal Arabian who wrote a definitive treatise on falconry.”

Be still my heart.  An ornithologist’s love story, complete with references to the subtle glory of the grasshopper sparrow.  I adored everything about this story, from the slow exploration of Paul’s comfy cabin, full of hidden objects full of clues to Paul’s character and passion for his profession to the wry humor and intellect that is Chris.  It’s slow, wonderful, and makes an impact on the reader that they won’t be fully aware of until the end.

Holiday Homecoming by Elizah J. Davis

Gavin Anderson never thought making it as a writer in LA would be easy, but when his latest project falls through, he gives up on Hollywood and heads to Bonabri, Idaho in hopes that the peace and quiet of his childhood home will help him figure out his next move. Instead he finds Eric Nichols, his parents’ cute and charming housesitter who is there to experience the small town Christmas festivities. Gavin’s plans for quiet reflection are no match for Eric’s holiday cheer, and he soon finds himself swept up in the spirit of the season. Gavin thought his life had hit a dead end, but in coming home he finds what might be a new beginning.

Here is a story full of the 3 H’s – hope, holiday, and heartwarming.  I finished this story and just kept on smiling as I remembered scenes and dialog from Elizah J. Davis’ Holiday Homecoming.  Adorableness, thy name is Eric Nichols, a man in search of love and home who finds it unexpectedly when he housesits for his best friend’s neighbors in the quaint small town of Bonabri, Idaho.  The town of Bonabri may not actually exist outside these pages but how I wish it did!  It comes to life in all its Chrismassy, nosy glory and I loved it.  I feel the same way about the disillusioned Gavin returning home after failing in Los Angeles and his slow “return” to the human being he always was underneath.  Much like the other two stories, I wish the author had made this a full length book.  Not because this feels incomplete in any way, it doesn’t.  But because I hated to say goodbye to the characters and town once they had hold of me.    It’s a fantastic story and a great way to finish out this must have holiday anthology.

I would read this One Holiday Ever After at any time of the year.  Still in the holiday season and spirit?  Perfection.  Missing the holidays because it is (fill in the blank season)?  This anthology will pull you in and make you remember why you love the holidays so.  It’s one of the top story collections of the year and one you won’t want to miss.  I am so glad I didn’t and you will be too.  A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2014 books!Best Books of 2014

 

 

Cover Artist: Angsty G.  Love the cover, it works perfectly for the collection and spirit of the stories found within.

Sales Links:        Dreamspinner Press ebook & Paperback      All Romance (ARe)   Amazon    Buy it Here

Book Details:

book, 280 pages
Published December 19th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632165783 (ISBN13: 9781632165787)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttps://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5849

PaulB’s Best Books of 2014!

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Best Books of 2014

It’s that time of the year for the Best of Lists. Here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words its the books that have stuck with us, made us laugh, made us cry, made us think and dream.

Here is Paul B’s Best of 2014!

 

Top 10 Paranormal/Sci-Fi:

Canes and Sticks by S.A. Garcia
Enforcer by Rob Colton
In Your Eyes by Cardeno C.
Heart-Mate Mine! By N.J. Nielsen
His Omega by A.C. Katt
Loveblood by M.J. O’Shea
Old Loyalty, New Love by Mary Calmes
Primal Desire by Lupa Garneau
Strength of the Mate by Kendall McKenna
Striker by Lexi Ander

Top 5 Contemporary:
Always by Kindle Alexander
The Art of Breathing by T.J. Klune
A Heart for Robbie by J.P. Barnaby
His True Home by Trina Solet
Living Again by Brynn Stein

Barb, the Zany Old Lady Best Books of 2014

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Best Books of 2014

 

It’s that time of the year for the Best of Lists.  Here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words its the books that have stuck with us, made us laugh, made us cry, made us think and dream of romance.

Here is Barb, the Zany Old Lady’s Best of 2014:

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Barb, the Zany Old Lady’s Best Books of 2014:

The Bells of Times Square by Amy Lane
Spencer by J.P. Barnaby
The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton
Into the Wind by Shira Anthony
Third Eye by Rick R. Reed
When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock
In the Absence of Monsters by J.P. Barnaby
Training Season by Leta Blake
Loving Jay by Renae Kaye
Legally Wed by Rick R. Reed

Sammy’s Best Books of 2014!

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Best Books of 2014

Sammy’s Best Books of 2014

This has been a great year for stories, especially of the M/M variety. From sci-fi to contemporary, a lot of amazing books came out, and here are just some of my favorites.

From Love’s Landscapes – Amazing(ly free) stories from great minds:
The Arroyo by M. Caspian
If At First You Don’t Succeed by K.C. Faelan
A Pale Shadow by Eon Beaumont
Where Willows Won’t Grow by Lia Black

Wonderful new additions to series-worth-reading:
Dirty Deeds by Rhys Ford
Offside Chance by Mercy Celeste
⇝ Sense of Place by N.R. Walker *
Stay by Riley Hart
Strength of the Mate by Kendall McKenna

And first books in exciting new series’s:
⇝ Mark Cooper Versus America by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock *
The Right Words by Lane Hayes

New authors making impressive debuts:
⇝ Making Nice by Elizah J. Davis *
Out in the Open by A.J. Truman
Straight Boy by Alessandra Hazard

Some that were just plain great:
The Last Thing He Needs by J.H. Knight

A couple not actually published in 2014, but that I read in 2014 and simply must mention
Chase the Storm by V.M. Waitt
Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

And a drumroll for the top reads of the year for me…
A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews
Les faits accomplis by Anna Martin

* = review coming soon to STRW

Here’s to 2015 being an equally awesome year for books!

Lone Wolf Has Come to Bluewater Bay! On Tour with Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt (book tour and contest)

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LoneWolf_TourBanner

 

Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/Aleksandr Voinov/L. A. Witt blog tour for the latest installment in the Bluewater Bay series, Lone Wolf!BWBlogo_Web

Contest: Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of one eBook off each of our backlists (excluding Lone Wolf) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 28th, and winners will be announced on December 29th. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.

LoneWolf_400x600LONE WOLF Blurb:

Hunter Easton is screwed. Fans, producers, and his agent are all chomping at the bit for the next book in his wildly popular Wolf’s Landing series, but he’s got epic writer’s block and is way behind deadline. Then he reads The World Tree, a fanfic novel by his online friend “Lone Wolf.” It isn’t just a great story—it’s exactly what the series needs.

Kevin Hussain is thrilled when “Wolf Hunter” wants to meet up after reading The World Tree. When Wolf Hunter turns out to be Hunter Easton himself, Kevin is starstruck. When Hunter tells him he wants to add The World Tree to Wolf’s Landing, Kevin is sure he’s being pranked. And when their online chemistry carries over—big time—into real life, Kevin is convinced it’s all too good to be true.

The problem is . . . it might be. The book deal, the sex, the money—everything is amazing. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Kevin is left wondering if Hunter really loves him, or just loves his book.

Book Details:  

Buy It Here!  A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Highly Recommended Read
Author: Aleksandr VoinovL.A. Witt
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62649-239-4
eBook release: Dec 22, 2014
eBook Formats: pdf, mobi, html, epub
Print ISBN: 978-1-62649-240-0
Print release: Dec 22, 2014
Word count: 96,000, Page count: 358
Type: Standalone
Cover by: L.C. Chase
This title is part of the Bluewater Bay universe.

 

Author Bios:

EPIC Award winner and Lambda Award finalist Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he works as a financial editor. His genres range from science fiction and fantasy to thriller, historical, contemporary, thriller, and erotica. His books were/are published by Random House Germany, Samhain Publishing, Riptide Publishing and others.

If he isn’t writing, he studies sports massage, explores historical sites, and meets other writers. He single-handedly sustains three London bookstores with his ever-changing research projects. His current interests include special forces operations during World War II, the history of chess, european magical traditions, and how to destroy the world and plunge it into a nuclear winter without having the benefit of nuclear weapons.

Visit Aleksandr’s website at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.com, his blog at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter, where he tweets as @aleksandrvoinov.

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer currently living in the glamorous and ultra-futuristic metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a disembodied penguin brain that communicates with her telepathically. In addition to writing smut and disturbing the locals, L.A. is said to be working with the US government to perfect a genetic modification that will allow humans to survive indefinitely on Corn Pops and beef jerky.

This is all a cover, though, as her primary leisure activity is hunting down her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who is also said to be lurking somewhere in Omaha.

L.A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).

MelanieM’s Best Books of 2014

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Best Books of 2014

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MelanieM’s Best Books of 2014

 

Winnowing down my list of Best Books is always a near impossible project.  To me it always feels like trying to leave a book shop during a particularly wonderful sale.  My arms are full to overflowing with books, with ones toppling off the pile here and there as I totter over to the sales counter.  My impulse is to go back and get more because all are books I loved and need to have near me.  Sigh.  And this year makes it particularly hard.  So many great books came out this year,  terrific short stories,, fabulous endings to series I love…..so this is as close as I got…check it all out below:

Best Series:

 Best Holiday/Whatever Time of the Year Anthologies:

Best Contemporary Fiction:

 

Best Science Fiction:

Best Fantasy:

 

Best Supernatural/Paranormal: