A Sammy Review: Take the Long Way Home by J.A. Rock

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

“I think TV and movies have taught us all to make this production out of how we’re damaged goods and no one will ever love us. You know what you are? You’re a human being. You have good days and bad days. All your feelings are normal. And if the people you’re around now don’t treat you right, you’ll have opportunities to go other places and meet other people.”

Take The Long Way Home coverDresden Marich is going through the world, observing, listening, and very carefully interacting. He’s not your typical boy, doesn’t fit any bill for the kid who suffered childhood trauma, who went through a great loss, or who failed out of school because he just didn’t care. Those things all have stereotypes, and he fits none of them.

Maybe he’s a little broken, maybe a lot, but that’s okay. Or so Caleb Harview tells him. A chance meeting brings them together, and through their time Dresden begins to learn a lot – not simply about himself or the world, but about the intricacies of human life. But there’s still so much more out there, and running is so easy. He’ll have to decide where he wants to be and where he wants to go.

I think he feels all the right things. I think the world is so full of people who are scared and alone, and maybe that guy who tried to save me from being kidnapped is right—nobody helps. So I’ll change that. I’ll love harder and make a fool of myself. I’ll try to be braver, because nobody just floats through life. We all get banged up. I’m going to find the right person to show what’s under the skin, how deep the scars go. Because there’s no way being wounded should be a lonely business.

Have you ever maybe watched one of those shows on HGTV, where people are touring a house that’s old, with these little details of a life lived, and a small arch that has so much character, and the people sigh and smile and say “how charming” – despite the possible mold in the bathroom, the cracks running down the walls, or the water stain from a rainstorm twenty years before? That’s kind of how I’d describe this book – surprisingly charming.

For a lot of the book I was very uncomfortable. As a social worker, I find myself especially attuned to certain things, and this entire book screamed at me. A lot of Dresden’s thoughts were disconnected, jumbled at times, and occasionally shockingly morbid. It made me ache, wish I could just soothe some of the constant chaos in his head. But then I grew to appreciate it, because if there’s one thing is it, it’s honest. And perhaps it’s partially that honesty that made me so damned uncomfortable.

Take the Long Way Home approaches sensitive subjects and throws the idea of being politically correct completely out the window. It dares to push the lines that we as a society has built and make you question things you never even thought of before. Even if you read it and hated it, I can’t see you not wondering for even just a moment “why?” – why does he think that? Why does that happen? Who could do that? Do people really think like that?

But what I don’t understand is, where were we going, the two of us? Because maybe I loved him. But it’s hard to imagine him feeling that way about someone like me. Although, if you limited who you could love to people who weren’t broken, you’d never love anyone. Or you’d love an idea of a person. It takes nothing to say you love someone. But it takes a stupid kind of courage to actually do it.

This book is so different from any other thing I’ve ever read. As I said before, Dresden’s thoughts come across as disconnected at times, and for some that could make the reading feel choppy. But for me, once I connected with the character, once I began to really move with him and feel with him, it all made so much more sense.

The characters are deep and flawed, and I appreciate how well thought out they are. You didn’t just have Baby Kate to have her, she played a role. And even those who weren’t actually in the book, but who were remembered, such as Dresden’s father, had such a life.

So this story is a little twisted, brutally honest, deep when you don’t want it to be, and daring. It’s not for everyone, but I can say it’s one of those books you just have to read for yourself.

Unfortunately, I am not a fan of the cover art by Dar Albert. The models look plastic and fake and I’d actually prefer the cover without them even on it. It has a nice base, but that’s all lost with the models.

Sales Links:   Loose Id             All Romance (ARe)              Amazon   Buy it Here

Book Details:

ebook, 225 pages
Published January 20th 2015 by Loose Id LLC
original titleTake the Long Way Home
ISBN139781623005436
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Heat (Salisbury Stories #1) by R.J. Scott and Chris Quinton

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Heat 400x600Lewis Mandineau is at the lowest point of his life.  His parents were killed by a drunk lorry driver, a crash that left his beloved sister, Rachel, with brain damage and the functional age of a child.   Worse still, in the months after while Lewis was trying to cope with his loss and tend to his sister, his boyfriend at the time betrayed and stole from his family’s historic restaurant, Laurels.  Now, the unthinkable has happened. Laurels, the restaurant that had been in his family for generations had to be sold to Trelawney Enterprises, an American corporation, to repay the debts incurred by his ex lover and restore the Mandineau name.

Enter  Devon Trelawney III of Trelawney Enterprises.  Sent by his father to assess the viability of the restaurant and its staff, Devon knows all about family tradition. But he also knows sentiment has no place in business matters, and the Laurels’ potential is swamped by the debts it has accrued.  Devon is ready to arrive, assess and leave with the recommendation that Laurels be sold.  But nothing has prepared Devon for the impact that Lewis, Rachel, and Laurels itself will have on him and his future.

While Lewis and Devon are adjusting to each others presence, their attraction, and the possibility of more to come, other restaurants in the area are set aflame.  As the heat increases between a grief stricken chef and a hard nosed businessman with a plan, will the obstacles around them crumble or mount higher than ever before?

Heat by Chris Quinton and RJ Scott grabbed at my heartstrings right from the beginning of their story and never let go.  From the moment we meet Lewis and his sister, Rachel, their situation and love for each other pulls the readers into their lives and heartbreaking present.  Lewis is an especially appealing and romantic figure.  A chef, surrounded by long term, almost family, employees, Lewis is a man under attack from all directions.  The pain and loss of his parents, the betrayal of a man he loved and trusted, his sister’s brain damage and now total care,  now Lewis must deal with the devastating loss of Laurels, a family owned restaurant that has been theirs for hundreds of years.  That Scott and Quinton make the character of Lewis such a believably honorable, gentle soul makes his situation all the more heartrending to all around him and the readers as well.

At the same time we meet Lewis, we are also introduced to the confused, damaged 19 year old sister, Rachel.  And your heart is broken all over again.  The debilitating impact of the crash upon Rachel turns her into a child, one that loves Jelly Babies along with her brother.  Again, Scott and Quinton have done with research with Rachel, so that her behavior that wavers along with the emotional atmosphere at the restaurant is in line with realistic profile of someone with the same type of brain damage this character has incurred.   I adored her. You will too.  Plus I think I have found a new candy addiction as well.

A harder nut to crack, per se, is the character of  Devon Trelawney.  His first appearance puts everyone on guard, from the Mandineaus to the readers.  The authors make his personal growth and change in outlook such a strong element of this story that when the “real” Devon Trelawney emerges he takes our breathe away with his warmth and caring.  That switch allows us the embrace his relationship with Lewis, Rachel, and beyond.  This romance aspect of Heat   is charming and oh so hot!  Trust me, the heat is not restricted just to the kitchen here (but yes, that kitchen is a very sexy place too), but all over Laurels and the intense attraction that flares up between these not too dissimilar men.

I finished the story and then made sure I had it right.  Heat is but the first in a new series entitled Salisbury Stories from RJ Scott and Chris Quinton.  If this book is any indication, then Heat and the Salisbury Stories will be on everyones “must have, must read” list for the year and beyond.  But don’t take my word for it.  Pick up Heat (Salisbury Stories #1) today and begin your introduction to these captivating characters, their restaurant, and a romance to cheer for.  Its a definite recommended read here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words and a sumptuous banquet for all lovers of romance and hot men.

Cover art by Meredith Russell.  Russell delivers a wonderful cover, complete with charming location.

Sales Links:  Love Lane Books    All Romance eBooks    amazon    Heat (Salisbury Stories#1)

Book Details:

book, 205 pages
Published October 24th 2014 by Love Lane Books Limited (first published October 23rd 2014)
edition languageEnglish
url http://rjscottauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/heat.html
seriesSalisbury Stories #1

A MelanieM Review: The Last Thing He Needs by J.H. Knight

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Last Thing He Needs CoverTommy O’Shea is raising his seven younger brothers and sisters the best he can under the worst of circumstances. With an alcoholic, drug addicted father and stepmother to contend with, only the fact that the house they live in was their grandmother’s keeps a roof over their heads.  The money needed for food and other living expenses is cobbled together by a collection of part time jobs, petty thefts and other desperate measures.  This includes selling sexual favors in alleys to get by.  And it’s been that way since Tommy was 15. Here living on the edge is razor sharp, pain is common place and despairs its companion. Between trying to make sure his brothers and sisters are fed, attend school, and stay out of the foster care system, Tommy has room for little else in his life, including a relationship.

Police officer Bobby McAlister has known Tommy and his family since they were kids. Unbeknownst to Tommy he has been trying to keep an eye out for their safety.  A chance meeting with Tommy gives Bobby a chance to help out while trying to strike up a friendship once more.  But Tommy has erected a wall of anger, diffidence and shame to keep others away and he tries to do the same with Bobby. Bobby sees how desperate the situation has become and refuses to be pushed away and a tentative friendship and relationship is formed.

A shattering event tests the fragile bonds that has formed between Tommy, Bobby and Tommy’s family.  Will they be strong enough to withstand the tragedy that befalls the O’Shea family, or will all be lost forever under the aftermath?

The Last Thing He Needs by J. H. Knight is that story that slips along the edges of what could have been a Lifetime movie yet surmounts that overwrought template to become a deeply moving and emotionally wrenching story of family and love.  J. H. Knight is another new author and a terrific one if this story is any indication.  I have to admit I approached this story from two very different viewpoints.  One, the side of me that’s addicted to those Christmas Hallmark movies, and the other side?  That’s the one that looks at life through George Carlin glasses.  The blurb hooked me in while my suspicious nature said to beware the maudlin elements that could have made this a manipulative sob fest.

I shouldn’t have worried.  Knight took all the suspect elements, the impoverished family, the kids in danger, the drug addled parents…all of it and made it believable and heartrending. It all starts with Tommy O’Shea for he is the anchor of his family and for this story.  If Tommy had not come across as real as he does, this would be a very different novel.  But Knight makes us believe in Tommy.  In his anger, and pain, and desperation.  The descriptions of the O’Shea family’s living conditions ring in as authentic and gritty.  The condition of the house, exterior and interior rooms, reads as desperation,especially the bedroom crammed with bodies. The teenagers shouldering burdens they were never meant to cope with, young kids on the edge of delinquency but for reasons that make your heart break, and the toddlers unaware of how shaky is the foundation their family rests on.  Knight has a clear enough idea of the reality of poor families these days to make the O’Shea family existence spare, gritty and desperate without coating it in dramatic prose and imagery.  It’s a grim life and Knight depicts it as such.

Bobby McAlister comes from a very different background.  The only son of two loving parents, the loss of his father has left Bobby and his mother trying to cope with the hole in their lives and a future without the man they both loved deeply.  His life and upbringing could not be any more different and the manner in which Tommy and the kids are living is almost too much for Bobby to comprehend, even as a police officer.  His emotional and familial solidity is the bulwark Tommy needs for himself and for his brothers and sisters against the reality their lives have become.  Bobby isn’t perfect and that just pulls us into his personality even further.  Then add to that his grieving mother, Judy, and our love for the McAlister family just grows and grows.

All the characters here managed to be fleshed out to a level that enables the reader to believe in them too.  Tommy’s father and step mother are characters whose addictions and behaviors are heinous yet Knight is careful to show that Cal and step mother Cheryl were once so very different from the people they are now after years of substance abuse, bad decisions, and parental neglect has made them.  Life is choices and sometimes it only takes a slip or a push for you to go one way or the way.  Or in Tommy’s case, realize that to ask and accept help when you need it does not have to be dangerous or belittling.

Knight is quick not to deliver any easy answers for a desperate and painful situation.  Tommy’s life and that of his siblings remain precarious for most of the story.  But the resolution, while slow to arrive, is ultimately satisfying and emotionally heartwarming.  This story and its characters earns its ending.  It’s wonderful and realistic.  And it puts J.H. Knight squarely on my must read list.  I think after reading this story you will find yourself doing the same.  Consider this highly recommended by Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

Cover art by AngstyG.  I like the cover but its lacking a little something in design.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press       All Romance eBooks (ARe)     Amazon   The Last Thing He Needs

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published July 28th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 27th 2014)
ISBN139781627988605
edition languageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Lady Review: Bliss by Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars

BlissTate Patterson comes to Beulah because he’s heard that it’s easy pickings. Unlike his hometown, there’s no crime, and therefore, no locks on doors. It would be simple to make a quick haul and get away, but just as he’s doing that, a cop grabs him at the train station, and he makes a run for it. He has to get back to Tophet, no matter what, but when it looks like there’s no escape, he seeks a diversion by punching a young man in the face, breaking his nose. Tate’s captured anyway, and the young man, Rory James, is sent to the hospital while Tate learns his punishment—rehabilitation through restitution. How hard could that be? Tate finds out when he’s sentenced to seven years of service to the man he hurt. He knew he shouldn’t have thrown that punch, but seven years?

Review:

Beulah is the perfect town with the perfect justice system. In fact, it seems to exist in a bubble. There is very little crime and there are no jails. Almost everyone arrested plea bargains for a 7-year sentence, because, if they go to trial and are convicted, the sentence is life. Once found guilty, the criminal is fitted with an implanted chip in the brain, one that guarantees that they will remain docile. What many people don’t know, however, is that the chip will not allow that man to resist any command given to him by his “master”, the sponsor, who in almost all cases is the victim of the crime perpetrated.

When Rory receives custody of Tate, his new “rezzy”, the nickname given to those in the restitution program, he’s initially very wary, quite fearful of having this man in his home. He’s so new to the town himself, that he doesn’t yet understand or trust the system. But he comes to see that Tate is constantly looking for guidance and expressing his regret. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry” is a constant refrain. Then he discovers that Tate would prefer to be naked and on his knees as he begs for sex every time he greets Rory at the front door. When Rory finally gives in, feeling like a heel for doing so, he can’t quite reconcile Tate’s pleas for “more” and “harder”, when Tate is actually crying and moaning as if in pain.

Despite his better judgment, and under the guidance and counsel of his supervisor, Justice Lowell, he keeps Tate and continues to have sex with him. Justice Lowell acts as his friendly confidante and advisor, as Rory acclimates to Beulah and to his new job in the court system. He’s left Tophet, his hometown, behind him—a dirty, crime- and grime-filled dump, and he’s really happy to have that behind him, but he starts to question why Tate is so obedient and so obsessed with servitude and sex, especially when Tate is never able to verbalize answers to any questions about his own past in Tophet. If anything, the more he is ordered to perform certain tasks, both household and sex, the more he appears to enter a state of happiness that can only be described as bliss. Rory is told, “They’re always happy”, so many times that he feels he needs to believe that to assuage his own conscience.

As the tale unfolds, the authors delve more deeply into the personalities and complexities of the secondary characters. Justice Lowell is the type of guy who is friendly with all of his office staff, and one night, convinces Rory to host an impromptu office party for all of them. It’s then that Rory notices that Aaron, their cute and exuberant office intern seems uncomfortable around Lowell, especially once Lowell gets drunk and starts to make a pass at him. Two days later, he finds out that Aaron has been “caught” stealing and is now Lowell’s rezzy. Shocked, Rory tries to find out more, but is met with a dead end and a boss who tells him that he needs to learn to accept the way things are done in Beulah.

As time goes on and more and more incidents cause Rory to question what is really going on in this town, he endangers himself through his rebelliousness and will be lucky to escape the same fate as Tate and Aaron.

It… It hurts. Help. Me.

As a reader, I was particularly troubled during the times when Tate tried to break through the chip to speak to Rory to make him aware of what was going on. The chip causes tremendous pain each time a rezzy tries to break through the barrier. And, though we spend more time listening to Tate’s inner turmoil and powerlessness, we also share in Aaron’s pain which is manifested through excessive nosebleeds, so we see these very engaging characters struggling through extreme physical pain and, though we know what they want to say, we bear witness to what is actually said, and it’ s never what is intended. They’re always happy. But they really aren’t, and I found it painful to read these passages.

In fact, I started feeling depressed and reluctant to pick up the story again. Not because it was so poorly written, like others that I’ve hesitated to continue to read in the past, but because it was so well-written that I became one with the character. I hurt for Tate and Aaron so much!

On the flip side, I loved the surprising twist the story takes when Rory finally takes action. On the one hand, I knew something good would happen, but on the other hand, I was indeed surprised when it happened the way it did. And, of course, this dynamic author duo provided us with a satisfying HEA for all involved, though it was hard-earned.

So, I’m torn in my rating, because I realize it was so well written and the plot was extremely imaginative and well executed, that it might deserve a 5, yet it had so many dark and depressing elements that I may not have finished it if I hadn’t committed to a review. Therefore, I’m going with 4.5 stars.

I recommend it to those who enjoy a dark tale with non-con and dub-con scenes and/or a look into a non-conventional, yet Earth-based, world. And if you love angst, this is the story for you!

Cover Art by Kanaxa, http://www.kanaxa.com
Layout: L.C. Chase
— The cover depicts a very “blissful” expression on a handsome young man’s face. Sweet!

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing  All Romance eBooks (ARe)      Amazon             <a href=”Bliss

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Published August 18th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491380
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/bliss

Review of Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder

Standard

Rating: 4.5

Keeper Teeka left his home at the Emerald Keep for his first Contract with Senior Hunter Brandt out in the deserts of their world Persis. Disaster hits only two months into his Contract when Hunter Brandt is killed on his Claim, leaving Teeka without a Contract far from his family and Keep.  When Teeka decides to Claim the find for himself and Brandt’s heir, he is surprised to find Brandt’s heir is none other than Senior Hunter Quill, a scarred, enigmatic Hunter who keeps to himself.  Quill offers to protect Teeka and together they decide to work the mine Teeka found to both honor Brandt’s memory and to register the Claim for themselves.

The head of the Hunters Guild gives Quill and Teeka  one month times to work the mlne.  If they don’t finish the lode, another Hunter may claim it and all their hard work will be for nothing.  As Hunter Quill mines the Claim, Teeka keeps for him, cooking, cleaning and making sure all of their equipments runs smoothly. Teeka also learns the process of mining the gems while their attraction to each other grows daily.  But a Keeper without a Contract must keep themselves chaste and their reputation clear of all gossip and their situation is not making that easy.

When Brandt’s death turns out to be murder instead of an accident, Quill and Teeka’s suspicions are raised, even about each other. And when others falls sick and Quill and Teeka come under attack, they must decide to trust each other and stand together or lose everything, even their chance at love.

Emerald Fire is a richly layered novel by two authors previously unknown to me.  Noon and Wilder have pulled together elements from cultures around the world as well as fabricated many of their own to build a gorgeously textured world called Persis.  They have left nothing out in their world building, from geology to biology with various habitats each with its own unique flora and fauna. Their vivid descriptions of Persis’ differing cultures  come complete with separate  the peoples beliefs, separate religions, government officials, laws, clothing, food, education, and transportation, I mean everything!  One of my favorite creations of theirs is a truffle.  A furred desert animal, it has a trunk, two sets of eyelids, short trunk like legs and an endearing personality.  I kept picturing a cross between a miniature elephant and a dog (the mind boggles).  I want one, perhaps two, just like Snuffles and Sniffles in the story.  And the cooking!  We get an intimate glimpse into Teeka’s meals including a roast he made of a sandcat (including his butchering technique), supplemented with roasted onions, moss bulbs, spices and a sauce.  And Teeka’s deserts including his famous lavender berries cake had my mouth watering.  They came up  with spices and cooking methods and complete menus – just amazing.

With some stories, an excess of minutiae works against the plot, swamping it with too much information.  Here the opposite is true, the details are seamlessly blended into the narrative, so like the spices in a dish, the details add depth and flavor to the story being created.  We learn how the tents work to exclude the heat of the two suns, the gloves and clothing worn to insulate the people, their inside garb, even the “necessities”, usually shared by a group of tents, where all shower and relieve themselves.  We get to wander into the market place to buy teas and vegetables or watch Teeka knitting socks or rugs from threads made of all types of matter, animal and vegetable much like here.  Each elements serving to wet our interest in life as it is lived on Persis.  I cannot congratulate the authors enough on the outstanding job they have done here.  Just remarkable.

Noon and Wilder build their characters the same way they built their world, with attention to detail and dimension.  No character is truly known from the start, not to the reader,not to each other.  Emerald Keeper Teeka starts off young, earnest, sure of his talents as a Keeper but he is only two months into his  first Contract and feels every bit the novice coming from a sheltered background.  He delights in each new sensation and experience and is devastated by Brandt’s death.  I had so many questions at the beginning.  What is a Keeper?  What is the training they keep referring to?  What is a Contract? Part of the joy of this story is that the answers are unveiled in small increments as the story unfolds. The character of Senior Hunter Quill is built in conjunction with that of Teeka, both characters fleshing out and becoming real the more we get to know them and their backstory (as told to each other).  Their secondary and side characters all equally authentic, all equally detailed.

I again wavered between a 4.5 and 5 rating with this story.  But a few things kept it from perfection with me.  Actually, that would be one thing,  the ending. Teeka’s future seemed headed in the right direction, as is the relationship between two main characters I have come to love.  But there was still so much more to be settled. I can’t give specifics here as I don’t want to spoil this wonderful book for anyone, I just felt that there was just a few too many loose ends left not tucked in to the beautiful tapestry they wove for us. Teeka would never have left one of his knitting projects in such a state nor did I expect it given all that went before in the story.  I hope both authors can be persuaded to continue Teeka and Quill’s saga.  They have made a great world and I, for one, am ready for more journeys there.

Cover:  Cover art by Alessio Brio, an artist I am also not familiar with.  Here she takes the colors I usually don’t like in a cover and uses them to create a stunning cover redolent of the heat beating down on the desert dunes.  Outstanding job.  Conveys the location of the story and the authors names are clear and easy to read.