Scattered Thoughts Book Review Summary for June 2013

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june

June 2013 has come and gone but some of the books I read that month continue to linger in my heart and mind, just some outstanding stories. As always, there is something for everyone here, from contemporary to paranormal books, terrific additions to wonderful series.  If you missed them the first time, here is your chance to check them out again:

5 Star Rating:

Hobbled by John Inman

Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Mighty Casey by Willa Okati

One Breath, One Bullet by S.A.McAuley

Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean (4.75 stars)(science fiction)

Flawless by Cat Grant (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Stonewall by Martin Duberman (4.25 stars) (non fiction)

The Hanged Man’s Ghost by Missouri Dalton (4.75 stars)(paranormal)

The Night Shift by Missouri Dalton (4.25 stars)(paranormal)(series)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay (3.5 stars) (contemporary)

Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey (3.25 stars) (contemporary)

When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat (2.75 stars)(contemporary)

The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus (2.75 stars) (contemporary)

Mourning and the Week Ahead In Reviews

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Winston has been gone for less than a week and most of the time I can’t wrap my mind around that fact.  I still turn expecting him to be there and fixed his special breakfast yesterday morning and put it on the floor before I once more realized he wasn’t there to eat it. It was not a good  morning.

And I am not alone in my grief.  Willow and to a lesser degree, Kirby are with me as well.  When Willow arrived, Winston was already king of the house and it took him a while to get used to her but when he did, they were frick and frac, four pawed companions in everything.  He slept on top of the pillow on the bed and she slept under it, they shared meals and water bowls and even their opinions of the mouthy parrot in the family room.

So when I put Winston’s food down my mistake, Willow just sat and looked at me with sad eyes.  When Kirby thought that it was a shame to let it go to waste and went to get his share, there was Willow in his face, refusing to let Kirby near Winston’s bowl.  She is pensive and unusually quiet, staying Velcroed to my side.  Nights are the worst, listening for his snorts and snores that never come.  Both of us toss and turn all night long.

Went to the South River yesterday to meet up with some of our DC Metro M/M group for some much needed distraction.  Those that knew were wonderful but I just can’t talk about him yet.  Write yes, talk no.  Sitting there by the water, listening to the laughter and friendly banter, seeing friends and meeting new ones made me feel lighter in spirit and let me smile when I thought of Winston watching the ducks go by.

I know it was his time to go, and that Willow and I will find a  measure of peace soon.  We will always miss him , he is such a huge part of us, he will always be close by ,in our hearts and memories.  Nothing can take that away, and nothing will.

I have to admit I wasn’t very functional last week and my reading somewhat abandoned.  So I hope you all will forgive me if this week’s list is more of hopes projected instead of reviews already written.  I have good days and bad so only time will tell.  This is what I hope will happen this week.  And thank you all for your support and comments.  They were needed and loved.

Monday, June 10:                  Prelude (a Blue Notes book) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

Tuesday, June 11:                   The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus

Wed., June 12:                         Flawless by Cat Grant

Thursday, June 13:                Hangman’s Ghost (Night Wars #1) by Missouri Dalton

Friday, June 14:                      One Breathe, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley

Sat., June 15:                           Stonewall by Martin Duberman

So have a good week and wish for me, Willow and Kirby a better one.  I will leave you with the Goodread Quote of the Day, a favorite of mine.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings”
― John Gillespie Magee Jr.

About this quote:

June 9, 1922: An aviator and a poet, John Gillespie Magee Jr. was born to missionaries in Shanghai, 91 years ago today. His poem, High Flight, is still memorized by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy today.
John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Review: The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus

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Rating: 2.75 stars

The Jouster's LanceDale O’Toole makes his living as Diederik, the Demon Knight of Denmark, the dark jouster at Renaissance festivals across the country.  When a jouster is injured and the Colorado fair needs a replacement, Dale figures it is a chance to see another part of the country while earning a living, and promptly heads north.  Dale loves the gypsy lifestyle, jousting, and his horses.  But being constantly on the move leaves little time for romance or a long term relationship and Dale is lonely.

Austin Renfro works in a pirate gift shop at the Colorado ren fair, along with his best friend, Jasmine.  His home life is a wreck with a boyfriend who is constantly drunk or stoned and always abusive.  When Austin spots the gorgeous jouster, he sees his perfect man but their first meeting is nothing but embarrassing as Austin trips and falls into Dale’s horse.   But a renaissance fair is a small village and the two men are constantly running into each other and an attraction builds between them.

But problems abound at the Colorado faire.  A gay hating knight is making problems, and the rumors are rampant that someone is out to harm the jousters.  With so much stacking against them, can Dale and Austin’s build a relationship that lasts past the end of the faire?

I was really looking forward to this story for a number of reasons, the first being the author.  My first introduction to A.J. Marcus was through Animal Magnetism and his story On An Eagle’s Wing.  I found that story to be well researched and equally well written.  The second reason would be the subject matter.  I love jousting and Maryland’s Renaissance Festival is a great one to attend for jousting, and all things of similar in nature.  But The Jouster’s Lance disappointed me at almost every level.

There are so many issues here it is hard to know where to start.  But perhaps lets go first with the characterizations.  It’s hard to put a finger is just what the issue is with them.  They just don’t click, either as real people or imagined ones. Maybe it is the dialog that pops out of their mouths.  Whatever  it is, it makes it almost impossible to connect with them.  Dale starts off fine at the beginning of the story while he is still in Texas but once he has arrived in Colorado, his character just degenerates into a shadow of his former self.  And Austin is just a mess from the beginning.  The only people I enjoyed in the story were Jasmine Porter, Austin’s best friend and the Lady Catherine, a performer on the circuit.  Both women are the best things about this book, and neither is a main character.  Maybe this will give you an idea.  Here is Austin on his abusive boyfriend:

The first few messages from Rick were the basic “where are you” type. Then they got more demanding. Austin stood there listening to them while waiting in line for a steak on a stake with fries. He knew he should call his boyfriend back, but right then he didn’t want to deal with the drama. Rick had obviously forgotten he was working this weekend, but that was Rick’s pattern: anything he didn’t want to remember, he didn’t. It was one of several reasons that Austin had been hoping he would just go away with as little drama as possible. From the tone of the last two messages, there was going to be drama aplenty when he got home. He could hope Rick was passed-out drunk when he got home and stayed that way until Monday morning, so he could deal with the whole thing Monday evening when he got home from the print shop he worked at during the week.

By the end of that paragraph, my eyes are glazing over and there are pages and pages of this. But this is the least of the book’s problems.  I don’t know whether it is intentional or not, but there are so many plot threads in play here and only one of them is resolved by the end of the book.  All the others are left hanging to the reader’s frustration.  Are these red herrings? Or were they just forgotten along the way? Or will they be addressed in future stories?  Hard to say but these multiple plot threads that just trail off give the story a disjointed feel that never goes away.  It’s like going through a haunted house at Halloween time,  You keep expecting something to jump out at you during the tour, and if nothing does, you feel cheated. Plus as the realization sets in that nothing spooky is going to take place, you start to notice just how tacky the tour is, with cheap effects and bad paint jobs. That is exactly how you will feel by the end of The Jouster’s Lance.  When the plot fails to congeal, everything else starts to pop out at you, from the poor layout to the sad structure.

And it’s not just dropped story threads, but the characterizations as well.  A man nicknamed Chipmunk is featured heavily in the story and Dale makes a big issue of calling him Chip because Dale thinks the nickname is demeaning (no reason for that is given either).  I waited for some expansion on that topic or other pertinent information on Chipmunk to appear later in the story. But it never did.  Marcus creates situations where loads of questions swirl around this character but again, they go nowhere.  This happens constantly throughout the story, with characters, with so called ominous events, with the subject matter, with all sorts of things.  I couldn’t figure out if Marcus needs a storyboard or if this is intentional, but either way it doesn’t work.

While I cannot speak to the authenticity of the insiders knowledge of the workings of a Renaissance festival, I can speak to the issues involving the horses.  While the general care is correct, when a fire occurs and Dale leads a horse into the fire, I was astonished to say the least. And by the actions that follow.  It is unrealistic and head shaking unbelievable.  Dale, just coming off major shoulder surgery, lifts a man his own weight onto a horse (spooky and frightened a few paragraphs earlier) as the fire rages around them.  Sigh.  Uh, no.  Trust me, that wouldn’t happen, not the lifting, not the horse standing still, nothing.  And the ending of the book will just garner tons of eye rolls.

I can’t figure out if this book needs a ruthless editor to trim away all the extraneous plot threads and condense it into a sharp little story or if it needed to be expanded to incorporate all the missing elements back into the narrative to give us a satisfying novel.  Either would have been preferable to the final product as it is here.

Based on  A.J. Marcus’ short story in the Animal Magnetism anthology, I will seek out other stories by him.  But give The Jouster’s Lance a pass, not even jousting aficionados will enjoy this one.

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht.  I actually love the cover.  The model looks exactly like the whip artist I saw at the Maryland Renaissance Festival last year, and the jousting graphic is marvelous.  Wish the book lived up to the cover.

Book Details:

ebook, 212 pages
Published May 3rd 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623804779 (ISBN13: 9781623804770)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

It’s Gay Pride Month and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Its Gay Pride Month, a great time to celebrate and give back to the community. Washington, DC’s Capital Pride is coming up this week and culminates in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 8 and the Capital Pride Street Festival on Sunday, June 9.  If you live in or around the metro area,  there is something for everyone to enjoy.  I mean how could you not want to dress up as a super hero and attend SPANDEX: The Official 2013 Pride Week Superhero Party on Friday, June 7?   Plus the parade on Saturday travels through Dupont Circle, a historically gay neighborhood.  I worked there in the 80’s, and believe me, that place had gay pride before Gay Pride.  Here are the links to the events and places to purchase tickets:capital-pride-superhero-banner

Capital Pride 365

Gay.com – Capital Pride

If you are in the area and taking pictures at the events, send them to me and I will post them here.  And for those of you in other places, send me the dates and info and I will post that as well.

There are also many organizations that help LGBTQ youth  from Promise Place on the DC/Prince Georges County line to The Wanda Alston House in Washington, DC.  Or perhaps the Ali Forney Center in NYC or The Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK.  A favorite organization of mine is The Matthew Shepard Foundation founded by Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard. If you haven’t visited that site before, please do so.  It’s both heartbreaking and immensely uplifting to see what has emerged from such a horrific tragedy.

There are not enough shelters and organizations to go around for all of those children and teens in need and those that exist really need our support in every way possible.  One easy way is to buy ebooks.  Several authors and one terrific editor, Kris Jacen, have contributed their royalties from several novels.  S.J. Frost  and Kris Jacen with Finding A Dream, Sue Brown’s The Sky Is Dead, and Lost and Found Anthology (Kris Jacen), whose  entire royalties will be sent to Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc.  And these are only the most recent.  Enjoy a good book and give at the same time.  It’s easy, its enjoyable, and it is needed.

So have a great week.  Celebrate, dance, and make time to read a book or two!  Oh, and check out the cocktail recipe at the end. Here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, June 3:                  Outlast The Night by Ariel Tachna

Tuesday, June 4:                  Flawless by Cat Grant

Wed, June 5:                         The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat

Thursday, June 6:                The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus

Friday, June 7:                     Stonewall by Martin Duberman

Saturday, June 8:                 Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

Here is a specialty cocktail recipe just for Gay Pride (shakes head, you really went there, didn’t you).  It came from Alex’s Cocktail Recipes

Gay Pride Cocktail:

1 shot Apple sourz
1 shot blueberry sourz
1 shot cranberry juice
2 shots 5 alive
pop rocks
Instructions

Put the cranberry juice and 5 alive into a tumbler. Pour the sourz into shaker over ice and shake well. Pour into tumbler and add a pink umbrella, then sprinkle with pop rocks

“A womanly drink, it won’t get you drunk but drink it wearing hotpants for the ultimate sense of gay satisfaction.”  Alex also has links for other drinks, none of which I can print here.  Visit his site for more information.

Review of Animal Magnetism Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Animal Magnetism is an anthology of 15 short stories by 15 wonderful authors of m/m lovers brought together by members of the animal kingdom.  It may be a snake called Ganymede or two kittens in need of a home and names.  It could be a collection of spiders loose in a basement or klepto octopus with a fondness for pens, all types of animals can be a catalyst for love for the right people and under the right conditions!  In these stories, the authors give you all those animals and many more on the path to romance and love.

I am such a sucker for animal stories and this anthology gave me 15 wonderful stories to curl up with and enjoy.  What delighted me the most was that along with the cute dog and kitten stories, the authors came up with tales that revolved around a falconer and his golden eagle, a pick pocket and a horse with trust issues, a groundskeepers relationship with an Indian palm squirrel named Jonno, an artist with a potty mouthed parrot, and a earthquake that allows a man to find love and start over even as it destroys everything around him.  Some stories are light-hearted romps through a grade school teacher’s  pet experiences to the terrifying race to outrun the waves of a tsunami, the range of emotions and settings are of such tremendous variety that there is something for everyone within this strong anthology. An animal lover and retired Park Naturalist, so many of these stories contain elements that resonate with me, whether is was because of animals I have worked with, situations I have been in or just plain animals that fascinate me and I know you will love them too.  This is a tremendous anthology and I know that I will return time and again to these stories to meet up with the people and animals they have introduced me to and have so totally engaged my feelings.  I highly recommend you pick this book up. Here are the stories in the order they are listed in the anthology.

Stories included are:

A Few Too Many by Heidi Champa. – A sheepdog imbibes after a competition and his drunken state introduces his owner to the new vet in town.
Having a Ball by Cari Z.-  Uncle Jimmy is petsitting his niece’s snake and accidentally overfeeds it too many mice.  Lucky for him, there is a gorgeous herpetologist living a floor above.  Great plot and wonderful characterizations had me laughing out loud.  A favorite of mine.

Along Came Spiders by Matthew Vandrew – A nurse and a  police officer get trapped in a basement full of loose spiders when they come to the aid of an unconscious man during an earthquake.  Again, we get strong characters, great plot and oodles of spiders. Terrific.

Cuddling Up by Chris T. Kat – Big cat keepers have a disagreement over zoo protocol and end up hot and heavy before its over..  The author really knows zoo protocol so the characters actions are very realistic while the sex is as hot and steamy as they come

New Tides by Avery Vanderlyle – I loved this story of a man adjusting to being single after a breakup as well as a new job in an aquarium where the catalyst to a new love happens to be a octopus called Cleopatra.  The author got everything right, from the detail about the University of Maryland’s programs to the curious intellect of the octopus and the wonderful characters trying to find love among the marine fauna.  Absolutely a delight and a story I read twice.

Care and Rehabilitation by Kim Fielding –  A man gets help in dealing with the death of a partner when his St. Bernard mix brings him a baby bird in need of a helping hand from a bird rehabber who knows something about loss.  Fielding gives us a sensitive portrayal of a man unable to move forward after the death of a partner and the event that finally helps him move on.  I loved this beautiful story that relates the rescue of a small bird to the rescue of a man in the stasis of grief.

Butterbean and the Pretty Princess Make a Home by R. Cooper – I have recently found R Cooper and now gobble up all she writes.  Here is another example as to why Cooper has become an instant favorite.  Those names alone are pure gold as are the men behind them.  Cooper takes a normal situation of roommates in love and elevates it with two unique characters dancing around the L word.  All it takes to push them over is two small kittens.  Love, love this story

Jonno by Emily Gould – Palm squirrel meets man, squirrel bites man, man meets vet.  Turns out squirrel not so bad after all. So cute.

On an Eagle’s Wings by A.J. Marcus – After I read that Marcus is also a falconer everything about this story made sense, including the authenticity running from page to page in this tale of love in the wilderness that comes to two lonely men.  Vivid descriptions of the wilderness carry the author’s love of the outdoors and his appreciation of nature and raptors with such mesmerizing clarity to the reader that I felt I was there.  Great job.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Skylar Jaye – Can love be found among chickens?  Why yes they can in this story that manages to bring chickens up close and personal while delivering a love story for the egges, oop ages.  Sorry, couldn’t resist

Tears for a Broken Sun by Minerva Wisting – A surprising white knuckle ride of a story inspired by Great Tohoku Earthquake.  Wisting makes us feel every second of every minute of the approaching tsunami.  We understand what the uncomprehending Akira does not, that his dog Wan is trying to pull him away from the shore up the mountain to safety.  Our anxiety mounts as he notices the absence of birds and the wild barking of his dog after the earthquake.  Not a missed step in this superlative story of love found among a natural disaster.

Stripped Bare by Lily Velden – An artist with a potty mouthed parrot has his first showing and love shows up as one of the buyers. Cute and clever.

Wild Horses by Kate Pavelle – A pickpocket named Kai steals a cellphone and its owner wants the phone returned.  When Kai does, he finds not only sanctuary but a path to love as well.  I loved this. While not a HEA, the author shows us tantalizing glimpses into a possible future for everyone involved, including the horses.  Everything about this story fascinates and intrigues the reader, from the hidden backstories of the main characters to the very nature of the special horses themselves.  I wanted so much more once the story was over.

Show and Tell by Liz Makar – First grade teacher Damian Coletti kills the class room pet yet again.  Can the new pet store owner save the class from another loss and find love at the same time?  Why of course, he can.  Funny,  with terrifyingly accurate portrayals of kids and great characters looking for love romp through the pages of this story.

The Conch Republic by G.S. Wiley – Wild conchs lead two men back to love in this story set in Key West.  I have never read a story that used live conchs as a springboard to love so this is a first.  It’s so successful that it might start a whole new take on the puppy love thing.  Conch love, who knew?  Great story, wonderful characters and a plot so easy to relate to that I felt like I was in a Key West state of mind.

Cover: Cover Art by Shobana Appavu . The cover works best when viewed up close so you can see all the different types of animals.  At a distance, it all seems very confused and busy.