A Stella Recent Release Review: Strays by A.J. Thomas

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

Orphaned at a young age and raised in the foster system, Jory Smith has no idea he’s half incubus. He only knows he has the power to heal people, making himself sick in the process. Exploited by a crooked faith healer who sells his abilities and his life to the highest bidder and then left for dead, Jory flees, falling into a job at a small-town café where he can put his lifelong obsession with baking to good use.

But the minister who exploited him wants him back.

Exiled hellhound-turned–bounty hunter Malpheus Pelle has no idea why his human client wants him to track down an incubus. Jory is traumatized and afraid to touch anyone, an emotional handicap that could prove fatal for a demon who requires physical contact. Needing answers, Mal concocts a disastrous plan: pretend to date Jory to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, his plan never included dealing with an ancient demon assassin, Jory’s orgasmic pumpkin cookies, or losing his heart to the incubus he’s supposed to be hunting….

I have to say this new release by AJ Thomas was a pleasurable reading and a good surprise. From the beginning my heart ached for Jory and honestly the first chapter was really hard to me but then soon things changed and Jory, still very sick, is welcomed into Selma café and unknowingly protected. He knows nothing about the world he lives in, he knows nothing about himself and the people that surround him. And then one day, Mal walks into the café and they finds attracted to each other. Mal is actually there to find Jory and bring him back to the people who hired his services; when Mal understands what actually is happening, he’s determined to stay and fight for Jory’s life.

The plot is very interesting, as interesting are all the characters I met. There is a lot going on but the author did a great job at explaining who and what each person was and how things worked. Not one time I was confused or dubious about the story or the role of a demon. Moreover I would love to have one more installment with this great cast, it caught my heart.

Although a lot happened, Mal and Jory had still time for know each other and start building some foundations for a future love romance, sure, they are unsteady, because Mal still needs to tell Jory the reason why he’s in the town, plus all their lives are in danger.

I liked Strays a lot, the author did great at balancing the romance with the plot, together with smiles and sweet moments. I feel to recommend it.

The cover art by Tiferet Design is awesome, I like the colors and the style and I can totally see Jory and Mal in the models. Very fitting.

SALE LINKS  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 210 pages

Published September 25th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN13 9781640806658

Edition Language English

Our Best Books of April 2015

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parabook

This year has been a little crazy and we got away from our monthly Best of Lists!  But they are back starting with April 2015.

Let’s take a closer look at those stories we read and loved so much.  One or two are 4.75 stars rounded up to 5, the rest are 5 star rated stories.  Are some of yours there t0o?  Drop us a line and let us know what books and authors stood out for you this month!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Best Books of April 2015

crossed olive branches

 

Fantasy:

Contemporary Romance:

Science Fiction:

Supernatural/Paranormal:

YA – Aurora Reviews (Both 5 stars)

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)

Review: A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

A Casual Weekend ThingDoug Heavy Runner is the only member of the Baker County Sheriff’s Department that is also a member of the volunteer search and rescue team operating in his section of Montana.  So it is no surprise when a 911 call results in Doug hanging over the edge of a cliff, hauling up a body caught on ropes below him. The man is an apparent suicide but his suicide note and death will draw his younger brother to town, along with complications and clues that point to a criminal operating in town, something Doug Heavy Runner left Miami PD to get away from.  Doug lived an out lifestyle in Miami, but the undercover work and an abusive boyfriend sent him home to Elkin and life as a small town deputy and closeted gay.  Now one death may unravel Doug’s new life.

San Diego PD Detective Christopher Hayes is still trying to recover from a devastating gunshot wound that threatens to end his career when he gets a call from a small town coroner in Montana.  His older brother has committed suicide and Chris needs to identify the body and see to his brother’s estate.  The problem is that Chris hasn’t seen his brother in over 20 years by choice as his brother was a convicted pedophile who Chris thought was still in jail.

On the way to Elkin to attend to his brother’s remains, Chris stops in to a local gay bar,  hooks up with a Native American cop and a hot weekend of sex ensues.  Imagine both mens surprise when the suicide’s brother turns out to be Chris and the deputy in charge of the case is none other than his weekend hookup, Doug Heavy Runner.  When Chris’ brother’s house is burned to the ground and the cause is arson, all clues lead to another pedophile operating in the area.  The deeper they probe into the brother’s life, the wider the scope of the investigation.  Soon the FBI is involved and Chris’ partner from San Diego shows up, and everyone is second guessing themselves and each other as the case folds back to Elkin and its citizens. And all the while, Chris and Doug’s casual fling deepens and turns into something neither expects or can accept – love.

I was not expecting a book as complex and moving from the title, A Casual Weekend Thing.  A.J. Thomas has written a book with so many layers to it that I was continually amazed with each reveal and new element  she added to the overall picture.  This book is a police mystery, a cop romance, a character study, and just a grand read.

At the core of A Casual Weekend Thing are two damaged men, each a gay police officer whose back history has made them who they are today, two driven individuals who run from commitment and any relationship other than friendship or casual hookups.  Each is a runner, one by name and one by emotional need, a clever turn by the author.  Christopher Hayes is an ultrarunner, a rare breed of runner who pit their endurance against distances from 50 to 100 mile runs in extreme weather conditions.  Chris was told by his abusive brother to run for his life when he was 12 and run he did, never looking back.  Chris is still running, from his past, from his tenuous future on the force, and from all relationships, never fully trusting anyone.  In Christopher Hayes, Thomas has created an emotionally damaged man, who thinks he has coped with his past but in reality is in denial.  It is a wonderful characterization, multidimensional and realistic in every respect.

Doug Heavy Runner is Chris’ equal in complexity and pain.  In Doug, Thomas gives the reader a man who ran from his culture, that of a Salish-Kootenai Indian on a reservation where crime, poverty, and despair rule and very few escape.  Doug fled to Miami, to become a police officer and live an openly gay lifestyle, passing as a latino.  But the undercover work and abusive boyfriend combined to break him down until his path led him home to the reservation and the small town nearby.  Doug is running just like Chris, too afraid to trust himself in a relationship or to come out to the community.  Thomas balances these two men against each other’s past history even as the author starts them on the investigation that will hit close to home for both men.  Thomas manages to create not two but multiple realistic characters, including Chris’ partner, Ray, a man who was supposedly “straight” until he wasn’t, to Chris’ surprise.  Not once did I feel that any of these characters strayed into a less than authentic portrayal of a real person.  Some were repulsive, some sympathetic, and others incompetent, but always real.

Great characters were certainly a necessity given the complex, and densely layered plots that play out in this story.  Thomas takes the time to set up the situations for the events that follow.  It is a slow build that pulls in element after element, revealed to Chris, Doug and the reader in small increments.  As more facts are unearthed, a feeling of unease sets in.  Then we discover the truth of Chris’ relationship with his late brother, and the horror arrives.  That he treats it so unemotionally makes it worse.  The more clues are discovered, the more horrific and wider the investigation becomes, pulling in the FBI and Chris’ partner.  Thomas does a superlative job in creating a monstrous psychopath who eludes identification until close to the end.  And intertwined with this investigation, is the romance between Chris and Doug, a tenuous thing given each man’s trust issues and past history.

I have to admit I came so close to giving this story 5 stars.  I really wanted to.  But there were a few minor issues with police procedure as well as some actions on the part of Chris that had me shaking my head in incredulity.  I just don’t think a police officer of his experience and background would have committed the errors he did, given the clues he had at his finger tips.  I can’t say any more but when you read the book, you will recognize the areas I am talking about.  That, combined with a little rough transition at the beginning, kept A Casual Weekend Thing from being perfect.  But it sure came close.  It hooked me right from the beginning and keep me on the edge of the bed (so to speak) until the last page.

The end leaves us with a very realistic HFN and I think it needed it.  A HEA for Doug and Chris, considering the events they just emerged from would be just implausible and not in keeping with the characters Thomas was so careful in creating.  I can hope, however, that this will set them up to return in a future novel with another case to solve together.  Now that would be perfection.  Consider this book highly recommended.  I can’t wait to see what A.J. Thomas has for us next.

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht.  I applaud the cover artist’s choice of model, although he looks far more Indian than Native American.  Also the woods below aren’t really in keeping with the landscape around that area of Montana.  I know, that’s really getting picky, isn’t it.  But they get the tone of the book right.

Book Details:

ebook, 310 pages
Published May 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623804876 (ISBN13: 9781623804879)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3806

It’s Raining and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Once again it’s raining here in Maryland, formerly known as The Temperate State.  Before today our rain total was 6.11 inches this month.  I think its safe to say we will be adding several more inches to that total just on today’s rainfall alone.  Hard to believe we are looking at July just over the horizon.  My lavender is looking a little soggy and I have lost several herbs to the dampness.  The only ones happy are the hosta and the frogs.

I have some wonderful books on the review schedule this week including a history of the riots at Stonewall Inn by Martin Duberman.  I will be posting that on Friday to mark the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall demonstrations that sparked the gay civil rights movement.  Yesterday I posted several Youtube videos on the topic.  If you have a chance, check them out, especially the one on the Stonewall survivors.  The vid and the people it focused on are just remarkable.  As we wind down gay pride month and look towards the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, take a moment to remember all those LGBTQ youth in need of shelter and a hand.  Organizations in need of donations can be found here and at the GLBT National Help Center.

Now about this week’s books, there are some terrific stories to be had this week.  All fall within the m/m contemporary fiction range with the exception of Stonewall (non-fiction), but within that category you will find a variety of stories from the whimsically titled When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy to A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas, a police mystery.

Monday, June 24:         Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes

Tuesday, June 25:        A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

Wed., June 26:              Hobbled by John Inman

Thursday, June 27:      When Dachshunds Rule the Serengeti by Michael Murphy

Friday, June 28:           Stonewall by Martin Duberman

Saturday, June 29:       The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest

Yesterday, I had the best Cosmo I have ever tasted at Ricciuti’s in Olney.  If you are local, and never had a meal or drink there, remedy that fact right away.  Housed in historic Olney House, Ricciuti’s outsources all its food, fine and beer locally. It believes in using only seasonal and local produce and it shows. It has stone ovens, great staff and now the best Cosmo ever.  It’s raining, a fine day to head over and taste some of the best food our local farms, wineries, and breweries have to offer.  I might even see you there.