Our Best Books of April 2015

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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)

Review: Cross & Crown (Sidewinder #2) by Abigail Roux

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Cross&Crown_500x750After a leave of absence, Nick O’Flaherty is back at his job as a detective for the Boston PD.  When he is called to the scene of a double homicide, Nick learns that there is a witness to the crime in custody which should make this an easy investigation.  Instead, Nick finds that the witness’ injuries have resulted in a case of amnesia.  The witness doesn’t know who he is and he is not carrying any identification.  That the witness happens to be extremely good looking and drawn to Nick both helps and hurts in Nick’s attempts to manage the case and provide protection for the nameless man.

Adding to the stress of the situation, Nick’s boyfriend and ex recon partner, Kelly Abbott is visiting him for some necessary “vacation” time together.  Living in two different states is harder on them then they had anticipated and their alone time is precious to them both. Kelly Abbott is in Boston to spend needed time with his lover, Nick.  Kelly was responsible for Nick returning to work but he never realized how much they would miss each other or how hard it would be to coordinate their schedules to visit each other.

When Kelly arrives in Boston, Nick’s investigation has already become far more complicated than anyone expected and soon Kelly finds himself pulled into the search for the mystery man’s identification and something more ominous. Because shadowing their operation is none other than Julian Cross, a retired CIA hitman on a desperate mission of his own. Julian too needs their help and intends to get it any way he can.

All the clues point into the past…the United States Revolutionary War, Boston’s history and their own.  As the situation threatens to ignite, all their lives are put in danger as various groups clash on the same mission.  The hunt is on for the crown jewels and more. With the situation precarious, their future in jeopardy, and alliances uncertain, Nick and Kelly must solve the mystery of the missing crown jewels quickly before more people are killed, including themselves.

Cross & Crown is the second in the Sidewinder series from Abigail Roux.  This series emerged from the popular Cut & Run series and Ty Grady’s band of brothers from his Recon unit.  Over the last several stories, Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott have gone from the closest of friends to lovers to committed partners.  It has been a wondrous journey for both the men and the readers who have been following the course of their relationship.  Now in Cross & Crown, we get to see the men in the first stages of their new committed relationship, juggling their different work and living situations while in the middle of a murder investigation that turns into more.

One of the joys of the combined series is the growth and change the reader is able to chart in all the characters involved in these stories.  Roux’s ability to maintain continuity between series and novels is amazing as her gift for characterization. While the details of the Sidewinders last mission is unknown, its long term effects upon the men we have gotten to know is not. The author builds upon the tragedies and personal implosions of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run, #7) in New Orleans where Kelly almost died.  Then continuing on through Shock & Awe (Sidewinders #1) and  Ball & Chain (Cut & Run, #8), Abigail Roux has each story doubling the stress and strain upon these men and their lovers.

The first in the Sidewinder series, Shock & Awe focused on Kelly’s recuperation under Nick’s supervision and the beginnings of their love affair.  Then the remaining Sidewinders, with the exception of Kelly “Doc” Abbott, are pulled away for one last mission, one that changes them all permanently.  This thread of change flows through all the stories, no matter the series.  Interpersonal relationships are shattered, others are formed, and everyone is in a state of flux.  Some are those alterations in personality and behavior is revealed in Ball & Chain where PTSD and other issues start to reveal themselves.

Abigail Roux makes this time of  disillusion and unbearable strain feel authentic and painful.  Over time, the author has brought the reader into the intimacy and close knit ties of these men and it hurts to watch them flounder in the aftermath of a mission they can’t and won’t talk about. As Cross & Crown begins, O’Flaherty is still suffering from the effects of the team’s last mission (as is all the other team members).  With the reader already heavily invested in Nick and Kelly’s romance (yes, I am making that assumption), their early relationship struggles will resonate with many readers as they try to manager a long distance romance along with Kelly’s adjustment to Nick’s easy PDA’s.  Big issues and small, Nick and Kelly seem more and more like a permanent couple than men in the first stages of attraction and affection.  Their ease with each other, their balance and equality of their relationship is wonderful.  I love these two and here their partnership deepens as they work through their disagreements and insecurities that still remain.

Another marvelous element in Cross & Crown was the reappearance of Julian Cross.  I have obsessed over that character since his story, Warrior’s Cross.  Afterward Julian and his lover, Cameron, made other appearances in the Cut & Run series, always to marked explosions amidst tumultuous events.  To have Julian and Cameron back is something to be celebrated!  I can never get enough of these two and although this might be the last we  see of them, I love that we got them in one last story.

There is never a dearth of ingratiating or intriguing characters in an Abigail Roux stories and Cross & Crown is chock full of them.  This includes the dubious characters from O’Flaherty’s upbringing and those of the archaeological and pharmaceutical factions in Boston.  Each character was built with care and attention to detail with regard to their profession, nationality and background.  With layers upon layers for each person,they all came across as genuine and quite alive, from dialog to their backgrounds and even locale.  This author does this sort of thing so easily that you can take it for granted as you read through the stories.  Only through meticulous research and organization does the hard look behind a story depth and cohesion seem as easy as it does here.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, visit the author’s blog sometime for her visits to various story locations and background workups  to see what it takes to bring the whole picture to life.

Am I a fan of Abigail Roux?  Yes, I am and these two series are ample reasons why. So many pluses inherent in this story.  The historical workup and investigation is absorbing and terrific.  I loved the growth in the love and deepening relationship between Nick and Kelly as well as the painful loss of closeness between Ty and Nick.  It’s a neat development to see the Ty Grady/Nick O’Flaherty relationship from Nick’s viewpoint instead of Ty’s.  And yes, Zane makes a fleeting yet important appearance here, even if it is over the phone.  As with all the stories recently, there are big changes in store for all the characters at the end of the book.  Nothing is settled except their love for each other, that is the given and the constant.

I will admit it is hard for me as a reviewer to remain objective about this and it’s connected series, Cut & Run.  I have read and followed these men and their stories from the beginning and have invested so much emotion in their love and relationship growth.  How will someone new to the series and lacking any sense of context feel about the Sidewinders if they haven’t read the other stories?  That is a question much harder to answer.  I bring all the knowledge and background of Cut & Run with me unthinkingly to this story and the Sidewinder series.  But if you are new to Nick and Kelly, you are lacking a wealth of information and an almost collective group of affections built up over time and stories.

To you, the new reader, this might seem a little confusing in some of the character histories and lacking in the mens backstory.  How these men are connected, what their interpersonal relationships and backgrounds mean to the reader and each other might be hard to grasp here. I get that too. But it doesn’t need to be.  There is a whole shelf of books waiting for you to discover them and the men inside the covers.  Start with the first of the Cut & Run stories written, include Warrior’s Cross among them.  Then continue on to the Sidewinder books listed below.  I recommend them all along with Cross & Crown.  You will fall in love with these complicated sexy men and their stories.  Don’t miss out on a single one.

Happy Reading!

Cover artist for Cross & Crown is the amazing L.C. Chase

Buy Links here:    Riptide        ARe             Amazon 

Book Details: ebook, 225 pages

Published June 9th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 7th 2014)
original titleCross & Crown
ISBN139781626491335
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/cross-and-crown seriesSidewinder #2
Books in the Sidewinder Series to date in the order they should be read:

Shock & Awe (Sidewinder, #1)

Cross & Crown (Sidewinder, #2)

Review: Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

???????????????????????????????????????Ty Grady and the others in his Sidewinder crew are finally home.  After an emotional welcome at the airport, Ty finds he has returned to a world that moved on without him.  As Ty deals with the emotional fallout from the their last black op mission and his reunion with Zane, Deuce, Ty’s brother arrives with wedding news.   Deuce asks Ty to be his best man.  And the wedding?  It’s on a remote island in Scotland. And someone’s been threatening his future father-in-law.

Clearly help is needed and Ty calls on Kelly Abbott and Nick O’Flaherty, his Sidewinder brothers, for assistance, a team with their own secrets to hide. When Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott join Ty and Zane at the wedding on a private island in Scotland, the remoteness of the location and poor cellphone reception gives them jitters.  But none of them are prepared when the bodies start falling and the killer or killers identities is someone on this small island, either friend, family or close acquaintance.

With all the families jeopardy, including Ty’s young  niece, Ty and Zane, along with Nick and Kelly, must sort through past cases, old enemies, and unknown alliances before more murders occur, including their own.  Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions but who will survive this one is anyone’s guess.

 

Well, here we are.  The penultimate story in the Cut & Run series.  With Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8), the bells are starting to ring down the end of this remarkable series and Ty Grady and Zane Garrett is starting on the road to their finale. The penultimate story in any series is a tricky one, but even more so in a series as beloved as this one.  It must start to wind down a multitude of plot threads, but not too many, mind you, because you must save the most for the last story.  The penultimate story must layout clues, guidelines as it were, for all the events to come without losing sight that this story must have its own legs to stand on. Its own storyline and its own resolution.

Does Ball & Chain and its author, Abigail Roux, accomplish this daunting task?  Yes, I think it does. Although I think some readers will be disappointed, others will love it, and the rest are just waiting for that last story and nothing will be able to satisfy them before that story arrives.  What a tough audience this book will face as most readers have been with this couple and series from the first book, Cut & Run, and are quite fanatical about Ty and Zane.

One obstacle that I think this book must surmount are the scenes/storylines readers have written for Ty and Zane in their minds since they finished book 7, Touch & Geaux.  This is the reunion book, the one we have been waiting for since that heart-wrenching exit at the  end of Touch & Geaux.  You know, the one that had  people pulling out their hair in tears while wailing in dismay.  That scene.  I have been waiting for that along with you.  Did it live up to my expectations?  Not on the first reading.  Maybe the second.  Again, how could anything beat the glorious, and totally unrealistic scenario I had created in my head for Ty and Zane?  Cue the swelling music,  passionate glances and mad sex acts that happen immediately upon reuniting!  What Abigail Roux came up with was so much better and in keeping with the characters, Ty and Zane.  It was done with humor, affection for all those returning home and, of course, the love that Ty and Zane held for each other. And I loved it, once I got past the purple prose of my imagination.

I loved the location, that isolated island off the coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides.  It’s a perfectly spooky place for dead bodies, startling revelations, and hidden passages, of the building and of the heart.  It took all the main characters out of their comfort zones (if they still have any by now), and forced them to look closely at what each of them has become, and at the relationships that have carried them through so far.  Not a particularly happy time….a sexy one but not a happy one for the most part.  Abigail Roux has these precious characters exposing some hard truths about themselves and what their past actions have done to others they care about.  Plus this last mission has clearly damaged all the men involved, Digger, Owen, Nick and Ty, all are showing symptoms of PTSD or signs of other trauma that is the result of their final secret mission.  The stress is overwhelming them and each is trying to deal with it in their own way.

Ball & Chain is a hard book to review because any detail given can lead to a spoiler.  Still there is a lot on Abigail Roux’s agenda for this story.  There is the reunion we have been waiting for as Ty returns, along with the rest of the Sidewinders, from a mysterious mission.  And the reader is just getting settled into familiar surroundings and the FBI office when we are thrown out of the action and into unfamiliar territory.  At the end of the last book, Ty and Zane have outed themselves to their colleagues and bosses and now we wait for the repercussions to hit.  And they do but only for a short while and then we are  whisked away to Scotland.  That felt too abrupt and left this reader feeling a tad unsatisfied about the lack of resolution to this story element.

The wedding in Scotland brings together not only Ty’s entire family, including Ty’s grandfather and his shovel, but Nick and Kelly and the Director too.  As loyalties are divided, and old secrets revealed, ties between people begin to unravel as past histories and relationships surface. Sometimes, however, I felt that so many plot threads, one piling on top of another, almost overwhelmed the story.  At moments, Ball & Chain almost felt like an extension of the 12 Little Indians movie, with corpses piling up everywhere as it looks bleaker and bleaker for those left on the island.  But in true Abigail Roux form, the plot tightens, the nonessentials are pared away, and we are left with Ty and Zane and their fight for each other and a relationship.

Still Ball & Chain is as much about Nick and Kelly as it is about Ty and Zane. It’s about couple dynamics as well as the other complex relationship issues at play here. Sibling brother to brother, Sidewinder brother to brother, lover to lover, fathers/and father figures to sons….Abigail Roux threw it all into the wedding melting pot with explosive results. And this multitude of players, main players, will raise objections from those readers who want Ty and Zane, and only Ty and Zane. And I get that, I really do.

But think back to Touch & Geaux,the preceding story. What a great mess of a book! Full of emotional land mines, psychological quagmires, and quests for revenge to fill several novels, it brought all the Sidewinders together along with Ty and Zane and other important characters only to leave several major plot threads dangling at the end along with character fates. And remember, this includes a mole in the FBI. With that story, everything got tangled up together, people, histories, and past events returning with traumatic results. Now Abigail Roux only has two books to pull it all together. So in my mind, Ball & Chain, as well as the final story, can’t be only Ty and Zane. Because in order for Ty and Zane to have their future, a number of supporting characters have major roles to play for that to happen.  So it has to be about those characters as well, even if that makes some readers unhappy about the loss of page time for Ty and Zane.

So back to the question did Ball & Chain do its job?  Did it raise the right questions? And did it include all the right people?  Did it set the stage for the final story while giving you the reunion you wanted, the drama you expected, as well as the surprises and angst one expects from Abigail Roux and this series?  For me, the answer is yes, yes it did.

Repercussions from the events in New Orleans are still rippling through the group, the mole is at large, and a major player has just died. OK, i was pretty happy about that one.  Now everyone has returned to the US and the final battles can begin.  I can’t wait.

And Abigail Roux did give me an ending this time that I adored (at least as far at Ty and Zane were concerned).  One that starts to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. There is a line towards the end that will be one of my favorite ones of the series.  I wonder if you will be able to spot it?

The author has said she won’t go past book 9 for the Cut & Run series, so I expect Ty and Zane to go out with a bang.  Maybe even a flashbang.  Only the author knows for sure.  Roux has made Ty and Zane deal with huge issues and traumas, from alcoholism and torture, lying and commitment, kidnapping and coming out, even claustrophobia and fear of heights. So I expect the final story to feature more of the same, more soul searching and scary events to come.

Maybe even Grandpa with his shovel.

And hopefully a wedding.  That would be lovely.

Until then I will search through the series again for more clues about the Mole and people we expect to pop up in the finale.  I will reread the moment they were pulled apart in Touch & Geaux, and then the moment they came back together in Ball & Chain.  And then I will read the end of this story one more time.

Ty and Zane are about to have their ending.  I will be there with tissues in hand to see how it all ends.  I will probably hate it in sections and I will love it.  That’s the way this series works.  And this couple.  All or nothing.  Bring it on, Abigail Roux!

Cover art by LC Chase continues the wonderful branding that is a mark of this series.  Love it although not as much as the tiger.

Book Details:

Paperback, 306 pages
Published March 17th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published March 2nd 2014)
original titleBall & Chain
ISBN139781626491076
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/ball-chain-cut-run-8
seriesCut & Run #8
charactersTy Grady, Zane Garrett

Books in the Cut & Run series in the order they were written and should be read:

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:

  • Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) the penultimate story
  • Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)
  • Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)
  • Dine & Dash (Cut & Run, #5.5)
  • Armed & Dangerous , #5 – by Abigail Roux
  • Divide & Conquer #4,*
  • Fish & Chips #3, *
  • Sticks & Stones #2,*
  • Cut & Run #1 – *all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Ty & Zane Are Back in Ball & Chain! Visit with Abigail Roux (Inside Info and Amazing Contest)

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Welcome to the Ball & Chain virtual tour! If you’re following along, you’ll be able to win yourself some goodies that might just save your life! I’ve got five Survival Kits in a Sardine Can, perfect for traveling and hiking or taking with you to remote island weddings where people might be dying. And I’ve got five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups for the less adventurous readers!Ty & Zane Survivial Kit

Contest: Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing to win one of five Survival Kits in a Sardine Can or one of five sets of trading cards with original artwork. Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 1 , and winners will be announced on April 3rd. Contest is valid worldwide.

 

STRW: Abigail Roux was kind enough to answer some of the questions I have been dying to ask her since I found Ty and Zane in the Cut & Run series and about her latest novel, Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8). Let’s get started….

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STRW:  I know you (Abigail) always do extensive research on the locations for your stories.  Ball & Chain is set in Scotland.  Where you able to travel there?

Abigail Roux:
I was! I went to the UK and Ireland last summer and spent almost three weeks traveling with two friends. I post about my research travels on a Tumblr I made specifically so people could follow along. You can find it at abitravels.tumblr.com. It follows my adventures, and the adventures of Nelson the om nom, who goes everywhere with me. I like to share those adventures with readers; it makes the process even more hands on.

STRW: • What was your inspiration for setting the story in Scotland?

Abigail:
Originally the book was supposed to be set in the Caribbean. After a little research, though, I realized it would never work for my purposes. So I did a Google search for isolated wedding locations, and the name that caught my eye first was a place called Knoydart. We actually traveled there to scout it out. It wound up not being right for the book either, but I was able to see enough of Scotland, which is absolutely breathtaking, to create an amalgam of the things I needed. So the book takes place on a fake island, but everything about it is as authentic as I could make it.

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STRW: • What was the biggest challenge to writing this penultimate story to the Cut & Run series?

Abigail:
Oh gosh. It’s so stressful. I want these last two books to be worthy, and I want them to be memorable and perfect and I want readers to end the series on a high note. And that’s going to be so very hard to do. It keeps me awake at night. But when I got into this book and started writing, all that slipped away and it was just about the story and the characters again. So the biggest challenge is compartmentalizing it to keep me from freaking out!

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STRW:• So many people have fallen in love with Nick and Kelly; did you find it hard to balance out the readers’ devotion to Ty and Zane with our need to see more of Nick and Kelly when putting them in the same story?  Especially this story that we have been waiting for-the reunion of Ty and Zane?

Abigail Roux:
I didn’t find it hard, no, because Nick always had a huge role in this book. He’s actually the driving force behind a lot of the tension and drama. Adding Kelly to him was no trouble at all because Kelly is an easy character. He doesn’t make waves, basically, because he just rolls with it. I don’t think they take away from Ty and Zane, and they certainly don’t subtract from Ty and Zane’s romance or their tale. I know some readers have been worried about Ty and Zane sharing page time, but at this stage they have to or the books would be all about them hiding under the covers refusing to answer their phone.

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STRW:• Do you think you will be able to let go of Ty and Zane at book 9, or will the series continue?

Abigail Roux:
The series will definitely end at book 9, whether I like it or not. That’s always been the plan, and there’s no reason to change it now. I will miss them terribly, because at this point they’re both a part of me. But I have surprises for readers coming in the Sidewinder Series. No one will have to say goodbye to Ty and Zane until I kill them off!

STRW:• Is there a Ty and Zane wedding to look forward to?

Abigail Roux:
Well, someone does get married in Ball & Chain . . .

STRW: Now that’s just evil…
• Both characters have undergone so much growth over the series.  It has been wrenching to read about at times, joyful at others. Is there one special scene that is your favorite with the men?

Abigail Roux:
My favorite scene between Ty and Zane will always be in Divide & Conquer when they dance in Ty’s living room. It wasn’t planned as we were writing; it was just something Ty did almost without my permission. It made it feel very authentic, even to me, and I love the quiet romance of it.

STRW:• Ty and Zane are definitely an A List couple.  People are mad for them.  Why do you think they have such staying power for readers?

Abigail Roux:
I wish I knew so I could bottle it! I think both men are so flawed, people can relate to them easily, but they also do things most of us don’t’ allow ourselves. Zane is hard on himself and he lets his past and fears dictate his actions, and that’s something a lot of people do and can sympathize with. They root for him to pull past that. Ty is impulsive and fun and frankly kind of crazy, and that’s a luxury a lot of people aren’t allowed in life. Ty and Zane offer us a combination of pieces of ourselves we recognize, and pieces we wish we had. I think people have latched onto them because they see a bit of themselves in one or both characters.

You can contact Abigail Roux at:

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???????????????????????????????????????Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8): Home from their unexpected deployment, the former members of Marine Force Recon team Sidewinder rejoin their loved ones and try to pick up the pieces of the lives they were forced to leave behind. Ty Grady comes home to Zane Garrett, only to find that everything around him has changed—even the men he went to war with. He barely has time to adjust before his brother, Deuce, asks Ty to be his best man. But that isn’t all Deuce asks Ty to do, and Ty must call for backup to deal with the business issues of Deuce’s future father-in-law.

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Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott join Ty and Zane at the wedding on an island in Scotland, thinking they’re there to assuage Deuce’s paranoia. But when bodies start dropping and boats start sinking, the four men get more involved with the festivities than they’d ever planned to.

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With the clock ticking and the killer just as stuck on the isolated island as they are, Ty and Zane must navigate a veritable minefield of family, friends, and foes to stop the whole island from being destroyed.

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You can pre-order Ball & Chain from Riptide and get it two days early!

Contest:  Abigail Roux is giving away five Survival Kits in a Sardine Can, perfect for traveling and hiking or taking with youTy & Zane Survivial Kit to remote island weddings where people might be dying. And I’ve got five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups.Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. . Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 1 , and winners will be announced on April 3rd. Contest is valid worldwide.

A Very Special Book and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Spotlights and Contests

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Grand Adventures Anthology

On  Monday, March 31st, Dreamspinner Press is releasing a very special anthology titled Grand Adventures.  All proceeds from the sale of Grand Adventures will go to TJ Klune and Eric Arden, who are starting off on another stage in their adventure together. Eric is being released from the hospital and both men will move into their new house, although under circumstances neither one would have ever imagined.  These men are my heroes.  Their bravery and courage is amazing as is their love for each other.

So many great authors have lent their talents and stories to this anthology. In addition, the cover by Paul Richmond, which is beyond amazing,( that’s Eric and TJ in the rearview mirror) is being offered up in two sizes of prints for a limited time.  I have included the link to that information as well.

Whether you know TJ and Eric personally, or from their hilarious vids, or their books, so many people have been touched by their talent, their outsized warm personalities and their amazing love story.  And they need our help. Donations are still being taken at the Eric Arvin support fund linked on this website but here is another great way to contribute and you get wonderful stories to boot!

On September 1, 2011, TJ Klune wrote, “…it’s not about the ending, it’s about the journey…” in a review of Eric Arvin’s Woke Up in a Strange Place. With those words, two men began a journey of love and invited us to ride along. TJ and Eric have shared so much with us: their wonderful books, their smiles, their humor, their lives, and their inspiring devotion to each other. In December of 2013, their journey took a detour when Eric was taken to the emergency room. He survived the surgery to remove a cavernous hemangioma from his brain stem, but the challenges TJ and Eric face are far from over.

The authors in this anthology donated their talent as a way to support Eric’s continued recovery, to help bring strength to TJ, and to show both of them just how much love surrounds them. Grand Adventures is a diverse range of stories about the journey of love. We’re going on some grand adventures for a great cause. Thank you for joining us.GrandAdventuresPrints_DSPsite

One hundred percent of the income from this volume goes directly to TJ and Eric Buy it here at Dreamspinner Press.

  • Prints of the cover are available until April 30th in 2 sizes, buy linkhere

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Now for this week’s schedule of reviews, author guest blogs and contests:

  • Monday, March 24:            Angel’s Hero by Liz Boreno
  • Tuesday, March 25:           Author Spotlight and Contest with Katey Hawthorne
  • Wed., March 26:                 When All the World Sleeps Book Tour and Contest
  •                                                    with Lisa Henry and JA Rock
  • Thursday, March 27:        Artist’s Touch (Guild #1) by Kerry Adrienne
  • Friday, March 28:              Cut & Run with Abigail Roux on the Ball & Chain Book Tour
  •                                                     and Contest (Ty and Zane are back!)
  • Saturday, March 29:         Ball & Chain by Abigail Roux

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2013

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Presents:

best-books of 2013

Time for Scattered Thoughts to look back at all the wonderful books read and reviewed in 2013 and try to pick those stories that stood out the most among all the many stories I read.  As always it was a hard thing to do because there were so many this year that crowded at the top.  How to choose between Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord and her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazeri?  Or Ariel Tachna’s Outlast the Night and her Conquer the Flames?  It was only by the mm (seems reasonable) that the latter book for each won out.parabook

Some authors did end up with two books in my lists, whether it was because they were in two different categories or because they were in different series or just because they were that good.  I also ended up with more categories this year, including  Best Humor, Best Young Adult, Best New Vampire and Best New Werewolf.  The variety in genres just begged for subcategories so I created them.  Something really new this year was the interconnected series from the Pulp Friction group. Each series and main characters were intimately connected to each other and culminated in a four author four series finale story.  It was outstanding and earned all four a place on my list.

And then there were the marvelous novels like Harper Fox’ Brothers of the Wild North Seas whose review has slid into 2014 but is one of my top novels of any year.  Anyway, here are the books I chose in alphabetical order.  Which authors/stories were on your list this year?

Best Contemporary Novels of 2013:

  • Best Stand Alone Novels:

Illumination by Rowen Speedwell
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Best Action/Suspense Fiction of 2013:

Collusion by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Corruption by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Pulp Friction Series of 2013 (4 interconnected series)

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux (Cut & Run series)
Worlds Collide by R.J. Scott

Humorous Fiction of 2013:
Books with wings in the sky

Shy by John Inman
Hobbled by John Inman
Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune

Young Adult/YA Subject Oriented Fiction:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton
Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton

Best Historical Fiction:

Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane
On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory
Trick of Time by JL Merrow

Best Horror/Fantasy:skeleton-clip-art-15-315x600

Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin

Best Science Fiction Novel/ Series of 2013:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean
One Breath, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley
Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley  (sequel to the one above)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)

Best Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction of 2013:

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne
Undertow by Andrea Speed (Infected series)

Best New Vampire (a tie):

The Beast Without by Christian Baines
The Family: Liam by K.V. Taylor

Best New Werewolf:

Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

Happy New Year, everyone!  Happy Reading To All and May 2014 Be Great!

New Year Book

ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #1) by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Shock & Awe CoverAfter being shot in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has returned home to his cabin in Colorado with fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty joining him to help him in his recovery.  Kelly and Nick, bonded through their years together as part of a Marine Force Recon team, have always loved each other like brothers but past confessions and the recent events in New Orleans has Kelly thinking past brotherly bonds into something far more intimate and sexual. During a quiet moment at the cabin Kelly asks Nick to kiss him and is surprised when Nick does.  But the kiss turns into something unexpected for each man…its deep, and warm and overwhelmingly sexual, and leaves Nick and Kelly wanting more.

That one kiss leads to others and only the reality of Kelly’s wounds keep the men from more.  Confused, Kelly and Nick try to examine their feelings not only towards each other but about a deeper commitment outside their band of brothers.  But the past has a way of intruding on the Sidewinders, pulling them towards danger and an uncertain future.  Can Nick and Kelly find their way through their confusion and doubts before they are called to duty once more?

Abigail Roux is killing me here.  I am still trying to recover from the events of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) when Roux starts a new series about the Sidewinders, the Marine Recon group that Ty Grady is a part of, and has me in tears all over again.  But I am getting ahead of myself and this review.

Shock & Awe, the titles continuing in the tradition the author started in the Cut & Run series, is an expansion series into the tight band of brothers Abigail Roux introduced in the Cut & Run series.  We met the various members of the Sidewinders as they came to visit Ty Grady in Baltimore and through appearances made in several of the Cut & Run stories.  Nick, especially, was an important character in helping to understand Ty’s past and the close  bonds of the Sidewinder Marine Force Recon Unit.  Going too much into Nick O’Flaherty’s background would offer up spoilers for past stories but suffice it to say he and Ty have an unusual past history that is referenced here in Shock & Awe acting as an impetus for Kelly’s musings and startling request.  And while the others members of the unit (Digger, Owen, and yes Ty) make an appearance, Shock & Awe is focused on Kelly and Nick. It starts shortly after the events of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) where Kelly was shot in New Orleans when all the Sidewinders gathered to celebrate a birthday.

The smaller, more intimate setting of Kelly’s cabin is perfect for the introspection and actions that follow an unusual request from Kelly for a less than brotherly kiss from Nick.  Normally, Roux has a much larger canvas on which to place her characters and storyline but having one location lets the author (and readers) concentrate on the developing relationship and emerging emotions of Nick and Kelly.  I loved this aspect of the story.  The author had previously given the readers only a cursory introduction to Kelly while past stories made Nick an unwelcome intrusion into Ty and Zane’s relationship.  Now both characters get to stand on their own and this story turns them into the remarkable men that Roux had always intended us to see them as.  I had no trouble at all falling in love with both of them.  Here is a little window into their close relationship. They have just arrived at Kelly’s cabin and are getting settled:

Kelly made a derogatory sound and closed his eyes again. Nick pulled away, then gently covered him with the sheet.

Kelly may have been the corpsman, but Nick had always been the caretaker of the group. He’d been a wingman, fall guy, sounding board, and alibi. He’d been mother, father, big brother, and crazy uncle. Whatever they’d needed. He’d always been the one who’d made sure all the Sidewinder ducks were in a row, and he was probably the sole reason the house they’d all shared in Jacksonville hadn’t burned down.

It was so odd to think back on all those years and know that Nick had been hiding part of himself he thought he couldn’t share. It almost broke Kelly’s heart to think of all the secrets he’d spilled to Nick, all the things he’d gotten off his chest, but Nick had never been able to do the same.

And when Kelly’s heart breaks so does ours.

There is so much emotion, so many feelings packed into this story that I found it hard to believe it was only 92 pages long.  It was just long enough for me to fall completely in love with these two and time enough for Abigail Roux to break my heart not once but twice before the story ends.

Abigail Roux has proven over and over in each of her stories that she has the ability to make us believe in her characters, their passions and relationships.  She is also a proven master of the hidden agenda, cliffhangers and heartbreak.  You will find all of those here too.  Grab this book up and fall in love with Nick and Kelly.  The second story in the series, Bait & Switch (A Sidewinder story) is located after this one and will have you gnashing your teeth as well as crying quite a few tears, especially as it features Zane and Ty as well as Nick and Kelly.  This is a 2 tissue box affair from start to well…..just pick it up and starting reading.

If you are new to Abigail Roux and her connected series (Cut & Run and Sidewinder), it would be best to start at the beginning to understand all the relationships of the men mentioned.  Plus you will find yourself with two new addictions.  One is winding down.  There are only two more stories to go in the Cut & Run series.  I hope that Sidewinder enjoys just as long a run.   Don’t miss out on these remarkable men and this terrific author.

Cover by LC Chase.  I loved this.  The green cover sets it apart from the Cut & Run series while the shamrock continues the tradition of a single object helping to tie the series together.  Perfection.

Sidewinder series to date:

Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #2)
Bait & Switch (A Sidewinder story)

Cut & Run Series:

Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) Expected publication: March 15th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)
Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)
Dine and Dash(Cut & Run #5.5)
Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5) – by Abigail Roux
Divide & Conquer #4, Fish & Chips #3, Sticks & Stones #2, Cut & Run #1 – all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Expected publication: November 11th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
original title Shock & Awe
ISBN13 9781626490567
edition language English
characters Ty GradyZane Garrett, Nick O’Flaherty, Kelly Abbott

Contest and Shock & Awe Blog Tour with Abigail Roux

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Good morning all.  Today ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to play host to the Shock & Awe Virtual Book Tour featuring one of our favorite authors, Abigail Roux and her new Sidewinder series.  I am so excited about this book and the new couple of Nick and Kelly.  They won my heart immediately and they will win yours too.  Shock & Awe is one of Scattered Thoughts Best Novels of 2013.  You don’t want to miss this one.  And here is bunch more reasons to acquaint yourself with Nick, Kelly, and the rest of the Sidewinders:

Hello everyone! Welcome to the Shock & Awe blog tour! Thank you to ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords for hosting today. If you’re following along, you might find this handy dandy schedule of use, and you might be interested in keeping up with me each day, because I’ve got a couple goodies to give away. In celebration of Nick and Kelly’s coming out, so to speak, I’ve got three of their Heart and Clover T-shirts for three lucky commenters. And I’ve got five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups, something I intend to add new cards to every year, which makes this first year’s cards pretty important if you’re an obsessive collector like I am.

Author Bio: 

Abigail Roux was born and raised in North Carolina. A past volleyball star who specializes in sarcasm and painful historical accuracy, she currently spends her time coaching high school volleyball and investigating the mysteries of single motherhood. Any spare time is spent living and dying with every Atlanta Braves and Carolina Panthers game of the year.
Abigail has a daughter, Little Roux, who is the light of her life, a boxer, four rescued cats who play an ongoing live-action variation of Call of Duty throughout the house, a certifiable extended family down the road, and a cast of thousands in her head.
Connect with Abi:

Shock & Awe Blurb:

Shock & Awe CoverAfter barely surviving a shootout in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has to suffer through a month of recovery before he can return home to Colorado. He’s not surprised when fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty stays with him in New Orleans. Nor is he surprised when Nick travels home with him to help him get back on his feet—after all, years on the same Marine Force Recon team bonded the men in ways that only bleeding for a brother can. He’s very surprised, though, when Nick humors his moment of curiosity and kisses him.

Nick knows all of Kelly’s quirks and caprices, so the kiss was a low-risk move on his part . . . or so he thought. But what should’ve been a simple moment unleashes a flood of confusing emotions and urges that neither man is prepared to address.

Now, Kelly and Nick must figure out what they mean to each other—friends and brothers in arms, or something even deeper?—before the past can come back to ruin their tenuous future.

You can read an excerpt and purchase Shock & Awe today from Riptide!

Contest Giveaway:
Abi is giving away some great goodies along the tour, including three of their Heart and Clover T-shirts for three lucky commenters and five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups. Just leave a comment at any of the stops along the tour to enter. The contest closes on November 25th.

Contest Rules:

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Please note that the contest is open worldwide, winners will be chosen tour-wide and comments left with an email address will be entered to win.
  • Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  •  Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.
  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway Riptide Publishing..
  • By entering you are agreeing to hold ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
  • Readers may only enter once for each contest. Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
  • Void where prohibited by law.

 

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Not What I Expected and This Week’s Reviews

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Doctor__NeedleSo, there I was lying on the hospital table waiting for the fluoroscope to start up and the doctor to appear to give me an injection. With a very long needle.  One the size of the Empire State Building. And of course, the first words out of his mouth are “well, this shouldn’t hurt very much” and my heart sinks.  Because between you and me, I have a long history with that phrase (as I am sure most of you do as well) and it isn’t a good one.

I can remember various dentist offices and dentists themselves saying that just before annihilating my mouth in a frenzy of drills and numbing injections that never seemed to work.  I remember vaccines and pops of cotton that, yes indeedy, hurt, even though the doctors swore up and down they wouldn’t.

And then there were the injections I received for rabies (8 of them at the time) that alternated sites, left, cheek, right cheek (not the face mind you), left arm, right arm, stomach…well you get the drift.  Oh the perils of being a park naturalist.  There have been ones for the flu, tetanus, and during anaphylactic shock, epinephrine.  I have had ones for antibiotics and ones for steroids.  Lots and lots of shots over time and always with the same result.  Shot then pain.

And you know what?  Each time, the doctor assured me it shouldn’t hurt very much.  And  each time it most certainly did.

drag queen sharon needles

knitting needlesNow I don’t have a problem with needles themselves.  I even adore certain needles, like my mahogany knitting needles or knitting needles of any type.  I also think the drag queen Sharon Needles is pretty darn awesome.  I even have a certain fondness for sewing needles even though I am hardly proficient with them.  They have repaired many a beloved teddy or tiger and for that I am grateful.

But medical needles, long, long medical needles?  I think not.  True they are necessary but I don’t have to like them and once more here I was waiting to be injected.  But first they had to find the right spot….yeah, topical anesthesia  doesn’t help there.  And yes, I felt that needle going in…and in…  and the doctor asked me…wait for it…did I feel it and did it hurt?  He’s lucky all I shot him was a glare. Cause yes I did feel it and yes, it hurt.  Argh.  And I am not, repeat not a baby about these things and I have a high tolerance for pain. But yeesh….they need to find something different to say…cause I am telling you that has truly gotten old.

So here I am, my hip is throbbing.  The doctor said I should feel better in a day…if the shot works.  Sigh.  Sometimes life is a crap shoot.  Sometimes you role doubles and sometimes snake eyes. And by now I really should know to stick to the needles I like when given a choice, and leave the others alone.  Because here is something I have learned over the years….when someone tells you its not going to hurt, run, run like the wind in the opposite direction, it’s going to hurt like hell.

Now for the week ahead in reviews.  It’s one terrific book after another this week.   There are two guest blogs on our schedule. One by the fabulous Abigail Roux for the release Shock & Awe.  And the other by an author whose books have always appeared on my must read list, L.B. Gregg and her latest release How I Met Your Father.  Added to that are two new books in series I just love, R.J. Scott’s Texas Family and Kate McMurray’s The Stars That Tremble and this will be a stellar week indeed!

Twas the week before the week of Thanksgiving…..

Monday, Nov. 17:   Texas Family by R.J. Scott
Tuesday, Nov. 18:   The Stars That Tremble by Kate McMurray
Wed., Nov. 19:         Guest Blog by L.B. Gregg for How I Met Your Father
Thurs., Nov.20:      Guest Blog and Contest by Abigail Roux and Shock & Awe release
Friday, Nov. 21:       Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Sat., Nov. 22:           How I Met Your Father by L.B. Gregg