Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

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 From Books, Audiobooks to Book Covers

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

Happy New Year! Looking back over 2015 I’m  amazed at all the changes here and marvelous tales that came to our door. I’m thinking about the new reviewers we’ve added,  all the wonderful books we’ve read, new authors we’ve discovered, and the way Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has grown in this past year.  Along with new reviewers, came new columns like Paul’s Paranormal Portfolio (his New Year’s edition is posted today), our Author Discovery along with all our author interviews and guest posts.

As the market for audiobooks has increased so has our reviews.  Even a audiobook virgin like myself jumped into the format and found that I enjoyed it immensely. What a surprise…for me!

I hope 2016 brings a new look to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, a few new reviewers to help us read more, listen to, review more about the thing we love…books! I hope we find more new authors to discover, and more ways in which to write about them and the writing process.

But before we move forward, we’re going to look back at the books and covers we loved best.  So here are some of our favorites. Free Dreamer is traveling, and Paul was working on his Paranormal Portfolio but some of the rest of us had our lists ready. Are some of yours among them?  Which ones do you think we left out?  And are there new discoveries among those we love so much? Check out our Best Books and Covers of 2015 below…

 

 

From BJ:

✪Favorite Books Read in 2015:

Captive Prince One and Two by C.S. Pascat
The entire Straight Boys series by Alessandra Hazard
The entire Guardians of the Pattern series by Jaye McKenna
For Real by Alexis Hall
Control by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Give an Inch by K.D. Sarge (because it was so cute AND it was written from my prompt)

✪ Best Audiobook of 2015:

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

✪Favorite Covers of 2015

Ghost in the Mythe coverFor Real coverSong of the NavigatorBurn The Sky cover

Ghost in the Mythe by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
For Real by Alexis Hall
Song of the Navigator by Astrid Amara
Burn the Sky by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Leythe Blade by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton
In Discretion (Ylendrian Empire, #3) by Reesa Herberth
Neskaya (Bittersweet Dreams) by Augusta Li

Leythe BladeSomething Like A Love SongInDiscretion_500x750Neskaya

I really admire original covers that are drawn or created specifically to represent that book so much more than those that just use stock photography…so here are some I love.

 

 

From Stella:

 

✪BEST BOOKS

Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane
Sacrati by Kate Sherwood
✪BEST COVERS
Sand and Gold and RuinThe Fifth Son coverCabin NightsACID coverStormBeforeTheCalm[The]FS
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
The Fifth Son by Blaine D Arden
Cabin Nights by Ashley John
ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck and S. van Rooyen
The Storm before the Calm by Cate Ashwood
✪BEST AUTHOR DISCOVERIES
Family of Lies Sebastian by Sam Argent
Go On Your Own Way by Zane Riley
The Rules of Ever After by Killian B Brewer
The Union of Sun and Moon by Gus Li
The Last Yeti by Tully Vincent
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

                                                                                        From Ali

✪ Best books:  These are my top 5 plus

The Subs Club by JA Rock
Darker Space by Lisa Henry
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan
Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux
A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

  ✪Best Short Stories:

Fawn by Nash Summers  **this was probably my favorite thing I read this year in this genre
One Perfect Night by Lisa Henry
Lima Oscar Victor Echo & the Truth About Everything by Suki Fleet
Ten Simple Steps for Surviving the Apocalypse by Cari Z
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert

 ✪ Best Covers:

 Sutphin Boulevard coverIn the Middle of Somewhere coverFawn coverStygian
Stygian by Santino Hassell
Fawn by Nash Summers
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins
Level Hands
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

From Mika

✪My Favorite Books of 2015

. Sunset Park by Santino Hassell & How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune. They are tied for me. I loved these books. (

Rest in any order
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Breakaway by Avon Gale
Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Definitely Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed
The Subs Club by J.A. Rock
Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk
Down & Dirty by Rhys Ford

✪Best Covers:

Conscious Decisions of the Heart civCarry the OceanTrust the Focus

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

From Sammy:

✪Best Books of 2015:

– Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
– Dirty Dining by E.M. Lynley
– The Wrong Man & The Right Time by Lane Hayes
– The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
– Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine
– Where There’s Smoke & Where There’s Fire by Cari Z
– The World in His Eyes by A.J. Thomas
– The Ultimate Team by Tricia Owens
– The Biggest Scoop by Gillian St. Kevern (A YA pick!)
And an upcoming release in 2016 that I had the pleasure of beta reading:
– Thorns & Fangs by Gillian St. Kevern

From Melanie

For me there  were so many. You really had to look no further than our best book of the month to see that.  Its especially hard in a year where favorite  series came to a finish.  Those were so tough on the heart.  But so were so many others. I laughed with these characters and boy, did I cry.  Sometimes, I did both at the same time.  Looking at you Renae Kaye and John Inman!
Alex Beecroft and Alexis Hall almost deserve their own section.  Beecroft’s Trowchester Blues was a trilogy so marvelous it was illuminating.  And Alexis Hall?  His words flow with a lyricism and magic  that make reading his stories a privilege.
John Wiltshire’s excellent series More Heat Than The Sun starts off with one of my favorite books of 2015, Conscious Decisions of the Heart (also Best Cover).  Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas trilogy which ends with my favorite story of them all, Eden Winter’s Diversion series (be still my heart) got a new installment that I’ve read several times, see?  I can  go on and on.  And I haven’t even talked about Astrid Amara who is on several of the other reviewers lists!

✪Best Books

The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2) by A.J. Thomas
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee
Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues #2) by Alex Beecroft
Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1) by Alex Beecroft
Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues, #3) by Alex Beecroft
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding
Redemption (Diversion #5) by Eden Winters
Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) by Sean Kennedy
A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy
Where the Grass is Greener (Seeds of Tyrone #2) by Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney
Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3) by Heidi Cullinan *loved them all
******************************
(Humor & Pathos Division)
Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye
Coming Back by John Inman
You Are The Reason by Renae Kaye
 ***********************
Four of Club series by Parker Williams (Pulp Friction 2015)
Jack of Spades series by Lee Brazil
King of Hearts series by Havan Fellows
******************************

Best Audiobook

Best Covers:

Theory Unproven 400x600Blowing Off Steam coverConscious Decisions of the Heart civWaiting for the Flood cover

 

 

 

 

 

Theory Unproven by Lillian Francis, artist Meredith Russell
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall, artist Simone
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding

 

Sand and Gold and RuinSnowman coverForging the future coverRunning with the Wind cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn's Law coverChasing the Swallows coverSomething Like A Love SongFirst Comes Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn’s Law by Renae Kay, Paul Richmond artist
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton, unknown artist
Chasing the Swallows by John Inman, artist Maria Fanning
First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony, artist Paul Richmond

The Sub Club by J.A. Rock, artist Kanaxa
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee, artist unknown
Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton, artist L.C. Chase
Trowchester Blues trilogy by Alex Beecroft, artist Lou Harper
Trowchester Blues cover

 

 

TheSubsClub_600x900Winter Oranges coverMy Magical Palace

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: Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Too Many Fairy PrincesKing Volmar of Vagar was dying.  Well, in truth, the King had been assassinated 100 years before, but hung on after death due to enchantments.  Now those magics have run out and the king will die completely.  But who will reign after him?  One son has been banished for treason, the remaining four will fight for the throne.  But fairy legends have always stated that the youngest son will win out, no matter the circumstances.  So  when their father, the King, gives them all one month to prove themselves worthy of the  title, the fallout is disasterous.   One brother starts wars, another assassinates the youngest hoping to take his place, and Prince Kjarten?  All he hoped was to stay out of the way and continue his studies but when Gisli, his youngest brother is killed by the second youngest, Tyrnir, Prince Kjarten realizes it is only a matter of time before his ambitious brothers turn on him.

When the assassination attempt happens, Kjarten flings himself, injured, into the mortal world hoping to hide. The fairy prince has heard tales of the horrible humans and the nasty fate that awaits him at their hands.  But nothing has prepared Kjarten for the truth when he is found by an artist searching for the answers to his own problems and future.

Artist and art gallery worker Joel Wilson life is full of problems.  His ex boyfriend was a jerk who left him penniless and his boss who owns the art gallery where Joel works and shows his paintings is in financial trouble.   In fact, that financial trouble involves loan sharks and other assorted criminals. Joel doesn’t know what to do.  Then he finds an elf lying injured in an alleyway near his home and everything changes.  Can a mortal artist and a elf prince pull together to save the kingdom and find true love?

Magical, funny and absolutely absorbing.  Those are the words that spring to mind when asked to describe my feelings after reading Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft.  So many things to love about this book.  First off?  Alex Beecroft keeps me off center with her characters.  They aren’t what I expect them to be.  And that’s at any point in time during the narrative. An elf  prince?  Why, gorgeous and etheral of course.  But also self centered, isolated (by choice) so completely from his family that other important events escape him completely? That’s Kjarten too.  Somewhat arrogant and cruel, although less so than his brothers? Check.  Not exactly your normal fictional elf. Or maybe he is if you return to the old ways of thinking about the Fae.  Then the personalities of Kjarten ring true.

But nothing about the characters you will meet within these pages are static portraits.  No, these beings grow and change before your eyes, their natures metamorphosing along with the events, while still staying true to who they are at the most basic.  Beecroft’s characterizations are marvelous and not just the elves either.  From the Queen of England to the remarkable Joel Wilson, her human beings are more than a match for any elf, or goblin as the case may be.  I loved them all too.  It is so easy to become invested in all these people, elf and human alike because the author has made the reader an intimate companion to them and their worlds.  She brings us into their thoughts and hearts so that their vulnerability and insecurities help engage our affections immediately.  And her worlds? Magical as well as mundane.

World building is also a creative gift and Alex Beecroft has that in spades too.  I loved the kingdom of Vagar.  Ok, I didn’t love it.  Its hateful and cold.  But its also fascinating and full of creatures to amaze and wonder at.  Including a dead king who is still around to muck up things for the kingdom.  Here is King Volmar:

“Now we can start.” “Thank you for that, youngest,” King Volmar of Vagar said in a dry voice, as Kjartan slipped into his place below Bjarti, with a whisper of silk and a curling trace of the scent of honeysuckle. “Since Kjartan has taken up all the time I had set aside in which to do this gently, I shall do it harshly and blame him.”

No change there, Kjartan thought, watching a new-hatched moth make its way out of his father’s mouth and fly towards the light of the sea.

“Today,” the king went on, stopping carefully between each phrase to reinflate his lungs, “marks the hundredth anniversary of my execution by the sea-people, at the instigation of your exiled brother Dagnar. I like to think that the intervening years have rubbed their faces in the fact that they didn’t win that one.”

He paused to wipe a cobweb from his left eye. “However, it seems the magic sustaining me can only do so much, and I have…” a court mage leaned down to whisper in his ear, “… only a month or so left.”

“No!” cried Gisli, apparently quite genuinely. “Father!”

Kjartan and Tyrnir shook their heads, one fondly, one in irritation. Bjarti just waited to find out what would happen next.

“So each of you has one month,” the king continued, unmoved, “to prove himself worthy of inheriting the throne.” As he wiped more moth larvae from his lips, his eyelids closed, apparently by themselves. He dragged them open wearily. “There was meant to be more pomp and ceremony, but Kjartan spoiled that. So off you go. Do something impressive, come back in a month and a day with proof, and I will decide between you.”

The King is literally being cocooned before their eyes, moth larvae spinning inside him, cobwebs flowing over his features.  At one point, a servant licks the king’s eyeballs to give them moisture.  Everything about the king is both repellent and compelling.  A marvelous portrait in every way, a true mxture of evil and promise.  And we see this type of thing over and over again in this story.

The human world is just as vibrant as the elf one.  Life is not always kind to the people there either.  And one can be a human and be as isolated from those around him by choice as an elf prince.  Beecroft manages to draw comparisons between two very different individuals and their backgrounds with subtlety and finesse.

This book grabbed me from the start.  I  laughed, gasped and wholeheartedly fell in love with all the characters involved here.  And I loved the ending too, something that seems to be missing from so many stories these days.  So while I was sorry to leave their company, I loved the way in which the author tied up the loose ends.  I heartedly recommend this  book.  It’s terrific.  Run, don’t walk, and pick it up.

Cover by Lou Harper is just perfect.  I loved it as much as i did the story.  Great job.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: November 5th 2013 by Samhain Publishing
ISBN13 B00D89OG9G
edition language English

Time to give Thanks and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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This is Thanksgiving week for those of us in the United States and for Americans abroad.  It is a holiday associated with family and friends, get togethers and dinners surrounded by those we love.  Traditionally it is also a time we give thanks for the things we have, from health and happiness to work and a place to live and call our own.   These are things that we may take for granted and others are bereft of.  Some by choice, others by force, and many more by fate and a fluctuating economy that seems to favor the wealthy while leaving the rest behind.

Here are some agencies and shelters that could use our help in these times of need.  Notice the scarcity of LGBTQ shelters, including the lack of one in the DC Metro area:

LGBT Shelters:

  • Ali Forney Center:

The mission of the Ali Forney Center “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website: http://www.aliforneycenter.org.

  • Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc.:

Lost-n-Found is the outgrowth of Saint Lost and Found, an LGBT homeless youth fund project of the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Founded by Rick Westbrook, Art Izzard, and Paul Swicord after each of them experienced being turned away when attempting to place queer youth into local shelters and youth aid programs, the three resolved that something needed to be done to address the immediate need.  Their website: http://lostnfoundyouth.org/

Food Banks:

Most areas have several  food banks in need of canned goods and nonperishables this year.   Here are some in the Metro DC Area:

There are so many worthy organizations out there competing for your attention and assistance.  If you aren’t sure of the organization’s viability as a charity, check with the Charity WatchDog Group with the American Institute of Philanthropy which lists the tops organizations with regard to the amount of money that goes directly to the charity involved.  Here is the link http://www.charitywatch.org/toprated.html.

If you know of other LGBT  youth shelters or organizations I have left out, please forward the information to me for future use.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.  I have a wonderful week ahead in reviews.  This includes Astrid Amara’s wonderful story Sweet and Sour, Eden Winter’s Corruption, a great anthology, an enchanting fantasy by Alex Beecroft and a timely new release and author blog by Ally Blue that focuses around the relationship of two men who are homeless, Long The Mile:

Monday, Nov. 25:        Corruption by Eden Winter
Tuesday, Nov. 26:        Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara
Wed., Nov. 27:              Bar None Anthology
Thurs., Nov. 28:            Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft,  HappyThanksgiving!
Friday, Nov. 29:            Ally Blue Author Spotlight and Guest Blog for Long The Mile
Sat. Nov. 30:                  Long The Mile by Ally Blue

September 2013 Summary of Reviews

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September and Fall

September 2013 Book Review Summary

What a wonderful month it was for books and reviews!  Most of the books I read fell into the 5 and 4 star category, a few into the  3 star and none below that.  Series predominated the ratings this time.  Most notably the series offerings from the Pulp Friction authors. There 3d-person-sit-pile-books-reading-book-26141531were new books in well established series such as Katey Hawthorne’s Superpowered Love series as well as followup stories and new series  from such talented authors such as Kendall McKenna (The Tameness of the Wolf series) and Aleksandr Voinov (Memory of Scorpions series).

Other new series includes Poppy Dennison’s Pack Partners , Cat Grant’s Bannon’s Gym) and Harper Kingsley’s Heroes and Villains series too.  My cup (and yours) runneth over with series, all promising more great stories featuring characters we have come to love. And believe it or not, October is starting the same way!  What a fall!

So grab a pen or notebook and jot down those books and authors you may have missed the first time around.  I have linked my review to each one listed.  Happy Reading!

5 Star Rating:

Crucify (Triple Threat #4) by L.E. Harner
Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne (supernatural)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2) by L.E. Harner (contemporary)
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Accidental Alpha (Pack Partners #1) by Poppy Dennison (4.5 stars)(supernatural)
Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant (4.5 stars)(contemporary)
Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon (4 stars) (fantasy)
City Knight (City Knight #1) by T.A. Webb (4 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Heroes and Villains (Heroes and Villains #1) by Harper Kingsley (4 stars)(supernatural)
Sonata by A.F. Henley (4.5 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Summer Lovin’ Anthology (4.75 stars out of 5) (contemporary)
The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft (4 stars)(historical)
Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L.E. Harner (4.5 stars)(contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz (3.75 stars)(historical)
Roughstock: Blind Ride, Season One by BA Tortuga (3 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating: none

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: none

Review: The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Crimson Outlaw coverVali Florescu, heir to a powerful local boyar, is determined that his beloved sister will not have to marry the much older, scarred man their father has betrothed her to.  So he hatches a plan to upset the wedding, but everything goes awry, leaving Vali imprisoned by an enraged father.  Escaping, Vali flees instead of his sister, hoping to see the world.  But that plan too fails when he is captured by Mihai Roscat, the fearsome Crimson Outlaw.

Vali finds his captivity surprisingly wonderful, falling quickly for the outlaw.  But Vali also finds that his father is far more cruel than he ever expected.  The villages and their inhabitants on his father’s land have been subjected to raids from his father’s soldiers, raids that saw villages burned to the  ground, women and children killed over something so small as an imagined slight.  Soon Vali is feeling ashamed to be a prince and his father’s son, vowing to changed his peoples lives for the better.

Mihai Roscat came from highly regarded, wealthy family himself.  But that family came up against the power and evil of Wadim Florescu, Vali’s father.  Almost all were slaughtered, leaving only 3 sons alive.  Mihal has vowed vengeance upon the Florescus and thought to punish the son for the  father’s deeds.  But Vali is nothing like Mihai expected, and when Vali helps Mihai defend a village against his father’s soldiers, Mihai’s affection turns into love. Together, Vali and Mihai vow to overthrow Wadim Floriescu once and for all.  Will they succeed or lose everything in trying?

Hard to believe that Alex Beecroft jammed such a sweeping tale into 131 pages.  Set in Carpathian forests of Romania, Beecroft’s story conjuers up visions of boyers, and Vlad the Impaler.  Specifically it is 1720 – Harghita County, Transylvania when the story opens up and the Florescu family preparations for the wedding of Stela Florescu to Ionescu, a war-hardened old warrior and important ally of Wadin Florescu.  From the vivid descriptions of the wedding finery to the dialog of the soldiers closest to Vali, Beecroft brings this time and place alive before us.  This is the start of the wedding procession:

It was the grimmest of weddings. Even the weather agreed, rain lashing down from a glowering sky, turning the red tiles of the turrets the colour of blood, gushing over all the balconies, and churning the moat to a froth.

Vali, with a sodden sheepskin clutched around his silken hat, escaped his father’s scrutiny long enough to dash through the puddles of the courtyard and catch up with his sister and her maidens before she entered the castle church. The girls gave him sour looks for stopping them outside in this downpour, but he didn’t care overmuch that the spun-sugar delicacy of their headdresses were drooping and darkening with the wet, and that their heavy gold-and-silver-laced bodices, their globes of shimmering skirts were sopping up water with every second.

They were uncomfortable. Well, so they should be, since his sister’s face was anguished and her eyes red with weeping. She had met her husband-to-be for the very first time yesterday, at a feast thrown for that purpose, and although she had concealed her horror fairly successfully at the time, it was clear to see she had not spent a peaceful night. Even encased as she was in so many layers of cloth-of-gold she might be a martyr’s mummy, he could see her shaking, and he was furious to know she was as frightened as she was miserable. Her voice was as raw as her eyes. “You shouldn’t be here. If Father sees you . . . Go back to the men’s side before you’re missed.”

Beecroft sets the scene beautifully for all that is to follow.  Laid upon these vibrant primal setting are characters that are perfect for the time period. Vali, the young impetuous prince, comes across as the thoughtless, yet well meaning young man that he is.  His is also a character who grows up as the story progresses.  I really liked Vali.   Stela, Wadim and other members of the court are harder to pin down and perhaps that is as the author intended.  Because the other characters that really come to life are the villagers that Vali meets once he is away from the castle.  They are more vibrant then the gray denizens we met at the wedding.  Again, I felt as though that was intentional.  The villages and the inhabitants need to be lifelike if we are to believe in Vali’s transformation from spoiled, naive child to realistic young warrior ready to overthrow his father.

The only issue I had with this story is the instant love that sprang up between the outlaw and the prince.  It was such a short time between capture and enrapture, and the prince’s sexual kinks aside, their romance needed much longer to percolate in order for it to be believable.  Vali’s affection for his horse seemed far more realistic than his love for  Mihai.   The reader must accept this instantaneous love affair for the book to really work.  Some of the readers will, others won’t.  That will affect how much enjoyment and satisfaction they will get from reading The Crimson Outlaw.

For myself, I loved Beecroft’s settings and descriptions.  Romania is steeped in tradition and legends.  Beecroft makes the most of both with descriptions as lush and layered as the land itself.  That alone made this story for me.  I love Alex Beecroft’s stories and look forward with anticipation to each new one that is released.  Add this to your to be read pile and enjoy your journey to the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania and romance.

Cover Art by Simoné, http://www.dreamarian.com.  This is the most amazing cover.  It is as gorgeous and vibrant as Alex Beecroft’s descriptions of the land and people.  One of the best covers of 2013.  Just outstanding in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 131 pages
Published August 12th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490536
edition language English

When a Name Hurts And the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Sport teams with Indian namesIts football season!  And like the changing color of the leaves its time for a certain topic to pop up again for discussion in the Washington DC Metro area.  Should the Redskins change their name? For years the answer was a resounding no from all Redskin fans and non fans alike.  But now the tide is changing….finally.  And more and more people as well as institutions are calling on the Washington Redskin organization and Dan Snyder to change the name of the team.

Sports Illustrated’s ‘MMQB’ site apparently won’t use the Redskins name any more.  Nor will  Slate Magazine (owned by The Washington Post Company), the online publication  USA Today’s Christine BrennanGrantland. They join the Piscataway and Oneida Nations, Mike Wise of The Washington Post, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, 12 members of Congress andKKK cartoon about the Redskins name a growing number of the nation’s population who find using a racial slur as a team name not only hurtful but repulsive.

Those old and racially insensitive rejoinders that hold that it’s an honor for Native Americans to be used as a title for a sports team and that “its not meant to be a slur” are not listening to the very people the name is denigrating.  They are not listening to the fans who agree or the many who have written and implored Dan Snyder to do the right thing and change the name.  No, it appears the all mighty buck is in charge as well as Dan Snyder.

The NFL and Dan Snyder say it would cost the team (meaning both of them) millions, maybe tens of millions in revenue to change the name.  Loss of copyright, loss of the proceeds in sales of Redskin memorabilia, and anything else they can imprint the name and logo on.  Plus in their eyes, other teams have names that are similar and they haven’t changed them.  What? Are they 5 years old?  Thats normally the age that uses that sort of excuse. I know they are talking about the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks, the Golden State Warriors and many, many more.  And guess what, those teams need to change their names too.

screaming football fanPicture for a minute all those mascots dressed as Native Americans, those cartoon logos that scream of another era, and the painted, feathered, tomahawk chopping fans that attend each game and appear on so many sports screens, sports extras shows and vids.  I am even talking about our beloved elderly Chief Zee, who first attended his first Washington game in 1978 and has been a semi official mascot ever since.   Now lets switch over and try to see it from the point of view of a Native American.  You  know, those indigenous peoples whose land we took, tribes we slaughtered, language and cultures we suppressed and who are still trying in every court in the nation to regain not only their heritage but the respect and recognition that should have always been theirs.  Pretty ugly, isn’t it.  Downright shameful, no matter how you look at it.

Hard to believe we are still arguing about this.  How do you justify the pain and hurt that is caused when a slur is treated as something acceptable?  InIndian Disrespected the past, it was the N word.  Now everyone knows that it is never acceptable to use or suffer the consequences (loss of sponsors, jobs, income, see Paula Dean and others).   The F word is rapidly going the same way, a fact that is long overdue as is LGBTQ rights.  The R word is just as offensive, although some people are still hiding in the past.  Just on the fact alone that Native Americans find this term, this word, not only racially offensive but disparaging and derogatory should make it (and other similar names) disappear from sports teams everywhere.  And although its origin and usage is in dispute*, the fact that most people now perceive it to be a racial slur should make its usage taboo.

What is it going to take for these owners and teams to make a change?  A Supreme Court decision?  Considering the amount of lawsuits in play that could happen.  But I would like to think it will be because the people spoke with their wallets.  So, NFL, MLB, NHL, the Redskins and Dan Snyder, you are standing your ground and won’t switch?  OK, then we won’t pay to go to your games.  We won’t pay to watch your games on Pay For View.  We won’t buy tickets, or team memorabilia.   Those expensive team logo clothes? Nuh uh. Those beer mugs and team flags for the cars?  Pass on them too.

This isn’t about RGIII.  I really hope his knee is fine and his career is long.  It’s not about Mike Shanahan and his team.  They are OK too.  Even that troll (in my opinion) of an owner, no it is about him, no question.  It’s about doing the right thing, no matter the cost.  So that’s why I will be waiting until the The Washington Whitiesname is changed to support a Washington team.  It could be the Washington Lobbyists or the Washington Scribes.  The Washington Lawmakers or the Washington Federals.  I kind of like that last one, it has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?  Certainly the Washington Capitals and the Washington Nationals didn’t seem to have a problem finding an appropriate name.  And if you want to look to a role model, look no further than to the departed and deeply missed Abe Pollin who decided he couldn’t live with owning a team named the Bullets with kids and adults dying every year by the gun.  So he renamed them the Wizards and went forward without missing a step, now that’s a responsible owner.

So I am sticking to the Washington Caps, and the Nats and maybe even the Ravens.  Who knows?  The only thing for certain, is that I won’t be rooting for a certain Washington football team.  No more red and gold for me.  They probably don’t care.  I am only a small voice but the number is growing.  Oh, to hear a multitude sing……

*Language Log: The Origin of RedskinAre You Ready For Some Controversy? The History Of ‘Redskin …

Team Caps with offensive names

Now for the  week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Sept 16:     Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner

Tuesday, Sept. 17:    The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

Wed., Sept. 18:          Superpowered Love: Reentry Burn by Katey Hawthorne

Thurs., Sept. 19:         Black Dog by Cat Grant

Friday, Sept. 20:         Crucify by L.E. Harner

Sat., Sept. 21:              Accidental Alpha by Poppy Dennison