Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

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Rating: 5 stars out of  5

City Mouse coverWhen Malcolm Kavanagh chased down Owen Watson in the middle of a train station and told Owen he loved him just as Owen was about to leave London, well that is the HEA moment always envisioned at the end of a romance novel.  But for Malcolm and Owen, life is what happens next.  For Malcolm, he is on new territory as he has never been in love or even a relationship before Owen.  Now Owen is living in his flat, and Malcolm doesn’t  really know how to handle things, even something as simple as eating breakfast together.

For Owen, Malcolm is the man he has come to love and stayed in London for.  Luckily for them both, Owen not only has experience with relationships, and a great Mom to ask advice from but Owen realizes that Malcolm has some growing to do and he is willing to help him through the precarious first steps of a serious relationship.  His mom said the biggest obstacle to overcome will be Relationship Armageddon, when you’ve reached the sixth week, the honeymoon phase is over, and reality sets in.  Owen has a new job, and patience, lots of patience.  But when the stress of Mal’s job combines with the strain of adjusting to a new relationship, will Owen’s patience and love be enough to help the couple struggle through  to a real HEA.

When I love a book the way I did Country Mouse, I always approach its sequel with a little trepidation, even with such wonderful writers as Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov at the helm.  You always wonder if the continuing story will measure up to the joy and outright affection you have for the original.  Well, I shouldn’t have worried, because the fates of Malcolm and Owen are in wonderful, capable hands and I might even love Malcolm’s story a tiny bit more.

Haven’t you always wondered what happens after boy gets girl or in this case boy gets boy in the romcoms in the theatre or on TV?  In City Mouse we get to see what happens after that wildly romantic gesture when Mal runs after Owen, catches up to him in the train station and declares his love for Owen.  Usually its “cue the music, close the curtains, The End” time but now we pick up the story two days after Malcolm’s declaration of love.  The boys are living together in Malcolm’s high end flat and Malcolm is getting ready to resume his routine, a routine that now must make  room for Owen in it.  And to say that Mal is extremely uneasy about the whole thing is putting it mildly.  This is how City Mouse opens, with Malcolm already in high stress mode:

The bad thing about a fictional Chinese prawns food poisoning was that it couldn’t possibly outlast a real one. Malcolm had done his research on the internet, and a real food poisoning would be over in a day or three. Another problem was that he felt guilty for having left the trading desk. He should be at work.

Oh, but Owen was so sweet in bed.

That’s where they’d gone right after the train station, where Malcolm (Malcolm!) had poured his bloody heart out and begged Owen not to leave. Bed. There would be time to hammer out the details later. Time to figure out jobs and schedules and Owen’s place in all of this? But Owen was here, in Malcolm’s penthouse, and that’s where they stayed for the next two days.

But today, he had to go to work.

Malcolm got out of the shower, shaved his maddening dark stubble carefully, and combed and gelled his hair until it would stay perfect for the rest of the day. He had one clean suit left, and the rest needed to be serviced. God . . . four days, five nights he’d spent playing. And now his life was falling apart.

Okay—that was a tad dramatic. But he did need to do some dry cleaning. And—

You can almost hear the hyperventilating begin….it’s funny, it’s realistic, and in its own way kind of heartbreaking.  I love the character of Malcolm.  He has so many mannerisms and attitudes built in to his personality that help to protect him from hurt and his past although he would be the last to admit it.  As written by Land and Voinov, Malcolm is a complex, flawed and, for me, wonderfully appealing character.  He so wants to be loved and for his relationship with Owen to work, if he could just figure out how to bring that about.  The authors make sure the reader sees Malcolm’s vulnerability even as he is spouting off nonsense about Owen’s less than chic address at work or the clothes that Owen wears.  Lane and Voinove make sure we see that there is a reason for Malcolm’s shallowness even if we don’t know just what propels it forward.  And the authors make us laugh while they are making Mal stress over something else that Owen has done.  Here is Malcolm meeting Owen at the coop he is working for.  Malcolm has entered the Happy Endings Little People’s Club adoption agency inhabiting the third level floor of the building:

Happy endings. Little people.

A world full of baby photos. Adorable infants. Blonde girls. Middle Eastern boys. Happy families. Kids cuddling teddy bears.

Would he make it to Owen before he developed diabetes?

“Hullo, luv,” said the matronly woman at the desk. She smiled up at him sunnily, revealing large teeth, slightly protuberant eyes, and a suit that dated back to the seventies. “Can I help you?”

He felt the beginnings of sugar shock just looking at all of that maternal goodwill.

“Uhm, I was looking for—” “Owen!” she crowed. “And you must be Malcolm. We’ve heard so much about you!” She pitched her voice to one of the hidden back rooms. “Owen, your boyfriend’s here. And you’re right. He does look like a snake that swallowed a lemon!”

Malcolm was shocked out of his irritation. “I do not.”

Owen’s throaty laughter emanated from the room, followed by Owen himself. “You do too, Mal, and you know it. Come on back. Thanks, Emmaline. I didn’t want to miss him.”“

Oh, I don’t think you could do that, dearie. He is very good looking, just like you said.”

Owen winked, his sweet brown eyes wicked under the fall of hair. “You don’t think I would have stayed here if he’d been homely, do you?”

I loved that interchange, it tells us so much about Malcolm and Owen.  Despite being out of his comfort zone, Malcolm has travelled into the *shudders* lower income region of the city just because he wants to see his lover. And Owen has already been filling in his new coworkers (and friends) on Malcolm, enough so that they recognize him before he introduces himself.  Lovely dialog, lovely and funny setting, and memorable characters all in one great scene.

Everything about City Mouse rings true, from the slow fumbling towards a real relationship that speaks of permanency to the authenticity of a tour through the many sections of London.  Owen and Malcolm do not have an easy time making their adjustments to their new status although Owen has more experience than Malcolm.  But Owen too has his own insecurities about his new situation.  A phone call or two to his Mom helps but only so much.  I do love his mother, she is such a great character of her own, she almost needs her own story.  But Owen never comes across as “too good to be true” to me.  He knows his limitations and Owen also realizes how much personal “loosening up” Mal needs to do before their relationship can grow.  Realistically, Owen hopes that it will happen but he is never quite sure that it will.  Again, a lovely testament to the writing skills of Lane and Voinov.  We believe in this relationship and the men involved because they are so real.  That “realness” makes it easy to engage the readers affections and keeps them connected throughout the story to the end.

City Mouse clocks in at 160 pages, almost twice the length of Country Mouse, and the longer story length was necessary to more accurately portray the relationship dynamics in play after the grand romantic gesture is done.  I don’t think a shorter version would have let us see into all of the problems and issues that had to be resolved before the boys could settle down realistically and happily in London together.  But time and type (and two wonderful authors) gave us exactly what Owen and Malcolm needed.  We get the joy and fun of watching two great endearing characters fight, cook and love their way to a more authentic relationship.  One that has a far better chance at succeeding than the point that we first left them at.  And that makes this book a real winner for me, and hopefully for you as well.

There are some scenes with a mild bdsm content.  Those readers uncomfortable with bdsm sex scenes should not have a problem with the content here.  It is mild and does contribute to some very hot love making between Owen and Malcolm.  Grab the fans, you will need them.

Pick up Country Mouse and City Mouse and have yourself a wonderful time.  Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:

Country Mouse

City Mouse

Cover Art by Jordan Taylor. The cover is adorable although the model is not exactly what I would expect of Malcolm.

Book Details:

ebook, 160 pages
Published March 18th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 9781626490 (ISBN13: 9781626490055)
edition languageEnglish
original titleCity Mouse
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/city-mouse
seriesCountry Mouse #2
charactersMalcolm Kavanagh, Owen Watson
setting London, England

Attack of the Planked Salmon and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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This year we have had a real, honest to God or Goddess spring.  The weather has been seasonally cool, with light  winds and rain as appropriate.  No snow (sorry, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan), no heatwave, just spring and we are not sure how to deal with this phenomenon.  How quickly we have forgotten that it is not safe to plant annuals before the first week of May.  And board shorts and flip flops won’t be needed really until the end of May or June.  But one thing is always constant. And that is that spring and summer always herald is the advent of  the grill season.

We started grilleing a week or two ago just as the weather started turning lovely and the ponds and small spring in the backyard called to us to come out and sit a while.  And up until yesterday, all of our grilled dinners were delicious and uneventful.  Then we decided that planked Salmon would be just the thing for Saturday’s dinner.  Off we went to Harris Teeters to buy our fresh salmon and asparagus, then home to soak the planks and get everything ready.  I had gotten another flat of red double begonias for the bed in the front yard (needed some extra pop of color), and the cedar planks were in the sink, soaking away.  We had the glaze mixed and ready to go.  When the time came, the salmon and asparagus cooked beautifully and perfectly on their planks and the meal was wonderful.  We sat outside, with our wine, salmon and Bogle Sauvignon Blanc, and dogs of course  and basked in the serenity of the gardens and afternoon sun.  Then my own special hell hit me with a ferocity that would make the Hulk blink.

You see I keep forgetting that salmon hates me or that my insides hate such a rich and fatty fish.  I can eat it about once a year but no more and I already had my one salmon meal earlier in March.  Oh the idiosyncrasies of my aging mind , yeay, that’s what I keep telling myself it is but really, I just wanted that darn salmon.  It started ominously just a  few hours later.  A slight twinge and a “oh no, maybe it will pass” thought.  But I knew I was not to be so lucky and by early evening, I was commode hugging, Bluto frat boy sick.   I mean I haven’t been that nauseous since my college days of Old Frothingslosh and cemetery running.  Don’t ask.

By 10:30pm I was actively praying to the gods of Bacchus or anyone else that would listen, to let me just die in my bed before I had to race back to the bathroom, hoping desperately to make it there in time for some more porcelain worshiping.   Willow was hiding under the bed, watching with great fascination, Kirby was racing with me, thinking it was a game and Winston of course was sleeping off his bits of salmon.  Oh to be a dog, eat some grass and go on about one’s business.  And finally it passed, leaving me a wreck in the bed, and thinking “never again”.  Sigh.

So that was the great salmon attack.  But for those of you lucky enough to eat salmon with a nonchalance I admire, I have included the recipe at the end of the post.  Try it out and let me know what you think.  We used honey and it was delicious but the maple syrup would be great too.

So here is the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday, May 6:                      Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling

Tuesday, May 7:                      Leaving Home by T.A. Chase

Wed., May 8:                           Shy by John Inman

Thursday, May 9:                   The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton

Friday, May 10:                      His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane

Saturday, May 11:                   City Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

So there you have it.  It looks to be a great week.  Now if I can just stay away from those oysters……

Here is the Planked Salmon Recipe from Epicurious.com:

yield: Makes 6 servings
active time: 30 min
total time: 2 1/2 hr
Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grainy mustard
2 tablespoons mild honey or pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 (2-pounds) salmon fillet with skin (1 1/2 inches thick)

Equipment: a cedar grilling plank (about 15 by 6 inches)

Cooking:

Soak cedar grilling plank in water to cover 2 hours, keeping it immersed.
Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas); see Grilling Procedure . Open vents on bottom and lid of charcoal grill.
Stir together mustard, honey, rosemary, zest, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Spread mixture on flesh side of salmon and let stand at room temperature 15 minutes.
Put salmon on plank, skin side down (if salmon is too wide for plank, fold in thinner side to fit). Grill, covered with lid, until salmon is just cooked through and edges are browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Let salmon stand on plank 5 minutes before serving.

Riptide’s Publishing Disaster Relief Effort for Victims of Hurricane Sandy

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From November 3rd to November 10th, Riptide Publishing is donating the 25% of all proceeds onsite to assist in the recovery from Hurricane Sandy.  If you have waited to pick up any of their releases, now is the time to do it.  Maybe you missed the latest in the Cut & Run series Stars & Stripes or The Gravedigger’s Brawl from Abigail Roux or need to pick up Heidi Cullinan’s latest Tucker Springs novel, Dirty Laundry.  Or are you overdue to go all gladiator for the latest books in the Rome series.  Whatever the genre, make your purchase go further than just your reading enjoyment, let it provide much needed help for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Go to Riptide Publishing’s website this week, purchase one or more books and go Red, as in Red Cross.  You won’t be sorry.  Here is the link for Riptide Publishing.  There are a gazillion (almost)  title to choose from and from a remarkable array of authors. Here are a few of the ones I have reviewed that you might have missed:

Read my review of Stars & Stripes  by Abigail Roux here, read my review of Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov here

Read my review of The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux here. Read Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino here. Read my review of Blacker Than Black by Rhi Etzweiler here .

Read my review of Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan here and all of the Josh of the Damned series by Andrea Speed, starting with Pretty Monsters here.  

Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Owen Watson is on vacation in London and overseas for the first time.  After his traveling partner and ex-girlfriend ditched him for a hookup, Owen lands in a pub drinking a glass of bad beer by himself.  He’s tired from playing tourist all day and he needs something to eat. Instead of dinner, he gets an offer for another drink and a night of sex from Malcolm Kavanagh, a bonds trader and sexual player.

Malcolm Kavanagh has been waiting for his “one night only sub” to arrive.  The man is late and Malcolm’s patience has run out.  When he spies the Yank at the bar, he decides to honor him with a night of mind boggling sex before kicking the Yank out the door before breakfast.  With 80 hour work weeks, Malcolm doesn’t do relationships.  He doesn’t have time. So introducing a tourist to the joys of BDSM fits into his schedule of sex with no commitments. But moments into his pickup , he realizes that the Yank isn’t falling into line as he should, and Malcolm is more than a little stymied.

Owen is open to a night of casual sex but it will be on his terms and not the arrogant but gorgeous jerk trying to pick him up. One night later and things have changed.  Malcolm is not quite the shallow, heartless top he made  himself out to be and Owen is not the innocent country mouse Malcolm supposed him to be.  The more things change between them, the more Malcolm and Owen admit to themselves how much they want to stay together.

Country Mouse is a delightfully sexy short story from Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov.  Really, can we get them to write another?  Because I loved the result of their combined writing styles and ideas.  The authors took two stock characters, the country mouse visiting the big city for the first time and the big bad city mouse with his experience and sexual prowess, tweaked it and turned the characters on their stereotypical heads.  And made us cheer for them, laugh with them, and hope that they have a happy future together.  Didn’t I say I loved this book?

While Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov have such difference writing styles, you can always expect great characterizations from them.  Owen and Malcolm are two such wonderful creations, beautifully realized in only 79 pages.  Malcolm starts out offensive and quite frankly not terribly likable. Owen Watson is an affable person but only so far and ends up being more than a match for Malcolm’s cocky attitude. As Owen asserts himself, we start to see a shift in Malcolm’s behavior.  This shift carries right into the heart of Malcolm’s character and the unlikable facade dissipates and allows the real Malcolm that Owen sees to shine through.

What was so sexy and hot was that the change in their roles starts to happen during their sexual encounters.  Malcolm is supposed to be this badass Dom teaching this inexperienced Yank how to be his submissive toy for the night only Owen has something or rather someone he intends to be doing before the night is over.  Let’s just say their expectations don’t play out exactly how either of them intended, much to their combined enjoyment and laughter.  That’s right….fun and laughter amid sexual hijinks.  In a story by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov!  Owen and Malcolm enjoy the heck out of each other and you will be laughing along with them.

Their relationship continues to develop as Malcolm takes Owen sightseeing in a nice series of scenes that  take place at different tourist sites throughout London. At each location, Owen and Malcolm learn something about each other as well as historical facts. As they grow on each other, so does the pairing grow on the reader until you take  them both into your heart. If you are expecting a angst filled story, this one is amazingly angst free or is that angst light?  Either way, it doesn’t matter. There is some angsty moments at the end as you would expect but it is satisfactorily dealt with in an ending that will have you cheering.

Grab this one up.  I always find bad boys so appealing but here both the Country  Mouse and the bad boy City Mouse crept into my heart and set up housekeeping.  Never thought I would say that about mice.  Drat it.  Now where’s the cheese?

Cover: Love this cover.  Cover art by Jordan Taylor.  Smart sexy and eye catching.  Just like the men inside.

Contest Winner, The Week Ahead and It’s Sidecar Time!

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What a great time we had during Series Week.  Great comments and new authors/series for me to investigate and read.  Winner of Primal Red is yganoe! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who commented.  Two cover artists I forgot to mention were Catt Ford and April Martinez! Love their covers too! Next contest up will be JL Langley week in October to celebrate the release of My Regelence Rake with a series recap, a author spotlight and a book contest for that novel. Plus I will be participating in the Halloween Blog Hop so stay tuned.

Meanwhile Maryland’s rollercoaster weather ride continues.  We hit another record yesterday.  The coldest July day temp ever recorded.  We had a high of 71 degrees F yesterday.  This on top of 6 more records, mostly for heat.  Hottest 100 degree days in a row, hottest day, hottest night…and then the coldest day?  All in the same month?  Climate change, people!  It’s real!

So anyhow, back to the week ahead.  I have been reading some really great books of late, and my review of one of them, Ariel Tachna’s Fallout will be posted on Tuesday. You don’t want to miss this book. So lets get to all the books being reviewed this week:

Monday:                             Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Tuesday:                             Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Wednesday:                       Notice Series by M. F. Raiya

Thursday:                           Pricks and Pragmatism by J. L. Merrow

Friday:                                 Reaping Shadows by Jamieson Wolf

Saturday:                             Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino

Now for the summer cocktail of the week.  Nope, still not cooking, more summer cocktails to come:

Sidecar (light, tasty, and packs a punch):


 

 

 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 lemon wedge
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) Cognac
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Cointreau or other Triple Sec orange liqueur
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lemon juice
1 cup ice

Directions:

Spread superfine sugar on small plate. Rub lemon wedge halfway around rim of chilled martini or coupe glass. Dip moistened side of glass in sugar to lightly coat outside rim of glass. Set aside.
In cocktail shaker, combine Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Add ice and shake vigorously until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared martini or coupe glass and serve.