Review: Closet Capers Anthology

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Closet Capers coverCloset Capers contains a series of stories revolving around mysteries or capers if you will.  From a riverboat gambler trying to find out who is trying to ruin his good name to a thief who continues to steal cans of coke from a office refrigerator and everything in between, this anthology mixes the romance with a little detective work to uncover new and different paths to love.

Closet Capers stories are:

Kitsch Me by Mari Donne
Leveling Up by Jude Dunn
Philip Collyer vs. the Cola Thief by Amy Rae Durreson
A Kiss in the Dark by Eli Easton
Calberg’s House Specialty Blend by Skylar Jaye
Small Change by Danni Keane
Lawrence Frightengale Investigates by Aidee Ladnier & Debussy Ladnier
The Whole Kit and Kaboodle by Ari McKay
Le Beau Soleil by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
Joie de Vivre by Pinkie Rae Parker
Made Good Under Pressure by Maja Rose
Tempest for a Teacup by Andrea Speed

I love the idea of mixing romance and detective work, how better to sleuth out the mysteries of the heart?  The stories contained within this anthology  run the gamut from a 1800’s riverboat gambler to a lovely story about a cable tv horror host and a missing Cadillac.  A number of these authors are unfamiliar to me, like Aidee Ladnier and Debussy Ladnier of the wonderful “Lawrence Frightengale Investigates”.  For me, buying an anthology means getting a quick introduction to authors I might not have found any other way and for that alone, it is always worth buying the book.  And of course, there are authors involved that I love, like Andrea Speed and her “Tempest for a Teacup”.  I loved that story, it was one of my favorites of the group.

Closet Capers gets off to a strong start, wobbles a little in the middle and finishes with the best of the stories included.  Here are my teacup reviews in the order they are placed in the book:

1. A Kiss in the Dark by Eli Easton

4 stars.  An anonymous kiss during a blackout at a office Christmas party disrupts Lester Lane’s life as he tries to figure out just who the great kisser is and why the person won’t come forward to admit it.  A cute story with adorable characters make it easy to overlook the fact that the reader can spot the drive-by kisser from the beginning.  Totally enjoyable and one of the longer stories.

2. Calberg’s House Specialty Blend by Skylar Jaye

3.75 stars. Lawyer Jonathan Mayer needs his coffee in order to function, specifically he needs Calberg’s Houe Specialtiy Blend.  But one morning Jonathan arrives to find that Calberg’s coffee shop is closed and his desperately needed morning cup of the Speciality Blend vanished with the store.  What follows is Jonathan trying to find out what happened to his beloved coffee shop and finding love with its former owner.  This story had great characters but could have used a little extra length to fill out the story resolution.

3. The Whole Kit and Kaboodle by Ari McKay

5 stars.  Dr. Grey Harris, history professor at Hartwell University has a mystery on his hands and it comes in the form of the new librarian, Henry Adams.  Grey knows that Henry is gay and the way the shy librarian gazes at him when Henry doesn’t think Grey is looking tells Grey that the librarian is attracted to him.  So why won’t the man go on a date?   The answer to that question is not only surprising but over the top charming as well.  Ari McKay has combined great characters with a intriguing mystery that ends up being one of the best stories in the anthology.  I am still smiling over the ending that is completely satisfying in every way.

4. Le Beau Soleil by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

4.25 stars.  It is 1855, New Orleans, and riverboat gambler François “Frankie” Deramus is hearing the first of the rumors that not only threaten his livelihood but his great love, the riverboat he owns and operates.  A gambler is only as good as his reputation and up until now, Frankie’s has been flawless.  But recently, some of the top gamblers have been refusing to play with him, referring to whispers of tricks and cheating.  Frankie has to find the culprit and quick before he is ruined.  Enter Michael Murphy, former soldier and now  private investigator.  Its up to Frankie and Michael to find and confront the person intent on ruining Frankie before the riverboat sails from New Orleans.  Time is running out but the attraction between the two men is running high.  Nothing like lust and mystery in New Orleans.  Moss does a terrific job in capturing the flavor of the times with the setting and secondary characters in the story.  I really enjoyed the tone and quality of the writing.  My only quibble would be the ending and the length, otherwise, great job.

5. Leveling Up by Jude Dunn

4.25 stars.   Game designer Adam Chandler is running late for his anniversary with Ben Randal, his partner and love.  Ben has arranged dinner for them at a restaurant and hotel downtown but when Adam arrives, he is mistaken for a man named Chandlis and the mistaken identity pulls Adam into a mystery he never expected, a mystery that also asks where is his lover?  Dunn delivers a sharp little story, full of likable characters and a neat little twist to keep us and Adam guessing.  Throughly entertaining little read.

6.  Kitsch Me by Mari Donne

3.25 stars.  Brian is obsessed with all things Hawaiian, including the hula dancer objects found at a store called Cunning Collectables.  But with his salary and the little money that his lover brings in, Brian and Craig are barely making ends meet at their barren little apartment.  Brian is curious about all the weird things that Cunning Collectables offers for sale, things like Lord Shiva in a tortilla or a tree trunk with a knot that looks like a Star of David.  A little investigating brings a most unexpected answer, and the trip of a lifetime.  Donne has a neat story buried somewhere inside Kitsch Me.  Unfortunately, somewhere towards the end, it just turns so unrealistic that you can run whole semis through the holes in the plot.  Up until then, it is a nice little story with interesting characters.

7. Made Good Under Pressure by Maja Rose

2 stars.  Awkward narrative ruins this story about Billy in New York City, 1926.  Written in a manner certain to bring to mind David Attenborough narrating a nature film, this peculiar style of writing makes this story almost unreadable.  Here is an example:

Billy’s just a glorified errand boy at the moment anyway, so after the day spins to a close.

Everything is pretty much, Billy cocks his head, Billy rolls his eyes, Billy thought that, Billy, Billy, Billy, and before you know it, the reader is so disconnected from Billy and his story that it almost becomes a DNF.  Unfortunately, one of the longer stories (or at least it felt that way), skip quickly over this one and head to the next.

8.  Tempest for a Teacup by Andrea Speed

4.5 stars.  One look at the young man asking for help, and private investigator Jake Falconer wanted to say no before even knowing what the case was.  Sarcastic, morally flexible Jake still ends up taking the case of the missing Morkie, much to his chagrin and his cop boyfriend’s delight.  Tempest for a Teacup is one of the shortest stories in the anthology but it is still long on laughter and full of memorable characters that will leave you laughing in appreciation even after the tale is finished and the doggynapper uncovered.  One of my favorite, I mean really a Morkie called Princess? That’s perfect.

9. Small Change by Danni Keane

4.75 stars.  Dom is the site attendant for Little Lexington, a model village of endless charm and timeless beauty.  Dom makes sure that all the people, houses, streets, everything is kept in perfect order, adding new elements as needed.  The little village and its perfect unchanging order give something to Dom he has never had anywhere else, stability and an unchanging future.  So when someone starts tampering  with the little figures he has so painstakingly created, Dom is determined to find out who is upsetting his village and Dom’s life.  So sweet and a little sad, Small Change brings a different feel to the anthology, giving the collection a touch of pathos and depth that has been lacking up until now.  As the story slowly unfolds you learn more about Dom and his need for the stability of Little Lexington, meet the person who has brought change to Dom and the village and get a delightful ending too.  One of the strongest stories of the collection and a new author for me as well.

10. Lawrence Frightengale Investigates by Aidee & Debussy Ladnier

5 stars. Lawrence Frightengale, aka Larry French, and his lover cabaret singer Myrna Boy (also known as Nicholas Benson when out of drag) are getting ready to ride in the annual Out & About Parade in the classic black Cadillac El Dorado convertible. That car had once been owned by the original host of Channel 11’s Terror Time, Harry Ghoulini, the morbid magician.  Now Lawrence Frightengale is the host of the resurrected show and for the first time, he will be riding, along with his lover and cohost, in the historic Cadillac convertible.  But when the car is stolen, the tv host and his cohorts must find the black convertible before the parade starts or lose their jobs in the process.  Who would want to steal the El Dorado? Who is after Lawrence Frightengale?  The answers must be found quickly as the parade is soon to start.

Wow, this story is such a delight in every aspect.  I grew up with Count Gore DeVol here in the DC area but I am sure that everyone will fondly remember a corny dramatic horror show host somewhere in their past.  The authors Ladnier are careful to treat the horror show host with affection and in loving tribute to their shows.  These are fully realized characters, the setting authentic and the mysteries, yes two, nicely planned and resolved.  The main characters are endearingly quixotic and yet oh so relatable that the reader will be left wanting more of their exploits or at least their cable show.  Love this story and the authors.

11. Joie de Vivre by Pinkie Rae Parker

4.25 stars.   Jules, a chef, has inherited his Aunt Mathilde’s country home, a place he remembers fondly as his escape from his battling parents and a person to whom he was always accepted as who he was.  During the years Jules spent training to be a chef and opening his own restaurant, he had not been to visit as often as he wanted and now returns to the only real home he has known to settle her estate.  Aunt Mathilde’s house is in dire need of repair but clearly someone has been there after her death.  Her cat is missing and so is her box of recipes, so important to Jules as Mathilde taught him to appreciate great food and cooking.   Who has been in the house? And where are the cherished recipes?  The answer lies in Jule’s past and a motorcycle he hears in the night.

Again, another lovely story, full of the ambience of the French countryside and the love of great food.  Vivid descriptions bring Aunt Mathilde’s crumbling french country home to life, from the decrepit plumbing to the disaster they call a roof.  Jules is well drawn, the mystery man less so.  I wish that Parker had fleshed out all of her characters, not just Jules and the ending felt a little more realistic than the one that occurred in the story.  Still, the charms and ambience of Joie de Vivre outweigh the few issues I saw and carry the story into the must read realm it deserves.

12. Philip Collyer vs. the Cola Thief by Amy Rae Durreson

Rating 5 stars

The collection ends on a strong note with a story by Amy Rae Durreson.  Philip Collyer vs. the Cola Thief takes a everyday office occurrence, that of an office communal refrigerator and stolen food and elevates it with humor and and a touch of realism in this tale of one man’s obsession to identify the person stealing his cola from the office refrigerator.  The reader gets it when Phil’s frustration mounts when not only does his precious cola, the one thing he anticipates daily, is taken and not only taken once, but taken every single day.  The culprit is unknown but leaves post-it notes to taunt Phil with their absence.   While the culprit is easy to spot, his motives are not and when revealed are very surprising to all.  Phil gets over his frustrations and issues with the thief a little  too easy for me but still the resolution is nicely done and will make everyone very happy.

If you love a sense of mystery, if the detective in you wants romance as well as something to solve, pick up this anthology and sit back and enjoy.  There is something for everyone inside.

Cover by Paul Richmond is quite delectable, or should that be detectible, and perfect for the stories within.

Book details:

ebook, 282 pages
Published April 22nd 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN
162380650X (ISBN13: 9781623806507)
edition language
English
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
If you want to see what some of the authors thought, head over to Joyfully Jay where I am a guest reviewer.  Lucky for everyone, we will be seeing more of Lawrence Frightengale and crew in a full length story.

Endangered LGBTQ Youth, Books Proceeds, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Tis the season for winding down of the school year and various holidays,  Mothers Day and Fathers Day among them.  And while there are many families out there celebrating their love for one another, there are also many children, including 40 percent of LGBT youth*, who will be spending these holidays out on the streets, abandoned by the very families who should be their mental, emotional, and physical support.

The current fiscal situation at the Federal and local government levels has been devastating to the few shelters currently operating and a hindrance in opening new badly needed shelters and group homes.  In our area, a bright light has been the opening of a new LGBT shelter, Promise Place, on the Washington, DC/Prince Georges County, MD line.  But on the flip side, the Wanda Alston House is in dire need of donations and assistance in order to continue.  And the same can be said for the Ali Forney Center in NYC, whose outreach building was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy last year.

Every day we hear more about bullied or harassed gay youth in the  media, the politicians make speeches and little seems to be done at the practical level.  We  need more legislation, more enforcement of said legislation, and just an increase in overall awareness of the fragility of LGBTQ youth in our society today.

Luckily, there are a number of M/M authors who are helping the cause with donations of royalties from their books.  I will be listing some of them here.  If you know of others, please let me know and I will add them to my list.  This week, editor Kris Jacen introduced the anthology Lost and Found by Featherlight Press.  Her announcement and the book details are listed below.  I have not read it as yet but its on my list to do so.  If you have read it, and want to post a review, contact me.  Also listed is Sue Brown’s book, The Sky Is Dead, recently reviewed here and a must read recommendation for me.  Sue Brown is also donating proceeds of that book, here is her comment:

Thank you so much for the review. Your review highlights many of the issues LGBTQ kids face. The royalties from this book are going to The Albert Kennedy Trust, a UK charity supporting homeless LGBT kids.

And Kris Jacen on the Lost and Found Anthology:

From Kris Jacen, editor to various M/M author websites:
Hi all,
Some might know, others might not, but I’ve been working with ten very talented authors on an anthology entitled, Lost and Found. The book released last night from Featherweight Press. All of the stories deal have the theme of hope for those teens that are kicked out/told they don’t matter by their families for being who they are or loving who they love. Each author (and me) is donating their royalties to charity. Below is my editor’s note from the front of the anthology. I hope you pick up a copy or help spread the word so that we can make the most of the donation to help these homeless LGBT teens.

Lost and Found http://www.featherweightpublishing.com/ShowBook.php?YA=ANTH_LOSTNFND
In the Fall of 2012, DH Starr approached me about Featherweight publishing an anthology that he was a part of. It was a special project being organized by Michele Montgomery. All the authors wanted to donate their royalties from the anthology to charity. They wanted the monies to go to a specific cause—they wanted the money to go to a charity that worked with LGBT homeless teens.
The inspiration for the anthology was a picture that they had seen with the text over the image that said “40% of homeless youth are LGBT. The #1 reason they’re on the streets in family rejection.”
Once we got to final editing stages we realized, we didn’t know WHICH charity to donate the monies to. There are so many great charities out there working with LGBT youth that we weren’t sure which to choose. We wanted to make sure that no matter how much, it would make a difference. So the search was on.
I was pleasantly surprised to come across one that had the name of the anthology almost exactly—Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc. It seemed like fate talking to me and after speaking with one of the board members, I was convinced of it. You see the board member told me that the day before we spoke, they received a call from a teen that had been on vacation with his parents and when they found a gay romance on his eReader, they left him on the side of the road. Yes, you read that correctly, abandoned him for reading a gay romance.
Our hope is that with these stories, these teens realize that there are many out there that care about them. That no matter what anyone says—THEY MATTER.

~~~
Kris Jacen
Executive Editor
ManLoveRomance Press http://www.mlrpress.com
Passion in Print Press http://www.passioninprint.com
Featherweight Press http://www.featherweightpublishing.com

So I am making a list of books whose proceeds or part of their proceeds will be donated to LGBTQ youth shelters and organizations.  I know I am missing quite a few so help me fill in the list and send me the names and publishers.  Here are the first two  three books to start the list:

Finding a Dream coverFinding a Dream by  SJ Frost

Bullied and harassed at school for his sexuality, Dillon Davis can’t see his life getting any better, but he can see it getting worse. Depressed, wounded in spirit and body, he’s nearing a point of hopelessness, until he sees a picture of his favorite stage actor, Brandon Alexander, with his partner, Shunichi Miyamoto. At learning Shunichi runs a karate dojo, a spark of hope comes to Dillon of learning to defend himself, and most of all, meeting Brandon.

Brandon Alexander is filled with compassion for Dillon the moment he meets him. He knows all too well what it’s like to be scorned for being gay. He and Shunichi want nothing more than to help him, but when Dillon never returns to the dojo, they fear what’s happened to him

Per SJ Frost: “Kris Jacen and I are donating our royalties from this story to The Trevor Project.It’s with the support of all who buy this book that we’re able to do this, and from both of us to you, thank you, so very much, for joining with us in giving to those in need.”

ebook, 79 pages

Published December 28th 2010 by MLR Press
ISBN139781608202829
edition languageEnglish
original titleFinding a Dream
settingChicago, I

 

 

Lost and Found coverLost and Found Anthology:

Lost and Found (from the Goodreads website):
by Kris Jacen (Editor), MF Kays, T.A. Webb (Goodreads Author), Tabatha Hart, Dakota Chase, Caitlin Ricci (Goodreads Author), Jeff Erno (Goodreads Author), D.C. Juris
*Some statistics say that 40% of all homeless teens are GLBT. They’re on the streets after their families have thrown them away, told them that they don’t matter, that they’re not normal. Well, guess what? Those families are wrong. This collection of stories by ten talented authors spans the spectrum (historical, paranormal, transgender, cutter, gay) to show that – it’s okay, there are people out there that care, and these teens are perfect just the way they are.

All royalties from this anthology are being donated to Lost-n-Found Youth in Atlanta, Georgia. A wonderful charity working with these teens, helping them find their new place and get on their feet.
Paperback, 421 pages
Expected publication: May 31st 2013 by Featherweight Press
ISBN139781608208661
urlhttp://www.featherweightpublishing.com/ShowBook.php?YA=ANTH_LOSTNFND

The Sky Is Dead coverThe Sky is Dead by Sue Brown:

Danny is young, gay, and homeless. He lives in the park, preferring to avoid attention, but when thugs confront a stranger, Danny rushes to his rescue. He and the would-be victim, Harry, form a cautious friendship that deepens months later, when Harry persuades Danny to visit his home. Daring to believe he has found happiness, Danny finds his world turned upside down yet a…more
ebook, 232 pages
Published April 17th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781623806088
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

And now the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday, May 20:               Breaking The Devil by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, May 21:                Noah by Ben Ryder

Wed., May 22:                     Still by Mary Calmes

Thursday, May 23:             Closet Capers Anthology

Friday< May 24:                  Isle of Where? by Sue Brown

Saturday, May 25:               Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger

April 2013 Book Reviews

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Unbelievably, today is the last day  in April and the start of something new for Scattered Thoughts.  I am going to post a summary of each months books reviews on the last day of the month.  Hopefully, this will make it easy to find a new book to read, a book review you might have missed or a book you just might want to reconsider.  It also helps me gather my  Scattered Thoughts when it comes to the year’s Best of in  December.

It was a very good month, with some remarkable stories from new authors and beloved writers and everyone in between.  Trust me, there really is something for everyone here this month:

April Header

           April 2013 Review Summary

5 Star Rating:

Collusion by Eden Winters

On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Beautiful Disaster by Willa Okati (4.25)

Brute by Kim Fielding (4.5)

Fire For Effect by Kendall McKenna (4.5)

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick (4.75)

Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune (4.5)

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout

by Andrea Speed (4.25)

Loving Hector by John Inman (4.25)

Masked Riders by Lucius Parhelion (4.5)

The Fight Within by Andrew Grey (4.5)

The Good Fight by Andrew Grey (4.75)

Unearthing Cole by A.M. Arthur (4.25)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie (3.75)

Love You Like A Romance Novel by Megan Derr (3.5)

Sensei by Karenna Colcroft (3)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Astral Mage by Hurri Cosmo (2.75)

Review: Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout by Andrea Speed

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Rating 4.25 stars for the book

Rating: 4.5 stars for the Josh of the Damned series

Josh of the Damned The Final CheckoutJosh Caplan, night clerk of the Quik-Mart was sure he was going to be fired after he (and his friends) stopped the Quik-Mart Corporate offices from opening a store in the hell dimension world called Dev.  But when he showed up for work, everything thing seemed normal or as normal as it can be when the convenience store you work in is next to a hell portal that  opens each night to let all sorts of amazing and hellish creatures come through to visit the store.  From werewolves in the parking lot, zombies needing a meat burrito to a lovesick Yeti, Josh Caplan has seen it all come and go on a regular basis.  Of course, Josh also has a handsome, cool vampire boyfriend named Colin and a less than competent necromancer, Mr. Kwon, as a boss.
But once a CEO, especially a jerk of a CEO like Clark Ryan IV, has an idea in his head, you just know that trouble is coming and it does.  In the last of the Josh of the Damned series, Josh, Colin, Mr Kwon and Bobo the Yeti must face a triple feature of threats to the Quik-Mart as well as all humanity and win.  Among those our intrepid group faces is a giant slug, Medusa’s sisters and of course the worst of all, corporate America.  But as Josh has said before “Dude, I’ve said it like a dozen times! Think of me as the minimum wage Gandalf —you shall not pass.”  And how can you not believe him?

I love, love this series.  I mean, it has it all. Josh Caplan, a night clerk so intrepid by nature, that he moves through life with an acceptance and ease that is almost shocking if it wasn’t’ so delightful. And he has plenty to keep him company from his stoner roommate, Doug, vampire boyfriend, Colin, Necromancer boss, Mr. Kwon, superboss, Medusa, lovesick compatriot Bobo, Gary the Tooth Fairy, and so many more.  Each more fantastic, sarcastic, and outrageous than the next.  In The Final Checkout,  Andrea Speed gives us the final 3 chapters in the Josh saga which of course revolves around the Quik-Mart Corporation’s plan to open a branch in the hellworld, Dev.

When I try to come up with reasons why I have taken this series to heart, the more obvious ones are front and center.   Andrea Speed’s humor which is evident in every aspect of the series, from the names (Kevin the Vampire Slayer to Harvey Mangoat to Gary the Tooth Fairy, just hysterical) to the small details such as Colin giving Josh a tablet because Medusa needs to talk to him and Josh assumes its an iHell (Dev’s answer to the iPad) because, well who wouldn’t?  It’s topical, sarcastic, funny as, well, funny as hell and yet, still contains a lot of heart, no, let’s make that emotion because well it just might contain a real organ or two as well.

Andrea Speed’s world building is perfection too.  Not too many details to bog down the story, just enough to make Dev feel authentic and hellish when Josh, Doug and Colin enter that dimension.  I also like that creatures that appear almost cartoonish in the Quik-Mart become more viably demonic on Dev, their home world, a lovely touch.

The truth of it is that it wouldn’t matter how funny the names or how humorous the situations, without characters whose vulnerability and endearing personality traits make them easy to connect with , then this series would seem a little hollow.  But not to worry, Andrea Speed brings the same detail she uses in her world building to constructing her characters.  All of her creatures, human and otherwise, are beautifully layered beings, with just those odd quirks that make them notable both inside and out of the genre.  You don’t have to tell me that Bobo is much more than he/she/it? seems, I just know it.  And Mr. Kwon, the not quite so capable necromancer who is afraid to tell his family just how bad his skills are?  Priceless.  Medusa and her sisters take sibling rivalry to the next level, while still making it oh so identifiable.

What can I say?  The plots are hysterical, the dialog giggle inducing and the characters (except for the corporate bunch) totally adorable. Please don’t pass The Final Checkout and this series up.

The three stories here are

1. Clerk of the Living Dead.  Zombies attack the Quik-Mart and Josh and Mr. Kwon must deal with this unusual occurrence along with the entrance of Kevin the clueless Vampire Slayer.  I think that this is my favorite of the three.  Josh and Mr. Kwon’s reaction to Kevin had me in giggles plus high props for the Buffy reference.  Josh gets a new bracelet or cuff as he would prefer we call it.  We find out more about the evil plot the Corporation has in store for everyone while Josh and Colin try to take their relationship up to the next level.

2. Plaything of the Gods.  Medusa needs Josh and Colin’s help in dealing with her sisters on Dev.  For the first time, we get to know Doug, Josh’s stoner roommate who delivers pizza.  I loved Doug and his assistance in things brought that “out of body” touch to the proceedings, nothing like a stoner’s viewpoint on Hell and its inhabitants to keep things “unreal, man”.  We also learn more about Josh’s new role as a Guardian, oh and there’s a giant slug that’s blocking the way to the Quik-Mart that has to be removed too.

3. Josh vs. Destiny.  The final showdown between corporate plans for domination and Hell.  Well, you figure it had to happen sometime, why not with Josh as our hero?  The CEO and its evil assistant Harvey Mangoat, (yes, really) vs. Josh, Mr. Kwon and his crew.  Timing is still everything and it starts when Josh and Colin are trying to have a romantic weekend, their first.  The course of true love or lust never runs smooth, and Hell is here to prove it.  Bobo is back (my favorite) to help in the final checkout.  Loose ends are tied up and Josh gets a fabulous apartment to have sex in.

I am going to miss these guys (and things).  I hope Andrea Speed can be convinced to give us a look in every now and again to see how everyone is doing.

The Josh of the Damned books should be read in the order they were written in order for the characters and plots to make sense.  Here they are in order they should be read:

Pretty Monsters (Josh of the Damned, #1)

Peek-a-Boo (Josh of the Damned, #2)

Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1 (Josh of the Damned, #3)

Night of the Dust Bunnies (Josh of the Damned, #3.5)

Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #2: The Final Checkout (Josh of the Damned #4)

Cover art by LC Chase is shear perfection.  I want a poster of it, really I do.

Andrea Speed also provides a soundtrack for The Final Checkout.  It’s amazing.  Listen to it here.

And finally, if this is your first introduction to the madness that is the Josh of the Damned series, read (courtesy of Andrea Speed) the opening pages of The Final Checkout:

Clerk of the Living Dead

There was an odd sort of comfort in just not worrying that you were about to die. Well, sort of.

Josh went home in the morning, certain he’d get a phone call about not bothering to come in for work tonight, that his last check would be mailed to him, but he was so unconcerned about it all that he just brushed his teeth and went to bed. So this was the end of his short career at the Quik-Mart—so what? There were plenty more low-income, no-hope jobs in the sea. Besides, he couldn’t have let those company guys through the portal, or reality would have imploded and everyone would have been killed. He’d picked the lesser of two evils.

When he woke up to find Doug on the couch, smoking a bowl and watching American Dad, his roommate told him there’d been no calls for him. Weird. Did it really take that long to get a message back to the home office? Or were they up to something? Since the portal didn’t open until nightfall, the home office was limited in what they could do during the day. He was sure this was some mix-up, but he got dressed and headed to the bus stop anyway.

Cindy, the early evening clerk, was finishing her shift when he showed up, and the Quik-Mart looked the same as always. She had no message for him, so he started working as normal, wondering if they were going to fire him mid-shift. Or maybe they’d be coming back with more guys this time? Not that it would help them. Bobo could probably crush the entire army, and with Colin helping, he could do it in half the time.

Colin showed up with the first lizard customer of the evening, although they weren’t together (well, as far as he could tell). Colin had a weird look on his face, one Josh figured was either worry or an upset stomach. Did vampires get indigestion?

Colin came up to the counter and pulled something out from his coat. It looked kind of like an iPad, only it was way thinner, black, and when Colin gave it to him, Josh discovered it was lighter than most paperbacks. Whoa, was there an Apple iHell now? “This some new kind of tablet?”

Colin shrugged and shook his head, sending a mixed message. “Medusa wanted to talk to you.” His expression was grave.

“So, what? This a new way to knock me out?” As Josh inspected the tablet for some hidden Taser nodes, the screen popped to life, and even though it was riddled with interference lines, he could see the brass figure of Medusa sitting behind her desk, wearing those same glasses as before, her hair rippling around her like it was caught in its own private windstorm, her lips so red it made her mouth look bloody. Her suit today looked to be an almost violent blue.

“Colin told me what an excellent job you did yesterday,” she said, her voice coming out staticky, but clear enough that the lizard in the chip aisle jumped and almost dropped his bag of Ruffles. So they all knew what she sounded like, huh? Maybe she broadcasted end-of-year messages, like the Queen or Lady Gaga.

“Um, oh. Well, he deserves credit, too. Him and Bobo. The Quik-Mart guys would have ignored me if they hadn’t been there.”

She smiled, but it seemed predatory. Her lipstick probably wasn’t helping. “Everybody received their due credit. As it is, Josh, I could use an agent who can work in your dimension regardless of whether the vortex is open or not. I’d say you passed the first test with flying colors.”

“Um, huh?” He kind of knew what she was saying, but he couldn’t quite believe it. Was this whole thing—from Medusa tasking him to stop the home office, to the stupid parking lot battle—a test?

“How would you like to work for me?”

Josh looked at Colin, but he stared back blankly, his expression giving nothing away. “Umm . . . do I have a choice?”

Her grin grew wide enough that it nearly threatened to split her face in half, and her snakes quivered like they were waving goodbye. Or laughing at him. “What do you think?”

Oh shit. Not until this moment had the job of burger flipper ever seemed so damn good.

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 29th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626490062
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/
series: Josh of the Damned

The Week Ahead in Reviews and Scattered Thoughts About Writing

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Sooo, here we are again at the beginning of the week and for me not much has changed.  I did manage to get several flats of flowers planted last week,  did clean out some clothes from decades past to give away,  and had my Dad over last Saturday afternoon.  Read some wonderful books, got a few new authors to add to my automatic must read list, and realized that spring equals moles holes and dirty dogs, so scheduled the terrors three for grooming.  Ah, plans…….

A visit to Good Earth Nursery yesterday saw me come home laden with more flowers to plant, where I have no idea but I had to have them.  For some people its shoes or purses, for me its plants and books.   Went to Johnsons and saw two Koi whose scales glittered like a disco ball while resembling a Dalmatian, so got them too while looking for Mother’s Day presents.  Haven’t named them yet, might not as that Great Blue Heron is still around to say nothing of raccoons and other fish loving wildlife that visit my yard.  I will give them a year and then see if I think its safe to bestow names on each of them.

Family will be arriving in a couple of hours, just to sit around on the patio, get caught up on the weeks events and happenings and munch out on appetizers.  So I need to get moving, those dips won’t make themselves and neither will the Sangria.

But lately several books have got me thinking about world building in stories, the importance of getting it just right, and the balance between too much and not enough.  Some writers seem to do it effortlessly, and for others it is a goal not achieved no matter how hard they have obviously tried.  So look for my post on world building in fiction later on in the week.   Now before I head to the kitchen and gardens, here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, April 29:               Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout by Andrea Speed

Tuesday, April 30:               April’s Book Reviews

Wed., May 1:                         Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler

Thursday, May 2:                 Chateau d’Eternite by Ariel Tachna

Friday, May 3:                       Scattered Thoughts on the Importance of World Building in Fiction

Saturday, May 4:                   It Takes Practice by Willa Okati

 

The last two days might switch around depending on how the week is going and how scattered my thoughts are by then.  I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and great week ahead.  Stay dry, stay warm, and if the days are as lovely as this one, stay outside as much as possible.

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013 – Authors, are you Listening?

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013:

While everyone has been busy making New Year’s resolutions, I have been thinking about what I would wish for 2013 in books.  Turns out I have quite a few wishes, some  I would like to share in hopes they reach an author’s ear or more…..

❋I wish that 2013 brings a new book from JL Langley, this one to feature Sterling and Rhys, her wolf shifters…boy have we been waiting for their story.

❋I wish that 2013 brings another book in the Knitting series from Amy Lane *cough Jeremy cough*

❋I wish that 2013 brings Roan, Dylan, Holden, and the rest back with a fervor because Andrea Speed is killing me with anticipation over what the virus is going to do to Roan next.

❋I wish that Josh Lanyon is relaxed and happy from his sabbatical and ready to unleash some new books on his adoring fans.

❋I wish that I finally have time to start and finish JP Barnaby‘s Lost Boy series.

❋I wish that when authors are describing human eyes, the term “orb” doesn’t even come to mind as a word choice.  Really, people, you are making me mental with this one.  No more “his adoring blue orbs”.  Do you hear how dumb that sounds?  Magical orbs, alien orbs, fine.  Human orbs, no. Emphatically, unwaveringly, absolutely no.  See my Vocabulary Gone Bad series.

❋Ditto man tits.

❋I wish to that Abigail Roux doesn’t hurt Ty and Zane too badly in her next Cut & Run series, but that probably won’t happen.

❋I wish to see fewer instances of “instalove”, more measured steps towards a romantic relationship.

❋I wish that 2013 brings new stories about the Roughstock gang (BA Tortuga) and see Sam further along in his recovery.

❋I wish that Mary Calmes gives us another story in her werepanther universe and Domin Thorne and Yuri, really love those two.

❋I wish that I start taking my time reading books I have been waiting for instead of rushing through them (and then having to start over).  Patience, I need more patience.

❋I wish that when authors put their characters through hell (rape, savage attacks etc), there is no instant recovery without any effects from the abuse.  If you are going to go there, then at least make what happens to these people realistic all the way through.  No brutal multiple rapes and then joyful snowmobiling through the countryside. This makes me crazy too.

❋I wish that Andrew Grey is as prolific as he was in 2012.  I need more  Range stories and Taste of Love series.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me finish and write the rest of the reviews for Charlie Cochrane‘s outstanding Cambridge Fellows series, really I have no good excuse for this one, time just got away from me.

❋I wish that RJ Scott continues to write in her Sanctuary series, love those boys and TJ Klune brings back more bad poetry from the Kid as well as the Kid himself.

❋I wish to see less rushed endings and more complete backstories.

❋My wish for Sarah Black is for the Pacific Northwest to be as big a muse as the American southwest has been in the past.

❋I wish for more great m/m science fiction.

❋I wish for more in the Wick universe from Megan Derr.

❋I wish for anything new from Laura Baumbach.

❋I wish to see Tucker Springs explode with stories from many of my favorite authors (Marie Sexton, Heidi Cullinan and LA Witt).

❋I wish for more of the Bellingham Mysteries from Nicole Kimberling and Bellski stories from Astrid Amara.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me discover more new authors I can’t live without.  Thank you, 2012 for RC Cooper, Amelia C. Gormley, Rodney Ross, Shira Anthony, Poppy Denison, Marguerite Labbe, Joel Skelton, Katey Hawthorne, Piper J. Vaughn, Cardeno C, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane to name the ones that jump into my fogged brain this morning.

❋I wish to thank those authors whose stories I have been reading for sometimes for the continued enjoyment and hours of escape you have given me and so many other readers…..Ariel Tachna, Ethan Day, Anne Tenino, James Buchanan, SJ Frost, Josephine Myles, Willa Okati, Carole Cummings, Isabelle Rowan, Kate Steele, Lynn Lorenz, and so many others (again fogged brain from late night and Redskins game).

❋And a final wish for 2013 is for people to remember and rediscover the wonderful Home series by William Neale, an author who will truly be missed.

So that’s it, all my pathetic brain can spew out today.  I am sure there is much more trying to battle their way forward but they will have to wait.  A shout out to all the couples in Maryland that starting getting married at 12:01am this morning. Congratulations and a Happy New Year.  I will be leaving you all with a picture of Kirby in his New Year’s finest, please note the black leis, a nice touch don’t you think to go with his tiara?

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Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2012

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What a spectacular year for great books in every genre from historical to fantasy! I have read so many wonderful books and series this year that it is hard to even begin to narrow down the list, although I have tried. What makes a book great for me? So many things, that it needs its own list.

The books I listed here are ones that moved me to tears and made me laugh out loud, they took me to places I have never been to see sights fantastic, miraculous, and awe inspiring. I have watched dragons soar and seen twin suns set over alien worlds. Through these wonderful authors I have met people who continue to stay with me through the power of their stories and the connectedness that I feel with each of the characters I have read about. Sometimes the books have taught me something about myself and how I looked at others or just gave me a deeper appreciation for my fellow beings.

I have grieved with men who have lost their soul mates, been with them as they worked through the trauma and loss, and celebrated as they moved forward with their lives. I watched men fall in love, whether it be with shifters, wizards, or just a man they met on the side of the road. Love lost, love found or lovers rediscovering the best about each other…that seems to know no boundaries as far as who you are and what world you inhabit. It doesn’t even matter whether the story is set in the past or goes far into the future. The authors and books listed here are ones that I cherish and return to often to visit with them once more. If you haven’t already read them, I hope you will add them to your list of must reads, as they are surely mine.

Oh, and by the way, this list is not complete. There are some wonderful books still to be released in the last two weeks of December, and there are some that I just missed from my own reviews. So look to see a revised list after the first of the year. Really there is something for everyone here. Happy reading!

Best Historical Book:
All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane (Best Series) review coming in 2013
The Celestial by Barry Brennessel
The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Best Short Story

Eight Days by Cardeno C
Fair Puckled by Bella Leone
Lily by Xavier Axelson
Leather Work and Lonely Cowboys, a Roughstock story, by BA Tortuga
Too Careful by Half, a Roughstock story, BA Tortuga

Best Contemporary Romance – Standalone

Fall Into the Sun by Val Kovalin
Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black

Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Good Bones by Kim Fielding

Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

Mine by Mary Calmes
Play It Again, Charlie by RC CooperScrap Metal by Harper Fox
Sidecar by Amy Lane

The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross

 Best Novels – Part of a Series

A Foreign Range by Andrew Grey
Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley
But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell
Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna
Cherish, Faith, Love & Devotion 4 by Tere Michaels
Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino
Full Circle by RJ Scott
Hope by William Neale
Inherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna (Best Series)
Second Hand, a Tucker Springs story by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux (Best Series)
The Journal of Sanctuary One by RJ Scott
The Melody Thief by Shira Anthony (also Best Series)
Who We Are by TJ Klune

Best First Novels
The Cool Park of His Pillow by Rodney Ross
Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
Inertia by Amelia C. Gormley (Best Series)

Best Supernatural Book:
A Token of Time by Ethan Day
Crucible of Fate by Mary Calmes (Best Series)
Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe
Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Infected: Life After Death by Andrea Speed (Best Series)
Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne
The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux

Science Fiction Books:
Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
The Trust by Shira Anthony

Best Fantasy Books:
 Black Magic by Megan Derr
Burning Bright by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Chaos (Lost Gods series) by Megan Derr
Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell
Poison by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Treasure by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Best Series – new books this year:
A Change of Heart series by Mary Calmes (supernatural)
Blue Notes series by Shira Anthony (contemporary)
Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane (historical)
Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux (and Madeleine Urban) (Contemporary)
Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels (contemporary)
Infected Series by Andrea Speed (supernatural)
Knitting series by Amy Lane (contemporary)
Lost Gods by Megan Derr (Fantasy)
Sanctuary series by RJ Scott (contemporary)
Sci Regency series by JL Langley (science fiction)

So Many Great Series, here are more of my favorites:

A Matter of Time series by Mary Calmes (contemporary)

Jewel Bonds series by Megan Derr (fantasy)

Superpowered Love series by Katey Hawthorne

Wick series by Megan Derr
Best Anthologies:

Three Fates
Animal Magnetism
Lashings of Sauce
Making Contact

I know that many books are missing but I just did not get to them this year, including JP Barnaby’s Little Boy Lost series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, and so many more.  Look for them in 2013.  Do you have a favorite I should know about?  Write me and let me know.

When It Comes to Understanding People or Characters Is Music the Key? Thoughts on Novels and Playlists

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When you are reading a story and the characters within are people you can relate to or commiserate with, do you ever stop to wonder why these fictional people seem so authentic?  How has the author made them so real to you that you cry over their pain and  or laugh in shared joy when they do? For me an author accomplishes this goal by giving their creations the same mental and emotional makeup (for the most part) that every person is born with. The fictional characters must come complete with a backstory as well as the same emotions, thoughts and behavior that we would be able to relate to as well as understand.  If they lose someone or fall in love with someone, it should be in a manner that we not only recognize and empathize with. Another way is with descriptions of  the items the character keeps around them.  It might be many things such as clothing, cars or even pets but I think music is a huge component. Music is a shortcut to helping a reader understand who this character is in much the same manner as it would when looking through a collection of CD’s of someone we just met.

There you are with someone new in your life and you are at their place for the first time. You are checking them out either as a potential friend or romantic partner.  Do you remember what the first, ok second thing, you looked at?  Either surreptitiously or blatantly?  For most people, it’s their music (and then maybe their movies).  Maybe you take a sneak peak and flip through their albums as they are pouring some wine,  or scope out their cassettes (don’t give me that look) when they are warming up the fondue? Who hasn’t quickly perused someone’s CDs on the sly?  Yep, done all those and more.  Perhaps you casually ask if you can put some music on while the appetizers/dinner/breakfast (you slut!) is being prepared and ask where they keep their music?  Another popular and subtle approach.

It didn’t matter what method you employed, the goal was the same.  Checking out the songs they liked and the bands they followed to see if you meshed with each others tastes. It was and remains an instant glimpse into what makes a person tick.  And god forbid you find that Tiny Tim album, Chumbawumba, or more recently Whip My Hair by Willow Smith.  Because, once found, never forgotten.  And that chance of romance? Dead and gone.  Because while you might forgive a friend’s lapse in judgement, the same can’t be said when first contemplating a romp in bed with someone who has questionable taste in music, for god’s sake. I mean what other secrets are they hiding? Clown shoes?

It was so much easier in the past to excuse that odd Tiny Bubbles cassette or Leonard Nimoy’s sings Bilbo Baggins album.  They could always say a past roommate or old boyfriend/girlfriend left it when they moved out or even the dreaded “it was given to me as a gift” workhorse.  There was always the possibility that it might be true and you could, maybe, give them the benefit of the doubt until later.  Didn’t matter whether it was albums, 8 tracks, cassettes or CD’s, those excuses were valid.  These days how do you explain away the fact they exist on your iPod or MP3 player? Hmmm, yeah, that’s what I thought. Can’t.

So I was thrilled/intrigued to find some of the books I was reading this year had playlists attached to them.  And the more I investigated and the more I listened to the songs and bands the authors included, the brighter the wattage of the light bulb that clicked on above my head.  What a wonderful (and underused) avenue to flesh out your characters, to give them a human dimension or layer that would otherwise be missing!

One of your characters is lost in memory as he listens to a Bach Violin Sonata 2 in A minor and it brings him to tears (Shira Anthony’s Blue Notes).  How much richer is that scene if the music is available to the reader to listen to as the scene unfolds?  Then the meaning behind the described emotions jumps into clarity, and truly you are literally in tune with the person on the page.  Or maybe, if you are like me, when I started reading  Andrea Speed’s Infected series, I was clueless as to who These Arms Are Snakes were and what they sounded like.  How could I possibly get a grip on an important part of Roan’s internal makeup if I don’t understand his music? And boy is his music a definitive facet of who he is.  The chance of Hootie and the Blowfish on his iPod? Zero. Because that is not Roan. Whether Roan was listening to Ritualz’ Baba Vanga or The Twilight Sad’s A Million Ignorants, if I know the songs, the bands and the lyrics, then I can access more of the character’s thoughts and headspace, in this case Roan’s. Both Andrea Speed and Shira Anthony produce playlists for their novels, but so does Katey Hawthorne (Riot Boy, By The River among others) and Josh Lanyon (Fair Game, etc) to name a few.

To be sappy about it, music is the rhythm of our lives. We access important memories by it, people and places are associated with songs as are significant milestones in our lives. Feeling sad? We have go to songs for that.  Want to dance about the kitchen as you bake brownies or making a roadtrip to the beach?  We have songs for that too.  They leap to mind with all the familiarity of old friends and lovers, and yes, we have music we associate with them as well.  I know just reading this has brought some of yours out before you realized it. So why not the same for the characters they write about in stories we love to read?  In Sarah Black’s latest story The Legend of the Apache Kid, Johnny asks Raine McGrath if  “You know anybody who sings like a bird with broken wings?”  And Raine replies “Gram Parsons….You can hear his heart weeping in his voice.” Then you listen to Gram Parsons’ singing Wild Horses and you understand, not just the reference but also the men in the story (and author) who appreciates it.

And that brings me to my final point about music, playlists and characters, the authors and their appreciation of the music they use to enrich their characters.  The authors I have referenced here all have a deep connectivity to the music in their stories that reaches beyond their characters.  While I don’t know most of these authors personally, I can tell you that Shira Anthony comes from a musical family and background as a opera singer from reading her blog and author notes.  Andrea Speed often tweets the bands she is listening to with links so we can hear the new indie group that has snared her attention. Music is all over Josh Lanyon’s website and Katey Hawthorne sent me a CD of the music that snarled like a sentient ribbon through Riot Boy.  And Sarah Black? Well, just read a paragraph or two and you can feel the love of old cowboys, the dry heat of the American Southwest and the refrains of old country songs to be heard from pickups as they head down the highway.  And without ever having met them, I can tell you how central to their lives is the music that sings to them and through their stories, to us as well.

All of us have a soundtrack of our lives, a list that is perpetually being added to.  From the earliest of childhood lullabies to a song we may have listened to and connected with as late as five minutes ago.  So why not have your characters have the same, feel the same way as we do about our music?  How much more relatable or realistic is Roan, or Johnny or Jules when we can hear the music that accompanies their actions and thoughts?  How much easier is it to empathize with them if we can understand their songs? To me it’s the difference between Technicolor and watercolor.  There is a rhythm, a song to everything we do and are.  The crucial beat of our hearts or the frivolous flip flopping of sandals hitting the sidewalk, that’s us. So let us hear the soundtracks of the characters we love and love to read about.  We are richer for sharing their music and they are more memorable for having it.

Do you have favorite novels and characters who have music associated with them?   Drop me a comment, or link.  I am compiling a list and am sure I am missing authors and titles.

To listen to some of my favorite playlists by authors, see below:

Shira Anthony’s website.  Look under books extras for the playlists for each novel (and Youtubes links)

Andrea Speed’s Playlists for all of her novels, not just Infected series.

Andrea Speed Infected:Lesser Evils

Katey Hawthorne’s Superpowered Love website. Link for By The River playlist.

Josh Lanyon’s Fair Game  playlist,  Dead Run playlist

Review: Infected Lesser Evils #6 by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 4.75 stars

“In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.”

When Roan gets a call from the police about a shifted Infected at Club Damage, that there are injured people, and the cat cornered in the club bathroom, he heads out to investigate and take down the cat.  But almost immediately Roan realizes there is a larger problem than just an infected cat on the loose.  The cat is dying and smells off, it has almost a chemical aroma to it.  Then another cat shifts out of  schedule and dies and then another.  The autopsy reveals a chemical in their bloodstream, a new drug that forces the Infected people to shift early and die.  Roan and the police force realize that someone has targeted all Infected’s and it’s up to Roan to find that person before they have a wave of cat deaths throughout the city.

Holden is also having a very bad day.  He is beaten up by one of his john’s and needs Roan’s help to get back to his condo.  But his john is not finished with him yet and an already anguished Roan takes on the role of an avenger something that is happening in greater frequency.  Because the infected population is not only being targeted by a drug pusher, a serial killer is hunting them down as well.  As Roan tries to find the supplier of the poisoned drugs and track the killer with Holden’s help, he also has to deal with increasing migraines and the fact that the lion just might be taking over.  It’s almost enough to make Roan want to die if the virus would let him.

Lesser Evils is the sixth book in the Infected series that remains one of my all time favorites.  This is quite simply a mesmerizing saga at every level starting with the central premise of an out of control virus. The virus is spreading throughout the human population with the disastrous effect of changing those infected into beings no longer completely human before killing them.  The origin of the virus is unknown, although the speculations include the most favored “secret government agency trying to build a super soldier” one.  But it could also include a feline virus not unlike the avian or swine bug run amuck.  I love the idea of a nebulous background for the virus although it remains to be seen if the author leaves it this  way or has something totally different planned for us and Roan.  Trust me, it would be just like Andrea Speed to have some utterly confounding explanation just lying in wait for us in future books.

The Infected series also includes some of my favorite characters, again starting with the heart of the series, Roan McKitchen.  He is an Infected child, born of an Infected mother instead of someone infected after birth.  Roan is also the only known child to not only survive but thrive with the virus inside of him.  But thriving physically is not the same as surviving emotionally or mentally and Roan continues to battle both his emotions and mental state as the virus mutates within him.  And it is this constantly changing state that Roan finds himself in that speaks to so many fundamental questions within us.  What does it mean to be human?  Is who we are internally, in our mind and soul tied to who we are physically?  If who you are physically is no longer within the realm of human specifications, does that outsider status remove you from the human condition and people all around you to the extent you can’t relate to them any more?  Question after important question is brought up but the answers are constantly evolving as is Roan.  I love the high level of complexity here and the fact that with each book, who and what Roan is becoming more bewildering and convoluted as well.

Just as there are no “reasonably” simple human beings, you won’t find them within these pages either.  This includes Holden Fox, another favorite. Holden started out as a high priced hooker but now seems to be evolving into Roan’s investigative partner and fellow vigilante when necessary. He is not just familiar with the dark underbelly of society, but is a top denizen there.  His outlook is a needed contrast to Dylan, Roan’s artist husband and part time bartender.  Dylan, another beautifully layered portrait, loves Roan and is trying to accept the changes he sees in him.  Dylan also is in the unpleasant role of being the one man who can never quite measure up to Roan’s true love, Paris Lehane and now must live with a ghost always present in their relationship. And then there are all the characters that circle around Roan, from the hockey players (Grey, Scott, Tank…all memorable) to Seb and Drop Kick, the police officers Roan works with.  There is no such thing as a cardboard character in a Andrea Speed novel.

Lesser Evils tackles several problems at once, much the same as the other stories.  One strand that is running through the last few books is that there seems to be a mysterious organization, perhaps one with white supremacists, that is targeting Infecteds, trying to wipe them out by various methods, in this case by poisoning a favored club drug.  Only those infected by the virus die and die horribly.  So Roan, the police, FBI and others are trying to track the source of the drug to its manufacturer in a race that also includes a antidote as more and more die on the streets.  In addition, someone is hunting the Infecteds like big game and the police with a couple of exceptions don’t seem to be taking this as seriously as they would if the serial killer was hunting “people”.  This infuriates Roan as he starts to feel like he must take the “savior” role he has always avoided.

As Andrea Speed pulls all these threads together, she also weaves Roan’s torment over his changing physical and mental state into the pattern as well.  The lion inside is coming out more and more and Roan is struggling with his emotions and temper to the point he thinks Dylan is in danger.  We feel his anger, the level of his depression and even his rage at those who remain unconcerned and removed from the plight of the Infected.  The author forces us to think about what makes us who we are as Roan loses the certainly we take for granted.  The virus also seems to be protecting him in startling ways even as it is morphing him into  something the world has never seen before.  And with increasing dread, we “hear” as the government starts to talk about making Infecteds register themselves, which sounds like a precursor to concentration camps, for their own good of course.  As I stated, so many elements are in play here, and the future for  all is becoming increasingly muddied. Especially for Roan, our most reluctant of heroes but for which race?

For even as Dylan reminds Roan that he is still human, and we know he is not, and Holden abjures Roan to renounce the human race and accept his non human status, Roan in his anguished, drugged state tries to find a median ground that probably does not exist.  And we are there with him for every angst ridden step he takes in the journey before him and the rest of the world.  And that is the cherry on top.  The tantalizing glimpses that Speed allows us to see along Roan’s path.  It’s these small windows that open up into a possible future for Roan and the other Infecteds that give me shivers and make me undeniably one of her biggest fans even when she leaves me and all the other readers hanging as she does here in Lesser Evils.  Yes, even as we find out the new mutations the virus has caused in Roan, it also has a debilitating effect on him that turns into a cliffhanger at the end.  *Head desk*.  Roan pulls out all the deepest emotions in the reader because he is so well crafted, that he becomes real to us which makes the cliffhanger at the end so frustrating because we need to know what happens next.  Sigh.

As I have commented on how much I dislike cliffhangers in other books, so that is the reason my head pounded when I found it here.  So as we wait for Dreamspinner Press to bring out the next in the series and for this situation with Roan in the hospital to be resolved, I will placate myself by going back to the beginning and starting to read the series all over again, looking for new clues I might have missed, and uncovering elements the author may have hidden away.  So even with the dreaded cliffhanger in place, grab this one up.  Or if you are new to the series, go back to the beginning and become acquainted with  one of the most complex and enthralling characters to cross a page.

Andrea Speed also compiles a playlist for each book.  They can be found at her website In Absentia. Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the saga:

Infected: Prey

Bloodlines

Life After Death

Freefall

Shift 

Lesser Evils

Cover: Cover by Anne Cain is just magnificent.  The cover art is available for download as screensavers at Andrea Speed’s website.

It’s Thanksgiving and the Week Ahead!

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Hard to believe I will be cooking away starting Wednesday.  I have pies to bake, and a fresh turkey and stuffing that need my attention.  There are some last minute things to get like the pears and baby arugula for the salad.  I know it never gets eaten as the focus is on the bird so it will only be a small salad this year.  The mashed potatoes and fresh green beans are the domain of my mother and the mango cranberry relish is being supplied by my daughter and her husband.  Things are looking good and I can’t wait to start smelling those wonderful aromas that mean family, closeness, and Thanksgiving.

This is going to be a great week here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.  We have some terrific books and Riptide Publishing is visiting for a guest post on their Warriors of Rome blog tour,  Love Spartacus or strapping gladiators in leather?   Don’t miss this one.  On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I am blogging about novel playlists, authors and the importance of understanding the music central to a character.  Trust me, it’s not as dry as it sounds when we are talking about  bands like These Arms Are Snakes or The Flying Burrito Brothers!

So here we go, a little percussion please:

Monday, 19th:                            Knitter In His Natural Habitat (Knitting#4) by Amy Lane

Tuesday, 20th:                           Warriors of Rome Blog Tour, Guest post by Sam Starbuck

Wed, 21st:                                   Review of The City War by Sam Starbuck

Thursday, 22nd:                        Lesser Evils (Infected,  #6) by Andrea Speed

Friday, 23rd:                              When It Comes to Understanding People or Characters is Music the Key? Thoughts on Novels and Playlists

Saturday, 24th:                          The Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

For all the Americans, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.  For everyone else, be happy and safe too!