Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words: Best Book Covers of September 2015

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Best Book Covers of September 2015

That blank book cover above doesn’t look very appealing does it? Would you buy a book with a cover like that? A great book cover should draw your attention to it, make you want to pick it up (or buy it), tell you a little bit about the story or characters, be intriguing enough for the reader to want to explore more or just be plain gorgeous that we can’t resist.  In short, a book cover has a job to do.  Some book covers do ok, some fail, and some exceed beyond measure.

As some of you may be aware, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words loves its book covers. Here are Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ Best Book Covers, chosen from the books we read and reviewed during the month of September 2015.  Its a diverse group, with cover art represented by all types of art work and artists, including some of the authors themselves.

I’ve included the covers for you to see.   Each of our reviewers includes a comment on the book’s cover in their review at the end of their post.  Do you agree with them?  Disagree?  Which were your favorite covers this month?

Best Book Covers of September 2015:

ACID coverBeautiful Thunder coverBeyond the Surface coverButtermilk Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck & S. van Rooyen, Cover art by Wulf Francu Godgluck

Beautiful Thunder by Louise Lyons, Cover art by Maria Fanning

Beyond the Surface (The Breakfast Club #1) by Felice Stevens, cover art by Reese Dante

Buttermilk Ranch by Patricia Logan, Cover art by AJ Corza

 

Dangerous Sprits coverEmpty Nests coverFit To Be Tied coverLate Summer Early Spring cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Spirits (Spirits #2) by Jordan L. Hawk, Cover art by Jordan L. Hawk

Empty Nests (Nested Hearts #1) by Ada Maria Soto, Cover Art by  Paul Richmond

Fit to be Tied (Marshals #2) by Mary Calmes, Cover art by Reese Dante

Late Summer, Early Spring by Patricia Correll, Cover art by Anne Cain

 

Other Side of the Line coverRed Hot Coffin Nails Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Side of the Line by Marguerite Labbe, Cover art by Catt Ford

Red Hot Coffin Nails by KA Merikan, Cover art by Natasha Snow

 

ScatteredThoughts May Summary of Reviews and Best Covers of the Month

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May 2014 Book Review SummaryMay in block letters

for ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords

 

 

*Key: S seriesC contemporary

F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
HR-horror
N-Nonfiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

What an incredible month. May was chock full of fantastic stories and outstanding covers.  Oh, that every month was as full of riches as this one.  There are standalones from new authors like Chase Potter, JK Hogan and Leona Carver. Saugatuck Summer, intense contemporary fiction from Amelia C. Gormley, is a must read. Plus Hostile Ground, a terrific team novel by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A.. Witt, that I  hope will become a series.  If you love to laugh and cry just a little, John Inman and David Pratt are well represented here with Spirit and Looking After Joey respectively. And many of my favorite series saw new releases this month.  SA McAuley’s Borders War series got a new story, so did Shira Anthony’s Mermen of Ea and the Pulp Friction 2014 group of authors keeps us entertained and glued to our seats with new releases all around.

There is plenty here for everyone, no matter what your favorite genres are.  Check them out, see what you missed, and add to your TBR pile!
5 Star Rating:

Daylight Again by SE Jakes C,S
Powerless by SA McAuley SF, S
Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley, C

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Backburn by Laura Harner (4.75) C, S, PF 2014
Forever is Now by K. Vale (4) C, S
Hostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov, LA Witt (4.75) C
Knight of Fire by S.J. Frost (4.25) F, S
I Survived Seattle by J.K. Hogan, (4) C, S
Into the Wind by Shira Anthony (4.75) F, S
Looking After Joey by David Pratt (4.25) F,
Love Comes Home by Andrew Grey (4), C, S
Moving Earth by TA Webb (4.5) C, S, PF 2014
No Ocean Too Deep by Leona Carver (4.5) F, S
One Night by RJ Scott, C (4), C
Spirit by John Inman (4.5 stars) C
Stealing the Wind by Shira Anthony (4.5) F, S
The Race for Second by Chase Potter (4.75) C
3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Clipped by Devon McCormack (3) SN, S
Double Takes by K.Vale (3.5) C, S

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

None
Best Covers of April 2014:

DaylightAgain_500x750HostileGround_500x750Looking After Joey coverNo Ocean Too Deep Carver_Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

IntoWindStealing the Wind coverSaugatuckSummer_500x750Spirit cover

 

 

 

 

 

Clipped cover
Photographic Covers:
Daylight Again, Cover by L.C. Chase
Hostile Ground, Cover by L.C. Chase
Looking After Joey, cover by Wilde City Press

Non Photographic Covers:
Clipped, Wilde City Press
No Oceans Too Deep, Cover by Tanya Rehulak
Saugatuck Summer, Cover by L.C. Chase
Spirit, Cover by Reese Dante
Stealing the Wind, cover art by Anne Cain
Into the Wind, cover by Anne Cain

 

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Covers of 2013

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Book Covers of 2013

What is a book without its cover? That’s a question that gets asked more frequently in this age of eBooks and ePublishing.  For myself and, I think, many others, book covers are still the marquee for an author’s story, the path to a book and the delights found inside. ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords loves, loves book covers and the artists that work so hard to bring the author’s stories to life. Whether it is through photography or illustration or any combination thereof, 2013 had outstanding covers in every genre.  There are series whose covers are always marvelous, rich in design and emotion.  There were stand alone novels whose covers drew you into the story and beyond.  Here are some of the covers in 2013 that made me gasp, made me laugh and made me wish I had a copy of it for my wall:

Outstanding Contemporary Novel Covers:

Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling, Cover by Anne Cain
Illuminations by Rowen Speedwell, Cover by LC Chase
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Still by Mary Calmes, cover by Reese Dante
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown, Cover by Christine Griffin
Venetian Mask by Kim Fielding, Cover by Shobana Appavu

Fire Horse coverIllumination cover

LostAndFound_500x750

Still cover

 

 

 

 

The Sky Is Dead cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Historical Novel Covers:

On A Lee Shore by Elin Gregory, Cover by Mina Carter
Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane, Cover by John Kicksee

On A Lee Shore cover

Promises Made Under Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Humorous Cover:

Shy by John Inman, Cover art by Paul Richmond.
Too Stupid Too Live by Anne Tenino, Cover by LC Chase
When Dachshunds Ruled The Serengeti by Michael Murphy, Cover by Paul Richmond

Shy coverWhen Wiener Dogs Rule coverToo Stupid To Live cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Fantasy Cover:

Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon, Cover by Fiona Jayde
Goblins by Melanie Tushmore, Cover by  Ria Chantler
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, Cover by Lou Harper

Goblins, Book 1

Too Many Fairy Princes

Faire Fugitive

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Paranormal/Supernatural Covers:

Creature Feature by Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison, Cover by Paul Richmond
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune, Cover by Paul Richmond, Kyle Thompson
Josh of the Damned by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase
Strange Angels by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase

Creature Feature cover

Into This River I Drown

Josh of the Damned The Final Checkout

Strange Angels cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Horror Cover:

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin, Cover by Amy Morrison
The Beast Without by Christian Baines, Cover by David P. Reiter

Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men coverThe Beast Without cover

 

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Outstanding Science Fiction Cover:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean, Cover by Trace Edward Zaber
Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick, Cover by Anne Cain
Mindscape by  Tal Valante, Cover by LC Chase

Aria of the Eclipse cover

Freedom cover

Mindscape_500x750

 

 

 

 

 

YA Cover Series:

Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton. Guidebook Series, Covers by LC Chase
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton

Vampirism and You cover

Necromancy and You cover

 

 

 

 

 

Consistently Outstanding Series Covers:

Leopard’s Spots by Bailey Bradford, Covers by Posh Gosh

Infected Series by Andrea Speed, Cover artist Anne Cain

TimothyNischal Leopards Spots 9

Infected Undertow coverInfected Shift cover

Scattered Thoughts Best Book Covers of 2012

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Once again its time to talk book covers and book cover design.  I have talked previously about my favorite covers from childhood and how the mere sight of a great cover in the window of a bookstore would draw me in like the scent of cheese to a mouse.  If the cover is the magnet the publisher and author uses to attract readers, there are certain principles of design that used to be taken into consideration to make that cover the one that grabs peoples attention, that yells look at me, that makes them want to know what that book is about.

For printed books, the designer has to look at several things such as book size, typographic palette (how blocks of text are located on a cover), book covers, book spines and fonts. With respect to eBooks, spines aren’t relevant, nor is book size, at least how it is normally used in the publisher world. It’s not the actual physical size that matters here with eBooks but that readers are often looking at a smaller graphic when choosing eBooks.  So now smaller has to make an even greater impact.  All the other design elements remain the same.  Book covers, whether for print or electronic books, must be compelling enough to make the reader to choose that book, to persuade the customer that what is inside is fascinating, marvelous stuff.

Another rule is that the book cover should match the book it is being designed for. Whether the design is simple or rich in detail, elegant or street tough, uses a cover model or an illustration, there should be no disconnect between the subject matter inside and out.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought nice cover but what does it have to do with the subject of the book? And it if is a book series, then all the covers should be similar enough to brand each book a part of a series, one glance tells you who the author is and what series you are reading (ex. Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series with a singular object on the cover). A great book cover makes you anticipate, endows you with a need to discover.

On every review I write I also mention the covers and the cover artists.  There are always some cover artists who continue to turn out one enticing cover after another, there are some artists you  can identify just by looking at the style of the design or paintings on the cover (Paul Richmond, Posh Gosh). And then this year saw a new artist or two whose cover reached out with it’s compelling designs and emotional overtones.  This  year also saw a trend towards retro illustrations and design which I loved and others whose richness in color and detail left me gasping in delight.  It was hard to narrow the covers down as there were so many worthy of mention, so I did break it down into a few categories.

So here they are, Scattered Thoughts Best Covers of 2012(with apologies in advance for the formatting problems):

Historical Novels:

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset/Artist Anne Cain

The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade / Artist Reese Dante

The Celestial by Barry Brennessel/ Artist Winterheart Designs

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch2

The Mystery of Ruby Lode 2

The Celestial 2

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Contemporary Novels:

Acrobat by Mary Calmes/ Artist Anne Cain

Mine by Mary Calmes/Artist Anne Cain

Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane/Artist Paul Richmond

Sidecar by Amy Lane/Artist Shoshana Appavu

Time Gone By by Jan Suzukawa/Artist Anne Cain

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C/Artist Reese Dante

Acrobat2

Mine 2

Mourning Heaven 2

 Sidecar2

Wake me up inside  2

Turkey in the Snow cover

Time Gone By cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy/Supernatural Novels:

The Ronin and The Fox by Cornelia Grey/Artist Nathie

A Token of Time by Ethan Day/Artist Winterheart Design

roninandthefox_2

A Token of Time 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Novels:

Burn by TJ Klune/Artist Catt Ford

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature by Andrea Speed/Artist LC Chase

Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne/Artist P.L. Nunn

Burn2

Riotboy2

Josh of the Damned TripleFeature2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series:

Infected Series by Andrea Speed/ Artist Anne Cain

Knitting series by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford/Artist Posh Gosh

Lost Gods by Megan Derr/Artist London Burdon

Gilbert 2

Stone Rose 2

Infected Lesser Evils 2

How to Raise An Honest Rabbit cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were so many others I wished to include and I know you have your favorites too.  Write and let me know who you feel should have been on that list (King Perry, Fallout to name a few that came close).  Check out the individual reviews to see the covers in greater detail and read about the books they so beautifully covered!

Play It Again Charlie cover

Favorite Series Covers and Cover Artists!

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Book covers have always fascinated me.  Some repel me, others draw me in immediately.  Think “ooh, shiny, pretty…” lol.  Others intrigue me by their content or graphic design, while others leave me “meh” or confused. When I think of series covers that are successful, all they have some of the same elements incorporated into their design.  The first being I can tell the books belong together at a glance, they have a cohesive design element consistent in every cover.  The fonts stay the same.  Each cover contains the same overall design with small changes that  don’t affect the overall picture they present to the reader.

So we are looking for consistency, cohesiveness, clarity and recognition.  Designs that convey a sense of connectedness between the books. Look over my choices and see if you agree with me. Many of my favorites series also have some of my favorite series covers. Yes, I have let quite a lot out but I need something for the next cover post, don’t I? Lets get started.

1. Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, now being written by Abigail Roux,cover design by Mara McKinnon:Simple and elegant.  The central object, which is prominent in each storyline, is changed out with each book.  I can tell a Cut &Run book in a heartbeat.

2. Lost Gods series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden. Each cover is a map of the kingdom the story is set in.  The color is important as it is a prime element for each kingdom and its culture.  Blue for the kingdom of Kundou, a land to whom the sea is all important.  It’s people have hair in all shades of blue and green, the color of water.  The orange/red cover of Burning Bright is self explanatory and so on. Subtle, expressive, simple on the surface yet contains hidden meanings just like the books.

3. Sanctuary Series by RJ Scott, artist/cover design by Reese Dante.  Each cover depicts the two men who will be the novel’s romantic couple, usually one is a Sanctuary op.  The design stays the same with the men being switched out.  The models are  consistent with the descriptions of the men inside.  Reese Dante  does the fantastic design.

4. Dance With The Devil series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden.  Effective use of a simple graphic design where the object floating in the center of a black cover is switched out for each new book. Again the main element is important  to the storyline. Effective, elegant, and easy to recognize that the books belong together without having to resort to the publishers note.

4. Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane, cover design by Scott Carpenter: All the covers have a lovely vintage feel to them, sepia toned with elements such as furniture, buildings and mens clothing from 1900’s included on the design. Unfortunately, the last cover from Samheim had a more modern looking model which threw off the design. The newest title in the series has a completely different look as it was published at the different company. Can you pick it out?

3.  Superpowered Love by Katey Hawthorne, artist P.L. Nunn:  Just wonderful art by PL Nunn, the covers really set the stage for the stories within.  I just love these.  Again while the content changes, the style is the same and makes the books easy to identify.

4. Infected series by Andrea Speed, art by Anne Cain, cover design by Mara McKinnon: These covers blow me away.  Intense, dramatic, with that hint of menace.  Outstanding.  They are offered to download at Andrea Speed’s website.  I grabbed them, you will want to as well. Andrea Speed’s website http://www.andreaspeed.com.

5. Cattle Valley Series by Carol Lynne, art by Anne Cain.  It doesn’t matter if it is Book 2, Book 12 or Book 23, you can tell it is a Cattle Valley book immediately due to the great design and artwork by the wonderful Anne Cain.  This series is branded, folks! Total E Bound does more of a series branding than any other publisher or so it seems to me.

6. Sci-Regency Series by JL Langley, cover by Anne Cain.  Sigh!  I love Anne Cain and her artwork.  Especially her cover for My Fair Captain.  That one is so drool worthy that I have to bring out the towels. Yeah, I know TMI!  But just look at that chest!  And the same goes for the other two books in the series, the last of which, My Regelence Rake, is to be released in October 2012.

7.  Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford, artwork by Posh Gosh. What a lush, rich group of covers,  They are like a feast for the eyes, I just don’t know where to look next.  The design pulls your eye around the cover, so nothing is missed.  Just superb.

So that’s my short  list. What is yours? Yes, I see the same artists over and over on covers I like.  Anne Cain, PL Nunn, Reese Dante, Posh Gosh and London Burden.  Lately I have also noticed Alessia Brio too.  I know I have missed so many great artists, help me fill in the blanks.  And don’t forget to leave a comment and be entered in the contest.

Seizing It by Chris T. Kat

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Rating: 3 stars

Kit Hall, veterinary assistant, leads a life of strict routine that his epilepsy and physician requires of him. Kit has also isolated himself by choice from others with the exception of his sister and the veterinarian he works for.  A victim of domestic abuse from his ex, Kit finds himself unwilling to trust others to the extent that he has walled himself off from most personal interactions.  When Kit is attacked outside his home by a crazed admirer, his sister and a good looking stranger come to his aid. The attack puts him off balance. When he learns that Alan, his friend/boss, is moving and someone else is taking over the clinic, Kit becomes even more unsettled.  The next day at the clinic Kit is horrified to find out that his new boss is none other than his rescuer from the day before.

Dale Miller is on his way to his new veterinary clinic when he chances upon a young man being attacked.  He intervenes, restraining the attacker until the police arrive. He is not the only one surprised when he meets the young man again at the clinic he is taking over.  It turns out his  assistant, Kit Hall, and the victim, are one and the same.  A fact that Kit is not happy about and makes very clear to him.  But he finds Kit  attractive and becomes determined to be the one to make Kit lower his defenses and take one more chance at love.

Several days later and this book still has me confused about my feelings towards it.  Mostly they are of the “not so good” type.  Add to that column, “flashes of talent”, “great idea”,”kind of creepy” and “downright annoying”, and I think you all will begin to get my drift.  The author had a great idea for a protagonist here but never brought the main character up to snuff.  I was really looking forward to a thoughtful exploration of a life lived with epilepsy, the proscribed limits and how a full life could still be achieved within them. That is not what I got in any way, starting with that title. Seizing It? Really?  Should I say it had me fit to be tied? *that was sarcastic, people – shakes head*

In addition to epilepsy, Chris T. Kat has burdened Kit Hall with being a victim of a shattering domestic abuse attack from his controlling and mentally ill ex, a temper that should see him in anger management classes and a family that treats him as though he is twelve (and sometimes rightfully so). I think we are supposed to find him one of those endearing prickly main characters, slight in stature, with a shock of red hair and green eyes.  I generally like those characters.  I didn’t like Kit Hall.  Mostly I wanted to send him off to intensive therapy sessions which he clearly needed, not to be seen again.  The author endowed Kit with a temper which as victimized as he is I could understand but apparently he has always had a temper that he directs at all close to him while acknowledging that he may be a brat.  This got very old as it would in real life and Kit comes across as a bit of an abuser and bully himself.

Further complicating the story is the other main character, Dale Miller.  He is older, finds Kit incredibly attractive, and wants to rescue Kit from himself.  In one section when Kit is freaking out over Dale restraining him (???) during an argument, I started to get that squicked out feeling.  I remember seeing adult handlers forcibly restraining out of control children (mentally and physically challenged) in the same manner until they calmed down.  To see it used here between “potential” lovers hit quite a few wrong notes. Especially when Dale then picks up Kit and put him in his lap.  Am I the only one thinking child abuser not lover here?  And then Kit falls in love with him immediately in a couple of days? Never has a case of “instant love” seemed so wrong.

What I did find realistic is that Kit is ashamed he is epileptic and doesn’t tell Dale about his condition until a Grand Mal seizure forces him to. I had a childhood friend who felt the same way.  He moved away in elementary school so I never knew how the adult Tim dealt with it.  The author does a good job talking about stress being a trigger as well as using medication and a regulated life style to control his epilepsy. I wish she had done as well with the issue of domestic abuse which loomed as a larger subject here.  Male victims of domestic abuse represent a huge sector of people who go unreported and unaccounted for.  Kit’s issues that stemmed from his years of living with a domestic abuser are never really dealt with in the same manner his epilepsy is.  A missed opportunity the book never recovers from in my opinion.

I won’t even get into his father issues and a family determined not to let a 28 year old grow up and make his own decisions.  Let’s leave that one alone.  It’s overshadowed anyway by all the problems I have already remarked on.  Seizing It is the only book I have read by Chris T. Kat so I don’t know if this story is typical of her work or not.  I hope not.  She does have some good ideas here but in the end raises far more questions about her protagonists and their relationship then is resolved in the book.

Cover:  The artist is Anne Cain who I love  but where are the dogs? Another missed opportunity as one main character is a vet, and the other is his assistant with a dog who is also a main character within the story. It remains a beautiful cover of two men in a fall setting.

 

Review of Acrobat by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Nathan Qells has a pretty great life.  He loves being an English professor.  He has a son who has grown into a wonderful young man.  An ex-wife he adores along with her husband.  He loves his condo and takes care of Michael, the young boy who lives across the hallway with his uncle, the mysterious Andreo Fiore.  The only thing lacking in his life?  A man to really love and have him love back.  At least that’s what his ex wife tells him.  She also tells him he has never truly loved another man deeply.  Nate doesn’t agree with her. At least he thinks he doesn’t. Doubt starts him looking for Mr. Right which leads  him into the path of a dangerous man and the mob..

Andreo Fiore started working for the mob as a way to support his nephew after his sister died.  Long and unusual work hours meant that Michael would be alone in the apartment. Then Nate Qells, the neighbor across the hallway, came to their rescue and  took Michael under his wing. Years later, Michael spends most of his time across the hallway and Dreo has fallen in love with Nate.  Dreo sees in Nate a good, wonderful man who also happens to be very handsome.  And blind in the face of Dreo’s love. Between Michael and Nate,  Dreo wants to lead an honorable life,  one where Michael can look up to him and Nate would be proud to be his partner.  But first he has to get out of the organization and it has troubles of its own.  As Dreo tries to extricate himself from the mob and make Nate realize that love is right in front of him, his criminal past makes them both a target.

As a man in his forties and nicely settled into his life, Nate Qells is a realistic representation of a man who thinks that he is happy with his status quo and stops reaching out for more.  In Nate’s case, he has stopped believing in romantic love for himself and has settled just for caring.  I find that totally believable.  So many people dismiss the idea of love after a certain age, not just the idea but the chance of them falling into love later in life is miniscule to nonexistent.  So when Nate refuses to listen to his ex wife when she tells him he has never loved, I totally get it.  Nate is capable of caring for others but self satisfied enough not to extend himself further.  I know him because I have met him in real life.  Nate certainly has his flaws, he is impatient with others, abrupt to those professors within his department he doesn’t respect, and a little arrogant.  All of which makes him very human.

Andreo Fiore is much older than his years.  I had to keep reminding myself of his age.  He accepted responsibility of his nephew in his early twenties, and his time as a bodyguard/muscle in the mob has aged him further.  He recognizes that he could coast along the path he has made for himself  (very much like Nate in this respect) or reach for what he really wants, a family with Nate and Michael.  Deeply steeped in his Italian family and culture, he speaks as much Italian as English.  And I loved it.  Besides French, there is no more romantic language than that of Italy.   Both are the languages of love and it is used very effectively here.  I loved Dreo, a honorable conflicted man trying to get out of a bad situation.  What a great character.

And then Mary Calmes adds in more characters to give the story substance and layers.  There’s Michael, Dreo’s nephew and almost son to Nate.  He’s young, cocky but still so much in need of direction and parental influence.  Mel, ex wife, and Ben, her husband, both contribute additional needed  perspectives on Nate and his life. Duncan, the in-the-closet ex boyfriend and Aubrey, Nate’s sarcastic grad student with just the right amount of snark.  All necessary and unique.

The story itself has many wonderful moments.  I especially liked the storyline with Nate and his missed dates with Sean Cooper, an attending doctor.  With them, as in real life, sometimes it is all about the timing.  People can seem to be right for each other, and yet the timing is off for them to be a couple.  Nobody’s fault.  Stuff happens. I haven’t seen this pop up in a storyline and loved it’s authentic treatment here.  I don’t know enough about organized crime to comment on it here (outside of what I have seen in The Godfather movies) but the idea that you can have people at different levels of competency in mob organizations struck me as realistic too.  Old fashioned businessman versus young takeover turk. Crime is still a business albeit a criminal one. Is there angst?  Of course, there is.  It wouldn’t be a Mary Calmes book without it. Never fear, our protagonists future is assured. I liked how all the different elements pulled together in the end to give me a very satisfying story and a new couple to love.

Cover:  The cover art by Anne Cain is such a sensual piece of art that I would love to have a copy.  In the introduction Mary Calmes and Anne Cain talk about the inspiration for the cover, deceased artist Steve Walker’s painting Parallel Dreams.  I looked up that painting and thought it beautiful. I learned much about Steve Walker and his art which I really appreciated.  But this cover stands on it own, glorious in its depiction of love between two men.  It has already become a favorite of mine.

Review of Infected: Shift by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 5 stars

Shift is the fifth book in Andrea Speed’s Infected series.  This is a tightly linked series and the books should be read in order.  This review may have some spoilers for previous books in the series.

It’s a typical day for Roan McKitchan in that there was nothing typical about it.  His new client is a wall of a man who just happens to be a hockey player with a 10 year old case involving a transgendered person’s suicide that just might be murder.  Roan’s relationship with his artist/bartender boyfriend, Dylan is especially rocky these days and all his friends seems to think that Roan is so depressed that he is seeking to die.  And then there is that little matter of another possible aneurysm next time he shifts.

When his partial transformation is caught on tape and uploaded to YouTube, the crazies start coming out of the woodwork with vicious attacks on himself and those close to him.  Everything about Roan’s world is in flux, his stress increasing, and yes, his depression is getting worse even as his virus mutates yet again. What is he to do when the shifters start to look to him for leadership just as he is  struggling to handle all the major shifts in his life?  Leader or vigilante? Life or death? Roan needs to find those answers himself and soon.

Shift picks up the story of Roan where Freefall left off as everyone around Roan is still reeling from the aftermath of Roan’s brain aneurysm.  The fact that Roan survived the unsurvivable for no discernable medical reason has left Roan, Dylan and his circle of friends on edge with Dylan especially fragile. Still sustaining himself on drugs and partial shifts, Roan McKitchan tries to continue business as usual.  But his reckless behavior and depression has seen his relationship with Dylan grow increasingly problematic as the daily stress that is Roan’s life and his precarious mental state leave Dylan’s composure in shreds.  What others see as his suicidal tendencies, Roan believes to be his normal state, at least for him. To Roan, his outlook and actions are in tune with someone uncertain of his humanity and life span.  And as we get pulled deeper into latest Infected novel, the story of Roan McKitchan and the cat virus continues to shift and evolve, turning into a series as unpredictable and infectious as the virus itself.

Andrea Speed’s spectacular talent ensures that we are able to absolutely understand and empathize with Roan, one of the most unique characters I have come across.  A virus child who lives and thrives against all odds and laws of nature, Roan’s “fuck you’ attitude is at odds with his bruised romantic soul.  Roan constantly lives with the truth that he is mutating along with the virus and we feel his terror and pain as the virus mutates and shifts his view of himself from human to monster.  One of the threads that keeps him tethered to his human status are his boyfriend/husbands as Dylan continues to anchor him in the present as Paris’ ghost visits his dreams to comfort and annoy. Roan’s such a complicated character as one would expect of a man bedeviled by his abusive past and mutating physique.  One can be reading along, laughing out loud as Roan muses on the state of music, societal goings on, whatever grabs his attention and then suddenly plunges us into tears with remembrances of Paris, the victims that cross Roan’s path, and Roan’s very real fears for his future.  From his music to his t-shirts and books, Roan is a character so remarkable in dimension that  finding words to do him justice is confounding at times. I may not be able to explain satisfactorily explain the beauty that is Roan but it is clear from book one that he is one that will always stay with you.

Dylan is another unexpected character who continues to grow with the series.  As the boyfriend with the unenviable task of  following in the footsteps of Roan’s soulmate, Paris, it would be as easy to dismiss him as other characters in the book do.  A Zen Buddhist, his calm outlook is constantly under attack by his role in Roan’s life,  and by Roan himself as his infected status throws them all into daily turbulence.  Dylan has always seemed to accept his secondary place with Roan, but that starts to change here as the doubts creep in.  I found this so authentic and wonder where Andrea Speed will take this romance.  It is Roan’s nature to be a monogamist but there is more to be considered here.  The lion’s needs must be brought into the equation as well and here the relationship with Dylan seems less certain.  The lion clearly loved Paris, a tiger shifter who was Roan’s equal if not more in so many ways. And as I watched Roan and Dylan struggle to maintain and strengthen their relationship, the thought remained in the back of my mind “what does the lion think of Dylan as a mate?” Can a lion accept a lesser human?  And for me their future together got blurry. And that just points up the strength of Andrea Speed’s writing.  She has the reader constantly thinking about the events and relationships in the story, nothing is concrete, everything is constantly shifting, including our perceptions.

Shift is divided into two stories as is typical of this series. The first is Shift. It is in this section that a wonderful group of characters is introduced, the Seattle Falcons, minor league hockey team.  While Roan has always had a small group of friends, with the addition of Grey, Scott, Tank and others, a  wonderfully crazy element of support for Roan has been met.  All strong, with a love for a fight, these modern warriors have depth beneath the hockey player stereotypes that made them instant favorites of mine, especially Grey.  I hope to see them often along with Holden, Dr. Rosenberg, Dee, Fiona and the rest of the circle that revolves around Roan.  The case Grey brings Roan is heartbreaking in content and conclusion.  Bloodbath is the second story in the novel and aptly named as the blood flows through all the events in this tale of vengeance and vigilante justice.  There is a common link of attacks between the two stories that  remains unsettled at the end as does so much else here.

The virus remains a phenomenal character all it own, as it’s continuing mutations bring new challenges, questions, and pain to Roan, Dylan and everyone else around him.  Andrea Speed has sprinkled some truly tantalizing notions throughout the novel, a sentence here, a snippet there, that had the ability to bring me to an absolute standstill when I extrapolated them out in my mind.  One involves a painting Dylan had in mind when thinking of Roan and wondering if it could happen.  Where that thought took me made me breathless with anticipation for Roan and his future.

So this rollercoaster called Infected has come down from the stratosphere, depositing me earthbound once more, leaving me with more questions,more stymied and with more anticipation than ever before. What a magnificent job Andrea Speed has done with Shift.  I can’t wait to see where she takes Roan next.  I will be sure to follow.

Cover:  These Infected covers are fantastic.  Art work by Anne Cain, design by Mara McKinnon.  Dynamic in graphics and design, I just love them.  They are available also as wallpaper on Andrea Speed’s website.

The Infected series in order they should be read to fully understand the characters, their backgrounds and storylines:

Infected Prey

Infected Bloodlines

Infected Life After Death

Infected Freefall

Infected Shift