Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2013

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Presents:

best-books of 2013

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

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

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

Best Contemporary Novels of 2013:

  • Best Stand Alone Novels:

Illumination by Rowen Speedwell
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Best Action/Suspense Fiction of 2013:

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

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

Humorous Fiction of 2013:
Books with wings in the sky

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

Young Adult/YA Subject Oriented Fiction:

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

Best Historical Fiction:

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

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

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

Best Science Fiction Novel/ Series of 2013:

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

Best Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction of 2013:

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

Best New Vampire (a tie):

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

Best New Werewolf:

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

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

New Year Book

Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for October 2013

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October 2013 Summary of Book Reviews

It was a terrific month for books.  Sarah Black came out with her sequel to The General and the Horse-Lord titled The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari.  In my opinion it is the best book she has written to date, wide in scope with subtly nuanced characters that stay with you long after you have finished the story.  Also the Pulp Friction group of authors, (Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows, Laura Harner and T.A. Webb) start to bring their interconnected series to a close with 4 outstanding stories to equal the memorable characters to be found within. S.A. McAuley also brought us the second novel in The Borders War series, Dominant Predator.  I love those men, and need more of their history and complicated relationship.  Sue Brown gave us The Isle of Wishes, second in the Isle of Wight series, plus Ariel Tachna’s Lang Downs series (one of my favorite) expanded to five with Conquer The Flames, a “must read” book for all.

Well, I will let this list speak for itself.  So many great books here that there is sure to be something for everyone.  Grab up your notepad, IPad or paper, and write down the titles for those stories you might have missed.  I have linked my reviews to each book.  Happy readings!

Lady Reading Book in Chair 50 style    


5 Star Rating:

Conquer The Flames (Lang Downs #4) by Ariel Tachna, contemporary
Chance In Hell (Chances Are #5) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5) by T.A. Webb
Dominant Predator (The Borders War #2) by S.A. McAuley
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5) by Laura Harner
Knights Out (City Knight #4) by T.A. Webb
The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari by Sarah Black (contemporary, military)
Wicked Truths (Wicked’s Way #5) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wild Onions by Sarah Black (supernatural)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker (4.25)(contemporary, paranormal)
Goblins, Book 1 by Melanie Tushmore (4.5 )(fantasy)
Home Team by Jameson Dash (4)(contemporary)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2) by Sue Brown (contemporary)
Knightmare (City Knight #2) by T.A. Webb (4.75)(contemporary)
Northern Star by Ethan Day (4.25)(contemporary)
Playing Ball Anthology (4.75)(contemporary, historical)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3) by T.A. Webb (4.75)(contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burning Now by A.R. Moler (3)(fantasy, supernatural)
Fool For Love by Cassandra Gold (3)(contemporary)
Strange Angels by Andrea Speed (3.75)(supernatural)
The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed (3 stars)(contemporary, supernatural)
Wireless by L.A. Witt (3.5)(science fiction)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Justice (Leopard Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford (2)(shifters, supernatural)
The Unwanted, the Complete Collection by Westbrooke Jameson (2.5)(science fiction)

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

None this month

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows on Wicked’s Way Series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil on Chances Are Series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: T.A. Webb on City Knight Series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: Laura Harner on Triple Threat series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: Sarah Black on Wild Onions
Author Spotlight: Sarah Black on Writing Old Men and the second General release

Review: Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4) by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Conquer The Flames coverThorne Lachlan, a firefighter for the Royal Fire Service, arrives at Lang Downs when a grassfire brings him onto the station to ask for assistance and prepare them for evacuation if necessary.  A former Commando for the Australian Army, Thorne has retired, beset by nightmares and blackouts, a  victim of PTSD.  Lang Downs is a sheep station unlike any other Thorne Lachlan has been to.  With homey cottages ringed with gardens to the people who live there, Lang Downs starts to cast its spell over a man clearly in need of  both sanctuary and home.

Then Thorne meets Ian Duncan, a long time resident of Lang Downs and the attraction between the men is both immediate and mutual.  But both men are afraid of committments and relationships.  Thorne because he fears he is a danger to all around him because of his PTSD. And Ian? Ian hides a deep secret that he had only told one man, Michael Lang, when he first arrived at Lang Downs at the age of 20. That secret has kept Ian a solitary man among friends on the sheep station, alone with his woodworking and small house.  Still, neither man is capable of staying away from the other and slowly they begin to build a relationship and hopefully a future together.  However, their pasts combine to raise up obstacles to their future.  Thorne and Ian must face down their demons and get the help they have long needed before they can have a future together.

Conquer the Flames is the fourth book in the Lang Downs series and it comes close to being my favorite story yet.  I had to wait several days to think about this review and why so much about this book spoke to me.  And even now I am still not sure I can answer that question with a clear explanation.

In many ways, Conquer the Flames has a slower, deeper feel to the story as well as the men at the heart of the book.  And that’s unusual considering the title and the profession that Thorne has found himself in as a firefighter.  But if you are to continue the analogy, this is much more a slow burn than a fast moving line fire as the basis and the fuel for the flames have a deep foundation in both mens past history and traumatic events.

Once more Ariel Tachna has taken great care in building her characterizations to go with the beautifully created landscape and setting that is Lang Downs.  Thorne is unlike any character that we have met here before.  He is a former Commando whose time in the Army has left him with PTSD.  He has anger management issues, blackouts and nightmares. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the events in his past that sent him running into the Army.  Ian Duncan is also a damaged soul.  His is a deep trauma inflicted in foster care and one he has never recovered from, even 20 years later.  Both men are so marvelously crafted that it never occurred to me to doubt their authenticity or backgrounds.  They feel so real, their problems and issues are so painful that the reader hurts along with them.

Tachna has treated each man’s problems with the gravity necessary when speaking of PTSD and abuse.  She gets the symptoms right as well as the need for outside medical assistance to help each man overcome years of denial and repression.  There are no immediate cures, no easy answers, just the accurate portrayal of time and the hard mental ,emotional work necessary to recovery and healing for each of them.  The author also sidesteps a common flaw when writing about such damaged characters, and that would be a quick sexual relationship and instant love.  Thank goodness none of that is found here.  I think it would have not only ruined the relationship’s credibility but destroyed the story for me as well.

This is a romance but it is a simmering one.  There can be no flashfires between men as hurt and broken as these two.  Instead we get a slow buildup of trust and understanding that is as sweet and fragile as it is satisfying.  Once you read this remarkable love story, you will understand it completely when I tell you I read and reread certain passages just to savor the scene and the emotions that were flowing over the pages. On more than one occasion I had to grab a tissue or two but they were honest tears brought forth by the real emotion and pain felt by Thorne and Ian, and of course the reader.  Just a remarkable job by the author in every respect.

As with the other books in the series, all the other characters, including Caine and Macklin, are here and well represented.  This story takes place five years after the events of Outlast The Night (Lang Downs #3), but the gap of time feels as seamless as the flow of seasons over Lang Downs.  We see the couples settling into their relationships and lives on the sheep station, the young children are getting older and new ones are being born.  And new people have been introduced to the series that just might make their way onto the sheep station just as the others such as Michael’s Lost Boys have found their way there too.

For the characters involved, and for the reader, Lang Downs remains an extraordinary place.  Its a location where once we arrive, we don’t want to leave just like all those people who have found the path to Lang Down and home.  I hope that Ariel Tachna has many more stories planned for this series.  I  intend to be there for each and every one.  I am putting Conquer The Flames on my Best of 2013 list.

Cover art by Anne Cain is as beautiful as the story within.

Books in the Lang Downs series in the order they were written and should be read:

Inherit the Sky (Lang Downs, #1)
Chase the Stars (Lang Downs, #2)
Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3)
Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4)

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 254 pages
Expected publication: September 27th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781627983228
edition language English
series Langs Down

I’m Off To GRL and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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GRL 2013logoShort and oh so sweet this week.  I am off to GRL in Atlanta this week and I am beside myself in anticipation.  If you listen hard enough you can hear a little fan girl “squee” here. So many people to meet and3d-person-sit-pile-books-reading-book-26141531 get to talk with, there are authors galore, publishers,, editors, other bloggers and of course readers.

Some authors i have chatted  with electronically just recently, some I have admired for years as well as so many new authors I have yet discover.  Really I am beside myself with joy. I hope to post some pictures and small journal pieces while I am gone but if things get busy (as I anticipate them to do) then, it will wait for a Scattered Thoughts at GRL Blog to pull it all together when I get back.

So here are the book reviews to be posted this week:

Monday, Oct. 14:     Conquer The Flames by Ariel Tachna

Tuesday, Oct. 15:      The Unwanted Collection by Westbrooke Jamison

Wed.., Oct. 16:            Strange Angels by Andrea Speed

Thurs, Oct. 17:            Wireless by L.A. Witt

Friday, Oct.18:           Fool For Love by Cassandra Gold

Sat., Oct. 19:               Justice  (Leopard’s Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford

Review: Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3) by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 5 stars

OutlasttheNightBroke, despondent and soon to be divorced Sam Emery has no where to turn but to his brother Neil when he leaves his embittered wife and old life behind him.  Sam is also leaving the closet as well, another reason for the divorce and the hatred his soon to be ex feels for him.  Sam only got married to please his controlling father and that was a disaster from the very beginning.  Now Sam turns to Neil, his younger brother who lives and works on a sheep station and Sam is unsure of his welcome there when he tells his brother he is gay.  Sam knows that Neil loves him but will he be accepted?  And what will an out of work bookkeeper do on a sheep station?

The brother who meets Sam is not the brother Sam remembers.  Neil accepts Sam’s sexuality with an openness that surprises Sam.  But then again, Neil lives at Lang Downs, a sheep station owned and operated by a gay couple, Caine Neiheisel and Macklin Armstrong and his views have undergone a fundamental change in the process.  Lang Downs has been described by those that live there as a “miracle”, a magnet and haven for those in need.  Sam has been hurt to his core by the constant verbal abuse thrown at him by his wife, shattered by the loss of his job and made to feel like a total failure by his life to date.  A miracle is just what he needs if only he can accept it.

Jeremy Taylor is another man in need of a home and sanctuary.  The youngest brother of the family that owns the neighboring sheep station, the two families have butted heads since Jeremy can remember.  But since his father died and his brother took over, things have gotten out of control because of his brother’s bigotry and hatred.  One explosive argument and fight leads to Jeremy outing himself to his brother and his exit from the only home and lifestyle Jeremy has ever known.  Immediately Jeremy heads over to the one place he hopes to be accepted – Lang Downs.   But the animosity runs deep between the seasonal buckaroos and Jeremy when the hands have problems looking past Jeremy’s last name to see the man underneath. And then the problem is compounded when Sam and Jeremy become friends  to his brother’s consternation because Neil’s antipathy towards Jeremy’s family.

Can two men in need of love and a home find it with each other at Lang Downs?  It will take another small miracle to overcome Sam’s insecurity and fear and Jeremy’s family’s reputation if they are to find happiness with each other and outlast the night.

I finished this book and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and start the series a fresh because I can’t get enough of this universe that Ariel Tachna has created. This book and series has such compelling characters as well as a captivating setting that it is impossible to put the books down once started and the stories stay with you long past the last page.  Really this is fast becoming one of my top favorites in contemporary fiction series.

Outlast The Night is as strong and enthralling book as the one that started the series.  Lang Downs is such a large and isolated sheep station that it acts as its own small village.  By using the sheep station as her setting, Ariel Tachna ensures that all the beloved characters of the previous novels are fully present and engaged in the current story as are the newly introduced main characters.  Tachna creates her web of characters that works much the way that nature herself does, they are all interlocked with each other.  Their actions have reverberations throughout the sheep station and all those who live there, just as it does in nature.  The men, women, children and animals all live in intimate connection with the earth at Lang Downs.  From the seasonal variations in their lives and work to the animals themselves, both wild and domesticated, all are aware of the fundamental role nature plays in their lives.

Winter, the season the book starts in, brings a slower pace to the sheep station.  Breeding is finished, and the seasonal jackaroos are gone until spring.  The village has shrunk down to those “year rounders” who make Lang Downs their home, school, and workplace. Through the previous novels, we have gotten familiar with the sights and sounds of the place and its citizens.  We see the bare necessities of the bunkhouse, the functionality of the sheep sheds, complete with odor mind you, and the predators that keep watch for the unwary animals in field and barn. The author brings Lang Downs vividly and authentically to life before our eyes and before we know it, we feel right at home there along with Caine, Macklin, and Kami. Of course, Kami the aboriginal chef is in the main house kitchen, creating food for all who live there and dispensing advice to those who need it.  Molly, Neil’s fiance, is a marvelous female character, a force in her own right. Well, I will let you see them through Sam’s eyes:

Sam finished eating, doing his best not to telegraph his unease to the rest of the room. Caine and Macklin sat at a nearby table talking with several other jackaroos Sam hadn’t met yet, but it was obvious from the body language that they were well known to Caine and Macklin. Sam figured the two men knew everyone pretty well by the end of the summer, but it took a certain degree of familiarity to choose to sit at the table with the bosses. Two teens joined them at the table a moment later, obviously sure of their welcome, and Sam realized one of the boys closely resembled the youngest of the jackaroos.

“Chris and Seth Simms,” Neil said, following Sam’s gaze. “Chris is the one I was telling you about in Yass, the one who nearly died. Seth is his younger brother. And that’s Jesse Harris sitting next to Chris, and then Jason Thompson, the other kid, and his dad, Patrick, our head mechanic. They’re all year-rounders. Patrick’s wife, Carley, is around here somewhere, although I haven’t seen her this morning. She helps out in the bunkhouses and in the kitchen sometimes, when Kami lets her.”

And that doesn’t even include the animals that play such an important roles on the station as well.  From Arrow, Jeremy’s kelpie (a sheep herding breed),  to Titan, “and a big lug of a horse who loved anyone who brought him treats”, these animals will endear themselves to you in much the same manner as their human counterparts.  And never does Ariel Tachna make the mistake of treating these animals as pets.  These are workers with important jobs to do on the station and are handled accordingly, although with love and affection.

Sam and Jeremy are wonderful additions to Lang Downs and the series.  Sam, so vulnerable and hurting, his self image shattered over time by an angry abusive wife.  Sam feels out of place,in his life and on the station.  A business manager by profession, you can feel his unease and wariness at thinking that he will find a home at Lang Downs. The reader will feel his pain and insecurity and then root for him as Sam begins to pull himself back together, a slow process and a realistic one too.  Jeremy is his opposite, he is so rooted to the land and the sheep that it practically rolls off of him from the moment we meet him.  Coming from a tough family background has made Jeremy equally tough, inside and out.  But still, Jeremy has the capacity to show his gentle side with his dog, Arrow and Sam.  It is a beautiful character and the two of them together are like comfort food and magic at the same time.  A difficult combination to achieve but Ariel Tachna has done it here with Sam and Jeremy.

Authenticity.  Ariel Tachna brings that to this novel and her series in spades.  From the Drizzle Bones the men wear (and wear properly) to the utes they drive, I never doubt that the terms and clothing the author uses are the correct ones.  But just as important as the research is the seamless manner in which the information is doled out to the reader, in spurts and quick asides.  And ever so slowly we have accumulated a wealth of information about an Australian sheep station and how it feels to live and work on one without realizing it.  Really, the flawless manner in which Tachna has created all of Lang Downs is exceptional.

I love that all of Tachna’s characters are fully realized and vivid in their personalities as any you would meet out on the streets around you.  They endear themselves to you because they feel so real, from their flaws to their passions.  And just as real and special is Lang Downs, the heart of the series.  I will let you hear it from Jeremy and Sam:

” “Lang Downs is a pretty special place.

”“Lang Downs is a miracle,” Jeremy amended. “A bloody miracle, and if you don’t believe that, ask Chris how he ended up here. Hell, ask Macklin how he ended up here. Or Kami. Or Patrick. I’d bet most of the year-rounders have a story to tell about how this place changed their lives. I never knew what drove Michael Lang, but even as a young child, I knew things were different here when I came to visit. That’s even more the case now.”

Yes, Lang Downs is a special place and each new story makes it even more so.  I hope that Ariel Tachna has many more stories to tell on her sheep station in Australia, more people to meet, more couples in need of home and a miracle.  I know that I will never get tired of this place and the people who inhabit it as the saga gets stronger with each new story it tells.  If you are already on the journey, pick up this new addition and fall in love all over again.  If you are new to the series, start at the beginning, discover the magic and wonder that is Lang Downs.  Expect to become addicted to a very special place in an isolated territory in Australia and the people who live there.

Here is the series in the order they were written and should be read in order to understand the characters and events that occur:

Inherit The Sky (Lang Downs #1)

Chase The Stars (Lang Downs #2)

Outlast The Night (Lang Downs #3)

Cover art by Anne Cain is as lovely as the book it represents.  The men are perfect representations for Jeremy and Sam and the landscape gorgeous.

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published May 20th 2013 by Dreamspinners Press
ISBN 1623807093 (ISBN13: 9781623807092)
edition languageEnglish
seriesLang Downs

Ariel Tachna (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). Outlast the Night (Kindle Locations 1171-1175). Dreamspinner Press. Kindle Edition.

It’s Gay Pride Month and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Its Gay Pride Month, a great time to celebrate and give back to the community. Washington, DC’s Capital Pride is coming up this week and culminates in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 8 and the Capital Pride Street Festival on Sunday, June 9.  If you live in or around the metro area,  there is something for everyone to enjoy.  I mean how could you not want to dress up as a super hero and attend SPANDEX: The Official 2013 Pride Week Superhero Party on Friday, June 7?   Plus the parade on Saturday travels through Dupont Circle, a historically gay neighborhood.  I worked there in the 80’s, and believe me, that place had gay pride before Gay Pride.  Here are the links to the events and places to purchase tickets:capital-pride-superhero-banner

Capital Pride 365

Gay.com – Capital Pride

If you are in the area and taking pictures at the events, send them to me and I will post them here.  And for those of you in other places, send me the dates and info and I will post that as well.

There are also many organizations that help LGBTQ youth  from Promise Place on the DC/Prince Georges County line to The Wanda Alston House in Washington, DC.  Or perhaps the Ali Forney Center in NYC or The Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK.  A favorite organization of mine is The Matthew Shepard Foundation founded by Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard. If you haven’t visited that site before, please do so.  It’s both heartbreaking and immensely uplifting to see what has emerged from such a horrific tragedy.

There are not enough shelters and organizations to go around for all of those children and teens in need and those that exist really need our support in every way possible.  One easy way is to buy ebooks.  Several authors and one terrific editor, Kris Jacen, have contributed their royalties from several novels.  S.J. Frost  and Kris Jacen with Finding A Dream, Sue Brown’s The Sky Is Dead, and Lost and Found Anthology (Kris Jacen), whose  entire royalties will be sent to Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc.  And these are only the most recent.  Enjoy a good book and give at the same time.  It’s easy, its enjoyable, and it is needed.

So have a great week.  Celebrate, dance, and make time to read a book or two!  Oh, and check out the cocktail recipe at the end. Here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, June 3:                  Outlast The Night by Ariel Tachna

Tuesday, June 4:                  Flawless by Cat Grant

Wed, June 5:                         The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat

Thursday, June 6:                The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus

Friday, June 7:                     Stonewall by Martin Duberman

Saturday, June 8:                 Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

Here is a specialty cocktail recipe just for Gay Pride (shakes head, you really went there, didn’t you).  It came from Alex’s Cocktail Recipes

Gay Pride Cocktail:

1 shot Apple sourz
1 shot blueberry sourz
1 shot cranberry juice
2 shots 5 alive
pop rocks
Instructions

Put the cranberry juice and 5 alive into a tumbler. Pour the sourz into shaker over ice and shake well. Pour into tumbler and add a pink umbrella, then sprinkle with pop rocks

“A womanly drink, it won’t get you drunk but drink it wearing hotpants for the ultimate sense of gay satisfaction.”  Alex also has links for other drinks, none of which I can print here.  Visit his site for more information.

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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

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

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

5 Star Rating:

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

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

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

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: Chateau d’Eternite by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Chateau 2nd editionRuss Peterson receives a mysterious invitation in the mail for a vacation at a chateau in the south of France and his curiosity compels him to accept. Once there, Russ is astonished to find out that his last physical exam showed a genetic marker that identifies him as a time traveler, and therefore a member of an exclusive society located at Chateau d’Eternite.  As a historian, it is a dream come true for Russ, but being a time traveler has its rule and risks along with the gift of being able to visit any era on any geographical place in the world.

When Russ travels back in time to Roman Gaul, he is almost killed by a wild boar when he is rescued by Quentus Maximus, second in command to the Legate of Nemausus.  Before he knows what is happening, Russ is traveling back to Quentus’ estate as his lover and companion.  Russ finds that the more time he spends with Quentus Maximus in Rome, the more he feels at home and alive than ever before.  Soon Russ must return to his time as the end of his vacation draws near and he must make a decision, should he stay or should he go?  Which will win, his heart and lover of Rome or his head and his future life?

I love Ariel Tachna’s stories and was looking forward to her take on time travel so I am surprised to find myself as conflicted as Russ over his story.  First let’s address the elements I loved.  I think the idea of a chateau filled with time travelers makes a wonderful basis for a series.  Any number of people are appearing and disappearing at any given time, so the potential for a variety of characters and stories is unlimited as the eras they can visit.  Great idea, and the caretaker of the Chateau is a real enigma whose story should be told as well.

Secondly, I liked the characters and settings in ancient Roman Gaul.  Quentus and his close circle of friends are both interesting and nicely layered.  Tachna has done her homework on the time period and it shows in her details from their clothing to the designs of their households. When Russ, called Rastus, and Quentus visit the baths or alone in the estate, her descriptions enable the reader to visualize the setting with ease. All these elements contributed to a story I enjoyed reading,

However, I did have some issues with sections of the story that blunted my enjoyment with Chateau d’Eternite.  First off, I found it hard to believe that historian Russ would accept with equanimity the fact that he carried (or even that there was such a thing) a genetic abnormality that made it possible for him and a small percentage of other humans to travel in time.    Russ doesn’t even break stride as he goes from one revelation to the next, each more outrageous and unrealistic based on his current knowledge.  The caretaker has Russ’ personal information, ie, results of his last physical and Russ doesn’t throw a fit?  Russ is told that he can time travel and is taken on a short trip to prove it.  Does he think he is hallucinating? Not really, again, he is affable and almost nonchalant in his reactions to seeing Versailles being built.  I just didn’t get that at all, nor did I believe it.   Russ reacts in the same way when visiting ancient Rome and meeting Quentus.  They move almost immediately into a sexual relationship with overtones of D/s, and later, Russ argues with his Roman lover over the modern concept of equality within their partnership that would not have been possible during that time period.  I just had a hard time suspending my doubts about their relationship and the character of Russ in particular.  As a historian, I think he would have been scrabbling around looking at everything, picking things up, making drawings, in awe of his situation. I mean, here is his passion for the past in front of him, where is the giddiness I would expect from someone who has made historian the focal point of his life? But I never got that feeling from Russ’ character, and I was disappointed in that aspect of his character.  I would have loved to have seen this from the viewpoint of someone truly amazed to find himself in these circumstances.

One thing that might bother some readers is that the ending is somewhat “bittersweet”.  We find out exactly how long Russ and Quentus have together in the past while missing out on the details of their life together.  I thought it very realistic but others may have a problem with it depending upon how they define HEA.

Pick it up if you like time travel stories, ancient Rome, and the works of Ariel Tachna. This is an expanded version of a short story published earlier.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  Just a gorgeous cover, I loved the model and thought him a perfect representation of Russ.

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd edition, 200 pages
Published March 29th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 1st 2012)
ISBN 1623806070 (ISBN13: 9781623806071)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3761

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.

 

Review: Overdrive by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Overdrive cover by Ariel TachnaAfter his last disastrous race, Daniel Leroux knows things have to change for him to achieve his dream of winning the World Rally Championship. For starters, he has to fire his co driver and then look for just the right partner to help him and his team get back in the race.  One person’s name comes up as the best fit for the team – Frank Dufour, a young Canadian.  Frank Dufour was making a name for himself on the Canadian Junior World Rally racing, but then after two years, he disappears from the circuit and no one seems to know why.

After some investigation, it turns out that  Dufour was let go by his racing team because he was gay, not a problem for Daniel as he is bisexual and his sexuality has never bothered his team’s owner or his crew.  Then Frank shows up in France to interview and their attraction to each other is immediate and obvious.  So much so that Jean Paul, the owner, informs Daniel and Frank separately that ” sex and business don’t mix” so no sex between partners.

This rule becomes harder to abide by the longer they work together. They start to discover that the more in sync they are with each other, the better they function as a team and the hotter the attraction between them.  When the competition heats up between them and a rival team and someone starts sabotages the race cars, the stress placed on their relationship strains the partnership and their resolve.  What will break first?

Ariel Tachna consistently demonstrates her ability to get inside the heads of different people and their professions in story after story. Overdrive is another of those wonderful stories she does so well.  This time the profession is world rally racing and the teams that drive the circuit.  After reading this story, I wonder when exactly Ariel last raced over the Sahara because all the details are there, making this story authentic from every angle.  We look into the engines, we get a sneak peak at team strategy,  and alternately feel the cold and heat of the various racing venues. It has the feel of insider information and  our view of these racers is an intimate one.  I may not have known much about world rally race teams before but at least now I feel I won’t embarrass myself in a conversation where they are concerned.  And not once did it feel like an information  dump.

Overdrive is populated with wonderful characters as well.  Daniel Leroux and his sister, Isabelle the team mechanic, are French.  They both work for Team Citroen so we get a wonderful base location of Clermont-Ferrand and the surrounding locale for the story.  The french language as well as Quebecois is scattered throughout the story to a marvelous effect and helps to situate the reader into the French countryside and the Leroux’s lives.  Frank is from Quebec, and I love that we get an explanation between the different dialects there as well  as proper French.  It is the lovely touch of realism that brings that extra layer to a story for the reader to appreciate.   Ariel Tachna has lived in France and her familiarity with the French people and countryside shows.

Is this a case of instant love? No, and I appreciate that as well.  We are given a slow climb into the relationship as each man must weigh their career versus the damage a broken relationship can do to a partnership.  There are some hot sexual scenes and some angst to go along with our tagging along  for a season of world rally racing and the formation of a team hard to beat.  My only quibble is that I wished for more of the real racing towards the end, more of the various locations and circuit conditions.  When we get to peer over their shoulders as they navigate tight turns on gravel at over 100 mph is breath taking and I wanted more, much more to satisfy an itch I never knew I had.  So while I recommend this story to you, I am off to look up more world rally race teams.  Really, like I needed another addiction…..

Cover Art by Justin James    (dare.empire@gmail.com). New artist for me and he has given us a very hot, on topic cover.  Very nice.

Cover Design by Mara McKennen