A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review:Summer Lessons (Winter Ball #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

I finished this several days ago, and I still remember every moment of the story. I loved the story itself, especially the author’s description of this young boy growing up in a loving, supportive family, where Mom has to lace the Kool-Aid to survive Mason’s fascination with his penis once he discovers all the wonderful things it can do. Honestly, only a mother with a rich sense of humor—and perhaps maybe a similar life experience—can so humorously describe that life with a young boy. Kudos, Ms. Lane! And to make this story even better—a feat that hardly seemed possible since it was already so great—add in the narration by Nick J. Russo and Mason’s story comes to life with fantastic vocalizations.

Sadly, as Mason grows older, he fails to lose his awkward tendency to shoot from the mouth before his brain engages. That’s cost him many potential boyfriends and now in his thirties, he’s far from finding a life partner. All he wants is kindness and love and someone who enjoys sex as much as he does. After all—penis! What’s not to like? He’s an exec now at the firm where Skip, the MC from Winter Ball, is working. To get him out of his shell and out to the playing field where he might meet a nice guy, Skip and Mason’s brother Dane drag him out to learn how to play soccer with their team.

There he meets a cute guy named Terry. Terry is much younger and still lives with his mother—a woman who gives nasty mothers a run for the money as top contender. She’s thrown all her responsibilities his way all his life. After all, she’s on welfare due to being burdened with a baby when she was just a kid. How could she get out of that slump? She’s put the burden of the household on his shoulders all his life so he finds it pretty hard to get out. But aside from that and the guilt he carries about carving out time to have his own time for fun, he manages to play on this soccer team and he finds Mason pretty hot. Awkward and clumsy, but hot, and though Terry doesn’t like to admit he’s gay, he is, and Mason realizes he may have found the man of his heart. Now, if only he can find the patience to let Terry come to that same conclusion and to let Terry make the moves he needs to get away from his mother.

In the meantime, Mason is dealing with Dane’s lifelong battle with manic depression—the reason Mason chose to live with Dane while Dane finishes college in a town far from their family. Mason assures that Dane stays on track with his meds, but when he goes off and his behaviors change, it comes at the worst time as Terry is finally making a move away from his mother but not cementing his relationship with Mason. The man finds the patience of a saint to continue to work with his brother and to allow Terry to spread his wings and fly. He can only hope and pray that he’ll find his way back to Mason.

Mason is one of my favorite characters, ever. I love the voice given to him by the narrator and the emotions imparted by the author. If anyone ever deserved love, it’s this smart, humble man with a sense of humor, a tendency to awkward conversations, and a heart as big as the great outdoors. Terry is the perfect companion to him and I love the way he developed as a character throughout the story. The deep voice given by Nick Russo was so individual and so right for the character as well. I’m very impressed with this audiobook version and I would highly recommend it. Though it’s book two, and the characters from book one play a minor role in this, it can definitely be read as a standalone.

The cover by Anne Cain is a simple design, yet manages to capture the three activities that dominate the outdoor summer fun experienced in the book: soccer, golf, and swimming. Simple, colorful and appropriate.

4.5 stars for the story plus an extra boost due to the outstanding narration = 5 stars for this one!

Sales Links

Dreamspinner Press |

Audiobook Details:

8 hrs 25 mins

Audible Audio

Published March 31st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 25th 2016)
Original TitleSummer Lessons
ASINB06XXMQ6N7
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWinter Ball #2

Amy Lane on Writing, Books and her new release in the Little Goddess series ‘Quickening, Vol. 1’ (author interview)

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Quickening Vol. 1 (Little Goddess #5 Vol. 1) by Amy Lane
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SP Publications
Release Date:  May 2, 2017

Buy Links

Vulnerable Amazon | Vulnerable DSPP | Quickening Amazon | Quickening DSPP

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ Interview with Amy Lane~

How much of yourself goes into a character? That depends on the character—every character has a little bit of me or somebody I know in them—but some have more than others.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?  Not really—very early on, I learned that when you put your own experiences in the hands of another person they become a different thing altogether. For Lady Cory, when she was an alienated adolescent, she got pissed off. I got mousy—and I liked her reaction better.

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures? 

LOL—anybody who says you don’t do research when world building hasn’t paid attention.  Research to me usually means answering the question, “Hey, is that plausible?”  Sometimes it means defending yourself to your editing staff. I once wrote (in a fantasy) that it got colder right after sunrise. The entire editing staff jumped my shit and said it was impossible, and I had to pull three different sources that said it was totally possible. Even when you’re writing fantasy, you’re building on a long collected established code of wisdom and lore, and it’s good to know who’s ground you’re treading.  No—I choose my genre depending on what I like to read at the moment. The research follows.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing? Holy Goddess yes. The Blue Fairy Book, Norse Myths, To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice in Wonderland, The Hero and the Crown, and countless Harlequin Presents are all battling for supremacy with every damned story.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed? No. Once only have I put a story aside, and it’s because I was 70K in, and it was only halfway, and I needed my Christmas story before I’d be finished. Other than that, no. I start, I work to the finish, and I hope for the best.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?  I like HEA, but I don’t mind series that work for it—for example, Fish Out of Water, there are going to be a few more books there, and those guys are continually working for their balance.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?  Absolutely.

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?  (I listed a few above so I’ll skip this one.)

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?  I think there are already two kinds of e-book audiences. One is the potato chip audience—reads absolutely everything, one or two books a day.  This is the type of reader that Kindle Unlimited was made for—and that’s wonderful, because that kind of addiction could bankrupt a person.  Also, I started out as an indie-pub, and my editing was not great, and people still found my books and treasured them—so I’m glad to see there is a growing outlet for that writer to get discovered and loved. 

The other reader is more the steak and salad audience—has either limited time or limited income or both, and will read all of an author’s backlist, from beginning to end, because this author has pleased the reader in the past, and it’s worth the reader’s time and effort—and possibly more money—to stick with one writer because there’s a component of trust there. These are often the authors who have a press and a slightly higher book price—there are gatekeepers there to make sure the product is as good as it can be. The thing is, this audience is starting to find itself. For a while, after KU came out, established writers were floundering, but as this audience realized they couldn’t read ALL the books and started relying on their favorite authors as they had before, and things are stabilizing again.

The fact is, e-books as entertainment are still one of the cheapest and most popular forms of entertainment—it’s up to authors and publishers to figure out how best to utilize their accessibility.

That being said, I still remember being part of the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City—where people brought suitcases and filled them with paperbacks, because, as hard as it is for us to believe, there are still people who devote their love of reading to print books. I think print still has a while to go on the favorite list—but e-book will continue to rise.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)  I usually ask for an image or a set of images, and the cover artist the company provides submits drafts for my approval. I actually have a very funky, odd visual sense—one of my favorite things to make as a knitter is a blanket or sweater put together out of scraps. This isn’t the greatest thing in marketing—it’s taken me a few years to figure that out—and I think it’s one of the reasons the New York publishing houses usually just hand an author a cover and say, “Yes. This is your cover. Deal with it.”  Because some of my covers are STUNNING, but some of them make me wonder what was in the water when I was having that conversation.

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?  My favorites are the underdogs. The Little Goddess stories will always be my favorites. Fish Out of Water—totally my favorite. Racing for the Sun—top of my list.  I know that I have stories that are more popular than those—and I’m proud to have written them, but some of them get so much love I’m like, “Oh, Beneath the Stain has been soooooooo appreciated. This other one needs my support more.”

What’s next for you as an author?  Well, I’m trying to write a little more paranormal and urban fantasy—the trick is getting it to sell, because it doesn’t always do what we want it to. Coming out I have Quickening 1& 2, Manny Get Your Guy, Red Fish/Dead Fish, Familiar Angel (a paranormal) and Regret Me Not (the Christmas story I just finished), followed by Stand by Your Manny. 

So, something for everyone, I hope

Blurb

Little Goddess: Book Five
Volume One


Cory thought she’d found balance on Green’s hill—sorceress, student, queen of the vampires, wife to three men—she had it down! But establishing her right to risk herself with Green and Bracken had more than one consequence, and now she’s facing the world’s scariest job title: mother.

But getting the news that she’s knocked up takes a backseat when a half-elf hunts them down for help. Her arrival brings news that the werewolf threat, which has been haunting them for over a year, has finally arrived on their doorstep—and it’s bigger and more frightening than they’d ever imagined.

Cory throws herself into this new battle with everything she’s got—and her men let her do it. Because they all know that whether they defeat this enemy now or later, the thing she’s most afraid of is arriving on a set schedule, and not even Cory can avoid it. The trick is getting her to acknowledge she’s pregnant before she gives birth—or kills herself in denial.

Excerpt

Bracken nuzzled my cheek and, very carefully, put his hand on my abdomen again. I felt nothing but a little bit of hardness there, like I’d had a very full meal, except lower.

“What did you do? Why did it hurt?” I asked, half-afraid he’d put the pregnancy at risk in an effort to get through to me. I should have known better.

“Just talked to it,” he said. “One of them shares my gift. It was painful to have us talk through your blood.”

I noticed the way he said “one of them.” Elves did not pass down their own traits in the DNA. In fact, nobody really knew how elves and trait heredity really worked. Bracken’s parents were both lower fey. His mother was a pixie—three and a half feet of sex kitten with violet hair. His father was a redcap—same height, but built like the forgotten corner of a rock quarry.

Bracken was six feet six of beautiful, broad-shouldered, mostly smooth, pale-skinned, big-eyed sidhe perfection.

For all I knew, I was carrying a rock quarry and a pixie in my womb—but somehow I didn’t think so.

I blinked very slowly, wrestling with one thing at a time. “Does that mean I’m going to bleed out every time I pop a zit?” Yes, it was a gross analogy, but my skin hadn’t been this cluttered with acne since I was a junior in high school. Click. Oh, hell. Of course I was a big pimply mass of estrogen. Fucking Jesus—this was not going to get better.

“No,” Green said, his eyes meeting Brack’s. “In fact, we’re pretty sure the other one has my healing power. We think it was, perhaps, the Goddess….” He trailed off delicately.

“Trying to make sure I don’t die of my own stupidity?”

The lingering tension that had been present since I’d first gaped at Green and said “Oh fuck no!” began to dissipate.

“Not stupid, Corinne Carol-Anne,” he said softly. “Just very, very young.”

I usually railed at that. I’d finally reached twenty-two, right? Hell, there was a time I didn’t think I was going to live past twenty—and given how many scary things had tried to kill me, getting here was quite an accomplishment.

But not now. I had never felt so young in all my life—not even the morning I’d woken up in Green’s arms and we’d realized that our vampire lover had died the night before, and it was the two of us alone and grieving.

I snuggled in more tightly, and Bracken got a little closer. His hand brushed my breast as he did so, and my nipple gave a little shriek of pain. I gasped but kept it to myself—because hey, what girl hadn’t endured a boob shot when snuggling with one of her ginormous husbands, right?

Bracken grunted and stared at me through eyes the color of a weedy, brackish pond in shadows. “That hurt,” he stated.

“Yeah. The girls have been a little tender ever since Monterey….”

Just that quickly a kaleidoscope of our adventure down by the sea flickered behind my eyes. In particular, there was the moment when Teague, our alpha werewolf, and his husband, Jack, passive-aggressive pain in my ass, had both teamed up to protect me.

“Oh, hell. Was that why Jack decided to side with me? Because I’m pregnant?”

Dammit! Of all the…. I’d wanted to win Jack over with my leadership abilities, or with my ability to protect his lover, who was one of my captains and one of my best friends, or even with my friendship with their wife, Katy, whom I both adored and was dazzled by.

“You have a problem with that?” Brack asked curiously. Yeah, Brack’s brain worked along straightforward lines—as long as the result was that I was protected, he didn’t give a crap why.

“I would have liked it if he’d just thought I was a good enough leader to serve,” I grumbled. “I mean, what’s a girl gotta do?”

Bracken pulled out from under my arm, his eyes blazing. He ran a distracted hand through his dark hair, setting it on end like an angry hedgehog, and stared at me.

That’s what you’re worried about?” he asked, sounding outraged. “Do you know how many dangerous, foolish things we did in Monterey? And you’re worried that Jack followed you for the wrong reasons?”

I shivered—which was one of the by-products of having an emergency field transfusion of his blood, which I didn’t remind him of, because hey—one more thing to be pissed at me for, right?

So instead of arguing, I actually thought about what he was saying. Then I wished I hadn’t.

’Cause, well, we’d jumped out of a helicopter to be caught by my magic and my magic alone, which was a first for me in the flying department. We’d stood up to a gigantic rabid wolf pack with nothing but exhausted, injured werewolves and a few tired Avian shifters as support, and I’d….

Oh God, I’d….

I’d been forced to mass kill again, when I’d sworn I’d never do that. Not on purpose. Not so soon after having to issue a death warrant on vampire children because they’d had the bad luck to be turned by a pedophile and would never be sane, never be safe, never be human again.

In my mind I went back to that moment, the lot of us trapped under the force field I’d erected out of magic and desperation in a back alleyway. We’d been just far enough from the sea for us to lose the smell of hope. The rogue wolves had been throwing themselves against it for what seemed like forever, and I’d been growing tired. I could make the shield lethal. I’d been able to kill with my power from the very beginning, but I just kept hoping they’d see sense, that they’d stop somehow, that I wouldn’t have to waste so many fucking lives….

And I’d been teetering between trying to fight our way out and simply making the shield enough to kill them all, when Teague—my captain, my right-hand man, my friend—had looked at me and whimpered. His back end had dropped then—as it should, since he’d been recovering from breaking every bone in his body less than a week before—and I’d seen it in his eyes.

Please.

His mates were there, Jack and Katy, and he wanted them to live.

Or that’s what I’d thought.

Instinctively I placed my hand over my lower abdomen, thinking of what we could have lost there. What Bracken had known I’d been risking.

“You didn’t say anything,” I whispered. I looked over my shoulder at Green. He was gazing at me levelly, with no apologies and no regrets.

“No,” Green said. He and Bracken were staring at each other as though they were reliving a terrible conversation of their own.

“But—” But why? Why would two men who had made my health and welfare their bloody science for the past two years not protest, not try to protect me, not try to talk me out of my own stupid pride when I had their children on board?

“You never would have forgiven….” Bracken looked around the living room like he was looking for words. “Anybody!” he burst out. “Any of us. You, me, Green—hell, the children-to-be. And if, Goddess forbid, anything had happened to Teague, it would have been—” He stood for a moment and flailed his arms. “Cory-a-geddon. You would have self-detonated. This whole… baby thing would have begun under a—”

“A black karmic funk of epic proportions,” I supplied, feeling a little queasy just thinking about it. Of course, since I’d been feeling queasy pretty much for the past two and a half weeks, that was no big news. “But….” I could have died? Well, I could have died a lot of times in the last two years. I kept arguing that I would be fine—there were no promises, and my entire purpose was protection.

But….

Nothing.

“I asked for this?” Quiet revelations do sometimes sound like questions. “I did. I… I said I knew best, and… and….”

“And we trusted you to know best,” Green said quietly. “We trusted you with you, and our children.”

I closed my eyes, somewhat reassured. “That’s….” But I couldn’t do it. Maturity had apparently gotten me into this mess. It was time for honesty to get me out.

Terrifying!” I wailed, and then I dissolved into stupid tears on Green’s chest.

Bracken sighed and plopped behind me, and I cried until I fell asleep.

About the Author

Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.
 
Twitter: @amymaclane
 
 
 

Amy Lane on Writing, Personal Experience, the Saber Dance and her latest release ‘Bonfires’ (guest post)

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Bonfires by Amy Lane
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reamspinner Press
Cover Artist:  Anne Cain

Purchase Links

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Amy Lane here today talking about one of my recently highly recommended stories, Bonfires. Welcome, Amy.

✒︎

Saber Dance

By Amy Lane

When I was a kid, one year my dad made less than $1500 for the entire year. Yes, you read that right, we’re not missing a zero—or two.  Yeah, sure, it was the seventies, and they didn’t drug test the poor people before giving out food stamps, and we lived in a dump for $75 a month, but you got to admit, that’s cutting things a bit close.

My dad was smart though—at the time he was in school to become a respiratory therapist (because Work-Fare WORKS, dammit!) and he made his scant living at a pick-n-pull, but he knew how to stretch out a dollar. We planted a garden, because seeds were cheap, and he haunted the feed stores for fertilized eggs.  A hammer, some nails, a lightbulb, and BANG! Baby chickens—and whether they were roosters or hens, one way or another those critters would feed us for a year.  (One year it was roosters—twenty-three out of twenty-five of them. My dad called all of his friends over to become a chicken-killing assembly line, and we had a hell of a barbecue, but that’s another story.)

So livestock, I’ve had it.  As well as cats, for most of my life. And the thing with feeding the chickens (or the sheep or cats or dogs for that matter) is that there are feedbags left over. A long time ago, you used to be able to get some of the feed—or rice for that matter—in heavy duty cloth bags, but mostly they came in paper. 

All of those layers of paper, with all of those leftover grains of food.

You what likes leftover grains of food?

Mice. Mice like leftover grains of food.

I remember—more than once—the chicken coop or feedbag pile getting infested with mice, and the orgy of destruction that followed.

There is nothing as entertaining as a cat chasing mice, especially one who has not become completely domesticated and still has a strong stream of jaguar running through its veins. The thing is, cats are insanely well-crafted killing machines. Everything from curved claws to sharp teeth to lashing tail plays some part in the feline Saber Dance that is a cat getting down to business.

I know some people out there—people who have possibly never had to walk into a darkened chicken coop to collect eggs and try not to freak out at the scurry of little feet as they scuttle through the hay—feel terrible for the furry little rodents, and I do see their side.  I mean, my kids have kept mice and rats as pets, and on a one-on-one basis they can be amiable little creatures with adorable beady eyes and twitching whiskers.

They can also be cannibalistic nightmares who overrun chicken coops, devour crops (remember, those were dinner!) and scurry over your sandal-clad foot when you least expect them. And my heroes, the floofy kitties, were effectively getting rid of the little grain-stealing criminals.

I was a fan!  Hell—on the day of the Massive Rooster Roast, half the adults who were supposed to be plucking and gutting chickens were in the chicken coop watching Squinter, my cat, do his thing, because that animal was amazing. If you’ve never seen a cat going after a mouse with one paw while he’s got one under the other paw and a third in his mouth, you are missing a cat’s reason for being.

So the scene from Bonfires in which Larx is throwing the feedbags onto the burn pile, and the cats are eliminating the fleeing mice—that’s drawn from my memories as a child. I remember how necessary clearing out the garden was, how the feedbags (in Larx’s case, it was cat food) often harbored more than feed, and how the family cats actually shook off their mantles of sloth and somnolence and for once earned their keep.

The texture of the light, the sharpness of the air in the fall, and the gladiatorial drama of life and death enacted on the stage of the fall bonfire all inspired a tremendous anticipation in my chest.

Like falling in love when you’re pushing fifty, it’s a timeless spectacle that feels brand new.

About Bonfires

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.

It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

About the Author

Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head.

She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies.

She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.

Connect with Amy:

Website: greenshill.com

Blog: writerslane.blogspot.com

Twitter: @amymaclane

Facebook group: Amy Lane Anonymous

Goodreads: goodreads.com/amymaclane

Stops on the blog tour:


March 17 – MM Good Book Reviews

March 24 – Divine Magazine

March 27 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words  

March 27 – The Novel Approach

March 28 – Alpha Book Reviews

March 29 – Love Bytes

March 30 – Gay Book Reviews

March 31 – My Fiction Nook 

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Bonfires by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.

It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

Bonfires is one of those Amy Lane books that’s bigger than any review any reader could possibly write about it.  It encompasses so many huge elements and hits so many big emotional targets that when it comes to pulling it all together in one review I find it escapes me.  It doesn’t help that you go willingly into this story knowing there’s an aspect of it that’s going to tear you apart in Amy Lane’s “shred your heart” way.  You do it knowing something worthwhile will come out of it, as it does here.

Bonfires is not simply a romance any more than starting a fire is about putting two twigs together and expecting a spark. No, Bonfires is about how families are built, how foundations are laid for people to come together to become a strong cohesive unit, powerful enough to withstand some of life’s worst blows, public condemnation and more.  First you get these two men who have already had long relationships that led to having families and children. The men are real, grounded in their lives and ages.  You get them and understand them immediately.

Then you get the amazing, believable, (and not so amazing) kids on both sides.  Yes, just as in life, not all the offspring are sweetness and light.  That’s always a relief to see that bit of reality hit the pages even if its not so welcome for the couple. There’s no instant meshing of families.  Things take time, talking, and work.  There’s actual adulting here.  There’s two houses, schedules, and how and if to come out to your various working environments and staff.  Complicated? You bet and  absolutely absorbing.  Why?  Because we care about these men and children.   We gotten to know them intimately.  At school and at their workplaces.  So when deeply concerning things are happening at the school to people, adult and teens we are intensely concerned about, we care about that too.

Along with Aaron and Larx trying to figure things out for themselves and their kids, there’s another storyline unfolding that’s of equal importance and intertwined with Aaron and Larx.  Its the element with the tragic repercussions that reverberate throughout the community and the two men’s burgeoning relationship.  All things elements, all these pieces of tinder that add up to Amy Lane’s powerful Bonfire….and there’s more.  Of course, there’s always more…

When I  said its about families.  I mean families of all types. Its also the flip side of families…those that do irreparable damage to their young and their community.  And its about the larger families found within the various social communities.  Here Amy Lane’s knowledge of the school system comes in handy with the interplay with the Board of Directors, the various school teachers and factions within the education system.  It all rings very true.

At the end of Bonfires, when you finish the last sentence and reflect back on all those lives and people that Amy Lane created and you spent time with, the tears shed,  the hearts that broke and got pieced back together again, the families made into one…I still think back over this incredible story and realize there’s so much more that I never addressed or could even begin to.   Its as though she crammed a series into one book and no one noticed.  What I do think you should do is read this book.  Its one for thinking about, thinking about families and love and all the astonishing things it takes to get that right.  If we’re lucky and work hard.   When making my Best of 2017 List, Bonfires will be on it.  That’s my recommendation.

Cover Artist: Anne Cain.  Works for the story, although I’m not sure I’m that crazy about it.  Don’t exactly know why.

Sales Links

Book Details:

ebook, 280 pages
Expected publication: March 24th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press, LLC
Original TitleBonfires
ISBN 1635333415 (ISBN13: 9781635333411)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lila Audiobook Review: The Virgin Manny (The Mannies #1) by Amy Lane and John Solo (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Growing up and falling in love…

Sometimes family is a blessing and a curse. When Tino Robbins is roped into helping his sister deliver premade dinners when he should be studying for finals, he’s pretty sure it’s the latter! But one delivery might change everything.

Channing Lowell’s charmed life changes when his sister dies and leaves him her seven-year-old son. He’s committed to doing what’s best for Sammy… but he’s going to need a lot of help. When Tino lands on his porch, Channing is determined to recruit him to Team Sammy.

Tino plans to make his education count—even if that means avoiding a relationship—but as he falls harder and harder for his boss, he starts to wonder: Does he have to leave his newly forged family behind in order live his promising tomorrow?

The Virgin Manny is a cute, trope filled love story. I really liked the way Tino and Channing met and how their relationship grew from there. This is a slow-burn story that can be considered May-December even when the age gap was only ten years.

As any other Dreamspun book, this story has very over-the-top events and reactions from the characters. It’s a feel-good tale even when the events that brought the MCs together were nothing to be happy about. Everyone is content with the new little family and there’s minimal to no angst.

There’s a bit of mystery added which gives the book a soap opera feel. I don’t think it was necessary, but it added to the story’s charm. The last part was too slow, but as a whole, the story works great.

John Solo, as always, did a nice job bringing all the characters to life. I enjoyed the different cadence between Tino and Channing and appreciated how well the female voices were integrated.

The cover by Bree Archer shows the main idea behind the story, but it’s a bit generic and stereotypical.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner | iTunes | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: John Solo
Length: 6 hours 14 minutes
Published: February 14, 2017 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B06WLJTZW4
Edition Language: English

Series: The Mannies
Book #1: The Virgin Manny

 

A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Virgin Manny (The Mannies #1) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

the-virgin-mannyGrowing up and falling in love…

Sometimes family is a blessing and a curse. When Tino Robbins is roped into helping his sister deliver premade dinners when he should be studying for finals, he’s pretty sure it’s the latter! But one delivery might change everything.

Channing Lowell’s charmed life changes when his sister dies and leaves him her seven-year-old son. He’s committed to doing what’s best for Sammy… but he’s going to need a lot of help. When Tino lands on his porch, Channing is determined to recruit him to Team Sammy.

Tino plans to make his education count—even if that means avoiding a relationship—but as he falls harder and harder for his boss, he starts to wonder: Does he have to leave his newly forged family behind in order live his promising tomorrow?

The Virgin Manny is full of those wonderful things I like to think of as Amy Lane layers.  One, its those friends and families she memorably creates that orbit one or both of our main characters.  We always  want to get to know them more too.  They are often as interesting, adorable,  irascible (fill in the verb) and believable as our leading men.   We often come to love them so much that it does them a disservice to call them secondary or support characters. Tino’s sister, his best friend, his mom, his dad….ala familia? Yes indeed turning into ours as well.  Two, its not just one storyline.  Yes, there’s a main one.  But Lane weaves a tapestry of  entertaining and emotional threads for the reader and characters to follow.  It keeps both our hearts and minds involved as we wonder how Tino and Channing are going to handle a grief stricken child and their own evolving feelings for each other.  Its a tricky situation, especially as its only supposed to be temporary.  The possibilities for hurt are huge and the frailties of the child are acknowledged.

Tino also has his own issues and insecurities that he needs to work through. Channing too.  How they maneuver through their maze of emotions, questions about the future of any relationship, status issues and still make their connection to each other seem real and sexy?  True Amy Lane!

Do I heart this story?  Yes, I do.  And I loved Sammy, poor Sammy, lost, angry and grieving who has to learn to adjust and become a part of a new family.  Well, I adored him.

There’s some suspense but its the love and family at the heart of this wonderful story that sings.  I can’t recommend it enough.  Plus its the start of a new series!  Can’t wait for the next to appear.  Pick it up if you haven’t already and be prepared to fall in love.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  Honestly?  Not my idea of Tino.  Its just ok.

Sales Links

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Book Details:

ebook, 228 pages
Expected publication: January 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634776801 (ISBN13: 9781634776806)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Mannies #1

A Lila Audiobook Review: Fish Out of Water by Amy Lane and Narrated by Greg Tremblay

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

fish-out-of-water-audioPI Jackson Rivers grew up on the mean streets of Del Paso Heights—and he doesn’t trust cops, even though he was one. When the man he thinks of as his brother is accused of killing a police officer in an obviously doctored crime, Jackson will move heaven and earth to keep Kaden and his family safe.

Defense attorney Ellery Cramer grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but that hasn’t stopped him from crushing on street-smart, swaggering Jackson Rivers for the past six years. But when Jackson asks for his help defending Kaden Cameron, Ellery is out of his depth—and not just with guarded, prickly Jackson. Kaden wasn’t just framed, he was framed by crooked cops, and the conspiracy goes higher than Ellery dares reach—and deep into Jackson’s troubled past.

Both men are soon enmeshed in the mystery of who killed the cop in the minimart, and engaged in a race against time to clear Kaden’s name. But when the mystery is solved and the bullets stop flying, they’ll have to deal with their personal complications… and an attraction that’s spiraled out of control.

Fish Out of Water is a departure read for this author. There’s no comparison to Amy Lane’s ability to make a character miserable, and this book is no exception. At least, no animals died in the making of this story. It has all the traditional elements of her stories, but it’s more than a romance. The mystery aspect was well intertwined with the rest of the plot lines.

Ellery is my favorite character in the story. Perhaps because he evolves the most as he works on Kaden’s case. I like the way he gives his all to the cases even when he knows his clients aren’t innocent. But he gets even better when he’s doing his best for his deserving clients.

Jackson has an edge that takes a moment to get used to, but after a couple of pages, the reader sees it as a defense mechanism. I give kudos to the author for showing the character’s bisexuality, not just tell us about it. Some may not like this approach, but it works well with the characters.

The story starts slow and it’s over nine hours long. It’s full of action, drama, sex scenes, and all the extras that make a story great. It was hard to follow in parts, but overall, it’s an interesting take on a mystery story arc.

Greg Tremblay did an excellent job, as always. One of the things I like the most about his narrations is his ability to voice male and female characters with the same intensity. By the end of the story, all the characters have individual characteristics that are easy to follow.

The cover by Reese Dante is simple and quite literal. At the same time, the lines are clean and go perfectly with the story. It’s not the normal MM Romance cover, but it goes with the unconventional story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Greg Tremblay
Length: 9 hours and 20 minutes

Published: October 10, 2016 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B01LZQ0MBK
Edition Language: English

An Ali Release Day Review: Summer Lessons (Winter Ball #2) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
summer-lessons-by-amy-laneMason Hayes’s love life has a long history of losers who don’t see that Mason’s heart is as deep and tender as his mouth is awkward. He wants kindness, he wants love—and he wants someone who thinks sex is as fantastic as he does. When Terry Jefferson first asks him out, Mason thinks it’s a fluke: Mason is too old, too boring, and too blurty to interest someone as young and hot as his friend’s soccer teammate.

The truth is much more painful: Mason and Terry are perfectly compatible, and they totally get each other, but Terry is still living with his toxic, suffocating parent and Mason doesn’t want to be a sugar daddy. Watching Terry struggle to find himself is a long lesson in patience, but Mason needs to trust that the end result will be worth it, because finally, he’s found a man worth sharing his heart with.
Mason wasn’t the most likable character in book one of this series so I wasn’t sure about him going in to this.  I have to say though that he completely won me over.  If you read Winter Ball, you’ll remember Mason as the guy who was pushy & said inappropriate things to Skip on his IT calls.  Once he realizes Skip & Ritchie are together he backs off and they become friends of a sort.  This book starts by showing us glimpses of Mason’s past and then fast forwards to his current life.  He’s a successful businessman but his personal life isn’t going like he’d like.  He’s a bit sad and lonely and he’s a nice guy who just wants to be loved.
Mason meets Terry through Skip and soccer and he’s immediately attracted.  The feeling is mutual but Terry is much younger and still living at home with his mother in a negative situation.  As the two men begin a tentative relationship, Mason realizes that no matter how much he cares, Terry still has to do some growing up to do.  Unfortunately love does not always go how you want it and both Mason and Terry have struggles as the story unfolds.  While parts of this were a bit painful to read, I felt the issues were treated very realistically.
The thing I really loved about this book (& the previous one in the series) is how well the author does every day people.  So many romance novels are filled with alphas and heroes or people with tragic backstories they are overcoming (& those have their place) but it is rare that you find a book with people just like you and me.  People with every day jobs and every day hobbies and every day concerns.  I loved that both Mason and Terry were flawed and had some problems but are really nice guys who care about each other and care about their friends.  I really liked them both, especially Mason, and I also really enjoyed the side characters.  Mason’s brother, Dane, and his story were particularly interesting to me and I’d love to see him have his own book at some point.  Skip and Ritchie from book one are in this quite a bit as well as some of the other team mates.
Overall I enjoyed this a lot.  It is both mildly angsty but sweet and romantic.  It has some humor and some smexy times.  And most importantly it had great character development and a lovely happily ever after.  While it is the second book in the series and there is a lot of overlap of the characters from book one, this could be read as a stand alone.  I ended up enjoying this more than the first book, Winter Ball, but that was good too and I would recommend reading it also.
Cover art by Anne Cain:  I love the cover.  I think it fits the story perfectly and it is a great compliment to the cover of the first book in the series.
Sales Links
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Book Details:
ebook, 260 pages
Expected publication: November 25th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634778944 (ISBN13: 9781634778947)
Edition LanguageEnglishSeries Winter Ball #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Freckles (2016 Holiday Charity Bundle) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

freckles-by-amy-laneThe only thing better than a low-level angst story from Amy Lane is one that is low-level angst and has a cute puppy in it and is a Christmas story.  Score all three on this one!

Honestly, the author had me right from the beginning when she painted the picture of Carter, a man who’s been living a boring, very neat and tidy life. He’s just broken up with his boyfriend of three months because he works too many hours, regardless of the fact that he was working to earn enough billable hours to go on a cruise with said boyfriend. When the cute little puppy, who reminded me so much of my own cute little puppy, entered the story via being literally abandoned in Carter’s hands, my heart just melted. 

Two really gentle, sweet, and somewhat ordinary guys, neither with the best of luck in relationships meet when Carter, who somehow found himself with a fluffy, two-pound puppy in his possession, takes the little one to the vet hospital located in the big franchise pet store. He needs to find out what to do with her and how healthy she is (or isn’t). He also has a million questions—mostly looking for the kind of all-around help any panicky person who’s never owned a pet before might require.  There he meets Sandy, a vet tech who’s enrolled part time in veterinary college. Sandy is a hard worker with a great personality and a ton of ambition. So much so, that his past boyfriend left because Sandy didn’t seem to have enough time for fun, and their goals and life ambitions weren’t the same. Sandy can see himself with pets and kids in a committed relationship in his future, something his boyfriend didn’t want. 

As a side note here, I need to thank Amy Lane for allowing Sandy to work in the pet store where the manager, Tommy, seems to have a lot of hot, sexy friends.  As soon as I heard Tommy’s name, I knew who he was, and I’m so happy about this that I feel like Amy Lane gave me a Christmas gift of my own.  Squee!

Back to the story, it’s everything I need to bring me happiness when I’m feeling a little down. As the story progresses, Carter emerges from his preconceived notions of what a successful attorney should be and disregards the mold that had been set for his life—all because of a sexy and kind-hearted vet tech named Sandy and a sweet little puppy named Freckles.  What happens to bring these two men together and to forge a new path for both Carter and Sandy make this story a delight to read.  I highly recommend it for bringing in the holiday cheer. 

The cover by LC Chase shows the adorable puppy, Freckles, peeking out of an open box. Very bright and attractive, this cover is attention-getting.

Sales Links (other links coming soon)

Riptide Publishing

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Book Details:

ebook, 170 pages
Expected publication: November 14th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626495033 (ISBN13: 9781626495036)
Edition Language English

Amy Lane on Facebook for Dogs and her release ‘Freckles’ (2016 Riptide Holiday Charity Bundle) (guest blog and giveaway)

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Freckles (2016 Holiday Charity Bundle) by Amy Lane
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iptide Publishing
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Order  It Here

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is lucky to have Amy Lane here today to share her thoughts on dog ownership, dogs, and the adventure of a walk from a dogs pov.  Welcome, Amy!

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Facebook for Dogs By Amy Lane

So, in Freckles, my Christmas story, Carter Embree, a guy who has never owned so much of a goldfish, is suddenly in charge of a small dog.

He’s trying to be a good dog owner, so he takes Freckles out for a walk—and ends up getting an entire education about what a dog thinks a walk should be, versus what a people thinks a walk should be.freckles-2-2

It’s an entirely different thing.  I mean, people put dogs on a leash and we think we’re taking them for a walk.

Ha!

Yes, there is walking involved, but the dog isn’t thinking of it as exercise. The dog is pretty sure he’s going FaceBooking—and this leads to some conflict.

Think about it—they catch up on friends, investigate new things, tell each other jokes… if a dog wants to know what’s going on in its community, it gets itself hooked onto a leash and takes its owner for a walk.

And then smells ALL THE DAMNED THINGS—while the people tugs impatiently at the leash and tries not to trip, fall, and die.

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Sort of like my dogs Geoffie and Johnnie, who’s morning FaceBook might go something like this:

“Oh, hey, Geoffie—the Shih-Tzu from across the street has been here—see?”

“Oh yes, Johnnie—she’s eating the good kibble, you can tell—ooh, look, the turkeys have blogged!”

“No! No! No!  Don’t clickbait the turkey poop!”

“But Johnnie… it’s so good! Look! Little delicious juicy sound bites to quibble—“

“Oh, did you see that? The Motherboard doesn’t like clickbait—yanked your chain, she did. Slows the whole thing down. She’ll make you drop that right quick.”

“Butt cookies!!”

“Don’t whine, Geoffie—there’s always more cookies when you click FaceBook for dogs.”

“Ooh… dead-thing memes. Did you see this, Johnnie? I’ve got to roll in it—it makes me happy every time.”

“Ooh… good one, Geoffie! I can roll in this dead-thing meme forever! Ha ha! Ha ha! Ha ha! Aren’t dead-things the BEST!”

“But… but… Motherboard, why won’t you let us surf the dead things? WAIIIIIIEEEEEEE????”

“Too much surfing isn’t good for you, Geoffie. That’s why the Motherboard has the leash and collar control system, you know that.”

“Yes, I know. Come on, Johnnie, let’s—Oh. Didn’t realize you were stopping to blog.”

“You (grunt) know (grunt) about blogging.”

“Ooh—good one, Johnnie.”

“Thanks, Geoffie. (kicks grass over blog)  Suddenly you just get the urge to unload.”

“Yes—I know. I don’t understand why the Motherboard feels the urge to delete our posts though. Don’t you think everybody wants to read them? I mean we like reading everybody else’s.”

“Right? And the bags she uses—stink to high heaven. Citrusy plastic something. Just not as inviting as a good blog. I don’t understand at all.”

“Well, there’s no accounting for taste. And… oh. Must blog.”

“Your blogs are always so short, Geoffie.”

“Thank you.  Oooh… look. Turkeys!”

“Oh my God—FLAME WAR! FLAME WAR WITH THE TURKEYS! DIE MOTHERFUCKERS, GO DOWN IN A BLAZE OF TROLL GLORY!”

“You tell ‘em, Johnnie—we hate turkeys. If they didn’t want us to hate ‘em they wouldn’t leave such good clickbait. Hates ‘em. Don’t back down, you’ve got ‘em on the—OMG!”

“TURKEYS! THEY’RE FLAMING BACK! ABORT ABORT ABORT! DELETE ALL TURKEY POSTS! RUUUUNNNNNNNNNNN!!!”

(Dogs and Motherboard catch breath)

“Oh, nicely done, Johnnie, you told those turkeys!”

“Yes, well, you know. Wanted to walk away from the convo. No use getting sucked into a fight that’s going to last all day.”

“Yeah, we’re almost around the corner anyway. One more sniff so we can read the Great Dane’s blog, and then we can go home and get off FaceBook.  I’m ready for some real life interaction with my canned food and a nap.”

So, next time you see a dog on a walk, picture the world as his computer—and wonder what he’s surfing.  It’s definitely as absorbing to him as FaceBook is to us!

About Freckles

freckles-by-amy-laneCarter Embree has always hoped to be rescued from his productive, tragically boring, and (slightly) ethically compromised life. But when an urchin at a grocery store shoves a bundle of fluff into his hands, Carter goes from rescuee to rescuer—and he needs a little help.

Sandy Corrigan, the vet tech who helps ease Carter into the world of dog ownership, first assumes that Carter is a crazy-pants client who just needs to relax. But as Sandy gets a glimpse into the funny, kind, sexy man under Carter’s mild-mannered exterior, he sees that with a little care and feeding, Carter might be Super-Pet Owner—and decent boyfriend material to boot.

But Carter needs to see himself as a hero first. As he says good-bye to his pristine house and hello to carpet treatments and dog walkers, he finds that there really is more to himself than a researching drudge without a backbone. A Carter Embree can rate a Sandy Corrigan. He can be supportive, he can be a hero, he can be a man who stands up for his principles!

He can be the owner of a small dog.

Now available from Riptide Publishing. http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/freckles

About Amy Lane

Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head.

She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies.

She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.

Connect with Amy:

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Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Freckles, one lucky winner will receive Freckles in ebook and another ebook of their choice from Amy’s backlist! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 19, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!