Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words September 2014 Summary of Reviews and Best Covers

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Summary of Book Reviews and Best Covers of September 2014

 

September 2014 Book Review Summary

*Key:
STRW S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
HR-horror
N-Nonfiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

5 Star Rating:

A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews STRWCS
Aftershocks by T. A. Webb (PF2014)
Blown Chance by Havan Fellows (PF2014)
No Fae Is An Island by Angel Martinez (STRWFS)
The Path by Ariel Tachna (STRWC)
Yakuza Courage (The Way of the Yakuza #2) by H.J. Brues STRWCS

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Rose by Any Other Name by Charlie Cochet, (4.5) STRWHS
A Suitable Replacement (Deceived #5) by Megan Derr (4) STRWFS
A Tooth for a Fang by Liv Olteano (4) STRWSNS
Bliss by Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry (4.5) STRWSF A Barb Review
Elijah’s Ghost by Amber Kell (4) STRWSPS
Finally Home by Zee Kensington (4.5) STRWCS
Firestorm (SoulShares #4) by Rory Ni Coileain (4.5) STRWFS
Frankie’s Knight (PF2014) by T.A.Webb (4.75) STRWPF2014S
Lukos Heat by Megan Derr (4) STRWFS)
Midsummer Curse by Megan Derr (4.25) STRWSPS
Midsummer Moon by Megan Derr (4) STRWSPS)
Pulling Leather (Pickup Men Series) by L.C. Chase (4.5) STRWCS
Solitude by Anna Martin and Tia Fielding (4.25) STRWC
The Last Thing He Needs by J. H. Knight (4.5), STRWC
The Last Wolf (Sapphire Ranch Wolves #1) (4) STRWSPS
The Lost Weekend (Infected 7.5) by Andrea Speed (4), STRWSPS
The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds by Charley Descoteaux (4.25) STRWC
Wolf in Gucci Loafers by Tara Lain (4) (STRWSPS) A Barb Review

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

David’s Dilemma by Rae Brewster (3) STRWSPS
Living Again by Brynn Stein (3.5) STRWC A PaulB Review
Men of the Manor Anthology (3.75) STRWHA

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

N/A

Best Covers of July 2014

Forbidden Rumspringa coverA Rose by Any Other NameA Tooth for a FangDavid's Dilemma

 

 

 

 

 

A Forbidden Rumspringa, cover artist Dar Albert
A Rose By Any Other Name, cover artist Aaron Anderson
A Tooth for a Fang, AngstyG cover artist
David’s Dilemma, cover artist Jess Buffett

 

Infected-the Lost Weekend coverLiving Again coverLukos Heat coverNoFaeIsAnIsland_200

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infected: The Lost Weekend, cover artist Paul Richmond
Living Again, cover artist Bree Archer
Lukos Heat, cover artist Julie Wright
No Fae Is An Island, cover artist Winterheart Designs

 

 

Pulling Leather coverThe Last Wolf 400x600The Path coverYakuza Courage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling Leather, cover artist/author L.C. Chase
The Last Wolf, cover artist Meredith Russell
The Path, photographer Ariel Tachna
Yakuza Courage, artist Reese Dante

A MelanieM Review: Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3) by L.C. Chase

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 The toughest ride of his life is all in his head.

PullingLeather_500x750Bull rider Scott Gillard has been fighting all his life, only to have it culminate in a horrific act of hate committed upon someone who used to be one of his closest friends.  While Scott didn’t himself commit the crime, Scott was both the impetus and accelerant for his friends actions and it has cost him everything.

After the brutal beating that cost Tripp Colby his career and almost his life, Scott has left the professional  bull rider circuit  behind.  His past actions and anger have cost him his sponsorships and his career as a bull rider is all but over.  But the past two years have been Scott try to become a better man who is responsible for his actions and more accepting of the sexuality he has always denied.   Scott is trying to change and make amends but will the other rodeo riders and professionals forgive him and let him come back?

Pickup man Cory Ackerson has never backed away from who he is, even if it meant constant harassment and bigoted attacks.  He’s confident in his skills, whether it is acting to save a bull rider on the circuit or putting on his eye liner.  A constant on the gay rodeo circuit, Cory is intrigued when Scott Gillard shows up at one of their rodeos looking to make amends and searching to see if there is a place for Scott somewhere in the rodeo scene.

Cory reaches out to Scott when Scott’s entrance is met with anger and Scott’s only action of one of quiet defense and pain.   Slowly the two form an unlikely friendship between one who is so flamboyantly gay and one who is still struggling to come out of the closet and find acceptance.  When friendship turns to love, Scott must finally decide which path he will take, the one that leads out of the closet or the one that lets fear lead the way away from the one man he loves.

I think that Pulling Leather is absolutely the best so far of the Pick Up Men series by L.C. Chase.  Scott Gillard was a creature of fear and hate in the previous stories.  And while we may have guessed at the secrets he was hiding, he never completely rose above a shallow portrait of a bigot.  Now L. C. Chase gives Scott Gillard his story of redemption and love and pulls the readers along each step of the way.

The prologue offers a glimpse into the action two years prior that caused all the anguish and shattered lives in the process.  When Pulling Leather finally begins Scott is coming off two years of intensive therapy and self reflection.  Now his friend and therapist thinks it is time for Scott to confront his feelings, make amends for his past actions and abuse, and take those first shaky steps out of the closet.  Thankfully, this is a realistic portrait of a man still in need of support, and work.  Scott Gillard is uncertain, apprehensive, and emotionally fragile.  That all that is hidden behind a large, gruff exterior makes his acceptance and turnabout harder for others to accept.  I think L.C. Chase has made Scott such a believable, “rough around the edges” sort of cowboy.  His background is especially painful and it is revealed slowly over the length of the story as Scott gains enough confidence in Cory to reveal parts of himself and his upbringing known only to his therapist.

Cory Ackerson is such an appealing character.  It will be easy for the reader to connect with such a strong character who is unapologetically, flamboyantly gay!  He’s open, non-judgmental yet not without flaws.  I appreciated the fact that Chase didn’t make Cory Scott’s salvation as only Scott could do that for himself.  But Cory and the manner in which he lives his life works to be a lovely example of life lived outside the closet and not only for Scott.

Some readers may find Scott’s progress too slow but I thought that was one of the most authentic touches here.  Scott has a ton of anger and denial to overcome and that is never a swift journey.  Other aspects of this story draw on Chase’s strengths as an author.  Her rodeo universes, both straight and gay, are realistically portrayed as are the people who participate in them.  I believed in this story and her characters because you can almost smell the sawdust from the arena as well as the smell of sweat covered leather from all the rodeo professionals here, male or female, straight or gay. Chase does a terrific job in making all her bull riders and pick up men credible and down to earth.  Loved that.

I am not sure how many stories she has planned for this series but I do know it keeps getting better and better with each installment.  I hope she continues it because its obvious there are so many more stories in this universe that need telling.  Consider this highly recommended but don’t start the series here.  Check out the list below and start at the beginning with Pick Up Men!  If you love cowboys and the rodeo circuit, this is a series for you!

Cover art by L.C. Chase.  That cover is so perfect for the character and story.Love that cover! One of the best of the month.

Sales Links:    Riptide Press      All Romance eBooks (ARe)   Amazon Pulling Leather

Book Details:

ebook, 177 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titlePulling Leather
ISBN139781626491618
edition languageEnglish
seriesPickup Men #3

The books in the Pick Up Men series in the order they were written and should be read are:

Pick Up Men by L.C. Chase
Let it Ride (Pickup Men, #2)
Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3)

A MelanieM Review: Yakuza Courage (The Way of the Yakuza #2) by H.J. Brues

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Yakuza CourageEx-Navy SEAL Brendan O’Farrihy’s life was never the same after his SEAL team deployed to Afghanistan on a near suicidal covert mission. It ended disastrously, killing two of his team members and shattering the lives of the remaining SEALS. Now Brendan works for a Washington lawyer and boyfriend, helping his clients by conducting investigations and acting as security.  Then Brendan is sent to Honolulu on a new job for their client, Senator Harris.  It seems that the Senator’s youngest son has gotten involved with the Yakuza and brought them back with him from Japan where he had been kidnapped.  The Senator’s son, Kenneth Harris,  is living and working at Honolulu dojo , a suspected front for a yakuza syndicate.  Brendon’s job is to investigate and extract the son as necessary. The first step in Brendan’s investigation? Enroll in a kendo class being given at the dojo in question to get close to his subject and observe the situation.

Kendo instructor, the cocky, short-fused, gorgeous Kinosuke Yonekawa has arrived in Honolulu along with his former yakuza underboss Shigure Matsunaga, other ex yakuza members and of course, Ken Harris, Matsunaga’s gajin lover who is helping to see them established in the US. Kinosuke feels cutoff from all he knew, especially his place in Japanese and Yakuza society. American culture and customs confuse him and he feels adrift from the very people who make up his family. Then a new student arrives in class. Freckled, outgoing, handsome and yet respectful. The feelings he engenders in Kinosuke just add to his jumbled state of mind.

As Brendan becomes more involved with Kinosuke, the less sure he is that the Senator has been telling him the truth. The Yakuza are protectiave of Ken and seem to have left their criminal connections behind them in Japan. So what exactly is going on?  When Ken disappears from the dojo, Brendan must decide whether to stick to his original plan or reveal his investigation to Kinosuke and the others in order to help them find Ken and bring him home.  But will Kinosuke ever forgive him?  And will it all be in time to rescue Ken from a danger closer than Brendan had imagined.

Yakuza Courage, the second story in H.J. Brues’ The Way of the Yakuza series, represents yet another new series and author for me.  Her special combination of suspense, romance and all the elements that a variety of cultures bring really made this story (and series) a real highlight for me.  I am working backwards here so I was missing the first installment, Yakuza Pride, where Ken Harris and Shigure Matsunaga met in Japan and the kidnapping that occurred there.  However, I didn’t feel as though that lack of a complete backstory was necessary in order to get connected to the men, the romances and histories central to the plot here.

Words that come to mind when trying to describe the characters, and plot?  Densely packed, beautifully constructed, and always complex.  That applies to everything here.  The characters are especially marvelous.  On one side you have Brendan O’Farrihy and the remaining members of his SEAL family, a damaged, closeknit, and over the top competent group of warriors devastated by a mission gone wrong.  And soon to be reunited in Hawaii.  On the other side?  A closeknit group of Japanese warriors…a segment of the criminal gang that is Yakuza.  They too have been separated, not from each other, but from their material and emotional foundation in the Yakuza organization in Japan.  Two teams or families adrift by circumstances and one man who will bring them all together.  What a great plot!  And to make them all feel alive H. J. Brues steeps her story and characters deep in the culture of Hawaii.  Here  it is the white people or haole who are outsiders.  Not so those of multiracial backgrounds found throughout the Hawaiian Islands, where it can take a true polyglot to understand the mixture of dialects, colloquialisms, pidgin mashups of  English, Japanese, Samoan, and much, much more that has become the language of the people there.

I loved the manner in which Brues folded her knowledge of the various cultures (of Japan, Yakuza, Hawaii, and SEAL) together in such a way that they remain distinct yet commonplace elements of the people and story lines.  Her characters speak the language of their home and cultures and it feels as natural as breathing.  Along the way other details and facets are thrown in, such as the clothing worn by kendo masters and the slippers and furnishings found there. Want to know more about what it is like to don (and take off) the hakama pants worn by Kendo Masters and students? Then read the scene that highlights the difficulty and time it took Brendan and Kinosuke to remove their hakama pants while half crazed with lust.  It comes across as both authentic, and funny.   Dialects swing back and forth from Japanese to colloquial Hawaii then to standard SEAL  speak and English and then around again.   A tremendous merry-go-round of  vivid imagery, local flavor, and layering that can make your head swim if other cultures and languages are not your thing.  For me it felt as if each new page brought another present to unwrap.

There is a tremendous amount of information here and plot complications to  include so at times the reading can slow down, the narrative sluggish under the weight of all those great elements and tactical maneuverings.  Then its starts to pick up as the other SEAL team members arrive and the rush is on to accomplish several missions, save Ken, and complete a HEA for all.  That race towards the resolution is really gripping, the author’s sentences creating a picture of tension, danger, and imminent discovery.  So  many great action sequences coming together for a jam packed explosive finale.

I loved this story so much that I went back and grabbed up  the first in the series, Yakuza Pride.  But that is a review for a later time.  But if you haven’t read that story, don’t worry you can start here as I did.  From that glorious cover to the equally stunning story inside, this is one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014 and highly recommended reads!

Cover artist Reese Dante’s cover is lush, beautifully rendered and spot on for this story.

Sales Links:         Dreamspinner Press (on sale)      All Romance eBooks       Amazon        Yakuza Courage

Book Details:

ebook, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published July 31st 2014)
ISBN139781627988667
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Way of the Yakuza #2

Book in the Series to date:

Yakuza Pride (The Way of the Yakuza #1)
Yakuza Courage (The Way of the Yakuza #2)