ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November banner

November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Hat Trick coverAntonio “Tony”  Côté, is a 30 year old professional hockey player who is deeply in the closet.  Tony fears what coming out would do to his career so he has avoided all relationships, preferring to look for sex in anonymous hookups in gay bars on the road and outside of Toronto where he lives and plays.  All that  changes when Tony meets up with Charlie Trevino one night at a gay bar in Toronto.  Tony notices the cute American immediately and turns a hookup into a date and night of lovemaking.  The next morning, Tony wakes up alone with only a note from Charlie with his contact information.  But the note gets soaked when Tony spills water on it and can’t make out the information.

Charlie is finishing up a hotel management and hospitality degree at UAZ atFlagstaff and is on vacation when he meets the man of his dreams.   After one passionate night, Charlie leaves a note beside a sleeping Tony and heads off to catch his plane, unaware that the man in the hotel bed is a well-known hockey player.

Both men desperately want to see each other again but without exchanging last names, phone numbers or addresses, the odds are stacked against them.  Until Tony is transferred to an expansion hockey team in Las Vegas and they meet once more.  Still the pair face many obstacles, including the closet Tony refuses to leave.  What will it take for Tony and Charlie to find the happiness each seeks with each other?

Hat Trick refers to either three goals scored by one player in a game or three victories.  In this case, Chelle Dugan uses the term in reference to the chances given Tony and Charlie to find each other and make a go of their relationship. It’s a  clever use of the term and I only wish that the resulting story had lived up to that promise.

All the characterizations here suffer from a lack of layering, rendering them far too simplistic and one dimensional.  It also makes it hard for the reader to invest in these men and their romance.  Tony’s character is especially hard to relate to as his character fluctuates between a realistic pro hockey player and a smitten teen with identity issues. Hard to like a romance when the oldest partner of the pair comes off as so much younger than the twenty something he is involved with.  Combine that with the closet and the author making his character act like a jerk and the reader starts to wonder why Charlie would want this man in the first place other than the man’s gorgeous exterior.

The story starts out with Tony looking at a piece of paper then flashes back 6 months earlier.  Sometimes this technique works but here it is simply uneven.  It would have been far more effective had the story started out when they first met then progressed to the present time period. Instead the time frame allotted to the men, that of a year of looking for each other, acts more like a bouncing ball that the reader has to follow in order to understand the lack of flow to the various meetings, miscommunications and missed opportunities by Tony and Charles.  Here is a small taste of Tony and his story:

Rafe and Amy sat and listened to Tony’s story. He left out the sex stuff, but he was sure that they got the picture. Amy was sniffling at the end of his monologue; she was a hopeless romantic, after all.

“Tony, I’m glad you shared this with us, but I’m not sure why. I mean, what can we do?” Rafe asked.

Tony pushed away from the table and began to pace in the small space between the table and the sliding glass door that overlooked downtown LA. He ran a hand through his hair and yelped when he swiped his stitches, having forgotten about them. “I don’t know. Is there any way to find him?”

“Let me make some calls,” Rafe offered. “I can give a heads-up to my secretary and hope he calls the office. Write down all the info you have, and I’ll discreetly hire a PI.” He held up his hand when Tony started to protest. “Your name will never come into the conversation. I hope his intentions are good.”

“Well, if they weren’t, we would have already seen stories in the papers or at least online.”

“Let me research that too. Are you sure you want to go after this guy? It could mean your career.”

“If I could feel like I did that night every day, then losing my career would be worth it.”

In addition to the issues I have already mentioned, Dugan includes a flip-flopping point of view that makes this short story more challenging to read than it ought to be.  Again, it’s not a matter of simply changing the point of view of the narrative but how often that happens and the confusing manner in which it occurs.  The reader has just settled into one man’s mindset when the pov switches to the other main character.  It’s disjointed and it works against the flow of the story.

For some readers, these issues won’t be a problem. If you find that excerpt above romantic, then perhaps you will love this story.  If however, style and characterizations matter, than this might not be the story for you.  At 92 pages, Hat Trick is a relatively short read for those seeking a romance and a simplistic love story.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published September 11th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627981411 (ISBN13: 9781627981415)
edition language English

Review of Two Tickets to Paradise Anthology

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Rating: 4 stars

Two Tickets to Paradise is a collection of 15 stories of men, alone or with a partner, traveling by car, train, plane, and the occasional time travel in search of new experiences and romance in destinations both home and abroad.  What they find runs the gamut from first time love to love rediscovered after considerable time apart. Can you buy a ticket to paradise? Within these stories, the men find the answer to that question and so much more.

After reading this anthology, I found it difficult to come to a rating, as some of the stories floundered, stuck in the mundane and predictable while others soared into great heights of emotion and romance.  The stories that have remained with me are:

J.L. Merrow’s All At Sea, a tale of youth and young love on the Isle of Wight. The characters here have hidden depths, delightful dialog, exquisite scenary and an ending I am still smiling over.

Chelle Dugan’s Off The Tracks, a middle aged man who believes that love has passed him by takes a train trip into the past and gets the chance at love he’s always dreamed of. Realistic characters, vivid descriptions of the Grand Canyon, combined with flashbacks to the 80’s.

Sean Michael’s Something Different, a story of two ex-lovers reunited in Las Vegas after a separation of 10 years.  What can I say?  It’s a Sean Michael’s story, so the sex is hot, the characters memorable and hope for a HEA is on the horizon.

Mal Peters’ Perpendicularity.  The high altitude setting of the French Alps is the perfect location for Kyle, an Olympic snowboarder, to spend Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend.  But an unplanned breakup, sees Kyle alone in the resort chalet until the smell of baking bread and a succulent pork tenderloin lead him to a young personal chef and a change of heart.  Just the descriptions of baking bread and smells emanating from the kitchen won me over, add in the characters of Kyle and Dylan, and you have a story that is a delight to read.

B.G. Thomas’ New Lease is the penultimate story and reason alone to buy this collection. Wade Porter is alone is an oceanside cottage mourning the loss of his long-time lover, a married man who only saw him for two weeks out of the year at their bungalow near Key West.  With the loss and his age wearing him down,  Wade sees no reason to continue living until he meets Kent, a man who has just moved in next door. Kent too has lost a partner and gradually shows Wade the path out of depression and into the true meaning of love.  I was still crying over this story hours later so be warned!  Get those tissues handy.

Zee Kensington’s Krung Thep, City of Angels is the final story of the anthology and my final recommendation.  Marco has dreamed of traveling and for his first trip abroad or any where actually, chooses to go to Thailand.  Marco is the typical innocent abroad who lands in the steamy, packed streets of Krung Thep also known as Bangkok.  Clearly out of his depth, his journey is almost derailed by his inexperience until he meets seasoned journalist, Chris, who writes for travel magazines.  Chris takes him under his wing, and introduces Marco to the sights, tastes and people of Krung Thep.  The author did such a great job with the vivid descriptions of the food markets, pungent odors of the food stalls, and feel of swampy heat rising from the streets that I felt like I had been there. From the bouncy innocence of Marco to the weary self isolation of Chris, the characters felt alive right down to the sweat rolling down their backs.  I wanted to continue on their journey with them, seeking the paths to paradise.

Cover:  Cover Artist Steve Walker.The cover says it all, because how can you show the range of the stories contained within this anthology?

Reviewed for and copy of anthology obtained from Joyfully Jay

Anthology available from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and ARe..