Review: Attachment Strings (Jeff Woods Mystery #1) by Chris T. Kat

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Attachment Strings coverA mother (the Mayor’s daughter) receives a letter threatening to kill her disabled child if she hasn’t left town with the child by a specified date.  While her husband doesn’t take the note seriously, the mother does and reports it to her father. With the Mayor’s family involved, the police assign Detective Jeff Woods and his partner, Detective Parker Trenkins to the case and their initial findings are unsettling.  It’s not only the Mayor’s daughter whose disabled child is threatened but others as well.  At the center of the investigation is St. Christopherus School, a private school for disabled children. where a number of accidents involving their children has occurred.

Gay and in the closet, Jeff Woods seeks out one night stands at local gay bars to ease his sexual frustration and stress over the case.  At the bar, is a young man, Alex Fisher, who is determined to pick up the attractive detective, no matter how many snubs he receives from Jeff.  He succeeds after convincing Jeff he wants a casual hookup only. But their one night stand turns into something neither man was looking for, with a casual sexual encounter turning serious towards the end.

Both men flee back to their private lives in response to their feelings.  Jeff to his job and investigation and Alex to his life centered on his disabled brother and the multiple jobs he needs to support them.   As Jeff’s investigation spreads out to other students in the school, he encounters Alex and his brother.  Their attraction and connection snaps to life when they meet again. It also brings up a prejudice against the disabled that Jeff didn’t know he had.  Detective Jeff  Woods and his partner must fight their own prejudices and their past to find a hidden killer targeting disabled  children before Alex and his brother become the killer’s next victims.

It took me a while to like the main characters and storyline of Attachment Strings.  At the beginning, this is a pretty gritty and brutal story. Jeff Woods and his partner, Parker Trenkins, are not easily likable men. Trenkins, who becomes important later on, is a loudmouth, a seeming bigot, definitely not someone you would want as a partner.  What a surprise he turns out to be.  But it is Jeff Woods character that must overcome several large obstacles before the reader’s affections are engaged.  Woods is all about control.  He doesn’t appear to have any prejudices,  he is gay and in the closet, although not very deeply.  Chris T. Kat gives us a complicated man in Jeff Woods because she makes him stubborn, somewhat arrogant, and finally so prejudiced against a section of society especially vulnerable and fragile that his bigoted attitude is just so ugly that it threatens to derail her story.  That is one mess of a main character and a huge portion of readers might not make it through the first ten chapters to get to the best portion of this story and the redemption of Jeff Woods.

Yes, I said ten chapters.  That is almost one third of the book but it is necessary to outline and set the foundation for this story that I found kind of brave.  One remarkable aspect of Attachment Strings is that disabled children are not those portrayed as glowing totally unrealistic little kids, who always smile like cherubs, are easy to care for and put up little to no fuss.  No, Chris T. Kat gives us realistic portraits of children who drool, flail, gibber and hoot.  Kids that others, including some adults, look askance at even as the kids are strapped into chairs,  with helmeted heads and uncontrollable limbs.  The children that no one really wants to look at but would never admit to that fact.  This is our and Jeff’s first introduction to Sean, Alex’s brother:

A shrill, piercing whistle startled both Parker and me. Alex appeared to be the only one unperturbed. He smiled at the child in his arms and asked, “You wanna stand and say hello?”

Another piercing whistle answered. This time Parker and I merely winced. We exchanged a worried glance when Alex shifted the weight of his bundle until the child stood on his feet.

“Should he, uh, even try to stand?” Parker asked cautiously.

“I’m holding him and he loves to stand and walk.” Alex wound his arms around the child’s torso and together, they maneuvered him around until he faced us.

The boy’s movements were spastic and I hastily took a step backward, barely evading getting hit by his flailing limbs. The boy was as blond as Alex, but he bore not even a trace of Alex’s beauty. The skin on his face was stretched taut and saliva trickled from the corner of his mouth in a steady stream. The bandana he wore functioned probably as some kind of bib; it just looked more stylish. I wrinkled my nose. The sight of this kid was not pretty. Most definitely not.

And the descriptions of life with Sean get more graphic as Alex feeds Sean while answering Jeff’s questions.  Jeff’s reaction to Sean surprises both himself and his partner.  It’s ugly and perhaps even pretty common.  This is also where the story really grabs onto the reader’s attention and heart.  We watch not only as Jeff comes to grips with his feelings and prejudices but also watch the love and care that Alex feels for and gives to his brother.  In fact, this story is full of parents, and teachers who are fervent in their love and support of these special children.  We are pulled into that love and intimacy along with Jeff. And that makes the killer all the more heinous.

Jeff’s partner, Parker Trenkins, is another quirky character.  It is hinted that he is in a D/s relationship towards the end, and his character undergoes several transformations in this story, all terrific and believable.  I loved him, he is a surprise in every way.  I can see that more of his character will be revealed as the series continues and I can’t wait to see the true Parker that emerges.

Along side the relationship drama playing out, we have a murderer on the loose and a case with very few clues as to who the killer is.  The threatening notes are scary and nauseating in content, with a brutal view towards these children as burdens on their parents and society.  This is an absorbing case and my only quibble with it is that I wish it had played out a little more in depth towards the end.  As it is, it is still a chiller of a mystery. And the closer the killer gets to Alex and Sean, the faster your heart will beat that Jeff and his partner will get there to save them in time.

I think my only quibbles here with this story and the author is that I wish she had truncated the section of the story where Jeff’s initial feelings of disgust are displayed from ten chapters into perhaps even five.  By shortening this portion of the story, she would have been able to engage the reader sooner and been able to concentrate on the investigation in greater detail.  As it stands, I am sure that a fair number of readers won’t make through to the heart of the story, and that would be a shame indeed. For this is where it starts to turn:

THE fork crashed down hard on the plate. So hard in fact that a delicate fracture line became visible. Alex’s furious face softened as he turned around to his brother. The boy mewled pitifully and tears rolled down his cheeks. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, baby. I didn’t mean… they don’t… oh please, hush now. No one is disgusted by you.” Sean started to cry in earnest. Parker and I exchanged an embarrassed and very helpless look. We watched uneasily as Alex heaved Sean out of his wheelchair and placed him on his lap. He rocked back and forth lightly, all the while murmuring soft, soothing words into Sean’s ear.

It took Sean a long time to calm down. Alex asked me to hand him a paper towel and used it to clean up Sean’s face. My gut knotted in sympathy when Sean’s face emerged from his hiding place against Alex’s chest. It was blotchy and his eyes were red-rimmed and swollen. Suddenly, he simply looked like a lost and hurt little boy. There was no place for any kind of disgust in my heart, only guilt and shame.

Trust me, this is a story you will want to read.  Hang in there and be rewarded with an unusual detective and his partner who we will be seeing more of.  Attachment Strings is the first in the Jeff Woods Mystery series and I can’t wait for another installment.

Cover art by Catt Ford is terrific and pertinent to the story.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Published June 17th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808634 (ISBN13: 9781623808631)
edition language English
characters Jeff Wood

Crazy Week Ahead, Ghoulish Cocktail Recipes, and This Week’s Reviews

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Sooooooo, sitting here wondering why I do things that make myself crazy.  I’m really not a masochistic sort, occasionally absent minded but truly, people,  usually I am a better planner than this.  So this week, the alarm people are coming to fix the alarm system that wants to beep, squeak, squeal, or otherwise make high pitched noises at all hours of the day, none of them actually caused by any realtime event. And all are picked up by Captain (African Grey Parrot) who finds these noises irresistible enough to mimic.  So even after they are banished , thanks to Captain’s skill at mimicry, they will always be with us. Cue the Excedrin.

Also this week?  A friend is coming to stay for the week.  I haven’t seen her in a while and I am looking forward to getting caught up on her life (outside of the computer chats) face to face.  So what else is also going on?  My wonderful book group is coming over on Sunday for lunch and togetherness, my niece and her boyfriend just flew in from CA for her birthday and my mother is making noises about a “birthday celebration” for my niece over at the Farm this weekend too.  What aligned among the stars and planets that said all this had to happen this week and weekend?  Hey! *waves hands frantically over head* Can we not do this?  Please?  This is making me crazy.  I  like to do things slowly, think the forward momentum of a sloth.  I enjoy getting ready for events and people the same way.  This is not making me happy.  Sigh.

So I plan on lots of writing today so I don’t have to do that as well.  Here is my schedule for the week if I am not carted off to Bedlam.

Monday, June 22:                    Sweet Young Thang by Anne Tenino

Tuesday, June 23:                    Parting Shot by Mary Calmes

Wednesday, June 24:              Welcome, Brother by Erica Pike

Thursday, June 25:                 Attachment Strings by Chris T. Kat

Friday, June 26:                       Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01) by Missouri Dalton

Saturday, June 27:                   Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02) by Missouri Dalton

Cocktail Recipes: In honor of Missouri Dalton’s new series which I absolutely adore, here are a couple of scary Cocktails to cool you off:

The Necromancer’s Martini:

Vampire Martini

1 part vodka
1 part strawberry liqueur
1 part lime juice
1 part cranberry juice

Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass to serve.

Vampire Cocktail

Bloody Vampire Cocktail

1 part rum
1 part cherry kool aid

Pour both of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a highball glass to serve.

Scattered Thoughts Book Review Summary for June 2013

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june

June 2013 has come and gone but some of the books I read that month continue to linger in my heart and mind, just some outstanding stories. As always, there is something for everyone here, from contemporary to paranormal books, terrific additions to wonderful series.  If you missed them the first time, here is your chance to check them out again:

5 Star Rating:

Hobbled by John Inman

Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Mighty Casey by Willa Okati

One Breath, One Bullet by S.A.McAuley

Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean (4.75 stars)(science fiction)

Flawless by Cat Grant (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Stonewall by Martin Duberman (4.25 stars) (non fiction)

The Hanged Man’s Ghost by Missouri Dalton (4.75 stars)(paranormal)

The Night Shift by Missouri Dalton (4.25 stars)(paranormal)(series)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay (3.5 stars) (contemporary)

Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey (3.25 stars) (contemporary)

When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat (2.75 stars)(contemporary)

The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus (2.75 stars) (contemporary)

Review: The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat

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Rating: 2.75 stars

The Caveman and the DevilZoologists Paul and Noah were brought together by their love of animals and their jobs at the Philadelphia Zoo.  But Paul is becoming fed up with Noah’s impulsive nature as well as what Paul sees as unprofessional and dangerous behavior from Noah around the animals he is taking care of – big cats.  Noah was a subject of an attack by a zoo jaguar in the past and hurt badly.  So Paul is fearful and shocked when Noah charges into a cage where a lioness is threatening her cubs.  Noah’s actions endanger not only his coworkers but the general public as well, something Noah will not acknowledge.

Paul is furious, their bosses horrified and Noah in danger of losing his job.  Frustrated and angry, Paul and Noah have to find a way back to each other while keeping their jobs intact as well as their relationship.  Can Noah understand the danger he put everyone in and can Paul find a way to understand the basis of Noah’s actions?  Only time will tell.

The Caveman and the Devil is a quick read at 80 pages and  quite honestly I am not sure if that hurts or helps the story.  What doesn’t help is that the media has reported the deaths of two zookeepers recently, one a volunteer, for the same issue that almost gets Noah injured and fired.  Almost from the beginning I found myself solidly on Paul’s side, thinking the story should have been called The Caveman and the Twit, not a reaction the author was going for, I am sure.  Here is an example of not only how they communicate (or don’t as it were) but also how clueless Noah is:

 “You are mad.” He wrinkled his nose as his searching gaze flitted over my face. He was clearly puzzled by my behavior. “Why?”

“Why? Why? Seriously? You’re seriously asking why I’m mad at you?”

“Yes, dear almighty Caveman, I’m seriously asking why you’re mad at me! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

Utterly baffled, I forgot all about what I was doing or what I had intended to do. I stared down at Noah, my lover, the man I’ve loved for almost a year now. Incredulous, I croaked, “You didn’t do anything wrong today? Is that right?”

The light bulb slowly went on for Noah. Of course, he immediately lunged into defense mode. “I just wanted to get the cubs out of there!”

“You went into Kiara’s compartment without waiting for the inner door to be locked! She had just killed two of her cubs and was in the process of killing the other two!”

“She had walked into the other compartment!” Noah protested.

“But the separating door wasn’t closed yet!” I shouted, eventually losing the fight with my emotions.

“Trent locked the door right after I was inside.”

“Yes, and she came back and jumped against it, roaring. What if Trent hadn’t managed to lure her away?” “

But he did. Don’t be such a nitpicker all the time.”

I could hardly breathe.

Paul later goes on to think that he would have fired Noah based on this incidence and he would have been correct.  Anyone who has worked with animals would be aghast at such carelessness and disregard for regulations.  So I am amazed that Kat would have written this character with these personality traits and expect the reader to identify with him.  Noah “wrinkles his nose” in puzzlement.  Is that supposed to be adorable while his boyfriend is confronting him about his behavior?  Not so much.  Nor is his bemusement over Paul’s anger and reaction to his actions.  The characters then go on to have massive amounts of sex, makeup and otherwise but settle nothing between them.  Lots of shouting, lots of sex, and not much else, including story.

Another puzzling element is that Paul and Noah are two characters first introduced in a story called Cuddling Up in the Animal Magnetism anthology.  I mentioned there that the author seemed to know her zoo protocol, and the same applied here.  So why is Noah constantly flouting the rules and regulations of the zoo they both work for.  In Cuddling Up,  Noah exclaimed that the cat he was in the inclosure with “would never hurt him”,  an inherently false idea that I left fly at the time because it was a short story.  But here the incidence is much worse, Noah’s reactions more painfully obtuse and only Paul realizes the ramifications.  The question remains as to why an author would have a character negate the research that makes the story realistic and then want us to accept that character as an authentic zookeeper?  What was barely acceptable in an anthology shouldn’t work in a longer story.  And it doesn’t.

What makes this tale enjoyable are the main characters inactions with two lion cubs.  Those sections prove to be the story’s saving grace because who doesn’t love lion cubs?  Those also reveal the strongest parts of Paul and Noah’s relationship.  But when the story takes to the bed or back to the zookeepers office, then it falls apart.  Paul hedges and muddies the account of the actual events of Noah charging into the cage, there is a batty and bigoted media director, and it all just falls to pieces.  Paul is an authoritative and dominating character, hence the Caveman appellation.  In fact that is Noah’s term of endearment for him.  So obviously, the Devil is Noah.  Tasmanian Devil  that is, spinning constantly around, upsetting everything in its path, dangerous and impulsive. Just the person you want as a coworker and partner, right?

I just remain puzzled over Paul and Noah’s relationship as written by Kat.  To me it seems dysfunctional, lacking in communication.  I realize that this is supposed to be a fluffy story but I guess too many issues that circle around Noah kept it from being enjoyable outside of lion babies.

I silenced Noah’s cry of protest by laying a finger on his lips. “That is, if I can convince the zoo management not to fire you.” Loosening my embrace, I turned Noah around. He stared up at me from large, frightened gray-green eyes. Water trickled down his pale face in small rivulets as the impact of my words hit home.

“They won’t do that, right? Fire me, I mean? I rescued those two cubs!” His voice rose.

“Noah, any of us could have saved these two cubs after the compartment door was closed,” I said. I was doing my best to be gentle and understanding, but at some point, he would have to accept the truth. His behavior hadn’t only been unprofessional but also irresponsible and extremely dangerous. I wondered if the management would give Noah another chance. If I was honest with myself, I wouldn’t.

By this time, I find myself nodding in total agreement, thinking fire Noah, and move on.  Oh well, I liked the lion cubs and Paul. But for the rest of the story, I give it a pass.  I haven’t read any of this author’s longer stories, and I consider this one is only for those of you who are die hard Chris T. Kat fans.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is the best thing about this book.

Book details:

ebook, 80 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623803314 (ISBN13: 9781623803315)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Review of Animal Magnetism Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Animal Magnetism is an anthology of 15 short stories by 15 wonderful authors of m/m lovers brought together by members of the animal kingdom.  It may be a snake called Ganymede or two kittens in need of a home and names.  It could be a collection of spiders loose in a basement or klepto octopus with a fondness for pens, all types of animals can be a catalyst for love for the right people and under the right conditions!  In these stories, the authors give you all those animals and many more on the path to romance and love.

I am such a sucker for animal stories and this anthology gave me 15 wonderful stories to curl up with and enjoy.  What delighted me the most was that along with the cute dog and kitten stories, the authors came up with tales that revolved around a falconer and his golden eagle, a pick pocket and a horse with trust issues, a groundskeepers relationship with an Indian palm squirrel named Jonno, an artist with a potty mouthed parrot, and a earthquake that allows a man to find love and start over even as it destroys everything around him.  Some stories are light-hearted romps through a grade school teacher’s  pet experiences to the terrifying race to outrun the waves of a tsunami, the range of emotions and settings are of such tremendous variety that there is something for everyone within this strong anthology. An animal lover and retired Park Naturalist, so many of these stories contain elements that resonate with me, whether is was because of animals I have worked with, situations I have been in or just plain animals that fascinate me and I know you will love them too.  This is a tremendous anthology and I know that I will return time and again to these stories to meet up with the people and animals they have introduced me to and have so totally engaged my feelings.  I highly recommend you pick this book up. Here are the stories in the order they are listed in the anthology.

Stories included are:

A Few Too Many by Heidi Champa. – A sheepdog imbibes after a competition and his drunken state introduces his owner to the new vet in town.
Having a Ball by Cari Z.-  Uncle Jimmy is petsitting his niece’s snake and accidentally overfeeds it too many mice.  Lucky for him, there is a gorgeous herpetologist living a floor above.  Great plot and wonderful characterizations had me laughing out loud.  A favorite of mine.

Along Came Spiders by Matthew Vandrew – A nurse and a  police officer get trapped in a basement full of loose spiders when they come to the aid of an unconscious man during an earthquake.  Again, we get strong characters, great plot and oodles of spiders. Terrific.

Cuddling Up by Chris T. Kat – Big cat keepers have a disagreement over zoo protocol and end up hot and heavy before its over..  The author really knows zoo protocol so the characters actions are very realistic while the sex is as hot and steamy as they come

New Tides by Avery Vanderlyle – I loved this story of a man adjusting to being single after a breakup as well as a new job in an aquarium where the catalyst to a new love happens to be a octopus called Cleopatra.  The author got everything right, from the detail about the University of Maryland’s programs to the curious intellect of the octopus and the wonderful characters trying to find love among the marine fauna.  Absolutely a delight and a story I read twice.

Care and Rehabilitation by Kim Fielding –  A man gets help in dealing with the death of a partner when his St. Bernard mix brings him a baby bird in need of a helping hand from a bird rehabber who knows something about loss.  Fielding gives us a sensitive portrayal of a man unable to move forward after the death of a partner and the event that finally helps him move on.  I loved this beautiful story that relates the rescue of a small bird to the rescue of a man in the stasis of grief.

Butterbean and the Pretty Princess Make a Home by R. Cooper – I have recently found R Cooper and now gobble up all she writes.  Here is another example as to why Cooper has become an instant favorite.  Those names alone are pure gold as are the men behind them.  Cooper takes a normal situation of roommates in love and elevates it with two unique characters dancing around the L word.  All it takes to push them over is two small kittens.  Love, love this story

Jonno by Emily Gould – Palm squirrel meets man, squirrel bites man, man meets vet.  Turns out squirrel not so bad after all. So cute.

On an Eagle’s Wings by A.J. Marcus – After I read that Marcus is also a falconer everything about this story made sense, including the authenticity running from page to page in this tale of love in the wilderness that comes to two lonely men.  Vivid descriptions of the wilderness carry the author’s love of the outdoors and his appreciation of nature and raptors with such mesmerizing clarity to the reader that I felt I was there.  Great job.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Skylar Jaye – Can love be found among chickens?  Why yes they can in this story that manages to bring chickens up close and personal while delivering a love story for the egges, oop ages.  Sorry, couldn’t resist

Tears for a Broken Sun by Minerva Wisting – A surprising white knuckle ride of a story inspired by Great Tohoku Earthquake.  Wisting makes us feel every second of every minute of the approaching tsunami.  We understand what the uncomprehending Akira does not, that his dog Wan is trying to pull him away from the shore up the mountain to safety.  Our anxiety mounts as he notices the absence of birds and the wild barking of his dog after the earthquake.  Not a missed step in this superlative story of love found among a natural disaster.

Stripped Bare by Lily Velden – An artist with a potty mouthed parrot has his first showing and love shows up as one of the buyers. Cute and clever.

Wild Horses by Kate Pavelle – A pickpocket named Kai steals a cellphone and its owner wants the phone returned.  When Kai does, he finds not only sanctuary but a path to love as well.  I loved this. While not a HEA, the author shows us tantalizing glimpses into a possible future for everyone involved, including the horses.  Everything about this story fascinates and intrigues the reader, from the hidden backstories of the main characters to the very nature of the special horses themselves.  I wanted so much more once the story was over.

Show and Tell by Liz Makar – First grade teacher Damian Coletti kills the class room pet yet again.  Can the new pet store owner save the class from another loss and find love at the same time?  Why of course, he can.  Funny,  with terrifyingly accurate portrayals of kids and great characters looking for love romp through the pages of this story.

The Conch Republic by G.S. Wiley – Wild conchs lead two men back to love in this story set in Key West.  I have never read a story that used live conchs as a springboard to love so this is a first.  It’s so successful that it might start a whole new take on the puppy love thing.  Conch love, who knew?  Great story, wonderful characters and a plot so easy to relate to that I felt like I was in a Key West state of mind.

Cover: Cover Art by Shobana Appavu . The cover works best when viewed up close so you can see all the different types of animals.  At a distance, it all seems very confused and busy.

Seizing It by Chris T. Kat

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Rating: 3 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

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What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger