Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Review: Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Dance Only For Me coverJackie Black, sorcerer and gunslinger, has a surprise for Roman, his lover of two years.  Jackie has decided to move to the city to be closer to his boyfriend and makes a surprise trip to tell Roman the good news.  But the surprise is on Jackie when he intrudes on a romantic evening Roman has planned with another man, a much younger man.   Heartbroken and lacking a place to stay, Jackie heads out of Roman’s building and straight into trouble.  In a bar in the poorer section of the city, Jackie is befriended by a man who claims to be a supernatural detective who needs help on a case.  That case involves retrieving a magical object from someone who just might also be a killer.

Needing something to take his mind off his pain, Jackie agrees to help the detective and changes the course of his life forever.  For nothing in Jackie’s life is as he wants it to be.  His father is off somewhere in Asia, mourning the loss of his wife and Jackie’s mother, Jackie feels he is not made for love as his last three boyfriends have cheated on him, and his new found friend is dead, dying in his arms moments upon his return.  What is Jackie to do but what a Black always does.  Holster his guns and go get the person who done the crime, or crimes.  He can only hope it won’t cost him his life as well.

If asked, I would be hard pressed to say which of Megan Derr’s fantasy universes is my favorite. but certainly her Dance with the Devil series would be in the top two.  So you can imagine my delight upon hearing that her latest release was a return to that amazing universe and wondrous group of supernatural beings that inhabit it.  Jackie Black and his father Jebadiah Black have appeared briefly in other stories but now Jackie is getting a central role in his own novel, Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6).  And I have to say I loved it.  It had everything  I have come to expect from Megan Derr and this terrific series.

Jackie Black is an oddity in his world, an amazing thing to say given the creatures that roam the streets and bars of the City.  He is over 70 years old, a sorcerer who wears a Stetson, cowboy boots, duster and uses magical revolvers of the old West to take down miscreants, human and non human alike.    Thin as a whippet, “whipcord” thin as his mother would say, Jackie is a bit of an anachronism, just like his father.  He speaks in the dulcet well mannered tones of a Sheriff in the old West, polite even when aiming his six shooters to kill,  This is our first introduction to him and his story:

Jackie caught the goblin right square between its crazy ass eyes and sighed as the fool thing dropped like a sack of flour to the warehouse floor. He holstered his revolver in a single, smooth move and touched the brim of his hat to the cluster of goblins huddled in the corner. “Ma’am,” he said to the one at the head of the pack, who had hired him to do something about a goblin that had tipped from average goblin crazy to crazier than a pack of elves gone drunk and frisky.

He walked over to the body to make certain it was dead and wrinkled his nose at the smell wafting off it. He’d caught whiffs of it before, but now the thing was holding still it was a sight easier to catch. “Poor thing’s mind done been scrambled like eggs at Sunday brunch.” He tipped his hat back to look up at the head goblin as she approached him. “Ain’t got a clue how he was poisoned, but I were you, ma’am, I’d be checking right careful for a traitor in your midst. This sort of thing is near always personal.”

I loved the dialog that Derr has written for Jackie.  It is so easy to picture him, a spare man of honor, like Gary Cooper in High Noon (google it).  In fact, I loved everything about Jackie, from his background and family life to his current painful predicament as a discarded lover who thinks he will never find the person/being right for him.  His singular code of honor drives his actions as well as his relationships.  And people are drawn to him whether he likes it or not.  The many layers to Jackie will draw in the reader as well, we just can’t help it!

Typical of Derr, it’s not just Jackie who is beautifully characterized but all the beings/people created for the story as well.  Whether it be friend or foe, everyone you will meet between these pages feel real.  They have hidden agendas driven by greed, pain, or a need to set things right.  They  want love or friends or a family or all three.  From a demon called Ned whose pain will make you cry to a young boy, Wyatt, whose dark past has made him older than his years, each and every one will cry out for your affection and attention.  And they will deserve it.  Especially Ned, Wyatt Thorne and a vampire necromancer, Phoenix Fairchild, each so memorable in their own way.  I loved them too.

One of the charms of this series is that couples, people from previous books make appearances throughout the series. Sable Brennus and Christian are here, as is Ontoniel Desrosiers,  Johnny and Grim, and even a dragon or three.  Seeing them here just made me want to go back and start reading each of their books all over again.  Megan Derr has such a wonderful imagination and her creativity just flows through this series like a river of magic. Every type of magic or wondrous being is included here.  Angels, sorcerers, witches, goblins and alchemists, that’s just a start.  There are werewolves, vampires, ghosts and golems too.  They are all present and involved in Jackie’s life and story and we are so much the richer for it.

I came close to giving this story a 5 star rating but there was just a few too many errors here.  Spelling errors, repetition problems and sentences like this one.  “Hope your right, Sheriff.”  Instead of “Hope you’re right, Sheriff”.  An editor should have caught these common problems and didn’t.  That brought the rating down which was a shame.   Tighter editing and better proofreading would have made this story a perfect read.

Those issues aside, I absolutely recommend this story to every person who is a fantasy fan, who love mythical beings come to life and men who hunger after love even though their past has told them it only brings heartbreak.  If you are new to the series, you can read this as a stand alone.  But reading the other stories first make this a much richer and fulfilling adventure.  I really hope that Megan Derr brings back Jackie, Ned and the rest for a followup adventure.  They are all so deserving of it.

The Dance with the Devil series:

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil, #1)

The Glass Coffin

Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil, #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil, #3)

Ruffskin (Dance with the Devil, #4)

Sword of the King (Dance with the Devil, #5)

Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil, #6)

Cover Art by London Burden.  Great job in branding the series by cover but I wish it was a little lighter in tone so we can see the guns.

Book Details:

ebook, 236 pages
Published July 24th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Dance Only for Me
ISBN13 9781620040850
edition language English

Favorite Series Covers and Cover Artists!

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Book covers have always fascinated me.  Some repel me, others draw me in immediately.  Think “ooh, shiny, pretty…” lol.  Others intrigue me by their content or graphic design, while others leave me “meh” or confused. When I think of series covers that are successful, all they have some of the same elements incorporated into their design.  The first being I can tell the books belong together at a glance, they have a cohesive design element consistent in every cover.  The fonts stay the same.  Each cover contains the same overall design with small changes that  don’t affect the overall picture they present to the reader.

So we are looking for consistency, cohesiveness, clarity and recognition.  Designs that convey a sense of connectedness between the books. Look over my choices and see if you agree with me. Many of my favorites series also have some of my favorite series covers. Yes, I have let quite a lot out but I need something for the next cover post, don’t I? Lets get started.

1. Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, now being written by Abigail Roux,cover design by Mara McKinnon:Simple and elegant.  The central object, which is prominent in each storyline, is changed out with each book.  I can tell a Cut &Run book in a heartbeat.

2. Lost Gods series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden. Each cover is a map of the kingdom the story is set in.  The color is important as it is a prime element for each kingdom and its culture.  Blue for the kingdom of Kundou, a land to whom the sea is all important.  It’s people have hair in all shades of blue and green, the color of water.  The orange/red cover of Burning Bright is self explanatory and so on. Subtle, expressive, simple on the surface yet contains hidden meanings just like the books.

3. Sanctuary Series by RJ Scott, artist/cover design by Reese Dante.  Each cover depicts the two men who will be the novel’s romantic couple, usually one is a Sanctuary op.  The design stays the same with the men being switched out.  The models are  consistent with the descriptions of the men inside.  Reese Dante  does the fantastic design.

4. Dance With The Devil series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden.  Effective use of a simple graphic design where the object floating in the center of a black cover is switched out for each new book. Again the main element is important  to the storyline. Effective, elegant, and easy to recognize that the books belong together without having to resort to the publishers note.

4. Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane, cover design by Scott Carpenter: All the covers have a lovely vintage feel to them, sepia toned with elements such as furniture, buildings and mens clothing from 1900’s included on the design. Unfortunately, the last cover from Samheim had a more modern looking model which threw off the design. The newest title in the series has a completely different look as it was published at the different company. Can you pick it out?

3.  Superpowered Love by Katey Hawthorne, artist P.L. Nunn:  Just wonderful art by PL Nunn, the covers really set the stage for the stories within.  I just love these.  Again while the content changes, the style is the same and makes the books easy to identify.

4. Infected series by Andrea Speed, art by Anne Cain, cover design by Mara McKinnon: These covers blow me away.  Intense, dramatic, with that hint of menace.  Outstanding.  They are offered to download at Andrea Speed’s website.  I grabbed them, you will want to as well. Andrea Speed’s website http://www.andreaspeed.com.

5. Cattle Valley Series by Carol Lynne, art by Anne Cain.  It doesn’t matter if it is Book 2, Book 12 or Book 23, you can tell it is a Cattle Valley book immediately due to the great design and artwork by the wonderful Anne Cain.  This series is branded, folks! Total E Bound does more of a series branding than any other publisher or so it seems to me.

6. Sci-Regency Series by JL Langley, cover by Anne Cain.  Sigh!  I love Anne Cain and her artwork.  Especially her cover for My Fair Captain.  That one is so drool worthy that I have to bring out the towels. Yeah, I know TMI!  But just look at that chest!  And the same goes for the other two books in the series, the last of which, My Regelence Rake, is to be released in October 2012.

7.  Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford, artwork by Posh Gosh. What a lush, rich group of covers,  They are like a feast for the eyes, I just don’t know where to look next.  The design pulls your eye around the cover, so nothing is missed.  Just superb.

So that’s my short  list. What is yours? Yes, I see the same artists over and over on covers I like.  Anne Cain, PL Nunn, Reese Dante, Posh Gosh and London Burden.  Lately I have also noticed Alessia Brio too.  I know I have missed so many great artists, help me fill in the blanks.  And don’t forget to leave a comment and be entered in the contest.

What Series Am I Reading Now?

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My reading list has always been a convoluted constantly changing creature (alliteration how I love thee), but lately it is full of authors delivering an addictive group of novels revolving around a select cast of characters and the universe they inhabit, in other words a series!  What does surprise me is that most of the series I am currently reading come from authors that were new to me, undiscovered territory as it were. So these series actually represent a double dose of goodness, that of a new author as well as new series.  I will note that the series I am listing here are ones that are either not complete or a recently completed series that I haven’t finished reading.

1. Infected Series by Andrea Speed:

It started with Andrea Speed and her Infected series.  I can’t remember why I picked up Infected: Prey to begin with but I know that from the moment I met Roan  and discovered the story of a cat virus (like AIDS, it is a blood born pathogen) spreading across the States with devastating effects on society, I was hooked.  Andrea Speed was a new author for me (as is most of the authors here) but with her creation of Roan, she has given us wonderful reluctant superhuman hero, complete with a unique voice and style of dialog I would recognize as his anywhere.  Roan would appreciate it if he were a solitary being but he comes with a close knit group of people in various roles that are as multilayered, as personable as tragic and humorous a bunch of beings as you will ever meet.  Roan has esoteric tastes in music so I was not always familiar with his choices of bands (These Arms Are Snakes really?) but Andrea Speed thankfully provides the playlists on her website so I can get up to speed (snort) and so can you.  And Roan’s commentary on society, reality tv, religion, ok anything really often has me in stitches when I am not dissolving in tears.  Do not pass up this series.

Infected Shift is the latest in the series.  Find my review of it here and a list of all the previous books.  The books should be read in the order they are written to get the full measure of the story and the characters.

Infected Series: Prey, Bloodlines, Life After Death, Freefall, Shift.

Andrea Speed’s website In Absentia can be found here.

2. Lost Gods Series by Megan Derr:

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I was asked to review Treasure, the first book in the Lost Gods series. I had a vague notion about it being a fantasy series, mermaids, dragons, that sort of thing.  But from the first page of Treasure, Megan Derr’s characters grabbed me by the shirtfront, gave me a shake for good measure and pulled me into their complex, richly layered saga of the gods returning to their lands 1,000 years after their deaths.  Let’s start with the way Derr has crafted this series.  Each book is the story of one kingdom and their Lost God.  For each kingdom, Derr created a people whose religion, dress, language and beliefs reflects that culture of their land as well as geographical map to help the reader envision the story.  Her world building is dazzling and from novel to novel, the saga changes in scope from a rollicking sea adventure to the sacrifice of innocents, from broad humor to scenes that had me sobbing uncontrollably.  Megan Derr leaves nothing to chance in her books, there is myth building, creation puzzles and themes of forgiveness, sacrifice and rebirth. After Treasure came Burning Bright, a book I was in no way prepared for and still holds a huge place in my heart which is odd considering my mouth tasted of ash after reading it. An astonishing novel in a series of the same measure.

This is a 5 book series and Megan Derr has just submitted the last book to the publisher, Less Than Three Press.  I have just finished the 3rd book, Stone Rose.  Find my review here along with the reviews for the previous books.  My review of the covers will go up on Tuesday.

All the books should be read in order that they were written because of the complex saga and the long list of intertwined characters. Treasure, Burning Bright, Stone Rose, Poison, and Chaos.

3.  Cambridge Fellows Series by Charlie Cochrane:

I remember reading a review by Erastes of one of the Cambridge Fellows series and found myself intrigued by the high rating and Erastes’ regard for the author’s historical authenticity and writing style. Then it popped up again and again on must read lists on various blogs to the point I  found myself ordering Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows #1) and got my first introduction to the Drs. Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart. I will say our first introduction was a little shaky. I loved Cochrane’s descriptions of 1906 Cambridge from the language/terms spoken at that time to the shoppes of the day but it took me some time to warm up to Orlando and Jonty.  I liked them well enough, respected them but felt a little removed from their characters.  Then came Lessons in Desire (Cambridge Fellows #2) and the distance between the characters and myself dissolved never to return.  With each book the relationship between the characters deepened as more of their backstory came into light and I become more engaged, more connected to the characters and their fate.  By Lessons in Discovery (Cambridge Fellows #3), I was seriously in love with Orlando and Jonty, and paid close attention to each case they investigated (oh yes, there are mysteries in each book).

There are some hard subject matter buried in these stories, including one of child abuse and rape.  Charlie Cochrane handles it with sensitivity while never deviating from the emotional devastation it visits upon her characters.  The author’s use of language and location gives her stories such depth and authenticity that I often find myself running to do research on some topic she has brought up long after I have finished the book.  Every part of this series is beautifully done.  I just finished the fifth book of this series, Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows #5) and thought I saw the end of the series with All Lessons Learned (Cambridge Fellows #8).  Then Charlie Cochrane published Lessons for Survivors (Cambridge Fellows #9) this month with a different publisher and the series continues.  Huzzah!

Find my review of Lessons in Temptation(Cambridge Fellows #5) here and all the reviews for the previous novels.

The list:  Lessons in Love, Lessons in Desire, Lessons in Discovery, Lessons in Power, Lessons in Temptation, Lessons in Seduction, Lessons in Trust, All Lessons Learned and Lessons for Survivors.

Charlie Cochrane’s website is http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com

4.  Dance With The Devil Series by Megan Derr (yes, Derr again):

This was easy.  My co-reviewer Sammy was reading these novels and I picked up the first based on her recommendation and my knowledge of the author.  Right away,  the method Megan Derr used to create her narrative delighted me.  We are introduced to Chris White, supernatural detective,  and his associate detective Doug who happens to be an imp by the means of detective cases. Each chapter is a different case Chris White has been involved in. Here Derr does not follow a strict timeline for the first case ,Case No. 507  The Devil’s Consort, finds Chris already the consort of Sable Brennen, the demon Lord of the city. The next chapter, Case No. 37 finds Chris just starting out in the business.  Here he meets Sable for the first time as well as so many more unusual and delightful characters that reoccur throughout the novel. The next case is Case No. 532, Bad Blood Part 1 which moves the story forward. Then the case immediately after is one from the past bringing with it the backstory of whatever character is now front and center.  If that seems confusing, trust me its not.  And as for Chris himself?  Well, he happens to be part ghost with the ability to walk through solid surfaces, handy when you are a detective facing locked doors!

I have just finished with book four in the series (yeah, I know I didn’t see it before I started writing this all down, I am on or at another book 5), but it seems that Derr is taking us on a tour of the various territories of this world she created.  The first 3 books are very connected together as there lands are adjacent to each other and then with book 4, she starts introducing the dragon lands which are the subject for books 5 and 6 so far. Within these pages we have demon lords, vampires, werewolves, imp, gorgons, warlocks, witches, pixies, brownies, dragons, knights, and almost every supernatural or fantastical being you can think of.  A veritable smorgasbord of fantasy characters, all realistically portrayed (as real as supernatural beings can be), all so personable that you love them, hurt for them, care greatly what happens to them, even if they are the walking dead.

Pick these up, don’t pass go, don’t stop for anything, even a Margarita before getting the first book, Dance with the Devil.  You are going to be my BFF for this one!

The list: Dance With The Devil,Dance In The Dark, Ruffskin,Midnight, The Dragon Pit,The Sword of the King

Read my review of the last book Midnight and you will find a list of the previous books as well.

Megan Derr’s website is http://maderr.com.  Also check out Less Than Three Press!

5. The Sanctuary Series by RJ Scott:

Take one crime family, The Bullens, add in gorgeous sexy, competent operatives working for a secret agency dedicated to keeping witnesses safe and investigating crimes that the other alphabet government agencies are involved in or won’t handle and you have the Sanctuary series by RJ Scott. Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) is our introduction to Sanctuary, their operatives and the Bullen crime family.  Morgan is the eyewitness to the brutal  murder of a young woman, and is the first domino to topple over in the line of events that will eventually bring the Bullen family to  justice.  Each book gives us a new romantic pairing and more leads/clues into how widespread  are the Bullen family’ crimes, extending into the Senate itself.  Scott gives the operatives a realistic feel, they screw up, they bleed, they are stressed out and sometimes overwhelmed.  These are real people who are overextended just by the nature of the job they perform. And while there are at least one HEA, most are HFN which is believable given their jobs and responsibilities.

The Bullens are a despicable bunch and Scott throws us quite a few false leads and surprises here. The investigation gets compromised, there is a FBI mole, and things are not always what they seem.  It is a great ride full of characters I came to care about, there is not one cardboard cutout to be found in these novels.  The Bullen Family saga ended at Full Circle but the Sanctuary novels will continue or so RJ Scott assures me.  What a happy reader than made me.

So here is my review of Full Circle with the complete list of the Sanctuary books to date.  Read them in order.  Guarding Morgan, The Only Easy Day, Face Value, Still Waters,  and Full Circle. You will love them if you like great action adventure and sexy special operatives!

RJ Scott’s website is http://www.rjscott.co.uk

6. Cut & Run Series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, now being written by Abigail Roux:

How do I love this series?  Let me count the ways.  I love it to thee to the depths and breadth and height my soul can reach, I love thee purely, I love thee….well I am sure you get my drift.  This series is brilliant.  It all started back in 2008 when Dreamspinner Press published Cut & Run, the first in the series then written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux.  It was here that Ty Grady met Zane Garrett in the offices of the FBI.  Neither man had a partner, both were coming off undercover assignments, and in Zane’s case, a deep undercover assignment that left him with a drug and alcohol addiction.  As they saw it, they were polar opposites, Zane liked to “crunch the numbers” as it were, and Ty flew by the seat of his pants.  This was not a partnership that had long term or even short to middling term written on it.

Their first assignment has them looking for the murderer of a pair of FBI agents.  They are squabbling, constantly finding fault with each other’s techniques and personalities. Then the murderer turns his attention to them and they must act together as a team to track down the killer before they become his next target.  Cut & Run sets the tone for the series.  A tight, suspenseful storyline that contains a complicated assignment that somehow furthers Ty and Zane’s complex relationship.  This is not a case of instant love or even instant like.  Instead we are given a relationship that is built slowly and with great care over six published books so far and Abigail Roux has stated she plans to go to at least nine in the series.

And what remarkable characters we have in Ty Grady and Zane Garrett.  They have fervent, obsessed fans who have Team Ty and Team Zane t-shirts (Edward and Jacob eat your hearts out).  And all that obsession, all that mania is totally warranted.  These are not your larger than life superheroes. Instead we have two human beings, with all the frailties, faults, and traits that make it easy to identify and empathize with them. Ty comes from a family steeped in military tradition but only now are we finding out why he joined the Marines.  And Zane’s background? We have only gotten hints of it, with a fact thrown in here or there.  Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6), coming out in August 2012, will answer some of our questions, but not all.  That is in keeping with the slow leak of information as each man still has much to learn about the other.

Is there a difference now that Abigail Roux is writing the series alone?  No, absolutely none.  The flow is as seamless between Fish & Chips and Divide & Conquer as Divide & Conquer and Armed & Dangerous. In fact, I found Armed & Dangerous to be the best yet (without taking anything away from the wonderful skills of Madeleine Urban who no longer writes). Abigail Roux is a master of location, character and plot and it shows in these books.  When she writes about Baltimore, you know this person has been to Baltimore, walked the streets there, taking in the flavor unique to the city.  It is the same whether Ty and Zane are in Chicago or on the high seas in a cruise ship, there is nary a false note that is hit. Such authenticity keeps everything so real that at times it is hard for me to come out of the stories.

I cannot recommend this series enough.  If I could, I would run the streets waving a Ty and Zane banner myself.  And no I won’t tell you which shirt I have in my closet!  Now go and get Cut & Run, start there, read them in order (no peaking or reading in advance)!  You will be sending me flowers over this one!

Cut & Run,Sticks & Stones (Cut & Run #2).Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3),Divide & Conquer (Cut & Run #4),Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5) see my review here, Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) – coming in August from Riptide Press.

Abigail Roux’s website can be found here.

So, that’s my short list.  What an amazing group of authors to go with some of the best series I have ever read. Are there others?  You betcha. JL Langley’s With/Without Series and her Regency series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, Mary Calmes’ Panther series and so many others.So let’s consider this installment number 1 in my new What Series Am I Reading Now column, shall we?  And check in with me all week. Be sure to leave a comment along with an email address to be entered into the contest for a copy of Primal Red from Nicole Kimberling.

Now tell me what series are you reading now?

Review of Ruffskin (Dance With The Devil #4) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars

It is a typical night at The Bremmer, it’s pouring outside and Johnny is arguing with Grimm inside over an alleged flirtation at a party they just left.  A messenger interrupts them looking for Peyton Blue, the werewolf coowner and bartender of The Bremmer.  The strange courier has a package to deliver, one that has an immediate effect on their beloved barkeep.  When Grimm chases after the courier, he disappears  under a magical spell.

The package is from Peyton’s past, bringing with it bloody memories and a death sentence.  It is up to Johnny and Grimm to find the messenger, and finish the conflict started years ago when Peyton still belonged in the Blue Pack.

Ruffskin is a short story that follows the characters of Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2), Johnny Goodnight and his boyfriend/guard Grimm,  and their friend Peyton Blue, a werewolf.  Without reading Dance in the Dark, you will miss the backstory on all the characters involved in the case here which would be a mistake and leave you confused as to the elements involved in Ruffskin.  That said, this is a marvelous addition to that universe.  Most of the denizens of The Bremmer, local bar and hangout, have interesting pasts and it’s bartender and owner is no different.

Of course, it is a dark and stormy night that brings Peyton’s past home to him, a past he has tried so very hard to forget and one that could cause his death.  Johnny Goodnight is none other than John Derossiers, son of The Dracula Derossiers who rules the territory they live in. When the mystery and conflict from Peyton’s past intrudes on the bar and his father’s land, Johnny is called in to investigate and solve the problem.  And what a problem it is.  A dreadful dark secret that is at the heart of the chaos in the Blue werewolf pack. This is a very sensitive subject matter that Megan Derr gives a delicate and compassionate treatment, identifying the matter through the use of a poem instead of outright stating the nature of the abuse. Simply and elegantly done.

Ruffskin contains all the usual elements I have come to expect from Megan Derr.  Great characterizations, smart dialog and a storyline that keeps the reader engaged right to the end. Ruffskin is listed as the fourth book in the Dance With The Devil series but the author states at the beginning that this story fits in right after the second book as I have noted above.  While Midnight could almost be read as a stand alone (it figures into the books that follow it), the first three books should be read in the order I have indicated below:

Dance With The Devil (DWTD#1)see my review here.

Dance In The Dark (DWTD#2) – see my review here.

Ruffskin (DWTD#4)

Midnight (DWTD#3) – see my review here.

Cover:  Again another gorgeous cover by London Burden in keeping with the series and containing a simple graphic of a object center to the storyline.

Review of Midnight (Dance With The Devil #3) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars

Devlin White, Duke of Winterbourne, is the last of a great line of Black Witches.  With the death of his father, his remaining siblings has renounced the black arts for white and left for the new world, only he remains to carry on the family name and glory.   He receives a request from Lord Tamor, demon lord of his land, to investigate the latest draugr sightings in the countryside just outside his territory, far more numerous than ever before.  The vampires whose territory it is refuses demon assistance, preferring that of a renown and infamous witch instead.

When Devlin accepts the mission, he decides to leave behind his beloved ward, Midnight, who he treasures above all. The reason?  Midnight is a draugr as well, a living corpse made by Devlin’s own special magic, and until White can figure out why or who has called these draugrs from the grave, he doesn’t want Midnight close to the problem or Midnight may be influenced as well.

Powerful magic is at work and the culprit clever at hiding themselves and the motives behind their actions.  When Midnight appears on the scene despite Devlin’s orders, he catches the attention of the person behind the draugr attacks.  Then the race is on to find out who is responsible for the draugrs and stop them before they take control of the one being Devlin loves, whether he knows it or not.

Midnight continues our journey through the different territories of the world that makes up The Dance With The Devil series.  Each book contains  either overlapping characters or mentions characters/beings that are central to the next  book.  Midnight’s focus is on the walking dead.  We know them as zombies.  People or beings called from the grave, animated for some or someone’s purpose.  Midnight, the character, of the title is a unique draugr, created by Devlin White himself and another sorcerer, when just a boy.  With snow white skin, blue hair, nails and eyes only to give away his status as a walking dead, he is otherwise perfection to look upon with powers of his own.  He is an innocent among evil or those to whom evil or black magic are constant companions.  Midnight is also deeply in love with Devlin and doesn’t know how to get Devlin to look at him differently.  Every aspect of Midnight will claim the reader’s compassion and instill him into our hearts, so beautifully is he realized. In Devlin White, Derr draws our attention to the witches in her universe and their companions. I loved Devlin White who continues her rolecall of aristocratic main characters.  He is elegant, wry, and aware of his status without being autocratic and  unduly harsh.  He is a wonderful construct   among many here.  I found his feelings towards Midnight especially authentic.  He has raised Midnight since he was a boy.  In the back of his mind, he wonders if his feelings toward Midnight are appropriate, if he is not taking advantage in some way of Midnights total reliance on him.  Devlin recognizes his love for Midnight, but doesn’t want to recognize at what level that love exists.  It is a touchy emotional terrain he has to navigate over and Derr does a wonderful job of helping us understand not only his frustration with their relationship but Midnight’s as well because we get to “listen” to both sides of the argument they are having with themselves and each other. Barra, his man servant, is equally memorable as he is a “wolf elf” to use the term coined by a dragon.  A mongrel who is hurt by the term and gentle in spirit. Barra is such an interesting character all by himself, made more so by his interactions with others, especially a certain knight and his dragon.

Yes, that would be dragon, and where there are dragons, there are also knights, a goblin or two, an angel, imp, vampires, and several sorcerers as well.  Derr throws the whole complement of mystical and supernatural beings at us not only in this story but the entire series.  And each and every being comes through as believable, from their actions to skin color.

Derr’s vivid description extends to her settings, where the mist lies cold upon your face, the rains soak your clothes and the fog obscures the frightening creatures hunting you.  She doesn’t just inform you of the danger but makes you feel each second of every minute of the menace and perils facing our protagonists.  She can make your heart race and your breathe quicken along with Devlin’s as he faces down one opponent after another.  Derr finds subtle ways to endear her quirky characters to you even when they are characters that exist towards the edges of the story.  There is no character or stray plot thread that can ever be considered a “throwaway” in a Derr novel.  Somehow,  someway, that fact, that character will make a reappearance and resolve a plot point you hadn’t considered before.

Midnight is a solid 5 star story in the middle of a wonderful 5 star series.  Megan Derr really deserves such a larger audience for her stories and her talent, both of which encompasses many gifts as well as wild and wonderful elements. From supernatural detectives, a bar where everyone knows your name even if it be mystical in nature, action/adventure stories as told by demons and love lorn vampires, there is something for everyone here.  Start at the beginning or start here.  Just don’t let this series or this book pass you by!

The Dance With The Devil Series.  The first two especially should be read in order:

Dance With The Devil (DWTD #1) – see my review here.

Dance In The Dark (DWTD #2) – see my review here.

Ruffskin (DWTD#4) – see my review here (the switch in order is intentional)

Midnight (DWTD#3)

 

Cover.  The cover by London Burden is just outstanding.  Simple, elegant and with a cohesive design for the entire series.  I love it.

The Week Ahead and another Rant on the Heat and F%^*&%g Pepco!

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It’s Sunday in Maryland and we are in the 12th day of our heat wave and power losses!  Yesterday we hit 105 degrees F and today is not supposed to be much better.  There are still plenty of folks around the area without power as the limbs from last Friday’s storm continue to fall onto power lines, including some that just went back up. We are anticipating more storms as the cold front from the north is slowly coming our way and we know from experience (and science class) that a collision between a cold front and a hot as hell front brings a humongous amount of meteorological explosions.

Yesterday I found out that the storm cost us our relatively new dishwasher (burned out) to  go along with the air conditioning circuit board and a heck of a lot of groceries that had to be thrown out.  When I called the appliance store to see if there was any reset button etc that I could try, I got the “yeah, lady, I have been fielding calls from hundreds of people just like you all day”.  Am I supposed to take comfort in the fact that everyone lost their appliances along with us?  Perhaps so.  There are thousands of us facing the same problems.

It is also our unfortunate lot to have Pepco has our energy supplier.  They rank last in the ENTIRE NATION in service and reliability.  Not surprisingly they rank first in profits as their bill came yesterday right on time, along with their expectation that we pay right on time.  But they are not held to the same accountability.  People just coming into the area say they have never experienced the power outages that are a regular occurrence here.  And Pepco just asked for a rate raise too!  Talk about cojones!  But I think this time they will be met with more fines instead of raises.  Peoples ire is up.  We are fed up, the politicians are fed up!  Maybe something will finally be done about them.  I can always hope.  In the meantime, the Moderate State is hanging up its nameplate and looking for a new moniker!  Any ideas?

So yeah, heat.  So hot in fact that I haven’t felt like cooking.  It’s too hot even to stand at the grill.  So we are making drinks, baby!  Look for a drink recipe after the week ahead.

 

I am continuing to review two more books in the Dancing With The Devil series by Megan Derr.  Just a outstanding series by a great writer and a wonderful lead into the week of July 16th which will be concentrating on book series all week.  I think you will love it.  So this is how this week will play out if the power stays on:

Monday:                                  Midnight (DWTD #3) by Megan Derr

Tuesday:                                  Ruffskin (DWTD #4) by Megan Derr

Wednesday:                            Almost Paradise by Caitlin Ricci

Thursday:                                Torquere Short Stories

Friday:                                      Stolen Dreams by Sue Brown

Saturday:                                  Author Spotlight: Nicole Kimberling

 

For your summer drinking pleasure, a Catalina Margarita!
1 1/2 oz tequila
1 oz peach schnapps
1 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
4 oz sweet and sour mix

Directions

Shake with cracked ice and strain into chilled cocktail or margarita glass.

 

 

Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars

All Johnny’s parents had ever wanted for him was to live life as a normal child.  And with the life he has been given, all he has ever wanted was to fit in and be anything but normal. After his parents were killed by a vampire in the throes of a blood lust, Johnny was adopted by The Dracula Desroseiers and raised along side his vampire son, always aware that he was normal in a family of abnormals and a member of the ruling class. Now at 23, he is considered by most “more vampire than the other vampires”, more coldly beautiful, more arrogant and as well as brilliant. Not quite accepted in either human or vampire society, Johnny spends his days with his books, his studies, and mysteries.

Then his best friend needs Johnny to solve a mystery of a pair of magicked Cinderella slippers, that dominos into a succession of mysteries, increasing in complexity and danger until the final mystery Johnny needs to solve is one that involves him and his family. Then Johnny has to wonder if it is better to dance in the dark than be devoured by it.

Dance in the Dark is the second in the Dance with the Devil series but follows the same format as the first, each chapter is a series of detective cases that Johnny solves.  But unlike the first novel with Chris and Sable Brennen, this takes place in The Dracula Desrosiers territory and John Desrosiers is the Sherlock Holmes type sleuth. Although quick to comment on his normal status, he is also proud of his ability to deduce the solution to the mysteries presented to him, using just his mind and powers of observation. In other hands, Johnny could come off as cold, proud and plain unlikeable. However, this is Megan Derr and in my mind, I automatically equate her with complex characters with real emotions and dimension, and with Derr as his creator, Johnny is completely understandable in his prickly behavior.  He may hide behind his spoiled rich brat front but there is true kindness and the loneliness of a orphan behind all his actions.  I adored him immediately, including his habit of using quotes from poetry to answer questions put to him. Johnny is also the Beau Brummell of his day and I looked forward to the descriptions of his garb and matching jewelry as much as I did elements of the case.  His dress said as much about him as does his manners, beautiful details I have come to expect from a Megan Derr character. All that  lonely brilliance needs balance, and Derr provides it with a host of wildly different characters and beings, each unique, each endearing and all memorable.  This includes Eros, a being of darkness who visits Johnny in the dark for sexual encounters that  quickly turn into more for Johnny, as he needs the intimacy but Eros keeps his identity and physical self hidden to Johnny’s increasing frustration.

If you are not familiar with the books of Megan Derr, I will tell you that every name, every object or event that comes up has a hidden meaning that will be revealed later in the story.  It may not seem like much at the time the information is introduced, but I have learned over many books to take nothing for granted and take great joy in the many traps she springs and surprises that  lay in store.  Here Derr plays with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and other fantasy childhood stories such as  Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty but with a much darker take on them then the current Disney versions and much more in keeping with the original folktales.  Each chapter is such a tale as in Case No.004 The Bremen, as in The Town Musicians of  Bremen. And with each case, layer upon layer is added, eventually connecting all the mysteries to one enormous event that will amaze you with its depth and devilry.

In Dance in the Dark, you get the added bonus of meeting with Chris, Phil, Sable and other characters from Dance with the Devil as a case of Chris’ from that novel is the focal point around which the cases here revolve.  All will be involved in the final solution. How I loved visiting with them again and of course, it caused me to return to read that story once again.

Along with great characters, Derr gives you such wondrous stories filled with complex settings of such vivid description, I often wanted to be a pixie myself riding on their shoulders to experience it all myself. Here they be dragons, and imps, witches and succubus, demons and alchemists – all at play, all none as they seem.  Every time I think Megan Derr has outdone herself with a book, she ups the standard with the next one until my mind boggles over her gift with the language and her ability to tell a story.  In olden times, she would have been a Bard of Legend, her tales told far and wide.  Read Dance in the Dark.  You will find yourself believing it too.

Start the series at the beginning, to get the full understanding of the characters complex backgrounds and world building:

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil #1) read my review here.

Dance with the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil #3) – review coming soon.

Cover art by London Burden.  Love the covers for this series, simple, elegant and perfect.

Review of Dance With The Devil (Dance With The Devil #1) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Chris White is a detective with a unique caseload and an even stranger group of clients. Or it would be unique if Chris wasn’t a detective of the supernatural in a City ruled by a storm demon.  And as for Chris White himself?  Well, he’s not exactly a normal either.  The son of a black witch and a ghost, he can become transparent and walk through solid objects, an ability that comes in handy if you are a detective. Doug, a free imp is his friend and co detective, a situation that came about from one of Chris’ first cases.  No case is refused, whether it be a missing normal, a sleeping alchemist who won’t wake up, a runaway vampire, warlock in search of a book, a frightened goblin and a demon lord with one interest, that of Christ White himself.

Megan Derr just keeps the terrific reads coming, one captivating book after another.  Dance With The Devil is the first book in the Dance With The Devil series and introduces us to Christ White, supernatural detective,the demon Lord, Cadfael, also known as Sable Brennus whose consort just happens to be Chris White, and all the denizens of the storm demon’s territory and neighboring lands.  I loved the structure of this book.  Instead of chapters, Derr gives us case files from the White’s Detective Agency.  The lower the case file  number, the earlier in the time line of the  book which starts at Case #503, which is present day with Chris already Sable Brennus’ Consort and Doug, a full grown imp, a friend and co detective.  They are looking for the daughter of a missing “normal” friend of Sable’s.  The next case? In another book, it would be a flashback but here it is Case No. 37-Devoured which brings Chris into his first contact with the storm demon ruling the city and our first look at the beginnings of their relationship. And so the book continues, after each case in present time, we get the characters backstory in a case from their past.  Case load by case load, we gather together the histories of the beings we meet and the social structure of the world they live in.  I loved this element. Already a mystery addict, this was a story construct that had me glued to the pages from the very first sentence.

The dimensions here are not only in the demon worlds, but in the characters created for the story.  I loved Chris White and his unusual family and backstory.  Even in a world full of supernatural creatures, he was still a small boy made fun of at school because of his ghostly half nature.  Chris, with his determination to take care of those in need, even if he doesn’t like them very much, is a honorable, if prickly Knight in jeans and leather jacket.  And the Woods, a section of town he lives in with all the other marginal creatures trying to get through every day, is so vividly described right down to the sad sack buildings and structures long past their glory days full of victims and predators is easily visualized by the reader. Doug is worthy of our sympathy for his beginnings and our delight in a knowledgeable, lonely being craving a love that he believes will never be his. Then there is Phil, Philipa actually, who starts out as a victim who dusts off her Louboutins (or the demon world’s equivalent) to become so much more than she started out to be.  One after another, memorable characters march into view to capture our hearts and tether our hopes to their efforts at achieving self worth, companionship and love.

And at the end of the book, I wanted more, much, much more! Dagnabbit! At 146 pages, it was just too short for me.  Happily, there are other books in this series which I have listed below and will review in the order they were written.  Next up?  Dancing in the Dark (Dance With The Devil #2).  Look for it coming soon.  Until then, it’s back to Case No. 629 and Phil’s first case!  That’s right, Philipa became a detective, ok a junior one, and got involved with a goblin….well, you just have to get the book and find out for yourself.  Trust me, you will love it!

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil #1)

Dance In The Dark (Dance with the Devil #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil #3)

Ruffskin (Dance with the Devil #4)

Sword of the King (Dance with the Devil #5)

I like this cover but the rest of the series has a uniform format and design that I find much more appealing. London Burden is the cover designer and does just an outstanding job with Megan Derr’s series.