An Ali Advent Story Review: Loving and Loathing Vegas (Sleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar) by Lex Chase

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
 
Loving and Loathing VegasJackson has loved Vegas since God created Man—literally. As a demonic incubi hailing from the Seventh Circle of Hell, Jackson and Vegas have never been anything more than roommates. Now living among humans, they run Eaven, a TripAdvisor-recommended detour-worthy diner famous for its devilishly decadent pies. Business is dead on the holidays, and Jackson will gleefully stab himself with a spatula if he has to clean spotless pots and pans one more time.

For fun—or torture—Vegas makes him a bet that should Jackson win, they take a much-needed vacation. Should he lose, he’s doomed to clean out grease traps for all eternity. When the challenge is to fall in love with other people by Christmas, it proves Vegas isn’t the least bit interested. But when they find an abandoned baby in the trash, she could be the Christmas miracle to warm Jackson’s cynical heart.
 
I thought this was a really enjoyable holiday story.  It was creative and outside of the box.  Jackson loves Vegas but has never had the courage to tell him.  The two men make a bet on Thanksgiving as to who can fall in love by Christmas.  Jackson’s heart’s not really in to it but he decides to play along hoping maybe he can finally get over his feelings for the other man. Things get even more complicated when they find a baby girl in the trash outside their restaurant.  There were a few little things that didn’t make sense to me (ie a side story about another couple) but they were not big enough to effect my overall enjoyment of the story.  If you like stories with a paranormal twist you should definitely give this story a try.
 
Cover art by L.C. Chase. I thought this cover was really well done.  It perfectly captures both the holiday and the paranormal aspect of the story.
Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon | Buy It Here
Book Details:
ebook, 62 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634769440
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

Winter Solstice and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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stonehenge-winter-solstice-2012-35

Winter Solstice

This  year Winter Solstice falls on December 22nd, our shortest day of the year.  What is Winter Solstice?  At its most scientific, it can be defined per Wikipedia as ” Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter solstice occurs for the Northern Hemisphere in December and for the Southern Hemisphere in June.”

I found a wonderful article in The Daily Telegraph, ‘What exactly is the winter solstice? By Cameron Macphail, complete with pictures of the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge that defined the day as “sunstill” according to ancient tradition. Read it to find out why.  Its a great article.  Don’t miss out on it.  But honestly, when searching out meanings for the Winter Solstice, you will be flooded with hits. Why?

Because its meaning and celebrations through the centuries makes it so much more than that simple sentence makes it out to be.

For many civilizations and cultures,  the shortest day also meant the longest night of the year. For some a time when spirits visited, the separations between worlds narrows, when the bonfires are lighted to keep the spirits away, and all draw close around the fires. As Cameron Macphail points out, animals were slaughtered so they didn’t have to be fed in the winter, feasts were held, pagan celebrations in hope for a short winter, and fruitful spring.

Because Yule is also a celebration of the return of the sun, for that is what happens once the longest night is over.  The sun’s rebirth starts the next day when starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs a bit higher and stays a bit longer in the sky every day.

From Yule by Akasha:

Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were “wassailed” with toasts of spiced cider.  Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun.  The boughs were symbolic of immortality (evergreens were sacred to the Celts because they did not “die” thereby representing the eternal aspect of the Gods. The wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes, in hopes Nature Spirits would come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to visit the residents. Mistletoe was also hung as decoration.  It represented the seed of the Divine, and at Midwinter, the Druids would travel deep into the forest to harvest it.

The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder’s land, or given as a gift… it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze by a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.

Think…how many of these traditions are followed in some manner today.

 

No matter your Winter Solstice or Yuletide traditions, whether it be decorating with holly and the ivy or burning the yule log, may your long Winter Solstice night be filled with love, laughter, good books and cheer!

snowflake

Now for This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, December 20:

  • Winter Solstice and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • A Mika Advent Story Review: Not the Best Day by Brynn Stein

Monday, December 21:

  • Cover reveal ‘Unquiet’ by Melanie Hansen (excerpt and contest)
  • Anthology Spotlight: Men In Uniform (excerpt and giveaway)
  • Wild & Sexy with ‘Dom of Ages’ by KC Wells & Parker Williams (excerpt/giveaway)
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Dom of the Ages by Will Parker and KC Wells
  • An Ali Advent Story Review: Loving and Loathing Las Vegas by Lex Chase

Tuesday, December 22 (Winter Solstice) :

  • Morticia Knight ‘Safe Limits’ book blast and giveaway
  • When It’s Right (Mile High Romance #1) by Aria Grace tour and  contest
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Sleeping Til Sunrise by Mary Calmes
  • A Paul Advent Story Review: Worth the Wait by Caitlin Ricci and Cari Z
  • A BJ Review: A Policy of Lies by Astrid Amara
  • A Stella Review: Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade

Wednesday, December 23:

  • Coffee Sip and Book Break: Tina Blenke ‘Life Worth Living’ (excerpt and giveaway)
  • A MelanieM Review: Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford
  • A BJ Review:  Turbulence (Turbulence #1) by Lyn Gala
  • A Paul B Advent Story Review: Son of Santa by Kate Sands
  • A Stella Review: Out of the Blues by Mercy Celeste

Thursday, December 24:

  • Sidewinders are Back with Part & Parcel by Abigail Roux (Riptide Tour)
  • A MelanieM Review: Part & Parcel by Abigail Roux
  • A BJ Review: Cinder by Marie Sexton
  • A Paul B Advent Story Review: Teddy Bear Christmas by CC Bridges
  • A Free Dreamer Review: The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles

Friday, December 25 (Merry Christmas!)

  • Caraway Carter ‘The First Time’ book blast and contest
  • Nicolas by Dianne Hartsock virtual tour and giveaway
  • A MelanieM Advent Story Review: Four Alternative Christmas Present by Tam MacNeil
  • A BJ Review: Turbulence by Lyn Gala
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Flesh Market (Bodies and Souls #1) by Kate Lowell
  • A Sammy Review: Rock Rod Studios Series by Emory Vargas

Saturday, December 26:

  • A MelanieM Advent Story Review: An Assassin’s Holiday by Dirk Greyson
  • An Aurora YA Review: Reasons to Love a Nerd Like Me by Becky Jerams

 

 

 

 

 

A BJ Review: A Policy of Lies by Astrid Amara

 

 

A Mika Advent Story Review: Old Acquaintance by Avon Gale

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Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars 

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryAndrew Starling thought when he sold his medical database software to a national corporation, it would finally give him and his wife the financial security needed to build their dream home in the exclusive, wealthy community of Ponte Vedra, Florida. But Andrew’s wife leaves him for another man before the ink dries on the contract, leaving Andrew to enjoy the fruits of his labors—and their sprawling, oceanfront home—all alone. Despite being convinced he has nothing much to celebrate, Andrew goes to the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club’s annual New Year’s Eve party… and meets Elias Rivas, the young, good-looking server who’s always had his eye on Andrew. It might be the new beginning Andrew didn’t even know he needed.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar package “Sleigh Ride”.

Short and sexy story between two guys. I’ll admit the beginning was a little rocky to me. Andrew seemed boring, and a bit dreadful. He didn’t seem angry about his divorce at all. He seemed more perplexed by it. I thought that was funny, I can almost picture him face screwed up in frustration trying to figure out why. I liked Elias character, it was very sure of himself and I’m glad to see that for this age-gap story. I liked them together, they were hot. Seems like it’s a good HFN. I’d love to see more of them in the future.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It  Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 37 pages
Published November 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB018RSH5M2
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

A Stella Advent Story Review: Hapless (Sleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar) by Therese Woodson

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryAll Ty wants is to propose to his boyfriend, Micah, before Christmas Eve. He has the perfect ring, the perfect setting, and the perfect plan, but the universe has other ideas. A sprained ankle, a choking woman, and a crying sister are just the tip of the iceberg as Ty stumbles toward his happy ever after.

Now, as Christmas Eve looms before him, he has to figure out how to ask the biggest question of his life without his perfectionism getting in the way or he might lose the person he wants to spend the holiday, and every day after, with.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar package “Sleigh Ride”.

The cuteness of this story! Ty and Micah are together from three years and Ty is thinking is finally time for him to ask his lover to marry him. But he wants to do it in a magic and unusual way. It was funny and hilarious following him in his unbelievable misadventures with his various attempts at propose to Micah.

Maybe the ending was a little predictable but I don’t care cause it was perfect for this story.

I particularly liked how the author, Therese Woodson, was able to put a focus on the MCs’ qualities, two young men so different in their characters but so alike in their strong love for each other.

Hapless was a very well done story about this established couple I would love to know more about.

The cover art by Paul Richmond is so cute and his style is unique and lovely. He’s one of my favorite artist so of course this one is a winner to me.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 49 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN B018RSHDPQ
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Advent Story Review: Kismet (Sleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar) by Cassie Decker

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Rating: 2.75 rounded up to 3 stars out of 5

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryFate has a way of bringing people together, like it did when Tucker Wright and Callum Richards met unexpectedly in an airport coffee shop and formed a deep connection in the short time they had to spend together. But fate can also be cruel. When Tucker loses Cal’s phone number in his hurry to catch his plane, he has no way of reaching Cal. Then a dead car battery and a snowy night force their paths to cross again, will Cal believe Tucker and ring in the New Year with a little help from kismet?

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar package “Sleigh Ride”

Short and sweet for the holidays.  Two men instantly connect in an airport and promise to call.  But modern connections are fragile and technology means promises can be broken without intent.  Is it fate when the two men meet once more?

The story flies by quickly, the characters could use as much depth as the Aspen snow but it cute, sweet and its ends happily.  A Christmas concoction that  goes down easily.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 28 pages
Published November 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB018RSIP3U
edition languageEnglish
seriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

A MelanieM Advent Story Review: Mission Mistletoe By Jessica Payseur

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Mission Mistletoe coverCaptain Archer Pfeil’s current assignment has been nothing but one long string of disasters. As if being dumped right before Christmas wasn’t enough, the mounting misfortunes indicate he’ll be out of a job by the end of his mission.

But it’s difficult to salvage the assignment with Ambassador Ilin a’dlen Jhex around, pushing all Archer’s buttons. He struggles to keep his distance from the out-of-bounds ambassador, but Jhex has other plans in mind….

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar package “Sleigh Ride”

I always like to see what the unusual holiday short story has to offer so Jessica Payseur’s Mission Mistletoe seemed to fit the bill.  But unfortunately I think the author was trying a little too hard and crammed her story full of too many elements that took away from the holiday cheer and overloaded it with cumbersome world building that didn’t always make sense or feel necessary in a Christmas short.

Poor Captain Archer Pfeil.  His mission seems doomed with everything going wrong, from fuel to food source.  On board is an important ambassador who is evaluating the humans now pushing into their territory in the galaxy.  Payseur tells us that Ambassador Ilin a’dlen Jhex looks similar to a bat (ears, fur) but dresses like someone out of 1001 Arabian Tales. He has an unusual type of society with multiple sex partners plus he likes to sculpt. So many holes in this character..we get too much or not enough depending on the information. There is no real logic to the buildup of the species of the ambassador which is part of the problem if you want the reader to feel a connection to him.

If you look closer at the world building, more questions appear.  Why would a crew who loves its captain lie to him for a alien they don’t know anything about? Think about the trust that breaks. Under that shaky surface just lies more questions.  The characters and circumstances just don’t produce any heat, or substantial logistical groundwork needed for the reader to engage their feelings about the characters or relationship.  Thank goodness, Payseur doesn’t go for any instant love here, that would have been disastrous.

As it is, if you aren’t a scifi fan, if you don’t look too deeply or ask any questions of the world building, then this is a sort of pleasant little space romance.

Cover art by Bree Archer is nice but a little jarring, doesn’t come together as a composition, exactly like the story itself.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 49 pages
Published November 30th 2015
ASINB018RRVVH8
edition languageEnglish
seriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calenda

 

A Stella Advent Story Review: Hearth and Home (Sleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar) by E.T. Malinowski

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Hearth and Home coverThistle is a sweet elf with a kind heart. He tries his best to help all the other elves in Santa’s workshop. Unfortunately, Thistle tends to leave disaster in his wake despite his good intentions. He dreams of finding an elf who will love him in spite of his clumsiness, an elf he can make a home for. But what elf wants to live in constant peril? Thistle figures he should just stick with his anonymous treat baskets, especially where Bayberry, Santa’s production manager, is concerned.

Bayberry is a bit of a serious elf. A little distant from most of the North Pole crew, Bayberry is lonely. When another Thistle Incident occurs, pushing the production department behind schedule only a few weeks before Christmas, Bayberry gets a “suggestion” from The Big Guy to ask Thistle for help. What could an accident-prone elf do to assist him? But to Bayberry’s surprise, he might gain more than help with his monthly reports.

I picked this short story by E.T. Malinowski because I read Kai for Christmas last year and I liked it very much. So I was curious about her new story for the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Thistle is the sweetest and helpful elf ever with a little problem, his clumsiness. He’s able to fall on nothing and breaks anything.  He’s trying so hard to be handy in Santa’s workshop, especially with his amazing baked sweets. And then one day, his crush and manager asks for Thistle help. Bayberry is the only one who believes he’s not a trouble but a fascinating young man. This new closeness will bring them to finally open their eyes and find a mate.

Hearth and Home is really adorable and well written, I found myself in a world full of holiday scents, with great characters and one of the cutest elves I’ve read about. This story won me over for its sweetness, it’s my soft spot I know. More, it was evocative and magical. And the sex was hot.

If you’re looking for something to warm your heart in these cold days, this short is for you.

The cover art by Bree Archer is simple and fitting. Well done but I would have preferred something different, magical and colorful as the story is.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 56 pages
Published November 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB018RSIP58
edition languageEnglish
seriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

A MelanieM Advent Story Review: Somewhere to Be by Amy Yip

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryJamie Goh’s life took a downturn when he lost his job, and a bad relationship left him disillusioned and afraid to trust again. But his friends and family want to see him happy, even if he’s turned off by the idea of dating. Following a Christmas disaster that proves the UK really can’t handle snow, Jamie discovers not everyone is out to hurt him—and loyalty means something to some people—when a sweet guy goes above and beyond for him.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar package “Sleigh Ride”.

Amy Yip uses every bit of her 37 pages to layer in Jamie’s multi racial family, his wonderful mixture of cultures, Dad from Chinese Malay, Mum from Devon and his speech a natural polyglot of both. It flows so beautifully as we grasp the depth of Jamie’s broken heart, his fear of moving forward and the joy that  meeting Nick brings him.

Somewhere to Be by Amy Yip is one of those stories that is bigger than its pages.  You get the feeling of place, Brighton in winter, grey seas, empty beaches, punishing winds and yet, Jamie loves it. Yip gives you Jamie’s marvelous Goh family, a takeout Chinese food business and combines it with two men trying for common ground and perhaps a future together.  Its realistic, beautifully described and full of heart.  And I wanted more at the end of the story.  I wanted a place at the table and to be a part of their holiday celebration.  You will too.  Grab this story up and join in the romance and wonder as well.

Advent Cover by Paul Richmond.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ndle Edition, 37 pages
Published November 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB018RSHF5E
edition languageEnglish
seriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

 

A Barb, the Zany Old Lady Advent Story Review: Home Is Where the Christmas Trees Are by CJane Elliot

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5          ★★★★★

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryDex Crawford has moved into his sister Jan’s condo to become the guardian for her daughter, Rowan, after Jan’s death. A physical therapist who does home visits, he’s able to do his documentation from home at the end of the day so he can accommodate his neice’s schedule.  Twelve-year-old Rowan is typical of girls that age, and though unhappy, seems to love Dex, and they get along well.

When Rowan’s clarinet is stolen just before a concert, Dex accompanies her to the band room to ask the music teacher if she can borrow one.  There he meets Ed Alcott, son of one of his clients, and a man he feels he already knows based on what Mrs Alcott has said about him.  Though he can’t tell Ed he’s met his mother, he can extend a warm hand in friendship, and the two men feel the sparks fly as they greet each other.

Love at first sight? Why not?  Ed brings Christmas into Dex’s cold and lonely heart as Rowan is away spending the holidays with her grandmother.  Dex is shocked by how quickly he and Ed seem to get to know each other and how close they become within only forty-eight hours.

This story left me with a big smile on my face as the two characters who so richly deserve each other find their happiness together.  The main and secondary characters were very well developed in such a short story, and the story itself is very believable.  I highly recommend this one to add some cheer to your Christmas holidays.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 47 pages
Published November 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB018RSHDRY
edition languageEnglish
seriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

A MelanieM Review: A Certain Kind of Holiday (2015 Advent Calendar – Sleigh Ride) by Andi Van

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryWhen Elliot Knapp took a business trip over the holidays last year, he didn’t expect to run into the professor his first serious boyfriend cheated on him with. The man was handsome, certainly, but Elliot has better things to do than deal with drama from a decade ago.

Luckily for him, Howard Wise wasn’t going to let him get away without an explanation. A year after meeting again, the couple is making their first holiday trip to celebrate Christmas. Everything is fantastic, but Howard is obviously keeping secrets, and Elliot can’t help but wonder what his silver fox has up his sleeve.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar package “Sleigh Ride”.

A Certain Kind of Holiday is an total charmer of a holiday story.  Andi Van uses a serious misunderstanding from the past, a age gap, and two well defined, delightful characters to create a romance that readers will enjoy from start to finish.

At the beginning, we’re traveling on a train carrying our two main characters, a brief flashback reveals the reason Elliot feels so betrayed by his former professor, one he sort of idolized.  But there was far more to the little scene he interrupted and now Howard  finally gets to tell his side.  From there the author smoothly moves the romance forward, the path clear for these intelligent men so clearly drawn to each other.

The story made me smile, happy all the way through the ending.  What a joy to read.  Pick it up and add another wonderful tale to your holiday book list.  Happy Reading.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 29 pages
Published November 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB018RRVN0I
edition languageEnglish
seriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar