Mid January Blahs and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Winter trees longs

Normally I love Winter.  I love the contrast of the bare limbs of the deciduous trees and the lush fullness of the evergreens, the sounds of foxes crying for mates, the owls hooting in the night and the crystal clear night sky with some of the most beautiful and recognizable constellations in the Northern hemisphere.  Orion rises high, glowing bright with its two first magnitude stars, one of easiest of the constellations to learn.

But this year its different. It’s mid January and already I can’t wait for the month and indeed winter to be over.  Winter has not even been that bad here in the DC Metro area.  So many other regions have had it so much worse this season that to complain about what little harsh weather we have had seems like whining.  But these last few months have been filled full of stress and anxiety over health issues, mine and others, that I am looking forward to Spring.

I can’t wait for the new buds, returning warm weather and longer days that herald the return of the season of renewal and new beginnings.  My gardens start to come alive, the birds are singing for mates and territory as nest building begins.  Winston and I can once again count on our daily walks around the neighborhood.  Ice, wind, and the cold keep me inside for a number of reasons and Winston stays with me in total agreement.

When the weather is agreeable out we go. He loves his walks as much as I do, actually more.  His steps are jaunty as we step out the door, his head on a swivel and that marvelous natural tail is on a constant wag.    I have never had a terrier before with a natural tail as other my rescues, Kirby and Willow included,  came with the typical terrier docked tail, one that comes with the birth of the terrier breeds.  A docked tail that was used to pull the dogs out of the holes and places where they had run their prey to ground.

Now those  little tails can wag, don’t get me wrong because they can wag up a storm.  But Winston’s ?  When a rabbit is spotted, he is in ecstasy and around and around it goes until it starts to resemble a helicopter ready to lift off.  A most amazing sight, one guaranteed to lift one’s spirits and brighten the day in an instant.  This spring will be our first Spring together.  I can’t wait to see his reactions to our first walks into a new season and all that it brings.  Come on, Spring!

Now here are the books to be reviewed this week:

Monday, Jan. 13:     Horsing Around Anthology

Tuesday, Jan. 14:     Tread Marks and Trademarks by S.A. McAuley

Wed., Jan. 15:            The Lightning Moon by Silvia A. Winters

Thurs, Jan. 16:          Tor (WWF #1) by Lynn Lorenz

Friday, Jan. 17:          Ashland (WWF#2) by Lynn Lorenz

Sat., Jan. 18:               The Actor and the Thief by Edward Kendricks

Review: Eye of the Beholder (Winterfield series) by Edward Kendrick

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Review:          3.5 stars

Eye of the BeholderPreston Davison and his friend Cary Fielding were friends in high school and then their lives took two wildly different paths.  Cary went off to college and Preston went on to become ‘The Sergeant’, a minor star in gay pornographic movies. The two kept in touch and it was Cary who finally gave Preston the push to leave the adult film company he was working for and try to start over.  But on the very night Preston quits his job, he is brutally attacked and his face destroyed by an unknown assailant.  Now afraid to go outside with his “monster” of a face, Preston lives with his friend the nurse who treated him and starts working on his own web design company, secure in the fact he will never have to meet any clients face to face. But one of his new clients has a very familiar name and soon Preston is writing to his old friend under a pen name.

Cary lives with his boyfriend, Hugh, and has tried to move on with his life after failing to find his friend after the attack.  But memories of Preston won’t go away.  Then one day, Cary’s firm decides it needs a new  website.  The designer Cary chooses only conducts their meetings online and corresponds only with email.  But something about the way this person “talks” feels so familiar to Cary….

Can Preston overcome his fears and tell Cary who he is? Unbeknownst to Cary and Preston, the person who ruined Pres’ face is still around and waiting for his chance to strike once more.  What will win out?  Fear or love?  Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

I really liked this story and wavered in assigning a rating.  The true strength of this story is the character of Preston Davison, the ex porn star disfigured by a gruesome attack.  The attack happens “off stage” so we jump immediately to the aftermath and it’s devastating effect upon Preston and his life.  We are there as Preston grapples with the remnants of a face that once was beautiful and the lack of a career to land on.  I actually wished there was more of this section of the story.  What Kendrick gives us as Pres starts to pull whats left of his life together is so realistic, so heart wrenching, especially a scene in a part with a little boy, that I wanted more of his recovery.  And I wanted the payoff promised by the interaction with the young boy (more about this later). Pres is helped by his “Tabby Cat”, the nurse who cared for him in the hospital and became his friend.  I loved that character too.  Tabitha is a lovely creation, and I really enjoyed every part of her friendship with Preston.  This part of the story is a solid 4 star rating.

It’s when we turn to the other characters and elements of the story that the rating starts to waver downward.  Cary is a less substantial figure here with respect to Preston.  Cary’s present relationship is not fulfilling but he stays in it more out of habit than anything else.  I could wish for a more  forceful or lively presence here but Cary comes across as just too passive a character for this to work as well as the author had hoped.  The other part of the story that didn’t work as well for me was that the attacker was easily identifiable early on in the story. And although this didn’t really bother me,  the resolution at the end came far too easily for everyone concerned. No big denouement, no great dramatic”aha”, so it didn’t ring true considering the heinous nature of the attacks on Preston. Given the strength of the first part of this story, the last half just sort of petered out.

I did notice that this story seems to be the beginning of a series titled Winterfield which is the town they all live in so I am hoping that the boy and his brother will figure in one of the books to come.  Really, that was such a tantalizing scene and its promise has stayed with me all through the rest of the story as I kept hoping the boy would make a reappearance.  So I am still going to recommend this book with reservations.  Forget about the suspense tag and look at it as more of a romance.  I am hoping the stories that come will fill in the narrative I feel is lacking here.  Let me know what you think?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Cover by Reese Dante is nice but really doesn’t speak to the story.

Review of Weekends by Edward Kendrick

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Rating: 3.25 stars

Marcus Hampton is secure in his habits, secure in his job as an accountant, and secure in his identity as a confirmed bachelor. He has his cat, Daisy, and his routines. Each and every day rolling with the same predictability, and he likes that too.  Until he meets Demitri Costas, a young photographer who snaps a picture of him.  Demitri is immediately attracted to the older man, and not just because he is wonderfully photogenic under his lens. Dimitri asks Marcus to pose for him, and to Marcus’ surprise, he agrees.

One photo session leads to another and Demitri develops a crush on Marcus but does nothing, believing Marcus to be married and straight. Marcus is neither. When Demitri discovers Marcus is both gay and available, he pursues  the older man but Marcus gently rebukes Demitri as Marcus thinks he must represent a father figure for the young photographer.  Through holidays and weekends, the men struggle with their feelings towards each other, family  expectations, and their pasts as well as insecurities.  Marcus’ self image of himself as a confirmed old bachelor is one Dimitri must shatter if  they are to have a future together.

Weekends charts the relationship between two very different men from its beginnings to that of an established couple.  Each chapter represents a different weekend in their lives, a neat format for the story.  The first chapter is titled The Weekend Before Thanksgiving.  In it, we establish a “base line” for each man before they meet.  We see their lives, their  routines, and in Demitri’s case, his hopes of becoming a photographer.  I like that Kendrick chooses the weekends around the holidays to move the story forward, as that is a time of vulnerability and introspection for most people, especially those alone.  With Marcus, it is particularly affecting, as Daisy is his only companion and his aloneness comes into stark focus for the reader.

Kendrick delivers two very believable people in Marcus and “Mitri” as he is called.  Also authentic is the manner in which Mitri  slowly brings Marcus out of his rigid notions of himself as “old and settled”.  Mitri is fighting against his father’s expectations for him to finish college with a degree in Engineering as all he longs to do is take pictures and make a living do so.  Even with a marked lack of communication between the two, they slowly make their way into a relationship.

So. Believable characters, creative story format, happy ending.  Why the long face, girl, as they say.  Interest. For however nice Marcus and Demetri are, they are boring.  And I am not talking about a lack of angst here.  I have never felt that angst is a necessary part of a story, although it helps to balance out a story.  I have read other novels that I loved whose  plot also revolves around the same storyline.  Men meet, get to know each other, fall in love, and live happily ever after or at least for now.  The big difference is that I found those men compelling.  They endeared themselves to me in multiple ways, it could be a sense of humor, an engaging outlook on life, something that says wow, I am so happy to got to know you.  It is like that in real life.  Sometimes you click with someone, sometimes you don’t.   Some people are beige to other’s rainbow.  Unfortunately for me, there was a whole lot of beige and very little clicking going on here. There is much to admire in Weekends but in the end, the main characters make it far too easy to forget them once the story is over.

Cover: Cover art by Reese Dante.  I normally love Dante’s covers but here I am of two minds.  One, I am the only person who sees George Bush in the man in the front? I am not sure if I find that hysterical or scary. The other says “great job”, love the relevancy of the mens ages and great design. But boy, does he look like George Bush….

Review of An Honorable Man by Edward Kendricks

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A Happy Fourth of July to everyone from the United States, no matter where you might be right now.  And to all of those people still without power here in MD, VA and DC, my thoughts are with you, I know exactly how hot, how frustrated and how desperate you are feeling.  I was there.  I hope with all my heart this day finds you with your power back on, your bodies cooling off, and your minds and hearts feeling replenished.

 

Rating: 3.75 stars

Paxton Boyle and his twin boys are out rock hunting when they run across a human bone, a find that causes Pax to switch from father mode to forensic scientist and call in the police.  One bone leads to another and before long an entire skeleton has been unearthed and sent to Paxton’s lab.  As Paxton works to establish identity, one thing is immediately clear, the person was murdered.  Then the cadaver dog and its handler turns up more bones, and then another.  And the race is on to find a serial killer before they strike again.

And as Pax’s work hours lengthen, he must find someone to watch his boys after school and on the weekends he is working. Pax’s wife walked out of them 2 years ago and with his housekeeper’s daughter expecting her first child, he turns to Jordan Leonard, the boys schoolteacher and friend. Pax and Jordan have established an uneasy friendship since the Boyle family returned to town.  Years ago, Pax and Jordy were lovers in college, happy until Pax’s father broke them up by forcing Pax to marry a business partner’s daughter in a merger of families and businesses.  A heartbroken Jordy left college immediately and Pax had not seen him since their bitter parting until Pax, Jenny and the kids returned to their home town.

Pax and Jordan still have feelings for each other but Pax is an honorable man and still considers himself married, despite Jenny’s absence. And for Jordan, Pax’s betrayal of their love still hurts after all this time.  As more and more bodies are found, Pax’s longer hours bring Jordan closer into their family circle and their attraction to each others gets stronger.  How much longer will Pax  be able to keep to his promises to stay an honorable man?

Edward Kendricks did a wonderful job of weaving the story of a past love rekindled with a forensic tale of murder.   He skillfully builds the anticipation and interest as first Pax and his boys (what charmers) find the first bone on a rock hunt. Then as more skeletons are unearthed, it becomes clear that the police and Pax’s forensic unit have a serial killer on their hands. Theories are bandied about and clues discovered as the story continues, spending as much time in Pax’s lab or with the police officers hunting the killer as it does with the romance of Pax and Jordan. I liked this technique but for others it might take too much time away from the love story of the two main characters.  Kendricks does tie the two together in a neat twist that I loved, plus I enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the book.

The love story, I think I had more problems with that section of the plot.  I did get the part where Pax was not brave enough and perhaps old enough to stand up to his father when the and Jordy first got together.  But Kendricks didn’t give me enough of the mature Pax’s feelings about Jordy to make their sudden romance entirely believable.  Same for Jordan, a character I really enjoyed.  Jordan left that college he attended with Pax for another, completed his degrees and came home to teach, his bitterness over Pax’s cowardliness still very much alive years later.  But the author tells us they have become friends since being reunited at a parent/teacher conference but gives us little evidence except for the fact that Pax leaves the boys in Jordy’s care when necessary.  Neither man has ever talked about their previous affair nor is neither man out to the community. This is not a “gay for you” story as both men are definitely gay from the start. But both Pax and Jordy seemed lacking a few layers to make both men totally believable in the context of the story.  Who did I believe in?  The boys.  I loved Denny and Danny.  With spot on dialog and wonderful characteristics, Kendricks needs to make those boys the main characters of a series of YA novels.  They would be a hit! With their passion for rocks and bones, especially fossils, those 12 year olds were easily the most authentic personas here and maybe this generation’s Hardy Boys.

And that leaves me with the ending that had far too many loose ends.  I hesitate to tell you what exactly remained unfinished as that enters spoiler territory and perhaps Edward Kendricks plans a sequel to finish the mystery he started here.  All good mysteries have the same basic elements: who, what, when,  where and why.  Not all those questions are answered leaving this reader a tad frustrated.  AT 143 pages (story alone), the ending came with a rush, which was surprising considering the time the author took getting us to that point.  I think you will feel a little shortchanged by this story, I know I did. But the parts that irked me are balanced by the portions that kept me enthralled and totally entertained. And that’s enough for me to give this a recommendation.

Cover:  Reese Dante was the cover artist.  The cover is great, it contains all the elements of the story in an appealing design.

The Week Ahead and a Rant About the Weather

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So, here it is Sunday and my power just came back on after a storm called a Delrechos, a powerful storm that moves in a straight line, gaining power as it crosses into high temperatures and humidity, happens usually every 4 years.  Our time was Friday night and the storm came out of Ohio and the Midwest, doing damage there before almost wiping out the MidAtlantic states power structure in 1 night.  I am getting  this out now but come Monday and no blog, well, that just means our power went out again.  Over 4 million people at one time without power, now down to around 1.4 million, most won’t get power back until July 6th.  And we also have water problems as the pumping stations went down as well,of course.  What a fragile thing our infrastructure is.  Mother Nature 1, Humans 0.  So I am getting this out, then off to take a shower and grab a hot meal  then sit in front of a vent.  Ah, the pleasures of life in our century. I do not take them for granted.

So, keeping fingers crossed, here is the schedule for the week ahead:

Monday:                      Places In Time  by C. Carden0

Tuesday:                       Just What The Truth Is by C. Cardeno

Wednesday:                 An Honorable Man by Edward Kendricks

Thursday:                     Full Circle by RJ Scott

Friday:                           One Last Kiss Goodbye by N.J. Nielson

Saturday:                       Surprise Book – the surprise being the power stayed on for me to write another review!

 

 

So I am outta here!  Stay cool, stay powered, and have a wonderful 4th of July for those that live in the United States!

 

 

Review of Abstract Realism by Edward Kendricks

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86 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Tonio, a renown painter of abstract realism, made the mistake of accepting an invitation for a movie date from a man he just met at a gallery opening.  The man’s jealous lover made sure Tonio never made that mistake again by savagely attacking him with a knife.  Now scarred and traumatized, Tonio rarely leaves his studio.  His only contact with the outside world consists of his sister, Jessie who is also his agent.  With a gallery opening a new show of his paintings, his sister finally talks him into attending the opening and go to the gallery party afterwards.

Jonam is also attending the gallery show.  He owns a close protection agency and had met Tonio by accident in a nearby park.  Tonio had been sketching people in the part and rejected Jonan’s efforts to talk to him. When Jonam attends the gallery show, Tonio does his best to avoid him. But Tonio’s attacker calls and threatens him just before the party. When her brother doesn’t show up for the party,  Jessie and Jonam show up at Tonio’s apartment and the find the man cowering in fear.  Jonam offers to protect Tonio and find out whose behind the threats.  Can Jonam find the attacker and free Tonio from the threats and fears?

The author packs a lot into 86 pages.  There is contemporary romance, mystery, the art world, a scarred artist, and lethal stalker.  Edward Kendricks did a great job with Tonio. Tonio is a believable character, traumatized by a brutal attack on him by unseen thugs.  The scars left behind are both physical and emotional.  I can believe that this character retreats into a shell and that his art changes direction with the brutality inflicted upon him.  That the attack was unexpected and undeserved only deepened the trauma left behind.  I did find it unrealistic that the police were not brought into this case especially given he was a well-known artist but PTS can make victims act illogically. Jonam was a tad less defined as a character.  Jonam was tall, good looking and efficient at his job. It wasn’t until the end of the story that I found out he was Swedish and that accounted for his name.  More of a backstory on Jonam early on would have helped. It was hard to get a feel for a connection between the two men when I could only get a handle on one of them.  The story seemed rushed at the end and the denouement resolved far too quickly for the buildup that preceded it.

Still Abstract Realism is a neat little short story that I enjoyed reading.  I look forward to more from Edward. Kendricks.

Cover: Cover Artist Reese Dante.  Cover is gorgeous.  Both models work for the characters inside the story.  Fonts are great.  Good job.