Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for October 2013

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October 2013 Summary of Book Reviews

It was a terrific month for books.  Sarah Black came out with her sequel to The General and the Horse-Lord titled The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari.  In my opinion it is the best book she has written to date, wide in scope with subtly nuanced characters that stay with you long after you have finished the story.  Also the Pulp Friction group of authors, (Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows, Laura Harner and T.A. Webb) start to bring their interconnected series to a close with 4 outstanding stories to equal the memorable characters to be found within. S.A. McAuley also brought us the second novel in The Borders War series, Dominant Predator.  I love those men, and need more of their history and complicated relationship.  Sue Brown gave us The Isle of Wishes, second in the Isle of Wight series, plus Ariel Tachna’s Lang Downs series (one of my favorite) expanded to five with Conquer The Flames, a “must read” book for all.

Well, I will let this list speak for itself.  So many great books here that there is sure to be something for everyone.  Grab up your notepad, IPad or paper, and write down the titles for those stories you might have missed.  I have linked my reviews to each book.  Happy readings!

Lady Reading Book in Chair 50 style    


5 Star Rating:

Conquer The Flames (Lang Downs #4) by Ariel Tachna, contemporary
Chance In Hell (Chances Are #5) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5) by T.A. Webb
Dominant Predator (The Borders War #2) by S.A. McAuley
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5) by Laura Harner
Knights Out (City Knight #4) by T.A. Webb
The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari by Sarah Black (contemporary, military)
Wicked Truths (Wicked’s Way #5) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wild Onions by Sarah Black (supernatural)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker (4.25)(contemporary, paranormal)
Goblins, Book 1 by Melanie Tushmore (4.5 )(fantasy)
Home Team by Jameson Dash (4)(contemporary)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2) by Sue Brown (contemporary)
Knightmare (City Knight #2) by T.A. Webb (4.75)(contemporary)
Northern Star by Ethan Day (4.25)(contemporary)
Playing Ball Anthology (4.75)(contemporary, historical)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3) by T.A. Webb (4.75)(contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burning Now by A.R. Moler (3)(fantasy, supernatural)
Fool For Love by Cassandra Gold (3)(contemporary)
Strange Angels by Andrea Speed (3.75)(supernatural)
The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed (3 stars)(contemporary, supernatural)
Wireless by L.A. Witt (3.5)(science fiction)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Justice (Leopard Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford (2)(shifters, supernatural)
The Unwanted, the Complete Collection by Westbrooke Jameson (2.5)(science fiction)

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

None this month

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows on Wicked’s Way Series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil on Chances Are Series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: T.A. Webb on City Knight Series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: Laura Harner on Triple Threat series and Pulp Friction
Author Spotlight: Sarah Black on Wild Onions
Author Spotlight: Sarah Black on Writing Old Men and the second General release

Review: Northern Star by Ethan Day

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Rating: 4.25  stars out of 5

Northern StarOn the night before Christmas Eve in a hotel bar at the airport, 27-year old Deacon Miller is getting drunk.  Fleeing a disastrous family holiday he never wanted to attend, Deacon received a text from his boyfriend, breaking up with him and throwing him out of their apartment.  A heavy snowfall cancels his flight leaving Deacon stuck at the airport hotel, drowning his sorrows and regretting almost everything about his life.

Car Dealer Owner Steve Steele has spent most of his 45 years in denial about his sexuality until he just couldn’t face another year repressing his sexuality and his true desires.  Unfortunately coming out also meant hurting people he loved, including his wife and step daughter. Now divorced, Steve is facing his first year anniversary as an out gay man and reflecting back on his failures and current lonely life.

When a chance encounter brings Deacon and Steve together on a night full of self recriminations and doubt, what happens when the one night stand turns into something neither man wants to forget or let go of.

I think when most readers think of Ethan Day, its his humorous stories like the memorable and guffaw inducing Sno Ho series (a favorite of mine) that often spring to mind.  But Ethan Day has another side to him as a writer, the one that produces stories more serious, thoughtful tales like At Piper’s Point and A Token In Time (also favorites).   And while laughter and humor is still an element to be found in each, something larger, more layered in scope is in play there.

Northern Star falls into the second category.  Two men meet on a night when the past is overwhelming them, highlighting the emptiness and failure present in their lives.  Deacon has just received a devastating text from his boyfriend, dumping him in terms crushingly succinct.  He is also being thrown out of their apartment with no where to live and little time to find a place during the holiday season.  It just screams of that aspect of modern day relationships where the use of the text message has become the method of choice for ridding yourself of an unwanted relationship. I don’t know anyone out there that can’t relate to that scene in some measure.

Then Ethan Day brings Steve Steele into the picture.  Steve Steele (I love that name) is also at a place in his life that he never expected to be.  Steve is a divorced, 45 year old car dealer who has finally come out of the closet, exploding his marriage, and family, hurting his wife who he loved and a step daughter who worshiped him.  And although he has found a measure of acceptance within his immediate family and friends, he is himself alone and floundering on his first year anniversary of his coming out.

A snow storm and an airport bar are the means and impetus for the men to meet and fall into bed, presumably just a one night stand.  This is an oft used familiar scene that appears  in multiple media and it works here to bring Deacon and Steele together.  Day perfectly captures Deacon getting his drunk on, his rambling internal monologue both hilarious and sadly recognizable to all who have been in that state sometime in their lives. Here is an excerpt:

“On your tab?” The bartender asked, setting down the freshly made cocktail. “Yup,” Deacon said, smiling slightly when his lips made a faint popping sound, like a cork being violently liberated from a wine bottle.

He did his best to ignore the judgmental expression on the bartender’s face. Glancing down at the name tag, he shook his head, disgusted anyone named Clifford would be casting stones. The pious pity of Cliffy wasn’t what Deacon needed at the moment, and he said as much with the dirty look he offered as a thank you for the drink.

They both turned, hearing a loud group of twenty-something’s come stumbling into the hotel bar. They were all visibly wasted, and from what he could make out from their rather gregarious bitching, they’d each been bumped from their flight as a result of their intoxication.

More rejected casualties, redirected to purgatory via this airport adjacent, cheesy-ass hotel bar that hadn’t been updated since the early nineties.

The burgundy and blue commercial grade fabric was rough to the touch, as if designed to ensure you didn’t make yourself comfortable. That combined with the brass railings that ran along the bar and atop the booths located along the far wall, all the mirrors and glassware dangling from above, the entire room screamed Loser-ville. “And I am right at home with my fellow loser-residents,” he muttered.

Deacon could practically smell the sweaty desperation of yester-year that hung in the air like the scent of stale smoke, from what had no doubt been the scene of many a one-night hookup over the years. Chewing on a chunk of ice, he took a moment to glance around the room at the rest of the poor schlubs.

Then Steve walks into the bar and everything changes.

Steve is an interesting balance for the character of Deacon.  Where Deacon is young and damaged by his upbringing, Steve’s damage is self inflicted.  He denied his sexuality, hiding in a marriage to a best friend’s widow until the truth and the stress made it impossible to continue living in a lie.  It has taken Steve a long time to feel comfortable being gay, but the mistakes he made were real and inflicted pain on those that didn’t deserve it.  Deacon’s pain was due to a alcoholic mother who still continues to put her addiction and selfishness above the needs of her children.  Also a realistic and painfully accurate portrait of the effects of alcoholism on the person afflicted and the family involved.  Added to that is the fact that Deacon’s mother is a pretty self absorbed human being and all the elements are there for extended child abuse and neglect.

One of the aspects of this story that I absolutely appreciated was the absence of instant love.  Instant lust, sure, but love? No, that comes gradually and not without a fight.  Because for every step forward Steve and Deacon take towards an emotionally rewarding relationship, Deacon retreats emotionally and sometimes physically.  The reader’s compassion and empathy for this character is totally engaged as Deacon’s abusive past makes him question his worthiness and capacity to love.

In Northern Star, Ethan Day gives the reader a serious exploration of the journey to love and family by two outwardly disparate men who just happen to be looking for the same thing at this stage in their lives.  For both Steve and Deacon family is important as love and it will be with the help of those families  that will pull them through the events to come.  And yes, there will be plenty of angst driven episodes to arrive as Deacon and Steven work their way through all the emotional and mental obstacles before they can be happy.

There are some wonderful secondary characters here.  Ashley, Deacon’s sister, is a recognizable teenager, with plenty of her own issues at play.  We also meet Steve’s colleagues from work (admirable and funny) as well as his ex wife and step daughter.  I love that her pain from living with Steven’s lies is not glossed over but dealt with in a realistic manner, just beautifully done.

Will every reader love this story? Not if all you are expecting is snappy dialog and snort inducing laughter.  Some of that is present here, it is a Ethan Day story after all.  But this is a more serious story that deals with alcoholism, child neglect and abuse and its long term effects on everyone associated with the alcoholic.  I think  Ethan Day did a great job and gave us a wonderful romance too. Consider this highly recommended.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  Eye catching and  cute.

Book Details:

ebook, First, 249 pages
Published September 25th 2013 by Wilde City Press
ISBN139781925031553
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.wildecity.com/books/gay-romance/northern-star/#.UkJOvkko5es

The Rank Few and their Rank View or When By The People and For The People Went Into the Dump and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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One of the many aspects that people either love or hate when living in the Washington DC Metro area is our constant bombardment of information of and about the Government.  The constant stream flows from our radios, tvs, cable, computers, phones, tablets, seemingly from the air itself.  It keeps us informed and aware of things happening in the government (whether we want to or not). I would even say that most of the people who live in this area work for the government or it has an impact on their work in some way.  Its Inside the Beltway at work and normally I kind of enjoy it.

Not now.

Now the government is shutdown and I am angry, and feeling helpless to make a difference in a situation that never should have happened in the first place.  This has effected me in so many ways, from the people I love, my family, my friends, acquaintances, all who are on furlough, those working and not getting paid, everyone who is impacted by this idiocy., including myself.

All those wondering how their mortgages will get paid, how will they put food on the table, or even get gas to bring them to the work they are not getting a paycheck for.    I see and hear it in the voices of cab drivers and food truck operators with no one to drive or feed,  hotels vacant because the tourists have gone home or have cancelled their trips.  From the front desk to those cleaning the rooms and hallways, and everyone else involved in the hospitality business, all are impacted, all are hurt.

What about those 30 children just admitted to a new cancer program at NIH, a last hope certainly and one that is frozen along with all the other protocols patients enrolled in specialty care need so desperately.  What about that person who needs a serious operation now.  It was scheduled then all leave was cancelled, no exclusions, no exemptions.  Who looks them in the face and tells them no? Even those hoping to get married or WWII veterans hoping to see their memorial? It’s certainly not the idiot Congress at the helm of this shutdown.

I, along with countless others, have called my representatives, Republican and Democrat, to voice my anger that the needs of the people who put them in office are being ignored, dismissed entirely because our views are not considered important.  The phone lines for all, especially the Republicans are constantly busy.  And when I did get through, I got a voice mail, saying all mailboxes were full.  No one is answering the phones on those offices.  But turn a camera in their direction, and they have time to expound on their importance and what they see as their own path to power and glory.

I am embarrassed that those people voted in to help their constituents have decided to help themselves instead.  The rank few with their rank view, those petulantly powerful, those gasbags of arrogance who should have been helping the government work has shut it down instead.  A fight was picked that they knew they wouldn’t win for the express purpose of shutting the government down.  They are confident that they will never have to come face to face with the millions they are hurting in the process.

And they are probably right.

Will they be visiting the people they made homeless?  Or those standing in line in the food banks?  Those in the hospital and those out of work because they lost their jobs or their businesses?  I don’t think so.  For these type of people its never their fault.  Their self-importance and arrogance overwhelms all else, leaving others to suffer for their selfishness and need for even more power.

The United States Constitution starts out as “We the People”, not We the Few and Powerful.  I think those Senators and Representatives who have shut down the government, need to be reminded who and what they represent.  They need to sit down and listen as someone reads to them the documents on which our nation and our freedoms are based.

Right before the signatures on the Constitution, the following paragraphs appear:

In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety–perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus, the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.

That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, perhaps, to be expected; but each will, doubtless, consider, that had her interest alone been consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that Country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.

Where is their adherence to those words and feelings expressed above?  Lacking, tossed aside in favor of their own positions and small minded thoughts.

How sad,, how infuriating, and how un American.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, Oct. 8:         Northern Star by Ethan Stone

Tuesday, Oct. 9:         Starry Knight by T.A. Webb

Wed., Oct. 10:             Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker

Thurs., Oct. 11:           The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed

Friday, Oct. 12:           Guest Blog by Playing Ball Authors

Sat., Oct. 13:                Playing Ball Anthology

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013 – Authors, are you Listening?

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013:

While everyone has been busy making New Year’s resolutions, I have been thinking about what I would wish for 2013 in books.  Turns out I have quite a few wishes, some  I would like to share in hopes they reach an author’s ear or more…..

❋I wish that 2013 brings a new book from JL Langley, this one to feature Sterling and Rhys, her wolf shifters…boy have we been waiting for their story.

❋I wish that 2013 brings another book in the Knitting series from Amy Lane *cough Jeremy cough*

❋I wish that 2013 brings Roan, Dylan, Holden, and the rest back with a fervor because Andrea Speed is killing me with anticipation over what the virus is going to do to Roan next.

❋I wish that Josh Lanyon is relaxed and happy from his sabbatical and ready to unleash some new books on his adoring fans.

❋I wish that I finally have time to start and finish JP Barnaby‘s Lost Boy series.

❋I wish that when authors are describing human eyes, the term “orb” doesn’t even come to mind as a word choice.  Really, people, you are making me mental with this one.  No more “his adoring blue orbs”.  Do you hear how dumb that sounds?  Magical orbs, alien orbs, fine.  Human orbs, no. Emphatically, unwaveringly, absolutely no.  See my Vocabulary Gone Bad series.

❋Ditto man tits.

❋I wish to that Abigail Roux doesn’t hurt Ty and Zane too badly in her next Cut & Run series, but that probably won’t happen.

❋I wish to see fewer instances of “instalove”, more measured steps towards a romantic relationship.

❋I wish that 2013 brings new stories about the Roughstock gang (BA Tortuga) and see Sam further along in his recovery.

❋I wish that Mary Calmes gives us another story in her werepanther universe and Domin Thorne and Yuri, really love those two.

❋I wish that I start taking my time reading books I have been waiting for instead of rushing through them (and then having to start over).  Patience, I need more patience.

❋I wish that when authors put their characters through hell (rape, savage attacks etc), there is no instant recovery without any effects from the abuse.  If you are going to go there, then at least make what happens to these people realistic all the way through.  No brutal multiple rapes and then joyful snowmobiling through the countryside. This makes me crazy too.

❋I wish that Andrew Grey is as prolific as he was in 2012.  I need more  Range stories and Taste of Love series.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me finish and write the rest of the reviews for Charlie Cochrane‘s outstanding Cambridge Fellows series, really I have no good excuse for this one, time just got away from me.

❋I wish that RJ Scott continues to write in her Sanctuary series, love those boys and TJ Klune brings back more bad poetry from the Kid as well as the Kid himself.

❋I wish to see less rushed endings and more complete backstories.

❋My wish for Sarah Black is for the Pacific Northwest to be as big a muse as the American southwest has been in the past.

❋I wish for more great m/m science fiction.

❋I wish for more in the Wick universe from Megan Derr.

❋I wish for anything new from Laura Baumbach.

❋I wish to see Tucker Springs explode with stories from many of my favorite authors (Marie Sexton, Heidi Cullinan and LA Witt).

❋I wish for more of the Bellingham Mysteries from Nicole Kimberling and Bellski stories from Astrid Amara.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me discover more new authors I can’t live without.  Thank you, 2012 for RC Cooper, Amelia C. Gormley, Rodney Ross, Shira Anthony, Poppy Denison, Marguerite Labbe, Joel Skelton, Katey Hawthorne, Piper J. Vaughn, Cardeno C, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane to name the ones that jump into my fogged brain this morning.

❋I wish to thank those authors whose stories I have been reading for sometimes for the continued enjoyment and hours of escape you have given me and so many other readers…..Ariel Tachna, Ethan Day, Anne Tenino, James Buchanan, SJ Frost, Josephine Myles, Willa Okati, Carole Cummings, Isabelle Rowan, Kate Steele, Lynn Lorenz, and so many others (again fogged brain from late night and Redskins game).

❋And a final wish for 2013 is for people to remember and rediscover the wonderful Home series by William Neale, an author who will truly be missed.

So that’s it, all my pathetic brain can spew out today.  I am sure there is much more trying to battle their way forward but they will have to wait.  A shout out to all the couples in Maryland that starting getting married at 12:01am this morning. Congratulations and a Happy New Year.  I will be leaving you all with a picture of Kirby in his New Year’s finest, please note the black leis, a nice touch don’t you think to go with his tiara?

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Scattered Thoughts Best Book Covers of 2012

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Once again its time to talk book covers and book cover design.  I have talked previously about my favorite covers from childhood and how the mere sight of a great cover in the window of a bookstore would draw me in like the scent of cheese to a mouse.  If the cover is the magnet the publisher and author uses to attract readers, there are certain principles of design that used to be taken into consideration to make that cover the one that grabs peoples attention, that yells look at me, that makes them want to know what that book is about.

For printed books, the designer has to look at several things such as book size, typographic palette (how blocks of text are located on a cover), book covers, book spines and fonts. With respect to eBooks, spines aren’t relevant, nor is book size, at least how it is normally used in the publisher world. It’s not the actual physical size that matters here with eBooks but that readers are often looking at a smaller graphic when choosing eBooks.  So now smaller has to make an even greater impact.  All the other design elements remain the same.  Book covers, whether for print or electronic books, must be compelling enough to make the reader to choose that book, to persuade the customer that what is inside is fascinating, marvelous stuff.

Another rule is that the book cover should match the book it is being designed for. Whether the design is simple or rich in detail, elegant or street tough, uses a cover model or an illustration, there should be no disconnect between the subject matter inside and out.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought nice cover but what does it have to do with the subject of the book? And it if is a book series, then all the covers should be similar enough to brand each book a part of a series, one glance tells you who the author is and what series you are reading (ex. Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series with a singular object on the cover). A great book cover makes you anticipate, endows you with a need to discover.

On every review I write I also mention the covers and the cover artists.  There are always some cover artists who continue to turn out one enticing cover after another, there are some artists you  can identify just by looking at the style of the design or paintings on the cover (Paul Richmond, Posh Gosh). And then this year saw a new artist or two whose cover reached out with it’s compelling designs and emotional overtones.  This  year also saw a trend towards retro illustrations and design which I loved and others whose richness in color and detail left me gasping in delight.  It was hard to narrow the covers down as there were so many worthy of mention, so I did break it down into a few categories.

So here they are, Scattered Thoughts Best Covers of 2012(with apologies in advance for the formatting problems):

Historical Novels:

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset/Artist Anne Cain

The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade / Artist Reese Dante

The Celestial by Barry Brennessel/ Artist Winterheart Designs

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch2

The Mystery of Ruby Lode 2

The Celestial 2

]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Novels:

Acrobat by Mary Calmes/ Artist Anne Cain

Mine by Mary Calmes/Artist Anne Cain

Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane/Artist Paul Richmond

Sidecar by Amy Lane/Artist Shoshana Appavu

Time Gone By by Jan Suzukawa/Artist Anne Cain

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C/Artist Reese Dante

Acrobat2

Mine 2

Mourning Heaven 2

 Sidecar2

Wake me up inside  2

Turkey in the Snow cover

Time Gone By cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy/Supernatural Novels:

The Ronin and The Fox by Cornelia Grey/Artist Nathie

A Token of Time by Ethan Day/Artist Winterheart Design

roninandthefox_2

A Token of Time 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Novels:

Burn by TJ Klune/Artist Catt Ford

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature by Andrea Speed/Artist LC Chase

Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne/Artist P.L. Nunn

Burn2

Riotboy2

Josh of the Damned TripleFeature2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series:

Infected Series by Andrea Speed/ Artist Anne Cain

Knitting series by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford/Artist Posh Gosh

Lost Gods by Megan Derr/Artist London Burdon

Gilbert 2

Stone Rose 2

Infected Lesser Evils 2

How to Raise An Honest Rabbit cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were so many others I wished to include and I know you have your favorites too.  Write and let me know who you feel should have been on that list (King Perry, Fallout to name a few that came close).  Check out the individual reviews to see the covers in greater detail and read about the books they so beautifully covered!

Play It Again Charlie cover

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2012

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What a spectacular year for great books in every genre from historical to fantasy! I have read so many wonderful books and series this year that it is hard to even begin to narrow down the list, although I have tried. What makes a book great for me? So many things, that it needs its own list.

The books I listed here are ones that moved me to tears and made me laugh out loud, they took me to places I have never been to see sights fantastic, miraculous, and awe inspiring. I have watched dragons soar and seen twin suns set over alien worlds. Through these wonderful authors I have met people who continue to stay with me through the power of their stories and the connectedness that I feel with each of the characters I have read about. Sometimes the books have taught me something about myself and how I looked at others or just gave me a deeper appreciation for my fellow beings.

I have grieved with men who have lost their soul mates, been with them as they worked through the trauma and loss, and celebrated as they moved forward with their lives. I watched men fall in love, whether it be with shifters, wizards, or just a man they met on the side of the road. Love lost, love found or lovers rediscovering the best about each other…that seems to know no boundaries as far as who you are and what world you inhabit. It doesn’t even matter whether the story is set in the past or goes far into the future. The authors and books listed here are ones that I cherish and return to often to visit with them once more. If you haven’t already read them, I hope you will add them to your list of must reads, as they are surely mine.

Oh, and by the way, this list is not complete. There are some wonderful books still to be released in the last two weeks of December, and there are some that I just missed from my own reviews. So look to see a revised list after the first of the year. Really there is something for everyone here. Happy reading!

Best Historical Book:
All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane (Best Series) review coming in 2013
The Celestial by Barry Brennessel
The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Best Short Story

Eight Days by Cardeno C
Fair Puckled by Bella Leone
Lily by Xavier Axelson
Leather Work and Lonely Cowboys, a Roughstock story, by BA Tortuga
Too Careful by Half, a Roughstock story, BA Tortuga

Best Contemporary Romance – Standalone

Fall Into the Sun by Val Kovalin
Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black

Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Good Bones by Kim Fielding

Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

Mine by Mary Calmes
Play It Again, Charlie by RC CooperScrap Metal by Harper Fox
Sidecar by Amy Lane

The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross

 Best Novels – Part of a Series

A Foreign Range by Andrew Grey
Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley
But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell
Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna
Cherish, Faith, Love & Devotion 4 by Tere Michaels
Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino
Full Circle by RJ Scott
Hope by William Neale
Inherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna (Best Series)
Second Hand, a Tucker Springs story by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux (Best Series)
The Journal of Sanctuary One by RJ Scott
The Melody Thief by Shira Anthony (also Best Series)
Who We Are by TJ Klune

Best First Novels
The Cool Park of His Pillow by Rodney Ross
Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
Inertia by Amelia C. Gormley (Best Series)

Best Supernatural Book:
A Token of Time by Ethan Day
Crucible of Fate by Mary Calmes (Best Series)
Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe
Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Infected: Life After Death by Andrea Speed (Best Series)
Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne
The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux

Science Fiction Books:
Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
The Trust by Shira Anthony

Best Fantasy Books:
 Black Magic by Megan Derr
Burning Bright by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Chaos (Lost Gods series) by Megan Derr
Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell
Poison by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Treasure by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Best Series – new books this year:
A Change of Heart series by Mary Calmes (supernatural)
Blue Notes series by Shira Anthony (contemporary)
Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane (historical)
Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux (and Madeleine Urban) (Contemporary)
Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels (contemporary)
Infected Series by Andrea Speed (supernatural)
Knitting series by Amy Lane (contemporary)
Lost Gods by Megan Derr (Fantasy)
Sanctuary series by RJ Scott (contemporary)
Sci Regency series by JL Langley (science fiction)

So Many Great Series, here are more of my favorites:

A Matter of Time series by Mary Calmes (contemporary)

Jewel Bonds series by Megan Derr (fantasy)

Superpowered Love series by Katey Hawthorne

Wick series by Megan Derr
Best Anthologies:

Three Fates
Animal Magnetism
Lashings of Sauce
Making Contact

I know that many books are missing but I just did not get to them this year, including JP Barnaby’s Little Boy Lost series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, and so many more.  Look for them in 2013.  Do you have a favorite I should know about?  Write me and let me know.

Review of Love in La Terraza by Ethan Day

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Rating: 3.85 stars

Cain Elliot is desperate beyond measure and about to give up all hope.  His grandmother entrusted La Terreza, her 1920’s Spanish courtyard apartment complex to him after her death.  La Terraza is special in so many ways, its beautiful  architecture, its magical  courtyard and of course, the unique group of characters that have come to live there over the years, including himself.  And now he is about to let them all down.  La Terraza needs a multitude of repairs to meet code and Cain doesn’t have the money.  He has been to bank after bank to no avail and he is close to bankruptcy.

To make matters worse, there is a real estate developer who is hounding Cain to sell, its tactics almost feeling like harassment in intensity. Feeling like an absolute failure after his last meeting at the bank, Cain heads over to Sully’s Tavern to meet up with his group of friends.  Also at the bar is Henry Abrams. Henry came to town to accept a position in the architectural firm Hamilton-Bach, so he is new, lonely and out looking around town.  He finds Cain and is immediately in lust but after their conversation and a night spent together, Henry finds that they have so much in common.  Cain and Henry really like each other, and Cain’s vulnerability brings out the need to protect him in Henry.Henry also falls in love with La Terraza, it’s magic and architectural beauty capturing his attention and admiration as much as its owner.   In a short amount of time, Cain and Henry finds themselves on the road to a real  relationship, the first for each of them in a long time.  And then Henry and Cain realize his new firm is the one working with the developer to acquire La Terraza.

Henry is horrified to find they want to tear it down, and Cain worries about Henry’s ties to a firm whose methods he thinks is disreputable. As the stress and tensions mount up, their new found relationship starts to fall apart.  Then the plumbing starts to fail at La Terraza and Cain has no money left to fix it.  Henry wants Cain to find happiness with him but at what cost? Cain must overcome doubt and his past. Henry must decide if what he wants is what Cain needs. In the middle of it all is  La Terraza’s future.

I have been a fan of Ethan Day’s since Sno Ho made its debut.  Ethan Day has such a winning way with his characterizations, snappy dialog and portrayals of love relationships from disastrous to dynamic that I eagerly await each new story from him.  Love in La Terraza is no exception.  It has all the earmarks of Day’s earlier lighthearted stories while still capturing some of the darker elements of his latter works.  Cain Elliot is absolultely a Ethan Day creation.  I could tell that immediately.  From his snarky voice, easy tolerance of quirky personas that surround him, and the “oh so happy to hop in bed with you, gorgeous” attitude that he presents Henry with the first night they meet, he is everything I love about  Ethan Day’s writing.  I adore Cain.  He is lovable, vulnerable, loyal and insecure about his abilities.  Henry is his wonderful counterpart.  Solid, ambitious, hardworking to a fault,  still he yearns for something more to his life and recognizes it in Cain.  It’s their hesitant fumble towards a relationship and mutual understanding that is the heart of this story.  Hearfelt, realistic, and full of missteps that occurs in most beginning relationships, it will speak to every person reading this story.

Also true to a Ethan Day novel are the wonderful oddballs that live in La Terraza and make up a core family group for Cain.  There’s the Scalia brothers, Vito and Tony,a pair of elderly men who play Frank Sinatra tunes, blasting them out into the courtyard, Mrs. Ruth Robinson, a grey panther married many times over and still going out on dates nightly, Eddie,  blind and a teacher at the school for the Blind and his boyfriend Matt, musicians Pixie and Thrash.  Thrash speaks as though he’s from England  but is actually from the Midwest, both are in a band, and Nic and Stu, her husband, a recently married couple playing at being hippies and close friends of Cain’s.  Each a splendid portrait of eccentric individuality. These people will absolutely engage your affections. They did mine.  I wanted to get to know all of them so much better.  In fact I wanted to move right into La Terraza and make myself at home with all of them.

La Terraza herself is that grand dame of Spanish buildings the shout out romance at  every cobblestone and ooze amore from it’s stuccoed walls.  I  wanted to be strolling through the courtyard myself, so vividly did Ethan Day describe her.  La Terraza is a character in her own right, sumptuous, a true classic beauty.  I wonder if  La Terraza exists outside of Ethan Day’s imagination, I hope so.  But either a figment  or reality, La Terraza lives on these pages.

There is so much to like here that I find it hard to bring up the quibbles I had with it. And that would be the secondary plot surrounding the group of  firms trying to take La Terraza away from Cain, no matter the legalities.  I won’t go into more details but I felt at times I was in another novel with this storyline.  It just did not seem to fit in with the romance between Cain and Henry because the way Day built up the relationship between the two men was so well done that the second section seemed almost clumsy in comparison.   I knew without a doubt before I even got halfway through the story what was going on with the building, who was doing it and who was the ultimate “bad guy” at the top of the evil chain.  In these economic times, it is easy to believe that Cain is having money flow issues to go with rehabbing an older structure without bringing in a melodrama that seeks to drown out everything with it’s exaggerated accompanying score.  Without the melodrama, this is a solid 4  star story.  Unfortunately, with the cloak and dagger stuff thrown in, it takes away from a wonderful romance and pulls it all back into a “nice story” category.

Ethan Day fans won’t want to pass this one up because it is an Ethan Day story.  For those of you new to the author, seek out his other books before you read this one.  Try Sno Ho for a wonderfully comedic bent on romance or At Piper’s Point, a more serious contemporary romance that gets it all right from beginning to end.  There are so many wonderful Ethan Day books out there.  I am just not sure this is one of them.

Cover art by Adrian Nicholas. The two men are lovely but the building standing in for La Terraza is a misstep.

Sunday After The Storm, September Thoughts and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Well, that wasn’t a fun night for anyone around here in Maryland, or even straight up the coast and into NYC.  High winds, tornados, hail, and rain,  lots and lots of rain.  Our neighborhood was without power for about 8 hours, but at least we did not have tornados to  deal with, as others in Maryland, Virginia and NYC did.  Other than some branches falling, we came out of it rather well.  I wish I could say the same for others.  Nature is all stirred up and doing something about it.  Perhaps we should listen a little harder to what she is trying to tell us.  Just a thought.  Now on to more pleasant things….

September always seems to me to be the reset  month.  Summer has ended but Autumn has yet to make it’s appearance.  September is the breather between the two.  September gives us time to gather our thoughts, to recollect on Summer doings and to think ahead and plan for Fall.  For a gardener, it can be such a busy time.  Hydrangeas need fertilizing and mulching in, so do the roses, some of which are still blooming.  Trees get to be trimmed, old vegetables dug up and composted while still remembering to refill the hummingbird feeders for the last of the migrants on their way south. Some flowers will be left standing, their seed-heads offering food to Goldfinches and the like.  The windows will open and Kirby will be the first there to rest his head on the windowsill, contemplating the birds, and squirrels, and the hawks circling in the sky above.  The geese honk overhead, hurrying their way to the Marshlands as a few leaves turn yellow and drop.  I love this time of year.  I have time to smell the last  rose, put mums in the planters, and admire the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds skimming through the gardens, visiting the feeders before their long journey ahead. Less humidity means more time spent outside, reading, observing, and enjoying the cooler breezes.  I hope you all are doing the same.

Here is the week ahead in Reviews:

Monday:                      Play It Again, Charlie by R. Cooper

Tuesday:                       Alone in the Crowd (Cattle Valley #27) by Carol Lynne

Wednesday:                Love in La Terreza by Ethan Day

Thursday:                    Unconventional At Best Anthology

Friday:                          Love, Hypothetically by Anne Tenino

Saturday:                      Life As A Fairy Thrall (Fairy Compacts #2) by Katey Hawthorne

Review of Second Time Lucky by Ethan Day

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Rating: 5 stars

Luke Landon is spending his birthday by himself, drinking and watching all his ex boyfriends pass by him at the bar, all seemingly happy without him. As the idea of another drink gets a happy internal hell yes, he hears a voice behind him saying the words, “Put your clothes back on and get back into your vehicle. The park has now closed.”  It’s Owen West, back in his life after fifteen years apart.  Their romance in college was so hot, so all encompassing they thought it would never end until it did, neither of them really understanding why.  But now Owen is here on his birthday and they get a second chance at love, a second chance to get it right whether it be luck or fate, if they are smart enough to take the chance.

Second Time Lucky reminds me almost immediately why Ethan Day is a must read author for me.  I never think of the personas he creates for his stories as characters, more like people I love listening to and spending time with.  You know, that one friend we are always on the phone with or going out to the bar with them, listening and laughing until our stomachs hurt.  Those are Ethan Day people.  And Luke Landon is another memorable Ethan Day person.  I was grinning with anticipation as I started to read Luke’s inner running commentary on his parade of exes at the bar.  After perusing a guy with whom he had a diasterous date, Luke thinks “Don’t expect a happily-ever-after when you accidently break a man’s masturbation hand—life lesson learned.” Or

“Usually, gay men stayed on the same cycle—similar to the menstrual variety in that we did our best to avoid the achy cramps that came with running into our past failures. We instinctively knew what nights and times to avoid certain bars. It was something we normally didn’t have to work at.The same way the moon orbits the earth which in turn does the same with regard to the sun, we managed to avoid one another without needing to consciously think.”  That’s pure Ethan Day.  Funny, sarcastic, a little twisted and totally true. I could quote him all day.

Told from Luke’s pov, we are privy to all the inner workings of Luke’s mind and heart, a complicated duo if ever there was.  Luke’s upbringing and current status with his mother make romantic relationships a hard sell. With three gay ex husbands behind her, Luke’s mother is not exactly a warm and supportive mother, and Luke’s abandonment by his father is an issue still impacting his relationships, whether he acknowledges that fact or not.  Mostly not.    Everything about Luke, from his pride in his work and his loyalty to his friends, makes him someone it is easy to empathize with and understand.  And his constant inner monologue with all his insecurities front and center bubbles to the surface of each page, buoyant on its own effervescence, until it spills over everything in its path, covering all the events with a Lukas perspective, even Owen West.  I really liked Owen West, a steady, good person with his own issues.  I could also get behind his frustrations with Luke even as he understood the basis for Luke’s actions.  Yes, Owen West feels like a real person too.  So do all the characters in Second Time Lucky.  I don’t need to talk about depth and dimension because it is unnecessary.  They are that real, that authentic.

Ethan Day also has a wonderful way with settings, from Missoula, Montana and Owen’s family ranch to Middleton where Luke works and lives, it all comes to life with Day’s vivid details and small deft touches.  Second Time Lucky is that complete package, full of laughter, outright guffaws, love and as with life, heartbreaking sobs and tears.  Have your box of tissues handy.  At one point in the story, a sudden occurrence hits Luke and the reader at the same time with the same impact.  My heart hurts just thinking about it now. Everything is tied up in a wonderful ending, that will send you back to the beginning of the story to  start reading it all over again. No quibbles here, not even a twinge.  Trust me, you will love this one.  I know I did.  Great job, great story!

Cover: Cover by Winterheart Designs.  Very eye catching, very flashy.  Not sure how I feel about it, perhaps a little divided.  From one standpoint I say, yes, that’s Lucky but under all that glitz is a man with depth.  Where is that man on the cover?

The Week Ahead and A Must Recipe – Tarragon Chicken

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Happy Father’s Day all.  It’s a beautiful day here in Maryland, and all is well.  Except for third best dog, Kirby.  Kirby is our Soft Coated Wheaton and a rescue.  A total joy and all around dim bulb who we love dearly.  But he is like a small boy, boundless energy and everything goes into his mouth, regardless of what it is.  So he got into something a couple of days ago and has a upset stomach for his efforts.  This is a typical day with Kirby. It starts either inside or outside.

Kirby comes up to me and sits, wagging his tail, waiting for me to notice him. (uh, right big dog with a Wilfred Brimley face at my elbow)

Me:  Kirby, whatcha doing?

Kirby:  Grins and shows me mouth full of crap (5 socks, robe, pillow case, 3 stuffed toys, who knows)

Me:  Oh, Kirby. (sigh).  OK, let me have it.

Kirby: Runs to top of hill, staircase, sits and grins with mouth full of crap.

Me:  Kirby, get your butt down here.

Kirby:  Grins, wags tail.

Me:  Kirbyyyyyyyyyyy!   Get up, goes to top of hill or staircase, at which point Kirby runs past me to stand at the bottom.

Kirby:  Sits and grins with mouth full of crap.

Repeat sequence until I finally empty his mouth.  Which he promptly fills up again. And when his mouth is empty, he is talking up a storm.  He  wants me to know that kids are on their bikes in front of the house, the UPS man has just driven down the street, you name it.  He is the house’s Town Cryer.  Siamese cats have nothing on him.  I wish I could do an audio recording of Kirby.  I would post it here, trust me you would be amazed.

So while I have a few moments this morning before we start our ritual, here is our review schedule for next week:

Monday:                                   Concord Grape: Unexpected by TC Blue

Tuesday:                                    Stone Rose (Lost Gods #3) by Megan Derr

Wednesday:                             Smooth Like Latte by Rawiya

Thursday:                                 Second Time Lucky by Ethan Day

Friday:                                      Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder

Saturday:                                  Reviewers Surprise

 

After all that great reading, you will need some sustenance.  I just made this for the first time and it was wonderful.  I used chicken thighs which I lightly seasoned and put into a 420 oven for 15 mins.  Then I crisped the skin in the pan and put the chicken pieces aside.  Then start the recipe from there.  You will love it.  Pair it with the dry white wine you cooked with and a lovely light salad and you have a great summer meal. Enjoy!

Tarragon Chicken

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chicken (about 3 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup  dry white wine
1 shallot, minced
1 cup   creme fraiche
1/2 cup chopped fresh tarragon
Lemon juice

Directions:

Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over quite high heat. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and fry in batches until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Put all the chicken back in the pan, add the chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Reduce any leftover juices until sticky. Add the wine and the shallots and reduce to a thickish sauce, about 5 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and half the tarragon. Boil down again to sauce consistency, 3 to 5 minutes.

Season the sauce with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Put back the chicken pieces, turning to coat, then transfer to a platter. Pour the sauce over, scatter over the remaining tarragon and serve.