Scattered Thoughts Book Review Summary for June 2013

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june

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

5 Star Rating:

Hobbled by John Inman

Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Mighty Casey by Willa Okati

One Breath, One Bullet by S.A.McAuley

Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

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

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

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

Flawless by Cat Grant (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

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

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

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

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

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

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

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

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

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

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

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

Review: Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Fennel And Forgiveness coverMaitre’d Darius Cooper of the renown Montgomery House has his work cut out for him this week.  Rhys Montgomery, owner of Montgomery House,  has decided to allow the Gourmet Network to use the restaurant for an episode of a reality show, while still keeping it open for business.  That means  Darius has to keep things running smooth and ensure that their famous and famously volatile chef, Executive Chef Stephen Pierce, is kept happy, no small feat.  But things start to go wrong from the beginning.  The bride picked out by the Gourmet Network turns into bridezilla, and the man in charge of the reality show shoot?  None other than Max Boyd, the only man Dare ever loved and the man who broke his heart seven years past.

Max Boyd has had seven years to grow up.  He left Darius Cooper to pursue his career, not ready to settle down to one man and a long term relationship.  But those years apart have seen Max mature and realize that he had left the only man for him behind in his pursuit of life as a producer.  Now Max wants Dare back but as Dare has made clear, Dare doesn’t trust him and wants nothing to do with Max.

With Chef Stephen Pierce threatening the bride, the owner threatening to toss them out , and Dare asking him to leave, how will Max pull off the production shoot  of Southern Wedding Belles and get his (and Dare’s) second chance at love?  Sometimes all it takes is a little fennel and forgiveness.

I love a plot where former lovers reunite for a second chance at love, that always gets to me.  So no surprise that the book description was really the thing that drew me to this story in the first place. I found this to be a sweet story but somehow just short of satisfying and it is hard to put my finger on exactly what component is the problem.

McKay has given us a wonderful location and setting for the story.  Montgomery House is a famous, historic restaurant in Charleston, SC.  and in it McKay has placed a renown chef with a huge ego and volatile attitude to match his reputation, an owner immensely proud of his restaurant and his restoration work and a Maitre’d equipped to handle both men and all other challenges except the one closest to his own  heart.  So far, great.  I loved them, the restaurant, and even the silly reality show brought into the mixture.  Southern Wedding Belles.  Someone has been watching a lot of TLC to get that one so right.

I think my problem is with the character of Max Boyd, the tv producer and the man who devastated Darius Cooper when he left him all those years ago.  I think the back story created for Max is a pretty realistic one.  Max was someone too young to handle a long term relationship with an older man who wanted to settle down.  Instead Max wanted to concentrate on his career, again understandable.  But the older Max still seems a little immature in my opinion.  Here is Max, after he has seen Darius again for the first time in seven years:

Looking back, he had to place the blame for their break-up squarely on his own shoulders. He’d panicked when Darius had asked him to move in, because at the time, he’d been more interested in climbing his career ladder than in settling down with one man yet. Ten years his senior, Darius was as solid as he was intense, and he’d wanted a commitment with a capital “C”, no holds barred and no going back. Unfortunately, Max was too immature and self-absorbed at the time to deal with the tougher aspects of sustaining a relationship and to compromise as much as he needed to. Max hadn’t been able to love Dare the way he deserved back then, but age and experience had helped Max understand that relationships required more than romance and sex; respect and a mutual commitment to making it last were vital.

The damnable thing was that he hadn’t been able to find anyone he wanted to commit to since then. He kept comparing his prospective partners to Dare, and they all fell far short of the mark.

So Max hasn’t found anyone as good as Dare so far?  And all this time, Max never looked up his former partner? Uh, no.  While McKay made me believe in Darius’ pain and the devastation Max inflicted upon his self image and ability to trust, I never really believed that Max loved Darius all that time they were apart.  I think it is that lack of belief in Max and Darius’s love that leaves this story foundering a bit.  It is sweet but not particularly memorable (or believable).

Also, while there is some discussion about them not getting back together immediately because of the pain inflicted, of course it happens almost immediately within the duration of the production shoot (after saying it would take time). Sigh.  I could see that a longer version might have made for a more realistic, better imagined reconciliation than the one that occurred within this story.  But as it is, it is too saccharine and far too unrealistic to be believed.

However, there is a lot to like here as well.  Mostly I loved Chef Stephen Pierce and Stephen’s PA Robert Logan.  Arrogant, snarky, and so much fun, they were the most interesting and absorbing characters in the story.  It was their story I wanted to read about, not Dare’s (disliked that nickname) and Max’s.  Ari McKay (a pen name for two people coauthoring as Ari McKay) has written the owner Rhys Montgomery’s story in Bay Leaves and Bachelors.  So I can only hope that Stephen’s story will be written as well.  That one I can’t wait for.

This is a sweet story, enjoyable and short at 102 pages.  It is just not very deep and multi dimensional but that fine, not every romance has to be.  I think most people will enjoy Max and Darius’ relationship.  I know they will love Montgomery House and the rest of the characters involved there.  I certainly did and look forward to more in this series.

Cover illustration by BS Clay.  Models are cute but Darius is 40, where is the older man in this picture?

ebook, 102 pages
Published May 8th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN
161040470X (ISBN13: 9781610404709)
edition language

From Mourning To Joy Once More, Animal Adoptions and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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You always hear that things have a way of changing overnight, but few experience it.  It didn’t quite happen like that here but it was close.  In my instance, things changed exactly one week to the day that I felt my heart shatter.  On June 4, 2013, my companion of 18 years, Winston died.  Exactly one week to the day, on June 11, another Winston came into my life, through circumstances so unusual, so connected, that I knew it was meant to be.   I have written that story, The Tale of Two Winstons – A Terrier Comes Home, to chart the beginning of our journey together.  Before that I had written of my first, indomitable Winston, my love of 18 years in My Winston.  But there was one fact I had left out.  You see, exactly one week before I found Winston, I had another dog, Snowflake, a rescue American Eskimo.

Snowflake was with me for two years, gorgeous and unfortunately so emotionally scarred by her previous family that only I could handle her.  I never got the entire  story but from her hatred of children and families in general, apparently she had been used as a target and punching bag by the people who owned her before me (and was rescued from).   One day we were out in the pasture, running and checking around for a loose horseshoe, when bikers sped by and Snowflake gave chase down the fence line.  Normally, that would have been fine as she couldn’t get through the wire and post fence, but sometime during the night a car had sideswiped the fence and taken down just enough to leave a Snowflake sized hole.  I am sure you all can imagine what happened next as Snowflake darted out onto that winding country  road.  Even as we raced to the vet, I knew my Snowflake was gone.

One week to the day, on that same spot, a shivering, heavily matted, rail thin Winston was found and went home with me carrying him in my arms, the same way Snowflake left that same spot.  Now 18 years later, exactly one week apart, my beloved Winston was gone and another Winston had arrived.  And each time, I knew it was meant to be.  How could it not?  I am not sure I believe in Fate but all these connections?  All these events strung together in order for one magical moment to happen?  How do I not believe in that?  Many people have said that Winston sent the other Winston to me, and I think I can agree there.  During that week of almost overwhelming grief and loss, I swear I could hear the thunk Winston made as he jumped down off the bed to investigate something in the house during the night.  Several times that occurred during that week, but since Winston arrived, not a sound.  This Winston likes to bury his food bowl (on tile no less) just like my old Winston did.  Perhaps one has taught the other his tricks without me knowing.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

My family now includes two rescued dogs, Winston and Kirby whose face adorns the banner of this blog.  They aren’t my first rescues and most certainly won’t be my last.  There are so many dogs (and cats) that need homes in shelters around the country.  And there are so many shelters in need of support, both monetary and in donations of supplies.  I know it is Father’s Day today but perhaps if your Dad is someone who has everything possible and you don’t know what to give him, maybe make a donation to your local animal rescue organization or humane society in his name as a gift.  I know it would be welcome.  I found my Winston by donating food to the shelter.  Who knows if a four pawed love awaits you there as well?  The larger groups, ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States, rescue animals from devastating events such as hurricanes and earthquakes and more.  They need your help too.

So here are some links to get you thinking about rescues and the organizations who need your help to continue their mission to save animals in need:

ASPCA

Humane Society of the United States

Montgomery County Humane Society

Days End Farm Horse Rescue – located locally in MD but travel all over the US to rescue large animals. Truly an amazing organization.

I am sure there are so many local rescue organizations around you that need your assistance.  They are only a tapped computer key away. Check them out as well.  Here are a few pictures of Winston and Kirby playing, they have turned into the best of friends.  Look below the pictures for the week ahead in reviews.  Happy Father’s Day!

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The week ahead in Reviews:

Monday, June 17:               Flawless by Cat Grant

Tuesday, June 18:              Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay

Wed., June 19:                    In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey

Thursday, June 20:           Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Friday, June 21:                 The Heir Apparent by Tere Michaels

Saturday, June 22:             Stonewall by Martin Duberman