Review: The Lightning Moon by Sylvia A. Winters

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

The Lightning Moon coverIt’s been five years since Quinn’s husband was shot and killed in the woods behind their house. Quinn’s love was a were and his killer was never caught.  And for all that time Quinn and mourned, unable to move forward with his life.  Quinn spends his days as a shop clerk at The Crystal Moon Emporium, a shop catering exclusively for witches.  Quinn’s brother Michael has just reappeared in his life, bringing along with him his new fiance Jade, a were herself.  Their happiness just reminds Quinn of all he has lost and how lonely his life is now.  But Michael and Jade are keeping secrets, the biggest of which brings danger to them all.

Arrow is good at his job, hunting and tracking for a fee.  And for some time Arrow has been hunting a couple on the run.  But in the last place they fled from, Arrow finds a letter, one that pours out the writer’s loss and pain.  It’s a letter that haunts Arrow and reminds him of a life he can never have.

Quinn and Arrow are on a collision course, one that will change both their lives forever and only fate know how it will play out.

The Lightning Moon is a quietly magical story, and not just literally. Sylvia A. Winters has created a narrative and characters  for her story that are so beautifully defined, so restrained in their emotionality and yet so appealing in their vulnerability that the reader is fully absorbed by these people and their futures from the very beginning.

I love this trope.  A character finds himself falling in love with a person by means of a portrait or letter before they have met the individual. It is a hauntingly emotional technique when used effectively and in The Lightning Moon, Winters uses it perfectly.  Quinn is the first character we are introduced to, still mourning the loss of his husband yet he is also starting to recover enough that he realizes just how lonely his life has become.  And on the anniversary of his love’s death, he writes a letter.  The reader is not privy to the letter’s content until later but already Quinn has engaged our sympathy with his quiet pain and acceptance.  Still he is not an object of pity, due to Winters textured characterization which gives Quinn a vulnerability as well as a sense of humor and loyalty.

Arrow, the other main character, is just as vulnerable although he will not realize it until later.  Arrow is a witch who fell into his profession by accident and by way of a dysfunctional past.  His constant need for travel, his lack of support and home is starting to wear on him as is the type of jobs he takes and the employers he works for.  Winters takes that cynical, world weary “bad man” character, twists it to her own  use and gives us Arrow, a man open to redemption and love.  Arrow becomes accessible emotionally to new possibilities for himself and, through her descriptions and dialog, Winters brings the reader along for his journey.

And what a journey it is.  Fraught with emotion, packed with suspense, the reader is still filled with pain for the characters at the inevitable clash although we have been anticipating it from the beginning.  The author tells her tale with a concise touch, moving the narrative along at pace that never feels rushed or bogged down.  It flows, gathering the necessary speed that excites our expectations as all the characters and events head into the dramatic climax.

I loved this story and only the author’s world building kept it from a perfect 5 rating.  I wanted Arrow and Quinn’s universe a little more fleshed out.  It holds humans, witches and weres, although not all are held equal.  I wanted to know more about their society and its attitude about the beings that lived in it.  Her world intrigued me, and a little more knowledge would have rounded out the story to perfection.

I highly recommended The Lightning Moon.  It’s an enthralling, enchanting story of love and redemption.  Don’t miss out, grab it up and start reading.  As for me, I am off to search out more stories by this marvelous author.  I can’t wait to see what new worlds and characters she brings to us next.

Book Details:

ebook, word count 31,000
Published January 8th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title The Lightning Moon
ISBN13 9781620042991, buy it here at Less Than Press, LLC
edition language English

And I Saw A Sea of Squirrels….and the Week Ahead in Reviews!

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And Then I Saw A Sea of Squirrels……grey squirrel drawing

Its fall and my patio and lawns are full of nature’s bounty, aka nuts.  Lots and lots of nuts and therefore lots and lots of squirrels (and deer but that’s for another story from this park naturalist).   This year is a high cycle year so all the oaks, hickories, and beech trees in my backyard were groaning under the weight of the nuts they bore.  And have now loosed them upon every surface available, turning every spare inch into a prickly hulled,DSCN4046 brown blanket or a mosaic of shiny hard bits and pieces of acorns to go along with the prickly hulls of the beech nut.  Of course the green golf balls of the black walnut are dropping too, sounding like hail during the worst of storms.

And my dogs hate this.

I don’t blame them.  Those prickly little bits and pieces hurt the pads of their paws, jagged hulls of shells courtesy of sharp squirrel teeth are just the right size to work themselves between the pads and wedging themselves firmly to great pain and discomfort.  No amount of sweeping is stopping the tide.  It’s relentless, a constant cacophony of sound followed by a carpet of discarded husks.DSCN4053

I think most people don’t realize that nuts are cyclical.  That each year the harvest is that much greater than the year before with the various animal populations that depend upon them for food expanding along with them.   And then the year that follows the one with the biggest yield is all but barren.  No nuts, or at least very little.  People start reporting seeing skinny or starving animals.  And they reason that such a thing helps to keep populations down.  And certainly that is true for the present day.  But not always.

Did you know people once saw seas of squirrels as they migrated through?

Yes, Eastern gray squirrels used to migrate, following the cycles of the oaks, and hickories and other nut bearing trees.  Back when the midwestern and eastern forests were one contiguous mass of forest.  Back before we started to carve out our settlements, and farms and cities. Back when there were only small farmsteads and villages that dotted the forests, tiny punctuation marks of humanity.

Then the animals lived much different lives than they do today.

One of my college professors,  Dr. Vagn Flyger wrote a report for the University of Maryland on a squirrel migration as recent as 1968.  Oh, how he loved squirrels and imparted that love to his students!  And this recent migration, from Vermont to Georgia, fascinated him.  You can read it here.  But even more fascinating are the earlier account of waves of squirrels so massive that it took days before the end of the hoard could be seen.  Or as Robert Kennicott in his article “The Quadrupeds of Illinois” in The Annual Report of the Commissioner of gray squirrelPatents for 1846 stated  “it took a month for the mess of squirrels to pass through the area.”*

Just imagine what that must have looked like! Tens of thousands, perhaps millions of squirrels following the wild harvest through the vast forest of the midwest and east, flowing like a grey furred river, leaping and bounding over every surface as they passed their way through the immediate area.   Here is another quote (from that  *same article ):

*In 1811, Charles Joseph Labrobe wrote in The Rambler in North America of a vast squirrel migration that autumn in Ohio: “A countless multitude of squirrels, obeying some great and universal impulse, which none can know but the Spirit that gave them being, left their reckless and gambolling life, and their ancient places of retreat in the north, and were seen pressing forward by tens of thousands in a deep and sober phalanx to the South …”

No longer.

We still have them migrate occasionally.  The last reported one was likely 1998 in Arkansas but nothing like the vast migrations of the past.  And how can they with no massive forest or massive stands of trees, following the bounty of nuts and seeds as the cycles demanded?  Like the beaver before them, we have changed their natural history and lost something special in return.

Now the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is regarded as a cute backyard dweller or bird seed eating pest.  They get into attics or gnaw on wires.  We are amused by them, infuriated by them, and in some cases regarding bird feeders outsmarted by them.  They throw nuts at my dogs and tease them unmercifully and I laugh, of course.  They are a constant in my yard and a source of food for my owls and hawks.  They are as familiar to me as my wrens and woodpeckers…and my life would be poorer without them.

But once they moved across the land in rivers of energy and gray fur, millions of them covering the landscape and making people stop in their tracks, marveling to see such a sight.  Just once I wish I could have been there, standing beside those folks so I too could have said “and then I saw a sea of squirrels…”.

The Migration of the Grey Squirrels

by William Howitt

When in my youth I traveled
Throughout each north country,
Many a strange thing did I hear,
And many a strange thing to see.

But nothing was there pleased me more
Than when, in autumn brown,
I came, in the depths of the pathless woods,
To the grey squirrels’ town.

There were hundreds that in the hollow boles
Of the old, old trees did dwell,
And laid up store, hard by their door,
Of the sweet mast as it fell.

But soon the hungry wild swine came,
And with thievish snouts dug up
Their buried treasure, and left them not
So much as an acorn cup.

Then did they chatter in angry mood,
And one and all decree,
Into the forests of rich stone-pine
Over hill and dale to flee.

Over hill and dale, over hill and dale,
For many a league they went,
Like a troop of undaunted travelers
Governed by one consent.

But the hawk and the eagle, and peering owl,
Did dreadfully pursue;
When lo! to cut off their pilgrimage,
A broad stream lay in view.

But then did each wondrous creature show
His cunning and bravery;
With a piece of the pine-bark in his mouth,
Unto the stream came he;

And boldly his little bark he launched,
Without the least delay;
His busy tail was his upright sail,
And he merrily steered away.

Never was there a lovelier sight
Than that grey squirrels’ fleet;
And with anxious eyes I watched to see
What fortune it would meet.

Soon had they reached the rough mild-stream,
And ever and anon
I grieved to behold some bark wrecked,
And its little steersman gone.

But the main fleet stoutly held across;
I saw them leap to shore;
They entered the woods with a cry of joy,
For their perilous march was o’er.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews (and  Autumn Sedum in my garden):DSCN4051

Monday, Sept. 30:         Sonata by A.F. Henley

Tuesday, Oct. 1:              September Summary of Reviews

Wed., October 2:            Goblins by Melanie Tushmore

Thurs., October 3:         Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley

Friday, October 4:         The Isle of Wishes by Sue Brown

Sat., October 5:               Knightmare (City Knight #2) by T.A. Webb

Review: The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Crimson Outlaw coverVali Florescu, heir to a powerful local boyar, is determined that his beloved sister will not have to marry the much older, scarred man their father has betrothed her to.  So he hatches a plan to upset the wedding, but everything goes awry, leaving Vali imprisoned by an enraged father.  Escaping, Vali flees instead of his sister, hoping to see the world.  But that plan too fails when he is captured by Mihai Roscat, the fearsome Crimson Outlaw.

Vali finds his captivity surprisingly wonderful, falling quickly for the outlaw.  But Vali also finds that his father is far more cruel than he ever expected.  The villages and their inhabitants on his father’s land have been subjected to raids from his father’s soldiers, raids that saw villages burned to the  ground, women and children killed over something so small as an imagined slight.  Soon Vali is feeling ashamed to be a prince and his father’s son, vowing to changed his peoples lives for the better.

Mihai Roscat came from highly regarded, wealthy family himself.  But that family came up against the power and evil of Wadim Florescu, Vali’s father.  Almost all were slaughtered, leaving only 3 sons alive.  Mihal has vowed vengeance upon the Florescus and thought to punish the son for the  father’s deeds.  But Vali is nothing like Mihai expected, and when Vali helps Mihai defend a village against his father’s soldiers, Mihai’s affection turns into love. Together, Vali and Mihai vow to overthrow Wadim Floriescu once and for all.  Will they succeed or lose everything in trying?

Hard to believe that Alex Beecroft jammed such a sweeping tale into 131 pages.  Set in Carpathian forests of Romania, Beecroft’s story conjuers up visions of boyers, and Vlad the Impaler.  Specifically it is 1720 – Harghita County, Transylvania when the story opens up and the Florescu family preparations for the wedding of Stela Florescu to Ionescu, a war-hardened old warrior and important ally of Wadin Florescu.  From the vivid descriptions of the wedding finery to the dialog of the soldiers closest to Vali, Beecroft brings this time and place alive before us.  This is the start of the wedding procession:

It was the grimmest of weddings. Even the weather agreed, rain lashing down from a glowering sky, turning the red tiles of the turrets the colour of blood, gushing over all the balconies, and churning the moat to a froth.

Vali, with a sodden sheepskin clutched around his silken hat, escaped his father’s scrutiny long enough to dash through the puddles of the courtyard and catch up with his sister and her maidens before she entered the castle church. The girls gave him sour looks for stopping them outside in this downpour, but he didn’t care overmuch that the spun-sugar delicacy of their headdresses were drooping and darkening with the wet, and that their heavy gold-and-silver-laced bodices, their globes of shimmering skirts were sopping up water with every second.

They were uncomfortable. Well, so they should be, since his sister’s face was anguished and her eyes red with weeping. She had met her husband-to-be for the very first time yesterday, at a feast thrown for that purpose, and although she had concealed her horror fairly successfully at the time, it was clear to see she had not spent a peaceful night. Even encased as she was in so many layers of cloth-of-gold she might be a martyr’s mummy, he could see her shaking, and he was furious to know she was as frightened as she was miserable. Her voice was as raw as her eyes. “You shouldn’t be here. If Father sees you . . . Go back to the men’s side before you’re missed.”

Beecroft sets the scene beautifully for all that is to follow.  Laid upon these vibrant primal setting are characters that are perfect for the time period. Vali, the young impetuous prince, comes across as the thoughtless, yet well meaning young man that he is.  His is also a character who grows up as the story progresses.  I really liked Vali.   Stela, Wadim and other members of the court are harder to pin down and perhaps that is as the author intended.  Because the other characters that really come to life are the villagers that Vali meets once he is away from the castle.  They are more vibrant then the gray denizens we met at the wedding.  Again, I felt as though that was intentional.  The villages and the inhabitants need to be lifelike if we are to believe in Vali’s transformation from spoiled, naive child to realistic young warrior ready to overthrow his father.

The only issue I had with this story is the instant love that sprang up between the outlaw and the prince.  It was such a short time between capture and enrapture, and the prince’s sexual kinks aside, their romance needed much longer to percolate in order for it to be believable.  Vali’s affection for his horse seemed far more realistic than his love for  Mihai.   The reader must accept this instantaneous love affair for the book to really work.  Some of the readers will, others won’t.  That will affect how much enjoyment and satisfaction they will get from reading The Crimson Outlaw.

For myself, I loved Beecroft’s settings and descriptions.  Romania is steeped in tradition and legends.  Beecroft makes the most of both with descriptions as lush and layered as the land itself.  That alone made this story for me.  I love Alex Beecroft’s stories and look forward with anticipation to each new one that is released.  Add this to your to be read pile and enjoy your journey to the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania and romance.

Cover Art by Simoné, http://www.dreamarian.com.  This is the most amazing cover.  It is as gorgeous and vibrant as Alex Beecroft’s descriptions of the land and people.  One of the best covers of 2013.  Just outstanding in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 131 pages
Published August 12th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490536
edition language English

Review: Demolished by Astrid Amara

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

DemolishedWhen Calvin Quarry meets up with his anonymous hookup, he is startled and upset to find out that the man is none other than Felix Bracks.  Felix Bracks was responsible for the death of Calvin’s closest friend in high school and several of their classmates.  Calvin flees from the encounter, horrified.  But Felix pursues him, calling and texting Calvin over the next week or so.  Felix wants Calvin to hear his side of the story.  While it’s not something Calvin wants to hear, eventually he gives in and listens to a version of the story that differs greatly from the one he knew.

Felix Bracks has spent years as a social outcast because of that accident in high school.  Physically and emotionally scarred, he thought he had recovered.  But feeling the distain and hate from Calvin after all these years, hurts him.  He is attracted to Calvin and wants the man to like him.  But Felix only tells Calvin part of the truth, keeping the full story to himself.

When Calvin’s cousin Robbie gets involved in something sinister, something that is derailing his life, Calvin decides to investigate.  After all Calvin is an journalism major, this is something he knows how to do.  But as Robbie falls deeper and deeper into trouble, Calvin’s investigation starts to lead him not only to Robbie’s problem but Felix’s past as well.  As the past starts to intrude on Calvin and Felix’s relationship, will they be able to trust each other or will the revelations from the past demolish the love they have found with each other?

Astrid Amara is an automatic go to author for me.  I love her stories, especially her holidays with The Bellskis which rank among my favorite.  So when I heard she had a new story coming out, I was thrilled.  Demolished has all the elements I have come to expect from this author.  Great characters and an mystery that involves the reader emotionally as well as mentally.

Amara starts us off with Calvin agreeing to meet his online hookup, Bikenut, in person for some hot, and decidedly casual sex.

After four weeks of online flirtations and cybersex, Calvin Quarry finally got up the nerve to meet Bikenut in person.

Meet wasn’t the correct term. Screw worked better. Bikenut agreed to host. Cal would knock on the man’s apartment door five times, walk in, and he would be grabbed and taken aggressively and quickly. Then he’d depart.

It was the kind of online hookup Cal always dreamed of engaging in but never had the nerve to. But after weeks of conversations online with the guy with the username Bikenut, a series of photographs showing the man’s impressive endowments, and the guy’s general sense of good humor and intelligence, Cal gave in to his fantasies and arranged the meeting.

But from the moment, Calvin and his online buddy meet face to face, everything starts to go wrong.  Because Bikenut turns out to be Felix Brachs, the boy Calvin and his community love to hate.  Felix was involved in a car accident turned fatal for several high school students, including Calvin’s best friend and secret crush.  For that alone Calvin has hated Felix all these years.  Amara does a wonderful job in making Calvin and then Felix, open and appealing young men.  We understand the emotions each person is feeling and can relate to each of them, easily seeing that horrendous event from both sides of the story.  As created by Amara, these are earnest young men with their futures ahead of them.  But both Calvin and Felix have a joined past that they need to put behind them before they can go forward.  The author’s characterizations give Calvin and Felix each a layer of vulnerability that goes hand in hand with their youthfulness.  Each has experienced past angst and trauma, from the devastation of the accident to their coming out as gay youths.  And in every scene, Astrid Amara makes us feel their pain and confusion with a vividness that is heartbreaking.

Robbie is another wonderfully engaging character.  Younger than Calvin and Felix, Robbie is in trouble.  His grades have fallen, he is sullen and keeping secrets.  All the hallmarks of drug and alcohol abuse.  Robbie’s situation becomes increasingly grave over the course of the story and the reader’s anxiety over Robbie’s future deepens as clues from the past intertwine with revelations about Robbie’s current predicament.  For me, this is where Amara really shined.  Amara’s portrait of Robbie, a youth in trouble,  is  both realistic and grim and handled with sensitivity.  The author ticks off the boxes of the parental check sheet of things to look out for to see if a child is in trouble.  But she incorporates that knowledge seamlessly into Robbie’s personality and behavioral changes noticed by Calvin and Robbie’s parents.   We watch it happening, we see the missteps by Calvin that we know can be laid at his youthfulness and inexperience, and the dread just seeps into the reader, spreading over the story as we wait to see how it will all play out.

I have a few quibbles with Demolished.  The first of which I am not sure really mattered in the end.   Perhaps I have watched far too many police procedurals on cable, but I could see some of the plot twists and turns coming, including the biggest of them all.   That said, the journey to  that point was so suspenseful and thrilling it didn’t matter so much that I knew where we were headed to begin with.  The other quibble was the almost instantaneous love that sprang between a young man with hatred in his heart and the object of his distain.  I wondered if Calvin could really push all those carefully hoarded feelings away and fall in love almost immediately with Felix.  Maybe or then again, maybe not.  That was a harder bump in the road to get over.   But once I accepted their relationship, the story moved forward quickly, attaching my feelings in the process.

If you are new to Astrid Amara, there are so many books out there for you to start with.  Whether it is the science fiction of Hell Cop,  the contemporary holiday romance of The Carol of the Bellskis, or the mystery romance of Demolished, you can’t go wrong.   Start here and work your way through her backlist.  Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington, the wildly quirky town that is home to another one of my favorite authors, Nicole Kimberling.  I have never been to Bellingham but feel a road trip coming on.  What a place it must be to have such wonderful authors residing there and writing such amazing stories.  No matter, Astrid Amara is a terrific author. Begin your journey with her here.

Cover artist, Valerie Tibbs, has created a terrific cover for Demolished, the red is the perfect color in tone and emotion for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 165 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Loose-ID
ISBN13 9781623004156
edition language English

Review: Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04) by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked Guidance coverIt’s not every day that a pickpocket steals the wallet out of Wick Templeton’s jeans.  And for Wick Templeton, it means he has to chase that unlucky thief down to retrieve his wallet and phone.  But the thief he catches is just a child, and a smart-mouthed one at that.  For Wick it’s like looking at a mirror, a small Wick mini me, all dirty, thin and full of sass.   And that’s just the start of the trouble, all four feet of it.  It seems that someone wants the kid out of the way – permanently.    Several fired shots later and Wicked is pissed.  No one is going to hurt this kid.  Its time for Wick to do what he does best, investigate, threaten and create total chaos.

And if one gorgeous, sexy Ned Harris turns up to meddle in the case, well no one, including Wick would be surprised.  Who is after Wick’s little 11 year old companion? And what is the deal with Ned Harris this time?  With a little wicked guidance, Wick will see his mini me safe and the criminals behind the threats in jail or dead.  It’s all in a days work for Wick Templeton, a law unto himself.  And with a twerp to protect, those hunting the boy had better run, and run fast, for the most wicked of them all is on their trail and judgement day is coming.

With Wicked Guidance, one more piece of the puzzle that is Wick Templeton is revealed and fitted into place.  With all the other stories, we have seen Wick’s intelligence, his ultra competency, his meticulous planning and control at work.  We have watched him smart mouth villains and outsmart the law.  He’s been witty, and sexy and dangerous.  But we haven’t seen him really care about someone…until now.  Sure we know he is a loyal and trusted friend to a small group of people and that his clients can trust him implicitly when it comes to their cases.  But a softer side, ok, Wick’s type of softer side has been missing until a young boy steals his wallet.

With the creation of Kyle, pickpocket and twerp extraordinaire, Havan Fellows delivers another facet to Wick Templeton’ character.   Kyle is a true eleven year old in every way.  Defiant, smug, mouthy, and full of fire, it’s no wonder that Wick looks at the kid and sees himself.  Fellows does a beautiful job in giving us a miniature Wick while still keeping Kyle believable as a tween out on the streets.  But Kyle is also in deep trouble with the vulnerability of the young that cries out for protection.  Kyle is just a terrific character and his interaction with Wick reveals more of Wick than we have seen in the other stories, starting from the moment Wick chases him down.

He tapped the handy dandy earpiece again then eyed his current problem. “Tried infers that you attempted something and failed.” He waved the wallet and phone in front of the brat before slipping them securely back in his pocket. “You attempted and failed.”

The kid humphed at him. “You gonna call the cops?”

“Why? They can’t protect you from me.”

The thief’s eyes widened for a brief second before he slumped his shoulders in defeat. “I’m real sorry, mister. I just was so hungry.” He rubbed his hand over his stomach for good measure. “I’ve learned my lesson and won’t do it again. Promise.”

Wick scored him a ten for his acting chops. He stepped back and took in the whole picture the kid presented. His blond hair teased the line of medium brown due to its oily matted down appearance, and Wick was sure there was a pale complexion on that face somewhere—if he Brillo padded through the dirt to find it. The bright hazel eyes that shone through the mess held intelligence and fire, defiance at its best. The twerp’s clothes matched the rest of him, filthy beyond any washing machine’s help, with holes in places that never qualified as cool. They hung loosely on his bony frame, as if at one time they fit properly but, with the boy’s new restrictive diet, had become too big too fast for him.

And that’s just the exchange I can quote.  The rest is both hysterically funny and perfectly authentic, especially the words coming out of Kyle’s mouth.  And all the more heartbreaking for all the sarcasm and bleak point of view in someone so young.  And you can see why this youngster appeals to every protective instinct that Wick has.  For me, it’s the most fulfilling and heartwarming relationship of Wick’s to date, his lustmance with Ned aside.  Trust me when I say the reader is absolutely emotionally involved in this boy and his future.

As with all the stories, we have a mystery to solve, and it’s a huge one.  Someone is trying to kill Kyle.  Havan Fellows has drawn us in, first with the introduction to Kyle, than with the developing relationship with Wick and finally with the threat to Kyle’s life.   We worry about the threat and we fear for his future, even while being assured that he is safe with the one person in the world who can protect him….Wick Templeton.  The author craftily sends us on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, from laugher to fright back to laughter and than back down to dead fear once more.  It’s a true E Ticket ride (google it), one you won’t want to get off.

This is also the story where we see that the tenuous lustmance between Wick and Ned is finally turning into something deeper.  Oh, there is still scores of questions to be answered about both of their background and in Ned’s case, current employment.  But a deeper connection between the men has formed, and while the sex is still hot and spicy, an element of caring has arrived in the mixture too.  I love that Fellows is making this a slow build to something real and perhaps lasting.  We aren’t there yet, but the glimpses she gives us makes us want more.

Wicked Guidance is my favorite book of the Wicked’s Ways series to date.  Havan Fellows has written a story that combines all the ingredients for the classic story you constantly reread.  It flows smoothly from beginning to end, it has laughter, it has wit, it has memorable characters, a mystery and sex appeal.  And with the inclusion of Kyle, Wicked’s Way and Wick Templeton gain a measure of heartbreak and warmth as well.  By the end of the book, I felt like that little boy Joey who calls out “Shane, come back!” at the end of that classic western.  I wanted more…much, much more of Wick, of Kyle, of Ned….just plain everyone.   I think you will feel that way too.  Here is a little something more to wet your appetite:

Wick learned a long time ago that if you just gave a little nudge, a simple word or two, chances of someone talking raised significantly. It felt like he wanted to talk. Maybe he needed a reason to.

He fell in step with the kid and mimicked him as he started kicking the little pebbles out of the way. They walked the duration of the path this way, quietly kicking stones, matching strides with each other. It meant Wick had to shorten his step a bit, but that didn’t cause a problem, neither did the silence. Wick was one of those that could hold his tongue for however long it took to get what he wanted.

Thankfully for us, he won’t have to wait long. Soon he and the readers will get what we want.  So run, don’t walk, and pick up this series.  Start with the first in line, Wicked Solutions and work your way through to the last story released so far, Wicked Guidance.  I read them completely through in one sitting and then did it again.  Thank goodness, Havan Fellows has promised to deliver more Wicked’s Ways and Wick Templeton in the future.  I can’t wait until I make their acquaintance once more and get caught up in their lives and investigations.

Here are the books in the Wicked’s Way series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that follow:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #01)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02)
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04)

Cover art by Laura Warner.  Nice job of branding the series, but I consider the design a missed opportunity to design something along the lines of the original pulp fiction novels.  This series cries out for more.

Book Details:

Published July 14th 2013 by Appleton Publishing Avenue

Review: Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03) by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked Incarceration coverIt was almost a guarantee that Wick Templeton would end up in prison one day, at least thats what the local wisdom said.  True insiders knew that if Wick Templeton is walking through the prison gates, all the inmates should run and hide for the devil’s at their door and knocking to get in.  With a wicked smile and a knowing smirk, Wick Templeton is being incarcerated.  So why is he so pleased?

It seems that inmates are disappearing only to resurface drooling at the local funny farm. Who is behind the disappearances and what could be their motive?  Wick Templeton is there to find out and if he has to become the king of the cellblock to do that, he will.  So run, you criminals, run while you can.  The most wicked of them all has been incarcerated and trouble has walked through the gates.

Wicked Incarceration, book 3 of Wicked’s Ways, has landed and my love affair with all things Wicked has deepened into addiction.  How I love this wicked, wicked man!  Once more we are thrown into the middle of an investigation of  Wick Templeton’s.  This time, it is a case of a disappearing ex boyfriend of a new client of Wick’s.  That the boyfriend turned up a drooling mess in a psychiatric ward is shock because the guy was sent off to prison and should still be there.  It makes perfect sense for Wick to investigate from inside the prison, at least that is the course that Havan Fellows takes to our absolute delight.

With delicious disregard for the bonds that rules and regulations lay on most men, Wick Templeton flows through the  prison corridors like the devil’s own enforcer, a dangerous wiseguy in orange.  As created by Havan Fellows, Wick has more hidden depths to him than the Carlsbad Caverns and navigating through to the truth about Wick Templeton can get just as tricky.   With friends and foe at his beck and call, Wick Templeton is always the dominant force in every situation, evens when it seems to be a hopeless mess.  Here is a taste of an incarcerated Wick:

He heard Banyu’s exaggerated sigh and smiled. That boy really thought he’d be able to instill proper phone etiquette in Wick.

“Hello, Wick, how are you doing today?”

“I’m in jail, how the hell am I supposed to be doing?”

Banyu laughed over the line. “You put yourself in jail. You can’t use that as an excuse for being a sourpuss.”

Wick straightened and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I thought we knew each other. Hello, my name is Wick Templeton. I’m an Aries, I enjoy long walks over fiery sandlots with broken shells cutting into my feet and smelly water creeping up to me, also putting on false happy faces when stupid people do stupid things that others consider cute. And did you just call me a puss?”

“Um…no?

Good answer. That’s Banyu, Wick’s go to IT genius. Banyu is at it again,  assisting Wick on his investigations.  Banya is another wonderful character among the small group of characters you will meet in this series that orbit around our man Wick.  Another is, of course, Ned Harris., our local law enforcement enigma who is not only hot but hot on Wick’s trail once more.  But is it Wick or the case, Ned is interested in? Wicked Incarceration brings the hint of romance or perhaps lustmance more fully into the picture here.  It’s dangerous, and incredibly sexy.  Just like the men involved.

Havan Fellows seems to specialize in questions with these characters, another of the joys of this series. We are still not sure of anyones true identity. Banyu is only heard over an earpiece. Who is Ned Harris?  Who exactly is Wick Templeton? We are never quite sure, precariously balanced as Wick is between the law and the lawless.   The author  continues to keep us guessing even as we snicker and gasp at Wick’s escapades and intrigues.  And they are many.  We know he will pull the situation together and escape but how?  And  when will Ned pop up, to mess up Wick’s plan and confound us further?  One thing I am sure of. We get a terrific little mystery and a joyfully, deliciously wicked path to journey on before the story will end.

Fellows’ narrative is an absolute treat.  It flows swiftly, even lightly through the maze she has laid out for us and her characters. There is snark, witty lines and tons of trouble on every page.  It’s just so much fun!

One more story to go, and it’s the best yet. But I truly adored Wicked Incarceration, read it twice in fact. So need a new addiction?  Something to make your heart beat faster and your brain giggle?  Meet Wick Templeton and crew in the Wicked’s Way series.  Start with Wicked Solutions, then Wicked Bindings, and then Wicked Incarceration.  You will love each and every one.  They are short in length and large in character and feel.  And you won’t ever want to put them down.  As I said, one more to go and more promised from the author.  I can’t wait.  And neither will you.

Cover art by Laura Harner does an excellent job of branding the series.  I only wish she had used elements of the old Pulp Fiction books on it as well, that was a missed opportunity here.

Here is the series in the order they were written to date:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #01)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #02)|
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Ways #03)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Ways #04)

Dog Days of Summer and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Canis Major Dog StarHere it is mid – August and the Dog Days of  Summer are almost over.  I know many of you have heard the term but do you really know where it came from?  I know that some of you are looking at your four pawed companions panting away the summer heat beside you, whether on shared walks or just sitting together in the backyard. One look at how the heat is affecting them, and I am sure you think “ah, dog days indeed.” But to understand where the term Dog Days of Summer, you must look to the sky.  The night sky that is and the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star above (no, we are not talking about the Sun right now).

Osiris

The Egyptians called Sirius the dog star after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog.  In Egypt, and in ancient Rome, Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. it was up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) and ancient Egyptians and Romans argued that it was responsible for the summer heat by adding its heat to the heat from the Sun. Those in ancient times called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer” because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot.

The Dog Days of Summer start around July 7th ( I have also seen July 3rd at the start date as well) and runs until August 18th, normally the time in the Northern Hemisphere when it is the hottest.  It is the time we head for the beach, the air-conditioning, anywhere but the office.  It is also a great time to catch up on your reading and make headway on your “to be read” pile. Here are some books and one great series (Wicked’s Way by Haven Fellows) that you will want to add to the list.

Monday, Augusts 12, 2013:                   Nischal by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, August 13, 2013:                     Wicked Incarceration by Haven Fellows

Wed., August 14, 2013:                           Wicked Guidance by Haven Fellows

Thursday, August 15, 2013                   Guest Blog by Haven Fellows

Friday, August 16, 2013                          Fall For Me by Ann Lister

Saturday, August 17, 2013:                   Home Sweet Home by TA Chase

Sirius

I will leave you all with two quotes about the dog days of summer.  Both perfection in tone and ability to paint a portrait of this time of year.

“Sophia and Grandmother sat down by the shore to discuss the matter further. It was a pretty day, and the sea was running a long, windless swell. It was on days just like this–dog days–that boats went sailing off all by themselves. Large, alien objects made their way in from sea, certain things sank and others rose, milk soured, and dragonflies danced in desperation. Lizards were not afraid. When the moon came up, red spiders mated on uninhabited skerries, where the rock became an unbroken carpet of tiny, ecstatic spiders.”
― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Review: Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02) by Havan Fellows

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Rating:  4.75 stars out 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked BindingsWick Templeton, private investigator and all around pain in the ass, receives an email on his private account that only his friends have.  The problem?  It’s not from any of his friends, but from that enigma from his last case, Ned Harris. There is a serial killer on the loose, murdering prostitutes and both men are out to stop him.  From Ned Harris’ point of view, it’s all about procedure and legality.  For Wick Templeton?  Not so much.  Wick has always done things his way and Ned is about to find that out.  As the two mens investigations intertwine, so does their interest in each other.  Wick and Ned are playing head games with each other as the killer taunts them from behind a maze of clues.

Who will find the killer first?  Or will the killer have the last laugh and turn the tables on Wick and Ned?

Wicked Bindings is the second installment in the Wicked’s Ways series, a series that just gets better by the book.  We pick up shortly after Wicked Solutions ends.  In that story, Ned and Wick part, each thinking they got their own way in the resolution of that case.  As Ned leaves Wick’s office, Wick tells Ned:

“You have no idea what I’m capable of, Ned. Don’t begin a game you can’t finish.”

With these men, a threat is as good as a flirty come on and neither man is very good at resisting either one or each other. This is how it all starts again in Wicked Bindings:

 Wick chuckled and turned back to his computer, tuning out his overnight guests’ babblings. He brought up his private email and his curiosity piqued once more; he didn’t recognize the sender. Since he didn’t use this email for anything except his closest friends, it never received any type of spam.

The subject line contained one three letter word: tag.

And with that one word, the game is on once more.   There is an investigation into the deaths of several prostitutes that pulls both men in and now they have a murderer to catch.  And there will be a clash or two as the sexual sparks fly and their methods of investigation collide on each side of the law.

Without consciously doing so, his hand moved the mouse and his finger depressed the left button when the pointer hovered over that small word.

“Want to come out and play with me again? If you are interested you’ll have to take a turn for the worse, but remain brave and don’t worry—I’ll protect you. Ned.”

So much attitude and characterization is packed into that piece of dialog.  Havan Fellows has created two wonderful characters in Wick Templeton and Ned Harris.  These men ooze vitality and sex appeal.  They are witty with a love a gamesmanship  that they deploy at every possible moment and the reader gets to come along and experience the fun and sometimes terror.

In each new book, the author uses the interpersonal interplay between Wick and Ned to reveal more of their characters and their history.  Of the two, Ned continues to remain more of an enigma.  Wick (and the reader) is not sure exactly what branch of the government  Ned works for, and Ned continues his own personal investigation into Wick’s past and circle of friends.  Through this approach, Fellows creates a level of tension between the men is not strictly sexual.  Is Ned trustworthy?  What is his real intensions towards Wick?  Friend or foe?  As their head games continue, the murder investigation adds another layer of tension and apprehension on top of the existing doubts about each other.  It’s a delicious feeling and the reader can’t help but smile while cringing in dread as the men close in on the killer.

Havan Fellows does a tremendous job of creating a scene that contains comedy and terror, both occurring at the same time.  It’s a wonderful ploy to keep the reader engaged at  several levels.  You are laughing even as you fear for the safety of two men you have come to love.  And yes, I loved every minute of it.   I admit it.  I am addicted to Wick and his Wicked Ways.  You will be too.

These are short stories, under 50 pages or so. And while these are quick reads, they all have the feel of a much longer story.   The end is wrapped up nicely while still leaving us with a clue to the continuing growth in the relationship between Ned and Wick.  The book did not leave me wanting, while the two men made me crave so much more.  Like a certain food item, you can’t have just one.  You want more, so much more.

Havan Fellows has promised that the mysteries will continue with more of Wick and Ned past these four books.  That’s a promise to cheer about. If you are new to the series, start with the first book, Wicked Solutions and work your way forward.

Here are the books so far in the Wicked’s Ways series.  Read them in the order they were written and released in order to understand the characters and the developing relationship:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #01)

Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02)

Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03)

Wicked  Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04)

Cover art by Laura Harner does a good job of branding the series while losing the opportunity to make a great pulp fiction cover.

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 17th 2013 by Pulp Friction
ISBN13 HFPF000001
edition language English
series Wicked’s Ways