Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Review: Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T. A. Chase

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Home Sweet Home coverYancey MacCafferty and Juan Romanos have been in love since the first time they met.  In a gay bar in Texas, an underage Juan just wanted to dance.  But danger was all around him.  Yancey, a young rent boy, sees Juan’s innocence and naivete and falls in love, all while saving Juan from a predator on the dance floor.  Eventually both ended up with their brothers on the ranch owned by Les Hardin and Randy Hersch, where they finished growing up and found their dreams.  For Juan, it was all about the horses and being a world class equestrian, eventually ending up at a show bar on the East coast. Yancey chose another path, that of college and an education needed to become a veterinarian.  And all during those years, Yancey and Juan never stopped loving each other, even though each was at opposite ends of the country.

Now Yancey has graduated from college and is ready to reunite with the man he loves and start his career. But to do that, he will have to leave the people he has grown to love including his brother for a new veterinarian practice in Virginia, just miles away from the show barn where Juan rides and lives.  He and Juan have been parted long enough.  He is sure that Juan feels the same way.  Or does he?  Yancey isn’t sure, exactly but its time to find out.  Can Yancey and Juan’s puppy love mature into the forever love they have always wanted or will the reality of being and living together bring their dreams crashing down?

I have been waiting like so many others for Juan and Yancey’s story since the first time we met them in Home of His Own (Home #2 – their brothers, Brody MacCafferty and Tony Romanos story).  These two young men were instantly endearing and their love story so heartwarming that it almost eclipsed that of their brothers.  Happily, I can announce that it was worth the wait.  Home Sweet Home is a wonderful story, reminescent of the first book in the series, No Going Home which remains my favorite.

In every book of the series, we kept getting glimpses of Juan and Yancey as they grew up.  The author always managed to throw in little details of their lives, whether it was Yancey returning for the holidays from college or Juan’s equestrian training at Edward’s barns in Virginia.  These small mentions managed to keep our interest in these young men alive and pique our curiosity over their future.  In fact, one of the many aspects I love about this series is that Chase continues to bring together all the characters from other books into the latest stories.  These people form a family, one cobbled together by need and choice so to have that family remain topical in every book is important to the cohesion and strength of the series.

The characters of Yancey and Juan have also grown as their characters have aged.  From teenage gay boys to confident, mature young men, Chase has developed their characters realistically relative to their age.  It’s wonderful getting reacquainted with these older versions of the boys we first met.  Along with their characters, their love for each other needs to grow as well. Luckily, Chase has taken care of that too.  The author has her characters adjust their views of each other and their careers in a very human and authentic manner.  I just loved how tentative and yet determined each man is to make their relationship and Yancey’s move work.  It is emotionally satisfying and oh so enjoyable to read about.

If I have a quibble, it would be with the ending.  In the epilogue we fly forward from 1 year to 5 years into the future, missing out on so much of their lives together that it felt like a missed chance to round out their story in favor of a quick finish (note see my mini rant on storying endings).   I don’t know if this rushed ending is due to Chase finishing up the series or just their story.  Either way, it didn’t measure up to the first part of the story and that was a shame.  But even with that quibble, I still love this series and recommend it. The Home series is heartwarming, sexy, and full of wonderful characters you will never get tired of.   Home Sweet Home is another great installment and one you won’t want to miss.

Cover art by Posh Gosh.  The young model in front is perfect for Juan and the cover gorgeous in design and detail.

Here are the Home series book in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events:

No Going Home (Home #1) – my favorite
Home of His Own (Home #2) Tony and Brody’s story (second favorite)
Wishing for a Home (Home #3) Derek and Max’s story
Leaving Home (Home #4) Peter and Chaz’s story
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) Juan and Yancey’s story (a tie with their brothers)

Book Details:

ebook, 137 pages
Published May 27th 2013 by Total-E-Bound
ISBN 1781843228 (ISBN13: 9781781843222)
edition language English
series Home #5

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

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: Leaving Home (Home #4) by T.A. Chase

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Leaving Home coverPeter Skinner is now working full time for Les Hardin and Randy Hersch out at their ranch after the falling out with his family and grandfather over his sexuality.  With his family shunning him, Peter is happy to have found a home and new family with Les, Randy and their friends. But when he watches his friends, all couples and deeply in love, Peter feels acutely the lack of the same in his own life.  Peter wants someone to love and someone to love him back.  And when he does find it, Peter never expects the man to be a drunken mess collapsed in an alley.

Charles ‘Chaz’ O’Brien is in a world of pain and he has made it worse by his dependance upon painkillers and alcohol.  A top bullfighter for years, the profession has taken a severe toll on his body, the last injury to his back occurring only weeks ago.  Bullfighting is not only his profession, its his only love, and Chas will do anything to keep going on as a bullfighter.  While on a break between events, Chas gets lost in a haze of booze and pills and ends strung out in an alley.  Only the kindness of a passing stranger named Peter Skinner saves him from the drunk tank or worse.

When Peter takes Chaz home to recover, neither man expects to find themselves falling in love for the first time in their lives.  But the path to happy ever after is full of obstacles for this couple, the largest one being Chaz himself.  For Chaz and Peter, the choices ahead will be the hardest ones of their lives to make. Sometimes its not enough to find love, but it takes courage to keep hold and have faith.  What will Peter and Chaz do?

I started this series with the best book of the group, No Going Home (Home #1).  It remains my favorite of the series and I think explains why this book gets a 4 star rating, rather than the 3.5 it probably deserves.  I just fell in love with all of the characters and need to follow each to the end of their journey.  Leaving Home is the story of Peter Skinner, a young feed clerk in his grandfather’s store when we first meet him in No Going Home.  His grandfather’s homophobia cost his grandfather’s store Les and Randy’s substantial feed account , then it cost him his grandson when Peter bravely stood up for Les and Randy, and finally Peter came out as gay himself.  Even as a secondary character, there was so much heart to Peter that the readers starting asking for his story and now we finally have it.

Chaz O’Brien is another one of the group of characters in this series that center their lives around the rodeo circuit.  T.A. Chase has given us bullriders, cowboys who ride the broncs as well as bulls, and now bullfighters.  It is a neat  way to tie together events in a series and it works perfectly here.  Reoccurring characters from previous books pop up here already familiar with Chaz because they know him from the circuit. Realistic and works well within the framework Chase has set down.  The  injuries and lifestyle of the bullfighter (as well as bullrider)  is authentically related as well.  It is a tough life for those who choose to live it.  It has its wonderful moments and its aspects of horrifying pain and terror.  I think Chase does a terrific job of capturing that as well.

One aspect of the story here is that of addiction, not a spoiler as it is mentioned in the publisher’s blurb.  Leaving Home is not a long book but for one of its length, I think again Chase does a realistic job of portraying a man in denial about his addictions and ability to handle it on his own.  My only quibble is that we see his addiction but none of the recovery which would have made this story more well rounded and satisfactory.

As it is, my largest issue with this story is the ending.  It is far too abrupt for the reader to feel that they received the resolution they were looking for.  In fact, I feel that we are missing about a fourth or more of a book here.  We are already 87 percent through the story when a traumatic event happens.  That’s the penultimate chapter.  That leaves only one chapter in which to tie up all the aspects of the story and give the reader a HEA and trust me, that’s just not enough to do the story or the characters justice.  It reads and feels rushed, an all too familiar occurrence with this author lately and this series.  You only have to look at the series to watch the books shrink as it continues.  My favorite, the first story No Going Home clocks in at 296 wonderful pages.  Leaving Home? 157 pages.  Still, the Home series has my deep affections so I will be staying with it.  I still need to know what happens with Yancey and Juan.

If you are new to this author and the Home series, start at the beginning, then wind your way through the rest of the stories.  You might find that you only last part of the way or become committed to seeing it through.  Let me know what you think.  I will be here for the journey and will keep you all apprised.

Here are the Home series in the order they were written and should be read in order to understand the characters and events that occur:

No Going Home (Home #1) 5 stars 296 pages

Home of His Own (Home #2) 131 pages

Wishing For A Home (Home #3) 196 pages

Leaving Home (Home #4) 157 pages

Home Sweet Home (Home #5) 131 pages (Yancey and Juan) to be published May 27th, 2013

Reviewer Note: In the TA Chase horseshifter story The Longest Stride, characters from the Home series make several appearances, which to my thinking was substandard and the use of characters from a favorite contemporary series in a new, different shifter world was dumbfounding.  Why would you collide two totally different worlds like that?  A huge misstep by this author.  Give that book the absolute pass it deserves.

Book Details:

ebook, 157 pages
Published April 2013 by Total E Bound Publishing
ISBN
1781843074 (ISBN13: 9781781843079)
edition language
English
series Home
Book Cover by Posh Gosh has lovely men on it.  That torso is far too unscarred to be a bullfighter but the scenery is lovely.

Review of Hope by William Neale

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Rating 5 stars

Spencer Hawkins feels like a failure.  His best friend and closeted lover has unexpectedly left him and he’s finished his degree with no job prospects, no money in the bank, and unwilling to ask his family for any support as they are stretched as thin as they come.  A surprise phone call presents Spencer with the prospect of a new job and  future in a new city, Cleveland, Ohio.

Hunter Harrison is struggling in the face of increasing stress and constant heartache.  His partner has abandoned him and their adopted son, Ethan.  Ethan has a heart defect and needs a heart transplant if he is to live.  Faced with losing his son and his mounting medical bills, Hunter desperately needs the one thing missing from his life lately – hope.

Both men come together at a time in their lives when they need each other the most.  Spencer needs a man he can trust with his heart, someone he can build a future with.  Hunter needs someone who will love not only him but a very special boy as well.  For each man, the other represents love and hope for a future together if only they will reach out for it.

Hope is the final book in the Home series by William Neale, published after his unexpected death in March.  I am not sure that any review or reviewer will be able to separate the sadness felt by the passing of this wonderful author from the emotions engendered by his last work. I read in one of his interviews that William Neale said he wrote what he loved and didn’t feel that his characters were autobiographical.  While I can imagine he meant that, I can also see William Neales’ generous nature and loving heart reflected back from the characters here and in previous books.  If the eyes are the windows into the soul, surely one can discern the kindness and inherent goodness of the author through the characters he created and that the readers so cared so much about.

Spencer Hawkins and Hunter Harrison are just part of a family of main characters at the center of Hope. Spencer and Hunter are both men of character and proponents of old fashioned values.  They value the interior life above exterior perfections and raise love and family above all other concerns. Both are beautifully written and realistically constructed characters that are easy to fall in love with. So is 11 year old Ethan living with severe aortic stenosis, a disease I was not familiar with until now. Ethan leaps into your heart with each hard won breath as you root for him to pull through.  It is clear that William Neale did a great job researching this condition and the medical technology needed to deal with it.  Information about the Berlin Heart and heart transplants are seamlessly threaded through the story, gently educating the reader on the difficulties children with this disorder face on a daily basis.There is also Lucas Reed and Rogan James from Home #1, a book that remained one of the author’s favorites, as well as their son Rogie, his friend Ryan, and new characters of ambivalent morality, Thom Kilbane and Ashton Hale. Thom Kilbane is a complicated man, driven by his need for success and hiding his traumatic child abuse behind a hedonistic lifestyle. Ashton Hale is an unlikable bully until his background of parental neglect and isolation is revealed. One fully fleshed out character after another  comes forward in this story. This inner circle is surrounded by secondary characters just as authentic and beautifully realized as the main ones.  Chief Boleyn of Winton Academy security, Coach Perleman, Winton’s football coach, and even Stephen, Lucas and Rogan’s neighbor, all add depth and dimension to a story concerned with the nature of families, personal redemption, and hope.

William Neale lived with his partner of over a decade and their dogs in Cleveland, Ohio where the Home stories are located.  Cleveland is easily the 12th man (in football terminology) or main character in this story.  His love for his home town flows throughout the story, whether he is talking about the lakeside effect on the snowfall or the view from the high rises along the lake front.  I was laughing as Spencer, a southern transplant, tried to adjust to the cold, drive in the snow, and deal with the vagaries of snow blowers in winter.  I am sure Mr. Neale was laughing as he wrote it as well. In the space of a series, Cleveland goes from cold, unknown location to a beloved destination called home.  I am sure the city is missing one of its biggest champions as well.

From laughter to tears and back again, the reader remains deeply engaged in the relationships and families at the center of Hope. Once started, I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished it. Hours later I still continued to think about the author and his last story. What did I take away from Hope?  What did I feel was the essence of the book? The idea that goodness and kindness of spirit will win out, that personal redemption is a road to be taken instead of unattainable goal, and that love and hope is all around us if only we can recognize it.  I had come to love Spencer, Hunter, Ethan, Lucas, Rogen, and all the rest so very much that the knowledge of Hope being the last book was hard to face as is the loss of William Neale’s voice to the readers and m/m community that he cared so much about.  I was often in tears as I read this book and you will be too.

Make sure you read the editor’s note from Kris Jacen and above all the message from Marty, William Neale’s partner at the beginning of the novel.  Have tissues handy.  You will need them.  To read these letters to Mr. Neale’s fans and readers is to further understand the man behind the stories and how large the void his passing has left. The characters of Hope have so many dimensions to them, so much life in them that they will remain as unforgettable as the author behind them.   William Neale will continue to live on in the books and characters he has left behind and in the memories and hearts of all who knew and loved him. That is a wonderful legacy.  Mr. Neale, you are deeply missed.

Cover: Design and artwork by Winterheart Designs. A beautiful cover that does justice to the author and the story  within.