A MelanieM Review: 7&7 – Anthology of Virtue and Vice by Andrea Speed , Carole Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Serena Yates, Clare London, J. Tullos Hennig

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Rating: 4.25 out of 5

7 & 7 AnthologyHumankind possesses a dual nature, the ability to rise to the brightest heights—or sink to the darkest and most perverse depths.

What inspires some to reach the pinnacles of virtue while others cannot resist the temptations of vice? Is it something innate, or a result of destiny and circumstance?

Delve into the minds and spirits of saints and sinners alike with a collection of stories that explore the call toward good or evil—and the consequences of answering it. For while rewards certainly await the righteous, there are also pleasures to be found in the darkness. Venture off the expected path with some of the most innovative voices in LGBT speculative fiction as they present their unique takes on the classic vices and virtues.

Many authors including: Andrea Speed, Brandon Witt, Sean Michael, J Tullos Hennig, Carol Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Rhys Ford, Clare London, Pearl Love, Jamie Fessenden, J. S. Cook, Amy Rae Durresson, Serena Yates

I found this to be an absolutely wonderful  anthology…however not if you are looking for stories of romance exactly.  This anthology is released from DSP Publications which means its stories are less romance based and more driven towards content elsewhere, which in some cases here is horror.  That’s fine, if those are not to your taste, skip over them and proceed to the next.  This is a wonderful smorgasbord of authors and a wonderful way to taste their various narrative talents.

Which ones were some of my absolute favorites?

Heirs to Grace and Infinity by C. Cummings – 5 stars (31 pages)

Urban fantasy in which a fugitive sorcerer matches wits with the bureau’s top agent to save children.  Its imaginative, wonderful in its world building and keeps you on your seat.  It was just terrific in every way from the characters to the plot. C. Cummings is one of my favorite authors. This is why.

Hope by Rick Reed – 5 stars out of 5 (47 pages)

Looking for hope in crises around a mother’s death and one’s personal life.  This was such a deeply moving story of loss and hope.  One man moves home to his mother’s house after she’s died, to deal with the aftermath of her loss.  His grief, those of her friends who loved and took care of her…and the house that’s now his and the new location.  Its powerful, moving and so beautifully done.

The Darkness of the Sun by Amy Rae Durreson – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A grieving Priest finds his faith.  Another story that is based in loss and takes a different tack altogether.  The author has a wonderful feel  for the trail and the life of this simple priest who has lost his way.

Prudence for Fools by Sean Michael – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A disgraced seer is thrown out of court and returns to the tribe of his husband but is haunted by his visions.  I loved this  story by Sean Michael.  This seer and his husband, a couple of long years, are wonderful and their relationship is one I connected to immediately.  Michael pulls us into this world and the situation quickly.  Another story that could have filled twice its pages.  I found it gripping, the couple moving in their deeply loving relationship and the tribe is one I wanted to learn more about.

Red Light Special by Rhys Ford – 4.5 stars out of 5 (38 pages)

An Elf, a Knight and a Succubus plus Detroit and one of my favorite authors who writes with snark, a vividness thats startling and a pizazz that flies off the page.  Really.  This is a story that needs no review.  Just read it.  It works.  It hilarious and sexy.

Horseboy by J. Tullos Henry – 4.5 stars out of 5

A Horseboy of the Lebanon, a Templar Knight, and intimate desert secrets.  A bit of history, a bit of the supernatural.  A short story I found that works on every level, it kept me connected and involved in the action and the time period.  Great job.

There are many in the 4 star to 3 star range. Those I enjoyed as well.  And won’t cover here.  There were only a few that I was disappointed in.  That’s a great number is an anthology this size.

The Gate by J. S. Cook – 2.75 stars out of 5 (21 pages)

A gay man sees a seedier, dark side of the wartime effort.  Set in the 40’s during the wartime, I felt this went nowhere.  Little setup, little ending.  I know the author was going for noir but it went south instead.

The Rendering by J. Inman – 1 star

Fat gay guy goes on a date set up by a computer dating service and ends up….

Well, I saw the ending coming from the very beginning.  Why?  For starters, I knew the historical ingredients of the product being sold and the links being made in the story.  The clues were obvious as to where it was going to go.  Some have called this fat shaming…others strictly horror.  I thought it just beyond obvious and boring.  That it came from one of my favorite authors made me want to cry.  That’s the horror.

Those are the highs and the lows.  The highs and all the terrific stories in the middle far outweigh the lows.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its a feast all around.  Pick it up and start sampling.

Cover is simple and it works.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications

Book Details:

ebook, 360 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by DSP Publications (first published March 10th 2016)
ISBN 1634773608 (ISBN13: 9781634773607)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

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 From Books, Audiobooks to Book Covers

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

Happy New Year! Looking back over 2015 I’m  amazed at all the changes here and marvelous tales that came to our door. I’m thinking about the new reviewers we’ve added,  all the wonderful books we’ve read, new authors we’ve discovered, and the way Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has grown in this past year.  Along with new reviewers, came new columns like Paul’s Paranormal Portfolio (his New Year’s edition is posted today), our Author Discovery along with all our author interviews and guest posts.

As the market for audiobooks has increased so has our reviews.  Even a audiobook virgin like myself jumped into the format and found that I enjoyed it immensely. What a surprise…for me!

I hope 2016 brings a new look to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, a few new reviewers to help us read more, listen to, review more about the thing we love…books! I hope we find more new authors to discover, and more ways in which to write about them and the writing process.

But before we move forward, we’re going to look back at the books and covers we loved best.  So here are some of our favorites. Free Dreamer is traveling, and Paul was working on his Paranormal Portfolio but some of the rest of us had our lists ready. Are some of yours among them?  Which ones do you think we left out?  And are there new discoveries among those we love so much? Check out our Best Books and Covers of 2015 below…

 

 

From BJ:

✪Favorite Books Read in 2015:

Captive Prince One and Two by C.S. Pascat
The entire Straight Boys series by Alessandra Hazard
The entire Guardians of the Pattern series by Jaye McKenna
For Real by Alexis Hall
Control by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Give an Inch by K.D. Sarge (because it was so cute AND it was written from my prompt)

✪ Best Audiobook of 2015:

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

✪Favorite Covers of 2015

Ghost in the Mythe coverFor Real coverSong of the NavigatorBurn The Sky cover

Ghost in the Mythe by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
For Real by Alexis Hall
Song of the Navigator by Astrid Amara
Burn the Sky by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Leythe Blade by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton
In Discretion (Ylendrian Empire, #3) by Reesa Herberth
Neskaya (Bittersweet Dreams) by Augusta Li

Leythe BladeSomething Like A Love SongInDiscretion_500x750Neskaya

I really admire original covers that are drawn or created specifically to represent that book so much more than those that just use stock photography…so here are some I love.

 

 

From Stella:

 

✪BEST BOOKS

Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane
Sacrati by Kate Sherwood
✪BEST COVERS
Sand and Gold and RuinThe Fifth Son coverCabin NightsACID coverStormBeforeTheCalm[The]FS
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
The Fifth Son by Blaine D Arden
Cabin Nights by Ashley John
ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck and S. van Rooyen
The Storm before the Calm by Cate Ashwood
✪BEST AUTHOR DISCOVERIES
Family of Lies Sebastian by Sam Argent
Go On Your Own Way by Zane Riley
The Rules of Ever After by Killian B Brewer
The Union of Sun and Moon by Gus Li
The Last Yeti by Tully Vincent
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

                                                                                        From Ali

✪ Best books:  These are my top 5 plus

The Subs Club by JA Rock
Darker Space by Lisa Henry
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan
Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux
A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

  ✪Best Short Stories:

Fawn by Nash Summers  **this was probably my favorite thing I read this year in this genre
One Perfect Night by Lisa Henry
Lima Oscar Victor Echo & the Truth About Everything by Suki Fleet
Ten Simple Steps for Surviving the Apocalypse by Cari Z
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert

 ✪ Best Covers:

 Sutphin Boulevard coverIn the Middle of Somewhere coverFawn coverStygian
Stygian by Santino Hassell
Fawn by Nash Summers
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins
Level Hands
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

From Mika

✪My Favorite Books of 2015

. Sunset Park by Santino Hassell & How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune. They are tied for me. I loved these books. (

Rest in any order
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Breakaway by Avon Gale
Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Definitely Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed
The Subs Club by J.A. Rock
Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk
Down & Dirty by Rhys Ford

✪Best Covers:

Conscious Decisions of the Heart civCarry the OceanTrust the Focus

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

From Sammy:

✪Best Books of 2015:

– Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
– Dirty Dining by E.M. Lynley
– The Wrong Man & The Right Time by Lane Hayes
– The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
– Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine
– Where There’s Smoke & Where There’s Fire by Cari Z
– The World in His Eyes by A.J. Thomas
– The Ultimate Team by Tricia Owens
– The Biggest Scoop by Gillian St. Kevern (A YA pick!)
And an upcoming release in 2016 that I had the pleasure of beta reading:
– Thorns & Fangs by Gillian St. Kevern

From Melanie

For me there  were so many. You really had to look no further than our best book of the month to see that.  Its especially hard in a year where favorite  series came to a finish.  Those were so tough on the heart.  But so were so many others. I laughed with these characters and boy, did I cry.  Sometimes, I did both at the same time.  Looking at you Renae Kaye and John Inman!
Alex Beecroft and Alexis Hall almost deserve their own section.  Beecroft’s Trowchester Blues was a trilogy so marvelous it was illuminating.  And Alexis Hall?  His words flow with a lyricism and magic  that make reading his stories a privilege.
John Wiltshire’s excellent series More Heat Than The Sun starts off with one of my favorite books of 2015, Conscious Decisions of the Heart (also Best Cover).  Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas trilogy which ends with my favorite story of them all, Eden Winter’s Diversion series (be still my heart) got a new installment that I’ve read several times, see?  I can  go on and on.  And I haven’t even talked about Astrid Amara who is on several of the other reviewers lists!

✪Best Books

The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2) by A.J. Thomas
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee
Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues #2) by Alex Beecroft
Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1) by Alex Beecroft
Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues, #3) by Alex Beecroft
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding
Redemption (Diversion #5) by Eden Winters
Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) by Sean Kennedy
A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy
Where the Grass is Greener (Seeds of Tyrone #2) by Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney
Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3) by Heidi Cullinan *loved them all
******************************
(Humor & Pathos Division)
Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye
Coming Back by John Inman
You Are The Reason by Renae Kaye
 ***********************
Four of Club series by Parker Williams (Pulp Friction 2015)
Jack of Spades series by Lee Brazil
King of Hearts series by Havan Fellows
******************************

Best Audiobook

Best Covers:

Theory Unproven 400x600Blowing Off Steam coverConscious Decisions of the Heart civWaiting for the Flood cover

 

 

 

 

 

Theory Unproven by Lillian Francis, artist Meredith Russell
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall, artist Simone
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding

 

Sand and Gold and RuinSnowman coverForging the future coverRunning with the Wind cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn's Law coverChasing the Swallows coverSomething Like A Love SongFirst Comes Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn’s Law by Renae Kay, Paul Richmond artist
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton, unknown artist
Chasing the Swallows by John Inman, artist Maria Fanning
First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony, artist Paul Richmond

The Sub Club by J.A. Rock, artist Kanaxa
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee, artist unknown
Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton, artist L.C. Chase
Trowchester Blues trilogy by Alex Beecroft, artist Lou Harper
Trowchester Blues cover

 

 

TheSubsClub_600x900Winter Oranges coverMy Magical Palace

A MelanieM Review: Work in Progress (Belladonna Arms #2) by John Inman

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Work in Progress coverWriter Harlie Rose is dumped by his lover, it precipitates a cross country journey to mend his broken heart. Now four months later, Harlie is ready to settle down and start writing again.  When Harlie finds himself on the doorstep of the Belladonna Arms, a quirky, perhaps even seedy apartment building on the only hill in San Diego, he knows he’s found home.  What he doesn’t know is that the Belladonna Arms has a reputation for romance—and Harlie is about to become its next victim.

Needing a job to pay the rent, Harlie finds a job as a baker’s apprentice at the bakery just up the street.  The grumpy but gorgeous baker is the owner’s son, Milan, and Harlie finds himself attracted to the man despite  Milan’s attempts to push him away. Why?  Milan too is nursing a broken heart.  Soon the men find themselves hopelessly attracted to each other, despite their histories and internal walls.

The Belladonna Arms cupid has its work cut out for it, but luckily there’s plenty of help from the other residents, from  Sylvia, on the verge of her final surgery to become a woman, Charley and PJ- the kleptos in 3C, to Arthur, the aging drag queen who is about to discover a romance of his own, and Stanley and Roger, the handsome young couple in 5C who lead by example, Harlie soon learns that at the Belladonna Arms, love is always just around the corner waiting to pounce. Whether you want it to or not.

I loved Work in Progress by John Inman.  It is a heartwarming, wonderful sequel to another favorite of mine, Serenading Stanley (Belladonna Arms #1) by John Inman.  That story was our first introduction to this shabby, delightfully quirky apartment building on a hilltop in San Diego and its eccentric, almost bizarre inhabitants.  After obseving the Belladonna Arms’ owner, Arthur, in full drag taking out the trash, these are the thoughts running through Harlie’s head:

Yep. It was time to finally settle down and pull those notes together. And time to somehow squeeze The Great American Novel out of them. I was home now to do exactly that, or I would be home as soon as I found a home to settle in.

That’s why I was standing in the rain in front of the Belladonna Arms. The old sign had caught my attention while I was tooling aimlessly down Broadway looking for a place to light. Broadway, by the by, is San Diego’s main thoroughfare. It bisects the city from east to west, and at the moment I could see it a bit down the hill from where I stood.

But back to the sign. When I first spotted it, I had immediately liked the cheesy orange lettering on the rattletrap neon contraption. I even liked the way it stood slightly askew atop the boxy, less than elegant 1940s-era apartment building the old drag queen had ducked into. The whole misaligned package of tattered neon and weathered construction, perched one upon the other on this out-of-place hill on the southernmost tip of the California coast, somehow shrieked home to me. Go figure.

Even Arthur realizes immediately that Harlie belongs there and hauls him in to live in Apartment 2A.  By then a love affair has started between the reader and these characters, including the Belladonna Arms, a romance that gets better, deeper and more memorable as the story progresses.

Truthfully, all I would have to do to get you to pick up this story is quote Chapter 1 over and over again.  It’s hilarious, and touching, and downright addicting. John Inman’s descriptions are so wildly funny that you will find yourself laughing until the tears flow. Yet those same colorful descriptions, while perhaps being blunt and containing truthful observations of everyone involved, are never cruel or stoop to cheap shots at the characters expense.  No, John Inman loves and understands these unconventional people who have all the same hopes and dreams for themselves as everyone else, despite their outlook, outward appearances and even their kleptomania.  And he makes you love and understand them as well.

The title appears to be about Harlie’s ongoing attempts to “butch” up drag queen Arthur so Arthur can finally find true love. So initially it appears that Arthur is Harlie’s work in progress.  But nothing is ever that simple at the Belladonna Arms, for everyone there is in transition of one sort or another, including all the people we met in Serenading Stanley as well as the new characters too.  There’s the fragile, beautiful Sylvia completing her transition to female with her devoted fiance Pete at her side, Stanley and Roger (the main romance in Serenading Stanley) more deeply in love and looking towards the future, kleptomaniacs Charley and P.J. now happily together whether stealing or on their meds, Chi Chi and Ramon who provide the fire as well as the pathos, even the Belladonna Arms cat whose name changes depending upon whose apartment he’s visiting at the time.  This tight family of people are all so important to the story that no one really feels like a secondary character. That’s because the Belladonna Arms is a sum of all its parts and we need them all in order for this story to work its magic.  And believe me it does.  Magic, tacky, glittery, over the top, sort of dusty, magic, is scattered throughout this story like the feathers from a boa tossed in the wind.

John Inman’s comedic narratives always make me smile if not outright guffaw.  Believably, those laughs come attached to some of life’s hallmark moments.  Some scenes are realistically painful. They will bring up memories of  being dumped, sometimes for no discernible reason at all. Or make you remember feeling that you will never find someone to love you for your true self.  The sadness and  the feeling of loneliness that is part of living…its here as it needs to be.  And just as  quickly as the poignancy sets in, up pops scenes out of everyday ordinary moments that are rendered touching, affectionate, and somehow very precious.  Trust me, I have never looked at Toll House cookies in the same way after Sylvia.  Now just a mention brings a smile to my face.

Inman’s new characters are as strongly crafted and layered as the ones we were already fond of.  Milan, his father Mr. Berger, each new person fills a void for someone within the Belladonna Arms.  And yes, with all the love and laughter that bubbles off these pages, the author balances it with life’s loss and pain.  This element is real, raw, and very necessary in order to appreciate the glow and radiance achieved at the end.

Could you read Work in Progress as a stand alone?  Sure, but please don’t.  Part of the satisfaction and joy contained within this story is finding out how all the relationships of the people we met in Serenading Stanley have progressed.  Meet them in that story and then join up with them again here.  It will feel like a homecoming, an especially happy one, complete with Toll House Cookies and a disco ball.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I love and recommend this book (ok, yes, I just did that), it should be obvious.  So instead I will leave you with another short excerpt, still from Chapter 1.  Harley has just settled in and is heading out for a grocery run.

Lives don’t write themselves any more than WIPs do. Nosirree. Might as well get started living mine right now. And to live it, I needed food.

I locked the apartment door behind me, taking a moment to brush my fingertips fondly over the 2A screwed onto the front of the door in something that resembled copper but probably wasn’t. I trotted my way down the one flight of stairs to the front door, wondering if I’d see Arthur along the way, which I didn’t.

I had a feeling I was going to like the Belladonna Arms. I wasn’t sure why. The place was actually kind of a dump. But hey, I thought, popping open the umbrella and ducking underneath it as I strolled out the door and into the rain, it’s kind of a happy dump. And happy is exactly what I need right now. Christ knows I’ve been morose long enough.

By the time I sloshed my way to the car, I was surprised to hear myself whistling. And wasn’t that a stunning revelation.

You will find yourself whistling along with him.  Perhaps even doing a little dance step or two.  These characters and this story will have that effect on you.  Make your acquaintance with John Inman today and pick up both stories!   Happy Reading.

Cover artist: Aaron Anderson.  I feel this cover is a bit of a miss.  There were so many elements to choose from for this cover and yet this is the content?  

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  eBook & Paperback      All Romance (ARe)      amazon                buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 226 pages
Published October 6th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632161966 (ISBN13: 9781632161963)
edition languageEnglish
seriesBelladonna Arms #2

Belladonna Arms series:

Serenading Stanley

Work In Progress

A MelanieM Review: Head-on by John Inman

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Head-On coverAt 24 Gordon Stafford had it all. A rising career as a tv meteorologist, a loving family, a wide circle of friends…everything anyone could want. By 26, Gordon Stafford had lost it all. And all it took was the decision to drive home drunk from an awards ceremony. That decision shattered three mens lives immediately. For one man, the driver of the other car, it cost him his life. His passenger? Multiple injuries and the love of his life. And for Gordon, the driver that hit the other car head on, it cost him his career, his home, his friends, his self esteem…everything that had mattered to Gordon at the time.

Two years later, Gordon is a changed man. Consumed by guilt and shame, Gordon spends his days thinking about suicide and working at court appointed community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen, the local shelter for the homeless. It’s there he meet’s Squirt, a young man barely surviving. At first meeting, Gordon realizes that Squirt is special. He seems shy and fragile. But when Squirt saves Gordon from a beating or worse from thugs under a nearby bridge, Gordon realizes that looks can be deceiving and that Squirt is much more than he appears.

From that moment on, Gordon finds a new meaning to his life. He rediscovers his will to live and perhaps even found love. And it’s all due to having Squirt in his life. But Gordon still needs to find forgiveness. Forgiveness for himself and the destruction he caused.  And that the forgiveness Gordon needs the most will come from the one person he least expects, the one closest to his heart.

Head-On is a huge departure from the comedic stories John Inman normally writes.  Unlike those novels which are full of laughter and humorous moments, Head-On naturally has little to none, which should  be expected given the nature of the plot and the gravity of the subject matter at the heart of this story.  With Head-On, John Inman demonstrates he has as deft a gift for writing characters full of pain and poor life choices as he does people with lives filled less with drama and more the search for romance.

The opening chapter of Head-On is astonishing for a number of reasons but the most important of them is that Inman pours us into the seat next to Gordon, first at the awards dinner as he consumes multiple congratulatory drinks and then in the passenger seat of his car as he makes that fateful decision to drive home drunk.  We’re in his head, and his thoughts could so easily be that of anyone who has taken one drink too many and decides to drive.  But this time Gordon’s poor judgement results in a fatal car crash that we catch in shocking glimpses just before Gordon passes out after the cars collide.  That one scene will stay with you for some time to come.

From there we move to Gordon’s life post crash, and here Inman pulls no punches, makes no excuses for Gordon who is mired in guilt and self loathing.  And yes, still drinking.  Inman’s realistic portrayal of  Gordon shows a man totally aware of the consequences of his actions, the life cut short, the destruction of families, someone who is living with a pain that has no balm.  Gordon exists in a prison of his own making.  And for those who get frustrated and angry when they hear of drunk drivers getting off with a so-called “slap of the wrist”, especially those whose actions caused the deaths of others, this feels like a window into the post accident life of one of those drivers who “got off lightly”.

Just the subject matter of drunk drivers is inflammatory.  That category covers the range from repeat offenders to those who make a one time bad decision when they decide they are sober enough to drive home. And while this book opens up the conversation about drunk drivers and asks the question “what is ample punishment for their deeds”, it remains focused on those drivers like Gordon.  For some, like Gordon, theu are their own warden, turning their lives into a sort of prison of their own making.  It’s a wretched life John Inman constructs for Gordon and it reeks of authenticity and despair.

Only Gordon’s court ordered community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen provides a temporary relief to the cycle of drinking and hangovers that has become Gordon’s life.  Again, Inman brings Mama’s to life, from the kitchen preparations to the customers who line up for what might be their only meal of the day.  Inman gets the details exactly right, including all those homeless and down on their luck people who need a shelter like this so badly.

Squirt who appears to get a meal isn’t exactly homeless but he is clearly a person who has been damaged in more ways than are visible.  His mental faculties are simplistic while  still remaining that of an adult.  His is a lovely character, vulnerable and easy to connect to.  Which is exactly what Gordon does.  Squirt is  another lost soul and when he rescues Gordon from an attack, he ends up saving Gordon emotionally as well as physically.  Watching this relationship form is such a heartwarming element of this story.

The “revelatory” aspect of Head-On is not as surprising as one might expect.  But here it’s the journey to the “denouement” and not the revelation itself, that drives the story.  Its the twists and turns, the stops along the way as Squirt and Gordon try to figure out a way to move forward towards redemption and forgiveness that make this story such a memorable read.  Inman’s writing style works so beautifully here to bring us into Gordon’s thoughts and life.  And then it does the same for Squirt.  From wretchedness to hope, from personal darkness to atonement and light, this story works on every level.

I highly recommend this moving story.  With it John Inman moves into the ranks of authors who can move easily from one genre to the next, from angst to comedy and any combination thereof.  If he was not a “must read” author for you before, Head-On should bring John Inman into that circle for you now.  Don’t miss out on this remarkable story.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Explosive and Emotional. Perfect for this story.

Sales Links:         Dreamspinner Press               All Romance eBooks (ARe)          Amazon              Head-On

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published July 9th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 8th 2014)
ISBN 1632160064 (ISBN13: 9781632160065)
edition languageEnglish

Memories, Memorials, and Memorial Day and the Week Ahead

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Memorial Day.  Two words that bring forth powerful emotions and memories of both of those from our past as well as our present.  We think of the past and those deceased while at the same time our memories are full of family celebrations, and the laughter and love that speaks of life itself.

I was thinking of both of those as I watched the film on the news of the inauguration ceremony of National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC.  The pictures brought forth a profound sadness as the cameras scanned over the survivors and their families as well as the exhibits, stopping here and there for closeups and personal stories.  A staircase that was the only avenue for some to freedom and life stands bone white, covered in ash.  Bent, blackened metal framework from parts of the structure from the towers loom upwards over the crowds within the museum, much like the towers they once helped support.  All chilling and stark reminders of that day and our national tragedy.

But for me it was the small items that were so poignant and personal that they made the pain and loss intimate and immediate once more.  A red bandana World Trade Center 9:11 Museaumfrom a young man who sacrificed his life to make sure others got down safely.  His mother was present,full of pride for her  son, as she stood next to his photograph and his red scarf now enclosed in glass. It was the scarf that the survivors he helped down that day remember him by.  Over and over again, a young man in a red bandana grabbed people, moving them towards safety and life.  The expression on her face, so full of love, loss, and grief, was visceral as she looked at the scarf.  Another survivor was there looking at the black, dusty shoes she donated that she wore that day as she walked down all those flights of steps. She ended up caring them as she ended up finally walking down in her bare feet because the pain of going down all those steps made wearing them impossible.  Small item after item, watches, cell phones, glasses, standing side by side next to the physically imposing and massive items from the World Trade Center bombings, like a fire truck and or large pieces of masonry from the Pentagon, yes that’s there too. And there is a wall of photographs of those that died that day.  Every race, every gender,, every age….all represented there.  Forever remembered, forever immortalized.

It made me think of another wall, one full of names on black marble.  Here in Washington, DC, where huge crowds will gather on this weekend to Vietnam Vet Memorialremember, to grieve and to celebrate lives now gone.  There will be Rolling Thunder, and parades, and the echoing refrain of Taps heard over Arlington Cemetery this weekend. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, my favorite of all Washington memorials, stands as one of our more  striking and haunting memorials. The pictures found there aren’t on the wall but will be left by loved ones, friends, family, and fellow soldiers who come to commune with the dead and their memories.  There, as well as in New York City, the memorials will help all of us remember and help to mitigate the grief left behind.  Powerful images, powerful emotions, and a powerful almost unimaginable amount of loss.

Take a moment this Memorial Weekend and remember.  Do something that will celebrate their life as well as remember their loss.

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Now for the week ahead here at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords:

  • Monday, May 26:        Love Comes Home by Andrew Grey
  • Tuesday, May 27:        Author Spotlight: Writing with Humor by John Inman
  • Wed., May 28:              Book Tour:  Sierra Cartwright’s Crave
  • Wed., May 28:              Hostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov and LA Witt
  • Thursday, May 29:      Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley
  • Thursday, May 29:      Clipped by Devon McCormack
  • Friday, May 30:           Moving Earth by T.A. Webb
  • Saturday, May 31:        Back Burn by Laura Harner
  • Saturday, May 31:        May Summary of Reviews/Best Covers

 

 

 

Vietnam Vet Memorial 2

 

 

Thoughts on Memorial Day…

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep – Mary Frye (1932)

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow;
I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain;
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush;
I am in the graceful rush.

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.

I am the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

 

Review: Spirit by John Inman

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Spirit coverWhen Jason Day, video games designer, agrees to watch his precocious four-year-old nephew, Timmy, for four weeks he has no idea how his life will be forever changed by his acceptance. Jason works from home and is a confirmed, but not happy about it, gay bachelor.  He is the only immediate family in his his nephew’s life outside of his nephew’s mom as Timmy’s father disappeared several years ago and has never been heard from again.  Jason is surprised to find himself bonding with Timmy, loving the 4 year old’s company even as it exhausts him.

Then a young man arrives and announces himself as Timmy’s uncle too but from the other, still missing, side of the family.  His appearance starts off a series of startling events, not the least of which is a ghostly presence that is getting increasingly agitated by the hour.  Soon Jason finds himself with a burgeoning love interest, a mystery that turns ominous, and a ghost with an alarming sense of humor.   Things are getting out of hand and Jason finds himself and Timmy right in the middle of it all.  Can the weirdest summer Jason has ever had also turn out to be his best?

I found author John Inman about 5 books of his ago after cuddling up to Loving Hector.  Between gales of laughter and more than a few shed tears, I knew that John Inman, with his talent for writing comedic fiction with a heart, would always have a place on my must read author list.  After Loving Hector, came Shy, and Hobbled, and Serenading Stanley, and all the rest leading up to Spirit, a whacky, supernatural infused tale of love and what it means to be a family, ancient Chihuawhatits included. And while I can always be certain that each tale of his will include some gut busting scenes of humor and maybe a dog or two, everything else comes as a surprise.  That’s what I found with Sprit.  Surprise after surprise to my total delight and absolute amusement.

How else can you explain a supernatural love story murder mystery?  Because that is exactly what Spirit is, a conglomeration of elements and genres that swirl around a thirty something video game designer, Jason, and his energetic, intelligent 4 year-old nephew, Timmy.   It is clear that when Jason’s sister drops off Timmy before heading off on vacation that Jason has only spent short amounts of time with his nephew and has no idea what is in store for him during this extended stay.  Why you ask? Because so much of what happens with Timmy here is accurate (ok, supernatural stuff not withstanding). YOu can child proof your house all you want but there will always be something that is missed or not thought of. That haircutting business that Inman throws in?  Perfection and spot on.  Sometime I will recount my college days in Ohio and a certain preschool playground when scissors reigned supreme and 3 to 5 year olds ran amuck inside those concrete cylinders that were ubiquitous at the time. Thank you, John Inman, for bringing those memories so vividly back home.  I had to put my Kindle down because my sides hurt from laughing so much at Timmy and his haircut.

Some readers will look at Timmy with askance.  I can hear them asking “Is that really how a 4 year old will act and speak?”

Let me say, with years of experience behind me as a parent and park naturalist, ” why yes, indeedy, they do”.   Some toddlers and older kids come out just preternaturally smart and smart mouthed.  They can say the most amazing things and have the most acute  and unexpected take on situations that astound those that care to listen to them.  Not all, surely, but a larger amount of children than you would expect.  So when I came across Timmy, I felt as though here was a child I already knew.  And watching the relationship between Jason and Timmy unfold was truly a thing of joy.  From the funny conversations to the walks they had with Thumper who is, in John Inman’s words ” … a mix of Chihuahua, dachshund, miniature poodle, and quite possibly a three-toed sloth” and also 20 years old, this uncle/nephew bonding time felt real and loving.  The love that Jason feels for Timmy grows so strong and heart deep that it becomes ours as well.

That’s the just one of the familial love elements here.  Then Inman introduces us to Sam, Timmy’s uncle from his father’s side.  With Sam’s appearance, a whole slew of new elements come into play.  First there is the love aspect for Jason and Same, who is just as happily gay as Jason is.  Their attraction is immediate but there is no instant love to be found here, thankfully.  Just a naturally occurring affection that turns into something deeper as time passes and the astounding events unfold.   Sam is as realistic a character as the rest of the people to be found within this story.  His cautious acceptance of Jason and his pain over the mystery of his brother’s disappearance are easy to empathize with and believe in.  So we have love, love, and more love.  Terrific and endearing on every level.  Did I mention a dog’s love for a boy too? That’s here as well.

Then Timmy starts to see a ghost and everything turns into a supernatural mystery that starts pointing towards an dark happening in the not to distant past.  I loved Inman’s ghost, a supernatural entity at turns humorous and chilling.  And you never know which side of the ghost will arrive at any given situation. That’s another marvelous aspect of this story too.  The ghost does what all ghosts should, scare you, entertain you, and provide a certain amount of pathos one would expect from someone who…..oh never mind, Find out that one for yourself.

So yes, a mystery, a ghostly tale, a couple of love stories, both familial and romantic, Spirit is all that and more.  I loved it.  Did I see the ending coming?  Kind of but that in no way lessened my enjoyment of this story.  I don’t think it will yours either.  If you are unfamiliar with John Inman, this is a wonderful place to get acquainted.  Pick up Spirit and then work your way through his back list.  If you are already a fan of this author, then this is another story that you are sure to love.  Either way grab it up now and start reading!  I consider Spirit to be one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Highly Recommended Novels of 2014.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning chapter of Spirit:

I HAD toddler-proofed the house as best I could. The basement door was securely latched so the kid couldn’t tumble headfirst down the flight of stairs leading into the bowels of the house, snapping a myriad of youthful bones along the way. Electrical wires were safely coiled and taped up and tucked under furniture in case Timmy got the inexplicable urge to chew on them. Electrical outlets were covered. All breakable knick-knacks were raised out of reach and all dangerous objects securely stashed away— switchblades, rolls of barbed wire, plastic explosives, bobby pins. (Just kidding about the bobby pins. I’m not that nelly.)

✍My dog, Thumper, who was a mix of Chihuahua, dachshund, miniature poodle, and quite possibly a three-toed sloth, was no threat to Timmy at all. The poor thing was almost twenty years old and hardly had any teeth left. I hadn’t heard her bark in three years. She only moved off the sofa to eat and go potty, and once her business was done, she stood in front of the sofa looking up like the Queen Mother waiting for the carriage door to be opened until I scooped her off the floor and redeposited her among the cushions. Poor thing. (I mean me.) She lay there all day long watching TV: Channel 9, the Mexican channel. Don’t ask me why, but that was the only channel she would tolerate. Couldn’t live without it, in fact. The one benefit to this annoying habit of hers was that, while I didn’t understand my dog at all, I was pretty sure I was beginning to comprehend Spanish.

✍Timmy was at that happy stage of child rearing where he could pull down his own pants and climb onto the commode without any help from squeamish gay uncles. He had brought an entourage of toys with him that would have kept an orphanage entertained. The first thing I did after finding a trail of little black skid marks on my new oak flooring was to confiscate his tricycle, allocating the thing to outdoor use only, which Timmy accepted with stoic resignation, although I did hear him mumble something about chicken poop and peckerheads. I’m not sure if his watered-down-obscenity-strewn mumbling was related to the tricycle announcement but fear it was. While the kid might have gotten my brat gene, there was also little doubt he had inherited my sister’s sarcastic- foulmouthed-snarky gene. God help his teachers when he started school.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Love this cover.  Spooky and pertinent in every way.  Great job.

Buy Links:    Dreamspinner Press         Amazon          ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published March 17th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 16th 2014)
ISBN 1627986812 (ISBN13: 9781627986816)
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Review: Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman

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Rating:  3.75 stars out of 5

Jasper's MountainJasper Stone has few needs.  A writer, Jasper loves his solitude and quiet, something he gets plenty of on his ninety acre ranch, high on the side of the Juniper Mountains.  Living alone in his rustic cabin, Jasper’s only companions are the animal menagerie the kind hearted author has managed to accumulate since his arrival.  While all his dogs and cats keep Jasper from being alone, they don’t always keep him from being lonely.  Then Jasper finds a young man with a fever hiding in his chicken coop and everything changes.

When small-time thief Timmy Harwell carjacks a Cadillac, he tumbles into something much more dangerous than just stealing a car.  That outrageously outfitted Cadillac belongs to Miguel Garcia, aka El Poco, a Tijuana drug dealer, known for his ruthless manner and killer reputation.  And it’s not just the drug dealer’s favorite car that Timmy has stolen, no, its the $100,000 he finds in the trunk as well.  Soon, Timmy is on the run, trying to put as much distance between him and El Poco as possible.

But a storm forces Timmy to hide out on Jasper’s ranch until he falls ill from exposure. Jasper finds Timmy and nurses him back to health, becoming fond of the young man during his recovery.  But Timmy recognizes that Jasper is everything he is not.  Jasper is kind, and honest, valuing trust and the truth above all.  So Timmy hides who he is and what he has done behind lie after lie.  When the past and El Poco catches up to Timmy on Jasper’s mountain, Timmy realizes its not just himself he has placed in danger but Jasper too, a man he has come to love and admire.  When it all comes down to making a choice, will Timmy choose survival?  Or will he decide honesty and Jasper is the only choice his  heart desires?

I first found John Inman through a series of novels with a comedic bent to their plots and characters.  And although each contained a serious element or two in the narrative, they were generally light hearted fare that left you smiling or perhaps even guffawing long after you had finished reading them.  So I found myself surprised by the gravity of Jasper’s Mountain, a novel with a few endearing scenes to lighten a storyline of unusual seriousness by this author of humorous tales.

The characters that John Inman creates have always been people that felt authentic. Their personalities, character traits and relationship issues seeming more those of your neighbors than of created personas.  That holds true here for Jasper Stone and Timmy Hartwell.  Jasper, especially, resonated with me.  Jasper is 32 years old, and more fond of animals than he is of people.  Animals have never let him down the way people have.  And Jasper’s mistrust of people combined with  his awkwardness and dislike of society have caused him to retreat to his mountain sanctuary and the company of animals.  Further isolating this man is his chosen profession of writing, something he is only moderately successful at. Jasper sells enough manuscripts to sustain himself and his pets but not  for anything more.  Everything about Jasper feels real, if not relatable.

Timmy Hartwell also comes across as a believable young thief.  Stealing is a way of life Timmy just fell into, driven by a desire never to be poor again after a childhood spent in foster care.  A lack of discipline, no impulse control and a flexible morality made life as a thief an easy occupation.  If Timmy saw it and wanted it, well, then he stole it.  And thought about the consequences later.  Even Timmy admitted to himself that he probably wasn’t very smart about his life choices, just went with the flow of events and easy choices.  Only the choice of hiding spots causes a change in outlook, not a desire to go straight.  Another beautifully layered portrait from John Inman of a young confused human being with a life of bad choices behind him and more of the same in his future.

As with all Inman novels, the animal characters that pop up haphazardly about the story are as vivid and realistic as the people around them.  Whether it is Harry and Harriet, pigs destined never to be bacon,  Guatemala and Fiji, the cats with appetites for alligator lizards and the comforts of home, or Bobber, Jumper, and Lola, the dogs of indeterminate breeding that Jasper adopts, all the animals have larger than life personalities that support and enhance the people they are attached to.  In this instance, the menagerie that Jasper has accumulated makes Jasper’s decision to help and then house another, albeit human, stray feel authentic to the character and situation.  Jasper collects animals in need, what’s one more?  The problem arises in that Timmy is a liar and a thief, someone Jasper cannot count on, unlike the unwavering love and loyalty of his animal family.  It’s a great plot idea, but does it make a great romance?

As I stated before, Jasper’s Mountain is a departure from the typical lighthearted story I expect from this author.  And that more serious aspect runs through the entire narrative.  The biggest issue between the characters also becomes the biggest issue, in my opinion, between the readers relating to and believing in a romance between Jasper and Timmy.  Timmy consistently lies to Jasper throughout the story.  Over his background, over the events that lead him to Jasper’s ranch, over the peril he places Jasper in, and well, everything about the situation Timmy has created.   Timmy is not just in the well, he’s in the Carlsbad Cavern of bad places, so deep and perilous is the position he has created for himself and  Jasper.  And the more he lies he tells Jasper, the more distance Timmy puts between himself and the reader’s emotional involvement in his future.  I am not sure that Inman recognized the extent that the dishonesty of Timmy’s character would decrease the attachment one would feel towards Timmy. It also keeps the reader from investing in their romance.  Even towards the end, Timmy is not honest about the head games he has been playing.  We understand his desperation, the acts he commits in order to survive.    John Inman has made Timmy a thoroughly believable little thief.  I’m just not sure how much a reader will like him.  That may depend on how much empathy you are able to extend towards Timmy and his situation.

The authenticity of Inman’s scenario extends to the story’s resolution as well.  It’s not a HEA or even a HFN.  More like a gritty probability that hope and the right decision will make a future possible.  I liked that the author remained committed to a more likely ending than creating one that discounted all the events and characters that went before.  For me, it was the only way this story could end and stay plausible.  Love and hope sometimes has to be enough.  John Inman understands that as well.

If you are looking for a lighthearted romance, then this is probably not the story for you.  But Jasper’s Mountain has so much to offer.  Its well written, believable, and full of layered characters that will hold your attention from start to finish.  And no matter how I felt about Jasper and Timmy as a couple, I never stopped reading, not once.  Pick it up and decide for yourself.

Cover artist Reese Dante gave Jasper’s Mountain a beautiful, memorable cover.  One of the best of the year.

Book Details:

ebook, 204 pages
Published August 16th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 15th 2013)
ISBN 1627980733 (ISBN13: 9781627980739)
edition language English
Author Details:

A Touch of Spring, a Ray of Sunshine and the Week Ahead in Review

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Winter-Tree-34870004It’s 60 degrees here today.  The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and thoughts of Spring are crowding into my mind.  I know that February still has to run its course.  And March can and most likely will be blustery and cold.  And yet, and yet.  All this warmth and sunshine is playing games with my head, luring me out to garden centers bare of plants and hardware stores still packed full of snow shovels and sand for the driveway.

There I linger not over the snowblowers and mittens, but the seed packets and starting trays.  The small portable greenhouses and adjustable hoes for tilling around established plants in the gardens.  New feeders and birdbaths beckon, and then even more until I have to flee before I find myself laden down with purchases at the counter.

Instead I am heading off to lunch with our DC Metro Romance Group of authors, publishers, bloggers and readers.  We postponed it already once this month due to snow.  I can’t wait to hear how every one is handling this long winter.  New books, new conferences, time to get caught up.

Here is the week ahead….Its almost March and I hear my gardens calling.

Monday, Feb. 24:           The Experiment by Alicia Nordwell

Tuesday, Feb. 25:           Where You Lead by Mary Calmes

Wed., Feb. 26:                 Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman

Thurs., Feb. 27:               The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines

Friday, Feb. 28:              February 2014 Summary of Reviews, Best Covers of the Month

Sat., March 1:                  Hunter By Blood by Robin White

January 2014 Summary of Books Reviewed

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Winter trees longs

The new years has started with an explosion of wonderful books and new authors for me.  SE Jakes and two of her marvelous series dropped into my hands and heart so I will be passing those recommendations on to you.  SA McAuley released a new contemporary fiction novel, Treadmarks and Trademarks, the start of a new series.  Ditto Susan Laine with her Sparks & Drops.  LA Witt inspired with her gender shifter novel Static, a must read for all.  Shira Anthony’s Symphony In Blue brought her Blue Notes characters together for a series holiday story, perfect reading for all lovers of romance and music.  Horror, fantasy and comedy are all represented here as well as a great non fiction tale by Joel Derfner, Lawfully Wedded Husband:How My Gay Marriage Will Save The American Family, a must read.

So many great books, see what stories you have missed, and make a list.  And don’t forget to check out the best book covers of the month at the end.
*Key:Winter_2
S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
HR-horror
N-Nonfiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding
5 Star Rating:

Catch A Ghost by SE Jakes C, S
Long Time Gone by SE Jakes C, S
Static by LA Witt, SF
Symphony In Blue by Shira Anthony, C, S
The Engineered Throne by Megan Derr, F
The Fall by Kate Sherwood C. S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne, (4.5 stars) C, holiday
Dirty Deeds by SE Jakes (4.75 stars) C, S
Home for the Hollandaise by BA Tortuga,Julia Talbot *4.5 stars) C
Horsing Around by Torquere Authors, (4.5 stars) A, C
In Discretion by Reesa Herberth (4.5 stars), SF
Lawfully Wedded Husband by Joel Derfner (4.75 stars) N
Refined Instincts by SJ Frost, (4 stars) SP, S
Serenading Stanley by John Inman (4.5 stars), C
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine (4.5 stars), P, S
Texas Christmas by R.J. Scott (4.75 stars), C, S
The Dreamer by M. King (4 stars), HR
The Lightning Moon by Sylvia A. Winters (4.75 stars) SP
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley (4.5 stars) C, S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Ashland by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars) SP, S
The Actor and the Thief by Edward Kendrick (3.75 stars) C, S
Tor by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars), SP, S

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Dime Novel by Dale Chase (2.75 stars) H

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:  None

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Best Book Covers of January 2014

This month includes just an overall gold star to LC Chase whose great covers include the Hell or High Water series and Dirty Deeds.

InDiscretion_500x750Mindscape_500x750Sparks & Drops cover

Tread Marks and Trademarks cover

Static coverCatch a Ghost cover

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In Discretion by Reesa Herberth, Artist Simone’
Mindscape by Tal Valante, Artist LC Chase, who is having an incredible year
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine, Artist Brooke Albrecht
Static by LA Witt, Artist LC Chase.  A Stunner with it’s Shifting Gender Person
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley, Wilde City Press, no artist credited

Brrrrr…..its cold Outside and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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DSCN4168Our region has seen single digit temperatures, ice, snow and flash freezing.  OK, it is January, a winter month, but still this is far too cold for this area and I think we are in shock.  I have kept the bird feeders full, as they are emptying them almost within an hour of being filled.  Same goes for the suet cakes hanging in the trees.

My yard is full of evidence of nightly visitors, deer tracks, fox tracks, raccoon and opossum. That is the opossum track to the left, notice the tail drag in the middle.  Their ears and tails are naked, getting frostbitten on nights like these. They crisscross and circle in search of food and shelter from the bruising cold winds and frigid Arctic air.   I always loved tracking in the woods after it has snowed.  So many stories are written on the glistening surface just waiting for someone to read them.

It snowed considerably the first year I worked as a Park Naturalist in Rock Creek.  And my first journey into the woods was amazing.  I remember walking  deep into the hickory oak forest and finding a small pile of Red Shouldered Hawk feathers on the ground, the snow spotted with blood.  As I looked around I noticed another grouping of feathers about 12 feet away, and then another.  And here and there the wing prints of a large bird, one who had landed with its prey, plucked for a while before taking off again with its heavy load.  Further and further I tracked until I finally found my culprit.  A great horned owl’s nest, high in a dead white oak tree, the base of which was strewn with owl pellets and fresh feathers.  I stood in awe of such a majestic and efficient predator.  A silent killer whose wings were capable of carrying a meal almost its own size, a shark of the skies where everything was considered fair game, including other owls.  I stood there for a while until throughly chilled, picked up a feather and owl pellet and headed back to the nature center, memorizing my path as I went.  I knew I would return there to check for owlets in another month or so and to see what other prey the Great Horned Owl had found.  This adventure cemented  my love for raptors and owls in particular.

This week a Snowy Owl appeared in downtown Washington, DC.  It appeared unconcerned that it stopped all traffic, vehicle and foot, as people gazed on in amazement.  How marvelous….

Snowy Owl in DC

snowy owl in dc

snowy owl in dc 2http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/01/24/snowy-owl-joins-capital-weather-gang-at-the-washington-post/

The cold is lingering into this coming week, a perfect time for reading a book or two or three.   Here are the books I reviewed this week.

Monday, Jan. 27:                  The Dreamer by M. King

Tuesday, Jan. 28:                  The Fall by Kate Sherwood

Wed., Jan. 29:                        Long Time Gone (Hell or High Water #2) by SE Jakes

Thurs., Jan. 30:                     Refined Instincts by SJ Frost

Friday, Jan. 31:                      January 2014 Best Covers and Book Review Summary

Sat., Feb. 1:                             Bloody Love Spats by Valentina Heart