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
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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

October Scary Reads and Other Things that Go Bump in the Night – Narratively Speaking!

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October Scary Reads and Other Things that Go Bump in the Night

Melanie’s Scary Novels and Frightfully Wonderful Storiesskeleton reading books

I’m the first to admit that while I like my vampires and werewolves and ghosts and ghoulies I don’t want my stories to go dark DARK ! Taunt me with details…that make my mind goes horrible places, don’t really give me the specifics.  Go ahead, call me chicken.  I own it.  I do like my angst, suspense,   knuckle biters, eye popping “oh no, you didn’t” scenes and many of the  books, series and authors I’m  going to mention gave me that and so much more.  There’s no order to my list, its more along what popped up in my head…as usual.  Some are old releases, some new, something a little Monstery?

Here they are:

Author Missouri Dalton:

Hanged Man's GhostNightShift185Hellfire Legacy coverVampirism and You cover

 

 

 

 

 

Her Night Wars Series will gut you (dead children and more). I read them out of order. Don’t.

The Hanged Man’s Ghost (The Night Wars, #1)
The Night Shift (The Night Wars #2)
The Hellfire Legacy

Guidebook Series

Vampirism And You! (Guidebook 01) ~ my review here
Necromancy and You (Guidebook 02) ~ my review here

Pretty Monsters coverPeek A Boo coverTriple Feature coverJosh of the Damned The Final Checkout

Author Andrea Speed:

Josh of the Damned Series – humor and the Supernatural -killer combo along with outstanding covers

Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1 (Josh of the Damned #3) by Andrea Speed
Pretty Monsters (Josh of the Damned, #1)
Peek-a-Boo (Josh of the Damned, #2)
Night of the Dust Bunnies (Josh of the Damned, #3.5)
Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #2: The Final Checkout (Josh of the Damned #4)
Merry Christmas, Josh! (Josh of the Damned #4.5)
Josh of the Damned: The Complete Collection

Also don’t miss out on Andrea Speed’s Infected: Prey series…but that’s for another time and reviewer – see Paul’s Paranormal Post this month.

The Devil's Bedpost coverDrawing Dead PF 2015 coverBlinds Man's Bluff coverDiamond Draw cover

Pulp Friction 2015 – Authors Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows ,Parker Williams and Laura Harner

There there is the Hauntingly Marvelous Pulp Friction 2015 Series this years with authors  Parker Williams, Havan Fellows , Lee Brazil and Laura Harner.  There are ghosts, ghost hunters, sexy succubi, werewolves in love with vampires, psychics, demons and so much more all wrapped in interconnected stories and mysteries that pull at your heart strings while making you jump that the evil goings on.  Right  now Round Five is just beginning. The first in each series is listed below.  5 books in each series, 6th book is written by all the authors.  Splendidly frightening, sexy too!

I also love a little elegance with my horror.  That brings up the following stories and authors:

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric ArvinMingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men cover

And finally, two short tales of such lyrical elegance and narrative poetry I read them over and over in admiration.   These should be on everyone’s must read list!

Lily CoverLily by Xavier Axelson

Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis HallSand and Gold and Ruin

What are you reading this All Hallows Eve?

 

 

 

Now from some of our other Reviewers:

In A Dark Wood civerKraken coverWinter Kills coverDown cover

BJ:

Now BJ loves her dark stories, just check out her review for Kraken by M. Caspian just last week. Missed it, did you?  I’ve linked it to her creepy recommendations listed below.  She also loves one of my all time favorite author’s, Josh Lanyon, a not to be missed author.

Creepy Halloween M/M Romance Recommendations from BJ

In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon: If you want something scary-creepy to make you cower under the blankets and double-check the doors and windows. Look no further. Who knew Lanyon could rival King, in this I see the making of the Master of M/M horror. And this horror buff wants more of this style of writing from Lanyon please.

Winter: Haunted Heart by Josh Lanyon: For those who want more of haunted-creepy, Lanyon has you covered there as well. Check out this lovely ghostly mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed. The audio version’s narrator is excellent if you’re into audiobooks.

Kraken by M. Caspian: Ready for the creature feature now guys? Then check this one out. It takes creepy to a whole new level. You know the slimy, make-your-skin crawl kind. *shiver*

Down by Ally Blue: Features violence and death trapped seven fathoms below the deep. Creatures with glowing purple eyes and sharp teeth and a horror that could annihilate the human race-EEK! Tantalizing beginning and an ending that circled nicely back to it. The author’s writing style didn’t work well for me personally, but many others loved it and the story is most certainly eerie and quite unique.

 

From Sammy:

Slasherazzi cover

As for favorite scary reads…
Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine

Favorite shifters…
The Tameness of the Wolf series by Kendall McKenna

From Barb the Zany Old Lady:

Hainted coverHainted by Jordan L. Hawk

Spirit by John InmanSpirit cover

Our Best Books of April 2015

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This year has been a little crazy and we got away from our monthly Best of Lists!  But they are back starting with April 2015.

Let’s take a closer look at those stories we read and loved so much.  One or two are 4.75 stars rounded up to 5, the rest are 5 star rated stories.  Are some of yours there t0o?  Drop us a line and let us know what books and authors stood out for you this month!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Best Books of April 2015

crossed olive branches

 

Fantasy:

Contemporary Romance:

Science Fiction:

Supernatural/Paranormal:

YA – Aurora Reviews (Both 5 stars)

A MelanieM Review: Comfort and Joy Anthology by Joanna Chambers , Josh Lanyon , Harper Fox, and L.B. Gregg

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Comfort and Joy coverThe holidays are upon and so are the holiday story collections.  Comfort and Joy Anthology is brimming over with tales from Josh Lanyon, Joanna Chambers, L.B. Gregg, and Harper Fox.  Within the covers these authors bring tidings of joy, sorrow, humor, hope, and of course, comfort in extraordinary measure.

Readers must have been very good this year because never have our stockings been so full of marvelous collections of stories about Christmas and the holidays.  In my top 3 anthologies, resting easily is Comfort and Joy from four outstanding authors, each story with its own twist and tone to make it both heart wrenching as well as memorable.

What makes this anthology (as with all top three) so wonderful and heartwarming?  Depth for one thing, depth in emotion, characterization and tone.  Complexity in the plots and layering. Also poignancy, a little reflection and sadness that comes to all at this time of the year as well as the wish to be a better person, for yourself and for others.  These stories remind me more of Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and less Deck The Halls. Yes, the latter is lovely, lighthearted and whimsical but the truth in the meaning behind these holidays, our expectations and our memories go far deeper and that’s the feeling and dimension these stories bring.  They remind us that comfort is needed along with the joy, and that hope can follow on the heels of sadness and despair.

Rest and Be Thankful by Joanna Chambers:
Two stormy hearts find peace when feuding neighbors in the Scottish Highlands are trapped by a blizzard.

Things aren’t going well for Cam McMorrow since he moved to Inverbechie. His business is failing, his cottage is falling apart and following his very public argument with café owner Rob Armstrong, he’s become a social outcast.

Cam needs to get away from his troubles and when his sister buys him a ticket to the biggest Hogmanay party in Glasgow, he can’t leave Inverbechie quick enough. But when events conspire to strand him in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm, not only is he liable to miss the party, he’ll also have to ask his nemesis, Rob, for help.

The synopsis doesn’t do this beautiful short story justice. At its heart is Cam McMorrow, a man who is his own worst enemy.  It’s his wonderful childhood memories and his inherited cottage from his grandparents that moved Cam to return to Inverbechie to start up his tourist based Adventure business. But nothing has gone as expected.  The seasonal fluctuations and the accompanying loss of income has put everything he has worked so hard for at risk and the depression and anger he feels has resulted in some poor choices made with the local folk.  But even though we (and Cam) recognize his part in the bad situation he finds himself in, we can’t help but sympathize and love him.  And it’s not all his fault, there have been some exceedingly poor judgement calls on parts of the local townspeople as well.  Cam is in the depths of despair when we meet him.  It his journey out to something better, more hopeful that is the wealth of this story.  I hope Joanna Chambers will revisit this Cam, Rob, and Inverbechie.  All three deserve a bigger story and a true HEA.

Out by Harper Fox
Can a stranger unlock the courage and passion in a young man’s captive heart?

It’s Christmas at Edinburgh’s magnificent Barlinney Hotel, and chief housekeeper Cosmo Grant is in charge of the festivities. He’s already got his hands full when handsome Ren Vaudrey checks in.

It soon turns out that Ren is an undercover cop. Cosmo wants to help him, but unless he can do it within the Barlinney’s walls, Cosmo is stuck. A victim of crippling agoraphobia, he’s been a prisoner in this gilded cage for over a year. Cosmo gathers all his courage to do the right thing by Ren and Sam—and as a glittering Christmas Eve descends on the city, finds himself confronting his very darkest fears.

If anyone had told me that an outstanding Christmas story centered around a traumatized, agoraphobic young man living in an expensive, first class hotel, I might have scoffed…aloud.  Except that it’s Harper Fox telling the tale, bringing to life Cosmo Grant, a vulnerable, warm hearted and superbly efficient chief housekeeper at Edinburgh’s Barlinney Hotel.  It was Cosmo’s bad luck to be held hostage during a robbery gone bad and the trauma has left Cosmo extremely agoraphobic, unable to leave the Barlinney at any cost.  Within its gorgeous confines, Cosmo works, eats, lives…marginally, his fear keeping him inside where he is terrorized by the hotel’s toady of a manager.  Then in sweeps police inspector Ren Vaudrey undercover and Cosmo’s life starts to enlarge once more.  There is a mystery, crooks galore, and romance.

I love Harper Fox and everything her pen touches turns to gold and in this case, to red and green with a tang of pine and something floral that Cosmo has fixed for the lobby.  Could I tell Harper Fox wrote this story?  Why, yes I could.

Waiting for Winter by LB Gregg:

Some mistakes are worth repeating.

Luke always thought he and Winter were the perfect couple—until the day Winter announced he was taking a new job and they were uprooting and headed for Germany. No discussion. No debate. For the first time in his life, Winter miscalculated. Badly. Now Luke is trying his best to move on with his life, but Winter is back in town and he’s set on digging their relationship out of the deep freeze.

A wealth of assumptions and misunderstandings can derail even the most loving relationships as Luke and Winter find out.  Now its the holidays and a time for reconciliation and second chances.  I love how L.B. Gregg writes relationships!   They feel so real, that when something goes wrong between the people involved, the reader feels just as unsettled and sad as the couple. In Waiting for Winter, Gregg portrays the relationship that was like an artist uses negative space in a painting, its defined by what Luke and Winter no longer have, whether its the joys of their intertwined families, houses and experiences.  That Winter and their “coupleness” is missed is accentuated by the places and people Luke visits, all of whom knew them as a couple.  We pine for the loss of Winter and hope that this reunion will take.  I loved the ending, that was perfect.

Baby, It’s Cold by Josh Lanyon:
Or maybe it’s the flu. Breaking up is hard to do — especially around the holidays.

Talk about Kitchen Nightmares! TV Chef Rocky and Foodie blogger Jesse have been pals forever, so it should have been the most natural thing in the world to move their relationship to the next level. Instead, it turned out to be a disaster. But Christmas is the season of love, and someone’s cooking up a sweet surprise…

From sadness and comfort to happiness and celebration, it’s fitting that this anthology  end with heartfelt humor and joy which it does with Baby, It’s Cold by Josh Lanyon.  Two old friends, chef Rocky and food blogger Jesse have tried in the past to have a relationship but it didn’t work out.  Now Jesse figures a blizzard and a surprise dinner is just the way to find out if he and Rocky can salvage not only their friendship but perhaps try again for something more.    What could go wrong?

Considering it’s Josh Lanyon at the helm, just about everything, from misunderstandings, kitchen disasters, and a unexpected visitor, Rocky and Jesse have many obstacles in their path before they can move forward to a future together they both want.  I love the dialog and the past histories Lanyon has detailed for both main characters are as fascinating as they are.  There is always a certain tartness about a Josh Lanyon story, a little wryness to go with the sweet,   a little savory for balance and that keeps the characters and their situations feeling believable and human without being saccharine.  Yes, our history often dictates our present behavior, whether we want it to or not.  Lanyon gets that and folds it into his people and their relationships.  So that when the pop of the champagne cork sounds the arrival of a happy ending, we and Rocky and Jesse have earned it.    Just a wonderful tale,  I loved it.

Love holiday stories?  Are these authors on your automatic buy list?  No matter the reason, pick up this anthology and have yourself a merry little Christmas, or Chanukah, or whatever holiday you may celebrate.  These are stories to read no matter the season.  Comfort and Joy is on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2014 List!  And now I will leave you with the incomparable Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!

Cover Art by Johanna Ollila. Cover is nice if a little bland, a little too generic for my tastes.

Sales Links:  All Romance (ARe)             amazon             buy it here

Book Details:

ebook
Published December 6th 2014 by JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
(first published December 5th 2014)
ISBN139781937909758
edition languageEnglish

Review: Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

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.Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Stranger on the Shore coverWhen investigative journalist Griffin Hadley is hired by the patriarch of the wealthy Arlington family to write an account of a long ago family tragedy, Griffin had little idea of the danger he is about to encounter.  Twenty years ago young Brian Arlington, heir to Arlington fortune, was kidnapped for ransom.  Although a man was charged with the kidnapping and jailed, young Brian was never found and is presumed dead.  Brian’s grandfather wants closure before he dies and hires Griffin Hadley to renew the search for answers about his grandson once and for all.

Blocking Griffin’s investigation and efforts to write the story is Pierce Mather, the Arlington family lawyer.  Pierce Mather, cold, handsome, and resolute in his determination that Griffin leave the estate and Arlington tragedy in the past.  Pierce also administers and controls the Arlington billions.But he is not the only one unhappy that Griffin Hadley is about to dig up questions about the decades-old mystery.

As more and more factions line up against Griffin, he begins to wonder if he can figure out what really happened all those years ago.  And when Pierce begins to show that he is attracted to Griffin, Griffin wonders if it is due to passion or something more ominous….

 Stranger on the Shore a welcome return to writing for this author as well as demonstrating just why Josh Lanyon is on so many  readers TBR lists.  A story that is both a romance and a mystery is one of the favorite ploys of this author’s and one he does so well.  For me as a reader, one element I appreciate and look forward to in each of Josh Lanyon’s novels is the  unsettled atmosphere and haunting settings he evokes with his sensual imagery and vivid descriptions of his locations.  In Stranger on the Shore it is the old palatial Arlington estate whose very name conjures up mysteries, secrets, and opulence, that is the setting for the investigation into a young boy’s kidnapping and murder.

Ah, the mystery….well to be honest…the one mystery that looms the largest is also the most easily guessed at.  So it’s not so much the who,  but the why and how that defines the mystery and the investigation.  That is one of the pleasures of this story.  All the threads that have to be pulled together to figure out the larger picture and persons behind it all, and there is a myriad of plot threads to follow.  In Stranger on the Shore it’s the journey not the destination that is the true joy.  It’s the miasma off the waters, the perfectly manicured gardens that beg one to peer behind the hedges,  and the walkways that beckon as they lead into the darkness. It’s the indolent feeling of the old privileged powerful families and the weight of their wealth that slowly gives over to one of suspense and dread. A bubbling up of a malodorous past that Lanyon brings forth so precisely, fraught with clues that the reader cannot help but follow that makes this story sing. the Arlington estate and gardens  comes alive here, so much so it is as much a main character as Griffin and the Arlington family. In Stranger on the Shore we get ambiance, mystery and an alluring location.  All that and the romance too.

Lust in the heat, impulsive sex between lovers who don’t trust or perhaps even like one another, that’s sexy sizzle of desire is another great element of this story.  Pierce Mather, cold, calculating, and what exactly?  Is he loyal family retainer?  Part of the puzzle behind young Brian Arlington’s disappearance?  Controlled yet passionate lover?  He is all that and more as the story unfolds and Griffin Hadley is pulled deeper into the Arlington family history and current scramble for the family fortune. And then there is Griffin.  I wish I had a sense of Griffin as an investigative reporter, that seemed a little lacking here.  A writer yes, reporter no. But so much about Griffin is appealing.  He is vulnerable, unsettled and perhaps too trusting for the role he is to play here.  But he will engage your feelings as he goes about tumbling into the past  and present dangers of the situation he finds himself in.  Griffin and Pierce were perfect foils for each other and I loved their intense arguments as much as their love scenes.

I’m not sure why exactly Josh Lanyon has such a diverse and/or opposite effect on readers.  They absolutely adore him or his writing doesn’t engage them.  It seems to fall one way or the other.  I happen to love him.  I admire his stories even if I find I can predict the outcome or part of the plot before the resolution. His characters have always been able to reach me with their foibles and faults as well as their intelligence.  And as I have stated, his descriptions and imagery is captivating in its ability to pull you into a scene or situation smoothly and decidedly.  I love the emotions he brings forth and the  depth of love and believability he is able to create for his characters.  No, this story’s not perfect, but I found myself still thinking about the plot and characters days later.  That ability to resonate is aspect of good storytelling I require and I found that here.

Josh Lanyon took a sabbatical from writing for over a year and his voice was missed by many.  Now he has returned and I look forward to the stories and characters his inventive mind will create.  Stranger on the Shore is a terrific start.  I loved it and think you will too.   If you are new to Josh Lanyon, there is a huge backlist awaiting you, including many of my favorites such as Fair Game, Come Unto These Yellow Sands , and the Adrien English Mysteries.  Start here and work your way backward.  You have a wonderful journey ahead, get going!  Those of you who are Josh Lanyon fans, well, you probably have already picked this up and started reading.

Josh Lanyon and Stranger on the Shore are recommended author and novel at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.

Happy Reading.

Buy Links:   Carina Press         ARe           Amazon

 

Book Details:

ebook, 226 pages
Published May 5th 2014 by Carina Press
original titleStranger on the Shore
ISBN139781426898327
edition languageEnglish

STRW December 2013 Summary of Reviews and Best Dec. Covers

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Winter trees longs

December 2013 Book Review Summary and December Best Covers of the Month

December 2013 Review Summary

*Key:
S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
YA-young adult

5 Star Rating:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, C
Grime Doesn’t Pay: The Brothers Grime, Eddie by Z.A.Maxfield C,S
Oceans Apart by Laura Harner, C, S
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)by Laura Harner, TA Webb, Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows C,S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Blue River by Theo Fenraven (4 stars)PN
Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings, (4.25)C,
Continental Divide written by Laura Harner, Lisa Worrall (4.25) C,S
Indelible Ink by Marie Lark, (4.5) C
Kick Start by Josh Lanyon C,S
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield (4.5)C
Mindscape by Tal Valante (4.5) SF, S
Model Love by SJ Frost (4.25) C
Roughstock: Tag Team – Fais Do Do Season Two  by BA Tortuga(4.25)C,S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Christmas Wish by Mychael Black, Shayne Carmichael SN, S
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding (3.75) C
Ride-Off (Polo #2) by Mickie B. Ashling (3.5)C
2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: N/A

Best Covers of December 2013:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, cover by LC Chase
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding, cover by Paul Richmond (his M/M American Gothic)
Lost and Found by ZA Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Mindscape by Tal Valante, cover by LC Chase

Housekeeping

LostAndFound_500x750

Mindscape_500x750

Christmas Kitsch cover

Review: Kick Start (Dangerous Ground #5) by Josh Lanyon

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Kick Start coverSpecial Agents Will Brandt and Taylor MacAllister have both left the DSS (Department of Diplomatic Security) after the events in Paris and now operate their own security agency.  But things are not going  particularly well for them, either in their business or relationship.  Will and Taylor’s business is lacking clients and they are running out of money to keep afloat.  Taylor isn’t happy that Will made the decision to quit and go out on their own without consulting him . Now it’s the Brandts that come calling and Will is expected home at his parents house as his younger brother isabout to ship out as a  Marine and wants to spend time with him.  The problem?  Will hasnt’ told his family that he is gay and that his partner, Taylor, is his partner is all ways.

This trip home promises to be anything but a happy visit home.   There is an “Cousin Dennis” staying with Will’s parents who isn’t his cousin and a past felon looking for revenge at Christmas time.  Could things get any worse?  Will and Taylor are about to find out while trying to save their business and their relationship.

Kick Start is the fifth book in the Dangerous Ground series by Josh Lanyon and the pairing of Taylor MacAllister and Will Brandt return in rare form in a story that finds the men on rocky ground, professionally and emotionally.  Since the first installment, Dangerous Ground, the road to love and a relationship has been a tumultuous one.  Special Agents and partners for the Department of Diplomatic Security, their friendship changes with one confession of love from Taylor who is then wounded hours later.  While Taylor has always known of his passion for his coworker, it took Will a much longer time to arrive at the same conclusion, both about his feelings towards Taylor and his sexuality.  Up and down, over but never quite out, these two men have doggedly pursued criminals with the same fervor they save for each other.   Now Josh Lanyon picks up their romance after the events of Dead Run (Dangerous Ground #4) and deepens the issues for these men by separating them (by their choice) from the agency they worked for and placing them on uncertain ground with a new company that’s floundering and trying to set the parameters for their personal relationship.  In Kick Start, these men have never been better.

Josh Lanyon returns to this series and his characters and infuses it with high energy and his trademark humor.  I have always been especially fond of Will and Taylor and have enjoyed watching their relationship deepen and grow despite all obstacles thrown at them including ones they have created themselves.  In Kick Start, Lanyon forces the men to confront the issues facing them, both about their floundering business as well as the problems surfacing in their romance.  And there is no better time for stress and reflection than visiting the in-laws, especially when they don’t know they are the in-laws.  Returning Will to the Brandt home, Lanyon affords the readers a glimpse into Will’s home life and his relationship with the town he grew up in as well as his younger brother.  I thought that the dynamics between Grant and Will were very authentically crafted.  Grant the younger brother forever in his famous older brother’s shadow, a little resentful as well as adoring.  And then he finds out that Will is gay, shattering his image of his brother and making him realize that there was an essential part of Will he never. The resultant sibling explosion feels real in every aspect as does Will’s talk with his father.

Added to the changed family dynamics and their own evolving relationship, Lanyon starts throwing in complication left and right, including a local family of ne’er–do–wells called the Dooleys who just insist on causing their own brand of trouble.  The author is clearly having fun with this surly,unkempt band of brothers:

One of the yahoos, dressed in woodland camo — complete with matching bandana — crawled out of the truck window and jumped to the ground.

“Is Brandt here?” he yelled. He was a big man. Some of it was muscle, some of it was flab, a lot of it was hair. Long black hair and long black beard. Altogether, it amounted to a sizeable and sturdy form.

Taylor relaxed. Not that he had really thought this was some country cousin branch of the mob come hunting Cousin Dennis, but life could be weird. He called back, “Nope. Anything I can do for you?”

“Who are you?”

“Who wants to know?”

The guy said impatiently, “I want to know.”

I’m Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl. Taylor bit back an inappropriate smile. First rule of visiting the in-laws: No laughing at the local wild life.

“And you are —?”

“Going to kick your ass if you don’t tell me what I want to know!” The big man drew himself up as though readying for battle.

Really? Taylor sighed.

The weary sound carried in the sharp, crystalline air and Larry looked a little discomfited.

You know this is just not going to end well for the Dooleys, as nothing ever does.  It’s humorous and it contains media references that bring up sharp images that just snap  a portrait of the Dooleys immediately into place.  A lovely bit of character shorthand that Lanyon excels in.

Of course, there are gunshots, car chases and several inexplicable turn of events, including one very incompetent sleuth, that should carry over into the next novel in the series.  You will find yourself  reading along at a fast clip to keep up with all the action.  It’s that fast paced, full of snappy dialog, a couple of mysteries, and of course, the love between Will and Taylor that just grows better and better.  This is really my favorite of the series  to date.

If you are new to the series, go back to the beginning, Dangerous Ground, for your first introductions to  Will and Taylor at the start of their relationship.  For those fans of the series, I know you found Kick Start a welcome way to finish out 2013.  I can only hope that it won’t be as long a time before we see another Dangerous Ground story from this wonderful author.

Books in the Dangerous Ground series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur (the first four books preceded the start of my review blog):

Dangerous Ground (Dangerous Ground #1)
Old Poison (Dangerous Ground #2)
Blood Heat (Dangerous Ground #3)
Dead Run (Dangerous Ground, #4)
Kick Start (Dangerous Ground, #5)

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 30th 2013 by Just Joshin (first published November 29th 2013)
original title Kick Start
edition language English
series Dangerous Ground

Mid December Thoughts and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Winter trees longs

It is mid-December and the end of 2013 is only weeks away.  So many people are still rushing around, making last minute trip preparations, fixing the holiday menus or getting gifts for those you love.  This year I find myself just so grateful to have my Dad still with us, after suffering a huge illness and operation.  My mother has stayed by his side, sleeping in chairs and wherever possible, in the hospital or rehab center.  For all their years together this has been the most they have ever been apart.  And now Dad is back home where he belongs, just in time for the holidays and his birthday.  Never have I felt so happy to be able to write those words.  Dad’s recovery and homecoming are all that I or anyone in my family  want or need for Christmas.  We have been given the best gift of all and we know it.  And are so grateful.

But there are so many others out there right now that need our thoughts, and if you are religious, our prayers for them and their loved ones.  And maybe something more, a little assistance if you are able.  LGBTQ Youth Shelters need our financial assistance, especially in the winter, when the cold drives so many inside in need of beds, food, and emotional support.

And if you love or have been touched by the books of Eric Arvin or TJ Klune or the men themselves, you may not be aware that Eric is ill and they could use our help and thoughts.  There is a fund set up to help Eric and his family offset the cost of his medical bills.  That is listed below as well as the links to the LGBTQ Youth Shelters. The holidays are a time of  love and giving, to all of those we are connected to by blood and by choice, and by need:

And now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Dec. 16             Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings

Tuesday, Dec. 17:            The Brothers Grime: Eddie by Z.A. Maxfield

Wed., Dec. 18:                  Model Love by S.J. Frost

Thurs, Dec. 19:                 Kick Start by Josh Lanyon

Friday, Dec. 20:              Christmas Guest Blog at Andrew Q. Gordon’s

Sat., Dec. 21:                    Oceans Apart by Laura Harner

Review: Blood Red Butterfly by Josh Lanyon

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Blood Red Butterfly coverHomicide Detective Ryo Miller is furious when his murder case against criminal Mickey Torres is derailed by an alibi he just knows has to be fake,  especially when the person vouching for Torres is none other than manga artist Kai Tashiro.  Ryo is familiar with Kai, having mentally nicknamed him the “Ice Princess” after having been rebuffed by the artist every time Ryo approached him in their local gay bar.  He just cannot believe that Kai would ever go for a thug like Torres and that something else must be going on.

After consulting with his partner who thinks they should abandon the case, Ryo decides that he must bust Torres’ alibi by any means possible, and if he has to take down Kai to do it, so be it.  But there are more depths and secrets to Kai Tashiro than Ryo is aware of and soon Torres’ obsession with Kai becomes his own putting his job and everyones life in danger.

As far as I know this is  Josh Lanyon’s first effort since his return from sabatical and his intention was to write a story that included elements of yaoi as well as contemporary fiction.  It certainly looks that way from the cover and from many of the elements Mr. Lanyon folded into his story.   As the author of Come Unto These Yellow Sands and the Adrien English mysteries, Josh Lanyon is a “must read” for me.  His stories are fascinating constructions full of marvelous characterizations and intriguing plots.  His fondness for police detectives or special agents can be found in more than one novel, including one of my favorites, Fair Game.  So it was not surprising to find that one of his main characters here is a somewhat surly, overworked, Homicide Detective named Ryo Miller.

The Japanese or Yaoi influence is highlighted by his use of characters of mixed Japanese ancestry and he has certainly done his research with regard to the types of classes Japanese american families send their children to in an attempt to keep their culture alive in their kids.  From ikebana classes to attending Nihonjin gakko schools for Japanese immersion studies, from the specific names  given to each american generation of youth (Ryo’s third generation is Sansei, Kai’s fifth generation is Gosei), we are enveloped in a cloud of elements to help us understand what it is to be a person of Japanese-American heritage.  This is all very beautifully done and adds a very authentic color to the narrative.

I also liked the way the author used a manga story written by Kai called Blood Red Butterfly to mimic the actions between Ryo and Kai with Torres being the incendiary element whose actions can’t be predicted.  These are all terrific facets of Blood Red Butterfly that I enjoyed immensely. But ultimately, it was the characterizations themselves that left me unsatisfied throughout the story, and I am not sure if that is due to the yaoi influence or not.   The characters of  Ryo and Kai just did not have the depth and dimension I have come to expect from Josh Lanyon.  I never bought into Ryo’s obsession with Kai, perhaps it was the story length that did not allow it to fill it to its complete development.  Torres’ fascination with Kai? Yes, I got that but not Ryo’s to the extent that he would detonate his life,including a job he loved, over him.  That case was never made.  As to Kai himself?  I liked him and what we knew of his backstory but again there was too much missing to really ever connect with him fully either.

So for me this story works on several levels but not enough to connect me with the characters and make me care about their fate. I can’t determine whether this is due to the influence of manga yaoi or not.  Hybrids can be tricky things and everything must work in harmony to pull it off and this story falls short of that goal in my opinion.  But I am enthused to find Josh Lanyon writing again and hope his time off has recharged his creativity and his enjoyment of his craft.  I can’t wait for the next story to come.  If you love Josh Lanyon and want to see what he has been working on and enjoy yaoi, then this story will be of interest to you.  But if you are new to Josh Lanyon and his stories,  then I would start elsewhere to make a start with his stories.

Cover by KB Smith

Cover Art by Faith L.

Cover photo by Reinekke and licensed through Shutterstock

Josh Lanyon’s website

The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Well, I hate to throw this out there but this coming week is full of things I don’t like to talk about, mostly doctors appointments.  I would much rather dwell on things like the arrival of Spring, plants I want to establish in the gardens, the latest antics of my terrors three, and what knitting projects are in the pipeline. But sometimes I just have to face up to the fact my health takes priority, even over the Caps and the Nats. So if things don’t exactly arrive as scheduled, this is the reason.  Just saying.

I want to finish out Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows series over this week and the next, so grab onto that box of tissues and be prepared. I also have the latest Josh Lanyon book he self published after his year off.  This week I am also posting books from favorite authors like B.A. Tortuga and K. A. Mitchell that were reviewed for Joyfully Jay’s Jock Week.  I know you will enjoy them as well. So here is the schedule as planned.

Monday, Feb. 25:              Lessons In Trust by Charlie Cochrane

Tuesday, Feb 26:                Blood Red Butterfly by Josh Lanyon

Wed, Feb. 27:                     Life, Over Easy by K. A. Mitchell

Thursday, Feb. 28:           Adding To The Collection by B. A Tortuga

Friday, Feb. 29:                 All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane

Saturday, Feb. 30:             Scattered Thoughts On Authors, Conventions and Hurt Feelings

 

In the meantime I have become familiar with the music of Kaija Saariaho,  In “Lonh”, a work for soprano and electronics, Saariaho combined a medieval love poem with bells and bird song to arrive a composition both memorable and eerie.  What do you think?