Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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

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

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

5 Star Rating:

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

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

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

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Bad AttitudeWhen Baltimore police rescue diver Jamie Donnigan gets a call about a jumper off the Key Bridge he doesn’t realize that his carefully controlled life is about to change dramatically.  What he thinks will be a routine call turns into something much more important as the man they are supposed to rescue is none other than Gavin Montgomery, the openly gay middle son of the most powerful family around Baltimore.

Gavin Montgomery and his friend Beach were on their way home from a party when Beach decides he is going to swim to Fort Carroll and the best way to start his swim is to jump off the Frances Scott Key Bridge.  When Gavin tries and fails to keep his friend from jumping, he falls in after him.

While in the water, a SOS alerts Jamie to the location of the man he is searching for, and to his amazement he finds Gavin hanging onto an unconscious Beach, both in need of medical assistance.  As the whole rescue operation turns into a media frenzy, Jamie finds himself at the center of attention and a guest of honor at a dinner given by Gavin’s father.   There the attraction between Jamie and Gavin boils over and a sex only relationship is formed.

But keeping things casual starts to become a problem the more they get to know each other.  Gavin and Jamie are more alike than they would like to admit, but when failure to communicate and poor assumptions are in play, will both men let down their guard enough to let love have a chance to flourish?

Bad Attitude is the third book in the Bad in Baltimore series and the first one I have read in the group.  I don’t know how I missed the first two books as I usually gobble up everything that K.A. Mitchell writes, but after reading Bad Attitude I am certainly going to get the first two and start the series from the beginning. I enjoyed this book so much that I must see how and with whom Bad in Baltimore started.

One of the things I can always count on in a K.A. Mitchell story are characters that, while pretty, are full of attitude, extremely confidant, and a tad walled off emotionally from those around them.  I love these type of characters and Mitchell’s are some of my favorites.  They are snarky, competent, and oh so interesting in every aspect.  Any way you look at it, these men are challenging, and so is their path to love.

Snarky and challenging are certainly words that can be used to describe Jamie Donnigan, the police rescue diver who is one of the two main characters here.  I loved Jamie.  He covers his vulnerabilities with tats and a smug attitude that shields him from the injustices and routine daily disappointments that life as a police officer dishes up.  The words that flow out of his mouth match the attitude that his demeanor projects.  This is how Jamie tells Gavin, he will be attending the party Gavin’s father invited him to as a guest of honor:

“Yes, but she— I’ll return the favor and be direct. I was sent to assure you of the family’s sincere wish that you feel comfortable bringing a guest if you desire and to help you with any concerns you might have.”

Jamie met that unnervingly steady stare without blinking. “In other, direct words, you all think that because I’m just a county cop from Dundalk with a high school education, I don’t know how to act at one of your fancy parties? The kind you and your buddy need Liquid X to get through?”

Montgomery took his hands out of his pockets and spread them, palms up. “We all have our crosses to bear.”

Jamie popped the door with his key fob. “I may not come with kennel club papers from the breeder, but I think I can manage to keep from pissing on the rug. I’ve been to a party before.”

“Whatever you say, Officer.” Montgomery turned, and Jamie saw the gleaming Bentley blocking in the bomb squad truck.

You can feel the arrogance and snark oozing out of Jamie in that scene. But Gavin Montgomery is more than a match for Jamie. Just from the interaction above, you can feel the charged atmosphere as the two personalities clash and their sexual heat flares up.  Gavin’s attitude is smoother and certainly comes with a glossy finish but in every way it is as bold, cold and sure as Jamie’s.  Mitchell supplies us with Gavin’s back story in little supplements along the way, from Gavin’s interpersonal relationships with siblings, father and stepmother to his commitments to a few friends and surprising interests.  Both men are masters of the lowered expectation while still carrying within them the ability to be disappointed and hurt in the unsurprising actions of others.

The push/pull of their attraction to each other, their denial of their  feelings and, a remarkable disconnect when it comes to communication makes this book feel realistic and at times, a little frustrating.  Realistic because for these men to suddenly capitulate to each other in any manner other than sexual would be out of character but that certainly doesn’t keep it from being frustrating for the reader (and the couple) at certain points in the story. Bad Attitude is sometimes like watching two pieces of granite mate, lots of grinding, loud noises as the boulders smack together, looking for the perfect position and control.

Baltimore, Maryland and its surrounding locales act as a main character in the book and I assume the series as well.  “Balmer” is rich in its ethnically diverse blue collar neighborhoods, old rowhouse neighborhoods, historic buildings and parks. Throughout the story, Jamie and Gavin wander through the scenic upper echelon areas of Fells Point and Federal Hill to the beautifully restored Inner Harbor and beyond, giving the reader an intimate look at one of the Mid Atlantic’s liveliest and interesting cities.   I don’t know if the author has ever lived there but it certainly has the feel of someone not only familiar with the area but who holds it in wry affection, foibles and all.  How else would Mitchell know to have Jamie give directions to his friends house like this:

Jamie listened to Quinn give directions to the lost teacher with the weird name.

“Then don’t get back on 83.” Quinn’s voice held an above-average amount of irritation.

“Where is he?” Jamie asked.

Quinn moved the phone away from his mouth but didn’t cover it. “Towson. He got confused in the construction and ended up going the wrong way on the Beltway.”

“Put him on North Charles—” Jamie held out a hand. “Here, give me it.”

“Be my control freak of a guest.”Quinn handed off the phone, ignoring Jamie flipping him off.

Once Jamie figured out where the guy was, he got him onto 139, only one other turn to get him to Quinn’s. He handed back the phone. “It’ll take him longer, but at least he’ll get here. Hey, kid, we gonna eat or what?”

The other authentic element here is the water search and rescue units that abound in this area.  From Baltimore to Washington, DC, all the local police squads have their own form of water search and rescue divisions.  Whether you are talking about the Patapsco  or the Potomac rivers,or  the Chesapeake Bay, Mitchell plunges you into their cold and treacherous waters along with Jamie with her vivid descriptions:

Geist followed him toward the nearest bridge pylon, moving his hand light across the water. The shoring around the base was made up of head-sized rocks. Not easy to crawl up on, but if Jamie’s life was on the line, he’d have managed to haul ass up onto them.

There was nothing on the east side, south or west. Their hand lights fell short of the next pylon and shoring. Holding his light just below the surface, Geist stared at Jamie in question. Between the thrum of the boats and the chopper sending waves smacking against the shoring, they couldn’t have made themselves heard even without their regulators in the way. Jamie lifted his hands in a shrug and put his head back in the water, intending to sweep around the north side before following Geist back to their search pattern.

The waters around Baltimore were always full of sound. Stone and metal shifting and grinding, bass-deep or treble-whining motors, those were all familiar background to the bubbles moving past his ears. But there was something… rhythmic that didn’t sound like it came from a motor, a tapping that took on a pattern recognizable anywhere in the world. A pattern only a person could make. Three quick, three slow, three quick. SOS. Jamie let a little air out of his vest, sinking under the surface to get a better listen. Water carried sound, but it made direction hard to pick up. Geist swung his light over Jamie as he surfaced.

Jamie flashed his own light, then tapped his ears and indicated the pylons on either side of them. Geist pointed and they separated to search. Jamie put his head down and swam at speed, panning his light over the north side before making for the next pillar of cement supporting the bridge.

The rocks of the shoring were a dark, uneven lump against the black of sky and the shining black of the water. But as Jamie drew within twenty yards, he was sure that among the rocks, something was moving. Something not a cormorant or a heron, unless they had decided to wear a watch because one was reflecting his light from a hand and wrist that clung to a rock.

He’d found him.

The absolutely captures the caution, the excitement and, of course, the dangers of the divers search.  Remarkable details conveying knowledge and a concise narrative that allows the story to move along smoothly yet still gain momentum.  Just lovely.

My only issue here is that I felt the ending was a little to abrupt when you consider all the reader, as well as the couple, went through to get to it.  I would have loved a little more resolution or perhaps an epilogue (not something you normally find in a Mitchell story).  For those of you familiar with the other books, those couples can be found here in Bad Attitude as well.  While Bad Attitude was clearly written as part of a series, it also works as a stand alone story.  I highly recommend it for all the reasons mentioned above and for the combustible, sweat inducing sex scenes as well.  Trust me, those are smoking hot.

Here are the books in the order they were written:

Bad Company (Bad in Baltimore #1)

Bad Boyfriend (Bad in Baltimore #2)

Bad Attitude  (Bad in Baltimore #3)

Cover art by Angela Waters.  I like the cover but where is my ginger haired cop?

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 23rd 2013 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
edition language
English
original title
Bad Attitude

Mother’s Day and The Week Ahead

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Short and sweet today.  It’s Mother’s Day and the cookout here is only hours  away.   Plus it’s my birthday week, so I expect to have a hopefully fun filled, jam packed schedule.   So if life and my schedule permits, here is the week a head in reviews:

Monday, May 13:                  The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown

Tuesday, May 14:                  Never A Hero  (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton

Wed., May 15:                        Night of Ceremony by M. Raiya

Thursday, May 16:                Bad Attitude by KA Mitchell

Friday, May 17:                      Bullheaded by Catt Ford

Saturday, May 18:                Lenny For Your  Thoughts by Anyta Sunday

So there it is. Got to go.  Wish like mad it would warm up,  Poor plants, flooded and now cold.  Is that a sniffle I feel coming on?

Review: Life, Over Easy: Fragments Book 1 by K.A. Mitchell

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Rating:  4.25 stars

Life Over Easy coverJohn Andrews life was all planned out, had been since he was young and entered the pool for the first time.  His life revolved around his diving.  He was tutored at home and on the road,  his social circle extended out only as far as his  teammates and diving competitors, even the most normal rites of growing up passed him by, no dances, no television watching or movie going, nothing but diving and diving competition.  Even after winning two Gold Olympic medals, that didn’t change.  John was on target to repeat or perhaps exceed  his goals at the next Olympics until a accident during training changed his life forever.  Now he copes with brain damage, blurry sight, vertigo, and life with a cane as a college freshman, on his own for the first time in his life.  But the place inside of him that used to be filled by diving is empty and John doesn’t know how to fill

One accident six months ago changed Mason’s life forever.  One deer in the middle of the road, one car crash later and everything he loved and thought he would have forever was gone.  Now its Jim Beam and sex that Mason uses to fill the emptiness inside of him, crawling into bed drunk with any number of nameless guys to the consternation and disgust of his roommates and friends.  He needs to concentrate on his school work and project but it seems impossible.

Two men, damaged by life’s accidents.  When John turns up at the wrong house for a party, they meet and while their first encounter isn’t promising, John and Mason are drawn together even as they hide secrets from each other.  John can see auras around peoples heads and he sees two over Mason’s.  And Mason?  He is seeing and hearing his dead lover.   Can both men over come multiple obstacles, including one not of this earth, to find the love both need and deserve?  Life is never easy, but this is ridiculous.

I love K. A. Mitchell.  She is a “go to” author for me and this book demonstrates why I grab up every book she writes.  The characters are unusual to say the least.  John Andrews stands out because he is different on so many levels.  First of all, he is that driven individual who has been pursuing a specific goal since childhood and succeeding at it.  Young athletes are in a category all their own.  They deprive themselves of a normal childhood, delaying or denying all together many hallmarks of growing up in order to pursue their dream, whether it be  that of an Olympic high diver or other sport.  They create a tunnel of efforts, so focused and driven that they seem almost innocent and guileless outside of their sport.  Take that goal, that lifestyle away and you have a person adrift in their own life, no  longer tethered by long term goals.  We see that happen to so many athletes once the Games are over.

K.A. Mitchell takes it one further.  John has had an accident that makes him unable to compete.  From a finely toned athlete, he now copes with a brain damaged during a 2 story fall.  He has vertigo, blurred vision, and  has a condition called Synesthesia, a neurological condition where “one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.”  Colors can be associated with sounds or words, or music is combined with sounds or specific sights, etc.   Mitchell’s vivid descriptions gives us a intimate look at how it must feel when even a short walk turns into an overwhelming cavalcade of colors and sights.  John has to deal with the loss of his life’s goal, his new disability, life as a college student, and all the while he feels empty inside because that one feeling of being “airborne”, floating in space as he dives is forever gone.  Mitchell makes us feel that loss as acutely as John does.  And then she brings it crashing up against an equally deep cavern of loss and pain that is Mason’s.

Most of us have not lived John’s life but I would bet that we all know someone like Mason or lived through a similar trauma.  Mason is easily the most identifiable and recognizable of the two men.  We can connect with Mason who is drowning in the loss of the man he thought he would marry and spend the rest of his life with.  Booze and sex are the fillers of choice for Mason, and we get that.  His friends (wonderful characters in their own right) feel helpless to stop the downward spiral, some have given up all together as Mason lashes out at them in his pain.  This is all very authentic in the emotions radiating off the characters and the pages of this story.

But then Mitchell takes it an additional step further, journeying into the paranormal.  John’s condition lets him see people auras, he knows what they are feeling by looking at the pulsating colors above their heads.  And Mason’s dead lover hovers over all the proceedings, alternately angry and amused by being “stuck” to Mason.  I have to admit I wish that this element has been left out of the story.  It was terrific with just the obstacles they were already facing but then you add ghosts and “auras” and we start tipping over the edge.  It is too much for this story to handle, there is just too much to do justice to all the elements involved.  Then at the very end, one final piece is added.  Mitchell throws in BDSM at the last minute into a relationship that had not previously explored this type of sexuality.  It just seems very awkward and out of place.  I could see where she was going with it, and that made sense but it really needed to be introduced much earlier in the book and in their relationship. But as it was I just thought it was a tad strange for them to take it to that level at that time.

So those were my quibbles with this story.  Too many ingredients to give this a 5 star rating.  It was almost there too.  Do I recommend this book? Absolutely, these are wonderful characters and their stories are compelling.  I wish Mitchell would bring out another book in this series because I like where it is going.  Life is never easy, this book reminds of us of that fact.  But there are solutions and answers for everyone, and Life, Over Easy reminds us of that too.  Pick it up and let me know what you think.

Cover by Natalie Winters, interesting but not as interesting as the story within.

Mitchell, K.A.. Life, Over Easy: Fragments, Book 1 . Samhain Publishing, Ltd..

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?