Review: Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft

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Rating 2  stars out of 5

Changing PlanesOliver Sheehan is on his way from Boston to California to marry his long time fiance.  Theirs has been a bicoastal relationship but neither is getting any younger and both feel its time to marry and settle in one place.  Oliver is giving up everything to relocate, his beloved Boston, his friends and his job because of his fiance’s desire to remain in California with her family. Oliver is feeling  more than a little resentful and not as sure of this marriage as he ought to be.  Then he meets Colin Traynor, the flight attendant in his section and the sparks fly.

When Oliver tells his fiance of his doubts, Sophia responds with hers, plus the fact that she has fallen in love with her female coworker, all two days before the wedding. Oliver is angry, relieved and ready to return to Boston, but not without hooking up with Colin first.  A date leads to the men texting and then meeting in Boston.  But is Oliver really ready for a new committed relationship?  Colin doesn’t think so.  It’s up to Oliver to convince the man he wants that he is ready to commit to Colin for the rest of their lives.  Now is only Colin will believe him.

Sigh.  It’s a bad sign when I tell a reader that if they want to read a book, just read the blurb instead and leave it at that.  Such a disappointing story at just about every level.  Giving it a 2 star rating was actually kind and a stretch.  First you have the characters which are oddly unformed and weirdly dislikable.  Oliver is already dithering about the relationship on the plane, saying he loves Sophia in one breath and making declaimer statements about her and their relationship in the next.  Here he is on the plane:

They hadn’t agreed on much of it. She wanted a big wedding with all her family and friends. He had no family— at least none who spoke to him— and none of his so-called friends were willing to travel, so he wanted a small ceremony with only Sophia’s parents and siblings in attendance. She wanted a church wedding. He hadn’t set foot in a church since his parents’ church turned its collective back on him right after his parents threw him out.

Sophia had won all the arguments, including the one about which of them should have to relocate. Her entire family lived in either Sacramento or the Bay Area, and she refused to leave them. As far as she was concerned, the fact that Oliver had no relationship with his family meant he had no reason to stay in Boston. When he’d protested that his job was there, she’d reminded him there were more software technician opportunities in California than in Massachusetts. He’d finally caved, partly because he’d seen no way to win the argument, and partly because love meant giving things up for the other person’s benefit. And he loved Sophia. At least he thought he did.

He just wished he could be sure.

And it goes downhill from there.  Oliver starts flirting with Colin on the plane, not telling him that he’s getting married, then goes to meet his fiance, Sophia, another oddly flat character whose personality never arises above one dimension.  Interestingly enough, both of these characters are supposed to be bisexual, but neither shows any real feeling towards each other or the other gender.  They “say” the sex was hot and the author gives us an extended m/f sex scene to prove it.  However, it falls as flat and unsexy, and quite frankly unbelievable as is their statements.  I am not sure the author really understands what bisexuality means, because it comes across more like the mistaken “one step to gayness” that haunts so many other characterizations of this ilk instead of true bisexuality.  And between these wobbly characters and their treatment of the situation they are in, the reader finds themselves separated from any emotional connection to these people other than a mild disgust and disbelief.

After deciding to call things off two days before the wedding, this is how Sophia decides to tell Oliver she is in love with a women (and tell her conservative family and friends as well):

“What about the reception?” That was one of the most expensive parts of the wedding, judging by the bills and receipts Sophia had shown him. He’d cringed when he’d seen those, but she hadn’t seemed to think they were at all out of line.

“We could still do it.” Her face lit up. “We can have a cancellation party. Or better.” She hesitated again but didn’t appear as nervous. “A coming-out party.”

Oliver’s heart stopped for a second. She knew he didn’t want anyone to know about his encounters with guys in the past. How could she even suggest such a thing?

And her next words were:

“I didn’t mean you.”

That was a bigger bomb than her previous statement. Now Oliver didn’t try to come up with a response. He understood exactly what she meant, and it was too much of a mind-screw for him to think coherently.

“Say something,” she pleaded. “I didn’t mean to hide it from you. I should have told you when you told me about your past. I didn’t want to admit it to you. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but I should have. I haven’t been fair to either of us.”

By now, these characterizations are changing by the minute, think of a new personality trait and they assume it.  What they both come off as is closeted individuals, not realistic bisexuals.  In addition, both Sophia and Oliver are over 30 but it surely doesn’t show in their actions, all of which are colored by a layer of immaturity.   They both decide to invite Colin (after a chance meeting and phone call) and Sophia’s coworker to the reception/coming out party which leads to a disastrous scene with Colin jumping up and lecturing the families on tolerance.  Really?  A stranger jumps up and yells at the families who have been broadsided at a party to celebrate a wedding?   Just one mess after another.  I kept wondering what the author thinks a reader is going to do with all this?  Because the characters I felt compassion for were the friends and families, not any of the MCs blithely running roughshod over feelings and honest expectations.  *shakes head*

Colin is just as unformed and unappealing at Oliver.  Out and proud, he goes along with Oliver to the party knowing what’s coming.  Jumps into a relationship with him, while saying he won’t jump into a relationship with him, etc.  No, Colin is not believable either.  Here he is after Sophia has made her grand announcement to all:

This time, there were fewer insults, but the ones that occurred were still directed at Oliver, as he’d suspected. Somehow it was his fault his fiancée had become interested in a woman. “Excuse me.” Colin’s voice rose above the clamor, and everyone shut up and stared at him. He stood, and Oliver wished he could slide under the table. He had no idea what Colin was doing, and Colin had no idea what he was getting into by standing up to Sophia’s family. “I don’t know any of you, and you don’t know me, and it’s probably a good thing. You can’t turn someone gay. Or bisexual, depending on what Sophia considers herself. Those of you who are sitting here ranting about Oliver have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Oliver cringed. Sophia’s family didn’t take well to “outsiders” as it was, and Colin had probably just made enemies out of all of them. Even Sophia looked appalled.

The insults were along the lines of Oliver being a jerk.  Hmmmm.  Now play that scene over in your head (and that’s pretty much how it plays out in the story).   What would your reaction be?  I suspect that your sympathies will lie everywhere but with Sophia and Oliver as do mine.  Why does the author not see this?  This odd outlook permeates the story, furthering the disconnect with the reader from the plot, the characters, heck all of it.

Towards the end of the book, after a month of texting, Oliver decides he is in love and wants Colin to move in.  Keep in mind they really only had a day together in California, a month of texting, then a day in Boston.

Colin hadn’t said he would give up everything. They hadn’t even said they were going to move in together. His mind was jumping all around the conversation and not waiting for anything definite to be determined.

“You know, we keep saying we aren’t sure about this, but we’re talking as if we are.” Colin took a drink of coffee. “Let’s just say it, okay? We’re good together. I’ve felt it for a while now, and being here with you has proved it. Seeing you last thing last night and first thing this morning seemed more right than anything else in my life lately. We can change our minds if things do fall apart this week, but I want to be with you, Oliver.”

The elderly couple at the next table shot them sharp glances. Oliver glared at them until they went back to their eggs and bacon. This was Massachusetts. Same-sex marriage was legal, same-sex couples existed, and he didn’t care about the opinions of some random old folks he would never see again.

By this time, I am surprised I made it almost through all 196 pages, only to find Oliver still dithering around along with Colin.  I will let you all extrapolate the rest of the story from the bits I gave you and the blurb from the publisher.  The story does mercifully end and we get to leave these characters on the  pages of this book, soon to slip forever out of mind.

I have read at least two other stories by Karenna Colcroft, including Sensei.  That book had some promising ideas as well as intriguing characters in it whereas Changing Planes has neither.  If you wish to read a Karenna Colcroft story I would suggest you pick up that one and leave this where it belongs….on the shelf gathering dust bunnies.

Cover art by Mina Carter.  That cover is just adorable.  So unfortunate that the story inside doesn’t live up to it.

Book Details:

ebook, 196 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Loose Id
ISBN139781623003142
edition languageEn

A Book Giveaway, Riding the Weather Rollercoaster, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So far the Washington Metro area has felt like Seattle, WA, and now we are aiming for Phoenix, AZ.  We have had close to 12 inches of rain in the last month alone, and that doesn’t seem to be letting up as we head towards the middle of July.  Really, folks, nothing like 100 percent humidity for a smokey Fourth of July.  Now the heat wave that baked the western states has hit here as well.  Temperature is rising to 98º today.  Now add to that the fact that the ground squishes with every footstep and a high humidity….well, it is little wonder I expect to see monkeys swinging from the maples at any time.  It is downright tropical outside.  Well ok, we did see a runaway red panda last week that escaped from the National Zoo (now safely back home after a trip to Adams Morgan, a very trendy place).  And a couple of teenage black bears that decided to tour downtown Washington for a suitable condo to live in.  I am betting air-conditioning and a pool were on their list of must haves!   So I am seeing a day spent inside knitting and reading on the agenda for the rest of the day.  I did get my coleus and caladiums bought on sale planted yesterday, as well as some yanking of smartweed but anything else will have to wait until the temperatures go down.

Now on to the exciting week ahead.  Kendall McKenna’s latest release, The Final Line is just out.  It is the another book in her wonderful Recon Diaries series.  On Monday, Kendall McKenna will be here with a guest blog and a book contest.  We will be giving away, courtesy of MLR Press, a copy of The Final Line to one of the people who comment on her blog and my review, which will be posted the next day.  Here is the blurb for the book:

Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. His last deployment ended in horror, but he can’t remember those events. Battling severe PTSD, Corey’s drinking is growing out of control.

Sean Chandler walks into a dive bar, and into Corey’s life. An actor and a musician, Sean has the empathy and compassion to sooth Corey’s pain, and the strength to support him as he struggles to heal.

Corey’s lost memories are pivotal to a civilian murder, and a military investigation. Remembering could mean salvation, or destruction. Will the truth be too much for Sean to handle?

So mark your calendars for July 8 and 9 for your chance to win a copy of this wonderful book!  And thank you, MLR Press and Laura Baumbach for the copies of The Final Line.  Now here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, July 8, 2013:                 Guest Blog with Kendall McKenna, author of The Final Line

Book Contest.  One copy of The Final Line will be given away

Tuesday, July 9, 2013:                  Review of The Final Line, last day to comment for the contest

Wednesday, July 10,2013:          Pickup Men by LC Chase, winner of contest announced

Thursday, July 11, 2013:             Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft

Friday, July 12, 2013:                  Fever Anthology by M. Rode

Saturday, July 13, 2013:              In Pursuit of the Bang On, Well Done, and apparently Endangered Short Story

So that’s our exciting week ahead.  I will leave you with a picture of Winston, recently groomed.  He has settled into our family as though he has

DSCN3917 always been there.  And here is a recipe for a drink to keep this hot weather in its place!  This cocktail is called appropriately Adios Motherfucker or AMF.  I have included the recipe as well as a link to the video on how to make this delicious drink.  A great way to say goodbye heatwave or  anything else to want to get rid of:

Adios Motherfucker CocktailAMF Recipe:

Scale ingredients to servings
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz rum
1/2 oz tequila
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
2 oz sweet and sour mix
2 oz 7-Up® soda

Pour all ingredients except the 7-Up into a chilled glass filled with ice cubes. Top with 7-Up and stir gently.
Read more: Adios Motherfucker recipe http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink735.html#ixzz2YHs7Z756

April 2013 Book Reviews

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Unbelievably, today is the last day  in April and the start of something new for Scattered Thoughts.  I am going to post a summary of each months books reviews on the last day of the month.  Hopefully, this will make it easy to find a new book to read, a book review you might have missed or a book you just might want to reconsider.  It also helps me gather my  Scattered Thoughts when it comes to the year’s Best of in  December.

It was a very good month, with some remarkable stories from new authors and beloved writers and everyone in between.  Trust me, there really is something for everyone here this month:

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           April 2013 Review Summary

5 Star Rating:

Collusion by Eden Winters

On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Beautiful Disaster by Willa Okati (4.25)

Brute by Kim Fielding (4.5)

Fire For Effect by Kendall McKenna (4.5)

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick (4.75)

Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune (4.5)

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout

by Andrea Speed (4.25)

Loving Hector by John Inman (4.25)

Masked Riders by Lucius Parhelion (4.5)

The Fight Within by Andrew Grey (4.5)

The Good Fight by Andrew Grey (4.75)

Unearthing Cole by A.M. Arthur (4.25)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie (3.75)

Love You Like A Romance Novel by Megan Derr (3.5)

Sensei by Karenna Colcroft (3)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Astral Mage by Hurri Cosmo (2.75)

Review: Sensei by Karenna Colcroft

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Rating: 3 stars

Sensei coverIsao Nakamura is a five hundred years old vampire.  He operates a dojo in a neutral territory surrounded by a vampire clan he is at odds with. Isao feeds only on the criminals he comes into contact with and saved many a innocent from the attacks of the vampires around him.  Now his actions threaten the fragile truce he has lived under and all those he has come to care about, including his new adult student James.  James is unaware that his Sensei that he has come to love is a vampire.  Isao returns James’ affections, a perilous idea at best.  Can the Sensei protect James and his dojo or will he lose everything in a final battle?

This is a short story of 73 pages and unfortunately Sensei reads as though we are given just the first several chapters of a much longer book.  The characters are interesting and in Isao Nakamura’s case, we are given to understand that he was once a ninja and that all the ninjas were turned to increase their warrior skills.  But that is our only glimpse of an intriguing backstory and except for one more throwaway sentence, it is forgotten.  Colcroft gives us a vampire clan and again just a marginal understanding of the universe in which they exist.  The small details the author does give us definitely piques the interest for more of her universe making and vampire history but since an overall picture is lacking, it brings the story up short literally.

James is a human without layers or history and that also brings down the interest in the Isao/James union.  Another vampire and former lover of Isao keeps asking the Sensei why James?  What’s so special about him?  But the author never gives him or us a good answer to that question. Again the short length of the story has also hurt her characterizations.

This is a quick read and ends in a HFN with no expectations of a HEA, at least as far as I can tell,  Perhaps the author has a sequel planned, but to bring me back to the table, she will have to bring more history, a more throughly realized universe and characters to the story before I visit here again.

Cover Art by Deana Jamroz is ok.  The design is just ok, but could have been so much better.

Review of Salad On The Side (Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat #1) by Karenna Colcraft

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Kyle Slidell’s company offered him a promotion.  Taking it cost him his boyfriend but offered him a fresh start in a new town with a lot more money. Once Kyle gets situated in his new apartment, his life consists of work, home to sleep and more work, making his life very dull and his days repetitive until he looks out his window into the apartment complex communal garden and spies his gorgeous neighbor naked under the full moon.  He has seen Tobias around the building but has never worked up the courage to speak to him or hardly any of his neighbors really.

Tobias Rogan has watched the new tenant with more than usual interest.  Tobias is drawn to Kyle, and because of the attraction he feels along with his past history, he has intentionally stayed away from him. But on a full moon, standing in the garden, Tobias knows that Kyle is watching him,  wants him  and he decides to act on his emotions. Tobias “accidentally” runs into Kyle in the hallway and invites Kyle over the next day under the cover of meeting all the neighbors in the building.  The pot luck will accomplish several things, first to introduce Kyle around while indicating to those at the party that Kyle is under his protection, and the other is to simply get to know Kyle better.

Kyle finds the party awkward, his new neighbors a little on the strange side, and the actions of one new acquaintance hostile until Tobias intervenes in a manner even stranger.  Kyle realizes that there are secrets being kept from him and he  doesn’t like it.  But after being attacked by a wolf in the garden, Kyle wakes up a werewolf and finds out that he managed to move into a werewolf apartment complex and Tobias is the pack alpha.  What is a vegan to do?

Karenna Colcroft had me at vegan werewolf.  I thought that was an hysterical premise and an original one at that.  This story really shines when Colcroft is letting her imagination run quirky little circles around the typical shifter tale. Colcroft’s description of the pack trying to find vegan foodstuffs for Kyle to eat after he shifts for the first time is great.  Flashes of that offbeat take on werewolves throughout the story had me waiting in anticipation as I turned page after page.  Unfortunately, sometimes it appeared and other times it was submerged under too many words, too many repetitive passages and characterizations that felt a little incomplete.

The story is told from Kyle’s POV and while I appreciated his snarky, intelligent nerdlike outlook, I also found parts of his personality hard to believe in.   This includes his reaction to the fact that Tobias and his pack have just ruined his life, which would have been more believable if it had contained more anger and less passive acceptance, especially coming from a man who hours earlier had told Tobias he wasn’t going to have a relationship with someone who was closeted and obviously hiding something from him.  That man, pre werewolf Kyle, I believed in and understood.  I cannot really say the same about werewolf Kyle.  Tobias, pack Alpha, was another problematic persona. Tobias shifted from one type of character to another so fast that I thought he might have some schizophrenic tendencies.  In one scene, he is the mind controlling Alpha, in the next he is tender lover.  Yes, you can have both  in the same character if you make a good case for the changes in attitude, but the author never really did that with Tobias’ character.  To give the author credit, some of that did smooth out towards the end of the book, but it took far to long for Tobias to get there.  In this particular case, it would have benefitted the story to have told part of it from Tobias’ POV to give the reader  greater insight into the character.

Apart from some issues with characterization, I found the wordiness a little excessive, especially towards the middle of the story.  I appreciate that Colcroft is setting the stage for future stories but the constant dialog about pack politics, rules, etc bogged down the narrative.  Other authors have  woven such details into their stories without hitting you over the head with them, and I wish this author had found a way to do that here.  I hope that now which such backstory out of the way, the next book in the series will move forward at a more sprightly pace.  I would like to see more consistency in the characters as well, so their actions match our expectations given what the author has told us about them.  My last quibble? More of the wonderful humor Karenna Colcroft is capable of.  It’s here, from the great premise to scenes found throughout the story.  It is the reason I will come back for more and read the second and third installments of Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series.  The good here far outweighs my quibbles and make this book worth your while.

Great cover by Winterheart Designs.

Other books in the series available in eBook from MLR Press, Fictionwise, All Romance:

Salad On The Side (Real Werewolves Eat Meat #1)

Tofurkey and Yam (MLR Holiday Release)

Veggie Burgers To Go (Real Werewolves Eat Meat #3)