February 2014 Summary of Reviews and Best Covers of the Month

Standard

clipart_feb07_thermometer

February

February 2014 Review Summary

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

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

*****************************************************************
5 Star Rating:

Be My Valentine, Bobby Bryson by Geoffrey Knight C, short story
Lying With Scorpions by Aleksandr Voinov, S, SF
Of Last Resort by Megan Derr, S, F

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller (4.5) F, S
Bloody Love Spats by Valentina Heart (4.25) S, SP
Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowen Speedwell (4) SP
Kept Tears by Jana Denardo (4), F
It’s All Geek To Me by J.L. Merrow (4.25) C
It’s Only Make Believe by Havan Fellows (4.25) C
Reviewing Life by Lara Brukz (4), S, C
Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley (4.25) C
Strain by Amelia C. Gormley (4) S, SF
Succulent Dark by D. J. Manley (4.25), S, SP
The Experiment by Alicia Nordwell (4), S, SF
Where You Lead by Mary Calmes (4), C

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Cupcakes by Sean Michael (3.5) C
Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman (3.75), C
Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg (3.75) SP
The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines,  (3) HR, SP

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Nightfall by Jenna Byrnes (2.75) S, SP

1 to 1.75 Rating: None

Best Covers of February 2014

The Experiment coverWhere You Lead coverJasper's MountainKept Tears cover

ItsAllGeekToMe_600x900Pretty Poison coverBloody Love spats coverGhosts of Bourbon Street

*******************************************************************************

Bloody Love Spats, Cover artist Maria Fanning
Ghosts of Bourbon Street, cover artist Jared Rackler
It’s All Geek To Me, cover art by LC Chase
Jasper’s Mountain, cover art by Reese Dante
Pretty Poison, cover art by Lou Harper
Kept Tears, cover by Paul Richmond
The Experiment, cover art by Christine Griffin
Where You Lead, cover art by Reese Dante

Review: Static by LA Witt

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Static coverDamon Bryce and Alex Nichols have been together for two years and while things have not always been easy, they remain deeply in love.  But Alex has a secret, one that she has been afraid to tell Damon because she is sure it will cost her his love.  Alex Nichols is a shifter, one of  a small percentage of the population able to switch genders at will.  Shifters are discriminated against, considered less than equal by the rest of the “static” population.  Being known as a shifter could cost Alex not only Damon but her job as well so Alex kept silent.  Then she is drugged and a black market implant surgically inserted to prevent her from shifting.  Now Alex has become a static, a one gender person,  but in her male form. The truth is out and the ramifications for Alex are crushing.

Damon is deeply in love with his girlfriend Alex.  Then he finds out that Alex is a shifter in the worst way possible for them both, when he confronts a man in his girlfriend’s apartment and finds out that man is Alex. Not only has Alex lied about who she is but now that Alex is male, Damon feels bereft of his fiance and best friend too.  Damon has always thought of himself as straight.   He still loves Alex, just not in the same way he used to.  Damon won’t abandon Alex to face the decisions ahead of him alone.  The surgery to remove the implants is both costly and dangerous.  And Alex’s insurance won’t cover the procedure.  Damon gives Alex the support he needs but can Damon give Alex all the support in every way possible that Alex wants?

Alex must decide to accept being forever a static male or to try for the expensive surgery and the slim chance that he will be able to shift once more. As Alex faces an uncertain future, Damon must decide if he is able to love Alex, the person inside the body Alex is in, including a male one.  So much about their future is risky and unpredictable.  Can their love surmount all obstacles including gender?  Alex and Damon are about to find out.

LA Witt’s Static is not only one of the best stories I have read this year, it is also one of the most timely.  We live in an era where gender issues, especially those of transgender people, are prominent both in the media and the judicial system.  New laws are being written daily to promote equality for transgendered people and those of gender fluid identities.  And for every new law written and steps forward, there is an equal number legislated to oppose those measures and gender equality.  In my opinion, the most important weapons in the battle for equality for LGBTQ community are knowledge, education, and awareness.  Static by LA Witt brings that knowledge and awareness home in a story that renders the reality of gender and gender based issues beautifully, factually and emotionally.

I have always admired the author’s ability to create living, breathing characters that resonate with her readers but in Damon, Alex, Jordan, Sam,and Tabby, shifters and trans characters, LA Witt has gone farther, delved deeper with her characters so as to give us such fully actualized people, depicted so psychologically and physically real that we never question not only the authenticity of a shifter gender but their universe as well.

Just the beginning of the book is so emotionally devastating as Damon confronts a stranger in his girlfriend’s apartment, already assuming the worst about the situation. The reader is thrown into the anguish of the moment along with Damon and Alex.  All the fear, anger, hurt, betrayal, confusion of both people is revealed in painstaking detail leaving the reader transfixed by their anger as well as love for one another.  Witt uses alternating points of view from Damon and Alex to  pull the reader into their thoughts and feelings as the characters change and adapt to the events around them.  This format forces us to look at the situation with the emotions and perspective of both characters.  As the implant and it’s ability to freeze Alex into one gender impacts each person, we see not only Alex reeling from the reality of a one gender existence but also Damon’s (and  ours) inability to truly understand what that means for Alex mentally, physically as well as emotionally.  Can anyone who is “static” ever truly understand the both the physiological and psychological dynamics of  the transgendered or gender fluid community?  I am not sure but the author’s narrative goes a long way towards furthering that understanding and acceptance.  Here is Jordan, a shifter friend of Damon’s trying to help him see a part of the situation that Alex is going through:

Most statics have no frame of reference.  No way to understand what its like putting on high heels when your minds wants to be male or getting a hard-on when you are itching to be female.  And don’t even get me started on the body having a period while the brain is male,” She tapped her thumb on the blotter a few times, then went on.  “It’s hard to explain, but….well, you know that feeling when you’ve been wearing a pair of dress shoes half the day, and they start getting uncomfortable? And then they get to the point where they’re so fucking miserable, you can’t think of anything except taking them off?”

I nodded.

“Now imagine that pair of shoes is your whole damned body, and now there’s an implant that won’t let you take off those shoes.  If I had to guess, that’s what this is like for Alex.”

That is an accessible and useful way to start Damon and the reader along the path to understanding part of terrible pain the implant is inflicting upon Alex.  And although Alex is focus of the implant’s destructive design, we also feel Damon’s pain and confusion as he tries to accept that his “female” fiancé is now and perhaps permanently male, something  this very straight man never thought he would have to deal with.  All the internal  arguments, all the justifications and excuses he offers himself when he thinks of jettisoning his relationship with Alex are laid out for us to examine and work through ourselves.  Is the person the body they inhabit?  Is it their body we love?  Or do we love the person inside no matter what exterior they present to us.  It is an old and yet relevant argument.  And we watch as Damon has to find his own answers to that question, something that Alex realizes as well:

“I knew full well this was a lot for him.  It was quite possibly as difficult for him to accept that I was a shifter as it was for me to accept that I was now static.”

Just one of many powerful moments in a story full of them, strung along like pearls on a necklace that only gets more exquisite and individually unique upon closer observation and inspection.

Witt also brings in different elements of society to reflect the current status and  society’s perceptions of shifters within that culture.  Alex’s implant is the result of her mother’s and her mother’s pastor’s actions.  Just like those ministries who believe that they can “de gay” a homosexual through interventions and horrific ex gay therapies (now being banned in certain states), Alex’s mother and stepfather are members of a radical fundamentalist faith who believe they are doing “God’s will”.    If these characters come across as horribly real, it’s only because we have heard them in our media espousing their beliefs with nauseating fervor. Their actions and beliefs are chilling whether they are in fiction or on our cable news.

This is a love story, where one’s perception of love undergoes as fundamental change as one does transforming from one gender to another.   The romance is slow, sweet and absolutely rewarding.

I loved this story and cannot recommend it enough.  Consider Static and its great cover one of Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2014 in a year that has just gotten started.

Cover by LC Chase.  What an incredible cover, it’s riveting and gorgeous. Perfect in every way.  One of the best of 2014.

Book Details:

ebook, 283 pages
Published January 20th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 17th 2011)

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Covers of 2013

Standard

best-teen-books-2013-1024x255

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Book Covers of 2013

What is a book without its cover? That’s a question that gets asked more frequently in this age of eBooks and ePublishing.  For myself and, I think, many others, book covers are still the marquee for an author’s story, the path to a book and the delights found inside. ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords loves, loves book covers and the artists that work so hard to bring the author’s stories to life. Whether it is through photography or illustration or any combination thereof, 2013 had outstanding covers in every genre.  There are series whose covers are always marvelous, rich in design and emotion.  There were stand alone novels whose covers drew you into the story and beyond.  Here are some of the covers in 2013 that made me gasp, made me laugh and made me wish I had a copy of it for my wall:

Outstanding Contemporary Novel Covers:

Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling, Cover by Anne Cain
Illuminations by Rowen Speedwell, Cover by LC Chase
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Still by Mary Calmes, cover by Reese Dante
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown, Cover by Christine Griffin
Venetian Mask by Kim Fielding, Cover by Shobana Appavu

Fire Horse coverIllumination cover

LostAndFound_500x750

Still cover

 

 

 

 

The Sky Is Dead cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Historical Novel Covers:

On A Lee Shore by Elin Gregory, Cover by Mina Carter
Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane, Cover by John Kicksee

On A Lee Shore cover

Promises Made Under Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Humorous Cover:

Shy by John Inman, Cover art by Paul Richmond.
Too Stupid Too Live by Anne Tenino, Cover by LC Chase
When Dachshunds Ruled The Serengeti by Michael Murphy, Cover by Paul Richmond

Shy coverWhen Wiener Dogs Rule coverToo Stupid To Live cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Fantasy Cover:

Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon, Cover by Fiona Jayde
Goblins by Melanie Tushmore, Cover by  Ria Chantler
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, Cover by Lou Harper

Goblins, Book 1

Too Many Fairy Princes

Faire Fugitive

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Paranormal/Supernatural Covers:

Creature Feature by Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison, Cover by Paul Richmond
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune, Cover by Paul Richmond, Kyle Thompson
Josh of the Damned by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase
Strange Angels by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase

Creature Feature cover

Into This River I Drown

Josh of the Damned The Final Checkout

Strange Angels cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Horror Cover:

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin, Cover by Amy Morrison
The Beast Without by Christian Baines, Cover by David P. Reiter

Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men coverThe Beast Without cover

 

\

 

 

 

Outstanding Science Fiction Cover:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean, Cover by Trace Edward Zaber
Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick, Cover by Anne Cain
Mindscape by  Tal Valante, Cover by LC Chase

Aria of the Eclipse cover

Freedom cover

Mindscape_500x750

 

 

 

 

 

YA Cover Series:

Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton. Guidebook Series, Covers by LC Chase
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton

Vampirism and You cover

Necromancy and You cover

 

 

 

 

 

Consistently Outstanding Series Covers:

Leopard’s Spots by Bailey Bradford, Covers by Posh Gosh

Infected Series by Andrea Speed, Cover artist Anne Cain

TimothyNischal Leopards Spots 9

Infected Undertow coverInfected Shift cover

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

Standard

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

Scattered Thoughts Best Book Covers of 2012

Standard

Once again its time to talk book covers and book cover design.  I have talked previously about my favorite covers from childhood and how the mere sight of a great cover in the window of a bookstore would draw me in like the scent of cheese to a mouse.  If the cover is the magnet the publisher and author uses to attract readers, there are certain principles of design that used to be taken into consideration to make that cover the one that grabs peoples attention, that yells look at me, that makes them want to know what that book is about.

For printed books, the designer has to look at several things such as book size, typographic palette (how blocks of text are located on a cover), book covers, book spines and fonts. With respect to eBooks, spines aren’t relevant, nor is book size, at least how it is normally used in the publisher world. It’s not the actual physical size that matters here with eBooks but that readers are often looking at a smaller graphic when choosing eBooks.  So now smaller has to make an even greater impact.  All the other design elements remain the same.  Book covers, whether for print or electronic books, must be compelling enough to make the reader to choose that book, to persuade the customer that what is inside is fascinating, marvelous stuff.

Another rule is that the book cover should match the book it is being designed for. Whether the design is simple or rich in detail, elegant or street tough, uses a cover model or an illustration, there should be no disconnect between the subject matter inside and out.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought nice cover but what does it have to do with the subject of the book? And it if is a book series, then all the covers should be similar enough to brand each book a part of a series, one glance tells you who the author is and what series you are reading (ex. Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series with a singular object on the cover). A great book cover makes you anticipate, endows you with a need to discover.

On every review I write I also mention the covers and the cover artists.  There are always some cover artists who continue to turn out one enticing cover after another, there are some artists you  can identify just by looking at the style of the design or paintings on the cover (Paul Richmond, Posh Gosh). And then this year saw a new artist or two whose cover reached out with it’s compelling designs and emotional overtones.  This  year also saw a trend towards retro illustrations and design which I loved and others whose richness in color and detail left me gasping in delight.  It was hard to narrow the covers down as there were so many worthy of mention, so I did break it down into a few categories.

So here they are, Scattered Thoughts Best Covers of 2012(with apologies in advance for the formatting problems):

Historical Novels:

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset/Artist Anne Cain

The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade / Artist Reese Dante

The Celestial by Barry Brennessel/ Artist Winterheart Designs

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch2

The Mystery of Ruby Lode 2

The Celestial 2

]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Novels:

Acrobat by Mary Calmes/ Artist Anne Cain

Mine by Mary Calmes/Artist Anne Cain

Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane/Artist Paul Richmond

Sidecar by Amy Lane/Artist Shoshana Appavu

Time Gone By by Jan Suzukawa/Artist Anne Cain

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C/Artist Reese Dante

Acrobat2

Mine 2

Mourning Heaven 2

 Sidecar2

Wake me up inside  2

Turkey in the Snow cover

Time Gone By cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy/Supernatural Novels:

The Ronin and The Fox by Cornelia Grey/Artist Nathie

A Token of Time by Ethan Day/Artist Winterheart Design

roninandthefox_2

A Token of Time 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Novels:

Burn by TJ Klune/Artist Catt Ford

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature by Andrea Speed/Artist LC Chase

Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne/Artist P.L. Nunn

Burn2

Riotboy2

Josh of the Damned TripleFeature2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series:

Infected Series by Andrea Speed/ Artist Anne Cain

Knitting series by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford/Artist Posh Gosh

Lost Gods by Megan Derr/Artist London Burdon

Gilbert 2

Stone Rose 2

Infected Lesser Evils 2

How to Raise An Honest Rabbit cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were so many others I wished to include and I know you have your favorites too.  Write and let me know who you feel should have been on that list (King Perry, Fallout to name a few that came close).  Check out the individual reviews to see the covers in greater detail and read about the books they so beautifully covered!

Play It Again Charlie cover