Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Review: Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape Series) by Z. Allora

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Subtle Inneundos coverMax and Chad fall in love at eighteen and form a band.  That band, Euphoria, rises to the heights of the music charts and popularity in the 80’s.  Although still very much in love, Max and Chad’s romance hit hard times just five years later, due to the pressures of being rock stars and Chad’s addiction to drugs and alcohol.  Both their relationship and the band dissolves in an explosion of pain and betrayal.

Now twenty years later, Max, a wealthy music writer and producer, receives a mix tape from Chad, its message clear.  He wants a reunion with Mac and their old band.  And on New Year’s Eve, the concert Chad had always wanted their band to play.  Will Max take one more chance on a love he has never forgotten or will old wounds keep the lovers separated forever?

Subtle Innuendos is a short story in the Mixed Tape series from MLR Press.  At  64 pages, this is one story that could benefit from a much longer version that the one that was published.   Basically a story of two young lovers reunited after twenty years apart, I felt that Z. Allora had the basic structure for a good story but none of the musculature needed to fill it out.

The story starts in Springtime New York City 1986 when the boys are eighteen then flashes forward to The Present as a forty-five year old Max receives his mix tape in the mail.   The narrative flips back and forth between the past and the present, revealing bits and pieces of the boys lives.  I don’t mind this style of writing, especially when it is well done.  My problem here is that the author doesn’t spend enough time in either era to really give us a taste of the mens relationship or back history.  Instead of depth, what we are given is more in the nature of snippets or flash fiction and that just doesn’t do the job.  Allora tells us about Chad’s addictions and gives us pretty much one scene to demonstrate said addiction.  But in order for us to feel the angst and pain this causes to both men we need much more than casual statement and one explosive outburst.  The same goes for Max’s continued feeling of love for Chad, even after 20 years apart.  Max still has his pictures, and feelings for Chad but those emotions never feel authentic because we are not given the scenes necessary to bring those feelings alive for us.

There just is no depth here, either of characterization or plot.  Had this story been novel or novella length, that would have given Z. Allora the necessary space needed to fill out both characterization and plot, both of which are needed to enrich her story and the reader’s enjoyment as well.  This is a nice story but it could have been wonderful.  Recommended for fans of Z. Allora and the rock star genre.

Cover Art by Deana Jamroz.  Lovely cover, works for the story inside.

Book Details:

Published June 2013 by MLR Press
edition language English

Review: Mixed Tapes Volume #2 Edited by Kris Jacen

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Rating 3.5 stars out of 5

Mixed Tape 2 coverRemember when there was nothing finer than someone putting together a tape of music that meant something to you both.  A song here that brought back memories of a special date or a song there that spelled out the love you had for each other.   That special list of songs on that Mixed Tape told you someone was thinking about you and your relationship with them when putting that list together.  Here is the second volume of songs and the stories that revolve around the relationships forever tied together by musical memories.

Mixed Tape – Volume #2:

“Never Goin’ to Let You Go” by Embry Carlysle
“Living On My Own” by Megan Slayer
“Save Your Love For Me” by Lex Valentine
“Up Where We Belong” by Rob Rosen
“It’s Raining Men” by Diana DeRicci
“How Soon Is Now” by Christopher Koehler

I did not read the first anthology in this series although I love the subject of these two volumes.  I still have locked away somewhere a tape or two that a former boyfriend mixed together for me, tapes that still manage to bring back smiles and perhaps a few tears along with the memories.  Among these stories I have found a new author to love, and several stories to recommend.  I am not sure if any of these stories have companion pieces in the first volume but one story here in particular is sending me back to check.   Here are the stories as they line up in the anthology:

1.  How Soon Is Now by Christopher Koehler.  Rating: 4 stars

Toby Meyer and Derek Tremaine are university undergraduates.  And each has been eyeing the other for months but neither has worked up the courage to approach the other man.  For Derek, past mistakes have made him overly cautious about relationship until the sight of Toby makes Derek want much more with the other man. For Toby, Derek is frustration personified.  He can’t understand why the man won’t ask him out on a date.  One night at a party which change the stalemate Toby and Derek are locked in.  For someone else has his eyes on Toby and Derek must decide to act for both their sakes.

I wished this story had been a little longer but the characters were interesting and endearing.  Derek especially was a interesting take on the “larger man”.  His sense of fashion is an important part of his personality, a trait more often seen in the young quirky characters instead of someone as huge as Derek.  Loved him, and this aspect of the story.  I only wish it has been a little longer and the resolution more drawn out.

2.  It’s Raining Men by Diana DeRicci. Rating: 5 stars

Dallas and his group of friends have come to Paper Dolls to cheer on their friend in the drag queen contest.  But from the moment he lays his eyes on Pepper Prince (aka Peter), the hostess of the club, Dallas knows he must do everything possible to get to know the man on stage.  Pepper Prince has a firm policy to never date any of his “dolls” or members of the audience who comes to see them.  Dallas, however, is impossible to ignore and persistent beyond measure.  When they do finally get together, the sparks fly.  But Peter has been hurt in the past.  Can Dallas overcome Peter’s past to make a future for himself and Peter together?

This is simply an amazing story.  Outstanding characterizations and terrific plot make this story a true standout.  DeRicci layers the story with several couples that you want to know better, along with the point of view of gay man who loves dressing as a woman and being a man.  The author makes Peter such an accessible personality, so well grounded in his beliefs that every reader will be able to understand exactly where Peter is coming from emotionally and applaud him.  Dallas too has so many wonderful strengths and accompanying insecurities that the pair is terrific apart and as a couple.  I simply wanted more of them, and their friends.  This is the best story of the anthology.  I want more in this universe.

3. Up Where We Belong by Rob Rosen. Rating: 3.5 stars

A limousine driver is standing in an airport holding a sign with a name on it – Ted Jackson.  Unfortunately for him, two men with the exact name arrive at the airport at the same time, one from the East Coast and one from the West.  The solution?  Both men take the same car to their hotel and a romance ensues that turns into something much more for them both.

This is a very cute story.  I loved the idea of two men with the same name and one very confused limousine driver.  There are some hot sexy scenes and a quick resolution.  Another case of instant love but here it kind of works.  Short and sweet.

4. Living On My Own by Megan Slayer. Rating 3 stars

Kelsey’s life is in turmoil.  He has just been dumped by his ex who has made awful accusations about him, his sister has trashed the house he let her stay in and he is lonely beyond measure.  Then Daniel Tate shows up, the man Kelsey has never gotten over.  They had a wonderful life before Daniel’s drinking destroyed their relationship.  Now Daniel is back and sober.  Daniel also wants Kelsey back.  Can Kelsey work through all the pain he has been put through and trust Daniel again?  Or will their last chance at a relationship be lost forever?

I liked Kelsey and Daniel well enough,  although I would have appreciated a little more back history on them both.  They were involved in a BDSM relationship and they pick back up on that immediately as soon as Daniel reenters Kelsey’s life.  Kelsey has just been humiliated in public due to a man he trusted, the trust he had previously place in Daniel had been destroyed due to Daniel’s drinking.  So how it is that they pick back up on that part of their relationship immediately given their test issues?  I liked the rest of their story well enough but this issues dragged it down to a 3 star rating.

5. Never Goin’ to Let You Go by Embry Carlysle. Rating: 2 stars

Takes place in Chicago in the 1980’s.  Friends Drake and Shane come to grips with each other and their sexuality.  Drake is gay and unashamedly so.  Shane is sure that he is straight to the point of making fun of gays and throwing around gay slurs.  Shane is also attracted to Drake which confuses him and makes him act out in a cowardly fashion.  Months and months go by and the miscommunications and misplaced emotions pile up.  Can Drake and Shane break through Shane’s self imposed barriers to have the relationship they want with each other?

Sigh.  I almost didn’t make it through this story.  It feels impenetrably long, like slogging through molasses on a cold day.   The writing is overly dense, the same issues repeated innumerable times throughout the story until the reader just doesn’t care any longer how the boys resolve their problems to have any sort of relationship.   Shane particularly is not a likable or endearing character.  I am not sure why the author feels like the reader should connect with him,  Instead we are left thinking that Drake should have moved on eons ago.  My least favorite story of the group.

6.  Save Your Love by Lex Valentine. Rating 2.5 stars

Starts out May 1987 in San Jose, California.  On his 18th birthday, Jay Sparks loses his virginity and finds out he is gay at a rock festival. Jay also discovers that Matt Langdon, his friend and first lover is also his forever love.  But it will be years and many different paths and lovers for each of them before they will be ready to take the chance on a relationship and a forever love.

I just couldn’t connect with these characters, however much I wanted to.  Jay, now a rock star, and Matt, a firefighter, keep meeting, usually on birthdays, having sex and telling each other how much they love each other.  They also  have to tell each other they just got tested and when was the last time they slept with someone else.  Conversations then occur where they deny their many lovers mean anything and that they know this causes each other pain.  *head desk*  Nothing about their relationship or feelings felt very realistic or believable,  When Jay says “I don’t understand how I can be with other guys when loving you feels so right, ” well, by that time I really didn’t care.  Far too short to make the reader engaged in such a relationship.  My penultimate least favorite story in this anthology.

Book Details:

ebook, 253 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by MLR Press
ISBN 1020130092
edition languageEnglish
seriesMixed T