A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Story Review: Elf on the Beach by TJ Nichols

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryRoone is an elf who is on his one year elf mission during which he gets to decide if he wants to remain human forever, or if he wants to return to the North Pole to work in the “family business.”  It’s two weeks before New Year’s Eve, the last day of his mission, when he finds himself on the beach in Australia, taking surfing lessons from his gorgeous instructor, Kyle.

Roone has the hots for Kyle and is determined to learn how to surf. He’s equally determined to put a smile on Kyle’s face and help him find the magic of Christmas. Raised in foster homes, Kyle has no recollection of Christmas being anything but lonely and sad. He was never given anything he wanted, especially the gift of his mother coming back for him.

But Roone’s happiness and belief in the magic of Christmas is contagious, and Kyle begins to have little glimpses of what might be when Roone reveals he’s an elf.  The untrusting side of Kyle is dominant, however, and that may mean the end of Roone’s chance for a little more happiness before he leaves.  Or is it the end?  Readers will enjoy this tale as we see just how powerful belief can be.

I like the twist the author gave to the elves having their chance for a one year mission before deciding to work at the North Pole.  And I love the way the magic slowly happened in the story, and the ending was surprising and fun.  I also enjoyed the engaging characters and the non-traditional (no snow) setting.  This is a great little stocking stuffer to put a little magic in someone’s heart.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 41 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634769594
edition languageEnglish
series Sleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

Holiday Reading and Reviews- Yes, Virginia, Its December 1!

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This year Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is reading and reviewing many holiday stories, among them the Advent collection from Dreamspinner; Sleigh Ride.  We will roll out one a day for 31 days, starting December 1st, today.  Here is a little bit more information about the Dreamspinner Advent collection which includes stories about things less than traditional.

Sleigh Ride Advent Story

Sleigh Ride…

The course of true love can be a bumpy, up-and-down, and sideways ride, but the end-of-the-year holidays are perfect for happy endings! Whether they’re finding a new romance or rekindling an old one, the men in these stories get some help from the magic of the season. Some of them might need a miracle to muddle through the conflicts and confusion that arise, but luckily for them, ‘tis the season. From naughty fun, to heartfelt and heart-wrenching reunions, to out-of-this-world adventures, these guys are in for quite a ride.

Holiday reading fun! Sleigh Ride is a package of 31 stories:

An Assassin’s Holiday by Dirk Greyson
The Beary Best Holiday Party Ever by B.G. Thomas
Best Laid Trap by Rob Rosen
Blame It on the Fruitcake by Pat Henshaw
A Certain Kind of Holiday by Andi Van
Christmas Miracles of a Recently Fallen Spruce by Brandon Witt
Elf on the Beach by TJ Nichols
Fireworks and Resolutions by Leandra Dohman
Four Alternative Christmas Presents by Tam MacNeil
Grateful by Kim Fielding
Hapless by Therese Woodson
Hearth and Home by E.T. Malinowski
Holiday Hotel Hookup by Jeff Adams
Home Is Where The Christmas Trees Are by CJane Elliott
Kismet by Cassie Decker
Leap Through Eternity by Sara Stark
Loving and Loathing Vegas by Lex Chase
Menorahs and Mistletoe by Jess Roth
Mission Mistletoe by Jessica Payseur
Northern Lights by Asta Idonea
Not the Best Day by Brynn Stein
Nøtteknekkeren by Felicitas Ivey
Old Acquaintance by Avon Gale
Somewhere to Be by Amy Yip
Son of Santa by Kate Sands
Talk Turkey by Bru Baker
Teddy Bear Christmas by CC Bridges
A Trip to Remember by Meg Harding
Unto Us the Time Has Come by Sean Michael
Whispers of Old Winds by George Seaton
Worth the Wait by Caitlin Ricci & Cari Z.

Review: A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A Small Miracle Happened cover DonneA job opportunity just brought Daniel Sobel to a small Midwestern town, a move he is now regretting. The location and population of his new place has quickly made Dan feel like the only Jewish gay man in a small Midwestern town, especially with the approach of Hanukkah. Dan is feeling isolated and lonely, removed from his large Jewish family and his culture. The only welcoming sight is his new neighbor’s rainbow flag hung in the window of the condo next door, the only color in a sea of blandness.  On the first night of Hanukkah, Dan is missing the items he needs to celebrate Hanukkah, things that cannot be purchased in this small town. But with a ring of a doorbell and a misplaced package everything changes.

Christian Parsons, neighbor and owner of the rainbow flag, is standing at his door holding a package from Dan’s grandmother. Inside is a menorah, candles— a dreidel, some chocolate coins, and a tin of cookies shaped like a Star of David. Delighted and overcome with the love and warmth of family,   Dan invites Christian in and is soon explaining the meaning of the contents of the box and Hanukkah. Chris is unfamiliar with the Jewish religion and its holidays but if it means he can spend time with Dan, he happily accepts.  Soon the men are spending each night together, lighting a candle and discovering more about each other.  Flirting turns to fun and games and then something deeper.  What will happen when the eight days of Hanukkah are over?

A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne is a lovely, warmhearted romance set against the backdrop of the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.  Two young men, one Christian (literally) and one Jewish, have recently moved into neighboring condos.  Dan and Chris are people out of place in this homogeneous Midwestern town, one by religion and both by their sexuality.  The author employs the much used plot device of a “misdirected package” to bring Dan and Chris together then turns that happening into a story richly textured with the story of Hanukkah and Dan’s warm and loving Jewish family.

I loved the manner in which Mari Donne relays the facts behind Hanukkah and the elements associated with the holiday, from the menorah (in all its aspects) to the making of the latkes.  Its all gently incorporated into the story with an appreciation and love for Jewish ritual and Judaism.  That’s not to say its not without its humor, because there is plenty of that to be found within A Small Miracle Happened as well.  The meaning behind the letters found on the side of a top called a dreidel are revealed during a very sexy game of “Strip dreidel.” And the nightly dinners, researched and cooked by Chris, are used to define and explore kashrut law, keeping kosher as it were.

As Dan teaches Chris, the reader unfamiliar with Hanukkah and Judaism learns as well.  It’s a wonderful technique, lovingly employed here by Donne.  It enriches the story while adding depth to the characters.  I loved both Dan and Chris, neither of which is the typical gorgeous gay single guy.  Dan is overexcitable, family oriented and comfortable in his homosexuality.  Chris is none of those things.  Chris’ family is not eager to accept his gayness and is just as happy for him not to appear at the Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations at home.  Chris is tall, awkward, and shy.  Yet Donne makes their relationship and attraction believable and endearing.

A Small Miracle Happened is a short story at 79 pages but the author makes the most of this length to deliver a story that feels much larger in heart and scope.  It has been divided into eight chapter, one for each night of Hanukkah.  And then the author goes one step further and gives the reader a delightful epilogue that made the story even better.  I try my best to avoid the avalanche of overly saccharine stories that appear at this time of the year and I know I am not alone in that.  But A Small Miracle Happened is that marvelous seasonal read that sidesteps most of the holiday story pitfalls while retaining the charm and joy of the season.  I loved A Small Miracle Happened and think you will too.  Make it part of your holiday reading list.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by April Martinez is simple and effective.  I thought it was perfect for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 79 pages
Published November 26th 2013 by Loose Id
original title: A Small Miracle Happened
ISBN13 9781623006372
edition language English

Amy Lane’s “Christmas Kitsch” Blog Tour and Spotlight Stop!

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords welcomes Amy Lane, stopping by on her Christmas Kitsch Book Tour.  Here are a few words  from Amy and her phrase for this stop on the tour.  My review is up tomorrow but I will tell you all right now this story is one of Scattered Thoughts Best of 2013!
The Scavenger Hunt– 
 
In addition to the Riptide giveaway, I’m having a scavenger hunt on my own blog.  At the beginning of the blog tour, I’ll publish the tour dates on Yarning to Write.   For every stop on the tour I’ll have a “phrase” for the scavenger hunt.  At the end of the tour, I’ll put up a post for the people who have found the phrases.  If you comment — and then send me an e-mail with six of the twelve phrases and your address!– I’ll send you some Christmas Kitsch swag.  The post collecting the winners will go up on the 13th (the day of the last stop on the tour) and you will have a week to go read all of the tour stops and collect your phrases.  The hunt closes on December 21st, at the end of the day and I’ll get your swag into the mail between Christmas and New Years!  (Hopefully after I get my own Christmas cards out in the mail. I’m not known for my punctuality, I’m afraid;-)  Look below for today’s phrase!

Today’s phrase:

And don’t forget to collect “The Millionth Kiss Rocks” for the scavenger hunt on Amy’s blog on December 14th!

Riptide contest details:

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Enter your details in the Rafflecopter below to gain entry in the *Home for the Holidays* giveaway! This week of the tour closes at midnight, EST, on December 13th. Then, one grand prize winner will be contacted at the end of the Home for the Holidays tour on December 16th. Contest is valid worldwide.

Enter here at Riptide Publishing Rafflecopter Link

 Christmas Kitsch Blurb:

Christmas Kitsch coverSometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.


20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/.

Bio:

Amy Lane has children, pets, consuming hobbies, an amazing spouse, and a very dirty house.  The only time she does housework is Christmas, so that children, pets, spouse, hobbies, and home may exist in peace on hearth for at least once a year.

Feel free to visit Amy in the following places:

Blog: www.writerslane.blogspot.com

Website: www.greenshill.com

Twitter: @amymaclane

FaceBook: Amy Lane

FaceBook Fan Group: Amy Lane Anonymous

Or to contact her at: amylane@greenshill.com

Ally Blue Contest and Guest Blog for “Long The Mile”

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to have Ally Blue with us today to talk about her latest release, the moving story Long the Mile for Riptide Publishing.  We have a contest to go along with Ally’s guest blog.  The contest details and the Rafflecopter links are listed at the bottom of today’s post. Now, let’s welcome Ally Blue!

Hi folks! I’m Ally Blue, and I’m wandering the internet this week talking about my new book, Long the Mile, part of the Home for the Holidays collection from Riptide Publishing. I’m super excited about this book, not only because I love the characters and the setting (Asheville, NC; my town!) but also because it’s raising money for the Ali Forney Center for homeless GLBTQ youth. It’s a wonderful cause

When my lovely and fabulous editor, Dr. Sarah Frantz, first contacted me about being a part of this Christmas collection, I was interested for a whole list of reasons. First of all, I already knew and respected Sarah as a romance fiction scholar and as a person, so that went a long way. Also, I’d heard good buzz about Riptide both from a reader and an author perspective. Always a good thing. The thing that probably sealed the deal was that twenty percent of the proceeds both from each individual book and from the collection go to the Ali Forney Center. How could I pass that up? The answer is, I could not.

After saying “YES! A thousand times, yes!” the next question was what to write? It needed to be a gay (in this case, m/m) romance. It needed to have a Christmas setting, with a theme of “home” in whatever way I wanted to interpret it. When I started pondering, I found that the answer came to me easily. I was going to take the theme very literally, incorporate our chosen charity, and write about homeless characters who are finding their homes again, both physically and emotionally. Thus Judah Jackson and Tobias Simensen were born.

The setting was easy too. Asheville is a wonderful, colorful, fantastic city, and like every city, we have too many people living day to day without any permanent shelter. I can’t tell anyone’s true story. All I can do is invent one. Or in this case, two. But I wanted to set this book in Asheville. I wanted to imagine what it might be like for my two guys – one who had been homeless for a while, and one who goes from rich to homeless during the book – to meet, get to know each other, and fall in love while living on the street. I wanted to consider how their situation would affect their relationship, and how that relationship would change when the situation changed.

I have to say, I’m pleased with how the book turned out. I hope all of you will be too Thank you so much for stopping by to read today! Enjoy Long the Mile, and all the other books in the Home for the Holidays collection!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
LongTheMile_500x750About Long the Mile:

Sometimes it takes losing everything to find what you really need.

When Judah went to prison for insider trading, he lost everything he thought was important: his business, his money, his power. But when he gets out, homelessness strips him of the one thing he has left: his self-respect. When another homeless man saves him from a beating, he begins to learn to rely on the goodness of those around him.

For Toby, life on the streets has become familiar. Comfortable. So comfortable he wonders if he’s given up on changing his life for the better. Then comes Judah. Formerly rich, newly homeless, all his pride and attitude gone along with his material possessions. Helping Judah feels good. Their unexpected connection—physical and beyond—feels even better.

Their shared situation nurtures a growing closeness that blossoms into something deeper. But when change comes knocking, it will take all their strength to keep fear and insecurity from tearing them apart.

  • 20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/.

Author Bio:
Ally Blue is acknowledged by the world at large (or at least by her heroes, who tend to suffer a lot) as the Popess of Gay Angst. She has a great big suggestively-shaped hat and rides in a bullet-proof Plexiglas bubble in Christmas parades. Her harem of manwhores does double duty as bodyguards and inspirational entertainment. Her favorite band is Radiohead, her favorite color is lime green and her favorite way to waste a perfectly good Saturday is to watch all three extended version LOTR movies in a row. Her ultimate dream is to one day ditch the evil day job and support the family on manlove alone. She is not a hippie or a brain surgeon, no matter what her kids’ friends say.

Connect with Ally on the interwebs: Twitter    Facebook profile    Facebook fan page    Tumblr    Pinterest    Fiction With Friction group blog   Goodreads   Love Is Blue Yahoo group

LongTheMile_150x300 tour blog jpgContest Details:

Ally’s giveaway:
Comment on this post or any of the other posts in the tour, and you’ll be entered to win an ebook copy of Demon Dog, book one in my Mojo Mysteries series. I’ll pick a winner on December 1st at 5 p.m. EST. Contest is valid worldwide.

Enter your details in the Rafflecopter below and leave a blog post comment to gain entry in the *Home for the Holidays* giveaway! This week of the tour closes at midnight, EST, on November 30th. One grand prize winner will be contacted at the end of the tour on December 16th. Contest is valid worldwide.

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Reviews of Last Tree Standing by Julia Talbot and Yes, Darling by Dawn Kimberly Johnson

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Continuing my reviews of the Dreamspinner 2012 Advent Stories, here are two sweet stories for your Holiday Reading:

Last Tree STanding

Last Tree Standing by Julia Talbot

Rating: 3.75 stars

When Foster needs a Christmas tree at the last minute for his roommate’s little girl, he went to the only Christmas tree lot in town that still had a tree for sale.  But someone else got there and needed a tree too.  Dr. Levi McBride is in desperate need of a tree for the children in his cancer ward at the hospital when their supplier failed to show up.  Both men need the tree and work out a deal that will not only get each man the Christmas tree he needs, but just perhaps that romantic love both have been searching for.

Last Tree Standing is a sweet, endearing short story about two men finding each other at Christmas time.  Foster and Levi are both such lovely men and the mission they re on is a wonderful one, they each need a tree so as not to disappoint children at Christmas,  One for his roommate’s daughter whose dad didn’t pick her up for Christmas as planned and the other for sick children in a hospital.  As they compromise and find a solution to both their problems, the attraction between them grows until by the end of the night, they realize that they are also perfect for each other.  A short story with its heart in the right place.

 

 

Yes, DarlingYes, Darling by Dawn Kimberly Johnson

Rating: 3 stars

Coby Darling is back in town and his former lover, Baker Brockton is surprised to see him.  It has been a year since Coby left town after breaking up with Baker over his closeted status.  Coby wanted Baker to acknowledge that Coby was his boyfriend and Baker wanted to keep their relationship hidden as well as the fact that Baker was gay.  Now Coby is back to see if Baker has changed his mind and ready to renew their relationship if he has.

Baker is still firmly in the closet but Coby gives him one last chance at love.  Will Baker take it or will  Coby leave, this time for good?

I really wanted to like this story more than I did.  Johnson gives us two characters, only one of whom I liked.  The other, Baker, was just too much a cardboard character for me to make that job into believing his reasons to be closeted and for cutting off Coby to begin with.  Just the fact that Baker says he still loves Coby but is furious that the demands to be to be out are the same just didn’t make any sense.  And the device Johnson used to bring Baker to his senses was not radical enough for me to believe his change of heart.  Still, if you want to look no further than a simple love story between two young men who love each other above all odds, this just might be the one for you.

December is here, the year is almost over and the week ahead in Reviews

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Every year seems to go by more quickly than the last and 2012 is almost gone.  It has been a tumultuous time here at home,  in Maryland, and the entire northeast.  From the scorching heat and drought of the spring and summer months to the recent Derechos which brought high winds and flooding, it has been a regular smorgasbord of geological happenings and meteorological events.  We have had a major earthquake  from which the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument and other buildings have still not recovered from.  A heat wave and drought that killed much of the harvest from land and sea, with water levels down from lack of rain and snow to heat which baked the land and everyone on it.  We had high winds, tornados and of course flooding that still did not mitigate the low water table.  Really, 2012 has been our version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and it’s not over yet.

Amazingly it was a year ago yesterday when I rolled out by my first blog, scrambling to get my feet under me and figure out what I wanted to say, what I wanted to review, and everything in between.  It took me a while to get my voice and now the mutterings can’t stop!  The thoughts keep tumbling out, rolling over one another like pebbles in a stream caught in a swift current, some concerned with vocabulary, others focused on eBook covers and design and more still on book content, reviews to be exact.  I hope I have helped some of you find your way to new authors or rediscover old ones that you have forgotten.  Later this month I will be rolling out my Best of 2012 lists, from Books to Covers.  I bet you have been making your lists too.  Let me know what book(s) is on them, and do you have a favorite cover artist, like Anne Cain, or even a favorite model?  Inquiring minds and all that.

So here’s to the beginning of the end of 2012.  I love this time of year, so much to reflect on and yet so much still to look forward to, including the holidays no matter which one you celebrate.  I’ll be talking to you soon.  In the meantime, look what’s coming up this week:

Monday, 12/3:                             Private Dicks:Undercovers Anthology

Tuesday, 12/4:                             The Journal of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary #6) by RJ Scott

Wed, 12/5:                                    Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart #4) by Mary Calmes

Thursday, 12/6:                           Too Careful By Half, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga

Friday, 12/7:                                 Eight Days by C. Cardeno (a Christmas story)

Sat., 12/8                                         3 Dreamspinner Christmas Advent Calendar stories

So now I will leave you with a Vodka Christmas Cake recipe. You simply have to try this…

Once again this year, I’ve had requests for my Vodka Christmas Cake recipe, so here goes.

Please keep in your files as I am beginning to get tired of typing this up every year!

(Made mine this morning!!!!)

1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
Nuts
1…bottle Vodka
2 cups dried fruit
Sample a cup of Vodka to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality then Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.
At this point, it is best to make sure the Vodka is still OK. Try another cup just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eegs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the fruit up off the floor, wash it and put it in the bowl a piece at a time trying to count it. Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit getas stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a drewscriver Sample the Vodka to test for tonsisticity.

Next, sift 2 cups of salt, or something. Check the Vodka. Now slift… shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don’t forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window.

Finish the Vodka and wipe the counter with the cat ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~