A Little Something Different This Morning and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Good morning all.  Usually this is the space where I ramble on about whatever has captured by attention.  Those stray thoughts that glitter in the mind like so much pretty baubles that like a magpie I can’t help but snatch them up.  And I do.  But today they are going into a Sunday column of their own called Sunday Ramblings.

On Sunday mornings I like to nurse my coffee along, read The Washington Post as leisurely as I want without having to be too organized.  So I am going to separate these two things (the schedule and scattered thoughts) out and see what happens.  Maybe I will like it and maybe I won’t.  Who knows?  Today’s ramblings will be posted in an hour or so.  What captured my thoughts and whimsey today?  Words.  I love words.  And new ones were just accepted into the dictionary.  So be on the look out for It’s All In How You Word It, my first Scattered Thoughts Sunday Ramblings.

Now, this coming week, we really will have the two book contest and author blog from Kendall McKenna. Her new book is superb and I can’t wait to give away a copy and that of the first book in the series, Strength of the Pack.  I am also continuing the L.E. Harner series, Triple Threat before moving on to the last author and series in the Pulp Friction offerings.

It’s a great day and a wonderful week ahead.  Please join me all week.  I look forward to hearing from you.

This week’s schedule:

Mon, Sept 9:         Kendall McKenna Guest Blog Part 1 – Start of contest
Tues., Sept.10:      Repost: Strength of the Pack review
Wed.,Sept 11        Kendall McKenna Guest Blog Part 2,winner of 1st book announced, start contest for 2nd book
Thurs., Sept 12:    Review : Strength of the Wolf, Winner of Strength of the Wolf announced
Friday, Sept. 13:   Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner
Sat., Sept. 14:        A Surprise!

Review: Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Dance Only For Me coverJackie Black, sorcerer and gunslinger, has a surprise for Roman, his lover of two years.  Jackie has decided to move to the city to be closer to his boyfriend and makes a surprise trip to tell Roman the good news.  But the surprise is on Jackie when he intrudes on a romantic evening Roman has planned with another man, a much younger man.   Heartbroken and lacking a place to stay, Jackie heads out of Roman’s building and straight into trouble.  In a bar in the poorer section of the city, Jackie is befriended by a man who claims to be a supernatural detective who needs help on a case.  That case involves retrieving a magical object from someone who just might also be a killer.

Needing something to take his mind off his pain, Jackie agrees to help the detective and changes the course of his life forever.  For nothing in Jackie’s life is as he wants it to be.  His father is off somewhere in Asia, mourning the loss of his wife and Jackie’s mother, Jackie feels he is not made for love as his last three boyfriends have cheated on him, and his new found friend is dead, dying in his arms moments upon his return.  What is Jackie to do but what a Black always does.  Holster his guns and go get the person who done the crime, or crimes.  He can only hope it won’t cost him his life as well.

If asked, I would be hard pressed to say which of Megan Derr’s fantasy universes is my favorite. but certainly her Dance with the Devil series would be in the top two.  So you can imagine my delight upon hearing that her latest release was a return to that amazing universe and wondrous group of supernatural beings that inhabit it.  Jackie Black and his father Jebadiah Black have appeared briefly in other stories but now Jackie is getting a central role in his own novel, Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6).  And I have to say I loved it.  It had everything  I have come to expect from Megan Derr and this terrific series.

Jackie Black is an oddity in his world, an amazing thing to say given the creatures that roam the streets and bars of the City.  He is over 70 years old, a sorcerer who wears a Stetson, cowboy boots, duster and uses magical revolvers of the old West to take down miscreants, human and non human alike.    Thin as a whippet, “whipcord” thin as his mother would say, Jackie is a bit of an anachronism, just like his father.  He speaks in the dulcet well mannered tones of a Sheriff in the old West, polite even when aiming his six shooters to kill,  This is our first introduction to him and his story:

Jackie caught the goblin right square between its crazy ass eyes and sighed as the fool thing dropped like a sack of flour to the warehouse floor. He holstered his revolver in a single, smooth move and touched the brim of his hat to the cluster of goblins huddled in the corner. “Ma’am,” he said to the one at the head of the pack, who had hired him to do something about a goblin that had tipped from average goblin crazy to crazier than a pack of elves gone drunk and frisky.

He walked over to the body to make certain it was dead and wrinkled his nose at the smell wafting off it. He’d caught whiffs of it before, but now the thing was holding still it was a sight easier to catch. “Poor thing’s mind done been scrambled like eggs at Sunday brunch.” He tipped his hat back to look up at the head goblin as she approached him. “Ain’t got a clue how he was poisoned, but I were you, ma’am, I’d be checking right careful for a traitor in your midst. This sort of thing is near always personal.”

I loved the dialog that Derr has written for Jackie.  It is so easy to picture him, a spare man of honor, like Gary Cooper in High Noon (google it).  In fact, I loved everything about Jackie, from his background and family life to his current painful predicament as a discarded lover who thinks he will never find the person/being right for him.  His singular code of honor drives his actions as well as his relationships.  And people are drawn to him whether he likes it or not.  The many layers to Jackie will draw in the reader as well, we just can’t help it!

Typical of Derr, it’s not just Jackie who is beautifully characterized but all the beings/people created for the story as well.  Whether it be friend or foe, everyone you will meet between these pages feel real.  They have hidden agendas driven by greed, pain, or a need to set things right.  They  want love or friends or a family or all three.  From a demon called Ned whose pain will make you cry to a young boy, Wyatt, whose dark past has made him older than his years, each and every one will cry out for your affection and attention.  And they will deserve it.  Especially Ned, Wyatt Thorne and a vampire necromancer, Phoenix Fairchild, each so memorable in their own way.  I loved them too.

One of the charms of this series is that couples, people from previous books make appearances throughout the series. Sable Brennus and Christian are here, as is Ontoniel Desrosiers,  Johnny and Grim, and even a dragon or three.  Seeing them here just made me want to go back and start reading each of their books all over again.  Megan Derr has such a wonderful imagination and her creativity just flows through this series like a river of magic. Every type of magic or wondrous being is included here.  Angels, sorcerers, witches, goblins and alchemists, that’s just a start.  There are werewolves, vampires, ghosts and golems too.  They are all present and involved in Jackie’s life and story and we are so much the richer for it.

I came close to giving this story a 5 star rating but there was just a few too many errors here.  Spelling errors, repetition problems and sentences like this one.  “Hope your right, Sheriff.”  Instead of “Hope you’re right, Sheriff”.  An editor should have caught these common problems and didn’t.  That brought the rating down which was a shame.   Tighter editing and better proofreading would have made this story a perfect read.

Those issues aside, I absolutely recommend this story to every person who is a fantasy fan, who love mythical beings come to life and men who hunger after love even though their past has told them it only brings heartbreak.  If you are new to the series, you can read this as a stand alone.  But reading the other stories first make this a much richer and fulfilling adventure.  I really hope that Megan Derr brings back Jackie, Ned and the rest for a followup adventure.  They are all so deserving of it.

The Dance with the Devil series:

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil, #1)

The Glass Coffin

Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil, #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil, #3)

Ruffskin (Dance with the Devil, #4)

Sword of the King (Dance with the Devil, #5)

Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil, #6)

Cover Art by London Burden.  Great job in branding the series by cover but I wish it was a little lighter in tone so we can see the guns.

Book Details:

ebook, 236 pages
Published July 24th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Dance Only for Me
ISBN13 9781620040850
edition language English

Hurricane Sandy Relief Still Needed, Books with a Bittersweet tag and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So on top of Hurricane Sandy, the nor’Easter hit the very same areas with another punch.  So I am putting out there once more the name of organizations providing assistance to those in need due to Hurricane Sandy.  Please help if you are able, even the smallest of amounts add up to someone being able to eat or have warm clothes.

American Red Cross

Ali Forney Center Housing for Homeless GLBT Youth

ASPCA

Humane Society of the United States

Now turning to books, I have some wonderful books for you this week, including the latest from Andrea Speed, Megan Derr, and Marguerite Labbe.  In particular, I wanted to talk about books labeled bittersweet.  I think most people see that tag and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction and miss out on some marvelous books.  Two in particular come to mind.  One is Rodney Ross’ The Cool Park of His Pillow.  This is absolutely one of my top books for 2012.  It does contains sadness and pain as it charts one man’s recovery from the death of his long term partner. But there is also so much joy, humor and love that it would be shameful to label it bittersweet as it is so much more than that limiting tag.  I feel the same way about Ghost in the Wind, the latest from Marguerite Labbe.  This story has a definite supernatural bent to it as it concerns the death of a man’s long term partner but in this case the man is murdered and his ghost returns to help his partner move on as well as solve a mystery.  Here the grief is palpable, the murder shocking and the suspense agonizing.  Dreamspinner Press calls it a Bittersweet Dream. Sigh.  I can almost hear the rejections on the wind.  Again, definitely not so.  Don’t miss this wonderful book either.  It’s painful, joyous, suspenseful, and full of boundless love.  I have the latest in the Infected series (darn you, Andrea Speed!!!) and a book from KA Mitchell that is not receiving the attention I think it is due.   So fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a wild ride of a week:

Monday:                       Chaos (Lost Gods #5) by Megan Derr

Tuesday:                       Ghost in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe

Wednesday:                 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and Marie Sexton

Thursday:                     But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell

Friday:                          Splintered Lies by Diane Adams and RJ Scott

Saturday:                      Bloggers Choice

So that’s the week unless something changes.  Happy reading!

Review of Good Bones by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 4,25 stars

Dylan Warner was quiet, shy, a milquetoast kind of guy that no one noticed.  An architect, he normally stayed home with his plans until one impulsive night out changed his life forever.  Dylan can’t believe his luck when a hot guy in leathers, Andy, picks him up and takes him home for an evening of hot sex. One evening stretches into many with Dylan hardly coming up for a breath.  Then one night he awakes to hear growling  in the living room and opens the door to see a wolf in the middle of his carpet.  Before he knows what is happening, the wolf attacks him, biting him viciously and then bounds out the door.  Dylan has been bitten by a werewolf and his life changed in an instant.

Now Dylan lives by the phases of the moon, dreading the nights he will have to lock himself away in the steel reinforced room in his condo.  Only his brother and sister in law know what has happened to him.  In an wry turnaround, Dylan now finds himself bulked up, gorgeous, and a sexual magnet as a side effect of his new status as a werewolf.   Everyone wants him and Dylan won’t let anyone close for fear of hurting them, an irony he is well aware of.  Living in the city is choking him and his wolf so when his brother suggests buying a place in the country and telecommuting, he is all over it. Dylan purchases a former Christmas tree farm and begins renovations.

But Dylan’s new country farmhouse comes with an attractive neighbor, Chris Nock, with tons of his own baggage.  Then Andy shows up again, determined to keep Dylan a part of his pack.  Everything that Dylan worked so hard to achieve, his peace of mind, his friendship with Chris, everything is in jeopardy unless Dylan can deal with his inner wolf and  the alpha that has come to claim him.

I am a sucker for a shifter story and look forward to the details each author adds to the shifter lore and any new twists added to the werewolf genre.  Some authors go for the seamless shift from human to wolf and back.  Others get into the nitty-gritty physicalities of body transformation including vivid descriptions of bone breaking and accompanying pain.  Some authors go the whole mate route, you know “wolves mate for life” with instant mate recognition path while others go for the human romance “harum scarum” route.  In some books, the wolves shift by the moon and others shift on command.  That’s what I love about this genre, there are no hard and fast rules. I love watching each author come to a werewolf or shifter story from their own perspective and Kim Fielding is no different, giving us some new twists on a popular character in m/m fiction.

In Dylan Warner, we have a mild mannered “grey” sort of man who is transformed into a sexy “beast” after being bitten by a werewolf.  Fielding gives us a Kent Clark/Superman persona but substituting werewolf for Superman, an intriguing notion.  Then Fielding takes it one further with an ironic twist in that now a very sexy Dylan refuses to act on his new status because he fears the very thing that has made him so attractive.  Instead of becoming big man on the town, Dylan withdraws into his shell, isolating himself from others in a way he never was before his transformation.  Indeed, Dylan separates the “human” from the “wolf” inside, a duality  not as common in other shifter fiction.  Usually the human mind is aware and active inside their wolf body, not entirely so here, a problem when it comes to hunting.  Another reason Dylan barricades himself inside a fortified room. Hunt humans or hunt animals? He has seen Andy kill a person and wants to make sure he does not do the same.

Fielding’s other characters aren’t given the same amount of depth that Dylan has.  Chris Nock, the attractive neighbor next door to Dylan’s farmhouse has a troubled history that is only referred to on a couple of occasions.  As he is so much of the story here, I would have preferred to learn more about Chris’ past.  He calls himself a “whore”, mentions bouncing around the foster system and then nothing more. Chris came across as extremely judgmental in the beginning but where is the basis for that?  Especially given the events that follow?  I would have loved to have seen Chris given a better foundation for his character and his actions throughout the story.  I liked Chris, more information would have made me love him.

Andy, the werewolf who instigated all the events here engendered mixed feelings from me.  I could understand his desperation to have a pack or his need for companionship, but in a sort of throw away line, we find out Andy has become a serial killer in his attempts to recreate a Dylan to an almost absolute lack of horror from Dylan.  Why didn’t Dylan react more to that fact when he hears it? Not sure, given his reaction to an earlier kill Andy made.  In fact while I could see what Fielding was trying to achieve with the relationship dynamics between Andy and Dylan, I am not sure I ever bought it.  Dylan’s reactions to Andy fluctuate dramatically, so much so he is telling him to get lost and then having sex with him, albeit in an animalistic manner.  One such moment left an acrid taste in my mouth, considering the events that happened just prior.  I don’t want to include any spoilers but it just seems to me that the author could have gotten the same point across in another fashion.  Wolf vs human actions, how to handle the dichotomy. Got it, don’t hit me in the face with it, though.

I really enjoyed Good Bones and Kim Fielding’s take on werewolves.  I found only some minor editing errors. A “close guy” instead of closest guy but on the whole, it is very well done. This is the first book of hers I have read and it won’t be the last.  This is a wonderful addition to the werewolf genre, don’t hesitate to pick it up.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover: Christine Griffin was the cover artist and I think she did a terrific job conveying the subjects within with a darkly moody cover and great graphics.

Book available at Dreamspinner Press. All Romance Ebooks, Fictionwise and Amazon.