A MelanieM Review: Carol of the Bellskis (Bellskis, #1) by Astrid Amara

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Paralegal Seth Bellski is tired of being the secret lover of his boss, Lars Varga, founding partner of Finch & Varga Law. So when he asks Lars to spend Hanukkah with Seth’s family at their kosher B and B in Whistler, B.C., and Lars refuses, Seth realizes he will never get his self-conscious boss out of the closet.

So Seth prepares to spend his Hanukkah holiday alone in the B and B. Instead he finds himself running the place, as his aunt and uncle are missing, and seven demanding, peculiar, and danger-prone guests have arrived. To make matters worse, Lars shows up, begging forgiveness. Lars’s touches remind Seth of why he put up with his boss’s behavior in the first place. If only the words that came out of that beautiful mouth were as sweet as his kisses.

But how can Seth find time to fix his broken relationship when the guests are demanding kosher, gluten-free diets, losing their pet terriers, and hitting their heads on the ice? Seth and Lars find themselves put through the paces of being a married couple, all while still broken up. But then again, if they can survive this Hanukkah, maybe they’ll be singing a carol of the Bellskis.

Astrid Amara likes to release holiday stories and in 2009 started this Hanukkah trilogy.  It took her until 2017 to finish it but I’m so happy she did because it’s heartwarming, beautifully written,  full of suspense, mystery, romance, and love of all types.  And it all started here with Carol of the Bellskis.

When reading an Astrid Amara story, you can’t just pick out one strength because her stories are so amazingly well rounded and beautifully written.  That shows here.  Her characters are strong, believable, and so are their relationship dynamics, as faltering as they are in the beginning.  With Seth Bellski, you get his formidable Jewish family, their strength in their belief in their family and their religion, yes, more.  It never tips over into caricature as it could so easily, but these people come across with love and care, if at times a bit of fond exasperation with knowledge of their foibles.  Then there is Lars and his side of the family. Reserved, cold…well, I will let the story speak to the Vargas. They remain, however, authentic and real.  That becomes something of a element of slow growth (very slow) over the course of the series, ending only with Wedding Bellskis this  December.  But I’m getting way ahead of this couple now at their breaking point.

The author sets out so many tough goals here and meets them all.  There’s a romance and some very difficult relationship decisions that  have to be worked through here by Lars (especially Lars) and Seth,.  There’s an inn that can’t run itself where everyone seems to keep disappearing, so mysteries to solve,  Hanukkah to celebrate, and much, much more.  And it all meshes so well, like one of life’s tapestries.  You will leave wishing you knew these people and wanting to be a part of their lives.

This story is full of so much emotion, action, color, and wit.  It’s lively, poignant, sad, angry, lusty, romantic, funny, and a great read.  I relished my time with Seth, Lars, and all the many Bellskis, and couldn’t wait until the next Hanukkah rolled around because that’s when Astrid Amara promised to roll out the next installment.  Ah well,  it was worth the wait even if it took until 2011.

Carol of the Bellskis rang in this series, this couple!  It’s not to be missed.  The Trilogy is on the top of my recommendations, not just for the holidays, but anytime of the year.  But grab up all three now and read right through!  What a treat is in store for you, starting with this remarkable story.

Cover art by April Martinez is strong, on target, and not only brands the series by the use of the menorah on all 3 titles but that’s also my idea of both characters.  Perfection.

Sales Links:  Loose id | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 100 pages
Published December 14th 2009 by Loose Id
Original TitleCarol of the Bellskis
ISBN139781607375272
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHolidays with the Bellskis

Lindsey Black on Inspiration, Humor, and her release ‘Fishy Riot’ (guest post)

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Fishy Riot by Lindsey Black
D
reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: AngstyG

Order at Dreamspinner Press / Amazon / B&N

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Lindsey Black here today. Lindsey is the author of one of my new recommended story’s Fishy Riot.  Welcome, Lindsey!

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Thanks for having me today!

I thought I would talk briefly about inspiration. Writers will tell you all sorts of things about inspiration, and where it comes from. A lot of writers will admit to finding inspiration in day to day life, or from their acquaintances. For example, Taylor is a Riot Squad officer because my brother in law is in the squad and I think it’s a pretty cool job, not that I would ever tell him that, his ego’s big enough as is. If it’s true that we draw inspiration from day to day life and acquaintances then it should come as absolutely no surprise that Fishy Riot is a tad on the crazier side of things.

I’m a singing teacher (as in I teach singing, not I sing while teaching because that would be weird), and I work with individuals from 8 years of age to 80 on a weekly basis. Nothing can ever prepare you for the weird things people feel inclined to tell you when you’re their teacher. My students wish they had a twitter account of all the weird things that get said, and I’d have to agree it would be the weirdest daily read in history. So I thought I would share ten of my favourite personal gems from the last few weeks.

  1. Oh, that’s my tyrannosaurus-rex muscle. (Better known as thyro-arytenoid, but ok close enough). It’s in my larynx. I call him Fred, coz he looks like a lil’ Dinosaur, see? (He held up a diagram, complete with arrow and the name Fred. At least he knew what the larynx was.)
  2. When improvising to Summertime one of my students decided to ad-lib between the lines and came up with this gem, which now all of my students insist on singing as if it’s the real words: Oh you’re daddy’s rich, and your ma is good lookin, like a fish…(lalala)…and take to the sky, like an angel who died. (Yes, I told their mother…)
  3. Can I just write the letter ‘b’? It takes too long to write the word. (Be…)
  4. (What does mf mean?) Well, you have to work harder than at mp right, so might fart sounds about right.
  5. When you say black trousers, do you mean I can wear leggings? (No, trousers.) Jeans? (Trousers). What about a skirt with leggings under? (Trousers…please.) Can they be grey? (Black. Trousers.) But I don’t like black or trousers. (And yet, trousers.)
  6. Miss, how come you make singing fun? (Err…would you prefer it was boring?) Nah, then I would quit. (So…) I was just wonderin, geez! Carry on! Can you do something stupid again, it’s awesome when you look stupid!
  7. Student 1: How come you don’t have a stick like the band dude?

Student 2: Don’t give her ideas! She’s clumsy as. It would just fly across the room and hit someone in the eye and you know she sucks at first aid, and I’m not gettin’ you a band-aid. (I confess to breaking the CPR dummy at three separate first aid classes. Student number 2 has a point.)

  1. So, this song, the Mermaid’s Lament. It’s written by a guy, right? But it says he dedicated it to his wife, the mermaid. I’m thinkin’ she’s not really a mermaid, because I don’t think he’s delusional, right? So it’s a metaphorical mermaid? Whatever that means. But his wife… Is she dead? No, wait…is he dead? Is he dying, was he dying when he wrote it? How did he die? Why would he do that? Oh my God, has he no heart? What’s she gonna think every time she hears this song now? (Uh…guys…pretty sure he’s not dead…). Well, I guess not many people are gonna rock up at her house and sing it anyway, that would be way too much excursion paperwork. (They share my hatred of risk assessment, apparently).
  2. What the hell do you think you’re wearing? (Um…clothes? What?) That is hideous. Never wear it again, you’ll make us look bad. (Um…) Wear your Nike’s next time, at least those are cool. Man, we have to help you with everything. ( Those were ten year olds. Savages!)
  3. (I had a message on my phone, it went like this…) MISS! You’re gonna be so proud of me! I remembered to get on the bus to come to choir. That’s right, I’m here on the back seat, the air con is on and I’m sitting peachy and I am gonna be at rehearsal. Hell, I’m gonna be early! Are we going to do that song I like today? You know, the one you haven’t picked a soloist for? I’d really like that solo, I think I’ve asked like a million times noooooow…OMG I missed my stop! Miss! I missed it! What should I do? Ahhh! Sir, Mr bus driver Sir! Yeah, you, can you turn the bus around? I needed to get off back there? No? Why not? How far? Yeah I could get off at the next one. No, there’s no one to pick me up there, what do you mean it’s another ten k’s away? I can’t walk that far, I’ll be late for choir! Oh my god! This is a disaster! Miss! Miss, I missed my stop and the bus driver can’t turn around, I don’t know why I think he’s just a sucky driver or something, and if I get off at the next stop I’m going to have to walk like a million k’s to get to school and choir will be over by then! Oh wait, hey the next after the next stop is my grandma’s…I’m gonna go eat cake. I deserve cake, because this whole thing has been a disaster! I’ll see ya next week, okay? Bye!

It should come as absolutely no surprise that the characters in Fishy Riot are crazy. They probably seem over the top, a tad mentally deranged even, but they’re actually mild compared to reality. I hope you enjoy their shenanigans. Happy reading!

P.S If you’re reading on the bus, please don’t miss your stop. And if you do happen to miss your stop, please don’t call me.

Release date for Fishy Riot: April 24th

 

About Fishy Riots

Most people think riot squad officer Taylor Jameson is an asshole. Little do they know his apparent indifference stems from having a meddlesome family always butting into his business. And little does Taylor know he’s about to stumble into a situation that’ll make indifference impossible.

When everything goes horribly wrong at a political rally on a harbour ferry, Taylor encounters Sietta Salisbury. The son of a wealthy politician, Sietta is a revered—but presumed dead—musician, and an enigma who is so strange, Taylor is compelled to look into his background. What he discovers draws him into a bizarre mess of prisoners, politics, and attempted murder that makes him realise what he’s been missing.

Falling in love isn’t hard. Trying to convince someone else you’re worth loving despite your crazy family and the people trying to kill you? That’s a whole other can of worms.

About Lindsey Black:

Lindsey Black lives in Darwin, Australia, where the weather report permanently reads ‘humidity at 100%, only going to get worse’ for ten months of the year and ‘monsoon at 4:00 p.m. for exactly fifteen minutes’ for the remaining two. Between teaching and studying full-time, she escapes this oppressive environment to bushwalk for weeks on end wherever the mobile phone reception has zero bars for as long as possible and the weather report reads something along the lines of ‘blizzard likely.’ She enjoys martial arts, music, and mayhem, which explains the untidy state of her home where she attempts to write while splitting her minimal amounts of spare time between her incredulous husband, lazy Chinchilla cat, and crazed Siberian husky. If you expect her to sit and have a chat, it’s best to have a matcha green tea latte with almond milk on hand and your hiking boots within reach. Oh, and be sure to bring a guitar for impromptu jam sessions.

You can find Lindsey on facebook / twitter / www

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review : Model Citizen by Lissa Kasey

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Rating 4 stars out of 5

Model Citizen coverOliver Petroskovic is an international supermodel who works part time for his brother at his detective agency. A former Marine, Nathan left the corps when their parents died and has raised Ollie since he was twelve years old. Ollie is beautiful, feminine, and highly sought after as a model. He’s selective in the modeling jobs he takes, and turns down anything sexually degrading. He prefers wearing feminine clothing, much of which he’s created himself, and designing for others who are “gender fluid” would fulfill his career goals. Though gay, he’s not had a partner or lover since he caught his boyfriend cheating. As the story opens, he’s just closed on a home for him and Nathan financed by his modeling jobs. He’s excited to get back to the office to share the good news about the closing with his brother.

Accompanied by Nathan’s best friend Will, when he gets there he finds Nathan has committed suicide by shooting his brains out. Months later, still traumatized, but feeling responsible for keeping the business open, Ollie carries on as best as he can while trying to put in enough hours to get his PI license. But he’s constantly caught on the wrong side of the law on his PI jobs, and Will, a police officer, is getting pretty fed up with bailing him out of jail.

Will is married to Ollie’s best friend Britney, so even if Ollie tried to dodge Will, he couldn’t get far because B is always onto what he’s doing. Just when Ollie is ready to admit he needs help, Will shows up with former Marine Kade Alme, another friend of Nathan’s, who’s recently left the service after recovering from injuries from a roadside bomb. Kade has a PI license so he may be able to help Ollie, even if Ollie doesn’t want the help. There’s one more thing that Kade has that Ollie’s not sure he wants and that is the hots for Ollie. According to Kade, he’s wanted Ollie for years, but Nathan kept him away from his younger brother. Kade aims to change all that as he declares that he has no intention of being one of the many people in Ollie’s life who have abandoned him. He’s there for the duration.

When one of Ollie’s friends is injured during filming of a reality TV show, and Ollie goes to check on him, he uncovers a possible disastrous situation on the set of the show, and the danger in his life is suddenly more than anything he’s ever faced before. Kade goes along to help him as they investigate the frequent and “coincidental” accidents occurring on the set. But when Ollie becomes a victim, it’s time to get the case resolved and to find out whether Kade really is in there for the long haul as he claimed or is he going to bolt when things get tough?

I really enjoyed this story. The action and drama were suspenseful and the mystery not easily solved. The MCs were amazing together, and I totally love a story where there is MANTIES! There’s also a hot, alpha man who loves his feminine partner in all his crossdressing glory. And just when I thought we were easing into a peaceful happy ending, the author threw out a curve ball, a cliffhanger ending which, of course, will lead most of us to keep reading this series. Don’t get me wrong, there is indeed a HEA/HFN for the MCs but there’s also a darn good reason for them to keep their PI agency open.

I recommend this to a) those who love manties (!) and b) those who love an M/M romance with characters who need to heal, both physically and emotionally from past trauma, and c) those who just plain love a good mystery with plenty of drama mixed in with the romance.

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Cover Art by Garrett Leigh depicts a black-and-white photo cover with a camera in the lower section below the title and a set of dog tags with the chain in a heart-shaped pattern in the upper section of the page. The camera and dog tags are symbolic of the MCs.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages, also in paperback
Published June 22nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN1634761316 (ISBN13: 9781634761314)