Winners of the Pulp Friction 2013 Contest

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Congratulations to our Pulp Friction 2013 Series Contest.  The Winners are:

  1. Bluesmokey  richards851(at)sbcglobal(dot)net
  2. Helen helenj@odont.uio.no
  3. Kerry books2read69@hotmail(dot)com
  4. Bobbie Walker Bobbie022@sky.com

Please double check that I have your email addresses correct and let me know if there are any corrections.  The authors will be sending our copies of their series to the winners.  Happy reading everyone and Happy Holidays!

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Review of Odd Man Out, the Pulp Friction combined series finale story.

Pulp Friction 4 covers

A Wintery Mix, Favorite Childhood Books, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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We are expecting a wintery mix here in Maryland, rain, sleet, ice and snow all mixing together to create an equal mixture of beauty and angst.  Trees with limbs that glisten like diamonds to go along with downed power lines and people lost in the cold.  Joy mixed in with a little quiet reflection, softened by the grey skies of winter and clouds laden with snow.

Days like this bring back memories of winters past and winter stories I loved reading to my daughter and the children later at the nature The Winter Bear book Covercenter.  Stories like  The Winter Bear by Ruth Craft and Robert Frost’s Stopping Through The Woods On A Snowy Evening were a perfect way to convey the feelings and emotions brought on by the first snow or a cold, blustery day in winter.

The Winter Bear especially is still so close to my heart.  It’s simple story and the illustrations that hark back to the style of the original Winnie the Pooh never fail to move me.  A lost stuff bear is tangled up in a shrub looking worn , a little dirty and so very alone.  Its winter and the landscape is cold and barren.  Then a small group of children, siblings, finds the bear, gets him down and takes him home where they clean him up, Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snow Eveningdress in warmly and give that little bear a home with them.  It’s a spare, elegant and concise little story and yet it is so moving that it can still bring tears to my eyes as that last page as the children and little bear are snug  and warm in a little living room with the fire blazing and snow falling outside.  It was first published in 1976 and is hard to find.  But once found and added to your bookshelf, it will become a family treasure to bring out generation after generation no matter your religion or location.  Much like the other book that I love so well, Robert Frost’s Stopping Through the Woods on a Snowy Evening.  The illustrations are in black and white, with a splash of red in places, just glorious and perfect for this poem.  Children and adults alike love looking at them, watching the sleigh travel through town and into the woods with a surprise for the animals that live there.  And then there are those words….such memorable, wonderful words.  The last stanza is the best known..”.The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.”  I have the entire short poem  at the end of the post today.  But those words and those illustrations together paint a memory portrait that draws adults and children into those woods time and again, a magic that is never lost.  Pick those books up and add them to your holiday collection.

Now I have a very special week ahead starting with a book that made my Best of 2013 within the first ten pages.  That’s when I started sobbing copious tears, a phrase perfect for the floodgate that opened upon reading Amy Lane’s latest book, Christmas Kitsch. Never have I been so moved by a character that quickly had me forgetting he wasn’t real.  Rusty, a wounded, glorious man child, whose open heart and mind is so transcendent that his story pulled me in not to release me until 3am, red eyed, snotty, and happy beyond belief that I had met him.  Amy Lane is running a contest and her author spotlight is Monday with my review of Christmas Kitsch is on Tuesday.  Thursday is a 4 book, 4 author Boys In the Band Blog Tour (and contest).  And Friday and Saturday…well if you have been reading the Pulp Friction authors and their combined series (City Knight, Triple Threat, Wicked’s Ways and Chances Are) then you are in for another treat.  The last book in all their series is a combined effort.  Odd Man Out wraps up all the stories of all the characters and is written by all 4 authors.  They have written a guest blog for Friday to talk about the last book and what’s coming in 2014 for Pulp Friction.  My review of Odd Man Out follows on Saturday.  And there is an amazing giveaway associated with this Pulp Friction Season Finale as well.  What a week ahead!!!!  Don’t miss out on a day of it!

Monday, Dec. 9:    Amy Lane’s Christmas Kitsch Blog Tour, Contest and Author Spotlight

Tuesday, Dec. 10:  Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

Wed., Dec. 11:          Tag Team: Fais Do Do by BA Tortuga

Thurs., Dec. 12:       Boys In The Band Blog Tour and Contest, Authors  L.A. Witt, Paula Coots, Rowan Speedwell, and Cecilia Tan

Friday, Dec. 13:       Pulp Friction Author Blog, Contest and Odd Man Out release

Sat., Dec. 14:             Odd Man Out by Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows, TE Webb, and Laura Harner, a Pulp Friction 2013 finale!

Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Not What I Expected and This Week’s Reviews

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Doctor__NeedleSo, there I was lying on the hospital table waiting for the fluoroscope to start up and the doctor to appear to give me an injection. With a very long needle.  One the size of the Empire State Building. And of course, the first words out of his mouth are “well, this shouldn’t hurt very much” and my heart sinks.  Because between you and me, I have a long history with that phrase (as I am sure most of you do as well) and it isn’t a good one.

I can remember various dentist offices and dentists themselves saying that just before annihilating my mouth in a frenzy of drills and numbing injections that never seemed to work.  I remember vaccines and pops of cotton that, yes indeedy, hurt, even though the doctors swore up and down they wouldn’t.

And then there were the injections I received for rabies (8 of them at the time) that alternated sites, left, cheek, right cheek (not the face mind you), left arm, right arm, stomach…well you get the drift.  Oh the perils of being a park naturalist.  There have been ones for the flu, tetanus, and during anaphylactic shock, epinephrine.  I have had ones for antibiotics and ones for steroids.  Lots and lots of shots over time and always with the same result.  Shot then pain.

And you know what?  Each time, the doctor assured me it shouldn’t hurt very much.  And  each time it most certainly did.

drag queen sharon needles

knitting needlesNow I don’t have a problem with needles themselves.  I even adore certain needles, like my mahogany knitting needles or knitting needles of any type.  I also think the drag queen Sharon Needles is pretty darn awesome.  I even have a certain fondness for sewing needles even though I am hardly proficient with them.  They have repaired many a beloved teddy or tiger and for that I am grateful.

But medical needles, long, long medical needles?  I think not.  True they are necessary but I don’t have to like them and once more here I was waiting to be injected.  But first they had to find the right spot….yeah, topical anesthesia  doesn’t help there.  And yes, I felt that needle going in…and in…  and the doctor asked me…wait for it…did I feel it and did it hurt?  He’s lucky all I shot him was a glare. Cause yes I did feel it and yes, it hurt.  Argh.  And I am not, repeat not a baby about these things and I have a high tolerance for pain. But yeesh….they need to find something different to say…cause I am telling you that has truly gotten old.

So here I am, my hip is throbbing.  The doctor said I should feel better in a day…if the shot works.  Sigh.  Sometimes life is a crap shoot.  Sometimes you role doubles and sometimes snake eyes. And by now I really should know to stick to the needles I like when given a choice, and leave the others alone.  Because here is something I have learned over the years….when someone tells you its not going to hurt, run, run like the wind in the opposite direction, it’s going to hurt like hell.

Now for the week ahead in reviews.  It’s one terrific book after another this week.   There are two guest blogs on our schedule. One by the fabulous Abigail Roux for the release Shock & Awe.  And the other by an author whose books have always appeared on my must read list, L.B. Gregg and her latest release How I Met Your Father.  Added to that are two new books in series I just love, R.J. Scott’s Texas Family and Kate McMurray’s The Stars That Tremble and this will be a stellar week indeed!

Twas the week before the week of Thanksgiving…..

Monday, Nov. 17:   Texas Family by R.J. Scott
Tuesday, Nov. 18:   The Stars That Tremble by Kate McMurray
Wed., Nov. 19:         Guest Blog by L.B. Gregg for How I Met Your Father
Thurs., Nov.20:      Guest Blog and Contest by Abigail Roux and Shock & Awe release
Friday, Nov. 21:       Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Sat., Nov. 22:           How I Met Your Father by L.B. Gregg

Review: The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men (Valley Books) by Eric Arvin

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men coverWinifred Walterhouse lived in the mansion on the top of Black Hill.  She was aware of the secrets the river and the valley held.   She knew of the river sprites, and of the forest passions, small beings becoming fewer and fewer in number.  She had helped hold off the outdwellers, those who would steal the valley’s magic and destroy the old ways.  But now she is dying, unable to take care of herself let alone a young girl of a certain stubborn temperament.

When her parents died, little Calpurnia Covington was sent to live with her eccentric aunt in the mysterious River Valley. And by her arrival changed everything.  With her aunt, Winifred Walterhouse, dying and confined to her room, Calpurnia is free to roam throughout the estate and nearby woods.  Missing the outside world, Calpurnia is frightened by the beings and things she sees in the Valley and resolutely turns her back on the magic all around her, thus setting her path away from the light and those coming after her.

Minerva True is a mystic who lives deep in the Valley, aware of the magic and light all around her.  She is also aware of The Prophecy and the coming darkness.  Although Minerva tries to warn the river valley’s inhabitants, she is ignored and the darkness is allowed to grow and thrive.  In the future, it will be the mingled destinies of Minerva, the young hero Leith, his lover Aubrey, and the mute boy, Deverell that will tilt the fate of the valley and perhaps the world towards the light or darkness.  Who will succeed and who will fail in the ultimate of all battles?

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin has to be one of the most memorable and complex books that I have read recently.  It is an extraordinary and sometimes confounding mixture of gothic horror, Grimm’s fairy tale, and dark fantasy.  Arvin pulls from a number of sources, from elementals and the Industrial Revolution to the Bible and uses them to help him create a lost river valley where magic still exists along side the human and the mundane.  Inside the valley, power flows through the woods and into the river. Here river dwellers and passions live but no longer flourish.  The Outsiders and Industry test the borders  and darkness has come to claim the valley and its souls for its own.

With this novel and the books to follow, Eric Arvin conceived his version of the eternal war between good and evil, the battle between the light and the darkness.  This story has a language so lyrical that it will remind you of sonnets and characters so beautifully defined and textured that their loss will haunt you for days.  Arvin’s story feels so old and timeless that the aroma of old leather bindings and yellowed pages of text will commingle in your mind along with the title, an effortless interface of ideas both old, fantastical and still somehow quite new.   An ebook of emotional heft and extraordinary value.

In keeping with the large scope of his story that is nothing less than the battle between good and evil, Arvin’s novel encompasses a rather large time span that starts from Calpurnia’s arrival in the valley as a young girl through her marriage and birth of her child and further still as that child, Leith, grows up and becomes a featured player in this timeless spiritual war. Circling around Calpurnia is a convoluted and intertwining group of relationships that will include beings of power to Leith, her son.   Arvin has created a large and incredible cast for his story and series, including Azriel, a angel and the fundamental Mother True.  These characters live and breath and love with an realness that will grab you.  Some love with a lightness of being and others, well,  others are weighed down with such a darkness of spirit that it seeps right off the page.  I mean really some of Arvin’s creations just exude such a feel of evil that they carry a stench of corruption.  And with any tale of good and evil, there are so many losses that will cut to the heart as the story and the fight progress.

Its that unrelenting parade of death as the story proceeds with its inexorable march towards that final battle between good and evil that might turn away readers looking for a warm tale of love and romance.  This is a true fantasy, horror story.  An epic tale that must, by its very nature, come with the deaths of characters the reader has come to love. I think it is those character deaths here will cause not only consternation but pain as the losses add up.  Not only because we didn’t see these deaths coming but because we had come to care for these people in the short amount of time we knew them, a required ingredient of great characters.   It is this aspect of the story that most readers will shy away from, especially those looking for a strictly m/m romance.  This is not that book.   Yes, there is a m/m romance, but there is also heterosexual love, familial love and so much more.  And for those readers to shy away from this story because of those aspects would be a shame indeed because this story also has great heart to go along with great loss.

One of the real revelations here is Arvin’s ability to reveal a true contamination of the soul, a slow defilement of character so extraordinary that you almost weep for the promise of the child that was thrown away, seduced by her own needs and a greater evil.  The author’s prose and descriptions delivering both a story of great emotional impact but also of spiritual warnings that go unheeded to the sorrow of all involved.   The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men is easily one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2013.  Consider this tale highly recommended and a must read for all.

Cover photography by Amy Morrison.  This book needs an extraordinary cover to measure up to the greatness of the story within and it gets it with this great cover by Amy Morrison.  Also one of the best covers of 2013.

Book Details:

ebook, 286 pages
Published April 24th 2013 by Wilde City Press
ISBN13 9781925031065
edition language English
series Valley

The Contest and Blog Tour For Shira Anthony’s Encore Release Continues!

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Encore’s release will be followed on Christmas Day by the release of a Blue Notes holiday novella, Symphony in Blue. Symphony will be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m celebrating the release of both of these books with a blog tour contest ending on New Year’s Eve at midnight! Grand prize is a Kindle loaded with many of my Dreamspinner Press titles. You can get more entries by commenting on blog tour posts, tweeting, and buying the books. Here’s the link to the giveaway:Symphony in Blue-build (1)

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.
Prizes (U.S. Only):

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choiceEncore-Build

Blog Stops Currently Scheduled :
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th:   Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th:   Michael Rupured’s Blog

Visit each stop on the tour for more of Shira Anthony and this incredible series.

Here is the link for ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords review of Encore.

Review: Re-Entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Re-entry Burn coverMalory Clermont , a heat superpowered ex-felon, has just finished his time in jail and is now out on parole.  Three years ago, Malory, his Dad and their cousin Brady  (Riot Boy) planned and tried to pull off a bank robbery using their superpowers. But unknown to Mal and his criminal dad, Brady was working with the cops and betrayed them.  It got nasty, people got hurt and Mal and his dad got jail time.  Mal’s lawyer pleaded his case,citing extenuating circumstances, saying Mal’s dad and uncle had brought him up to be a criminal which was child abuse, .  Which is why Mal is out after 2 and half years in the superpowered lockup and trying to re-enter society.  His parole officer has three immediate goals for Mal.  Find a place to live, find a place to work and attend his fellow parolees group therapy session.  High goals when no one wants a ex con as a renter or employee.

Theo McCracken, a cold-superpowered ex-offender, is out on parole too.  His crime?  He murdered his abusive stepfather and would gladly do it again.  Now free after 5 years in jail, he is trying to adjust to freedom outside and not doing particularly well at it.   Theo feels pressured by outside forces and his twisted maternal ties.  Emotionally and mentally Theo is more fragile than he looks.  Theo is just that bit of out of control that is dangerous for someone recently out of jail and emotionally wanting.  Then he sees Mal.

Mal and Theo met in their weekly court mandated group therapy sessions and click.  Or at least Theo does.  Mal just hides in his chair, keeping the lowest profile possible, a mass of confused hurt and passivity.  Theo notices Mal immediately and starts his pursuit which scares Mal just enough to come out of his shell.   Theo’s cold high energy rushes up against Mal’s hot docility in a clash of opposites that reenergizes them both.  And despite abandonment issues, paranoia, traumatic family ties and events, somehow Mal and Theo start to hope that a future for them both is possible if they can just get past the re-entry burn.

Re-Entry Burn is the fifth story in the Superpowered Love series and a clear equal to Riot Boy (Superpowered Love #2), the story that made me fall deeply in love with these superpowered characters and twisted family histories.  The story is told from the haunted, pain-filled voice of Malory Claremont, who we first met in Riot Boy (Superpowered Love #2).  In that story he was a seething vessel of angst, rage and love and it was aimed directly at his cousin Brady who wanted to escape the criminal life that Brady’s family had forced on him.  It is because of Katey Hawthorne’s marvelous gift of characterization that readers saw something more in Malory, something so sad and compelling that it just cried out for his story to be told.   And now we get it and what an emotionally fraught journey it turns out to be with mental quicksand and societal traps everywhere. And in this author’s hands, its a outstanding piece of addictive storytelling

A raw, hip, and often dryly humorous dialog one of the hallmark elements of Katey Hawthorne’s stories.  And it’s an element I can’t get enough of.  When the  word “fuck” flows out of one of her character’s mouth (in this case Mal Claremont) it might be as an adjective, a noun, a verb, an adverb and most certainly an interjection. Basically Hawthorne has made it work as every part of sentence and the end result is a unique, sometimes plaintive, sometimes angry introspective voice that propels you magnetically along the narrative.  Don’t fight it, just go with the flow, following the raw musical tones of a damaged man trying to find his way out of his past and into the present.  This is how the story starts:

You Are Here

I’m not saying I’m getting this all down perfect, but it’s pretty goddamn close. It’s hard not to go back and pretend I felt and did things different than I did, but if keeping that fucking journal taught me one thing, it was that changing the words after the fact changes the point. I didn’t want to do it, but I can’t remember the last time I wanted to do anything like I was told.

I’ll try and not get ahead of myself, but this shit is new to me. Not like anyone’s reading it anyhow. Whatever, fuck it.

The story unfolds as a journal that Mal (and all the other ex offenders) must keep as a part of their group therapy and parole.  Mal writes down his thoughts and the events as they happen, using the journal to work through his mixed up feelings of anger and  abandonment towards Brady and his life.  The author lets the readers into Mal’s thought processes and the emotional and mental work that it takes for Mal to see through to the reality of the reasons behind his words and actions.  It’s tough going for Mal and we aren’t always sure that he will reach the designation we hope for him. Mal and life has placed a lot of obstacles in his way, and he must understand and remove them before he can arrive at his personal truth.  What an amazing character and story!  And his slow, pain racked path is as fascinating and authentic as Mal is.

A little bit of background.  Mal, Theo, Brady and even his parole officer are all superpowered beings called Awakened.  They are elementals with powers linked accordingly whether it is heat, cold, water, or electrical.  So already this is a group of beings on the outside of a society (Sleepers, that’s us) that is ignorant of their presence.  Imagine having such power than not being able to use it.  I think we could all imagine the frustration and the rage that would build up, so a respectable portion of the Awakened are criminals.  Others have chosen to be the group that polices their own (with special prisons to hold them), and some have turned vigilante using their powers to help others.  Hawthorne takes us into the middle of their rage, their divisive gatherings and makes us understand exactly what these beings are feelings and how conflicted their lives are.

Mal is not only having to readjust to freedom, he is also having to readjust to hiding once more who and what he is.  Inside the special prison, Mal could be the heat elemental he was.  No more hiding his powers and that was freeing in itself, a dichotomy.  Now physically free, Mal looks to the outside as being imprisoned once more inside a persona not truly him.  It’s a powerful image and not one conducive to staying outside the penal system.  Theo’s background and personality also raises impediments to a successful future outside the prison system.  His journey forward and emotional healing has  as many potholes in it as Mal’s does.

There are so many heartbreaking elements to Re-entry Burn.   Not just the realistic treatment Mal receives from his new co workers and neighbors which  runs the gamut from wary friendliness to outright hostility and fear.  No Mal is also adjusting to being in an environment where he can safely be a sexual being again as prison was not the place to explain his bisexuality.  Mal’s interest in sex is dead in the water until Theo comes and sparks it back to life. And that has consequences too for them both.  Nothing here is simple, everything has a reactive aspect that potentially could land either man back in prison in an instant. The author maintains a beautiful balance of tension between the readers and their concern for the characters and the needs of her narrative.  If the men often goes to their knees, pounded down by their needs and the pressure, well, the reader is right there with them on the cement floor, feeling their pain and intoxication with each other and their powers.

How I love these people and their stories.  I find them downright irresistible in voice and personality.  Listen to Mal working through “shit” in his journal:

I pulled out my journal on one of my fifteen-minute breaks and wrote:

I am a thief. I am a liar. I am a man. I am crooked. I am uneven. I am angry. I am lost. I am alone. I am alive. I am a queer. I am a supervillain. I am a risk. I am a joke. I am funny, funny Malory, oh so fucking funny.

People throw words at me, and I wait to see how they stick, which parts of me meld into them, which parts of me curl up in a ball and wither. Some of the words are partly right.

Some of them are right sometimes. Most of them mean nothing at all, just weird sounds and shapes when I roll them around in my head. Some of them kill parts of me or put them to sleep so I forget they ever existed until something kicks them awake again.

But the one thing I’ve always been and will always be, the only thing I’m sure of: I am fire. Pyrolysis, a thermochemical reaction, a separating of elements. As long as I have that, I think I can hold them all off. Maybe not indefinitely, but for a while.

But why do I even want to? So I can find more words to apply, this time words I like, I want, I wish? How the fuck would that be any better?

What’s the fucking point?

So puzzled, still so full of pain.  But he’s doing the work, he’s getting there and you are straining to help him every step of the way.  You will feel that way about Theo too.

If this is your first Superpowered Love story, then go back to the beginning or at least start with Riot Boy.  That will give you enough back history and insight into the characters to go forward with Re-entry Burn.  It won’t take much before you will find yourself just as addicted as I am to this universe and these characters.  Katey Hawthorne is a go to author for me and this is a perfect example why.   Go, pick it up and start on the path to a love affair with the Awakened!  You are going to love them.  And just because I can, here is one more hook to reel you in. Malory is speaking with his parole officer:

 Maybe society would start pretending I was human again. I admit, part of me was thinking, fuck that noise, and always will. But it’s as good as it gets. Less trouble too.

“Do you feel like it’s helpful with your reentry, I mean?”

I pictured myself racing through the atmosphere like the Apollo 13 capsule, trailing pieces of myself and fire.

P.L. Nunn’s cover is gorgeous as always.

Books in the Superpowered Love series in the order they were written and should be read:

Equilibrium (Superpowered Love, #1)
Jealousy: A Love Story (Superpowered Love, #1.1)
Best Gift Ever (Superpowered Love, #1.2)
Riot Boy (Superpowered Love, #2)
Willoughby Spit (Superpowered Love, #2.1)
Nobody’s Hero (Superpowered Love, #3)
Losing Better (Superpowered Love, #4)
Re-Entry Burn (Superpowered Love, #5)
Book Details:

ebook
Published August 26th 2013 by Loose Id
ISBN13 9781623005009
setting Arlington, VA

The Winners Are Announced for The Tameness of the Wolf Week! Happy Birthday, Kendall McKenna!

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It’s here, our final day with Kendall McKenna and The Tameness of the Wolf Week.  It’s been a great week with terrific prizes and  author insight into a series that is just outstanding and one of Scattered Thoughts Best of Lists for 2013.  I am sure you all are with me when I say I can’t wait for more.

Thank you, Kendall, for the wonderful posts and gifts.

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords

Strength of the Wolf Banner

Whew! It’s been a helluva week! I was already behind on some administrative duties when Strength of the Wolf was released. The reaction was so strong, it was all I could do to keep up with email, Facebook PMs, and messages left on my wall, and on The Tameness of the Wolf’s Facebook page. I’ve been participating in the Suicide Prevention Blog Hop (because as of 2013, more military personnel take their own lives each day/year, than are killed in combat), and I have two new guest blog appearances starting today, and it’s been rough keeping up!

Who am I kidding? I’m even farther behind than I was!

And don’t think any of this is a complaint, because it certainly is not! What it is, is an observation of the escalation of the reaction to the Tameness of the Wolf books as they come out. I think the love of paranormal stories gave Strength of the Pack a good launch, but Strength of the Wolf was met with a perfect storm of paranormal, sequel, and my own slightly higher author profile. From an objective standpoint, it’s fascinating to watch how each series generates its own unique reaction. Each new title generates a slightly more intense reaction than the one before.

So here we are, one week into the release of Strength of the Wolf, it’s topping the bestseller lists, and I’m still behind in admin work! Just in case it’s not clear, when I’m behind in admin work, that means I’m not working on the next book! Yikes!  Today, none of that matters!  We’re celebrating my birthday, today, by announcing the last of the contest winners!  My thanks to everyone who has stopped by, read my posts, read the wonderful reviews for both books, and entered the contests!

A huge thanks to Melanie (aka Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words) who stayed in stealth mode! I knew you were out there, even though you stayed in the background. I appreciate the two great reviews for Strength of the Pack and Strength of the Wolf.

So, to celebrate my birthday today, I’m going to finish giving out gifts to YOU!KM Dog Tags

Jumping back a bit, the winner of Noah and Lucas’ dog tags is Carissa! Congratulations! Drop me an email at Kendall.mckenna3 at gmail dot com with your shipping address.

Next up, the winner of Tim and Jeremy’s dog tags is Fedora! Congratulations to you as well! Be sure to let me know your mailing address.

And for the GRAND FINALE! The winner of the e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf is: Lyra L! Congratulations! I just need to know which format you need!

Once again, my thanks to everyone for participating!  Congratulations to all the winners!  I hope your prizes help you enjoy my birthday!  Now, go run and tell all your friends and family about this wonder series of books you’ve read and how they need to check them out now, before too many of them get released! 😉

Time for me to lace up my LPCs and step off! Kilo-Mike out!Strength of the PackStrengthoftheWolf4

Kendall McKenna

love & dog tags

www.kendallmckenna.com

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Review: Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

StrengthoftheWolf4After the events in Afghanistan, Captain Tim Madison,  Lt. Lucas Young, Dominant and True Alpha Sergeant Noah Hammond find themselves back in the States as part of a new military unit designed to better utilize and integrate the wolf shifters into the military to the benefit of both species.  Its a huge job and they have plenty of preconceived notions, misinformation and outdated combat structures to get rid of.  All receive promotions with Tim Madison promoted to major.  He is also made the head of the new unit which is composed of both human and shifter soldiers. The first order of business? To the bottom of the huge amount of shifter casualties in combat.

Jeremy Wagner is a civilian wolf shifter.  He’s smart, young and just beginning his career as an architect intern.  Jeremy is also a Lone Wolf, having been Cast Out by the True Alpha of the North Coast pack.  To that True Alpha, Jeremy represents a threat to his leadership asJeremy is just beginning his Transition to True Alpha.  Now Jeremy is alone, hormonal and trying to deal with all the physical and emotional changes of his transition and it’s not going well.

A confrontation in a parking lots brings Tim Madison together with Jeremy Wagner with explosive results.  Despite Tim’s concerns about the swiftness of their feelings and age difference, Tim and Jeremy soon form an intimate bond.  But outside elements gather to pull them apart.  Tim’s dysfunctional brother has reappeared in his life,  casualties are mounting for the werewolves in combat and Jeremy must still deal with his transition to True Alpha.  Will their bond and the strength of the wolf be strong enough to withstand the obstacles in their path?

Each new book from Kendall McKenna just reinforces my enthusiasm and love for The Tameness of the Wolf universe and the wolf shifters (and humans) she has created for it.  Strength of the Wolf follows shortly after the events of Strength of the Pack and the kidnapping of Lt. Lucas Young.  That military action highlighted the errors in which the wolfshifters were being used and the need for more investigation and regulating where the shifters and the military were concerned.  After an intense Prologue, McKenna switches focus away from combat and brings us into an exploration of werewolf natural history, one of the aspects I wished had been enlarged in Strength of the Pack..  How did they operate? What was the hierarchy?  In Strength of the Wolf, McKenna starts to answer some of those questions.  I have to admit that I love how McKenna intertwines shapeshifter history with that of human history and lore.  It works beautifully and also manages to introduce an element of humor to the proceedings.

Kendall McKenna’s characters are as strong, deep, and intense, all of which is necessary considering their occupations and difference in physiology.  I love her soldiers, her Marines both human and werewolf.  They are all resoundingly authentic and compelling.  Now we get to see the civilian side of the wolf.  Jeremy is a architectural intern.  He is young, brash, smart, and alone.  His is a more subtle characterization if you can say that about a wolf shifter, especially one becoming a True Alpha.  His is a character in transition in more ways than one.  Jeremy is twenty five.  He is, as an intern, learning about himself as a architect as well as his new  status as True Alpha.  Jeremy has always been a mid level pack member and is not prepared when he starts to change mentally, emotionally, and physically.  He is in all respects, a late bloomer and that’s a problem.  I really love this character.  He is powerful and he is also very vulnerable, he is insecure and having problems handling his transition without help.   Then into his life strides Tim Madison, Lucas Young and Noah Hammond.  Talk about a life changing moment.  That scene in the parking lot is a great example of why everything about this series and book works.  It’s intense, its perspective is both intimate and broad in scope, it’s humorous and potentially terrifying.  It’s amazing.   And the more we learn about Jeremy’s journey to True Alpha, the more we learn about werewolf society, pack rules and regulations.

The character of Tim Madison is, naturally, given more depth and scope than his role in Strength of the Pack.  I liked Tim in that novel but came to love him here.  Older, responsible, and still he yearns for the type of bond he sees in Lucas and Noah, a permanence and deep love that includes respect and understanding.  Tim’s past and his military career have taught him caution, to be wary of unplanned,  quick moves.  So it is absolutely understandable that when faced with Jeremy’s (and his own) desires, that Tim would want to slow things down.  So very human, but that doesn’t always work with your mate is a shapeshifter.  Again, McKenna gives each man his strong persona and then shows us exactly how and why they work so well in combination.  It’s realistic and incredibly sexy!  I mean incendiary sexy!  Those scenes between Tim and Jeremy are the hottest things since…well, since Noah and Lucas!

Of course,  Dominant Lucas Young and his mate, Noah Hammond, the True Alpha of the U.S. Armed Forces Pack are back in force.  This couple always manages to bring an startling sexual and emotional component to each scene they are in.   They remain as charismatic and white hot as you would expect.  But even with all those qualities, their presence doesn’t take away anything from the story of Tim and Jeremy.  They enhance it, not dilute it.  McKenna balances her couples and the needs of the narrative beautifully so neither couple is diminished by the other.  It may be  Tim and Jeremy’s story but the author has a wider plan that she is moving towards and many other elements in play.  And this will include some of the new characters she introduces in Strength of the Wolf.  At least I am hoping to see certain Marines show up again as well as Tim’s brother.

A  review of any of Kendall McKenna’s novels would be incomplete without mentioning the superb military elements so much a part of her narratives.  Because of Kendall McKenna, I now know what a sit-rep is, also a “oscar mike”, CASEVAC, and LPC’s, that’s leather personnel carriers, also known as boots for those of you as ignorant as I was of military speak!  Because of Kendall McKenna and her vivid realistic descriptions, I can almost feel the heat of the desert baking into their skin, and the dessert sand that invades every crevasse of clothes and body no matter the preventative measures taken to keep it out.  The drudgery, the danger, the boredom and the unmitigated horror of a ambush, its all here, done with a gritty realism that will make you wince,cringe and cry out for those involved.  Reading through a Kendall McKenna story is both a pleasure and a revelation.  I feel grounded in its authenticity (especially where the military and combat is concerned) but revel in the new facts and aspects of situation and characters that I had not thought of.    What a joy.

Kendall McKenna’s Strength of the Wolf and The Tameness of the Wolf series are on Scattered Thoughts Best Lists of 2013.  Consider both books highly recommended.  So grab up your LPCs and run to get your copy of Strength of the Wolf.  If you are new to the series, go directly back to the beginning and Strength of the Pack first.  If you loved that book, trust me you will be running back to reread it after finishing Strength of the Wolf.  This is a series you will never get enough of, trust me on this one.

Cover art by Jared Rackler is amazing.  I love it.

Books in The Tameness of the Wolf series in the order they were written and should be read:

Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 365 pages
Published September 6th 2013 by MLR Press
original title Strength of the Wolf
ISBN13 MLR1020130136
edition language English
series The Tameness of the Wolf
Buy links:

Scattered Thoughts July 2013 Book Review Summary

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Scattered Thoughts July 2013 Book Review Summaryjulyjpeg

It was an outstanding month with regard to books I read.  So many great books and authors that it made this month a joy to be a reader and reviewer. And even more remarkable is that every one of the 5 star rated books were all part of a great series, whether it was a long established series or a series just getting started.  Mary Calmes released her 7th book in her A Matter of Time series,, Missouri Dalton new Guidebook series promises to be an instant classic for young and old,  Amy Lane made us weep as she  finished up her beloved Promises series, and Kendall McKenna continued to prove she is one of the best military fiction writers I know with her third book in the Recon Diaries series.   And that’s just the tip of the books read and reviewed this month.  So many great stories, truly something for everyone.

All the reviews are linked.  So take a look, see what story you might have missed or new author to add to your must read list.  The bar has been set really high for August.  Just saying.

 

July 2013 Book Review Summary
5 Star Rating:
Birds of a Feather (Bellingham Mysteries #5) by Nicole Kimberling (contemporary romance)
Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane (contemporary romance)
Necromancy and You (Guidebooks #2) by Missouri Dalton (YA horror supernatural fiction)
Parting Shot (A Matter of Time #7) by Mary Calmes (contemporary romance)
The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3) by Kendall McKenna (contemporary romance)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Attachment Strings (Jeff Woods Mystery #1) by Chris T. Kat (4 stars) (contemporary romance)
Fever Anthology by M. Rode (4 stars) (contemporary romance)
Grime and Punishment (The Brothers Grime #1) by Z.A. Maxfield (4.5 stars)(contemporary romance)
Son of a Gun by A.M. Riley (4 stars) (contemporary romance)
Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma #3) by Anne Tenino (4.25 stars)(contemporary romance)
The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest (4.25 stars)(contemporary romance)
Vampirism and You (Guidebooks #1) by Missouri Dalton (4.75 stars) (YA horror supernatural)
Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R. J. Scott (4.75 stars)(contemporary romance)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Bully For You by Catt Ford (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
Love On The East End by Lily Sawyer (3.5 stars)(contemporary romance)
Pick Up Men by L.C. Chase (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
Tattoo You by Willa Okati (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
The Heir Apparent by Tere Michaels (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
Waiting for Ty (Lovers and Friends #2) by Samantha Ann King (3 stars) (contemporary romance)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft (2 stars) (contemporary romance)

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:
Side Line by Ben Ryder (1.5 stars) (contemporary romance)

Review: Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02) by Missouri Dalton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Necromancy and You coverAlter (Al) Skelton is just like  any other 15 year old who is obsessed with death.  He has a purple and black bedroom full of skulls, walls decorated with Day of the Dead posters and a vent where he hides all his copies of Raising the Dead from Cemetery Comics.  Shortly after his 15th birthday, Al sends away for a copy of  Necromancy and You with a coupon out of the back of his Raising the Dead comic along with the box tops from three boxes of Count Chocula cereal. The book he receives in the mail is so much more than he expected.  Instead of a paperback, Al gets a heavy leather bound book addressed to him and immediately his life starts to change dramatically.

From the moment Al starts to read the book, he realizes something is weird.  The spells in the book are working for him as a disastrous incident in his science lab demonstrated.  Al can raise the dead.  Now he’s a boy with a plan and the ability to raise the dead.  That plan? To raise his dead father and get his family back together.  But so many obstacles block his path.  The man his mother is dating is hateful and abusing, too bad he is also Al’s psychiatrist. An evil group called the Coalition operates a school for Necromancers and they will do everything in their power to bring Al into their fold. Suddenly Al’s world is full of ghouls, ghosts, vampires, and talking dead frogs.  What’s a young budding necromancer to do when danger is all around him in a world turned more dark and scary than usual?

Missouri Dalton has created an instant classic for older teens and adults alike with Necromancy and You, the second story in the Guidebook series.  Never have I been so enthralled by a young 15 year old like Al Skelton.  As created by Dalton, Al is a brilliant, depressed social outcast, who lives for his Raising the Dead comics and memories of his old family life.  His father died five years before when Al was 10, an event that happened while his dad was away on business so Al never got to say goodbye. Since then, his mother has turned cold and distant, spending all her time either at work or with her  new boyfriend, a sadistic man who also happens to be Al’s psychiatrist.  With his present life a nightmare, Al would like nothing better than his family back together again, happy and whole, an impossibility considering his dad is dead.  If this description starts to conjure up visions of Harry Potter, then yes, there are similarities.  But for me, I find Al Skelton far more interesting and quite a bit darker.  He is also far more sarcastic and self aware than Harry seemed to be.  But I guess that comes with being a Necromancer. albeit a budding one as well as being a bit of a smartmouth.

Dalton’s narrative is so clever, so enthralling and her main character so charismatic and appealing that the reader is pulled in instantly, immediately hooked on Dalton’s world building and Al’s life. Oh the life of a teenager at 15, it’s such a tough one.  Hormones are raging, poised between child and adult, the world can be a harsh place, especially if that teenager is just a little different from everyone else.  Dalton takes this truism and gives us a darker version.  Al doesn’t just think everyone is out to get him, they really are.  Lonely, upset and missing his father and the way his family used to be? That should sound familiar to any number of kids these days. And if the normal world is scary place for them, what would happen if you then find out that vampires, ghouls, zombies and ghosts are real and you are not quite human?

Lucky for us, we get to find out as Al goes from normal teen to powerful Necromancer and beyond.  This is how it all starts:

When the package arrived, that clear crisp morning on the twenty-third of October, I knew it would be a good day. The package was green, vibrant and shiny, tied with black string. The address label was white with black letters that spelled my name.

Alter Skelton

215 Bridge Lane

Verity, IL 34055

It was a package I’d been waiting for seven weeks and three days. Waiting ever since I mailed in the coupon out of the back of Raising the Dead along with the box tops from three boxes of Count Chocula cereal. The ad had caught my attention immediately, gleaming on the slightly thicker glossy paper of the back cover, in bright green and black and white.

Learn to control the forces of life and death! This book will change your life!

I knew in a heartbeat I would do anything to get my hands on it. So despite my normal tendency toward not eating breakfast, I ate it. I also started to act less strange around my mother to decrease suspicion. And now, on a Saturday morning, I had my book.

I took the parcel immediately to my room. My mother was out shopping, so I had a good couple hours to peruse the book before shoving it behind the vent cover where I kept my issues of Raising the Dead and the pornographic magazine Tommy had foisted on me after his mother started cleaning his room again.

And then later on, once Al is safely in his room:

I cleared the detritus off of my bed, mostly clothes, and unwrapped the parcel.

The book was heavy, and as I tore away the paper, I noticed it was not the paperback copy I’d expected from the photo in the back of the comic. The cover, by the feel, was leather, black. On the very front there was incised decoration: bright green lines indented as a border around a white skull that felt and looked like bone. Over the skull, in silver lettering, was the title.

Necromancy and You!

Underneath the skull was a secondary title. From A to Zombie

There was no author listed. On the interior page was a notation.

A Stone House publication copyright 1344. Do not redistribute. Books sold without covers are considered stripped books; the house nor the author receives payment. Please refrain from purchasing stripped books.

And on the next page.

Welcome, young master! You have chosen to take the first step in a wonderful journey! Herein are the methods, practices, and rules of the way of Necromancy! Please read the entire first chapter thoroughly before proceeding to the Practical Applications to ensure safety!

Well. Safety was important. One wouldn’t want to raise anyone on accident or anything. No need to get the neighborhood riled with corpses walking about. Or skeletons. Or both.

No, secrecy was key here.

The neighbors were too nosy as it was. Then again, so was my mother.

And from the moment Al opens the book and begins to read, his journey (and ours) has started.  There is no going back, not that he would want to of course, at least in the beginning. Al has a unique voice, it’s quirky, it self effacing and it definitely belongs to a teenager.  It has just that right amount of young perspective and cluelessness while still sounding aware and confident.  How I love this boy.  Al is also remarkably resilient and he has to be. Because before him are so many unpleasant truths about his world and horrifying events to cope with that the ability to take such things in stride is necessary for his survival.

Along his journey he also meets a cadre of remarkable personalities and creatures, some friend, some foe, and some just well….we just don’t know where they stand.  But all of them are exquisitely created.  They team with life or unlife (!) as the case may be.  Some are personalities that we have met already in Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01), including that m/m couple of foster vampire Duncan and 17 year old Louis.  They loom large in Al’s future but more than that I won’t say.  You will have to discover the details for yourself.  All the characters involved are memorable, some charming, some chilling and several downright evil.  But no matter what side they fall on, good or bad, they are all believable and realistic right down to the smallest detail.

Dalton moves her narrative along at a swift and smooth pace and you will want to scamper along with her, wanting to rush to see where the plot is taking Al and you next.  But slow down, don’t miss any of the details, even the ones that seem so insignificant.  There is so much layering here, of plot twists, relationship dynamics, family dynamics, young love (more on that later), the trials and tribulations of growing up….you name it and Missouri Dalton has incorporated it into her story.  But  Dalton does so effortlessly, her narrative never feeling jumbled up or dense.  Really, this is an outstanding book in a remarkable  series.

There are some things that should be noted. Necromancy and You as well as the Guidebook series are categorized as a YA book, a category I do agree with one limitation.  I don’t feel it is appropriate for anyone under the age of 15 (Al’s age).  While a kiss between the hero and heroine is the sexiest this gets, there are mild suggestive comments for the sexual activities of a few other couples.  Nothing explicit, nothing even major, but its there.  My limitations pertaining to age is more along the lines of the traumatic events that occur.  Al is hurt numerous times and while we are spared the details, it happens and younger children might be upset. People die and there are other potentially violent  scenes.  They are necessary for the book and work beautifully within the narrative.  Most of the violence is “off stage” as it were, but the emotional impact is huge.  These events are as beautifully constructed as the rest of the story so yes, you will feel them just as Al does.  This is an emotionally moving, heartfelt and heartrending story.  It has the power to bring tears to your eyes even as they are rolling down our hero’s face.

In addition to giving us an intrepid young man, Dalton gives us an equally resourceful heroine. This is a minor romance happening within the storyline.  Al is straight and there is a slight romance starting here.  One that I suspect will grow over the course of the series, along with that of our m/m couple Louis and Duncan.  Again, like every other teenage, young love finds a way, no matter your sexual preference.  But this series is geared towards suspense and mystery of the supernatural kind.  The romances that occur are secondary to the main focus of the series,  a battle brewing against good and evil, that eternal conflict with surprising elements to each side.  I wanted to order print copies immediately and go running along crowded sidewalks, passing them out and yelling at them to  “read this book”!!!!!  Teenagers, young adults, old adults, and everyone in between needs to read this book, invest themselves in the series.

As you may have guessed, I enthusiastically recommend this book and this series.  I will leave you with a few thoughts from Al himself:

I just couldn’t take normal life seriously.

“Mr. Skelton, are you paying attention?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good, then you can complete the problem on the board.”

Do. Not. Kill.

That should not be anyone’s daily mantra.

While it may not be ours, I love that it is Al’s.  Run, fly, do whatever you have to do, but get this book!

Here is the Guidebook stories in the order they were written:

Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01)

Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02)

Book Details:

ebook, 206 pages
Published July 3rd 2013 by Prizm Books
ISBN1610404939 (ISBN13: 9781610404938)
edition languageEnglish
series Guidebook