A MelanieM Review: Blood & Milk by N.R. Walker

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Blood & MilkHeath Crowley is an Australian man, born with two different coloured eyes and the gift—or curse—of having premonition dreams. He also has nothing left to live for. Twelve months after having his life upended, his dreams tell him where he needs to be. So with nothing―and no one―to keep him in Sydney, he simply boards a plane for Tanzania. Not caring if he lives or dies, Heath walks into a tribe of Maasai and asks to stay. Granted permission, he leaves behind the name and heartbreak of Heath and starts over with the new Maasai name of Alé.


From the day of his birth, Damu has always been an outcast. The son of the chief and brother to the great warrior leader, Damu is reminded constantly that he’s not good enough to be considered a man in the eyes of his people. Ordered to take responsibility for Alé, Damu shares with him the ways of the Maasai, just as Alé shares with Damu the world outside the acacia thorn fence. But it’s more than just a cultural exchange. It’s about trust and acceptance, finding themselves, and a true sense of purpose.

Under the African sky on the plains of the Serengeti, Heath finds more than just a reason to live. He finds a man like no other, and a reason to love.  

I have high expectations of a N. R. Walker story but Blood & Milk just blew them away easily with her story of a broken man finding himself among the Masai people in the Serengeti.  Heath Crowley is a man whose life has been shattered by a hate crime.  Cornered by an angry group of men, Heath and his partner are attacked with horrific results, his long term partner is killer and Heath is left an empty, wounded bitter man.

A moving story all on its own but N.R. Walter gives Heath Crowley another dimension, the ability to dream, to see bits of the future.  Its both a gift and a curse as Heath sees it.  And we see it too…pulled into Heath’s nightmares of the night they were attacked and the visions that give him another path forward.

That vision leads an empty Heath to book a one-way ticket to Tanzania, the Serengeti and the Maasai tribe that includes Damu, another in search of his own sort of healing. I’ll stop here and say that the amount of research Walker must have done is considerable and it shows  down to the smallest of details in the everyday life and as well as Maasai culture that this story is seeped in. Heath is aware of his own cultural judgments and tries to see beyond them when possible when living as one of the Maasai.  This encompasses many levels of stature which I’m not about to get into here as it makes up a large part of this story.  But its so beautifully done.  I sunk myself into the life of the tribe, the children, the interpersonal relationships (good and bad), and forgot that time was passing.

Blood and Milk is told from Heath’s pov which was a wise choice.  I don’t know how much stretching you can do here.  But Damu and the Maasai tribe is vividly represented.  I could see them dancing in celebration, hear them singing, and yes it sent me to find those same dancing myself so I could listen to it and let it mesmerize me as well as it did Heath.

Walker is also well aware of the consequences of being gay in Africa and this story works with that horrific reality too.  What an astounding story.

What can I say?  Blood & Milk by N. R. Walker is mindbogglying wonderful.  Its beautifully written.  The flows along naturally, like a river flowing to the sea, slowing where it needs to, picking up speed and crashing over rocks at places and emptying into a stunning wide open ocean of endless possibilities.  Blood & Milk will be at the top of my Best of 2016  list.  One read  and I’m sure it will be on yours.

I highly recommend it.

Sales Links: The pre-order link for Blood & Milk on Amazon is HERE.

Note:  N.R. Walker is  donating part of Blood & Milk royalties to African Human Rights Coalition who are a proactive group on the ground in Africa, actively helping LGBT people.  For more about this, see her interview with Santa Aziz on N.R. Walker’s Blog

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: June 23rd 2016
Edition LanguageEnglish

 

A Stella Review: Yes by Brad Boney ( a Double Dipping Review)

Standard

Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

What if youth wasn’t wasted on the young?



Yes cover by Brad BoneyOn the eve of his fortieth birthday, Ian Parker is looking for a reboot. He may be the proud owner of a trendy coffee shop in Austin called La Tazza Magica, but his love life has been MIA for years. During a trip to Denver with his best friend, Mark, Ian buys an enchanted chocolate from a mysterious candy store—then wakes up from a nap two decades younger. After the initial shock, Ian realizes a quirk of the universe has given him a second chance and, with Mark’s help, he devises a plan to start over.

With a new lease on life, Ian sets his sights on handsome architect Bartley James, a regular customer at La Tazza. He pursues Bartley as Ian’s twenty-one-year-old alter ego, Ryan, with decidedly unexpected results. Joining Ryan on his adventures are Matthew, the dreamy new barista, Jeremy, the geeky high-school math teacher, and Sam, the pizza delivery boy. Even as misunderstandings and expectations collide, Ian remains determined to right his past mistakes and find his off-ramp to happiness.

 

Be careful what you wish for cause you just might get it!

The glow from the flame threw shadows around the kitchen as he sang “Happy Birthday” to himself. Then he closed his eyes and blew out the candle. Since no one could hear him, Ian didn’t see any harm in saying it out loud.

“I wish I could go back and do it all over again.”

Ian is the forty years old owner of “La Tazza Magica”, an European style cafè, a place for writes, students and players to come. Ian is a lonely man, apart from his coffee shop, he has very few people in his life, Mark is one of them. Ian is going to Denver with his friend to celebrate his fortieth birthday. During his time in Denver, he buys a chocolate kiss called Manick Butter (with pot in it) and eats it on the plane coming back to Austin. He takes a nap and when he wakes up he looks twenty years younger. After the initial shock, he and Mark will work on planning a new identity to Ian. So Ian becomes Ryan and he will use this second chance to remedy all the mistakes he made in his previous life and maybe to have a real chance at dating Bartley, one of his customers and biggest crush.

Yes by Brad Boney is one of that books that leave me thinking about them for long time, especially cause I’m still not sure if I liked it or not. Brad Boney is an author I really appreciate. He’s really good with words and his stories are always so interesting. The writing is enchanting. I couldn’t put the book down till the end. And it happens to me every time I read a book by Brad Boney, I’m glad to have read it.

Of course this book is a standalone, but I’m wondering why all Boney’s books (and I’m thinking about The Return, The Eskimo Slugger and The Nothingness Of Ben) aren’t part of a series, since the MCs of each story can be found in all these books, maybe it could be simple for the readers. Of course having read the other books first helped, but I honestly don’t think you’ll miss something in this book if you haven’t.

There are some recurrent elements in Boney’s books. First of all there are a lot of movies, songs, television characters mentions, sometimes I didn’t get them being Italian but I enjoyed them. In The Return we got a lot of discussions about songs and singers, while in Yes we had a really great discussion on the story of the porn and its actors. And I’m mentioning just one dialogue.

Then, what I loved in all of his books is the great second characters cast, we always get a lot of people, a lot of background, a lot of details. In Yes we meet Quentin, the smarter brother of Ben (The Nothingness Of Ben) and all the Walsh clan too. We meet Topher and the wonderful people of The Return. Most of all, we know Mark, who supports and accepts the change in Ian with not so much fussing. A friend that helps you no matter what, even in crazy and magical times. In fact, in Boney’s books there’s always a paranormal (or magical) aspect that brings the MCs together.

Yea has a mysterious aurea as in The Return, even if not in the same way but it missed the emotional parts of The Return and the chemistry of The Nothingness Of Ben. Yes is a light reading, an easy and pleasurable one. There are some funny moments too, like this scene:

“This is the test I was talking about. Read a couple of sentences.”
“Why?”
“I saw it on Teen Wolf. Stiles said you can’t read when you’re dreaming. We need to eliminate the possibility that this is a hallucination.”
“So that’s your first move? You’re taking a cue from an MTV show about werewolves? What happened to a logical explanation?

My problem, if it can be called problem, was that I couldn’t like Ian as Ryan, he did some really nasty and insane things in my opinion, he definitely didn’t learn from his past mistakes. Ian wakes up in a younger body but he is still Ian inside, so why does he behave as a teen? I couldn’t go past a couple of things: SPOILER

Let’s talk a little about the ending. Briefly it was an unexpected disappointment. The story resolved in the simplest way you can think of. Okay it’s a book, okay believing in a couple of things not everybody believes in, but it felt short to me, just too simplistic. Boney took me to other levels in the past. In Yes at the end it was almost as nothing had ever happened and it’s not a good feeling when you’re done with a book and you don’t know what to do about it. I’m still thinking I missed something.

So if you read the previous books by Brad Boney, you’ll know what to expect. Yes is a well written, funny and smart book. You will meet and know more about the characters you loved in them. I am really sorry to say that this one wasn’t so great as the others.

Cover art by Alex Saskalidis. This cover is something different and very welcomed. Well done.

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

BOOK DETAILS

Published March 16th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ebook, 220 pages
ISBN13 9781632168429
Edition language English

 

DSP

Wild Onions Guest Blog with Author Sarah Black

Standard

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is welcoming Sarah Black this week to talk about her latest two releases Wild Onions and The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari.  In today’s post, the author talks about her love for Idaho, the setting for Wild Onions.

During this four day Sarah Black event, we will be giving away one copy of The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari to one lucky person who comments on any Sarah Black blog from10/22 to 10/26 with the winner to be announced on Saturday.   Visit

Leave a comment below.

Falling in Love with Idaho: An Illustrated Adventure by Sarah Black

A few years ago, on one of my periodic urges to explore the world, I took a locum job as the Nurse Practitioner at a small clinic in an Athabascan village in Alaska. The village was on the Yukon, about 130 air miles from Fairbanks. We moved in February, and all I will say about that is if you are going to move to Alaska, consider waiting until the summer. On the positive side, my son got to experience the joy of having his boogers freeze at forty below zero, which is the sort of thing boys love and moms will never understand.

In July, I bought a truck in Fairbanks and we left, (I might say ‘fled’ if I was being very honest) driving back to America on the ALCAN Highway. Since I had no intention of ever returning to Alaska, we took the opportunity to visit the National Parks. It is my avowed intention of visiting all of America’s National Parks in my lifetime. Except the Everglades, because I missed my chance and I’m not going back to Florida. That story for another time.

Here’s my baby on our first trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, my favorite of the National Parks, wearing my college sweatshirt!SB -James at North Run Grand Canyon

Anyway, we had a very good time visiting gorgeous Denali and Kenai and Katmai and staring a glacier in the face; I couldn’t help but wonder if they would still be around in another fifty years. The scenery was gorgeous, but we didn’t see any wildlife. My only near miss with a bear was actually a hiker, sleeping in the grass, who popped up so suddenly I thought he was a bear and I nearly keeled over in shock. Also a flasher at the Grizzly Café outside Denali who looked like Santa, but I’m not sure if he was an intentional flasher, or if he just forgot both his underwear and zipper. Either way I classified him as wildlife.

One of the glaciers in Kenai Fjords:
SB Alaska Glacier 2
After Flasher-Santa, I said, screw it, let’s head to Canada. Almost as soon as we crossed the border, we found all the wildlife. I don’t know why the eagles and bears and wolves were in Canada- perhaps the IRS turned their eye on them and they sought asylum? Either way, we drove slowly, and the bears ambled across the road, babies bouncing behind, and my kid stared at them out the window and said, ‘they look just like they do in the pictures!’ And that was my exact thought as well.SB JamesGlacierNatnPark002_zps00698238

We crossed the border with the US at Glacier National Park in Montana, and immediately had a lecture about bear safety. I tried to tell the Ranger the bears were all up in Canada, but he doubted my theory about the wildlife moving north. My son adores Park Rangers and always has many questions for them.

He takes their rules, usually posted near the bathrooms, for gospel and we always follow the safety rules to the letter. Which is why we had our toothbrushes in plastic bags, and locked in the truck. Because bears can smell Crest. We ate our hotdogs and marshmallows and then lay in a very small tent, and SB Glacier Park with boatsI stayed awake all night, listening for the grunt and rasp of ursine breathing through very thin nylon. The bighorn sheep were crawling all over the mountains, the lakes and rivers were icy cold, and we experienced the terror and delight of Going to the Sun Road.

After all this fun, I told the kid we needed to head on to Boise, where I had received a job offer. Frankly I was exhausted by all the adventure.

So we started driving through Montana, heading to Idaho.

The Northern Rockies are like nothing I’d even seen before. Huge, stark, forbidding, but sort of protective, too. The valleys were encircled, and the mountains were big andSB Northern Rockies strong, and I was safe there, safe surrounded by these old grandfathers. It was a

strange feeling. I was used to being the tough one, strong myself, taking care of everyone, and in these mountains, I felt like they were watching out for me. I was astounded. Astounded and so relieved I felt like weeping.

The rivers are not like the rivers I’d grown up with back east. These rivers are noisy, muscular, tumbling and roaring. Idaho has a masculine spirit, the landscape strong and tough and silent as a cowboy. No wonder I fell in love! And the people are like the landscape—tough and still, very strong, but with hearts as big as the mountains.

SB Salmon River #6

These are the Grand Tetons. The French fur trappers in the mountains called them Les Tois Tetons, which means, of course, The Three Breasts. What did I say about the masculine spirit? Some historians suggest the mountains were named for the Teton Sioux. There were many Native tribes in this area, Bannock, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Sioux, Blackfoot. I used the past tense just then, but small groups of Bannock and Arapahoe still live in these mountains. I’ve always been fond of the Blackfoot, since they were the only tribe to try and ambush Louis and Clark.

SB Grand Tetons
When I first moved out to Navajo country to work, I took my usual view of the world, and since I like to listen to people talk, found myself hearing really different perspectives on things. I worked at a tribal boarding school, and I heard a couple of the teachers talking about what they were going to do to teach Lewis and Clark’s trip west. One of the teachers just shook his head, said, “Those bastards.”SB Idaho Lewis and Clark Trail
I’ve always been a bit of a Corps of Discovery nerd. This was the first time I’d heard an opinion from the other side! This is just off of the Lewis and Clark Trail through the Northern Rockies.

Buy Link to Wild Onions:HERE IT IS!

Review of Wild Onions