A MelanieM Review: Hockey Holidays Anthology – Various Authors

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

This is a delightful Christmas anthology to indulge in if you love romances in every combination.  While the stories here are mostly het, there are three great M/M romances to lose yourself in for the holidays.  All of them focus on hockey, hockey teams and their  players in their search for HEA.    Another bonus?  All proceeds are donated to charity, 100 percent.

Even TJ Oshie of the Washington Capitals tweeted about the Anthology as the proceeds benefit the “USA Warriors Ice Hockey who operate sled and standing hockey programs for wounded combat veterans and service-disabled vets”.

**100% of the proceeds from sales of this anthology will be donated to charity.** I will say the others 

While the Anthology itself does not indicate which story is M/M or M/F, I have pulled them out for you below. While all the others were fun, I’m just going to review the 3 LGBT stories here written by RJ Scott,  V.L. Locey, and, a new author for me, Susan Scott Shelley.

This holiday season unwrap a brand-new collection of hockey romances that includes humor, drama, love, and – of course – hockey!

Each book is EXCLUSIVE to the anthology and NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED by USA Today, New York Times, and all your favorite bestselling hockey romance authors.

Dallas Christmas by RJ Scott (M/M) Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Logan knows lusting after his captain’s brother can only lead to trouble. But when fate throws them together, it’s hard not to fall in love.

It’s what I’ve come to expect of RJ Scott, a lovely hockey romance. The angst here is in the closeted Logan, fearful for his career, loss of friends and standing with the fans, while very much in love with a man he thinks he can’t have.  It’s very well done, you feel like you know these men and their situation, and the resolution isn’t one of ease but love won out.  Loved it.

Holding On Tight by Susan Scott Shelley (M/M)  Rating 5 stars out of 5
For defenseman Vince Forsberg and his boyfriend Joseph Parelli, the pressure to make their first Christmas together perfect leads to a lot of chaos, holiday mishaps, and some unexpected results.

Susan Scott Shelley is a new author for me and I’m very happy that after each story, there is a section on each author and their novels so I can start a new TBR list for her.  This one my top favorite, a tale of a “perfect Christmas” gone off the rails in every way possible and yet it became the one to remember.  Here a couple, newly moved in together (one giving up a job, house, and state), tries too hard to give the other the perfect Christmas to make up for the stress and strains of the move and the things  going not as smoothly as expected. That they aren’t talking to each other about their fears isn’t helping.

Shelley makes us feel this couple bending under the pressures of the holiday, the high expectations they’ve placed upon themselves, and the love that acts as a support and bridge when everything keeps crashing down.  It’s shows everything that’s wrong and right about the holidays.  Just terrific.  I need  more from this author.

A Star-Crossed Christmas by V.L. Locey (M/M) Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Two years ago, Mitch shared an explosive kiss with his childhood friend Shaun. Will Christmas be the time for the two men to find a future together that works?

When I think of hockey romance, VL Locey name jumps to mind and this is the reason why.  Her ability to mix her love of sports and romance realistically along with great characters. I’m not talking about just the main ones, but the supporting cast like families as well.  Their past history as friends, the town, it all comes across as authentic, and you feel for these  men both as the young boys they were and the people trying to find a path to each other now.  Heartwarming and perfect for the holidays.

When You’re Ready by Toni Aleo (M/F)
He knew she was the one, she wasn’t so sure, which is why Grace and James’ love story is one for the ages.


Of the ones below they ran the gamut from 2.75 stars to 4 stars  out of 5.  Some connected to already established series I was unfamiliar with, others were standalone.  I thought they were cute, quick warm-hearted holiday stories and only made one notation.

A Second Shot by Shannon Stacey (M/F)
She was the one who got away, but when their paths cross once again, all he wants for Christmas is the chance to take another shot at love.

A Wolfe Brothers Christmas by Jami Davenport (M/F)
Spending their first Christmas together in years, the Wolfe brothers fumbling attempts to create good memories go awry.

Christmas Crosscheck by Jaymee Jacobs (M/F)
Bryan’s planning to propose to Georgiana on Christmas Eve, but will the chaos of their families’ first holiday together ruin their special moment?

Final Slapshot by Jean C. Joachim (M/F)
Harry “Deke” Edmonds hides his secret, hoping for a Christmas miracle. When confronted with the truth, will his heart-breaking decision cost him everything?

Lucky Holiday by Jennifer Lazaris (M/F)
Tyler Quinn made the biggest mistake of his life when he broke Ella’s heart, and he’ll need more than an ace up his sleeve to win her back in time for Christmas.

Dmitri’s Christmas Angel by Kat Mizera
Two women. Two surprise pregnancies. Dmitri Papadakis is screwed.

His Christmas Cinderella by Kate Willoughby (M/F) Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
When Gideon Aguilar mistakes Bailey Peng for his Uber driver it leads to a night he can’t forget. But after she disappears the next morning will he be able to find his perfect fit?

I’m rating this one for a reason.  At first I thought it was adorable but then I thought about the idea of someone  impersonating an Uber driver and if the sexes were reversed.  If the driver is a female, oh that’s so cute.  If the driver is male, then we have issues.  Big ones.  Yep, think it needs to be dinged for that element alone.  Could have met cute another way.  Instead this is just creepy.

Red-Hot Trouble by Lily Harlem (M/F)
Sophie Delaney never intended to walk into ‘that’ locker room, at ‘that’ moment, but she did, and now she’ll never be the same again.

Christmas Interference by Lisa B. Kamps (M/F)
Shane Masters no longer believes in happy-ever-afters. Can the woman who knew him best thaw his heart with a little holiday magic before it’s too late?

The Devoted Father and the Introvert by Mary Smith (M/F)
Elexis Dunaway loves Twitter and work. Dag Limon loves his twin boys and playing professional hockey. Soon their worlds will collide with one simple tweet.

Her Best Worst Boyfriend by Melanie Ting (M/F)
This Christmas, Em Davis is bringing Mr. Wrong home to prove a point to her parents, but Ian Reid might turn out to be Mr. Right.

Icing isn’t Only for Cookies by Melody Heck Gatto (M/F)
Avery James wasn’t looking for love when tall, dark, and deliciously handsome hockey player Kyler Wilson walked into her bakery.

The Playboy by Stephanie Julian (M/F)
Kyle is back in the minors to rehab his career but that’s not all he’s hoping to fix. Convincing the girl he left behind to take another chance on this former playboy will be harder than resurrecting his career.

All I Want by Stephanie Kay (M/F)
When fate brings first loves Maggie and Alex back to the same city, will Maggie be brave enough to give the relationship she never forgot a second chance?

Cover art: Kim Killion.  Perfect cover for an anthology. He’s adorable and has the right props, and I mean that in every way   possible.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 13th 2018
ISBN 139781386861461
Edition Language English

A Lucy Review: Love For All Seasons Charity Anthology – Various Authors

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Rating:  3.5 stars out of 5

This anthology has stories that share the theme of the seasons.  In some, the season is front and center, such as Winter’s Chill and Sweeter Than Honey, while in others it is not integral to the story.  As in every anthology there were stories I liked more than others.  I got introduced to authors new to me, several of which I will be looking forward to seeing again.   All the stories here are fairly short, as typical in an anthology. 

Brioche for Two  – V.L. Locey  (3.5 stars)  Brian is a businessman who orders two brioche delivered from the bakery where Isamu works.  Isamu is a broke film student and can’t figure out why an obviously well-to-do man such as Brian would want to have anything to do with him.   Of course, he helps Isamu with his film project on finding passion.   It really is the story of their meeting and maybe beginning.

Sweeter Than Honey – C.M. Valencourt (4 stars)  Grayson is a vegan baker who sells at the market where Wyatt sells honey from his hives.  Some nasty attitude prevails and it is up to Wyatt to show Grayson not everyone is cruel.  New to me author and this story was adorable.  I admit, the vegan aspect drew me in – I am a vegetarian always trying to make that leap to vegan.  The uninformed and sanctimonious way Grayson attacked Wyatt is, unfortunately, all too common in the vegan community .  Wyatt is patient and a good person and I enjoyed reading about the bees.

Special Nights – DJ Jamison (3.5 stars) Sam suffers from severe insomnia and sometimes trying to sleep just isn’t worth it so he heads off to spend time in the very early morning at the diner where Hunter works.  Hunter has a lot going on in his personal life right now but he takes the time to talk to Sam.  This is set across the year and how they slowly become something to each other.  I liked the flirting between the two and the fact that nothing was rushed.  They shared snippets about themselves and didn’t fall into bed, which made it seem real.  It was cute, maybe needed to be a bit longer.

Winter’s Chill – Cathy Brockman (2 stars)  Jeff is working on his grandfather’s house so that his mother can sell it.  Lane is his next door neighbor and during a storm not only does the power go out but Jeff is trapped under a fallen branch.  Luckily, Lane hears it and rescues Jeff, then offers to let him stay by Lane’s, where there is a generator, heat and food.   It is the week they spend snowed in that they get to know each other.  This one had potential but I didn’t think it lived up to it.  Part of it may be a personal thing, as it is written in present tense and that isn’t preferred for me.  The other part is that they have conversations that seem forced and stilted.  The writing style wasn’t working for me and this one wasn’t a favorite.

Beach Boys – Annabelle Jacobs (3.5 stars)  Russ is on vacation with his best friend, Sarah, and another friend, Karen.  It was technically a girl’s weekend until the third girl broke her ankle and Russ is invited to fit in.  It’s a sweet bungalow right on the water and he’s extremely happy to be there.  Even more so when spying the hot surfers on the beach.  What more could he ask for?   Told in first person by Russ, I liked the whole meet your guy on vacation and this one was sweet instead of all sexy.  I liked that too because this is the very beginning of something for these guys.  There are some funny parts, such as Bailey the dog and her love for tug of war, that made me smile.

Who Do You Love, My Valentine – EJ Smyth (2.5 stars) Nox is a god who has been crushing on a human, Matt, for more than two years.  It happens that at Valentine’s season Cupid needs some help and of course Nox draws the short straw and has to fix Matt up with someone else.  How can that be!  Especially when Nox misses the shot and now Matt is falling in love with a woman, Joanie.  Now what?  Right in the beginning, Nox is invisible and he is licking Matt’s neck and fondling his groin, while Matt is unable to know what is going on.  He even admits it, “It was a creepy thing to do, but he was close, so very close.”  Ummm, nope, not a reason and that made me very uncomfortable.  Joanie was accidentally shot by the arrow is now extremely attracted to Matt and Nox just sort of pushes that to the side, which was annoying.  I did appreciate that when Matt is hit with the arrow, it hurts! That was unique.   This one was up and down for me, but feather sex pushed it down a little.

Favorite Flowers – Chris McHart (4 stars)  Gabe owns a flower shop, working with his best friend, Tara.  Tara is on him to get out there and start dating again, that “Not every guy is a cheating bastard.”  But he doesn’t want to and he’s sticking to his guns.  Then a customer comes in, totally overwhelmed, and wants to buy flowers.   He starts coming in every week to get a bouquet but never gives any indication of being interested or even being available so Gabe is sure it’s nothing. He doesn’t even given Gabe his name until much later, Jason.  This was by far my favorite of the anthology because the dance they are doing in the flower shop was shy and sweet.  Jason is going through a divorce after sharing with his wife, who was his best friend, that he’s pan, so he wants that out in the open right away.  I applauded him for that.  Jason’s way of asking Gabe out was romantic and lovely, and his reasoning for keeping Gabe a little at arm’s length was perfect.  “Just you, me, lube.  That’s it.” 

The Last Chance  – RJ Scott (2.5 stars)  Luke is a senior in college, set to graduate.   He can’t forget the kiss (and frot) he had with the captain of the hockey team four years before.  Of course, said Captain, Justin, hasn’t spoken to him since that day.  Luke “wanted to, but he avoided me, and I got the message.”  Now it is senior year and for some reason Jason’s jock friends are apologizing for things Luke might be holding against Justin because of them.  That part was cute.  What wasn’t so cute for me was that after four years of ignoring him, Justin has now decided to make a move.   His friends are trying to help and that was cute, but after four years of nothing, I wanted way more groveling than we got.  At first, Luke acted like I expected a self-respecting person to act when they’ve been treated poorly and get, “Please believe me, I had my reasons” as the excuse.  “I should have spoken to you.  I’ve waited so long.”  You are on the same college campus!  So I thought the end was totally out of left field, particularly when you factor in that in reality, they only spent part of one evening together.   I am a big RJ Scott fan but this one didn’t work for me.

Cover art by RJ Scott is soft, sweet and fitting to the mood and style of the stories.

Sales Link:

Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 19th 2018 by Love Lane Books Limited (first published April 16th 2018)
Original TitleLove for all Seasons
ISBN139781785641244
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://www.lovelanebooks.co.uk

Review: Texas Christmas (Texas #5) by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Texas Christmas coverWith the holidays upon them, Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes are stressed out. Jack and Riley are anxiously waiting for the courts to decide if they will be able to adopt Max, the twins are growing rapidly and they still haven’t found a nanny. Meanwhile Jack’s sister Beth is about to give birth after a dangerous pregnancy, and their new employee, Liam, is having trouble adjusting to life on the Double D .

Liam Frazier loves his life working with the horses on the Double D Ranch.  His bosses are wonderful as are the other ranch hands he works with.  The trouble?  His abusive past that won’t let him go.  Now Marcus Walker, co owner of the surrogacy agency that helped Jack and Riley find a mother for their children, is flirting with him and Liam doesn’t know how to handle it.  He finds Marcus attractive but his abuse is a barrier he doesn’t know how to get past.

When Liam’s past follows him to the ranch, it puts everyone in danger.  It will take Marcus and the rest of the Double D family to help Liam  face those who hurt him so he can move forward.

I have enjoyed this series from the beginning story, The Heart of Texas, which introduced us to Jack Campbell and Riley Hayes. I have been with this couple through their rocky start with a fake marriage and tumultuous family histories, their declarations of love, the murderous events that took place and the fire that almost cost them their lives and home.  In the previous story, Texas Family, Jack and Riley’s family had grown to include twins as well as the children and partners of the rest of their extended family.  It was a joyous layered story that took us through the surrogacy issues for gay families and introduced us to Max, a young foster child with autism.

Texas Family was a book packed with relevant issues and new characters.  It also left us with some unresolved elements, specifically those that focus on Max’s adoption fight and the new ranch hand Liam Frazier.  I am happy to report that with Texas Christmas, R.J. Scott ties up all those loose ends happily and on a perfect note for a book about families,friends, and the holidays.

Jack and Riley’s relationship is still the foundation upon which this series rests and they are still working on their marriage here, adjusting to the twins, their daughter getting older, and all the other stresses life can put on a marriage.  It’s a healthy, sexual and deep relationship and the author relays that beautifully.  But I have to admit its the newest member I wanted more of.

I was entranced with Max from the moment Scott introduced him to Jack and Riley.  The little boy clutching his Thomas the Tank Engine toy caught at our hearts.  RJ Scott did not shy away from the issues of adopting a child with autism.  Max’s emotional issues, his inability to deal with certain social situations, the manner in which he communicates, and well, everything about a life with an autistic child is relayed realistically along with the love.  There is a magical moment that RJ Scott brings to life as Max explores a sensory room Jack and Riley have created for him.  The wonder of a child caught up inside his mind is revealed in such a way that we feel we are on the floor with him, holding our breath as Max explores with a quiet joy a place created for him out of love.

Liam Frazier is another special character and his story is brought full circle as well.  But as his started in pain and abuse, those elements reappear to be dealt with before he can move forward.  The elements where Liam decides he needs outside help to deal with his abuse, the frustration Liam feels as he tries to deal with Marcus and a real relationship have a feeling of authenticity to them. Liam brings out our empathy and our compassion.

There are several scary and heartrending scenes.  But they serve to heighten the satisfaction the reader will feel as all the elements come together to give Jack, Riley and all the others a Christmas to remember.  Consider this story and this series highly recommended!

Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1)
Texas Winter (Texas, #2)
Texas Heat (Texas, #3)
Texas Family (Texas, #4)
Texas Christmas (Texas #5)

Cover by Meredith Russell.  The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 189 pages
Published December 12th 2013 by Love Lane Books
ISBN13 LLBTEXAS5
edition language English
series Texas #5

Review: Texas Family (Texas #4) by R.J. Scott

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Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

Texas FamilyJack and Riley Campbell-Hayes have been through so many things together, and overcome it all to get to the place where they are today, a happy couple with an adorable daughter and a wonderful extended family. Each hurdle in their path, whether it was their disastrous start to their relationship, fires, gunshots, and even the deepest of family betrayals haven’t kept them from each other or hurt their deep bond.

Now its time for another change, another forward step that will enlarge their family…..that of having another child.  This time, the child will have Jack’s DNA and their chosen path is surrogacy. But before Jack and Riley know it, their plans for just one child are being hijacked, first by their  surrogates pregnancy and then by a young four year old boy, Max, in foster care As Jack and Riley quickly find out, nothing is ever easy, especially in the state of Texas where gay couples, even rich ones, have a tougher path as families.

I have followed the romance of Jack and Riley through three books now and still can’t get enough.  Starting with The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1) where the men meet and marry under the worst possible circumstances through Texas Winter where Riley learned about his daughter and the devious workings of his family to Texas Heat (Texas, #3) and the expansion of the Double D, I have felt an intimate connection to these men and their future together as a couple and family.  So I was thrilled to see Texas Family released so I could pick up where we had left off before, with the men wanting to have another child, this time Jack’s.

But the road to having children is never an easy one, especially for gay couples. Then locate the gay couple in question in the not so gay friendly state of Texas and the obstacles in front of them increase exponentially.  R.J.Scott makes sure that Jack and Riley’s pursuit of a surrogate to have their child is realistically described to her credit.  This is not an easy process in any respect.  From the mens thoughts on whose sperm to donate to the woman who will carry their child, it is a complicated procedure, fraught with the possibility of rejection, pain, and the right of the birth mother to refuse to turn over the child when it is born.   The author brings us right into couples journey to fatherhood, making all the many emotions and complex decisions seem as though they could be ours.  As Riley and Jack questioned the two surrogates as to why they would agree to such an emotional and physically draining procedure, they asked the same questions that were in my mind as well.  It all felt authentic.  It was stressful, hopeful, and ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences for them all.  Trust me, by the time everyone ends up in the maternity room, your eyes will be filled with tears of joy along with everyone present.

But if that is not enough, Scott adds yet another dimension to this picture of Jack and Riley’s expanding family.  The couple that is the surrogate and her husband are also foster parents.  In their care is a very special child named Max.  I won’t spoil either his introduction or his history but needless to say that Max will grab onto your heart just as quickly as he does Jack and Riley’s.  So adoption and its complications enters into the story, again not an easy path for a gay couple, not only in Texas but elsewhere.

In fact Texas Family is about more than just Jack and Riley and their efforts to expand their family.  It’s about their extended families efforts to have children or to move forward in their troubled relationships.  Its about family in every aspect you can think of.  Its Jack’s sister whose fragile health complicates her dreams for another child. Its Riley’s sister’s problems with the man she loves , one Riley doesn’t approve of. Its their mothers, step fathers, and co workers. Its even the new worker newly arrived with problems of his own.

If I have a quibble, its that the author has packed so much into one story that it threatens to burst at the seams. Just the introduction of a new thread about the latest hire, a young man with a troubled past, had me wanting more yet wishing she had postponed that element in favor of a last minute look at Jack, Riley and their new family. I ended up wanting more of everything and everyone. The Double D Rance is a huge canvas and R.J. Scott is taking advantage of every square inch to bring us a multigenerational family saga, complete with drama, laughter, and romance.

I know the author has at least two more books planned.  I hope that the Texas saga will continue on much, much longer.  I love this series and highly recommend both the series and this book.  If you are new to the Texas saga, go back to the beginning and see how it all starts.  Otherwise, some of the relationships and past events will make little sense to a reader picking up this book to read as a standalone story.

Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1)
Texas Winter (Texas, #2)
Texas Heat (Texas, #3)
Texas Family (Texas, #4)
Texas Christmas (coming soon)

Cover by Meredith Russell.  The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 186 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Love Lane Books
edition language English
series Texas

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

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: Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Worlds CollideDale MacIntyre, Sanctuary agent, is in charge of protecting Emily Bullen, wife of Senator Thomas Bullen, from her husband and the rest of the criminally inclined Bullen family. After turning states evidence, Emily is headed back to Albany on a jet.  Accompanied only by Dale, the pilot of the plane, and the copilot, she is horrified when word reaches them that a key player in the Bullen family crime syndicate was mistakenly freed from jail and is now able to hunt down the only person who can put him away for life.  That person is Emily Bullen.

Midflight, Dale realizes the extent that Ryland Griffin will go to in order to eliminate Emily Bullen. Dale reaches out immediately to the person he knows he can trust to have immediate answers, have his back and that of the person he is protecting. That person is his lover, Navy Seal Joseph Kinnon.  When Dale’s assignment gets more dangerous, Joseph and his Seal Team intervene and the resulting events bring about a serious introspective search for Dale and Joseph about where their relationship is headed.

I have been waiting for another Dale and Joseph book since they first appeared in The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2). In that story, Dale, an ex Seal and Joseph, current Navy Seal, meet, clash and lust as the investigation into the Bullen family crime syndicate is in its initial stages with Joseph’s murdered sister as one of Bullen family’s first known victims.  The start to their romance is white hot, primal and short lived.  Since then, R.J. Scott has kept the readers on high anticipation with teasers of the couple in book after book but nothing notable or even remotely satisfying.  This is how it all starts:

“It’s not too late, we can still get out of here,” Chief Petty Officer Joseph Kinnon said urgently. He pressed both hands to the glass and stared down at the street below. The city was a white, snowy landscape and at any other time would have been stunningly beautiful. They were ten stories up in a hotel in the heart of the historic district and the place had ledges at each level. As a team they’d dealt with worse. Assessing the situation, he considered the options.

“Fuentes, talk to me.”

Luca Fuentes, young, tall, and built like the side of barn with muscles on muscles, was the team’s resident hacker but was also a tactical genius. He joined Joseph at the window. “Chief,” he said formally. His green-eyed gaze unerringly focused in on the view that Joseph had. He frowned as he looked out.

“Can you find egress here?” Joseph asked.

Luca tapped the glass.

“Reinforced; we’d need some pretty heavy ordnance to get out—I can get Viktor on that—then zip wire. Get it hooked to the top of the plaza building.” Luca looked up and down, then turned to Joseph. “Forty degrees. We can get down to the roof and get out that way.”

“Assessment?” “Fifty-fifty. I think most of us will be okay, but one of our team is scared of heights,” Fuentes said seriously.

Joseph nodded in agreement. “You’re talking about Mike Dexter.”

“He’s a liability, sir,” Luca answered. “I’m not sure his underwear would remain unstained and survive the fall.”

Joseph and his Seal team are assembled for a very different type of mission, a personal one.  This is a funny and really moving introduction, just what I have come to expect from R.J. Scott.  Joseph and his team are truly a band of brothers,unchanging until now.  But the event they have gathered for marks the beginning of transitions for more than one member of the team.  We have not met Joseph’s team until now and what a diverse group they turn out to be.  I can easily see R.J. Scott building an entire new series around this team, especially the randy Viktor.  While Scott has let us see Joseph in action, this is the first time we get to see Joseph operating as a member of his Seal team.  By their interactions with each other and their dialog the author lets us feel why being a Seal and a part of this team is so important to  Joseph.  And it also lets us into the pain Dale felt when he was forced out.  Since being a Seal is fundamental to Joseph’s character, what plays out next highlights the importance of Dale and their relationship.

And that is really what Worlds Collide is all about, an internal shift in both men that will allow them to have a future with each other.  This is more a relationship book than any of the other stories in the series to date.  Yes, we are still dealing with the fallout from the Bullen family crime investigations.  One important criminal has escaped and Dale is in charge of getting Emily Bullen to safety so she can testify.  But this section is just the impetus for providing the platform for change in both men’s lives.  Here is Joseph with a note from Dale:

Just touching the note grounded Joseph in the here and now. Slowly, over the course of the last few months, the space in his life that had once been filled by the team he was with, by the job, by staying alive, had seen a full-frontal assault by the man he had fallen in love with.

This is a huge ground shift by a man who lived for the Seals alone.  Dale too has undergone his own emotional introspection about Joseph and their possible future ahead.  I love the way Scott has developed their story.  Our first meeting and theirs was explosive, a fight turned sexual.  It was incendiary.  But after that, something else occurred, they started to care about each other and so did the readers.  From time to time, we heard about each man and their tentative relationship in the other books. Nothing concrete for them or us, just tantalizing bits that kept us engaged in their future.  So this book was more than welcome, I am sure we felt it was long overdue after being teased through five books. And  the author doesn’t let us down.

We alternate perspective, from Dale to Joseph and back, as the events brought on by  Dale’s assignment, guarding Emily Bullen, brings out those determined to stop her at all costs.  We get to see the fluidity of motion and deadly competency of the Seal team in action, and the intrepidness of Dale’s Sanctuary training coming together to achieve one end.  But the highlight of the story must be the time that Joseph and Dale get to spend together after the mission is finished.  It’s heartwarming, it’s sexy and it fulfills most of the dreams we have had about this couple.  But of course, not all.

It’s all here. All the things that have made this series such a great one.  Realistic, fully rounded characters, a complicated criminal investigation that spreads through the series, and a narrative that moves the plot forward swiftly and smoothly.  I love that the Bullen investigation is still ongoing, with loose ends out there waiting to trip up Sanctuary and the other agencies. Just a terrific aspect of this series and beautifully plotted out. There are one or two small chinks in the armor here.  One small scene with the Seals and the criminal that I thought was unrealistic given their training and readiness. And then there is the ending.  Absolutely realistic as always. For those expecting a finality to Dale and Joseph’s romance, we haven’t gotten it …yet.  But you know that it is coming and this ending will leave you satisfied for now.

If you are  new to the series or Dale and Joseph’s romance, go back to the beginning.  An absolute must in order to understand the characters and the events as they play out.  Here are the books in the order they were written and must be read:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1)

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2), Dale and Joseph’s romance begins

Face Value (Sanctuary, #3)

Still Waters (Sanctuary, #4)

Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5)

The Journal Of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary, #6)
]
Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7)

Cover design by BitterGraceArt is lovely and in keeping with the characters.

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 28th 2013 by Love Lane Books (first published March 30th 2013)

Mired in the Miasma and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Miasma, such a wonderfully descriptive word.  Miasma: from the dictionary, literary the miasma from the stagnant swamp made us choke and gag: stink, reek, stench,fetor, smell, fume, odor, whiff; gas, cloud, smog, vapor.

Yep, that is exactly what it feels like in the Metropolitan DC area these days.  Most people forget that Washington, DC was built on a swamp and the regions around it are riddled with water.  There is a reason Foggy Bottom is called Foggy Bottom.  We have water everywhere.  The Potomac, the Patuxent, the Severn and a ton of other rivers and streams, the Chesapeake Bay and of course the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s delightful, it’s outstanding, except when our humidity is around 99% and stays there, making our area feel downright tropical and swampy.  The air is thick, stagnant, some call it soupy.  It is so heavy  it almost takes on a form of its own.  The skin feels clammy, your clothes stick to the skin as though they were glued, perspiration rolls down the face to disappear into your collar and sandals are the only footwear you can bear on your feet. And when someone mentions that they didn’t have air-conditioning in the “olden days” so we should all come outside and enjoy sitting on the porch…well,  you just want to swat them.

Back to miasma.  I grew up in a Southern family where the word miasma could be frequently heard in conversation, especially by my grandmothers.  It went something like this:

“Oh the miasma is so bad for you, stay away from the window.”

“Heah, keep those windows closed so the miasma doesn’t come inside.”

Or when my Mamaw smelled something bad, well, then of course, it was the “miasma”.

I love that word but it seems to have fallen out of favor.  I mean, scientifically, we know that swamps are a wonderful thing, necessary for the environment as delicate habitats and nature’s filtering system.  A swamp is not a purveyor of disease and that illness did not waft in on the moisture laden air (hey, we are not talking mosquitos today). So with knowledge in hand, the word miasma started to disappear.  But I want to bring it back.  Miasma a term rich in eloquence, laden with romantic images, mired in the gothic and teaming with meaning.  If I am to be drenched in sweat, with hair and skin soaked with moisture, miserable and lethargic, then I want to put a layer of something magical, otherworldy and significant on it.  I want miasma!  I will have my miasma.

And besides what other explanation is there for Congress?  Its miasma. Stay away from the windows.

We are all over the place in book reviews for the coming week. Plus I am still focused on the subject of short  stories so expect another Scattered Thoughts blog on the subject on Saturday.  This is how the week looks to play out:

Monday, July 15:                Tattoo You by Willa Okati

Tuesday, July 16:                Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane

Wed., July 17:                      Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

Thursday, July 18:              Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

Friday, July 19:                    Side Line by Ben Ryder

Saturday, July 20:               Anthologies? Love Them Or Hate Them?

And to help fight the miasma, a Red Sangria recipe to cool you down:

Ingredients
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange liqueur
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sliced oranges
1 sliced green apple
1 1/2 cups seltzer

FNM050111_143
Directions
Mix the wine, liqueur and sugar in a pitcher, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then add the fruit.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Add the seltzer just before serving.

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

A Time for Remembering, Memorial Weekend and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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The month of May has always been a month of celebrations, from Mother’s Day to birthdays to important anniversaries. For me and mine, May is a time for family, either by choice or blood, and of any configuration.  For me, it is a time to celebrate those that I love, whether it is their birth, or mine and my sister’s (for my Mother), and anniversaries which helped bring all of us together.  And if the weather cooperates, than even my gardens appear to be celebrating as the azaleas, dogwoods, and all the flowers burst into pastel hues in anticipation of the intense colors of summer.

With all of these emotions and thoughts directed towards celebrating those we love for most of the month, it  seems more than fitting to end May with Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembrance of those who lost their lives keeping us safe and making it possible to celebrate all those birthdays, and anniversaries of people and  families we hold so dear.  My grandfather is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and this year, we buried my uncle close to him in a ceremony so moving that people were stopped all over the vast landscape as the sounds of the gun salute rang out over the hills and the trumpet played Taps.

Rolling Thunder passes by my parents farm every year on their way into the District and my father, a veteran of the Korean war, goes outside and salutes them as they pass by.  Our media here in the metropolitan area is full of pictures and videos marking the solemn day of remembrance as flagsVietnam Vet Memorial 2 are put at every grave at Arlington and the crowds swell at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as that of the World War II one nearby.  If you have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, then you have not experienced the power and overwhelming sense of loss that pervades that site. The  Wall itself a marker of the high cost of valor and service to our country in the names of the men and women lost reflected back to us.  In that black stone reflection, we see the list of names in chronological order and our own reflections, the recipients of their sacrifice.  For me, never has a memorial to our dead felt so alive, awash in grief, and sorrow and gratitude.Vietnam Vet Memorial

For most people, this weekend brings barbecues and picnics, gatherings of families and friends.  Take a moment and some quiet if you can, and remember.  Remember and pause to thank those who lie buried here and abroad, claimed and unnamed, for their sacrifice.  Because ,whether we acknowledge it or not, it is being reflected back to us across the picnic blankets and tables just as much as it is from the black wall itself.

Now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, 5/27:                     Memorial Day

Tuesday, 5/28                      Damned If You Do Collection by JL Merrow

Wednesday, 5/29:               Moments by R.J. Scott

Thursday, 5/30:                  Adapting Instincts by SJ Frost

Friday, 5/31:                        May Summary of Book Reviews

Saturday, 6/1:                       A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven

There you have it.  Enjoy your Memorial weekend for those of you who live in the US or Americans abroad.  Spare some thoughts and prayers for those now gone and for those they left behind.

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.

-Sir Walter Scott

Arlington Cemetary overview