Barb, the Zany Old Lady’s Best Book Covers of 2014

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Best Covers of 2014 copy

 

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Barb, the Zany Old Lady’s Best Book Covers of 2014

My favorite covers in order of favorites (though it’s hard to choose):

 

Grand Adventures coverDance coverIntoWindBAMF book cover

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Adventures by S.A. McAuley et al, Artist Paul Richmond
Dance by Teodora Kostova
Into the Wind by Shira Anthony, Anne Cain
BAMF by S.J.D. Peterson, Cover Artist Reese Dante

Something Like LIghtning coverThe art of BreathingTraining Session coverBlackbird Knitting in a Bunny's Lair cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something Like Lightning by Jay Bell, unknown
The Art of Breathing by T.J. Klune, artist Paul Richmond
Training Season by Leta Blake, unknown
Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair by Amy Lane

 

Hell or High Water coverNecropolis cover
Hell & High Water by Charlie Cochet, artist L.C. Chase
Necropolis by Jordan L. Hawk, unknown

Review of Still Waters (Sanctuary #4) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Adam Brooke is just coming off a Sanctuary case guarding a true slimeball and looking for some downtime when his boss pulls him into the largest investigation that organization has ever faced – the Bullen case.  Sanctuary is still guarding the two main eye witnesses against the Bullen family and now the FBI wants to take over both the investigation and the witnesses themselves.  Adam is to be the Sanctuary liaison with the FBI, a job he hates given the fact that the FBI forced him to resign after accusations he was “dirty”, his pain only compounded by the fact that his accusser was his Bureau partner and lover.

Lee Meyers is a straight up FBI agent assigned as the Bureau liaison to Sanctuary, an independent security agency in possession of two key witnesses to the high profile Bullen case.  Lee is aware that his ex-lover, Adam, now works for Sanctuary and hopes the case will finally give him the answers to Adam’s betrayal in the past.  Can Lee work past Adam’s animosity and Adam get through his anger and pain long enough to get the evidence both agencies need in order to solve the case?  Or will their past bring the case down around them?

Still Waters continues the story arc of the Bullen family  who are steeped deep in crime and politics.  And with each book, the case against the Bullens gets more complicated with sticky threads like those of a spider’s web stretching out to larger events and more characters than initially thought.  I love this part of the Sanctuary series. Just as you think Sanctuary and its agents have the case solved and the witnesses protected, another murder, another double agent or double cross pops up and all bets are off.  Still Waters moves the Bullen investigation forward only to see the organization retreat in the face of insufficient evidence and  increased pressure by the FBI to turn the case over to them.  We still don’t know the identity of the FBI mole but as a government agency the FBI has powers of authority that Sanctuary, a private firm, does not.  So the threat of the FBI takeover contributes to the mounting sense of anxiety for the reader as the book continues.  The threat the FBI poses is even more dangerous considering that the two men held in protective custody are Morgan (Guarding Morgan) and Beckett Jamieson aka Robert Bullen from
Face Value.  Morgan and Beckett have also become lovers to Sanctuary agents and we have come to love both couples as the saga continues.

Each new book introduces us to a new Sanctuary agent and their potential/past lover.  In Still Waters, we meet Adam Brooke, a former FBI agent falsely accused of misconduct by his lover and FBI agent partner Lee Meyers.  I loved Adam Brooke.  Filled full of bitterness at his betrayal by the FBI and the one person who should have stood  by him, his pain and loss are evident in his caustic manner and aggressive style.  Adam is a totally believable character in every respect, including his love for Lee.  He hates that he still has feelings for him  and it makes him cold and ruthless in his dealings with those outside the firm.  I think my problem with Still Waters is that where Adam seems fully realized, Lee does not, mostly due to Lee’s backstory.  Lee comes across as naive and filled with an idealism for the Bureau that would be fitting in a Rookie agent. But the storyline is that he has been an agent for years. For me that naive rigid outlook of Lee’s just seems unlikely for the seasoned agent he is supposed to be. Also when Lee is promoted to the Bureau’s Internal Investigation unit early, he doesn’t realize how his actions would effect his agent partner/lover.  Really?  Anyone in an internal investigations unit knows how they are perceived by other members of the department. For the reader to like Lee, you must be able to empathize with him, but his actions with regard to his lover make that hard as does his continuing belief that Adam really is “dirty”.  Lee just does not add up on so many levels, that at parts of the story I just wanted to see Adam dump him and find someone more worthwhile.  I can’t reveal more about Lee and his situation without going into spoiler territory which I won’t do.  I just wish RJ Scott had made Lee a rookie, complete with rookie mistakes.  That would have changed everything for me, including his believability and my ability to like him.  So let’s just say I am in love with half of this couple.  Of course, it would not be a Sanctuary novel without the appearances of agents from past novels, so we meet up with Kayden and Dale again as well as Manny, their IT genius.

But the real star of this book is the Bullen Family Investigation that is being stretched over the series.  So make sure you read the books in the order they are written. This is the only way you will meet the cast of characters mentioned all through the books and understand at least the starting points of the investigation. RJ Scott keeps one on the proverbial pins and needles here.  Just when you think you know who the mole is and that the investigation is wrapping up, the author throws more mysteries at you.  The criminals behavior is not what it should be, more shadow players are lurking in the background, and what is going on at Ops?  Still Waters ends but the Bullen Families crimes are still being uncovered and nothing is wrapped up.  I love that!  Book #5 is called Full Circle and RJ Scott has said that Sanctuary is a 5 book series.  But I can’t see how this convoluted case can be wrapped up in one book and I hear rumblings about another book with Dale and Joseph from The Only Easy Day which would make this reviewer’s day and then some.  So here I am waiting in anticipation for the Bullens to be brought to justice and Manny’s story.  I am confident that RJ Scott will give us another great read, and give Manny a lover worthy of such a great quirky character.

Cover: Artist Reese Dante.  I love that there is  continuity in using some of the same models throughout the series covers as the same characters popup  in each story.  Great cover, wonderful stories.  Perfect matchup.

Books are in order they are written:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) by RJ Scott

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2) by RJ Scott

Face Value (Sanctuary #3) by RJ Scott

Still Waters (Sanctuary #4) by RJ Scott

Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) by RJ Scott  (coming soon)

Review of Nature of the Beast Outside The City #1 by Amylea Lyn

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Raine O’ Kelley was different. Inside the Domed City conformity was the rule, starting with your physical attributes.  White blond hair and blue gray eyes, that was the norm, but not Raine.  His hair was the color of gold and his eyes were a deep green.  The fact that he varied from the norm was enough to guarantee that no women would ever choose him as a husband.  He wouldn’t even be employed if his influential father had not interceded with the government to get him a job.  He was too different even for his father, and his father knew his deepest secret, the manner in which Raine was truly, criminally different.

In a society where nature was outlawed and any possession of vegetation considered a felony, Raine could communicate with plants.  He could make them grow, and they sang to him.  In fact, plants were as necessary to Raine as was oxygen and blood.  His mother was gifted or cursed in the same way and because his father loved her, he allowed her a plant or two even though the government forbade it. When she died, his father removed all the plants only to watch his son sicken and fade. His father brought one back but only because Raine was the last link he had to the woman he loved.

Now Raine works for the government and hides his gift behind locked doors in his apartment, where his bedroom has a living carpet of grass and forbidden plants take up  all available space.  Then he is found out and sent to prison for life.  Abused daily by the guards and with no contact with plants, Raine starts to die.  The guards throw him to The Beast, a fearsome monster kept to dispose of prisoners and a miracle happens.  The Beast protects him, takes care of him.  The Beast turns out to be more a tortured man than animal and the two are drawn together.  When Raine discovers The Beast comes from Outside the City, and that the guards intend to kill them, escape becomes paramount.  Will their relationship hold firm in the face of obstacles both inside and outside of the City?  Or will animalistic nature of The Beast destroy their bond first.

This story both frustrated and delighted me.  Amylea Lyn’s Domed City is a dystopian society that we have seen before.  A city ruled by an oppressive government is walled off from all nature.  It’s inhabitants live a grey life in a grey city under a dome that let’s in very little light.  While the idea is not original, the author does a wonderful job with her descriptions of the uniformity of city life and its denizens.  But where she shines is in her creation of Raine O’Kelley.  Raine’s life force is entertwined with plants, energy and love flowing between them.  So vivid are the description of Raine’s interaction with nature that the story dimmed as the plot took a different direction.

The Beast is Ashlon, lost son of the chief of the Katria.  One of his own people betrayed him, and he was taken into captivity by city guards. Ashlon has been tortured and beaten for years in the prison under the City. His memory of his life outside has dimmed and his Beast has taken control in order to survive.  The prologue tells the story of Ashlon’s capture from his POV and gives us a strong introduction to the Beast.  Ashlon’s confusion and rage comes through so beautifully that it was a little jolting to have him disappear after the Prologue. Chapters pass by before we see him again.

Raine has obtained his seeds and plants through the black market and I loved the glimpses we are given of the nature underground that manages to survive the Government interdict.  When Raine’s secret garden is discovered and he is arrested at work,  he manages to send a message to an anonymous source who wisks away his plants before the guards can destroy them.  What a tantalizing glimpse into a forbidden section of  society.  I wanted more, much more of this plot line.  Instead, we get Raine convicted of his crime and sent to prison, where he is gang raped each night, and forced into a work detail by day.  Not surprisingly, Raine starts to die.  A trip to the infirmary becomes a death sentence and a trip to The Beast’s cell.

Raine’s introduction to the Beast is a little muddled as his thoughts seem surprisingly clear for someone as sick and abused as he is. Previous descriptions show Raine broken and fading from the nightly sexual abuse by the prison guards but that seems to disappear inside The Beast’s cell. As both men become aroused by close contact with each other, I kept waiting for an appropriate response from Raine that would be in keeping with that of a rape victim.  It never happened.  There is a few fleeting mentions, once when Raine and The Beast are attacked by the Head Guard, and one in the village, but then it goes away completely.  And with that lack of reaction, the character of Raine became less real in my mind which was a shame as he is such a unique creation.

The plot redeems itself as the two main characters flee the prison and the City.  Again, the author rewards us with lush descriptions of the Outside and Katrian life inside their village.  But each time Raine’ gift comes forward in neat, creative little ways, I mourn the loss of a totally different plot and wish the story had taken a different turn.  Especially during a major fight towards the end, where the symbiotic nature between Raine and the plants comes to the fore.  I loved this!  And it was such a strong part of the plot that the shifter side of the story seemed a little mundane.

So while I did enjoy this book, the shadow of a greater one lurking behind it kept me from giving it a higher rating.  I look forward to more books by Amylea Lyn and the fulfillment of the promise of an extraordinary story shown here.

Cover: Artist: Reese Dante.  The cover is terrific.  From the terrific graphics to the font style, the cover design both delights and informs you of the story within. Great job.

Available from Silver Publishing, Amazon and ARe.