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:

 

Review: The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

The Unforgiving MinuteRyan Betancourt has finally made it, all of his hard work has finally paid off and he is on the World Tour with many of the star players he grew up watching and idolizing.  One of those players is Josh Andrews, the star of the tour and current golden boy of tennis.  Ryan has had a huge crush on Josh since the first time Ryan saw Josh play a match.  So Ryan is eager to meet his idol, and is crushed when his first encounter is with a cold, aloof Josh surrounded by his retinue.  Ryan has always approached tennis the same way he has people, with an open heart, and no suspicions about ulterior motives or possible head games.

Josh Andrews can never remember a time when he has not played tennis.  He has a obsessive former tennis champ as a father who has directed his childhood and every moment as an adult to one goal, winning tennis games.  Sidelined by a knee injury, Josh is now back on track to win, no matter the costs.  A life spent on the courts means Josh is well aware of the negative aspects of the  game, from court politics to the ways the unwary can be hurt by those around them.  Josh is not eager to open himself up to anyone outside his circle, let alone an up and coming unknown.

Ryan’s manner of playing and his attitude has turned him into a crowd favorite and that same attitude has him returning back to the one player who holds him at arms length, the closeted Josh.  As Ryan slowly breaks down Josh’s defenses, a true friendship and then more develops.  But the sharks are circling on and around the courts, including one who intends to take them both down.  As the stresses build, can Ryan and Josh continue to win at tennis and finally at love?

I loved every page of The Unforgiving Minute and it was another book I didn’t stop reading until it was over.   Sarah Grainger uses the world of professional tennis to give us a heartwarming and stirring story of love on the courts.  Everything you want in a terrific romance is here.  We have two tennis players, one who has finally arrived at the top level and one who has been there for years.  Grainger also provides both men with backgrounds completely opposite to each other which helps not only to explain their outlook on the game of tennis, but their outlook on life as well.  The author’s well rounded characterizations which extends into completely different playing styles and discipline further enrich this romance by pulling the reader throughly into their worlds, involving us in the regimen necessary to continue to play at the top of the professional game.

In the author’s note, it tells us that Sarah Grainger lives in the Cotswolds and loves to ramble about with her lab.  Well, honestly, after reading this novel, I was sure she had spent all her time playing tennis because of the familiarity and love of the game that pours forth from every page. The reader learns about the strategy, the different court surfaces, and the rules and regulations the tennis players abide by.  By the end of the book and during a stirring, gut wrenching match, we are not merely spectators but feel as though we are sweating on the court along with the ballgirl.  I mean there are some wonderful blood pumping, exhaustion inducing descriptions here of the players and their matches. If you have never watched a tennis game before, you will want to after reading this book.

But it’s the characters here that will draw you into the story and keep you there.  I am not just talking about Ryan with his “baby giraffe” runs across the court after a ball, or Josh, so disciplined and yet terribly vulnerable.  True I adored them both, but there is also Elaine, doubles player, Ryan’s best friend and scary person.  I loved her and her attitude.  There are the great characters that exist in Josh’s retinue, from the masseuse to the cook.  All fully realized people who bring a authentic feel and depth to all the interpersonal relationships that matter to the main characters and the game of tennis.

Here is a little excerpt and window into the life of Ryan after a match:

AFTER beating Michael Kreissig, Ryan was on a high. He was through to the fourth round of the Australian freaking Open. He was grinning as he sat down with a bit of a thump on one of the couches in the treatment room.

Tim, the in-house sports masseur, strolled over, flexing his hands. His wonderful, miracle-working hands. The first time Tim had treated Ryan, Ryan had proposed marriage. It had only been when the words were already out of his mouth that he’d realized he should be more careful; what he thought of as harmless banter might not be taken too well, even though everyone except Elena and Tommy probably assumed he was straight. Thankfully, Tim had been unfazed. He was apparently used to proposals from the players, whether of marriage or full-time employment. He’d also turned Ryan down with unflattering swiftness.

“What can I do for you today, Mr. Betancourt?”

Ryan laid himself down on the couch on his front, resting his head on his folded arms. “You can make it all go away, Tim, then run off to Bali with me.”

“You only want me for my hands.” Ryan couldn’t see Tim’s face from where he was lying, but he sounded suitably lugubrious at the thought.

“Well, yeah. And your knowledge of physiology.”

“Irresistible as you make it sound, I don’t think my wife would agree.”

“She could come too. Hey, does she give massages?”

And for that, he was subjected to a very firm deep tissue massage. He wasn’t entirely sure if it was reward or punishment, but he couldn’t stop the groans that it drew from him as Tim worked his magic.

With even a small excerpt, you get Ryan’s sense of humor and outgoing spirit, his closeted status and easy approach to the people around him.  Adorable, immensely likable, and so easy for the reader to connect with.  How could you not love him?  But Josh will capture your heart with the same ease he wins matches.  There are so many levels to this person and Grainger reveals them slowly to us and Ryan over time, until we care for him as deeply as we do Ryan.

As I said I loved The Unforgiving Minute, and  it’s a terrific introduction to Sarah Grainger if this is your first book authored by her. It was for me and  now I am off to see what else she  has written.  This book will make you want to do the same.  A must read recommendation from me to you!

Cover art by LC Chase works perfectly for the story within, although I have to say I wish one model was grinning away, just as Ryan would.

Book details:

ebook, 236 pages
Published April 26th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380518X (ISBN13: 9781623805180)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Endangered LGBTQ Youth, Books Proceeds, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Tis the season for winding down of the school year and various holidays,  Mothers Day and Fathers Day among them.  And while there are many families out there celebrating their love for one another, there are also many children, including 40 percent of LGBT youth*, who will be spending these holidays out on the streets, abandoned by the very families who should be their mental, emotional, and physical support.

The current fiscal situation at the Federal and local government levels has been devastating to the few shelters currently operating and a hindrance in opening new badly needed shelters and group homes.  In our area, a bright light has been the opening of a new LGBT shelter, Promise Place, on the Washington, DC/Prince Georges County, MD line.  But on the flip side, the Wanda Alston House is in dire need of donations and assistance in order to continue.  And the same can be said for the Ali Forney Center in NYC, whose outreach building was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy last year.

Every day we hear more about bullied or harassed gay youth in the  media, the politicians make speeches and little seems to be done at the practical level.  We  need more legislation, more enforcement of said legislation, and just an increase in overall awareness of the fragility of LGBTQ youth in our society today.

Luckily, there are a number of M/M authors who are helping the cause with donations of royalties from their books.  I will be listing some of them here.  If you know of others, please let me know and I will add them to my list.  This week, editor Kris Jacen introduced the anthology Lost and Found by Featherlight Press.  Her announcement and the book details are listed below.  I have not read it as yet but its on my list to do so.  If you have read it, and want to post a review, contact me.  Also listed is Sue Brown’s book, The Sky Is Dead, recently reviewed here and a must read recommendation for me.  Sue Brown is also donating proceeds of that book, here is her comment:

Thank you so much for the review. Your review highlights many of the issues LGBTQ kids face. The royalties from this book are going to The Albert Kennedy Trust, a UK charity supporting homeless LGBT kids.

And Kris Jacen on the Lost and Found Anthology:

From Kris Jacen, editor to various M/M author websites:
Hi all,
Some might know, others might not, but I’ve been working with ten very talented authors on an anthology entitled, Lost and Found. The book released last night from Featherweight Press. All of the stories deal have the theme of hope for those teens that are kicked out/told they don’t matter by their families for being who they are or loving who they love. Each author (and me) is donating their royalties to charity. Below is my editor’s note from the front of the anthology. I hope you pick up a copy or help spread the word so that we can make the most of the donation to help these homeless LGBT teens.

Lost and Found http://www.featherweightpublishing.com/ShowBook.php?YA=ANTH_LOSTNFND
In the Fall of 2012, DH Starr approached me about Featherweight publishing an anthology that he was a part of. It was a special project being organized by Michele Montgomery. All the authors wanted to donate their royalties from the anthology to charity. They wanted the monies to go to a specific cause—they wanted the money to go to a charity that worked with LGBT homeless teens.
The inspiration for the anthology was a picture that they had seen with the text over the image that said “40% of homeless youth are LGBT. The #1 reason they’re on the streets in family rejection.”
Once we got to final editing stages we realized, we didn’t know WHICH charity to donate the monies to. There are so many great charities out there working with LGBT youth that we weren’t sure which to choose. We wanted to make sure that no matter how much, it would make a difference. So the search was on.
I was pleasantly surprised to come across one that had the name of the anthology almost exactly—Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc. It seemed like fate talking to me and after speaking with one of the board members, I was convinced of it. You see the board member told me that the day before we spoke, they received a call from a teen that had been on vacation with his parents and when they found a gay romance on his eReader, they left him on the side of the road. Yes, you read that correctly, abandoned him for reading a gay romance.
Our hope is that with these stories, these teens realize that there are many out there that care about them. That no matter what anyone says—THEY MATTER.

~~~
Kris Jacen
Executive Editor
ManLoveRomance Press http://www.mlrpress.com
Passion in Print Press http://www.passioninprint.com
Featherweight Press http://www.featherweightpublishing.com

So I am making a list of books whose proceeds or part of their proceeds will be donated to LGBTQ youth shelters and organizations.  I know I am missing quite a few so help me fill in the list and send me the names and publishers.  Here are the first two  three books to start the list:

Finding a Dream coverFinding a Dream by  SJ Frost

Bullied and harassed at school for his sexuality, Dillon Davis can’t see his life getting any better, but he can see it getting worse. Depressed, wounded in spirit and body, he’s nearing a point of hopelessness, until he sees a picture of his favorite stage actor, Brandon Alexander, with his partner, Shunichi Miyamoto. At learning Shunichi runs a karate dojo, a spark of hope comes to Dillon of learning to defend himself, and most of all, meeting Brandon.

Brandon Alexander is filled with compassion for Dillon the moment he meets him. He knows all too well what it’s like to be scorned for being gay. He and Shunichi want nothing more than to help him, but when Dillon never returns to the dojo, they fear what’s happened to him

Per SJ Frost: “Kris Jacen and I are donating our royalties from this story to The Trevor Project.It’s with the support of all who buy this book that we’re able to do this, and from both of us to you, thank you, so very much, for joining with us in giving to those in need.”

ebook, 79 pages

Published December 28th 2010 by MLR Press
ISBN139781608202829
edition languageEnglish
original titleFinding a Dream
settingChicago, I

 

 

Lost and Found coverLost and Found Anthology:

Lost and Found (from the Goodreads website):
by Kris Jacen (Editor), MF Kays, T.A. Webb (Goodreads Author), Tabatha Hart, Dakota Chase, Caitlin Ricci (Goodreads Author), Jeff Erno (Goodreads Author), D.C. Juris
*Some statistics say that 40% of all homeless teens are GLBT. They’re on the streets after their families have thrown them away, told them that they don’t matter, that they’re not normal. Well, guess what? Those families are wrong. This collection of stories by ten talented authors spans the spectrum (historical, paranormal, transgender, cutter, gay) to show that – it’s okay, there are people out there that care, and these teens are perfect just the way they are.

All royalties from this anthology are being donated to Lost-n-Found Youth in Atlanta, Georgia. A wonderful charity working with these teens, helping them find their new place and get on their feet.
Paperback, 421 pages
Expected publication: May 31st 2013 by Featherweight Press
ISBN139781608208661
urlhttp://www.featherweightpublishing.com/ShowBook.php?YA=ANTH_LOSTNFND

The Sky Is Dead coverThe Sky is Dead by Sue Brown:

Danny is young, gay, and homeless. He lives in the park, preferring to avoid attention, but when thugs confront a stranger, Danny rushes to his rescue. He and the would-be victim, Harry, form a cautious friendship that deepens months later, when Harry persuades Danny to visit his home. Daring to believe he has found happiness, Danny finds his world turned upside down yet a…more
ebook, 232 pages
Published April 17th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781623806088
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

And now the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday, May 20:               Breaking The Devil by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, May 21:                Noah by Ben Ryder

Wed., May 22:                     Still by Mary Calmes

Thursday, May 23:             Closet Capers Anthology

Friday< May 24:                  Isle of Where? by Sue Brown

Saturday, May 25:               Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger