Don’t Miss Out! The Tameness of the Wolf Insanity Continues with Contests and Dog Tags!

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Strength of the Wolf Banner

It’s been a week since Strength of the Wolf was released and the insanity continues!!StrengthoftheWolf4

If you missed yesterday’s post, go check it out really quick. I talked about the werewolves in, Strength of the Pack and Strength of the Wolf, how I created them, and why I gave them the characteristics that I did. There’s still time to enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf, so go get yourself signed up! The winner will be announced, right here, tomorrow!

Today, you can enter to win a set of authentic Dog Tags for the main characters of Strength of the Wolf! These are highly coveted dog tags, featuring the vital statistics of Tim Madison and Jeremy Wagner, from Strength of the Wolf. These are brand new! No one has a set, yet, so you might be lucky enough to be the first!

KM Dog TagsHere is everything you need to know to get entered for your chance to win! The winner will be announced tomorrow, as well, so don’t wait! Get entered!
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30764

Love and Dog Tags,

Kendall

www.kendallmckenna.comBlack Wolf from the back

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Buy Links:

MLR Press LLC

Amazon

All Romance 

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

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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  Its a huge job and they have plenty of preconceived notions, misinformation and outdated combat structures to get rid of.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

Scattered Thoughts July 2013 Book Review Summary

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Scattered Thoughts July 2013 Book Review Summaryjulyjpeg

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alter Skelton

215 Bridge Lane

Verity, IL 34055

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Necromancy and You!

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

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

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

And on the next page.

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

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

No, secrecy was key here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just couldn’t take normal life seriously.

“Mr. Skelton, are you paying attention?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

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

Do. Not. Kill.

That should not be anyone’s daily mantra.

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

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

Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01)

Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02)

Book Details:

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

Review: Vampirism and You (Guidebooks #01) by Missouri Dalton

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Vampirism and You coverLouis Von Graves has had an unusual childhood.  His family name is Krekowski but his parents named him Louis Von Graves. It’s almost as though they knew what would happen to him.  You see, Louis’ family are indentured servants to vampires, specifically, The Countess and have been for more generations than can be remembered.  When he was younger, Louis’ name was picked out of a hat filled with the names of children from all the servants.  Why? So that the chosen one would be turned on his 17th birthday and become a vampire, a child of the Countess. It doesn’t matter what the child wants, its wham, bite, death, and you’re a vampire.

So here he is, 17 and a new vampire.  He has been taken away from his family and friends in England and given over to a foster sire who will teach him how to be a vampire and all the rules and regulations that go along with it.  But no one told him he would have to go to America, and no one told him he would have to go to school.  With a bunch of american high school kids no less.  So what is a sullen, pouting, teenager to do when his world has been turned upside down, he has powers he doesn’t know what to do with and a overwhelming desire to drink his classmates blood?  Why be given a guidebook of course.

But the book, Vampirism and You (A Beginner’s Guide to the Change) that his foster-vampire sire Duncan gives him can’t prepare him for everything.  A new vampire appears at the house he shares with Duncan and while Eli appears to be friendly, Duncan hates him and tells Louis to stay away from Eli at all costs. And while Louis wants to eat the girls around him, he doesn’t want to date them.  Does that make him a gay vampire?  Louis isn’t sure what the answer is but increasingly all the questions about his sexuality seem to have Duncan as their focus.

But soon Louis learns that life is not all vampire fun and games.  There is great intrigue,  and evil court politics to contend with. Plus Louis is having nightmares that keep getting more vivid all the time and the answers seem to lie in his past.  Louis must contend with unexpected evil, horny cheerleaders, and the possibility he just might be gay all at the same time.  Hopefully the guidebook can help him, now only if he could remember to read his homework!

I have found a new addiction and it’s not one book or even two.  It’s a new series from Missouri Dalton and Torquere Press’s YA Press, Prizm Books.  The Guidebooks series revolves around a group of supernatural guidebooks, each a part of a series for a group of supernatural practitioners and/or supernatural beings.  Whether it be necromancers or vampires or something more, each book is delivered or given to a teenager as they come of age (whether it is being turned or coming into their powers).  The first book in the series, Vampirism and You (A Beginner’s Guide to the Change) is given to one Louis Van Graves shortly after he is turned on his 17th birthday.

What a spectacular idea for a series!  And with Missouri Dalton, an author I have come to throughly enjoy, as it’s creator, the series has really taken flight into the realm of classic storytelling.  Louis Van Graves is that typical teenager at  17 years of age who has been made to do something he never wanted to do.  Of course, we aren’t talking woodshop here. Louis has been made into a vampire through no true choice of his own.  Not only was his name picked out of a hat but he also was promised something huge by the Countess if he agreed to be turned.   In exchange for his mortal life, the Countess agrees to let his sister live a normal life and his family leave her employ to become “normal” once more after centuries as indentured servants.  But that meant that Louis had to become the sacrificial lamb for his sister and family, something none of them even tried to stop.  So Louis’ feelings here are more than the normal sullen, pouting teenager.  In Dalton’s hands, we have a young intelligent man, separated forever from his family, forced by love to become something he never wanted and removed to the American Midwest, a foreign place in everyway, including culture no matter that we both speak “English”.  Louis is profoundly hurt, not that he would ever let on and he is trying to figure out what it all means. Just as any teenager is trying to do but in extreme circumstances. The character of Louis manages to come across as not only a believable teenager going through the appropriate stages of emotional growth but also as a realistic young vampire trying to figure out his newly dead and supposedly long lasting status.  Such a dichotomy, to walk the halls of high school, navigating the social cliques of that age but having to walk hallways full of newly categorized food.

Louis has to contend with not only relocation and new status as a vampire but a foster sire as well.  Duncan (another marvelous character) has taken control of Louis as the Countess is not “terribly maternally”.   This is Louis’ first introduction to Duncan his foster sire.  Louis has been shipped off in a coffin, wearing clothes more suitable to a 18th pirate than a teenage boy:

Then again — the hearse went over a particularly large pothole, knocking my head into the lid of the coffin. It didn’t budge so much as a centimeter, seeing how I was locked in. Apparently her ladyship thought I might try to make a run for it. How right she was. The hearse quite suddenly rumbled to a stop. I heard the doors open and close. And then my coffin was being lifted and carried. An odd sensation I’ll admit.

There was the sound of doors — sliding doors, sucking sounding, like at the market. Footsteps echoed outside the coffin, not wood floors, tile probably.

They didn’t take me to a morgue did they?

Another ten minutes of jostling and my coffin was set down — not far down, probably on a raised surface. There was a jingle of keys and click of one turning in a lock before the lid was pushed open. I rolled over and sat up, and was met with the speculative look of a man much better dressed than myself. His dark hair was slicked back neatly, and his striped blue button-down shirt was tucked into pressed black slacks.

“Hello, Captain,” he said, blue eyes hiding laughter rather unsuccessfully.

“Bite me.”

“I may take you up on that.” Without a word, he slid his arms under my legs and armpits and lifted me out of the coffin, setting me down on my feet.

“Bloody hell!” I glared, “I didn’t ask for help.”

“Uh huh.” He picked up a clipboard from a table next to my coffin, which itself was on a metal table in the gray-tiled room with gray walls and flickering overhead 6 lights. There were three other tables, two of which held open coffins.

“I see you’ve come to us from Countess Von Graves.”

“Yes.” So the Von Graves name came from her ladyship — it’s still ridiculous.

“She’s marked you as a flight risk — well, first things first, a change of clothes.” He jerked his thumb at the door. “Follow me.” Not having any other choice, I followed. The next room was carpeted, narrow, and long. A table ran along the length of the left side of the room, mirrors covered the right-hand wall — not that I could see myself in them anymore — and there was a door at the very end. The table had a myriad of things. Boxes filled with odds and ends, files, clothes, and a couple of coolers. He grabbed jeans and a plain black T-shirt from the table and tossed them to me. Of course it was black. Never mind that I looked much better in other colors. “Put these on.” He turned around, I suppose to give me privacy, and I stripped down as quickly as I could and redressed in the fresh clothes. Much better.

“All done.”

He turned to me and grinned. “Good.” Walking farther into the room, he dug through the clutter on the table to retrieve a small metal vial and a bracelet that had an obvious setting for the tiny vial at the front. He stepped back to me. “Now, the Countess marked your file, but I prefer to just ask. Are you a flight risk?”

“No,” I snapped.

“So yes then.” He nodded. “You get a tracking device.” He held up the vial and bracelet. The bracelet he snapped around my wrist before I could blink. Then, he bit down on his lip, drawing blood, and dripped one drop into the vial, closed it, and slid it onto the bracelet with a click.

And with that, Louis’ education begins.

I love how beautifully  Dalton incorporates the typical teenage feelings and moods into a 17 year old newly formed vampire with it’s own newly acquired needs.  Louis has not just regular teenage hormones to contend with but the hyped up sexuality of a vampire.  Quite overwhelming to someone who has never dated.  Louis must traverse not only the pitfalls and crevasses of an american high school but those of vampire society, each with its own dangers.

Missouri Dalton never loses track of the age of her main character or of her core audience no matter how dire the circumstances of Louis’ life or unlife becomes. Louis’ has a singular voice, so typically teenage but full of personality.  He is alternately sarcastic and hopeful, wry and hurt, little sparks of youthful arrogance appearing when you least expect to do along with equal amounts of hidden humility.  So engaging, that you become involved in Louis’ plight immediately as the true precarious nature of his status becomes known.  And that leads us into the darker sections of this novel.

Yes, there are plenty of funny situations here but there are also just as many dire ones as well as the book continues, these are vampires after all.  There are references to some horrific events, none of which are described or actually referred to in terms that I think might be warranted.   There is a “blood rape” where one is bitten against their wishes.  That is described but not in overly vivid terms.  Dalton doesn’t need them in order for us to see and feel the horror of the event.  And there is more, also either in the past or not described.  But they do occur.

This is also a book about a teenager finding out not only he is gay and coming to terms with his sexuality.  But it’s also about being a sexual person.  OK, think of teenagers and their hormones and then multiply that.  And Louis’ has to come to grips with all of that and more.  It’s funny, it’s painful and at one point horrific.  And at alls times, it also feels very real.  There are no explicit sexual scenes here, just the wants and emotions associated with sexuality.  Louis’ emotions are those we can easily understand with dealing with growing up and becoming a sexual being.  It’s confusing, confounding, and can overwhelm our senses. Plus with Louis there is something more going on.  The vampires or at least a contingent of them are dark, evil beings and have been so for centuries.  And they want Louis.  Not a good thing, trust me.

Missouri Dalton has also populated this book and her series with one memorable being after  another, each a fully fleshed out (for the most part) character with real feelings and emotions backing up their actions.  Her settings too ring with authenticity from high school plays and social dynamics to the Courts of Vampire Society that feel as real as the high school gymnasium.  Not a hint of a jumbled narrative to be seen here.

My only issue is a slight one and that would be the ending.  A few loose ends still frayed and lagging in the wind.  They are tied up neatly in the beginning of Necromancy and You (Guidebooks #02) but still those bits here keep this from a perfect 5 star rating.  This is a YA story but definitely geared towards the older crowd.  I am thinking 15 to Adult, nothing younger.  There are some very dark issues here that have to be addressed, not just youthful hormones. I can’t say anything further because I won’t spoil this book.  But if you have a sensitive child, read the story for yourself first before giving it to them.  Always a good idea at any rate.

I have to admit I read Necromancy and You first, and then came back to pick this one up.  How do they fare?  Well, I found this story to be a little darker but both are just outstanding and I will be recommending this series as one of the Best of 2013.  Whether you are 15 or 50, this story and this series is for you.  Memorable characters, thrilling narrative, great dialog…really  it has it all.  Start at the beginning  and work your way through.  What a marvelous journey it is going to be.

Book/Series Covers by LC Chase.  Each cover is the cover of the Guidebook given to the teenager in the story.  This a great idea and the covers work perfectly in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 199 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Prizm Books
ISBN1610404297 (ISBN13: 9781610404297)
edition language English

Crazy Week Ahead, Ghoulish Cocktail Recipes, and This Week’s Reviews

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Sooooooo, sitting here wondering why I do things that make myself crazy.  I’m really not a masochistic sort, occasionally absent minded but truly, people,  usually I am a better planner than this.  So this week, the alarm people are coming to fix the alarm system that wants to beep, squeak, squeal, or otherwise make high pitched noises at all hours of the day, none of them actually caused by any realtime event. And all are picked up by Captain (African Grey Parrot) who finds these noises irresistible enough to mimic.  So even after they are banished , thanks to Captain’s skill at mimicry, they will always be with us. Cue the Excedrin.

Also this week?  A friend is coming to stay for the week.  I haven’t seen her in a while and I am looking forward to getting caught up on her life (outside of the computer chats) face to face.  So what else is also going on?  My wonderful book group is coming over on Sunday for lunch and togetherness, my niece and her boyfriend just flew in from CA for her birthday and my mother is making noises about a “birthday celebration” for my niece over at the Farm this weekend too.  What aligned among the stars and planets that said all this had to happen this week and weekend?  Hey! *waves hands frantically over head* Can we not do this?  Please?  This is making me crazy.  I  like to do things slowly, think the forward momentum of a sloth.  I enjoy getting ready for events and people the same way.  This is not making me happy.  Sigh.

So I plan on lots of writing today so I don’t have to do that as well.  Here is my schedule for the week if I am not carted off to Bedlam.

Monday, June 22:                    Sweet Young Thang by Anne Tenino

Tuesday, June 23:                    Parting Shot by Mary Calmes

Wednesday, June 24:              Welcome, Brother by Erica Pike

Thursday, June 25:                 Attachment Strings by Chris T. Kat

Friday, June 26:                       Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01) by Missouri Dalton

Saturday, June 27:                   Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02) by Missouri Dalton

Cocktail Recipes: In honor of Missouri Dalton’s new series which I absolutely adore, here are a couple of scary Cocktails to cool you off:

The Necromancer’s Martini:

Vampire Martini

1 part vodka
1 part strawberry liqueur
1 part lime juice
1 part cranberry juice

Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass to serve.

Vampire Cocktail

Bloody Vampire Cocktail

1 part rum
1 part cherry kool aid

Pour both of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a highball glass to serve.

Review: Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Forever Promised coverNothing stays the same forever even when you wish it too.  For the family of friends that call Levee Oaks and The Pulpit home, things are about to change and rock their lives to the core.  Four years after Crick returned injured from his tour of duty, things have settled down for him and Deacon.  Crick and Deacon have married, so have Mikhail and Shane,  Jeff and Collin, as well as Lucas and  Kimmy. Benny and Drew, and of course, Parry Angel are coming together to form a family, just as Amy and Jon have. Promise House is up and running smoothly just as Shane had always envisioned, providing a place where young men and women could get a second chance at life.  Even Martin, brother of Jeff’s former boyfriend, has settled in to become part of this larger extended family and will soon be returning to Levee Oaks to live.  With all their lives going along smoothly, of course, something happens to shake them up and provide the impetus for a decision from Benny that will change their lives forever.

When Jon and Amy receive job offers in Washington, DC with a firm that specializes in LGBTQ law suits and gay civil rights, it is impossible to turn the offer down.  But that means leaving Deacon and Crick and everyone else who has become their family behind and they are not sure they can do that.  Benny also is looking at her future and seeing many changes as well.  She will be graduating from college and Drew wants her and Parry Angel to move into the cottage with him so they can start to become a real family of their own.  But in order to move forward with her life, she wants to make sure that part of herself will always be with Deacon and Crick.  That leads to a momentous decision and a gift, that should Deacon and Crick accept, will change everyones lives forever.

Back in 2010, Amy Lane wrote a book called Keeping Promise Rock that became an almost instant classic and comfort read for so many readers.  People embraced the characters of Crick and Deacon, little Benny and Parry Angel, connecting with them deeply and with a heartfelt passion.  We clamored for more stories about them and The Pulpit, the horse farm where they lived in Levee Oaks, California and  Amy Lane obliged.  She then gave us Making Promises (Promises #2) which introduced us to Shane and the heartbreaking Mikhail, causing us to fall in love with a new set of characters while keeping our adoration for all things Crick and Deacon intact and up to date.  The third book, Living Promises, brought Jeff Beachum and Collin Waters into our lives. Actually Jeff was there early on as Crick’s physical therapist in Keeping Promise Rock where he became part of the growing circle of people around the foundation couple of the Promise series.  Living Promises starts with Jeff comforting a young Collin outside a HIV treatment center and then charts  their rough road to a loving relationship.  And as always, there to support the couple, were all the people we had come to love from all the previous books, continuing on with their lives and loves.  Sometimes funny, sometimes  painfully sad but always with their hearts and souls in the right places and full of passion.  We were there with them, deeply engaged in their relationships and their future.  Now with Forever Promised, Amy Lane brings this series to an end and I am not sure we are ready for that to happen.

Amy Lane has such a way with characterizations that the people she creates for her stories live outside the pages and constraints of her novels. They become alive for her readers.  We laugh with them and we cry for them. And sometimes just shake our heads in disbelief over their actions.  My beloved grandmother would shake her head and tell me “I  can’t believe that Erica did that to (insert name of husband here).  She knows better than that!” after watching the soap All My Children.  For her, those people in that show were real folks and she talked about them as though they were her neighbors.  That’s the way the readers (myself included) have come to feel about the people of Levee Oaks and The Pulpit.  We have lived with them through traumatic events, near death experiences, times of great sorrow and times of great joy.  How do you let that go?

The answer is not easily but Forever Promised tries hard and mostly succeeds in closing a series we never wanted to see end.  Every character we have ever come to love over the course of this series is here, in different stages of their lives.  Most have achieved a deeply loving and satisfying relationship, a majority of the couples have gotten married and Parry Angel is old enough to be on a soccer team.  A soccer team where one of the funniest passages in this story occurs.  Really, I can’t remember laughing so hard that I was gasping for breath.  One of the things that make that section so priceless is that I could see it actually happening on a soccer field in anytown, USA.  Amy Lane writes stories about real people who live through real things that happen in everyday life.  We recognize the milestones in the characters lives because they are ones that happen to us.  Her characters bleed and cry and laugh as we do.  Lane writes good people trying to be the best they can be in situations both normal and stressful, so how could we not love them?  We would in our real lives and the author understands the importance of that connection.  Amy Lane writes reality.  Whether it is dealing with kids thrown away by society, a woman unable to bear a child and her grief over that fact, or the fragility of the future before us, Amy Lane gets it and makes those truths a part of her writing.  Not once did I find myself stoping mid story to think “well, that would never happen” because the emotions and events that occur in Forever Promised and the Promise series ring with authenticity. And never more so than with the issue of surrogacy and pregnancy, which is at the center of the storyline here.

There are so many plot threads to resolve, so many lives and relationships that need a happy ending.  Forever Promised delivers that to us, but not without an event so heartbreaking that I had to put the book down for a time to get myself through it.  I am still ambivalent about this episode but acknowledge that the reality of Promise House is that not all can find their way out of past pains and anguish, and that despair and sadness is a part of life as well.  Without going into details, it will hurt then the author will use that hurt to bring the reader and the story up to another level of authenticity. Our couples find that they are happy and moving forward in ways that the reader will find moving and true.  That’s the promise Amy Lane makes to her readers and her characters, and that is the one she delivers in Forever Promised.

Each couple gets their own section in a way and the events that happen are seen from various perspectives.  Events from the past are brought up again (another reason to read these books in order), and the characters examine their past lives and how best they can go forward in their current ones.  Not all the couples are settled, several are still in transition when the book ends but that is to be expected given the number and diversity of the characters involved and the realistic way Amy Lane writes their lives.  I know I was happy to see them all moving forward, happy with each other and mostly together as a family.  Just as it should be at Promise Rock.

If my quibbles in a story are that it included a pain I didn’t want to feel, and characters I didn’t want to say goodbye to in a book that ended a series I wanted to continue on forever, well, then, those are hardly quibbles after all.   Amy Lane made us several Promises and delivered on all of them.  Forever Promised is both a gift and a promise kept.  Don’t miss out on this book and the entire journey.

Here are the Promise series in the order they wee written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur:

Keeping Promise Rock (Promises #1)

Making Promises (Promises #2)

Living Promiese (Promises #3)

Forever Promised (Promises #4)

Cover art by Paul Richmond shows several of the couples together. But I have to admit that I wanted to see one like the first cover, Keeping Promise Rock.  That is the one that sticks in my memory.

Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages
Published June 28th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808596 (ISBN13: 9781623808594)
edition language English
series Promises #4

Review: Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3) by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 5 stars

OutlasttheNightBroke, despondent and soon to be divorced Sam Emery has no where to turn but to his brother Neil when he leaves his embittered wife and old life behind him.  Sam is also leaving the closet as well, another reason for the divorce and the hatred his soon to be ex feels for him.  Sam only got married to please his controlling father and that was a disaster from the very beginning.  Now Sam turns to Neil, his younger brother who lives and works on a sheep station and Sam is unsure of his welcome there when he tells his brother he is gay.  Sam knows that Neil loves him but will he be accepted?  And what will an out of work bookkeeper do on a sheep station?

The brother who meets Sam is not the brother Sam remembers.  Neil accepts Sam’s sexuality with an openness that surprises Sam.  But then again, Neil lives at Lang Downs, a sheep station owned and operated by a gay couple, Caine Neiheisel and Macklin Armstrong and his views have undergone a fundamental change in the process.  Lang Downs has been described by those that live there as a “miracle”, a magnet and haven for those in need.  Sam has been hurt to his core by the constant verbal abuse thrown at him by his wife, shattered by the loss of his job and made to feel like a total failure by his life to date.  A miracle is just what he needs if only he can accept it.

Jeremy Taylor is another man in need of a home and sanctuary.  The youngest brother of the family that owns the neighboring sheep station, the two families have butted heads since Jeremy can remember.  But since his father died and his brother took over, things have gotten out of control because of his brother’s bigotry and hatred.  One explosive argument and fight leads to Jeremy outing himself to his brother and his exit from the only home and lifestyle Jeremy has ever known.  Immediately Jeremy heads over to the one place he hopes to be accepted – Lang Downs.   But the animosity runs deep between the seasonal buckaroos and Jeremy when the hands have problems looking past Jeremy’s last name to see the man underneath. And then the problem is compounded when Sam and Jeremy become friends  to his brother’s consternation because Neil’s antipathy towards Jeremy’s family.

Can two men in need of love and a home find it with each other at Lang Downs?  It will take another small miracle to overcome Sam’s insecurity and fear and Jeremy’s family’s reputation if they are to find happiness with each other and outlast the night.

I finished this book and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and start the series a fresh because I can’t get enough of this universe that Ariel Tachna has created. This book and series has such compelling characters as well as a captivating setting that it is impossible to put the books down once started and the stories stay with you long past the last page.  Really this is fast becoming one of my top favorites in contemporary fiction series.

Outlast The Night is as strong and enthralling book as the one that started the series.  Lang Downs is such a large and isolated sheep station that it acts as its own small village.  By using the sheep station as her setting, Ariel Tachna ensures that all the beloved characters of the previous novels are fully present and engaged in the current story as are the newly introduced main characters.  Tachna creates her web of characters that works much the way that nature herself does, they are all interlocked with each other.  Their actions have reverberations throughout the sheep station and all those who live there, just as it does in nature.  The men, women, children and animals all live in intimate connection with the earth at Lang Downs.  From the seasonal variations in their lives and work to the animals themselves, both wild and domesticated, all are aware of the fundamental role nature plays in their lives.

Winter, the season the book starts in, brings a slower pace to the sheep station.  Breeding is finished, and the seasonal jackaroos are gone until spring.  The village has shrunk down to those “year rounders” who make Lang Downs their home, school, and workplace. Through the previous novels, we have gotten familiar with the sights and sounds of the place and its citizens.  We see the bare necessities of the bunkhouse, the functionality of the sheep sheds, complete with odor mind you, and the predators that keep watch for the unwary animals in field and barn. The author brings Lang Downs vividly and authentically to life before our eyes and before we know it, we feel right at home there along with Caine, Macklin, and Kami. Of course, Kami the aboriginal chef is in the main house kitchen, creating food for all who live there and dispensing advice to those who need it.  Molly, Neil’s fiance, is a marvelous female character, a force in her own right. Well, I will let you see them through Sam’s eyes:

Sam finished eating, doing his best not to telegraph his unease to the rest of the room. Caine and Macklin sat at a nearby table talking with several other jackaroos Sam hadn’t met yet, but it was obvious from the body language that they were well known to Caine and Macklin. Sam figured the two men knew everyone pretty well by the end of the summer, but it took a certain degree of familiarity to choose to sit at the table with the bosses. Two teens joined them at the table a moment later, obviously sure of their welcome, and Sam realized one of the boys closely resembled the youngest of the jackaroos.

“Chris and Seth Simms,” Neil said, following Sam’s gaze. “Chris is the one I was telling you about in Yass, the one who nearly died. Seth is his younger brother. And that’s Jesse Harris sitting next to Chris, and then Jason Thompson, the other kid, and his dad, Patrick, our head mechanic. They’re all year-rounders. Patrick’s wife, Carley, is around here somewhere, although I haven’t seen her this morning. She helps out in the bunkhouses and in the kitchen sometimes, when Kami lets her.”

And that doesn’t even include the animals that play such an important roles on the station as well.  From Arrow, Jeremy’s kelpie (a sheep herding breed),  to Titan, “and a big lug of a horse who loved anyone who brought him treats”, these animals will endear themselves to you in much the same manner as their human counterparts.  And never does Ariel Tachna make the mistake of treating these animals as pets.  These are workers with important jobs to do on the station and are handled accordingly, although with love and affection.

Sam and Jeremy are wonderful additions to Lang Downs and the series.  Sam, so vulnerable and hurting, his self image shattered over time by an angry abusive wife.  Sam feels out of place,in his life and on the station.  A business manager by profession, you can feel his unease and wariness at thinking that he will find a home at Lang Downs. The reader will feel his pain and insecurity and then root for him as Sam begins to pull himself back together, a slow process and a realistic one too.  Jeremy is his opposite, he is so rooted to the land and the sheep that it practically rolls off of him from the moment we meet him.  Coming from a tough family background has made Jeremy equally tough, inside and out.  But still, Jeremy has the capacity to show his gentle side with his dog, Arrow and Sam.  It is a beautiful character and the two of them together are like comfort food and magic at the same time.  A difficult combination to achieve but Ariel Tachna has done it here with Sam and Jeremy.

Authenticity.  Ariel Tachna brings that to this novel and her series in spades.  From the Drizzle Bones the men wear (and wear properly) to the utes they drive, I never doubt that the terms and clothing the author uses are the correct ones.  But just as important as the research is the seamless manner in which the information is doled out to the reader, in spurts and quick asides.  And ever so slowly we have accumulated a wealth of information about an Australian sheep station and how it feels to live and work on one without realizing it.  Really, the flawless manner in which Tachna has created all of Lang Downs is exceptional.

I love that all of Tachna’s characters are fully realized and vivid in their personalities as any you would meet out on the streets around you.  They endear themselves to you because they feel so real, from their flaws to their passions.  And just as real and special is Lang Downs, the heart of the series.  I will let you hear it from Jeremy and Sam:

” “Lang Downs is a pretty special place.

”“Lang Downs is a miracle,” Jeremy amended. “A bloody miracle, and if you don’t believe that, ask Chris how he ended up here. Hell, ask Macklin how he ended up here. Or Kami. Or Patrick. I’d bet most of the year-rounders have a story to tell about how this place changed their lives. I never knew what drove Michael Lang, but even as a young child, I knew things were different here when I came to visit. That’s even more the case now.”

Yes, Lang Downs is a special place and each new story makes it even more so.  I hope that Ariel Tachna has many more stories to tell on her sheep station in Australia, more people to meet, more couples in need of home and a miracle.  I know that I will never get tired of this place and the people who inhabit it as the saga gets stronger with each new story it tells.  If you are already on the journey, pick up this new addition and fall in love all over again.  If you are new to the series, start at the beginning, discover the magic and wonder that is Lang Downs.  Expect to become addicted to a very special place in an isolated territory in Australia and the people who live there.

Here is the series in the order they were written and should be read in order to understand the characters and events that occur:

Inherit The Sky (Lang Downs #1)

Chase The Stars (Lang Downs #2)

Outlast The Night (Lang Downs #3)

Cover art by Anne Cain is as lovely as the book it represents.  The men are perfect representations for Jeremy and Sam and the landscape gorgeous.

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published May 20th 2013 by Dreamspinners Press
ISBN 1623807093 (ISBN13: 9781623807092)
edition languageEnglish
seriesLang Downs

Ariel Tachna (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). Outlast the Night (Kindle Locations 1171-1175). Dreamspinner Press. Kindle Edition.