A Lila Review: Beyond the Sea by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00070]Finding his brother breaking his promise isn’t what Troy Tanner expected to find when he entered Tyson’s hotel room. Unknowingly, his decision to leave their boy band tour, to travel from Australia to L.A., would change, not only his life, but the one of those in his path.

 Before he could second-guess his actions, Troy charters a private plane to visit his mother and talk about Tyson. Here is when he meets Brian who’s the plane’s first officer even when he’s more than qualify to be the captain. It doesn’t take long before the cyclone takes place, bringing Troy and Brian together. From that moment on, they depended on each other to survive on the deserted island in which they found shelter.

 We get to experience with the characters what it’s like to be stranded and losing hope of a rescue. Their journey to survive brought them together and their experiences cemented their relationship.

Their rescue took them by surprise, as well as their feelings for each other. They struggled separately, trying to adjust to a reality that felt almost like a lifetime ago. In the end, it’s up to them to see if their relationship can survive their new reality.

Beyond the Sea gets better the longer you read it. I need to admit that I considered a DNF several times during the first part of this story. The first forty percent moved at a snail pace, and some of the characters’ internal dialogues were not interesting enough to keep the boredom away. I think it has to do with the isolation and the unknowns they faced since this pages covered most of their survival efforts and the early discoveries of their friendship. But, as soon as Troy and Brian started to feel comfortable with their new routine, the story took off.

 The story is about survival. About how Troy and Brian had lived their separate lives until the accident, what they did to increase their survival chances, how they dealt with the possibilities of never returning to their friends & families, and most importantly, how they coped and managed life back to where they started. It’s an internal discovery of who they were until that moment, and the simple experiences that colored their new reality.

 I enjoyed having both characters’ POV. It gave the reader the chance to understand Troy’s and Brian’s fears and hopes about a life they considered lost.  Their acquaintance turned into a friendship that developed into a more personal relationship. Even when expecting the MCs to get together, I kept wondering about the final outcome and how the author was going to write their HEAs.

 The tenderness and understanding between the MCs created a deep connection between the characters. The UST was a little too much but fitted the situation. I do think Troy’s wants came without warning, but I guess their attraction was related to their journey together more than a physical attraction. Their inner qualities pulled them together, showing the reader the beauty behind a loving relationship without labels.

 Keira Andrew’s did indeed a good job creating a credible environment for the characters to be in. Everything from the weather, their delay routine, to their food and clothing had a purpose in this story. The memories they shared and their daily experiences added to the intimacy of their surroundings. Simple details like shaving, collecting water, and bathing in the sea felt as important as any other experience.

 The references to the movie Cast Away and the song that serves as the book’s title gave the story a reprise from the charged moments. I can’t stop thinking about the song days after reading the book. And yes, I listened to it online. It’s the perfect background soundtrack for Troy’s and Brian’s story. I did wonder, too, if they thought about buying the island after all.

 Overall, the story is an interesting combination of feels and self-discovery. In which everything other than their relationship and how they felt about each other became irrelevant.

 The cover goes with the island feel, but in my opinion, doesn’t match the characters or the scenes in the story. It’s very well done, just not for me.

 Sale Links:  AmazonARe

 Book Details:

 ebook, 275 pages
Published: March 15, 2016, by KA Books
ISBN: 9781988260020
Edition Language: English

Author Spotlight: BJ on Author Jaye McKenna

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Need a New Author? Check out our Reviewer

Author Recs!

 A BJ Author Rec: Author Jaye McKenna

Burn The Sky cover

The first time I picked up a book by Jaye McKenna was during the 2014 Don’t Read in the Closet event put on by the Goodreads M/M Romance group. It was a free story, and it was awesome. Then I found out it was the second of a series, so I went back and read the first freebie book, Human Frailties from the previous year’s event. Then another freebie, Facing the Mirror. I enjoyed all three. I requested a review copy of her newest book, Burn the Sky, and promptly fell in love with the broken ice dragon, Ilya. But it was when I went back and read the expanded version of Human Frailties, Human Strengths that I completely fell in love, irrevocably and head over heels. Ashnavayarian has stolen my heart and its for so many reasons but really, really its just like that quote by Michel de Montaigne, “because he was he.” There is just something magical and unique about him—so strong, yet he has his vulnerable moments. He’s imperfect, starts out self-centered and snarky but he’s growing and changing. And its so fun to see.

This author pushes some of my buttons big time, because I love angst and broken boys. Especially ones with long hair (ok, it’s a fetish of mine!). This author’s boys never have an easy time of it, they go through the wringer a few times over for their HEA. I eat that right up. The heat and sexual tension buildup that I love is always there. There’s snarky characters and witty dialogue.

Then there is her world. Most of McKenna’s stories are set in the same well-developed and nuanced fantasy world. The fantasy stories are separated from the more sci-fi ones by thousands of years, but it all ties in and builds… it sucked me in.

Jaye McKenna serves up magic meets science. Its lovely, nuanced broken boys getting slowly put back together and finding love. With a hefty dose of hot and sexy on top.

                                                                       ~  BJ

 

About author Jaye McKenna –

Jaye McKenna was born a Brit and was dragged, kicking and screaming, across the Pond at an age when such vehement protest was doomed to be misinterpreted as a “paddy”. She grew up near a sumac forest in Minnesota and spent most of her teen years torturing her parents with her electric guitar and her dark poetry. She was punk before it was cool and a grown-up long before she was ready. Jaye writes fantasy and science fiction stories about hot guys who have the hots for each other. She enjoys making them work darn hard for their happy endings, which might explain why she never gets invited to their parties.

You can find Jaye McKenna at the following:

Website , Twitter,  Goodreads Author Page

Human Choices coverHuman Frailties Human Strengths coverBurn The Sky coverPsi Hunter cover

Books You May Have Missed from Jaye McKenna (with links to BJ’s Reviews):

And look for the following books and their reviews from BJ in the upcoming weeks…

  • Psi Hunter (Guardians of the Pattern, #1)
  • Gremlin’s Last Run (Guardians of the Pattern, #2)
  • Ghost in the Mythe (Guardians of the Pattern, #3.0)

A MelanieM Review: Changing Tide by D.P. Denman

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Changing Tide coverPhotographer David sails into Vancouver Island harbor looking to shoot Orca whales for a photograph book he has in mind and not much else.  David’s 30 ft sailboat, Wanderer, is all the home he wants or needs. Then David hires Capt. Jack Lewis’ charter boat for a  whale watching trip and everything changes.  David’s anguished past has kept him from any sort of permanence, whether it is of a location or of the heart.  David’s recent history is that of transience, always on the road or water as the case maybe.  It’s his way of protecting himself and his heart from any additional pain and commitment.   But meeting Jack Lewis and getting a taste of a relationship is making inroads into his heart and scaring him senseless.

When Jack Lewis looked into the eyes of the man who wanted to charter his boat, he was lost.  David is gorgeous, mysterious, but the pain Jack also sees reflected back to him makes him want to take David into his arms and never let him go. Jack has had his fill of casual sexual relationships and hookups, especially in the case of Emerson, a young man who trades sex for status and perhaps money.   David is everything that Emerson is not, David is older, fascinating, and as a freelance  photojournalist, independent.  Before he is aware that it is happening, Jack is falling for David and soon wants much more than perhaps David is capable of giving.

The unexpected relationship between Jack and David moves into dangerous waters as Emerson’s emotions and jealously spiral out of control  combine with David’s fears of commitment and permanence. The emotions build until an explosion born of unresolved relationships and expectations shatter the bonds that holds all the men together.

Sometimes when you read a book, all the good elements you find in a story will be overwhelmed by the issues and outright problem  areas also to be found at that same time.  Unfortunately, that is the case with Changing Tide by D.P. Denman.  In fact there are so many issues to be found within this story that I am going to start with the aspects I liked and enjoyed the most.

I loved the location.  Denman does Vancouver Island proud by portraying the climate, landscape and natural marvels in such a way that I wanted to grab a plane, then charter a boat myself to see the wonders that Vancouver Island and the surrounding seas have to offer.  This includes the majesty, and magic of whale watching.  Even if I was not a naturalist, the passages where Jack spoke in awe of his experiences with Orcas would have reached me emotionally.  Here is an excerpt:

“So tell me about these killer whales,” he shifted the conversation in a not so subtle new direction.

“I bet you’ve seen a lot of them over the years.”

“Quite a few. We’re getting to be old friends,” Jack smiled into his mug.

“Does any particular sighting stand out or do they all just flow together?”

“Some stand out, usually because of people’s reaction. A lot of them burst into tears at the sight of an orca.”

“Scared?”

“Amazed. It can be a bit awe-inspiring if you’re not used to it. Hell, it can be awe inspiring even if you are.”

“Nothing like Sea World, huh?”

“Not even a little. They don’t look like much when you see them out of context.

They’re just another fin in a tank.” The look on his face and the tone in his voice reflected the same awe he tried to describe.

That describes in a nutshell some of the highlights and problems with this story.  It starts out well but somewhere around the middle it goes awry. Orcas are pretty amazing no matter how or where you see them (in my opinion) but he is saying that they are just another fin in a tank in captivity while his “voice is reflecting” awe?  Something got lost there.  And the following description of the encounter displays the same missed opportunity by the author.  Its almost right but something in the writing is out of kilter.

“I was out in my old boat, a 30-footer. I killed the engine a few yards out of the straight, right in the middle of the water so we wouldn’t miss anything. Half the group was on the aft deck. A few of us were crouched at the bow and I saw this fin come up out of the water a few yards away. I knew it was going to be close so we called everyone up to the bow. The next thing I know I’m watching this animal as big as a semi come up from the deep almost right under us. The bastard broke the surface close enough to look me in the eye and suddenly all I could see was killer whale.”

An experienced captain is in a 30 ft boat with passengers.  A huge orca’s fin breaks the surface of the water only a few yards away.  And he calls the people over to the side? That makes no sense, and ruins Jack’s credibility as a native and experienced boat captain.  But that is probably my mildest complaint with this story.  We are still getting some wonderful descriptions of how it feels to be on the water, and in Denman’s hand, I defy anyone not to want to make Vancouver Island a vacation destination for any future travel plans.

The author also appears to be familiar with sailboats and her description of David’s small living area aboard the Wanderer felt authentic enough to make me a little claustrophobic.  The same goes for Jack’s gorgeous house that faces the Sound.  I would love to see that one too.  Actually I would love to live there.  From the descriptions of the views seen from inside the bedroom, that would have me moving in a heartbeat.

But this is not a travelogue, nor a real estate brochure.  Nor even a finished product. And that brings me back to the issues and problem areas I spoke of earlier.

First would be the editing and format.  My copy starts out with the first chapter mislabeled as the Epilogue.  Now aside from the fact that an epilogue is found at the back of the book, an epilogue usually shows some sort of closure for the main characters or aspect of the story and this is not a epilogue in any way.  It is merely a mislabeled chapter 1, not even a prologue.   These items (and others) were easily corrected problems and I am flummoxed that they were left in.  I hope it is due to a lack of experience and assistance but the book as received is not something I would expect a reader to pay money for.  It is not polished in any way other than a nice cover.

Then there is the issues of characterization.  My mildest complaint again is that the author shows little continuity starting with the fact that two of her characters have last names and one of her main characters, David, does not.  Either all of them should have complete names or leave it on first names only for everyone in the book.  There’s Crystal, David, Kathy, Cindy and Brett.  Then there is Jack Lewis and Emerson Reid.  Yes, it’s a small issue but descriptive of the bigger ones to be found with the characters and the narrative.

David is probably the only character I enjoyed as he also seemed the most fleshed out.  His back history combined with his present situation seemed realistic   He earns our sympathy and affection.  Then there are all the others, primarily Jack and Emerson.  It seemed as though the author had two personas for each of them and couldn’t decide on which was the one they wanted to use.  So Denman used both.  Jack is an enabling jerk, a selfish and lazy, he is shallow and self deceiving. Jack is also thoughtful, respectful of others, and too kind for his own good. And for me Jack is also finally unlikable.  Then there is Emerson, a 23 year old of murky background and obvious mental and emotional issues.  No one knows Emerson’s true back history so the idea is planted that he is both a gold digger as well as someone also so emotionally unstable that he lives in a fantasy world.  Every one appears to know that something is really wrong with Emerson but no one suggests that he gets help.

Then Denman combines these two somewhat distasteful personas into a convoluted relationship and the story bogs down under its own issues.  At times Jack is supposedly so sexually attracted to Emerson that he can’t stay away, having sex with him even after declaring his affections lie elsewhere.  At other times Jack is treating Emerson like an annoying vagrant dog, petting him, giving out scraps then shutting the door on him.  The author’s treatment of Emerson is no better.  Emerson screeches like a “drama queen”, begs, pouts, shouts , lies and acts hurt.  The reader is left unsure as to what they should be feeling about Emerson.  Should it be pity or irritation or something more? And it’s not like these are realistic, layered characterizations but rather small distinct shallow ones that are constantly deviating from one scene to the next, as slippery as a fish out of water.  And these two characters have the same scene over and over again throughout the story.  This is a typical exchange between the two men:

Emerson pushed the door closed, wrapped arms around him and tried to kiss him. He grabbed his arms and pulled him right back off.

“We need to talk.”

“We can talk later. Fucking first,” Emerson tried to squirm out of his grip.

“This isn’t one of those visits,” his tone got Emerson’s attention.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, exactly. I just think you and I have reached a point where it’s time to end this.”

Emerson blinked back at him and the eager expression slid to a pensive scowl. “What?”

“It’s obvious you want something I’m not willing to give so I think it’s better if we stop seeing each other.”

“Who says I want something else?”

At some point you move on.”

“Why?” Emerson looked stricken.

“Because that’s how it works. Come on, Em, you know I’ve wanted out of this for a while. It’s just time,” he reached out to caress his arm and Emerson pulled out of reach.

“We don’t fit.”

29 Changing Tide DP Denman

“We’ve been fitting just fine until now,” he snapped, stricken turning to anger. “It’s because of him, isn’t it?”

“Who?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Jack. That tall drink of whore you were with the other night.”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with him. Besides, you and I have never been exclusive. Just because someone else shows up doesn’t mean I have to choose between you.”

Emerson reached out to slap him and he caught his wrist before the hand made contact.

“That’s not news to you so don’t pretend it’s any kind of insult.” “Let go of me,” Emerson snatched his hand back.

“It doesn’t matter,” he shook his head. “The point is we’ve been at this too long. Casual doesn’t last forever, right?

Now this scene goes on for another page or two. More dialog of exactly the same thing until Jack finally leaves  but not before telling Emerson that he likes him and touching his cheek in a lover like manner, totally negating everything that Jack said prior.  Talk about mixed messages and not just from Jack, but the author too.   Then take this sad, irritating, and confused scene and repeat it in some form numerous times throughout the story.  I said in some form because sometimes Jack stays and they have sex, then the same dialog picks up from there. There is no growth shown, no real change in how the men act or feel, just a repetition of the above back and forth argument and enabling behavior.  Trust me when I said the exasperation sets in around the halfway point and never actually goes away.

And in between this never ending argument and emotional stalemate, Jack and David are trying to have a relationship that comes with its own issues as well.

So in between lovely descriptive scenes of Vancouver Island and water, the reader is forced to wade through pages of confused characterizations, dense dialog and what might have been a terrific little plot in another author’s hands.  However, in Changing Tide the negatives ends up overpowering all the positive aspects. The writing is uneven, the narrative dense and repetitive and the format is rough and unprofessional.

And that’s so sad and unnecessary.

Given an editor, great or otherwise, with a ruthless, objective idea on how to write fiction, this story and this review might have been all together different.  As it, I have to tell you to give it a pass.

Book Details:

I have none.  Although the author’s website states that it will be released October 4th, although I am told it is scheduled for the 11th for publication, book facts such as page numbers, word counts, ISBN numbers are all missing.

Review: Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Know Not Why coverHowie’s social life is suffering, along with everything else not going on in his life.  Howie’s back home, living with his mom. He hopes his support will help her adjust after the car accident that caused the death of his dad. But  leaving school and his hopes behind has left a fierce void in his life.  He lacks a girl friend, a job, even just a motivation to get out of bed every day.  So when the idea comes to him that he can find girls by getting a job in a craft store full of girl employees then he acts on it.  Sounds great, right?  But getting a job at Artie Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts doesn’t work out quite the way Howie thought it would.

Sure there are some cute girls working at Artie Kraft’s Craft store, but neither is what he expected.   Sure Kristy, blonde, bubbly, adorable Kristy, seems perfect,  But she is oblivious to Howie’s charms, more friend than date.  And Cora?  Wild, tiny,  super pierced, fierce force of nature Cora?  No, not to any stretch of Howie’s imagination would that work.  And then there is his boss, store owner Arthur Kraft.  Arthur just confounds Howie.  Howie is only a few years younger than Arthur but Arthur seems so much older in outlook and actions.  Arthur just rubs Howie the wrong way, sure the guy is cute and all.  He is kind and knowledgeable and very gay.  So why is the very straight Howie spending all his time thinking about Arthur?

Who knew that a small time craft store could cause such an upheaval in Howie’s life?  Everything starts to change whether Howie is prepared or not, including himself.

I had been hearing good things about this self published story by Hannah Johnson but I was unprepared for how much I really liked it.  Before I knew it, I was heart deep in the lives of Howie, his friends Amber and Mitch, as well as Arthur Kraft, and all the employees of Artie Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts.  Johnson’s narrative is witty, light hearted and topical.  The dialog of the characters just snaps with the verve and idiomatic phrases of youth.  What fun, what joy in characters and a story well told! Oh how I enjoyed that.

Know Not Why is told from the point of view of 22-year old Howie, English Lit major at a community college.  Howie is an intelligent, somewhat sarcastic young man. A verbal acrobat who is bitter over his current situation, Howie makes an amusing, snappish narrator. His is a voice that overflows with current cultural references from indy movies to popular songs, throwing in lines, plots and authors most likely found among the syllabuses for English Literature majors at college.  Think about a narration along the lines of Ferris Bueller, and you can begin to get a feel for the type of flow you will find in Know Not Why.

But Howie is not the charming, immensely likable Ferris Bueller, not by a long shot.  One he is older and his living situation is far more serious than Ferris’.  A tragic car accident has cost him his father and his mother is still mourning the loss even as she supports them through a new terrific career as a romance writer and teacher at the same community college Howie now reluctantly attends.  He has a wonderful relationship with her, the same goes with his best friend Amber.  But as a young man desperate to connect with the opposite sex, he comes across as a little sketchy in his approach and lack of understanding to women outside his small circle.

One of the elements I appreciated about Johnson’s characters as well as story development is that we go from a superficial understanding of Howie where he is almost a smarmy, self centered sort of individual to a deeper, more layered character that evolves as more and more details about his situation and past history surface.  And the revelations about Howie keep pace with the growth of the character as working at the craft store and its employees have a marked affect upon his life.

All the characters that Johnson has created here are well crafted and thought out.  Where certain people, Kristy and Mitchell come to mind, could have been so stereotypical in their personalities, these characters come across as layered, and realistic, although it may take a while before the reader realizes it.  Kristy is such an effervescent, naive personality that disliking this character would be the equivalent of kicking kittens.  No matter how much one might be inclined to disparage even the very idea of a Kristy, the character wins you over with unexpected depths and charm of this person.  I can say much the same for all the characters found here.  Superficially they all appear to be one thing, yet as the story develops, so does the superficiality disolve from each one to reveal the well rounded persona that has existed there all along.  Even minor characters like a Heather Grimsby achieves authenticity by the end of the story.

Know Not Why charts the personal and emotional growth of not just Howie, but many of the secondary characters around him.  In a realistic fashion, the events that happen take place over a year’s time.  And the emotional upheavals that happen to each character here are those that naturally occur as relationships change and evolve.  Life is about change, whether you want it to or not.  And whether you are ready for the change to occur or not.  Mothers move past grief and get ready for a new love.  Friends and your relationship with them will never remain in stasis no matter how much you want things to stay the same.  Howie has to deal with all that and more, including his sexuality and love for another man.  Its funny, howlingly so at times, irritating, and so slow in acceptance you could swear you saw a turtle doing laps around Howie as he ponders his attraction towards men in general and one in particular.

And that brings me to the two elements that some readers will find exasperating.  The first is Howie’s narration.  Its long, self involved (at least to start off), constantly rambling,  and assured of its own relevancy and intelligence.  So much so that how you relate to Howie and his personality will reflect in how you feel about this story.  If you love a main character’s almost non stop gamboling storytelling format as well as a well defined realistic personal growth, I think than you will love Howie and his story.  If you lack the patience to deal with this sort of personality and long, rambling style to the point of what may seem self indulgence, than you might be quick to give this a pass.  It’s all in how you relate to Howie.   Love him, love the story.

Secondly, for me at least, there is the length.  I think that it could have been edited downwards, making the story more concise and sharp in tone and format.  In my opinion, Howie rambles on a little too long as the same things are gone over several times in the narrative when, in my opinion, just once would have sufficed.  I understand the author’s need to give full voice to Howie, but wish her inner editor (and perhaps her outer one as well) would have let her cut away some of the excess verbiage to let the many gems found here shine more brightly.

I found Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson so enjoyable that I am now off to seek out what others stories she may have written. I certainly look for more from this terrific author and definitely recommend Know Not Why to y0u all.  It’s a fun, enjoyable read full of characters and dialog that just  sparkle.

Hannah Johnson can be found at http://alaskanandromeda.blogspot.com

Charmingly simple cover, with its yarn heart.  Loved it.

Book Details:

ebook, 317 pages
Published April 23rd 2012 by Smashwords
original title Know Not Why: A Novel
ISBN13 97814

Review: The Unwanted – The Complete Collection by Westbrooke Jameson

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

The Unwanted Complete CollectionThe unwanteds, that’s what society calls the people who make up the lowest of society.  The prostitutes, the drug users, the poor, the discarded and the dying.  Shots, Derek, Ambrosia, Renzo, and Sara are all young prostitutes.   In addition, they picked up Joel, a gay teenager thrown out of his house because of his sexuality. Together they form a family, willing to do any to keep each other safe and fed.  Unfortunately, Derek is sick.  He contracted the deadly VIS virus and is moving into the final stages of the disease.    The group is barely scraping by when an encounter with an alien john changes everything for all of them.

Recently a race of aliens called Narsoreal made contact and landed on Earth.  In three years time, several major diseases were cured and human technology advanced because of Narsoreal information and assistance.  In return, the alien race asked to collect and bond with humans who are genetically predisposed towards symbiosis with the Narsoreal.  For the governments of the world, only the unwanted were viewed as available for collection and bonding.

When Shots picks up a john called Alimund a Norsoreal, Shots changes not only his life but the lives of everyone in his small family of unwanteds.  Because for each one of them, there is a Narsoreal who is their bondmate, if only they will accept them.

There is so much promise buried within The Unwanted that I wanted to rate it much higher than it deserves.  Originally, each Unwanted had their own story released separately, then a collection of all the stories was published.  And it is much easier to read as a collection than they would have been as individual stories if for no other reason than the flow of the narrative works better.  Unfortunately, whether it is as a collection or separate short stories, there are just so many issues and missed opportunities that I have to give The Unwanted a fail.

Let’s start with some of the most basic issues, the world building.  It just doesn’t make any sense nor does it feel “alien” in any manner.  Jameson makes the aliens and their planet pretty much just like us, only with a few alterations that are so unbelievable that they further disconnect the reader from the Narsoreal and these stories.  The aliens land because they are looking for love.  They bring advance technology, enough to cure some diseases but not VIS or at least that’s the accepted knowledge.   There’s some nonsense about not having the right materials for them to help us build space ships ( a throw away line that makes no sense either) but really the author makes no attempt to give us anything authentically alien.  Not the people, not their abilities (more on that later), not even their technology.  And when we do find out what elements make them “different” from us, its laughable. Really the Narsoreal are so dubious a creation that its screams worst alien ever. They are poorly thought out and mindbogglying lame brained unless you are a prepubescent boy.   If you are going to create aliens, complete with alien physiology and culture, then make it believable.  Don’t make them a reflection of juvenile wants and desires, a cardboard alien worthy of  a Space Hooters or sex doll.

That brings us to characterization or the lack of it.  The only members of the Unwanted that come close to being a layered personality are Shots and Ambrosia, with Ambrosia being my pick of the litter.  The rest of the small group of prostitutes and discarded never rise above a character outline.  They certainly have no credibility as young people who have been abused, abandoned and made to prostitute themselves as the only means to survive. As a described by the author, this group has seen it all from their lowly position on the streets but the reader never gets any sort of desperation or emotions that would reflect this status.  Its more what they say they are then what actually comes across, and that’s a huge fault when it comes to characterization.

But if they are bad, then the aliens are so much worse.  The really only alien thing about them is that they physically morph or their body changes (permanently) according to the wishes of their bondmate.  Of course, they don’t tell their human bondmates that fact.  So  one ends up looking like Legolas with long white hair and elf ears.  Another ends up with wings, and another with a penis and a vagina.  *shakes head*  If you are going this heartstoppingly stupid and young, why stop there?  Where is the woman with three breasts?  Of course, there is no continuity here.  So the one alien is another species, a worker bee, who doesn’t change. Which is a good thing because his human bondmate thinks he looks like a bulldog.  Awkward. But if there were any logic to this, then it would be the worker class who would change their physiology, to better help them shoulder the load so to speak.  Another thing is that these aliens are rich.  So you have rich aliens who change their physical state according to their lovers wishes?  And the upper echelon of the world’s societies doesn’t want them to bond with?  That makes no sense either.  Who among the rich wouldn’t want a mate who is rich, changes according to your desires and cures diseases by their bond.  Oops, did I forget that exchanging fluids with these aliens cures every disease you could humanly have?  The Narsoreal are a kind of one stop shopping for any of your sexual, emotional, financial and pharmaceutical needs. Do they have personalities too?  Not really because how could they?  They aren’t real in any respect, merely objects that reflect the needs and desires of their human companions.

And that’s both my problem with these stories and the promise I see as well.  Had these stories been a treatise of the objectification of others, or a humorous take on loving yourself, or some sort of allegory about making love to one’s dreams, that would have been one thing.  All the elements are there for any of those takes on the human condition or maybe just an alien comedy.  All but one human changes the alien into the lover of their dreams and that one can’t because that alien’s different? It’s all instant love and instant bonding.  But how is that believable is that love if you change them almost immediately without getting to know them?  These humans don’t love the aliens, they love what the alien becomes. What a great subject for these stories!  But was that ever addressed any where? No, I mean even their cum changes from purple grape flavor to black licorice, a sort of Skittles of choices. Oh look, he shoots purple jism, If that’s not a juvenile giggle fest in the making I don’t know what is.  If you were the alien, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit upset over wings, a purple penis,  purple nipples and purple cum, a purple grape tasting cum?  That other alien has it worse, his human loves the color pink. But as written, the Narsoreal are both intergalactic doormats and any teenagers sexual wet dream mashed up together.

Add to that just awful dialog.  The aiiens say things like  “Yes, my treasure, I will change for you. I will become whatever pleases you most, my prince, my darling.” or to Joel Flowers . “I will be your giant if you will be my flower.”  The group explains it away as the aliens speak “formally”.  No, that’s bad romance talking, not Downton Abbey.

Add all of that up from the terrible world building, poor characterization, cheesy dialog and a plot with promise that misses on every level, and you have a collection of stories I can’t  recommend to anyone other than a friend of the author’s.   I think thats one of the problems when you self publish, not enough eyes and assistance (read that as editing) for the author and their writing.  I hope that the next stories from Westbrooke Jameson achieve the promise I saw here.

Cover Design by Morris Duncan. Cover Photo Credit to Joel Kramer via Flickr Creative Commons License.  The cover makes no sense either.  No aliens, nothing other than an alley?  Consider the cover a missed opportunity too.

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 2013 by Westbrooke Jameson
edition language English
series The Unwanted

Review: Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Black Dog coverEddie Roscoe has just arrived at his family’s diner to open up and start preparing for the breakfast run when he sees a young boy and drunk fighting in the back alley.  After breaking it up, Eddie notices the kid’s bruises and other injuries arent’ exactly fresh.  And from the backback the kid was fighting over and the state of the clothes the boy was wearing, Eddie can tell the kid is homeless.  An offer of breakfast and a job brings young Tom into Eddie and his mother’s home and their family.   But it’s another side of Eddie’s life that will bring a measure of safety to Tom as well as bring an old friend back into Eddie’s life.

Eddie Roscoe and Danny Bannon have loved and fought for over 15 years.  But a shared trauma and the resulting guilt has kept them apart and sabotaged every effort they make to reunite.   Now the arrival of Tom Delaney, a teenage runaway, will be the spark that brings them back together and units them in a common cause, that of keeping Tom safe while training him to be a mixed martial arts fighter.

Tom Delaney is young, angry and hurt.  And he has aspects of his past life that he is keeping hidden from those trying to help him, namely Eddie, Danny, and Gloria’s Eddie’s mother.  And when his past, in the form of his abusive father, tracks him down, it will take everyone around him to keep him safe and out of jail.

Black Dog is an emotionally gripping story, one that kept me awake in the wee morning hours until I had finished it.  And that emotional connection is due to Cat Grant’s damaged and vulnerable characters and the situation they find themselves in.  The people she created for Black Dog (and the series) are ones easy to connect with and they engage our sympathies immediately.  First of all, we meet Eddie arriving in his old Ford 150 pickup to open the diner his grandfather started and he now owns with his mother, Gloria.  The scene is vivid, so much so we can almost hear his footsteps sloshing through the puddles of water on the asphalt outside the  diner.   Grant sets not only the tone for the characters in her settings but for the rest of the story as well.  A slightly run down family diner in a neighborhood that has never seen better days, its interior still proclaims its 50’s origin.  And Gloria, Eddie’s constantly smoking mother is recognizable to all who have visited establishments like these.  I absolutely love the character of Gloria Roscoe and some of the finest scenes in this book happen in her presence.

Eddie and Danny are also realistic characters.  Their combined past contains a traumatic event that neither man has dealt with.  It has destroyed their relationship as friends and lovers.  And neither man knows how to get that back or get past the accident that has twisted their lives and emotions.  It’s powerful stuff and Cat Grant delivers their pain and angst to the reader with authenticity and detailed scenes that will resonate with the reader.  Here is a scene from the beginning, with Tom and Eddie at the diner after the fight:

Tom nudged his plate away and burped. Two spots of bright pink popped high on his cheeks. “That was really good. What can I do to pay for it?”

“It’s on the house.”

His eyes widened. “Seriously? I can’t even sweep up or do dishes or something?”

I pulled a quart of waffle batter out of the old green Frigidaire and swung around to study him. Reminded me of me at his age, all quiet intensity with a streak of sheer panic beneath the surface. Just like any other kid forced to strike out on his own. One thing was clear: he came from money. St. Pat’s wasn’t cheap, and nobody got straight white teeth like his without a few years in braces. From the way he spoke, he was no dummy. What was a kid like him doing living on the street?

Maybe I wasn’t born rich, but I knew what he was feeling. That hollowed-out ache inside, the panic and fear of seeing every new person as a potential threat. Where would I be now if no one had offered me a helping hand? And no, one lousy meal didn’t count.

“Leave your stuff in back,” I said. “There’s a broom and an extra apron in the closet. Start with the pantry. It’s a mess in there.”

“Okay.” He sprang up and headed in back, brushing past Gloria, who’d just come up to grab a stack of paper napkins. Her gaze followed him through the swinging doors.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” That was what she always said. And if the bemused tilt of her head was any clue, she knew she wasn’t about to dissuade me.

“If you want to clean up back there, have at it.”

“You and your charity cases,” she said, coughing out a raspy Marlboro laugh and planting a kiss on my cheek.

I’d caught something else in the kid’s eyes too. Frustration, determination, anger. Whatever mixture of emotions that spurred him to deal that drunk a beat down. He’d acted pretty matter of fact about his scrapes and bruises, but those other marks on his face . . . well, he hadn’t gotten them walking into a door.

That is such a telling scene, revealing so much about all the characters involved from Gloria and her ever present cigarettes to the fear in Tom’s eyes. It remarkable and it hooks the reader in emotionally from the start.  We care for these people and we need to know what will happen next.

Black Dog is the first in the Bannon’s Gym series and I hope that these people will form the core of the series as Tom fights his way to the top of the MMA profession. The author makes the gym and those learning to fight there accessible to the reader.  We learn about MMA and the fight training methodology common to the mixed martial arts.  There is a lot of leeway with a gym as a setting in a series and I can’t wait to see how Grant develops this series.

I will admit that I came close to giving this story 5 stars but several aspects prevented that.  The first being a pov that is constantly switching narrators.  I wish Grant has stuck to just Eddie as the pov. He has a singular voice that rendered an intimacy to the narrative that is lost when the pov switches to another character or third person.  If the story and characters had not been as great as they were, this unevenness in style would have brought the rating down even further.  And the other is an awkward sentence that signals the end of the story.  The scene itself works but it needed a little more, whether it was dialog or action, to feel complete.  Still I felt happy at the end and ready for more.  More of Danny, Eddie, Tom and Gloria, and more of Bannon’s gym.

So yes, I highly recommend this story.  Go grab it up and get reading.  I have added Cat Grant to my must have authors list.  I think after this book you will be doing the same.

Cover art is great, love the black and white design and the tone. Perfect for the story

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 82 pages
print book,  130 pages
Published August 2013 by Cat Grant Books
ISBN13 9780989694919
edition language English
series Bannon’s Gym

Review: Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by Laura Harner

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Defiance coverAtlanta football legend Kebow Trainer is in big trouble and needs help now.  For four years Trainer has been blackmailed and has paid up. But now he is about to negotiate a huge new contract and the blackmailer’s demand has risen to outrageous proportions.  So now Trainer  wants it stopped and figures Archer and Zachary are the men to do it.  But this case brings up more than just a blackmailer filled with hate, it reminds Zachary of a part of his past that fills him with pain and regret.

It has been two months since Jeremiah was abused by a Dom with a grudge against Archer and Zachary and he has yet to heal emotionally.  So while Zachary worries about Jeremiah and his ability to move past his recent trauma, Jeremiah and Archer are overwhelmed with concern for Zachary and the future of their relationship.

For all involved, this case has enormous consequences for their relationships and their futures.  Will the triple threat of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah be enough to solve the case and save their relationship?

Defiance is the third book in the Triple Threat series from L.E. Harner and it moves the reader into Zachary’s  past and his involvement with Wick Templeton (from Wicked’s Ways series).   I really loved this element.  Harner has been doling out bits of information about Zachary’s past like a miser does money, in tiny amounts here and there.  Now we start to understand that the loss of his sub and closeted lover was a deeper, more involved event that has had repercussions on Zachary’s life and relationships ever since.   So many layers here to peal back, such an amazing depth of characterization.  I just love Zachary.  His is a character and voice that just  resonates with a reader.  Wry, knowing, sarcastic, this person has seen it all, the best and mostly the worst humanity has to offer and is still standing.  Like Wick Templeton with whom he has a past and is close friends with, Zachary lives and works on the outskirts of what passes as normal in society.  He is both Dom and sub in his relationships, although sub to only one man…Archer.  He is brutal, funny, intelligent and physical.  Trust me when I say this complex personality will stay with you a long time.

Harner has created an emotionally explosive case for a trio of men already destabilized by recent events.  Nothing is ever simple in this series, no case without ramifications for all who become involved.  Jeremiah is still reeling from his abuse and uncertain future, Zachary is dealing with his past and Jeremiah, and Archer has to come to terms with the fact that he destabilized his own 15 year relationship with Zachary in his arrogance and the repercussions of the addition of Jeremiah.  Then you add the case of a blackmailed gay football player and watch the situation ignite.  Here is a taste:

The bottle of Don Pilar was already on the table, two glasses poured, two waters on the side. The plate of limes and salt sat in the middle of the glasses, where they would likely remain untouched. They usually did.

“Thanks.” I tossed back the first glass before I even sat down. Sliding into the black leather bench of the dark booth, I poured a second glass and tossed it back, too. It suddenly seemed like a great idea to get completely shitfaced.

“Never necessary. And you know that’s sipping tequila.” We smiled at each other. It was the look of longtime friends with hundreds of favorite lines from past conversations.

“You might have said that before. This needing each other shit is becoming a habit,” I said. It had only been a few days since I’d shown up to pick him up from jail. Wick hadn’t technically needed a ride from me—but a little bird let me know he was being released and I thought a surprise was in order. Not that he’d actually done anything wrong—it’d been part of a case he’d been working—but that got me thinking about the fed. “So, hear anything from that guy? What was his name? Fred? Ked? You know, the one you left standing there with his heart on his sleeve and a bone in his pants?”

Wick threw his head back and laughed. When he finished he took a long sip of his drink, eyeing me over the rim of his glass before responding. “You’re such an ass. His name is Ned. And no, I haven’t heard from him. I think he might’ve taken offense to the lip lock you planted on me when I got in your car. I probably should take offense too, except I love dancing with your tongue.”

I grinned. “Yeah. That one might’ve gotten a little away from me. Still, it was nice.”

“It always was.” We stared at each other for a long moment, old memories suddenly fresh.

So much is revealed by the single scene alone.  The easy, casual nature of the conversation, the lack of emotional and personal barriers between Wick and Zachary that just speaks volumes about their relationship as old friends and ex lovers.  It is terrific and a perfect example of the narrative of the entire series.

The reveal of the identity of the blackmailer is an emotionally explosive event as anything that preceded it.  It is gut wrenching and so painful in that one   secondary relationship that you have come to care about is left in tatters, the future of it and the couple involved uncertain.  It is a totally realistic and heartbreaking element in this story and  I don’t see how Harner could have handled it any other way without losing the credibility built up in the series to date.  But I would love to see a sentence or two somewhere down the line to let the readers know how it all eventually resolved for the men involved.

Defiance is an amazing read, especially considering it is only 83 pages in length.  As I have said before, this book and all the books in the series seem to have the feel and scope of  stories much longer in length because of all the emotions and story plots involved.  Great narrative, smooth writing style, compelling characters and a singular voice in the pov.  Those unfamiliar with BDSM and D/s or those who usually don’t read books with that element will still enjoy this book and series.   That aspect of this story and the m/m/m relationships are beautifully done and Harner makes it accessible to all readers, not only those who like a little kink in the sex but those who prefer their sexual relationship on the vanilla side.

I highly recommend not only this book but the entire series.  But start at the beginning.  It’s the only way to understand the characters and events that follow.  You will find yourself as hooked as I am.

Books in the Triple Threat series to date and in the order they were written and should be read are:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution  (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat #4)

 Book Details:
ebook, 83 pages
Published May 31st 2013 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN13 9781937252533
edition language English
series Triple Threat

It’s All In The Writing, Folks and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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To prepare for my time at GRL in Atlanta in October, I am trying to get ahead in my reviews for September and October.  And that means reading tons of books and of course writing about them.  And books read in volume will highlight the most common flaws I am seeing across the boards from person reading stacks of booksauthors seasoned and brand new to publishing.  Surprisingly it’s not one sided.  Just yesterday I finished a book from a favorite author of mine only to get to the end and find that not only did the story not have an ending, it was missing a hugely anticipated “aha” moment.  I was astonished, and quite a bit frustrated to say the least.

I don’t know what is going on but these same issues are everywhere and I am not the only one who has noticed.  Currently I am working on my next mini rant “The Case of the Missing Aha Moment”.  It will pair up nicely with my mini rant on missing endings.  *shakes head*  Really there is no excuse.  The most immediate remedies to these issues that pop into my brain are 1) get a great editor and 2) super concrit partners or betas.  Both could and should point out issues such as these in a person’s writing.

For a humorous look  at writing do’s and mostly don’ts visit  http://tom.mcallister.ws/?p=868. It’s Tom McAllister’s 107 Ironclad Rules for Writers Who Want to Be Better at Writing.  Some I agree with and of course, some I don’t.  But they are fun, and thought provoking.  Here are the first six to give you a sample:

1. Write every day. Except on days when you don’t feel like writing that much and you don’t have anything interesting to say.

2. Never write when you’re too hot. Beads of sweat are ideas leaking from your brain.

3. Nobody really eats turnips. They are a ridiculous food. Characters cannot eat turnips.

4. Hypnosis is the writer’s greatest tool.

5. Skinny people are often the cause of conflict. Fat people are often the solution. NO MEDIUM SIZED PEOPLE.

6. If you must write about the travails of being a writer, at least give yourself a glass eye or a cyborg hand or something.

If you want to read more, check out the link above.  Next week we will talk about the new words added to the dictionary.  Srsly?

Now on to the very exciting week ahead.  Next week I start on the third series in the offerings from the Pulp Friction authors.  This is the Triple Threat series from L.E. Harner.  It’s menage, it’s kinky, and its wonderful.   And drumroll please…….Kendall McKenna is also releasing her long awaited sequel to Strength of the Pack.  It’s titled Strength of the Wolf and it releases Sept. 6th from MLR Press.  To celebrate, Scattered Thoughts is hosting a 2 part guest blog with Kendall McKenna and a two book contest for a lucky person who comments during the contest time.  Might even be another surprise giveaway too, more about that later.  So many great things to look forward to.  Mark your calendars, and check them twice.  Hope to see you all here all week long.

Monday, Sept. 2:                   Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz

Tuesday, Sept. 3:                   Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L.E. Harner

Wed., Sept. 4:                          Contest Announcement and Dates

Thurs., Sept 5:                        Kendall McKenna’s Guest Blog – Part 1

Friday, Sept. 6:                       Strength of the Pack  by Kendall McKenna – Review (reposted)

Sat., Sept. 7:                            Kendall McKenna’s Guest Blog – Part 2
Winner of first contest announced

For those of you here in the States, have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.

Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Author Spotlight: Meet Lee Brazil!

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ST: Good morning, everyone.  Today’s guest author is Lee Brazil, author of the wonderful Chances Are series in the Pulp Friction offerings.   Good morning, Lee!

*pats chair and hands Lee a cup of coffee*.

“Don’t mind the terriers, they will ask their own questions later”  *shoos away dogs*

LB: Good morning! Thank you for inviting me over to talk today. For those who don’t know me, I’m Lee Brazil, author of m/m romance with Breathless Press, Silver Publishing, Evernight, and Total E Bound. I’m also a member of a writing association known as Pulp Friction.Chances Are cover

*sips coffee*

LB: Which is what Melanie invited me to discuss today. Pulp Friction came about as a mash-up of old fashioned pulp fiction writing and modern romance. Laura Harner suggested it to us, and the three of us jumped on the band wagon quickly. Originally, it was supposed to follow a strict format of 8 thousand words, and other tried and true pulp strictures.

ST: “Tell me about Chance.  How did he come about?”

LB: When Chance was born, I knew keeping it with in those bounds was going to be impossible. Telling his whole story, getting across the complexity of who he is in eight thousand words wasn’t going to happen. So it became a serial.

ST: “When we think of Pulp Fiction, we think tough, wise-guy detectives who have seen it all.”

LB: Chance is my version of the hard boiled tough guy, he’s known grief and pain, and disappointment, and that’s where we meet him, wallowing in his past. He presents a cold and unfeeling persona to the world and tells himself he’s happy with what he has.

That’s Chance in the first book, Chances Are, where that façade begins to crack. As the stories progress through small mysteries and tragedies and life happens to Chance, the cracks grow bigger and wider and eventually the walls fall down, blasted to rubble by his stalwart friends and a feeling he hadn’t been aware of growing inside.

ST: But that changes, doesn’t it?

LB: When he wasn’t looking his heart was sneaking people in, from the drunkard cop who sits at his bar every night, the cocky but dependable Gerry the bartender, the melancholic chef Blake and all Chance’s old buddies from his days on the force, Wick and Marcus and Zack the civilian. Turns out, he’s never been as alone as he thought.

And into this mix comes Rory. The golden-skinned, golden-haired open-hearted antithesis of Chance’s lost love. He finagles his way into Chance’s bed, and into his life, seeking more at times than Chance is willing to give.

Chance’s own sense of integrity eventually convinces him that his relationship with Rory is wrong, but events transpire that force him to take a deeper look into his closed off heart and make changes in his life. In the end, Chance learns to let go of the past, to embrace the possibilities of the future and to allow himself to be happy.

And the stubborn mule headed ex-cop turned my whole pre-drafted story line upside down in the second installment of the serial. Because that’s who he is. A man who has to follow his own path even when it wanders through hell.

ST:  I just love Chance and the entire series.  I can’t wait for the next book to be released.  Thanks for coming by today, Lee.

LB: *sips coffee. Thanks for joining while I blather about my sexy ex-cop. You can pick up the latest Chances Are book, Chance in Hell at ARE, Smashwords, and Amazon on September 1. In anticipation of that release, I’m offering a discount of 33% on the first four stories at ARE from August 28th until September 4th.

If you want to know more about me and my work, you can find me at the following places on the web:
Lee on FB http://www.facebook.com/lee.brazil
Lee on Twitter @leebrazil
Lee Blog http://leebrazilauthor.blogspot.com/
Pinterest http://pinterest.com/leebrazil/
You Tube http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKmjXLWlO4c2_5ZZQigbeZg?

Books in the series to date in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)