A MelanieM Review: 7&7 – Anthology of Virtue and Vice by Andrea Speed , Carole Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Serena Yates, Clare London, J. Tullos Hennig

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Rating: 4.25 out of 5

7 & 7 AnthologyHumankind possesses a dual nature, the ability to rise to the brightest heights—or sink to the darkest and most perverse depths.

What inspires some to reach the pinnacles of virtue while others cannot resist the temptations of vice? Is it something innate, or a result of destiny and circumstance?

Delve into the minds and spirits of saints and sinners alike with a collection of stories that explore the call toward good or evil—and the consequences of answering it. For while rewards certainly await the righteous, there are also pleasures to be found in the darkness. Venture off the expected path with some of the most innovative voices in LGBT speculative fiction as they present their unique takes on the classic vices and virtues.

Many authors including: Andrea Speed, Brandon Witt, Sean Michael, J Tullos Hennig, Carol Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Rhys Ford, Clare London, Pearl Love, Jamie Fessenden, J. S. Cook, Amy Rae Durresson, Serena Yates

I found this to be an absolutely wonderful  anthology…however not if you are looking for stories of romance exactly.  This anthology is released from DSP Publications which means its stories are less romance based and more driven towards content elsewhere, which in some cases here is horror.  That’s fine, if those are not to your taste, skip over them and proceed to the next.  This is a wonderful smorgasbord of authors and a wonderful way to taste their various narrative talents.

Which ones were some of my absolute favorites?

Heirs to Grace and Infinity by C. Cummings – 5 stars (31 pages)

Urban fantasy in which a fugitive sorcerer matches wits with the bureau’s top agent to save children.  Its imaginative, wonderful in its world building and keeps you on your seat.  It was just terrific in every way from the characters to the plot. C. Cummings is one of my favorite authors. This is why.

Hope by Rick Reed – 5 stars out of 5 (47 pages)

Looking for hope in crises around a mother’s death and one’s personal life.  This was such a deeply moving story of loss and hope.  One man moves home to his mother’s house after she’s died, to deal with the aftermath of her loss.  His grief, those of her friends who loved and took care of her…and the house that’s now his and the new location.  Its powerful, moving and so beautifully done.

The Darkness of the Sun by Amy Rae Durreson – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A grieving Priest finds his faith.  Another story that is based in loss and takes a different tack altogether.  The author has a wonderful feel  for the trail and the life of this simple priest who has lost his way.

Prudence for Fools by Sean Michael – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A disgraced seer is thrown out of court and returns to the tribe of his husband but is haunted by his visions.  I loved this  story by Sean Michael.  This seer and his husband, a couple of long years, are wonderful and their relationship is one I connected to immediately.  Michael pulls us into this world and the situation quickly.  Another story that could have filled twice its pages.  I found it gripping, the couple moving in their deeply loving relationship and the tribe is one I wanted to learn more about.

Red Light Special by Rhys Ford – 4.5 stars out of 5 (38 pages)

An Elf, a Knight and a Succubus plus Detroit and one of my favorite authors who writes with snark, a vividness thats startling and a pizazz that flies off the page.  Really.  This is a story that needs no review.  Just read it.  It works.  It hilarious and sexy.

Horseboy by J. Tullos Henry – 4.5 stars out of 5

A Horseboy of the Lebanon, a Templar Knight, and intimate desert secrets.  A bit of history, a bit of the supernatural.  A short story I found that works on every level, it kept me connected and involved in the action and the time period.  Great job.

There are many in the 4 star to 3 star range. Those I enjoyed as well.  And won’t cover here.  There were only a few that I was disappointed in.  That’s a great number is an anthology this size.

The Gate by J. S. Cook – 2.75 stars out of 5 (21 pages)

A gay man sees a seedier, dark side of the wartime effort.  Set in the 40’s during the wartime, I felt this went nowhere.  Little setup, little ending.  I know the author was going for noir but it went south instead.

The Rendering by J. Inman – 1 star

Fat gay guy goes on a date set up by a computer dating service and ends up….

Well, I saw the ending coming from the very beginning.  Why?  For starters, I knew the historical ingredients of the product being sold and the links being made in the story.  The clues were obvious as to where it was going to go.  Some have called this fat shaming…others strictly horror.  I thought it just beyond obvious and boring.  That it came from one of my favorite authors made me want to cry.  That’s the horror.

Those are the highs and the lows.  The highs and all the terrific stories in the middle far outweigh the lows.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its a feast all around.  Pick it up and start sampling.

Cover is simple and it works.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications

Book Details:

ebook, 360 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by DSP Publications (first published March 10th 2016)
ISBN 1634773608 (ISBN13: 9781634773607)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review of The Florist (Workplace Encounters #8) by Serena Yates

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Rating: 3 stars

Dylan White, free spirit and free lance florist designer, is on vacation when he gets a call that will change his life.  His friend, Mike Benton, has died and left him everything he had owned, including a house and florist shop in Jacksonville, Florida.  Dylan lands in Jacksonville and heads to the law offices handling Mike’s will and funeral services.  As Dylan leaves the law firm, he runs smack dab into a human wall in the form of Sean Mellick.  Sean Mellick is a junior defense lawyer with the same firm handling Mike’s affairs and is immediately struck by his attraction to the gorgeous man leaving his law firm.

Dylan finds himself similarly attracted to Sean.  Suddenly, he is finding reasons to stay in town, settle down and run a business.  As Dylan and Sean embark upon a romance, problems with the shop he inherited and a law case Sean is involved in rise up to threaten their new formed relationship.  Can Dylan throw aside his temptations to leave and fight instead for love and a home?

I had a hard time staying with this book but it took me some time to figure out why.  Serena Yates has the elements in place for a riveting story. We have a commitment phobic free spirit and a work obsessed lawyer coming together with a couple of stressful events thrown in their path to happiness.  The characters seem likable and their situations appeared realistic.  So what was the problem?  Why didn’t the story or the people engage me? The answer I keep coming back to is that I just didn’t buy what the author was trying to sell me.

Let’s start with the characterizations.  Dylan White is supposed to be this amazing larger than life bon vivant, a true free spirit. But the author never gives us one, not in her descriptions nor dialog.  We are told he is one, because he is on vacation and left the florist shop his parents own. Why?  Because he didn’t like the floral designs they were putting out.  That’s a free spirit?  The only thing that says impulsive free spirit is the statement in the beginning telling us that Dylan is one.  The same goes for Sean Mellick.  We are supposed to buy that Sean is a young man driven to become partner at his law firm, putting that goal above all else, including a personal life.  How do we know this?  A senior partner is surprised he has a date and again, the author told us so.  As far as I could tell, the senior partner could have been surprised because Sean is socially inept.  Again, there is no backstory or pertinent characteristics to support this view of Sean Mellick.    It all comes back to the fact that an author must build a character/characters that a reader will believe in.  If that person has a devil may care spirit, show me in dialog, history and actions. Don’t just leave him flat on the page.  If you want me to  believe a character is driven, convince me of that!  Don’t just tell me he is one.  I never believed in either character because there was never any followup to support that initial description and my interest in the story was gone.

If you can overlook the superficial characterizations, then the next problem lies in the criminal element Yates introduces into her story.  It just never made any sense.  The problem at Dylan’s new shop and Sean’s case are supposed to be connected but little is made of that fact.  Everything is not as it appears at the floral shop.  An interesting element is thrown at us, but this plot line is essentially wasted, as it is not well developed, and in the end not necessary to the story.  Nor is Sean’s job, which we were made to believe was a singular goal of his.  All these roadblocks or issues the author raises for the characters just slide away, another unreal or unbelievable  element in a story full of them.

So in the end I didn’t buy the characters or the storyline.  This is the only book I have read from the Workplace Encounters series so I won’t write them off based on this alone.  But I am not recommending this for anyone other than a hardcore Serena Yates fan.

cover:  Cover Artist is Reese Dante.  The cover is just ok, doesn’t speak to anything inside the book or the story.

Olympics Addiction Continues, the week ahead in Reviews and a new Summer Cocktail

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It’s August, it’s hot and dry here in Maryland.  Normal right?  Well, except for the 100 degree days, but the dryness?  That’s becoming typical too.  We are down about 8 inches here from our normal rainfall, but compared to some of the other states now experiencing record drought conditions, that is nothing.  As we hear of farmers and ranchers selling off stock they can’t feed and the Mississippi is down 20 ft in places,  along with Lake Michigan recording a water temperature in the 90’s,  I think Maryland is getting off easy comparatively speaking.  But we will feel it, make no doubt about it.  Higher food prices, higher costs in transportation, we are all woven together.  A small ripple here becomes a tidal wave there.

So I would like to think that the Olympics in Great Britain are generating tidal waves of good feelings that are crashing upon the shores of many nations.  I love watching athletes from all over the world competing and (mostly, what was with those badminton teams?) giving it their best.  Did you see that rower from Niger?  Never been in a boat, never rowed  before, came in dead last and grinned like crazy! And then there is Michael Phelps putting on a show of remarkable  physical ability, great team spirit and a happiness that I will remember for some time to come.  So many wonderful moments this week from the women competing whether it was gymnastics, swimming, Judo, weightlifting, or women in head scarves running like the wind.  I am just glued to my set and don’t see that changing until the very last whistle is blown and the torch goes out.  How about you?  Are you watching?

So this is what I have been reading in between watching the Olympics:

Monday:                       The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Tuesday:                        When Forever May Not Be Long Enough by Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael

Wednesday:                  The Florist by Serena Yates

Thursday:                       Priceless by M.A. Church

Friday:                            Suicide Point by Georgie Leigh

Saturday:                        Brook Street: Thief by Ava March

Now on to this Sunday’s Feature Cocktail.  In a nod to the British Olympics, here is the recipe for a Pimm’s Cup.  This recipe is  for one drink. Make as many as you like!

 

 

 

 

 

Pimm’s Cup Ingredients:

About 1 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Pimm’s No. 1
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ginger beer or ginger ale
1 cucumber slice
1 sprig fresh mint (5 to 6 leaves)
Directions:

Fill highball glass with ice. Add Pimm’s, then top with ginger beer, garnish with cucumber slice and mint sprig, and serve.

Now I am off to watch the Olympics and finish Megan Derr’s Poison, the 4th book in the Lost Gods series.