Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2013

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Presents:

best-books of 2013

Time for Scattered Thoughts to look back at all the wonderful books read and reviewed in 2013 and try to pick those stories that stood out the most among all the many stories I read.  As always it was a hard thing to do because there were so many this year that crowded at the top.  How to choose between Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord and her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazeri?  Or Ariel Tachna’s Outlast the Night and her Conquer the Flames?  It was only by the mm (seems reasonable) that the latter book for each won out.parabook

Some authors did end up with two books in my lists, whether it was because they were in two different categories or because they were in different series or just because they were that good.  I also ended up with more categories this year, including  Best Humor, Best Young Adult, Best New Vampire and Best New Werewolf.  The variety in genres just begged for subcategories so I created them.  Something really new this year was the interconnected series from the Pulp Friction group. Each series and main characters were intimately connected to each other and culminated in a four author four series finale story.  It was outstanding and earned all four a place on my list.

And then there were the marvelous novels like Harper Fox’ Brothers of the Wild North Seas whose review has slid into 2014 but is one of my top novels of any year.  Anyway, here are the books I chose in alphabetical order.  Which authors/stories were on your list this year?

Best Contemporary Novels of 2013:

  • Best Stand Alone Novels:

Illumination by Rowen Speedwell
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Best Action/Suspense Fiction of 2013:

Collusion by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Corruption by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Pulp Friction Series of 2013 (4 interconnected series)

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux (Cut & Run series)
Worlds Collide by R.J. Scott

Humorous Fiction of 2013:
Books with wings in the sky

Shy by John Inman
Hobbled by John Inman
Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune

Young Adult/YA Subject Oriented Fiction:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton
Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton

Best Historical Fiction:

Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane
On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory
Trick of Time by JL Merrow

Best Horror/Fantasy:skeleton-clip-art-15-315x600

Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin

Best Science Fiction Novel/ Series of 2013:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean
One Breath, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley
Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley  (sequel to the one above)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)

Best Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction of 2013:

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne
Undertow by Andrea Speed (Infected series)

Best New Vampire (a tie):

The Beast Without by Christian Baines
The Family: Liam by K.V. Taylor

Best New Werewolf:

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

Happy New Year, everyone!  Happy Reading To All and May 2014 Be Great!

New Year Book

Scattered Thoughts Book Review Summary for June 2013

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June 2013 has come and gone but some of the books I read that month continue to linger in my heart and mind, just some outstanding stories. As always, there is something for everyone here, from contemporary to paranormal books, terrific additions to wonderful series.  If you missed them the first time, here is your chance to check them out again:

5 Star Rating:

Hobbled by John Inman

Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Mighty Casey by Willa Okati

One Breath, One Bullet by S.A.McAuley

Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean (4.75 stars)(science fiction)

Flawless by Cat Grant (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Stonewall by Martin Duberman (4.25 stars) (non fiction)

The Hanged Man’s Ghost by Missouri Dalton (4.75 stars)(paranormal)

The Night Shift by Missouri Dalton (4.25 stars)(paranormal)(series)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay (3.5 stars) (contemporary)

Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey (3.25 stars) (contemporary)

When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat (2.75 stars)(contemporary)

The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus (2.75 stars) (contemporary)

Prelude (A Blue Notes book) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Prelude coverWorld-renowned conductor of the Chicago Symphony, David Somers, is not happy when his ailing guest violinist is replaced by famous rock star, Alex Bishop.  Although he has never met the musician, Bishop’s fame and notoriety has preceded him, and David Somers has little patience for tattooed prima donnas of the rock star world.  But when Alex takes to the stage and starts playing the opening notes of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, David Somers is completely entranced by both the man and his music.

Alex Bishop has persevered from his foster child beginnings to become a brilliant violinist and playing under the baton of conductor David Somers is a dream realized.  And although David Somers welcome was reserved, something about the man spoke to Alex.  Alex knew from sources close to Somers that he was both widowed and gay.  And no one was more surprised than Alex, when David accepted his invitation to go out on a date.  And everything seemed to be going well, until it wasn’t and the conductor fled.

Underneath that  smooth, assured and somewhat cold exterior of David Somers lies an insecure, lonely man.  Brought up by a bitter, emotionally removed grandfather upon the death of his parents, David’s upbringing was one of constant degradation of his dreams, rigid control over his actions, and the pairing down of the boy into a man who would be scion of the family business.  At least that’s how his grandfather saw it.  But finally David found the strength to pull away and strive for his place in the music world as he had always wanted.  But the damage his grandfather had inflicted upon his self image was deep and long lasting, right into his inability to compose music and maintain relationships.

Alex wants to pursue a future with David, but there is so many obstacles in their path, the largest one being David himself.  What will it take to break down David’s barriers and create the future they both want together? David must find his inner music once more before he loses Alex and his chance for happiness so long denied him.

Oh, my, what a lyrical and lovely book.  I have been a fan of this series from the beginning, adoring the tapestry of music and love that Anthony (and now Keyes) has woven for us in this series.  But in Prelude, I think I have found my favorite.  Such a gorgeous blend of personalities, location and music, it kept me enthralled for the entire story and introduced me to a new musician as well, more about that later.  In the author’s notes I have included at the end of the review, Anthony writes that Prelude is actually the prequel to the stories already published.  In those works, David Somers and Alex Bishop are already an established couple.  David himself is an open hearted and generous mentor to other younger musicians, a far cry from the man we initially meet at the beginning of Prelude. And that brings me to the wonderful characterizations of the men we meet here and elsewhere in the series.

David Somers and Alex Bishop are both very complex men with haunting back histories. I think what surprised and delighted me was that the man you might expect to be the most vulnerable, the most insecure about his background is actually the character who has not only come to terms with his childhood or lack thereof but is the most assured and confident of the two.  That would be Alex Bishop, abused in  various foster settings, someone who almost died freezing and along on the streets except for his mother’s violin.  He has worked hard to arrive at this stage in his life, a brilliant musician, warm human being and happily gay.  It’s David Somers, the famous conductor from a wealthy family, who is the fragile one here.  His upbringing by his rigid, embittered grandfather has impaired David emotionally, making him withdrawn and almost incapable of maintaining close relationships.  His grandfather also was responsible for killing his ability to compose music, an important part of his emotional makeup and dreams.  Both authors bring us close to the heart of both men, making it easy for us to understand their motivations as well as their flaws.  I think some readers might have trouble with David’s fear of intimacy as he continually pushes Alex away but close reading of his history with not only his grandfather but present day associates makes it not only realistic but natural.  And it’s not just David and Alex’s characters that are so well done but those secondary characters as well, from his sister to Alex’s roommate, all make for a deeply layered, and satisfying story.

But the highlight in Prelude is the music.  Shira Anthony’s familiarity and love of the music world with its brilliant musicians and timeless compositions floats through the story like the very violin concertos referenced within.  Her knowledge and joy of music enhances and embellishes every aspect of this story and the series, her touch sure and light upon the narrative. We are drawn into the emotions elicited from the music that pours forth from the violinist and the symphony.  The brilliance of the pieces spills out of the instruments and musicians and into our hearts and souls, from the light hearted renditions like Stéphane Grappelli’s Blue Moon (my new favorite) to the deeply moving concertos such as the Sibelius Violin Concerto which introduces us and David Somers to Alex Bishop at the beginning of the book.  The fact that this series uses music as its heart, and the exemplary manner in which the authors accomplish that, sets this series apart from all the rest.  Shira Anthony has assembled a play list for Prelude, just as she has for her other stories in this series.  You can find the list and links listed after the review.

At 250 pages, the story just flies by.  Anthony and Keyes deliver a smooth and concise narrative, the few flashbacks are used to help understand the characters better rather than impede the story momentum.  By the end of the book, I am entranced by David and Alex and want to see them older and more established as they were in the other stories.  So back to the beginning to enjoy it all over again.  If you are new to this series, this works well as a stand alone story, if you are as in love with it as I am, you will be thrilled by Prelude and this couple.  Either way, consider this highly recommended.  Shira Anthony gives us the order in which the books work on the series timeline below.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 250 pages
Published May 6th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380597X (ISBN13: 9781623805975)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3798&cPath=55_484
seriesBlue Notes #4
charactersDavid Somers, Alex Bishop
settingChicago, Illinois (United States)

Author’s Notes:

Notes from Shira Anthony on Prelude:

Book 4 in the Blue Notes Series is bit of a prequel to the other books, although it’s meant to be read as a standalone novel. For those of you who’d like to read the series in chronological order, it goes like this:

1) Prelude
2) Blue Notes
3) Aria
4) The Melody Thief

“Prelude” is the story of conductor/composer David Somers, who appears in all of the first three Blue Notes books. In those stories, David is friend and mentor to the young musicians who appear as main characters (Cary Redding and Aiden Lind, in particular). But David wasn’t always as outgoing and willing to befriend other musicians.

“Prelude” is David’s story of finding himself and finding happiness in music. I hope you enjoy it!(less)

Shira’s Prelude Playlist:

“Enigmatic Ocean,” Jean-Luc Ponty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9XHFqCvMIY

“Satisfaction,” The Rolling Stones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx0bLBk-BNM

Sibelius Violin Concerto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-P183jzdfw (my all-time favorite recording with David Oistrakh), or a slightly different interpretation by Joshua Bell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTbY1n3Iz8

Berg Violin Concerto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqSSHwFEn_8 (Itzhak Perleman)

Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYzYVsvD5as (Shlomo Mintz)

“Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Charlie Daniels Band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgvfRSzmMoU

Symphony No. 5, by Dmitri Shostakovich: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FF4HyB77hQ (Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic)

Mahler Symphony No. 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Tbi0Rfzs8 (Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic)

Chopin’s Opus 25 Étude, No. 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj5Mp31nZlA (Anna Fedorova)

Gounod’s Ave Maria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNNbtR5R68U (Anne Akiko Meyers), and a very old recording of Jascha Heifetz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtc4SMUjhG8 and a recording of operatic soprano Renata Tebaldi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVMSeFTHDEs

Thelonius Monk, “Round About Midnight”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMmeNsmQaFw

Dvořák Violin Concerto (last movement) (3rd movement, Allegro Giocoso): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kouKmC3yUOA (Josef Suk)

Stéphane Grappelli “Blue Moon”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhB5qAq7OkI

Mahler Symphony No. 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHXJw9avAn0 (Danish National Radio Orchestra)

“Harold in Italy,” by Hector Berlioz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5B9iMLpDgU (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra)

“The World I Know,” by Collective Soul: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7TLTjqUyog

Bach, Partita No. 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcB56k4vR5k (Hilary Hahn)

Mourning and the Week Ahead In Reviews

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Winston has been gone for less than a week and most of the time I can’t wrap my mind around that fact.  I still turn expecting him to be there and fixed his special breakfast yesterday morning and put it on the floor before I once more realized he wasn’t there to eat it. It was not a good  morning.

And I am not alone in my grief.  Willow and to a lesser degree, Kirby are with me as well.  When Willow arrived, Winston was already king of the house and it took him a while to get used to her but when he did, they were frick and frac, four pawed companions in everything.  He slept on top of the pillow on the bed and she slept under it, they shared meals and water bowls and even their opinions of the mouthy parrot in the family room.

So when I put Winston’s food down my mistake, Willow just sat and looked at me with sad eyes.  When Kirby thought that it was a shame to let it go to waste and went to get his share, there was Willow in his face, refusing to let Kirby near Winston’s bowl.  She is pensive and unusually quiet, staying Velcroed to my side.  Nights are the worst, listening for his snorts and snores that never come.  Both of us toss and turn all night long.

Went to the South River yesterday to meet up with some of our DC Metro M/M group for some much needed distraction.  Those that knew were wonderful but I just can’t talk about him yet.  Write yes, talk no.  Sitting there by the water, listening to the laughter and friendly banter, seeing friends and meeting new ones made me feel lighter in spirit and let me smile when I thought of Winston watching the ducks go by.

I know it was his time to go, and that Willow and I will find a  measure of peace soon.  We will always miss him , he is such a huge part of us, he will always be close by ,in our hearts and memories.  Nothing can take that away, and nothing will.

I have to admit I wasn’t very functional last week and my reading somewhat abandoned.  So I hope you all will forgive me if this week’s list is more of hopes projected instead of reviews already written.  I have good days and bad so only time will tell.  This is what I hope will happen this week.  And thank you all for your support and comments.  They were needed and loved.

Monday, June 10:                  Prelude (a Blue Notes book) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

Tuesday, June 11:                   The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus

Wed., June 12:                         Flawless by Cat Grant

Thursday, June 13:                Hangman’s Ghost (Night Wars #1) by Missouri Dalton

Friday, June 14:                      One Breathe, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley

Sat., June 15:                           Stonewall by Martin Duberman

So have a good week and wish for me, Willow and Kirby a better one.  I will leave you with the Goodread Quote of the Day, a favorite of mine.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings”
― John Gillespie Magee Jr.

About this quote:

June 9, 1922: An aviator and a poet, John Gillespie Magee Jr. was born to missionaries in Shanghai, 91 years ago today. His poem, High Flight, is still memorized by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy today.
John Gillespie Magee Jr.

It’s Gay Pride Month and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Its Gay Pride Month, a great time to celebrate and give back to the community. Washington, DC’s Capital Pride is coming up this week and culminates in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 8 and the Capital Pride Street Festival on Sunday, June 9.  If you live in or around the metro area,  there is something for everyone to enjoy.  I mean how could you not want to dress up as a super hero and attend SPANDEX: The Official 2013 Pride Week Superhero Party on Friday, June 7?   Plus the parade on Saturday travels through Dupont Circle, a historically gay neighborhood.  I worked there in the 80’s, and believe me, that place had gay pride before Gay Pride.  Here are the links to the events and places to purchase tickets:capital-pride-superhero-banner

Capital Pride 365

Gay.com – Capital Pride

If you are in the area and taking pictures at the events, send them to me and I will post them here.  And for those of you in other places, send me the dates and info and I will post that as well.

There are also many organizations that help LGBTQ youth  from Promise Place on the DC/Prince Georges County line to The Wanda Alston House in Washington, DC.  Or perhaps the Ali Forney Center in NYC or The Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK.  A favorite organization of mine is The Matthew Shepard Foundation founded by Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard. If you haven’t visited that site before, please do so.  It’s both heartbreaking and immensely uplifting to see what has emerged from such a horrific tragedy.

There are not enough shelters and organizations to go around for all of those children and teens in need and those that exist really need our support in every way possible.  One easy way is to buy ebooks.  Several authors and one terrific editor, Kris Jacen, have contributed their royalties from several novels.  S.J. Frost  and Kris Jacen with Finding A Dream, Sue Brown’s The Sky Is Dead, and Lost and Found Anthology (Kris Jacen), whose  entire royalties will be sent to Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc.  And these are only the most recent.  Enjoy a good book and give at the same time.  It’s easy, its enjoyable, and it is needed.

So have a great week.  Celebrate, dance, and make time to read a book or two!  Oh, and check out the cocktail recipe at the end. Here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, June 3:                  Outlast The Night by Ariel Tachna

Tuesday, June 4:                  Flawless by Cat Grant

Wed, June 5:                         The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat

Thursday, June 6:                The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus

Friday, June 7:                     Stonewall by Martin Duberman

Saturday, June 8:                 Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

Here is a specialty cocktail recipe just for Gay Pride (shakes head, you really went there, didn’t you).  It came from Alex’s Cocktail Recipes

Gay Pride Cocktail:

1 shot Apple sourz
1 shot blueberry sourz
1 shot cranberry juice
2 shots 5 alive
pop rocks
Instructions

Put the cranberry juice and 5 alive into a tumbler. Pour the sourz into shaker over ice and shake well. Pour into tumbler and add a pink umbrella, then sprinkle with pop rocks

“A womanly drink, it won’t get you drunk but drink it wearing hotpants for the ultimate sense of gay satisfaction.”  Alex also has links for other drinks, none of which I can print here.  Visit his site for more information.

The Olympics, the Week Ahead in Reviews and a Milky Way Martini That’s Out Of This World

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So things are happening all around this coming week.  I have been glued to the Olympics in London along with millions of others and that opening night still has me thinking.  Words like stupendous, mystifying, amusing, and outright flabbergasted swirled in my head as the spectacle  unfolded.  Loved the symbolism of the Oak Tree on Glastonbury Tor but wondered how many people went “huh”.  The Industrial Revolution and the molten river was very cool.  And who doesn’t love Kenneth Branagh reading a passage from The Tempest? Hmmm…dancing doctors and nurses, and hospital beds for the NHS?  I am told it is a “veddy British” thing and it must be as that and the “creepy” big baby had me stymied! Mr. Bean had me in stitches from first sight right thru his Chariots of Fire run. I will pass over the digital revolution.  I loved, loved the songs!  Singing my heart out along with them.  But was it only me that it seemed as though I was watching people watch a large tv on tv?  Don’t know.  Maybe it was just getting late at night.  Then came that eye opening, yelling for others to come see, smashing tour de force at the end. Wow! From the torch arriving with David Beckham (scream of joy) on a fast moving boat to the young athletes acknowledging and saluting their past, the older Olympians, to the lighting of the Olympic Flame (so incredible).  Then it is all topped off by Sir Paul and Hey Jude singalong.   Let me just say I was a totally happy camper when the lights finally went off.  And how great was Her Majesty and her corgis, even the fat one?

So I am watching the events this week and with the permanent generator being installed, yes a permanent generator, on Monday.  “Take that Pepco!  I should send you the bill.”  We are assured of a constant stream of power.  A great thing really considering the storms that arrive every night, bringing hail, high winds, and torrential rain to some parts of the  area, we just never know where it will hit.  So happy dance on Monday, might even post of pic!  And no problems getting my posts up – knock on wood.  So to the tune of the Olympics theme, here’s the lineup this week:

Monday:                                Reaping Shadows by Jamieson Wolf

Tuesday:                                The Man Trap by Lee Brazil

Wednesday:                          The Trust by Shira Anthony and Verona Keyes

Thursday:                              Three Fates Anthology by Andrew Grey, Mary Calmes and Amy Lane

Friday:                                    A Foreign Range by Andrew Grey

Saturday:                               Hired Muscle by Hank Edwards

So we are still trying different cocktails to entertain with and break the heat.  Today we are going into outer space for The Galaxy also known as The Milky Way:

Ingredients:

* 1 1/2 cups ice cubes
* 1/4 cup cold water
* 2 fluid ounces vanilla-flavored vodka
* 2 fluid ounces white Creme de Cacao
* 2 fluid ounces irish cream liqueur
* 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
How to make it

Chill a martini glass by filling it with 1/2 cup of ice and cold water.
Place 1 cup of ice cubes into a cocktail shaker. Pour the vanilla-flavored vodka, white creme de cacao, and Irish cream liqueur over the ice; cover and shake vigorously. Dump the ice and water from the martini glass and drizzle the inside of the glass with chocolate syrup. Strain the cocktail into the glass to serve.