A MelanieM Release Day Review: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West Anthology

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

 

once-upon-a-time-in-the-weird-westThis isn’t the same old Wild West. The usual suspects are all present: cowboys, outlaws, and sheriffs. There’s plenty of dust, tumbleweeds, horses, and cattle on the range, but there are also magical gems, automatons, elementals, airships… even dinosaurs and genetically modified insects. Roaming among the buffalo and coyotes, you’ll encounter skinwalkers, mad engineers, mythical beings cloaked in darkness, and lovers who stay true to their oaths… even beyond the grave. On this frontier are those at the mercy of their own elaborate devices as well as men whose control of time and space provides a present-day vision of the West. There might even be a dragon hidden amongst the ghost towns and wagon trains.

If you like your Westerns with a splash of magic, a touch of steampunk, and plenty of passionate romance between men, these genre-bending tales will exceed expectations.

Hold on to your hats, cowboys and cowgirls. The West is about to get weird, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Its been quite a while since I’ve  read such a strong and outstanding anthology.  I can recommend almost every story and most are 4 to 5 stars.  Its remarkable.  The American West has always been wild but never this weird and extraordinary.  In the hands of these authors, they transport the readers and romance into other dimensions  and worlds entirely.  From steampunk to mages to things supernatural, all the roads to love, however strange and mysterious, can be found here.

I’ve listed them in the order they can be found in the anthology with my comments and ratings.

Reaper’s Ride by Astrid Amara  – 5 Stars

Johnny Jenkins  loves  most aspects of riding  for the Pony Express, but  the  loneliness  can  be  hard  to  abide.  When  a  raid  injures  the  station keeper  at  remote  Jacob’s  Well,  Johnny  is  left  alone  to  tend  the  incoming riders until a replacement can be found. Isolated and without even a horse to keep him company, Johnny thinks he might go mad from solitude. 

That is, until he meets Sye Fairchild, a rider for a different kind of express.  This  one  operates  in  the  shadows,  and  the  deliveries  are  of  a much  darker  nature.  Sye  is  dashing  and  kind,  but  he’s  also  under  a deadline—he’s  got  to  finish  his  deliveries  by  Friday,  or  he  breaks  a  very old and very serious bargain. 

And  as  Johnny  finds  a  kindred  soul  in  Sye,  he  realizes  that  soul needs saving—even if it means ruining his own.

 Astrid Amara does her normal outstanding job of melding accurate historical fiction with the supernatural in the Reaper’s Ride, one of my favorites.  It launches this anthology with a bang and I still have this couple hanging about in my head.

Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony – 5 stars

Al Pennington and Cyrus Reese are both damaged men. Apprenticed as a child to a master who created clockwork wonders, Al now prefers to spend his days on his secluded homestead, toiling over his own fantastical inventions. But when he takes the wounded Cyrus into his home and nurses him back to health, Al realizes he wants Cyrus to stay. Al’s tired of being alone, Cyrus is tired of running, and maybe their time together can be a balm to wounds left by their difficult pasts. 

When an outlaw bent on dragging Cyrus back into a life of crime comes knocking, Al is seriously injured. Cyrus must quite literally take Al’s broken heart in his hands to save his life.

 Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony makes steampunk inventions believable as she does the men who  toil over them.  Here a simple sound become ominous, and then  joyous.  I loved it.

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir by Lex Chase – 3.75 stars

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Medicine Show runs a booming business conning homesteaders with his Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir. He takes advantage of the gullible, who believe the only way to be purged of their sins is with his moonshine—strong enough to strip paint at forty paces. 

When a sandstorm buries his caravan, Ezekiel is hauled to safety and trapped in his wagon. His savior is none other than Levi Everett, his lost love. But Ezekiel put him in the ground years ago, and he fears Levi is the Devil, come to demand atonement for his sins. The tale Levi spins leaves Ezekiel wondering if he’s lost his own soul—or maybe his mind. All he knows is that not even his elixir can heal his broken heart.

 I thought this story got stronger the further in I got and loved the ending.

Corpse Powder by Jana Denardo –    4.75 stars

Doctor Isaac Adler came to Virginia City, Nevada, to escape the horrors he witnessed during the War between the States. Despite a living in a thriving Jewish community, Isaac’s having trouble finding his faith… and finding work. Just when he’s contemplating leaving the desert, life takes an unexpected turn when the airship Aurora is attacked by pirates and Isaac is called upon to help the wounded.

The ship’s first mate, Tsela “Alexander” Zhani, is also trying to outrun a nightmare, his in the form of the powerful skinwalker who drove him from his Navajo village. Tsela’s friendship with the handsome doctor responsible for saving the lives of his friends gives both men a fragile hope for a better future. But their demons aren’t as far behind them as they thought.

 Corpse Powder  blends two religions and two disparate men and comes up with a remarkable romance.  One is Dr. Isaac Adler, Jewish and afraid of heights.  The other, a flying ship’s first mate, Tsela Zhani, a Navajo being chased by a skinwalker.    The imagination shown by the author in not only Denardo’s world building but the battle scenes and the characters is amazing.  Another world I could happily have stayed in.

The Sheriff of Para Siempre by Jamie Fessenden  – 3 stars

In 1875, Billy Slade is one of the fastest gunmen in the territory of New Mexico, despite his youth. With his lover, Joe Brady, he travels from town to town, hiring out his skill wherever he can—provided the cause is noble. Billy fancies himself a hero defending the common man against bandits and ruffians. But a night of passion gets Billy and Joe run off the ranch they helped defend from rustlers.

In the failing mining town of Para Siempre, Billy’s skill as a marksman lands him the job of sheriff. But the town is run by the corrupt Cassidy brothers, who take a liking to Billy and Joe, and they’re used to getting what they want. When Billy rejects Jed Cassidy’s proposition, Jed challenges him to a gunfight. It’s a fight Billy could easily win—but the Cassidys don’t play fair.

For me, this was the only story I disliked.  The writing is good but the story is one that I actually ending up rushing through.  From a rape and murder, its sad, bittersweet and left a awful taste in my mouth.  Its 3 stars only because the writing is so good.  Disliked everything else. 

The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding – 4 stars

August Hayling went west following the discovery of gold in California. While most prospectors were hoping to strike it rich, August was more interested in a place big enough to let him get lost. Sitting alone in a saloon, he is approached by a peculiar man named Georgios Cappadocia, who offers August a fortune in gold if August will come along and help him fetch it. August soon learns that his strange new employer is engaged in some kind of ancient dispute. And when they arrive at their destination, both men will realize that not all treasures are golden—and sometimes destinies can be changed.

Ah a Kim Fielding story!  I never know which way its going to go.  This time its whimsical.  I sort of guessed at the identities of the characters but that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the story.  Extra bonus?  Features one of my favorite fantasy creatures!

 Time Zone by Andrew Q. Gordon –   4.5 stars

Some people possess gifts that allow them to change the world. For Wesley Blake, it’s all a matter of time. He can stretch a handful of seconds into a whole day. But his ability hasn’t saved Wesley from being hurt by others. As a field agent for the Department of Gifted Americans, Wesley throws himself into his work to forget that he is alone. The only person Wesley trusts is his handler, Lothar.

Then a vital mission brings a new partner, Eric, who refuses to let Wesley shut him out. As they train for their assignment, a friendship builds between them. Wesley cautiously lets Eric into his life, until he learns Eric and Lothar lied to him. Betrayed and angry, Wesley struggles to control his powers, and when things take a dangerous turn, even Wesley might not have enough time to get out with his life.

 Another strong story. Time Zone and Andrew Q. Gordon delivers great characters and a fascinating world.  Wesley Blake in particular, a vulnerable gifted man with a dependancy on his handler Lothar, who he’s never met.  How the story unfolds, its revelations, including the spectacular one at the end?  It kept me involved and connected to Wesley and his path to love.  Outstanding story.

Get Lucky by Ginn Hale – 5 Stars  

Pinkerton detectives, saltwater crocodiles, the Borax Brothers, and the sinister Swaims: seems everyone is out to get water mage, Lucky Spivey.

Lucky Spivey just wants to pay off his dead father’s debts and forget about the gunslinger who left him waiting at the stagecoach station three years before. But when he stumbles across a handsome Pinkerton detective in mortal peril, he can’t abandon the man to his fate, and all too soon Lucky finds himself in a wild chase filled with magic, murder, and a triceratops or two. Surviving the marshlands might mean working together with a disturbingly familiar gunslinger…. 

 Ginn Hale had me at Lucky Spivey.   What a wild ride!  Mages, crocodiles, swamps and a lost love returned.  I really wanted so much more at the end.  If you’re listening Ginn Hale, bring Lucky back and his beau too. 

From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde – 4 stars

In the small town of Wilson Creek, two handsome lovers, destined for death at each other’s hands, attempt to end their families’ Shakespearean feud over precious magical minerals.

When James Caplin, inventor of a new magic-detecting device, returns home after graduating from Hinton’s Academy for Boys, he’s looking to have one last hurrah with a handsome cowboy. But he discovers not only that his handsome cowboy is Frank Montgomery, the son of the Caplins’ hated enemies, but also that the Montgomerys are accused of stealing the Caplins’ precious illudine, a rare magical stone. When the argument between the Montgomerys and Caplins becomes heated, James and Frank are expected to settle the matter with a duel. If James doesn’t want to put a bullet in Frank, he’ll have to recover the illudine, reveal the thief, and end a centuries-old rivalry… and he needs Frank’s help.

 Romeo and Jules with Alchemy.  Another neat twist on the  Romeo and Juliet  tale with  a M/M twist and turns.  I wish I had more background on the world but it was  fascinating in the bits and pieces the author set out.  

POMH by Venona Keyes  4 .5 stars

Lorem Farcome makes inventions that cater to the working class. He dreams of a lost chance in love and a lost apprentice. The lost love he can do nothing about, but an apprentice, he can surely build. With a rare red prism, Lorem creates and animates his assistant, dubbing him “Pomh.” The road never runs smooth, and a wealthy and powerful competitor, Markus Reighn, accuses Lorem of stealing the red prism and claims Lorem’s mechanical man for himself. But an odd-looking prospector might hold the key to clearing Lorem’s name and giving Lorem his true heart’s desire.  

Lorem has lost someone and he makes  wonderful inventions.  He finds a rare prism, and something miraculous  occurs.  Venona Keyes takes us on a steampunk journey of lost love and heartbreak and miracles.  Its one to be treasured, a standout in a collection of standouts.

 

Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling – 5 stars

Corporate terraformer turned social justice worker, Gordon gave up a good living to pioneer New Saturn, where the ranges are as vast as they sky—just the way Gordon likes them. Together with his partner Henry, Gordon herds the ankle-high genetically modified insects, which deposit crucial bacteria into the soil so the ground can one day be farmed. But when rustlers strike, the barren beauty of the frontier  turns deadly, and Gordon must risk everything to keep himself and Henry alive. 

Nicole Kimberling has long been a favorie of mine, especially her Bellingham Mysteries.  Here you have an established  couple Henry (born earthbound) and Gordon (born in space) and their herd of bugs each with their personalities.  Yes from Screwloose to Queen Esther, you’ll be falling in love with these terraforming bugs too.  Kimberling gives us the complete world, including Gordon’s space born physiology and what that must mean when it comes to making love or even existing within quarters with gravity.  A stunning story all around.

Gunner the Deadly by C.S. Poe – 5 stars

Special Agent Gillian Hamilton is one of the top magic casters in law enforcement. Sent to Shallow Grave, Arizona to arrest a madman engineer responsible for blowing up half of Baltimore, Gillian isn’t expecting a run-in with notorious outlaw, Gunner the Deadly.

Gillian and Gunner become temporary teammates when it turns out they’re after the same man. The Tinkerer will stop at nothing to get rid of the two so he can steal the town’s silver mines and build an army of steam machines to take down the country. If facing Gatling guns, airships, and magic wasn’t enough, Gillian must also struggle with the notion that he’s rather fond of his criminal partner. But perhaps a union between copper and outlaw isn’t so weird out in the wild and lawless West.

 Gillian and Gunner and a madman on the loose in a steampunk world.  Its wildly imaginative, its fast paced, and its romantic.  Loved it.

After the Wind by Tali Spencer     –  5 stars

Plagued by drought and raids from hostile Comanches, the West Texas frontier is a hell of a place to carve out a living. Twenty years ago, a mysterious disaster devastated the Llano Estacado and cursed the survivors with supernatural abilities over Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. The Anglo government promptly outlawed these powers—and they’re willing to pay good money to anyone who turns over an elemental, dead or alive.

When rancher Micah Dawes desperately needs water for his herd, he strikes a deal with two unsavory bounty hunters for the services of a chained, blue-haired water elemental named Rain. Micah pities Rain, but he has to play his cards close to his chest—because Micah, too, survived the Wind, and the reason he always wears a hat is to hide his glowing red hair….

We end up this extraordinary collection with a strong story.  After the Wind by Tali Spencer.   Is the Wind an environmental foreshadowing?  Whatever the cause the devastating effects on the human and animal population is swift and brutal.  Genetic changes for the remaining populations in some areas that cause them to be hunted and killed for their properties.  Its heartbreaking and Spencer brings that out in vividly described passages and the character of Rain.

The story is stark and yet, full of hope at the end.  Its a perfect way for Once Upon a Time in the Weird West to come to a close.  But these characters?  They will continue to stay with you for some time yet.  What great stories!  What marvelous world building.  More,  I want much, much more.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its one of the best I’ve read and it will in my Best of 2016 List!

Cover Artist: Nathie Block.  I just love this cover.  Eye catching and works for the stories.

Sales Links

           

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Expected publication: December 16th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634779185 (ISBN13: 9781634779180)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

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best-of-2015-small-banner2

 From Books, Audiobooks to Book Covers

Its

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

Happy New Year! Looking back over 2015 I’m  amazed at all the changes here and marvelous tales that came to our door. I’m thinking about the new reviewers we’ve added,  all the wonderful books we’ve read, new authors we’ve discovered, and the way Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has grown in this past year.  Along with new reviewers, came new columns like Paul’s Paranormal Portfolio (his New Year’s edition is posted today), our Author Discovery along with all our author interviews and guest posts.

As the market for audiobooks has increased so has our reviews.  Even a audiobook virgin like myself jumped into the format and found that I enjoyed it immensely. What a surprise…for me!

I hope 2016 brings a new look to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, a few new reviewers to help us read more, listen to, review more about the thing we love…books! I hope we find more new authors to discover, and more ways in which to write about them and the writing process.

But before we move forward, we’re going to look back at the books and covers we loved best.  So here are some of our favorites. Free Dreamer is traveling, and Paul was working on his Paranormal Portfolio but some of the rest of us had our lists ready. Are some of yours among them?  Which ones do you think we left out?  And are there new discoveries among those we love so much? Check out our Best Books and Covers of 2015 below…

 

 

From BJ:

✪Favorite Books Read in 2015:

Captive Prince One and Two by C.S. Pascat
The entire Straight Boys series by Alessandra Hazard
The entire Guardians of the Pattern series by Jaye McKenna
For Real by Alexis Hall
Control by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Give an Inch by K.D. Sarge (because it was so cute AND it was written from my prompt)

✪ Best Audiobook of 2015:

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

✪Favorite Covers of 2015

Ghost in the Mythe coverFor Real coverSong of the NavigatorBurn The Sky cover

Ghost in the Mythe by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
For Real by Alexis Hall
Song of the Navigator by Astrid Amara
Burn the Sky by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Leythe Blade by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton
In Discretion (Ylendrian Empire, #3) by Reesa Herberth
Neskaya (Bittersweet Dreams) by Augusta Li

Leythe BladeSomething Like A Love SongInDiscretion_500x750Neskaya

I really admire original covers that are drawn or created specifically to represent that book so much more than those that just use stock photography…so here are some I love.

 

 

From Stella:

 

✪BEST BOOKS

Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane
Sacrati by Kate Sherwood
✪BEST COVERS
Sand and Gold and RuinThe Fifth Son coverCabin NightsACID coverStormBeforeTheCalm[The]FS
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
The Fifth Son by Blaine D Arden
Cabin Nights by Ashley John
ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck and S. van Rooyen
The Storm before the Calm by Cate Ashwood
✪BEST AUTHOR DISCOVERIES
Family of Lies Sebastian by Sam Argent
Go On Your Own Way by Zane Riley
The Rules of Ever After by Killian B Brewer
The Union of Sun and Moon by Gus Li
The Last Yeti by Tully Vincent
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

                                                                                        From Ali

✪ Best books:  These are my top 5 plus

The Subs Club by JA Rock
Darker Space by Lisa Henry
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan
Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux
A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

  ✪Best Short Stories:

Fawn by Nash Summers  **this was probably my favorite thing I read this year in this genre
One Perfect Night by Lisa Henry
Lima Oscar Victor Echo & the Truth About Everything by Suki Fleet
Ten Simple Steps for Surviving the Apocalypse by Cari Z
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert

 ✪ Best Covers:

 Sutphin Boulevard coverIn the Middle of Somewhere coverFawn coverStygian
Stygian by Santino Hassell
Fawn by Nash Summers
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins
Level Hands
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

From Mika

✪My Favorite Books of 2015

. Sunset Park by Santino Hassell & How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune. They are tied for me. I loved these books. (

Rest in any order
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Breakaway by Avon Gale
Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Definitely Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed
The Subs Club by J.A. Rock
Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk
Down & Dirty by Rhys Ford

✪Best Covers:

Conscious Decisions of the Heart civCarry the OceanTrust the Focus

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

From Sammy:

✪Best Books of 2015:

– Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
– Dirty Dining by E.M. Lynley
– The Wrong Man & The Right Time by Lane Hayes
– The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
– Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine
– Where There’s Smoke & Where There’s Fire by Cari Z
– The World in His Eyes by A.J. Thomas
– The Ultimate Team by Tricia Owens
– The Biggest Scoop by Gillian St. Kevern (A YA pick!)
And an upcoming release in 2016 that I had the pleasure of beta reading:
– Thorns & Fangs by Gillian St. Kevern

From Melanie

For me there  were so many. You really had to look no further than our best book of the month to see that.  Its especially hard in a year where favorite  series came to a finish.  Those were so tough on the heart.  But so were so many others. I laughed with these characters and boy, did I cry.  Sometimes, I did both at the same time.  Looking at you Renae Kaye and John Inman!
Alex Beecroft and Alexis Hall almost deserve their own section.  Beecroft’s Trowchester Blues was a trilogy so marvelous it was illuminating.  And Alexis Hall?  His words flow with a lyricism and magic  that make reading his stories a privilege.
John Wiltshire’s excellent series More Heat Than The Sun starts off with one of my favorite books of 2015, Conscious Decisions of the Heart (also Best Cover).  Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas trilogy which ends with my favorite story of them all, Eden Winter’s Diversion series (be still my heart) got a new installment that I’ve read several times, see?  I can  go on and on.  And I haven’t even talked about Astrid Amara who is on several of the other reviewers lists!

✪Best Books

The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2) by A.J. Thomas
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee
Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues #2) by Alex Beecroft
Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1) by Alex Beecroft
Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues, #3) by Alex Beecroft
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding
Redemption (Diversion #5) by Eden Winters
Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) by Sean Kennedy
A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy
Where the Grass is Greener (Seeds of Tyrone #2) by Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney
Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3) by Heidi Cullinan *loved them all
******************************
(Humor & Pathos Division)
Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye
Coming Back by John Inman
You Are The Reason by Renae Kaye
 ***********************
Four of Club series by Parker Williams (Pulp Friction 2015)
Jack of Spades series by Lee Brazil
King of Hearts series by Havan Fellows
******************************

Best Audiobook

Best Covers:

Theory Unproven 400x600Blowing Off Steam coverConscious Decisions of the Heart civWaiting for the Flood cover

 

 

 

 

 

Theory Unproven by Lillian Francis, artist Meredith Russell
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall, artist Simone
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding

 

Sand and Gold and RuinSnowman coverForging the future coverRunning with the Wind cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn's Law coverChasing the Swallows coverSomething Like A Love SongFirst Comes Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn’s Law by Renae Kay, Paul Richmond artist
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton, unknown artist
Chasing the Swallows by John Inman, artist Maria Fanning
First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony, artist Paul Richmond

The Sub Club by J.A. Rock, artist Kanaxa
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee, artist unknown
Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton, artist L.C. Chase
Trowchester Blues trilogy by Alex Beecroft, artist Lou Harper
Trowchester Blues cover

 

 

TheSubsClub_600x900Winter Oranges coverMy Magical Palace

Review: Into the Wind (Mermen of Ea #2) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

IntoWindTaren and Ian Dunaidh have landed on the mainland  Ea settlement near Raice Harbor after the tumultuous events of Stealing the Wind.  Taren knows he is one of the Ea but nothing else of his heritage and he is searching for answers.  Vurin, leader of the mainland Ea and governor of Callaecia, the Ea village, seems to hold the clues to Taren’s past and perhaps his future.  Vurin is a powerful mage and he believes it is Taren’s fate to be the wielder of the fabled rune stone—a weapon of great power.  The stone holds great significance for Taren and his past.  It is also a weapon that can keep the Ea safe.  But no one really knows where it is.  Only that  Odhrán the pirate is rumored to possess it.

Again the Goddess has some incredible twists and turns in store for Taren.  On the voyage to the island where Odhran is said to reside, Ian’s ship, the Phantom, comes under attack by an old enemy and Taren is swept overboard during battle.  Taren awakes on one of the Gateway Islands unsure of how he came to be there.  At his side, a young boy, Brynn, who says he can lead him to Odhrán and the mysterious stone.

Taren knows he must get that stone no matter the cost.  But who is he to trust?  The pirate is said to make slaves of the Ea, humans like the boy consider him an enemy, and he is separated from Ian on an unknown island, unsure of Ian’s and the Phantom’s fate. Everything looks bleak and impossible.  Taren’s past is the key to his present safety and the future of the Ea.  And only the Goddess knows if he will prevail in his quest for the stone and a happy future with Ian.

Shira Anthony sails back into her Mermen of Ea universe with Into the Wind, the second book in the series.  The first book, Stealing the Wind,  revolved around Taren’s discovery of his true nature and his meeting/new relationship with Ian Dunaidh, Captain of the Phantom and a merman himself. This story ventures further into Taren’s past and his reincarnation of the Ea priest Treande.   Taren is the key and locus for the tumultuous events occurring around him.  The Ea people are under attack, not just from humans but from other Ea who retreated to an island and rule by a increasingly rigid Council.  Taren who only recently found out that he was an Ea as well is under assault himself.  Plagued by dreams and nightmares of his previous life, hunted by a dark mage of the Ea Council, and still under a pledge of one more year’s service to the pirate Rider of the Sea Witch, nothing about Taren’s life is simple or sane.  Anthony lays down more and more threads to an increasingly complex plot and the complexities here are one of the real joys of this story.

Once more Shira Anthony weaves her magic with her sensual underwater imagery and complex Ea culture and physiology.  The story starts off with the Phantom engaged in battle with a mysterious ship.  The Phantom is under heavy fire, and both Taren and Ian are in the midst of the battle.  Cannons are fired,and  masts splintered as the battle is brought home for the Phantom crew and the readers. What a great fight scene!

The aftermath of the sea battle is traumatic for all characters involved and dissolves into a mystery.  Then the narrative retreats in time to two week earlier in the Ea settlement of Callaecia.  And once more we have a Taran whose reality is shifting between his memories of Treande who lived there centuries ago with his mate Owyn and the present, a life where Taran is visiting this place for the first time.  Each step around Callaecia is overlaid with visions from an earlier time when the place was new and the temples stood instead of ruins.  This could be a tricky element to pull of but Anthony does it extremely well.   What happened here?  Is it just time responsible for the changes or something more? Where Taren sees ruins, his memories show him houses and temples as if they had been just recently constructed.  Taran is constantly pulled between the past and the present, with nightmarish results. Even his new relationship with Ian echos with layers from the past and Treande’s love for and relationship with Owyn (who has been reincarnated in Ian).  Anthony shows Taren buffeted by so many winds that at times he threatens to loose any semblance of  mental and emotional balance.

Vurin, a minor character in the first novel, returns to guide Taran and show him parts of his past that still remain hidden.  Old temples and the rune stone that Owyn gave his life to keep safe figures in greatly here.  Ea religion and history come to the fore to play major roles in Taran’s fate when a ghostly figure/priestess reappears with portents of the future.  It is here the Vurin first mentions the pirate Odhrán who might possess the stone and the Gateway Islands.  Shira Anthony has a large scale plan in store for this series, obviously.  And all the clues and plot threads are being laid down for the stories yet to come so there are numerous ideas and elements being juggled here, sometimes simultaneously.  This makes for a wonderfully rich tapestry of storytelling magic. Into the Wind glows with a richness of detail that it can lay claim to the vitality and depth of the sea itself.  And at the heart of the wealth of riches is the character of Taran.

I love the duality aspect to Taran.  He is two people and we are often treated to two perspectives on any given situation, whether it is the appearances of the settlement or of his relationships with others like Vurin when he was Treande.  And the memories are often awful ones, as the loss of Owyn is something Treande never recovered from.  Now Taran with his new relationship to Ian, has to fight with his anxiety over loosing Ian just as Treande lost Owyn so not even his present love exists without a veneer of sadness and fatality.  We are privy to both his love for Ian and his love and memories of Owyn, whose sacrifice and death haunts both the story and Taran. Again, this is where Ian suffers in comparison as a character. Owyn is the more compelling persona. Ian is just not as complex a person or we don’t get to see that aspect of his character.  He is supposed to be the reincarnation of Owyn, a powerful mage.  But none of that is apparent as yet, and his character suffers for that deficiency.  This is my only quibble here with the story.

A new fantastic character is added to the series here with the appearance of Odhrán, the pirate of unknown origins.  A person of mystery, rumors and legends swirl about the man including his possession of the stone that will save the people of Ea. But nothing is as great as the truth of Odhrán himself.  With his interaction with Taran and a look into his angst filled past, Odhrán will quickly become a favorite character of this series.

The story divided towards the middle into almost two separate stories.  One concerned with Taran and his search forOdhrán.  The other with Ian and the crew of the Phantom.  Both locations and plots are hugely effective but as our concentration and empathies are with Taran, again this section with Ian seems a little diluted in emotion and conciseness.  Plus Taran has Odhrán, and he is such a charismatic character that he just outshines everyone else when he is in the scene.

I loved Odhrán and the mystery that surrounds him will likely carry into the others stories as it looks like he has a huge part to play in the events to come.  Other major characters from Stealing the Wind return towards the end of Into the Wind with shocking results.  And no, I didn’t see that coming either.

That ending!  What a bombshell the author has in store for everyone here!  I will say this only once.  Do not read the ending first.  You know who you are!   Don’t, just let that impulse pass. The stunning ending is one that needs to be savored and that will happen only if you read everything that leads up to it.  I didn’t see it coming and neither will you.  And that made me want to have the next book to reach for…to see what happens next.

We won’t get that story until next year. But it will probably send you back to the beginning of this story to see if there were any indications of the revelations to come. Still that astonishing ending as well as the great new characters made this my favorite story of the series to date.  I loved the plot, with all the intervening flashbacks/nightmares for Taran and juggling of almost two competing sets of characters and locations.  Plus there are mermen.  Sexy, smexy mermen. It just doesn’t get better than that.  Or does it?  Hmmmm, only the next story in the series will tell us whether it is so.

If you love the idea of mermen or love found under the sea, if you love high adventures and pirates, or even a forever love that is found once more, this is the story for you.  In fact this is the series for you.  It sings with all the love and emotion this author clearly has for her subject matter and the waters the swirl around them and their fates.  Start your journey with Stealing the Wind and then continue the voyage here with Into the Wind.  Both are highly recommended reads from ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  I thought that first cover was incredible (it was).  But now, take a look at how this one almost glows with a luminosity and fluidity that mimics the movement of the sea.  Love, love this cover.  The name of the character on the cover is something that Shira Anthony kept hidden for a while.  And no, it’s not Taran or Ian.

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

Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1)
Into the Wind (Mermen of Ea #2) released May 5, 2014
Running with the Wind (Mermen of Ea #3) coming 2015

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: May 5th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 5th 2013)
ISBN139781627988766
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4975
seriesMermen of Ea #2

Buy links   Dreamspinner Press   Amazon  ARe

Your Best Books That Most Readers Never Read and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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ScatteredThoughts Call For Favorite Books Most Have Never Read!

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Have you ever finished a book, loved it, and then wondered why you have never heard of it before?  Or see a book released to kudos only to vanish shortly after?  I have seen both happen and I bet you have too.  Or perhaps it’s a book you love but somehow it never found a larger audience and  you can’t figure out why? Maybe it’s the title that throws people off or even a blurb that doesn’t reflect the story within. What ever the reason…these stories never really found an audience that you hoped they would find or think they deserved.  And you wish you could change that.

So I was thinking, why not add a page to the website of books you love but no one has really heard of.  Give these great stories and their authors another chance with readers who might have passed them by.  I have been making a short list but I know you have books to add.

So look through your libraries and books you want to rec, check them twice for stories and authors that you think others may not have heard of.  And then pass them on to me.  Let’s compile a list together, all genres, for others to explore and discover whether they can new stories, old stories, no matter.  And perhaps include a comment or two about what makes them so special.  And we will keep adding to it.  So spread the word.  We need those recs of little known or barely known books and authors and why you love them so.  I can’t wait to see what you all send me.

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Now here is the week ahead.  I have two author book tours, both with sequels to their new series.  S.J. Frost is here on Monday talking about Knight of Fire, her sequel to To the Other Side, her Terra series.  And Shira Anthony is here on Tuesday talking about her inspiration for her Mermen of Ea series and the release of Into The Wind, sequel to Stealing the Wind.  Both have brought books to giveaway and Shira Anthony has an over the top book tour mega contest as well to offer.  I will be reviewing those stories as well as books by David Pratt and Kimber Vale.

It’s going to be a outstanding week in books so don’t miss a day of it.  It’s the first week of May, let’s hope it’s a merry one!  Have a great week and happy rreading.

  • Sunday, May 4:            April 2014 Review Summary/Best Covers of April
  •  Monday, May 5:          Spotlight on S.J. Frost and  her Knight of Fire release (contest)
  • Tuesday, May 6:          Go Into the Wind with Shira Anthony and her Mermen of Ea’s lastest story and 2 contests to enter
  • Wed., May 7:                 Into the Wind by Shira Anthony
  • Thursday, May 8:       Knight of Fire by SJ Frost
  • Friday, May 9:              SE Jakes Daylight Again Book Tour
  • Sat., May 10:                  Forever Is Now by Kimber Vale
  •                                              Looking After Joey by David Pratt

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Review: Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Stealing the Wind coverTaren Laxley’s life as a slave changed for the better when a handsome pirate, Captain Rider, abducted him from the inn where he worked and took him out to sea.  Life abroad the Sea Witch was incredible.  Taren had been chosen to become a third in an established loving relationship between the Captain and his lover, Bastien, and soon was happily climbing the masts as a rigger as an accepted shipmate and  accepted between the sheets as their lover.  But fate had more in store for Taren than he could have ever imagined.

An accident at sea sent Taren into the depths of the ocean and into a new life once more. Taren was rescued by Ian Dunaidh, the enigmatic enemy Captain of the Phantom, a rival ship to the Sea Witch.  Immediately, Taren feels drawn to Ian, pulled by emotions he cannot fathom.  Once again the fates intervene, shifting Taren’s path forever.  Shortly after his rescue the truth comes out that Captain Ian Dunaidh and his crewmen are mermen, a race called Ea, and in a truly stunning disclosure, Taren finds out he is one as well.

Taren and Ian each feel a tie to each other than neither can explain but the storm clouds of war are gathering that will impact them all.  Old hatreds and suspicions, old and new alliances, between Ea and Ea, and  Ea and Humans, will explode with devastating results.  And Taren and Ian will be caught in the middle.  Taren is going to have to learn quickly who he is and how to steal the wind if all are to survive.

I have to admit it, Shira Anthony had me at the word “merman”.  With thoughts gone wild I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this story and throw myself into the characters and mermen universe that Shira Anthony had created.  And it was even better than I had imagined.  We first meet up with poor Taren as his world is collapsing around him.  The only “family” he has ever known, a Master Rigger, is selling Taren to pay his gambling debts.  This scene is almost excruciating as Taren gets ripped away from Borstan Laxley and the only home he can remember.  His new destination?  A inn where pirates and their crew are known to favor.  Again, Taren’s fate is sealed as a certain Captain Rider makes advances that confuse Taren as much as they turn him on.

Quickly, Anthony swirls Taren off on another fated path when Rider abducts Taren and takes him out to sea.  It is here that the story comes fully alive with every twist and swoop of the Sea Witch over the water.  Clearly, Shira Anthony loves and is familiar with the sea and life aboard a vessel, size not withstanding.  Through her almost visceral descriptions of the movements of the ship and the feeling of the waves and wind when Taren and the Sea Witch are sailing, the reader feels as though they are a part of the crews and ships found inside this story.   Being near or on the ocean brings out so many deep seated emotional responses in people and those are apparent in the thoughts and feelings of Taren as he climbs the masts or looks out over the seas they are sailing through. Taren’s “gut deep” involvement with the water is both physical and emotional.  He is drawn to it and it brings him peace.  His stunning realization that he is a merman, an Ea, then brings a resultant joy and self knowledge that feels as natural as the next wave.

The world building here is impressive.  Anthony constructs not only several cultures of Ea but histories as well, when a racial separation happened with  some Ea retreating to an island nation with a resultant rise of an oppressive government and others staying on the mainland .  There is the  Ea Goddess based religion and Ea mages to go along with ancient temples and hidden cities.  But it is with the Ea or merman form and physicality of that shape that is so enchanting and sensual that it will ignite your imaginations and passions for this race and these wonderful characters.  The detailed descriptions of the glowing colors and fluid movements of their merman body is almost mesmerizing. Anthony’s underwater scenes feels so alive that one might feel as though they have their face pressed against the glass in some large city aquarium.   It’s voluptuous and seductive as the sea the Ea are made to live in.

There is a duality of character here in both Taren and Ian.  Both of them have memories of an intertwined past, one that is slowly revealing itself through this story and the next.  But of the two of them, only Taren brings that other aspect truly alive.  With Ian, it’s a little more blunt and one dimensional. We see little of the other character in him, unlike Taren whose duality is impressive as both characters have the same force of being and vitality.  I am not sure if that is part of the author’s overall plan for this couple but it just seems that Taren has more depth and more secrets to him than Ian does.  For me that is the only small hitch to this otherwise marvelous story.  It could be that Ian is just coming into the role he will play in the rest of the series.  Either way I can’t wait to go forward with this characters and the course that Fate (and a certain author) has charted for them.

Put this amazing story on your list to read and that glorious art work on your list of covers to drool over. Both are highly recommended!

Cover art by Anne Cain is just glorious.  That merman and those colors are scrumptious and perfect for this story.

Books in the series planned to date are:

Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #2)
Into the Wind (Mermen of Ea #2) released May 5, 2014
Running with the Wind (Mermen of Ea #3) coming 2015

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 220 pages
Published August 12th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 11th 2013)
original titleStealing the Wind
ISBN 1627980547 (ISBN13: 9781627980548)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4101
seriesMermen of Ea #1
charactersBastian, Taren Laxley, Ian Dunaidh, Jonat Rider
literary awardsRainbow Award Honorable Menti

More Winner Announcements, DC’s Wanda Alston Foundation, and the Week Ahead

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The winners of Jim Provenzano’s giveaway for his Lambda Literary award winning stories are:

Every Time I Think Of YouMessage of Love coverWinner of  Every Time I Think of You is aegger.echo @yahoo .com
Winner of Message of Love is a.sphinxes@gmail.com

Congratulations to both winners.  My thanks to Jim Provenzano for stopping by with his wonderful guest post and for his donation of his books for the contest.  If you haven’t picked these stories up, please put them on your TBR pile, they are not to be missed!

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Here we are sliding into May, one of my favorite times of the year, neither too hot here in the DC Metro area or too cold (normally).  Time to get dirty, plant flowers, take walks by the water and just be outside enjoying nature and the Spring Ephemerals before they disappear like so many cherry blossoms.  Some of my favorites in this area include the Trout Lily and Spring Beauties, the Bloodroot and the round lobed Hepatica.  I especially love coming across a carpet of Spring Beauties, with colors that run the gamut from sparkling white to a lovely shade of lavender.  But you must catch them quick, or they are gone, making way for the flowers and pollinators of summer.  From left to right.  Trout lily with its liver mottled leaves, Bloodroot whose single leaf embraces its flower and whose roots weep red when cut, the round lobed Hepatica, and the Spring Beauties in white and pink.  What Spring flowers are your favorites?

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Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Blogs and Book Tours, and Contests:

Monday, 4/28:         A Reason To Stay by RJ Scott
Tuesday, 4/29:         L.A Witt’s It’s Complicated Book Tour & Contest
Wed., 4/30:              It’s Complicated by L.A. Witt
Thursday, May 1:    Author Spotlight/Giveaway: Meet Chase Potter
Friday, May 2:          The Race For Second by Chase Potter
Sat., May 3:              Stealing The Wind by Shira Anthony

A week full of must read stories and I still need to find room for my April Book Review Summary and Best Covers.  Le sigh, again.

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One last thing this lovely Sunday.  The Wanda Alston Foundation, Washington, DC’s only LGBTQ shelter is in trouble.  It (like all the other shelters) needs funding and donations are desperately required for them to stay open.  Here’s the scoop from Gwendolyn Harter, who sits on the board of the foundation:

GH: Hey guys. as some of you may know I am on the board of The Wanda Alston Foundation who operates the only LGBT Youth Homeless Shelter in Washington DC. We are in need of some assistance to keep our doors open. We are starting a fundraising drive to make $25000 by October 2014 to keep our doors open. I know some of you have offered to get the word out and do other things. We can always use Costco gift cards, other small $25 gift cards for rewards for the kids, and other small thinss like that. IF you guys have any ideas please let me know I can give you our paypal donation page.

Also,We are having a fundraiser on May 12 from 6-8 at http://www.numberninedc.com/ on P St in DC. $25 suggested donation which gets you the 2 for 1 Happy Hour Specials. Directly following the fundraiser stick around for a live viewing of Ru Paul’s Drag Race party.

Short notice for those in the area I know but it’s a great cause and this sounds like a heck of a party!  Check out  NumberNine, gay bar extraordinaire, at their website above.  And if you can’t attend, there is a list of donations needed at The Wanda Altston Foundation’s website.  There is a link to it on ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords home page.  Any donations, no matter the size are needed.  Please help if you can!

That’s it, my peeps.  Have a wonderful Sunday and week ahead.

Melanie

Blue Notes (2nd edition) Giveaway: The Winner is….

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Thank you everyone for your comments.  So many romantic cities were mentioned, now if we only had tickets!  The winner of the ebook copy of Blue Notes is Antonia (amaquilante(at)gmail(dot)com.  Again, thanks for participating.

Keep checking in with ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.com for more book giveaways and author contests.

My thanks to Shira Anthony for her wonderful post and contest.

You can follow Shira Anthony at:

Blue Notes (a Blue Notes story, 2nd ed.)

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Blurb: Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life. But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.

Check out the entire Blue Notes series here.  And you can purchase your copy of Blue Notes here.

Celebrate the Release of the 2nd edition of Blue Notes with Shira Anthony (Contest included)

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ScatteredThoughts is so happy to have Shira Anthony here today to celebrate the release of Blue Notes (2nd edition).  Welcome, Shira!

Thank you, Melanie, for hosting me today to celebrate the 2nd edition of the original Blue Notes! I’m giving away one ebook copy of the book to a lucky someone who comments on this post. Just tell me what your favorite city is in a comment, leave your email addy, and you’re entered in the drawing. I’ll ask Melanie to choose a winner after midnight tonight.

Melanie asked me to write about why Blue Notes is getting a spiffy new 2nd edition. I promise I’ll get to that in just a minute. But first, let me tell you a bit about how Blue Notes and the Blue Notes Series came to be….

Paris is my favorite city. Hands down. Maybe it’s because I lived in France for several years when I was a teenager and attended the Conservatoire de Grenoble for violin. Maybe because it’s the first city I ever traveled to (I was a whopping 6 months old!). Maybe it’s because I lived in Paris when I was about 5 years old and went to school there. Or maybe it’s because I’m a true romantic at heart, and I find Paris to be one of the most romantic cities I know. Yes, it’s probably all of those things.

I go back to Paris every five years or so (I only wish I could go more often). In my early 20s, back when I was still singing, I spent several weeks in Paris. There I met a gorgeous Frenchman (another musician, of course!) and we had a brief but very torrid affair. peripherique-parisI remember rides around the Périphérique (the freeway that loops around the city) on the back of his scooter (“moto”). I also remember dinners in his loft apartment with friends, afternoons spent lounging at a café, nursing our coffees while people watching, and making love at night to the sounds of jazz and be-bop. Have I mentioned I love French men? Philippe was the first of several Frenchmen I dated before I got married. There’s just something about their comfortable, casual attitude, good looks, and the way the French language sounds when they speak that makes them so damn sexy….

The inspiration for Blue Notes came about five years ago now, when two girlfriends and I spent two weeks in Paris. We stayed at my brother-in-law’s apartment near the Jardins du Luxembourg, a gorgeous park complete with long gravel walkways, gardens, a Jardin_du_Luxembourgreflecting pool, and, of course, a chateau. A fifteen minute walk from the Seine and Notre Dame de Paris, the area is one of my favorites. We shopped, went sightseeing, and ate very well. It was January, after a heavy snow (unusual for Paris, which tends toward milder weather), and the skies were overcast and gray. It didn’t matter. Each time I walked out of the apartment, I imagined romance. In fact, I imagined a very particular romance: the romance that was the inspiration for the first book in my Blue Notes series of music-themed gay romances. I imagined Blue Notes.

Jason Greene (the main character in the book) and I share much in common. We’re both former musicians who became lawyers. We both have felt the pain of loss of our music, and we’ve both found our way back to it (although in different ways). Like me, Jason spent several years in France as a teenager, where he studied music. He and I even share a hometown: Cleveland, Ohio.

When Blue Notes was originally released by Dreamspinner Press in 2011, I felt I’d missed an opportunity to share more of Jason’s past with readers. In fact, I wrote a short story called “Knowing,” based on a reader suggestion for a Goodreads Gay-Straight Alliance’s project: “Am I straight or am I gay?” It’s a question Jason asks himself over the years, but one which he finds easier not to answer. That is, until he meets Jules Bardon, a young man confident in his sexuality and whom Jason finds more attractive than he cares to admit. The short story was a look back at an experience in Jason’s past with a boy from high school, Robbie. The story is incorporated into the new version of Blue Notes, and helps to explain Jason’s attraction to Jules. Will the boy from Jason’s past make an appearance in a future Blue Notes Series book? Very possibly. A number of readers have asked for that story, and I love the character of Robbie Jenson from Cleveland. In addition to adding more of Jason’s background, the story has been completely re-edited with the help of my fabulous editor at Dreamspinner, whom I began working with when the second Blue Notes Series book, The Melody Thief, was written.

The new Blue Notes is now available at Dreamspinner Press. For readers who purchased the original at Dreamspinner, you will get the new version automatically on your bookshelf! Haven’t started the series yet? Blue Notes Series books can be read in any order, but if you’re one of those readers who likes to read in publication order, the original Blue Notes is a great place to start!

I’ll leave you with a short excerpt from Blue Notes, when Jason and Jules first meet. Don’t forget to comment on this post to be entered to win a free ebook copy of the book!

–Shira

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Blurb: Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life. But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.

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JULES GLANCED over at Henri and their pianist, David. David grinned and nodded as he caressed the keys of the upright piano, his touch so delicate that Jules could hear him breathe with each phrase. David complained that the instrument was out of tune and a “piece of shit,” but the sound he managed to coax from it was astonishingly sweet. Henri’s mellow brush strokes over the surface of the snare drum joined the soft piano, much like the sound of the rain on the city streets—understated yet insistent. Sexy.

Jules gripped the neck of his violin and tucked the instrument under his chin. There was a rough patch of skin there, a result of years of playing, that looked much like the mark of an overzealous lover. He drew his bow above the strings and allowed it to hover there for an instant before lightly catching the D string. The sound of the violin flickered like a candle flame blown by an unseen breeze, then grew and melded with the muted piano, sultry and inviting. Jules closed his eyes, letting the sound wash over him, responding to the slow harmonic progression on the piano, both instruments weaving the ghostly melody.

IN A dim alcove only a dozen or so feet from the musicians, Jason sat nursing his drink, transported by the sound of the violin. It wasn’t jazz in its purest form—it was more of a hybrid, combining the traditional jazz rhythms of the fifties with a modern yet classical approach. But whatever you might call the music, he found it transcendent. Between pieces, Jason glanced around the room to discover the group’s name but found no mention of it anywhere.

The set ended and the club erupted in applause. The musicians nodded, their manner casual, aloof, even a bit embarrassed. The violinist met Jason’s eyes and, for a brief instant, lingered there. Jason’s face heated. Breaking their eye contact to look down at his empty glass, he told himself that the heat in his cheeks was from the alcohol and the lack of sleep. He motioned to the lone waiter for a refill. When he turned back toward the stage, he found himself sitting face-to-face with the violinist.

“May I join you?” the violinist asked, a coy grin on his delicate lips. Jason figured that he might be nineteen, tops. As his companion brushed a stray lock of shoulder-length black hair from his eyes, Jason realized that he had one brown eye and one green. He was a waif of a kid, his face uniquely French, from the slightly pronounced nose to the sharper edge of his jaw. Even seated as he was, Jason could see that the kid’s body swam in a large pair of jeans that hung low on his hips, exposing blue plaid boxers. On top, he wore a body-hugging black T-shirt with the word “Quoi?” splashed across the front in bright red.

“Be my guest,” Jason replied in French, still unsure of what to think about the kid. “Seems as though you’ve already invited yourself.”

“You’re French-Canadian?” the newcomer inquired, grin widening.

“American.” Jason noted the rough edges of the uneven tattoo on the kid’s right forearm. Homemade, no doubt.

“Really? Your French is excellent.”

“And your music’s good,” Jason countered playfully. “What’s your trio called?”

“Dunno. We haven’t named it yet—we don’t play that much. Wouldn’t have played tonight except the group Maurice booked canceled and he couldn’t find a replacement. My roommate’s the dishwasher here.” He gestured at the drummer, who was watching them with interest from the edge of the small stage. “So, do you live in Paris?” he added after a moment’s pause.

“Visiting.”

The waiter deposited two drinks on the table and winked at the violinist.

“My name’s Jules. Jules Bardon.”

“Jason Greene.”

“Enchanté.” Jules took Jason’s hand across the table. The gesture was far too friendly. Flirtatious. Jason pulled his hand away and raised an eyebrow. Jules appeared unfazed. “Here on business?”

“No.”

“Pleasure, then?”

“No.”

Jules laughed—a soft, almost girlish laugh. “Do I make you uncomfortable?” He fixed his gaze on Jason.

“No,” lied Jason, finding Jules’s gaze a bit too intense.

“I could make this a pleasure visit for you.” Jules absentmindedly traced a long finger across his own lips.

“I don’t bat for that team.” Jason borrowed the American expression wholesale as his French failed him at last. It was not the first time he’d spoken the words, although it was the first time he’d spoken them in French. They were also not entirely true; it was simply that the right opportunity had never presented itself.

Jules looked at him for a moment, clearly uncomprehending, then laughed again.

“What’s so funny?” Jason demanded, noting a hint of licorice on the air as his companion replaced his drink on the table.

“Oh,” Jules said, “I understand.” He laughed again. “Sorry. I’ve just never heard it put that way before. At first I thought you were asking me about baseball.” He took a swig of his drink and shrugged. “Too bad. You looked like you could use a good—”

“Jules!”

“I have to go.” Jules sighed and appeared disappointed. “Time for the next set. It was nice to meet you, Jason.” He tripped over the name, and it came out sounding something like “Jah-sohn.” Jason chuckled in spite of himself, reminded of the various ways in which his name had been mangled by French speakers through the years.

Jules sucked down the rest of his drink in one swallow and stood up. “If you change your mind…,” he began, but the drummer grabbed him by the arm and dragged him back toward the stage.

Not likely, kid. Jason chuckled again. He had enough shit to deal with.

******

Buy Blue Notes at Dreamspinner Press:

The Never Ending Winter Whine and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Winter trees longs

Yes, its still Winter!  White, white everywhere and not a drop of green to be seen.  We have snow, icicles and water in about every frozen variation there is and I am heartedly sick of it.  We finally saw a snow plow late last night.  It had to dodge a Prius and a small sedan of unknown origin whose owners thought their vehicles capable of navigating through over 19 inches of snow.  What were they thinking?  I do know they left their cars where they were stuck, one right in the middle of the street interchange until a neighbor helped them move it to the side of the street.  I do  know what the driver of the plow thought about that as he plowed DSCN4178_2them under a ton of snow last night.  That car was gone this morning and I was happy not to witness the amount of shoveling they had to do to release their  car from that cold embrace.

I have been throwing food out to the birds and wildlife as much as possible and my birdseed reserve is running dry.  Even the snowy owl that stopped in Washington, DC, in search of better weather has had a rough time of it.  She was hit by a Metro bus and ended up at a Wildlife hospital.  She is recovering and so shall we all.  It just doesn’t feel like that right now for either of us.

Hopefully I can get out to the stores tomorrow.  But of course, it has started snowing again.  Big, large fluffy white flakes.  Just the sort I love as a child or even an adult a few, ok more than a few, years back.   So I am beginning to feel like a Grinch these days as the snow mounts instead of melts.  Lasts night my favorite meteorologist forcasted temperatures in the 50’s and maybe even 60’s for next week.

Should I believe him?

Or does he just have a case of snow fever and a sick sense of humor.  Only time and the temperature will tell.

I have some wonderful books for you this week.  There is crippled werewolves, hardened mercenaries, the Fae and an American army vet, a lethal world virus and of course, a revised story from one of my favorite series, Blue Notes.  There are contests and guest author blogs.  Truly something for everyone.  Stay with me all week long.

The week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014:         Kept Tears by Jana Denardo

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014:        Lying with Scorpions by Aleksandr Voinov

Wed., Feb. 19, 2014:              Amelia Gormley’s Strain Book Tour and Contest

Thurs., Feb. 20, 2014:          Shira Anthony’s Blue Notes Release Tour and Contest

Friday, Feb. 21, 2014:            Strain by Amelia Gormley

Sat., Feb. 22, 2014:                Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg

Review: Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes #4.5) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Symphony in Blue-build (1) coverThe holidays are a time for friends and family to come together in celebration and thanks.  Symphony in Blue brings together all the couples in the Blue Notes series for a very special occasion.  Aiden and Sam are ready to get married but before that can happen Cary and Antonio’s baby daughter decides to make her appearance into the world earlier than anyone had anticipated. So instead of the huge reception planned, David Somers and his long time lover Alex Bishop bring everyone to their villa in Milan for a homecoming and Thanksgiving that they will never forget.

Join Sam and Aiden, Jules and Jason, David and Alex, and Cary and Antonio and friends as each couple shares something they are thankful for. Played out in four movements, this symphony is a celebration of friendship and love, orchestrated by David.

I have loved this incredible series since the release of the first story, Blue Notes.  With the Blue Notes series, Shira Anthony (and for Prelude, Venona Keyes), has created an ensemble of musicians and their lovers that has intrigued us with their personalities, enthralled us with their music and beckoned to us with their love stories.  Whether it was violinist Jules Bardon (with manager/lover Jason Greene), cellist Cary Redding (and his partner, entertainment lawyer Antonio Bianchi), operatic baritone Aiden Lind (with partner lawyer Sam Ryan), and finally conductor and Chicago Symphony Music Director David Somers and his partner, violinist Alex Bishop, Shira Anthony has used this incredible octet of musicians and their loves as the “voice” through which she has moved us with her deep love of and passion for the world of classical music as well as knowledge of the various art forms within.

A former opera singer, Shira Anthony was at one time as deeply immersed in this world as her characters are and it shows in every element, every note that threads itself through these stories.  It is there in joy and in sorrow, through all the difficult times and choices these men have had to make.  And because she has been there herself, her series has a realism and authenticity that gives these stories depth and texture.

As these couples sit around the Thanksgiving table in Milan, each reflects on their lives as they share with their friends (and readers) something specific they are thankful for.  Anthony presents us with an intimate setting and a ritual I suspect occurs in more than one household around the country.  For each man, each couple, the things they share brings the reader up to date in their careers and presents us with glimpses of their present day family life.  I have to admit that Cary and Antonio’s memory is my favorite, with Cary (and Antonio) trying to deal with their son’s Massimo’s jealousy over the new born in their midst).  It’s so real, with elements that will break your heart and then put them back together as father consoles child and reaffirms their love for him. One couple after the other, with emotions high, celebrate love and family among their dearest friends.  It feels familiar and immediate and oh so lovely.

At 73 pages, Anthony packs a lot of feeling and music into her story.  Yes, let us not forget about the music, such an integral part of the Blue Notes series.  The story itself is a composition by David Somers, the dedication written by him.  The performer list is that of all the characters in the series and the story plays out in five movements, each movement a sharing by someone at the table. This is an inventive format that works beautifully for this story and is so reflective of the entire series.

In many ways Symphony in Blue and the Blue Notes stories are a series of love letters from the author, sharing her passion and deep appreciation of the musicians and the music they live their lives by.  I highly recommend not only Symphony in Blue but the entire Blue Notes series.  If you are a fan already, then you will love catching up with all your favorite couples.  If you are new to the series, then go back to the beginning as this story contains spoilers for all the rest.  Either way, this one is not to be missed!

Listed below are all the stories in the Blue Notes series.  The author has noted that she considers it a series of interrelated, classical music themed standalone novels that can be read in any order.

Knowing (Blue Notes, #0.5) a free read at Goodreads
Blue Notes (Blue Notes, #1)
The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2)
Aria (Blue Notes, #3)
Prelude (Blue Notes, #4) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes
Encore (Blue Notes, #5)
Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes, #4.5)

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 73 pages
Published December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627983945 (ISBN13: 9781627983945)
edition language English