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

Out With The Old and In With The New and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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New DirectionAnother year is almost gone, another is almost here.  Past regrets, future hopes, memories made and memories waiting to be formed.  It is a time of celebration and reflection.  A time to mourn those we have lost and be grateful for those still with us.  One Winston left me, another found his way home.

For many 2013 was a year in turmoil, the government closed, money was tight, and so many I know had  health issues.  But there was also plenty of reasons to rejoice.  DADA and DOMA fell, and there are 16 states and Washington, DC that have same sex marriage equality laws.   And when Russia outlaws gays just before the Winter Olympics , then gay athletes come out of the closet, meeting Putin’s challenge with their own courage.

There were so many great books published this year in every genre that it was hard to narrow down the lists.  Book covers too were over the top stupendous, that was a  hard list to compile as well.  Last year ScatteredThoughts had a list of resolutions.  I think I am going to let that pass this year.  I am both replete of energy yet so full of emotion that I hate to think what might tumble out.  Best let those dragons lie.

I did attend GRL this year in Atlanta.  Oh, what a time I had.  The authors, bloggers, readers, publishers…..what a treasure trove on every level.  I loved meeting so many people I had only talked to through emails and FB.  It was wonderful and I still didn’t get to meet everyone I wanted to.  I was turned on by listening to authors  read their own stories, listen to how they got their start in writing, met  readers and fans who sparkled with energy and love for the fiction and author of their favorite books.  What an amazing time and I hope 2014 sees me flying to Chicago for GRL once again.

So I want to thank all those authors whose books made me dance with joy  and bite my nails in suspense this year, from the Pulp Friction gang to Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes. Thanks to Abigail Roux and Amy Lane who never fail to make me cry in happiness and sob  buckets of tears with their angst. Thanks to Andrea Speed who writes with humor and ferocity, to John Inman who made me laugh hysterically, and Ariel Tachna who took me to Australia and a sheep station I love.  Thanks to Mary Calmes, Charlie Cochrane and RJ Scott for their series and novels and thousands of hours lost in the worlds and characters they created.  And a welcome return to Josh Lanyon and LB Gregg, who returned with a bang and a giggle and love found once again.   Thanks to Kendall McKenna and her extraordinary Marines (wolf shifters and human alike).  Thanks to Sarah Black for her General series and the soldiers so close to her heart.  Thank you, ZAM, thank you, Tere Michaels, KA Mitchell  for her twists and turns, thanks to Astrid Amara and Nicole Kimberling and more, so many more that I need a couple more pages here.  Thanks to Rowen Speedwell, Jessica Freely, BA Tortuga, Missouri Dalton, Theo Fenraven…..see its hard to stop. Thanks to Riptide Publishing, Less Than Three Press, Wilde City Press, Dreamspinner Press, MLR Press, Loose id, Torquere Press  and all the others I am just getting to know. Your hard work is appreciated in getting those authors and their stories to us.  Thank you to the cover artists.  Wow what great covers came out of 2013. I loved those too.

I know I have left a ton off but now my brain hurts and I have to close it off.  You know how it is. You are all such gifted writers and have brought so much joy.   I can’t wait to see what you all come up with in 2014. I will be waiting in anticipation.

And a special shout out to Eric Arvin and TJ Klune.  They both gave us memorable books in 2013, but the best gift was the gift of themselves.  We shared their joy, their engagement and their sorrow and tough times with Eric’s illness.  May 2014 see them happy, content and together.  There will still be plenty of medical bills to come and donations welcome.  A link to the Eric Arvin Support Fund can be found on my website.

Monday, Dec. 30:      STRW Best Books of 2013Year of the Horse 2014

Tuesday, Dec. 31:       STRW Best Covers of 2013

Wed., Jan. 1,2014:     Reese Herberth’s In Discretion Blog Tour and Contest

Thurs, Jan.2:                STRW Summary of December 2013 Reviews

Friday, Jan. 3:              In Discretion by Reesa Herberth

Sat., Jan 4:                     Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony

Happy New Year, Everyone! Best wishes and joy from ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords!blue new year 2014

Release Day Celebration and Contest for Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Today, Christmas morning at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords, we  are celebrating the release of Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony.  While everyone is enjoying family and loved ones, Shira Anthony is stopping by to talk about her Blue Notes series and  sharing some memories of holidays past.  Entries are still being taken for the terrific Blue Notes contest.  See details at the bottom of the post.

Now pull up a chair with some coffee or tea, and let’s  welcome Shira Anthony and Symphony in Blue:

Celebrating with the Blue Notes Series: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party!  Symphony in Blue-build (1) cover

Thank you, Melanie, for inviting me to celebrate the release day of the 6th book and the first holiday novella in the Blue Notes Series! I’m also celebrating because with Symphony in Blue, I’ll have published my 10th book with Dreamspinner Press. How appropriate that celebrations are the focus of Symphony in Blue. Celebrations of love, family, and friendship.

Symphony in Blue is written as a symphony might be, with “movements” in which a particular character pairing is featured. Complete with liner notes and a dedication, it is conductor/composer David Somers’s masterpiece—a piece of his heart, shared with his friends. And for David, who for years built a wall around that heart, it’s something of a holiday miracle that he can share the joys of love and friendship as deeply as he does. The focus of the novella is a Thanksgiving meal at David’s villa outside of Milan, Italy, where all his friends gather.

I have a bit of experience with Thanksgiving in Europe, since I lived in France for two years when I was in middle school. Back in the 1970s, there weren’t many people who were familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday. My mother loves to tell the story of her Cranberries20101210begging my grandmother to send her cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner. You couldn’t find cranberries in Europe at that time. She meant for my grandmother to send her the canned variety. My grandmother sent fresh ones! By boat (back then, and even now, airmail for packages was very expensive)! Needless to say, they were pretty much ruined by the time they arrived 4 weeks later. My mother picked out all the “good” berries (i.e., the ones that weren’t moldy or mushy). We had about 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce that year! But we still had our turkey, stuffing, along with some European traditions including cheese after the main meal, and some amazing French wine (which I totally didn’t appreciate at age 15!). I still remember that Thanksgiving in Grenoble.

Nowadays, you can find fresh cranberries and all the trimmings for a festive meal throughout Western Europe, so David Somers’s last-minute Thanksgiving dinner is entirely plausible. That meal also features regional breads and vegetables. Violinist Jules bread-recette-pain-paysan-pain-campagne-1Bardon helps round out the offerings by baking “pain paysan,” or French country bread (I make this from time to time – it’s actually quite easy!). Here’s a recipe you might want to try. For our Thanksgiving my year, my daughter made two round loaves of pain paysan, and it was amazing!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate in your home! And if after your Christmas dinner you want to settle down are read a story about love for the long-term, you might want to check the Blue Notes Series and my latest release, Symphony in Blue.

The Blue Notes Series books are about real men in real relationships, with real problems, each with a music theme. If you’re looking for a sexy hot romances with fluffy scenes, I think you’ll like the Blue Notes books. But if you’re also looking for something more—for something more real than Cinderfella and his prince? I think you’ll enjoy these stories about making love work over time and through obstacles. You can find all of my Dreamspinner Press books by clicking here. You can read more about me, even hear what I sounded like when I sang opera professionally, and read more about my books, including free fiction and excerpts on my website, www.shiraanthony.com.

Don’t forget to enter the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour giveaway (details at the bottom of the post) by clicking here (Rafflecopter). There are plenty of ways to enter, and you can enter more than once by commenting, tweeting, buying books, and liking pages. I’ll be drawing winners on New Year’s Eve at midnight!

Good luck! –Shira
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Excerpt (Symphony in Blue):
DAVID TAPPED his cellphone, shoved it in his pocket, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Something ruffle the maestro?” Alex grinned up at him from the couch, his bare feet tucked underneath him, a pile of staff paper scattered about the floor and coffee table. He’d printed out a score for a new composition and managed to knock it off the printer tray. Of course, all the page numbers at the bottom of the sheets were cut off. Damn thing was at least thirty pages and would be a nightmare to organize.

“Nothing that can’t be managed. Unlike your score.” David raised an eyebrow and Alex saw the ghost of a grin on David’s face.

You could just reprint it, you know.”

“What? And waste paper?”

“You’re stubborn,” David said as he picked up several of the pages and set them on the coffee table before joining Alex on the couch. When Alex said nothing, David leaned over and feathered several kisses over Alex’s neck.

Delightfully so, of course. But stubborn nonetheless.”

Alex sighed contentedly and pushed the rest of the music onto the floor. Fine. He’d reprint the damn thing. Later.

Who was on the phone?”

“Aiden.” David spoke the name with his lips so close to Alex’s ear that Alex nearly gasped. David’s voice just did that to Alex—that sexy baritone seemed to resonate through every part of his body. Alex was pretty sure David knew what it did to him too.

“Aiden? I thought he and Sam were in Australia.”

David pulled away and offered Alex a sardonic eyebrow. “Austria.”

“Oh, come on!” Alex laughed. “You know I can hardly keep track of my own schedule. Now you expect me to keep up with his?”

“Not even the correct continent.” David went back to kissing him. “What was he calling about?” Anything to keep David focused on his neck.

“The party in Connecticut is off. They’re also postponing the civil ceremony in New York for now.”

Alex shot up off the couch. “What? But we’ve been planning the reception for six months now! It’s only two weeks away. What the hell happened? Are they okay? I mean…. Shit. You know what I mean.”

David smiled—a strange expression for someone who’d just learned that he’d wasted four months arranging the party to celebrate Aiden and Sam’s wedding. Caterers, musicians, guests, and a dozen different schedules to coordinate.

“Okay. Fess up. Why are you smiling?”

“Aiden and Sam are fine. They’re just postponing it.” David appeared entirely calm. Too calm. Happy, even?

“Postponing? They’ve been doing that for two years now.”

“Three.”

“Fine. Three years. So why are you happy about it?” Alex pressed. Of course, David was yanking his chain, but he liked that. Anyone who thought David Somers didn’t have a sense of humor simply didn’t know him.

“I’m happy,” David said as his eyes brightened, “because there’s a good reason for it. In fact, there’s a wonderful reason for it.”

Alex laughed. “What reason would that be?”

“Who might be the more appropriate way of say—”

“David,” Alex warned.

“Graziella Michaela Redding.”

“Graziella? You mean….”

“Mother and child doing quite well, I’m told.” David grinned outright this time.

“Cary and Antonio’s baby?”

“Born last night. Almost five pounds. Three weeks early but doing well.” David stood up and wrapped his arms around Alex’s waist. “A good reason to postpone a wedding, don’t you think?”

“The best.” Alex kissed David. “Should we plan a visit in a few weeks?”

“A few weeks?” David’s sly grin made Alex chuckle. “Just because we can’t have the party to celebrate doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the opening in everyone’s schedules.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Thanksgiving in Milan. It’s been years since we’ve been able to get everyone together.”

“The villa?” David’s Italian villa was certainly large enough. “But—”

“Is that a problem for you? Last I looked at your schedule, your next performance is in Buenos Aires in three weeks.” David nipped at Alex’s earlobe.

“No… it’s not… ah…. Shit, David, I can’t think straight when you do that!” Alex shivered and closed his eyes. “And no. No problem for me. But didn’t you give the staff at the villa the entire month off?”

Alex knew David had completely forgotten about that particular detail. He frowned, then said blithely, “We’ll just have to do it ourselves. Jules and I can handle the cooking. You and Jason can get the placed opened up. Rachel can help you with the rooms.”

“You’re serious about this?”

“Am I ever not?” David pulled at Alex’s earlobe with his teeth. “I’ll call the travel agent and look into rebooking all the air travel.”

“Travel agent?”

Another kiss, a nip, and then: “The travel agent. Too complicated to handle that much rebooking online and you needn’t trouble yourself with that. Just call Jules and Jason and let them know we’ll meet them in Milan on Saturday. I’ll text them the flight information as soon as I have it.”

“Ah…. Okay. Sure. Jules and Jason.” Alex could handle that. He’d been meaning to call Jules to see how the Blue Notes album was coming along anyhow. He’d joined Jules and the other members of the trio on several of the tracks when he’d been in Paris three weeks before.

“Good.” David brushed his lips against Alex’s. “And one more thing.”

“Hmm?” Focus, Bishop, focus!

“This.” David pushed Alex onto the couch and began to unbutton his shirt. “First things first. Always.”

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You can purchase the Blue Notes Series books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AllRomanceEbooks, and on the Dreamspinner Press website.
Encore: link to DSP
Symphony in Blue: link to DSP

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

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Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour stops:
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th: Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th: Michael Rupured’s Blog
November 15th: Joyfully Jay (Blue Notes Cover Art – Interviews with the Artists)
November 18th: Elin Gregory’s blog
November 22nd: Aisling Mancy’s blog
November 26th: Andrew Q. Gordon’s blog
December 6th: Oscar’s Bruised Petals (Sandra Garcia’s blog)
December 10th: Brilliant Disguise (Tali Spencer’s blog)
December 13th: Lily Sawyer’s Blog
December 16th: Rebecca Cohen’s blog
December 20th: Purple Rose Teahouse (Charlie Cochet’s blog)
December 23rd: Mrs. Condits and Friends
December 25th: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party at Melanie Marshall’s Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
December 26th: Book Suburbia
December 27th: Helen Pattskyn’s blog

ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: Encore (Blue Notes #5) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Encore-BuildWhen teenagers Roger Nelson and John Fuchs  meet in the band room of Maryville’s Senior High School in 1971, they discovered they shared the same passion for music.  Roger Nelson with his violin and John Fuchs with his dream of conducting.  Each teenager came from different backgrounds and moved in different circles in high school, Roger Nelson, the “cool kid” popular with all crowds and John Fuchs, the stuttering, shy transfer from St. Barnaby’s, an expensive private school.  Brought together by music, they soon developed a deep friendship that made them inseparable.  Then it turned into something more.

John had always known he was gay so his love for Roger seemed natural and right. However, Roger’s attraction and love for John confused him, making him feel unsettled and insecure especially in the 70’s where homosexuality was still looked at with disgust and ignorance.  Together through college and graduation, John and Roger continue their secret romance despite growing opposition from Roger’s parents. Then two tragedies occur that immediately impact Roger and his family.  The ripples from those events serve to separate Roger and John, shattering their romance but not their love for each other.

For the next several decades, the men’s lives intersect only to  be pulled apart time and again.  When one more event brings them back together, will this be the encore they have been waiting for or will their last chance at love slip away forever?

Encore is Shira Anthony’s most ambitious and deeply layered Blue Notes story to date.  Over the course of the Blue Notes series, Anthony has been building a symphony of characters deeply involved in the world of music and their relationships.  Whether it was a pianist or conductor, violinist or opera singer, cellist or lawyer in the musical entertainment industry, Shira Anthony has introduced us to the men whose passions for music has driven their lives, loves, and careers. But those previous stories, for the most part,  have had a specific  short time span for the men and their love affairs.  Now in Encore, Anthony goes for the larger picture, not just a movement but the whole composition.  Here she strives for a symphony and achieves it.

Encore is a musical term derived from the French word “again”.  It is a repeat performance or an additional musical piece that occurs after the main piece or event concludes and it is the perfect term to apply to the on and off again relationship of Roger Nelson and John Fuchs, two characters introduced as a couple in previous novels.  Starting in 1971 and ending in 2006, Anthony creates a romance that encompasses a 35-year time frame.  It will see the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, the fight for gays rights, and finally the beginnings of social acceptance of homosexuality.  Against such a historic and dramatic background, the author has created her most textured and multidimensional romance in this or any other series.

Even at the beginning of John and Roger’s relationship, each young man has their personalities already firmly in place.  John is already comfortable being gay, even in 1971.  The kids have already taken note of his “difference”, an aspect of his personality that will only deepen as John ages and finds his own style, totally comfortable in his skin and element.   And while John may stutter in emotional situations, his belief in himself and his music is unwavering.  I loved John.  I understood his behavior and his emotional outlook on life and his music because Anthony has made him so transparent and accessible even with all his layers.

Then there is Roger.  The wonderful, exasperating, heartbreaking Roger.

Roger Nelson inside is the antithesis of his outward appearance and behavior.  On the surface, Roger is all “coolness” and popularity, his easy nature and charm crossing high school and then college social circles.  But inside, he is a tumultuous mess.  Pressures from his parents, society, and their expectations for Roger’s future collide with his own dreams for himself and the resulting avalanche will derail everything Roger and John had planned for their lives together.  While all Roger’s friends and family is aware he loves music, none but John understand how crucial it is to Roger, that music and the violin are fundamental parts of Roger, as necessary to him as food and air. It’s that essential part of Roger that is lost or an aspect of it is lost.  And for the reader, it is important that we are able to connect with that feeling in order for us to really understand  Roger and his actions.  For Roger, the loss of music and his ability to play the violin is nothing less than the deepest wound to his soul, like losing an appendage.  The hole it leaves behind can never be forgotten or overlooked.  Roger too feels so real, a living, breathing walking gash of a man.  And, due to the author’s deep connection with her character and her ability to bring this man to life, Roger is also the character that will engender a wide spectrum of feelings from the readers.

Roger has the ability to become such a misunderstood character in this story if the reader doesn’t take the time to put him into perspective, both historically and emotionally.  John never had the pressures put on his that Roger has had throughout his life.  Nor has John had to deal with the worst thing that could possibly happen to himself and Roger.  That is the loss of their music, the destruction of all their hopes and dreams and that is exactly what happens to Roger early on in their story.  This loss guts Roger.  It takes his heart and shatters it, leaving Roger incapable of going forward with his life as a whole person.

I think that Shira Anthony captures that feeling, that crushing loss, and it’s resulting reverberations on someone’s emotions and behavior realistically and with great pain and insight.  The author has stated that in many respects “Roger” is her.  Roger, his  character, is her outlet to express the emotions and heartbreak she felt upon leaving her career as an opera singer behind.  And it shows in the realness, the pain, the constant turmoil and upheavals in his life that Roger finds himself going through.  She made me believe in Roger totally.

At times the reader will be frustrated with Roger’s  actions.  Trust me, I was.  But again, you need to keep in mind that the man going through the various stages in his life is a man bereft of his center, his heart.  Then Roger becomes someone who needs our compassion and empathy as well as our understanding.  I think so many of us can point to moments in our life when things went awry.  Maybe it was a slight altering of goals or a detour taken that we notice only in hindsight.  But for Roger and so many others, there are life shattering events and decisions that send them off on a journey they never expected or wanted.    Accident or warfare, a missed step or terrorism.  The why is sometimes less important  than what happens after.  And here, in Encore, Shira Anthony lays it all out for us as it takes Roger 35 years to come to grip with his eviscerating loss and his love for John.

As we watch Roger and John come together only to separate once again, I am reminded of the various acts in an opera.  Just as an opera has various acts, stages it must go through,  so is this book divided into different periods.  Each division moves the story forward, sometimes just a couple of years or so, sometimes a decade until we arrive at the last act and the highly satisfying encore.  This is an emotional journey, full of the cracks and crevasses that come over time and with two such diverse men at the center.  Have the tissues handy, you will need them. as this story has the ability to make you weep as well as smile.

I can’t say it enough, Encore is such a remarkable story.  It is definitely one of the best of 2013.  It is a symphony of emotions, its instruments the men Shira Anthony has created along with their deep love for music and each other.  Encore will have you calling for a repeat performance from this incredible author.  Brava, brava!

As with all her stories, here is the link to the playlist for Encore. http://www.shiraanthony.com/books/encore/#extras 

Cover art by Catt Ford.  This cover is perfection in every way, from the picture of the two men as boys to the branding that keeps it similar in look to the other Blue Notes covers.

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) Expected publication: December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

The Contest and Blog Tour For Shira Anthony’s Encore Release Continues!

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Encore’s release will be followed on Christmas Day by the release of a Blue Notes holiday novella, Symphony in Blue. Symphony will be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m celebrating the release of both of these books with a blog tour contest ending on New Year’s Eve at midnight! Grand prize is a Kindle loaded with many of my Dreamspinner Press titles. You can get more entries by commenting on blog tour posts, tweeting, and buying the books. Here’s the link to the giveaway:Symphony in Blue-build (1)

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.
Prizes (U.S. Only):

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choiceEncore-Build

Blog Stops Currently Scheduled :
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th:   Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th:   Michael Rupured’s Blog

Visit each stop on the tour for more of Shira Anthony and this incredible series.

Here is the link for ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords review of Encore.

Guest Post: Shira Anthony, Mega Contest Time and the Release of Encore!

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“Moving on from Music” by Shira Anthony

Thanks, Melanie, for hosting the Encore release day party on your blog! It’s such a pleasure to be here today. I’d crank up the music, but I’m not sure if we should play Tchaikovsky or The Who. Roger and John might be just as conflicted. They love just about any kind of music.

Those of you who have read any of the Blue Notes Series books probably know that the books are loosely based on people and events from my own life as a professional musician. I’m a former violinist and professional opera singer who gave up my music career about 15 years ago. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I don’t regret the decision. But having no regrets doesn’t mean “no pain.”

Ask yourself how many people you know who have studied music at the college level or beyond. I bet you can name a few (you may even be one!). How many professional musicians do you know? I know a lot of former professional musicians. There’s a reason for that: it’s an incredibly demanding career that requires total focus, pays poorly (unless you’re a superstar), and often means a nomadic lifestyle (not great for long-term relationships and family). There are many more former musicians than there are professionals. But how do you give up something you love nearly as much as you love the people in your life? The grief is very much like the grief you’d feel over the loss of a loved one.

I know. I’ve been there.

Two of the Blue Notes Series characters are former musicians: Jason Greene from Blue Notes, and Roger Nelson from Encore. Each deals with his grief over the loss of his music differently. For Jason, the perfectionist whose fear of performing became overwhelming, he finds a way to make peace with himself and accept his imperfections. Roger, however, is a different story. Roger loses the physical ability to play the violin. His musical voice aches to be heard, but his body (his hand) can’t translate the music of his heart into sound. It’s the most devastating loss of his life, and one he struggles to come to terms with over many years.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that it took five Blue Notes books for me to finally write my own loss into a Blue Notes character (Roger’s character). A musical soul needs to express itself, but it’s difficult to move forward when you aren’t sure how to do it or where to go. Roger tries to forget about his music and deny his grief. It’s only when he realizes there are other forms of self-expression that he can move on with his life and truly love. I’ve found a new outlet for my own self-expression in my writing and learned how to incorporate my love of music into my books. Even better, readers can still “hear” that musical voice in my books. So I guess in some sense, I haven’t really given up performing, have I?

Encore’s release will be followed on Christmas Day by the release of a Blue Notes holiday novella, Symphony in Blue. SymphonySymphony in Blue-build (1) will be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m celebrating the release of both of these books with a blog tour contest ending on New Year’s Eve at midnight! Grand prize is a Kindle loaded with many of my Dreamspinner Press titles. You can get more entries by commenting on blog tour posts, tweeting, and buying the books. Here’s the link to the giveaway:

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

Encore-BuildBlog Stops Currently Scheduled :
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th:   Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th:   Michael Rupured’s Blog

Looking Ahead To Those In Need and This Week’s Reviews and Contests

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Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away.  For those of us who celebrate this holiday, it is frequently a time of loads of great food, family, and togetherness.

Especially, the loads of food.

So what better time to think of others in need than now.  Where ever you may live, I am sure there is a food bank in need of supplies or families going hungry.  Maybe  they need coats or a wood burning stove or backpacks for school age kids.  Whatever and where ever the need, I am sure there is a worthy organization helping to stem the flow of hunger, of clothing, of shelter for those in that need it so.

Next week, my post will highlight those organizations and the manner in which we all can help.  If you know of an organization you would like to see posted here, please send it to me at Melaniem54@msn.com and I will see it included on next week’s post.  I am also going to maintain a separate page so people can look up organizations year around.  I have my favorites to donate to.  I am sure you do as well.  Let’s pass them on and see if we can all pass it forward.

Now on to this week’s reviews.  It is a special week here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words because Shira Anthony is premiering her Blue Notes novel, Encore, here on Monday, November 11.  To celebrate Encore’s release, there will be an incredible giveway that includes a Kindle, jewelry, and of course, books.  Don’t miss out, check in with us on Monday and Tuesday for more details.

Monday, Nov. 11:               Guest Post and Contest for the release of Encore (Blue Notes #5) by Shira Anthony

Tuesday, Nov. 12:              Review of Encore by Shira Anthony

Wednesday, Nov.13:         Close Quarter by Anna Zabo

Thursday,  Nov. 14:           The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin

Friday, Nov. 15:                   The Retreat (a Roughstock story) by BA Tortuga

Saturday, Nov. 16:             Captive Magic (Sentinels #3) by Angela Benedetti

So grab up a pen or two, make note of the schedule (and the contest).  The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin is another book of 2013 that is not to be missed as is Encore by Shira Anthony.   There is fantasy, m/m cowboy stories, and contemporary stories of love and perseverance.   See you all here on Monday.

 

Aria (Blue Notes #3) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 4 stars

AriaPhiladelphia attorney Sam Ryan has never fully recovered from the death of his lover, Nick.  One night during yet another attempt to go forward, Sam goes to a bar and meets Aiden Lind, an aspiring opera singer.  One passionate week later, a fearful Sam lets Aiden walk out of his life rather than deal with his own issues of loss.  It is a moment Sam handles badly, hurting Aiden in the process.

Five years later, Aiden Lind is a successful opera singer, living with Lord Cameron Sherrington, a wealthy music patron.  But Cameron’s cheating ways lead to a painful parting and shortly after Aiden runs into Sam Ryan again.  Once more the sparks fly between the two men and they start a long distance relationship strewn with obstacles to overcome whether it is Aiden’s insecurity, Sam’s refusal to deal with his loss of Nick or just poor communication between lovers afraid to damage a new love.   As the demands of their careers puts new stress on an already strained relationship, Cameron returns to Paris determined to win back Aiden at any cost.  Both Sam and Aiden will need to take a hard look at themselves if their love and their relationship is to survive both themselves and their pasts.

I am such a fan of this series and Shira Anthony in general.  Blue Notes captured my heart from the beginning by seamlessly folding romance and love into the world of classical music.  Because of the author’s background, the love of music and her intimate knowledge of the world of the classical musician has provided the reader with a series that moves to the sounds of a cellist playing ‘Dvorak Cello Concerto in B Minor’ or a violin pouring out the strains of “Bach Sonata 2 in A Minor”.  Music is at the heart of this series as much as romance and the combination has proved to be as compelling and  potent any I have read before.  So I am at a loss here when I have to say that the one thing I am missing from this book is the one thing that makes this series so memorable – music.

Aria is Sam Ryan and Aiden Lind’s story and as a tale of a developing love between two opposites, it is both realistic and a little frustrating.  The story moves back and forward along the relationship time line of these two men.  It starts at the present day, then returns five years in the past in order for us to capture their painful beginnings and then back to the present where Aiden is breaking up with Cameron.  We switch from present day Aiden dealing with the stress of his job but mostly his unequal partnership with Cam to present day Sam who is still dealing poorly with the loss of his Nick.  At the beginning, this interrupted timeline did more to impede the reader’s involvement with Sam and Aiden’s relationship than it did to promote engagement with it.  You would just get into the flow of the scene and then it would break away to another year and stage in their lives.  But after Sam and Aiden agree to try a long distance relationship, then this format actually works to help the reader understand the frustrations each man is dealing with within the framework they have set up for themselves.

As Sam and Aiden get increasingly frustrated and stressed out over a lack of time spent together, so does the reader ride the same emotional currents with them.  The couple is not communicating at all with each other which puts additional pressure on their frail relationship. The constantly shifting locations mirror the same shifting stages in their love affair. One discordant scene follows another, each moving forward by months, an effective, realistic way to portray a romance in crisis.   But it is done without the accompaniment of music.

Aiden tells us he is to sing a certain aria but we never “hear” him sing or feel his emotions about the songs or operas.  We hear a little about the rehearsals or about the mechanics of the performance,but almost nothing of the heat of the moment, the feelings that the songs engender.  How Aiden is connected to his music, his profession is entirely absent.  In Blue Notes or The Melody Thief, we never questioned Jules or Cary’s passion or commitment to music, it had them in thrall.  Concertos and sonatas flowed through the passages of those books as blood does through our veins.  Where is that passion here?  Where is that feeling that Aiden would rather die than not sing?  It is missing and we feel its absence deeply.

At one point in Shira Anthony’s blog about The Melody Thief, the author gives us a link so we may hear Anthony singing Tosca,  It is clear from that recording that she loves singing and was terrific at it as well, the deep wells of emotions flowing out on every note.  Shira Anthony has blogged about the pain that was created when she chose family over her career as a professional opera singer.  And I wonder, was this subject too close to her heart to treat subjectively? With Aiden as a stressed out opera singer dealing with a long distance relationship, was the storyline too close to her own history? Was the material too painful to be able to relate to the reader by way of Aiden what it felt like to let the music flow through you like a vessel created for that purpose and that purpose alone?  I don’t know, only the author herself can answer those questions.

I know that the fourth book in the Blue Notes series, Prelude, has been written.  It’s main character is David Somers, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a foundation character who has supported the people in each book to date.  Now he gets his own story and that of crossover violinist Alex Bishop.

I am hopeful that with a return to the orchestra’s conductor and violinist, that the music will return to the series as well. I enjoyed Aria, the romance was realistic and well done but curiously devoid of music in a series called Blue Notes.  And where this story should sing, there is only silence.  I love this series and its music.  I can’t wait for its return.

Here are the series in the order they were written. The author has stated that each book can be read on its own.

Blue Notes (Blue Notes #1) – read my review here.

The Melody Thief (Blue Notes #2) – read my review here.

Aria (Blue Notes #3)

Prelude (Blue Notes #4) coming soon from Dreamspinner Press.

Cover:  Just an outstanding cover by Catt Ford, unfortunately it pertains more to the music than the story within.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Maryland has actually been feeling like winter for the past week and my body is going into shock.  Last year was Nomageddon (nothing, after Snowmaggedon) but no one really knows what will happen this year.  We really haven’t had any snow or ice and believe me, I am not complaining about that.  It’s been cold but not for very long.  In fact we are due to go back up into the 50’s in a day or so.

I look at my bird feeders and find that they are staying fairly full for longer periods of time, Ditto the suet feeders,  Even our squirrels are looking complacent as opposed to frantic for food.  But it is early yet.  February is normally our fiercest winter month here and that is still a month away.  I will let you know how it goes.

Until then, today the Redskins play the Seattle Seahawks and the area is on pins and needles.  I must go climb into my Redskin regalia and prepare to lose my voice.  So here is the week in reviews:

Monday, 1/7:                   Daddy’s Money by Alan Chin

Tuesday, 1/8:                   Bayou Loup by Lynn Lorenz

Wed., 1/9:                         Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7) by Lavinia Lewis

Thursday, 1/10:               All I Want Is You by Marguerite Labbe

Friday, 1/11:                     A Boy And His Dragon by R. Cooper

Saturday, 1/12:                 Aria (Blue Notes #3) by Shira Anthony

I will leave you with this image of the man who has made the Redskin fans smile once more and dance in the streets, RGIII!

RGIII