A MelanieM Review: Scent of the Heart (Shifting Needs #2) by Parker Williams

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Scent-400x600 2Casey Scott grew up being told he’d never amount to anything, and despite the unwavering love and support from his best friend, Jake, the idea sticks in the back of Casey’s mind. When he discovers he has a unique destiny in an enclave where shifters and humans live together, he seizes the chance, wanting for once in his life to be someone special.

Tsvetok Yerokhin lost his parents to the evil ruler of the enclave when he was a boy. The responsibilities of raising his two younger brothers nearly overwhelmed him and self- doubt took over. When the new Alpha and his Protector arrive in time to save his life, Sev is grateful, but he’s even more shocked when he scents his mate with them.

Casey isn’t prepared for the feelings that sweep over him when he meets Sev, but he refuses to act on them because he’s straight. Still, there is something so alluring about Sev that Casey can’t help being drawn to him.

As the two explore the edges of their new discovery, an evil returns, determined to control the enclave or destroy it. The Alpha and Protector are powerless to stop it, but Casey holds the key to victory. If he can discover what it is, he has a chance to save them all. To be the hero.

Unfortunately, the hero has to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and for Casey that means losing his heart.

Ever fallen in love with a secondary character?  Maybe two?  That happened for me in the first story of this series, Protector of the Alpha.  It was there that I met Casey Scott, best friend of Jake Davis. Casey ends up getting pulled into the drama and heartbreak that surrounds his friend and Jake’s mate, Zak.  The most human and confused of the three, he was the character who came across as the most accessible and vulnerable.  A secondary character, Casey grew in strength and depth until by the end of the story, he was their equal.

Except in accessibility. In that area, he continued to surpass them just because he was the most human.

Especially at the end, where it seemed he was the unlikely target of the ire of a skunk, one who repeatedly sprayed him to the others endless amusement.   Why was Casey the one who got “skunked”?  The last paragraph supplied only part of the  answer.  This book does the rest.  Who knew a skunk shifter could be so endearing?  Apparently Parker Williams, that’s who.

With Scent of the Heart, Parker Williams continues to build his isolated shifter universe in Alaska, filling in more of its past history and current status with its village inhabitants.  And for the most part, its a universe still on shaky ground.  Once the false Protector took over, the place became the site of torture, depravation, and constant terror for most of those who lived under his rule.  What that means exactly dribbles out in horrific details that surface throughout this story.  It cements Elizar and his wolf enforcer Kell as evils that must be defeated at all possible cost and highlights just how desperate and essential it is  that they, Jake, Zake, Casey and Hakim succeed in overthrowing him.

We bought into their mission and into these marvelous characters first, and now we see what has happened after they think they have achieved their goals.  Pretty realistically, some things are working out great, others not so much.  All three have resigned themselves to staying in Alaska.  For the most past, they like their lives and have shouldered their responsibilities but Casey is missing a relationship of his alone.  That answer to the hole in his heart is an endearing skunk shifter, Tsvetok Yerokhin aka Sev.  Sev matches Casey in his vulnerability and engaging personality.  But his past is full of pain and loss, just as Casey’s is, but in a vastly different way.  That comes into focus when it becomes apparent that he is the guardian of his two younger brothers and had had to do things he is not proud of in order to keep them alive.

As if its not enough for them to adjust to all the changes going on in their lives, it turns out that they are mated, shocking when neither has been attracted to men before.  This book is all about changes, fundamental upheavels in outlook and status that both characters must undergo and adjust to if both are to survive.  It’s a dramatic and heart-stopping journey and I loved every bit of it.  Parker Williams has made us care deeply about these men and the village they live in.  Our hearts are as engaged as Casey and Sev’s in their journey to love and HEA, a path fraught with peril and even death.

And its not over yet.  The end, of course, brings another intriguing (if foreseen) element and the jumping off point for the next story in the series.  Its delicious and frustrating because it will make you want that story now…and it’s not even written.

Until I  get my hands on that next story, I recommend that you pick up and settle into reading the first two books in Parker Williams’ Shifting Needs series.  It has romance and so many different types of shifters to love along with drama, hot sex and endearing characters you can’t get enough of.  Now if only that third book would magically appear…

Cover art by Laura Harner.  I like the woods element but the design is different enough from the first story that it doesn’t exactly pull them together. Only the framing of the title serves to brand the series, not the graphic.

Sales Links:    All Romance (ARe) –  Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 15th 2015 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN139781941841204
seriesShifting Needs #2

Shifting Needs Series in the order they were written and should be read:

 

Review: Moving Earth (Earthquake #2) (PF 2014) by T.A. Webb

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Moving Earth coverNow that Charlie Turner has moved out of his family’s home, he has time for a personal life for the first time in ages.  After his father died, Charlie was busy working and raising his grief stricken younger brother while his mother mourned.  Now living in his own cabin on Mountain Shadows campground, Charlie is ready to reclaim his private time and he knows just who he wants to spend it with…..Amos Greene. Aloof, gorgeous, and sexy Amos Greene.  But outside of sex, does Amos want him back?

Amos Greene has more than a few personal demons to deal with.  Past experience has taught Amos that when it comes to romance, you keep it cool, keep it impersonal and temporary.  Then Amos meets Charlie Turner when Charlie comes to work on Amos’ art gallery.  Charlie isn’t satisfied with temporary and he certainly won’t settle on being just a one or two night stand.  And little by little, Amos starts to give in to Charlie’s insistence on a relationship with small steps forward and through all the walls Amos has erected over the years..

But strange, dark things are happening at Mountain Shadows and Charlie’s brother just might be in the middle of things. Soon Charlie finds himself in the middle of an investigation, and draws Amos in with him.  What they find out will have repercussions for them all….

 

Moving Earth is a perfect title for a story about families and relationships on shaky ground.  The second the T.A. Webb’s Earthquake series, the story picks up right after the end of Higher Ground.   Charlie Turner, a absolutely lovable character, has shouldered his family’s burdens after the death of his dad.  That meant trying to be everything to his teenage brother who is grieving and in emotional shock.  Not quite father, not able to be the fun big brother, Charlie is trying hard to fill a role that isn’t his and its not working.  His brother is rebelling and afraid especially when Charlie moves out of the house into his own cabin at his mother’s insistence.  Webb understands complicated family dynamics and it shows in the dialog and descriptions of the family interactions that come into play in Moving Earth.

In a story full of complicated characters, each with their own baggage of personal issues, Damon Turner, the troubled younger brother, almost steals the story away from Charlie and Amos.  Smart mouthed and snarky, Damon hides his fears and anger behind his aggressive behavior and disturbing circle of friends.  This is the character we fear for and want to hold close.  His actions towards his brother and classmates are cries for help.  It makes Damon believable and someone we can relate to.  And Charlie’s anger at and concern for his brother is something we get as well.  Damon’s feelings about his brother’s sexuality are all over the place.  Damon is at times both hurtful, hurling epithets at Charlie and then with an about face, he is accepting of his brother and Amos. In total, Damon is that teenager is search of stability and love who has had his support jerked out from under him in the most traumatic way.  Clearly Damon isn’t dealing with it very well, nor would any teenager in his place.  T.A. Webb navigates this tricky, prickly time for the brothers with sensitivity and authenticity that just deepens the whole feeling behind Moving Earth.

Poor Charlie.  Between his brother and Amos, almost every relationship he has or wants needs an amazing amount of work.  Charlie has to force Amos to look at him in a different manner than Amos’ previous sexual conquests.  I liked the fact that Charlie is not a doormat here and that he demands the respect he knows he deserves.  And Amos, with his pain-filled awful childhood, is a tough character  to crack open. It must be Amos’ decision to open up and become vulnerable once more in order to accept Charlie and his need for a real relationship.  This is a delicate juggling act that Webb handles as well as he does the one between Charlie and Damon.

As with all the interconnected Pulp Friction 2014 series, there are several mysteries running through all four stories and series.  Here the author starts to amp up the suspense that surrounds the riddles of the dark events happening at Mountain Shadows campground.  Dead, mutilated animals are being found in the woods nearby and who is behind this is anyone’s guess.  There will be clues and perhaps some false trails laid but all are quaranteed to keep you glued to this story and all the series that go with it.   And the ending here?  It will startle you and send you back to the first book looking for clues and more information.  Loved it, hated it (for leaving me hanging), and definitely wanting more.  Much, much more.

Did all this happen in 40 pages?  Why yes it did and that fact alone continues to amaze me.  Its like wondering how all those things fit into the magician’s hat.  It’s astonishing even as I marvel that it all works so wondrously well.   I love Webb’s Earthquake series for its complicated sibling relationship as much as I do for its equally complex romance.  Don’t pass this up but start with the first story Higher Ground.

The Pulp Friction 2014 (and 2013) series can all be read separately but they work best when read together to get the full impact of the characters, their intertwined relationships and the intricate plot all these terrific authors have devised.  I highly recommend them all but make sure to start at the first story in each series and build up from there.  I have listed the stories as they are being released below.  Not listed as yet is Round Four but that is coming.

Cover art by Laura Harner

Buy Links:         Amazon         ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 40 pages
Published April 30th 2014 by A Bear on Books (first published April 29th 2014)
ISBN139781310924866
edition languageEnglish
seriesEarthquake #2, Pulp Friction 2014 #8

About Pulp Friction 2014:  Laura Harner ~ Lee Brazil ~ Havan Fellows ~ T.A. Webb The Pulp Friction 2014 Collection. Four authors. Four Series. Twenty books. One fiery finale. Spend a year with an eclectic group of strangers brought together through circumstances, as they are tested by life, and emerge as more than friends.

The strongest bonds are forged by fire, cooled in air, smoothed by water, grounded in earth. Although each series can stand alone, we believe reading the books in the order they are released will increase your enjoyment.  There will be five rounds and one final story written by all four authors.

Round One of Pulp Friction 2014:

Firestorm (Fighting Fire# 1) by Laura Harner
Cold Snap (In From the Cold# 1) by Lee Brazil
Blown Away (Where the Wind Blows# 1) by Havan Fellows
Higher Ground (Earthquake# 1) by Tom Webb

Round Two of Pulp Friction 2014:

Controlled Burn (Fighting Fire #2) by Laura Harner
Cold Comfort (In From the Cold #2) by Lee Brazil
Blown Kisses (Where the Wind Blows #2) by Havan Fellows
Moving Earth (Earthquake #2) by Tom Webb

Round Three of Pulp Friction 2014:

Backburn (Fighting Fire #3) by Laura Harner
Cold Feet (In From the Cold #3) by Lee Brazil
Blow Hard (Where the Wind Blows #3) by Havan Fellows
Tremors (Earthquake #3) by Tom Webb

 

Review: Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

Review: Love On The East End by Lily Sawyer

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Love on the East End  coverWhen restauranteur Gabriel Meyer needs several cases of wine for an event, William Thomas, owner of Rolling Hills Winery comes to his rescue with the necessary vintage and the offer of a date.  One magical date later leads to others with Gabriel and William find themselves falling hard for the other. One night, on their way home, the two men come across a young man desperate to end his life. Ben Stewart has been bullied over his sexuality until one incident at school pushed him over the edge.  William and Gabriel vow to help Ben and stop the bullying. But as Gabriel and William discover love on the east end of Long Island, a larger threat looms.  Hatred and bigotry personified visits the island and targets Ben.  Can the men rescue Ben and find the love they have always wanted with each other?

Love on The East End is an interesting romance with a lot of heart  but not the same amount of depth.  Lily Sawyer has created some lovely men for her story.  Both Gabriel Meyer and William Thomas have followed their dreams and chosen careers to Long Island where one has established a restaurant and the other a winery.  Both are well educated gay men, content in their lives and missing only love and romance.  They meet in a realistic fashion and fall in love.  It’s all very sweet, containing little drama or suspense.  We know how this is going to end from the moment they meet.  They go on walks and romantic getaways but it’s all sort of bland.  There is nothing about the descriptions or dialog to bring us intimately into their lives or spice up things and unfortunately, this includes the sex scenes.  True, Gabriel has an ex-wife, but she’s lovely and a friend to them both, which I have to admit is refreshing.  I liked her.

The only aspect of this story that brings an element of angst is the story of Ben Stewart, a young gay teenager being bullied to the point of suicide.  This was my favorite section of this book.  Ben is heartbreaking and realistically characterized.  I wish Sawyer would have concentrated more on Ben and the men’s relationship to him as friends and mentors.  It is also where I found my most frustrations.  The bullies hurting Ben are at school but Sawyer brings in an outside threat that takes away focus from the school and Ben’s problems there. Had the focus remained on Ben and the high school situation, so often in the news these days, then this story would have come across as more timely and relevant.  As it is, the attack that did occur struck me as less than realistic, considering the time and venue.  Still, Ben, Gabriel, William and Ben’s mother’s handling of the situation is well done and satisfying to the reader.

Love On the East End is a short story at 96 pages and a sweet one.  It is a quick read and a lovely way to spend the time.  I think you all would enjoy it

The cover for this book is gorgeous.  Absolutely one of my favorites but my copy of the book did not include the name of the cover artist who definitely deserves recognition for this lovely cover.

Book Details:

96 pages

ASIN
B0052UQ20K