January 2014 Summary of Books Reviewed

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Winter trees longs

The new years has started with an explosion of wonderful books and new authors for me.  SE Jakes and two of her marvelous series dropped into my hands and heart so I will be passing those recommendations on to you.  SA McAuley released a new contemporary fiction novel, Treadmarks and Trademarks, the start of a new series.  Ditto Susan Laine with her Sparks & Drops.  LA Witt inspired with her gender shifter novel Static, a must read for all.  Shira Anthony’s Symphony In Blue brought her Blue Notes characters together for a series holiday story, perfect reading for all lovers of romance and music.  Horror, fantasy and comedy are all represented here as well as a great non fiction tale by Joel Derfner, Lawfully Wedded Husband:How My Gay Marriage Will Save The American Family, a must read.

So many great books, see what stories you have missed, and make a list.  And don’t forget to check out the best book covers of the month at the end.
*Key:Winter_2
S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
HR-horror
N-Nonfiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding
5 Star Rating:

Catch A Ghost by SE Jakes C, S
Long Time Gone by SE Jakes C, S
Static by LA Witt, SF
Symphony In Blue by Shira Anthony, C, S
The Engineered Throne by Megan Derr, F
The Fall by Kate Sherwood C. S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne, (4.5 stars) C, holiday
Dirty Deeds by SE Jakes (4.75 stars) C, S
Home for the Hollandaise by BA Tortuga,Julia Talbot *4.5 stars) C
Horsing Around by Torquere Authors, (4.5 stars) A, C
In Discretion by Reesa Herberth (4.5 stars), SF
Lawfully Wedded Husband by Joel Derfner (4.75 stars) N
Refined Instincts by SJ Frost, (4 stars) SP, S
Serenading Stanley by John Inman (4.5 stars), C
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine (4.5 stars), P, S
Texas Christmas by R.J. Scott (4.75 stars), C, S
The Dreamer by M. King (4 stars), HR
The Lightning Moon by Sylvia A. Winters (4.75 stars) SP
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley (4.5 stars) C, S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Ashland by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars) SP, S
The Actor and the Thief by Edward Kendrick (3.75 stars) C, S
Tor by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars), SP, S

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Dime Novel by Dale Chase (2.75 stars) H

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:  None

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Best Book Covers of January 2014

This month includes just an overall gold star to LC Chase whose great covers include the Hell or High Water series and Dirty Deeds.

InDiscretion_500x750Mindscape_500x750Sparks & Drops cover

Tread Marks and Trademarks cover

Static coverCatch a Ghost cover

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In Discretion by Reesa Herberth, Artist Simone’
Mindscape by Tal Valante, Artist LC Chase, who is having an incredible year
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine, Artist Brooke Albrecht
Static by LA Witt, Artist LC Chase.  A Stunner with it’s Shifting Gender Person
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley, Wilde City Press, no artist credited

STRW December 2013 Summary of Reviews and Best Dec. Covers

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December 2013 Book Review Summary and December Best Covers of the Month

December 2013 Review Summary

*Key:
S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
YA-young adult

5 Star Rating:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, C
Grime Doesn’t Pay: The Brothers Grime, Eddie by Z.A.Maxfield C,S
Oceans Apart by Laura Harner, C, S
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)by Laura Harner, TA Webb, Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows C,S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Blue River by Theo Fenraven (4 stars)PN
Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings, (4.25)C,
Continental Divide written by Laura Harner, Lisa Worrall (4.25) C,S
Indelible Ink by Marie Lark, (4.5) C
Kick Start by Josh Lanyon C,S
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield (4.5)C
Mindscape by Tal Valante (4.5) SF, S
Model Love by SJ Frost (4.25) C
Roughstock: Tag Team – Fais Do Do Season Two  by BA Tortuga(4.25)C,S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Christmas Wish by Mychael Black, Shayne Carmichael SN, S
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding (3.75) C
Ride-Off (Polo #2) by Mickie B. Ashling (3.5)C
2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: N/A

Best Covers of December 2013:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, cover by LC Chase
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding, cover by Paul Richmond (his M/M American Gothic)
Lost and Found by ZA Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Mindscape by Tal Valante, cover by LC Chase

Housekeeping

LostAndFound_500x750

Mindscape_500x750

Christmas Kitsch cover

Review: Mindscape by Tal Valante

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Mindscape_500x750History of family service in the Spavy meant that Shane Cawley was just continuing in the family tradition when he joined the Interstellar Navy.  But for Mark Sayre joining the Interstellar Navy meant money for his mother and brother, for food and rent. Plus Mark had another goal, that of keeping his little brother out of the colony mines that sent their father to an early grave. When the two men met on the spaceship Cyclopes, Shane is an officer to Mark’s enlisted status but their affection grew despite Spavy regulations against it.  Mark completes Officer Candidate School  so that Shane and Mark are now free to move forward with their love. A love made deeper by the Resonance, a joining of two minds so rare that the odds were in the millions against it.

Then intergalactic war breaks out, the Cyclopes attacks and one of the couple is captured by the enemy.  In the aftermath of war, can love and their Resonance survive, when one of their minds is shattered?

Tal Valante’s Mindscape is an inventive jumble of romance and time periods, flashbacks and present day events, all set in outer space.  We enter the story as Shane walks down the hallways of the Rigsby Psychiatric Ward.  He is there to see Mark, a returned POW whose mind is shattered by torture endured while in captivity.  As Shane tries to reach Mark’s mind, the narrative moves back and forth between their past and their present.  This format is a little confusing to start off with, but in a strange way it works.  Tal Valante’s story is formed around the nightmare landscape of Mark’s mind and Shane’s attempts to reach him inside that mental framework.  It is full of shards of memory so a jumbled, somewhat confusing format works within this situation.  It takes a while to get used to it but once it starts to feel as real as the broken mind that Shane is trying to heal.

There are so many wonderful aspects to this story.  The “mindscape” that Valante creates for Mark is as haunted, and harrowing a place as one would expect from a prisoner of war.  That is the part that feels the most immediate and alive in the story.  I also found Shane’s emotions and the details from the Psychiatric Ward to be as painful and emotionally intrusive as the author intended them to be.  Shane’s many attempts to enter Mark’s mind and the anguish with which each failed attempt is met is believable and human.  I thought the twists of the plot as Shane moves through the obstacles raised by Mark are ingenious and some of the best elements in the story.

Did I think there were some less effective aspects here? A few, that with additional length could have been readily solved.  I thought the author’s universe building interesting but lacking in details that would have given it more substance.  The enemy was telepathic, that we find out.  But what else made them attack?  What did they look like? Where is the history behind the war?  That would have been a great layer to add.  Also a huge deal is made of the Resonance, that rare joining/meeting of minds.  I felt that again we needed to “feel” more of the Resonance between Shane and Mark in order for it to become as real as the men did.  And finally, I wish we had been given a few more scenes of Mark and Shane’s earlier relationship so the devastation that Shane feels upon losing Mark and the Resonance between them (and their long term love affair) felt as authentically deep  as they told us it was as it is central to the story.

I love science fiction and can absolutely recommend Mindscape by Tal Valante to lovers of romance as well as science fiction.  It is an inventive story by an author I was not familiar with.  This book has remedied that fact and now I look forward to investigating more works Tal Valante, whose creative mind brought this story forth.

This is how it starts…..

The first time Shane enters the Rigsby Psychiatric Ward, the noise and smells slam into him like a fist to the solar plexus. The air reeks of some lemony disinfectant. Somewhere, someone is screeching a song, and from nearby comes the hissing of a man whose burned hands are being tended by a nurse. It’s all Shane can do not to throw up. The thought of Mark, of all people, being locked in this place . . .

He’s grateful when the head nurse comes out to meet him, if only because it gives him something else to focus on. She insists on giving him the third degree.

“Shane Cawley,” he answers. “From New Wyoming, yes . . . His name is Mark Sayre. With a Y . . . I’m his partner.” His Resonance partner, he doesn’t add. “Not married, no . . . Yes, I know about his condition.” And finally, “Can I see him now ?”

She leads him down a hallway, past a woman who laughs at him like a hyena, and into a small room with two beds. One is occupied by a man who is lying on his back and burping repeatedly. On the other bed, looking dazed and oh so out of place, is Mark.

Cover art by LC Chase.  What a superb cover.  One of the best of 2013.

Book Details:

book, 94 pages
Published December 23rd 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490918
edition language English

Twas the Week Of Christmas Poem and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Scattered Thoughts “Twas The Week of Christmas” Poem!
(with my apologies to Clement Clark Moore)

It’s the week of Christmas and all through the house
Everyone was running around like crazy, even the mouse
Stockings need to be hung by the chimney with care
But until they are found, the mantel is quite bare.

The dogs were all nestled all snug in my bed
while visions of Dingle Rounds and bacon danced in their heads
And with Captain in his cage and the fish swimming laps
I settled in my chair for a long over due nap

With a bang and a pop on the lawn, there was a clatter
That I slowly rose out of my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I tottered without a crash
Only to knock over the books on the table I had stashed

The moon on the crest shown on the lawn below
to highlight the waving penguins, bears and deer ornaments aglow
When what to my nearsighted eyes should appear
Not one fox but two instead of miniature reindeer

 
With my old wooden driver, I tried to be quick
So I hollered and shouted until I was sick
More rapacious than gluttons, definitely not tame
Those foxes yipped and danced until they were lame

Go Away, now, happy foxes, Be Gone you, Vixens
It’s late at night, everyone is sleeping or fixin’
to head up to bed, but to sleep won’t happen at all
until you find yourselves another place to hold your fox ball.

As the dry leaves before the leafblower did fly
Through the lawn figures and lights the foxes  did spy
A bunny running across the neighbor’s yard with a bound
So with a yip and a bark, they ran after the prey they had found

The bunny so brown, white tail and fleet of foot
That the foxes, exhausted and panting, found that it took
More energy and speed than had their little pack
So before I knew it they were all headed back

To commune with my lawn animals who twinkled so merry
That to those foxes eyes, they were not even a little bit scary
The penguins were waving, both wearing a bow
And the polars bears glowed white, glistening like snow.

The figure of the dog held a fake bone in its teeth
On its head was a Santa hat, with ribbons beneath
The figures were tall, with heads as large as their bellies
That they often fell over, looking like Great Aunt Nelly(snort)

The foxes danced as I watched, “so happy” I said to myself
that they looked like the fox figurine that now sat on my shelf
With a prance and tongues hanging out of their heads
I knew without a doubt, I had a wonderful memory to take with me to bed

I watched a bit more, and then with a jerk
I waved to my visitors and left with a smirk
And grabbing my cane and with a rub to my nose
Up the stairs to bed and my pups I did go

As the foxes went on their way, running through the thistle
Captain woke in his cage and gave a sleepy whistle
And I thought I heard that parrot say, as I turned off the last light
“Goodnight, sweetheart, Merry Christmas and Good Night”!

With my apologies to Clement Clark Moore’s poem, Captain didn’t say that.  What he said is not suitable for print (he cusses a lot). But I am sure the mumbles I heard were in keeping with the spirit of the week before Christmas.  I do have a wonderful yard for wildlife and they will be getting their own treats for Christmas and winter time.  So will the terriers three and Captain, the AG.

Here is hoping for joy and love and good health to all for the holidays no matter what or if you celebrate.  Especially for two special men in Virginia in so many peoples hearts and prayers at this time.  If you are inclined to give a little bit more at this time of year, I have a link below to the Eric Arvin Support Fund.  All donations are welcome no matter the size.

Now to the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Dec. 23:          Indelible Ink by Marie Lark

Tuesday, Dec. 24:          Housekeeping by Kim Fielding

Wed., Dec. 25:                Shira Anthony’s Symphony In Blue Guest Blog

Merry Christmas!

Thurs., Dec. 26:              Christmas Wish by Mychael Black ,Shayne Carmichael

Friday, Dec. 27:              Tal Valante’s Mindscape Blog Tour and Contest

Sat., Dec. 28:                   Mindscape by Tal Valante