STRW December 2013 Summary of Reviews and Best Dec. Covers


Winter trees longs

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

December 2013 Review Summary

S series
C contemporary
SF-science fiction
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:

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




Christmas Kitsch cover

Review: Blue River by Theo Fenraven


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Blue River cover DSPPhotographic artist Ethan Mars is hanging out with friends at a house in Topanga Canyon.  When Doug recounts a story about a local porthole that allows people to go back in time, Ethan and his friend Randy decide to hike around on the trails to see if they can find it.  For Ethan the day is more about taking pictures than finding something out of science fiction, then the fog appears before them.  One misstep and Ethan tumbles through the fog and into 1863, albeit still Southern California.

Quinn Parker and his sister Hes own a farm in Blue River and when Ethan Mars stumbles out of the fog, neither is surprised as he is the second stranger from the future to find them in a year.  But unlike the previous time traveler, Ethan Mars is gay and represents everything Quinn Parker wants and has been keeping hidden.

While waiting for the portal to open again, Quinn and Ethan fall into a friendship and then a love affair doomed by time.  Or is it? When the  fog reappears, there is a choice to be made?  Who will stay and who will go?

Blue River is a terrific little romance stuffed full of elements that add texture and depth, giving it the feel of a much larger story.  Ethan Mars is a renown photographic artist who has made the sale of a lifetime and is celebrating with friends in Topanga Canyon, a place known for its artists, quirky atmosphere and gorgeous views.  When a friend wants to hike a little used trail in the canyon, they use the excuse of trying to find a time portal as the reason for their venture into the wild.  The descriptions of the canyon and the oddly floating bit of fog is a great way to start Ethan’s unexpected adventure into the past.

We’d been walking for half an hour when he stopped and held up a hand. “Ethan.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing, and about twenty feet in front of us, under the spreading branches of a copper beech, I saw semitransparent wisps of white flowing together and pulling apart a few feet above the ground. “That’s called fog, Randy.”

“Why is it only in that one spot, then? There’s no water nearby, and the temperature seems fairly constant.”

“We don’t know it’s only in that one spot. Never assume, man.” I brushed past him, heading for the mist.

“Wait!” he yelped, grabbing my arm. “Together, just in case, you know….” “

In case the fog decides to swallow me whole?” Chuckling, I kept walking, dragging him along. “Didn’t they make a cheesy movie about that?” Even close up, it looked like fog. Thin, wispy, and I could see through it to the woods behind.

I stuck a hand in the stuff, waggling it around and making faces at him as I intoned, “Bwahahahahaha….”

He rolled his eyes. “Asshole. I’m getting hungry. Let’s drop by Doug’s place, see what he has in the fridge.” “Yeah, okay.” So much for seeking Shangri-La.

Well, as we all know, the story doesn’t stops there.  Because, as Fenraven knows,  where is the fun in that? But the real surprises start in 1863 and the reality of pioneer life.  Fenraven does a great job in presenting the time period minus the “romantic candlelight” glow that seems to creep into some of the other historic romances I have read.  No, here is 1863 authentically presented with the warts of the time period to go along with the things that have been lost with progress.  So we get, or actually Nathan gets to eat food free of chemicals and genetic manipulation.  In 1863, a tomato or apple explodes on his taste buds, their flavor so sensational that Nathan mourns their loss in his time.  But Fenraven is also quick to include the lack of bathing because as Hes tells Ethan, “its not healthy”.  No bathing, no thoughts of  hygiene, no washing hands, … yeah, a closed in cabin is not a happy place to be after a week’s time.  Clothes get rank as does unwashed hair and soon Nathan is pining for 2013 and his shower at home.

And you don’t blame him a bit.

The author is good at vividly describing life in Blue River and 1863, both the pros and the cons.   Fenraven is also quick to note the dangers of open homosexuality in a time period where it is considered a sin and often punished by death.  Quinn Parker is a sexual innocent.  A young man engaged to be married to a woman who helped his family when they needed it.  Responsibility, obligations and society’s expectations have forced Quinn into asking her to marry him and now , with Ethan before him, he feels trapped. The more Ethan describes his open life in the future, the more regretful and conflicted Quinn becomes.  Then Ethan starts his seduction of Quinn, and his true nature surfaces, no longer to be denied.  If ever there was a genie in the bottle, its Quinn’s sexuality.  And Quinn despairs of ever being able to pass as “normal” again once Ethan shows him just how good it feels. Slowly the affection between the men turns into love, one with no apparent future to each man’s despair.

Another aspect of this story that Fenraven doesn’t gloss over is the fact that Ethan could never survive in 1863.  He is ill prepared by his upbringing, his attitudes, and his personality.   He has a hard time hiding who he is from Hes, a judgmental and wary 16 year old, he would never be able to pull it off in front of a more discerning audience. Nathan just can’t hide who he is.  It is one of the reasons Quinn loves him and it is the reason that they will part.

There are a few things that bothered me.  At one point Nathan is missing his family at home (this story takes place during the holidays) but then thinks that he has a family here in 1863 too.  Uh, no he doesn’t.  Hes dislikes him intensely and distrusts him as well.  The only one happy to have him there is Quinn, so I am not sure what family Fenraven is talking about.  Hes is a believable but dislikable character, smug, sure of her universe and disapproving of any that might prove a threat to her happiness, definitely a tad on the puritan side. So yes, she seems real.  The author did a great job making her somewhat stinky flesh and blood but don’t expect me to like her.

And yes, there is a happy ending but in my mind, I can never just leave it there (where I should).  Instead I start thinking about the future, and the romance in this story dims for a second.  But its the holidays, at least in this story.  Time for a suspension in belief in all things real and to hope for all things happy and in love.  I think I will leave the review right there.  At the end, just where all stories about time travel and holiday miracles should.

Cover art by Maria Fanning.  Just a lovely cover, perfect for the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 13th 2011)
ISBN 1627981659 (ISBN13: 9781627981651)
edition language English

Oh, What a Month It Was and the Week Ahead in Reviews


What a splendid month was had in November at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.  There were great author guest blogs by  LB Gregg (How I Met Your Father), Ally Blue (Long the Mile), Abigail Roux (Shock & Awe), and Shira Anthony (Encore).  The Pulp Friction group of Havan Fellows, Laura Harner, Lee Brazil, and Tom Webb started the month and will return in December to finish up the year. There was a cornucopia of contests and great books galore.  And then there was Thanksgiving and Hanukkah on the same day, something that won’t happen again for over 70,000 years.  Again, just amazing and a Astrid Amara story to help celebrate (and pickle recipes as well).

So I am starting off the week with a Summary of Reviews for November 2013.  Really, it was astonishing to see the range of books and authors reviewed this month.  There was everything from Eric Arvin’s horror fantasy The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men to Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons for Suspicious Minds, an historical novel in her Cambridge Fellows series.  December is looking to be just as strong a month as November.  I can’t wait to get started!dried flowers for november

So here is our week in reviews:

Monday, Dec. 2:           Summary of Reviews for November 2013

Tuesday, Dec. 3:          Ride-Off by Mickie B. Ashling

Wed., Dec. 4:                Blue River by Theo Fenraven

Thursday, Dec. 5:        Continental Divide by Laura Harner and Lisa Worrell

Friday, Dec. 6:              Guest Blog by Z.A. Maxfield, Lost and Found Tour/contest

Sat., Dec. 7:                   Lost and Found by ZA Maxfield

Scattered Thoughts Book Review Summary for June 2013



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

5 Star Rating:

Hobbled by John Inman

Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Mighty Casey by Willa Okati

One Breath, One Bullet by S.A.McAuley

Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

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

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

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

Flawless by Cat Grant (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

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

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

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

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

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

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

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

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

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

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

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

Review: A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven


Rating: 4.25 stars

A Kept Silence coverWhen Mikal Gray discovers that his boyfriend is cheating on him, the results are devastating.  It costs Mikal not only the man he thought he loved, but his home and his job as he had worked as his partner’s business manager in their restaurant.  And it evens costs Mikal, their annual summer vacation spot on Fire Island.  Mikal can’t even begin to concieve of spending his month avoiding their mutual friends and watching or watching his ex hook up, so he decides to rent a house in the opposite direction.  Mikal figures this way he will have a home for the summer while he figures out what to do next.

His realtor tells him that the 1800’s farmstead on the Hudson would be the perfect place for him.  Quiet, charming, near the water, everything Mikal could want except for one little thing she must mention.  It is already occupied by a ghost. Not believing her, Mikal signs the papers and steps into a old tragedy that will cut close to his heart and a ghost who needs his help.  With his friend Alice, and a handsome ghost hunter named Seth, Mikal sets out to unravel the mystery of the weeping man of New Paltz.

A Silence Kept is a short  supernatural  mystery, only 80 pages, but it has the feel of a much longer story.  Theo Fenraven does a remarkable job of letting the reader step onto the farm and into the mystery along side  Mikal, our narrator.  This is such an intimate way to tell a story and when it is done well, as it is here,  it brings with it the closest connection a reader can feel with the main character.  Mikal is deeply hurt by his lover’s betrayal.  He had thought that they would make it last so everything he had was tied into the relationship and his partner.  They worked together at his boyfriend’s restaurant, Mikal as his business manager, they lived and vacationed as an established couple.  Now all of that is lost and Mikal is left to mourn and try to figure out how to move on.  I don’t know anyone who has not gone through this brutal event, it hurts and its devastating in that the loss goes beyond the death of love into other areas of the person’s life.  Fenraven gets that and puts all that pain and heartache into Mikal, but not without a dash of humor thrown in:

“But we were exclusive,” I shot back. “We were together three years, and you threw that away for some twink who can’t even make radish roses. Are you insane?”

“I’m in love with him,” he sniffed, running a hand through his close-cropped hair. “It happens.”

I stared at him, remembering how that gesture used to turn me on. I remembered a lot of things in that moment, and some of them were pretty good. Like the time he’d made me chicken soup when I’d been down for two days with a nasty cold. Or the time he’d bought expensive tickets to a concert I’d really wanted to see. The night he told me he loved me, and then went on to prove it three times. How he smelled right after a shower. How he smelled when he hadn’t had one in a few hours, which was even better.

We had history, damn it. We’d created a life together. For a moment—just a moment—I almost relented. The thought of starting all over again with someone new made me want to curl up in bed and sleep until the next millennium.

That sounds so real, including that bit about the radish rose, human and oh so authentic.  Mikal is a fully rounded human being, he sounds like one and acts that way too.  As do all the characters in this story, all alive and multilayered.  I loved one, each and every one.  And Fenraven’s gift of creating moving characters does not stop with the living, but extends to the dead and ghostly as well.

The painful backstory of the ghost is quite literally a haunting one.  It will hit close to home for Mikal and for the reader as well.  I love the supernatural touches  that Fenraven uses to introduce the ghost into the story, the blasts of cold air, and moving rocker, and more.  But those little chills are best left for the reader to discover on their own.

My only issue with this story is the resolution at the end.  At 80 pages, I felt it was a little rushed and wished for a longer ending.  But my quibble aside, I loved this story.  It intrigued me as the mystery was so well done and it left me satisfied at the end.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more stories of Seth and Mikal sometime in the future, they make a great pair.  I highly recommend this for all you lovers of romance and tales of the supernatural.  Within these pages, you will find both lovingly accomplished.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 80 pages
Published February 28th 2013 by Voodoo Lily Press (first published September 12th 2011)
edition languageEnglish

A Time for Remembering, Memorial Weekend and the Week Ahead in Reviews


The month of May has always been a month of celebrations, from Mother’s Day to birthdays to important anniversaries. For me and mine, May is a time for family, either by choice or blood, and of any configuration.  For me, it is a time to celebrate those that I love, whether it is their birth, or mine and my sister’s (for my Mother), and anniversaries which helped bring all of us together.  And if the weather cooperates, than even my gardens appear to be celebrating as the azaleas, dogwoods, and all the flowers burst into pastel hues in anticipation of the intense colors of summer.

With all of these emotions and thoughts directed towards celebrating those we love for most of the month, it  seems more than fitting to end May with Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembrance of those who lost their lives keeping us safe and making it possible to celebrate all those birthdays, and anniversaries of people and  families we hold so dear.  My grandfather is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and this year, we buried my uncle close to him in a ceremony so moving that people were stopped all over the vast landscape as the sounds of the gun salute rang out over the hills and the trumpet played Taps.

Rolling Thunder passes by my parents farm every year on their way into the District and my father, a veteran of the Korean war, goes outside and salutes them as they pass by.  Our media here in the metropolitan area is full of pictures and videos marking the solemn day of remembrance as flagsVietnam Vet Memorial 2 are put at every grave at Arlington and the crowds swell at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as that of the World War II one nearby.  If you have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, then you have not experienced the power and overwhelming sense of loss that pervades that site. The  Wall itself a marker of the high cost of valor and service to our country in the names of the men and women lost reflected back to us.  In that black stone reflection, we see the list of names in chronological order and our own reflections, the recipients of their sacrifice.  For me, never has a memorial to our dead felt so alive, awash in grief, and sorrow and gratitude.Vietnam Vet Memorial

For most people, this weekend brings barbecues and picnics, gatherings of families and friends.  Take a moment and some quiet if you can, and remember.  Remember and pause to thank those who lie buried here and abroad, claimed and unnamed, for their sacrifice.  Because ,whether we acknowledge it or not, it is being reflected back to us across the picnic blankets and tables just as much as it is from the black wall itself.

Now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, 5/27:                     Memorial Day

Tuesday, 5/28                      Damned If You Do Collection by JL Merrow

Wednesday, 5/29:               Moments by R.J. Scott

Thursday, 5/30:                  Adapting Instincts by SJ Frost

Friday, 5/31:                        May Summary of Book Reviews

Saturday, 6/1:                       A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven

There you have it.  Enjoy your Memorial weekend for those of you who live in the US or Americans abroad.  Spare some thoughts and prayers for those now gone and for those they left behind.

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.

-Sir Walter Scott

Arlington Cemetary overview

Review: Precogs in Peril series by Theo Fenraven


Rating: 5 stars

Lightning Struck TowerSeries Description:  When Gray Vecello’s grandfather Graham dies, he leaves his grandson his boat, The Constant Companion, his worldly possessions and the young man, Cooper Key, Graham rescued and let live aboard his boat.  This series charts their romance, personal growth, and Gray’s acceptance of and ability to use his amazing paranormal gifts.

In the first installment, Three of Swords, we are introduced to this extraordinary couple and watch as their grow into a relationship that captures our hearts and minds.  Central to the romance is that both men have paranormal elements to their natures.  Gray Vecello has the sight, he reads Tarot cards  passed down through his family, and has visions of the future.  Cooper Key also has matching protective powers and together, they are a power to be reckoned with.  Each book title is a card in the Tarot deck and has meaning for each story. Because along with The Constant Companion, Graham has also left to both Gray and Cooper a mystery to solve, a safe to open, and a secret paranormal group to investigate .  And that is where the second book in the series starts.

The Knight of Wands picks up where Three of Swords left off, literally at the instant the other stops.  Gray and Cooper  have found the contents of the safe, Jolly Roger (a member of the group with special abilities) comes back into the picture and Gray’s lesbian cousin, Harper, makes another appearance in their lives, moving into The Constant Companion with them when her romance goes bad.  With Gray and Cooper still in the honeymoon stage of their romance, having one more person on their boat is a tight fit, and then another mystery pops up concerning his grandfather’s precog group, and all chances of a life of leisure on the river disappears.

The third book, Lightning Struck Tower, brings all the elements of the previous books together and whips them into a frenzy of mystery, murder and action adventure.  Oh and much more of the paranormal world then ever before in the series.  The secret paranormal group that Gray’s grandfather had ties to comes into play as Gray and Cooper are kidnapped.  Secret individuals want to use their special abilities for a crazy task and won’t take no for an answer.  More people with special abilities are met and a new circle of friends form around Cooper and Gray in their fight against those who would use their abilities to do harm instead of good.

I first reviewed Three of Swords back in October 19, 2012 and gave it a 4.25 rating.  I loved the story but had a problem with the cliffhanger ending.  But now that I have finished all three books, I have to revise the rating upward to 5 stars for  the series and the books within.  So when I got the 2nd and 3rd books, I went back and started from the beginning and oh what a marvelous and seductive ride the author laid out for us.  Each book flows seamlessly into the next, and that is the way I finally read them and appreciated the full extent  of this author’s vision.

Gray Vecello and Cooper Key are the foundation stones on which Fenraven tells a story of individuals fighting to understand who they are and then gaining acceptance for the person they are inside.  Cooper is still trying to overcome the shame of the life he lead after his parents kicked him out for being gay, Gray is still trying to figure out who he is even  as we watch him mature and deal with the gifts he was given.  Character after beautifully realized character rolls across the pages…and then we meet Wade, a young paranormal whose heart-wrenching backstory had me in tears.  Wade’s story is so remarkable that I would recommend buying the story just for that element alone.

But luckily for us, there are so many outstanding facets to this series/trilogy.  We have mysteries, we have murders, we have secret psychic organizations and above all, we have a romance so deeply felt, so warm and right, that I kept going back and rereading parts of their journey towards love and a full partnership.  Gray and Cooper are perfection in their imperfections.  Neither comes across as anything less than authentic.  They feel real, became very real to me, and therefore I invested 100 percent of my affections and interest in their story and their futures.

Lightning Struck Tower is perhaps the most intense of all three stories, and as it ties up so many loose ends, it is also supplies the most satisfying  conclusion to this incredible trilogy.  This portion took me on a roller coaster of emotions, gasps of “no, no, that didn’t just happen”, to sobbing like a baby over Wade’s traumatic past, and I loved every minute of it.  Fenraven skillfully builds our anticipation and anxiety as we can see enemies gathering around our couple, and then adds some wonderful twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.  I feel that every facet of this story is so well done that, really, I have no quibbles other than I wanted much more.

I think you will notice that I switch back and forth between calling this a trilogy or a series.  I did that for a reason.  I just don’t know what it is.  As a trilogy it works beautifully, but there is enough left open ended that additional stories would fit in nicely without taking anything away from these three books. Theo Fenraven told me that it is possible that the author might return to Gray and Cooper,but there are no guarantees.  So I will hold onto that hope, and return back to this trilogy to start over when I need my Gray and Cooper fix once more.

Here are the Precogs in Peril books in the order they should be read to understand the plot and the characters.  Read them one right after the other for full enjoyment and to quickly get over those dang cliffhangers:

Precog in Peril Series 5 stars:

Knight of Wands small Three of Swords small

Three of Swords, Book 1

Knight of Wands, Book 2

The Lightning Struck Tower, Book 3

Cover art by Theo Fenraven

It’s 70 degrees here in Maryland and the Week Ahead in Reviews


It’s January and it feels like mid Spring.  The woodpeckers are banging out their territory rhythms, the maples are budding out, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hyacinths and tulips start to peek out above the ground.  The meteorologists keep saying that it will get colder, and it does, for about a day and then the temperatures start to rise and voila, back to Spring.

Now for us in the past, February is the month to look out for.  It brings heavy snows and ice and all things wintery.  Except for last year, when it brought nada.  We need the water from snow melt, and that is not looking promising for us or any of the surrounding states.  So each day is a surprise, more so than usual.  What will our changing climate do to our day today?  Will it bring Spring or Winter?   Will it be quiet and calm or will winds with hurricane speeds be whipping over our rooftops?  No one can say for sure.  The one thing I do want to do is take those climate change doubters, those head in the sand ostriches, and give them a shake or two.  Tell them to get their heads out of their nether regions and take a good look around.  Time for us to make a change, one person at a time, while it is still possible. Still tut tuting over a favorite backyard azalea that is trying to bloom.

Here is a list with 50 easy ways to help the earth.  Wire and Twines “50 Ways to Help the Planet – go green, its not that hard!

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, 1/14:                          Revolution by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, 1/15:                         Some Kind of Magic by R. Cooper

Wed., 1/16:                               Horse of Bells by Pelaam

Thursday, 1/17:                       An Unsettled Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 1/18                              Knight of Wands by Theo Fenraven

Saturday, 1/19                          Trick of Time by J.L. Merrow

So there it is, let’s see what happens.  Have a wonderful week.

Thank you, Nationals and the Week Ahead in Reviews


Well, as everyone knows by now, the Cards rallied and the Nats lost.  But oh what a season they gave us!  The Nationals had an outstanding year, giving the city something we haven’t seen in close to a century, a winning baseball team in DC.  We have Davey Johnson, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jason Wurth, Gio Gonzales, Ryan Zimmerman and all the others to thank for all the glorious play, the unbelievable pitches, the outstanding hits and the high drama of the outfield.  It was great!  And now we have all winter to dream of the return of the Boys of Summer.  Great job and thanks for the wonderful memories!

The weather seems more like November than mid October these days with our first frost occurring on Friday.  A portent of a hard winter to come? Perhaps.  We didn’t actually have a winter last year but I just hope Mother Nature doesn’t feel the need to make up for that and give us the snow and ice for two winters.  At any rate, the plants are getting  mulched and the gardens prepared, just in case.  The generator is in, new roof on and gutters as well.  I hope we are prepared but you never know until it comes.  At least I have lots of books to read and pumpkin spice coffee to drink.  Sigh.

Here is the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday:                               Steamroller by Mary Calmes

Tuesday:                               Texas Heat by RJ Scott

Wednesday:                         The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux

Thursday:                             Rocking Out by Emily Veinglory

Friday:                                   Three of Swords by Theo Fenraven

Saturday:                               Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee  and Just A Summer Fling by Lily Grace

Review of Phoenix Rising by Theo Fenraven


Rating: 3.5 stars

It’s early morning hours when Det. Artemis Gregory gets a phone call from his partner, Rachel Wayland.  Another body has been found and that makes three in all.  The victims were young, gorgeous gay men killed on the full moon of each month. Each body looks posed and peaceful with little clues left at the scene to help them identify the killer. The latest victim has a fresh tattoo, exactly like the first body discovered.  It’s the logo of the hot rock band Phoenix Rising.

An interview with the owner of the tattoo parlor leads them to Talis Kehk, the lead singer of Phoenix Rising.  With his violet eyes and almost narcotic charm, he sets off Det. Gregory’s suspicions. The more they investigate the timing of the murders, all leads keep pointing back to Talis Kehk. Talis seems remarkably unconcerned for a man under suspicion of murder and his continued attempts to see Artemis confuse the Detective even as he becomes attracted to Talis.  Det. Gregory believes he is a good cop.  He has sacrificed his relationships and his private life to the hours required to be a Detective.  How can he  reconcile his reactions to this impossible man who may just be a serial killer with his duties as a police officer?  The time of the next full moon draws near and the moon killer will surely strike again. Can Artemis find the killer before its too late and will the killer’s identity destroy his chance for love.

Phoenix Rising is the first book I have read by Theo Fenraven and it has many wonderful qualities.  Fenraven’s myth building here is terrific.  He does an excellent job of bringing mythology to life with vivid descriptions and small attention to detail.  I can’t go into too much details here otherwise I would be giving away too many spoilers but let’s just say I could clearly see the  splendor of the author’s creation.  His humans fall a little short though after a promising start.  Det. Artemis Gregory comes across at the beginning as a typical cop.  He’s harried, sleep deprived, job obsessed and lonely.  Artemis long ago came to terms with the emotional costs of his job, it even lost Artemis his most recent relationship as his boyfriend recognized he would never be a priority that Artemis’ job was.  Rachel Wayland makes a good partner as well and they balance each other nicely.  I liked the details of the police investigation, they have an authentic ring to them and the author has clearly done his homework with regard to police work.

So what is the quibble?  That halfway through the story, Artemis Gregory discards his hard won persona and becomes totally unbelievable.  It’s very hard to talk about how his characterization failed without giving away the plot of the story but right up until a certain dramatic event, Artemis Gregory is as thorough and compulsive a cop as you will meet outside of Law and Order.  He’s watchful, sneaky, and smart.  I totally got him.  And then it all disappeared. Kaput. At one point in the novel, Gregory wonders how he is to live his life, how is he to occupy his time. A reasonable question and the first reappearance of the man who started the story.  And then the question is never answered and the Detective I loved disappeared never to return, leaving a shell of a persona behind.  What a shame.  Tossed away as well are the other fleshed out characters of his partner and coworkers.

The other quibble I have is that a tight, cohesive story starts to resemble swiss cheese about two thirds of the way through.  A building burns around their ears and no one seems to care, a huge deal is made of the killing of the young men and then a surprising tossed off comment at the end made me confused at to the purpose of it all. A Interpol agent says she will remove warnings from the files yet police around the world are now involved so that becomes a moot point. Hole after hole appears with nothing to plug them up.  It’s quite dismaying because the first  part of this book is just terrific.  If I could divide the book in two, the first half gets a 4 rating, the second half?  No more than 2.75 stars.  That’s how big a shift takes place within the story.  I would love to read a book from Theo Fenraven where the promise shown here is carried throughout the book.  I will look forward to it,  In the meantime, you will have to decide if only half a good book is worth your while.

Cover: Beautiful, dramatic cover by Anne Cain.  Perfect for the story.