It’s Back to Bluewater Bay with ‘All Wheel Drive’ by ZA Maxfield (giveaway)

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All Wheel Drive (Bluewater Bay #18) by Z.A. Maxfield
Riptide Publishing

Cover art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Purchase it Here at Riptide Publishing

 

 

About All Wheel Drive

Healey Holly is battered, depressed, and looking to go to ground in his childhood home. He wants to rent the garage apartment, but it’s Diego Luz’s place now, and the last thing Diego wants is to share it.

Diego is recovering too—from the accident that put him in a wheelchair and the death of his mother shortly after. The garage apartment is where he’s keeping his mother’s things, and as long as they’re up those stairs and he’s down on the ground, there’s no way he can deal with his loss.  And that’s just how he likes it.

Healey believes in science. Diego believes in luck. It will take a blend of both, and some prayer thrown in besides, for these two to learn that it’s the journey and the destination that matters.

Available now from Riptide Publishing! 

About Bluewater Bay

Welcome to Bluewater Bay! This quiet little logging town on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula has been stagnating for decades, on the verge of ghost town status. Until a television crew moves in to film Wolf’s Landing, a soon-to-be cult hit based on the wildly successful shifter novels penned by local author Hunter Easton.

Wolf’s Landing’s success spawns everything from merchandise to movie talks, and Bluewater Bay explodes into a mecca for fans and tourists alike. The locals still aren’t quite sure what to make of all this—the town is rejuvenated, but at what cost? And the Hollywood-based production crew is out of their element in this small, mossy seaside locale. Needless to say, sparks fly.

This collaborative story world is brought to you by eleven award-winning, best-selling LGBTQ romance authors: L.A. Witt, L.B. Gregg, Z.A. Maxfield,  Heidi Belleau, Rachel Haimowitz, Anne Tenino, Amy Lane, SE Jakes, G.B. Gordon, Jaime Samms and Ally Blue. Each contemporary novel stands alone, but all are built around the town and the people of Bluewater Bay and the Wolf’s Landing media empire.

Check it out at Riptide Publishing! http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/universe/bluewater-bay

About ZA Maxfield

Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back.  Pathologically disorganized and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends.  If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four manages to find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

Her published books include Crossing Borders, Epic Award finalist St. Nacho’s, Drawn Together, ePistols at Dawn, Notturno, Stirring Up Trouble, and Vigil.

Readers can visit her website at http://www.zamaxfield.com, and contact her at zamaxfield@zamaxfield.com.

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of All Wheel Drive, one lucky winner will receive an ecopy of Hell on Wheels and a $25 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 15, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Review: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating:  3.75 stars out of 5

HomeTheHardWay_500x750Dare Buckley has returned home to Palladian, Washington a far different person than the one he was when he left.  Dare left Palladian, a teenaged golden boy who, along with his mother, was mourning the loss of his father who had committed suicide.  The man who returned?  That Dare Buckley is a disgraced former Seattle P.D cop.  A man who’s poor judgement and even worse actions have made him someone only a hometown police department would give a job too.  Dare Buckley knows this is his last chance for redemption and he needs to make good.  It also gives him a chance to investigate his father’s death and reconnect with someone who used to idolize him, Finn Fowler.

Finn Fowler, son of the local tramp, is someone who Dare protected when they were in school when the bullies saw Finn as an easy victim and outsider.  But that young boy who followed Dare everywhere, who thought Dare was his hero is gone.  Now there’s an adult Finn Fowler to  content with, one who wants little to do with Dare Buckley.  Or so it seems.

Palladian has always been a town of secrets, only Dare never realized that before now.  And those secrets contain the answers that Dare needs to find closure and the ability to go forward.  But what happens when someone doesn’t want those secrets to come out?  Who can Dare trust when even the man he thought he knew might be keeping the biggest secret of them all?

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Two things  right off the bat.  One, I love Z.A. Maxfield.  Her stories have an originality and life about them that I find irresistible.  So many of them are must reads and highly recommended books on my shelf.  Two.  Home the Hard Way is probably not one of those stories, at least for me.

Home the Hard Way is more of a mixed bag for me narratively speaking than her other tales of  angst, broken men, and love.  For most of this tale, I was engrossed in the complicated but resoundingly lifelike plot.  That includes the small town Sheriffs office and its police officers, the town beauty parlor and its clients as well as all the other denizens of a town that’s seen better days and knows it.  And there’s a local golden boy who left a hero and came home a failure.  Those parts all work here and work extremely well.  The resignation, humiliation, and indignation of the returned “past his glory” boy and the people left behind who idolized him…all rang true. It is just one well conceived and well drawn character portrait after another here.

Other plot threads that worked seamlessly throughout the story were the old mysteries floating up from the past to haunt and threaten those involved in their present lives.  That these secrets were kept hidden by agreement and association feels like an integral part of authentic small town life instead of part of a fictionalized culture.  I liked that too.  Even the behavior that can be institutionalized under such a society felt real.  Bullying, harassment, all can be excused given the right circumstances and people involved, and that’s the shared history in a small town that makes that an ordinary happenstance.  Everything I just mentioned worked beautifully in the story and made the narrative flow slowly along.

So what didn’t work for me?  The manner in which one main character is introduced to bdsm and a D/s relationship.  And that aspect of the story was enough, in its treatment, to almost derail this book for me.

I love it when using BDSM components or a D/s scene or lifestyle makes sense for a character or a situation.  I think that it’s important that it be explained or incorporated in a way that lets the reader into the scene and understand  why its necessity for both characters to participate.  It shouldn’t, in my opinion, make you start questioning about the “rightness” of the scene or the judgement about the author’s handling of her characters in such a scene.  Or even if  the segments that bothered me are acceptable to the leather or bdsm community in general (if you can answer this please let me know), I do know that those scenes were problematic enough to keep me awake trying to see it from all angles because it bothered me enough to jar the flow of the story.

My issues here?  That anything consensual can happen with a drunken or judgment impaired character and not be addressed in the narrative.  That’s at the core of my dissatisfaction with this story. It’s a sticking point with me although it might not be for other readers.  But here’s my thinking on the issue.

For starters, that a drunk character, on an unplanned, inebriated visit to another sober character (under strained circumstances) gets pushed /involved into a D/s BDSM scene with little dialog or discussion between the characters.  Unless the lack of consent is part of the storyline, an inebriated or alcoholic person (fictional or not) can’t be seen to give consent to an action or behavior, even an implied consent without some discussion going on.   The impaired judgement of that main character is not addressed.  It wouldn’t have mattered even if they are getting a tattoo while on a binge or other similar actions.

Secondly, then this character is ushered into an act of submission, and by a Dom/character who has complex feelings about the other person. This includes a long standing grudge (feelings of abandonment) against this character. For me, it just felt well less a scene between consenting adults and more like an action of aggression and implied revenge.  Again that would be fine if that was the intent of the scene.  But it’s not. And the character made to submit?  A virgin so to speak about D/s play and BDSM in particular.  This happens more than once.  Is this typical D/s play?  Don’t know. I have been informed by some in the lifestyle that such scenes need to be worked out in advance, rules and limitations agreed to, things of that nature.

Again, it’s not the D/s or BDSM play that I mind, but the manner in which the characters use it to sexually interact with each other and work out old issues.  This guy is a mess to begin with and it only gets worse. I wish the whole aspect of this story would have been handled a little differently. Even the slightest change would have affected how I feel about this story.  I kept trying to see my way around this element but I could never resolve it satisfactorily enough to get by it.

This element aside (which admittedly was hard for this reader), Home the Hard Way is a story that many readers will enjoy and feel deeply about. Why?  Because there are so many wonderful elements at work here.  Z.A. Maxfield’s characters and small town descriptions are just incredible.  Just the way in which the town of Palladian and the rank river that it got its name from are depicted.  The river, dank,and  sluggish, full of trash pooling at its edges, waits for a storm to flush the stagnant waste and foul waters away.  Much the way the town has an overlay of old secrets, hidden antagonisms, and barely contained jealousies and rivalries.  It’s that aroma of  neglect that reflects the stagnant  feel that small town can get as if the life is seeping slowly out of them a drip at a time.  Everyone knows everyone else or thinks they do because of a shared history that can reach decades into each family’s life.   This element of the story made Home the Hard Way for me.  I recognized those people and the town they lived in.  I knew them from their all-too-human actions, petty and otherwise,   The small town parlance and activities speak for themselves as an authentic part of small town USA.

Will the issues that bothered me here bother you?  Not sure. That’s for you to decide.  If not,then you might feel that this is just the story for you.  As I said, so much about this book is quite wonderful.  I enjoyed parts of Home the Hard Way, just not enough to read it again and that’s the benchmark for a 4 star rating for me.  Let me know how you feel about the book and this issue.  This inquiring mind wants to know.

Cover art by Amber Shah.  I loved it and vote it one of the best of the month!

Buy links:            Riptide Publishing                   All Romance eBook (ARe)                 Amazon                    <a href=” Home the Hard Way 

Book Details:

book, 350 pages
Expected publication: July 28th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleHome the Hard Way
ISBN139781626491458
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/home-the-hard-way

August is Here and the Week’s Schedule at ScatteredThoughts!

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Upcoming Reviews

HomeTheHardWay_500x750Unexpected Trust coverLoving LukiHard as Stone Final

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Where did the summer go?  August is arriving this week so thoughts of Fall is trailing in its wake.   I have seen ads for Back to School already, and even (hides my eyes) a few for Christmas.  Really, people?  Christmas?  Sigh.  I am still working on my gardens and the work progresses with the weather.   Like the tides, the work and I flow in and then out.  Cool weather?  Then I can work outside and still breath.  Hot and humid? The typical Washington,  oh right we are surrounded by water and were built on a swamp, DC summer?  Well, that sees me inside, knitting,reading, writing, and grateful for air-conditioning.

Surprisingly, this summer has been pretty good, better than good, so far.  Yesterday barely made it into 80 degrees.  It was lovely and appreciated by all here, including the terriers.  Today humid and 90’s.  Tomorrow more of the same and then down again.  A rollercoaster approach that I will take over weeks of constant 90 degree heat or higher.

It’s also been a wonderful summer so far for books.  New authors, old favorites,  and a new perspective on authors whose new stories I have really liked.  The Pulp Friction 2014 series, Elemental Connections, is off the charts in terms of great plots and even better characters.  I have been reading lots of  books with Fae in the plots, and guess what?  All terrific!  Angel Martinez’ Semper Fae?  Unbelievable!   Rory Ni Coiliean’s SoulShares has me hooked too! On the contemporary side, Lou Sylvre’s Vasquez and James?  Love, love, love them.   Shira Anthony has a new Blue Notes story coming out, Dissonance!   I have two in line from TJ Klune waiting to be read.  I will need more boxes of tissues for those I am sure.  What a happy reader I am these days!

♦If you have noticed, I have started to display current and future book tours to the right hand side of the page.  You can click on those and it will take you to the  entry forms associated with those tours!  Also I have joined the ranks of the Amazon,All Romance Affiliates and Totally Bound Affiliates, so if you buy it through the links at the bottom of each post, it will help support ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords and my efforts to continue to upgrade this website.

♦Now, one last thing.  I have been thinking about this for some time and have decided that I need to add another reviewer to help me cover more books coming out and the review requests I am receiving.  I have a standard format and requirements.  If you are interested, contact me at melaniem54@msn.com and we can talk!

Now on to the week ahead at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords:

Monday, July 28:

  • Review: Hard as Stone by Rory Ni Coileain

Tuesday, July 29:

  • Riptide’s and Z.A. Maxfield’s Home the Hard Way Book Tour/Contest
  • Book Blast:  Jennifer Cie’s Down the Other Street Book Tour/Contest
  • Review:  Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

Wednesday, July 30:

  • Book Blast Book Tour:  Silvia Violet’s Unexpected Trust
  • Review:  Unexpected Trust by Silvia Violet

Thursday, July 31:

  • Virtual Book Tour: That You Are Here by Meredith Allard
  • July Summary of Reviews and Best Covers of the Month

Friday, August 1:

  • Review:  Hero by Heidi Cullinan
  • Review: Gale Force by Rory Ni Coileain

Saturday, August 2:

  • Ink and Flowers by J.K. Pendragon (removed)
  • The Choosing by Annabelle Jacobs

 

Now stay cool, everyone.  Hope you are enjoying your weekend.  Here’s a summer cocktail to try out!

Cucumber Lemonade Mocktail. A111206 Food & Wine March 2012Cucumber Lemonade Mocktail (no alcohol)

Ingredients:
1 paper-thin, lengthwise slice of European cucumber, for garnish
Ice
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped dill, plus 1 dill sprig, for garnish
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cucumber juice (see Note)
1/4 cup chilled club soda

Directions:

Press the cucumber slice against the inside of a chilled highball glass and add ice. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the chopped dill, agave syrup, lemon and lime juices and 1 tablespoon of water until the syrup is dissolved. Add ice, then add the cucumber juice and shake well. Strain into the prepared glass and stir in the club soda. Garnish with the dill sprig.
NOTES Cucumber juice is available at juice counters. You can also make it by pureeing peeled cucumber chunks in a blender and then straining the puree through a fine sieve. One large cucumber yields about 3/4 cup of strained juice.

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

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Mindscape_500x750

Christmas Kitsch cover

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

Review: Grime Doesn’t Pay (The Brothers Grime #2) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Brothers Grime- EddieEddie Vasquez, one of the three owners of The Brothers Grime, has fallen for his niece’s elementary school teacher Mr.  B. Andrew  Daley.  Each time Eddie drops Lucy off at her third grade classroom, he intends to speak to Andrew about more than just Lucy’s accomplishments and classwork and each time he leaves without saying anything.  Eddie finds Andrew gorgeous but daunting because of his education and learning.  Eddie is profoundly dyslexic, leaving him unable to read without special instruments and a considerable amount of time pouring over the words.  And while Eddie has managed to be successful in life working with his disability, he continues to feel as though he is “afflicted”, unworthy of someone whose conversations are filled full of books and book references.

Andrew Daley has his own hidden problems, specifically his father.   Andrew’s father used to own a bookstore but since his mother’s death, his father has changed severely and not for the better. In fact his father’s problems have gotten so extreme that Andrew has not seen his father in months, staying in contact only through sporadic phone calls.  Andrew too has noticed his student Lucy’s gorgeous uncle and looks forward to every visit Eddie Vasquez makes to his classroom.  He loves to see how deeply Eddie loves his niece and the adoration that shows in the way he treats her. And he wonders why the obviously interested Eddie doesn’t approach him.

Then one of Eddie’s former elementary teachers shows up at school, disoriented, hair and clothes rank, smelling of human decomposition, and the two men join forces to help her and discover the events that have brought her to a school she hasn’t work at in decades.  Mrs. Henderson is the teacher responsible for Eddie’s diagnosis of his learning disability, her support and care helped him to move forward, personally and professionally.  Now when she needs help, Eddie is there, together with the rest of The Brothers Grime and Andrew, to provide the assistance she so badly needs.

Mrs. Henderson brings Eddie and Andrew together but each man is still hiding their biggest secrets from each other.  When those secrets are finally disclosed, will the fragile relationship they have been building survive, and grow stronger under the weight of truths finally revealed?

I loved the first book in this series, Grime and Punishment, published in May of 2013.  It was funny, heartrending and so unusual in that the profession of its main character, Jack Masterson, is one rarely found encountered in fiction.  Jack was a former firefighter whose disability forced him off the job into a new profession, that of crime scene cleanup.  Jack, along with childhood friends, Gabe and Eddie Vasquez, formed The Brothers Grime, a crime scene cleaning service whose motto “Because Life Is Not A Fairy Tale” adorns their vans and advertises their business.   It was a fascinating introduction to this necessary and deeply unpleasant profession as well as the intelligent, multidimensional characters who own and operate The Brothers Grime.  It was a smart, engrossing story, one I couldn’t put down and highly recommended.  But it still did not prepare me for the remarkable and absorbing tale to follow, Grime Doesn’t Pay, Eddie’s story.

In Grime Doesn’t Pay, Z.A. Maxfield tackles several tough and complex elements, all crucial to the story, the characters and the series and she handles them all with intelligence, compassion and an authenticity that educated while removing nothing from a riveting story. Maxfield’s narrative moved me to a better understanding of those burdened with these problems while highlighting the need for more education and enlightenment in the media of these issues and their effects upon our society, a powerful statement for any story.

First lets look at Eddie, a complex and admirable character who has learned to deal with his profound dyslexia while still bearing old pain from the manner in which his family, friends and schoolmates treated him growing up.  I loved Eddie and through him, Z.A. Maxfield taught me so much more about dyslexia and the instruments and  coping mechanisms used by those affected by this disease.  It is a dispassionate, layered portrait that encompasses both the adult who manages his dyslexia successfully while never forgetting the child taunted by classmates and torn down by his parents disappointment.  There is so much to this character, from his courtly manners derived from his family and background to his dancing, a fluid and artistic expression of the inner man.  Eddie is full of complexities, and the story, told from his point of view, is enriched in equal measure.

Secondly, and on par with the misinformation and misunderstandings of the complexities and range of dyslexia is the mental disorder of hoarding.  Too often this mental disorder is viewed through the superficial treatment given in the media, a foil for comics and the subject of cable tv programming.  But in the hands of this author, and seen through the eyes of Eddie, Andrew and his father, it becomes  real and grimly relevant to our understanding of mental illness today.  Each man is a different prism through which the disease can be viewed. Andrew’s anguish as the son lacking the understanding of his father’s illness, full of anger and pain, and reeling with embarassment, is the voice we so often see in the media.  His is the channel through which most of us see the disease and its effects  upon family and loved ones. Next, in Andrew’s father, we see the disease given full reign, but made very human, grounded in his pain and humiliation.  His own embarrassment and pride in full conflict with the reality of his situation and his inability to cope with his mental illness on his own. We are brought into his home, piled up with debris, overridden with roaches, and infused with a stench of old food and rat excrement that you can almost smell coming out of the pages. That picture combined with the pathetic state of his person and the dignity that he is trying to maintain will bring you to tears and still let you understand the fury of the son.  And finally, to give the reader yet one more perspective from which to view this disease, we see it from Eddie’s standpoint.  As a dyslexic who stands outside the norms of society, he is perhaps the only person (outside of a psychiatrist specializing in hoarders) who can reach Andrew’s father and understand him.  And once again, Maxfield makes us feel every bit of their pain, of Eddie, who can’t read, being the one to understand Mr. Daley, a person who has lived his life for books and now uses them as a basis for his hoarding.

Added to these exceptional aspects of this story are marvelous characterizations outside of Eddie, Andrew and Mr. Daley, including Mrs. Henderson and the problem of the aged (another beautifully rendered subject).  There is the culturally rich Vasquez family, surrounding Eddie with love and expectations.  The hilarious morally challenged employee, Skippy, and the ever closeted police officer and childhood friend of The Brothers Grime, Dave Huntley, who figures in all the stories.  So many wonderful characters to challenge the way you view people and the manner in which they live their lives.

If the serious nature of these topics give you pause, don’t let it.  There is a wonderfully moving romance that binds these issues together.  There are scenes of terrific warmth and humor to balance those of grim realism and pain.  Z. A. Maxfield moves her story along concisely and smoothly, leaving the reader so wrapped up in the people and events that you will barely be aware of the pages flipping by.  This story left me floored and throughly addicted to these characters and their future.  I think you will feel the same.  Consider Grime Doesn’t Pay not only a must read but one of Scattered Thoughts Best Contemporary Stories of 2013.

Book Details:
ebook, 241 pages
Published November 27th 2013 by Loose Id (first published November 25th 2013)
ISBN13 9781623005863
edition language English

Mid December Thoughts and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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It is mid-December and the end of 2013 is only weeks away.  So many people are still rushing around, making last minute trip preparations, fixing the holiday menus or getting gifts for those you love.  This year I find myself just so grateful to have my Dad still with us, after suffering a huge illness and operation.  My mother has stayed by his side, sleeping in chairs and wherever possible, in the hospital or rehab center.  For all their years together this has been the most they have ever been apart.  And now Dad is back home where he belongs, just in time for the holidays and his birthday.  Never have I felt so happy to be able to write those words.  Dad’s recovery and homecoming are all that I or anyone in my family  want or need for Christmas.  We have been given the best gift of all and we know it.  And are so grateful.

But there are so many others out there right now that need our thoughts, and if you are religious, our prayers for them and their loved ones.  And maybe something more, a little assistance if you are able.  LGBTQ Youth Shelters need our financial assistance, especially in the winter, when the cold drives so many inside in need of beds, food, and emotional support.

And if you love or have been touched by the books of Eric Arvin or TJ Klune or the men themselves, you may not be aware that Eric is ill and they could use our help and thoughts.  There is a fund set up to help Eric and his family offset the cost of his medical bills.  That is listed below as well as the links to the LGBTQ Youth Shelters. The holidays are a time of  love and giving, to all of those we are connected to by blood and by choice, and by need:

And now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Dec. 16             Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings

Tuesday, Dec. 17:            The Brothers Grime: Eddie by Z.A. Maxfield

Wed., Dec. 18:                  Model Love by S.J. Frost

Thurs, Dec. 19:                 Kick Start by Josh Lanyon

Friday, Dec. 20:              Christmas Guest Blog at Andrew Q. Gordon’s

Sat., Dec. 21:                    Oceans Apart by Laura Harner

Review: Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

LostAndFound_500x750Rigoberto “Ringo” Salazar is thirty years old, heads up security for the upscale RV Newport Sands Resort, and owns his own “cookie cutter” home.  He is out and part of a large latino family that still loves and accepts him, not caring about his sexuality.  The one thing missing from his life? Someone to love and be loved in return. Then he spies young Gavin Lopez playing saxophone for the summer crowd at the picnic tables and Ringo is lost.

Now a year after that first sighting, things have been rocky for Ringo and Gavin.  Gavin is insecure, rough around the edges, a commitment phobe with anger management issues. Gavin spends as much time driving Ringo away as he does pulling him in. But Gavin is also “the one” for Ringo. Through constant fights, separations, and hot makeup sessions, Ringo has been there for Gavin, where Gavin has wanted his support or not.

But now things are coming to a head.  A recent moment of togetherness, brought on by Gavin’s knee surgery, is shattered when Gavin’s beloved dog Bird runs away and Gavin blames Ringo.  While searching for Bird, Ringo comes to a number of realizations about himself and Gavin.   Things cannot go on as they have, changes have to be made by Ringo and Gavin for them to have a future together.  But Gavin is full of fear and lacks faith in everyone including himself.  It will take a miracle not only for Ringo to find Bird but for the men to find it in themselves to change and move forward.  But Christmas is a season of miracles and what was lost will find a way to come home, whether it be a dog or an abiding love.

There is nothing typical about Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield, other than it is a perfect example of a Z.A. Maxfield story.  Part of Riptide Publishing’s Home for the Holidays collection, it is only superficially a “holiday story”.  Below such surface expectations of Christmas memories and holiday traditions lurks the all too human characters that I have come to expect from this amazing author. Her characters are full of imperfections, riddled with insecurities, lacking the tools, the social  niceties that help others cope with society and the stress of the times.  You need to look no further than Gavin Lopez to find the tarnished jewel of this Maxfield story.

I think some people might be put off by Gavin. Or if not Gavin, then’s Ringo’s pursuit of Gavin and a relationship.  But Gavin’s character is a gritty, prickly personification of a person so wounded that his first and only impulse when faced with affection and love is to throw up barriers and inflict enough pain and insult as to make that threat to his self isolation go away.  And Gavin does a quite thorough job of it in Lost and Found.  Towards the man who loves him, Gavin is abusive verbally, sometimes downright cruel. Gavin is childish, sulking and impulsive in his actions.  So why do we like him?  Because Ringo does.  And through Ringo’s eyes, we see beyond the stunted adult into the wounded young artist crying out for help and love.

The story is told in Ringo’s pov.  We understand by hearing his thoughts and feeling his emotions that Ringo too carries his share of pain and past injuries both physical and emotional.  A vet with PTSD, he has adjusted to civilian life but his memories of his tour of duty lurk on the edges of Ringo’s mind, just waiting to reappear.  Ringo has a love of his culture and family but also understands the reality of being an out gay latino in his neighborhood where he is protected not only by his size but by the force of his Uncle Salvo and family.  Ringo’s complexities are apparent whether he is dealing with security issues at the RV park or with the emotional turmoil of Gavin himself.

It is a mark of this author’s skill that, just when the reader is getting so exasperated with Gavin’s actions towards Ringo and Ringo’s constant acceptance of the unrelenting rejection that they want to give up on this couple’s romance, she has Ringo understand that a major change in his approach to Gavin must occur in order for him to go forward in his pursuit.  This is a much needed shift in attitude, and for some readers eyes long overdue.  But again it works to help the reader better understand the men involved and the relationship Ringo is hoping to have with Gavin. One more realistic layer added to an already multilayered story.

Throughout the story, like a line tethering one character to another, is Bird, the chocolate lab who is Gavin’s constant companion and the vessel into which he pours all his love.  Tying an endearing pet like Bird to someone who is off-putting and dislikable as Gavin, at least at the beginning, helps to connect the reader to that person.  It changes our perception of them instantaneously.  For if a dog loves them, then  somewhere inside they must be deserving of being loved, a widely held opinion whether it is true or not.  The reader will find the hunt for Bird gut wrenching, especially if you are a pet owner.  It feels as real as the rest of the story, as does Bird himself.

My only real quibble here is the length.  I think Lost and Found would benefit from a longer length, from novella to novel size.  The end of the story is as realistic and satisfying as these two complex men could have at the time.  I would have loved a little more to the resolution and acceptance, letting the reader revel in the moment a little longer along with the men. T’would have been keeping in the holiday spirit and the miracles that can occur if you want them badly enough.  As it is I still loved Lost and Found and recommend it highly no matter the season or holidays you keep.

Cover art by L.C. Chase is just magnificent.  One of the best covers of 2013.  Perfection in every way from tone, emotion, and character.  Just wow.

Special Note:

20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visithttp://www.aliforneycenter.org/.

Book Details:

140 pages
Expected publication: December 2nd 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490857
edition language English

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

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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

Review: Grime and Punishment (The Brothers Grime #1) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

JGrime and Punishment coverack Masterson was a firefighter until one massive blaze ended his career and put him on disability.  Needing a new career and a way to help people involved, Jack created The Brothers Grime, a biohazard cleanup company.  The Brothers Grime go to work at the crime scenes after the police and other agencies have cleared the site for clean up.  Jack’s company’s job is to help people move on from a traumatic event by physically cleaning up all  the mess left behind, the blood, the gore, everything.  Then one night, The Brothers Grime get a call that changes everything for Jack.  A man committed suicide at his cousin’s house and a clean up is needed.  The suicide?  One Nick Foasberg, former friend and more of Jack Masterson.

Jack’s memories of Nick are as traumatic as the accident that disabled him, perhaps more so.  A high school attack on Jack involved Nick and others,  an attack so savage it put Jack in the hospital for months and has had ramifications for Jack’s life ever since.  And Nick’s suicide brings them all back with a vengeance.  Further complicating things is Ryan Halloran, Nick’s cousin and owner of the house Nick was living in.  Ryan looks like Nick while acting nothing like him.  Nick’s life had been spiraling out of control for years as drugs and alcohol took control of his life.  Ryan, a nurse, had been trying to help Nick recover.

Nick’s suicide brings the men together.  And while Ryan only knows part of Nick’s past with Jack, the two men decide to gain closure and clean up Ryan’s house together.  As an attraction grows between them so does Jack’s guilt over a secret he is keeping hidden from Ryan.  Ryan has made Jack feel alive again after years of numbness and Jack doesn’t want to lose this chance at love.  Both men need to move beyond their involvement with Nick and their pasts before they can find love again with each other.

I love Z.A. Maxfield’s stories and Grime and Punishment is no exception.  In this first book in a new series, the author delves into the relatively unknown field of crime scene environmental cleanup, a fascinating aspect of the trauma crimes leave behind.  With that occupation as a foundation, Maxfield gives us a group of emotionally and physically wounded men around which to build her story and series.  I am sure I am not the only one who has not given a thought as to what happens when the police and medical examiners leave a scene.  Maxfield takes us there and shows us the people and companies that make a living cleaning up the tragedies that life brings.   The reality of these firms is both ugly and redeeming.  They descend upon the scene, jockeying to throw in their bids and grab up the job before anyone else and that often means talking to the victim or victims shortly after the trauma has occurred.  The manner in which that interaction is handled swings between sensitivity and rapaciousness.

For Maxfield’s character, Jack Masterson, this is not merely a job but a way in which he can help the victims move forward with their lives.  He has been on the both sides of this job and knows that he and his people can make a difference and not just a living.  Jack Masterson is one of the walking wounded.  Jack was traumatized early in life by an attack during high school brought on by someone he loved and trusted.  And that betrayal has caused Jack to emotionally withdraw from life.  Jack is a masterful creation, a complex personality whose frailties, his emotional and physical vulnerabilities make him an easily accessible character to identify and like.  And as he starts to change and become alive once more, the reader is so heavily invested in his emotional growth and rebirth that we feel we are there with him every step of the way.

Ryan also has many layers to him, a nurse drawn to the downtrodden and lost, he too must look closely at himself and his motives with regard to his relationships with Jack and Nick.  The build to a relationship between Ryan and Jack is slow and full of obstacles.  It is instead a very realistic portrait of two men wary of each other and their pasts who cautiously proceed forward together with no guarantees.  I loved this aspect of the story and look forward to much more of them and the series.

Of course, there are so many others to grab your attention.  Police officer Dave, so deeply in the closet he has built that he sees no way out,  Dave too was affected deeply by Jack’s past as was everyone Jack has remained close to.  The  Brothers Grime is full of people who care for Jack, whether it is Gabe, Jack’s cousin or the others that work with them.  All characters feel so alive that it is easy to entrust your affections to this diverse group of individuals and their various situations.

i love the way Maxfield has built her narrative here.  At the start, it seems slow, almost a little frozen, just as Jack is.  He is numb emotionally, physically hurting and so is everyone around him.  All are bogged down in life, frozen in status as the story starts and the narrative reflects that.  It’s mood is just as dark and deep as the characters at this stage in the story.  But as their emotional stasis breaks up and the characters move forward in their lives, then the narrative moves forward at a pace equal to the characters emotional rebirth and growth.  It becomes lively, and light in places, only to swoop downward at the first hint of returning troubles.  Really,  Grime and Punishment represents just a remarkable job of storytelling by the author.

I highly recommend this story and can’t wait for the next installment in the series.  This is a great introduction for those of you new to Z.A. Maxfield. And for those of you already fond of this author, here is a new story of hers to love.

Book Details:

ebook, 176 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Loose Id (first published 2013)
original title
Grime and Punishment
ISBN13 9781623003111
edition language English
series The Brothers Grime