Wednesday, August 29, 2018

"A Few God Fish" by Amy Lane

"A Few Good Fish"
Amy Lane
5 Stars

A tomcat, a psychopath, and a psychic walk into the desert to rescue the men they love…. Can everybody make it out with their skin intact?

PI Jackson Rivers and Defense Attorney Ellery Cramer have barely recovered from last November, when stopping a serial killer nearly destroyed Jackson in both body and spirit.

But their previous investigation poked a new danger with a stick, forcing Jackson and Ellery to leave town so they can meet the snake in its den.

Jackson Rivers grew up with the mean streets as a classroom and he learned a long time ago not to give a damn about his own life. But he gets a whole new education when the enemy takes Ellery. The man who pulled his shattered pieces from darkness and stitched them back together again is in trouble, and Jackson’s only chance to save him rests in the hands of fragile allies he barely knows.

It’s going to take a little bit of luck to get these Few Good Fish out alive!

In this, the third book in the Fish Out of Water series, we pick up where book two left off. Jackson Rivers and Ellery Cramer are both recovering from the physical and psychological injuries sustained when they stopped a sadistic serial killer with ties to the police force, the military and...two old friends from another book.

The events of "Red Fish, Dead Fish" have left as many questions unanswered as there are problems resolved. Tim Owens, the former military/cop psychopath, is now dead and both Jackson and Ellery are concerned that the men who created the killer and took advantage of his "talents" may not have stopped with just making just one. As they start to dig into the circumstances behind Owens' time in the military, they uncover a link to Sonny and Ace, the two main characters from "Racing for the Sun" and the death of the man who made Sonny's life hell in the service.

As Jackson and Ellery track down the links between Owens, Sonny and Ace, and US Navy Commander Karl Lacey, the men find themselves in the middle of a far-reaching conspiracy that threatens to take Ellery away from Jackson, something unthinkable and unacceptable. Fighting to uncover the truth, all the players converge in an abandoned military base in the desert and all hell breaks loose. The question is, who will walk away alive?

I went back and re-read the first two books in the series (as well as "Racing for the Sun") before tackling this one, and man-oh-man, was it worth it. It reminded me of why I adore Amy Lane so much, She has this knack for creating the most wonderfully flawed and broken characters who, against all the odds, find the one person who can help them heal and feel whole. That foundation allows her to throw her guys into the deep end of the crazy pool and allow them to sink or swim, but also shows them, and us, how strong even the most broken among us are.

And there's a lot of broken here. Jackson, raised by a tragic drug-addicted mother, but who managed to cobble a family together out of friends and hope. Ellery, whose mother is at once demanding, controlling and shrewish while at the same time so protective. Sonny, who is just all kinds of wrong and twisted, sharing a similar background to Jackson but without being able to find a savior as a child. Ace, who is at best a morally gray character but who will kill to save those he loves. And now we have two new men to add to the mix-Ernie, the psychic former foster kid who is targeted for death and thrown away by everyone at every chance, and Burt(on), the black ops assassin who is really a white knight of sorts. Six men, three pairings, and potentially, one big odd family.

We have the men, we have the romance, and we have the story line. Every action, every character, every line forms a part of the whole and man, what an ass-kicking whole it is. Amy takes all these pieces of yarn and knits them into this vibrant, textured fabric of love, loss, angst, hope, life and death.

But the best thing? While there's a lot of action here, it's ALL about the characters. All about fear of loss, hope of a lasting love, the grace of family, and simple human contact. Yes, a lot happens and it's a roller coaster ride, but at the end of the day, what we care about and what we want to see is that Jackson and Ellery are healing and trusting and moving past the bad things that happened to them and are together.

Just so damned well done. As always. Can't wait for book four and to find out about Burt and Ernie.


Monday, December 30, 2013

A Bear on Books Best of 2013

Best of 2013, According to a Bear…

As we get to the end of another year, I am thankful for a lot of things. Mostly, that the year is almost over and I made it to the end. As most of you who follow my silly postings know, I’ve been sick a lot this year, and am working my way through a cardiac issue (FINALLY got a diagnosis), not working, trying to write, and struggling with family and personal issues. But…I am so very thankful for my friends, for family and for the wonderful books that helped keep me distracted, amused and amazed this year.

So many great talented people published books that broke my heart, made me laugh, let me visit places I never thought I’d see, and took my breath away. I wasn’t able to review as much as I did the past two or three years due to work, writing, and health, but I kept a file going of favorites, and all I can say is thank God for my Kindle. Most of the books I want to honor this year were published in 2013, but a couple may be older ones. My list, my rules. Sue me.

So here we go…

I can’t quite pick just one book as my favorite of the year. There are three I can narrow it down to, so they get the honors as co-books of the year.

  • Billy’s Bones by Jamie Fessenden. A stunning, heart-wrenching story of love and redemption. Every page was a revelation. I hurt, I cried, and I prayed for Kevin. Just wonderful.
  •  King Mai by Edmond Manning. The second in the Lost and Found series. Edmond has a way of wrapping me around his little finger and lulling me into a nice, easy complacency then WHAM! my heart is his playtoy. Mai stole my breath away.
  •  Taking Chances by John Goode. John’s Foster High stories are the best YA series, bar none. Now, he tell us the full story of Matt and the boy behind the red door, Tyler. For every gay man out there who isn’t a manslut, who believes in love but is scared to death most times, this is your—my—story. God, I want to write like John. So controlled, tight and spellbinding.

There are seven more I want to add, to make a top ten list. Really, any of these books, plus the three I already mentioned, would make it to the short list of books I’d want to take with me to a deserted island if I were going to be stranded. In no particular order, they are:

  • Honor C by Carol Zampa. A man who tries to do the right thing. Honor isn’t dead. Impeccably written.  
  • Moving Mountains by Laura Harner. Jamie and Remy. Miggy. I lost my heart and cannot wait for the fourth and final book in the Separate Ways series.
  •  Memorizing You by Dan Skinner. Months after reading this, I still can’t discuss it without swallowing around a lump in my throat. One of the best books I’ve ever read. 
  • Aftermath by Cara Dee. What happens when a maniac holds you and several other men hostage for months? The bonds that form, the memories and the aftermath. I was glued to this book, and wanted more.
  • The General and the Horse Lord by Sarah Black. A tale of two mature men by one of my favorite authors in the genre. The writing is solid, the storyline stunning, and the characters sharply drawn. So very very very good.
  •  Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane. Yeah, I’m Amy’s biggest fan. But read this and tell me if Rusty doesn’t steal your heart. I wanted to wrap him in cotton, keep him safe and let him know he’s loved. Silly, I know, but that’s how his story affected me. 
  •  Superhero by Eli Easton. Jordan and Owen have nothing in common. Except that they’re best friends, and they can’t imagine not being in each other’s lives. One straight, one not but that doesn’t matter. Owen can’t just let Jordan not be there, so he searches his heart and discovers something…more. Top notch.

My heart is a little bigger this year, and able to hold more than ten books, so these twenty fantastic efforts found a cozy niche there also.

  • Running with George by Charles Lunsford. A man who lost his partner of years finds love again.
  •  Judging Jude by Havan Fellows. Strong characters, fantastic writing, had me from the first word.
  •  Strength of the Pack by Kendall McKenna. One of the best shifter stories I have ever read. 
  •  KC, at Bat by Tom Mendicino. A young man falls for a jock, and has a realization at the end that blows him away. The start of a series, I think. I hope...
  • The Celestine Room by Jared Rackler. Vampires, sensual writing, great story.
  •  Denying Yourself by Silvia Violet. Unhappy werewolves who find love. Sigh.
  •  Red Sunset by Rowena Sudbury. Rowena writes such beautiful stories. This follow-up steals my heart.
  •  The Last Day of Summer by JF Smith. The boys of summer. Be still my heart.
  •  The Mormon Victorian Society by Johnny Townsend. A series of shorts about Mormons. So goddamned touching I choked up throughout the book.
  •  If the Stars Fall by Diane Adams. The last of the Making of a Man series, and the one that took my breath away.
  •  Old Loyalty, New Love by Mary Calmes. Mary always delivers characters I love, and she shot me in the heart with Roman.
  •  Out of the Blackness by Carter Quinn. A horribly abused young man slowly opens himself to love. I was afraid to breathe sometimes reading this stunner.
  •  Finding Jackie by Lou Sylvre. Luki and Sonny on my Kindle, and my life is good. Some of the best writing I’ve ever read.
  •  500 Miles by Parker Williams. Broken soldier, his best friend’s younger brother. Love, plain and simple.
  •  Racing for the Sun by Amy Lane. Intense, hard-edged. One of my favorite Amy books.
  •  Dog Tagged by James Brock. A love story set against the backdrop of DADT. What happens when the man you love might die and no one can know you love him?
  •  Plan B by SJD Peterson. Gay-for-you story that grabs your heart and runs with it.
  •  Forever Promised by Amy Lane. The finale of the Promise Rock series. Deacon, Jon and Mikhail. Comfort food for my soul.
  •  The Great Wall by Z. Allora. An amazing story of love, in a totally unexpected setting. Rockers in China. Z rocks this one.
  •  The Park at Sunrise by Lee Brazil. Quietly stunning. Three friends who love each other lose one. Can the other two go on?

There are just too many fine, solid books to leave off my list. So, here’s thirty more, some not published this year but I read them in 2013. New to me equals new! Again, these are in no particular order.

  • Damaged Angels by Larry Benjamin.
  • Still, by Mary Calmes.
  • I’ll Be Your Drill, Soldier! by Crystal Rose.
  • YES, SIR by Ellis Carrington.
  • Half Moon Chambers by Harper Fox.
  • The House of Silence by J.A. Jaken.
  • Safety Net by Keiko Kirin.
  • My Cowboy Heart by Z.A. Maxfield.
  • Play Me, I’m Yours by Madison Parker.
  • Song on the Sand by Ruth Sims.
  • Hunt and Pray by Cindy Sutherland.
  • Dex in Blue by Amy Lane.
  • Beyond Duty by SJD Peterson.
  • Ethan in Gold by Amy Lane.
  • Light and Shadow by GL Roberts.
  • Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane.
  • Chase the Storm by V.M. Waitt.
  • Stealing Ganymede by J. Warren.
  • The Brothers Grime: Grime and Punishment by Z.A. Maxfield.
  • An Ordinary Boy by Brian Centrone.
  • Black Dog by Cat Grant.
  • Reach for the Moon by Val Kovalin.
  • Power Exchange by AJ Rose.
  • Safeword by AJ Rose.
  • Feral by Alexa Land.
  • Touch & Geaux by Abigail Roux.
  • Pup by SJD Peterson.
  • Rough Canvas 6: Nature of Desire by Joey W. Hill.
  • Social Skills by Sara Alva.
  • Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford.

There are three books I pulled back off the archive on my Kindle and re-read. They are too good to just have once. Very different in nature—cowboys, high school kids, wolf shifters—but all three leap off the page at me. Especially the first; I read it twice over Christmas just because…

  • One Marriage and Three Weddings by Jenna Hilary Sinclair. This...this is a slow dance to love, plain and simple. Two cowboys who decide they want to be it for each other after both being married, and how their lived play out. Magnificent.
  • Wrestling with Desire by D.H. Starr. Two young high school students who find each other and their bumpy ride to love.
  • A Werewolf’s Soldier by Kayley Scott. War, werewolves, and love. All parts done so well, it's magic.

I wish all of you a very Happy New Year. May 2014 bring you peace, happiness and prosperity. My love and thoughts are with everyone.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"Pitch" and Ten Questions with Will Parkinson

“Pitch” by Will Parkinson

Teenage love, so sweet and so not easy

Highly Recommended

High school is so rough. And it’s especially tough on some kids. Young guys like Taylor. He’s the average guy—nervous about grades, feeling like he doesn’t fit in. A little on the chubby side, he thinks. Average looks, average student, average grades. The only thing that sets him apart, he thinks, is his skill in drawing. Oh, and the fact he’s gay and in the closet. His best friend, Benny, is the only person who knows. Benny the straight jock with a brain. They hold each other’s secrets.

When Jackson walks into Taylor’s sophomore classroom, it’s like lightening for Taylor. Only…Jackson is straight, a baseball jock and immediately starts dating a cheerleader. Still, Taylor can’t let it go. He goes to every baseball game, and secretly crushes on Jackson. Until the summer after their sophomore year, when Taylor and Benny act as counselors at a camp for abused kids. There both his and Benny’s lives are changed forever. He decides to give up on his helpless crush and maybe date someone else.

But will that decision backfire on him, especially when the boy he chooses to date turns out to be something less than a knight in shining armor? Will being out make things easier for Taylor, or totally destroy his life?

You will have to bear with me here. I am a little strange sometimes. But as I read Will Parkinson’s beautifully written and heartfelt book, I had a song that kept running through my head. Words from Dan Fogelberg’s “The Netherlands”.

I want a lover
I want some friends
And I want to live in the sun
And I want to do all the things
That I never have done

Taylor is the kid in all of us. And he’s the gay kid that was in me all those years ago. He wants so much to fit in, to have a boyfriend, to have the boy of his dreams. All the things that seems so impossible and out of his reach. Sometimes, he learns, the hardest thing is to have what you want in front of you every day, right within your reach, and you aren’t able to just reach out and grab them.

I’ve seen the bottom
And I’ve been on top
But mostly I’ve lived in between
And where do you go
When you get to the end
Of your dreams?

What I really loved about this book was how it captured the essence of how hard and easy it is to be a teen. How the joy you can feel one moment can change to despair at the drop of a hat. And how cruel other kids—because, yes, teenagers are still kids—can be, especially when you already feel different. It’s such a thin line between normal and outcast, and we see in graphic detail how it affects Taylor, then Jackson, then Benny and so on. Some might think it goes over the top. I am here to say, no it doesn’t. I’ve seen it. Worked with abused kids for ten years. Not only does it—bullying—happen, it happens more than we as adults like to think. And while some say suck it up, it will get better, to a child, all there is, is today.

There’s a quiet desperation, a taste of pain in this book which is so familiar. I think most of us have felt it. But then, there’s a hint of joy that comes and takes up to a happier place. And sometimes that’s what’s needed, in real life and in fiction. Someone to come in, hold us, tell us it’s okay and make it better.

Even if it’s fiction.

Well done, Will. I am very proud of you.


And now...

Ten Questions for Will Parkinson…
1.      So tell me, boxers or briefs??   Um….neither. 

2.      Who in “Pitch” are you most like? I’m most like Taylor. I suffered through a lot of the same things he did. I find that there is a little of me in most of my characters, but for the most part, yeah, I’m Taylor.

3.      Do you put people you know into your writings? Sometimes. I’d like to think not so much that people would be able to recognize themselves, but I do get an idea in my head, ‘Wow, this character seems so much like that person!’ and my portrayal of them makes me see them as the other person in my head.

4.      Why YA? Eden Winters said I had a ‘voice’ for it. I’m not sure how true that is, but I enjoy writing the stories. Especially working with Harmony. They were great and helped me not feel ‘too’ nervous about my writing.

5.      I loved the book. Talk to me about what it was like submitting a book for publication.  It was terribly nerve-wracking. I freaked out about it for days. It got progressively worse as I headed toward the two words everyone seems to enjoy ‘the end’. My friends encouraged me, though. They were amazing when it came time to do the deed, as it were.

6.      What do you want people to know about Will Parkinson I’m not the person I play on Facebook. I’m actually pretty shy (okay, fine, very shy) and don’t do a lot of public things. But I love talking with people on Facebook. I have made some amazing friends here, including KC Wells who I co-wrote a book with that just got picked up by Dreamspinner.

7.      Who do you most want to read “Pitch”? Who are you most afraid of reading it? I want people who enjoy seeing people succeed read the story. I like to think I did a decent job with it, and Benny steals the show. The people who take things way too seriously are the ones I’m afraid of reading the story.

8.      We both seem to agree SJD Peterson is a princess with pink crinoline and a girly tiara. Tell me, who’s scarier—her or me? She’s wearing pink. I really don’t think there’s much scary in that picture. (And you better damn well protect me when she reads this!)

9.      Who is your hero? I have a couple. You. Laura Harner. Mardee Burnett, and KC Wells. Each of you have spent way too much time bolstering me and comforting me when my brain goes a little (fine, a lot) haywire. I’m more grateful to the group of you than you can know.

10.  What’s next for Will? And are you still gonna write a BDSM story with me? Wild horses with whips couldn’t keep me away. I did a post where I asked about dream teams for writing. You and Parker were mentioned. And besides, I have learned a lot from you and look forward to learning more.

Thanks for having me, Sir. It’s been a real pleasure.

The pleasure was all mine, boy!