I had intended to have read and reviewed Eden Winter's Diversion for this post but, with everything else, I haven't quite finished the book. I'll finish it this weekend, think about it for a couple of days and then write the review for next week, so look for that then.
I've been very busy with my day job so pretty much everything else is put aside until I clear the decks there a little. The centenary of the beginning of WWI is coming up and I've been organising an exhibition for it. It's a huge undertaking, liaising with everyone who's contributing and deciding what gets displayed and where, but I've been enjoying it.
I've also been working on my next novel in the snippets of time available to me this week. I had a problem where there were huge gaps in the plot during the first ten chapters and I thought I had to write completely new chapters to slot in between them. I found this week as I was going over the GMC for each major character and re-checking the scene map, that I have the plot elements all there where they're supposed to be. Right now, though, they're just scenes. I have to expand them all to chapters, adding the drama and backstory that's currently missing. So, there's still a lot of writing to do, but it's not as bad as I thought it was to start with. I'm helping a cousin move house today, but tomorrow is planned as a writing day at the library, so I'll get one of those scenes expanded to a chapter then. ... and just that sentence has taken the hard work of novel-writing straight up to *fun*.
I’ve read a lot of shifter novels. There’s always the strong alpha, his 2IC beta and sundry others. There’s nearly always a cruel alpha or pack in someone’s history. And, of course, there’s the discovery of Mates and a HEA. Wolf Run has these things but with a difference that’s refreshing.
The alpha hero isn’t as obviously strong as you’d expect. He’s a lost soul searching for a pack of his own. Scott, the beta, isn’t strong and decisive, just one rung below the alpha. He’s a ditzy artist with a sense of direction that wouldn’t challenge a blank piece of paper. The ‘sundry others’ is Danny, a man never meant to lead, but who works his butt off to provide for his Mate. He’s the real hero of this novel.
Scott and Danny live in a run-down trailer. Their relationship glows for all its dysfunction. You know from the first page they’re meant to be together forever, and you know, just as clearly, they’re floundering. They don’t have long before everything explodes. Danny can’t keep going the way he has been and, when he trips and falls, Scotty will be gone—not because he wants to be, but because he can’t function without Danny.
Enter Mick, stage right. It’s Mick’s job to provide the stability and security Danny and Scott need to keep them together, to make them more than before.
The identification of Mates was another difference in this novel, from other shifter stories. Usually, meeting your Mate is something that hits the shifter between the eyes so sharply every previous idea of life and love is completely overturned. That didn’t happen in this story. There was no emotional acknowledgement that Scott and Danny were Mick’s Mates. We were told it was so. That lack of drama with regard to Mates confused me at the beginning. My preconceptions made me question Mick’s motivation, especially when he had sex with Scott almost immediately, before he met Danny, even though he knew Scott and Danny were Mates. At the time it seemed to show a complete disregard for the connection Scott and Danny shared, regardless of the fact Mick told Scott he respected it.
Scott is absolutely adorable, although he came across as very young, often too young. His naivety and absolute, unquestioning trust made me worry about him.
Danny broke my heart. He worked so hard to keep Scotty safe but nothing he did was enough. Then in waltzes Mick, who takes over and makes everything wonderful with little more than a snap of his fingers. Danny was drawn beautifully.
It’s no wonder, with two such unique characters as Scott and Danny, that Mick would come across flat and insipid for the first half of the book. I think Tortuga intended Mick to be—not weak, but translucent—at the beginning because he’d been alone too long. He certainly grew in substance throughout the story and, by the end, was a protector worthy of the other two. Unfortunately his lack of character strength at the beginning, and his too-slow growth throughout, set my opinion of him as… meh.
My test for a book: would I read it again? Yes. Definitely. Even with the problems with Mick at the beginning, this book is so different from other shifter stories, it’s like the first autumn breeze. I know, without knowing where or what, that there are subtle layers in this story that I’ll find on a second or subsequent reading.
This week I had the pleasure of reading Out of the Gate by EM Lynley.
This story has something for everyone. It’s a story of struggle against inner demons, others’ prejudices, selfishness, foolishness and danger. It’s also a story of growing love, and the nature of friendship.
Evan trains horses because he loves them. His small but growing business provides him with a sense of satisfaction and joy his previous acting career didn’t. It’s obvious he has secrets and the tension builds beautifully before the final reveal of them.
Actor Wes Tremayne is on his way up. The only thing threatening his rising career is the possibility he’ll be outed. In the end the decision to out himself is an easy one: Evan deserves more than to be someone’s dirty secret. The reaction of the television network he’s contracted to isn’t what Wes expects, and the timing of his big reveal is cruelly taken from him, perpetrated by someone he’d never suspected.
You’d think that would be enough plot for a story, but, wait, there’s more. There’s also Evan’s less-than-likeable soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. As well, something strange is happening with the owners of the horses Evan trains, security at his farm is threatened, and Evan himself comes under investigation by the racing authorities. All the plot elements weave in and around each other, skilfully linking the world of horse racing with the world of acting until they come together in a series of (figurative) explosions that kept me turning the pages because I had to find out who was responsible for what. The clues were there, but so were some red herrings.
The world of horse racing is skilfully drawn, showing the devotion and dedication of those working with the horses, as well as promoting a need for training facilities to buy shares in ice machine companies or medicinal cold-pack manufacturers. The only thing that made me question the reality of the world is that someone other than a jockey unsaddled a horse after a race. That might be an American thing: in Australia, the jockey is the only person to handle his riding equipment from weigh-in before the race to weigh-in after the race.
EM Lynley is a solid writer. I’ve yet to read something from her that isn’t eminently readable and enjoyable. Out of the Gate is another good one. Four stars.
I've been on holiday and out of phone/internet contact so I haven't seen any reviews for Ordinary People until today. I haven't unpacked or anything yet, but I'm online. What does that tell you about my priorities?
Sandra @ my Fiction Nook wrote a lovely review. I'm so glad she got the humour in the story. She said it was 'cute and snarky fun' and had her 'giggling more often than not'. She got it that the romance had to stay a slow burn because of James's job and his connection to Vinnie's case. Check out her complete review at the link above.
Other reviews float words like 'quirky', 'adorable', 'sweetly eccentric'. Find them on Goodreads.
I've also been on holiday. Aboard ship there's no phone connection, pay-per-minute internet, and too many things to do. We sailed from Brisbane up the Queensland coast to Airlie Beach, Yorkeys Knob and Port Douglas, and saw some fantastic things.
Now I need to sleep for a few hours before getting back to real life.
I'll post more photos below.
There are a lot of books out there I don't take the time to review. To start with, I won't leave a public review that's less than three stars. If I see promise in the story and writing, but there are things that would make the review painful to write and/or read, I contact the author direct and hope I don't upset them too much.
There are some books though that have something that makes me write a review and post it straight away.
I read Bone Rider by J. Fally a few weeks ago. I knew immediately I was going to write a review and that I'd be giving it five stars, but I wanted to think about it first. Then I wanted to read the book again. Why would I need to read a book twice to write a review? In this case, the answer is simple - movies.
Bone Rider is a classic tale of alien-crash-landing-on-earth-and-inhabiting-human-body. The US army reacts predictably--anything you don't understand, destroy--although there's a surprising turn in that plot arc.
In fact, there are surprising turns in the main plot as well as all the sub-plots. It's a serious story, with the alien take-over of the human written in a frighteningly believable way. But then again, it's not that serious.
There's Riley Cooper, on the run from his Russian assassin boyfriend, Misha. There's the alien, System Six, an AI armour system who has to learn about an entirely new world and culture. There's Misha, who is searching for Riley, and his Mob-boss father, who wants Misha to marry and take over the company. And, of course, there's the army, fumbling around in the dark and making decisions based on only what they would do--showing they have no idea how to imagine someone making different decisions.
It sounds like a farce, doesn't it? In some ways it is. There's a lot of humour in the story. There are a lot of movies as well, all of them very cleverly woven into the story so you read a section and then... hang on, was that Wolverine? The Die Hard series is an obvious pick. There's a Die Hard movie marathon at the beginning that went a long way to shaping who System Six would become--he names himself McClane. Alien is another one that's pretty obvious, and I loved McClane's reaction to that one. I counted about seven movies ranging from those being named to obscure references you'd only pick up if you'd seen the movie and remembered it. I'm sure there are others, but I'm not a huge movie watcher so missed them. I had the best time during my second reading, looking for the movie references. The movies ranged from old westerns to classic SF to romantic comedies. I'd love to hear from people who've also read the book to see how many movies they found.
The book wasn't all humour though. It provided a very serious reflection of the lack of compassion and acceptance in our society. It showed a very strong picture of rigid thinking and bombasity. This inflexible thinking was shown from a number of different perspectives--from family, from society, from authority--and each one was done believably and, sometimes, heart-wrenchingly.
And, of course, there was true love. Even that had a number of twists. From the beginning you know it's going to be a romance so you're looking for the two people. One early character looks like a possibility (I'll be he gets his own story at some stage), then what you think is a couple, perhaps isn't. I'll stop there because I don't want to give spoilers, but you should read it to see how it all develops.
Definitely a five star read. J. Fally is also added to my list of authors to read.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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