Sticks and Stones

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Title and Link: Sticks & Stones
Author: Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban
Publisher URL: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Action/Adventure
Length: Novel (322 pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

 

 

 

THE BLURB

 Six months after nearly losing their lives to a serial killer in New York City, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are suffering through something almost as frightening: the monotony of desk duty. When they’re ordered to take a vacation for the good of everyone’s sanity, Ty bites the bullet and takes Zane home with him to West Virginia, hoping the peace and quiet of the mountains will give them the chance to explore the explosive attraction they’ve so far been unable to reconcile with their professional partnership.

 Ty and Zane, along with Ty’s father and brother, head up into the Appalachian mountains for a nice, relaxing hike deep into the woods… where no one will hear them scream. They find themselves facing danger from all directions: unpredictable weather, the unrelenting mountains, wild animals, fellow hikers with nothing to lose, and the most terrifying challenge of all. Each other.
 

THE REVIEW

FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back in a new adventure, one year and 4 months after the release of Cut & Run reviewed here.  The second book in the series, Sticks & Stones, is a delight from beginning to end with vividly drawn characters, more action and adventure than fans could ever want, hair raising excitement and danger, and emotional highs and lows as the protagonists try to discover what they mean to each other and how to make their dual relationship work.

Sticks & Stones opens with a training exercise in typical Ty & Zane style. They were spending a few weeks in D.C. after enduring 5 months of separation since the end of the Tri State serial killer case. Lots of action and one upmanship between the two guys who are still trying to outdo each other months after their last case together.

Ty is still hot headed and Zane is a little calmer after being close to death and seeing his partner almost killed by a crazed murderer.  Ty doesn’t want to admit his feelings for Zane even though he realizes they are drifting apart.  He  doesn’t know how to fix the problem until an opportunity presents itself when Assistant Director Burns requested that they take some time off to regroup because he was concerned about their ability to work together. In addition, both of them had failed their mental evaluations, which meant they could not be cleared for field work. Burns’ news was was a major blow, but realizing that Zane hadn’t had any time to make plans to spend his unexpected time off, Ty invited him to stay with his family in the mountains of West Virginia. Zane was still under a lot of stress and had not recovered fully from their last case, and although he, too, recognized that things were not right with Ty, he didn’t know what to do to make them better so that they could be partners again, professionally and personally.

This visit turned out to be way too dangerous for both of them, physically and emotionally, but before they could get any kind of resolution to their personal issues they had to go through the fire again.

Ty’s family was very different from what I pictured and I didn’t expect to like most of them as much as I did, especially Deuce, Ty’s brother, who was a standout. Probably the most complex and flawed character was Ty’s father Earl, a difficult character to like. During the week they spent together he was demanding, overbearing, and imposed his will on Ty - I’m not sure I will like him any better if he’s in future books unless he undergoes a personality transplant. The other exceptional character was Mara, Ty’s mother, who kept everyone sane and was soft until she had to be tough in order to save her family. Last, there was Ty’s crazy grandfather Chester who lived in his own world and always had his shovel close by in case of an attack. :-D

Ty, Zane, Deuce and Earl go on a planned hike in the Appalachian mountains and that’s where everything fell apart. After a couple of days of backbreaking trekking they are put in harm’s way because Earl refused to acknowledge the danger they faced, and the need to act in a manner that would protect the lives and safety of everyone, until they ran into a brick wall - vicious armed men who would kill at the drop of a hat, in a place “where no one will hear them scream.”

Meeting Earl illustrated why Ty was almost an emotional cripple, because it was clear that he looked up to this man whose his life was all about duty, who expected blind and unquestioning obedience from his sons.What was amazing was that Ty was another person when his father was around and almost unrecognizable. The confident, intelligent person from Cut & Run disappeared and he became withdrawn, almost subservient to his father, never argued with him even when he knew his judgment was flawed.  Why am I stressing Ty’s relationship with his father? Because this dynamic between father and son was a critical element in Sticks & Stones and almost ended Zane’s and Ty’s partnership forever. Once again one of the protagonists is critically injured and I wonder how sustainable this hurt/comfort strategy will be over a series that runs for years, even though they are FBI agents and it is expected that they will be placed in dangerous situations in each upcoming book.

What of the relationship between Ty & Zane? That was the best part of this book as their emotions ran very high and a lot of what was left unsaid in Cut & Run was now out in the open like a wound that never healed. I think this comment defined their relationship -

“As partners they could read each other’s minds, but as lovers – they barely knew each other at all”

There were many firsts as the guys try to understand and unravel their emotions. Has their relationship matured? The answer to that question would be a resounding ‘yes,’ and the vulnerability that was seldom, if ever, seen in Cut & Run, is quite evident in Sticks & Stones. Yes, there is wonderful sex between them in case you were wondering.  :-D

Sticks & Stones is a revelation and a game changer between two characters who had gone through so much but found that there was still a long way to go. This book is a great deal about Ty’s emotional journey –  being open and admitting his feelings for Zane who also experienced his own epiphany. These two men who were bisexual in Cut & Run had a lot of personal baggage to resolve as well as job related secrets that Ty never shared with Zane.  What of Ty and Earl?  This is what Ty tried to tell himself in order not to show his deep anguish at the way his father treated him: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” until he found out how wrong he was. Your heart will break for Ty as you gain an understanding of this very complex character and why he is the way he is, as well as the challenges he faced in his life. His relationship with Burns is revealed as well as Burns’ ties to his family. What was remarkable about this story was the emotional depths of the characters, especially Ty who didn’t want to admit his tender feelings for Zane even though he had brought him home “to meet the family.”

It’s my opinion that Sticks & Stones is more than a wonderful follow up to Cut & Run - it’s better! This story is a study of human nature as the two characters’ layers are revealed and their motivations explained, and I think that readers will get a real sense of who they are at this point in their relationship. You will love the ending! Highly recommended. Two thumbs up!

Sticks & Stones is not a standalone book and will be released by Dreamspinner Press on January 25th.

57 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones

  1. simsala

    Thank you for the great review!
    I had difficulties with “Cut&Run”and I hope there are less with “Sticks&Stones”.Sounds a bit like Josh Lanyons “Dangerous Ground” Am I wrong?
    I don`t mind.I`m looking forward to the 25th.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Simsala
      I’m not sure what aspects of Cut & Run you had difficulties with so I can’t answer your question. If you want to elaborate I will try to answer without giving away any spoilers.
      *
      Now that you mention it, there are a few similarities to DG – the isolation, camping, the criminals who drop by – but other than that this story is totally different.
      *
      I think you will like it because there’s a lot of scenes with the family and you’ll be surprised at the emotions between Ty and Zane.

      1. simsala

        Hi wave,
        that`s so nice!
        By the time I´ve read the book I had language/comprehension poblems with it.(No easy read) You can`t help me with that.A translation to german language would be VERY nice……..*sigh*.
        I´ll try it again soon. Learning by doing!

        1. Wave Post author

          Simsala
          Now I understand. :-D Well I can’t help yuou with the German translation. You’ll have to talk to Christian who is also German.
          *
          You might want to ask Madeleine and Abigail to have their publisher do a German translation of the story. Judging by the many bloggers who access this site from Germany I would think that there’s a large audience for M/M books there.

          1. simsala

            Oh yes!
            Please,please Christian- translate the book(s!)for us poor Germans.
            I´m sure he´ll be overjoyed!!..he,he,he!
            A few published M/Mromances,no e-books.It`s a desert here!

  2. LadyM

    I’m so glad! I always fret the sequel will diminish my enjoyment of the original book and I’m glad you think it’s a great follow up to Cut & Run because I really, really liked the guys there. I am apprehensive though whenever one of the characters goes through the serious personality change, but I have faith the authors made it believable. I read the excerpt with Ty’s grandfather and it was hilarious. I can’t wait, I can’t…

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi LadyM
      The follow-up is better than the first book IMO. There’s no personality change – Ty had to deal with the issues he had with his father and the effect that he had had on him for a long time. You will really love the emotion in S & S and the plot which I think is wonderful.

      *
      Chester, Ty’s grandfather, is a wonderful character and I hope he will be back in future books as the series evolves.

  3. thelastaerie

    Thanks for the review, Wave! This is one I will not miss. I am glad (and relieved) to hear you say that it’s better than the first one. While I loved it, I thought “Cut and Run” was a slow burner, now that the two characters have been established, I do think I will enjoy the sequel more.

    1. Wave Post author

      Eve
      I think that Sticks & Stones will please fans of Cut & Run and go one better. This time there’s no ambiguity about their feelings for each other and there’s lots of sex – not the pale variety in C & R. There are also no girl cooties in S & S thankfully :)

      *
      The best part of the story I thought was the emotion as well as the plot. Let me know what you think after you read the book. As you know, I value your opinion a lot and not only about Adrien and Jake. :)
      *
      Madeleine and Abigail talk a lot more about the characters in their interview which is also posted on the site today.

  4. Lily

    Thanks for the great review, Wave. :)
    *
    I loved Cut & Run and can’t wait to read this one. Especially if you say it’s even better. Yay!!

    1. Wave Post author

      Lily
      For anyone who is a fan of Cut & Run this book gives the reader a lot of answers to questions about where the relationship was going. The action was terrific as usual, and I don’t mean just under the sheets. :)

    1. Wave Post author

      Lori
      You won’t regret buying this book. I’m glad you realize that this is not a standalone and you must read Cut & Run first.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Abigail

      Thanks for dropping by.

      *
      >>Score<<
      I hope this means that you like the review! :-D It was my pleasure. I really tried hard not to include any spoilers and I hope you think I succeeded.
      *
      I really like Deuce who I think was the best new character outside of Chester. :-D

    1. Wave Post author

      Madeleine
      I do like Sticks & Stones …. a lot. :-D
      *
      When a book is not only 5 stars for me but a DIK (Desert Island Keeper) it means that I anticipate reading it again and again. I have already read my favourite parts twice since I wrote the review. :-D

  5. Aunt Lynn

    OMG, I’m freakin’ hyperventilatin’ here. It is no secret the C&R is one of my favorite books, period, and I’ve been waiting for this follow-up FOREVER. Now to find it’s even better?!? Give me a paper bag to breathe in!! Just re-read C&R a few weeks ago in prep for this. I’m not sure I can wait until the 25th, it’s all too much! *vapors*
     
    :)
     
    Seriously? Thanks for the fab review. Seriously? Can’t wait.

    1. Wave Post author

      I think Lynn needs mouth to mouth. :-D
      *
      Next week will come soon enough Lynn – just think – I could have posted this review a week ago and you would have killed me because the wait time would have been so much longer. :-D The wait is worth it.

      1. Aunt Lynn

        Hmmmmm…. Mouth to mouth. And both of our boys are bi? The possibilities… ;)
         

        just think – I could have posted this review a week ago and you would have killed me because the wait time would have been so much longer.

        You are devious, Wave.

        1. Wave Post author

          >>Mouth to mouth. And both of our boys are bi? The possibilities…<<
          *
          Down girl. They are no longer bi I don’t think. There’s real sex in this book not the paltry stuff that passed for it in C & R.
          *
          I DIDN’T post it a week ago because I was thinking of my continuing good health. :-D

  6. wren

    Nice review, wave. I loved Cut and Run and so I am looking forward to this! I’m glad I read your review because this story line is not one I would have expected!

    1. Wave Post author

      Wren
      This story is much different from Cut & Run even though there is the obligatory danger/injury from criminals. Sticks & Stones is more about Ty’s and Zane’s relationship – remember he takes Zane home to meet his family. When is that not a serious statement?
      *
      You should check out Madeleine’s and Abigail’s interview where they talk more about what’s behind the story.

  7. nichem

    Great review, Wave!
    *
    I loved Cut and Run, so have really been looking forward to Sticks and Stones. So excited to see that you liked this sequel even more than Cut and Run– now I really can’t wait!
    *
    *off to re-read Cut and Run before Monday*

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Nichem
      I so loved this story. Ty and Zane are much more open in Sticks & Stones and the readers will get to know them and what makes them tick.
      *
      There’s a third book on the way as well, Fish & Chips . :-D

  8. Phalene

    I enjoyed the story of Cut and Run but hated (HATED) the headhopping narration. Is this sequel full of headhopping?

    1. Madeleine

      Hi Phalene,
      Abigail and I have worked very hard on refining our writing, and although we both still enjoy third person omniscient storytelling, Sticks & Stones in written in third person limited POV in sections. So no head-hopping. I’m still afraid, personally, that it loses some of the richness of the characters, but by Wave’s review, I suppose I shouldn’t worry too much.

  9. Wave Post author

    Phalene
    I commented about the head hopping in my review of Cut & Run and to be truthful I didn’t notice it this time. Most readers hate third person omniscient POV – just last week I reviewed a book where the author used this technique and it was very confusing.

  10. Sherry F (from the Midwest)

    Am looking forward to this sequel; hugely enjoyed the first one!

    Great review!

  11. Wave Post author

    Hi Sherry F
    Thank you for the nice words on the review. :)
    *
    Madeleine and Abigail did a great job on S & S so you won’t be disappointed.

  12. TJ

    Hi Wave,
    Great review and interview with Madeleine and Abigail. This is definitely on my list. I loved Cut & Run, and I’m glad there’s more stories to come. S&S sounds really good.

  13. Wave Post author

    Hi TJ
    It’s seldom that I have looked forward to a sequel or a series as much as I have for Sticks & Stones, and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s much better than Cut & Run, which I didn’t think was possible.
    *
    I hope you enjoy the book and please come back and let me know after you read it.

  14. feliz

    I’ve been waiting for this for so long….it’s so mean that it will be released on a Monday. Poor working me is going to stumble around at the office in a daze – according to the review I’m going to be reading when I should REALLY sleep ;-)
    *
    Can’t hardly wait till Monday!

    1. Wave Post author

      Feliz
      You have just a little over a day to wait since you live in Germany and therefore are 6 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone. :) You can always read in your lunch hour.

  15. jw

    No offense to people who loved Cut & Run, but I have some problems with it which make me wonder if I should go on to book 2. I’m only half way thru it (bought it to get up to speed after the great review for Sticks & Stones) and the constant bickering – especially all the thinking & rehashing in their heads – is getting on my nerves. I like a good hate-turned-to-love-story but this seems excessive. They just seem to be going over the same ground again & again. Does it turn around at some point? Or does it continue into book 2? I’m hoping there’s a great payoff coming in the second half that will make me want to continue with this series.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi JW
      I found Sticks & Stones to be completely different from Cut & Run in terms of the guys’ relationship and there was minimal, if any, bickering in the sense of C & R between Ty and Zane. Of course it’s only my opnion but I thought S & S was a great improvement on the first book, the protagonists seem to have exhausted all the bickering, and the authors avoided the head hopping that made me want to tear my hair out in C & R.

      *
      Sure there is one upmanship in this book but it’s very good natured, and Ty’s difficulties are with someone completely different.

      *
      The relationship between Ty and Zane seems to have jelled in this book. I can’t say any more without giving out spoilers but IMO I think you will like S & S.

  16. Ingrid

    I absolutely loved it! I like the way it followed up to C&R.
    And as I was hoping this was more about Ty and Zane then what actually happened on the mountain.

  17. patty

    Ok, I usually just lurk and being 9 days after the review I don’t know if you’ll even see this wave, but I wanted to say thank-you. When I read this review I decided to give Cut & Run another chance. Don’t know why Ty & Zane didn’t grab me, but I started over, and fell in love with them. Bought S & S loved it. Now looking forward to the next installment. Thanks. Wouldn’t have done that without the great review.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Patty
      Thank you.
      *
      It took me several months to read Cut & Run because I don’t like to read books that are over 200 pages and this one was almost 400. However, once I started I couldn’t put it down. I’m so glad that my review made you decide to give the book another chance, and come out of lurkdom. :-D
      *
      I think that S & S is a superior book and the problem I had with C & R (headhopping) was not apparent in this one. I can’t wait for Fish & Chips which seems very funny.

      *
      I hope you’ll come out of lurkdom frequently now that you’ve got your sea legs. :-D

  18. LadyM

    I’ve read the book and loved it. I liked the new characters, even Earl (although I wanted to punch him more than once). They seemed, I don’t know, isolated in Cut & Run, although they were working on the case. It was great seeing more serious interaction with other people here. It was touching to see how they cared and took care of each other even when they didn’t want to admit what they were feeling. I loved this sequel and I can’t wait for Fish & Chips (after reading the excerpt I have some idea why the authors chose this title and I find it hilarious already XD).

  19. Wave Post author

    Hi LadyM
    I’m so pleased you liked the same things I did about S & S. The relationship was so much deeper between Ty and Zane here and the fact that they were in love with each other was apparent to everyone (except to Earl of course). Initially I liked Earl but after what he said to Ty I couldn’t relate to him any more.
    *
    Fish and Chips can’t come soon enough! :-D

  20. Lisa G

    I also loved Cut & Run and re-read it (again!) in anticipation of Sticks & Stones. What a great follow-up – loved how different the setting and premise was from C&R. Zane & Ty belong together even with all their emotional baggage – I love what is not said between them as much as what they do say. I’m glad we will see more of Deuce as well. I hope F&C comes out soon – can’t get enough of these two.

  21. Wave Post author

    Lisa
    >>I love what is not said between them as much as what they do say. I’m glad we will see more of Deuce as well. I hope F&C comes out soon – can’t get enough of these two.<<
    *
    I think that the authors excelled in this book which is very emotional on all levels. Sure the excitement about the criminals gave the book an edge but I just wanted to read about Ty and Zane.

    *
    It’s too bad that Deuce won’t ever have an M/M story but them’s the breaks. At least he’ll be appearing in other books.

    1. Lisa G

      Yes this is true – but I’m thinking it is more realistic that both brothers are not gay or bi. I absolutely love that Deuce is supportive of Ty’s relationship with Zane and how he can see what’s between them eventhough they aren’t ready to admit it yet.

  22. Wave Post author

    Lisa
    I do love Deuce and despite my pleading Madeleine and Abigail said ‘no’ to another gay son for Earl. Just imagine his reaction. :-D Oh well, at least he loves his brother and cares that he found someone.

      1. Wave Post author

        Hi Abigail
        >>if Earl had two gay sons, West Virginia would probably end up a crater….<<
        *
        and I would shove Earl in the crater. :-D

  23. Aunt Lynn

    Okay, I know I’m really late in getting to this long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite books — RL sucks sometimes and interferes with my pleasure reading, dammit! — but I spent last night and this morning consuming it (when I should have been doing other things, like working!). Oh. My. God. Loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. So many things that I adored about it — too many to name in the short time I have before I hit the sack.
     
    Regarding which book is “better,” I need to re-read S&S to say for sure. As previously mentioned, they are very different and both have their fantabulous aspects and niggles for me.
     
    I, too, am eager for F&C based on that little teaser at the end. Get hopping, ladies!

  24. Wave Post author

    Lynn
    I knew you would enjoy S & S because it’s such a terrific read. I think that the guys have really evolved in this one and it would be interesting to see how many changes are yet to come in F & C.

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