Unspoken by J. A. Garland

UNSPOKEN
Unspoken by J. A. Garland
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (121 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Paranormal Bounty Hunter Myka Quinn has left her failed attempt at wolf pack life behind. She’s focused on providing for her brother and staying out of werewolf territory. When she’s framed for a witch’s murder, she must accept help from a very unlikely source, or watch the lives of those she loves rip apart.

Myka’s life is about to get a whole lot more complicated.

Myka is a smart, tough heroine, but she makes it very hard to like her. She is brash and intentionally pushes people away. Her painful past makes it easy to understand why she is so reluctant to get close to people, particularly men. However, she continues to act this way even after Ari proves he has no intention of abandoning her or forcing her do something she’s not comfortable with. She is so used to protecting her emotions that I think she forgets that her actions hurt others.

Ari is a good match for Myka and he demonstrates incredible patience in putting up with her rash actions. He is there when she needs him, but he always gives her the freedom to choose her own path. Ari and Myka definitely have a strong physical attraction, but I do wish there had been more interaction between the two. Ari and Myka don’t spend much time together, and when they are together, Ari is usually getting Myka out of trouble. When they do have some downtime, Myka squanders it by pushing him away. Their antagonistic interactions made it hard for me to believe they had truly fallen in love in such a short time.

The pacing of Unspoken is very well done. The last part of the tale is particularly intense as Myka learns more about her past and the reason she’s been framed for the witch’s murder. The ruthlessness of the villains in the story is chilling. I was on the edge of my seat wondering how Myka and Ari could ever win against such incredible odds. However, Ms. Garland threw in a twist that evened the playing field considerably and changes Myka’s life forever.

I enjoyed reading Unspoken. I recommend it to anyone looking for a fast paced paranormal with a strong, capable heroine.

King Arthur’s Last Knight by D.P. Hewitt

KING
King Arthur’s Last Knight by D.P. Hewitt
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (45 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jim Dunn was comfortably settled into the autumn of his life, with his wife Abby. Or so he thought, until the day Jill Francent hired him to build a library in her Victorian fixer-upper. By the time he’d finished building the bookshelves and helping her with miscellaneous home repairs, he’d fallen head-over-heels in love.

Unfortunately for Jim, he believed in old-fashioned notions of fidelity, loyalty, and honor. And when he finally came to terms with the situation, fate pulled the rug out from under his feet.

Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship has faced temptation at some point. Whether it’s better to ignore it or to face it directly remains to be seen, but either way Jim can’t forget that it exists.

Jim’s character development was superb. His honorable intentions were etched into every single scene, If anything, they grew stronger as he became more attached to his new friend. Seeing him wrestle with his crush on Jill only made me like him more because of how determined he was to stick to what he believed was the only moral response to those feelings.

The friendship between Jim and Jill was wonderful. My favorite scenes were the ones where he puttered around her house fixing things while she told him stories about the life she led before she moved to town. There was so much warmth and kindness in their conversations that I couldn’t stop reading. It felt like I was sitting in a quiet corner of Jill’s house watching everything unfold instead of reading a tale about two fictional characters.

What really made me fall in love with this book, though, was how it ended. It was an absolutely perfect fit for the tone and themes that had been established earlier. As I approached the final pages, I wanted to know what happened while at the same time also dreading the reality of saying goodbye to characters I’d come to care about so much.

King Arthur’s Last Knight is the best story I’ve read so far in 2015. It’s a must-read!

Almira and the Backward Family by Eugenio Negro

AMIRA
Almira and the Backward Family by Eugenio Negro
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (52 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

During the grinding struggle of gold rush-era California, a nine year-old girl learns a secret that sets her on a path to revenge. Her imagination and lack of education drive her and her family to an unavoidable conclusion. Her story is a western without romance and without honor.

Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes wishes get granted.

Almira was such an eerie child. The scenes that involved her interacting with the world around here were full of offbeat moments. She was written to come across as the kind of girl that flies under the radar of most adults. This was the biggest reason why I was so fascinated by her, as it was hard at first to imagine why anyone would overlook what made her so special. The slow process of figuring out why this was so made it hard to put this tale down.

This story spent a great deal of time jumping from one narrator to the next. It was confusing at times to adjust to yet another character’s take on what was happening because their points of view were so different from one another. This technique would have worked better in a full-length novel that had the time to explore why everyone reacted to certain events the way they did. There simply wasn’t enough space to divulge that kind of information to the audience, and it did affect how I related to the characters as well as the transitions between their perspectives.

The descriptions of the shack Almira and her family lived in were incredibly vivid. I can’t imagine trying to do everything this girl’s mother had to do to keep her family fed and happy in such a tiny house and with three young children underfoot. Spending so much time showing what it’s like to living in such a cramped environment was a smart decision. It made the rest of the plot even more compelling.

I’d recommend Almira and the Backward Family to anyone in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

The Ex-Factor by Laura Greaves

EX
The Ex-Factor by Laura Greaves
Publisher: Destiny (Penguin)
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (285 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Quince

Talented, gorgeous and hopelessly in love, American movie star Mitchell Pyke and Brazilian supermodel Vida Torres were Hollywood’s most talked-about couple. They seemed destined for ‘happily ever after’ – until Vida left Mitchell for his best friend, and Mitchell publicly vowed he would never love again.

Sydney dog trainer Kitty Hayden has never even heard of Mitchell Pyke. Still reeling from the loss of her mother, Kitty is too busy cleaning up the various messes made by her indolent younger sister, Frankie, and trying to find a girlfriend for her terminally single best friend, Adam, to keep up with celebrity gossip.

When her work takes Kitty to Mitchell’s movie set, their worlds spectacularly collide. The chemistry between them is undeniable – and it’s not long before Kitty is turning her life upside down to be with her leading man.

But as Kitty quickly discovers, when someone as famous as Mitchell Pyke tells the world he’ll never love again, the world listens. And the vindictive Vida is never far away. With constant reminders that she’s merely a consolation prize, how can Kitty compete with such a tenacious adversary – especially when she starts to suspect that Mitchell isn’t over Vida after all?

Ever since I saw Notting Hill, I like books, movies, and TV shows featuring romances between a celebrity and a non-celebrity. For that particular reason, I decided to read The Ex-Factor. It turns out The Ex-Factor is not so much a romance novel, but chick lit; which wouldn’t be a problem if the blurb indicated that (it sounded very much like a romance) or if more emphasis had been put on the relationship between hero and heroine.

The Ex-Factor is an interesting story about finding yourself and making the peace with your past. In some parts the story was very predictable, and the romantic part is too superficial for my taste, but taking everything into account i.e. characters, development of the story, writing, I enjoyed reading it.

The story started strong, with a slap on the movie set where hero and heroine met and in no time heroine was moving from Australia to the USA. Wow, talk about fast love. But what I missed from this fast love is how and why they fell in love. I didn’t feel the connection between Mitchell and Kitty. I think that a few more scenes and more dialogue between the two of them and the story would be perfect.

Speaking of Mitchell, he’s somewhere in the back of the story and not fully developed. I couldn’t say that he is the main character. The author did much better characterization of Kitty’s best friend Adam and her sister Frances; they are such great secondary characters. Also Kitty, oh Kitty, she is sweet and strong, and life has thrown her some serious punches. Once she got rid of the ghosts from the past she was able to live and love again. I was so happy that everything turned out just fine for her.

Readers who like chick lit that focuses more on a heroine’s trials and not so much on the romance should give this one a try.

The Colossus by Ranjini Iyer

THE
The Colossus by Ranjini Iyer
Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (246 Pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

A diffident catering company owner, Max Rosen, learns of the existence of a coded research document authored by her late scientist father. This research is linked to health pills that were unearthed from the site of the Indus Valley Civilization in ancient India. The pills were once the mainstay of German pharmaceutical giant Berliner that Max’s grandfather worked for. And these pills were used in horrific Nazi era medical experiments.

When Max learns that the pills and the disturbing secret they hold may be the reason why her father may not have committed suicide as she has always believed, she embarks upon a whirlwind adventure to decode her father’s research and find his killers.

In a thrilling ride that takes her and Julian McIntosh, a history professor, across the world, she must keep her wits about her or face dire consequences at the hands of Berliner and other unknown forces, who will stop at nothing to keep the research from coming out. Even as she struggles with her feelings for Julian, Max must brace herself for startling discoveries— her father’s research may well reveal a frightening truth connecting Berliner, her grandfather, and perchance, all mankind. And the shocking reality about her father’s death is one she may never be able to face.

Maxine Rosen is still suffering from her father’s alcoholism and suicide. She just doesn’t understand what went so terribly wrong in his life. But when she comes across her father’s coded research and she discovers that some very determined people are after her and her family, she decides that she really needs to find out the truth about both her father and her grandfather.

I like Max. She works as a caterer in a rather sheltered and limited world. All of a sudden she’s traveling, dodging assassins, and trying to solve the mystery of why everyone is after her father’s research. She meets Julian McIntosh, a professor who might be able to help her unravel things, but she isn’t sure why he is so eager to help. The dynamics between Max and Julian are complex and while Max is attracted to him, she doesn’t see at all why he should be attracted to her.

Max is scared, and with good reason, and she waffles between thinking she should just forget the entire thing and being righteously indignant that a big German pharmaceutical company should be able to intimidate her. Are they the ones who killed her father? I liked the way Max develops during the story. She is obviously in a world she’s never even thought about and it would be easy to retreat. She frequently confuses Julian by her actions, but as she gets more and more information she becomes stronger and more determined.

The plot is complex and there is a lot of information about the workings of diseases and various kinds of viruses which I found both fascinating and frighteningly believable. The pacing is fast and there are twists and turns at every corner. I never guessed the solution until it unfolded at the end.

Mystery lovers are sure to enjoy traveling with Max as she and Julian try to discover the truth of what happened in the Indus Valley so many years ago.

Witches’ Waves by Teresa Noelle Roberts

WITCHES
Witches’ Waves by Teresa Noelle Roberts
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (280 pages)
Other: F/M/M, Ménage, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lisianthus

“The ocean is on their side. But the fight is on land and it’s about to get dirty.”

“Duals and Donovans: The Different, Book 4″

Long held captive as the Agency s secret weapon a blind witch with visions Meaghan has come to a line she refuses to cross. Rather than betray the infant child of five bloods to the Agency s scientists, she chooses death. Except when she throws herself into the ocean, she doesn t die. Her repressed water magic comes to life.

When the sodden, delirious witch drifts into Kyle s arms, his otter dual instincts tell him to get her to the Donovans as fast as possible. Even though one particular surfer-dude Donovan broke his heart.

Declan Donovan continually kicks himself for pushing Kyle away, but his touchy combination of water, earth and lightning magic is too volatile, and Kyle wanted more than Deck was ready to give.

When they come together to help Meaghan control her new magic, it leads the Agency straight to the child of five bloods. They ll have to dive head-first into total trust in their magics, in themselves and in each other to save the child and stop the Agency once and for all.

Meaghan knows she’s dying, but she won’t let an innocent child die if she can save her. I loved reading a story with a blind heroine and I felt for her as prepared to die sooner to save the child. I immediately fell in love Kyle when he rescued her, even though I admit I had a bit of a learning curve about Otterkin and what all that meant. I think the author does a decent job handling it for any readers like me, who pick up the fourth book in a series and try it out.

He takes her to his former lover Declan Donovan, a witch that is uniquely suited to help Meaghan learn her new water magic, but he also needs Kyle and Meaghan to reassure him that he won’t blow up the world in the process.

There is a lot of action as they race to keep the child safe from the Agency, and while I’m sure reading the past books would have helped with the confusion I felt about a few things Agency related, I was still able to follow along and get swept up in the action.

This is a relationship where they all love each other equally and the scenes between just Kyle and Declan were equally as hot as when all three of them came together. I really enjoyed their relationship and while it took a bit of a backseat to the action, it was still very sexy and enjoyable.

April Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Chaysing Destiny by Jalpa Williby

DESTINY
Chaysing Destiny by Jalpa Williby
Chaysing Trilogy Book 3
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Will you find your destiny? Or will destiny find you? Lesson One: Follow your instincts. Lesson Two: Trust no one. Lesson Three: Don’t hesitate. Truth is nothing but lies. Light is overshadowed by darkness. Hope is replaced by despair. Innocence is lost. Only anger and bitterness remain. Don’t miss this final installment as destiny’s path is ultimately unraveled in Chaysing Destiny.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

April Erotic Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Piercer’s Game by Sean Michael

GAME
The Piercer’s Game by Sean Michael
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (117 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play, Fetish (piercings)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Luke sees a lot in his job as a piercer, but for all that, he’s shy and lonely. Can live-in-the-moment Temple open his eyes to life’s pleasures?

Luke’s a piercer and owns a successful business with his tattooing partner. Despite his job and his inked and pierced appearance, Luke is actually quite shy and lonely, not to mention inexperienced. An event from his past has left him unable to open up completely to anyone and it’s easier for him to just keep to himself.

Temple is a cancer survivor, coming up on five years cancer free. He’s travelling across North America on the back of his motorcycle, just going where the wind blows him. Ever since first being diagnosed, he turned into a true believer of living in the moment.

When Temple first turns up at Luke’s shop, Temple is immediately drawn to the quiet piercer. First he’s going to have to convince Luke that there’s something between them…then he’s going to have to work his way past Luke’s defences.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

April Non-Erotic Book of the Month Poll Winners – A Tie! April Showers by Holly Jacobs and Wings of Destruction by Victoria Zagar

HOWERS
April Showers by Holly Jacobs
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (379 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Rainbows don’t come without rain

The world you want isn’t always how the world is. Former marine Sebastian Bennington discovers that upon his return to Valley Ridge for a friend’s wedding. Even his grandfather’s health isn’t what he’s expecting. Nor is the interference from his grandfather’s young business partner, Lily Paul.

Even more aggravating, Lily seems to know everything about Sebastian, thanks to his grandfather. But Sebastian can’t get her to open up about anything. Is she using all that merry sunshine to hide something deeper and darker? He’s determined to find out, as long as their crazy attraction for each other doesn’t get in the way….

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

And…

WINGS
Wings of Destruction by Victoria Zagar
Publisher: Less Than Three Press LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (157 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Society has collapsed, driven to madness after a great economic crash. Gangs roam the streets, taking any man, woman or child without a Mate for their own.

Martin is on the brink of despair, an asexual man who cannot keep a Mate. Facing a life he cannot bear, he heads to Spire Rock to end it. But when he reaches it, he encounters Anael, an angel sent to assess the world for destruction—and the first to accept Martin exactly as he is.

Teaming up with former gang concubine Sarah, they journey to the Tower of Elysius to end the world. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and some angels have plans of their own…

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Square Affair by Timmothy J. Holt

AWQUEARE
Square Affair by Timmothy J. Holt
Publisher: Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (244 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

In the small Midwestern town of Dewers, among the turmoil of the 1960s, the conversations of five men leads to sexual exploration, which takes them and the town on a journey through good and evil that will change the entire community and confirm the town’s resolve to survive.

Arrested on charges of public indecency for anonymous sex in the courthouse restroom, five men reveal complex, unknown, and differing motivations for their actions. As they face not only criminal prosecution, but also the tribunal of Dewers, two questions are on their minds: Who am I, and is anyone out there like me?

Clara May and Frieda, guardians of Dewers gossip, narrate Square Affair, where the reader becomes a citizen of Dewers: walking the square, in a bar drinking, trick-or-treating, in a store buying a hat, or in a car gossiping.

Sometimes sleepy little towns aren’t as sleepy as you might think. Take Dewers, IL, for example. On the outside, it looks like your typical little Midwestern hamlet, but once you step inside, dig around for a bit, you’re bound to uncover things you’d never expected. Or, you could just ask Clara May and Frieda. Nothing happens in Dewers that the two of them aren’t privy to.

Square Affair was a change of pace for me. While I love historical novels, when I reach for one, it’s usually not set in the recent past. Set in the 1960’s amidst all the changes sweeping through our country, I got a good look into the way people thought and acted in a time when I wasn’t even alive. Having grown up in the 1980’s, the idea that someone might be homosexual (and, in turn, engaging in a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex) wasn’t ever a surprise or revelation to me. However, in the 1960’s, life was much different.

The five men involved in the ‘Affair’ as the locals called it, covered all the bases. Happily married, unhappy in their relationship, single, you name it. One knew he was gay even before the Affair, while others weren’t even sure why they’d indulged by the time the book ended. It was very realistic in its portrayal of the townspeople, both those directly involved and those who weren’t. Square Affair also gripped me in a way that most things don’t. I will admit it – I was angry during so much of this book. These men were lonely, confused, suffering, and yet, all they earned was ridicule and scorn and hatred. It was difficult to continually remind myself that this was a different time in our country.

The one issue I did have with the novel was that some of the dialogue was stilted, predictable even. Although, once you got into the story, you noticed it less and less because the characters took over. Told in revolving points of view that include the men involved in the affair, their wives, and a few townspeople, it is mostly directed by town gossip queen, Clara May. Before each new point of view is introduced, you got a bit of insight from Clara May and her pal, Frieda. I found this an interesting and different way of prefacing each chapter and gave you a little insider information on each player before you ‘met’ them.

Square Affair is a thought-provoking look not just into our past, but into all that small town living is. For someone who wasn’t alive during the time period, it was an eye-opening read.