Fire & Spirit by David St. Leonard


Fire & Spirit by David St. Leonard
Publisher: One Bright Life
Genre: Paranormal Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Dive into a mesmerizing journey of self discovery with Fire & Spirit and follow the life of a young musician-to-be.

Join Dave as his plans to head off to university and begin a ‘normal’ adult life take a drastically different course than anticipated. Discovering his passion for music, it becomes the backdrop to events that are overshadowed by tragedy and inner turmoil. As his world fractures into parallel histories, he questions the balance between fate and free will.

In a symphony of choices, follow Dave as he seeks to find the harmony that defines his true self amidst echoes of what could have been.

Dave stumbles into being a musician, and quite the unexpected happens. He goes on a self-discovery journey, making tough decisions about his life.

This is a down-to-earth look that brings readers inside the mind of a young man experiencing changes and choices. He forms relationships that are tested. Themes of friendship, family, love, life choices, resiliency, and music are prominent is this story.

There is a touch of the paranormal to bring Dave’s adventure to a deeper level, making things more complex for him. The tale is moving and sure to inspire emotions and questions about one’s own life choices.

Soul Ryder by Nita Lapinski


Soul Ryder by Nita Lapinski
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Inspirational Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

“Am I dead?” the young girl, Leah asks. Addie, a Clairvoyant Medium struggling with her own horrific loss, is compassionately hesitant to reveal the truth.

Join Addie and her insightful dog, Roka as they work to untangle the unimaginable tragedy that has left Leah bewildered and confused. They must race against time and Addie’s own unforeseen challenges to guide Leah to a very important crossroad.

This book is an interesting look into the life of a clairvoyant medium. Addie gets visions of dead people, all the while dealing with her own pain, the loss of a child. Leah visits Addie often, trying to give her a message.

Addie experiences people on the other side of the veil, and it affects her deeply. She must figure out how to help Leah, but it is taking her toll on her.

Soul Ryder is a short and easy-to-read story. This paranormal tale unfolds quickly and tugs at the emotions. Hopefully the author will write more stories, giving readers an inside view into her protagonist’s gift and how she helps others.

The Day Before Tomorrow by Monique Britten

The Day Before Tomorrow by Monique Britten
Publisher: Tellwell Publishing
Genre: Historical Literary Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Juliette and George Morgan know all about Living the Good Life. As the town’s newest ‘it’ couple, they succeed in transforming the otherwise sleepy farming community of Rickshaw into a hotbed for musical talent and social enterprise. A poignant and beautifully layered tale, the Day Before Tomorrow is a portrayal of an era once removed, yet not forgotten – from the early to late seventies – with much of the story taking place within the Morgan family’s domestic locus and the community in which they live. Relationships become so intricately woven, adult and adolescent lines become blurred and an illicit connection between teacher and student builds into hidden, often disturbing scenes of love, secrets and human experience. When the Morgan’s future essentially falls down in mid-flight, the family is forced to cope with not only trauma, but coming of age and ultimately moving away from their safe haven of Rickshaw. An indictment of survival, shattered innocence, death, love and optimism, this tale is one that will transport your mind, speak to your heart and stay in both long after you have closed the cover.

This is a novel that will stay with me for a long time. A multi-generational novel of a family, their friends, and the effect illness and an illicit relationship had on them… not only in the time it happens but reaching through time. Things are linked in ways you might not expect when you open the book.

The story is told through vignettes, and, thankfully, the author is good about sharing what time we’re looking at in each segment.

The characters are well-drawn and three dimensional. You may love them and want to smack them at the same time. My favorite character was Juliette. I would have loved for her to be my best friend. And, her take on “the day before tomorrow” (the very best kind of day) resonates with me in so many ways.

There are so many layers and complexities that the story builds on and the ending is haunting. I highly recommend this book and am anxious to read more books by this author. Surprisingly enough, it appears this may be her debut novel – it’s so well-written I would have expected the author to be more experienced. Kudo for a job well done.

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One Christmas Morning by Rachel Greenlaw


One Christmas Morning by Rachel Greenlaw
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Holiday, Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Eva has spent the past three years burying herself in her work, trying to forget the heartbreaking events of the Christmas that ripped her world apart. This year, the last thing she wants is to attend her friend’s weekend-long Christmas party. But at her husband James’ insistence, here they are.

When Eva—overwhelmed by bittersweet memories—tries to sneak back to London in the middle of the night, she is visited by the ghost of her beloved grandmother. Gran tells Eva that if she doesn’t face her fears head-on and stop shutting out her loved ones, she risks losing them all forever.

When Eva wakes on Christmas morning, she finds herself living not her own life, but that of her hardworking assistant, Diana, whose overflowing inbox isn’t the only secret she’s been keeping. The next day, she wakes on Christmas morning again, this time in the body of her best friend’s little sister. As Eva lives the same day again and again through the perspectives of her friends, she is offered a glimpse into the lives of those she has been pushing away. With each Christmas Day comes a new lesson—and an insight into the secrets and struggles her loved ones have been hiding. To move forward, Eva must let go of the past. But is it too late to fix her future?

The protagonist, Eva, makes quite an impression with her shop. The setting is mostly on the wild moors of Cornwall. Eva is has a strong personality and pushes people around in her life for the sake of her obsession. She takes her friends and family for granted. She also has something painful in her past and a marriage on the rocks.

Eva and her husband James are invited to a Christmas party at the home of her friends, Hallie and Kian. When midnight hits, her grandmother’s ghost comes to see Eva with advice that is hard for Eva to hear. Eva will have to learn a lesson the hard way: When she wakes up on Christmas day, she literally is not herself but is in the body of her assistant Diana. What could she learn from this? Well, she wakes up again the next day, and it is Christmas again. This time, she occupies someone else’s body.

This is quite a clever story and has depth. A main theme is relationships, but there is more. As Eva sees other points of view, it affects her in interesting ways. Surprising things come to light in this delightful tale for the season. It is a good read, with suspense, fun while being meaningful, and is written well.

Rag Lady by Susie Black


Rag Lady by Susie Black
Holly Swimsuit Series, Book 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Holly Schlivnik dreams of being a writer, but fate has other plans. A family crisis throws her into an improbable situation and her life will never be the same. Determined to make her own luck when things don’t happen the way she plans, the irrepressible young woman takes a sledgehammer to the glass ceiling and shatters it to smithereens. The wise-cracking, irreverent transplanted Californian goes on a raucous, rollicking rollercoaster ride of hysterical adventures as a ladies’ apparel sales rep traveling in the deep South and finds herself along the way.

Change is inevitable.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored the many ways in which life can suddenly veer off into directions one never saw coming. For example, Holly’s college major had nothing at all to do with the sales position she eventually took at the company her father worked at, but she muddled through and eventually discovered all sorts of things about her new job that suited her nicely. This was one of many examples of how characters adjusted to new circumstances and found ways to thrive when nothing went the way they thought it would. They were all enriching for the plot and interesting to think about.

I struggled with the slow and sometimes uneven pacing of this book. The narrator went into plenty of detail about every twist and turn Holly faced while adjusting to her new job. This was necessary in some scenes, but in other ones it slowed the storyline down and made readers wait even longer for fresh developments than we already had waited. As much as I wanted to give this a higher rating, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so given my experience with it.

With that being said, I did appreciate how much effort the author put into describing such a wide variety of characters. The people Holly met were from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of them I liked immediately, while others needed some time to work their charms on me. It was interesting to see how my opinions of the latter evolved over time as I got to know them better and understand why they behaved in certain ways.

This was a prequel to the Holly Swimsuit series, but it worked perfectly well as a standalone story, too.

Rag Lady was a thought-provoking read.

The Housekeepers by Alex Hay


The Housekeepers by Alex Hay
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group UK
Genre: Historical, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Mrs. King is no ordinary housekeeper. Born into a world of con artists and thieves, she’s made herself respectable, running the grandest home in Mayfair. The place is packed with treasures, a glittering symbol of wealth and power, but dark secrets lurk in the shadows.

When Mrs. King is suddenly dismissed from her position, she recruits an eclectic group of women to join her in revenge: A black market queen out to settle her scores. An actress desperate for a magnificent part. A seamstress dreaming of a better life. And Mrs. King’s predecessor, with her own desire for vengeance.

Their plan? On the night of the house’s highly anticipated costume ball—set to be the most illustrious of the year—they will rob it of its every possession, right under the noses of the distinguished guests and their elusive heiress host. But there’s one thing Mrs. King wants even more than money: the truth. And she’ll run any risk to get it…

After all, one should never underestimate the women downstairs.

Mrs. King has worked in the most illustrious home in Mayfair since she was a teenager. Now the housekeeper, having worked her way up throughout her whole life, she is suddenly dismissed with no character and no references. Determined to take her revenge, she knows exactly who to turn to – other working women who have been similarly treated poorly. So on the night of the biggest ball for the season, these women are planning their own grand event, the biggest heist of the century.

I am always a sucker for a really good heist novel and the fact this book was set in the middle of 1905 and has a cast predominantly of women – and “downstairs” working women at that – only made me more eager to give this book a try. And I was really happy with the story as a whole. The characters were believable and multi-layered, the plot was logical and for the most part quite believable too. This is the author’s debut novel and the story stood very well by itself and I didn’t feel like I’d missed anything from previous installments. I was really happy with the story.

The first half or so is the preparation phase really. The cast had to all get together and for such an enormous task there was obviously a lot to set up and prepare – so getting to see the workings of all this was really good. I also felt the pace of this part of the story was really well handled. The author didn’t skim by it which I was pleased about since this is clearly a massive part of the plot and the story itself. But I didn’t feel like this part dragged too slowly either. Much like any heist movie the setting up of the parts, the organizing and planning beforehand is of almost equal importance to the actual “go night” itself. Without proper planning and structure put in place the main event simply won’t happen. So, reading through all that really helped sell the book and event to me. Equally – the actual heist night was about the latter half of the book along with the repercussions, so I felt this was really well handled as well.

With interesting, complicated characters who all have their own reasons and agenda’s along with a lovely plot of the heist itself this was an interesting and many layered story that I really enjoyed and can strongly recommend.

Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler


Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Snowdrop

Abandoned by her wanderlusting husband, stoic Pearl raised her three children on her own. Now grown, the siblings are inextricably linked by their memories—some painful—which hold them together despite their differences.

Hardened by life’s disappointments, wealthy, charismatic Cody has turned cruel and envious. Thrice-married Jenny is errant and passionate. And Ezra, the flawed saint of the family, who stayed at home to look after his mother, runs a restaurant where he cooks what other people are homesick for, stubbornly yearning for the perfect family he never had.

Now gathered during a time of loss, they will reluctantly unlock the shared secrets of their past and discover if what binds them together is stronger than what tears them apart.

I just read “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” and have read “A Spool of Blue Thread”. I think Anne Tyler hits close to home in some instances in her books. I don’t mean these are whole books about one’s putrid, confused, or plain old messed up childhood or lifestyle. There just seem to be pieces that you can pull out and they just fit. And…I think she makes people mad. I think she makes her readers either feel something they have experienced or feel for someone who has.

I thought Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was stark and sad. It seems to flow back and forth from one family member to another. Yet somehow the pieces and the pictures of the family are put together. Woven into a whole horrid picture of life.

I think Anne Tyler is a somewhat profound writer. Both of these books were well-written. I found what I read sad, and they left me in a blue mood, or maybe just a reflective one. Do these things make this a bad book? Not one bit. It makes it a book to read and see what you think.

Great Cat Tales Edited by Lesley O’Mara


Great Cat Tales Edited by Lesley O’Mara
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Respected authors, such as James Herriot and Doris Lessing, spin twenty yarns about cats.

So many stories about cats and only so much time.

I picked up this book because it featured stories about cats. I love cats, I love books…what could go wrong? Nothing, really. There are twenty stories in this anthology and they’re across the gamut of stories about cats.

I liked the variety because there’s so much to learn about cats and there’s so much to infer about them, too. Some of the stories are hard to read in that they’re longer than others – so those wanting short stories might be a bit put off. And also, some involved not so fun endings. I want to read uplifting stories and these weren’t always that, but that doesn’t mean others won’t like this anthology. It’s still good and the stories are wonderful.

If you’re looking for an anthology of animal stories and love cats, then this might be the one for you.

There’s No Coming Back From This by Ann Garvin


There’s No Coming Back From This by Ann Garvin
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

It seems lately that Poppy Lively is invisible to everyone but the IRS.

After her accountant absconded with her life savings, newly bankrupt Poppy is on the verge of losing her home when an old flame, now a hotshot producer, gives her a surprising way out: a job in costumes on a Hollywood film set. It’s a bold move to pack her bags, keep secrets from her daughter, and head to Los Angeles, but Poppy’s a capable person—how hard can a job in wardrobe be? It’s not like she has a choice; her life couldn’t get any worse. Even so, this midwesterner has a lot to learn about the fast and loose world of movie stars, iconic costumes, and back-lot intrigue.

As a single mom, she’s rarely had time for watching movies, she doesn’t sew, and she doesn’t know a thing about dressing the biggest names in the business. Floundering and overlooked, Poppy has one ally: Allen Carol, an ill-tempered movie star taken with Poppy’s unfiltered candor and general indifference to stardom.

When Poppy stumbles upon corruption, she relies on everyone underestimating her to discover who’s at the center of it, a revelation that shakes her belief in humanity. What she thought was a way to secure a future for her daughter becomes a spotlight illuminating the facts: Poppy is out of her league among the divas of Tinseltown.

Poppy must decide whether to keep her mouth shut, as she’s always done, or with the help of a scruffy dog, show the moviemakers that they need her unglamorous ways, whether the superstars like it or not.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Poppy Lively sure is desperate. By trusting the wrong person at the wrong time, her entire life has been sent into a tailspin, one she doesn’t think she’ll be able to pull herself – or her daughter – out of in time. So, what does a mom do when there’s nothing left to do? She accepts a job from a man she hasn’t seen in over a decade and moves across the country for a job. Of course she does, right?

Poppy Lively is your typical Midwestern mom. Hardworking, loving, and dedicated to her only child, So dedicated that she does everything in her power to make sure that her daughter has no idea that they’re about to lose everything. Her journey from single mom in Wisconsin to the costume department on a move set in Los Angeles is one that so many make, but never for the reasons she chose.

Her transformation is amazing. When she arrives in LA, Poppy is uncertain, confused, and hopeless. She has no one and nowhere to go, so she sneaks about trying not to get caught surviving. The more desperate her situation becomes, the less she starts to care about what others might think and sets her eye on the prize. Along the way, she gets some very unexpected help from a movie star, an arrogant but traumatized young woman, and a dog that was thrust into her care.

Packed full of laughter, life lessons, and a ton of spunky characters, There’s No Coming Back from This is an entertaining adventure of one woman who is out of her element. Poppy is a brilliant light in a city full of burnt-out bulbs. Even in her lowest moments, I was rooting for her and knew she’d succeed in the end.

1956 Love & Revolution by J.A. Boulet


1956 Love & Revolution by J.A. Boulet
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

What would you do for your country?

In 1955, a group of uncommon people meet by chance. During the final year of Rákosi’s iron fist rule, Imre Nagy’s reforms are repealed, plunging Hungary back into economic ruin.

A university student, a cleaner, a Hungarian soldier and several others find themselves drawn toward each other as their love for their country is tested. In the fall of 1956, political strife deepens as the students begin demanding reform.

How far will they go to save Hungary?

Well-researched, politically charged and fast-paced, 1956 Love & Revolution will lure you into the lives of everyday Hungarians who risked everything for their country.

I didn’t know a lot about went on in Hungary during this time period, but reading this book made me feel like I was right there. The characters in this book came alive for me – they are fully formed, with pasts, with foibles, with imperfections. My heart broke for Elona as she dealt with her husband and the way he treated her.

And, it’s not just the characters, but the setting at well. I felt like I was right there, picturing everything.  The juxtaposition of the changes the country is going through and the changes and growth that the main characters are going through gives a richness to the story.

During the story, there is heartbreak, pain, sorrow, and yet still, by the end, hope prevails. And, isn’t that what we all want from a good book?

Thank you, Ms. Boulet, for introducing me to a part of history I didn’t know much about and characters I’ll remember for a long time.

 

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