Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas


Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (295 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Irish Traveler Éamonn loves gambling, women, and drinking, not necessarily in that order. But he’s entangled in a true mess when he falls for fiery redhead, Katie. When she’s married to a Scottish Traveler, Éamonn travels to Scotland to find her, with the help of Katie’s sister and cousin, and the magical brooch gifted by his father. Their quest takes them across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Skye, encountering war, betrayal, death. In the end, Éamonn must make his own luck.

This is listed as the third book in the series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for all things Irish and this book does not disappoint in that area.

The story centers around Éamonn and Katie—Irish Travelers who meet each other at a horse trading fair and fall in love. The story is very plot-driven and I could see it very well as a movie. In fact, reading the book was a lot like watching a movie. There was a bit of separation between this reader and the book itself. It was a good story, but I didn’t feel drawn into the book in a way that I felt part of the story itself.

It has romantic elements, but does not classify as a romance because the story is not about the relationship between Éamonn and Katie, but instead around the quest of Éamonn to find and rescue her after her father marries her off to another man.

The story is part of the Druid’s Brooch series, but the brooch itself is given only a passing mention—however, the gift that Éamonn is given by the fae does help in, but also almost gets him killed, so like any fae-given gift, should be handled lightly. I would have liked to have delved a little more deeply into this aspect of the story.

This was a light, easy read and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll be looking for the other two books in the series. There was a lot of information about the Irish and Scottish Travelers that I didn’t know before and really appreciated the research the author did into this period of Irish history.

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A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy


A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (167 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Set in the early nineteenth century, A Tapestry of Tears is about female infanticide, and the unmaking of tradition. If a woman gives birth to a female child, she must feed her the noxious sap of the akk plant. That is the tradition, parampara. Veeranwali rebels, and fights to save her offspring.
The other stories span a spectrum of emotions and also bring to life the varied culture and social spectrum of India. Woven into this collection is the past and the present, despair and hope, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Sometimes tradition is a double-edged sword.

“A Tapestry of Tears,” the story this anthology was named after, showed what happened to Veeranwali after all of her children were killed shortly after birth. Female infanticide was a longstanding tradition in the family she’d married into, and everyone seemed to be resigned to it. What I found most interesting about this character’s life was how hard she fought to keep her babies alive. The love she felt for all of them was beautiful and fierce. It made me want to know more about this amazing woman.

I’ve come to deeply appreciate Ms. Reddy’s gorgeous writing style, and I’ve seen so much growth in her work since I first began reviewing her books a few years ago. With that being said, there were a few times when I was confused by how she introduced the characters in tales like “No Other Way.” Ms. Reddy threw the reader into a family’s decision to send their matriarch to a nursing home before they moved overseas without sharing the identities of any of the characters in this drama or explaining why some of them were so conflicted about this decision. I was captivated by the conflict once I figured out that Samyukta was the elderly mother, but it took a few puzzling missteps to get to that conclusion. I wish this hadn’t been so, because I truly did enjoy listening in as her and her family worry and debate about whether this was the best option for her.

Ganga, the main character in “Only Her Daughter,” suffered one of the greatest losses a person can endure when her young daughter died suddenly. What made her life even more interesting to me was what happened after little Komal’s death. There were so many twists and turns in the plot that I couldn’t stop reading. I simply had to know what Ganga would encounter next!

I’d recommend A Tapestry of Tears to anyone who is willing to think long and hard about the difficulties and joys that the women that this author wrote about lived with every day of their lives.

In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell


In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (284 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.

After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past?

Katherine Moore makes no bones about letting us know what she is after: a better life than she had. She’s quick to take on whatever role (and name) will get her there. She’s frank and genuine though, and readers will find they understand her initial choices. In those first couple chapters, she’s someone who seizes the day, takes a risk…

Yet, for all she’s decisive and headstrong, she suddenly gives in and lands at ‘Lakecrest.’ Its one of those moves where we spectators are shouting ‘don’t do that!’ Katherine/Katie seizes us too you see, right from the start.

Author Elizabeth Blackwell has created incredible, dynamic characters, and will hold readers enthralled. Even those of us who do not like our heroine’s choices…even though this story does not seem to lead us (or her) to a better life. America in the 40s- fashion, culture, and news of the day all become backdrop for Katie’s story.

Impeccably written, In the Shadow of Lakecrest is unpredictable and not entirely pleasant. It is worth reading but its story is…disconcerting. Do put this on your reading list, but don’t look for it to lift your spirits.

Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen


Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen
Publisher: Star Pine Books
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi
Length: Full (272 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

…Here again, his natural figure crouched beside her in the dank darkness of the cave, watching her in silence as she slept, struggling with cravings which were new to him, both tender and violent, and which he could only really compare to hunger… (from ASMODEUS)

On the cusp of the Great War, an even more pitched battle is waged in the furthest corner of the Nordic highlands, the final chapter of a centuries-old rivalry, pitting a troubled bloodline of thieves, journeyman, and politicians against the last and greatest dragon of the hemisphere, Asmodeus.

Until now, the source of this antagonism has been a single gemstone, the fabled shamir, whose history traces to the coffers of King Solomon. The present clash, however, has been sparked by the emergence of an even more desirable, more defiant, and more powerful force than that.

Inspired by the golden legend of St. Margaret, Brooks Hansen’s Asmodeus is a masterfully woven tapestry of history, myth, and fantasy, in the tradition of J.R.R.Tolkien, Bram Stoker, and C.S. Lewis. By turns a romance, an adventure, and the darkest imaginable Gothic, his tale is also, as seen through the eyes of the maiden Margrét, an unflinching exploration of our divided nature — what makes us beasts, what makes us human, and what makes us divine.

Mr. Hansen offers a retelling of the legend of St. Margaret of Antioch. In his version, we get “the other side of the story.”

He explains how the dragon (Asmodeus) originally loses his special jewel (the shamir) and how the family that stole it from him regarded it as something almost sacred; something to be protected for all time.

Centuries pass and it’s the early 20th century– and a young shepherdess named Margrét comes to the attention of the Provost of the area, and he steals the shamir from his brother in order to use it to seduce her.

The book is well-written and the author tells a good story– I say “tells” because it was like reading a story from mythology. There’s plenty of detail, and we get to see what the various characters are thinking, but I didn’t really get the sensation of being lost in any of the characters.  The story-telling was a little distant for me.

The story itself is very interesting, however. It has some moments of slowness as the author sets up the story, but once I got past those areas, I really enjoyed the story itself. And there was some beautiful, lyrical writing.

One thing the book accomplished was to awaken my interest in St. Margaret herself… I would like to learn more about her. And, I will be looking for more of this author’s books.

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Pedal by Louis K. Lowy


Pedal by Louis K. Lowy
Publisher: Panoptic Books, an imprint of Assent Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (301 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Forty-nine and single. Fired from her lifelong passion: teaching music. Stripped of her self-worth. Can she reclaim her life through bicycle racing?

Joanne Brick’s thirty years as an elementary school music teacher evaporated into the rising sea of layoffs. A lifetime of dedication gone. At forty-nine, single with an ailing mom and bitter divorced sister, the future looked bleak. Family relationships soured as conversations moved to “the lettuce zone”-cold and crisp. Then one day, while cleaning out the garage for a yard sale, inspiration struck as she dusted off an old long-forgotten bicycle. And when she took her first ride she knew it was time to sink or pedal. “Onward! That was the answer that had eluded her earlier. There was dignity in that word. There was hope.” Never a sports fanatic and sorely out of shape, Joanne was barely able to ride straight, but she took up bicycle racing because it added purpose to her life. “Joanne increased her own speed. The wind whipped her face. The whirring of the spinning spokes and chains rose in pitch as she spun faster. She was flying again, beyond failed careers, spurned lovers, regrets, and mistakes. She spun even quicker. Her breath came in swift, hard grunts.” She pedaled past unemployment, failed relationships, family drama, and career loss. Her life began to fill with new friends, an inspirational Desert Storm vet turned cycling coach, and a sleek new physique from all the training. Then she ran into a brick wall in the form of Sheila Dominary, a women’s bike racing adversary. Will Joanne regain her confidence as she pedals toward redemption, romance, adventure, and life beyond unemployment? Pedal is an inspirational journey. It is a contemporary story that deals not only with family relationships, but also with life’s turning points and how ordinary people handle them.

When you lose everything you’ve ever worked for, what is there to push you forward again?

Joanne Brick loses her career as a music teacher after thirty years due to the district budget cuts. What is even worse is “music teacher” was her identity. Joanne finds herself out of a job, without money and at a loss as to who she is any longer. Joanne finds herself in a struggle that she never expected-to identify her inner passion and recollect her life.

Louis K. Lowy does an amazing job of showing how devastating life can be as well as intertwining how amazing life can be. Joanne is focused on the big picture, but like many of us, can miss out on what is happening in the right now. When life shakes her up, Joanne keeps pushing forward towards the goal. When the unthinkable happens and then the unimaginable happens shortly after that, Joanne proves that she is a fighter and refuses to give up.

Louis K. Lowy draws the reader in with a simple plot, to see Joanne put her life back together. Yet, what truly happens is that the reader becomes one in Joanne’s life, feeling her exuberance in training and then the crushing defeats that life hands her. The reader cheers for Joanne’s success and cries when she is down. All of this Louis K. Lowy draws in vivid detail, causing the reader to fully understand and see the life of Joanne Brick being shaped.

The ending of the book is one that many would not have imagined. Yet, when we look back at our own personal lives, we are often astonished to see where we are from where we began. This story is simply that, astonishing. I urge you to pick up a copy of Pedal and see if you have what it takes to make it to across the finish line!

Secret Crush: The House of Morgan by Victoria Pinder

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Secret Crush: The House of Morgan by Victoria Pinder
Publisher: Love in a Book
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (254 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

For some, joining the FBI is a long-term goal. For billionaire John Morgan, joining the Bureau is a stepping stone to proving his father is culpable for his sister’s death. After his estranged father dies, John is forced to return home and face the ghosts of his past. That proves to be more difficult than he could have ever imagined.

Alice Collins lives a peaceful life. As a farmer’s daughter, she knows what it’s like to work hard for what you want. After losing her best friend under inexplicable circumstances, her world viewpoint shifted until her small town sensibilities convinced her to attend Mr. Morgan’s funeral.

Soon, the past and the present collide and Alice is caught in the crosshairs. John comes to her aid, complicating matters for both of them.

Can a handsome billionaire on a vendetta truly fall for a small town girl or does he have something else in mind? Can a small town girl, if she gives her heart to him, ever fit in the House of Morgan?

John Morgan, the rebellious son of the House of Morgan, loses his motivation when his father dies—John can’t bring a corpse to justice. He returns home seeking answers but soon finds himself struggling to protect the rather naïve Alice Collins whose life is in danger because of him. The problems of his dysfunctional family take a back seat as he concentrates on security for Alice who has a longtime connect with the Morgan family.

Secret Crush is a clean, easy-to-read manuscript that allows the reader to cruise right along with reading. The plotting is meticulously done and the characters all have distinct roles to play. However, even with lots of dialogue, much of the action and emotion is told to the reader rather than shown. Consequently, I never became involved like I usually do in a story of suspense, mystery, and love.

I did feel the need to finish the story to find answers for the many mysteries. As I continued, I found a real surprise about who was willing to do murder for money. But here again I felt I wasn’t allowed to know what changed that character from defending the law to being willing to break the law—there just had to be more than money for such a drastic change.

The love story had the conflict and the undeniable attraction that shepherded John and Alice through these conflicts in attention-keeping ways, taking them to their happy-ever-after. However, the story, even for a book in a series, ended with too many unanswered questions. I felt as if I had not finished reading the book.

I imagine these questions will be answered in future books in this series.

Into the Void by Emma Stein

mediakit_bookcover_into_the_void
Into the Void by Emma Stein
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Historical, Satire
Length: Full Length (215 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

The country of Anglina is teeming with social upheaval, and its officials have found an unlikely national hero in a philosopher and social activist named Horace. The Anglinian government has appointed the effeminate, irreverent, and stubborn scholar to undertake a journey around the world to learn the secret of other countries’ success. Unfortunately for Horace, most of the societies he visits turn out to be drastically different from what he expected, and he repeatedly sends scathing but witty reports about his travels and the people he encounters. At the end of his journey, Horace encounters a series of communes whose inhabitants welcome him into their ranks and open his eyes to more a liberal and egalitarian way of life.

Into the Void is a very interesting book—consisting of letters from Horace to Addie detailing Horace’s visits to the different areas around Anglina to see if there is anything he can learn that will help clear away the rot that is present in their own land.

Each of his letters can be seen as satirical commentary on our own ways of living. In this it reminds me very much of Gulliver’s Travels. Where Swift examined governments, Stein puts human relationships and ways of living under the microscope.

The letters are interesting in themselves and, even though I’m not normally one to re-read books, I think I will make an exception here. I am interested in rereading several of the letters to dig a little deeper into the meaning behind it.

In addition to the foibles of the human condition that Stein provides, the letters also give us insight into Horace and his relationship with Addie that was quite interesting to discover.

Good job, Ms. Stein. A masterful achievement!

Murder Most Yowl by Quinn Dressler

yowl
Murder Most Yowl by Quinn Dressler
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (134 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Cat-sitting is a dangerous business.

Cameron Sherwood turned his back on law enforcement the night his investigation led to the death of an innocent gay man. Now Cam spends his time running a business that caters to his favorite animal, cats. But when Cam stumbles upon the body of a friend while feeding her feline, he can’t walk away. Dealing with a sexy yet stubborn sheriff, a matchmaking sister, and a terrifying blind date, Cam must somehow track down a killer, all while keeping the cats around him fed with his gourmet cat treats.

Cameron thought he’d left crime scenes and murder investigations behind him in his previous life. Owning a small store famous for his home-made cat treats, Cameron was determined to live a different style of life now. Until he discovers the murder of his client when going to feed her cat, Mr Muffin Top. Sherriff Jake O’Neill was not impressed by Cameron’s past, nor did he want or need any help with his investigation. The two men, however, continually bumped into each other and they both became more annoyed each time until they each realised they’d have far more success working together than in opposition.

I really enjoyed this book. I found it had an extremely strong mystery plot – the vast majority of the story was Jake and Cameron trying to solve the murder. Their relationship progresses very slowly, starting initially as them being quite antagonistic toward each other and butting heads with sparks flying. I loved the pacing, slow enough to really see and experience how Jake and Cameron slowly turned to each other and watching their relationship flourish. The murder mystery plot was also excellent to my mind. While I admit I guessed some of it fairly early on, there were plenty of red herrings and fake-clues which made me question my assumptions. Solidly written, it kept me totally hooked right to the end.

While there were more than a few steamy kisses, readers should be aware that there wasn’t really anything exceptionally erotic in my view. There is a single, brief M/M sex scene between Jake and Cameron right near the end of the story. While the bedroom door is definitely left open it’s not particularly explicit and the whole scene is quite brief, albeit deliciously written. Readers used to heavy erotic romances might not feel as if this is a “full on” erotic romance, and particularly readers interested only in the sexy, steamy side of a M/M relationship might find that this plot-focused story doesn’t tick the right box for them.

Personally I loved this book – a real, proper mystery story with a lovely hint of sexiness and a good, well-worked M/M relationship. I really enjoyed this and will happily read more by this author.

Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder

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Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Biography
Length: Full Length (261 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Gene Wilder was one of the great comic actors who defined the 1970’s and 1980’s in movies. From his early work with Woody Allen to the rich group of movies he made with Mel Brooks to his partnership on screen with Richard Pryor, Wilder’s performances are still discussed and celebrated today. Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an intimate glimpse of the man behind the image on the screen.

In this book, Wilder talks about everything from his experiences in psychoanalysis to why he got into acting (and later comedy-his first goal was to be a Shakespearean actor) to how a Midwestern childhood with a sick mother changed him. He writes about the creative process on stage and on screen, and divulges moments from life on the sets of the some of the most iconic movies of our time. He also opens up about his love affairs and marriages, including his marriage to comedian Gilda Radner. But the core of Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an actor’s search for truth and a thoughtful analysis of why the choices he made-some of them so serendipitous they were practically accidental-changed the course of his life.

There’s so much I didn’t know, but I do now… since I’ve read the rest of the story.

Gene Wilder is more than just a mildly eccentric comic with fantastic timing. There’s the cynical side and the manic side, but he’s more dimensional. This book showed the good, the bad and the human side of him.

I’d loved the work of Gene Wilder since I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as a child. For the longest time, I thought of him as Willy Wonka and the man who helped Gilda Radner while she battled cancer. Trust me, there is so much more to him.

I loved how he told the stories of his childhood. It wasn’t all roses and comedy. He spent time in a military school and worked hard to make his parents proud. He dealt with the death of his mother and trying to find his way as an actor. Talk about taking the long road…he certainly did.

He shows his human side as well in this book. Some actors don’t want their past revealed. He talks about his struggles with women, his adopted daughter, balancing his acting life with his inner demons and finding real love in his life. Wilder holds nothing back. I could relate to some of his experiences and respected him more as an actor.

The stories about his movies injected a human quality to them, as well. He’s not just an image on the silver screen but a person. I gained a lot of respect for him.

If you want a book that will make you laugh, cry, think and love…then this might be the book for you.

Three Modern Shorts: The Park Stories by K. Kris Loomis

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Three Modern Shorts: The Park Stories by K. Kris Loomis
Publisher: Lililoom Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (22 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What happens when a distraught teen and a whacky old woman meet in the park? How about a couple that weaves tales about spies and incurable diseases? Or when a father and daughter are presented with the opportunity to get to know one another better under unusual circumstances?
In these three modern short stories, author K. Kris Loomis offers us glimpses of universally shared moments in everyday relationships and life. They are humorous, thought provoking, and written to be read in one sitting.

Small dramas unfold at the park every single day.

In “Lovely Horns,” an old woman named Muriel struck up an unusual conversation with a troubled teenage girl, Lucy, who had a strange problem. Muriel thought she might have a solution for it. It took me a while to decide how I wanted to interpret the problem and the solution. There were several different ways to look at both of them, and that made for a fascinating reading experience. I especially liked how the final scene was written. Not only did it give me a nice sense of closure, it also fit Muriel’s offbeat personality beautifully.

There were some parts of “Friday Afternoon” that I had trouble understanding. While I really enjoyed the funny tales Paul and Angie told each other about what they imagined the lives of the other people at the park had been like, I found it hard to relate to these characters themselves. The hints about what was actually going on between them were so subtle that I was never sure that I was accurately understanding the subtext in their conversation. It would have been helpful to have a little more information to work with in those scenes.

The complicated relationship between Jimmy and his adult daughter, Carley, in “The King Stomper” made me curious to know why things were a little strained between them and what would happen to them next. Watching them interact with each other answered enough of my questions to keep me satisfied, but their chat also made me think of more topics I wished they’d discuss. This story ended up being my favorite on in the book because of how good it was at exploring these characters’ personalities and challenging me to come up with my own theories about why they behaved the way they did.

I’d recommend Three Modern Shorts: The Park Stories to anyone who has ever wished they could peek into a stranger’s life for a moment.