No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman

LANE
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
Publisher: Twelve
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Welcome to Brighton in 1988 and the University of Sussex, where kids sport Mohawks and light up to the otherworldly sounds of the Cocteau Twins, as conversation drifts from structuralism to Thatcher to the bloody Labour Students. Meet David Heller, an American studying abroad who’s left the States to escape his own family still mourning the death of a daughter ten years later. To extend his stay, David has taken a job nursing Hans Bromwell. The son of a former MP, and playboy in his day, Hans was left paralyzed by a mysterious accident. When David moves into the Bromwell house, his life becomes quickly entwined with those of Hans, his alcoholic sister Elizabeth, and her beautiful fatherless daughter, as they navigate their new role as fallen aristocracy. As David befriends the Bromwells, the details behind the family’s staggering fall from grace are exposed: How Elizabeth’s love affair with a Portuguese physician carried the young English girl right into the bloody battlefields of colonial Africa, where an entire continent bellowed for independence, and a single event left a family broken forever.

David has quite enjoyed his year studying abroad in England. More than soaking up the culture and experiencing the world, he’s fallen in love. So, what’s a smitten young man to do when it’s time to return home and leave his dream girl behind? Find a way to stay, of course. Enter Hans Bromwell, the son of a wealthy family paralyzed in a freak accident. In order to stay in England, David agrees to care for Hans and winds up getting more out of the experience than he ever dreamed possible.

No. 4 Imperial Lane wasn’t anything like I expected it to be. It began like any ordinary novel, telling of David’s adventures in Sussex after arriving from the United States for a year abroad. You get to know him a bit and follow his life as he meets and eventually falls in love with Maggie. In a last ditch effort to stay in England and continue his love affair with Maggie, David takes on a job caring for the paralyzed Hans. This is where the novel deviated from the norm and delved into the new and interesting for me.

While caring for Hans, David becomes friendly with his employer’s sister, Elizabeth. Although at first, he only listens out of politeness and to ease the boredom he’s experiencing, before long, David is as engrossed in Elizabeth’s story as the rest of us are. Listening to her tell her tale of adventure and excitement between meeting the love of her life in Portugal and how she wound up in a Portuguese colony in Africa, I not only got to experience a good story, but I also learned something I had forgotten about world history. Even more interesting is watching David move from an uninterested outsider to part of the family, going so far as to befriend Hans and become more than just a disinterested caretaker.

Beautifully written and engaging, No. 4 Imperial Lane is one of the most unique novels I’ve read this year. I loved the weaving of the past into the present and the way the author managed to bring them together into the future. With exotic locations and interesting characters, I was sucked in and held tight all the way until the very end.

Pokergeist by Michael Phillip Cash

GEIST
Pokergeist by Michael Phillip Cash
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (239 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Sometimes life, as well as death, is about second chances. Luckless Telly Martin doesn’t have a clue. An awful gambler trying to scrape by as a professional poker player, he becomes the protégé of world famous poker champion Clutch Henderson. The only catch…Clutch is a ghost.

Telly and Clutch must navigate the seedy gambling underbelly of Las Vegas learning to trust each other in order to win the elusive International Series of Poker, repair their shattered personal relationships and find redemption in this life and the hereafter.

This is not a typical ghost story. Usually ghosts are either scary, freaky or out to cause mayhem. In Pokergeist this particular ghost wants a bracelet. Not just any old bracelet. No, this one is the ultimate poker prize, the dream all poker players strive to reach. Such is the draw, not even death can stop a determined poker player. Clutch has a second chance to win, even if he has to use the hands and body of Telly, the hapless hero. At least, that’s the basic gist of the story but it’s not the whole story, not by a long shot and that is why this novel was so interesting.

Telly is the epitome of the man who dreams big, who thinks he has what it takes to play with the big guys, but when he joins them, he gets a rude wake-up call. It’s very disheartening and the author made it very clear that the hero is at the tipping point. He’s not so addicted that he can’t stop, but he’s not far off. It’s the love of his life, Gretchen, that’s his anchor. But can he really stop gambling?

Their relationship bears the strain of his dream and it’s very gripping, gritty and true-to-life. When you love someone, you want to help them, support them and encourage their hopes and ideas and Gretchen does that the best she knows how. Sometimes, there’s a breaking point and the author explored that a little bit. Telly’s dream comes close, very close to destroying one of the best things in his life, his relationship with Gretchen. The major complication comes from Clutch, the ghost.

Clutch’s influence is a good thing/bad thing. There are times I cheered and others I thought he was a jerk – which is sort of how he was in life. Because he dealt with loan sharks, Clutch qualified for the ‘j’ word. It wasn’t just the fact that he owed money, it was who they went after to recoup their ‘investment’. I wonder if people ever think about that – that loan sharks don’t accept death as a reason to bring the balance sheet to zero. That messed up the subplot rather nicely. The subplot was about the people Clutch left behind and the author interwove their lives with Telly and Gretchen seamlessly.

As the reader approaches the final few chapters, the author starts bringing all the players in this drama onstage for the big finale. I am happy to share that I ended up being stunned. The ending did not happen as I expected. What did happen ended up being a very savvy, clever and surprisingly funny wrap up. The angel that kept trying to get Clutch to ‘cross over’ finally got his way, but again, the why and how was greatly amusing, and yet, there was a lesson to learn, a moral to the story that was really sweet and poignant. The final showdown with Ant and Telly was a class act. The epilogue was perfect and sweet with a hint of that ol’ Clutch sass.

Pokergeist is a ghost story with depth, heart and grit. It follows a man who is basically good, timid and smart but loves poker and believes it’s the path to better things, mixed with a ghost who sees a second chance at that coveted bracelet and pursues it with a single minded purpose, and complicated by the love of a good woman who is wondering if Telly is still the man she fell in love with. Woven throughout this book is the story of real people in all their vices, darkness and passions. What redeems them are the good deeds, the integrity and the true love of Telly and Gretchen. This isn’t a fluffy book; it has teeth and it’s meaty, and it’s well worth spending time with.

A Mountain Man’s Redemption by Christi Corbett

MANS
A Mountain Man’s Redemption by Christi Corbett
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (129 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Eighteen years ago, Philip Grant—overcome with regret for what he couldn’t foresee and memories of what he couldn’t prevent—abandoned all to live the solitary life of a fur trapper. Years spent roaming ridgelines and riverbanks in Montana Territory left his body weary and his confidence weak, so he decides to turn in his last bundle of furs and await the inevitable in a cabin. Alone.

Then a body-shaped lump wrapped in a quilt changes everything.

Philip discovers a battered woman and her infant son, on the run from a ruthless abuser with a penchant for whiskey. Seventy miles of snow-covered mountain peaks and windswept flatlands stand between them and safety—the woman’s aunt’s house.

Can Philip trust in his newfound faith to lead the way?

A fur-trapper who lives on his own in the Montana wilderness during the winter of 1886 is best served when he has only himself to worry about for survival, but when Philip Grant comes across an unexpected duo in need of help, he must decide whether to put his own life on the line to save them, or walk away.

Philip has had a good haul for a fur-trapper this season, but he soon finds himself with only ten days left to get his furs to the nearest fort, more than eighty miles away. It will be a difficult journey, which must be made quickly. But before long, he finds himself challenged with more than just time and distance. The reader will learn that Philip has his own demons in life to battle, but none more urgent that Hannah whom he discovers battered and beaten and clutching a baby in the middle of a harsh winter. Slowly and out of necessity, Hannah begins to explain the circumstances that have driven her, literally, out into the snow without proper gear for herself or her baby. With Philip’s continued prompting, the young mother confides in the fur-trapper, telling a heartbreaking story of abuse by her husband.

Wife abuse is not your average storyline in a historic novel, but maybe we should see it more often. The story is built upon a strong faith, and is historically accurate. It shows us that what we believe to be a modern problem is not at all. The reader gets a vastly different perspective in this well-written story.

This is a quick read, which is what brings me to my only criticism of the story. In the story’s beginning, Philip discovers a quilt in the snow-covered woods, and although we already know he is behind schedule and has an urgent need to get to Fort Matiley before it closes, which involves crossing “the most rugged mountain peaks in Montana,” he moves far too slowly. He spends too much time deciding whether to find out what’s inside the mysterious quilt. There were a few other points in the story where I felt things needed to move more quickly, given the urgency, too. With that said, this story was nearly flawless in its delivery.

If you’re looking for historical fiction, or a story with a 1880s flare, and the theme of a battered woman won’t deter you, then this is a story worth your time.

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

FISHBOWL
Fishbowl by Bradley Somer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

A goldfish named Ian is falling from the 27th-floor balcony on which his fishbowl sits. He’s longed for adventure, so when the opportunity arises, he escapes from his bowl, clears the balcony railing and finds himself airborne. Plummeting toward the street below, Ian witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents.

There’s the handsome grad student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; the construction worker who feels trapped by a secret; the building’s super who feels invisible and alone; the pregnant woman on bed rest who craves a forbidden ice cream sandwich; the shut-in for whom dirty talk, and quiche, are a way of life; and home-schooled Herman, a boy who thinks he can travel through time. Though they share time and space, they have something even more important in common: each faces a decision that will affect the course of their lives. Within the walls of the Seville are stories of love, new life, and death, of facing the ugly truth of who one has been and the beautiful truth of who one can become.

Sometimes taking a risk is the only way to move forward with our lives. As Ian the goldfish knows, “An entire life devoted to a fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had.”

Ian is a goldfish. A goldfish that is falling from the twenty-seventh floor balcony of the Seville on Roxy apartment complex. Now, Ian is a modern goldfish without any of the hang-ups of his contemporary aquatic friends like, say, Troy the snail. So, as Ian falls from the top floor of the Seville, the things he observes aren’t any shock to him, nor are they of much concern, either. But for the rest of us? It’s a little more intriguing than a passing goldfish could ever dream.

The narrative takes us through the lives of a handful of people living at the Seville on Roxy, although it starts and focuses mainly on Connor and his girlfriend, Katie. These two are probably the most mainstream of the group, especially when compared to Claire who works a phone sex line from her apartment, Herman who is homeschooled, and Garth – the construction worker with a secret. Each apartment holds its own story and each story deals with a bit of reality we’d all like to forget or maybe engage with more – life, death, love, mental illness, you name it, it’s at the Seville on Roxy.

I have never so fully enjoyed an entire cast of characters as much I did these. Major props to the author for giving each character a realistic and complete backstory, one that makes you feel invested in that person, even if you only see them once every handful of chapters. Even though Connor is pretty much a hopeless dog, he’s still likable in an odd sort of way, and he’s not always all that easy to like. The author finds a way to point out something good in each character, even when you think there’s nothing of value. Of them all, Garth and Jimenez are probably my favorites, mostly because they’re two people who get overlooked and ignored a lot in their lives.

The concept of this novel was the thing that hooked me. That and the illustration of Ian’s plummet from the top to his eventual resting spot at the bottom that was drawn along the right-hand margin of the book, but this really has nothing to do with the story, it was just an amusing addition to an already amusing novel. Although it was purported to be in the tradition of two books that I had loved, I found Fishbowl to fall more in line with something more Douglas Adams-like than either Garth Stein or Armistead Maupin. Either way, this was one of the most entertaining novels I’ve read all year.

Three Days in Hell by Blair Howard

Three Days in Hell

Three Days in Hell by Blair Howard
Publisher: Self
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (280 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

For more than two months, Union General William Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland pursued General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga. Finally, on September 18, 1863, on the banks of a small river in Northwest Georgia, the two great armies came face to face, and so began three days of hell, including the two bloodiest days of our nation’s Civil War.

Three Days in Hell is a novel, a work of fiction, based on actual historical events. The characters, with one exception, were all real people. The words they speak throughout the story are the author’s, the deeds they did, their success and failures, are their own. Drawing on many years of meticulous research, Blair Howard dramatizes one man’s contribution to the stunning Confederate victory at Chickamauga. Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson was the key player for the army in gray.

This is the story of Confederate General Johnson’s three days at Chickamauga, and his grand and glorious charge of more than a mile that smashed through the enemy lines and resulted in a resounding victory for the Confederate cause and an ignominious defeat for General Rosecrans. Even Johnson’s enemies praised what he did that day. Some compared it to Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, but where Pickett failed, Johnson succeeded.

Three Days in Hell, action-packed from start to finish, is the story of Confederate General Bushrod Johnson’s Chickamauga as told through the eyes and words of one of his staff officers, Major Chester Rigby. The author takes you onto the battlefield as no one has done before. He plunges you right into the center of the action, which doesn’t let up until the very end. It’s a story of heroism, desperate deeds, and death and destruction on a scale the likes of which had never been seen before.

This is a gritty, in-your-face, real look at what the Southern soldiers during the Civil War went through during the Battle of Chickamauga, the second-worse battle of the war. Except for the first-person narrator, all of the characters in this book are historic figures. Although the dialogue is, of course, fictional, it is obvious that the author did his homework and studied diaries and letters to get a sense of what the men were thinking and what they truly might have said.

This is not a pretty book, but then war isn’t pretty. For anyone who is interested in Civil War history, this is definitely a book to check out. It gives the reader a real sense of what is going on.

The battle descriptions show a great deal of research as well– but for this reader, those were not the primary draw of the book. The author made the characters come alive and become more than just names in the history book.

Good job!

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Fooling Around With Cinderella by Stacy Juba

FOOLING
Fooling Around With Cinderella by Stacy Juba
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (120 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

What happens when the glass slippers pinch Cinderella’s toes? When Jaine Andersen proposes a new marketing role to the local amusement park, general manager Dylan Callahan charms her into filling Cinderella’s glass slippers for the summer. Her reign transforms Jaine’s ordinary life into chaos that would bewilder a fairy godmother. Secretly dating her bad boy boss, running wedding errands for her ungrateful sisters, and defending herself from the park’s resident villain means Jaine needs lots more than a comfy pair of shoes to restore order in her kingdom. First in the Storybook Valley series, a blend of sweet romance, chick lit, and fairy tale fun.

Businesswoman Jaine Anderson has a vision for the local Storybook Valley theme park. What she gets is the promise of a marketing job in the future, but for now a job as the theme park’s Cinderella.

At least this gets her away from babysitting her niece on a daily basis, and running round after her other sister who is preparing for her wedding. It doesn’t hurt that Jaine’s boss is absolutely drop dead gorgeous either.

I liked the humor in this story, not just the behind the scenes Cinderella humor, but the snappy replies Jaine gives to Dylan and the way he takes them in his stride. Both have something to be concerned about. Dylan is the new general manager, but his family don’t want him to change anything plus he has a flighty past. Jaine feels she is at the beck and call of her sisters and feels downtrodden, but hasn’t got the strength to say no.

Friends, love interests, and a stepmother who’s not wicked, merely thoughtless. Sisters who are beautiful and definitely not after her man. Then of course there’s Prince Charming. Put this all together and it becomes a fun filled book with romance and of course conflict. A really good read that kept me intrigued until the last page.

Searching For Meaning in Gailana by John H. T. Francis

SearchingForMeaningInGailana

Searching For Meaning in Gailana by John H. T. Francis
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: Short Story (94 pgs)
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Gailana is the central island of the world; Aurganots, Reminos, Hindarassis, Pelanese, and Free People, different societies with different customs and values, live in it. Gailana is old, with a history rich in events and civilisations. The mother island has undergone important changes in recent decades, including a devastating war from which the Aurganots emerged victorious. Following this war, Aurganot has become a country of wealth, technology, and power, dominating all others.

In this modern age, Aurganots value their new found joie de vivre; Pelanese love commerce and business; Reminos are still dedicated to honour and glory in war; Hindarassis continue to care most about their families; and the Free People cherish their freedom above anything else. Among the Free People, a young Levon has set a high and ambitious goal: to seek and find the ultimate meaning of all that humans do. Levon has been on his intellectual quest for years, and the coming days are significant. Paratos, the sage of Gailana, is in the land of the Free People, and Levon is readying to meet him. The young man knows that something life changing will come out from this meeting, only he does not imagine what.

In this fictional first part of The Story in Three Parts, John H.T. Francis tells the story of Levon, a young and sincere soul looking for meaning in a changing world. This short novel will take you on a journey through Gailana, shows you its diversity, and brings you close to many of its human aspects. Events will develop fast on the island, and Levon is about to be in the midst of them.

This author brings us a well thought out treatise on searching for meaning on Gailana, the central island of the world with several different societies living on it. I think it’s more than a coincidence that Gailana is very similar to Gaia, the Greek personification of Earth.

The author takes a look at the role of Story through this small book in three different ways. The first section is about Levon, who is trying to discover the one meaning for everything that people do. In the second portion of the book, the author shares his feeling about Story in in a philosophical way – I have to admit, this was the hardest part of the book for me to grasp my mind around. And, in the final section, we go back to stories and their importance for people.

This book, though short in pages, is long on concept. The idea that all of us are connected by Story and of our perceptions of the world is one to think on and ponder about. I believe it will take more than one reading to fully see everything the author is examining.

Nail It: Breaking into the Black Elite by Shonette Charles

BLACK
Nail It: Breaking into the Black Elite by Shonette Charles
Publisher: Seamare Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (211 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Black, educated, and possessing all the right stats, Sahara and Noah Kyle move to North Carolina ready to break into the area’s black bourgeoisie social circle. This is a world governed by black socialites and movers and shakers, who hold membership in the Sphinx, Darlings, The Shield, Belles & Beaus, and the black fraternities and sororities. Being in the right circle could position the Kyles for even greater affluence, but being shut out could be the death knell for more than just their social life.

Noah appears to quickly catch his stride, but Sahara struggles navigating this world of pearls, poise, and protocol. The sky’s the limit, but will secrets, lies, and double crossings keep them on the outside of this high power network looking in? Or, when it comes to entering the world of the black elite, do they have what it takes to NAIL IT?

Nail It tells a story of a household very well set on being part of the social elite. Being well educated, having a specific job status, living in a high class neighborhood are only some of the factors that are required to being included in one of these elite social groups. To Noah and Sahara Kyle being included in these specific groups were of high priority.

The book was entertaining but I felt something was missing. It was an okay read but I wanted something more to happen. The book only showed a glimpse of the characters personal and family life. I would have liked to know why being in the social circle was so important to Noah and Sahara. The main focus was on Sahara being invited to the Sphinx Masquerade Ball and all the hoops she had to jump through to make that happen. Sororities do a great deal to raise money for many causes, but the focus on this book was more along the lines of a personal goal. The book portrayed that this status was of high important, so much so that Noah refused his wife relations because one group she associated with didn’t reflect the image that he wanted to be associated with. But when she joined the right group and associated with a group fitting to his liking he was happy. Sahara went to college and was educated but seems her husband didn’t want her to utilize her education. Makes me wonder what was the purpose of obtaining an education if it was only to look good on social applications and to boost about during social gatherings

The writing style is impressive and easy to follow. The author gave a subtly view of what goes on behind social groups and the service these groups provide to communities. The culture of the groups are shown to reflect loyalty and dedication, this is encouraging. Sahara is a woman that had her mind set on obtaining a status and she was set on making that happen. The sisterhood between Sahara and her neighbor Meranda was refreshing that they were strangers but Meranda was willing to help Sahara climb the social ladder. The book showed relationship between women how they can be true and how sadly some women can have alternative motives. The book was predictable but believable as well.

Though this read won’t go down as a favorite of mine it was still informative and an enlighten read.

July Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Time’s Up by Janey Mack

TIME
Time’s Up by Janey Mack
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (356 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

The police academy gave her the boot—and she knows how to use it.
All her life, Maisie McGrane dreamed of following in her father and older brothers’ footsteps and joining the force. But when she’s expelled from the police academy, she’s reduced to taking a job as a meter maid. Now, instead of chasing down perps, she’s booting people’s cars and taking abuse from every lowlife who can’t scrape together enough change to feed the meter.

McGranes weren’t put on this earth to quit, however. When Maisie stumbles across the body of a City Hall staffer with two bullets in his chest, her badge-wielding brothers try to warn her off the case. But with the help of her secret crush, shadowy ex-Army Ranger Hank Bannon, Maisie’s determined to follow the trail of conspiracy no matter where it leads. And that could put her in the crosshairs of a killer—and all she’s packing is a ticket gun.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

The Kindness by Polly Samson

KINDNESS
The Kindness by Polly Samson
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre- Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

A novel both heartbreaking and hopeful, about love and family, and the major and minor ways we lose people in our lives—from an acclaimed talent.

Julian’s fall begins the moment he sets eyes on Julia, flying a hawk high on a ridge. Julian is an English student, heading toward academia; Julia is married and eight years his senior. And yet, ignoring warnings from family and friends, they each give up all they have to be together. Their new life in London offers immense happiness, especially after their daughter, Mira, is born.

But when Julian’s adored—and remote—boyhood home becomes available, he sets out to re-create a lost paradise for his new family. Once again, he allows love to blind him. Only when Mira becomes dangerously ill does it become impossible for Julia to conceal the explosive secret that she has been keeping.

In this first introduction to American readers, the acclaimed Polly Samson explores how the yearning for the past can affect joy in the present and the future. The Kindness is a haunting story of love, grief, betrayal, and reconciliation—masterfully plotted and exquisitely rendered.

I’d never read anything by this author before but glad that I chose to review this book. It’s told in current tense, third person with carefully placed flashbacks. The first part of the book focuses on Julian, one of the main characters. The story is told through his eyes. That story is how he met Julia, and fell in love with her. It’s about their life with daughter Mira and Mira’s illness. It also covers his past relationship with Kate, an old school friend. It’s beautifully told and while I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the book I can say that all is not what it seems.

The last half of the book is told from Julia’s point of view. It’s sort of her take on the story that’s unfolded during the first part of the book. While it’s not a case of there’s two sides to every story, Ms. Samson did a wonderful job winning you over to both these character’s sides. I felt like they were both flawed in some way and that together they healed one another.

As all good books should, The Kindness is an emotional read. It has lots of twists and turns, especially in the second half. It tugs your heartstrings continually the more you learn about these characters and the truth behind their story. In a way it’s almost upsetting realizing they can’t all have a happy ending.

I’ll definitely be looking for more books by this author. And if you enjoy women’s fiction packed with emotion and told in an original way, I’d recommend putting this one on your to read list.