The Arrangement by Joan Wolf

The Arrangement by Joan Wolf
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Genre: Romance, Historical
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Mistflower

Dear Reader:

I am afraid I am about to do something exceedingly shocking.

My adventure began when I came to the Earl of Savile’s castle for the reading of George Devane’s will, of which the earl is the executor. I had every intention of refusing George’s blood money, but he foiled me by leaving it to my young son, Nicky. Because I am a young widow, this bequest has subjected me to a great deal of unpleasant gossip.

Now I find that I am in the power of the most exciting man I have ever met, a man whose very presence makes me weak, a man who could very well be my ruination.

Remember me in your prayers, as I shall need them.

(Mrs.) Gail Saunders

If I had to choose four words to describe this book then I’d choose: unpredictable, amazing, satisfying, and unforgettable.

I chose unpredictable because I was surprised twice. I honestly never saw the plot twists coming. My jaw hit the floor. I loved the unexpected wow factor. I chose amazing because this story was well-written. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. The cast of characters were well-developed and relatable, including the ones that added conflict. I felt like I was a fly on the wall inside the story, witnessing it in real life. I chose satisfying because it hit all my feel-good spots from beginning to end. I chose unforgettable because I had to put the book down a few times, and I never forgot what I last read when I picked it back up. I was thinking about the story when I was away from it, feeling eager to get back to it. I was borderline obsessed with this story. Now that it’s over I feel like I want to re-read it again. It’s definitely going on my keeper shelf.

I loved how the synopsis was a letter to the reader from the heroine, Gail Saunders. I’ve never seen that before. The story starts right away with the hero, Raoul, meeting Gail. Immediately I was hooked and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The first three chapters were hilarious. Gail is a strong willed, smart, and brave woman. Raoul is loyal, generous, and really easy to love unconditionally. He’s going on my book boyfriend list. Together they make a great team. I could feel their attraction to one another. They made me laugh out loud a few times. I admit they pulled at my heartstrings.

Every thread in the story was tied up nicely leaving me with a definite book glow. I could say more but I don’t want to accidentally give any spoilers. This novel is like a layered cake. Each layer is delicious. However, taken as a whole, it’s mouthwatering.

I strongly urge others to take the time to read this book. I feel it’s worth it.

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Audible Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Audible Narrator: Adam Lazarre-White
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Ginger

A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed of his father’s criminal record. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee are both ex-con fathers with a lot more in common than they thought–the love of their sons and the heart to confront not only their sons’ killer but their own prejudices.

This book is filled with fast paced action, bloody violence, heartfelt change, and personal growth. There are a lot of important topics touched on, talked about, revealed, and delivered in such a masterful way that I wish I could rate this book 10 stars. There is humor, healing, brotherhood, reflection, love, and judgement. Judgement of race, sexuality, social class, criminal history and probably the worst kind, self judgement. The message I took from this novel is to give people their flowers (love, acknowledgment, acceptance) while they are presently here in the physical. Do not judge someone for who they love, for the color of their skin, their criminal record because in the end all that does not matter. They are human, and time is short and precious.

I very much enjoyed this novel. There is action, violence, and topics that may be sensitive to some but, I personally would love to see this as a movie (but only if they’d don’t change anything). This is a current day storyline that will impact readers from any lifestyle or social class. The characters are well developed, likeable and authentically true to life. I enjoyed both Ike and Buddy Lee; they were not bad men but seeing them self-reflect on things they could have done better or differently, seeing them appreciate the important things now and seeing them change for the better was at times an emotional read. There were times it felt like an invasion of their privacy as they processed their healing, and then I had to remind myself they were not real.

My favorite character is Buddy Lee. He is down to earth, keeps it real and comes with no filter. In the audio version of the book Buddy Lee needed his own narrator. The narrator did an awesome job but a character with the personality of Buddy Lee deserves his own. The writing is superb. Readers will be able to take away their own message because the author is just that award talented in covering so much that it fits a multitude. This book kept my attention and is definitely on my highly recommend memorable book list.

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa M.D. (Author), Ray Porter (Narrator)

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa M.D. (Author), Ray Porter (Narrator)
Publisher: Hyperion (Print), Blackstone Audio, Inc. (Publisher)
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A remarkable cat. A special gift. A life-changing journey.

They thought he was just a cat. When Oscar arrived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island he was a cute little guy with attitude. He loved to stretch out in a puddle of sunlight and chase his tail until he was dizzy. Occasionally he consented to a scratch behind the ears, but only when it suited him. In other words, he was a typical cat. Or so it seemed. It wasn’t long before Oscar had created something of a stir. Apparently, this ordinary cat possesses an extraordinary gift: he knows instinctively when the end of life is near. Oscar is a welcome distraction for the residents of Steere House, many of whom are living with Alzheimer’s. But he never spends much time with them — until they are in their last hours. Then, as if this were his job, Oscar strides purposely into a patient’s room, curls up on the bed, and begins his vigil. Oscar provides comfort and companionship when people need him most. And his presence lets caregivers and loved ones know that it’s time to say good-bye. Oscar’s gift is a tender mercy. He teaches by example: embracing moments of life that so many of us shy away from. Making Rounds with Oscar is the story of an unusual cat, the patients he serves, their caregivers, and of one doctor who learned how to listen. Heartfelt, inspiring, and full of humor and pathos, this book allows readers to take a walk into a world rarely seen from the outside, a world we often misunderstand.

This is an unexpected gem – totally out of my comfort zone and yet one of the best accidental reads I’ve ever experienced.

The narrative style is smooth, well-paced and it included wonderful descriptives, dialogue, in-depth and heartfelt patient portrayals with insights, emotion, respect and warmth. Dr. David Dosa, an attending physician at Steere House, shares stories of his impressions as he went from skeptic to believer with regards to the amazing skills of Oscar, the resident cat. As far as I’m concerned, this novel is definitive in proving that animals have a special place in soothing and helping people when they are sick, in pain, or in Oscar’s case, providing comfort while signaling that death is imminent for a patient.

Dr. Dosa quoted this, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous” from a famous person. I liked that quote. I enjoyed watching the doctor slowly but surely come to the realization that Oscar really did have a special way of knowing. He comes to the conclusion that it’s not just for the patient, but for all the family going through the journey of watching their loved one being torn down by dementia or Alzheimer’s. One of the concepts is that the sufferers of the disease go through a process of un-learning everything, including even how to use a spoon. It’s a downward spiral that is unstoppable. I learned along with Dr. Dosa aspects of the disease process and how it affects the spouses left behind, their sons and daughters left behind, and the memories of who these people used to be before – just how much is lost. Yet, in the sharing, I saw amazing ways to deal with the loss, a different way to think, of little daily victories, and what is really the most important thing in life – slaving away to a deadline, a job, everything and anything other than our loved ones and family is NOT it – it’s that it IS our family and our loved ones that should be number one. When they’re gone, they’re gone and all the what-ifs, and If-onlys will only drag you down and follow you the rest of your life.

I was very affected by some of the patients’ stories. My aunt was in one of those situations described – sent to the hospital but the place she lived in would not allow her back. Where do you put a person suffering from severe dementia when they have no place to go – on the street? Hospitals don’t care. No one advises families about things like this. Doctors don’t share information people really need to know about in these situations. Not knowing how to care for your loved ones causes a distress you can’t imagine until you feel it yourself. It’s not good. Dr. Dosa shares advice in short vignettes woven throughout the novel. The most impactful was the story of Mr. and Mrs. Rubinstein. Ruth was the patient. The history of their relationship, where they met, and what happened to Frank later on when he tried to celebrate their wedding anniversary hit me in my tear ducts. There were many parts that affected my emotions throughout the book, but Ruth and Frank’s story got to me. I KNEW that scenario. A couple that used to go to our church could have been Ruth and Frank. The succession of final events happened the exact same way. I think that’s why Making Rounds with Oscar affected me so strongly – I could relate. After this book, I could understand in a way I hadn’t before. I found a lot of value within the pages of this novel and I feel like I’m better for having read it.

I also liked the descriptions of all the cats, not just Oscar. Their antics, their personalities – Munchie, Billy, and others, were enjoyable. Another cute line from the doctor is, “Calling a cat fickle is like saying snow’s wet.” I cracked up at that. I seriously believe that having the furry friends made the nursing home seem more homey. I hope there more geriatric centers like Steere House out there than not. There’s value in a purr.

Ray Porter, the narrator, provided wonderful interpretations of the main characters. He imbued the dialogue with emotion. His narrative of Dr. Dosa really seemed to get into the author’s head and convinced me I was listening to the good doctor. It was a joy to listen to and I think helped make the book that much more relatable than reading the print words alone.

There is a lot I could talk about because there is so much rich content, some of which I’d never heard of or considered. I truly believe that anyone facing the challenge of a family member suffering from the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia would benefit from the insights shared in this book based on Dr. Dosa’s experiences. It’s not depressing, it’s empowering. Yes, I cried quite a few times. But I laughed too. Just like life, there are ups and downs.

I really, really liked this book and I can’t tell you how strongly I recommend others to read Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. Its delivery is easy to read/listen to. It’s not dry at all; it’s engaging, interesting and entertainingly educational. I realize this book has been out for a while but it’s still relevant, and its message is as important now as the day it was published.

A Full-Bodied Love by Amber Cross

A Full-Bodied Love by Amber Cross
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Mistflower

Lisa Kirkpatrick is stubborn, but she’s not stupid. If this guy needs a date to evade an unwanted admirer, who is she to object? It’s not as if handsome men are lining up to ask her out. Sure, they know there’s a woman in the wheelchair, but it would never occur to them that there’s a WOMAN in the wheelchair. He notices. This solid, fun, straight-shooting guy ticks off every box on her ideal man list. But why do they call him Slick?

Roger Plankey thought his life was full until he walked into the town clerk’s office and laid eyes on the woman behind the counter. A spunky, independent woman with a dash of humor and just enough sass to keep him on his toes. She fills that unknown void in his life like she was made for him. But is there such a thing as too perfect?

This is a must read. I’ve never read anything like this before. Truly original, heartwarming and entertaining. The name of the story is, A Full-Bodied Love and I’d like to Copy/Paste the Author’s note: “Full-bodied means to be heady, mellow, lusty, mature, potent, rich, and strong. I hope this love story represents those elements.” – Amber Cross.” It is my opinion that this story represented all those characteristics and more. This is my first Amber Cross book, and it won’t be my last. It’s been days since I finished this book and I’m still thinking about it.

The romance between Lisa Kirkpatrick and Roger Plankey is inspiring. I’ve never read a love story involving a heroine in a wheelchair before, but I can say that their love story was brilliantly written. They met on page one in a chance encounter that was humorous until it wasn’t. I was immediately drawn into the story and couldn’t put the book down until I reached the last page.

The cast of characters were well developed and relatable. I appreciated Lisa’s clothing style and accessories which clearly matched her spunky self. I felt welcomed into Roger’s family since they were genuinely down to earth, caring and helpful to others. Lisa’s sister, Hazel, was less desirable but with good intentions. Hazel’s heart was in the right place which is revealed in the ‘happily ever after’.

There is a plot twist near the end that did throw me for a loop. I didn’t see it coming yet I feel it was delicately played out. I was left with hope that with love all things can work out. I don’t want to give a spoiler so I can’t elaborate on that plot twist any further than that.

There is much more to this story and that is why I suggest it as a ‘must read’. The romance between Lisa and Roger is sigh worthy. I put Roger on my ‘book boyfriend list’. I would definitely read this story again and again and again. Happy Reading!

After Sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones

After Sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Danger brings together two guarded hearts in a battle for survival in this irresistible story from New York Times bestselling authors Linda Howard and Linda Jones.

Sela Gordon, the shy owner of a Tennessee general store, finds safety in solitude. But if anyone can pierce her protective shell it’s the handsome, mysterious ex-military man living alone in the wilds of Cove Mountain. For two years, he’s kept his distance—until the day he appears to warn her that a catastrophic solar storm capable of taking down the power grid is coming. Now, Sela must find the courage to become the leader Wears Valley needs.

Bitter experience has taught Ben Jernigan it’s best to look out for number one. For two years the former soldier has lived in a self-imposed exile, using a top-notch security system to keep people away. But he had to let Sela know about the impending threat—and now the quiet and undeniably sexy woman is making it too easy for him to lower his guard.

As panic spreads, Sela and Ben discover that in the dark, cut off from the outside world, there’s no more playing it safe—in life or in love.

This novel is a keeper, an edge-of-your-seater powerful read with elements of truth that sent shivers up my spine. The story and romance sucked me in and never let go.

To divert attention for a bit, I watched a disaster movie, and the basic premise was the same – the loss of everything we use in regular everyday life, setting us back about 200 years in technology and in living conditions. The difference is the movie gave me nightmares because it showed the brutality and twisted evil some survivalists can devolve into. In After Sundown, I found a more positive, optimistic yet pragmatic take on it that was an absolute pleasure to read. The book didn’t leave me with a bad taste, it had a sensual spice-lite romance that was wonderful to watch grow and a cast of characters I came to care about, and villains that deserved what they got.

I choose to call this a contemporary story because up until the CME (Coronal Mass Ejections) hits, it is. And the thing about the CME, is that it’s a real thing, it can do what this novel explores, but so far, it’s only been on a scale that affected about 6 million people. I can tell the authors really did their research and it’s probably why this book makes such an impression on me. The Carrington Event is mentioned so I took the time to look it up. Blew. My. Mind. This story sure has opened my eyes to the possibilities.

Now, to the good stuff…the romance between quiet, I-want-to-stay-in-the-background, Sela, and Ben, the ex-military isolationist that is holed up on the mountain and only comes down for the bare essentials. They are a most unlikely pair, and that is why it works so well. The strong point for me about the two main characters is their growth. One becomes strong and a kind of leader, and the other, eventually rejoins the human race as an active participant. For the hero, it was like pulling impacted wisdom teeth – but, you know, eventually, they come out, you feel better, and you can move forward without that level of pain, right? That may be a strange analogy, but in my mind, it fits Ben to a T. You see, the authors wrote from each of their points of views, so a reader can understand what makes them tick. I found Ben to be absolutely fascinating. Hidden really deep inside the man, is a soft, squishy, loving heart and as the story unfolds, a reader starts to see those tiny cracks in his emotional fortress. I found it more romantic and fulfilling than if the romance was fast, in-your-face and easy. There’s nothing easy about the hero, but I can tell that when he commits, he’s all in, 100%. Definite hero material.

The practical problems of how to survive were explored in various degrees of depth. Obviously, the authors had to pinpoint specifics for the telling of the tale, but I am sure that at some points they must have been overwhelmed. There’s one scene where Sela discusses the process of coming up with solutions, and I absolutely agree with her assessment. After reading all the preparations that Sela and her family were able to do, and then reading all the things they later thought they should have done, it made me look around my own home, my own skills and I found them sadly lacking. My mom cans and does preserves, sews and gardens like a fiend. I’m a product of my generation – the stores and online shopping are my go-to places for necessities. I work outside the home and have no time for what was, even 60 years ago, a typical part of life- canning and gardening and doing things close to the land. Back then it was more common to know some farmers by name and get food directly from them instead of pre-packaged in an air-conditioned grocery store like today. All that to say – I feel like I’d be one of those people who didn’t survive the first month. Scary thought, right? But After Sundown focuses on the can-do attitude, the ingenious ways people come up with to work together and become a close-knit community that help each other. It was like that in the Old West, and at times, some scenes in the book were reminiscent of that.

Some readers might think that things were a little ‘too easy’ in some instances, but I don’t read romance books to be fed overly factual and ‘correct’ details. The authors provided enough to give readers the atmosphere of a crisis, the hope of humanity in seeing neighbor helping neighbor, enough realistic drama and suspense from the bad guys’ intentions and deeds, and the ultimate life-affirming reality that even in the worst times, people fall in love, make love, and look to the future. The authors accomplished all of it and gave me one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a while. It impressed me so much that I was compelled to give this story the highest rating I could.

After Sundown is a must read, a great read, and is one readers should add to their own collections of keepers. There is so much more to this novel, like, important secondary characters I haven’t touched upon, some of the humor, Ben’s relationship with a dog he didn’t want to want, and the sweet moments when the community comes together for both good and sad times. But above all, the happy ever after is wonderful, loving and so very satisfying that this book is an easy re-read. I heartily and enthusiastically recommend this thrilling romance story – it’s awesome in all the best of ways.

Queen of Shadows by Britt Cooper & Erin Dulin

Queen of Shadows by Britt Cooper & Erin Dulin
The Chronicles of Faybl, #1
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Chamomile

Why be a princess when you can rule the shadows?

Rejecting the senseless demands of her wicked stepmother, Ella of Locksley shares her family’s abundance with the people of her land. Yet, the desperation of her community has only begun.

When the nation of Llundyn is brutally attacked, Princes Ric and Johan begin to fight for their right to rule, leaving the kingdom’s very heart to hang in the balance as subversive forces emerge. Taxation drives the citizenry toward hopelessness, with the absence of leadership taking its toll.

Striking out on her own, Ella takes up the nation’s cause, making a name for herself as the infamous Hood, and leads her cunning crew, stealing from the rich to provide for the poor. But the return of the rightful heir, along with a forbidden romance, changes everything—with artifice and betrayal leading to an unlikely alliance that unites prince and thieves.

The passion and true love of a king leave Ella torn between duty and loyalty when, at the stroke of midnight, her identity is exposed. She’ll face the ultimate choice—enduring as the Hood or sacrificing it all for the ones she loves.

This epic debut by co-authors Britt Cooper & Erin Dulin will leave readers wanting more!

Queen of Shadows is a steamy Fantasy Romance story that pairs Robin Hood with Cinderella in an unforgettable whirlwind of excitement! The chemistry between these two was immediate and I loved finding the fun easter eggs along the way paying homage to their original tales while enjoying this amazing retelling!

This one definitely sets a dark tone from the start, and I loved it! Ella is the Queen of Shadows, and it shows in this brilliant blending of everything I love about this genre! Strong character types, sizzling chemistry, a reluctant hero, a good balance of action and romance, and a tantalizing slow-burn!

From the start, I was hooked! I loved getting to know this remarkable cast, and absolutely cannot wait to read more! I couldn’t put this one down and eagerly await the next installment of this extraordinary series!

A Pride of Brothers: Aiden by Peggy Jaeger

A Pride of Brothers: Aiden by Peggy Jaeger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Mistflower

Lexi Buckley wants answers about her younger sister’s death. The police have labeled it a suicide, but Lexi doesn’t believe it. Stymied in her investigation, she doesn’t know where to turn next. After a chance encounter with a private investigator, she thinks her prayers have been answered.

Aiden Keane has never been an answer to a prayer before, but he agrees to help Lexi. A quirky combo of brains and beauty, the pixie blonde makes him feel things no professional ever should for a client.

When their investigation puts Lexi’s life in jeopardy, her safety becomes his number one priority. The hard part is not falling for her.

I loved Pride of Brothers: Aiden so much that I’m going to have to find and read book one, A Pride of Brothers: Rick. Why? Because a higher power beyond my control is demanding me to find and read the first book, at least that is what I tell my husband. Ha, ha. I love Ms. Jaeger’s books. She’s on my favorite authors list.

I can’t believe my good fortune to be sucked into another great series quite so fast! The hero in this book is Aiden Keane. *sigh* Just thinking about him gives me goosebumps. Lexi Buckley, the heroine, was one lucky woman to have a “chance encounter” with Aiden. I believe he really was the answer to her prayers in more ways than one. I loved how Aiden “has never been an answer to a prayer before” but he agrees to help Lexi. That statement alone makes me smile. Aiden is the complete package. He’s a private investigator for goodness’ sake! I know I’d like his help in keeping me safe and, shall I say, ‘warm’.

Lexi was a hoot! I loved her. She had this hilarious unique characteristic that’s endearing. You’ll have to read the story to find out what I’m talking about. It’s an instrumental characteristic throughout the book and it made me laugh out loud numerous times. Aiden found it irresistible. Together Lexi and Aiden had me not only laughing, but on the edge of my seat as they investigated her younger sister’s death.

I haven’t read a romance/mystery/suspense/thriller in a very long time. I was on a historical romance binge for a while. I forgot what it was like to hyperventilate over a suspenseful scene. There are more plot twists in this story than I can shake a stick at. I loved every second. I consider the plot to be original, creative and riveting.

I originally rated this book as a 5 but the more I type, the more I realize that I can’t stop talking about it which gravitated me towards rating this as a Best Book. I mean, I didn’t even mention the dog yet. Aiden has a dog. Ya’ll, it’s not just a dog. You need to read the story. If the dog doesn’t win you over then surely Aiden and Lexi will.

Did I mention that Aiden owns his own investigating company with his brothers? Oh, his brothers sound delicious. Aiden’s brother, Rick, is the hero and that’s the reason why I have to read the first book in this series. I met him in this story, and I would love to know how/why he decided to no longer be a bachelor. I don’t know if there are more books coming in the series but I do know that if there are, then I’ll be reading them.

According to the author’s website, the author writes “about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.” That really resonated with me. I appreciate Ms. Jaeger’s style of writing and that is why she’s on my “favorite authors list”.

If you at all like suspense/romance/mystery thrillers with strong, gorgeous heroes and smart, stunning heroines that will take you somewhere without actually going anywhere, then pick up this book.

Sworn to Fly by Maria Imbalzano

Sworn to Fly by Maria Imbalzano
(Sworn Sisters Series) Book 3 of 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Risk-averse ER nurse, Alyssa Beckman, is about to lose her job because of yet another bad decision. In order to put her life back on track, she books a week at a rustic mountain resort to ponder her next steps and rejuvenate. But when she arrives, she learns she’s enrolled in boot camp, an adventure program far out of her comfort zone.

While there, she meets Gabriel Sutton, a world-travelling high-fashion photographer who is in danger of losing his clients as well as his status if he doesn’t start following the rules. While hiking, kayak racing, and participating in team challenges, sparks fly between Alyssa and Gabe as they encourage each other to take different life paths. But will those paths lead them farther apart or bring them closer together?

I had zero inclination that this book was part of a series until I started the review and discovered that it’s actually book three of the Sworn Sisters Series. That demonstrates to me that Sworn to Fly can clearly be read as a standalone. I have never read a book by the author, Maria Imbalzano but I can assure you that I’ll be looking for more of her books in the future. Specifically, I’ll be purchasing the first two in this series without a doubt. I chose this book because the synopsis captured my interest. Now that I have finished the story, I am pleased that the synopsis was only a highlight to spark my interest. I compare the synopsis to the top and bottom bread of a sandwich. The story is whatever your absolute favorite sandwich filling would be.

I usually conclude my reviews with a recommendation to read the book or put it on a keeper’s shelf etc. I’m actually compelled to make such a statement at this point, Sworn to Fly is a must read. It is my greatest pleasure to claim this romance book as a LASR Best Book.

The heroine, Alyssa Beckman was easily someone I could know in reality which made it extremely easy for me to relate to her. Alyssa was more than just a character in a book. It felt as if she could be my neighbor, co-worker, sister, or in this situation, my best friend. Alyssa has three best friends that I’d like to get to know better. Apparently, they each had their own story previously in the Sworn Sisters Series. If their story is anything as good as Alyssa’s story then I simply must read them.

The hero, Gabriel Sutton is the meat of the sandwich. That just made me laugh out loud. If he’s the meat, then Alyssa is all the other fixings and condiments. Together they complete each other and the sandwich. That’s actually an awesome analogy for them and all the other characters are the chips, cookie and drink. The entire story is a combo meal. I can keep going with this analogy when I think of the series as a restaurant. I want to go back and get two more combo meals, which are the first two books, and I hope they will be just as delicious.

Gabriel and Alyssa are funny, overly dramatic and have amazing chemistry. I enjoyed reading their time together in the rustic mountain resort. Together as a couple they took my breath away. I’d really love to see this book made into a movie and I’m not talking about a Hallmark movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I actually love my Christmas Hallmark movies. I’m saying that I think there is enough material to turn this into an award-winning movie in the theaters.

The writing in this story was vivid, engaging and entertaining. I was able to visualize what I was reading while feeling what the characters were feeling as if I was at the scene. The synopsis intrigued me, the first page captured me and the best part is that there was even an epilogue.

This romance story was not a drive through fast food restaurant where the meal is finished in ten minutes and wrappers tossed into a trash can. This was a sit-down fancy lunch diner, where I took my time to eat and a waitress served me. Every bite was delicious, leaving me with a satisfied belly. I hope this review encourages other readers to give it a try. It’s a great book to sink your teeth into.

The Purveli by Dianne Duvall

The Purveli by Dianne Duvall (Author), Kirsten Potter (Narrator),
Aldebarian Alliance, Book 3
Publisher: Self-published, Tantor Audio (Audio Publisher)
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Romance, Action/Adventure
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Ava has always been different. Born with strong telepathic abilities, she lives a very isolated life until she is offered a job with an obscure network that aids powerful Immortal Guardians in their quest to protect humanity from the psychotic vampires who prey upon them. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel so different. For the first time in her life, Ava has found a place where she belongs. She’s happy. Life is good. And when her employers invite her to join a group of other gifted ones and a handful of Immortal Guardians on a journey to another planet, it becomes absolutely fantastic.

In no time at all, she is speeding across the galaxy aboard a Lasaran warship manned by two amazing alien races. It’s the dream of a lifetime… until a vicious attack by a mutual enemy of Lasara and Earth lands her alone in an escape pod with no habitable planet in sight and only one ship within range: one that carries the enemy who wants to know why the bioengineered virus they released on Earth long ago didn’t exterminate humanity and leave the planet ripe for their claiming.

Jak’ri doesn’t know how long he has been a prisoner aboard the Cebaun, but he fears the enemy’s twisted experiments will soon lead them to a virus that will eradicate the Purveli people. Despair grips him until a female from Earth is taken captive and reaches out to him telepathically. The gift that Ava said caused her such misery in the past soon becomes his salvation as the two of them form a fast friendship. Determined to distract each other from the horrors of their existence, they immerse themselves in telepathic communion during the day, then seek solace and adventure together in shared dreams. As their friendship deepens into love, the two hatch a daring plot to escape their captors. But the enemy will not let them go without a fight.

Can Ava and Jak’ri stand against so many and emerge victorious?

I had an absolute blast reading this book. Of the three she has written about the Aldebarian Alliance, The Purveli blew me out of the water. I am incredibly excited to write this review. I want to shout loud and proud about how much I adored this book. Ms. Duvall has written a story that made me clap my hands in glee. It totally rocked.

A little background – bad aliens blew up the good alien’s ship prompting its passengers, Gifted Ones and Immortal Guardians alike, to hurry to escape pods. Unfortunately, the interstellar highway was damaged, and it spit the escape pods out and scattered them in outer space. Time is running out because those bad aliens, the Gathendiens, want those Earthlings so bad, they’re not giving up and are searching for them. In The Purveli, it proved what we knew from The Lasaran and the Segonian, those horrible lizard bad guys want to wipe out all human life on Earth and they need the Earthlings to do experiments on to find out why they didn’t die out thousands of years ago when they should have. The Gathendiens are the ultimate bad guys and Ms. Duvall describes them in intricate detail for this novel. Now, readers have a clear picture of who the enemies are of our favorite characters from the Immortal Guardians series. They are nasty – they smell really bad too and they are really, really mean.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff, Ava and Jak’ri. Ava is a Gifted One and Jak’ri is a Purveli. I was thrilled with the author’s description of the hero. I adored what happens to his hair and I got the biggest kick out of Ava’s excitement at meeting Jak’ri for the first time and asking him a bazillion questions about his physical features that fascinated her. I mean, he’s an ALIEN. Right? I would have done the same thing. It’s really cool!

Usually, I’m not a fan of dream sequences but what Ms. Duvall did in this novel took that technique and made it her own. For a change, the meeting in dreams is crucial, important and absolutely integral to the plot. There’s a reason for its happening and fans of the Immortal Guardians will remember it well. During those dream sequences, I experienced laughter, joy, excitement and tears.

I also want to give credit to the narrator, Kirsten Potter. I listened to the book on audio, and I am pretty sure I’ve said this before in other reviews, but Ms. Potter is the bomb. Her narration, with its clearly defined character representation, vocal range, emotion and talent made this 5-star review blast to a Best Book rating.

Here’s where I get personal. When Jak’ri thought Ava was dying, I reacted. When I mean I reacted, my eldest son came running, “Mom! What’s wrong??” Oops. I had earphones on. I didn’t think I gasped that loud. Obviously, I did. I GASPED! Seriously, that scene – what a shocker! And boy o boy, fans of the series are in for some intense emotional feelings. I also cried. Not sniffled, not teared up – cried – needing tissues cried – with the scenes of Jak’ri and his brother. I was gutted. Later on, I found myself laughing hysterically, snickering, grinning and cheering. The scene when Jak’ri read Ava’s mind is priceless. The Purveli literally had my emotions running amok. It wasn’t just Ms. Potter’s narration; it was the quality of the plot, dialogue and writing talent that Ms. Duvall put into her story that made this novel such a powerful read.

I haven’t been this jazzed since Seth’s story.

I truly believe I could write a book about the book. Ms. Duvall’s imagination is on full display when she described the cute Leapers, and other flora and fauna of the alien world they escaped to, including the big kitty-like things. The description of the cave was cool and I thought the scene during the thunderstorm was adorable. The author made her alien world come to life in vivid detail. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The attraction between the hero and heroine is a slow sizzle until it finally sparked and they went up in delightful flames. There were a few fits and starts, but that’s what made their final coming together so satisfying.

The ending was awesome, perfectly wrapped up and joyous. However, in the audiobook version, Ms. Duvall added a treat. She shared what seems like the first chapter of the next book. Again, Ms. Potter is the narrator, thank goodness. As soon as it’s up for pre-order, I am going to grab it. Why? Because the beginning was AWESOME! I was listening to it in my car, and I just sat there. I didn’t drive. I couldn’t. I was too enthralled by what I was listening to. Oh, my Goodness! It’s going to be another great one. Talk about setting the hook! I’m so excited!

Run, don’t walk to get your own copy of The Purveli. I expect fans are going to be wowed like I am. I believe this could be read as a standalone, so new readers will be in for a treat too. I totally, completely and enthusiastically recommend this novel for sci-fi romance readers who like action, a hero and heroine who survive impossible odds and a story that sucks a person in because the writing is just that good.

The Post Box at the North Pole by Jaimie Admans

The Post Box at the North Pole by Jaimie Admans
Publisher: ‎HQ Digital
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Holiday
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sasha Hansley hates Christmas. As a child, it was her favourite time of year, but ever since the tragic death of her mother, it has completely lost its magic.

But when she gets an unexpected phone call from her estranged father, she’s forced to dust off her snow boots.

He’s been running a Lapland style Christmas village in Norway and after suffering a heart attack, he is on strict doctor’s orders to slow down. Eager to reconnect with her dad, Sasha books the next flight out there. Only she’s never actually been on a plane before, let alone to the Arctic Circle.

Met at the runway by drop-dead-gorgeous Taavi Salvesen, they sleigh ride through the snow with the Northern Lights guiding their way.

When Sasha uncovers sacks of unopened Santa mail – letters that children and adults from all over the world write to Santa every year – she realises that she can send a little bit of magic out into the world by replying to some of them.

With Taavi on hand to help, will Sasha rediscover her own excitement for Christmas and find love among the letters?

This is the most romantic book I’ve read all year!

Where do I find the words to explain the wonder I found within this book’s pages? This novel makes me want to put sparkling fairy lights all over the house, both inside and out. The Post Box at the North Pole has inspired me to decorate for Christmas like I’ve never done before. If I could hug the author for writing this story, I would. It’s incredibly happy and filled with the wonder of the Northern Lights. I adored this book!!

Can you tell I’m excited? This is only the second story I’ve read by this author and I’m a fan. I guarantee it won’t be the last and in fact, I crave more. If script writers wouldn’t mess this up, it truly would make a marvelous movie. Not Hallmark – this is better than that!

If you read the blurb/synopsis, then you know the basic gist of the plot. What it doesn’t convey is the heart and soul of what a reader will find within. Taavi Salvesen is the gruff backwoods handyman who knows his way around reindeers more than people. Sasha Hansley hasn’t liked Christmas in what feels like forever. The heroine’s father is an eccentric adventurer who doesn’t ever slow down. These three main characters are the core of the story. Their relationships change during the course of the novel and seeing it happen is like seeing a flower unfurl in slow motion. It’s beautiful, breathtaking and I’m watching it with rapt attention. So rapt in fact, it was almost 1:30 a.m. when I finished. I truly could not stop reading. The house was quiet, I’m alone and The Post Box at the North Pole transported me to a magical place of snow, hope and dreams.

The story is told in first person POV from Sasha’s perspective. The author is incredibly talented in that regard. At no time did the writing stumble. The thing with first person points of views is that not all authors can pull it off. Usually, when I see that style, I am hesitant. It can take me a while to feel comfortable with it. Not so with Ms. Admans’ writing. It’s seamless, flawless and easy to believe. Everything flows naturally and I feel like I am with a friend, watching her fall in love with the land, the man and one special reindeer.

What made this story work for me was the pacing of the romance. The way the author described how Taavi looked at Sasha and vice versa. The way she notices him noticing her. The blushes, the sassiness and funny puns and growing respect for the other. The biggest milestone moments are when either Taavi or Sasha let things slip the more they trust each other. They both have had pain in their lives and it’s molded them into the people I meet in the beginning. The people they become by the end is what matters. It’s why the romance works, why it’s believable and why I adore this book so very much. The chemistry is sizzling between them and the kisses, when they happen, are perfectly timed and ooh la la!. There is one scene where the author leaves it up to a reader’s imagination as to what went on. No matter what a reader envisions, it has the same result – it’s a turning point in their relationship in all the best ways.

Now, I know I’m being overly gushy and it may make you think there’s no plot conflict. There is. A couple of them, in fact. They are definitely character based and quite effective but nothing over-the-top. Again, it’s matters of the heart: it’s trust and healing of past hurts, to recapture the good memories of the past while moving beyond its negative parts’ hold on the present, it’s learning the truth about who they are rather than who they believe themselves to be. It’s about the healing of a family with love, in all its tears and joy. All of it embraces the Christmas spirit, but not one that happens once a year, but in every moment of every day in every year of your life. Its message is timeless. The Post Box at the North Pole is rich in so many ways, I can’t even begin to express everything I want to without delving into spoilers.

For me, The Post Box at the North Pole is sheer perfection. The talent of Ms. Admans to capture in words, both in description and dialogue, a romance story so heartwarming and real, that giving it a Best Book rating is the easiest decision I’ve made in a long, long time.