Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Akseli by Dianne Duvall, Kirsten Potter (Narrator)


The Akseli by Dianne Duvall, Kirsten Potter (Narrator)
Aldebarian Alliance, Book 4
Publisher: Self-Published, Tantor Audio (Publisher)
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Simone has hunted and slain psychotic vampires night after night for hundreds of years and desperately needs a change. When the leader of the Immortal Guardians offers her an opportunity to guard ten mortal women who are venturing to another planet, she dives right in and finds traveling into space and meeting amazing alien races just as exciting as she’d hoped… until an enemy attacks. Simone saves everyone she can before she’s thrust into an escape pod and the ship explodes. Alone, fearing some—if not all—of her friends have been killed, she vows to seek vengeance.

Despite his fierce reputation and propensity for violating the law, Janwar has formed a friendship with strait-laced Prince Taelon of Lasara. When the prince’s ship is destroyed, Janwar joins the massive Aldebarian Alliance-wide search and rescue mission and soon locates the Gathendien ship that launched the attack. An odd thing happens, however, as he and his crew stealthily approach it. The lifeforms inside begin to perish, two or three at a time in quick succession. Much to his surprise, someone else has reached the ship first: one of the very Earth women he hoped to rescue.

Fascinatingly fierce, Simone bands together with Janwar and his crew to search for her missing friends and wreak havoc upon those who wish to harm them. She also widens eyes, drops jaws, and sparks laughter and mischief as she banishes the warriors’ world-weariness and makes each day seem like a new adventure. The friendship that grows between Janwar and Simone swiftly deepens into love. But the enemy warriors they face are tenacious and boast more weapons in their arsenal than the alliance knows. Can Janwar, Simone, and such a small crew vanquish them?

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

The Akseli by Dianne Duvall, Kirsten Potter (Narrator)


The Akseli by Dianne Duvall, Kirsten Potter (Narrator)
Aldebarian Alliance, Book 4
Publisher: Self-Published, Tantor Audio (Publisher)
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Simone has hunted and slain psychotic vampires night after night for hundreds of years and desperately needs a change. When the leader of the Immortal Guardians offers her an opportunity to guard ten mortal women who are venturing to another planet, she dives right in and finds traveling into space and meeting amazing alien races just as exciting as she’d hoped… until an enemy attacks. Simone saves everyone she can before she’s thrust into an escape pod and the ship explodes. Alone, fearing some—if not all—of her friends have been killed, she vows to seek vengeance.

Despite his fierce reputation and propensity for violating the law, Janwar has formed a friendship with strait-laced Prince Taelon of Lasara. When the prince’s ship is destroyed, Janwar joins the massive Aldebarian Alliance-wide search and rescue mission and soon locates the Gathendien ship that launched the attack. An odd thing happens, however, as he and his crew stealthily approach it. The lifeforms inside begin to perish, two or three at a time in quick succession. Much to his surprise, someone else has reached the ship first: one of the very Earth women he hoped to rescue.

Fascinatingly fierce, Simone bands together with Janwar and his crew to search for her missing friends and wreak havoc upon those who wish to harm them. She also widens eyes, drops jaws, and sparks laughter and mischief as she banishes the warriors’ world-weariness and makes each day seem like a new adventure. The friendship that grows between Janwar and Simone swiftly deepens into love. But the enemy warriors they face are tenacious and boast more weapons in their arsenal than the alliance knows. Can Janwar, Simone, and such a small crew vanquish them?

Looking for an edge-of-your-seat, romantic suspense, sci-fi adventure that will knock your socks off? The Akseli is definitely the book to check out. There are space battles, sword fights, alien monsters, narrow escapes, action behind enemy lines on an ice planet, an A.I. program that can actually be considered a secondary character, and a romance that made my little heart go pitter-patter.

That list is only a tiny fraction of what made this story stand out as it amazed and enthralled me and had me listening to the audio version twice – some scenes, thrice. Lest a reader worry that it’s all flash-bang action, I assure you that there are tender moments, sweet moments, character dialogue that made me sniffle and my heart hurt for some of the guys in the scenes. Janwar’s crew each have their own story, and I will tell you, every single one needs their own HEA. You want tortured heroes? Men who’ve been hurt, scorned, made examples of and treated as pariahs by either their culture or their families? My heart broke for each of these brave men that Janwar now calls family. They all have good hearts, are actually noble and, even having chosen an unorthodox career in order to survive, have resisted becoming villains and instead kept their honor and are fiercely loyal to Janwar and to each other. How could the heroine NOT fall in love with Janwar and his ‘family’?

The Gathendiens are back being their dastardly, disgusting, vile, smelly selves – they are the perfect villains. They hate everyone and are bent on genocide towards any civilized planet that has something that they want. And they are not the only characters with defunct moral compasses – a reader finds out there are more deviant, greedy, power-hungry beings that will do anything for power and/or money. One of them reminds me of a character from the second set of Star Wars movies, and the other, is too close to a real-life villain. But I won’t go there. This novel is about a hero and heroine who defy and overcame incredible odds, all in order to rescue victims and friends from evil aliens. The story is about Janwar and Simone falling in love even while in the thick of things. It’s about a man who becomes better, stronger, more focused and more heroic all because of the love of a strong woman with a zest for life and adventure. It’s about acceptance, embracing differences and finding common goals. All of that is woven in throughout the novel with excellent storytelling skill.

If fans listen to the audio version, they are in for an experience of delight, entertainment, laughter and being 100% engaged and invested in every character’s wellbeing. The narrating talent of Ms. Potter is second to none. Each character has their own voice and Ms. Potter uses her voice skills flawlessly. I’ve yet to experience another narrator with her consistent range and ability to express emotions only through voice. Yes, the writing has to have it first, and it does, but the narration explodes the story into brilliant life. It’s one of the reasons that, when it comes to Ms. Duvall’s books, I purchase them in all three formats, audio, print and ebook. I’m always so satisfied, I find it well worth the investment.

The Akseli is a star-quality novel that gives readers a top-notch reading experience that thrills and entertains non-stop, all the way to the perfect and romantic happy ever after ending, with an irresistible hook for the next adventure in the series. Sign me up! I simply can’t get enough of this wonderful universe Ms. Duvall has created through the Aldebarian Alliance. It’s a book addiction worth having.

September Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Duck For Cover & Other Tales: A Collection Of Short Stories by Barbara Venkataraman


Duck For Cover & Other Tales: A Collection Of Short Stories by Barbara Venkataraman
Publisher: Next Chapter
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Fourteen short stories with a twist, Duck for Cover & Other Tales is filled with surprises.

The Yes Man is about a woman who looks after her elderly father with dementia, only to discover he still has life lessons to teach her. Living My Best Life tells the story of an aging rock star who finds his legacy lives on in a way he hadn’t imagined. Thicker Than Blood is about the dilemmas caused by modern technology when a trio of siblings is asked to make the hardest decision of their lives. The Devil’s Workshop is the story of a young man being scared straight from a life of delinquency by a clever probation officer and an ex-con.

Topical, relatable and just plain fun, these and many other stories in this collection deal with friendship, kinship and the complexities of the modern world, and are sure to leave you with a smile.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Duck For Cover & Other Tales: A Collection Of Short Stories by Barbara Venkataraman


Duck For Cover & Other Tales: A Collection Of Short Stories by Barbara Venkataraman
Publisher: Next Chapter
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Fourteen short stories with a twist, Duck for Cover & Other Tales is filled with surprises.

The Yes Man is about a woman who looks after her elderly father with dementia, only to discover he still has life lessons to teach her. Living My Best Life tells the story of an aging rock star who finds his legacy lives on in a way he hadn’t imagined. Thicker Than Blood is about the dilemmas caused by modern technology when a trio of siblings is asked to make the hardest decision of their lives. The Devil’s Workshop is the story of a young man being scared straight from a life of delinquency by a clever probation officer and an ex-con.

Topical, relatable and just plain fun, these and many other stories in this collection deal with friendship, kinship and the complexities of the modern world, and are sure to leave you with a smile.

Even the most ordinary days can be filled with adventure if you know where to look.

Since the premise of “The Yes Man” was already shared in the blurb, I’ll jump straight into my thoughts about it. Dementia isn’t talked about enough in fiction in my experience, so I was excited to read a story about a family dealing with it here. Grief, love, and perseverance were soaked into every scene. What surprised me was how the author snuck in some humor, too. There is definitely something to be said for making the best of a tough situation, and I enjoyed seeing how that idea played out for these characters.

All of the tales in this collection were nearly short enough to be flash fiction. Some were only a couple of pages long, and most of the others were only a little longer than that. I’m sharing this so that others will understand just how impressive it was for Ms. Venkataraman to create those nuanced little worlds fourteen times in a row in such a small amount of space for each one. “From the Jaws of Victory” was a tale about a young woman named Lorelei who changed her name and appearance in order to get revenge for her father who lost his life savings in a business deal gone bad. I was immediately immersed in Lorelei’s painstaking plan to make things right again, and it took me until right before the final paragraph to figure out what sort of surprise might be coming her way.

“See You at the Movies” explored the warm, loving, but slightly mysterious relationship between Sean and his grandfather. Just like in several of the other sections, there was a mystery element to the plot that was subtle enough to feel like it could happen in real life to nearly anyone. It’s best if I allow other readers to discover for themselves why Sean was suddenly so sentimental about the many films they had watched together over the years, but I thought the bond between this grandfather and grandson was delightful.

Duck For Cover & Other Tales: A Collection Of Short Stories made me yearn for more and catapulted this author to my must-read list. It’s perfect just the way it is!

August Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Racing to You by Susan Carlisle


Racing to You by Susan Carlisle
Love in the Air, book 1
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Action/Adventure
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

The last person she wanted to ask for help is the man who destroyed her father’s life.

Hot air balloon pilot Emily Kerr needs to enter a coast-to-coast race across America to raise funds and start her own ballooning business. Her only obstacle is finding a sponsor.

Reid Martin is an industrial textile manufacturer who has developed a promising high-tech material, but he needs to test it in a practical setting before selling it to the Department of Defense. With a government contract in hand, Reid can take his family company public, saving it from bankruptcy.

Despite her reservations, Emily offers Reid an enticing opportunity to get a first-hand look at what his fabric can do. He agrees to help the intriguing woman but with two stipulations:

1. She must use the balloon he constructs
2. He will accompany her on the three-week trip

While floating across the sky, Emily reluctantly accepts the appealing man’s presence while vowing not to let him touch her heart. Will Reid risk everything—including Emily’s dream and his hope of winning her love—to save his future?

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Racing to You by Susan Carlisle


Racing to You by Susan Carlisle
Love in the Air, book 1
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Action/Adventure
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

The last person she wanted to ask for help is the man who destroyed her father’s life.

Hot air balloon pilot Emily Kerr needs to enter a coast-to-coast race across America to raise funds and start her own ballooning business. Her only obstacle is finding a sponsor.

Reid Martin is an industrial textile manufacturer who has developed a promising high-tech material, but he needs to test it in a practical setting before selling it to the Department of Defense. With a government contract in hand, Reid can take his family company public, saving it from bankruptcy.

Despite her reservations, Emily offers Reid an enticing opportunity to get a first-hand look at what his fabric can do. He agrees to help the intriguing woman but with two stipulations:

1. She must use the balloon he constructs
2. He will accompany her on the three-week trip

While floating across the sky, Emily reluctantly accepts the appealing man’s presence while vowing not to let him touch her heart. Will Reid risk everything—including Emily’s dream and his hope of winning her love—to save his future?

Balloons, adventure and love? Sounds like a great combination!

I already knew I loved the books of Susan Carlisle and as soon as I saw this one, I had to read it. I’m hooked. This is a fantastic start to the series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. The writing had me racing through it to see how this ended. I loved the characters and the story.

I love the enemies to lovers situation in this story. Emily wants to make her dreams come true and own a ballooning company. She can do that if she can win some ballooning competitions, but she needs a sponsor. Enter Reid. He’s got a past she doesn’t like, and they don’t get along right away. I loved that these two had to sort out their issues. I felt like I was right there with them in the balloon and could practically feel the air whooshing around me. The chemistry was great between Emily and Reid. I can’t wait for more.

If you’re interested in a great story with fun characters, then try this book by Susan Carlisle. You won’t be disappointed.

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze by Benjamin Roech


Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze by Benjamin Roech
Publisher: Deep Hearts YA
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Romance, LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Fifteen-year-old Rainey Cobb never thought meeting someone could actually change her life. But, then again, she’s never met anyone like Juliet.

It’s 1995 and The Cobb Family Band, led by Rainey’s rock star parents, has arrived for a week-long gig at the Midwestern resort owned by Juliet’s family. Dazzled by Juliet’s carpe diem attitude, DIY tattoos, and passion for grunge, Rainey falls hard. And when Juliet gives Rainey a mixtape that unlocks her heart’s secret yearnings, Rainey starts seeing herself-and her vagabond, show-biz life-through new eyes.

If Rainey quits the band, her parents’ fading career might never recover. But if she doesn’t leap now, she might be stuck forever in a life she didn’t choose…and always wonder who she could have been.

One summer really can change everything.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that addressed Rainey’s summer romance. She and her love interest were both so young and still unsure of where they might land on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It was interesting to see how they addressed their feelings as they both explored their identities and tried to figure out what they wanted out of life. I don’t want to give away any spoilers here, but this was nicely written and felt very realistic for their ages and for the era they lived in.

I also enjoyed the subplots about Rainey’s complex relationships with her parents. She was beginning to grow up, and her mother, Tracy, wasn’t always ready for all of the changes that was going to bring to their band and to their lives in general. While there were a few times when I shook my head at how much effort Tracy was putting into preserving traditions that were not necessarily working so well as her children asserted their independence, even these moments were genuine and necessary for what was to come. Adjusting to change isn’t easy, especially for parents who have given their children such unconventional upbringings so far.

The character development was handled beautifully. Every member of the Cobb family was three dimensional and well written, and this was especially true for Rainey. I found myself wishing that she were a real person so we could talk about poetry and make mixtapes for each other all summer long. It was delightful to see how she, her brother, and their parents all grew as individuals over the year that this novel covered. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d love to find out what happened to these characters next!

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze was utterly perfect.

Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck


Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck
Scarred Hearts, Book Two
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Abby Marlow, computer security expert, lands a job at the best IT security firm in the country. Her sole focus is financial independence so she never has to rely on others again, especially a man. But why does her boss make her wires short circuit?

Ted Endicott, CEO and founder of the IT security firm, is hard of hearing. Although an expert in his field, he’s still uncomfortable admitting his hearing problem to clients or employees. So why is he willing to accept Abby’s help?

As Ted and Abby work together, barriers fall away, and the lines blur between colleagues and lovers. But a security glitch in a client’s system shows one of Ted’s employees is the hacker, and all signs point to Abby. Can they get past the suspicion and find a future together?

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck


Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck
Scarred Hearts, Book Two
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Abby Marlow, computer security expert, lands a job at the best IT security firm in the country. Her sole focus is financial independence so she never has to rely on others again, especially a man. But why does her boss make her wires short circuit?

Ted Endicott, CEO and founder of the IT security firm, is hard of hearing. Although an expert in his field, he’s still uncomfortable admitting his hearing problem to clients or employees. So why is he willing to accept Abby’s help?

As Ted and Abby work together, barriers fall away, and the lines blur between colleagues and lovers. But a security glitch in a client’s system shows one of Ted’s employees is the hacker, and all signs point to Abby. Can they get past the suspicion and find a future together?

I had actually read book one in this series but it was a long time ago and I forgot. I’m forgetting a lot of things lately but I do recall clearly that I loved book one. Well, I just have to tell you that I loved book two as much as the first one if not more! I started Unlock My Heart and didn’t stop until I finished it.

In the section “A word about the author”…and I quote “Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong, and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with a happily ever after.” That statement is the perfect description of the type of books that I prefer to read and it’s accurate for Unlock My Heart. I couldn’t have said it any better.

Abby, the heroine, is definitely smart since she attains a job at the best IT security firm in the country. She’s determined to be financially independent and to make her parents proud.

The story starts with the hero, Ted. Right away his vulnerability is revealed in a way that I was curious to learn more about. Ted is definitely smart, handsome and available.

Ted actually owns the IT security firm that Abby is employed at. It’s pretty much love at first sight but filled with complications from the get-go. There is one plot twist after another making it impossible for me to stop reading. Obviously the first conflict is the fact that Ted was Abby’s boss. I could feel the chemistry between them that they professionally couldn’t act on. Let’s just say that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to reach the “barriers fall away, and the lines blur between colleagues and lovers.”

There are other characters in the plot line who are relevant to the success of this book such as Ted’s business partners. Ted’s college friends, Simon and Alexander, formed CAST to invest their money and use their wealth to help others.

The first book in the series was about Ted’s partner, Simon. I was thrilled that Simon made an appearance in book two. I hope Alexander and Caleb are considered as future heroes in this series. I want more and I don’t want to wait.

Jennifer Wilck has been on my “trusted favorite author” list for a while now. The Scarred Heart series is awesome. Unlock My Heart is going on my ‘Keeper’s shelf’ next to the first book, A Reckless Heart”. I hope other readers will love this book as much as I did.

Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Teddy Loses His Ears by Christine Milkovic Krauss


Teddy Loses His Ears by Christine Milkovic Krauss
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Teddy is a rescue cat who lost his ears from frostbite. Teddy has inspired a series of stories with his true-life adventures that share relatable messages of kindness and acceptance. Teddy hopes that his stories will raise awareness to the organizations that saved his life, and thousands of other animals’ lives every year.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!