The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (321 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Nobody knows what happened to Sarah Cook. The beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton―black and from the wrong side of the tracks―was convicted of the murders and is now on death row. Though he’s maintained his innocence all along, the clock is running out. His execution is only weeks away when his devoted sister insists she spied Sarah at an area gas station. Willing to try anything, she hires PI Roxane Weary to look at the case and see if she can locate Sarah.

Brad might be in a bad way, but private investigator Roxane Weary isn’t doing so hot herself. Still reeling from the recent death of her cop father in the line of duty, her main way of dealing with her grief has been working as little and drinking as much as possible. But Roxane finds herself drawn in to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she links the disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl.

The stakes get higher as Roxane discovers that the two girls may not be the only beautiful blonde teenagers who’ve turned up missing or dead. As her investigation gets darker and darker, Roxane will have to risk everything to find the truth. Lives depend on her cracking this case―hers included.

Everyone has baggage, even those that we ask to help us.

Roxane Weary knows this better than anyone else. Working as a private investigator, jobs come and go, and she feels that she does okay, even well at her line of work. When Roxane is hired to complete one last ditch effort to save a man from his execution date, Roxane’s bank account and liquor cabinet are running low. When she begins the investigation, she has no idea of where it will lead.

The Last Place You Look is a wild ride from start to finish. The demons that Roxane faces are only compounded by the loss of her father and the frustrating family dynamics that are set into motion. While trying to remedy her past and understand her own future, Roxane struggles with keeping up with each day-although some days get away from her.

The character development, deep plot lines, and dynamic conversations all add to the depth of this wonderful read. The story is smooth flowing, full of energy and never a dull moment. Yet, the story flows and does not feel rushed or forced. As a reader, we experience life from Roxane’s eyes, we see how she analyzes the case, the developments and interestingly, when things go wrong, they go horribly wrong! Roxane is a person, a real character that the reader can fully comprehend. The ups and downs of the story do not feel like they were set to create a plot, but feel like a natural reaction to the world of the characters.

The story comes to a pivotal point when Roxane realizes that she cannot keep going on like she has, she must either back down or push forward-but there is no stagnation. This is a resolution for the reader-our lives will change and we can choose to have a direction of the flow or we can back down and crash with the waves-this is illustrated deeply by Roxane’s choices and the shaping of her development throughout the story.

The Last Place You Look is an amazing suspense story with a strong amount of action/adventure and an awesome amount of human character development-make sure you don’t miss this amazing read!

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Revieeed by Xeranthemum

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

Wildfire is an exhilarating ride that left me breathless, excited and bowled over. I have been waiting for this final book in the story arc and it was even better than I imagined. Actually, there was no way I could ever, not in my wildest dreams, have guessed what was in store for me when I jumped back into the world that Ms. Andrews has created.

There were so many elements that made this novel the blockbuster that it is. It was like reading about an adventure that included the X-Men, Godzilla vs. Ghidorah, and Anita Blake & Edward (the early books).

The one thing that stood out for me is that I felt I was there, in the thick of battle, wild-eyed with adrenaline coursing through my veins. So much so, that I read this until I reached the very last page. So what if it took me until 1 AM. It was worth it.

One thing is for sure, this is not a standalone read. Not really. I mean, Ms. Andrews does do a light recapping of main points as a refresher but nothing can effectively prepare a reader for the shocking conclusion of Wildfire like reading the first two books, Burn For Me and White Hot can. No, a reader simply has to be absorbed into the world of Rogan (Connor) and Nevada from the get-go. A reader must understand the man Rogan was before he met the heroine because throughout the novels his character grows more human, reachable, and even lovable, in a guns/ammo/wild magic kind of way. I met Nevada when she was small potatoes in the investigative businesses and one decision, one job, changed not only her life but the lives of her entire family. Wildfire brings everything they’ve learned, everything they are and pushes them into being something they never thought they’d be.

A very strong plus for this novel is family, Nevada’s family. I enjoyed meeting every single brother and sister, her mother and maternal grandmother. I can’t say I enjoyed meeting her paternal grandmother because there is absolutely nothing about that woman to like. There is, however, a lot to fear and with good reason. The revelation of what that woman did in the past and how it affected Nevada and her siblings has to be read to be believed. Someone needs to crack her like a nut and I hope Nevada is the one to do it. Payback.

I got the biggest kick out of the blue kitty and Sergeant Teddy. I never guessed how important they’d eventually be but I was certainly not surprised. Not when a reader knows where they came from and just how adorable Matilda is.

Even though I chose spicy as the heat level in this book, it’s more spicy-light. There was just enough to make me happy because I really, really love how Ms. Andrews wrote Rogan when he’s fixated on Nevada. It’s sexy, it’s sultry and oh, so VERY romantic! His passion is so contained and yet it’s powerful and the author made me FEEL it. Wow. Nevada is one satisfied woman, many times over. 🙂

I could go on and on about this novel. The writing, the dialogue, the descriptions, the atmosphere, all of it worked, but the action scenes? They were so well done; all of them were significant, rousing, exciting, provoking, thrilling and dramatic. The tension, the suspense and the edge-of-your-seat need to read page after page is compulsive and addicting. I enjoyed the planning and execution of the final showdown. I was hoping for an ending that fit the couple that Rogan and Nevada have become. I was not disappointed.

I adore this series, love most of the characters and I want to thank Ms. Andrews for creating people in a world that I crave to re-visit. The closest I can get is to re-read all three books. I think Rogan is hot, sexy and sort of scary. Nevada is formidable in her own right and is the perfect balance for Mad Rogan. There is not one thing about this novel, or indeed this series, that I didn’t like. All three are on my keeper shelf and there they shall remain. Wildfire pushed all my happy buttons

Last Chance Cowboys: The Outlaw by Anna Schmidt

Last Chance Cowboys: The Outlaw by Anna Schmidt
Where the Trail Ends Book 3
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (322 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Amanda Porterfield longs to experience real adventure. So when she’s offered a position in bustling Tucson, she leaps at the chance despite unknown dangers―dangers like the mysterious Seth Grover.

As an undercover detective working to stop a gang of outlaws, Seth can’t afford the distractions a woman like Amanda inspires. Yet when the fiercely intelligent beauty is thrust into the middle of a heist gone wrong, Seth will fight for a future that may never be theirs…even if it means risking everything he holds dear.

The Outlaw is an entertaining novel that was filled with exciting adventure; the kind of adventure that Amanda Portefield longed for to escape the monotony of her days. The writing style made it easy for me to be sucked into the author’s imaginary world filled with relatable characters and unpredictable plot threads. I thoroughly enjoyed being captivated from the start of the book all the way to the end. The pace was consistent and thrilling which kept me continuously turning the pages.

Amanda Portefield was a strong willed, spirited leading lady who had the misfortune to find herself in a few sticky situations. Some of those situations made me laugh while others made me grimace. It was to Amanda’s great fortune that the hero, Seth, possessed the uncanny ability to be nearby to rescue her, most of the time. Seth was greatly distracted by her intelligence and beauty and she couldn’t hide her interest in his mysterious persona. I mean, seriously, who could resist an undercover detective working to stop a gang of outlaws. I can’t deny that I found Seth to be more than enticing for me. I could feel the romantic tension when they were together.

While this is the third book in a series it can be read on its own. The fact that the plot threads were all tied up with a happily ever after at the end of this book made The Outlaw the ideal romance book for me. I would strongly encourage my family and friends to read this delightful, engaging and well written love story.

Lady Pirate by Lynsay Sands

Lady Pirate by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (395 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Valoree no longer has to masquerade as her murdered brother and scourge the oceans as Captain Red. She no longer has to command his pirate band in a quest to regain his birthright. She has been named heir to Ainsley Castle. But no executor would ever hand over the estate to an unmarried pirate wench and her infamous crew—no matter to whom she’d been born. And the will distinctly states that in order to inherit, Valoree must be married to a nobleman . . . and pregnant.

Upon learning that, the virgin captain is ready to return to the seas—but her crew has other ideas— and for those rascally cusses she would do anything. If they could find a way to put on her a sweet face that would fool the ton, she would handle the rest, even with a drunken prostitute as an “aunt” and her merry cutthroat crew as “servants.” But to herself she swears one thing: she will only marry a man who fires her blood, a man who is not afraid of a . . . Lady Pirate

Usually it’s men wrecking revenge on the high seas but in Lady Pirate Ms. Sands turns pirate adventures on their ear. Valoree is definitely the star attraction. She is smart, feisty, saucy and she can out cuss a sailor. The one thing that the heroine is not is a dainty lady. Due to the long length of this book, I was able to fully appreciate Valoree’s well-rounded character. There is a lot of depth, emotion and humor to discover as the story unfolds. From leading her men to attack an enemy ship, her preference for breeches and knives, and then seeing her annoyance and confusion with wearing a gown and its many parts, all painted a picture of a vibrant, fearless woman who isn’t afraid of a challenge. At least the ones she can imagine. The reality of trying to find a husband and getting pregnant in a relatively short timeline in order to obtain her birthright might just be more than this pirate bargained for.

Hilarity stems from surprising scenes regarding cake batter, fountains, the color pink, kidnapping and a romance that is as unconventional as a reader could wish. When pirates play the role of Cupid, with a peg leg and an eye patch, I expected some humor from culture shock but what I got was so much more. The author took the time to make the supporting cast come alive, have unique personalities and used them to effectively help Daniel, the bemused hero, woo their pirate captain.

Daniel’s character could have easily faded under the strength of Valoree’s presence but instead he rose to the challenge, many times. He had to because she kept him on his toes. I loved watching him be alternately entertained, amused or stunned while he reacted to all the scrapes the heroine got into. My favorite is when he got all hot and bothered, especially when he did it on purpose. That didn’t work out quite the way he intended. It didn’t go smoothly when he tried to teach the heroine about the difference between what a lady can and can’t do in society when it comes to sexual urges versus what a man can do. Valoree wasn’t overly fond of that revelation. I’m grinning while remembering that part. I think the heroine made her opinion very clear to Daniel about that. J

What totally surprised me was the real reason why Valoree kept getting attacked. Never in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated that wrinkle or where it would come from. Ms. Sands has a wonderfully devious mind.

Then there’s the marriage. I did say that the heroine was unconventional, right? You have NO idea just how much. Readers are in for a treat, and a couple of giggles.

Of course no romance would be complete without the dashing, sexy and virile hero introducing the heroine to the joys of the flesh. As always, Ms. Sands writes them so well that figurative steam rises from the book’s pages. The beach blanket scene was particularly memorable.

All in all, I’d say Ms. Sands has another winner with Lady Pirate and hopefully her fans will enjoy reading about the escapades of a very unique heroine and the man strong enough to be her partner in all ways. As big as this novel was, I read it in one day, and then later I read it again because once was not enough. I enjoyed everything about this book including the satisfying happy ever after. Lady Pirate is a must read.

Camelot Games by Oliver F. Chase

Camelot Games by Oliver F. Chase
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (418 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

When a secret political machine maneuvers California war hero, Scott McHale and his beautiful activist wife, Angie into running for political office, an entirely new and frightening evil is unleashed upon the American public. As the wildly popular Latino couple’s success and independence grow, hidden kingmakers quietly put into play a plan designed to plunge the nation into chaos. Nothing and no one is out of bounds. Treachery and treason, murder and manufactured mayhem propel an unsuspecting Scott and Angie closer and closer to the Oval Office. But when Scott goes off script, he suddenly vanishes in a smokescreen of sexual innuendo and scandal. A bereft and bitter Angie is left behind to continue their golden legacy alone. Will she discover the truth in time to prevent civil war?

How close is the United States to the brink of civil war? The answer may surprise you.

Powerful individuals stand behind major corporations and influence the power play of American government. When Scott McHale is tapped to take up political office, he finds himself caught in the movement of a political shift that challenges everything he knows and his love for his country. When things begin to spiral out of control, Scott goes missing and his wife, Angie, steps up to take the lead in the reshaping of the American political landscape.

Camelot Games is an extremely well researched, deeply thought out and fantastic journey of choices that shape the United States of America. The political climate, the deep unrest and the desire to change the future is often seen in popular media today. Oliver F. Chase brings these ideas forward with the backing of a corporate superpower. Divisions begin within the political landscape immediately and the media is used as a tool to propagate the destruction of the United States.

Oliver F. Chase uses intense dialogue, deep backstories, and powerful characters to shape the story. Deep plots run throughout the story and the author sets the stage for each character shaping his or her own destiny with very real thoughts, concerns and fears. The author also leaves no stone unturned when narrating from the top of the hierarchy to those that are working in the trenches to change the world.

I found myself deeply engrossed in the story, making a connection with each character. The fantastic storytelling by Oliver F. Chase makes it so that the characters are fully formed-even characters that show up in small parts have very real life stories behind them. Even the hackers infiltrating the government systems have backstories and these are elegantly told so that the reader can understand why they have done what they have.

You don’t want to miss Camelot Games by Oliver F. Chase; this will cause you to take a long hard look at how the political system is set up!

A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger

A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (138 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

With Christmas just a few weeks away, Gia San Valentino, the baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family, yearns for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her, and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to aren’t exactly the happily-ever-after kind.

Tim Santini believes he’s finally found the woman for him, but Gia will take some convincing she’s that girl. A misunderstanding has her thinking he’s something he’s not.

Can a kiss stolen under the Christmas lights persuade her to spend the rest of her life with him?

When I started reading A Kiss under the Christmas Lights, the first thing that hit me immediately was the writing style. It is important to stress that if you are like me and dislike books that are written in first person point of view, please give this book a chance like I did. I admit that when I started reading the first page I was like, “Oh, no!”, and was about to decline the chance to read it. But, with the first Italian lesson on page two? I was drawn so completely into the story I forgot I was reading a first person point of view. That itself is a testimony to the writing style. I have to give praise where praise is due. I was shocked that I enjoyed the entire book considering my pet peeve over first person romance books. Well done Peggy Jaeger! I enjoyed how Ms. Jaeger incorporated Italian lessons throughout the story. I’m not Italian but I have friends that are and the author hit the nail on the head with how she described this Italian family in the book.

As for the plot, again I was thrown for a loop. Maybe I should have mentioned the plot first in the initial paragraph. I don’t know which I’m more excited about, the writing style or the plot. It was clever and original. The misunderstanding that is mentioned in the synopsis was so effective, I simply could not put the book down. It was worth every minute I spent reading. A Kiss under the Christmas Lights was a quick read and I just might read it a second time because I wasn’t fully prepared for what I was about to experience. It was unpredictable and yet I’m surprised I didn’t figure it out sooner than I did. Regardless, when I did figure it out, the revelation was priceless – absolutely the best misunderstanding one could invent. I’m dying to blurt it out but that wouldn’t be fun or fair to future readers.

The heroine, Gia, and the hero, Tim, are perfect for each other. They are an example of fate. They were destined to meet each other and fall in love. I loved where and how they met and I enjoyed how their story evolved especially that misunderstanding. I can’t wipe the smile off my face. The ending was so sweet my teeth ached. I was left feeling a happy book glow.

If it isn’t obvious by what I’ve already written then you’re missing the point. This is a must read, especially if you’re Italian and even if you’re not. I hope you’ll laugh as much as I did. I absolutely would be proud to recommend this book. I have learned a valuable lesson for the future. I won’t be so negative about books written in first person POV. A Kiss under the Christmas Lights was a sheer delight!

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Discover the real-life mystery centered on the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. In this tantalizing new novel, Christie’s mysterious ten-day disappearance serves as the starting point for a gripping novel, in which Christie herself is pulled into a case of blackmail and murder.

“I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.”

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

In A Talent for Murder, Andrew Wilson ingeniously explores Agatha Christie’s odd ten-day disappearance in 1926 and weaves an utterly compelling and convincing story around this still unsolved mystery involving the world’s bestselling novelist.

I am a big fan of Agatha Christie’s work and, indeed, of the author herself, so when I had the chance to read this book pre-release I jumped at. The disappearance of Ms. Christie has always intrigued me, and this novel presents a well-thought out explanation for what might have occurred. The author takes events that actually happened, and he has spun a tale to fit them. He even gives us the true facts in an afterword. We can never know what truly happened during those ten days, but who is to say that this story might not be far from the truth.

Mr. Wilson has obviously done his homework and captures not only the essence of Ms. Christie’s character, but of her work. One could almost forget she was not reading the story of what happened as written by the author herself!

One element I particularly liked was the appearance of a character in the book, “…a small birdlike woman I knew I had been introduced to but whose name eluded me….”. This brief mention reminded me of one of Ms. Christie’s best loved characters, Miss Jane Marple, who coincidentally did not appear in any of Ms. Christie’s works until AFTER her disappearance. Kudos to Mr. Wilson for that.

A sequel to the book is planned for next year, and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of A Different Kind of Evil which takes Ms. Christie on another adventure.

An Uncertain Cure by Richard A. Berjian

An Uncertain Cure by Richard A. Berjian
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (84 pages pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

The enticing promise of research funding lures surgeon, Parker Dawson, to Greeley University Medical Center to continue his work in cancer. But little can he imagine that within a year, he’ll be facing a charge of first degree murder.

Dawson’s life turns into a nightmare on the first day he walks through Greeley’s doors when he’s accused of scientific fraud, threatening his professional credibility. The funding to continue his research in malignant melanoma dries up just when his animal experiments show promise. And worst of all, Dawson is accused of murder. Can he regain his standing and his innocence?

Ready for a medical thriller that will change how you view the world of medicine?

An Uncertain Cure is a deep story about Dr. Parker Dawson beginning his career at Greeley University Medical Center in order to focus his time on medical research. Yet, on just his very first day, issues plaguing his previously published research begin to surface. Over time, difficult decisions and complex issues with medical staff and even administration begin to take a toll on Dr. Dawson.

This is a story that goes beyond the mystery of corporate espionage and murder, but examines the ethics of medicine and business. A view of Big Pharmacy business from the perspective of an oncologist goes beyond what many are aware of from mainstream media headlines. Backdoor deals and hidden handshakes can trigger life and death scenarios. The skyrocketing cost of medicine combined with business control of medical funding takes the forefront in this intense story.

The author has extensive knowledge, experience and insight into not only the medical field but academia and business which is expressed throughout each page. The author has dynamic, witty and intense dialogue, plot twists and a deep respect for the characters that are at the center of the story. Medical events are explained in such a way that a lay person can understand and those that have previous medical knowledge do not feel bored. The deep plot has many layers which will keep readers entertained and guessing at what will happen next.

An Uncertain Cure is truly a look at the depth and reality of modern medicine and those that work within the medical world. The author has a deep respect for the writing process and the fundamental aspects of true story telling. The author also makes an important point that while medicine is designed to heal and help, sometimes the risks outweigh the benefits, and when money starts to become involved the path to righteousness may not be clearly defined.

Make sure you don’t miss An Uncertain Cure.  This is an amazing read that will challenge what you know about the world around you!

Spirit of the Crow by M. Carolyn Steele

Spirit of the Crow by M. Carolyn Steele
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (338 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In 1836 John McGregor, a Scottish and Seminole half breed, kills a white man in Florida. The crime is worse when the man turns out to be an Army sergeant. Self-defense is no excuse. McGregor is angry––angry with God, the Maker and Taker of Breath, angry with the red man as well as the white. Among the Indians, this rage earns him the name, One-Who-Gives-No-Chance.

The hardened outcast hides among hundreds of Creek Indians being forcibly removed to Indian Territory. No-Chance ignores the human misery until a scream awakens a hidden memory. He risks exposure of his secret and intercedes for an injured woman in labor. The birth of the infant begins the redemption of John McGregor as he seeks to escape past demons and, despite the hardships, make a place for himself in Indian Territory.

John McGregor is half Scotch and half Seminole Indian. He looks mostly Indian but his blue eyes give him away. He got in a fight with a white man in Florida and killed him. It was self-defense but he’s a half breed and the white man was an Army sergeant. They’re after him. He joins Indians that are being taken to a different reservation and keeps his head down.

This book is factually accurate and covers a very painful time in the history of the US. The Indians were driven from the land they grew up in. They were promised goods and meat by the Army but it never came to be. Ms. Steele bases her story on the Indians themselves and while it’s a sad tale, it’s told well and makes you think of all their suffering.

Things start to go wrong when he notices a young pregnant woman who can barely walk. He tries to give her aid but when she falls, the soldiers are ready to whip her to get her to move again. He stops that and it takes the Indian Scout to save him from trouble. They leave the woman behind and assign John (No Chance) to get her up with the group later. Her husband remains behind also. The woman goes into labor, the men have no idea what to do, and while the baby lives, the mother dies. They bury her and join the Indians again.

Despite all the hardships and loss of hope, No Chance doesn’t give up. Trying to hide among the Indians is not so easy to do. They won’t give him away but they won’t stop the soldiers either.

The story reads well and keeps your interest. As you get into the spirit of the Indians, you can relate to their fear of the white man. No Chance has visits from his dead father. He needs his guidance. It’s all believable as you read it. No Chance ends up with a chance at the end of the book.

If you’re familiar with Indian history, this is a visit to the past with memorable characters. If you’re not, this story will be enlightening. Give it a try; it’s an excellent read.

The Bat by Leslie W P Garland

The Bat by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Short Story (83 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

With “fake news” hitting the headlines, I thought it would be nice to look at “truth” and muse on questions such as “what actually is true?” and “what is Truth?” using a fantasy story as a foil for same.

In this coming-of-age story Thomas recounts the events of a term at school when his class returned to a new beautiful class teacher, a donation of stuffed animals and birds by an eccentric benefactor which he and his friends subsequently discovered weren’t quite as dead as they looked, an exorcism in which a bell-jar which had contained a bat shattered, and then things, which up until then had been strange, turned to being sinister and frightening.

In an attempt to understand what was going on, Thomas found himself reading up on Black Magic, Satanism, the early Christian Church, and the worship of evil, but instead of assisting his understanding this made him more confused than ever. Even a conversation with his local priest failed to resolve the problems he found himself wrestling with. What was true? What was the Truth? And of course, where was the bat?

An adult fantasy story for those who like to think about what they are reading.

The difference between good and evil isn’t always as easy to figure out as one might think.

One of the many reasons why I’m such a huge fan of Mr. Garland’s work is that it requires some effort from the reader in order to be understood. He’s the sort of writer who will give his audience a few important clues and then expect them to come to their own conclusions about what happened based on how they chose to interpret those clues. This was the perfect kind of storyline for this writing style because of how slippery people’s memories can be. Two people can remember the same moment in time in completely different ways depending on what their minds were paying attention to back then.

The character development was handled beautifully, too. At times I forgot that the narrator was remembering things that happened to him and his community decades ago because of how caught up I was in what young Thomas was experiencing and how much those events affected the way he saw the world. While I don’t know if the author would ever be interested in write a sequel about this specific character in this series, I’d sure like to read it if he does.

There was nothing gory about the horror in this tale, but that didn’t make any less frightening. I appreciated the way the fear sneaked up on me as I was reading. It wasn’t something I noticed at first, but I was pretty scared by the final scene. There is definitely something to be said for being scared by the threat of something terrible happening almost as much as I was by what actually occurred. Anticipation was one of the narrator’s biggest weapons, and he used it well.

The final reason why I gave this book a perfect score is that it wrestled with so many intriguing questions about faith, morality, grief, and what it means to be a good person without spoon-feeding any answers to the audience. I deeply enjoy philosophical discussions about these kinds of topics, and Mr. Garland gave me a lot of food for thought. I will be thinking about the various points his characters made for a long time.

This is part of the “The Red Grouse” series, but it can be read on its own or out of order.

The Bat chilled me to my core. It’s a must-read for anyone who loves though-provoking and intelligent stories.