Fated Souls by Becky Flade


Fated Souls by Becky Flade
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (152 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

Shamed investigative journalist turned tabloid scribe Maggie O’Connell convinces her editor to let her go to Minnesota to research alleged werewolf sightings. Her first night in the woods, she gets trapped in an old sleeping bag, unintentionally attracts the attention of a bear, and is saved by the most unlikely of heroes: the very wolf she had come to investigate!

When she meets horse rancher Aidan Gael in the town market days later, she recognizes his eyes as those belonging to her champion.

According to this health discipline, this interference is the main reason why most people suffer from http://respitecaresa.org/event/parent-cafe-series-2/parent-cafe-series-3/ lowest prices viagra this problem as they can’t produce penetration rightly and satisfy their partners. One may cause discount online viagra of such mutilating is protracted bicycle riding. Pfizer viagra on line pharmacyten play a great role in creating a healthy circulation to the penis during sexual stimulation and allows increased blood flow. But, we cheapest viagra need to know the side effects of hormone therapy include erectile dysfunction, loss of bone mass, reduced hair growth, low sex drive, fatigue, underdeveloped genitals, mental fogginess and long limbs. Aidan tries desperately to avoid her; he both fears Maggie and fears for her. Neither man nor beast can resist her curious mind and courageous heart. One kiss threatens to break Aidan’s tenuous self-control but furthers Maggie’s resolve.

Danger lurks at every turn. The curse Aidan fights to keep secret is only one of the obstacles that will test the strength of their bond. Together they will navigate the violence of both nature and of man in pursuit of their destiny.

For a different twist on the werewolf trope, you should try this book.

Maggie is a great character: strong, determined, kick butt, smart. She’s everything we should want to be as women. I really liked her in this book and she was, hands down, my favorite character throughout. Aiden took awhile to grow on me. On his own, he seems pretty decent, but when he’s with Maggie, he’s kind of a jerk. It’s understandable, I suppose. He is cursed and doesn’t want to be in a relationship, even if the wolf seems to want exactly that. Still, even though he spends much of the book trying to push her away, at his heart he’s a good man.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the secondary story of the “bad guy” who pops up. He was a little over the top bad and not entirely necessary to the plot. Also, if you’re looking for on the page sex scenes, you’re not getting them here…it happens, just not on the page, and I have to admit I missed that a bit. More than the actual sex, I missed that tension you get from really well written sexual attraction (especially before the consummation).

But before you think I didn’t like the book–stop! I did! First off, it’s incredibly well written, smooth, clean, descriptive. It really flows well and I never hit bumps in the writing that tossed me out of the story. The author made me laugh out loud a few times (especially at the start when Maggie was trapped in her sleeping bag) and Maggie is just such a strong, amazing character, I loved reading her every time she was on the page.

If you’re looking for a little something different for a paranormal romance, you could do worse than select this book. I liked it well enough, and appreciated the author’s skill well enough, that I’m off to read book two!

Pivot by Kat Martin, Alexandra Ivy and Rebecca Zanetti


Pivot by Kat Martin, Alexandra Ivy and Rebecca Zanetti
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

As girls, they bonded over broken homes and growing up in foster care.
As women, they’re fighting for their lives, and loves, once more . . .

MERI
When Meriwether Jones takes her young daughter and runs from trouble in L.A., that trouble follows. By the time Meri reaches Spokane, she’s out of gas, money, and ideas. Luckily, ex-cop Ian Brodie hires her to help him with his father’s farmhouse, and they seem like the answer to each other’s prayers. But Meri is keeping a dangerous secret—and Ian is in danger of losing his heart . . .

MELANIE
That secret explodes when Melanie Cassidy spots two men trying to kidnap a young boy she tutors and responds by ramming them with her car. The last thing she expects is for the man she once loved, Detective Gray Hawkins, to appear and rescue them both. Now she has no choice but to trust him as they investigate the truth about a conspiracy of dirty, drug trafficking cops—and the truth about their relationship . . .

Consumption of alcohol, heavy diet, junk food and food processed with high canadian viagra samples continue reading address carbohydrates further worsens the condition. Mild attack of cialis online consultation Acute kidney Failure is common, but you need to consult a sexologist for Best ED Treatment. Conversation is like cialis levitra viagra the gateway to her mind. Yes, these testimonials are levitra 60 mg view address from people who actually believe this herbal product is God’s gift to them. MICHELLE
After a rough youth, Michelle Peach was finally content in Portland—until two men broke into her home, threatened her, and sent her mentally unstable mom on a blackmail spree that Michelle has to stop. The last person Michelle wants to see is her ex, Evan Boldon, a former marine turned sheriff. But Evan misses the woman who walked away instead of letting him help years ago. This time he’s not asking permission; he’s going to put a stop to the trouble stalking Michelle and her friends—and win her heart for good.

I expected a lot from this book, because the quality of the authors’ previous works has preceeded them. Let me review this anthology one story at a time.

First, we have Against the Heart by Kat Martin (Meri’s story). She’s escaping a one-night-stand who’s also, unfortunately, the father of her daughter. This guy wants to bleed her dry for every penny she has, and threatens her kid on top of it. So Meri runs … right into Ian Brodie.

Man, I loved Ian and his father. I have this feeling they may have been in other of Ms. Martin’s books, but I’ve never “met” them before. Ian is steadfast, honorable and loving. His dad is heartbroken from his wife’s death, incorrigible and hides his heart pretty well, until he gets thawed out by Meri’s young daughter, who basically adopts him as a grandpa.

There is no question this story’s suspense was first rate. I was absolutely worried about Meri and, as I got to know the rest of the crew in Spokane, worried about them, too. It seemed her ex would stop at nothing (which included beating up a friend and kidnapping) and, even though I knew in my head this story would have a happy ending, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through reading about them getting there. I did. Barely, and with heart pounding.

The part I didn’t love as much was the romance. Not that I didn’t adore Meri and Ian, I just couldn’t buy they could fall in love–like the “let’s get married and live happily every after forever” love–in that short a time. Honestly a ‘happy for now’ ending probably would have contented me more (and I don’t say that often).

Next comes Shaken by Rebecca Zanetti (Michelle’s story) and this one really had it all. I felt it was the strongest, most well-rounded story of the trio. The suspense was great (though I really did struggle with why she felt ANY kind of responsibility to her mother…but that is what the entire story hinged on so it had to exist). Evan was a take-no-prisoners (and take no crap) kind of guy, and refused to let Michelle get away with much when it came to their previous and current/potential relationship. I also adored Wolfe…his character was honestly about the most well-rounded one in the story! I think several of the secondary characters are also part of other books the author has written, and I’m definitely going to hunt those down. If her other books are as good as this story, she’s going to be an auto buy author for me.

Lastly we have Echoes of the Past by Alexandra Ivy (Melanie’s story). Another second chance romance! One of my favorite tropes when done right, and this one did pretty well. I did feel a bit of what I’m sure was a word count constraint here, so we weren’t able to see as much of their backstories as I would have liked. Still, the romance and the suspense both worked for me here.

All in all, I think this was a pretty solid romantic suspense anthology. I got to find two “new to me” authors that I’ll check out for longer releases and found a good amount of escapism and enjoyment from this well-written trio of inter-connected stories. If you’re a fan of any of these authors, or just the genre in general, you could do worse than grabbing yourself a copy and reading the day away.

Before He Vanished by Debra Webb


Before He Vanished by Debra Webb
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

His disappearance changed her life forever.

Twenty-five years ago, Halle Lane’s best friend vanished from their Tennessee town. When a childhood photo brings Liam Hart to Winchester, Halle is certain the man is the same child who vanished. Now Liam seeks out Halle to help him investigate the circumstances of his mysterious past. Can Liam and Halle uncover the truth before a killer buries all traces of the boy Halle loved—and the man he may have become—forever?

I grabbed this book because I really love the author. I’ve read many books by her before and I was excited to give this one a try. The storyline was intriguing: a 25 year-old mystery of “the lost boy” from Winchester, TN.
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There is a previous mystery mentioned at the start of this book, so I’m guessing it’s part of a series (likely written by different authors, as Harlequin tends to do). That said, I never felt as if I was missing anything. Really, the two main characters, Halle and Liam, are who we have featured about 95% of the time, so it doesn’t have an ensemble feel to it. I certainly wasn’t lost at all and it doesn’t have a lead in to another mystery, so it’s solidly a standalone.

I like Halle a lot. She was besties with the boy who disappeared, and some of the story is told in brief flashbacks where you can tell how close they were, even as very young children. She never could completely move on with her life because of his disappearance. It affected things, including her failed marriage.

Liam took some time to grow on me. I understand his confusion and denial, but sometimes he came across as throwing a temper tantrum instead of handling things like an adult who’s also a very successful businessman. Some of the story was very obvious and he wouldn’t accept anything, even things that clearly were factual and true. I get that it meant his entire life was a lie, but he was occasionally cruel in his behavior, figuratively slapping Halle with his words.

I also didn’t feel chemistry between them as adults. The funny thing was, in the flashbacks they were so close and easy with each other…I could tell if they’d been allowed to grow up they would have always been close. It was during those scenes I could absolutely believe they’d fall in love and be together forever. But as adults, Liam spent so much time being angry around Halle, I struggled with their relationship, and the HEA ending didn’t feel believeable.

The mystery was decent, though, and although I figured out much of it, the actual complete truth was something I didn’t see. Wanting to see how it all played out kept me turning pages. And, like all of the author’s books, the writing was vivid and evocative, allowing images to play out in my mind as I read the words.

So, while this may not have been Ms. Webb’s strongest book (in my opinion), it’s certainly entertaining and I’m glad I read it. And, I’m definitely excited to try whatever she has coming out next.

In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety by Krysten Lindsay Hager


In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Cecily feels like she has it all: great best friends, the beginnings of a career as a model/actress, and she’s dating her favorite singer, Andrew Holiday. Then Cecily’s best friend Lila begins to ditch her every time Lila’s boyfriend calls. Cecily feels lost, but she and Andrew begin connecting more and she’s never been in a relationship where she felt so understood. Andrew even begins to confide in her about his anxiety. Soon Cecily experiences her own anxiety on a magazine photo shoot, but she manages to impress the magazine staff. Just when it seems like all her dreams are coming true, everything comes crashing down when a photo of Andrew with another girl appears online. He swears nothing happened, but Cecily is crushed. She feels like she’s lost two of the people closest to her.

Was her perfect relationship real or was she in over her head?

Ahhh… all the angst of the teen years.
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I am the mother of teen daughter. I’ve seen how it doesn’t take much to create problems, or to cause the tears to flow, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that our heroine is in tears in the first few pages of this book. As an adult, I honestly rolled my eyes a bit at what seemed to be an overreaction to the situation, but…I do remember being a teen. I wouldn’t go back to those days on a bet!

Cecily is a sweetheart. I really liked her. And I liked Andrew. I didn’t read the book prior to this one, so I didn’t get to see their relationship develop, but for a star, Andrew seems incredibly honest and down-to-earth. I really felt as if Cecily couldn’t have done better in the romance department.

It doesn’t take long, though for the troubles to begin, largely how I’m sure it does IRL. She said this, they saw that, did you see this video, OMG social media said, plus add in cliques and mean girls … and bit by bit it tears down Cecily’s entire support system, from Andrew to her best friend, Lila.

I appreciated the author keeping things clean on the page. My own kid is frequently a little shocked at what she reads in her YA books. Look, we all know kids are having sex, but it’s not necessarily something that needs to be described on the page. This author has my admiration for keeping it real, but clean.

She’s talented in her character creation, too. The book was populated with a cast of well-rounded, unique individuals and I never confused one with the other. The writing itself was also strong and well done. I have no complaints about her skill.

I have to say, I honestly don’t miss the drama of those difficult teen years which made this book a little hard for me to read, but I’m not the target audience, (and honestly, I think being a teen is far more difficult now than when I was a teen) and I feel as if Andrew was a little too good to be true (though I’m betting this book has caused more than one teenaged girl to swoon and dream of having their own Andrew). Otherwise, a solid entry into the contemporary YA field. If this is a genre you love, I’d certainly suggest this book, though maybe start with book one. While I didn’t feel I was missing any information, and I had no trouble following the plot, I’m sure my experience with these characters would have been richer with that background.

That April in Santa Monica by Melody DeBlois


That April in Santa Monica by Melody DeBlois
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (365 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Madison receives acclaim for running a talent agency for people with disabilities, but she doesn’t know how to take care of herself. When her altruism becomes life-threatening—a matter of either develop healthy habits or die—she joins a reality TV show that pairs her with hot, raven-haired Brandon. He is witty, sexy, and her teacher. That makes him off limits.

After a successful run on a soap opera, Brandon stepped away from empty fame and now focuses on his work as TV’s most noted health teacher. He has one fast rule—never fall for a student. But when he meets Madison, their chemistry is combustible. There’s no hiding their conflict or their attraction, especially when it’s all caught on film.

This was a fun, sweet book full of good times and love… and not just between our H/h.

You should always make http://deeprootsmag.org/page/650/ purchase cheap viagra sure that you can get the services of the best Louisville chiropractor. Unfortunately, choices like this come up tadalafil online usa deeprootsmag.org all the time, the cat will lose appetite, or she would only lie in one position for hours. In a large number of cases where complaints had been registered against such products, the study found that the complainants bartered cheap prices and unrealistic offers on the web (a location canada pharmacy cialis only original recipients of the email can access, thanks to encrypted technology that automatically authenticates the user). In addition, DHEA has anti-aging properties purchase levitra and is proven effective in the treatment of ED. Madison was an interesting, realistic character. Honestly, she reminded me a little of me: driven, fueled by caffeine, seldom slowing down to relax and consider life. This catches up to her as the story opens, and we meet her as she’s slowly coming to after fainting. Her rescuer is guru Brandon, there to try to talk her into slowing down before she kills herself.

Through a series of events, Madison (Maddie) is convinced to take part in his reality show and become his next student project. Here’s where things slowed down a little for me. I get that his job is to teach her his life practices, but a lot of the time it read more like a yoga or meditation textbook than a romance. While I understood the point of it, it felt a bit preachy at times. Thankfully, Madison lightened things up with her jokes, cheeseburger references and hidden cell phone.

Over time, they actual ended up teaching each other and learning lessons they didn’t expect. I gotta say, having hidden cameras every freaking place but the bathroom would drive me batty. Madison wasn’t a huge fan either, but she dealt with it better than I would have.

Although the heat level is technically spicy. the presence of cameras everywhere and Brandon’s determination not to get involved with a student means they don’t even kiss for the first couple hundred pages. There’s tension, to be sure, and their attraction is clear, but don’t grab this book expecting lots of smexy times. Even the heat between the sheets is very tastefully described, clear but more emotionally than physically. This is not a complaint from me at all… I tend to skip the sex in books unless it forwards the plot somehow, so I enjoyed it. Give me tension any day!

The secondary characters here were a lot of fun, too, from the folks on Brandon’s crew, to Maddie’s crazy family. The author skillfully created a whole pack of people who were interesting, entertaining and unique. Speaking of the author and her writing, it was smooth, easy to read and I never tripped over anything that made my experience stutter or stopped me in my tracks. Well done!

All in all a pretty solid story. Yes, it’s a romance, but it’s almost more women’s fiction or contemporary fiction with romantic elements. Lots of soul searching and life changes here. A good, solid read with well written characters and a solid, believeable plot. What more could a reader want? Recommended.

Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath by Annette Oppenlander


Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath by Annette Oppenlander
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Science Fiction/Fantasy (time travel), Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

When nerd and gamer, Max Anderson, is lured into trying an experimental computer game, he doesn’t realize he’s playing the ultimate history game, time-traveling into the past…anywhere…anytime. Survival is optional. To return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions–if he lives long enough. Tofail means staying in the past–forever.
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Now he’strapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is the year 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.

Filled with realistic historical references and a lot of adventure to keep even the pickiest of readers happy, Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath was nearly un-put-downable. I read it in just two days.

I adored our hero, Max (“Max Nerds”). He actually took to going back in time with a pretty level head, which is good since if he’d panicked at any time, he’d likely have been killed or worse (and, yes, in that time there is definitely “worse” than death). The author is honest about the time: the food, the stench, the lack of understanding about germs or medicine and more. It’s clear the folks not born into priviledge (or earning it, like the squires/knights) had a horrendously hard life. Max gets to see both sides of the coin as he moves through the era with his new friend Bero and the family that takes him in. He sees poverty and hunger, pain and abuse. He saves Bero’s sister with some good ideas on how to treat a wound, even without modern medicine, and teaches his new family how to forage for edibles in the woods.

I enjoyed learning more about the time period–typically when I read historical fiction, it’s not from this time so it was interesting to go somewhere new! I don’t understand the cover, despite how eye-catching it is, since it seems to imply there’s a time machine involved, and there isn’t. Also, Max talks, thinks and acts like someone much older. In fact, at the beginning, I thought it was an adult looking back on an adventure he’d had. Max’s friend, Jimmy, acted more like that age group but Max was exceptionally mature.

Despite that very small blip, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wish it had been around when my own, history mad, daughter was younger. I would have given it to her with no reservations, and she would have loved it, too.

How to Write a Romance: Or, How to Write Witty Dialogue, Smoldering Love Scenes, and Happily Ever Afters by Team at Avon Books


How to Write a Romance: Or, How to Write Witty Dialogue, Smoldering Love Scenes, and Happily Ever Afters by Team at Avon Books
Publisher: Morrow Gift
Genre: Non-Fiction, Romance Fiction Writing Reference
Length: Full Length (208 pages)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Poppy

A unique, beautifully designed journal filled with helpful tips and invaluable advice vital for every aspiring romance novelist—and every romance fan!

For romance writers and readers alike, How to Write a Romance is a sleek, inventive journal that will inspire you to create love stories that stir the heart, tease the imagination, and touch the soul. Inside this handy diary, you’ll find an introduction and tip sheet compiled by the editors of Avon Books, the premiere romance publisher.

Sharing their wisdom and expertise, the Avon Romance editors guide you through the basic construction of a romance novel and highlight the most common pitfalls to avoid. The pages that follow include 180 prompts touching on every aspect of romance writing: dialogue, character development, scene description, situational entries, and more. Exercise your imagination and skill with such challenges as:

* Describe your heroine without her having to look in the mirror.
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* Write a scene between two female characters discussing something unrelated to the hero.
* Write a meet cute in a library.

In addition, renowned bestselling Avon authors such as Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Sarah MacLean, Jennifer Ryan, Lori Wilde, and more, share their own insights and offer words of encouragement, sprinkled throughout the journal in hand-lettered text.

A beautiful keepsake and practical tool that embodies the essence of romance fiction, How to Write a Romance will enflame your passionate and creative spirit!

I absolutely loved this book! First, a small disclaimer: this book is not intended for brand new authors who don’t understand the actual craft of writing. It doesn’t go over basics like passive voice, or “show vs. tell”, and it doesn’t help with grammar, etc. So if you’re brand new, certainly use it, but also grab books on the actual craft of writing.

This book is really about making your romance book richer, deeper, stronger. It’s about creating characters who are more three-dimensional and making your conflict believable. It gives you prompts and ideas and challenges. It gets the writing juices flowing.

Much of the book’s ideas could be used for other genres, but quite a bit is very specific to romance. It’s created in a journal format, with places for you to write your answers in, but I’ll be honest, I’ll be using my copy as a reference book over and over.

Are you a romance author looking to create a truly memorable story loaded with interesting characters and a believable plot with a setting that is so real it’s basically another character in the story? I’d absolutely recommend this book. If you thrive on prompts and writing challenges (like I do!), this could very well be the book that changes all your writing for the better.

Layers of Light by S. R. Cronin

Layers of Light by S. R. Cronin
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Science Fiction
Length: Full Length (330 pgs)
Rated:
Review by Poppy

A Texan teenager develops an unusual ability when she becomes an exchange student in India. Once human trafficking touches her world, her mysterious talent shows hope for locating her friends. If she only knew what the talent was and how to use it. A stranger makes her an unexpected offer. He will train her to find her missing friends, but she will need trust in ideas she barely believes and more courage than has ever been expected of her. Also, she’ll never be normal again. She accepts his offer, intending to show those guilty of unspeakable crimes just how powerful a young woman can be.

Complex and well-researched, Layers of Light wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

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The book was an odd mix of “light” with American teens going to a school overseas. Typical Americans, they have the bubbly superficiality we expect (based on other “teen” fiction and TV shows) but that does eventually change. The author deftly shows how even small things lead up to sexual abuse (as an example, the female student who just wants to climb mountains being told to take off her shirt in order to be photographed in just her sexy bra as part of her sponsorship).

The book mainly takes place overseas, India, Thailand, etc. The author does an incredible job making it all come to life in both beautiful and horrifying ways. The detail here is astounding, and the setting truly becomes a character of its own in the book.

Honestly, while some of what happens here couldn’t have without the more paranormal aspects contained within (out of body experiences, and the ability to communicate telepathically, for example) this book’s subject was strong enough to stand on its own. Occasionally I felt the OBEs were more intrusive than helpful, but I also recognize this book–while standing alone quite well–is also part of a series and the paranormal is what links them together. I also wasn’t a fan of the many, multiple POVs here, especially at the start when many are only a few paragraphs. As the story progresses, they do last longer and that helped them feel less intrusive. Additionally there are so many characters to keep track of here! I felt a bit like taking notes instead of just enjoying the story. Again, eventually you get to know them and it’s easier to keep them straight, thankfully.

All of that said, this author does a pretty amazing job with her book. As I mentioned, it’s incredibly complex and sometimes you don’t know what a particular person or thing really is to the story but then she’ll tie up the ends and it’s a bit mind-blowing. This is not a light, fluffy book. It makes you think (it made me think, constantly, about how sheltered I must be because they thought of this stuff happening is horrifying and difficult to believe).

Lest you think it’s all dark and depressing, it isn’t. There are solid, loving friendships formed and some times that are fun and light-hearted. Really, this is just a solidly written book that tells a strong, important story and involves the reader deeply in the lives of the characters. I’m glad I read it.

By the Light of Embers by Shaylin Gandhi

By the Light of Embers by Shaylin Gandhi
Publisher: Briar Rose Publishing
Genre: Historical, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full (382 pgs)
Heat: spicy
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Poppy

It’s 1954, and twenty-two-year-old Lucia Lafleur has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. While sock hops and poodle skirts occupy her classmates, she dreams of bacteria and broken bones—and the day she’ll finally fix them.

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With fractured hopes, she returns home to Louisiana, expecting nothing of the summer of ’54 but sweet tea and gumbo while she agonizes over her impending choice. There, she unexpectedly befriends Nicholas, a dark-skinned poet whose dignity and intellect are a salve to her aching heart. Their bond, initially forged from a shared love of literature, soon blossoms into something as bewitching as it is forbidden.

Yet her predicament deepens when a trivial misunderstanding between a local white woman and a black man results in a brutal lynching, and the peril of love across the color lines becomes chillingly real. Now, fulfilling her lifelong dream means relinquishing her heart—and escaping Louisiana alive.

Heart-warming, heart-rending and amazingly well written, By the Light of Embers is a book I recommend whole-heartedly to any lover of fiction, regardless of the genre you typically read. Trust me, this book was outside of my comfort zone for a variety of reasons but I was completely intrigued by the blurb, so just had to check it out, even knowing it likely wasn’t going to end well (or at least not in the way I wanted it to end).

The author, Shaylin Gandhi, is remarkably talented. Her prose is beautiful, descriptive, and not one word is ever wasted.  The story is believable and interesting, peppered with authentic historical facts brought alive by characters we really care about.  I really came to care deeply about Lucia, Nicholas and also Sebastian.  The other secondary characters we just as real and well written, but it was those three who mattered most to me.

It’s easy to forget that the Civil Rights Act wasn’t signed into law that long ago.  I had to keep reminding myself we were in the 1950s, not the 1850s because of the attitudes of the people in the book.  Women’s rights, too, were really in their infancy and having such a modern-minded woman like Lucia was enlightening.

I don’t want to talk too much about the story.  Even small tidbits might give away spoilers and that wouldn’t be fair to you as a reader.  I will say this, though, do yourself a favor and read this book.  I don’t think you’ll regret one moment of it.

Maximum Trouble by L.M. Pampuro

Maximum Trouble by L.M. Pampuro
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: contemporary, suspense
Length: full Length (364 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Her relationship with Zack Brady is in undefined territory. The trial of Gert Fountain fades in her rearview mirror. Needing a break, Maxi Malone tags along with her parents for a well-deserved break on the island of Aruba.

An unmarked war ship sits just off the coast of this tropical paradise. Both tourists and natives are plunged into the deep web of a psychopath’s revenge.

With hostile encounters taking place in U.S. waters, Zack Brady is recruited back into the United States military. As the situation in Aruba becomes more personal, he is dispatched to the island with the sole purpose of saving Maxi and her family.

The only question now is can he get there in time?

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I have to admit, the blurb sounded a little more romantic suspense than suspense, but this really doesn’t include much romance. Our two “lovers”, Maxi and Zack, are apart for much of the book, so just a heads up–this is a better book for suspense lovers than romance ones.

I really liked Zack. I also really liked Pete (does he get his own story?). I enjoyed their portion of the story much more than the parts with Maxi and her friends and family. It felt more natural and the characters were more true to form. I assume there is a book prior to this one, since Maxi and Zack have a history that’s discussed now and then. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, exactly, just a little like the story would have been richer and stronger had I read it. Don’t get me wrong, Maximum Trouble stands alone fine.

Maxi got on my nerves now and then. She has a son, one who’s a bit older (my impressions of his age based on behavior was in the high single digits (6 – 8 years). So I expected Maxi to act like a grown up more than she did. She responded oddly to things (like saying “puke” when something was not to her liking, or talking about her manicure) and I didn’t like her much at the start. She felt like a spoiled Kardashian-like girl and so it took me a while to warm up to her. I did, eventually. When the pressure was really on, she came through.

The story was interesting, and I “saw” more of Aruba than I would have imagined possible. I can’t picture a cruise ship being sunk, though, without the full force of the US and Britain coming to bear… not just the small force that went in. The bad guys were really, really bad and the good guys were awesome. There were a few people I couldn’t decide what side they were on, and that made the story even more exciting. Some of the bad guys were TSTL, like Zack’s old boss and assistant. In a movie, I swear they’d have been the comedy relief. I just couldn’t take them seriously.

Those two aside, the plot was tense and exciting. People died I didn’t expect and things happened that I wasn’t ready for. While perhaps not pulse pounding, the story and writing was strong enough to keep me turning pages. There were a few editing errors, mainly wrong words (like “your” instead of “you’re”, for example) but not so many I was thrown out of the story and probably not significant enough that the reader who isn’t a grammar nerd would even notice.

All-in-all, Maximum Trouble was a solid suspense novel. More military thriller (ala Jack Ryan) than suspense, and I enjoyed getting to read it. And I’m still hoping for a book featuring Pete more. He’s a good dude and deserves one.