Surviving the Fatherland by Annette Oppenlander


Surviving the Fatherland by Annette Oppenlander
Publisher: self
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (355 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the author’s own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children.

SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children’s war.

This historical novel is based on the author’s parents and what they went through as children in Germany during the Second World War. As the wife of a history buff, I’ve seen a great many movies and heard a lot about the soldiers during that war, but except for The Diary of Anne Frank I’m not familiar with what the children had to go through. This book is eye-opening and heartbreaking, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the war.

Lily and Gunter grew up in the same city, but their lives during the war took very different routes. The book is told from each of their points of view- the hardships they had to face and the struggles to stay alive.

My heart broke for Lily as her mother so obviously preferred her younger brother and worked her like a slave, even turning a blind eye to potential dangers to Lily in order to make life more bearable for herself. It’s hard for me, as a mother, to understand Mutti’s reaction to her daughter, which cannot be blamed on the war as she was already disengaged from Lily at the beginning of the story. Her father lied to the family, telling them he had been drafted, but he is full of enthusiasm to do his part in Hitler’s war.

We first meet Gunter as he takes part in the local youth drill that all the young men had to join—training children to one day be soldiers. Once his father is drafted, life is different for him as well as supplies become short, and he is forced to do whatever he can to help keep his family together.

When Lily and Gunter met, the war was over but they each had to deal with the baggage they gathered during it. They fell in love, but the path of true love, in their part, didn’t run smoothly. I enjoyed the way they were together as they each worked through their own demons.

This family saga is wonderfully written and, aside from the emotional ramifications, very easy to read. I stayed up too late a couple of nights reading it. I was really invested in the characters and wondered what was going to happen to them next. Knowing it was based on the author’s parents, it was obvious they would get together at the end, but there were still moments I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.

I highly recommend this book!

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An Unproven Concept by James Young

An Unproven Concept by James Young
Publisher: self
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (370 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

In the year 3050, the Confederation of Man finds that there are indeed things that go bump in the night:

Aboard the starliner Titanic, Chief Security Officer Marcus Martin must choose between rescuing his vessel or the love of his life from creatures that are the stuff of nightmares.

Commander Leslie Hawkins must make a Hobbesian decision between human decency…and humanity itself. Facing overwhelming odds, she must use the obsolescent destroyer Shigure to buy that most precious of resources: time.

Captain Mackenzie Bolan has no decision. His unproven vessel and her crew are the closest rescue the Titanic and Shigure have. The only question will be can the Constitution arrive in time.

This book drops you right in the middle of the action with chapter one as the ship exits hyperspace nearly on top of another one. Nothing like immediate danger to get your blood pumping! I loved the illustrations included in this book as well. They were lovely and helped me picture the details in the story. I admit, I’m not terribly technically minded, so some of the information at the start was a bit confusing, but the story itself as well as engaging characters, really kept me turning pages. I quickly realized this was so much more than just another space opera.

The characters (of which there are many—so beware) are well-drawn and three dimensional. I really began to care about them and their relationships. This led to a bit of consternation for this reader as I discovered that not everyone was going to make it through the battles!

Speaking of battles, the action scenes are very well done and keep the book moving at a fast pace. There may have been moments throughout that the scientific details were a bit much for me, but for readers who thrive on a more technical SF read, it will be a plus.

I really enjoyed the writing and am looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.

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The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou


The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou
Publisher: Red Sky Presents
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (277 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

All Eden Bancroft has ever been to her high-profile politician husband is a trophy wife, born and bred for the part. She believes she has no choice but to play it—until she meets a talented chef and restaurant heir who shows her the real meaning of love.

The more her husband uses and belittles her, the more deeply Eden falls for Kaleb. Even with Mitchell’s congressional campaign in full swing, the lovers manage to find brief stolen moments together. When her husband is wounded by a bullet from an angry lobbyist, Eden must stay by his side. What she learns can set her free, if she has the courage to take a stand.

This is a well-written story that revolves around Eden Bancroft and Kaleb Stravos and their relationship. Throw in a bit of suspense surrounding her husband and his campaign and the story was interesting enough to hold this reader’s attention.

However, the beginning of the book I had issues with and it took me a while to warm up to Kaleb. I have an issue with the whole falling in love at one glance trope to start with, and Kaleb’s actions at the beginning of the story came across, to me, as a bit stalkerish. I didn’t care for him at all. However, I have to admit that he grew on me. And, he can cook… I was hungry through most of the book because of the amazing foods he would cook. I do wish the authors had spent more time developing their relationship, though. That is my main problem with the book.

Eden—I loved her and, although I am definitely not a fan of the whole infidelity storyline, if there ever were a case where it was okay, this is it. Her reaction to Kaleb was a bit more believable. She admittedly had an attraction to him, but it took her more than one glance to fall in love.

One of the best parts of the book was the election shenanigans. I’m a fan of the TV show Scandal and, at times, I was reminded of that, albeit on a milder note. It was interesting to see how all that played out.

I could see this as a movie—there were some really neat locations. If you don’t have an issue with love at first sight, you will probably really enjoy this book. There are some neat things going on and the writing is good.

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The Part That Doesn’t Burn by Sam Poling


The Part That Doesn’t Burn by Sam Poling
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (319 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

In an overpopulated city-state where technology and magic are forbidden by the corrupt church, young witch, Mirabel Fairfax, plots the creation of a deadly plague to cull the burdensome rabble. That is, until she falls in love with the very alchemist she has been deceiving. Now, with soul-hungry geists flooding the city, the church scrambling for their prey, and her own mind at war with itself, Mirabel must decide what she’s fighting for before she loses everything to the evils of Autumnfall.

The Part that Doesn’t Burn is a fun romp filled with adventures as Mirabel Fairfax and Felix Eggland travel across the country…and, in the meantime, learn more about each other and are changed by each other.

The story is mostly Mirabel and Felix’s story, although we do also get the POV of the church through the eyes of the young priestess who is chasing them—I actually liked her and found her surprisingly sympathetic as she tried to do what she thought was the right thing to do. Ultimately, though, the person most changed throughout the story was Mirabel.

There were times during the first part of the story that I wanted to slap her –she was grating on my last nerve with her self-absorbtionism. However, the longer the story went on, the more I started to like her and realize that her attitude had more of a veneer of self-protectionism on it than true shallowness.

Felix is a bumbling scientific nerd who comes into his own during the course of the story and, even though this is not a romance, still made this reader’s heart fall a little in love with him.

There are some definite twists and turns in this story, keeping the reader on her toes to keep up. To me, however, it didn’t have the feel of a dark fantasy—it put me more in mind of The Wild Wild West (the old TV show) with magic instead of the steampunk elements.

I really enjoyed the world that Mr. Poling built for this story and would like to revisit it—there was a reveal at the end that came as a surprise to me and I really hope he has some other stories in mind.

Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas


Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (295 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Irish Traveler Éamonn loves gambling, women, and drinking, not necessarily in that order. But he’s entangled in a true mess when he falls for fiery redhead, Katie. When she’s married to a Scottish Traveler, Éamonn travels to Scotland to find her, with the help of Katie’s sister and cousin, and the magical brooch gifted by his father. Their quest takes them across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Skye, encountering war, betrayal, death. In the end, Éamonn must make his own luck.

This is listed as the third book in the series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for all things Irish and this book does not disappoint in that area.

The story centers around Éamonn and Katie—Irish Travelers who meet each other at a horse trading fair and fall in love. The story is very plot-driven and I could see it very well as a movie. In fact, reading the book was a lot like watching a movie. There was a bit of separation between this reader and the book itself. It was a good story, but I didn’t feel drawn into the book in a way that I felt part of the story itself.

It has romantic elements, but does not classify as a romance because the story is not about the relationship between Éamonn and Katie, but instead around the quest of Éamonn to find and rescue her after her father marries her off to another man.

The story is part of the Druid’s Brooch series, but the brooch itself is given only a passing mention—however, the gift that Éamonn is given by the fae does help in, but also almost gets him killed, so like any fae-given gift, should be handled lightly. I would have liked to have delved a little more deeply into this aspect of the story.

This was a light, easy read and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll be looking for the other two books in the series. There was a lot of information about the Irish and Scottish Travelers that I didn’t know before and really appreciated the research the author did into this period of Irish history.

Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen


Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen
Publisher: Star Pine Books
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi
Length: Full (272 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

…Here again, his natural figure crouched beside her in the dank darkness of the cave, watching her in silence as she slept, struggling with cravings which were new to him, both tender and violent, and which he could only really compare to hunger… (from ASMODEUS)

On the cusp of the Great War, an even more pitched battle is waged in the furthest corner of the Nordic highlands, the final chapter of a centuries-old rivalry, pitting a troubled bloodline of thieves, journeyman, and politicians against the last and greatest dragon of the hemisphere, Asmodeus.

Until now, the source of this antagonism has been a single gemstone, the fabled shamir, whose history traces to the coffers of King Solomon. The present clash, however, has been sparked by the emergence of an even more desirable, more defiant, and more powerful force than that.

Inspired by the golden legend of St. Margaret, Brooks Hansen’s Asmodeus is a masterfully woven tapestry of history, myth, and fantasy, in the tradition of J.R.R.Tolkien, Bram Stoker, and C.S. Lewis. By turns a romance, an adventure, and the darkest imaginable Gothic, his tale is also, as seen through the eyes of the maiden Margrét, an unflinching exploration of our divided nature — what makes us beasts, what makes us human, and what makes us divine.

Mr. Hansen offers a retelling of the legend of St. Margaret of Antioch. In his version, we get “the other side of the story.”

He explains how the dragon (Asmodeus) originally loses his special jewel (the shamir) and how the family that stole it from him regarded it as something almost sacred; something to be protected for all time.

Centuries pass and it’s the early 20th century– and a young shepherdess named Margrét comes to the attention of the Provost of the area, and he steals the shamir from his brother in order to use it to seduce her.

The book is well-written and the author tells a good story– I say “tells” because it was like reading a story from mythology. There’s plenty of detail, and we get to see what the various characters are thinking, but I didn’t really get the sensation of being lost in any of the characters.  The story-telling was a little distant for me.

The story itself is very interesting, however. It has some moments of slowness as the author sets up the story, but once I got past those areas, I really enjoyed the story itself. And there was some beautiful, lyrical writing.

One thing the book accomplished was to awaken my interest in St. Margaret herself… I would like to learn more about her. And, I will be looking for more of this author’s books.

The Sage Stone Prophecy by N. S. Wikarski


The Sage Stone Prophecy by N. S. Wikarski
Publisher: self
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (260 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Where do you hide a mysterious artifact that could change the course of history? You scatter clues to its whereabouts across the entire planet. Five objects buried beneath the rubble of lost civilizations point to the hiding place of the fabled Sage Stone. A secret society and a fanatical religious cult vie against one another in a global treasure hunt to claim the prize. The Arkana wants to preserve it for posterity. The Blessed Nephilim wants to exploit it to create a terrifying new world order. Only one faction can win. More importantly, only one can survive.

This is the seventh book in the Arcana Archaeology Adventure series and I regret I’ve not read the other books in the series. Not because this book cannot stand on its own, but because this is a darn good read and I hate that I’ve missed out on six books of this kind of writing!

The Sage Stone Prophecy is exciting, the characters are well-drawn and three dimensional, and the writing is tight—it was so exciting that I finished the book in only two nights (it was good enough that, had I had the time to read during the day to my heart’s content, I could have finished it in one day).

I don’t want to give away any spoilers—and I do plan on going back and buying the first six books in the series then rereading this again—because there are so many things going on. It reminds me a great deal of the books by Dan Brown – you not only have an exciting treasure hunt with clues that need to deciphered along the way, you will learn a lot about matriarchal societies and the role of the goddess in those.

Great job, Ms. Wikarski. I’m only sorry I was so late discovering you and this series.

The Gathering Dark by Charles O’Keefe


The Gathering Dark by Charles O’Keefe
Publisher: Four Phoenixes Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full (224 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Newly-made vampire Joseph O’Reily has rejected his vampire lover Cassandra and declared their relationship at an end. Although he loves Cassandra – and she loves him – he knows their relationship cannot survive because she places such low worth on human life and morals.

Former pirate and vampire sire Anne Bonny is bored from spending almost a century on a tropical island and makes her way to St. John’s after receiving the last thoughts of her creation, John Snow. Once in Newfoundland she engages with Joseph and Cassandra, both of them surprised to see a vampire that doesn’t wish them harm.

Joseph, who is dealing with his failed relationship with Cassandra and his new one with Anne, has forgotten a human figure from his past, Augustus Green, a pimp and murderer. Green plans revenge for the brutal beating Joseph and Cassandra gave him months ago.

The Emperor Commodus, leader of the vampire council, has commanded his subjects, Count Dracula, Countess Elizabeth Bathory and others, to swell the ranks of his evil army by creating brainwashed vampires. Hope is not lost though as other vampires secretly prepare for the war to fight for their survival and humanity’s. Anne Bonny devises a plan that would mean the death of the Countess and replacing her. Joseph must make the decision to join Anne on his own. As his enemies gather, so do his friends, and Joseph discovers he has allies he never even knew about. The good side of the Council holds its own meeting that Joseph and Cassandra are secretly invited to.

With Anne and Cassandra at his side, they wage a desperate battle against the Countess, in the hopes of not just defeating her but striking a pre-emptive blow against the forces of evil. Joseph is ready to take on his greatest challenge yet. If he wins, good will prevail. If he fails, he will enable the destruction of the entire world. With a lot riding on him, Joseph can only hope for help from old friends and old flames alike, if he is to turn the tide of destiny.

This is the third book in the series and while it can be read as a standalone for the most part, I feel I would have enjoyed the book more had I read the first two in the series. I’ve bought them and look forward to reading the series from the beginning.

Because the book has a history, there was some confusion at times as I tried to work out the different relationships. But that eased out as I got into the story.

The characters are complex and well-drawn–they are definitely not one-dimensional copies of vampires. They have their faults and foibles, and all is not fun and games in the vampire camps. In fact, they take great joy in killing each other. There is a side that fights for right and a side that fights for evil and this is where this book has us.

Joseph, a reluctant vampire at best, is doing his best to get on with his life and studies. Unfortunately life had different plans, and he is caught up in a battle to help save the world. The intricacies of his relationships with a former love and a new love set up an interesting dilemma of its own. While it’s not a romance, there were a couple of sex scenes that, in my opinion, did not add much to the book.

The book is easy to read, but I do suggest reading the entire series in order. I think you would find it a richer experience.

Cubeball by Michael Leon


Cubeball by Michael Leon
Publisher: self
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (286 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Rose

A naturally gifted ex-national champion and a savant with a computer-like mind compete against the world’s best in the 22nd century’s most popular sport – CUBEBALL – the chess-like, technology-enhanced, snooker of the future where the world stage is dominated by gambling, drugs and massive audiences.

Mr. Leon has done it again – brought us an exciting story with some wonderful characters. As the story is not told linearly, we get a chance to see Mickey’s background while at the same time living his present day live with him. We get a chance to see the underside of the professional sports heroes (and wonder if our own professional sports heroes fall prey to some of the same kinds of things).

The characters are where Mr. Leon really shines through—they are richly drawn and by the end of the book you feel like you really know them.

The world building is wonderful – I feel like I was really there. I hope Mr. Leon sets future books in this world. I would love to revisit it.

This author is quickly becoming part of my “look for new releases” list!

A Study in Temperance by Ichabod Temperance


A Study in Temperance by Ichabod Temperance
Publisher: Goldenbear Creative Works
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (214 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

“Gee, Miss Plumtartt, after our calamitous arrival on this unsuspecting city, do you think we are still under threat of imminent murder by gangs of assorted, yet stylish, assassins?”

“I say, I do fear this to be the case, Mr. Temperance. The machinations of intrigue are not unlike one of your ingenious spring-driven contraptions, sir. Yes, plots boil and swarms of suspicious characters are at our every turn, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. It’s a good thing we have enlisted the assistance of this notorious, Victorian-era London detective to assist us in this baffling murder mystery adventure, for I fear there is more to this tale than meets the eye!”

What fun! This steampunk mystery is told very much (and unapologetically) tongue-in-cheek. It is obvious that it’s not the first volume of the series, but can be easily read on its own.

Ichabod Temperance and his companion Persephone Plumtartt arrive in England and are instantly plunged into a rousing adventure and well as making the acquaintance of a certain detective whose last name is Holmes and who has a brother high-placed in British circles. The brother wishes his younger sibling would settle down and do something with his intellect.

The story is told from many different POVs which is surprisingly not as confusing as I would have thought. Each POV character has very much his/her own voice so it was instantly evident who was doing the talking.

And, the laughs! My poor husband was trying to read his own book but kept being interrupted. “Let me read you this part!”

I adore Temperance and Plumtartt, however I would be amiss if I did not mention the supporting characters and how much they added to the story. My very favorites had to be the BarbaraHaughnne brothers, Yababadabadoiah and Scubidubeduiah. As you can see, there are many cultural in-jokes that will not detract from your enjoyment of the book if you don’t get them, but add another level of pleasure when you do—so much so I now want to reread the book just to find them!

I am so going to go back and buy the rest of the books in the series—starting with book one. Mr. Ichabod Temperance, you have found a new fan!