Little Mole Finds Hope by Glenys Nellist

Little Mole Finds Hope by Glenys Nellist
Publisher: Beaming Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Little Mole is feeling sad in his dark, underground home, his mother shows him how to look for hope. He finds that signs of spring are everywhere, from the daffodil bulbs under the soil to the tiny buds on the branches above. Hope can be found–even in the darkest places.

In Little Mole Finds Hope, best-selling children’s author Glenys Nellist and illustrator Sally Garland tell an endearing story sure to lift the spirits of people emerging from the cold of winter or a challenging season of life and inspire them to look for signs that spring will come again.

A little kindness can go a long way.

Little Mole was such a sweet and relatable main character. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed how sad he was on that chilly winter afternoon and how far away spring felt to him. Not only was this a good representation of the difficult days everyone goes through at times, it would also be a great jumping off point to describe specific illnesses like seasonal or non-seasonal depression to kids who might be experiencing them or know someone who is. I appreciated the versatility here as it meant that a wider range of people could find something to connect to as Little Mole learned his lesson.

The multiple layers of meaning in this tale made it one of those rare picture books that I’d be just as eager to recommend to older kids and adults as I would to the preschoolers and early elementary students it was originally written for. I love it when writers speak to so many different audiences at once while still remaining true to their characters and plot. This isn’t easy to pull off, but it has convinced me to keep an eye out for everything else Ms. Nellis has already written or will write in the future.

I was also impressed by Little Mole’s warm relationship with his mother. She affirmed his sadness while also encouraging him to take a second look at the assumptions he was making about the world around him. Scary thoughts don’t always tell the truth, after all, and there is something to be said for challenging them when there’s evidence that contradicts them. Her love and compassion for him made me wish for a sequel all about her. I adored her!

Little Mole Finds Hope was perfect.

Daddy’s Secret by M.C. Roth

Daddy’s Secret by M.C. Roth
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

If only you were mine… If only you needed a Daddy to look after you.

This Christmas promises to be the loneliest of Sullivan’ s life and he’ s set to brave the season alone until he receives an amazing, yet heartbreaking, Secret Santa gift that was inspired by his best friend’ s pen pal, Lincoln.

What starts as a thank-you letter to Lincoln soon becomes more as Sullivan finds himself drawn to a man he’ s never met— a man who somehow seems to know him. The problem is, Sullivan needs a friend more than he needs a hookup, so he pretends to be married, taking an intimate relationship out of the equation.

Soon pen and paper aren’ t enough, and he writes his phone number in his next letter, hoping that Lincoln will call him. When Lincoln finally does, Sullivan’ s breath catches at the sound of his voice. When Sullivan pretends that his fake husband is away on a business trip, Lincoln invites himself over for a Christmas movie marathon.

Beside each other on the small couch, the lines begin to blur and Sullivan curses himself for pretending to be married. But maybe he’ s not the only one with a secret.

The best intentions can lead to secrets!

Sullivan is a big-hearted teddy bear who has recently lost his parents. During the ‘Secret Santa’ at work, his best friend presents him with a gift he never expected from her. Samantha admits that her pen-pal actually came up with the idea. Sullivan writes to Lincoln to thank him, and there we go…

This was a sweet and charming story that has some steamy scenes but low angst. I loved how the relationship between Sullivan and Lincoln grew. It made a nice change to read about a boy who isn’t a twink too! Sullivan tries to tell Lincoln on more than one occasion about his ‘husband’ but is unable to finish his confession because of one thing or another (usually Lincoln talking too much!) The list of Christmas movies made me chuckle!

All in all, a great, cozy story to warm the cockles of your heart! Absolutely recommended by me.

The Christmas Wish Knotts by Avis M. Adams

The Christmas Wish Knotts by Avis M. Adams
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Holiday
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sif is nothing like her namesake–the strong Norse goddess and wife of Thor. She still reels from the trauma of being left at the altar. When Dr. Roger sublets a condo at the Cliff Edge Condos, she is immediately drawn to his dark eyes and warm smile, but how can she trust him after what her ex-fiancé did? She prefers her view of Puget Sound and cat Mr. Martini to the fear of rejection. Her ex-fiancé left her scarred. But can the good doctor heal her wounds?
With the help of the condo HOA president, the Quatre Hens, and Nanc, Sif finds herself surrounded by friends who seem more like enemies to her peace and quiet. But with the magic of Roger’s charms, the Christmas season, and her ever-changing cookie recipe, will the Wedding Knotts turned Good Luck Knotts, turned Christmas Wish Knotts bring Sif the miracle she is hoping for?

If you are looking for a quick, sweet romance to read that puts the ‘happy’ into the happily ever after, then give this story a try. There’s no stressful angst or contrived overdramatic melodrama, just a tale about a nice cookie-baking teacher who was jilted at the alter and now must find her way back into trusting another man that seems too good to be true. Are all good-looking guys narcissistic users? No, and Dr. Roger is going to prove that to Sif. Somehow.

I say somehow, because this book is told only from the point of view of the heroine, Sif, short for Sifjar. It’s her thoughts, decisions, actions and dialogue, both internal and external, that show readers the progression of her journey from jilted bride to a hopeful woman willing to take a second chance at love. It’s Roger’s actions that show the heroine and reader just how smitten he is, how considerate and patient he is as he navigates Sif’s skittish ways. The story shows him as being attentive, caring and thoughtful. He’s not a wuss though. As with a lot of romance book themes with heroes or heroines being jilted at the altar, the ex makes an appearance to muck things up. That is when readers see another side of the good doctor – the hero.

This story is cute, and well written. The only contrary thing I noticed was the pacing. It’s not slow or bogged down – it’s actually quite brisk. It’s the choppiness of the telling. At times it’s abrupt, and jumpy, but it always moves forward towards the goal, lending the story that brisk pace I mentioned. Every now and again I felt a little lost during the transition but other than that, I liked the story, the characters, the romance and the delightful and wonderful holiday themed wrap-up that made me feel the warm and fuzzies.

The blurb mentions the Quatre Hens, and Nanc. Nanc is easy to explain, she’s Sif’s best friend, but the Quatre Hens need to be experienced in order to understand their relationship with the heroine. They are quite the personalities and they both hinder and help with the romance between Roger and Sif. They mean well though and I think, in their own way, they’re like adopted family. They are fun and sweet and give advice whether it’s wanted or not. Sounds like family, doesn’t it?

The Christmas Wish Knotts is a good read with plenty to recommend it. If you are looking for a light holiday themed romance, then this book is a splendid choice.

Deep, Deep, Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench by Lydia Lukidis

Deep, Deep, Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench by Lydia Lukidis
Publisher: Capstone
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Deep, deep down, at the very bottom of the ocean, lies a secret world. Through lyrical narration, this spare-text STEM picture book takes readers on a journey to a place very few humans have ever been–the Mariana Trench. The imagined voyage debunks scary myths about this mysterious place with surprising and beautiful truths about life at Earth’s deepest point. Deep, Deep Down shows a vibrant world far below, and teaches readers how interconnected our lives are to every place on the planet.

Let some of the mysteries of the ocean be revealed!

Surviving in such an extreme environment isn’t easy. I was intrigued by the many different adaptations the fish and other animals in the Mariana Trench had evolved in order to withstand things like limited food supplies and heavy underwater pressure. These were some of the most educational and descriptive lines of the tale. I could easily imagine exactly what the author was talking about, and it made me want to dive even deeper into this subject.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this picture book was the deep respect it held for nature and other living beings. Whether it was describing specific creatures who live in the Mariana Trench or discussing how dark and freezing cold it is there, the narrator always spoke gently of the topics at hand and gave them the attention they deserved. There was no need to sensationalize what’s down there because the truth was more than incredible enough on its own.

What happens on the surface or in shallower waters trickles down to life at the bottom of the ocean. I should leave the specifics of that up to other readers to discover for themselves, but I can say that I learned a few new things about how connected we all are on this fragile planet. It’s amazing to think that one decision or event can echo so far through the food chain, yet that is exactly what happens every single day.

Deep, Deep, Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench was a lyrical read that I’d heartily recommend to kids and adults alike.

Falling for Two by Melanie Hoffer

Falling for Two by Melanie Hoffer
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The party was supposed to be easy. Wear a mask, dress sexy, and get laid. When a stranger walked in, everything changed. I didn’t expect him to look at me that way or touch me so perfectly. I also didn’t expect to meet him again months later, working at the same company and leading the biggest project of my career. Luckily, he doesn’t remember me until one slip of the tongue throws me back in. Nathan Richards isn’t exactly single, and his roommate and boyfriend, Clark Peterson, has other…interesting ideas.

Hot, steamy and unexpected.

I like a good throuple romance. There’s something fun about two guys and a girl all enjoying themselves…and each other. This book had all the right things. Three people drawn to each other. Two guys devoted to each other, too. A woman who knew what she wanted. Romance. It was hot.

I liked the aspect of the party, the faceless interaction and heat, too. It really brought me into the story. The work romance aspect was good, too. Where some books have a struggle with throuples, this one balanced the various people rather well. I got a good idea of who each character was and how they felt about each other. It didn’t feel like one couple was more important than the other partners.

I wasn’t a fan of how Nathan and Bri got together. It felt like Clark had been left out and that bugged me. I’m also not a fan of first person stories. While this wasn’t my cuppa told in this POV, it might be perfectly fine for other readers, so don’t be deterred.

If you’re looking for something hot, spicy and exciting, this might be exactly what you’re looking for. Try it!

Horribly Harry by Sarah Honey and Lisa Henry

Horribly Harry by Sarah Honey and Lisa Henry
Bad Boyfriends, Inc., book 2
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Bad Boyfriend, Inc—when you can’t find a good boyfriend, why not hire a bad one instead?

To supplement his income while he’s completing his Early Education degree, Harry Townsend hires himself out as a terrible date—for a set fee, he’ll horrify parents and family members in all sorts of interesting ways. But when it comes to actual relationships—and sex—Harry doesn’t get the appeal. He doesn’t get the same tingly feelings everyone else seems to when they meet someone attractive, and he’s fine with that. He’d rather spend his evenings watching TV anyway.

Jack Windsor abandoned his uni degree to do an apprenticeship as a mechanic, much to his parents’ dismay. He’s happy with his choices, but leaving uni meant losing his accommodation, and now he’s crashing on his sister Mia’s couch. It isn’t ideal, but it’s only until he finds something else—which is proving difficult in Sydney’s brutal rental market.

When Jack almost kills Harry with a strawberry smoothie, he discovers that not only was Harry’s disastrous date with Mia a set up, but that Harry is looking for a roommate. Moving in with Harry is great, if only he wasn’t so distractingly cute—and totally uninterested in Jack. Except as they grow closer as friends, for the first time in his life, Harry tells Jack he’s developing feelings for him—tingly ones.

But how can Harry and Jack be together when Jack’s family thinks that Harry is the worst human being in the universe? And how can Jack convince them that his Bad Boyfriend is the best boyfriend he’s ever had, without admitting that Mia hired him to be terrible to them? When an approaching family event brings everything to a head, Jack’s going to have to step up to prove to Harry that he wants him in his life. And it might just take some bad timing, some good luck and the ugliest suit known to mankind.

Quirky and sweet.

I came to this book with no expectations other than to be entertained and I was. This was a fun read, sweet and quiet, too. The writing flowed well, and I was drawn right into the story. I’m looking forward to more in this series.

I love stories with a miscommunication and fumbling and this book had both. Harry’s there to be the bad guy, but he’s not all what he seems. Jack can’t help but be drawn to him. I loved their bond and the attraction that leapt off the page. This book is packed with chemistry. Jack and Harry are perfect for each other, even if Harry is trying his best to be horrible.

If you’re looking for something for an afternoon read that’s got chemistry and is a quiet, cute ride, then this is the book for you.

Rihanna’s Rancher by Bella Settarra

Rihanna’s Rancher by Bella Settarra
The Cowboys of Cavern County
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

There’s no time for love when you’re only passing through town…is there?

When Rihanna Richards takes a job as the new bank manager in Pelican’s Heath, she is relieved to leave her life in the city behind, especially with all the pitiful expressions of those who are only too aware of how Phil Cartwright dumped her shortly before their wedding.

Ace Blenheim, the new foreman at the Shearer Ranch, also came to the town to put his past break-up behind him.

When the two meet, sparks fly. It seems they both have a tendency to wind each other up, and neither is willing to back down. Rihanna’s stubbornness and Ace’s knack for making assumptions lead to a very fiery relationship.

Ace gradually learns a little about his beautiful nemesis, though, and softens his approach toward her. After all, he can’t deny how he has begun to feel about her.

Rihanna secretly has feelings for the gorgeous cowboy but can’t afford to let her heart get broken again—and, besides, she’s not planning to stay long in Pelican’s Heath.

Rihanna discovers that something is very amiss at the bank, and when her life is at stake, will anyone care enough to come to her rescue? And has Ace overstepped the mark completely when he delves into her past?

She’s not staying and he’s not playing around.

I love stories with characters who initially are mean to each other or get under each other’s skin are thrown together. This story ticks a lot of those boxes. I love the work of Bella Settarra and I couldn’t get this book fast enough. Now add the cowboy aspect and there’s a great thing going. This story has a lot more than that going on.

Ace and Rihanna are great together. I like couples that initially give each other hell and that push makes them grow closer together. It’s good. Guys like pushy women and women like alpha males. In this story, it really works. Plus, he’s a cowboy and I could see him. That’s the best part. The writing was so descriptive, I could see him and felt like I was right there with them. Rihanna thinks she knows what she wants and what she’s going to do. She’s a purpose driven person and relatable. She has her failings, but it was easy to relate to her.

If you’re looking for a story that’s got relatable characters, steamy scenes and a great plot, then this is the one for you.

Gawain Unbound by Rebecca York

Gawain Unbound by Rebecca York
Unbound 2
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

When Killian returned alive after an enchanted captivity, his younger brother Prince Gawain was more than happy to step aside as heir to the throne of Abercarn. Now, though, Gawain is at loose ends — until Lady Catrin seduces him and secures his agreement to stalk Madrin, the evil magician who enchanted Killian and killed her father.

Posing as troubadours, the two battle adversity together and find that they are connected by more than their hatred of Madrin. Yet despite their growing longing for a life together, neither of them is willing to abandon their dangerous quest. Their confrontation with their powerful and wily enemy will be the ultimate test of their resolve and their love.

Heroes unite in the name of facing down a dark magician. Their disguise – traveling troubadours making their way through the region. What could go wrong?

On first glance at this book, without reading the synopsis or knowing anything besides the title and what the cover looked like, my first thought was ‘medieval’. Given the name of the main character (Gawain), I went into the book expecting something inspired by the King Arthur myth but that wasn’t the case. The book has a similar vibe and setting, but any inspirations drawn from that legend are loose at best. Gawain, our hero, is searching for his purpose in life after handing the heir to the throne position back to his brother following his return from magical captivity. When he encounters Lady Catrin, the physical tension is electric, and they make an agreement to take out the evil magician Madrin together. A task easier said than done, however, because there are a lot of obstacles in the way of securing their happily ever after ending (especially if they want one together).

I really enjoyed the way the story was structured. The author shows readers the world through Gawain and Catrin’s travels, and it was cool to get to see the region that way. It’s always fun to see heroes go undercover, especially when they pick a disguise of someone that is traditionally overlooked by those in positions of power. I also appreciated that the author chose to make them troubadours (an underutilized role in books) instead of something stereotypical like a servant or a handmaiden.

The sex scenes, unfortunately, were where the author lost me as a reader. As Gawain puts it, they went from conversation to fucking in a blink of an eye (translate that to less than 20 pages into the book). I can get behind characters jumping into bed together fairly quickly, but there was no set up or development to explain what was happening before it did happen. After that first encounter, I wasn’t really invested in their relationship and that negatively impacted my reading experience.

For those who might be curious, this is the second book in the Unbound series. There are some pieces of context and character backgrounds that you’ll get by reading the first book, Killian Unbound, but if you want to read this one first you shouldn’t have too many issues.

Overall, Gawain Unbound was a fairly enjoyable read. There were some minor issues, but the plot was enough to keep me engaged. If you’re looking for a quick (less than 150 page) romantic fantasy tale filled with action and adventure, this would be a good choice.

November Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie

A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie
Publisher: Red Lace Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

It’s funny how things sneak up on you…

Kate Willoughby is a champion for throwaways—discarded dogs and cats, abandoned horses bound for slaughter, and all creatures great and small. But now it’s Kate who’s alone in a hostile world like a dog dumped by the side of a road. Is there a champion for Kate?

After 22 years of marriage, Kate loves her husband, Brian, with an even greater passion than when she spoke her vows. “My world spins on his axis,” she often says. But when Kate finds a love letter to Brian from Micky, she’s torn between proving Brian’s innocence and nailing him to the wall with his guilt.

Throughout her marriage, Kate has been trusting and trustworthy —to a fault, friends have said. Now, she steals into Brian’s emails and accesses his credit card accounts, phone records, bank statements, friends and activities, discovering the metaphoric iceberg beneath Brian’s affair.

Turning to the one constant in her life, Kate is guided by her family of animals: shelter dog Molly; Premarin horse Quinn; packrat Winston; owls Albert & Victoria; Stubby, the chipmunk; rattlesnake Cassandra; and Phineas, the determined grosbeak. These wise and wonderful teachers, along with a wild menagerie on her Arizona ranch, deliver lessons on life, love, and letting go. But it’s Molly, in a heartbreaking act of courage, who leads Kate back to her true self, before she became lost in love with Brian.

Shining a light on the childhood events and adult choices that, like steppingstones, brought her to this moment, Kate illuminates a familiar and well-worn path. Narrating her story with equal doses of heartache and humor, Kate comes to understand that nothing sneaks up on you that isn’t already here. Learning from Phineas, the determined grosbeak, Kate realizes that even after a devastating injury, you can soar again.


Bee and Harp by Siondalin O’Craig

Bee and Harp by Siondalin O’Craig
Celtic Magic, Book 1: Midsummer
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Dublin Museum Curator Bee McBride’s research tour is interrupted by a shady stranger with a broken harp — and a broken heart.

When Bee, the stranger, and the harp are kidnapped by art thieves, Bee discovers the dusty instrument is the legendary magic harp of the ancient Celtic god Dagda.

Can her buzzing fervor find a way to unlock the harp’s music and the stranger’s ardor before Midsummer Night?

Talk about a slow burn! This one scorches.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this story, but I’m glad I read it. The tale is sweeping and the circumstances are truly the work of legend and magic. Once I started the book, I was engrossed.

Bee and Kevin are great together. I liked the chemistry and the way things happened at just the right pace. They made a great pair, too. Oh, and were they hot. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that plot twist.

The writing did take a bit of getting used to–there seemed initially to be more telling than showing and I had a hard time getting into the point of view of the characters. Once the plot took off, then things fell more into place.

If you’re looking for a hot story with twists, turns and magic, then this might be the one for you.