Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Kim Smith

Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Kim Smith
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The cult classic TV show is now a charming picture book for the youngest fans in the Buffyverse!

In this new picture-book story brought to life with cute and colorful illustrations, young readers see what the world’s strongest vampire slayer was like back when she was a kid! Join not-so-brave little Buffy, Willow, and Xander as they investigate strange sounds coming from the closet, seek advice from their school librarian Giles, and encounter everyone’s favorite Buffyverse monsters. Charmingly illustrated by Pop Classics artist Kim Smith, this sweet, silly, and not-so-scary book borrows Joss Whedon’s beloved characters to tell an endearing bedtime story.

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This tale included the perfect amount of scariness for young readers. A little dab of it is honestly all that is needed for this age group, so I was glad that the author kept things so lighthearted and fun even when Buffy was fighting the bad guys. It fit both the source material and the intended audience well.

I would have liked to see more plot development included. So many pages were taken up by introducing the characters that there wasn’t quite as much room for the main storyline as it needed. Given the short attention spans of young children, I did wonder if they’d have some trouble paying attention during the first few scenes because of it even though things became much more interesting after that point.

One of the best things about this picture book had to do with how many different ways it could be read. A preschooler could understand it as an urban fantasy take on the important of facing one’s fears even when they involve frightening things like figuring out what that scary thumping noise is in the closet. Adult readers who are already fans of this franchise can find many hidden references to storylines and characters that will only make sense if one understands those fleeting moments on a deeper level. It was cool to see how these layers were woven together while still being able to be understood on their own.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer should be read by anyone who loved the 90s TV show by the same name and to any little ones who like scary stories.

Infestation by William Meikle

Infestation by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller, Horror
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

It was supposed to be a simple mission. A suspected Russian spy boat is in trouble in Canadian waters. Investigate and report are the orders.

But when Captain John Banks and his squad arrive, it is to find an empty vessel, and a scene of bloody mayhem.

Soon they are in a fight for their lives, for there are things in the icy seas off Baffin Island, scuttling, hungry things with a taste for human flesh.

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And they are growing.

Captain John Banks and his small, elite group are tasks with what appears to be a simple mission. A Russian spy boat has called for help while illegally in Canadian waters and Captain Banks and his men are meant to investigate, gather any intelligence or weaponry they can and assist the Russians off on their way. But things immediately go downhill and the icy water hold untold monsters – and they are hungry for human flesh.

I’ve read a number of William Meikle’s stories and he is an excellent story teller. While he has some great folk and true horror stories out there, I feel what he really excels best at is the cheesy style of “big monster” tales. Think a 1950s cheesy horror movie or a bad B grade “Return of the Walking Mummy” type of story. You might need to totally suspend your disbelief for the plot – but the characters are always amazing, the mechanics of the plot and monsters are always excellent and the tale itself is usually short, sharp and a thrill to read. This story is no exception.

While totally a stand alone novel, it is here we are introduced to Captain Banks and his crew. After this story Captain Banks and some of his men (they revolve around enough to mean you don’t have to read any of these in order really) become The S-Squad which has it’s own series along the same lines of this one – ie “big scary hungry monster tries to eat everyone”. I’ve enjoyed enough of them I am now trying to collect them all and keep on top of the series, so clearly Mr. Meikle is doing a fantastic job.

Readers looking for a quick read and enjoy cheesy, old-fashioned monster flicks with a lot of atmosphere, a large monster with lots of teeth and a few scares should find this story right up their alley. This isn’t a plot-heavy story and the characters are well-drawn but not as deep as you’d find in a longer story. The camaraderie between them was something I personally really enjoyed reading and more importantly once the monsters start coming out and eating everything the characters are excellent and a lot more focused. While I wouldn’t call this horror in the strictest sense (this isn’t gory or overly descriptive of the killing) it’s a little harder/scarier than a traditional mystery/thriller and so I feel it needs a “light” horror label to it.

Refreshingly different and an excellent story – this book kept me up and made me glad I don’t live too close to an icy cold ocean/river! Recommended.

Hungry Business by Maria DeBlassie

Hungry Business by Maria DeBlassie
Publisher: Kitchen Witch Press
Genre: Horror
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Looking for love can be deadly…

You know how it goes. You go out, hoping to meet someone. You wade through your fair share of brainless automatons, lifeless bodies, and ravenous undead good at passing as human.

The more you go out, the less hope you feel and the colder your body gets. But you keep at it. All you need is one beating heart to match your own before yours stops pumping altogether. How hard can it be to find one living, breathing human in a city full of bodies?


It’s hungry business.

This is a short story and, so, a very quick read at only 20+ pages. The nameless main character is living in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and trying to find love and companionship, something that is getting harder and harder to find as more people are infected with the virus.

In a way, her reflections are almost a reflection of life in general as people reach out to find others to relate to. I remember the dating scene and am so glad not to be a part of that any more! I would describe the book as less horror and more camp (in a good way).  The image of a zombie dressing themselves up for a dinner date makes me giggle.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. There were a few “heart in throat” moments that got my blood pumping and there was a satisfying ending. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more by Ms. DeBlassie. 4 stars.

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October Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Broken Dawn by Dianne Duvall

Broken Dawn by Dianne Duvall
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy
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Nick Belanger can’t stop thinking about the single mother who lives next door. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s so beautiful he can’t stare at her too long for fear his eyes will start to glow. But Kayla thinks he’s just an ordinary guy who works in security. Finding out he instead is a powerful immortal warrior who hunts and slays psychotic vampires for a living may not go over well, particularly since she has a daughter she doesn’t want to endanger.

Kayla Dorman can keep neither her gaze nor her thoughts from straying to the man next door. Who can blame her really? He is the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome with smart, charming, and honorable thrown in. He’s also a few years younger than her and surely would not be interested in a single mom who hasn’t dated since her divorce. At least that’s what she thinks until an accident nearly takes her life and Nick risks all to save her.

The dynamics of their relationship swiftly change. The friendship they’ve developed over the years deepens into love as the two spend every minute they can together, laughing and teasing, never suspecting a threat may lurk in the shadows. But that threat soon strikes, making it clear that Nick is the target and his enemy doesn’t care if Kayla gets caught in the cross fire. Though Kayla bravely rises to the occasion and is determined to do whatever it takes to help Nick defeat his enemy, Nick is terrified of losing her. Can he identify and eliminate his new nemesis before the man takes everything from him?


Sucker Punch by Laurell K. Hamilton

Sucker Punch by Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A brutal murder, a suspect in jail, and an execution planned—but what if the wrong person is about to be killed?

When a fellow U.S. Marshal asks Anita Blake to fly to a tiny community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on an emergency consult, she knows time is running short. When she arrives, there is plenty of proof that a young wereleopard killed his uncle in the most gruesome and bloody way possible. As the mounting evidence points to him, a warrant of execution is already under way.

But something seems off about the murder, and Anita has been asked for her expert opinion on the crime scene. Despite escalating pressure from local cops and the family’s cries for justice for their dead patriarch, Anita quickly realizes that the evidence doesn’t quite add up.

Time is against Anita, as the tight-knit community is up in arms and its fear of supernaturals is growing. She races to uncover the truth and determine whether the Marshals have caught the killer or are about to execute an innocent man—all in the name of justice.

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I missed a couple of Ms. Hamilton’s previous books prior to Sucker Punch because I felt tired of whole scenes being dedicated to sex. I’m thrilled that this novel has a PLOT and the author stayed focused on solving the mystery with only a few episodes to remind me how convoluted and important her relationships are within her polycule. It wasn’t heavy-handed at all and I really appreciated that.

The whole premise was to save a young man who both Anita and Marshal Newman believed to be innocent. Unfortunately, a warrant of execution was issued and time is not on their side. The legalities they were trying to work through and with was fascinating. It presented a clear case of our justice system in reality. A law is passed that everyone felt was needed but in practice falls short of actual life situations. The result is someone could die that really shouldn’t but the law is so narrow, there’s no wiggle room. Talk about frustrating and stressful! The suspense comes from wondering if they will make it in time and what will they have to do to make it so.

Of course, everyone is sure Bobby is the murderer. The secondary characters exhibit prejudices and lack of tolerance and the willingness to ignore the 10 years Bobby was a model citizen. How easy it is to accept the simple way out just because the topic makes a person uncomfortable. It seemed like most of the townsfolk just want to sweep Bobby under the rug and forget anything ever happened. But, in true Anita Blake form, she won’t give up, she keeps fighting no matter how angry she gets the local PD. I am always impressed with Anita’s character. She’s a strong woman who isn’t afraid to fight and face the monsters head on, even when monsters turn out to be evil humans. I wasn’t sure if that was the case because guess who’s back in town? Olaf a/k/a Otto. He had a case in the vicinity and I kept wondering if there was a connection.

One connection that makes for good reading is the dynamic between Otto and Anita. Fans of the series understand why that is disturbing on so many levels. In Sucker Punch, I was treated to a serious pondering of, what If Olaf actually gets his way? If you’d have asked me before reading this novel, I would have said no way in heck – that is never going to happen. Ms. Hamilton spent some time with Olaf’s character and now I have to say, I’m not too sure. And after what Edward said? Color me shocked! Another stunner is that Anita’s lion isn’t that averse to the possibility. I wonder if other readers are of similar mind about Olaf after reading this story. It sure makes for some interesting contemplation.

The ending is exciting, shocking, stunning, and quite possibly contains the most important cliffhanger question any book has ever ended with. I am not going to say who it involves because I want a reader to be just as flabbergasted as I was. I never saw that coming in a million years. One thing is for sure – I am NOT going to miss the next book when it comes out. The answer to that question is way too important to ignore.

Ms. Hamilton wraps up the case in spectacular style. It’s not what I expected but it makes a ton of sense and provides complete closure. Sucker Punch is a powerful book with a hefty story worth taking the time to read. This is the most satisfying Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel I’ve read in quite some time and is an easy recommend.

The Tutor by Rod A. Galindo

The Tutor: A Ghost Story by Rod A. Galindo
Publisher: Wordwraith Books
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Horror
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Young Max hates Fourth Grade math. His teenage friend Claire is an ace with numbers, and is always eager to help him with his homework. Max adores her, and loves when she visits him in the old house on Hollow Street.

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If you’re in the mood for a quick short story with surprises, this could be a good one to check out.

At first glance, “The Tutor: A Ghost Story” appears to be a narrative of two kids having fun, entertaining each other with ghost stories. By the end though, there is so much more to the tale. Readers won’t see it coming.

Max, a kid doing homework, and Claire, helping him, are brought to life in such a short space of time as their tale unfolds. Readers are smoothly brought along for the ride as good descriptions help to fill out the tapestry of the plot.

Expectations are well met for those in the mood to read good ghost stories. The author did a good job bringing it all together in a satisfying way.

The Fact of the Matter by Madeleine L’Engle

The Fact of the Matter by Madeleine L’Engle
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Horror
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

It was a frigid winter day when Old Mrs. Campbell stormed into the Franklins’ general store, decrying the devilish nature of her daughter-in-law-a sentiment that deeply disturbed Mrs. Franklin, considering the woman in question, Alicia, was oft described as “saintly” by everyone around her.

When she leaves the store in a huff, Mrs. Franklin thinks she’s done with Mrs. Campbell’s ravings for the day-until the woman calls her late in the night, urgently demanding to see her.
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Blending elements of fantasy and horror, what transpires between the two women over the course of the evening will test the boundaries of reason, faith, and family-and prove that, in times of great danger, even strangers can come together to help one another in need.

This short story stirs the imagination when it blends elements of the real with otherworldly possibilities. An older woman, Mrs. Campbell, rushes into Mrs. Franklin’s store making some wild claims about her daughter-in-law. Mrs. Franklin has her doubts, knowing the woman in question, who has a good reputation. She thinks she’s in the clear when Mrs. Campbell leaves.

But no…

Mrs. Campbell surprises Mrs. Franklin with a desperate call to meet her alone at night. Mrs. Franklin is hesitant to go to this stranger, and yet, something compels her to go. A series of strange occurrences takes place, making Mrs. Franklin rethink things.

Mystery weaves itself through this quick-paced story with twists. It’s a quick read and unpredictable. It could have readers thinking about themes of helping others and the true meaning of reason.

June Book of the Month Poll ~ Binding Circumstance by Kelley Griffin

Binding Circumstance by Kelley Griffin
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense/Mystery
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Alstroemeria

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

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Costume designer, Leslie Carroll has mastered the art of flying under the radar. She’s had to, or risk being found by the psychopath who almost killed her.

When she literally falls into Hollywood heartthrob Charlie Erickson’s dressing room on her first day of employment, their mutual attraction is instant and undeniable. Despite his star status, Charlie is a sweet southern boy at heart, and for the first time in a long time, Leslie begins to think she has a chance at happiness.

When her harrowing past catches up to her and targets Charlie, will she run to save herself, or face her monster to save the man who is her future?


The Cagulant by Jared Gullage

The Cagulant by Jared Gullage
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Action/Adventure, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Two restmen, servants of the gatekeeper god Lignium, are sent to confront a terrible beast, a thing of evil, a cagulant. This horrid abomination never gives back those it claims. Never.

You must not heed its cries, the siren song of desperate pleas from jagged throats. You must deny it mercy, deny it hope. You must deny even the love you have for those people lost within its darkness.

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The world building was excellent. A perfect balance was struck between straightforwardly describing what Drakken’s world was like and allowing the audience to piece together less urgent but still important clues about why he was pursuing that terrible beast and what would happen if he wasn’t successful at his mission. I honestly thought this was part of a series at first because of how many details were packed into every scene and how much extrapolation was expected of the audience for certain portions of the plot.

I shuddered at the description of what a cagulant was and why it was so dangerous for anyone who crossed its path. That passage alone more than earned this tale its rightful place in the horror genre. The more I read, the more I hoped that Drakken and his apprentice, Oscur, would follow all of the steps necessary in order to safely dispose of it. There were so many things that could go wrong during their quest, especially if either of them broke any of the rules of engagement for this sort of thing.

By far my favorite scene was the final one. The foreshadowing for it had been subtle but consistent from the beginning. While I knew it was coming, I was still eager to see exactly how it would play out and if Drakken would react to everything the way I thought he would. Finding answers to those questions was immensely satisfying. As much as I would have loved it if this were a full-length novel or the beginning of a series, it truly did wrap everything up satisfactorily by the last sentence. With that being said, I’m still going to be first in line to read a sequel if Mr. Gullage ever chooses to write one!

Anyone who loves horror or the fantasy genre should definitely give The Cagulant a try.

Heartbreaks & Half-Truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense by Judy Penz Sheluk (Editor)

Heartbreaks & Half-Truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense by Judy Penz Sheluk (Editor)
Publisher: Superior Shores Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (302 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lovers and losers.

Whether it’s 1950s Hollywood, a scientific experiment, or a yard sale in suburbia, the twenty-two authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “heartbreaks and half-truths” in their own inimitable style, where only one thing is certain: Behind every broken heart lies a half-truth.
And behind every half-truth lies a secret.
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Edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. Featuring authors Sharon Hart Addy, Paula Gail Benson, James Blakey, Gustavo Bondoni, Susan Daly, Buzz Dixon, Rhonda Eikamp, Christine Eskilson, Tracy Falenwolfe, Kate Flora, John M. Floyd, J.A. Henderson, Blair Keetch, Steve Liskow, Edward Lodi, Judy Penz Sheluk, KM Rockwood, Peggy Rothschild, Joseph S. Walker, James Lincoln Warren, Chris Wheatley and Robb T. White.

Half of the truth is better than nothing, right?

Dave had lost nearly everyone dear to him by the time “Blackjack Road” began. His hopelessness at the thought of living the rest of his life with so little companionship shone through the storyline beautifully. It made the arrival of a dangerous fugitive on his property even more poignant. Threatening someone who has nothing left to lose isn’t an easy task, especially when they’re someone as stubborn as Dave. I devoured this story and was left yearning for more. Reading it was such an immersive experience that I felt both satisfied and eager to find out what happened to him next.

Horror wasn’t a genre I was expecting to find in this anthology. That made “So Long” an unexpected treat! This tale was composed of a series of voicemails left at the apartment of a woman who had completely withdrawn from the outside world for reasons that were soon made clear. While I do wish some of her doctor’s actions were explained better, I still had a wonderful time slowly unravelling the mystery of why she wasn’t responding to calls from her employer, relatives, and other folks in her life who were perplexed by her disappearance.

“Pink Hearts Pierced by Arrows” followed a character named Crystal whose best friend was worried about infidelity. What I liked the most about the plot from that point was how much it twisted and turned around as Crystal tried to find out what was really going on in her friend’s life and marriage. Even though I did have a hunch about what was happening, it was still a great deal of fun to see if my prediction was correct.

Heartbreaks & Half-Truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense was a rock solid anthology that everyone who loves this genre should check out.