Last Gambit by Om Swami

Last Gambit by Om Swami
Publisher: Black Lotus
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (208 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Success by design is infinitely better than a win by chance. Vasu Bhatt is fourteen years old when a mysterious old man spots him at a chess tournament and offers to coach him, on two simple but strange conditions: he would not accompany his student to tournaments, and there was to be no digging into his past. Initially resentful, Vasu begins to gradually understand his master’s mettle.

Over eight years, master and student come to love and respect each other, but the two conditions remain unbroken – until Vasu confronts and provokes the old man. Meanwhile, their hard work and strategy pay off: Vasu qualifies for the world chess championship. But can he make it all the way without his master by his side?

Inspiring, moving and mercurial, The Last Gambit is a beautiful coming of age tale in a uniquely Indian context.

I have to confess that I’m not a chess whiz. I know the names of the pieces… I even know how they move. But, that’s the extent of it. But, the good thing is, you don’t really need to know chess to get a lot out of this book (though I’m sure a chess background wouldn’t hurt and you might get a whole other level of understanding from it).

The lessons that Vasu learns at the hands of the Master go way beyond playing chess–they are definitely life-changing and life-encompassing. The Master’s wisdom, and the way he imparted it, made me think at times of the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi in Karate Kid, though the stories couldn’t be more different.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was getting to see a glimpse of Indian life. This was something new to me, and it was presented simply as a background to the story. I found the glimpse of the culture fascinating.

All in all, this is a book I found easy to read, but at the same time it’s a book I think I could dip into again from time to time– just to pick places in random to reread and see what lesson I could learn more about…and to pick up little nuggets of information to think about.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The World Without Crows by Ben Lyle Bedard


The World Without Crows by Ben Lyle Bedard
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

In 1990, the world ended. A disease turned people into walking shells of themselves. Zombies. Most of them were harmless, but some were broken by the pressure of the disease. The cracked became ravenous killers whose bite infected.

To escape the apocalypse, Eric, a young, overweight boy of 16, sets off on a journey across the United States. His plan is to hike from Ohio to an island in Maine, far from the ruins of cities, where the lake and the fierce winters will protect him from both Zombies and the gangs that roam the country.

Along the way, Eric finds friends and enemies, hope and despair, love and hatred. The World Without Crows is the story of what he must become to survive.

For him and the people he would come to love, the end is only the beginning.

The end of the world means that things change-the true humanness of humanity comes forth.

The World Without Crows is a fascinating look at the change in world dynamics when Vaca B turns people into zombie-like husks of their former selves. Eric is a teenager with a very poor self-image. After the death of his mother, Eric leaves everything that he has known to travel towards an island in Maine where he hopes to find safety.

Along the way, Eric meets several new friends and they form a group desiring the same thing, safety. Unfortunately, there are gangs, ragtag military groups and other that look to profit from those that might show a little too much trust. Eric and his friends face danger and the risk of death throughout the entire journey.

The World Without Crows speaks to the authors understanding of human nature and the psychology of the individual. Ben Lyle Bedard does a fantastic job at bringing each character to life-and each character has an amazing back story and life before the Vaca B-each life is filled with dreams, desires and loss. The description and journey that the author brings forth causes the reader to become fully immersed in the world that the characters live within. This new world is enough to create a frightening realization for the reader-this reality is something that could happen in today’s society.

The interactions between characters both verbal and non-verbal are descriptively explained by the author. In fact, some of the best conversations of the book are explained through the actions of the characters rather than by dialogue alone. The author spends a great amount of time describing the world around the characters, I found that I found that I could completely relate with the actions and choices that each character made, even though some were certainly for the worse.

As each character becomes more near and dear to the reader, there is the reality that this character may not make it to the end. With the disease of Vaca B so prevalent and with it so easily transmitted; the reader can become so totally involved in the story and not realize that when a character is facing death, that he or she has become a part of the reader’s identity.

I highly recommend reading The World Without Crows–this story will haunt you at night when you realize the depth of humanity is much more shallow than you ever imagined.

The Bloom Girls by Emily Cavanagh


The Bloom Girls by Emily Cavanagh
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

A tender, heartfelt story of three sisters, their late father’s painful past, and the power of forgiveness.

When the news of their father’s death reaches them, sisters Cal, Violet, and Suzy Bloom have to set aside their own personal crises, and their differences, to gather in Maine. Responsible Cal, the oldest and closest to their dad, is torn between taking care of her family and meeting the demands of a high-pressure law career. Impulsive Violet, the estranged middle child, is regretting a messy breakup with a man she’s just now realizing she truly loves. And Suzy, the sweet youngest daughter, is anguishing over a life-altering decision.

Arriving in their father’s small coastal town, the Bloom sisters can’t help but revisit the past, confronting the allegations against their father that shattered their family nearly twenty years earlier. As they try to reconcile different versions of their childhood and search for common ground, they’re forced to look at their father’s life—and their own lives—with new eyes, or risk losing all they hold dear.

Nothing brings families together like the death of one of their own. Even when the family is fragmented and scattered, everyone will turn up for a funeral. However, when family is reunited, all the skeletons thought to be long buried are dug up and held under the lights for inspection. The Bloom family is no different.

When their father dies, sisters Cal, Violet, and Suzy come together to make arrangements and face their past. While all three know that there were accusations of impropriety leveled against their father while he was a teacher, none of them know the whole truth, only their own piece of the puzzle. As the truth comes to light – not only about the accusations made against their father, but the truth of his life after his divorce from their mother – the sisters are forced to reconcile what they’d known with what they now know. It’s not an easy task for any of them, since they’re each dealing with their own crises and baggage.

In a lot of ways, I can relate to the sisters. Although my dad didn’t have any deep, dark secrets when he passed, my younger sister had such a different take on the man he’d been than I had as the older sibling. Talking about our childhood shed a lot of light on things for both of us. So, watching how Cal, the oldest, and Suzy, the youngest, worked through things was fascinating to me. Violet, the middle child, was the one with the most to assimilate and accept, however. I did love how they each managed to take their anguish over their loss and use it to begin to work through the issues in their current lives. The one downside to this story was that there was so much sadness in their childhood, things that they didn’t know or understand, that caused them to not only push away from their father, but also from each other. It makes me wish they could have figured these things out long before they lost their father. But, in the end, that they figured them out while they still had each other, gave the story enough of a happy ending that you didn’t leave it feeling down. You feel hopeful for their future, even if you do feel for the missteps of their past.

The Bloom Girls is a slice of real life. Families are complicated and complex creatures that harbor many secrets and harsh truths that are often ignored for a variety of reasons. It shows the many facets of a grieving family and how relationships evolve over time and distance. A bittersweet and heartwarming story of estranged sisters finding their way home again.

The Pastor’s Husband by Tiffany L. Warren


The Pastor’s Husband by Tiffany L. Warren
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (337 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Felicia Caldwell has a great job, a healthy bank account, and stunning good looks. But she longs for a husband and family to go along with it. So when charismatic superstar pastor Nya Hempstead declares that partnership is on its way, Felicia is elated—until her life becomes filled with more curses than blessings. Five years later, someone has to pay—and that someone is Nya. Soon, Felicia is moving to Dallas and joins the church led by Nya and her co-pastor husband, Gregory…

In the eyes of the public, Nya and Gregory have the perfect life. But their marriage is feeling the strain of Nya’s success. While she’s hitting the talk show circuit and the bestseller list, Gregory is fading into the background. It’s no surprise he enjoys the fawning attention of new church member, Felicia. Little does he know her intentions are far from pure. And as she infiltrates the pastors’ lives it will take a team of prayer warriors and heavenly intervention to save their relationship—and their ministry. Along the way, will they remember the mission they started with?

In the eyes of the public, Nya Hempstead and Gregory have the perfect life. Felicia Caldwell was unemployed and alone until pastor Nya spoke blessings into her life. Sometimes what we think are blessings may not be.

The storyline grabbed my attention from the start, and continued to develop and hold its steady pace. The author’s talent is shown with the twists and turns that kept the story going. The character development is near perfection. The look into a large scale ministry is realistic. The marriage between Nya and Greg is relayed as a relationship that could actually be real. Their bond is tested and their marriage feels the strain of Nya’s success by either distance or outside elements that could be deadly to their marriage. Greg could be perceived as being jealous of Nya’s fame. To me he stood true in voicing his concern for Nya as she was surrounded by association that wasn’t in line with their spiritual walk. I admired Greg and his being committed to his marriage. But there was one point when he did disappoint me in taking Felicia’s side. Nya seemed naive to the path she was heading towards in her association with Lady Sandy and also naive in leaving her husband alone so much while she traveled; leaving him to build the ministry that they planned and started together.

Felicia Caldwell is a story in herself. I knew this was going to be an interesting tale when she stated that she believed that God blessed her with a married man. From that point on Felicia’s life and hopes of her happily ever after went all wrong. As Felicia sees it, Nya is to blame for her misfortunes.

Something that I took from this book is that just because we think something is a blessing, doesn’t mean it is a blessing from God. Nya’s reasoning is that her fame was a blessing but when she mislead others in her prophecy to Felicia, and her not being able to tell Lady Sandy no along with neglecting her husband’s needs all shows that maybe it’s not a blessing but a distraction. Felicia perceived her losing weight and getting a job as a blessing and those very well could be, but when she saw her relationship with a married man as a blessing she took something divine and made it repugnant.

I enjoyed the book. The entertaining plot combined with the moving characters makes this one that I would highly recommend.

Spirit of the Crow by M. Carolyn Steele


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copycat by Kimberla Lawson Roby


Copycat by Kimberla Lawson Roby
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (172 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Befriending Traci Calloway Cole is the best thing Simone Phillips has ever done. Traci is the kind of woman Simone wants to be-in every way possible. She begins copying her role model. Not because she wants to be Traci. She just wants to be exactly like Traci.

Traci doesn’t worry, though. She knows Simone doesn’t mean any harm and that her mimicry is only sincere admiration. Until she discovers how far Simone’s obsession has gone. It is then that Simone’s entire world begins unraveling, and dreadful secrets from her past are exposed with no warning. Secrets that she’ll do almost anything to protect.

Would you find it flattering if someone mimicked your style, taste and behavior? Once Simone Phillips met her role model, author Traci Calloway Cole, Simone has been doing all she can to be just like Traci.

This isn’t Traci’s first time having a woman to copy her style. Which is what left me puzzled as to why Traci was being so naive to Simone’s behavior. Traci has been through this, and even wrote a book about a lady being a copycat and still didn’t have a clue or insight to see what Simone was doing. Her husband warned her and even her sister who met Simone only once but she was able to see Simone’s fascination with Traci was questionable.

This is a quick read that for a short read had some parts that were too detailed in things that didn’t necessarily contribute to the plot. The dialogue was slow but the plot made it interesting. I was curious how long Simone was going to let this behavior continue before it all crumbled. I love reading about couples and their happiness but the relationship between Traci and her husband Timothy just seemed unrealistic and too perfect.

The author delivered an interesting plot without the use of profanity or erotic behavior. References to church, scriptural quotes are mentioned but weren’t overly preachy. Whether low self esteem and lack of self love or maybe Simone had mental issues… I am not sure which but the subject of losing oneself and thinking if they look like or act like someone else that this would bring about happiness is real. In her past, Simone filed for bankruptcy and lately was been responsible with her credit but then with her obsession with Traci she lost her self identity, her morals and ended up with unnecessary material possessions and building up debt that would take years to get out of. She did all this while losing herself and her fiance.

I enjoyed the pre-marriage counseling session between Simone and her fiancé, Chris. I questioned why Chris was even interested in Simone. Simone has a past that she isn’t proud of. Simone’s past gave some interest to the story because I definitely was wondering what she was ashamed of. Simone has some deep rooted issues and her story and her point of view was sad, but it’s even more sad that she didn’t realize how deep and bizarre her behavior was as she was so rapidly transforming herself into Traci.

Both bizarre and humorous, I’d recommend this story to readers who like stories a little outside the norm.

Can You Keep a Secret by Mary Monroe


Can You Keep a Secret by Mary Monroe
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (89 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

In this page-turning prequel to her thrilling Lonely Heart, Deadly Heart series, New York Times bestselling author Mary Monroe introduces Lola Poole and Joan Proctor, fast friends getting a crash course in love, family, betrayal—and other little disasters…

They couldn’t be less alike—except for their restless spirits. Lola came from a loving home, even though it included her father’s live-in mistress. And Joan is a secret wild child chafing under her mother’s watchful eye. So when Lola’s quiet world shatters and her hopes seem out of reach for good, Joan has the perfect consolation in mind.

But the besties will soon discover that boyfriends, money, and good times are no real escape from their families’ ever-scandalous drama. Soon, with demanding stepparents, conniving relatives, and simmering secrets closing in, they’ll have to watch each other’s backs and use their quick wits to save their lifelong dreams…

“A deathbed promise is nothing to take lightly.” And Lola Poole did not take the promise she made to her dad lightly.

Lola Poole and Joan Proctor are the best of friends but come from two different families. Lola’s dad has a live-in mistress and she thinks it’s all right. Joan has a home that’s full of family members. Joan is never alone and hardly has any personal space. Lola is use to being the talk of the town but not in a good way. For someone so young she seemed to have a huge load to carry. Lola’s family members are slowly dismissed from her life. The life Lola once knew has completely changed and the only person still constant is her faithful friend Joan. I love that Joan is a true friend in Lola’s time of need. At their age they should be out having fun and having not a care or responsibility in the world. Due to the fact that Lola promised her dad that she would look after Bertha May, Lola isn’t able to enjoy her youth. I want to call Bertha selfish but maybe it’s a little of her being selfish but also her need for attention and to feel cared for. Her twin children serve no real purpose in her life but to make her feel lesser. This could by why Lola feels obligated to care for Bertha. Sometimes family isn’t necessarily blood related. Those that aren’t born into your family could end up being closer than blood.

Thought the book is short, I enjoyed it. Lola and Joan have a true friendship to admire. They have a valuable relationship that I enjoyed reading about. Lola needed and wanted a family and had to worry about being in this world alone, but Joan made sure that Lola always felt love and she was by Lola’s side. Lola’s life drastically changed, and she went through a lot in her few years. Her life could seem pretty sad to some but I get the feeling that Lola is a strong young lady that will be able to overcome and build off of her pain. She didn’t focus on the bad stuff.  Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the story, because Lola didn’t use her unfortunate situation to have pity for herself or turn to a life that took her down the wrong path. The story is a good teaser that makes me want to read what happens to Lola and Joan next.

And the Day Came by Phyllis H Moore


And the Day Came by Phyllis H Moore
Publisher: Del Corazon LLC
Genre: Historical, Holiday
Length: Full Length (219 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Hints of a secret about her father surface when Doris Marie Linney’s mother dies when Doris is twelve. The only girl in a family of five boys, Doris has always longed for a sister. From an early age she has been comforted by her mother’s brothers, the Johnsons, and their extended family. Gatherings at the Lamar bay house always included Doris. She had her cousins, Ida Ross and Bernice to keep her company. However, she was aware of her Danish Johnson heritage and knew nothing of the Linneys.

Doris’s search for her parents’ identities delivers a family saga beginning in the 1700’s, but always leading back to the same breezy slope facing the Aransas Bay. Uncle Jamie’s bay house, set among the bent oaks on the Lamar Peninsula is where she can watch approaching storms and say goodbye to her brothers. It’s also where she can eavesdrop and discover the worries of her uncles.

In this work of historical fiction, Doris reveals the circumstances of the death of her father as told by the sons who witnessed it, but for some reason her uncles seemed to believe he deserved his dramatic demise.

“When they would consent to tell us the story, we’d sit in silence, staring around at each other as if it was a sacred time. I guess it was. It was the death of our father, witnessed by his sons. In a way, they wrote on our memories with their words. We watched their faces when they retold the story and knew they showed our father’s death a reverence because they had been there to witness it and lived to tell it. Doris wished her uncles could show her father the same respect. She wanted him to be the man Ernest and Harry revered.”

Will Doris’s search for the truth about her father confirm her ideals, or will the revelation of a secret lead to more mysteries? Meet the characters driving this saga, Doris Marie Linney, Uncle Bernard and Jamie, Anna Mae, and her lovable brother, Teddy. And what about the Farleys? Who are they and why the mystery with the uncles? The people define the story and they have always been capable of changing their futures.

This is the story of Doris Marie Linnley and her family. It begins just after Heart, mother of Doris and her many brothers, dies while giving birth to the next final addition to the family, a half sibling to the others who goes to heaven with his mother. Doris is then sent away to school and the book carries on through her teenage and adult years.

Unfortunately it moves from past to present with hints at the future then back to the past. Many of the scenes were out of phase with the previous chapters and to be told something would happen in the future made me want to skip the rest of the book and find the future bit. As I was going to review this book I did not do this, but persevered and found the individual scenes were good, although I did find it difficult when the point of view head hopped from Doris to her children. It wasn’t until I got to the end I realised what the main theme was, but this had slipped past me with all the other things going on.

The story could be great but I was left wondering what happened to several members of the family and who were some of the others. They had nicknames, but it wasn’t evident what name belonged to who.

This could be an extremely good book if it moved through the years instead of going from one decade to another.

The scenery and description was extremely well done, especially the parade of nuns. Parts were very enjoyable and the theme was good.

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!

April Fiction Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Highland Hope by Madelyn Hill


Highland Hope by Madelyn Hill
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (241 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

“Remember, lasses. Through Hope, Faith, and Honor, ye can rule,” were the last words Lady Hope MacAlister’s father spoke before dying. Those very words direct her every action and thought. Sword fighting and leading the men of her clan was second nature to Hope and she has little time for herself or any thoughts of love. Until Aidan MacKerry is captured spying on the clan.

She is beautiful, strong, and quick to pull a sword. But when he kisses her, all thoughts of the lairdship Aidan MacKerry seeks flee his mind. When the enemy continues to undermine Hope, Aidan is determined to aid her—only he didn’t think he’d lose his heart to the Laird of Wild Thistle Keep. When the enemy reveals Aidan’s secret, he must fight for his right to be laird and prove, despite their differences, he loves Hope.

The enemy refuses to back down and continues to threaten not only Hope, but the security of the entire clan. Only together will they be able to save the clan and save their love.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!