Reluctant Reunion by Ruth J Hartman


Reluctant Reunion by Ruth J Hartman
Publisher: esKape ePress
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (63 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Orchid

Kennedy Cooper tries everything to stay away from her father’s alpaca farm. Being an actress in New York seems to do the trick. Until it doesn’t. When she fails to get enough acting parts, loses her part-time job, and breaks up with her boyfriend, she has no choice but to return. Seeing her father again is tough, but having to meet his new love interest reminds Kennedy why she’d vowed never to go home.

When Kennedy is out of a job and her boyfriend abandons her, she has nowhere else to go but home to the family alpaca ranch. Unfortunately Kennedy hates alpacas.

Settling back into the homestead is strange. Her mother’s death had been the catalyst for her moving to the city, but now she finds her father has a new woman in his life. Her dead brother’s daughter is also living at the farm and her father is unwell.

Put together all these elements and life for Kennedy is not the quiet stay she’d hoped it would be.

I liked this story, not a romance but it shows Kennedy’s feelings for her father, her home and the “other woman”. I really liked the way it unfolded. It may have been short, but it was well written and intriguing. Good book.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: Full Length (337 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

An interesting book that wasn’t what I expected, but worth the read.

Initially, I wasn’t fond of this book. I’ll admit it. Ove got on my nerves. I am not the very factual, very direct kind of person that Ove is. I have grey areas. He doesn’t. Honestly, two-thirds of the way through the book, I still wasn’t converted. I didn’t see the point. I kept expecting something nasty to happen to ‘cat’, too. I should note that the book takes place in Sweden and there are references to Sweden. It adds to the story, absolutely, but should be pointed out.

But then about the two-thirds point, the book changed. Okay, maybe the book didn’t change, but my perception did. I got to see the man, Ove, become more than he was. I understood him better and quite honestly, I rooted for him. I liked his interactions with the neighbors and ‘cat’. There was a sweet man under that curmudgeon facade. I won’t give away the ending, but I did cry. I felt like I’d known Ove all along.

The secondary characters are great and while some are a tad irritating, they round out the story well. They needed to be there. Plus, they’re more than I thought and it was great to see them grow along with Ove.

If you want a book that might take some getting used to and some endurance to get through (you’ll be rewarded), then this might be the book for you. I’m glad I picked it up.

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.

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full (294 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Escape into a supernatural world of love, revenge and redemption, where vampires are both predator and prey.

TRUE BLOOD MEETS NEVERWHERE
1960s London. Kathy is a seductive singer. But she’s also human. Light knows his passion for her is reckless but he’s enchanted. Yet such a romance is forbidden. When the two worlds collide, it could mean the end. For both species.

When Light discovers his ruthless family’s horrifying experiments, he questions whether he should be slaying or saving the humans he’s always feared. What dark revelations will Light reveal at the heart of the experiments? Will he be able to stop them in time? The consequences of failure are unimaginable. Unless Light plays the part of hero, he risks losing everything. Including the two women he loves.

A rebel, a red-haired devil and a Moon Girl battle to save the world – or tear it apart.

Blood Dragons is the explosive first instalment of the new fantasy series Rebel Vampires from the critically acclaimed author Rosemary A Johns. Experience a thrilling new twist on urban fantasy with vampires, Rockers and dark romance.

First off, I need to state that I’m not calling this a romance, despite being (somewhat) marketed as one. More, it’s an autobiographical novel written by Light, a vampire. It’s written (ala the Notebook by Nicholas Sparks) in order to remind his human love, who is aged and suffering from dementia, of their past. Much of the book doesn’t even really include Kathy.

The author has done a stellar job, though, of capturing Light’s unique voice. Given that it’s in first person and essentially being “told” to us, it’s remarkably engaging and well written. He’s a tough character to like, at least at first. He’s so angry and rough… but as we get to know where he’s from and how he became who he is now, it’s understandable and he becomes more sympathetic. I’m honestly surprised at the depth of skill shown by the author to write the book in such a fashion and make it ultimately so readable.

I did, however, truly struggle with the abundance of British slang. I’m familiar with much of the commonly used words (like “chuffed”, or the fact that in the UK what we call a trunk here in the US is the boot). However, in this book, nearly ever page is packed with slang/British words I simply didn’t understand and often times couldn’t infer their meaning from the use. It was exceptionally frustrating and pulled me out of the story constantly. It made reading the book, which should have been a joy because of the author’s talent, more of a chore than I would have liked.

Additionally, I’m a big fan of happy endings. I don’t read Mr. Sparks’ books for that reason. This book tugs deeply at the heart-strings, and really can’t possibly end well (immortal in love with a mortal is just asking for heartbreak, yes?).

However, I’m still in awe of the writing itself. Descriptive, interesting, evocative. For folks who enjoy perhaps more “literary” paranormal fiction that will challenge the brain a bit, and creates an entirely new vampire mythology, then I highly recommend it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the slang, and the impossible-to-be-truly-happy but understandable and ultimately, the only ending it could have in order to be satisfying, this author has writing chops.

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.

A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy


A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (167 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Set in the early nineteenth century, A Tapestry of Tears is about female infanticide, and the unmaking of tradition. If a woman gives birth to a female child, she must feed her the noxious sap of the akk plant. That is the tradition, parampara. Veeranwali rebels, and fights to save her offspring.
The other stories span a spectrum of emotions and also bring to life the varied culture and social spectrum of India. Woven into this collection is the past and the present, despair and hope, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Sometimes tradition is a double-edged sword.

“A Tapestry of Tears,” the story this anthology was named after, showed what happened to Veeranwali after all of her children were killed shortly after birth. Female infanticide was a longstanding tradition in the family she’d married into, and everyone seemed to be resigned to it. What I found most interesting about this character’s life was how hard she fought to keep her babies alive. The love she felt for all of them was beautiful and fierce. It made me want to know more about this amazing woman.

I’ve come to deeply appreciate Ms. Reddy’s gorgeous writing style, and I’ve seen so much growth in her work since I first began reviewing her books a few years ago. With that being said, there were a few times when I was confused by how she introduced the characters in tales like “No Other Way.” Ms. Reddy threw the reader into a family’s decision to send their matriarch to a nursing home before they moved overseas without sharing the identities of any of the characters in this drama or explaining why some of them were so conflicted about this decision. I was captivated by the conflict once I figured out that Samyukta was the elderly mother, but it took a few puzzling missteps to get to that conclusion. I wish this hadn’t been so, because I truly did enjoy listening in as her and her family worry and debate about whether this was the best option for her.

Ganga, the main character in “Only Her Daughter,” suffered one of the greatest losses a person can endure when her young daughter died suddenly. What made her life even more interesting to me was what happened after little Komal’s death. There were so many twists and turns in the plot that I couldn’t stop reading. I simply had to know what Ganga would encounter next!

I’d recommend A Tapestry of Tears to anyone who is willing to think long and hard about the difficulties and joys that the women that this author wrote about lived with every day of their lives.

In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell


In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (284 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.

After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past?

Katherine Moore makes no bones about letting us know what she is after: a better life than she had. She’s quick to take on whatever role (and name) will get her there. She’s frank and genuine though, and readers will find they understand her initial choices. In those first couple chapters, she’s someone who seizes the day, takes a risk…

Yet, for all she’s decisive and headstrong, she suddenly gives in and lands at ‘Lakecrest.’ Its one of those moves where we spectators are shouting ‘don’t do that!’ Katherine/Katie seizes us too you see, right from the start.

Author Elizabeth Blackwell has created incredible, dynamic characters, and will hold readers enthralled. Even those of us who do not like our heroine’s choices…even though this story does not seem to lead us (or her) to a better life. America in the 40s- fashion, culture, and news of the day all become backdrop for Katie’s story.

Impeccably written, In the Shadow of Lakecrest is unpredictable and not entirely pleasant. It is worth reading but its story is…disconcerting. Do put this on your reading list, but don’t look for it to lift your spirits.

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.

Pedal by Louis K. Lowy


Pedal by Louis K. Lowy
Publisher: Panoptic Books, an imprint of Assent Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (301 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Forty-nine and single. Fired from her lifelong passion: teaching music. Stripped of her self-worth. Can she reclaim her life through bicycle racing?

Joanne Brick’s thirty years as an elementary school music teacher evaporated into the rising sea of layoffs. A lifetime of dedication gone. At forty-nine, single with an ailing mom and bitter divorced sister, the future looked bleak. Family relationships soured as conversations moved to “the lettuce zone”-cold and crisp. Then one day, while cleaning out the garage for a yard sale, inspiration struck as she dusted off an old long-forgotten bicycle. And when she took her first ride she knew it was time to sink or pedal. “Onward! That was the answer that had eluded her earlier. There was dignity in that word. There was hope.” Never a sports fanatic and sorely out of shape, Joanne was barely able to ride straight, but she took up bicycle racing because it added purpose to her life. “Joanne increased her own speed. The wind whipped her face. The whirring of the spinning spokes and chains rose in pitch as she spun faster. She was flying again, beyond failed careers, spurned lovers, regrets, and mistakes. She spun even quicker. Her breath came in swift, hard grunts.” She pedaled past unemployment, failed relationships, family drama, and career loss. Her life began to fill with new friends, an inspirational Desert Storm vet turned cycling coach, and a sleek new physique from all the training. Then she ran into a brick wall in the form of Sheila Dominary, a women’s bike racing adversary. Will Joanne regain her confidence as she pedals toward redemption, romance, adventure, and life beyond unemployment? Pedal is an inspirational journey. It is a contemporary story that deals not only with family relationships, but also with life’s turning points and how ordinary people handle them.

When you lose everything you’ve ever worked for, what is there to push you forward again?

Joanne Brick loses her career as a music teacher after thirty years due to the district budget cuts. What is even worse is “music teacher” was her identity. Joanne finds herself out of a job, without money and at a loss as to who she is any longer. Joanne finds herself in a struggle that she never expected-to identify her inner passion and recollect her life.

Louis K. Lowy does an amazing job of showing how devastating life can be as well as intertwining how amazing life can be. Joanne is focused on the big picture, but like many of us, can miss out on what is happening in the right now. When life shakes her up, Joanne keeps pushing forward towards the goal. When the unthinkable happens and then the unimaginable happens shortly after that, Joanne proves that she is a fighter and refuses to give up.

Louis K. Lowy draws the reader in with a simple plot, to see Joanne put her life back together. Yet, what truly happens is that the reader becomes one in Joanne’s life, feeling her exuberance in training and then the crushing defeats that life hands her. The reader cheers for Joanne’s success and cries when she is down. All of this Louis K. Lowy draws in vivid detail, causing the reader to fully understand and see the life of Joanne Brick being shaped.

The ending of the book is one that many would not have imagined. Yet, when we look back at our own personal lives, we are often astonished to see where we are from where we began. This story is simply that, astonishing. I urge you to pick up a copy of Pedal and see if you have what it takes to make it to across the finish line!

Secret Crush: The House of Morgan by Victoria Pinder

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Secret Crush: The House of Morgan by Victoria Pinder
Publisher: Love in a Book
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (254 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

For some, joining the FBI is a long-term goal. For billionaire John Morgan, joining the Bureau is a stepping stone to proving his father is culpable for his sister’s death. After his estranged father dies, John is forced to return home and face the ghosts of his past. That proves to be more difficult than he could have ever imagined.

Alice Collins lives a peaceful life. As a farmer’s daughter, she knows what it’s like to work hard for what you want. After losing her best friend under inexplicable circumstances, her world viewpoint shifted until her small town sensibilities convinced her to attend Mr. Morgan’s funeral.

Soon, the past and the present collide and Alice is caught in the crosshairs. John comes to her aid, complicating matters for both of them.

Can a handsome billionaire on a vendetta truly fall for a small town girl or does he have something else in mind? Can a small town girl, if she gives her heart to him, ever fit in the House of Morgan?

John Morgan, the rebellious son of the House of Morgan, loses his motivation when his father dies—John can’t bring a corpse to justice. He returns home seeking answers but soon finds himself struggling to protect the rather naïve Alice Collins whose life is in danger because of him. The problems of his dysfunctional family take a back seat as he concentrates on security for Alice who has a longtime connect with the Morgan family.

Secret Crush is a clean, easy-to-read manuscript that allows the reader to cruise right along with reading. The plotting is meticulously done and the characters all have distinct roles to play. However, even with lots of dialogue, much of the action and emotion is told to the reader rather than shown. Consequently, I never became involved like I usually do in a story of suspense, mystery, and love.

I did feel the need to finish the story to find answers for the many mysteries. As I continued, I found a real surprise about who was willing to do murder for money. But here again I felt I wasn’t allowed to know what changed that character from defending the law to being willing to break the law—there just had to be more than money for such a drastic change.

The love story had the conflict and the undeniable attraction that shepherded John and Alice through these conflicts in attention-keeping ways, taking them to their happy-ever-after. However, the story, even for a book in a series, ended with too many unanswered questions. I felt as if I had not finished reading the book.

I imagine these questions will be answered in future books in this series.