Sanctity of Life by Jennifer E. Whalen


Sanctity of Life by Jennifer E. Whalen
An Enemy Loved Novel

Publisher: Lilac Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (156 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Deep in the Black Forest of Germany, dark experiments have been taking place since WWII. Now the secrets are in danger of being exposed. Who will live? Who will die? Can it be contained?

Sometimes science causes more problems than it solves.

The dialogue was well done. This was a fast-paced story, so there wasn’t a lot of room for lengthy descriptions or discussions. I liked the fact that the characters’ conversations were kept as short as possible. That was exactly how I’d expect members of the military and government to behave when they were trying to contain a threat to the security of their nation.

There were so many characters in this story that I found it really difficult to remember who was who. I kept mixing everyone up, and it only became tougher to remember who everyone was once the pacing picked up and the characters began to find themselves in dangerous situations.

One of the things I always like discovering is a character who makes intelligent decisions regardless of what’s happening around him. There were several characters in this book who had good heads on their shoulders. No matter how other people reacted around them, they always paid close attention to their surroundings and thought logically about what they should do next. I appreciated that.

The time jumps were confusing to me. Some of the scenes were set in 1945 while others happened in 1918. Since I was struggling so much to remember who all of the characters were, it was strange to suddenly meet new people or to see someone in a different part of his or her life than they’d been a few scenes earlier.

My favorite sections of this story were the ones that explained what was going on with the dark experiments in full detail. I’m a big fan of science fiction about medical advancements that don’t turn out the way their creators intended them to. The author did a good job at explaining why these attempts were having such poor results and hinting at what would happen if the scientists continue to push the boundaries of what the human body is capable of.

Sanctity of Life should be read by anyone who loves the idea of science experiments gone terribly wrong.

The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski


The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (162 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.

Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.

Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.

But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES.

There are no friendly aliens here.

I appreciated how much time Mr. Kozeniewski spent on the world building and character development before the plot sped up. Having such a detailed introduction to the strict, corporate-run society Paige grew up in made it easy for me to bond with her. Paige’s childhood had not been an easy one, but it had shaped her into a strong and self-reliant woman. I really enjoyed having such a deep understanding of how those early experiences shaped the person she became as an adult. They made her heroic acts later on in the plot even more exciting than they might have been for someone who didn’t have quite so much to lose.

My only piece of constructive criticism has to do with the plot twists. While I definitely enjoyed following Paige’s adventures, the fact that I could predict what would happen next so regularly did make me wish that I could have been surprised by what the characters experienced more often. It was a minor complaint about a tale that I otherwise had a great time reading, though.

Yes, there were many gory scenes in this book. It’s something that is to be expected when characters visit a planet that has oceans full of blood, after all. The violence served an important purpose to the plot, though, and I liked the way it was folded into what had been a much tamer adventure story in the beginning. I knew the characters so well at that point that I couldn’t stop reading until I’d found out what their fates were.

I’d recommend The Hematophages to anyone who is in the market for dark and violent science fiction.

One Night in Havana by Kathleen Rowland


One Night in Havana by Kathleen Rowland
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (84 pages)
Other: M/F, BDSM (Biting)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A desperate competition and sizzling attraction leads to dangerous desire.

New York Marine biologist Veronica “Roni” Keane is attending the Havana Bay Conference in Cuba. Tomorrow only one grant will be awarded which will provide the winner with professional recognition, resources for a project, and living expenses for two years. She hopes to continue her deceased father’s work, but smooth operator, Carlos Montoya, has won many grants in the past.

Carlos, a freelancer for the Havana Port Authority, works to help protect Havana’s reputation as a bastion of safety. As international travelers flock to the island, attracted by its 1950’s time-warp and colonial architecture, the drug business is running rampant, particularly on Roni’s cruise ship. Something’s not right, and when her scuba tanks are tampered with, Carlos brings in the military police to investigate. For her safety, he keeps her close, but he craves her body.

Their attraction leads to a fun night with a bit of kink. But Roni finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for when the criminals blame her for alerting the military police and come looking for her. Can Roni trust Carlos to protect her? Will she stay in Havana if Carlos wins the coveted grant, or kiss her lover goodbye?

Sometimes danger can be the most powerful aphrodisiac of them all.

Ms. Rowland’s descriptions of the scenery were so vivid that they made me feel like I’d been to Cuba even though I’ve never actually been to that country in real life. The beaches sounded gorgeous at any time of the day or night. I also enjoyed the descriptions she gave of what Cuban culture is like. It wasn’t something I knew much about at all, so I was glad that she spent so much time showing how Cuba is different from other parts of the world.

The chemistry between Roni and Carlos never felt right to me. The plot didn’t spend very much time developing these characters, so it was hard for me to figure out what their personalities were like and why they were so attracted to each other. Having more details about who these people were would have made it a lot easier to root for them to end up together.

My favorite scenes were the ones that focused on why Roni’s scuba equipment was tampered with and how the authorities reacted to that. Not only were they fast-paced and exciting, they placed the main characters in so much peril that I couldn’t wait to find out how they might escape. I actually read the whole story in one siting because I couldn’t bear to put it down until I knew how everything would turn out.

If you’re in the mood for an erotic mystery, One Night in Havana is a good place to start.

Unlikely Hero by Sean Michael


Unlikely Hero by Sean Michael
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (204 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When his three-year-old daughter is kidnapped, Eric Wilson doesn’t have many options, and time is running out. With nowhere else to turn, he reaches out to his ex, influential businessman Brock Vencenza, whose money and contacts might be able to save Josie.

Brock never got over Eric’s loss, and he’s more than willing to help when Eric needs him most. Together with law enforcement and private security, they embark on a twisting investigation to find the little girl—and who wants to hurt her and destroy both men in the process. Under the circumstances, confessing he still has feelings for Eric would be inappropriate, but Brock can’t deny what’s in his heart. He doesn’t know if their love can be rekindled or if he can even protect Eric and Josie. But one thing is certain: Brock’s determined to be the hero in reality that he is in Eric’s eyes.

Despite their love for each other Brock and Eric simply hadn’t been able to fit properly into each other’s lives. Even though it had been many years since they’d broken up when Eric called for help with the emergency of his daughter’s kidnapping, Brock dropped everything to help. Against all odds they both find themselves wanting to try once again to make it work. Can this time go better?

This is a strongly emotional story that I totally loved. I got immediately sucked into the kidnapping of Josie – Eric’s daughter – and couldn’t stop reading from there. Brock and Eric are both well-drawn characters and vibrantly jump right off the page. Even though there’s plenty of drama surrounding Josie’s kidnapping and the action that follows on from there, so much of the rest of the story is normal – kiddie pools and bedtime stories, eating cookies and regular bedtime routines. I feel the author did an amazing job of showing both the normal level of day-to-day living but also had plenty of action and family drama too. This made the pace of the story feel super fast but also helped make what could have been a completely unrealistic plot feel not just understandable, but relatable too.

The romance between Eric and Brock bloomed at what I felt was a lovely pace. Even though there was plenty of history between the two men, it was quite some ago, so I feel that the rebuilding of that relationship was critical. Instead of just jumping right back into bed, both men had plenty to re-learn about each other and I loved how this was given a lot of time and shown thoroughly. This chemistry between Eric and Brock, filling in some of the gaps and both of them understanding where they’d gone wrong in the past, this all helped me feel that the foundation of their new relationship – despite all the drama and action of other things going on in both their lives – really helped make me believe, thoroughly, in the new relationship they built together. It felt realistic and strong to me and I loved this. The chemistry between them sizzled and when they finally did become intimate together it was like the perfect culmination of all that had been brewing and growing between them. I felt it was perfect and I loved it.

While there is a lot of drama, action and the initial kidnapping of Josie, overall I found this to be a lovely, emotional and exceedingly well written story. The romance between Eric and Brock was strongly written and – despite the exceptionally dangerous circumstances – realistic. I could see both men as completely normal men in an extraordinary situation. Best of all their love and the coming together of their little family was a wonderful story and one I know I will eagerly and happily read numerous times again. Strongly recommended.

Take the Bai Road by Erika Mitchell


Take the Bai Road by Erika Mitchell
A Bai Shu Novel #2

Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full length (255 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

After the events of Bai Tide, CIA case officer Bai Hsu is safely tucked away at Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Bored and frustrated, he’s starting to doubt he’ll ever return to the field until he’s given a difficult new assignment: Track and investigate the mysterious Ghost Cartel, who may or may not already have hooks in our government.

With secrecy of the utmost importance, Bai accepts the mission even though he knows he’ll be out in the cold. With no official cover, no backup, and no resources, Bai has no choice but to infiltrate a shadowy organization few know anything about.

Tangled in a conspiracy that will pit him against warring cartels in Mexico, this is Bai’s most impossible mission to date. It will test him, make him question himself and the organization he works for, and ultimately rip away everything that’s ever mattered to him.

This book is much more exciting than its title might sound.

This was a fun book. While it sounds like it might be set in Japan, it actually takes place in the U.S. and Mexico. This is a book about spies and fictitious CIA characters. It is a book about drug smuggling and it is full of action.

I have never read an action book with fighting scenes included that I could really visualize until now. I would tell you that action books are not my thing; nor am I very fond of Charlie Chan type of action but this author seems to be able to describe every move of every fight in a way that makes it interesting…visual. I can only describe this as very good writing. This book also never had a slow moment for me. The end of one chapter flowed right into the next. Every bit of this book was action-packed and humorous. There were quite a few characters in this book but I seemed to have no problem understanding nor remembering them; a classic sign of good character development. I love the type of character who “thinks” humorous asides in what I’ll call a type of narrative writing. In this book Li or Bai enjoy lots of those funny moments and so did I.

This is book 2. I think it read just fine as a stand-alone. However, I will definitely go back and read Book 1.

Written Off by Sheila Lowe


Written Off by Sheila Lowe
Publisher: Suspense Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (254 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In the dead of winter, handwriting expert Claudia Rose journeys to Maine to retrieve a manuscript about convicted female serial killer, Roxanne Becker. The manuscript, written by Professor Madeleine Maynard, who was, herself, brutally murdered, exposes a shocking secret: explosive research about a group of mentally unstable grad students selected for a special project and dubbed “Maynard’s Maniacs.” Was Madeleine conducting research that was at best, unprofessional—and at worst, downright harmful, and potentially dangerous? Could that unorthodox research have turned deadly?

Claudia finds herself swept up in the mystery of Madeleine’s life—and death. But she soon realizes that Madeleine left behind more questions than answers, and no shortage of suspects. The professor’s personal life yields a number of persons who might have wanted her dead—and her academic success and personal fortune clearly made her the envy of fellow faculty members. The University anticipates being the beneficiary of Madeline’s estate—but that seems in question when a charming stranger, claiming to be Madeleine’s nephew, turns up brandishing a new will.

The local police chief prevails upon Claudia to travel into town to examine the newly produced, handwritten will. Rushing back to Madeleine’s isolated house to escape an impending storm, Claudia becomes trapped in a blizzard. With a killer.

When her boss asks her to go to Maine and find the manuscript he was helping write, Claudia is anxious to go. It’ll be a trip out of town (her fiancé is out of town now anyway) and it will be interesting. No one knows where the manuscript is…

This book is part of a series but it stands alone fine. It centers on forensic handwriting. Claudia does this for a living and she’s good at it.

This author draws you in as she explains the facts of the case. The professor writing the manuscript was killed. You have two professors who weren’t fond of her and she was running a private group that including those with mental problems. Trying to weed through who might have done what is difficult.

Just to make it a bit more interesting, the manuscript is about a woman serial killer who is in the local penitentiary. Claudia is curious enough to visit with her and she finds a woman sorrowing over the loss of her children. You begin to wonder if maybe one of these students might have been one of her children…

As Claudia finds herself learning more about the college and the students, she finds faults in almost all of them. Everybody has some but some are more deadly than others. Tempers are short in this world and violence can spring up in an instant.

The suspense is good, the stage is set for the reveal and the killer was not on my list of suspects. One thing about it, the psychologist not only finds out who did what, she also learns something about her own self.

This is a good read that’s hard to put down. If you have any interest in reading handwriting, there’s a lot of good information about that included in the story. You may even have to watch how you write in the future. You’d don’t want anyone to think you’re a psychopath…

Magic in her Eyes by Donna Dalton


Magic in her Eyes by Donna Dalton
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full length (310 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Meredith Talbot has a secret. In fact, she has nine secrets – her own and those of the eight orphans at Seaton House, a home for children. Each of them has a special talent that if exposed would get them labeled as witches. It is her responsibility to protect the children and their secrets and keep them safe from persecution. Marauding Indians force them into a nearby fort where their safety is threatened by fanatical townspeople and a captivating army officer who try to unmask the children’s extraordinary abilities.

Lieutenant Preston Booth has one goal – to serve and protect his country. The military is the only life he has ever known. It’s the only life he wants. When a child is abducted and Preston goes after the culprit, Meredith has a vision of what will happen to him.

Does she risk everything by exposing her gift? Or keep her secret and risk losing him forever?

Meredith has visions. She can’t control them and she needs to be next to a deep rooted tree to bring them to life, but she can see the future. When she tells her parents her stepbrother is going to be killed by their bull, no one believes her. When it comes true, her father bans her from the house. She has nowhere to go. She finally travels cross country to her aunt’s orphanage. She can help run that.

All the children in orphanage have special powers, so they spend time inside learning to control them and they are sworn to silence about such things when in public. All is going well until the Indian threat comes close to them and they must join the others in the fort.

This story is set during the time Indians were being relocated to reservations. The author describes life at that time and the hardships everyone faced. If hiding abilities isn’t hard enough, they have to eat at the mess hall. While there, one woman gets in Meredith’s face and tells her she can’t be friends with the lady she invited to sit with them. One of the girls tells the woman secrets from her past and they suddenly called witches!

There’s danger, lots of action, Meredith finds herself falling in love with a soldier, and the ending is exciting. The story flows well and it’s a joy to read. When a boy goes missing towards the end of the story, you find yourself worrying about him just as much as Meredith. It’s also fun to watch the soldier who didn’t like children come under their spell. This was a very good read.

Fire Born by Rayanne Haines


Fire Born by Rayanne Haines
Book 1 The Guardian Series
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (256 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Independent, tough as nails, and fierce to her core, Alex Taleisin can’t quite believe it when she has to fight for her life against something not-quite-human in the YMCA parking lot.

That’s when her aunt lets her in on the family secret. They’re immortal—Elementals to be precise, and Alex is the long-lost daughter of the strongest female warrior of their time.

Her guardian (a freaking Dragon!) and the sexiest man Alex has ever seen gives her a choice. Go with him, learn how to control her fire, and find her father’s people, or try to survive on her own. It’s an easy choice considering she’s only twenty-six. And the Elders may already be on her trail thanks to the fight with the nut job in the parking lot kick-starting her dormant DNA.

Enter an insane grandfather, a shifter with a hidden agenda, and a witch with a shoe addiction, and suddenly loner Alex is wishing for a quiet house in the hills with the dragon she’s falling for.

But a fight is coming and Alex knows the only way to find her answers is to trust her powers and become the warrior she was destined to be.

Despite being set in the present, this story also refers to the history of the guardians. Alex comes into her powers which include fire. Collum, her dragon guardian, must keep her safe until she is a full elemental, able to control her magical urges and make them obey her wishes.

This is a wonderful story of dragons, magic, and the solving of an ancient mystery which has bearing of Alex’s past, in particular who her parents were. Life for Alex is mixed up and becomes more so when the weird Elders of the Elementals interfere.

I loved the way this travelled all over the world, but would point out that the author should research her venues. The island off the south coast of England is called Isle of Wight (pronounced white, but not spelled that way). This error took me out of the flow of the story and it took a while to get back into it again as I kept looking for other mistakes.

I really enjoyed reading this book as it had a bit of everything fantasy and in the main was well written. Definitely worth 4.5 stars.

Bandit’s Bride by Gail MacMillan


Bandit’s Bride by Gail MacMillan
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full length (284 pages)
Heat Rating: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Is Louisa Abbott a witch? The villagers, who saw her burn the ship where her doctor husband’s body lay with others who had died of an unnamed illness, believe so. Even worse, she communicates with animals. No one, other than her Native friends, is interested in her healing abilities, so she lives alone, companioned by a wolf who owes his survival to her. Brodie MacMillan is a Highland bandit with the New Brunswick law hot on his trail, despite the injustice of the accusation against him. When he arrives at Louisa’s remote cabin desperately wounded and nearly frozen stiff, her magic might save his life, but how can he rescue her from the wrath of the villagers and then from the vengeful woman who is out to make him pay for past deeds?

He’s in the tavern having a beer when his nephew comes in and tells him he needs to come with him right now, there’s a witch outside. He asks if she’s green with a big wart on her nose and he gets told no. When he sees her, all he can do is stare. She’s a beautiful female picking up stores at the market next door. He hears them taunt her and offers to help carry her goods out. She lets him and thanks him and he’s smitten.

This author not only paints a picture of a beautiful land, she takes you back to the time period and makes you believe you’re living there with them. It’s easy to get caught up in the romance and you feel their disappointments and sorrow as one woman plans to bring his family down.

He’s the bandit. He and his friend he calls his brother fought in Scotland. They’re in America now and they have left the bandit life in the past but actions of the past come back to haunt them. He makes the mistake of trying to help a woman who’s laying in the snow and has lost her horse and then she drugs him and accuses him of rape. His brother arranges his escape but he gets shot. He thinks he’ll die in the snow but he finds the witch’s house…

With a mix of Indians, pirates, rebels and more, the story is exciting and full of action. There isn’t a dull moment in this book. The woman after him is dangerous and wicked and the final confrontation is an all-out war with some sad consequences. It’s a happy ending, though. Love wins.

Wolf Hunger by Paige Tyler


Wolf Hunger by Paige Tyler
SWAT BOOK 7
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (211 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Wolf shifter and SWAT Officer Max Lowry falls hard for she-wolf Lana Mason, but things spiral out of control when wolf hunters track her down, and Max realizes Lana has no idea who–or what–she really is.

The One! Everyone has a soul mate. This group of werewolf SWAT officers each have one, but they have to find them first.

Wolf Hunger is a love at first sight type of romance with a mix of action as well as some suspense. I am not normally a fan of love at first sight romances since they tend to move too fast and the essence of the romance disappears. I can not say that about this book. The romance lacked a little for me, but the attraction and chemistry between Max and Lana was off the charts and made the story better. It took some time for me to get into the book, but when it did I could not stop until the end.

The idea of everyone having their one mate and the importance of that one got a tad repetitive. At times, this repetition put me off the story. I have read one of the books in the series some time ago and one thing that I found is that the series revolves around a bigger arcing plot. That said, this story can be read as a stand alone. The book is action packed!

At first I struggled some with the romance between Max and Lana. But with every page and chapter I read, more of the plot and the pasts of the main characters were revealed. Seeing the layers unfold made the story a lot more interesting.  Their relationship may have been instantaneous, but it was fully developed half way through the book and that made the ending satisfying.

The climax was off the charts. I would read this book for the action if for nothing else. The climax was emotional, packed to the brim, and it flowed. I will read the next book because I want to know what happens next.

If you love your action with a hint of romance, then this is a great book to try.