Dogboy v Catfish by Luke Gracias


Dogboy v Catfish by Luke Gracias
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Ginger

On the day of her second wedding, Katherine Fisher, aka ‘Catfish,’ set the date for her divorce. In precisely 18 months, she would be entitled to half of their combined assets and receive maintenance payments until her five-year-old daughter, Emma, turns 18. Just as Catfish was about to take her husband, Lindsay ‘Dogboy’ Kramer (a successful businessman and dog whisperer) to the cleaners, he goes missing.

The police investigation into Dogboy’s disappearance leads them into the dark world of counterfeit designer goods, money laundering, and drug smuggling.

With Dogboy’s assets frozen and the mob protecting their interests, the missing persons case escalates to homicide. Catfish is in a race against time to get hold of Dogboy’s assets before the police get hold of her.

One question remains – is Dogboy dead or alive?

There are several slang words that fit Katherine Fisher, gold digger could be one. A gold digger is described as a person or woman who seeks out wealthy men or enters a relationship with someone for money, gifts otherwise basically exploiting or deceiving the other person rather than for a love interest. However, the author gave Kath an appropriate name of ‘Catfish’. This slang title is defined as a fictitious attractive persona with malicious intent.

Kath has timed her divorce from Lindsay ‘Dogboy’ Kramer after 18 months of marriage, she knows she will be entitled to half of his assets and receive child support payments for her five-year-old daughter, Emma, until she turns 18 but there seems to be a bit of delay in her plan. Her husband Lindsay ‘Dogboy’ Kramer is missing.

Be warned: if you do not have time to read it in one or two sittings, you may want to hold off until you can block off time and make sure your eReader is charged in advance. I like the organized set up of the breakdown or table of contents that shows the different sections and how each chapter has a name, reminding me of how episodes in a television series are named. The title references a phrase said during that chapter or episode. I like that the author provided the dates so that I was able to follow along in the timeline of events and investigation easily. What attracted me to the book was first the cover and then the excerpt. I like that the cover ties into the storyline where the three snakes were mentioned by Matthias in Bangkok and again in the tale of the Endless Knot that explains the color and what each snake represents.

This book has all the right ingredients for a suspenseful and remarkably interesting storyline. I can tell research was done on the criminal and family laws in Australia, statistics were reviewed on the suicide rate among men and my favorite since my background is in fraud and forensic accounting is reading about the money laundering and counterfeit/luxury handbags. I enjoyed the storyline; the author gave details that kept the story going enough to help set up the scenes, but he did not overdo it or get carried away being too wordy. Kath is an entitled individual that I did not like from the very first chapter when she met with the family law attorney Freya Keogh and there are many more instances that shed light on her true gold digger characteristics. Sadly, readers are not introduced to Lindsay, or his persona but I feel like his character was represented and created clearly by those that he considered devoted friends and acquaintances. The other characters spoke of Lindsay in a positive way which led me to believe he was a smart and good person, and I like how the author carried that out. Lindsay was a huge part of the story but yet he was not a physical character so to speak he was only mentioned and talked about, and the author executed that very well.

The author effortlessly captivated me with this complete, intriguing well told novel where the good guys win. A book of greed, crime, illegal pursuits, and friendship; however, the characters play a small part as the novel is plot driven. I normally like to get to know the
characters I am reading about better, but the narrative surrounding counterfeit designer bags, and the twist of illegal activity in this exceptional story took precedence.

A must read for readers seeking a good crime thriller!

The Perfectly Fine Neighborhood


The Perfectly Fine Neighborhood edited by Kayleigh Dobbs, Stephen Kozeniewski, and Wile E. Young
Publisher: French Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Horror
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

For all of human history ghosts were real and they were everywhere. Then, one day, after a horrible cataclysm, they all disappeared.

That was the story of THE PERFECTLY FINE HOUSE.

But there are more tales to be told from that world. And a thrilling lineup, ranging from horror legends to relative newcomers, have joined forces to bring you:

– a roadside attraction featuring a real, dead serial killer

– a pair of twisted sisters whose sibling rivalry only begins with suicide

– a hitman hired to facilitate a ghostly sexual liaison

And more!

The first unhaunted house was just the beginning. Come, stake your claim in…

THE PERFECTLY FINE NEIGHBORHOOD

If you love paranormal horror, I have quite the treat for you!

One of the biggest strengths of this anthology had to do with the wide variety of approaches the contributors took to the theme. A few of them were a little too gory for my tastes, but I still found their stories to be well written and memorable. Horror fans who love the bloody side of the genre may have completely different responses to them, of course, and I thought it was wonderful that so many different writing styles and horror subgenres were included to suit all sorts of readers. I wish I had space in this review to cover every tale, but I will have to limit myself to only speaking about three of them for the sake of brevity.

In “Jurisdiction,” Eddie and his fellow officers tried to figure out who or what had been killing ghosts. I thought the premise of this tale was a clever one, and I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the conclusion. Eddie’s interest in this case overshadowed everything else in his life, including his relationship with his partner. This was an interesting way to realistically showcase some of the protagonist’s flaws while also keeping the pacing strong and steady until the final scene. I was left yearning for more and would love to read a sequel if Mr. Vincent ever decides to write one.

Thomas decided to kill his wife in “The Perfectly Fine Family” so that she could join him in his peaceful afterlife. Honestly, that was not a decision I would expect a ghost to make, so I was immediately sucked into his story as he planned out the ideal way to ensure he and Marie would be together forever. There was a surprising streak of humor in the storyline as well that suited the characters perfectly. Horror and humor should be mixed together more often in my opinion!

While I generally shy away from stories about serial killers, “Addict to Slaughter” had such a creative spin to the topic that I soon became insatiably curious to find out more about John Miller and his terrible compulsion to kill others. The twist showed up early and will probably be something most horror fans figure out early on. Knowing there is more to his life that meets the eye was all I needed to remain interested.

The Perfectly Fine Neighborhood was deliciously scary.

Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette


Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Romance, Holiday
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Lady Amelia Pierce has a forbidden dream: riding in equestrian competitions. When she loses a family ring in the stable, her brother finds her foraging for it in the hay with Lucas Grey, a duke’s bastard son. Amelia’s outraged father sends her to London to salvage her reputation and find a suitable match.

Despite his ignoble birth and rakish reputation, Lucas is much admired for his management of Winston Equestrian Stables. He and Amelia are fascinated by each other. But the missing emerald ring and a viscount’s greed lead to disaster and imprisonment for Lucas. Will scandal and secrets keep him from Amelia forever?

The blurb on this one intrigued me, but it wasn’t until I started reading that I realized how much I was going to enjoy this one! Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette is a lovely British regency tale that had all the swoon of a regency read, with some added twists that made this one fun and unique! Amelia isn’t your typical heroine, sure she is excited to fulfill her role in planning for the upcoming winter holiday parties, but she also has a secret. She aspires to compete at the horse jumping arena she’s so fond of!

Lucas has a reputation, one he’s quite proud of. At least, in part, but is there more to this broody bachelor than a notorious reputation that follows his every step? When he ends up in the middle of yet another scandal, and this one quite by accident he finds his life and the Lady Pierce’s suddenly become both intriguingly complicated.

Will Amelia be able to salvage her reputation and earn her father’s forgiveness in time to finish the holiday planning? And how will she ever explain the away the fact the Lucan Grey seems to find a way into her already messy life at every turn?

There’s so much I enjoyed about this one, the delightful twists and swoony romance were spot-on! This is a sweet romance that was overall clean. As for language, there were a few minor curse words and a instance or two with innuendos, mostly about past events. There is also one place where Amelia has to run away from an unwelcome advance from another character, but it is vague and dealt with quickly. This is a quick read, and once I started I couldn’t stop reading! I was pulled into their story immediately, and am so glad I got to read their story!

I loved meeting Amelia and Lucas, but also really liked her banter with her Aunt Libby, and meeting Georgette as well! The characters were wonderful and fit so well into this wintery tale! Amelia’s love for horses and Lucas’s devotion to Mr. Winston gave the story a deeper tone that also played beautifully into their story. Such a good read, I definitely recommend this one!

The Turnbull Murders by R.J. Koreto


The Turnbull Murders by R.J. Koreto
Publisher: Level Best Books
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Movie star Nicky Tallon selects architect Wren Fontaine to renovate Turnbull House, where he’ll be filming his next movie. Even to Wren, used to old homes, this one is special: a 200-year-old federal-style home on a private island in New York harbor, designed by the most celebrated architect of the day. But Turnbull House hides many secrets, such as the disappearance of the sea captain who built it. That’s just a historical curiosity, until a studio executive no one likes is killed.

Wren just wants to keep her worksite safe, but then another murder occurs, and she starts noting eerie connections between the mysteries surrounding the Turnbull family and Nicky and his entourage. The handsome star seems to have two girlfriends, a childlike folk singer and a cynical fashion model. Meanwhile, renowned actress Veronica Selwyn renews a friendship with Wren’s father, which Wren finds more disturbing than she wants to admit. She concludes it’s time she and her girlfriend Hadley take the next step and find a place together, an exciting but stressful change.

As the attacks continue, Wren realizes she will have to solve the mysteries surrounding Captain Turnbull and Nicky Tallon. Turnbull House speaks of order and harmony, and Wren must dig deep to see how the house has affected its owners, old and new. Fortunately for her, the eminently practical Hadley is by her side, pepper spray at the ready—because a frighteningly clever killer is about to find that Wren is getting too close to the horrific truth.

The intriguing characters we meet at the opening of The Turnbull Murders grabbed this reader’s interest right away. R.J. Koreto described this new work as a ‘Historic Homes Mystery,’ and I for one, never imagined what a super backdrop architecture could be for a murder.

Our lead character, Wren, is as you have might have already guessed, an architect- but a special sort, with an interest not only in the history of certain styles of homes, but in the specific homes she is asked to restore. The home she tackles on Turnbull Island is that perfect icon of murder locations: it’s isolated. And, it has this sort of haunting back-story…none of which prepares either our lead, or the reader, for the first murder.

The investigation, while important, still takes a backseat to Wren’s interaction with her employer and his entourage. The world of the theater is another whole interesting part of the setting.

Wren’s girlfriend is incidentally involved at the start, as her job brings her to the same location. There’s a touch of family involvement, new friendships, and suddenly something that seems like another murder attempt. The threat looms and is cleverly tied to a long past mystery on Turnbull Island.

R.J. Koreto is brilliant at keeping the plot turning, all the while, keeping our attention on all these other, totally engaging, details. It’s hard to keep clues in mind while you are being entertained by gossip! To quote one of the characters: “Wow, just wow.”

This is a wonderful read, not only for mystery fans, but for anyone. It’s fast paced, with well-developed characters and an impossible to predict plot. Recommended!

Steel Tree by Sarena Ulibarri


Steel Tree by Sarena Ulibarri
Publisher: Android Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The voyage from Earth to Petipa isn’t cheap, but those who can’t afford it can pay off the trip by working the farms of Eta, the fertile moon that feeds humanity’s new colony. Klara Silber’s parents paid their debt, but left her behind, in charge of the orchards and the android nutcrackers. She’s sure if she follows their example, she’ll earn her invitation to ascend the space elevator and join Petipa Colony in no time. Only, the android nutcrackers have been malfunctioning all season, and some of the other farmers have suddenly gone missing.

They were told Eta didn’t have any native animal life, but the annual winter party is abuzz with rumors of large creatures lurking in the shadows. When one of the party guests inexplicably transforms into a giant rat and goes on the attack, Klara is sure the night can’t get any stranger. That is, until a fairy-like creature who communicates through dance appears, and a whole hidden history unspools about how the humans conquered these alien lands. To prevent the nuts that caused the giant rat mutation from being sent to Petipa, Klara needs to get two very different communities to work in harmony, even if it means she may never earn her way to the colony.

Christmas makes everything a little more magical.

The world building was perfect. I loved seeing how the characters related to each other, especially if they weren’t from the same social class, clan, or species. There was exactly enough information included about the complexities of both human and fairy societies to keep my interest levels high while also leaving room for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one. In the meantime, I had a good time comparing the many different personalities in this piece and wondering what they might do next given how rapidly relations between certain groups shifted from one day to the next.

I’d never actually seen The Nutcracker, so I looked it up quickly before I started reading this retelling of it. If you’re in the same boat, I recommend doing the same thing. The plot can work perfectly well for readers who don’t know the source material, but there are multiple scenes that will have a little something extra in them for readers who already know about the Sugar Plum Fairy, dancing lifelike dolls, and other iconic moments from that play. There’s something special about tales that pull such things off successfully, so kudos to the author for making this appeal to multiple audiences simultaneously.

One of the things I liked most about this novella was how relatable the main antagonist was. Did I agree with the methods he used to chase his goals? Of course not! I did understand why he was upset, though, and could see why he was so frustrated by certain choices Klara had made. It isn’t easy to write such a well-rounded bad guy, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Based on how much I’ve enjoyed Ms. Ulibarri’s work in my first few experiences with her, I will be keeping an eye out for what she comes up with next.

Steel Tree was a heartwarming Christmas tale.

Solarpunk Creatures by Christoph Rupprecht (editor)


Solarpunk Creatures by Christoph Rupprecht (editor)
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A newly sentient AI inhabits a Roomba to escape from their research office, and a robotic dog hunts for rain in a drought-ridden world. A murder of crows disrupts production on a solar farm, and a young woman communes with a telepathic fungal network to protect a forest. A suspicious cat follows bees across the rooftops of a solarpunk city, and a rabbit hitches a ride to the Grand Canyon to fulfil a prophecy. The path toward better futures is one we must walk alongside other creatures, negotiating the challenges of multispecies justice. Solarpunk Creatures introduces a whole new cast of more-than-human organic and digital, alien and fantastic, tiny and boundlessly large.

A better world is possible.

“The Colorful Crow of Web-of-Life Park” showed what happened after an epidemiologist’s pet parrot was accidentally released and went to live with a murder of crows in a ecologically-friendly city just as a dangerous new strain of the flu began circulating in the avian population there. I enjoyed the rising tension in this story as Veronica attempted to create a vaccine for this type of flu and find her lost bird. She had a limited amount of time to fulfill her goals, and I couldn’t wait to see if she succeeded. The ending was also well written and suited all of the characters nicely.

As someone who is fascinated by those communication buttons some people have trained their pets to use, I loved the fact that “The Business of Bees” was written from the perspective of a cat who was frustrated by the lack of choices in her buttons and her humans’ inability to understand how concerned she was about the weird bees in their yard. When she left home to follow the bees and see where they went, I imagined all sorts of scenarios she might find herself in. The author’s imaginative take on how cats think and why bees could be so alarming made it hard for me to stop reading.

The title of “Quarropts Can’t Dance” was just as good as the storyline itself. Li desperately wanted to use a boombox and some fresh dance moves to entertain those who passed by, but not everyone was interested in that sort of Earthling tradition. It was amusing to see how the various species reacted to this spectacle and how Li changed once they realized that their act maybe wasn’t having the effect they hoped it might.

One of the biggest reasons why I gave this anthology a five-star rating had to do with the wide variety of creatures and writing styles that were included in it. Some of them appealed to me more than others because everyone’s tastes are different, but I can’t help but to admit that all of them were well written and compelling. There were no weak spots here in my opinion, and that’s an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish. The editor did an excellent job of curating this collection. I can’t wait to see what he and all of the contributors might release next.

Solarpunk Creature was the perfect distraction.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan


Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Publisher: Ember
Genre: LGBTQ, Contemporary, YA (Ages 14+)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Based on true events—and narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS—Two Boys Kissing follows Harry and Craig, two seventeen-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teens dealing with universal questions of love, identity, and belonging.

Two boys kissing and so much more.

This book has been singled out as something to be banned, but I disagree. This book was fantastic. Yes, there are two boys kissing in this book, but it’s so much more. I liked the variety in the book, the characters and the tone. This isn’t an easy book to read. The author tackles hard topics–boys kissing, transgender issues, depression and thoughts of suicide. It’s not easy. But it’s worth the read.

I liked the various characters and seeing how they handled different situations. My favorite characters are the ones who came before, the ones telling the story. Their wisdom and wistfulness, along with their frankness, was the best part. They don’t mince words and I loved it. I liked the commentary.

This is a book everyone should read at some point. It’s sweet at times, endearing, sad and heartbreaking, but it’s realness is what really shines through. Recommended.

The Day Before Tomorrow by Monique Britten

The Day Before Tomorrow by Monique Britten
Publisher: Tellwell Publishing
Genre: Historical Literary Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Juliette and George Morgan know all about Living the Good Life. As the town’s newest ‘it’ couple, they succeed in transforming the otherwise sleepy farming community of Rickshaw into a hotbed for musical talent and social enterprise. A poignant and beautifully layered tale, the Day Before Tomorrow is a portrayal of an era once removed, yet not forgotten – from the early to late seventies – with much of the story taking place within the Morgan family’s domestic locus and the community in which they live. Relationships become so intricately woven, adult and adolescent lines become blurred and an illicit connection between teacher and student builds into hidden, often disturbing scenes of love, secrets and human experience. When the Morgan’s future essentially falls down in mid-flight, the family is forced to cope with not only trauma, but coming of age and ultimately moving away from their safe haven of Rickshaw. An indictment of survival, shattered innocence, death, love and optimism, this tale is one that will transport your mind, speak to your heart and stay in both long after you have closed the cover.

This is a novel that will stay with me for a long time. A multi-generational novel of a family, their friends, and the effect illness and an illicit relationship had on them… not only in the time it happens but reaching through time. Things are linked in ways you might not expect when you open the book.

The story is told through vignettes, and, thankfully, the author is good about sharing what time we’re looking at in each segment.

The characters are well-drawn and three dimensional. You may love them and want to smack them at the same time. My favorite character was Juliette. I would have loved for her to be my best friend. And, her take on “the day before tomorrow” (the very best kind of day) resonates with me in so many ways.

There are so many layers and complexities that the story builds on and the ending is haunting. I highly recommend this book and am anxious to read more books by this author. Surprisingly enough, it appears this may be her debut novel – it’s so well-written I would have expected the author to be more experienced. Kudo for a job well done.

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*All I Want for Christmas is You by Erika Kelly


*All I Want for Christmas is You by Erika Kelly
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Holiday, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Her children are grown, her ex betrayed her in the worst way, and it’s her first Christmas alone. What better way to spend it than with the hottest man she’s ever seen? She deserves a little fun after losing everything she’s worked so hard for.

Margot Rhodes is glad to wake up in her hotel room to an empty bed. Her one and only hookup was phenomenal, but she doesn’t need to say goodbye to a man she’ll never see again. Except when she comes downstairs…she finds him in the lobby.

A snowstorm shut down the airport, and now she’s stuck with him for three days.

She needs to rebuild her life–not fall for some guy who lives two thousand miles away–so she does her best to avoid him, but the infuriating man keeps teaming up with her in the holiday events the hotel owner’s arranged to keep her guests happy.

And then, when it’s time to go their separate ways, he makes an offer she can’t refuse. It requires a move to his hometown…but what does she have to lose? She’s starting from the bottom which means the only way forward is up.

She’s got a second chance at life…is she willing to risk it all for a dirty-talking stranger?

All I Want For Christmas Is You is a delightful story filled with Christmas cheer and good feeling. I immediately connected with the two main characters, Beau and Margot and I enjoyed reading their story. In fact, I couldn’t stop reading their story until I was sure they would get the happy ending they both deserve. They have an immediate connection with each other, and their chemistry is intense.

Sadly, Beau and Margot’s first marriages were not happy because they were married to selfish people and after divorcing, they never expected to fall in love. Beau and Margot aren’t looking for a relationship but love unexpectedly finds them. They have both been hurt by their former spouses and have a hard time trusting each again. Their story shows the ins and outs of a new romance and how hard it is to take a leap in faith and trust another person after being hurt. I admired both of them. They are wonderful parents to their adult children, have a great relationship with all of them and have so much love to give. Beau and Margot deserve to be happy after all they have gone through.

I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful and heartwarming Christmas story. Beau makes all of Margot’s dreams come true and Margot shows Beau how wonderful love can be.

Erika Kelly is one of my favorite authors and this story left me with a good feeling and put me in the Christmas spirit.

If the Sun Spares Us by Brenda Marie Smith


If the Sun Spares Us by Brenda Marie Smith
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: post-apocalyptic thriller
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Two years ago, a solar pulse destroyed modern life. Bea Crenshaw organized her starving, suburban neighbors into a farming community. But now Bea’s gone, and her grandchildren must carry her legacy forward.

In the post-apocalyptic pressure cooker of Austin, Texas, 19-year-old Keno and his younger cousins struggle to ensure their community’s survival even as they’re forced to relocate to safer grounds. Northern Lights that don’t belong this far south grow increasingly intense, making Keno fear what harm the sun will cause next.

Even worse, a marauding militia called the Raiders is closing in, led by a deranged woman who preys on teenage boys. Despite Keno’s debilitating flashbacks from a firefight, he and his wife have a new baby to protect. Though Bea is dead, her spirit desperately searches for ways to shield her grandkids. When Raiders target two neighborhood members, the only hope lies in the community’s strength, Keno’s ingenuity, and the family’s fierce love for one another.

This is the third book in the Braving the Light series and picks up after the death of Bea, the family’s grandmother and matriarch who so ably prepared her family for an apocalypse she is sure is coming, even though she does not know how or when. You can read our five-star review of the second book here.

This third, and final, book of the trilogy does not disappoint. Once again, Ms. Smith presents us with a multi-generational story, told from the POVs of Keno, Milo, Mazie, and Bea. They are trying to relocate to a safer location, a move which causes dissension in the original camp. Add to that, they run into a paramilitary group which calls itself Raiders and is run by a deranged woman with a special affinity for luring in teenage boys.

Once again, it’s the characters and their relationships that really make this book. The characters come across as real people, with all their faults and foibles. They are mostly people who would want to sit down and have a cup of tea with.

The situations, also, ring true and is a future I could see all too well coming our way. The whole range of human emotions and human reactions are seen in the books, both good and bad.

I really recommend this series.

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