Seven Times Unto Eternity by J.S. Frankel

Seven Times Unto Eternity by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Extasy Books
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance, LGBTQ, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Being reincarnated over and over is one thing. Becoming the opposite sex is another. But saving the world is an entirely different story—and it’s also a lot stranger.

You get only one go-around in life, or so the experts say. Paige DeMaster, almost nineteen years of age, formerly Callisto Merriwether, formerly five other lives, has seven chances to right a major wrong. She has seven chances to save the world as well as save herself—and now she’s down to her last chance.

Saving the world is much more difficult than it looks!

I enjoyed the casual and friendly dialogue in this book. It sounded just like the sort of conversations one might accidentally overhear in public places or share with friends and family. This also made it easy to get to know the characters and figure out what their personalities were like as the way they spoke always felt natural to me. It’s certainly not easy to write these things out in such a realistic manner, so I must tip my cap to Mr. Frankel for pulling it off!

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored Paige’s romantic relationship. They fit in so seamlessly to everything else that was going on in the storyline and showed me aspects of her personality that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise taken note of. I thought she and her partner were a lovely match and hoped for a happy ending for them as soon as they became an item.

The world building was strong and consistent from beginning to end. I especially liked the flashbacks to Paige’s previous lives that showed what she learned from them and how she adjusted every time she woke up again in a new era. Of course it would be disorienting at first to speak a new language, worship different gods, and eventually even figure out how the Internet works! Seeing how the main character interacted with the various people she met from one lifetime to the next as she tried again and again to save the world made me yearn for more.

Seven Times Unto Eternity was lovely.

Waiting For Spring by Sonya Rhen

Waiting For Spring by Sonya Rhen
Jelly Beans and Spring Things Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Returning to belly dance at the annual Kirkland Crocus Parade with the Habibi Nile Dancers, Shayna vows to forget her breakup after last year’s parade and guard her fragile heart. However, her best friend is just as determined to find her a new love interest. Shayna would rather not think about matters of the heart and just concentrate on entertaining the spectators by dancing with her dignity intact. Which is harder than she thought. As the parade participants march on through Kirkland’s quaint downtown streets, the Easter Bunny, her fearless leader, her best friend, an eye-catching drummer, and a jelly-bean-tossing clown, might give Shayna a reason to open her heart…after all, spring is in the air!

Love is everywhere.

There are so many little details that go into organizing even one section of a parade, much less the whole event. I was not expecting the narrator to discuss such matters, but I’m glad she did. It taught me some new vocabulary words and gave me a sneak peek into something I’ve never done. This was also a nice way to get to know the main character better, from her occasional absent-mindedness while preparing for this big day to the exuberant joy she felt while dancing in the Kirkland Crocus Parade.

The chemistry between Shayla and her possible match made my heart flutter. Obviously, parades aren’t exactly the ideal setting for small talk, but there are plenty of nonverbal ways to communicate one’s intentions instead. I enjoyed seeing how many of them the author used in order to build tension and make this reader curious to find out what would happen next.

What a nice ending this short story had! It wrapped up the most important storyline but also left plenty of space for interpretation or even for a possible sequel if Ms. Rhen decides to write one. I must admit that I wondered how she was possibly going to resolve everything when I first began reading. Some of Shayla’s problems felt a little too big for a piece of this size, so it was wonderful to be proven wrong about that.

Waiting For Spring felt like a hug from a new friend. It was so warm and delightful.

Camp Effigy – A Ghost Story by I A M Watson

Camp Effigy – A Ghost Story by I A M Watson
Publisher: Regenesis Press
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Rule number one: no one is to leave designated camper areas for any reason. You will not leave camp without permission. Do not attempt it. And stay clear of locked doors and anything marked as off-limits.”

Camp Effigy is an unusual summer camp destination to say the least. As they pass through the foreboding gates of Hopewell Manor, Dahlia, Serena, and Aria anticipate a bootcamp for troubled girls (and boy, are they troubled). It doesn’t help that the surrounding camp is built on ancient burial grounds deep in some very haunted woods. Strange things happen quickly, leaving our heroines to band together as unlikely friends and fight for their lives at the place where the land of the living and the dead meet and merge. Everything goes off the rails when the campers discover that their own family secrets may tie them to the hauntings that threaten their lives, and that only they hold the key to solving a cold case from 1851.

Every kid breaks a minor rule or two while at summer camp, right?

The horror elements of the storyline were delightfully scary. I shuddered my way through the ones that involved bodies of water and the various entities that can sometimes be found lurking in their depths. They reminded me a little of the various urban legends that are sometimes told around the campfire on warm nights when the looming darkness just past the edge of where flickering flames can cast their light makes every spooky sentence feel bigger and more ominous than it seems during the day. This is a good pick for middle grade or older readers who enjoy being frightened without being grossed out.

There was strong character development for all three protagonists. I enjoyed seeing how Aria, Serena, and Dahlia got to know each other better and worked together to solve the mystery of what was really happening at Camp Effigy. What made this even more impressive was that the author managed to pull it off in a fast-paced novel that didn’t leave a lot of space for long conversations. Much of what I learned about them happened while they were on the run or exploring parts of the camp they had been clearly told were off-limits to them. This gave everything a strong sense of urgency that made it impossible for me to stop reading.

I grinned as Dahlia, Serena, and Aria figured out how they were connected to the cold case from 1851. It was a clever way to tie the present closely to the past and give the characters understandable motives for behaving the way that they did. While I was already enjoying this tale before these details were revealed, I became even more excited to see how it ended once such crucial information about all three girls was revealed.

Camp Effigy: A Ghost Story was the perfect summer read.

Kent and Katcha by Larry and Rosemary Mild

Kent and Katcha by Larry and Rosemary Mild
Publisher: Magic Island Literary Works
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Larry and Rosemary Mild breach the deeper cover and higher intrigue to bring you a fictional novel full of spy-craft, espionage, and adventure drawn from Larry’s former association with real agents and their spook agencies.

The year is 1992. The Soviet Union has collapsed, but danger persists. Young Kent Brukner, a freshly trained American spy, arrives in Moscow for a high-risk mission: to infiltrate and compromise a Russian Federation Army facility. Under an alias, in a military uniform, he plies his skills—unprepared for the brutal confrontations and irrational consequences.

Kent meets the innocent and passionate Katcha, daughter of a British expatriate and a Russian dissident. Together the lovers embark on a near-impossible journey, beginning in the foothills of the Ural Mountains. Stalked by the evil Major Dmitri Federov, they must escape from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, Finland, or face life in a Russian prison.

This novel is a marvelous throwback to the early nineteen nineties, shortly after the end of the Cold War. Kent is an engaging character, an American spy, whose background is fleshed out enough for us to understand who he is and what his motivations are. The Russians capture him and throw him in prison. The situation seems hopeless.

Then, in a surprising turn of events, he manages to escape. Every step of his hopeful journey towards freedom is filled with tension. One thing after another threatens him along the path, and readers will worry for his safety. He meets an interesting lady during this time, Katcha, whose mother proposes an intriguing possibility for the young couple. It is so dangerous, so filled with a likely tragic end, and Kent only agrees with hesitation. Now, his risk has doubled. Can he and Katcha possibly survive the scrutiny and perseverance of the Russians going after him?

This book is a page-turner. The pace moves quickly but not too quickly. There is time for emotional introspection. The setting is convincingly drawn, taking readers into the era and place with ease.

This is an entertaining vintage novel readers of espionage tales with a bit of romance thrown in are sure to enjoy.

Scars by G.A. Bassier

Scars by G.A. Bassier
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

They say love can heal all wounds…but some scars may run too deep.

Eight months ago, while in a werewolf rage, Lily escaped her cage and killed an innocent person. Every moment since then, Lily’s guilt has grown heavier and more suffocating. Just as it threatens to engulf her, she meets a kind stranger who is struggling through his own turmoil after losing his beloved wife.

Sitting in a coffee shop with Jack, Lily smiles for the first time in eight long, dark months. She and Jack love all the same things: Star Wars, banana bread, even cheesy eighties movies. In spite of her lingering guilt, Lily starts to fall for him. Jack makes it easy. He trusts her. He worries about her. He never compares her to his lost love. Jack makes Lily want to live again–and she does the same for him.

There’s just one problem:

The innocent person Lily killed was Jack’s wife.

It’s never too late to turn things around and try again.

The premise of this novella grabbed my attention immediately, and I thought the author handled the dilemma of a werewolf falling in love with the widower of the woman she accidentally killed in a sensitive and beautiful manner. The tension between their developing relationship and Lily’s terrible secret made it impossible for me to stop reading. Of course, she would have no idea how to bring this topic up to Jack and would struggle to figure out what to do!

Given the tragedy that brought them together, it made total sense for things to develop slowly and unevenly between Jack and Lily. This was exactly what needed to happen in order for me as a reader to want them to live happily ever after, and their chemistry was perfect. What made it even more impressive was the fact that the characters evolved from meeting each other, to falling in love, to discovering the truth, to reaching the climax of this tale within such a short time period. Many authors would need a few hundred pages to reach the same conclusions, so getting it done in about forty pages instead was impressive.

I was blown away how many layers of detail and meaning the author was able to include as well. Yes, the main plotline was romantic, but the writing also included thoughtful messages about the meaning of life and how one can begin to heal from something that may feel insurmountable. This is the sort of story I’d especially recommend to readers who might not normally like the romance genre but who are willing to try the cream of the crop of it.

Scars couldn’t have been better. Bravo!

*Happy Harry by Barbara Lampert

*Happy Harry by Barbara Lampert
Publisher: Golden Wolf books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Animal Essays
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

“Nobody who loves dogs will be able to resist your book! A magnificent love story!” – Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, international bestselling author of Dogs Never Lie About Love and When Elephants Weep.

In her dog memoir “Happy Harry: A Magical Golden”, psychotherapist Barbara Lampert, a lifelong dog lover, tells the story of her beloved Golden Retriever, Harry. Like her first dog memoir, Harry’s story comes from her mostly uncensored daily journal and takes place in Malibu, California.

Harry was a genuinely free spirit – wild, and very wolf-like. Did all this contribute to his being exceptionally happy? Perhaps.

Harry was not only the happiest being Barbara’s ever known, happy to the very core of him, but also the bravest. More than once in his life, Harry had to face true adversity, and each time, Barbara would look at him in wonder, not fully understanding how a being could be so brave and at the same time continue to be so happy.

Harry literally pranced through life, with a joyous attitude that made being around him like magic. Barbara fell in love with Harry. And as you immerse yourself in Harry’s story, it’s likely you will too! Happy Harry is unforgettable!

You don’t have to be a lover of Golden Retrievers to find this story captivating, but if Goldens are your favorite dog, you will thoroughly enjoy this story about Harry the rambunctious, precocious and fun-loving Golden Retriever.

When I first saw this book about Harry, a Golden Retriever I knew I had to read it. I have raised four Goldens throughout my life and currently have Charlie, a two-year-old Golden Retriever. So many things Barbara Lampert wrote about resonated with me. I could relate to so many of her experiences with Harry. The descriptions of Harry are funny and poignant. The writing is entertaining and interesting, and I fell in love with Harry along the way. The story chronicles Harry’s life from the time he is adopted at nine weeks, until his death. Harry is a typical friendly Golden Retriever, and I enjoyed reliving Barbara’s experiences with him. Her love of dogs and how much Harry touched her heart is evident in her writing.

Barbara takes us on a thoughtful and insightful journey. It is a beautiful tribute to Harry and made me laugh at all his crazy antics and cry when his end was near. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a sweet, feel good, well written story. This story touched my heart and made me want to give my dog a hug and make sure I enjoy the time he is with me.

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The Silence of the Choir by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

The Silence of the Choir by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr
Publisher: Europa Editions
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Seventy-two men arrive in the middle of the Sicilian countryside. They are “immigrants,” “refugees” or “migrants.” But in Altino, they’re called the ragazzi, the “guys” that the Santa Marta Association have taken responsibility for. In this small Sicilian town, their arrival changes life for everybody.

While they wait to know their fate, the ragazzi encounter all kinds of people: a strange vicar who rewrites their pasts, a woman committed to ensuring them asylum, a man determined to fight against it, an older ragazzo who has become an interpreter, and a reclusive poet who no longer writes.

Each character in this moving and important saga is forced to reflect on what it means to encounter people they know nothing about. They watch as a situation unfolds over which they have little control or insight. A story told through a growing symphony of voices that ends only when one final voice brings silence to the choir.

Can you imagine what life would be like for immigrants? You don’t know the language or culture, and you are a stranger in a new land. Mohamed Mbougar Sarr immerses us into this situation with skill and sensitivity.

“The Ragazzi” show up at the doorstep of a cast of characters in a small Sicilian town based in the countryside. These people are unique, as are their new neighbors. They interact differently with them.

The Ragazzi are trying to start a new life, but things aren’t so simple. Problems come up, and readers could be moved emotionally by their plight. There are issues one may not even consider. Will the conflicts ever find resolution?

As the story unfolds, we feel tension for those involved. We are also treated to the personality quirks of those who make this tale come alive. This is an interesting book that many are sure to enjoy.

*Liar’s Point by Laura Griffin

*Liar’s Point by Laura Griffin
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Two homicide detectives must separate the puzzling truth from a growing web of lies while investigating a murder victim’s friends and lovers in Lost Beach, Texas.

Detective Nicole Lawson is fed up with her job and nonexistent love life. Her first date in months gets cut short by an urgent call from the chief of police. A body has been discovered at Lighthouse Point, and the medical examiner finds an array of strange clues. When the death is ruled a homicide, the news quickly reverberates through Nicole’s beachside hometown.

The Lost Beach police department swings into high gear. Leading the investigation is Emmet Davis, a veteran detective who is Nicole’s fiercest rival at work and also the man she has secretly harbored feelings toward for years. With Emmet calling the shots, Nicole sets out to search for leads, starting with the enigmatic yoga instructor who first discovered the body. Nicole is certain the witness knows more than she’s revealing and may even hold the key to unlocking the case.

When another person turns up dead under suspicious circumstances, Nicole sees a bizarre pattern, but no one believes her theory. Under the gun to solve the case, Nicole must put aside her tumultuous feelings and work closely with Emmet to figure out who is targeting her beloved hometown . . . before she becomes a target herself.

I’m always excited when Laura Griffin comes out with a new book because she is one of my favorite authors. She knows how to write intense, suspenseful stories that keep me quickly turning the pages to find out what will happen next.

Nicole and Emmett are the two main characters in her newest book, Liar’s Point. They are detectives working together on a case involving a murdered woman. Nicole and Emmett are dedicated and hardworking and although they are attracted to each other, they are afraid to admit their feelings.

I loved everything about this story, especially Nicloe. Nicole is a fearless and dedicated detective. She has to work twice as hard as her male peers but is still treated differently because she is a woman. She has had a crush on Emmett since high school, but she is afraid to act on her attraction because it could ruin her career.

All the characters in this story are interesting, the plot is riveting, and the writing is spot on. I enjoyed all of Emmett and Nicole’s interactions and felt the chemistry between them. This story kept me on the edge of my seat, and I wasn’t sure who the murderer was until the very end.

*The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George

*The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group, Berkley
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

New to wealth and to London high society, American heiress Cora Dove discovers that with the right man, marriage might not be such an inconvenience after all. . . .

Cora Dove and her sisters’ questionable legitimacy has been the lifelong subject of New York’s gossipmongers and a continual stain on their father’s reputation. So when the girls each receive a generous, guilt-induced dowry from their dying grandmother, the sly Mr. Hathaway vows to release their funds only if Cora and her sisters can procure suitable husbands—far from New York. For Cora, England is a fresh start. She has no delusions of love, but a husband who will respect her independence? That’s an earl worth fighting for.

Enter: Leopold Brendon, Earl of Devonworth, a no-nonsense member of Parliament whose plan to pass a Public Health bill that would provide clean water to the working class requires the backing of a wealthy wife. He just never expected to crave Cora’s touch or yearn to hear her thoughts on his campaign—or to discover that his seemingly perfect bride protects so many secrets…

But secrets have a way of bubbling to the surface, and Devonworth has a few of his own. With their pasts laid bare and Cora’s budding passion for women’s rights taking a dangerous turn, they’ll learn the true cost of losing their heart to a stranger—and that love is worth any price.

Harper St. George knows how to write a rich and satisfying story with characters that are entertaining and interesting. I loved this enchanting historical story set in the late 1800’s so much, I never wanted it to end.

Cora, the eldest of the Dove sisters, must marry a titled gentleman to gain her inheritance, so she and her two sisters travel to England to find a groom. When Cora arrives in London, she meets an assortment of potential husbands including Devenworth.

Devenworth needs a rich bride to save his ancestral home. Although he is attracted to Cora, he ultimately marries her for her dowry. They marry first and slowly fall in love as they become acquainted with each other. The more they learn about each other, the deeper they fall. However, they are afraid to let down their guard and trust each other completely.

I loved Devenworth and Cora together and enjoyed all of their encounters. Sparks would fly whenever they were together, and I found myself immediately immersed in their story. I felt like I was right there with them, and I easily connected with all the characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and can’t wait to read future stories featuring the two other Dove sisters.

Double Lives by Mary Monroe

Double Lives by Mary Monroe
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Since childhood, identical twins Leona and Fiona Dunbar have been getting in—and out—of trouble by pretending to be each other. Yet underneath, they couldn’t be more different. Outspoken Leona lives to break rules, have a good time, and scandalize their respectable hometown of Lexington. Fiona is a seemingly-demure churchgoing girl who is the apple of her domineering, widowed mother Mavis’s eye.

But together, the twins have fooled teachers, boyfriends, bosses, racist police—and most importantly, strait-laced Mavis. Even when Leona does jail time for Fiona, their unbreakable bond keeps them fiercely loyal. . . . So when Fiona feels stifled in her passionless marriage, and Leona is heartbroken over losing her one true love, it’s perfect timing to change places once again . . .

Leona is shocked to discover she enjoys the security of being a wife and homebody. And the unexpected spark between her and Fiona’s husband is giving her all kinds of deliciously sexy ideas. Meanwhile, Fiona enjoys being free, single, and reveling in the independence she’s never had. And the more she indulges her secret, long-repressed wild child, the more Leona’s ex-lover becomes one temptation she’s having trouble resisting . . .

As the sisters’ masquerade ignites desires and appetites they never expected, it also puts their most damning secrets on the line. Once the fallout rocks their small town, can Fiona and Leona’s deep sisterhood shield them from total disaster and help them reconcile their mistakes? Or will the trust between them become a weapon that shatters their lives for good?

Identical twins Fiona and Leona find it amusing and convenient to switch identities as it suits them, but could their harmless switching lead to serious trouble?

This 320-page historical fiction is a great example of why Mary Monroe is one of my favorite authors. Her unique writing style and engaging plots are always a guarantee that I will be drawn in for a thrilling read. The author masterfully developed Fiona and Leona’s story throughout, and lastly climaxed in a plot twist that I did not see coming.

Double Lives is a work of historical fiction that spans from 1901 to 1938 in a small, segregated country town in Alabama. Readers are introduced to identical twins Fiona and Leona Dunbar who find it amusing in ‘fooling folks’ by switching their identities. The narrative alternates between Fiona and Leona’s perspectives. The author’s signature style of creating characters that are intriguing and memorable resulting in this entertaining, and original plot. I found myself unable to put the book down, eager to see how the story would unfold.

The bond between the sisters is like no other. I found it disturbing the sacrifices Leona made for Fiona. It was even more unsettling that Fiona allowed her sister to take on a negative image while benefiting from their switching. In my opinion, Fiona was selfish, while Leona was naive and always ended up being the protector or scapegoat. This unfair dynamic between the sisters made me angry. Leona was also naive when it came to her friendship with Bonnie Sue. Bonnie Sue got on my nerves and was very much obsessed with Leona, but Leona could not see it.

Who wouldn’t want to trade places to get out of trouble or to get out of their current circumstances? Mary Monroe has written another captivating five-star book that tells the story of the Dunbar sisters’ masquerade, which ignites into something they may not be able to switch back from. I highly recommend it.