Precious Burdens by Avery Sterling

Precious Burdens by Avery Sterling
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Sarafina di Ramonicci sets sail for America as the promised bride in an arranged political marriage.Taken prisoner at sea, she clashes with her captor and demands freedom, only to discover he is planning her future husband’s demise, with her as a pawn in their deadly feud. The challenge of escape tests her loyalty to family, human decency, and love.

Captain Nye Tarquin is a dangerous man. Left to die on the streets of New Orleans, he swears retribution on the man responsible. When he makes Sarafina part of his plan, he isn’t prepared for the fiery vixen aboard his ship, nor his desire to claim her as his own. When passion overtakes honor, he’s torn between his heart and his need for justice.

What fun this book was! It reminded me a bit of the old pirate romances I used to devour as a teenager…the excitement of a swashbuckling hero who would sweep his captive off her feet and offer her true love.

I fell in love with Nye right along with Serafina…and I joined her in wanting to smack him for being so stubborn about things at times. The relationship between them and their banter back and forth really made this book. I do love me a good character driven book, and this book has great characters.

There were twists and turns aplenty along with plenty of action, great secondary characters, wonderful dialogue, and did I say how much I loved the main characters?

I would love to see this as a movie, from the beginning where the drive for revenge is born to the very end– Netflix, are you listening?

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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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As a Little Child by Catalina Siri

As a Little Child (Come Into the Agape Boat) by Catalina Siri
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Children’s, Inspirational
Rated:
Review by Rose

I was inspired by Jesus to write this book. In combining nature and the sacred word of the Bible, my intention is to take the reader into a place of contemplation of the wonderful things God has created for the care, nourishment, and enjoyment of His creation, especially humanity. This book’s central theme is the character of love of our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this book is an introduction to young children to the knowledge of the God of the Bible, who is unknown to most of the Christian circle and the world at large. God is the source of Agape and He is inviting all to receive Agape from Him through His Son Jesus.

I loved the illustrations in this book, and I feel just those would be an excellent way for parents to use this book in expressing the message…that God loves all children. It expresses agape (pure love) as a river that all people can access.

I found the wording itself to be a little on the old side for the target audience of small kids, but it would be a good start for parents to put the message in their own words. The author also includes Bible verses that back up the text and the message of the story, as well as a glossary in the back to also help parents explain the story to their kids.

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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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Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle by Jennifer Ivy Walker


Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle by Jennifer Ivy Walker
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Gabrielle is a flame haired, fire hearted French princess who dreams of becoming a Valkyrie warrior queen like her Viking ancestors from Normandy. Sent to Paris to learn the proper etiquette for a future French queen, she is called home to le Château de Beaufort for a forced marriage to a man she loathes when her father the king’s precarious health takes a sudden turn for the worse.

Chivalrous, solitary knight Sir Bastien de Landuc suffers an impossible love for Gabrielle, the unattainable princess he can never have. Without a title of nobility, he is ineligible to compete in the tournament for her hand in marriage, despite his unparalleled equestrian skills and inimitable swordsmanship.

Yet, Yuletide wishes for a wondrous winter solstice in the glorious Crystal Castle might make impossible dreams come true.

Can the valiant knight win the coveted hand of his Viking Valkyrie?

Ms Walker takes us into the time of King Arthur and introduces us to friends and family of Sir Lancelot. Lancelot’s mother and two of her friends have their own wishes for the upcoming winter solstice.

Gabrielle is called home because her father, King of Finistere, has suddenly become ill and wants to see his daughter safely married before his death. Unfortunately, there are many men who would like to get their hands on the princess and her kingdom, so the king devises a plan for her to be sworn to a winner of a joust.

It is obvious from the beginning that Gabrielle and Bastien de Landuc, her champion and her protector, are meant for each other, but there are numerous things that stand in their way – Bastien’s lack of nobility, forces from without. Ms. Walker leads us through the twists and turns of bringing them together with her wonderful storytelling ability.

I thoroughly enjoyed the research that went into this book and the scattering of French phrases lends a touch of realism. There were, however, some words and phrases that, in my opinion, were overused. This could very well be because I’m an editor in my other life and may be more conscious of things like this than the normal reader, so it may be something that wouldn’t bother any other reader.

If you enjoy medieval romances, winter traditions, and a helping of passion, give this book a try.

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The Cottage by Jo A. Hiestand


The Cottage by Jo A. Hiestand
Publisher: Cousins House Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Former police detective Michael McLaren is at the home of his lady friend, Melanie. The house is sold, the removal van is booked. All that is left is to help her pack her belongings for her move to his village. But the laborious task is interrupted when one of Melanie’s neighbors asks McLaren to investigate the circumstances of her parents’ murders. McLaren’s reluctance to take it on and abandon Melanie appears to be solved when his best mate, Jamie, steps in to help with the packing. It’s not the easy investigation McLaren was hoping for, however. Sightings of Mordred and a ghost, and a burglary at the local Tudor Hall complicate the murder inquiries. What had seemed to McLaren a perfect remedy with Jamie close at hand now disintegrates into a horrendous mistake. And McLaren questions if the investigation is really worth it, especially when he puts the people he cares about most in danger.

What a joy to be back with Michael, Melanie, and Jamie in Jo Hiestand’s newest book in the McLaren Mystery series – you can see our review of the last book here.

Michael is back in Melanie’s village – this time to help her pack up as she prepares to move to his village, to live closer to him. But, the packing is interrupted when Melanie’s friend asks him to help solve the murders of her parents.

I loved being able to catch back up with this crew. I love we are able to see more of Melanie and Michael’s relationship progressing. One of the reasons I enjoy this series so much is being able to catch up with old friends.

Another reason is that Ms. Hiestand does a remarkable job of plotting the mystery, laying out the clues, and building the tension page by page. I was kept on the edge of my seat right up until the solution was revealed, and I normally pride myself on being able to figure out “who dunnit” before the end of the book. Ms. Hiestand’s masterful laying out the mystery always makes me look forward to the next book in the series.

Thank you, again, for a wonderful chapter in Michael McLaren’s life. 5 stars

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1956 Love & Revolution by J.A. Boulet


1956 Love & Revolution by J.A. Boulet
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

What would you do for your country?

In 1955, a group of uncommon people meet by chance. During the final year of Rákosi’s iron fist rule, Imre Nagy’s reforms are repealed, plunging Hungary back into economic ruin.

A university student, a cleaner, a Hungarian soldier and several others find themselves drawn toward each other as their love for their country is tested. In the fall of 1956, political strife deepens as the students begin demanding reform.

How far will they go to save Hungary?

Well-researched, politically charged and fast-paced, 1956 Love & Revolution will lure you into the lives of everyday Hungarians who risked everything for their country.

I didn’t know a lot about went on in Hungary during this time period, but reading this book made me feel like I was right there. The characters in this book came alive for me – they are fully formed, with pasts, with foibles, with imperfections. My heart broke for Elona as she dealt with her husband and the way he treated her.

And, it’s not just the characters, but the setting at well. I felt like I was right there, picturing everything.  The juxtaposition of the changes the country is going through and the changes and growth that the main characters are going through gives a richness to the story.

During the story, there is heartbreak, pain, sorrow, and yet still, by the end, hope prevails. And, isn’t that what we all want from a good book?

Thank you, Ms. Boulet, for introducing me to a part of history I didn’t know much about and characters I’ll remember for a long time.

 

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Reflections on the Boulevard by L.J. Ambrosio

Reflections on the Boulevard by L.J. Ambrosio
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Historical, Literary Fiction, Coming-of-Age
Rated: 4
Review by Rose

Michael’s story continues from A Reservoir Man (2022) where we find him teaching at a university ready to retire. He unexpectedly meets a young man named Ron who becomes his protege and journeys in a haphazard adventure with him throughout America and Europe, each twist and turn of the road bringing unexpected adventures. The journey taken is one of joy, friendship and discovery.

This is the continuation of the author’s previous book A Reservoir Man (reviewed here) and was thoroughly enjoyable. Michael has learned through his life about living his authentic life, and now he has the chance to pass on what he has learned.

Ron is a young man who is drawn to Michael from the first. Even though it took a while on Michael’s side, he recognized a need in Ron. This is the story of their journey – not only in life, but throughout the United States and Europe as well. It’s part memoir, part road trip story told in a stream-of-consciousness style. Not only do we get to take a road trip with two interesting people, we get to see Michael relive a trip he once took, but we get to see Ron learn more about who he is as a human being. And, their platonic life together is bookended by the roadtrips.

I loved the relationship that develops between Michael, an older gay man, and Ron, a straight man. The lessons that Ron learned, that Michael shared, are universal in scope. Not everything is smooth sailing in their relationship, especially when things are discovered but, because of that, it’s a very realistic look at friendship, mentorship, and relationship.

Thanks, Mr. Ambrosio, for a further look into Michael’s life. 4 stars.

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Overdue by Jo A Hiestand


Overdue by Jo A Hiestand
Publisher: Cousins House
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

A spate of three murders in as many months has Derbyshire’s local police and populace in near panic. And there will most likely be a fourth killing in two weeks unless something happens to stop the cycle. Former police detective Michael McLaren is that “something” that his best mate, Jamie Kydd, is counting on to end the alarming deaths. He enlists McLaren’s help to look into the events, hoping his friend can solve what, so far, has confounded the Constabulary.

Each of the three crime scenes is the same, yet different: the same types of things but not the same specific things left with each body. As McLaren becomes enmeshed in the hunt for the killer, his friend Melanie arrives for a planned visit. Can his days become more complicated than simultaneously playing host and unmasking a killer? They can when he’s aware that each tick of the clock brings them closer to the next planned murder. And perhaps an unplanned one…thrown in for fun.

It was such a treat to visit Michael McLaren again and catch up with the people I’ve come to know and love.

Once again, he is caught up in a mystery that takes not only his own work, but insights from his friends to solve. There were so many twists and turns, and the clues were clever. Too clever for me, in fact, and I pride myself on usually being able to figure out who the villain is before it’s revealed. Not this time…no way.

I loved the “overdue” theme that winds its way through the book. That was also cleverly done.

This series would make a great tv series (producers of Shetland, are you listening?) I hope someone who has contacts with the right people pick these books up.

Great job, again, Ms. Hiestand. 5 stars from me.

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The Babel Apocalypse by Vyvyan Evans

The Babel Apocalypse by Vyvyan Evans
Publisher: Nephilim Publishing
Genre: Science Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Language is no longer learned, but streamed to neural implants regulated by lang-laws. Those who can’t afford language streaming services are feral, living on the fringes of society. Big tech corporations control language, the world’s most valuable commodity.

But when a massive cyberattack causes a global language outage, catastrophe looms.

Europol detective Emyr Morgan is assigned to the case. His prime suspect is Professor Ebba Black, the last native speaker of language in the automated world, and leader of the Babel cyberterrorist organization. But Emyr soon learns that in a world of corporate power, where those who control language control everything, all is not as it seems.

As he and Ebba collide, Emyr faces an existential dilemma between loyalty and betrayal, when everything he once believed in is called into question. To prevent the imminent collapse of civilization and a global war between the great federations, he must figure out friend from foe—his life depends on it. And with the odds stacked against him, he must find a way to stop the Babel Apocalypse.

This is an intriguing book with an all-too-real feel to the premise of technology gone wrong. I’ve often daydreamed about the ability to learn a new language without having to study…kind of a built-in universal translator, if you will. The thing about advancements is that sometimes they lead to a slippery slope.

In this case, that slippery slope leads to a world in which it is mandated that babies be implanted with a chip at birth that forms language for them. And, for a price, you can add on all kinds of services to your streaming language.

With only one person left in the world who has never been chipped, the stage is set for this story. And, what a character she is. Ebba Black is the leader of a group that is trying to reclaim, in a sense, what has been lost. And Emyr Morgan, a Europol detective, has been assigned to discover who is behind a massive cyberattack that makes many unable to talk or understand language.

I really liked both of these characters. I enjoyed the way they interacted and the relationship between them. This book had me turning pages as fast as I could read and had so many twists and turns, I was never sure what was going to happen next.

It’s the first book in the Songs of the Saga series, and I’m looking forward to reading the upcoming books. Be aware, The Babel Apocalypse ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but don’t let that stand in your way. This book is very much worth it! 5 stars

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