Wild About Violet by Sara Blackard

Wild About Violet by Sara Blackard
Wild Hearts of Alaska Book 2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Falling for my fake fiancée? Nope. Not gonna happen. I’m not about to ruin a great friendship with her over a pretend relationship.

Honestly, I had no idea the whole fake relationship front was a thing. When my biggest sponsor for my snowboarding career wanted to partner me up with my stalker teammate for a race around the world, I panicked and claimed my fiancée wouldn’t approve of me teaming up with the lunatic. Normally, I’m not big on lying, but, seriously …the psycho snuck into my hotel room during last winter’s Xtreme Games! Totally creeped me out.

My friend Violet didn’t bat an eye when I begged her to go along with the farce. She’s cool like that, willing to help out, even if it’s something ridiculous like pretending to be engaged. Probably because it gives her a break from the dating game.

You see, Violet hasn’t had the best luck with men lately. I’m betting it’s because of her silly notion that with one kiss, she’ll know if the guy is her one true love. I have no idea how she came up with that idea, but she’s determined it’s foolproof.

So, now we’re racing the globe together, doing insane stunts and puzzles, trying to win ten million dollars for my sponsor’s nonprofit. We’re having a blast, but I’ve got a major problem. I don’t think I want my fake fiancée to be fake anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m wild about Violet. But how do I convince her that her one kiss rule needs to be broken?

I thought the first book in the series was good, but this one is even better! Wild About Violet is not what I was expecting based on the blurb – it’s so much more!

Violet and Kemp are best of friends. They support each other, they have a history of enjoying sports adventures together and they think the world of each other. Their relationship is positive, wonderful and enjoyable. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s the surface view. The story delves into some fascinating issues when it comes to Violet, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Violet’s family basically welcomed Kemp into their fold because they are that kind of loving, generous and giving people, whereas Kemp’s family was rich, snobby, controlling and judgmental. Not that readers will have to slog through any scenes showing that level of dysfunction – its aftereffects on the hero’s upbringing comes into play during the telling of the story. The author felt no need to add scenes creating unnecessary angst and I have to agree; the story is much better off without it. But knowing about it was helpful. It explains some of Kemp’s choices.

Now, Violet is the most interesting heroine I’ve ever read about. Her career in search and rescue is something to be respected. Her art is as unusual as she is, and just as beautiful. But there is a personal issue she has that is something she keeps close to her vest. Even some of the people you would expect to know, don’t know about it. I’m going to switch gears, and I hope this won’t be considered a spoiler. There’s this paranormal romance series I’ve been following for many years. There’s a character named Ethan who has this paranormal ability to memorize things at a glance down to the nth degree. You want to know how many shower tiles are in your bathroom? He can tell you, all he needs to do is glance at it once and he ‘knows’. He can remember everything in all its details down to the time, the colors, smells, what was said and what multiple people wore in that memory. I am sharing all of this because I thought such a thing didn’t exist, that it was truly a ‘paranormal thing’. Guess what? There’s FACT to back up the fiction! How it truly manifests in regular people and how it can affect their lives is at once fascinating and scary/sad at the same time. Ms. Blackard took this unknown-to-me ability and humanized it and made a reader feel the rollercoaster of emotions that such an ability creates in the person who has it. I won’t give the condition a name because Violet has her own reference to it that is unique. But I felt I had to share this in the review because it’s what makes the heroine’s character stand out from most heroines I’ve read about in the past couple of years. It’s also a contributing factor in the momentum of the story. So, yeah, it’s quite effective and important.

This is a sensual, closed-door romance. Lots of kissing and yearning, and close calls. The reasons they both resist taking the next step made perfect sense and made me respect them all the more. The whole plot of the story would have been compromised if the author took the easy path and used bed scenes as fillers. Instead, the main characters had to work through their differences, worries and doubts all while trying to win a race that took them through many countries and cultures.

Speaking of the race. That’s another thing I appreciated about Ms. Blackard’s approach to storytelling. She didn’t overdo, or info dump, nor skimp on the important things. She targeted her descriptions to create the atmosphere of the locales without diverting a reader’s attention from the romance, the focus of the story. It’s a fine line to walk and this author does it with ease. There are humorous encounters with the locals. There are many times I smiled, (chickens) and a few made me glassy-eyed, and one scene of extreme suspense and worry. I really felt for both Kemp and Violet and I not only wanted them to win the race, but I wanted them to win with their romance too. It’s true what the description says about Wild About Violet, it is a rom-com, it is fun and funny and it is heartwarming. But it only works because the author is a strong wordsmith who knows what her audience wants, and she delivers.

The story is told in first person point of view, but it takes turns telling it from Kemp’s side, and then from Violet’s. For me, it worked and I had a great time reading this novel. In fact, I can’t believe how fast I read it. Thank goodness there was an epilogue. Then again, the epilogue once again set me up for impatience. I met the hero for the next book and I can’t wait. One thing’s for sure, this guy is starting from zero in the opinion department because he wasn’t a nice guy back when they were all in school together. It’ll be very interesting to see how he not only wins the heroine over, but her whole family. This is going to be good.

Wild About Violet is a romance worth reading and I highly recommend it. It’s great entertainment, an awesome way to spend an afternoon and it made me feel really happy at the end.

Hornet vs. Wasp by Jerry Pallotta, Illustrated by Rob Bolster

Hornet vs. Wasp by Jerry Pallotta, Illustrated by Rob Bolster
Who Would Win? series
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, non-fiction, Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

This nonfiction reader compares and contrasts two ferocious insects. Readers will learn about each animal’s anatomy, behavior, and more. Then compare and contrast the battling pair before finally discovering the winner!

This nonfiction series is full of facts, photos, and realistic illustrations, and it includes a range of mammals, sea creatures, insects, and dinosaurs to satisfy all kinds of animal fans.

Yeah, this one wasn’t what I was anticipating, nor did I expect to learn a bunch of new facts about hornets and wasps – don’t call them bees. I know quite a bit about honeybees due to family interests, but I could never get it straight on the differences between a wasp and hornet. With the facts and trivia provided by Mr. Pallotta, and the clear and vivid illustrations by Mr. Bolster, I have a much firmer understanding. Since this short story is a book geared towards 6-9 yr.-olds, I’m pretty sure kids get the picture and will probably retain the information far better because of the delivery.

This little book doesn’t confine itself to the insect world per se. The author shows how wasps have inspired humans in all sorts of unexpected ways, both whimsical and practical. Until it was explained in a condensed and focused presentation, I was clueless. Kids have an incredible resource with the Who Would Win? Series. Parents will be as fascinated as their kids as they share this reading adventure into the hows and whys of hornets and wasps.

The author was thorough in his research, from nests, to food, to air battles, to the difference in stingers – I didn’t know that! – and how they compare with other insects that we see every day. The author even shared his misadventures with the stinging critters. The climax of the story is the battle between hornet and wasp. Who won? You’ll have to check it out.

My head is a buzz with all I learned, and I’m an adult! I am glad there are books like this out there. It’s just the right number of pages, information and visual stimulation in a well-presented format for young kids with maturing attention spans. Whether you use the print book or an eBook, the colors and illustrations pop. This is a must read. I mean, who hasn’t seen a bee/hornet/wasp by the age of 6, right? Hornet vs. Wasp has information that’s a must for inquisitive kids. Yes, bees are furry, but hornets and wasps can actually bite! I didn’t know that!

Ultimate Jungle Rumble by Jerry Pallotta, Illustrated by Rob Bolster

Ultimate Jungle Rumble by Jerry Pallotta, Illustrated by Rob Bolster
Who Would Win? series
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sixteen different jungle animals battle it out in an epic fight! Who will be the champion?

This nonfiction reader compares and contrasts 16 ferocious jungle creatures. Readers will learn about each animal’s anatomy, behavior, and more. Then compare and contrast the battling animals before finally discovering the winner! This nonfiction series is full of facts, photos, and realistic illustrations, and it includes a range of mammals, sea creatures, insects, and dinosaurs to satisfy all kinds of animal fans.

You’re never too old to learn, or to enjoy reading to your kids only to find out you’re just as fascinated as they are. I mean, I’ve watched enough National Geographic over the years to be aware of some of the facts in this story/picture book, but there were quite a few I had no idea about. My eyes bugged a few times, as in, “I didn’t know that!!!”, throw in a couple of “Whoa!” and “Yikes” and I can safely say that I am impressed with Ultimate Jungle Rumble.

Once again there are 16 unlikely combatants that are thrown together to see which of their natural protections and instinctual behaviors put them on the top of the jungle kingdom. My favorite was during round one with a gorilla. I’m not sure how 7-yr. olds would respond, it’s been a while, but mentally, I totally cheered and gave a thumbs up to a very effective strategy. Yeah, I could get behind that one. Then there was the defense technique of a capybara. Okay, that one got a snort and a chortle out of me. The illustration from Mr. Bolster that accompanied that battle ending might prod a giggle or two from the younger reading set for sure. I mean, I’m looking at it as I type this and I’m snickering. I showed the illustration to my eldest and my husband and they both gave it a chuckle and grin.

The green anaconda was a creepy contender. I don’t know what age Ophidiophobia starts in humans or why, but just in case – parents – there be snakes.

Accompanying the great illustrations are many amazing facts and trivia provided by Mr. Pallotta. From how many types of bears there are in the whole world – I didn’t know that – to the difference between horns and antlers, which I seem to remember but am admittedly foggy on, well, that was until I read this book, and why a sun bear is called a sun bear. I remember seeing a documentary about the sun bears and they and humans don’t get along so well. This little book gave me information about sun bears that the ‘adult’ show did not. Very cool.

How it ends and which jungle animal ends up being king was what I hoped for, but it was a close one! Then again, I watch a lot of those sci-fi monster movies so you might say I’m a bit biased. I can see why this series is so beloved and popular. It’s fun while learning cool facts about the animals we share the planet with, and if parents haven’t tried this book or this series with their kids, I recommend giving it a look-see. My youngest gave it a thumbs-up, I suspect yours will too.

Ultimate Dinosaur Rumble by Jerry Pallotta, Illustrated by Rob Bolster

Ultimate Dinosaur Rumble by Jerry Pallotta, Illustrated by Rob Bolster
Who Would Win? series
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sixteen different dinosaurs battle it out in an epic prehistoric fight! Who will be the champion?
This nonfiction reader compares and contrasts 16 ferocious dinosaurs. Readers will learn about each animal’s anatomy, behavior, and more. Then compare and contrast the battling animals before finally discovering the winner! This nonfiction series is full of facts, photos, and realistic illustrations, and it includes a range of mammals, sea creatures, insects, and dinosaurs to satisfy all kinds of animal fans.

I adored dinosaurs while growing up but exciting books about them were few and far between. I wish they had the Who Would Win? Series back then. I would have been learning a lot more while having fun.

This picture book had awesome illustrations and the battle wounds for the losing dinosaurs in the matches were tastefully done. It shows where the winner bites to defeat its opponent but there’s nothing gory or worrisome for parents. Some kids might find it really cool. It’s not always the teeth that gives consistent advantage, there were some surprises.

The picture book has the names of the contestants, has fun facts about the meaning of a particular dinosaur’s name, and lists the attributes of each dinosaur that nature gave them to defend themselves. A reader will start with 16 dinosaurs, but there will only be 1 winner. Who will it be?

Now, for parents who might read this book with their kids, which would be a good idea if only to help them out with pronunciations, I would like to share that there is one battle that caught me by surprise. I blurted out a very loud, HA! As in, laugh out loud funny. If you were a fan of the early years of Saturday Night Live, this scene might bring back memories. I showed that dinosaur battle with my not-so-young-anymore son who had never seen SNL and even he thought it was hilarious and in turn said, “You gotta show dad!”.

All in all, this was a delightful read that was brought to life with wonderful illustrations by Mr. Bolster, coupled with facts, like one dinosaur has feet like a chicken, and great battle descriptions by Mr. Pallotta. The most interesting thing for me was that the winner wasn’t the dinosaur I expected.

Even though the range for this book is ages 6-9, and this book is labeled as non-fiction, I think the battles portrayed are wonderful and pure, storytelling at its finest. It uses fiction to make the non-fiction interesting, engaging and entertaining. Could those battles have actually taken place, and used the fighting techniques described therein? Quite probably, but we’ll never really know, will we.

I think this is a wonderful book and I do believe both parents and kids will enjoy watching (reading) The Ultimate Dinosaur Rumble.

Immortal Rising by Lynsay Sands

Immortal Rising by Lynsay Sands
Book 34: An Argeneau Novel
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The Argeneaus are back! Filled with love, passion, and adventure, New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands returns with another sexy romance about everyone’s favorite immortals.

Stephanie McGill was attacked and turned when she was just a teenager. Worse, her abilities are unlike any other immortal. Now 13 years later, with the help of her adopted Argeneau family, Steph has carved out a new – if not lonely – life for herself. Until a new neighbor arrives…

Thorne is also one-of-a-kind. The result of a genetic experiment, he’s not an immortal, but he’s not mortal either. He’s looking for a place to hide, to get some peace and quiet so he can figure things out, and Stephanie’s sanctuary is perfect. In fact, Stephanie is perfect. For the first time, Thorne is free to be himself and he’s falling for her.

But if they’re going to have a future together, they’ll first need to deal with their past…because the mad scientist who created Thorne is now after Stephanie.

I’ve been following this series for years and just when I think it might be running out of steam, Ms. Sands throws her fans a delightful, heart-pounding twist. Anyone who doesn’t know the story about the evil scientist named Dressler, and only bases their opinion on the cover, as delightful as it is, are in for a shock. There are no angels in this novel. There’s definitely evil though, and that’s the villain – the most twisted, immoral and cold scientist who makes Dr. Frankenstein seem like a nice guy. The drama, suspense, narrow escapes and dastardly doings are the plot movers and shakers in the novel, but Immortal Rising is foremost an awesome romance story between a couple that are as mismatched as can be.

Stephanie is an author and the stories she writes aren’t fiction, but they are so fantastical, everyone thinks they are. Pure genius. The heroine has a talent that is overwhelming – she hears people’s thoughts – everyone’s within a couple of miles of her location. Trying to stay sane with all that bombardment is a challenge which is why she lives out in the boonies. No one knows how bad it is because she keeps the worst of it all to herself. Readers get the full picture, and it makes her character one easy to feel sympathy for. She’s got the cutest pets and her relationship with them is charming and provide joy and happiness when things are tough for her. Stephanie has a sister whom she loves very much but things are not quite as smooth between them as her sister thinks. So much emotional angst eventually has to come out and get purged, which makes for some intense reading. Family dynamics can sometimes be sticky, but they can be hilarious and funny too.

Believe it or not, Thorne’s mom is a hoot. Thorne is the hero and he’s, well, I don’t know if I want to say. I mean, if a reader is delving into this book without having read the others, and I think it can be enjoyed that way, I don’t want to spoil what makes the hero so unique, challenging and thrilling. I looked at the blurb on the back cover, so I can say that Thorne is the result of genetic engineering by that madman, Dr. Dressler. When a reader gets to the part when Thorne and Stephanie discuss the possible DNAs that were used, it’s kind of funny at times but it’s also really, really cool. I can’t imagine the research Ms. Sands had to go through to discover the most obscure and fascinating traits she wanted her hero to have. Blew my mind.

As I mentioned earlier, family is an important factor not just in this book, but in the series as a whole. It’s one of reasons I have been hooked on this series for as long as I have. Once again Ms. Sands torments Lucian by making him talk. It was hysterical! Mr. Taciturn and grumpy actually has some moments that remind me why I like him so much, and why he’s one of the characters I respect the most. Still, it’s great when he’s teased, or when he is forced to come out of his shell. There are other family members that help out Stephanie and Thorne on their way to their happy ever after – no one ever has to go it alone in this story – someone is always there to have their back – if they get there in time. *grin*

Stephanie’s awe and delight in seeing Thorne in all his wonder was a thrilling scene. The descriptions of Thorne, and the heroine’s reactions were often funny, endearing and windows into the progression of the love growing between them. As with all the stories in the series, there comes the time when shared dreams and shared sensation overwhelm the two, proving that they are indeed perfect for each other. And though it’s sexy, it’s funny too, readers who look forward to those scenes won’t be disappointed. As for my opinion, Immortal Rising is heavy on plot, story, action and romance, and not overdone in the bedroom department. It’s just enough to give readers a well-rounded and perfect story.

I could go on and one because this large novel has so much written within its pages to keep a reader on their toes, entertained, thrilled and engaged. In fact, the action starts in the prologue, foreshadowing the confrontation that the heroine and hero eventually have to face. This book was awesome, fast-paced, exciting and all around awesome. I’m extremely happy for Thorne, that he finally gets to be truly happy, and Stephanie finds the peace and freedom she’s wished for, for over a decade. They are absolutely perfect for each other and I’m a happy, satisfied and thrilled reader who enthusiastically recommends this latest Argeneau novel to all Ms. Sands fans and lovers of paranormal romances. I am proud to add Immortal Rising to my keeper shelf.

Wild About Denali by Sara Blackard

Wild About Denali by Sara Blackard
Wild Hearts of Alaska Book 1
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Falling for the single mom? Nope. Not gonna happen, no matter how gorgeous and kindhearted she is. The potential for heartache is too high.

I should know. My mum proved that dating a single parent leaves one open for soul-crushing bachelorhood. Which is why I was determined to keep things friendly with Denali Wilde once I learned that the beautiful police dog trainer came with a kid. Why add the possibility of angst and suffering to my already stressful move to Alaska and opening an animal rescue center?

Too bad I didn’t keep my wits when it came to her son. The problem? The kid is amazing, into rescuing animals just like I am. Fair dinkum, the kid needs a mate about as badly as I do.

I’ve done a lot of crazy things in life. I mean, my TV series on Nature Channel wasn’t called Getting Wild with Wilder for its placid landscapes and tranquil animals. Yet, getting close to Denali and her son proves I have more than a few roos loose in the top paddock. Not only has my admiration for Denali increased with her insane dedication to her son, but he’s buried himself so far in my heart, I’ll never escape.

My determination to keep things friendly with Denali? Yeah, not as easy as I thought it would be. The thing is I’m wild about Denali. I just don’t think she feels the same for me.

Wild About Denali is a laugh-out-loud, heart-melting romcom with a single-mom, an Aussie reality TV star, and kisses that will curl your toes while keeping it clean.

This romance was a pleasant surprise. I took a chance on a new author and I’m glad I did. Wild About Denali is charming, heartwarming, adorable, romantic and fun. What I enjoyed about the writing was the author’s creative phrases, descriptions and idioms, some of which are either downright genius or flat out funny, but all of them contribute to the appeal of the characters found within the story.

Another interesting thing to note was the first-person point of view style – each chapter took turns looking at things from the hero’s, Drew, and Denali, the heroine’s, perspective. It was interesting seeing things from each of their sides because a reader can only interpret from one side at a time. The author had to be very careful in keeping it in the first-person for every switch, and I think she pulled it off nicely. I didn’t notice any hiccups.

There are a lot of family dynamics in this novel. Not just Denali and her sisters and cousins, but Drew’s mom plays a role as well as Vic, Drew’s almost-dad. Well, he has a biological dad too, but we don’t talk about that guy.

Speaking of another guy, there’s Nathan, Denali’s son’s father. It’s not what you think, so don’t be shy about reading the story – there are no custody battles or injury to Sawyer’s mental wellbeing. He’s well loved, adored, cared for and is smart as a whip. In fact, he is quite mature for an 11-yr old, which is showcased in the scene with the bear, and the falcon. Sawyer has a special way he feeds his animal charges and he uses a blender to do it. When I read the history behind the use of the blender, I chuckled, but later on in the story the author used it to good effect to the point it had me laughing out loud and grinning ear to ear. The author has a quirky and fun sense of humor.

I also greatly appreciated the fact that this romance story focuses on Drew and Denali’s growing relationship. There are trust issues, childhood traumas/decisions that affect the present, choices based on responsibilities and not whims, and fear of the unknown. It sounds like a lot of heavy brain power but the author weaves those real, lifelike challenges effortlessly in the course of showing how Drew and Denali are falling in love with each other. The love between both their side’s family members is very clear and strong, and with that closeness comes some well-intentioned meddling and ice cream therapy.

This novel is mostly sweet with a hint of sensual. The kisses are steamy, the eye contact seductive, and the scenes that cause heart-palpitations leave them breathless. And yet, Drew has hard-won mastery over his craving for all things Denali and when nature puts them in danger, Drew’s first instinct is to protect, even to the point of sacrifice. His commitment is that strong, which of course, leaves him open to jealousy. Yeah, the green-eyed monster rears its head and causes an effective plot conflict. But this is a romance story, so a reader can rest assured that the happy ever after wrap up is satisfying and joyful and even includes a couple of lighthearted snickers and giggles caused by a … oh I can’t tell you. That would be a spoiler. I don’t want to ruin your fun.

Wild About Denali has a lot of other details I could have written about – like Drew has a dreamy Australian accent and has a unique turn of phrase, and there are cute animals and that it takes place in Alaska and … well you get the picture. There is a LOT to enjoy and like in this book, and I enthusiastically give this story a double thumbs-up.

Mr. Right Across the Street by Kathryn Freeman

Mr. Right Across the Street by Kathryn Freeman
Romcom Collection, Book 4
Publisher: One More Chapter
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Mia Abbott’s move to Manchester was supposed to give her time and space from all the disastrous romantic choices she’s made in her past. But then the hot guy who lives opposite – the one who works out every day at exactly 10 a.m., not that Mia has noticed thank-you-very-much – starts leaving notes in his window…for her.

Bar owner Luke Doyle has his own issues to deal with but as he shows Mia the sights of her new city he also shows her what real romance looks like for the first time. And when he cooks up a signature cocktail in her honour, she realises that the man behind the bar is even more enticing than any of his creations. And once she’s had a taste she knows it will never be enough!

For pure escapism, this spicy-lite feel-good romance story fit my mood to a T. Mr. Right Across the Street is more like ‘across the complex’ since it takes place between facing apartments. Still, it was a unique way to pursue a romance.

Some readers might think it’s creepy to have messages taped to windows to be seen by someone else, but the author had her main character, Mia, discuss it with her sister, then Ms. Freeman had Luke, the hero, address the issue so as far am I’m concerned, with everything out in the open, I was free to enjoy the quirkiness of the story.

I enjoyed Mia’s growing relationship with her neighbor, the grumpy Stan. The initial description was a turn off but, that’s one of the strong points in this story. Mia attempted to get to know her neighbor and in doing so, went beyond the superficial and discovered the person her neighbor actually was. That reaching out, that overlooking initial appearances is something people forget to do. They get so hung up on the looks that the depths of a person are never revealed, and possible friendships never materialize. I think that is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. Where there were many opportunities for angst, anger, spite, back-stabbing and over the top emotional drama, Ms. Freeman avoided all that by giving Mia a sunny personality that tried not to be quick to judge, and when she did, and it was found out not to be what she thought, she stepped up to the plate and apologized; she owned her mistake and moved on. Now, that’s not saying the heroine was perfect. Nope, not by a long shot. She has hang-ups that were a bit repetitive, but then again, people who are self-conscious or feel vulnerable about themselves tend to do that – overthink, fret and repeat. Still, it would have been nice to have had a bit less of it.

Luke is a bar owner who has his own demons to deal with. He has secrets that tend to be the ones that stir the plot the most, and could possibly annoy readers the most. Communication is lacking at times on his part. Once a reader gets the entire picture, I guess I can see where he was coming from. His secrets were a little out of the ordinary but it’s the way poor Mia discovers them that I had a hard time with. Luke is fallible, all too human, and has put himself in a very bad situation by the life decisions he’s made so far. Again, Mia has the right to not be so trusting because Luke, who wants to be trusted, just didn’t understand for the longest time that he needed to get over himself and lay it all out there. So, instead, readers are treated to what feels like a dentist appointment – getting those secrets out was like pulling teeth.

I mentioned that this book is spicy-lite. I think this story could have done very well at a sensual level, but there’s the eventual capitulation to the slow burn Mia and Luke have been fanning all through the story and they end up taking it to the bedroom, and the door is left open. I’m glad it was a short visit. I liked the whole premise of the romance, the secondary characters, the plot, the floppy-eared bunny, the brusque neighbor and the loving but interfering family members enough to not need the bedroom details. But, for readers who need to have those scenes in a story, they should be pleased at the delivery.

Another strong aspect that comes through deals with Mia and Freya. That could have been a whole kettle of toxic fish but again, the author gave Mia an inner strength, and a caring and forgiving nature. Forgiveness is a wonderful, healing attribute that not many people remember to practice these days. The author applied it quite effectively and is another reason why I liked this novel.

All in all, Mr. Right Across the Street was a delightful, engaging, and happy romance story that made me smile many times. I’m really glad I read it and think it would be a good book for romance readers to spend time with on a lazy afternoon.

Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire by Alice Cooper (Author, Narrator)

Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire by Alice Cooper (Author, Narrator)
Audible’s Words + Music series
Publisher: Audible Originals
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Biography, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Rock and roll in the BC (Before Cooper) era was a tamer, milder world. In Who I Really Am, Cooper’s latest addition to Audible’s Words + Music series, we learn how the boa-wearing (not the feathered kind) maestro arrived at a show and sound – let’s call it AC for After Cooper – that has entertained millions of kids while terrifying parents in equal measure. Cooper drew inspiration from Saturday matinee horror movies, applied a “no such thing as too much” attitude, and hitched it to a kick-ass rock and roll band. The shows were incredible, but the offstage antics might have been even more entertaining. Cooper generously shares you-had-to-be-there tales of the band’s early days in Hollywood and mythic all-nighters with rock’s premier luminaries. Also included are new recordings of the hits “I’m Eighteen”, “School’s Out”, and “Poison”. Not many artists can claim credit for creating an entire style or genre. Don’t miss the chance to hear a consummate showman reveal that storytelling might be his greatest talent of all.

There’s nothing more fascinating than learning about someone you’ve heard about all your life but really never knew anything about the person until they took the time to introduce you to them. Imagine my shock to realize that Alice Cooper wasn’t the name of the man, but the actual BAND.

I started listening to this as a lark. I didn’t think I’d get much out of it. Wow, was I wrong! I was completely fascinated along with being stunned, shocked, impressed, astonished, saddened, amazed, amused and delighted. He even sang a few songs during the course of his story about himself, the band and the people he met along the way. And yes, he really called himself a vampire – but not in the way you expect. Certainly, in no way related to all the paranormal romances I enjoy so much. It’s a moniker more than anything, gifted by happenstance.

Alice Cooper, and I’m talking about the man, the artist, singer and all-around stunner of a talent, has a history that I never anticipated. His family background is not what I expected. When he shared the story about his grandfather and a 6-yr. old boy he tried to help, I got the shivers. I’m not going to share why or what it was all about because I in no way want to minimize or subvert the impact of that scene. It sure made me stop and stare for a bit. No way! But yes, I guess it really did happen and that fact floored me.

Alice, and I’ll stick to that name recognition, and his family moved around a lot. It seems like many artists that make it big have that kind of element in their backstory. Each move brought challenges that he had to overcome. His parents had unconventional lifestyles in the beginning, and that’s an understatement. Later on, they tried being ‘normal’. Somehow, I don’t think they pulled it off. Like their son, I think they were unique and had some interesting skills of their own to bring to the jobs they eventually did get.

I was expecting some name dropping and I wasn’t disappointed. What amazed me was that Alice Cooper was in the thick of things, when the music scene was in flux and a lot of amazing changes were taking place, many for the good and some for the bad. Drugs, alcohol abuse, hard living and crazy antics certainly played their roles but even through all of that, I found that Alice Cooper had his own HEA going on.

It wasn’t always happy, or easy or smooth, but I think how he described his wife and his relationship with her was quite telling. Even when he hit bottom with alcohol abuse, his wife, Sheryl, stuck with him every step of the way. He credits her influence in getting him back on his feet. How she did it, why and every other question a listener might have, I’ll leave the listener to discover for themselves. I found it to be enlightening, uplifting and in its own way, beautiful. Theirs is a marriage that survived because they both respected the other and worked to make it continue, to help it thrive; to help each other through those tough spots because they loved each other that much and wanted to do it. That’s why I thought that part of his story as incredibly romantic. It wasn’t a fantasy romance. It was gritty at times and rocky, but that’s what made it real – through all his struggles, she was there, and he didn’t take her for granted. She believed in him enough to stand by him. When you hear about so many other relationships in the rock n’ roll world falling apart, they stayed together, 40+ years, 3 kids and a few grandkids later and they’re still going strong. Alice Cooper may have been zany crazy on stage, but in real life, he matured throughout his career, enough to look back on things with a critical eye, and share with fans his take on his career, from the inside.

There was one thing he shared early on that stunned me. There was one moment in time when it was possible Alice Cooper and my favorite songs of the band’s would never have existed. Not to get preachy or anything, but I thank God that His plans included Alice Cooper finding success in this life, even with all the side roads and missteps and bad decisions, there was a reason he stayed on this earth. Yes, that statement is pretty deep, but nonetheless true.

Truly, there is a lot more to say about what I heard in Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire, and every bit of it is well worth listening to. I tried to tell my husband about all the things I learned about Alice Cooper and his eyes kind of glazed over. I guess it’s not the same as listening to the actual person tell the story. Alice Cooper has a great talent for narration and storytelling, even if it’s about his own life. I also believe it’s why I liked it so much. A true story, enhanced by a little music and some serious giggles and smiles along the way coupled with awesome name dropping and famous shenanigans, makes this memoir one worth spending time with.

I Want You to Want Me by Shana Galen

I Want You to Want Me by Shana Galen
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A cruel twist of fate…

Nicholas St. Clare, youngest son of the Marquess of Averstow, was an avid horseman until his legs were crushed on the battlefield. The injury sent him home to England a broken man. Ashamed of his injury, he’s become a virtual recluse on his country estate until his mother, the dowager marchioness, insists he marry. Nicholas doesn’t want a bride who would be shackled to his broken body and privately despise him for being a cripple. He hates his weakness and doesn’t believe anyone can see past it.

A stroke of good luck…

Amelia Blackstock has always followed her family motto: A Blackstock doesn’t run from trouble. It runs from us. Unfortunately, trouble caught up with her, and when the world finds out, she’ll be ruined. When Lord Nicholas stumbles upon her sobbing, he tries to comfort her. His kindness backfires when they are discovered alone together, and Amelia faces even more scandal. Nicholas offers to marry her, but only if she’ll agree to a separate bed chambers.

A happily ever after in jeopardy.

Amelia concedes to a platonic marriage, but as her feelings for Lord Nicholas grow, she wants more. Nicholas is drawn to Amelia as well, but he fears risking it all by revealing the ugly truth of his injury. When Nicholas’s brothers-in-arms arrive for a house party, it seems everything that can go wrong, does. Between a lost pet pig, a fugitive wanted for treason, and a night of drinking gone awry, Nicholas and Amelia grow further apart. Nicholas is the last of the Survivors. Will he be the only one without a happily ever after?

What a wonderful way to wrap up The Survivors series. All tied up in a pretty bow with a happy ever after that is satisfying and complete, I Want You to Want Me is an amazing journey of two unlikely people who fall in love.

The story opens up with Nicholas St. Clare’s mom harassing him about getting married. I really felt for the guy. On one hand she’s pushing him to do what is expected of him, marry, while at the same time undermining it all by her treatment of his injury and disability. Her see-sawing emotions made me dizzy. I can’t figure out Nicholas’s brother. I want to dislike him but later in the story he acts more normal, then he gets a stick up his arse again until another scene redeems him and he’s not so bad, mostly. All I can say is, I’m so happy this book is about Nicholas.

I like how the hero meets the heroine for the first time. Talk about making an impression! She even has a guard pig everyone is afraid to go near. Except the hero. Pigs are good judges of character, I think. Amelia Blackstock’s downfall comes from a pig who loves his food and will do just about anything to get it, including a little B & E.

A little help comes from an unlikely source, Rafe Beaumont, the hero of An Affair with a Spare. He’s not supposed to be in the country – he’s a wanted man. His character is one that likes to poke the bear. The ‘bear’ in this instance is Nicholas and the results are unorthodox, clever and it showcases that there’s a caring heart and a brain inside this womanizer turned devoted husband of Colette. She stays in America nice and safe while Rafe is in a not-so-clever disguise, planning a devious scheme. I’d say he’s the mover and shaker of the plot. He’s funny too.

The conflict is character based – Nicholas is so turned inside himself, in his mind his injury overtakes the man. He’s in a surly rut and is convinced that life will never get better because he will never get better. Amelia isn’t of the same mind. That’s another conflict. The hero simply can’t believe that Amelia won’t turn out like everyone else. There’s plenty of clues that say otherwise but he’s blind to them all. Hence, the wisdom of Rafe.

I think there’ll be a lot of fans of the series that will rave about this book and give it a higher rating than I have. There’s plenty to be excited about. It’s a fun, well-paced and entertaining read that has a lot going for it. For me, not enough. There’s comes a big event that brings together all of the Survivors from all the previous books in the series – the heroes, their wives and for those that have them, their kids too. It sounds grand and it is. But I wanted more. I wanted a little insight into each of the past heroes and heroines on how they’re doing, are they truly happy and I kind of wanted the spark to be rekindled, to remind me of why I fell in book-love with each hero in the first place. I understand, truly I do, that the author was being very careful not to overshadow Nicholas and Amelia’s story and romance, especially since every man is strong and commanding in his own right. I wanted something to touch me, to make me feel like there was a family gathering, that I was a part of that tight knit community that I’ve been a part of in each and every book of the series. I didn’t experience that no matter how glad I was to see everyone. It felt flat to me and that disappointed and saddened me a little. I guess I can’t have everything I want and the most important thing I should want, a happy ever after for Amelia and Nicholas, the author delivered. There is no doubt that this novel did the series justice and provided readers with a wonderful, complete ending.

There’s no doubt that Amelia’s character was perfect for Nicholas. He needed a stubborn woman who remained true to herself, and to her commitments. She needed some motherly advice here and there. Speaking of which, I was worried about her mother too. I thought for sure I knew what the lady was turning to in her grief. I’m glad I was wrong. I’m also glad that there’s a positive turn towards the end of the book. Like I said, Ms. Galen succeeded in tying up all emotional loose ends and made I Want You to Want Me a story worth recommending to fans of the series. And, because it focuses solely on Nicholas a/k/a Nickers, and Amelia, this can even be read as a standalone. Rafe kind of plays a comedic foil and is far removed from the story he appeared in initially. So, yes, this book can be read out of order and a reader will still find enjoyment and fun within its pages.

Wrapping up, I’d say it’s a toss up between the funniest scenes, of Sweetie the pig, or when the guys imbibed too much. Although that caused a decent plot wrinkle too because drunk men don’t always think before they speak. Okay, they probably do, but what comes out doesn’t have the effect they think it will. Hence, plot consternation.

I Want You to Want Me is a must read for many reasons. It’s a great romance and Nicholas more than deserved his happy ever after. Amelia is the perfect heroine to provide it. Pick up your own copy and see for yourself. It’ll be an afternoon well spent.

The Purveli by Dianne Duvall

The Purveli by Dianne Duvall (Author), Kirsten Potter (Narrator),
Aldebarian Alliance, Book 3
Publisher: Self-published, Tantor Audio (Audio Publisher)
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Romance, Action/Adventure
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Ava has always been different. Born with strong telepathic abilities, she lives a very isolated life until she is offered a job with an obscure network that aids powerful Immortal Guardians in their quest to protect humanity from the psychotic vampires who prey upon them. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel so different. For the first time in her life, Ava has found a place where she belongs. She’s happy. Life is good. And when her employers invite her to join a group of other gifted ones and a handful of Immortal Guardians on a journey to another planet, it becomes absolutely fantastic.

In no time at all, she is speeding across the galaxy aboard a Lasaran warship manned by two amazing alien races. It’s the dream of a lifetime… until a vicious attack by a mutual enemy of Lasara and Earth lands her alone in an escape pod with no habitable planet in sight and only one ship within range: one that carries the enemy who wants to know why the bioengineered virus they released on Earth long ago didn’t exterminate humanity and leave the planet ripe for their claiming.

Jak’ri doesn’t know how long he has been a prisoner aboard the Cebaun, but he fears the enemy’s twisted experiments will soon lead them to a virus that will eradicate the Purveli people. Despair grips him until a female from Earth is taken captive and reaches out to him telepathically. The gift that Ava said caused her such misery in the past soon becomes his salvation as the two of them form a fast friendship. Determined to distract each other from the horrors of their existence, they immerse themselves in telepathic communion during the day, then seek solace and adventure together in shared dreams. As their friendship deepens into love, the two hatch a daring plot to escape their captors. But the enemy will not let them go without a fight.

Can Ava and Jak’ri stand against so many and emerge victorious?

I had an absolute blast reading this book. Of the three she has written about the Aldebarian Alliance, The Purveli blew me out of the water. I am incredibly excited to write this review. I want to shout loud and proud about how much I adored this book. Ms. Duvall has written a story that made me clap my hands in glee. It totally rocked.

A little background – bad aliens blew up the good alien’s ship prompting its passengers, Gifted Ones and Immortal Guardians alike, to hurry to escape pods. Unfortunately, the interstellar highway was damaged, and it spit the escape pods out and scattered them in outer space. Time is running out because those bad aliens, the Gathendiens, want those Earthlings so bad, they’re not giving up and are searching for them. In The Purveli, it proved what we knew from The Lasaran and the Segonian, those horrible lizard bad guys want to wipe out all human life on Earth and they need the Earthlings to do experiments on to find out why they didn’t die out thousands of years ago when they should have. The Gathendiens are the ultimate bad guys and Ms. Duvall describes them in intricate detail for this novel. Now, readers have a clear picture of who the enemies are of our favorite characters from the Immortal Guardians series. They are nasty – they smell really bad too and they are really, really mean.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff, Ava and Jak’ri. Ava is a Gifted One and Jak’ri is a Purveli. I was thrilled with the author’s description of the hero. I adored what happens to his hair and I got the biggest kick out of Ava’s excitement at meeting Jak’ri for the first time and asking him a bazillion questions about his physical features that fascinated her. I mean, he’s an ALIEN. Right? I would have done the same thing. It’s really cool!

Usually, I’m not a fan of dream sequences but what Ms. Duvall did in this novel took that technique and made it her own. For a change, the meeting in dreams is crucial, important and absolutely integral to the plot. There’s a reason for its happening and fans of the Immortal Guardians will remember it well. During those dream sequences, I experienced laughter, joy, excitement and tears.

I also want to give credit to the narrator, Kirsten Potter. I listened to the book on audio, and I am pretty sure I’ve said this before in other reviews, but Ms. Potter is the bomb. Her narration, with its clearly defined character representation, vocal range, emotion and talent made this 5-star review blast to a Best Book rating.

Here’s where I get personal. When Jak’ri thought Ava was dying, I reacted. When I mean I reacted, my eldest son came running, “Mom! What’s wrong??” Oops. I had earphones on. I didn’t think I gasped that loud. Obviously, I did. I GASPED! Seriously, that scene – what a shocker! And boy o boy, fans of the series are in for some intense emotional feelings. I also cried. Not sniffled, not teared up – cried – needing tissues cried – with the scenes of Jak’ri and his brother. I was gutted. Later on, I found myself laughing hysterically, snickering, grinning and cheering. The scene when Jak’ri read Ava’s mind is priceless. The Purveli literally had my emotions running amok. It wasn’t just Ms. Potter’s narration; it was the quality of the plot, dialogue and writing talent that Ms. Duvall put into her story that made this novel such a powerful read.

I haven’t been this jazzed since Seth’s story.

I truly believe I could write a book about the book. Ms. Duvall’s imagination is on full display when she described the cute Leapers, and other flora and fauna of the alien world they escaped to, including the big kitty-like things. The description of the cave was cool and I thought the scene during the thunderstorm was adorable. The author made her alien world come to life in vivid detail. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The attraction between the hero and heroine is a slow sizzle until it finally sparked and they went up in delightful flames. There were a few fits and starts, but that’s what made their final coming together so satisfying.

The ending was awesome, perfectly wrapped up and joyous. However, in the audiobook version, Ms. Duvall added a treat. She shared what seems like the first chapter of the next book. Again, Ms. Potter is the narrator, thank goodness. As soon as it’s up for pre-order, I am going to grab it. Why? Because the beginning was AWESOME! I was listening to it in my car, and I just sat there. I didn’t drive. I couldn’t. I was too enthralled by what I was listening to. Oh, my Goodness! It’s going to be another great one. Talk about setting the hook! I’m so excited!

Run, don’t walk to get your own copy of The Purveli. I expect fans are going to be wowed like I am. I believe this could be read as a standalone, so new readers will be in for a treat too. I totally, completely and enthusiastically recommend this novel for sci-fi romance readers who like action, a hero and heroine who survive impossible odds and a story that sucks a person in because the writing is just that good.