Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Paul Lazar

Two New Reviews up at Shiny Book Review (SBR)

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Folks, it took me longer than I’d have liked to review two new books over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). One was nonfiction, the other was fiction. Both were outstanding.

The first, UNBROKEN CIRCLES FOR SCHOOLS by Ken Johnson, is a nonfiction book about what schools can do to help juvenile offenders. (This is a vast oversimplification, of course.) Mr. Johnson discusses the differences between retributive and restorative justice (the latter is much better, but isn’t often used by our criminal justice system), and how schools can help. Go read my review, then check out this outstanding book.

The second, DEVIL’S LAKE, is a romantic suspense novel by Aaron Paul Lazar. It’s an outstanding novel in every respect, and I was pleased to review it on Valentine’s Day for our Romance Saturday at SBR promotion.

So if you’re looking for something new to read in either nonfiction or fiction, head on over to SBR and take a look at these two reviews.

Just Reviewed Aaron Lazar’s “Spirit Me Away” at SBR

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Before I forget, I wanted to let my readers know that I just reviewed Aaron Lazar’s SPIRIT ME AWAY over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), which is a new mystery in his long-running Gus LeGarde series. SPIRIT ME AWAY is set in 1969 and is a prequel to many of his mysteries featuring Gus.

In SPIRIT ME AWAY, Gus married his young bride, Elsbeth, a few months before the start of this novel; they’re music students living in Boston. When a young woman who’s lost her memory shows up nearby, they take her in and try to find out who she is. But there are some bad people out there who want her for nefarious purposes . . .it’s not a “cozy mystery” as are many in the LeGarde series, being rather a mystery with a great deal of romantic suspense. But it’s very, very good, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Also, I reviewed Aaron’s LADY BLUES over at SBR a couple of weeks ago. This, too, is a novel featuring Gus LeGarde, but is in the present-day and deals with the mystery of an old man in a nursing home who’s struggling to recover his memories with the aid of a new and experimental drug. But then the drug’s formulation is changed . . . slowly the old man loses his memories again. And then a friendly nurse goes missing, then the old man himself seemingly wanders away . . . Gus must get to the bottom of whatever is going on and, if possible, reunite the old man with his long-lost lover in the process before the man’s memories are gone for good.

I enjoyed LADY BLUES. It’s a warm, comforting mystery with a lot of musical ambiance and tons of food references. Gus and his family and friends are vital people who enjoy life and live it to the fullest, and they seem like people you know (or at least should know) . . . anyway, go take a gander at these reviews, and let me know what you think of ’em.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 20, 2014 at 1:25 am

Two New Book Reviews are up at SBR

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Folks, I’ve been busy this week.  Between getting up that guest blog over at Murder X 4, editing a friend’s book (he’s trying to get his book out by the end of the year, and there have been a number of revisions to date — but I’ll keep helping him all I can, as you’d expect), editing another friend’s book, and doing a bit of Tweeting and Facebooking to promote fellow authors (most particularly the Twilight Times Books “stable” as I’m a part of that, and I like their work so why not?), I haven’t had a whole lot of time.

That’s why, again, I got two reviews up over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), but could not get over here to write anything about them.

So it’s time to remedy that.

Last night for SBR’s Romance Saturday, I reviewed Aaron Paul Lazar’s THE SEACREST.  This is a heartwarming sensual romance between a deeply honorable man, Finn McGraw, and a complex and rather tormented woman, Libby Vanderhorn.  There’s a great deal to the plot that I didn’t even get into at my SBR review due to lack of space — things like domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, lesbian friends (one of whom just happened to have been married to Finn’s estranged brother once upon a time) and more — but my most favorite thing in THE SEACREST, other than what I’ve already remarked upon during my SBR review, was the character of Fritzi the cook.

Yes, really.

Fritzi was a woman who could’ve been a stereotype, but somehow she broke free of that (mostly, anyway — because aren’t we all stereotypes from time to time?).  This is a motherly woman who loves to cook, is German by descent and talks with a substantial accent, yet despite all that possible baggage, Fritzi emerged as a real person with a mind and heart of her own.

And Fritzi plays an important part in THE SEACREST, too, being one of Finn’s quiet supporters in his struggle for Libby to first realize his love for her, then to give it a chance despite all the obstacles in their way.

So if you love romances — especially of the sensual contemporary variety with just enough spice to be realistic but without too much to make it gross-out awful — give Aaron Paul Lazar’s THE SEACREST a try . . . or at least go read my review and see if that whets your interest any.

Completely changing the subject, but staying with book reviews written this week, I also reviewed Leo Champion’s LEGION, which is a particularly impressive piece of military science fiction set in 2215 that has only one drawback: very, very few female soldiers at any level.

I mean, everything works in this novel.  The combat scenes are excellent.  The “bromance” stuff between the military guys (all men) is very good.  The dialogue for the most part rings true (I didn’t ding Champion, who’s originally from Australia, with a bunch of Australianisms I found in his MS from people who are supposed to be Americans — things like “in hospital” instead of “in the hospital,” mostly because this was a debut novel and they mostly didn’t impede the action any), the characterization was crisp and sharp and the writing was quite, quite good.

But if you’re going to write a story about freedom fighters on a colonial world — whether it’s mostly from the men who are tasked to fight them (the United States Foreign Legion, or USFL for short) or from the freedom fighters themselves — it is nearly inexplicable that there wouldn’t be one single woman soldier of note down on that planet on one side or the other.

The women in LEGION, aside from one Naval Commander on a spaceship high above the action and one notable politician, tend to be one of three things: cooks, waitresses, or prostitutes.  And while there’s some justification for this — I was a military wife once upon a time, and I remember the zone outside of Fort Carson, CO, quite nicely, thanks — it still didn’t work for me.

My view is simple: there should be at least one woman among the freedom fighters.  On the one hand, it doesn’t take a great amount of physical strength to fire most weapons.  And on the other, the guys in the U.S.F.L. obviously would never expect it, young and relatively ignorant about male-female relationships as they are.

Furthermore, it seems extremely unlikely that male convicts would be allowed to go into the U.S.F.L. to “make something of themselves,” but female convicts would not be given the same opportunity — providing, of course, that the female convict had any hope of getting through boot camp in the first place.

Being a female reviewer (yes, sometimes I must point out the obvious, folks; sorry), it was really perplexing for me to read such an interesting book that captivated me for thirty pages or more at a stretch . . . then I’d come up for air and think, Now where are all the women soldiers?  Surely they must be there somewhere.

And I just didn’t see it.

Mind you, this is a military SF buddy-buddy piece that is obviously geared toward men.  It’s not likely to hurt Champion’s audience in the short run whatsoever.  And I am aware of this.

But it also won’t build his audience with women who don’t already know him or know of him (by this, I mean people who’ve either met him personally or who’ve read his short stories in the past or who’ve talked with him online about something or other).  And that does not seem like a winning strategy, long-term.

So that was it for the week — I reviewed first a milSF novel, then a romance.  And I enjoyed them both, albeit for different reasons . . . maybe you’ll enjoy one of the two books, or perhaps even both of ’em, as well.

Book Buyers, Rejoice: 4 Acclaimed TTB Titles Just 99 Cents for Next Two Days

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Folks, I haven’t done a great deal of cross-promotion of other people’s work on my blog.  But I actually worked on three of the four e-books that Twilight Times Books is offering in a special promotional deal for just ninety-nine cents over the next two days/forty-eight hours at Amazon, which is one reason I’m very glad to let you know all about them.

The first book on this promotional list is Dora Machado’s THE CURSE GIVER.  Machado’s book is a dark, lush, and evocative tale of star-crossed lovers who must join forces no matter how high the odds against them;  the best part of THE CURSE GIVER is the lively storytelling, full of characters you’ll love (Lusielle the remedy-mixer — or herb healer, if you’d rather, though I like Machado’s term better; Bren the cursed aristocrat working against time), characters you’ll loathe (Lusielle’s odious husband, a number of the toadies at the various courts), and characters you’ll reluctantly like (Bren’s master of spies, a priestess who may or may not be on Bren’s side despite being the estranged wife of Bren’s spymaster).

I edited this novel, and can tell you without a doubt that once this novel hooks you, you will be up long past your bedtime wondering, “What happened to all those hours?  And hey, this is an interesting book . . . I wonder how it ends?”

Then, of course, you’ll just keep turning the pages.  (Guaranteed.)

The next book on the list is Natalie Roers’ YA literary fantasy LUCID.  This is a book about the power of lucid dreaming as used by a kid named Travis; Travis is disfigured, so he thinks no one will ever love him, and of course as he’s up against adolescence, he’s a bundle of nerves and hormones.  Travis’s object of affection is a girl named Corrine, and in the real world, Travis has no confidence to talk with her.  But in the otherworld created by Travis’s lucid dreams, anything can happen . . . perhaps even a romance?

I edited this novel, too, and felt it an interesting young adult coming of age tale with a lot of true-to-life realism in it despite (or perhaps because of) the lucid dreaming made real aspect.   The romantic interactions between Travis and Corrine are sweet and age-appropriate, and the dialogue between them works well.  Tweens and teens should love this one.

The third book I worked on (this time as a proofreader) is Aaron Paul Lazar’s DON”T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU.  This is a YA mystery in Lazar’s “Gus Tregarde” series that’s set in 1965.  Most of the plot revolves around a strange house in the woods that Gus’s mother doesn’t want Gus going anywhere near, along with Gus’s mother’s strange antipathy toward a lone, cranky hermit.  That and an unquiet Indian spirit (note that no one, but no one, said “Native American” back in 1965) helps to complicate Gus’s summer rather nicely.

Lazar does a particularly good job at summoning up the ambiance of a 1965 summer — how much Gus can do, is expected to do, what songs he’s listening to, his first hint of adolescent hormones, and his love for serial mystery fiction all helps to ground the reader in a firm place and time.  In addition, Gus is a very likeable guy that you just can’t help but root for . . . all in all, this is an excellent addition for any library, but most particularly for young adults nine and up and for the slightly older reluctant 12-16 year old male reader crowd as well.

Then comes the only book on the list I haven’t had anything to do with whatsoever — Dina von Lowenkraft’s DRAGON FIRE.  All I can give you there is the summation as listed on the Twilight Times Books Web site:

Some choices are hard to live with.
But some choices will kill you.

When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to his pulsing energy. Unaware that he is a shape-shifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.

Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, punishable by death, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.

DRAGON FIRE sounds quite interesting, and for ninety-nine cents as an e-book, it’s as much a steal as the other three.

Anyway, these promotional prices are also good at Barnes and Noble and at most other e-book sites, but do not apply at the Twilight Times Books site itself (which is why I haven’t linked there in order to keep anyone from getting completely confused).  Links have been given to the Amazon (US) listing for ease of reference.

I believe all four of these e-books should be available in the UK and elsewhere via Amazon.uk.  And as this special price deal will only last for another 45 hours, Central Daylight Time, what are you waiting for?

Go grab them right now!

UPDATE: Just received confirmation via publisher Lida Quillen that these books are available now via Amazon.uk but aren’t available at the promotional price at Smashwords.  (Sorry about my previous assumption; you know what they say about those.)

Here are the direct links to the places that are offering this promotion through the end of tomorrow evening if the above four links do not work for you:

http://amzn.to/eYYy6s
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Twilight-Times-Books
http://www.omnilit.com/storeSearch.html?sortBy=recentlyAdded&searchBy=publisher&qString=Twilight+Times+Books

Enjoy!