Exiles by L.J. Ambrosio

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

In this final chapter, Ron’s story concludes from Reflections on the Boulevard (2023). Michael’s wish was for Ron to exile himself in the heart of Paris with its beautiful culture and citizens as they protest and fight for the soul of the city. Ron’s journey is met with life-affirming friendships and lessons along the way. The final book in the Reflections of Michael Trilogy, which started with A Reservoir Man (2022).

I had the chance to review the final book in The Michael Trilogy. You can see our reviews of the first book, A Reservoir Man,  here and the second book, Reflections on the Boulevard, here.

This book continues Ron’s story after Michael dies. He self-exiles to Paris, per Michael’s advice, and he mentors a young man, Louie, much as Michael mentored him in the previous book.

Not only do we get to see how the characters grow and change over the course of the book, we’re given an extremely detailed look at the Paris of that time period. There was so much going on in France at this time that I wasn’t aware of. The setting is as much a part of this book as the characters are (I now have a visit to the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company on my bucket list!

Over everything else, however, this is a story of human love – love that transcends sex and gender. There is a deep spirituality throughout this in addition to heartbreak, tension, and drama. The characters are well-drawn and three dimensional, and at the end of the book, I felt like I was leaving good friends.

Mr, Ambrosio, thank you so much – not only for this book but for the entire series. Michael left such a wonderful legacy- and his lessons live on.
4 stars.

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The Third Earth by Wesley Britton

The Third Earth by Wesley Britton
Publisher: Alien Vision
Genre: Science Fiction
Review by Rose

For twenty years, Dr. Malcolm Renbourn and Tribe Renbourn faced adventure after adventure, struggle after struggle on Beta-Earth.

Now, Renbourn and five of his Betan wives are forced to cross the multi-verse once again, this time to the strange world called Cerapin-Earth. After startling and frightening physical transformations, the altered Renbourns meet two new kinds of humanity. One is the dominant pairs who are able to share thoughts and sensations at the same time. The other are the nams, single-bodied people the pairs deem defective mono-minds. As a result, nams are exiled from the overpopulated cities of pyramid hives.

Tribe Renbourn must join the outcasts and teach them they are as worthy of love and acceptance as any unkind pair. But helping the nams learn how to stand up for themselves ultimately leads to a catastrophic war. At the same time, Cerapin scientists plan another multi-versal jump that must also end in a costly disaster. Along the way, two sexy spies complicate everything.

On a world where technology is worshiped like a religion, how can the nam rebels overcome the superior armaments of the pairs using primitive weaponry? While this conflict brews, Tribe Renbourn explores what it means to be human in ways they never expected. Will their epic end like it began, forced to sacrifice themselves to save a doomed city?

This is the fifth book in the series and while, technically, it can be read on its own (the author did a wonderful job in the introduction telling what came before), I still feel like I missed out by not reading the four books that came before. A lack I plan to address in the near future and then rereading this book.

THE THIRD EARTH, while being a bit slow in the beginning, soon grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let it go until I finished the book.

There are a lot of characters and a lot of concepts to wrap my mind around, but I completely enjoyed the ride. I loved the wives and the bond they had.

With being told in the first person, of necessity we only learn about the other characters what Malcolm shares, and I wish there were a way to know the wives better… especially Elsbeth. I’m hoping that I’ll gain new insights into the wives as I read the earlier book in the series.

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Heartstopper, Vol 4 by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper, Vol 4 by Alice Oseman
Publisher: Graphix
Genre: YA (Ages 16+), Contemporary, LGBTQ, Romance, Graphic Novel
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Charlie and Nick’s relationship has been going really well, and Charlie thinks he’s ready to say those three little words: I love you.

Nick feels the same way, but he’s got a lot on his mind — especially the thought of coming out to his dad and the fact that Charlie might have an eating disorder.

As a new school year begins, Charlie and Nick will have to learn what love really means.

Two young men navigating the world of love one mile at a time.

I hate when I pick up a book part way through the series. I do. But I’m apt to do it because I tend to discover series after they’re started. That’s the case with this book. I started the series at the end, then bounced to the beginning and am back near the end again. Sounds confusing? It’s not. This book flew by, and I wasn’t lost at all. It was like picking up the journal of good friends. It was like seeing those good friends again.

I love Nick and Charlie. They’re a good pair. They’re also relatable. They show what it’s like for LGBTQ kids to come out, to be bullied, to have anxieties and how sometimes dealing with them isn’t easy. They show there is hope, too. If you’ve got a support system, you can get through it. I loved that Nick and Charlie are that for each other, but they’ve also got their families, friends and lots of other people. It’s cute to see them get together and fumble through life.

If you’re looking for a graphic novel that’s high on romance, anxiety, love and is so cute, then pick this one up. It’s a worthy read.

A Magical’s Gift by Maya Tyler

A Magical’s Gift by Maya Tyler
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Romance
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Rose

The feud between fairies and wizards is an ancient threat in the magical world. Yet peace is possible. The child of a fairy and a wizard could reunite the factions of The Annunaki and end the unrest.

Niall Warde had been a carefree soul trapped in the rigid, ordered life of a wizard apprentice when he discovered the girl of his dreams was a fairy. He would never know if their forbidden love could survive because she disappeared without a trace. Unable to find her, Niall blamed his father for Amelie’s disappearance and left home without looking back.

Amelie Ricard knew she had to protect the baby she and Niall created. The fairies don’t want peace and her mother, their leader, would stop at nothing to prevent armistice, including killing her own grandchild. So, she must leave her son Kurtis with his father to be raised as a wizard. She left the infant on the steps of his father’s cottage then disappeared, also leaving behind the only man she’s ever loved.

Thirty years later, Niall is called home for his father’s funeral where he reunites with Amelie. When Kurtis’ life is put into danger, Niall and Amelie must face the demons of the past to protect him.

Neither can bring back the past, but can they have a future together? Will their son unite their people in peace?

Technically this book can be read as a standalone – the story is complete in itself. I have not read the other books in the series, and I was never lost. Saying that, however, I believe this series should still be read in order, as there are undercurrents in the book that I think I would have understood better had I read the earlier books.

With that, I quite enjoyed this story of Niall and Amelie. They certainly fall hard and fast. I would have preferred a bit more set up in the development of their romance, but that’s just a personal preference.

The background concept itself is intriguing – fairies and wizards at odds with one another. It was interesting to see this take of that, and I’m interested in getting the earlier books in the series and then re-reading this one…. I would love to see more information about what happens during the years Niall and Amelie are apart, and I feel like those earlier books will help fill that time in.

Looking forward to reading more from this author.

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The Warrior’s Progeny by Jeny Heckman

The Warrior’s Progeny by Jeny Heckman
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Length: Full (301 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Colton Stone is a newly traded tight end whose reputation is as battered as his football helmet. When he receives a vacation invitation from his new teammates, he accepts. There he collides with Dr. Lillian Morgan, a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon, and doesn’t know what to think.

A widow with two children, Lilly travels to Kauai to attend the wedding of a friend and witness the union she lost three years prior. When she meets Colt, she struggles between letting go of her perfect past for an uncertain future.

Strange events begin to occur, out of the realm of normal consciousness. Black energy touches their world and the couple become pawns of the immortal Greek gods. Is the love between them real, or part of a larger prophecy?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it took me a little bit to get into it. Technically, it can be read on its own, but I think I would have had a better understanding of what was going on in the Greek realm had I read the first book.  Once I got the picture of what was really going on in the background, though, I really got into the book.

Don’t be turned off the book if you aren’t a fan of mythology.  Even without the mythical elements, the romance between Colt and Lily is just a lot of fun. The mythology adds a deeper level to the story that I appreciated.

I loved the characters. The author did a remarkable job at bringing them to life – no stock characters here. And, I have to admit, I had a special place in my heart for Lily’s kids and the way they very quickly wormed their way into Colt’s heart.

The secondary characters were a lot of fun as well, and I can’t wait to go back and read Raven and Finn’s story.

I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Good job, Ms. Heckman!


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Wired by the FBI by Glenn Painter

Wired by the FBI by Glenn Painter
Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full Length (324 pages)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Christian Romano lives his life as a con-artist, burglar, drug dealer, and a ladies’ man, using his good looks to con wealthy women out of jewels and money. When he is arrested and jailed in one of the most violent jails in the U.S. (Cook County in Chicago), a steamy affair begins with a nympho female jail guard. When he loses control of the romance, Christian must end the affair by reporting her to Internal Affairs. It turns out that she is already under suspicion for supplying drugs to various gang members inside the jail. He has to decide if he is “”rogue”” enough to help set her up for arrest. Meanwhile, the FBI wants to recruit Christian to gather information against a sadist ex-cop, Scott Mason, who has been arrested for murder. The risk? Christian must wear a wire and testify. The reward? Witness protection for Christian and his girlfriend and a modification of his prison sentence. Will Christian risk his life for a chance at freedom? Will the female sheriff “”get even”” with him? Or will his life end at the hands of the jail’s drug lords or a lunatic former cop?

This book is not my normal read. I’m not an avid true crime aficionado (though I do enjoy reading Ann Rule on occasion). There was something about this book that pulled me in. And, I could hardly put it down. It is very well written and the author really made me feel for the predicaments Christian found himself in. Granted, a lot of them were his own fault, but there were still times where he was boxed in with only one way to go.

Christian is not a likable person. The way he treated his girlfriend (he “loved” her, but there was no way he was turning down any female who came onto him) made me see red. But, even so, I couldn’t stop reading this book. It was very much like watching a train wreck to see Christian’s life come together and unravel time and again.

I normally really want a positive ending in my books. This one is based on a true story and, as we know, true life doesn’t always end up the way we want, with all the story lines and plot points tied up neatly. I could see this as a docudrama… but it would have to be on HBO. It’s just too much (too much sex, violence, language, etc) for network TV.

If you are a fan at all of true crime stories, do yourself a favor and pick this up.

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Mrs. Murray’s Home by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Mrs. Murray’s Home by Emily-Jane Hills Orford
Publisher: Tell-Tale Publishing Group
Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Full (191 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose
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Home is where the heart is, or so they say. It’s also been said that a home is a person’s castle. But home is also with family and friends. Mrs. Murray longs for home, the family home, a castle an ocean away. The Brownies also crave for home, the same castle Mrs. Murray considers home. And Granny? Mary’s Granny hasn’t been home since she was Mary’s age. It’s time to visit the homeland, Scotland. Mary’s excited to tag along with Granny, Mrs. Murray and the Brownies. And then there’s the witch. The one they thought they’d killed. And the treasure. The one they had found. And it all ties together, for better or for worse. Join the adventure in book 3 of the popular “Piccadilly Street Series”.

What an absolutely charming book! This is the first of the series I’ve had the chance to read, but it will by no means be the last one. In fact, I have already ordered the first two and can hardly wait to read them. However, it is not necessary to have read the first two books in order to enjoy this third volume. I was never lost, but would like to see how Mary gets involved with Mrs. Murray and the Brownies (what fun they are… there were some moments when I literally laughed out loud at some of the antics).

Ms. Orford has the ability to draw the reader in and let them feel like they are right there in the moment with the other characters. The action was non-stop and kept me on the edge of my seat as Mary strives against her greatest enemy.

Thanks for a wonderful read, Ms. Orford. I’m looking forward to Mary’s next adventure.

Bulb by Bradley Wind

Bulb by Bradley Wind
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: Full Length (360 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

If light records everything we do, can even shadows hide our secrets?

Imagine your entire life is available for review.

Imagine each day any event can be watched over and over again – your birth, your first kiss, your recent shower, that private itch – all replayable from any angle. Now imagine these can be viewed by anyone at any time.
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Is a world where there is far less ego, little crime, and even the smallest moments are recorded and available publicly through the ‘Grand Archive’ a Utopia or a Dystopia? Traumatized by memories he does not want to recall, artist Ben Tinthawin is recruited by the enigmatic, Grand Archive creator Dr. Mamon, who seeks help for his nextgen designs to enhance the world. Ben stumbles across a secret revealing the doctor’s true scheme in all its surreal splendor and questions whether the doctor really is the benevolent soul he claims to be.As the paths of a broken man and a brilliant revolutionary cross, the world shifts and cracks start to appear. Even our most fundamental codes can be encrypted – or corrupted. If the wrong information is discovered, more than Ben’s life will be in danger of total shut down.

Prepare yourself for full exposure.

Bulb is an intriguing book- often surrealistic, often off-putting, always interesting. The concept of no privacy and people being able to look back on their own life (or yours) is scary– but altogether believable, which is even scarier. It did take me a bit to get into it (the first few chapters were confusing) but once I got further into the book, I really enjoyed it.

There are very interesting premises here, and the descriptions of the future are intriguing. The author has a gift for language I quite appreciate. There was some disjointedness in the actions, which lends itself to the surrealistic qualities. Definitely a book I want to go back and revisit.

I’m intrigued by the Faux Life Movement, where people rebel against the society as it is and have the ability to stay “off grid” in a way by finding a way to conceal their real identity and take on fake identities. It reminds me a bit of the book people in Farenheit 451 who have their own way of rebelling against the banning of books.

This is not a book one can skim through, but I think it is definitely worth the time to read it. If you aren’t put off by a book that goes off in tangents and isn’t strictly linear, give this book a try. Beware, it’s not a book to read and watch television at the same time… it’s a book that demands your full attention…but it’s so worth it in the end. Thanks, Mr. Wind. I’ll be looking out for more of your work.

Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath by Annette Oppenlander

Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath by Annette Oppenlander
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Science Fiction/Fantasy (time travel), Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

When nerd and gamer, Max Anderson, is lured into trying an experimental computer game, he doesn’t realize he’s playing the ultimate history game, time-traveling into the past…anywhere…anytime. Survival is optional. To return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions–if he lives long enough. Tofail means staying in the past–forever.
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Now he’strapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is the year 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.

Filled with realistic historical references and a lot of adventure to keep even the pickiest of readers happy, Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath was nearly un-put-downable. I read it in just two days.

I adored our hero, Max (“Max Nerds”). He actually took to going back in time with a pretty level head, which is good since if he’d panicked at any time, he’d likely have been killed or worse (and, yes, in that time there is definitely “worse” than death). The author is honest about the time: the food, the stench, the lack of understanding about germs or medicine and more. It’s clear the folks not born into priviledge (or earning it, like the squires/knights) had a horrendously hard life. Max gets to see both sides of the coin as he moves through the era with his new friend Bero and the family that takes him in. He sees poverty and hunger, pain and abuse. He saves Bero’s sister with some good ideas on how to treat a wound, even without modern medicine, and teaches his new family how to forage for edibles in the woods.

I enjoyed learning more about the time period–typically when I read historical fiction, it’s not from this time so it was interesting to go somewhere new! I don’t understand the cover, despite how eye-catching it is, since it seems to imply there’s a time machine involved, and there isn’t. Also, Max talks, thinks and acts like someone much older. In fact, at the beginning, I thought it was an adult looking back on an adventure he’d had. Max’s friend, Jimmy, acted more like that age group but Max was exceptionally mature.

Despite that very small blip, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wish it had been around when my own, history mad, daughter was younger. I would have given it to her with no reservations, and she would have loved it, too.

The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter by Caroline Flarity

The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter by Caroline Flarity
Publisher: East Side Press
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (262 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Sixteen-year-old Anna sees things from another world, the spiritual world, a skill that isn’t exactly useful in high school. It’s bad enough that her mother, possessed by a demon, took her own life when Anna was a child, a loss she remains tortured by. Now her father makes his living “clearing” haunted objects, and Anna’s job as his assistant makes her a social misfit. Most kids in her suburban New Jersey town refer to her just as “Goblin Girl.”

Only Freddy and Dor remain loyal friends. But Anna’s so focused on her own problems, she’s missed that her connection with Freddy is moving beyond the friend zone.

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But to do so, she must keep her own increasingly dark urges at bay.

I thoroughly enjoyed this dark supernatural YA and was surprised to discover that it was the author’s debut.

There were times I wanted to strangle Anna, but then… she is a teenager with all the teenage angst that comes along with the age. Plus, she saw her mother (controlled by a demon) die, so I figured I should cut her some slack. But things kept getting weirder and weirder for Anna, her dad, her friends, and the whole town.

The story is told generally from Anna’s POV with some limited looks into a few other character’s thoughts, so you really get a chance to know Anna well. And, for the most part, I loved her. She was strong and dealing with a lot of things in a more mature manner than one might expect. After her mom’s death, her dad pretty well seems to have lost his way – hoarding and barely keeping his business alive. On top of it all, at school she gets a raw deal with many of the kids calling her “Spook Girl” because of her dad’s business.

It’s not all butterflies and rainbows in this book – expect some gritty moments, some dark moments, and some inappropriate behavior on the part of some of the adults in the town. In a way, it reminded me of a cross between Buffy the Vampire Killer and Warehouse 13 (two of my favorites, btw). I would so love to see these characters again!

I’m having trouble not giving away too many spoilers, because there’s a lot of action, a lot of twists, and some surprises along the way (and I have to admit some tears were shed as well). I’ve put this author on my list to check out her future works. Well done!