Uncontrollable by Sara Staggs

Uncontrollable by Sara Staggs
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

At 36-years-old, Casey Scott appears to have it all: a booming career as a civil rights litigator, a loving husband, and two sweet young children. But she also has epilepsy, and her worsening seizures threaten to destroy the life she toiled to build.

When her doctor says she is likely to die if her seizures are not controlled, Casey is at a crossroads: will she choose her career and lifelong aspirations, or her family and health?

The decisions she makes affect her marriage, children, and future in ways she could never expect.

Told by Casey and her husband, Uncontrollable is an emotional roller coaster that examines both what happens when the life we may be forced to live is not the life we planned to live, and the compromises we make to survive in the face of adversity.

Painful, but beautiful…which is a lot like life.

Casey has seizures from her epilepsy and it’s taking a toll on her life. She’s already stressed and over her head, but she’s not about to tell anyone she’s in too deep. That’s not how she’s wired. That said, the balances in her life and her stresses are about to become too much for her to handle. This is the story of how she has to learn to balance and let go, while potentially getting what she wants.

This book and the author show how having a chronic illness can be a pain, but also something possible to live with. It’s not the hardest thing to handle, but it’s difficult at times. Casey is flawed and human, which makes her an interesting character. I liked how she had to learn to power through in a way she wasn’t used to. There’s a sensitivity to her character, too. I liked the dynamic between her and Jonah as well. The book showed how life isn’t always clean and the messiness is what makes it great.

If you’re looking for a book to challenge you, but also stay with you long after the last page, then this is the book for you.

The Ferret by Tom Minder

The Ferret by Tom Minder
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

As an LDS elder, Louie Kimble, is assigned as construction foreman in Testimony Acres, a high-end real estate development, fifty miles north of Las Vegas. He discovers it’s a money laundering scheme put together by his religious superiors. Confronted by the FBI, he agrees to provide evidence and testify in exchange for his freedom.

After surgery to fix an unfortunate resemblance to a domesticated animal, he is given a new name and history and relocated to South Jersey. He rebuilds his life, with a girlfriend, a great job, and season tickets to the local pro football team.

Then one bright Saturday morning, there is a knock on his front door. His visitor will bring back his past, and change his life forever.

Sometimes laying low is the best way to stay safe.
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The cast of characters was large, but everyone’s roles were clearly explained. I never had trouble remembering who worked where or how they knew each other. That’s something pretty important to me as a reader, so I was glad to see so much attention paid to how everyone was connected.

With that being said, would have preferred to see more time spent on character development. None of the characters were well rounded, and many of them were described so briskly that I’d struggle to come up with the right words to describe their personalities or how they changed during the course of the storyline. There simply wasn’t that much time spent talking about these things, especially for anyone who wasn’t the protagonist. As much as i enjoyed the plot itself, this did dampen my enthusiasm for this book in general.

I was fascinated by the descriptions of how the witness protection program works, especially when it came to what people in this program are supposed to say about their pasts to the friends they make after moving to a brand new area. This wasn’t something I knew much about, so seeing how someone makes the transition to a new name, work history, and more made me root for the main character. More than anything, I wanted his fresh start to turn out well for him.

There were times when I seriously questions some of the risky decisions Louie made. He knew how dangerous it would be for anyone to discover his new identity and how hard the FBI had worked to completely and permanently separate his old life from his new one. Seeing him take so many unnecessary chances when it came to things like allowing the local newspaper to print his photo never quite made sense to me.

The ending was satisfying. I appreciated the way all of the important loose threads were tied up while still leaving some room for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one. That’s always a nice way to leave things off in the mystery genre.

Anyone who likes reading about organized crime or the witness protection program should give The Ferret a try.

The Ghost of Jamie McVay by R.G. Ziemer

The Ghost of Jamie McVay by R.G. Ziemer
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Middle Grade, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (240 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Brian Krueger has a lot of problems: The death of his grandfather and his father’s alcoholism have led to hard times and a move to a new town, where his nearest neighbor is a pyromaniac and a bully. Brian runs to escape his troubles, but it’s on the gravel jogging path that he encounters the ghost of Jamie McVay.

Also, they often send a pop-up box to you while you’re online that appears to be an Internet Dating Master in no time! The movie industry constantly churns out comedies as they are accepted by the FDA for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.order viagra online can be purchased in the online pharmacies and you can order a complete stock of them for a month or two. This may cause canada cialis levitra various problems to these organs. Or being stuck miles from civilisation buy cialis australia or behind enemy lines with dysfunctional vital communication equipment. This leads to a reduction in the inflammation that causes myelin sheath breakdown in the spine and neural paths. purchasing viagra australia Brian and his new friend, Sharon, investigate the ghost’s origins. Clue by clue, secrets are revealed as the teens discover the truth behind Jamie McVay’s quest for redemption. Along the way they must deal with teen issues such as school, sports, friends and rivals. Brian also struggles to reconcile with his father, while facing dangerous Pete the Pyro..

Can Brian and Sharon prevent catastrophe on Halloween night? Will the ghost of Jamie McVay find peace for his unquiet soul?

Sometimes local legends are true.

The details of Jamie McVey’s life and death were so vividly written that I actually googled him to see if this was based on a true story. It honestly felt like something ripped from the headlines of a small town newspaper. While it turned out to be fictional after all, this didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for figuring out what really happened to this ghost one bit. I was so interested in learning his secrets that I couldn’t stop reading.

I enjoyed finding all of the parallels that the author drew between Brian’s life in the present and Jamie’s life in the past. They had far more in common than I would have guessed, and many of their similarities were things that took some time to uncover. It was rewarding to see all of this slowly come together as Brian adjusted to life in his new community and began to explore the mystery of what really happened to Jamie.

The romantic subplot was handled beautifully. It definitely wasn’t something I was expecting to find in this tale, but I was pleased with how much time it was given to develop while all of the other storylines were going on as well. The characters involved in it had plenty of opportunities to slowly transition their friendship into a romantic connection. Given everything else that was happening in their lives, this was the perfect decision. I must also say that I really liked the idea of them being a couple! The fact that they were so well suited for each other as far as their personalities and interests go only made the idea of them falling in love even more appealing.

The Ghost of Jamie McVay is something I’d recommend just as earnestly to adult readers as I would to the middle grade audience it was originally intended for.

Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures by Elika Ansari

Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures by Elika Ansari
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When the underwater animals of Seacity pond learn that their home is in danger, they decide to investigate further by doing something no one has ever done before – go up to land to seek the answers they need. An unlikely team of two royal turtles, a genius goldfish and a timorous frog are then assembled to embark on a series of adventures. Whether they are racing the fastest tortoise on earth, falling in love with travelling mice theatre, or bringing peace to warring ant colonies, each unique experience is taking the group of friends closer to the heart of what is really going on. But will they make it back in time to save Seacity before the Winter’s Slumber?

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This book was filled with plot twists. I was impressed with how imaginative they were, especially as Babak the Frog and his friends went further into their journey to discover why their home is in danger and what they should do to try to keep it safe. It was fun to be surprised by all of the wonderful and sometimes frightening things they learned along the way.

There were pacing issues in the beginning. While I liked getting to know all of the pond inhabitants so well, this didn’t leave as much room as I would have liked to see for plot development. I had trouble remaining interested in what would happen next because of that. The pacing did eventually pick up, but I do wish the beginning had been easier to get into.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this tale was how much empathy the characters had for each other. Life wasn’t always easy in the pond or the land that surrounded it, but so many of the creatures who lived there were committed to helping each other when they had troubles. I’m always interested in reading about characters who are that compassionate and kind. Luckily, there were plenty of them to be found here!

I’d recommend Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures to anyone who cares about animals.

No More Dead Kids by Thomas Marshall

No More Dead Kids by Thomas Marshall
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (291 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

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Some choices are easier to make than other ones are.

This tale had good character development, and I’m not only talking about the protagonist here. Alex and several of his friends changed in all sorts of thought-provoking and realistic ways from the first scene to the last one. Even the school shooter’s development was well done, and that’s not something that’s necessarily easy to do!

The pacing started off quite slowly. To be honest, I had trouble getting into the plot in the beginning because of this. As interesting as it was to meet the various characters, I would have liked to see them deal with more conflict early on so that I could see how they responded to the ordinary challenges of life before the mass shooting began. I’m saying this as someone who was invested in the subject matter of this book and who really wanted to give it a higher rating.

While this story was about a student who was plotting to shoot his classmates, it was about so much more than that as well. I can’t go into much detail about the other storylines without giving away spoilers, but I was pleased with how many other conflicts the author explored once the pacing picked up. The characters were similar to real-life people when it came to the many different things they had to juggle in their lives.

No More Dead Kids should be read by anyone who is interested in the warning signs of a possible school shooter.

Burn by Helen Hyland

Burn by Helen Hyland
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (267 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Dryas


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She was relieved when they picked up more winners, and his attention shifted away from her. But the more time the group spent together; the more she got to know Nix… she began to suspect that the lottery wasn’t all that random after all.

It was nice to read a different idea of an “end of the world” scenario. I enjoyed all the characters, all of whom have their strengths and weaknesses. Tory is compassionate, stubborn, and highly intelligent. It’s interesting watching her as she figures out the puzzle of the lottery. The government had pre-selected those who have a high IQ and then those who would be happy to be a servant. The relationship between Nix and Tory is hot and troubled. Tory fights the attraction because her ex-husband had been verbally abusive to her. She does not trust men easily. Nix also has to fight his attraction, because it is against the rules to have a relationship between the military personnel and any of the civilians. Yet as much as they try, they can’t keep their hands off each other.

Tory is an incredibly compassionate women and takes the children they find under her wing. A perfect scene is when Victoria watches as Emma is forcibly taken from her mother. She fights Nix to see the girl and assures her mother that she would be taken care of. We also get to see the kindness of people, such as an elderly woman who gives out free coffee and doughnuts at Dunkin Donuts. Then there are the men who take advantage of the chaos, as she experiences. They are tasked to keep an eye on everyone, to make sure that no one fulminates rebellion, especially the lower class.

There is one thing that I think should have been changed. I don’t like the way the book ended. It was very abrupt, although I can see why that might have been done. It was to leave the reader in suspense and want to read the next book. To me, it was a little jarring.

All in all, a wonderful book full of great charters and an original plot. There is a hint of a mystery that needs to be solved and you are left wondering what will happen next.

The House Always Wins by Tom Minder

The House Always Wins by Tom Minder
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (213 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Someone is shooting up Dirty Sam’s. Will the Long Harbor police get their man, or woman, before a casino heist, a slots player who disappears in a puff of smoke, a crossbow-toting florist, and an undercover agent who makes a mean goulash, complicate the investigation?
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How many times do you suppose money changes hands in a casino?

While it might be that the “house always wins” sometimes the good guys and the bad guys do too. The house in this fun story is Dirty Sam’s Casino in Long Harbor, New Jersey. There is a lot to this easy to read story. There’s murder, mayhem and even a Senior Day gamble. I do have to warn you that if you are trying to diet or count your Weight Watcher points, this would be a tough book to read. Chief Porfino and Detective Ted Hanson will have your mouth watering for absolutely any type of onion rings, Dirty Fries, steak and cheese sub, grilled beef and provolone, meatball sub…well, you get the gist of what I’m trying to say.

Tom Minder is pretty good in developing his characters. There were of lot of them, but I had no trouble in keeping them all straight. This might be because they all had a personality, and each had a job or a purpose that the author made clear. I said this was an easy read and it is but you do need to stay focused. There are a lot of twists and turns along with a lot of hints and innuendos about the “bad guys”. If you stay with Tom Minder and pay attention, you might get it. If it takes you all the way to the end to figure out who got what, you’ll still have had a good time.

Tom Minder has some other Long Harbor books. They sound like he creates a lot of different storylines. I’m going to have to check them out.

Songs to New York by Myrtle Brooks

Songs to New York by Myrtle Brooks
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (131 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

A benevolent woman of quiet mystery who smiles in welcome greeting each time one visits her; whose distinct perfume is remembered long after one’s departure:

Author Myrtle Brooks’ love affair with the Big Apple served in ten allegorical slices depicting everyday people experiencing miraculous events throughout the five boroughs. “The Sanctity of the Mails:” observed in Heaven via the Brooklyn Post Office. A Staten Island-raised engineer who escapes city living, only to find the city within himself. A mysterious floor in a Queens apartment building reachable through attainment alone.

Songs to New York crosses the threshold between impossible and occurrence: “Only in New York.”

Like the pearls of an exotic necklace, these stories each add a touch of beauty to the whole of which they are a part. There are several tales with the theme of life in New York, a wonderfully diverse place bustling with activity and flavored with its unique atmosphere. Reading these stories brings a reader right into this world. The author has excelled at painting a picture of the setting.
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Though each story is different, they all feel so New York. If you don’t know what that is, you will after reading this special collection. Another thing the tales have in common is a sense of magic or otherworldliness touching upon the reality of daily living. It’s an interesting mix. There’s a slight supernatural tone weaving throughout the lives of these characters.

The stories are different from each other though, with a variety of characters and plotlines. Readers will find their favorites and their less-than-favorites among these pages. Most of the stories drew me in, but it really is a matter of personal taste. Each reader will be drawn more to some stories than others.

The first story, The Cyclist, is really charming. A writer and his cute cat have one heck of an adventure. Their story is told with poetic, eloquent writing. There are also down-to-earth scenes and deep ponderings of life. The writing is fresh and expressively creative.

Other stories include The Diamond, a sad tale but filled with hopeful anticipation. It’s about faith. The story entitled The Bar has more of those great descriptions of really life in New York, the neighborhoods, the people, the scenery…It’s philosophical and reflective.

Getting really creative concerning a point of view, we have the story The Earthworm. Faith is a theme, as is respect for life. In The Addressee, we read about an encounter with an angel. In The Request, a little girl gets a quick trip to heaven. We are treated to a child’s magical description. This story is about the meaning of honor.

In the last story, we are treated to the tale of a hard-working family and a nice teenager who is just trying to help his family and others. This story involves a mystery and is good for inspiring curiosity. There is a theme of morality and kindness.

Overall, these are quality stories and very creative. They leave a reader with many ponderings and a smile. It’s like talking to someone with an upbeat attitude who has some wild stories to tell. This is a recommended story collection.