The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes by Liese Sherwood-Fabre


The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes by Liese Sherwood-Fabre
Publisher: Little Elm Press
Genre: Historical Mystery/Suspense
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

A murdered midwife. A body in the stable. At the age of thirteen, Sherlock Holmes is thrust into his first two cases. At stake: the lives of his own family.

Before Sherlock Holmes met Dr. Watson in 1895, he had already developed his skills as the world’s most famous consulting detective. Arthur Conan Doyle provided little information about his detective’s formative years or how he created his singular profession. These first two books in The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes series reveal how Sherlock’s past shaped the sleuth he became.

Faced with the possibility of losing his mother to the gallows for a murder she did not commit, Sherlock must uncover the true killer before she hangs in The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife.

In Case Two, unexpected guests and a murder arrive in time for the family’s Christmas celebrations. For the safety of his family, Sherlock is compelled once again to bring the perpetrator to justice in The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes and traditional historical British detective mysteries will love The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes as a welcomed addition to the originals.

What a really neat look at what Sherlock’s early life might have been like. I loved the fact that he is a normal, albeit very intelligent, thirteen-year-old. He has emotions he is learning how to process, and he’s also showing signs of the man he will become as he learns that emotions need to be kept in check as he investigates, i.e. “Once again, I observed the unemotional detachment required for such work.”

The characters are richly drawn and are true-to-life… nobody, including Holmes… is perfect. They are all a mixture of positive and negative qualities, all the while being true to the time they live in.

The mysteries are interesting and showcase Sherlock’s growing skill at investigating and observation, encouraged by his mother – a woman I would love to find out more about and one that is barely touched on in the canon. I’m looking forward to seeing her more in future volumes of this work.

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A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie


A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

It’s funny how things sneak up on you…

Kate Willoughby is a champion for throwaways—discarded dogs and cats, abandoned horses bound for slaughter, and all creatures great and small. But now it’s Kate who’s alone in a hostile world like a dog dumped by the side of a road. Is there a champion for Kate?

After 22 years of marriage, Kate loves her husband, Brian, with an even greater passion than when she spoke her vows. “My world spins on his axis,” she often says. But when Kate finds a love letter to Brian from Micky, she’s torn between proving Brian’s innocence and nailing him to the wall with his guilt.

Throughout her marriage, Kate has been trusting and trustworthy —to a fault, friends have said. Now, she steals into Brian’s emails and accesses his credit card accounts, phone records, bank statements, friends and activities, discovering the metaphoric iceberg beneath Brian’s affair.

Turning to the one constant in her life, Kate is guided by her family of animals: shelter dog Molly; Premarin horse Quinn; packrat Winston; owls Albert & Victoria; Stubby, the chipmunk; rattlesnake Cassandra; and Phineas, the determined grosbeak. These wise and wonderful teachers, along with a wild menagerie on her Arizona ranch, deliver lessons on life, love, and letting go. But it’s Molly, in a heartbreaking act of courage, who leads Kate back to her true self, before she became lost in love with Brian.

Shining a light on the childhood events and adult choices that, like steppingstones, brought her to this moment, Kate illuminates a familiar and well-worn path. Narrating her story with equal doses of heartache and humor, Kate comes to understand that nothing sneaks up on you that isn’t already here. Learning from Phineas, the determined grosbeak, Kate realizes that even after a devastating injury, you can soar again.

A School of Daughters is a beautifully written, lyrical book that delves into the heart of the main character, highlighting how her current life is rooted in her past, from childhood abuse to the desperate desire for stability at nearly any cost. There is truth here that shines through, and I admire the author for taking her life and sharing it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This story hit me hard, in a good way. I was completely engrossed in the story and could see myself and friends in similar situations. Even after finishing the book, I could not stop thinking about Kate, what she was going through, and how her friends and, especially, the animals in her life not only helped her through the pain, but also taught her important life lessons.

The book skips back and forth from present day to situations in her past with not only her husband, but her childhood, other romantic relationships, and with different animals in her life. It is a revealing look on how a person can be strong and yet still give up parts of herself without even realizing it.

Her journey was heartrending, yet the reader is, in the end, left with a sense of hope that Kate will make it through to the other side. Kudos, Ms. MacKenzie. I will definitely be on the lookout for other books by this author.

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Trial Show: The Resistance Rises by Konstantina P.


Trial Show: The Resistance Rises by Konstantina P.
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: speculative fiction, spy thriller
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Forced into the shadows while waging war on an oppressive regime intent on controlling those born with unnatural powers, the Resistance feels like a family. And although all families harbour secrets, theirs are world-shattering.

When Ava Moore foresees the death of her sister Brooklyn and Resistance leader Parker Quinn is forced to appear in a televised trial accused of murder, the web of lies begins to unravel. For not only is Resistance’s second-in-command, Jay Frazer, fighting a guerrilla battle with deadly consequences, he’s also trying to bury his deep-seated love for Parker.

With Parker and Jay temporarily out of the picture, double-agent Trent Reese is left responsible for leading the Resistance. Trent is willing to adapt his moral code to any situation, but what—or whom—does he believe in? As for innocent Ava, who’s plagued by unsettling visions, it’s becoming clear that everyone she loves is in peril. Given, however, that Parker is concealing a mighty gift of his own, one that could change the entire course of the rebellion, the future of the all-seeing state is on the line too.

When the web of secrets is untangled, who will survive?

The Trial Show – the ultimate in reality TV – where the audience, supposedly, chooses the guilt or innocence.

This is an exciting new look at a possible future, where the public is controlled even as they think they have free will…controlled by misinformation.

I enjoyed the book, and I enjoyed the characters. The book starts off with a bang and you are right in the middle of the action. I had to double check to make sure I was not reading a book in a series – I was, but it’s the first book in the series. It took a bit for me to put together all that was happening. But, once I did, things meshed nicely.

It’s written from multiple points of view, even minor characters with no names. Once I realized that it was written as if I were watching a television show with an ensemble cast, I was able to enjoy the book a lot more. It did take me a little while to get used to this sort of narrative though. There were some nice twists and turns to keep me on my toes.

The blurb is an important part of the book in this case. It fills you in on a lot you need to know going into the book.

I will definitely be following this series – I’d like to know where these characters go and how what they do affect their society. 4 stars.

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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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Ugly by Kelly Vincent

Ugly by Kelly Vincent
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: YA
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Sophomore Nic Summers tries to ignore the taunts of “ugly lesbian.”

Because she’s not sure they’re entirely wrong. But she also has bigger concerns for now, including prepping for the school’s art contest. And while she isn’t certain of her sexuality, she does know her life is on the verge of falling apart when her best and only friend, Sam, drops the bomb that her family’s moving to Scotland. Together, to soften the blow and distract themselves from the inevitable, they start Operation Social Interaction for Nic—or OSIN for short—to try to find her some new friends.

But it’s an uphill battle for the introverted teen artist.

As Sam’s last day nears, Nic’s self-confidence wavers even more, and she starts questioning everything. If lesbian doesn’t feel quite right, maybe she’s transgender? It isn’t until she stumbles across the label “gender nonconforming” that things start to make a little more sense, and fall into place. But finding the right label doesn’t really tell her what to do next, and before she knows it, Sam is gone.

Mustering all her resources, Nic realizes she needs to find her own path and live her own truth.

What a heartrending book about a girl who doesn’t seem to fit in with anyone. Nic doesn’t feel like a girl, but doesn’t feel like a boy either. She’s confused. Her self-confidence is nonexistent. She’s carrying a secret burden. And, on top of it all, her best (and only) friend is moving away.

I enjoyed the book. I liked the growth that Nic makes through the story, and the way she is able to open up and see that there is more to life for her. Even though I’m way past the target age, I was able to remember back to my own high school years and remember the feelings of not quite fitting in. Thankfully, though, I never had to go through the bullying that she did… even from people she didn’t know. It did make me wonder if there weren’t any nice kids in that school.

I think it’s a book that all kids could benefit from reading… no matter how they feel about themselves. Kind of a “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” kinda thing. This would be an excellent book for discussion.

I’ve not read anything by this author before, but I’m looking forward to reading more. Thanks for a job well done, Ms. Vincent.

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She’s the One Who Won’t Behave by S.R. Cronin


She’s the One Who Won’t Behave by S.R. Cronin
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Rose

Gypsum, the sixth of seven sisters, has always been a rebel. Yet no one thought she would go so far as to join the reczavy, a group living in tents on the edge of the desert and known for their sexual promiscuity and playful ways.

But as the date of the Mongols’ return draws near, Ilarians of all types must work together if they are to have any hope of surviving. And the reczavy, for all of their odd ways, do have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Well, up their sleeves whenever they are bothering to wear clothes, that is.

Gypsum is touched when her oldest sister Ryalgar comes to call, and brings an olive branch with her. Ryalgar recognizes that the reczavy have as much to lose as anyone, and as much to contribute. Will Gypsum accept a key role in the plan to stop the invasion? Of course she will.

Unfortunately, her playmates don’t all feel the same sense of urgency. Many would rather simply enjoy the time they have left. A few claim to be allergic to long term planning. And some are too busy with their own poorly-timed plans to overthrow the government Ilari already has.

Good thing needlepoint is the one traditional skill at which Gypsum has always excelled. She will need to thread a fine needle in order to coax this recalcitrant group into becoming life-saving warriors of a very different kind.

Another great installment in the Seven Troublesome Sisters series! This time we get a look at Gypsum and her life with the reczavy, a free-spirited group who are very accepting and inclusive … they appear to be a very loving group. This volume tells how they fit into the overall plan of saving their land.

I really enjoyed the special power that Gypsum has with her needlework. What a lovely talent that would be! I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll let you discover that on your own.

I’m very excited about how the seventh book is going to tie everything together. Again, no spoilers, but this book came to a very satisfying conclusion.

Give the series a try…do start at book one, though. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

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Enemy’s Keeper: Forbidden Ties by Kyrie Wang


Enemy’s Keeper: Forbidden Ties by Kyrie Wang
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Historical, Young Adult
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

1075 A.D. England Nine years after the Norman Conquest

Orphaned during a rebellion against William the Conqueror, Heather’s life is just settling down when her childhood sweetheart disappears to save the son of a murdered Norman knight.

This quarrelsome son, Matthew, is determined to destroy the English rebels who decimated his household. Heather stays out of it—until she is accidentally entangled with a young rebel leader named Toby.

As she is whisked off through the forests of medieval England, inhabited by a dangerous but misunderstood tribal society, Heather is forced to take a side. Her decisions will put into peril everything she holds dear.

This book is full of non-stop action. There’s not a lot of setup in the story itself…reading this is rather like being thrown into the pool and told to swim. That’s not always a bad thing, because it definitely draws you into the story quickly.

Because it is action-based though, you don’t really get to know the characters very well. We get to see things mainly from the main character, Heather, who has the experience of trying to reconcile what she has been taught about different groups of people with their actual actions – not a bad lesson for young people to learn. Some older people would do well to learn the same lesson.

My major complaint about the book, even knowing it was the first book in the series, is that is just ended. Not really on a cliffhanger, but more like it was the end of a chapter. It did not leave me with the overwhelming urge to know what was coming next. Also, the action was there but the overall plot has not yet revealed itself. It almost feels like it was part of a larger work that was divided into smaller works…it would have been nice if this book had more of a plot arc leading to the next book.

That said, I did enjoy the writing and I still plan on reading the next book in the series because I want to see who Heather ends up with… because there are at least two possible characters that might turn out to be a love interest.. and I’m all about the love interests. 🙂

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Emperator by Miriam Newman


Emperator by Miriam Newman
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Son of a king, grandson of a general, Sergius is a warrior without equal. It has been easy for him to be a hero when he was expected to be. When he finds himself fighting to free his grandfather’s country and the heart of a woman, he must be one because he is.

There is nothing I didn’t enjoy about this book. The author did a wonderful job engaging the senses and putting the reader right in the middle of the setting. I could hear the sounds of the battles, see the throngs of people as the characters rode through the city, feel the passion of the characters involved.

And, speaking of the characters, they were well-rounded – human beings with both positive and negative characteristics. No paper doll heros and heroines here. Ms. Newman shares them so you know what you are getting. I loved the character arc of both the main characters- to see how they grew from the beginning of the book to the end was a fun journey to be on.

I certainly hope this is not the last we’ll see of this group. I hope Ms. Newman has more stories to share. 5 stars.

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Chandelier by Michael Leon


Chandelier by Michael Leon
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

CHANDELIER is the genre-bending sci-fi/fantasy-romance novel follow up of Michael Leon’s 2019 fantasy-romance book, PHANTOMS. A century has passed since the fabled Phantom ruled the Garnier Opera House. Technology has advanced, and AI has evolved beyond human knowledge. They reside in a virtual Earth, free from the ravages of an environmentally damaged Earth where humans and post-humans live under AI’s qualified governance. CHANDELIER follows one AI sentient’s journey, Benny, whose loyalty for a famous opera singer, Madame D’Arenberg, sets him on a dangerous course, entangling him in The Phantom of the Opera’s deadly web.

This is a wonderful addition to the Phantom of the Opera pastiche-canon. It’s a sequel to the author’s previous work Phantom (see our review here), but can easily be read as a standalone. However, the reader will do themself a disservice if they don’t read them both. Any reader would definitely get a richer experience that way.

This author has a remarkable knack of drawing the reader into the story. There are many twists and turns and it was quite enjoyable to try to figure out exactly what was going on with Benny and Diva. I love the the way the author twisted the genres to bring us an amazing story.

Papa the Shoemaker by Kyra Kalweit and Dayán Mantecón Roldán


Papa the Shoemaker by Kyra Kalweit and Dayán Mantecón Roldán
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Children’s
Rated: 4
Review by Rose

Hi there, my name is William and I have a question for you!

Would you like to know how your shoes are made?

I invite you to come inside my papa’s workshop and learn all the secrets of the ancient art of shoemaking and more.

Let’s embark on a creative adventure of fun challenges and life lessons along the way.

This is a very interesting look at how custom shoes are made along with a life lesson. Papa is very good at explaining things to his son in a clear and concise way. I do wish it had been a little clearer about what the shoe lasts were — I had to look that up, and I think it would have been interesting to know about that aspect of the process too…just where the last comes from. But, that did not take away my enjoyment from the book. The lesson was not as subtle as in the previous book I read from this couple, but still a book I would choose for my classroom or for my grandchildren.

A good book for the early reader.

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