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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I Am One with the Universe by Kyra Kalweit and Dayán Mantecón Roldán


I Am One with the Universe by Kyra Kalweit and Dayán Mantecón Roldán
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Children’s
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

This children’s book teaches young readers to reflect on a simple yet profound message: We are all connected to everything we see and experience in this world. The essence of God is within each one of us and in everything we see, touch, feel, taste and dream about.
With rhyme and playful illustrations, I Am One with the Universe will help children realize their unity with all things and that they are not separate from God or anyone else.

What a beautifully written story that’s perfect for early readers or for parents to read with the children. The illustrations are eye-catching; the rhythm and rhyming of the text make this a fun book to read aloud.

A wonderful way of showing children (and parents) how closely everything in the world is connected.

Definitely recommended for all families with young children.

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Fruit of the Poisonous Tree by Norm Harris


Fruit of the Poisonous Tree by Norm Harris
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

A female lawyer must prove a war hero’s innocence. Meanwhile, Navy SEALs hijack a Russian warship to stop a North Korean missile crisis.

Every now and again, a unique story comes our way, a story unlike any we may have read before. Such is Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, author Norm Harris’s critically acclaimed legal military mystery thriller. The story’s focal point is Faydra “Spider” Green, a dedicated Navy JAG lawyer who has lived her life in the shadows of a great and powerful man: her father, former President of the United States William Green. Green cannot heal the wound in his relationship with his daughter. His former power and influence curse Faydra and cause her to wonder if her accomplishments were her own doing.

A lawyer by trade, Faydra is both anxious and excited as she undertakes her first homicide investigation —the brutal murder of a Navy SEAL She reasons that a successful investigation will provide her the opportunity to validate her sense of self-worth. Faydra soon realizes that the accused man, a Special Ops Marine war hero, may be innocent thanks to her remarkable deductive abilities. The Navy is using her as a pawn in a complex cover-up.

Meanwhile, a seasoned Navy Sea Captain, Egan Fletcher, whose wife had died eight years earlier, struggles to balance his Navy career with raising a son. When the Navy purposefully pairs him with Faydra in a meeting, the two Navy officers embark on an adrenaline-pumping adventure. It is a top-secret mission- impossible that will take them halfway around the world in an attempt to avert a catastrophic act of terrorism in the form of biological warfare.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of Washington State’s Puget Sound and the mystique of East Asia, Fadra’s story revolves around a woman who appears to be as pure as the driven snow—yet, she is driven by an insatiable need to complete any assignment, no matter how dangerous. Along the way, she transforms into a symbol of hope, perseverance, and a woman’s ability to overcome life-threatening events.

There is a lot going on in this book – the action is quite riveting. What starts off as a simple murder investigation soon becomes much much more.

The storyline was complicated, and quite quickly led to multi-layers of issues for the characters. There were some inconsistencies with the characters and there were instances when they were talking where the dialogue didn’t ring true, which took me out of the story several times. However, even with those, the adventure element of the story drove me on.

I enjoyed the characters and their relationships with each other. And, I loved how the title was explained in the book… I had wondered about that.

All in all, an interesting debut and start to what seems will be an interesting series about Faydra and her investigations.

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Gambling with Murder by Lida Sideris


Gambling with Murder by Lida Sideris
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

A late-night call is all it takes for rookie lawyer Corrie Locke to kiss her day job at the movie studio goodbye, and do what she does best: flex her sweet P.I. skills and go undercover to find a senior who’s missing from a posh retirement community. One small stumbling block: skirting past security to gain inside access to the exclusive Villa Sunset. Time to call in the heavy artillery. Besides former security guard turned legal assistant—now wannabe P.I.—Veera, Corrie relies on a secret weapon: her mother, a surprisingly eager addition to Corrie’s team. Armed with enough pepper spray to take down a band of Navy Seals, Mom impersonates a senior to infiltrate the Villa, Corrie, and Veera in tow. Turns out the job’s not as easy as they’d thought. These seniors have tricks tucked up their sleeves and aren’t afraid of using them.

The action gets dicey when the missing senior case turns into attempted murder by a criminal mind who’s always one step ahead. Corrie’s hot on the trail, but finds more than she bargained for…when her mother becomes a target.

This is actually the fifth book in this series and, no worries, it reads very well as a standalone. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know these characters earlier! I will definitely rectify that forthwith by buying the earlier books in the series. As with every series, I’m sure reading the books earlier in the series gives the reader a richer journey as they get to know the characters better with each book and see how their interactions make them grow.

That being said, I absolutely loved the characters – but my favorite, hands down, was the mom. She was a hoot. Corrie is so afraid her mom was going to be upset with Corrie following in her late father’s footsteps and turning more toward private investigations, but instead Mom jumps in feet first to help Corrie and Veera out with the case.

There are many twists and turns to this case. Although it started off with a plea to find a missing resident from a luxury retirement villa (just a note… I’m ready to move in from the descriptions.. wow!), it soons turns into a lot more. These seniors take things seriously.

I highly recommend this book… and now I’m on the way to pick up the earlier four in the series. Thanks, Ms. Sideris!

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BFF: A Story About Bullycide by Lindsey G. P. Bell


BFF: A Story About Bullycide by Lindsey G. P. Bell
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Thirteen-year-old Abby and her father have just moved from a leaky old sailboat in California to an inherited mansion in South Carolina, and Abby does not fit in. This is the story of the summer adventures she shares with new best friend, Hollis, and two boys from their class rescuing an injured heron. But when school begins, Abby is shocked to learn that Hollis is a bullied outcast…who, pushed to the limit, takes her own life—a phenomenon known as bullycide. BFF attempts to portray the loss felt by those left behind.

This book deals with suicide, which may be triggering for some readers.

This book is so touching and, unfortunately, so important and needful in this time. There is so much to love about it. The characters are wonderfully drawn, and the friendships portrayed reminded me of friendships I had when I was growing up.

While I wish we had found out more about Abby’s mom and, possibly, had a little closure there (I was left feeling incomplete with that), I am glad that Abby’s dad was there for her… all the time and in all the ways. And, it was a learning experience to find out about her grandparents. The small town south…especially during the time setting of the book… was probably pretty accurate in the descriptions of how a lot of people felt about differences. I also wish we had found out more about Hollis’ background and family. I was left with a lot of questions.

Even with that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even with the tragic ending. I was completely drawn into the story and was returned to my own childhood. I am looking forward to reading more by this author. I loved her voice.

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Secrets of a River Swimmer by S.S. Turner


Secrets of a River Swimmer by S.S. Turner
Publisher: The Story Plant
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

As Freddy gazes at the majestic river gushing past him in the depths of a Scottish winter, he’s ready to jump in and end his life. But what happens next is not what Freddy expects. From the moment he enters the river, Freddy starts a journey which is more beautiful, funny, and mysterious than he could have imagined. And through this journey Freddy’s story becomes interweaved with a cast of unforgettable characters who are equally lost and in search of answers. Eventually they all unite in their quest for an answer to the biggest question of them all: will the river take them where they want to go?

In the tradition of inspirational works of fiction like The Alchemist and Life of Pi, Secrets of a River Swimmer is at once a profound exploration into living with meaning and an affecting story of people on the cusp of change.

This is a beautifully written, almost lyrical, account of one man and how the river saved his life – quite literally. Freddy is tired of life – tired of modern living, tired of cell phones, tired of the rat race. He’s ready to give it all up and slips into a cold winter river – to let his life slip away.

And, in one sense, it does just that. It slips away and he is left with so much more at the end of the book than when he started. Between the beginning and the end, he learns about himself, about life, about death, and he makes friends along the way with a very wise fish who has wonderful comments and commentary on life.

This book not only held my attention throughout, wondering what would happen to Freddy next, but it also gave me things to wonder about and things to ponder. It’s magical at times, tragic at times, laugh out loud funny at times. It not only entertained me, it uplifted me. It’s hard to believe this is the author’s first book.

Kudos, Mr. Turner. I will definitely be on the lookout for you in the future. 5 stars.

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The Pig Wars by M. K. Theodoratus

The Pig Wars by M. K. Theodoratus
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical(medieval) fantasy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

After inadvertently causing her father’s death with her magic in battle, Lady Rena avoids the political in-fighting among the Half-Elven of the Marches. She spends her days weaving and managing her lands, trying to heal from the trauma. But this fragile peace frays…

Renna’s neighbor, Lord Gorsfeld, has plans for the retiring young woman. As the richest man in the Marches, but one without magic, he decides to woo Renna to gain control of her magic and her lands, by setting himself up as a strong protector, who can save her from the marauders who harass her border villages. However his campaign goes awry when Black Tail, Renna’s pet pig, injures dumps him in the mud.

Gorsfeld intensifies his vandalism, hoping to scare Renna into his arms. Renna must fight to protect her people without angering the Lord High Commander of the Marches who expects his childhood friend to help him keep the peace. But she is caught off guard and is forced to ue forbidden elf-fire to protect her people.

Renna discovers she must fight for her life.

Author M.K. Theodoratus offers a stunning and captivating fantasy novel that will have audiences on the edge of their seats in “The Pig Wars”. This compelling and intriguing book is unique in its beautifully-crafted world, fascinating characters, and a fast-paced story line that is both fantastical and political. “The Pig Wars” is an absolute must-read that fantasy lovers won’t want to miss!

I absolutely loved this book, the characters, the world they lived in, the slight hint of a romance, and… of course…the pig!

This is the first book of a new series and, while I am excited to get in on the ground floor, I couldn’t help but feel there were backstories I didn’t know about. So, I did some research and, voila! There are other stories set in the same world that are available and so I grabbed them all up (it didn’t hurt that they are currently FREE on Amazon! You’re welcome.)

The characters were fully fleshed out and complete with all their good and bad parts on display. I loved Renna. She’s the kind of leader I love – one who gets down with her people and leads by example. It’s obvious how much they love her, and they would do anything for her.

The worldbuilding is amazing. I loved what I could see of it here and am looking forward to finding out more as I dip into the other books of the half-elven.

There are untied ends (not a cliffhanger) but elements that lead me to believe things are going on in the background that we will hear more about in book two. I’m so excited!

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Side Effects by LJ Greene


Side Effects by LJ Greene
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Who can you trust?

Ally Michels is fresh out of her MBA program at Cal and has landed her dream job at hot, up-and-coming video game developer, Jet Stream Studios, all thanks to her uncle, Jet’s largest venture capital investor. She’s feeling pretty good about her future until an inadvertent blurt in a company meeting brings down upon her the dangerous attention of Jet’s co-founder and chief developer, Marcus Abby.

Beautiful, brilliant, and vicious, Marcus is every bit the arrogant, deceitful founder her uncle warned her about. But in the power-fueled world of venture capital investing, things aren’t always what they seem. When Ally finds herself caught up in a play for corporate control, she must work with Marcus to save the company and an ideal she believes in, while navigating perilous family loyalties and fighting to hold onto her own integrity.

For Ally, there’s just one rule: never, ever trust Marcus Abby. Because the one man she needs to stop a high-stakes plot is the one man who has every reason to want her gone.

SIDE EFFECTS is an adult contemporary, twisty, underhanded, certainly unscrupulous . . . romance.

This book is part of a series, but it can definitely stand on its own. I’ve not read anything else by the author, but I had no trouble at all following this book.

The characters are strong and well-drawn. I have to admit, in the beginning of the book I really did not like Marcus at all. But, once I hit the chapters in his POV, my attitude really changed. There as a lot more to Marcus than meets the eye. And, while it is a romance, there is so much more to it. There is suspense. There is intrigue.

I really enjoyed the way the author put the story together and the way she clearly showed the characters’ emotion. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from Ms. Greene.

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If the Light Escapes by Brenda Marie Smith

If the Light Escapes by Brenda Marie Smith
Publisher: SFK Press
Genre: post-apocalyptic science fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

A solar electromagnetic pulse fried the U.S. grid. Now northern lights are in Texas—3,000 miles farther south than where they belong. The universe won’t stop screwing with 18-year-old Keno Simms. All that’s left for him and his broken family is farming their Austin subdivision, trying to eke out a living on poor soil in the scorching heat.

Keno’s one solace is his love for Alma, who has her own secret sorrows. When he gets her pregnant, he vows to keep her alive no matter what. Yet armed marauders and nature itself collude against him, forcing him to make choices that rip at his conscience. IF THE LIGHT ESCAPES is post-apocalyptic science fiction set in a near-future reality, a coming-of-age story told in the voice of a heroic teen who’s forced into manhood too soon.

This is the second book in the series, but I had not read the first book. I didn’t have any trouble following this book, but there was enough about book one that I have already ordered it so I can see what led up to this point. And, fair warning, book two ends on something of a cliffhanger. I don’t personally have an issue with that, but I know some readers do.

The characters in this book are phenomenal. They are multifaceted, with their good points and their bad points. The story is told in first person from the point of view of 18-year-old Keno…. a young man who has had to grow up way too fast. As we work alongside him, we know his thoughts, his fears, and his determination to protect his people at all cost.

The secondary characters are all just as richly drawn. Even the “bad guys” are trying to survive, which makes their actions understandable. Folks, in this book and in this time, we aren’t in Kansas anymore and tough times call for tough measures. And the question is begged… will people come together to help each other, or will it be every man for himself?

That’s one thing that makes this book so compelling. I could see something like this happening, and people showing what they are made of. The people of this community have to find that answer in themselves.

The book starts off with a bang and does not let up even a smidgen. I stayed up way too late a couple of nights because I just had to know what came next. I’m already anxiously waiting Book Three. Kudos, Ms. Smith.

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