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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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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