From Under a Rock by Tam MacPhee

From Under a Rock by Tam MacPhee
Publisher: Tellwell
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

In this compelling memoir, author Tam MacPhee bares her soul and shares her deepest memories. As a little girl she battles through abuse, with her innocence betrayed by the males closest to her. Becoming a single parent at the age of eighteen, she is determined to work hard to create a better future for herself and her child.

Soon after turning nineteen, she meets a man whom she believed to be the man of her dreams. But she had no idea that the toughest lessons in her life were still to be learned. Secrets are revealed and a piece of her heart is broken off forever.

Realizing she deserves more, Tam finds her path set out by the universe that brings her love and success. But the journey also includes a new heartbreaking diagnosis and many challenges. Join Tam as she recounts her story, sharing her experiences and life’s lessons.

Ms. MacPhee is to be commended for her honesty in telling her story so frankly. The book begins with her birth in 1974 (from what she has been told and from what she remembers as a child) and continues through Covid and her care of her mom during her final days. The book is written just as the author remembers things – very stream-of-conscious writing. Because of this it can come across as a bit disjointed at times, but the authenticity of her life shines through.

The author includes a large section of pictures and letters from various parts of her life, which also lead the reader to get to know Tam and her family members.

However, the book would have been easier to read had it been edited better. There were several issues with punctuation and areas where the writing could have been a little tighter and not so rambly. Details were duplicated, and there were times when less would have been more.

I do think that the book is a good way for Tam’s family and friends to learn more about her, though, and that’s a good thing. She also includes a chapter of advice she has learned across the years, which is helpful, as well as a chapter on the importance of the number 22 to her life.

All in all, I enjoyed reading the book and learning more about this woman and the life she has led.

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One Jaded Rose by James Byron Books

One Jaded Rose by James Byron Books
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Contemporary
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

One Jaded Rose is a light-hearted caper, the first in the series written by James Byron Books. Rose needed a plus-one, but not for the usual wedding or party. She was going to a funeral and needed a quiet, unassuming type, but when Nic Thorn arrived, he was anything but a wallflower. Rose and her BFF, Sandy, have time on their hands, and soon find that Nic will fill the void. He coerces them into his madcap investigations of scams, frauds and misunderstandings. This modern-day adventure leads them from one lively caper to another, involving portrait provenance, invoice inaccuracy, and a recycler’s relapse, on their travels from Brisbane to Adelaide and across the South Australian border.

OMG…. I loved this book. There were several times when reading it I had to interrupt DH in his own reading so I could read parts of it aloud! There were references a time or two I didn’t quite understand, not being Australian, but I got the gist of it even then. And there are a LOT of funny moments and a lot of cultural references that some readers may not get. But, even with that, it did not take away from my enjoyment (though as much as I love music, I had trouble understanding how Rose was so very clueless in that regard. She did redeem herself in my eyes, though, with her love of British humor!

The characters are great fun… I could so see this as a TV show… kind of a wacky Mission Impossible or Leverage. I loved the repartee between Rose and Nic and can’t wait to see them together in future adventures. I do hope the chemistry between them continues to grow but not TOO fast! Love the slow burn.

The missions were fun as well, but I think a little more time could have been spent on those….part of my love of adventure shows is actually seeing how things are set up. And, I would love for Rose and Sandy to have some more active roles in future books.

All in all, this is definitely a series I’m going to follow. Great job!

The Hallowmas Train by Gloria Pearson-Vasey

The Hallowmas Train by Gloria Pearson-Vasey
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rated: 4 stares
Reviewed by Rose

BOOK 1: Prosper Station

With Hallowmas approaching, time travellers Azur Moonstorey and companions exit the local library to board the midnight train bound for 19th-century Prosper Station. Their mission: to rescue Azur’s sister from the eerie dimension Vapourlea.

BOOK 2: Black Springs Abbey

After her harrowing rescue from Vapourlea, Hilma Moonstorey is still beset by anxiety and insecurities. Encouraged to take a position at Black Springs Abbey by young police constable Garth Mayfield, she soon discovers that the dilapidated abbey houses not only elderly nuns but ghosts and dark secrets.

Two books for the price of one! And two really good books at that. I love these characters – I love the worldbuilding. I have to admit, I like the first book a little bit better than the last book, but they were both enchanting in their own way.

Book one sets up the world of the sensointuitives and the Hallowmas Train that helps the time travellers go back and forth between the present and the 19th century. I loved the way the characters worked and grew together. The author did a tremendous job on describing the setting, and the twists and turns in the plot kept me on my toes.

Book two takes place five years later and deals with Hilma and the way she helps solve a mystery at Black Springs Abbey. We get to see the characters from book two and find out what’s going on in their lives as well, which is a plus.

I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more of this author’s writings and I hope she sets more stories in Providence Crossing and Prosper Station. 4 stars.

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Emergence by Ellie Beals

Emergence by Ellie Beals
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Poppy

It starts with Just Watching. But danger emerges when Just Watching ends.

When the “wild child” Xavier first encounters Cass Hardwood and her dogs in the woods of West Quebec, he is enthralled. Unknown to them, he Just Watches them in a lengthy ongoing surveillance, before finally staging a meeting. His motives are uncertain—even to him.

The intersection of the lives of Cass, a competitive dog handler; her dogs; her cousin Lori; and the complex and enigmatic Xavier leads them all into a spiral of danger. It starts when Just Watching ends—when Cass and her crew encounter tragedy in the bush. Xavier’s involvement in the tragedy, unknown to Cass, sets off a chain of potentially lethal events that begin in the dark woods of Lac Rouge, when hiking, skiing, hunting, trapping, marijuana grow-ops, and pedophilia collide. It matures in the suburbs of both Ottawa and Baltimore, and culminates back in Lac Rouge, when Lori’s spurned and abusive lover arrives uninvited at Cass’ isolated cabin in the woods. In the night. In the cold. In the heavily falling snow. His arrival is observed by Xavier, whose motives are again uncertain, but whose propensity for action is not.

Join Xavier, Lori, Cass, and the realistic and compelling dogs that are essential players in this dark drama as their fates converge in a deadly loop of revenge, fear, guilt, and hope.

What an interesting book! What a talented author. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this…the blurb sounded intriguing, but it felt as if there would be some “gray area” here in terms of right and wrong. I was right, but I wasn’t as conflicted as I might have been…

The book starts slowly, but I was never bored. The author weaved her words carefully and well, with strong descriptions and solid “showing” and not telling. I learned about each character–even the dogs!–in significant detail cleverly shared. I went into this thinking it would be an edge-of-your-seat thriller and it was, but it wasn’t. Honestly, I loved this book and didn’t think writing a review for it would be difficult, but it kind of is because this book wasn’t like the usual “thriller” I’ve read. That was a good thing, and interesting and definitely set this book apart from many others.

Add into this the aspect of dog training and having dogs as very real characters in this book…for a dog person like me, this added a level of interest that I wouldn’t have found elsewhere. I’ve been deeply involved with dogs and dog training for years, and this story is very authentic in the way it portrays Cass and her dogs. I loved it.

Xavier was a tough character to pin down. At first, I felt as if he were older and maybe had a crush on Cass, but it turned out he was a young boy, early teens, but mature in a way many aren’t because of his very odd upbringing. Also interesting was the choice the author made to use first person POV for him and third for Cass.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot… I think the blurb does that well enough. But I will say this: from the moment I started reading, I didn’t want to stop. I credit the talent of this author to slowly weave her tentacles around you until you’re completely hooked and can’t get loose from the story. Her descriptive and powerful writing is how I wish every book were written. She never forgets tiny details that make things real, and that can elicit a visceral response from the reader. I felt as if I were right there, in the Canadian wilds, living through each scene. I was fully invested in the characters and the story and was almost surprised when it was over.

Emergence was a slow, deep, wild ride that I’m glad I took. I’m ready for more from this author.

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The Code by Jacqueline Ruby and Marcellus Moses

The Code by Jacqueline Ruby and Marcellus Moses
Publisher: Tellwell Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

The story of the two entangled stars is well known.

Albert Collins, entomology professor, becomes a social media sensation; the sensation becomes a giant celebrity; the celebrity becomes the “Manliest Man” alive.

The small time gangster, Memphis Smith, becomes a prisoner; the prisoner becomes the new Tupac Shakur; the new Tupac takes the world by storm.

Their parallel rise to fame and their fateful meeting on the Tonight Show all played out in real time before their legions of fans and detractors.

Now, for the first time, their inside story, their secret story, is told by those who were closest to them.

Jacqueline (Jack) Ruby, super agent, reveals the methods that allowed Albert Collins to become the most desired man in the world. She takes us behind the scenes to the bankers, film producers and heiresses that made Albert into the very definition of manhood in the 21st. century.

Marcellus Moses does the same for Memphis Smith. He shows us the arrests and prison fights, the raw racism and brilliant talent that made Memphis Number One With A Bullet.

Jacqueline and Marcellus tell their insider accounts to the award winning novelist, Susan Brown, who weaves it altogether in the thunderous adventure of The Code.

This book purports to be an insider account, and the author does a great job at weaving these two very different stories together. The chapters alternate between Jaqueline Ruby’s story with Albert Collins and Marcellus Moses’ work with Memphis Smith. The voices in each chapter are distinct and there is absolutely no confusion about which is which.

I’ve heard before of people who “the camera loves” and Albert Collins is one of those people. It was intriguing to see his rise to fame and the issues it brings into his private life. He was already having issues, so it didn’t take much to convince him to jump wholeheartedly into all the glitz and glamour that Jack Ruby offered. Unfortunately, this read very real to me, because I know people just like Albert – unhappy with their own life and thinking that if they jsut do this, they will be happy.

Memphis, on the other hand, had a whole lot of anger issues. He too jumped at the chance to change his life, but soon found out that the grass may not really be greener on the other side.

The book as a whole raises a lot of questions as to what it means to be a man… two very different looks at what “the code” is… and two very different outcomes. Or are they all that different? This is a story that will stay with me for a long time. I could so see this on the screen. Hollywood, are you listening?

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