Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Made for More by Curtis Martin


Life is an adventure, and while everything you do and every decision you make is aimed at making you happy, you may step back from time to time and ask yourself, “Why am I here?” and “Is there a deeper meaning to life?”  To find these answers, you need to go beyond the distractions of the world and be open to discovering your true purpose and potential.

Review by Rose Thornton: 

Author Curtis Martin in Made for More takes a serious look at ethics and morals as the sources of happiness in this otherwise materialistic world:  “Many of our choices deliver only temporary or fleeting happiness, sometimes at the cost of our ultimate happiness.  Good choices offer a lasting, deeper kind of happiness.”  This book does have a strong underlying religious principle, which a reader may or may not be drawn to, but I did not find it to be overly preachy or persuasive.  However, it’s true that I am someone who reads a variety of materials and I’m likely to find something thought-provoking in every book whether I agree with the author’s premise or not, so I am personally not adverse to reading materials with various ideologies.  For instance, I found his statement above to be true regardless of any religious connection…..which indeed was not introduced until later in the book. 

One of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes from an interview with The Saturday Evening Post, 1926, clearly demonstrates how this great thinker kept his interests and beliefs separated without threat to either:

 “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud.  I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene……no one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.  His personality pulsates in every word.  No myth is filled with such life.”

I believe every reader can do this and it will be up to the individual reader to decide if this book is appealing enough to enjoy.  The one section that most intrigued me as merely an objective reader was where Martin quotes H.G. Wells who, although not a supporter of Christianity himself, wrote :

“I am an historian.  I am not a believer, but I must confess as an historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history.  Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Martin then asks: “How is it, then, that Jesus has become the single most influential person in the history of the world?”  That kind of question either interests a reader or it does not.  If it does not, then I would recommend this book as one to skip; however, if it does pique an interest, I could recommend this book as one man’s answer to the question and suggest reading it with an awareness that it is only one man’s answer.

Length:   130 Pages
Print:  $4.60
Digital:  $8.99
Buy Link:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Defective by Susan Sofayov


University of Pittsburgh law student, Maggie Hovis, battles an enemy she cannot escape—her own brain. Her family calls her a drama queen. Her fiancĂ©, Sam, moves out after she throws a shoe at his head. Maggie knows there is only one way to get him back—control her moods. So she takes the step most of her family is against: therapy. After a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder, Maggie begins to investigate her family tree—which is plagued by mental illness and hidden relatives—and develops empathy for her deceased Great Aunt Ella, who lived her life in a mental institution. But Maggie’s journey leads her into fear and insecurity, afraid she’ll end up like Ella and never get Sam back. But what about Nick, her super-sexy old flame, who wants to reignite their passion? And does it even matter, anyway? Won’t mental illness stop any man from loving her?

Review by Rochelle Weber:

Being bi-polar and having gone through a couple of medicinal cocktails as well as several rounds on locked wards, I thought I knew a lot about my disease. But Ms. Sofayov has apparently done a lot more research than I have. In Defective I learned the meaning of a word I’d just drifted across and to which I had not paid much attention—hypomanic.

Like me, Maggie Hovis is a Bi-Polar 2 with Hypomania. Her disease does not manifest itself in long periods of great elation and creativity followed by long periods of deep depression bordering on catatonia. It shows up more as temper tantrums followed by abject apologies and then sleeping it off like an alcohol binge, and walking around like a zombie the rest of the time, sometimes taking to one’s bed, sometimes just wallowing on the couch with the TV on, sometimes managing to put one foot in front of the other when absolutely required to survive, but with one’s very own cloud surrounding one. Bi-polar 2’s have brief flashes of the happy, creative kind of mania during which they may go somewhere fun or start a project, but they rarely finish these things. Maggie’s boyfriend, Sam, referred to those times as “Beautiful Maggie.”

[My first “book” was actually a collection of first chapters. I had about 300 pages of the beginnings of books, most of which I threw away. Goodness, I wish I’d kept them, but when one is sofa-surfing homeless, one can only carry so much luggage. You can’t be a hoarder on your friends’ couches.]

Maggie also has voices in her head telling her people will find out what a fraud she is when she does something right, or chiding her when she doesn’t quite do something perfectly, just like mine. I just never realized they were part of my disease.

[“A 3.25 grade point average. Couldn’t make cum laude, could you? You’re a failure.” “Yeah, but to be fair, I did that one semester working full time while going to school in a wheel chair with my leg in a cast, and the CTA not-so-Special Services kept leaving me sitting in that cold corridor and caused me to miss three classes because they went to the wrong building in my office complex. If they’d missed me one more time, it would’ve been an automatic fail.” “Lame excuse for getting two Bs that semester if you ask us.” [My voices, not Maggie’s. I call them The Committee.)]

The information about the disease is woven into a search for Maggie’s family history, a manic obsession with getting her boyfriend back, and the reappearance of an old flame, all tempered with the words of her cousin. “Face it, Mags. We’re defective. No one’s ever going to love us.”

Well, I loved Maggie Hovis. She and her family were fascinating, well-drawn, three dimensional characters—even Aunt Ella who died before Maggie was born. The villain in Defective was one with whom I am all too familiar and Ms. Sofayof definitely did her homework to bring it to life in dazzling HD-3D. I could not put this book down, except when it took me into my own head and I stopped to ruminate about my own struggles with B-P 2 and hypomania.

Yes, Maggie, I loved you. Enough to give you five [Yes, 5! Ignore the Committee and just say “Thank you.”] Roses. Whether you’re bi-polar, living with someone who is, not related to but curious about the disease, or just looking for a good romance with real demons, Defective is a great read.

Length: 308 Pages
Print: $11.53
Digital: $2.99

Thanks for visiting. Rose, Julie, Donna, & Rochelle

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Willing Heart by by Mary Andersen



Bristol, England

Following a tragic crime against her, Sarah Matthews must make a difficult decision—whether to remain at her childhood home and hope there will not be a repeat offense, or to flee in the dead of night and take her chances alone. Though neither is a suitable option, she chooses the latter. Little does she know that her choice will allow her to be kidnapped and forcibly taken to a ship which is bound for the colonies, where she will be sold against her will as an indentured servant.

Maryland Province

John Clark is in desperate need of a laborer to help him with the never-ending work on his tobacco plantation. Since workers are hard to come by, he decides it is best to purchase the contract of an indentured man. His plans take an abrupt turn, however, when he encounters, instead, a young woman on board the ship. Her wilted, yet feisty demeanor catches his attention, and he cannot help but come to her aid by purchasing her papers. Being a moral man, John refuses to live alone with an unwed woman. Impulsively, he chooses to marry her that very day before taking her home. Whether or not she likes the idea does not matter a whit. It is his decision to make, after all.

Marry him?

Surely, John Clark is mad! Perhaps if she tells him of her tainted past, he will abandon this foolish idea. After what she's been through, Sarah can't bear the thought of marriage to anyone, let alone this uncouth, backwoods stranger, no matter how handsome he is. Will she ever be able to forgive those who have wronged her so terribly, and find the will to open her heart to this man?


I can’t say enough about Andersen’s use of historical facts. Not only are they accurate, but they are woven into the story in a believable manner. Truly, Andersen’s use of historical facts is some of the best I’ve read in a long time. Andersen’s writing style is easy and enjoyable to read, and the characters of John and Sarah are endearing, as is their growing relationship.

However, the plotting could be stronger and the psychology is weak. At the beginning Sarah, in an effort to flee her brutal stepfather, runs away. While that is reasonable given her state of mind, it’s not reasonable that she walks into a stranger’s house, undresses to her chemise, and curls up in front of the fireplace for the night. A small child perhaps might make this choice, but a teenage girl does not. If nothing else, she would be concerned about finding the same brutality in a stranger’s house.

Also, the plot devices in the middle had little to do with each other. Sarah gets lost in the woods, she twists her ankle, she gets a sunburn, she gets sick. None of these had much to do with the other or the overall story arc (which was never very clear to begin with).

I also did not like the fact that two-thirds of the way through the book, we leave John and Sarah’s story and suddenly we are following her Aunt Elizabeth’s story. While her story arc does tie in to plotting elements near the beginning of the book, the fact we have seen nothing of Elizabeth until the last third of the book, only heard about her through Sarah’s character, creates a jolt in the plotting. At the very least, there should have been a few scenes before this of Elizabeth learning of her niece’s kidnapping and her worries over her niece’s fate.

But far by the biggest issue with the novel is the fact that the villains (and there were two in this book, which also thins the plot) suddenly feel repentant and ask forgiveness. I really dislike it when the characters who have suffered at the hands of such characters just willing grant forgiveness. Life isn’t that simple. Forgiveness, especially in Sarah’s case, would be particularly difficult and would take work. It also made no sense that Sarah was able and willing to forgive the man who perpetrated the harsher crime on her more easily than the one who had invoked lesser crimes.

The fact her step-father is never prosecuted for his brutality did not bother me. In that day and time, men were not punished. In fact, women were almost always blamed. But the fact Sarah accepted him into her home later, and even named her first born son after him, disturbed me. The fact her husband is so forgiving is even more bothersome. Men are less likely to forgive than women, and it seemed out of character for John to do so.

I have given A Willing Heart 2.5 roses because of the plotting/psychology issues, even though there is a lot of good going on in the book. If you are looking for a good read, and wish to try a new author, I would still recommend this book. The historical details are spot on, the romantic relationship between John and Sarah is endearing, the characters are drawn well, and Anderson’s sentence structure and prose is well done and makes for easy, enjoyable reading. And for the record, I will read the second book in the series as A Willing Heart appears to be Andersen’s first book. I know how much a writer can grow from book to book, and there is enough here to capture my attention for a read of her second novel.

Length:  418 Pages
Print:  $12.94
Digital: $0.99

Thanks for visiting. Rose, Julie, Donna & Rochelle

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Crime in a Colorado Cave by Bob Schaller


Ashley and Adam are excited to be in Colorado where they can explore caves during their family vacation. While exploring the Cave of the Winds, they become enmeshed in a theft that involves half a million dollars' worth of gold crystals. Although Mom and Dad Arlington fear their children are in over their heads, the teenagers proceed to look for clues to the mystery. The reader follows them through several well-known spots in Colorado as they search for the thieves. When the police finally close in on the thieves, the Arlingtons think the mystery has been solved, but it has just begun.

Review by Rose Thornton:

Crime in a Colorado Cave  is light fiction; a mystery novel entailing burglary and fraud.  It was billed by the author, Bob Schaller, as a “young adult” level, which is one reason I chose it. I like to sample what young adults are reading from time to time, and I am usually pleasantly surprised.  While reading the book, however, I realized it was not what I would consider “young adult” level. I then discovered the site for buying the book had it labeled as “children’s literature.”  In my opinion, this book is somewhere in-between those two levels; I would suggest it as most appropriate for 7th to 9th grade readers. Although it was not really what I expected, it was well-written and interesting.  Schaller has a knack for tying together strings of non-credible, but intriguing, coincidences and making it work well for the overall plot. His technique was engaging and admirable.  I didn’t find this to be one of the greatest books overall, but I can recommend it as one I think the younger reader will find enjoyable.

Length:  126 Pages
Print Price: $7.69
Buy Link:

Thanks for visiting, Rose, Julie, Donna, & Rochelle