Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Raising Children for Fun & Profit By Jill Conner Browne


The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit is a hilarious (though not scientifically tested) wink at the time-honored mysteries of parenting, because anybody who has ever had a kid or has ever known one knows that the experience is neither fun nor profitable -- so you might as well laugh!

As each generation begins its hopeful, happy, and, yes, sometimes harrowing journey as Parent and Child, together they spawn a new body of "knowledge," the nuances of which will elude the Experts every time. Here are stories of the things we do for Mother Love -- or, the most incredibly full-time volunteer job ever -- and tips guaranteed not to be found in any other parenting guide.

·         How to talk to a pregnant woman
·         How the diamonds on delivery policy can speed up the labor nature intended
·         Why a good mother is always adept at subterfuge
·         The list of things you wouldn't think you would have to tell kids not to do
·         Why mothers of sons can never retire
·         Why, for parents, it's just a short drive to the poorhouse

The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit will have everyone who's ever been a parent -- or has ever thought of becoming one -- or has ever been a child -- or is still one -- giggling and grinning (no small feat) through those childbearing years...and beyond.

Review by Rose Thornton:

Anyone who is familiar with Jill Conner Browne’s series of Sweet Potato Queen books has likely already read this one because her work is addictive and if you read one, you will want to read them all! Browne is the female Dave Barry of written humor based on real-life. This is another delightful book of hers. If you have yet to read of the Sweet Potato Queens, you are in for a special treat. This book, like the others, is easy to read, well-organized, includes many helpful tips and recipes, and above all is hilarious! I highly recommend it.

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

Length:  304 Pages

Print:  $12.95
Digital:  $9.43

Buy Link:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Taking Shots: An Assassins Novel by Toni Aleo


No matter how hard she tries, Elleanor Fisher never thinks she's good enough, from her job to her weight to her love life. After enduring years of abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, Elli has been drifting through life in a daze. Until, that is, she meets Shea Adler on a promotional shoot for the NHL's Nashville Assassins. Before Elli knows what's happening, the gorgeous Shea breaks the ice and shatters her world.

A brilliant athlete inside the rink, Shea Adler is tired of the life he's living outside of it: the women, the money, the drinking. But everything changes when he meets Elli. After laying eyes on this feisty, witty, beautiful woman, he feels like he's just taken the hardest hit of his life. No matter how skeptical she is, Shea knows they are meant to be together—if only he can convince Elli to put her insecurities aside before she misses out on a shot at love.

Review by Rochelle Weber:

Although I’m not a hockey fan by any stretch of the imagination, Taking Shots was a pleasant, somewhat-engaging read. However, it was way too long, and the dialog was extremely stilted. In fact, you can see a sample of the stilted dialog right here in the blurb; “…Shea knows they are meant to be together…” A hockey player would “…know they’re meant…” I can’t begin to list the number of times in Taking Shots where people fail to use contractions. Even Shea’s four year-old nephew says something like “his Unky would not do that.” Really? It’s as though the book’s populated by relatives of Data. There were also spelling issues and misused words.

It’s so sad. I share many of Elli’s issues. My mother, too, was an emotionally abusive alcoholic. When I got engaged, she said, “It’ll never work. He’s too good for you.” I, too, have thyroid issues and have finally lost over a hundred pounds but still have some body image issues; although Elli’s expectations are rather unrealistic. She’s upset that she’s a size ten, and not the size two she was when she was eighteen. I was happy with a fourteen. I was a twelve when I was eighteen, although I’m told sizes have changed since then, so I don’t know what size I would have worn in today’s sizing. At any rate, I’m in my sixties and more comfortable in my skin than Elli. The fact that even I wanted her to just get over it, already, and accept Shea says a lot about the problems in Taking Shots.

As I read the book, I was sure it was self-published. I was wrong. Taking Shots is published by Random House—the “Big Leagues” of publishing. I can’t believe I could look forward to such a poor level of editing if I finally made it to that level of success. Where were Ms. Aleo’s editors? Did they sleep through this manuscript? Half way through the book we knew what Elli’s issues were and even Elli was convinced Shea was in love with her and was in it for the long run. But, somehow, Ms. Aleo managed to draw the story out for another three hundred pages of angst. I finished the book, because I was curious to see what else could possibly happen, but it was put-downable. I really am sorry, Ms. Aleo. You need a better editor. I don’t suppose Random House is hiring sixty-four year-old graduates of Columbia College, Chicago who require their authors to use a whole lot more contractions, drop redundancies, and cut superfluous angst.

Length:  592 Pages
Print:  $11.21
Digital:  $3.99
Audibel Unabridged:
MP3, CD:  $31.49
Wispersync for Kindle:  $2.99

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Trusting Heart, Souls of Indenture 2, by Mary Andersen



Oxford, Maryland

Susannah Smith is devastated by the unexpected death of her husband, James. They had shared a depth of love that she knew she would never find with another. Yet the way of things is to remarry quickly, and her financial situation demands she do just that. Since marriageable women are scarce, potential suitors constantly hound her to accept their proposals. She would have to choose very wisely though. Marriage to a drunkard, a womanizer, or a man prone to violence was out of the question. Even though most of the prospects seem like decent men, time and time again Susannah turns them down, still unable to accept the idea of moving on.

A mysterious stranger...

Perhaps the best option is to avoid marriage altogether and remain a widow. If she sells James' candle shop, she can use the proceeds to support herself for a while longer, or to gain passage up the bay in hopes of living with her family. However, not only dust has taken up residence in the abandoned building. Much to her dismay, she discovers that a wounded squatter has found refuge there as well.

Josiah Richards represents everything Susannah despises. Quite frankly, he scares her to death, and his unorthodox ways are turning her life upside down. Yet her traitorous heart reaches out to him still. There are things about this dangerous man that she longs to figure out. Why is he there? And why does it feel like the pain she sees in the handsome stranger's eyes is the result of more than just his physical injuries? Will he ever trust her enough to open his heart and let her in? Or will his violent past end up destroying them both?

Donna's Review

While I enjoyed certain aspects of Mary Andersen’s first novel, A Willing Heart, which review you can read here, her second novel, A Trusting Heart, sucked and pulled me in from the start. Andersen is developing a style that is not only raw and gritty, but chock full of historical facts and details, from the dialogue to the food and clothing to the historical events of the time. I really felt immersed in the late 17th century of the young British Empire.

In A Trusting Heart  Andersen brings us recently widowed Susannah Smith and Josiah Richards, a young man who carries his torments with him and believes he can never be free of his past. His transformation into a man who can finally trust Susannah is excellently done. It is particularly poignant that he cannot stand her touch at the beginning, even as that is the very thing he needs to heal him, not only physically but mentally as well.  The courage he finds later to face his past is admirable, and his spiritual journey is believable and not trite or over blown.

The dialogue was particularly impressive. It has an “old feel” but still flows naturally and lends itself to the story.  Dialogue in historical fiction will literally keep us writers up at night. The trick, of course, is to sprinkle enough words and phrasing in our characters' mouths to give the reader a flavor of the times but not cause a burden when reading.  In this instance, Andersen hit a fabulous balance that enhances the setting.

The plot was tight and moved quickly. There were a number of times I just couldn’t really determine in my mind where Andersen was moving next with the story as it didn’t seem there were any possibilities of a resolution towards a happily-ever-after. This book literally kept me guessing at every turn, so naturally I had a hard time putting it down. In a genre that relies on happily-ever-afters, messing with a reader’s mind can be difficult. Andersen did not disappoint.

This is a gritty, Christian novel about the power of healing a human heart and the need for forgiveness, both from others as well as ourselves. There are some birthing scenes that are rather realistic. There is a description of an Indian attack, and there is a murder and near hanging. Josiah’s issues are real. He’s not a Christian at the beginning, and he has led a worldly life. This is never detailed in specifics, but it is mentioned and discussed among the characters.

If you are looking for a sweet historical romance, this is not it. If you are looking for a raw, emotional experience that will touch your heart, then you will not be disappointed. An easy 5 roses on this one!

Now, to wait for the third in the trilogy. But waiting is so hard . . .  

Length:  492 PAGES
Print:  $12.50
Digital:  $0.99
Buy Link:

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti


It’s morning. Soft gray light slips over the tall red brick wall. It stretches across the exercise yard and reaches through the high-barred windows. In a cell on the ground floor, the light shifts dark shapes into a small stool, a scrawny table, and a bed made of wooden boards with no mattress or blanket. On that bed, a thin, huddled figure, Helmuth, a boy of seventeen, lies awake. Shivering. Trembling.

It’s a Tuesday.

The executioner works on Tuesday.

Review by Rose Thornton:

The Boy Who Dared is a work of historical fiction based on the true life of a German teenage boy, Helmuth Hubener, and his courage to stand up against Nazi evils during WWII. For this, Helmuth was executed by the Germans for treason at the age of seventeen. Bartoletti is a good writer, but I did not care for the format she used with switching back and forth from previous time to the present time setting of the book. She did include interesting information at the end of the book about Helmuth, his family, and friends, and also several touching photos and a timeline for the Third Reich. Bartoletti also gave a good explanation to readers of what a work historical fiction is at the back of the book. I enjoyed this story of a young war hero, a youth not in a military force, but one who believed in the pen being mightier than the sword.

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

Length:  192 Pages

Print:  $12.59
Digital:  $N/A

Buy Link:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dream Student by JJ DiBenedetto


College junior Sara Barnes thought her life was totally under control. All she had to worry about were her final exams, Christmas shopping, applying to medical school—and what to do about the cute freshman in the next dorm with a crush on her. Everything was going according to plan, until the night she started seeing other people’s dreams.

It’s bad enough that Sara is learning more than she ever needed to know about her friends and classmates, watching their most secret fantasies whether she wants to or not. Much worse are the other dreams, the ones she sees nearly every night, featuring a strange, terrifying man who commits unspeakable crimes. Now Sara wonders if she’s the only witness to a serial killer—and the only one who knows when and where he’s going to strike next.

Dream Student is the first book of the Dream Series.

Review by Rochelle Weber:

J.J. DiBenedetto is that rare author who is capable of writing a series in which each book stands on its own.  There are no cliff-hangers (one of my pet peeves) here.  Whether or not one wishes to read the next book in the Dream Series is entirely dependent on the quality of the writing of the books one has already read.  The only drawback to having read Dream Doctor first is that I pretty much knew how Dream Student ended when I picked it up. Therefore, it’s a testament to Mr. DiBenedetto’s talent that Dream Student engaged me on page one and kept my attention right through the final page, even though I knew who did it before I opened the book.  That is the mark of a truly excellent author, and I cannot give greater praise.  Buy the book and see for yourself.  And if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, I guarantee Mr. DiBenedetto will keep you guessing to the very end.  I’m very good at figuring out the ends of books, but he fooled me with Dream Doctor, and probably would have done so here as well.  I look forward to reading Dream Child.  It’s waiting on my Kindle.

Length:  287 Pages
Print:  $11.99
List:  $0.99
Sale:  Free
List:  $21.83
Whispersync for Kindle:  $1.99
Buy Links:

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