Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli


Valeria Luiselli is an evening cyclist; a literary tourist in Venice, searching for Joseph Brodsky’s tomb; an excavator of her own artifacts, unpacking from a move. In essays that are as companionable as they are ambitious, she uses the city to exercise a roving, meandering intelligence, seeking out the questions embedded in our human landscapes.

Review by Rose Thornton:

This is a very subtle, yet powerful, book. Luiselli is an excellent writer who is able to incite deep thinking while using few words. One example is when she is describing her bare windows in an dilapidated apartment: “The fact that you see yourself mirrored in the windows at night and almost never see the outside world is most probably an architectural strategy for creating an illusion of privacy in a city where the view is a constant invitation to peek into other lives.” She has an intriguing philosophical view of the details right around her in daily life, and she grounds her views within the boundaries of good common sense. Sidewalks is definitely a good read for the anyone who enjoys a challenge to mediocrity.

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

Length:  120 Pages

Print Price:  $15.95

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If Only by Norma Budden


While still in high school, Demi gave birth to a baby girl and, feeling she had no other options, put her up for adoption. Having moved on with her life—gotten married and having had two other children—16 years later, Demi Glenn suddenly cannot get her firstborn daughter out of her mind. After hiring two private detectives but getting no solid information to go on, Demi turns to the one man who will not come back empty-handed, who will not give up until he finds the answers—David Alexander, a married father of two daughters—the father of the baby she had given up so long ago who had no idea he had sired a child as a teen. Together, will they be able to find their daughter without their families being torn apart or will fate intervene, upsetting their lives in a way they'd never dreamed in the pursuit of finding the daughter they can no longer live without?

Review by Rochelle Weber:

Demi Glenn has recurring nightmares that her firstborn child, born while she was a teen and put up for adoption, is in danger. She sees someone sinister chasing her daughter down a beach. She hires two different private detectives, neither of whom can find the child. Desperate, she turns to the one PI she knows will not stop until he finds the girl—David Alexander—her high school sweetheart, and the baby’s father. Both are married with children and neither has told their families about the baby. How could David tell his family? Demi never told him about the baby.

Their child, Renee, has never felt quite comfortable with her parents. They have different interests, and as an only child, she’s lonely. She’s often wondered if she could be adopted, but her mother swears she’s not. Still, that vague discomfort is always there. But, she’s looking forward to the future. Her best friend/boyfriend is leaving for college, and her parents are allowing her to go live with her Aunt in Alberta to be close to him. She can’t wait to start this next adventure in her life.

I never figured out when, where or how Renee was in danger aside from her adoptive parents finding out her birth parents were looking for her and trying to keep her from finding out she was adopted or from meeting them. I spent much of If Only waiting for Renee to be in danger, but it never really happened, and I felt a bit cheated.

There is a mystery here with elements of the paranormal as Demi, David, and Renee all reach out to each other in their dreams. And there’s a bit of a chase scene at the end, but again—I never felt Renee was in danger of anything but being prevented from meeting Demi and David. There is danger, but it’s not directed toward Renee. Just don’t look for the scene that seems to keep recurring in Demi’s dreams. You won’t find it. If you read If Only without the expectation of anyone chasing Renee down a beach or anywhere else, you’ll enjoy it.

Length:  202 Pages
Print:  $9.99
Digital:  $2.99

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

100 Ways to Happiness: A Guide for Busy People by Dr. Timothy J. Sharp


A Hundred Ways to Happiness makes positive psychology, the newest branch of psychology, available to the general public through bite-sized chunks of inspiration and instruction. 100 chapters guide the everyman through strategies incorporating their body, mind, relationships, habits and outlook to maximize well-being and happiness. Dr Tim Sharp, a leading clinical psychologist and media personality, takes away the scientific stigma of self-help texts and makes happiness available to everyone, particularly those short on time who can simply dip into the book when they need a lift.


100 Ways to Happiness is a so-so self-help book, and I would not recommend it. Dr. Sharp, whom the author info in the book itself states has a masters degree, apparently uses the title of ‘doctor’ and possibly with every right, but unbeknownst to me. I always check out the author first, and this particular detail was my first indication this book was not what I expected it to be, whether this was a result of misinformation or not.

Sharp is somewhat repetitive in his attempt to encourage various paths to happiness. Although there was little new in it for me, it did re-enforce my established thoughts on how important it is to act positively, de-clutter one’s life, sort problems, deny denial, etc. The one appealing idea in it for me was to create a “happy hour” everyday for myself. This I like in theory. However, as much as I like this idea, I don’t believe one can create happiness on demand for an hour. If one is able to do this, then there is no reason one cannot transition it into a happy day, happy life. Happiness is a way of being that requires more a mind-set of selection than creation. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” This is the way I believe happiness works for the most part on a daily basis, although certainly at times tragic events skew all attempts for happiness. This is not necessarily a negative component of life as one might question if it is even possible to appreciate happiness to the fullest extent if emotions counter to happiness are never experienced.

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

Length:  168 Pages

Print:  $9.57
Digital:  $9.11

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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Missing and the Dead by Jack Lynch


Private eye Peter Bragg’s relentless search for a missing insurance investigator unearths shocking secrets involving embezzled money, the disappearance of a cop, art stolen from a San Francisco gallery, and a serial killer obsessed with the expressions on his victim’s faces when they realize they are going to die. Bragg connects the dots, creating a chilling portrait of impending death…and it could be his own.

Review by Rochelle Weber:

I love the Bay Area, and the Golden Gate Bridge on the cover of The Missing and the Dead drew me in. The plot kept me reading.

Janet Lind is the kind of anchor woman who, according to Don Henley, can “tell you about a plane crash with a gleam in her eye.” The only reason Peter Bragg agrees to take her case is that he owes her boss a favor. It seems her brother Jerry, an insurance investigator, has disappeared, and their uncle has died leaving them over a million dollars. If Jerry’s dead and he died before the uncle, Janet gets all of the inheritance. If he died after the uncle, she has to split the money with Jerry’s wife, Marcie, who she clearly thinks is trash. Bragg’s opinion of Marcie Lind is higher than that, and keeps him on the case, which becomes convoluted and dangerous, indeed.

I enjoy Brash Books’ reprints of classic noir novels. It’s fun to read books that take place before people had laptops and cell phones, although some of the action takes place in areas where a person probably couldn’t get a signal anyway. The dialog was natural, the characters very well-drawn, and Mr. Lind did a great job of keeping me guessing who the villain was. I truly had no idea until he revealed the killer. I highly recommend The Missing and the Dead.

Length:  241 Pages
Print:  $11.99
Digital:  $2.99

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

To Protect and Serve by Staci Stallings

To save others’ lives, they will risk their own…
Houston firefighter, Jeff Taylor is a fireman’s fireman. He’s not afraid of anything, and no situation is too dangerous to keep him on the sideline if lives are at stake.
Lisa Matheson runs a semi-successful ad agency that’s on the brink of falling apart. Her employees are incompetent and her schedule has become exhausting. When she takes on a client with a brilliant idea for a big conference, she thinks that maybe, finally this is her lucky break. However, the fire station wasn’t what she had in mind for finding conference speakers. When she falls for a handsome but shy firefighter, it’s possible that life might just be going her way for a change. The only problem is she can’t control Jeff and the death wish he seems to have…

Donna's review:

Both Jeff Taylor and Lisa Matheson have some serious issues that have kept them from forming any sort of emotional attachments as adults. While there are some action scenes of fires in this book, it is largely an emotional read. Both Lisa and Jeff must come to terms with their past and their present if they are to forge a happily ever after with each other. Stallings does a great job building and peeling the layers away in slow increments so that the story is driven towards the end.

The portrayal of a firefighter’s angst and the trauma their family and loved ones endure for these men to follow their career is also well down. I am ashamed to admit I had never really given these men a lot of thought. They truly do put their lives on the line every day for the public.

I will say there were times the story drags a bit, and I often thought it could have been said in fewer words. Stalling’s style is not particularly unique, but her sentences for the most part flow and the story is read easily. There are a few turns of phrases she occasionally uses that did cause me to scratch my head and reread.

I also found the formatting a bit confusing. I read a kindle edition, so I can’t speak for the paperback. There were times it was not clear that the story was moving to a different point of view and it pulled me out.

Stallings writes Christian Fiction, so there is no premarital sex in this one. The heat level is relatively low and confined to the feelings of both characters and light kissing. However, it is taken for granted that both main characters are already Christians. There is no conversion for anybody in this book, and neither character had a particularly racy past.

An enjoyable, heart breaking read from start to finish. (Yes, I cried at one point, maybe two.) The plot is well done. The characters are believable. The pacing, except in a few instances, is quick.

I had a hard time putting this one down. 

Four roses!

Length:  352 pages
Print:  $ 12.70
Digital:  $ 0.00

Buy Link:

Thanks for visiting. Rose, Julie Donna & Rochelle

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou


These new poems are powerful, distinctive and as always, full of lifting rhythms of love and remembering.

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

* * *
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and Swelling I bear in the tide.”

                                    --from Still I Rise


One of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou is life unleashed in her book of poetry, And Still I Rise. She touches her reader with the struggles of the heart and soul in her poems of descriptive oppression. One of my best-loved poems of Angelou is her Phenomenal Woman:

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
                        --First verse, Phenomal Woman

I recommend this book to all poetry lovers. Angelou has an intriguing way of expressing the many sides of herself to her reader through a pleasant and powerful tempo.

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

Length:  64 Pages
Print:  $16.00
Digital:  $11.99
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