Ivy Introspective by Kellyn Roth


Ivy Introspective by Kellyn Roth
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (197 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

Trapped in a world where she doesn’t belong, twelve-year-old Ivy Knight struggles to keep her head above water as her simplicity is brought to light by her new position as a young lady growing up at Pearlbelle Park.

Worried about their daughter’s inability to fit in, Ivy’s parents decide to send her to McCale House, a boarding school in Scotland for boys and girls like her. However, alone and frightened without her beloved mother, sister, and nurse, Ivy can’t seem to focus.

Will Ivy ever learn what Dr. McCale is trying to teach her? Or will she remain lost in her own mind forever?

Imagine living in a world where you don’t feel you belong at all, very little makes sense and even your twin sister barely resembles you, both physically and mentally. This is Ivy’s life.

Ivy Introspective is a fascinating look inside the mind of a young lady that tries as hard as she can to fit in, but finds that she often just can’t make the connections to what is happening around her. Ivy feels that she is more of a bother and a frustration to those around her than she intends. Ivy Introspective is the second in the series of books by Kellyn Roth featuring Ivy and her sister, Alice, and I was glad that I was able to catch up to Ivy and her adventures. The Lady of the Vineyard is a novella featuring many of the same characters and timeframe in which Alice and Ivy live.

The writing style that Kellyn Roth utilizes is one that I enjoy, and I can see in Ivy Introspective how she has grown as an author. The focused dialogue and deep character history is very enveloping to the reader. The secondary plotline with the father-daughter relationship focused on Posy within Ivy Introspective offers another fascinating look into the world that Kellyn Roth brings to life. The deep research and great understanding of psychological growth of children within the historical period also shows the author’s understanding of how to incorporate the reader into the realism of past events. The editing is clean and the grammar usage is great since it incorporates both what the reader expects as well as the historical time period that the characters reside in.

I found the historical time period the Kellyn Roth wrote very inviting and perfect for the events that occur through the chronicles. I also enjoyed how the reader can begin to understand the views of the world the Kellyn Roth holds, especially from the perspective of both Posy and Ivy. I feel honored that I was able to review, Ivy Introspective since it brought to life many of the views of children and incorporates the deep values of faith and the psychological perspective that we need to work to reach out to those that are different from ourselves and from mainstream society.

I highly recommend that you take a journey with Alice and Ivy and make sure you don’t miss Ivy Introspective!

The Border by Steve Schafer


The Border by Steve Schafer
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (342 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Stargazer

One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…

Do any of us truly value the life and opportunities that we have? Even by reading this review you have so many more opportunities than others in the world.

The Border is a first person account of the ruthless killing, drug trafficking and greed that proliferates portions of Mexico near the United States border. The four teens lose everything they have ever known when they are caught in the crossfire of a drug war near the border. After they are pursued and a bounty is listed for their capture or deaths, they are forced to cross the border into U.S. territory.

What comes next is heart rendering; the close connections that the friends forge, the shift from living life to simply surviving shows a different side of human nature and a dark reality that we often try not to dwell on. This story brings that reality into perspective and forces the reader to see and understand the pain that each of the characters experience.

Faced with setback after setback, the teens forge ahead with dreams of what life in the U.S. will be like. The author does an amazing job at character development through the entire story. Not a single character remained unchanged, in fact, the author highlights how the characters reflect on their own psychological changes after choices are made that impact the survivability of the entire group.

Just when it seems like everything will be okay, more adversities stand in the way; then when it seems like all hope is lost, there is still the beauty of the human spirit to overcome those adversities. This story brings to life the current political turmoil and debate of immigration but places it in a very different light then what many of us are accustomed to seeing.

Make sure that you do not miss The Border if you want to understand what truly drives the human spirit to push on when all is lost!

The Gold by Krista Wagner


The Gold by Krista Wagner
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (97 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Stargazer

Ten-year-old Amanda is constantly teased and tormented in school. Her home life is less than satisfactory where her widower father, who is often away on business trips, leaves her in the care of her indifferent teenaged sister. Worse, not a day goes by when Amanda doesn’t miss her mom. TO escape reality, Amanda creates fantasy stories, but when she discovers a talking golden pebble, her imagined world turns into a new-fangled reality.

Sometimes you just need to know things will be all right.

Ten year old Amanda moves to Idaho with her family after her mother’s death. While trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, Amanda faces the constant tormenting and teasing that occurs at her school. One day, Amanda finds a talking golden pebble on her way home from school and her life changes much more than she could have ever imagined.

The Gold is an inspiring story that asks us to look at the world with new eyes-open to both the ways that the world impacts us as well as how we impact the world. Each character has depth and a history, even when they appear in a few events. I absolutely loved how the author explained what was going on when Amanda would look away, or how Amanda perceived the stares or the various studying eyes of the other students. I found myself rooting for Amanda to be open to others having a change of heart, but Amanda would often find herself misinterpreting the situation as much more dire than it truly was. The dialogue was smooth and easy to read, and the situations that Amanda found herself in were believable.

Amanda’s relationship with the golden pebble is fascinating on many levels. Simply, Amanda misses her mother and her sister, Jane, who steps in to replace the loss of their mother, ends up being cruel to Amanda without realizing her own internal pain and struggle. As the pebble forces Amanda to examine the world around her, she begins to see more of what is in both nature and human nature.

I found The Gold to be an exciting read for readers of all ages, not just younger readers. The Gold holds the reader to looking at that which is in the world, not just what is in our immediate perception. I highly recommend reading The Gold by Krista Wagner; it will inspire you to take another look at what truly makes up the world!

No Place Called Home by Matthew Wooding


No Place Called Home by Matthew Wooding
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (180 Pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+ (Alcohol use/dependency)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Stargazer

Growing up with everything you’ve ever wanted sounds like a dream, but it leaves Jonjo Wells feeling unfulfilled and hollow. Destined for a life of boardrooms and working weekends, he decides to escape on a gap year. Free of his parents’ rules and expectations, he can finally discover his freedom. But the unsheltered world away from mum and dad is a tougher place than he’s imagined, and Jonjo is faced with a steep learning curve…

Having everything you have ever wanted can leave you wondering what you are missing out on-unfortunately that can leave you with experiences and pain to last the rest of your lifetime.

Jonjo Wells is ready to find out what exists in the world outside of the safety net provided by his rich father. By taking a risk and leaving the country of his birth-Jonjo goes to Canada in search of adventure. Much different from his life in Australia; Jonjo finds that when things go your way easily they can also turn for the worse just as quickly.

No Place Called Home is a fast paced read that does not leave the reader bored since there is always something coming around the bend. Jonjo’s life begins to take on different forms and the Jonjo we see at the end of the story is far different from the spoiled Jonjo we first met. Jonjo’s tale is also heartbreaking in many respects- I was able to identify many choices that I had made that were similar to Jonjo’s and I began wondering if I could have gone down a similar path if things would have turned for the worse.

While the story was great, there were some spelling mistakes and grammar that detracted a bit from the story. The initial meeting and subsequent fast paced relationship with Hannah seemed unreasonable in some regards, especially the few quick interactions with Hannah’s parents seemed to point to either a larger family issue that is not explored fully in the story or a rush on the author’s part to keep the plot line moving.

By far, the deepest part of the story is Jonjo’s continued increased use of alcohol. The justification and subsequent issues that arise create a world in which the reader is able to identify with what is happening. After the accident that occurs at work, costing Jonjo his job, the world begins to take on a whole new view. This new view begins to shape Jonjo and the choices he later makes will solidify the life he begins to lead.

If you have ever taken or considered a gap year between high school and college, I highly encourage you to read this fascinating look at what is truly in the world. This story by far shows how the world can refine and redefine a person in just a year.

Cutting to the Chase by Rose Phillips

Cutting to the Chase by Rose Phillips
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (146 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: Five Stars
Review by: Stargazer

How do you fix something you didn’t break? Lizzy certainly doesn’t have the answer. All she knows is that she needs to survive senior year, then get as far away from her dysfunctional family as possible. In the meantime, when she can’t take the pressure, she eases it with the sharp edge of a razor blade. But, she’s been cutting deeper and her thoughts are growing darker. Until she meets Michael. With him she finds relief. Now, maybe—just maybe—she can make it.

There are some stories that resonate with you and cause you to look at your own life in a different light, this is one of those stories.

Lizzy is just short of graduation and is trying to keep it together in her senior year. Life at home keeps falling apart more each day and to ease the pain and pent up emotions, she has taken to cutting to let out the emotions. In unmistakable ways, it seems like life might just give her a break when she meets Michael. When things suddenly start to fall into place and she has her cutting under control, Lizzy’s life suddenly spirals out of control into complete chaos.

The story is told from the first-person perspective of Lizzy. The author, Rose Phillips, has an astonishing knack for showing the inner emotions of Lizzy and when Lizzy is being defiant, the reader can understand and empathize with everything going on in the character’s life. The reader expressly experiences the highs and lows along with Lizzy-from the romantic date with Michael to the partying friends and the bad choices.

When several events occur that turn Lizzy’s world upside down, the reader is able to relate and experience the same emotional upheaval. With each cut comes the release of emotion and the reader is taken on a journey to understand the inner dynamics of Lizzy’s mind and how it relates to the chaotic and ever changing world around her. The dialogue is crisp and the setting will be familiar to many readers. The reader is able to be drawn in and enveloped by the life and times of the characters and as such, because to understand the deep back stories of each supporting character. From Mags, the always happy old friend that is always there, to Becky the friend with an insatiable party appetite but has experiences more than her own share of worldly burdens.

Cutting to the Chase is a deep story that is sure to reel you and in and cause you to look at your own life as well as the lives of those around you in a very different way!

Or the Girl Dies by Rachel Rust


Or the Girl Dies by Rachel Rust
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full (168 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Stargazer

One school project. One kidnapping. One night they won’t forget. Natalie is an honors student with perfect grades. Victor is a drug dealer with a cryptic past. When a school assignment forces them to work together, things quickly spiral out of control. Victor fails to complete his part of their project, so Natalie hunts him down the night before it’s due. But Victor’s kingpin boss interrupts their study date and drags Natalie down into a seedy underworld where anything can be bought and sold—including her. Over the course of one night—while dodging bad guys and trying not to inhale—Natalie discovers shocking truths about Victor. And she’ll need to choose between preserving her perfect academic future and helping him escape his troubled past. Except one final revelation about Victor may be too much for Natalie to survive.

The senior year of high school is all about looking to the future right? What happens when one night can change everything?

When Natalie is paired with Victor for a class project that can make or break her opportunity to go to a prestigious college, she only has a couple of choices. But, when she tries to get Victor to participate in the project she finds that she bites off much more than she can chew.

Natalie comes out of her bubble of the rich life and in one night wades through the dark underbelly of drugs and human trafficking. Each choice that Natalie makes is more difficult than the last. Throughout this one night and into the next day, Natalie is forced to choose between who she should trust and who she can trust.

The author, Rachel Rust, tells the story from the perspective of Natalie in such a way that the reader feels entwined with the decisions that Natalie makes. From the fateful choice of trying to get Victor to do his part of the assignment to the desire to help Victor escape from the murky world in which he has become entangled.

The feelings of Natalie are those which the reader can easily identify with. The dark situations and difficult choices are those which many readers and identify and may have even dealt with personally. While the age recommendation is higher due to adult situations and drug use, this story will resonate with many readers on a personal level.

After struggling through the night, the reader is able to breathe a sigh of relief only to face more twists and turns into the story. The author acts as a fantastic story teller and keeps pulling the reader back into the story. Essentially the author teaches the reader to question those who walk in the world with us, and look at the underlying desires which drive us to struggle through each day.

Make sure you don’t miss Rachel Rust’s fantastic book, Or the Girl Dies!

In the Company of Crazies by Nora Raleigh Baskin

In the Company of Crazies by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (84 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

Thirteen-year-old Mia Singer thought that she had it all under control. Sure, her grades were slipping a little bit (well, really, more than a little), and she couldn’t explain her occasional compulsion to shoplift, but things weren’t that bad. Then the sudden death of a classmate affects Mia in a way she can’t quite define—and she goes one step too far. At their wits’ end, Mia’s parents place her in an “alternative” boarding school. Away from her parents and surrounded by trees, space and students whose problems she can’t completely comprehend, Mia has no choice but to learn about herself.

With insight and sympathy, Nora Raleigh Baskin focuses on the universal feeling of being a misfit, showing that sometimes the path home is as unexpected as it is challenging.

Some books leave you re-evaluating your life and the lives of those around you, this is one of those books.

Mia Singer is in a downward spiral. Her grades stink, she is caught shoplifting and quite frankly, doesn’t care about what is going on in her life or her family. Mia isn’t a bad kid, Mia just is having a hard time with some life transition.

Mia is sent by her family to a special “school” to help with her attitude and outlook on life. Needless to say, this is one reform school or boarding school, whatever you want to call it, that is completely unlike what you would expect.

The reader sees the world through Mia’s eyes. Through flashbacks we get to see what happened and we start to understand the choices that Mia made. Mia is a girl who is trying to make her way through the world. The story tends to be a little darker in some aspects, but this is where I found the magic. We get to see the world through a different set of eyes, we see the darkness out there, and then appreciate how good life may be for us.

Mia’s experiences are very similar. She learns about “cheating life” and she sees others who have a life so very different from her own. Mia begins to understand a little more about the other students who at first seemed so weird and “alien” to her. As a reader we begin to understand that those who walk life’s journey with us are not all that different from us, but they may just show it in a different way.

I am honestly glad that I had the opportunity to read In the Company of Crazies, the author does a great job of causing the reader to re-evaluate the world. I hope that you will consider taking a strange journey with Mia and also walk In the Company of Crazies! I am grateful that I did.

The Lady of the Vineyard by Kellyn Roth


The Lady of the Vineyard by Kellyn Roth
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical, Inspirational
Length: Short (81 Pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stargazer

A choice between familiar pain and new love …

Judy has lived with her egocentric mother since her parents divorced when she was a baby. When her father, Troy Kee, shows up at her sixth birthday party and whisks her away to his vineyard in France, Judy is more than happy to go with him. But Adele, Judy’s mother, isn’t quite ready to give up her daughter. Can Judy forgive Adele? More importantly, can Troy?

A sweet novella set in Europe, the year of 1938, this sweet story is sure to delight loves of light-hearted historical/literary fiction.

Why can’t life just…. Be?

This is one of the glaring questions in Kellyn Roth’s story, The Lady of the Vineyard. Adele, the mother of six year old Judy, just wants things to be the same. Troy, Judy’s father, has been out of the picture for the past six years and suddenly reappears-taking Judy along with him back to the vineyard where Adele and his relationship disintegrated.

This is a fun story where the conflict and issues of marriage bleed into the fear of commitment and then come steamrolling out to cause turmoil in an otherwise smooth relationship. Judy initially chooses to return to the vineyard with her father and Adele attempts to adjust to life without her daughter. Both Troy and Adele begin to see life from different angles.

Kellyn Roth does a great job at the historical landscape; while there could be more emphasis on the social and political events occurring at the time, there is still much description of the lives that are lived. The emotional angst the Adele struggles with comes to the surface throughout the story which leads to an understanding of her struggles with Judy’s father.

This is a great story about love, emotional turmoil and the desire to set things right again against a backdrop of political unrest. The world of Judy is overturned while her parents struggle to deal with their confusing relationship and the great changes that are occurring. There are some editing mistakes from time to time, but it does not detract from the overall flow of the story.

If you have read the Dressmaker’s Secret (The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy) by the same author, you will notice some subtle similarities. I would highly recommend comparing the two books to understand the depth and writing complexity that Kellyn drives home.

I am sure that you will enjoy The Lady of the Vineyard, it is a smooth take on an otherwise complex relationship in a difficult time based in an unstable country! All of this is a setting for an adventure that is built for everyone to understand!

Boss of the Whole Sixth Grade by Ann Herrick


Boss of the Whole Sixth Grade by Ann Herrick
Publisher: Chaucer Publishing
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (106 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

Greta can’t wait to be at the top of the grade-school heap–especially since she’s dealing with loss at home. Her father’s away in Antarctica, her mother’s still angry with Greta’s Dad for leaving, and Grampa’s losing his memory. But even sixth grade starts to feel like “life stinks.”

Greta discovers she’s not in the same home room with her best friend. New girl Kiki moves onto the scene and starts acting like the boss of the whole sixth grade. And the handsome new teacher seems way too interested in Greta’s mother.

Greta agrees to be a candidate for class president only to stop Kiki from winning. She regrets accepting Kiki’s bet that if Kiki wins the election, she gets to tell Greta what to do for the whole school year. It takes some inspiration from her school project about René Descartes and his “I think, therefore I am” beliefs to help Greta keep her sixth-grade experience from totally going down the toilet.

Sometimes life just falls apart and it seems like nothing can go right.

Greta is in sixth grade which places her at the top of the school food chain, but it seems like she can’t catch a break. Her mom and dad have separated, her grandfather is losing his memory and now there is a new girl at school stirring up trouble and telling everyone how they should dress and act.

Greta makes a bet with the new girl which hinges on winning the election for class president. Greta is by no means the most popular girl, and already she begins to regret running for class president. Things becomes even more muddled when her mother realizes that Greta’s teacher is an old friend from her past.

Ann Herrick does a great job at showing the world from the point of view of Greta, from her internal emotions to the feelings of frustration and loss of control. The reader comes to realize and understand how frustrated Greta feels. The reader can empathize with the various predicaments that Greta faces.

The dialogue is fun, the situations are understandable and the characters are deep. Ann Herrick does a perfect job at relating the difficult situations to the age of the reader. There are lessons at various levels and even older readers will find great enjoyment and humor at the various situations. Older readers will also be able to reflect on their own youth and understand the feelings that Greta faces throughout the story.

I really enjoyed the personality of Greta. Many authors develop a character that the reader often views as “pure” or “good” but Ann is able to show the actions that Greta takes when she is feeling frustration or anger. Rather than just describing the feelings that Greta has, Ann shows how Greta lets those feelings out, whether in words or actions the feelings come forth.

This is one story that is full of lessons and reflections for readers of all ages, you don’t want to miss this great read!

The Sixth Event by Kristen Morie-Osisek


The Sixth Event by Kristen Morie-Osisek
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: 291 pages
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

Eighteen-year-old Raquel isn’t eighteen anymore…

During Raquel’s first semester of college, she witnesses the end of the world, only to wake up in her old room at her parents’ house two years in the past. Even worse, it seems she’s the only one who remembers—until Chris Lyley, a boy Raquel always thought was a loser, tells her he remembers the catastrophe.

Before long, they both discover new abilities. They’re able to understand any language and teleport through time and space. If Raquel and Chris can figure out what caused the end of their world, maybe they can stop it.

What if you knew the world would end, but saving it you would have to give up everything you knew? Could you do it?

The Sixth Event by Kristen Morie-Osisek is a wild adventure from the point of view of Raquel, a freshman college student who witnesses the end of the world. After the world ends, she is transported back in her life two years before the final event occurs. She, along with others who have witnessed the same event find that they are tasked with saving the world from the end that they witnessed.

Raquel begins to have feelings for a boy from her high school that she used to steer clear of since they hung out in different circles. She begins to see past her old high school ways and realize how she has grown in maturity, but how her teenage hormones have jaded her ways of thinking. Keep in mind, this is all against the ticking clock of the end of the world!

Kristen Morie-Osisek does a wonderful job of balancing Raquel’s eighteen-year-old mindset against the role of teenage hormones that were in full effect merely two years before. This is a fascinating look at the psychological world that teenagers face, yet is often overlooked by many authors.

The dialogue that Kristen Morie-Osisek utilizes with the characters is smooth and believable. The reader is drawn into the events as they unfold and begins to see the world from the point of view that this is something that could have occurred of is currently occurring. The end of the book is satisfying and leaves the reader feeling fulfilled.

This is one adventure that you do not want to miss. I cannot wait to see more work from this wonderful author!