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!

Dream Guy by A.Z.A. Clarke

Dream Guy by A.Z.A. Clarke
Publisher: Finch Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: 221 pages
Age Recommendation: 16+ (due to discussions of drug use and depictions of death and torture)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Stargazer

Book 1 in the Battalions of Oblivion series

Every teen has dreams, but only Joe Knightley can make his dreams reality. Even the nightmares…

There can be only one Dream Master.

Joe has been falling asleep everywhere, and he has enough on his plate with wrangling his wayward best mate, suppressing the urge to murder his little sister and facing off with Charlie Meek, the knife-wielding bully who makes school a misery for so many.

Joe does not need the discovery that he can make his dreams come true. At first, turning a classroom into an aquarium and conjuring up a Lamborghini are amusing ways to use this new power. But Joe soon realizes he’s roused an enemy far deadlier than Charlie Meek.

Drawn into a duel with a being who has had centuries of experience, Joe must fight for everything he cares for. But deciding exactly what he holds dear is perhaps the biggest battle of all.

What if your dreams were real? And, what if you could control those real dreams?

In the book, Dream Guy by A.Z.A. Clark, this is a real situation! Joe is just an average high school student when one day he finds he is able to control his own dreams and make them a realty. Unfortunately, this ability begins to take a toll on Joe’s body in the form of severe fatigue. Then when the secret begins to get out, Joe’s friend begins to take advantage of the special ability that Joe possesses. Things begin to spiral out of control when Joe meets a powerful individual with similar powers.

Throughout the book the exploration of human nature, human desire and frustration take centerfold. The situations build on each other much like real life and the author does a great job of tying everything together and not leaving any loose ends. From the initial confusion of the events to the understanding of how to focus dreams the reader is provided an opportunity to grow with Joe.

Finally as Joe’s friendship with his childhood friend Nell grows stronger, an event occurs that jolts everything Joe has begun to build. The reader is placed in a position of seeing heartbreak first-hand and further tasked with considering what they would do if they were in the same position as Joe. When Joe goes to change the timeline of events, the reader is left breathless with the same frustration and struggle that Joe experiences.

Dream Guy is the first Book in the Battalions of Oblivion Series, but the ending does not leave the reader struggling and frustrated that they must wait for another book. In fact, the ending leaves the reader feeling fulfilled but tied to the characters as though they were true friends who shared a special experience with the reader that transcended the story line.

The awesome story line and the smooth writing style of A.Z.A. Clark make this book a must read!

Kara by Scott J. Kramer

Kara by Scott J. Kramer
Kara by Scott J. Kramer
Publisher: Prizm Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Middle Grade
Length: Full Length (238 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

It seems everyone is chasing twelve-year-old Kara. She is running not only from her powerful king and an assassin elf, but also from something horribly evil. She doesn’t know why they all want her or even if they want her for the same reason. She only knows she needs to hide somewhere safe. When King La’ard attacks her home and captures her father, Kara escapes to the Territories where humans are unknown and elves, orcs and dwarves roam the land. She finds comfort and safety with a dwarc named Hambone, Dante a werefox, and Grace the sprite. To get back to the human land of Faldoa and rescue her father, she enlists the help of her new friends and a reluctant wizard. But can she figure out the secret that will save her and those she loves before her enemies catch her?

Imagine a world where humans, mystical creatures and wizards all live; now imagine that the human world is isolated from the rest of the world by a large wall and a deadly fast river. Kara is a young girl who returns to her home to find her house in flames and her father in the custody of the Witch Guard. Kara’s only option is to flee; what she does not know is that when she is knocked unconscious after she falls into the river she crosses from the human world into the land of the Territories.

The Territories are where magic, mystical creatures and wizards live apart from human interaction. Kara works to understand this strange new land that she has heard of only in stories a child. Since magic is forbidden in the part of the world that Kara lives, she is astounded at what can be done.

The author has a talent for complex storytelling. The overall plot seems simple at first, yet becomes deeper as betrayal, treachery and greed enter the scene. The characters have complex pasts and more than once I found myself understanding and even agreeing with why even King La’ard would stop at nothing to capture Kara and make his world stable again.

Each character is thoughtfully crafted and has a strong place in the story, from Hambone- Kara’s initial contact in the Territories to Katrena the dark elf who takes an interest to Kara trespassing into the Territories for her own twisted goals. The character interactions are strong and dialogue is clear and concise. Action scenes that occur are detailed and dramatic. Even the plot twists hold strong, I found myself surprised more than once at choices made and how they would eventually turn out for the characters.

The ending of the story leaves the reader to understand that the author has more planned in the world of the Territories. My response is: bring it on! This was a great read and an awesome adventure into a deep and complex world!

Abomination by Jane Dougherty

Abomination by Jane Dougherty
Book One in the Pathfinders Series
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (210 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

As the end of the world begins, Carla and Tully hurtle through a wormhole five years forward in time­—to find they haven’t missed the Apocalypse after all.

Carla and Tully are picnicking in the quad of their international high school in central Paris when the end of the world begins. They are sucked into a wormhole that spits them out five years later to find that the world is a freezing desolation but still hanging on, waiting for something even worse to finish it off…the something worse turns out to be the Burnt Man and his horsemen.

Taken prisoner by the Flay Tribe to their lair in the ruins of a shopping mall, Tully is forced to become a warrior, while Carla joins the other girls as a kitchen slave and comfort woman.

Tully might like the idea of playing soldiers, but Carla knows what is waiting for the girls when the food runs out, and it isn’t pleasant. The supermarket holy man’s vision of the return of the Burnt Man and his demon friends drags Tully back to reality—when the four fiends are reunited, the Apocalypse will really begin. Carla and Tully don’t plan on being there when that happens.

But in this post-Abomination world where only the young and brutal have survived, where food and fuel are running out, and the climate is plunging into another final ice age, there is nowhere to run—except down another wormhole, with no idea of what might be waiting for them at the other end.

When the end of the world comes, is it lucky to be alive through the chaos or is it better to jump ahead a few years?

Abomination is the first book of the Pathfinders Series and sets the stage for the excitement of the end of the world. The story follows Tully and Carla as the beginning of the end of the world occurs-from volcanic eruptions to massive earthquakes. Tully and Carla find themselves trying to survive the falling building and tumble through a wormhole that places them five years in the future where the last remnants of humanity scramble to form tribes and try to survive in a desolate world.

The story takes place in a dark and foreboding world; one where fear, treachery and power struggles are a daily occurrence. The arrival of Tully and Carla shift much of the day to day lives of those who have lived in this world for the past five years and cause a minor ripple in the power held by those currently.

The author adds great description and paints a clear picture for the reader to understand how the world views have shifted. The dialogue between characters is clear and believable while the actions that the characters take follow the course of the change of humanity’s mindset. The author plays on the last bits of humanity and draws the reader into realistic ethical questions regarding the way the future will play out.

The only parts that may be confusing for some readers would be the storytelling of the past five years where some is narrated in first person view by a specific character and some is told in real time dialogue.

The overall story telling is great and the plot is very plausible; this is one series of futuristic events and time travel that you do not want to miss!

Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil by Joanne Macgregor
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi (Dystopian), Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stargazer

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real.

Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.

Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.

She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.

Recoil is the first book in a Young Adult dystopian romance trilogy, and makes great reading for lovers of Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), and Veronica Roth (Divergent).

When a game is how we connect with the world; we let the creators of the game shape what the world will become. The simple humanity that we take for granted in day to day life is stripped away when people are made into virus bombs-destroying all that we hold dear. The choices that impact Jinx James, the main character, aim to strike each reader at the core of humanity. From the very beginning, Jinx is challenged to work through the social awkwardness that has crippled the nation’s youth due to forced quarantine. Jinx makes several friends and from these friendships she grows and strengthens her resolve as a maturing individual.

Throughout the book, Jinx is challenged to push forward and the challenges for her continue to mount. The author shows a great character concept development with interactions between Jinx, Quinn, Bruce, Sarge and Leya. The interactions and conversations are realistic and you can see the subtle character development which makes the characters relatable and human.

I especially enjoy the psychological development and growth exhibited by the changing environments and challenges that Jinx and her squad are forced to face. The behind the scenes reality that there is more going on than is initially presented forces the reader to consider the secrecy at higher governmental levels and what may be in store for the characters.

The author’s description from the very first introduction of The Game Jinx initially plays shows a well-rounded researched position in order to fully put the reader in the first person view of Jinx. From here the author does not let down on details, research and explanation of the feelings of the main character. The author does an amazing job at keeping suspense, mystery and character development in balance while making the reader hang on and keep reading.

Recoil is the first in the Recoil Trilogy and I look forward to reading more of the author’s take on the startling developments in the world turned upside down by fear and disease. If you enjoy reading about overcoming personal challenges and looking at looking at the world and those who shape the world behind the scenes, be sure to pick up a copy of Recoil. You will not be let down!