Best Foot Forward by Bea Stevens

Best Foot Forward by Bea Stevens

About the Book:

Best Foot Forward is the first book in the “Liberty Lawrence” series by Bea Stevens. Liberty, or “Libby” as most of her friends call her, is the main character of this series of books. In Best Foot Forward, Libby lives and works in a large hotel. The story is told in her point of view in first person. Libby experiences many mishaps in the story and finds herself in the middle of a mystery. She is also obsessed with shoes, especially designer shoes.

My Review:

I’m not a fan of books written in first person. However, for Best Foot Forward by Bea Stevens, the first person point of view works well, both for Ms. Stevens’ writing style, and Liberty Lawrence’s personality and the story itself, as it adds to the quirkiness of the character.

Best Foot Forward is a unique mystery story, as it is a combination of a romantic comedy and cozy mystery. In the beginning of the story, I found Libby to be a bit self-absorbed and prone to self-pity. However, as the story moved along and Libby’s character developed, she became quite endearing as she suffered embarrassing mishaps, and showed a sensitivity and empathy toward other characters who were going through personal difficulties.

The story was believable and it was easy to relate to Libby’s feelings in regard to her love life. I found myself smiling at some of Libby’s mishaps and thoughts. She also warmed my heart in the care, concern, and help she offered to others. I also enjoyed the relationship that has begun between Libby and Police Sergeant James Harper.

The one thing I think was a bit overboard was the profanity. I’m not a fan of books with profanity, and often, the author wrote Libby’s thoughts and ended them with an exclaimed profane word, which I didn’t feel was necessary or added anything to the story. However, I am thankful that the author tended to stick to mild profane words, but still would have preferred fewer of them.

This book was a fun, entertaining read.

I give this book 4 stars.

Bell Hammers: The True Folk Tale of Little Egypt by Lancelot Schaubert

Bell Hammers: The True Folk Tale of Little Egypt, Illinois by [Lancelot Schaubert]

Bell Hammers: The True Folk Tale of Little Egypt

by Lancelot Schaubert

About the Book:

Remmy and Beth grow up in Bellhammer, Illinois during the time that oil and coal companies rob the land, stripping if of everything that made it paradise.

Remmy’s Grandad teaches him how to pull outrageous pranks on his neighbors, friends, and foes. Under his Daddy’s guidance he starts a construction company, which depends on contracts from the Texarco Oil Company.

Remmy has a fascination with “Robin Hood”, castles, and a round table. He builds his on band of “merry men” carpenters.

Then a faulty Texarco Oil derrick falls down on their house and poisons their neighborhood’s well.

When Texarco refuses to take responsibility for the poisoned well, Remmy hatches a plan that results in one prank after another, until he and his merry men pull the “world’s greatest prank”.

My Review:

Remmy is an endearing character, whom I cared about and rooted for from the very beginning of the story. His quirky personality was often humorous.

Lancelot Schaubert’s writing took the reader into the past and spanned the life of Remmy in Bellhammer, Illinois from 1941 through 2012. His writing brought clear feelings of nostalgia to the reader. Remmy and Beth took the reader back to simpler times that showed no times were without their troubles. The author did an excellent job capturing the dialogue of the time and area as well.

Remmy also often spoke to the “Good Lord” in ways that sometimes seemed to mock God. He also heard the “Good Lord” speak to him, and he didn’t always listen to or properly interpret what the “Good Lord” told him to do, just like any flawed, sinful human being. Remmy learned many lessons throughout the book and his life.

Lancelot Schaubert did an excellent job portraying a neighborhood’s struggle with big companies in another place and time. He made it relatable and entertaining. His sharing of true events, and maybe some familial myths, stir feelings of nostalgia, comradery, sympathy, and empathy, even as they occasionally make the reader laugh out loud.

This story does include profanity and crude humor as well. However, if you are a history buff or a person who enjoys cheering for the underdog, I recommend you read Bell Hammers.

I give this story 4 stars.

By Design by J. Boykin Baker

By Design: A Love Story with a Twist by [J Boykin Baker]

I am a book reviewer and was given a free ebook copy of this book for my honest review.

About the Book

Anne’s mother passed away when Anne was young, but her mother left her a very valuable legacy.

When Anne is grown, she becomes an interior designer and begins to do quite well, then moves to Atlanta to take a job at a very high profile interior design firm. Her plate fills quickly with jobs, one of which is for a surgical practice where Dr. Brad Young, Jr. is a partner with his father.

When Brad meets Anne, he is taken by her beauty and asks her out. However, Brad has a reputation as a player, and several people warn Anne about Brad’s reputation. But Anne feels the chemistry between them and continues to see Brad, until an emotional weekend creates a problem that Brad isn’t sure he can overcome to make this relationship work.

My Review

I found the Introduction to be very “telling”. It didn’t draw me in and engage me in the story, but I continued to read to find out what would happen to Anne as the story truly began. I was pleasantly surprised that the story itself, engaged me from the start and drew me in to Anne’s life.

As I read the story, I found value in the Introduction and knew why the author had included it. It adds important information about Anne and why Anne is who she is.

I enjoyed the relationships between Anne and all of the characters she interacted with in the story. Anne had a strong influence on others she met and interacted with. Then she met Brad, and her affect on him was strong and unexpected for him. He had never met anyone like her before and he wasn’t sure he liked how she made him feel and think.

I really liked the interaction between Brad and Anne. They had a chemistry, but there were obstacles between them. As I continued to follow their story, I found their way of interacting, as they tried to figure out if their relationship could be long term, delightful. The way they teased one another and spoke to one another of their thoughts and feelings were all engaging and realistic. Their banter often made me laugh. The scene where Anne finally lost her temper with Brad, as well as Brad’s reaction to the things she said in anger, also made me laugh. At the same time, I still hoped they would work things out.

J. Boykin Baker created deep characters and gave them real life struggles, one of which, though it still faces some young people in today’s world, seems antiquated, but Ms. Baker did a wonderful job showing the importance of the struggle and I was impressed with Anne’s strength even in the face of temptation.

I loved the fact that the story doesn’t end in the typical way of most romance stories, but Ms. Baker resolves the struggles in a very satisfying manner and takes the ending a step further.

I love sweet romance stories. They are one of my favorite genres, and I especially love a sweet romance story that dares to step out of the normal romance formula. Therefore, By Design by J. Boykin Baker and Anne and Brad will live in my heart and on my “favorites” list for a long time.

I was also thrilled to find that Ms. Baker continues the story of Anne and Brad in two more books and I can’t wait to read them.

I give By Design (Book 1) by J. Boykin Baker 5 stars.

88 Guys for Coffee by Diane Solomon

About the Book

This book covered a new-to-me topic: online dating. I know there are online dating sites, and I know one or two people who found their now-spouse on such a site, but I have never read a book about someone’s experience with online dating. It appealed to my sense of curiosity, which is why I decided to read it.

The Foreword makes it clear that this is a somewhat fictionalized account of the author’s online dating experience.

My Review

I’m usually not a fan of stories told in first person, but Diane Solomon did a good job writing this story in first person, and her style was very conversational. Therefore, the story was fun and easy to read.

The main character, Laura, takes this emotional roller-coaster ride, which causes her to question her self-worth and effects her self-confidence. However, she never lets go of hope.

As the reader, I couldn’t help but sometimes feel sorry for Laura and sometimes wonder why on earth she kept meeting guy after guy. Her determination kept me rooting for her.

Some of the men Laura met for coffee made me cringe, some made me laugh, and others shocked me, but every one of them was a believable character.

Some of the dating encounters seemed a bit too similar or repetitious.

If world view is of interest or concern to you as a reader, the world view in this book seemed to bounce around and not really come across clearly. Sometimes the main character’s world view seemed to be very secular, sometimes new age, and nearer the end, approached a Christian world view. Maybe Ms. Solomon did this intentionally to show a growth in the character of Laura, as she made her way through a period of several years of online dating, wading through disappointment after disappointment.

All in all, this book was very interesting. I enjoyed the conversational style. I enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the tips and advice that Laura’s two best friends offered her. The story also included some humor along the way. It was definitely a unique story, which, in my opinion, makes it worth the read.

I give this story 4 stars.

The Ravenstone: The Twain by Diane Solomon and Mark Carey

The Ravenstone : The Twain by [Diane Solomon, Mark Carey]

As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of this book for my honest review.

About the Book:

The Ravenstone Part 2: The Twain by Diane Solomon and Mark Carey is the second book in their “Ravenstone” series. It is a fantasy story. The two main characters, thirteen-year-old twins, Nadia and Aidan must time travel several times throughout this book in order to do what they have been called to do. They must face dangers and an enemy they thought they would never see again.

My Review:

The Ravenstone Part 2: The Twain was even more exciting than the first book. This time there is more adventure and danger for Nadia and Aidan. A couple situations the twins find themselves in had this reader on the edge of her seat. There is a very fascinating chapter that involves a unique twist. The twist includes a dilemma that disturbs Nadia until closer to the end of the book, where another character explains what really happened to Nadia. I really liked that character’s explanation. The story is very well written, although I did notice more errors in this book that should have been caught by an editor than in the first book, there were not so many as to distract me from the story. Ms. Solomon and Mr. Carey did an excellent job creating tension and suspense in this story. They also created some interesting characters for Nadia and Aidan to interact with in the story.

This story addressed natural disasters and global warming in a unique, interesting, and plausible way. It was a fun and exciting read.

The story held my interest and kept me turning pages, especially in the last third of the book when the tension and suspense were at their peak. Before reaching the end of the book, I found myself hoping there would be another adventure for Nadia and Aidan in the not too distant future, and the ending definitely points to that possibility.

I highly recommend this book, as well as the first “Ravenstone” book, for anyone who enjoys fantasy stories that include time travel, suspense, and adventure. Also, both books are clean reads and are fitting for ages 10 through adult. I would also recommend them as family read alouds.

I give this book 5 stars.

The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain by Diane Solomon & Mark Carey

The Ravenstone is the first of a two-book set of fantasy stories by Diane Solomon and Mark Carey.

About the Book

Aidan and Nadia, thirteen year old twins, find a mysterious mirror while they are supposed to be cleaning out the attic. When the image of an old shaman appears and attempts to communicate with them, they are stunned. Then they find the Ravenstone, and this is the beginning of their adventure to a time and land of Celtic princes and a shapeshifting raven.

My Review

This is a delightful story about twins living in a wonderful home with loving parents. They have a quirky grandmother living nearby as well, and their family history is fascinating and holds a bit of mystery of its own.

Diane Solomon and Mark Carey did an excellent job of creating characters that pull the reader into the story right from the start. Their personal lives and their travel adventures keep the reader turning page after page. The story is very well written and well edited as there are no errors to cause a reader to stumble out of the story even for a moment.

As Nadia and Aidan travel back and forth in time, the reader is often kept on the edge of their seat wondering things like: will they get back to their own home and time; will they be captured; will they find what they are looking for.

The story is clean and acceptable for middle grade and up, and would even make a great family read aloud. It would also be a great gift for your avid reader.

If you like stories with mystery, adventure, and time travel, you’ll enjoy The Ravenstone.

I give this book 5 stars.

As a book reviewer, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Macario’s Scepter by M. J. McGriff

Macario's Scepter: The Magian Series Book One by [MJ McGriff]

Macario’s Scepter by M. J. McGriff is a fantasy novel for young adults and adults. It is the first book in “The Magian Series”.

About the Book

Samara feels stuck in a bar on an island she longs to escape, but she ran to this grubby tavern to escape a broken heart. Now she just wants to get back on a ship and sail away.

The night she plans to leave this tavern for good, the crooked boss steals her money pouch and tosses her out with a message to never come back. Then the man she fell in love with and who broke her heart shows up and offers her a chance at a secret treasure and a chance at revenge — an offer she can’t refuse.

Both Samara and her twin, Seraphina, a nun, end up on the Pirate Baz Blackwater’s ship facing a heap of trouble that includes a determined fire breathing sea serpent, but Samara is the Chosen One — chosen by Macario to wield his magic scepter and save her world.

My Review

In the beginning chapters of the book, the plot seemed rushed and the characters weren’t developed enough for me to determine if I liked them or cared about what happened to them. However, the adventure and action kept me turning pages.

About halfway through the book, the character development became better rounded and I liked the main characters and wanted to see them achieve their goals. The adventure and action continued and the pace of the plot slowed but not so much as to bore me or stop me from turning pages. On the contrary, I enjoyed the action, adventure, struggles, and relationships between the characters.

There was one thing that I found to be a distraction throughout the book — quite frequently a sentence either included an extra word or was missing a word. There were grammatical errors as well, and one scene had quite a mix-up in characters’ points of view.

Other than that, I really did enjoy the story. It was high energy with lots of action, danger, and fighting. After all, it is a fantasy story with pirates. Also, it was clear at the end, that another book will follow, but the end of this book leaves the reader satisfied, instead of ending with a cliff hanger. This greatly pleased me.

I would not suggest this book for children under fourteen or fifteen years of age due to the use of quite a bit of profanity, and one of the fighting scenes, in particular, was a bit graphic.

I give this book 4 stars.

As a book reviewer, I was given a free copy of this book for my honest review.

The Rose Princess by Ivy Hollins

The Rose Princess: A Sleeping Beauty Retelling (Fairy Tales of Parsilon Book 1) by [Ivy  Hollins]

The Rose Princess by Ivy Hollins is the first book in her “Fairy Tales of Parsilon” series. It is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”.

About the Book

Talia is quite happy living her normal village life until one day a strange woman comes to visit. Suddenly Talia’s life is turned upside down and she is whisked away to a castle and betrothed to a Duke. She is told on her next birthday, in just six months, a curse that was placed upon her years ago, will cast her into eternal sleep.

However, she and her betrothed have been having mysterious dreams for years and neither the Duke nor Talia are about to stand still and just let the curse happen. After all, isn’t there a way to stop every curse?

My Review

I have not read very many fairy tale retellings, nor am I a big fan of fairy tales. However, I have read one fairy tale retelling in the past that I found so well done and so unique, I am often willing to read a new fairy tale retelling, looking for a new, unique story.

I must also say that I am not really very familiar with the original fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. Oh, I know she was cursed to eternal sleep and that there was just one way to awaken her and break the curse, but that really is the extent of my knowledge of the story.

As I began to read the pages of The Rose Princess, I found myself spellbound by the story. I could not stop turning the pages. I really liked Talia and wanted her to be set free from the spell.

At first I wasn’t convinced that the Duke was the man for her. I simply wanted her to find a way to break the spell and be free to live her life and seek her own love. However, as the story unfolded, I began to care about the Duke and understand his character better, and so I began cheering for him as well.

Ivy Hollins created many interesting mythological creatures to add to this story, and there is a battle scene that is absolutely spectacular. The transformation of Talia from common village girl to the Rose Princess was wondrous and her sense of justice was wise, and a bit telling. Ms. Hollins definitely put some new spin on a classic fairy tale, much to my delight.

As I read the sentence Talia decreed upon one who fought against Talia’s kingdom, I found it to be the perfect lead into the next book in “The Fairy Tales of Parsilon” series–a retelling of my second favorite of all fairy tales. Therefore upon reading the very last page of The Rose Princess, I immediately did a search for the next book and was delighted to find it. I purchased an ebook copy and look forward to reading it as soon as my schedule allows.

If you like original fairy tales or fairy tale retellings, you will be delighted with The Rose Princess by Ivy Hollins.

I give this book 5 stars.

As a book reviewer, I received an ARC of this book for my honest review.

Final Chance by E. B. Roshan

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Final Chance is the second book in the “Shards of Sevia” series by E. B. Roshan. I also read the first book, Wrong Place, Right Time.

Final Chance is very different than Wrong Place, Right Time. The story setting is the same: the city of Dor and some smaller towns or cities near Dor. The situation also remains the same: trouble between the Tur and Sevian people. There is fighting and killing, but not disturbingly graphic.

About the Book
Preen is a young woman who makes a decision that does not please her family. Then the story jumps ahead a couple years and the unrest and fighting are still happening, and now Preen finds that she is able to smile at her daughter’s cute expressions and behaviors as Preen has begun to put the pieces of her broken heart together again, after the capture and death of her husband, Rama. She even has plans to remarry. Then Rama calls one night. He’s alive! He wants her to return to Dor, a city filled with danger and violence.

My Review
E. B. Roshan is a very talented writer. Her descriptions are rich and paint vivid pictures in the reader’s mind — pictures of people, cities and all environments and surroundings. She uses all five senses.

In addition, it’s obvious that E. B. Roshan has intimate and experiential knowledge of the places and people of her stories. She pulls the reader into her stories in such a complete way, they really feel the character’s feelings and experiences. Her stories and characters are so real.

Page after page I followed Preen through physical danger, emotional turmoil, fear, doubt, and guilt. Several times the story had me on the edge of my seat, and at least once, the story made me shed some tears. When a story moves me and stirs my emotions like this, it is a good story — one that will stay in my memory for a long time to come.

If you haven’t read one of E. B. Roshan’s books, I highly recommend them. And it doesn’t matter if you read Wrong Place, Right Time or Final Chance first because, though they are a series, they can also easily be read as stand-alones.

I look forward to more books by E. B. Roshan.

I give Final Chance by E. B. Roshan 5 stars.

I received an ARC for my honest review of this book.

Soothsayer by Kathryn Amurra

Soothsayer is Kathryn Amurra’s debut novel. It was published in the beginning of May 2020.

About the Book

Soothsayer is set in ancient Rome. Aurelia has always valued love and happiness over titles and power. Her kind father indulged her desire to marry for love, allowing her to turn away suitor after suitor in her pursuit of love. However, when her father dies, she is placed in a predicament that doesn’t allow her the freedom to choose. If she is to protect her mentally challenged brother, she must marry the elderly governor of a nearby province.

Cassius, a Roman centurion, and captain of the governor’s guard, is to escort Aurelia and her unpleasant aunt to the governor’s estate. However, one mishap after another seems to threaten this journey, and soon Cassius finds himself escorting Aurelia alone. Cassius’s only desire is to carry out his duty and keep his heart unaffected by such things as love.

My Review

Soothsayer grabbed my attention from the very beginning and didn’t let go until the very last page. I felt disappointment with every loss and challenge that Aurelia had to face. I understood her distaste for a man a great many years older than she and hoped for another way for her to keep her beloved brother safe. I admired her courage and determination to do what she believed she must do, sacrificing her own dreams.

Cassius, a man of few words, but also a man of honor. A man who could be trusted. Also, a man who had a troubled heart and believed he wouldn’t remain in this world very long. I hoped he would be able to experience what every human needs, but that he felt a need to deny himself.

As I read about the journey of Aurelia and Cassius as their paths crossed and they helped one another, I grew to love these characters and wanted to see them happy by the end of the book.

Kathryn Amurra’s writing is strong. She paints pictures in the reader’s minds, grips their hearts with emotions, and keeps them hoping for the best. This book was so well written and I found no errors, and therefore had nothing to distract me from the story. I related to the internal struggles of the characters, as well as some of their external struggles. I loved the ancient Roman setting, as historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.

This was definitely an exceptional debut novel, and I will be looking for more books from Kathryn Amurra in the future.

I give this book 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book for my honest review.