First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts an Anthology by The Insecure Writer’s Group

My Review of the Anthology:

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts is an anthology of love stories put together by The Insecure Writer’s Support Group and published by Dancing Lemur Press, LLC. As a Book Reviewer, I received a free copy of First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts, and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor any review.

There are ten love stories by ten different writers in this anthology. The writers from this anthology range from this being their first published story to those who have one book published to some who have multiple books published. The contributing authors are: Linda Budzinski, Melissa Maygrove, Katie Klein, Templeton Moss, Sammi Spizziri, Sylvia Ney, Michael Di Gesu, Kim Elliott, Denise Covey, and S. E. White.

The stories range from a variety of genres. They also range from characters in their twenties to their fifties to post-retirement. Each of these stories is unique and each is extremely well written. Each drew me into the story from the start and held my attention throughout. Each story and several characters made a strong impression upon me, from the man with the inability to clearly recall his first love to the young orphan who married a man an entire town hated.

I highly recommend First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts to anyone who truly enjoys and craves good romance stories with a unique plot, endearing characters, or both. I don’t reread novels, no matter how much I love them, because I don’t have time, as I’m always reading new books because there are so many great new books to explore and, of course, in my case, to review. However, because these are short stories—I can read one in half an hour—I look forward to reading the stories in First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts again and again. And don’t ask me which of the ten stories I liked best, because I honestly couldn’t pick just one favorite from the bunch. I truly enjoyed them all because of their high writing quality and unique story lines.

From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar

As a Book Reviewer I received a free ebook copy of From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review. From Fame to Ruin is not Jina S. Bazzar’s first novel, but it is her first New Adult and College Romance novel.

From Fame to Ruin is a novel about two people who meet and fall in love, but Carol wasn’t counting on falling in love. This was just supposed to be a weekend fling – something to take her mind off the problems she had to face and deal with when the weekend was over.

Four years later, Carol is facing another crisis and believes the only person she can turn to is the man she walked away from after a weekend she never forgot.

This novel is written in two different time frames and two different settings. It is written in the two main characters’ Points of View, but there is one chapter written in another character’s Point of View.

From Fame to Ruin is a book about love, betrayal, misunderstanding, and crime. It has romance, danger, and suspense.

The main characters, Carol and Ricardo, are easy to like and care about. Though I found the pacing of the plot a bit slow sometimes and thought the story could have been shorter, I cared enough about the characters to keep reading. When the crime was committed and the criminal became part of the story line, I was definitely hooked and turning pages as I tried to figure out who the criminal was.

Ms. Bazzar writes deep, interesting characters and a very thorough storyline.

I do want to caution my more sensitive readers. This novel contains some profanity and some sexual scenes between unmarried people, though the sexuality is not explicit or detailed.

If you like a complicated storyline that includes suspense, mystery, and romance, you will like From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar. Ms. Bazzar is a talented writer and I give From Fame to Ruin 4 stars.

Riders of Fire and Ice by Brett Salter

Riders of Fire and Ice is the second book in Brett Salter’s “The Talisman Series” and as a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of this book. This is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review of this book.

Rome and Julian return in the second book in “The Talisman Series” with a new adventure. They travel to England to visit Julian’s sister in a very upscale boarding school. Julian’s sister is quite precocious and the boys hope their adventure will keep them too busy to spend too much time with her. While there, they do some research for Mr. Jones and are excited about a couple things they discover. In Riders of Fire and Ice, Rome and Julian also get a couple surprises, as well as face a stronger, darker enemy than they faced in Book One: The Search for Synergy.

Riders of Fire and Ice begins with the same characters, Rome and Julian, preparing for a new adventure. Their banter creates fun in the story and their eagerness for their adventure adds to the excitement of traveling to a new place.

Fun, adventure, surprises, and a dangerous battle fill the pages of Riders of Fire and Ice. In this novel, the talismans are introduced and explained, giving more credence to the boys’ adventures. Again, the end of this adventure is satisfyingly resolved, while promising another book with yet another adventure and more danger and battles for Rome, Julian, Mr. Jones, and a few other characters.

Brett Salter’s talented stories take readers on adventures filled with magic, knights, dragons, and dangerous enemies. Though there are dark creatures and dangerous battles, the darkness nor the battles are ever too intense or graphic for middle grade readers, and older readers will enjoy them as well. These fun, easy reads keep readers turning the pages and eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.

I give Riders of Fire and Ice by Brett Salter 5 stars.

Henry–The Goose Who Loved by Amadeus Vultznick


As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of Henry — The Goose Who Loved by Amadeus Vultznick and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a review nor any review.

Henry–The Goose Who Loved is a unique sweet story of a goose living in a neglected park across the street from an apartment building in a city. Henry does not look like all the other geese. He has a deformed wing and is missing some feathers. The other geese and the few people who visit the park want nothing to do with Henry. Then one day, a boy living in the apartment building wanders over to the park during school break, and he hugs Henry and takes him across the street and plays with him. This continues until one day the boy takes Henry on an adventure. Through interactions with the boy, Henry experiences what it is like to be loved and he is happier than he’s ever been. When the summer comes to an end, Henry experiences another big change in his life.

Henry–The Goose Who Loved by Amadeus Vultznick is a delightful story of what it feels like to be an outcast, to be noticed, to be loved, and more. It is told in first person. However, it is told as though from a narrator’s viewpoint and it could use some edits. The pace of the story is slow and the only conflict is Henry’s internal conflict. Even so, Henry is an endearing character and anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or as though they were alone in the world will be able to relate to Henry in his loneliness and desire to have someone care about him.

Though this book lacks fast action and external conflict, Henry’s struggle, especially in the last third of the book, is very true to life for many people. I expect everyone who reads Henry–The Goose Who Loved by Amadeus Vultznick will be able to relate to Henry due to one situation or another in their own personal life.

Henry–The Goose Who Loved by Amadeus Vultznick is a very touching story, and I encourage anyone looking for an encouraging read to pick it up and read it. Though you may be tempted it to put it down because of the slow pacing, I promise you won’t regret reading through to the end. The end is so rich in emotions and character, it is worth hanging on to the very last page. It is a clean read and is appropriate for all ages, though I suggest it as a read aloud for Pre-K and Kindergarten levels. It would also be a great read aloud for families and could generate some great discussions and an opportunity for parents to teach their children about emotional struggles and feeling left out.

I give Henry–The Goose Who Loved by Amadeus Vultznick 5 stars solely based on the story line and plot.

Army of the Cursed by Karim Soliman

Army of the Cursed (War of the Last Day Book 1) by [Karim Soliman]

Army of the Cursed by Karim Soliman is the first book in his War of the Last Day series. As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of this novel and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review.

Though this is the first book in the War of the Last Day series by Karim Soliman, it is not his first book. He also wrote the Tales of Gorania series, which tell the story of Gorania, the world in which the Army of the Cursed takes place. Army of the Cursed by Karim Soliman is an epic fantasy novel with a complex world, lots of characters, and a battle that could end the human race and destroy Gorania.

Though their are many characters in the story, and all play an important role, three characters are key to the storyline. Leila, who gave up her right to be Crown Princess of Murase because she longed to be a mage and had been studying for it for years; Nardine, the Crown Princess of Bermania, who struggles to get along with her mother, Queen Rona. Nardine hears a rumor that her father was close to finding a weapon against the immortal demons and so begins to try to find out what happened to his unfinished work. Far away in the northlands of Skandivia, Halgrim is told of a lie that changes the path he had planned to take to a path that leads him to war with the Army of the Cursed.

Mr. Soliman did a great job creating a complex world with lots of interesting characters and intertwining their lives. His writing is easy to follow and the plotline is full of intrigue, action, and battles.

The only thing I struggled with was the pacing of the story. I think the plot dragged in the last third of the book and thought the war with the Army of the Cursed could’ve happened sooner and brought the story to its conclusion earlier. However, I liked the world and the characters enough to keep me reading to the end. And, as I have only begun reading fantasy stories in the past couple years, diehard fantasy readers may not have a problem with the pacing of this novel. It is my understanding that epic fantasy novels are lengthy.

I would definitely read the the next book in the War of the Last Day series when it becomes available because I am invested in the lives of the characters, especially Leila and Zahra.

I give Army of the Cursed by Karim Soliman 5 stars because of his talent with building the world and tying the characters from so many places altogether.

Jiving With a Royal by Tomi Tabb

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As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of Jiving With a Royal by Tomi Tabb and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review of this book.

Jiving With a Royal is the second book in the Unexpected Royals series by Tomi Tabb. It is another entertaining, fun, clean romance story. Amanda Collins is Clara Little’s best friend, so when Clara’s fiance’s best friend shows up, Amanda isn’t quite sure how to act. She’s only been following his life, through the media, for years and has had a crush on him just as long. But now, he’s here in the flesh, in her apartment.

Amanda is a delightful character. She loves to cook. She loves Disney World and I Love Lucy. Eddie has never met anyone like her before. His life has been filled with troubles he’s trying to put behind him, and Amanda’s free spirit approach to life intrigues him.

Tomi Tabb is a talented author with a gift for creating delightful, relatable characters. Her stories are well written and I have enjoyed both books in her Unexpected Royals series and continue to look forward to more clean, fun romance stories by Ms. Tabb.

If you are an American who finds the British Royalty fascinating or you just enjoy lighthearted romance stories, you’re sure to love Jiving With a Royal by Tomi Tabb.

I give Jiving With a Royal by Tomi Tabb 5 stars.

The Red Button by Keith Eldred

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As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of The Red Button by Keith Eldred and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review.

The Red Button by Keith Eldred is a unique work of fiction as it is written as a prequel, of sorts, to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Mr. Eldred has written an account of Ebenezer Scrooge’s life that explores his relationship with Belle, prior to becoming the grumpy miser we know from A Christmas Carol.

Mr. Eldred’s story is written in a very similar style as the classic A Christmas Carol, and fans of the original Dickens classic will be delighted to follow Ebenezer Scrooge through his meeting Belle, becoming interested in courting her to their engagement, and, of course, to the ending of the relationship, all while also following an interesting idea of Mr. Scrooge’s business dealings that made him rich. In addition, readers will follow how his line of thinking changes from the beginning of the book to the end of the book, as well as how he enters into a business relationship with Jacob Marley and becomes the grumpy miser, all of which make this book flow easily into the original Dickens classic that has become so known and loved.

Mr. Eldred has included an unlikely character that plays a part in this story, and that is the Red Button. He also created an unusual relationship between Belle and her mother. These two things make the story quite unique, adding Mr. Eldred’s original touch.

I enjoyed reading The Red Button by Keith Eldred, as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens has always been, and still remains, one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time. And I will say, I read The Red Button carefully, as I looked for the connections to the original classic that I felt were important for the book to truly be acceptable to readers, like me, who love Dickens’ original classic, and I was pleased with the connections Mr. Eldred made.

If you are also a fan of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, I encourage you to read The Red Button by Keith Eldred. Mr. Eldred’s story may not include some of the most beloved characters or some lighthearted moments as the Dickens original, but if you like to explore the possibilities of literature’s best known characters’ lives, like Ebenezer Scrooge, I think you will enjoy The Red Button.

I give The Red Button by Keith Eldred 5 stars.

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater is a very unique story. It is Fantasy. It is a Regency Faerie Tale with a bit of satire. I have never read another book quite like it. This book was released on March 29, 2020 and is Olivia Atwater’s debut novel.

The story’s main character is Dora, who has been cursed by a faerie and cannot feel fear, embarrassment, or even happiness. This condition gets her into trouble more often than not until she meets Lord Elias Wilder an outspoken magician, whom most people detest but still invite him to their elegant parties and balls.

This book is very well written. The characters and plot line are well developed and interesting. The story held my interest from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed Dora’s verbal interactions with the other characters, and her interactions with Lord Wilder were unique and delightful.

I fully enjoyed watching Dora discover things about herself that brought her comfort. It was also touching to watch the effect she had upon the other characters throughout the story. The other character’s reactions to Dora evoked many different feelings as I read as well.

The story had some interesting twists and surprises. At times, I found the story reminiscent of a Charles Dickens tale. The story isn’t just an enjoyable, entertaining read. It made me think about people and the way they think, act, react, and treat each other.

After finishing my reading of Half a Soul, I found and read an interview that Ms. Atwater gave to a blogger. In that interview, Ms. Atwater said, “I think a good story either makes you think or else makes you feel. I think a truly fantastic story makes you do both.”

Based on that statement, I have to say that Half a Soul is a truly fantastic story.

This story will be one of my favorites for a long time to come and I look forward to reading more from Olivia Atwater. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, as well as to Fantasy fans, Regency fans, and Dickens’ fans. I rarely take time to reread books because there are always so many new books that keep my To Be Read List always growing, but I think that I should like to revisit this book in the future.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours: A Novel by [Lisa Wingate]

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a story that tells two stories, one from the past, and one from the present and connects the two. It is a historical fiction story.

The historical story line is set in 1939 United States. It tells the fictional story of a family that lives in a shantyboat on the Mississippi River. It’s a sad and tragic tale that, sadly, many people experienced in reality–their children wrenched from their homes and families and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, where they must face many cruelties. I was completely unaware of this orphanage and the cruel woman, Georgia Tann, who was behind it all. It is a heart-wrenching story, and I was appalled at how cruel Georgia Tann could be and how long she got away with destroying the lives of so many innocent children.

The modern day story line was set in Aiken, South Carolina and centered around a well-to-do family involved in politics. The main character in this story line was Avery Stafford, who was set to be married until she meets an elderly lady in a care facility who awakens uncomfortable questions in Avery’s mind and sets her on a journey to uncover her family’s long-hidden past.

The story of the Foss children living in the shantyboat captured my attention right from the start and the children captured my heart. Never having lived near water, learning about their life on the river and the river community was interesting and enjoyable. Ms. Wingate painted pictures in my mind of the Foss family, their neighbors, and their life. The story line of Rill, her parents, and siblings held me captive throughout the book as my heart ached for a happy ending for them.

Avery’s story, on the other hand, took me a while to get caught up in. At first I considered skipping the chapters about Avery to remain immersed in the story of Rill and her siblings, but I didn’t want to miss out on any of the connections between the two stories, so I continued to read about Avery as well. After about the third chapter about Avery, I finally began to be more interested in Avery’s life as well, and so continued to read, both to find out what would happen to Rill and her siblings, as well as how they were connected to Avery’s family.

Before We Were Yours was a slower read for me because it was very different than what I normally read, but it was written in a way that, even though it was slower, I didn’t want to abandon it. I was both appalled and fascinated by the true history of the story and so thankful that orphanages like the Tennessee Children’s Home Society are no longer allowed to function in the United States today. As someone who loves history and loves to learn, I found this book definitely worth reading.

If you are interested in history and enjoy learning about different time periods and the lives of people in those times, I recommend Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, and if you are like me, it will make you laugh and cry, and Rill and her siblings will find a permanent place in your heart.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

Before reading this book, I had heard a lot about it and then it became a movie and I saw previews. Based on what I heard and saw, I formed a presupposition and was afraid this book was going to be a book about race that was going to “bash white people”.

However, being a white woman with adopted black children, I have seen some of the prejudice, heard some of the racist comments, and gotten the “looks”. In all honesty, I also have fears and concerns in regard to the safety and welfare of my children depending on where they go. Also, being one who always does my best to keep an open mind and educates myself on cultural and world issues, I chose to read this book.

The Hate U Give is the debut novel of Angie Thomas and I have to say, it is an amazing story! She obviously knows what it’s like living in a black community as well as a mixed community.

She created such realistic characters and she did an excellent job of showing the struggles they face. She showed the family relationships and dysfunction.

But it wasn’t just a book about “blacks vs. whites”. She also showed how blacks and whites can get along and care about one another. She showed that not ALL people of any one race hate ALL people of another race. She also showed the prejudice some people don’t even realize they have.

Yes, this book is about a horrible issue in our communities — an issue that needs to be resolved. She shows the trauma this issue causes — the heartache and pain, both emotionally and mentally.

This book is powerful and I think it should be read, studied, and discussed. This story broke my heart, but it also showed the love and enjoyment in family and friend relationships in addition to the disagreements and struggles.

This story shows why we need to STOP the HATE and why EVERY LIFE MATTERS!

If you are reading this review, I encourage and challenge you to read this book and take a hard look at how you view the lives of ALL PEOPLE in this world.