Category: ~Ressa’s Reviews~ and Recommendations

I give Stephen Hise‘s Upgrade a 4.5 Star Review!


This e-book came to me as a freebie, and along with many others I received around the same time, I filed it under “read and review soon,” then forgot about it. I tend to do that–forget everything all the time. Lucky for me, I made my list for just that reason so I could check it occasionally and read a couple of them while I’m at it. I am sooo glad I finally did!

Upgrade begins with a man who has it all; social status, money, brains … oh, but wait! He’s not good looking by any measure. As he does every day, Brent Schoenfeld gazes out his second-floor office window to watch all the people milling around at lunchtime on the sidewalks. And, as he does every day, he notices the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen; a stunning blonde with sexy legs wearing a tasteful, yet enticing red dress. If only… but he’ll never be so lucky.

Out of desperation to be noticed and maybe even turn a few heads, Brent goes to a doctor who promises a procedure that will be life-changing. No scalpel, sutures, recovery–sounds like the perfect way to become attractive. The doctor explains how everything will work, and how beauty such as the kind he is seeking is merely a state of mind, so to speak. He goes on to describe how a tweaking of asymmetries in the face can trick one’s mind into seeing a person in a wholly different way.

Of course, Brent begins to rethink his decision. He is paying this overly confidant doctor a million dollars, after all. The entire thing just doesn’t sound like it’ll actually ‘change’ anything, therefore, how could it make a difference? How will he ever be one of the desired people he’s always longed to be? Brent decides to give himself over to the slightest chance. It couldn’t make things worse, could it?

After women obviously begin to notice and even flirt with Brent, he figures his cool million was a wise investment. He had left the doctor’s office extremely skeptical when he awoke from the procedure, only to see himself in the mirror exactly the same as he had been beforehand. The good doctor assured him there would be significant changes in his life, and that people would see him as attractive now. He was right.

The whole dating scene is new to him since he’d never been a good-looking man, so he does what every other red-blooded man would; he goes out. A lot. He even does a few one-night stands enjoying this new lifestyle, and how women are falling all over themselves just to spend a little time with him. As for that hot blonde? He even ends up spending time with her, and he couldn’t have been more happy.

You know how they say power can ruin people? Well, it can and it does. I’m not giving away any more of Stephen Hise‘s fabulous story, because you need to get yourself a copy and read it. I was shocked at the ending! I’ve read many books that end in a great cliffhanger or just a well thought-out ending, but this one will blow your mind!

Upgrade isn’t a terribly long read, but the impact it’s had on me is immense! Stephen Hise is one of the most articulate writers I’ve ever had to opportunity of reading, so pay attention or you might not understand some of the doctor speak. I found myself thinking he could be right, and wow! The brain truly does work in bizarre ways!

While you’re online buying a copy of Upgrade, you should also swing by a very informative website where Stephen is a full-time contributor. All the people there do a wonderful job keeping the site going with posts that I’ve found to be insightful and helpful.

Happy Reading!


I give Unplugged (A Portrait of a Rock Star), by J.P. Grider a 5-Star Review!!

J.P. Grider‘s writing style as well as her character and story-line development are amazing! As her characters came alive right away, it was easy to click with each one, and that’s not always an easy accomplishment for a writer. I believe J.P. Grider is another up and coming author who will go the distance, and I for one, cannot wait to read more of her works! It’s not often that I re-read any book, but I have already read Unplugged twice, it’s that addictive and I just can’t get enough! I’m sure I’ll read it more in the future!

Tagg Holland is a washed-up, self-destructive, retired Rock Star. He feels that the tragic events of one fateful night are his fault, and he carries the burden heavily on his shoulders, alone. After he quits his band, Holland, Tagg goes into seclusion to grieve and drown his guilt in booze and drugs, and he feels it only fair after the tragedy he thinks he caused.

He allows himself to pack on the pounds, lets his once-gorgeous hair grow ratty and not appealing in the least, and grows an excessive amount of truly unattractive facial hair. Why? Because, even though he doesn’t get out much, when he does, he has absolutely no desire to be recognized as the once-hot Tagg Holland, former Rock Star. And, because that would be too easy; it would allow him to get on with the business of living again. It might also force him to cease his reclusive ways and actually look forward to something. Anything…

His dad pushes for Tagg and the band to reunite and go back out into the world again, to live. But he doesn’t want that because he feels he is one of the most undeserving screw-ups in the world. That is, until his mom decides to put her foot down and gives him little choice in the matter of cleaning up his act. Little does anyone realize at the time, but that just may happen, in the literal sense.

When a petite young woman with huge, familiar brown-eyes shows up on his doorstep informing him that she will be his personal fitness trainer, things begin to change. Emotions, feelings, and things Tagg never wanted to deal with again seemingly begin to look like real possibilities. Ones that may just be feasible, if only he would open up and be more accepting. As things start to take a new shape in his life, he begins to realize the self-imposed, lifelong guilt he was not willing to give up, might be ready to give him up…

Eventually, Tagg comes to see that he’s been missing out, letting life pass him by. And even though he never thought it was possible, he feels a powerful longing to live again. To love again. To just be again.

This is an awesome read and if I keep going, I’ll tell you the whole story. What fun would that be? Exactly, lol. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever given up, or even toyed with the idea. And to those of you who love to watch people bloom, to feel their emotions come alive, and to see the character’s lives take a huge turn that will have you laughing, crying, and rooting for an HEA for Tagg Holland; washed-up, has-been Rock Star.

Will he reunite his old band? Will he ever give his heart permission to open up and love again? You’ll have to buy a copy of Unplugged (A Portrait of a Rock Star), by J.P. Grider, to find out! You won’t regret it, this is an awesome book!

Normally I say, “I give Energy, by M.J. Schutte a 5 Star Rating!!” In this case, however, I must amend that to, “M.J. Schutte’s – Energy – commands a 5-Star Rating!!” Because it was effortless to score his work. 



I won this amazing e-book by simply ‘liking’ M.J.’s Facebook Page, apparently I was one of the right numbers. You can’t beat a free read, moreover, you can’t beat one that was as intriguing, unique and original as Energy.

It’s rather lengthy, but worth every moment spent reading this suspenseful story. M.J. Schutte’s imagination not only blows me away, but also tells me he will only grow better with time.

If you’re an avid reader, you know that today’s average novel is rather long, or at least longer than your traditional trade paperback novel. You’ll find M.J. Schutte’s novel is somewhere between three and four full-length novels. Additionally, if you’re a ‘speed-reader’ – as am I – you will be pleasantly surprised that Energy’s suspense and ease of flow will only take two to four days to get through, as long as you’re not interrupted often.

M.J. has cleverly created an amazing world where many people known as the Dark Ones, have a type of magical powers. I’ll not go into details or post spoilers, as that is not my style. I’d rather save that for you, the reader, so every fascinating tidbit is a surprise for you as it was for me. But, I will do my best to explain what I can…

Brighton, an extraordinarily large and strong young man, and his beautiful, petite childhood friend, Lillian, fell in love without realizing it while growing up as playmates. When tragedy strikes and young Lillian disappears, and after losing other loved ones, Brighton sets out to find his ‘Lily.’ When he’s told that she’s dead, he settles with an older, motherly-like woman to make a new life for himself in a new, remote place.

Little does he know, his Lily lives, and their journey to reunite will bring you tears of joy. He discovers there are some at work who only want to see to his well-being and happiness, and aid he and Lily as they only wish to be together and live out their lives in peace and quiet. But, it never is that easy, is it?

After realizing his own powers, Brighton embarks on a mission to end the heavy-handed rule of the Dark Ones, who have controlled everyone and everything for thousands of years. Many people support him hoping they also can finally live in peace, but it’s not that easy as there are many bad guys (and gals) who want him dead once they find out he could be more powerful than anyone to ever exist.

Not all the good guys (and gals) survive, and neither do all the bad ones, but the journey to dissolve the old and unwanted ways becomes ugly and tiring. Only Brighton can make that happen, though, and along the way he also finds that – just like the Dark Ones – power can consume and destroy even one with the best of intentions.

I highly recommend you follow this captivating journey where you will find love, hate, happiness, heartbreak, old lives ending, new lives beginning, and much, much more in Energy. As it is such a lengthy novel, I’m finding it difficult to give it due justice in a mere few words. The only way to really understand and fall in love with it, as I did, is to buy a copy of M.J. Schutte’s Energy for yourself. You’ll be happy you did!



If you’re looking for a reviewer (other than myself ) as I know very well how imperative it is that we get as many great reviews as possible, please  take a moment to check out Readers Retreat. You’ll also find Reader Sites, Facebook Pages for Readers, Book Review Sites, (I’m in this list) and Reader Forums.

There are also links to buy certain novels, including Charity works – I think this is of the utmost importance – where the more who get involved, the better. You’ll also find many other useful and helpful goodies. 😀

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I give Monique O’Connor James‘ novel, Jamais Vu – I’m not sure how it’s pronounced 🙂 – a 5-Star Rating!! 

I read Monique’s The Keepers a while back, and knew then that I would alway enjoy all of her works. I wasn’t wrong. The novel, Jamais Vu, did not disappoint and was even better than The Keepers. I must say, of all the books I’ve read – that would be a LOT – this is the only one I’ve ever read that I did not find a single typo. Not that I’m looking for them, but my OCD seems to somehow magnetically drawn them out.

She already was a great writer, but I feel her character and story-line developments, along with her writing style have progressed even more so. I truly feel she could become one of the ‘big dogs,’ so to speak.

About the novel; Jamais Vu begins on a tragic note, but quickly veers off in a different and riveting direction when Monique’s female lead, Darby, has a near-death experience. But, she is quickly sent back from ‘the light’ after being told there was more for her to do before her time was up. Reluctantly, even though she has no choice, Darby reenters her body, her existence and the life she wasn’t all that thrilled to get back to…

Plagued by nightmares that don’t make any sense, Darby tries to figure out what it all means. She sees a therapist and finally opens up to him, as she’s not allowed to discuss the ‘incident’ with her family; Mom, Dad and Sister would all rather live in a make-believe world where nothing bad ever happened. Finally talking about everything is helpful, but it still doesn’t bring her closer to any answers, in fact, the nightmares get worse.

In them, she sees people who will die and is able to warn (won’t say who or how many) certain – but not all – people hoping to save them from a horrible fate. Even with that ability, it’s not always enough as fate has a mind of its own. Darby feels useless and hates when she has to sleep, knowing she’ll have to face the demons, tortures and other horrid things when she does.

There’s one specific man she continually dreams about who’s always smiling on the outside, yet she knows his hidden secrets and that he has his own demons to fight. When she finally meets him, Kasey, at a local club where he’s a singer in a band where she lives, the two are instantly drawn to each other. Fight it as they may, whatever force wants them together is determined to win.

We all know the saying, “It’s a small world,” and that sentiment couldn’t be truer for Darby when Kasey introduces her to his fellow-band-mates and others in their lives. She’s relieved to be meeting others who understand her own personal hell, and hopefully help shed some light on what she’s going through involving her nightmares.

Some people aren’t always who or what they seem, nor are they all bad, but they’re not all good, either. Now, it’s up to Darby to figure out which is which, and what to do if she’s going to help any of the people in her nightmares; those tagged for death. It’s also up to her to decide if she wants to live life to the fullest, chance her heart, and maybe even find love for herself.

I could recite the whole tale, but what fun would that be? 😀 Suffice it to say; you need to get yourself a copy of this amazing, wonderfully written novel and read it to see why it’s now one of my personal favorites. You won’t regret it! Now, I’m highly anticipating Déjà Vu, Monique’s next installment in this fabulous tale!

 Please click here to see my awesome interview conducted by my friend and fellow writer, Samantha Combs. What a wonderful and positive personality she has, and so generous, too! Check it out, comment if you will, and please let us know what you thought of the interview. While you’re there please take a look around to see her other interviews, and check out everything else she has to offer on her blog… 

Bored and need new reading material? Check out Samantha Combs‘ debut novel; I know she’d be thrilled if you took a gander at Spellbound (on, or went to Astraea Press to get your own copy of her book. When you’re done with that, hop on over and visit her Facebook Fan Page!

Thank you and enjoy!

I give Death: Living To Talk About It by Brian M. Hayden a 5-star review!

An intimate, poignant, and at times, humorous, in-depth look into the real life of an extraordinary man who has struggled his whole life with various health problems. Please indulge me for a moment, if you will. Can you try to imagine: Going along your merry way in life, then suddenly you have a heart attack in your thirties? I can’t, but Brian Hayden did.

Reading his book was a huge eye-opener, as well as one of the most engaging reads I’ve ever come across. He starts out explaining life as a child, in the times where smoking and drinking were not only accepted, but habits most adults partook in. I, too, grew up witnessing this behavior, although I still thank God that my own Mama never did drink or smoke. My Dad? Well, he did. Now? He’s on oxygen, has COPD and a few other serious health problems, not to mention issues caused by his drinking, which he still does. It is a very sad state of affairs, and one that touches many more lives than the one indulging will ever know.

Brian ends his book in the current time, where every day is still a struggle just to stay alive. He has lived quite a life, all the while managing, or trying to manage his various health conditions, which are too numerous to list here. Brian’s adult life started in our U.S. Military, serving his country just as so many had to back then, and still do now.

He also makes it very clear that he does not blame the U.S. Military for his smoking and drinking ways, but he does explain how easily one can fall prey to such bad habits in that setting. We’ve all seen the movies about war times, or just the military in general, where most of the people smoke and drink. In fact, they even make it look ‘cool,’ or ‘sexy,’ or who knows what, but they make it look good. I can’t imagine actually living it, and being able to walk away. There’s always been peer-pressure, and person does have pride, after all

Nowadays, if you drink, most people don’t have much to say since usually, at the very least, they, themselves are ‘weekend drinkers’ or something to that effect. But, if you’re a smoker?? OMG! You are the scum of the Earth. It’s your fault. Doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is, it’s simply your fault. And there’s absolutely no way you’re truly a productive member of society. Wanna know a lil secret? Most of those ‘weekend drinkers’ are also ‘closet smokers’ who think there’s no harm in lighting up only when they drink. And they drink often! Not only on weekend! Here is where I digress. This isn’t about me, this is about Brian’s wonderful writing talent, his life of being an overachiever, and his astounding words.

I don’t remember how many, but Brian really did ‘die’ several times in his life, yet he’s still kickin’ and out of the many things I love about him, I’d have to say his humor is the best. I laughed. I cried, I cursed. I wanted to throw things a few times. But not at Brian. No, never at Brian. He’s lived his life as a standup man. He’s served his country where so many won’t even try. He married his young sweetheart, who I must say, is simply Brian’s Angel come to Earth to watch over and care for him. Let’s face it, he does need taking care of from time to time…

What a strong personality! Such a lust for life! I cannot comprehend how Brian was able to continue living his life the way he did, having one health problem after another for so many years! Most would have simply given up many years ago. I have nothing but respect for this man who has more compassion than most, and has even touched my own life.

There are, as I’ve mentioned, drinkers, and there are smokers in my family, and they are all now required to read Death: Living To Talk About It! And no, there will be no exceptions. I feel it is that important, and if people can’t learn and take away from this book ways to educate themselves and possibly even prolong their own lives, well then, they won’t learn it anywhere.

I want to personally thank Brian M. Hayden for writing and sending this book to me. I am truly praying and hoping it will be a lifeline, of sorts, to some of my own loved ones.

I struggled with writing this review. How do you sum up a man’s life with mere words? I’m still not sure, but this is my best effort. I hope it’s enough to persuade others to get out there, or online, and BUY A COPY OF DEATH: LIVING TO TALK ABOUT. I cannot do this book any further justice, you will have to read it to understand my words.

You will not regret buying and reading Brian Hayden‘s book.  

Please click on the various links to find Brian’s website, blog, Facebook Fan Page and the Amazon page to purchase your own copy this amazing book!

Besides giving Tamed by a Highlander by Paula Quinn a 5-Star review, all I can say is: OH. MY. GOODNESS!

Having read all of her other Highlander books, I absolutely HAD to read her follow up series: Children of the Mist. I guess that means I have all kinds of other things to say about it now, don’t I? *smiles*

Going back a couple years, I fell in love with Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn. And still, to this day it is one of my all-time-favorite books. The dark, brooding Callum MacGregor was a force of nature all on his own. This new spinoff series takes place years later picking up in the lives of the now-grown-children from the original Highlander series.

Tamed by a Highlander is about Callum’s daughter; the extremely feisty, opinionated, knows-how-to-kick-ass, Mairi MacGregor. As lethal and dangerous as she is beautiful, she takes a stand along side one of her brothers, Colin, and joins their militia to fight for the rights of all Highlanders; freedom to practice their chosen religion.

All the books in the original and this series are based around factual events from the political wars in the Seventeenth Century, England and Scotland being the backdrop for most of the adventures. This book, however, takes place strictly in England where Mairi has gone on a covert mission to dig up information on her cause’s enemies. And, happens to run into the man who stole, then later broke her young heart seven years prior.

Enter Captain Connor Grant: Once a handsome, loving boy, Connor has turned into an irresistible, muscular, golden god and try as she might, Mairi cannot stop thinking about the ‘what would have beens,’ had he not left her seven years ago. They grew up together at their home on Skye, in the Highlands of Scotland, a birthplace of which she could not be prouder. After giving herself to him in every way at the ripe young age of fifteen, he left shortly after to join the king’s army in England. Being cousin to the king left him no choice in the matter.

Even though Connor tried for years to get her to join him and move to England, she refused and hated him for breaking her young heart and betraying their beloved Scotland, or so that’s how she saw it. It’s hard to continue hating him though, after seeing the man he’s turned into and realizing he had always loved her, even when she thought he hadn’t. He didn’t betray his country, he had no choice. If only she could have realized that sooner, they would not have wasted seven years of their lives being miserable and apart from each other.

Connor knows her mettle, knows her ire, knows she will not be told what do, or what not to do, and loves every bit of her fiery Highland temper. But, when her life is in danger by the company she keeps while trying to get information on her enemies, and avoid him, he decides to take matters into his own hands. As well as her body… A man can only resist the love of his life for so long. Likewise, a woman can only resist the love of her life, and a delectable man like Connor – even if he is a rake – for so long, too.

It doesn’t take long for the pair to finally give in to their passion for one another, as well as trying to protect and keep the other alive from enemies bent on seeing them both dead. Their somewhat tenuous relationship is all the more steamy when they do come together. Every single time. But, will that be enough to keep them together, to keep their rekindled love alive? Will he ever leave the king’s army, leave England and return with her to their true home on Skye? Or, will she give in and stay with him in England, even though she hates it?

I recommend not only this book, but the entire series to anyone who has a passion for love, country, hearth, home and of course, the Highlands of Scotland. You won’t regret buying and reading this Highlander series by Paula Quinn!

I Give Spartan Heart, Part One AND Spartan Heart Part Two by Kristine Cheney both 5-Star Reviews!

 If I could go higher than 5-stars, I would! I utterly loved these novels from start to finish! As Part Two is an extension of Part One, I’m doing my review for both novels as one review.

**Spoiler Alert** Thrust back into her old life, Evangeline returns home after the tragic death of both her parents. Having left home and country to attend Princeton University in New Jersey, she never planned on returning to England. Evangeline starts out blaming herself for not being there for her parents, leaving her feeling guilty about that and other parts of her life.

The Greco-Roman museum her family established decades ago, which her parents had been running for many years, is only a small portion of what she faces after the funeral. All the figureheads on the museum-board are decidedly against letting Evangeline take over and be in charge of the inner workings of the museum. Because she’s so young and was away for so long, they assume she has no interest in any of it. Are they correct, or are they being presumptuous?

Feeling sorry for herself, she goes out with her old best-friend to let her hair down for the evening. Upon returning home, she feels a pull to enter the private passageway that attaches the family mansion to the museum. After entering the dark, dusty storage room in the museum basement, she becomes sentimental and realizes that maybe she did miss this part of her life, after all.

Discovering an old Greek statue, she marvels at the perfect condition it’s in and puzzles over what look to be scars; a strange thing to depict in a statue. Knowing her history, she surmises that the statue appears to be from the time of Hero-King Leonidas Agiad. After some mental calculations, Evangeline decides this statue must represent Leonidas’ younger brother, the handsome Prince Dorieus Agiad.

Her thoughts still in turmoil and the effects of the alcohol from the night lingering, Evangeline has a silly moment of weakness and kisses the statue. Little does she know, that silly kiss frees the Spartan prince from the evil oracle, Demona’s curse. Suddenly, Tall Dark and Hunky, a sexy, mysterious man with emerald-green-eyes and large, bulging muscles is at her every turn. Tall Dark and Hunky seemingly never eats or sleeps, and always knows what she’s thinking and feeling.

Unable to resist being around him or stop thinking about him, Evangeline has no clue he was the Greek statue. The story unfolds into a very well told, hotter than hot love story for the ages. Even after Dorieus reveals his true identity to Evangeline, and the fact that he’s immortal, the relationship continues to grow and strengthen.

I absolutely adored the characters, loved the story line, and could not stop reading Spartan Heart until I was done!

Spartan Heart, Part Two picks up where Part One leaves off, taking the readers on an adventure to find and free the other warriors who were also cursed and frozen into statues by the same wicked-evil Demona. Dorieus, Evangeline and a few friends travel to the battleground where he and his warriors fell trying to reclaim Heraclea Minoa, now known as Sicily.

Plots for revenge by disgruntled foes threaten the mortality of Dorieus and his fellow-warriors as they fight time, the elements, and evil itself to unearth and bring his warriors back to life. He forces the women to leave the dig-site and retreat to their hotel for the night once a viscous storm erupts. He was never more relieved or thankful for the strength and depth of the connection he and Evangeline shared, till she instinctively knows to return, insisting something has gone horribly wrong.

Being in the fragile ‘condition’ she is now, awaiting the birth of their first child, Evangeline understands but doesn’t always agree with Dorieus’ overprotectiveness regarding the well-being of her and their unborn. He finds that she’s much stronger than he ever thought she could be, even though he’d already thought her stronger than most, even for a mere mortal.

I could go on all day about Spartan Heart Part Two, a wonderful, wild, action-packed, dramatic-romance, but where’s the fun in that? It’s a necessity that you buy and read these books, especially if you’re a fan of Greek Mythology, romance, adventure, the paranormal, mystery, wild-rides, and much more.

Spartan Heart Part Two is quite a bit longer then Part One, and even more so than Part One, it’s full of one exciting event after another. Kristine Cheney’s imagination and account of history is amazing as she tells this sizzling love story, mingled with plenty of action, drama, grief, happiness, every emotion possible, as well as other crazy life-events.

I cannot wait for her next installment. I don’t know for sure that there will be more, but I can’t imagine it not being so. This is a story that could live on in many novels to come. Spartan Heart Part One, and Spartan Heart Part Two are definitely two books for the keeper-shelf! I already know I’ll be reading them repeatedly! I’m looking forward to reading Kristine Cheney‘s other works! 

I Give Bridleton by Becky Barker 4-Star Review!


**Spoiler Alert** This story is about the man and woman who fall head over heels in love with each other at an early age. The one who moves away to start a career and a new life never wants to look back. The one left behind is almost always that ‘never-changing’ type, remaining in the same place literally and metaphorically, left to wonder what they did wrong, and if their love will ever return.

Andrea, the Ugly Duckling who turned Swan, moves away from the family ranch in Texas to follow in her mother’s footsteps by pursuing a modeling career.

Noah, the man she leaves behind, has moved into the family homestead to help manage and run the ranch, as financial circumstances have the family’s Legacy looking extremely grim.

When Aunt Nanna, Andrea’s great-aunt who helped raise her, calls her and her siblings home, Andrea is furious that Noah is not only living there, but running everything. After a short meeting with her aunt – and Noah – she comes to the conclusion Noah is trying to take advantage of her now elderly aunt. Nanna let’s Andrea know that either she’ll sell the controlling portion of the ranch to Noah, making him the majority partner. Or, she and her siblings could step up and help save the ranch.

Things slowly change as Andrea realizes Noah isn’t being greedy, but he actually cares about Nanna and the ranch. He’s been working sixteen-hour days performing the hard physical-labor chores since she left five years prior. Finally, she and her siblings come together to help save the ranch, and the family’s Legacy.

Between Noah’s stubbornness and Andrea’s hardheadedness, will the two ever be able to let bygones be bygones and stop fighting their still-sizzling attraction to one another? You’ll have to get a copy of Bridleton by Becky Barker to find out.

This is a well written, quick read, classic love story. I look forward to reading more of Becky Barker‘s works!

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