Thursday, September 1, 2016

Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Between Worlds', An Interactive Novel by Skip Brittenham.

Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham takes us into an entirely new action packed and interactive work of imagination. Eden Grove seems like a sleepy town, a place to raise children and escape from the stress of larger areas. In the enter of the forest that surrounds it, an aspen grove finds it home. The trees are ancient, and have been a part of the lure of the area, once even claimed to hold a wishing tree. But as the years passed and moved on into the current time, those stories became rumors of old.

Marshall and Mayberry are teenagers, bored and restless at the inadequacy of small town living. They have heard the rumors but know that such talk is not true, yet they yearn for excitement and their chance to be a part of something larger then themselves.  When they decide on a hike into the forest, they suddenly find themselves in a place of importance. As they come to the aspen grove and continue into their hike, they find a tree that appears much older then possible, large and imperious, out of place in a way that seems odd. Wondering if somehow they have found the wishing tree, they determine to make their wishes—just in case.

Sleep overtakes them as they lay against the behemoth tree, and when they awake they find themselves in a world different then their own. Can they be the heroes they dreamed of? What they find is that such magic takes a toll, and danger is a part of this world of mythical creatures. Death is possible and they see first hand that being a hero is more work then they can imagine.  Can they make their way back home before they end up in this new world forever?

Brittenham has given us an alternate reality that is different then those that have come before. His world is full of beauty but also littered with beasts of terrible ferocity. As in most worlds there are good and bad characters, but his small deceptions make is difficult to tell between the two. His descriptions of this world are well thought out, and make you feel as though you are there.

His characters are full of curiosity and bravado, but all the same are teenagers in their old world with all the insecurities that come along with it. He is able to help you feel the connection and you experience their fear and concerns as you your are transported into this strange new world with them. Along with this work comes a free App, that can help you and your young reader view the world even closer. Full of pictures this book is a work of fun and involvement.

If you are looking for a book to entrance your young reader this would be a great find. It is full of mystery, danger, heroic adventure and is tied in with new technology as an added enhancement. This is a tale that holds your attention, and is a great read for both the young adult and the young at heart. I can't wait to see what other adventures Brittenham brings.

Rating 4/5

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sea Spell: Book Four of the WaterFire Saga by Jennifer Donnelly.

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book review: 'Sea Spell: Book Four of the Waterfire Saga," A Young Adult Novel by Jennifer Donnelly.

In Sea Spell: Book Four of the WaterFire Saga by Jennifer Donnelly we are taken back into the world begun in Deep Blue, the beginning, and while Sea Spell is the fourth installment  and a carryover, it is well written and makes sense enough to stand on its own.

Our villain Orfeo has waited for thousands of years and has finally found his descendant, Astrid. A strong and proud mermaid, she will join him in his stronghold but will he be able to persuade her to turn against all she knows and accept her birthright? He only knows that he will do what it takes to bring her into his own way of living or she will suffer the consequences.

While Astrid is struggling for her life and sanity and all she holds dear, Ava, is tracking a talisman in the swamps of the Mississippi. Being blind my be the only thing that keeps her safe in a world where the vision of the spirits that live there are death to mermaids and others that chance upon their domain. They both search for the charms that will help them to win the war.

The rest of their group are in Kargjord, with the other resistance fighters and their helpers, the goblins.

They are  preparing for war, and while Serafina is in the lead, she worries if she will ever see the one she loves again. He has put himself at risk to aid her quest. He is her eyes and ears from the inside of their enemy. With his help can they take on Volneros and save the fate of all that is at stake?  When she learns of a spy and assassin in her group, someone that will betray them at the last moment, she understands she must find the traitor at all costs. She must hold the line while her missing friends look for the talismans necessary to help them win before their world and that of all they hold dear is turned upside down and gone forever. Can she keep continue to trust those closest to her, or is one of them the assassin set to take her down?

Donnelly has built a world that is fascinating and feels almost fairy tale like, but with danger and darkness just a bit bolder than remembered in many of those stories of old. The journeys taken and the dangers visited are strong and make you feel the darkness and dread beneath.  Her characters are strong and exciting, and their friendships are solid and are the glue that binds them. Without this strength of relationship it would be difficult to move forward and the trust engendered is the most important piece of the plan. Yet what happens when trust begins to erode?

If you enjoy epic battles, danger, romance and just plain great characters you will love this work. While this work is the last of the series, you will still find it fascinating, and may want to find the first three of The WaterFire Saga. Solid entertainment for your young reader and for the adult who is young at heart, this would be a great book for both. Donnelly takes us to a fascinating world, full of characters and creatures that are very interesting and keep you reading late into the night.

Rating 5/5

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister And The Heir To Chatsworth by Paula Byrne

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Kick: The True Story of JFK's sister and The Heir To Chatsworth,' a Biography by Paula Byrne.

The Kennedy's are a fascinating family and one that evokes both power and nostalgia. One of the clan that is less known but with a life you could only imagine is Kathleen Kennedy, JFK's sister, and the heir to Chatsworth. Known as Kick she is and remains a women who made her way, taking first the U.S. and then England by storm with her incredible persona.

In Kick: The True Store of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth by Paula Byrne we ware taken into the lives once more of the dynamics and tragedies of a family that will intrigue generations to come, and who have left such and indelible mark on history.

Kick left behind a legacy in two different continents, and was beloved by her family and friends. Finding herself as much, and maybe more, at home in England, she breaks taboo with her family and marries a non Catholic. Love was everything, but Kick was also a Kennedy and proud of her background, the decision rocked her own psyche as well as that of her family back home. Little did she know the man she loved would live such a short life.

Yet we find that Kick continues in her indomitable way, and later finds a passion that even she cannot escape. The story that unfolds holds you immobile as you try to come to terms, as we have had to for so many of this famous and historical family struck by such staggering losses.

Byrne brings us an understanding of one of the lesser known characters, a woman who lived life on her own terms.  Along with this telling we are brought even closer to older brother Joe Jr., as well as the family member most like herself, JFK. There is so much beauty and thought, as well as drama and despair you will find this work very difficult to put down.

If you feel like you know all there is to know about this family, you may find this work to show you the error of your thoughts. If you are as infatuated with the family and their history, then this is a work that will be important to your library. Historical and filled with fact and events as they unfold, you will not be disappointed.

This would be a great book for a book club or reading group. The Kennedy family has always found a way to create interesting debate and discussion.

Rating 5/5

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brain Storm: A Angela Richman, Death Investigator Novel by Elaine Viets

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Brain Storm', A Angela Richman, Death Investigator Novel by Elaine Viets.

Brain Storm by Elaine Viets is a medical and forensics thriller with a twist. Angela Richman is a Death Investigator and the person who is called in when a death occurs, one of the first there to view the scene and decipher all the clues. Her expertise makes her one of the top in her field and she is relied on to help find the truth.

When she is called in to work on a car crash that kills a teenager, she is just getting into the investigation and suddenly her own life takes a strange turn. In the middle of her investigation she suffers a bizarre series of strokes and as she is rushed to the hospital where she is initially misdiagnosed, putting her life and career at risk. Dr. Gravois is the resident neurologist who fist attends her, with his diagnosis causing further possible damage. When she is finally attended by another neurosurgeon, Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt, she is finally diagnosed correctly, but faces a long and painful recovery. The drugs she takes are strong and hinder much of her thinking, but finally there is at least the possibility of recovery.

Yet while she is under the influence of many lifesaving drugs, she is also addled and hallucinating, making her question everything she sees and hears. When Dr. Gravois is murdered, she finds out the chief suspect is the surgeon who saved her life. While she can't be sure, she just does not believe that he would kill anyone. But there are none standing for him, he is not a person who generates friends or closeness, and he has also had many serious disagreements with Dr. Gravois in the past about his work. She feels like she may be his only hope, but her brain trauma makes her question her own instincts and she is not sure she will ever recover her investigative skills. However, she knows she must take a chance, she may be the only one who can find the truth and save Dr. Tritt from death-row.

Yet even as she looks for clues, there are those who make everything she thinks and says suspect. They question her thoughts and feelings, creating doubt even in those that know her the best. Is her mind still able to offer the skill-set to find the answers to what really happened? She must find a way to trust herself and fine tune her arsenal of knowledge before it is too late. Can she get her own team to back her, and get her bosses to buy into her investigation, when they too worry about her mental status.

Viets has brought us a protagonist who goes from the top of her game, to a darkness all her own. She is unwilling to allow her own problems to stand in the way of rightness, and while she may never be back to who she was before the strokes, she is willing to put it all on the line for truth and justice. Her flaws and strength make her very human, and her belief in justice at all costs makes her a strong fighter and someone you want very much to believe in.

If you enjoy crime drama, forensics and even medical drama this work holds just enough of each to keep you riveted. Angela Richman is a great character, one we may be looking forward to in future editions.

This would be a great work for a book club, creating a great deal of discussion.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Blood On The Tracks by Barbara Nickless

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Blood On The Tracks,' A Thriller by Barbara Nickless.

In Blood On The Tracks by Barbara Nickless, We are introduced to Special Agent Sidney Rose Parnell. She is a Railroad crimes Special Investigator, brought in to investigate the murder of a woman who appears to have died at the hands of her fiancĂ©. He is a war vet who lived through serious injuries that scarred him enough that he is known on the rail rider circuit as the Burned Man.  As she begins her investigation she has her own history of war and memories too painful to contemplate.

Parnell and her K9 partner Clyde move into the underground world of the rail riders, those who move from place to place via the railroad. It is a world of danger and savagery, and soon she finds there may be more at work then anyone may know. Uncovering a conspiracy and other crimes that may be linked to it, she finds herself in the middle of danger that puts herself and all she believes in at risk. Can she find the real truth and exonerate a man who has already given so much for his country. His pain and anguish make him stay aloof to her help, but she must find a way to gain his trust in order to help him claim his innocence of the murder of the one woman who believed in him and looked past his surface scarring. A woman who understood him and was ready to marry him. But also a woman who knew a secret that could take down a man in power, one who was willing to risk everything to hide a deadly secret in his own past.

Could Parnell gain The Burned Man's trust and save them both from the savagery of the real truth.

Nickless has given us characters that are both repelling and yet in some cases, decent at heart. She takes us into the danger of those who have nothing and are willing to kill to stay alive, and she makes you feel the fear and desperation in a way that makes you turn on the lights and pull the curtains as you read. She brings us both the Burned Man and Special Agent Sidney Rose Parnell, two of those who have seen war and survived in their own manner. Parnell's K9 partner, Clyde, is just icing on the cake to keep you involved to the very end.

If you enjoy suspense and thrillers then you will want to find this work for your library. It is full of  the suspense that holds you on the edge of your seat, and it also provides a ribbon of bravery and hope with a host of anger and feelings that keep the intensity strong.

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group with a great deal of information that would create robust dialogue and debate.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In The Clearing by Robert Dugoni

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'In The Clearing,' A Thriller by Robert Dugoni.

With the advent of several Television shows, cold cases, or unsolved crimes hold an interest to anyone who enjoys police shows, forensic files and all the other types of police work that is conducted in an investigative manner.

In The Clearing by Robert Dugoni we follow Detective Tracy Crosswhite, a young woman who has dedicated her career to bringing closure to families of crime.

When she is asked to look into a case from forty years previous, she is intrigued. Her father, a detective at that time, was the investigating deputy and collected what evidence he could. A Native American high school girl died and her death was ruled as suicide. Tracy's father though thought otherwise, but was unable to find the proof necessary for justice. Pulling this cold case, Tracy feels that she may have a great start, for she feels she will do well at deciphering her fathers collected evidence.

As she follows the leads and tries to stir the memories of a small town, she finds that secrets hold their own allure. Can she find the answer to the suspicious death, or will she struggle to find the truth behind all the red herrings. Can she find the truth without raising old ghosts the could very well put her own life at risk.

Dugoni has created a stirring and grisly death, locking it up to suicide, even when the evidence shows otherwise. His characters are so real, and the small town atmosphere creates just a bit of credence to the secrecy of those involved. The students and friends of the young woman who died seem reluctant, and a few are dead themselves as we are taken into the darkness of lies and secrets. There are those that will go to great lengths to keep the real story from coming to life. Tracy Crosswhite is a character who keeps you following her logic as she tries to piece her story together, and even as she stumbles,she finds a way to move on.

If you enjoy murder mysteries, thrillers, investigation, and cold cases this would be a terrific work for your library. There is just a bit of darkness and creepy tendrils of fear that run beneath the surface, keeping you looking over your shoulder as you continue your reading. Dugoni has brought us another thriller to had to your collection

This would be a great work for a reading group or book club.

Rating 4/5

Monday, August 15, 2016

Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep by Michael Schulman

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep,' a Biography by Michael Schulman.

Meryl Streep is one of the most talented actors today. Nominated for nineteen Oscars and winning three, she continues to dominate in a field of younger talent.

In Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep by Michael Schulman we learn of Meryl's earlier years as well as the trials and tribulations of her youth coming up in the talent industry. We first meet her in the 70's as a graduate of Yale Drama School. Looking for her place among a crowd of young talent, she seemed a world apart from the many others new on the scene, much like she does today.

Even in her first season she was able to transform herself into the very characters she played, making a name for herself early on. She drew attention where ever she went especially in the theaters, winning back to back attention in plays as well as several roles in Shakespeare in the park, while others were still looking for their own breaks.

People began to notice her and when she was in the room the conversation was often about her, and the way she dominated the scene. Nominated for a Tony Award early in her career, it was obvious to those in the know that she would move on to greater fame.

This is a wonderful look at Meryl Streep as she finds her way and becomes the actress we know her as today.

Schulman takes us into the past and gives us the story of the making of a legend, from her beginnings as a gifted young woman to her exploits, and life as she makes the decisions that have shaped her into the successful actor she is today.

If you enjoy the theater of Meryl Streep this is a must have for your library. If you enjoy stories of success and talent then you will want to add this to your reading list. This is the story of a woman who set her mark early in the industry of her choice and Schulman is gives us a wonderful look at her beginnings and story behind the legend.

Rating 4/5