Saturday, December 31, 2016

Assassin's Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Assassin's Creed: Heresy', A Historical Fiction by Christie Golden.

The history of Joan of Arc has been of interest to those who pursue knowledge in the order of Templar’s as well as the actuality of a woman noted by others to be chosen as God’s warrior. In Assassin’s Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden we are taken into the past in the most interesting of ways. A machine known as the Animus has been developed and tested to help pursue historical facts. Somewhat in the technology of virtual reality, the Animus is able to simulate the past and involve its user as one of the past figures of that history as it unrolls.

Members of the Templars, as well as the Assassins, are both interested in the outcome, but Simon Hathaway, being a member of the Templar Inner Sanctum, he is also the new Head of The Historical Research Division. He is ready to use the Animus and enter the body of his own relative, Gabriel Laxart, who fought with Joan of Arc.

Little does he know just how twisted and deep the intents and interests of both the Templars and the Assassins are in the life and death of this strange and dutiful woman. He finds himself just as fascinated with Joan the woman as he is Joan the warrior as he takes on the persona of Gabriel.

What Simon does not realize is just how deep the feelings go, and how strongly he finds himself looking at the truth. There is such a small space between truth and lies, can he reconcile his own beliefs about the who is really the heretic and who is truly the believer? And can he maintain his life as part of the inner sanctum when others may not want the truth to come out? Has his research put his own life in danger as well as that of the young woman helping him in his search for truth?


Golden gives us characters from history, and she uses both fact and fiction to bring us an in-depth and dangerous look into a world that shapes consequences in the future for those whose lineage is just is mired in heresy and truth as those from the past. In a form of history repeating itself, she adds just a touch of both glory and hatred, that makes its way though in a way that connects you, holding you spellbound.


If you enjoy mystery, historical facts and figures, technology, romance, and danger, you will find this work has it all. Mesmerizing and bold, Christie Golden leaves her mark in a twisted and dark tale of courage and truth.

Rating 5/5
Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Leaving Blythe River', A Coming of Age Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.


Divorce is usually just as difficult on the child or children of a union as it is on the adults. In Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde, we meet Ethan Underwood, a 17-year-old who has been unable to come to terms with his parents divorce. He is small for his age and afraid of almost everything. After his parents divorce he found himself in a situation of danger that left him fearful and very quiet, feeling unable to trust most situations.

He is spending time with his father in his remote cabin in the Wilderness of Blythe River, and while unable to forgive his father for the divorce, he has tried to release his fear and anger but to no avail. When his father disappears and does not return to the cabin, Ethan notifies the rangers, who begin a search.

After some research though they are convinced that his father has left on purpose, to move on to other things, after all, that was why his parents were divorced in the first place. There was always something better, just out of reach.

Once more feeling betrayed, Ethan packs up to return home. Yet something keeps nagging at him. What if he is his fathers last chance at life? What if his father is out in the wilderness hoping and waiting for rescue and no one comes? Ethan knows that he should go home, but now he is unable to move forward.

With the help of some locals, an elderly widow, a pack guide, and a limited outdoors-man, he heads into the woods. Punishing cold and weather meet them on their journey but with the help of his new friends, he finds he learns to trust his instincts. With the punishing weather, Ethan wonders if he has set himself and his new friends up for failure and untimely death.


The decision is his, and when he finely realizes that it is his search, he turns his thoughts to what matters most. And as he continues the final phase of his search, he realizes that his discovery is about more then just finding his father, but in coming to terms with his anger and forgiving his father if he can only find him.

Hyde has given us the pain encountered in the break up of families, and the coming of age of a young man who has to find a way out of his own feeling of betrayal. The characters are an eclectic mix, and each has a strength of character that is lacking in Ethan. As they move further into danger, Ethan grows, and evolves, finding a pride he never knew existed. The dangerous and heartwarming story holds you captivated as the search winds down to the conclusion.

If you enjoy tales of courage and strength, as well as romance and friendships, you will find this is where you need to be. Hyde takes you on a steamroller ride of emotion as she fleshes out a story of redemption.


This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group. It hold a great deal of debatable material.

Rating 4/5

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mercury by Margot Livesey

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Mercury,' A Novel by Margot Livesey.

Obsession, betrayal, and jealousy set the stage for Mercury by Margot Livesey. Donald and Vivian have found a life many dream of. Donald is busy in his practice of Ophthalmology but after the children are born Don gives up his surgery, focusing instead on exams and vision correction.

He moves to the countryside with his family. One of Vivian’s passions is riding yet when her children are born, she gives up the idea of a career in riding. After moving, her friend Claudia set her up to train new riders, moving her back into the field she loves. While most of her family including Donald are not big fans of horses, she needs an outlet, and riding is her love.

Mercury, belongs to the mother of one of her worst students. Mercury is a 5-year old Thoroughbred and the owner wants to board him at Wendy Hill, Viv’s place of work. The animal had belonged to the new owner’s brother and she had no where to keep him. She agreed for Vivian to ride and keep Mercury exercised, but even from the beginning, she seemed jealous of the animal, relating some of the stories her brother told her, as he declined in health.

He worried constantly about the horse, and often felt someone was following him, and even riding the animal without permission. He began to act in secretive ways, and he changed, leaving his family to worry endlessly. For Hilary, his new owner, Mercury spelled trouble, but was also a connection to the past and the brother she loved.
Vivian could see the merits of Mercury and didn’t really believe that anyone else could make him as successful as she herself could. What began as a love of a gorgeous and talented horse, became more. She found herself constantly checking up on him, she was ignoring her other chores and the other animals she cared for began to suffer. When it was brought to her attention, she realized that she had allowed herself to become obsessed, and backed herself and her emotions down, spending more time to take care of the other horses, and work harder on training her students.

Yet somehow Mercury had gotten into her soul, and she can’t stop obsessing. Hilary and Claudia are both concerned as Vivian continues to worry. Much like Hilary’s brother she began to feel that someone was trying to harm Mercury. In her concern she decides that she must act on her own. No one else understands the danger.

As Vivian’s obsession explodes, she researches and finds a gun, for protection. Lying to her family and her friends she set traps for an intruder hoping she can she find the answers before it is too late? Why can no one understand her fears? Will she go too far in her search for truth?

Livesey takes you deep into the darkness of obsession, and gives us a glimpse of what can occur. Her characters are an eclectic mix, and as they are drawn together into a tangled group, creating friendships and relationships, not one of them sees the undercurrent of danger that will pull them in.
They each are very likable, and you find yourself wondering why there seems to be such an energy around this mysterious horse. Yet you too begin to wonder, is there truly something amiss? Will anyone’s life ever be the same?

If you enjoy mystery you will find this work remarkable. If you are interested in horses, and the interaction of people, this is a find that will satisfy your craving. But be prepared to be surprised, for Livesey takes you on a journey of twisting and winding happenings, where you begin question your own thoughts.

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

Rating 3/5

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Outliers,' A Novel of Suspense by Kimberly McCreight.

Every individual has differences, whether it is inherent in birth, learning though life or even just different thought processes, it is ultimately those differences that make us human.

In The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight We meet friends Wylie and Cassie. Close since childhood they communicate frequently and are always there for each other.  Wylie has not heard from Cassie since their last fight, and in true Wylie fashion she decides it is up to her to save Cassie from herself.

Cassie is missing and texts some very confusing messages to Wylie. Instead of letting her know where she is, Cassie sends clues. Confused and worried Wylie is further thrown off kilter by the presence of Jasper, an on again, off again friend of Cassie's.  Jasper says that Cassie wants him to take her to rescue her, and with all the evidence of Cassie's texts, Wylie has to turn off her gut instinct to help find Cassie and save her from whatever danger she has gotten herself into.

Yet as Wylie and Jasper are led farther into the wood of Maine, Wylie senses that something is really wrong. What is going on with Cassie, and what is she not telling them. The danger and secrecy seem palpable, and Wylie begins to fear for Cassie's life. Why is Cassie being held, and can they get to her in time to save her?

Wylie soon understands that finding Cassie isn't the real story, and that she must look into her own past to find the truths of the danger they now find themselves in. Can she trust the knowledge of what she is hearing, and can they find a way to escape with their lives. There is something about her and Cassie that make them a danger to others, and they must escape before their life is forfeit.

McCreight takes us into a strange and fascinating adventure where the differences of a certain percent of the population makes them dangerous and a threat to the others plans and ideas. She brings us characters with both flaw and strengths creating those you come to care about. The mystery involved and the danger shadowing the chase is palpable, and heady. The lack of knowledge of the true situation keeps you on the edge of your seat as the story plays out, keeping you guessing at each turn.

If you enjoy thrillers and suspense you will find this work to be one for your library. With just a touch of science, and a group of characters not afraid to deliver, you will find yourself guessing the real danger to the very end.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sisters One, Two Three by Nancy Star

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Sisters One, Two, Three,' a Literary Novel by Nancy Star.

In Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star, we are taken into the lives of the Tangle family. An accident during a visit at Martha's Vineyard creates a secrecy the family is unable to escape. As youngsters the children were very close. Mimi, Ginger and Callie's lives changes dramatically that day on the coast when their younger brother dies in a sand tunnel.

Glory their mother begins the secrecy, separating the girls off and on, never really giving any reasons or excuses. Glory lives a life of fantasy herself, drama and acting are the things she loves and often it overshadows her family. Not long after the trauma of their brothers death, Callie too disappears from their life.  With no explanation or understanding, they move on only to soon release the thought of even having another sister.

Mimi is struggling in her own life now as an adult, and has become more of a caregiver to Glory. Her own family is unaware of the lies that remain below the surface, and her daughter is acting out her own aggression.

Life is difficult and when Glory passes away, the lies and secrets come undone with the return of Callie. After all the distances and hurt can they become a family again? The only thing holding them back is understanding the truth of what really happened that day at Martha's Vineyard.

Star has given us a story of tragedy, sadness, confusion, and redemption. The characters are a wonderful mix of people, each with differing characteristics you can find among your own friends. Glory is delightful to those around her, except her children who feel the neglect and confusion of her stories.

Mimi seems to be the most damaged from the past, and her instincts are to maintain control at all costs. This has driven a wedge in her family, but only because she has no idea of who she really is. The advent of Callie helps to solidify her life, and you are then taken back to a day that changed the lives of all the characters and why.

If you enjoy human interest, secrets, family, and endearing stories, you will find this one you need for your library. The story unfolds involving you in each step, making it difficult to put down. Star has given us an exceptional work of fiction.

This would be a great work for a reading or book group, with discussion and debate to ponder for hours.

Rating 5/5

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