Sunday, April 17, 2016

Journey To Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Journey To Munich,' A Historical Novel by Jacqueline Winspear.

In Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear, after a long self-reflecting journey Maisie Dobbs has found a form of peace with her loss. The pain still lingers at the death of her husband and the aftermath, but she is finally able to move forward and reconnect with those who have stood by her in her time of solitude. Yet her friends are not the only ones looking for something from her.

The Secret Service needs her to pretend to be the family member of an important British subject imprisoned in Germany.The Germans have agreed to release him to his daughter, who unbeknownst to them is gravely ill. Maisie must become this daughter in order to receive and deliver him to the British authorities.

Yet they are not only ones who need her help. The man she holds the responsible for her husband’s death is now also in need of her services. His is of a more personal level, one that makes it almost more than she can bear. Can she put her feelings behind her and once more find her way to help someone in need.

Her own life has been turned upside down.  Both her own problems and the war-torn craziness that is now infecting the whole of the continent threaten to derail her from her path.  Can she find a way to be the person she once was, and help to extricate an older man from the grips of tyranny as well as overcome her reluctance to help an old enemy?

Winspear continues with her heroine, Maisie Dobbs, and take us deep into the heart of Germany as it prepares and begins the atrocities against others that linger in the thoughts of many even to this day. She sprinkles the stories with the bits of history that have occurred and makes you feel as though you are there with Maisie as she faces the dangers of a regime that seems out of control. You feel her hurt and her fears as she carefully balances the challenges that come against her.

If you enjoy historical fiction, as well as mystery and spy novels you will enjoy this and want to add it to your library. Maisie is a great character and you will want to go back and find her other adventures as you come to the end of this one. The history and storyline is intriguing and enthralling, keeping you reading late into the night.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Gone Again by James Grippando

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Gone Again,' A Novel by James Grippando

In Gone Again by James Grippando, we are taken on a journey of fear and doubt. When Sashi Burgette vanished several years previously on her way to school, her family was shocked. Later the same evening when the police pick up Dylan Kyle for drunk driving, they found a piece of her clothing in his truck. His explanation proves unbelievable and he suddenly found himself the only suspect in her murder.  With his execution set for just days away, Jack Swyteck , a pro bono lawyer from the Freedom institute is pulled into the case.

Sashi’s mother has contacted him. She is convinced that her daughter is alive, she has just heard from her again, and she wants to make sure an innocent man is not killed.  She has gone to the police over the years but they feel that the calls she has received, one each birthday, is a mean hoax. The state attorney will not consider further evidence and the governor has signed the death warrant. Sashi’s mom is worried than an innocent man may be executed, unless Dylan’s attorneys can find Sashi–alive.

What Jack finds is that nothing is what it appears. Not her parents, the victim, or even the alleged killer himself. Can he find the answers to his concerns before it is too late? Finding the truth appears even more difficult than finding the missing girl.

Grippando takes us on a journey into the court system at a breakneck speed. With only days before an execution, his protagonist has very little time to find the answers. He creates a scenario that is both elusive and yet visual and he fill the pages with characters that range in solid and believable to creepy and desperate. Through it all the clock is ticking ever closer to an execution so there is a tenseness that overrides all, keeping you at the edge of your seat.

If you enjoy murder mystery, courtroom drama, and fast action you will find this to be a great addition to your library. Grippando takes us on a wild ride, with ups and downs, red herrings and a sense of dread as we follow the clues to a seemingly hopeless situation.

This would be a great work for a reading or discussion group with nuances that would create a great deal of dialogue and thought.

Rating 4/5

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Practical Navigator by Stephen Metcalfe

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: "The Practical Navigator,' A Novel by Stephen Metcalfe.

In The Practical Navigator by Stephen Metcalfe, we follow the life of Michael Hodge, a contractor in Southern California.  He is currently single and raising his son, a wonderful child challenged with autism. Michael shares a special bond with Jamie; they have each other as they work on the kinks of moving forward. When his estranged wife comes back to the scene, he isn’t sure what she is looking for. Her motives seem mysterious. Does she want to get back together? Or is she trying to get back into Jamie’s life to be the mother he remembers.

Michael has to put his own life on hold as he struggles to find the best answer.  Can he let her back into their lives for a second chance or will this just open up his son’s life to one more form of hurt?

For Michael, the timing is not the greatest. He has just met a woman and on the verge of beginning a relationship that he thought might be leading him back to love. But his love for his son is all prevailing and he puts his own feelings on hold to try and understand how he feels about the woman who abandoned them years earlier. Jaime is open to receiving her and her love one more time. Is this a situation that will be the best, or just another hurdle in their lives?

This is a strong, emotional look at the relationship between a father and his son. It delves deep into the meaning of family and what love is really all about. Can Michael do what is necessary and right for his son, and still find a life that is best for them both?

Metcalfe takes us to a place that is sometimes uncomfortable. But he does is with grace and panache. The lives of those on the spectrum are difficult for the family as well as the child. Yet he shows us the love and respect that is required to keep them safe, and the relationships he develops in his characters will have you cheering, and at times overwhelmed. But the love feels so real and the story is enchanting.

If you enjoy romance and love, heartfelt stories that have meaning and stories of inner courage, you will want this work for your library. Metcalfe’s adult debut work is certainly inspiring.

This would be a wonderful work for a reading or discussion group.

Rating 5/5

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

So Close To Home by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O'Leary

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'So Close To Home', a Historical Novel by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O'Leary.

The interesting thing about history is that there is so much information that we don’t always hear it all.
In So Close to Home by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O’Leary, we are taken back into the atrocities and danger of World War II, but in a world much closer then you can imagine.  We have heard and read a great deal about the ground and navigational wars on land and water on a different continent, one that kept those at home safe from the actual death and destruction, but there was another front that is often unmentioned.


This is a True Story of An American Family’s fight for Survival from a U-boat Attack during Work War II.

Ray and Ina Downs along with eight year old Sonny and eleven year old Lucille have followed the money to hold their family together. Moving from Texas and leaving their oldest son with his grandparents, they head down to South America to make some good money to help them through tough times. When the job unexpectedly ends they load up their belongings and their children on a ship for home. Little do they know that German U-boats have infiltrated the waters of the gulf, and have begun shooting upon ships many of them domestic and with no affiliation to the ongoing war.

Yet the war was one of terror, and how better to strike at a behemoth of a country if not from their own waterways, causing crisis and terror in an effort to get them to back down.

Ray and Ina are not notified of the possible dangers, and the ship and crew do not believe they are at risk, so when two torpedoes hit the ship, explosions and chaos abound. Ina and Lucille are separated from Ray and Sonny, and then Ina and Lucille become separated from each other as well.

This is the true story of a family as they find themselves in a struggle for their lives against sharks, freezing, drowning and surviving the dangers found on the ocean.

This is a wonderful story of survival and how a family showed strength and agility far beyond what is expected to survive and find each other in the aftermath of such danger. It also takes us to the time in history where our very shores were challenged.  Germany was able to come into our back yards in a way that was difficult to foretell, and unbelievable in scope. It further tells the tale of the U.S. rout of the subs and the clearing of enemies from our waterways to once again bring safety to the home front.

If you are a History buff or are interested in war stories, this is one that strikes much closer to home then imagined. If you enjoy stories of courage and perseverance you will find this work mesmerizing.

This would be a great work for a reading or discussion group. The entire situation would create a great deal of interest and dialogue.

Rating 5/5

Monday, April 4, 2016

Where We Fall by Rochelle B. Weinstein

Posted first on blog critics as Book Review: 'Where We Fall', A Novel by Rochelle B. Weinstein.

The secrets we hold often determine our lives, but the truth is often hard to find. In Where We Fall by Rochelle B. Weinstein, we are introduced to a family that on the outside seems to have it all. Abby Holden has everything she always wanted, a lovely daughter and a loving husband. Her husband Ryan is an excellent high-school football coach. He can encourage and push his team to victory, but for some reason he is unable to make his wife, Abby, happy.

She struggles with depression, dark, heavy and overwhelming, often leaving her unable to even get out of bed. It has marred their marriage and takes a toll on their daughter. Unsure where to start his journey Ryan begins to lose faith. This is not how life was to be lived; they all grew up together when life was much simpler.

Lauren Sheppard, another friend has spent her life documenting the beauty of the world through photography.  Avoiding her home town, her work has now brought her back into the fold. Suddenly these three once inseparable friends find themselves together again.  Lauren and Ryan once dated and Abby and Lauren were the best of friends. The three of them did everything together. Ryan wonders where it all went wrong.

Life continues and lies have no hold when love, hurt, and the eddying of life pull at the heart.  Suddenly a secret that has torn them apart may be the very thing that heals them all.

Weinstein has given us a wonderful tale of life and its distractions. She gives us characters that are both flawed and yet lovable, capable of great things including healing. She takes us deep into the heart of depression and the undertow of how that affects both friends and family alike. You will find yourself affected to the very core by the depth of her work.

If you enjoy literary drama, romance, relationships, and family, you will find this a great addition to your family. A work that initially seems overwhelming that will take you to the depths and then lift you up to the light of love; you will find it difficult to put it down.

This would be a great book for a book club or reading group. Depression and the hurt it creates would be a great topic for debate.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The good Liar by Nicholas Searle

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Good Liar' A Novel of Suspense by Nicholas Searle.

In The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle, Roy is a con-man finding and hooking up with elderly women on dating websites. He is calculating and cold, with a charm that just touches the surface as he finds the woman he is looking for. When he finds the one woman who is his ideal, and though he understands that Estelle is not her real name for purposes of the dating game, once he meets her, he realizes that she has all the qualities that he is looking for. She is refined; she has money and most of all she seems to be easy to be around. For him this is a snap, he has done this all before, and he is ready for his new game. He is not finding it as easy as he once did when he was younger.

She, on the other hand is no fool, but she is ready to take a stance. She is lonely and finds him to be attractive and attentive. Once she realizes that he is the man she is looking for they become closer and she reveals her name is really Betty. She also introduces him to her son, Stephen. She seems quite close to him and he seems very protective of her. Roy knows that it will be a challenge to get what he is after, but knows the rewards outweigh the risks.

After moving in together, Betty wonders if she has made the right decision. Stephen is not pleased, but he must be made to understand that her relationship with Ray is all for the best. For Ray, his life is both what he expects but some odd things are happening. Not sure he understands, he knows in his heart that he will get a big payload at the end of this con. But Betty seems different, yet he can’t quite put his finger on it. He will certainly miss her, but he is all about the con, and this will be a good one.
Can Betty find her way to understand the real man behind the mask, or has she known all along and just willing to put up with him for the sake of her loneliness?

Searle has given us characters that you either adore, or just hate. They are so real that you find you have a stake in the outcome, but be prepared for he has also given twists and turns and red herrings that change the game at each juncture. He gives us a great deal of history as well without us really even realizing it as his steady pace holds you enthralled and he keeps you wondering how the story will play out.


If you enjoy mystery, suspense and thrillers with history as part of the background this will be a great addition to your library. If you are looking for a strong protagonist, both Ray and Betty fit the bill in this strange, psychological work by Searle. This is his debut novel, so look out for more of his work in the future.

Rating 5/5

Monday, March 21, 2016

Violent Crimes by Phillip Margolin

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Violent Crimes, A Amanda Jaffe Novel by Phillip Margolin.

In Violent Crimes by Phillip Margolin, Amanda Jaffe is hired to represent the son of a senior partner at a large Oregon law firm. The son, Brandon, was seen by a witness leaving the scene of the crime where the body of his father was severely and fatally beaten, and his clothes were covered in blood.

While it seems like an open and shut case, the stakes are high as Brandon’s father, Dale Masterson, represented the interests of both oil and coal. Brandon is an activist and has become disenchanted to the point of serious quarrels with his father over the damage being created by drilling. Brandon confesses to the killing, but Amanda does not see him as the perpetrator. His physique and his mentality do not seem to fit the profile. Brandon confesses to murdering his father in revenge for all the people whose lives have been destroyed by his shortsighted backing of his clients.

After speaking with him and trying to assess the situation, she believes he may be martyring himself. Yet if he is innocent then who is the killer? And does the crime also tie in to Masterson’s colleague, Christine Larson, who is found dead in her offices? A lower level employee has been tagged for her murder but are the two murders related, they worked for the same firm and knew each other.

As Jaffe digs for answers she finds more than she bargained for. Digging deeper, even at the risk of her life, she must find the answers to this vicious murder. As danger becomes her enemy and she begins to understand the real truth, can she make the decision that is necessary to put the murderer behind bars?

Margolin finds the stories that seem to often accompany the headlines and brings them into stark relief. His protagonist, Amanda Jaffe, is just the right mix of bravado, softness and smarts. She is easy to like and you find yourself digging with her to find the answers. She goes beyond what is expected of her job, but she takes the life of her clients very seriously, and she will do everything she can to make sure justice finds the way.

If mystery, suspense and courtroom drama are to your liking this is an excellent addition to your book shelf. Margolin gives us a character to admire in Amanda Jaffe, and you will find yourself looking for his other works with her in the central role.


This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group. The question of ethics is always up for debate.

Rating 4/5