Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen

Article first published as Book Review: The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen on Blogcritics.

The story of the Romanov’s has been one that draws fascination and rumors. From the possible life of Anastasia, to their colorful yet brutal history, the stories fade in and out of history. Many remain fascinated even now with this Royal family of Imperial Russia.

In The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen, we learn more about the years and treachery, the color and pageantry, and the sadness and despair of this family that continues to bring questions and still hold many enthralled. With a deft pen and a deep and interesting look into the history following the family, Mossanen takes you back in time, building a story of love and passion, with a twist of belief and a bit of myth. I have never really understood the fascination with the imperial family of Russia, yet I now find myself just as interested and wondering as the most adept of seekers. How did all this happen? Did the Romanov’s really just not understand the seriousness of the times, or was the advice they received not reliable?

Mossanen has given us the character of Darya, through whose eyes we view the mysteries and enchantments of the times. As caregiver to Alexei, she puts her charge above everything else in her life including that of her love. After the fall of the Romanovs, she is still convinced her Alexei has survived against all odds, and she makes it her life’s work to find the heir to the Russian throne and return royal blood to an imperial Russia.

The characters are an amazing array, with the Royal family themselves, the mysterious Rasputin, and then there is Darya, an enigma who is full of passion, and just a bit of danger and magic. The descriptions and story are moving and exciting, and yet forlorn and sad. The action is thrilling and yet horrifying. A real history tied in with myth and mystery, it is hard to find a time to put the book down. You will find yourself enthralled with the history of a family that just did not seem to see beyond themselves, or understand the hysteria of the time. Their life continues to evoke interest, and their deaths to create questions. Many questions seem to remain unanswered and open to interpretation even today.

Darya is a character full of mystery herself, and fits well within the parameters of the differences evinced within the family. She is mysterious and beautiful and yet shrouded in mystery. Her life wends throughout the story adding a darkness and mythical cadence, a richness just a bit more sublime. The love and care of the family and all who are a part is heartfelt and creates a genuine feel that makes you long to know more.

I would recommend this book to the history buff, or the fantasy fan. If you enjoy romance, intrigue, history and a bit of fantasy, this is the work that will take you there. With an eye to detail and a strong bit of history, you will be sucked into a story that holds you to the finish.

This would be a great book for a reading club or discussion group. The history is real and the characters are true to life and quite imperial. This is a must have for your library.

Rating 5/5
This book was received as an ARC through the publicist. All opinions are my own based on my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, December 19, 2011

One Voice Too Many by Paul Martin Midden

Article first published as Book Review:One Voice Too Many by Paul Martin Midden on Blogcritics.

The outside of the package, does not always reveal the maelstrom of storms revealed within. We will not always see the real person behind the fa├žade; we can only find the real person by their actions.

In One Voice Too Many by Paul Martin Midden, we follow the life of Jeremy Walker, an average citizen who works as a carpenter. He makes the money he needs to get by and for the most part enjoys what he does. He has been married, and had even found the love of his life in Annie. When she is killed in an accident, Jeremy believes his life will stop. It takes time for him to heal, and all the time he does not truly believe that will happen. And yet it does. In an unintentional accident at his work place, he meets a woman named Macy, and finds himself at once attracted to her. She has a teen daughter, which initially concerns him, but they seem to get along just great.

Working though the difficulties that seem to lie between two people becoming a family, Jeremy finds he is in love with Macy. He also has great affection for her daughter. As their relationship progresses, he finds himself out of his element when it comes to her family, but even that seems to come together, especially after he and Marcy become married.

Initially everything is wonderful, but Jeremy begins to feel strange, and his mind makes disturbing jumps. His thoughts are unsettling, and he begins to pull away from the family he has built. Losing interest in the things that brought them together, the thoughts just do not stop, he feels the urge to move on his thoughts and feelings, and begins to think he needs help. He alternates between concern and excitement, and decides he is not ready to worry yet. Can they make it as a family? Will Jeremy succeed in keeping his new family together?

Midden has written characters both real and interesting. The interaction of differences and the family dynamics are well told and quite believable. Jeremy is a bit introverted, and you find yourself rooting for him to find the love he so obviously needs. Midden’s concept of his mental character though keeps you worried. Can he pull himself thorough and have the life he needs?

Macy and Taylor, her daughter, have a good life as well. They are close and have the average relations ship of a girl becoming a woman. The have love and laughter, closeness and arguments, the regular life we often see. Macy is divorced and ready to move on as well. Part of her choice will depend on how any new man in her life reacts with Taylor. To her is it paramount, and the primary decision maker or breaker. So it is with a heart of gladness, when Taylor and Jeremy become close. Yet Taylor is the first to sense the danger. She struggles with her feeling from her heart intercepting the feelings from her head.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy interesting characters, and how life often changes the inner character of a person. There is a bit of creepiness and hope. You are drawn to the characters, and their insecurities make them more human. This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group. It deals with many of the social issues of the day and how stress can affect even the most sturdy of souls.

Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

The Directionless Son of Brain by Saurabh Sharma

Life deals with morals and conscience, the directions we take often lead us further than we plan, yet each element that occurs to change that direction also has a place in the decisons made in life. Crossroads are placed for a purpose, taking a chance can lead you to your hearts desire.

In The Directionless Son of Brain by Saurabh Sharma, we travel through the land of thoughts and morals. We follow the journey of Mind, the Son of Brain as he takes a trip to find some direction in his life. With the advice of Wisdom and the encouragement of Consciousness, Mind is ready and has agreed to keep a journal of his travels. Not sure where to start he begins his journey just as direcionless as his life. When he finds a place with a man at the gate, he asks where he is. Finding himself at the City of Orphans, he determines he would like to stay awhile. But that is impossible without the approval of Mr. Hunger and Miss Poverty. He sets about getting their aproval, and once Misfortune allows him in he is welcomed by the children. His time is short so he must learn all he can to find his direction.

As he moves through the process of time and place he finds those that can create crossroads, where he must make his choices in life. The different people he meets all are a part of the facninting journey he makes to give him his direction in life. He meets Religion, Logic and Practicality to name a few. Will this journey help him to find the direction he so badly needs?

I found the story to be both fun and interesting, taking the life of a young man on a journey to find himself. Using all those parts that create the whole of an individual was very perceptive, and the lessons learned were quite exceptional.

Written like a fable and set with morals and direction, I enjoyed the story immensly. The grammer could use a bit of help but the the story and its progress was fun. The ending of the story was engenious with the reading of the journal, it was both thought provoking and unique.

Rating 4/5

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, December 12, 2011

King of Paine by Larry Kahn

Article first published as Book Review: King of Paine by Larry Kahn on Blogcritics.

The internet offers a cloak of invisibility, a chance to be someone you are not. But the cloak doesn’t really offer the safety of anonymity. It only hides the bearer for a short time, and the consequences of being de-cloaked are often much worse than one would think.

In King of Paine by Larry Kahn, we are taken into the back stages of internet chat rooms, in an effort to find a killer. Frank Paine is not just a newbie FBI agent; he is also an ex-Hollywood actor, and a man with a dark and secret past. When he finds himself dragged back into the games of his past, by a stalker who seems quite aware of his indiscretions from his recent and erotic past, Paine must find a way to delve into the darkness one more time, in an effort to snare a killer.

Knowing he must find forgiveness from the only woman he has ever loved, Frank is unnerved when he finds that she is a suspect. Can he prove her innocence? In an effort to solve the crime before anyone else is murdered, Frank must develop some trust in his new job. Sharing a bit of his past with one of the agents, Frank is able to set up a chat to lure the killer out of hiding. When his agent friend is killed in Frank’s apartment, while Frank is in the other room, he realizes he is now in the killers sights. As he continues to look for ways to assure Jolynn’s innocence, she too is dragged into the dangerous game of cat and mouse. Can he save her before it is too late, or is she truly the killer after all?

Kahn has written a thriller with teeth. His characters are quite jaded and yet also very likable. They have their flaws as well as their dark side. Kahn delves into the internet chat rooms like a pro and drags you along for the ride. Frank Paine is a strong character, yet he has to prove himself to the very people he works with. Having made mistakes in his life, he understands why his credibility is not as strong as he would like it. Known for his acting, his new job puts him at a disadvantage with those who have a more realistic past. Having been instrumental in his own girlfriends down fall and down word slide from the business, he struggles to find his way back into her life. He is charismatic and dangerous with a rebelliousness that draws you in.

Jolynn is a beautiful and sassy counterpart, smart but very angry and hurt at Frank’s lack of action when she needed him the most. The heat between them sizzles and her knack of internet game playing brings her into the picture in a way that becomes very dangerous. When all clues begin to point at Jolynn and her past, Frank finds himself trying to direct the traffic. Is she the killer or the target of the killer? Frank must find the answers before it is too late.

Within and weaved throughout the book are issues that are also twisted into the work, those that deal with death and dignity. There is a story behind the story and yet entwined, twisting the reader in directions unimagined.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy a good thriller. Be prepared for vicarious and sexual game playing and role playing. The forays into the internet are well thought out and just a bit creepy, and the thrill of the chase is what draws you in. Technology and medicine set the backdrop to this work, and the context of meaning leaves you wondering. Kahn as done an excellent job with red herrings, and the twists and machinations of the killer send you in directions you never see coming.

Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Her Sights by Robin Perini

Article first published as Book Review: In Her Sights by Robin Perini on Blogcritics.

What happens in our lives often defines us. Whether is it disastrous, or momentous, it gives us a platform to launch the person we want to see. Or we allow ourselves to dwell on the negatives and never really realize who we have become.

In Her Sights by Robin Perini, is a story of strength of character. Jasmine Parker is a SWAT sharpshooter. One of the few females in this line, she is both bold and steady, known as one of the best in the business. There are those in the department who do not agree with the assignment, and are willing to do what it takes to bring her down. It does not help that Jasmine (Jazz) has a secret that is unknown to those she works with. A secret from her past that has the ability to destroy the life she has spent so much time to build. Unable to share her secret with anyone, she even turned away the one man in her life she truly loved.

Luke Montgomery is an ex-Army Ranger, who has now become an investigative reporter. Jazz’s life begins to fall apart when she is credited with saving the governor’s daughter, and Luke splashes her face and the story across the news. Unknowingly he has brought back someone in Jazz’s background that seems to be seeking vengeance. As she works to maintain her distance and fight her feelings for Luke, she struggles to find the answers as those who once relied on her, now begin to turn their back. As bodies begin piling up, can Jazz save herself and her hard fought career? Can she learn to trust Luke with her secrets or will his expose destroy her in this torrid house of cards? When Luke’s brother is injured in a SWAT gone bad, he will stop at nothing to save his family, even at the expense of the woman he loves.

Perini has given us a strong and likable female lead. Stubborn and bold she has been driven by a secret from her youth. Building and defining her abilities, she becomes one of the best at what she does. But the job does not harden her, she still maintains her feelings and flaws, and she is still hurt easily by the things that occur around her. Struggling to find closeness with her team, she is still an unknown and is sometimes rebuffed. When the team turns on her after the injury of a fellow officer, she continues to try and close that gap; they are some of the only family she has.

Luke is a strong and charismatic character. There is a hurt he is trying to overcome after one of his articles created an unexpected death of a friend. He has not been able to get Jazz out of his system and the heat between them is palpable. Trying to find why Jazz is being targeted both by the department, and a killer, he finds himself deep in the middle of a secret he does not know. The more he tries to find the further Jazz pulls away.

Perini has giving us a mix of thriller and romance, one that is hard to put down. Her protagonist is dark and carries a taint of anger and betrayal to the core. The story is well written, and the pace is excellent. The knowledge of the author on both guns and shooting is well defined and creates realism to the piece.

I would recommend this book to both those that enjoy thrillers, as well as the romance buffs. There is strength in both areas of the work that plays together, pulling you into the story. This would be a great book for a reading group, it brings in police procedure, SWAT, romance and how people change and grow as they determine their own fate in life.

Rating 4/5

This book was received as an ARC. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Please Help Me Lift Something Heavy. Thank you! by Dr. Rick Gelinas

Article first published as Book Review:Please Help Me Lift Something Heavy. Thank You! by Dr. Rick Galinas on Blogcritics.

Often things happen in our lives that change us forever. Sometimes those things are good things, but just as often they are devastating. How you choose to handle the situation comes from who you are inside, or who you choose to be.

In Please Help Me Lift Something Heavy. Thank You! by Dr. Rick Gelinas, you are given an opportunity to see how one such amazing person handles his own situations, both good and bad. Taking his own perspective and helping you as the reader, find another way of finding something worthwhile in everything that happens it is not surprising that you find humor in each of his tales. These are true events in the life of the author, often sad or interesting, but just as often surprising. I found the book to have come at a great time for me as well, as terrible news always seems to find a way to slide into your life during the holidays. Gelinas’ personal stories lifted me out of the most dreadful despair, by making me look for the blessings. That is not always an easy thing, but the humor and the “just the facts mam” attitude gives you a deeper insight into how generous and tenacious are the souls of those who choose to look at the brightness, and not the gloom.

The title refers to some incidents in his life, and yet it also pertains to the overall character of the work. Asking for help is such an easy task, and yet many never ask, or back down after a few shutdowns. You have to admire a person who is not afraid to ask for help when needed, it is a wonderful characteristic to have, not easy for most.

The Stores are interesting, and the life of Gelinas is open to inspection. That too is not always an easy maneuver. The work is full of anecdotes and asides and gives you a new perspective of optimism. The book set into 33 different short stories, which makes it a wonderful read for traveling, waiting, or just when you really need a lift. Gelinas is involved in so much charitable work and the proceeds from his works are used in those efforts. Known for his efforts with Little Acorns Children & Family Programs, inc., he has also launched an ancillary program for needy veterans called Books For Boots. He is a man with a heart, and credits much of his success to his wife Linda.

I would recommend this book for its intrinsic values, but also for the interest and understanding of a strong and charismatic individual. The work is both uplifting and valuable to those most in need. If you are looking for a lift, and a different way to look at life you will enjoy this work. Gelinas has made decisions that were difficult and often wrong but through it all he maintained that spirit of giving. His words and thoughts are uplifting and humorous as well. There is something for everyone, sadness, laughter and love. Take a chance to look at the world though a different set of eyes. What could it hurt?

Rating 5/5

This book was received as an ARC. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Chasing The Red Car by Ellen Ruderman

Article first published as Book Review:Chasing The Red Car by Ellen Ruderman on Blogcritics.

We often hear the old adage that history often repeats itself. Occasionally, when threats against the nation happen, like those of the atomic bomb or later the 9/11 tragedy, we see parallels in how these situations are handled, that can be construed in such a way.

Ellen Ruderman has given us a novel of a young woman coming of age during the McCarthy age, when fear of atomic weapons and communism was uppermost in everyone’s minds. In Chasing the Red Car, Ruderman allows us a picture of a time when many freedoms were put to the test, and many accusations were leveled against different groups, especially many of those from the Hollywood crowd, as well as those in academics. We follow Kim Lebow as her family moves from New York and on to the San Fernando Valley, through the turmoil’s of a time that affected the lives of many. Through her upbringing with an outspoken father, and throughout her years and the grief she encounters throughout these times, we watch a young woman expand and grow into a woman strong with political understanding and heavy into education.

Kim seems to have a knack of finding those who believe in her, and who hold thier beliefs close. Life was difficult and Kim had more than her fair share of vicissitudes. We follow her through love and loss, and her own pursuits throughout the years, and she maintains her focus throughout. Ruderman also draws parallels with the policies and practices put in place after 9/11, focusing again on executive power and how some of the happenings mirrored earlier years. This is a well-written, and emotional work that draws you into the lives of those most affected.

Ruderman does a wonderful job of creating characters of honor and standing. They have both their strengths and their flaws, and you come to care about them through her prose. She captured much of what we have heard and seen during the McCarthy era, the meetings and trials of the times. We see much of the devastation that happens to the families accused, even with no proof. Jobs were lost to suspicions, and many lives were changed.

She continues with her story bringing it up to the more recent present with her character continuing to grow and evolve within the political arena. She draws the correlation of power between the then and now, and the concerns and lives of families again affected.

If you like history and are interested in this period of time when upheaval was the order of the day, you will enjoy this work. The history is interesting and the story makes it all more personal. This would be a great book for a reading club, with a look at a view from the outside from a young girl’s point of view.

This is an in-depth look at the politics of the times, and how different lives were affected in different ways, depending on your beliefs.

Rating 4/5

This book was received as a free copy. All opinions are my own based off my understanding of the material.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Enter to win and Review:Secrets of the Magic Ring by Karen McQuestion

Article first published as Book Review:Secrets of the Magic Ring by Karen McQuestion on Blogcritics.

Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. One lucky person will be winning a copy of Secrets of the Magic Ring and Celia and the Fairies, given away by Karen. If you have already entered in the teaser drawing, great, entering again here will put your name in the drawing twice. Good luck, the Drawing will be held on December 4th. Don't forget to leave your email, so Karen can reach the lucky winner.

In a heartfelt time of year when the magic of Christmas is upon us, a dose of fun and fairies seems just the thing to add to a child’s holiday list.

In Secrets of the Magic Ring by Karen McQuestion, we are drawn into the mysteries of fairies along with their abilities and reason for being–at least in this part of the woods. When Paul’s rich Aunt Vicky decides to renew her relationship with her sister, she used her wealth to have a new pool built in their yard. Paul is overcome with joy. His friends Celia and Alex will be able to spend more time with him in the summer and after school. Watching the work on the site is almost exciting as the pool itself. One day after the workers have gone, Paul sees something in the hole. Knowing he shouldn’t, he nonetheless decides to use a ladder and retrieve it. Getting the item out of the dirt is difficult but Paul perseveres. As he pulls it loose, he falls to the bottom of the hole.

Scurrying back up the ladder with his prize, he is surprised to find a stranger, a boy waiting at the top of the ladder. Reaching out, he demands that Paul turn the treasure over to him. Paul refuses, and while somewhat startled he feels better when his dog chases the intruder away.

Having to find a place to inspect his treasure in secret is a challenge, but when he finally opens the box, he is mesmerized. Inside he finds a ring. Trying it on, he finds it fits perfectly. Trying a different finger, he finds it fit perfectly there as well. The note in the box with the ring says he will get one wish. It must be a wise wish, not selfish. Excited, Paul does not realize the scope of the trouble coming his way, but the fairies are very well aware of this ring. Used wrongly in the past the wishes often create a great deal of trouble for those who use it. When the ring makes its way from person to person in his family, they are in for a strange and mysterious set of happenings. Only with the help of the fairies can they begin to set right the wrongs that are even now in place.

This is a charming, well-told story, sure to enchant your young reader. The characters are fun and interesting. The children are like those we all know; they have their joys and concerns, and get into trouble as often as they can. Each fairy is assigned a family they watch over. When the ring shows up again after having been lost for so many years, they try to come up with a plan that will make everything right.

Having an imagination and reaching out to capture the attention of those young at heart everywhere, McQuestion has given us a tale full of creativity and kindness.

If you are looking for that special gift for the young reader in your life, look no further. A follow up to Celia and the Fairies, this work stands on its own. This is a marvelous story to peak the imagination, and offer a few morals.

This would be a great book for your child’s library, a classic fairy tale full of friendship and caring. This tale finds a way to bring families together in a way that is both charming and fun.

Rating 5/5

This book was rreceived free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the information.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Eden Prescription by Ethan Evers

Article first published as Book Review:The Eden Prescription by Ethan Evers on Blogcritics.

Finding a cure for cancer is often in the news. New progress, new research, and new discoveries are written about periodically, looking for that elusive cure. What would happen if a cure were found? Would there be different companies trying to hide the information, for the sake of the ever important money involved?

In The Eden Prescription by Ethan Evers, we follow the research of Dr. Elliott Liddell as he works to formulate a cocktail to eradicate cancer, which involves numerous natural supplements. Both elusive and secretive, the doctor works for a company called Mitogenica. They are in the running for a go ahead from the FDA for a release of new drugs that have done well in trial test groups. Or have they? In the game of who will be the first to release a drug that will create billions of dollars in revenue, there are always those who will cheat to win.

Dr. Elliot does not trust anyone; he knows the game better than anyone suspects. He understands the greed and the machinations of those involved. He has been secretly working with Annika Guthrie, an employee of Chromogen, one of Mitogenica’s greatest competitors. When Dr. Liddell disappears, along with his almost completed cancer model, the cancer community is in disarray. Concerned for her safety and that of the doctor, Annika is alarmed. When Dr. Liddell does contact her, he entrusts her with digital information that is at the root of everything that he holds to be important. There are those who are looking for this information and they are willing to do whatever it takes.

As espionage and deaths begin to pile up, Annika finds herself running for her life. Dr. Liddell is being followed and soon Annika finds that there are others that know her secret. Will she live to help those most in need of her information? Can they find a way to use this information to help those that deserve their assistance?

The Eden Prescription is a medical thriller full of depth and information. The characters are written in such detail you can picture them in your mind. Dr. Liddell is so well written, I kept having to remind myself this was only a book, and not real life. The information behind the drugs and supplements were extremely well researched and quite believable. Annika is a little too naive for the work she does, and is very quick to trust. She does not always see the obvious. She is young and the naivety comes out just right, and yet you wonder how she is able to keep such a belief of hope alive as she finds herself running for her life.

Each of the characters is driven by different motives that become clear as the information unravels. There is both surprise and at times dismay, as the characters either cement themselves as heroes or finally reveal just how jaded they have become. There is surprise and hope, as you are guided through a roller coaster of emotion.

This book is both believable and imaginative. I could imagine reading the headlines in a national newspaper, reporting much of what was written. With so much involvement and research, I found myself believing this was really happening. That is the mark of a well written book.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy medical thrillers. It brought to mind several of the Michael Crichton books I have read in the past. The background is a little more like Clancy however, in order to do the content justice there had to be some in-depth information leading the way.

Rating 5/5

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the information.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Givaway and New Release: Chill Run by Russell Brooks

When you pour your heart and soul into your work, you find it greatly disheartening when success does not immediately follow. To what lengths are some people willing to go to become the success they believe they are meant to be.

In Chill Run by Russell Brooks, we follow the escapades of Eddie Barrow Jr. as his life begins to unravel. A writer, he is on his last bit of hope, his family does not believe in him, and the rejection letters are coming fast and furious. It seems only his best friend Corey, and his girlfriend Jordyn are his only real fans. His life is takes a turn for the worse as his rent comes due and his car begins to act up. If that were not bad enough, he is laid off from his job and his girlfriend leaves him. Life really begins to suck. If he could only get a break, he knows he would do well.

With the input from his friends and in an effort to get publicity in any way he can, he agrees to get caught in a compromising situation with someone of importance. He needs a publicity stunt to get people’s attention, look at all the celebrities who made their fortune and fame in such a way. The plan they have in mind is just a bit mind boggling, certainly nothing he thought he would ever consider. Unknown to him Jordyn also has another career, one as a femdom, a dominatrix. She has a friend who is maledom, and can set him up with one of his jobs. He deals with many important and well-known public figures, and he owes her, she is sure she can get him to give up one of his marks for the deal. Then as soon as Eddie is situated and in a compromising situation with this figure, Corey can call in the news. As with any great news worthy story, Eddie will become famous.

When persons unknown murder the mark during their session, Eddie sees everything. Now he is on the run for his life. Blamed for the murder, he and his friend are tagged as the culprits. As other people they know show up dead, they find themselves in the middle of a massive manhunt. They prepare to turn themselves in for their own safety, but even now they are being hunted as killers, who do they trust. Who can they turn to in this deadly game of chase.. Can they survive long enough to clear themselves? Who do they turn to for help?

In Chill Run, Brooks has given us characters rich in charm and full of fun. Their friendship holds them together, and they are willing to help each other regardless of the danger it puts them in. He has done a great job in making the characters real, taking you through their sadness and despair, as well as sharing their humor. There is a solid core of steal built in, and while they poke fun at themselves and enjoy their camaraderie, no one else can mess with them. They are in over their heads, and yet they stick together doing the best they can to find answers. Eddie often uses the character of his own book as a foil, trying to think like him when looking for a way out of their mess.

The humor and the action set the pace for this thriller, yet the characters themselves draw you in. They remind you of people you know through your own friends and family. This realism has a way of putting you into the story, envisioning the scenes as they occur. The lengths to what Eddie is willing to go for publicity almost seem surrealistic, and yet we do see such things in the news and on the internet almost daily. Using the things that occur in life and putting them to paper, Brooks has created events with a touch of pragmatism.

The scenes are set in Canada, and the antics are at once dangerous and thrilling with a dose of humor. Brooks does a great job of describing the scenes as they occur and keeps you on the hook, wondering how it will all work out, or even if it will.

I would recommend this book for the suspense and thriller fan, it is fast paced and full of action. There is humor and danger, and weaved throughout the backdrop is a story of friends that give their all for each other. This would be a great gift for your thriller fan for the holiday.

Rating 4/5

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Information for the drawing from Russell Brooks

1. Every person that leaves a comment with their email address (Important) is automatically entered in the draw.

2. To be sure that the contest is fair and impartial, Clinton (my cat) will select the 10 winners for a free eBook copy of CHILL RUN.

The contest will run from Sunday November 27, 2011 to Thursday December 1, 2011 at 9PM EST. The winners will be announced via my blog and my page on YouTube the same evening.

Book Links

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Enter to Win Karen McQuestion's Secrets of the Magic ring and Celia and the Fairies

Working with Karen McQeustion is a joy, and her books sparkle with her charm. She has kindly allowed me to post a givaway for her books. With the release of Secrets of the Magic Ring, Karen has only added another fine book to her list of accomplisments.

Enter today for one reader to have a chance to win a copy of both titles. Enter again on Friday December 2nd when I post the review, and have your name entered twice. One lucky reader will have a chance to win both of these books. Good luck. I have embeded the book trailer for Secrets of the Magic Ring below. Dont forget to leave your email, Karen will be contacting the winner when the drawing is over.

The final drawing will be held December 4th.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Clump, An American Splatire by S. Redman White

Article first published as Book Review: Clump, an American Splatire by S. Redman White on Blogcritics.

The power of the media is so expansive even the most average of things can take on a connotation of celebrity through a few words deemed newsworthy. Top that power with the advent of YouTube, we find overnight media sensations everywhere.

In Clump, An American Splatire by S. Redman White, we are introduced to a frenzy of the strangest kind. This dark satire takes us into the industries most revered, and pokes fun at the differing greed and self-interest often manifested.

Investigation of an attempted suicide takes detectives and emergency personnel to a hotel where an unidentified man has used a shotgun to blow off his head. The graphics of the description are quite vivid. The blast takes off the head and yet leaves just a tongue and a bit of brain matter. As the investigators tend to the scene, they are in for a huge surprise. The man is still living. Rushed to the hospital, he is put into the hands of Doctor Tetlow. Here is where the truly bizarre comes into being. Finding that this headless human seems to be able to live on its own, Tetlow takes advantage of the situation, using the situation to make himself famous.

The headless body is out of control and dangerous, and yet one of the orderlies, nicknamed Cannonball for his size, finds that music sooths the savage soul. Well, sort of.

The louder and more obnoxious the music, the more Clump (as he has been dubbed by the media) reacts. He begins a strange yet oddly alluring form of dancing, using moves from different forms of fighting. Cannonball is so excited at this new phenomenon; he tapes it on his cell phone and broadcasts it via YouTube. A new sensation and cult addiction has just begun.

White creates a creepy and ‘splatiracal’ look at the ability to take the absurd and make it real through the power of suggestion. Whether that suggestion is at the hands of the media, or the cults that find and follow these strange videos, there is a connection as to how perception of stardom occurs. White takes his story and pokes fun at the different committees and groups in business and how they are run. He pokes fun at the different industries and keeps you entertained with the endeavors of this strangely homicidal headless man.

His characters are entertaining and much of the nonsensical situations are laugh aloud funny. This is not a novel for the faint at heart, there is some graphic scenery and the humor may not be for everyone.
If you enjoy your satire dark and adventurous, you will find this evocative ‘splatire’ written by White, an interesting addition to your library. This novel might also be an interesting addition to a reading group, one that is interested in dark satires that may carry just a bit of truth. These thoughts on different industries could create quite a bit of dialogue.

Rating 4/5

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Wallflower by Holly-Jane Rahlens

Article first published as Book Review: Wallflower by Holly-Jane Rahlens on Blogcritics.

Serendipity is a wonderful word and an even more interesting meaning. Making desirable discoveries by accident, good fortune, or luck, coincide in with finding something unexpected. Any way you look at it, the word has wonderful connotations.

In Wallflower, a novel by Holly-Jane Rahlens, we follow the life of Molly Beth Lenzfeld as she makes a stab at living the life she thinks she is looking for. Spending time with her father in Berlin is not what she expected, and she is leaving to head back to New York where he will join her later. In eleventh grade, she is ready to be back in the states, her own form of comfort zone. Having come to Berlin to stay with her father while he spends a year working, she thought she would feel closer to her mother. She died of cancer when Molly was just eleven, and she still misses her terribly.

Having received her father’s permission, she will be staying with her older sister until he returns. She has decided to take one last trek while she is here; she wants to visit her mother’s home. Molly plans on taking a part of the wall her mother helped put together, back with her. This will be a challenge, she will have to use the Berlin transit system and pass over the Berlin Wall. Having missed the excitement of the wall coming down this will be her first visit.
On her way, she runs into a girl she knows named Carlotta Smith. Carlotta is everything that Molly is not. She is attractive, small and well built. She dresses outrageously and behaves that way as well. Molly is rather shy, and quite tall. The other thing she really dislikes about herself is her big feet. So when a young man boards the train, she looks quickly, noting he is very good looking and then looks away. Carlotta goes in for the kill, and instantly they are talking. When Carlotta gets off at her stop, the boy stays on, but he doesn’t talk or seem interested in conversation. Having to change from train to train to reach her destination, Molly is concerned she will get lost. When she runs into some drunks, she is afraid.

It is here where Michael Maier (Mick) steps in and rescues her. So begins an interesting and unique relationship, built in a matter of hours, moving throughout East and West Berlin through the transit system. Will they become friends or is there more in the camaraderie they have experienced. Has Serendipity come into play one more time?
Rahlens has given us an in depth look into Berlin, and the differences of the East and West. The fall of the Wall comes into play, and she also takes us to the inside, using the Berlin transit system as a way to get around. The scenery comes to life and she does such an excellent job with her descriptors it is easy to picture the city.

Her characters are fun and somewhat typical of children the world over at that same age. She does a wonderful job of bringing them together and finding the things that they both find of interest that seem to link them, which draws them closer. As they make their way through the city, and between the different factions of East and West, she sets a fun and unique tone that keeps the intrigue and interest at its height. In Carlotta, Rahlens creates a foil that could either push them apart or draw them together, depending on how they react to her presence.
This is a charming story of a young woman coming of age and finding herself. In a simple matter of hours, can one’s life really change?

I would recommend this for the YA reader; it is full of charm and history as well. Learning more about Berlin and the Wall is an added enticement, and quite interesting as well. With the background and history, this would also be a good book for a reading or book club. It is well written, excellently researched and fun.

Rating 4/5

This book was received free from the publisher. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Hybrids of 2050 by Ami Blackwelder

Article first published as Book Review: The Hybrids of 2050 by Ami Blackwelder on Blogcritics.

When a world continues to feel a threat from those they find to be different, hate continues to set the stage. Lack of understanding often brings about war and the loss of life.

Ami Blackwelder continues to entertain us with her Shifters Evolution series. She resumes with the plight of the alien hybrids, and does not disappoint with her fourth of the series, The Hybrids of 2050. In her prior works, she has tutored us to the background and abilities of the shifters. As the dispute continues to wage and the SCM (Shifter Counterinsurgency Military) steps up their efforts to eradicate the aliens forever, a counter insurgency begins to build. Thirty years of war and killing brings only more hate and heartache as the differing factions choose sides. Now that shifters and humans have interbred, the part human offspring are in danger of being exposed. Knowledge of their existence has been well hidden, but now as a new weapon comes into being, the secret is close to the surface.

As the continued immigration of shifter families continue to make their way to Alaska, one of the last refuges with an expanse of wilderness in which to hide, The SCM steps up their test on the new weapon. Alarm is prevalent, even though the weapon supposedly only affects shifters. Have the humans given over their very rights to the SCM in an effort to eradicate a race they have no real knowledge of? Will the hybrids continue to survive with this most recent threat? As the human families of these new type of hybrids fight their behind the scenes battle, will all be for naught. Can they stop the SCM before the truth comes out? Small groups of humans are the only ones standing between the military and the hybrids. Who will come out on top?

Blackwelder has created a wonderful series that just continues to enthrall. The characters are strange and wonderful, fluctuating with both hope and anger. The shifters have a courage that is hard to incorporate into the everyday world. The humans involved often have to backpedal and acquiesce to horrible deeds in order to stay out of the limelight in their underground fight. The Hybrids do not have that worry, they are full of feelings and not afraid to let them show. You are heartbroken with the death of any of the varied characters. It takes skill for a writer to make a character so real.

Well written, the beauty of the wilderness creates visuals that take you to that time and place, helping you to become more involved. The enchantment of the tundra brings about an excitement, the feel of being there.

If you enjoy a bit of Science Fiction, wrapped in Fantasy, fear and hope, this would be a great addition to your library. It is interesting and takes you into the wilds of Alaska, and highlights what happens when fear and ignorance rule. The Hybrids of 2050 is a militaristic fantasy, one that is easy to digest. This would be a great gift for the avid Science Fiction, Fantasy reader in your household.

Rating 5/5

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material

Below The Line by Brian Tobin

Article first published as Book Review: Below The Line by Brian Tobin on Blogcritics.

Living a double life can be dangerous, and in Hollywood where everyone knows your business, even the smallest of mistakes become deadly.

In Below The Line by Brian Tobin, we follow along with a group of people, interconnected with just the smallest of lines. Martin Oals had been lucky early in his life in Hollywood; he had some great small parts in some of the most popular shows. While not a huge celebrity, recognition still came from those looking for stars in every face they saw. In between the parts he tended bar, and his hope was to become a producer.

Life does not always work out as we plan. Martin’s grandiose plans required money, so drugs also came into play. He was careful though, his vehicle was the only place he ever carried them, and only in the trunk. He never dealt from his home and he stayed beneath the radar. Always looking for the elusive buck, he thought he could grow his own stash, and when an opening came with a producer offering money to help set him up, for a part of the money, he jumped in full bore. Using a friend, Squeak, one of his best friends from high school, he felt as though he was finally in the big leagues.

Enter Henry Voght, a police officer with a bent for dirty law. While covering a known drug dealer, Martin comes into his field of view. Henry is intrigued and begins to obsess about how he can get a piece of the pie in this ever-growing connection of people. As each of the characters begin a strange dance of who gets the money, an unhealthy thought takes over. Murder and mayhem follow and suddenly it is every man for himself. Will the police find the killer, or has the cover-up done the job? Who will end up with the drugs and money? In a race to be first, will further mayhem follow?

Tobin has written an interesting whodunit, and set it in Hollywood with the cast of characters you can understand. The thought process is something of a fantasy and yet something you would expect coming from a group of egotistical people, a bit jaded by their notoriety. Holding on to the brass ring in a city where stars rise and fall on a whim, digging below the line for a new and interesting source of money only makes sense. His characters are well written and just a bit diverse.

He does a good job of bringing the drug scene to life, although it is seems a bit soft for what you would actually expect. But then again this involves the Hollywood influence. His characters react in different ways to the unexpected, revealing a dark and sad look at how life goes on.

I would recommend this book to the mystery buff. The story is interesting and the interplay between the characters keeps the pace at an even speed. This would be a great book for a reading group, and would engender some good dialogue

Rating 4/5

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Hapened At Heath-Cliff Hall by C.M. Groover

Article first published as Book Review: What Happened At Heath-Cliff Hall by C. M. Groover on Blogcritics.

Occasionally in life, an experience will come along that will shake the foundations of your belief system. Many find themselves immeasurably changed by such an experience.

In What Happened At Heath-Cliff Hall by C.M. Groover, we are given a glimpse into a unique and deadly life-one in which the answers seem strange and unbelievable. Dr. Jargon and his assistant are hired to do a job. The doctor has been instrumental in finding solution to several cases, and he always enjoys having his trusty assistant by his side. Being hired by a very wealthy dowager to check on the mental state of her granddaughter, they find themselves in a remote, yet beautiful home, one owned by old money.

Meeting the inhabitants of the house is strange and spooky. Quinlan, the husband is strange and foreboding, and quite ruthless. They find him to be a bore and quite disgusting. When they find there is a son, Dr. Jargon is amazed. This was not in any of the information he received. What seems to be missing however, is Mrs. Westhaven’s granddaughter. Quickly making himself unwelcome, the Dr. makes an enemy of Quinlan, yet Quinlan finally allows him to meet his wife. What he finds is not at all close to what is expected. With only one item of interest to give to Mrs. Westhaven, they are chilled and dismayed by the strange and deadly sounds they hear throughout their stay. Warned of the dangers lurking, they are warned to stay in their rooms after dark. What is happening, and is there more than meets the eye? Nothing is what it seems, and danger lurks at the very edge of darkness. Who will make it out alive?

Groover has given us and interesting story with just enough oddness to be pulled in. What seems to begin as a story of possible betrayal and madness seems to come around in a strange fashion with an odd and broken love story. There is something particularly gruesome about Quinlan and his son, something that seems wild and out of control. Why does his wife stay free of their influence and yet profess an absolute undying love. His characters are well told with exceptional visuals, and the rituals that are written are so real that you can feel the disgust as well as their visitors.

While you are in the loop to an extent as to what the visitors think is happening, you are still surprised and horrified, which make this such a spooky story.

I would recommend this story to the horror reader, and if you like lycan or werewolf stories this would also be a great book for your library. The characters step from the pages and make you feel their fears and understand their qualms at the sounds and feelings engendered. This is not the light and fascinating stories that often intrigue with their charm; this is a deep and dark story bordering on madness.

Lock the doors but do not turn out the lights; this is one that will stick with you.

Rated 4/5

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fading Into Magic by Vone Savan

Article first published as Book Review: Fading Into Magic by Vone Savan on Blogcritics.

The death of a loved one is always difficult to deal with. When you are a young adult and a parent dies, the anguish is twofold. Survivor’s guilt is often the fallout, and the pain of separation colors the fabric of your actions.

In Fading Into Magic by Vone Savan, we follow the exploits of Madeline Morgan and her friends as they try to reconcile the strange occurrences intruding into their lives. Friends forever, Maddy, Dara, Kelsey, and Casper all rely on each other for companionship and honesty. Maddy struggles with life, her mother has died and her father, unable to deal with the pain, has buried himself in alcohol. Having always been a believer in magic, she no longer feels the same. To her, if magic truly existed her mother would not have died. Yet there is still just that little bit of hope, hidden deep within her heart.

Her friends do their best to keep her engaged, and when Dara gets the name of a Fortune Teller, she convinces Maddy they must have their fortunes told. Entering the tent, they immediately feel a strange sense of magic, but brush it off. Madame Anca, the teller, has a heavy accent, and looks more like a witch with her strange claw like hands and fingernails. Her reading on Maddy hints at a love that is soon to find her. Maddy is desperately searching for love so she is hooked immediately. Yet everything about the visit is strange. Dara scoffs at the teller, finding her to be quite strange and Maddy agrees. Yet as she thinks about the reading, she decides she needs to know more. Visiting Madame Anca one more time, she hears the same hope of love, and that small spark of believing begins to unravel again.

The first day of school following this bizarre happenstance, the group meets two new students. Stefan and his twin sister, Catalina Varias, are handsome and mysterious. Yet when Maddy has occasion to interact with Stefan, she is captivated. She begins to wonder about the fortune she received. As Maddy and Stefan get to know one another, the feeling is reciprocated. Has love really found her? Just as she begins to believe her life will change, strange things begin to happen. Her friends begin to act oddly. Then her life and that of her friends and family are threatened by an evil willing to kill them in the name of revenge. What is happening, and how can Maddy keep them all safe?

Savan has written a tale of young love and loss. He has twisted it with bits of magic and lore. His characters are very much like the high school students of today, each with flaws and beliefs, trying to find themselves as the go through the changes that will take them to adulthood. Maddy has a pain that runs deep and Savan has done a great job of bringing to light the guilt that often comes from the death of a parent. His characterization of the different personalities is well done, and you can picture each of the characters upon their reveal.

The story is fun and yet has a taint of evil and revenge. The flow is smooth and easy to follow and the magic spells incorporated throughout the telling are fun. Written in verse with a bit of rhyme they add a touch of charm to the telling.

This would be a great book for the YA reader; it is full of characters, bits of magic and an overall humor that adds to the dynamics. This is a light read and I found the telling to be interesting. It would make a great gift for the holidays for that YA fantasy reader on your list.

Rating 4/5

This book was gifted as a free Kindle from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Article first published as Book Review:The Help by Kathryn Stockett on Blogcritics.

Life in the 60’s, in Jackson, Mississippi was difficult for most people. Being a black maid, raising children not your own, was made even more difficult by the times.

In The Help by Kathryn Stockett, we follow the coming of age of a young white woman, one raised and well loved by her own family’s black maid, Constantine. When Miss Skeeter goes away to school to learn a trade in writing, she maintains a long distance relationship via letters. When the letters suddenly stop, she is hurt by the silence, but knows she will get an explanation from Constantine when she gets home. Little does she know at that time, she will never see her loving maid again.

Elizabeth Leefolt and Hilly Holbrook are Skeeter’s best friends. Having grown up together, they maintain that relationship. They belong to the same groups and attend the same parties. When Elizabeth has a daughter, her maid Aibileen takes on the task of caring for her. For Aibileen it is a labor of love, Mae Mobley is a sweet child, and Aibileen dotes on her. But Skeeter begins to see a different world than the one she remembers.

Fresh out of school, Skeeter decides to apply for a job as editor, for the publishers Harper and Roe. When she receives a letter back from Elaine Stein, the senior editor, she is in heaven. However the letter is to inform her she is not being hired. Miss Stein is willing to look at her writing though, but informs her that is must be both interesting and dear to her heart. Skeeter offer up her thoughts but is turned down.
When she continues to interact within her circle, she begins to pay attention to the interaction of the maids and the families they work for. Remembering her own upbringing, she decides to get the maids to tell their stories; this is what she will submit. Little does she know just how dangerous and difficult of a task this is. This is a turbulent time, a time of race riots, murders and hate. How will she move forward, and who will tell their story?

As Skeeter works on her plan she finds a job with the Jackson Journal. She will write the Miss Myrna column, a column that supplies answers to domestic questions. She decides to get help with the answers from an expert. Her friend Elizabeth allows her to ask, Abilieen, her own maid for answers. This bond than forges a trust, and an uneasy alliance that will shake up the very foundations of the Jackson, Mississippi lives and interactions, giving a voice to a group of people long oppressed.

Stockett has written a story set in the turbulent era heralding the death of a beloved president, John F Kennedy, the murder of Medgar Evers, and the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. Hate and distrust were high, and life for many of these maids was unimaginable. Stocketts characters are strong, sometimes bold, yet sometimes silent. She ads humor and fun, as well as danger and intrigue into her dialogue. Writing from the point of view of numerous characters, she has done an amazing job of pulling together a story that gets to the heart of the times.

Using fact and fiction she weaves a strong telling of how life was lived in these households. Using her own background, she uses her knowledge to get into the heart of what living during this time may have really looked like.

I would recommend this book for a book club or reading group. The style is interesting and while a bit difficult to begin, once you understand the technique the story evolves and takes you to that time and place in history. As is often quoted, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, and Miss Stockett puts you right in the middle, making you think. The humor is real, but the pain and angst also weave their way into the fray. The characters are gutsy and bold, pulling you in, and earning your respect. A great book for your library.

Rating 4/5

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christmas Lites, New Anthology, soon to be released and interview

The writing and blogging world is filled with people who really care about others. Many form bonds with the others they interact with. Groups and friendships develop, and it is within these confines that an exciting and giving idea was born. Numerous people got together, the authors agreeing to write short stories, the editors to fix them up just right, formatters doing the thing they need to do, and a cover artist putting together a great look, each with an idea to make something special, an ideal holiday book.

Now you might wonder. What’s the big deal?

One of the group moderators has given an interview to allow us to understand the thoughts and processes behind the book. The other two moderators of the group were just as involved in the work and all deserve a shout of thanks, and nice job. Please take the time to read this post in its entirety, and meet the special people that took time out of their already busy lives to make something that will bring joy to an untold number of people in the world.

Below, is the interview, the link to the  book cover reveal, a great book trailer, and the list of the wonderful people involved in the backstage of the work as well as those who have been involved in every facet. Please help us to thank them all and support their efforts. Your support also supports the charity, as well as our deployed troops overseas. So without further ado….. Take it away Cambria.

Thank you so much for having me here today to talk about Creative Reviews Project! Here are the quick STATS on the book:

My name: Cambria Hebert (one of the creative reviews moderator. Also an author)

Book Title: Christmas Lites (A Creative Reviews Short Story anthology)

Publication Date: November 26, 2011

Format: Print and Ebook

Available: Smashwords, Amazon and BN

How many authors have donated work for the anthology? How did you reach out to them?

We have 25 authors who have contributed to this anthology. Some of them, this is their first time being published others have other published works. We reached out to them through our Good Reads Group Creative Reviews. We also posted to Facebook and some of our group members posted to their blogs.

Besides authors, who else donated time or materials?

We have been fortunate because so many have helped us. Dafeenah Jameel of Indie Designz designed the front and back cover of the book and we had two other design contributors: Regina Wamba (she designed the little Christmas tree logo inside the book) and Fean Lee.

We had two editors: Amy Eye and Vered Ehsani and we had several proofreaders donate their time. Their names are: Tricia Kristufek, Cassie McCown and Alan Zendell.

Amy eye formatted the book.

Jenn Pringle has been our go between for the charity that we selected.

Myself (Cambria Hebert) made the book trailer and was the go between for the Ebook drop.

We have countless bloggers and group members who are helping to promote the book and get its name out there for sales as well.

How did you come up with the charity? The ebook is also being sent to soldiers, deployed throughout the world. Is this a regular event, or something put together for this venue?

We talked throughout the group about many charities and we all kept coming back to women and children so we decided within the group that the NCADV would be a good charity. NCADV stands for National Coalition against Domestic Violence. They do a lot of great work and are so deserving of this donation. To find out more about them please visit their site: . The free Ebooks for the troops was something that I wanted to do as my husband is a Marine and I know how much the troops go through in deployment. Everyone in the group thought that including them was a wonderful idea. Operation Ebook Drop is something that anyone can get involved in at any time during the year. It is not seasonal. I found them on Facebook. Basically, they give you a list of all the deployed troops that are requesting free books and you email them a coupon code for a free book. I think this is a wonderful way to give someone far from home something to escape into for a little while.

When is the books estimated time to be released for sale? Where will it be available for sale?

We are trying to have the book ready to go and for sale on November 26, 2011. That’s black Friday for all our US residents.  It will be available where all books are for sale. Amazon, smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

As an author yourself, did you find it difficult to find time for the project?

To be honest, yes. LOL. I have a lot of upcoming releases myself during the next two months and this project has been a lot of work. But I would do it all over again because it is for such a wonderful cause. I have been truly blessed this year and this is one way I can give a little of that back.

This is a wonderful thing for those in need. If successful do you think this will become a yearly program?

Hmmm. I’m not sure. I do think that if this is successful we will probably do it again. I think that it is a wonderful idea and a great way for our group to come together and help others.

List of authors and story titles:

Shane Stilson: Higher Ground

E.C. Stilson: How I Found My Soul Mate and Turkey Avenger

Vered Ehsani: Christmas Ghost

C.S. Splitter: Whimper

Phil Cantrill: Christmas Story

Brett Talley: Last Year’s Eggnog

Catherine Forbes: The Gateway Incident

Mark Koning: Sweet Child

Tricia Kristofek: Accidentally Gift Wrapped

Paige Kellerman: Christmas Disco

L. A.Wright: Star of Christmas

S. Patrick Pothier: The Road to Comfort

Cassie McCown: Mirror

Angel Armstead: All I want for Christmas

Ottilie Weber: ‘Tis the Holiday Spirit

Amy Eye: The Hunt

JA Clement: A Sprig of Holly

Richard Phelan: Memories of the Splendid Splinter

Mark Mackey: An Amy Harkstone Christmas

Lizzie Ford: Santa’s Ninja Elf

Nicholette Alexandr: Broken Glass

Mark Faulkner: Face

Cambria Hebert: The Perfect Ornament and Blank

Angela Yukiro-Smith: Only That Day Dawns

Mysti Parker: No title yet

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lodestone, Book Three: The Crucible of Dawn by Mark Whiteway

Article first published as Book Review: Lodestone, Bood Three: The Crucible of Dawn on Blogcritics.

In a world of Science Fiction, what seems unbelievable at first glance seems to come to fruition some years later. Many of the gadgets we are familiar with today, first found credence in the mind of a writer.

In Lodestone, Book Three: The Crucible of Dawn by Mark Whiteway, we follow the continued exploits of a group of Kalani who are trying to save their world, and release their people from oppression. The humans have found a cache of Lodestone, a substance from a different universe, located on Kalani, and have enslaved much of the population, forcing them to mine the ore. Using the powerful Keltar to force obedience, life for the Kalani has become a hopeless drudgery. Lodestone is highly sought for its use in weaponry, although the Keltar have used it for generations as a tool to help them quell the Kalani. Assigned to take charge of the mining, the Keltar do not realize the treachery of the humans. While the Keltar feel they are in charge, the humans have found a way to hide their real purpose.

A spirited young female Kalani and a group of ten unlikely heroes set out to cross the Sea of Storms, ready to use the four components of Annata, to save their world. Having secured the components necessary, Shann and Rael, two of the carriers are lost at sea, with their fate unknown. Lost on an island, Shann and Rael find themselves right where they need to be. As time winds down, and with the help of a strange and legendary Chandara, Boxx, can they overcome the internal conflicts and work together to find a way to find to disarm or destroy the human’s strange new weapon?

In their quest to find the answers, they find unique and remarkable truths about themselves. As the time grows short and all is at stake, will the Chandara make a stand? What is their place in the interplanetary dispute? With the strange abilities of Boxx, and his odd way of speaking in riddles, can our group of heroes convince the Chandara to help them in their final quest?

Whiteway has done a remarkable job of staying true to the Science Fiction of old. He has developed a world full of promise and passion, and peopled it with a race of beings, unique in appearance. Along with the Kalani, and the Keltar, the planet is also home to some dangerous beasts, such as the murghal and valthar. Also making their home on this planet are the strangely enigmatic Chandara, once thought extinct. By weaving technology and learning, a superior avionics division, and a hostile world full of strangely barbaric inhabitants, Whiteway has given us an unusual twist to the credibility of his world and characters.

Described in detail his world is easy to envision, and his characters have the ability to come alive and leap off the pages. A fun and exciting read, the story is also full of angst and personal demons. The flow is exceptional, and the story is quite enthralling.
I would recommend this to the science fiction aficionado, but the story would also be appropriate for the YA reader. Full of fun and danger, action and adventure, and characters that either charm or repel the story holds an unforgettable appeal. This would be a great book for your library, and while you are contemplating the purchase, you might check out his previous novels. He just gets better and better.

Rating 5/5

I received the book free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nocturne by Syrie James

Posted First at the Romance Reviews

In Nocturne, Syrie James has given us a poignant yet searing tale of forbidden love. From the beginning you are haunted by the longing and mystery of this pair of strangers as they overcome their fears and allow their passions to ignite. Set in the beautiful snowy mountains of the Northwest, you fall in love with the characters as well as the beauty. The mystery gently pulls you into the depth of secrecy and desire that finally springs forth into a raging inferno.

Heading Home from a ski trip, Nicole Whitcomb is not ready to give up the beauty of the mountains and snow. Yet she must, but finds herself the last to leave as she absorbs the beauty and freshness to hold in her memory. Waiting until the last minute she believes she will outdrive the storm that appears to be building. As the curtain of snow thickens, Nicole begins to realize she may have made a terrible error in judgment. Rounding a curve and hearing a horrific sound behind her, she realizes she has no choice but to move forward as her retreat has been cut off by an avalanche that has covered the road. As she realizes her danger she feels her control slipping away as her car plows into a snow bank, knocking her unconscious.

Michael Tyler has moved into the quiet country to be alone. With the equipment to keep his own property free of snow, he clears his road of the heavy slush and snow that begins to pile up during this latest storm. Seeing headlights where there should be none, he is unsure what he wants to do. All too quickly the decision is no longer his as he see the vehicle leave the road and almost bury itself under a snow bank. Knowing the road has now been closed and with no chance of rescue from the authorities or road crews, he must react. His surprise and dismay are apparent as he finds Nicole unconscious and realizes he must take her into his home until the roads are clear and she is able to recover enough to move on.

This bringing together of two people in the middle of nowhere, with no other humans present for miles creates an initial tenseness, that soon becomes an attraction, difficult to ignore.

The tensions build, yet there are secrets that Michael is not willing to share. As the passion and begins to weave its way in even the mildest of conversations, Nicole does not understand why Michael ignores the signs. She can feel his interest, but she can also sense a strange and foreboding secret that nips at her internal alarms. The heat level is exciting but the mystery is intriguing and yet terrifying at some level.

James has given us an incredibly sexy story set in the beauty of an unspoiled frozen tundra. The weather forms a barrier that brings in a dream like quality to the story, making it both haunting and exciting. The interplay of the characters is playful and yet sometimes hurtful as they continue to fight the flames of love and lust that begin to bloom and grow.

You will love this beautiful and mysterious story, full of love and longing, but with a passion that sizzles through the pages. The characters are bold and imaginative and our hero Michael is everything a woman looks for in a man, but just a bit more. What is the Secrect he is hiding? Why is he so elusive and why does he never eat, and rarely sleep? Be prepared for an old fashioned, burning love story with up to the minute suspense.

Rating 5/5

This book was received free through the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quest of the Demon by M.L. Sawyer

Living the life of an average teen always seems like a challenge in itself. Becoming engaged in basketball and excelling at the sport, Darci can feel a burst in confidence. This is something she is good at. After spending the day with one of her friends, she returns home only to find her parents gone for the evening. Leaving a message to let Darci know that they expect to return after midnight, she settles in for the evening. When she does finally retire for the evening, her parents have not yet returned, so she is not at all surprised when a sudden noise wakes her up. Leaving her bed, she becomes concerned when she finds they have not returned. Fear replaces her initial surprise as she picks up her hockey stick as a weapon while she searches for the origin of the noise.

As she enters the main room, she sees light and motion behind a curtain. As she swallows her fear, she darts forward with her weapon only to find a strange vortex behind the curtain. Having ventured too close, she is sucked into the swirling mass, and finds herself deposited in a strange new world.

Suddenly, Darci realizes her whole life has changed. Rescued by a young Wizards apprentice, Taslessian, she quickly finds that all is not well in this strange, new world. Not only that, but she has been selected for a quest to rid this world of evil, before it finds a way into her own. Unaware of why she is chosen, she is afraid. Somehow, the evil presence of Domati is aware she is in the world and is now interested in finding her and learning the secrets of her own world. She is in over her head.

This world is full of magic, elves, wizards, warriors and dragons as well as the evil and twisted creatures that come from the darkness of evil. Her own world would not survive the presence of such perverted and twisted evil. When Taslessian’s mentor dies in battle, it is up to both Taslessian and Darci to find the means to defeat this evil. She cannot return to her own world, the magic is not available for such a feat, and she must follow her path. Chosen for a reason, she cannot fathom what she can bring to the fight.

As this young pair continues their quest with the help of a dragon, they began to gather a small group of heroes. Known as the five of light, they are informed that weapons will be awarded to help them meet the challenge. To begin their quest they must first find their courage, and then their way to the lair of the dragon that holds the weapons. Each step of their journey they must fight for their lives and that of their friends, as they begin to learn more about themselves and each other. Can they really be the ones to drive evil from the land, and save the universe, and all its worlds from the darkness?

M.L Sawyer has written a great story and while it tends to drag a bit through the middle, it picks up a head of steam and the flow evens out as the heroes begin their quest. I found grammatical errors throughout the book that tend to bog the story down, but the story and characters are quite superb.

Sawyer has set the stage for a follow up story, and I truly look forward to seeing what she does to continue her epic saga. She has done a great job with character enhancement; you can picture them quite well in your mind as you follow in their journey. Each has to overcome different flaws to become what they are capable of, and the quest is well written. Sawyer has put some thought into this work and a good grammatical edit would do wonders to put this work in the mainstream.

This story would be a great find for the YA reader; it has all the elements of a courageous and epic journey. Told with a view to the flaws and feeling often addressed by young teens, the journey that each travels helps builds their esteem as well as their courage. This is a fun and adventuress read.

Rating 3/5

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Article first published as Book Review: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson on Blogcritics.

Long term relationships need trust and communication to continue growing. Secrets and small lies by omission can create thoughts of the worst kind, and can change the dynamic of a relationship.

In The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson, we are transported to the provincial countryside, and ensconced into the old and beautiful Les Genevriers, a turn of the century farms house. Eve is enchanted with her budding romantic relationship with an older man of means. Dom is kind and caring, full of charm and as their love grows, she finds a happiness she did not expect existed. Finding and moving to this beautiful home is an experience of dreamlike proportions. The romance fills her and she slowly loses contact with her family and friends. She needs only Dom to fill her needs. He is encouraging and loving suggesting she take this time to work on a project she loves, writing. His suggestion meets with more approval as she becomes more deeply entranced with him.

Exploring and setting about repairs on this beautiful old home becomes an adventure as they find hidden rooms and small treasures. As they explore the here and now, we are also being given a glimpse into the life of the prior owner of the home, Benedicte Lincel, a young woman who leads a life of beauty due to the area she lives, and yet endures much heartbreak and tragedy. The stories are told conjointly and yet separately.

As Eve ventures into the writing arena she meets many of the townspeople. As she continues in her attempts, she begins to stumble on questions about the man she loves. He seems to be known in the area, yet he attempts to hide the fact. As she begins to ask questions she is only met with silence or even worse, refusal of discussion. As her perfect life begins to erode, a body is found on the property, causing further damage to their once idyllic days. And even as Eve tries to dig further, she begins to see a woman in the gardens, and smell enchanting smells that draw her. Has Dom become a stranger to her, or did she ever really know him? Is her life in danger, and who is the strange woman in her garden?

Lawrenson has weaved an intricate tale of life and love. As you follow Eve on her journey, you also find a ghostly presence of Benedicte as she lives her life in the same home, yet on a different plane of existence. As you read and if you have any sensitivity to those who have gone before, you can feel the faint shadowing of the two different time lines interconnecting in a strange and fascinating way. Almost like the shadowy presence of the lives of those who lived before and yet being enacted even as Eve tries to understand the life she is now leading, which has become shrouded in danger. Full of lies and secrets, it almost seems as though her pain draws those from the past to the present, as young Benedicte too meets her demons.

The characters and enhancements are well done, and the mystery draws you in, pulling you into a strange and eerie world where secrets and lies have damaged the lives of those who want nothing more than happiness.

I enjoyed the story and would recommend it to the light romance fan, as well as those who enjoy suspense. While somewhat historical, it lacks the actual historical education involved in many fictions, although the light sprinkling of history is certainly interesting. This would be a great find for a book club or reading group. The questions engendered would create some interesting dialogue on what we need to know about the past of those close to us. This would be an interesting book for discussion.

Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the the publisher. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
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