Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fault or The Man who Made Earthquakes by Max V. Wiess

Article first published as Book Review:Fault or The Man who Made Earthquakes by Max V. Weiss on Blogcritics.

In Fault or The Man Who Made Earthquakes by Max V. Wiess, I feel that I have just watched a man, unhappy with his lot in life spiral down into a form of madness.  Yet that seems like an easy solution to an uneasy story.
Travis is a man, with a great family. He has a beautiful and bright daughter, Kaylee along with his wife Cynthia. Travis loves his family, and yet often feels misunderstood by his wife. He works at a law firm and is the bottom of the rung of attorneys, the lawsuits pushed his way are usually the difficult and sometimes frivolous ones, strife with long delays and difficult clients. Constantly having to sooth clients and hold hands Travis seems to unravel just a little every day.

While allowing his daughter to play with an electronic toy, which is soon damaged, he takes it to his little shop in his basement to fix it. It is here he rediscovers his passion from youth. Always a tinkerer, he is fascinated by circuitry, both taking things apart and putting them together.

After going through a slight aftershock from an earthquake, he becomes fixated on how quakes happen. Picking apart the process, with the fault lines and the movement of the earth, he decides to try to use his new hobby to see if he can build a machine that will simulate a quake, thereby releasing the tension of the underlying violence that makes the quake so destructive.

Beginning as a fun project to take his mind off the mundaneness of his job, he finds himself drawn into a darkness and fantasy that takes over everything in his life. Is his machine just a fantasy, or has he delved into something darker and more destructive?

Travis is an odd character, likable and yet just a tad off. There is a bit of fragility about him that makes you feel like he is a bit on edge. Wiess has drawn a remarkable line in the sand for this character and has allowed us to follow his path, first along the line and then beyond. It is not comfortable to follow such a spiral, and yet hard to give up on his character.

Excited by the prospects of his invention, Travis is blinded to what is real and how others are reacting to his quest. As he delves deeper into the process, he seems to lose more of himself and his sanity.

If you enjoy stories of madness and the human decline this is a well-detailed methodology of just such a decline. It is follows a line of contrition that is somewhat uncomfortable and a bit different. This story gives you a bit of horror, and a bit of creepyness.  Weiss will keep you enthralled with his story wondering where it will all come out. Be prepared to be surprised.

Rating 3/5
Fault or The Man who Made Earthquakes

I received this book as a fee download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Splintered: Sierra's Legacy by Leslie Ann Wright

I have just recently released my debut novel as a Kindle on Amazon. It is a Fantasy crossover novel, a story of magic, hope and restoration. Follow the life of a young woman with a destiny to save her worlds, and her search to find the answers. Splintered: Sierra's Legacy will be released in physical copy in approximately 6-8 weeks.
I just wanted to let me readers know and if you are interested in reading and reviewing I would love to send a PDF copy. Please stop by to read an excerpt of the book. I have had a few reviews so far, regular readers and five stars which is encouraging, but I will be looking for more reviews especially shortly after the physical copy releases. I am looking for some in depth interviews in order to improve my writing.
If you enjoy fantasy, I hope you will take the time to check it out.

Thank You,

Leslie Ann Wright

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

As Happy as Ling by Carlos Aleman

Article first published as Book Review: As Happy as Ling by Carlos Aleman on Blogcritics.

Depression is a common and little discussed condition that reaches across all walks of life. An illness often left unattended and with a stigma, many live their lives never knowing what it is to be happy or content.

In As Happy as Ling by Carlos Aleman, you follow the lives of a family that knows of the darkness in just about every way. It is the story about the life of Octavio and Adrianna along with their children Cara and Alex. We follow their journey through the fires of pain and misunderstanding. Octavio, in the service with several deployments to Afghanistan, is not able to handle the fallout and death of his friends and comrades. His condition is well documented and during the different wars renamed to fit the times. The symptoms known as shell shock or posttraumatic disorder created an almost catatonic state in Octavio. Adrianna was in love but could not deal with the stress this added to her and she herself fell into an easy form of depression brought on by turning to alcohol. This is the story of the splintering of their lives and the lives of their children. And yet it is also the story of what it takes to turn lives into brightness.

Aleman is written an exceptional story, full of despondency and despair in parts, and yet there is lightness and life woven throughout. The pain and horror is heartfelt as this family moves on through their lives and it is interesting to see how Cara and Alex respond to the conditions. They gain strength and resilience, and an outer shell that is tough to break through.

When they are sent to live with their Uncle, we see an entirely different type of life, full of care and laughter. When I initially began reading, I assumed that Ling was some form of muse or a way of being set as an example by the author, and yet as we move further into the story we find that Ling is actually the one person who seems to hold the key. She is loved and respected and yet in a deep depression of her own. As she begins to interact with this family, she finally realizes what she is missing. Will it be too late to share her love? The sudden lifting of Lings depression can only be described as amazing, and yet is has been documented where depression dissolves on its own with no medication.

Throughout the story, you will find it peppered with bits of light and beauty but also with those characters that exemplify many of the forms of depression most common these days. Whether the form of depression is major depression, psychotic depression, Bipolar, of any of the other many forms, you may run across some of them in the characters of this book.

While it seems an odd choice of story, it is certainly a very deep and disturbing look at a psychosis that is more open and reported these days. However even with the overtone and darkness created by the malevolent disease, this is a story that will tug at your heart. As I mentioned above it is full of light and healing as well and would make a wonderful addition to your library.

I would recommend this book to a reading group or book club. It is insightful and thought provoking, sure to create reaction. As Happy as Ling is well written and gets to the heart of many issues. I did struggle a bit with the ending, not understanding that piece but it may be because I had become too close to the characters. You will have to judge on your own.

Rating 4/5
As Happy as Ling

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

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Source by Ursula James

Article first published as Book Review: The Source by Ursula James on Blogcritics.

If told magic were real …would you believe it? If given the opportunity to learn magic from a book … would you take the chance? In The Source by Ursula James, you are given just such an opportunity. A work springing for her own inner search and discovery, part of that step to the source requires passing on the magic, and Ursula James has put together a ‘Source Book’ of learning for the uninitiated, and those wanting to find that bit of magic inherent in themselves. This book is for those believers wanting to live a life of their own, fulfilling their own dreams.

The Source is also the story of Mother Shipton, and her life and death as well as her part in the power of magic. Known as a Prophetess, healer and seer, she is a wellspring of knowledge of the secrets of magic. It is a book of journeys and passage, a road to your own power.

The book is a story and yet written in textbook style with lessons and guidance to help the user in their path. It is full of information on the phases of the moon, an integral part of the process, and set and styled with ritual, again one of the prerequisites to attaining and pursuing that dream of life.

James shares her own story as she weaves the instruction, a story of excess and heartache, a life on the verge and how she also was able to learn, to open her vision and imagination to what is available to anyone who is looking for it.

The book is set with the ritual and guidance necessary to walk this path, listing the seven trances to attain that passage. Seven is a magical number, rife with meaning and James walks you through the process and just sets the stage, allowing the reader to move at their own pace should they choose this path.

This book is both interesting and intriguing, who hasn’t wanted to have a little magic at some time in their life, Bewitched (TV Show) made it fascinating and took away some of the stigma.

I believe this would be a great book for a reading group,creating an interesting and likely heated discussion of the merits of magic. It is well written and easy to follow.

If you are even a bit interested in this subject it is thoughtful and insightful, and a different and unique vehicle to help you achieve a more meaningful life. It is a book about values and becoming a better person, an alternative to the self-help books abundantly available.

Rating 4/5
The Source

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

Catalyst:The Passage of Hellsfire by Marc Johnson

Article first published as Book Review: Catalyst: The Passage of Hellsfire by Marc Johnson on Blogcritics.

In the inevitable dance of darkness, light continues to weave a path to rightness. Darkness continues to play and yet it seems light may not necessarily be alone.

Born in the darkness, and named by a stranger, Hellsfire lives a life of poverty yet full of love. At fourteen Hellsfire knows he is different. The fire burns in him strongly. Inherent in his makeup somehow, filled with strength, he has a fire of his own, and something he cannot explain. Control at his age is difficult, and anger is never far from the surface. After an especially vicious fight with some of the local bullies, his fire suddenly breaks free. Only now does he understand what he has been feeling. As fear clears the fight and his foes run away, he is tired and ready to be on his own. As he escapes, he sees a young woman running for her life. Unable to do anything but offer assistance he finds himself drawing on his power once more, only to save her.
With her help and expertise with a sword, he helps her to dispatch her abductors but Krystal Cambridge of Alexandria has questions. He does not understand himself and is not able to answer. Finding she is a princess, Hellsfire is in amazement. Fascinated by her beauty and bravery, he is in awe. Finally found by her honor guard, she says her good byes, but not before pressing a purse into his hands for his deeds.

Returning home and telling his tale to his mother, she is concerned. Yet she seems to understand something he does not. This is when she first tells him of the ‘angel.’ This being is the one that visited at his birth and chose his name. She also let him know of her agreement to send him to this ‘angel’ for training when he showed a sign. Unaware of how that sign would manifest itself, she is sure this is the time. He must make his way to the White Mountain, a place of danger and power, to find his mentor and to become the man he is meant to be.

Fighting the elements and using his power in whatever way he could to help him reach his goal, he finally finds the one who had the answers. Stradus is not angel however, he is a Wizard and he has a dragon. A dangerous dragon named Cynder. Hellsfire was to live here in this mountain and become an apprentice. The years seem to melt away and yet when Hellsfire begins to have dreams about death and destruction, with dreams about Princess Krystal and Alexandria he understands it is his time to leave. Knowing he is not yet ready, and clearly not a Wizard it is still without much reluctance that he finds himself on his way to find the answer to his dreams.

It is only now as he begins his journey does he begin to understand. There are forces beyond his control that are leading him. Hellsfire is not ready to be on his own, yet does he have a choice? Can he find the answers and keep Alexandria from the chaos of his dreams? Can he save Krystal?

In Catalyst by Marc Johnson, Johnson has put together a story of good and evil with all the embellishments that make it exciting. His characters are a wonderful foil to the side they with which they are aligned. The darkness draws the trolls and ogres, the dark and dangerous demons of the dark tide. The Wizard of the darkness, Premier, is an exceptional take on sorcery, of magic turned into darkness. The character exemplifies the fall into madness that often seems to follow the darkness.

Hellsfire is a fun and witty young man. His bravado often overrides his common sense, and yet he seems able to pull back from the very edge each time he is close to death and danger. He is full of doubts and fears and yet he has a strong belief in right and wrong. He is half in love with a woman he can never have, and yet he will lay down his life to keep her safe.

Krystal too is an amazing character. Full of life and light, and strength to runs through her soul, one that holds her steady during the destruction of her home, she never gives up. She is a vision of courage and loveliness, and a beacon for what light is all about.

I would recommend this story for the young adult as well as the young at heart. Written in the manor of many of the stories of power, it is full of dwarves and elves, as well as the ugly and unassailable things that go bump in the night. It is a fun tale that holds your interest and will keep you awake well into the night.

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, May 16, 2011

The Eighth Scroll by Dr. Laurence B. Brown

Archaeological findings often bring the dead back to life and in many cases the truth to light as well. When Dr. Gerald Hanson receives an early morning phone call from one of his colleagues, Frank Tones, urging him to make haste to an old dig on Nubia, Hansen is immediately intrigued. Frank was known to have done some questionable things, but he is always able to find unexpected treasures during his excavations.

At fifteen, Gerald’s son Michael is a bit of a prodigy, extremely intelligent, and becoming quite skilled in martial arts. He has been raised on archaeology digs, and is comfortable with them, but he does not like or trust Frank. After his mother death a few years previous, he has turned more towards religion, and his relationship with his father has strengthened.

Witty and jovial, they make their way to Nubia, only to find themselves in a land devoid of luxuries. Gerald is concerned with Michael’s safety, Frank is not always on the up and up, but even so, Gerald is quite interested in his find. When they reach the camp, they find an unexpected visitor. Dr. Mardle, Director of Archaeology and Anthropology for Oxford is also there. A comrade and close friend to Frank he is visiting for a game of chess. Frank assures Gerald that the information he has will not be shared with Mardle, but when an argument ensues a bit later, Frank refuses to even talk to Gerald until morning.

For Gerald and his son, it is an eventful morning. Frank Tones is found dead of an apparent snake bite, but there are questions. Could it be murder? The cabbie that drove Gerald and Michael from the airport is dead in an apparent overdose. In addition, Gerald feels as though they are being followed. Called in to put together Frank papers for transport, Gerald discovers part of the secret Frank was planning to share. It deals with a religious secret that has been missing for thousands of years. However, he must leave it all behind; he cannot put Michael in further danger.

Fast-forward fifteen years, Gerald has died of an apparent heart attack several years earlier. When Franks daughter, and an old girlfriend of Michael’s stops by to let him know she will continue the investigation into her father’s death, Michael is determined to go with her. Diagnosed with cancer, she only has months to live. She disappears before Michael can prepare, and he is left to worry and wonder. When she too is found murdered, Michael knows he must put a stop to the madness. What is the secret that is worth the lives of so many men and women? Michael is determined to find the answers. With the help of a young librarian named June, Michael races against time to find the clues and the killers before his life too is at risk.

In The Eighth Scroll by Dr. Laurence B. Brown, we meet some marvelous and well-developed characters. Dr. Gerald Hanson is a father first and archaeologist second, and Brown has drawn an exceptional story line around his repartee and interplay with his son. He is an intelligent and funny person, and father and a widower who lost his wife. You can feel his loss and yet you can feel his guilt as well. Brown has drawn a character so true to life he seems real. I was devastated when the years move forward and he died of a heart attack. I felt his loss deeply.

Michael is a wonderful and courageous man. He lost his mother in a horrible way, and later his father. He has turned to religion and has written many books on his theories, and though it all he maintains his fitness through martial arts. It was something he did as a child and remained a form of comfort for him as he grew. He is funny and kind, and yet he pushes women away. Always feeling that those he loves, die early, he does not allow anyone to get close. Somehow, June makes it through, but even then, he continues to keep her at arm’s length. He is thoughtful and sometimes temperamental, with just enough flaws to make his character immanently human.

I would recommend this book for the suspense and thriller fan, it is full of action and verve, but it is also peppered with religious and historical facts as well. You will be drawn deep into the Middle East religious communities, and brush shoulders with the Mossad and the CIA.  The characters are audacious and charismatic, drawing you into the story. This would be a marvelous book for a reading group. It is fast paced and hard to put down, a must have for your library.

Rating 5/5
Looking for a copy. Check it out here.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's Wrong with Donny Speck? by T. L. Peters

Often cutthroat, the world of law and the legal machinations of the attorneys  can spell huge paydays for the down and out, and for the attorneys themselves. Often attorneys cater to one particular company, there at the company’s disposal. Competition for partner is a part of the package, and frequently, underhanded games are played within the firm. Those relishing that relationship are brave enough to risk all to reach that particular brass ring.

In What’s Wrong with Donny Speck by Thomas Peters, Donny occasionally has dreams about escaping the confines of law. He is in contention with Mike Denton for the partnership in Deswold’s law firm. The problem was that Mike is everything the Donny was not. He was handsome, bold, and charismatic, dressed well and still had a headful of hair. He was also good with the ladies, including one tall ruthless and strong office worker, Leona, whom Donny just happened to have his eye on.

Donny is unkempt, often un-showered. He has learned to use the shuffle and uncooperative attitude to perfection. For some reason his boss equates this look with intelligence. While Mike has pulled ahead in the running, their most important client feels that he has mishandled his business and is now looking to have his business rechecked for errors. The law firm hides many of his transactions to keep him free from the law, but something is bothering him about some of his recent transactions. He wants Donny Speck. Asking his mentor for advice, Donny meets another potiential strong woman, Monica, who also seems a bit interested in him.

He agrees to run interference for their Client. This will require him to fly to Bolivia to handle the paperwork. From here, everything begins to turn in strange and unusual directions. His mentor’s secretary shows up, and seems to be stalking him. He finds the country in disarray. As he concludes his business and heads home, he soon finds Mike Denton and Leona murdered. Soon Donny is the only suspect and he must run for his life. Can he find what is happening and why? Will his life ever be the same?

Donny is an odd character, and I found him not at all likable. He is wimpy and whiney, and very unkempt. He is one of those characters that you dislike at the beginning and every turn he takes only makes you further understand your feeling. He is sneaky, and gets off women who slap him around. As a protagonist, he is the guy you love to dislike. His personality is virtually non- existent and yet all the action plays out around or about him.

Monica is the strength in the relationship. There are things about her that are unknown and she is full of layers. She is admirable and yet, there is something about Donny that attracts her. Without her, he will not be able to get out of the mess he is in, and yet she consistently pulls away, to return when he is in need.

This is an odd and somewhat interesting novel, which takes you from the quintessential law offices in the States and into the unbridled and rioting country of Bolivia. The descriptions of the area are well written and you can see the happenings. I believe the genre would fit the suspense category, with a bit of romance thrown in. It is also riddled with humor, a sort of tongue in cheek variety. It was a difficult book for me to get into, although the story was interesting enough. Parts of the story weighed it down, and created a bit of slow going. However, it was interesting and gave a different and unique view of the world of law.

Rating 3/5
What's Wrong With Donny Speck

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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, May 13, 2011

Witches of East End by Melissa De La Cruz

Article first published as Book Review: Witches of East End by Melissa De La Cruz on Blogcritics.

There is something wrong in North Hampton. It is a small close-knit town, not found on any map. Fair Haven, the old manor house, has stood empty for years. Owned by the same family for hundreds of years, no one has seen anyone near the house, so it is with surprise when neighbors first begin to see lights in the old home.

This seems to be only the beginning of strange and deadly happenings, as an elderly couple is attacked on the beach. The man is killed and his wife left for dead, but now in a coma in the hospital. On the surface life continues and yet there is one other family who is beginning to feel the undertow of danger. Freya Beauchamp and her sister Ingrid are different, with just a hint of their own mysterious past bubbling just below the surface. Strange occurrences often follow them as well. They are not alone in their difference. How could they be? Their mother also lives in North Hampton, and the young women have inherited many of their mother's characteristics.

Freya has the most difficulty. She is young and full of energy, and magic rolls off her, igniting incidents without fail. Careful to keep her calm, she still is often unable to control her excitement. Her kind has been banned from practicing magic as part of the agreement after the Salem witch trials. Freya is the first to break the rule. Just a tiny bit - no one will know. Soon Ingrid and their mother Joanne find themselves using 'small' enchantments, 'small' magic, only to help their friends. How can that be wrong? Will their disobedience be noticed?

Even as they begin to worry about the attention they are receiving, people are beginning to disappear. There is an odd growth in the water around North Hampton, reported in several other areas around the world. People are beginning to act out, with no provocation. Ingrid first becomes aware of the way this substance connects itself to people. Can she and her family find the answers before their lives are destroyed? Can they stop the one responsible for spreading the poison?

How will they explain the use of magic, and why now after hundreds of years does it seem right? In Witches of East End by Melissa De La Cruz, we are introduced to an intriguing story of what happened to witches after the Salem witch hunts. It is a unique and quite fascinating glimpse of life after the trials. De La Cruz has taken the usual witch tale and twisted it into a fantastic story. She has used her unusual approach and layered it in with an all-encompassing evil, though her characters are very altruistic.
Freya is generous and fun with energy to spare. Just engaged, she finds herself drawn to her fianc├ęs' brother. She is not sure what is happening, she knows she is in love, so how is it that she cannot control herself around Killian? Not only that but when she decides to break the rules and use her magic to help a friend, she begins to remember how alive it makes her feel. She refuses to feel any wrong in her decision. She feels more alive than ever, but is not sure what she will do about her feeling for the two brothers. She is passionate, alive, and just a bit selfish. Yet she is so human and, even with her powers of magic, she often does the wrong thing, giving her very human characteristics. It draws you to her, and gives her a certain charisma.

Ingrid has hidden away and hides her beauty in plainness. She works in the library and has become the old maid, often denoted as librarians in many books. De La Cruz has created a wonderful character with heart. It took me a while to warm up to Ingrid but once you find that warmth is was hard to imagine her any other way.

Their mother is the quintessential mother in many ways. She worries for her girls and yet understands they have grown up and need their space. She has taken on a young child to care for while his parents are away and she is finding a freshness that she had forgotten. She had not seen, nor heard from her own son for so long she began to wonder if he was no longer alive. This was her chance to remember and relive some of her earlier life. When Tyler gets ill, will Joanna be able to save him?

Can they all come together to stop the darkness before it is too late? Witches of East End is a strong and fast-paced story. It hooks you from the first and you will have difficulty putting it down. It is full of suspense, horror and action, yet interspaced with romance and sensuality, with just enough fire for the romance aficionado. There is something for everyone, a book that is a must have for your library. It is one to take out and read again, and still find small bits you may have missed. A great book for a book club or a reading group.

Rating 5/5
Witches of East End

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Racing Outside the Line by Kimberly Montague

Article first published as Book Review: Racing Outside the Line by Kimberly Montague on Blogcritics.

The world of racing is not a private world. Auto racing is one of the countries national pastimes, it is very public, and rumors abound. Growing up in the racing industry would certainly be exciting, yet television and news is an avid reminder that everyone is in the spotlight, and secrets do not last long in the business. Romances are hot and breakups are cold, and most are reported in vivid detail.

In Racing Outside the Line, Kimberly Montague has given us a story of love and romance set in and around the racing industry. Well written, her knowledge of the industry and her characters seem to fit the classic characterization of those we often watch on Television or hear about on the news. From the time her parent’s death, all Alexis (Lexie) and her brother Desmond know is the love and caring of Wyatt Keller, her father’s best friend and their guardian. His son Seth also lives with them and they are frequently in and out of the racing circuit. Her brother Desmond goes into the business as a publicist, and Seth becomes one of the top drivers. In fact, Desmond is Seth’s publicist and keeps him out of trouble and in good standing with the communications industry. Racing fans are often fickle and it is important to maintain a certain image. That was Desmond’s job.
For as long as Lexie can remember, she has been in love with Seth. To him she is just a kid. Not only a child, but his annoying kid sister. The difference in their ages seems insurmountable to Lexie at her young age, but as time moves on the spread no longer seems to matter. Seth is not as immune as he pretends. As he hand her off to her date for the senior prom, he struggles with his feeling, she is so beautiful and grown up. Her prom attire brings out her beauty, and Seth has mixed feelings. When Lexie leaves the after-prom party early, and calls for Seth to pick her up, she is angry. Her date whom she really does like, wants to be her first sexual partner, but she can only think of Seth. Knowing he is unreachable, she is angry with herself, but also at him for being there. As he tries to calm her down, one thing leads to another and they find themselves in bed together. To Lexie, she is in heaven; this is what she always envisioned. And Seth really cares for her. Life is suddenly everything she had ever expected.

Waking in the morning, she finds Seth has gone. She goes into a deep depression and loses herself much as she did after the death of her parents. To help keep sane, she goes through her College acceptance letters and finds the College furthest from where Seth lives. She will have to remake her world and rebuild her confidence in order to survive. Watching Seth’s career will be the only view she will have of him. Can she survive without him in her life? He is still a part of her extended family; will her heartbreak keep her from the rest of her family as well?

This is a fun and yet intricate story of love. Sadness and depression permeate parts of the story, and Lexie must lean on others to grow and regain her confidence. She struggles through the years trying to turn each of her conquests into Seth. No one seems to be able to live up to her expectations. She does not realize she is making this contrast, and yet it is apparent to all those who know and love her. I found myself a bit disturbed by her character. First, she has so much depression and low self-esteem, and then recoups with a strong backbone and high esteem. Yet as she encounters more vicissitudes again with Seth, she seems to lose her equilibrium and again sinks into a depression. It seems like such a manic-depressive state, and yet she is again an entirely different person at the end. Having grown through the years, she seemed to gain more control and not rely so much on others to know who she is.

Seth is very much aware of himself, and surrounded by beautiful women. Used to being fawned upon he only realizes how much he loves Lexie when it is too late for him. Now, engaged to be married, it is only when he sees Lexie again; he understands his reaction to women. He begins to understand why he has never been able to follow through on his commitments. Can life be fair, and allow them to finally be with the one they love.

This is a fun love story, full of bits and pieces of depression and bitterness. Yet it is also full of love and yearning, family ties, and a love that lasts a lifetime. Sexual tension is high and there are some vivid love scenes. If you enjoy romance, this is the book for you. It is steamy and sensual, with a heartwarming tale of deep and abiding love.

Rating 4/5

Racing Outside the Line

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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roll of The Die by Sean P. Bridges

Article first published as Book Review: Roll of The Die by Sean P. Bridges on Blogcritics.

The roll of the dice has different connotations and meaning for most everyone. A game of chance that can reflect gambling, a decision made that either brings you what you want or alternately makes life worse. I can be just that bit of luck, or maybe down on your luck, but it is really all about choices in the end.

In Roll of the Die by Sean P. Bridges, we meet a man that personifies choices. Riley made a number of choices in his life, often with unfortunate consequences. Robbery seemed easy until he was caught, but after spending time in prison, he felt the need to change his ways. After being released early, determined to make his way, he is introduced to a good friend’s sister. Carol is a woman whom he finds he enjoys and he finds that she is more than willing to marry him. His life is good, so much better then what he expected. He now understands that his happiness should have been his first clue. Something had to happen, that was how his luck held.

It began with his friend, Carol’s brother needing his help. Joey was in hock and needed money for a gambling debt. He came up with an idea for a heist, and asked Riley for his help. Of course, Riley refused. He was done with that kind of life. When Joey apprised him of the fact that Carol would be in danger, Riley had no choice. He would not risk Carol. She meant more to him that he cared to admit, he would do what it took to keep her safe.

As with all games of chance, something went dreadfully wrong, Joey is injured, and Riley is running for his life. As he heads to pick up Joey and try to make a semblance at controlling the fall out, he finds he is too late. Joey is dead in a most gruesome way, and he is being required to replace a contestant in a gruesome game of chance. If he survives, he will live and receive 3 million dollars. If he should lose, Carol will die as well.

This is a Vegas style game, the venue located in that very locale, and attended by the most jaded and wealthy of gamblers. It is just that one more step of depravity and excitement, a heart shattering, unimaginable game of chance. Played out once a year, this high stakes and macabre game of chance affords those willing to be involved in such a gamble to make serious money. The game, called triple six is a form of Russian roulette, a group of six contestants each get three rounds. At each round a bullet is chambered in a gun, the contestant rolls the dice, and the trigger is pulled for the number on the dice. A six would mean death as the pistol was a six shot, but any other roll gave the contestant a chance, with a one being the best chance. The winner left standing after three rounds would receive the three million dollar prize. In this particular game of chance, Riley was not a volunteer; he was a forced replacement due to the botched job with his friend. His own life and that of his wife Carol, hung in the balance.

Bridges has done a fascinating job of creating characters that hold your attention. Flawed in numerous ways, he gives them personalities that make you care about them. You are horrified at the death and depravity described in his rendition of events. The gamblers are cold and calculating; with a lack of feeling, that raises the hair on the back of your neck. The in-depth and specific descriptions of the sequences are written with an eye to horror. You cannot help but feel the fear and sweat with the contestants as they each wait their turn. They have only each other, but is it enough? What will happen and who will win? If it is Ridley, will his wife still be alive?
Action packed and full of energy, this is a twisted and horror filled story. It begins a bit slow but builds into a tense and fear filled ending that keep you reading. The suspense and action keep you on the edge of the seat, with a combination of awe for Ridley and a sense of horror at the game.

This book is not for the weak of heart and certainly carries language that in some cases would scald those who are easily offended. If you care for this genre of book, it is the top of the game and Bridges has written a winner. Be prepared for a wild ride, with action that will keep you going.

Rating 4/5
Roll of The Die

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.

Better Together by Raymond Rose

Article first published as Book Review:Better Together by Raymond Rose on Blogcritics.

Paul Rhoads is a writer, ready to return home. Beginning to miss those small things he took for granted in his youth, he is successful yet restless. Part of what drives him is Annie, his best friend. A new mother and yet recently divorced, she too is looking forward to seeing Paul again. Her angst is real and while she certainly has strong feelings for Paul, her newly divorced husband, a philanderer in his own right, uses reverse psychology on Annie, accusing her of having her friend Paul’s baby. It is with just a bit of anger and trepidation that she begins her new life, one as the mother of a baby Boy named Max.

As Paul and Annie rekindle their friendship, it grows into love. Yet Paul is concerned, can he overcome the fact that Max is not his own child? Will he resent this and allow it to color their relationship? After much thought he determines that he can accept Max, and as a part of Annie, he will be able to have a strong relationship. When Annie accepts his proposal he is ecstatic, his whole world is changing. As he comes to spend just a bit of time with Max, a small bud of love grows. Having never been around a child, the love deepens leaving no sign of his initial feeling. Taking Max with him on errands and spending quality time with him give Paul such pleasure. It only takes one instant for life to change, just one reckless mistake, for lives to be changed forever. When Annie dies in a car accident just two short weeks after their wedding, the loss is devastating.

Paul tries to do the right thing. He contacts Max’s real father Jason, who brushes him off. Paul preservers believe Max should be with his biological father and actually goes to Jason’s place of work to confront him. He finds Jason on the eve of a new marriage, and absolutely no interest in a son he wants nothing to do with. What can Paul do, while he is the guardian, he and Annie were only married a few short weeks? Can he learn to be a father to another man’s son?

In Better Together, Raymond Rose has taken a tragedy and built a story of love. Paul is a young man, left in an untenable position. He initially feels overwhelmed with life, and begins to find himself in a bit of a depression. His mother is there to help him through his new fatherhood in whatever way he feels necessary, and offers him advice when asked. However, she is there for guidance and allows him to grow into the position of fatherhood in his own way with much gentle encouragement.

Annie’s friends are also there along with an old friend of his from school, there to help him through both his grieving and his growth. When he finds himself with questions, he remembers his lessons as a writer. He can research; he can find the answers by finding the right questions. He wants so badly to be the best father and yet women who feel he should be looking for a Mother for Max often mimic his doubts. He understands the dilemma, but he is not ready, the grieving process is still painful.

Max is a joy and Rose does a wonderful job of bringing this delightful child into being. His characterizations are charming, and Max’s simple exclamations and antics bring him to life. He is precocious and precious, and even twists the wary reader around his finger. As Paul and Max build their life together and Max grows and develops into a wonderful and charismatic five year old, Paul’s life is finally beginning to come together. When Max’s father suddenly intrudes back into their life, Paul tries hard to be fair with Max’s time.

However, when Jason and his new wife kidnap Max, Paul is lost. As his father, Jason holds all the cards. What will he do, and how will he get his son back? Jason is the donor, but to Paul he is no longer the father, that is Paul’s title and he will not give it up. Can he win this battle, and get his son back?

This is a wonderful heartwarming story about fatherhood. Rose does a great job of building his characters and making you care about them. If you enjoy people and their interactions, you will love this book. It is interesting and well written with characters to care about. It would be a marvelous book for a reading club or a book club. It deals with many different, stereotypes and characterizations, which would be interesting in a discussion group.

Rating 4/5
Better Together

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.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Bad, The Good and Two Fly Fishing Women by Randy Kadish

Article first published as Book Review:The Bad, The Good and Two Fly Fishing Women by Randy Kadish on Blogcritics.

Lessons in our youth are often the ones that dictate the path we choose. Everyone has those lessons, either good or bad, but something that shapes our life.

In The Bad, The Good and Two Fly Fishing Women by Randy Kadish, Amanda, an attorney now looks back at the formative years of her life and the special bond that helped her become the successful person she is. Having grown up with her father after her mother left and nurtured by her grandmother, Amanda has fond memories of the years gone by. She often looks back to one special day in her life when many things happened that changed her life forever.

Her Grandparents were avid fly fishermen; her Grandfather had actually died on the pond. Her Grandmother was her confidant and her best friend and Amanda spent a great deal of time with her learning the art of fly-casting. Amanda’s young life changed in an instant when her Grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. She no longer spent her free time on the water fishing she stayed near her sickbed, keeping her company. When her Grandmother gave her, her fly reel and shooed her on her way to more fishing, Amanda reluctantly agreed. She took her beloved dog and spent numerous hours wrestling with the fish. It was at this time she met the fish of her dreams, the one that always got away. The beauty and delicacy of the catch, the danger of losing such a prize made Amanda make a decision, if she could only land it she would let it go. It was about the mastery, and if she were capable of this, she would be forever grateful.

One morning getting ready for school, Amanda was surprised to find her Grandmother up and dressed in her fishing gear. Concerned, Amanda wanted to skip her schooling and keep her Grandmother safe. Laughing, her Grandmother assured her she was more than capable, and as Amanda hugged her to be on her way; she felt the gun her Grandmother was carrying. When asking about it her Grandmother reminded her that a woman on her own could never be too careful. In School, Amada kept thinking back to her conversation, and a feeling that something was wrong. Unable to concentrate and worried now, she leaves her school and tries to find her Grandmother.

It is a day of danger and even stranger happenings. She runs into an old man, down on his luck and a friend of his grandmother, and when Amanda see’s he has her Grandmother’s fishing creel she understands her feeling of dread, why would her Grandmother give away something so dear. Shock and dismay become the tone of the day, and the old man too learns a lesson from Amanda, as he becomes her protector through this dangerous and gruesome day. Can she find her Grandmother before the unimaginable happens? Can a young girl survive the real dangers that lurk in the woods?

Kadish has carved a wonderful story full of antics that any true angler would love. His characters are fun and bold, mercurial and fast somewhat like the fish themselves. Amanda is a brave young girl, searching for a hold in a world that has crumbled. Abandoned by her mother, the only other female figure in her life is her Grandmother. When she is diagnosed with cancer, Amanda’s life further erodes. The fishing soothes her feeling; the continual casting of the fly-fishing that keeps her mind from the worrisome illness of her beloved Grandmother.

Her Grandmother is a wonderful character. She is someone we would all like to know, and she too is knowledgeable about fishing. It is the tie that binds their family. This is a wonderfull character driven book that just happens to be about fishing. This is a short story, full of bravado and a bit of cunning.

If you love fishing and especially fly fishing, you will enjoy this wholesome family story. It takes you back to a time before innocence is changed and the times where a child is still unafraid to speak their mind.

Rating 3/5
The Bad, The good and Two Fly Fishing Women

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, May 6, 2011

Blog Hop and Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop

This weeks question comes from Twitter! Thanks to Melissa (aka Miel_et_Lait) who blogs at Miel et Lait.

"Which book blogger would you most like to meet in real life?"

I would like to meet Man of Lbook, always very kind and insightful.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two Fisted Tweets by James Hutchings

James Hutchings has put together a series of short stories, full of fun and quite insightful. They are interesting with each a story into itself. I found myself reading and enjoying each individual story, some were fun, others dark, but even those were set with humor. What was interesting to me is it brought to mind the reading of quotes. Always quite unique and generally with meaning or an interesting morale. While the book is short it does have a great deal of fun and laughter involved. Each story is under 140 characters in length, about the size of a tweet which I would think how the name came into being.

It has several different genres, including science fiction, and if you enjoy good short fiction, this is the book to find. If you enjoy humor you will want to check out this set of short stories by James Hutchings, he has cornered the market on short story fun. I alway find it interesting to see how some writers can put together stories in such form and it is always a marvel to feel like you get it.

Rating 4/5

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

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Expert Assistance by Robert Collins

Article first published as Book Review: Expert Assistance by Robert Collins on Blogcritics.

Going from being broke and having no opportunity to redeem yourself to having two opposing gigs is something that can really throw you off stride. When one job entails protection of a seriously spoiled Diva, and the other entails helping a rebellion to succeed on a compromised planet, how do you choose the one most important. Or do you?

Jake Bonner is a down and out spaceship pilot. He is in hock and only has a ship because it was abandoned in space where he was able to connect to the ships computer, Odin. Without Odin, most of what Jake has accomplished would not have been possible. All the same, Jake is in trouble. He is unable to pay his debts so when Odin is able to secure him not just one job but two; he is ready to take charge.

Evvie Martini, a young pop star, is his initial workload. He is to chauffeur her and keep her safe during her tour. When her tour just happens to coincide with his second opportunity it seems like luck is smiling with him. Daniel and Clarissa Rosen need help overthrowing the dictatorial ruler of their planet. This is more to Jakes liking and abilities, but the money is necessary from his chauffeuring gig. In between concerts and tours, Jake is hard at work helping the Rosen’s along the way on their rebellion. Keeping the two jobs separate is really becoming an issue, and when Evvie finds out what he is up to there is no stopping her. She is now convinced that the publicity she would receive by being involved in helping in the rebellion will give her better standing with her fans, and when her parents and publicist agree, Jake is in for the time of his life.

Expert Assistance, by Robert Collins is a funny and perverse look at putting together a rebellion on a shoestring. Using his interesting team, which now consists of Odin, his computer, Evvie, and the Rosens he is in just a bit over his head. Can they come together in such a way as to help Antioch Two succeed from its leader, and free those living in oppression?

Collins has written a fun and somewhat absurd science fiction that tickles your senses. Evvie is the quintessential teen, full of drama and full of herself. She is amusing and like any other teenager works at breaking the rules. When she has an opportunity of a lifetime to become part of a rebellion she is in it up to her neck. She jumps in with both feet and her presence is part of what makes the whole situation possible. She is like many other teens you run across, and it was unexpected to find she was actually pretty sharp.

Jake Bonner is a self-starter, long on brains and abilities, but never quite up to snuff at staying ahead of the money game. His ship is really all he has and when he realizes the constraints his finances have landed him in, he is game to jump into the fray. He seems to have an innate sense of humor, and is able to roll with the punches. Oden, his shipboard computer rounds up his personality with witty and fun as well as challenging repartee. This dialogue keeps the humor and action going at a quick pace.

The Rosens are just a nice couple who want changes on their planet. They are looking to help free their people from oppression, and have many ideas but most of them are just quite absurd and they look to Jake for answers.

If you are looking for a fun read with interesting characters this book will be up your alley. It will also resonate with the science fiction buff, but be prepared for just a bit of slapstick humor. The pace is quick and the action is continual. A fun and interesting read.

Rating 3/5
Expert Assistance

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

As for Me and My House by Rose Marie Whiteside

Article first published as Book Review: As for Me and My House by Rose Marie Whiteside on Blogcritics.

As education continues to become an issue in the schools, as scores continue to drop, students are leaving schools at alarming rates. Those that struggle with learning and fitting in find it easier to drop out, and scores for the students that continue are not correspondingly high.

Rose Marie Whiteside has written a guide for parents with school age children using facts and statistics to help them help their children through the education process. Her own education is in political science and English literature, with her graduate work in the field of special education. Her most recent degree was in social work.

She has spent much of her time working towards better education and has several websites dedicated to her work. In As for Me and My House, she has put together a guide for the parent that wants to take control of their child’s education. It is interspersed with religion, politics and statistics, utilizing the learning and proven theories and facts acquired over the years.

She sets about building an argument on how education has become more difficult as parents become immersed in their work, and leave all the control to the school system. Her guidance and statistics show the differing roadblocks to education helping to create the problem with more students dropping out. These include social standing, lifestyle, economics, and realities to name a few. Whiteside is well versed in the grant programs and the efficiency of the government programs and yet she feels it is not enough. Every child is entitled to an education and it seems the lengths the government uses to insure this right, is often beyond logic.

In this guide, Ms. Whiteside urges the parent to take a stand and become involved in all areas of education for their child, to become a partner with the teacher. Knowledge is power and knowing what and how their child is learning will help them to ease the way through the process.

In her view, education is more than just learning schoolwork, it involves anger management, differing ways of studying, mentoring and due diligence. As education erodes, the prospects for a healthy economy also takes a down turn. This guide is about taking care of your own house and building it strong and healthy, one block at a time.

This would be a good book for the family looking for guidance to become involved in their students studies and long-term learning. It is thought provoking and knowledgeable and Whiteside uses her education as a springboard to help solve the issues she sees inherent in our school systems today.

While much of her rhetoric is fact based, there is always opinion and with any controversial subject, you must often try to sort through the differences. Rose Marie Whiteside has tried to keep this as fact based as possible and for those looking for such guidance this will be a great boon. This guide is full of information and guidance, with an eye to the everyday issues faced by our children as they work on their education.

 Rating 5/5
As for Me and My House

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

Monday, May 2, 2011

The shifters of 2040 by Ami Rebecca Blackwelder

Article first published as Book Review:The Shifters of 2040 by Ami Rebecca Blackwelder on Blogcritics.

In an interesting futuristic Science Fiction novel set in the beautiful backdrop of Alaska, a species of alien that had infiltrated the earth have now begun hybridization. While throughout most of the states these aliens have allegedly been eradicated, the pockets found in Alaska appear to be some of the last of the species. Known as shifters for their ability to change form, they are hunted exhaustedly by the Shifter Counterinsurgency Military, known as SCM. The SCM have set up a scientific community to study the changes and stay abreast of the possibilities. Dr.’s Melissa Marn and Bruce Wilder are the scientists in charge of the DNA investigation. Colonel Raul is the military voice behind the scenes pushing for the information.

There is something unhealthy about his excitement in the investigation; he enjoys the pain exhibited by the shifter during experimentation. Melissa believes he is trying to find a way to use their abilities for himself. She finds him distasteful and vindictive. He is not someone she finds she can trust. Her other problem with the whole situation is her father is also a part of the SCM, and his expectations for her are very clear. Her mother died while she was still quite young and she is in thrall to her father and his machinations of her.

In The Shifters of 2040, Ami Rebecca Blackwelder has brought us a new species of alien and given us a remarkable wilderness in which to place them. In Ami’s rendition, we find the aliens to be a very non confrontational and peaceful group, and yet they are pursued and persecuted for science. While there have been some incidents where humans were killed, in every incident it appeared as though the killing happened in self-defense. Yet Colonel Raul has twisted the facts to keep hysteria high, and to be able to continue into his own nefarious schemes. The hybridization however really is happening, the Shifters are looking for a way to survive the hostility, and find that if they can alter their DNA they will have a better chance to live. Mating with human women seems to be one of the most likely possibilities.

Bclackwelder has built a race of aliens that tug at you and capture your imagination. They are interesting and yet just different enough to cause a bit of caution. As usual when differences of the nature that are described in her story, the human race react with either welcome or in this case with caution, fear, and hostility. The few that take the time to know them are enthralled, but it is such a small faction as to be nonexistent.

In Melissa, Ami has given us a protagonist that certainly creates feeling. I at times liked her but many times did not. She has excuses for every nefarious thing she does that is requested, and does not stand up for what she actually believes to be right. She refuses to change the status quo, although she does not agree with the experimentation and basic murder of a species. The perfect foil for her own demons is Bruce Wilder. Bruce finds himself in love with Melissa. He is working hard at separating her from the job that is creating such a burden. He does not understand how she can continue what is asked of her in good conscious, and continuously works at her to understand the wrongness of the orders.

Children of the Shifters are not immune to the treatment, they are also poked and prodded, looking for more answers, and when Melissa finds an answer to some of the questions of DNA, she finally reacts in a more human way. What has she found that she is now hiding? Will she be able to separate herself from the military faction, or will she continue and damage her own psyche with the experimentation that continues?

If you love science fiction, you will enjoy this book. It is the second of a series and yet written to stand on its own. The series looks interesting and I am looking forward to what comes next with this small group of Shifters, the few left that are struggling for life. This is a thought provoking book and makes you think about differences and how others are often treated based off fear and lack of understanding.

The Shifters of 2040 is a fast-paced read, full of action and characters you can care about. Blackwelder has done a great job on her characters and world.

Rating 4/5
The Shifters of 2040

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.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mystical Circles by S.C. Skillman

Article first published as Book Review:Mystical Circles by S.C. Skillman on Blogcritics.

When Juliet Blake receives an email from her sister Zoe proclaiming a new love and her intention of joining his New Age cult in the Cotswolds’ she is panicked. She does not believe Zoe knows what is best for her and as her older sister; it is in Juliet’s best interest to rescue her. Julie uses her work as a freelance investigative journalist to worm her way into asking questions.

What she finds when she reaches the ranch is anything but normal, and as she delves in she meets and oddly charismatic and dysfunctional group of people. Besides the unusual characters a type of bedlam seems to exist, a kind of do anything attitude. The leader Craig is nothing like she imagined and she is drawn to him in an unexplainable way. Craig’s father Don is also present at the ranch, hoping to help his son salvage his commune. Due to the nature of the problems of those living in the commune, the ranch is close to bankruptcy.

There are strange things happening in the commune, and when a priest shows up it further traumatizes the group. Each of them has an unusual reason for being here, and there appears to be no real rules. When one of the attendees begins to lose control and attacks others, Juliet expects police involvement. When this does not occur, she is incredulous, and yet finds herself going along with the reasoning. When attacked herself, she no longer believes the cause. What is happening and why? This loving and freedom-believing cult while wonderful on the surface is a cauldron of deceit and depravity on the inside. Can she help to find the problems? Is Craig the wonderful guy she thinks, and what is it about his father that seems to now attract her?

In Mystical Circles, S.C. Skillman introduces you to an eclectic and slightly damaged group of characters. Skillman does a great job of portraying the damaged psyche in most cases and you can visualize the characters to a great degree. Many of the flaws are quite harmless and you find yourself drawn to the individuals, hoping the unusual treatment will be the answer, the redeeming feature for them to be able to gain normalcy. Yet there are those others, just severe enough that keep the tension high and keep the group on edge.

Don seems to be the only normal person there, and Juliet finds him to be a great sounding board through the times she spends with them. His relationship with his son however is anything but normal. She is constantly asked to take sides, yet she remains neutral. She is here for a story, and yet she does find herself pulled in to the strangeness.

Juliet on the surface seems to be very sharp and begins her investigation with thought and care. And yet she consistently says the wrong thing setting off different chain reactions the reverberate throughout the commune. She is a catalyst for many of the choices and often seems to put her foot in her mouth when trying to get information from the different members. Her strength seems to change towards the end when she struggles with her own attractions. She seems to lose that edge and her boundaries appear to blur.

Can she help to save this commune, or is it just another mistake, a place for people to hide from real-life with no redeeming qualities. Can she leave after all she has witnessed?

This is an unusual read, one with an interesting cast of characters, and a string of unusual happenings. It moves along at a quick pace, and keeps you interested in what may occur next. This is not your usual thriller and yet it keeps you in suspense. It is more of a mystery of the workings of a disparate group of people. It deals with how relationships are formed and how the smallest of happenings can shatter lives.

Skillman is a deft hand at creating characters. If you are interested in people and their foibles, you will enjoy this book.

Rating 4/5
Mystical Circles

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