Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Death by Honeymoon by Jaden Skye

Death by Honeymoon by Jaden Skye is a light mystery, full of love and longing, with scenes from the beautiful island of Barbados. She does a great job of building a love story, and then takes us to the shattered life of Cindy, a young woman now looking for answers.

On the beautiful West side of Barbados, Cindy and Clint cement their love, their honeymoon is in just the perfect spot. The West side of the island so infrequently used by tourists is the very draw, Clint is an experienced surfer, and this area is known for its waves. The beauty and the companionship are everything Cindy always wanted. Even with the difficulties from Clint’s family, their marriage still went through as planned. Here in this beautiful and enchanted place their love just continued to grow. Cindy has trusted Clint more than she has trusted anyone. She understands that no matter what, he would be there for her. As their honeymoon draws to a close, she is sad, only a few more days and they would again face the real world with its challenges from both Clint’s family and his job. But until then she would enjoy every minute. A beautiful lunch and then more surfing is set for the day, but when Cindy takes suddenly ill and becomes extremely tired, she assures Clint that she will only take a small nap, and meet him on the beach in an hour.

When Cindy finally wakes, she finds that several hours have passed, and as she goes searching for Clint, she cannot find him. Panic sets in and alarm sets her nerves on edge. She knows something is wrong Clint would never disappear. When his body is found in the surf, her life begins to fall apart.

Cindy is unable to understand how this could have happened, his parents suspect her of some nefarious deeds, which cuts her to the quick. She is unable to operate on her own, unable to leave her room or even talk to Clint’s friends. Her Sister Ann is there for her. In her grief, Cindy’s mind takes some strange turns, and she is even now convinced that Clint was murdered. With nothing to go on, she finally finds something to believe in again. Going through his files, she begins to question everything she knew about him. Returning emails to his friends and asking questions, she is nonetheless surprised when the brakes on her car fail, and her sister is almost killed. The police find the brakes tampered with but have nothing further to go on.

Not knowing where to go for help, she finally determines that the FBI would be the only safe place to start. Without evidence, they are unable and unwilling to help her. She must go back to the very place it all began, Barbados.

Cindy seems so clingy and helpless in much of the prose although she strengthens her resolve towards the end. She operates on gut instinct and bullheadedness, and stays the course following her beliefs. When vindicated and she begins to find the clues to the mystery, she puts her own and her sister’s life at risk. Yet she is determined to find the answers. She begins the story with no self confidence and is more self reliant at the end.

This is a light read full of mystery and longing. The romance is wonderful, and the story quite interesting. If you enjoy a light mystery, and romance, with a bit of sadness this is the read. The story is written well and moves along at a quick pace.

Rating 3/5
Death By Honeymoon

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, August 29, 2011

The Egyptian by Layton Green

Article first published as Book Review: The Egyptian by Layton Green on Blogcritics.

Searching for the ever-elusive fountain of youth has driven different governments, factions and cults for centuries trying to find that special liquid that can hold off the effect of aging. In The Egyptian by Layton Green, he takes us into the ever interesting and precise world of scientific facts and experiments, with an analytical eye towards the verbiage and histories of the different sciences.

As he takes his wonderful and exciting protagonist, Dominic Grey, now working for Professor Viktor Radik in his religious investigations, we take a quick and marvelous journey into the unknown. With Radik involved in his own work, Grey as his partner is engaged to retrieve a missing item that has disappeared from a corporation. At this point after his most recent investigation where he and several others including Radik and Nya, the woman he loved, ended up in the hands of a madman, this seemed to be just a routine job. Ready for anything that would take his mind off Nya and the despair he felt, he needed the distraction. She was no longer returning his calls or emails, and while he understood, it hurt in a way for which he was unprepared.

His initial impression of those he would be working for seemed a bit odd. The bodyguard of Al-Miri, the man who was filling him in on the theft, was only 5 feet tall and almost as wide, appearing as though he may have been a body builder at some point in his life. He also sported an abnormal growth on his back and Grey had a difficult time keeping his eyes from tracking back to him during his discussion of the case. He exuded a kind of flatness, a lack of caring, and he made Grey uncomfortable. Heading out and beginning the investigation, he found himself in the middle of a protest at the biotech lab he decided to check with. It is here, at this lab and protest that he runs into woman, one who would become a vital part of his investigation as he moved forward. Veronica Brown a reporter for the UN is also hot on the trail of the different genetics and DNA testing going on with the different biotech laboratories, following the different stories and reporting the news. She immediately senses a story attached to Grey and is determined to follow it to the source.

What began as the tracking a missing object becomes a mystery into the very fabric of longevity, and the history into the beginnings of alchemy and the lives of the gods and goddesses of Egyptian lore. Radik becomes involved as the genre becomes more to what his own investigations involve and they find that they are searching for something that is not supposed to be. The vial that has disappeared is rumored to carry some of the very water, which is known to prolong life. As the search moves on, Grey finds the lab holding the sample, but even as he begins to understand and come to enjoy the company of the scientist involved, he finds that his client is not only intent on retrieving the vial but in erasing anyone that has knowledge of its content.

As death and destruction begin to follow, he is again brought into contact with the bodyguard he had only previously met briefly, small but powerful, Nomti is also adept at and enjoys torture, just for the sake of watching the pain. As Grey and those traveling with him try to escape the clutches of those who will stop at nothing to hide their agenda, we are taken into the labyrinth of secret societies and the mysteries that men have killed for since the beginning of time.

This is a well-written and absorbing tale, full of twists and turns that keep you guessing. What is really in the vial and can it really do what some are saying? The characters are at once charismatic or evil and the dialogue is exceptional. Green has delivered another story that takes us to a place outside our comfort zone, and puts us right in the middle of the conflict. The story melds into the perfect scenarios that flow together flawlessly, taking you into the story along with the characters, sharing their pains and fears. As smooth and flowing as the story is, it seems as though Green himself was a part of those involved. The intrigue was great and the science written in a style that was easily digestible.

I would recommend this book for those that enjoy action and adventure. It would also please those who like a bit of science fiction or fantasy, and some great history as well. This would be a great book club choice or one for a discussion group. Green has written this one for your library, to pick up and read over and over.

Rating 5/5
The Egyptian

This book was recieved as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Notes from An Alien: A Message for Earth by Sena Quaren and Alexander M. Zoltai

Finding a way to make history palatable and taking a new and interesting perspective on life as we know it, Notes from An Alien by Sena Quaren and Alexander M. Zoltai takes you on a wild ride. Beginning with what this history classifies as the 500-year InterWorld War, it then moves on to ecological disasters of epic proportions that destroy more than is imaginable. The history moves further to the decimation of the population, and then on to the formation of a World Government dedicated to world peace.

Through it all, we follow the lives of an interesting family beginning with Velu, the daughter of Rednaxela. Rednaxela is the leader of the first expedition to another world. He along with his AI companion Morna do what they can to keep much of their thoughts private from the Corporate Mesh as they transport the settlers to their new home. One of the settlers in particular is in demand by the Anlans. His name is Akla and they know him as a profit. Upon reaching planet-side, Rednaxela disappears along with his Al and the religious prisoner Akla. The area they disappear to is known as the Unholy lands. Velu and her stepfather are conscripted to help search, and find the man that is her biological father.

The initial ship boasted 95,000 settlers headed to Anla. Prisoners and convicts were the main characters just as we have used as settlers in many places on Earth in earlier times in history. Written as told by a descendant of Velu, Sena tells her story through Zoltai, were we learn of the deaths and struggles as the World Government comes into being, and each successive wave of civilization and history unfold. We follow the decedents of Velu as they work through the different phases of government including the disasters that preface them.

I enjoyed the premise of the book and the characters were admirable, although I felt as though we moved through the times at a break neck speed. The very alien types of existence and characters where will written and quite imaginative. To read this as a possible verification of alien existence in our world puts a different spin on the possible reasoning for the very detailed description of the search and evolution of a lasting peace.

Each successive group of characters had abilities that exceeded those before them and the detail and dialogue that went into the telling made them seem like friends and colleagues. It was heartbreaking as time flew by and their deaths left an indelible impression each time.

This is a heady and interesting read, and if you enjoy alien life, science fiction and history written very like that detailed in a scholastic session, you will enjoy this work. It is thought provoking and makes you search your own thoughts on the very realistic types of damage and decimation that precede the final peace. Is it possible to have a similar outcome? That is just one of the questions I had as I finished my reading.

This is a short read and yet an in-depth history, full of stops and starts. Do not let the size of the story sidetrack you, it tells and reads as a book twice its size. Sometimes large things come in small packages. The read is not always smooth and the information is sometimes difficult to digest, but the direction it heads offers the look at a peace we all dream about.

Rating 4/5
Notes from An Alien

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, August 22, 2011

Intoxication by Tim Kizor

Paranoia and jealousy are the backdrops of this story, where we travel a detailed and slightly crazy path of Leslie as she slowly seems to sink into madness.

In Intoxication by Tim Kizer, we begin with a scene in the office where Leslie’s boyfriend drinks her coffee while she has left the room. He immediately takes ill, and the stage is set. Leslie is now convinced that one of the other workers is trying to poison her. When she confronts the other worker, Leslie is quite sure that even with her denial, that Helen must be guilty. After all, she is the one who delivered the coffee.

Sharing her fears with her boss, he is already aware of her thought process. Helen as gotten to him first and now Leslie is convinced that he thinks she is paranoid. As her decent into this dark void continues, she begins with how she can get back at Helen.

When she finds that Helen actually did not get her coffee but it was another worker, who was on her way to the break room instead, Leslie further descends into that world where strange and maddening things begin to take on perfect sense.

Can she find out who is responsible, or will she begin to realize her thought process has led her into some strangely odd behavior. Is the other worker guilty of trying to poison her, or has Leslie just gone off the deep end?

Kizer has written a creepy piece of work that has some strange and yet just a bit compelling characters. He has done a good job of following the decent into madness evinced by Leslie. The ending is a surprise, and it would have made a bit more sense had I known just a tweak of what caused her to have such a terrifying fall.

I did wonder how Leslie jumped to the conclusion of someone trying to poison her, it seemed a bit over the top, and while I understand the surprise element, it would have been easier to follow what was happening if just a hint had been weaved in earlier. The story is intriguing and it is a great rendition of how guilt and association go hand in hand.

This is a short novella and yet it is full of strangely creepy and compelling voices of the characters that are willing to go to such lengths to make a wrong right in their own mind. Without giving away the story with the author was at pains to protect, I will not spoil the surprise.

If you enjoy suspense, the strange, and just a bit of creepy behavior, you will find this an interesting read. His perception of that decent is well thought out, and at the end, we see that Leslie has finally realized her madness.

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.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vallar by Cindy Borgne

Article first published as Book Review:Vallar by Cindy Borgne on Blogcritics.

In the never-ending road to power and control, other countries, states and continents continue to want what belongs to others. Not at all unique in any way this has been the way of the world for countless centuries. Yet the same control ensues in space, when others have more. The big and mighty look for ways to take what the other worlds have.

In Vallar by Cindy Borgne, Ian Connors and his friend Nate Forshay are seers and have visions of things that are about to happen. Well, the expectation is that they both have visions. Nate has been very adept with his, and they have been instrumental in helping their fleet on its missions. Ian is still struggling with his visions, and yet it is known that he will be able to help in the same way as his best friend Nate. This ability is not common, and they are held in the highest regard. In fact they are elites, giving them strong standing in the army. They report their findings to Admiral Beacon, the man in charge of all missions.

Marscorp has control and intends to keep it so when others begin encroaching on the horizon; they shoot first and ask questions later. There are only a few others, but they will risk it all to gain enough to live by. Marc, though is a bully and wants it all, although not everyone is aware of this. Ian finally begins to have his visions; they are not what he expects. They begin about a girl. As they progress, he gets more information and in an effort to do what is asked, he finally gives Beacon information about a mine in the area, one being sought after by the Genners. As usual, Marscorp goes in with guns blasting, killing and maiming, while the Genners only want to work together, the Marcs want it all.

Worried about the girl in his vision, Ian is also disillusioned by it all. He begins to hide his visions and makes an effort to use them to track down his vision of this girl. What does she mean to him? He feels something but he is not sure. When he has a vision of one of the Marc ships blowing up and those aboard being killed, he takes his concerns to Admiral Beacon. The information makes no difference; the Admiral will not stop in his effort gain control. He does not believe a ship can or will be destroyed, but if it is that is part of this war.

Ian is in disbelief and further hides his visions, not wanting to be a part of what he sees happening. Using his own ship, with his friend Nate along, he decides to go where the action is and try to save those at risk. Little does he know that not only does he risk his own life, but he has also just risked the life of his best friend. When his ship is destroyed, one of the Genners saves Ian, but his friend Nate has disappeared. How does life go forward in such a brutal and hostile environment?

Borgne has developed some great characters, and made them quite human. Ian and his friend Nate are the quintessential teenagers, those we know and see every day. Nate is a bit ahead of Ian in the game, but girls are one of their primary thoughts. Then there is action and adventure, but foremost there are girls. It is interesting to watch Ian develop and become something more, to step beyond the youngster he was to become the young man he is soon to be. His thought process and feelings are quite admirable.

Admiral Beacon is cast as the evil villain, and while he talks a good game of what is right for them as a culture, his cruelty shines through his civility. He is not able to hide the underlying ruthlessness that has put him at the top of his game. He will do what it takes regardless of the consequences, and it will take everything Ian has and more to survive.

Even his foster mother, while you can tell she has feeling for Ian, her fear of Beacon overshadows that love. This is a quick paced and action packed YA Science Fiction adventure that keeps you hopping.

For the young adult reader, the Science Fiction buff, and even those that just enjoy a good action adventure, this is an interesting and quick read. If you are looking for a story to interest your young reader this may be just the thing to keep them reading.

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.

Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty by Neil Hanson

Article first published as Book Review: Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty by Neil Hanson on Blogcritics.

In a time of unrest and world troubles, spirituality begins to eke back in the mainstream of society. Looking for the ever-elusive answers, many search for the process of belief.

Among this trouble and turmoil, Neil Hanson has brought forth an in-depth work of his own experiences, both as a young man and later as a grieving son. In Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty, we follow the ever-expanding view and belief of Hanson as he puts his thoughts and feelings on paper, in the form of a letter to his departed father.

His story is written with emotion and feeling. His emotions show through and whether they are his anger or his hope he shares them with the reader. He does not hide or try to belittle the mistakes he has made on his journey; he just states them as they are.

He does a brilliant job of allowing his emotion to show through and yet he does not push his belief as the only answer. He shares his experiences of a possible after death experience with a brilliance he tries to explain, one that happened in a wrestling tournament when he was young and knocked unconscious. Even knowing at that time that something extraordinary has happened, he is not ready to believe or to share his experience.

It was only as he sat with his father as his life slowly slid away and he watched the finality of the process that he is again offered a glimpse of that certain something the many often search for throughout their lives.

If you are a believer in a higher being, regardless of religious belief, or even a non-believer, you will find the poignancy of the story both sad and yet interesting. The beauty of the words adds a bit of poetry and harmony.

Through it all Hanson makes no excuses, he highlight his selfishness and thoughtlessness, as well as the beauty and wonder. I enjoyed the text in the form of a letter, although at times, I could not find the letter itself, and it read more like the passage of a self-expose.

If you are at all interested in spirituality or just wonder about the beauty of the universe, this would be a wonderful book for you. It is short and compact but carries hope and joy, along with a different way to look at life. In Hanson’s uncertainty, there is a form of verse and beauty: a certain creativity and sensitivity that guide you through the life of the author.

This would be a great book for a book club, a chance to talk about beliefs and thoughts. It would be a chance to air perceptions and interests, and lend credibility to both sides of the conversation.

Rating 4/5
Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty

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, August 15, 2011

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J.Watson

Article first published as Book Review:Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson on Blogcritics.

Waking up daily, not knowing who you are or where you are can be quite frightening. When the man in bed next to you is also a stranger, fear begins to take over.

In Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson, we follow the lives of Christine and Ben as they try to work through the horror of amnesia. Christine’s amnesia is much like that Drew Barrymore experienced in the movie titled 50 First Dates. However, in Christine and Ben’s life the humor is gone. Every day Christine follows the same path, asks the same questions, and looks at the same pictures, hoping that something will strike that spark she needs to gain her life back. She does not remember anything past her 29th birthday, including her marriage and husband. The explanation she receives is that her amnesia stems from and accident, and as she asks further she is only more concerned.

Each day she retains what she has learned, but each morning she wakes up to the very same confusion. Ben leaves the house the same time each day, while Christine attempts to put her life together. A call from a young Dr. Nash, changes her life. At her meeting with him, she actually finds she has been secretly visiting him to help her find the answers. One of his recommendations is that she writes in a journal daily, everything she does and anything she remembers of her prior life. He agrees to call her daily once her husband has left the house to remind her to look in her diary. As she continues on this mind-bending journey, each day as she receives her call to look at the journal, she is always surprised at the notation on the first page. She cannot remember what it means. 'Do not trust Ben.' What could that possibly mean?

As the journal becomes her lifeline to the world, she finds bits of scattered memory returning. She finds that her loving husband has been lying to her, not only was her injury caused in a more horrifying way than he described, but she has a son as well. When asked about her best friend, his response was to assure her that she had moved away and that they had lost contact. This too appears to be a lie. Why is this happening, Christine tries to find her own answers, yet she must begin at the very start each day. Danger seems to hang in the air. Is that oppressive doom coming from Ben, her husband of 22 years, or is there more about Dr. Nash then meets the eye.

Watson has done an admirable job at creating the hopelessness of feeling that comes to Christine as an amnesiac. Each day starts over with fear and concern, and even as she follows her clues to prepare her daily ritual, she is obsessed with finding out more. Almost afraid to sleep each night knowing what the next day will bring, she begins to rely on her journal, writing in it obsessively. It is her life and her memories and there is fear of the unknown should it disappear. Her husband is still in the dark about her visits with Dr. Nash, and her small bits of recurring memories. She is not sure why, he is so patient and loving with her, yet she struggles to trust him.

The terror slowly builds as you immerse yourself in the hopelessness of the situation, and you feel both the pain and joys experienced as Christine begins to find pieces of her life. The story sucks you in for a roller coaster of emotion, and Watson keeps you guessing as to the suspense that is building. Each step drags you further into the morass, urging Christine forward and yet warning her away. The dialogue takes you into her heart and mind, creating a relationship that seems personal. Can Christine find the answers before the danger strikes?

If you enjoy a good suspense, this book delivers. It is a quick paced and depth filled look at both hopelessness and dreams. The characters are well-written and quite charismatic. Following Christine, even with her slight despondency, she never stops trying to find the answers. You have to admire her tenacity, and she leaves a lasting impression.

I would recommend the book for a reading club. Christine’s life is both interesting and informative. The discussion could create a great deal of dialogue within a group. Before I Go To Sleep would be a great addition to your library, one of those stories that you could read repeatedly and still find information you may have missed.

Rating 4/5
Before I Go To Sleep

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

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Invisible Dawn: Book One of Altered Realities by Westin Kincade

Article first published as Book Review: Invisible Dawn: Book One of Altered Realities by Westin Kincade on Blogcritics.

What would we give to be able to move from place to place, from time to time? Could we change the world or would we create an anomaly? Would it be like moving to parallel planes that coexist through a veil we have no way to see, or does time travel really break the barriers and take you forward or back in the same world we live in?

In Invisible Dawn: Book One of Altered Realities by Westin Kincade, the author spins an amazing story that is at once both unique and interesting. Kincade brings together a group of individuals whose lives have been damaged in different respects, by different things they have done or been involved in that seem to haunt them. When all is lost or seems to be, they connect in a way that forms a bond, unusually quick in any society. In some way, most of them are involved in or have some knowledge of a group called PASTOR. An acronym that stands for Phantom Assassin Shifting Technology & Organized Reconnaissance, this is a secret government department. Shifting is the ability to find the webs or the veil that covers the plane of other times and places. These are the secrets and abilities of a small group of people that are hunted by PASTOR.

Madelin Boatweit is our young hero; kidnapped at a young age after the assassination of her parents while she watched, she is at the mercy of this group of assassins, as she becomes an experiment in their nefarious schemes. Her father’s best friend and her godfather, Jedd was there to warn them of the possible attack but was unable to save them or Madelin. Giving up his own family, both for their safety and his own guilt at the death of his friends, he sets on a course to find Madelin and free her from this organized group. As Madelin grows up she understands her dilemma and desperately looks for a way out. It is during this period she begins to understand her ability to see the veil, or web between worlds. As she begins to awaken, Jedd too finds he has a unique ability. He is able to dream walk, and as his body rests, he begins to find the trail of the young woman he had given up his own life to find.

Father Leodenin is the emissary sent to find Madelin as she escapes the governments clutches. A shifter as well as an assassin, he is able to find her by the unique print of her shifting through the times and places. There is another man who is also looking for peace, one who can see things others cannot, but is himself haunted by decisions made in his past. As he sees Madelin shift, he is drawn to her and becomes caught up in her life as well. Protecting her becomes his mission. As the chase continues, more people are drawn to this charismatic young woman, each of them binding themselves to her and her escape. Can she stay out of harm’s way, or will PASTOR gain control of her abilities for themselves?

Kincade has written a fast paced and adventuress yarn, with such interesting characters, you can feel their presence. The detailing is exquisite, and the story such a new voice, I was excited to find where it headed. Madelin is so extensively naive, which makes so much sense due to her age at the kidnapping. Her ability to bond with those she deems safe though seems a little strange, and yet she needs that stability. As we follow this group from place to place and time to time, there is action and adventure in every setting. Jedd becomes a protector with a new talent, one that has been foreseen by those in the know.

As they reach their final place, the final showdown is set; will Madelin and her ragtag group of friends be able to fend off the assassins as well as a new group, those set in the world they have found themselves?

I enjoyed this book although I felt a bit of dismay at the end when we took an exciting and new form of story and tied it in with the fad stories that are popular now. This is an exceptional work, and I look forward to reading more, but I am disappointed to find that vampires have made their way into such a unique setting. Other then the quick bonding of the characters that had no knowledge of each other and no past together and the introduction of vampires I found this to be a great story.

If you like fantasy and time travel, you will enjoy the premise of this work. The Vampire fans will find a unique and different look at vampires, but one that pits them against both themselves and others. Kincade is an author to watch, it will be interesting to see how our heroes continue, and what the government group is really looking for.

Rating 4/5
Invisible Dawn

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.

Minding Ben by Victoria Brown

Article first published as Book Reviewa: Minding Ben by Victoria Brown on Blogcritics.

Known as the land of opportunities, America is a place where many different people come together under common ground. Throughout history, immigrants have made their way to this country and a new way of life in an effort to live their dreams.

In Minding Ben by Victoria Brown, we follow the life of Grace Canton. She is a young woman from a very small village in Trinidad, who has chosen to immigrate in order to reach that golden ring. Leaving her home and making her way to New York is a difficult task. Her mother does not want her to leave but her father wants to live her dream. The pressure is uncomfortable, but the trip is on. She is to meet a relative when she reaches the states, one who can give her a place to live until she can find a job and set up a new home.

However not everything happens the way they are supposed to. Her relative does not show, leaving Grace on her own in a city larger than she ever imagined possible, and a place she has never been. Finding a home with Sylvia, another expatriate of Trinidad she meets, performing small chores and watching her children, for a place to stay, Grace continues to look for that job, the one that will allow her to become a citizen.

Finding what she expects is the perfect job, minding their son Ben; Grace accepts the job with a wealthy family, the Bruckner’s. Maintaining her relationship with Sylvia, living at her home when not at the new live-in job, she continues to do chores and watch Sylvia’s brood when she is able. Is this really her dream, her opportunity to become a citizen, and make a living wage?

Grace is a young naive woman from another country; she is open and optimistic, and easy to take advantage of. She is loving and enjoys looking after children, and does not mind the other things that usually come with that type of job. She often receives notes, and occasionally a call from her mother, using subtle pressure to get her home. When her beloved father becomes ill, the pressure mounts. She plans on staying here though as her new employers have offered to back her for her dream of citizenship. What she finds though is entirely different from the promises they have offered.

The groups of women that mind the children in the area of the Bruckner’s home meet often in the park with their small charges. Those relationships are also another look into the life of the immigrants and the reality of these West Indian babysitters that have been a staple in the lives of these families for decades.

This is an enjoyable and interesting look at life on the inside of an immigrants dream. Minding Ben is well written with a pace that is easy to follow. It is full of fear and joy, but also littered with bits of story that are sad and sometimes create despair. Entire lives are lived in an effort to find their way in the home of their choosing, and the story is not always comfortable.

There is love and laughter, sadness and pain and yet through all the trials and tribulations, Grace continues to keep faith and hope alive. An inherent kindness shows through and keeps you rooting for her to receive what she hopes for. It is a message of hope and makes you think about those things that we hold dear, the freedom and home that we were born too. The story makes you feel more passionate about those things that we hold dear as a country, and the reason we fight so hard to maintain those freedoms.

This would be an interesting book for a book club or reading group. It is passionate and full of information. The struggles evinced will keep the intrigue going and the dialogue robust. If you enjoy learning about others and the challenges of change, you will love this book. It is an interesting inside look at the lives of those looking to find their way.

Rating 4/5
Minding Ben

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

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blood for Love by Chris M. Finkelstein

Article first published as Book Review: Blood For Love by Chris M. Finkelstein on Blogcritics.

If love were like a form of religion, and persecuted as many religions have been throughout history, what would the world be like? Would we have small pockets of dissenters, those who continue to allow love into their lives and the lives of their friends and family?

In Blood For Love by Chris M. Finkelstein, this question is not abstract. In his fantasy world, built on a violent planet and peopled with lizard like beings known as D’olian we follow the differences of discipline vs. love. This is an interesting and thought provoking story that follows a world where war has destroyed all but one species. Love has been outlawed and if discovered is punished by DeathBT, or Death by Torture.

Rigorous study on the subject has found that procreation and the young have a stronger survival rate when surrounded by a loving environment. In order to maintain the growth of their race, love is allowed for the first 5 years of life. After 5 years, the children attend a brutal deprograming camp with dire consequences for those that cannot be turned. The brutality and mind control leave many so disturbed they will never be the same, and suicide and murder often follow. The percentages of those that do survive make the program successful--so it continues.

The mothers must also attend a camp. Torture and other brutal and nefarious methods are used to create the angry, frustrated and cowed women that are preferred by the government of this planet. In extreme cases, rape, in brutal and extreme measures, is used to get the compliancy that is expected.

This is the story of a young man and his family and friends as he makes his way through life, belonging to the underground Lern (Love’s Epiphany Requirement Network) and also known by the epithet of Love-lovers. The ruling party is known as NOV or Nation of Vengeance. Now a part of the Governments rule for hundreds of years, the NOV were instrumental in destroying the other races and poisoning the planet.

There is a bigger reason for the birth of Jan, he is slated for bigger and brighter things, but only if he can overcome the deprograming and find a way to beat the NOV. He is just an odd young man on his own; can he turn the tide and save those who believe in love? Can this group of reptilian humanoids overcome their violent nature and rebuild their world?
Jan does not fit of mold of the common D’otain. He is kind and considerate. He is as tall as the usual D’otain, but he is long and lean. His crest is also very unusual and a figure of fun for years as a youngster. Very slow to anger, he is the opposite of his race, and as such, he is often beat up and injured. This is a story of a family in crisis. We are along for the ride to learn if and how they escape the binds.

Finkelstein has created some interesting and unique characters. They are both brutal and yet civilized, capable of running a government and at the same time capable of murdering those like them, whose beliefs of love go against the ordinance. Intermixed with the brutality and violence, there is a peace loving faction of Love-lovers that will stop at nothing to prove their rights.
The story is interesting and yet extreme. The sequences leading up to the end keeps you turning the pages in disbelief. It gives us an understanding of being in a different world where normal is not the culture, and anger and brutality rule the planet. It is strange and yet fascinating, and Finkelstein’s race of humanoids are quite distinct.

If you like adventure and love, twisted and weaved with brutality, rape, cruelty, fanaticism, and torture, you will find this book is up your alley. Even after reading it, I am sure it will stay with me. It is both disturbing and yet full of heroics, an emotional roller coaster that will have you wondering where it will all end.

Rating 3/5
Blood For Love

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

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Riser by Becca C. Smith

Article first published as Book Review: Riser by Becca C. Smith on Blogcritics.

Recognizing death by the black swirling holes located at the center of each corpse she can see, Chelsan Deree finds she has the ability to manipulate the dead. However, not only can she manipulate these once live bodies, but she can also see those that are re-animated by others of her bent.

Chelsan learned at a young age that she has a strange and macabre talent when she killed her brutal and malevolent stepfather. Using her own talent of re-animation, she has maintained the facade not only for her mother but also in order to live a seemingly normal family life. Finding she could not be very far from the corpse though, she found herself quite restricted, including in her choice of schools. The only school close enough to keep up this charade, was a wealthy private school. Understanding she would be out of her element, she is accepted to attend.

Living in a trailer park, barely eking out an existence, she and her family do not have the type of money that those from her new school find necessary. Befriended by two different students, Nancy and Bill, she is relieved. They like her and are not ashamed to be with her. Nancy, because she can and does not care what others think, and Bill, while he has the same motivation, is also one of the richest kids, and makes his own rules. It is Ryan Vaughn though that really intrigues Chelsan. While he tutored her, he was kind and considerate, and just a bit shy. Once the tutoring was completed though, he then barely seemed to acknowledge she existed.

In Riser by Becca C Smith, we follow the lives of Chelsan and her friends. When Chelsan’s life is turned upside down by the death of her beloved mother and her already dead stepfather, she feels as though she has nowhere to turn. In an odd dream like state her mother is able to communicate to her how she was killed as well as how Chelsan became the way she is. It is only now that Ryan makes a stand to stick with her, but Bill and Nancy rally around as well. However, one student in the school, Jill, continues to mimic and create problems for Chelsan, setting her up for trouble at every turn.

Now hunted by the man responsible for her mother’s death, she must make some decisions, and utilize the help and ingenuity of her friends. Death and danger seem to follow them everywhere, and Chelsan finds she must take a stand. Can she and her friends end the killing and find a way for others to hold those responsible, accountable for their actions? Using her skills and talent, can she overcome one of the most powerful men in the world?

Smith has found an interesting and unique talent to highlight her heroine. She brings us a futuristic world, and yet maintains a realistic verve, by creating a very life like rendition of high school as a backdrop. She introduces many of the same games and hazing that occurs in schools everywhere, an used this spring board to catapult our characters into danger and despair.

The characters are wonderful, very much like those we encounter at school and at home, although coming from a high-end lifestyle. They have the same fears and prejudices that create many of the same problems world over, and it is easy to understand the insecurities. Even Jill our protagonist engenders a bit of sympathy at times, based on the information we learn about her own background.

This is a fast paced book full of energy, but with a unique blend of both the believable and unbelievable. We have a form of zombies, a bit of transference, a futuristic world, great friendships, and romance.

This is a fun and frenetic YA read, and if you are your family enjoy fantasy with any of the above mixtures this will be a hit. The action is exciting, the story is both sad and yet a bit strange and the romance is fun. Throw in some re-animation of not just dead people, but bugs and plants as well, you get a generous helping of this unique and strangely credible talent. Smith has written a distinctive and compelling story full of generous and interesting characters, with just that blend of evil and destruction that keeps you guessing.

Rating 4/5

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