Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

One Voice Too Many by Paul Martin Midden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Directionless Son of Brain by Saurabh Sharma

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

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

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

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

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

Rating 4/5

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

King of Paine by Larry Kahn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Her Sights by Robin Perini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating 4/5

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating 5/5

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

Chasing The Red Car by Ellen Ruderman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating 4/5

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

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Friday, December 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating 5/5

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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Eden Prescription by Ethan Evers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating 5/5

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