Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens by Alma Alexander

Article first published as Book Review: 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens by Alma Alexander on Blogcritics.

December 20, 2012 is another day like many others, but there is fear and belief that this could be the day before the end of days. As with all doomsday predictions there is much controversy, both pro and con. To some it is another day, to others a possible ending.

In 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens Alma Alexander has taken the time as a way to change lives. Spanish Gardens is a meeting place for many groups of students over the years and this time is no different. However the students meeting there this night have all grown up and lived full lives. Meeting again to celebrate a birthday, Olivia and four other friends find themselves following the flow of history. There is anger and heartache and some of these very friends have lost touch due to hurt feelings and anger. Now is the time to put that all behind them and recoup some of the camaraderie of youth. 20 years have passed and time has changed them all. Meeting again and rehashing their old lives and loves, each of them wonders about what the next day will bring.

As each of the friends receives a strange set of instructions from one of the bartenders, time seems at a crossroad of possibilities. The instruction takes them to a portal, to a new life and a chance of redemption, or an opportunity to return to the life they have always known. Each is given a choice of changes on this night of discovery, a life that may have been––if different decisions had been made.
Choosing what you know and what you have always felt is difficult and there is only a small window of time to make the right decision. Will they each choose an alternate path on this pivotal night, or will they continue on with the life they chose from the beginning. The decision is difficult, to change what is real now, will change everything leading up to this time. People you know, families, and the lives you have touched and for those to whom you have made a difference will no long have that part of you should you chose a different path. Once the decision is made all memory will fade other than the life you have chosen. The other existence fades away in memory.

Alexander takes a time of possible transition or even renewal and puts a strange and surreal twist on it. The characters are brought to life as they each take a seeming crossroads as they enter a portal of time. As they make choices different from those before, you gain a deeper understanding of who they are and their strengths as well as their potential failures. As they pass the crossroads they do not remember the life behind them, until it is time to choose. For a short period of time both lives intersect, but once the choice is made memory fades.

Watching the interaction and choices that each character reestablishes invokes a strange feeling of inevitability. You wait with bated breath as the final decision is made. Which direction do they turn? It is very dreamlike and sequential, strangely vivid and yet like watching the interaction through water. The flow is interesting and yet each decision will affect someone differently and change lives in a way that is uncomfortable.

The descriptions and visuals add a depth to the story. The interactions of the characters in the here and now, offer a glimpse of lives that could have been different. The chance to remake their choices is one we often wonder about, would we make the same decisions if given a chance to do it all over again? How will this group of friends react to the chance of a do over?

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy though provoking dialogue. It would make a great read for a reading group of book club. There is insight and reflection with a dose of inspiration in this work that keeps you thinking.

Rating 4\5

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.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

October Girls:Book I Crystal & Bone by L.C. Glazebrook

Article first published as Book Review: October Girls: Book I Crystal & Bone by L. C. Glazebrook on Blogcritics.

As a youth I often wondered at my parents decisions. Did they make the right choices, were they the only ones available, or did they even think about it. I would not have questioned them but that was a different age then the one we live in today.

As a teenager Crystal Aldridge is full of questions. In October Girls: Book I Crystal & Bone by L.C. Glazebrook, we follow the strange and bizarre, and get a peep into the life and decisions that put Crystal in the situation she finds herself. Her family has a responsibility that has been handed down through the ages. They are the guardians of the gate into another realm. Her best friend is killed in an accident and is now a ghost. Bone (Bonnie) is still her best friend though, and Crystal can see the doorway into these other realms. The doorways are becoming more active, yet Crystal does not want her mother to know what she is up to. There are some scary things in those doorways, and Crystal understands there is a good chance that what is behind them is even worse.

Chrystal’s family comes from a long line of witches and it is their responsibility to keep evil at bay. Her mom has been trying to teach her the ropes, but Crystal is your average teen. She does not want the added responsibility. Besides her mom had to dedicate her life, and give up any thoughts of leisure. She lives in a trailer park and lives the life of the trailer trash brigade. Crystal is not sure where to turn, she has not even told her mom about her recent new friendship with Bone. Her mother would lecture her; you do not become friends with the dead.

Crystal’s boyfriend is stable, not real exciting but someone she knows she can rely on. However, now she is being tempted by some strangely charismatic young men that work at turning her head. Will they be able to woo her from her destiny? One of the men is a producer of B-grade movies, he is looking to make his mark in her town. The other seems to be an actor, but he is from beyond her realm. Can she stop this strange and uncanny duo before they do further damage to her world? She will need her mothers’ help, but is it already too late?

Glazebrook has written some exceedingly fun characters from our teenage years. I can picture many of the faces superimposed over those I went to high school with. The description and attitudes ring a bell and make the story both fun and frivolous. Yet the danger encountered is creepy, as is the realm on the other side. Ms. Glazebrooks worlds are both interesting and dangerous. The antics of her characters keep it fun, and the hormones of the teenage girls keep you guessing.

If you are looking for a young adult read, one that will entertain and hold attention, this will fill the bill. It is fun and a bit spooky, with both humor and danger. The author builds tension and a typical interaction between a teen girl and her mother, and then ends with a satisfying conclusion.

Rating 4/5

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.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Place To Die by Dorothy James

Article first published as Book Review: A Place To Die by Dorothy James on Blogcritics.

A place to live with all the luxuries as well as friends at your beck and call seems to be a lofty ambition. Could there really be a home for the elderly, one that is capable of housing those who just want a nice place to finish their lives, but for others a place where they can be cared for in the last days of their lives. What happens when things do not work as planned and murder makes a stand?

In A Place to Die by Dorothy James, she takes us to a retirement home in the Vienna Woods. Here she introduces us to an eclectic cast of characters that charm or annoy. When Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from their home in New York to settle his mother in her new rooms, they find themselves in the midst of a murder and a mystery. When the wealthy and well liked Herr Graf is found dead the Fabians find themselves in the middle of a mystery that dates back to the history of some of the residents. Eleanor is a mystery aficionado and is interested in the process, getting involved when she should not be. Her husband however has no time and finds it all very boring. When Inspector Georg Buchner gets the case he finds more mysteries behind each clue he uncovers. The residents are not above suspicion, yet neither are the help, including the physicians and nurses.

Things take a strange turn when suddenly other residents begin dying of what appear to be natural causes and yet the abruptness and the amount of deaths seem out of place. When the Fabians mother is found dead, only more questions begin to churn. What is happening and how will it end?

I loved the characters; even the angry and gregarious ones had a place that fit in with my expectations of what such a home would be like. Eleanor was fun and Franz was just plain annoying. Georg Buchner was a wonder protagonist and kept the tension tight. As each clue unraveled into the next, he found himself in a place he was not comfortable with. His flaws made him so much more human and likable.

James was able to build a mystery using the past, bringing with the charm of the area, a history that today still rattles many cages. In the darkness of the woods, this history still carries anger and danger, and Ms. James is able to make you feel the tension in the air.

I found the story to be very well done, and hard to put down. If you love a mystery this is just the thing to keep you guessing. There are so many possibilities, and yet she sprinkles in red herrings liberally throwing even the best of mystery buffs off track.

This is a great book for your library. It would be a good book club novel or even one for a reading group. There are many potential controversies that would make good discussion fodder, but the theme and tone would also make for a fun read.

The ending will surprise you for many reasons--it was well done and interesting, actually quite satisfying in its own way.

 Rating 5/5

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Dorothy James Bio:

Dorothy James was born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, and translator, she has published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature. She has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home now in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin.

She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods. She has travelled far from Wales, but has not lost the Welsh love of playing with language; she writes poems for pleasure as does Chief Inspector B├╝chner, the whimsical Viennese detective who unravels the first mystery in this new series of novels.


Price: $34.99

ISBN: 9781450082709

Pages: 436

Release: April 21, 2010


Price: $23.99

ISBN: 9781450082693

Pages: 436

Release: April 21, 2010

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Nook buy link - $7.99

iBookstore buy link - $9.99

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shared Emptiness by John Brinling

Article first published as Book Review:Shared Emptiness by John Brinling on Blogcritics.

Living wills and euthanasia are often in the news. There are varying opinions, and with the advent of Dr. Kevorkian, many feel that they have a right to make their own decisions. The topic is sometimes quite controversial and often heated.

In Shared Emptiness by John Brinling we follow the life of a family who finds themselves in a situation where this might be something that becomes a part of their own conscious. Brinling has brought us a story full of love and laughter, family, church and even danger and drugs. The quotes from Helen Keller are poignant and to the point.

Christopher Carter is a young Medical student, the son of Vince and Frances Carter and the brother to Jeannie. His mother and sister belong to the church and his father has an addiction to gambling. In most respects they are like many other families. They have their strengths as well as their problems. Chris is dating a wonderful woman and is well respected. He makes friends easily and is often the center of attention. He is also very opinionated about medicine and that includes the very topic of end of life scenarios.

When he is the victim of foul play and severely injured causing possible brain trauma, all of his previous rants and challenges to his friends and family come into play. But Chris himself is no longer sure, his mind is strong. He struggles with communication, and through the series of some strange and horrifying circumstances he receives further damage. Unsure what is happening he is at the mercy of the physicians, his friends and his family? They are all questioning their own ethics and feelings and with the lack of communication available they have varying ideas of their beliefs. With so much controversy and soul searching, lives are changed forever, and the drama as it occurs is both thought provoking and quite chilling.

I am sure this book will strike chords with many, some due to the very nature of the issue, but others because we have all lost a loved one. It is the degrees that envelope you in this work, the unimaginable possibilities of having others make decisions, that affect who and what you believe in. This work is both chilling and resolute. The changing dynamics of the characters as they struggle with their own thoughts and personal demons is uncomfortable and painful. The settings were well written an take you to the places you are meant to see, and make you question your own thoughts and beliefs.
The topic of the work is so controversial that without the story behind it, I would have found it quite difficult to read. Brinling does a great job of humanizing the process, and yet keeps it true to form. The book is quite long, and yet I could not stop reading, looking to find a way to find the hope behind the horrors involved. Even the ending takes you into another twist that you do not see coming.

I would recommend this book to any who have been or know someone who has been through this harrowing situation. This happens every day to both young and old and makes you challenge the thoughts you carry. This would be a strong recommendation for a book club or reading group. The work is something you may want to discuss with others, the chill is hard to dispel. Brinling has brought forth a subject that is not comfortable, and put a new face on it.

Rating 4/5

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, February 6, 2012

The Starlight Prophecy by Linden Morningstar

The Starlight Prophecy is a conglomeration of information with a group of very intelligent women that begins when as girls, they becomes lifelong friends and find themselves in a strange cosmic climate, whereby they name themselves the Star Girls. I love that we have such a group of unpredictable and adventurous women that have Star Power. It reminds me of all the superpowers that are so popular these days, and I believe that these young women are someone that our youth can relate to.

They each have unique powers that evolve as they get older, and their intelligence is quite outstanding. Destined for a prophecy of saving the world, they are on a journey to save everything as we know it. Unaware that they will be thrust into the danger of Aagaatar, a self-proclaimed god, they find themselves in a conflict involving torture and terror.

They must find a way to destroy Aagaatar and find the answer to the journey and their place in the cosmos. Can they save the earth and their lives when the information is so scarce?

I enjoyed the story although I was a bit confused when we went from earth to the stars. Also when one of the side characters dies, there does not appear to be much emotion. I also found it to be strange that women with such intelligence and education act with such girlish abandon. The action was a bit of a cross between a Young Adult stories with some adult specifics thrown in.

They characters themselves were well written, and I enjoyed their powers. I believe this could be a great series, but feel it could use some tightening up. I got lost a few times reading it, but the characters keep you coming back. I enjoyed the events as they began their destiny in the stars. The danger and destruction was well written.

I would have to say that with a bit of clarification this would be a stronger book. The ideas and characters are excellent; there was just a little too much un-believability that keeps it from being as strong as it could be.

There were some very unique twists to the story, and the humor and passionate conversations were well done and fun. The torture was sadistic, and the evil was both haunting and unnerving.

Rating 3/5

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