Friday, December 27, 2013

Far Shore, Book Three of the After Series by Traci L. Slatton

Posted First on Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Far Shore' by Traci L. Slatton.

'The heart wants what the heart wants' seems like such a redundancy. Yet there is that simple truth to the adage where there often seems to be no real choice in the matter. We can ignore it and yet there will always be that ‘what if?’

In Far Shore by Traci L. Slatton Book Three of the After Series
takes us further into the devastation of earth and the causes, yet it also creates a sort of yearning.  With the damage, the abilities that follow seem strange, yet without them the suffering is even more extreme. Emma is home again and with her family, and yet her heart is not whole. Her friends are far away and she has no idea what is happening to Arthur.
When a sudden appearance of a small group of friends appear, only then does she learn of the danger Jeannie faces with her upcoming birth, and worse, Arthur is a prisoner of their worst enemy.  Having unknowingly caused the death of Alexei’s wife, he has been tortured to near death.  She must ride out to use her skills in Jeannie’s upcoming birth, and then she must go to Arthur’s rescue.  Her husband Haywood does not see it that way and offers an ultimatum.  Still, she has no choice, she must choose the path that can save the world and the man she loves beyond all reasoning.

Are her healing powers strong enough to bring him back from the brink of death? Can she arrive in time to save Jeannie’s unborn child. The outcomes of each act have far reaching consequences.  The results can go either way, reducing the earth to rubble, or driving the mists away for good.

Slatton continues to give us a heart rending love, one that can tear apart a family. Yet she somehow imbues the situation with all the right reasons, so where the outcome could be tragic, there is somehow a bit of magic.  The empathy and pain leap off the pages as you suffer with the characters. As some of Emma’s past comes to her in dreams, you miss the characters that have moved on. They are like friends and family and the loss creates a somber atmosphere.  The horror of the acts perpetrated against Arthur creates anger, making you want to hate Alexei. There is much at stake with all the characters that comes into play with the telling.

The heat and passion that sizzles between Arthur and Emma does not abate even when they are at their wits end.

If you enjoy mystery, science fiction, heated romance, adventure and dystopia stories this is a shining example. Book Three of the After Series, you can read stand alone, but even better with the rest of the series. The amazing backdrop and dangerous situations will keep you enthralled and asking for more of these exciting characters.

Rating 5/5

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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Not From Around Here by Larry Hochwald

Posted First on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Not From Around Here by Larry Hochwald.

Have you ever looked in a mirror and wondered what was behind the reflection? How about meeting someone for the first time and realizing you will be lifelong friends?  With an influx of bizarre tales and strange phenomena many stories of the unusual tend crop up.
In Not From Around Here by Larry Hochwald, you are treated to a collection of 18 just such stories. The amazing a bizarre happenstance keeps you going as each creates and indelible mark in your thoughts.  Can such things truly happen? There are times when a short story is all you need.  This is a fine material for waiting for your kids at the school, or even waiting at the Dentist or Doctors office, you don’t have to worry about not being able to get back to the ending.
Each story is unique, and in cases just a bit creepy. In some there is a thread of humor that keeps you chuckling, as you move to the next. Some contain morals that make you think while others are just on the verge of the impossible, but with just a question mark of ‘what if?’
Hochwald does a great job of building his protagonists with believable characteristics, as well as making them memorable. Each story has a unique and solid character in which you find the interactions to be stimulating and at times amusing. Then he takes his setting and either makes them dreamlike, or creepy, or just out of this world. Yet his descriptions are able to draw a picture that is often difficult with short stories.
If you are looking for a fun gift for that hard to please friend for Christmas, this might be a great direction to take. If you enjoy a bit of fun as well as the unbelievable you will enjoy Hochwalds zany imagination. A unique point of view, and shared with verve.  
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.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Alexis Tappendorf and the Search for Beale's Treasure by Becca C. Smith

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Alexis Tappendorf and the Secret to Beale's Treasure' by Becca C. Smith

Treasure hunting can be fun, yet there is an aspect of avarice that often creates a dangerous situation. When the treasure involved belongs to the first one who finds it, and the amount is quite generous, the fun suddenly dissolves as baser instincts take over.
In Alexis Tappendorf, and the search for Beale’s Treasure by Becca C. Smith, Alexis is unhappy and afraid for her parents. They are on a secret job that could well be dangerous. Money is tight and jobs are scarce, so they take their daughter Alexis to stay with Great Aunt Mae. Alexis wants none of it, but she has no choice.  Her parents are the greatest, and she is worried. They assure her all is well and that she will enjoy her visit with Aunt Mae.  When they arrive, true to their word she loves Aunt Mae. But even better Aunt Mae has friends that have a daughter her own age. After their very first meeting, Alexis knows they will be the best of friends. They both love adventure, and Aunt Mae is the same.
Reluctant to stay, she is nonetheless intrigued about a treasure known as Beale’s treasure, actively being sought by many of the locals. She loves cyphers, so knows that she and her new friend Olivia will be the ones to break the code and find the treasure. It is more important to them than anyone else. Olivia’s father needs heart surgery, which they cannot afford, and Alexis is left in fear whenever her parents have to leave for such dangerous work. If they can just find the treasure, their parents will never have to work again, and Olivia’s father can have his surgery.
But there is a dark secret in town. Someone is willing to kill for the treasure. Can Alexis and Olivia find the treasure without alerting those who are trying to stop the searches? Does the treasure truly exist?
Smith has given us characters that are warm and fuzzy. The wonderful contrast between the good and the bad is not just about evil but about heart.  Mae is an exceptional character, as are Olivia’s parents. You find yourself drawn to them and their warmth. Alexis and Olivia are like many young girls, both mischievous and caring. The story behind the treasure will keep you captivated and you will enjoy the adventures and dangerous situations that Alexis and Olivia find themselves in.
This is a great story for the YA reader and for those who enjoy treasure and adventure. The mystery of the treasure and the danger behind Alexis’s parent’s job keep you searching the pages for clues.  There is a great deal to discuss in this story making it a great find for a reading group. The interactions are well written, and the adventure is strong.
Book Synopsis
Alexis Tappendorf is about to be abandoned in Virginia for the summer by her parents, George and Jenny. They’re leaving for a mysterious job they can’t tell anyone about, which annoys Alexis to no end! And what’s worse is the fact that they’re dropping her off with Great Aunt Mae, a woman in her seventies that Alexis has never met!

Upon arriving in Virginia, Alexis discovers that for the last hundred years the townspeople of Summervale and Bedford County have been searching for a lost treasure buried somewhere in the area by a man named Thomas J. Beale. More importantly, the only clues to finding the fortune are in the form of cryptograms, codes that, when properly translated, tell the exact location of the bounty.

In a heart-pounding race to Beale’s Treasure, Alexis and her new friend, Olivia Boyd, join forces to solve the Beale ciphers before the dangerous family, the Woodmores, beat them to it – a seemingly impossible task since they always appear to be one step ahead of the girls at every turn.

Unless Alexis and Olivia can decipher Beale’s cryptograms in time, the treasure will be lost forever or worse—it will end up in the hands of the evil Woodmores…

Monday, December 16, 2013

Early Decision by Lacy Crawford

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Early Decision' by Lacy Crawford.

In schools and universities across the nation, the academic world is gearing up to approve those students that seem to fit into the life within their respective halls. The decisions are tough with few slots available in some cases and only a handful of hopefuls making the cut.

In Early Decision by Lacy Crawford, we are given a look into the decision making from the eyes of a student and one of those who help them polish their applications. Finding and dragging the best from many students is a chore and often parents are unable to help. In this case they hire Anne, who through word of mouth is known to get students what they want and need.
The problem is that what the students want and need is not always on the same course with their parents.  Anne often finds herself as a go between in cases where unrealistic dreams clash with reality. SAT scores and abilities figure harshly in many instances, and those with the money to pay her fees do not always get the degree of satisfaction they are looking for. Yet for Anne, it is about the students, she helps them to realize their strengths and to recognize their weaknesses. This is a tough deliverance as the parents are often in the background with expectations that in some cases are difficult to meet.
In some situations the price of success takes students where they feel they need to be, but in other cases heartache is the meal of the day.  In the admissions process, feelings are not a part of the progression.  The faces of admission mean nothing; it is only the scores and abilities, as well as the talent to illustrate in a way that you stand out in a crowd. That is part of what Anne helps with.  Yet there is a story behind each student that makes it all so real.
Crawford takes us into the lives of a group of college-bound seniors, sharing their backgrounds and hopes, as well as those of the family, especially the parents. Not always in the best light, she helps them to understand how sometimes it is the parents dream and not their own.  It seems like a cruel system, and yet there are just so many spaces available in many of the institutions.
Crawford takes the most difficult of cases and finds the humor and sympathy below the surface. I am sure there is often untold hurt when rejection comes, and yet for a handful of students there is joy and trepidation.
This would be a wonderful book for a reading group or book club. The intrinsic gathering of information and background is deep and basic. The dialogue engendered through a reading would be quite robust.
Rating 3/5
This book was received from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based on my reading and understanding of the material.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The English Girl' by Daniel Silva.

Differing scenarios often play out behind the hidden agendas of various governments of the world. Even the most careful and mapped out plans can go awry. Human decisions and reactions can change the direction of a carefully laid out plan in the blink of an eye.
In The English Girl by Daniel Silva, we are privy to such a decision. When a young and promising star in Britain’s governing party is kidnapped, various factions are brought together to find the reasoning. When they receive notice that their captive will die in seven days if the kidnappers do not receive their demands, a sudden pall descends.  There is a secret known to the Prime Minister, Jonathan Lancaster. Somehow the kidnappers have found out. Madeline Hart, the young kidnapping victim is also Jonathan’s lover.
News of this infidelity leaking could cause disastrous consequences. Lessor sins have been known to topple governments. There is one man who can help to save both Madeline and the Prime Minister.
Enter, Gabriel Allon. A master assassin, art restorer and spy he is no stranger to danger and subterfuge. Political intrigue and dangerous assignments are the missions he is often recruited for. There is more to the kidnapping than is understood; the entire situation seems to be staged to him. But can he find the motives while he risks his life and that of a young woman, as he races against time to put an end to the power the kidnappers now hold over the British government.
This is a devious and action packed suspense that will keep you hanging on the edge of your seat. The danger and the lengths that Gabriel will go through to save Madeline, are both intriguing and inspiring. For his background Silva has somehow been able to give him heart, and still make him believable in his role. The caring is there even as the edginess of a caged animal keeps him one step ahead of those who hold the clues.
The characters are an eclectic mix, and the political intrigue is fascinating. The action is fast paced and believable, pulling you into the story.
If you enjoy suspense, action, intrigue and danger you will find everything you are looking for in this book. The possibilities draw you in, and the action is satisfying. The danger holds you steady, as Silva’s protagonist pulls out his arsenal of tricks in an all-out effort to save both Madeline and the Prime Minister.
This would be a great book for a reading group or a book club. The Intel and information as well as the twists and unexpected turns will garner great discussion.
Rating 4/5
This book was received free through the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Posted first on Blog Critis as Book Review: 'The Reflections of Queen Snow White' by David Meredith.

Once upon a time, and happily ever after have been coined so often in fairytale romances that they almost gender a disbelief. Can happily ever after truly exist? Does the princess really have no further worries or cares once her life is seemingly set right?
In The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith, despair seems to be the order of the day for the once young and beautiful Snow White since her Prince Charming has passed away. Can she truly find that spark that once kept her enthralled, spellbound even with a happiness that transcended life?  Can she find a way to latch onto the hope that seems to dwindle as time moves on? What of their daughter, and the Kingdom. Can she find that flicker deep within that can move mountains and bring magic and joy back into her life.
Meredith has taken the question of happily ever after and searched beyond the end of the fairytale. He has taken us in a direction both unexpected and real. Utilizing the grief engendered in the passing of a loved one, he has taken us on a journey beyond the fairytale ending. If you have ever encountered the grief of loss you would will find the depth of despair that comes very familiar.  Meredith has taken the character of Snow White and given us even more to believe in. She is surrounded by both her friends and her enemies which he characterizes in wonderful fashion.
The world and life that he ascribes to Charming and Snow White seem both fairytale and more. The realities of life are brought from genuineness, and less of the idealism from our own childhood fantasies. Yet there is a moral that threads through the tale, one that makes you realize that you own your destiny and must continue to recognize that regardless of the facts as they occur.
If you enjoy a good solid story that makes you think, you will enjoy this rendition. If you enjoy fairytales with morals and just want something to make you feel good, this is the reading for you. If you have ever dealt with grief, you will understand much of the underlying feeling, and cheer for the ending as you wipe away a few tears.  David Meredith is an author with a vision.
Rating 5/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baker's Dozen by M. Will Smith

On a moonlight night as the aging boat slipped out of it mooring into the open sea, there was no way of knowing that this was the departure from a series of murders carried out in retribution. Sometimes the end is after all really only the beginning.
In Baker’s Dozen by M. Will Smith, a 70+ year old Rose is incensed when she comes across her brother, Judd Baker’s, involvement in a group that has been promoting and instigating political assassinations for decades. When the argument becomes more violent Judd is fatally injured when he falls, impaling himself on the fireplace tools. Rose is so angry that she is more relieved than concerned. Looking back on the horror and deaths that he and his group were responsible for, she realizes that there is nothing or no one that can touch them. They were only the purveyors, the instigators; they had no connection with the deaths and could not be held responsible. It is during this moment of anger and disbelief that she forms a plan. She will hold them responsible. She will make them pay. As she sets her plans in motion, she realizes she only has a small window before they become aware of being stalked, or she is caught.
From the beginning she seems to have a great deal of luck. She comes upon a man with the ability to get her a gun with a silencer. She is able to get close to the individuals in a way no one else can. She gets a car when she needs one, someone to show her the way when she is lost. While helpful, it also makes her very wary. Is it possible she is being set up? Can she finish the task she has given herself?
Smith has put together a cannily clever story. You are hooked from the beginning as Rose makes her decision. She is so fragile and yet so brave. Stoic and with only vague plans, she seems to have the charm and tact to make it through to the end. It is difficult to not like her and her zany plans, as well the travels and travails she encounters. There is also something quite vicious about her belief in the rightness of her actions. She is no shrinking violet, and she pushes herself very hard. You will find yourself admiring many of the characters she comes into contact with. Rose herself is gregarious and tenacious.  
If you enjoy a good political thriller, a bit of history and just an overall good fun read, you will enjoy this work. Smith has given us an unlikely hero.  
Rose Baker is both shocked and infuriated to find that her brother Judd has been the ringleader of a conspiracy to promote political assassinations over the years. These assassinations were of Rose’s political idols. In the violent argument that ensues, Judd falls and is fatally injured.
Certain that his dozen co-conspirators will never face the justice they deserve, she hatches a plan to make sure that they do. Traveling the four corners of the country, she takes them out, one by one. Always a step ahead of the conspirators and the authorities, who never suspect a seventy year old well-dressed woman to be involved in such acts, they have no idea who to look for.Along the way, Rose begins to suspect that the conspiracy is much deeper than the thirteen men, so decides to pursue it to wherever it leads. FBI detectives Chuck and Cathy, who picked up on the murderous rampage midway through Rose’s march across the country, are slow to put the pieces together but finally catch up with her near the end.
Baker’s Dozen is about political hatred and retribution in the extreme, and how idealistic beliefs can permanently distort one’s perspective regardless of which side is involved.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Love of My Other Life by Traci L. Slatton

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Love of My Other Life' by Traci L. Slatton.

The possibility of a parallel universe is an interesting phenomenon. If such a reality existed, could you cross over and if so would you take such a chance?
In The Love of my Other Life by Traci L. Slatton, we meet painter, Tessa Barnum. Never easy, her life has just become a struggle. Her husband left her, she is about to be evicted, and she has all but stalled her career. Now suddenly she has a stalker. A scruffy, yet good looking man seems to be following her. When she finally confronts him, she realizes that he could be just a bit touched. He claims he was married to her in an alternate universe. There, their love was the stuff legends were made of. When his wife of that world died he built the machine that allowed him to cross dimensions, just to find her.  Shaking him off, allowing for his mental instability, she continues on with her life. Yet he is only a step away. Unable to shake him, she soon finds that while he is a mess, she is comfortable around him.
So begins a strange friendship. Yet she is still trying to make her mark, and in doing so puts herself at risk of the law. Brian, her stalker, becomes her conscience. As his own story unfolds she finds her own world turned upside down as she learns the truth behind love and loss, and second chances.
This is a fun and romantic take on the power of soul mates.  As Slatton creates her characters, she imbues them with warmth and recklessness. There is a boldness and vulnerability attached to Brian that draw you to his character. Tessa is also a fun character, but a bit more ambitious and not quite so forgiving.  As you follow these characters you are drawn to the possibility of their connection. It creates a warmth and yearning as you find yourself encouraging Tessa to choose love over logic.
If you enjoy romance and science fiction you will find this a surprisingly lighthearted dose of both. I was charmed by the story although the surprise ending rattled me in a strange way. This would be a great book for the romance reader, take it along on a trip. An easy read, you may find yourself chuckling over the antics as they unfold. The comedy and romance keep you entertained, with just that small bit of satisfaction.  
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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Prodigal by Michael Hurley

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Prodigal' by Michael Hurley.

Romance and Romanticism, are they one and the same, or is the distinction just so complicated they sometimes get interchanged. Or can they also be just a part of the same whole. In real diction romance is about that feeling associated with love, while romanticism is often a description of that romance or a feeling emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity and the primacy of each individual.
In the Prodigal by Michael Hurley, both come together in a battle of supremacy.  The romance of a story from long, long ago, one of star crossed lovers finds a way into the present. In 1851 a pair of young lovers steel away from their parents disapproval, stealing a sailing ship known as the Prodigal. With this beautiful ship known for its blessings and unnatural speed, they escape leaving behind both grief and loss.  
150 years later we meet Aidan Sharpe. As an attorney he has done well, rising to the top, but he has never really lived his dream.  Yet visiting on Ocracoke Island he finds himself in an untenable situation. Some of his time is lost in memory, yet he remembers wine given to him by a nude woman on the beach, and when gathering himself together as best he can in his aftermath of the evening another woman offers him water.  A seeming portent, his life is soon infected by scandal and disbelief.
Hiding away from his painful dismissal he finds himself caught up in the story of a two-thousand-year-old mystery when the sudden appearance of a ship is found off the coast, adrift and unmanned. As he researches the possibility of its history and the chance it could be the Prodigal, he finds himself even deeper in the morass as he races against time to pit himself against the best in the regatta world.  
Hurley has given us a story of hope and romance, yet the romanticism is what drives his motivation. There is something magical and majestic in his descriptions of the sea and the character of his histories.
His protagonist, Aiden, is like many of those people we sometimes think of as oily in their choice of career, yet when he finds himself down and out, he discovers a different person inside. We are there as he becomes a hero to many and we go from thinking he got his comeuppance, to rooting for him to win the race now the most important thing. The others along the way try to stop him, yet he somehow comes up with solutions even as all seems lost.
This is a story of amazing depth, and exciting adventure. There is a deep and abiding belief in both magic and religion, but the true mystery is the ship and the ocean. You will find this an interesting contrast to most romance, but will be intrigued with the vagaries.  
This would be a great book for a reading group or book club. It would also do well as a curl up on the couch and dream of adventure story. Hurley has given us something to think about and believe in. (ourselves)
Rating 4/5
This book was received from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Marilyn Monroe, On The Couch by Allma H. Bond, Ph.D.

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Marilyn Monroe, On The Couch by Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.

Famous for her beauty, her acting, her legendary marriages and affairs with the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe had it all. Or did she?
Beginning life in squalor and orphaned at a young age, she seemed to struggle to find her own place in the world. One of the most beloved figures of our time, she will always remain the enigma of her own doom.
In Marilyn Monroe, On The Couch by Alma H. Bond, Ph. D., we are voyeurs of a very private woman, one who lived so much more on the inside than on the outside. The depths of pain and disquiet, fear and distain that swirled within played a strong tug-a-war, where in the end Marilyn lived a life that glittered on the outside while constantly searching for the love she felt would make her whole on the inside.   
Bond gives us an intensely personal look into the psyche of a tortured spirit. Wanting only love, rejection was the more accurate response for most of Marilyn’s life. Unable to conquer her bouts of depression, she sought counseling, which is where we are privy to her soul.
I have always admired Marilyn’s courage and vivacity, but had no idea of the raw wounds she acquired during childhood that helped develop the person she became. They both shaped her and destroyed her, leaving us a glorious vision that will always be her epitaph.  Her beauty will never fade and her fans will never forget.
This work is so full of the vitriol and raw emotion she went through, the sadness and anger leap at you taking you in unexpected places.
Was her death inevitable, a place for her tortured spirit to rest, or was she driven by those around her. Always surrounded in mystery she shines. Even with such a personal take if you ever wanted to know more of this legend, then you will find many answers in Marilyn’s own words. Yet the sadness and pain will have you questing, was there more that she does not say.
This would be a wonderful work for a book club or reading group.  Be prepared for sadness for it permeates and retreats in ripples and waves from the glittering rock star of a beautiful American Icon, Norma Jean to Marilyn Monroe and back again.
A true tragedy for a woman of such determination and conviction.
Rating 5/5
This book was received from the authors publicist. All oninions are my own based on my reading and understanding of the material.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Maddie's Choice by Joyce Zeller and Giveaway entry chance.

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Maddie's Choice' by Joyce Zeller.

Chance encounters are often just that. Yet there are times of serendipitous interactions, when a reason exists unknowingly that will change a person’s life forever.  An unexpected meeting that changes both parties, setting in motion a chain of events unexpected in the beginning.
In Maddie’s Choice by Joyce Zeller, you will find yourself charmed by the interaction of characters that are thrown together due to an encounter in the past. Maddie is a writer finding that depression and anxiety have become a part of her life. Unhappy with her writers block and unsure how to resurrect her flailing abilities, she receives a letter giving her half a cattle ranch from a man she had met many years before during a sudden storm. Having kept in touch over the years she had no idea of his intentions.
Needing the opportunity to get away, she is convinced that the break will jump start her writing. She has no intention of accepting the boon; she just wants to take a peak. Unprepared for what she finds when she gets there, her heart and temper get the best of her.
Gideon Spartman has his own dilemma.  A Black-ops veteran with his own ghosts, he finds himself the guardian of two young boys, and half owner of a ranch he doesn’t want.  He is furious about the will leaving a stranger part of the property and makes sure to let Maddie know of his feelings as soon as he meets her.
The chemistry is undeniable though, and flames leap to the surface of a story that is heartbreaking as well as dangerous. Cattle rustling is destroying the very fabric of the small, sleepy, town’s livelihood and the stakes have just gotten higher.
The tension and anger simmer below the surface but the attraction sizzles off the pages in this unforgettable story of love and courage.
If you are a fan of Westerns, packed full of action you will enjoy this work. The Romance aficionado will find the heartbeat of the story holding them hostage even as mayhem breaks loose, cementing a set of feelings long denied.
Zeller has given us a romance with teeth and put it in a setting full of possibilities and excitement.  The characters are not without flaw and the interaction of people and events take you there, among them.
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Maddie's ChoiceBook Summary:

Romance writer Maddie Taylor is fed up with New York City. She is getting nowhere with her latest manuscript and does not believe true love exists outside of her imagination. When a friend, Jonah Spartman, dies and wills her half of his Arkansas cattle ranch, she sees the chance for a new beginning. Jonah has also left behind two orphaned great-grandsons desperate for affection and an accounting book in the red.
The other half of the failing ranch belongs to Gideon Spartman, Jonah’s grandson, who believes all capacity for love was torn from him during his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Rugged and sexy, Gideon is the enthralling physical manifestation of the hero in Maddie’s current manuscript. He is far from happy to be sharing an inheritance that is rightfully his. As she senses the need behind Gideon’s rough and unwelcoming exterior, Maddie acknowledges her own yearning for love and family.

Jonah’s will requires Maddie to stay on the ranch for three months. When that time is up, will she return to her comfortable but emotionally barren existence or embrace the challenges of her new life, which include cattle rustlers and drug dealers? Maddie’s choice proves to be far from simple.

Joyce Zeller's Bio:

Joyce Zeller has written articles for a magazine and a cooking column for a chain of suburban newspapers north of Chicago. She has written five books and published two, The Hidden History of Eureka Springs, and Accidental Alien, a work of science fiction, both available on Amazon. Her short story, “Love is a Seed,” is featured in Embrace: A Romance Collection, (2012 Goldmine Press). Joyce has served in the United States Army. As a professional perfumer (School of Perfumery, London, England) and an aroma-therapist, she made custom fragrances in her store. Her creation, Mountain Air, was declared the Arkansas Sesquicentennial Fragrance in 1965. Her latest achievement was getting elected as Alderman to the Eureka Springs City Council. Maddie’s Choice is a romance with her favorite theme, that being human is a lonely business, but for everyone there is somebody to love. It’s a matter of finding them. There will always be kids and animals in her books, and always, humor, “because life without humor is unthinkable.”

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 274
Publisher: Camel Press
Release: September 1, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-60381-959-6

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

Review first posted on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Man Made Boy' by Jon Skovron.

Just in time for the holidays and reading season, Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron takes you on a journey of modern technology and Classic mythology. 
Meet 17 year old Boy; he has never been out of his home. Of course being the son of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride seem to keep him at a disadvantage. It is only as he gets his first chance to leave the fold on a company related business that he realizes just how much he stands out in the world of humans.
Living in a secret, hidden den under Times Square, his family and friends work in show business. Here they can hide their peculiarities though makeup and showmanship. Boy lives his life with his biggest joy being the computer and all its glory. A hacker at heart he finds he is uber talented and sets up a virus that he feels can move on its own. To his friends from the chat rooms on the internet, he is interesting and bold. They are all excited to test his theory. When he finally does release his virus, he is distraught; the whole thing just seems to disappear.
Leaving home, unhappy with his lot in life, he finds many other of his kind in small sporadic groups. When he meets the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, he is in love. She (they) introduce him to malls and diners, yet heartbreak is not far away.  Suddenly he finds that the demons he thought he had escaped are close.  Yet they are not exactly as he imagined as his virus has now come back to haunt him.  Can he address the errors he has made and save his family and friends form his own creative mistakes?
This is a fun and exciting journey into the word of monsters. The coming of age journey for Boy, mirrors that of most young men in the world, yet he must overcome so much more. He is the descendent of Monsters and he does not look like anyone else.  He has also created his own form of monster and is learning a hard lesson of courage.
This is a funny and creepy story full of heart and laughter. The characters are memorable and the story remarkable.  
This is a great piece of work for the young adult audience, but is enjoyable to any that are young at heart. If you are into technology, or mythology, a strange mix for sure, you will find this work both interesting and intriguing. The tragedy and joy keep you spellbound with interest. Skovron has given us a tale of monsters that is hard to put down. You will find yourself reading late into the night in this adventurous journey.  
Rating 4/5

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Life of a Double Agent by Kenneth J. Kerr

Posted first on Blog critics as Book Review:'Life of a Double Agent' by Kenneth J. Kerr.

Have you ever wondered about the intricate and unsettled life of those who choose to be double agents for their governments?
Kenneth J. Kerr brings us a tale of intrigue in the life of a young man who makes this choice early in his career.
In The Life of a Double Agent by Kenneth J. Kerr, we follow Jim Hunt as he is first recruited in college to help monitor activities on campus, for the CIA. After graduation he joins the army and is recruited by the Chinese, all with the backing of the CIA.  After serving for his country Jim settles down working for Dow Chemical Company and later Renewable Power Company, all the while continuing to his double life even as he moves forward.
Years of intrigue and travel follow him and even as he retires he finds he needs to be of service. He chooses to work for the Peace Corps after his retirement from both his job and the CIA. Yet he soon finds that retirement is not always that easy.
Kerr has given us a unique and interesting perspective of life as an agent. Following the entire career of Jim Hunt from his first introduction to the agency, to the end of his career working the government, you travel the corridors of countries and areas through the eyes of the author.
Kerr’s extensive travel gives him a unique view of the countries he describes, and you find yourself pulled into the sights and wonders of it all. The interesting part of this work is the highs and lows of the profession, and how he was able to give you both sides of the character, his home, family and work side, as well as that of his other identity.
If you are interested in travel and intrigue, you will enjoy this work. The transition of Jim’s life as he continues to keep his integrity while working with the CIA, keep you guessing.  With the normalcy of how the interactions go you find yourself looking at the faces of those around you. Could they too be leading a double life?
This would be a great book for a reading group. The discussion of integrity and intrigue seem at odds and yet somehow it works.
Rating 3/5
This book was received from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Winds of Salem by Melissa De La Cruz

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Winds of Salem' by Melissa De La Cruz

When a magic spell casts Freya Beauchamp back to 1692 Salem, she is locked in a time when witches are being persecuted.  In Winds of Salem by Melissa De La Cruz, we follow the life of a young Freya as she finds the tides against her changing.
De La Cruz moves through the story from present to past and back again in an effort for those who searching for Freya to find the reasoning for the transference.  When first going through the witch trials of Salem, while she died as did many did, they were able to come back at another time and place. This time though, if they cannot change the fate of Freya, she will die with no return. The rips in the fabric of time and the strange power surges make rescue impossible.
Can Freya resist the urge to use her power, or will she be caught up again and lose her life in the historical challenge of the witch trials. Her family is working all venues to try and find the answers, hoping that she will make the right decisions, yet knowing that with no memory of prior events she will not understand the possible consequences of her actions.
The characters are the same ones we have come to know through her Witches of East End series, full of fun and devilment, yet now a darker twist adds a foreboding suspense that will hold you in thrall. To save Freya, her family must face some danger of their own, casting a wide net of inevitability to the possible consequences of being caught up in the machinations of those trying to destroy them.
The shift between times and places is done smoothly, and the description of events keeps you on the edge of your seat as the Beauchamp family tries to right the magic.
IF you enjoy the Witches of East End series, you will really enjoy this work which takes you back in the history of the family. If you love suspense and magic you will find both with a clever dash of humor that weaves throughout and relieves a bit of the tenseness, yet the danger is always close to the surface.
This would be a great book for a book club or reading group.  
Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding the material. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cold Light; Book 2 of the After Trilogy by Traci L. Slatton

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Cold Light; Book 2 of the After Trilogy' by Traci L. Slatton.

Love is an emotion that is often difficult to understand. While deep and abiding, love doesn’t always dwell with one person. Love of a family member, love of a friend and love of that one special person meant just for you, often get twisted, especially when making choices in youth.

Such is the case for Emma, who in the beginning, Fallen: Book 1 of the After Trilogy, she hooks up with a team of ruffians to rescue herself, her daughter and a group of orphans. When she is finally rescued by her husband and returned to her own home, she finds she has lost a piece of her soul, held captive by the man she sought for help. In Cold Light: Book 2 of the After Trilogy by Traci L. Slatton, Emma has come to terms with her loss. She loves her husband and her children need her. Yet she knows deep in her heart, the love is different. The yearning continues. Yet life decides to intrude and throw her another obstacle. Her oldest daughter Beth is kidnapped during a raid, and she knows that if she does not go after her, Beth’s life will become a nightmare.

Because of her prior experiences and the strange gift she has received from the mists, she is more capable then her husband to mount the charge. Haywood must look after Mandy, she has already been through much and they both understand one of them must stay. The safe zone were they have made their home is no longer safe. The mists have been coming nearer, and the people are afraid. Emma has a strange feeling about the returning mists, only one person seems to hold the key and she left him on another continent. Beth is only nine and her main concern now. She must go into the unprotected zone, there is no one else. Can she find her before it is too late? Can the strange sighting of the mists have something to do with her other life and Arthur?

Slatton has given us another stellar example of life after the fall. Emma is brave and bold, and attracts people due to both her personality as well as her power. Yet she must be careful, she does not want to be known as a witch. The characters that begin to surround her are gregarious and mysterious. When she runs into her old nemesis and love Arthur, tension only gets stronger. Slatton brings in all the heat and heart that keep you warm, even as danger and darkness descend.

This is a wonderful second part to her series, keeping you looking and hoping for more. There is such difficulty due to her depiction of characters; you root for them both to be the final winner of her love. This is a difficult task, yet she does it with aplomb.

If you enjoy end of the world novels full of adventure and romance, this will be the work for you. The characters are likable and the story holds both romance and loss. Slatton has found the key to lock the two together.

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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Karma Stone by L. A. Wright/ Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Karma Stone by L.A. Wright

The Karma Stone

by L.A. Wright

Giveaway ends October 25, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Foiled Knight by John C. Stipa

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Foiled Knight' by John C. Stipa.

For a child heading to school the first time, fear of the unknown makes everything seem frightening. When they meet that special friend for the first time, the one who seems to be a mirror image, the true meaning of friendship begins to unfold. Many of those budding friendships last a lifetime, building memories and backgrounds that hold far longer than many friendships cemented later in life.
In The Foiled Knight by John C. Stipa, we are introduced to Stan Palmer, a regular kind of guy, the kind who will do anything for his friends, reliable to a fault and extremely well liked yet he has those who do not care for him as well. As a child he was often bullied.  That is how he first met Tanya Davis. On the first day of school when Stan was knocked to the ground and made fun of, a fierce young girl made her way to the front of the room demanding the perpetrator to knock it off. When Ernie McFadden, the youngster responsible began taunting her, Stan immediately moved to his feet and punched Ernie in the nose. As a fight ensued, Tanya leapt back into the fray and before long the teachers arrived and the fight ended. But it was enough to cement a lifelong friendship between Stan and Tanya, and make an enemy of Ernie McFadden.
As they grew older and moved through school their friendship continued often of the verge of just a bit more. Yet something always happened.  They dated others sporadically and were always the sounding board for one another as a broken heart mended. Their parents often thought they would get together, and yet what continued was a rock solid no holds barred friendship.
When Stan is almost killed in an accident and ends up on life support, Tanya is the first person his parents call. There is something very strange about the accident and the 911 call made at the scene. A young girl also goes missing the same night, and the police have somehow tied the two together. Tanya knows something is wrong, and she is determined to find the answer. Part of the story is missing and she will find it.
As she begins digging, she is led on a trail of deceit and treachery. Her own life is at stake as she finally puts the pieces of the puzzle together.  Can she get herself out of trouble before further damage happens to Stan, and his parents make a terrible mistake?
Stipa has hit a homerun on this heart wrenching story about friendship and loss. You fall in love with Stan from the beginning he is such an amazing person, humorous, upstanding and kind. As he fades away on life support you are there breathing with him, holding him to the present realm. He cannot move on, he is the hero. Tanya gains your admiration and gratification as she fights to keep Stan alive, while at the same time fighting for his reputation. The tension is tightly wound, causing tendrils of fission that move between the families.
If you enjoy humor, romance and good plain fun you will enjoy this story. There is danger and distrust that thrusts into the heart of the prose, taking you into a sinister mind set, introducing both mystery and suspense as you weave through the lives of these two friends. This is one of my favorite books of the year.
Rating 5/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Martyr's Moon by J.E.Lowder

First published on Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Martyr's Moon' by J.E.Lowder.

In an ever dangerous struggle Romlin and Elabea continue their journey of hope. In Martyr’s Moon by J.E. Lowder, we continue the tumultuous saga that began with the Tears of Min Brock. What began as an amazing hope for these two young friends has been slowly chipped away, as well as their belief of a better world. On the run from danger without sign of hope, they have begun to lose their dream.
Only the foolish believe there is truly one true King of Claire. Yet in the beginning when they received the parchment requesting their presence, the hope and belief sustained them. Leaving their own home, and the very little safety it afforded, they have now found themselves under attack both physically and mentally by the Cauldron and its denizens. Even Elabea has begun to doubt that her true heritage is that of a storyteller, one of those foretold in the beginning.  
The Cauldron uses the whisper to erode her confidence and chip away at her fragile self-esteem.  How could she have been so foolish, the whispers remind her of who she is and where she came from. Stepping over the cliff would certainly free her from this self-pity and doubt, but the other whisper continues to push the false one away.  Even now Romlin is worried that she will break and all hope will be lost, but there is more to Elabea then meets the eye.
Suddenly she has overthrown the false whisperer just as they are on their last hope. The storytelling begins again, moving them further into the unknown, with challenges they can only imagine. Will they truly be able to help rebuild Claire, and save them all from the evil power of the Cauldron?
Lowder has given us an amazing array of characters both good and bad. The protagonists are true believers, yet doubt still clouds their minds. They are easy prey for the Evil that destroyed Claire in the beginning. Lowder has gilded them with both strength and flaws, creating a realism that is difficult to deny. His world is dark and deadly, yet holds a sprinkling of hope and light, that is beginning to thrust its ways into being.
If you are a fan of magic and hope, as well as fierce, epic battles between good and evil, you will love this work.  Each character sets the stage for a different appearance and entrance into the plot. The whisper creates drama and delight, but also doom and despair. The mirroring by the offender keeps you off kilter, unaware of which whisper to follow.
This would be a great work for the young adult, or anyone who enjoys adventure and danger. I look forward to following this series to its finale; I am intrigued by the premise.
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.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Clementine's Shadow by Peggy Rothschild

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Clementine's Shadow' by Peggy Rothschild

Small towns are often a draw for families, a place of safety for their children to grow up.  The closeness offers the ability for their family to grow up in the safety of friends.  Danger lurks in unexpected places, and small towns are not exempt.  The danger the perceived safety imposes offers those who prey on others an opportunity often unavailable where the parent has less trust.

In Clementine’s Shadow by Peggy Rothschild, we follow the life of one father brought to his knees by the disappearance of his own child. Winston has been a mess his whole life and feels the only thing he has ever excelled at is being a father. While his ex-wife uses his little girl Tiny to get what she wants from him, he has always felt that she still had Tiny’s best interests at heart. So when she sends her off on her own during a concert to find him, he is infuriated. That quickly changes to fear as she cannot be located.

Casey is on the case with the police from the beginning. She is still having issues from a past she is trying to escape, but she knows she must put aside her own challenges to find a missing child. Jane too is drawn into the fray when she hears about the kidnapping.  A teenager, Jane has an anger problem; she carries a secret that draws her into the search for a little girl that has somehow drawn the eye of evil.

When Casey digs deeper into the morass of evidence and the possible suspects, she is surprised to find that this is not the first crime of this kind. Yet why is the other kidnapping not on the books. Why does no one know about a previous crime?  Something is wrong, but who does she trust.
As Casey, Winston, and Jane are drawn into the desert in the search of a killer, danger rears its ugly head. Casey must find a way to make sense of what is happening and keep the others safe. They have no business in this dangerous investigation. Can she do her job, without risking the child or the others, as the one responsible calls all the shots.

Rothschild had given us a thriller with heart. The anger and fear hides the truth of the heart in her characters. The prickly surface hides a maelstrom of emotion only hinted at through the actions that guide them. You will find yourself their cheering section as they allow their emotions and actions to lead them into danger in an effort to strengthen their own psyche. The rescue of the little girl will either make them or break them.  There is sadness, horror and humor threaded through the action, and the ending will keep you guessing.

If you enjoy mysteries you will fill your needs with this novel. It is clever and interesting, with a dangerous off kilter ending. This would be a great book for your library; Peggy Rothschild is an author to watch for.

Rating 4/5

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

Poison Makers by Jimmy Olsen

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Poison Makers' by Jimmy Olsen.

In Poison Makers by Jimmy Olsen, we are taken into the machinations of an old belief system of voodoo and zombies that still exists in regions of the Dominican Republic today.
When Adam Quist, U.S ambassador to the Dominican Republic dies, there seems very little mystery. Yet Edgar Espinosa-Joes (E J) is given the assignment to interview his daughter. She seems to believe there is more involved, more at stake then known.  E J occasionally does odd investigations for his mentor Garrett Yancy.  Yet this investigation is somewhat out of the ordinary.
As EJ has a clandestine interview with Quist’s daughter, he is left with more questions than answers. She believes her father has been murdered–or even worse, turned into a zombie.  E J isn’t laughing though, he is from the Dominican Republic and has seen the violence and ceremonies involved with the ages old voodoo movement. 
When the grave is exhumed and the body found missing, E J begins to fear the worst. With the help of his best friend, a crooked Dominican cop, he begins the long and dangerous trek of discovery. The menace becomes personal as he and his friend are poisoned, and then his family is interjected into the danger.  The drums are beating, drawing him further into peril and madness.  He becomes the victim and is pursued as he tries to find the answers.  His family carries on with their own antics, while he slips through the clutches of his adversaries, only to find even deeper mysteries.
Can he get to the bottom of this strange and sinister disappearance? Can he keep the Ambassador’s daughter safe as he untangles and age old web of deceit before his own life is forfeit?
Olsen takes you into the heart of a culture that is very different from our own, and yet alike in many ways. There is a hunger and need that many never have to experience that shape the thoughts and beliefs of the people.  The descriptions of the events are chilling yet Olsen interjects a bit of the ridiculous which also occasionally draws a chuckle.
His characters are rich in both bravado and flaws, but real to the point of conviction. The humor seems like it would be out of place, and yet it adds character and believability to a strange incredulous investigation.
If you enjoy murder mysteries, and are interested in voodoo cultures and zombies you will find yourself immersed and charmed in the chapters in this novel.  It would be great reading for a book club, with a varying set of situations to draw from.
Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the information.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Omens; A Cainsville Novel' by Kelley Armstrong.

Author Kelly Armstrong has done it again with a new series set in a small creepy town of Cainsville.  In Omens, she has moved to another fascinating tale of paranormal circumstance, and riddled it with feeling and eerie happenstance.
Her heroine, 24 year old Olivia Taylor-Jones has led a fairy tale life. Being the only daughter of a well to do family, she has received an exceptional education, and she has learned how to help those in need. Having never been there herself, she is full kindness and concern.  Engaged to be married to a CEO with political ambitions she is on top of the world.  Always a daddy’s girl, her life begins a strange exodus when he dies. Suddenly she finds out she has been adopted, and everything she believes of her life is wrong.
Her real parents are notorious killers, both having received life sentences for murder and she is suddenly no longer the woman she was.   As her life begins unraveling around her, she does her best to hide.  She has become an instant celebrity, one that does not fit in the mold of the life she had planned. Everywhere she turns she is recognized, and her inability to disappear just keeps the rumors more vicious and profound. Even her (adoptive) mother has distanced herself.
Several incidents occur that lead her to the small town of Cainsville. Here she can hide from the sudden notoriety.  Yet the town itself ads a sinister cast to the unfolding drama. When her real mother’s attorney seeks her out, she is immediately distrustful. She finds herself drawing on strange abilities, as she tries to come to terms with her past. An eventful meeting with her real mother entangles her in an investigation into the killings that happened so long ago. Were they really guilty, or were they just an easy answer to a series of macabre murders?
Armstrong has given us a strong protagonist, and filled her with darkness and faded memories of her past. Worried that she carries the genes of convicted killers, she is unsure of her footing. Yet she knows in her heart she is good. The people in the town of Cainsville are kind and very involved, very much busybodies. They love to dabble in everyone’s business.  Yet there is something strange going on, and she is blocked at almost every turn as she tries to find out what happened to turn her birth parents into stone cold killers.
If you enjoy strange and spooky happenings, and great mystery with a paranormal twist, you will enjoy Omens. Once I picked up the novel, I found I could not put it down.  Armstrong has the ability to make the unbelievable real, and you find yourself uneasy with the feeling.
This would be a marvelous book for a reading group, full of interesting topics for discussion. Armstrong sets the tone for a tale that reels you in and has you looking for more.  .
Rating 5/5
This book was received from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Adopted Son by Dominic Peloso

Posted first on Blog critis as Book Review: 'Adopted Son' by Dominic Peloso

Rumors of aliens abound in most nations around the world. Is it possible for another race to exist among the stars, and if so have they really made themselves known to a select few.  With the advanced technology needed to keep them hidden and allow them space travel, have they really crashed on the surface, only to be hidden away from the civilian life?
In Adopted Son by Dominic Peloso, we are taken into a new future that is both concerning and disconcerting. When birth anomalies begin cropping up in the form of mutated babies, there is initially not too much concern outside the families.  The children are normal in most ways, yet their heads are larger, and their eyes are somewhat eerie, large and black located on the sides of their facial structure. Their body, too, is just a bit different, tall and thin, almost unable to hold the head that seems unnaturally large.
In the beginning the parents of these mutated babies are concerned, but as with all families, they accept the hand they have been dealt. They grow to love them, and hold the hope of a bright future. Yet as the mutations continue, and considerably more deformed babies are born, churches are finding themselves the recipient of many orphans.  As the problem grows, alienation is only a step away.
Can aliens from space be the cause of all this turmoil? These children and now adults are very similar to the pictures shared from Area 51 and Roswell sightings. The mutations are now more normal than not, and most families are no longer planning children. As war comes ever closer, a message from outer space comes over loud and clear.  The planet seems to be invaded from the inside.
Can this new group of Americans, which many feel a part of, prove they are part of this planet, or will the rogue aliens that demand war find a way to annihilate the human way of life?
If you enjoy science fiction you will find this very interesting. I am not sure how I felt; the story was certainly unique, yet all together very creepy. However, thorough it all, a thread of hope and peace levels the threat.  This is a new take on nurture vs. nature, with the alternative being the very destruction of the human gene.
This would be an interesting work for a reading group. The pros and cons of learning to trust a potential alien race would keep the conversation quite lively.
Rating 3/5
This book was received free from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based on my reading and understanding of the material.