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.