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.