Friday, August 29, 2014

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Maze Runner' by James Dashner.

What would happen if you found yourself in a strange and dangerous place with no memory of your past? What if the only thing you could remember was your name?
In The Maze Runner by James Dashner, you are introduced to a world where death is often just around the next corner. A group of boys find themselves in a strange place they call the glade, trying to survive, and if possible escape back to their home. Yet, while they know they have a home, they have no memory of anything prior to the maze. With above average intelligence they have found a way to build a society of sorts in order to survive.
When Thomas finds himself in a box with no memories, he is terrified when the box begins to move, and stopping abruptly opens to his vision of a strange group of teens he does not know. They pull him out of his trap only to treat him unkindly, and in fact seem somewhat threatened by him. His fear only further increases as he slowly learns more of this place where he finds himself. As the danger of his situation comes somewhat clearer, he tries to find any memory, even a small speck to help him understand. There is nothing there.
There are dangerous creatures outside the walls of their protection called grievers. Within the walls they are safe, except from each other, but the world outside the walls is treacherous. The society each has a task to do to keep the peace, and one of the most dangerous tasks is that of the runners. They must find the secret of the maze hidden outside their walls in order to return home. Every day the maze changes and every day the changes are mapped for some form of answer.
Strange things appear to be happening, even more so since Thomas was discovered in the box. Although that is how everyone arrived, his presence seems to cause a shift. That distrust only becomes clearer when a new inhabitant is introduced through the box. This time it is a girl. Initially uttering strange phrases, shock emanates from the team when she immediately recognizes Thomas and calls him by name. Yet as she is pulled from the box she too no longer remembers. The tension only thickens as they realize she is the last. No more members will be coming through.
When Thomas breaks the rules by rescuing two of the runners from outside the walls he causes a rift, and yet creates believers as well. Is he their doom or their resurrection? The time of the maze is closing. Can they save themselves or will they perish, never knowing the answers.
Dashner creates a world of danger and suspense. His creatures are a cross between technology and the ugly things that go bump in the night. He has done an amazing job of creating characters that are likable, and those who are the bullies and jerks, just as we see in the real world. The fear is pervasive, creating uneasy hysteria and nervous inhabitants. The intelligence of those selected helps them to form a society, one necessary to sustain them and to help them come up with answers. The danger feels real and the fear follows you as you begin to understand the characters. The confusion keeps you guessing, cheering and hoping.
This is a great work full of danger and fear, and riddled with suspense. While a great YA novel, adults will also be interested in the depth of the story. This would be a great addition to your book shelf, as well as that of your teen.
Rating 5/5

Monday, August 25, 2014

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott.

Throughout time wars have spawned fanatics, those willing to do anything to make sure their side wins, including collusion and spying. This is true of women as well as men, although we seldom hear of the exploits of the women in history to the extent as we do of the men. The Civil war was no different.
In Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott we are introduced to the lives of four women who had hidden agenda’s in a war that tore family’s apart and damaged the beginning of a nation. From outright spying to enlisting as a man, each of these women helped to make history in their own unique fashion.
You will find their sense of bravado quite courageous regardless of the sides they chose, and the fact that friends and family were also drawn into their exploits was quite daunting. Yet for a belief that they were right and doing what they could in their own way, they helped to shape the history of our nation and beliefs.
Abbott is a strong voice for these women and interspaced throughout are photos of the time.  You get in-depth information based off letters, diaries and the news, written about them at the time. The fear and concerns come through, but the bravery stands above it all. Each found a way to make a difference, cementing their place in history.
Written with an eye to suspense, steeped in detail and drudgery, you will find yourself ensconced within the world of civil war history, and behind the scenes viewing the characters.
If you enjoy history, adventure and courage you will find this is just the work for you. If you enjoy interaction between proponents, especially in war, this is the perfect find for your library. Abbott has turned what could be dry historical fact and given it faces and names that you can relate to.
Rating 3/5
This work was received through the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ballroom by Alice Simpson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Ballroom' by Alice Simpson.

From the beginning, dance has been a part of life, a universal language of joy, communication, celebration and even war across all cultures. The beauty of form and movement is mesmerizing. The intricacy of thought involved is second to none. It is no surprise that there are so many forms available.
Ballroom by Alice Simpson takes us into the hearts and mind of those who find this particular brand of dancing near and dear to their own hearts. The differing forms of Ballroom dancing give a broad perspective of movement that is both energetic and symmetric. The skill involved is laid out in detail as we follow the lives of a cross sampling of characters that are addicted to the dance.
Simpson has created a work of drudgery and beauty. The characters are an array of backgrounds and ages and yet the dance creates a way to close the gap of differences. Ballroom dancing is also about the clothing as well as the shoes and we are treated to a passion of brilliance as we strive to understand the draw. With center players such as Maria Rodriguez a young woman, smitten since a very young age, and Harry Korn and elderly man involved in dance also from a young age, you follow a glittering and eclectic group of characters from venue to venue as they try to perfect their steps.
There are layers of stories created for each character that tie them together. Ribbons of romance and despair thread their ways through the book and lives of those who escape the daily grind to find the beauty of symmetry and discipline involved in becoming the very best. Many find themselves looking for partners among the players, not just for dance but for life. In some cases the desperation seems so sad, and tragic, but with the slow decline of the dance venues available, they return time and again just to be around the music.
IF you enjoy music and dance, and are intrigued by people and their behaviors you will find this work to be immensely satisfying. If you enjoy romance and energy twisted with human nature and tragedy this will be a great book for your library.
Rating 3\5
This work was received free from the publishing company. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Entwined' by Heather Dixon.

The bonds of love are sometimes strained by outside forces. Misunderstandings and even death can destroy the bod as though it never existed.
In Entwined by Heather Dixon you embark on a journey of magic, danger, evil and romance. When Princess Azalea loses much of what she holds most dear, she and her younger sisters turn to the one thing that makes the happy–dancing.  Yet this holds heartache as well for they are forbidden by their father the King, for they are in mourning.
Always young rascals, they find a place of magic and beauty hidden deep within the palace where they can dance away their nights, with no danger of being caught and punished. Little do they understand the danger they have invited into their lives. When evil comes to call they are unprepared for the destruction or danger, not only for themselves but to all that they now hold dear.
Dixon has given us a fairy tale with fun and exciting characters. Each of the young men who are looking to wed the princess is amusing and in some cases just silly. Even with such faults there is also strength and humor involved.
The Princess Azalea and her younger sisters are fun and just a little too bold, for their daring takes them into the darkness in a dangerous way. Yet that boldness is also their salvation.
This is a wonderful Young Adult fairy tale with romance, adventure, danger and family. Your will find yourself entranced the beauty, saddened by the circumstances and appalled by the danger.  What also creates a soft rumble throughout the tale is a ribbon of love and romance that grows and evolves.  You will want to keep reading to the very end to see how the young women extricate themselves from the dilemma.
This would be wonderful book for your young adult or teen if they enjoy books. Adults will find this a satisfying read as well for there are numerous qualities that cast interest for readers of all ages. 

Rating 4/5

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Fault in our Stars' by John Green.

Cancer is such a dreadful disease, indiscriminate in its choice of victim, choosing with aplomb regardless of age, gender or status.  There are a myriad of stories behind the tragedy and many of them remain untold.
In The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, he builds a story out of darkness and despair.  He takes the tragedy of cancer and immerses us in the lives of characters that could very well be real. Many know of the heartaches in dealing with those who fight the fight, and many of those scars last a lifetime.  He brings his story in the form of a teen girl, Hazel Lancaster.  Stricken with cancer from a young age, she believes she has come to terms with what her life has become. Then she meets a young man, Augustus Waters, a survivor of cancer. He is drawn to her in a way that is initially uncomfortable, and as she tries to push him away in her sarcastic vein, he finds her to be exactly the type of girl he has been looking for.  Throughout the story there is a beauty and humor, a ‘candle in the wind’ for each of those whose lives have been touched by such an uncaring disease. For cancer touches not just the victim but all those who love and are in anyway touched by them.
Be prepared for a story of romance and anger, excitement and humor, and friendship and bravery for that is the direction we are led as Green develops the personality of a group of teens that have the courage to bring both laughter and tears.  The story’s that encircle each individual gives you a glimpse of the character and daring as well as the abiding hope.  Hidden within that strength they also hide the depression and hopelessness as they try hard to protect their family and friends by showing only the smiles and strength whenever possible.
Written so beautifully your heart and emotions melt, you come to be a part of this group as well as their families, their triumphs and their losses. The friendships as well as the depths the families go through preparing for the worst while holding out hope is like a beacon of light.
The courage and humor, the energy and despair all keep you on a roller coaster of emotion.  Green takes you on a journey both terrible and beautiful.
While a difficult book to categorize I found it to be one of the most important finds of the last few years. Green shines a light on cancer in a way that sends a tremor of intent awareness, an incandescent monument to those that have both won and lost the fight, as well as the damage done to those closest.  The story blasts away the veil of secrecy and hooks you from the very beginning.    
Rating 5/5

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Hidden Child' by Camilla Lackberg.

As time moves forward the past is just that. The Past! Yet at times the events of the past create a pattern of behavior moving forward that can create chaos in otherwise ordinary lives. The adage of ‘the sins of the fathers’ seems very adroit.
In the Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg we are introduced to crime writer Erica Falck. Returning to her field of work after the birth of her child she finds a strange Nazi medal among her mother’s personal effects. As a child she always found her mother to be elusive, unable to give love. The medal draws hers curiosity like no other, and she decides to investigate the meaning.
Meanwhile her husband Patric, a police investigator is on paternity leave from his own job taking care of their young daughter in an effort to help Erica get back to her tasks. Patic finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation even as he continues his leave, uncomfortable at missing out on an egregious murder that has happened.  Knowing the Erica will take issue with him taking the baby to the station he initially does not let her know that he has been doing some consulting on the side.
Their paths collide when she finds that the man she took the medal too, one of her mother’s oldest friends has been murdered, and that her husband is involved in the investigation. Suddenly a quest to answer a personal question becomes dark and dangerous.  Can digging for the truth of her past put the life of her own family into peril?
Lackberg has taken us into history in a way that is both haunting and persuasive. Her characters are interesting and hold a fascination that keeps pulling you forward.  The entry of their daughter Maja to the story gives you another layer of both charm and concern. In a strange way the connection of the past circles back creating a feeling of understanding.
Her history takes you to a time when Nazi Germany was in full swing, and gives you a possible insight to how the events of such magnitude could shape the lives of those born way past. Even the joys of the past can bring about a hardship when tragedy occurs.  Yet the vault of secrets from the past must often be opened to bring about healing, and it is here that Lackberg has set the stage.  Just when you think you understand, think again, the direction ricochets.
If you enjoy history, romance, suspense and danger then you will find this work an incredible book to add to your library. The amount of backstory would be great for both a reading group as well as discussion group. As theories abound, the discussion would unfold in many directions.  
Rating 4\5
This book was received free from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.