Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Us by David Nicholls

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Us' by David Nicholls.

Relationships are often mystifying. What attracts certain people repels others, and occasionally two persons with interests in opposing directions still come together and form a bond. As with all connections, you must work to keep them strong. Yet what if the interest is no longer there?
In Us, a novel by David Nicholls, we are invited into the lives and relationship of Douglas and Connie. The story weaves back and forth through the years of their lives from the first hint of a crack in the relationship, to the beginning when love was new and then back again. The mix of personalities is both interesting and part of their charm.  In the beginning the differences make their relationship more satisfying and exciting.   
When Connie informs Douglas that she may be ready to move on now that their son is leaving home, he is shocked, even knowing the relationship has shifted. Indicating they will discuss a possible breakup more once they have completed their trip abroad with their son, she explains that she wants to have this time as a bonding for father and son whose relationship has become strained. Douglas is not prepared and uses the trip to try and strengthen his bond with both Connie and their son. His fear of loss is all pervasive.  He has loved Connie since they met and he cannot see life without her. 
So begins a journey full of strange and adventurous happenings.  The extreme oddity of situations that occur initially brings them together, then as normalcy returns the next event begins another tear in the fabric of their union. There are tears and laughter, sadness and anger. The real life situations and incidents make you feel like a voyeur into a friend’s relationship with all its ups and downs. There is also music and craziness with just enough panache to keep you involved and betting on loves survival. 
Nicholls weaves us an interesting story of love and loss, betrayal and feeling, leaving you with an ache of emotion. His protagonists are an eclectic mix, and his love of life shows through his characters in every decision and move. You are transported on this journey with them, through all the pain and laughter. 
If you enjoy romance and adventure, laughter and fun, as well as the foibles of real relationships you will find this to your liking. 
This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group. The amazing array of situations would find the most ardent of reader eager for debate.

Rating 5/5

The Sixteen: Book Two of the Soul Jumpers by Ali B.

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Sixteen: Book Two of the Soul Jumpers' by Ali B.

Souls and reincarnation are subjects of controversy and beliefs. Each side of the controversy believes they have the right answer, but does anyone truly know?
In The Sixteen: Book Two of the Soul Jumpers by Ali B., we are taken into the world of those who truly believe in souls and transmutations. When Iris Brave is introduced to a group of soul jumpers she is as skeptical as any young person would be. Having lost her father, she is even more upset to find that this group has knowledge that he is actually still alive, at least his soul is. It is now bound to another body, and there are those who are willing to kill to keep the secrets of this possibility from coming to light.
The Council is the main group and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep their secret safe. Even family members are not to know, but there are sixteen among the group who feel differently. Micah, Iris’s dad is the first of the group to make contact. There is a strong belief that family and friends have a need to know when a soul has continued on in another body. Because he is now the leader of the rebels the council has kidnapped him in an effort to reach Iris, the only outsider to know of these changes. Can she help to rescue her dad, and stay out of the clutches of the Council? Can she really believe the stories, and are the sixteen all above reproach, or are there traitors in their midst as well.
Ali B. has given us a fun filled work of fiction, with paranormal scope and mystery. The action and adventure is sure to please, and the characters are warm and inviting. Iris is a sweet character, full of bravado, and just a bit of nerve. She comes to love many of the sixteen yet finds that there are a few that raise her hackles. Something about them rings false.
As you dig in and get involved in the story you begin trying to decipher the red herrings throughout, who is the traitor, is there one, and is soul jumping even possible. The age and abilities of each character Is questionable, as the souls could be of any age, and may not resemble the body they are housed in. It is an amazing array of skillsets and personalities that make this a fun read.
You will find yourself enamored of the characters, whether you love them or hate them––you feel, and that is part of what reading is all about.
If you are looking for that one special read for your young adult, you will find this to be a good one. If either you or your youngster enjoys fantasy and suspense, this will keep them reading. As part of a series it still reads well as a single, and yet if your child is like many who love to read you will find yourself looking for the rest of the series.
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.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Real Murder, A Lovers IN Crime Mystery by Lauren Carr

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Real Murder, A Lovers In Crime Mystery' by Lauren Carr.

Even in small towns there is a possibility of sinister evil, were the secrets of the past can turn even the most unlikely of foe into a killer. Yet it is also true about small towns that dark secrets are often more difficult to extricate from gossip in an effort to reach the truth.
In Real Murder, A Lovers In Crime Mystery by Lauren Carr, we follow the exploits of Detective Cameron Gates. When she meets an irascible elderly lady she is fascinated by her stories. Yet her new friend, Dolly is labeled as senile and delusional. Dolly has been trying to get someone to help her investigate the murder of one of her girls. Yet as Cameron tries to decipher this story, she realizes that Dolly had never had children and understands the cautions from her friends.
In the meantime, the Prosecutor Joshua Thornton is looking for answers to the disappearance of a close personal friend of his from long ago. The last to ever see him, Joshua is feeling like there is something important that must come to light. His friend is not just another missing person; he was a new sheriff deputy investigating the murder of a local prostitute on his own when he disappeared.
When Cameron’s friend, the elderly Dolly is murdered, she struggles to make sense of things. Why would anyone murder such a sweet old lady? Yet when a cruiser is found in the bottom of a lake, and the body of Joshua’s friend comes to light, only these two, Cameron and Joshua can find the tie that twists the two deaths together.
This is a fun and amazing journey into the past and into the mindset of a killer. Carr’s unerring description of character is spot on and you grow to understand and have feelings for them as though they are quite real. The ability to create such realism has you unable to put down the story until its final page. Yet you will find yourself looking for more, missing the action and camaraderie, and hating on those who are responsible for the death of such wonderful personalities. The realism makes it personal, and that is a difficult chore for some writers.
If you love mystery and history, and the interesting characters of small towns, you will be intrigued by this work. The oeuvre just keeps getting better. Carr has a particular way with infusing loving and trusting personalities into her character’s making them friends instead of just cardboard cutouts.
This would be a great book for a reading club or discussion group. The interest in reducing rumors into truths could add a great deal of spice to any meeting.
Rating 5/5
This book was received free from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based on my reading and understanding of the material.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Great Grisby by Makita Brottman

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Great Grisby' by Makita Brottman.

Dogs have been noble companions to both the rich and the poor. One of the characteristics that make them so popular is the loyalty and love they shower on the owner. Because of the power of such devotion, many consider their animal much as they would their children. The devotion goes in both directions, often in ways that may seem strange to those who have never had a pet, or that have not connected in such a way.
In The Great Grisby by Mikita Brottman, we follow the history of such bold tales of the love of these creatures, from kings and princes, to artists and philosophers. Women as well as men tell the tales of love and throughout the telling we are also given snippets of the author about her own companion, Grisby. There is an amazing array of information, much taken from journals and even news of the day. The feelings are jettisons around the globe through letters between friends and family, all extoling the virtues and care of their companion.
While each story is different to the other, there is the over lying dependence on these creatures for that devotions often lacking elsewhere in their lives, or in some cases just and addition of devotion. When the animals age and pass one, there is such a tragedy of feeling, and when the grief has passed and with the addition of a new dog, in many cases this animal may actually be names exactly the same as the deceased.
You will find many of the antics and stories somewhat odd and even occasionally over the top, and yet if you know any dog lovers you already know that there is a special bond, that is shared between the pet and their owner. Often tongue in cheek, the author gives us glimpses into her own feelings, and we find ourselves wondering what Grisby is up to as we follow the history of dogdom through the ages.
If you love animals and are an aficionado of dogs this is a wonderful look at the trials and tribulations of those in the past as they come to terms with the differing personalities of the pets they call their own.
The antics and the treatment seem sometimes over the top, and to an unwary dog fan you may mutter a few ewes. The true dog person does not find any of the situations that you read about as out of the ordinary, and yet I believe there are certainly degrees of dog people. There is a spectrum of behaviors from both the animal as well as their owner. You will find yourself interested in the differing patterns and attitudes that become oddly entertaining on closer inspection.
If you enjoy history and animals you will find this to be an unusual treat. This would be a great book for a discussion group, giving rise to questions and answers, as well as antidotes from those in the know of how the animal is often the real owner and not vice versa.
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.

Black Machetes by Ryan K. Howard

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Black Machetes' by Ryan K. Howard.

We often hear how our young years are the formative years and yet many have a youth of distress and horror and must delve and find deep within themselves the strength to move up and overcome the pain of their past. At the same time, others are not so able to find the inner resistance and continue on a path that was not their own choosing in the beginning.
In Black Machetes by Ryan K. Howard, we follow the life and exploits of Benjamin Wilder, a kid who escaped his abusive home life with a daily dose of close friends. A group of kids very like him with their own problems, although most were not as dire as his own. Yet it was here that he felt the comfort and camaraderie as did his friends. To seal their adventures and to form a stronger bond they formed the group and named themselves the Black Machetes. The bond became everything, and home was just a painful memory only to become a nightmare as the day was done and reality intruded.
After one such painful reality Benjamin finds the strength to run away. His stepfather, known as Rabid Dog, and his friend have been capable of some horrible and heinous things including a rape which Ben had inadvertently witnessed. He even had the audacity of sneaking into the cabin and rescuing the new born baby that became of result of the torture and eventual killing of this young woman. Leaving the new baby at the hospital entrance, he knew that he had to get away—and now. Yet Ben was very sure there was more, many young women were disappearing and he felt his Stepfather might well be a part of the problem.  Without proof he knew his only safety was in leaving everything he knew and disappearing before he too disappeared in another way.
Finding himself in a small town, appropriately named hope, he stumbles onto the right man who seems to understand his fear. Morgan River had seen a lot of things in his time on earth and he knew immediately when he saw a soul in need of saving. Finding this youngster in need of hope and courage, he took him under his wing, and they began an unlikely family, but family all the same. Soon father and son in the eyes of all that matters it appears as though finally, all would be right with the world again.
Yet the past can never be truly extinguished, and the anger and rage he engendered by leaving became a palpable thing. Unbeknownst to himself he had also put his closest friends, The Black Machetes in jeopardy in his jump to freedom. Inexorably the past would follow him, could he survive the hit.
Howard has given us a suspense filled story of possibilities and change. His characterizations of the protagonists are both horror filled and often desperate. Yet there is a discipline to the danger and madness that permeates and holds. As Benjamin grow, learns and evolves, we are with him every step of the way. We hurt for his friends and his memories, and begin to take his problems on as personally as though they were our own. It is difficult to separate Ben into the two very differing lives that shape him and yet they are why he is who he is. The timeline and continued intrusion of Rabid Dog’s exploits, creates a chill as you wonder where it will all go wrong.
If you like suspense, romance and friendship stories you will find this a very satisfying read with a chill of terror that occasionally rears its head.
This would be a great find for a book club or reading group, with numerous issues of the day to discuss.
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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Eyes Behold Tomorrow by Ken Hart

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Eyes Behold Tomorrow' by Ken Hart.

As a child and even on into adulthood we look at the night sky to marvel and wonder at the stars. Bright specks of brilliance, these pinpricks of light draw us, and yet is there even a chance of ever making it there.
In The Eyes Behold Tomorrow by Ken Hart, we are given a story that takes us into the heart of the great frontier known as space. There are many examples of imagination on the market and each strives to find its niche in the market of science fiction. Hart brings us a possibility where the earth can be of use to save another world from extinction. When called upon many of the locals are tested for the strength and fortitude needed to move forward and become part of the Feletian Queen’s army.
 One of those selected is Edward Robert Teach. He is a throw back of the old world, and barbaric in nature with an opinion on everything which he is more than willing to share. Yet for some reason he is drawn to the Feletians, and they, especially their women are drawn to him. Can he find his place in this new political arena, and help to keep Galactic war from destroying such a peaceful planet. And can he tame the woman who has chosen him as her mate. The two become intertwined as the danger heats up, and Edward must rely in his instincts to save the day. Will it be enough to both save the galaxy as well as his new marriage to a unique and dangerous woman?
Hart has given us a fun and adventurous story that takes us into the stars and beyond. He introduces us to several new races with a unique flair. The characters of his work are just slightly of beat, and exceptionally honest, a sometimes rare quality. The strengths are offset by the flaws and at times the flaws are what save the day. With the pace you feel like you are traveling at light speed and involved within some of the decisions.
The interaction between the Feletian women and the earth men is another story, as the women of this planet are the dominant species, and each of them has their own agenda. Yet this too is a part of the excitement, as the heat of the sexual experiences and romance add another layer to the already dangerous reality the Edward finds himself in. The problems are age old and yet picked up and dusted off and served to us in a new mold of thought.
The sense of wonder comes through with charming intensity, and yet the grittiness also bears witness to the danger and intoxication of being on the brink of war.
If you enjoy science fiction, romance, adventure, sex and interpersonal connections you will find this a nice addition to your library. Hart is an author to watch. You will enjoy the interactions and bantering of personalities. Edward Teach seems very much like a comic book hero, with all the problems associated.  
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 .

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Obstacles...Bring Em by Maria Federici (Doyle)

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review;'Obstacles...Bring Em' by Maria Federici (Doyle).

As humans, we often feel invincible and yet every day we see and hear of death, atrocities, dismemberment and other terrible things that happen within people’s lives.  It takes just a moment, and an unlikely or just unlucky happenstance to change someone’s life forever.
In Obstacles…Bring Em by Maria Federici (Doyle), we are given a look at how just such an unlikely accident changed Maria’s own life, and in doing so changed the path she had mapped out for herself. In her own words and using the memories of her friends and family members, she details her life as it transformed after a fateful day in February of 2004. The life she knew changed drastically when a piece of unsecured furniture fell off a vehicle ahead of her and broke apart, sending a large piece of particle board through her windshield and into her head creating massive brain and facial injuries as well as blindness.
This is not a story of sadness and despair, but one of bravery and courage, and an unstoppable will. Maria may have perished that night from massive injuries and yet due to the courage of the EMTs and those surrounding her, she fought her way back to life and has continued not just surviving but living again. She has overcome many challenges and obstacles and yet perseveres.  Never one to give up she continues to work on overcoming her trials including that of her memory.  
By deposing her friends, family and many of the medical staff involved in her recovery she pieces together her time of darkness, the circumstances of that one fateful night and the following day, months and years as she fought to not just live but to move forward. There is a grittiness and gutsiness to her story that makes you want to cheer her on and get to know her even better.
She does not expect sympathy nor does she want it. She wants to live her life much like she had planned. There is a quality of freedom and goodness in her fight and she finds a way to voice her feeling through her words and those who have gone through much of the recreation of her new life with her.
If you like stories of courage and survival you will enjoy this work.  To have not just survived this ordeal but to have pushed forth and continued the fight with all the things working against her, helps to bring home how determination is what makes things happen.  Here is how in real life we begin to see how ‘attitude creates altitude’.
This would be a great book for a reading and or discussion group. There is a great deal of information and a depth of emotion which always seems to create fodder for conversation.
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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lumpini Park by Ty Hutchinson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Lumpini Park' by Ty Hutchinson.

The thrill of the chase refers to the adrenaline rush that comes from certain dangerous situations. This is sometimes sought as in the adrenaline junkie, but is also involved in some cases with the high stakes game of murder.
In Lumpini Park by Ty Hutchinson, his character, Abby Kane, is hot on the chase of a sadistic game playing team, which leaves dead bodies throughout the world. Having found the most recent killers she knows there is more at stake for the kingpin, the one responsible for building the game is still at large and the time and place of the killings has only moved venues. Bangkok, Thailand is where she finds the next kill is going to be, yet her biggest issue is how to work with, and in her case around the local policing of that area.
Yet now the case becomes even more deadly, the killer is already roaming, looking for the perfect kill, and Abby is no longer faceless. She is now in the cross hairs of this elite group of killers, and with no jurisdiction she is unsure who to trust. She must decide if this is the one where she walks away, or if she goes in with her usual style and bravado.  Without her usual backup, she is also on the leaderboard of the game, moving up and bringing herself into danger in a way she had not anticipated.
Can Abby learn to trust the local police force or do they have their own agenda where she may just fall victim to their own internal strife. She has to make a decision and for her there is only one. She must find the king pin and end the game, there is no other option.
Hutchinson continues his series with his exciting character in the form of Abby Kane. Gritty and gutsy she is also chocked full of countering characteristics that come out in unique ways. At each dilemma you see more of her development, and find her faults to give her even more character. There is vulnerability but a rock solid strength that keeps you guessing on her decisions. Lumpini Park takes us into a world very different from our own, and Hutchinson brings Thailand to life in an intriguing way.
If you enjoy suspense and thrillers you will find this a great addition to your library. Even with the danger you will find it packed with Hutchinson’s unique humor. If you have read any of the other Abby Kane thrillers this will top of your list. This is a must have read for the mystery aficionado.
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.