Saturday, December 27, 2014

Stolen, Heart of Dread by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: Stolen, Heart of Dread by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston.
In Stolen, Heart of Dread by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston, we continue the saga of Nat And Wes begun in the first of the series, Frozen.  Nat and Wes had parted and Nat has gone on to harness her powers. Having learned that the fire within is a part of who she is, at the same time she finds she is also the last of her kind. With the help of her friend Faix she learns to release the dragon and to use him in her fight of all that is wrong and those guilty of holding her planet in its frozen state.

Wes has gone on to find his sister, Eliza, rumored to be held in the golden domes of the Eldorado. Being back in New Vegas has its own dangers and what happens if Eliza doesn’t want to be found. 

When Nat loses her dragon she and Wes reunite as it soon becomes obvious that both their quests are leading them in the same direction, directly into the dangerous cauldron of what has created their frozen world from the beginning. Where does Wes’s sister fit in, and why was she kidnapped from her family so long ago.

If you enjoy fantasy and danger, threaded with mystery and adventure you will love the characters in this tale. The second of a series it still reads well on its own, and you will find that Wes and his erstwhile friends are a mix of fear and courage. It is when they are all together the courage becomes fierce, and when one of their friends comes into trouble, you see what makes them who they are.

Nat is heartbroken for she fears she has lost her inner dragon, but finding Wes again sooths her being for her love is strong.  Yet can she really overcome losing the primary part of her that has been her steady source of courage from the beginning?

Eliza is the question mark. Who is she really, is she a woman needing rescue or is she behind the plots to keep the world as it has become––frozen.  Can Wes and Nat along with their friends find the answers before it is too late for them all?

If you enjoy romance, danger, fun and mystery you are sure to enjoy this work. A young Adult fantasy that reads a bit like a fairytale and holds you captive, it is also a tale for the young at heart.
While is reads well on its own, you will want to find Frozen to find out how it all comes together.

This is a wonderful find for your young adult reader, and a work that you will enjoy as an adult as well. It has just enough mystery and danger to keep all levels entertained.

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.

Forsaken: Ev amd Ell by C. Ryan Bymaster

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Forsaken: Ev and Ell by C. Ryan Bymaster.

Choices can help or hinder in life. The right choice can send you down pathways of happiness or the wrong choice to the other direction and your own slice of hell. Yet how do you determine the right direction?

In Forsaken by C. Ryan Bymaster, we are introduced to characters that have been offered another chance at redemption by helping to correct choices made by others. Everam, has been given this opportunity to protect “debatable” souls on earth. For each soul he saves he is healed and he moves one more step toward fulfilling his purpose

Yet in the struggle of light and dark there must remain a balance. Another has been sent with the same possible reward, to make sure Everam does not succeed.  It appears there is only one soul available, and winner takes all.

As time moves forward sometimes the rules become a bit blurred. When there is less distinction between good and evil. When the choices are right, there is healing and peace, but the other often wins. When this occurs… the healing is slow and painful for the loser, for the tossup goes to the winner, and the glory becomes their own.

Often the right thing is the death of the soul, and that death could come in many means, often quite brutal. As the struggle between the two continues, the decisions are more difficult, for the ideals and lines become blurred.

Bymaster has taken the fight between good and evil in an alternate direction. His characters are interesting and the differing choices make sense.  Even as they fight each other, due to the amount of time spent on earth, they begin to know each other as well.  While there is that competition between them, after much time together they begin to interact in more direct ways, humor, mockingly and sometimes friendship.

The flaws and the reasons they are chosen for the task make them more interesting, and the back story begins to unfold.  I found myself rooting for one then the other as the differing agendas occurred. While there is brutality there is also light and love, so the story does not seem as dark as it could be. While confusing at times the work is interesting enough to keep you reading.

If you enjoy stories of redemption, epic battles, and paranormal tales, you will find this an interesting read. There is a moral–a lesson that makes you think and consider. How do you really know the truth of any situation? You will enjoy the twist as Bymaster makes you question your own perception of what is right and wrong in this tale.

Rating 3/5

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

Monday, December 22, 2014

Venom by Colin Falconer

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Venom', A Suspense by Colin Falconer.

Nature or nurture. So goes the argument from time to time when looking for a reason for truly heinous acts. Could the question really be so simple?
In Venom by Colin Falconer, we follow the life if Michael Christian. Born of mixed heritage and loved from birth by his mother, he is unwanted by his father and has learned a hard lesson very early. With hatred escalating between his parents, he is abandoned by his mother as she tries to move on.  The Lies from Jogi have come home to her, and she has learned that he will never marry her for he is already married in his own country. The bitterness and betrayal create a chasm and she takes the only chance she has, for she has found she is pregnant again, and there is only one option left to her.  A loveless marriage, but one that will help her win her father’s graces again and will give her unborn child a name.
Yet Michael is always on her mind, the bitterness of her betrayal of her own young son makes her into a different woman then the one she is destined to be.  Sure in her mind that he is safe with his father, she moves on, but is unable to forget.
Michael feels only anger and betrayal. From his mother who has abandoned him, and from his father who has thrown him away. He finds his own way in life in the back streets through whatever means make themselves known.  He finds very little friendliness, and much hardship. The anger is the only means of strength he can muster, and he thinks of nothing but revenge.  He reaches his manhood in wartime Saigon, and remembers every betrayal and beating. With his survival skills and his looks he builds his own little piece of life, surviving as a criminal.
As the years pass, a string of deaths from around the world reach the desk of Interpol headquarters. Captain Rene Budjinski is hot on the trail and finds the route to lead from Bombay to Paris. Following his own agenda, he is unsure where his search will lead him. With the master criminal cornered and behind bars, the end seems fated. Yet Michael has one last chance, can it be the redeeming factor?
Falconer has created an intense drama, full of vitriol and fear. His characters are a mix of brutal, egocentric, and dangerous. The flaws are exposed and the edginess of the expected disaster keeps your own nerves tingling as you worry and hope for an honorable solution.  You feel the pain and fear and experience a cognitive understanding of what makes them react the way they do.
The description of Saigon as a war torn country make you feel like you are there. The grittiness and brutality add a tenseness all their own.
If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers you will find this work a great find. Falconer creates an intensity that keeps you reading long after hours.
This would be a great book for a book club or reading group full of the types of situations that create active dialogue.

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, December 18, 2014

Becoming Richard Prior by Scott Saul

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Becoming Richard Pryor', a Biography by Scott Saul.

Comedy, drama and improvisation create a great form of entertainment. There are some who are so powerful and talented in the realm of these genres that they leave a lasting mark on those who have had to the opportunity to see their work and possibly know them.

In Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul, we follow the life and times of Richard Pryor from his childhood forward.  A man, a legend, a beleaguered and talented personality ahead of his time, and always on display in some form or other. Pryor did not come from privilege and in fact was raised in his families various brothels.  Even outside the norm they had a strong sense of family that Richard clung to. An outcast as a youngster he found his calling early in drama and comedy, the one thing that helped him to pretend he was someone else.

As he grew and continued learning his trade he did what he could to get strong and better, often using his own harrowing background to dredge up and poke fun at those things that he most feared.  With his raucous comedy and on to his acting he became a voice in a generation looking for what he had to offer.  Yet never one to be stationary, Pryor continued to evolve even when he was burning himself out with drugs he was able to move forward and stay in the limelight. From his loves to his decline you will find the story of his life and his climb to fame remarkable. The strength of will to overcome the disbelievers, and the make his mark in not just comedy with his stand-up routines and improvisation, but then to move on and not just act but to write much of the dialog in his parts in such successful comedies as Blazing Saddles and Blue collar, where he become friends with Gene Wilder another rising star.

A Black entertainer Pryor helped to galvanize the spirit of the black freedom movement and counterculture thereby solidifying the legend of who he became.  A product of his times he was a part of the drug culture as well as the sexual revolution and with his burning passion these actions too, become a part of the whole, driving him further into an inferno of fame. To come from obscurity and move mountains to become a legend only to disappear again into obscurity leave you aching with the pain of his passing.  Even now there are many who stylize themselves after Richard Pryor, he set the standards in a way that will forever remain, a standard that survives and strengthens his repute and legend. There is so much we take for granted of those who grace our lives with comedy and drama, it is the unknown tales that tie it all together, and Scott Saul has done just that.

If you enjoy biographical works and are a fan of Richard Pryor or even just enjoy learning about those who have lived before us you will be intrigued and immersed in a life of love, laughter and pain. A great deal of pain.

This would be a great book for a book club or reading group. The amazing growth of a star through the culture of the times will create an amazing amount of questions and dialogue.

Rating 5/5

This work was received free through the publisher. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Moriarty' A Murder Mystery in the Holmes Tradition by Anthony Horowitz.

In the world of literature Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty are a staple of the mystery genre for observation and investigation. What happens when they both tumble to their doom, leaving the world looking for answers?
In Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, we follow Frederick Case, a Pinkerton Detective, and Athelney Jones from Scotland Yard who form an uneasy relations ship as they follow a strange missive purported to be written by Moriarty inviting a dangerous criminal into the London underground.
 Jones, an aficionado of the late great Holmes is intrigued by the situation and open to collaboration. He has studied Holmes’ methods and has an amazing grasp on the use of deduction.  Case finds himself mesmerized by the abilities of Jones, and fascinated at his internal processing.  After having been embarrassed on three different occasions and having missed clues, Jones has been ridiculed by Holmes. The frustration and embarrassment has led him to study the methods used by Holmes, leading him to become one of the best in his field.
Case needs his expertise in order to follow up on his own leads on an American Criminal Clarence Devereux, a devious and deadly adversary from Boston in the U. S. who has relocated to London, and is even now beginning a new crime spree. Devereux has already stepped in where Moriarty left off but with entirely more carnage. Can Case along with his Scotland Yard partner stop Devereux and solve the mystery of Moriarty before all is lost.
This is a strange and unique tale very much in the way of the Sherlock Holmes tales of old. The character of Jones is interesting and just a bit bizarre but eminently very likable. Case is straight forward and  quite intrigued by Jones pseudo Holmes methods.  Jones has molded his character to be  very like that of the renowned Holmes himself.
Devereux is very crafty and deadly. Those who get in his way never make the mistake twice. They are no longer of this world. No one knows who he is or appears to have seen him but he rules with an iron force no one dares to tamper with.
If you enjoy murder mystery and the techniques of Sherlock Holmes, you will find a bit of an uncanny resemblance to his methods. This is an interesting work that delivers red herrings where least expected, and holds you spellbound to the end.
This would be a great book for a book club or reading group. The strange and interesting occurrences are sure to create a strong igniter for robust dialogue.
Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the publishing company. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Awoken: The Lucidites:Book One by Sarah Noffke

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Awoken, The Lucidites:Book One, a Young Adult Fantasy by Sarah Noffke.

Have you ever looked at your family and thought you were not a part of them. Everything you are and do feels foreign. Do you feel as though you are treated differently and wonder if you just don’t belong in some way?

In Awoken, The Lucidites-Book One by Sarah Noffke, we follow Roya Stark who is an outcast in her own family. Abused by her parents and threatened by her own brother, she feels the presence of a shadowy manifestation that carries an evil taint. Every night she dreams she is drowning, and has strange premonitions. And always there is that burning question offered during her sleep by strangers she does not know. Who is she?  Not sure where life is headed she hears a story about herself she finds hard to believe. Yet as the presence of the shadow comes ever closer she takes an offer of protection, knowing that her life is about to change.

The presence of the evil infiltrates at all levels. Her dreaming has prepared her for her true task, and the water is a conduit for her to travel outside her body.  The world is in danger and the Lucidites, those who have been whispering to her in dreams, are looking for the one from their prophecies.  When she is chosen to be tested she is given very little direction. Only that there is only one that can save the world, and that one is her.  Yet when she reaches the compound, she finds it filled with others who are also testing.  Confused, she is both angry and aggrieved.

It is written that in a certain place at a certain time, the meeting and fight will take place. To eradicate Zhuang’s presence the Lucidites must be in concurrence on their champion.  Yet there is more, and as the training continues she finds and sees what others don’t. Each has a special gift and hers seems to be clairvoyance. Finally chosen as the leader, the rest become her backups. The gifts together make them strong, but can they truly beat the evil that is even now causing heartache and death in the mundane world. 

As the day of reckoning comes, she learns more of who she is and why she is chosen.  As the discoveries keep coming, she has to channel her hurt and anger and use it where it will do the most good. Can she protect her friends and be the destruction of Zhuang when all others have failed?
Noffke has given us a wonderful story of courage. It is powerful and well thought out once you get past the initial confusion of how Roya initially connects with the Lucidites. The characters are an eclectic mix of trembling and afraid, to the bold and humorous, much as teens are everywhere.  There is a certain bonding and binding that occurs as you move forward and you come to care for the characters.

The Lucidite teachers are either very strict, indecipherable, or just plain mean.  Yet each has their own part of the agenda and the necessity of seeing it through.  Knowing that they may be sending these students to their death may be a part of what they show themselves to be.

This is a great paranormal adventure for your young adult and would make a great Christmas gift. The young at heart would also find this a notable book for their library. The first book in the series, it will have you searching for more so you can keep up with these characters which will have captured your imagination.

Rating 5/5

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Woman with a Gun,' A romantic murder mystery by Phillip Margolin.

Images evoke thoughts and feelings, both good and bad. Art through the ages has been collected, stolen and forged in an effort to hold a piece of that vision.  Photography is also a venue that evokes meanings and memories, and each photo or piece of work you see creates a visual resonance, either good or bad. The beauty, the subject, or even just the colors are sure to set the tone on your imagination.

In Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin, we follow the mystery of an unsolved murder. One of the pieces of evidence is a photo shot just after the murder occurs. The new wife of the man murdered walked into the scene unprepared and at some point picked up the murder weapon, and in her grief headed out to the beach unaware of her actions. It was there that a visiting photographer spied the vision and shot a photo that helped to make her famous in her field.

Years later during a gallery showing, a young aspiring writer is riveted and intrigued by the photo of a woman with a gun that hangs in the gallery. Finally something sparked within her, giving her the inner voice crying out for a story. And what a story she thought it would be.  Unhappy in her daily grind, she decides to move to the West coast to follow up on the story and to interview some of those involved in order to write a fiction that feels real.

The fact that the crime had never been solved only adds another layer of mystery that shadows that shown in the photo itself.  Stacey Kim is determined to write a best seller and the veracity will depend on how thorough her interviews are. Yet when another murder occurs she gets more then she bargained for as the killer becomes determined to stop her questions, and those who may know more then they think.  Who does she turn to as the danger heats up and the varying agendas create a lack of trust.

Margolin has given us a picture of murder. His story is ingenious and the interaction of his characters, are both interesting and exciting. The insertion of romance into the work makes the flow smoother, and helps to give credence to the viability of the interviews being scheduled. The connections of the love interest as well as his own account of the killing help to create some of the mystery as well as making the witnesses as well as the players more visible to an outsider. The authenticity seems to come from the very essence of the photo itself.

If you enjoy suspense and romance you will want this for your library. The mystery is solid and the ingenuity of the events leading up to it keeps you guessing.

Rating 4/5

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

Keeping Mum: Episode One by Perrin Briar

Tongue-in-cheek and quirky you will find the action and ideas in ‘Keeping Mum’ both fun and gregarious.

 Peter is a fledgling actor looking for his slot in the difficult world of acting. Kate, his sister, is a high maintenance woman without the money or prospects to pull it off.  Their mother has been in declining health and they both know that in only seven more days, they will finally receive their trust money. Their mum only has to live for seven more days and they will be home free.  For Kate this means everything. She has spent more than she can afford and is now in dire trouble.

It is with both shock and dismay when Kate shows for a visit only to find that their mum has passed away. In a panic she calls her brother, and even in her anxiety she has a plan.

She knows that Peter has auditioned for a part that requires someone to play an elderly woman. He feel like he flubbed his chances and his sister Kate uses this to her advantage. With the right props and makeup he can pretend to be their mum for the next seven days and then they can announce her death. In the meantime they can put her in the big freezer and thaw her when the time comes.  Peter thinks she is crazy and will have none of it. When she comes clean with the mess of her life and the immediacy of her need he begrudging concurs, and so begins the fun and irresistible romp of humor and drama that pulls you in.

If you are a fan of the absurd and bizarre, this will fill the bill. If you enjoy comedy and strange behaviors then you are sure to enjoy the antics. I look forward to following the comedic situation as it unwinds, and believe that Perrin Briar has done a great job of setting a story and creating characters that seem a perfect fit.  You will want to read his episodes in their entirety to get the full comedic scope of his drama.
Rating 5/5

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

We Are The Destroyers by D. K. Lindler

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review:'We Are The Destroyers' a Science Fiction Romance by D. K. Lindler.

There are times throughout history where many of the same situations occur. We often hear how history repeats itself, as it seems that mankind does not always learn from their past mistakes.
In We are the Destroyers by D. K. Lindler, we are taken on a journey into the stars. Bel’lar is a military man in charge of an important fact finding mission. The abuse of his home planet over the centuries has begun to pile up and there is fear of where they are headed.  His companion Ry Sing began years ago to learn to focus within where she learned of things as they would happen.  She is troubled at the news she brings, but the information is important. A space ship like no other has come to the attention of his group, and the brotherhood of the Syn is ready to overtake them.
Food had become difficult to find and many have become addicted to the synthetic foods now being offered. The danger of eating synthetic foods has caused mutations and there is a marked difference between those who are unable to get real food and those who call themselves organs because of the organic foods they consume. Yet even those options are just about gone.  There is something about Bel’lar though that speaks to the ship and vice versa. As they find themselves about to be attacked by the Brotherhood, they make their escape to search for a new home for their people, to save them from their dying planet.
Bel’lar has no idea of what is in store for him and his group of travelers. The ship itself it a part of the problem, and the ghosts of those long departed have their own agenda.
Ry Sing is able to communicate at a level far above the norm, and the information she shares is quite unwelcome.  Between the ghosts and Ry Sings visions he is informed that in the past he destroyed a planet when he was known as the Great One. Even now it is written that a man with the same birthmark he carries will destroy another planet.  He is not a believer, and will do everything in his power to make sure this never happens.  Yet fate often has its own agenda. Their only chance to save his home is to find the mythical blue-white planet.  Does such a planet exist and is it truly inhabitable?  Only time will tell.
Lindler has given us an interesting story within the story, one that traces it roots to the past, which then also moves us to the future. His characters are both interesting and unique and the cultures he has developed could be very real in the future. There is a dream like aura that drifts around the entire story and you find yourself drawn in.
As Lindler moves us back to the home planet we find a changed world, and yet there is still hope. You are moved by the situation and the living conditions. The governing body hides a great deal from the people and encourage the continued consumption of synthetics.  You find yourself horrified by the differing agendas.
If you enjoy Science fiction, fantasy and romance you will want this book for your library. The individuals expand and grow as we move forward and there is a sense of renewal that is in the making. Fate seems to play a part and you will enjoy the interplay.
Rating 3/5
This work was received free through the Cadence Group and all opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Spark by John Twelve Hawks

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Spark' by John Twelve Hawks.

There are times when we feel an overriding emptiness inside, times when things don’t feel quite right. Often this reflects a loss, or illness of those near and dear to you.

In Spark by John Twelve Hawks we are introduced to a different kind of this hollowness that burrows within.  Jacob Underwood is one such person. After a series of events in his own life, he finds himself to be very different than most. He has no fear and feels himself as just a spark within a temporary housing which happens to be his body.  Due to his mindset he seems perfect for the job he has been selected for, that of a contract employee for a shadow department in New York, buried way beneath the radar of both government and law enforcement.

His own brush with death has made him different.  He is not like any of the other employees, or anyone else for he experiences Cotard’s syndrome, a real condition that causes him to believe he is dead. To him his body is a shell that houses his spark.  This makes him perfect for his job, for he is not a businessman, but a contract killer. He never questions his orders and follows his directions to the letter.

When Emily Buchanan disappears from the same company he is employed by, he takes on the job of finding and neutralizing her.  But something has changed and he finds himself on the wrong end of his company. What has occurred that makes him question his orders?  He is now being hunted as well and he finds himself with more questions than answers.  This is an anomaly that causes him concern for he doesn’t understand where the feelings come from.  Can he figure it out, and possibility keep Emily safe, as he tries to find the key element that has changed his life one more time.

This is a riveting book about an interesting condition as well as a story of greed and avarice. The characters are dark and without morals, leaving you horrified. It is difficult to dislike Jacob though for he doesn’t seem to even feel and yet much of what he does seems despicable. Yet somewhere in his delirium he has set a boundary, and this small feat seems to be the catalyst to change his emotional stance.

The story of the shadow corporation holds enough credence that it is easy to follow and believe that much of what is written is real. There is often greed and a belief by those who feel themselves above the law which we see in the headlines occasionally, helping to visualize the situations as they are written.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense with a twist of eeriness, you will enjoy this work.  It would be a great book for a reading or discussion book for it brings forth questions of morals, relationships, reasoning, corruption, and illness.

Rating 4/5

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