Sunday, December 20, 2015

Wicked Lewiston, A Sinful Century by Steven D. Branting

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Wicked Lewiston, A Sinful Century,' by Steven D. Branting.

History has a place in every area, town, city or country of the world. Historians often research so that we may learn of our past, often in an effort to help our understanding of who we are and where we have come from, as well as alerting us to what we need to change in the future in order to grow and prosper.

Things that occur in different regions often leave traces that affect far wider areas than can be imagined. In Wicked Lewiston, A Sinful Century by author and historian Steven D. Branting, we are introduced to an area in Idaho that has a past of murder and mayhem that seems incomprehensible.

From the very beginning this area that is nestled in the confluence of two great rivers has drawn a crowd. The weather is lovely, the area full of fish and game, and the winters often without the snows that strike the rest of the country. Lewiston became a city before the police force as we know it began, giving those who had a penchant for trouble room to commit crimes and allowing even questionable deaths to go un-investigated.

Branting has taken a timeline of offenses from the mid 1800's though the early 1900's depicting crimes of a nature that are disturbing even to this day. It is not even the crimes themselves that are so disturbing but their frequency that’s unbelievable. For a small area, even in the late 1800's, Lewiston was known for both crime and prostitution. Initially the capital of Idaho, it seemed to draw many of the seedier people, those looking for more than what was available in other, more structured areas.

This is an interesting tale of an era that one would think was a thing of the past. However as with most cities and areas, sometimes death only hides its presence. Branting’s time line of nefarious deeds and circumstances takes you into the minds of those whose decision to take what they feel is their due, or to take the lives of others keeps you digging to find the cause.As the city grew, so too did crime. Murder and greed consumed those whose lives touched the wrong characters. From the back alleys of Lewiston to the glamour of Washington D.C, murder and corruption became just a little too bold as even those who left the area drew the wrong sort of attention.

If you enjoy history and are also avid into real life crime and punishment, you will find this a work that would be great for your library. Branting researches the information and finds a way to make it both interesting and informative.

This would make a great work for discussion group as they discuss the growth of law and discovery in an evolving era.

Rating 4/5

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Dinner Party,' A Novel by Brenda Jonowitz.

In The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz, we are introduced to two different families coming together for the first time. The connection of their children to each other creates an occasion that both families feel can only help them. Each has differing reasons to push the relationship. The dinner party is set for the Passover Seder and will be the night the Gold's of Greenwich meet the Rothschild’s of New York.

Silvia’s youngest daughter has recently begun dating and Silvia is beside herself with joy. The invite to the new boyfriend is customary but when she finds out his parents will also attend she knows that the first impression is the best one. Her life becomes consumed in making the party one that will be the stuff of legends. Yet she has other concerns. What does she do with the inappropriate boyfriend of her other daughter Sarah, as well as his Italian mother? Despite all her hard work, the food the wine, the linen and the potential drama, she understands that holidays are really about family.

Can she release her inner grievances and find a way to allow her family to live their own lives. As each family works at making the moment function, can they allow the demons that invade their lives to be set aside and create the atmosphere necessary for such a momentous occasion.

Janowitz does an amazing job of bringing us the need and misunderstandings between differing families and their interactions. She develops her characterization so that you can relate to many of the difficulties, and it draws you into the inner workings of the drama being played out. You are drawn to her characters and their flaws just as a moth to a flame. There is tenderness beneath the actions that are drawn out, and connections that are not expected, but suddenly become real.

If you enjoy literary drama and stories of people with differing agendas you will find this a wonderful fit for your library. The characteristics and flaws are so real and the concern and agenda twisted beneath the surface stay with you. Janowitz brings us a poignant story of love and family that is different than the norm.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, December 17, 2015

North of Here by Laurel Saville

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'North of Here,' A Novel by Laurel Saville.

In the blink of an eye tragedy can end all that seems important. In North of Here by Laurel Saville, we meet Miranda who grew up in privilege, but sheltered as well. At the death of her beloved father she finds herself at a loss. In her need she is drawn to their handyman, ready to cling to something familiar. Dix is kind and dependable, but understands that need is not the same as love.

Nevertheless, he finds himself falling for her, knowing that what they have can either bring happiness of further despair. He is willing to be there but finds that her need is much deeper then he suspected. When a man from her distant past shows up, he offers her a chance to do meaningful work at a secluded property with a similar group of his followers. Darius is an idealist, and very charismatic. She feels that he has the key to helping her re-make her life. His draw is powerful and she ends up leaving Dix to move to the compound and become someone else.

Dix, in his grief does not understand, and while her tries in a variety of ways to win her back, his persistence only pushes her further. Darius uses his persuasion to convince her that Dix only wants to control her, and she doesn’t realize that Darius is the actual controller.

Saville does a great job at getting into the psyche of her characters and bringing out the pain and sadness, as well as the confusion. She gives us a story of hope and redemption that doesn’t seem to have an answer. Both hope and redemption descend into tragedy taking you on a journey of despair.In her desperation to find herself, both Miranda and Dix pay a price that neither of them ever imagined.

If you enjoy literary fiction, this is a great work. This would be a solid book for your library. This would also be a great book for a reading and discussion group, a great deal of contradictions and questions that would be eminently discussable.

Rating 3/5

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny by Justin Hill

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny' by Justin Hill.

Martial arts and Sword play are at the root of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon series. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:Sword of Destiny by Justin Hill follows on the artistry of Wang Dulu, the creator of the above series. When Duke Te, master of the Iron Way dies, the Green Destiny sword is no long safe in the world. Having been protected by the Duke, at least in rumor, the legend draws those who feel the pull of such beauty.

However, in the wrong hands, such a sword of power can create peril in the martial-arts world.

Yu Shu Lien, the legendary female warrior has been in hiding, in solitude as long as the sword was safe. The sword was in part responsible for her pain and the loss of her own love, Li Mu Bai. She knows she must now travel to Beijing to protect the sword, but there are others whose motives aren’t so pure gathering to strike as well.

From the past comes Yu Jiaolong on the trail of the elusive sword, craving it for her fierce daughter Snow Vase. The Green Destiny pulls together a strong and exceptional group of characters into a battle of bravery, with an anxious but necessary conclusion.

Justin Hill is a great story teller, and brings a strong group of characters together, weaving a fantastic tale of greed and revenge. A take from the above series of Wang Dulu, you find both beauty and symmetry in the sword play, but make no mistake, the danger is constant, and the strength of the characters holds you enthralled.

If you are a fan of the Iron series, you will find this to be an exciting edition, one that gives closure and yet opens your senses to the beauty of a profession that seems more magical then real. Yet that is the beauty of martial arts and sword play. Timing and movement, patience and agility create the beauty of dance, but the danger is powerful, luring you in to the incredible power of both.

This would be a wonderful gift for your avid reader, it would be of interest to those who enjoy action, adventure, mystery, magic, and even epic battles. It has something for most everyone. Hill has given us another great work, one you can enjoy many times over.

Rating 5/5

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Jericho River, A Novel about the History of Western Civilization by David W. Tollen

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Jericho River, A Novel About the History of Western Civilization' by David W. Tollen.

History is one of those things that people either love or hate. Often dry and boring, it does not have the continued excitement that helps to keep one interested. This is especially true of the young who are looking for constant thrills due to gaming and other entertainment that is now readily available. In The Jericho River by David W. Tollen, he gives us an alternative to the dry and often unexciting past. Utilizing the past and history throughout it’s a wonderful mythical and epic tale of danger and excitement and he finds a way to introduce both myth and history in order to keep the reader fascinated.

Jason Gallo finds himself propelled into time under bizarre circumstances. Before he can figure out how to return to his own time, he finds himself on the trail of his father. A professor in his own right, his father disappeared years before leaving a young Jason on his own. But this tale is more than just an adventure, it is a timeline of history.

As Gallo moves from rumor to rumor of sightings of his father, he finds both danger and intrigue. He makes both powerful friends as well as dangerous enemies. He finds himself in situations and places that you only know from books, both real and imagined. But with all his heartache can he find his father before his presence changes the world as we know it?

This would be a great book for your young historian to add to his library, or even your adventure enthusiast. It is also intriguing for anyone who enjoys a great romp into the past, with myths, history and adventures of worth. Tollen does a great job of making history fun. Tollen has created a group of characters both intriguing and eminently likable. Often the action is unbelievable, but also mythologically and historically correct in most cases. The action is fast paced and keeps you interested in a way that seems surreal. Jason is a fun protagonist, but he also raises both questions and doubt about his experience as he is not always in the know about the history he’s travelling through.

This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group, with plenty of information to spice it up.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Daughter of Sand and Stone', A Historical Fiction by Libbie Hawker.

In Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker, we meet a young woman who is determined to find her own way. Zenobia is the daughter of a Syrian sheikh, and she has determined that she will not marry against her will, and she is also sure that she has a very powerful birthright. Convinced of her right to both decide and choose, she spurns love for power. When her father dies she makes a move on one of the most influential men in the city.

That he is already married makes no difference, she finds a way to beguile her way into his life, arranging her own marriage to him. Her goal is to become the Empress of the East which she believes is her birthright and while her marriage is not peaceful, as second wife she must learn how to get around her husband’s other wife. The birth of Zenobia’s son only makes her life more difficult but she finds herself assured of her own victory and continues to stake her claim as Empress.  As war breaks out can she find her claim or have the gods betrayed her in their wrath? She finds she must rely on the other wife, but has she gone too far?

Hawker does a great job of taking you back in time to a place of war and beauty. She sets the scene with the complications of young women of the time, and how marriage is more of barter then choice. Her development of Zenobia gives us a strong female lead and you are both encouraged at her beliefs and decisions but horrified at the direction she is willing to take to get what she wants.

After becoming what she believes is necessary to further her own agenda, war changes the tide and what she believed of as powerful is no longer enough to see her through to her claim as she sees it. She now must rely on others that have no reason to trust her. It seems that she has sealed her own fate, but will the gods relent one last time? Can the man she truly loves be the one who saves her, or has she set things in action that cannot be undone?

If you enjoy history and epic battles, as well as romance and power you will find this a great addition to your library. Hawker has a way with words that takes you into the past in living color. You will feel the heartbeat of both power and heartbreak.

This would be a great work for a reading or discussion group.

Rating 4/5

Monday, November 16, 2015

Art In The Blood, A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie Macbird

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Art In The Blood, A Sherlock Holmes Adventure' by Bonnie Macbird.

The Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a man of cunning and intrigue, full of wonder and bravery with an eye to investigation that boggles the mind. Those who now follow bring us variations of the character as they perceive him to be.

In Art In The Blood, A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie Macbird, we find a Sherlock, very true to form, more like the one first introduced by Doyle himself. Holmes has reached a pinnacle after his investigation of the Ripper murders. Unable to close the case he once again takes up his use of cocaine. Watson is unable to help him and in fact cannot even interest him in further cases. It is only when an encoded message from Paris arrives that Holmes takes any interest in his investigations. The beautiful star of the French Caberet has lost her son, and she is absolutely sure his very life is in danger.

Holmes and Watson take the challenge, where in Paris Holmes finds that the missing child may not be the whole of the case, just a part that draws the most urgency. Yet there are also other children being found throughout London murdered. Can he find the Mademoiselle’s son and deliver the truth before more deaths pile up?

Macbird has given us back the Sherlock Holmes of old, one that has flaws that are a constant battle and yet maintains that sense of panache that creates trust in those who rely on him. Watson is the stalwart mate that helps him decipher and maintain Holmes’s mindset, while finding the deep and dark cavities within the minds of a killer.

The story is great with a solid plot. You are taken into the streets of London of old and the descriptions take you there as you follow the exploits of a man that thinks far differently than most. MacBird does a great job of keeping you on the chase and shows us the Holmes we  grew up with.
I have a great deal of respect for the way MacBird is able to find a tale that holds realism, then twists and turns the plot in ways to keep you ducking red herrings, while Holmes alone seems to see behind and around the decoys.

If you enjoy mystery and intrigue, and are a fan of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes you will love this work. There is no better who done it, then those perused by the great master of mystery himself. This is a must have for your library and would make a great gift for your reader for the holidays.

Rating 5/5

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Whistling Women by Kelly Romo

Posted first to Blog Critics as

In Whistling Women by Kelly Romo, we are introduced to the lengths that people will go to when in trouble or need. When Addie Bates was young she and her sister were close, as close as anyone could be. Yet when she is forced to flee that life she has no option of direction. She finds herself a part of the Sleepy valley Nudist Colony where she has been able to hide from a crime that has haunted her for 15 years. Over the years she tried to reach out to her sister but found that door closed to her.

So when the residents of the Colony decide to put together a reunion and exhibit at the 1935 world’s fair in San Diego, she is thrilled with the possibility of finally meeting up with her estranged sister. Yet she knows that forgiveness may not be possible, but she has to try. It is time to move on from her life in the colony but can she find her way without the forgiveness of her beloved sister.

In the city her sister refuses to meet with her, but her one of her nieces has somehow tracked her down and is determined to discover what has torn the family apart. She will not rest until she finds a way to fix whatever created the rift.

Romo creates a story of loss and need that takes you to the past and the life of woman in a way that is both enlightening and distressing. Her characters are strong with determination, and you are drawn in a way into the very tragedy. She gives us a sample of the sacrifices that families are willing to undertake to protect each other, as well as the consequences of acting impulsively.
She sets this all in the late 20’s and early 30’s with such style and understanding of the time that you feel as though you have traveled into the past. The treatment of woman and the differing dynamics are different than what we have now and yet the correlation between the two creates a divide.

If you enjoy stories of family and what it takes to move forward, you will enjoy this work. If you enjoy a bit of history you will finds pieces of interest and charm in the characters of the 1930’s, both the challenges as well as the lifestyle.

This would be a great book for a reading group or book club with hours of dialogue available.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, November 8, 2015

When The Devil's Idle by Leta Serafim

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'When The Devil's Idle, a Greek Island Mystery,' by Leta Serafim.

In When The Devil’s Idle by Leta Serafim, we follow the scene of a murder that is both troubling and odd. An elderly man is found on an isolated estate brutally murdered. The place this murder occurs is highly restricted to outsiders, and at the time of the murder the gate is bolted.

The family living there consists of a husband and wife and their two younger children. The murder victim is the grandfather of those children on the husband’s side. In residence at the time of his death the only other people there at the time are the gardener and the housekeeper.

Yiannis Patronas, of the Chios police, summons his top detective Giorgos Tembelos, to assist. In the Greek city of Patmos, when a German tourist is murdered it can only bring problems to the island. Giorgos brings his friend and amateur sleuth, a priest, Papa Michalis to help.

As they dig deep into the family history and the background of the victim, they find a past that is brutal. A Nazi and a killer, the old man has escaped his past to move to the island and live out his life with his family. But is his past behind him. Can it shed light on the brutality of his murder? As Giorgos and his friend Michalis travel to find answers, they uncover the story of his life and even darker rumors of a crime more brutal.

With so many red herrings and possible murderers, how can the Police decipher the real reason for his death? Until they can separate the darkness the surrounds the victim and the sickness and brutality of his past, they can only assume to understand what has happened. There is a deeper and darker grief at work and they must decipher the past and delve into the present to discover if that past is responsible, or if a new wave of secrets is behind brutal murder.

The characters are mysterious, and stay to themselves. While they avow no knowledge of what has transpired, it is obvious they are in hiding for some reason. With no friends, they are an island to themselves. While all appear very innocent, Serafim takes us into their own secrets to flush out the possible motive.

The detectives are an admirable mix of determination and steadfastness. The addition of the priest brings a bit of humor to the situation as well as distraction, for he takes away a bit of the fear of the police. His help is invaluable to this story.

If you enjoy mystery and murder this is a rare find. The descriptions of Greece are wonderful and help to take you there as you journey into the horror and history of the Nazi regime. This would be a great book for a reading club with a great deal of background to decipher.

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Leta Serafim is the author of the Greek Islands Mystery series, published by the Coffeetown Press, as well as the historical novel, To Look on Death No More. She has visited over twenty-five islands in Greece and continues to divide her time between Boston and Greece.

When the Devil's Idle Book Summary:
In the Book of Revelation, written by St. John on the Greek island of Patmos, it was said a pale horse would appear whose rider was death, others would cry out for vengeance, and the stars of heaven would fall to the earth. Death does indeed come to Patmos when a German tourist is found murdered in the garden of one of the island’s fabled estates. Yiannis Patronas, Chief Officer of the Chios police, is called in to investigate. He summons his top detective, Giorgos Tembelos, and his friend and amateur sleuth, Papa Michalis, to assist him. What the policemen discover will disturb them long after the conclusion of the case. Only six people were at the house at the time of the murder—the gardener and housekeeper, the victim’s son and his wife and their two children, a boy of seven and a teenage girl of sixteen. All appear to be innocent. But access to the isolated estate is severely restricted. Surrounded by high walls, it has only one entrance: a metal gate that was bolted at the time of the crime. Patronas can only conclude that one of the six is a killer. He continues to probe, uncovering the family’s many secrets. Some are very old, others more recent. All are horrifying. But which of these secrets led to murder?

Book 2 of the Greek Islands Mystery series, which began with The Devil Takes Half.

Price/Formats: $6.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Mystery Suspense Thriller
Coffeetown Press
September 1, 2015

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

All The Stars In The Heavens by Adriana Tirgiani

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'All The Stars In The Heavens', A Novel by Adriana Trigiani, Author of The Shoemakers Wife

The lights of Hollywood shine brightly for those who are lured into the drama and dream of movies and T.V.  In All The Stars In The Heavens by Adriana Trigiani, we are taken back into the glamour of Tinseltown as old Hollywood was known at the time. Also called the golden age, it was a time of glamour, beauty, tragedy, and dreams.

Trigiana gives us a riveting tale based on a true story, filling it with romance, adventure and family. Her writing takes you into the romance and secrets that thrived in the 1930’s and 40’s. She weaves her own remarkable storytelling around a true Hollywood story and holds you enthralled as she fills in the unforgettable faces creating the mysterious and magical moments behind the scenes of the movies during this powerful and dramatic time in the history of cinema.

We are introduced to a young Loretta Young, a woman who held the hearts of Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. She was a spirited and beautiful woman with high standards and great family values. You are taken on a journey as she tries to find her way, and drawn into the romance of the major stars of her life. There is a beauty and poignancy that threads throughout, and you are drawn to the characters as though they are new. For in a way, with Tirgiani’s telling we learn more of their background and circumstances, while the rumors continue as they did at the time, the beauty, betrayal and pain are brought to stark relief in this wondrous work of magic.

If only one could make a movie of the tale of romance and secrets that grace this work, a story of pain and grief, but riddled with beauty, friendships, family and fun. The innuendo and gossip about the stars involved between the chapters is sorted and categorized, labeled and then just thrown out, as the beauty of the romance is more real and in depth then the shallowness of the gossip columns of the day.

This is a work of intense feeling and the risks involved in becoming a face to the public. Always on show the actors are careful to stay out of the limelight and yet sometimes that burst of lightening awareness shines through the crust, taking you into a world of love, yet one that must remain undeclared.

If you enjoy drama and romance, stories of passion and intrigue based off true beginnings you will find the Adriana Trigiani has delivered once again in her bold style. This would be a remarkable book for your library or a wonderful gift for your fan of old movies and movie stars.

Rating 5/5

Monday, November 2, 2015

Forgotten, The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Forgotten, The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux.

Sometimes the most heroic stories are those you don’t hear about, those held in the hearts of the men who lived them.  In Forgotten, The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux, we are introduced to the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. With a time of war and especially the fateful landing on a French beach Normandy there are many unsung heroes, those who willingly gave their lives to save the lives of the many.

The 320th Balloon Battalion was a unit of African American soldiers who also landed on the beach—their job—to use their curtain of armed balloons and deter enemy aircraft.

With the discovery of military records and the interviews of the last of the survivors, Hervieux has given us a look into the lives of those who served anonymously. While known and respected for their work, they were nonetheless ostracized by other U. S. battalions for race was still a major issue. Lacking freedom from their home in the U.S. the treatment and friendship they garnered in England and most of Europe opened their eyes to the way things could be if equality could really happen for them.

This work draws on the life of Wilson Monk, Henry Parham, William Dabney, Samuel Mattison and thousands of other sent abroad to fight for the liberties they were not yet afforded in their own country. These very experiences they carried back added fuel to the civil rights of the time.

As Hervieus tells the story of this group of freedom fighters she also imbues the work with the tensions of the racial politics of the time as well as the human bravery for a group fighting for freedom and for many giving up their lives for something they had yet to earn for themselves. For these veterans most of their stories remained unheard for the depth of danger and anguish made the retelling difficult.

As Hervieus tracks the stories through the lead up and aftermath of the Normandy landing you get a visual picture of the situations as well as the danger involved. Yet this team of amazing individuals were a very necessary part of taking the beach that day, and the trail of searching for them and getting the stories from the survivors and their families, as well as the few records, we once again see the courage and brilliance of their actions and how their heroism helped to fuel as well as inflame the civil rights movement that came after.

If you enjoy history and works about D-Day, and just getting to know more about the differing views of occurrences and as well as the lives and faces belonging to the Barrage Balloon Battalion you will find this a great work.

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group with a great deal of detail to discuss.


Blood Sky, Book 4 of The After Series by Traci L. Slatton

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Blood Sky, Book 2 of The After Series', A Dystopian Romance by Traci L. Slatton.

In Blood Sky, Book 4 of the After Series by Traci L. Slatton we are once again taken into the future world where danger reins. The once lovely planet has been destroyed by the very people trying to save it. Introducing the mists was meant to cleanse the land yet they quickly turned deadly to those it touched.

All over the world the danger continues and yet there are those whose lives have changed in differing ways based or the presence of the mist, gaining powers unimagined in the history of time. While Arthur continues to battle his own demons, Emma tries to move on without him. Having nearly lost him on several occasions she must now make a choice between her love and the lives depending on her.

Trying to get one of her young chargers to where the destruction all began, Emma knows she must stay out of reach of Arthur. While he has deep regrets for being a part of the team that brought the mists to the world he is still convinced that if corralled and controlled they will be the saving grace of the world that has now been beleaguered for so many years.

That makes him extremely dangerous, and Emma is convinced that madness is over taking him. She must harden her heart and stay ahead of him to rescue the world and eradicate the mists. She is determined to do what it takes, even destroy Arthur if necessary. Can she really take a part of her heart that has a life of its own, and move beyond for the betterment of mankind, or will Arthur convince her of his sincerity?

Slatton builds tension and romance in such a way that you are involved from the beginning. As you view the happenings from the eyes of her characters you are at once, appalled and even in love. Arthur is the epitome of that one who draws you in, with both the danger and the caring. She has done a great job or making the characters so real that you relate to them.

She draws you into a dystopian world of destruction and pain and yet portrays the beauty of what still stands. For among the destruction there are still the vistas to behold, the power of the sunsets and the icy bit and tingle of the frost in the air that glitters upon the damage. You often feel you are there, struggling with her group of survivors.

If you enjoy futuristic worlds, heroes, danger and tense passionate romance you will find Slatton’s newest release, Blood Sky, a great addition to your library. If you enjoy this work you will want to find the rest of the After Series to catch up on all the events.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest by Scott A. Lerner

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book review: 'The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest', a Samuel Roberts Thriller, by Scott A. Lerner.

Samuel Roberts has moved and begun a new life as he tries desperately to get over a relationship with Susan.  Unable to keep her from the danger that seems to follow him, she has moved on, leaving him free to find love again.

In The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest by Scott A. Lerner, we catch up with Samuel as he begins putting his new life together. When his friend Bob introduces him to a new woman, he is strangely smitten. Bridget Gillis is beautiful and vivacious and also happens to be a fortune teller. Yet if that wasn’t enough to get his “spider senses” going, she also belongs to a coven of witches.  The village that contains the coven was founded by her great aunt, and Bridget could certainly be her twin if the paintings are even close to her aunt’s depiction.
The relationship becomes quickly complicated as just a few days before Halloween; Bridget is to be tried by their coven for practicing dark magic. The punishment is to be burned at the stake. With

Sam’s background in law, he is the perfect advocate for her dilemma.  His best friend, Bob, is suspicious of the quick relationship, but comes to help all the same. Can they help determine if she is the good witch or the bad witch before it is too late?

Lerner gives us another fun and dangerous romp with his returning character Samuel Roberts. As usual Sam is only trying to do the right thing, and this new romance seems so wonderful.  Caught up in the crazy circumstances that usually accompany his life, he finally seems to have found a new direction and woman. Can it all really be so simple?

Bridget is such a mix of characters, part minx, part seductress and part innocence. Yet there are secrets hidden beneath her beauty. Calculated and cold she is temptress and succubus all at the same time ensnaring Sam in her life. She is in need of rescuing, is Sam the man that can get her back on track?

If you enjoy mystery, humor, romance and danger you will find this perfect for your library. Paranormal and magic thread throughout the telling and you will fall in love with the characters one more time.

This would be a great book for the upcoming holidays. It is fun and enjoyable, one you will want to pass on to your friends.

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Scott A. Lerner's Bio:
Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of criminal law and family law. Lerner’s first novel and the first Samuel Roberts Thriller, Cocaine Zombies, won a bronze medal in the mystery/cozy/noir category of the 2013 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards. The second book in the series is Ruler of Demons. The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is book 3. Book 4, The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest, will be released on Halloween, 2015.

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest Book Summary:
Samuel Roberts, a lawyer in Champaign, Illinois, has just moved to a new home to escape the memories of his old place—the stray body parts left by evil entities as well as traces of his relationship with Susan, who left him because he couldn’t stop risking both their lives trying to save the world. That leaves Sam free to fall in love again. Sam falls hard, suspiciously hard, for Bridget Gillis, a beautiful fortune teller who also happens to be a witch and a member of a coven. The village that encompasses the coven was founded by Bridget’s great-great aunt, also named Bridget and a dead ringer for her descendant. The new relationship quickly gets complicated. It is two days before Halloween, and Bridget is about to be tried by her fellow witches for the crime of practicing dark magic involving the blood of children. The punishment is to be burned at the stake. Bridget needs an advocate, and Sam is the perfect man for the job.

Sam brings in Bob, who is suspicious of his best buddy’s sudden passion. The two of them have until the Witching Hour on Halloween to clear Bridget’s name and find out who is killing the local children. As they comb the area for clues, quiz the locals, and take a crash course in witchcraft and Wiccan customs, Sam and Bob can’t shake the question: is Bridget a good witch or a bad witch?

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest is the fourth book in the Samuel Roberts Thriller series, which began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons and The Fraternity of the Soul Eater.

Price/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Paranormal, Mystery, Thriller
Camel Press
October 31, 2015

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review : 'The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen," a Paranormal Mystery by Katherine Howe.

In The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe we are taken into the strange and unique world of Wes Auckerman.  Having just arrived in New York to begin his summer term he finds himself on a film shoot for a séance at the home of a psychic in the East village.

As he views the setting through his viewfinder, he sees a beautiful young woman that intrigues him. Continuing his shoot his is disappointed when he cannot find her.  He is smitten and cannot forget her beauty and finds himself returning to the home of the psychic to find her.

When he finds her she too seems very attracted to him. Her name is Annie Van Sinderen, but she is mysterious as well as beautiful. She often seems to disappear just when he is getting settled and there is a great deal of mystery surrounding her. Yet even as his concern grows she reappears and often seems to have no memory of occurrences. She wonders why he has not shown up when in fact he has been waiting on her.

As the mystery deepens Wes begins to wonder if she is even real, yet his heart assures him she is. But is it possible that he is only imagining her beauty and nature. Others have seen her so she must be real. Can he find the mystery of her being, in order to find a way to smooth their path? His emotions are in turmoil and he is afraid for her. Annie is convinced that she has lost a ring, and Wes must help her before it is too late. Will this missing ring solve the mystery?

Howe has given us a paranormal mystery and love story of emotive and serendipitous proportions. Her characters are just the right mix of mystery and heart. You find Wes to be a romantic and he falls hard for Anne.  Anne is a mix of beauty, mystery and kindness that draws you in an unexpected way.  You are haunted by the beauty and beguiling mix of this story, and Howe takes you into a New York of both old and new.  Be prepared to fall in love with romance and mystery all over again, as you find yourself immersed in a strange yet fascinating tale.

If you love romantic, paranormal mysteries you will need this work for your library. It is a wonderful work of mysterious secrets twisted with romance and bits of darkness. Howe has given us a beautiful tale of love and threaded it through the beauty of New York.

This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group with interesting topics to discuss throughout.

Rating 4\5

Friday, October 9, 2015

Women Crime Writers, Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s, edited by Sarah Weinman

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: ' Women Crime Writers, Eight Suspense Novels of  the 1940s & 50s', edited by Sarah Weinman.

Books on crime often dominate the market.  The Library of America has released a collectable set of works by women crime writers from the 1940s & 50s. Edited by Sarah Weinman, these eight suspense novels showcase the talent of the women authors what wrote them.

These stories in the first book from the 1940s authors include, The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis, In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes, Laura by Vera Caspary, and The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. This set of works will keep you enthralled with the psychological suspense that causes chills. There is much of the type of work that Hitchcock portrayed in his movies and you are both intrigued and repulsed at the occurrences.

Each work captures horror and suspense from that of a young career girl, to a campus thriller, moving on to a serial killer and then following up by a young wife in wartime that must take extreme measures when her family is threatened.  Each work is packed with differing stories yet the theme of terror bleeds through and holds you enthralled. The physiological ploys involved seem very familiar to the crimes of today.

The second book entails the work of the woman crime authors of the 1950s and does not disappoint with works such as Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong, The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith, Beast in View by Margaret Miller and Fools’ Gold by Dolores Hitchen.  As with the 1940s volume, these works contain stories of terror and physiological harm, from the story of a child entrusted to the car of a psychotic babysitter, to the parallel lives of two men driven to murder, followed by a study of madness and followed up with a tale of robbery and redemption.

What you find is that the early women writers were quite imaginative and brilliant at creating that tenseness and terror that a good crime novel needs. The only differences from today’s works are the slang and words of the time, which actually makes the reading just a bit more fun, for it is more of what you see and hear in movies of the early years. It takes you back to that time and place.

If you are looking for a great holiday gift for the crime book aficionado in your family this would be a great find.  Recently released by the Library of America it comes in a two book set that would be great for their library. Each writer has their own take and individuality on addressing and bringing forth terror and fear and you will find the entire set to be fascinating. Sarah Weinman has done a great job of editing and bringing forth this great work of historical significance in the writing world.

Rating 5/5

Monday, October 5, 2015

The 3RD Woman by Jonathan Freedland

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The 3RD Woman,' A Political Thriller by Jonathan Freedland.

Jonathan Freedland’s The 3RD Woman takes us into a future where the United States and China have struck a bargain. In return for forgiving the trillions in debt owed to them, the United States has allowed them to establish a military presence on U.S. soil. Due to many economic downturns America has left herself vulnerable, and the evidence of China’s dominance is everywhere.

Madison Webb is a journalist that is obsessed with exposing the lies and corruption that are corroding the American dream and society. When her sister is brutally murdered the police insist it is an isolated incident. Madison believes the cops may be hiding something. As she digs for answers she finds that her sister’s savage death is only one of many, and could be a part of a very dangerous conspiracy.

Even with her own life on the line, Madison refuses to let go of the story. She is on the run and understands that she is exposing more than the most powerful are willing to allow. Can she find the answers before her life and home are destroyed for good?

His depth of realism has you worrying and puts you in the fighting spirit of reviving our great nation, and also takes us into the darkness and secrets of power hungry and powerful nations, willing to do what it takes to hide their secrets.

Freedland takes us on a chilling ride that creates many of the challenges and dangers that we often worry about. He takes a harrowing possibility and makes it fact, then drags in the dangers of collusion and hidden agendas. All the while he develops a story line that has potential and then fills it with characters that you really care about.

If you enjoy political intrigue and suspense, you will find this a perfect fit for your library. The brilliance of the story actually raises the hair on the back of your neck, so be prepared for the reality of such a possibility.

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group. A political thriller with teeth.

Rating 4\5

Benjamin Franklin, Huge Pain in my ... by Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Benjamin Franklin, Huge Pain in my ...' by Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel. 

Franklin Isaac Saturday is having a terrible time. His father has been located cross country, and his mom is remarried. Middle school is not what he expected, and he can’t seem to figure out the rules. In Benjamin Franklin, Huge Pain in my … by Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel, we are introduce to a comedic and historical work of interesting proportions.

Ike (as he is known) has a crush on his lab partner, but she doesn’t even see him. He has an opportunity to pick up extra credits by writing a letter to a Famous Historical Person. He picks Benjamin Franklin because of the name they share. He steals an old stamp from his stepfather’s collection just to add some authenticity. Then to make Claire (his lab partner) laugh, he mails it.

It is when Ben Franklin writes back that his life turns around and he begins a strange long distant friendship. How is it possible to communicate with such a heroic figure from the past; Ike isn’t sure but it has brought him closer to his crush.

To top it all off, Ben Franklin seems to have some of the same type of problems, so Ike finds himself continuing to write. Unaware of the ramifications of changing the past, he shares information that could change the entire course of history. Can he repair the possible damage he has begun?

This is a zany, funny look at time travel of sorts, as it relates to communication. You will find yourself entranced in the antics of Ike as he seeks advice from his historical mentor, and even tries to mail himself so he can actually meet him. The characterizations of both Ike and Claire keep the fun going with their silliness, but at the same time you are introduced to bits of real history that is fascinating.

If you have a young adult who loves to read and you can’t find just the right work, you will find this to be both fun and interesting for them. While written for the younger crowd it is also a tickling funny read for those who love books and especially the young at heart. You will be intrigued by the ideas and snatches of history included.

This would be a great book for a school book club or reading group. The fun is only part of its charm.

Rating 4\5

Monday, September 28, 2015

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Life and Other Near-Death Experiences' by Camille Pagan.

In Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan, we are introduced to Libby Miller, an optimist at heart, but now a woman ravaged by devastation. Her husband drops her on the same day she finds out she has cancer, and suddenly life is no longer so rosy. In her indomitable way she chooses her own destiny and elects to deny treatment and begin a life of living in the Caribbean, a dream of existence.

With nothing to lose she finds that she is unable to escape her past. Her ex, and also her twin brother continue to interrupt her tropical fun, but it is the encounter with a man that throws her world into a tailspin. What is it about challenging the fates that sets the senses on fire, and creates feeling that have been long buried? Can she risk the treatments required to keep her life on track for just a chance to love and live a bit longer. Leaving the challenge and her dreams she returns home, only to find that dreams are not so easy to dislodge.

Pagan takes us into the depth and despair of disease, and the heartache of discovery. Betrayal and pain, as well as love and romance are threaded through Libby’s rocky path of discovery.  The interaction between characters is hard, humorous, sad, and at time just plain funny. The decisions are those meant to be made privately, yet we follow them with voyeuristic intent.

If you enjoy a good solid read, one with both ends of the spectrum, sadness and dismay, to romance and beauty you will want this work for your library. Pagan takes what could be tragedy and creates a lovely story of hope and living.

This would be a great book for a reading club or discussion group. The decisions and questions raised would create a great deal of dialogue.

Rating 4\5

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, a Memoir by Jacques Papier as told to Michelle Cuevas.

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, A Memoir by Jacques Papier,' by Michelle Cuevas.

What happens when an imaginary friend finds out they are imaginary. In Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, a Memoir of Jacques Papier by Michelle Cuevas , we are introduced to the life of Jaques Papier and his sister Fleur. In School, at home and everywhere else Fleur is the popular sibling while Jaques can’t get anyone to notice him. He loves Fleur and she is not just his sister but his very best friend.

When Jaques finds out he is not really Fleur’s brother but her imaginary friend, he is sure there is some mistake. Unwilling to accept the truth, he is devastated to find that he may truly be imaginary. He begins his own quest to find out who he really is and what his future holds. How can he be real if he technically “isn’t there?”

This is a fun filled work full of hijinks and discovery as Jacques meets a series of youngsters, and other imaginary friends. As he pushes himself to find the truth, he discovers his own wonder of belonging and being himself.

This is just a wickedly funny and fun look at what happens when the imaginary discovers that they are imaginary. What a fun spoof of realization that would be. In this quirky Memoir of Jacques Papier you find yourself worrying about and rooting for something that is only imaginary.  Cuevas takes us into the unusual and if you have ever had an imaginary friend or wanted one, this is a funny take of the possibilities. She also answers the ‘age old question,' what happens to an imaginary friend when they are no longer needed.

If you are looking for a fun book for your child or even just that little something that will make you chuckle this is the work for you. Full of wonder, mystery, sadness, and growth it is the perfect choice for your child’s library. Charming and full of questions and fun, you will enjoy the ride.

Rating 5/5

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Light of Hidden Flowers by Jennifer Handford

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Light of Hidden Flowers,' A Novel by Jennifer Handford.

In The Light of Hidden Flowers by Jennifer Handford, we are introduced to a touching and realistic relationship between a father and his daughter. Melissa Fletcher works with her father who she admires for his ability to garner trust and friendship’s with his clients while at the same time seems to have a depth of memory in which to draw upon background information that helps solidify their trust. Melissa herself is more quiet and serene, working behind the scenes at their business, while helping to guide both her father and the others working in their financial offices.

As her father’s searing memory begins to falter, Melissa tries to help as much as she can. When his clients also begin to notice the decline, trust also begins to falter.  Leaving the more demanding tasks of the business to his closest partner, Melissa can only do her best to help her father through the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Becoming primary of the firm has never been her want, and yet it is thrust upon her when he passes.

When she finds a letter from him, meant to sooth her she is only further troubled for on one hand he praises her for being dutiful and yet he also scolds her for not taking risks. Unable to put his words aside, Melissa heads for Italy where she meets a young woman who suggests a very radical idea.

Melissa soon finds herself in India, searching for herself while putting together a plan of redemption and reconnecting with a lost love.  Is her search really the answer to her father’s dream or her own? She must pursue her dreams and take the risks that have always felt so out of bounds. Can she overcome her insecurities and become the woman her father dreamed her to be, and can she come to terms with her own dismay at his words?

Handford takes us into the psyche of a young woman who has grown up in a sheltered world and been in the background of her father’s life, unwilling to move from the protection. When she is thrust from her comfort zone and forced to face the world on her own she must draw from within to find what she finally understands is missing. Yet she must deal with anger and pain, self-doubt and insecurity pushing her own internal boundaries.

The story of love, loss and growth is well written and grabs you from the beginning. You endure the heartache of the loss of a loved one and the journey of redemption. There is a great appeal to the reminder that we can follow our dreams, for it is never too late
If you enjoy contemporary fiction with threads of growth and loss, love and light, and an overall moral of determination you will find this a great work for your library. The beauty of thought leaves you searching your own dreams.

This would be a great look for a Book Club or reading group. The idealism and questions garnered would create solid dialogue.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Palest Ink by Kay Bratt

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Palest Ink,' A Historical Fiction by Kay Bratt.

Times of turmoil often breed courage and valor. In The Palest Ink by Kay Bratt, we are trust into a story of a Cultural Revolution supported by Chairman Mao. As his Red Guard begins a deadly assault on their people leaving many innocent victims in their wake, there are those who believe they can create their own mark on history through the opportunity of rebellion.

Benfu is a young man, worried more about his career as a violinist and an arranged marriage that he wants no part of, then the possibility of revolution. His family are intellectuals and teach in Shanghai. They know of the histories and the possibilities of the coming surge and how they must now begin to hide valuables and change in order to stay under the radar of those hunting for possible rebellion.  They also understand how often the innocent can be targeted, and history supports the dangers inherent in the coming wave of assault.

Pony Boy, a member of the lower class, is Benfu’s best friend. Their futures are very different and they look at life in different ways. Together in the struggle of Political turmoil, they must both make decisions that can affect both themselves and their family. Thrown together in the chaos of revolution, they begin their own mission and rebellion against the red tide of Mao’s Red Guard.

Can they find a way to make their mark on history? Life moves quickly for both, and the tide turns ever sharply for their own families. Will they continue on their quest, or is all lost for themselves and their families.

Bratt has given us characters that begin in loving homes, Benfu, ready for university, and in the tradition of the country soon to be affianced.  His best friend has a harder life and yet in both cases their innocence shines through. As the darkening of revolution begins it changes them and they both have to find a way to grow and live in the chaos created in the wave of danger and deaths.  Bratt has given us a time of turmoil and has allowed us to watch the growth of these two youths into entirely different people then where they started.

The Revolution itself is well documented and the historical significance of Chairman Mao’s Red Guard leave fear in its wake. The danger and fear that come through the writing create discomfort and unrest, much as it must have been during the times. The addition of the danger is palpable, and adds to the chaotic feelings left after the reading of this work.

If you enjoy history, revolution, courage, romance and family, then this will make a great work for your library. Kay Bratt has given us a work of intensity.

This would be a great work for a reading group with an amazing array of information for discussion.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Smoke,' A Novel by Catherine McKenzie.

For firefighters, the job is an obsession both good and bad. In Smoke by Catherine McKenzie we are drawn into the drama of Elizabeth who has changed to a quieter life. She still works but not in the middle of big firestorms, but as an arson investigator. Yet life is not as tranquil as she had hoped. She and her husband have agreed to a divorce, and an old friend, Mindy, is feeling estranged from her own family.

When a fire starts in the nearby forest and begins to spread, Elizabeth finds herself back in the inferno, trying to help those who are struggling as well as a resident that has lost his home. The event consumes her; she is back with a purpose that calls to her.

When the gossip of her small town changes to an accusation it changes the direction of her own life, and both Elizabeth and her friend Mindy find their lives may be out of their own control. Can they find the lost pieces of their past before the fire consumes their true individuality, and can they hold on to hope as the fire rages ever closer?

McKenzie takes us into the world of firefighting and danger. She does a great job with her characters, for you can imagine them as you turn the pages. The smell of smoke and the heady excitement and dread of danger eke from the bindings and you are pulled into the lives of both Elizabeth and Mindy as they try to pick up the pieces of their life and move on.

The danger of the fires is both unnerving and dangerous, and McKenzie does a great job of helping us to realize just how dangerous the wrath of nature can be when fire consumes all and moves at such great speed. She introduces us to the other cast, the members fighting the fires and putting their lives on the line, as she takes us on a journey of growth.

If you enjoy mystery and danger, tied with romance and growth you will enjoy this work.  Watching how McKenzie uses the danger to change outcomes and personalities is interesting and hopeful, yet also breeds a feeling of hopelessness that must be overcome.

This would be a great book for a reading group or book club with plenty of certitude for discussion.

Rating 4/5

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Curiosity House, The Shrunken Head,' A Young Adult Mystery by Lauren Oliver & H.C Chester.

Entertaining, intriguing, dangerous and full of action, Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester takes you on a fun filled journey with a group of children who have grown up in Dumfrey’s  Dime Museum of Freaks Oddities and Wonders. Each with different abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam and Thomas call the museum home. When they are joined by a new member, Max everything suddenly changes.

When the Shrunken Head exhibit is unveiled, resulting in the death of one customer, suddenly the museum is drawing a different kind of crowd. Everyone wants to see the acts of the children but more importantly the curiosity known as the Shrunken Head. When it disappears, Dumfrey knows that his world has changed. With that loss he knows the children will be in trouble as well. They are not willing to let things change for good though. They have decided to investigate the disappearance on their own first, but as they begin their own interference, they find that as they move forward, each person in contact with the shrunken head seems to be dying.

When their very own Dumfrey becomes a suspect in murder, they scatter to find every clue. They know that their lives will change if they are broken up, and there are those who just do not understand their abilities. Their own safety and well-being lie in being a family, and Dumfrey is their most ardent supporter. Can they find the answers before he is taken away for good?

Oliver and Chester have given us a remarkable group of children and set them in a fun, exciting setting, the New York of the 30’s. While gifted with strange abilities they have come under protection of a man who is more then he seems. Unable to care for them in the normal way he makes them a part of his shows, but for him, they are his children. The love and respect that is engendered into the story create warmth of relationship, and the antics of the group keep you both interested and just a bit appalled.

This is a great work of humor, danger, interest and historical settings that catch your attention from the beginning.

If you enjoy adventure, oddities, family and mystery this will be a great copy of work for your library. Written with the young adult in mind, the antics create a great interest in reading, but make no mistake this is also a work of mystery and novelty that will keep the curious and young at heart entertained as well.

Rating 4/5

Friday, August 21, 2015

Contract: Snatch by Ty Hutchinson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: Contract: Snatch' A Sei Assassin Thriller by Ty Hutchinson.

Ty Hutchinson brings us a bold new character in his recent release, Contract: Snatch, a Sei Assassin Thriller.  Sei had been part of an assassin organization sent on jobs to alleviate problems that could not be solved in other ways. Living as a recluse she keeps few friends and is always on point for she knows the life she had chosen and now put aside puts her in the cross hairs of others. After a birth gone wrong, Sei has hung up her tools and moved on, yet knows that none of her competition will believe her.

Having lost her daughter during childbirth she has moved on, yet always on the lookout for an assassins life is not their own. A phone call turns her life around in a complicated way. Requested for another assassin job she turns it down, but the caller knows about the secret of her lost child. However, this contact also has a story. Having been informed of her daughter’s death shortly after the birth, she is now hearing that the real occurrence was a kidnapping, and that she truly has a daughter being raised by others. The caller offers her information on the kidnapping but only in return for the job he is asking.

With an anger fueled by duplicity and rage, Sei becomes once again a main player in the high stakes game of assignation but at the same time conducts her own investigations. What she finds gives her hope, but also creates pain and hurt. Unaware of why all as occurred as it has, she realizes she is on her own. Who does she trust to help her move forward?

Now, even her closest friends become suspect and she must keep herself out of danger for living as an assassin is extremely dangerous and her own life is now someone’s contract.  Can she stay one step ahead and find the real answers to her past? Can she find her daughter before all trails disappear?

Hutchinson has given us an amazingly strong character in Sei, but the flaws within her character softens the edges of what could be chilling and remote. Her nurturing character is hidden deep within yet it comes to light in several areas keeping you a fan.

The others involved are an interesting array of dark and light, with just enough depth and at times friendships to keep you confused as to who the real bad guys are. Red herrings are littered throughout keeping you guessing as to the events.

IF you enjoy mystery, action and fiery contenders you will enjoy this work. Sword play, hand to hand combat and danger are just a few of the features. The characters stay with you as you continue to mull over the stories long after the reading is complete. Hutchinson brings us an exciting new character to watch for.

Rating 5/5

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Glass Gauntlet by Carter Roy

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: ' The Glass Gauntlet, The Blood Guard Book 2' by Carter Roy.

In The Glass Gauntlet by Carter Roy, we are introduced to Ronan Truelove. Life has not been easy for him; after all he has already nearly been killed. What makes it even worse is that it is his father and the Bend sinister that have targeted him. He has now decided to join the Blood Guard and learn the sword skills of this secret society and become the champion of those known as the pure souls. They must have protection for they are necessary for the survival of the world.

When he and a couple of friends are chosen for their first mission, they are sent to another weird school, one where they must take tests called the Glass Gauntlet. Initially boring, they find that is more than they thought it would be. The danger comes from the competition, for someone is out to kill him. Ronan must find who wants him dead and why. What he first thought was a simple competition and another bout of training has turned to more than just that.

The Glass Gauntlet puts him on another challenge, one where he must face his father.  Can he protect his friends and save himself once more? Is his father after the pure souls? Ronan cannot back away from this challenge for his is now a sworn protector. The survival of the world is at stake.

Carter has given us a group of kids that are fun and entertaining. They each have their doubts and insecurities, and they all want to learn to be more. Yet there is another group as well which contains the bullies, those magnified from our own youth. You are drawn to the actions and cheering the underdogs.

His world is complex and his villains are bold and dangerous. Carter takes us into the dealings of those who want to rule and care nothing about how it will affect others. He has given us a twist by making Ronan’s father the protagonist and he makes him more indecipherable then bad. There is always that question. Is he really trying with all his heart to kill his son?

If you have a young adult that loves fantasy and fiction fill with action and danger this would be a great find. While set for the young adult, the story is also a wonderful find for the adult that is young at heart. Carter takes us into a world of turmoil, where the victors are still unsure of themselves and the adventures are exciting but dangerous. The second in the series you will want to go back and find The Blood Guard Book 1 to learn more about how it all began.

Rating 3/5

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater by Scott A. Lerner

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Fraternity of the Soul Eater', A Samuel Roberts Thriller by Scott A Lerner.

In The Fraternity of the Soul Eater, Scott A. Lerner takes us on a journey into the darkness that dwells in the mind of those most enchanted with darkness. Samuel Roberts an attorney by day has found himself in situations that cannot be explained. He feels as though there is danger that others do not believe, nor have they ever seen. His law duties seem quite tame by contrast and he finds himself wishing for more. His girlfriend thinks he is a junkie for danger and he is not sure he doesn’t agree.

He knows that something is stirring in the darkness through for he is having dreams he cannot decipher. Egypt often is the base of his worries, so when finds himself in an Egyptian museum he is both worried and excited.

The sudden danger though is quick and unexpected. He needs the help of his friend Bob, for things have begun to creep even him out. Even with warnings from his girlfriend to desist his quest he is unable to let go. Yet when she disappears he finds himself in deeper than expected. Suddenly his own life is on the line, and he is captured for an extremely unlikely DNA experiment.

Can Sam save both his girlfriend and himself from a crazy mad man who believes he can brings back the old Gods of Egypt through experimentation? Will this danger finally be the end of his relationship? With Bob as his only hope he escapes though brutality, something he has always avoided in the past. Will this be the final means that will allow darkness to enter his own soul?

Lerner gives us characters that are full of fun, bluster and charm, yet have that energy that you feel is trustworthy. His dynamics between his characters and protagonists are both strange and unlikely, but at the same time intriguing and interesting. You find yourself immersed in a story that takes you to the edge of darkness, twisting and realigning your own take on life.

The edge of darkness seems real and at any time you could find yourself immersed through the work of those who believe, for they are quite fanatical.

If you enjoy mystery, danger and the macabre, riddled with humor and friendship you will find this a must have for your library. You can read it time and again and still find passages you may have missed which make this a fun and unique find.

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Scott A. Lerner's Bio:
Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of criminal law and family law. Lerner’s first novel and the first Samuel Roberts Thriller, Cocaine Zombies, won a bronze medal in the mystery/cozy/noir category of the 2013 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards. The second book in the series is Ruler of Demons. The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is book 3. Book 4, The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest, will be released on Halloween, 2015.

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater Book Summary:
It’s been a while since Samuel Roberts was called upon to save mankind, and he’s getting restless. His girlfriend Susan thinks he’s a danger junkie, and he’s worried he has a hero complex. He’s back to his usual small-town lawyerly duties in Champaign-Urbana, handling divorces and helping people beat DUI raps. But then a young fraternity pledge calls. During an initiation ceremony he witnessed the live sacrifice of a young woman, but he had so much alcohol in his system that no one believes him. Except Sam. Lately Egyptian lore has been creeping into his life, his dreams, and his movie preferences, and he’s pretty sure he knows why. Evil is knocking on his door again.

Is the call welcome? Why can’t Sam be satisfied with his comfortable legal practice and gorgeous redheaded girlfriend? Maybe it’s because he knows that, as inadequate as he may feel to the task, he and his friend Bob may be humanity’s only hope against ancient supernatural forces combined with modern genetic engineering. Come hell or high water. Or in this case, the underworld or subterranean pyramids.

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is the third book in the Samuel Roberts Thriller series, which began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons.

Price/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Paranormal, Mystery, Thriller
Camel Press
June 1, 2015

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The Invasion of The Tearling by Erika Johansen

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Invasion of The Tearling', An Epic Novel by Erika Johansen.

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen takes us into the war ravaged and torn world of the future.  Queen Kelsea must find a way to keep Mortmesne from invading her kingdom of Tearling. As she comes to terms with the possibility of failure, she takes a stance. Every move now must be to keep up the moral of her people and to find the strength to combat the evil queen of Mortmesne.  Her magic works strangely and she often finds herself disappearing into the past and the beginning of the Tearling. Finding escape from the past is more difficult each time as she continues her battle to save her people and put an end to the evil of her land forever.

That past is of a woman named Lily. Lily has no idea her life is being watched by a future queen. She only knows that things are changing and terrorism is escalating. She has recently come face to face with a group that she had no idea existed, and is intrigued by their ideology. They believe they can save the world from oppression. Queen Kelsea knows that if she can just understand Lily, and how the Tearling began she can use that information to save her future world. But her magic is mercurial, it does not always follow her command and she is unable to stay in the past without putting her life in danger.

In the future things are escalating and the Queen finds even more traitors to her crown hidden behind the guise of religion. Her own guard is one of the best. She trusts them with her life. Yet as danger comes near she must choose which can stay and which must go, for what she plans has need of only a few. Feelings run high, but she must make the right choices to save her kingdom.

Can she pick up the pieces of a world gone mad, or will she lose her own life and that of her kingdom to the ravages of the evil that has infiltrated every corner of the land?

In the Continuing saga of The Queen of the Tearling, Johansen keeps us captivated with her characters. The flaw and romance are just a few of the interests. Alternating her characters between future and past she takes us into another thought process.  Is life truly about bloodlines or is it just a possible migration of souls. You certainly begin to wonder as you embrace this group who seem to be on the brink of destruction.

If you enjoy mystery, romance, magic, and intrigue you will find yourself immersed in the story of the Tearling. There is fascination in the ability of looking at the past, and although there is no possibility of changing what had become, we find that the mistakes of the past could relate to the saving of the future.

This would be a fun read for a reading group. Be prepared though for once you become attached to the characters you will be ready to find the prior words leading up the The Invasion of the Tearling. 

Rating 4/5