Monday, January 26, 2015

Leaving Before The Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Leaving before the Rains Come', A Memoir by Alexandra Fuller.

In Leaving before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller, we are given a lesson of difference in background and thoughts, as well as how those very differences can pull people together or rip them apart. Alexandra comes from a background many simply would not understand. Born of very diverse parentage in Rhodesia’s war torn landscape, she knows both the beauty and hardship of the land. With a British father and a Rhodesian mother, she is raised with varying dynamics.  While her parent’s background is in no way alike, it is their love of Africa that keeps their own love alive. In a land where death and weapons are an everyday reality, Alexandra has built her own personality off her perceptions and happenings in a country of both beauty and death.

Falling in love with an American she leaves her home to make her life with her husband in America. It is here that she falls in love a second time with another land and its beauty. Yet for her Africa is the essence of who she is, she is wild and untamed like much of the life she left behind. Her husband is very different in manner from her own, calmer and more refined.

While it is this very contrast that draws her and makes her feel safe it is the differences that also ultimately destroy the fragile bond. The presence of such basic upbringings is unable to hold the tenuous bonding of such diverse backgrounds and feelings.

There is an essence of bravery to put your life and perceived failings on paper and in front of people who may judge you harshly. Yet Alexandra seems to find her own peace by the sharing of her pain. Not surprising in a way, she has struggled and survived in a deep and harsh environment, and liberty has a different meaning. To take the pain from inside and move it to the outside gives a different freedom and you can feel the healing as you move through her words.

Her experiences and words give you a look into a country that many have only heard of. The descriptions help you to visualize the abundance and depravity, the pain and the joy that exists, with the looming sense of death just often inches away. She helps us to understand how your heart can stay in touch even in the most hazardous conditions, and yet she also describes another type of beauty in her adopted county.  The comparisons are interesting, and while the dangers lurk in both countries, there is far more fear and frenzy in that from her homeland.

If you enjoy reading of differing cultures and backgrounds and find interest in what creates the fissures between human beings you will enjoy this work. The rawness and beauty of Africa, a country most only come close to in the news, comes to life in the pages of Fuller’s words.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Saga of Lyn: The Reawakening by Aric Carter

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Saga Of Lyn: The Reawakening', An Epic Fantasy by Aric Carter.

Knowing from the beginning where life will lead, having a plan and knowing exactly what you will do with the rest of your life, can be either a dream or a burden. Yet even that knowing can be changed in a heartbeat with no warning or preparation.

In Saga of Lyn: The Reawakening, by Aric Carter, we are introduced to a wonderful family who own a Tavern, The Hooded Lantern, on the main road of Tulane. This route takes travelers from the main cities to the Hitton Mountains and the sea of Galesh. Here Tegain Hostler lives and operates the tavern owned by his father and his father before him. A good natured amiable man, he makes friends easily, and is married to the love of his life. His wife Shae and his daughter Gwyn round out his world giving him joy and love. Life could never be any better. 

Closing up for the evening Tegain has a last minute visitor, one that troubles him deeply. With his family in the other room cleaning up, he is attacked and barely survives. When he awakes, his tavern is burnt to the ground and his family has perished. He is devastated and vows vengeance. When a regular trader, Karl Dunmire, a man with a military background shows up, he offers what help he can. 
Selling Tegain an old sword for weaponry, they join forces to take down the evil that has visited.
But there is more going on, for suddenly the sword is more than an old used weapon, much more. Tegain will need to come to terms with the secrets of the sword to wield its real power.  Can he with the help of his friend Karl find those responsible for his loss? As they begin their search they find that their entire civilization is in dire trouble. Can two men find the answers and help save Tulane from the scourging evil that has awakened?

Carter has given us a story of love and loss. His description of detail revealing the characters is tender and telling and yet there is a magic and strength of character in both his protagonists that you find both rugged and endearing. His characters are an amazing mix and you find yourself so involved in the story it is hard to put down. He has given us a world of beauty and darkness as events begin to transpire, taking you on a journey of adventure and courage. His fantastic medieval word is believable and the magic is unique and energizing. 

If you enjoy highly adventurous tales full of magic, fighting and romance you will find this tale perfect for your library. Be prepared for once you begin you will find it hard to put down, you are drawn into this world of danger with extremely likable characters, ones you have to stay with to be assured of their safety.  Aric Carter is an author to watch for and this series has just begun with a work that will keep you looking for the next.

Rating 5/5

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bringer of Light, An Epic Fantasy by J. R. Boles

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Bringer of Light,' An Epic Fantasy by J. R. Boles.

Stories of magic delegate the phenomena to either evil (dark magic) or good magic. In times of war often the two are pitted in an effort to cleanse the realm and renew life and liberty.

In Bringer of Light by J. R. Boles, we are introduced to a story of such proportions.  The Kingdom of Arten has outlawed magic and has fought for generations against the dark sorcerer, Mercer. With his depth of ability he has surpassed the realm of aging and lives on through time. He has raised armies and fought against Arten  in the past, only to be beaten back and unable to claim his prize. With magic in the Kingdom waning he is preparing for the perfect circumstance to once again attempt his claim. It is time to move forward for who can stop him now with magic hidden or gone forever from the kingdom.

His plan is diabolical, he will take King Wern through foul means, and then use his best student to subvert his mind through whatever means are needed.  Yet Wern’s Queen Arin will do whatever it takes to get him back.

Her own elite guardians are up to the task and it is here that she pins her hope. Champion Lynden Trenadin is chosen as leader for her service has been fierce. Her training and battling at the borders has prepared her for some of what is to come, and she must defend the Queen with her life as they make their way for rescue. But that rescue is against magic and without their own mage; they are putting great risk on their abilities to bring home their King.

As battle goes against them, Lynden finds a power of light within that she had no inkling of, unleashing it in fury and saving most of those who have come to collect for their Queen. The King is saved but at what cost?

Now Lynden who has used forbidden magic must run for her life or be put to death for using a magic she was not even aware of.  The danger for Arten is not over, and the Queen is in even more peril, for Mercer has completed his control of the King. The subversion is subtle but nonetheless lethal and the Queen and the entire nation are in danger. Lynden and her friends must raise their own army in rebellion as they race to rescue their Queen and home. Can she find a way to use her power to help save her Kingdom, and yet not forfeit her life?

This is a book of contradictions that all weave and tie into an extraordinary tale of mystery, magic, defiance and war. The characters are created with an eye to realism, for those who follow the dark or sneaky and relentless, and those who follow the light are Strong, open and dauntless. While magic is forbidden the Queen has become a likable character by turning her head as Lynden escapes, for while she cannot condone a forbidden magic, she is only alive because of it. There is also romance and beauty, along with treachery and anger, holding you enthralled in the Kingdom of Arten.

If you enjoy epic tales of magic and romance, battle and bravery you will find this work an amazing beginning to a series. The strands of contradictions are mysterious and you find yourself wanting to know more.

Rating 5/5

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Vanished, The Search for Sally Hunt by Jan Joseph

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Vanished, The Search for Sally Hunt,' A Paranormal Mystery by Jan Joseph.

In Vanished, The Search for Sally Hunt by Jan Joseph, we are taken into the life of a young woman who has been chosen. As with any college student Sally Hunt is searching for herself. Yet when she is visited by a strange phenomenon that reveals she will be a healer, she realizes the stress of her life may be just a bit too much.  One of her best friends is just as stunned, yet they chalk it all up to nonsense, and too many late nights.

Yet how does that explain the accident where Sally hits a young man with her car. As she waits for the paramedics to show and places pressure on the wound, she feels lightheaded, in pain herself. When they bring the gurney they are just as concerned for her, as she has just as much blood on her as does the victim, yet neither of them has injuries. Witnessed by Jeanie, her best friend they are both at a loss. It is only as she meets Jeanie’s Grandma Rose that pieces begin to fall into place, as Rose too met her own guide in much the same way. 

As the years pass, Sally is involved in healing, not always by choice. She has become close to Rose, and estranged from Jeanie.  Her husband is the love of her life, yet he too has his own struggles, but for him she is everything.

When Sally Hunt vanishes no one understands what has happened. Jane Peters gets the case and is unaware of all the drama. Receiving a call from Sally’s mother, Jane wonders why her husband was not the one calling. Something seems so strange about the situation. Yet as she begins to dig, she finds the most extraordinary story unfolding. Who will believe her, and why would they? Speaking to Sally’s friend Jeanie they find bitterness and estrangement. Yet Jane feels in her gut that Jeanie has a part in the disappearance, but her life is a mess, drugs and lifestyle have changed her from the young woman who was Sally’s best friend and confidant, to a walking wounded pile of nerves.

As Jane begins her search she finds her own faith and beliefs being tested. Can what she is hearing really be correct. Where are the husband and Jeanie in all of this? And what about Rose, Jeanie’s Grandma, she has now become a ward of Sally, taken care of as one of her own. Can she find the answers before it is too late for a woman to whom everyone has come to depend on?

Joseph has given us characters that are at once lovable and in many cases extremely flawed. Sally is just as messed up in life and anyone would be that received her visions, yet she has managed to be relatively normal most of the time. She finds herself drawn to those in need of saving, and this is both her friend Jeanie, and her husband. There is such a vulnerability about them you find yourself wanting to ease their pain. Rose is a wonderful older woman and full of love as well as spunk. You can’t help but relate her to many of your own relatives. 

The story is interesting and the mystery is solid. You will find yourself looking for clues along with Jane as she tries to find the answers.

If you enjoy the paranormal and like a great mystery you will enjoy this work. The depth of character draws from many of those you may know or meet in your lifetime, and give credence to the novelty of the entire work.

Rating 4/5

Monday, January 5, 2015

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Suspicion,' A Young Adult Mystery by Alexandra Monir.

In Suspicion by Alexandra Monir, we are introduced to a mysterious fantasy of impressive proportions. From England to America and back we follow a young woman who must find her dream and uncover the secrets of her family over the generations before it is too late.

When Imogen’s parents are killed in a fire at their English country manor, she is relocated to the United States to live with her guardians. Yet she never forgets her family and friends left behind in Rockford. Her Grandfather and her cousin are the sole surviving relatives, and while she feels shattered to have left them behind, she longs of news. Yet her guardians, close friends of her parents feel they know what is right, and she must forget about her old life.

She knows there is a secret that she should know, she remembers her father telling her to look to the maze, but she is not encouraged in any way to ask questions of her past. Even the boy she left behind is off limits, and she has finally relented. Her cousin is heir of the estate, and Imogen’s life is now in New York City.  Even at 17 she feels as though there is something missing, something she is meant to do. What about the odd thing that happened to her at the estate before the fire. How could the flower have grown so fast and created such a furor for those that saw. She knows there is something, but does not remember what it is.

When she receives a letter that tells her she is the only living heir left to the estate and that she must return to England, her guardians must relent and allow her to make the choice. All is not as it seems and there is a mystery at hand that seems to involve her, but also Sebastian–the boy she left behind.

The secrets of the manor are very delicate and Imogen is cautious about creating any further concerns. There is something very strange about the deaths of her parents and that of her cousin, something that someone is willing to kill to keep secret. But there is also the secret of the land and the magic that creates abundance, another situation that also causes consternation.

Unsure who to trust with her own secret, and unaware of the dangers to her own life, she tries to find the answers without stirring up the lives of the only people she really remembers.  Can her guardians give her any of the answers? Does Sebastian know what happened to her cousin?

If you enjoy mysterious and magical happenings you will find this story just the thing. The characters are fun and exciting and the story is rather enchanting.  There are secrets everywhere, and Imogen is just the character to find them out. She is full of contradictions and folly, but also brave and tenacious. The characters each play a piece and each is central to their own part of the mystery.

This is a wonderful Young Adult mystery, threaded with magic and romance. If you are looking for that special book for your young reader, you will find this to be just the thing. If you enjoy fairytale type settings and happily ever after, even those who are not young adults, but just young at heart can relate to this work.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Secret of a Thousand Beauties', A Historical Romance by Mingmei Yip.

Independence for woman goes back for decades, not just in the U.S but for many countries across the globe. Sometimes that independence ended in tragedy, yet many were willing to take the risk.

In Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip, we are treated to an amazing array of ideas and customs that seem both unimaginable and indecipherable.  The history and beauty of China in the “30s” is brought to life as we follow the life a Spring Swallow as she tries to find her way. Promised in marriage at birth, she is still forced to wed even after the death of her intended groom.  Forced to become a ghost bride she escapes a fate of loneliness by running away. Taken in by a woman full of her own secrets, she joins a small group of embroiderers.  Aunty Peony is talented in a way that defies her station and while stingy with her methods she trains her students in the style of embroidery from her own youth.

Obedient but curious, Spring willow embarks on fact finding and looks for an understanding of her own life as well as those who have rescued her. In her duties she finds little time yet she yearns for understanding and finds escaping to the great outdoors soothes her soul, and writing her secrets on the rocks of her special mountain creates a sense of peace and control.  When she finds notes written back she finds herself falling for the author of such verse, but is afraid.

What is the secret that Aunty Peony hides, and how does she have embroidery that may have belonged to the emperor?  And who is the one she is coming to love that she only hears from in the stones from the mountain?

Yip has given us a behind the scenes look at the beauty of Chinese embroidery, and a small look at the history of independence in an amazing tale of romance and loss. The characters jump out of the pages and you find yourself along on the search for answers.  There is a majesty in her descriptions and there is danger and folly in the direction that some of her characters choose.
If you enjoy beauty and romance, as well as mystery and action you will want to find the marvel of creativity located within the covers. The beauty of the work done by the characters is easy to visualize with the tiniest of stitches to the glory of color, which only adds to the mystique. There is humor, humility, sadness, danger and romance all tied together with the threads of embroidery. A marvelous rendering of years gone by.

This would be a great book for a reading group as well as a book club. There is a great deal of information and background to keep a discussion in full force.

Rating 4/5

Friday, January 2, 2015

Found, Near Water by Katherine Hayton

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Found, Near Water,' A Suspenseful Mystery by Katherine Hayton.

The past is often just that, something that occurs and then is beyond redemption.  Yet occasionally there are secrets that urge themselves forward. Those little tidbits that had been buried but now find a way to change the lives of those whose memories they had been hidden within.

In Found, Near Water by Katherine Hayton, missing and exploited children are a focus for a support group headed up by Christine, a victim support councilor and coordinator who works with the police in various situations.  The yammering and neediness of her focus group is beginning to wear on her, and her impatience is keeping new members away. That didn’t faze the members already aboard for they want the spotlight for their own pain. Having become almost friends they are comfortable talking about issues, yet Christine is struggling to focus.  Her irritation makes her curt for they have all had their moments and she is fighting her own anguish.

When the police ask for her assistance with a young woman injured in a car wreck, she finds herself intrigued. Why does this woman insist that her young daughter is now missing, taken from the car after or during the accident? Wouldn’t the woman’s husband know if her daughter was missing, for he does not come forward?  There is something quite strange going on. The woman seems quite delusional, yet as Christine begins asking questions she is shocked. The woman does have a young daughter, and no one seems to know where she is. On further questioning, she realizes that there is a strange tenseness, a compartmentalization that surrounds Rena, the young mother.

As Christine begins her perusal of the situation, she also keeps in touch with her husband through text, trying to heal her own relationship woes. She is torn between duty and her own past, but this case is one that pulls her out of her own doldrums. Where is the child and why did the father not report her missing? Although out of the country when called about his wife, no mention was made of a child.

Now the police must reevaluate the evidence and dig much deeper in their effort to find the truth. Little do they know that this strange and unusual disappearance will open a “Pandora’s box” of disturbing offenses occurring over the years, putting to rest one of the most sadistic of perpetrators. 

Hayton has given us a mystery with teeth. Whenever it comes to missing and exploited children there is always that painful feeling, for there is an innocence lost when a child disappears. The edginess of the story begins right from the beginning and the missing children are threaded together into a strange and eerie nightmare of questions and answers. The characters are in pain and have their own mistakes and flaws that they try to overcome, and each deals with their pain in their own fashion. You are amazed at the resilience that helps to hold them together. 

The mystery itself is well done and just as strange as the rest of the brew that spews from the pages.  As the facts are all entered, Hayton throws in another bit of incongruity as she details the background of Christine herself.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense this is a great book to add to your collection. There is a satisfaction as the situation breaks loose and the puzzle is solved that will make this one you will want to read over and over.  Hayton is an author to watch for.

Rating 4/5