Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Haunting of Sunshine Girl', A Novel based on the YouTube web series phenomenon.

Reaching the age of 16 is an important turning point in a teen’s life. It is a special time, labeled sweet 16 in the case of young girls, a kind of coming of age. What if there was more than just a coming of age, a heralding of a different understanding.

In The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie, we are introduced to Sunshine Griffith and her mother, Kat. As Sunshine reaches the age of 16 things seem just a bit different, but she can’t really get a feel for it. Moving cross-country to the Northwest for her mother’s new job she finds the new house they are moving into decidedly creepy. Her relationship with her mother has always been extremely close, much like that of best friends, their bond is strong and they laugh and share inside jokes that hold them close. Yet that too seems to change as they move into this new place. Unable to figure it out, she shares her concerns with her friend she left behind, as well as her mother.

Usually on the same wavelength, she cannot get her mother to see or hear the strange happenings, including that of water running and a young girl crying. Sleep is becoming more difficult and her mother is becoming more distant. School is her only escape for now and she has befriended a strange young many, Nolan Foster, who is more than willing to listen to her concerns. His is smart and cute, yet he is a bit ostracized from the rest of the kids due to his belief in paranormal occurrences. He certainly comes by it naturally as his grandfather was a bit of a ghost hunter, who died before he could prove his theories to the outside world.

As they come together to try and tackle the possible haunting, they find there is more danger then could be imagined. The short time in the home already has her mother turning into someone else. As Sunshine tries to come to terms and get her mother to understand, Kat picks up a knife and cuts first herself and then Sunshine on the hand. Sunshine now knows that this woman is more than just her mother, there is another presence there as well, and one who is not concerned about the body that seems to now be housing it. Sunshine enlists the help of Nolan to help her find the answers before any further damage can occur. As they search for information, the horror of the answers is more than they bargained for. Death seems to be stalking them. Can they do what they need to do before it is too late for them all?

This is a fascinating tale of the paranormal and the importance of family and the belief in each other. The characters are quite well thought out, and you find yourself wanting to be a part of the fold. Well, except for the creepy stuff. There is humor and terror, and the investigation is strange and abhorrent, yet sets the stage for the presence that seems to be within their new home.

If you enjoy paranormal activity, friendships, family and just great personalities you will find this a fun, page turning work. Set as a young adult work, it also works great as a crossover novel for the nature and speed of the action keeps you riveted as the investigation takes your mind in dizzying direction.

Paige McKenzie is an author to watch for.

Rating 5/5

Friday, March 27, 2015

Smile Now, Cry Later by Paul MacDonald

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Smile Now, Cry Later', a Chuck Restic Mystery by Paul McDonald.

The business of human resources is often fraught with personalities and unpopular decisions. The people that hold these positions must be diligent and knowledgeable, able to make good decisions, often at a moment’s notice.

In Smile Now, Cry Later by Paul McDonald, we meet one such individual. Chuck Restic is in the HR profession and often moonlights as a private detective. His personality is very passive-aggressive based off his real life persona. He uses his corporate skills to solve crimes, which he finds a bit more interesting than his actual corporate job.

His coworkers are often not as caring as he would like, and many of the conversations he has with those working within his company are uncomfortable, but usually necessary. There are sometimes those caught up in circumstances, yet still must be dealt with to keep the company above the law. Ed Vardaresian is one of those, a quiet unassuming man, yet he wears an excessive amount of cologne, which leads to the complaint filed.  The accuser is noted for her complaints and the circumstances are those that make it necessary to deal with this issue in a timely manner.

What really creates Chuck’s concern is when Ed, an employee that never calls in sick, disappears not long after his conversation with him. Due to his perceived connection, Chuck determines that he will find out what is happening with the missing employee.

It is here that Chuck gets a dangerous surprise, for Ed is much more than a simple employee.  He owns some property and has somehow come up against a billionaire real estate developer as well as the Armenian mob, and his disappearance is decidedly worrisome.  His family has no answers and when Chuck digs deeper he finds himself in danger, and that old friends may actually be enemies in his search for Ed. Can he find the answers before another body is found or has his meddling created a murder fest that is cavalcading out of bounds?

MacDonald has given us an interesting private investigator, one that seems unlikely at first glance but quickly wins your confidence.  His background in HR is at times a boon, but in other areas a danger. He trusts often too quickly which makes him seem easy. But once he determines the truth, he is like a dog with a bone, digging to find the answers where ever they lead, regardless of the people involved.

The characters are interesting and the mystery is well set, leading the protagonist in directions that sometimes get very dizzying. Yet he sticks with it and keeps you along with his wit and humor.

If you enjoy mystery and people you will find Chuck Restic in Smile Now, Cry Later>, a great protagonist. This is a solid work for your library.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Diamond Head,'A Novel of Change and Tradition by Cecily Wong.

Family ties and connections are not always what they appear to the outside looking in. The visual clues often hide heartache and pain, for pride is the constant. The mistakes and hurt are only for internal visitation, not for the outsiders looking in.

In Diamond Head by Cecily Wong, we follow the life of Frank Leong and family. In the nineteenth century he is part of the wealthy shipping industry in China. Worried about war on the continent, he moves his family to the island of Oahu. When his brother dies, his wife becomes a part of the extended family, a rock in the presence of much pain.

A parable of an old fable, in China the red string of fate is the cord that binds one to their perfect match. That same cord also punishes the mistakes, passing that punishment down the family line. Believers in such a match the family is careful of the possible repercussions of making bad choices.

When Frank is murdered, the family is devastated by the deceit of the past and the untruths hidden below the surface of this genial patriarch. The family begins the process of unraveling, and it seems as though everything rests on Franks only granddaughter.  The string appears to have many knots, passing the curse down their family tree, can she find the answers to the danger before her family drifts away into obscurity.

This is a wonderful work that spans the time from the Boxer Rebellion to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It is a tale of tragedy, lies, loss and sacrifice. The threads or red lines of fate however know the truth, and hope peaks from the darkness in a mystifying tangle of certainty.

Wong has given us a story of the ages with war and romance, love and beliefs, all set in beautiful surroundings. The characters are well developed and you feel as though you are reading actual history along with the cost of how mistakes shape families. You become enthralled with the life and intricacy of the detail, and fall in love with the family. There is a truth of enlightenment, one that takes you from the past into the future of this fractured family.

If you enjoy contemporary work with romance, history and strength, you will find this work a perfect fit for your library. Wong has given us a strange mystery couched in hidden agendas, beauty and deceit. It is a work that stays with you way after the reading.

This would also be a great work for a book club or a reading group. The nuances and ideas will make for vigorous comment.

Rating 4/5

Friday, March 20, 2015

True Medical Detective Stories by Clifton K. Meador, M.D.

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'True Medical Detective Stories,' a compilation of true-life medical cases presented by Clifton K. Meador, M.D.

We often hear of medical miracles, but are they really miracles at all. Or was there perchance a special Doctor in charge that took more than a cursory look, more of a medical investigator, someone that looked further then the obvious to find the root of the situation.

In True Medical Detective Stories by Clifton K. Meador, M.D., he takes us into the examination rooms and gives us case by case notes of some of the most interesting of true-life medical cases. Not only does he give us the play by play of the studies and bedside looks, but he does it in such a way as to make this truly a page turning set of mysteries.

He also pays homage to Berton Roueche, staff writer at the New Yorker from 1944-1994, the man who popularized medical detective stories.  The interesting thing about these true life stories is that the doctor was the one who took the steps to dig deeper, often planting the bug of an idea with the patient or their family that then bore fruit, taking him in direction that was necessary to find the cure.

It is important to note that without this communication from both sides many of these cases could well have ended in tragedy.

Doctor Meador takes the cases and with his twist on wording and descriptions of the facts takes us into the sometimes mysterious causes of illness.  Doctors often have to become detectives in order to find the root of the issue, and it is these cases that strike the pose of mystery, for without this investigation there would have been no story.  Some death often seems without cause, which makes this work so fascinating.

If you enjoy true mystery as well as medical miracles you will find this to be a work that is difficult to put down.  Doctor Meador takes us on a journey into the detective work of those dedicated professionals who wanted a more concise understanding of the cause of their patient’s maladies, and gives us a depth of understanding into the necessity of thorough communication between the doctor and his patients.

A book group or reading club would find this a great work and challenge to create both questions and answers.

Rating 4/5

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Shadow Cabinet' by Maureen Johnson.

Beginning with Ghost Busters  and moving on to Men in Black we have become enamored of the idea that there is a special squad out there, helping to keep us safe from the strange and unnatural. Could such a hidden group exist in secrecy so deep it remains under the radar?

In The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, we meet one such group and follow their exploits into the world of ghosts and darkness.  Reeling from tragedy Rory and her friends find themselves looking for one of their own who has been lost. Has he moved on to the other side, or is it just possible that Rory acted in time to save him.

As they begin their search, Rory’s friend Charlotte is kidnapped by a woman named Jane.  Known to Rory as a teacher and counselor, she is now recognized as the leader of a cultish organization that has its roots in the disappearance of a group of people from 40 years prior.

Rory and her group, known as the ghost squad find their own time running out as they search for their friend, and contain the damage that is engendered by Jane and her own group as they try to unleash a nightmare on the city. Can they stop the damage and still find Stephen before it is too late?

This is a fun and unique story of a group of those who find themselves in a position of powerful secrets as they clean up the city of London. Only a select amount of the chosen are included, but there is only one way that seems to lead to the abilities necessary. Near death experience seems to turn the tide and Johnson has given us an action packed thriller with humor and adventure as well as the danger of real crime. 

She has done a great job on creating characters, with the downright creepy to the smoldering and dangerous.  To be in such a group there must be a strength, yet along with that also comes the flaws, and that is what makes this a work to follow.

If you enjoy the paranormal connected with romance, danger, mystery and adventure you will find this a work to follow. Well written you will find the strange but likable characters keep you interested. If you are reading into the night be sure to keep your doors locked and your lights on for the strangely intense, creepy quality will makes the hairs on your neck stand at attention.

For those who enjoy this type of work it will be a great addition to your library, but make space for the series as it is sure to be spectacular.

Rating 4/5

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'A Dangerous Place', A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear.

In A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear, we meet Maisie Dobbs. She has a life she loves and a husband and family who adore her. Unable to ask for more she finds she is pregnant and suddenly life is fuller and richer. A psychologist and investigator by trade she has given it up and in return gained a life of more than she can imagine.

Yet for her, tragedy lurks. Unable to share her grief and anger with her family or friends she leaves everything behind to find that one place where she can put her life back together.  She has gone to India, a place she has found peace once before. As those who love her try to find her, she finally realizes that she can no long run and hide, it is time to return.

Yet as she gets closer she realizes that she is not ready, and Gibraltar will be her stopgap until she can find the strength to return to where her heartache began.  It is here that she stumbles upon a body.  Written off by the police as an accident, all her own training about crime begins to tumble through her mind. Her interest is piqued and she finally finds something to get her mind back into fighting shape.

There is danger lurking though, for someone does not want the answers found. She finds herself being followed but is sure that at least one of the followers is intent on bringing her home. The other though is a mystery. Can she solve this puzzle and find a killer before she becomes his next victim?  If only she can use this investigation to add strength to her resolve she believes she can finally find a way to put her mind to rest.

Winspear has given us an unimaginable beginning, and given us an interesting heroine who must overcome the odds to begin again. Her descriptions of the love and friendships create a ache in your own heart, making you wonder if you could withstand such pain.  Her descriptions of the beauty of the country side are mesmerizing and with written word she takes you there, along with her amazing character in Maisie Dobbs.

The mystery is interesting and the characters that Maisie meets along the way are in eclectic mix, strong and flawed but with differing agendas that are hidden in their interaction with her. She must use her skills to get through the lies and secrets surrounding this death.  As Winspear gives us Maisie’s mindset and training we begin to truly understand her abilities as an investigator.

If you enjoy historical mysteries, with romance, danger and travel you will love this work. Maisie is a wonderful character and you will find yourself looking for more of her brand of investigation.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Book Seller by Cynthia Swanson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Bookseller' by Cynthia Swanson.

Dreams often seem the precursor to events that have occurred or those yet to come. Often they are more then they seem but just as frequent they have no meaning at all.

In The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson, we meet Kitty Miller.   She has chosen a life in the early sixties of unconventionality.  Teaming up with her best friend they open a bookshop, and she is in control of her own destiny.  Her life is everything she hoped for, but that is when the dreams begin.

In her dreams she is Katharyn Andersson, married to Lars with beautiful children and a lovely home.  The dreams or wonderful and exciting, irresistible and romantic, and she is sad when she awakes each time.  Yet soon the dreams seem to come more frequently, intruding on her daily activities.

While she loves being with her dream husband and children, she is beginning to lose pieces of who she is as Kitty.  The Bookshop is no longer as successful and she and her friend Frieda must make a decision to move forward. Yet her dreams begin to seem more real than her life at the Bookshop, and make her wonder. Does she have a choice in what she wants in life?

As the dreams become more real, she suddenly finds she has another child. She is shamed and mortified at her reaction to him. She tries hard to be there, and Lars is beginning to have impatience with her lack of responsiveness. No long quite as enamored of her dream world, she strives to reduce the amount of dreaming that occurs. She even shares her concerns with her dream husband.
Now there is a strange and disturbing thought that she is no long sure which life is the dream life, and she must make a decision as to what is happening in her life for her to be whole again. Which one is her real life and can she find a way to connect the two, or is a dream just that–a dream. 

I was riveted to this book from the beginning. There is a quality of hope and beauty in the world of dreams and yet with the mystery of who Kitty (Katharyn) really is you find yourself propelled forward in a fantastic array of choices and life decisions that motivate and move you. You will find both sides of this eclectic woman to be likable yet with the same flaws that we understand to be human.  There is a hope that is engendered as you read through the pages, and yet there is also fear and concern that make you care about both Kitty and her friend Frieda.

Swanson takes us to an uncomfortable place and finds a way to move us as though we are a part of the process. You feel for each whether it is Kitty or Katharyn. They seem so alike and yet so far apart, but together they seem to become whole.

This is a great work of subterfuge and red herrings, a mystery and yet a love story. It is also a story of hurt and tragedy, and a distinct trek into the differing directions of coping.

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

Rating 4/5

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: ' A Reunion of Ghosts', A Portrait of a Complicated Family by Judith Claire Mitchell.

Can the ‘Sins of our Fathers’ really dictate our own future, or do those that truly follow in such footsteps allow themselves such a belief. 

In A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell we are given a remarkable story of three interesting and odd sisters, with an extraordinary legacy of family suicide.  As they grow and emerge into distinct individuals, we garner an interest and wonder at the thought process that is engendered due to their past and their own belief of how they themselves with die. 

The Alter sisters, Lady, Vee and Delph are truly and eclectic mix of strange, interesting and absurd. They live together now in their families apartment.  Bad luck seems to follow them the same as that of their lineage, and yet they know that no matter what happens they have each other. Their sense of humor is intact and they use it to keep themselves and each other entertained. 

Lady is riddled with cancer and is thinking quite wildly of how she can make her own destiny, to choose her own death before the pain and destruction of the disease claims her.  Vee and Delph who love her and really have no other plans decide that when the decision is made they will go with her. Making a pact they set a time, and as it draws near many things begin to happen. 

Can they hold to their decision or will life happen and change the course of what they feel is their true destiny?

Mitchell has given us a family and a history that is interesting and strange. Her sister characters are brave and bold with a strangely wicked sense of humor. While some of the reading was slow and I found a bit of difficulty moving forward, I was glad that I did because there is a point where a voyeuristic fascination with the oddity seems to set in, propelling you headlong in a course to find out more. 

If you enjoy life and mystery littered with bits of history you will find this a book to look for. If you enjoy humor and fascinating people and ideas, this will give you some interesting case study. 

A reading and discussion group would find this a great work to discuss, full of strange ideas and intriguing dialog, this would create a remarkable bit of debate. 

Rating 3/5

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Alchemist's Daughter by Mary Lawrence

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Alchemist's Daughter', A Bianca Goddard Mystery by Mary Lawrence.

Forensics is an important part of crime scenes, necessary in the investigation of what, where, and why a crime occurred, as well as the possible who-dun-it. Long before the science of forensics there were those whose life revolved around alchemy, an earlier science involving herbs and medicinal plants, more in the form of remedies, but nevertheless often helpful in both the creating and solving of crimes.

In The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence we are introduced to Bianca Goddard, a young woman who lives and breathes the practice of Alchemy. Known for her remedies and discoveries, she finds herself digging even deeper as she saves her father from the gallows by proving he had not tried to poison the King.  Yet with all that past, life has settled and she is now affianced to her love, and busy trying to find a remedy for the diseases that strike the poor in the Southwark slums of London.

Unconventional and beautiful, Bianca is smart and daring. She has concocted a form of rat poison that is in demand, for rats have begun over running the area. Death and disease come along with them, and she is not going to allow them to continue their plague.

When a dear friend dies while visiting her shop she finds herself immediately a suspect, especially with her father’s background. She must use her skills in medicine to find the poison used as well as the actual murderer. Yet to do that she must stay ahead of the police. As she bobs in and out of the tenements, one step ahead, she stumbles on an even bigger plot, one that will take down the entire city if not stopped. Can she save herself from the goal and hanging, and help solve the mystery of the rats, before it is too late for them all? As the deaths pile up, Bianca finds herself one step ahead of danger.  When the police are after her, who does she turn to for help?

Bianca and her group of friends and misfits are brought to stark relief through the descriptions engendered by the author. You find yourself drawn to them, and even amused at the antics in the strangely creepy and suspenseful mystery.

Bianca is her won woman, and as such she does not follow the norms of the times. She stands out and becomes a hero to those who believe in her. She is smart and brave, sometimes to her detriment.

If you enjoy history and mystery with fun and romance, as well as a creep appeal you will find this a truly amazing addition to your library. Bianca makes a great sleuth, and the back drop of 16th century London takes you back to a time before forensics and medicine become as we know them today.

This would be a great work for a reading or discussion group. The appeal and nuances would create a great deal of debate and interest.

Rating 5/5

Creative Anarchy, How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design by Denise Bosler

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Creative Anarchy' How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design by Denise Bosler.

For those in business, advertising is one of the best forms of media for getting your company or business in front of its intended public. Yet advertising is such a fickle enterprise, one that is often ineffective and it is difficult to decipher just what works and what doesn’t, and why.

Creative Anarchy by Denise Bosler is a look at Graphic design and advertising in a way that gives insight to the industry.  In an in-depth work of photos, ads, lessons and creative license you are given a tour of how the most successful consultants or ad agencies create the stuff dreams are made of. Each year advertisers create ads, but before they ever get accepted they are first designed and created by a series of creative individuals that understand the rules of the game as well as the occasional rule-breaking that makes the mundane into the incredible.

The lessons, media and images are chaotic and exciting and you are drawn to follow the ideas and successes of those who have broken the barrier of what makes advertising stick in the mind of the audience.

With proven methods and interesting images and procedures, you are taken into a world of color and creative process, one that is intriguing and stimulating.

For the large business as well as the entrepreneur this is an important work that could change the way your business garners sales and interest. If you are drawn to the idea behind a creative endeavor you will enjoy the thoughts and processes that have gone into this tome of creative advertising. 

I found the book both enlightening and the ideas very intriguing. It is amazing to see the depth of the trade knowledge and come to an understanding of why some ads work and other do not. If you are looking for that work that can take your business to the next level then this is a must have for your work place.

The ideas and creativeness leave a lasting impression and will help to light that fire of imagery into the mind of those wanting to capture their audience at first glance.  This is a great lesson in human dynamics, a bold look at how to capture the imagination

Rating 5/5

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Due for Discard by Sharon St. George

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Due for Discard, an Aimee Machado Mystery by Sharon St. George.

Having an active interest in the things that happen around you and to others is often the act of an intelligent mind, yet there are those who think of such people as nosy or even busybodies.  Such intent can be both a blessing and a curse.

In Due for Discard, An Aimee Machado Mystery by Sharon St. George, we find such an individual in Aimee Machado. With an active interest in everything and a penchant for asking questions, she is the quintessential person that could fit into either of the above categories.

Beginning a new job as a forensic librarian at a medical center in Timbergate, she is ready for a new start. Having broken up with her boyfriend Nick she only wants to move on. Things become extremely complicated when a murder happens on the first day of her job. Even worse is when the murder is of the wife of one of her new bosses.

Always curious, Aimee begins poking around but the tables are turned when her own brother becomes a prime suspect. Now her snooping will have to become even more important, for it appears that there is no other suspect, and she knows he is incapable of killing.

Her interest however, does not go unnoticed. Suddenly she becomes a target as well, and her grandparents Llama farm where she is staying becomes a focus for whoever is trying to stop her prying. Can she find the answer before she loses her own life? He brother has called in a favor from his friend Nick, who is also the boyfriend that she is trying to get over; can she find a way to work with him, for the benefit of all?

The characters are an amazing array of people and have such a great culture of distrust and concerns. Aimee is like a breath of fresh air that creates a bubble of humor but also opens a few hearts and minds to the differences in each other. As she penetrates the secrets of those involved you can see how her mind works and it endears you to her, creating a buy in on the possibilities of her being able to both find the answers and solve the crime while staying out of jeopardy herself.

Both her brother and Nick round out the group and you find yourself rooting for them both, her brother Harry to be exonerated, and for Nick to win her back. The interplay between the three is fascinating to behold.

If you enjoy romance and mystery and are looking for a new sleuth to hold your interest you will enjoy this book and the new Aimee Machado Mysteries to follow. Your mystery library will be the perfect setup for this new series.


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Due for Discard Summary:
Aimee Machado is thrilled to be starting her first job as a forensic librarian at the medical center in the town of Timbergate, north of Sacramento, California. Her ebullient mood is somewhat dampened by her recent breakup with her former live-in boyfriend, Nick Alexander. And then there's a little matter of murder: on Aimee's first day on the job, a body is found in a nearby Dumpster and soon identified as her supervisor's wife, Bonnie Beardsley.

Aimee's heartbreaker of a brother and best friend, Harry, just happens to be one of the last people to see Bonnie alive, but he is hardly the only suspect. Bonnie was notorious for her wild partying and man-stealing ways, and she has left a trail of broken hearts and bitterness. Aimee is determined to get her brother off the suspect list.

Aimee's snooping quickly makes her a target. Isolated on her grandparents' llama farm where she fled post-breakup, she realizes exactly how vulnerable she is. Three men have pledged to protect her: her brother Harry, her ex, Nick, and the dashing hospital administrator with a reputation for womanizing, Jared Quinn. But they can't be on the alert every minute, not when Aimee is so bent on cracking the case with or without their help.

Book 1 in a new mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Aimee Machado.

Sharon St. George's Bio:
Sharon St. George had the good fortune to spend an idyllic childhood in a small northern California town, riding horseback and camping with her family in the nearby mountains. One of her favorite pastimes was reading fiction, and a trip to the library was always an occasion of great joy. She’s traded horses for llamas, but she still treks to the high mountain lakes near her home—always with a mystery novel in her backpack. Sharon’s writing credits include three plays, several years writing advertising copy, a book on NASA’s space food project, and feature stories too numerous to count. She holds dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts, and occasionally acts in, or directs, one of her local community theater productions. Sharon is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and she serves as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit organization for writers in northern California.

Prices/Formats: $15.95 paperback
Genre: Detective Murder Mystery
March 1, 2015
Camel Press

Amazon buy link:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Never-Open Desert Diner' by James Anderson.

The life of a trucker seems as though it would be sedate and often boring. From the outside looking in the main interest would seem the love of travel and new places to see and explore. There is obviously much more for there are those whose lives revolve around the business of hauling.

We are introduced to one such hauler in The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson.  Put your own thoughts of what trucking is aside as you enter the cab of Ben Jones, a truck driver that navigates a section of the Utah highway.  Trying to make his way in a job he loves, he finds himself sinking ever deeper into debt. Highway 117 is a stark and lonely trek that Ben navigates every day. Delivering to those who hire his expertise, he has been doing the same job for some time. While trust is not easily gained, he delivers to the same people over and over, and a form of bond has set in. Yet he knows that trust is fragile and he must always maintain that status. For him these wary inhabitants are his only friends and he is not sure what they will do when he loses his truck. Down on his luck doesn’t even begin to describe his existence.

Suddenly life changes and he is thrust into a situation where violence and mystery rule.  Finding an area he had never seen before, he spots a young woman playing a Cello, isolated and hidden. He is intrigued and finds himself returning time and again, haunted by the picture in his mind. His life as he has lived it is about to change as he attracts the interest of those who only want one thing. The cello, hidden away in a place they cannot find.

Ben has to draw on his inner reserves and the people whose trust he holds to stay ahead of those who mean him harm. Life for him and his group of friends takes a turn to deadly.
This is an interesting and strange work, filled with an appealing but strange group of characters that you will come to care about. As their own faults and secrets come to life, you begin to understand the hidden fissures of why they live in such an area of solitude.

If you enjoy mystery and romance as well as stories of change you will find this to be a remarkable piece or work.  A great book for your library one you could read again and again only to gain just one more morsel missed in the first pass.

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Jack of Souls by Stephen C. Merlino

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Jack of Souls,' An Epic Fantasy by Stephen C. Merlino.

In The Jack of Souls by Stephen C. Merlino, Harric lives his last day knowing the curse on his family will be his undoing. An outcast and a rogue he begins having nightmares about his upcoming death. He has no intention of giving in; he knows that he will survive, but how?

He has some allies but they too are outcasts. Caris is a horse-whispering runaway, she is planning on becoming one of the Queens female knights, but she also feels she must help Harric survive. She is strong and bigger than even most men, but she is also very shy, comfortable only around her horses.  Then there is Sir Willard, he was once immortal and a champion, but had given it up, but is now addicted to pain-killing herbs. With their help Harric plans on keeping the curse from killing him.

Each of his compatriots has their own secrets, Caris is haunted and Willard wars with the Old Ones, an order of knights who have become immortal and mad. They have every intention of seizing the throne from the Queen, and Willard is desperate to save her.

Yet these are his allies and his friends and together they must find a way to eliminate the curse, and save their Queen.  Yet Harric is now faced with a magic that could break his curse, one that is forbidden. Can he stay focused and not fall into the temptation, for that way too leads to danger and possible death.

As they work their way through the dangers he finds more than he anticipated, including a love that is more than he ever expected. He must tread a path of duplicity and utilize his tactics to save them all from the dangers that face them.

The characters are an eclectic and amazing array of good and bad, with issues that seem both real and honest.  The depth of description helps you to visualize them as well as get into the minds assigned to them by the author. They become very real, like your own friends and advisers. The story too is bold and epic, a journey to safety and romance, but a journey of growth and courage as well.

You will find yourself immersed in the characters and the countryside as they travel to find the answers. Be prepared to spend some time because once started you will find it difficult to put down.  And even as you do put is down, you continue to think and worry about them, each with the situations they must overcome.

If you enjoy epic fantasy, magic, immortality and a mixture of the things that go bump in the night this will be the work you need for your library. For the romantic there is also fodder for your heart, for the dedication and courage that shines forth creates a corresponding glow in your own heart.

Stephen C. Merlino is an author to watch.
Rating 5/5

Stephen Merlino

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Noise by Grett Garcia Rose

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Noise" A Story of Vengeance by Brett Garcia Rose.

In Noise by Brett Garcia Rose we are introduced to Leon. He is deaf but not in any way disabled. He grew up in the streets of Nigeria as a child, fending for himself and surviving in whatever way he could. Having found a home in the states, he becomes a brother, albeit a foster brother, for the first time. Lily dotes on him and helps him to become a part of his new homeland. As they grow up, she is his best friend and he is her protector. Their relationship is symbiotic; there is nothing that can tear them apart.

When she disappears and he receives a suicide note, he is devastated and tries to overcome his pain. He has found his own way, but she is an integral part of who he is. He is strong and strangely adept at reading lips. His background in Nigeria has made him both strong and merciless if necessary.

She was seventeen to his fifteen and he keeps the note even after all the years since she left him.  He has moved on, making a life for himself but never forgetting Lily’s kindness.  Suddenly his life changes when he receives a post card, one in her handwriting, he is drawn to find her and discover what happened to make her disappear. The heart of New York is cold in the winter, but does not compare to the freeze that begins in his heart as he finds the real reason for her disappearance. Desperate to find her he follows a trail of clues that takes him into the back drops of those who traffic in human flesh.

He now understands he must find the answers and save Lily at all costs. He must find out what happened, but for him to move forward he must make his way through all the danger and corruption thrown in his past. He is merciless and ruthless, leaving a great deal of carnage in his wake, but he promised to protect her so many years ago, and he is delivering on that promise the best way he can.

Is it too late for Lily, can he find her before she is lost to him one more time, more permanently?

This is a work of grit and determination.  Rose has given us a terminator whose flaw of deafness is in no way holding him down or back. He creates a set mind and agenda, which is very rarely deviated from and only due to the happenstance surrounding it. Leon is both likable, and scary, and that makes him a bit of an enigma, for we are often easily able to label people as good or bad.  In Leon, that is a question.

If you enjoy mystery and action, you will find this work interesting and fast paced. 

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group. The question of using force for necessity will create a great focus of discussion.

Rating 4/5