Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pleasantville by Attica Locke

Posted first to blog Critics as Book Review: 'Pleasantville,' A Novel of suspense by Attica Locke.

Attica Locke takes us into a shadowy world full of money, lies and secrets in her newest novel, Pleasantville. For Jay Porter, after a case that defines his career in the past, he finds himself both broke and tired. Because of all the appeals in his case, he has not seen a dime. That also holds true for his clients who are beginning to get restless. Fifteen years is a long time to believe in a promise. His newest case representing Pleasantville, is taking time as well, and he is ready to be done. He wants to spend time with his children.

When a female campaign volunteer disappears on the night of the Mayoral election, he finds himself with another client. This client is the nephew and campaign manager for one of the candidates. As all the signs point to his guilt, can Jay dig deep within his own wilting strength to find the answers and help guide the police who are quick to judgment on the case, in the right direction?

As he moves to make his mark, slowly and inexorably someone is working behind the scenes to take over his most promising case and many of his clients who have become close to him over the years as they continue to fight corporate greed. This is the one case that can help him reach his goals, but with his embroilment in his new work he has missed the signs of unrest.

Can he deliver on his promises and get his clients what they deserve before his reputation is gone for good, and can he save a young man from a crime he did not commit?  Everything is beginning to point to the possibility of the cases being related. Can he find the answers before it is too late?

Locke has created a group of characters that are irascible and likable. Along with them she has also given us those who have an unsavory edge, always looking for the bottom line uncaring of human cost. She creates pressure and tenseness by introducing just how easy it is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But there is also that question of ‘what if.’ You are lead to believe in a certain way, but without having all the facts, the answer may be the wrong one.

Jay Porter is a hero with a very human face. His life was once about money but time has changed him, he is there to fight for his clients many of who now number his friends. He is flawed as most are but his depth of personality draws you in. Locke creates an unlikely underdog, one that you grow quite fond of as you follow his exploits.

If you enjoy legal mysteries and suspense then this is the work for you. Full of red herrings and questions you find yourself wondering if you have missed the most obvious of clues. Locke takes us into the background of money and shows us the shadowy underbelly.

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

Rating 4/5

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Sugar' by Deirdre Riordan Hall.

In Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall we meet a young woman named Sugar Legowski-Gracia. Food is now a part of who she is, and while she is not as big as her mama, she is certainly on her way. Her mom is so heavy she no longer gets out of bed, and she is mean. Nothing that Sugar does is right, and even though she waits on her taking care of her, her mom is ungrateful.

Her brother is even worse, he is heavy, rude and crude, and his attitude even outdoes that of their mother. Life seems nothing but downhill.

When Sugar meats Even, his father was illiterate so the spelling is correct, she has her first opportunity to have a friend that sees her, not her weight, but the real her. As their friendship builds, Sugar finds that she has more control; she begins to think of the future, something that has always seemed beyond her.

Can she become the girl that Even sees beyond the mirror? She must decide soon or sink into the mire that has become her role in the family.

Hall gives us characters that are quite real. As you delve into her work you think back to those you have met, and you can see the same circumstances and personalities of some people in your own past. The hopelessness of the situation draws you in, making you feel the pain of rejection.

Introducing Even, a young man who looks deeper than most, she creates a shift in the reality of the darkness consuming her title character. You can feel a weight lifted, as hope and joy begin to bud. At the same time, strength must be found for to go against family and move in a differing direction takes fortitude.

If you enjoy literary works that make you think, works that create hope and courage, you will find this to be a great read. Hall has taken us into the mindset of lost hope and grief, and shown us around, while bringing us the light to see our way clear.

This would be a great book for a reading group or a discussion group. There is a great deal of controversial dialogue available.

Rating 4/5

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Orient by Christopher Bollen

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Orient,' A Suspense by Christopher Bollen. 

In Orient by Christopher Bollen, we are introduced to a small town on Long Island. The wealthy from Manhattan have discovered the area and because of that the costs of housing has skyrocketed. Many of the new people are artists, but there are also those that have dug in and refuse to lose their homes to those who are trying now to oust them.

Things become unthinkable when a body is found in the water surrounding the area, and the same day a strange deformed animal corpse is also found on the beach. The rumors abound about the type of work being done in a nearby research lab. As the talk begins, Mills, a young orphan from the West with no ties to the town is suddenly looked at with suspicion. Beth, one of the original natives of Orient asks for his help in uncovering the truth of what is happening.

Bodies begin to pile up as all eyes begin to focus on Mills, he is the stranger and it is only after his appearance that the strange happenings begin to gather strength. Can he and Beth find the answers before it is too late? Already he is targeted, and has nowhere else to turn.

Bollen has given us a story of greed and suspense. Using the fear of the unknown and taking advantage of the local’s gossip he has given us a great cast of suspects as well as individual characters that make you wonder. As each character is filled in, he takes you just a smidgen further creating your own worry about what and who they are.

As the deaths continue to occur, he takes you further as you follow his characters of Beth and Mill as they transverse danger while they both try to keep Mills out of the clutches of the police. All eyes are pointed at him, and Beth feels there is more below the surface. The author creates that feeling of you being a part of that struggle to find the answers.

If you enjoy suspense and mystery you will find this an admirable addition to your library. Add a dose of quirky and absurd and you will find this to be interesting and a bit off kilter. Bollen crates a novel of tragedy and suspense holding you enthralled to the very end.

Rating 4/5

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Kindness, A Novel by Polly Samson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:' The Kindness,' A Novel by Polly Samson.

Author, Polly Samson, has given us a romance in real terms, one that follows the course of the most basic human characteristics. The Kindness takes us into a romance of passion and need, one that ends one relationship but begins anew in a whole new exciting desire and obsession.

Julian cannot take his eyes off Julia, his brief glimpse of her flying a hawk, has captured his imagination and passion. Searching to find her he is lost as he realizes he may never see her again. Chance brings them back into contact, and it is here that she too realizes the connection. Living an unhappy life, she is ready for more, and Julian is just the one she feels she has been looking for.

Together in London, their happiness only grows with the advent of a daughter, Mira. She completes the circle of love in a way that seems unbreakable.

When Julian has the chance to buy his remote boyhood home, he decides that all they need now is paradise, and he aims to please. His own blindness in the feelings of those around him only makes things more difficult. When Mira becomes ill, he finally learns the truth, a secret that changes everything.

Samson has given us ‘true to life’ characters with feelings. She creates the personalities in such a way that it is difficult to dislike them, creating your own ideas of what is truly going on. She has given us a haunting story of pleasure, disappointment, and family, one that immerses you into their journey.  She sprinkles it with grief and betrayal and in her masterful style she delivers a reconciliation of sorts.

This is a work of mystery and romance, of truth and trust, one that evolves and moves in waves of feelings. You think you understand and yet she plots the story so well that you are taken aback at the final reveal. If you are looking for that special book for your library this is the one.

The Kindness by Polly Samson would be a great book for a reading or book club. The depth and creative flaws of the characters will create a strong dialogue.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Joan of Arc, A History by Helen Castor

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: "Joan of Arc,' A History by Helen Castor.

The past is a fascinating way to discover our roots as well as learn about those that have come before us. There is an interest in the history of many cultures, religion, the saints and all the things that have altered the history of the world.

In Joan of Arc by Helen Castor we are taken into the world of a young woman who not only changed the course of history but was labeled first an outlaw and then a saint. There are many works about Joan of Arc and if you have an interest in her back ground you will be amazed at the gathering of information for this particular tome.

Castor has done a bit of deconstructing and creating a history of the period that takes us not just into the story of Joan of Arc, but of the times to help show how important the advent of Joan and why it was so important.  Knowing what was happening and how it all came about brings the fiery and committed Maid or Orleans into stark relief.

A young woman self-proclaimed to be chosen by God to lead the French to freedom, she is stalwart and brave in a way that defies women of the time.  The fact the a King and his army would follow that advice of a girl, for that is what she was, both young and maidenly, is a testament to her passionate belief that she is guided by god.

Castor is able to take us into the life of a young peasant girl who hears the voice of God, and leads the French army into victory. Burned at the stake for heresy, she is later validated through those who kept the faith and knew of her victories and believed her story, as she finally becomes a saint.

If you enjoy history and have even a passing interest in Joan of Arc, you will find this an amazing read. This is a story of truth from the histories and journals of the times that tells like fiction and yet is known to be true. You learn of the girl and her life as well as her passionate belief in God. This is truly one of the best histories I have encountered. Her years were short yet her battles were epic, and she, through her faith accomplished what others could not, to drive the English from France and reset the French King on the throne.

This would be a great book for a reading club; the discussion surrounding the material would be abundant.

Rating 5\5

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa De La Cruz

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: "The Isle of the Lost, A Descendants Novel by Melissa De La Cruz.

Fairy-tales are coined with a look at both good and evil. The characters and the enchantments as well as the personalities are the crux of how the story moves forward.

In The Isle of the Lost by Melissa De La Cruz she introduces us to the descendants of the fairy-tales of old. At some point all the evil characters were gathered up and put on an island locked down by magic. Here they continued their hijinks but only amongst themselves. The strongest became the most disliked and as time passed on, the children born of these villains are now just growing up.  While many of them have some of the same quality as their parents, there is a bit of a difference as well. Because of their interaction with other children they actually have a bit of hidden nice, and are in some cases very afraid of their own parents.

On A landfall not too far away all those of good are having their own problems. Magic has been outlawed, life is almost boring, and the fairest has way too much competition. The children here are also growing, wondering why magic is so wrong, and often privately discussing the rumors of an enchanted isle hidden in the world. Wanting to try out simple magic is against the law and a bit of rebellion–quite nice mind you– is underway.

What will happen if ‘forever after’ ends for the Isle of the Lost?

De La Cruz takes us on a fascinating journey into the lives and legends of the fairy-tales we remember. The offspring of the evil characters are a wonderful mix of ingenuous and bold, with slightly fearsome characteristics as they try to be more like their parents, yet find it uncomfortable as the more evil they act the less friends they have. Friends are important for children.  As they try to find a way into their parent’s graces, you will discover yourselves enamored of Mal, Evie, Jay and Carlos, the children of Maleficent, Evil Queen, Jafar, and Cruella De Vil. They will keep you captivated with their antics.

On the other side of the rift you will begin so see a shift in thinking as well, is it possible that there must be some evil in the world to balance out the boredom?

If you enjoy fairy-tales deconstructed and re-engineered you will find this a fun and frolicsome treat. A wonderful young adult novel it is still a treat for those who remember the stories and the young at heart.  Set as the beginning of a series, ‘The Isle of the Lost’ will take you back into memories of your own childhood. De La Cruz works her usual magic to help us see things that open other doors of other worlds.

Rating 4\5