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