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