Monday, August 29, 2016

Sea Spell: Book Four of the WaterFire Saga by Jennifer Donnelly.

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book review: 'Sea Spell: Book Four of the Waterfire Saga," A Young Adult Novel by Jennifer Donnelly.

In Sea Spell: Book Four of the WaterFire Saga by Jennifer Donnelly we are taken back into the world begun in Deep Blue, the beginning, and while Sea Spell is the fourth installment  and a carryover, it is well written and makes sense enough to stand on its own.

Our villain Orfeo has waited for thousands of years and has finally found his descendant, Astrid. A strong and proud mermaid, she will join him in his stronghold but will he be able to persuade her to turn against all she knows and accept her birthright? He only knows that he will do what it takes to bring her into his own way of living or she will suffer the consequences.

While Astrid is struggling for her life and sanity and all she holds dear, Ava, is tracking a talisman in the swamps of the Mississippi. Being blind my be the only thing that keeps her safe in a world where the vision of the spirits that live there are death to mermaids and others that chance upon their domain. They both search for the charms that will help them to win the war.

The rest of their group are in Kargjord, with the other resistance fighters and their helpers, the goblins.

They are  preparing for war, and while Serafina is in the lead, she worries if she will ever see the one she loves again. He has put himself at risk to aid her quest. He is her eyes and ears from the inside of their enemy. With his help can they take on Volneros and save the fate of all that is at stake?  When she learns of a spy and assassin in her group, someone that will betray them at the last moment, she understands she must find the traitor at all costs. She must hold the line while her missing friends look for the talismans necessary to help them win before their world and that of all they hold dear is turned upside down and gone forever. Can she keep continue to trust those closest to her, or is one of them the assassin set to take her down?

Donnelly has built a world that is fascinating and feels almost fairy tale like, but with danger and darkness just a bit bolder than remembered in many of those stories of old. The journeys taken and the dangers visited are strong and make you feel the darkness and dread beneath.  Her characters are strong and exciting, and their friendships are solid and are the glue that binds them. Without this strength of relationship it would be difficult to move forward and the trust engendered is the most important piece of the plan. Yet what happens when trust begins to erode?

If you enjoy epic battles, danger, romance and just plain great characters you will love this work. While this work is the last of the series, you will still find it fascinating, and may want to find the first three of The WaterFire Saga. Solid entertainment for your young reader and for the adult who is young at heart, this would be a great book for both. Donnelly takes us to a fascinating world, full of characters and creatures that are very interesting and keep you reading late into the night.

Rating 5/5

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister And The Heir To Chatsworth by Paula Byrne

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Kick: The True Story of JFK's sister and The Heir To Chatsworth,' a Biography by Paula Byrne.

The Kennedy's are a fascinating family and one that evokes both power and nostalgia. One of the clan that is less known but with a life you could only imagine is Kathleen Kennedy, JFK's sister, and the heir to Chatsworth. Known as Kick she is and remains a women who made her way, taking first the U.S. and then England by storm with her incredible persona.

In Kick: The True Store of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth by Paula Byrne we ware taken into the lives once more of the dynamics and tragedies of a family that will intrigue generations to come, and who have left such and indelible mark on history.

Kick left behind a legacy in two different continents, and was beloved by her family and friends. Finding herself as much, and maybe more, at home in England, she breaks taboo with her family and marries a non Catholic. Love was everything, but Kick was also a Kennedy and proud of her background, the decision rocked her own psyche as well as that of her family back home. Little did she know the man she loved would live such a short life.

Yet we find that Kick continues in her indomitable way, and later finds a passion that even she cannot escape. The story that unfolds holds you immobile as you try to come to terms, as we have had to for so many of this famous and historical family struck by such staggering losses.

Byrne brings us an understanding of one of the lesser known characters, a woman who lived life on her own terms.  Along with this telling we are brought even closer to older brother Joe Jr., as well as the family member most like herself, JFK. There is so much beauty and thought, as well as drama and despair you will find this work very difficult to put down.

If you feel like you know all there is to know about this family, you may find this work to show you the error of your thoughts. If you are as infatuated with the family and their history, then this is a work that will be important to your library. Historical and filled with fact and events as they unfold, you will not be disappointed.

This would be a great book for a book club or reading group. The Kennedy family has always found a way to create interesting debate and discussion.

Rating 5/5

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brain Storm: A Angela Richman, Death Investigator Novel by Elaine Viets

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Brain Storm', A Angela Richman, Death Investigator Novel by Elaine Viets.

Brain Storm by Elaine Viets is a medical and forensics thriller with a twist. Angela Richman is a Death Investigator and the person who is called in when a death occurs, one of the first there to view the scene and decipher all the clues. Her expertise makes her one of the top in her field and she is relied on to help find the truth.

When she is called in to work on a car crash that kills a teenager, she is just getting into the investigation and suddenly her own life takes a strange turn. In the middle of her investigation she suffers a bizarre series of strokes and as she is rushed to the hospital where she is initially misdiagnosed, putting her life and career at risk. Dr. Gravois is the resident neurologist who fist attends her, with his diagnosis causing further possible damage. When she is finally attended by another neurosurgeon, Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt, she is finally diagnosed correctly, but faces a long and painful recovery. The drugs she takes are strong and hinder much of her thinking, but finally there is at least the possibility of recovery.

Yet while she is under the influence of many lifesaving drugs, she is also addled and hallucinating, making her question everything she sees and hears. When Dr. Gravois is murdered, she finds out the chief suspect is the surgeon who saved her life. While she can't be sure, she just does not believe that he would kill anyone. But there are none standing for him, he is not a person who generates friends or closeness, and he has also had many serious disagreements with Dr. Gravois in the past about his work. She feels like she may be his only hope, but her brain trauma makes her question her own instincts and she is not sure she will ever recover her investigative skills. However, she knows she must take a chance, she may be the only one who can find the truth and save Dr. Tritt from death-row.

Yet even as she looks for clues, there are those who make everything she thinks and says suspect. They question her thoughts and feelings, creating doubt even in those that know her the best. Is her mind still able to offer the skill-set to find the answers to what really happened? She must find a way to trust herself and fine tune her arsenal of knowledge before it is too late. Can she get her own team to back her, and get her bosses to buy into her investigation, when they too worry about her mental status.

Viets has brought us a protagonist who goes from the top of her game, to a darkness all her own. She is unwilling to allow her own problems to stand in the way of rightness, and while she may never be back to who she was before the strokes, she is willing to put it all on the line for truth and justice. Her flaws and strength make her very human, and her belief in justice at all costs makes her a strong fighter and someone you want very much to believe in.

If you enjoy crime drama, forensics and even medical drama this work holds just enough of each to keep you riveted. Angela Richman is a great character, one we may be looking forward to in future editions.

This would be a great work for a book club, creating a great deal of discussion.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Blood On The Tracks by Barbara Nickless

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Blood On The Tracks,' A Thriller by Barbara Nickless.

In Blood On The Tracks by Barbara Nickless, We are introduced to Special Agent Sidney Rose Parnell. She is a Railroad crimes Special Investigator, brought in to investigate the murder of a woman who appears to have died at the hands of her fiancĂ©. He is a war vet who lived through serious injuries that scarred him enough that he is known on the rail rider circuit as the Burned Man.  As she begins her investigation she has her own history of war and memories too painful to contemplate.

Parnell and her K9 partner Clyde move into the underground world of the rail riders, those who move from place to place via the railroad. It is a world of danger and savagery, and soon she finds there may be more at work then anyone may know. Uncovering a conspiracy and other crimes that may be linked to it, she finds herself in the middle of danger that puts herself and all she believes in at risk. Can she find the real truth and exonerate a man who has already given so much for his country. His pain and anguish make him stay aloof to her help, but she must find a way to gain his trust in order to help him claim his innocence of the murder of the one woman who believed in him and looked past his surface scarring. A woman who understood him and was ready to marry him. But also a woman who knew a secret that could take down a man in power, one who was willing to risk everything to hide a deadly secret in his own past.

Could Parnell gain The Burned Man's trust and save them both from the savagery of the real truth.

Nickless has given us characters that are both repelling and yet in some cases, decent at heart. She takes us into the danger of those who have nothing and are willing to kill to stay alive, and she makes you feel the fear and desperation in a way that makes you turn on the lights and pull the curtains as you read. She brings us both the Burned Man and Special Agent Sidney Rose Parnell, two of those who have seen war and survived in their own manner. Parnell's K9 partner, Clyde, is just icing on the cake to keep you involved to the very end.

If you enjoy suspense and thrillers then you will want to find this work for your library. It is full of  the suspense that holds you on the edge of your seat, and it also provides a ribbon of bravery and hope with a host of anger and feelings that keep the intensity strong.

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group with a great deal of information that would create robust dialogue and debate.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In The Clearing by Robert Dugoni

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'In The Clearing,' A Thriller by Robert Dugoni.

With the advent of several Television shows, cold cases, or unsolved crimes hold an interest to anyone who enjoys police shows, forensic files and all the other types of police work that is conducted in an investigative manner.

In The Clearing by Robert Dugoni we follow Detective Tracy Crosswhite, a young woman who has dedicated her career to bringing closure to families of crime.

When she is asked to look into a case from forty years previous, she is intrigued. Her father, a detective at that time, was the investigating deputy and collected what evidence he could. A Native American high school girl died and her death was ruled as suicide. Tracy's father though thought otherwise, but was unable to find the proof necessary for justice. Pulling this cold case, Tracy feels that she may have a great start, for she feels she will do well at deciphering her fathers collected evidence.

As she follows the leads and tries to stir the memories of a small town, she finds that secrets hold their own allure. Can she find the answer to the suspicious death, or will she struggle to find the truth behind all the red herrings. Can she find the truth without raising old ghosts the could very well put her own life at risk.

Dugoni has created a stirring and grisly death, locking it up to suicide, even when the evidence shows otherwise. His characters are so real, and the small town atmosphere creates just a bit of credence to the secrecy of those involved. The students and friends of the young woman who died seem reluctant, and a few are dead themselves as we are taken into the darkness of lies and secrets. There are those that will go to great lengths to keep the real story from coming to life. Tracy Crosswhite is a character who keeps you following her logic as she tries to piece her story together, and even as she stumbles,she finds a way to move on.

If you enjoy murder mysteries, thrillers, investigation, and cold cases this would be a terrific work for your library. There is just a bit of darkness and creepy tendrils of fear that run beneath the surface, keeping you looking over your shoulder as you continue your reading. Dugoni has brought us another thriller to had to your collection

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

Rating 4/5

Monday, August 15, 2016

Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep by Michael Schulman

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep,' a Biography by Michael Schulman.

Meryl Streep is one of the most talented actors today. Nominated for nineteen Oscars and winning three, she continues to dominate in a field of younger talent.

In Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep by Michael Schulman we learn of Meryl's earlier years as well as the trials and tribulations of her youth coming up in the talent industry. We first meet her in the 70's as a graduate of Yale Drama School. Looking for her place among a crowd of young talent, she seemed a world apart from the many others new on the scene, much like she does today.

Even in her first season she was able to transform herself into the very characters she played, making a name for herself early on. She drew attention where ever she went especially in the theaters, winning back to back attention in plays as well as several roles in Shakespeare in the park, while others were still looking for their own breaks.

People began to notice her and when she was in the room the conversation was often about her, and the way she dominated the scene. Nominated for a Tony Award early in her career, it was obvious to those in the know that she would move on to greater fame.

This is a wonderful look at Meryl Streep as she finds her way and becomes the actress we know her as today.

Schulman takes us into the past and gives us the story of the making of a legend, from her beginnings as a gifted young woman to her exploits, and life as she makes the decisions that have shaped her into the successful actor she is today.

If you enjoy the theater of Meryl Streep this is a must have for your library. If you enjoy stories of success and talent then you will want to add this to your reading list. This is the story of a woman who set her mark early in the industry of her choice and Schulman is gives us a wonderful look at her beginnings and story behind the legend.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'In Twenty Years,' A Novel by Allison Winn Scotch.

College is a time to stretch your wings, meet new people and chose a direction in life. The friendships made during this time often last a lifetime. Yet there are times that we also lose touch. In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch we follow a group of six friends from Penn State. Twenty years previous when they were all together they were sure their friendships would last. Held together by Bea, the one they all connected to, life seemed as magical as it could be.

Yet when she dies, the group splinters, they are now leaderless and the ties no longer seem to be enough to hold them. Each find themselves estranged, holding old grudges and feelings they have buried that helps to separate them from the easy camaraderie they once shared.

After twenty years they have agreed to meet again, the five remaining friends on the eve of what would have been Bea’s 40h birthday. They have all made their way in life and it is with great reluctance they meet. However, such was her influence upon them their promise to Bea twenty years prior binds them to this reunion.

Not knowing what will happen at this meeting, especially without their leader, they soon find they must confront their past, and come to terms with each other in order to heal and move forward. Even with her death, and the pain that came with it, Bea holds them as if she were still there. Can they find the glue that binds them and make the peace that seems to be what their old friend and ally Bea has expected from them even in death?

Scotch has given us a group of friends whose lives have grown and evolved over the years. Allowing hurts and grudges against each other they have unraveled their bond, which makes them very human. She takes us into their lives as well as that of Bea as they travel on the road that destroyed their trust. The telling evokes tears and joy as well as sadness and death. You will find yourself immersed in this group as they come to terms with their own feelings. Scotch pulls us into her story and the outcome seems to be one we need for ourselves.

If you enjoy literary excellence and friendships that last a lifetime, you will want this book for your library. If you enjoy drama and love this will fit the bill.

This would be a great book for both a Reading group or Book club with a great deal of information to decipher and debate.

Rating 4/5

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Memory of Us,' A Novel by Camille Di Maio.

In The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio, we are introduced to Julianne Westcott, the only child of a
wealthy family. She lives a dream life of money, gowns, and dances, as well as young men wanting to escort her about town. When she uncovers a secret that has been hidden from her, she suddenly sees life in a different manner. This secret changes her life, for she has found a brother, blind and deaf, whom her parents have hidden away in an institution since his birth. Her life suddenly looses its luster and seems pale in comparison to the life of others that surround her.

Choosing to visit with her brother in secret, she meets a young man , Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic gentleman working the grounds of the institution while studying to become a priest. Kyle is the only one who seems able to break through her brother’s barrier, and they have formed a friendship. The meeting is a distraction for them both, and Julianne finds herself falling in love, knowing she will have to soon make a choice. Kyle too must decide, and his choice is even more difficult.

War is on the horizon and creates a deadly shadow that changes their world as the Blitz strikes at the very foundation of England. Julianne is caught in the middle and an accident that changes her life makes her decision more intense. She chooses to leave everything behind, and devote herself to those in need while in every case hiding her identity to protect her loved ones left behind.

Yet there is often light after the darkness and she finds that there may be a way forward from the deceit and damage of her past. Can she find her way clear to becoming the woman she once was?

Di Maio gives us a tough and challenging romance, as well as a chilling rendition of how war tears apart more then the structure of cities, but lives as well. Her characters are a great mix of strength and reserve with just a bit of uncertainty and flaws, that make them very real and easy to relate to. She takes us on a journey into war-torn England and the lives of some who have been dealt some savage blows. The intensity and courage keep you enthralled and reading far into the night.

If you enjoy historical novels, romance, and tales of war you will find this to be a great book for your library. The characters and circumstances stay with you long after the book is finished, leaving you wanting more.

This would be a great work for a reading group or book club with a great deal of interest and discussion available for debate.

Rating 5/5