Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Address by Fiona Davis

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Address,' A Novel by Fiona Davis.

In The Address by Fiona Davis, the opportunity to move to, and work in New York City at the Dakota, a newly built apartment for the wealthy is too wonderful to resist. Sara Smythe comes to the attention of the architect, Theodore Camden in the most unlikely of ways. She saves one of his three children to the gratification of both he and his wife. To be a female manager in 1884 was certainly an unheard-of feat, yet such an opportunity would build her life, and put her closer to Theo, the man who changed that life.

One hundred years later we meet Bailey Camden, She has been stripped of everything, a former interior designer, drugs became her way of life. Rehab has brought her back but now she must rely on others to help her through. Homeless and without any prospects she must lean on her cousin Melinda. She is the biological great granddaughter of Theodore Camden. Melinda is set to inherit the Camden fortune which includes the Dakota. Melinda allows Bailey to oversee the renovation of her apartment, the very apartment where Theodore himself resided.

Agreeing to the task, Bailey is nevertheless distressed by the thought of changing the character and history of such a wonderful building. This is the room where Theodore Camden resided after being stabbed by a former employee, Sara Smythe. Sara was later found guilty and put in an insane asylum.
As Bailey begins her work, little does she realize that her life will turn upside down one more time. There is a secret that others are willing to do anything to keep it from getting out. The tension builds as she begins to decipher the clues to the mystery of the past.

Davis takes you deep into the past and gives us a story of courage, bravery, love and revenge. But loss is also included, with a touch of grief that permeates the narrative. Her characters are very real, and the situation builds suddenly, dragging you in deeply, and forcing you to choose sides. Davis gives us the beauty and wonder of the time. Yet there is also a danger and darkness, willing to create chaos.

You are taken into the wonder of New York in the past, and treated to the beauties the helped to make it the city it has become. The unfolding narrative becomes just one of the stories that are scattered throughout the history of the city, but one that holds both hope and danger, keeping you reading deep into the night.

If you enjoy history, mystery, familial interactions and family tree distinctions, you will find this work to be full of all. This work will keep you reading, working to find the mystery and horrified to see how life can often change in just an instant. 

Rating 3/5

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Halo Effect by Anne D. LeClaire

Yet, one day Lucy doesn’t come home. Days later her body is found deep in the woods. The initial pain of the loss brings Will and Sophie together, but Will is angry. He cannot get past the anger and rage of someone taking their daughter. Sophie finds her own way to deal, by getting involved in finding lost children and bringing them home.

They no longer communicate, and the anger only builds. Still, their marriage is not at a crisis point, one that Will does not want. But he is unable to move on.

When Sophie takes a break, and goes to the beach with a friend for the summer, Will suddenly understands that he is driving a wedge between them. Yet, he cannot control the rage that runs through him.

When Father Gervase asks him to paint portraits of the saints for a new cathedral, he is not interested. Yet Father Gervase is insistent. Slowly Will finds interest in the project, and as he chooses those who hold the look of pain, he finds a way to make them shine with saintliness. Unknowingly, his project will take him to places and to meet people that he cannot have imagined.

One of his models possesses something of Lucy’s that she would never part with. Will is incensed, wanting to act before speaking. Yet he finds that there is no guilt in this young student. Little does he know that the evil is lurking very close and that his questions and curiosity which have taken over some of the rage, is bringing the evil to light. Will he find the answer before one of Lucy’s best friends dies?

LeClaire has given us darkness, and evil, but finds a way to grace though the light of love. Her characters are your neighbors and friends, and the circumstances they experience happen all too often. She creates fierce, independent thinkers, and finds a way to tie in the events that shape them all. You grow to know and enjoy the individuals, and begin to understand their pain.

If you enjoy stories of people threaded with suspense and danger, you will find this The Halo Effect fits the criteria. The beauty of the paintings and the interaction with the priest ads a glow of greatness to a darkened soul. The story is dark and yet a twist of lightness shines through giving you hope for those involved.

This would be a great book for a reading group or book club, with lots of interesting thought for debate.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: ' Tips for Living', A Murder Mystery by Renee Shafransky.

In Tips for Living, by Renee Shafransky, we meet Nora, a woman who had the perfect life until the truth came through. Finding out that her husband had an affair was not the worst of it. The fact that he made another woman pregnant, that was the breaking point.

To help rebuild her life and confidence she moves to a small resort town some distance from her previous home in New York City. Here she begins to pick up the shattered pieces of betrayal and hurt. She still understands that all will take time, and that she must get beyond her past. She finds a new job and works to make a name for herself in this new home.

Suddenly the past comes crashing through. Her ex-husband and his new family have bought a home in her new town. Not only that but the new wife has joined her yoga group, and she is now in closer proximity than is comfortable. As her life again begins to swirl downward, a murder occurs that shatters her resolve in such a way that her life once again falls apart.

Who killed her ex-husband and his wife and why does she have no memory of the night it happened? Where did the injuries on her hand and arms come from and why can’t she understand her memory loss?

Trying to hold herself together she becomes a suspect in a crime she is sure she did not commit. Asking questions, she puts herself in the cross-hairs of one who will kill to keep a secret from coming out.

Can she help to find the answers to both the murders and her memory before she becomes a casualty as well? The secrets are layered in piles that hide them among the twigs of truth. Can she free herself from betrayal once again, and help solve the brutal murder of her ex-husband and his wife?

Shafransky does a wonderful job of creating scenarios that create questions and her characters are so real you would believe you know them. Her characterization of them brings you to some that remind you of those you know in your own circles. The realism is quite well done.

If you enjoy murder mysteries and crime stories you will find this a great addition to your library. The work is fast paced and keeps you digging for the truth.

This would be a great work for a reading group or book club with many avenues of discussion.

Rating 3/5

Friday, October 27, 2017

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Reviews: 'When We Were Worthy, ' A Novel by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen.

Tragedy and secrecy often come together, whether for good or bad. Ignorance is not always bliss as deep-seated secrets only delay healing. In When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen we are introduced to a small Georgia town and its inhabitants.

The school plays a big part in the lives of those who live there, and sports are the glue that holds it together. So, on the night of a big win, everyone is horrified when three girls from the cheerleading squad are killed in a collision. The boy who had been driving the vehicle that struck their car, is held responsible for their deaths.

There is a very big question revolving around why, Leah, the forth cheerleader was not with them. As rumors and grief threaten to overwhelm the families of all involved, secrets begin to leak to the surface. As parents such as Marglyn, mom to one of the cheerleaders, and Darcy, mom of the boy standing accused, at opposite sides of the spectrum, try to find answers, town members find themselves taking sides.

Why wasn’t Leah, there, she has her own secrets, and why are there now rumors swirling around Ava, a substitute teacher? How can the truth help to set free the hurt and anger threatening to tear the town apart?

Whalen has taken us into the heart of small town America and shown us both the best and the worst that can happen during tragedy. Torn from the headlines of many stories we hear on the news, this is a sad and tragic work that speaks to the damage that can occur with gossip and secrets and the lengths some will go to in an effort to hide their past.

You care about the characters and their flaws and secrets are as real as those of the people you interact with daily. It is the tragedy that creates the danger, and the secrets that someone is trying to hide that make it all so senseless.

If you enjoy drama and suspense, you will find this a great read. When We Were Worthy will enhance your library and be a great find for those who enjoy drama and emotions, taking you into the thought and feelings that often result from tragedy. Whalen also brings light to the demons of youth and helps us to understand the dangers that face our children as they try to reach their potential.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Child Finder By Rene Denfeld

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Child Finder', A Novel by Rene Denfeld. 

Children are some of the most vulnerable human beings. They often go missing or disappear without a trace. Some are found, and many are not, creating loss and turmoil in homes and families that change the core pattern of their lives. In The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, we meet Naomi, a young woman known as the child finder.

She has no past she can fully remember, but she knows that she must never give up on finding those who are lost. She is methodical, and strangely knowing of how to move forward. She is often the last hope of those to have come close to giving up.

Madison Culver disappeared three years ago when her parents were in the wilderness looking for a Christmas tree. She was there, and then she wasn’t. Naomi learns that Madison would have been eight years old now, and is relentless in her pursuit of answers.

In a strange dilapidated old cabin, deep in the wilderness we also meet Snow Girl, a child transformed by the weather, and captured by a deaf-mute trapper in the woods. She is sure of herself, yet understands that her safety is tied to making sure the man who made her out of snow remains trusting and sure of her as she as she finds her own way. Snow Girl is smart and resourceful, writing fairy tales to keep herself occupied.

Is she the missing child, and if so, can the child finder track her down? Will their worlds collide and bring about the safety and release of both? Naomi has her own past, one that drives her to look, a dream that keeps her moving to find those missing. And who is the trapper that no one really seems to know?

Denfeld brings us a tale of growth and loss, one of danger and stress. She tells the story from both sides, alternating between different character’s voices as the drama unfolds. The story takes you forward on a fast-paced search and recovery, one that keeps you turning the pages. Imminent danger is palpable, keeping you reading, while the mystery is deep and full of angst and loneliness. Danger and urgency are the prevailing worries.

If you enjoy mystery, romance, danger and some darkness you will love this story. This work takes you on a journey and keeps you turning the pages until the truth comes out. The characters will stay with you a long time.

The Child Finder would be a great work for a reading or discussion group, with a great deal of information to discuss and debate.

Rating 5/5

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: The Half-Drowned King,' An Epic Novel by Linnea Hartsuyker.

War and salvage have long been in the world. The days of these tales live on in songs and novels as well as history. In The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker, we are taken into the past as it pertains to the areas of Norway and its surroundings.

We are taken on an epic tale of danger, growth, romance and tragedy as we travel into a past full of Vikings and warriors, as they determine who will oversee the land and how it will affect them all. We follow Ragnvald, the son of a murdered king, and his sister Svanhild as they strike out each on their own to find their way, with each wanting nothing more than their birthright. While Ragnvald seeks fame and glory as well as revenge, Svanhild would like nothing more than to be loved.

Ragnvald has seen a vision of a Golden Wolf, and is determined to make that vison come to pass. He is still both hurt and angered by an incident where his own murder was sought by his stepfather as well as that of a neighboring King. That King’s son, Solvi, was tasked with the murder, and while he tried, he failed. Ragnvald cannot forget. Unbeknownst initially of this betrayal, his sister Svanhild meets and falls in love with Solvi.

When Ragnvald is away, preparing an army for war, Svanhild is taken and wed to Solvi. This is something the Ragnvald cannot allow, and he vows to kill Solvi, and take back his sister. How can revenge trump love, and how can there be any ending to such a task except further tragedy.

Hartsuyker takes us into a world of danger, secrecy, revenge, and glory, as well as savagery and romance. Her characters are amazingly likable with both their own faults and shortcomings as well as a solid dose of common sense. You are drawn to both sister and brother as their paths appear to merge, and you feel a hurtful tension knowing that both are in pain, and yet each has their own idea of what will set it right. In a world so set by visions of glory and revenge, who will prevail? This is a great epic tale that will play on for some time and you will be enthralled by the nuances.

If you enjoy history, epic tales of glory, romance, tales of courage, revenge and war you will find this to be a great read. Be ready to be drawn in and begin rooting for those you feel are in the right, which will be different for each reader.

You will enjoy this work of fiction that draws from bits and parts of history, tales, imagination and superstitions.

Rating 3/5

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer on East End: Double Eclipse by Melissa De La Cruz

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: In Summer on the East End: Double Eclipse,' A Young Adult Novel by Melissa De La Cruz.

The Witches of East End” series keeps growing with the introduction of twin witches, Mardi and Molly Overbrook. In Summer on the East End: Double Eclipse by Melissa De La Cruz, we are introduced to this new duo, as they begin their vacation in the home of their Aunt Ingrid. With their father being Thor, the god of Thunder, they have a great deal of responsibility to just staying out of trouble.

Trouble though has a penchant of following those who live among the gods and goddesses, and they are no different. When they learn a secret from their past, they begin to question everything they know about their family. Along with the secret also comes a strong and mysterious prophecy, one that seems to drag them deeper than imagined into both the past and future.

Mardi’s boyfriend Tyr, is the god of war, while Molly is still on her own. Yet things begin to change as danger begins to follow them, putting both themselves and their family at risk. Then a hot new guy comes to town and suddenly everything heats up even further, as both girls find they will need to use their magic as danger mounts, putting them and all they love at risk.

The vacation finds them back to their mischievous ways, and takes them in directions they never imagined.

De La Cruz stirs up the imagination with her newest work on the Witches of East End and her new and emerging young witches. She builds a story of romance, suspense and danger, setting a sizzle to the atmosphere.

Her characters are very likable, each with distinct personalities, and feelings. As with most twins they squabble and fight but allow no one to stand between them. This is a great addition to her series and another terrific read for your young adult.

If you are looking for the right book for your young reader, or if you enjoy a romantic work with danger and fun attached this is just the right book for your library. De La Cruz gives us another solid hit for her Witches of East End cast and ensemble.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Idea of You ,' a Romance by Robinne Lee.

Love comes where it will and not always with permission. In The Idea of You by Robinne Lee, Solene Marchand finds her life just where she wants it, she is friends with her ex-husband, she has a wonderful daughter, and her art gallery is thriving. When she takes her daughter Isabelle to her favorite boy band, she feels like the journey will make them even closer. That is very important to her since the divorce.

What she does not expect is the attraction she feels for one of the members of the band. Her daughter is smitten, as is usual, but Solene is in her late thirties, she is above such antics. Yet the attraction seems to go both ways. Intrigued and concerned, she embarks on a series of trysts, telling herself that it is just chemistry yet the situation grows into a genuine relationship, one that helps her to gain a sense of herself that she had thought gone forever.

Yet trouble is ever close as rumors and the madness of the media, begin to shine a light on her journey. She begins to realize how her own chance at happiness can now imperil all that she holds dear. How will her daughter take such a perceived betrayal, when she herself is attracted to members of the band? Can Solene take a chance at happiness if it could ruin her relationship with her daughter, and friends?

Lee gives us a sexy romantic story of a May, December relationship with all the excitement and peril involved. Her characters are spontaneous and bold, but also with a zest for life that is both refreshing and fun. She twists in guilt and remorse, making it hard to separate the woman from the mother, and she finds a way to keep a slight level of friction that is just a bit edgy. You find yourself rooting for both mom and child, hoping for it all to come out right.

If you enjoy a good romance filled with life and passion, you will find this a great read. Lee keeps you on edge wondering which direction Solene will take. This is a work that takes you into the romance of a woman who wants more, yet must find a way to ease the effect on her own family and friends.

This would be a clever work for both a reading or book club, with a great deal of discussion and debate tied in.

Rating 3/5

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The End of Temperance Dare,' A Novel of Suspense by Wendy Webb. 

In The End Of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb, we are introduced to Eleanor Harper. She has become the director of Cliffside Manor, an artist’s retreat. Beginning as a tuberculosis sanatorium in the early years, it has made a name as a retreat for artists. Eleanor knows of the Manor after having done a story on it, as a journalist and crime reporter. When the position became available, she was interested hoping to find a more peaceful job, and very surprised at being chosen.

From the very first night things get off to a strange start; the prior director who had planned on retiring, commits suicide. With such an inauspicious beginning Eleanor finds herself feeling a sense of doom. With her background though she is unwilling to give up the job and moves forward to welcome her first group of artists.

As she meets the group assigned for her first retreat, she begins to wonder what has drawn them all together. She feels that each person was chosen personally by the prior director, but she cannot determine why. There is something eerie and frightful about the building, and some of the rooms. As strange things begin to happen, weird and frightening forces seem to be moving in, putting all the inhabitants at risk. Can she find a way to fight and save them all? Who is Temperance Dare, and why is she out for vengeance.

Webb takes us into the darkness of a secret that has lasted for years. She chooses an old sanatorium, a place where many with tuberculosis end up dying, and develops a story that oozes doom and retribution. She creates a sense of terror from the very beginning with the death of the previous director.

She creates her characters with various strengths and flaws, making is hard to determine just exactly is happening, and she creates a connection between each of them, and someone or something to do with the early years of the sanatorium. The story creates an eerie feeling of impending danger, and keeps you reading with the lights on.

If you enjoy tales of suspense and horror, you will find this a clever work. Webb takes you into the dark places and holds you spellbound with terror.

This would be a terrific book for a reading group

Rating 4/5

Friday, August 11, 2017

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Everything We Keep,' A Mystery by Kerry Lonsdale.

In Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale, we meet Aimee, a young woman whose wedding day has turned into a tragedy of untold proportions. What was to be the beginning of a life with her fiancé James, has become his funeral, turning her life upside down.

As she grieves and tries to come to terms with her loss, she finds an opportunity to open her own coffee shop, something that she had always wanted to do. Somehow things fall into place, and she finds that she can move forward, if she keeps herself busy. Hiring on Ian has helped and her friend Nadia keeps her grounded.

When a mysterious young woman reaches out to her with a secret, she is alarmed. This young woman tells her that James is not dead, but alive and unable to remember who he is. Can she believe this news or could there be some truth to it?

Getting a clue that sets her heart racing, she books a trip to Mexico, which is where James is supposed to be living. She must follow her heart and the clues. What if he is alive, she must know for sure and help him if she can. Little does she know that she will set a cavalcade of danger in motion that could put her and the life she has made, in danger. Is James alive, and can she find a way to reach the answers to his disappearance without risking it all?

Lonsdale gives us a mystery filled with characters both charming and sometimes naïve. You are both captivated and concerned as the story moves through its paces, as Aimee tries to find the clues and then helping bring James back to himself. The story is interesting and fast paced. It keeps you entertained while you find yourself choosing the characters you are looking to champion.

If you like romance and mystery you will find this an interesting read. It radiates the mystery itself as well as mysterious characters who show periodically through the story, keeping you guessing as to what part they play.

This would be an enjoyable book for a book club or reading group with numerous actions and decisions that would create great dialogue.

Rating 3/4

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Language of Solitude by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: ' The Language of Solitude,' a Mystery by Jan-Philipp Sendker

China is a land of mystery to most. News and books can only give us a glimpse into those mysteries. In The Language of Solitude by Jan-Philipp Sendker, we are once again given another look into the intricacies of China and the life of those who call it home.

Paul, a journalist is just beginning to believe that Hong Kong is the place he determines to call home. In love with Christine Wu, he is beginning to overcome the tragedy in his past, one that has driven him away from all those he knew before.
Christine is a cipher, quiet and reserved and yet passionate. She has drawn him from the darkness of his past, while at the same time, having secrets of her own.

When she unexpectedly receives a letter from her brother, whom she has not seen since she was a child, she and Paul decide it is time to understand the secrets behind her own life. What they find is a grown man with sadness and problems all his own. Her brother’s wife is extremely ill, and his own health, is not the greatest, leaving their care up to his daughter.

Paul’s journalistic background sees a story and his compassion for people draws him in. Christine must head back to her own job, while Paul decides to find some answers.

With a country stark in tradition, and full of all the histories that create the mysteries of China, can Paul find answers without raising sleeping lions. Unable to turn away, he finds the sometimes many secrets are deadly, while some can set you free. Can he help those in need without waking the danger of the past?

Sendker does a wonderful job of taking us into the beauty and wonder of China, yet outlining the dangers of stepping into the past, for turbulence and fear is just below the surface. The depth of journalist investigation is brought to life, with the interest in how difficult the truth is to find. Many layers of investigation are brought forth, and you almost feel as through this could well be a news article as his character moves forward.

If you enjoy beauty, romance, love and mystery you will find them all in this work. The work is interesting and hold you enthralled through the end.

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

Rating 3/5

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

City Mouse by Stacey Lender

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'City Mouse,' A Novel by Stacey Lender.

The debate often exists…is city living or country living the best.

In City Mouse by Stacey Lender we are given an opportunity to deal with that question from both angles as Aaron, Jessica and their young daughters move out of Manhattan and into suburbia.

For Jessica, she is torn and loves the city, but Aaron wants to find a place where they can raise their youngsters that is safe, and will be better for the family. The hustle and bustle of city life will fade away, and their family will grow as a result.

After much discussion, Jessica finally decides that she is being stubborn and selfish, wanting the excitement of the city, but the closeness of a great family life. However, it isn’t just about the family but the finances as well, it is more expensive to live in the city.

Once they find the house of their dreams in the suburbs, Jessica sets about becoming a part of the group of mothers in the neighborhood. They seem so together, and their connections seem to keep them sane. Wanting to be a part of the community, and knowing that will help form friendships, both for her children, but for herself and Aaron as well, she dedicates time to belonging, and fitting in. Initially all is wonderful, new friends, a settled and less busy schedule, and just an overall feeling of happiness. Sure, she missed the noise and excitement of the city but this too is bliss. Or is it?

She misses Aaron, he is always headed to the city to work, and with the drive time, they do not see him as much. She begins to suspect that her girls are being bullied, and she is beginning to feel a tension within the group that cannot be seen, but simmers just the same.

 She tries to ignore the occasional catty remark, but as time moves forward she finds herself less trusting, and becoming alarmed at the things being said. When she gets caught up in some of the strange, unique situations, a form of blackmail that is used to keep the group in tow, she decides to fill Aaron in on her suspicions. Initially skeptical, he too is finding the living in the suburbs is not as expected. Can they rekindle their own love and trust, and pull the family back together again before it is too late?

If you enjoy human drama, and stories that pull you in, you will find this a great summer read. Lender does a great job of keeping you interested and wanting to know more.

Rating 3/5

Monday, June 26, 2017

Anatomy of Innocence, Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted edited by Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Anatomy of Innocence, Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted,' Edited by Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger.

In Anatomy of Innocence, Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted edited by Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger, we are introduced to a series of injustices. In real exonerations of those who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit, noted authors have compiled cases of those whose stories they have told--both the horrors and the relief of finally being heard. Lives changed and years lost due to lack of investigation, wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes just faulty witnessing.

Some of the best authors of our time, Sara Paretsky, Lee Child and Phillip M. Margolin along with a host of others have come together to compile their interviews and stories of those wrongfully convicted.

As you delve into this work you will find the questions and wonder at the belief in our system of justice. Allowing their faith in the system and their own knowledge of innocence, they continue to strike out at the injustice, alternating between anger, confusion, and in the end the blessing of being found innocent.

Each author uses their own technique to bring the light to life in their interviews and you will enjoy how each is able to capture the true essence of those who have finally found exoneration. You can feel the angst of the person who is in a state of disbelief, and as you follow the road of those who help them find their freedom, you have to wonder how it all goes so wrong in some cases.

Due to the mistakes, the victim in these cases are double fold. Both the initial victim of the crime itself and then the incarceration of the innocent accused. It is difficult to imagine the amount of fortitude it takes to continue trying to clear your name, while there is so much against you. Yet the strength of belief in both their innocence and our just system give them the ability to continue on--to find that one believer in their innocence, the one who can turn the tide.

If you enjoy true crime, you will find this to be very interesting. Each story is separate and yet you can see the many issues that connect as they are finally found innocent.

This work would be just the thing for a reading or discussion group. There is a great deal to discuss and debate.

Rating 3/5

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Mrs. Saint and the Defectives', A Novel by Julie Lawson Timmer.

In Mrs. Saint And The Defectives
by Julie Lawson Timmer, we come to terms with the label ‘Busy Body.’ As you find the spirit of this work through your reading, you will have an opportunity to see just how effective such a person might be.
Markie is a woman who has lost it all, her marriage as well as her financial and professional life. Embarrassed and depressed she packs up and moves with her teenage son to a new town where she can begin again to pick up the pieces of her world, privately. The one problem is an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Saint, that takes it upon herself to help fix whatever problems that she feels or determines that Markie has. Not only that, but she brings in her own group of friends to help.

Markie is both annoyed and disturbed, she wants to move on, and forget her problems. Yet she soon comes to realize that forgetting does not heal the hurt, and with the help of Mrs. Saint, she is able to find a way to cure both her own worries and feelings as well as those of her son.  When she and the other “defectives” find that Mrs. Saint has her own secrets that can threaten her own world, they jump in to find a way to help a woman who goes out of her way to help heal others through her kindness as well as her stubbornness. Can they come together and bring hope to Mrs. Saint as she has, in turn, done for them?

Julie Lawson Timmer has given us a feel-good book full of characters with interesting, fun, and even curmudgeonly, at times, personalities. The problems and solutions are real and she finds a way to bring each character together and create a bond that stems from kindness and caring. Using an older woman of mysterious means, she takes us into the world where hope and friendships create a healing, even for those who do not realize they are in pain.

If you are looking for that feel-good book for light summertime reading this will be a great one to begin your journey. Interesting and heartwarming, you will find yourself reflecting on each character long after reading about them.

This would be a wonderful book for a reading group or book club, full of creative dialogue.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Royally Roma by Teri Wilson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Royally Roma, The Royals Volume: 1' by Teri Wilson.

In Royally Roma by Teri Wilson, we meet a young woman who is trying desperately to change her life, leaving a scandal laden past behind and beginning anew I Rome. Julia Costa has finally found a haven, taking her away from her father’s shadow and the scandal that has affected her own life. She is now working as a tour guide in the beautiful and historical city of Rome.

Due to the news and how it affected her life, she no longer reads the papers and stays away from both television and gossip. Her life is busy with tourists and clients to who she shares her love of the city through tours. When she greets a man who she believes is her next client, she has no idea of the strange adventure that is just beginning.

For, Niccolo La Torre, The Crown Price of Lazaretto, he is at his wits end of ways to keep his younger brother out of the gossip columns. His father relies on him and he is not looking forward to the events that are unfolding and making him feel so out of control of his own destiny. When he finds himself mistaken for a common tourist, he is both intrigued and surprised. Having someone who does not know who he is confounds him, and the young woman with her motorbike is refreshing and outspoken. As his duties close in, and his staff seeks to retrieve him, he decides to disappear for the day, and take Julia’s innocent offer of a tour.

Little do they both understand the events that are set in motion by such a move. Julia has no idea she has the crown prince, claiming to be her client, and the Niccolo has little understanding how his life will soon change in ways that no one can anticipate.

Teri Wilson gives us an adventure and a tour, taking us into the beauties of Rome, and introducing the beginning buds of romance, created by the connection of two people trying to escape their lives. She brings us characters full of strength and passion, with each hiding something from the other. The tension is strong and the passion begins to build as they both flee from the familial ties that bind them.

If you enjoy a solid romance, and the beauty of Rome, you will find this a great summer read. As the situation builds you will find yourselves immersed in the fun and action as the events play out to a satisfying conclusion.

Rating 3/5

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Good Widow,' A Mystery by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke.

In The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, we are introduced to Elementary school teacher, Jacks Morales. Married for eight years, it is with dismay and horror that while on a business trip to Kansas her husband is killed in a fatal car accident. When the policeman come to her door to explain, she believes she has misunderstood the information, as they keep telling her the accident occurred in Hawaii. And further, they shared the news that he was not alone.

After being assured that the information the police had given her was correct, she finds herself blindsided by the horrifying events. While Hawaii is somewhere they had always talked about traveling to, her husband was always too busy with all the trips he was making for his company. Now she wonders just how many of the trips were real and if the agenda was more often to Hawaii, and to spend time with another woman.

While angry, she is also grieving, and it is then she meets Nick, the fiancé of the woman that died with her husband on that fateful trip. Unable to pull herself together, Nick gets her to agree to go to Hawaii so they can follow the clues to the truth. Even when her friends try to tell her she is making a mistake, she takes a leap of faith to try and find answers that make sense. She doesn’t really know Nick, but he too seems quite devastated by the loss of his own loved one.

As they follow an ever confusing path to what is listed as an accident, Jacks slowly comes to the realization that more is at stake than she ever realized. Nothing is as it seems and now even the reason for her husband’s death is suspect. Can she discover clues to the underlying threat she is beginning to feel, before her life too spins out of control?

Fenton and Steinke team up to give you a mystery that has teeth. Their characters are very real and the feelings run deep, giving you the impression that they are actual people, someone that could be in your own life.  She story is haunting, both fascinating and littered with bits of terror. Jack’s gains a wonderful sense of her own power, and it keeps you enthralled as the story moves forward.

If you enjoy mystery and growth, friendships and family, you will find this work will keep you reading to the very end.

This would make great read for a reading group or book club, full of interesting plot lines and direction to help develop questions as well as dialogue and debate.

Rating 4/5

Monday, May 15, 2017

Alex & Eliza, A Love Story by Melissa De La Cruz

In Alex & Eliza, Melissa De La Cruz takes us back into history with a love story sure to ignite your imagination. During the time of the American revolution when Alexander Hamilton was still just a young mysterious man, yet even then at the right-hand of George Washington, Cruz entertains us with a story of politics and intrigue as well as love and romance.

One of New York’s biggest events was the Schuyler’s grand ball, and this well to do family had three daughters, each soon to be ready for marriage. A social event as well as an introduction of their daughters to society, their daughters Angelica and Peggy were excited for their chance to dress up and begin their round of social meetings.  

Eliza the youngest was not very into dresses and balls, she was more interested in aiding the colonists cause, but her parents were insistent. Both fierce and beautiful she was a handful, and they worried as to what type of man would attract her attention. Due to her fascination with the cause, she was very excited to learn that Alexander Hamilton would be arriving. Once they meet, their attraction and love begin a series of events that change the course of history.

De La Cruz does a wonderful job of taking you back in history and finding the most interesting of situations to bring into the story, holding you enthralled in the telling. By tying the politics and the romance together she brings in the danger as well as the strong feelings of her characters, holding you intrigued and wanting to know more.

If you enjoy history and love a good romance than this is the book for you. Enticing and interesting, De La Cruz finds a way to bring back the past and bring in history, romance, and mystery that satisfies both cravings of excitement, romance and knowledge.

This would be a great work for a Book or reading club with may merits to discuss and help create a great deal of dialogue. 

Rating 4/5

Sunday, April 9, 2017

All Things New by Lauren Miller

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'All Things New', A Young Adult Novel by Lauren Miller. 

Often there are those who wish that the pain on the inside can be seen on the outside. To be able to diminish the hold it has, others must see and acknowledge what you have gone through, and are going though. But while the thought sometimes lingers, is the reality as likely as it seems?

In All Things New by Lauren Miller she takes us into the life of seventeen-year-old Jessa Gray. Jessa was always a great student, but then life changed in unexpected ways. Her parents split up, her mom moved on, getting remarried and having another family. Her family decided that Jessa should stay with her mom, never consulting her about her own feelings. Suddenly life has darkened, her grades have dropped, and she begins having severe anxiety, barely able to leave her home. She finds it hard to be around others, as she no longer really understands who she is.

As her days drag on, she finally meets a young man who has no real expectations of her. He never delves into her problems and makes her feel almost whole. She begins to think life will be okay. Yet when finding that all he really was interested in was not something she was willing to give, she soon finds him with another girl while at party they had attended together. In her panic, she drives herself home, only to be hit at tremendous speed by another vehicle. Her injuries are so severe, her doctors are relieved that she survives the ordeal, but her anxiety comes to the fore. The excessive scarring on her face feels like it matches the pain within. Her father shows up to see her, and she is finally able to find a way to go and live with him, away from all that she has lost.

It is here in her new beginning that she finds another calling, one that teams her with others much like her, and her own pain and re-birth give her the advantage of seeing what they are feeling inside. As she focuses on freeing them, she finds a strength she has not known since she was a child. Can she hold on to this new her, or will it all come crumbling down at the first sign of pressure.

Miller gives us a novel that is hard to put down. You can feel the pain of her characters as they face the challenges of life and school as well as peer pressure and bullying. This is a work of fiction and yet you can feel the rawness of the characters, the pressure, often from themselves, and how destructive it can be. The insights are amazing and the story is wound with a bit of faith, one that makes you think about what truth is.

If you enjoy works that draw you in and make you think, this would be a great novel. Written for teen adults, this is a great read for those who just love an interesting story. Miller is making a name for herself in YA fiction.

This would be a fascinating book for a reading or discussion group, with a great deal of debate and questions to be answered.

Rating 5/5

The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Mutual Admiration Society', A Young Adult novel by Lesley Kagen.

In The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen we are taken into the lives of two young sisters, Tessie, and Birdie. Tessie is convinced that she can solve crimes and keeps her younger sister involved as well. She doesn’t feel that Birdie can do as well without her own involvement as she is very sweet, and just a tad weird.

Tessie is sure, however, of her own abilities and it is fun having a younger sister believe in her and all her adventures. After all, Tessie is known for her crime solving abilities. When they hear a scream one night and mysterious happenings, she knows that she is the only one that can find a murderer. For she is sure that is what she has witnessed.

Another friend, Charlie, finds himself intrigued as well and determines to help in the investigation. What Tessie finds as she tries to solve the case, that no one else shows an interest in, is that often what we see and hear can have many varied reasons. She also finds with encouragement, that her sister Birdie is much more than she seems, that she has thoughts and ideas that might more than take over her own. But her sweetness and attention to Tessie’s plots, keep them going, and creating a strong admiration for each other’s abilities and input.

This is a sweet and funny story of the kids in the neighborhood that are just a bit different, those who look behind the everyday, and develop stories and intrigues that make life in their home and neighborhood interesting…At least for themselves.

Kagen takes us into the past and into the life of a family that struggles just as many others of the time do. But she also shows us the hijinks of children as they find ways to enjoy their time away from school, and other troubles. Her characters are very like those we each grew up with, I am sure you can relate as you find the fun and danger in this work.

If you are looking for a good work for your youngster, or are trying to get your child to read, this is a fun and fast paced work of fiction, that will keep you looking for more. Kagen does an excellent job of taking us into the recent past and showing us a life many will remember. She also gives us insight into the endearing traits of how children grow in the process of finding their niche in life.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Twisted, The Girl Who Uncovered Rumpelstiltskin's Name by Bonnie M. Hennessy

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Twisted, The Girl Who Uncovered Rumpelstiltskin's Name by Bonnie M. Hennessy.

In a tale from childhood, Twisted by Bonnie M Hennessy, takes you on an alternate journey to a dark and bleak tale of love and courage, filled with revenge and regret as well as a strength of spirit.

Looking at the story of Rumpelstiltskin's rage and sadness, you follow The life of Aoife and a different path of how the lives of two such differing characters really came to being.

Aoife, the beloved daughter, is the strength of her family as she takes on the family farm to keep their finances afloat, while at the same time trying to keep her father out of trouble. He is deep in drink and gambling, but Aoife's goodness and strength of heart endears her to all those that see her dilemma.

When a young man of money happens to see her, he decides that she should be his, for unbeknownst to the town he is the Duke of the realm and will have what he fancies. Yet she rebuffs him, and while she has no idea of his identity, she has no time for a man with such airs.  As the Duke determines to have her, he finds a way through the weakness of her father, with both his drink and gambling. Joining the game and urging the poor man gamble his daughter away on a sure hand, all is lost when the hand does not come through. Her father through his muddled thoughts brags of her ability to make gold out of straw, his attempt to brag about her farming, but the Duke understands it to mean something far different.

Aoife, who has always found solace in the woods hides her pain and anger, as nature responds, her spark of spirit draws her magic, that of her kindness and regrets, but it is another, a strange interloper that finds his own home in the forest that takes notice of her pain and anguish as well as her affinity for magic and her beauty. So begins the strange friendship that begins with fondness and love and turns to hate and anger, that takes a tortured soul into the very depths of despair.

As Aoife finds herself in trouble trying to live up the talents her father has bragged of, the stranger from the woods uses his own twisted magic to help. Aoife, soon finds herself in love with the Duke, and with child. The temper of her rescuer from the woods sparks her urgent need to find his name, and takes her into further danger as she tries to save the child of her love.

The twisted tale of love and darkness builds in a direction both like and unlike that of the fairy tale of youth. Hennessy does a great job of holding true to the outline of the work but adds more depth of character, making you feel both appalled and sad, yet as the same time, the tension keeps you intrigues as to how it will all come together.

If you enjoy magic romance and danger, you will love this take on a fairy tale of old. It is darker and more thought provoking, but yet carries that same feel of the fear you felt as a child. Hennessy brings the tale to stark life and into the twentieth century.

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

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Bonnie M. Hennessy's Bio: Bonnie grew up a shy, quiet girl who the teachers always seated next to the noisy boys because they knew she was too afraid to talk to anyone. She always had a lot she wanted to say but was too afraid to share it for fear she might die of embarrassment if people actually noticed her. Somewhere along the line, perhaps after she surprised her eighth grade class by standing up to a teacher who was belittling a fellow student, she realized that she had a voice and she didn’t burst into flames when her classmates stared at her in surprise.

Not long after that, she began spinning tales, some of which got her into trouble with her mom. Whether persuading her father to take her to the candy store as a little girl or convincing her parents to let her move from Los Angeles to Manhattan to pursue a career at eighteen as a ballet dancer with only $200 in her pocket, Bonnie has proven that she knows how to tell a compelling story.

Twisted Book Summary:
Now she spends her time reading and making up stories for her two children at night. By day she is an English teacher who never puts the quiet girls next to the noisy boys and works hard to persuade her students that stories, whether they are the ones she teaches in class or the ones she tells to keep them from daydreaming, are better escapes than computers, phones, and social media.
An old tale tells the story of how a little man named Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold and tricked a desperate girl into trading away her baby. But that’s not exactly how it happened.

The real story began with a drunken father who kept throwing money away on alcohol and women, while his daughter, Aoife, ran the family farm on her own. When he gambled away everything they owned to the Duke, it was up to her to spin straw into gold to win it all back.

With her wits and the help of a magical guardian, she outsmarted the Duke and saved the day.

Well almost… Her guardian suddenly turned on Aoife and sent her on a quest to find his name, the clues to which were hidden deep in the woods, a moldy dungeon, and a dead woman’s chamber.

This is not the tale of a damsel in distress, but a tenacious, young woman who solved a mystery so great that not even the enchanted man who spun straw into gold could figure it out.

Not until Aoife came along.
Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook, $12.99 paperback
Fantasy, Mythological, Fairy Tale
November 11, 2016

Amazon buy link:

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Fractured', A Novel of Suspense by Catherine McKenzie. 

In the novel Fractured by Catherine McKenzie, Julie Prentice and her family find themselves moving across country to escape a stalker who has terrorized her since her novel, The Murder Game, was published. Moving to Cincinnati she and her family hope that all the danger and drama is behind them.

Yet Julie can’t seem to shake loose from the past. Everything creates fear; looks that seem askance, reactions from people that seem out of place, and even the neighbors. She finds it difficult to fit in to a neighborhood that is tight knit and has expectations about how people’s behavior. The only one she feels comfortable with is their closest neighbor, Josh Dunbar. Yet even this connection creates a frisson that sets her life and chance at happiness into another unknown direction.

Can she come to terms with her past, and set a strong, safe path for her family? Will the connection she has formed with a new stranger be the very thing that unbinds her family for good? Are the actions of their neighbors really full of good intent or has her stalker found her again?

McKenzie gives us a story of possibilities, creating a crescendo of alarm as her character begins to believe her family is in danger. She takes you into jittery concern as well as that of feelings and personalities to bring you an edge of your seat thriller.

Her characters are very real and the back biting and jealousy are true to form. The feeling of being out of control makes you uncomfortable as you you try to piece together the clues to find what is happening.

If you enjoy mysteries and family situations, this is a good book for your library. The danger is secretive and roils below the surface, making you wonder if it is real at all or just in the mind of our protagonist.

This would be a great book for a reading group or book club, one to give them a great deal of dialogue.

Rating 4/5