Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Jack of Souls by Stephen C. Merlino

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Jack of Souls,' An Epic Fantasy by Stephen C. Merlino.

In The Jack of Souls by Stephen C. Merlino, Harric lives his last day knowing the curse on his family will be his undoing. An outcast and a rogue he begins having nightmares about his upcoming death. He has no intention of giving in; he knows that he will survive, but how?

He has some allies but they too are outcasts. Caris is a horse-whispering runaway, she is planning on becoming one of the Queens female knights, but she also feels she must help Harric survive. She is strong and bigger than even most men, but she is also very shy, comfortable only around her horses.  Then there is Sir Willard, he was once immortal and a champion, but had given it up, but is now addicted to pain-killing herbs. With their help Harric plans on keeping the curse from killing him.

Each of his compatriots has their own secrets, Caris is haunted and Willard wars with the Old Ones, an order of knights who have become immortal and mad. They have every intention of seizing the throne from the Queen, and Willard is desperate to save her.

Yet these are his allies and his friends and together they must find a way to eliminate the curse, and save their Queen.  Yet Harric is now faced with a magic that could break his curse, one that is forbidden. Can he stay focused and not fall into the temptation, for that way too leads to danger and possible death.

As they work their way through the dangers he finds more than he anticipated, including a love that is more than he ever expected. He must tread a path of duplicity and utilize his tactics to save them all from the dangers that face them.

The characters are an eclectic and amazing array of good and bad, with issues that seem both real and honest.  The depth of description helps you to visualize them as well as get into the minds assigned to them by the author. They become very real, like your own friends and advisers. The story too is bold and epic, a journey to safety and romance, but a journey of growth and courage as well.

You will find yourself immersed in the characters and the countryside as they travel to find the answers. Be prepared to spend some time because once started you will find it difficult to put down.  And even as you do put is down, you continue to think and worry about them, each with the situations they must overcome.

If you enjoy epic fantasy, magic, immortality and a mixture of the things that go bump in the night this will be the work you need for your library. For the romantic there is also fodder for your heart, for the dedication and courage that shines forth creates a corresponding glow in your own heart.

Stephen C. Merlino is an author to watch.
Rating 5/5


Stephen Merlino
stephenmerlino.com

 
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Noise by Grett Garcia Rose

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Noise" A Story of Vengeance by Brett Garcia Rose.

In Noise by Brett Garcia Rose we are introduced to Leon. He is deaf but not in any way disabled. He grew up in the streets of Nigeria as a child, fending for himself and surviving in whatever way he could. Having found a home in the states, he becomes a brother, albeit a foster brother, for the first time. Lily dotes on him and helps him to become a part of his new homeland. As they grow up, she is his best friend and he is her protector. Their relationship is symbiotic; there is nothing that can tear them apart.

When she disappears and he receives a suicide note, he is devastated and tries to overcome his pain. He has found his own way, but she is an integral part of who he is. He is strong and strangely adept at reading lips. His background in Nigeria has made him both strong and merciless if necessary.

She was seventeen to his fifteen and he keeps the note even after all the years since she left him.  He has moved on, making a life for himself but never forgetting Lily’s kindness.  Suddenly his life changes when he receives a post card, one in her handwriting, he is drawn to find her and discover what happened to make her disappear. The heart of New York is cold in the winter, but does not compare to the freeze that begins in his heart as he finds the real reason for her disappearance. Desperate to find her he follows a trail of clues that takes him into the back drops of those who traffic in human flesh.

He now understands he must find the answers and save Lily at all costs. He must find out what happened, but for him to move forward he must make his way through all the danger and corruption thrown in his past. He is merciless and ruthless, leaving a great deal of carnage in his wake, but he promised to protect her so many years ago, and he is delivering on that promise the best way he can.

Is it too late for Lily, can he find her before she is lost to him one more time, more permanently?

This is a work of grit and determination.  Rose has given us a terminator whose flaw of deafness is in no way holding him down or back. He creates a set mind and agenda, which is very rarely deviated from and only due to the happenstance surrounding it. Leon is both likable, and scary, and that makes him a bit of an enigma, for we are often easily able to label people as good or bad.  In Leon, that is a question.

If you enjoy mystery and action, you will find this work interesting and fast paced. 

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group. The question of using force for necessity will create a great focus of discussion.

Rating 4/5




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shattered by Valerie Davisson

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Shattered,' A Mystery by Valerie Davisson.

Life often changes without notice. What may have been the direction set in place can be changed in an instant without permissions or notice. It is how we react to that change that defines who we become.

In Shattered by Valerie Davisson, Logan McKenna has lost her husband, their business and her own self-worth. Her job is in jeopardy and she struggles with her future. Making a decision to help her best friend from high school, she agrees to help out at their booth at the Otter Arts Festival. Her friend Thomas is a Native American artist and each year they bring their current examples to the booth for sale. The area is beautiful and it is just what Logan needs to get her life on track.

When a young artist is murdered she finds herself looking for clues and following the trails of dishonesty and distrust that come to light. Can she have been wrong about her friend, is it possible that he is the guilty party, or is he just caught up in the backlash?  The law has set their eyes on him as a suspect and do not appear to be looking in any other direction. She decides it is up to her to delve into the darkness and find out what really happened before the murderer kills again.

Can she live with the truth she finds, or is her life about to change again forever?

Davisson has given us a murder and mystery that pique your interest. What could possibly be behind the death of an arts festival worker? As with all walks of life, Davisson has found a niche in which to create chaos and mystery, as well as drama and crime. Her characters are quite real and have the flaws that make them likable. As the red herring continue to circle throughout the telling, you are drawn to the vulnerability of Logan, yet her strength as well.

Prior to her involvement in this death, she had only ever seen a dead body once before. Davisson takes us into the thoughts of her protagonist as she fights her battles separately, that of her friend but also the one she holds in her own psyche.  By creating this fissure Davisson has created a more charismatic and believable protagonist, one that you are drawn to.

If you enjoy life and mystery you will find yourself immersed in this book.  Once begun it is difficult to put down. Logan McKenna is a strong character and I am not surprised to see she will be back as a series character.

This would be a great book for your library as well as for a reading group. There is a great deal of subject matter that would make for great discussion.

Rating 3/5

Three Days to Forever by Lauren Carr

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Three Days to Forever,' A Mac Faraday Mystery by Lauren Carr.



In Three Days to Forever by Lauren Carr, we are finally zoned into the wedding of the year. Mac Faraday and Archie Monday have finally gotten their calendar set. Family and friends have set aside the time to honor this huge social event and Mac’s daughter as well as his best friend’s son are all a part of the festivities. With just a short time till nuptials, there is suddenly a sinister presence forcing its way into the heart of the occasion.  

As a professional band of assassins begin their assault on a group of wedding guests which include Mac’s daughter Jessica, his best friend’s son Murphy, his soon to be mother-in-law as well as his dog Gnarly, Mac helps the small police force try and find the clues behind the attack before it is too late. 

Trapped and fighting for their lives, suddenly danger is more real and Mac must help to find a way to save his family and guests. Archie is unable to help due to injury, but Mac presses forward, for even as they eradicate the first danger, he must find out what has set off this chain of events and put a stop to the continued threat of death to his family and friends. Can he help decipher the clues before it is too late? 

Carr has continued on with her series involving Mac Faraday and his soon to be bride, Archie Monday. She has added to his group of friends by introducing family members that are just as real and robust as those of her initial group. She continues on the vein of romance and danger, creating sparks of both to keep your interest lit and flaring. From the annoying to the amazing she finds the right attitude with her characters, creating both chaos and a sense of humor. 

Including Gnarly in the scenes gives us that depth of feeling that creates both fear for his safety as well as honor for his courage and bravery. His antics always seem to add a touch of humor in even the most dire of situations. 

If you enjoy action and adventure as well as mystery and romance you will find this work is just the thing. Think danger and espionage and you will find a trickle of that danger that weaves throughout the story. Carr continues to keep us enthralled with her protagonist, and yet each character is strong enough to stand on their own as well. 

This would be a great work for a reading and discussion group. The depth of feeling and mystery would be sure to keep the dialogue open. 

Rating 4/5

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Vanishing Girls,' By Lauren Oliver.



Having a younger sibling has both its ups and downs. When all is well there is a quality of closeness that helps to make us who we are. When that closeness dissipates for whatever reason, there is a fear of never finding the niche that will bring back that intimacy. 

In Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, we are tumbled into the lives of two girls who are not just sisters but best friends. Nick cannot remember when Dara was not there.  Always in her young life, Dara was there, and always the same question, “want to play?” Life for them both was an interaction of deep love and respect.  Outside themselves, only Nicks friend Parker, and Dara’s friend Arianna are included into the fold of that closeness.  As they both grow older, Nick is the good daughter, and Dara is a great deal wilder. Choices in life are often what takes away the familiar and gives us only a ghost of the past. 

The accident changes everything.  Nick doesn’t remember what happened, but she was driving and Dara has been unable to forgive her. The scars remind Nick every day, and the silence from Dara is almost more then she can bear. The embarrassment from the scars and her lack of knowledge of the cause of the crash make her avoid those she cares about.  She need Dara more than ever but does not know how to reach her.  When Parker comes back into the picture, she is ready for his advice. But what about Dara, Parker had begun dating her, but why was he now acting like it never happened? 
Can she trust him as she used to when they were younger and before she understood her feelings? 

As Nick starts searching for answers, and continues to try and find a way to reconnect, Dara goes missing. When Nick begins in earnest to move forward and try to help find her, she reaches an impenetrable wall. She can feel the difference, and suddenly everyone is looking at her oddly as well. Is Dara gone for good and what is her part in the disappearance?  She feels like she should know the answers but cannot break the barrier in her mind. Is it too late to bring back all that is lost?

This was a startling work of mystery and drama. There was so much real life awkwardness and the feeling of closeness that develops as children that is was easy to get lost in the pages.  You begin to become involved in the nuances and feel the urgency of Nick’s concerns.  The characters are so real that you almost see them as the story evolves.  And that too is a strange and dangerous situation. 

The mystery and sadness permeate, saturating your own belief of the final outcome. Yet Oliver then takes a decidedly strange twist giving us an answer to just how human we are when it comes to feelings and family. 

If you enjoy mystery and romance, with a twist of mind games and behavior you will find this work the one you are looking for. Once you begin you step into the shoes of the characters you will find it a hard book to put down.

This would be a great work for a reading group or book club. The nuances create a great deal of controversy and dialogue. 

Rating 5/5
 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cookie's Case, A Tug Wyler Mystery by Andy Siegel

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Cookie's Case,' A Tug Wyler Mystery by Andy Siegel.

Many things bring people together, common goals, interests and attraction. However sometimes it is basic need that is the culprit. Need is not the greatest of ties for when need dissipates so does the attachment in many cases.

Tug Wyler returns in Andy Siegel’s, Cookie’s Case.  With Tug’s background in getting his clients insurance settlements he is intrigued when he meets Cookie, a young dancer that wears a metal head brace. The fact that she is still dancing disturbs him and yet, it seems to be a part of who she is. Her beauty and grace, especially with such an unattractive device attached is amazing and he finds himself a bit smitten.

When he is introduced to her friend, an elderly Doctor, he finds the relationship a bit odd. The Doctor provides a medical procedure called a spinal tap to help her with pain, and the symbiotic relationship seems to work for them in a strange and unnatural way. When he discovers a conflict of interest with her attorney, her boyfriend, and the doctor and hospital where her surgery was done he offers to take over the case. He has no idea of the depths of cover-up he is soon to be involved with.

There is something that worries him about the case, and as his investigation begins in earnest, he begins to untangle a web of deceit full of holes. Yet even as he finds evidence of possible neglect during surgery, even his own specialists have doubts, for all the evidence points in conflicting direction. Can he get his client the money to help her regain her prior life, before she hurts herself any further?

When he is fired from the case it only tweaks his curiosity further. What nerve has he touched and how can he save his client from her on decisions. He knows there is more to what is going on in her life, and many of the leads seem to tie to her protector. Can he find the answers before it is too late. L

Siegel’s characters are a great mix of needy and diabolical. His protagonist in the form of Tug Wyler is a fun and energetic man, always looking out for the money, but hiding a heart that is not necessarily in his best interests. He really cares about his clients, and is like a bulldog when he gets hold of a case.

Cookie is a fun and brave character, and her protector is just a bit creepy, but it is hard to decipher why he creates that feeling for he has nothing but care for Cookie.  To create that type of character and to have you questioning yourself takes skill.

If you enjoy a fun and slightly bizarre mystery you will find Tug Wyler the guy to follow. His investigations are both interesting and often funny, but he delivers the goods. The medical drama is also well written and you will find yourself immersed in a strange and fascinating story of need.

This would be a great book for a reading group or book club with lots of questions and decisions that would keep the dialogue going for some time.


Rating 4/5

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coit Tower by Ty Hutchinson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Coit Tower', An Abby Kane Thriller by Ty Hutchinson.

Ty Hutchinson has given us a satisfying end to an  Abby Kane, FBI case, that has spanned several years and a multitude of continents. As Abby and her cohort track down a killer willing to kill from the obscurity of the internet, they find themselves in the middle of the game. Acting out the different parts of the game and dressing the kill as requested to win, Abby has now found that she is the final scene. Thinking she was tracking from obscurity herself, she now finds that she has been set up, and must put an end to the madness before she and her family perish.

As she moves forward old friends become suspect, and old enemies become friends. Danger lurks around every corner. Abby must find a way to head off the attacks for they are now on her own home turf. As she sends her family away to safety, she is uncomfortable. Always where she has been able to keep an eye on them, she is lost when they are so far away. Even contact is prohibited due to the possibility of being able to track her calls.

As the teams come against her, she is able to find a way to shut them down, yet in her heart she knows there is real danger to her family. Can she find the secret to the questions before it is too late for them all?

This is a great finish to a case that has spanned several books. Hutchinson has given us a shady crime lord and an exceptional protagonist with unexpected flaws. She is determined and strong but carries her heart of her sleeve. His vision of a game of murder is conceptual and quite possible given the ability to hide to some extent behind various servers through the net. Hi characters are eminently likable and easy to visualize.

With his unusual sense of humor, Hutchinson creates fun in his suspense, something that keeps you involved and turning the pages. His mystery is succinct and plausible, and you will find yourself liking his unlikely hero in the form of Abby Kane.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense with a dose of humor and heart you will find his series to be a great addition to your library. There is a satisfying gratification when the good guys win out for it isn’t just about Abby Kane but her family and friends as well.

This would be a great book for a reading group or book club. The use of computers as a conduit to crime is interesting and very plausible, likely to create a great deal of dialogue.


Rating 4/5


This book was received from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material,