Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recovering from LIfe by Debra McKenna

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'Recovering from Life' by Debra McKenna.

‘Life happens.’ The ups and downs can drown you or you can learn from the experiences to move at a smoother pace. Yet often we are left with feelings of inadequacy and fear. Those who choose to cast again into the fray gain courage to move on.
Debra McKenna has given us a fun and hopeful look into the life of one such character in her book, Recovering from Life.  There is no doubt that her character, Stephanie McCarthy, is just that––a character. Red headed and bold she finds herself in a rough patch when her husband seems to fall back into a drug habit, one she thought he had overcome. As he disappears, she begins to take stock of the things happening around her. In her considered bliss, she realizes that she has allowed him too much power in their life and business, as well as their home. Her name is on nothing, he owes everyone, and her only saving grace is that the creditors can’t come after her. Yet she is now financially doomed, she has lost her job and she finds herself in the roller coaster of life.
The problem begins with the legalities. She is not responsible for moneys owed, but her husband’s deals are not all above board, or with respectable business. He owes money for drugs as well, and the collectors do not care as much about the laws protecting her from legal collections.
This fun filled and yet at times stressful story is enchanting and just a bit different.  The characters are very life sized and an amazing mix of clever, brutal, fun, and even at times whimsical. The experiences are adventurous and easy to relate to, although in some cases a bit unbelievable. Yet the story is also deep and brings hope, something that is often lacking when times are tough. McKenna has secured an anchor to hold the twist of lightness and courage.  
The goal is to heal from whatever bumps life throws at you, and to overcome that inability to move forward. While in no way moralistic, the moral of the story is there hidden behind and between the fabric. There is humor and promise, wishes and potential all there like a brass ring, if we all just look beyond the here and now and reach for it.
If you like fun and feel good stories you will find this immensely interesting.  Contemporary with a twist, filled with courage, boldness and a zany cast of characters, you will find yourself reading from start to finish, wanting to know more.
This would be a great book for a reading group, engendering a great deal of conversation on depression, hope, romance and moving forward.
Rating 4/5
This book was reveived from the Cadence group. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Muffin Man by Stephan Collina

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Muffin Man' by Stephan Collina.

The threat of terrorism is often realized throughout the world.  Many times these threats come from outside sources, different countries with differing beliefs and wants. Yet there is also the danger lurking within the countries, those ideas and beliefs that run a divergent path to what the government delivers. Nestled within the safety of being a citizen, the terror radiating from the internal patriots can prove more deadly than that from distant shores.
The Muffin Man by Stephan Collina, takes us on a collision course of betrayal, love, drugs and political manipulation.  Following a premonition of the President’s wife, a chain of events is set into motion and will rock the country to its very fiber. The events begin in strange incidences that seem very separate on the outside, yet begin to weave into delicate patterns that strengthen as time moves forward.  Interactions begin that tie and then later bind, guiding and directing an eclectic group of individuals to a common goal, one that is known to only a select few.
Acting with impunity and given free reign, nothing is considered sacred in the form of moral rectitude. Life and death hold little meaning, yet jealousy and rage burst forth with vigor, threatening to topple all the pieces already put into place. Betrayal carries a sentence and yet depravity guarantees its place.
In an intricate and deadly pattern, Collina takes us on a journey of time and gives us the characters of a nation diverse in history. The flaws and human emotion create a genuine feel while the anger and mistakes pull you forward, holding your interest.  The intensity builds slowly, and while there seems to be some strange and out of cycle distractions, Collina slowly pulls the rope allowing the curtain to raise just inches at a time, drawing out the drama.
While I found the buildup and foreshadowing to be slow reading, the events can only come together in such a way.  If you enjoy terror and history, political intrigue and human interest you may find this a book to look too. The surprise ending was a bit of a shock and I was not comfortable with it, yet as the plot settled I could finally understand the events. I enjoyed the interplay amongst many of the characters, and felt they seemed real. The events could carry plausibility, yet one can be glad of the fiction behind the story.
Some might find the telling of the story offensive, and if you are not comfortable about terrorism or internal strife, you might take a pass.  However if you enjoy a tale of intrigue with the possibility of immense and sinister repercussions, you have found the tale to take you there. This would be a strong book for a reading or discussion group, full of possible dialogue.
About Stephan Collina:
Stephan Collina grew up in the 1970s: a troubled time of recession, poverty, industrial disruption, political tension and terrorism. But for younger people, it was also a post-1960s wide-flared, drug-enhanced and extravagant-haired innocence.
Stephan later became a prominent businessman, acquainted with a number of high-ranking politicians. Stephen ran international technology businesses, spending a great deal of time in the USA and various European and African countries.
The Muffin Man grew from a combination of these unique experiences: his early knowledge of the sometime innocent business of drug dealing (although he never inhaled), and of the much dirtier businesses of covert political and military action, and of international business practices.
Stephan's first novel explored the nefarious and complicated emotional and sexual relationships of a remote village in Wales, where he had spent his early years.
Stephan holds a degree in Philosophy. He is also a qualified commercial ship's captain. He now lives quietly by the sea, and concentrates on his writing and related filmmaking activities.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Twelve to Murder by Lauren Carr

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Twelve to Murder' by Lauren Carr.

In bizarre circumstances, tragedy can be much stranger than fiction. When you bring in a ‘has been’ child star, and a whole lot of drama, fireworks flare in spiraling patterns, leaving you to wonder how to find the true beginning of events beneath that very same performance.
In Twelve to Murder by Lauren Carr, Mac Faraday is drawn into a situation of strangely surreal circumstances. The former child-star and idol, Lenny Frost, becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his prior agent and her husband.  Lenny has taken hostages in a local pub and demands that Mac find the killer. He has twelve hours to find the responsible party before Lenny begins killing hostages.  Mac finds he too must play a part as he tries to ease the tension, and get hostages released. With all the food and drinks they can handle, he is having difficulty getting his job done.
Questioning Lenny, he feels he has some possibilities. How could Lenny be responsible and yet maintain his innocence by taking lives to prove his point. Mac has a very limited time to find the answers to the murder, and keep his client from killing innocent hostages. As the drama and strange events continue to weave throughout the story, Mac is at odds with himself.  Can he find the murderer in time to stop the freight train that will not stop until it derails the life of Lenny Frost?
Carr has brought us an entertaining mystery and comedic intrigue, making you guess till the very end in this tale of murder. Her characters are just what you would expect to encounter in some of the same circumstances and you find then either quite likable, quirky or just possibly deadly. Yet who is who, the directions are coy and confusing sending you into differing thoughts of possibilities.
Mac Faraday is an excellent character with just the right amount of emotion and humor. He is also very responsible and cares deeply about those he encounters.  A few flaws and a huge heart help him to win your thoughts and you hope he finds the answers.
If you enjoy mystery and comedy you will find this fills the bill. With odd duck characters and potential possibilities everywhere you will want to keep reading from start to finish. While not the usual book club type of read, the humor and sensitivities would create a great reaction and discussion.  Carr is an author to watch for and Faraday is investigator of worth. I hope they both show up often.
Rating 3/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Headmaster's Wife

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:' The Headmaster's Wife' by Thomas Christopher Greene.

The mind seems to play a strange yet protective role when stress is too much to deal with. What sets off the protectionism is variable and different within individuals. Only those who have truly dealt with the fugue and disjointed thoughts and memories can begin to understand the feelings of others who have evinced the same type of shield.

In The Headmasters Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene, we are taken on a strange and unexpected journey. When Arthur Winthrop, Headmaster of Lancaster School, is found wondering naked in Central Park, he is picked up for questioning.  It is here that the story of his rise and strange undoing is brought to life though his own self narration to the police department.

As his story unfolds you find yourself immersed in his memories, at times able to comprehend his actions and at others astounded with the attributes he is recalling. We are taken into the life of his wife as well as his tenure within the institution. The twists and turns keep you reading wondering how a life so full of promise has become so unhinged.

Greene has given us a story of amazing latitudes, making us think of how we would react in similar situations. While the story is totally different, there is a likeness to 'A Beautiful Mind' that teases at your senses.  What is it about certain stressors and possible defects that turn the synapsis of the brain into a fighting machine, willing to take on all contenders?

The characters are such an interesting mix, and throughout the work we are given glimpses into the past, the very issues that have brought Arthur to this place in his life. The twists are amazing and the ending is unexpected.

If you enjoy novels that make you think, those that take you into the unimaginable you will find this to be a terrific find. There is mystery and romance, as well as friendships and hidden agendas.

This would be a terrific book for both a reading group and a book club, with a wealth of information to utilize to keep the discussion lively.

Rating 5/5

This book was received from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based on my reading and understanding of the material.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Botticelli Affair by Traci L. Slatton

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Botticelli Affair' by Traci L. Slatton.

I often think the vampire genre has run its course, ‘jumped the Shark,’ as I’ve heard it said. Most things have been done and the stories seem to run into one another. Yet I am often delighted and surprised when something comes to light that has a difference.  The genre hasn’t lost its flavor after all.
In The Botticelli Affair by Traci L. Slatton we follow the life and career downfall of Laila Cambridge. As a touted artist she is the daughter of another artist of great renown. The problem is that Laila is an expert at forgery, her fakes are almost impossible to spot. Yet when a client who has made the purchase of one of her masterpieces is killed trying to protect it during a robbery, Laila can take no more.  Her responsibility for the woman’s death weighs heavily and she leaves the business. Yet art is still her love and Botticelli is one of the artists she admires most. Life has become a nightmare for her.
Enter John Bolingbroke, a devastatingly handsome man with a secret. Since Laila’s beloved father disappeared, she has been afraid for his life. Upon meeting Bolingbroke, he brings her news of his friendship with her father, as well as his last known location. Yet there is more, her father is in dire danger, there are those who believe he may know where a missing Botticelli is, and are willing to kill in order to get the information.
Does she trust this man who seems to have strange powers and secrets, or should she try to find her father on her own. Unsuccessful so far, she makes a choice that will change her life forever. Yet she has a secret too, one that has made her successful as an artist, but only in the field of forgery. One of the best she is highly sought after. Yet those who were her friends in her prior life of forgery are the very same people she must rely on to help find her father.  Bolingbroke has her back, but what is the strange energy that he exudes, and why does she think she recognizes him?  Who and why is this cult of lunatics after her father, ready to kill to get a painting only vaguely rumored to have existed?
Slatton has done a great job of giving us characters with emotional flaws as well as those that show them as they are in their outward lives. The heat that shimmers between them has you hoping and wondering, what is going to happen. The chance and friendships that spring up are eternal, and the depravity is deadly. You are taken on a journey that gives you a vision of art through the ages, and the men and women responsible. The action is quick and the journey is delicious.
IF you enjoy reading vampire stories, love art, and enjoy mystery and suspense with an accelerated sense of romance you will enjoy this work. This would be a great find for that library of vampire aficionados, as well as romance and mystery.

Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Posted first on Blog Critics as Book Review:'The Enchanted' by Rene Denfeld.

The mind is a very clever tool. It has a way of cloaking the things we find most horrific. It can also take you into a different world to escape the most desperate of situations, leaving some of the terror behind. 

In The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld, a world behind the walls of the most notorious of settings comes to light in an unlikely way. Set in the murkiest of places, and narrated by one of the inmates we are given a visual of what may occur. Yet the narration is perceived through the veil of beauty, from the smallest drip of water to the darkest corner as seen through the surreal vision of one of those who have found such a release of fear.

We are introduced to a monster and the angel sent to save him from death, in that same gossamer style where reality is only as you perceive it. Yet the story is strong and the narration only adds a bit of sequence that paints a covering over the pall of actuality. Can the angel save them all, or will her last visit with cruelty stave her ability to look beyond the crime to see the person inside.

Denfeld has done a wondrous job of taking us into the gruesomeness of death row and giving us the visual tour through the eyes of one who has been able to find the beauty inside. In a somewhat macabre and eerie way we follow the action as mercy and clemency are argued against punishment.

Each of the characters has flaws and reality often intrudes within the dream world of the narrator. The 'Lady' as she is labeled, is known throughout the system, yet no one really knows her, only the agenda as it has been set forward. The prisoner set to die is ready to move forward but must plead his own case, convincing the ‘Lady’ of his need for punishment.

Will she make a case for life, or will she allow for the truth of his disquiet.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense as well as a bit of magic and horror you will find it all here. The story is enthralling and keeps you reading far into the night. This would be a great book for a discussion group and create a great deal of argument and buzz, rounding out the feeling and thoughts of all those involved.

Rating 4/5

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:' Floats the Dark Shadow' by Yves Fey.

Paris is known for its beauty and romance, heralded throughout the world. Yet as with all cities there is a dark and steamy underground, where those who are just a bit more self-indulgent lurk.
In Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey, we are introduced to both the beauty and the darkness that encompasses the soul of the city of love. Beginning slowly and yet just coming to the attention to the authorities, children are going missing. The darkness begins with those who have no one to look out for them, but soon escalates as the heinous darkness of possible cult activity begins to come to light. Where are the missing children and who is behind the disappearances of those most innocent, yet also the most at risk?
Fey has given us a dark mystery, set in a beautiful yet decadent setting. He pairs an unsuspecting artist, a woman who lives on the fringe of the beauty and darkness, and pairs her with a solid and no nonsense Detective Michel Devaux. Theodora Faraday has run across the investigation unknowingly, but is drawn in by circumstance. The clash of temperaments and thought processes of the two who must find a way to work together are dynamic and just a bit intriguing. The poetic mindset of Theo and the insistent solidity of Detective Devaux keep the action both interesting and magnetic.
The darkness and decadence of the perpetrator, has just enough depravity and evil to set the stage for a story of horrible magnitudes.  What is happening to the disappearing children, those most at risk in the dark streets of the city? Can Theo and her Detective find the answers before another tragedy occurs?
If you enjoy horror and mystery you will find this a work to look for. Fey gives us both the beauty of Paris but also the darkness and dissolution. The pairing of two totally differing personalities to find the perpetrator of the disappearances is very crafty and inventive.
This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group. There is a great deal of interesting discussion going on within the book that can be taken up by those reading it as well. Fey has taken us into a world of excess, and delivered the goods.
Rating 4\5
This book was received free from the authors publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.