Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker

Article First Publishd as Book Review: The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker on Blogcritics

Often our backgrounds remain buried for years, yet when we are least expecting it they seem to return and turn lives upside down. In The Winters In Bloom by Lisa Tucker, we find how the unmentioned and somewhat unknown lives between two people intrude in dangerous ways. We follow the lives of Kyra and David Winter, a young couple extremely in love. Celebrate that love with a child also full of great generosity, you find a life worth living. What Kyra and David don’t know about each other though is about to tear their lives apart. It is through the grief they encounter that they finally learn what is really important.
David lost his first child, one born to his first wife. Through a terrible series of circumstances that ruined his marriage and put his ex-wife under psychiatric care, the aftermath was quite ugly and while he trusts Kyra explicitly he is still afraid for Michael, their son. After a rough time in school they decide home schooling is right for him. He lives a semi-restrictive life with parents who adore him. And yet he is loving and smart and a people pleaser. He wants everyone to be happy. As Kyra forces herself to relax her vigilance by allowing him some small freedom in the yard, he vanishes. While Kyra blames herself, they are both beside themselves. David is concerned that the disappearance may have something to do with his ex-wife. His mother disagrees; she has been helping her to regain her composure and sanity. Yet she too is concerned about the odd reactions recently.
While Kyra understands David’s concerns, she too is hiding a secret and worries that she is at fault for Michael’s disappearance. But how does she explain something so terrible to her husband. She needs to unburden and yet she cannot. She is finally able to tell her story to David’s mother, and at last share her concerns. The information is then shared with the police, and yet more surprises are in store.  Can true healing come about through such emotion? Is it worth the risks in the end to have the love and family you really need?
Tucker has developed characters with such human emotions you feel their joy, and their despair. Each of them carries a scar on their heart and each feels unwilling to share the burden. Michael is the one true angel in the group and he holds up his end of the story charmingly. The story is engrossing and hard to put down once begun. You feel the concern and anger as well as the confusion as each search themselves to find how they went so wrong and how their own personal demons have brought them to this very place and time.
The emotions in the story are rich and heartfelt, guiding you to the very depths of emotion the characters encounter. The tenderness and love are warm and enriching, and the hurts are extremely painful.
I would recommend this book for both the contemporary and romance reader. It would be an exceptional book for a club or reading group. There is suspense and fear to add to the reader’s emotions and the pace of the story is strong with a smooth flow, making it difficult to put down.  This could be a book that keeps you up past bedtime, so set the pace and enjoy the ride.

Rating 4/5
The Winters in Bloom

This book was received free from the authors publicist. All opinins are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fallen by Traci L. Slatton

Posted first on The Romance Reviews

As the mists slowly rolled in, the beauty of the cloud like vapors belied the events that were soon to take place. As the poisonous gasses began to kill those encircled by the haze, those that had no chance but to breathe it in, there was no rhythm to when or how it moved to its next victims. From the beginning, I was enthralled with the story and Slatton’s voice. She has taken an end of the world scenario and created characters that are so real they make you feel. To arm such a story with the budding of a love of such heat and passion creates a crescendo of feeling that keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Emma has escaped the destruction of the mist with her daughter Mandy. Trying to eke out an existence, she becomes a beacon to the other children who have lost their families. She has taken on the job of keeping them safe from further incidents of mist. While they have all become family, when her own daughter Mandy is threatened she is frantic, the pain is unbearable. Yet even as death begins to stalk her daughter, safety comes in the sound of the thrumming of horse’s hooves. The percussion of sound appears to drive off the mists temporarily. The rescuers are a group of rough men, and yet Emma has a feeling. This could be the safety net for her and her children; she is willing to do what it takes to find a place for them where they can be safe. Those that have survived the mists are fragile and yet each seems to have picked up a gift. Emma is able to heal with a touch, Newt can see the future, and Mandy can see shadows of things that have happened.

Following the leader into one of the homes where he is foraging she strikes a bargain for their safety. She will be his woman in return for the safety of his camp. Neither of them understands the ramifications of the impact this small promise will make. Even safety from the mist does not provide protection from the marauders that are also roaming the world. Can Emma and Arthur keep everyone safe in this world on the edge?

This is a remarkable story of the aftermath of the end of the Earth as we know it. The story itself and the world building are well thought out and quite descriptive. You find yourself in that place and that time as you become involved in the reading. The characters are amazingly well described; I could picture them and relate to them as though they were real.

What becomes so unexpected is the budding of romance that then grows into a consuming inferno of passion between Arthur and Emma. The heat is exceptional and you can feel the waves of passion as they dissipate from their bodies. The passion evolves into a love that reaches deep and connects in such a way that it will not let go.

This was an intense read and I found it difficult to put down. The premise of the story is intriguing, and there is longing and loss, romance and action, littered with just about every emotion you can imagine. Slatton has created an addictive read that will leave you looking for more.

Rating 5/5

This book was received from the Author or their representative. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Place No One Should Go by D.L. Havlin

Article first published as Book Review:A Place No One Should Go by D L Havlin on Blogcritics.

Is evil a person or a state of mind? Can evil affect the very ground where it resided. Does evil have the power to move at will? In A Place No One Should Go by D.L. Havlin we follow a family into the Florida wilderness for a holiday camping trip and get just a glimpse of that answer, and a bit more.

The father and leader of the expedition is Ben Callison. Not always a nice guy, he nevertheless insists on family time when it comes to their camping outings. Having always gone to the same place, he has heard from another friend of a place just a bit further that might have much better results for fishing. However, he is warned that he probably should not camp there.

His friend has recently died under strange circumstances, and Ben loves a challenge. In fact he thinks he may just know better. The place more than likely has even more treasure and his friend probably just wanted to keep it for himself. As the trip progresses and Ben and his family go further into the wilderness we begin to get an inkling of who Ben really is. He is controlling, and he is not a very nice man. But he will have his way regardless of what the rest of his family wants.

Setting up camp, they find some wonderful fishing and actually begin to have a good time, but when a visitor, an Indian man that suggests that they should move on to somewhere else to camp once they have done fishing, the family is understandably concerned. They are startled, as the man seems to come from nowhere. In his mind, Ben believes he is right and he refuses to move on. He is in fact more convinced than ever. He believes the only reason he is being warned off is so that this man can then move in and enjoy the rewards of the excellent fishing and game.

As evening falls, Ben only now begins to get a glimpse of something not being right. His family in their tents, he is alone at the fire when he begins to see things. These strange and unnatural things make no sense. Fearing he has had too much to drink, he finally calls it a night, but uneasiness follows. Can Ben brush aside the strange things he remembers, and why does he feel so uneasy? Even as he and his family head back home, the uneasiness follows. Is there something following him, what was the real reason behind his friends death?

Ben and his family are somewhat typical as families go. What Havlin has added is just the small amount of inner evil and feeling of superiority to Ben. Just the bit of anger and a little you owe me attitude. He has done a wonderful job of setting the stage for a background to explain the evil that seems to lurk in the wilderness. His stories are strange and unsettling and you can visualize the fear. The family seems to do the best they can, having been around Ben their entire lives they are used to this controlling nature. However, they still feel just a bit of fear around him. He is just not a nice man.
If you enjoy horror and strange happenings in your reading this would be the book for you. It is small and compact but carries a big punch. The fear begins to engage quite early and weaves throughout the story, setting the stage for the bizarre and yet somewhat inevitable ending. This is a book best read during daylight, or if you are an evening reader, turn on the lights and lock the doors, it keeps you uneasy throughout the telling.

Rating 4/5
A Place No One Should Go

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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A View from a Height by J.E. Murphy

Article first published as Book Review: A View from a Height by J.E. Murphy on Blogcritics.

The meaning of life seems so much a part of what we wonder on a daily basis, and is a question that is asked by almost everyone at some point in their life. While there seem to be no real answers, there is always the foray into spiritualism, which seems to give its own form of answers. At the same time, even this sojourn often leaves just as many questions.

In A View from a Height J.E. Murphy takes us into the world of a young woman Dawn Bang. Born of Chinese decent she has always felt she is different. She could hear things others could not; she could feel the pulse of the world. Living in Hawaii, she is also made to feel different, and as she grows up, she finds it easier to block out the sounds and feelings with alcohol and drugs. Living a life of desperation and shame, she is unprepared for her death when it happens. Taking a stand to save and endangered species as her boyfriend of the time races down the roadway to kill it, she grabs the steering wheel and runs them into a muddy ditch. This however is not the end, it is as she tries to pull herself from the muddy, wet ditch and she grabs what she believes is a branch to help, she finds herself looking down on the crumpled body of a young woman. Even as she watches emergency vehicles show up, she sees that this woman is her, and that the branch was actually a live wire that was knocked down by the impact of the car.

It would seem that this is the end of her journey, yet it appears as though it was not her time at all. As she finds herself in a beautiful place full of love and understanding her fear disappears. This is a place of transition, but she is made aware that there is more for her in the world. She has a job to do and she has not even begun. Even as she feels the love and acceptance, she is abruptly pulled back into her own body, here in the real world.

So begins the beautiful, yet painful, soulful and amazing life of a woman who becomes more than who she is. This is a truly enlightening tale of love and war, of the menaces of pride and of how this young woman begins a journey that is so fundamentally real, yet becomes so much more.

The Story was not what I expected as I picked it up. I was initially daunted at the size of the work, and yet as I began the story I had trouble putting it down. As I moved on to other tasks it followed me, keeping my thoughts on what would happen next. I felt the depth of her joy, and the pain and degradation with her. As she connects with others that are on parallel journeys with her, they too became my friends and mentors. I found an odd connectedness about this book that is hard to decipher. The descriptions are vivid and the tone is flowing. The evil that would often infect the world in her journey was truly something that seemed both real and unnerving.

For the science fiction and reality buffs, Murphy introduces us to an amazing dirigible, used to transport many of the characters from the West Coast, to Hawaii and on to China. This is an integral part of the process of the book and gives us another layer of thought. It is an amazing machine and the computer technology alone is exciting. The intricate and amazing description of the vehicle creates a wonderful backdrop for much of what happens throughout the story.

There is so much and more of this book than I can explain. I would recommend it for those who feel a spiritual connection, who believe in karma and often have questions on life. I would also recommend it for those who want to know more about the world, and there is a kaleidoscope of places to read about. It would be a marvelous book for a book club and reading group, adding discussion upon discussion. It would be a great book for your permanent library. The information and the story itself could be reread time after time. This book will take you on a journey, only you can decide if it is one you want to transverse.

Rating 5/5
A View from a Height

This book was received as a free e-book from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Other People's Heroes by Blake M. Petit

Article first published as Book Review: Other People's Heroes by Blake M. Petit on Blogcritics.

Comic books have long been a way to savor our heroes and find those with super human powers that do good in our world. As with most, in order to be successful as a hero, there must also be villains. In Other People’s Heroes by Blake M. Petit, we follow the exploits of a group of heroes and villains known as Capes (superheroes) and Masks (villains).

Ever since being rescued as a young child from a burning building by the superhero Lionheart, Josh Corwood has been enamored of the Capes. His obsession never waned and as he gained adulthood he went into the only profession he could that he felt would bring him close to his idols. Working for Powerlines kept his finger on the pulse of crime, and he could stay in contact with the inevitable conflicts that continued to rise between these two forms of superpowers.
Over time, his hero worship never really dimmed although his favorite hero Lionheart had disappeared in a confrontation with the Mask known as Carnival. When Josh receives an opportunity for an exclusive interview with Dr. Noble, one of the most highly respected of the Capes he is excited. His best friend Sheila is his copy editor at Powerlines and is just as discouraged as he is, by the pompousness experienced during his interview. The one thing though that Josh did find interesting was the rush of power he experienced when he was around Dr. Noble. It was the same feeling he had experienced so many years ago when rescued by Lionheart.

As he experiments with this power with seems to fill him in the presence of both Capes and Masks alike, he realizes that he is capable of becoming one of them and fulfilling is lifelong dream. He soon realizes that everything he believes my not be real. And even as this education initiates, it begins to appear as though there is now an extreme super villain. Can Josh with his new powers along with the other Capes save the day, or will they need more than what they themselves are capable of.

Petit has done an exceptional job of building heroes and villains that are unique and quite true to form from the comic books and cartoons. He has taken this group and built an incredible story around them. Like reading a comic from the beginning issue to the end, it is satisfying and enriching. As with the comic when I was young I could become the hero or the villain, and while they were both incredibly talented, they were not extremely evil. It was fun to make believe because there was always just a bit of good even in the worst of the bunch. However, when real evil enters the fray all bets are off, and it is anyone’s guess who will win and who will lose.

Written with a keen eye it is easy to picture the characters and the places. The story told is exceptional, and if I had pictures with it, I would have felt again as a child as I read the most recent issues of my favorite hero. The thing about comics though is some readers never gave up and have been followers for their whole lives. The true comic lovers are the people I envy even as I read and find myself transported back to a time of real believing.

I would recommend this book for anyone that enjoys action and adventure, and especially those that enjoy comic book heroes. It is fun and absorbing. I found it hard to put down once I began.

Rating 5/5
Other People's Heroes

This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.
Enhanced by Zemanta

The Valley of Heaven and Hell-Cycling Through the Shadow of Marie-Antoinett by Susie Kelly

Article first published as Book Review: The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette by Susie Kelly on Blogcritics.

Imagine being on vacation and spending the time cycling through France. In The Valley of Heaven and Hell-Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette by Susie Kelly, she introduces us to both the beauty and history of this European country just a bit smaller in scale than the state of Texas. Kelly writes a heartwarming and challenging story of her arrival into the art of cycling, keeping the story entertaining and mostly lighthearted. She keeps up an amazing dialogue along the path she and her husband have chosen which seem to parallel that traveled during the final days of Marie-Antoinette and her Husband King Louis XVI as they tried to make their escape during the French Revolution.

The book is littered with known facts in this final flight as well as many of the other venues of historical significance that happened in this small area that may have had a hand in the way the world has changed over the centuries. We feel the charm though the names such as Versailles, La Villette, the Tuileries and Montmedy. Just the enunciation of the words brings to mind the chic and trendy French countryside. Americans too have been involved in many of the miseries that seem to embody some of the history of the area by acting as allies during the wars. France is full of memorials and places of special significance throughout erected in the effort to memorialize those that gave their lives for others.

As Kelly and her husband Terry take their tour she keeps us entertained with the different antics of the trip and pokes a great deal of fun at herself. She interjects bits of the history of the areas they encounter and her thoughts and feelings about these as well along her way.

What I didn’t expect was to feel the history, to have the faint ghostly presence of those long past come through the reading and descriptions. It is uncanny and it is the feeling you have when visiting those areas were many have died and been laid to rest. I could feel the sadness and fear of the Monarchs for their children and for each other. The beauty and the pain are laid out in such stark relief that it is difficult to not be caught up in the history. I found myself researching and following up on some of the information that she interjects throughout to get just a bit more background.

While the history is true, Kelly tackles it and makes it read like a horror story. It is hard to imagine the mindset and hysteria that creates such a magnitude of a mob scene as evidenced, as these two Royals were captured and imprisoned. And even as the pain unfolds, there is a kind of peace, that seems to come with the beauty that seems to remake itself.

If you enjoy history, and are looking for a look into both the past and present than look no further. This would make an exceptional book for a book club or reading group. It would also be a wonderful addition to your library.

Rating 5/5
The Valley of Heaven and Hell

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

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Confessions of a Lie Detector, years of theft, sex and murder by Jim Wygant

Article first published as Book Review: Confessions of a Lie Detector by Jim Wygant on Blogcritics.

As many, I suppose I have always been enthralled with the science behind the forensics in law. Part of the popularity of CSI, Bones, Crossing Jordan and many of the other shows that fascinate the nation brings to light the men and women behind the scenes finding the ever elusive clues to DNA, different materials, types of drugs and many other factors or evidence that is found at the scene of various crimes.

So popular are these shows that classes for this type of work have also filled up and created more of a glut of knowledgeable experts on the subjects. I am sure that because in order to popularize a show there must be glamour and so what we see is not the real crux of the work involved. Murder and crime are a serious business and it is important to have the right people in place to help evolve the evidence as it comes in.

Yet with all the machines and people, background testing is not always a perfect science. One of those ‘sciences’ is known as the polygraph. In especially high profile cases, we often hear about the lie detector tests, and yet the polygraph is used much more than we know. In Confessions of a Lie Detector by Jim Wygant, we follow Jim though some of his most interesting and important cases. He is quite candid about the system and the difficulties of the assessments. As with any use of equipment, it is only as good as the operator and understood that the same is true of the reading of the charts.

Wygant gives a candid overview of the process and the years of work and detail, he has dealt with as he worked through his many cases. While Wygant stated that there were a few times that he felt actual danger during the process from the person tested, it is gratifying to know that human nature often wins out. Lying is difficult for most people and in many of Jim’s cases, it seems as though the guilty were relieved to finally come clean.

From his years in the business, Wygant has given an extremely detailed and interesting look at the people behind the tests as well as the people who take them. To me it was quite fascinating and very much like the forensics that I am often caught up in. If you like forensic, and enjoy reading true-life crime drama, you will enjoy the work behind this book.

It is intriguing and interesting giving us a glimpse into the psyche of many of those accused of theft, murder and sex crimes. We are given the reasoning of why the polygraph cannot be used in court cases, and we are also given to understand that even without this possible permissiveness it is still a standard used in many cases throughout the country.

Wygant writes and fills the pages with interesting and unique information as only an insider can. The polygraph takes a mind to understand the graphs and read the information, and yet many may not follow the set guides, and use varying guidelines. It is both fascinating and absorbing and if you enjoy the backdrop of forensics, you will enjoy this book.

Rating 5/5
Confessions of a Lie Detector

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

Highway to Vengeance: A Thomas Highway Novel by Brian Springer

Article first published as Book Review: Highway to Vengeance: A Thomas Highway Novel by Brian Springer on Blogcritics.

Vengeance is often sought and yet does not always leave you with a better feeing after your revenge or of who you have become. Anger is often what drives it and yet the ends do not always justify the means.

In Highway to Vengeance: A Thomas Highway Novel Brian Springer has delved into that very subject. Thomas Highway, known to his friends as Highway is an unassuming man. He is in love with his beautiful wife and does not quite understand what she sees in him. He has a solid background with the Navy Seals and throughout the story, we hear about the training and how formative it was to who he had become.

As his wife, a street smart lawyer leaves him to his morning as she hurries away to a meeting with the District Attorney on a case she has been assigned, Highway watches her hurry on her way. Still absorbed in his musing about their relationship, he suddenly snaps out of his fugue as he sees her frantic glance down the road she is just crossing. As he tries to understand her fear, a car comes out of nowhere and hits her, killing her instantly. In his heart, Highway knows this is not an accident. Yet as the police follow their procedures, that is exactly what they are ruling it.

Unable to come to terms with her death, he becomes quite morose, drinking and planning but without a hope. As his best friend, Dave Willis shows up, he brings further news. Not only has Highways wife been killed but her client has also supposedly committed suicide. Because of his often-spirited conversations with his wife, he is sure he knows who is responsible. With his and his friend Willis’s background, he will be able to find and kill the man responsible. Someone must pay, in his life it is the only way.

What Highway finds is that there are others also in the fray. Those that are protecting the killer for his information, and yet others that are also on the trail of his death. Highway is drug into the middle of this war without a real understanding of who these groups are. They are government, possibly a part of Homeland Security, and yet on the other hand they may be the ones that are government sanctioned and yet not acknowledged. Even seeing a badge he does not believe, would he know what the badge should look like? When cornered Highway only does what he believes, but could it get him killed? Bodies are piling up, can he find the man responsible and make him pay, and yet save himself?

Springer has developed exceptional characters; he gives them both their weakness and their strengths and does not apologize. It is part of what give the story character and makes the characters more believable. Throughout the book, we follow Highway on his training to become a Seal, the in-depth and harrowing training that can either make or break a man. Few succeed and yet Highway is one of those that do.

We also find out more about why he is no longer in the program and the fight he had to save his life from something too small to see and yet more deadly than any other foe he would ever face. We get a remarkable look into the workings of different government entities and the possible groups that are only bantered about in rumor.

Will Highway find what he is looking for, and is vengeance really the answer. As bodies begin to pile up and Highway finds himself on the wrong end of certain factions, can his friend Willis help him to save the day?

This is a good solid suspense, with just enough background to keep you turning the pages. Full of action and danger, it is difficult to put down. Part of what I found so interesting were the passages that dealt with the Navy Seal training, it is quite torrid itself. If you are looking for a new hero, Highway may just fit the bill.

Rating 4/5
Highway to Vengeance

This book was received as a free copy from the Author. all opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

North Of Sunset by Henry Baum

Article first published as Book Review:North Of Sunset by Henry Baum on Blogcritics.

Hollywood is the place where dreams are made and occasionally nightmares find their way into the glitter and glamor of the stars.

In North Of Sunset by Harry Baum, we get a fictional glimpse into this world through the eyes of Michael Sennet and his beautiful actress wife Cheryl Leigh. Michael has become a big star, known throughout Hollywood; his face is a household phenomenon. Michael feels he has reached the pinnacle and is ready for the next step which he perceives as producing movies. The producer he works with, Martin Goldfarb is concerned that he is not ready for the big leagues on production and tries to keep his sights low. Michael is upset and having none of it.

At the same time in the city, there are a slew of murders happening. The only thing each victim has in common is their vanity license plates. Because at each crime scene the plate is taken, the serial killer has been coined by the name of the Vanity Plate Killer. Enter Curt Knudsen. He follows a group that talks about the ills of the world and his best friend is the leader. But he has tired of the continued rhetoric and has chosen to do something about those perceived ills. The murders make him feel powerful and he trolls the streets looking for those whose lives he feels makes others suffer. He has his own thought process, and determines the next victim based off his feelings.

Something is pulling these two bigger than life personalities inexorably together; the draw begins with just a bit madness for Michael, and a strange hint of pride from the killer. Michael too has vanity plates that came with his car which he received after one of his first gigs. As fate slowly brings these two together, bodies begin to pile up. Suddenly the murders change as well, is there now a copycat killer? Can California’s finest find this killer before he strikes again?

Henry Baum has written a view of Hollywood from the inside. His characters are much like you would expect both with their flaws and their grandeur. Boredom between work breeds contempt and trouble, and Michael finds himself up to his neck in both. The excitement of being well known comes with the downside of everyone knowing or wanting to know your most personal secrets. As with the real deal, we meet the Paparazzi, and are introduced to the Homicide Detective in charge of the case.

As each of the characters is introduced Baum creates a catalyst that twists them all together creating a situation where Michael feels he has no way to go but down. But even in this twisted scenario he feels a sort of power, even in his shame. The Hollywood Baum creates is very like what we expect, there is the glamor, but there is also the dark undertow waiting for the unwary.

If you enjoy suspense and murder mysteries you will enjoy this work. The world of the stars is so different and yet somewhat like that of our own, and it is interesting to get such a vivacious and fresh description. Baum has found a way to bring his characters to a maddening low, and then executed an ending that pulls them out of the abyss. It is one I did not see coming.

Rating 4/5
North Of Sunset

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