Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Maps of Fate: Book Two by Reid Lance Rosenthal

Article first published as Book Review:Maps of Fate: Book Two by Reid Lance Rosenthal on Blogcritics.

The old west of America was a lure for many in the 1800’s. Freedom and rumors of gold created a frenzy of movement, wagon trains were the mode of travel, and danger lurked at every turn.
In The Maps of Fate by Reid Lance Rosenthal, we follow the amazing journey of a group of young men and women who are dreaming their own dreams and drama as the rush to settle the West is in its infancy. We met the characters in Book one of the Threads West series, where the introductions took us back to their homes across the seas and their very reason for being in America. As the story continues we tail them into the west following the trail of the ancestors of many who have settled in the Midwest and Western part of this country. The romance is thrilling and the danger is exciting, yet the story captures your imagination as it creates a strong fear of the unknown.
As we follow Zeb, Reuben and Johannes and the women they love as they carve out a piece of history, we meet the natives and the outlaws, both with their own quests. Life on the trail and the rigors of traveling with a wagon train are brought to basic relief as the story continues to unfold. Danger within the group creates almost as much damage as the dangers they face from the outside on this epic journey. We being to hear the rumblings of dissent as the story furthers. News makes its way West through the writings and newspapers, hinting of a war brewing between the North and the South.  
Hostility and rage drive some while glory and choice drive the others. The creak and of the leather and the rumble of the wheels create the sounds and sights that create such an exciting saga. As you move through the words you can actually smell the smells, and hear the sound of the wind as the trail takes you deeper into the unexplored territories. Rosenthal has surpassed his previous work and given us such a complex telling you feel as though each and every story is true.  The horror and danger are real, yet the excitement and challenge are the edge that builds the heroes of the time.
The description of the characters is flawless, creating a feeling of knowing. You love them or hate them, but the feeling is real. The romance is fierce and gentle at the same time, but the savagery is just as abundant. The interaction of the group draws you in as you become immersed in their daily lives and begin to dream their dreams. Where you could only imagine what life at this time in history could be like, you now can begin to live it through the characterization of this wonderful group.
The story is exciting, the suspense is bold, and the period setting is sensational. You can smell the sage, and are startled with the unexpected sounds as you travel with the team. The sounds and sights are so real you begin to place yourself in the scenes, viewing the happenings as they occur, reeling with the danger and feeling the fear and adrenalin as you too take this journey.
If you love a great story and love history this is a fantastic work. If you enjoy romance, suspense, danger and action this would be a great book for your library. The work stands on its own, but the saga is certainly worth the read. The beginning sets the stage, but you can join up anywhere.  Be prepared to become engaged, as Rosenthal sets the stage for another leg of this fascinating journey.
Rating 5/5
This book was received free from the publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Article first published as Book Review:The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon on Blogcritics

The atrocities of war simmer deep within the men and women that experience the worst there is to offer. Often the memories lay dormant for years before they are brought to the surface to face the light of day.
In the prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, we are taken into the world of Barcelona in the 1950’s were we are introduced to the life of Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea. The family owned book store is famous and Daniel is becoming a part of its growing recognition. As he watches the store for his father, he is surprised by a stranger, one who is intent on buying one of their most precious treasures. When he makes notations in the book, then returns it to Daniel to pass on to a friend, he is dismayed. Although the book had been purchased before being defaced, what does his good friend have to do this this dark and mysterious stranger?
With his curiosity in full swing he approaches his friend Fermin Romero de Torres with the strange quest. Soon to be married, Fermin is horrified, somehow his past is catching up, and secrets that he thought long buried threaten to come bubbling forward into a life that has no part of his past.  A past that takes him back to the early 1940s and a life he thought was long buried. Sharing this past with his friend Daniel, he relives the horror from his earlier years.
How can he cope, will the knowledge he is sharing create even further umbrage, or can they band together to stop the dark secrets from tumbling into the open, threatening his very existence.
Zafon has written a deep and mysterious novel full of people that are real. His characterization is spot on–humor is only one of the ways that he draws us to the characters. The darkness he reveals feels real and yet surreal as only the unimaginable can. The women that are introduced create a foil that only makes the atrocities seem more horrifying.
The story is fraught with pain and turmoil, but threaded with hope and belief. The emotion is well written and the mystery continues to deepen, enthralling the reader with the danger and darkness capable of being inflicted in the name of new leaders. As the new regime of that place and era entrench themselves, many of those willing to question the status are crushed in the cruel systems of anarchy.
If you enjoy historical fiction full of danger and intrigue, you will find this a fascinating read. The humor and dialogue draw you in, the story of a time in history will have fascinated and horrified at the same time. This would be a great book for a book club, or reading group. There are layers and subterfuge that must be cleared to see the picture, a picture of pain and depravity, but one of hope and healing as well.
This is an enthralling read and a must have for your library. Zafron focusses on the emotion of the reader and doesn’t let go.
Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Quest, Inc. by Justin Cohen

Article first published as Book Review: Quest, Inc.: Can You Buy a New Life? by Justin Cohen on Blogcritics.

Who can a self-help expert turn to when his own life spirals out of control? Can the rules apply even for those who have lost their way in their own field?
In Quest, Inc. by Justin Cohen, we travel a very shaky yet compelling road to improvement. Robert Rivera has found himself in a nightmare he is unable to escape. He has become extremely overweight and unfit; he has lost his home, his wife, and his own will to live. Life had become a steady downhill spiral since he and a group of young achievers had won The Presidential Service Acknowledgement in the Presidents Living Well Campaign some years earlier. Living his dream was no longer even close to the dismal future he faced. Even as he decides to throw himself from the roof of an old dilapidated building he finds he does not even have the courage for that either. Contemplating his life from the edge, he is shaken.
The woman sent to talk him down is in disbelief. She recognizes Robert and with good reason. She was a part of the group that received the President’s Award. How could this have happened? As Carter looked askance at Robert, trying to access the situation, she is in disbelief at what has become of him.
Enlisting the rest of the group from their Living Well Campaign, they put together a plan for Robert. After much soul searching and turmoil he is able to regain a semblance of his prior life. When they realize the impact they have made and how Roberts’s turnaround with their help was such an amazing and gratifying feeling, they decided to get together and open a self-help program called Quest, Inc.
Little do they realize that they and their business will be under scrutiny by the investigative Journalist, Victoria Holt? Convinced that the self-help crowd is more about selling snake oil and making money then about real help, she is prepared to expose them for the charlatans she feels them to be. Setting them up is only a part of her game plan. Can they really make good on their promises or is what they propose really beyond their means. Can they really help their clients to lose weight, fix their relationships, or get rich? Can they help the homeless get back on track and is it possible to take racism out of a racist. Only as they realize the scope of their dilemma do they find that fire deep within to drive their clients to the best case scenario.
Cohen has written a charming and novel story, based on real life. The background and basics of the Quest, Inc. group are based of real life strategies. The development of his characters is both amusing and interesting. He has taken a little of many different issues and filled his characters with both charisma and just a bit of need. Taking both the good and bad he has given us topics that are controversial and yet real to the lives we know and live.
I enjoy how he has developed his gurus into real people, the challenge was in reducing the starch of success, and bringing them to the level of those they needed to work with. I was also amused with the differing tactics, and charmed by the mannerisms. The journalist was so convinced of her rightness, it is interesting to see how each of the characters found unique ways of dealing with her.
If you love a great story and enjoy reading self-help novels this is both an interesting and unique work. If you enjoy compassion, and romance as well as the inner workings of the self-help industry you will find Quest, Inc. to be very satisfying. The successes and challenges would make this a great book for a reading or discussion group, the nuances make it very appealing. This is a refreshing and riveting look at one of the newest industries of the day.

The World’s #1 Personal Development Agency . . . has to prove it.

What if you brought together five top personal development experts—equipped with virtually everything we know about unleashing human potential—and gave them some lives to change? Could they really coach anyone to lose fifty pounds, fix a broken relationship, or get rich? What would they do for a homeless person, or a pro-golfer trailing at the back of her league? How about taking the racism out of a racist, or turning a hellish employee into a ray of sunshine?

Welcome to Quest, Inc. They say they can change your life. Now, as they’re followed by an investigative journalist from one of the world’s leading news publications, they have to prove it—or be damned as charlatans.

Based on real life peak performance and transformational strategies, you’ll see the highs and lows everyone faces on the road to self-realization—especially the experts. Get ready for breakthrough . . . or breakdown.

Excerpt Link (Chapter 1):

Justin Cohen's Bio:
Justin Cohen is the author of four books and seven audiobooks. He produced and hosted a television talk show in which he interviewed some of the world’s top experts on success. As a leading authority on personal development, with an honors degree in Psychology, Justin speaks, trains and writes in the fields of motivation, sales, service and leadership. Having spoken professionally for nearly fourteen years, Justin has presented in twelve different countries, and in virtually every industry, to an average of ten thousand people annually.


Paperback & eBook
Publisher: Telemachus Press
Price: $9.99 paperback, $0.99 ebook
ISBN: 9781937387303
Pages: 284
Release: March 20, 2012

Amazon buy link: ($9.99)

Barnes & Noble buy link:

Kindle buy link ($0.99)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Mers by Ami Blackwelder

Article first published as Book Review:The Mers by Ami Blackwelder on Blogcritics.

Knowing who you are and believing in yourself are what most believe create that inner feeling of completeness and possibly even happiness. For those who do not know of their familial background, a quest for information almost always begins.
In The Mers by Ami Blackwelder, the author takes us into such a situation, one our heroine, Mira, can only guess at.  Living among the Mers, a people that have evolved after the Great Deluge, she understands she is not like them. They have gills and webbed appendages, while she is not comfortable in the water and is not equipped with the standard gills or webs. Her hair is another stand out, it is bright cherry red and is not like that of any of her friends.  Nonetheless she knows she is loved and she loves her friends and family with abandon. She just feels a little like an outcast because she is not like anyone else she knows.  She thinks she may be  more like the humans, but they are bad and she does not want to think about them. They are dangerous and want nothing more than to destroy the Mers.
After the flood, necessity caused many changes and when adaptions such as the Mers possessed came to light it created fear and distrust. War ensued and after peace was brokered, the Mers were allowed to live their lives on Liberty Shore, the former Ellis Island, away from the humans. The Humans kept New Jersey and life became more peaceful. The treaty worked for many years, but things were beginning to change. Strange water waves and dangerous sea creatures were now in evidence and threatening the lives and existence of the Mers. While lives were lost among the Mers, it was the disappearances that were the most disturbing. Life was becoming unbearable. Pirates were raiding their shores looking for bounty but kidnapping Mers as well. What was behind this new and sinister danger?
As the danger creeps even closer, Mira learns a small piece of her past. She is a foundling, and her adopted parents believe she is human. They want only what is best for her and fear for her safety. Mira decides to break the rules and she and her best friend Nerin cross the border that separates these two entities in an effort to find the answers she is searching for. Is she really prepared for the answers? What they discover is both shocking and horrifying; they must find a way to warn the Mers, but how? They have been captured, but there is something very strange happening to Mira, she seems to be gaining the ability to do small bits of mind control. When they are helped by the Kings own son to escape, they find themselves in a fight for their lives to save their family and friends. Even as this evil is raging on, Mira learns part of the truth of her past. Can she live with what she learns of who she is?
Blackwelder has given us a dystopian world and created a society of different people that have become survivors. As with all societies she has built in the pettishness, and jealousy, as well as the fear of those who are different. Through it all she has weaved a gentle twist of romance and hope, and a love of family.
Her characters create feelings in the reader, the mostly gentle ways of the Mer draw you to them, yet their strength makes you understand their capabilities. The Humans have their own foibles and while most are caring and loving, the class system that is in place separates them too much. The distinctions are too extreme causing a feudal system with a King that has proclaimed his power. Blackwelder has given us a wicked Monarch that is easy to dislike, one who also has something to hide. Not because he is ashamed but because he plans to win at all costs.
If you enjoy end of the world scenarios, as well as mystery, romance and danger you will enjoy The Mers. There is beauty and abundance littered with hope. But betrayal raises the stakes and the adventure keeps you reading to find out how the Mers can survive, or even if they will.
Rating 4/5
This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based on my reading and understanding of the material.