Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Hans Becker's Family by Ralph S. Souders

ISBN #: 978-1935805632
Page Count: 349
Copyright: 2010
Publisher: 2 Moon Press


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

As the maid walked to the center of the room, she noticed that everything in the room was organized and in its proper place. At first glance the bed appeared to be very neat and the maid expected to find that it had already been made.

However, she quickly realized that this was not the situation as a young man was lying in it beneath the sheet and the bedspread with his head resting comfortably on a pillow. His hair was smooth and in place.

As the maid approached him more closely, a very uneasy feeling came over her and she got a very tight knot in the pit of her stomach. Her immediate impulse was to rush from the room and to call the housekeeping manager, but the man was young, probably not yet twenty. She felt almost a mother's concern for him.

Against her better judgment, the maid reached out to him and touched the small area of his bare shoulder that was not covered by the sheet. The maid's suspicion was confirmed. The shoulder was cold. The man was dead.

And so the stage is set for this gripping and suspense filled tale by new and upcoming author Ralph S. Souders.


Mandy's Review:

This is actually the second review that's been posted on Literary R&R for Hans Becker's Family. The first review was posted on April 14, 2011 by Charlene. You can click here to read what she had to say.

The plot is unique and imaginative. Angie was a good student and artist who was living with her family. Then things began to go down hill ... She was accused of molesting the oldest son of her employer, then she was coerced into an illicit affair with the accuser's husband and finally she had to go to court over the molestation accusation.

All of this trauma affects Angie and her trust of men. She learns from the trauma and utilizes it to her advantage.

Hans meets Angie through an unfortunate set of events and, over time, they grow close enough to begin living together. Hans is unaware of Angie's past and believes that Angie is the woman of his dreams.

When Hans' world begins to fall apart, it is from the results of situations that Angie has participated in. It catches him unexpectedly and he is not prepared for the emotional ride Angie has inadvertently thrown him on.

Although I enjoyed the plot of this novel, I did think the writing and language used was too proper. Maybe this is the German way ... I'm not sure, but I did find the characters to be a little too polite and respectful of each other. I know that probably sounds odd, but it's hard for me to imagine an entire culture excessively polite.

I would recommend this book to all persons who enjoy a suspense novel with a protagonist twist. It would be a wonderful addition to your personal library.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Hoodie by Brendon Lancaster

ISBN #: 978-1449027629
Page Count: 336
Copyright: December 29, 2009
Publisher: AuthorHouse


Book Summary
(Taken from Goodreads)

From the moment Ben Chapman ('Hoodie' to the other Shady Boys) crashes out of school, determined never to return and, incidentally, seeking his revenge on the school's drug dealer by stealing and concealing his stash in his trousers on the way out, you know that this is a boy to whom caution and reticence are alien concepts. Outwardly, he maintains that all he wants is a job, his own money and to follow his heart towards the girl of his dreams, Isabelle. But, underneath that concealing hoodie, Ben has a rich inner life, fed by dope, wine and the belief that he is someone special.

During his 'summer of love,' we follow his attempts to engage with the real world with frustration and compassion. His adventures cause him to question today's competitive, consumer-based values, eventually challenging his perception of reality and prompting him to reflect upon who and what his purpose in life is before finding himself faced with the definitive test of resolve and bravery.

Hoodie's blend of up-to-date realism, dream-like escapism, fast-paced, hard-hitting action, wistful musings, humour and tragedy, all while the story navigates its way on a magical mystery tour of Ben's mind, ensures an enjoyable read. It provides the perfect antidote to alarmist Daily Mail reporting of youth issues, exploring the problems facing modern day Britain from the perspective of a disempowered, disaffected teenager.

On a deeper level, there is a moral/spiritual sub-text, fed by Ben's belief that he has a secret weapon; the simian lines (fused head and heart lines) on the palms of his hands. These are extremely rare and noted as being a genetic abnormality shared by drug addicts, mass murderers, scientific researchers and religious fanatics (and, by sheer coincidence, Tony Blair). Could these lines hold the key to his future?


Kathy's Review:

I had a hard time relating to the main character of this book, Ben, aka Hoodie. A teenaged boy, drub abuser, hanging with a rough crowd. The book opens with him stealing drugs from the school's biggest dealer and returning to his secret hangout spot with his buddies. I should also mention that the story takes place in England and there are a lot of slang terms that were unfamiliar to me. It's unclear - are we supposed to think Hoodie is cool? Are we supposed to see these kids as the cool kids or the losers?

Then Ben has his palm read by a homeless man, who tells him he is special and he can do anything. Right after, he has a vision/hallucination about a tiger, and I thought maybe the story was going in a new direction. However, Hoodie continues to socialize with his loser friends, even though he sees that he could be doing so much more.

I struggled to get through this story. Hoodie's observations as he walked through crowds of people didn't strike me as particularly profound, and even though I saw that this character was trying to get on the right path, I didn't have any connection to him or to his friends.

Then there's a series of huge WTFs at the end - plot twists I didn't see coming although I had a feeling things would take an ugly turn. Is there redemption for Ben? And do I even care at this point? I think the last 1/3 of the story is just a carnival ride that the reader is unwittingly put on.

I'm not sure who the appropriate audience is for this book. Maybe younger males who might be on a bad path and can see some of themselves in Ben? With the drug use and one particular graphic sex scene, this book will not appeal to a wide crowd.

I don't have anything negative to say about how the story was written, this just wasn't for me. However, it might make a young person think about the consequences of drugs, violence and hanging with the wrong crowd.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

BintoM Giveaway: Winner's Choice!



I know it's been a couple months since I've hosted this giveaway and I apologize. Like most people, the holidays left me depleted of funds and I was unable to host this giveaway as I wanted.

Now that that's out of the way ... this month I've decided to let the winner choose their book/movie combo prize. Here are the rules:
  • This month's giveaway is open to U.S. residents only
  • The book/movie combo must include a movie that is based upon the book chosen. (I will be verifying!)
  • On March 12th, I will randomly select a winner and will contact them via email
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen

With that mentioned, the entry form is below. Good luck and feel free to spread the word! =)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kathy Reviews: (un)Dead by Trinidad Giachino

ASIN #: B0058FM0SM
File Size: 266 KB
Format: Kindle Edition


Book Summary:
(Given from the author)

In the 1950's, Richard Saussure is a Private Detective with a reputation for never leaving a job unfinished. A man named Lord Hurlingthon contacts him, requesting his abilities to solve a deeply personal mystery: Hugh Hurlingthon is two hundred and thirteen years old and can't die.

Or so he claims.

Saussure will have to discover if this man is telling the truth, and if it is so, why he can't cease to exist. Along the course of this investigation, Richard Saussure will question his believes while attempting to come to terms with his own past.


Kathy's Review:

Calling to mind the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King and the other greats of the horror/suspense genre, (un)Dead has a great hook, and rewarding payout. From the beginning I was drawn in to the creepy mystery of Lord Hurlingthon and his inability to die. Lord Hurlingthon hires Detective Richard Saussure to investigate why he seems to have eternal life, but has continued to age; he is a living corpse. Other detectives have come before him and dropped the case like a hot potato, but Saussure has the tenacity - and knows the right people - to solve the mystery.

Saussure uncovers the secret that has lived in the mansion for centuries, which has been kept from Hurlingthon himself. The end, without revealing too much, is a very satisfying and moving conclusion.

As this is the first book in the Detective Saussure mystery series, there was a hint of something in Saussure's personal life that may be revealed in later stories - someone named Kara, who may have been his wife, appears to have recently passed away. Not much is said about it, but what was said, made me want to know more.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery with some weird supernatural stuff thrown in there. My only criticism of this book is that it appears to have been spellchecked, but no thoroughly edited, as correctly-spelled words frequently appeared in the wrong tense, or not used properly in the sentence. I was willing to forgive those errors because of how much I enjoyed the story. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book two!

Mandy Reviews - Customers Clients Patrons and Morons: A Lifetime of Dealing with the Public by Jim Schulte

ISBN #: 978-1456485009
Page Count: 109
Copyright: 2010


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

I'm just a normal kind of guy that loves dealing with the public on a daily basis. Just like any other job, some days are better than others.

I'm of the opinion that any job is what you make it. I choose to make mine very satisfying.

I don't have a college degree and I'm not an accomplished author. I simply love to write.

I write like I talk, so don't look for any big fancy words with long complicated meanings. I probably wouldn't know how to spell most them anyway.


Mandy's Review:

Just about every job on this planet has some element of customer service. This means that just about every employed person has dealt with customers, clients or patrons at some point during their career ... which means every employed person has dealt with, at least, a few morons during their employment as well.

Jim's book is a collection of stories that he has obtained during his working life. We all have them, but he was smart enough to write them in book format for the world to read.

I could not relate to all of the stories in Mr. Schulte's book, but with 15+ years in the customer service field, I was able to relate to most of them ... especially the feelings invoked by such experiences. With the ones I related to, I found them hilarious. There was one point that I literally LOL'd until I cried.

There are some editing issues that need to be taken care of, but, overall, this book is a quick entertaining read that should be enjoyed by all persons in the customer service field.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Miss Fannie Mae's Girls by Larry Batchelor

ISBN #: 978-0615562407
Page Count: 249
Copyright: January 9, 2012
Publisher: 3L Publishing


Overview:

Fannie Mae Turner died on New Years Eve, December 31, 2008. She was the daughter of sharecroppers. She was born in a shack on a dusty, dirt road in the backwoods of Macon County, Georgia in 1922. Fannie Mae had skin the color of red Georgia clay. On the day she was born her mother screamed, not because of the difficult childbirth, but for the mere fact that her baby girl was the color of dirt with eyes as black as coal dust.

And so begins and eventually ends the life of Fannie Mae Turner from Macon County, Georgia. A true native of the Deep South, Fannie Mae Turner married and loved Henry Turner and bore five girls; Belle, Nettie, Rosalie, Christine and Elenora. They raised their daughters very much in the same way that Fannie's mother had raised her to be God-fearing, hard-working girls who knew how to be strong when called upon. Each girl was as different as her name. Belle, the oldest, was called Lil Buck after her grandpa Buck. Nettie, the second girl, was nicknamed Sis. Rosalie was called Big Red, because she was the same color as her mother. Christine was called Sweetie Pie. And, Elenora went by the name Girlie.


Charlene's Review:

Miss Fannie Mae's Girls is a novel about a woman and her family in the Deep South. Beginning with Miss Fannie Mae's death, Mr. Batchelor holds us captive as he writes about the bigotry of the South, the loss of her father to the KKK, the raising of a family, and the reunion of the daughters as they carry out the plan their mama made for her funeral. As the five, very different girls work together to honor their mother, they find they are not so different after all. They are all Fannie Mae's girls.

Although a majority of the story carries on after her death, Miss Fannie Mae has a huge presence in this story. The memories shared, and the recipes, which leave your mouth watering, make it seem as if she is hanging over every word. This is a story of life, loss, unity and the personal growth of each of the strong personalities involved. The reconciliation of the past with the present is especially pleasing, in regards to the descendants of the men who discriminated against Miss Fannie Mae's family. My favorite character was Marshall Tate, and his over-the-top flamboyant self. I would love to have him as a best friend!

I identified the most with Belle, the ever-loyal caretaker of the family. Each of the characters leave an impression well after the end of the book.

Miss Fannie Mae's Girls is a touching story, deep in culture and family dynamics. Mr. Batchelor shows us a strong premise for remembering where we come from, and how we are shaped. I loved this book, as I love my own family; quirky characters and all.

Mandy Reviews: The Goodbye Man by Chad Barton

ISBN #: 978-1456743109
Page Count: 208
Copyright: July 1, 2011
Publisher: AuthorHouse


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

"As more people filled the packed church, Jack was forced to move down the wall toward the front, until he was very near the altar. From that vantage point, he could see the young mother's face.

He found himself staring at her, unable to look away. He didn't know why. Perhaps it was the terrible sadness in her face. He watched her intently as she clutched a little brown teddy bear and a picture of her daughter, who now lay only feet away in a small casket. The size of it made him wince. Jack felt the anger rise within him."

At sixty years old, Jack Steele has long since retired from putting criminals - especially those that hurt children - in prison. Following his retirement from law enforcement, he built a successful multimillion-dollar company, allowing him financial freedom in his golden years. Following the unexpected loss of his wife, Sarah, however he withdraws into himself. He becomes a loner whose only companion is his German shepherd dog.

Sick of a court system that lets monsters out of prison to torture and kill again and again, he decides there is only one way to stop them. Using his own resources, his credentials as a retired police officer, and his .380 Walther, he and his dog begin to hunt - bringing justice to those whom the system cannot control.

After all, enough is enough.


Mandy's Review:

Never, that I can remember, have I ever cried over a book.

I did with The Goodbye Man.

Jack is a retired law enforcement officer who is widowed and wealthy. His only trusted constant companion since his wife's death is Sadie, his gorgeous, protective, precious, intelligent German shepherd. Because of his wealth, Jack has a Citation airplane at his disposal to come and go as he wishes.

Using his resources (plane, people, money), Jack begins to hunt down the released criminals that have gone back into hiding under assumed identities. Not just any released criminals, though ... Jack hunts down the criminals who were imprisoned for crimes against children.

During his hunts, complications arise: a woman enters Jack's life allowing him to love again and the NYPD and FBI become aware of who Jack is, but not his name. He begins to become easily recognizable thanks to Sadie. Jack knew, from the beginning though, that it would only be a matter of time before he was caught. When that happened, he already had a plan all worked out.

This book mixes elements of romance, murder, suspense, vigilantism and sadness. As a person, you become proud and encouraging of Jack ... even knowing that what he's doing is against the law and a sin. Who wouldn't want to hunt down and kill child rapists and murderers?

Some of the descriptions of the children, how they died and the grief of their families is what made me cry ... well, that and the death of Sadie. I have a softness in my heart for dogs as the dog I had to bury was part German shepherd. There is nothing quite like the loyalty and love of a dog and to read about Sadie's death overwhelmed me. I know that may be a little sappy, but it's who I am ...

I highly recommend this book to all of the mystery/suspense/dog lovers out there. To say it is a great book is not good enough of a description.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Charlene Reviews: A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

ISBN #: 978-0805094497
Page Count: 400
Copyright: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks


Overview:

Auction house appraiser Jude leaves London for her dream job at Starbrough Hall, an estate in the countryside, examining and pricing the manuscripts and instruments of an eighteenth-century astronomer. She is welcomed by Chantal Wickham and Jude feels close to the old woman at once: they have both lost their husbands. Hard times have forced the Wickham family to sell the astronomer's work, their land and with it, the timeworn tower that lies nearby. The tower was built as an observatory for astronomer Anthony Wickham and his daughter Esther, and it served as the setting for their most incredible discoveries.

Though Jude is far away from her life in London, her arrival at Starbrough Hall brings a host of childhood memories. She meets Euan, a famed writer and naturalist who lives in the gamekeeper's cottage at the foot of the tower, where Jude's grandfather once lived. And a nightmare begins to haunt her six-year-old niece, the same nightmare Jude herself had years ago. Is it possible that the dreams are passed down from one generation to the next? What secrets does the tower hold? And will Jude unearth them before it's too late?


Charlene's Review:

Our main character, Jude, works as an appraiser for an auction house. Still suffering the loss of her husband, Jude welcomes a large job evaluating the manuscripts from an astronomer. As she digs deeper into the journals of Anthony and Esther Wickham, she finds many secrets hidden within the family and the grounds around Starbrough Hall, a place in which her own mother once lived. Dreams that have haunted her since childhood have now begun to repeat in her niece's dreams. Jude hopes to find the answer as she puts the puzzle of the Wickham family together.

There are so many layers to this story. Mystery, murder, betrayal, romance, and even some history are all found in A Place of Secrets. English charm, and picturesque details add to the beauty of this novel, set partially in the 18th century. Ms. Hore seamlessly weaves the past and present, as if with a magic wand, and it is all tied neatly up by the end. I fell in love with the characters, especially with Esther, the very mysterious daughter of astronomer, Anthony Wickham. A Place of Secrets is a completely enjoyable reading experience.

2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge: Life is Funny by E. R. Frank




I chose E. R. Frank's Life is Funny as one of my 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge selections. If you're curious as to the rules of this little soiree, then click here...

Fortunately, this book is #40 on the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009, so that's another one I'm able to cross off that list. Yay!!!

Book Info:

ISBN #: 051488007999
Page Count: 263
Copyright: 2000
Publisher: DK Inc


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

"Because life is funny," Gingerbread tells Keisha when she asks why he laughs so much. The thing is, until she falls in love with him, Keisha doesn't see what's so funny - in her life or anyone else's in Brooklyn, New York.

There is Eric, fiercely protective of his little brother, Mickey. To the rest of the world, he is simply fierce. To Linnette, whose parents have taken him in as a foster child, he's an intruder in her life - until a look through a keyhole reveals both Eric's past and his future.

Then there are Grace and Sam, whose dreams come true because they were lucky enough to be born beautiful. Sonia, who struggles to live the life of a good Muslim girl in a foreign America. And Gingerbread and Keisha, who fall in love despite themselves.

Life is Funny strips away the everyday defenses of one group of teenagers living today, right now - and show their unbearably real lives.


Mandy's Review:

This makes the second novel I've read that was written by E. R. Frank and I must say that I have yet to be disappointed.

She has a way of writing about the lives of teenagers that make them seem as real as the people you see every day on the streets. Her books have invoked emotions of anger, sympathy, sadness and laughter ...

Life is Funny isn't like most novels. It doesn't really have a beginning. It doesn't prepare you for a climactic event that slowly fades into an ending. This novel plops you right in the middle of several teenagers' lives. You get to see who they really are. Where they've been. What they have to deal with every day ... and no matter how perfect their life seems from the outside, they have to deal with extreme issues at home.

I was engaged in their story from the beginning. I did not stop reading until the book was finished ... and I still wanted more. It makes you realize that everybody is dealing with something and the way they act may be them acting out because they cannot act out at home.

I would recommend this novel to young adults on up. Yes, there is some language, but I think the language helps to make it realistic ... Some young adults need an awakening into what others have to go through!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Charlene Reviews: The Way by Kristen Wolf

ISBN #: 978-0307717696
Page Count: 368
Copyright: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Crown


Overview:
(Taken from book jacket)

Anna is a fiery tomboy living in ancient Palestine whose androgynous appearance provokes ridicule from the people around her and doubt within her own heart. When tragedy strikes her family, and Anna's father - disguising her as a boy - sells her to a band of shepherds, she is captured by a mystical and secret society of women hiding in the desert. At first Anna is tempted to escape, but she soon finds that the sisterhood's teachings and healing abilities, wrapped in an ancient philosophy they call "The Way," have unleashed an unexpected power within her.

When danger befalls the caves in which the sisters have made their home, Anna embarks on a hazardous mission to preserve the wisdom of her mentors by proclaiming it among ordinary people. Her daring quest and newfound destiny reveal, at last, the full truth of her identity - a shocking revelation that will spark as much controversy as it does celebration.

Anna's story is one of transformation, betrayal, love, loss, deception, and above all, redemption. Readers will cheer for this unforgettable protagonist - and for debut novelist Kristen Wolf, whose beautifully written book both provokes and inspires. A compelling mix of history, myth, and fantasy, The Way is a fascinating exploration of the foundations and possibilities of human spirituality.


Charlene's Review:

Set in 7-30 AD, the main character, Anna, fights to find herself. During a time of male dominance, she is forced to watch helplessly as Zahra, a mentor, and her mother, Mari, dies. She is then disguised as male and sold to shepherds by her father. Taking the name of her deceased brother, Jesus, she becomes a shepherd. Unknowingly, the shepherds' leader, Solomon, is the son of Zahra and has plans to take Anna to safety among a secret group of women practicing a religion based on the Mother being the beginning of all creation. Anna is then, ultimately, recognized as a healer and sets out to teach the world "The Way."

While I enjoyed the style of writing and Ms. Wolf's imagery, I found The Way to be a cheap (excuse my French) bastardization of the Gospels. A highly feminist viewpoint is obvious behind the storyline. There are some great points made along the way, especially regarding being who we are meant to be. I would have rather enjoyed the story had it not been for the parallels to the Bible. To call this a controversial book would be an understatement. Further, categorizing it as a Christian historical fiction is inflammatory. Ms. Wolf takes many characters that Christians are familiar with within the Gospel and twists their relationships and interactions. Highly descriptive settings, imaginative plot, and flowing script abound, however, it just wasn't enough for this reviewer to balance out the (in my opinion) warped doctrine being strewn about. I love a good story, but leave my Jesus as He is.

Mandy Reviews: Editorial by Arthur Graham

ISBN #: 978-1450550789
Page Count: 140
Copyright: February 4, 2010
Publisher: CreateSpace


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Follow the editor and his client into the infinite ring of Ouroboros, the self-devouring, in this episodic novella by Arthur Graham. A story told through concentric circles of narrative, each adding a layer of truth while further smothering all notions of certainty, Editorial will leave readers wondering just how many times the same tale can be swallowed...


Mandy's Review:

I was totally and utterly confused by this novel.

I was good for the first chapter, but after that ... I was lost and I never found my way back. To be honest, I don't even know how to review this novel. I know there was one or two main characters that were a constant in this novel, but I couldn't tell you what their significance was.

Sad, I know.

If you're in the mood for a novel that is futuristic to the point of being confusing (at least for me), then this is the book for you. I apologize for my lack of review, but I am really and utterly lost as to what to say.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge: The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti













The Wicked Wives is the book I chose as my Thriller/Suspense selection for The Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge. It is also a book I received from the author in exchange for a review.


Book Info:

ISBN #: 978-1936780631
Page Count: 292
Copyright: 2008
Publisher: Mill City Press


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

The Wicked Wives is based on the true story of the 1938 Philadelphia murder scandals in which seventeen wives were arrested for murdering their husbands.

Mastermind conspirator Giorgio DiSipio, a stunning Lothario and local tailor who preys upon disenchanted and unfaithful wives, convinces twelve of them to kill their spouses for insurance money.

The murder conspiracy is very successful until one lone assistant D.A., Tom Rossi, uncovers the plot and brings the perpetrators to justice.

The Wicked Wives is a story made for Hollywood, combining murder, corruption, treachery, love, lust and phenomenal detail as it vividly captures Depression-era Philadelphia.


Mandy's Review:

I love fiction that is based on truth. So, when the author requested I review this novel, I could not turn it down.

The story is set in Depression-era Philadelphia, which is teeming with various races, mobsters, bookies and difficult economic times. To survive, many turned to illegal activities. One of those was Giorgio DiSipio, a man who loved the ladies ... not because of any affection he felt, but because he knew he could manipulate them to do whatever he needed them to do. Sex was his tool of manipulation; lonely housewives his victim of choice.

Giorgio would seduce the women, convince them to acquire life insurance policies on their husbands (through some "friends" of his in the insurance biz), give them the poison to kill their husbands and then have them split the life insurance money with him. He also had a "friend" who was an undertaker that would perform the autopsies on the victims, claiming they had died of various forms of pneumonia.

But, of course, with every great and master plan comes complications not foreseen by the masterminds ... Will Giorgio get away with his plan? Or will the wives fess up and have him convicted of murder?

This book combines elements of romance, lust, intrigue, murder and conspiracy to tell the story of these wicked wives. I would agree with the part of the summary that states this is a story made for Hollywood, but I would say it's made for old-time Hollywood as that is what it kept reminding me of ... you know, the old black-and-white whodunits that were so prevalent. This story would be perfect for that type of Hollywood movie.

My only issue with this book is that some slight editing is needed. There are times when people flashback to a previous event in their thoughts, but with the way the chapter is written, it almost made it seemed like it was happening now. It kind of threw me for a loop until I read further in the chapter and realized it was a flashback.

Other than that, the story flowed well and maintained my interest. There are some steamy scenes depicted in the story, so I wouldn't recommend it for young adults, but I would recommend it for adults who want to read an interesting suspense novel based on factual events.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Just For Fun 2012 Reading Challenge: Jay's Journal by Anonymous

















Jay's Journal is the book I chose for my February selection of the Just For Fun 2012 Reading Challenge. You can click here to see my complete list on Goodreads.

Book Info:

ISBN #: 978-1442419933
Page Count: 230
Copyright: 1979
Publisher: Simon Pulse


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Jay thought he could handle anything. The first time he took drugs was for fun. But what started as an escape quickly spiraled into a haze of addiction. That was just the beginning of the dangerous path that ultimately led Jay to take his own life.


Mandy's Review:

I never knew there was a companion diary to Go Ask Alice until I went to Books-A-Million and saw Jay's Journal sitting beside Go Ask Alice on the bookshelf. I was curious, so I purchased Jay's Journal the same day I bought Go Ask Alice.

Let's make some quick comparisons between Go Ask Alice and Jay's Journal...

Some of the similarities:
  • Both books were copies of a troubled teenager's diary
  • Both teenagers lived in the 1970s
  • Both teenagers committed suicide
  • Both claimed to want to turn from their troubled existences, but neither had the willpower to make the changes
  • Both converted others to their lifestyle and then regretted doing so later on
Some of the differences:
  • Jay's Journal is written by a teenage boy, whereas Go Ask Alice was written by a teenage girl (obvious, right?)
  • Alice was mainly involved in drugs, whereas Jay dabbled in a little bit of drugs (unknown to him) but his main addiction was the occult.
  • Alice ran away from home, Jay did not

I did like that Jay's Journal covered a different addiction than Go Ask Alice. The occult is a very serious activity to participate in. Often times, it isn't taken seriously enough. While the occult is not talked about as prevalently nowadays (at least from what I see), it is still an ever present danger to people.

The majority of this book sounded more realistic than Go Ask Alice did to me, but there were still parts that I felt like someone took literary liberties with. There are excerpts that just do not sound like something a teenage boy would say ... even in a private journal. Then there were several passages where the dates of the entries just didn't jive for me.

So, overall, I liked this book better than Go Ask Alice, but not enough to recommend it be read by others.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kathy Reviews - Dragon's Pupils: The Sword Guest (Book One) and Dragon's Pupils: The Peaks (Book Two) by Martin Chu Shui

ISBN #: 978-1921578472
Page Count: 300
Copyright: July 27, 2009
Publisher: BookPal
Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

The story centers on Liz, born of half Australian and of half Chinese descent. Growing up in Australia, she isn't very interested in her father's ancient Chinese stories. She is concerned with problems that are far more contemporary such as environmental issues, and particularly her friend's handsome brother who is an environmental activist.

But her disinterest in Chinese culture changes when her two world collide, after a catastrophic accident sets thousands of ancient monsters loose near her home. Suddenly Liz must learn many new skills and call on all of her Chinese heritage if she is to prevent the monsters from destroying Earth.

Helped by her twin brother and best friend, Liz sets out to discover why the monsters exist and how to stop them. When she is injured in a battle, she must travel to China to seek a cure that is spiritual as much as it is physical. But can she find the old man who can help her before the monsters catch her? How will she manage in a country that is so strange and yet so familiar? And can she learn enough about a world she has ignored to stop the monsters in time?


ASIN #: B006HN8LCS
File Size: 364 KB
Format: Kindle Edition
Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Powerful and invincible they ride across vast desert landscapes, hunting and slaying vampires under the cover of night. Jian Ke, the sword guests are more famous than ever! Admired by millions of TV fans around the nation as they pursue a life of action and adventure: a splendid tapestry depicting Liz, Henry and Sue at the top of their game. With her paintbrush in hand Liz is prepared to take on a hoard of vampires, an army of aliens and even her first kiss from the man of her dreams, Sue's handsome older brother.

Life couldn't be better until everything falls to pieces.

Liz must now face her biggest fears as the world she once knew slips through her fingers. No-one will be left untouched by the chaos which ensues. Armed only with her knowledge of Tai Chi, Liz must fight for what she has lost and begin the climb of her life. An unforgettable journey will take her to the Peaks.


Kathy's Review:

I read the first two books in the Dragon's Pupils series so this review is kind of a two-fer. (Dragon's Pupils meaning the white parts of the eyes; not students. Just thought I'd clear that up. Apparently the pupils are the last part you paint with the magic pen before the dragon can come alive.)

These books are like literary versions of the show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. A group of teenagers discover they have pretty amazing powers and are confronted with larger-than-life supervillains around every turn. Each possesses a magical item that aids them in defeating the baddies. Fourteen year old Liz, the main protagonist, owns a magical pen which can paint things that come to life. The pen also transfers into a whip. Her twin brother, Henry, can shoot fireballs from his sword. Their friend, Sue, has a magical ring that can fly and act as a shield. Other gadgets mask their faces and allow them to transform into other people.

Set in Australia but flavored with Chinese influence and practices, The Dragon's Pupils series is meant for teen/young adult reading. Book One introduces us to the main characters and how they come to acquire their powers. Several run-ins with the USB (which stands for "Ultra Supreme Beings," not the cable that you use to connect to your computer), an evil force led by vampires and "backpack killers," force them into battle to save the citizens of Australia, which brings them to a final confrontation with the Vampire King. Along the way they make allies with the Monster King and his followers, including some bad-ass crocodiles that come to the group's aid. The book culminates with Liz learning a secret about her father that explains why he is always spouting ancient Chinese philosophy.

In Book Two, the group, famously known as the Jian Ke, has gained some infamy with their defeats of the vampires. No one knows their identity, so they must continue the facade of living normal lives as high school students. This is difficult because the threat of USB is still very real. Rose, a new girl to their school, reveals herself to be the leader of a group that casts a bad light on the Jian Ke and claims to be the true heroes. Animals begin to talk and are accused by Rose of being evil and they are rounded up to be killed. When pets begin to talk and are taken from people's homes, Liz and her friends need to do something. But strangely, they seem to have lost their power ...

The story has some interesting plot twists, but overall I think the writing is just average and could use some improvement. English is not the author's first language, so in that respect, I think it's amazing he can write so well in a language not his own. On the other hand, it shows. The second book, especially, has quite a few grammatical errors. Too many to count, actually. Also, although these are fifteen year olds and they do use bad language, I noticed it was a lot more frequent in the second book, as well. The term "bullshit" is used a lot, as well as "bitch." So if your young adult is too young for those words, wait until they are older.

Book Two ends in a cliffhanger as well, and once again, some wisdom from Liz's father helps save the day. I'm not sure I would read any of the next book in the series, as the writing is pretty clunky.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Leaving Lukens by Laura S. Wharton

ISBN #: 978-0983714804
Page Count: 232
Copyright: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Broad Creek Press


Overview:
(Taken from author's website)

As friends move away from the safe enclave of Lukens that always been her home, Ella Marie Hutchins struggles with the decision to leave the disappearing coastal town near Oriental. Her choice might be made for when World War II edges closer to the North Carolina coastal village, but not before a sailor teaches her how to really see all the treasures of life both above and below the ocean's surface. But is Griff really what he appears to be?

In this fast-moving tale of a vanishing town set in 1942, war-time reality challenges long-held perceptions, and change becomes a way of life for the occupants of Lukens.


Charlene's Review:

Leaving Lukens opens in the year 2000 with Ella Marie Hutchins returning to her childhood home for a reunion of the families of Lukens. Ella was only 17 years old in 1942, when World War II hit her small coastal town hard, and residents quickly moved away to larger areas with better jobs. As she looks back over that year, she recalls the hardship of leaving home, and the young man that changed her perspective on the future. Interspersed throughout this historical romance are vignettes of life during wartime, that bring the fear of the Nazis to the forefront.

I was especially impressed with Ms. Wharton's grasp of the historical during this time period, especially regarding the innocence and embedded fear of the War. Much research had to have been done regarding the area and its people, and it is evident in the content of the story. While a topic such as the Nazis could take over a story, the characters in Leaving Lukens are what truly shine. Ella is a young girl conflicted with the changes in her life, but soon learns to come to terms with the future. Griff, meanwhile, is a mysterious force that beckons to Ella, changing her future, forever.

Leaving Lukens reads so smoothly you can devour it in no time. It is engrossing in its theme, and in its lyrical style. Part historic fiction, part romance, packed with adventure and mystery, it holds your attention throughout. The ending was very climactic, and surprising. I truly hated to see it end, but enjoyed every minute spent in its pages.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Guest Reviewer Deidra Reviews - Under His Wings: Dwelling in that Secret Place by Dr. Beverley Forbes-Diaby

ISBN #: 978-1467025324
Page Count: 100
Copyright: September 26, 2011
Publisher: AuthorHouse Publishing


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Under His Wings brings hope to the hopeless! Dr. Beverley Forbes-Diaby invites readers into a secret place; a place where they will find protection, guidance, comfort, love and acceptance, a place of triumphant and victorious living.


Deidra's Review:

The poetry of Under His Wings is inspirational and covers a variety of topics including comfort, faith, forgiveness, grace, guidance, hope and prayer. But while the content is encouraging and uplifting, the poetry itself leaves something to be desired.

All of the verses are sing-songy and predictable, with too much emphasis placed on rhyme. Some lines feel forced and misplaced, and although there is a great deal of rhythm, some of the poetry lacks flow and doesn't contain a natural progression where dynamics are concerned.

In spite of form and lack of flexibility where poetics is concerned, the author does convey her overall message well. Genuine emotion can be felt in the verses, and the author delivers her sense of hope and reassurance successfully. There are also many poems that can be used as a form of personal prayer and meditation.

Although I would not recommend the book on the basis of its poetic merit, I would recommend it to someone who needs encouragement as it offers a quick, easy read and could be used in conjunction with a daily devotion or as a simple meditation.

Charlene Reviews: Shadows of the Past by Richard Schiver

ISBN #: 978-0615583181
Page Count: 248
Copyright: January 2, 2012
Publisher: Abis Books

Overview:
(Taken from Amazon)

He has watched from the shadows since the dawn of time, a jealous god who once ruled a young planet, seeking a return to his former glory.

A brain damaged four year who has the ability to bargain with death is the instrument through which he can escape the shadows of the past. He will do anything to possess this child. But first he has to go through his father.

Sam Hardin must come to terms with his guilt over his wife's death in time to protect his son from the forces of evil who seek to use him as a conduit from the ancient past.

Inspired by Cthulhu Mythos, Shadows of the Past takes the reader on a pulse pounding journey spanning three days as the ongoing battle between good and evil is joined. Sam Hardin and Jack Griffith go head to head in a fight to the death from which only one can emerge victorious while in the balance hangs the future of all mankind.

Charlene's Review:

An ancient dagger is stolen that may be the conduit to a world that existed over 15 million years ago. Jack Griffith is three weeks from retiring from working the swing shift in the sewers. Called to open a clogged drain, Jack uncovers a dagger. Its supernatural powers reveal the darkness around him, and he is transformed; the Chosen. Sam Hardin is a detective assigned to a grisly murder. He is also the guardian, and father, to Frankie, who the Chosen One is seeking in order to end mankind. Struggling with the loss of his wife, Sam must put his past aside to protect his son.

Watch out, Stephen King! Mr. Schiver has a way with terror. Starting with page number 4, Shadows of the Past is a horror-filled ride that left me white-knuckling all the way to the end! The subplots, such as the death of his wife, and the injury to his son, as well as his teen daughter's escapades into crime, lend an even more realistic feel to the story. There are also several flashbacks to war, whether Vietnam, or Kuwait, that mirror the fight for survival that Jack and Sam face as they each wage war in the present day. Weaving the subplots together are horrific cannibalistic murders.

There were a few inconsistencies, although minor, that had me going back and reviewing. Mainly in regards to Sam's wife, Anna, and her death. In Chapter 8, Michelle mentions that its been 4 years since Anna's death, and in Chapter 17, Cheryl, Sam's daughter, states it's been 2 years. Seeing as this book takes place within 3 days time, I was temporarily confused. This, however, in no way detracted from the story, just caused my detail-oriented mind to reel.

Shadows of the Past is full of voices that can mimic others, beings with needle-like teeth that can't be killed, and black clouds that reach forward like tendrils lurking in the darkness. This book will have you sleeping with a nightlight, afraid of the shadows in your closet and under your bed. Descriptive scenes and all too human emotion give this a realistic feel that would translate to the screen with spine-tingling results. The ending hints toward a possible sequel, which I would greedily snatch up and hunker down in a well-lit room to enjoy.

5 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Killing Rites by M. L. N. Hanover

ISBN #: 978-1439176344
Page Count: 367
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Pocket Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Jayne Heller's luck had to run out sometime. After a year as the heir to a magic kingdom - even if there were monsters in it - she learned the hard way that nothing was what it seemed. It turns out Jayne isn't protected by magic courtesy or her dead uncle; she's demon-possessed.

On the run to avoid the repercussions of a crime she had no choice but to commit, Jayne has whittled her group of trusted companions down to one: Ex, the former priest who may hold the key to cleansing the demon rider from her body. Her friends back in Chicago, fearing that her rider has taken the reins, try to find her, unaware that their search only puts Jayne in even greater danger. To save herself, Jayne must overcome the weight of the past and defeat a new, unexpected enemy, but this time all she has to work with are a rogue vampire she once set free and the nameless thing hiding inside her skin.

Mandy's Review:

Killing Rites is the fourth book in The Black Sun's Daughter series. To read my reviews on the first three books, click here for Unclean Spirits (Book One), here for Darker Angels (Book Two) and here for Vicious Grace (Book Three).

I swear, with each book, this series keeps getting better and better.

Jayne and Ex have gone off by themselves after finishing their business in Vicious Grace. Chogyi Jake has stayed in Chicago to finish healing from his surgery. Aubrey and Kim have gotten back together to see if they can rekindle the flame that used to be between them.

While they're alone, Jayne confesses to Ex that she believes she has a rider and that the rider is what causes her to be great in fights, not the magic they thought her Uncle Eric had put on her. Ex, wanting to rescue a damsel in distress, takes Jayne to a group of priests to get her exorcised.

Of course, while they're there, other demons come into play and Jayne helps to solve the potentially disastrous situation.

Will Jayne become free of her demon? Will Ex finally be able to claim Jayne as his own? Will the "family" Jayne built with Ex, Chogyi Jake and Aubrey ever come together again?

I loved that this book focused mainly on Jayne and trying to solve her problems. There was a situation she helped to solve, yes, but it wasn't as involved as it has been in the first three books. This was mainly about Jayne.

I also appreciated that the author finally revealed what 'The Black Sun's Daughter' was. I was beginning to wonder if it'd ever be revealed.

Of course, the author left off with a cliffhanger ... which is going to drive me crazy until the fifth book comes out.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this series to all you urban fantasy book lovers out there ... Go get this series!!!! =)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Four D by Gregory Morrison

ISBN #: 978-1463792664
Page Count: 180
Copyright: November 23, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace


Overview:
(Taken from Amazon)

Four D consists of four chapters: "Space," "Four Rooms," "The Principle of Luidgi," and "Guest."

"Space" is a story about disappearances. The characters live in a world of disappearing people and objects, which might or might not be important. In such a flexible reality, one should not get used to or attached to anything. However, the main character falls in love and finds a best friend despite all risks. To top it all off, he is visited by Space - the power that stands behind all the disappearances.

"Four Rooms" is a story about a young woman called Elise. Elise had always been a prisoner of her own mind. But at some point everything took a turn. She had to make a stand when she found herself at a life changing situation in a dark room with four doors. She has to open all doors and enter every room with its own mystery and secrets and has to do it immediately. Going through the four rooms is a challenge Elise has to complete to find something she needs so badly - the truth.

"The Principle of Luidgi" is a story about Luidgi. Luidgi has everything: a beautiful girlfriend, a good job, a lovely apartment, trusted friends but instead of being happy and grateful he's sick and tired of it all. Luidgi decides to change everything despite all costs.

"Guest" is a story about the character who wants to meet the Guest. Finally one day he makes decision to do "it" and Guest arrives. Now all his questions are about to be answered, but is it really what he wants?

These tense mysterious stories with incredibly engaging plots will not leave any reader feeling indifferent.


Charlene's Review:

Four D is a compilation of stories to baffle and confuse. "Space" seemed rather disjointed and left me dreading the coming chapters. "The Four Doors" was not quite as confusing, but lacked a polished finish. "The Principle of Luidgi" was by far my favorite of the four. It at least has a storyline that you can follow, which was very welcomed at this point. "The Guest" was a disappointing follow-up.

I read many other reviews on this book, hoping for some enlightenment, as I simply didn't get it, especially in regards to "Space." I realize it is surrealism, and that is often left to interpretation, however, it may be a little too broad for most people. To even attempt to sum up the stories for the readers is too daunting a task. As much as I hate giving a bad review, Four D, instead of making me think, made my head hurt. I encourage Mr. Morrison, on further writing attempts, to appeal to readers' sensibilities a bit more.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Blog Tour - Mandy Reviews: Summer of Secrets by Charlotte Hubbard

Thank you for stopping by Literary R&R for our stop on Charlotte Hubbard's Summer of Secrets virtual book blog tour, hosted by Pump Up Your Book.

ISBN #: 978-1420121698
Page Count: 328
Copyright: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Zebra Books

Book Summary:

Welcome to Willow Ridge, Missouri! In this cozy Amish town along the banks of the river, the Old Ways are celebrated at the Sweet Seasons Bakery Cafe, and love is a gift God gives with grace ...

Summer has come to Willow Ridge, but Rachel Lantz is looking forward to a whole new season in her life - marriage to strapping carpenter Micah Brenneman, her childhood sweetheart. When a strange Englischer arrives in the cafe claiming to be the long-lost sister of Rachel and her twin Rhoda, Rachel feels the sturdy foundation of her future crumbling - including Micah's steadfast love. As the days heat up and tempers flare, Rachel and Micah will learn that even when God's plan isn't clear, it will always lead them back to each other ...

Mandy's Review:

Cover

I like the blue of the sky and the depiction of the Amish houses in the distance. The young girl staring off thoughtfully is intended to make one wonder if she has a secret she's holding in or if she's contemplating someone else's secret.

Plot

Miriam Lantz lost her husband several years ago. At the suggestion of her daughters, Rachel and Rhoda, she began a restaurant business. One day, a young lady walks into the restaurant looking goth, but strangely familiar.

Thus begins a series of events encasing several secrets, a possible shunning, the closing of Miriam's restaurant and an abuse of power.

Main Characters

Miriam - A widow who has learned to be self-sufficient, thanks to her business. She has carried a great loss for over 15 years and blames herself for it happening. She is a sweet lady who tries to be a friend to all.

Rachel - One of Miriam's daughters who is secretly engaged to Micah. She is very outspoken and protective over those she loves.

Rhoda - Another of Miriam's daughters. She is Rachel's twin and seems satisfied with living the single life.

Tiffany - A goth-looking young lady that blows through the Amish town one day, causing a stir that does not easily go away.

Overall

I love Amish stories. I have a great respect for their culture and religion. I especially have a great respect for the ladies, who are supposed to be submissive and quiet. I could never be that way, that's for sure!

This book was not typical of the other Amish stories that I've read. This was unique and I rather enjoyed it. There were subplots and twists that I was not expecting.

If you enjoy Amish stories, then I would highly recommend this be added to your personal library.

Charlene Reviews: Deirdre, the Wanderer by Jonnie Comet

ASIN #: B002DYIF2Q
File Size: 699 KB
Copyright: September 8, 2011
Publisher: Surf City Source


Overview:
(Taken from Amazon)

Deirdre's made up her mind - there can be no living where there is no love. But it's winter in Connecticut. And - '... you always hear these stories of stupid runaways who get picked up nearly freezing to death on the streets of Manhattan or whatever. I'm sorry, but being homeless in a place like New York is just stupid. At least I had a plan.' And what a plan!

As in days gone by, the fifteen-year-old full of romantic daydreams and resolved on self-determination will hitch a ride to the southern seas. Soon she learns it's not all plain sailing amidst the tropical trades. In fact it's more like danger and degradation, living and working as a runaway and underage illegal alien on her own. Was it ever supposed to be this weird?

Whether transporting drugs as a love slave in the Caribbean, sailing the Greek Isles amongst the rich and famous, combating pirates on the high seas in Arabia, fleeing captivity and felony in the Outback, or living the life of Eve in a nudist resort, Jonnie Comet's indefatigable heroine must grow to womanhood with only her wits to guide her. Or die trying.


Charlene's Review:

Deirdre is one gutsy teenage girl. Setting off on her own, with dreams of sailing away to a tropical island, with little more than a duffel bag and determination, at only 15 years old. With a few lucky breaks she finds herself, at first, in Bimini, and her new life begins. Hitchhiking, odd jobs, and unlikely relationships ensue, as she learns to live on her own terms, and flourishes amidst danger and heartache.

First off, the book cautions "Mature themes." If rampant lesbianism bothers you, this is not the book for you. As Deirdre finds her way in the world, she is finding her way, sexually. A coming of age story, Deirdre is very daring in her pursuits, yet subtly naive in her initial judgment of people's intentions. She still seems to come out of her experiences a better person, which gives this book a refreshing quality.

Mr. Comet writes in the guise of a teenage girl, with the corresponding thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, beautifully. It was hard to believe it was not a woman author, he nailed the emotions so well. The beauty of the story, after all, was the innocence of a girl fighting for her place in the world, no matter how unconventionally. I rather enjoyed this story of following one's dreams, and despite the repetitive sexual themes, which I felt were not totally necessary to an already enjoyable story, I look forward to the coming sequel.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mandy Reviews: Vicious Grace by M. L. N. Hanover

ISBN #: 978-1439176290
Page Count: 367
Copyright: 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

For the first time in forever, Jayne Heller's life is making sense. Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover, and newfound confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all of them.

At Grace Memorial Hospital in Chicago, something is stirring. Patients are going AWOL and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Half a century ago, something was buried under Grace in a terrible ritual, and it's straining to be free. Jayne is primed to take on whatever's about to be let loose. Yet the greatest danger now may  not be the huge, unseen force lurking below, but the evil that has been hiding in plain sight all along - taking her ever closer to losing her body, her mind, and her soul ...

Mandy's Review:

Vicious Grace is Book Three of The Black Sun's Daughter series. You can click here to read my review of the first book, Unclean Spirits, and here to read my review of the second book, Darker Angels.

Finally, Finally, FINALLY!!! This book did not have the same start up scenario as the first two. Yes, Jayne got into a brawl, but it was a completely different situation in that she did not need anybody to come help her. Instead, she actually helped someone else. Jayne is finally becoming a more confident character who is now starting to show her darker side. Don't judge; we all have a darker side that we show now and then.

The characters in this series have really grown and developed throughout these novels. They are very realistic and varying facets of their personalities have been shown. I am loving it. I feel like I could go outside one day and actually bump into one of them, that's how realistic they are.

I enjoyed the different twists the author provided in this novel as well:
  • The venue for the spiritual encounter was a building instead of a city ... nice change.
  • The love triangle finally came to a head and is now torn apart
  • Jayne's maturity and emotional weaknesses are emerging, making her a stronger character overall
I also enjoy the cliffhanger at the end of each novel. It doesn't bother me with these first three books, because I knew I had the next one in my possession ready to be read. If there's a cliffhanger at the end of the fourth novel, though, that's going to be a different story. While I love that about these books, I'm going to become impatient for want of the fifth novel.

Never have I been so addicted to a series since the first time I read J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter phenomenon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Promise Me Eternity by Ian Fox

ASIN #: B004KA9JDK
File Size: 620 KB
Format: Kindle Edition


Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Dr. Simon Patterson is a successful and well-respected neurosurgeon at Central Hospital in the town of Medford. Married, though without children, he keeps himself so busy that one day is not much different from another. Until, that is, he saves the life of the powerful mobster Carlo Vucci.

At a dinner in honor of Dr. Patterson, Carlo Vucci introduces him to his alluring wife Christine. Simon is entranced by her beauty.

Three weeks later, Christine shows up at the hospital, complaining of terrible headaches. Dr. Patterson offers to help her, but Christine did not come to see him just because of her headaches. A series of shocking events follow that turn Dr. Patterson's life into a nightmare. Among other things, he finds himself in court being accused of murder in the first degree ...

Author Ian Fox continues to surprise readers with his mysterious, intriguing plots that captivate you from the very first page and leave you stunned long after you've read the book to the end.


Kathy's Review:

This book should really be titled something along the lines of "Really Shallow People and the Things They Will Do for Money." Maybe that was a little bit too long, so the author chose his title instead. I don't know.

In any event, Promise Me Eternity centers around Simon Patterson, a neurosurgeon who likes to do experiments in his basement, his wife Helen who wishes Simon were bringing home more bucks, Patterson's surgical assistant, his girlfriend Anita, Carlo Vucci - a mob boss, his wife Christine, a plastic surgeon who likes S&M, Patterson's housekeeper, some cops, another neurosurgeon, a rabbit named Dorothy, and probably a few more I'm leaving out. Yeah, there are a lot of characters in this book. Too many, in my opinion. Several of these people are suspects in a murder, and the author does a good job of casting suspicion on them, leading the reader to believe someone is guilty. However, a plethora of plot twists and some bad luck decisions bring the real murderer to light.

I would give the plot of this book an A and the writing a C+. It's nothing special. The dialogue drove me crazy with how lame it was. Flat, fuddy-duddy, just not how people talk. It's my #1 complaint about this book. OK, #2, after the character proliferation issue.

Other than that, I'd have to say that this story kept my interest. I wanted to find out who did it, and wanted to see Patterson be vindicated. If you enjoy the mystery and action genre then this is a book for you - just don't be expecting the dialogue to knock your socks off!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Charlene Reviews: The House on Becket Lane by Elizabeth Chanter

ISBN #: 978-1462036028
Page Count: 308
Copyright: August 22, 2011
Publisher: iUniverse


Overview:
(Taken from back cover)

Lord Dashell Lonsdale is considered one of the most eligible bachelors in London, but few - even Lord Lonsdale himself - know that despite appearances, his family fortune is not as secure as he believes. When a chance encounter with an unknown lady on the street shakes his seemingly stable world, the young lord has no idea how to react. She collapses at his feet, a frightened child in her arms. She is whisked away before he can even learn her name.

She is Caroline, the younger of two daughters of a family that carries a burden of secrets as well. All they know is that their mother's tongue is silenced not by pride but by fear - and she took her secret to her grave. Now Caroline lives in a house with only her stepfather to guide her.

Lord Lonsdale exploits his station to learn of her identity and where she lives. His arrival triggers an angry quarrel between Caroline and her stepfather. Horrified to have caused such tension within her family, he departs with the promise to return the next day.

But duty calls him away before he can keep his promise. He learns that, thanks to the gambling debts of his brother, his family is on the brink of financial ruin. He has no choice but to turn his attention to salvaging the family's fortunes and honor. Now Caroline has her own secret to share - and what she must tell him may end their love before it can begin.


Charlene's Review:

The House on Becket Lane is described as a 19th century classic romance. Set in London, Ms. Chanter captures the time period and setting with eloquence. When Lord Dashell Lonsdale literally runs into Caroline on the street, it sets into motion a romance that will change both of their loves forever. As Lord Lonsdale seeks to court Caroline, the mystery surrounding her past, and her very unpleasant stepfather, lead him to believe it may not ever come to pass. While he is called away on family matters, the threats in Caroline's life escalate, and he must make the choice to find the answers they both seek in order to protect the woman he loves.

I cannot express how much I enjoyed reading this story. I rarely read romance or even period novels, as they tend to bore me, but I can assure you, The House on Becket Lane kept me riveted to the end. While it is most definitely a romance, there is so much more going on in this story. There is the pull to the simpler, slower pace of the time period, and the conventional rules that applied to proper behavior which is sorely lacking in today's world. I especially enjoyed the dialogue of the time, with words like "agog" and the Cockney dialect of Johnny.

Family secrets are the theme throughout the book, and the villain, in the form of Caroline's stepfather, Thomas Wardlock, brings the element of suspense and danger. The story is written so beautifully that the characters came to life for me, and I could picture Dashell's handsome face as well as Wardlock's foreboding scowl. This book could definitely be a contender for "best of" in classic novels. I lost myself to this story and was so disappointed when it ended. I do hope Ms. Chanter hurries the promised sequel along, as I will be watching and anxiously awaiting the further adventures of Dashell and Caroline.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mandy Reviews: The Wayfinder by Darcy Pattison

ISBN #: 978-0979862137
Page Count: 211
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: Mims House


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Winchal Eldras is a Wayfinder, one of the gifted few in G'il Rim who have the ability to locate anything: a lost ring, the way home, a blue dress in the marketplace, a lost child.

When the plague comes to his city, Win must lay aside his own grief and seek healing for his land. His only companion is Lady Kala, a telepathic Tazi hound, an imperious creature from the King's own kennels. Together they must face the Rift, a canyon so deep and so wide that no one has ever gone into it and returned.


Mandy's Review:

The idea of the story is unique and interesting. I've read a few fantasy novels, but this is the first time that a character has had this special gift (the ability to find anything). In order to find what they're searching for, a Finder receives a Finding by concentrating on the place, person or object they're trying to Find.

The Finders of the village are in high demand while the fogs from the Rift cover the village, which happens mostly at night and quite often. This is how they make their living, by leading people home during the fogs so nobody gets hurt or lost. They're like human taxis.

The village is surrounded by a wall, due to the village being built by the edge of the Rift. The wall has doors that lead to outside of the village. One fateful night, Win's sister wanders away from the village through the fogs. He goes out to find her and he does. One misstep, though, and Win's sister is gone into the Rift.

Win struggles under the grief of losing his sister and his inability to help her. Then fate steps in and he's chosen to go on a quest, where he will be able to use his grief for good.

This is definitely a story that young fantasy lovers will enjoy. I would recommend this for pre-teens on up.

The only issue I had with this book was the lack of editing. There were letters missing from words for most of the first half of this book. Yes, letters missing. Not words missing, but letters missing from words. I'd be reading along on a pretty good flow then come across these words, which interrupted my flow and made me stop. It happened often enough to annoy me and almost made me stop reading the book. I'm hoping that during the time I've had this book for review, the story has been edited and these issues corrected. If not, then I recommend you read at your own risk of annoyance.

Mandy Reviews: Darker Angels by M. L. N. Hanover

ISBN #: 978-1416576778
Page Count: 360
Copyright: 2009
Publisher: Pocket Books


Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

When Jayne Heller's uncle Eric died, she inherited a fortune beyond all her expectations - and a dangerous mission in a world she never knew existed. Reining in demons and supernatural foes is a formidable task, but thankfully Jayne has vast resources and loyal allies to rely on. She'll need both to tackle a body-switching serial killer who's taken up residence in New Orleans, a city rich in voodoo lore and dark magic.

Working alongside Karen Black, a highly confident and enigmatic ex-FBI agent, Jayne races to track down the demon's next intended host. But the closer she gets, the more convinced she becomes that nothing in this beautiful, wounded city is exactly as it seems. When shocking secrets come to light, and jealousy and betrayal turn trusted friends into adversaries, Jayne will soon come face-to-face with an enemy that knows her all too well, and won't rest until it has destroyed everything she loves most ...


Mandy's Review:

Darker Angels is the second book in The Black Sun's Daughter series. To read my review of the first book, Unclean Spirits, you can click here.

Only a few months have passed between the first book and this one. During that time, Jayne has been traveling with her entourage cataloguing all of her late Uncle Eric's properties and possessions. While in London, Jayne receives a call from a lady needing the special services her Uncle Eric provided. Jayne agrees to have her team fly to New Orleans to assess the situation and see if they're able to help.

Even before Jayne's meeting with Karen, a new type of spirit enters Jayne's life and tries to obliterate her ... which, now that I think about it, seems to be an ongoing theme for the first two books of this series so far. Almost as soon as both books begin, Jayne is in a life-threatening situation against an evil entity (be it spirit or demon) and needs assistance to diffuse the situation. It is a way to grab the reader's attention, but I hope the third book begins a little differently.

What I loved about this book is that it incorporates the spookiness of New Orleans with the focus on voodoo. I also liked the fact that this book took place in an entirely different city than the first book (Denver, Colorado). This time around, though, tensions creep up amongst Jayne's team, adding to the already mounting tension of the job they're working on. Both situations comes to a head and an important person on the team gets fired.

Will they reconcile and come back together? How much will Jayne get involved with voodoo and the voodoo practices to eliminate the threat Karen called her about? Will the threats and dangers to the members of the team be too much and injure them beyond full healing?

I am excited to begin the third book in this series to see what happens next. This is definitely a series for readers who enjoy supernatural fantasy books with an increasingly stronger female lead.
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