Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Shogun's Daughter









The Shogun's Daughter (Sano Ichiro, #17) 

 I finished this book a few days ago and I have to say, that I still wonder and think about this story. It seems to have lingered and there are not many books I have read that do that for me. Laura Joh Rowland has created an amazing tale full of mystery and Eastern martial arts magic that I found alluring. This was the first historical fiction book I have read from the Tokugawa era in Japan and I was not disappointed in the least.

Rowland did an excellent job at describing this foreign era in such detail it was as if I was watching a motion picture within my own mind. I have always been a sucker for a man with a code of honor and the main character Sano has one of the highest, the code of the Samurai. He was given the task of finding out if someone had intentionally killed the Shogun's daughter with smallpox. This would prove to be even more difficult to accomplish once his arch rival puts himself in a position to rule Japan now that the only legitimate heir to the throne is dead. Sano's morals will be tested even further once the Shogun turns his back on him after he is accused of murdering the heir apparent, a young man who is said to be the son of the Shogun and one of his former concubines. The story will keep you turning pages to find out what has happened and who is responsible for both deaths within the Shogun's family. (As a side note, I could not put this book down and read well into the night to finish it. That was how hooked I was!).

The one part of this book that I was a little unsure of its relevance to the overall story was a secondary plot that dealt with the magical side of martial arts. Rowland introduced a character by the name of Hirata who was at one point one of Sano's retainers and had a high place amongst his ranks. But then something changes for Hirata and he joins a secret society of three other men. Once he realizes that rituals they are preforming awaken a ghost general that wants revenge against the Shogun's family, he runs off to try to save his family and to make things right. Rowland did not really develop this storyline very in depth and I have to say even now I am a little curious as to why it was there and for what purpose. This book ended with Hirata's story taking a strange turn and I find myself wondering if it is to set up the next novel or if I missed something from within its mystical pages.

Other than that, I thought that this book was extremely well written. The story flowed from one chapter to the next, tempting me and dazzling me with exotic riches I have never experienced. One area that I felt a slight disconnect with the era would be in the dialogue. Some of the phrases used seemed more modern and didn't seem to fit within this place and time, but it did not deter from the the wonderful mystery being told. I will say that I was able to figure out who was behind the two murders within the Shogun's family relatively quickly, but was so invested in the tale being told by Rowland to be disappointed too much by that.

Overall, I would think that anyone that loves historical fiction set in the time of the Samurai with a wonderful twist of murder conspiracy should very much enjoy this book. If you are not big into historical fiction and prefer your murder mysteries to be a little more closer to the present, then you probably would want to skip this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I borrowed this book from my local library; I was not asked to do a review of this book.

The image was taken from www.goodreads.com

Friday, December 20, 2013

Daughter Cell






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 * Jay Hartlove did an interview with me and that will be posted under the "Author Interviews" tab on this blog. *

Possible Spoiler Alert within the review below.

When I was first asked to consider this book for review, I was very intrigued due to my science background. The thought that someone's soul could be altered into someone else or not even exist because of genetic manipulation was extremely interesting. This book is the second in the Isis Rising Trilogy by Jay Hartlove and I have not had the chance to read the first one as of yet, but do not necessarily think that the story was hard to follow because of that.

While I enjoyed the thought process behind the science, I was a little disappointed with respect to the end result. Hartlove must have done a great deal of research to get the scientific language just right within the pages of this book, but I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how introducing a virus with new genetic material could alter the person's appearance relatively quickly. There wasn't an explanation for this. Does the DNA being introduced need to be from an individual that is relatively the same size and shape as the individual it is being injected into? What about introducing DNA across genders? How would that work in regards to a person's appearance and how much pain would be involved on the patient whose DNA is being manipulated? There were just too many unaddressed questions for my liking. However, I will say that it is a very thought provoking book and that is something that I do like very much. 

The other issue that I had with respect to the DNA manipulation was that the "soul altering" book cover blurb wasn't really addressed. There were a few moments at the end of the book where Hartlove tried to explain it, but it felt unresolved and open ended. Perhaps that was the author's true intention, to make the reader think about the prospect of how altering DNA could create a completely different soul in a person who already has one.

In terms of his characters, I thought that emotional development of the main character Randolph was very well developed. His grief over the loss of his wife and the possible upcoming loss of his daughter that was now in a coma was very heartfelt by the reader. However, I had a hard time believing his reaction to some of the situations that he found himself in. When he woke up after four months of being blacked-out, I do not think that I would have been as calm or collected as he was. Even after my best friend and business partner came walking out of the other room, I would still have freaked out completely. Some of the explanations for different complications Randolph had throughout the story given to him by his partner seemed hard to believe as well and I began to reassess the validity of the overall storyline.

The one thing that I was expecting was that Sanantha Mauwad, the psychiatrist and character that the series is based around, would have been a bigger part of the overall book. But that was not the case and she was written in a supporting role, which was disappointing for me. I did not get a very good feel for her as a character and would have liked a little more development into her Voodoo belief system. Perhaps this development was done in the first book in the series and was not expanded on here in this book. Overall, I would have liked more of her and less of some of the other characters.

Lastly, the villain and the type of Chi Black Magic that he used seemed odd to me. I do not know much about that Eastern tradition of Chi or the dark Chi magic that he apparently used, but I had a hard time believing that he would be able to kill someone with a single thought or that he could control anyone with thought. His identity seemed very apparent to me almost from the get go, which also was a little disappointing. I like it when the authors make me work a little to figure things out. 

Overall, this book had a decent storyline that flowed relatively smoothly from one chapter to the next. There seemed to be a good mix of different types of characters and an intriguing plot that made me want to keep turning the pages. I think that there were some areas that should have been expanded on and maybe some other issues that could have been dealt with a little differently. 

If you enjoy books that keep you asking questions and have a slight Michael Crichton scientific undertone to them, then this book may be something you should check out. If you need all the questions your mind begins to ask answered at the conclusion of the book, then you might want to skip this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5

I was given a copy of this by the author via Bostic Communications; I was not paid to give this review.

The image was taken from www.goodreads.com


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Three Rules VIrtual Book Blog Tour



 Inline image 1

Three Rules by Marie Drake
Book website:  http://www.mariedrake.com/three-rules-by-marie-drake

Sales Links:
http://www.amazon.com/Three-Rules-ebook/dp/B00F0OO6WO
http://www.amazon.com/Three-Rules-Marie-Drake/dp/1492772909/
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/three-rules-marie-drake/1116852473?ean=9781492772903

Copyright Marie Drake
Pages: 296
Genre: Fiction, Suspense

Three Rules - The Blurb:

 Hope Wellman has a childhood full of horrific memories, a bone chilling recurring nightmare, and a persistent paranoid sense of being followed that she would rather keep repressed. Is evil reaching from beyond the grave to capture the tattered remnants of her soul once and for all, is it only a machination of her disturbed mind, or is there something happening more sinister than even she can imagine?
 Attending the funeral of her abuser is the first step in putting her life back together. She struggles with the fact she never told anyone what happened to her, and that the grave they are mourning over is empty. She'd find it a lot easier to move on and believe in the future if he were in the box, ready to be covered with dirt. She fears the last thread of her sanity has snapped when she sees Lucas everywhere she turns, and can't escape a recurring nightmare. Is her tormentor alive, or is she imagining it? Is her dream triggered by past fears or is it a prediction of the future?

Quoted from Three Rules:
 “I have learned three rules in my life: 1.) The most dangerous people in the world are not always strangers. 2.) The scariest things imaginable are not those that can kill you, but those you can live through. And probably the most prominent: 3.) The most horrible possibility is not what could happen to you, but what you could become – I became a killer.”
~Hope Wellman

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Yard: A novel


When I picked up this book, I was instantly intrigued by what the jacket covered boasted, "London, 1889. Jack the Ripper's reign of terror is finally over - but a new one is just beginning". I am interested in the conspiracies surrounding Jack the Ripper, so it seemed like this novel would be a intensely macabre and fun romp around Victorian London, but it wasn't what I was expecting or hoped for.

I had a hard time understanding why Alex Grecian decided to go with two storylines involving murder within this novel. It would have been a much more satisfying read if he would have stuck with one of them and developed that as much as possible. With the new inspector being added to the Scotland Yard, the murder of a fellow inspector, the Beard Killer murders, to the missing boys, there was just too much to keep track of. On top of all of this you have a wonderfully quirky doctor that is working with introducing forensics into solving these cases with an intense back story of his own that introduces several other new characters into the novel.

Grecian also had some issues with the editing of his book. There were several instances where the point of view had problems, which made it a little hard to follow. Going into italics for the main killer's thoughts and experiences was okay, but I felt it took a little away from reality and made it feel more like fiction or surreal in a way. The killer's grandeur is well within the scope of a serial murderer, but he almost seemed a little too brazen and that didn't really work for me. Some of the vocabulary and spoken language didn't seem fitting for the time being written about either.

However, I appreciated what Grecian was trying to do with this novel and thought that some of it was very good. What was promised by the book jacket was never really brought to fruition. I was expecting something as gruesome like the Ripper murders that would be equally hard to solve. What I got were many different storylines that never really lived up to that.

If you are looking for a great historical murder mystery that is the same caliber as the Jack the Ripper murders, then you will most likely not enjoy this book. If you enjoy novels that have many storylines going on at one time but still capture the spirit of historical murder mysteries, then you may enjoy this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5

I checked this book out of my local library; I was not paid or asked to do this review.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stains on the Gavel

*Could be some spoilers in this review.*

This is the second book in this series by Charles Massie and I have yet to read the first. What interested me the most about this book was the premise that it told the story about a man that was wrongly imprisoned in Kentucky and how he was able to fight from the inside for his freedom. What I was expecting was a storyline filled with conspiracies, mystery, and intense scenes from the view point of a Sothern prison. What I got was something that reminded me of a prisoner's journal chronicling their incarceration.

Massie does do a very good job at detailing life within the prisons walls and develops his main character, Mark Casey, but outside of that, it was a little, well, boring. Once wrongfully incarcerated, the book is basically a log of his constant transfers between the different county jails and state medical facilities along with flashbacks of his life with the woman who caused all the problems. There was also a great deal of information that doesn't really seem to have any bearing on the main points of the book. One main instance is the intensive IQ testing that Casey is put through at the one medical facility he is transferred to. I didn't really understand the importance of this for the plot. 

I did enjoy the way that Massie created very believable characters within and without the walls of the various prisons and courtrooms being talked about. There were some very good dialogue sequences and some moments that did make me laugh a little with several witty comebacks within some intense situations. But the one thing that made me a little irritated was that there seemed to only be a handful of honest individuals within the legal system that Casey dealt with. I had a hard time believing that the judge from Casey's first trial would first conspire with the prosecutor AND defense attorney to convict on the evidence that was shown in the trial, let alone be so vindictive by a complaint that he would kick start all the problems Casey had while incarcerated.

However, even with all the issues I had with his plotline, I could and would have overlooked some of them if it did not also suffer from a poor editing job. The main bulk of this story is written in first person, which is very difficult to do for long pieces of literature, (I have stated this in previous reviews of other works...often). Within this point of view, the main challenge is to introduce things that the main character is not experiencing, which is difficult because you can only write about what this individual is experiencing, feeling, etc. and nothing else. Massie goes into third person several times with regards to other characters in several chapters. That is a huge pet-peeve of mine. You are not able to switch point of views within a story. If you start out in first person point of view, the entire piece needs to be written in this view point. The other issues I had with this book dealt with the actual proof reading of the piece. There were quotations missing from dialogue in places and at other times too many quotation marks when they were not needed. Some other structure and punctuation issues popped up throughout the book as well and I will not go in to great detail here.

Overall, I thought that the main character was extremely detailed and believable, but the ending was something to be desired. There was no expansion on the part of Massie as to what happened to the woman who was the reason Casey was brought up on drug trafficking charges to begin with. I was at least expecting something terrible to befall her after her new location was discovered, not that she was unhappily married and living in a nice home in New York. Then there was the fact that the judge that caused all the problems Casey had within the prison system just dies. I kind of wished that there was a little more development with respect to the legal ramifications for his actions against Casey. Maybe even a little blurb about how the judge was incarcerated in the same prison system he seemed to have such a great deal of power over. I think that if even a mere fifth of all the prison transfers had been cut out and some of these other unresolved issues explored, it would have seem like a more complete work of fiction.

If you are like me and need a little more detail, mystery, and fun within the pages of the fiction you read, then this book is probably not for you. If you enjoy any type of prison related fiction regardless if it is a mystery or not, then you may like this book.

Also, if you do not like a great deal of foul language or some scenes with strong sexual content, then you may not want to read this book.

Rating 2 out of 5.

I was given a copy of this book by the author per Bostick Communications; I was not paid to give this review.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Cakes of Wrath



The Cakes of Wrath (Piece of Cake Mystery, #4) 

This is the first book that I have read by Jacklyn Brady and I picked it up initially due to the title. I found the title quirky and fun since it is a play on the title "The Grapes of Wrath". It also has some recipes at the back of the book. which I loved since I am also an avid baker. I was also intrigued by the story premise: Rita, the owner of Zydeco Cakes, almost gets run over by a van right after the business town meeting, but is saved by the local motorcycle shop owner Moose. Was the van aiming for her or was it a case of mistaken identity? When the wife of Moose is found dead a couple of days later, it looks like there is more to the hit and run. Rita takes it into her own hands when a detective comes round accusing her of killing Moose's wife. Will she be able to figure out who the murderer is before she is arrested or someone else gets killed?

In regards to the story in terms of writing, I felt it was an average read. This book is number four of the "Piece of Cake Mystery" series, so the characters have probably already been well established in the previous mysteries. However, I will say that the characters all seem to be interesting and have wonderful little idiosyncrasies. I wish I would have started at the beginning  of the series though to get a better feel for the main character Rita and her life in New Orleans as the owner of Zydeco Cakes. The tension between her mother-in-law and her is very apparent, but I am now curious as to what the back story of these two is.

I would also like to applaud Brady for sticking with the first person point of view throughout the entire book. It is not easy to do, especially for longer pieces. If it were me, I would struggle with trying to show parts of the story through the eyes of the other characters, which you cannot do with first person. This book does not suffer by having this limited point of view and I found that the story still moved very smoothly from chapter to chapter.

The main problem that I had with this book was how many tangents the main storyline had. At times it felt like there was a little too much going on, especially with the addition of Edie's and Pearl Lee's passages. But I will say that it helped to flesh out Rita's character in terms of her humanity for me, so I tried to let it slide. There may have also been a little too much misdirection with regards to the murderer itself. Sadly, I had a suspicion as to who the killer was early on and was right on the money. Having said that though, I am not easily misled or fooled and thought that Brady did do an okay job at trying to keep the identity hidden until the very end.

Overall, it was a pleasant read and I enjoyed it. If I have the time, I might even go back and start at the beginning some day. For the moment however, I think I will move on to the next book in my "To Be Read" list. If you enjoy mysteries that are part of a series and are easy reads, then you will most likely like this book. However, if you need a little more of darker, richer mystery that keeps you guessing the whole time, then you may not like this book.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

I got this book from my local library; I was not asked to do a review of this book.

 (Image was taken from Good Reads).

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dead Dreams Excerpt # 9


On Tour with Prism Book Tours...



Dead Dreams (Dead Dreams, #1)Dead Dreams
by Emma Right
250 Pages

Eighteen-year-old Brie O’Mara has so much going for her: a loving family in the sidelines, an heiress for a roommate, and dreams that might just come true. Big dreams--of going to acting school, finishing college and making a name for herself. She is about to be the envy of everyone she knew. What more could she hope for? Except her dreams are about to lead her down the road to nightmares. Nightmares that could turn into a deadly reality.

Dead Dreams, Book 1, a young adult psychological thriller and mystery





Each Stop Reveals another section of Dead Dreams


Follow the tour and START READING NOW!! 


EXCERPT #9

Chapter Five

 


So, Sarah stayed a loner, refusing my attempts to include her when I asked her out for ice cream with my co-workers one rare afternoon. Only once did she accept my invitation for her to work out as my guest at Stay Fit. She came to exercise but forgot her gear and had to borrow my yellow sweats.

One of my co-workers, Susan Summers, saw her back, mistook her for me, and complained to Thao that I’d gone Zumba-ing during my official hours. Even Peter came to Susan’s defense saying we looked alike, so it was an understandable error.

But after that, Sarah never wanted to step inside Stay Fit.




To be continued... 





Emma Right

Emma Right is a happy wife and homeschool mother of five living in the Pacific West Coast. Besides running a busy home, and looking after too many pets, she also enjoys reading aloud to her children and often has her nose in a book. Right was a copywriter for a major advertising agency during her B.C. years. B.C.meaning “Before Children,” which may as well have been in the B.C.era, as she always says. Please feel free to contact Emma. She’s always happy to hear from her readers.





Tour-Wide Giveaway:

October 29 - December 3
Paperback Copy of Dead Dreams (US Only)
5 eCopies of Dead Dreams (Int'l)

a Rafflecopter giveaway



The Excerpt Tour
Each day will reveal another piece of Dead Dreams...

10/29: Launch
10/30: My Seryniti - Excerpt #1
10/31: My Devotional Thoughts - Excerpt #2
11/1: Mel’s Shelves - Excerpt #3
11/4: The Bookish Fairy - Excerpt #5
11/5: My Love for Reading Keeps Growing - Excerpt #6
11/6: Tressa’s Wishful Endings - Excerpt #7
11/7: Nocturnal Predators Reviews - Excerpt #8
11/8: The Pensive Chronicler - Excerpt #9
11/10: kimberlyfaye reads - Excerpt #10
11/11: Min Reads and Reviews - Excerpt #11
11/13: Colorimetry - Excerpt #13
11/14: fundinmental - Excerpt #14
11/15: Bookworm Lisa - Excerpt #15
11/17: Sylv Jenkins Author - Excerpt #16
11/18: The Wonderings of One Person - Excerpt #17
11/19: Buried Under Books - Excerpt #18
11/20: Grand Finale



Monday, October 28, 2013

Cain's Blood


I found this book listed on a "new arrival" list at my local library and was instantly intrigued. It is an ingenious blend of science and horror that will put you into a state of paranoia about our government's weapons funding. The story places young boys in adoptive homes across the country, but keeps their true identities a secret, even from the boys themselves. Only after one of the lead scientists goes on a killing spree with a group of these boys, it is revealed that they are clones of some of the world's notorious serial killers. A faithful soldier Castillo is brought in to hunt down the escaped clones and to keep it quite, but finds himself relying on an unlikely individual, a clone of Jeffery Dahmer. This young man proves to be quite helpful to Castillo, but will it be enough to stop the mayhem before the nation is exposed to something even far worse than a few serial killer clones?

What I loved most about this novel was, well, just about everything! It was a fast past thrill ride in which you were constantly wondering what was going to happen next. Geoffrey Girard also did an amazing job at setting up the scientific background in a way that people not familiar with cloning would at least understand some of the key concepts behind it. He also included some background information on Dolly the sheep that I found interesting and helped to explain some of the issues that there were with the clones. The storyline flowed very smoothly from one page to the next and I found myself not wanting to put this book down. Every time I had to walk away from it, my mind was constantly going back to it and wondering what monstrous things awaited for me ahead.

I also thought that the character development was well done. The serial killers were extremely frightening. Whenever there was a passage with them and their thoughts were shown, it made me very uncomfortable. I had to sometimes use my imagination to fill in what each of them looked like, but by them being rather famous, a quick search on the internet helped to flesh them out visually for me. However, there was no doubt that these individuals were killers in any way. The main two characters seemed to compliment one another. Castillo seemed to be missing something from his life and perhaps this teenage boy, a Jeffrey Dahmer clone, helped him to center and leave some of his scars, physically and mentally, behind.

There weren't too many things that I had issues with. This particular book had a vast vocabulary and was intelligently written, which is something I gravitate toward. If I had to be nit picky, I would have to say the whole cloning process was not described well. Although, I don't believe that you needed a vast description of it for the story to work. It would have just been nice to get a better description of what the clones grew in exactly what the scientists did to create these specific clones, etc. Sometimes, the dialogue also seemed a little awkward, but not exactly a big deal, especially for this novel. The only other thing that kind of got in the way was all the references to The Odyssey. It seemed a little heavy handed sometimes with all the quotations, but I understand the importance of it for characterization reasons.

Overall, this book was excellent. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good horror novel with a backstory relating to government conspiracies. If you are uncomfortable by intense murder sequences, do not enjoy books on cloning, or prefer thrillers that are lighter in content, then this book is not recommended for you.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I borrowed this book from my local library; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

Image was taken from goodreads.com

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Daylight Gate


I was looking for new authors to read and saw this book recommended by the staff at my local library. The paranoia pandemic of the witch trials has always interested me and so I decided to give this novella on the Lancashire Witch Trials a try. However, I am a little divided in how I feel about this book. What I was expecting was a historical fiction novella, but what the novella is, is a fictional story based during a time of history. It is not historical fiction in that sense and the author, Jeanette Winterson, addresses that in her introduction. After reading the introduction I was rather conflicted with going on with the rest of the novella, but decided to keep an open mind and forge ahead.

What I enjoyed the most about what Winterson was able to accomplish in her writing, was the style of writing. She was very good at images, which made it seem rather poetic or lyrical in nature. The setting was almost a character all on its own and you could feel the fog on your skin or the scent of the woods the characters were travelling through. In a way, she has a small amount of Gothic imagery going on as well, with taking some horrific images and almost giving them a sense of overlying beauty.

However, I felt that throughout all of the poetical images there just wasn't enough character or backstory development. Winterson brought up some topics like "alchemy" and "elixirs of youth", but they were not explained why they were important to the storyline. I made some basic assumptions as to the roles they played, but I wanted just a little more, especially if the reader is not familiar with these things. They may become lost or confused by their importance and miss the meaning behind them. As for the characters, I got a better sense of the type of person they were than what they looked like and I had to use my imagination to fill in the blanks for many of them. With all the effort that was put into other elements of the story, I was a little surprised that the characters were not fleshed out as much.

After reading some of the other reviews posted on this novella, I could see how the simplistic writing could be an issue. I understand what Winterson was trying to accomplish with it, but am not certain that it worked here. What I needed from this novella to make it dynamic was a little more "meat" with respect to the writing. I needed the sophisticated and educated vocabulary, the more complex sentence structures,  and beautifully detailed passages for me to be committed to the story she was trying to tell.

The other issues I had with the novella has to do with the content. There were several very sexually explicit passages that I felt were not needed or necessary. By including them it began to read a little like a romance novel with this theme just under the surface throughout it, and for me that is a big offense, especially when it comes to the horror/suspense genre. Finally, the novella did not offer a new view on witchcraft by stating that witches make there pact with the Devil or "Dark Gentleman" in this case. I was hoping for something a little more interesting than that. With the added element of "alchemy" I was anticipating that as part a new twist, but nothing was ever really developed with respect to that.

Overall, it was a somewhat interesting novella that was a fast and easy read. If you are expecting a historical fiction piece that stays very true to the Lancashire Witch Trials storyline, then this novella is NOT for you. But if you enjoy light pieces of fiction based loosely on a time in history then this novella may be perfect for you.

Rating: 2.5 out 5

I got this book from my local library; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

(image taken from goodreads.com)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And Let There Be A Hero


Synopsis: Psycho killers are detective Kalen Gatt's bailiwick. But when he belly flops into the middle of a terrorist plot, he may be in over his head in And Let There Be a Hero.
St. George, UT – A homicide detective turned private eye tracks a deadly duo, only to stumble on a sinister plot that may be way out of his league. It's a thrilling tale told in white-knuckle fashion in the new crime novel, And Let There Be a Hero.
Kalen Gatt is scarred. The detective has learned to live with his physical handicap – but his psyche is another matter entirely. Chief Danforth of homicide becomes too much for him to deal with daily, so he leaves homicide and becomes a private detective.
It is the personal losses that bring a hero to his knees, and Kale suffers more than his fair share. To top it off, a pair of serial killers test his skills and try his endurance. The plucky private eye holds his own … until he discovers himself neck-deep in a terrorist plot. Can the small-town P.I. with physical challenges and a chip on his shoulder hold his own? (Synopsis provided by the author)
Review: Unfortunately, it took me a great deal of effort to get through this book. With the other reviews that I read on it, I was expecting something different than what I experienced. I have no doubt that R.M. Kidwell is a good writer, but I had some issues with it from the start that jaded my feelings.
What I did like about the book was that the characters were developed and Kidwell put a great deal of effort into making them realistic. He also put great deal of development into the police procedures and camaraderie within the department itself. However, there seemed to be this overwhelming sense of overacting in the way that the characters were written that I did not enjoy. Especially with regards to the main character and how he used the same phrases over and over. I am a big fan of Die Hard, so I tried to let all that slide as I went through the book.
The one thing that I did not really enjoy was the way the book was set up. There was quite a bit of extra information in it, which I understand was there to set up the character from the first book in this particular series. However, with over 500 pages, it may have been beneficial to cut about a quarter of it out to make it a more cohesive and smoother read.
Overall, there was a good storyline that continued throughout the book and kept my interest just enough to get over several of the quirky pet peeves that I have acquired over the years. It definitely picked up speed  as the plot progressed, but it did seem at times that there was too much going on. Also, one of the harder things to write is dialogue and I thought that Kidwell did a decent job of that and making it sound realistic, even if some of it was a little over animated at times.
If you enjoy detective novels that are written almost like an action movie, then the book is for you. If you prefer ones in which the main detective is a little more humble or do not like detective novels, then this book is not for you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
I was given a copy of the book by the author; I was not paid to give this review.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Bones of Paris: A Novel of Suspense


I'm a big fan of thriller historical fiction, so when I read the synopsis of this novel I was immediately intrigued. It was a classic tale with Baroque qualities of a private investigator placed in Paris, France during the late 1920's. There was a promise of suspense, uncontrollable desire to stay up to read the whole book  in one night, and the delicious combination of stereotypical noir with an added twist of Edgar Allan Poe. However, even though Laurie R. King is indeed a very skilled and educated writer, the novel did not deliver everything the title bragged it would. There was little suspense to this story.

What I thought King did a very good job of was the point of view of each section. There was no doubt who was speaking or what they were feeling. She created these amazingly complex characters that seemed important and relevant regardless of being the main character or not. Each one seemed to have a unique backstory that made you feel something toward them, good or bad. The dialogue was also exquisite. I loved all the snippets of  French woven into the English, but someone who does not know French may become a little lost. Not everything was translated, but if you understood the scene well enough, the meaning behind the phrases would become evident.

The thing that I had a little trouble with was how the storyline was developed within the pages of the book. Even though it was very well written with an extensive vocabulary, there were many sections that seemed out of place and were slightly confusing to follow. The entire novel opens up with a character that is not seen again until the last third of the novel. Since it opened with him, it would beg to argue that he was extremely important to the plot. Also, there were several chapters that were there to set the background to the city, which should be important, but I am not certain that it warranted separate chapters to do that. The timeline of the characters would move between past and present, which was a little hard to follow at time. For the storyline itself, it would have benefited if King had cut out about a quarter of it. I think that it would have made it a little lighter and a smoother read. Remember that "sometimes you must kill your Darlings" in order to make a piece more stronger and I believe that King here should have followed the advice of Faulkner and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch on that point.

Overall, this piece was quite heavy due to its topic of choice. That isn't a bad thing, but it made it a much slower read for me. I found my mind wandering as I read some sections and probably missed a few things due to that. However, it was very interesting and described a side of Paris that I did not experience while there as a very young, naïve woman. King's description is beautifully woven throughout this world of macabre and darkness, but I found myself desperately searching for some relief from golden sun.

If you enjoy novels that mirror some of the Gothic or Baroque genre then this is one you would not want to miss out on reading. But if that is not your cup of tea and you do not like heavy undertones of sex, then this book is not for you.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I borrowed this book from a local library; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

(image taken from goodreads.com)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Frame 232


I have been taken by the conspiracy theories that have surrounded the assassination of John F. Kennedy over the years. This book caught my eye because it explores the "What if?" tangent with respect to the "Babushka Lady" and a possible film from a new prospective. What if her film caught a glimpse of a second assassin? How would that change history as we know it? Wil Mara does a decent job at imagining what the answers to those questions and more within the pages of this novel.

For the most part, I thought that it was well written in the sense that it kept me turning the pages. Passages flowed very easily from one to another and the vocabulary was neither dumbed down or overly complex. As for the characters, I didn't feel that they were fleshed out completely. There was a vague sense of what they were like as people and a general overview of what they looked like, but I felt something wanting. Jason Hammond seemed sometimes a little unrealistic or unbelievable. I felt that he was a little too good to be true and a little too generous with his money. Shelia, after finding the film her mother had taken of the assassination, was rightfully conflicted about what to do, but again, something just felt off about her overall.

The plot is really where the novel suffers a bit. Topic wise, it is fascinating. To have the daughter of the "Babushka Lady" find the historical film in a safe deposit box that even her father knew nothing about was brilliant. However, from that point on, the story seemed to be predictable and slightly anticlimactic. There were so many different tangents that Wil Mara could have taken the story that would have given it much more intrigue and interest that I was a little disappointed by the final outcome. The other element of the story relied heavily on faith and God, but it seemed a little like an after thought and was not developed like it could have been. There were also some editing issues I had with a few passages where when speaking of God, the "he, him, etc." were not capitalized, which is a just a small, nitpicky mistake.

Overall, I thought that the book was a relatively easy and enjoyable read. There was enough adventure and questions to keep me turning to the next page and keeping me relatively invested in the story. It also did not have that cliché romantic entanglement of the main character, which I appreciate. For being a novel based on something that could have been very heavy in content, this novel came off as being rather light and not edgy in the least.

If you enjoy historical fiction based off of the JFK assassination conspiracies, you may or may not like this one. It has some very interesting points, but nothing earthshattering by any means. If you are not into the JFK assassination conspiracies, then this book probably isn't for you, but if you look past that and think of it as an adventure novel, then you may just like it. I am a little divided on this novel.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I found this book at a local library; I was not paid to do a review of this novel.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Dark Madonna


Review: When I received a copy of this book from the author Nicolas Bazan, M.D., I made an assumption that it was not going to be an interesting novel due to the fact that it was only 104 pages long. However, nothing could have prepared me for the impact that this fable had on me. It was an amazing read.

What I found incredibly wonderful about this book was how well educated Bazan really is. It was very intelligently written with a vast vocabulary. The story flowed effortlessly from page to page and I was never once lost or had to backtrack to see something that I might have missed that would help me better understand what was going on further along in the story. The author was able to combine fact and fiction in such a way that it read almost like a real account of faith than just a made up account of events.

Bazan also was able to create characters that pulled on your heart and made you want to heal their wounded souls. Dr. Cruz is searching for answers to neurological puzzles when he finds himself once again questioning his faith. Standing in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, his past escape from Argentina consuming him from a dream earlier, you can feel his heart breaking. His wife is confused and you can see her frustration with her husband's compulsions of answering life's questions. Then there is Stephen, a young Pennsylvanian artist turned monk, that places a religious pilgrimage upon Dr. Cruz. This young man's passion and undying faith is so well put upon the page that it rejuvenated my own wavering faith.

Overall, I thought it was brilliant, passionate, and extremely well written. If you enjoy fables with heavy spiritual/religious meanings then this book is for you. If you prefer fables that are a little lighter in content or do not like fables, then this book is not for you.

I will leave you with one last thought that was a reoccurring theme throughout this fable:

"First we start by doing what is necessary, then we do what is possible, and then pretty soon we are doing the impossible." St. Francis quote from several pages in Nicolas Bazan's novel.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I was given a copy of this novel by the author; I was not paid to give a review.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Case of the Caretaker's Cat


Review: I was recently traveling with my mother-in-law and we came across the James Dean Gallery and Museum in Fairmont, Indiana where they sold memorabilia along with some antiques. There I found several old pocket-sized books that I bought on impulse. Mostly I bought them because I love books and couldn't resist buying a few mysteries from the 1930's.

This book was a rather quick read and I truly enjoyed it. I have never read anything by Gardner before, but may look for other books of his in the future. It was filled with many twists and turns that kept me guessing as to who the actual killer was. Since I am not familiar with the Perry Mason storyline, (I may have only seen one of the movies made from the series), it seemed like a new tale and rather fun to be a part of.

In terms of style, the book flowed very easily. Climaxes and twists happened at all the right times to keep the reader invested in the storyline. I really didn't want to put the book down and was itching to get back to it when I had, which is something I look for in a book. The characters were also very believable and richly fleshed out. Mason was shown as a dashing, devilish, and highly intelligent man whom seemed to enjoy taunting the other lawyers and policemen. That alone made the story a great read, you wanted to see what he was going to do next.

Overall storyline was not all that original, but still a good read. It was a tale of greed leading to murder where some innocent people get caught in the crossfire. However, it was told in such a way that I wanted to know every little detail and to try to figure out who did it the same way I would in a 21st century mystery book today. Sometimes the simplest reasons or motives are the best ones to use.

If you enjoy a good, old fashioned mystery book from the 1930's era, then this book is for you. If you need all the bells and whistles of a new age mystery, then you most likely will not enjoy this book. All in all, I am glad that I spent the $2.50 at the James Dean Gallery for this little book and can't wait to read the other little book I bought by Agatha Christy.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I bought this book at a museum/gallery that sold antiques; I was not paid to do a review of this book.
 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brood X


Synopsis: Seth is laid off from work. His wife Lara just found out they are expecting a baby this summer. Seth plans on documenting the entire pregnancy with his brand new digital camcorder.

During an evening home watching television, the news reports that a swarm of cicada (Brood Ten) are expected to overwhelm the entire Northeast.

Brood Ten is vicious and ready to invade.

During a sweltering summer night, Brood Ten emerges and wreaks havoc with the electric grid, phone and cell service, wi-fi, food and water supply. Civilization as they know it is gone.

Seth and Lara are thrown back to the stone age in their own home with trillions of cicada trying to deposit their eggs and breed.

Fast paced and filled with tension, Brood Ten is the perfect summer read when you’re sitting outside listening to the cicadas sing.


Review: The author sent this book along with Stillwell and I decided to read it as well. In terms of the two books by Cash, this was the better of the two. Normally, I would stay away from books about bugs of any kind, but again, I found myself intrigued by the premise of an infestation of this proportion. It was Biblical in nature and really made my skin crawl to say the least.

The main issue I had with the book was with infestation; I found myself wondering how believable some of the situations were. Could the sheer volume of the bugs cause a house to collapse? Would they really attack anything that was moving, regardless of how many of the bugs there were? Many others came to mind, but I will not post them here to keep from giving away too much of the plot. Another issue that I had was with the main character Seth and how he brought sex up into almost any conversation for the first third of the book. I also found some of his unwillingness to prepare for the infestation a little unbelievable, especially since his wife was pregnant with their first child.

However, aside from all of that, this book was quite a wild ride about halfway through to the end. It made my skin crawl with respect to the bugs and actually made me a little paranoid that I would wake up with one of these big insects sitting on my chest with its stinger about to inject eggs into my body. That part of the story was excellent and is what really made me enjoy the book.

If you like a good bug story that keeps your adrenaline pumping a little all the while you are talking to yourself hoping that the main characters make it out alive somehow, then this book is for you. If you hate bugs then this book is not for. This book was a little slow in the beginning, but well worth getting to the end.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I was given a copy of the book by the author via Bostick Communications; I was not paid to give this review.

Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island


Synopsis: Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife's spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife's soul free. (Picture and synopsis taken from www.goodreads.com).

Review: When I read the synopsis of the book I was intrigued because I enjoy a good paranormal storyline that also has a little bit of historical fiction within its pages. This book was slightly disappointing to me in that regard. I was expecting one thing and got something else entirely, which made me a little irritated to say the least.

The book itself was very simply written, which is not a bad thing, but it didn't read like adult fiction to me. Vocabulary was not sophisticated and the storyline itself wasn't all that challenging to follow or to figure out where it was leading to. In terms of how the story progressed, I thought that the timeframe was too short for this tale, since it only encompassed seven days total. However, it had a very easy flow and the conflicts/climaxes seem to happen at the right moments.

In terms of the storyline itself, I thought that it was a good outline for a novel, but incomplete. There was so much more that could have been added to help flesh out all the different love stories that were going on. Elaborating a little more of the meaning behind the title "Stillwell" may have helped with giving the tale more "haunting" content. Also, the grief that the main character felt, although understandable, seemed to take center stage and would often take me away from all the paranormal aspect of the piece, which made it seem more of a love story than a scary paranormal story. As for me, I also felt a little cheated by the ending and will not say anything more than that so I do not spoil it for someone else who has not read it yet.

Overall, this was an average read for me. It didn't have many memorable moments that would make me categorize it as a "scary" tale and the historical aspect that I was hoping for was missing. But in the end it was a good read and one that I did enjoy in places. If you are looking for something that will make you jump and become slightly paranoid that there are ghosts all around, then this book is not for you. If you enjoy something that is a little more humanistic and has some nice ghostly, romantic interludes then you would probably enjoy this book.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

I was given a copy of this book by the author via Bostick Communications; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Touching Evil

Title: Touching Evil
Age group: adult fiction
Release Date: November 5, 2012
Book Summary:
Leila Marx is trying to put her life back together after her fiance is murdered. Her book illustrating career has limited her social contact and nightmares have trapped her in the past. When a police acquaintance enlists her help with a difficult case, Leila is surprisingly thankful to have a purpose. Not only will this help to keep her mind focused, but she will be able to use her talents as a touch clairvoyant that are frequently dismissed by skeptics. Leila and Detective Garrick Pearson delve into the mystery behind a series of missing teenage girls and mummified corpses while fighting their own growing attraction to each other.

Conner Hoffman is an intriguing lawyer and striking half-demon who enters Leila’s life unexpectedly. Although her visions are terrifying, she is fascinated by his charm and his legacy. When it becomes evident that the murders are linked to a paranormal event, Conner introduces Leila to a world unbeknownst to ordinary society. She suddenly finds herself immersed in supernatural politics, sorcery, and danger as she becomes the killer’s next target. Staying alive will mean relying on friends, accepting the unbelievable, and trusting in her heart again.

Links to books:


Links to trailer: http://youtu.be/kIZfRkITVJc
Series site:

About the author (Amber Garr):
Amber Garr spends her days conducting scientific experiments and wondering if her next door neighbor is secretly a vampire. Born in Pennsylvania, she lives in Florida with her husband and their furry kids. Her childhood imaginary friend was a witch, Halloween is sacred, and she is certain that she has a supernatural sense of smell. Amber is a multiple Royal Palm Literary Award winner and the author of The Syrenka Series and The Leila Marx Novels. When not obsessing over the unknown, she can be found dancing, reading, or enjoying a good movie.

 
 
Links to author:


Review:

This is the first book tour I have been a part of and I have to say, I thought that it was a good experience. Because it was pitched a little like a paranormal romance, I almost passed it up since I am not big into the passionate thrillers out there. However, I was extremely pleased with the novel.

There were a few small things that I had a few issues with, but nothing too big. Just my quirky side revealing itself once again. Within the novel, there were several grammatically incorrect areas where things like "than" was used instead of "then", etc. My biggest complaint about the main character was that I never got a very clear image of what she looked like. Her thoughts and motives seemed to be clear, but I just kind of imagined what I thought her physical attributes were. The beginning of the book moved very quickly and I had a hard time following it. Since it was a dream sequence, that made a little more sense after I figured that out. Also, normally the novel would not start with a dialogue sequence because it throws the reader directly into the story without a clear sense of setting, personality of the main character, etc. Sometimes that can be rather disorienting and could turn off the reader. However, here, I did not feel that was too much of a hindrance.

What I really liked about this novel was the ease at which it read. It had a great flow and I didn't want to put it down. I was fully engrossed in the plot and wanted to know what was going to happen next. For me, I'm a big fan of old monster movies, so the beloved characters of werewolves, vampires, and witches brought a sort of nostalgic familiarity that I loved. However, I would have loved for that part of the storyline to have been fleshed out a bit more. Perhaps it was a set up for the next book in the series.

The struggle that Leila had between the two men was interesting as well. Two very different types of men and I actually thought that the romantic part of the novel would keep me from enjoying it. However, it didn't and I found myself wondering why she would choose the one man over the other.

Overall, I thought that this book was a very well written and captivating story. If you enjoy light supernatural thrillers with a dash of romance, then this book is for you. If you need a little more detail and a little bit more supernatural darkness, then this book may not be for you. Either way, I think that it is worth reading at some point.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I was given a copy of the novel for the book tour; I was not paid to give this review.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Death of an Intern



Synopsis:
Thriller Debut Book in Laura Wolfe Series Presents Suspenseful Murder Mystery Situated in the Nation’s Capital. Plot Twists Keep Readers Guessing “Who Done It” Right Down to the Final Pages.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Stories about crime in Washington, DC, are nothing new, even when politicians are involved. But when protagonist Laura Wolfe, a reporter for the Washington Daily Star, follows her instincts covering a multiple-murder case, dubbed a serial killing, and is led to the doors of the Vice President of the United States . . . well this reporter seeks more. Death of an Intern by Keith M. Donaldson takes readers on unexpected twists, stops, and starts that keep them in suspense throughout. (Synopsis provided via Bostick Communications e-mail).
Review: I thought that Keith Donaldson did a very good job at developing his leading character to be a strong female lead. However, outside of that, I didn't think that the other main characters were fleshed out as well and I had trouble trying to visualize them over the course of the novel. Sometimes, the supporting characters were not given enough background development and I had a hard time understanding their motives or actions.
Donaldson states at the end of the novel that he first wrote this as a screen play and that helps me to understand some of the issues that I had with this. First off, the lead character is always written in first person point of view. That is okay, but sometimes the author forgets that you only see or feel things through that character and would state what the other character in the scene was thinking. In first person, you can't do that. All the other scenes in the novel are written in third person point of view, which is fine. I wish that Donaldson would have just stuck with third person for the whole novel, since it would have made it a much easier read.
The other main issue that I had with this novel was that it had over 100 chapters in it. Some of the chapters were less than a page long. This is just a pet-peeve of mine, but by doing that, it makes it a much faster read and choppy at times. Nothing seemed to get developed and I was using too much of my own imagination filling the spaces in between the main storyline.
However, even though the plot was not entirely original, sex scandal in the White House, it did have a few twists and turns here and there that made it enjoyable. Again, I liked the strong female lead and how the characters themselves seemed realistic and not entirely fictional. I enjoyed this novel and felt that it was an entertaining read.
If you are someone who likes a good, old-fashioned political scandal murder mystery, then this book is for you. If you are into a more modern or fresh approach to a political murder mystery, then this book isn't for you.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
I was given a copy of this book by the author via Bostick Communications; I was not paid to review this book.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder


Synopsis: This summer has been warmer than usual in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and Hannah Swensen is trying to beat the heat both in and out of her bakery kitchen. But she's about to find out the hard way that nothing cools off a hot summer day like cold-blooded murder. . .
It's a hot, muggy evening, and the last thing Hannah wants to do is squeeze into a pair of pantyhose for the Grand Opening of the refurbished Albion Hotel. But with Hannah's famous Red Velvet cupcakes being served in the hotel's new Red Velvet lounge, she can't bring herself to back out.

The party starts off with a bang with the unexpected arrival of Doctor Bev, a Lake Eden legend who left town in shame after she two-timed her fiancé one too many times. Bev's splashy appearance on the arm of a wealthy investor is the talk of the night. But the gossip comes to a screeching halt when a partygoer takes a mysterious dive off the hotel's rooftop garden.

The victim is the sheriff's secretary, Barbara Donnelly, and she is barely clinging to life. The question is, did she fall--or was she pushed? As the police investigate, the only one who isn't preoccupied with the case is Doctor Bev. She's too busy trying to stir things up with her old flame Norman, who's reunited with Hannah.

Just as Hannah's patience with Bev runs dangerously thin, her rival is found dead at the bottom of Miller's Pond. The only clue the police have is the Red Velvet cupcake Bev ate right before she died--and the tranquilizers someone seems to have baked into it. To everyone's shock, Hannah is now the unlikely target of a murder investigation--and she's feeling the heat in a way she never has before. . .(Taken from Goodreads.com).


Review: I had to read several of her books in a row! Call this a guilty pleasure or a new obsession. At some point I see myself owning all of the books in this series.

The only think that I was a little disappointed about with this novel, was that I was able to figure out who the murderer was rather quickly and why that particular individual was the killer. Again though, this book was just delightful and I enjoyed reading every page. I also thought that the fact Hannah was stringing along two men would bother me, but that strange triangle romance did not get too much in the way of the mystery at hand, which was a good thing. I think that Joanne Fluke is a very skilled writer and it has been a long time that I have enjoyed reading a series this much!

On a bakers note: I tried out the Tickled Pink Lemonade Cookie recipe in this book and it was quite delicious. I did make a slight change to it, but that is just what I do with most recipes; tweak them to my liking : )

Again, I would recommend that people who love murder mysteries and to bake read this book.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

I bought this book at a local store; I was not asked to do a review of this book.