Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3 Stars for The Bones of Others (A Skye Cree Novel Book 1) a Paranormal Thriller by Vickie McKeehan


Summary

Some monsters live in your head. Not this one.

Brutalized as a young girl by a vile sexual predator, Skye Cree is a survivor. Guided by the visions of her mystical spirit guide to the whereabouts of abducted girls, she uses her unique abilities to turn her horrifying past into a positive force for justice. Fighting the demons that have haunted her for years, she trusts only in herself—until she falls hard for a man for the first time in her life. Now, discovering her abductor is back with a vengeance, she becomes locked in a deadly race against time to stop the horrors of an evil human-trafficking ring that threatens to tear her world—and her newfound love apart.

Review

The Bones of Others takes a look at a different kind of bad guy. Rather than going after demons, vampires, or werewolves, Skye Cree, the heroine of the story attacks human trafficking. It’s an intriguing approach and one that immediately had me rooting for Skye and her cause, especially since Skye was a victim with a powerful back story.

This story started out with an edge, introducing Skye as mysterious, slowly unraveling her past through a potential love interest named Josh Ander. Josh helps her search for her the person who brutalized her years before, becoming much more way too fast. For someone with a sexually tormented past like Skye’s, I would have liked to see romance move slower. It would seem more realistic.

Skye’s spirit guide gave the story an interesting supernatural element that worked plausibly throughout the story, but at times seemed too convenient. The scene I’m thinking of is when Skye and Josh set out alone after the person who tortured Skye years earlier. I would have liked to see a number of things happen in that scene that did not. For example, I would have liked to see Skye fight this man she’d come to hate for the past thirteen years. The book built a mountain of potential for that scene and when it didn’t meet my expectations; I was let down. The rest of the story followed sure predictable outcomes where the bad guys got their deserving desert of justice without much of a fight.

The Bones of Others is a heroic one addressing the topic of human trafficking and the pedophilias behind it walking less obvious professions in life including that of a cop, a guy meant to protect and serve. This story is set in Seattle, Washington, a place where human trafficking has become problematic enough to warrant an organization to fight the issue called the SAS, Seattle Against Slavery.

Vickie Mckeehan, is brave in tackling this saddening issue and The Bones of Others is certainly worth reading. It has a kick butt protagonist to root for, and some dangerously hot love scenes for those who like romance.

The Bones of Others can be found at Amazon.com

Saturday, July 19, 2014

4 Stars for Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry


Summary:

Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel

From a new master of horror comes an apocalyptic showdown between the residents of a secluded, rural town and the deadly evil that confronts them wherever they turn . . .

Evil Doesn't Die
The cozy little town of Pine Deep buried the horrors of its past a long time ago. Thirty years have gone by since the darkness descended and the Black Harvest began, a time when a serial killer sheared a bloody swath through the quiet Pennsylvania village. The evil that once coursed through Pine Deep has been replaced by cheerful tourists getting ready to enjoy the country's largest Halloween celebration in what is now called "The Spookiest Town in America."

It Just Grows Stronger
But then--a month before Halloween--it begins. Unspeakably desecrated bodies. Inexplicable insanity. And an ancient evil walking the streets, drawing in those who would fall to their own demons and seeking to shred the very soul of this rapidly fracturing community. Yes, the residents of Pine Deep have drawn together and faced a killer before. But this time, evil has many faces--and the lust and will to rule the earth. This struggle will be epic.

Review

Evil doesn’t die. It just grows stronger. These are the kinds of lines that make great horror books and a gal like me read more. I’m a huge fan of guys like Joe Hill and Stephen King. They write books that dig deep to define evil. Ghost Road Blues started digging right away.

The first one-hundred pages of hooked me like a fresh piece of sashimi melting high flavor into my taste buds bringing back the old delightfully wicked memories of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot – Memories  that still keep me up at night after many a year ago. Ghost Road Blues starts wicked strong; unfortunately, it doesn’t keep this dynamic pacing.

Maberry’s ideas on pacing a book seemed just the opposite of King’s. King always starts slow, and many times I’ve considered giving up on his books, but I know the end will be a tremendous payoff, plus even where pacing is slow in King’s books I often follow his ranting philosophy in a world where evil is much stronger than good. Mayberry’s back story about a bone man and a devil had the kind of substance that King’s books have, but this great back story didn’t get its full use in Ghost Road Blues, not in the way I imagined.

For one, I imagined The Bone Man to do something other than play the blues. For two, I would have liked to see The Bone Man and the main character; Crow share more of a back story. I really liked both characters and the idea of having them team up seemed more than likely. Last, I would have liked to have an ending that was as strong as the middle where Karl Ruger (evil) vs. Crow (good) got to fighting. That fight ended around the first one-hundred pages, and that’s where I lost my interest. Pacing slowed almost to a complete stop.

The book began to focus on a few other evil characters motivated by the greater evil The Bone Man faced in the past. To me these characters were not as interesting as Ruger, who had his own mysterious back story. I didn’t like Tow-Truck Eddie. He didn’t really have a voice and every time I tried to picture him in my head he visualized as a grey shadow.

Mike Sweeney’s step-dad, Vic, basically came across as a fist throwing Natzi. He wasn’t that interesting, and one figures sooner or later, he’d get what’s coming to him. The teenage boy, Mike, however won my heart and may have been the best character in the book. This was a kid that deserved to defeat evil simply because he’d had so much thrown at him, and I loved the parallel between him and Crow who’d had a lot thrown at him as a young boy.

In the end, I think this book is loaded with the potential of a great story. It started like Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box, but ended like a Stephen King beginning. It’s worth the read just to get to know some of the great characters, but if you want a fast past ending before the last twenty pages – don’t. On the flip side, for a first novel, Maberry did a fantastic job. You can find Ghost Road Blues at Amazon.com.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

5 Stars for Happily Never After

By Missy Fleming
Young Adult Novel
Reviewed By: Nancy Pennick
5 stars


Summary:

There's no such thing as happy endings.

Savannah, Georgia is rumored to be the most haunted place in America. Quinn Roberts knows it is. She's felt the presence of spirits her entire life, investigating and photographing them with her best friend. Only none of those encounters ever turned violent, until now. The menacing darkness feeding off her stepmother has promised she won't live to see her eighteenth birthday.

After a chance meeting Quinn reluctantly allows actor Jason Preston into her life, which has complications of its own. She's not used to letting people get close. Falling for him while fighting for her life, and her family's legacy, only complicates things more. Jason shows her exactly what she stands to lose, especially when she's being attacked by the mysterious entity. Each attack is more violent and terrifying than the last.

With Jason's help, she dives into the Roberts' family history, searching for a link between a woman who went missing a hundred and fifty years ago and what's happening now. What they find is a brutal murder and that the ghost doesn't just want to hurt Quinn, it wants revenge.


Review:

Quinn and her only friend are outcasts in high school. Her evil twin sisters are popular Southern belles. They love to be in pageants and Quinn is stuck helping make their ball gowns and cleaning up her stepmother’s beauty salon. Once she graduates she thinks things will be better. Instead they remain the same. Sounds like Cinderella? The similarities are there, even Quinn is aware. She never saw actor Jason Preston as her Prince Charming, but when he comes to town to shoot a vampire movie, he fits the bill.

Missy Fleming has woven a paranormal tale in the city of Savannah, Georgia that will keep you guessing till the end. Quinn lives with her stepmother and stepsisters in her family home. It’s haunted by ghosts, ones that only Quinn can see. She’s not afraid, having grown up with them and inspired by her mother to embrace her gift. After meeting Jason, she starts to believe she could have a happy life until an evil entity comes into her life.

I loved the descriptions of Savannah, GA in the book. The author did a great job of giving the reader a feel for the historic city. It was the perfect setting, a place where you can picture ghosts walking among the living. I am not a fan of scary books or ones that make you stay awake at night. This book was a perfect blend of not so scary but enough to make you shiver.

Quinn is a tough but lovable main character. You want to see her win. The stepmother’s role is very interesting and I’d like to see how she changes in future books. The stepsisters are the typical, self-absorbed teens until one of them softens toward Quinn. Her motives are in question and it’s hard to believe if she’s being real or not. Jason is believable as the love interest and prince figure, even though he’s a rising young star. He appears grounded and doesn’t let fame go to his head.

As I read this book, one of the story lines seemed oddly familiar. The Catherine in this book was much like the Katherine of the Vampire Diaries (the book, not the TV series). Katherine was a powerful presence stalking Elena. She wanted revenge on Elena for stealing the brothers’ love. There are similarities but this doesn’t take away from the story. If you enjoyed the Katherine story of the Vampire Diaries, you’ll like this.

The end of the book finishes with a cliff-hanger and I will surely have to read book two to find out what happens with Quinn and her band of friends.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

5 Stars for Where You Belong

By: Patrick Dilloway
Genre: Literary/Mainstream
Reviewed by: Cindy Borgne

Summary:


Frost Devereaux's odyssey of self-discovery spans three decades and takes him to every corner of America. Guiding him along his journey are the twin loves of his life: Frankie & Frank Maguire. Through his tempestuous relationships with them, he learns who he is and where he belongs.

Review:

I liked the main character Frost early in the story. Frost starts out in life with some problems. His mother dies in an accident which also leaves him scarred at an early age. His deadbeat father leaves and for a lot of the story Frost just goes about not really having a place in life, so he goes along with some friends that are rich and pretty much take him in. I liked him early in the story considering his background. He also pines for the almost crazy woman Frankie who is completely bad for him, but this is realistic because people often pine for someone they can't have or even shouldn't have. One of the themes in this book is basically about the struggles of people who have trouble fitting into society. This is also a character story where you read about several people with unusual things about them, but on the other had they are very realistic. Some of the characters are gay and gay issues are confronted in the book. Overall an interesting read that I highly recommend.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4 Stars for Seasons of Love and War

Author: Brenda Ashworth Barry
Women’s Fiction
Reviewed by: Nancy Pennick

Summary:


While the Vietnam War rages and the rest of the world experiences seismic socio-polictical and cultural shifts, childhood sweethearts Beth Ann Rose and Kaylob Shawn O’Brien are sheltered, na├»ve and innocent in the northern California town of Novato. Beth Ann, a spirited redhead, has big to work her way to Broadway, and Kaylob, a creative, warm, easygoing self-starter, dreams of and opening a restaurant. Whatever life brings them, one thing is crystal clear — they will be facing it together. They are in love, full of hope and joie de vivre.

Eager to launch their new life, they move south to Riverside, California, as soon as Beth Ann turns eighteen. Then, with no warning, the unthinkable happens. Kaylob is drafted into the U.S. Army. They are devastated. This shakes the foundation of their dreams, but with no other choice but to serve his country, Kaylob goes to war and leaves behind his girl along with their aspirations.

Come take this journey in book one of a four part Saga through love and war where these two young kids struggle to stay strong and hold on to hope.

Review:

Beth Ann and Kaylob are young and in love. What can come between them? The Vietnam War. The story is set in a time of change and upheaval in the U.S. Kaylob has been to war and volunteers to return. He has unfinished business. Beth Ann isn’t too pleased but finally sees why Kaylob must go back. The lovers are torn apart and Beth Ann struggles to go on with her life. Although good things happen for her, Kaylob is always in the back of her mind. He is her one true love.

If you love a good romance story, Seasons of Love and War, is for you. The strength of Beth Ann and Kaylob’s love is apparent throughout the book. Beth Ann has to continue her life without him and Blake is more than willing to take his place. Blake is rich and handsome, someone who’s loved her since high school. Beth Ann struggles with leaving Kaylob in the past and moving on. She sometimes has visions that he is alive, calling out to her, and tries to make sense of the meaning. The book almost becomes a fantasy at this point because of this strong bond and connection. Her dreams and visions are real.

The author uses slang of the late sixties to set the tone of the book. I got a feel for that time period through her descriptions of clothing and settings.

The one criticism I have is the overuse of the word “baby” and “darlin’” in the story. It was said one too many times. Also, Beth Ann’s wonderful Broadway career came to an abrupt end and was never mentioned again. It would’ve been interesting to see how that side of her life evolved. Every man seemed to fall in love with Beth Ann and things came easy to her. I would have liked for her to become a more independent woman in correlation with those times.

Seasons of Love and War is a historical romance set in a turbulent time of U.S. history. It’s an easy read. I understand this is a saga and there’s more to come. The love triangle of Beth Ann, Kaylob and Blake is hopefully not over yet.


Purchase Links

Melange Books
Amazon Kindle

Amazon Paperback
Barnes and Noble


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

4 stars for Preservation by Rachel Wade A Romance


Summary:

Fear is sabotage's sweetest weapon.

Kate has no time for meaningless romantic charades, and definitely no time for hot college professors who are full of themselves and smitten with her. Constantly battling eviction notices, tuition she can't afford, and a sick, dependent mother, the last thing she needs is to be distracted with someone else's complicated baggage.

When she stumbles into Ryan Campbell's creative writing class, he is only "Mr. Campbell" to her, until Ryan finds himself captivated by her writing and she is forced to face their mutual attraction. His cocky know-it-all syndrome is enough to send her running in the other direction, and his posse of female admirers and playboy reputation are enough to squander any odds in her favor.

But underneath Ryan's abrasive facade is something to behold, and she can't stay away for long. Ryan and Kate must decide who they're willing to become and fight against their former selves if they want to make things work. That's if academia, vicious vixens, old skeletons, and their own mastery at self-destruction don't pummel their efforts first.

Review:

My genre of choice is horror, but I’m also a sucker for a good romance, if its written with style. “Preservation,” flows smoothly, with fast-pacing that doesn’t hesitate. I read it in two days. The story is Ryan and Kate’s, only. I appreciate other side stories didn’t interrupt this. For example, Kate had two adoring friends, Carter and Dean, and their lives never interrupted the main story. Wade never lets side-plots crash the main party. Her plot began strong and followed through.

The main characters did get so much attention, that other characters fell flat. However, I enjoyed the characters of Ryan and Kate enough, this didn’t bother me. Furthermore, and purely personal, I could relate to both of them, because they are writers. This is where it also got a little sticky for me. Ryan and Kate were writers and I never knew ‘what’ they wrote about. Ryan had a novel in place, and so did Kate, but I didn’t even catch a glimpse of the genre until the very end when Ryan mentioned his story was a horror. 

If much of their connection was writing, shouldn’t it have been discussed in greater detail rather than the generics of good writing. Good writing can mean so many things, from plot, characterization, passive and aggressive voice balances, sentence balance, setting, good dialogue, etc. But just discussing a character from one of their books would have been a plus for me.

       Good writing reminds me in many ways of pitcher in a major league baseball game. He throws the ball with many things in mind, the batter and how he hits, his team’s positioning, the kind of ball to throw and what he can pitch, the score, who’s on base, etc. My point is, so many things go into writing, and just maybe Wade felt like talking about the writing in a large way could have distracted from her main plot. 

But, in my opinion it could have embellished it, drawing to a deeper understanding of Ryan and Kate. A writer always puts much of themselves into their stories. Why should it be different for Ryan and Kate?

       Now, even though I missed this element, it didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the rest, like the idea that both Ryan and Kate were swimmers. They water burned off stress for both of them. This is a huge connection for me. In addition to the personal connection I felt for both characters, I thought Wade did a swell job of developing a past for both of them making it difficult to stay together. 

Many reviewers didn’t understand Ryan, and considered him a jerk, but this is where I feel a reader ‘shouldn’t just read with their eyes,’ as noted by Thomas C. Foster in his book, “How to read like a Professor.” In this book he notes James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” where he sympathizes with an uptight professor and his drug addict brother.

       Ryan, because of his past should be sympathized with, just as Kate and her struggle with hers. Just because Ryan is a man doesn’t make him a bad guy, his actions are no different than those of many women, who have had their heart broken. Bravo, to Wade on story building with these two characters. I would highly recommend this story to anyone who believes love deserves a second chance.


“Preservation” by Rachel Wade can be found at Amazon.com.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

4 Stars for Reunion: A Supernatural Thriller by Jeff Bennington


Summary:

TEEN PLOTS MASS MURDER.
David Ray makes the final arrangements before he walks into school to kill everyone who had tormented him over the years. As he gathers the guns and weapons into his car, he remembers the bullies and abusers that made him what he is... a freak... a monster. His life sucks because of them and they're going to pay.  

THE WORLD TURNS UPSIDE DOWN.
Countless lives are destroyed, interrupted, transformed, and for some, ruined by David Ray's decision to murder and maim his classmates. Tanner and Maria's dreams unravel in a matter of minutes. Kate and Bryan's destiny turns upside down. Nick's twin brother is shot in cold blood with a bullet meant for him--and he will never forgive himself. 

20 YEARS AFTER SHOOTING - SURVIVORS RETURN - SCHOOL HAUNTED. 
Although they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder a small band of survivors  reunite at the school, hoping for healing and closure. But there's a problem; the school's haunted and Nick, an alcoholic, is the only one who sees it. Is he crazy? Or is there something to his blathering? Nick may be going off the deep end, but he'll do anything to prove he's right. 

What's haunting Crescent Falls? Were they told the whole truth about David Ray's death? Is he coming back to finish what he started, or is there something more sinister dwelling within the boarded up school? Will a surprise visit from a seventh classmate have the answers they're looking for? As the haunting spirals out of control, the survivors might learn the truth about their past and rediscover who they are. But first, they must relive their nightmare at their 20th Reunion.


Review

Jeff Bennington’s “Reunion,” tackles the issue of bullying and the violent repercussions that follow; however, Bennington puts a fantastic supernatural spin to it. He begins with the crime, and then follows the tragic survivors twenty years later for a reunion. The story is told in multiple perspectives, which can take away from truly getting to know the characters, only so much time can put into a single character in one book without distancing the others. In this book, you get a sense of the people in it and the tragic experience unique to all of them, but there is a sense of distance.

Bennington’s efforts to use so many perspectives are not in vain. David, the killer, is the most developed, maybe because so much time got devoted to him in the beginning. You could sympathize with him - despite his horrible actions. A similar sympathy devise was used by Jodi Picoult’s  in “Nineteen Minutes,” where the shooter, Peter, was played as a victim. Picoult’s story took the victim/shooter idea a little overboard, often playing up incidents of impossible bullying. I’m often in schools, and the things that happened to Peter would not be permitted. Unlike Picoult, Bennington never lost sight of how one person can ruin the lives of so many others, despite his reasoning. Bennington didn’t model his characters around a bunch of stereotypes as Picoult did, not everyone is a nerd, jock, or cheerleader and even if they are, hopefully there’s something more authentic making them real-life.

However, I have been sucked into the books with stereotypes like Harlan Coben’s soccer mom types, but Coben makes it up to me with his non-stop twisty plots. Picoult seemed to get caught in the ‘no bullying’ message in “Nineteen Minutes” which made that particular book way too long. Coben always gets to the point, everything is plot related, and interesting. Bennington went off on a couple of tangents in “Reunion”, but nothing to really slow down the pacing. I read it in a matter of days.

I prefer Bennington’s characters more than Coben’s or Picoult’s, even though they could have been fleshed out more. They still gravitate towards the real world allowing the characters to deal with a tragic situation in a solid way. The women could have been a little more aggressive in their dealings, rather than screaming and cowering most of the time. I did enjoy Nick’s approach, in fact turns out he was my favorite. Overall, I highly recommend this story. 
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