Tuesday, June 27, 2017

City Mouse by Stacey Lender

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'City Mouse,' A Novel by Stacey Lender.

The debate often exists…is city living or country living the best.

In City Mouse by Stacey Lender we are given an opportunity to deal with that question from both angles as Aaron, Jessica and their young daughters move out of Manhattan and into suburbia.

For Jessica, she is torn and loves the city, but Aaron wants to find a place where they can raise their youngsters that is safe, and will be better for the family. The hustle and bustle of city life will fade away, and their family will grow as a result.

After much discussion, Jessica finally decides that she is being stubborn and selfish, wanting the excitement of the city, but the closeness of a great family life. However, it isn’t just about the family but the finances as well, it is more expensive to live in the city.

Once they find the house of their dreams in the suburbs, Jessica sets about becoming a part of the group of mothers in the neighborhood. They seem so together, and their connections seem to keep them sane. Wanting to be a part of the community, and knowing that will help form friendships, both for her children, but for herself and Aaron as well, she dedicates time to belonging, and fitting in. Initially all is wonderful, new friends, a settled and less busy schedule, and just an overall feeling of happiness. Sure, she missed the noise and excitement of the city but this too is bliss. Or is it?

She misses Aaron, he is always headed to the city to work, and with the drive time, they do not see him as much. She begins to suspect that her girls are being bullied, and she is beginning to feel a tension within the group that cannot be seen, but simmers just the same.

 She tries to ignore the occasional catty remark, but as time moves forward she finds herself less trusting, and becoming alarmed at the things being said. When she gets caught up in some of the strange, unique situations, a form of blackmail that is used to keep the group in tow, she decides to fill Aaron in on her suspicions. Initially skeptical, he too is finding the living in the suburbs is not as expected. Can they rekindle their own love and trust, and pull the family back together again before it is too late?

If you enjoy human drama, and stories that pull you in, you will find this a great summer read. Lender does a great job of keeping you interested and wanting to know more.

Rating 3/5

Monday, June 26, 2017

Anatomy of Innocence, Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted edited by Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Anatomy of Innocence, Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted,' Edited by Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger.

In Anatomy of Innocence, Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted edited by Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger, we are introduced to a series of injustices. In real exonerations of those who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit, noted authors have compiled cases of those whose stories they have told--both the horrors and the relief of finally being heard. Lives changed and years lost due to lack of investigation, wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes just faulty witnessing.

Some of the best authors of our time, Sara Paretsky, Lee Child and Phillip M. Margolin along with a host of others have come together to compile their interviews and stories of those wrongfully convicted.

As you delve into this work you will find the questions and wonder at the belief in our system of justice. Allowing their faith in the system and their own knowledge of innocence, they continue to strike out at the injustice, alternating between anger, confusion, and in the end the blessing of being found innocent.

Each author uses their own technique to bring the light to life in their interviews and you will enjoy how each is able to capture the true essence of those who have finally found exoneration. You can feel the angst of the person who is in a state of disbelief, and as you follow the road of those who help them find their freedom, you have to wonder how it all goes so wrong in some cases.

Due to the mistakes, the victim in these cases are double fold. Both the initial victim of the crime itself and then the incarceration of the innocent accused. It is difficult to imagine the amount of fortitude it takes to continue trying to clear your name, while there is so much against you. Yet the strength of belief in both their innocence and our just system give them the ability to continue on--to find that one believer in their innocence, the one who can turn the tide.

If you enjoy true crime, you will find this to be very interesting. Each story is separate and yet you can see the many issues that connect as they are finally found innocent.

This work would be just the thing for a reading or discussion group. There is a great deal to discuss and debate.

Rating 3/5

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Mrs. Saint and the Defectives', A Novel by Julie Lawson Timmer.

In Mrs. Saint And The Defectives
by Julie Lawson Timmer, we come to terms with the label ‘Busy Body.’ As you find the spirit of this work through your reading, you will have an opportunity to see just how effective such a person might be.
Markie is a woman who has lost it all, her marriage as well as her financial and professional life. Embarrassed and depressed she packs up and moves with her teenage son to a new town where she can begin again to pick up the pieces of her world, privately. The one problem is an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Saint, that takes it upon herself to help fix whatever problems that she feels or determines that Markie has. Not only that, but she brings in her own group of friends to help.

Markie is both annoyed and disturbed, she wants to move on, and forget her problems. Yet she soon comes to realize that forgetting does not heal the hurt, and with the help of Mrs. Saint, she is able to find a way to cure both her own worries and feelings as well as those of her son.  When she and the other “defectives” find that Mrs. Saint has her own secrets that can threaten her own world, they jump in to find a way to help a woman who goes out of her way to help heal others through her kindness as well as her stubbornness. Can they come together and bring hope to Mrs. Saint as she has, in turn, done for them?

Julie Lawson Timmer has given us a feel-good book full of characters with interesting, fun, and even curmudgeonly, at times, personalities. The problems and solutions are real and she finds a way to bring each character together and create a bond that stems from kindness and caring. Using an older woman of mysterious means, she takes us into the world where hope and friendships create a healing, even for those who do not realize they are in pain.

If you are looking for that feel-good book for light summertime reading this will be a great one to begin your journey. Interesting and heartwarming, you will find yourself reflecting on each character long after reading about them.

This would be a wonderful book for a reading group or book club, full of creative dialogue.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Royally Roma by Teri Wilson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Royally Roma, The Royals Volume: 1' by Teri Wilson.

In Royally Roma by Teri Wilson, we meet a young woman who is trying desperately to change her life, leaving a scandal laden past behind and beginning anew I Rome. Julia Costa has finally found a haven, taking her away from her father’s shadow and the scandal that has affected her own life. She is now working as a tour guide in the beautiful and historical city of Rome.

Due to the news and how it affected her life, she no longer reads the papers and stays away from both television and gossip. Her life is busy with tourists and clients to who she shares her love of the city through tours. When she greets a man who she believes is her next client, she has no idea of the strange adventure that is just beginning.

For, Niccolo La Torre, The Crown Price of Lazaretto, he is at his wits end of ways to keep his younger brother out of the gossip columns. His father relies on him and he is not looking forward to the events that are unfolding and making him feel so out of control of his own destiny. When he finds himself mistaken for a common tourist, he is both intrigued and surprised. Having someone who does not know who he is confounds him, and the young woman with her motorbike is refreshing and outspoken. As his duties close in, and his staff seeks to retrieve him, he decides to disappear for the day, and take Julia’s innocent offer of a tour.

Little do they both understand the events that are set in motion by such a move. Julia has no idea she has the crown prince, claiming to be her client, and the Niccolo has little understanding how his life will soon change in ways that no one can anticipate.

Teri Wilson gives us an adventure and a tour, taking us into the beauties of Rome, and introducing the beginning buds of romance, created by the connection of two people trying to escape their lives. She brings us characters full of strength and passion, with each hiding something from the other. The tension is strong and the passion begins to build as they both flee from the familial ties that bind them.

If you enjoy a solid romance, and the beauty of Rome, you will find this a great summer read. As the situation builds you will find yourselves immersed in the fun and action as the events play out to a satisfying conclusion.

Rating 3/5

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Good Widow,' A Mystery by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke.

In The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, we are introduced to Elementary school teacher, Jacks Morales. Married for eight years, it is with dismay and horror that while on a business trip to Kansas her husband is killed in a fatal car accident. When the policeman come to her door to explain, she believes she has misunderstood the information, as they keep telling her the accident occurred in Hawaii. And further, they shared the news that he was not alone.

After being assured that the information the police had given her was correct, she finds herself blindsided by the horrifying events. While Hawaii is somewhere they had always talked about traveling to, her husband was always too busy with all the trips he was making for his company. Now she wonders just how many of the trips were real and if the agenda was more often to Hawaii, and to spend time with another woman.

While angry, she is also grieving, and it is then she meets Nick, the fiancĂ© of the woman that died with her husband on that fateful trip. Unable to pull herself together, Nick gets her to agree to go to Hawaii so they can follow the clues to the truth. Even when her friends try to tell her she is making a mistake, she takes a leap of faith to try and find answers that make sense. She doesn’t really know Nick, but he too seems quite devastated by the loss of his own loved one.

As they follow an ever confusing path to what is listed as an accident, Jacks slowly comes to the realization that more is at stake than she ever realized. Nothing is as it seems and now even the reason for her husband’s death is suspect. Can she discover clues to the underlying threat she is beginning to feel, before her life too spins out of control?

Fenton and Steinke team up to give you a mystery that has teeth. Their characters are very real and the feelings run deep, giving you the impression that they are actual people, someone that could be in your own life.  She story is haunting, both fascinating and littered with bits of terror. Jack’s gains a wonderful sense of her own power, and it keeps you enthralled as the story moves forward.

If you enjoy mystery and growth, friendships and family, you will find this work will keep you reading to the very end.

This would make great read for a reading group or book club, full of interesting plot lines and direction to help develop questions as well as dialogue and debate.

Rating 4/5

Monday, May 15, 2017

Alex & Eliza, A Love Story by Melissa De La Cruz

In Alex & Eliza, Melissa De La Cruz takes us back into history with a love story sure to ignite your imagination. During the time of the American revolution when Alexander Hamilton was still just a young mysterious man, yet even then at the right-hand of George Washington, Cruz entertains us with a story of politics and intrigue as well as love and romance.

One of New York’s biggest events was the Schuyler’s grand ball, and this well to do family had three daughters, each soon to be ready for marriage. A social event as well as an introduction of their daughters to society, their daughters Angelica and Peggy were excited for their chance to dress up and begin their round of social meetings.  

Eliza the youngest was not very into dresses and balls, she was more interested in aiding the colonists cause, but her parents were insistent. Both fierce and beautiful she was a handful, and they worried as to what type of man would attract her attention. Due to her fascination with the cause, she was very excited to learn that Alexander Hamilton would be arriving. Once they meet, their attraction and love begin a series of events that change the course of history.

De La Cruz does a wonderful job of taking you back in history and finding the most interesting of situations to bring into the story, holding you enthralled in the telling. By tying the politics and the romance together she brings in the danger as well as the strong feelings of her characters, holding you intrigued and wanting to know more.

If you enjoy history and love a good romance than this is the book for you. Enticing and interesting, De La Cruz finds a way to bring back the past and bring in history, romance, and mystery that satisfies both cravings of excitement, romance and knowledge.


This would be a great work for a Book or reading club with may merits to discuss and help create a great deal of dialogue. 

Rating 4/5

Sunday, April 9, 2017

All Things New by Lauren Miller

Posted First to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'All Things New', A Young Adult Novel by Lauren Miller. 

Often there are those who wish that the pain on the inside can be seen on the outside. To be able to diminish the hold it has, others must see and acknowledge what you have gone through, and are going though. But while the thought sometimes lingers, is the reality as likely as it seems?

In All Things New by Lauren Miller she takes us into the life of seventeen-year-old Jessa Gray. Jessa was always a great student, but then life changed in unexpected ways. Her parents split up, her mom moved on, getting remarried and having another family. Her family decided that Jessa should stay with her mom, never consulting her about her own feelings. Suddenly life has darkened, her grades have dropped, and she begins having severe anxiety, barely able to leave her home. She finds it hard to be around others, as she no longer really understands who she is.

As her days drag on, she finally meets a young man who has no real expectations of her. He never delves into her problems and makes her feel almost whole. She begins to think life will be okay. Yet when finding that all he really was interested in was not something she was willing to give, she soon finds him with another girl while at party they had attended together. In her panic, she drives herself home, only to be hit at tremendous speed by another vehicle. Her injuries are so severe, her doctors are relieved that she survives the ordeal, but her anxiety comes to the fore. The excessive scarring on her face feels like it matches the pain within. Her father shows up to see her, and she is finally able to find a way to go and live with him, away from all that she has lost.

It is here in her new beginning that she finds another calling, one that teams her with others much like her, and her own pain and re-birth give her the advantage of seeing what they are feeling inside. As she focuses on freeing them, she finds a strength she has not known since she was a child. Can she hold on to this new her, or will it all come crumbling down at the first sign of pressure.

Miller gives us a novel that is hard to put down. You can feel the pain of her characters as they face the challenges of life and school as well as peer pressure and bullying. This is a work of fiction and yet you can feel the rawness of the characters, the pressure, often from themselves, and how destructive it can be. The insights are amazing and the story is wound with a bit of faith, one that makes you think about what truth is.

If you enjoy works that draw you in and make you think, this would be a great novel. Written for teen adults, this is a great read for those who just love an interesting story. Miller is making a name for herself in YA fiction.




This would be a fascinating book for a reading or discussion group, with a great deal of debate and questions to be answered.

Rating 5/5