Sunday, February 24, 2013

Virtual Christmas by Clyde Hedges, A Book Review

Virtual Christmas is not what I expected. I thought the characters were all going to be in a virtual reality, but just one was taken for a reality check.

Our society has become a me first, I want, I am entitled mindset. Jake, the lead character is just such a hoodlum, but not from how he was raised but rather from the emotional traumatic pain he holds in from six years on.
His grandfather puts Jake into a virtual reality to steer him onto the right path. He lets him see what he has become from lashing out with anger instead of healing his pain.  Sometimes what you say to a youth is lost in the wave of sound to brain.  They either don't hear you, can't hear you, or completely ignore you.  And then there are times when the elder never took the time to be the voice of experience and reason.  Then you wonder if in death that person realizes what they missed out on; what treasures they lost.  Apparently Jake's workaholic grandfather realized it before his death, but after his death is when the clang of the bell was heard.

The next step for Jake was to open his mind, his heart and his eyes.  Reality is not always just what we can see or touch.  Being scientific or technologically savvy doesn't make you privy to what science can not yet define.  Stepping into the unknown is a leap of faith, and one that Jake has never taken.  In fact he closed the door with a slam when he was five years old.  Opening that door took courage, and once he can see the music, he can hear the message.  Then what he does with it is what makes your heart smile.

Jake's friends also suffer his obstinacy and superiority attitude and insults. No one is safe as he lashes out, even a cold homeless and defenseless puppy.  What he discovers though through his grandfather's help is what the basis of life is all about.  What rewards really make you happy, from what deeds you do, and things you accomplish.  Money is not the reward that gives you the greatest song in your heart.  Destroying a company or others won't heal the wounds in your heart.  The one thing that finally makes Jake heal and happy is what his grandfather finally makes him understand.

 It is a good story. I wanted Jake to succeed, but I also now want to know what he does next. He has a huge opportunity at his feet, and will he hold onto his new found reality, or will greed and self interests get the best of him yet.
I would enjoy another installment of Jake and his life. It is a fun read everyone would enjoy.

The Other Side by Sabrina D. Guthrie, A Book Review

This book is in the paranormal realm, to some extent, and the romance novel to match it.  The story line moved along nicely, keeping the read interesting, and fun.  It's a nice short story to read and enjoy.

The main character is flanked by two friends that surprise and not only help her develop, but keep things interesting.  So many times stories seem to revolve around the main character suffering from the loss of a loved one.  When the person is younger of course it's usually a parent, if they are older, it's a husband, wife, or child that is driving or molding them in their choices.  In this case Brynn had lost her father at a young age, but what molded and drove her wasn't the loss as much as it was the questions she still had.  Everyone wants to make their parents proud, and often times put them on a pedestal.  Brynn was no exception, but coming to terms with what was real and what others describe as your imagination, was life changing for her.

Brynn's discoveries not only reshaped what she thought she knew, but what she emotionally felt, believed, and desired.  The door opened to her, revealed things she never imagined, and forced her to grow up a little faster and a lot stronger.

Close friends can be an asset and a crutch, the latter sometimes not being such a good thing.  But for Brynn having such close friends made her sudden revelations a lot easier to handle.  What she didn't expect was a new relationship she would never have engaged in without the revelation.  They say things happen for a reason, and in Brynn's case I think that hits the mark.

Being that it is such a short story, keeping things moving at a steady pace is a priority.  Making the events pull the reader in like you are actually standing next to them, gives realism to the story, making you feel like it could have really happened.  Or is it just wishful thinking?  Even so, most everyone wants good to win over evil, love over hate, happy over sad, but if getting there isn't an interesting journey, concern is lost.  So wanting it to feel real is paramount to keeping the reader there.  This story comes real close.  Had it been longer with more time to develop the characters, I think it would have been a slam dunk.

Everyone likes a good love story right?  This is a short but sweet one.  You will most likely want to be in Brynn's shoes.  I did.

Atomic Summer by Elaine D. Walsh

This is a story about growing up from a small town.  Things that seem so very important to you, are specks of dust in the sea of life.  Yet we cling to events as major milestones, because they are.  At least to those living them they are.

Most of the characters in this book revel in the we are getting out of dodge and see the world thought patterns, yet as so often happens of course, the ones who squawk the loudest are the ones who stay all their lives.

The story could have actually been based on real events.  And, the characters could have been real as well, but even if they are, one of them just seemed too naive to be believed.  I kept wanting to say REALLY? 

As these people aged, I didn't feel their maturity gained any footage.  I wanted something more to happen, something that I wasn't expecting, but it just didn't.  I think the author has great potential and should have allowed herself to really embellish the story and characters.  There didn't seem to be a real plot to the story, just a story.  No turns you didn't see coming, as the author told a little too much for you not to read between the lines.  So the surprise was never a surprise.

For instance, who the characters were behind the mask they showed to the world were pretty obvious even though it was, I believe, supposed to be a surprise to you like it was to the main character.  How each person reacted to that surprise was not developed enough for me to grab onto.  I felt the main character was too naive, and the second one too ridiculous to be taken seriously.  It just seemed like no one would really act that way, or do the things they did.  Maybe I just didn't understand it.  Or maybe I just didn't want to, I don't know. 

It was not a book I couldn't put down, and not one I would ever read twice.  If you like stories of growing up, and how that impacts your future, then you might like this book.  I thought the story was okay, but I would not recommend it as a good read.  I would like to read the author's next book though, as I feel she has the ability to really put on a show if she lets her characters develop, and sets the twists and turns stage without opening the curtain part way before raising it.
Could there be a sequel to this one.... no.  I wouldn't want there to be, the characters were just not that likeable.  But I think a fresh storyline, new characters that you don't see coming, and Elaine's writing quality could go far.  I sense a novel with impact in her future bubbling in her thoughts, just waiting to be written.  I would definitely read this author again, she has great potential, and abilities.

Enigma Black by Sara Furlong Burr

Sara created a character that even when she exasperated you, you're admiration and hope for her was not deterred.  The story was drawn to keep you wanting to know what happened next.  It is a can't put it down just yet book, until you get to the end, which obviously won't be until the sequel is in your hands and read.
The story line is interesting, intriguing and emotional.  The characters give an emotional connection whether it's dislike, love, or hatred.  You become invested in what they are feeling and doing, so much so that you feel you are right there with them, and feeling their pain or joy.

I can actually relate the story line to our country, and what is going on.  Yeah, it may not be what is actually happening, at least that we know of, but the ideas are not really far fetched.  Control is power, and as in the story line, while Celaine fights for comfort in control of her future, by avenging the past, the real grabbers are launching tactics to get even more power, which will actually decimate the control she thinks she will attain.  It's a merry go round I know, but that's really how life is.  The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, so we do things to jump the fence, only to find out it's the same old stuff.  Celaine is beginning to question reality though, as she realizes things she just took at face value, really don't quite add up.
Unfortunately, every action we take has a consequence.  We may not realize what that consequence is at the time, or even down the road, but that won't change the outcome.  Celaine starts to realize this concept, and thinks about not only the mission she is on right now, but what happens if she accomplishes it.  How will she feel, and does that end it?  Since she started to think about all the pieces to this puzzle, and realized some just don't fit, there was no way for her to ignore her gut feeling that what she thinks the end outcome will be, is just not what will really happen.

Reading the Kindle edition and watching the percentage bar, I wondered how this was going to end, as I could see I was close to the end of the book.  I knew there weren't enough pages left to answer all the questions or resolve all the issues.  Yet I wasn't disappointed with the end of the first book.  The whole story was remarkable and greatly worth reading.  Thankfully Sara is working on the sequel.
Enigma: mystery, somebody or something that is not easily explained or understood. That is just what you and Celaine are trying to figure out as you turn the pages. An enjoyable story, with characters that explode your mind.

Get the book.  You will certainly enjoy it.  Sara does a great job.  Thanks Sara.

Dark Water by Jen Talty A Book Review

Seeing death leaves a mark on our soul.  A mark that can't be erased, only recognized as another defining part of our ever developing character.  How we accept and define that mark is up to us.  In this story, Frank's soul was marred by such an event, but acceptance is eluding him even though he reaches out to tame its heart wrenching grip.  Determined to change its plight on his soul, he keeps searching for answers to why the death happened in the first place.

Being a young and attractive man is certainly not an obstacle for Frank in the romance department, but sometimes finding 'the one' is difficult.  When Lacy entered Frank's life, seeing her as being 'the one' was difficult, especially when life makes you hide who you really are for fear of losing her for ever.  Frank certainly has some issues, but they are all related to that mark on his soul.

Lacy gave up on finding 'the one' to help her sister.  Now life's course changing events have clouded her ability to see the big picture above the details.  And she seems bent on depriving herself, when she can stay in control, as a way to beg forgiveness from someone who can no longer give that to her.

As both character's lives intertwine, their ultimate goals appear to be the same on the surface, but in reality at the core of their souls, they are quite different.  Each seeks a release, a comfort for their anguish and despair, thinking it will come with the attainment of their goal.  Then as with most romance novels the two slowly realize they are looking at the wrong details that make up the whole picture.

It's actually a pretty good story.  The other characters brought into play provide the diversity, adventure emotional havoc and suspense.  The story line keeps moving at a good pace and even has you guessing at times as to what that person means overall, or what will happen, or is this character involved in this way.  You know what I mean.  The child character I think was really well done.  You could actually see the petulance on his face and hurt in his eyes.  I totally fell for that child and wanted to protect him as much as Lacy and Frank did.  Jen's development of that character was a bright star.  I didn't feel quite the same about the adult leads, but I think I just have a soft spot for kids.

This was an enjoyable story, and well worth the time to read it.  Thanks Jen!

Lamb of Legacy by Edeltraud F. Fellendorf, A Book Review

GREAT BOOK!!  We all endure travesty, but some you would never have imagined.

I loved this story.  It's a life story of her growing up and surviving World War II in Germany.  It's honest, shocking, brutally sad, and yet endearing.

She grew up in a small town, with lots of relatives, a farm to play on, lots of animals and abundant love.  Well abundant love from most people anyway.  Her life before the war started brought back many memories of mine with my grandparent's farm, many animals, and plenty of cousins to create wonderful memories.  Fortunately I didn't have to endure the pains or severe trials of young life in a war zone.

Edeltraud wrote with a naked truth that brought you to love her for all that she was and became.  Without even knowing it she teaches you to look beyond the surface and into the depths of their souls.  You realize that people don't all become the evil that leads them.  And most everyone's vision is 20/20 in hindsight.  You begin to wonder what you would have done.  What would you have become?  How would the scars of survival have affected you the rest of your life?  The whole story provokes deep thought with strong emotional insight.

Some of the people put in her path were some of the most helpful during the harshest times.  I don't believe in coincidences, so even wondering how she was so lucky is a waste of thought.  The much more useful thought is whether you would have been the sliver of light for her.  It's easy to say yes, but being truthful of your real selflessness is quite difficult but certainly can enhance self growth.  The truth of her life that she puts forth shows us how even in her darkest hours there was a sliver of light, and she grabbed hold of it.  Seeing how thankful she was for each encounter and each gift, no matter how small, gave you a feeling of admiration and pride for her.  Her attitude was not one of deserving, but rather one of grace.  Those people not only helped her keep moving forward with hope, they helped solidify her fortitude.   You have to wonder had she not had the attitude she did, how different would her life have been.

Throughout the book, I felt enormous appreciation and respect for Edeltraud and many others.  We who never served in that war, have never endured and actually really understood what many Germans went through.  What they felt and thought.  You must read this book.  It is educational, thought provoking, and an emotional event that just shouldn't be missed.

Reading a life story can be fun.  In this case it was extraordinary. I had always wondered what life was life in Germany during World War II, but it was much more extreme than I have ever imagined.  If you have ever wondered about how the people of Germany allowed Hitler to be, then this is a must read.

Medicine Man I, The Chief Of All Time by S.R. Howen A Book Review

American Indians have been given so little recognition in our history, it's sad.  Even worse is knowing the reality of how settlers and founders treated the true owners of our soil.

Reading this book not only enlightened some realities and truths, but it gives you some insight into the if things had been different realm.  Of course the fiction of the story gave it breadth and vigor but just opening up the thoughts of what really happened in history kept me wondering how this was going to go, and wanting to see a good ending to this story.

The main character, Shannon Running Deer is a Native American Indian that escaped the poverty stricken obscured prison walls of the reservation to become a doctor of modern medicine.  He was raised to become a medicine man, so leaving to be embedded into the western civilization of medicine was akin to denouncing his heritage.  That was tantamount to the most shameful thing you could do.

While his character surveys relationships with his family and inherited customs, he staunchly tries to define his true beliefs, core feelings, and hopes for the future.  Being a doctor is his calling, and with Shannon's pinnacle being to help people, he wants to do just that.  The problem for him is helping people the best way he can without sacrificing his hallowed culture or his modern medical knowledge.  Finding a compromise is not possible.  He has to choose one or the other.  At least that is what everyone else keeps telling him.

As the story moved between two realities, I actually sometimes felt I must have missed something.  Did I?  I really don't know.  I didn't want to go back and reread something to get the answer.  I had questions, but just didn't feel like they had to be answered.  Maybe it was just too trivial to impact the story, so I didn't care.  I do know that I wanted to see that things changed for the better, so I really wanted to get to the end.  That was much more important.

At first I didn't think a whole lot of Shannon, but as he developed I grew to like him a little more.  Not a lot more, but what he was doing was more vital to me anyway.  I believe he became a very likeable person once he became fully immersed in his chosen path because his arrogance would have had no wings.  Unless there is a sequel I will never know, because it ended before he truly finished his character transformation.

Overall I enjoyed the story.  It was hard to follow at times, but as it kept moving along, you got it.  Who knows, I could be the slow one.  I loved the ending as I cheered for better things to happen, and I would definitely be on the American Indian's side of things then, now and always.

I would suggest this book to everyone.  It is entertaining, and thought provoking in a positive and enlightening way.

Arbiter, by Elisa A. Bonnin, A Book Review

Great great story, with a timeline that keeps you reading.

I really have to say, I didn't know how good this story was going to be by just the title.  From the moment I started reading it though, I was hooked.

Elisa Bonnin is apparently adept at many things, and from what I have read, she is pretty darn good at writing a story that keeps you involved, from whooping for the heroine, enjoying the other characters and still guessing at what is going to happen next.

Rae Miller the lead character starts out as an emotionally closed off, depressed, scared and yet spit fire determined college student.  When her tormentor throws down a gauntlet of challenge, she accepts because of who she is at her core, what she believes in, and even though it seems to go against her other beliefs, her want of revenge.  From this challenge, she enters into a different realm; one she had never heard of before, let alone seen, and she has seen things that most others can't see, let alone even imagine.

What Rae finds there is not only surprising and in some cases daunting, it also changes her character in ways she had never thought could happen.  She develops not only new skills, but the emotional barriers she had drawn around her start to crumble.  Her need to save someone, and revenge for another propelled her here, but now she isn't even sure she can complete the task the challenge requires.  Her will, determination and new skills just don't seem strong enough to win.  Finding the strength within is a fight she has everyday as she encounters more challenges, obstacles, and skills on her journey to complete the task.

Being in a different realm where things are not what they seem, and things that may look the same really aren't, I expected Rae to be more surprised/scared for herself.  Instead, I got the feeling that she just accepted it as no big deal, I'm assuming because she had to accept her ability to see things others couldn't in her own realm.  That helps her in the story short term, but I felt it would have been more intrinsic to the character development had she reacted a little more real to what someone in our realm would have.

This is still a really great story, well written, and I would really enjoy reading the sequel(s).  The lead character is memorable, but the others don't have all the writing on the wall yet, so you have to keep reading to find out all about them too.  Well done Elisa, please let me know when the sequel is out.