Sunday, April 21, 2013

Keep No Secrets by Julie Compton

Title: Keep No Secrets
Author: Julie Compton
Genre: Drama/Romance (?!)
Publisher: Fresh Fork Publishing (March 10, 2013)
Available: $5.99 at Amazon
Rating: 3 stars
Rater: Dihanna

From the publisher:
After the ultimate betrayal, which is more important: trust or forgiveness?

In KEEP NO SECRETS, the controversial follow-up to Compton's debut legal thriller TELL NO LIES, a district attorney struggles to redeem himself after a one-night stand damaged his marriage and professional reputation.

After surviving the private and public fallout from a one-night stand four years before, St. Louis DA Jack Hilliard wants nothing more than to be trusted again by his wife, Claire, and to earn back the respect of the community he serves. Since the day Claire accepted him back into the family, he's vowed to be true to these goals, and so far he's succeeded.

But all of Jack's efforts begin to crumble when the woman involved in his earlier downfall, Jenny Dodson, returns to town claiming threats on her life and asking for his help, and resurrecting for Jack long-buried emotions and questions of her guilt for the murder of a client. Just when he thinks the pressure can't get any worse, his son's girlfriend, Celeste, accuses him of sexual assault, and he suddenly finds himself on the wrong end of a criminal case, battling for his freedom.

Can Jack trust his freedom to the legal system on which he built his career? Or will the ghost of his one-night stand four years before come back to haunt him, causing him to be convicted on the mistakes of his past? 

What I liked: The author is skilled, and has woven a complex story. I believed it, and reading this story stirred a lot of emotions.

What I didn’t like: These characters are horrible, horrible people, most especially including the protagonist. Before I was halfway through the book, I hated him, and I ended up hating him even more before the story ended. I hated him and his horrible girlfriend. Neither have any redeeming qualities, and in fact, their selfishness and irresponsibility and sociopathology destroyed their families’ lives. This story made me angry; I have met and heard about more than enough bad men, and bad women. I sure don’t want to read about them.

In sum: If you secretly root for the bad guys, this one’s for you.

Beyond Forever by M.W. Davis

Title: Beyond Forever
Author: M.W. Davis
Genre: Romance/Short Story
Publisher: Champagne Books (April 1, 2013)
Available: $.99 at Amazon
Rating: 5 stars
Rater: Dihanna

From the publisher:
Hanna’s organized life has been fractured by one mistake, one incredible night with a stranger, and now her world has descended into unbearable solitude. Days burning sunlight in a mind numbing haze, nights staring into the black void enveloping her empty bed, until a peculiar man lost within his own shadows, offers a path to resolution. To purge the memories that hound her thoughts and block her return to a normal existence, she must circle back to where it all began.

What I liked: Sweet, well written, and satisfying are the three words I’d use to describe this short story. The plot flows, you’re pulled along, and you don’t want it to end. Not terribly trite either, which was refreshing.

What I didn’t like: Can’t think of a thing!

In sum: Here’s a good one for us romance junkies. Pick it up.

Arabelle's Shadows by Fleur Gaskin

Title: Arabelle’s Shadows
Author: Fleur Gaskin
Genre: Women’s Literature/Inspirational
Publisher: Self/Amazon (November 19, 2012)
Available: $3.99 at Amazon
Rating: 5 stars
Rater: Dihanna

From the publisher:

Everything in Arabelle's life is coming together. She has confidence, great friends, she's even dating Naak, a wealthy Thai socialite. But there are too many models in Bangkok. Arabelle’s broke, she can’t find an agent in New York, and Naak isn’t as wonderful as he first appears.

Slowly the Shadows creep back into Arabelle’s mind, bringing with them thoughts of hopelessness and despair. The vile Shadows know something Arabelle’s refusing to remember and, if she’s not careful, they’ll use it to destroy her.

Based on a true story, Arabelle’s Shadows takes us on a journey through the struggles of growing up, not quite making it as an international model, and attempting to overcome a crushing depression.

What I liked: This was a moving, emotional, and often heartbreaking story. The descriptions painted here make depression and despair as real as the walls caging Arabelle. Especially satisfying is the strength Arabelle digs up to get through her horrors. In all, what a very sad, and well-written story.

What I didn’t like: The depth and realism of the emotional traumas are not for the fainthearted. Keep that in mind when you pick this up.

In sum: You should read this, but not during a sad time.

Wherewolves by John Vamvas and Olga Montes

Title: Wherewolves
Author: John Vamvas and Olga Montes
Genre: YA/Horror/Social Commentary
Publisher: Self/Amazon (February 17, 2013)
Available: $2.99 at Amazon
Rating: 4 stars
Rater: Dihanna

From the publisher:

The underdogs, Jeffrey and Doris, do not want to go as they fear for their safety among the disdain and cruelty of the popular students. Sergeant Tim O’Sullivan, their teacher, as well as their dysfunctional parents pressure them into going, but it is an unforgivable act by their peers that propels the pair to go. Likewise, Elie, a student resented because of his Arab roots, is even more determined to prove himself this weekend. In the background, a news report cautions of a wanted couple with alleged super-human strength supposedly brought on by a new drug on the streets.

In the woods, the students hike, hunt, camp, and soon act in unity as the forest brings them closer together. But does it? O’Sullivan leaves them alone for the night. The students bond, chant, tell campfire tales, and quickly lose their fears and inhibitions. HOO-AH! Though sexual tensions are high, it soon turns to violence and everything quickly turns sour.

When the kids start disappearing one after the other, the remaining begin to unwittingly “act like the natives” carving spears, ready to face whatever is out there. What has gotten into them?

Amid the blood-curdling growls and the gruesome deaths, the story’s underlying layers are revealed. We see how misconceptions, prejudice, greed, fear, and hatred bring out the worst and best in us.

What is out there? Can it really be werewolves?

What I liked: This is a well written story, with crisp characters and a detailed, satisfying plot. The story moves, and keeps you entertained. It’s both horror and social commentary, and suggests a lot of bigger ideas that are worth contemplating.

What I didn’t like: Way, way too gory for me, and I would never let my teen read it.

In sum: If you like horror and YA, this will satisfy, but don't give it to your kids.

Paranormal Properties by Tracy Lane

Title: Paranormal Properties
Author: Tracy Lane
Genre: YA
Publisher: Pants on Fire Press (February 27, 2013)
Available: $2.99 at Amazon
Rating: 4 stars
Raters: Dihanna and Lauri

From the publisher:

The Weir family has just arrived in Dusk, North Carolina, one of the most haunted cities in America, to scope out some of the town’s 127 reported “paranormal properties,” which just happens to be the name of their own ghost hunting show: Paranormal Properties. What Jake Weir doesn’t know, and what his parents could never imagine, is that Jake can see ghosts! And hear them. And talk back to them! This talent comes in handy when he runs into Dusk’s oldest, most famous ghost: Frank Barrone, a one-time lounge singer made famous by his booze-soaked ballad, “Barroom Eyes.”

Frank was gunned down by a local mobster in 1951 and has been searching for his killer ever since. When he learns that Jake can see and hear him, Frank makes young Jake a deal: if Jake will help Frank find his killer, Frank will help his parents find a ghost to film for their upcoming Halloween Special on Public Access TV. Jake enlists the only friend he’s made in Dusk, an overweight tomboy nicknamed “Tank,” to help him track down Frank’s killer. As clues emerge and old leads heat up, Frank and Jake learn they make quite a team. But will Jake find Frank’s killer? And will Frank find a real haunted house in time for the Halloween special?

What I liked: I thought the book was so wonderfully cute, and that I just loved all the characters in it. Frank, the ghost, is looking for his body and finds a friend in the only person who can see him - Jake. I love the compassion Frank shows for Jake, and how he helps his ghosthunter parents. Gotta say I dearly love Tank (though see my caveat below) and was glad Jake and his family took her in. Lots of good messages here. With the one exception noted below, I found the book well written and a joy to read.

What I didn’t like: I don’t like the “overweight” word, and I am especially unhappy at its employment in literature to stigmatize a person, especially – especially! – in children’s books. I strongly recommend that the author read up on how damaging stigmatizing fat people, especially children, is and how that stance damages, sometimes permanently, the self esteem of children, which causes problems ranging from eating-disordered behavior to suicide. (Besides, we should not be equating "fat" with "unhealth," and teaching that critical thinking begins in childhood.) I recommend the wealth of information at NAAFA and HAES to the author, and anyone who wonders at this topic.

In sum: A fun book for kids, but watch for the pitfalls listed above -- and talk to your kids about these issues in this and every book.