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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: The Shepherd of Destiny by Gary Sturm

[ 1 ] November 1, 2013

SheppoReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Gary Sturm’s The Shepherd of Destiny has the best tag line I’ve come across in a while: He searched for the “perfect” woman. Unfortunately, he found her. Once I read that, I got chills and I had to know more. Continuing on with the description on the back of the book, I learned that the main character, Danny Loveless, is contentedly married and has a child—and then one day they simply vanish. What is happening to Danny, and who is the mysterious time traveler who tells him that his destiny, Keiko, waits for him in Japan? I couldn’t wait to find out the answers to those questions and more.

The Shepherd of Destiny was such a refreshing read for me in so many ways; not only did it take me out of my comfort zone (I mostly read YA fiction), but it also had me in deep thought over serious issues like religion, God, mental illness, and even true love. Danny Loveless is not exactly the sort of protagonist that most readers will root for or even connect with, but the strong story line and supporting characters like Byron Shepherd and Anne Kessler (one of Danny’s lovers) who cared for Danny kept me invested in his story.

Danny and Anne are brought together by a religious leader named Burton Rheinstein, whose theology removes God from the equation and promotes people as their own lords. Danny, who is caught up in the idea that he must find Keiko, has a fleeting affair with Anne. She is a good woman, but she is not “The One.” She appears a few times throughout Danny’s story, and I enjoyed all of her conversations with Danny. Byron Shepherd is an eccentric sort of character; is he real or not real? If he’s not real, then Danny has an incredible imagination. Shepherd provides some serious comic relief for a story that is sometimes very dark and depressing.

Throughout the course of the novel, readers see how Danny becomes so consumed with the idea of a perfect love. I was holding my breath, waiting for that moment when he would finally meet Keiko. His reaction to her was not at all what I expected, and challenged my own beliefs on the idea of true love. But at this time in his life, Danny had seemed to lose all purpose for himself as well. Does our place in our lives at one moment in time truly affect our ability to connect with someone who may be our perfect match, or do we simply build up the idea of a perfect love too highly that we cannot help but be disappointed?

The Shepherd of Destiny is either a love story that transcends time, or it is the descent of a man who has lost everything and is slowly losing himself to madness. I think this book would make a great read for book clubs; it would be fun to see how each person in your group interprets the book. At the very least, it is a book that will stay with its readers long after they’ve read the last page. As for me, I almost started it over from the beginning because this is the type of book that deserves to be read more than once to fully take in all that it offers.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gary Sturm. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Love Gone Mad by Mark Rubenstein

[ 2 ] October 29, 2013

love gone madReviewed by Amanda Farmer

I found Love Gone Mad to be one of the best psychological suspense thrillers that I’ve read this year. I highly recommend this one to everyone.

Love Gone Mad is a story of two men loving one woman and their drive to have and keep her. We are introduced to Adrian Douglas (cardiac surgeon) and Megan Haggarty (Registered Nurse). They meet at the hospital they both work at and hit it off immediately. Their relationship seems to be heading in the right direction until they both become the target of a crafty and wily stalker who demands revenge for their betrayal. The reader soon learns that the stalker is Megan’s jealous controlling ex-husband. Conrad is bent on exacting revenge; in his mind Megan’s actions signify the ultimate betrayal. Adrian and Megan’s lives are about to change, and you will have to read the story to find out whether it will be for better or for worse.

The story was well written and kept me on the edge of my seat. Love Gone Mad is guaranteed to keep your attention all the way to the end. I loved how the characters were flawed and portrayed at their best and their worst. Love Gone Mad is not a fairy tale; there are plenty of dark moments and examples of how people’s minds work. It was easy to see that Mr. Rubinstein has a background in the medical field. That said, the book was not overrun with medical jargon. Mr. Rubinstein does an excellent job of portraying love as a form of madness. Both Adrian and Conrad acted out of love and although Conrad’s version was twisted, it was still his love for Megan that inspired his actions.

I found this story to be chilling due to the fact that human nature can be the scariest of all – no blood and gore necessary. I will be looking for more books by Mr. Rubinstein.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Media Muscle. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Anvil of God by J. Boyce Gleason

[ 6 ] October 29, 2013

Anvil of GodPlease welcome J. Boyce Gleason, author of Anvil of God, as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open to US residents.

Reviewed by Shannon Trenton

Charles the Hammer died in 741, starting a war between brothers and between faiths that would shape the future of the realm forever. J. Boyce Gleason’s Anvil of God is the story of Charles’ children – three sons who would face off over their shared leadership and a daughter determined to gain her freedom from political games.

The mayor of the Franks is bound to raise a Merovingian king to oversee the entire realm, but Charles Martel has higher ambitions for his family. He chooses to divide the kingdom between his three sons: Carloman, a fierce warrior whose skill on the battlefield is only outstripped by his devotion to the Church; Pippin (or Pepin), a proven knight who languishes in his older brother’s shadow; and Gripho, the son of Charles’ second wife Sunnichild and newly installed in the knighthood.

Daughter Trudi has never felt comfortable with the ladies of court. From a young age she has trained with the knights and found company with the men, but as she awakens to her femininity she seeks help from stepmother Sunni to harness her power and take control of her life. When she learns of her betrothal to a Lombard prince she leaves her home in pursuit of her true love.

Gleason’s depiction of the early Carolingian dynasty is an exciting adventure that takes the reader across a historic realm in upheaval. He weaves historical fact (well cited in the Author’s Note at the end) with new characters, taking creative license with some details to close gaps and carry the plot. In a stroke of brilliance he elevates the religious turmoil between the early Church and Pagan regions from an historic footnote to a key component of the battle for control.

The story is further bolstered by a cast of characters who are complex and who are connected to one another in various, often unexpected ways. Even third-tier characters show personality and are far from simple names on a page.

Anvil of God is a gripping novel of history, family, faith, and war. History fans and lovers of adventure will find hours of enjoyment with this excellent debut, and will be eagerly awaiting the second installment of the Carolingian Chronicles.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby and cooking.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by iUniverse. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

[ 3 ] October 15, 2013

16158525Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Koethi Zan’s novel, The Never List, effectively takes readers to the dark recesses of their own minds and the minds of the social deviant in a thrilling, surprising and engaging manner. Zan’s tale focuses on two very cautious friends, Sarah and Jennifer, who take very great lengths to avoid tragedy, destruction and harm. The girls, who appear as normal girls do, keep a lengthy list paired with grim statistics of a wide variety of disasters. They began keeping the list, dubbed “The Never List”, after surviving a car crash that took the life of Jennifer’s mother. Sarah and Jennifer do all that they can to ensure their own safety in the most normal of circumstances and take it to the extreme even as they head off to college together.

Even with all of their research and preparation to avoid anything terrible, they make a simple human error leaving a college party and get into a car from a car service that ends up taking the girls somewhere far from their dorm. Sarah and Jennifer berate themselves for allowing this error in judgment to happen, but the focus is removed from that idea once they awaken in a dark basement that will hold them captive for three years. There are two other girls in the basement and the lives of all are now forever linked even if they do not want them to be.

The Never List does not focus on the harrowing time that the girls spent in the basement, but rather picks up with Sarah, an almost agoraphobic, and recent developments in the case. Sarah cannot escape her past and she decides to do some investigating of her own to try to find out what really happened to Jennifer and to make sure their captor remains behind bars. The abuse in the basement comes back in flashbacks throughout the story and the way that Zan pieces together the past and the present never leaves the reader wanting for information. The shocking details and the perverse and twisted path the story takes is shocking, disturbing, unbelievable and creepily, entirely possible. As a result, the book and all that Sarah uncovers, is a quick, engaging read. Zan makes The Never List a delightfully disturbing book that thrills at every new development.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Pamela Dorman Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Art of Forgetting by Peter Palmieri

[ 1 ] October 15, 2013

Cover_MediumReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a leading neurologist, professor and researcher who is on the verge of making what he hopes to be a huge breakthrough in the medical world. Lloyd devotes his study, when he is not devoting himself to premed students in the bedroom, to researching a cure for memory disorders such as dementia. He is content with his bachelor lifestyle, his work and cultivating his ego, as well as his laboratory mice. As quickly as the world and a lifetime of more promise seems ready to emerge for Dr. Copeland, events take a turn for the worst and nothing in the doctor’s life will ever be the same as a result.

The Art of Forgetting starts off a bit slow, but this does not mean that the content is boring in the least. Rather, the story skips around a bit, incorporating snippets from the past that will prove to be very interesting later in the novel. When Erin Kennedy, an old neighborhood friend of Lloyd’s from his childhood is reintroduced into his life, the stage is set for the drama to unfold. The sexual tension and chemistry is undeniable between the two and when it is discovered that Erin has accepted a job on the hospital medical ethics board where Dr. Copeland works, things really begin to get interesting.

The deeply personal and somewhat controversial research that Lloyd is performing, humanely, on lab mice, takes a horrible nosedive when one of the mice ends up dead. The lovable lab assistant, Kaz, is devastated and this seemingly unimportant event sets off a chain reaction that does not shine lightly on the doctor. The new Chief of Staff, Dr. Lasko, is shrewd, cruel, and cunning and has had it out for Dr. Copeland since day one. Copeland’s research is suspended, he soon is, allegations and threats are made and people close to Lloyd begin to turn up dead.

As the drama unfolds, Dr. Copeland becomes extremely likeable and the series of events – while incredible at times – are plausible, intriguing and dramatic. The relationship between Lloyd and Erin is high charged and well developed and Palmieri has a quick and interesting writing style. The book is not bogged down with medical terms or procedures and it was fun to read a novel that is outside of my normal genre. This medical suspense novel was easy to follow, full of interesting characters and ideas and a plot that moved along nicely.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Peter Palmieri. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Conditions of Love by Dale M. Kushner

[ 5 ] October 7, 2013

kushnerReviewed by Holly Madison

The Conditions of Love is Dale M. Kushner’s first novel, but you would never know it by the way she writes. The way she describes her characters, her style and often profound little snippets of wisdom hidden throughout the story all make her a very unusual author – probably one of the most talented writers I have ever had the privilege to read.

Right from the beginning, I was drawn into The Conditions of Love by its unusual cover. The cover may look like random things tied together – a flood and a pet parakeet, but these are actually both very relevant to the story within. It is also worth noting that the style of the cover was artful and well done, something that seems rare in most of today’s books.

The story covers three separate sections that tie together fluidly, and each one gives a unique insight into the relationships of a girl named Eunice.

The first section is set in the 1950’s, and gives a perspective of Eunice from the time she is a little girl. The story is centered around Eunice’s eccentric, unlikable mother, and the relationship that they have with each other. Along the way it is impossible to feel anything but heartbreak for this lonely, lost little girl. In many ways, Eunice is more of an adult than her mother, and her independence eventually takes her away from her unpredictable life with her mom and washes her into an enchanting life with a woman named Rose.

The second section finds Eunice as a teenager living in the woods with Rose. It is here that she transitions from child into woman, and she learns that she is a person of value, one to be treasured and appreciated. This was my favorite section because Rose is an incredibly likeable character with a story that is completely unique and heartbreaking in itself. Eunice learns from Rose how to be a beekeeper, how to rescue lost animals, and how to work hard and love deeply. In many ways, Rose is the mother that Eunice never had – the mother she always deserved. But just like a flood that washes lives away, Eunice’s life with Rose eventually is taken away as well, and she finds herself in foster care.

The last section of the book focuses on Eunice from the time she is a teenager until she is an adult. Eunice learns very quickly that love comes in many forms – from a childhood pet turtle to a flawed mother, from a hippie in the woods to a beautiful older man. It is here that Eunice falls in love for the first and last time, and the story follows her throughout her life while tying in characters from her past.

I could not find a single flaw with this book. The characters are all completely unforgettable, but even more importantly, Kushner’s poetic, beautiful talent with words sets this book apart from any other that I have read. This is absolutely a book that I will come back to read again and again. The love of a mother, the love of a father figure, the love of a pet, the love of a friend, and the love of romance — all of these concepts are so beautiful and intricate, and each variation of love takes an ordinary life and makes it nothing short of extraordinary.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Holly is a digital artist and an environmental scientist. She also participates in parrot and exotic animal rescue.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Grand Central Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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