Review: The Judas Chronicles: The First Three Books (The Judas Chronicles #1-3) ~ Aiden James

judasASIN ~ B00CHPQAV4
Publisher ~ Aiden James Fiction
No. Of Pages ~ 466 Pages
Links ~ Amazon

An archivist for the Smithsonian Institute and also a part-time operative for the CIA, no one would ever suspect the handsome ‘thirty-ish’ William is in fact the most reviled human being to ever walk the earth. His infectious warmth and sense of humor make such an assertion especially hard to believe.

But long ago, William Barrow had another name…one that is synonymous with shame and betrayal: Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, William/Judas is on a quest to reclaim the thirty silver shekels paid to him in exchange for Jesus Christ. Twenty-one coins have now been recovered–thanks in large part to the help from his latest son, the esteemed Georgetown University history professor, Alistair Barrow.

Ever hopeful the complete coin collection will buy him a full pardon from God and end his banishment from heaven; William plans a visit to a remote village deep within Iran’s Alborz Mountains to retrieve ‘silver coin number twenty-two’. But the CIA has a different objective for this trip, one that pits both father and son against an unscrupulous Russian billionaire searching for something else that’s just as precious within the ancient mountains of Iran…something that threatens peace in the modern world if William and Alistair fail to reach it first.

4 Thumbs-UpIt’s not often I download a Kindle book that is a three in one offer, but this intrigued me so I made the decision to do so; I was not disappointed.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, as there have been so many books giving a different slant on the Judas story, but this was certainly not the normal fare.

The main protagonist is, of course, Judas, and he is a well written and very believable character.  He bares his emotions and feelings about the longevity of his life, whilst adding humour to his recounting of his life.  This makes him a likable character and one who, regardless of your religious beliefs, the reader will be very hard pressed to not be able to connect to.

With a skilful hand the Author takes a different route from the ones normally read about.  There are biblical references throughout the book which I enjoyed but which some, more religious readers than I, may find rude and blasphemous but these add to the reality of the Judas story and are necessary in the development of the storyline.  There were times when some aspects of the story appeared just a little too farfetched to fit comfortably into the stories as a whole, but this does not detract from the sheer enjoyment that is to be had from reading these books.

These books will be able to hit the spot for most readers as they have a blend of covert operations, horror and the paranormal, to name but three and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for an enjoyably e read to while away these cold winter days.  I will definitely be reading the rest of this series, and possibly others written by this Author.

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Review: Joe After Maya ~ Marina Raydun

Joe after mayaISBN ~ 978-1499593266
Publisher ~
No. Of Pages ~ 268 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Joe is lost.
A sudden widower, he is alone in the trendy apartment he had earned at a great cost to himself. He has nowhere to look but back.
His wife Maya violently murdered, the next week of Joe’s life is a dizzying whirl of revelations and cigarette smoke as he reflects on their time together in the effort to uncover who killed her and why.
On his journey, Joe reluctantly finds and faces himself.

4 Thumbs-UpIt has been a while since I read a book as raw in emotion, setting and characters as this one; it’s also a book that will pull the reader into the storyline and not let them go until the very end.

Joe, the main protagonist is well-developed and written.  His emotions are raw and on display for the reader to see and experience with him, and because of this I felt that I was living through this time of his life with him.  It was quite surprising that the Author wrote all the lesser characters, including Maya, in the same way, making them vivid and real without being overly descriptive.

The book is full of twists, turns, suspense and a touch of horror, with the supernatural aspect of the book being explained to the reader in such a manner as to make it believable.  The way in which the Author weaves together all the aspects of this book with the characters and events add a great deal of depth to the book and made it one that I sat and read in one sitting, only breaking off briefly to make more tea.

If you are looking for a good psychological thriller that will keep you turning the pages to the end, I would highly recommend this book to you.  I will definitely be reading more by this Author.

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Review: All the Light We Cannot See ~ Anthony Doerr

All the light we cannot seeISBN ~ 978-1476746586
Publisher ~ Scribner
No. Of Pages ~ 531 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great-uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

2 Thumbs-UpWhat a confusing book, flipping backward and forward between time periods and not being what I was expecting at all from the synopsis; and it’s not as if the Author gradually leads the reader into all this mayhem, he throws them right into it from the very first chapter.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am not against the multiple thread novel, as I have reviewed other Authors that use this tactic, and use it well; it was just not the case in the book and, in my opinion did nothing to improve or help the novel in any way.

The book has two main protagonists from different sides of the conflict that book is set partly in, World War II.  I’m not sure if it was me, or I am losing my touch but I really found nothing that make me connect to either of these characters; I didn’t like them at all.  In fact the only emotion I had for them was pity that they had been placed in a novel such as this.  Yes, it was sad that the female main lead was blind, but did we have to be reminded of it every few pages; and given the amount of miles her fingers walked they must have been nothing but nubs by the end of the book.  As to the male lead, given he was an orphan he lacked the zeal and love for the Nazi party that many orphans felt, as they found a ‘family’ at last that needed them.

Thinking that this was a historical novel was the reason I picked it up in the first place, so imagine my surprise when it seemed to turn on its heels and become a fantasy mystery; very strange.  In my mind it would have been better if the object of the mystery had been connected with Nazi thefts during the war, rather than some magical and mysterious properties it was supposed to possess.  This added to the tediousness I was beginning to feel over the flipping between eras, and just added to my lack of overall enjoyment of this book.

The saving grace for this novel and the reason for the two thumbs rating was the prose.  With an elegant pen the descriptions of objects, places, sensations encountered by the senses was just beautiful; it brought to the front of the reader’s mind how much we take for granted the sense of touch and smell and results in making them experience the mundane on different level in their own lives.

I’m sure there are some readers out there who will totally disagree with my review, but that is the nature of the world and both sides of a coin have to be seen to get a well-rounded picture.  If you enjoy fantasy, mystery and WWII historical fiction all in one book, this may be a good read for you.  If you like to keep your genres separate unless they are skilfully blended together, I would give this a miss.  I doubt I will be reading anything else by this Author.

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Review: The Roses of No Man’s Land ~ Lyn Macdonald

rosesISBN ~ 978-0140178661
Publisher ~Penguin Books
No. Of Pages ~384 pages
Links ~ Penguin Books, Amazon

Drawing on the experiences of survivors of World War I, the author wrote a story of courage and endurance: the story of men who suffered physical and mental wounds; of volunteer nurses transported from their drawing rooms into carnage; and of doctors struggling to cope with the devastation.

5 Thumbs-UpIt is hard to believe that this year, 2014, sees the 100 year anniversary of World War I.  What is tragic is also the fact that there are now no more living veterans from that war; the last dying in 2012 at the age of 110.  It is this last point that makes books like this an invaluable addition to any home bookshelf and library, as it pulls on interviews with those who were there.  However, this is not the usual book on the Great War, as it does not just tell the tale of those who fought in the traditional sense, but also looks at the stories and experiences of those groups of unsung heroines, the Nurses.

Using extensive research this Author produces a compelling account of ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances.  Ladies taken out of the security and safety of their drawing rooms and thrown into the horrors of war, men who traded in pitchforks for bayonets some who would never return and those who did, would return changed forever.  This is a book full of poignant accounts of how these people watched, not only their peers die in the Great War, but also the world they knew and loved.

With great skill this Author is able to weave together the chronology of the war with firsthand accounts of the women who nursed these wounded and broken men.  Not all the injuries they nursed were visible, some were hidden in the depths of the mind, making this a book that hand me drawing my breath as I read on.

As the majority of the accounts in this book are from the Nurses point of view, with some given by men in the position of doctors and orderlies, this book also highlights how, out of great suffering some important aspects of medical care were advanced.  Each chapter also focuses on a different part played in evacuating the British Soldier from the frontline to the eventual hospital care they would receive if they made the journey alive; the reader is given accounts from the stretcher bearer in the dreaded No Man’s Land to the volunteers at the stations who changed pillow cases and lit cigarettes for the wounded, sometimes just holding a hand and talking to them, through to the final destination of these injured men.

It is by no means an easy read, and I found myself in awe at these women who would sometimes work up to 22 hours a day without complaint, and in such a matter of fact way it would put modern day medical staff to shame.  Their living conditions were primitive and for many came as a huge shock when compared to the cosseted lives they had led up to the outbreak of war.

I have read many books about WWI but this has to be amongst the best I have read.  It shows how courage can come in many forms and from the most unlikely people, but it also highlights the point that, although the war may have destroyed a generation of men, both mentally and physically, it actually played a large and important role in recreating the role of women in that time.

I would highly recommend this book to all readers regardless of whether they are avid WWI readers or not.  We can learn a lot about attitude from this book.

As an afterthought I decided to add that a contemporary song was written as a tribute to the Red Cross Nurses at the front lines of the First World War ‘The Rose of No Man’s Land’ by Jack Caddigan and James Alexander Brennan, and I have included this below:

roseI’ve seen some beautiful flowers,
Grow in life’s garden fair,
I’ve spent some wonderful hours,
Lost in their fragrance rare;
But I have found another,
Wondrous beyond compare.

There’s a rose that grows on “No Man’s Land”
And it’s wonderful to see,
Tho’ its spray’d with tears, it will live for years,
In my garden of memory.

It’s the one red rose the soldier knows,
It’s the work of the Master’s hand;
Mid the War’s great curse, Stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She’s the rose of “No Man’s Land”.

Out of the heavenly splendour,
Down to the trail of woe,
God in his mercy has sent her,
Cheering the world below;
We call her “Rose of Heaven”,
We’ve learned to love her so.

There’s a rose that grows on “No Man’s Land”
And it’s wonderful to see,
Tho’ its spray’d with tears, it will live for years,
In my garden of memory.

It’s the one red rose the soldier knows,
It’s the work of the Master’s hand;
Mid the War’s great curse, Stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She’s the rose of “No Man’s Land”.

 

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For the Fallen ~ Robert Laurence Binyon

poppies2

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Robert Laurence Binyon

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Review: The Mob and the City: The Hidden History of How the Mafia Captured New York ~ C. Alexander Hortis

the mobISBN ~ 978-1616149239
Publisher ~Prometheus Books
No. Of Pages ~382 pages
Links ~ Prometheus Books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

Informative, authoritative, and eye-opening, this is the first full-length book devoted exclusively to uncovering the hidden history of how the Mafia came to dominate organized crime in New York City during the 1930s through 1950s.  Based on exhaustive research of archives and secret files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, author and attorney C. Alexander Hortis draws on the deepest collection of primary sources, many newly discovered, of any history of the modern mob.

Shattering myths, Hortis reveals how Cosa Nostra actually obtained power at the inception.  The author goes beyond conventional who-shot-who mob stories, providing answers to fresh questions such as:

* Why did the Sicilian gangs come out on top of the criminal underworld?
* Can economics explain how the Mafia families operated?
* What was the Mafia’s real role in the drug trade?
* Why was Cosa Nostra involved in gay bars in New York since the 1930s?

Drawing on an unprecedented array of primary sources, The Mob and the City is the most thorough and authentic history of the Mafia’s rise to power in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

3 Thumbs-UpThis was a really hard book to give a rating to; from the content point of view this book would have been awarded a full 4 thumbs as it was obviously well researched, and very interesting reading.  It takes everything the reader thinks they know about the Mafia and puts it into context.  It dispels a lot of the myth and romanticism that surrounds this group of people and shows them for what they really were.  The Book itself seemed to be aimed at those who already have knowledge of the Underworld workings of the mafia, but this doesn’t take away from it being a very informative read for those who are dipping into Mafia history for the first time.

Although this book is written very much like a history text; it includes sociology, economics and geography with some very detailed tables, I couldn’t help but feel that this was just someone’s lecture notes that they had bound into a book.  There was an over use of the phrases ‘as you will see’ or ‘now let us look at’ that just made it feel as if this particular take on the subject of the Mafia was meant to be heard not read.  Throw in the overlong chapter subheadings which appear on every page, and you have a writing style that I could only rating as 2 thumbs, and that was being kind.

My initial reasoning behind picking this up was an interest in Early New York, particularly the Italian side of things, as I have Family members who lived in this era and area.  This book did shed a great deal of light on life in the time period covered by the book, but not enough to give the boost to the rating it so sorely needs.  In the end I decided to split the difference between the two above rating points and give it a three.

The book was informative, but extremely dull in places which was a shame given the amount of research that had gone into it.  Maybe with a stricter editor, who was willing to cut out a lot of the ‘lecture’ speak, this could have been a lot less tedious and grating.  I would recommend it to anyone that is interesting in this subject, but be warned it may not be what you are expecting.

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Review: The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1) ~ Ian Hamilton

water ratISBN ~ 978-1250032270
Publisher ~ Picador
No. Of Pages ~ 400 pages
Links ~ House of Anansi, Amazon, Indigo

In Ian Hamilton’s The Water Rat of Wanchai, we meet forensic accountant and martial arts expert Ava Lee in her early days working for the mysterious businessman Uncle as they track down large sums of money that have disappeared. One of Uncle’s longtime friends has requested help for his nephew, who needs to recover five million dollars from a business deal that went sideways. Ava steps in and immediately is off on a global hunt for the missing money that has her dodging shady characters.

On a journey that takes her from Seattle to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands, Ava encounters everything from the Thai katoey culture to corrupt government officials. In Guyana she meets her match: Captain Robbins, a godfather-like figure who controls the police, politicians, and criminals alike. In exchange for his help, Robbins decides he wants a piece of Ava’s five million dollars and will do whatever it takes to get his fair share.

2 Thumbs-UpI started to read this book because I couldn’t recall ever having read a crime series that had a forensic accountant as the main protagonist, and a female one at that.

This character just grated on my nerves from the very first, and I’m not sure if it was the intention of the Author to make her dislikeable or was just the way things turned out in the end.  She is rich, as we are constantly reminded whenever possible, only likes the best of everything and was an avid coffee drinker, like all the other characters in this novel.  As a female lead character she is not the strong independent woman I was hoping for; the kind that inspires other women to reach their full potential.  In fact she is quite the opposite, she comes out of the page as being some sort of superwoman that can do anything, have anyone and anything she likes.  This in itself is not a bad thing, but the way in which she is written could possibly make her an intimidating character to those women readers who are not supremely confident in their own skin and lives and, in my opinion this is something no Author should do to their readers, make them feel less than they are.  In an effort to make her interesting she is Chinese-Canadian, although how this could redeem her flaws I am still not sure.

The coffee company Starbucks was mentioned so many times in this book that I broke off to look and see if it had been published through some program they funded.  Another disappointment, apart from the obviously brand push, was that there is actually very little forensic accounting in this book, and what small amount there is takes place in a whole 5 or 6 pages. Combine these points with flat and uninteresting language and you have a book that really does not deliver for me, and this is the reason behind by 2 thumbs rating.

Given that this is marketed as an international thriller, I failed to get the thrill from the book that was hinted at and, although a taste of each country visited in the storyline was given, it just wasn’t enough to make this a series I would want to read anymore of.

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Review: The Guns of Napoleon ~ Peter Lean

Guns of NapoleonISBN ~ 978-1910162668
Publisher ~ Kindle Amazon
No. Of Pages ~ 320 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A cross genre (time-travel/historical) novel, based on the short story with the same title.

The Guns of Napoleon takes Victor Sirkov, professor of History at St. Petersburg State University, and passionate scholar of Napoleon, on an adventure through time to meet the very man he thought he knew so well.

Victor is contacted by the mysterious ChronoLab and given the opportunity to witness first hand what he could only have imagined. He is sent back two hundred years through a natural wormhole, and brings his personal demons with him.

Thrust into a world very different from the one he left behind, Victor must fight for survival during Napoleon’s fateful, and bloody, conquest of Russia. Knowing how history should play out, doesn’t always give him the upper hand, as Victor soon finds out.

The Guns of Napoleon deals with the consequences of changing significant moments of world history, and to what lengths one man will go to correct them, not only for the greater good of mankind, but for the woman he loves.

4 Thumbs-UpI was given this book by the Author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, as if I ever do anything else in my reviews but be honest and unbiased.

To be honest I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the title and then read the synopsis, but I can say that this book was well worth the time it took to read it.

The main protagonist is well written and, although he can be a bit of an ass in some parts of the story, he is a well-rounded and likeable chap.  The way in which he reacts to the period of history he finds himself in is very realistic and when faced with events that his interaction with could change the course of history, it is interesting to see which path he takes.  This is a character that makes the reader think, and also makes them examine what they themselves would do if they were in his shoes.  What I particularly liked about this character was the way he was able to accept some of the new facts he learnt about certain historical figures; he was not narrow-minded or blinkered as can be the case with some History Professors.  He appeared to me to fully embrace the notion that History is more about the motivation of those who were around at the time that shaped History, rather than just it being a random series of events.

Blending time travel with actual historical events in a piece of fiction must be a difficult task; the Author pulls this off magnificently.  The way in which they wrote this book reminded me very much of Connie Willis and her Oxford Time Travel books, but without the humour that is apparent in those novels.  My only complaint in this book, and the reason for giving it a 4 thumbs rating was, I felt, it could have done with some really tight editing to correct some of the minor errors in it.  Apart from this everything else about the book was thoroughly enjoyable; the writing style of the Author, the plot and the premise all joined together to show that this is an Author that has what it takes to satisfy an established publishing house, rather than remaining in the self-publishing world.

I would definitely recommend this book to readers interested in both the Historical and Time-travel genres, as it is a wholly engrossing read.

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