Review: Havana Queen ~ James Bruno

Havana QueenWhat happens when Fidel dies?

Cuba explodes.

Political turmoil engulfs Cuba. As the Castros’ rendezvous with mortality finally arrives, FBI Agent Nick Castillo is swept up in a maelstrom of espionage, intrigue and guerrilla war. Amazon Kindle Bestselling author James Bruno delivers another knockout thriller!

Cuba roils with political unrest as Fidel and Raul Castro sink deeper into dementia and failing health. In a desperate ploy to save the communist regime, sultry Cuban spymaster Larisa Montilla takes on the CIA in a tit-for-tat shadow war of assassination. As the bodies pile up, FBI Agent Nick Castillo defies orders and travels clandestinely to Havana. Nick gets more than he bargained for, falling into a trap set by Montilla, Fidel’s heir to power. But Montilla’s leverage over Nick is matched by his discovery of a deep secret in her past, leading to a war of wits.

Nick returns to ferret out a web of spies deep inside the U.S. government which Havana has patiently built up over the years — traitors who are hemorrhaging official secrets. But he must navigate a wilderness of mirrors that leads him to an assassination plot against the Castros’ No. 1 enemy – the President of the United States.

The Castro propaganda machine has denounced Havana Queen as a “subversive act against the Cuban government.”

Steeped in the world of government secrets, with service in Cuba and Gitmo, the author makes you feel like you’ve been cleared into a Top Secret program, confident that you have the inside information.

4 Thumbs-Up

This book will definitely take you out of your comfort zone and in some places, have you actually questioning the way you live and interact with the world around you.  As I read this, I actually found myself stopping at certain places to think about the political upheaval in the world today, and how easily this novel could be an insight into that world we may be heading for.

The Author shows great skill when it comes to writing his characters and developing them to a point where you know just enough about them to discern the good from the bad, and leaving your imagination to fill in the blanks.  I really liked this approach to character development, as sometimes Authors can put you into overdrive with their in-depth back stories; this was not the case with this novel and means that each reader will find something unique to them when indulging in this fast paced book.  Unlike many books in this political genre it isn’t until you are several chapters into the book that you begin to identify who the main protagonist is, and this had me slightly confused and thinking I had overlooked them in earlier chapters; this in no way detracts from the readers enjoyment of the book, and adds an extra dimension to it giving the reader an ‘aha!’ moment when they discover them.

Having never been to Cuba, the locale for the book, I wasn’t able to give an educated guess as to whether his descriptions of the island were accurate or not, but as he has knowledge of the area I was definitely certain they were.  I felt that I was seeing the squalor some of the characters lived in, and felt the inequality between the haves and have-nots in this world.  The Author has an uncanny way of portraying an interesting and very realistic look into a country many of us only know from the news reports regarding Cuba.

Pulling on his experience and knowledge of all things mentioned within its pages the Authors writing takes on a personal air, almost memoir like, but this does not make the book dry in any way at all.  It is a novel filled from the first page with gripping action and suspense; the reader has plenty of intrigue, politics and spies to keep them entertained to the last page.  For me, after all the action in the novel, it came to a rather abrupt ending and had me wondering if I had missed something earlier in the book or, even better, a sequel was in the works.  I did find part of the story to be unnecessary and drawn out also feeling that it may have been included to titillate the reader; for me it did nothing to add to the book and even had me yawning at times, but other readers may enjoy this sort of thing.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes an intriguing read or is just looking for more insight on Cuba; pick it up too if you are looking for something enjoyable.  Readers of the political/spy/thriller genre would also find this interesting.

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Review: Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize ~ Sean B. Carroll

Brave GeniusThe never-before-told account of the intersection of some of the most insightful minds of the 20th century, and a fascinating look at how war, resistance, and friendship can catalyze genius.

In the spring of 1940, the aspiring but unknown writer Albert Camus and budding scientist Jacques Monod were quietly pursuing ordinary, separate lives in Paris. After the German invasion and occupation of France, each joined the Resistance to help liberate the country from the Nazis, ascended to prominent, dangerous roles, and were very lucky to survive. After the war and through twists of circumstance, they became friends, and through their passionate determination and rare talent they emerged as leading voices of modern literature and biology, each receiving the Nobel Prize in their respective fields.

Drawing upon a wealth of previously unpublished and unknown material gathered over several years of research, Brave Genius tells the story of how each man endured the most terrible episode of the twentieth century and then blossomed into extraordinarily creative and engaged individuals. It is a story of the transformation of ordinary lives into exceptional lives by extraordinary events–of courage in the face of overwhelming adversity, the flowering of creative genius, deep friendship, and of profound concern for and insight into the human condition.

4 Thumbs-UpThis book is a definite departure from the usual works of this Author, in which he normally addresses the subject of biology; evolutionary biology to be exact, but in this case he has turned his writing skills to history.  This book covers the stories of Albert Camus, Nobel Prize-winning writer / philosopher and political activist, and also that of Jacques Monod, Nobel Prize-winning biologist and French resistance fighter.  I started reading this book not having any real knowledge of either Camus or Monod, but by the time I turned the final page the Author had done an outstanding job of expanding my education in this area.

Before the reader picks this up they need to be aware that it is a book of two distinct halves.  The first half of the book centres on Occupied France during World War II and gives an in-depth look, from the French viewpoint as to what life was like living under German rule. It is apparent that the Author spent a great deal of time researching this aspect of the book as they cover in great detail the extent to which the occupation affected France, and also the circumstances that led to some of the occurrences that took place.  This aspect alone makes it a great and informative read for anyone that has only a basic understanding of this era in history as it pertained to France.   The Author gives the reader a personal look at these times, and from this they will be able to pick out the influence that World War II had on Camus and his future writing.  The second half focuses on the work of Camus and Monod after the end of the war.  Again it is very detailed and shows the reader, once again, the amount of time to research that the Author has invested during their writing of this historical chronicle.

The book is a very well documented and worthwhile the read and, although the Author paints the picture of both these men with a very broad brush, he still manages to convey the qualities that made these men great; that is the work they carried out beyond their own vocations.  The Author also manages to stir in the reader feelings of admiration for both Camus and Monod to such an extent that sadness follows when we read about their deaths.

It is a long, very long read and due to the in-depth descriptions of activities taking place it can take some time to navigate; this makes it definitely not a book that can be delved into and absorbed within a few days, it needs time to be taken over it to be able to process everything that can be learnt from its pages.  There were also some areas of the book that left me wondering as to the reactions and feelings of other persons mentioned, but these were just little annoyances in, what otherwise, is a very educating read.

I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in, or wanting to learn about Camus, Monod, and the way world was in their lifetime; it was would also be of great interest to anyone who enjoys a good non-fiction book that is slightly different from others in the genre.  Readers of World War II history and philosophy may also enjoy this book.

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