Review: Skull Session ~ Daniel Hecht

skullISBN ~ 978-1582344966
Publisher ~ Bloomsbury USA
No. Of Pages ~ 496 pages
Links ~ iTunes, Amazon, Daniel Hecht

Despite his brilliance, Paul Skoglund hasn’t held a steady job for years, partly because of his Tourette’s syndrome. When his eccentric, wealthy aunt asks him to take on the repairs of her magnificent hunting lodge, he is in no position to refuse. But then he finds that the rambling old house has been savagely vandalized: he discovers a scene of almost superhuman destruction, a violence mirrored by a series of disappearances and grisly deaths haunting the region. Paul delves into the wreckage, wondering what dark passion—and what strength—could cause such chaos. As state police investigator Mo Ford pursues the mystery through official channels, escalating events force Paul deeper into his family’s past and into the darker aspects of his own nature.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is an interesting book on many levels, and had me hooked from the first page and, as much as it may seem that this would be an automatic 5 thumbs review, there were parts of this novel that pulled it down to a 4 thumbs rating.

The main protagonist suffers from Tourette’s syndrome which in itself is an unusual choice of malady to use in a protagonist.  However, it works well with the subject matter of the book and, through the struggles the main lead has with his condition the reader learns a great deal about this illness; and this is where the book lost its 5 thumbs, at times there is so much neurological information it slows the narrative down, and that really affects the novel overall, but it did make me wonder if the Author had not had personal experience in some way of Tourette’s.  Back to the main character; it is safe to say that this man has his plate full dealing not only with his own problems but those of his son who also has issues, what kind I am not saying as it would spoil the experience of reading the book.  The reader is often taken inside the mind of the main character and is able to experience the world he lives in and the events that happen to him through his eyes.  This serves to make him a very real person with great depth and, at times, it feels as if the reader is right there with him in this world.

When I first started reading this I assumed it was going to be a purely neurological thriller, and was quite happy to accept this; however, as I soon found out, I was totally wrong.  With a skilful hand the Author turns this book into a cross-genre novel covering everything from horror to supernatural urban fantasy with stops at the psychological and medical arenas along the way.  It may sound that this leads to what is a very disjointed read, but each of the genres are woven seamlessly together making this an easy, if not very fast paced, read.  For the die-hard horror fan out there, the ‘scary’ portions of this book may seem a little tame, but with everything that this book has going for it, it really doesn’t matter in my opinion.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good thriller/mystery, and I will be reading more by this Author.divider

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: 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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What to read next.

After finishing a good book in the early hours of the morning I often find myself with the problem of what to read next.  I usually go through my ‘to be read’ stack in the order of which books were added to it, but sometimes the book on the top of the pile doesn’t appeal to me at the very moment I need a new read.

This flowchart, found on Upworthy.com may help me, and others in the same predicament, head in the right direction and find something we are in the mood for.  Just because it says summer in the chart doesn’t mean you can’t use it anytime of the year, after all what better way is there to spend a rainy day than curled up in your favourite spot reading?

101_books_to_read

Review: The Dragon and the Needle ~ Hugh Franks

dragon and needleThe clash between the Orient and the West is put under the spotlight in this far-reaching novel of medical and political intrigue. A mysterious syndrome is striking down political leaders across the Western world. Named Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome, or ENDS, it has baffled medical experts. The Western prejudice against the mysteries of Oriental medicine, and the growing acceptance of acupuncture as an effective method of treatment, are just two of the contrasting approaches explored in the story. Then a brilliant young British doctor, Mike, and a glamorous American acupuncturist, Eleanor, become involved in finding the cause of ENDS. They think they are on the right track, but the implications are shocking. Could this be an audacious ideological plan for world domination? And how does Eleanor’s dead husband Chen fit in? When the secrets of Carry Tiger to Mountain are revealed, where will Eleanor’s loyalties ultimately lie?

3 Thumbs-UpIf this book doesn’t pull you in within the first few pages, you might as well lay it to one side and move onto something else; I was pulled in and sped through it in a day.

The male and female protagonists are scratchy, that is to say they have moments in the book where they really did grate on my nerves and, if it had not been for the fast paced plot I would probably have consigned this book to my not finished pile.  There were so many things about these characters I found a little hard to wrap my head round, and this really relegated them to being of a secondary nature to the storyline.  The female lead I found to be somewhat stereotypical, as she falls into the arms of the male lead without the reader really being able to understand what the attraction is between them.  I put this down to it being a matter of convenience, and the possibility they were attracted to each other’s minds; there was really no depth of emotion shown by either of them and this led to my not finding them plausible at all and the reason for my 3 thumbs review.

As to the storyline, what a great idea; holistic medicine vs. modern medicine, a debate that is constantly going the rounds but it really could have been handled a little differently, perhaps without making the usual East is evil West is wonderful statement.  With a little more expansion on the plot and some very firm dialogue editing this could have been an exceptional book, rather than just a good one.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast paced medical/political thriller, but don’t expect anything too in depth.  Would I read anything else by this Author?  Probably.

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Review: Corvette Nightfire ~ Daniel Wetta with Robert Selfe

corvetteCan Just One Dance Change Destiny? As Corvette Nightfire approaches the casino in Las Vegas, the doors burst open to the sound of gunfire. A beautiful woman rushes to him and thrusts a heavy bag into his arms. Instructing him in Spanish, which he doesn’t understand, she runs past him to a waiting car. A professional poker player in town to play in the Final Nine in the World Series of Poker, Corvette soon discovers that he is inexorably connected to Valentina, this exotic woman who has just put his life into a tailspin. He disappears into an international vortex of intrigues, a complex world or ordinary heroes and heinous cartel thugs, in a desperate race to find and save her. They cannot speak each other’s languages, but on the romantic evening on which they meet, Valentina tells her story through dance images. She becomes an animal spirit, an amber-eyed black jaguar that Corvette must ride to find the woman he inexplicably loves. His heart reveals that the millions of dollars in prize money in the tournament mean nothing compared to Valentina’s life. Not understanding what is guiding him through the vortex, Corvette comes to an unexpected destiny, one of reconciliation to generations of family sins. A suspense-thriller, Corvette Nightfire takes up where The Z Redemption leaves off and straps the reader into another bumpy, exhilarating ride!

3 Thumbs-UpI’m going to get this out there before I do my review, the reason I gave this book only 3 thumbs was the font used in the paperback copy I have.  I know this sounds petty but, for me, the font really interfered with my whole enjoyment of this novel; I’m not sure how the font came into being but it was certainly not a good fit for the book, sorry.

Now onto the book itself; this is the second instalment in ‘The Z Redemption’ trilogy, the first of which I reviewed some time ago, which was also a debut novel for this Author.  Unlike the first instalment this time around the Author has chosen to write in conjunction with someone else and, to be honest, they produced a very worthy sequel.

The book centres on the character of the title, not a car as I first thought when I saw this, and what a character he is.  The guy is a man’s man; he plays fast, loves fast and lives fast.  This could quite easily have made him a character that women readers would dislike, but the Authors gave him a soft and vulnerable side too that women could relate to and, in doing this made his a character for all genders.  As the storyline progress we see the struggles that this character has to go through to reconcile the two sides of his personality, and join him on a journey to discover himself.  The book is full of characters that are equally well written, some old from the previous book, and some new, but all of them play a part in the plot.  There are no characters that appear and leave the reader wondering what their purpose was, if you find one you may want to check that you’ve not skipped a few pages.

To say this is a fast-paced thriller would be an understatement, it’s a book that grabs you from the very first paragraph buckles you into the passenger seat and doesn’t let you out until the ride is over.  Not only is this a great story it is full of interesting details surrounding the Mexican culture, which the Authors manage to integrate into the plot seamlessly.  Tightly written and right on track every step of the way, this is a book that will leave you breathless to the very end.  Something I did really like about this book was the way in which all the details came together, there wasn’t a rush of tying off the loose ends at the end, as can been seen in other books of this genre but rather they came together like the ingredients in a delicate soufflé, which gave the story a great deal of depth and flavour.

Despite my total dislike of the font, and my apologies here to the Authors, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fast paced thriller and I will definitely be reading the final instalment of this trilogy.

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Review: Ministry of Bombs ~ Nelson Lowhim

Ministry of BombsIn the mountains of Yemen, rebellion brews and spits out terror into the world. In Pakistan, a nuclear scientist escapes. And an agent in America, Justice, sees these things and understands that the world is in danger. He must find the scientist before the terrorists do. If he doesn’t millions will die. Will he save the day? As he peers deeper into the world of terrorism and the war on terror, Justice finds that things are never as they seem to be.
Not your average spy or thriller novel, this looks deep into the heart of terror. Dare to look inside!

3 Thumbs-UpThis is the second review on work by this Author that I have done and, after reading The Struggle Trilogy I was ready to settle in and enjoy the ride.  Unfortunately this was not the case, although I enjoyed this book immensely it just didn’t have the same punch that the trilogy had, and left me wanting something more by the time I turned the last page.

It wasn’t the characters that left this book wanting in my opinion as, with his usual style and skill the Author was able to take three totally distinct and separate protagonists and weave their varying belief systems and convictions into one very compelling story that pulls the reader in.  A was a little disappointed with the characters though; in the story the reader encounters two very strong characters who have no grey areas in their lives, everything is either black or white there is no in-between ground.  However, with these characters, as the story progresses the Author begins to place chinks in their armour and slow change can be seen.  With the remaining character, this is not the case.  He is awkward, unrealistic and does not have any endearing qualities whatsoever.  I was hoping that, as with the other two, he would develop and grown as the plot progressed, but this was not to be the case which was a shame as I felt there could have been so much more to him.

As with any novel concerning war, there will be a political leaning in the text, and this was the case here.  Whether or not you agree with the arguments and discussions presented in this novel, one thing it will do is make the reader think.  As in all walks of life there are those that delight in the suffering and death of innocents, and for the most part society hides it away at the back of the proverbial closet.  Not here and, as uncomfortable as it may make some readers feel he addresses this aspect in connection with the military and, as a former member of the US Forces I felt that he was injecting some of his own personal experiences from association with others that fell into this unsavoury category.

Although not as good, in my opinion, as his first trilogy, this book is still well worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a political thriller or spy novel.

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Review: The Devil’s Workshop (The Murder Squad #3) ~ Alex Grecian

The Devil's WorkshopThey thought he was gone, but they were wrong. Jack the Ripper is loose in London once more.

Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad faces the most shocking case of its existence, in the extraordinary new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national bestsellers The Yard and The Black Country.

London, 1890. A small group of the city’s elite, fed up with the murder rate, have made it their business to capture violent criminals and mete out their own terrible brand of retribution. Now they are taking it a step further: They have arranged for four murderers to escape from prison, and into the group’s hands.

But the plan goes wrong. The killers elude them, and now it is up to Walter Day, Nevil Hammersmith, and the rest of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to hunt the convicts down before they can resume their bloody spree. But the Murder Squad may already be too late. The killers have retribution in mind, and one of them is heading straight toward a member of the Murder Squad, and his family.

And that isn’t even the worst of it. During the escape, one of the killers has stumbled upon the location of another notorious murderer, one thought gone for good, but who is now prepared to join forces with them.

And Saucy Jack has learned some new tricks while he’s been away.

2 Thumbs-UpI thought this was going to be a gripping historical police procedure, but the only thing gripping about it were my hands on the cover to stop me throwing it across the room unfinished.  Yes, I was disappointed in this book, and have read far better thriller/mysteries from Authors who are releasing their works to the reading public for the first time.  However, this really isn’t just one book as there is the main story that centres around the Scotland Yard Murder Squad shortly after the Ripper killings, and then there is the secondary, and in my mind much more enjoyable story, about the criminals the squad are pursuing.

The main character was not at all likeable, and in fact came across as a bit of a wimp at times.  The Author apparently wanted him to appear as a stalwart of Scotland Yard but in the end he appeared to be nothing more than a self-righteous man.  He was very much in awe of his mentor, even though this man had left the force under a cloud, he deferred to him at every turn even when he had made it clear it was not the right thing to do.  His indecisiveness was definitely at odds to the character I had expected in one of his importance when embarking on this book.  On the flip side, I found his ‘sidekick’ to be a lot more interesting and likeable, and found myself wanting to read more about him than his Inspector.  He was full of energy and stuck to a single course once his mind was made up, even if this meant going against the wishes of his superiors; the Author gifted this character will the kind of mind I had expected in the main protagonist and, rather than it being annoying to find in a secondary player, I found it one of two things that kept me reading to the end.  As to the villains their story made the hair on the back of my neck stand up in places.  Through a great deal of imagination and maybe some psychological research, the Author was able to bring these criminals to life in all their shocking and violent glory, while at the same time showing that you can never truly spot evil when it walks among us.  It was the tale of the criminals that produced the second reason I kept reading.

From a historical point of view there was obviously a great deal of research done into the time period in which the novel is set, although at times the descriptiveness of locations did have a tendency to take over the page and pull my attention away from what was actually happening.  I’m not sure if it is just me, and there may be readers out there who enjoy this, but I do like sentences in a novel to be more than a few words long, and flow in a manner that does not make me feel as if I were on a tiny boat on a choppy sea.  Not all the sentences were written in this way, and it was a relief to come across those that had a nice flow and rhythm to them; only to have this taken away shortly after and be back in my storm-tossed boat.

I now know this is the third book in the Murder Squad series, but to be quite honest that doesn’t really matter to me as I doubt that I will read anymore by this Author.  I’m also slightly hesitant in recommending this book to anyone, but if you do like a police procedural mixed in with some history you might want to take a look at this book.  If this novel had been written purely about the criminals, from their point of view of themselves and the world they walked through, this book would definitely have rated more thumbs than it did.

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Guest Review: Enemy In The Room ~ Parker Hudson

 

The final piece this week is from Loretta Livingstone, Poet and Author, who is sharing her review of what appears to be a ‘must read’ book.

Enemy in the roomEnemy In The Room is a fast paced geo-political thriller, intersected by the tragic choices of a modern prodigal daughter. An American CEO is secretly committed to killing the President and destroying the nation. His employees are unwittingly carrying out his plans. The threads are woven together with explosive actions and crisscrossed relationships. The characters confront high tech theft, internet spying, lies, jihad, betrayal, and redemption.

Wow! An edge-of-your-seat thriller you will find hard to put down.

A highly placed businessman with a finger in every pie is far from being what he seems. Not just a fat cat profiteer, Trevor Knox is a man who has a driving passion, and a plan to topple the U.S. Government, which he is determined will succeed – at any cost.

David Sawyer, one of Knox’s most valued employees, has no idea what he is about to get involved in.

David is just about to discover, too, that his family is disintegrating – drawn unwittingly into Knox’s gigantic empire.

A brilliant strategist in the office, David has dropped the ball where his home life is concerned. Unable to connect with his children or influence their disastrous life choices, he is horrified to discover that, because of  his involvement with Knox, he is in some part to blame for the chaos descending on them. He is going to have to reassess. It is time for him to make his own choices, but he is already up to his neck in something terrifying, which puts his own life and those of his relatives at risk. However, he is also the one man who might be able to put a stop to Knox’s plans.

Hold your breath as this book hurtles towards its gripping conclusion.

However, good as this book is, I do hope readers will remember that the characters in this book are terrorists and do not represent all Muslims, the majority of whom live their faith as honestly and peaceably as those of us of other beliefs live ours.

But, overall, this is a fast-paced nail-biting book. The possibility, God forbid, of this ever happening in real life is far too terrifying to contemplate.

Loretta Livingstone
Author:
Where Angels Tread
Rhythms of Life
Hopes, Dreams & Medals
Jumping in the Puddles of Life
Fire and Ice
http://www.treasurechestbooks.co.uk/
http://amazon.com/author/lorettalivingstone

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