Book Review – Fall From Grace by J. Edward Ritchie

51xRW3hs0BL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Fall From Grace

Author: J. Edward Ritchie

Genre: thriller

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Summary

Heaven: a paradise of all that is pure in Creation. Led by brothers Michael and Satanail, the Angelic Host is a testament to cosmic harmony and love. When an unprecedented revelation threatens to uproot their peace, a schism splits the Host’s loyalties. Every angel has to make a choice: faith or freedom. Good or evil.

Salvation or damnation.

War consumes Heaven in the first and most destructive loss of life that Creation will ever know. As brother turns on brother, the fate of both Heaven and Earth rests in the hands of the Creator’s chosen son, Michael. How far will he go, what will he sacrifice in the name of their Father, to protect his family?

Witness the tragic downfall of a civilization as told from both sides of the bloody rebellion. More than myth, more than legend, Heaven’s war will forever stand as a harrowing warning that even the purest of souls can fall from grace.

5 STARS

Review

It was evident from the first page that J. Edward Ritchie is a very good writer. The prose contained in Fall From Grace is beautiful and ugly, serene and violent, divine and evil. Ritchie presents both sides of this powerful story – this epic battle of good and evil – in a manner that paints each side of the conflict sympathetically.

Brothers Michael and Satanail are the leaders of the Angelic Host until Satanail makes a discovery that causes him to defect, leading an uprising against Michael and the rest of the angels that stand for good. Filled with excellent character development, thrilling battle scenes, and poignant reflection by angels on both sides of the battle, Fall From Grace goes way beyond our traditional view of good and evil into those gray areas of morality, family loyalty, and the lengths others will go to in the name of their faith.

There were times when I was reading the book when I thought some scenes were a bit over the top, times when I thought that the author had taken an issue too far. Without fail, I was proven wrong, because what was written ended up becoming integral to the story. No wasted words here folks!

Bottom Line: First-time author J. Edward Ritchie hit a home run with this book! His exquisite prose lends an almost “classic literature” feel to this book. I am looking forward to more from Mr. Ritchie!

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Book Review – Tortured Dreams by Hadena James

imgresTitle: Tortured Dreams

Author: Hadena James

Genre: thriller

Series or Standalone: Book 1 in the Dreams & Reality Series

Summary

Aislinn Cain’s life is a horror story – A Serial Killer Thriller

When the US Marshals Serial Crimes Tracking Unit comes knocking at Aislinn Cain’s door, she is given a chance to use her past to save other people’s futures. She has survived attacks by two different serial killers and devoted her life to studying the darker side of human history.

A new killer is using medieval torture methods to slay his victims. She can give them a glimpse into his twisted world, but not without a cost. If she opens herself, she risks falling into the depths of her own darkness. Can she afford to help, knowing that the cost could be her own humanity?

Review

1 STARS

I was excited when I started this book, sure that it was going to be a top-notch thriller. How can you go wrong with a killer that uses medieval torture devices? What I got instead was a book filled with a lot dialogue, much of it meaningless, and very little in the way of action.

The main character, Aislinn Cain, is a shallow, unapologetic sociopath, and thus, very hard to like or even care about. I don’t feel like any of the characters in the book were particularly well-developed. Most, including Aislinn, felt like robots responding to stimuli, but unable to do much of anything else.

What action there was, although somewhat fantastical and hard to believe, did manage to move the story along, unlike the endless, meaningless banter between the various characters.

Bottom line: This book could have been cut by twenty-five to fifty percent and wouldn’t have lost anything except a lot of meaningless dialogue.

Book Review – Cold River Resurrection by Enes Smith

urlTitle: Cold River Resurrection

Author: Enes Smith

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: The Cold River Series – Book 2

Summary

City girl Jennifer Kruger got more than she bargained for when she trespassed on the Cold River Indian Reservation, searching for Bigfoot. She became lost and stumbled upon grisly evidence of murder and mutilation. Rescued by Cold River Tribal Police Lieutenant “Smokey” Kukup, and caught up in a modern war, she seeks to stay alive as she finds herself attached to Smokey and his precocious nine-year-old daughter.

Cold River Resurrection is an action-filled thriller set on a modern day reservation.

3 STARS

Review

I judge a book by my eagerness to return to it, to get back to the action. This book kept me coming back often, and was firmly a four-star book…until the book’s climactic scene, when the realism that had been firmly established throughout the book was thrown out the window in favor of something out of left field – a convenient way to excise the main characters from a seemingly inescapable situation.

Despite my disappointment in the novel’s climax, I still enjoyed the book. The plot moved at a pace that kept me engaged and wanting more. Where else are you going to find a book with Sasquatch hunters, a drug cartel, and an Indiana reservation? It took a while, but the author did a convincing job of weaving all disparate plot lines together into a cohesive and (mostly) convincing story.

The author also developed interesting characters. “Smokey” Kukup is the strong, silent type – an American Indian man raising his nine-year-old daughter Laurel following the overdose death of his wife. He struggles with guilt over the death of his wife while wanting a better life for Laurel, who has unwavering love for and faith in her father.

And then there is Jennifer Kruger, a young woman lost in the woods while hunting for Sasquatch with her boyfriend. She is rescued by Smokey, and as the story progresses, they begin to develop feelings for one another. A little predictable? Absolutely, but the budding relationship develops at a believable pace rather than the two just hopping into the sack. And, it develops to the delight of Laurel, who feels an immediate bond with Jennifer, a feeling that is reciprocated by Jennifer.

Bottom line: Cold River Resurrection, despite a few flaws, is a good book and worth your time, especially if you enjoy books by the likes of Tony Hillerman. The information about American Indians and their beliefs adds a different dynamic to character and plot development.

Book Review – Harm None by M. R. Sellars

imgresTitle: Harm None

Author: M. R. Sellars

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: The Rowan Gant Investigations – Book 1

Blurb

THE WITCH AND THE DEAD…

They say dead men tell no tales. I really wish that was true, because the dead tell me more than I ever wanted to know.

My name is Rowan Gant. I’m just an average guy…well, except for the fact that I’m a Witch. That last part is the reason I’m the go-to-guy for the local cops whenever a murder is a little beyond the pale and they need a consultant with knowledge of the Occult. I didn’t actually want the job, but apparently the job wanted me.

It all started when I was asked to decipher some symbols found at a crime scene. The police needed answers, and as it turns out so did I. You see, fate being what it is I had a personal connection to the victim when she was still among the living. It gets worse, though… The images in the crime scene photos gave me a sick feeling that the killer wasn’t finished. I could see—even feel—what was coming next, and it was not going to be good.

In fact, it was going to be downright evil…

4 STARS

Review

Rowan Gant is a different kind of crime fighter. Outwardly, he appears to be an everyday sort of guy. He’s married and he works with computers. However, he is also a Witch – a practicing Wiccan. When he is called upon to help the local police with a bizarre crime scene, he realizes that he knows the victim, who also happens to be Wiccan. What follows is a series of ritualistic killings that baffle the police and the FBI. To make matters worse, there aren’t many working on the case who take Rowan or his Wiccan beliefs seriously. He is mocked by police officers, and by the press.

The book moves at a pace that keeps the reader engaged and interested, and there didn’t seem to be any fluff. The author did a nice job of providing the reader with information about Wicca without sounding like a Wikipedia article.

Character development left a little to be desired. Rowan Gant seemed an infallible character – all-knowing, never wrong, and never possessing any self-doubt. Perhaps more is revealed in subsequent novels in the Rowan Gant series.

I also didn’t like the friction between the local cops and the FBI. This is not unique to Mr. Sellars. It’s a clichéd plot device that is overused by even the best of writers.

Finally, I found the dialogue attribution to be a distraction throughout the book.  Attributions such as “he intoned,” “he expressed,” and “she queried” drew my eye from the story, and broke my reading flow. I am a firm believer in “he said,” “she said,” etc.

Those things being said, I still found Harm None to be a very enjoyable book and will look for more from M. R. Sellars.

Blog Title: Book Review: Silent Screams by C. E. Lawrence

downloadTitle: Silent Screams

Author: C. E. Lawrence

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: Book 1 of 3 in the Lee Campbell-profiler Series

Blurb

A Deranged Killer’s Twisted Urges –In the streets of New York City, the Slasher chooses his victim–and makes his move. As he wraps his fingers around the girl’s pretty throat, his power increases. As he carves into her skin, his words become flesh. As he arranges her lifeless body in a loving tableau, his fantasies demand new, more violent sacrifices. . .

A Profiler’s Cunning Plan –At first, NYPD detectives suspect a jealous boyfriend. But criminal profiler Lee Campbell senses something darker, even ritualistic, about the murder. More chilling, he’s convinced he’s witnessing the genesis of a full-blown serial killer. But time is running out. A new victim has been chosen. Campbell must search the most terrifying recesses of the human mind–and his own past–before the screaming starts again. . .

4 STARS

Review

Lee Campbell works for the NYPD as a criminal profiler. He’s also a guy with his own set of issues – a somewhat overbearing mother, and the unresolved disappearance of his sister.  What I like about Lee Campbell is that he’s not the stereotypical protagonist – perfect and stunningly handsome, without a care in the world other than solving the crime. He is flawed, and has some serious issues that he is dealing with – depression resulting from the disappearance of his sister.  Throughout the novel, it becomes obvious that he has accepted that she is dead, but that he still holds onto a thread of hope that she may still be found alive.  These competing emotions eat at him like a wasting disease.  Campbell also shows his vulnerability through his willingness to ask for help.  He regularly sees a therapist for his depression and unresolved issues regarding his missing sister, and he consults a former professor, who also happens to be his mentor, for help in solving the Slasher killings.

The story is a bit slow at times, but for the most part, it moves at a suitable pace.  The killer taunts Campbell and the police, providing them with a few red herrings as the killings continue.  The story culminates in an ending I saw coming only right before it happened.  I found that the killer’s reason for killing was a bit of a stretch, given what we learn throughout the novel, but this doesn’t detract from the surprise ending, which proved a satisfying way to wrap up the story.

Bottom line: C. E. Lawrence’s Silent Screams isn’t an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it is a good book.  I enjoyed the time I spent reading it, and look forward to learning more about Lee Campbell in future books.

Book Review: The Great Game by D. R. Bell

517nl5V+i1LTitle: The Great Game

Author: D. R. Bell

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Blurb

After years of patient preparation, a block of countries led by China and Russia stages an overnight financial coup to unseat the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  Fortunes are made and lost in a matter of hours.  But some have more far-ranging plans than financial gain.

Computer engineer David Ferguson has no idea that a chance meeting with a friendly stranger in the airport will change everything.  Suddenly, he is running for his life, without knowing why or from whom.  In trying to evade his pursuers, David accidentally involves Maggie Sappin, a graduate student and a transplant from Kiev.  To save themselves, they have to uncover the reasons behind a financial crisis and political upheaval that followed.  From Los Angeles to Texas, Kiev, Moscow, and New York, the body count mounts along with the layers of deception as two innocent people become key players in—The Great Game.

This is a work of fiction.  But what are presented in the story as facts of the time of writing are indeed facts in real life.  And if some elements look hard to imagine, back in the early 1980s one would have been laughed at for suggesting that in a few short years people would be dancing on top of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union would be no longer.

3.5 STARS

Review

As an ardent reader and reviewer, I don’t like to read the synopsis of a book before I read it.  I much prefer to delve into a book without any preconceived notions.  Therefore, I had no idea what to expect when I opened this book.  What started as a run-of-the-mill action novel quickly morphed into an international geo-economic thriller.

The author did a masterful job of weaving real-world events, political theories, and economic theories into a fictional story that, on the surface, was a solid thriller.  However, the author also presents an all-too-real scenario in the near future (2022) in which the United States is crumbling politically and economically due to its poor economic choices and policies.

As engaging as the story was, I felt that the main characters, David Ferguson and Maggie Sappin, were underdeveloped to the point of feeling like they were mad of cardboard.  It was obvious from their first meeting that they would end up together, despite their initial mistrust of one another.  Also, some of the dialogue had a stilted, formal feel, rather than a conversational feel.  Finally, there were some editing issues – nothing major – but enough to be distracting.

Bottom line: The Great Game, despite a few flaws, is a solid, thought-provoking book that paints a disturbing picture of what possibly lies ahead for the United States, a country wracked by political in-fighting and negligent overspending.

Blog Title: Book Review: Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office by Khalid Muhammad

Agency-Rules-Updated-Cover-0119Title: Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office

Author: Khalid Muhammad

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: First book in series

Blurb

Celebrated as a ragtag force that defeated and broke the Soviet Union, no one predicted the Mujahideen would bring with them a plague that would spread like wildfire through Pakistan in the years to follow. When the battle-worn fighters returned with no enemy or war to fight, they turned their sights on the country that had been their creator and benefactor.

From the same battlegrounds that birthed the Mujahideen, a young Kamal Khan emerges as a different breed of warrior. Discarding his wealthy family comforts, Kamal becomes a precision sniper, an invincible commando and a clandestine operative bringing intimidation, dominance and death with him to the battlefield. Ending the plague is his prime directive.

Shrouded in political expediency, hampered by internal power struggles, international espionage and doublespeak that makes Washington’s spin doctors proud, Kamal’s mission is a nightmare of rampant militant fundamentalism that threatens to choke and take Pakistan hostage. For him, the fight is not just for freedom, but the survival of a nation.

4 STARS

Review

I opened this book with no idea of what to expect.  I don’t read a lot of spy novels, and most of what I have read has been from Robert Ludlum.  What I found with Agency Rules was a book with a well-developed protagonist, Kamal Kahn, a trained sniper who wants to save Pakistan, his home country.  By then end of the book, I grew to admire Kahn, a trained soldier and interrogator, and a patriot – someone who truly cares about his country, and will go to any lengths to do what he feels is in its best interest.

The novel’s plot was also well-developed, with a great whacks of non-stop action, tempered by informative, expository passages.  Agency Rules contains all the elements of a good spy novel: intrigue, deception, covert operatives, action, and political in-fighting, plus a fair amount of info about the people and the culture of Pakistan.  America’s (and perhaps the world’s) view of Pakistan and its people is not a pleasant one, often presented as a place without rules or order, a place filled with corruption, a place where the people are either terrorists of passive victims.  What the author shows us is that people who live in Pakistan are a proud people, people who care about their country, and are as disgusted by terrorism as the rest of the world.

Bottom line: Agency Rules is a good book, filled with enough action and character development to keep even casual readers of spy novels engaged.

Reviewer’s note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and impartial review.