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Review: Fever Zone by Cindy Dees

“I will hurt you for this. I don’t know how yet, but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings

“How I hate this world. I would like to tear it apart with my own two hands if I could. I would like to dismantle the universe star by star, like a treeful (sic) of rotten fruit. Nor do I believe in progress. A vermin-eaten saint scratching his filth for heaven is better off than you damned in clean linen. Progress doubles our tenure in a vale of tears. Man is a mistake, to be corrected only by his abolition, which he gives promise of seeing to himself. Oh, let him pass, and leave the earth to the flowers that carpet the earth wherever he explodes his triumphs. Man is inconsolable, thanks to that eternal “Why?” when there is no Why, that question mark twisted like a fishhook in the human heart. “Let there be light,” we cry, and only the dawn breaks.” ― Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb

Fever ZoneCindy Dees, the author of Fever Zone, should have known that there was going to be an issue when her airplane seatmate, who had been glancing more and more often at her laptop screen, opened a conversation.

Him: “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you who you are.”
Me (surprised): “And you would be who? (Honestly, I expected him to be an air marshal, given his size and chilly demeanor.)
Him: “I work for Homeland Security.”

Of course, the next few hours sitting in a sterile airport office being interrogated by a variety of alphabet agencies pretty much guaranteed that she had stumbled upon a story line that made said agencies extremely uncomfortable. Guaranteeing to wait for a year, for Homeland to “plug the hole” Dees did, indeed, wait to publish. And the story, of grief and hatred, obsession, cultism and terrorism is breathtaking in its twisted, terrifying simplicity. The youngest female fighter pilot in history, Dees worked in intelligence gathering and was detained by both the KGB and East German secret police, so she has the background to understand the inner workings of government and military agencies, and her scenario, in all its twists and turns, is highly believable. The backgrounds of the ‘bad guys’ involved are almost mundane in their very commonality, while the history of “The Scientist” who anchors the story is heartbreaking and, again, so real as to allow you to actually feel his despair.

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 2 Scene 1

The West Bank. Jerusalem. One year ago. Yusef Abahdi, his daughter Salima, and his wife Marta, are Palestinians, living in a world defined by the ongoing conflict between Jews, Zionists, Muslims and Christians, all determined to destroy one another over a bit of desert wasteland with a millennia-old history of violence and savagery. It is a life of poverty, hunger and razor wire, suicide bombers and high-powered rifles trained on them every day by young Israeli Defense Force soldiers with itchy trigger fingers, filled with their own overwhelming dread. Yusef, with his degree in biochemistry, cares for his daughter during the day the best he can, while Marta, with her masters in Literature, works as a maid for a rich Jewish family. A life of terror, brought to a razor’s edge by a bomb. A bomb that crystallizes into a core of cold, diamond hard rage.

What comes next is a tale that is terrifying to behold in its very simplicity. Take a broken man, filled with rage, a simple-minded cult of Luddites, mix in enough money to forward a plot whose edges are ill-defined, and wrap it all up in a race to save hundreds of thousands of people from a manufactured plague. The concept of the story got the attention of Homeland Security, so you know the fear is real. This part of the story is well researched and well written.

But then, we get to “the other part.” Here is where the tale comes crashing down around the reader’s ears.

Mike McCloud is a Navy Special Forces operative, an observer, watching over a filthy street on a rooftop in Khartoum. Once one of the greatest cities of the world, Khartoum is a little corner of Purgatory, savage and brutal – and an incubator for some of the most savage terrorists the world has ever known.

Piper Roth is also an observer, sent by the CIA to follow up on a pair of seemingly innocuous cult members who have changed their MO drastically by scurrying off to the Sudan.  When the two meet eye-to-eye through rifle scopes while observing the savage murder of a shopkeeper in the middle of the street (Observe. Report. Do NOT engage.), the question is, “Shoot, or don’t shoot?” Neither shoots, it is ‘observe only,’ you know. Roth flees. McCloud chases. His brief is to know everyone in the area, to find The Scientist, and to find out why a previously unknown Warlord is moving in on this seemingly worthless neighborhood in an even more worthless city. And he is determined to know who the other sniper is, what ‘he’ is doing there, and who he works for. Only, the ‘he’ is a she. And this chapter is the one that nearly had me putting the book down and walking away.

This is a serious subject, and from the intro (EbolaFeverZone) I expected a serious book. What I got was the two of them running through the streets, him overtaking and overwhelming her as if she has no CIA self-defense or evasion training whatsoever, and the two of them immediately rutting like wild dogs without knowing, 1) Who each other are, 2) Who the other person works for, 3) Each others names, or 4) Hey, do you, like, have any diseases I need to know about? You know, since we are in the armpit of the universe and STDs, as well as, oh, I don’t know, Lassa, Ebola and other little nasties are commonplace . . .

GAARG!!! (Of course, I should have known from the cover, right? I was just hoping….oh, and she is a blonde, not a brunette as it shows on the cover. Sigh.) Pages of rutting, then the “Big Strong Alpha Male” rescuing the “Weak Little Woman” (who does things so stupid I simply could not, under any circumstances, believe it – I mean, you are an observer, woman! Observe, don’t go rushing in to fight a couple of religious policemen who are beating a young girl, you idjit. That shit happens. It sucks, but it isn’t your job.) Followed by more pages of rutting and the supposedly CIA trained and experienced CIA observer whining and mewling in her head ad nauseum with the whole “I hate him but I want to screw him again and, oh, woe is me, does he like me or doesn’t he like me and I want to marry him and have his babies, but I hate him for treating me like an ignorant child (even though she acts like an ignorant child) who needs his big strong protection, but oh, lets screw again”  crap pissed me the hell off. I mean, the author is a decorated pilot, for Pete’s sake! I really would like to not think that she is a whiny, needy wreck like her so-called heroine.

Hence, my less-than-stellar review of a book suffering from schizophrenia and a serious identity crisis. Romantic thrillers I understand, and actively look for in my reading. They are, basically, romances that at least have a good story line to back up the nookie. But I expected much more from this book. I wanted what it was advertised as – a Thriller. What I got was a serious, thoughtful idea weighed down by cliché, with a female lead I wanted to shake some sense into. Come on – you are a CIA agent poached from the CDC – I would expect you to have a modicum of common sense! I suppose I am offended, mainly, because I expected so much, and she delivered so little.

Anyway. I found the book on eBookDiscovery.com. I got it for free in exchange for a realistic review. I am only taking on books right now that really grab my attention as I am so busy, but this one showed such promise, I couldn’t refuse. As much as I gripe, I do recommend reading it. It is Very. Scary. I just wish the author had laid off catering to the romance-only crowd and been serious about her characters. It would have been a much better book and would draw the attention of a much wider audience without being crippled by the heavy concentration on the cliché romance rather than the story.

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Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper – And Other Stuff

I owe everyone an apology, as this book was on the Audible Daily Deal today, and I missed getting it posted. Bad Leiah! No Biscuit!

It’s been a hard week for me – not an excuse, just an explanation. My HiJinx is going downhill. Well, she is nearly 12, which is amazing for a Boxer – jinxballinmouththey usually hit about 10 and simply fade away. So I have been lucky – but with so much loss lately I find myself hanging on to her. So, sleep has been a matter of a few minutes here and there so that she doesn’t slip away while I sleep. Selfish, I know. But my housemate was home today, so I slept for hours on end knowing she would wake me if anything happens.

Sex Trafficking by HARO21
Photo courtesy of Deviantart.com All rights reserved. HARO21

So, Back to Copper Sun. This looks like a really terrific listen. It actually caught my attention more than some because of what is going on in “the world today. Americans seem to have a built-in filter – a filter which wipes their brains of the fact that, while we kick and scream and come off all “Holier-than-Thou” when it comes to the “we are perfect when it comes to human rights” scenario. We aren’t, and we never were. Slaughter of the Native Americans, Slavery, our history is checkered, to say the least. Even today, slavery is rampant – though now it is white women and children who are the victims in massive sex trafficking rings.

Yes, we need to help the victims in other countries. But we also need to acknowledge our own history – and help the victims who still exist in America today.


 

draperWritten by: Sharon M. Draper

  • Narrated by: Myra Lucretia Taylor
  • Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins Unabridged Audiobook
  • Fifteen-year-old Amari witnesses the murder of her family and the destruction of her remote African village. She endures countless humiliations as she is beaten, branded, and forced to board a slave ship. The atrocities continue as she struggles through endless days of backbreaking work and daily degradation on a plantation.
    Photo courtesy of Robert E. Howard. All rights reserved.

    Somehow, through it all, Amari’s hopes and dreams survive, because there are moments of kindness from an indentured white girl, Polly, and the gentle wife of the plantation owner. Amari and Polly find that by working together, freedom could be possible.

    In this well-researched novel, award-winning author and educator Sharon M. Draper successfully embarks upon historical fiction to explore plantation life.

    ©2006 Sharon M. Draper; (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC

     

Review: Heart Of Africa By Loren Lockner

 23355539Women have always been the strong ones of the world. The men are always seeking from women a little pillow to put their heads down on. They are always longing for the mother who held them as infants. – Coco Chanel

 It’s estimated that across Africa 100 elephants are killed for their tusks every day. It takes nothing more than simple math to get to what that adds up to in a year, and it’s a distressing figure. – Graydon Carter


The unmerciful sun refused my commands and set unconcernedly behind the dry acacias, stealing with it any remaining warmth of the day.

 Poor Mandy Phillips. Dismissed as worthless by her mother and cousin since she was a child, she is shy, introverted, and never speaks up for herself, much less having an adventure. But when her up-and-coming physician fiancé decides to toss her over for 19-year-old blonde floozy, Mandy has had enough. So, she decides to take an even more adventurous trip than the African honeymoon they had planned.

I wish to book a trip to Africa, but not to Kenya. Perhaps you could recommend a destination full of intriguing sights and wild animals? A first class safari to… um… somewhere else?”

Such begins Mandy’s Big Adventure. An adventure that will take her beyond the boundaries of Kruger National Park and into the wild in a desperate race to survive. A race through a land where every step may mean her death.

This is a beautiful book. The world building is amazingly gorgeous, filled with the life of Africa, the joy and the heartache, the poverty and pain, and the overwhelming beauty of a country ancient beyond belief, the home of humanity and of life itself. And where humans think nothing of killing a rare rhino for its horn, leaving the animal to rot in the sun, and a simple misstep can cost your life.

While this is a romantic suspense, it is much more than that. The romance portion is well done and believable – the hero is not perfect by any means, nor is the heroine. But that is what makes everything so perfect. They have to fight every step of the way simply to survive. But it is the reality of the suspense that made this such a special book. Well, and the beauty of Africa, the birds and beasts, the flora and fauna unlike any other. It fills the book with wonder, tugging my heart to its mysterious shores. There is pain there, poverty and death, but overall it is a country which calls to the soul. Lockner blends and weaves the country and its people into a story of love and survival which will touch your heart, and open your soul to adventure beyond any you might image.

Highly recommended!

Review: Die Again: Rizzoli & Isles #11 By Tess Gerritsen

21489683Everyone is related to Africa; everyone comes from Africa. We are all distant relatives. – Damian Marley

Let’s face it – think of Africa, and the first images that come to mind are of war, poverty, famine and flies. How many of us really know anything at all about the truly great ancient African civilizations, which in their day, were just as splendid and glorious as any on the face of the earth? – Henry Louis Gates

No matter what we call it, poison is still poison, death is still death, and industrial civilization is still causing the greatest mass extinction in the history of the planet. – Derrick Jensen

 

I felt like a kid at Christmas when I received the request from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine to read and review Die Again: A Rizzoli and Isles Novel. I have always been a huge fan of Tess Gerritsen and the series, and to be trusted with this eleventh addition to the series was a mind blowing experience! Woo hoo!

If you are one of those who have only watched the television series (and why would that be? You don’t know what you are missing!) the series is indeed good, but it can’t reach the depth and brilliance of the books. There simply isn’t the time or capability for a television series to meet the standards of exceptional writing Ms. Gerritsen is known for. I highly encourage you to read all of them, starting with The Surgeon and working your way through. If you love a police procedural with strong suspense, mystery and thrills, and a pair of the most exceptional women characters in literature, you can’t go wrong.

 Okavango Delta, Botswana

In the slanting light of dawn I spot it, subtle as a watermark, pressed into the bare patch of dirt. . . . I crouch down beside it and feel a sudden chill when I realize that only a thin layer of canvas shielded us while we slept.

On a photography safari in Botswana with a diverse group of seven tourists from four continents, a guide and a tracker, Millie Jacobson wakes this morning to the prints of a leopard inside the perimeter of the camp. But that is only the beginning – a whisper, a bare scent on the wind, to what is to occur next. For evil stalks. And not on four legs.

Boston

The call comes at eleven fifteen A.M.

I’m on Sanborn Avenue, West Roxbury, oh-two-one-three-two. The dog-I saw the dog in the window …”

 Detective Jane Rizzoli takes the call, expecting just another murder. What she gets is something unexpected. And unexpectedly gruesome, even for a long-time Boston Homicide Detective. The victim, a big game hunter and taxidermist, is hung in his own garage, gutted like one of the animals whose lives he has taken for the sheer joy of murdering them.

What happens next spans not only continents but also many years as the incidents incidents come closer and closer together, threads drawing together like a fine tapestry woven of blood and pain. But could these instances be even older, more frightening and more deadly, than Jane and Maura could have ever expected?

This is, to my mind, one of the best, and most wide ranging of Ms. Gerritsens works. The mysteries are, of course, brilliant. But the interpersonal relationships between the characters, especially Jane’s family and Maura’s life, have grown and developed over time. The interpersonal relationships between the police officers, the FBI, and the various groups who are part of the case are just as one would expect, well rounded and often aggravating.

Honestly? I was thrilled that the first Boston victim found his end the way he did. With no compassion, no love, no feelings of regret for the loss of the often endangered species he slaughters with no compunction, I cheered his passing. The book is filled with evil people who consider it their right to slaughter entire species simply so they can have a trophy head hanging on their wall. Take that evil species destroyer! But over and beyond the ideals of ecological saviours vs. ecological destroyers, this is an amazing story of an incredible country, filled with life and death, where taking your next breath can often mean an intense struggle for survival. A world where joy comes in the rise of the sun over the horizon, in sight of amazing wildlife, and the often harsh lifestyle that draws its visitors into its soul.

“But that’s what our ancestors did, Millie. This is where we all come from. Some part of you, some ancient memory deep in your brain, recognizes this continent as home. Most people have lost touch with it, but the instincts are still there.”

If you are up for an amazing novel that will draw you in and leave you breathless, you must read Die Again. It shouldn’t be missed.

Publication Date:  December 30, 2014

I received this book from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. Highly recommended!

The Leopard Tree by Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman

The Leopard TreeThree orphans from Kenya stow away on an airplane to embark on a desperate quest to meet the Secretary General of the United Nations in New York City and deliver a message they hope will help millions of homeless and hurting children in Africa. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz becomes their guidebook as they journey alone across the United States. The trio–one with HIV, one blind amputee, and one who hasn’t spoken for years after watching her family slaughtered–find themselves embroiled in a situation beyond their imaginations as they get close to meeting their goal.

The Leopard Tree won the Best Young Adult Fiction Award in 2008 with Writer’s Digest International Self-published Competition and a Third Place EVVY in the Fiction Division of Colorado Independent Publisher’s Awards in 2008. This book was written with the hope of raising awareness of the millions of people in Africa who suffer the effects of malnutrition,malaria, HIV/AIDS, and the unspeakable atrocities associated with armed conflicts.

About The Authors:

Lisa BrochuLisa Brochu and Tim Merriman have spent the last four decades helping people connect with our global natural and cultural heritage. This is their first work of adult fiction, but they have several other non-fiction books in print. Through their books and speaking engagements, they hope to help others to know more and do more about the daily challenges in meeting basic needs that face tens of millions of people in developing nations. When they are not traveling the globe, Tim and Lisa live in Fort Collins, Colorado, on a small farm where they raise much of their own food. They can be contacted by email at lbrochu57@gmail.com and timfmerriman@gmail.com.

 

Review: Savage Roads:Where Griffons Feed by Erich Penhoff

SAVAGE ROADS KINDLE NEW COVER
Click to purchase Savage Roads!

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. Albert Einstein

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. Dwight D. Eisenhower

To understand Savage Roads, one must first understand the author. Erich Penhoff has been many things. Many things he won’t, or can’t talk about.  For instance, he list under “School” on Facebook: The black market, after the war. And we aren’t talking the Vietnam War.

Erich has seen many things, from jungles to deserts, to the wastelands of Antarctica. And it shows in this first novel of suspense, intrigue and the horrors of savagery and war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the DRC).

There are a lot of suspense books out there, and some of them are very good. But they aren’t like this book. Erich has been there, done that, and has the scars to prove it. And so does his hero, Marco Resnick . Marco is unlike any other “action hero” I have ever read about. He isn’t a 6’6” superhero, muscleman who hasn’t seen his 30th birthday. Marco is a real guy. He, along with his friends Karl and Michel have worked together for 30 years, traveling the world, doing what needs to be done. No matter how dirty, or how bloody, things become.

skulls
West Africa’s super market for Voodoo witchdoctors…there may be one or two human heads in there too. – Erich

The DRC, Rwanda, many of the hellholes of Africa come into play in Savage Roads.  The scenes in the book aren’t for the weak of heart for, as Jean-Paul Sartre says; When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die. There is blood and death aplenty as Marco and Michel travel the savage roads of a country drowning in violence. Unlike many heroes, Marco isn’t there for the killing, or the glory. He simply does what needs to be done. When what needs to be done is rescuing children from members of a savage paramilitary gang, he does it. Even if that does mean that many of that gang have to die.

Karl, a financial investor for many small and retired investors, has invested in gold mines in the DRC. Now, the gold has been stolen. Not only that, but Marco has received word that a huge cargo of munitions is set to leave Africa, destined for a group of ‘mafia types’ and warlords. In order to stop this, and to regain the gold, Marco and Michel will defy the odds to right these wrongs, and return the monies to Karl’s investors.

If you love action, adventure, suspense, and intrigue, you MUST have this book. You won’t regret the purchase, and you will be talking about it with your friends for a long time to come.

Highly Recommended.

Disclosure: I was the editor for this book, and Erich’s second, “Savage Death:Not Forgotten”. This in no way influences my review. It just gives me better insight into the novel.

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