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Review: White Plague by James Abel -Stunning!

White Plague by James AbelAnd I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. – Revelations 6:8 – King James Bible

Paneloux is a man of learning, a scholar. He hasn’t come in contact with death; that’s why he can speak with such assurance of the truth-with a capital T. But every country priest who visits his parishioners and has heard a man gasping for breath on his deathbed thinks as I do. He’d try to relieve human suffering before trying to point out its goodness. -Albert Camus – The Plague Part 2

There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour. – Benjamin Disraeli
What is the point to winning a war – if all your subjects are rotting in their graves? For me, no ideological or political conviction would justify the sacrifice of a human life. For me, the value of life is absolute, with no concessions. It’s not negotiable. Edgar Ramirez

It begins, as do many things, death amongst them, with silence. The pleas for help stopped coming just after five in the morning, Washington time. The Pentagon staffers cleared for handling sensitive messages sat in horror for a moment and then tried other ways to reach the victims. Nothing worked, so they called the director, who phoned me.

And what follows horrified me, chilled me to the bone, and kept me reading four hours past when I should, by all reasonable measure, put it down and gone to bed. And horrifying the story is, for a lot of different reasons, but mainly? For the absolute, gut wrenching reality of it all. And just how true it is – how likely that something like this will happen.

Lt. Colonel Joe Rush gets the call at 1am, Anchorage time, as he pounds the streets, running from sleep, running from memories. Memories of decisions which saved lives, while taking others. Which left him with the weight of the world on his shoulders, the blackness of grief in his heart. Two weeks. Just two weeks until he retires. And now, this. A new submarine prototype has surfaced in the Arctic – and it is burning. One-hundred-fifty seven souls, trapped on the ice. And no one is near enough to reach them except the single ice breaker the US government has funded to handle the vast spaces of the Arctic waters. Colonel Rush, MD and virology specialist, must get to them as quickly as possible if they are to save the people and salvage the submarine before Chinese or Russian icebreakers claim it for their own.

Monster storms, crushing ice, bone breaking cold – all are threats which Rush, the few Marines who accompany him, and the few Coast Guard sailors handling the Icebreaker Wilmington must meet and overcome to reach their burned and stranded submariners. The sick submariners. For a sickness is burning through the crew, a sickness that no one can identify.

It becomes a race, a race to save the people, to save the submarine, and to avert a single incident that could be the linchpin starting World War III. For as global warming breaks up the ice, opening trade routes and access to unknown stores of oil, gems, metals and trade routes, the political machinations have begun. Great beasts of war are gathering, stomping their hooves, waving their swords, and foaming at the mouths for the blood of those they would call ‘enemy’.

What is the sickness? Where did it come from? And more importantly, can it be cured before the political machine does the unthinkable in a move to ascertain it’s own power? And who aboard the Wilmington is a traitor? And how high do the traitor’s contacts go – and to whom does he report?

No one becomes depraved all at once. – JUVENAL, Satires

All these questions and more make this a hair-raising, edge-of-your-seat military suspense/thriller beyond compare. With it’s roots dug deeply into current political and military policy, White Plague is, beyond a doubt, the BEST military suspense thriller I have read this year.

Highly recommended.

I received the book from Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own and are not affected by this fact. For more information on First To Read, click.

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Review: The Terminals: Spark – Michael F. Stewart – STUNNING!

The question of afterlife disappears, when we start to recognize the fact that we did not existed before our birth and the same will happen after death. ― Sipendr

terminal
An incredible book of horror, psychology, and intrigue that I HIGHLY recommend! Not for the under 18 crowd – this is intense stuff!

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.― Mark Twain

Joshua Bruns said that the trouble with quotes about death is that 99.999 perent of them are made by people who are still alive. So, I’m part of the 0.001 percent. – Captain Kade “Morph” Harmina, US Army Terminal

If you knew that you were going to die soon, that your death would have no meaning other than pain – your own and that of your loved ones – would you be willing to sacrifice what little comfortable time you might have remaining in order to save the lives of others? Causa moriendi est causa vivendi. Dying for a reason is a good reason to keep living.

But what happens after death occurs? Does religion really have the answers? Or is it both more and less than what the human mind may conceive? If the afterlife is real, does our energy simply sustain what our mind conceives, fading into oblivion as the currants of life expire?

Questions upon questions, with no answers in sight. Well, until you are dead, and then will those questions actually be answered? Or is the concept of an afterlife merely a conceit, a naïve attempt to ease the terrors of the unknown?

Michael F. Stewart has written a horrifying book in The Terminals Episode 1: Spark. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I mean horrifying in the best possible definition of literary excellence. This is a spine-chilling novel, full of disturbing layers of both the physical and metaphysical. The story reached down inside my mind and jerked at the lids of all the mentally hardened boxes it contains, the memories inherent in a mind tormented by PTSD. the dark terrors at the edges of death, only to return, kicking and screaming, into the agony of life once more.

When Lieutenant Colonel Christine Kurzow awakens in a hot, dusty field hospital in the burning desert of Iraq, the first words she hears are those of General F. Aaron: Dying for a reason is a good reason to live, Colonel. A strange comment, and one that opens the door to a perverted, powerful, and deeply disturbing book that reaches into the mind, distorting science, religion, belief, and the basic tenants of the human concept of the afterlife.

Kurzow is crippled by guilt after the loss of eleven of those under her command – a loss that could have been prevented if she had taken one shot – a shot which would have killed a child, but saved her team. A rising star in the Army hierarchy, Kurzow’s misjudgment, and subsequent suicide attempt, is a public relations nightmare for the Army, one that is quickly swept under the rug. No punishment attached, rather a Medal of Honor awarded by the military machine. No punishment from her peers, but a deadly degree of self-punishment in the form of a sharp blade, and a massive number of pills. Now, she is pulled back from the brink and pushed into a secret military unit. A unit that accomplishes the impossible – communication with the dead. The only problem? One must die that many may live.

What is most terrifying about Stewart’s tale is just how clearly I could see in my mind’s eye everything that was happening, in grotesque detail. And how horrific the religious visions of the afterlife really are. For, the method the group uses to track down the killers and terrorists in the afterlife is based on religious beliefs – the sharing of the Terminal’s beliefs with those of the person they seek in the afterlife.

Can Christine gain her redemption by her own death? She will be given the chance – but before she can reach for salvation, she must handle the euthanizing of the Gnostic monk, Charlie. For Charlie is an expert on Hillar the Killer, a psychopathic mass murderer with a minimum of eighty kills under his belt. Charlie not only shares Hillar’s religion, but also understands the depths of Hillar’s psychopathy. Charlie must find Hillar in the afterlife – the lives of eleven kidnapped children depend upon him. And when an incompetent, glory hound cop blunders what should have been a simple shot, killing the killer, Charlie the monk must die in order to save them.

Can Christine convince the monk that he must die in order to save the children? And can Charlie track Hillar through the brutalities of the Gnostic deep – and then pull the needed information from a creature of pure evil? Finally, can Christine, an Atheist, truly work through a system that relies upon meshing the religious beliefs of the Terminal and their prey?

Though one believes in nothing, there are moments in life when one accepts the religion of the temple nearest at hand.  ― Victor Hugo

More questions – of religion and faith, of the good of the many over the good of the one. Of honor and pride, patriotism and heroism. And even greater questions of morality and ethics and an even simpler question – are the Terminals really terminal, or is there something truly evil in the works – an evil promulgated upon the innocent by a selfish, sociopathic coward with a god complex?

Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanor. ― Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (The Standard Edition)

Morph says it best. Listen, don’t fixate so much on death. It doesn’t matter. When we are alive, we are not dead, and when we are dead, we are no longer alive. There is no in-between. No dying. It is the dying that most people fear. Of course, when she made that statement, she was already dead.

I received The Terminals Episode 1: Spark from Netgalley.com in return for a realistic review. If I could give the book ten stars, I certainly would. It has nothing to do with whether or not I received the book for free and everything to do with the fact that this one of the best books I have read in recent memory. I can hardly wait for the next Episode and will drop everything to read it to see if it lives up to its stunning début.

terminal
An amazing story of horror, psychology, and the depths of belief. HIGHLY recommended. Not for the under 18 crowd.

Review: All for You by Jessica Scott – Very Highly Recommended

 
Some Army families who recently lost members to suicide criticize the branch for failing to aggressively shake a culture in which soldiers believe they’ll be deemed weak and denied promotion if they seek mental health aid. They also blame Army leaders for focusing more heavily on weeding out  emotionally troubled soldiers to artificially suppress the branch’s suicide stats versus embracing and helping members who are exhibiting clear signs of trouble. – The Enemy Within: Soldier suicides outpaced combat deaths in 2012
Thursday Jan 3, 2013 5:23 PM Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

allforyou
Very Highly Recommended. A romance, yes, but also an extremely well written call for compassion and assistance for those soldiers who are in deep and abiding pain.

Write what you know. It is a simple rule, a pillar of “How To Write A Good Book” and probably one of the most misunderstood. As Nathan Englander, the critically acclaimed author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank once said, “Write what you know” isn’t about events. It’s about emotions. Have you known love? jealousy? longing? loss?

In her new book, All For You, A Coming Home Novel Jessica Scott takes that advice and builds upon it, writing a heart wrenching story which left me sobbing on the floor, my heart broken for all those soldiers who return from war broken and lost, and just how badly they need our help – help that the unremitting machine of the military and government would rather deny them. As K. Lang from Las Vegas put it in her Amazon review, no matter the branch, there are raging morons who don’t care and people with flaws trying to fix things in spite of those same raging morons. And the raging morons are thick on the ground at Fort Hood, Texas. (Having done a job there many years ago, I can tell you – I met my own fair share. And that was in peacetime.)

For all of you romance readers out there, this is indeed a romance, never fear. And an extremely well written one. If you don’t like romance? Just skip through those parts, but you HAVE to read this book. What is says is too important not to.

Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli is a broken and deeply damaged man, a leader of men with a long-time alcohol problem and a broken soul. He has had to live within a shell of alcohol and brutality for so long, he truly doesn’t know any other way to be. Captain Emily Lindberg is the psychologist who has left behind a life of privilege and familial control, striking out on her own in order to do good for the soldiers who truly need her services, leaving behind the spoiled, rich kids of privilege looking for excuses for their own bad behavior.

What Emily walks into is far from what she expects. Fort Hood is a place of systems and procedures that don’t work, that are devastating to the very people they are supposed to protect. Those soldiers, both men and women, who have come back from war, from death and dirt, blood and insanity – actions that are beyond the normal person’s comprehension. Scott lays it out in all its brutal simplicity – get EM’ in, get EM’ back out into the field. No matter what. And if they are damaged? Get EM’ all the way out, back into society, no matter what the war has done to them, no matter how the blood and gore has broken them. No matter how much they have given and suffered for their country. They are coldly thrown away, like so many broken, irreparable tools.

Jessica Scott knows of which she speaks. A career Army officer and wife of a career Army NCO, Scott has written for the New York Times’s At War blog, PBS’s Point of View Regarding War, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice. So, yes, she does know that of which she speaks. And what she knows is horrifying.

Scott is careful to point out in her Note From The Author, “This book is not meant as an indictment of our men and women in uniform or the military that we serve or the thousands of leaders who do the right thing every day and try to take care of their soldiers.” And there are those who do try every single day to do the right thing. Who try their best, despite a broken and uncaring system that rolls right over the top of them in a heartless march to simply fill out the paperwork, follow the rules, and move on to the next thing – which, in too many instances, is gaining their next bar or pip or stripe no matter the cost to their own soldiers, those very soldiers whom their very purpose should be to protect and honor.

Yes, Jessica Scott has written a brilliant story of romance between two people who, no matter how different they may be, not only learn to love one another, but also need one another in order to do what they need to do, who need one another to do good and to provide the strength that not only they need, but also those around them need in order to stay sane, focused, and safe. But she has also written a story which points out just how badly our soldiers need our help. How the pain, death, and the horrors they face every day can often be more than even the strongest among them can bear, and how more often than we would like to admit, the uncaring military machine simply throws them under the bus, leaving them to lives of drug abuse, alcoholism, homelessness, and ultimately suicide.

Buy the book. Read it. And then take a look around you. In Jennifer Scott’s words, if you know someone who is hurting, if you suspect someone is having a hard time, ask them. Don’t be afraid. Speak up. Ask the question. Because you never know what someone else is going through. And you might just make a difference.

I would go beyond that. Take the time to check out the heart of her story yourself. Talk to veterans and their families. If you are a family member or friend, be there for them, ask the right questions of your Congressmen and Senators. Write letters and give your support. These men and women give their lives and their souls in order to ascertain that you can stop at Starbucks for your latte. The least we can do is help to make sure that they get the help and support that they richly deserve.

VERY Highly Recommended. This book was provided to me by Netgalley in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Risk Taker by Lindsay McKenna

There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.  Washington Irving

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes. They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.” Clare Boothe Luce

As we do at such times I turned on my automatic pilot and went through the motions of normalcy on the outside, so that I could concentrate all my powers on surviving the near-mortal wound inside.” Sonia Johnson

womanpilot
Photo of Chief Warrant Officer Monica Narhi
Courtesy of America’s North Shore Journal
This is a much better photo than the book cover!

Chief Warrant Officer Sarah Benson is a U.S. Army Medevac Black Hawk Pilot. She flies the skies of Afghanistan, rescuing wounded men and women, sometimes under heavy fire, ferrying them to safety. Fierce in her commitment to these brave soldiers, she risks everything, including her own life, to save them. She is a true hero.

 And yet, as a woman in a “man’s world” of the Army, she is disrespected and harassed at every turn, with no support from the other pilots of her squadron, and dismissive disrespect from her commander. You see and know all of this about Sarah from the start. And yet, there is no bemoaning her treatment. She is simply quiet, determined, and honorable, going about the business of saving the wounded, sometimes under the ‘lead curtain’ of gunfire and RPGs.

 It isn’t easy being a female in Afghanistan, where not only the Afghans are dismissive, cruel, and murderously violent against women. Even the military personnel Sarah works with, whose lives she saves, can be cruel and violent, seeing her and the other women in the squads as ‘less.’ It is a vicious truth that the military mentality can be incredibly stupid about women and their place in the world, a sad and idiotic truth to be sure. Sarah’s dignity, and the dignity of the other women pilots, both Black Hawk pilots and the Apache pilots, is written brilliantly. It was more than mildly interesting to learn the inner workings of medevac pilots in a war zone. Mckenna has done her homework, making the scenes as realistic as possible, both within the Army, Air Force, and within the SEALS. And she has served herself in the U.S. Navy.

blackhawk
Photo of UH-60 medevac helicopter courtesy of Joshua Carnes
http://www.myfourthirds.com/document.php?id=19105
All rights reserved

This is, of course, not simply a book about a woman surviving within the boundaries of an FOB (Forward Operating Base). While that part of the book truly is fascinating to me, this is also a romance. Well, it is Harlequin, it has to be, right? And the actual ‘romance’ portion of the book is much more interesting than others of its ilk. Sarah has been devastated all her life by the cruelties of men. She trusts no man, holding herself separate while giving all of herself to saving those who need her. Ethan Quinn, the Navy Seal love interest is himself a very different man from the common warrior. A warrior in truth, but also a poet, Ethan sees the pain in the woman they call “Blue Eyes” the valiant pilot who holds herself aloof from those around her.

A violent attack by an Army soldier against Sarah on the grounds of the base draws Ethan to her assistance, and begins a friendship with the shy Sarah. What is both interesting and touching about their relationship is the poetry that Ethan writes for her, beautiful stanzas, on beautiful blue papyrus, slipped under her tent flap in the darkness, there for her when she awakes. Though Sarah is terrified of men, for good reason, Ethan’s gentleness touches her, and his poetry (the actual poetry of Darius Gottlieb, Love Poems and Other Elixirs) helps to pull her out of her fear, allowing a relationship to slowly develop between them. Sarah appreciates both his strength and his gentleness, while Ethan is astounded not only by Sarah’s internal and external beauty, but by her bravery as he twice witnesses her flying in under the ‘iron curtain’ to rescue wounded soldiers. She holds her position while under heavy fire in both instances, taking life threatening wounds of her own and yet still saving those under her care. She is, in a word, a kick-ass heroine with a gentle, broken soul. One of my favorite heroines in a long time.

Sarah and Ethan’s next exciting adventure in Afghanistan, Degree of Risk, will be out in March and I have already preordered it. As I rarely ever do that, you can be ascertained that I highly recommend this book to readers of military suspense/romance.

This is another book which I received from Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way influences my review. All thoughts and comments are my own. I must say, though – it is definitely NOT one of the better covers out there. Instead of a woman and a Black Hawk, which would be appropriate, you get a picture of a guy in a T-shirt. Pffft. Sexist. That’s why you are seeing pictures of a Black Hawk and a WOMAN Black Hawk Pilot instead of the stupid looking cover of the book!

New Reviews: The Bite Back Series by Mark Henwick – INCREDIBLE!!!!

There is always something special about a new book in a favorite series coming out. I get to read the previous editions before reading the newest. It draws me back into the story, reminding me of things I may have forgotten, and building the characters back up in my mind.

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Wild Card – Book Three – Bite Back Series

I just finished re-reading the first two books of The Amber Farrell Series, and then had the pure and distinct privilege of reading the newest Wild Card. Siiiiiggghhhhh…… OK, Mark, ready for the next!

Re-reading Slight of Hand and Hidden Trump was actually even more enjoyable this time than the first time(s) I read them. Maybe because I am always so unutterably thrilled every time one comes out that I literally inhale the books, cover to cover, without taking time to really slow down and enjoy. It feels much like being lost in the desert for days, and then being offered a cool, clean drink of water. The tendency is to gulp the water down, no matter how good it tastes.

This time, I did things differently. I drank slowly, in small sip, holding the cool inside my mouth, tasting and enjoying. And this time? The excellence of the vintage truly overwhelmed me. I’m not kidding. Not exaggerating. Mark really is that good. His stories are urban fantasy that is true. However, they are so much more than that. Mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, and a literary world of endless wonder. And that is just the stories. The technical excellence, the prose itself, is beautifully done, drawing you into a new and slightly different world than our own. A world where wonder and pain blend into a new and deeply touching reality.

Amber Farrell is unlike the ‘typical’ UF heroine. She was an Army grunt, specializing in the type of dirty ops that no one wants to do, but everyone needs done. And she is a patriot, doing her duty without complaint, following the rules, leading her team, morning the loss of any of her team who doesn’t make it. She is strong, vital, and in charge.

And then things go horribly, horribly wrong.

sleight of hand
Book One – Bite Back Series
Click to Order!

Betrayed by the government, by her team and her leaders, Amber is pushed out of the fold, spied upon and mistrusted for reasons beyond her control. For Amber is something different – a survivor of a hideous attack in the jungles of South America that left her team dead and her own throat torn out. Damage that healed within five days, and left Amber something more than human.

The Amber Farrell story is amazing. Broad in scope, fast paced, and as I said before, extremely well written. It doesn’t really matter what genre you prefer – as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter what you like, because you are really going to love these books. In Sleight of Hand we meet Amber as she is a private investigator in Denver, scraping along in her job and reporting occasionally to Colonel Laine, her old boss, to undergo blood tests – blood tests to decide if it is time for Amber to go back to be locked into a windowless cell, far below the earth, to be studied and dissected by secret government medical teams. The story starts out with a bang, and continues at a breathless pace, much like the works of James Rollins, where the actions pile up upon one another. However, unlike the uberfast pace of Rollins or Cussler, the story is the thing with Henwick. Ambers character starts out well and continues to develop through all three books. And she has a lot of development that she must handle. For she is even more than was once thought. She is becoming Athanate, the truth of the vampire tales, after her attack in South America. But there is more, a great deal more, for her to face. And to survive.

hidden trump
Book Two – Bite Back Series
Click to Order!

Book Two, Hidden Trump picks up the story with a bang, as Amber slips away from a horrendous battle, filled with death and destruction, sliding away before the FBI, and other, more unknown and even more deadly agencies, manage to capture her. For things are getting more and more dangerous for Amber, as well as for her friends. Her life is changing, sometimes violently, into something she no longer understands. And there are those out there who would capture her and turn her to their own needs – no matter what it does to Amber or her friends and family. War is coming – War beyond anything the world has ever seen.

Now, we are blessed with Book Three, Wild Card. Things were rough for Amber in Book Two, as her physical and mental changes, her lifestyle and the mysterious powers and peoples around her threaten her mind, body, and soul. Who can she trust? Or can she truly trust anyone at all? Again, the action is fast and furious, but the character development and story continue to grow and expand in an exceptional manner.  You are drawn breathlessly and with deep excitement into a story that is one of the most well written and creative available today. Layers and layers of story, character development and world building makes this a must not miss tale. Pamper yourself – read the books. You will not be disappointed!!!!!!

raw deal
Raw Deal – The Prequel to The Bite Back Series
Click to Order, and read first!

Oh, and don’t forget – Raw Deal. This prequel to the Bite Back series introduces you to Amber, and tells the story of her first contact with The Athanate in Denver. Just as exciting as the rest of the series, I would recommend that you start with the prequel, though it was printed later than the first two. It is simply amazing, just as the rest of the books are!

 

 

JINGLE BELLS, BABY!!!!!!! AMBER FARRELL IS BACK IN TOWN!!!

Wild_Card_Cover_04_WithTitles
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Let Amber Farrell be your Christmas Present to yourself and to ALL of your friends, family, neighbors – heck, even your dog! Amber Farrell is how I am spending my Christmas Eve!

Happy Christmas Eve, Amber!!!

I am sitting down right now to start reading Wild Card – Book Four of the Amber Farrell series by Mark Henwick. Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about Mark’s series and can’t say enough good about it.

Also, I have a confession, I have had the book a couple days, and by rights should have posted this notice before now…. Lay it down to being immediately dropped into rereading the first three in the series and totally losing all good sense when I owed Mark the courtesy of posting this on MONDAY…. I am SUCH a JERK! But I am doing it now, and as it is Christmas Eve, here you go, Mark – and I hope you can forgive me.

To everyone else out there in my reading public – – – it’s Christmas Eve, so buy this book for ALL your friends and family, and send it to their electronic stocking —- Oh, and don’t forget to get the first books for yourself and everyone else also:

sleight of hand
Book One! my review is HERE
hidden trump
Book Two! My Review is HERE
raw deal
A Novella, the Prequel to Bite Back – read it next! My review is HERE

And Happy Ho Ho Ho!!!!!

Raw Deal: The Amber Farrell Prequel – It is Out!


raw deal
“I’d lost my entire team, and nearly lost my life. In a way, I had lost my life, and was left with this—a tightrope walk between hunting down creatures people didn’t believe existed, and being locked up as one.”

It isn’t often that a writer comes along who really hits all my buttons. Of course, I am sort of an oddball myself. I like women characters who can, in a word, kick-ass, take-names, and generally stick up for herself – with a little help from her friends, and without having to have a male holding her hand and making the big-bad go away with her cheering him on. I like women characters with depth, who have a backstory that is tough, but that she makes it through on her own.

Amber is definitely tough, but she is also a good person, with heart and soul and a deep desire to do the right thing. She doesn’t lay down and cry because her life has gone into the toilet, but she doesn’t take it out on others, either. She is the kind of person that others immediately trust and believe in.

In this prequel to the Amber Farrell “Bite Back” series, Amber’s life is something of a walk through the fun house mirrors. Nothing is as it seems, only when it is. Her life has been turned upside down, ripped apart, and stomped on a few times for good measure by a government she once trusted. She is back “home” doing a job she never expected, with Big Brother watching over her shoulder, waiting with baited breath to snatch her back to a cold, concrete cell, never again to see the light of day, victim to needles and knives. It is enough to make the strongest woman cringe a bit.

If you have read the Bite Back series, this will give you the back story on Amber’s introduction back into Denver’s seedier side. If this is the first you have heard about Amber, grab this novella first, then move on to Sleight of Handsleight of hand

then on to Hidden Trumphidden trump

This is a killer series about a woman who is strong enough to know what she wants and goes after it, without walking all over everyone to get there. Buy the books (this one is FREE) and read them. You won’t be disappointed.

Hidden Trump (Bite Back #2) Mark Henwick

hidden trumpWhen I first read Sleight of Hand: Bite Back Book 1 (Volume 1), the first book by Mark Henwick, I was, in a word, thrilled. Yes, there are a lot of unknown authors out there, many self published, and many very good. Mark, however, knocked the ball out of the park in his freshman entry into the crowded field of urban fantasy.

Mark’s exceptional grasp of character development is the first thing that gripped my attention. His main character, Amber, is a fully three-dimensional character, with a strong back story. She felt, in SoH, like someone I could see myself knowing and liking. She wasn’t an overblown character by any means, but she was tough, centered, and above all she feels ‘real’ in an unreal situation. I was very, very excited, and could hardly wait to read the next in Mark’s series. Thank goodness I read it ‘late’ i.e., not long before the next book was due to be released. It would have been a killer to have to wait a whole year for the next! (OF course, now I have to wait for the next, siiiiiggggghhhhh)

The very first day Hidden Trump became available, I sat down and started to read – and didn’t put it down until 5:47 the next morning . . .(*yawn*) I kept meaning to put it down, really I did – I did manage to feed the pups, but not to feed myself! Go to bed? Nah, just one more page. . . one more . . . one more. . .

“Hidden Trump” picks up the same day as the ending of SoH, and the excitement doesn’t stop. There is plenty of action to Mark’s books, both SoH and HT, and it keeps you riveted to the page. However, unlike other books of the genre the action is, even though it includes werewolves, Athanate and Adepts (oh, my!) amazingly believable. While she is ‘becoming’ (and that, in itself, is absolutely fascinating – one of the most creative bits of character development/mythos building I have run across in a very, very long time) and she is both strong and fast, she still takes her share of hits both emotional and physical.

There are a couple of what some would call ‘oddball’ things about Mark’s work that left me more than a little impressed. You may laugh at what it is – military and political knowledge. I have quite a bit of it myself, and Mark’s knowledge is almost scarily correct, for a ‘Brit’ – LOL. Secret military groups, political machinations, the fleecing of the American public by the rich, drugs and guns and bad guys (oh, my!) Oh, yea, Mark knows his stuff! Sound boring? Believe me, it is anything but. Amber’s interactions with the military that turned their backs on her after ten years of totally dedicated service touched me on a deep level. Her dedication, repaid by betrayal, is the story of the American military/political system. I know, I know, lay off it, this is an urban fantasy, right? Yes, but what I just spoke of is paramount to who Amber is, her motivations, and her deep commitment to helping others.

Mark’s character development is still spot-on, his world is continuously building throughout both books (and I am sure it will be in the next installments also) and is all the more outstanding for it. Mark doesn’t fall into the ‘pure style’ trap that so many other writers seem to fall into. There are background characters in Amber’s life, most especially Top (whose story was learned in SoH) whose history is integral to Amber’s and requires full development as character, even if they sometimes lead away from what is going on at the moment. It all fits together. Mark doesn’t disappoint.

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