THE AWAKENING by Nora Roberts

December 31, 2020

THE AWAKENING by Nora Roberts. St. Martin’s Press (November 24, 2020). ISBN 978-1250272614. 448 pages.

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ROCK OF FREEDOM by Noel Gerson

December 10, 2020

From the publisher:

An enthralling tale of the men and women who left Europe four hundred years ago to found the Plymouth Colony. Perfect for readers of Allan W. Eckert, Paul C.R. Monk and fans of the television series Jamestown.

They have escaped persecution, now they must survive in the New World…

9th November, 1620, aboard the Mayflower.

William Bradford and over one hundred other men and women stand on the deck of the ship that for the last ten weeks has sailed across the breadth of the Atlantic.

On the horizon they can see land … it is America.

They have come to this untamed place with few supplies, inadequate tools, and little experience in wilderness living, but what they do have is an unbreakable desire to build a new life for themselves and their families and faith that whatever may happen is part of God’s divine plan.

But how will they survive their first few months in this strange world as a brutal winter begins to envelop them?

And will the harmony of the Pilgrims, embodied by their newly signed Mayflower Compact, survive as relationships fracture and the stresses and strains of hunger, disease and death begin to take their toll?

Rock of Freedom: The Story of the Plymouth Colony is a thoroughly-researched fictionalized account of the Mayflower voyage and the settling of the Pilgrims in New England. It is a dramatic work of historical fiction that brings the lives of the men and women who made this journey to life.


Noel Gerson was a very prolific author of 325 books, mainly stand-alone novels of history.  He also utilized several pen names to write under and has to his credit best sellers as well as two screenplays.  Most readers will have seen “55 Days at Peking’ either in the theater or on one of its myriad presentations on T.V.

Gerson passed away in 1988 leaving a legacy that will certainly stand for many years.  “Rock of Freedom” is a reprint and is an excellent example of the literature that he presented. It is a fact-based story of the Pilgrims that left Europe in the sixteen hundreds seeking religious freedom in the New World. His bibliography cites various source publications that provide facts about events in the founding of the colony of Plymouth in what was New England. As in most other well-done novels including literary license interpreting a historical situation the interpretation makes it more readable and not at all dry while offering facts about the period and events.     

The author tells the story of the reasoning behind the group known as the Pilgrims leaving their homes which were located in both England and with another group living in Holland and travel 3000 miles to settle in a raw new land. They spent two months at sea in the Mayflower cramped and seasick and sailing through several hurricanes before coming to what was Cape Cod. The group learned to survive in primitive conditions with the possibility of attacks by tribes of native Americans always hanging over their heads.       

The writing and style are well done as I remember them being when I first came across Gerson thanks to a recommendation by one of my teachers who devoured his books. I certainly recommend that the reader try this novel and then seek out more when they are reprinted as I trust they will be.

12/2020 Paul Lane

ROCK OF FREEDOM by Noel Gerson. Sapere Books (October 5, 2020). ISBN: 978-1800550933. 184 pages.

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MCGARVEY by David Hagberg

December 8, 2020

From the publisher:

A Kirk McGarvey Novel, Book 25

“The grand master of the contemporary thriller.” ―Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author

When Kirk McGarvey investigates the mysterious death of his parents so many years ago, he uncovers long-buried secrets that put him head to head and mano a mano with . . . Vladimir Putin.

After Mac calls Putin out, the Russian dictator decides he wants him dead. Battling Russian hit squads as well as enemies at home, McGarvey must fight like the devil to save himself, his friends, and the US of A in this engrossing international thriller from David Hagberg.


Kirk McGarvey is a long time employee of the CIA. He is depicted as having held several positions during his tenure including the head of the company. He has had an adventurous existence including divorce, the killing of his family, and his mother and father. He has found a new love with marriage to Pete, the woman. Pete happens to also be a member of the CIA and David Hagberg is able to include her along with Kirk in his work for the company.     

What has never been successfully answered is why his mother and father were killed. They both worked for the US government and were reputed to have built a defensive instrument that would have been able to negate missile attacks by Russia. The supposition at the time of their murders was that it was done by Russia to prevent the actual building of the instrument placing them at a disadvantage in the cold war with the U.S.     

Now years later it looks like Russia is attempting to assassinate McGarvey with the circumstances appearing to have a connection with the device his parents were working on. Moving into action, one of the first things Kirk does is actually place a call to Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator and declare war on him. Now this, of course, galvanizes Putin into ramping up the attack on McGarvey. The reactions of both Kirk and the Russians charged with killing him as well as his wife are described in a manner that ratchets up the action to a level that simply keeps the reader glued to the pages and awaiting the ending with proverbial bated breath.      

With Putin involved with attempting to assassinate Kirk, the action runs swiftly between points in the United States and then into Russia where Putin is encountered and the climax is neatly set up. Wanting more of this type of action it is sad to note that Hagberg passed away after a lifetime of writing spy and counterespionage novels under his own name as well as several others, including Sean Flannery. He will certainly be missed although there are a sufficient number of novels to keep a reader busy catching up on this very prolific author’s work.

12/2020 Paul Lane

MCGARVEY by David Hagberg. Forge Books (November 24, 2020). ISBN: 978-0765394200. 336 pages.

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DAYLIGHT by David Baldacci

December 4, 2020

From the publisher:

Atlee Pine Thrillers, Book 3

FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s search for her sister Mercy clashes with military investigator John Puller’s high-stakes case, leading them both deep into a global conspiracy — from which neither of them will escape unscathed.

For many long years, Atlee Pine was tormented by uncertainty after her twin sister, Mercy, was abducted at the age of six and never seen again. Now, just as Atlee is pressured to end her investigation into Mercy’s disappearance, she finally gets her most promising breakthrough yet: the identity of her sister’s kidnapper, Ito Vincenzo.

With time running out, Atlee and her assistant Carol Blum race to Vincenzo’s last known location in Trenton, New Jersey — and unknowingly stumble straight into John Puller’s case, blowing his arrest during a drug ring investigation involving a military installation.

Stunningly, Pine and Puller’s joint investigation uncovers a connection between Vincenzo’s family and a breathtaking scheme that strikes at the very heart of global democracy. Peeling back the layers of deceit, lies and cover-ups, Atlee finally discovers the truth about what happened to Mercy. And that truth will shock Pine to her very core.


In my long and pleasant experience reading novels written by David Baldacci, I have never come upon one that doesn’t capture the attention of the reader at the incept of the book. Nor one that disappoints with a badly conceived plot. “Daylight” continues this practice which makes the first recommendation I have is to get some coffee ready, get comfortable, and be prepared to read until finished.     

Two of the author’s main protagonists are combined in a conspiracy that reaches to the very pinnacle of the U.S. government, overseas, and throughout the 50 states. Atlee Pine is an FBI agent with years of experience and considered by her supervisors as a crack operator. She is assigned to an office in the interior section of the 48 contiguous states, but with permission, and to continue work on her cases has traveled far afield. As a 6-year-old she was subjected to the trauma of her parents being killed, and her twin sister Mercy being kidnapped. It has been 30 years since last seeing her sibling and at the opening of the novel, she requests a few days to investigate Mercy’s possible whereabouts and of course, if she is still alive.   

John Puller is a member of the U.S. Army and is an active military investigator. He has been working on an investigation of a case involving illegal practices at a large army base located in New Jersey. Not too strangely Atlee has come to New Jersey to pick up on the possible whereabouts of her missing sister and she and John Puller find that there are common factors in both of their investigations. They decide to pool their resources and in doing so come upon a conspiracy involving highly placed officials of the U.S. government, as well as many extremely wealthy and influential men and women. It is realized by both Puller and Pine that the arrangement if made public would shake the very foundations of the nation.  The first intimation is made when Puller calls upon a contact of his for help, a highly placed member of the military chiefs of staff, and finds that the man has been suddenly transferred out of his post at the Pentagon with only one day’s notice. This action signals that the conspiracy has reached a level that would be at the very apex of the U.S. government.     

The action is constant for both Atlee and Puller. They can be hurt and require recuperation time showing that they are human and not supermen. Baldacci easily pulls his readers into empathy for both. Pine is anguished into finding out if her missing sister is alive and where she is if so.  Puller causes a problem for his brother who was asked to help with some fact-finding. John is human in worrying about him when he loses contact and fears for his safety. An excellent and engrossing read and another milestone in the literary career of David Baldacci.

12/2020 Paul Lane

DAYLIGHT by David Baldacci. Grand Central Publishing (November 17, 2020). ISBN: 978-1538761694. 416 pages.

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HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT by Jeffrey Archer

November 3, 2020

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From the publisher:

William Warwick Novels, Book 2

Jeffrey Archer’s Hidden in Plain Sight is the second novel featuring Detective William Warwick, by the master storyteller and #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Clifton Chronicles

William Warwick has been promoted to Detective Sergeant, but his promotion means that he, along with the rest of his team, have been reassigned to the Drugs Squad. They are immediately tasked with apprehending Khalil Rashidi, a notorious drug dealer, who operates his extensive network out of South London.

As the investigation progresses, William runs into enemies old and new: Adrian Heath, from his school days, now a street dealer who he convinces to turn informer; and financier Miles Faulkner, who makes a mistake that could finally see him put behind bars. Meanwhile, William and his fiancée Beth enjoy making preparations for their upcoming wedding, though an unpleasant surprise awaits them at the altar.

As William’s team closes the net around a criminal network like none they have ever faced before, he devises a trap they would never expect, one that is hidden in plain sight . . .


This is the author’s second book featuring William Warwick, a man that has chosen a career with Scotland Yard rather than the path his father had been in favor of for him. His father was one of the top attorneys in England and would have gladly taken his son into his practice and helped him rise to the top of that profession. William stuck to his guns and book two finds him earning his first promotion with the police to Detective Sergeant . The new post sees him and his squad reassigned to the Drug division and tasked with the arrest and prosecution of Ahmed Rashidi a top tier drug lord with tentacles throughout south London. In pursuing Rashidi he also becomes involved with Miles Faulkner a very wealthy financier and one also mixed up in the drug world.

While working on police business William is seen moving on with the personal life touched on in book one. Beth, the girl he met while investigating art skullduggery in the first book now becomes his wife. Their honeymoon to Rome is described and much made of Williams leaving his wife behind before the planned trip is complete to return to England to help capture Faulkner. The action provides more insight into Wiliam’s commitment to his chosen work. And, of course Beth’s understanding that her rival for her husband is his profession.

Faulkner is brought before the court to stand trial for his crimes. William’s father is the prosecutor in the case, and is assisted by Wiliam’s sister who is given her first chance to question a defendant on trial; doing a commendable job. Mr. Archer provides the reader with a description of the trial’s events, the thoughts and actions of both the prosecution and the defense and describes the maneuvering that takes place in any trial that seeks to prove guilt or innocence of a defendant.

It is no surprise when the ending of the novel sets up book three of the series with a small prelude of the basis for the impending police action.

11/2020 Paul Lane

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT by Jeffrey Archer. St. Martin’s Press (November 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250200785. 304 pages.

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THE FARM by Max Annas

October 17, 2020

From the publisher:

Eight Hours. Minute by Minute.

Somewhere in South Africa, a farm comes under heavy attack. No shooters in sight. Only one thing is certain: The attackers are savagely resolute. A diverse group of people barricade themselves inside the farmhouse: black and white; women, men, and children; bosses and workers; a police officer; random visitors. Who is the target of the attack? What has motivated it? Politics? Revenge? Greed? Drugs? Weapons? But do the people outside know more than those indoors? The snipers who are trying to operate in the dark of night? Who will die, who will survive? Who is pulling the strings? Who will be the winners, who will be the losers? And how long can eight hours actually be?

Eight hours, minute by minute. Constant changes in perspective, piercing precision. An explosive mixture of psychological thriller and Neo-western with a political subtext.


A story that is set in South Africa revolving around a situation that realistically could take place anywhere.  Max Annas has written a short novel dealing with a series of events that could very well be the depiction of a battle in a war.  The plot involves a raid on a farm in South Africa and without immediately indicating the reason for the attack goes over the characters involved.  These include the attackers and also the people at the farm that have to defend themselves from the onslaught.  As in any military engagement there is no collective thinking about reasons, or questioning of why it occurred at that location and at the time it did.
 
Action begins as the owner of the farm is talking to a salesman that has been calling on him for a long time. Suddenly there is a shot from outside the perimeter of the farm killing the salesman.  People living there and some visiting quickly gather together to adopt defensive positions and give out the guns that they have stored in case ever necessary.  Mr. Annas has done an excellent job in telling his story at the same time that he describes the confusion that runs rampant.  Those in the house which is where the defenders have gathered as well as the attackers outside wanting to break in.
 
The leader of the attackers knows why they are there and what they want, but none of his gang are privy to this and only are aware of the money they are promised at a successful conclusion for them.  The defenders, including his family question the farm’s owner and he professes that there is really no hidden reason.  There is an amount of cash, some jewelry and a few valuable items but nothing that could warrant an attack by the group that came against them.
 
Due to the area the farm is located in there is only sporadic cell phone service and main lines have been cut by the attackers. The police cannot be called and people living in the same area are too distant to hear the gunshots and become aware of the attack.  The people inside the house come up with plans to sneak outside and creeping up on the marauders shoot them.  The reactions of the raiders and those coming out after them are described and results and any knowledge of the results becomes problematic since the raid takes place in the dead of night with no lighting present.
 
The novel is a short one, and while in the definite category of an all nighter is finished in one very satisfying read.  The novel is currently in process of being developed for filming in South Africa and should quite a draw on that basis as well.

10/2020 Paul Lane

THE FARM by Max Annas. Catalyst Press (September 15, 2020). ISBN: 978-1946395221. 184 pages.

 

 

 

 


BLOOD WORLD by Chris Mooney

October 6, 2020

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From the publisher:

Everything changed when scientists discovered the drug. It looked like the cure for aging, but all progress comes with a price tag. Now, eternal youthfulness will be paid for by the blood of the innocent. 

The blood of “carriers” is the most valuable commodity on earth. When treated with a new wonder drug, it cures disease, increases power, and makes the recipient a virtual superman.

It also makes the carriers targets. Young people with the right genes are ripped from their families and stashed in “blood farms.”

Ellie Batista became an LAPD officer specifically to fight this evil as a member of the Blood Squad, but her ambitions are thwarted—until the day she and her partner are ambushed during a routine stop. The resulting events plunge her into an undercover world more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Because a madman has found a way to increase the potency of the blood to levels previously unimagined. As he cuts a bloody swath through the already deadly world of blood cartels, Ellie is the only hope to stop him before the body count explodes.


Throughout the history of the world, any commodity that becomes valuable beyond the range of it’s worth as a single item develops a black-market selling at a much higher price than on the regular market. This is done to hasten the delivery of the item for those that don’t want to wait and to bring the item to a group unable to get it on the regulated sales avenue. Chris Mooney sets such an item up as the most valuable commodity ever discovered.  It is blood from a select group of carriers that when treated can bring to recipients a longer and much healthier life than ever available. This makes the carriers a group to be preyed upon. When discovered they become subject to kidnapping and either death by draining or a life of captivity as a donor where their masters charge fortunes to customers looking for the treated blood. The carriers of the blood become targets for people taking them away from their lives keeping them on a “blood farm”
Ellie Batista has joined the Los Angeles Police Department specifically to become part of the Blood Squad and help fight the incidence of blood farms and exploitation of those captured by people to be placed on the farms.  It is a path that is not quickly open to a newcomer such as Ellie, but fate intervenes when the man she is first partnered with is killed in the line of duty. The circumstances allow her to convince her supervisors to permit her to enter the department as an undercover agent. Ellie has an excellent personal reason to want to work with the Blood Squad as we discover that her twin brother was kidnapped as a baby due to having the blood type making him a donor.  The rumors circulating about him are that he is still alive after many years and possibly being held on a blood farm.
Ellie’s work as an undercover agent is fraught with danger and the distinct possibility of her being killed.  To also add to the factors, she must weigh in her decision the meeting with another police officer with whom she falls in love.  It appears that he is going to ask her to marry him but her working undercover is a detriment to any attachment.  The author depicts Ellie with all the factors weighing upon her and her very normal approach to handling her ambivalent situation with all the doubts and second-guessing that any person would face.

10/2020 Paul Lane

BLOOD WORLD by Chris Mooney. Berkley (August 18, 2020). ISBN: 978-0593197639. 448 pages.

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SHIELD OF THE RISING SUN by Adam Lofthouse

October 4, 2020

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Path of Nemesis, Book 3

From the publisher:

War still rages at the edge of empire while centurion Albinus Silus fights at its beating heart.

Gone is the boy who joined the legions. What remains is a man torn apart by the savagery of battle, the heartache of lost love.

He does not know what became of his wife, and now he must balance being both a soldier and a father.

And yet, for all his pain, he shall have to endure more than he ever thought he could. His valour in the northern wars has not gone unnoticed, and now he is to be given a special mission.

Marcus Aurelius’ star falls with his health. One day the sun will rise on his successor and son, Commodus. But he must be ready, must know what it is to lead. Centurion Albinus has been chosen to educate him.

From Pannonia to Rome, to the far reaches of the east, Albinus must protect Commodus from enemies both inside the empire and out.

Can he keep the Caesar safe? Can he nurture him, teach him what it is to be a man? Can he be the Shield of the Rising Sun?

The perfect next series for fans of Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow.


This is the third of three novels set in the Rome of the first and second centuries A.D. The stories revolve about the career of a soldier that fought for the Roman empire during a lifetime spent as a professional warrior attached to one of the legions that comprised the army of that nation. I did not have the opportunity to read the first two and did miss some of the actions described in which Albinus Silus, the soldier described took part in. While pertinent events were described in retrospect it would have been better to read the books as the character and feelings of Silus are carefully outlined. Additionally, based on this book I did miss literature of an excellent nature.

Albinus’ wife had to flee her marriage; a decision described in a previous book and leaving a son to be raised by one parent. He is still looking for her but tied to his enlistment in the army. During a battle with attacking Germanic tribes, Albinus distinguishes himself by stopping an attack by the enemy using a unique means to do so. The battle took place in the midst of winter across the frozen Danube and Albinus stops the enemy by chopping up the ice in front of a charge by them. His action is noted by Marcus Aurelius, the ruler of Rome who rewards him by making him the protector of his son, Commodus, who is next in line to rule the nation.

The novel continues with Albinus’ actions to protect Commodus as well as raising his son in the midst of an adventurous career as a professional soldier. Lofthouse has done the research necessary to bring to life a tumultuous period for the Roman empire with the rise in Christianity and many wars enveloping the nation.

A well-done engrossing novel even if not read in conjunction with the first two.

10/2020 Paul Lane

SHIELD OF THE RISING SUN by Adam Lofthouse. Lume Books (October 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1839011979. 304 pages.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig

September 29, 2020

9/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch


The most difficult part of doing a review of Matt Haig’s latest book is to properly classify it. On one hand, it is a very well-done fantasy novel lending itself to one very satisfying all-night read. On the other hand, it is very probably an introduction to the author’s philosophy of life that he wishes to impart to his readers. However, take it is a mesmerizing book; a true all-nighter, and a great example of the writings of an author that is truly at the top of his game. One way or another Haig’s books will be looked for as they are published.

Nora Seed is found at a point that she is seriously thinking of killing herself because she is totally dissatisfied with her life. She has the feeling that nothing she wanted has been achieved and her life is a failure. She is suddenly transported to a gigantic library staffed by only one person and with no other patrons aside from Nora present. The librarian, who looks like the person that worked at the school Nora went to explains that this library containing millions of books consists of accounts of all the possibilities Nora’s life can take. Before she goes ahead with doing away with herself, she should start reading books that are about every alternative that Nora’s life can follow.

The story takes Nora and the reader through different scenarios of life, based on wishes she had while growing up and never acted upon. Events in these alternative lives are described along with Nora’s reactions. There are episodes in which she was married to a movie star, another where is an arctic explorer and has a run-in with a polar bear. In another, she is married to her high school crush, and another that sees her moving to Australia from her home in England with a friend of hers that did so.

The ending follows Nora’s reactions to each sequence and how it affects her. Whichever sequence the reader believes the novel is it is well written and quickly captures the personalities of Nora and other characters populating the book.

10/2020 Paul Lane

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig. Viking (September 29, 2020). ISBN 978-0525559474. 304p.

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FLASHBACK by T. R. Davis

June 11, 2020

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Flashpoint, Book 1

From the publisher:

Sarah is a thirteen year old girl who starts experiencing memories that are thousands of years old.

She is initially confused when vivid memories from an unknown woman suddenly manifest within her mind when she’s threatened with danger. She uses the knowledge in those memories to help her get out of trouble.

But a DNA swab exposing a unique gene has brought her to the attention of a company that specializes in genetic research. Sarah eagerly seizes the chance for a better life and the fact that she must share her memories as a condition of being accepted in a research project doesn’t raise any red flags for her. Not yet.

Over time, Sarah discovers she is a direct descendant of Innogen, a woman who lived during the time of the Roman invasion of The British Isles. Despite the excitement and confusion this knowledge engenders, Sarah is enjoying the life of a typical teenage girl, including a budding romance, when she realizes that many of her new friends also have ancestral memories. Sarah suspects the project’s probing questions mask a hidden agenda and that the students’ memories are central to a secret goal, but what is it?

What Sarah doesn’t know is that the company doesn’t exactly have the best interests of their young charges in mind. They have a more sinister purpose, and they don’t mind if it costs a few students their lives along the way.


Flashback is a well-done story about the possibility of “Ancestral Memory” being passed down via genetic transfer. It deals with a science fiction theme in which descendants of historically famous people could be found with the aid of the mapping of the human genome. The events occurring in the life of the ancestor might be available as memories in the current generation.

Sarah is a thirteen-year-old orphan that has been moved frequently through the uncaring foster care system in Canada. She has had no parents to love and has only the prospect of more of the same. At the opening of the story, an anthropological expedition has unearthed the burial ground of three people in England; two males and one female. By judicious process of elimination, the female is found to be that of Boudica who was a warrior Queen of her tribe living in England during the first century A.D. She led her people in battles against the invading Roman armies enjoying some success holding off the conquerors at many points.

The leader of the expedition finding the remains contacts a company that is looking into the genetic analysis of possibly famous people. The firm investigating the DNA found on the bodies and does actually find a prospect living today that might be a possibility to carry Ancestral memories of Boudica and her life.

Sarah does have the genetic disposition to carry such memories. She is contacted by the company investigating these memories and taken into a school that they sponsor. When Sarah is encouraged to accept her memories, she first thinks she is daydreaming but then begins to react as a warrior would when facing physical violence without any training in the martial arts.

T.R. Davis does not overly dwell on the science he writes about but does explain in layman’s terms the possibility of genome mapping supplying many benefits for the human race. These do include better information to fight disease, physical deformities, and other maladies plaguing mankind. The reader is given enough information to understand what the author needs understood to tell his story. A fast read and one that does grab the reader’s attention and keeps it until the end. Certainly guaranteeing that Davis’ next books will be looked for and enjoyed.

6/2020 Paul Lane

FLASHBACK by T. R. Davis. T.R. Davis (April 30, 2020). ISBN: 978-1775382560. 426 p.