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The Incidental Jihadi: An Alternative Point

It is easy to forget that war torn countries are actually homes to some people. All I ever hear is of the fighters. I never hear of the people who watch beheadings happen so close to home. People who have gotten used to the smell of gunpowder. People who are no longer fazed by the sound of bullets cutting through the air. People whose mere presence amidst the chaos has made them parties in the war.

The Incidental Jihadi is a story about Len who later becomes Naim. Len is a geologist working at an oil exploration company. All is well with his family until he is sent on a risky exploration mission. A mission that will forever change the trajectory of his life and that of his family. He must liberate his family and therefore joins the war. He manages to sneak Omarm, his son, to safety. He cannot live in bliss though as he has to go back in for another try. Will he succeed in an endeavor that has little hope of success?

This is a very well told story full of excellent detail. You can almost smell the desperation and hatred in the air. You can feel the aggression. Samrat Mitra tells such a vivid account of events that the reader finds themselves plunged deep into the heart of war torn Middle Eastern locations. The reader will find themselves lost in a fight that very few understand anymore. A war whose collateral damage seems to be worsening with every line they read. It flows easily. In the author’s note at the back, Samrat says that this book is a depiction of actual events. The reader will be able to feel the air of reality, however unbelievable, in this story.

The author also seems to have a sober political mind. There is understanding of the political element of the events that take place. However, emotion seems to get away from him as he essentially calls some parties ignorant. Though somewhat truthful, it brings out the author’s passion and gives the book character.

This book may need some polishing but the passion and compelling plot overshadow whatever writing errors one might encounter. You will experience a cornucopia of emotions as this book delivers an alternative view that will urge you to think about a different aspect of the wars.

Pages: 333 | ASIN: B073R5GQTV

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The Emerald Cave

The Emerald Cave (Ramsey Series Book 3) by [McPike, James]

The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is a fast novel. It’s not fast in the sense that it’s a short read. Rather, The Emerald Cave works by having prose and plotting that takes readers for a whirlwind of a story that involves action, firefights, terrorists, heists, and a dozen other elements that contribute to an engaging and incredibly engrossing novel. Being the third in its series, The Emerald Cave follows the story of Vince Ramsey, an Israeli detective searching for an arms dealer whose whereabouts are murky at best. He enlists the help of April Fulton, an expert on historical artifacts, and the two set off on an epic investigative chase that brings them from one part of the world to the another, with obstacles and betrayal meeting them each step of the way. The book is fast, and it starts off with a tense standoff initiated by terrorists of the Hezbollah organization. From there, the plot takes no chances, pushing onward with a feverish speed that helps heighten the book’s sense of urgency and impact. This is juxtaposed by appropriately placed moments of quiet that allows both the characters and the readers to ponder on events as they unfurl.

Beyond these points, The Emerald Cave shines in its effective usage of characterization. The relationship between April Fulton and Vince Ramsey highlight a realistic dynamic that allows the two to play off one another. Sequences in which the two work together in solving a puzzle or identifying various clues reveal key differences in the characters’ logical approaches and methodologies that help make each character feel individual. In certain moments, I found myself working out these puzzles with April and Vince, identifying my own thought processes and “aha!” moments in conjunction with their own. At the same time, there is a clear sense of growth these two protagonists go through as the novel moves forward and while some trends are easy to note, this sense of maturity one finds is rare in many stories today. This characterization is aided by James B. McPike’s effective prose. Sentences are generally terse and filled with the details necessary for the story. Long, drawn-out sections are rare to find and each word McPike utilizes is one that is necessary for the story being conveyed. This helps create a tense atmosphere that works incredibly well with the fast plotting designed by McPike.

As a whole, The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is an incredible story that doesn’t let up. Events fly at neck-breaking speeds while readers becoming connected with the protagonists as everyone tries to uncover the mysteries and secrets the story presents. While the story could have used some additional quiet moments in order to allow the reader to collect themselves before continuing onward, The Emerald Cove remains an engrossing piece. The stories narrative design and effective characterization makes this story an incredible journey and an enjoyable ride.

Pages: 215 | ASIN: B07DSRKWR1

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Going Dark

Going Dark (Gabriel Jets Book 1) by [Grace, Jolene]

Amelia Sinclair, a foreign correspondent liaison for CWG news network, had worked on the bottom floor of the UN in a renovated steam-room for the last four years. Upon receiving a suspicious email with the subject line as her name written in Farsi, she opened the link embedded within to see a horrifying video. Fellow journalists, whom she knew personally, confronted with masked assailants. Going Dark follows Amelia as she tries to help her fellow journalists, one of which, whom she was very close to.

Simultaneously, the beginnings of a media frenzy are in the works as the government tries to prevent a leak of the video. To add to the chaos, a bomb detonates in Damascus, just outside of the hotel where the journalists had been staying before they were kidnapped. With 25 pronounced dead in Damascus, 4 American journalists kidnapped, and a seemingly related murder of a man on the streets of Brooklyn, everyone is on high-alert.

The author, Jolene Grace, gives two distinct perspectives throughout the novel. The first is the journey of Amelia Sinclair, from the UN basement level media department to a loft in Brooklyn. The reporter finds herself hurried along by her superiors as she tries her best to protect her fellow journalists who are held captive; whilst she herself is considered to be a suspect in their detainment.

The second perspective is from the inside of The White House, where the President is working on how to spin the situation to his advantage to gain a second term, whilst others are trying to hurry the CIA to gather intelligence. Equally, discussions are being had as to who to bribe and who can be trusted. This gives the novel a lot of freedom to explore espionage on multiple levels. An example of these two perspectives working together is when a sniper takes aim at Amelia Sinclair; Agent Jets is nearby and tries to help, whereas from inside the white house he has dropped off the radar.

Going Dark is full of tension, built up by a switching of perspectives at crucial moments, allowing the reader to hear both sides of the story. As the government tries to keep a lid on the story that numerous media outlets are trying to expose to the public, the reporter Amelia Sinclair tries to save her fellow reporters whilst being hunted down.

The reader, the characters and at times Amelia herself, question why she received the video in the first place. However, we also get the sense that she knows more than she is letting on. Among the possibility that there’s a government mole, leaked CIA safe-house locations, government tracking and a sniper on one’s doorstep, it’s hard to know who is the ‘good guy’ and who to trust.

Through it all there is a real sense of connection with the characters. For instance, Amelia is plunged into a situation where everything seems out of control. Sitting in a Philadelphia CIA stash-house and all she wants to do is call home to her daughter, Ava, and make sure she’s safe.

Jolene Grace creates so much tension in the book as none of the characters know, or at least don’t seem to know, the full story of what is going on. The author develops the characters superbly, and a real sense of empathy is created. But there is a fragility in knowing them as it’s hard to tell if they will live to see the next chapter or not. Everyone is at risk and everyone is on high-alert.

Pages: 399 | ASIN: B07H8WV36R

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Kidnapped: A Personal Account of John Doe #2, Oklahoma Bombing, April 19, 1995

This is a personal account of a young women’s journey of being kidnapped and surviving dangerous encounters with this man. Juan Carlos Parraga. From Carlos’s personal connections to El Salvador and his training by Che Guevara as a young boy of fourteen in the jungles of Guatemala. Carlos is a violent man destined to live on the edges of crime and violence. Judith not being allowed to communicate with others lives in silence but is observant of all activities he did around her. Changing her name to save her life and living a secluded life to protect herself from being kidnapped and murdered by Carlos was her life after being his victim. Realization of how dangerous he became was revealed on April 19, 1995, as Judith watched the unfolding and recognition of Juan Carlos Parraga as John Doe #2. Judith turning him into the FBI and letting him go her home in White Rock, British Columbia was arson with the intent to murder her per the RCMP investigation.

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Two Down: The Inconvenient Truth

Two Down: The Inconvenient Truth by [Perkins, Suzetta]

Two Down: The Inconvenient Truth, written by Suzetta Perkins is a book which draws the reader into an entangled mess of classified government secrets and the trials and tribulations of military relationships. Military wife Persenia is married to Brigadier General Reggie, who’s been committing adultery for years, and she’s just about had enough of it. Fueled by a meeting with the woman she suspects to be his lover, she vows to divorce him and drag his name through the mud. But, this is all before he is called away on urgent business in the Middle East, where ISIS are increasing their presence.

Perkins narrates the story from a number of different viewpoints – mainly Persenia’s, but also from Reggie’s and Rasheed – a terrorist. The relationships are complicated and fiery, full of arguments and strife. Without the different narrators, it would be hard to keep up – but the variety allows a range of different perspectives. It doesn’t stop readers being on Persenia’s side though and feeling sorry for the women of the story, who are regularly messed around on by their husbands.

The book is an emotional one, powered by lots of strong feelings – thoughts of jealousy, revenge, and anger. But through this, we can see there had once been a lot of love in the ruined relationships, and can’t help but feel sad at the loss. Throughout, it’s easy to find yourself getting involved, which is a testament to how well the book is written. There does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel with a suggestion of real love forming, amidst a story full of unhealthy relationships and immoral behavior.

Alongside the emotional turmoil is the contrasting stoic, male-dominated world of the military. Persenia is known for her upstanding reputation as a wife and party planner and has been Reggie’s rock, supporting him whilst he has built his career. This draws a comparison to what occurs behind different types of closed doors – such as people’s homes and in classified military offices. To the people looking in, Persenia and Reggie’s relationship is perfect and strong, and the government officers are handling the issues in the Middle East. From the outside, it all seems to be in hand. The issues that face military wives are highlighted – the extensive adultery, emotional and physical abuse from dominant men who are used to getting their own way. Persenia’s character also draws on the isolation that a military wife might feel, as she is moved from place to place as her husband is posted all over the country and overseas for months at a time.

Perkins’ book is a story of intrigue – you really want to find out if the characters will reconcile and how they will react when all is revealed. It runs alongside a mysterious terrorist plot that adds pressure to the boiling relationships and forces the plot lines to meet and come to blows.

Pages: 320 | ASIN: B073MC9ZN7

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the LOST PHOTOGRAPHS

the LOST PHOTOGRAPHS by [Carroll, Richard Ira]

Matt and Jim are living out their lifelong dream to uncover and provide undeniable truth that Noah’s Ark did indeed come to rest atop Mt. Ararat. With the help of Ann and a tragic story of her grandmother’s first love, Matt and Jim begin their journey with stunning photographs of the ark itself which have been hidden from the world in the most ingenious way possible. Luck is not on the side of the three adventurers, however. One dangerous situation after another impedes their progress on the path to the top of Mt. Ararat.

Richard Carroll has captured within the pages of The Lost Photographs a mere snapshot of the enormity of the task undertaken to uncover Noah’s Ark atop a frozen Mt. Ararat. His depiction of the dedicated team who undertakes this task despite all obstacles, both natural and incited by man, is riveting and tense. No one else has wanted anything more than Matt and Jim want to prove the existence of the ark, and absolutely nothing will prevent them from accomplishing what they have set out to do.

I have always found the search for proof of the ark’s existence to be fascinating. The Lost Photographs does not focus quite as heavily on the actual ark as I would like to have seen. Though it does center around the hidden photographs and delves into the excavation of the site itself, the book also has a parallel story line that sometimes takes the reader on a path away from the ark story line. I felt there was, perhaps, too much of an emphasis placed on the budding romance between the characters and the inner turmoil Matt experiences.

Carroll does a wonderful job of building interest with the backstory of the lost photographs of the ark. By tying the story of Ann’s grandmother, Jelena, and her friend, Yuri, with the teamwork of Matt and Jim, the author has created a seamless story that spans generations and is a wonderful testament to the timelessness of the ark’s story. I will say I was not expecting the tragedy that occurs centering around Yuri and his family. Carroll presents a moving depiction of Jelena’s love for Yuri and the mystery of his family’s fate.

Readers who require action in their historical fiction will appreciate the many close calls and precarious positions in which Matt, Jim, and Ann find themselves. The desire to keep the ark’s existence hidden leads to an all-out battle when one of the terrorists’ operatives infiltrates the ark team. In addition, the entire expedition faces the utter devastation of an earthquake in the middle of their work.

Though I loved the premise of the book, references to historical events, and biblical truths, I would have preferred more of a focus on the discovery of the ark itself and less of a concentration on the romance between characters. The hints at the book’s conclusion to the unearthing of the Ten Commandments leaves the reader in the perfect frame of mind to want more from Matt, Jim, and Ann.

Pages: 320 | ASIN: B079GJN12N

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Blind Patriotism

Joshua Landeros Author Interview

Joshua Landeros Author Interview

Voice of the Crimson Angel Part II: Poison finds Julissa ready to take on Chancellor Venloran while the United Nation Republic is gearing up to take over Mexico. Was this book an easy continuation of part I or did you have to plan and develop the story before writing?

VOCA Part II took quite a bit of planning, up there with End of Knighthood Part III: Ballad of Demise. I knew telling the entire story of The Expansion from start to finish wasn’t really possible (outside of a very, very, long novel), so I isolated the events that seemed most important and then tied the main characters to them. VOCA Part II, I think more than any other of my previous work, challenged my use of setting. Writing tests an author in odd ways, and one of those ways for me was geography. The setting in question, of course, Mexico. How big is this city? Is it dry or wet this time of year? Is it a metropolis or a small town? Luckily, my story takes place in the future, so I can tweak things, but I prefer going off reality. The first round of writing left VOCA Part II shorter than I wanted, but the final product I’m most pleased with.

It seems that you pulled from our current political turmoil with Mexico over immigration. Was this intentional or did it happen organically?

Weird thing is at first, I was paying very little attention to the current situation. When I conceived of The Expansion, I was looking at it as a continuation of Manifest Destiny, where Americans expanded westward. The more I examined the history of expanded empires, The Expansion became more and more interesting to write. It went from being a small part of the original book to an integral backdrop for the Iranian characters. Now it’s the main focus in the VOCA trilogy. In future stories, I hope to explore neocolonialism more. Since 2016, immigration has become one of the most decisive topics in the American politics. It influenced me as I watched debates and heard different arguments, but it’s a bit different in VOCA Part II. In the book, the focus is more about imperialism reborn than the push for isolation that we’re experiencing now. What the book does do, I hope, is paint a picture of the circumstances that I feel are similar to current events. For example, I think no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, people accept that we live in an era where patriotism is a very touchy issue. Even critique from a person within the system can lead to harsh cries of them being “unamerican.” Blind patriotism, more than anything, fuels a beast like Venloran and his UNR. What I also wanted to focus on was displacement. Civilians can be turned into dissidents when pushed. People have forgotten that the Mujahideen that battled the Soviet Union was propped up by the United States. This same organization became Al-Qaeda, and in the age of the “War on Terror”, we’ve seen an upsurge in the formation of radical groups. I would argue that intervention, this need to intervene and ‘democratize’ other areas around the globe, fuels fundamentalists. Former New York Times writer Chris Hedges (who was fired around the start of the Iraq War) called the usage of violence a disease. Therefore “Poison” was the proper title for this installment. What I wanted to do with the book was take the “War on Terror” and move it closer to home. Instead of across the Atlantic in countries most Americans have never been to, I wanted to imagine it happening right next door.

Have you tried exploring other mediums for your series; games, comic books, etc? I ask because you have developed such a rich backstory already.

I’m not much of a gamer, so I’ve never really considered that route. Comics, however, have always intrigued me. I’ve always been obsessed with visuals (one of my worst habits was the tendency to doodle during class). Comics, namely graphic novels, have always been a favorite medium of mine. You can say a whole lot with just a single frame, and not to mention a good use of color goes a long a way in establishing the mood. The look of the cyborg uniforms, namely the overcoat, was inspired by the Blade design from Marvel comics, while the armor itself is actually manga-based. As a child, I’ve read my share of manga, including Dragon Ball. Unfortunately, I can’t draw all that well. If I could meet a comic book artist who wanted to tell a story from Reverence, I’d be honored to be a part of such a project.

If Hollywood came knocking, what actors would you cast in your main roles?

I’ve actually given some thought to this! After all, as I write I often listen to my favorite movie soundtracks. This helps me set the mood and envision a scene: scary might be Ennio Morricone, action-oriented Hans Zimmer, and somber along the lines of Michael Giacchino. Naturally, sometimes I envision certain faces of certain characters. The big one is Will, and for him I could see Will Smith or Denzel Washington taking the role. They are both older and can play action heroes, but all while still giving them emotional resonance. Another instacast for me is Liam Neeson as Chancellor Venloran. This is largely due to his portrayal of Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005). He’s calm yet menacing, all without being over-the-top. One of my favorites to envision would be Jessica Chastain as Gabriella Neeson. After seeing her in Interstellar(2014), I was thoroughly convinced. She’s both gorgeous, tough as nails, and can portray a character who is anything but a damsel in distress (no thanks Cameron Diaz). Others are mind boggling. In the case of Marisol Leone, for example, it’s really hard to pin down. One of these days, I’ll sit down and sort them all out.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebook | Website

Voice of a Crimson Angel Part II: Poison (Reverence Book 6) by [Landeros, Joshua]Julissa Marconi is finally ready to be a soldier again, and now it’s time to take on the tyrannical Chancellor Venloran. With Captain Halsey and her daughter Zaneta by her side, the resistance is the last line of defense preventing the United Nation Republic from seizing the country of Mexico. The combat will prove bloody as Venloran sends his cyborg warriors to squash all opposition. As bullets fly and bodies pile up, Julissa will be forced to consider what she’s capable of. To defeat the enemy, she may just have to become the enemy. 

Welcome back to the world of the Reverence series with Voice of a Crimson Angel Part II: Poison. Witness the spark that lit the fire. 

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Cliven Bundy American Patriot

Cliven Bundy American Patriot is the shocking, yet true, story as told to the author, with twists and turns, highs and lows of intrigue and common sense of the life of one man, his devoted family, and fellow patriots that seem to only be matched by the lives of the Founding Fathers of this American Experiment known as the The United States Of America. It’s a story not yet finished in its telling. It’s a story every family should read and declare their own voice in! It’s a story you must decide for yourself: Is Cliven Bundy a American Terrorist or an American Patriot?

Available at

ClivenBundy.net

 

Srepska

Srepska: ATMs have shuttered. Stock markets have gone haywire. Can one operative stop a deadly band of criminals before it is too late?

Explosions and mayhem make up the introduction to Lucas Sterling’s debut novel, Srepska, immediately throwing the reader into the after effects of a massive cyber attack in Kenya. Personal, business, and federal accounts have been digitally looted leading to a state of emergency. Fearing repeat on a larger scale, Agent Frederic Ulrich is tasked with seeking out those responsible, though the feared group ‘Srepska’ is immediately suspect. The scant bread crumb trail points to the U.S. as the next target, but a possible mole leaves Agent Ulrich unsure of friend or foe. With the aid of Lars Christopherson, he must find a way to inform and prevent the next attack.

Srepska is definitely deserving of it’s place in the action genre. Lucas Sterling brings to the table an adrenaline packed story that is made all the more intense by it’s relatability. Set in modern day, the Information Age as we like to call it, Srepska is a story you could very well see taking place in our own reality, the focus being a cyber attack. The suspense is therefore intensified given the fact that such attacks in the long scheme of things are still fairly new, meaning effective defenses are still being regularly updated and changed. This is felt throughout the book by many of the characters, with concern on how to combat such a threat that initially seems faceless.

We follow Frederic Ulrich and Lars Christopherson through the story as they team up to put a stop to things. Sterling presents us with two characters very strong in their trade. We are treated to an inside look to their jobs, but the characters themselves lack some dimension. This could be due to how fast paced the story is, moving from action to suspense and back again in quick succession, leaving little room for character development.

Following the bread crumb trail of clues is exciting given how so many countries have been after this group for so long. Things just seemed to fall in to place too easily in some respects. And I felt that there were some sections where settings were over explained, when all I wanted to do was to get back to what this novel does best, the action!

All in all, Lucas Sterling’s Srepska is quite the page turner. The fast pacing keeps the reader engaged and the highly relatable and believable content adds to the feeling of suspense, leaving the reader all the more eager to see the success of the main characters in their goals. A very exciting read!

Pages: 239 | ASIN: B075V8C8HL

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To Never Know

To Never Know

To Never Know depicts the story of Steven Lewis, and how he is affected by his life choices, his stalled inertia, and forces far beyond his control.

To Never Know, by Thomas Duffy, is a millennialist coming of age drama centered on the late adolescence and early adulthood of the main character, Steven Lewis.  The story starts in 1994 in Queens, New York. Steven is in his Senior year of High School. Steven has a crush on a girl in his class, Kelly Brennan. She seems to be interested in him, finding excuses to interact by asking for his notes and a stick of gum. But he never works up the courage to ask her to Prom.

The story skips past graduation and things have changed for Steven. His life continues a downward progression: his grades are not as good at college as they were in High School, he drops out, takes some time off. He tried calling Kelly again, but he could not bring himself to talk to her.

A family friend encourages him to send Kelly a letter, so he does, on September 10, 2001. Keeping in mind that Kelly lives in New York, you can make some good guesses about where the story goes after that, but this story packs a lot more into it, as Steven’s life events continue to unfold.

This story is an exploration of millennialist worries and fears in a post-9/11 life: adulthood with its ever-increasing responsibilities, how to live a good life, intimacy, isolation, establishing one’s self-identity, and the existential fear of death. The story is deeply emotional, with conflicting emotions. The quality of writing is strong enough to convey nuanced emotions and details. There were a few copy editing issues, but none bad enough to detract from the powerful meaning of the story.

The title, To Never Know, gives some insight into the central themes within the story. There is a strain of philosophical agnosticism (not in the religious sense) that there are unknown unknowns in our lives and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. There is also the theme that there are “bells that cannot be un-rung.”  Steven cannot go and have the relationship he wanted. We will never know what life would have been like if one thing would have been changed in the distant past, and we cannot know what tomorrow will bring.

This book is good, but really heavy at times. It is intended for adult audiences, and probably best understood by older millennials. There are depictions of sex, death, terrorism, and coarse language. The content of the story takes an odd twist at one point, and the end is unexpected.

Pages: 208 | ASIN: B01K7RYJB6

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