Forbidden

Forbidden

Forbidden by F. Stone (Suspense/Thriller)

This is a complex and fast-paced thriller with strong main characters — a female Canadian paramedic with a tragic past who suffers from severe bouts of PTSD and a devout Muslim police captain working in a Middle Eastern city where corruption makes it hard to know whom to trust. The massacre of fifteen American aid workers brings the paramedic and the captain together as reluctant allies when both become targets of a local governmental cover-up of the massacre. The arrival of an American CIA Agent bent on finding out who killed the American volunteers adds another layer of risk, as he believes the captain may have masterminded the whole thing. Despite their differences in background and outlook on life, the paramedic and the captain must work together to find the true perpetrator. Along the way they also (no surprise) find each other.

The author did a lot of research to ensure authenticity in her portrayal of the region and Islam, and her respect for her subject matter is evident. She also consulted with weapons experts, police officers, and cultural experts, and uses her own experience as a paramedic to bring authenticity to her characters’ actions. She does a good job of getting inside the heads of both a woman with heavy emotional issues and a disillusioned and unhappy man struggling with violating Sharia law while protecting that woman.

The story is set in the year 2047 — most likely to allow for creation of a new Middle Eastern entity known as the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories — but this is not a futuristic tale. Transportation, technology, medicine, etc. remain unchanged from 2017. Also somewhat incongruous is the fact that the paramedic is a “seer,” which pops up now and then, but has very little bearing on the story and, for me at least, compromised a character to whom I could otherwise easily relate.

My major complaint, however, is the book’s need for a good proofreader. While it did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story, I did find many sentences that were missing articles (the, a, an) or prepositions. Punctuation was funky in places. More distracting were the occasional inappropriate or misused words, including “shoulder” where it should have said “soldier.” I had to read that one sentence more than once to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.

Normally, the issues named above would take an average story down to three stars, but I enjoyed the story itself a great deal and appreciate the author’s careful and extensive preparation to tell it.

Grandma gives Forbidden four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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The Fix

The Fix

The Fix by David Baldacci (Thriller)

If one reads enough thrillers, the themes become familiar: espionage, terrorism, governmental corruption, Russian mafia, special forces, stolen secrets, and so on. What differentiates these stories are the details and how the imminent threat to national security will be resolved. What also differentiates them is the main characters, the players who will solve the crime, stop the destruction, and foil the evil-doers. Character development—creating someone we feel we know and whose success we care about—becomes paramount if a story is going to keep us invested in the outcome.

In The Fix, David Baldacci gives us Amos Decker, a former football player with a tragic family history and a brain damaged by a sports injury that ended his career. As a result of the brain injury, he has a photographic memory and the ability to see auras, including colors that portend death, and he has lost his social skills. He’s great at parsing the details and seeing what others don’t see, but he’s a challenge to work with and pretty hopeless at establishing relationships. His female partner, FBI agent Alex Jamison, is a former reporter who sometimes has second thoughts about her career change and obviously has feelings for Decker, even though he frustrates the heck out of her. Together they provide the right mix of skill and vulnerability, and when we add in DIA agent Harper Brown—an amazing woman in her own right—and a cast of suspects that keep us guessing as to who did what and why, we have a book that’s hard to put down.

Baldacci is a prolific and accomplished author whose pacing, details, and storyline kept me absorbed from beginning to end. The Fix is the third book in the Amos Decker series, and having read it, I now want to go back and read the first two, Memory Man and The Guilty.

Grandma gives The Fix five stars. 5 stars

Oath of Honor

oath-of-honor

Oath of Honor by Matthew Betley (Thriller)

This page-turner kept me reading into the night, and the action never stopped. Anyone who enjoys thrillers with lots of involvement by covert government agencies and special ops forces will find this a satisfying read full of all the requisite suspense, anti-American global conspirators, highly trained specialists, and a traitor somewhere in the upper echelons of the U.S. government.

The main characters, former Marines Logan West and John Quick, are wise-cracking, close-as-can-be brothers in arms who now work as members of an FBI special task force. They are likeable, far-from-perfect individuals whose skills and dedication are put to the test as they search for stolen technology that has the potential to start a war between the U.S. and China. In addition to following the action through them, we also enter the worlds and minds of the co-conspirators from Sudan and China who are racing to put their stolen technology to use. And we meet other highly skilled special ops personnel, including the amazing and enigmatic Amira, who adds her own female awesomeness to the action. We also get a glimpse of the good-natured competitiveness between agencies and branches of the armed forces while they cover each other’s backs without compromise.

Oath of Honor is the second book in The Logan West Thrillers series that began with Overwatch. Author Matthew Betley is a former Marine with a high level of experience in the areas about which he writes and is also a recovering alcoholic, a trait he has given Logan West as part of his personal struggles. The result is a book that grabs the reader from the action-packed first chapter and just keeps on going to the ready-for-more conclusion.

Grandma gives Oath of Honor five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Atomic Number Sixty

sixty-minute-reads

Atomic Number Sixty (Sixty Minute Reads Book 1) by Dave Johnston (Short Story/Thriller)

Atomic Number Sixty is the first installment in a series, with each book meant to be read in one hour. In sixty chapters, it documents the countdown, minute by minute, of a bomb set to go off in the basement of City Hall. That bomb is attached to hostage Holly Holloway, who is strapped to a chair. In each one-minute chapter, Holly relates either her situation at the moment or the history of how she came to be there. Her fun, wise-mouth observations made Atomic Number Sixty a light-hearted story that had me chuckling even in the face of pending doom.

This very clever approach to story-telling is unique and entertaining. In addition to the story itself, the idea of one-minute chapters keeps the reader willing to read “just one more” until the book is done, and completing a book in one hour feels like an accomplishment. That said, this is not even a novella, but a short story with an abrupt ending that felt a little too pie-in-the-sky and seemed to come out of nowhere. Since time and space limitations were self-imposed by the author, one expects him to deliver a satisfying, believable outcome within those limitations.

I think it will be interesting to see where this series goes. Book 2, Massacre of the Sixty, is due to be released in early to mid-December, 2016. At that time, from December 11 through December 15, Atomic Number Sixty will be free to download on Amazon as part of the launch celebration. However, at its current price of 99 cents, this fun little book is worth the investment.

Grandma gives Atomic Number Sixty four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Dawn’s Early Light

The Dawn's Early Light

The Dawn’s Early Light by Lee Duffy (Military Thriller)

This book is a fast read that held my attention from the get-go. The plot is somewhat familiar — terrorists have taken control of a plane full of Americans and are holding them hostage. A U.S. counter-terrorist team made up of the military’s best deploys to save them.

What neither side knows is that Major Mike Elliot is onboard. He is an ex-Special Forces operative haunted by past mistakes that cost him his first family, and now his second wife is in danger and he cannot fail again. Not knowing what’s happening in the outside world, he is determined to give it his all, even though he will be up against four desperate and brutal terrorists.

Various named characters in assorted branches of the military, CIA, foreign service, White House, and more are introduced, with what, to me, was an overload of names, positions, and duties that begged for an organizational chart for quick reference. The point of view is everyone’s, so that we know what’s going on in the head of each character mentioned above, plus the terrorists’ boss, the CIA’s local informer, and the informer’s girlfriend, to name a few. I admit to some skimming now and then during the planning discussions about the Delta Force rescue, but could not put the book down once the action began. It is well written, and one can tell that the author knows his stuff when it comes to the military, security, and international relations in the Middle East.

This book is the first in a series of Mike Elliot thrillers.

Grandma gives The Dawn’s Early Light four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

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