Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy Book 1) by Joe Hart

A mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women.

Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away—told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population.

Captivity is the only life Zoey has ever known, and escaping her heavily armed captors is no easy task, but she’s determined to leave before she is subjected to the next round of tests…a program that no other woman has ever returned from. Even if she’s successful, Zoey has no idea what she’ll encounter in the strange new world beyond the facility’s walls. Winning her freedom will take brutality she never imagined she possessed, as well as all her strength and cunning—but Zoey is ready for war.

REVIEW: How much is a life worth?

This question is the first that enters Zoey’s mind each morning, and it is the last she thinks before falling off to sleep every night. Can a price be put on such a thing? And if it could be, would one ever be able to pay for it?

Opening with the oft repeated quote attributed to Henry David Thoreau, “The savage in man is never quite eradicated,” this hard-boiled dystopian thriller set in the near future with a dynamic cast of characters headed by a female is quite fittingly dedicated by the author to his wife, mother, daughter and sister, whom he labelled “the strongest women I know.” Though I’m not that familiar with author Joe Hart, all I know is that he has an impeccable record as an author with seven novels to his credit, most of them bestsellers. He has also written a novella – Leave the Living, four short stories and a collection of short stories entitled Midnight Paths: A Collection of Dark Horror.

The first book in the planned Dominion Trilogy, The Last Girl by Joe Hart, reads like a doomsday prophecy with the world facing the scourge of drought of women. In less than a quarter of a century, the world’s women population has dwindled down to a thousand, and with no baby girls and women, there seems to be no hope, and the world is ravaged by uncertainty. The National Obstetric Alliance (NOA) was set up to determine the cause but it has failed to come up with a satisfying answer. Known as “The Dearth,” the world witnessed a noticeable drop in female births in 2016. It grew to an alarming rate in 2017.  By 2018, despite an unprecedented scientific undertaking by NOA, it recorded less than one in one hundred million. It resulted in chaos, uprisings and rebellions leading to a full-scale civil war which lasted for five years.

Under the guise of protecting and sheltering the surviving women, the NOA has been running a program, conducting experiments, at a facility known as Advance Research Compound. The surviving women are holed up - Terra, Zoey, Grace, Halie, Rita, Sherell, Penny, Lily, Meeka and many more expectantly waiting for their turn to be “inducted” as they believe that the program isn’t something to be afraid of but something to embrace as it is for the greater good. They believe that they live for the chance to rebuild the world, each waiting for their turn to be inducted into the program, after which fulfilling their long-cherished dream of living in the safe zone with parents. But Zoey knew better, and she decided to act before more of her friends are “inducted.” Author Joe Hart cooked up a chillingly terrifying scenario, leaving me breathless. Mesmerizing and unsettling, , The Last Girl by Joe Hart is a thrill-a-page read which fans of science fiction, mystery, suspense and futuristic novels will enjoy.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold

As the dark specter of the Nazis settles over Germany, two wealthy and educated brothers are suddenly thrust into the rising tide of war. Karl, a former soldier and successful businessman, dutifully answers the call to defend his country, while contemplative academic Gerhard is coerced into informing for the Gestapo. Soon the brothers are serving in the SS, and as Hitler’s hateful agenda brings about unspeakable atrocities, they find themselves with innocent blood on their hands.

Following Germany’s eventual defeat, Karl and Gerhard are haunted by their insurmountable guilt, and each seeks a way to escape from wounds that will never heal. They survived the war and its revelation of systematic horrors, but can they survive the unshakable knowledge of their own culpability?

Review: Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold was originally published in Danish in 2014 as Vinterm├Žnd, and is rendered into English by by K.E. Semmel, who has done a tremendously fine work of it. This is an extremely well-written novel, albeit a searing one, which will tug at the conscience of readers as it takes a hard look at the moral quandaries facing the people of Germany as the winds of change swept across the country during the World War II. The novel is forthright and honest in its exploration of the subject while at the same time draws the reader into the story through its magnificent and stunning portrayal of the era and the people, alternating between scenes of life in Hamburg and those in the war fronts and the concentration camps.

Author Jesper Bugge Kold’s thoughtful, grim and brooding novel explores the lives of two brothers who were caught up in the vortex of violence that swept the country as the Nazi propaganda was unleashed. The brothers are Karl and Gerhard, who lives in Hamburg. Both of them are well-educated, and quite affluent and respectable members of the society. Karl is the director of a textile factory while Gerhard teaches mathematics at the university. The brothers are not Nazi sympathizers yet the quirk turn of fate so destined them that they were ultimately absorbed as members of the SS. While others were not so lucky, Gerhard was handed the choice to either join the Gestapo or be one among the teeming nameless people working for survival in one of the concentration camps. As fate would have it, instead of being an inmate Gerhard rose to become the commandant of a concentration camp.

Some may consider this well-researched work as an attempt to exonerate many people who worked for the Nazi in the run-up to and during the course of the Second World War. While this assumption may be a little far-fetched, author Jesper Bugge Kold’s Winter Men is an examination of the ethical and moral predicaments in which many Germans would have found themselves during this period. Karl and Gerhard enrolled their services in the SS not because they were ideologically drawn to it, but it was a pragmatic decision based on the idea of surviving and thriving than not at all. But their decision, whether good or bad, had its irreparable effect. They become tools, with bloods on their hands. The end of the war was the beginning of their travails, leading to a sad end for both. And what begs an answer is the reasonable question: What would you have done if you were in their shoes?

Jesper Bugge KoldAbout the Author: Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1972, Winter Men is Jesper Bugge Kold's first novel. It was published in Denmark in August 2014, and the same year it was nominated to the prestigious Debutant's Prize at BogForum.

Jesper Bugge Kold grew up in Copenhagen and has a bachelor's degree from the Library School and a master's degree from the University of Information Technology. Later, working as a sports journalist on several Danish TV-channels, he was editor on the national coverage of NFL. In 2009 he and his family moved to the countryside where he found time to start writing.

Based on an enormous amount of research, Jesper Bugge Kold has been in contact with former concentration camps, historians, and museums during the writing of Winter Men.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer

I don’t remember the year but I still remember how much of an impact my first brush with Jeffrey Archer’s brand of great fiction and storytelling had on me. During those days I was safely ensconced in the novels of Nick Carter, James Hadley Chase, Robert Ludlum and that great western fiction author Louis L’Amour. When I came across Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer, I still remember, I was a bit averse to a new author as I felt I would be sidetracked from the novels of the authors with whom I was “acclimatized.” But there was no turning back after reading the first few pages of Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less as Jeffrey Archer literally sucked me into his world of thrills and chills.

Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer is a continuation of the Clifton Chronicles - the sixth and second last book in the series - a saga that crisscrosses continents, and one in which the lives of Harry, Emma, Giles, Sebastian, Lady Virginia and others are tried and tested through friendship, betrayal, secrecy and maneuverings, and continues with all the trademark twists and turns that have made the compelling and spellbinding story of the Clifton and the Barrington families Jeffrey Archer's most ambitious work to date. This extraordinary tale begins in the backstreets of Bristol in 1919 when Harry Clifton was raised by his mother and uncle who worked for Barrington Shipping. The earlier titles in the series are: Only Time Will Tell (1919-1940), The Sins of the Father (1939-1945), Best Kept Secret (1945-1957), Be Careful What You Wish For (1957-1964) and Mightier than the Sword (1964-1970). The series is imaginatively crafted and magnificently mounted on a sweeping scale the grandeur and intensity of which few would parallel.

In Cometh the Hour, Archer takes the story forward to the 1970s and the stakes are high. Emma Clifton is facing the possibility of defeat in a libel trial and humiliation of having to stand down as chairman of Barrington’s. With her life hanging by a thread Emma opted not to take advantage of a letter which surfaced that could win over the jury of seven men and five women. Harry Clifton is busy with the draft of Russian author Anatoly Babakov’s Uncle Joe, who is imprisoned in a gulag in Siberia. Lady Virginia Fenwick continues to symbolize a character that you love to hate but nonetheless an interesting character, without whom the book would be a much poorer read. Jeffrey Archer surprised me by planting Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher into the story, and of whom Emma was deeply in awe. She plays a crucial part in one pivotal thread of the story. Sebastian Clifton falls in love with Priya, a very well-educated Indian woman who is working in London. Theirs is a sweet love story, but a heartbreaking one. There are intriguing threads and suspenseful plots but all merged beautifully in the end. Jeffrey Archer’s The Clifton Chronicles is a delight to read for its array of characters who epitomize what it takes to face the storms that come along the way, as also those who personify evil. Cometh the Hour is one of the best in the series. My gut feeling tells me that the seventh and final volume slated for a November 2016 release will be a hefty one, and a blockbuster of an ending to a series that has really excited me.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella

All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn’t include desperate pleas from the dead. Her remarkable gift may help others rest in peace, but it also made for an unsettling childhood and destroyed her marriage. Finally content as the real estate writer for a local newspaper, Aubrey keeps her extraordinary ability hidden—until she is unexpectedly assigned the story of a decades-old murder.

Rocked by the discovery of a young woman’s skeletal remains, the New England town of Surrey wants answers. Hard-nosed investigative reporter Levi St John is determined to get them. Aubrey has no choice but to get involved, even at the terrifying risk of stirring spirits connected to a dead woman’s demise and piquing her new reporting partner’s suspicions.

As Aubrey and Levi delve further into the mystery, secrets are revealed and passion ignites. It seems that Aubrey’s ghost gifts are poised to deliver everything but a normal life.

Review: Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella is a romantic suspense thriller that will fascinate and entertain lovers of suspense, thriller and romance. No ordinary romance, and no ordinary suspense or thriller either, author Laura cast her magical spell as the reader is taken on an exciting superbly paced novel that is un-put-down-able. Entrancing, intense and riveting, Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella is a gratifyingly satiating read that will leave many readers clamoring for more.

Masterfully crafted and skilfully-woven, with plot twists that will keep readers on the edge, this romantic suspense which furiously combines with the supernatural and the mysterious, took shape twenty years ago in Holyoke, Massachusetts when Aubrey Ellis was a thirteen-year-old girl. The story continues twenty years later in present-day Surrey, Massachusetts, with Aubrey working as the writer and editor of Surrey City Press home portrait feature. The uneventful and monotonous daily grind was broken one Friday when ghoulish skeletal remains had spilled out from behind Dustin Byrd’s basement wall. It was the skeletal remains of Missy Flannigan who vanished without a trace, and for which army veteran Frank Delacort was ultimately convicted of the crime sans body though he pleaded innocence.

With the case hogging media limelight, Surrey City Press entrusted the task of unravelling the whole mystery to Levi St John, a tough reporter with imposing skills but disturbingly dense in the area of personal communication. Aubrey Ellis, whose worked was confined to real estate, and with no experience of serious investigative journalism, was assigned to work alongside Levi, who was as much reluctant to work with her as she was with him. As the case considered solved with a conviction turned red hot almost twenty years later, Aubrey unknowingly was assigned her worst nightmare – a fast-pass, all-inclusive ticket to a murdered girl’s past – and her own ghost. Author Laura Spinella spins a thrilling yarn that will take you effortlessly through to the end.


Laura SpinellaAbout the Author:
Laura Spinella is an East Coast author, originally from Long Island, New York. She pursued her undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Georgia. The southern locale provided the
inspiration for her first novel, ​ Beautiful Disaster​ , which garnered multiple awards, including a Romance Writers of America RITA nomination. She’s also lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in North Carolina before relocating to Massachusetts. She and her family currently live in the Boston area, where she is always writing her next book. ​ Ghost Gifts​  is Laura’s third work of romantic fiction. She also writes sensual romance under the pen name L. J. Wilson. Visit her website