The COIN

The COIN assumed published, copyright 2013 and written by Maria Elena Alonzo-Sierra.

A prologue finds a man searching an area in the mountains of the Côte d’Azur looking for a stash of coins and records he previously had hidden there. A recent naturally caused upheaval in this section had caused a re-arrangement of the territory that had eliminated any familiarity with its former formation. With intense frustration, he realized that it was impossible to find any remnants of the material he had secretly stashed away. Unexpectedly, a lost tourist stumbles upon him, thinking he had found someone who could help. Instead, he is slowly and cruelly put to death by the intensely frustrated man. The story then opens to follow the subsequent results of Gabriela Martinez discovering an unusually marked coin while hiking in the same area, La Marbriére, a short time later. Gaby, along with her parents, was a refugee brutally forced out of Cuba when Castro moved in. Quite sheltered while a Cuban resident, she now is happily married to her first love whom she met in college, and the mother of two young children who are visiting their grandparents in the United States for the summer. Her husband, Roberto, an innovative designer of new materials, frustrated by not being able to proceed, had been offered a position in Europe, had found a considerable degree of freedom and had extended his assignment. He loved his wife dearly, but with a totally ‘old-fashioned’ mindset that the husband was the bread-winner, and the wife a mother and housekeeper, was completely involved with his work. Simultaneously, Gaby had developed into an artist of tremendous talent and was being mentored by an enormously wealthy and influential man who was readying her for an exhibition of such importance as to launch her into a career that would make her one of the leading artists in the world. Unfortunately he had further designs on making her his mistress. Now, Richard Harrison, a lead member of an American special operations unit, as a courtesy to the Israelis’ request and favor to his boss is in France on vacation but has consented to interview Gabriela with respect to the special coin she had discovered during here trip to the mountain. Richard is a man typical of such operatives – handsome, pleasant and charmingly accommodating, but calculating, coldly uninvolved and with no compunction against killing when necessary. When meeting her, he is startled with the natural warmth and seeming degree of underlying naiveté – qualities he never had, or expected to, encounter in any woman. A set of circumstances develop, where Gabriela is to be introduced to a collection of world art connoisseurs with the latest of her works on the same night Roberto is to sign an important contract providing all he ever has wanted. Complicating the situation further is that Gabriela’s life has been threatened because of the coin that had been found and Richard has become her 24-hour-per-day bodyguard. The interrelationships that develops among these individuals, aided and abetted by an interesting group of supportive characters, develops into a mysterious, thrilling chase and sex-laced romance about which furnishing further details would be a great disservice to the prospective reader.

Discussion: The author has positioned three individuals in situations of almost insurmountable tension production with adequately supplied supportive personnel. The plot providing a thrilling, fast-paced tale and engaging climax. A number of inadequacies or unusual mental activities are difficult to totally accept, but no doubt are a personal consideration arising from this reader’s pragmatism. If noted at all by other readers, probably they will be observed as an unimportant ‘blip’.

5* Fast paced psychologically oriented mystery/thriller/romance.

 

Her eyes underwater

Her Eyes Underwater assumed published, copyright and written by Romona Simon.

Julia Straus is a thoroughly spoiled daughter of wealthy parents who finally have informed her that it was time to stop her “wasteful, immature, goalless life” and do something with it. She enrolls in Law School, is thoroughly bored but must continue at least for a while to satisfy her parents. One evening she stops at a local coffee shop and sees the most attractive man she ever has encountered. She approaches and attempts to attract him and succeeds in being invited by him to visit a friend who lives some distance away. She accepts. The trip is unusual and contains a rather scary encounter, but ends with her safe return somehow with his discovery that they are in the same law class. She discovers that his name is Alex Bowman and that they previously had not met because he has missed a considerable number of classes. She still does not meet him in school for several more days until he finally appears as a fabulously popular, socially polished individual who attracts all manner of fellow students of both sexes as well as those at the professorial level. In spite of constantly attempting to spend time and actually obtain a legitimate ‘date’ with him he manages largely to ignore the attempts. Julia is an extremely attractive young woman who always has been the object of choice, even over other attractive women. Her attitude, “You doesn’t need men. Men need you. You are a modern woman, not your mother.”  Chagrined by his constant refusal she persists with intermittent successes leading to various somewhat unusual sexual encounters interspersed with other activities shared with each other as well as with other acquaintances. The activity continues in this fashion until the concluding chapters which somewhat strangely are largely repetitious of the early one but from a slightly different perspective.

Discussion: This is an usual book following a period in the amazingly totally free-living existence of a thoroughly spoiled young daughter of wealthy parents living with equally wealthy friends following a similarly wasteful and goalless path. Their principal activities appear to consist of shopping, heavy drinking and partying plus acquiring any number of available men, seemingly for ‘bragging rights’. The newly acquired activity is totally new for Julia and she muddles onward in an often almost unbelievably socially immature manner. The story is stated as being the first attempt by the author at serious storytelling and as such, shows considerable promise. Her descriptive powers are excellent and her tale is so unusual as to provide continuing interest as to ‘where it possibly could finally lead’. Unfortunately, a good editing could greatly enhance the format. Another regrettable feature, for this reviewer at least, is the fact that not a single character was able to elicit any level of positive empathy. As a result the reader is supplied with a somewhat bizarre tale of misplaced love and socially disturbed individuals in often well-described settings of these rather dysfunctional individuals interacting with a psychotic sociopath who’s ‘other’ activities provide a bit of horror to the account. If a reader’s interest tends toward such stories, it is well enough written to be within your realm of interest. A rating of a significant level for others is difficult.

3* ranging downward depending on reader interest as discussed.

 

Slater’s Vendetta

Slater’s Vendetta Book 4 of 4 in the Slater Mystery series, assumed published, copyright and written by T. J. Jones.

Eric Slater again is the protagonist. He is a quite sizeable, muscular but remarkably supple, relatively handsome guy with a good sense of humor, honor and a huge heart. He is a former Marine with Special Operations as well as Military Police training. In this volume he again is functioning in a couple of his ‘jack-of-all-trades’ roles. He is performing in his PI job investigating a couple of identity authenticity cases, while supervising his construction workers remodeling the homes he then turns over to his real estate agent to sell. The situation becomes totally muddled quite quickly, however. A quite vicious gang begins to invade the neighborhood, he makes friends with a young boy roaming the streets at night. He learns why and decides to do something about it. His PI, building business and live-in partner, lovely but Black Belt qualified Maggie, agrees since she also has a couple of similar friends resultant of the same ‘soft-heart syndrome’. All components of the situations escalate when their real estate agent is murdered with a tool belonging to Slater, causing him, as well as Maggie, to be suspects. Members of the agency he employs, as well as of the company for which he is remodeling houses also become ‘persons of interest’ and one is charged with the murder.

Discussion: This book is another written by an author whose growing number of books invade Mystery, Romance and Fantasy genres. His forte appears to be in producing well-portrayed individuals in character driven plots. The protagonists here are appealing on many levels with abundantly soft hearts. The results are positive and the reader enjoys inclusion of an interesting mystery/detective story within an often amusing modern romance that maintains some of the old, solid components.

5* Mystery/detective/romance highly recommended as described.

Apollo’s Raven

Apollo’s Raven ISBN: 9781647040543 Apollo Raven Publisher copyright and written by Linnea Tanner.

This Book One in the Curse of the Clansmen and Kings Series is a novel “based on historical fantasy and mythology of the southeast Celtic tribes” of Britannia beginning in the days just prior to the Roman invasion in 43 A.D. It is the time when the Gods were many and each culture embraced its own. Apollo was the powerful Sun God totally embraced by the Romans and their powerful legions, although seemingly he received some degree of respect by the Celts but mostly they, and their heavily muscled fierce warriors, embraced several others arising from legends stemming from Ireland and Wales with extensive belief in mysticism as conjured up by the Druids. The book opens in this period when Rome’s emperor is making exploratory moves before deciding whether to invade the islands.

The protagonists are Celtic princess Catrin, youngest daughter of Amren, king of one of the tribes and Marcellus, son of the pompous Roman Senator who is exploring whether to support Amren or Cunoblin, an adjoining powerful Ruler, if the Emperor decides to invade. Complications are numerous in that the latter had arranged a marriage between a daughter and Marrock, Amren’s oldest son whom he had banished from his country for treasonous activity. He believed that, perhaps with Rome’s help, he could arrange to replace Amren by restoring him to his ex-father’s position. Marrock was aligned with Agrona, the Druid Priestess whom Amren trusted but who secretly was working to gain control of the kingdom. Rhiannon, Armen’s second wife did not trust Agrona but deferred to her husband’s decision to put her second in command after herself. From this complicated beginning, even greater confusion emerges from rampant distrust and intertwining acts of deceit, deception, treachery and betrayal and the appearance of shapeshifters and abundant other mystical activity.

Discussion: Spinning this tale and its subsequent volumes no doubt has been, and will continue to be, a difficult task. “The Celts left almost no written records. Historical events had to be supplanted by Greek and Roman historians and medieval writers who spun Celtic mythology into their Christian beliefs, Archaeological findings from this time period also help fill in the gaps.” Under the circumstances the author has done a quite remarkable job of creating a very suspenseful historical/mythical/romance of considerable proportions. It is a story that will fascinate devotees of these several genres.

5* Suspenseful historical/mythical/romance devotees will thoroughly enjoy.

Acts of Faith

ACTS of FAITH, a novel published copyright and written by Martin Elsant.

In this “Part 1 of The Inquisition Trilogy”, an initiating statement by Archibald Bower, Authentic Memories Concerning the Portuguese Inquisition, 1761 reads “An Auto de fe is not so much an Act of Faith, which the words would impart, as of the hypocrisy of Inquisitors, who thus make a mockery of God and man, by abusing the venerable name of religion, and forcing the secular judges to become their butchers.” An author’s note follows explaining that, as a teenager, he had found an account of an undisputed miracle that involved Diego Lopes of Pinanocos at his “auto de fe’ in Coimbra, Portugal, and more than 50 years later actual records of the man’s trial. (Both books referenced as additional reading.) However, a discrepancy existed between the trial records discovered and reported by Bodian and the public perception reported in the Roth book discovered so much earlier. The author’s intent in this book simply is “to add a component of human involvement to a process that they (individuals of the time) believed required only Divine intervention.” The story then introduces the young Portuguese Divinity student Aristides and the other characters of greater or lesser importance as it presents the quite specific procedures initiated and employed by the dominant figures in the Inquisition, as well as the surprising number of those attempting resistance, along with his new ‘element’.

Discussion: This is a fascinating and most informative story that should appeal to a rather diverse population of readers. Historians certainly will find much to learn as will those interested in beliefs of Judaism and of Catholicism of the era. A story of unrequited love is included, as are numerous references to bits of understanding of facts about the anatomy and functions of the human body as well as initial, perhaps surprisingly advanced, thoughts about surgical cleanliness available at the time. Thus, as readily admitted by the author, although tenuous, the tenets upon which certain of his actions are based are technically and scientifically feasible as well as the actions of Jews and Christians in this time of religious chaos arising from greed and ignorance. A most interesting and relative ‘Postscript’ is included as are suggestions for ‘Further Reading’ that history devotees will find extremely helpful. A somewhat unique aspect of this volume that may appeal particularly to readers who do not enjoy ‘cliff hangers’ where the protagonist or similar is left in a precarious position, resolution of which awaits the succeeding book, this first of a trilogy is a ‘stand-alone’ volume. However, sufficiently well done to make the reader anticipate the next in the series.

5* Historical fiction engagingly presented for reasons described.

The Thin Gray Line

The Thin Gray Line ISBN: 9781098740139 assumed published, copyright and written by Michael Kenneth Smith.

This is a story of the Civil War between the states of the newly expanding democracy. The protagonist, Luke Pettigrew was little more than a boy when he is forced to leave his home on a hardscrabble farm in Tennessee by his seemingly uncaring father. He joins the confederate Army, is severely injured and attempts to make it home, when Clyde, a trader, finds him struggling, lifts him into his wagon and gives him a ride to his burned-out home a short distance from his own. Worried about him, he returns to find Luke passed out, takes him to his home where, with Joanie his wife’s help, he removes the partially destroyed leg above the knee because any medical help is at least 50 miles away and he won’t be able to make it alive. As he begins to recover, Clyde’s young sons Timmy and Tommy start asking him questions and he tells them his story. Luke had been assigned to the Ambulance Corps where he had met Col. Bedford Forrest, had performed heroically in battle, had fought at Shiloh, had joined Jeb Stuart where his horse had been shot from under him resulting in the badly injured leg that had required amputation. From this initial activity, Luke continues an interesting and quite serendipitous journey through the war-torn south as he engages in numerous activities dictated by the time and his abilities – care of the wounded as well as amputees specifically, a group with communicable disease, racial concerns, impact of the war on social relationships and more. The characters include several important and even notorious figures of the time as well as a number of fictional heritage.

Discussion: Although presented as a most interesting fictional tale with appealing characters, the author has set forth a fascinating history of some of the first and little known successful attempts made to supply functional artificial limbs to amputees. A man by the name of James Hanger initiated the procedures and lived until 1919 but his company continues today “as a world-wide leader in the development and manufacture of prosthetic devices with branches around the world. During WW I, the company received contracts from the U.K. and France and vaulted them to the top of their field where they remain today.” The only unfortunate aspects of the story are the manner in which the proof readers have let the author down and just a passing but haunting thought of what happened to Luke’s ‘long-sustaining true love’.

5* Heart-warming Civil War tale providing interesting historical details.