Review: Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett

return to dark earth by anna hackettFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Adventures #7
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Anna Hackett
Date Released: September 9, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, GoodreadsAmazon

His career plan never included becoming one of the galaxy’s most infamous treasure hunters. And it certainly never included his one weakness: Nera Darc.

Astro-archeologist Niklas Phoenix loved his job studying and safeguarding artifacts at the Institute of Historical Preservation…until he learned that it was all a lie. Forced out of the Institute, he joins his treasure hunter brothers, but now the Institute is trying to lure him back for the ultimate treasure hunt–a return to the planet that seeded life throughout the galaxy. But only one thing convinces him to go–his deadly, seductive rival has joined the expedition.

Dangerous and enigmatic, Nera Darc has made a life for herself where she calls the shots and bows to no one. Niklas Phoenix has become her dark obsession and on the lethal mission to Earth, they are compelled to join forces to survive. But Niklas threatens to tear down Nera’s internal walls and melt the ice around her heart…but she knows caring for someone is just a weakness others can exploit.

As Nik and Nera strip away each other’s secrets, a brilliant passion is unleashed, but the dangers of Earth strike from every side, and a darker enemy is closing in.

My Review:

This one definitely had its scary moments. It was totally awesome, but there were points where I was completely creeped out. All in the service of an excellent story. One that reminds me a bit of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. It felt like I met the Morlocks, and they are us.

The Phoenix Adventures are all about the Phoenix Brothers, and occasionally their cousins, who are intergalactic treasure hunters (think Han Solo’s time period combined with Indiana Jones’ profession, and if you envision a young Harrison Ford it doesn’t hurt – at all!)

in the devils nebula by anna hackettSo far, two of the Phoenix Brothers, Dathan and Zayn, have found their true loves, In At Star’s End (review) and In the Devil’s Nebula (review) but their youngest brother Niklas has been left out in the cold. He left his career as an astro-archaeologist behind when he discovered that the famous Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation is run by a bunch of cut-throat, corrupt smugglers. He decided to join his brothers and do honest treasure hunting instead. All ironies intended. The prestigious Institute is a gang of thieves, and he and his brothers, mercenary treasure hunters, are pretty much above board.

He’s also too wrapped up in the mysterious treasure-hunter Nera Darc to find someone else he could love the way that his brothers do their wives. The way that Darc keeps showing up in their hunts and either stealing the prize right out from under them, or helping to save their lives (sometimes both), keeps Nik hoping for more.

Then the Institute, his former employers, recruit him for a treasure hunt of their own. When Darc joins the expedition, Nik can’t resist. Not that he was resisting much in the first place. The expedition is going to be the first to go back to old Earth, our Earth, to see what artifacts might be left after centuries of nuclear winter.

The last expedition to even observe the cradle of humanity from space found only black seas, grey land and lethally high radiation. Earth has gone dark.

But as Nik’s expedition discovers, not as dead as everyone thought. Just deadly enough that their expedition is going to leave more than a few bodies on its surface. The only question is whether one of those bodies will be Nik’s, with Nera Darc right beside him.

Or has the corrupt Institute finally over-extended its filthy reach?

at stars end by anna hackettEscape Rating A-: For those of us who have been with this series from the beginning At Star’s End, it’s been a long and wild ride to get to this glorious finish.

And it was so worth it.

There have always been questions about what exactly happened with Nik and the Institute. He gave up the career he loved, but he didn’t fight to right the wrongs he uncovered. That’s not Nik. That’s not any of the Phoenix Brothers. It was terrific to finally get the answers to exactly what went wrong. It was even better to have those wrongs finally come right.

There has also always been a question (or two or three dozen) about Nera Darc and why she finds it necessary to keep taunting the Phoenix Brothers and especially why she keeps teasing Nik. She obviously has some feelings beyond simple rivalry, but she never sticks around long enough for Nik to explore them. She’s the one that keeps getting away, and he needs to figure out why or find a way to move past her. This expedition is Nik’s chance to get to know Nera and discover if all that teasing can possibly lead to something more.

The revelations of Nera’s background are heart-breaking. That she uses her past pain to help someone else in need is a wonderful part of the story, and shows how much she has healed. The fits and starts in her developing relationship with Nik show just how far she still needs to go.

But in the middle of the building romance, there is the expedition. While it is pretty clear from the beginning who is gunning for Nik (and who else is gunning for Nera), some of the ulterior motives were a surprise. Not that expedition leader Avril didn’t come off as way too good to be true, but the depths of what she was covering up were deeper and more disgusting than I imagined.

The story of the expedition itself, both what they find and how they find it, chilled me to the bone. The portrait of the post-apocalyptic dark Earth is appropriately awful. The explanations of how things got to their final pass make all too much sense.

But what they see is frightening. The results of screwing it all up so very badly. At first, they believe that our world is dead. Then they discover that it is much, much worse. And also slightly better, but in a very twisted way.

The landscape is against them, and so is the extremely mutated wildlife. The oceans are black, and the land consists of black sand blast radii and deadly and mutated plant life, with even more mutated and deadly animal life. It’s a world that has turned on itself and turns on anyone who tries to discover its secrets.

Their final attempt at wrenching out some of the planet’s secrets says way more about them than it does about what they discover. The Institute attempts a rape of cultural misappropriation on an epic scale, and it finally bites them in the ass. Just because people seem primitive doesn’t mean that they aren’t way better at exploiting their environment than you are. It also doesn’t mean that they aren’t better people than you are. Technological superiority does not mean actual superiority.

The scenes of the surviving human population did remind me of the Morlocks in H.G. Wells Time Machine, and seemed all too plausible, where Wells did not.

And in this case, it wasn’t just that the so-called natives had way more moral superiority than the Institute, it was that in this case they managed to prevail. Technological superiority turned out not to mean more civilized. Or even more human.

Reviewer’s note: I am reviewing this a bit early, because I just couldn’t stand to wait. The complete blurb and the buy links will be added next week when they become available. If you love this series, or science fiction romance, you’ll understand why I couldn’t hold back. 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Hot Point by M.L. Buchman + Giveaway

hot point by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Firehawks #10
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: August 4, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository


The elite firefighters of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can’t penetrate.


Master mechanic Denise Conroy—with a reputation for being as steel-clad as the aircraft she keeps aloft—shuns useless flyboys who don’t know one end of a wrench from the other.

Firehawk pilot Vern Taylor—known for unstoppable charm and a complete lack of mechanical skills—proves his talent for out-of-the-box thinking with every flight. He’s a survivor and a natural-born heli-aviation firefighter.

When Denise and Vern crash together in the Central American jungle with wildfire on one side and a full-fledged military coup on the other, their newly forged partnership is tested to the max. They have each other, but not even their formidable skills combined can protect Denise and Vern from the conflagration sweeping the jungle… and their hearts.

My Review:

I have read and enjoyed many, many previous entries in both of M.L. Buchman’s connected military/romantic suspense series, The Night Stalkers and Firehawks.

pure heat by ml buchmanIf you prefer your romantic suspense with a higher military quotient, start The Night Stalkers with The Night is Mine, reviewed here. If you prefer your romantic suspense with more domestic danger, for very loose definitions of domestic, start with Pure Heat, reviewed here. Either way, the romance is hot, the suspense is very, very dangerous, the heroes are alpha but not alpha-holes, and the women are every bit as alpha, and every bit as professional, as the men.

The series are loosely interconnected, so it is very possible to read one without the other. However, this is one of those “Why would you?” questions.

Hot Point is a Firehawks story, and as such it does follow the pattern set by previous stories in the series. Not that this is a bad thing, the pattern definitely works.

One of the parties in the romance tends to be a bit of a misfit, but highly competent at their extremely technical job. The other one is equally competent, or they wouldn’t be part of Mount Hood Aviation in the first place. But that second person is usually slightly more socially ept. However, neither of the people who become involved in the romance expect to fall for anyone anytime soon, if at all.

That’s what happens in Hot Point. Vern, the helicopter pilot, is very competent. He has experience both with the Coast Guard and now fighting fires with MHA for 4 years. He may be one of the best helicopter pilots in the world outside of the military, and would possibly still rank highly within it. He is also a first-class charmer of the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” school. He’s not interested in long term until ace mechanic Denise Conroy gets under his skin.

Denise is one of the best helicopter mechanics that MHA has ever seen. Unfortunately, Denise is a bit standoffish and seems to be a stainless steel bitch. Of course, she is anything but. Instead, she’s the daughter of a widower who never recovered after the death of his wife – a woman that her surviving daughter resembles all too much. Denise is afraid to get close to anyone out of fear that she will lose them.

She’s way more competent with helicopter engines than she believes she is with other people. When she and Vern collide after his helicopter develops a fault mid-flight, they find themselves drawn to each other and into an intense relationship that neither expected.

They also bond over their mutual suspicion that there is more to MHA than merely fighting forest fires – not that that occupation isn’t dangerous enough. When former SOAR pilots own a crackerjack firefighting outfit, there are times when the U.S. military requests plausibly deniable backup in places that are hot spots in more ways than one.

Vern and Denise find themselves in the midst of MHA’s “second contract” either leading a coup d’etat in Honduras or trying to prevent it. As the bullets fly, they both start thinking that a regular civilian job might be a whole lot safer – if they live long enough to enjoy it.

Escape Rating B+: This series is always fun. I will confess that I’m finding the author’s new numbering scheme a bit awkward. About half the books it takes to reach #10 in this series are actually novellas. Oh well, that will make it just that much easier for me to catch up on the few that I’ve missed.

One of the things I really, really love about both of Buchman’s romantic suspense series, is the way that he draws the female characters. Every single one of them is an ace at what she does. Also all of them have the scars that any hyper-competent woman ends up with. One either ends up compromising one’s integrity in order to seem less capable, or discovers that one’s dating pool is extremely limited, because there are too many men who find them hard to take, even though that same hyper-competence is a trait they would either admire or envy in another man.

Some of Denise’s scars are of this type. She loves helicopter mechanics, and she is awesome at it. She’s also not very social, because she’s spent a lot of her life lost in either a book or a helicopter engine, and sometimes both at the same time. She isn’t traditionally feminine, and it is really clear that her last boyfriend was emotionally abusive about it.

The number of times and different ways that Jasper demeaned her and made her feel less than (even in memory) were so heartbreaking that I half expected him to come back and try to mess with Denise’s head all over again, but I’m glad that he didn’t appear. That would have been a traditional, and cliched way of created the crisis near the end of the story.

However, the jerk was mentioned so often he became kind of a Chekhov’s gun, he just never went off. So to speak.

Instead, what we have is a lovely romance between two people who constantly throw themselves in harm’s way, and who never expected to find someone else to be their equal. Denise becomes more comfortable in herself by being loved, and Vern finds himself more grounded. They fit each other perfectly.

The military mess at the end was an absolute hoot. They aren’t sure whether they are being kidnapped or enlisted, and don’t figure out until the end whether they are preserving the Honduran government or have been coerced into helping bring it down. The addition of Michael Gibson (hero of Bring on the Dusk, reviewed here), in disguise and in trouble, injects just the right amount of danger as well as linking back to The Night Stalkers.

A new entry in either of Buchman’s series is always a treat. I can’t wait for the next adventure.



Sourcebooks Casablanca is giving away 5 Copies of Pure Heat, Book 1 in the Firehawks Series by M.L. Buchman
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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Ryder: Bird of Prey by Nick Pengelley + Giveaway

ryder bird of prey by nick pengelleyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: thriller
Series: Ayesha Ryder #3
Length: 238 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: May 5, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

The Maltese Falcon was no mere legend—this fabulously jewelled golden bird really existed. Still exists, according to the last words of a dying man. Ayesha Ryder is on its trail, but not just to find the Falcon itself. It is said to contain a clue to the lost burial place of King Harold of England, a potent symbol for ruthless politicians determined to break up the UK and create a new, independent English Kingdom. The Falcon may also contain a second clue, one that few would believe.

Labelled an assassin, hunted by Scotland Yard and Dame Imogen Worsely of MI5—as well as those who want the Falcon and its secrets for themselves—Ayesha joins forces with Joram Tate, the mysterious librarian known to her friend Lady Madrigal, a one-time lover of Lawrence of Arabia. As Ayesha’s attraction to Tate grows, they follow clues left by long-dead knights to the tomb of a Saxon king and to the ruined Battle Abbey. When the trail leads them to a stunning secret hidden for a thousand years beneath an English castle, Ayesha must battle modern killers with medieval weapons before confronting the evil that would destroy her nation.

My Review:

ryder by nick pengelleyRyder: Bird of Prey is the third book in the Ayesha Ryder series, after Ayesha’s awesome introduction in Ryder (reviewed here) and Ryder: American Treasure (reviewed here)

Ayesha Ryder still feels like the love child of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, but her adventures have a “ripped from the headines” feel in spite of their setting in a slightly alternate 21st century from our own.

On the one hand, in Ryder, Ayesha’s adventures led to the foundation of a new combined Israeli/Palestinian country in the Middle East named “The Holy Land”. Her rescue of that peace process and its principal political figures brought her to the attention of world leaders as a Middle East expert and a woman who can and will get the job done and the treasure found, no matter how mythical that treasure might initially seem to be.

In Bird of Prey, Ayesha is hunting for the sword of Harold Godwinson, the last English king. For those not familiar with the history, Harold is the king who lost England in 1066 to William the Conqueror.

While Ayesha’s friend, the British Prime Minister Susannah Armstrong, is vehemently opposed, there is a bill in Parliament, brought forward by Susannah’s Deputy PM, to not only dissolve the United Kingdom but take the remaining country, England, out of the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organization. This England for the English platform would give Scotland its independence and allow Ireland to reunite. Or not in the latter case, but the English would be officially out of it.

In last week’s newspaper I saw an article about the British Parliamentary elections then in progress which also posits some of the same ideas. That this was closer to real than I expected was a huge surprise.

Back to the story. As a symbol of this England for the English movement, the organizers want Harold’s sword, which was supposed to have been buried with him. As usual for one of Ayesha’s adventures, the question on the table concerns the real life location of that burial. Which is, of course, part of the mystery Ayesha has to solve.

The clues to where that burial might be are hidden in yet another legendary artifact. Not on is the Maltese Falcon real in Ayesha’s world, but it contains both the key to Harold’s burial site and clues to the location of the fabled lost Templar treasure.

Someone, or multiple someones, are willing, in fact downright eager, to kill in order to get the sword and the treasure. But the bad guys should know by now that attempting to pin your crimes on Ayesha Ryder is a ploy that is guaranteed to fail. With extreme prejudice.

Escape Rating B+: It’s the treasure hunts that keep drawing me in. History is fascinating in general, and the idea that so many of the things we thought were legendary might be real is always enthralling. While there seems to be more than a bit of luck involved, it is so easy to get swept up in the way that Ayesha spins from one clue to the next, and always just one step ahead of the villains.

Ayesha’s assistants in this particular treasure hunt are a librarian whose propensity for adventure belongs in the TV show The Librarians and a female archaeologist who is thrilled to be the gender bent Indiana Jones in this running chase and battle.

That the chase comes to its conclusion in a reconstructed castle complete with reconstructed weapons and reenactors, while the villains arrive by Zeppelin, made for an exciting and climactic conclusion that goes from tongue-in-cheek to serious and deadly in the blink of an eye.

That one of the villains is a ghost from Ayesha’s past added to the stakes for her, and the consequences for the next book.

Something about the political setup of this one didn’t quite gel for me. The idea of England for the English is closer to real-life truth than I expected, but the idea that the House of Commons would be moved to revolt by the finding of the sword, or that such an important concept could pass this easily, seemed a bit too far-fetched.

I will say that the idea that highly-placed villains continue to try to shift blame for their crimes at the initial stages of the story by framing Ayesha Ryder has probably run its course. The first time it happened it added to the suspense. In this story even the characters who are intended to investigate the accusation saw it as a red flag that whoever said it must be part of the plot. I hope not to see this idea again for a while.

I absolutely love the treasure hunt aspects of the Ryder series. Ayesha always finds herself on the trail of something incredible, and always finds it, even if she doesn’t always get to keep it. It’s the chase that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, especially because there is always someone out to get Ayesha and that treasure right behind her.

I can’t wait to read more of Ayesha’s pulse-pounding adventures. There must be lots more legendary treasures just waiting to be rediscovered!


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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Q&A with Author Anderson Harp + Giveaway

retribution by anderson harp My guest today is Anderson Harp, the author of the action-adventure/political thriller Retribution. (Retribution is also today’s review book). If you’re looking for a meaty and complex story just like Tom Clancy used to write, Retribution is a terrific place to start!

Q: Why did you write “Retribution”?

A: I enjoy the challenge of writing and, to some degree, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was reportedly frustrated with the criminal novels of his time, I was frustrated with what I had been reading in the military thriller world. Some had implausible plot lines and didn’t connect to what I saw in military operations centers. Likewise, putting the plot together and making it authentic is the challenge. I wanted a plot that both propels the reader forward and leads to an unexpected ending. It places you in the true world of military operations with credible threats, accurate technology, and real action. And giving you what we all hope for – a hero that is complex but hardened steel. The guy that we all wish could be there when we needed him.

Q: Who is Anderson Harp?

A: Not William Parker, but close. Someone who enjoys challenges and is loyal to his fellow Marine. Someone who has fun doing crazy things like climbing Mount Fuji, or surfing the North Shore (with his daughter -not very well), or hunting around the world. A past member of the All Marine Track Team and national level runner, and someone who held the school record at his university for the 800-meter run for over a decade. And someone who has been dedicated to helping out servicemen and women by creating Operation Thriller, a USO Tour of authors to hazardous duty zones and who has served in operation centers both at the Pentagon and in support of Marines responsible for the invasion of Afghanistan. Someone who was the chief instructor for the Marine Corps mountain survival and cold weather training school.

Q: What is “Retribution” about?

A: Despite our best intentions, there remain bad guys, jihadists, and terrorists in our world. And the planet has gotten so much smaller. Without a guard at the door, anyone can step on a commercial airplane in Pakistan and be in your neighborhood the next day. Borders are only challenges. They are not insurmountable. We need someone who will stand at that door for all of us. William Parker, given the chance, stands at that door. We just need heroes. “Retribution” is an intense, plot driven, mission-oriented thriller that combines what is going on out there in the jihadist world with our response to that threat.

Q: How real is it?

A: VERY. The world is in flux, our military and intelligence agencies are constantly changing, upgrading, modifying in response to threats. So our military changes rapidly, but, nevertheless, the jihadist is consistent. He updates his strategy too, but remains a constant danger to our world. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, which are always at risk. The tribal territory is only a short distance from those nuclear cores. We think the danger is an assembled weapon, but the chance of a dirty bomb can have long effects. Thus, we need William Parker.

Q: What does your military background and being in the Marines thirty years bring to your writing? What is unique about this experience in the world of military thrillers?

A: In my life, I’ve been involved at different levels in the service with several world crises and helped with our nation’s response to those threats. It’s a unique opportunity in the thriller world to have been a first-hand participant in events like these. There are experiences from the small to the large that give depth to the story. For example, I spent thirty years being trained and qualified as an expert in firing weapons. The recoil of an M-14 is different from an M-16 or the 9mm is vastly different from the 45. The use of a suppressor affects much. On the larger scale, calling in artillery and air support require certain coordination’s of fire control. Operations centers are vastly different between the battalion and the Pentagon. All of this affects the realism of the story.

Q: Will we see William Parker in other books?

 A: Yes, Will Parker reflects a unique warrior with special skills. He has this ability to be comfortable speaking any language. Language skills are the only way to merge with and into a culture. He is a bit of a loner who lives for the challenge. He isn’t pushed by a normal life. He likes a marathon. He is a survivalist. And he gets angry when wrongs have been committed.

Q: What motivates a Yousef  al-Qadi?

A: The jihadist Yousef al-Qadi is damaged goods. He came from Saudi wealth and essentially a broken family. He doesn’t fit and his jihadist beliefs are a vehicle to place him in history. He is guided by his beliefs of a disjointed Muslim world where the fundamentalist believes everything is wrong. Women are not to be treated as equals. Non-believers must be removed from the Holy Lands no matter the cost. Brutality is accepted. It matters little if a prisoner is buried alive. He is not alone in this. He wants to establish another fundamentalist Muslim nation in the ruins of Afghanistan and western Pakistan. He is repeating history to some degree, as that area was kingdom centuries ago. He is ruthless but believes he is righteous. In “Retribution” he is disconnected from his mother. She is the daughter of the oil magnate’s gardener. He is half royalty and half pauper. And his mother dies an early death. His world is complicated as amplified by the traditions of the Arab mind.

Q: You mention that some children recruited by the Jihadists are drugged for missions.  Is this a common practice?

A: Yes. Recruiters persuade children and even family members with promises of their entering a land full of flowers and food. The children come from the deepest depths of poverty where a bundle of tied together plastic trash bags are a substitute for their soccer ball. To ensure that some do not hesitate, drugs are provided. Like the Japanese kamikaze, a warrior that is most dangerous is one that believes his death or the death of others is for a value worth more than his life or the life of a child. We have good reason to be fearful of this enemy.

Q: Are you already writing another book?

 A: Absolutely!  The whole special operations world has changed our forces, our capabilities, and our military structures. And William Parker was a special operator before these new commands were invented. Plus, he is a light warrior. Our men and women today fight with tons of gear and technology. For instance, the most decorated soldier of the European campaign in World War II was Audie Murphy. He received the Medal of Honor for single handedly attacking a German force. He received many more decorations for his bravery. (And went on to be a movie star as well.) When he enlisted in the Army, Audie Murphy was 112 pounds and stood five feet five and a half inches. The gear that some Marines carry today is close to 112 pounds. So a light warrior like a Will Parker is important.

Q: You started the USO author’s tour named Operation Thriller. And you did two tours. What has this achieved that hasn’t been achieved in other USO Tours?

A: I had the honor and pleasure of both creating and chairing Operation Thriller. Also, I had the chance to participate in the 2010 Tour and 2012 Tour. In 2010, we covered several bases in Iraq. And in 2012, we did a whirlwind tour of bases in the Gulf. Most locations were in hazardous duty zones. It was an absolute pleasure to meet our service men and women and say thank you where they served. It gave them the chance to meet the creators of heroes that they have read and even seen in the movies. I have written articles on this experience for CNN Larry King Live, The Huffington Post, Newsmax and the ITW. Some of my co-authors that went on the tours had never served in the military, had never held a weapon and had never been in an operations center. It was great to see both the military appreciation of these writers and the writers gained appreciation of those that serve.

Q: Are soldiers a great audience for thriller writers?

A: They are for two reasons. First, as a good friend and combat Ranger said to me, “we need heroes too!” In this world, we need Will Parkers who win. We need Will Parkers who understand the threats. And second, the military, particularly when in combat or in a hazardous duty zone, has tons of down time. Nothing helps pass twenty hours on a military flight (my longest was twenty four hours stopping for refuel) like a great thriller.



retribution by anderson harpAnderson Harp and BookTrib are giving away a paperback copy of Retribution. To enter, just fill out the rafflecopter.

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Review: Retribution by Anderson Harp

retribution by anderson harpFormat read: paperback provided by the publisher
Formats available:
Genre: Thriller
Length: 528 pages
Publisher: Pinnacle Books / Kensington
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The remote and impenetrable Pakistani mountains have offered refuge to the worst enemies of civilization since the time of Alexander. Now, the world faces a new challenge. Reared from birth to harbor a seething hatred, a lone man is about to unleash a firestorm that will rage for centuries. And the window of opportunity to stop him is shutting much faster than Washington D.C. can hope to deal with.

My Review:

If you’re looking for a way to get your Tom Clancy fix, Retribution is a great place to start!

I read the early Tom Clancy books, and loved the fast pace of the adventure, as well as the neverending skullduggery involved in the politics, but the later books felt a bit bogged down to me.

The action in Retribution never lets up.

Although the story focuses on ex-Marine William Parker, the point of view switches between Parker, the man he is hunting, and the politicians who want to make sure that there are no loose ends when his mission is completed.

Retribution is a complicated story, because “retribution” is something that every character seems to want–they just have wildly different perspectives on who should get retribution for what.

The plot and counter-plot revolve around a man who wants to become a second Osama bin Laden, but his ambitions are greater. The goal of Yousef al-Qadi’s jihad is to recreate a mythical pure Muslim kingdom in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, without giving a damn about the governments that currently hold those territories. He also wants to wipe out the Western influences from Saudi Arabia and its rulers.

He already has an army, he’s planning to use that army to steal nuclear material from Pakistan and hold the world hostage.

The plan that William Parker comes up with to eliminate the threat is equally as deadly; Parker plans to infiltrate Yousef’s inner circle and expose everyone in it to a disease as deadly as the black plague, and nearly as infectious.

Getting in turns out to be much easier than getting out; especially since there are plans back in Washington to make sure that Parker doesn’t survive his mission. And there are forces in Yousef’s camp willing to do anything to ensure that Parker pays in blood for his acts.

They wanted the best for this mission, and they got the best. The best at surviving, the best at succeeding, the best at turning the tables on his enemies.

Escape Rating B+: Parker is a great point of view character not just because he is so good at what he does, but because his reasons for doing it are so complex.

He is an adrenaline junkie who still takes missions just to feed that particular habit. He’s also intelligent and multi-talented, that’s what makes him both a hero and a survivor. But this particular mission has a goal for him beyond removal of the threat. His parents went down on Pan Am Flight 103, over Lockerbie Scotland. His reward for the Yousef mission is to find out the unvarnished truth about the Lockerbie bombing conspiracy, by seeing the secret and unredacted U.S. Government files.

It’s the one mystery he’s never been able to solve, and he needs to know–even if the truth includes culpability on the part of the government he serves.

If Parker is a bit larger than life, so is Yousef. It’s difficult to know whether his particular jihad, or the reasons behind it, have a basis in a real person; I definitely saw him as a threat, but his character felt more like an amalgam of possible dangers than a complete character. (YMMV)

The last third of the book goes along at a “can’t stop reading” level of adrenaline, especially as the action focuses in on the actual mission and relatively few characters. In the beginning, when a large number of people and a lot of background are thrown at the reader all at once, I would have killed for a dramatis personae list.

By the end, I was practically biting my fingernails to see if Parker’s mission succeeds, and the various missions to stop him are finally foiled.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Interview with Author Cherry Adair + Giveaway

Today I’d like to give a warm welcome to Cherry Adair. Cherry is the author of the T-FLAC action/adventure romantic suspense series, and the latest book in her series is titled Ice Cold. I’ll tell you right now that the action (and the romance) in Ice Cold is plenty hot! Check out my review for more of the sizzle. And if you want a paperback copy of Ice Cold for yourself, you’ll have a shot at the end of the interview.

Meanwhile, here’s Cherry!

Marlene: Hi Cherry! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Cherry: I was born in Cape Town, South Africa. My mother was a well-known opera singer and actress, and  my father was a second rate magician who took one look at her up on stage and declared that he was going to marry her. They got married a couple of weeks later. I trained as an interior designer at the University of Cape Town, then came to America in my early twenties and opened my own interior design business in San Francisco. My husband came in to look for wallpaper (it was a Wednesday <g>). By Sunday we were engaged, two weeks later we were married. That was 30 plus years ago. I still refer to him as my first husband just to keep him on his toes. Lol.

I’ve always loved to write, and sold my first book –The Mercenary– in 1993. A couple of years later I sold my interior design business in San Francisco to write full time. I write three different worlds. T-FLAC, my counterterrorists, Cutter Cay, underwater treasure hunters, and Lodestone, in which a main character has a sixth sense after a near death experience, giving him the ability to see the GPS location of a lost object or person. Currently I’m writing book # 36.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?

Cherry: I’m a Night Owl. I come alive at about 10 P.M. and then fall into bed at about 6 or 7 A.M. As long as I get about 8 hours sleep it doesn’t matter when or how I manage them. When I’m on a deadline (which is most of the time) I sleep in four or five hour stretches, and write in-between.

I was a pantser until I sold my first book. Then I saw the error of my ways. My right brain gets annoyed when my left brain insists on logic. <g> Now I spend a week plotting and doing basic research before I even open a Word document and write Chapter One. Plotting well enables me to use my left, analytical brain before I jump into the story with both feet. Still, even when the book is well plotted, I loathe writing the first draft. It always feels as if I’m writing. One. Word. At. A. Time. Once that’s done, and I have what I need on the page, it takes a crowbar to get me away from the story as I layer and texture all the fun parts into it.

Marlene: What drew you to write romantic suspense?

Cherry: I’ve always enjoyed reading romantic suspense, and still do when I have the chance. But I consider what I write action adventure, more than romantic suspense. I love the running, chasing, shooting, wild monkey sex of action adventure. <g>

Marlene: And how do you research the military/adventure/suspense sides of the romantic suspense equation?

Cherry: I do a huge amount of research for all of my books. I do basic research before I start writing. I know what weapons my character uses, and the skills they’ll need as the story progresses. I always start with the plot, and what I need my characters to do, or what I want their experiences to be so they’re prepared for what I’m about to throw at them. There’s a lot of information to be had online, but my biggest resource is my little black book, where I keep contact information for all sorts of interesting people. People like nuclear physicists, tech people, bomb disposal experts, Navy SEALs, a famous biologist, a botanist, a lovely man who (allegedly lol) sells weapons to shady people. . .I even have some of his shady people in my black book. Lol I collect people’s skills like other women collect shoes (I collect shoes as well of course. <g>) I also have people listed by their language proficiency. (Foreign languages, not swearing. <g>) I have some pretty famous people between those pages, and some people whose number I call and the call is rerouted electronically in an awesome spy-way. I also have great contacts at some of the agencies, FBI, CIA etc. People love to talk about what they do (well, most of them). And I love, love libraries where I spend hours getting completely lost in research. Information is everywhere.

Marlene: For those newbies among us, could you give a quick intro to T-FLAC and the T-FLAC series?

Cherry: Terrorist Force Logistic Assault Command is a privately owned counterterrorist organization based in Montana. The idea was conceived on a very long, very smoky return flight from Italy many years ago. Eight T-FLAC, and six T-FLAC/Psi books, and two new series later, I’m back in the world of counterterrorists and hot sexy espionage with ICE COLD. I had SO much fun writing this book, it was like being back with old (incredibly sexy lol) friends.

Marlene: What can readers expect of Ice Cold?

Cherry: For those who have not read any of my books – let me sum them up quickly for you. Running-chasing-shooting-wild monkey sex-action-adventure. A little over the top-a lot sexy.

ICE COLD is the story of  two counterterrorist operatives. Cyber-geek Honey Winston and bomb ‘whisperer’, Rafael Navarro as they race across Europe in search of a bomber determined to bring the organization they work for to its knees.

ICE COLD is a cat and mouse game, with plenty of twists and turns. And while the story is running-chasing-shooting-falling-down-icy weather-hot sex-sexy-romantic action adventure, at the heart of it, it’s the story of two people learning each other and eventually falling in love.

Backcover copy for ICE COLD:
T-FLAC operative Rafael Navarro will never allow another woman to suffer the consequences of his dangerous life. But in a world where a terrorist can do more damage with a keyboard than a bomb, he needs the expert help of a cyber-geek. And fast.

Fellow operative, and cybercrimes specialist Honey Winston prefers computers to people. But when a serial bomber threatens the world’s financial infrastructure, she’s forced to work closely with Navarro, whose notorious skill in the bedroom is as legendary as his dexterity defusing bombs.

Honey and Rafael must fight sparks hot enough to melt their resolve, and push beyond fear itself, as they join forces in a bid to race the clock before a sinister and lethal bomber proves just how much they both have to lose.

T-FLAC is back, and the timer is counting down in the most pulse-pounding explosive op yet—

About Cherry
New York Times bestselling author Cherry Adair’s innovative action-adventure novels have appeared on numerous bestsellers lists, won dozens of awards and garnered praise from reviewers and fans alike. With the creation of her kick butt counterterrorist group, T-FLAC, years before action adventure romances were popular, Cherry has carved a niche for herself with her sexy, sassy, fast-paced novels. She loves to hear from readers.

Places to find Cherry: website | twitter | goodreads | faceboook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Ice Cold by Cherry Adair

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Action Adventure Romance
Series: T-FLAC #17
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: Adair Digital
Date Released: October 14, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

T-FLAC operative Rafael Navarro will never allow another woman to suffer the consequences of his dangerous life. But in a world where a terrorist can do more damage with a keyboard than a bomb, he needs the expert help of a cyber-geek. And fast.
Fellow operative and cybercrimes specialist Honey Winston prefers computers to people. But when a serial bomber threatens the world’s financial infrastructure, she’s forced to work closely with Navarro, whose notorious skill in the bedroom is as legendary as his dexterity defusing bombs.
Honey and Rafael must fight sparks hot enough to melt their resolve, and push beyond fear itself, as they join forces in a bid to race the clock before a sinister and lethal bomber proves just how much they both have to lose.
T-FLAC is back, and the timer is counting down in the most pulse-pounding explosive op yet—

Only in the 21st century do you get action-adventure by mixing a cyber-geek with a bomb expert. Last century it used to just be fists, knives and guns. Not that there weren’t plenty of those involved in Cherry Adair’s Ice Cold. And the action, between the sheets (when there were any sheets) and otherwise, was anything but cold.

Ice Cold is Adair’s 17th foray into the operations of T-FLAC, the secret agency that she created to tell her stories of action, adventure and romantic suspense. Even though it was my first trip, I didn’t feel left behind by the plot or the set-up. I was immediately immersed in the story. Parts of it felt like a good TV or movie spy plot. But I like those. It used just enough of the familiar tropes to pull me right in.

T-FLAC is like any secret agency: it has special ops, and it has special operatives. Many live their jobs to the exclusion of any other life. Some go rogue. Eventually, those two types come into collision. It makes for edge-of-your-seat suspense hoping that the “good guys” are going to win.

And that not too many of them are going to go down in the line of fire along the way.

Ice Cold starts out with a loss. Honey Weston, the cyber-geek, loses her boss, and ends up taking his field assignment. Rafael Navarro is the bomb expert. They are chasing a serial bomber who seems to be bombing banks, and the surrounding city blocks, for no particular good reason.

Chasing down that reason is the suspense part of the story. Watching Navarro pursue West is the romance. Because he only does casual sex, and she doesn’t bother with sex at all. She sees a player, and he sees a woman under the ice princess exterior she cultivates.

And while they are distracted with each other, someone is targeting them.

Escape Rating B-: I found myself wondering if Honey Weston was an intentional homage to Honey West, or if her name just accidentally sounded like a girl from a James Bond movie. It took me a while to take a woman named “Honey” seriously as an agent. Maybe that was the point. Honey Weston is deadly serious, even if she looks like a supermodel.

Until the very end of the story, I never felt like I was missing something by not having read the rest of the series. It probably would have added depth if I had, but I didn’t feel lost. This is terrific! There’s always some hesitation at breaking into a series in the middle.

But at the end, the villain, who had been so incredibly clever up until that point, came off as extremely bwahaha crazy. Some of her crazy was personal to both Navarro and Weston, and I wondered if it had come up in earlier stories, but mostly, she just went too far into crazytown. How could she have planned so meticulously up until that point and then gone so far off the deep end just at the sight of Navarro and Weston? It was a bit much.

However, I had a lot of fun with this. I could see the whole story playing out in front of me. It would have made a terrific movie. All I needed was the popcorn.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Ebook Review Central, Dreamspinner Press, March 2012

When I performed my regular search of the blogosphere for the reviews of the  Dreamspinner Press March titles, I admit that I was really hoping that Amy Lane’s Super Sock Man would get enough reviews to make the featured title list this month.  The title of this coming-of-age story grabbed my attention, but four reviews wasn’t quite enough to put a title over the top this month.

So what did it take? Take a look at the reviews listed for these featured titles and you’ll see.

The number three title this month was A Helping of Love by Andrew Grey, the latest entry in his Taste of Love Stories. Series entries often do well, as fans of the series provide a pre-built audience and jump on the new title as soon as it comes out. This story gives readers not just sensuality and love, but also deals with disability issues and learning to trust after surviving an abusive relationship. One hero is wheelchair bound, and you guessed it, the other hero’s previous lover was was an abuser. This one looks like another hit for Mr. Grey.

From the sweetness of A Helping of Love, we head to something considerably rougher for the second place title. Mine by Mary Calmes features a cover that Tori Benson, in her review over at Heroes and Heartbreakers, just shouted out as, and I quote, “ZOMG!” But besides the cover, the story is about a co-dependent couple who make some seriously risky life-style choices. Choices risky enough to get one of the men kidnapped. The thing is, that kidnapping seems to be on top of some death threats. Not instead, mind you, in addition. It’s pretty clear that getting to an HEA for this pair is going to take some major work, but the reviewers say that it is well worth buckling up for the roller-coaster ride.

Number one is a book that was a  “Recommended Read” at Guilty Pleasures and a “Top Pick” at Night Owl Reviews, as well as highly rated at a host of other sites. Which title am I talking about? Appropriately, it’s Rarer than Rubies by EM Lynley. The main characters in this one are an M/M romance writer on vacation in Bangkok and the spy who falls in love with him. (Reed Acton, the mysterious man who starts following around our hero, Trent Copeland, isn’t exactly a spy, but…it sort of fits.) One reviewer said it was like an M/M version of Romancing the Stone. That apparently worked really, really well for a lot of readers and reviewers. Books that are this much fun are rarer than rubies. Truly.

That’s it for Ebook Review Central for this week. We’ll be back next week for the Samhain March feature. Ta-ta for now!