Tuesday, 21 March 2023

THE NEW ABNORMAL by Aaron Kheriaty #TuesdayBookBlog

 4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: recommendation

In a Nutshell: 'Dr. Kheriaty documents how technocrats abused power they never should have been granted and terrified people into surrendering their freedoms. The results of this malfeasance are ongoing. Fortunately, Kheriaty provides indispensable guidance for stopping an emerging biomedical security state from doing even more damage in the future.'

Aaron Kheriaty was a practitioner in California when he first began to suspect that something didn't quite ring true about the version of the pandemic that was being broadcast to the population.  The work is highly detailed, and every paper or source to which he refers is listed in the last 30% of the book.  He uncovers the way in which certain language was used to ramp up the fear, how citizens were encouraged to inform on each other for so-called misdemeanours, how those who wished to exercise their right to informed consent before considering taking the injections were demonised, and, most worrying of all, how anyone in the medical profession who was brave enough to say 'something isn't right' paid dearly for doing so.

He also uncovers the true extent and severity of the virus itself, the efficacy of the injections, how the extent of vaccine injury is being kept under wraps, including the truth about ADE (antibody dependent enhancement) that I read so much about when the shots were first rolled out.  He gives information about who does most of the funding for the WHO (no surprises there) and how the tools used to promote the new religion of 'Scientism' are the same deployed by totalitarian systems.  Kheriaty talks about what's to come and how it can be resisted.  The second half of the book goes too much into philosophy generally, I thought, and was a tad idealistic, but that was the only aspect I was not so sure about.

This is worth buying for the epilogue alone - a story written in the second person about 'you' in the year 2030 - a high level Microsoft employee who loves his biometric sensors that give his 'Social Responsibility Score' to anyone who needs to know it, that monitor his mood, physical exertion, every movement, suggest medication, dietary improvements, etc etc.  At first life seems all fine and dandy, but gradually the cracks start to show ... it's not without humour and is a real gem!

I highlighted loads of passages and could have written pages about this book, but I decided a basic overview would probably be more effective.  If you have any interested in the subjects outlined, I highly recommend this.

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

THE DEVIL HIMSELF by Steven Duggan

 4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Amazon browse

In a Nutshell: Man unjustly accused of murder seeks to clear his name.  Set in Ireland.

Jack Finch was accused of a murder he didn't commit, and sent to prison for eight years after taking a plea deal.  While he's away, his wife divorces him and marries his elder brother.  Jack knows that going back to the small town where the murder took place is not the wisest move, but he cares more about clearing his name than about the reception he will have to endure.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, loved the writing style, and I liked Jack very much, which always helps.  There is much description about life in prison, a stark portrayal of the desperation and fear that an inmate can go through, the total despair.  

I'd seen in reviews that the ending is particularly good, and I echo this, wholeheartedly - I thought I'd guessed the twist early on, but I was so, so wrong - especially as it's a double twist.  It's (they're) so well done; a round of applause well earned.  Made me want to flick back to see if I could spot any clues.  I liked how the second one hinted at what happened without actually giving all the details; this worked so well.  

I've taken a half star off because of one issue - the proofreading.  I spotted the odd wrong word and incorrect punctuation mark, but mostly it was the excessive use of exclamation marks in dialogue that kept making me wince; the vast majority were not needed and should have been removed.  Aside from that, though, it was great.  Excellent plot, a great main character, and the sort of writing style that keeps the pages turning.

Monday, 27 February 2023

EL NORTE by Harald Johnson #RBRT

 3.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Fast paced organised crime 'on-the-run' thriller

Never a dull moment in this high-speed thriller starring Jager Flores, an eighteen-year-old who goes on holiday with his family (mother, father, sister) to a Honduran island, never suspecting that this will end in a white-knuckle-ride of a journey north to the US - or that he will be accompanied by Flea, a former gangster who wants to disappear.

Jager knows his father is involved with some dodgy people, but does not know to what extent.  

It's clear that the author has spent much time researching every aspect of with how migrants sneak into the US; the local culture and jargon is convincing, throughout.  I was fascinated to read about 'La Bestia', also known as 'El Tren de la Muerte (The Train of Death), the freight train used for the purpose of getting across Mexico for those who can't afford a smuggler.  

The plot is suspense-filled and unpredictable, as every good action thriller should be - the story is well put together, and definitely plot- rather than character-driven, though Flea and his gang at the beginning were very well drawn, I thought.

Unfortunately, though, this didn't quite hit the spot for me, although I usually love on-the-run stories.  I couldn't 'see' Jager; he never jumped off the page like a character needs to, in order for you to care what happens to him.  He is a schoolboy whose parents have seen fit to send him to a therapist and get him hooked on diazepam (Valium) because his personality is of the introverted type and he suffers from 'social anxiety', which apparently means he needs to be dosed up with strong, highly addictive medication.  However, within a couple of days of shocking, tragic events that give birth to his perilous journey, he throws away his pills and starts facing down gangsters, thinking on his feet in the manner of Jack Bauer, and becoming the de facto leader of small parties of South American undocumented immigrants.  I get that dire circumstances can bring out a side of a person that they didn't know existed, but it usually takes more than a matter of days.  I'm afraid I couldn't suspend my disbelief.

Another detail that grated was this: Jager's gangster father kept a top secret, wildly important document containing certain names, that must not fall into the wrong hands ... on a Google doc.  Surely a hacker of the type that exist these days would be able to hack into such a document within minutes?

To sum up, the story has a lot going for it, especially if you like non-stop action, but it didn't really work for me for the reasons stated.  Which is a shame, because I like this author's historical and time travel fiction very much.

Sunday, 19 February 2023

PLAGUED by Marie Keates @marie_keates

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Twitter

In a Nutshell: WW1 soldier is invalided home after injury, only to face a feeling of alienation - and the Spanish flu epidemic.

An emotional family drama about one of the hardest times in the 20th Century, Plagued tells the story of Thomas, a soldier who gets a 'Blighty wound' during his time at the front during the last year of World War I.  Having changed in every way from the man who left so joyfully in 1914 - he and his friends thinking that they were setting off on glorious, honourable adventure - he finds integration back into 'normal' life beyond difficult.  Like his friends, he doesn't want his wife to know how hellish the war actually was, but at the same time feels alienated because he has been through appalling experiences that he can't talk about.

This is also the story of Thomas's wife Mary and her many friends who face the hardship of civilian life during a war, of fear that their husbands, sons and brothers will not come home, and finally of the Spanish flu that felled so many at that time.

This is a highly readable book and I looked forward to getting back to it each time I put it down.  So many aspects of the time are dealt with, and the research is evident without being intrusive.  I did have trouble remembering who was who in the large cast of characters - who was married to whom, which children belonged to which mother, but this didn't really matter.

I particularly liked the ending, in 1919, when Thomas and some friends stand by the site of the future cenotaph; it had a sadly poignant ring to it.  If you like wartime family dramas, you'll love this.

Monday, 13 February 2023

SHAPE OF REVENGE by Georgia Rose @GeorgiaRoseBook #TuesdayBookBlog

 4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Recommendation from a trustworthy source!

In a Nutshell: Book 2 in the A Shade Darker crime thriller series, all set in the fictional village of Melton.

A Shade Darker is a great idea for a series - I believe there will be 12 novels, all stories being connected though each a stand-alone.  Quite a challenge for any writer; having not yet read Book #1, I am in the perfect position to confirm that, as far as Book #2 is concerned, it is one to which Ms Rose has risen admirably!

Shape of Revenge centres around Sharon Beesley, the owner of the local village shop.  She's a terrific character; horribly self-centred and self-righteous, blinkered, unable to 'read the room' whilst believing herself to be so perceptive.  She (thinks she) completely rules the roost in her household, with husband Eric tightly reined into humdrum subservience and daughter Daisy following whatever path Sharon deems suitable.  Of course, both Eric and Daisy have all sorts of stuff going on, not least of all in their individual heads, about which Sharon does not have a clue.

I so enjoyed reading the inner workings of Sharon's pernickety little mind; seeing a character's view of the world whilst knowing it to be utterly skewed is always so entertaining.  The book is most 'reader-friendly', flowing along in such a way that the pages just have to be turned.  I've noticed when reading another book by this author that she is a master of structure, revealing details at just the right time and making all events fit together perfectly.  This is so important in a book of this type, with its secrets, lies, smoke and mirrors, and themes of dastardly revenge, abduction and faked identities.

I don't know if this was intentional, but most of the way through, I felt that it had an element of dark comedy, a genre so popular at the moment with shows like Why Women Kill, You, The Flight Attendant and films such as Promising Young Woman.  The way that some of Sharon's antics were written, as well as those of secondary character Ella, definitely had this feel to it.  Somewhat tongue-in-cheek.  It worked, anyway!

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

A MOTHER'S LAMENT by @NikkiRodwell #Poetry #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Poems about the trials and joys of motherhood.

I've never considered myself one who appreciates poetry, but lately I've found myself liking the type featured in this book - short pictures of an emotion, many of them free verse.  A Mother's Lament is a raw look at some of the realities of the state of motherhood, straight from the heart.  I've read a couple of Nikki Rodwell's poems on social media, and think she has a definite talent for encapsulating a situation and plumbing its joys and depths, in just a few words.  'The Swamp' so articulately describes the pain of deep family rifts, with the end verse telling the child that behind all the difficulty, the mother's love still remains. 'Peace', which comes next, is like a sequel to this.

Other favourites:  'Overboard', three short verses about the carrying of and giving birth to a child, alienation as the child grows ('Mid voyage your compass went awry' - love that), and an image of the mother treading water, 'hands clutching to driftwood' as she waits for the child's return.  I think this was my favourite of all of them.  'Broken Pieces' is in a similar vein.  I smiled at 'I love you but I don't like you' - I heard my own mother say similar about my sister and me on more than one occasion!

Then there is 'Brave' - a real gem; motherly advice about not following the crowd.  I also like 'Mirage' - sad and beautiful.  The collection ends with 'A Mother's Prayer for her Children' - but what is 'the golden rule'?!

Most of the verses are topped by a small, relevant graphic, which adds so much to them - these little pictures somehow give them all more meaning, and I think the cover is perfect.  It's a fine collection; Nikki Rodwell, you are a poet!

Monday, 30 January 2023

MY LADY SPY by Gemma Lawrence @TudorTweep #TuesdayBookBlog

5 GOLD stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: a favourite author, a great series, I was looking forward to it rather than discovering it!  Originally discovered Gemma Lawrence via Twitter; first read her work on Wattpad.

In a Nutshell: Book 5 of the Armillary Sphere series, about Lady Jane Rochford.

Easily my favourite book in this series so far, My Lady Spy is set during Lady Jane's time at court during the reign of three wives of Henry VIII: Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard.  

Jane Seymour

The slight psychic abilities that Ms Lawrence has given Jane are beautifully written in this book; the one that sticks in my head, in particular, is her momentary vision of how Catherine's life might have been had the King died during their marriage.  In another writer's hand this somewhat supernatural element could have seemed out of place in a novel with such factual credibility, but Gemma Lawrence gets it just right.

Anne of Cleves

When Jane is coaching the ladies in her charge, as preparation for the arrival of Anne of Cleves, much is explained about the protocol of the court and the day to day life of those who lived there; I enjoyed reading this very much, and also the way in which life in London is portrayed.  I also loved the way in which Jane's own inner story develops in this book, as she deftly controls her obligations to Cromwell while dealing with her own loneliness and sadness, and her loyalty to her true masters: all three queens.  All hail Anne of Cleves, perhaps the most clever of all six, and certainly the most fortunate.

The story of Jane's close friendship with Catherine Howard is heartbreaking to read, knowing as we do how it must end.  I was glad it brought them both some happiness for a while, however short-lived.

Tamzin Merchant as Catherine Howard in The Tudors

This novel gives much grim detail about the ruthless, evil dissolution of the monasteries, and makes all too clear the daily tension of living in a world where one never knew what the tyrant King would do next; on several occasions I saw certain parallels with our world now.  History repeats itself in many ways!

'Common people, noble too, did not welcome all that had happened over the past three years.  Elements of life left unchanged, stable for generations, for all time as far as the collective memory of the people understood, had altered beyond recognition in a matter of months.  The world, once stable under our feet, was trembling, and the people did not like it.'

'If those in ultimate control of us are evil then there is no hope for us, so we blame others.  We make our masters, these tyrants, innocent so we remain safe in their power.  Fictions control more of the world than we realise.'

'When tragedy comes for one, it comes for all.  Evil does not affect but one of us, not just a few, but permitting evil, standing aside as it rides towards us, allows it into our world, and all our world it poisons, a little at a time.'

This episode ends as Catherine Howard marries the King, and as Cromwell gets his just deserts (head removed from body).  I loved everything about this novel, and only wish Book 6 was already available!