Dark Harvest, by David L. Thompson

Eight stars

In a political thriller with strong terrorist themes, David L. Thompson dazzles readers with an intricate storyline and well-developed characters. After terrorists attack a Montreal church, the world takes notice. The FBI wonders from across the border if a prominent terror cell may be behind the attack. When a major explosion rocks the bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, all eyes turn to the Feds, apparently asleep at the switch, especially after events the previous day. As a Deputy Director, Bradley Parsons is forced to take much of the blame, though he tries to make it clear that he has been working with limited resources. As SCIMITAR claims responsibility for the attack, there is more to come. One of its leaders, Mustafa Suleyman, warns of a major attack on the D.C. area, which will likely include Sarin gas. Mass panic ensues as Parsons tries to mobilise and discover where the attack is centred. As numerous smaller cells begin to lay the groundwork for the attack, Parsons debates taking the ultimate steps that will neutralise SCIMITAR once and for all. With other attacks around Europe and into the Arab countries, Parsons convinces the US President to begin Operation: Dark Harvest, a multi-state initiative that may be the only hope to end the violence. With the help of Europe and Israel, it may work, but there remains the problematic attack slated for D.C. Time is running out and Parsons has more than himself to worry about, forcing him to work in conjunction with others to ensure the region is safe and SCIMITAR disappears once and for all. However, terrorism is more like the Hydra, resuming its efforts as soon as one cell is dismantled. Parsons will have to act quickly and with all the force he can to ensure success. Thompson does well to keep the reader engaged throughout this high-impact thriller. Perfect for fans of terrorism novels, especially those who like a new spin on an overworked theme.

I was intrigued when David L. Thompson approached me to read this piece. A fellow Canadian, I was sure to get a new and unique perspective on the terrorism theme within the thriller genre. While much of the story is set in the U.S., Thompson offers up some grit without the usual approach that has been woven into the American psyche by past administrations and their departments. Bradley Parsons proves to be a great protagonist, forced to fight against the larger FBI hierarchy. While he is saddled with much of the blame for the early SCIMITAR attacks, he works diligently to get to the root of the major plots being hatched. With a spouse who works within the Agency, Parsons cannot risk everything or be overly self-centred. The Parsons character contrasts nicely with the likes of Mustafa Suleyman, whose connections and ability to bring about chaos knows no end. With a past connection to Parsons, the story revolves around them and trying to flex their respective muscles in times of crisis. The terror threats seem unending and multi-faceted, making the clash between Parsons and Suleyman all the more intriguing. With a large cast of characters, Thompson enriches his story with a rich collection of individuals who advance the narrative in many ways. All support the aforementioned two key characters in their own ways, allowing Thompson a wide berth to develop his plot. In a story that seeks to stand out from the various novels on an over-worked terrorism theme, Thompson finds new ways to keep the reader enthralled. Adding his Canadian flavour to the story, Thompson is able to compete in the genre without using too many of the usual themes that have gone stale years ago. With five primary chapters that work as ‘parts’ of the novel, Thompson uses ‘sub-chapters’ to develop his plot effectively. Some are short and offer wonderful teasers while others are longer and much more detailed. This lures the reader in and then hooks them as the plot develops over time. I am eager to see what else Thompson has to offer, as this was surely a stellar introduction to his writing, which is both tight and full of life.

Kudos, Mr. Thompson, for asking me to read this wonderful piece. I can only hope that others will discover this novel and be as impressed as I was throughout.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Nine stars

The time during America’s Revolutionary War was anything but peaceful, as many history books have explained over the years. When Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch came together to pen this book, they sought not only to explore some of the more confrontational aspects of the period, but also to uncover a little-known (read: documented) conspiracy against George Washington that seeped almost to the core of the Continental Army. The book opens by exploring some of the early goings-on within the colonies as they sought to band together in order to toss off the yoke of their British oppressors. In the early days of the Continental Congress, one man stood out amongst all the delegates, a former military officer from Virginia, George Washington. Chosen to lead the Continental Army, Washington began preparing for what would surely be a major campaign on many fronts. While some of the colonial areas were easily swayed by Continental sentiment, there were large pockets of Loyalists, those who stayed true to King and Country. One of these pockets was New York, where the Colonial Governor, William Tryon, was prepared to fight in order to hold onto power. Washington, surrounded by an elite group of soldiers called the Life Guards, sought to use all the force at his disposal while being protected, hoping to unseat Tryon and push forward with overtaking New York. As the authors explore, even when Tryon was forced to flee into exile, plots to disrupt and remove Washington from his position of power began. Working to infiltrate the Continental Army commenced, creating turncoats out of those who took up arms against the King, and a plot to remove Washington took shape. All the while, the Continental Congress created a secret committee to explore these whispers, in hopes of finding those who were conspiring and bringing them to justice. It would seem that even those closest to Washington might have been involved in turning against him, even before the formal Declaration of Independence was signed and sent to the British. Just how deep did the conspiracy go and what were the plans if Washington were caught? Meltzer and Mensch dazzle the reader with details and possible plans, as well as how the conspiracy was dismantled and its plotters brought from out of the shadows. A wonderful read for those who enjoy colonial history at the time of the Revolutionary Wars, as well as readers with an interest in political schemes.

I have long been a fan of Brad Meltzer’s work and picked this book up in order to read another of his historical thrillers. It was only when I started reading that I came to understand that this was a piece of non-fiction. It is written in such a way that the reader can fully absorb the impact of the plotting without drowning in too much detail. Meltzer and Mensch lay the groundwork effectively, offering some biographical pieces on the key players, before delving into the core of the story that shows how both sides were keen on pushing forward and removing those in positions of authority. While Washington was apparently in imminent danger on many occasions, he kept his eye on the prize and sought not to peer over his shoulder at every turn. The various plots and conspiracies evolved effectively throughout the narrative, coming to a head as the story builds. Even in the closing chapters, the authors posit what might have been had the conspiracy succeeded and how might present day America be different. While this is surely alternate history, it is interesting to wonder and surmise. With short chapters, the authors offer repeated lures to pull the reader into the middle of the story and offers little-known (to me at least) insights into the attempts to remove Washington, at times plots to kidnap, but also whispers of more violent means. The smooth-flowing narrative keeps the reader enthralled and entertained as they learn some of facts that have been buried in footnotes, letters, and journals. Not to be missed by those who love learning about historical events buried within larger narratives well-documented in tomes.

Kudos, Messrs. Meltzer and Mensch, for holding my attention throughout. I was pleased to learn so much while being entertained, as I am in the fiction I have come to know and love.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Killer Thriller (Ian Ludlow #2), by Lee Goldberg

Eight stars

Lee Goldberg’s highly entertaining new series seeks to top the rave reviews its debut novel received with another instalment. Just as funny and full of thrills, readers will surely be ready for another high impact piece that keeps them guessing. Ian Ludlow is still basking in the success of his latest thriller novel, while remembering how it was tied closely to actual events he lived. Now, he’s being sent to Hong Kong to drum up support for the cinematic interpretation of one novel, while using his time there to do some background research on his next thriller. Alongside him is Margo French, his former book escort turned sidekick during his previous adventures. While Margo has plotted out some wonderful scenes to visit for the upcoming book, Ludlow has problems of his own. His complex plot notes about the Chinese using technology to backdoor their way into America has strong ties to a covert operation presently underway, sending the Chinese into a frenzy. Ludlow is a targeted man and must be eliminated before he can (inadvertently) reveal all through his next book. Additionally, there are ties within the US Government that could help facilitate an easier entry into the country, all of which comes to a head as Margo realises the danger in which they find themselves. It will be a race to stay safe and overturn the ultimate plot, while Ian Ludlow tries to handle the bastardisation of his novel at the hands of a director who wants nothing but a large dose of self-praise. Goldberg has done it again, keeping the reader enthralled until the very end with this explosive piece of work. Recommended for those who enjoyed the first in the series and like a little light reading.

Lee Goldberg is still a new name for me, though much of his past work has received a great deal of notice. His ability to mix humour with a wonderful thriller keeps the reader hooked until the final pages and wanting to know just a little more. Ian Ludlow comes across as a wonderfully focussed author who wants to grab hold of life and write the next big thing. Standing in his way in that eerie knowledge that much of what he puts to paper, however outlandish, seems to come back to bite him. He remains full of pep and banters well with those around him, losing none of his pizzazz throughout the novel. Complementing him well is Margo French, who has her own sort of independence and passion for life. No longer as down and out as she might have been remembered, she is working hard and finding trouble alongside Ludlow like no other. Their interactions are wonderful and keep the story light throughout. The cross-section of others in the narrative propel things in a number of directions, all of which work well. The reader is able to see the Hong Kong experience from a variety of angles and the characters enrich that experience effectively, while adding to some of the thrills that develop throughout. The story is not as hokey as it may appear, though there are surely some moments of head shaking and completely tomfoolery. Perhaps that is what keeps the story moving forward and entertaining. This is light reading at its best and the reader is surely in for a treat with this piece.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, on another successful piece. I am eager to see what awaits in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Rebel’s Revenge (Ben Hope #18), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Ben Hope is back for another adventure that will keep series fans enthralled. Scott Mariani has been able to keep the intensity high in this latest piece, pulling Hope out of his comfort zone and into America’s Deep South. It would seem that even on vacation, Ben Hope cannot escape trouble. Upon his arrival in Louisiana to attend a jazz concert, Hope trips upon a crime at a backroad establishment. Unable to stand down, he flexes his muscles while trying to remain anonymous, putting him on the radar of the local sheriff. When the proprietress of the establishment in which Hope is staying is slashed and left for dead, he rushes to her aid, listening to a cryptic message she has before she succumbs to her wounds. With only a brief glimpse of the suspected killers, Hope is unable to catch them. Knowing that he will likely be sought for questioning—and not wanting to make any more of an impression than he has—Hope flees the scene, trying to piece together some of the news he’s recently learned. While Hope becomes an apparent fugitive, he learns of the Garretts, a family well-established in this neck of Louisiana for many nefarious reasons. Staying one step ahead of those who seek him, Hope learns that the mystery of his acquaintance’s murder has ties to local history that dates back to the American Civil War, where another Garrett sought vindication. With the authorities on his tail, Hope refuses to stand down until justice is done, even if that means peppering his trail with a few more bodies, Garretts or not. Mariani does a masterful job in this thriller, pushing his protagonist in new directions while keeping the story strong. Series fans will likely want to get their hands on this, while those new to Ben Hope’s mysteries will want to start with the first novel, to relish in the strong writing style.

I undertook a binge of the Ben Hope work a few years ago and was so impressed that I have tried to stay up to date with Scott Mariani’s writing ever since. The stories span not only various geographic locales, but place Hope in a number of employment positions that flavour his actions throughout the novels. Deep into this series, there is little expectation of backstory and Mariani does not offer much, but does remind the reader of some threads from past pieces that help justify Hope’s place in the United States. Rather, the reader is able to see Hope’s steel resolve as he seeks to right wrongs done to those around him, not worried about personal consequences. His grit is not lost in this piece, though it is balance nicely against a compassionate side that series fans will recognise. Others in the book offer an especially interesting flavour to the narrative, with most of them capturing the local Louisiana culture. Mariani effectively presents them, both through their characteristics and unique dialogue, to pull the reader from wherever they find themselves into the bayou parishes of the state. The story is strong and while it is away from the big city, there is no shortage of action. With a strong narrative that binds a mix of short and longer chapters, the reader is able to lose themselves in this piece that stretches Mariani well outside of where he’s dropped his protagonist in novels past. One can hope that other series readers will be as impressed as I was with this piece, which kept me wanting more with each turn of the page.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for such a wonderful novel. I don’t want to go to the well too many times, but I hope you have more in store for Hope before too long.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Quill of the Dove, by Ian Thomas Shaw

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Ian Thomas Shaw, and Guernica Editions for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

New to the world of Ian Thomas Shaw, I jumped at the opportunity to read one of his books, which mixes some powerful political drama surrounding the Middle East with some heartfelt emotional growth by his protagonists. In a story split between two time periods, the reader is introduced to two journalists. One, Marc Taragon, is a young man who has travelled to the Middle East in the mid-1970s to learn Arabic. However, with the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, the region is turned into a war zone and Taragon cuts his teeth on some of the most sensational and difficult to describe journalism of his life. The other, Canadian journalist Marie Boivin, who is coming of age in 2007 and has been sent to write a number of articles about Taragon. Her time with him is spent mostly around Europe, but shrouded by an Israeli-Palestinian clash that could soon get out of control. While both journalists face issues as they cover their stories, the region remains a powder keg, with brother turning against brother, in an attempt to bring religious and political stability—and superiority—to a head. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that there is more than the politics to be solved, with both Taragon and Boivin harbouring their own inner angst and desire to understand something within themselves. While the region remains volatile and the groups continue to shift, one can only hope that some clarity will come to provide a ray of hope that progress can be made, personally, if not politically. A refreshing and raw look at Middle East politics with heartfelt drama and intrigue throughout. Those who enjoy a weightier political thriller will likely want to get their hands on this book.

This being my first foray into the world of Ian Thomas Shaw, I was unsure what I ought to expect. He is able to weave together a complex story with ease, pulling not only on strong political themes that have made splashes across newspaper headlines, but also give life to his characters that pose as vessels through which the story can move from one point to the next. Marc Taragon is a strong-willed protagonist whose development throughout the piece is evident. His youthful ways shine through in the early stages of the narrative, in the region to learn the language, but his inquisitiveness is also present, helping him not only as a journalist, but also a character with whom the reader can relate. As the story progresses and he becomes the guide with sagely advice, his character seems to grow and become more respected, even though he is still but a pawn in the region as a whole. Marie Boivin has flashes of the Taragon gumption throughout, though her inquisitiveness seems primarily focussed on her subject and landing the best interview possible. I got the feeling that the Middle East backdrop was secondary for her, which turned important as radical change took place and she was thrust into the middle of something chaotic. The reader learns much about both characters as the story progresses, both their public image as well as the inner workings of their minds. Many of the other characters sprinkled throughout this piece prove effective at creating a wonderful story that tells of some of the less glorious sides of the Middle East clashes. Shaw speaks of religious and cultural clashes throughout the narrative, breathing life into these themes by giving his characters important roles. The reader is able to see the struggle through these men and women, sympathising with them throughout, while making connections with others at times. Shaw shows that he is able to develop a strong story that works on many levels, speaking to the political and cultural situation in the region, as well as the questions displacement leaves in the minds of many. I could not pull myself away at times, as the story became enveloping and kept me on the edge of my seat. Shaw depicts the clashes and the ever-vigilant people so well, while pulling on the reader’s heartstrings to sense the importance of what is going on. This is truly one the of great parts of this piece, in that it seeks less to inform and more to help the reader to feel what is taking place, a true asset. A mix of short and longer chapters provides the story with a wonderful mix to propel the reader forward, hooking them and then giving detailed accounts of the goings-on. This is an effective use of the narrative and exemplifies Shaw’s great writing style. I am extremely interested in seeing what else Shaw has out there for readers and if some of the other work is just as involved as this strong piece of literature.

Kudos, Mr. Shaw, for a wonderful glimpse into the world of Middle East politics with a human touch. I was quite impressed with the balance throughout and hope others find the book just as engaging.

This book fulfils Topic #5: Wild About Books! for the Equinox #6 Book Challenge

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Flight or Fright, edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent

Nine stars

There is a certain majestic nature to being far above the clouds, crossing the country or an ocean while receiving small bags of snacks and watered-down drinks. Air travel has long been the go-to means of getting from one place to another, especially with the ongoing technological advancements for the general public. However, Stephen King and Bev Vincent seek to dispel this bucolic myth with their collection of short stories about flying, all of which explore levels of fear or evil when it comes to being in the air. The collection of seventeen pieces keeps the reader enthralled, with stories from many authors who penned their works at different times during the progress of flight over the past century. From stories about cargo trips back from Jonestown, to ever-elusive gremlins on the wing, through to pieces about a nuclear war commencing during the middle of a continental flight and even the joys of having an airplane before a crime scene during an in-flight murder, King and Vincent seek to spook the reader just a little as they learn about the many ways in which flight could be anything but safe. With wonderfully gripping pieces, some as short as a single paragraph, the editors offer a jam-packed adventure that would put any security scanning line to shame when it comes to horrific experiences. A great anthology that will keep many a reader wanting to plant their feet on terra firms for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended for those who enjoy short stories that differ greatly from one another and those who are not put off by some of the predictable disasters that could await any airline passenger.

Having long been a fan of Stephen King—and an avid flier—I was eager to get my hands on this piece to see the sorts of authors and stories that were gathered to create this nightmarish collection. Not only are the pieces entirely unique from one another, but they span the entirety of the flight experience. Some authors penned their stories not long after the Wright Brothers made their brief sojourn into the air while others tackle topics of a Cold War era or even when travel was as sleek as could be imagined. This great cross-section of writing enriches the collection even more, though there is a theme of fear within each piece. As the editors offer a brief synopsis of the piece to come, the reader is able to place it into context and can—should they wish—notice the chronological and technological progresses made in air travel. As the reader is introduced to scores of characters in a variety of settings, they can relate to as many as they like while endeavouring not to scare themselves with vivid imaginings of what could go wrong. The choice of stories was wonderful, as was the varied lengths of the pieces on offer. However, perhaps I should not have read this days before I would board a plane. Now then, which button was actually used to bring down the plane and not summon assistance for additional pretzels?

Kudos, Messrs. King and Vincent, for this captivating collection. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope you’ll continue to collaborate again soon.

This book fulfils Topic #1:Collecting Words in the Equinox #6 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger #5), by V.C. Andrews

Eight stars

With all the drama of the Dollanganger saga done, it would seem that everything is as it should be. However, how did it all start and what led to such a fire and brimstone sentimentality that Bart ended up exuding upon reading his great-grandfather’s journals? V.C. Andrews answers this in this final instalment, a prequel of sorts, that takes that story far into the past, before things got out of hand. Olivia Winfield was a quiet girl, though her height and gangly nature made her more wholesome than attractive to many. The daughter of a successful businessman, Olivia was without a mother to guide her as she came of age. When Malcolm Foxworth came calling one day, Olivia was surprised that he would pay her any attention. Their whirlwind romance soon led to a wedding and Olivia’s move from Connecticut to Foxworth Hall in Virginia. When she arrived at this mansion, Olivia was in awe and it took her a while to absorb it all. She began to learn that all the servants and formal processes were only part of what she will have to learn, as Malcolm had a strong affinity for his departed mother, a woman who fled the family when he was all of five years of age. In time, Olivia and Malcolm welcomed two boys into the house, Mal and Joel, though both wished for a daughter. It is only when surprise houseguests arrive that the household got a great deal more interesting. With the arrival of Garland Foxworth, Malcolm is excited to see his father back, though he brought along a new bride of only eighteen. Alicia was young and quite clueless as to the ways of the world. She was also pregnant, meaning that Malcolm would soon have a half-sibling close to his children’s age. As Olivia tried to bond with Alicia, she discovered that there were some troubling aspects to the young woman’s life. It would seem Foxworth men have wiles that cannot be ignored, though their ability to win over the ladies was second to none. After Garland passed away, Malcolm reluctantly agreed to let Alicia stay in the house, now the mother to a little baby boy, Christopher. Given her own wing of the house, Alicia was left to wallow in the memory of her lost husband, all but incapable of caring for her son. When Olivia discovered that Alicia is being taken advantage of by Malcolm, she could not sit idly by, though there was little she could do to stop his antics. Locked away in the attic, Alicia became the first prisoner ever kept there, away from the eyes of others, at least until Olivia could put her plan into action. With a new child in the house, Corinne, the family expanded and Malcolm showed a troubling affinity towards her, favouring Corrine over the other children in the house. As Olivia grew older and watched her children mature, the family suffered other tragedies, hinted at in other books within the series. With this knowledge, Olivia became more jaded and heartless, transforming into the woman series fans came to know throughout the Dollanganger novels. A wonderfully written prequel that does lay the groundwork for much of the series, yet still full of wonderful twists that most readers would not have seen coming.

V.C. Andrews brings this highly controversial series to a close by opening the door to how it all began, if that makes any sense. The series is situated within the ‘young adult horror’ genre, but the plots have been able to hold my attention without getting too corny. In this book, the reader discovers much of the needed foundational information about the Foxworth family and how they came to hold such animosity. There are wonderful vignettes that put much of the concerns from the first two Dollanganger books into perspective here. OIivia finally gets her time in the limelight, giving the reader some time to get to know more about her. While the series fan knows her as The Grandmother, there is much more to her than the ruthless matriarch who wants nothing to do with the Dollangangers. Olivia enters life as a Foxworth with much hope, though it is dashed as soon as she discovers that Malcolm is highly duplicitous. Olivia shows some of her own conniving nature, which she justifies as protecting the family name. The attentive reader will be in for some wonderful and impactful surprises throughout, giving Olivia Foxworth new dimensions. Others who play key roles in the story help to create a wonderful narrative that fills the reader with wonder and confusion, particularly Malcolm Foxworth. His move to being highly religious and moralistic comes over time, though there are certainly some justified occurrences that push him in that direction. With a handful of other characters who reemerge throughout the series, this opening book proves to be highly intriguing. Set as an addendum to Olivia’s will, one can suppose that this novel is both a prequel and later revelation in the series, putting much in order that may not have been known beforehand. The surprises are plentiful and the story flows quite well, without much of the drama embedded in the rest of the series. The reader will be able to piece this all together and enjoy learning about some of the happenings that laid the groundwork for the banishment of the twins to the attic in the opening chapters of Flowers in the Attic. A great read that shows V.C. Andrews plotted this entire series out well before her death soon after this novel’s original publication.

Kudos, Madam Andrews, for allowing me a chance to see how the entire Dollanganger/Foxworth drama began and developed. While I have even surprised myself with how enthused I was to read it, I cannot deny it was an intriguing ride and one I would recommend to the patient reader who can sift through some corny plots.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Persian Gamble, by Joel C. Rosenberg

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joel C. Rosenberg, and Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Joel C. Rosenberg is back with another political thriller that is quite timely, knowing current geo-political situations. With Marcus Ryker inside Russia, he is on a mission to bring an agent planted inside the Russian Government to safety, where they can discuss much of what he has learned. However, with the recent assassination of the Russian President and head of the FSB, there is a really good chance that this mole (and Ryker) are behind the killings, making the manhunt to find them all the more intense. When even the US Government is leery about helping, Ryker knows that he will have to reveal some of the intel to ensure their safe extraction from the edges of the Russian border region. It would seem that the Russians have made a secret military alliance with the North Koreans, which could help both sides in the event of aggression from other parts of the world. Other intel includes Russia’s plans to annex some of its former Soviet satellite countries, thereby beginning a war with NATO that is surely to devolve into a bloodbath. Add that to the news that the recently neutered Iranians have been covertly communicating with the North Koreans to obtain key pieces necessary to create a nuclear arsenal, and things could not be worse. With nuclear capabilities, the Iranians could be used against Israel, the Americans, and any others who seek to disrupt them. As Ryker fights to help out however he can, he remembers his strong Christian ties and wrestles with the increased amount of violence that will soon take place to end these political nightmares. As he tries to justify it, Ryker is sent to Japan to prepare for another mission, covertly scouting out the North Korean warheads being shipped to their Iranian partners. With bodies piling up all around them, Ryker sees friends and foes alike lose their lives, which only tests his religious beliefs, forcing him to question his role in the entire affair. A well-plotted novel that always takes politics to a new level. Fans of Rosenberg will surely want to get their hands on this piece to devour the political banter, if nothing else.

I always enjoy a good Rosenberg novel, as he is not only on point about the political situation, but has an uncanny way of predicting the future with the plots of his stories. A few past novels have been spot-on with their predictions, leaving the reader with an eerie sense of ‘could it’ as they devour each new book. Marcus Ryker plays an interesting protagonist in this book, struggling to do his job and find a balance with his religious beliefs. Rosenberg does not inculcate the reader too much with this book, but there is mention of biblical scripture and Ryker ponders what it all means. He has lost his family, so there is little but his own life to ponder, making him an unpredictable character in the field. Many of the others around him prove highly entertaining as well, their beliefs and sentimentalities key to keeping the story on track. Rosenberg is masterful at his ability to create strong characters throughout the piece and keep them growing throughout. The plot was not only plausible but also highly in touch with what is going on in various political spheres. There is little chance that Rosenberg is completely off base with some of his ideas, though just how real they could turn out to be is sure to jolt some readers when the time comes. The chapters were quick and kept the reader pushing forward, while never losing interest. One can only hope that there is more to come, be it in the series or with Rosenberg’s writing, as he is able to weave a tale like few others I have seen in all my years of reading. Politically gritty with that softer Christian passivity when it suits the plot, this is an author about whom readers should take note, if they are not already familiar with his work.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for such a great new piece. I liked much about it, even if I try not to get too bogged down by the Christian aspects of your character development.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Seeds of Yesterday (Dollanganger #4), by V.C. Andrews

Eight stars

In the final novel that depicts the chronological progress of this most unique family unit, V.C. Andrews offers the reader even more insight into the ways the Dollangangers have become intertwined and how these connections create unforeseen offshoots that rattle the familial foundation. Chris and Cathy Sheffield (Dollanganger) are back in Virginia, still holding onto their secret, though its strength is slowly waning. Invited back to Foxworth Hall by Bart, who is about to celebrate his 25th birthday, they have come to see that he is still the religious pillar who judges others. Having been willed this mansion in his grandmother’s will, Bart has rebuilt it to reflect the days of old, not knowing some of the painful memories that it evokes. Jory and his wife, Melodie, are back as well, ready to help Bart celebrate, though always dodging his moralistic speeches. When Cindy arrives to celebrate with her brother, she is no longer the little girl the reader will remember, but a voluptuous teenage knockout who turns heads everywhere she goes. Bart has many surprises for the family, none more so than the revelation that one of Malcolm Foxworth’s sons, presumed dead, was actually alive and in hiding. Uncle Joel is as judgemental as Bart, with his past as a monk, and ready to keep the Sheffields in line. When Melodie admits that she is pregnant and will not be able to dance with Jory in a special ballet for the birthday celebrations, Cindy steps in. However, something goes tragically wrong and Jory is seriously hurt, leaving him unable to walk. As sly as he is judgmental, Bart hones in on Melodie’s ache, as Jory has lost his ability for intimacy, and he takes up with her. Shocked to discover them, Cathy can only wonder if the family curse is coming to pass yet again. Were that not enough, Cindy’s teenage brain has her wanting to give in to all the lustful thoughts that cross it, allowing the boys to dominate her curves and alluring body. When Melodie goes into labour, she cannot wait to rid herself of what is inside her, admitting that she never wanted to be a mother. Jory suffers not only with his paralysis, but upon hearing this must wonder if he chose the wrong woman to stand beside him. Melodie flees Foxworth Hall as soon as she can, leaving Jory and the rest of the Sheffields to raise the next generation. While Bart is still as critical as ever, he sets his sights on a new conquest, hoping that this will finally meet all the needs he has rummaging around inside him. However, Foxworth Hall and these Dollanganger offspring seem never to be able to take the easy road. Andrews brings some interesting finality to this series, spinning new and dastardly webs to a family that has seen so much over the past number of years. Series fans who have made it this far will likely enjoy this final piece, but there is no end to the odd storylines that have turned many readers away.

As V.C. Andrews brings this highly controversial series to a close, she does so with a bang for her fans. While the series remains part of the ‘young adult horror’ genre, the plots have held my attention and not been too corny. I know some have steered away from this series and tell me they are surprised that I have not left it to fade from my memory, but I wanted to say that I made it to the end, tying up all the loose ends left throughout. Bart plays a central role in this piece, if only because he is tapping into the religious and moralistic code left by his great-grandfather and Foxworth patriarch, Malcolm. This young man speaks of a world of sin and duplicity, then rushes off to act in such a way that the reader is left to scratch their head. With no one safe from his ‘fire and brimstone’ sentiments, characters must dodge his comments on most anything while living under the roof of his exceptional mansion. Jory’s debilitating accident offers new challenges and development for this other central character, as he learns to live without the use of his legs and is forced to watch his wife turn to another man—his brother, no less—to find sexual comfort. Jory is determined to make something of himself and be the father he has dreamed he could be, even if everyone is discounting him. Chris and Cathy, long the central characters in the series, have grown closer throughout, learning the pitfalls of their romantic decision as well as seeing the children they raised make choices of their own. With many struggles found in more traditional family units, V.C. Andrews tosses struggle and joy at this two, as she has done throughout the series. With plots and tangential storylines throughout, Andrews thickens the plot until the very end, leaving the reader to wonder what is around the corner for them in this unpredictable series. With many of the plot lines tied off—some in quite drastic ways—it would seem there is little else to know. However, Andrews is not quite done with this series, as she leaves the dedicated reader to wonder how things got started all those years ago. One final novel, a prequel, takes the story back to the beginning, long before there were children—or flowers—in any attic. I think we’ll head there to see what it is all about.

Kudos, Madam Andrews, for keeping me entertained throughout. This has been quite the ride since I took the daring plunge into seeing what the series was all about. Now, I am hooked and must see how it ends…or all began!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

If There Be Thorns (Dollanganger #3), by V.C. Andrews

Eight stars

No matter how chaotic one’s life can be, running away can sometimes only make things worse. Chris and Cathy have tried to do this, fleeing the horrors of South Carolina and Virginia for the wonders of California. With Bart and Jory alongside them, Cathy’s boys are ready to enjoy a quieter life. While both know their fathers have passed on, neither Bart nor Jory realise that Chris is not their true step-father—the story they have been told—and that their mother has been fostering numerous secrets from her past. When a wealthy woman moves in next door, both boys develop an interest in learning more about their neighbour. This veiled and elderly woman seems to have a full complement of staff, including a curt butler who keeps them away from the wall separating the properties. Never one to let a wall deter him, Bart develops a relationship with the woman, who asks that he call her ‘grandmother’, seeking gifts and promises at every turn. When Bart is not in the presence of the mistress of the house, the wily butler seeks to advise Bart that this woman is actually his mother’s mother and that the Foxworth family has many secrets about which the boys ought to know. Bart is presented with a journal from his great-grandfather, Malcolm Foxworth, the patriarch from the original novel in the series who started much of the chaos that has created issues for the past few decades. Bart begins to exhibit highly troubling behaviours, at times thinking himself Malcolm reincarnated. As Chris and Cathy become concerned about Bart’s behaviour, they welcome a new addition to the family, adopting young Cindy, creating a new and interesting dynamic in the household. When Jory and Bart are told the truth about Chris and Cathy’s connection, the understanding that the incestuous relationship has been building for years. Torn about how to feel about the revelations, Jory must help extract Bart from the clutches of their grandmother and keep the Foxworth past from tainting their bucolic life in California. However, as the series fan will know, when it comes to the Dollangangers and Foxworths, nothing is done smoothly or without dramatic flair. As the narrative builds and all secrets are revealed, someone will have to pay as both sides wrestle for control of Jory and Bart and the blood history coursing through their veins. Another interesting addition by V.C. Andrews that presents some interesting loose threads for the final novel chronological novel in the series. I’ll have to see how it ends, if only to quell my curiosity. Series fans may enjoy this one, though some may begin to wonder if things have stretched past their plausible limits.

As V.C. Andrews continues to spin the web that is this series, she seeks to add depth for her readers. While one must understand that the series remains part of the ‘young adult horror’ genre, the plots have not been too vapid, nor are they as sexually shocking as in the previous two novels. Still, Andrews seems to branch out and create storylines for two characters from the next generation of Dollanganger offspring. Jory and Bart take the reins of narrative control in this piece, permitting the reader to explore their lives as the struggles they both possess. Jory has some understanding of his past, but was duped into believing that his mother was mostly virtuous after his own father’s death years ago. He is also the moral compass as he tries to steer clear of the woman next door, who gives off a vibe of awkwardness and eerie darkness. His own life is that of a dancer, though he can see his younger brother becoming more and more troublesome. Bart, on the other hand, knows little about the torment that his own conception and birth brought to the family. Series fans will know that Bart’s birth was part of a complex tug-of-war between Cindy and her mother, trying to lure the same man into their own lives. Now, Bart seems highly susceptible to the wiles of both his maternal grandmother and her sadistic butler, who wants to create a new Malcolm Foxworth. As Chris and Cindy remain staples in the story, other than the revelation of their ongoing incestuous actions, they play a smaller part of the overall plot. Still, there are some struggles they face with their three children. Many others make appearances throughout to thicken the plot, though much of the story relates to learning more bout Malcolm’s past, which may shed a great deal of light on the highly religious and strict moral code that Chris and Cindy faced as children. Perhaps the least dramatic or shocking of the three books to date, Andrews still takes readers on a rollercoaster ride throughout and tries to plant new and interesting offshoots in the major plot of her series. With some of the drastic goings-on towards the end of the book, there is no doubt the final novel in the chronological aspect of the series will have much to solve, keeping curious readers enthralled and wondering. In a series that seems to spark much nostalgia for many readers, I am interested to let my adult sensibilities act as a literary sieve to offer some modern sentiments.

Kudos, Madam Andrews, for keeping me wondering throughout this piece. I know some feel things have gone too far off the rails to be plausible, but some suspension of reality is surely expected by you to keep the plots fresh and surprising.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons