Review: Blood Diamonds by Mike Wells

Book 8 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: Blood Diamonds

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2016

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book, because this article contains spoilers from it!

Towards the end of Book 7, Elaine Brogan is obliged to join forces with Giorgio Cattoretti, in order to bring Raj Malik down as a revenge for what Malik did to her and Nick. According to Cattoretti, Raj’s wealth is based on the profit he makes from smuggling diamonds from a secret cave in a war zone from central Africa. Though Elaine thinks this mission is very risky, she wants to bust Raj for everything he has done, while the Italian mastermind is most of all interested in the rare pink diamonds themselves. For this mission, Elaine has to track down Stanley Ketchum, the ex-CIA agent who supplies Raj Malik with the precious diamonds and to use her charms to find out the exact location of the mine and to give the coordinates to Cattoretti.

Meanwhile, Nick, who escaped from the black site with the apparently mute nurse, Alisha, discovers that she is actually Isabella, the woman who blew up one of his undercover missions from the past that might have killed him. Though Nick is disgusted with what Isabella did to him a few years ago, he wants to know if she was linked in any way to the attack from the black site and to those who hold Elaine hostage. Though the reencounter with Isabella stirs some mixed feelings in Nick, he is equally worried about what had happened to Elaine and even insecure at the thought of her being again with Cattoretti. Even if Isabella’s presence annoys Nick, he reluctantly accepts her offer to help him look for Elaine, in exchange for a service he has to return.

Elaine’s journey through Northern and Central Africa is remarkably built and written through the way Mr Wells depicts and outlines the local cultures of Morocco, Chad and Sudan, the issue of poverty, war and extremism, international aid and dangerous encounters with wild animals. Though changing her identity is a piece of cake for Elaine, I think that here she plays her best role pretending to be a Texas trophy wife with the purpose of seducing Stan and hoping she will have the opportunity to see the diamond mine up close.

Will she get what Cattoretti wants without making Stanley too interested in her? I’ll let you find out for yourselves.

Review: The Necklace of Goddess Athena by Effrosyni Moschoudi

A New Adult Supernatural Mystery

 

Title: The Necklace of Goddess Athena

Subtitle: A New Adult Supernatural Mystery

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Time Travel

Year of Publication: 2013

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2014

Self-Published

Rating 5/5 stars

Time ….” Poseidon shook his head. “You mortals! You’re bound to it and keep forgetting it is only an illusion.” (Page 305)

“Man was made of flesh and bone on purpose! Time is his prison but also his best friend. He cannot make sense of his feelings, his accomplishments or his losses without it.” (Page 327)

If you’re in the mood for adventure, fantasy, mystery and Greek myths, I recommend author Effrosyni Moschoudi’s novel The Necklace of Goddess Athena: A New Adult Supernatural Mystery, which has elements of all these genres blended in. The result is a page-turning book with characters and situations which can stir the interest and imagination of readers of all ages who love Greek myth retellings or placed at the threshold of two very different worlds.

Time travelling siblings Phevos and Daphne are sent by their father, Efimios on a mysterious journey which takes them from ancient times to modern-day Athens and the only rule they have to obey is to follow the signs Athena will send them. After they land in an orchard, Phevos and Daphne meet its owners, other two siblings, Ksenia and Manos, who will befriend them, due to the coincidental loss of their parents in the same period as Efimios’ wife. Do Phevos, Daphne, Ksenia and Manos have to unknowingly go on the same path to seek the truth about their parents? What secrets will surface from the past and how will they affect the children’s lives?  Only by reading the book you will find out.

This is a coming of age story especially for Phevos, who has to learn to understand and to interpret the signs the two gods send him through dreams, riddles or other kinds of signs which we would consider being pure coincidences, but Phevos was taught not to believe in coincidences. The gods always know when it’s the perfect time to show the way, in order to make the divine plans come true. Until all the signs are revealed one at a time, Phevos and Daphne have to adapt to modern life in Athens, to find a job, and they will even fall in love with other characters from this peculiar world. However, sooner or later, the two worlds will meet and memories from the past will help both characters and readers understand how they shaped the present and how they will influence the future.

The main themes of this novel are faith (if Phevos didn’t have faith that the gods will guide him through, he would have definitely missed the signs), love in many of its forms (motherly love, brotherly love, platonic love, etc.), loss and longing (which are the main reason some of the characters suffer, whether it’s about missing their parents, their spouse or a child) However, the book has also many moments of humour. I love the way Phevos is struggling at first to speak and understand Modern Greek, not to mention the fact that he doesn’t understand the meaning of words like tourist, shower or hotel. And there are also gorgeous gems of philosophy sprinkled here and there, which work perfectly as inspirational quotes for the reader.

I know that some people are not fond of poetic writing, but I enjoyed it very much because it felt like a melody to my ears. Besides the interweaving of magical elements in the story, I also adored the depiction of Athens with its people and their everyday life, the vegetation and the cityscape, which seemed so accurate that it brought me back to places I visited in Greece two years ago. Though most of the characters don’t have many flaws, I grew fond of them, their good nature and their ability to adapt to harsh situations life threw their way. I know it sounds very odd, but I would have liked to meet some of them in person and to befriend them because I had a wonderful time learning about their lives and observing how they reacted in different situations.

The Necklace of Goddess Athena is an easy read for readers of all ages who still believe in fairy-tales, myths and the power of love that helps you find the truth about one’s disappearance and the way to bring them back in your life if that’s possible. Reality and fiction meet in fairy-tales and myths, and Mrs Moshoudi’s novel is no exception. Hop on this wondrous journey from Antiquity to present-day Athens, befriend most of the characters and be prepared to see Athena and Poseidon appear in front of your eyes and hear them speak in prophetic tones.

Review: Off the Grid by Mike Wells

Book 7 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: Off the Grid

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2016

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Warning: Lust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book because this article contains spoilers from it

In the beginning of the seventh book, Elaine Brogan and Nick LaGrange drive to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, where they are arrested on the spot for letting Cattoretti go. Ouch! It looks like Raj Malik found out somehow what the two secret agents did and he decided that it would be better to put them in prison and interrogate them whenever he likes. There, we enter the abominable hell Elaine lives in; terrifying thoughts cross her mind that she will not see Nick or her children again, she endures the humiliation of staying in a windowless, stinky cell and she undergoes various methods of torture (such as loud metal music, sleep deprivation, starvation) which gradually affect her mind and senses. Unlike his wife, Nick copes a little better with this subhuman treatment, because he worked as a professional extractor if you still remember from book 6. But how can he escape without his equipment? Did Elaine and Nick reach a dead end? Will anyone help them get out of this obscure place? Read the book and you will find out.

A secondary plotline stretches in front of our eyes and we read about Luna Faye’s story: her mixed-race origins, the traumas caused by the kids at school who bullied her and made fun of her size and looks, the reasons why she became interested in Martial Arts and in a career as an FBI agent. For me, it is fascinating how mature Luna was in her teen years and what a strong sense of justice she had at that time in her life. Becoming an FBI agent, she is sent to investigate the case of a famous serial killer that inspired her to enter the field of forensics. In this part of the book, you will also understand why Luna is so afraid of flying and how she managed to stop the serial killer and his accomplice from getting away.

Elaine and Nick’s imprisonment and some events that take place in the second part of the book were a bit scary, thought-provoking, but they made me read on. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Luna’ story. It was a little too long for my taste, as well as Dimitry’s mission to follow Raj everywhere he goes. I am a devoted fan of this series, but I had some mixed feelings while reading Off the Grid and I’m not so sure if I still want to continue reading it. The premise of the eighth book is pretty tempting, but what if the digressions or secondary plots bore me like it happened in this case?

I guess I’ll have enough time to answer this question until the next book comes out. I’m not a big fan of book series and I’m pretty surprised that I came so far with Lust, Money & Murder, which means a lot, but for my curiosity to be fully satisfied, the eighth book needs to be more dynamic (especially the first half of it) and maybe as engaging as On Russian Soil, for example. However, this is my personal and honest opinion and suggestion. I’m not scolding Mr Wells, but if nowadays we have the privilege to connect with the authors of our favourite books, why we shouldn’t analyse their works critically, for the benefits of both writers and readers? I hope that my thoughts about this book will not spoil your excitement about it, but a reviewer’s purpose is to notice both the highs and lows of a book. Until next time!

Recenzie: Poeme persane de Otto Stark

Titlu: Poeme persane

Autori: Baba Taher, Omar Khayyam, Saadi, Jalaladin Rumi, Șabestari și Hafez

Gen: Poezie, Religie, Misticism, Spiritualitate

Anul apariției: 2014

Editura Herald

Colecția: PRINCEPS

Traducător: Otto Stark

Prefața: George Grigore

Rating: 3,5/5 stele

Dacă tot am citit Iubirea a spus, tradusă în limba română de Simona Trandafir, și The Essential Rumi, tradusă în limba engleză de către poetul americam Coleman Barks, m-am gândit să continui această incursiune în poezia orientală/sufită cu volumul Poeme persane, tradus și adnotat de Otto Stark, carte apărută la Editura Herald în anul 2014. Colecția este prefațată de George Grigore, care îl omagiază pe traducător pentru iscusința prin care redă aproape cu fidelitate creațiile celor mai importanți poeți persani (Baba Taher, Omar Khayyam, Saadi, Jalaladin Rumi, Șabestari și Hafez) fără a știrbi frumusețea și fără a strica prozodia și structura gramaticală originală.

În majoritatea poemelor din acest volum este prezentă tema beției sau a vinului, care trebuie înțeleasă metaforic, deoarece are o legătură strânsă cu sufismul și reprezintă „acea înaltă expresie a sufletelor îmbătate de dragoste divină” (p. 5) pentru că vinul este considerat în Coran o „băutură paradisiacă” și consumarea lui este interzisă în Islam. Mai mult, reminiscențe ale venerării vinului numit Haoma, asemănător cu ambrozia grecilor sau cu Soma indienilor, s-au păstrat în misticism cu modificările de rigoare aduse de religia islamică. Însă beția spirituală nu este singura temă comună a acestor poezii, ci și dragostea dintre privighetoare și trandafir, care reprezintă iubirea pătimașă a privighetorii neîmpărtășită de trandafir. Însă pentru a înțelege mai bine legenda, schimbați genurile celor doi protagoniști, deoarece, în limba persană, privighetoarea este de gen masculin, iar trandafirul de gen feminin.

Înainte de fiecare secțiune veți găsi o scurtă prezentare a fiecărui poet, câteva date biografice, lucrările importante care i-au făcut cunoscuți în spațiul oriental și chiar european, poeziile cu formă fixă specifice acestei zone culturale (rubaiul și gazelul), stilul și temele abordate de către poeți și, nu în ultimul rând, volumele din care traducătorul a selectat un anumit număr de poezii pentru a închega această colecție. Apoi, la sfârșitul cărții, veți găsi notele referitoare la simbolurile sufite, citatele din Coran, personajele din legendele persane ș.a.

Deși am găsit numeroase informații interesante, poemele, prin abundența metaforelor și a arhaismelor, m-au făcut să hoinăresc cu gândul într-o lume orientală liniștită, unde poeții meditau la viața trecătoare a Omului. Nu pot spune că mi-a plăcut întotdeauna stilul sau traducerea anumitor poeme. Nu spun că nu a fost o traducere bună, dar unele rubaiate ale lui Omar Khayyam mi s-au părut repetitive, iar la poeziile lui Rumi nu am simțit acea esență spirituală pe care o au în volumele menționate la începutul recenziei.

Poezia lui Rumi este aparent simplă, în ciuda simbolurilor brodate în versurile ei sau a mesajelor înțelepte pe care le propagă. În rest, poeziile sunt foarte frumoase și uneori triste, însă Kayyam și Hafez încearcă să alunge tristețea prin vizitele la cârciumă sau la iubita cu zulufi parfumați și buze roșii ca vinul. Ceea ce m-a amuzat la acești doi poeți este faptul că dacă nu aș fi știu că poeziile lor au caracter metaforic și mistic, aș fi crezut că sunt cântece de pahar din Persia medievală, unde omul trebuia să se împace cu gândul trecerii timpului și cu deșertăciunea și să petreacă pentru a face în ciudă sorții.

Chiar dacă n-am fost pe deplin încântată de acest volum, sunt sigură că sunt persoane cărora le va plăcea să redescopere acești poeți persani și lucrările lor mistice. În încheiere am ales un rubai al lui Omar Khayyam care ilustrează cel mai bine efemeritatea vieții fiecăruia dintre noi:

„Mă tot uitam la un olar cu silă,

cum frământa sub tălpi un boț de-argilă,

și-argila îi spunea pe glasul ei:

Și eu am fost ca tine, fie-ți milă!” (Rubai 211,  p. 56)

 

Review: The Extraction by Mike Wells

Book 6 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: The Extraction

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book because this article contains spoilers from it!

I just can’t believe how addicted I am to this series. The cliff-hanger from the previous book was so well done and so intriguing that I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going to happen to Elaine Brogan and how she would overcome a certain life-threatening situation.

In the beginning of the sixth book, Raj Malik receives Elaine’s message and then the “head of the U.S. Secret Service operations in Europe” (Loc. 27) calls Leon Gilmour, a professional extractor, who rescues American assets from neutral or hostile countries. He must extract a young American agent who is suffering from hypothermia and wolf bites. It also seems that she is held hostage by an insurgent and Leon must deal with him too. Afterwards, he must destroy any evidence of struggle or gunshots before the police find them.

Some important events and secrets from Leon’s past are uncovered, though the hint given by the narrator in one of the first chapters will definitely make the readers of the previous books recognise him immediately. However, I will not reveal the name of the character. I can only add that life can sometimes be very ironic.

In this book, we can see how twisted Cattoretti’s mind is (more than ever if you ask me), what plans he has got regarding Elaine, her family and her saviour. How evil can a criminal mastermind get? However, after returning home, Elaine hatches a plan to find Cattoretti’s hideout, because he has kidnapped Tony, but also to find out where Lexy and Cattoretti’s son was taken without the mother’s consent.

The book is full of amazing elements: split missions through which the agents find more information about Cattorretti and his accomplices, epic fights in unexpected places, adrenaline, suspense, but also a bit of humour every now and then. However, the story is not over yet because we have to explore the seventh book.