Review: Money by Mike Wells

Book 2 of Lust, Money & Murder

A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

 

Title: Money

Subtitle: A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

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

The previous time we encountered Elaine Brogan, she was in big trouble, because she found out from Gene Lassiter that her boss and love interest (Nick LaGrange) was also involved in counterfeiting money. To be more precise, he took bribes from criminals in order to hide the wrongdoings from the Secret Service. Therefore, the Interpol was looking for him. The unexpected news struck both Elaine’s heart because she loved him and didn’t want him to get hurt, but also her mind because she “had falsified her DOPS to cover Nick’s tracks”.

Accompanied by her former trainer from the Secret Service Academy, Gene Lassiter, Elaine is going to the Treasury Department in Washington, where she will be given the painstaking task of identifying the imperfections in the fake US dollar banknotes sent to the Treasury, in order to create an updated verification software that will detect the counterfeit money. Afterwards, the information will be sent worldwide, in order to catch the criminal and to detect the KBA Giori intaglio printing press they used to counterfeit money. They were looking for a particular criminal who produced fake money, of which hundreds of US dollars have passed undetected by the verifier from San Remo casino. Another interesting fact is that the Italian hooker, who exchanged the counterfeit money, went missing. But this disappearance will probably be solved in another book of this series.

Due to his health problems (or so it seems), Lassiter cannot travel to Moscow to implement the verification software there, so Elaine unwillingly volunteers to go in his place. Hm, will it be that easy to accomplish her mission? What dangers will she encounter in the Russian capital and beyond and who wants to harm her? Is there anyone she can truly trust? Things will get pretty tangled for the secret agent and the brilliant way Mr Wells built the plot makes the reader scratch one’s head wondering if the truth will ever surface from all the lies and if Elaine will be able to stay true to her principles.

I have to tell you that this book is amazing. It holds many unexpected twists that make you say, at least a couple of times “Huh?” while reading it and the Muscovite adventures make your adrenaline level rise. I personally thought that I was mentally watching an action film, but it’s better than any blockbuster. Maybe the author should consider turning this series into films. It really has the potential for it. If I couldn’t fully commit to the first book, this one was really addictive and I cannot wait to read the third book of Mr Wells’ series.

Review: Lust by Mike Wells

Book 1 of Lust, Money & Murder 

A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

Note: Lust, as well as all of Mike Wells’ first instalments in this series, is a freebie!

 

Title: Lust

Subtitle: A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

As well as in Devika Fernando’s case, I received the link to Mike Wells’ first book of Lust, Money & Murder series on Twitter, from the bestselling American writer himself. So today I’m going to leave aside my dear Classics and Romance novels and I’m going to stir your curiosity with Mike Wells’ crime novel.

As a child, Elaine Brogan had a special bond with her father and she was detail-oriented, a gift that will help her later in life. When Elaine was sixteen, she became a model, but, after spending a huge amount of money for her humble condition, she realised that everything the agency promised her was just a scam. The sum of money she received back was actually counterfeit.  Unfortunately, her father paid for his daughter’s naivety. He was wrongly accused of  “a Class C felony, punishable by up to 12 years in prison” and he was also accused of theft because “her father had been robbing construction sites to put her through Bromley” – a better school for Elaine. Patrick’s sacrifice for his daughter’s future and the fact that he didn’t want to drag her with him into jail really made me cry and think of my dad, who would have probably done the same for me.

Elaine’s life drastically changes after her father commits suicide in prison. She seeks revenge against Ronald Eskew, the man who gave her the counterfeit money and joins the Secret Service. Elaine goes through many tough tests which make her a cold, calculated, independent woman, aware that her beauty that can be used as a tool. Isn’t she fit to become a secret agent? She is harshly trained to react fast to unexpected situations such as terrorist attacks and threats against the President of the USA.

Overall, this book was interesting and different from what I usually read. I can’t say I was totally into it, I enjoyed the prologue and Elaine’s story until her father’s death. The college period and the training part made me lose interest a bit until the secret agent was sent to Bulgaria, where her missions caught my attention again. However, the jaw-dropping twists towards the end tempt me to buy the whole series. I bet there are many people like me, who would like to learn more about Elaine’s journey. Until the next review, find a little time to read a great book, old or new.

Read the second book here.

Review: When I See Your Face by Devika Fernando

A Second Chance At Love

 

Title: When I See Your Face

Subtitle: A Second Chance At Love

Author: Devika Fernando

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

I wrote in an older review that I’m pretty shy when it comes to contemporary literature, because I’m not very accustomed to its genres, styles and new trends; plus, I don’t always know what I’m getting into. However, after recently discovering a few Romanian and foreign book tubers and after creating my Goodreads and Twitter accounts, my interest and appetite for contemporary books began to grow. It’s more like a combination of curiosity and the need to know what’s new and good to read.

For today’s review, I’m going to talk about a romance novel entitled When I See Your Face: A Second Chance At Love written by Sri Lankan-born German author Devika Fernando, who sent me a link to the free Kindle Edition of her book, that also contains an unexpected bonus. She has also published other contemporary and paranormal romance books and series, which are very tempting for any book lover of these genres.

When I See Your Face: A Second Chance At Love follows the story of Cathy Nolan, the wife of real estate manager Mark Nolan. She runs away from home, in order to escape the beatings and suffering caused by her abusive husband. She flees to a quiet village, where she plans to begin a new life. However, Cathy panics and has a nervous breakdown when she encounters Michael Newland, a man who looks exactly like her husband. Talking about freaky coincidences, huh? The other man’s face brings back to life Cathy’s traumatic memories and fears regarding her husband through vivid nightmares.

Though Michael and Cathy’s first encounter is far from polite, because of her improper behaviour towards him, the man introduces her to his passion for gardening, his artworks, because he also enjoys painting, and he overall makes Cathy feel useful happy and free. Compare this to the times when she was forced by her husband to behave in a certain manner, to always dress elegantly, wear make-up and talk very little as if she were his puppet. Michael, on the other hand, will help Cathy figure out a way to fulfil her dream of opening her own business, baking and decorating cakes, and he will be her biggest supporter. Cathy feels attracted to Michael, but she doesn’t know if it’s okay to fall in love with someone whose face she feared so much in the past. Though Mark and Michael are almost identical, Cathy realises that the latter is less self-centred than the former, he is truly caring, honest, funny and he’s very attentive towards her — these are qualities that Cathy never found in Mark.

Though it’s a bit odd for someone to fall in love with a man physically identical with one’s abusive and controlling husband, I presume that Cathy’s attraction to Michael can be interpreted as her longing for a better version of Mark. Even if Michel boosts her confidence, Cathy is reluctant to tell him about her past. Giving into his love for her it will not be easy, because of her shadowy memories regarding her husband and the fear of making the same mistakes again. However, Michael wants Cathy to leave the past and her fears behind and start afresh because he also went through a bitter life experience before moving to this small village and before working as a gardener. What secret will be revealed?

In short, the story is light – more like a summer read – fast paced and a cocktail of emotions ranging from fear, pain, and vulnerability… to love. The characters are relatable because each of them has both a good and a bad side. It’s a story about love, pain and happiness… about the strength to leave the past behind and chase your dreams. Enjoy!

Review: Measly Middle Ages by Terry Deary

Title: Measly Middle Ages

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published in 1990

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories

Rating: 5/5 stars

I guess you already know from my previous review that Terry Deary is one of my favourite authors because he knows how to retell history in a laid-back and funny way.  Now I’m going to talk about a historical period that began to interest me since I have learnt about Beowulf and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in my English Medieval Literature class. Though Romantic writers tried to reinvent and paint the Dark Ages in pinkish shades, it’s pretty hard for me to understand how come courtesy, beautiful love poems and songs could live side by side with religious dogmatism and lack of basic hygiene, two causes that triggered the plague and many other bizarre diseases.

According to Measly Middle Ages timeline, one of the most despotic, bloodthirsty and ignorant historical periods, from my point of view, stretches from post-Roman England to the time of Alfred the Great, the Norman Conquest, the Angevin rule, The War of the Roses, to Christopher Columbus‘ discovery.

In this book, you can find out how people lived in the Middle Ages, how women and children were treated, what rules they had to obey, what kind of clothes and accessories people wore and how monks lived. You will also read about the Norman Conquest and the feudal rule, the Angevin Dynasty, the Black Death and inefficient medieval remedies, odd facts about food and drinks and so on.

If you wonder which chapter I found the most interesting and intriguing, the answer is Rotten Religion. In the Middle Ages, people’s ignorance and naivety were exploited by monks and priests, who forged all sorts of holy relics and other items which apparently cured any illness. For example, “Saint Apollonia is the patron of toothache, thus she could cure your tortured tootsie-peg. (…) Hundred of monasteries had a tooth from her mouth. Big mouth? No, simply another miracle, the monks explained. Henry VI of England collected a ton of them” (Loc. 908-911).

If we think about Medieval schools, the monks and priests were the only teachers of the time. Life in the countryside, as well as in towns, was very hard, therefore, many small boys and girls were sent by their parents to join the church as monks and nuns. Here, the author reveals the letter of a boy, who has been studying in a monastery and the way he describes his daily routine: harsh discipline, an exhausting schedule not fit for a child no older than 8 or 9, firm teachers, scarce food, fasting, praying and a lot of Bible reading. I don’t know about you, but when I read this letter, it occurred to me that Medieval school is as bad as Victorian school.

Towards the end of the book, Terry Deary writes that in Tudor times life began to be slightly better and people believed that the crude and Measly Middle Ages seemed very far away; however, if we look through the newspapers of our day, we may notice that those horrible times have not ended completely just yet.

 

Review: Savage Stone Age by Terry Deary

Title: Savage Stone Age

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published in 1999

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2008

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories

Rating: 4/5 stars

Do you remember those days when you were in class and your history teacher overwhelmed you with more than a dozen crucial events and important dates? I guess everybody experienced that feeling of boredom at least once in their lifetime, along with the natural question: “Is history all that plain and difficult to like?

The answer is “no” because history – as well as any other school subject – has its dirty secrets and gruesome facts, which, unfortunately, are not taught because of their inappropriateness or doubtful existence. However, you can find a pleasant alternative to the multitude of documentaries and various articles you might find on the Internet; that alternative is British writer’s Terry Deary series of books Horrible Histories, a more terrible, measly, slimy, vile and funny approach to history, seasoned with jokes, irony and British humour.

The collection is made out of small books – almost 150 pages each – which usually give extraordinary and peculiar information about famous English monarchs and common people who lived in a certain time and space. Besides the history of England, which begins with Cut-Throat Celts and ends with The 20th Century, the author also published Savage Stone Age, Rotten Romans, Groovy Greeks, Awful Egyptians, Incredible Incas, Angry Aztecs, Horrible Histories Special: France, Horrible Histories Special: USA, Pirates and so on.

A few years ago I accidentally discovered the BBC adaptation of Terry Deary’s books entitled also Horrible Histories on Youtube, but only in late 2013, it occurred to me that I should read one of his books. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but after reading three of his books, I must confess that Terry Deary became one of my favourite writers. Why? Because of the things mentioned above and many more.

The first book I’m going to talk about is Savage Stone Age and is actually the third one I’ve read, but its special subject forces me to put it in the top of the list. Throughout this book you will read about the timeline of human evolution and the three prehistoric periods of mankind (in a brief introductory chapter), how Stone Agers lived, the animals they hunted till becoming extinct. We will also learn more about the food they ate, how they cooked it, about their weird beliefs and gruesome burials, about brainy archaeologists, treasure hunters, accidental discoveries, stone circles legends and mysteries (including many fascinating facts about Stonehenge) and many other curious facts which won’t let you put the book or reading device down.

I don’t want to spoil your read, in case you plan to go through this book, but I will give you a tiny hint. For example, in the chapter Rotten Rituals, among many bizarre and pretty horrible funeral rituals, you will find out that there are many stone circles spread across Britain and their presence brings luck and good energies. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly what they were made for. Tradition says that if a girl wanted to know who will be her future husband, she had to travel to Arthur’s Stone (at Gower near Swansea, Wales), “wait until midnight when the moon is full and put cakes, milk and honey on the ancient stone. Crawl around the stone on your hands and knees and if the vision of your lover appears, then you will marry him. If not, then he’s probably too busy watching telly.” (Loc. 969-970)

There are also some little tests, through which Terry Deary challenges you to remember what you have learnt about the Stone Age Period. But don’t worry if you get the answers wrong, because you are doing it just for fun. For instance, there’s a test where the author asks you a few questions about the way Stone Agers lived and you have to choose the correct answer. If you get all the answers right, then you are a modern human being. If you get fewer answers right, depending on the number of wrong answers, you are a Neanderthal, chimpanzee or less than that.

Before ending this review, I must tell you that, although Savage Stone Age is a book for children, it helped me understand better my anthropology class and those history lessons from my childhood. Through the jokes and anecdotes inserted between the lines, the author reminds us that history can be child’s play and its main role is to captivate the audience because history also means story.