Crisis by Frank Gardner

Crisis by Frank Gardner
Publisher: Bantam Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Introducing Luke Carlton – ex-Special Boat Service commando, and now under contract to MI6 for some of its most dangerous missions.

Sent into the steaming Colombian jungle to investigate the murder of a British intelligence officer, Luke finds himself caught up in the coils of a plot that has terrifying international dimensions. Hunted down, captured, tortured and on the run from one of South America’s most powerful and ruthless drugs cartels and its psychotic leader thirsting for revenge, Luke is in a life-or-death race against time to prevent a disaster on a truly terrifying scale: London is the target, the weapon is diabolical and the means of delivery is ingenious.

Drawing on his years of experience reporting on security matters, CRISIS is Frank Gardner’s debut novel. Combining insider knowledge, up-to-the-minute hardware, fly on the wall insights with heart-in-mouth excitement, CRISIS boasts an irresistible, visceral frisson of authenticity: smart, fast-paced and furiously entertaining, here is a thriller for the 21st century.

After many years as an SBS commando, Luke Carlton needed a change of pace and a short-term contract with SIS seemed like the perfect fit. With impeccable Spanish from a large part of his childhood spent in South America and a razor-sharp mind, Luke is happy to see where this leads him. Only his first big mission is to uncover why a station-leader in Columbia has been murdered. Luke figures with his personal knowledge, some good connections and his military training there shouldn’t be a problem, only Luke didn’t realize just how powerful and ruthless his enemies are – or how far they’re willing to go to achieve their objective.

This is the first of currently three books about Luke Carlton and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The writing style has a very solid British spy/espionage feel to it and more than a few times throughout the full-length novel I was reminded of a Bond sort of storyline or feel to the atmosphere. At the same time, though, there was a strong touch of the current world circumstances and a very modern feel to it all. This is not a cheesy style of story, but just a very British type of espionage thriller. Readers who want a high level of realism and a modern story should find this really suits their tastes.

There was a lot of realism to the international aspect of the plot too. I didn’t find many of the characters to be overdrawn or caricature-like, which in itself was refreshing. I also enjoyed the fact that Luke’s personal history was where a lot of his talents lay – having spent much of his childhood in South America it made sense he knew the local scenes, customs and languages very well. With his extended stint in the military, it made sense he could handle himself in a rough situation and had plenty of organizational skills and a sharp mind. I really enjoyed the fact the author had covered a lot of these bases and didn’t just write a movie-like action thriller that had huge holes in it.

Readers looking for a tightly woven plot should also find this book very appealing. While there is plenty of action, much of the first section of the book is laying the groundwork – introducing Luke, showing his current situation as a newbie in the SIS office and showing how all the puzzle pieces are arranged. While I did not find this a slow start to the story, neither was it a ramped-up, heavily action orientated type of beginning that a lot of thrillers are expected to have nowadays. I would strongly suggest sticking with the book if you find the beginning a little slow – the action definitely intensifies as the story progresses and I found this a real page-turning thriller the further I went.

With excellent characters, a modern and realistic outlook to our current world and solid plotting and pacing, I thought this was an exceptional spy/thriller style of story and I am eager to read the author’s next offering.

One Week Girlfriend by Monica Murphy

One Week Girlfriend by Monica Murphy
Publisher: Bantam Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Gardenia

Temporary. That one single word best describes my life these last few years. I’m working at a temporary job until I can finally break free. I’m my little brother’s temporary mother since our mom doesn’t give a crap about either of us. And I’m that temporary girl all the guys want to get with because I give it up so easily. According to the rumors, at least.

But now I’m the temporary girlfriend of Drew Callahan, college football legend and all around golden guy. He’s beautiful, sweet—and he’s hiding way more secrets than I am. He’s brought me into this fake life where everyone seems to hate me. And everyone seems to want something from him. The only thing he seems to want though is…


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This book begins with the strangest proposition. I must admit it hooked me right away. Drew is definitely not gay, he is rich, makes good grades, all the girls in school are swooning over him, and he is polite and mature. Why would he need to hire a girlfriend to introduce to his parents during Thanksgiving break from school?

As I read more of the book, I had a haunting feeling I knew what was going on. It is not until much later that the truth is revealed. The author tactfully hints at the reasons for this family’s dysfunction. Drew has kept these secrets buried deep and now at 21 years of age, he has come to the crossroads where he either must face his past or bury those secrets even deeper.

Fable is not what she seems. She is 20 years old and works around the clock to help support herself and her family. The $3,000 offered by Drew to be his girlfriend will surely pay the bills for a couple of months. I cannot fault her for selling her time in order to feed her family. I really liked her character. She cares deeply for her little brother and wants him to grow up to have a better life. She struggles to maintain food on the table and a roof over their heads, even though her mother is a drunk who cannot keep a job. Even when she is around, she flaunts her no-good boyfriends and doesn’t care much for what happens to her children.

It would seem that two broken young people, such as Drew and Fable, would be the least likely to fall in love. They come from different “sides of the track”. What could they possibly have in common? As their story develops, I began to realize they both had empathy for each other as well as hearts that yearn to belong and to be loved. Their journey of understanding while sharing their deepest secrets during that week makes for a story you will not soon forget.

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe
Publisher: Bantam Books
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Historical, YA
Length: Full Length (334 pgs)
Age Recommendation 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.”

Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.

England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.
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Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.

Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.

The Sweetest Dark had a little bit of everything, romance, a gothic setting, a mystery, a lot of paranormal elements. I enjoyed Ms. Abe’s writing style which is rich and layered. The main character, Lora was interesting and I found myself reading on to learn more about her. Some of the chapters in between the main ones threw me off a little at first but then as I read on they became clearer to the overall plot.

The book does have some historical inaccuracies about what happened during first half of World War 1 when the book is set, for example nightly bombing, children being evacuated, and the mention of Land Girls but if you can overlook these it’s a fun read with an almost creepy setting. And true to the gothic sub-genre, characters who you’re not quite sure if they can be trusted or not.

I really enjoyed seeing Lora and Jesse’s relationship unfold and I found myself wanting these two to be together. I think girls will probably enjoy this book more than boys and, while it’s a long read, the pacing is such that even younger girls shouldn’t have a problem. If you enjoy a slice of romance, mystery, especially gothics, with lots of supernatural elements, this would be a good pick.