Tag Archives: spies

Court of Snakes: This Desert Cage by Tycho Dwelis (Book Review)

Content Rating:  PG + M: Some allusion to domestic abuse, fantasy violence, adults drinking alcohol
 
 
In the city of Segeno, it’s eat or be eaten. Someone has to rule the masses. A boy has lost his birthright. His parents killed. Dead and gone. A girl has lost her father. She means nothing to him now.

The city of Segeno stands tall after a great war, the only city left of its kind. Terran has lost both of his parents and is now on the run from a tyrant eager to kill him and cut off the royal bloodline. Parisa struggles with her own identity as even her father rejects her for the color of her skin as he claws for the throne. Along their journeys, they meet unexpected allies and encounter unprecedented magick, but, most importantly, they learn what it is to stand up for themselves and take back their city from corruption.

 
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 
Court of Snakes: This Desert Cage by Tycho Dwelis began with a mammoth squashing a pickpocketer and The King batting more than one guard. I knew from the start that this book would be excellent, and as I finished the last line, I was correct. 


Teens and young adults will love how swiftly Terran, The King, and other characters navigated the districts. The movements reminded me of parkour. 


The King also taught Terran the real power of tarot cards. They don’t just see a person’s future; they allow chosen ones to harness the deck’s power. You don’t choose which card works in a particular situation. Instead, the cards seem to know what the bearer needs. The cards are judge, jury, and (at times) executioner. 


Many powers were displayed, but I liked when The King’s six swords came out. The written battle scenes were amazing, and I can only imagine how epic they would be if the movie industry could bring them to life. I would watch that movie in a heartbeat! 


With the build-up to the show-down, I expected it to be grander – longer. It was over too soon. That said, many unexpected moments happened when the war began- some shocking and rather sad. 


This story did conclude on a happy note, which is always lovely. 


While the cover is nice, I don’t think it lives up to the story’s contents. I think the colorful promo banner (shared on my site, Amazon, and Ireads Book Tour) would’ve been a better fit. It’s vibrant, eye-catching, and draws the eye. Well done to whoever created it. 

 
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤
 
 
 
 
 
Meet the Author:
Author Tycho Dwelis

I’m Tycho (I also use the pen name Cassidy), and I love storytelling! I’m incredibly passionate about writing, art, and anything that allows me to create my own worlds. My goal is to write dreamy fiction for all ages that is unique, inspiring, and imaginative. I like to write about themes that include coming of age, magic realism, identity, relationships, and bullying. My books are intended for readers ages eight to twenty-five, and are meant to connect the world of the fantastical to everyday life.

I currently live in Colorado and have an MA in Publishing.

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Two Roads to Paradise (Book 2: Be Careful What You Wish for Series) by Gordon Jensen with Cara Highsmith (Book Review)

TWO ROADS TO PARADISE (Be Careful What You Wish For Series) by

 
​Although the reappearance of the Alpha Centauri I crew was miraculous, it was not the celebratory homecoming they expected. Their return to a world reeling from a pandemic that wiped out more than half the population thrust them right into the center of controversy and conflict.
 
Now, three years later, though the tide has turned and the survival of the human race seems to be secure, the survival of human relations is far less certain. The cure should have been the injection of hope the world needed to restore balance and end the chaos of the last four decades. Instead, the complex implications for personal rights and freedom have fractured the North American territory in such a way that the division may never be repaired.
 
As the crew dispersed to find their place in this new landscape, Hunter Young found himself embedded in the Marshall administration as an agent for the mysterious K Group. What had been a relatively uneventful assignment suddenly becomes a whirlwind of adventure as he is called to a rendezvous that requires a long and circuitous journey.
 
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book ToursI voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
 
Two Roads to Paradise carried on three years after the finale of The Way Out. Readers will see precisely how divided the world has become: land and viewpoints. Yeah, we are pretty divided now in our views. 


The book discusses free health care in the blue zones and how red zones have better taxes. It talks about gun control and abortion rights, which we all know are hot topics right now. I imagine they’ll be major talking points for many more decades to come. 


Gordon Bensen and Cara Highsmith (co-authors) created unique maps located in the front and back flap. These maps show 13 zones and their colors: red and blue. Yup, those are the same colors that represent Democrats and Republicans. Don’t worry about memorizing the zones because they will be introduced again through colorful welcome signs. I love those, btw! 


Two Roads to Paradise was slower going and didn’t hold my interest compared to its predecessor, The Way Out. However, I did enjoy reading about people’s viewpoints regarding the “governing” of the various zones. 


Oh, a shocking and disturbing bombshell unveiled by two teen girls to Hunter on their trek to NOLA. It shows how inhumane a person or group can be. I’d love to tell you what, but I want to discover it for yourself. 


With any government or country, there will be individuals who deflect and fight the system. The Resistance was comprised of a couple of shocking members. Again, no spoilers. 


While this book didn’t knock my socks off, it ended with me wanting more. So, with that said, I will be tuning in for book three because I have to see how the final moments play out in the next installment. 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤

 
 
 
Meet the Authors:
Author Gordon Jensen

Gordon Jensen holds an MBA from University of Rochester, New York, Simon School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. After working in finance In New York for several years, Jensen went back to Minnesota to run the family business. He retired after selling the the business and is now fulfilling a number of life-long dreams, including writing a novel series.
 
 

Author Cara Highsmith

Cara Highsmith has always been drawn to the world of books and has found herself working in this industry in one capacity or another for the majority of her adult life. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Belmont University and did work toward a PhD at Middle Tennessee State University. Cara was on the editorial team at Hachette Book Group USA, working with several New York Times bestselling authors, for nearly four years. After leaving Hachette in 2008, she began freelancing, developing proposals and manuscripts for agents, editing and ghostwriting for authors, and assisting clients in preparing projects for self-publishing. Cara is a master of being a jack of all trades, but currently spends her free time working on several personal writing projects and enjoying life on a beautiful northern California mountain.
 
 
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Shadows in the Aftermath by Marianne Scott (Book Spotlight)

SHADOWS IN THE AFTERMATH by Marianne Scott

 
Ruby Draker has found new strength and is ready to move on after Felix Szabo devastated the Draker estate in Nice, France. Three Drakers are dead leaving Ruby in grief and with thoughts of revenge. The Drakers are a family built of survivors; each rescued from Felix Szabo, a psychopath, who sought to murder his former agents at the CIA whom he believed betrayed him. The Drakers’ sole mission is to stop Szabo from adding more victims to his list, and although he also perished during the invasion, his legacy continues to haunt them. When the Drakers learn that Robert Draker, presumed dead since the shoot-out at Robert’s farmhouse, may be alive and at a rehab clinic in Portland, Maine, the Drakers know it could be a setup, but they have no choice but to try to nd him and bring Robert home.

​Shocked that Robert may be alive, the family head from France to America to find him. It’s only when they arrive in the west that they realize finding Robert won’t be as easy as they thought. Szabo has found a way to terrorize the Draker family, even after death. His outstanding debt with a Corsican crime family means the Drakers must now find and deliver a shipment of plutonium, which will likely be used by terrorists to create a nuclear bomb, to get Robert back. As Ruby struggles with the decision to save her brother or North America, she must also evade the CIA, who are trying to stop the Drakers from delivering the plutonium. 

 

BUY THE BOOK:
Friesen Press Bookstore
Amazon.ca

Amazon.com

 

 
 
 
Meet the Author:

Author Marianne Scott

Marianne Scott is the Canadian author of four mystery thrillers and is currently finishing an edit on her fourth novel, a murder mystery. She has a BA and a Diploma in Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, CA. She studied creative writing through Conestoga College and Humber College. She enjoys writing workshops such as those offered by Brian Henry, publisher of the blog, Quick Brown Fox, and One Lit Place, a writers’ hub by creator/editor Jenna Kalinsky. She has an author’s website and blog is the president of The Cambridge Writers’ Collective and is a member of the Guelph Genre Writers. In September of 2018, she completed a fourth-year course in Writing Fiction at the University of Guelph under the expert teaching of Lawrence Hill. Her novels, Finding Ruby Draker and Shadows in the Aftermath are self-published. She is actively seeking representation to break into the traditional publishing world with her third and fourth novels.  
 
 
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Finding Ruby Draker by Marianne Scott (Book Review)

Kathleen Jones has lived a protected and typical suburban life, nothing unexpected in her carefully controlled and planned existence. She’s about to complete her college degree and is ready to start a successful career but after completing her last exam she comes home to find her world has been turned upside down. Her home has been torched and her parents and little brother killed.

If that’s not bad enough, she is kidnapped and drugged unconscious by strangers posing as a police officers. When she awakes she discovers that everything has changed – her face, her name, and everything she believed to be true.

But things get worse. Hardly recovered from surgery, she is whisked away under the cover of darkness as more men storm the clinic with guns. It seems that the men who abducted her are not her greatest threat. Now on a private charter on its way to Nice, France, her abductors are calling her Ruby – Ruby Draker!

Finding Ruby Draker is a novel about knowing yourself, accepting change, embracing danger, and taking risks. You never know what life is going to throw at you.

 
 
 
 
 
 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
 
 
Kathleen Jones lived a typical twenty-two-year-old’s life. Her major stressor was passing her college exams, which she did. She was on her way home from her final college exam before graduation when her life exploded. A house fire took everything from her – parents and sibling. Things went from bad to worse when she was kidnapped and woke up with a new face. 

You’d think the kidnappers would be the villains in this tale. They were not. People she was conspiring to run away from were, in time, the same people she found herself running towards. 


Finding Ruby Draker by Marianne Scott had had numerous people dying—on both sides of the battle. I was saddened to see some of the heroes fall. I wish I could name names, but I don’t want to ruin it for other readers. 


Finding Ruby Draker took a weird love triangle towards the end, which I still can’t wrap my head around. I don’t want to say who was involved, but I didn’t see the point in the weird shift in the two characters’ dynamic. It read strange, and even the other characters in the story were shaking their heads at the behavior of that certain female. Yes, I am being vague on purpose to avoid spoilers. 


I know no book is perfect, and editing mistakes will slip by, but I wanted to mention two that stood out regarding names. Cold Force was spelled one time with uppercase “C” and lowercase “f” but with uppercase every other time. Also, “Ruby” was referred to as “Rudy” on page 82 (print copy). I’m not sure if this will be corrected by the time my review goes up, but I wanted to note it in case it isn’t.


Those two mistakes DO NOT minimize the level of skill it took to construct the plot, characters, and surprise revelations. It kept me on the edge of my seat. 
 

 
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: 
 

Friesen Press Bookstore
Amazon.ca 
 Amazon.com

 

 
 
 
 
Meet the Author
Author Marianne Scott
 
 
Marianne Scott is the Canadian author of four mystery thrillers and is currently finishing an edit on her fourth novel, a murder mystery. She has a BA and a Diploma in Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, CA. She studied creative writing through Conestoga College and Humber College. She enjoys writing workshops such as those offered by Brian Henry, publisher of the blog, Quick Brown Fox, and One Lit Place, a writers’ hub by creator/editor Jenna Kalinsky. She has an author’s website and blog is the president of The Cambridge Writers’ Collective and is a member of the Guelph Genre Writers. In September of 2018, she completed a fourth-year course in Writing Fiction at the University of Guelph under the expert teaching of Lawrence Hill. Her novels, Finding Ruby Draker and Shadows in the Aftermath are self-published. She is actively seeking representation to break into the traditional publishing world with her third and fourth novels.  
 
 
connect with the author: 
website twitter twitter facebook ~ instagram 
 
 
 

 

 

 

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The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris by Steve M. Gnatz (Book Spotlight / Guest Post)

Content Rating: PG-13. There is mild (romantic) sexual content and very mild profanity.

 
 
1776: Benjamin Franklin sails to Paris, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, freshly signed. His charge: gain the support of France for the unfolding American Revolution. Yet Paris is a city of distractions. Ben’s lover, Marianne Davies, will soon arrive, and he yearns to rekindle his affair with the beautiful musician.

Dr. Franz Mesmer has plans for Marianne too. He has taken Parisian nobility by storm with his discovery of magnétisme animale, a mysterious force claimed to heal the sick. Marianne’s ability to channel Mesmer’s phenomena is key to his success.

A skeptical King Louis XVI appoints Ben to head a commission investigating the astonishing magnétisme animale. By nature, Ben requires proof. Can he scientifically prove that it does not exist? Mesmer will stop at nothing to protect his profitable claim.

The Wisdom of The Flock explores the conflict between science and mysticism in a time rife with revolution, love, spies, and passion.

 
 

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Were Benjamin Franklin and Marianne Davies really lovers?

Benjamin Franklin was sent to France in 1776 at the outset of my book The Wisdom of the Flock to help secure the aid of the French in the American Revolution against the British.

But prior to the beginning of the book, Franklin had spent most of the past 20 years (1757-1775) in London, away from his wife Deborah. Ostensibly, this was because she had a strong aversion to sea travel and would not follow him across the Atlantic Ocean. Deborah, in fact, passed away in late 1774 at home in Philadelphia while Ben was still in London.

Franklin was, of course, famous as a ladies’ man. Historians have often wondered if he was up to any hanky-panky during those nearly 20 years in London.

In 1761, Franklin attended a concert in London. There Ben observed a lovely young musician named Marianne Davies performing on the musical glasses. Despite how beautifully she played, she appeared to be in constant pain from the activity. Franklin conceived of an instrument with glass bowls attached to a rod at their center and bathed in a tub of water. The rod was turned by a treadle mechanism, keeping the turning bowls moistened. The musician could then gently apply her finger to the appropriate bowl to produce the note she wanted – resulting in music without any pain. He named his invention a glass armonica and had the first one made for Marianne Davies. It has been suggested that this was an extravagant gift for the gentleman to give the lady.

In 1767, a young Philadelphia artist named Charles Willson Peale showed up unannounced at Franklin’s lodgings on Craven Street. While waiting to see the great man, Peale apparently observed (and sketched) Franklin with a paramour in the next room through an ajar door.

https://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-scandalous-sketch-of-benjamin.html

Some authors have suggested that the woman pictured might have been Franklin’s landlady Margaret Stevenson’s daughter Polly – but I believe this to be unlikely. While Polly would have been about the same age as Marianne Davies, and both women were much younger than Franklin, he generally considered Polly as a “surrogate daughter”. It seems unlikely that they would be openly engaged in such activity in her mother’s house.

There are very few, if any, established pictures of Marianne Davies – see my blog post on this issue here: https://stevegnatz.com/2020/10/why-are-there-no-pictures-of-marianne-davies/

There is not much help from the written historical record in terms of letters between Marianne Davies and Franklin. In The Wisdom of the Flock, I imagined that they had agreed to burn their private letters to each other – in order to solve this dilemma. It is historical fiction, after all! The only two letters known to exist in the real world are those that Marianne wrote in 1783 complaining that Franklin no longer seemed interested in protecting her “franchise” to play the glass armonica. Of course, in The Wisdom of the Flock, this is explained by Ben’s love interest having waned – and other actions on Marianne’s part that I will not reveal here so as not to spoil it for you.

I hope that you will enjoy the story of Benjamin Franklin and Marianne Davies love affair in The Wisdom of the Flock, even if it only represents the fictional part of historical fiction.

 

 

Meet the Author:

Steve Gnatz is a writer, physician, bicyclist, photographer, traveler, and aspiring ukulele player. The son of a history professor and a nurse, it seems that both medicine and history are in his blood. Writing historical fiction came naturally. An undergraduate degree in biology was complemented by a minor in classics. After completing medical school, he embarked on an academic medical career specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There was little time for writing during those years, other than research papers and a technical primer on electromyography. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he devotes himself to the craft of fiction. The history of science is of particular interest, but also the dynamics of human relationships. People want to be good scientists, but sometimes human nature gets in the way. That makes for interesting stories. When not writing or traveling, he enjoys restoring Italian racing bicycles at home in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

connect with the author:  website ~ facebook ~ goodreads

 

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