Favourite Opening Lines 2017 #Books #AmReading #SundayBlogShare

In no particular order, these are some of the opening lines from books I’ve read over the last twelve months that drew me in.

That Bright Land ~ Terry Roberts

In the summer of 1886 I went down South to find and kill a man. It’s not what I would have chosen, and when I first arrived in the territory, I didn’t want to admit that’s what I was about. Nevertheless, I was well suited to the task – by my past and the shadows it cast in my soul.

My review is here. Book links ~ Amazon UK | US

High Force ~ LJ Ross

As soon as she awakened, MacKenzie knew he meant to kill her. There was no confused, fumbling recollection of what had happened. On the contrary, she remembered everything with horrifying clarity.

My review is here. Book links ~ Amazon UK US Continue reading

The Altreian Enigma (Rho Assimilation Book 2) by Richard Phillips @RhoAgenda #TuesdayBookBlog

When Mark and Heather Smythe saved Earth from the conquest-hungry Kasari Collective, they thought their work was done. But the world’s vast new government continued its quest to make extraterrestrial contact. And now, as a new gateway is activated to welcome the Kasari, whom world leaders take to be benefactors, only the Smythes stand a chance of countering their planet’s invasion and subjugation by a race of ruthless conquerors.

The Altreian Enigma continues the ongoing saga and again, three main storylines run concurrently in three different worlds. Jennifer, now a crack soldier and General Dgarra’s aide-de-camp, is involved in the Koranthian battle with the Kasari, while Raul maintains command of the appropriated Kasari space ship, ready and waiting to help out when needed. Continue reading

The Kasari Nexus (Rho Agenda Assimilation Book 1) by Richard Phillips #ScienceFiction #Thriller @RhoAgenda

Jennifer Smythe escapes Earth’s invasion by the insidious Kasari race, hijacks an alien starship, and survives the deadly passage through a wormhole.

But escape is short-lived…

Back on a divided Earth, Jennifer’s brother, Mark, and Jack “the Ripper” Gregory wage their own war against the Kasari.

Although this is the first of the Rho Agenda Assimilation trilogy, the books do follow on from the Rho Agenda Inception and the Rho Agenda series, both of which give lots of insight into the development of the characters and, of course, fill in the previous storylines. Continue reading

Dead Shift ~ Rho Agenda Inception #3

AudiobookReview

In this page-turning sci-fi adventure, the NSA’s most brilliant hacker is abducted and the world stands on the brink of cyberwar. The Ripper and his ghost team commandos are called to action, battling a host of enemies ranging from a genius tech-billionaire and the Chinese government to an emerging superintelligence capable of bringing the world to its knees. With every threat in play, Jack must confront his alien passenger and regain some semblance of self-control. As the origins of the Rho Agenda come to light, Jack struggles to embrace his destiny. But how can even one such as he prevail against an existential threat to humanity?

Jamal Glover is the best of the NSA’s elite team of hackers, known as the Dirty Dozen, who work in the War Room at the NSA headquarters, keeping the country safe from cyber attacks and a lot more besides. Nineteen years old and straight out of MIT, Jamal loves his job. He also loves his girlfriend, Jill, and is on his way home to have dinner with her. What awaits him will change his life and if the Chinese government’s plans succeeds it will spell disaster and the threat to humanity will be immense and devastating. Continue reading

Dead Wrong ~ The Rho Agenda Inception #2

  • deadwrongAuthor: Richard Phillips
  • Performed by MacLeod Andrews
  • Published: Brilliance Audio, released on Audible January 2015
  • Category: Crime/Thriller/Suspense, Supernatural, Sci-fi
  • five-stars

Ex-CIA assassin Jack Gregory has been hired for a singular mission: to journey to South America and rescue an imprisoned shaman. Beloved by the struggling masses and feared by the ruling elite, shaman Tupac Inti is destined to unite Bolivia’s indigenous people and bring down the corrupt government.

The second of the Rho Agenda prequels centres around a very powerful and ancient Incan artefact known as the Sun Staff, formerly held by Pizzaro after conquering the Incan empire hundreds of years ago, now being hunted for the mystical and alien powers it’s believed to possess.

Tupac Inti, a shaman in the Quechua tribe, is currently in Palmasola prison, Bolivia. Only he knows the whereabouts of the Sun Staff. Jack Gregory has been hired to keep Tupac alive and out of the hands of an evil group of Neo-Nazis led by Conrad Altmann, the bastard son of Klaus Barbie, who needs Tupac in order to gain control of the Sun Staff. Barbie realised the Sun Staff had mystical power and had managed to return the artefact to Bolivia. Now Altmann was about to lay claim to the reality.

But Jack still had to meet the man. And then he had to get them both the hell out of here. In this part of the world, bribery was the best option for making something like that happen. The trick was to find the right people to bribe, and then to make sure that they feared Jack more than they feared the UJC. He’d accomplished the first part before getting in here. Yesterday’s violence closed the deal. Now, if Jack could avoid being poisoned in the meantime, so much the better.

Janet Price is employed by the NSA and accountable to Admiral Jonathan Riles, who has been working towards the opportunity to study the Sun Staff for the last three years, although he doesn’t subscribe to the theory claiming the activation of the Sun Staff will be the catalyst to bring a master race back to earth. Janet’s assignment is to get to Tupac Inti before Jack.

Jack is slowly succumbing more and more to the entity known as Anchanchu, and understanding more of it’s interaction with human hosts makes it vital that Jack controls Anchanchu rather than the other way around. 

Jack is no stranger to dreams of a past not his own but now vivid waking visions plague him, of memories that also aren’t his, about Pizzaro and the Sun Staff. They give his mission a new meaning when he realises what they imply. It’s more than just a job to Jack now, it’s a matter of survival.  Can Jack free himself from the being that controls his mind and wants to kill him? The ever more violent emotions Anchanchu evokes in Jack threaten his state of mind.

The characters, and Jack and Janet’s relationship, continue to develop as more of their back story is revealed, along with an extraordinary and well thought through storyline full of action, suspense, Neo-Nazis and corrupt officials. The writing is descriptive, detailed and powerful and it’s really a confirmation of that writing, and narration, that I was totally engaged in the story.

And again, each short and compelling chapter is from different characters’ perspectives, which works extremely well. I always enjoy MacLeod Andrews’ excellent, and wonderfully voiced, narrations and I’m looking forward to the third instalment to see how it all plays out and ties in with the Second Ship.

Book links ~ Amazon UK Amazon US

2014 ~ Top Books

There have been so many great books this year, it was a very hard choice but, in no particular order, here are my top 12 reads/listens.

  1. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. Alternating between the past and present and telling the story of a family drama. After the death of their father, sisters Meredith and Nina struggle to really get to know their seemingly reserved and cold Russian born mother. As the sisters finally begin to discover their mother’s tragic story the three women can reach out to each other and find the bond that ties them together. My review.
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts sent to Mars and because of a terrible misunderstanding he is left behind. Completely alone and facing certain death, Mark struggles to survive in a totally alien environment. When the people back at NASA discover Mark is still alive the race is on to rescue him before his supplies run out. My review.
  3. Once Dead by Richard Phillips. The first of three prequels that set up the Rho Agenda trilogy. Jack Gregory is the CIA’s top assassin but when an encounter with a notorious criminal goes wrong Jack is left for dead. On his death-bed Jack is revived by a dark entity and has the choice of being a host to the demon or death. A sci-fi thriller with a supernatural twist. My review.
  4. Swan Loch by Randy Mixter. A really lovely, romantic and touching story that traverses time. Swan Loch is a peaceful New England town until a killer strikes. Police Chief Chris Hayward and FBI agent Jake Stanton try to solve a seemingly impossible case and for Chris it becomes very personal. Just when all hope is lost Chris finds the most precious thing in his life. A touch of the paranormal in this mystery thriller. My review.
  5. The Black Hours by Alison Williams. A chilling tale of life during the time of the self-styled Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, as he travels the country seeking out those he believes are in league with Satan. Seventeen year old Alice Pendle finds herself under suspicion in a tale of persecution and superstition. A suspenseful and gripping drama which mixes fact with fiction. My review
  6. Beyond Midnight ~ Asunder by Sarah M Cradit. Part of the paranormal Southern drama series, The House of Crimson and Clover, Asunder finds the Deschanel family reeling with the backlash of shock and horror brought on by the results of a two hundred year old curse. Hope brings them together to face whatever the future may hold. My review.
  7. Kings and Queens by Terry Tyler. A uniquely different concept and delivery with characters that parallel the life and times of Henry VIII and his wives in a modern day setting. Harry Lanchester’s dream of becoming a rock star is shattered with the death of his older brother and as Harry steps up to take the reins of the family business his life takes on an uncanny resemblance to the famous erstwhile King of England. My review.
  8. The Test by John Lansing. Although I’m loving the Jack Bertolino series, this short story is so touching and evocative, with incredibly vivid imagery and beautiful writing that it had to make this list. From the present day Jack Morgan looks back on his teenage years, being a fourteen year old growing up in the Long Island of the 1960s amid the racial tensions of the time and how it affects the rest of his life. My review.
  9. Losing It All by Marsha Cornelius. Frank Barnes, a homeless veteran, is content living on the streets and making the most of the little he has. Chloe Barnes is evicted and left destitute with two small children and finds life in shelters harsh and unforgiving. The two lives are interlinked and brought together in a compelling storyline. My review
  10. Don’t Touch (Null City #2) by Barb Taub. Lette Simoneau inherits a drastic form of the family ‘gift’ or curse as Lette thinks of it. Everything she touches each day turns into something different. Lette’s search for a cure leads her to the conclusion that boundaries are self-imposed  and as such are surmountable. An imaginative and fun story with a likeable protagonist. My review.
  11. Disappearing In Plain Sight by Francis Guenette. A very well crafted novel centred on the very tight knit community of Crater Lake on the shores of Vancouver Island. The characters are all genuine and the way they deal with their feelings and situations is very believable and show the complex layers which make up human nature. My review.
  12. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby. Book three of the Wyattsville series is set at the end of the Second World War as Benjamin Church returns to Alabama. A powerful and moving tale of the prejudices and intolerance of the time, showing the good and bad sides of human nature regardless of skin colour. My review.

And my top 5 series.

  1. Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. This is a supernatural urban fantasy series which really caught my imagination with a very unlikely hero – or anti-hero would probably best describe James Stark, half angel, half human. Stark’s return from 11 years in hell, bent on revenge is a sharp, hilarious and sardonic tale. MacLeod Andrews portrays Stark and a multitude of diverse characters perfectly. Audiobooks 1-3.5.  Audiobooks 4-6
  2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. An Urban Fantasy series featuring Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, who lives in Arizona and runs an occult bookstore. Atticus draws his power from the earth through the Druidic tattoos on his arms. He is able to shape shift and enjoys hunting with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. A fun series full of myths, legends, gods, goddess, witches and demons. Superb performance by Luke Daniels, with distinct voices for each character. My reviews 1-3, 4-6, 7
  3. The Project Eden Series by Brett Battles. This is a really compelling storyline. As Daniel Ash’s world crashes down around him he’s catapulted into a nightmare scenario. He can’t comprehend the fact that what happened is no accident. And there is worse, much worse to come as a deadly organisation plots the end of humanity as we know it. MacLeod Andrews delivers a flawless narration. My reviews.
  4. The Georgie Connolly Series by E.L. Lindley. Georgie Connolly is a transplanted English woman living and working in Los Angeles. Feisty and very often landing herself in hot water, Georgie acts on the spur of the moment, without thinking things through.  A change from the norm, Georgie is not connected to law enforcement but makes documentaries, no matter how serious the subject. A fun and easy series but with dangerous undertones. My reviews #1 #2
  5. The Black Series by Russell Blake. Artemus Black is a Hollywood P.I. Down on his luck, with money problems, anger issues and an assistant who ridicules him endlessly and a fat cat that hates him. Life couldn’t get much worse. A great characterisation of an easy to like protagonist with a cast of memorable, humorous characters and excellent and witty story lines. My reviews #1, #2, #3, #4

 

Once Dead ~ Jack Gregory #1 (A Rho Agenda Prequel)

AudiobookReview

  • OnceDeadAuthor: Richard Phillips
  • Performed by MacLeod Andrews
  • Released: August 2014 by Brilliance Audio on Audible
  • Category: Crime/Thriller/Suspense/Supernatural, Sci-fi
  • five-stars

Jack Gregory, the CIA’s top assassin, went rogue after a mission gone wrong. When a confrontation leaves him bleeding out on death’s doorstep, he is faced with an offer from a dark figure named Anchanchu. If Jack is willing to act as a human host for Anchanchu, the entity will revive him and give him another shot at life. Jack takes the deal…but he must now face the consequences of having the same dark creature in his head as some of history’s greatest villains. Struggling with desires and memories that are not his own, Jack is not the man he once was.

One year later, he is known internationally as The Ripper, assassin for hire, and is faced with having to wrest control of his dark compulsions while preventing a nuclear attack on the United States.

All through The Rho Agenda I was intrigued by the characters of Jack Gregory and Janet Price. What was their story? Why did Jack’s eyes sometimes seem to have a red glint? In this first of three prequels we get to learn much more about Jack and Janet and what makes them who they are.

Jack, a CIA agent on the trail of his brother’s killer, finds himself facing Carlton ‘Priest’ Williams and a gang of knife wielding thugs in a Calcutta alley. After a bloody fight Jack, well outnumbered and badly wounded, is found by a nun. Taken to a basic clinic and unable to be saved, Jack is pronounced dead. Until, that is, he’s visited by the demon, Anchanchu. Jack has an unimaginable decision to make.

Doctor Misra had filled out and signed the death certificate for one Jack Gregory, the name on the identification card in the man’s wallet. Sister Mary Judith watched as he took one last look at the chiseled face of the dead man on the table, shook his weary head, and departed……As the sheet settled over the dead man’s face, she saw something that sent a shiver up her spine, a shallow billowing in the sheet where it covered his mouth.

Jack has been freelance since his revival and it’s his latest client who inadvertently involves him and Janet in a plot, masterminded by an accomplished scientist, the Russian mafia and corrupt members of the CIA, which threatens the safety and security of the United States. Once again the integrity of intelligence agencies and governments, and the way they operate at the highest levels, is called into question.

I love the supernatural twist in the story and how it relates to Jack and his deadly skills. Richard Phillips has created a fascinating and compelling protagonist, fulfilling the promise which began in the Rho Agenda. The narrative pulled me into the story totally and, as always, MacLeod Andrews gives a superbly delivered performance whilst actually raising the bar. As each chapter comes from a different point of view so the narration reflects that person’s characterisation. It works really well. Significant character development and an extremely fast-moving plot kept me hooked until the end. This was well worth the wait.

About the author

RichardPhillipsBorn in Roswell, New Mexico in 1956, Richard Phillips graduated from West Point in 1979, qualified as an Army Ranger, and served for several years as an officer in the United States Army. In 1989, he graduated with a Master of Science degree in Physics from the Naval Post Graduate School, completing his thesis work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He then spent three years as a Research Associate at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, before completing his tour of duty as an Army Officer. He now lives in Phoenix, with his lovely wife, Carol, where he develops simulation software for the U.S. military and writes science fiction.

Book links ~ Amazon UK Amazon US

The Rho Agenda Series ~ the audiobooks

 

An alien spaceship crash landed in the Mexican desert in 1948 and was taken in total secrecy to the Los Alamos laboratory under the code name of the Rho Project. Scientists have spent decades trying to unlock the alien technology. Some 60 years later the President admits the United States government withheld information about the spaceship.  But now the alien technology, or a select amount anyway, is about to be made public.

The sinister Deputy Director of the Rho project, Dr Donald Stephenson, has his own corrupt agenda however, illegally experimenting with the technology on human subjects.

Twins, Jennifer and Mark, and their best friend Heather stumble upon a hidden cave in a canyon. In the cave there’s something that has lain undiscovered for years, except by one man who believes it’s sign from God. No-one except him yet knows the three friends have found a second ship and it will change the course of their lives forever, in ways they could never imagine.

Thoughts

The imagery from Richard Phillips’ writing is strikingly vivid and breathes life into the story, emotionally and visually. He takes the ‘what ifs’ and interprets it in an exciting way, as a fascinating and intriguing science fiction storyline. It’s certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that governments could and more than likely do withhold information from the public.

The characters are strong and have depth, the protagonists are likeable while the bad guys are most definitely not. I liked the introduction of Jack Gregory and Janet Price to the story, they’re great characters, and I believe their back stories are to be published later this year. 

It’s a well structured, fast paced and tense story with lots of threads running through which are woven together well and lead on to book two.

The second instalment of the Rho Agenda series finds Heather, Mark and Jennifer plunging deeper into the complexity of the alien powers they’ve acquired with their visits to the Second Ship. They are assimilating and learning to use their enhanced abilities, gaining control and focus.

After the supposed suicide of Jonathan Riles, Jack and Janet and the rest of the NSA team are on a hit list put out by corrupt government officials. Jack and Janet barely escape, only with the help from an unexpected quarter.

Dr Stephenson’s use and exploitation of the power gained from the Rho Ship increases to a frightening extent as Raul’s situation becomes even more nightmarish and twisted.

Thoughts

As with the Second Ship the writing and descriptions in Immune are first-rate and the images and emotions conjured up are tangible. The strong character building continues with the three young protagonists drawn ever deeper into danger and evil conspiracies.

This story is much more dark and sinister with the horrific goings on in the tunnels under Henderson House, the release of the modified alien nano technology and the high level governmental corruption.

I love the introduction of Jim ‘Tall Bear’ Pino, a Native American reservation sheriff, to the story as well as Freddie Hagerman, an investigative journalist, who is instrumental to the story.

Richard Phillips’ characters are extremely well written and the intrigue and intricacy of the storyline fuels the tension and fascination as events unfold.

Dr Stephenson, imprisoned for his crimes, has been granted a pardon. He has initiated the threat of an anomaly, a black hole, which would destroy the earth. Only the Rho Ship technology can stop it. In return for his freedom Dr Stephenson consents to creating a wormhole in order to push the threat through, far away in space where it can do no harm. His plan all along.

Mark, Jennifer and Heather have been undergoing an intense training program under the supervision of Jack and Janet. The relationship between them all deepens considerably as they spend more time together. 

Their secret Bolivian hideout is compromised after the three teens could stand it no longer and contacted their parents. They will need all of their new survival and enhanced skills in the days and months to come.

Thoughts

This is an utterly compelling series, everything comes together in Wormhole, the tense and riveting third instalment of the Rho Agenda series. The evil Dr Stephenson is, of course,still  working to his own agenda which is hidden beneath his creation of the wormhole.

It’s down to Jennifer, Mark and Heather to stop Dr Stephenson, whatever it takes and now they also have poor Raul with his terrible mutilations and increasing madness to contend with. All of which results in an epic battle and a horrifying and sad outcome for one of the teens. Very emotional plot details and one of those stories that will stay with me for quite a while.

The description of the treatment Heather, Mark and Jen were subjected to in the secret government facility is shocking in the extreme. The whole premise gives rise to questions about what goes on behind governmental doors, how far they would go and how little is actually known by the general public. Are their decisions always made for the greater good?

I’m really hoping this is not the end and we get to follow all the teens again at some point. I’d like to know more about baby Robbie too with the intriguing little hint about his imaginary friend.

Performance

MacLeod Andrews gives insight and personality to the characters  which adds to a superb narration, you know exactly who is speaking, the pacing and characterization expertly done.

Buy the books from  Amazon UK and Amazon US