Thursday, April 18, 2019

ARC Review & Giveaway: The Eighth Sister


ABL Review At-A-Glance

Ø    Title:  The Eighth Sister (Charles Jenkins #1
Ø    My Rating: 4.5
Ø    Genre:  Suspense, Mystery
Ø    Author:  Robert Dugoni
Ø    Format:  ARC Paperback*
Ø    Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Compare To:


A pulse-pounding thriller of espionage, spy games, and treachery by the New York Times bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series.

Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.

Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.

Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.
My Thoughts...

I am a big fan of suspense books.  There is something so addictive about reading a story that moves very quickly, with the characters in tense situations, often fighting for their lives, while I am curled up reading with my tea (or coffee or wine) in complete safety.  I think this is why thrillers are so popular at the movies as well. 

I have never read a book by Robert Dugoni, but The Eighth Sister will not be my last.  Especially, since this is the beginning of what I can only assume will be a wonderful series.  As much as I was not looking for another series to get hooked on, I’m so glad I was given the chance to read this first installment.

As you can tell by the books I compared this to above, The Eighth Sister is similar in style and pace to James Patterson; however, I feel there is more depth and emotional characterization than is typically found in JP thrillers.  For instance, the personal and patriotic motivations of each person is completely flushed out. This is not easy, given the enormous back story created by each character’s experiences.

I especially liked how the “villain” in the book wasn’t one dimensional.  Dugoni shifts points of view often, but not in a startlingly way.  When the reader is experiencing events from the point of view of Charles, it is easy to understand his desires and root for his success.  When you are reading from the antagonist points of view, you have to confront your own assumptions.  patriotic service admirable if the country being served is not your own?  If both people are blindly following their duties, is one person right and one wrong, or does this all depend on whose side you are on? 

I especially loved the love story in this book.  It’s not a typical romantic meet-cute, survive crazy circumstances which cause two people to fall in love.  Instead, this is an established relationship with problems.  The underlying tension provided by Charles’s wife and her difficult pregnancy really compel the story while also grounding it. There is an unborn motivator behind every movement Charles makes, reminding him and the reader what is important and what is true.

Being a lawyer myself, I was intrigued by the second half of the book and how Charles navigated his situation.  I don’t want to give too much away, but rest assured, fans of James Patterson and John Grisham will not be disappointed.

* Special thanks to Robert Dugoni, Thomas & Mercer, and TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of The Eighth Sister in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Robert

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thursday, April 11, 2019

ARC Review: Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel

ABL Review At-A-Glance
Ø    Title:  Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel
Ø    My Rating: 4.5
Ø    Genre:  Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Ø    Author:  James Markert
Ø    Format:  ARC Paperback*
Ø    Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Compare To:

Goodreads Synopsis

For years, guests of the Tuscany Hotel could leave their pasts behind and live among fellow artists. Now guests of a different sort fill the rooms, searching for their memories—no matter the cost.

Run by renowned sculptor Robert Gandy and his wife and muse, Magdalena, the Tuscany Hotel hosted guests of a certain kind—artists, actors, scientists, and engineers who left their worries behind so that they could create their latest masterpieces. Surrounded by lore, the hotel was rumored to free the mind and inspire artists’ gifts. But tragic circumstances force Robert and his family to move.

After thirteen months at war, Vittorio Gandy is haunted by memories, and his former life is unrecognizable. Once a gifted painter, now he can’t bear the vivid, bleeding colors on a canvas. His young son doesn’t remember him, and his wife, Valerie, is scared of him. But the most disconcerting change is in Vitto’s father, Robert Gandy, who has fallen from being a larger-than-life sculptor to a man whose mind has been taken by Alzheimer’s.

When Robert steals away in the night, Valerie, Vitto, and his new acquaintance and fellow veteran John go to the only place Robert might remember—the now-abandoned Tuscany Hotel. When they find him there, Robert’s mind is sound and his memories are intact.

Before long, word gets out that drinking from the fountain at the hotel can restore the memories of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. The rooms once again fill up with guests—not artists this time, but people seeking control over their memories and lives. Vitto desperately wants to clear his own mind, but as he learns more about his mother’s life and her tragic death, he begins to wonder whether drinking the water comes at a price.

A story of father and son, memories lost and found, artists and their muses, Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel explores the mysteries of the mind, the truth behind lore, and the miracle of inspiration.

My Thoughts...
This is one of those books that you read that you know when you are reading will stick with you.  You can feel the characters making their mark on your heart and memory.  Even from the introduction of the Tuscany Hotel, James Markert begins to weave his spell on your imagination.  When the characters finally enter the hotel, the reader is given exacting detail into what I think of as the main character of this story.  The setting is so thoughtfully written that you can’t help but imagine what can be.  The hotel seems tinged in grey, but the possibility of a return to glory twinkles in the edge of your imagination.

You meet the hotel and realize, this is possibility.  This is hope.  Like life, you have to look through your past, see through your fear, see through what is in order to imagine what could be.  For Vitto, and Magdelana, and most of us, it’s that first step that the hardest and the trickiest.  The crux of this book lies in trying to find out how to accomplish facing your past without losing your present.

This book has almost everything I could possibly want.  Mythic creatures, beautiful landscapes, foreign locales, intriguing characters, beautiful art, and wine.  Uplifting and tragic at the same time.  There are a lot of things I could say about how wonderful this book is, but honestly you should read it for yourself.  I am really going to miss my time at the Tuscany Hotel.

* Special thanks to James Markert, Thomas Nelson, and TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel in exchange for an honest review.

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