The Progeny, by Tosca Lee

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Emily Porter is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.

She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, The Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. A story about the search for self amidst centuries-old intrigues and Europe’s underground scene…and one woman’s mission to survive.

My Take:

The Progeny is a novel that pulled me in immediately, from its short prologue set in a mysterious location known as The Center to the small Maine cabin where Emily is recuperating from life-changing surgery. It’s a beginning that leaves the reader with plenty of questions and no immediate answers and it isn’t long before Emily discovers her life is in danger. From then on, the non-stop action moves from the USA to beautifully described locations in Eastern Europe.  We experience everything that happens through the lead character’s eyes, which means we know only what she knows. Who can she trust? What is it that she must find to keep her life and save the lives of those around her?

The premise of The Progeny doesn’t make it sound like a Christian novel but I was intrigued enough by it to not dismiss this book out of hand. Plus, Tosca Lee has written some great Biblically-based reads in the past. It doesn’t read like an obviously Christian book, and there are some distinctly non-Christian things that take place within its pages by non-Christian characters. It even reminded me, at times, like Interview with a Vampire. But there are visits to churches, observations of religious symbolism, and philosophical discussions about the nature of God. The day after I finished reading The Progeny, I thought about it some more and could see parts of the Gospel reflected in it. I’d love to say more about that, but I’d have to include some major spoilers.

This is the first in a series called Descendants of the House of Bathory. The second book will be out next year. I found it to be a total page turner and the information revealed on the last page left me wanting more. If you like edgy, alternative Christian fiction that’s part supernatural and part thriller then I suspect you’ll probably enjoy The Progeny as much as I did.

Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary Advanced Uncorrected Proof of The Progeny, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Progeny? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)

Publication Date: 24 May 2016

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Tosca Lee’s Website   Howard Books’ Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Broken Ground, by Karen Halvorsen Schreck

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town. She’s making a home when she learns that her young husband, Charlie, has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.

At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with some old family friends, she meets the striking and compelling Thomas Everly, whose own losses and struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp just east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the numerous forced deportations without due process of Mexicans, along with United States citizens of Mexican descent.

After Ruth is forced to leave school, she goes to visit Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—all while promising to love and cherish one another.

My Take:

I am an immigrant to the United States. I became a naturalized citizen in 2010. I say this because my experience has influenced my opinions on the subject and, particularly, on migrants across the country’s southern border. I had a feeling that Broken Ground might take me out of my comfort zone and test some of those opinions. Since I’d enjoyed Schreck’s previous novel, Sing for Me, I decided I would give this novel a go.

I’m glad that I did. Once again, Schreck has created a thought-provoking work about social differences in 20th century America. The book’s first chapter describes the stark reality of Ruth’s life living with her husband on the Texan oil fields. They are poor and have little more than a shack, but they love each other and dream of a better life. The entire narrative is written in the present tense and in the first person, which means we experience everything the same time as Ruth does. It was difficult to read this part because I knew what was coming and Ruth sounded so happy. When everything changed, we’re plunged into Ruth’s grief. Ruth’s experiences take the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions as she journeys from Texas to California via Oklahoma and goes from being a wife to a widow to a student to an activist. There’s sadness, shock, disappointment, and anger, but there are also sweet moments of joy.

This is an aspect of American history I had previously known nothing about. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘left’ to what happened; these acts took place during both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations. I was stunned by the knowledge that even American citizens were sent to a country they didn’t know if they couldn’t provide paperwork. Sometimes, it didn’t even matter if they had the correct papers. Today, it’s easy to see the attitudes of some of the characters are racist and chauvinistic but these were considered normal during the 1930s. There’s no happy ending to Broken Ground either. Actually, the ending is rather ambiguous with elements of despair and hope. But it’s an incredible novel, and one that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about long after posting this review.

Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary copy of Broken Ground, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Broken Ground? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)

Publication Date: 03 May 2016

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Karen Halvorsen Schreck’s Website   Howard’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

The Cairo Code, by Glenn Meade

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

The international bestseller takes you on a fast-paced, nail-biting thrill ride from the Great Pyramids in Cairo, to behind the Nazi lines in Berlin, to the very seat of democracy as our hero tries to unravel a plot that could kill FDR and Winston Churchill.

To save the Western Allies, he must kill the woman he loves…

November 1943: Adolf Hitler sanctioned his most audacious mission ever—to kill US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill while they visit Cairo for a secret conference to plan the Allied invasion of Europe, an invasion which threatens imminent defeat for Germany.

Only one man is capable of leading the defiant Nazi mission—Major Johann Halder, one of the Abwehr’s most brilliant and daring agents. He is a man with a tortured soul and a talent for the impossible. Accompanied by an expert undercover team and Rachael Stern, the young and beautiful Egyptologist, Halder must race against time across a hostile desert to reach Cairo and successfully complete the assignment, or else forfeit his life and the life of his son.

When US military intelligence hears about the plan, they assign Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Weaver, one of their best officers, to hunt down and eliminate Halder and his team. But for Weaver, as well as for Halder and Stern, there’s more than the balance of war and the lives of the Allied leaders at stake—a pact of love and friendship will be tested in the frantic, high-stakes chase to the death.

Based on a real attempt to kill the President, The Cairo Code is a breathless, suspenseful thriller—a heart-wrenching tale of friendship, love, and treachery set against the exotic and intriguing backdrop of wartime Egypt.

My Take:

I first came across Glenn Meade last year when I read The Last Witness. It was an immensely powerful novel, so I was happy to be offered the chance to read and review The Cairo Code. What I didn’t know until I opened it was that it previously published as The Sands of Sakkara in 1999. I don’t mind since I’ve not read anything else by Meade, but caveat lector…

The novel starts with a reporter tracking down Harry Weaver after a body in a Cairo morgue is identified as Johann Halder. The only problem is that Halder supposedly died in 1943. After verifying the reporter’s credentials, Weaver starts telling his story and readers are taken back to 1939 and a friendship interrupted by the onset of war.

If I had to judge The Cairo Code purely as Christian fiction then it would rate incredibly low. Howard Books is Simon & Schuster’s “primary imprint for faith-based books”, but I couldn’t spot anything in this book to qualify it as such. There are some distinctly non-Christian goings-on in the narrative with violence, theft, adultery, scenes in bordellos, etc. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who only reads Christian fiction.

As an historical thriller, however, I have to say that I loved it. The Cairo Code is full of action and tense moments. There are great descriptions of 1940s Egypt and it’s detailed enough that I could see the scenes taking place in my mind. The characters are written in such a way that there are obvious good and bad guys, and also those you can’t help liking even though you know you shouldn’t because they’re the enemy. Additionally, there’s a stunning twist toward the end that I NEVER saw coming!

Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary copy of Cairo Code, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Cairo Code? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)

Publication Date: 19 April 2016

Page Count: 592

Read more on:   Glenn Meade’s Website   Howard Books’ Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com