REVIEW: The Alexandria Connection by Adrian d’Hage

The Alexandria Connection Book Cover The Alexandria Connection
Adrian d'Hage
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395

A New World Order is upon us . . .

In the shifting desert sands of Egypt, rumours abound of a lost papyrus that will reveal the true purpose of the Pyramids of Giza. Could these ancient monoliths be the source of a new kind of energy, one that comes at no cost to the planet? CIA agent Curtis O'Connor and archaeologist Aleta Weizman are determined to find out.

Close by, a shadowy and powerful group known as Pharos meets in Alexandria, its membership a closely guarded secret. Its first order of business: to orchestrate chaos on international financial markets with a series of spectacular terrorist attacks on the world's fossil-fuel supplies.

And in Cairo, amid the anarchy of Tahrir Square, thieves have broken into the famed Museum of Antiquities and stolen one of the world's priceless artifacts: the mask of Tutankhamun. Is the audacious theft linked to the Pharos Group?

Nimbly weaving politics, history and science through a rip-roaring plot, from Afghanistan to Washington, Sydney to London, The Alexandria Connection is a spectacular and stylish ride.

I received a copy of The Alexandria Connection by Adrian d’Hage from Penguin Books Australia, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

As a huge lover of any story involving ancient cultures, I’d actually had my eye on d’Hage’s books for quite awhile, but was never able to find hard copies (even online!). However, after agreeing to review The Alexandria Connection, the latest in d’Hage’s series featuring CIA agent Curtis O’Conner and beautiful Archeologist Aleta Weizman, all of the previous books came on sale on iTunes! Despite my book buying ban, thanks to being broke, I considered this coincidence serendipity and had to get them while they were so affordable! So, although the Alexandria Connection could be read as a stand alone book, I also read the Maya Codex and the Inca Prophecy, and enjoyed the additional insight that the previous books provided.

D’Hage’s books all follow a similar formula; whispers arise about messages left for the modern world by destroyed ancient civilisations, and the good guys must race the bad guys to protect that knowledge – and help save the world from predicted disasters. Interestingly, many of the books in this genre were published before the famous date in 2012, when the Mayans predicted the end of the world. Since the world didn’t end, and people continued to write, I feel that it has created more of a challenge for authors to come up with new ways to explore the mysteries of our past – without relying on an armageddon that never actually came to pass.

To my boyfriend’s frustration, I believe that there is a kernel of truth in stories like these. Modern society knows an awful lot, but I’m not arrogant enough to believe that we have all of the answers. Many archeologists and scientists have found evidence of past global disasters and cultures, but everything hasn’t quite come together yet and we can’t see the bigger picture about how everything fits together!

Fast paced action defines these books and, 80% of the time, d’Hage has that down to an art. The characters flit across the globe, between archeological sites and capital cities, evading bad guys and dodging death again and again. However, occasionally d’Hage gets bogged down in over complicated explanations of missile functions, or car history, or political backstory. Given the complex interweaving of politics, religion, terror and history throughout the book, I do understand and enjoy the breadth of information covered, but think that it could perhaps be incorporated more smoothly and simply.

Overall, this book held up well against other books in the same category, and I’d definitely pick up another instalment of O’Connor and Weizman’s adventures! I look forward to seeing what conspiracies and mysteries d’Hage tackles next.

Amazon

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REVIEW: The Ice Cap & The Rift by Marshall Chamberlain

The Ice Cap & The Rift Book Cover The Ice Cap & The Rift
Marshall Chamberlain
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312

A COMBOQUAKE RAKES THE MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE. A FIFTEEN MILE RIFT RIPS ACROSS AN ICELANDIC ICE CAP. A DISSECTED CAVE HOLDS MYSTERIOUS ANCIENT TECHNOLOGY.

John Henry Morgan, ex-Marine, Director of the United Nation’s Institute for the Study of Unusual Phenomena, returns from the devastating attack on ISUP’s Mountain project in Belize only to be cast into the aftermath of the Comboquake and the dangers of the rift. Morgan and key ISUP staff mount an expedition to the rift and discover a cavern occupied one hundred and eighty thousand years ago, containing a perfectly preserved high-tech habitat and a traveling machine operated by unknown scientific principles.

The benign scientific expedition to study the cave and its contents encounters deceit and violence as nations and terrorist groups ferret out the existence and significance of the discoveries, and mount sophisticated operations to acquire technological treasures for their own purposes. ISUP finds itself at the convergence of clandestine assault from several fronts. Violence escalates. Lives become expendable -- a scenario that has plagued the human race through the chronicles of time.

Frantic action: Prague, London, New York, Washington, D.C., Libya, France, Spain, China, Iceland. Across oceans and air lanes, factions grapple for power. Survival for the ISUP scientists and preservation of new technologies for the benefit of humanity lie in choices of whom to trust.

I received an advanced reader copy of The Ice Cap & The Rift by Marshall Chamberlain in exchange for my honest opinion.

Usually, when you give me a book with an ancient mystery hidden under the ice, it will  enthral me for hours. Think Matthew Reilly’s Ice Station, Greig Beck’s Beneath the Dark Ice, or Dan Brown’s Deception Point. However, this book fell sadly flat.

Perhaps it was because it was the second book in the series; Chamberlain gave some explanation of what happened in the first book, but didn’t really give any depth to what they’d found during that adventure. Or, it could be because the team made an amazing discovery of a city buried in an ice cap, but that seemed secondary to the entire story. Maybe it was because three of the main characters had names starting with ‘M’, which made it confusing to keep everyone straight at times!

I think the success of the other books I mentioned was that, amidst the action (which, in essence, was very similar – basically different world powers fighting it out for control of the discovery), there was also significant exploration of the discovery itself! Where it came from, how it got there, and why it was there in the first place! In Ice Cap, however, the main characters really didn’t discuss the origins of the discovery at all, which was both odd, and annoying.

I felt that the majority of the book was set on a plane, with the main character flying between Prague, London, New York, Washington and Iceland – repeatedly – to talk to various officials or check in at his office. Much of the content that was drawn out over these flights could have been better developed in Iceland, which was supposedly the centre of the action.

That said, I’m yet to mention the most bizarre part of the story. For two short chapters, we’re transported to some kind of distant, alien civilisation. The ‘aliens’ are apparently a super advanced race of beings, who subtly interfere with happenings on Earth, to ensure that the human race doesn’t kill itself. It is implied that the discovery of the ancient city in the ice was made earlier than expected, and could throw everything out of balance. In itself, this is an interesting idea. However, it was BARELY a part of the story! Just a few pages of discussion between these aliens, and again, no real exploration of the depths of their involvement or plan. I’m not against the occasional addition of an alien race to a story (Again, Matthew Reilly does this brilliantly, in his debut novel Contest), but in this instance I felt that the execution was a little off.

I don’t know if I’ll continue reading this series (though I am mildly curious about how the alien thing will play out!), but if you choose to, I’d definitely suggest reading the series from the beginning, in case that helps. You can find it on Amazon here. I’ve got to say, I was disappointed in this book! I was looking forward to discovering a new series to delve into, but was instead left feeling rather flat. I’d love to know if anyone else has read this book and had a different reaction!

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month in the USA. In Australia, we have Mental Health Awareness week in October. However, Mental Health is something that affects people everywhere, all the time – whether they want to admit it or not. So, the thoughtful and brave Ula of the Blog of Erised and Leah from Uncorked Thoughts have declared June to be the Blogosphere’s own Mental Health Awareness month!

These lovely ladies want to spread awareness about the facets of mental health that affect so many people, either directly or indirectly, every day. Unfortunately, despite becoming increasingly common (or perhaps just more accurately diagnosed), there is still a very negative stigma surrounding mental health. So, throughout June, Ula and Leah are co-ordinating a month worth of posts to encourage people to look at the issue a little more deeply, and maybe learn something new.

One of the major ways that Mental Health Awareness month will be drawing attention to reviewing or discussing books that relate to various issues surrounding mental health. There will be guest posts, interviews, giveaways, and more, over the course of the month. You can find a list of all the lovely, brave bloggers who are participating over at the Blog of Erised.

Why do I call these ladies brave? It’s not easy to stand up and loudly talk about something that often causes people to avert their eyes, fidget, and change the subject. Personally, as someone who has both first- and second-hand knowledge on dealing with Mental Health issues, I know how difficult a topic it can be to speak about openly. So, I comment Ula and Leah for creating such a great initiative and encouraging everyone to be brave, and speak out!

Personally, I’ll be posting a review of one of my favourite books, which happens to have mental health at it’s core. I’ll also be posting an interview with a successful professional conducted by Beyond Blue, that I was shown in University, and that had a huge impact on the way I related to mental health.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking read in June, Leah has created a bookshelf full of books involving mental health; you can see it on Goodreads here.

I’m excited to read what everyone has to share next month! So, stay tuned – or sign up to participate! Let’s break down the walls of shame surrounding mental health. What are you afraid of?

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Covenant – Dean Crawford

books - book club

“Covenant” tells the action packed story of a discovery in the middle east – what appear to be alien bones. Thus begins a race between factions to obtain the remains for themselves, and control the release – or suppression – of the information gleaned from them. Disillusioned former war correspondent, Ethan Warner, grudgingly joins the hunt, alongside archeologist Lucy Morgan, and Detective Nocola Lopez. Threads of information slowly emerge from amidst chunks of overly technical explanation, and result in a race to save the world.

I had high hopes for this book… but was disappointed (as perhaps you can tell from my less than exuberant plot outlineDean Crawford - Covenant above). The premise of the book was sound, and Crawford had clearly done his research. However, the story was in many parts contrived. There were pages and pages of technical scientific explanation, and long-winded description of the middle-eastern conflicts, that were beyond the comprehension of your average reader. This made some of the text pretty hard to get through. Even for people like myself, who regularly read books on similar topics, and are used to wading through law text books – the epitome of heavy reading – there was just far too complicated, and unnecessary.

Cramming so much technical information in was, despite the length of the novel, at the cost of character development. I didn’t really get a chance to ‘get to know’ any character in depth, except perhaps Ethan Warner. Even then, I usually get overly attached to characters, but there was no love lost when people tried to kill Warner – which happened often. What little character development you did get didn’t lend itself to a particularly likeable main character. It’s never a good thing when you’re not rooting for the protagonist to succeed!

Another frustration was that the three storylines didn’t really overlap and interact enough until the very end; rather, it was almost like reading three separate books. Not to mention the cliqued ending that more than paved the way for the upcoming sequel.

What had the promise to be a provoking story about the possibility of finding another species in the universe and the lengths that people would go to in protecting that information, became an overly complicated big guys with guns story.

It’s possible I’ll still pick up the sequel… Ok, I’ll be honest – I’ve actually already purchased both of the remaining books in the trilogy… But I haven’t read them, which says volumes! Don’t judge me, I’m rather OCD in my need to purchase an entire series once I have a portion of it. I’d be interested to find out the answer to the mystery that is Warner’s missing fiance, but past that I have little interest in how this story unravels. If you want to give it a try, you can get a copy here. Hopefully Crawford and his editors have learned a lesson and cut the technicalities for some character development.

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