I am, as usual, a bit behind with reviews so it's time for a quick catch-up. First up, The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell.
Dr. Erin Granger is an archaeologist working with a team of students on a dig in Israel. She's suddenly yanked away from that by the military to look at something that's come to light on a mountain top at Masada. It seems there's the entrance to a tomb and they need her to accompany the expedtion into the mountain to see what the tomb contains. Unfortunately, while they're down there a massive earthquake occurs, plus they're attacked by powerful forces unknown. It leaves only three of them alive, Erin herself, an American sergeant, Jordan Stone, and a priest, Father Rhun Korza. Korza admits they are down there to find a book, a gospel in fact, and that the forces who attacked them are after it too. But what is this unique gospel and why is everyone so desperate to get hold of it? And who are their enemies in this? Erin's safe, scientific world is about to be turned right on its head by the discoveries she's about to make. Well now, I think this is the first James Rollins book I've read. And as it's co-authored by Rebecca Cantrell I've no idea how typical this is of his work. I thought he wrote adventure books with a touch of the supernatural, I didn't know he wrote this kind of religion based horror novel. It was actually quite nice to be 'so' surprised by a book! 'But' I think some people would not like this one as a huge suspension of disbelief is paramount to enjoyment. There's a strong Roman Catholic background to the story, much speculation, and quite a big reveal as to the character of Rhun Korza which I'm not going to spoil. It's definitely an armchair travelling kind of book. It starts in Israel, trots off to Germany, thence to Russia (more big reveals) and from there ends in the Vatican City in Rome. It should be said here that I love a good 'weird' book and this is 'so' weird. I wouldn't say the characterisation was amazing, some characters are a bit wooden, I did like Erin but then I'm a sucker for archaeologists in books. For me this was a hugely fun romp of a book which I loved. I know others might think it ridiculous and that's fine, each to their own. I gave it five stars and as it's the first in a series of three main books I'm already deciding when to read book two.
And next, as they say, for something completely different - Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. This is my April book for my Read Around the USA challenge which this month covers the US overseas territories of American Samoa, the North Marianna Islands, Puero Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Winter in Paradise is set mainly in the US Virgin Islands. I wanted to read something from the North Marianna Islands as I remembered Martin Clunes going there in his doc. series about Pacific Islands, and how rugged and beautiful those particular islands are, but I couldn't find a book that appealed. No matter.
Irene Steele lives in Iowa City with her husband, Russell. They have two sons, Baker and Cash, both grown up with lives of their own, and live in a beautiful, large Victorian house which Irene has renovated herself and is very proud of. Russell is not home very much. He changed jobs some years ago and suddenly they became mega-rich... but she isn't really sure what he now does and where all the money comes from. When she gets a phone call telling her that Russ has died in a helicopter crash along with the pilot and an unknown woman, in the American Virgin Islands, she has no idea what to think. She was not aware Russ had ever been to these islands but when she's told he owned a huge villa there she has to do some serious readjusting of her thoughts. Irene heads to the islands along with her two sons, determined to find some answers. But some answers inevitably throw up more and more questions, especially when there's a campaign of silence among the people who have said answers... So, another book I couldn't put down. First of all I will say that I wasn't mad about Irene or her sons. I found them tricky to identify with but I'm a sucker for the 'husband with a secret other life' trope. Probably because it's a mystery and secrets are involved and I love a slow reveal of the truth, especially if it's quite shocking. It was also interesting to watch the family integrate into the island, getting to know the people Russ knew, the house where he lived, but also strive to keep their own secrets from each other. As to the American Virgin Islands, I knew they were in the Caribbean but not where exactly. Well the sequence goes, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, The American Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands... all in row across the Caribbean. So there you go. They sound absolutely beautiful. I gather Elin Hilderbrand has a home there and this series of books, known as the 'Paradise' trilogy, is a homage to the islands and places mentioned, even bars and restaurants, are real. So, this book could be read as a standalone but it doesn't give all the answers. There's another phonecall right at the end. And yes, I do want to know what transpires and have already bought book two. Like I said, I'm a sucker.
So two five star reads in row. That's always nice. And now I can't decide what to read next in that way that happens when you've read a couple of good books in a row, quickly, both pageturners. Neither of them were particularly intellectual or challenging, just great, fun reads and that suits me fine.
I hope you're all keeping well, and enjoying your reading as much as me.