June 5th, 2016


Book Critique 2016 – 03/08/2016: Spider Game (Ghostwalker Series #12)

Apr 4 2019: Updated the review and added Spoiler Alerts.

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books under Ghostwalker series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: A good one to have the continuity of the series involving mystery, eroticism, science and undefined.

Spider Game is the 12th book in the Ghostwalker Series by Christine Feehan published in January of 2016. The central plot revolves around Trap "Iceman" Dawkins - scientist and a member of GhostWalker Team Four - and Cayenne - the GhostWalker woman Team Four rescues from the Louisiana facility in Viper Game. The plot begins 3 months after where Viper Game ends.

GhostWalkers are a group of women and men who are sent on special missions. They have enhances psychic and physical abilities along with genetic modifications, using in some cases not just human genes but all kinds of animal and plant genes. However every GhostWalker would need an "anchor" to draw back the psychic backlash, especially that would instigate violence. They are complex characters trying to live with their enhanced abilities and at the same time fight against the corrupt people around them, executing their missions successfully. So far we are introduced to two teams of GhostWalkers Men serving in various areas of law enforcement and armed forces and one group of Orphan Girls on whom Dr. Peter Whitney had experimented. He has paired each of his GhostWalker men with the women in the hopes to breed the next generation of GhostWalkers.

In Shadow Game we had seen that Dr. Lily Whitney-Miller, married to Captain Ryland "King" Miller - head of Team One - find the details of the Orphan Girls that Dr. Peter Whitney had experimented on along with Lily. Now adopted or held in a different lab or on their own or more girls added as years progressed, Lily and Ryland are determined to find those girls now women, rescue them and provide a safe haven. So far they have rescued Dahlia Le Blanc, Iris "Flame" Johnson, Briony "Bri" Jenkins, Marigold "Mari" Smith, Saber Wynter, Tansy Meadows, Rose Patterson, Azamie "Thorn" Yoshiie and La Poirve "Pepper".

In the previous book, Viper Game, we met Cayenne - another GhostWalker Woman who is kept in the facility along with Pepper, for termination by Dr. Whitney. Team Four rescue her in that plot. We also see that there is instant attraction between Cayenne and Trap - who had rescued her from the facility. Naturally a reader would expect Christine to continue the series with Team Four, specially setting her plot around Trap and Cayenne.

After helping Team Four defend Wyatt's home from Whitney's super soldiers, Cayenne disappears. But Trap has her lodged in his mind so deep, he is obsessed with her and goes out in search of Cayenne. But Cayenne is using her abilities to clean up the bad apples from the society.

Trap and Cayenne have the harshest past, making them the outcasts. Christine masterly spins her tale around two people who are socially inept, like to be alone and away from the world around them, classic misfits who gravitate towards each other, adjusting making mistakes and in the end finding life and love for themselves.

Of course it is heavily loaded with sexual stuff, and Trap is a world-class jerk many times over, that burned me a lot. Obviously Christine is having the Team Four members more aggressive, more sexually active and at times behave like jerks. I do hope she tones at least a few members down. Despite heavily loaded with sex and erotic romance, Christine filled it with shades of humor tempering the sexual tone.

Christine mentions in her note about the book when it came out that Trap had Apserger Syndrome. However she doesn’t explicitly mention about that particular situation with Trap, although she does give scenarios that allude to Asperger's. That is why perhaps Christine writes up most of a chapter in how Trap calculates the number of peanut husks on the bar floor. That one scene explains so much more about how Trap's mind works. Mind-boggling I say.

Ghostwalkers Men being all tough and macho, Christine manages to show them soft and sensitive when they are dealing with their women. And the situation of the women, how they come about it, is always heart-wrenching.

We see less of Whitney in this plot, but new enemies crop up for the GhostWalkers to fight against. And that means we will see newer threads to the plot-line for Christine to have future books.

Despite the heavy sexual stuff, Christine does have a lot of meat to continue reading the book. Definitely a delight to read, just bear with the erotic stuff.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Plot Reveals:
a. Cayenne hits at two other labs with women and perhaps children that Dr. Whitney is running in different countries. Ofcourse they would be since we have so many GhostWalker men that need to be paired. And more stories to come up for sure.
b. Christine weaves into the plot a possible tale for a future book, about government emptying five towns near their home and using for NASA experiments or perhaps more.
c. Cayenne is pregnant at the end of this plot.

2) Sub-Plots:
a. In the first book, Shadow Game, we were introduced to Dr. Brandon Adams - GhostWalkers own doctor who takes care of them as well as keeps them safe from Dr. Peter Whitney and his rogue super humans. In Deadly Game, another doctor, Dr. Eric Lambert, is introduced who takes care of these GhostWalker teams. But he turned out to be rogue in Ruthless Game.
b. In Ruthless Game, Fargo, one of the super soldiers of Dr. Whitney's personal army had been paired with one of the orphan girls in the facility where he was orchestrating his breeding program. And she had tried to almost kill Fargo. I wonder who that orphan girl is.
c. A slight confusion I have as a reader on where the first two teams are located. In Conspiracy Game and after, Christine had GhostWalkers Team One and Two settling in the mountains of Montana. But in Ruthless Game, she has some of them settling in the mountains of Wyoming. And in Samurai Game, she has both Team One and Two living in Montana around the Lolo National Forest. So who is living in Wyoming?
d. GhostWalker Team Two is also sent out an mission at the same that Team One is sent in Samurai Game. Wonder if Christine will have a story from that arc for Team Two sometime in future.
e. In Viper Game we see that Pepper was trained with five other girls for ten years in a facility as soldiers. So was she part of the breeding program that Dr. Whitney, part of the remaining three girls that escaped?
f. We don’t see anything about the last two brothers of the Fontenots in either Night Game or in Viper Game. Who could they be?

g. GhostWalker Team One, Army Rangers and Army Green Berets; first introduced in the first book, Shadow Game - under direct command of General Theodore Ranier. They make their base in the mountains of Montana along-side Team Two as of Predatory Game.
i. Headed by Captain Ryland "King" Miller - His story was told in Shadow Game, and marries Lily Whitney, adopted daughter of Dr. Peter Whitney, at the end of that book. They have a baby boy - Daniel Ryland Miller - in Predatory Plot.
ii. Nicolas "Nico" Trevane - His story is told in Mind Game, and marries Dahlia Le Blanc at the end of that book.
iii. Raoul "Gator" Fontenot - His story is told in Night Game, and marries Iris "Flame" Johnson at the end of that book.
iv. Kadan Montague, Ryland's second-in-command. His story is told in Murder Game, and marries Tansy Meadows at the end of that book.
v. Sam "Knight" Johnson - His story is told in Samurai Game, and marries Azami "Thorn" Yoshiie at the end of that book.
vi. The rest of the team consists of Jeff Hollister; Ian McGillicuddy; Tucker Addison; Jonas "Smoke" Harper; Kyle "Ratchet" Forbes; Tom "Shark" Delaney, Sr. wrongly enhanced by Dr. Whitney and thrown away, rescued by Kadan in Murder Game.
vii. Jeff Hollister goes through a very tough recovery when he was brutally experimented by Dr. Whitney in the first book, Shadow Game. We see more about him in Murder Game. I would like to see Christine pen a story for him soon more so because he is creeping into the reader's mind slowly.

h. GhostWalker Team Two, Paramilitary Ghostwalkers Team (Navy SEALs) working with NCIS; first introduced in the second book, Mind Game; under direct command of Rear Admiral Frank Henderson. They make their base in the mountains of Montana where Jack and Ken already reside as of Predatory Game.
i. Headed by Logan "Max" Maxwell.
ii. Jack Norton, oldest of the Norton Twins. His story is told in Conspiracy Game, and married Briony "Bri" Jenkins, at the end of that book. They have twins, Jeremiah Ken Norton and Noah Jack Norton, as of Ruthless Game.
iii. Ken Norton, the second Norton Twin. His story is told in Deadly Game, and married Marigold "Mari" Smith at the end of that book. Mari is pregnant with twins as of this plot.
iv. Jesse "Jess" Calhoun - His story is told in Predatory Game, and married Saber Wynter at the end of that book.
v. The rest of the team consists of Martin Howard; Neil Campbell; Trace Aikens; Antonio Martinez (first introduced in Street Game)
vi. When the GhostWalker Team Two was introduced in Mind Game, Christine had mentioned one of the members as Todd Aikens. But in Deadly Game, she names him Trace Aikens. Is he Todd or Trace? Had she named him first as Todd and then later changed it to Trace? Or are there both Todd and Trace?

i. GhostWalker Team Three: Marine Force Recon Urban Warfare Team; first introduced in Predatory Game; under direct command of Sergeant Major Theodore Griffen. 9 men and two women who grew up together to form a family by heart, joined by a newbie now. They make their base in San Francisco, around the warehouse that Jaimie already bought in Street Game, as of Ruthless Game.
i. Headed by Mack "Top" McKinley. His story is told in Street Game and marries Jaimie Fielding at the end of that book, one of the girls in his group.
ii. Kane Cannon - second-in-command to Mack. His story is told in Ruthless Game and marries Rose Patterson at the end of that book. They have a baby boy, Sebastian Kane Cannon, in the middle of the plot.
iii. The rest of the team consists of Javier Enderman; Gideon Carpenter; Brian Hutton; Jacob Princeton; Ethan Myers; Marc Lands; Lucas Atherton; Rhianna "Rhee" Bonds; newbie Paul Mangan.
iv. Brian Hutton, the first member we met in Predatory Plot and had been interested romantically in Patsy Calhoun, Jesse Calhoun's - GhostWalker from Team Two - sister in that plot. Is he paired with Patsy? But Patsy isn't a GhostWalker? Or is she?
v. Rhianna is sent to Mossad on loan and Javier and Rhianna seems to have a history as being lovers in Street Game. She returns to the team in Ruthless Game.

j. GhostWalker Team Four: Air Force Pararescue Special Forces Team; first mentioned in Predatory Game; more revealed in Street Game; plan to make base in Louisiana bayous around Gator and Wyatt's home in New Orleans. More of the team is introduced in Viper Game and this plot.
i. Headed by Joe Spagnola - Surprisingly he seems amicable towards Violet Smythe despite her betrayal towards the GhostWalkers in this plot.
ii. Wyatt Fontenot - Raoul's brother. His story is told in Viper Game and marries Pepper at the end of that plot. They are biological parents of identical triplets produced in-vitro by Dr. Whitney - Ginger, Thym, Cannelle "Elle".
iii. Rest of the team consists of Malichai Fortunes; Ezekiel "Zeke" Fortunes; Mordichai Fortunes; Trap Dawkins; Draden "Sandman" Freeman; Gino; Diego; Rubin Campo.
iv. Malichai also gets injured while defending his team and Wyatt's family from the Zombie Soldiers.

k. Group One of Dr. Peter Whitney's Orphans: Twelve orphan girls on whom he had conducted his experiments to make them psychically enhanced - Lily Whitney-Miller, the only girl he had adopted for himself; Dahlia Le Blanc; Iris "Flame" Johnson; Briony "Bri" Jenkins; Marigold "Mari" Smith; Tansy Meadows; Rose Patterson; Jonquille; Laurel; Camellia "Cami".
i. More about them is shown in Deadly Game
1) Ivy, supposedly killed by Dr. Whitney to teach the orphans girls a lesson;
2) Cami and two others live in a secret compound that Dr. Whitney uses for breeding program along with Mari and Rose. In the escape attempt all of them spread away.  Mari and Rose's stories have been told. Now waiting for the others to speak.

l. Group Two of Dr. Peter Whitney's Orphans: First introduced in Predatory Game. It is clear that although Thorn was later on isolated with Saber in a different facility, she was with the others in the Group One in the beginning, per this plot - Saber Wynter; Azami "Thorn" Yoshiie.

m. Group Three of Dr. Peter Whitney's Orphans: First introduced in this plot; originally developed in France but later kept at the facility in the Louisiana bayous for termination; mostly considered rejects by Dr. Whitney: Le Poivre "Pepper" and her triplets - Ginger, Thym and Cannelle "Elle"; Cayenne

n. Dr. Peter Whitney who thought be dead in the first book Shadow Game, is shown to be alive as well as psychic as of Deadly Game with more devious plots in his mind. As the books progress, we see the various kinds of horrific experiments he had done on the GhostWalkers Men and Women - tracking them with a computer chip in their body; pairing the Orphan girls not only with one of the four Ghostwalker teams, but his personal enhanced team that he created using the rejected psychic candidates as part of his breeding program; injecting them with Zenith, a fast-healing medicine but with serious repercussions; experimenting with animal genes; zombie soldiers with a bonish exoskeleton.

o. Dr. Peter Whitney's allies in his devious plots are:
i. Violet Smythe-Freeman - one of the Orphan Girls from Dr. Whitney's Group in the breeding program - first introduced in Deadly Game, married to Senator Ed Freeman, the one the Norton twins tried to rescue and were in turn kidnapped in Congo, conspires with Dr. Whitney to kill the Senator, gets herself paired with Whitney, so she can get to White House as of this plot.
ii. Jacob Abrams, a loaded banker, and Senator Freeman's father, Andrew Freeman.

Book Critique 2016 – 03/09/2016: The Return of Rafe MacKade (The MacKade Brothers, #1)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A good series mixed with legend, love, mystery and choices for those evenings when you need a break.

The Return of Rafe Mackade is the first in the quartet The Mackage Brothers written by Nora Roberts and published in April of 1995. This part begins with Rafe Mackade returning to Antietam, Maryland ten years after disappearing.

The four Mackade Brothers (Rafe, Jared, Devin and Shane) have always been wild yet hard-working helping out their mother in their family farm. And with their killing looks even as a teenagers gave them the edge. Their life includes brotherly fights amongst themselves and fist fights with the bully Joe Dolin - only when Joe is involved something wrong. Life goes on thus for the four brothers until one day Rafe decides to leave Antietam for good and never return back. Now after ten years Rafe is back , all cleaned up, polished, successful, rich and yet the same roughian look still alive just making him more dangerous.

He buys the Barlow House which is famed to be haunted in the intention of converting it into a bed and breakfast. Regan Jones moves to this small town to start new and her own antique business. Rafe's eye catches her and hires her for furnishing the Barlow House at the same time fanning that attraction. Regan originally thwarts the advances but eventually falls for him all the way through.

A parallel plot runs through the book involving Joe Dolin - the town bully - his wife Cassie Dolan and Sheriff Devin Mackade. From the day Cassie married Joe he had been a bully with never-ending abuse both physical and mental. Even after they have two kids it never ends. Regan advises Cassie after one such abusive day, Regan advises Cassie to leave Joe with his kids.

And finally there is the legend. Antietam is surrounded by a legend from civil war time involving a Confederate Soldier, a Union Soldier, The Barlow House and its residents at that time and the Mackade Farm and its residents at that time.

Nora Roberts has melded all the three well together - the main plot, sub-plot and the legend. You will also notice that the sub-plots and the legend continue to the remaining books in the series. I have not read many authors where there is a strong sub-plot too. These were written at the time that Nora Roberts had been a master with her words. That is why I love the earlier books of her than later ones. Characters are strong, plot is thick with mystery, legend and intrigue; and above all the strings joining them all together form a very intricate web that you want to explore every corner of it. Clearly this was written at a time technology was not as what it is today. I am not sure if the re-prints have changed the plot to have pieces of current era, but the charm of the time from my era as a young woman came to life in front of my eyes. That added to my love towards this book.

I however have to say that Regan was hard to warm up for me. She came off as a weak character in the beginning with weak reasons to be moving to Antietam. But once Cassie got involved and the way she blooms with strength and courage, that’s when I started loving her.

All in all a very good one to pick up and enjoy for those evenings you need a break from the rest of the world. Look for my reviews on the remaining books in the series. My recommendation is that you read all of them to get to know the people in it as well as the plot that keeps thickening from book to book. Enjoy!!

Book Critique 2016 – 03/10/2016: The Pride of Jared MacKade (The MacKade Brothers, #2)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all the books in the series: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A good series mixed with legend, love, mystery and choices for those evenings when you need a break.

The Pride of Jared MacKade is the second book in the series The MacKade Brothers by Nora Roberts and published in December of 1995. The plot revolves around Jared MacKade and Savannah Morningstar - single mom for nine-year old Bryan.

The first book introduced the four brothers, paired Rafe with Regan. We also saw Cassie Dolin and her kids Emma and Connor. Towards the end of the book Cassie files for divorce against her abusive husband. The sub-plot continues in this book as well with. So does the legend about the ghosts of the two soldiers - one from the Union and one from the Confederate Army.

Jared MacKade had one job to do with Savannah Morningstar - hand-over the inheritance her father had left her. The meeting although ends with a lawerly argument, the attractions continues long after he leaves her home. His intrigue increases more so because he finds layers wrapped around her which makes him want to chip them. Savannah does come with complex layers - not a typical heroine that one would see. It was a bit tough to like her in the beginning as she comes off arrogant and proud. But as the story proceeds we get to see her past bit by bit and the puzzle keeps finishing. By the time the story ends you will fall in love with her as well.

An odd combination - Jared well settled lawyer and divorced, occasionally working with his brothers on their family farm; Savannah settled for now with a long and hard past and a nine-year old bullet-like son, Bryan - that one would keep expecting that their relationship would fail. For both are proud as ever. However, Nora Roberts charms us into following them and see them make it in the end.

Jared also represents Cassie Dolin in her divorce while her soon-to-be ex Joe Dolin is jailed for all of the harm he has caused Cassie and the kids. Rafe and Regan provide Cassie with the job of Chatelain to their inn along with an apartment for her and her kids on the top floor of the inn. Devin being the sheriff watches over her. Shane charms her kids into smiles and healthy fun. It was heart-warming to see all the brothers come together and stand with Cassie in her time of need. Regan and Savannah slid into the line easily enough giving their shoulder to Cassie as well. This sub-plot keeps you on the toes as much as the main plot.

Then there is the legend. As much as Jared feels that the woods behind their family farm were his, so does Savannah. And being part-Apache she also senses what had gone through there more than a century ago. The mystique surrounding the two soldiers, the Barlow House and senses that these characters feel in real-life is another layer that only wants you to just peel it all the way through.

My recommendation is that you continue the series and see how each of the brothers' life unfolds and how the legend ties into them. Look for my reviews on the remaining books in the series. Enjoy!!