Connected: The Shift by Michelle Medhat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Connected: The Shift” by Michelle Medhat is aptly named as this second part of the story takes a remarkable shift. While the evil protagonists from The Call increase in power, Al Nadir led by Dr. Salim Al Douri and Dr. Sabena Sanantoni display even more ruthless behaviors. As Sam Noor continues to lead the battle against the evil twosome and their followers things are happening in Sam’s personal life that can change the path of destruction the Earth is spinning on. It also becomes evident that Sam’s beloved wife Ellie is more than just a pretty romantic interest. Here is where Medhat takes a sharp turn and creatively melds science fiction, spies, terrorism, and romance into a breathtaking tale of good versus evil. In the end the biggest threat the Earth faces is not Al Nadir but interference from Kudamun where the forces of dark and light struggle to maintain equilibrium in the universe. The light side (the Ruling Side of Giznu) represented by Aby-od and the dark side (The Opposing House of Etima) represented by Lord Aswa-da disagree on how the planet Ki (Earth) should be handled. The interactions between these two leaders shadow those of the leaders on Earth as political intrigue proves to be a truly universal issue. Medhat’s ability to relate the eternal battle between light and dark, good and evil in both the settings of Earth and Kudamun is skillfully handled. As the tension increases it is apparent there is more going on than just a fight for Earth’s survival. Capturing the age old horror of hopelessness, isolation, and loneliness Medhat brings things to a terrifying climax. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy action packed stories with unexpected twists and turns. Be warned there is some extreme violence but it serves to define the strength of some characters as well as the evil that exists in others.
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It had been a long hard winter. The freeze had begun in October and as March drew to a close it seemed it would never end. Then April Fool’s Day came bringing with it warmer temperatures and the sun shining brightly on soil that had been ice bound for months. The runoff was fierce and flooding hit hard. Those of us who lived near the river watched the banks with trepidation. My little house was not as close as some of my neighbors but when a small community experiences trouble we all share it. The melt was bad enough; the rains that followed only compounded a bad situation. The whole town pitched in to stack sandbags around the foundations of the houses nearest the river. Jo and Glenn Baker lived closest to the river; their house built on stilts in an effort to avoid the possibility of flooding. But as the river edge grew closer to the stilts and eventually made its way up, foot by foot, it was apparent the stilts might not be enough to keep the house dry.
Jo and Glenn moved their sheepdogs to their cousin’s house on the hill. There wasn’t much they could do but watch the water rise and move valuables like family photos and treasures to the upper floor. In the end their back deck was washed away when the soil that held the stilts gave way. Piece by piece it floated off in a rush of gray water with white caps like an ocean storm instead of a raging river. About that time they decided enough was enough and got a storage unit in town and started moving as much as they could out of the house.
Dewey Parker lost his shed but by some miracle the house stayed put. The sandbags kept most of the water out but his carpet was ruined and the tiles in his bathroom floated in an inch of dirty water. His wife Ella ran screaming from the house when she jumped off the commode after seeing a fat rat swimming vigorously in the bathtub. Dewey actually got a laugh out of it and retold the story for days.
By the second week of April things began to simmer down. The rain lessened and the sun peeked out every so often, making a valiant effort to dry up some of the soil. The third week into April the rain stopped and the waters began to recede. Folks stopped making jokes about building an ark. It seemed as though the nightmare was over and life could begin the slow process of returning to normal.
The last week of April is the week we all remember. That was the week the first body floated past the boat ramp. Four of the local boys had disobeyed their parents and gone down to the river to see if there was anything worth collecting the way small boys like to collect things. Joey Fisher thought it was a mannequin and even considered trying to swim out and get it. The boys ran along the river’s edge following it as it bobbed along. It was Mike Mills who got the closest to it when it got hooked on a tree that had fallen into the river and extended several feet into the murky waters. The boys were arguing about the likelihood it was a body when two more bobbed along like they were joining a death dance party. That sent the boys running to the road where they flagged down the Nelson twins who were heading into town for the first baseball practice of the season. The Nelson twins pulled over and chewed the boys out for their stupidity and followed them back to the river’s edge. Bobby Nelson pulled out his cell phone and almost dropped it when he dialed the sheriff to report five bodies stuck out in the middle of the river, bobbing around, arms and legs entangled as though they were performing a bizarre group hug.
By the time the sheriff got to the spot in the river where the boys were all staring silently at the growing number of bodies, it was up to nine by then, the Nelson twins had taken pictures with their cell phones and news was already making its way through town. Within about an hour the river bank was crowded with spectators trying to count the tangle of bodies and discern their genders, some of which were naked as newborn babies. When all was said and done seventeen bodies were pulled from the river in varying states of decay. Nine were women and eight were males. The males looked to be young, barely out of their teens although it was left to the state medical examiner to make the final call on that.
When the rains of April finally gave way to the warm, sunny days of May more bodies had been discovered further up the river. State investigators were joined by federal investigators and the riverbank was sealed off for several miles. The Nelson twins and the four boys who had first spotted the macabre display became instant celebrities since they were the discoverers of the biggest thing to happen in the area since Clara Woodstock shot her husband for chasing skirts in the next town over twenty years earlier.
Amidst all the fuss and attention the adults began to look at one another with a degree of suspicion. It was Steve Bumpus who first pointed out in his soft steady voice, “Guess someone around here has a taste for killing.”
He was leaning on the checkout counter at the IGA, a long line stretching behind him and every checkout backed up with Saturday shoppers when he made his statement. It was like someone dropped a thick quilt over the whole store as the hush spread from line to line and heads swiveled about to check the reactions of those nearby. A few of the older folk asked “What did he say?” and were answered in whispers that sounded like the soft hissing of steam from a kettle with a busted whistle.
I was stocking at IGA that year. I didn’t hear the remark but I did hear the silence that followed it, if it could be called hearing. I guess it was more like not hearing. There was no more kids fussing for the candy that lined the displays at the checkout, no more grumbling about the rise in the cost of eggs and milk, and no more huffing and puffing from impatient shoppers who thought the lines should always be open and available for them and them alone. I moved down the cereal aisle where I had been stocking the corn flakes that were on sale and had been cleared out twice that week already. It was creepy, like watching a DVD on pause, people just standing, some with mouths hanging open like they had been saying something and stopped mid sentence. Steve picked up his two bags of groceries, gave a quick glance around the store, then strode easily out the automatic doors with no look back at the mess he’d just started.
Then, as if the door swishing closed behind him threw an unseen switch, the registers started binging, the voices were raised, and the kids resumed fussing for candy that would keep them spinning like dervishes for the remainder of the afternoon.
Billy Lawrence, the other stocker, passed me on his way to the back carrying empty boxes from the end caps. “What happened?” I asked.
He gave an uneasy glance back at the front of the store. “Nothing important.”
If there ever was an understatement that was it. And the weeks that followed proved just how much of an understatement it was.
If you like action packed films where bullets and fists fly this is definitely the movie for you. Skillfully directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown”, “Non-Stop”) it is a masterpiece of movement. Run down, burned out Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is a pathetic character- at the beginning of the movie. Estranged from his son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) for five years he leads a lonely and depressing life as an alcoholic has been. Michael Conlon is as straight as an arrow and has no desire to follow in his father’s shoot ‘em up footsteps. With a pregnant wife and two little girls he makes an honest wage as a limo driver while mentoring fatherless youth on the side. Meanwhile Jimmy’s old friend Shawn MacGuire (Ed Harris) lives well on the proceeds of his legit and not so legit Brooklyn businesses. Shawn looks out for his old buddy Jimmy who was once known as The Gravedigger because he was Shawn’s favorite hitman. Meanwhile Shawn is trying to train his son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) to take over the family business. But Danny is a drug addicted, out of control punk who gets mixed up with some professional Albanian criminals who want to work out a big drug deal with old man MacGuire. When Danny boy can’t deliver Dad as guaranteed the proverbial crap hits the fan. From then on it’s all about blood flying. Michael witnesses Danny taking out the Albanians and becomes a target for Danny who wants to make sure no one can turn him in.
Shawn warns Jimmy that Danny and his boys are after Michael and asks Jimmy to reason with his upstanding son. Meanwhile Shawn tries to keep his loose cannon son under control. Self defense means nothing to Shawn when his beloved offspring is involved. Now Michael is on Shawn’s hitlist and Jimmy must pull himself together to save his son and the daughter-in-law and granddaughters he has never met.
Pursued by Shawn’s hired guns, led by Andrew Price (Common) and the New York police (clean and dirty) led by Detective John Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio) Jimmy and Michael are on the run trying to stay alive until the situation can be resolved.
With amazing chase sequences, incredible gun battles, and hand to hand combat that makes the viewer cringe “Run All Night” is a fight until the end. Liam Neeson is undoubtedly the most amazing action hero/antihero in years. He is able to make you feel sorry for Jimmy Conlon even when you despise what he has done. His goal is not to “do the right thing” but to save his family. D’Onofrio is the quintessential New York City cop and his years on “Law and Order Criminal Intent” do him in good stead in this film. Shots of New York City from Queens to Brooklyn to Manhattan make it worth it even if nothing else does. How often do you get to see a chase sequence in the NYC projects? If you don’t see another action movie this year see this one.
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Connected: The Call by Michelle Medhat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In “Connected: The Call” by Michelle Medhat a new terror has arrived. Al Nadir has developed a new terrorist weapon that can change the world. Utilizing high tech methods Medhat skillfully uses language that actually makes sense even a novice can grasp. It’s obvious she did her research because the weapon proposed is believable with the advances in nano-technology. The frightening concepts get the reader thinking. While the complex relationships between Sam and Ellie Noor and Dr. Salim Al Douri and Dr. Sabena Sanantoni move the story along the other characters, from the US President to the British Prime Minister, also play vital parts in the plot. This is a fast paced thriller that is well handled by Medhat’s creative use of dating each short chapter with the date and time. Capturing the present day mood of government dishonesty and corruption it is easy to see her behind the scenes portrayals of politicians and their personal agendas. There is a lot more to this story than just techno terrorists and spies; there is the understory of government officials who will go to any lengths to conceal their more than shady activities. A rollercoaster ride with something for everyone “The Call” is a high tension read and part one of “The Connected”. I am definitely looking forward to “Connected: The Shift”. (There are a few typos but they do not in any way detract from this novel.)
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Danger Close by Charlie Flowers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Action packed thriller is an understatement when describing “Danger Close” by Charlie Flowers. As a follow up to Flowers “Hard Kill” it picks up with Rizwan Sabir desperately searching for his fiancée Holly (Bang Bang) Kirpachi. But the book also reads well as a stand alone adventure. Sabir is dropped into foreign territory in order to infiltrate an American prison in Afghanistan on the hunt for Bang Bang. The action starts there and doesn’t stop throughout the story.
Flowers has a knack for setting up military operations making the reader feel as though he is in the midst of battle. With incredible insight into the activities of terrorists and the British military he creates a story that is in line with current events. Woven throughout the battles and fighting the relationship between Riz and Bang Bang continues to evolve.
The Black Eye Girls return and this time they are working closely with MOD’s secret group giving them access to better weapons and information. They accomplish amazing acts of bravery all the while maintaining their humorous interchanges. The losses and deaths are heart breaking as the softer side of some of these girls is brought to the forefront by the tragedies they encounter.
From England to Afghanistan, from Paris and back to England Riz and Bang Bang form a dynamic duo British style. It’s a no hold barred examination of how terrorism affects us all and even the most innocent become victims of the madness. This is a book for those who appreciate a good spy story with more bombs and blow ups than any James Bond film could contain. I’m definitely hooked and ready for the next adventure of Riz, Bang Bang, and the Black Eye Girls.
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