WWW Wednesday – 19 February 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

False Value, Picard Cover

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch (Trade Paperback)

The latest book in the acclaimed Rivers of London urban fantasy series, False Value is an amazing novel that I am having a great time reading.  Aaronovitch has created another excellent story, which has some really unique and compelling elements to it. I just over halfway through False Value at the moment, and I reckon this is going to turn into a five star read.

Star Trek: Picard – The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack (Audiobook)

I have been really enjoying the new Star Trek: Picard television show, so when I saw that they had released an official tie-in novel I had to check it out.  The Last Best Hope is an outstanding prequel novel that acts as a bridge between Star Trek: The Next Generation and Picard.  I am really enjoying this fantastic book, and I am hoping to finish it off in the next day or so.

What did you recently finish reading?
God Game, Warsaw Protocol
The God Game by Danny Tobey (Trade Paperback)

The Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry (Audiobook)

What do you think you’ll read next?

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga

Amnesty Cover


That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

The Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry

The Warsaw Protocol Cover

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton/Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 25 February 2020)

Series: Cotton Malone – Book 15

Length: 11 hours and 48 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

In the mood for an exciting thriller that not only features an intense, high-stakes spy adventure but also an intriguing and detailed examination of a nation’s history and culture? Then you are going to love The Warsaw Protocol, the latest novel from bestselling thriller author Steve Berry and the 15th novel in his long-running Cotton Malone series.

Former United States Justice Department agent Cotton Malone is now retired and enjoying his life as a rare book dealer and occasionally supplementing his income with some freelance intelligence work. In Bruges to attend a book fair, his holiday takes an unexpected turn when he attempts to stop the theft of a rare religious artefact. His interference accidently places him in the centre of a new conspiracy threatening to engulf Poland, one with massive global ramifications.

A notorious information broker has obtained a series of documents that reveal troubling secrets about the President of Poland, Janusz Czajkowski, and his past during the communist occupation of his country. These secrets, if revealed, would ruin the political career of Czajkowski and are the ultimate form of blackmail. With a controversial proposal surrounding an advanced American missile defence system in Poland on the table, both the United States and Russia want these documents, as do several other interested nations. The documents will be auctioned off in a secret location, with the price of admission one of seven sacred Christian relics located around the world.

Recruited by his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, Cotton attempts to steal one of the remaining relics in order to enter the US into the auction. However, despite the best-laid plans of the new President of the United States, the auction turns into a disaster, with Russian duplicity, Polish intelligence agents and a rival information broker all coming into play. As Cotton attempt to recover the documents, he is faced with severe moral implications, should he really be party to an American plan to blackmail a foreign nation?

Berry is an outstanding thriller author who has been producing consistent and enjoyable work since his 2003 debut, The Amber Room. While he has produced several standalone novels, his main body of work is the Cotton Malone novels, which started in 2006 with The Templar Legacy. So far, I have only read the prior book in the Cotton Malone series, The Malta Exchange, which came out last year. I really enjoyed The Malta Exchange and became an instant fan of the way that Berry combined exciting thriller storylines with historical conspiracy theories and deep dives into the history and culture of various nations. I have been looking forward to The Warsaw Protocol for a while now, and I even featured it on my recent Most Anticipated Books for the First Half of 2020 list.

Like the rest of the books in the series, The Warsaw Protocol can easily be read as a standalone novel, with absolutely no knowledge of any of the prior books required to enjoy the fun and exciting story contained within. Long-term fans of the series will definitely enjoy this new entry, not only because of its great story but because some of the events depicted are likely to have major repercussions for future books in the series. Berry makes excellent use of multiple viewpoints to tell this story, with several major characters getting a number of chapters to themselves, which not only show their actions in the current day but also dive into their own personal history and the history of the people or places they are interacting with. This leads to a richer overall narrative, and I think it was the best way to tell this complex story. Overall, I am really glad that I decided to dive further into the Cotton Malone series, as I found The Warsaw Protocol to be another fantastic and captivating thriller with some first-rate depictions of the complex nation of Poland.

At the centre of this book lies an outstanding thriller which sees the agents of several different nations fighting over sensitive material that could change the balance of power in the world. Berry takes this thriller storyline in some fantastic directions, and I really enjoyed the fast-paced and exciting final result. I loved seeing the past coming back to haunt people, especially as this allowed the author to dive back into Poland’s history when it was part of the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Protocol contains several excellent action sequences, although the book has more of a focus on uncovering the past and solving historical clues. I felt that the author’s use of multiple viewpoints worked really well to increase story’s suspense and intrigue, especially as you get to see the various major players react and enact countermoves against each other. I was a tad surprised that the author did not really do much more with the holy relics the auction participants needed to collect, especially as I spent a good part of the book thinking they were going to lead to some other great Polish treasure. There were also some other McGuffins and secrets that were mentioned or discovered throughout the book that didn’t really go anywhere either, and I would have been interested to see what impact they would have had on the plot if the protagonist had known about them. Still, this was an incredibly captivating piece of thriller fiction, and thanks to the fast-paced and exciting story, I had a really hard time putting The Warsaw Protocol down.

One of the main things that draws me to the Cotton Malone series is the way that Berry makes sure to dive into the history and culture of the countries in which his books are set. I really loved the in-depth look at Malta in his previous book, and I have a great appreciation for all the intriguing details about Poland that he features in his latest novel. Make no mistake, while this book does mainly follow the story of an American intelligence agent, The Warsaw Protocol is first and foremost a novel about Poland, featuring examinations of the nations troubled history and its unique cultural mindset. I am a huge history buff, so I absolutely loved Berry’s examination of these elements of Polish history. His major focus was on Poland when it was controlled by the Soviets following World War II, although he also looks back at the medieval history of the country as well. I found this examination of the Communist occupation of Poland to be quite fascinating, although Berry makes sure to point out the terrible circumstances that the people found themselves in and the lasting impact Communist control has had on the nation. The author sets up the seeds of the book’s central thriller in the country’s Communist past, and the resultant bloom turned out to be an excellent story.

In addition to the country’s history, Berry also attempts to showcase the social and cultural identity of Poland, while examining how the country’s long history of dissention, political upheaval and oppression from other nations has helped to create a unique society of people with a distinctive social mindset and way of life. Berry obviously has a lot of love for the people of Poland, and his examination of their national personality is quite intriguing. It is also another element of this book that works well with the overarching thriller storyline, as several of the point-of-view characters are able to predict how the general population of Poland will react if the information up for auction is released, motivating several of the characters. All in all, this was an incredibly fascinating and compelling examination of one of Europe’s most distinctive and important countries, and I really liked how Berry was once again able to use these captivating elements to produce an excellent spy thriller.

Berry also spends a lot of time bringing several iconic Polish locations to life to serve as backdrops for his story. There are some absolutely fantastic locations featured within this novel, including a number of major cities, some important castles, significant religious sites and even a world-famous salt mine. Berry has apparently spent a lot of time faithfully replicating these sites within his book, with some minor exceptions for plot reasons. The author really paints a vibrant picture when he presents these locations to the reader, and many of them sound like incredible places to visit (I personally would love to see the aforementioned salt mine after reading this book, as it sounds pretty damn awesome). There is also a rather fun sequence at the start of the book set in the Belgium city of Bruges, which the author uses to full advantage, setting a great chase sequence in the city’s iconic canals. There are also descriptions of several real-life restaurants, cafes and other such locations throughout this book, and it is clear that the author has really done his homework. Indeed, the author has even included a substantial notes section at the back of the book discussing the accuracy of his portrayals of history and locations. All of these are amazing backdrops for this fast-paced thriller storyline, and I really enjoyed seeing some of the action taking place in this amazing historical and cultural locations. Those readers who have been to these locations in Poland are bound to get a kick out seeing them so lovingly portrayed in this book, and I think that Berry did a wonderful job of bringing these places to life.

One of Berry’s inclusions that I found particularly interesting was the character of the new US President, Warner Fox. Fox is a brash, undiplomatic and ill-informed former businessman who practices cronyism and is generally painted as being an incompetent and unworthy President by the book’s characters. This sort of US President is becoming more and more common in thriller novels these days for obvious reasons, and I always find it intriguing to see what perceived impacts authors believe such a person would have on the intelligence community. In The Warsaw Protocol, the President is portrayed in an antagonistic manner, as Cotton Malone greatly disagrees with him and his methods. The President and his advisors blunder through the entire book, failing to listen to the advice of seasoned intelligence operators and generally make the entire situation far worse, while the other world leaders easily run rings around them. This actually becomes a major issue for the protagonist, as not only does it make his mission more difficult, but this new President ends up shifting the entire landscape of the series. I thought that this was a really intriguing, if somewhat horrifying, addition to the novel, especially as it is a potentially accurate depiction of how the current administration would interfere with or attempt to control intelligence agencies, and I look forward to seeing how Berry expands on this point in future novels (especially after the next election).

Just as I did with the previous book in the Cotton Malone series, I chose to listen to The Warsaw Protocol’s audiobook format. The Warsaw Protocol audiobook is narrated by Scott Brick and runs for just under 12 hours, allowing for a relatively quick read for a determined listener. I personally find that the audiobook is a great format to enjoy Berry’s books with, as listening to the story helped me appreciate his vivid descriptions and intriguing examinations of history a lot more. Brick is an excellent audiobook narrator who has narrated nearly all of the Cotton Malone books in the past and also provides his vocal talents to a number of other thriller novels, such as the recently released Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz. I find that Brick has a fantastic voice for thriller novels such as The Warsaw Protocol, and he is able to present the complex story in an enjoyable way, as well as provide some great Eastern European accents for some of the individuals featured in the novel. If I had to make a complaint, though, I did find it a little hard at times to distinguish between a couple of characters with similar voices, especially when they are having a conversation with each other. This was not a major issue; it just occasionally left me wondering for a couple of seconds who was talking, although it was usually made clear right after I had that thought. As a result, I would strongly recommend the audiobook format to anyone who is interested in checking this book out, and I personally loved listening to the story unfold.

Steve Berry has once again produced an incredible and deeply enjoyable thriller novel that utilises his trademark love for all things historical and cultural to create a fantastic read. The Warsaw Protocol does a wonderful job of combining an exciting story with an in-depth look at the vibrant, distinctive and at times chaotic nation of Poland, and I loved the final result. I cannot wait to see what amazing adventure Berry comes up with next time, and I fully intend to keep reading all the Cotton Malone books he brings out. This is a highly recommend thriller that I think a lot of people are going to enjoy.

Book Haul – 17 February 2020

It has been another great couple of weeks for me when it comes to receiving books.  I have been lucky enough to receive several fantastic novels from my local publishers, including a couple of reads I was really looking forward to.  Each of the books below has a lot of potential and I am excited to read each and every one of them.

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

False Value Cover

Now this is a book that I have been wanting to check out for over a year, especially after I had such an amazing time reading the previous book in the Rivers of London series, Lies Sleeping.  I included this book on both my Top Ten Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 list and my Top Ten Books I Predict will be Five Star Reads list, so you can imagine just how keen I am to check it out.  I have actually already started reading it, and so far it is pretty darn incredible. 

The Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry

The Warsaw Protocol Cover

Another book I have really been keen to get a copy of.  The Warsaw Protocol is the latest novel in the Cotton Malone series of thrillers, which focus on fascinating historical conspiracies.  I have actually already finished reading this book and I will hopefully get a review for it up in the next day or so.

Death in the Ladies Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale

Death in the Ladies Goddess Club Cover

This is an interesting sounding Australian historical murder mystery that I am hoping to check out in the next couple of weeks.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro Cover

This is a cool fantasy novel that I am looking forward to reading.  Pretty much all you need to know about this book is that it has an intriguing concept and it is part of a series called Chronicles of the Bitch Queen.  Needless to say, I am expecting something really fun out of this book and it should be good.

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga

Amnesty Cover

Another compelling sounding Australian novel, Amnesty is probably going to get very heavy as it deals with an illegal immigrant living in Australia.  I am actually really curious about this one and I am intrigued about how it is going to turn out.

Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh

Fifty-Fifty Cover

Two women on trial for the same murder, one is innocent, one is guilty. Now that is a pretty cool concept and I for one, really want to know what the solution is.

The Holdout by Graham Moore

The Holdout Cover

The final book in this haul is The Holdout by Graham Moore.  I loved the sound of this book’s fantastic plot synopsis last year and have been looking forward to reading it ever since. A combination legal drama and murder mystery from the writer of The Imitation Game, this is something that I have to check out!
That’s it for this latest book haul.  I am still expecting a few amazing books in the next couple of weeks, but in the mean time I better start making some progress reading and reviewing the books I already have.

WWW Wednesday – 12 February 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

God Game, Warsaw Protocol

The God Game
by Danny Tobey (Trade Paperback)

The God Game is a rather intriguing novel that I started reading a day or two ago.  I really liked the sound of it’s plot synopsis and so far it is proving to be quite an interesting and enjoyable book.

The Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry (Audiobook)

I have been looking forward to this amazing thriller for a while now, especially after I had such a great time reading The Malta Exchange last year.  I am about halfway through The Warsaw Protocol at the moment, and it is turning out to be an excellent novel.  I cannot wait to see how this book ends and I imagine it will only take me a couple more days to get through it.

What did you recently finish reading?

Kellerman and Hurwitz Cover
The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman (Trade Paperback)

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz (Audiobook)

What do you think you’ll read next?

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch (Audiobook)

False Value Cover
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. In this first Top Ten Tuesday for the year, participants need to list their most anticipated book releases for the first half of 2020. The upcoming year is full of some very impressive sounding novels, and there are quite a few out there that I am really looking forward to getting my hands on.

I actually managed to pull together a substantial list of books that are coming out between January and June 2020. I was eventually able to narrow it down to my top ten absolute favourite upcoming releases (that have been announced), with a few honourable mentions included. I have already featured the vast majority of these books in some of my Waiting on Wednesday posts, but there are a couple of inclusions I have not had the chance to talk about yet. I like how the list below turned out and I hope you enjoy it.

Honourable Mention:


Song of the Risen God
by R. A. Salvatore – 28 January 2020

Song of the Risen God Cover


The Warsaw Protocol
by Steve Berry – 25 February 2020

The Warsaw Protocol Cover


The Kingdom of Liars
by Nick Martell – 5 May 2020

The Kingdom of Liars Cover


The Return
by Harry Sidebottom – 11 June 2020

The Return Cover.jpg

Harry Sidebottom has been on a fantastic roll over the last couple of years, producing some amazing Roman historical fiction novels which take inspiration from various modern thriller sub-genres. His previous two books, The Last Hour and The Lost Ten have been very impressive, and his new upcoming novel, The Return, is set to mix Scandi-noir elements with the ancient Italian countryside. This sounds like quite an exciting and enjoyable novel, and I am really looking forward to it.

Top Ten List (by release date):


To the Strongest
by Robert Fabbri – 2 January 2020

To the Strongest Cover


Highfire
by Eoin Colfer – 28 January 2020

Highfire Cover 3


False Value
by Ben Aaronovitch – 25 February 2020

False Value Cover

While I was really hoping to read this book last year, its release date was knocked back to February 2020. Still, it is only a short while until this book comes out and I have no doubt it is going to be another five-star novel from Aaronovitch.

Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas – 3 March 2020

Cyber Shogun Revolution


Shorefall
by Robert Jackson Bennett – 21 April 2020

Shorefall Cover


Firefly: The Ghost Machine
by James Lovegrove – 28 April 2020

Firefly The Ghost Machine Cover.jpg

Lovegrove has already produced two amazing Firefly novels in the last year or so, with Big Damn Heroes and The Magnificent Nine both proving to be outstanding reads. This new upcoming Firefly book, The Ghost Machine, sounds extremely compelling, and I look forward to seeing what interesting adventures Lovegrove takes the crew of Serenity on next.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn – 5 May 2020

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
by Suzanne Collins – 19 May 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Cover


Eagle Station
by Dale Brown – 26 May 2020

Eagle Station Cover


The Obsidian Tower
by Melissa Caruso – 2 June 2020

The Obsidian Tower Cover
I think that the above list is a nicely varied and intriguing collection of novels, and I like how I am interested in such a wide variety of different genres and authors. All 10 of the featured books (as well as the honourable mentions) are sure to be excellent, first-rate reads, and I have high hopes for all of them. Let me know which of the books above you are most interested in, as well as which upcoming novels are your most anticipated for the first half of 2020.

Waiting on Wednesday – Upcoming Thrillers

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy. I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. For the first Waiting on Wednesday of 2020 I look at three upcoming thrillers that I am looking forward to.

While I tend to read more historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction than anything else, over the last couple of years I have really started getting into thriller novels, as I have been lucky enough to check out several great books from the genre. In 2019 I read a number of amazing thrillers, including several military thrillers or thrillers mixed in with science fiction elements, all of which were a lot of fun to check out and containing exciting and clever adventures. As three of my favourite thrillers from last year all have sequels coming out in 2020, I thought I would take the time to check them out in a Waiting on Wednesday post.

Into the Fire.jpg

The first book that I am looking forward to is Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz. Into the Fire is the fifth book in Hurwitz’s excellent Orphan X series, which follows an elite former government assassin, codename Orphan X, as he helps people in desperate situations under his new alias The Nowhere Man. I read the fourth book in the series, Out of the Dark, last year, and I loved its fantastic story, which featured this skilled assassin going up against the entire Secret Service as he attempted to kill the President of the United States. His new novel also sounds pretty amazing, and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The New York Times bestselling Orphan X returns—facing his own uncertain future and undertaking one last mission.

Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was trained as an off-the-books government assassin: Orphan X. After breaking with the Program, he reinvented himself as The Nowhere Man, a figure shrouded in shadows who helps the truly desperate. But the government didn’t let go of him easily, sending their best to hunt him down and eliminate him. All of them failed. With his deadliest enemies behind him, Evan is facing a new challenge—what is he going to do now that no one is after him?

Max Merriweather is at the end of his rope. Separated from the woman he loves and barely scraping by, Max is a disappointment to everyone in his life. Then his very successful cousin Grant is brutally murdered. Two months before, Grant left Max an envelope with instructions to take it to a reporter if anything happened to him. Now the reporter is missing and Max’s apartment is ransacked. A man at the end of his rope, he calls The Nowhere Man.

With mixed feelings, Evan takes on this mission, easily finding the men who are after Max and executing a plan to keep him safe. But it isn’t as obvious as it seems—and Evan finds himself enmeshed in one of the most challenging missions of his life, one that he can’t survive on his own. With the help of Joey Morales, a genius-level hacker and the last Orphan recruited into the Program, and the brilliant, off-the-books gunsmith, Tommy Stojack, Orphan X once more heads…Into the Fire.

The Warsaw Protocol Cover.jpg

The next book I am going to look at is the 15th book in the long-running Cotton Malone series, The Warsaw Protocol. The Cotton Malone series is the main series of legendary thriller writer Steve Berry and follows the titular series protagonist, Cotton Malone, as he investigates a number of conspiracies and plots, mostly tied into secret organisations or parts of ancient history. I had the great pleasure of reading the 14th book in the series, The Malta Exchange, in early 2019, and I absolutely loved the complex and intriguing historical conspiracy it contained. Berry looks set to once again produce a captivating thriller mystery that is based on fascinating history and cool-sounding conspiracy theories with The Warsaw Protocol, as the plot of the upcoming books sounds pretty amazing. I am very much looking forward to this latest novel from Berry, especially after how much I enjoyed The Malta Exchange, and I am extremely curious to learn more about some of the conspiracies ranging around Poland, as it is a location you don’t see much of outside of World War II or Cold War novels.

Goodreads Synopsis:

One by one the seven precious relics of the Arma Christi, the weapons of Christ, are disappearing from sanctuaries across the world.

After former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone witnesses the theft of one of them, he learns from his old boss, Stephanie Nelle, that a private auction is about to be held where incriminating information on the president of Poland will be offered to the highest bidder–blackmail that both the United States and Russia want, but for vastly different reasons.

The price of admission to that auction is one of the relics, so Malone is first sent to a castle in Poland to steal the Holy Lance, a thousand-year-old spear sacred to not only Christians but to the Polish people, and then on to the auction itself. But nothing goes as planned and Malone is thrust into a bloody battle between three nations over a secret that, if exposed, could change the balance of power in Europe.

From the tranquil canals of Bruges, to the elegant rooms of Wawel Castle, to the ancient salt mines deep beneath the earth outside Krakow, Malone is caught in the middle of a deadly war–the outcome of which turns on something known as the Warsaw Protocol.

One Minute Out Cover.jpg

The final book I am going to look at is One Minute Out by Mark Greaney, which is the ninth book in Greaney’s Gray Man series. Greaney is an author whose has produced some outstanding novels which I have been really enjoying. Not only did he produce a fun and compelling addition to his long-running series with Mission Critical, but he also cowrote the excellent military thriller, Red Metal. Both of these novels were very exciting and really enjoyable reads, and Red Metal was easily one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) of 2019. As a result, I am very much looking forward to this latest offering from Greaney, and his new Gray Man novel sounds very intriguing.

Goodreads Synopsis:

While on a mission to Croatia, Court Gentry uncovers a human trafficking operation. The trail leads from the Balkans all the way back to Hollywood.

Court is determined to shut it down, but his CIA handlers have other plans. The criminal ringleader has actionable intelligence about a potentially devastating terrorist attack on the US. The CIA won’t move until they have that intel. It’s a moral balancing act with Court at the pivot point.

All three of the above novels should prove to be fantastic and incredible new additions to their respective series and I am very excited to read all of them. Each of these upcoming thrillers are out in the next month or so (Into the Fire is out in late January, the other two are out in February), so I should hopefully start getting copies of them soon. Let me know what thrillers you are excited for this year in the comments below.