VanOps

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

This book starts off in the middle of a battle in 1057.  One side has some kind of magical secret weapon that throws what looks like lightening at Ramiro and his army.  Ramiro is going to try to steal the weapon.  Jump to modern day Napa Valley where Maddy Marshall and her twin brother Will Argones and their sister have all been summoned to a meeting with their father.  Maggie has prophetic dreams and has had a bad one about this meeting.  Before they see their father, he is killed by an assassin. Later the assassin is after them. They receive packets from their father's lawyer that gives them money and treasure and sends them on a family quest for an ancient object that may posses great power.  The quest has been handed down for generations but not many have found the object. There is a lot of action but this jumps all over the place. It requires an awful lot of suspension of disbelief.  First the assassination takes place, then on their way to meet with their father's lawyer, the assassin is waiting for them. They manage to evade the assassin because he accidentally drives off a cliff then pulls himself out of the burning car where half of his body and clothes have been burned. Then he magically finds them again moments after their arrival at the lawyer's office and tries to kill them again.  They escape and break into a house where they used to live and learn that halfway around the world Russia tested a weapon on China that makes all electronics melt and they discuss the possibility of World War Three beginning.  The assassin is still after them but they don't warn their sister right away that she may be in danger.  They go out to eat and out of the blue they run into an old friend, Bear, they haven't seen in 10 years.  They reveal this old family quest that has been secret for generations to a person they barely know.  They join up with him on the quest and head off to Spain.  Turns out, he's working for a top secret US government organization.  It is just too much for me, so even though this is a good premise for a story, it is not believable. The dialogue was strange and stilted. The characters were not well developed so I really didn't care what they were doing or what might happen to them. This so-called "DaVinci Code meets Tomb Raider" just didn't do it for me.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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action-adventure, thriller, historical-research, murder, supernatural, suspense, family-dynamics, international-crime-and-mystery, conspiracy

Can't possibly go wrong with this one: murder, conspiracy, international pursuit, and all interspersed with historical data! It's a real thrill ride complete with martial arts, medieval weaponry, car chases, and even helicopter pursuit! The publisher's blurb is pretty good for an intro, and no spoilers here. Kept me reading straight through to the end and waiting for the next one!
I requested and received a free ebook copy from Books Go Social via NetGalley. Thank you!
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"VanOps: The Lost Power" eBook was published in 2019 (November) and was written by Avanti Centrae (https://www.avanticentrae.com). This is Ms. Centrae's first publication. 

I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story begins in contemporary Napa Valley, CA. The primary character is App designer and aikido instructor Maddy Marshall. 

Marshall is with her twin brother, Will, at their father's vineyard. All the children have gathered at the request of their father. They hear a shot and rush in to find the dead and the dying.

They "accidentally" run into a long-time friend and secret VanOps agent after the police have left. With him in tow, the three begin the quest for an ancient weapon. If they don't find it first they fear that the Russians will use it to bypass US defenses and make a devastating first strike. Will the three survive and will they be able to find the weapon first?

I spent 8+ hours reading this interesting 341-page thriller. I like the characters, but they could have been more robust. While the cover art is eye-catching, it does not relate to the story. I give this novel a 3.4 (rounded down to a 3) out of 5.

Further book reviews I have written can be accessed at https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/. 

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).
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I was drawn to this book’s description - DaVinci Code meets Tomb Raider. It sounded like a book I would devour! There were a number of things to like about this book - action, travel, suspense, and a kickass woman as the lead character. While there were many things I liked about this book, there were a few things I could not get over. 

I thought VanOps would play a larger role throughout the book, though it was only a small mention towards the beginning, but gained a larger role right at the end. Additionally, the ease to which these character moved through “challenges” was unrealistic. I had a hard time believing that a person who had just lost their wife in a violent way, would hook up with a total stranger only a week after. I felt that it was an unnecessary plot line as it didn’t further the greater storyline. 

Overall, I did enjoy the book. I read it in only a few days.
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This book was reminiscent of Indiana Jones, The DaVinci Code, and the National Treasure movies. A thrilling tale of adventure, clue hunting, and the supernatural. I found all three leads to be very likable and intriguing. The plot was well paced and interesting. 

This is the first book in a series but does not overtly try to set up a sequel. The entire story is contained within the book, with an "end credits" scene ala the Avengers movies. 

My minor gripe was the ending. I wanted a bit more from it after such a long build up. It's not to say that it was a bad ending, but I just wanted all of my fantasies indulged. 

Definitely worth a read for fans of the aforementioned series. Thank you to PICT for an ARC copy.
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4 stars

Maddy Marshall and Will Argones, twin brother ans sister, arrive at their father's old vineyard in the Napa Valley of California. Just as they arrive, a shot rings out that kills their father and Will's wife Maria. A young boy named AJ that was traveling with Maddie sees a black BMW hurry away from the scene. 

After exhaustive interviews with somewhat incompetent appearing detectives, Will, Maddie and AJ leave. They see the BMW on the side of the road and a car chase ensues. The BMW crashes, but one of the assassins survives. They learn from the police that he is Russian. Another attempt is made on their lives at their attorney's office. 

They obtain false passports to try to evade the Russian and flee to Spain which is their historical family seat. There they meet Carlos a cousin and the son of the King of Spain, who is their uncle. Carlos is a shady character, but they like the King. He shows them a mysterious codex and imparts some knowledge to aid their search for a mysterious weapon of some sort. 

Their search takes them on a world-wide journey. Along the way, they discuss the form their search may take them. Just what is it they are looking for? How do these shooters keep finding them? 

Maddy nearly drove me crazy with her feud with her brother Will. She ran hot and cold, sometimes she almost liked him and then she would get mad at him all over. Arrgh! But, as time passed and Maddie learned from various encounters more about herself and her emotions, her anger at her brother and others attenuated. I wondered to myself just how she had advanced as far as she had in Aikido still holding on to her anger and self-ignorance.

This is a well written and plotted novel. The content is consistent and follows a logical progression. I really liked the historical information given in the book. Ms. Centrae did her research for these parts of the book. It was most interesting. I really liked the “Bear” character. Especially his history lessons. This book will stretch your beliefs, but I reminded myself that it is an entertaining novel and continued to read for the pleasure of it. Ms. Centrae is a very good writer and I immediately went to Amazon to look at her other novels. 

I want to thank NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for forwarding to me a copy of this very good book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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One of the joys of reading is finding an author that you have never read before and adding them to your must-read list.  Avanti Centrae is the latest author whose book The Lost Power, the first in the Van Ops series, captured me on the first page and did not let go until the very end.  

Opening in 1057, Ramiro, the king of Aragon, faces a terrifying weapon that devastates his troops.  With the help of his son, the weapon is captured, hidden and protected by his ancestors.  Fast forward to the present where Maddy and her twin brother Will have been summoned to the family vineyard by their father.  Before he can explain the urgency behind his summons, he is assassinated and the killer is now chasing them.  Consulting their father’s lawyer, they are each given a packet explaining the family’s responsibility.

On the death of the senior member of the family, a secret is passed down to the next generation.  They are the descendants of Ramiro and related to the current king of Spain.  There are clues to the location of the weapon hidden by Ramiro that must be protected, but the Russians are now on the trail, believing that this weapon could fuel a more modern weapon that they have developed.  Maddy and Will are joined on their quest by Bear (Theodore Thorenson), a military veteran who has had a crush on Maddy since their school years.  From Spain to Jerusalem, Vilnius and Mandalay, the trio are constantly challenged to determine their worthiness to continue the quest while also dodging assassins at every turn.  As they search temples and landmarks for signs, Bear provides commentary on the historical significance of the locations.  What they do not know is that Bear also works for Van Ops (Vanguard Operations), a part of the CIA that searches for obscure and unusual threats.

Centrae provides a story that moves at breakneck speed.  Her characters are easy to relate to as Maddy and Will overcome their troubled relationship to work together.  Bear must not only deal with his feelings for Maddy, but also the guilt he carries for not revealing his connection to Van Ops.  As you read the story it is easy to visualize the action, making this an exciting read.  If you are a fan of James Rollins, you will truly enjoy The Lost Power.

I would like to thank NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for providing this book in exchange for my honest review.
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what an amazing book. i couldn't put it down. had my attention from start to finish. plenty of suspense and twists and turns. just when i thought i had it figured out i was proven wrong. will definetly reccommend. can't wait for more.
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What can I say, I loved every minute of this thriller. 
A cross between Indiana Jones and the Da Vinci Code, fantastic characterisation and a story line that had me gripped from the start. I can't wait for the next one in the series.
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(This review is scheduled to be published November 6, 2019 at the blog "Stories Are My Life" phlipside.wordpress.com)


The Lost Power - Van Ops by Avanti Centrae (2019) -  Maddy Marshall and her twin brother Will Argones are sent spinning across the globe after the assassination of their father, and Will's wife.  They are in search of an ancient object that may possess immense power.  Power enough to change the world forever.  Which means they are not the only ones searching for it.

There's a really good story here.

And yes, you hear a "but" coming.

The author wants to set a breathtaking tempo to the story.  That's fine.  What bothered me is the tempo is so high that some important bits get left behind.  The characterizations are thin, even by thriller standards.  It's hard to care too much about the twins, their sidekick (more on him in a minute) or any of the other folks who figure here, simply because I never felt like I knew anything about them.

The pace also tries to sweep us past some large moments of illogic.  The largest of these is the arrival of their childhood friend, "Bear".  Ex-Marine, history buff, who always had a crush on Maddie.  Whom they haven't seen or spoken to in a decade.  After three attempts on their lives by they know not whom, in a place where they are supposedly hiding (which was a silly choice in itself), Bear walks up to them in a diner.  With very little resistance, they reveal most of what is going on and invite him to join them on a secret journey that is a centuries-old family tradition.  He walks up, plops himself down at the table and the next thing you know, they are all going to Spain.  With forged passports that are just a finger-snap away.  It's ridiculous.

I just stared at the page for a while after reading that.  No one should be surprised that he is working for the U.S. government in a super-secret intelligence organization.

The good news is that most of these issues are in the beginning chapters of the book.  The story was interesting enough to carry me past those issues.  And Centrae is a solid storyteller.   Despite the SMH moments, there was never a doubt that I was going to finish the book.  In the publicity pieces, the book is called "DaVinci Code meets Tomb Raider".  That certainly gives you the ballpark of the story.


My one concern going in was that it is the first book of a series.  Some of these offerings leave you with a cliffhanger at the end.  The goal is to get you to buy the next book, and the next, and the next.  For me, it is awful storytelling.  Give me an ending to the story I've read.  Otherwise, I'm less likely to search for the second book.  Here, the ending offered is a reasonable place to stop the story.  All of the action of the first book has been concluded, even if the overall story of the characters and the object still have questions.  So, if the second book came into my hands I would certainly read it.

If you are looking for a fun ride at a breakneck pace, then you should grab this first one too.
Rating *** Worth A Look
"The Lost Power - Van Ops" by Avanti Centrae will be available November 9, 2019.


This review is done from an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) and is done in compliance with our state review policy.
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I was drawn to the book due to the blurb by James Rollins.  VanOps is a rather complicated thriller.  I enjoyed the beginning.. and then the story jumps ahead nearly a thousand years.  The conspiracy aspect was interesting and does hold one's attention.  It just took me a while to get through the novel.
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The present novel is indicated as Avanti Centrae's first book in the series about a super secret division of the CIA.  This group is dedicated to investigating possible harmful activities of people or groups with an initiation into the past.  Ms Centrae begins the novel in Spain with the description of a battle fought in the year 1057 led by the King of Aragon and against an invading army of Moors. He captures a secret weapon first wrested by the conqueror Alexander the Great.
     The scene than shifts into the present time when Maddy Marshall and her twin brother Will Argones  attempt to visit their estranged father who has summoned them. They hear shots when approaching his house and in an ensuing attack both their father and Will's wife who was with them are killed. Immediately after the battle is over Maddy, Will and a friend that appears on the scene are sent by their father via his will on a mission to find the lost secret weapons of Alexander.  In the course of the action they travel to Spain, than to Israel and than rapidly elsewhere.  In Israel they are forced to undergo testing which involves a contest of kill or be killed in order to continue.  Why they submit to this trial and other dangerous tests is beyond me but does form part of the novel's plot.  
     We learn that the hiding of the secret weapon the Spanish royal family of Ferdinand and Isabel were involved and many of their descendants were killed in the search for the secret weapon.  Employing a good deal of literary license that certainly stretches the imagination Maddy, Will and their friend move forward in the search.  The novel is a fast read though not by any means an all nighter.  It is something to pick up for the idea postulated and enjoyed on that basis.
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I can see why this engaging book won an award. It has a lot going for it -- travel, good dialog, mystery, adventure -- all told by a very talented author. Highly recommended.

I really appreciate the advanced copy for review!!
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I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a possible review.

I want to start off by saying this really should be 3.5 stars, nearly 4. I'll get into why in a second. 

It is the first book in a series. You have to start here because I don't think the second book is available yet. I was drawn to it because it was liked to James Rollins and Steve Berry books, and I really love those books. It also happened to have a positive blurb from Ann Charles who is another of my favorites. In a weird coincidence, the author started following me on Twitter before I even saw this on Net Galley. It felt fated that I should read this book.

There were a number of things to like about this book. One of the main characters is a kickass woman with a twin brother who is not so kickass. The history related to Isabel and Ferdinand was new to me and very interesting. There is a secret society or two which will always catch my attention. Weird initiation rites. A trip to the pyramids! And my favorite part, not one but TWO dogs. Both live for those that care about that kind of thing. 

I found the beginning a little confusing because I expected this book to be about VanOps. It took a bit before VanOps is even mentioned and then VanOps doesn't play a huge role in the book until the end. It was a different approach to the start of a series about an organization. I also questioned whether someone grieving the loss of their spouse would hook up with a stranger within a couple of days after the death. It ended up being a short plotline I felt could have been left out completely because it didn't really further the greater story. Maybe it will have meaning in the grander scheme of the series. 

I started out a solid 3 stars, but the characters grew on me as the book was drawing to a close just not quite enough to get me to 4. I would read the next book though to see if that changes.
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As an action filled find the ancient artefact before the world is doomed suspend your belief now this book is ok. Starting in California we dash off to Spain then Jerusalem, Vilnius and Mayanmar and back to California in seemingly no time and certainly without jetlag. The team has interesting characters, twins (Maddy and Will) and a friend (Bear), and they are thrown in at the deep end when their father is killed, as is Will's wife although she 'simply' got in the line of fire. Dad gasped his last by telling them to visit his solicitor and something to do with their ancient family history would be revealed. They visited, her secretary got shot by the Russian bad guy (who had killed Dad), they fled, he chased them, drove them off the road into a river way below, they survived, re-grouped and so on.  To a certain extent this continued through all of the places mentioned above and there were times when I thought, oh again - skip read mode. In between there were some more interesting bits about their coming to terms with their "task", their own limitations and their interactions with each other and the various 'groups who had protected the artefact' for millennia. Maddy was an aikado instructor and app designer, Will an engineer and Bear an ex Marine so they had various useful skills for their tasks and there was some good dialogue working out problems using these skills. Other than Bear getting an electronic bug detector, which found nothing, they made little of the fact that the bad guy was usually only about half an hour at most behind them and must have had some sort of "fix" on them. This seemed odd. Whilst I liked the artefact and the quantum physics behind it, I'm afraid that, too often, I felt there is no way that that would happen to make this a really good read for me. I can suspend belief but need to be drawn into the story to sustain this. I was drawn in then thrown out repeatedly. The ending strongly implies that there will be more of this team and I'd be happy to give number two a go to see if things improve - I'd like to think that the author might feel able to have a selection of actions rather than some of everything in future stories. Three and a half stars, rounded down. Thanks to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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VanOps has so much packed in it, it has a little bit of everything for everyone. Interesting characters and storyline. I would read more by this author.
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Something for everyone who loves action. Relationships, history, supernatural, plotting, plot twists appeal to readers across many genres. Excellent start to the series.
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