Thursday, September 29, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

Margaret at hotmail is the winner of the Portrait of a Spy audio CDs.  I've emailed her but the email has bounced back.  Please get in touch and reconfirm your email address.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


by William Boyd, Macmillian Audio, 10 hrs, 20 mins, narrated by Rosamund Pike, October, 2006

...good writing, interesting characters and great plot.

Restless is a different type of spy story. It is historical fiction rather than a shoot ‘em up international thriller. William Boyd, the author has a great track record of writing elegant fiction with varied settings (Any Human HeartAn Ice Cream War). This story, set in the years leading up to WWII is a good one. The main character, Eva Delectorskaya is a Russian √©migr√© living in Paris in the 1930s. Thirty years later she reluctantly tells her up until then secret life story to her daughter Ruth.

Spoilers Ahead   Her story -after her brother is killed working for a British spy agency she is recruited into a special branch of the same service. Her boss, Lucas Romer soon becomes her lover. Their group is charged with manipulating stories in the media that will give the UK an advantage in the war against the Nazis. In New York, the group cleverly plants media stories that will encourage the US to enter the war on Britain’s side. These British efforts at propaganda aimed at manipulating US public opinion were not anything that I had previously read about and I found quite interesting. The story setting moves from Paris, to Brussels, to London and finally New York. The author gives quite a bit of period detail that greatly enriches the telling. After an encounter in New Mexico with German agents, Eva realizes that she had been betrayed. When a colleague is murdered, she flees the US and goes into hiding assuming a new identity.

Interspersed with the WWII tale are scenes from the daughter’s life as an Oxford PhD candidate and single mother. These sections add nothing to the story. The daughter’s life is boring in contrast to her mother’s narrative and actually just plain boring.

The denouement was excellent. The author manages to keep this tale exciting right up until the end. I strongly recommend this historical spy tale – good writing, interesting characters and great plot.

I listened to an audio version (borrowed) narrated by Rosamund Pike who was outstanding.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Portrait of a Spy - Review and Giveaway

Portrait of a SpyPortrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva, Harper Audio, 11 hrs, 32 mins, July 2011

...every bit as good as the earlier books in this series

This will be perhaps the third or fourth thriller in this series that I’ve reviewed so I won’t write a lengthy review of this novel. Let me just say that it is every bit as good as the earlier books in this series. Daniel Silva through his lead character Israeli spy Gabriel Allon does a fantastic job of educating the reader about Mideast politics, rivalries and factional fighting. So often his stories have a real ripped from the headlines feel. This one is particularly topical dealing with terrorist attacks in London and the US. Allon’s adversaries are a post Bin Laden terrorist group centered in Yemen; he is assisted by a progressive billionaire Saudi woman, Nadia al-Bakari who quietly is trying to improve conditions for women in the Mideast. All of the familiar characters from earlier Silva novels are present, Allon’s wife Chiara, British gallery owner Julian Isherwood, the complete Mossad team, Allon’s mentor Shamron and the principals from US and UK intelligence. The plotting is intelligent and tight, the writing is first-rate and the characters are realistic. Silva doesn’t shy from sharing his feelings about rights and wrongs in the Mideast – the treatment of women and minorities in the Mideast (wrong), the tepid US support for Israel (wrong), the Saudi financing of terrorist groups (wrong), the support of Israel among the Western intelligence agencies (right).

If you’ve enjoyed Silva’s earlier novels you will like this one, if you haven’t read any novels in this international spy series this one can stand alone as a satisfying read. I listened to the audio version of this thriller and for me it was quite a different experience than reading it. Simon Vance did a first-rate job narrating, he was able to give voice to a myriad of accents that really gave the story a theatrical feel. I would be hard pressed to compare the experience of listening v. reading this story. Both are enjoyable just different!

I would offer the audio edition of this novel that I received from the publisher as a giveaway. Rules are in the box to the right of this review. Giveaway ends September 28.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
by Susan Orlean, Simon & Schuster, September, 2011

...Well researched and well written, thankfully the dogs carry the story

My only memories of Rin Tin Tin (RTT) are from the 1950s. It was a never to be missed Friday night TV show that in our house included the entire family, my best friend and TV Time popcorn. We lined up as the bugle called us to report and we faithfully watched Rusty, Rinty and Lt. Masterson overcome the trials of life on a Western army fort (Yo Rinty!). Who knew that RTT had a fascinating story that started on the battlefields of WW1.  In this in depth telling of the life and legend of the dog (s) Susan Orleans gets the story. Interspersed with personal recollections from her life she leads us on a fascinating journey through the twentieth century.

The original RTT was born in France on a battlefield and rescued by an US Army private, Lee Duncan. Working through what must have been considerably less red tape than today Duncan was able to get the dog shipped to his southern California home. Duncan, taciturn and in many ways unknowable trained the dog and secured for him parts in the rapidly growing film industry. The author gives a full picture of Hollywood in the 1920s. I had no idea of the wide influence movies had in the 20’s and 30’s. To quote one of many statistics in the story 100 million movie tickets were sold weekly in a country with a population of 150 million people – everyone went to the movies! And in the late 20’s before talkies everyone went to see RTT movies. RTT and Duncan would travel the country appearing at theaters, hospitals, and civic events. In Houston 10,000 people attended a RTT appearance! So the TV show that all of us boomers watch in the 50’s had its beginnings with our parents in the movie culture of their generation.

The author does a comprehensive job of describing all aspects of this story. The origination of the German Sheppard breed in pre WWI Germany, the training of the dogs for use in war by the Nazis, the movement from dogs as working farm animals to domestic pets, the evolution of dog shows in the US, the efforts of the US to quickly develop a canine corps at the start of WWII are all side stories supporting the main narrative and many of them are wildly interesting. Good thing too because the major human characters in this story are not interesting. Lee Duncan was a one dimensional man more interested in dogs than in wives, children, other people, etc. Bert Leonard, the RTT producer responsible for much of the RTT programming was a similarly uninteresting character. Thankfully the dogs can carry this story, the original RTT and his assorted namesakes and offspring were iconic symbols for several generations of Americans.

This book is hard to characterize, part autobiographical by Orleans, part a social history of the US in the twentieth century and part man loves dog biography. Well researched and well written this book reads like an extended New Yorker (for which Orleans writes regularly) non-fiction article. I enjoyed this book and had no trouble skipping some of the latter parts of the story that dragged along.

I read a copy of this book provided by the publisher.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

Heather L. is the winner of the Harlen Coben novel shelter.  She has been  notified and has 48 hours to contact me.  Thanks to all who participated.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shelter - Review and Giveaway

Shelter: A Mickey Bolitar NovelShelter: A Mickey Bolitar Novel by Harlan Coben, Putnam, September 2011

Mystery lovers of all ages enjoy!

Shelter is published as a teen novel, but I thought it was a pretty good adult read. Harlen Coben introduced Mickey Bolitar in Live Wire and now gives him his own story. He is a bright, energetic, high school student who is having a really bad year. He has witnessed his father’s death and is now dealing with his mother’s drug addiction. Forced to live with his uncle Myron he starts the school term by meeting an enchanting girl, Ashley, who quickly becomes his girlfriend. Just as quickly she goes missing without a trace. Working with some quirky new friends he has made at school Mickey tries to find Ashley. He uncovers a conspiracy and along the way finds out some things that cause him to question his father’s death.

The writing is good, the wry humor that Coben is noted for is fully present and actually sounds realistic coming from a teenage boy. The plotting is also good; the action moves right along. I think this will be a successful series for Coben and will bring new young readers to the mystery genre. Mystery lovers of all ages enjoy!

I am happy to giveaway my gently used copy of the novel.  Follow the rules posted to the right of review.  Giveaway ends September 9, 2011

I read an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher.