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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wayward Pines, Agent ZigZag, and Other Stuff

I've read and reviewed all 3 of the Wayward Pines novels ( my reviews here and here). The novels are weird and fascinating, although I prefer the first one.  I watched the first episode of the Wayward Pines new series and was surprised at how much the town and certain scenes matched my imagination from the book.  The characters don't fit my images, but the town is uncannily like my imagination.  The first episode is was the book which trickled out the information a little at a time.  You are curious and confused as the story slowly clarifies, bit by agonizing bit.  Before watching any more episodes, I want to wait until several more are released.  Has anyone else watched them?

While working on my various projects, I love watching K-dramas and series like The Black list, Grimm (waiting on new season), and Granite Flats.  During the day, I usually do the work that takes more thought, then at night I play with details.  I can embroider or hand quilt and watch my shows, but am unable to do anything like work on my clay figures or figuring out what to do next on my improvisational quilts-- so a little planning is required to have simple projects at night that I can do while watching my shows.  The quilted beads are mounting up.

Because I am unable to watch television (read Netflix and Drama Fever) without having something to do with my hands

I finished Agent ZigZag:  A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre, an  account of British triple agent Eddie Chapman during  WWII.  While I did not like it as much as MacInyre's Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory (reviewed here; gotta' love the titles), Agent ZigZag is a fascinating look at Britain's utilization of a handsome, brazen young criminal who was finally arrested and jailed on occupied Jersey, ironically, for one crime that he didn't commit.  Later transferred by the Nazis to a Paris prison, Chapman agreed to work for the Germans.  He was trained and eventually parachuted back into England where he immediately went to British authorities, told them what he'd learned, and offered to spy on the Germans.  Fearless and feckless, Chapman provided disinformation to the Nazi Abwehr, and the Germans so trusted this thief and con man that they awarded him the Iron Cross--now that is irony, indeed.

Certainly not an admirable man in many ways, Chapman nevertheless risked his life for his country and served it well during the war years.  The information MacIntyre reveals about some of the difficulties of running spies, double agents, and the outlandish triple agent named ZigZag is truly fascinating

MacIntyre's research is impeccable and his list of sources impressive.  

New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Washington Post Best Book of 2007
One of the Top 10 Best Books of 2007 (Entertainment Weekly)
New York Times Best of the Year Round-Up
New York Times Editors’ Choice

Purchased on Kindle.

WWII, Espionage.  2007.  Print version: 384 pages.

In the synchronicitous way of things, I've read two fiction books concerning WWII espionage in the last week.  

The Haigerloch Project is more interesting for its factual references than for the fictional characters and plot.  The information about the Manhatten Project, the attempts to discover how close the Germans were to producing their own atomic bomb, and the search for ways to derail its completion is a fictional plot informed by fact. 

I.B. Melchior, novelist, screenwriter, and film producer, served with the U.S. Counterintelligence Corps during WWII.  A decorated war hero, Melchior participated in the liberation of the Flossenburg concentration camp and the capture of a Werwolf unit in 1945, as well as other important missions.

I found the mention of individuals in the nonfiction Agent ZigZag and the fictional Haigerloch Project, even if they received little more than a few lines, especially interesting.  Most fascinating was Moe Berg, an American professional baseball player who graduated from Princeton and Columbia, spoke seven languages, and during the war, worked for the OSS special intelligence branch.  Parachuting behind enemy lines, he evaluated resistance groups and worked on Project AZUSA, moving across Europe interviewing European physicists and trying to determine how close the Germans were to achieving a bomb... among other things.  Berg is mentioned in both Agent ZigZag an in The Haigerloch Project.

I researched a number of things I wasn't familiar with:  ALSOS, Project Larson, Haigerloch and the German reactor, and more.  Melchior's bibliographic material contained, perhaps not surprisingly, many of the same sources as Ben MacIntyre's bibliography.  John Masterson's and William Pasher's WWII records also intrigue me.

NetGalley/Open Road Media

WWII/Espionage.  1978 and 2014.  Print version:  289 pages.

I'll get to my reviews of The Scent of Secrets and A Kind of Grief which are also connected with the theme of espionage.  And I was surprised that Granite Flats, the Netflix series, moved from what initially seemed like the adventures of three kids in a small Colorado town during the Cold War to a much darker theme of espionage during and after the war.  It includes elements of the Red Scare, blacklisting, and MK-Ultra.  From light-hearted to some shameful episodes in American history, the series is an odd one in both style and content--but fascinating.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Catching Up on a Few Reviews

Before It's Too Late by Jane Isaac.  DI Will Jackman has problems of his own.  His wife suffers from locked-in syndrome (what a horror!) after a car accident; the outlook is grim, despite their daughter's optimism.  His superior is greedy for publicity, more concerned about political advancement than doing the right thing.  And Jackman suffers from guilt and grief concerning his wife's condition.  The job, however, helps keep him on an even keel.

A missing person's case involving university student Min Li, a Chinese National, quickly turns into a kidnapping case when the ransom demand is made.  Alternating chapters deal with the investigation and its difficulties and Min Li's attempts to cope with what is happening to her.

Jackman is an engaging character--strangely, he is the second character in a book recently with that last name; and what an excellent choice in this case, because whose image is immediately conjured up? Oh, yes, that other Jackman.  :)  Min Li's character is also a large part of the novel's appeal.  

You will figure some things out, but it won't detract from the novel.  Isaacs has another series that I intend to look into.

NetGalley/Legend Press

Police Procedural.  June 1, 2012.  Print length:  256 pages.

Alien Child by Pam Sargent.  A YA book originally published in 1988.  Book Description:
"A girl growing up in an insulated though pleasant environment, with a furry guardian for company, comes to realize that she must be the last human left on earth."

Interesting, but not compelling, the novel encourages an examination of what the human condition really entails:  trust, love, and humanity's history of violence and war.  Might be a good choice for younger readers, giving them a lot to ponder.

NetGalley/Open Road Integrated Media

Dystopian.  1988; 2015.  Print version:  246 pages.  

Scheduled to Die by Adam Cupp.   I've not read anything else by Cupp, but the book is the second in the Carter Mays series.  Carter's new client tells him that while on a business trip she met a charming man--who later explained to her that she had a year to live. She should make the most of it, do everything she has dreamed of, because in a year's time they would meet again...and she would die.  If she contacted the police, the end would come much sooner.  An interesting premise and a quick read, but not particularly memorable.  

Read in February.  Blog post scheduled for May, closer to publication.

NetGalley/Henery Press

Mystery/Detective Fiction.  June 2, 2015.  Print version:  252 pages. 

The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo

The Wild Inside

When Ted Systead was fourteen, he and his father went camping in Glacier National Park.  What happened that night as a grizzly dragged his father from the tent they shared has haunted Ted ever since.

Years later as an Agent for the Department of the Interior, Ted is forced to confront a crime in Glacier National Park that involves a body mangled by a grizzly.  

Since Ted has never really gotten over his father's death in the park, he wonders if he should even have accepted the assignment.  He doesn't trust the park superintendent who is more concerned with bad publicity than with the victim. The victim was tied to a tree--so should the grizzly that found him be put down?  And who tied the victim to the tree and left him for predators?

An interesting mystery with several twists.  Carbo skillfully communicates the attractions and the dangers of the wilderness and the natural beauty of Glacier National Park.  The predators are sometimes on two legs.

Read in March.  Blog post scheduled for May.
NetGalley/Atria Books

Mystery.  June 16, 2015.  Print length:  416 pages.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trish's Inspiration on Monday

From Trish's Blog:   Inspiration on Monday is a forum to share things that we’ve created and things that we are doing to help inspire others. Posts about projects in progress, finished projects, tutorials, and how-tos are all welcome. Feel free to share recipes, crafts, lifestyle, organizing, and DIY tips, and any other idea that can spark inspiration.

link-up rules:

1. Link up your post(s) below. This can be a recent post or an old post, but please do not re-submit a post you’ve already submitted for Inspiration on Monday.
2. Please link back to Inspiration on Monday or my blog somewhere in the post you are submitting
3. If applicable, please share the source that inspired you in your post. Credit where credit is due.
4. Try to comment on at least one other participant’s post. Encouragement can be so inspiring!

Another fidget quilt.

Birds are raw-edge applique a la'
Syko style machine embroidery.
The quilted beads (I used sillyboodilly's pattern) and buttons
can be moved along the ribbon.
Buttons can be unbuttoned and re-buttoned.
Although I used machine embroidery for the applique,
the rest of the quilt is hand quilted.

I wash the quilts for two reasons:
the wrinkled look pleases me and
washing lets me know what items will survive the washing machine.

Because not everyone knows what "fidget quilts" are,
here is an excerpt from a previous post:
Several of you have asked about what fidget quilts are--so I'm including a couple of links, but the idea works for anyone that needs sensory or manipulative activities--toddlers, disabled, autistic disorders, kinesthetic learners, anyone who needs sensory integration, not just those who suffer from AD or dementia. 

fidget quilts help soothe  
Dementia quilts  - "A dementia quilt is a small lap quilt that includes things that might trigger something from a dementia patient's senses. Sometimes they are called "Fidget Quilts" because they inspire the patient to interact and fidget with the quilt."  (excerpt from post)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Re Jane by Patricia Park

Re Jane 

Although much has been made of Re Jane being a Jane Eyre retelling, there is no red room and no mad woman in the attic.  There is an orphan who becomes a nanny and there is a "sort of" attic room, but it is actually an office.

The novel is about a young woman of mixed heritage who doesn't feel that she quite fits anywhere.  She is stymied and sometimes rebellious because of the restrictions imposed by her Korean heritage, and she is also entirely conscious of American culture, having grown up in Queens.  The problem is that she does not feel at home with either culture and is frustrated with the lack of details concerning her Korean mother and American GI father.

In spite of her feeling of being "alien," Re Jane's personality is nothing like Jane Eyre's, and although her aunt and uncle may seem harsh at times, it is more a cultural thing than the callousness of Jane Eyre's aunt.  In so many ways,  the intention of the novel seems to be turning the original on its head.  

I like the way the title offers so many possibilities:  Korean names are last names first, so Re Jane is her last, then first name, a kind of reversal; although pronounced 'ee, Re has a similar appearance to Eyre; and re means "in reference to" in Latin; while re-  is a prefix that means "again" to indicate repetition, as in revise  or "back" to indicate withdrawal as in retreat.   It was thinking about the title that made the connection (for me) with the original novel.  The title kind of encompasses everything and in a way lets you know that while Park may have had the original in mind, the characters and narrative were going their own way.

It is a very modern novel about a young woman trying to navigate her way in the cross currents of two cultures.  It ridicules elements of both cultures at times, but illuminates the difficulties of different social and traditional mores.  

I enjoyed it, even if I didn't feel it always met its mark.  It is strangely passionless and there is a feeling of distance between the characters that seems more observational than involved. 

The main Jane Eyre connection is in the interpretations of the title; I find it hard to connect any of the characters to their Bronte counterparts.  Love it or hate it, the original has had an impact on generations of readers.  Re Jane, on the other hand, is an interesting and entertaining contemporary novel that can't match those emotions.  As a retelling of the Bronte novel, it didn't work for me; as an intriguing look at the difficulties of growing up in that slippery slope of two cultures, it worked well.

ARC from Viking Penguin

Contemporary Fiction.  May 5, 2015.  352 pages.  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Harm None by Will North

Harm None 

A new series introducing CID Detective Sergeant Morgan Davies and Scene of Crime officer Calum West and set in Cornwall.

An archaeological team unearths the remains of a child at the Iron Age site they have been investigating.  The remains are not ancient, however; they are those of a child that has been missing for a year.

Although I liked the main characters Davies and West, the most interesting characters were actually secondary characters:   Tamsin, the village witch (or wise woman); Tegan, her young assistant, and PC Teresa Bates.

The supernatural element is present and important, but doesn't overtake the police procedural elements.  Yet it is the supernatural element that adds the dash of spice,  and if North doesn't include Tamsin and Tegan in future books, he should give them a series of their own.

The prologue, from Tegan's perspective, through me off a bit; it reads as if you are beginning a children's mystery/fantasy.  Although unexpected, I was captivated by Tegan's voice and quite willing to continue.  However, Chapter One is third person, quite different, and follows DS Morgan Davies' arrival at the crime scene at the top of Dewes Tor.  The result is a change in perspective and style with each switch.  

I enjoyed Harm None and allowed myself to set aside a few nit pics, as it is a debut series. There are plenty of back-stories hinted at for several characters that should be developed in future books, but I certainly hope Tamsin and Tegan are not abandoned.
"An ye harm none,
Do what ye will."
(from the Wiccan Rede)


Police Procedural.  2014.  Print length:  262 pages.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Into the Beautiful North

Into the Beautiful North  

How did I let this review slip by.  Into the Beautiful North is an enchanting novel with wonderful characters and the strangest immigrant story I've ever read.  

The men in nineteen-year-old Nayeli's village have, for the most part, gone north to the U.S. to earn money for their families.  Bandits are in the process of gaining control of the village that now consists mostly of women, when Nayeli watches The Magnificent Seven.  She rounds up her crew: Veronica and Yoloxochitl (her school girl friends), and Tacho, the young gay owner of the taco stand and heads north with the blessings of her Tia Irma.  The plan is to recruit 7 Mexican "warriors" to return to their village and help defeat the banditos.

From the beginning there is a kind of inverse story going on and a reversal of how one thinks of immigrants from south of the border.  Full of funny and sad and dangerous and silly escapades, Nayeli and her crew are taken advantage of by their own people, discover  that the poorest of the poor are willing to  share unstintingly, deal  with the terrors of a border crossing, find a knight in the garbage settlement on the border, and more.  The fairy tale quality and the humor mixed with the failures and the danger help you fall in love with all of the characters, and more importantly, provide a completely different perspective of the immigrant experience! Don Quixote-esque.

I couldn't have enjoyed it more and loved both the characters and the tongue-in-cheek attitude I could feel from the author.  (Thanks to  Gin Jenny for piquing my interest in this one.)  OOPs -- had to make a correction of where I read about this one!

Purchased the Kindle Edition.  Read in April.

Contemporary Fiction.  2009.  Print version:  352 pages.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Black Eyed Susans  

I had no idea what to expect from this one, but it is probably my favorite so far this year--a psychological thriller that kept me from being able to predict the outcome.  I'd have a suspicion, then conclude I was on the wrong track--then another suspicion.

Book Description: At seventeen, Tessa became famous for being the only surviving victim of a vicious serial killer. Her testimony put him on death row. Decades later, a mother herself, she receives a message from a monster who should be in prison. Now, as the execution date rapidly approaches, Tessa is forced to confront a chilling possibility: Did she help convict the wrong man?  

The writing shifts from 1995 to the present, and although I have read many books that use this technique, I found myself initially a little jarred by the switches.  This may be a deliberate ploy by the author to keep the reader a little off kilter; after all, the story deals with both the teenager who has endured a horrific experience and the adult who still doesn't remember everything about what happened.  Life is out of kilter for Tessa in many ways, but something in her psyche prevents the experience and its aftermath from destroying her.  

What I find particularly admirable about the book is that there are no graphic details.  It is a little like reading a really good Hitchcock film--all the suspense, but without relying on gore or torture.  Julia Heaberlin, in the midst of the suspense and tension, creates a strong protagonist with a healthy approach to life.  It is often bewildering: the events that are missing from Tessa's memory and her attempts to unravel the past as well as some of the events in occurring in the present keeps the reader in the same disconcerting situation.

Although there is a mystery and solving the events of the past will explain some of the perplexing incidents in the present, the novel's strength is its characters-- who are so vivid they seem to breathe.  The women carry this book:  Tessa, Lydia, Charlie, and (my personal favorite) Tessa's neighbor Effie, who is dealing with incipient dementia. 

A psychological novel that kept me enthralled from first to last.  Highly recommended.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine

Psychological Mystery.  July 28, 2015.  Print length:  368 pages.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

Little Black Lies  

Grief.  Regret.  Secrets.  Bolton explores the effects of these experiences and more in her new stand-alone novel set in the Falkland Islands.  Beautifully written, she immerses the reader in the stark beauty of the island and its sea life; in the tangled relationships of love and friendship that have endured devastating blows; in the atmosphere of a small community that knows everything and nothing about you; and in the dismaying and very human proclivity to rush to judgment.

The novel is compelling in so many ways.  There is a mystery--over a two year period, two children have disappeared.  When a third goes missing, the community must face the possibility that one of their own is responsible.  There are the psychological aspects--the loss of a child, the effects of the Falklands War, the betrayal of a deep friendship, and the way one event damages people in different ways.  There is a sociological examination of an isolated community of people who have family histories going back generations.  And there is the fascinating ecology of the islands with emphasis on marine life which Bolton describes with such eloquent detail.

The narrative is in three parts, giving three perspective of events.  Unlike most mysteries that give you some sign posts about where you are going, Bolton's novel has the curious feeling that sometimes the sign posts have been moved, turned and are pointing in the wrong direction.  You won't know exactly where you are until you get there...and the path is a crooked one with unexpected crossroads that leave the reader in a dilemma about which direction to take.

Little Black Lies is completely different from Bolton's previous books and by far the best.  Highly recommended!
"About 60% of Falklanders are native born, some tracing their ancestry back six or more generations. Today more than 80% of the 3140 Falklanders (sometimes called ‘Kelpers’) live in Stanley, and about 1200 British military live at Mt Pleasant base. The rest of the islanders live in ‘Camp,’ the name given to all of the Falklands outside Stanley."  Read more:
Read in April; blog post scheduled for May 7.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Psychological Mystery.  May 19, 2015.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Two for Tuesday

Silent as the Grave by Paul Gitsham   

The third in a series featuring DCI Warren Jones, but my first venture into this series.  

The body of an elderly man is discovered, his dog dead by his side.  A mugging gone wrong?  What puzzles DCI Warren Jones and his team is the lack of clues and the apparent efficiency of the murder; it appears to have a professional touch.  Reginald Williamson's friends and acquaintances can offer no possible reason for his murder; nothing anyone knows about would seem likely to have resulted in Williamson's having been deliberately targeted for death, and the team is having trouble making any progress in the case.

Eventually, DCI Jones is contacted by someone who claims to have information about the murder, but will only exchange information for some aid in his own situation.  Against protocol, Jones meets with the man, who turns out to be the former head of Jones' department, now being investigated for corruption.

What gets Jones' attention is that the roots of  Williamson's murder go back decades, and as it turns out, have a special connection with the death of DCI Jones' father.

Skillfully portrayed characters are especially important in this mystery/police procedural.  The author makes several things obvious to the reader, while delivering other information only as DCI Jones and Tony Sutton continue their investigation.  Making everything fit is difficult for the pair as records concerning the old case are missing or altered. Jones and Sutton continue to find answers that only lead to more questions.  Who to trust when the corruption may have been initiated by someone in the police force itself?

I need to see about the previous two books in this series.  :)

NetGalley/Carina UK

Mystery/Police Procedural.   April 15, 2015.   

The Forgotten Room  by Lincoln Child

OK, I've thoroughly enjoyed the craziness of the Lincoln Child/Douglas Preston duo for years.  In addition to the books the two co-author, each also puts out an impressive number of solo works.  The Forgotten Room is the third in a series by Lincoln Child about Jeremy Logan, a quirky enigmalogist, a puzzle solver, occasional de-bunker, and an expert in analyzing events and situations that have no logical explanation.

Here again, I'm starting with the third novel in a series.  Child's first book in this series is The Third Gate, and yes, it is now on my wish list.  Not that there was any problem reading the latest Jeremy Logan book without having read the earlier ones; it functions perfectly well as a stand-alone. 

 No one thinks any of the Preston/Child novels (in concert or singly) are great literature.  They aren't.  But they are fun in their unique Gothic-y, paranormal way, and they read at light-speed.  They don't deliver characters in depth, but they do deliver quirky personalities, paranormal or mystic events, and action and suspense.

Briefly:  a huge old estate with a strange history was purchased by a prestigious think tank in the early 1900's.  The think tank and its fellows (scientists and researchers in various fields) have maintained strict standards over the years; the work done by the researchers is innovative and important.

Jeremy Logan is called in to investigate the violent and appalling suicide of one of the respected fellows of the institution.  Recent renovations have revealed a room with no point of entry and with a perplexing machine inside, a challenging enigma for the enigmalogist.  Logan suspects that the secrets of the room had something to do with the researcher's death and may have even wider implications.

Regardless of the fact that I'd love a little deeper characterization and a slower more detailed approach to the plot,  I succumb each time to whatever Douglas Preston or Lincoln Child offer.  I'd like them to read a little slower, last a little longer, but have no intention of swearing off the weirdness these two authors manage to concoct.


Science Fiction/Thriller.  May 12, 2015.  Print length:  306 pages.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik


From "real" dragons in the Temeraire series, to a wizard who is a dragon in name only in Uprooted; from a fantasy version of the Napoleonic Wars to a novel that takes the form of a Polish fairy tale--Naomi Novik's creative imagination provides readers with a new world.

It started very much like a book I read last year (Dragon Rose), and I was a little nervous about the similarity (of a girl chosen to leave her village and be a companion of the local dragon).  Fortunately,  Novik has created a story that captivates on several levels and has little in common with the other book. 

Novik's Uprooted  is one of those special fantasy/fairy tales that will seize your interest and curiosity, keep you in suspense, and linger long after you finish.  It has that indefinable "classic" feel, yet the characters  have a depth that classical fairy tale characters lack.  The best of both worlds!  

A perfect and timely read for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge!  Recommended.

About the author:

 Naomi Novik was born in New York in 1973, a first-generation American, and raised on Polish fairy tales, Baba Yaga, and Tolkien. She studied English Literature at Brown University and did graduate work in Computer Science at Columbia University before leaving to participate in the design and development of the computer game Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide.

Her first novel, His Majesty’s Dragon, was published in 2006 along with Throne of Jade and Black Powder War, and has been translated into 23 languages. She has won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. The fourth volume of theTemeraire series, Empire of Ivory, published in September 2007, was a New York Times bestseller, and was followed by bestsellers Victory of Eagles and Tongues of Serpents.
On April 26, 2011, she published Will Supervillains Be on the Final?, volume one in a new graphic novel series titled Liberty Vocational. She is also currently writing League of Dragons, the final Temeraire novel. (
Read in April; blog post scheduled for May 4.

NetGalley/Random House/Del Ray Spectra

Fantasy/Fairy Tale.  May 19, 2015.  Print length:  448 pages.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Friday Musings

Still working on cleaning up my studio and planning activities for the grands.  Finished two Lovies that are not exactly what I want, and I'll have to make new patterns, but the ideas are there for possible success.

 Reading:  I've had some success with a few books lately, but haven't reviewed them yet. 

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton is the best thing she has written so far.  Great psychological novel with wonderful descriptions of the Falkland Islands.  Very different from the Gothic horror and the Lacy Flint series, Bolton takes an entirely new tact with this one.

Uprooted by Naomie Novik.  I enjoyed the first book in the Temeraire series and read a few more before losing interest.  This new fantasy was a rare pleasure.


The last couple of days have been perfect for working in the garden--but the pollen is so bad that my eyes water and itch and swell.  Then my entire face itches.  This problem is worse than in previous years, and I'm not sure what I'm allergic to, but it happens within minutes of being outside.  Took a Claritin this morning, so hope to get some weeding done today.