Tag Archives: spy thriller

Sunday Post – 7th March, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s not been a good week. From Tuesday through to Thursday, I went down with a bug, plagued by a miserable cough – and couldn’t sleep. I had only four hours sleep in 24 by Thursday. Though I established that it definitely wasn’t COVID. And then yesterday, Himself went down with exactly the same symptoms. When I spoke to my sister, she also was ill with the same thing… Not only is it a miserable illness – the inability to sleep is horrible – but it meant I had to cancel having the grandchildren coming to stay this weekend, which is a real blow as I haven’t seen them for a while. I’m better, but still a bit washed out. So that’s why I wasn’t around in the middle of the week. Apologies for not having visited blogs, etc…

The only bright spot in the middle of all this was that I curled up with my trusty Kindles and either read or listened to books throughout. So I’ve read a few more than usual.

The photos this week are from the walk last Sunday, when it was sunny with a brisk wind. As you can see, they’re doing some dredging work on the mouth of the river to ensure the large gravel boats can still enter Littlehampton harbour.

Last week I read:
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry
For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob — a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life — hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life’s duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world…

I’m a sucker for fantasy books featuring libraries and other book characters – but this one really exceeded by expectations. A delightful, clever read that took the story and used it to highlight sibling relationships in a nuanced, three-dimensional way. Review to follow.

The Transylvania Twist – Book 2 of the Monster M*A*S*H series by Angie Fox
Even during a truce, I have my hands full as a MASH surgeon to an army of warring gods—especially when Medusa herself turns up pregnant. I frankly have no idea what to expect when a Gorgon’s expecting, but I have an even bigger problem when my presumed-dead former-fiancé sneaks into my tent with enough emotional baggage to fill a tank…

Yes… I know I’ve read this series out of order – but it was so much fun, I really wanted to go back and get another fix of Petra Robichaud and this madcap world. Review to follow.

The Conductors – Book 1 of the Murder and Magic series by Nicole Glover
As an escaped slave, Hetty Rhodes helped dozens of people find their own freedom north using her wits and her magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband, Benjy, still fight for their people by solving the murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch.

When they discover one of their friends brutally murdered in an alley, Hetty and Benjy mourn his loss by setting off to find answers. But the mystery of his death soon brings up more questions, more secrets, more hurt. To solve his death, they will have to not only face the ugly truths about the world but the ones about each other.
While this isn’t a flawless book, nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the world and the main protagonist. Review to follow.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum…
I loved this historical thriller set in Bletchley Park during WWII. Quinn clearly knows what she is doing, as weaving the stories of three women across two narrative timelines could have so easily descended into a hot mess – and it doesn’t. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Death Around the Bend – Book 3 of the Lady Hardcastle series by T.E. Kinsey
September 1909, and Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence, have been invited to Lord Riddlethorpe’s country estate for a week of motor racing and parties. They both agree that it sounds like a perfectly charming holiday. But when one of the drivers dies in a crash during the very first race, they discover that what seemed like an uncharacteristic error in judgement may have a more sinister explanation…
Closer investigation reveals that the driver’s car was sabotaged—and the driver murdered.

The local constabulary are quick to dismiss the case, but Flo and Lady Hardcastle are determined to find out just who has committed this dastardly act, and why. As the pair begin to make enquiries of Lord Riddlethorpe’s servants and guests, it seems that, below stairs and above, there is more to this case than meets the eye. And, even in the quiet of the countryside, death is always just around the bend.
This entertaining series is becoming a solid favourite of mine. Elizabeth Knowelden’s excellent narration and the thread of humour running through the story makes this a really enjoyable listen. Mini-review to follow.

The Wizard’s Butler by Nathan Lowell
For five grand a month and a million dollar chaser, Roger Mulligan didn’t care how crazy the old geezer is. All he had to do was keep Joseph Perry Shackleford alive and keep him from squandering the estate for a year.

They didn’t tell him about the pixies.
This quirky and unusual urban fantasy tale is unexpectedly gentle and was just what I needed. And the bonus is – this author also writes space opera adventures, too. Given how much I love his writing style, I am delighted to have discovered his work. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Desolation Called Peace – Book 2 of the Teixcalaan series by Akady Martine

Cover Share: An Orshaw Facelift by Indie author Phil Williams

Friday Face-off featuring The Eagle of the Ninth – Book 1 in the Dolphin Ring Cycle by Rosemary Sutcliffe

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NOVELLA One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Tuesday Treasures – 29

Two Sci Fi mini-reviews: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington & Scardown by Elizabeth Bear

Sunday Post – 28th January 2021

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x

Review of AUDIO BOOK Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes

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I’d read this children’s book with great enjoyment a few years ago, after Ali visited West Sussex Writers and gave a lively, informative talk on writing for children. But having recently bought my granddaughter a Kindle Fire so she can listen to books she enjoys, a very looong, boring drive in slow-moving holiday traffic was sweetened by hearing the adventures of Rachel and Ben, Polly and Freddy beautifully narrated by Glen McCready.

It is 1956. Freddy and Polly have never minded helping their genius father with his experiments. Even when that means being put into frozentimecryonic suspension having their hearts frozen…. It is 2009. Ben and Rachel have resigned themselves to a long, dull summer when they find the hidden underground vault in the garden and inside it two frozen figures, a boy and a girl…Can Polly and Freddy adapt to the 21st century?

This is an excellent book – the overarching story is exciting enough, but the joy of this book is the continual difficulties experienced by Polly and Freddy in acclimatising to life in 2009 after being in cryonic suspension for 53 years. Sparkes has clearly done her research and the result is at times poignant, at times surprising and often laugh-aloud funny. We spent our time in traffic jams giggling at the lovely humorous touches, rather than fuming at the slow pace of our journey to Ringwood. Polly and Freddy are fitter and tougher than Ben and Rachel – but their gender roles are far more rigid. Polly blithely assumes that Rachel will help with the domestic chores, and the boys don’t need to. Some of their other attitudes are jarring, too.

Back in the era of the Cold War, there were political tensions and rivalries that mean Polly and Freddy’s brilliant father could have drawn down unwelcome attention from plenty of people. And when his children are finally woken up from their frozen sleep, all they want to do is discover what happened to him, and why he didn’t wake them up in a few days as had always happened before.

Sparkes’ sharp observations on the differences between children of the 1950’s and now has stayed with me since we finished listening to the adventure. I have promised myself that when I have the time, I shall sit down and play it again. This superbly told and well written story deserves my undivided attention.
10/10

Review of Dominion by C.J. Sansom

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I have always enjoyed C.J. Sansom’s writing – we’ve bought the whole Matthew Shardlake series – read my review of Revelation here. But this alternate historical thriller is something of a departure for Sansom – would I enjoy it as much as his tales of Tudor crime and his bleak but very accomplished Winter in Madrid?

Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long dominionGerman war against Russia rages in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent Auxiliary Police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours about what is happening in the basement of the Germany Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill’s Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government’s side.

Civil servant David Fitzgerald has been passing on government secrets after the tragic death of his son. While his wife Sarah is increasingly suspicious of the late nights and week-end stints in the office. But as events sweep this middle-class couple up into the political mincing machine, they cross paths with Gestapo Sturmbannfűhrer Gunther Hoth, brilliant and implacable hunter of men…

Which is more or less the blurb – except for the spoilers. What must be jumping out at anyone interested in reading the book, is that the event where Sansom’s version of history diverges takes place twelve years previously. So he has to construct a completely different world that emerges after Britain’s surrender. As Sansom is an accomplished historian, his version of this world makes fascinating reading. In this Britain there has been a prolonged period of financial stagnation, leading to widespread poverty without any Welfare State. With much of the elderly industrial infrastructure still in place, the mines are still in the hands of individual owners who are running them into the ground. This is a world where the BBC is strictly censored with newspapers, television and radio staying silent when violent protest spills into death – and morris dancing is upheld as a national dance… But perhaps the most startling demonstration of the difference is when young Queen Elizabeth – still unmarried – is commemorating Remembrance Sunday, with Rommel stepping forward and propping on the cenotaph a large poppy wreath, complete with a swastika.

However skilful the scene setting is, even in an alternate history thriller, the meat of the book is the plot and characters. Does Sansom’s tale at the heart of his fog-swathed landscape deliver the goods? Absolutely. David Fitzgerald is utterly convincing as a ‘small man’ who feels driven to try and do something against the present regime, while Sarah, his wife, still grieving for her dead son, is only too aware of his growing detachment. Sansom shows how corrosive lies can be to a relationship – even if it is for the best of reasons.

And when hapless Frank Muncaster, physically frail misfit, is stranded in a mental hospital and becomes the nexus of the story, I was reminded of Sansom’s other physically compromised protagonist. Both Frank and Matthew Shardlake are defined by other people’s reaction towards them from early childhood, despite their cleverness. However Frank is more compromised as his strangeness leaves him vulnerable in a world where a masculine ideal is increasingly modelled on Hitler’s Youth.

The final climax to the story is both enthralling and shocking – and has left me musing on his disturbing, unsettling tale. Because in the end, you are forced to wonder how you would react if you were faced with the same circumstances. And the truth is, of course, you don’t ever really know until you find yourself in that situation. I have read some reviews that have grumbled about the length of this book – but despite my intolerance for overwritten, wordy tomes the size and weight of a breezeblock, I have no problem with the length of Dominion. This complex, layered world is worth the effort.
10/10