Share This

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Real Spy's Tale

I have been reading and reviewing a few spy novels lately, if you hadn't noticed.  In Jacqueline Winspear's book, A Lesson in Secrets, (click here for review) the little known efforts of women during wartime is utilized.  Then I came across the story of Eileen Nearne, a spy for the Britain during World War II.  I had to share this story of her bravery with all of you.

She died at 89 years old, poor and alone in September of 2010 in England.  When her small apartment was being emptied, her wartime medals (Croix de Guerre by the French government, and appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire) were discovered and her secret was out.  She had no family or friends to pay for her funeral and was about to be cremated, until the news was spread that she was a war hero.  The public flooded local officials to help pay for her funeral and to attend her services.  The Royal British Legion placed a flag on her casket.  There was even a French official in attendance at her funeral to honor this incredible brave woman.  Her eulogy was given by Adrian Stones, Chaiman of the Special Forces Club (click here for eulogy text.)

It turns out she was only 23 when she was sent into occupied France since she spoke fluent French. She was "one of 39 British women who were parachuted into France as secret agents by the Special Operations Executive, a wartime agency known informally as “Churchill’s secret army.”  She was caught by the Nazis using her radio to send information.  She endured torture but managed to maintain her cover story, but was still sent to a concentration camp.  She managed to escape and resumed spying.  In all, she was captured a few times by the Nazis, and either convinced them she knew nothing, or escaped.  The New York Times reported (click here for article) that after the war, she suffered emotionally from the toll of her experiences.

 I just felt her story is worth passing along.  Spy novels are exciting, but this lady is an unsung hero who deserves to get some praise - even after her death.  I found these two short British news stories about her.

As for the Agatha Awards we have been following, the winners have been announced.  Turns out I had only reviewed one of the winners.  Congratulations to all the winners!!

Best Novel
• Three Day Town by Margaret Maron

Best First Novel
• Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry
Best Non-Fiction
• Books, Crooks and Counselors by Leslie Budewitz

Best Children's/Young Adult

• The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein

Best Historical Novel

• Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen  (Review Here)

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review - The Last Spymaster

I am returning to my current yen for spy novels with this book.  The author, Gayle Lynds, is a member of the U.S. Association for Intelligence Officers, and is a bestseller in a male dominated genre.  She wrote three of the books in the Covert-One series with Robert Ludlum.  She also co-founded the International Thriller Writers, Inc.  This particular novel was awarded the 2006 Novel of the Year prize from the Military Writers Society of America.

Author:  Gayle Lynds

Copyright:  2007 (St. Martin's Press) 304 pgs

Series:  Stand alone novel

Sensuality:  mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Thriller, intrigue

Main Character:  CIA Agent Elaine Cunningham

Setting:  Modern Day,Washington DC

Obtained Through:  Library

The story opens with a young skier in Switzerland being shot, then two days later the spymaster, Jay Tice, breaks out of a U.S. prison where he was held for treason.  How are the two incidents related is quite the story.

From the book:
"Charles Jay Tice was a spy's spy--a legendary figure in the CIA, and the intelligence world in general, towards the end of the Cold War. But he was also a traitor, having sold secrets that seriously compromised the U.S. for years to come. Since his conviction, he's been kept in the tightest maximum security prison under the tightest security. Until one morning, his cell is discovered empty--Tice has disappeared without even the hint of trace.

Agent Elaine Cunningham is a 'hunter', assigned to find Tice quickly, before the rest of the world knows he's gone. But she soon finds out that something is very wrong. This is more than just an impossible escape by a master spy--lurking in the shadows is a much bigger, deeper, and more dangerous conspiracy than an old spy's last run for freedom."

The viewpoint shifts between Jay on the run or Elaine chasing him.  Sometimes that can be annoying or confusing, but in this case I think it works well for creating more suspense. 

Jay remains a bit of a mystery, although the reader knows there is more to him and his story than what is initially revealed.  Elaine was an unlikely choice for hunting Jay, she is considered emotionally damaged and had been left on desk duty, seemingly forgotten, until Jay escapes.  Elaine is a solid character, not perfect in the spy world, but she has great instincts and is able to quickly assess a situation and understand the implications.  I really liked Elaine.  As the story develops a few key supporting characters are introduced who all bring something to the story.  It is hard to discuss without giving too much away.  There are a few villains, some that are visible, and one that remains a mystery until the end, which is particularly well done.

The setting is mostly in D.C. or the surrounding Virginia countryside, with a few European scenes.  The setting is used effectively, one minute serene and the next ominous. 

The overall plot is believable and builds as the story unfolds.  It utilizes many of our fears regarding terrorism and cutting edge technology to push the stakes higher and higher.  It felt realistic, not a lot of flash.  I kept thinking, it could really be like this.

The climax is a nail bitter and gets the adrenaline pumping.  The wrap up was perfect and sold me on this author.  If you like a good spy novel or a plot that takes you by surprise a time or two, give this book a try.  I am getting another of hers from the library!

Here is a teaser about the book from the author herself.


Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 23, 2012

Who will win an Agatha?

The winners of the Agatha Awards will be announced, April 28, 2012, during the Malice Domestic conference.  But I would like to hear from you.  Eight of the nominees have been reviewed on this blog.  Please vote in the comments on who would be your pick in each category.  I will tally them later in the week and post the results. 

Best Novel
• The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews (Reviewed here)
• The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis
• Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet  (Reviewed here)
• Three Day Town by Margaret Maron
• A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Best First Novel
• Dire Threads by Janet Bolin
• Choke by Kaye George
• Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry
• Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab  (Reviewed here)
• Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend  (Reviewed here)

Best Non-Fiction
• Books, Crooks and Counselors by Leslie Budewitz
• Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making by John Curran
• On Conan Doyle by Michael Dirda
• Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel by A. B. Emrys
• The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris

Best Children's/Young Adult
• Shelter by Harlan Coben
• The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein
• Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
• The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey
• The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner

Best Historical Novel
• Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen  (Review Here)
• Murder Your Darlings by J. J. Murphy
• Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker  (Review Here)
• Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (Review Here)
• A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear  (Reviewed here)

Vote in the comments for any or all of the categories: Best Novel, Best First Novel, Best Non-Fiction, Best Children's/Young Adult, and Best Historical Novel.

Also, today is the last day to vote for this blog.  PLEASE send me to the Book Expo America!  PLEASE vote for me.

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review - One Book in the Grave

Once again we are traveling to the streets of San Francisco - I couldn't resist that one.  I reviewed the book just prior to this one, The Lies that Bind (click here.)   This is the fourth book in the series, let's see how this edition has stacks up.

Author:  Kate Carlisle

Copyright:  February 2012 (Signet) 304 pgs

Series:  4th in  Bibliophile Mysteries

Sensuality:  innuendo

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy

Main Characters: Brooklyn Wainwright, book binder and restorer

Setting: modern day, San Francisco and countryside

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Brooklyn is presented with a rare first edition of Beauty and the Beast to restore, the only problem is Brooklyn knows the the book intimately, and that it was stolen from a young widow.  Brooklyn tries to follow up with the book seller who had sold the book, but finds him dead and all the clues at the scene point to a close friend of Brooklyn's who died three years ago.

Brooklyn is insecure and not as decisive in this edition.  She is conceding to the love interest, trying to abide by his requests to not get in harms way etc.  But more than that, it seems she is becoming dependent upon him while being insecure.  Her boyfriend Derek, we are continually reminded, is rich and drop-dead-gorgeous.  But otherwise he seems like a cardboard cutout of Fabio being moved around.  This would have been the edition to make him more "real" to the reader, but I didn't feel that was even on the agenda. Minka, Brooklyn's nasty nemesis, made a couple of appearances that seemed thrown in without a real purpose.  That was jarring.  The standouts in this book were Brooklyn's family.  The reader has gotten used to their being new-agey, but a very different side is shown of them.  Sweet!  Guru Bob has more substance to him this time around as well.  Gabriel is enigmatic as always.

Forced is the best word to describe the plot. The initial setup of the plot seems a stretch.  There are enough times throughout the story that are improbable so that it feels "off" throughout.  The setting is not a key ingredient, but manages to add to the suspense with cat-and-mouse hunts in the hills of California.  Pacing was a bit on-and-off because the story didn't seem to flow smoothly.

The climatic confrontation with the killer is perhaps the best part of the entire book.  The villain was not obvious but, looking back, the subtle clues were there.  The wrap up was a little flat.  This is the time in a series when it hits its stride or starts to stumble.  I feel this book was not comparable to the prior books, although it is still a fun cozy.  I hope this is just a slight hiccup and the next book will have a more thoughtful plot and the old Brooklyn back.

Please vote for this blog, voting ends Monday April 23.

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 16, 2012

Luxury Reading

How do you indulge yourself for a special time with a book?  If you have been really anticipating a special book, how would you savor reading it?  What is your way to pamper yourself, besides just the good book?

I love to soak in a hot tub, maybe add some bubbles, and just read.  Perhaps part of the enjoyment is the ever-present danger of dropping the book!  Yep, I live on the edge, flirting with danger.  Occasionally I add some aromatherapy (oh my!)

What about you?  Are you the no-nonsense type who doesn't need any paraphernalia - have book, will read?  Perhaps you are the type who loves reading with some tea, wine, or Jack Daniels?  Is a hammock and a tropical breeze your ideal, or maybe a public park bench is perfect?  Lets see how many ways we indulge ourselves reading by discussing this in the comments.

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review - Mercury's Rise

This will probably be my final review of the nominees for the upcoming Agatha Awards (click here.)  The Silver Rush Mysteries have won other awards, but not an Agatha thus far.  I have to say that the historical category has a roster full of top mysteries.  I would hate to be a judge for the competition.

I live in Colorado and only a few minutes from the places referenced in the book, so I was interested in how the history and places would be portrayed.

Author: Ann Parker

Copyright: November 2011 (Poisoned Pen Press) 250 pgs

Series: 4th in Silver Rush Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Inez Stannert, part owner of Silver Queen Saloon

Setting: 1880s, Manitou Springs, Colorado

Obtained Through: Library

This was my first in the Silver Rush mysteries, but it stands alone fine.  Inez Stannert's husband, Mark, disappeared one year ago.  In the time since then, Inez made the difficult choice to send her young son, William, to stay with her sister, Harmony, back East because his health was suffering in the high altitude. She has worked on piecing her life together since then.  

The book opens as she is about to get her absent husband declared dead so she can move on with her personal life.  She is traveling with her friend Susan, from Leadville to Manitou Springs to meet with her family and reunite with her son.  During the long rough stage coach ride, fellow passenger Edward Pace dies after taking a tonic from Dr. Prochazka.

Inez and her family are staying at the fictional Manitou Springs House.  The hotel intends to be an upscale hotel but also is cashing in on the throngs of people who come to Manitou for the mineral waters and healing.  For the Manitou Springs House, this means having Dr. Prochazka as part of the hotel, tending to Tuberculosis patients. Edward Pace's widow asks Inez to investigate, believing that her husband was poisoned.  Apparently Mr. Pace was interested in investing into the hotel while his wife was convincing him there was something amiss.

Inez has plenty of drama going on personally while she tackles investigating a death that only herself and the widow believe was a murder.  Inez shows how tough western women were, and how they challenged society mores.  Inez has reached a point where she knows what she wants and is about to grab the brass ring, only to have it yanked away.  She comes out fighting, literally at times.  From what I learned about Colorado history growing up, she is a realistic rendition of what many of the women who helped tame these parts were like.  This book doesn't feature many of the standard secondary characters much, since the bulk of the story does not happen in Leadville.  I would like to get to know the Leadville cast better.

Miss Parker did an excellent job with the history and sense of place.  Since Manitou Springs is essentially my backyard, and only a few minutes drive for me, all of the scenery and even some of the buildings in the story, I grew up with.  I felt like I was being transported back in time with the deft historical portrayal.  The tuberculosis treatment centers in the storyline are a large part of the history in this area.  Even at our University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the old Dwire Hall was a TB treatment center.  I was afraid that I would not like the portrayal of local history and sights, but I had nothing to fear. 

The plot is realistic since tuberculosis treatment really was a big business here, catering to middle and upper classes.    The shady goings on at an upscale treatment center was well done.  The personal life drama often took center stage and those were the parts that I skipped through.  Some personal issues as a subplot are one thing, but there were times when Inez's personal problems nearly became the central plot, which I think slowed the pacing.

The climax was well done I felt, bringing to head all the snooping and suspicions to a dramatic show down.  The wrap-up smoothed some of the drama, but promised that some issues would still be worked out in the next book.

Overall, this is a solid historical mystery with seamless period detail integrated with a  tough female character.  I loved it!

Here is a short video that features the Cliff House mentioned in the book.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Please vote for me!

I am posting a special appeal to my readers to please vote for me in the Independent Book Blogger Awards.  I began this adventure in September, 2009.  I must say, I have learned a lot over that time and it has been a wild ride.  I love doing this blog and I hope that shows.

I am particularly interested in this blogger award because the prize is a trip to this year's Book Expo.  Yes, I really want to go, I am that geeky!  I even watch BookTV :-)  I will even share the experience on the blog (wink.)  

It will require that you register with Goodreads, if you haven't already.  My blog is in the Adult Fiction category. Voting closes Monday, April 23 at 11:59pm ET.  Check out the other bloggers, you are sure to find new blogs to follow, as I have.

And THANK YOU for voting!

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 9, 2012

National Library Week April 8-14

This week is National Library Week, so check with your local library and see if they have any special programs going on.    Growing up, I relied on libraries for entertainment (books to read) as well as research materials for school.  In college, it was one of the places I spent most of my time with friends, studying.  As an adult I am always running to the library.  If you haven't gotten to know your library and all it has to offer your community, maybe this week is a good time to check them out. 

I personally can't imagine life without a library.  Besides all manner of books and reference for all ages, they provide free movies, books on CD, magazines, computer time for those searching for jobs, often they have meeting rooms.  Often the local library provides English as Second Language resources.  Our library even sponsors local artwork showings. They are a valuable community resource.  But, sadly public libraries across the nation are suffering from crippling budget cuts. 

Does your library have a volunteer program or a "Friends of the Library" program that allows citizens to help out?  Consider giving some time to your library to ensure they will be flourishing for future generations.  We can't afford to loose them!

Here is a quote that puts a whole new importance on libraries.  "It is a great tool of dictators and tyrants, who want to get masses of people to do what they want, to make sure there are no libraries...The fact that there was no public library in Rwanda is one reason why genocide was possible."  Stephen Kinzer, author of A Thousand Hills:  Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed it.

Thriller writer Brad Meltzer is the ambassador for this year's National Library Week.  This short video gives his pitch for libraries.

Here is the branch of my local library I go to most often.  

I love my library.  How about you?  Share what your local library means to you.

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Bookmark and Share

Every Child a Reader

I have always been an advocate for children's reading programs.  When video games came out, books took a back seat and the outlook was bad.  It appeared that reading was on the way out for each new generation.  But then authors such as J.K. Rowling seemed to reinvent children's literature and children and teens were reading again.  Twilight came along.  Even dystopian darker themes captured young adult readers with The Hunger Games.  Reading among children may not be dying out after all. 

Programs such as "Every Child a Reader" have been working diligently to help turn the tide.  This program is "dedicated to supporting positive programs and opportunities that help promote the enjoyment of reading among America’s youth with the goal of instilling a lifelong love of reading."  The signature drive of the program is the Children’s Book Week, the nation’s longest-running literacy initiative, now in its ninety-third year.  

This year, Children's Book Week (click here) will be May 7-13, 2012.  I wanted to highlight this in advance so readers can find local events - or start one.  If you are a teacher or librarian, there are resources and tools to get involved.

There is even a Blog Hop for Children's Book Week (click here) for bloggers to join.  Enjoy, and spread the love of reading!

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review - The Real Macaw

Murder With Peacocks, Donna Andrews' first book in this series, won St. Martin's Malice Domestic Award, an Agatha, and an Anthony.  This year Donna Andrews is nominated for an Agatha with 2011's, The Real Macaw.   As part of our Agatha Awards coverage, I wanted to review this nominee.

Author: Donna Andrews

Copyright: July 2011 (Minotaur Books) 320 pgs

Series: 11th? in Meg Langslow Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Meg Langslow, Artistic wrought-iron blacksmith

Setting: Modern day, Caerphilly Virginia

Obtained Through: library

The book opens with Meg conducting a 2 a.m. feeding of her four-month-old twins, only to be interrupted with the relocation of the county animal shelter to her home and barn.  The shelter is closing because of a town financial crisis.  Her father, grandfather, and brother are part of the citizen activist group formed to "break the animals out" before they are all exterminated. But their plans fall flat when the Parker Blair never shows with his furniture store truck to transport the animals.  Her family naturally rallies together, and brings every shelter animal to Meg's. 

By dawn the police have arrived, because Parker Blair was murdered.  Before this wild and long day ends, Meg will find surveyors on her property. Political fraud in small town Caerphilly shocks the townspeople. The foul-mouthed Macaw ends up playing into the solution.

This is my first Meg cozy so I have none of the prior books to compare to, no pre-twins Meg.  Meg does seem one of the few sane people in her family, and even in the town. Since the series has been around for many books, there is not much character development on her family.  But what is revealed of family and the town's citizens, shows an eccentric cast. 
The plot of an unethical local politician selling a town to developers for his own interests under the guise of budget concerns is realistic.  This has the town frantic while the police try to investigate during relocating their office.  Meg naturally asks questions and informs the police chief as she goes.   But the twins becomes too much in a busy plot.  Meg has too much going on and the twins are shuffled around. Michael is the  ever-in-the-background husband amidst late night feedings, milk-pumping and so on. 

The killer was not obvious, which was nice.  The pacing took some time to get going, but took off fairly soon.  I was expecting more humor and laughable situations, but I felt there wasn't the much.  The beginning had the zaniest mix.  I don't know if that is standard since I am new to the series.

Overall this was a fun cozy, but I believe that newcomers would be best to begin with earlier books to get to know Meg and her family.  The first book, Murder with Peacocks, would be best to start with.  I hope to go back and start with that one myself.

Here is a fun little video about the amazing parrot, Einstein, who loves to show off.   She is an African Grey featured at the Knoxville Zoo!

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - April 2012

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  Please help get the newsletter for the blog carnival more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers occasionally then I would like to feature them.   I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.  Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review

The Book Nook reviewed Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie

How Mysterious! reviewed Snapshot by Garry Disher

Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Whispering Death by Garry Disher and shares it is the best that she has read in the last month.

How Mysterious reviewed Woman with Birthmark by Hakan Nesser

S. Krishna's Books reviewed Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag

How Mysterious! reviewed Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

A Date With a Book reviewed Latte Trouble By Cleo Coyle

The Book Nook reviewed At Bertram's Hotel, and A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

How Mysterious reviewed I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradleys

Thoughts in Progress reviewed Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon, and Endangered by Pamela Beason

A Date With a Book reviewed Through the Grinder By Cleo Coyle

Booking Mama reviewed So Pretty It Hurts by Kate White

How Mysterious! reviewed Broken English by P.L. Glaus

Adlin's Adventures reviewed Murder on the Eightfold Path by Diana Killian

A Date With a Book reviewed Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy

Novel Reflections reviewed Buried in a Book by Lucy Arlington

How Mysterious! reviewed A Killer's Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth Duncan

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Thoughts in Progress reviewed Hard Target by Howard Gordon

Booking Mama reviewed Blue Monday by Nicci French

Thoughts in Progress reviewed The Immortalists by Kyle Mills

Booking Mama reviewed The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Thoughts in Progress reviewed The Undertaker’s Widow by Phillip Margolin

Booking Mama reviewed The Gods or Gotham by Lindsay Faye

Liz Andra Shaw reviewed Record Of Wrongs by Andy Straka

Author Interview

Thoughts in Progress gives us an interview with Steven James

Thoughts in Progress gives us an interview with Brad Taylor

Writing Tips and Advice

Write With Fey gives us "Get Ready, Set, TONE!"

Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum gives us "Truth IS Stranger than Fiction"

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.
Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

>>>Join the mailing list to receive a reminder email<<<
to submit for the Blog Carnival

Join our mailing list
* indicates required

Bookmark and Share

Related Posts with Thumbnails