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review 2017-07-22 23:53
His Quiet Agent
His Quiet Agent - Ada Maria Soto

I really enjoyed this one. It's my first by this author, but I'm certainly interested to read more.


This is a very quiet story and a very slow build. Martin is highly shielded and Arthur is socially awkward. They're both considered weird by their coworkers and Arthur tries to find out if they're weird compliments each other. 


The cover made me think this was going to be historical Brit fic rather than contemporary American, so that took a couple of chapters to adjust to. I did like the quiet tone of the book and how Martin and Arthur's relationship developed. It's difficult enough to show relationship development when the characters are talkers, even more difficult when they're not, yet somehow this author manages it. The small gestures, the show of trust and caring - it's all convincing. I was especially surprised and pleased when both MCs were revealed to be asexual and this didn't become a "fix the ace" travesty. (So those who want sex in your books, you're not going to get it here.)  


There are a lot of unanswered questions, which is a given considering their jobs, and I'm ok with those. I would've liked to get to know more about Martin's backstory, but he doesn't really start to open up until the very end. The hints we get are intriguing though and opens the room for a lot of reader speculation, which in a way is more fun than getting it all spelled out for you. (Still, if ever there was a book that needs an epilogue, this is it.) There's some handwaving that needs to be done in regards to the Agency and how it appears to operate, but it didn't detract from the tension or suspense in the last quarter of the book at all. It was actually used to some great effect. 


There were a few more typos than I would overlook normally, things like verb tense changes and at one point even character names get mixed up, and general typos that wouldn't get caught by spellcheck but should've been caught by an editor.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-06-07 05:23
Good story
His Quiet Agent - Ada Maria Soto

Arthur Drams works for a secret government security agency, but all he really does is spend his days in a cubical writing reports no one reads. After getting another “lateral promotion” by a supervisor who barely remembers his name, it’s suggested that Arthur try to ‘make friends’ and ‘get noticed’ in order to move up the ladder. It’s like high school all over again: his attempts to be friendly come across as awkward and creepy, and no one wants to sit at the same table with him at lunch. In a last-ditch attempt to be seen as friendly and outgoing, he decides to make friends with The Alien, aka Agent Martin Grove, known for his strange eating habits, unusual reading choices, and the fact that no one has spoken to him in three years. Starting with a short, surprisingly interesting conversation on sociology books, Arthur slowly begins to chip away at The Alien’s walls using home-cooked meals to lure the secretive agent out of his abrasive shell. Except Martin just might be something closer to an actual secret agent than paper-pusher Arthur is, and it might be more than hearts at risk when something more than friendship begins to develop. Please note this book has a Heat Rating of zero.


Dear Ada Maria Soto,

Several book buddies at Amazon m/m group where I hang out a lot recommended your book. I never heard of your name before, but the book was on kindle unlimited and I do have the subscription so it seemed like a safe bet.

The story surprised me in a good way. I do not think I have ever read m/m romance which was set in the security agency, but was mostly about quiet life of those men and women whose job is to analyze stuff for the agency instead of fighting bad guys in the field. I say mostly because *not quiet* life ends up affecting one of the heroes closer to the end quite strongly, but even though it did happen, we never even know what exactly he was asked to do that the consequences were so harsh. It was nicely done I thought and mostly the story was about the office life and about the development of their relationship.

And I just liked the writing from the very beginning.

"There was something about ficus trees Arthur found disconcerting. It was how he could never tell if they were real or plastic. It would irritate him to the point where he would break a leaf trying to work it out, usually just at the moment when someone important walked into the room."

Arthur is a good employee, but he didn’t get a promotion in a long time and he finally decided to be brave and do something about it. He asks his supervisor and supervisor tells him sure he would be level two analyst on the fifth floor. Arthur had been on level two for several years though and points that to his supervisor that moving him from one floor to another is not much of the promotion.

Supervisor sighs and basically tells Arthur that nobody knows who he (Arthur) is. Basically the advice he gives to Arthur is to be more social, maybe run Super bowl for the office or something like that.

Arthur poor guy tries to be more social really hard on the fifth floor, however as blurb tells you his interactions come out as awkward at best and creepy at worst to some of his colleagues till he finally makes a friend who points that to him. Arthur abandons his attempts to be more social after that till he notices another coworker who was eating lunch at the same time and apparently that guy is “more weird” than Arthur to the point that he has a nickname of “The Allien”.

Basically Arthur and Martin getting to know each other were at the heart of this book. I think it is a novella, but it is packed with the character development and gentle humor.

Arthur is a decent cook, Martin was eating one apple for lunch every day and Martin was a skinny guy. Arthur’s attempts to feed Martin in the least obtrusive way possible made me smile throughout the story.

"How does someone, in American society, get to whatever miscellaneous age Martin might be, and seem totally perplexed by the simplest of menus? There was pizza listed. Yes, there were plenty of people who didn't, wouldn't, couldn't cook, but unless Martin had been raised in some secluded cult (a theory Arthur was willing to consider) he must have an opinion on pizza toppings. The lights blinked, announcing the start of the movie. Arthur sighed. "Antipasto plate for two and two chocolate milkshakes," he ordered."

We get to see Arthur helping Martin to get through some pretty bad situations and we see Martin helping Arthur as well, really liked that the narrative did not go the “rescuer and damsel in distress” road.

Both guys knew each other much better at the end of the story than in the beginning, although of course they have had plenty of discoveries left to make. I loved for example how Arthur discovered Martin’s volunteer activities when he went to the library to return Martin’s books.

""Why don't we make some get well cards for Merlin." The children each gave him cold stares. It was like being looked at by twenty tiny Martins. It was scary. "Okay, I can't read this." "Merlin hasn't taught you old English yet?" "No, he hasn't. It's on the list. I can read you something else? We can make cards?"

"You didn't collect homework." "He gives you homework?" Arthur had some memories of the local children library growing up and he was pretty sure there was no homework or old English epic poetry involved. The children each pulled lined paper out of bags and passed them forward. He flicked through them. They seemed to be about the history of Beowulf, but what Arthur noticed the most was that all the papers, even from the youngest kids, were all in the most perfect of cursive letters.

It reminded him of Hanh's elegant writing which had been beaten into her by nuns. "I will pass these on to him. I am sure it will cheer him up. Now how about those get-well cards and you all can start teaching me old English so maybe next time I'll be able to catch up."

I thought that even though the story ends with HFN ending I understood perfectly what these men saw in each other and why they fell in love.

Please note that there is no sex in the story, both men are asexual.

Grade: B

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review 2017-05-06 11:46
Betrunkene Bäume: 6 CDs - Ada Dorian,Ada... Betrunkene Bäume: 6 CDs - Ada Dorian,Adam Nümm

Betrunkene Bäume: 6 CDs - Ada Dorian,Adam Nümm 


Eine tiefgründige und nachdenklich stimmende Geschichte über Freundschaft, das Älter- und Erwachsenwerden, über Schuld oder Verrat, Familie und Verlust birgt der Roman „Betrunkene Bäume“ von Ada Dorian.

Erich und Katharina, die Hauptprotagonisten. Erich bereits alt und mittlerweile vergesslich, Katharina mit ihren jungen 17 Jahren noch naiv und gerade erst im Inbegriff, ein eigenständiges Leben zu beginnen. Vordergründig. Die Lebensläufe und Hintergründe, das Erlebte und Bevorstehende könnte bei den beiden Figuren nicht unterschiedlicher sein. Und doch verbindet die beiden eine langsam wachsende, aber dennoch besondere Beziehung. Erfahrung trifft auf Blauäugigkeit. Verdruss auf Trotz... Katharina, die nach der Trennung ihrer Eltern und dem Weggang des Vaters von zu Hause fortläuft, gerät auf den klassisch falschen Weg. Erich, der sich von der Tochter bevormundet und entmündigt fühlt, verschließt sich wiederum beharrlich seinem "Älterwerden" und blickt mit Sorge in die Zukunft.
Sensibel, mit vielen Metaphern und in sehr eindringlichem Ton erzählt Ada Dorian diese Geschichte. Mit Blick auf die inneren Abläufe, Gedanken und Gefühle entsinnt sich ein empfindsames Psychogramm über 2 Menschen, denen sich die unschönen, doch manchmal unumgänglichen Seiten des Lebens offenbaren. Vergangenheit und Zukunft verweben sich immer weiter miteinander und verschwimmen zunehmend. Mir gefiel der Stil der Erzählung unglaublich gut. Subtil spannend und doch durchweg leise entwickeln sich die diversen inhaltlichen Stränge. Die Figuren nehmen stetig an Tiefe zu und wirken zunehmend tragisch – doch stehen sie vielleicht auch nur symbolisch und stellvertretend für einen beliebigen Menschen. Vielleicht gar uns selbst.

Zum Hörbuch: Mir persönlich gefiel die eingelesene Version von „Betrunkene Bäume“ sehr gut! Zum einen ist die Stimme des Sprechers, Adam Nümm, sehr angenehm im Klang und niemals aufdringlich. Zum anderen ließ sich der Text im Hörbuch in seiner Gesamtheit extrem gut erfassen, was meiner Meinung nach häufig mit den Sprechern „steht oder auch fällt“. Adam Nümm trifft durchgängig die passende Lesegeschwindigkeit und seine Intonationen wirkten durchweg treffend und gut gewählt. Ich konnte Adam Nümm also sehr gut folgen und fühlte mich immerzu angesprochen von seiner Auslegung der vorgelesenen Szenen. Man kann sich schnell, wenn nicht sogar sofort in das eigentliche Buch einfühlen und kommt gut in den Verlauf hinein. Die Sprechweise von Adam Nümm lässt die Inhalte zudem sehr bildlich werden, es ist inhaltlich gut vorstellbar und nachzuempfinden. Insbesondere die in diesem Buch so wichtigen Emotionen, die die sensible Tiefgründigkeit stützen, werden durch den Sprecher besonders gut hervorgehoben.

Ob nun Buch oder Hörbuch: Ich würde beides empfehlen. Eine tolle Geschichte, wenn auch durchweg unaufgeregt. Dafür mit inhaltlich stetiger Entwicklung, subtiler Spannung und etwas Nachklang! Deshalb 5 Sterne.

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review 2017-04-06 19:48
Ada Twist, Scientist
Ada Twist, Scientist - Andrea Beaty,David Roberts

The illustrations are great. There's so much to look at on every page, and the story is simple (it leans slightly younger than I was expecting) and engaging.

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review 2017-01-08 22:56
Books of 1916: Part One
Uneasy Money - P.G. Wodehouse
These Twain - Arnold Bennett
The Roll-Call - Arnold Bennett
Bird of Paradise (Dodo Press) - Ada Leverson
Tenterhooks - Ada Leverson
Love at Second Sight - Ada Leverson Love at Second Sight - Ada Leverson
Inclinations - Ronald Firbank
List of the Lost - Morrissey
Pride And Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Swimming-Pool Library - Diana Klein,Alan Hollinghurst

Books of 1916: Part One


2016 was a tough year in many ways, so may I introduce you to 1916? I think you’re going to love 1916.


I was struck by something I read in a (very nice) review of one of the books of 1916: —“because anything first published in 1916 that does not contain a word or thought about the First World War has got to be interesting.” Yes, you’d think so. But actually most of these novels make no mention of the war whatsoever. They tend to be historical, or escapist, or completely surreal.


You may notice that I’ve only reviewed about half as many books as I did last year for 1915. But last year I wasn’t done until March! So what you are losing in volume you are gaining in punctuality. Basically I began to feel this project was affecting my brain perhaps a little too much. My brother pointed out that I said in casual conversation, “I read that book in 1911.” I needed to dial it down just a bit.


Uneasy Money by PG Wodehouse


PG Wodehouse is always a delightful treat. I’m so happy there are more than fifty books still to come! I went by the US publication date in order to include this book, which some may consider cheating.


Lord Dawlish has a title but no money, so he is delighted when an eccentric millionaire leaves him all his money just because Lord Dawlish (aka Bill) gave him a few golf pointers once. But when Bill discovers that the eccentric millionaire has stiffed poor but deserving relatives, he sets out for Long Island to try to set things right. There is beekeeping, romance, people pretending to be other people, and lots of hilarity. The only sad part is something that happens to a monkey. In the end, everyone ends up engaged to the right person. On the final page we are at the train station in Islip, Long Island, which today is a gross and unappealing town, but apparently 100 years ago was a bucolic spot where the rich built mansions. If this book doesn’t make you smile, your soul is in mortal danger.

These Twain by Arnold Bennett


This is the third book in the Clayhanger series, and my favorite. In These Twain, the somewhat-starcrossed lovers from the first two books, Edwin and Hilda Clayhanger, embark on married life. They fight a lot. I read this book in the 1990s and haven’t re-read it, but what I remember most vividly are the descriptions of how angry they get at each other. Edwin Clayhanger thinks how he’d like to strangle Hilda, but then he goes for a walk and after a while he calms down, and when he comes home, he loves her again. At that time I was dating someone who made me really angry fairly often, and I thought These Twain was incredibly realistic. Bennett’s World-War-I-themed book (The Roll-Call) will come up in 1918, and is the last in the Clayhanger series.


Love at Second Sight by Ada Leverson


My hardcore fans (yes, both of you!) may remember that two years ago I was unable to review Birds of Paradise because I mislaid it and therefore couldn’t read it. (It turned up in the end, in a knapsack I never use.) I was eager to rectify my mistake by reading Ada Leverson’s 1916 offering, especially as this was her last novel.


Love at Second Sight is the last book in the Little Ottleys trilogy. Although I didn’t read the first two, it was easy to see what must have happened in them—in book one, the main character Edith must have married her husband, and then in the second one both Edith and her husband fall in love with other people but remain together thanks to Edith’s bloody-minded loyalty.


As this novel opens, Edith’s family has a guest in the house, and it’s unclear who she is, why she’s come to stay, and how long she plans to be there. But Madame Frabelle exercises a strange fascination over all of them. This book is terribly amusing and I’m not even going to tell you what happens, other than it’s a scream. The protagonist is thinking funny things about other people all the time but since she’s kind and fairly quiet, people don’t realize that she’s amusing and smart. The husband seems like the most annoying person on earth, and he must be drawn from life because how could you invent a person that annoying?


This is one of the rare books that has a contemporary setting during World War I. The husband was not called up because of a “neurotic heart,” which seems to be like PTSD. Edith’s love interest from the previous book returns home from the war, wounded. This novel’s realism allowed me to see all kinds of period details. For example, when the characters need to look up train timetables, they use things called the ABC and Bradshaw, which must be the apps they had on their phones at that time. Edith also had an Italian composer best friend who I thought might be based on Puccini since (according to Wikipedia) he and Ada Leverson were great pals.


I really was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen, and guess what? Everyone gets a happy ending!


Ada Leverson’s Wikipedia page says cattily that after this novel, she worked on ever-smaller projects. Just like me!


Inclinations by Ronald Firbank


Firbank is a riot! This book reminds me a bit of Morrissey’s List of the Lost. Of course, that should be no surprise really, since both of them are directly related to Oscar Wilde on the literary family tree. What sets them apart is Inclinations is unalloyed comedy and nearly all dialogue.


What kind of inclinations does this novel concern itself with, you may ask? Well, it’s about a middle-aged writer Miss Geraldine O’Brookmore, known as Gerald, who brings a fourteen year old girl (Miss Mabel Collins) on a trip to the Mediterranean. There’s basically no description of anything or explanation of what’s happening or who is speaking, so you have to be okay with feeling unsure about what’s going on. One of the characters is shot and killed and it was chapters later that I finally understood which one. Plot is not what this book is about. This book is about lines so funny and with such a nice ring to them that I will just give you a small sampling for your enjoyment:


Miss Collins clasped her hands. “I’d give almost anything to be blasé.”


“I don’t see Mrs Cowsend, do you?”

“Breakfast was laid for four covers in her room.”

“For four!”

“Or perhaps it was only three.”


“She writes curiously in the style of one of my unknown correspondents.”


[Talking about a costume ball]:

“Oh, Gerald, you could be a silver-tasselled Portia almost with what you have, and I a Maid of Orleans.”


“Don’t be tiresome, darling. It’s not as if we were going in boys’ clothes!”


“Once she bought a little calf for some special binding, but let it grow up...and now it’s a cow!”


“Gerald has a gold revolver. ‘Honour” she calls it.”


“Is your father tall?”

“As we drive I shall give you all his measurements.”


“I had a good time in Smyrna,” she drowsily declared.

“Only there?”

“Oh, my dears, I’m weary of streets; so weary!”


“I’m told she [Gerald] is a noted Vampire.”

“Who ever said so?”

“Some friend of hers—in Chelsea.”

“What do Vampires do?”

“What don’t they!”


If you find this sort of off-putting, these lines really do make more sense, somewhat more sense, in context. In a chapter that is eight words long (“Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel!”), Miss Mabel Collins throws off the protectoress-ship of Gerald and elopes with a count. The final section of the book is different, slightly more conventional and somewhat Jane Austen-esque (“I’ve such news!” “What is it?” “The Chase is let at last.”) In this part, the Countess (Miss Collins-that-was) returns home to England with her toddler and there’s question in some minds about whether she is properly, legally married. I’m looking forward to Firbank’s next novel in 1917.


I’m only just now realizing that Firbank is the author that the main character keeps reading in The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst. I guess I thought Alan Hollinghurst just made him up. The thing is that his name sounds so made up, just “Fairbanks” with some of the letters taken out. Ugh, I learn everything backward.


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