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review 2020-12-11 05:17
A Woman of No Importance
A Woman of No Importance - Sonia Purnell

An outstanding story from start to finish.  I listened to the audio and the narrator did an outstanding job, making an already riveting story one that I wanted to just sit and listen to, rather than serving as just a diversion while in traffic.

 

Virginia Hall, by any standard measure of time, accomplishment, daring, intelligence or bravery, was a heroine.  Her gender makes no difference in this distinction, nor does her disability, but both render her accomplishments during WWII even more astounding.  

Sonia Purnell does an excellent job chronicling the life of Hall, in spite of what she admits upfront was a daunting process of historical research in the face of archive fires, classified intelligence in multiple countries, and Hall's own ingrained reticence to discuss her work or accept accolades for her contributions to ending the war.  Her speculations as to what might have happened during gaps in primary sources seem few, and the writing makes those speculations clear.  She also doesn't just rely solely on chronicling Virginia's life, but covers quite a bit of the story of the French Resistance, especially in Lyon, during the Vichy government, and the Nazi take-over leading up to the invasion of Normandy.

 

The history is at times romantic in true Bond style, terrifying, and heartbreaking.  The details of Vichy and Nazi interrogating techniques is NOT for the feint of heart, and the post-war years for Virginia were a mixture of recognition of her talents and accomplishments, and a disgusting record of 50's misogyny.  I appreciated that the author made the effort to be accurate, not falling into the easy route of railing against all the discrimination and not giving time to those men in the intelligence and government sectors that stood up and gladly gave her the credit she earned and deserved.  Purnell tries to be balanced, and I think she succeeds brilliantly, pointing out the CIA's mistakes and their own efforts to take responsibility for them.

 

I'm thankful I found this book, and I'm thankful Purnell wrote it, giving men and women around the world another authentic role model and hero to look to.  I can't help but wonder, though, how Hall herself would view this fine work.  I hope, in spite of her life-long secrecy and desire to remain unknown, she'd appreciate her life's achievements as the valuable legacy they are to future generations.

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review 2020-02-14 17:32
(Audiobook) The Secret of Chimneys
The Secret of Chimneys - Agatha Christie,Hugh Fraser

This took awhile for me to get into as there were so many characters that I had a bit of a hard time keeping them straight in my head. Once I managed to finally get a handle on who everyone was, I enjoyed it a lot more. My favorite characters were Anthony, Virginia, Bundle, and Lord Caterham.

 

Hugh Fraser provided excellent narration, too.

 

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review 2020-02-14 03:52
Review: "Certain Dark Things" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Certain Dark Things: A Novel - Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Initial reaction: Highly engaging and original story. Probably one of my favorite vampire stories. 4.5 stars overall.

Full review:

I remember back in 2016 when I first read Silvia Moreno-Garcia's "Certain Dark Things" that I was blown away by how rich the writing, worldbuilding, and characterization were in this action-packed novel. Even as I revisit the novel today in a different format (audiobook, which was very well narrated by Dan Bittner), I'm still left feeling with a sense of wonder and wanting to dive more into this universe while following the characters and the vision of Mexico and Mexico City depicted here. I wish that this story (now out of print) would be brought back into circulation so that more people could have the chance to experience this for themselves. It's one of the most original and fascinating vampire novels I've read in a long time.

To build a bit of background, in this universe vampires are real and they have been discovered since the 1970s, living and thriving in different parts of Mexico. There are many different types of vampire groups, many of whom you do not want to cross in the wrong path whether you're human or vampire, especially since they are in rival gangs with their own motivations and alliances. Domingo, a sweet, naive, but well meaning protagonist, is a clumsy human who happens to cross paths one fateful night with Atl in Mexico City. Atl is descended from Aztec vampires and walks her own path with her dog Cualli, only really seeing Domingo as a means to an end at first, but she keeps him around. Technically, vampires are banned inside Mexico City, so Atl keeps a low profile, but the two of them meeting sets off an unlikely camaraderie which leads the two into a whirlwind of trouble while crossing paths with rival vampire gangs. Atl's journey is especially heavy as she's on the run from those who want to capture or kill her. She persistently seeks aid after a tragedy befalling her family and left not knowing whom she can trust. Domingo follows her and her dog willingly, fascinated by her intrigue and wanting to know more about her, but ends up learning more than he thought he would about the underground workings of the narco-vampire gangs.

This book is written in third person, and follows a colorful cast of characters which I enjoyed watching. Ana was another character I enjoyed following, a cop who endures a lot of difficult circumstances in the pursuit of several crimes committed by the vampire gangs and her determination to discover the truth of things. Nick, one of the antagonists of the novel, is truly sinister and hell bent on capturing/killing Atl for his own reasons, yet I also found myself following his perspective to see how events would unfold through the novel.

One caveat of "Certain Dark Things" I found overall was the open nature of the ending, which made me think there could be more stories down the line in this universe given the fate of some of the characters (others...not so much considering they meet some pretty brutal ends). If there's a chance of that happening, I would love to follow it, since the action scenes were strong, the characterizations were solid, the building of the different groups of vampires, their lore and history were very well drawn, and it felt like a solid entry in urban fantasy that I wanted to revisit long after I put the book down.

Definitely glad to have this as a part of my library and I look forward to reading more of Moreno-Garcia in the future. For me, it was a wonderful introduction to her work.

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher. I also purchased a copy of the book in audio.

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review 2020-02-14 02:45
Review: Pulp by Robin Talley
Pulp - Robin Talley

I have many, many thoughts about "Pulp" upon finishing it, yet I think it's easier to start with the note of how ambitious, well-researched, emotional and engaging this book was overall. I knew I'd be taken in from the premise of two narrators from the past and present intersecting in a gripping way. The fact that one of them - from the present - is researching lesbian pulp fiction as a part of her senior project was one that made me raise my eyebrows and say "Ooooh, that's cool." (Though thinking back to my high school senior project obligations, I second-hand cringed because that was a lot of work and deadlines. For all the ways that Abby gets swamped and struggles to meet the obligations of her teacher's prompting for assignment completion, I felt for her. For the curious, my project dealt with the genetic differences between different types of twins. Try to guess why, heheheh. ^_^ )

To set the stage of this novel specifically, Abby - in 2017 - is taking on this interesting senior project while dealing with many different weights in her life. She's trying to navigate her relationship with her friend/ex-girlfriend and her parents are steadily drifting apart, never seeming to be there for her or her younger brother anymore. As a means of escaping some difficult situations and a future she doesn't quite have answers for, Abby throws herself into researching a once popular lesbian pulp author named "Marian Love". Abby becomes so engrossed in Marian's story that she wants to determine what happened to the author in the vein of writing her most famous story. Soon it becomes more than just a project for Abby and a full on, borderline obsessive quest.

Enter the other piece of the story, back to 1955 when Janet is coming to terms with her own sexuality in a time when the stakes are high to be in such a relationship. I felt so badly for Janet on many levels because she's so in love, wants to be true to herself and be with the girl that she's hopelessly fallen in love with. She juggles her job at the Shake Shack while also wanting to be a writer and produce some of the same stories that captivate her attention. However, in navigating the prejudices of the time, there's the risk of being shunned by her family AND falling into the clutches of McCarthyism, some clashes which put her and friends dangerously into governmental and societal crosshairs.

I won't spoil how Abby and Janet's stories converge, but it's an experience that as the novel progressed to its conclusion I felt satisfied to watch. I felt that way even when the events were difficult to see unfold for the characters because of how both Abby and Janet grew from those experiences overall. There are moments of sweetness within the more complex and emotional moments of this novel, and I genuinely rooted for both Abby and Janet as I saw what happened to both of them as time went on and they discovered more, not just about the times they lived within, but ultimately how they were able to get to a place where both of them were happy and came into their own. In some pieces of the work, the pacing dragged its heels more than I thought it would, but I did enjoy "Pulp" collectively for what it offered, and it's a story I would read again and have in my personal library.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher; I also bought a copy of the book.

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review 2020-02-10 21:08
Interview With The Robot - Lee Bacon

I choose this audiobook because it was a part of the free Audible originals offer in January. I'm surprised how great this story was and exceeded my expectations.

 

The cast was terrific and brought the story to life. The voices for the kids was jarring at first because they sounded more like adults. But the voices grew on me, and it didn't distract me anymore.

 

The plot was thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat. I eagerly listen wanting to find out what would happen to Eve. The story also contains some plot twists that I didn't see coming. Looking at the summary, I thought I knew how the story would move along, but I was wrong. There was one twist that made my mouth dropped and made me said, "Whoa, I didn't see that", out loud. I love the growing friendship between Eve and Petra. The other characters are also fantastic too. I never felt bored or dread hearing certain characters' voices. 

 

My verdict is that this audiobook should be on everyone's list if they want a well-written sci-fi story.

 

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