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review 2018-08-14 05:00
I Always Loved You
I Always Loved You - Robin Oliveira

I have mixed feelings about this book.  Upfront, it's pure fiction; other than the artists' names, their work, and the broad strokes of accomplishment, it's made up out of whole cloth. 

 

This is the part I had issues with, I guess.  I don't know enough about Degas, Cassatt, Morisot and Manet, with the result that I feel like this book has unfairly coloured my impressions of them as people.  I'm going to forever be guarding against mixing up this story with the reality of 4 of the most talented impressionist painters who've yet lived.

 

But if you're able to keep fact and fiction seperate, this is a heartfelt, well-written story about people who might have taken the wrong turn at the fork in the road of life.  It's slow-paced, but always interesting; I enjoyed it, but it wasn't a fast read.  The end also has a high probability of making readers misty eyed of not weeping outright.  Oliveira is very talented at creating a sympathetic anti-hero; one that you want to hug as much as you want to smack.

 

At some point though, I'm going to have to follow this up with more information about these artists and their real lives so I don't every accidentally try to pass off as fact the imaginations of Oliveira's mind.

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text 2018-08-13 20:10
Summer of Spies - Tracking Post
Who is Vera Kelly? - Rosalie Knecht,Elisabeth Rodgers
Berlin Game - Len Deighton,James Lailey
The Mask of Dimitrios - Eric Ambler,Mark Mazower
Above Suspicion - Helen MacInnes
Blowback - Valerie Plame Wilson,Sarah Lovett,Negin Farsad
The Traveller Returns - Patricia Wentworth
The Spy - Paulo Coelho
Zoo Station - David Downing
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book - Simon Vance,Peter Finn,Petra Couvée
Night Soldiers - Alan Furst

Memorial Day Weekend -- Labor Day 2018

 

Finished, to Date:

Fiction

Emmuska Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel (revisited on audio, narrated by Stephen Crossly) ****1/2

Agatha Christie: N or M? (revisited on audio, narrated by Samantha Bond) ***

Ian Fleming: Quantum of Solace (short story only; new / audio, narrated by David Rintoul) *1/2

Kate Westbrook: Guardian Angel (new / audio, narrated by Eleanor Bron) ***1/2

Stella Rimington: Secret Asset (new / audio, narrated by Rosalyn Landor) ****

Francine Mathews: The Cutout (new / audio, narrated by Trini Alvarado) **1/2

Jane Thynne: Black Roses (new / audio, narrated by Julie Teal) ****

John le Carré: The Tailor of Panama (revisited on audio, narrated by the author) ****1/2

Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana (audio, narrated by Jeremy Northam) ****1/2

Agatha Christie: They Came to Baghdad (new / audio, narrated by Emilia Fox) ***1/2

Rosalie Knecht: Who Is Vera Kelly? (new / audio, narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers) ***1/2

Len Deighton: Berlin Game (new / audio, narrated by James Lailey) ****

Eric Ambler: The Mask of Dimitrios (new / print) ****

Helen MacInnes: Above Suspicion (new / print) ****1/2

Valerie Plame Wilson, Sarah Lovett: Blowback (new / audio, narrated by Negin Farsad) ***

Patricia Wentworth: The Traveller Returns (new / print) ****

Paulo Coelho: The Spy (new / English print version + German audio, narrated by Luise Helm and Sven Görtz) ***1/2

David Downing: Zoo Station (new / print) ****
 

John Le Carré: George Smiley Cycle

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (revisited on audio, narrated by the author) *****

The Looking Glass War (new / audio, narrated by Michael Jayston) ***1/2

Smiley's People (revisited on audio, narrated by Michael Jayston) *****

 

 

Nonfiction

Stella Rimington: Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5 (new / print edition) ****

Peter Finn & Petra Couvée: The Zhivago Affair (new / audio, narrated by Simon Vance) **1/2

 
 

Currently Reading:

Alan Furst: Night Soldiers
 

 

 

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review 2018-08-13 01:15
A Million Junes
A Million Junes - Emily Henry

The O'Donnells and the Angerts have hated each other for generations. June O'Donnell was ready to keep that hatred going and avoid the Angerts, but that plan got wrecked when she literally ran into Saul Angert who had just returned to town. The two were drawn to one another despite June's best efforts to not be attracted to an Angert, and their time together caused June to begin to question everything she knew about their families' pasts. With a curse hanging over their heads, the two must work together to learn the truth before the curse strikes their families again.

 

I fell in love with June shortly into the book. She's very sarcastic and had me cracking up with her banter with her best friend, Hannah, and Saul. Hannah and Saul also had great lines and won me over quickly. The three of them were fun to follow and watch interact with one another. I loved June and Hannah's friendship. The two of them were very different from one another, but were so close and constantly caring and worrying about each other. June kept Hannah in the loop on the supernatural shenanigans that were happening to her. They felt like best friends.

 

And June and Saul hit it off right away with the banter too. June felt like she had to hate him because he was an Angert, but she couldn't help but be charmed by him from their very first meeting, so she covered her confused feelings with sarcasm and teasing which Saul was more than capable of matching. They were pretty adorable.

 

The supernatural elements started off low-key. June was revealed to be able to see a couple ghosts that haunt her lands right from the start with one of those ghosts being a sign of danger to come. A conversation between June and Saul revealed a few more magical elements of the O'Donnell's land like coywolves that take shoes, but don't touch the chickens. But after Saul and June meet, June got her first vision of the past when she returned home. The visions played out sporadically across the story, slowly revealing the mystery of what started the feud between the two families generations ago, but also forcing Saul and June to face the losses they've had in their lives.

 

More than anything, this was a story about grief and learning to move on from it. The use of a family feud spanning generations really helped to demonstrate how holding onto pain just continued the cycle for the families again and again. This theme really came through with the reveal of what started the feud and what was behind the curse of the families.

 

With compelling characters and plenty of humor, A Million Junes managed to charm me immediately. It wasn't all laughs since both June and Saul were coming to terms with loss in their family and the event of started the family feud was not a happy once, but the book balanced the pain and humor well so that the grief was never overwhelming. It was a beautiful read.

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review 2018-08-12 01:31
Monday's Not Coming
Monday's Not Coming - Tiffany D. Jackson

Claudia's best friend, Monday, is missing, but she can't get anyone to believe her. Monday's mother claims Monday is with her father, while Monday's sister says she's with her aunt. Monday hasn't shown up to school, but the school hasn't checked on her. And Claudia's parents don't want her worrying about it. Claudia knows something is wrong. But how can she get anyone else to believe her?

 

This book was frustrating to read at times simply because there were so many adults turning a blind eye to an obvious problem. Seeing Claudia try again and again to ask for help only to find none got painful. Especially since the book told you from the start how long it will take for Monday to be found, so you knew all of Claudia's early attempts were doomed to fail because it's too soon.

 

The biggest issue I had with the book was the timeline. The book had several different timelines that it jumped between. The timelines included the expected Before and After, but what made it confusing were the One Year Before the Before and Two Years Before the Before timelines. It was hard to keep them all straight early on. It all eventually made sense, but that didn't make easy before that point and that confusion detracted from the story.

 

What did shine through in the book were the emotions Claudia felt over Monday's disappearance. Claudia's pain was apparent throughout the entire novel, and the timelines set before Monday's disappearance established their relationship well. Monday meant a lot to Claudia and her disappearance caused big changes in Claudia's life beyond just not having her best friend that Claudia simultaneously was dealing with as she also tried to find her friend. Basically Claudia was a mess during the book for a number of reasons and that came across very well.

 

Monday's Not Coming was well-written and packed an emotional punch, but the structure with the multiple timelines took some of that punch away by adding confusion to a narrative that didn't benefit from it. Despite that, it was an overall enjoyable, although painful, read.

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text 2018-08-09 20:45
Bright We Burn / Kiersten White
Bright We Burn (And I Darken) - Kiersten White

Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?

Lada's rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won't rest until everyone knows that her country's borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed's peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister's indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before--including her relationships--can Lada truly build the country she wants.

 

For some reason, I had a hard time convincing myself to pick this book up—it had been sitting & staring at me for just over 2 weeks. Look at that gorgeous cover! All of the covers for this trilogy have been absolutely lovely, but this one is the best in my opinion. I love that exploded pomegranate!

Once I got past the first two pages, I had no more problems. I was right back in Wallachia with Lada and in Constantinople with Radu and Mehmed. I knew enough about the actual historical events that I was aware of how things would have to end—but Ms. White gave me the best possible ending given the circumstances. [I think she jiggered with the facts just a bit to improve Lada’s death, but why not, when you’ve already made Vlad Tepes into a woman?]

I have read that the people of Romania still honour Vlad as a harsh, but fair ruler. White definitely stays true to this notion. A great story, told well in a new & interesting way, and the best possible ending. Certainly a trilogy that I’ll be recommending to others.

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