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review 2015-03-24 00:52
In From the Cold (I Spy Stories #1-3) (Audiobook)
In From the Cold: The I Spy Stories - Josh Lanyon

I Spy Something Bloody - 3.5 stars. For some reason, I thought both these guys were spies, not just the one. And he's British, which I also wasn't expecting. The narrator did a great job with the story and the various accents and characters, though he sounded a bit more refined than I think Mark should have sounded. The story is classic Lanyon, another of his reunited lovers stories, but with spies.

 

I Spy Something Wicked - 4.5 stars. I wasn't expecting this one to become to introspective and such an endearing examination of this complicated relationship. I loved Mark's epiphany that he doesn't have to go on this mission if he doesn't want to. It was a real ah-ha! moment for the character. The ending felt a little abrupt though.

 

I Spy Something Christmas - 3.5 stars. This was a nice little follow up/possible conclusion to Mark and Stephen's story. There's a little mystery, the conclusion of which was nicely wrapped up. Mark's really settled into his life with Stephen, and it was fun to see Stephen being so protective of Mark, though he doesn't really need it. Except he kind of does. ;) There's also a brief mention of "To Dickens With Love", which I haven't read. 

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review 2015-03-23 00:00
In From the Cold: The I Spy Stories (I Spy, collected)
In From the Cold: The I Spy Stories (I Spy, collected) - Josh Lanyon,Alexander J. Masters I Spy Something Bloody - 3.5 stars. For some reason, I thought both these guys were spies, not just the one. And he's British, which I also wasn't expecting. The narrator did a great job with the story and the various accents and characters, though he sounded a bit more refined than I think Mark should have sounded. The story is classic Lanyon, another of his reunited lovers stories, but with spies.

I Spy Something Wicked - 4.5 stars. I wasn't expecting this one to become to introspective and such an endearing examination of this complicated relationship. I loved Mark's epiphany that he doesn't have to go on this mission if he doesn't want to. It was a real ah-ha! moment for the character. The ending felt a little abrupt though.

I Spy Something Christmas - 3.5 stars. This was a nice little follow up/possible conclusion to Mark and Stephen's story. There's a little mystery, the conclusion of which was nicely wrapped up. Mark's really settled into his life with Stephen, and it was fun to see Stephen being so protective of Mark, though he doesn't really need it. Except he kind of does. ;) There's also a brief mention of "To Dickens With Love", which I haven't read.
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review 2013-05-02 00:00
The Dark Game: True Spy Stories from Invisible Ink to CIA Moles - Paul B. Janeczko This is by no means a complete history of espionage, but it doesn't try to be. It's a brief overview of some very cool spy stories, almost entirely American. Janeczko is at his best when he's writing the specific stories of individuals and small groups. And honestly, that's when the espionage gets the most interesting. Take the story of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Pujol_Garcia>Joan Pujol Garcia, a World War II double agent so convincing that he got an Iron Cross. To my mind, Janeczko was writing at the level of teenaged readers, without talking down to them, so huge bonus points for that. The Cold War chapter does tend to get a bit dry and lacks the human interest of earlier chapters, and naturally the book has to cut off well before any of us would like. Both are most likely due to the lack of declassified sources. I personally could have done with a bit more background information in each chapter, and there's a big jump between the Civil War and World War I (and between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, for that matter). But those are mostly quibbles with a very entertaining and seemingly well-researched book.
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review 2013-04-01 18:25
Also Known As
Also Known As - Robin Benway

This is exactly what it says on the tin–a fun, lighthearted teen spy book. Perfect for Ally Carter fans who are waiting for the next book, or anyone else who likes romps through New York as seen by the daughter of two international spies.

Source: bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/march-2013-reading-list/#Also Known As
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review 2012-12-05 00:00
Spy Killer (Stories from the Golden Age) - L. Ron Hubbard [Thanks go to Goodreads and Galaxy Press for offering this title as a first-reads giveaway]

I think most people know of L. Ron Hubbard as the Scientology guy and for the sci-fi novels Battlefield Earth and the Mission Earth series. Before all that, though, he apparently was a pretty prolific writer for pulp magazines in the '30s and '40s, writing not only science fiction, but a wide range of adventure fiction.

This review is on the Galaxy Press title Spy Killer which I won as a Goodreads giveaway (my first--yay!  I don't think I have won anything since that raffle in elementary school). I'm going to be clear from the start that there might be some possible spoilers in the review and I'm not going to tag/hide them because I honestly don't think it matters a whole hell of a lot. Just letting you know. If you avoid spoilers at all cost you might want to stop reading now. 

Spy Killer is about this sailor named Kurt Reid who is accused of killing his captain and stealing the ship's loot. So he jumps ship and finds himself in Shanghai as a penniless fugitive. While in Shanghai he meets a beautiful Russian woman named Varinka and an old flame called Ann Carsten and gets himself embroiled in a plot by the nationalist Chinese to kill a colonial Japanese spy. Wow, Kurt Reid is having a bad day. But I couldn't care too much because, you see, Kurt Reid is an idiot.

He is "renown for a temper as hot and swift as a glowing rapier" and is a "bucko" sailor. The little glossary in the back of the book says "bucko" means "a person who is domineering and bullying." In other words, Kurt Reid is an asshole. In fact, that is a better description of him than "bucko." He's just a big, dumb, asshole bully, basically. Funny thing is Kurt Reid is supposed to be a big hero in the tradition of manly men among men. However, astute readers can pick up on Kurt Reid's inner lout in such passages as:
Funny girl, that Russian. She had kept him from questioning her by the sheer force of her personality. She seemed to have some numbing power over him which fell as tangible as a cloak.

He felt angry at that. It didn't make him feel strong or masculine.


And Kurt Reid needs to feel strong and masculine, people. 

Oh, yeah, but I said that he was an idiot, right? Right. He is. He's always like three steps behind whenever some kind of revealing moment occurs. Like:
There is Takeki [the spy he was supposed to kill], foreigner," said the officer again.
Kurt swallowed hard.
He was staring at Varinka Savischna
[The Russian lady].


Four pages later, after some food and conversation:
The food gagged him suddenly. He realized then that this Takeki and Varinka were one and the same person.


Wow, it took him that long? I had to reread those pages because I thought I had missed something, but no. Kurt Reid really is that dumb. There is no doubt about this by the time you get to the end of the story because, get this, Varinka and Kurt's old flame Anne Carsten are the same woman. Yeah!  She was in disguise as the Russian woman! That's why Kurt never recognized his old girlfriend! Makes sense! No, it doesn't! Yes, it does, because KURT REID IS AN IDIOT.

But okay, so what? So the guy is a few bricks shy of a load. So he's dumber than a bag of dirt. So what if the plot is no more intelligent. This is pulp fiction after all, written for light entertainment. It's the equivalent of watching WWE. There's no harm in that. I was thinking this might turn out to be a two star book because of this, but as I read more serious issues nagged at me until they basically hit me in the face with a hammer and I stared at the book in disbelief for a moment. I will describe this event.

In a bit.

But first I have to say that I understand that this story was written in the 1930s and some amount of racism is to be expected. I'm sure in those times you were weird if you weren't a little racist. I like to think that modern readers are much more enlightened and understanding about different people and cultures and that we can recognize when we are reading something inappropriate. But the thing is the really great pulp writers went beyond this. H.P. Lovecraft, as I understand, was pretty racist, even for that period in time, but it wasn't obvious in his fiction. Robert E. Howard's stories featured people from a diverse range of cultures and while many of his stories would be considered racist by today's standards, his themes often transcended racial stereotypes. Spy Killer, though, does not.

Ah, the "Golden Age," when men were men, women were sultry and Asians were yellow and slit-eyed.

Like I say, I sort of expect that in a story from this time, but it doesn't help to make it any more relevant for modern readers. Still, I was willing to accept that this story was a product of its age until the big moment when I got hit in the face with the stupid hammer. Kurt Reid is provided with a spy's disguise kit:
He stopped and she showed him that he had phials of dye secreted in the belt--part of a spy's equipment. She made him rub it on his face and hands. She fixed a small band behind his ears which pulled his eyes up at the corners, giving them a slant.


Voila, instant Asian. Easier than ramen noodles. Yeah, it was pretty offensive. I can't really imagine why any publisher would think that it would be a good idea to reprint this book.

Oh, wait-- maybe it's because of the little biography of L. Ron Hubbard that reads like a Kim Jong-Il propaganda piece. Imagine if James Bond, Indiana Jones and Ernest Hemingway somehow merged their DNAs into a lovechild and this lovechild became a rockstar brain surgeon that solved world hunger. That's basically how awesome they portray L. Ron Hubbard to have been. I'll be honest, I don't buy it. (Strangely enough, there is no mention of Dianetics or Scientology. Seems like these are significant things, but it only refers to his "serious research.")

Even if he was that awesome, why would such an awesome dude write something as sucky as Spy Killer?
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