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review 2019-01-24 19:07
Breach - W. L. Goodwater

[I received a copy of this book through the First to Read program, in exchange for an honest review.]

Set in an alternate 1950s Berlin, “Breach” presents a different version of the Cold War: one where the bomb did help the Allies to win World War II, but against an enemy that had both an army and magic. The Berlin Wall, therefore, is not here merely a material wall: it is also made of magic, cast by a mix of Soviet magicians at the end of the war. And now the Wall is falling, and it’s up to both the CIA and their counterparts in the East to figure out what’s happening, how to rebuild it, and how to prevent a new war. From the USA, young magician Karen O’Neill is sent to help investigate; of course, as she discovers, things aren’t so straightforward; the men in Berlin have just as much trouble to adjust to the idea of a woman doing something else than having a husband and children; and there’s no way of telling who’s a liar, who’s not, and who’s mixing both so well that finding out the truth becomes the most difficult task ever.

The novel has its rough edges and, at times, awkward sentences and point of view switches. Some characters are clearly on the cliché side (like George, the manly-male magician who can’t get over seeing Karen sent to Germany rather than him, or Kirill, who apparently just likes to be cruel and doesn’t do anything else in life?), and not as developed as they could’ve been. And Karen’s way of facing her male peers usually amounts to giving in to the same attitudes as theirs, which makes her look perhaps too much on the defensive, which in turn diminishes her stronger side.

However, in terms of the world presented here and of the story itself, this story was a fairly enthralling read. It had, all in all, what I was looking for when I requested it. Spies and a Cold War backdrop. Magic that from the beginning offers a glimpse of its darker side (Karen and her colleague are desperately trying to find a way to use magic to heal people, because otherwise, magic seems pretty much suited for destruction and killing first and foremost). A female character, too, who has her flaws but refuses to give up and wants to get to the bottom of things. Secrets from the War, resurfacing. Extraction operations and forays into more the enemy side of Berlin. While at first, the magic itself doesn’t look terribly impressing (old, musty spells in Latin, etc.), there comes a moment when more about it is unveiled, and it hints at something definitely worth keeping in check. At all costs. (Not going to spoil, so let’s just say it dealt with a kind of effect that typically fascinates me.)

Unexpectedly, or maybe not, I found myself rooting for Erwin more than for the other characters. He has his own very dark past, but is also honestly redeeming himself, and not by hiding behind other characters—he gets his own hands dirty just as well.

Even though the pacing in the first half was slower, discovering this alternate world was enough to keep my attention here. The second half is more dynamic, although I’m torn about some of it (the finale being both awesome and “too much”, and I really can’t tell where I stand about it). The very ending, in hindsight, wasn’t unexpected; this said, it still got me, so cheers to that.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. This novel has its faults, but also enough good points to make me interested in picking up the sequel later.

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text 2019-01-24 15:50
Wouldn't pick this one up
Spies of No Country - Matti Friedman

Title : Spies of No Country 

By : Matti Friedman

Genre: Nonfiction

Pages : 245

Algonquin Books

 March 5th 2019

This was sent to me unsolicited by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion, which this will be ,

Book synopsis

Four Arab Jews emigrate to Israel in 1948, at the birth of the new nation. Recruited almost immediately to spy for Israel, they are sent back to Lebanon and elsewhere to pose as Arabs (which they actually are) and collect intelligence. They operate out of a kiosk in Beirut. It is dangerous work and they don't know to whom they are reporting; they don't know whether their information is useful; and by the end, they don't know who they have become. The unit--called the Arab Section--will eventually become the Mossad, Israel's vaunted intelligence agency.

Borderland is about the disguises and identities of particular spies, but it's also about how Israel itself has assumed a false or misleading identity. Israel presents itself as European country when in fact it's comprised of Middle Easterners like the men in this story. And, according to Matti Friedman, that partially explains the politics of the country and why it often baffles the West. With writing that is both stunning and journalist, Borderland gives us a window into the past and the future of the Middle East


My thoughts
Rating: DNF at only 55 pages in it

Would I recommend it : No

Will I pick any thing else up by this author : No

Why : This book reads like it all about politics , not only that there was comments in it that was insulting and before anyone says anything I even showed those comments to a friend and she agreed with me on that.Not only was it insulting but it was also  uneven with an irregular structure resulting from the mashing together of personal accounts, historical documentation, and the author’s occasionally inserted opinions that it mad it  confusing to read and that was just in the first 55 pages I've read,if it like that  in those first couple of pages then it'll be like that though out the book. just trying to figure out what was being said and try to get over the comments was giving me  a headache and with that being said I'm DNF it 100% . 

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text 2019-01-19 01:09
Reading progress update: I've read 66 out of 249 pages.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage - The Official Movie Novelization - Tim Waggoner

of course I should have made it to the movie - this book is a string of action sequences and slick dialogue - but I’m enjoying it as a novel, sandwiching it between two Golden Age British Mysteries that will make my brain work harder. this is a nice bit of relaxation - a ride - and darn if I didn’t get a rush of, uh, Adrenaline, the moment Xander returned “from the dead”. yay!

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text 2019-01-18 14:51
Reading progress update: I've read 8 out of 249 pages.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage - The Official Movie Novelization - Tim Waggoner

well, I don't expect much brain engagement here...but I love the first film, and I never made it to the sequel (featuring Xander), so I'll do a quick dash through this novelization, and be on my way.

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text 2019-01-05 01:23
Reading progress update: I've read 338 out of 403 pages.
The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen

I’m back to loving it, after a cooling off period - this last section is really getting to me. novel wraps up at page 385, and then I have a couple of essays to read before I get to the back cover. I’m going to have to give some deep thought to how to rate this overall, later tonight...

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