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text 2020-05-29 16:56
#FridayReads--May 29, 2020
Code Name Madeline: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris - Arthur J. Magida
Tell Me My Name - Erin Ruddy
The Woman in the Green Dress - Tea Cooper

Finishing up the following book:


Code Name Madeleine: A Sufi Spy in Nazi…During the critical summer months of 1943, Noor Inayat Khan was the only wireless operator transmitting secret messages from Nazi-occupied France to the Special Operations Executive in England. She was a most unlikely spy. As the daughter of an Indian mystic, raised in a household devoted to peaceful reflection on the outskirts of Paris, Khan did not seem destined for wartime heroism. Yet, faced with the evils of Nazism, she could not look away. She volunteered to help the British; was trained in espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance; and returned to France under cover of night with a new identity and a code name: Madeleine.


and starting this one:


Tell Me My NameEllie and Neil Patterson are eager to settle in to some quality time at their new cottage. It’s the first time in ten years they’ve been alone … or are they?

When a friendly encounter with their new neighbour leads to their violent kidnapping, they awake to a living nightmare. Insisting he is Ellie’s soulmate, the stranger gives her three chances to say his name. If she guesses wrong, it’s Neil who will suffer the consequences. This propels Ellie on a desperate trip down memory lane to dredge up the dubious men of her past.


and this one:


The Woman in the Green Dress

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.


In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

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review 2020-05-28 18:39
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
A Woman of No Importance - Sonia Purnell

This is an engaging book about a totally badass historical figure, though I’m left unconvinced that the author really had enough information to write a book about her.

Virginia Hall was an American woman who, during WWII, worked undercover in France for first the British and later the American intelligence agencies. She helped organize and arm the French Resistance, spied for the Allies, and later even directed guerilla activities herself. She faced incredible dangers to do so, and with about two years behind enemy lines, spent much more time in France than most operatives, despite the comrades regularly being hauled off by the Gestapo to be tortured and sent to death camps. She had plenty of adventures and near-misses, including once having to escape over the Pyrenees on foot in winter, an even more impressive feat given that she walked on a wooden leg after shooting herself in the foot years before.

Hall is certainly an impressive figure, and I am glad to have learned about her and enjoyed the book. After the first couple of chapters early on, relating the first 30-odd years of her life before sneaking into occupied France, the book is overwhelmingly focused on high-tension WWII exploits, and written in a fluid style that makes for quick reading. I’ve read my share of WWII books considering this is not my favorite subject, but I learned some new things here about the French Resistance, and the book introduces readers to numerous impressive men and women who risked and sometimes lost their lives fighting the Nazis.

That said, Hall herself – no surprise here – was secretive, and refused to share war stories even in later years with the niece to whom she was close, so I have some questions about where all the author’s information comes from. In particular, the author is quick to describe Hall’s thoughts and feelings about events without attributing them to any particular source, leaving me to suspect she made them up. Also, that same reticence on the part of the book’s subject left me confused about just how Hall was accomplishing the things she did. Somehow, Hall would arrive in a place where she knew no one, and despite Purnell’s repeated insistence that Hall was security-oriented and had no patience for loose-lipped operatives, within as little as two days she would have some new person apparently in on the secret, risking their life to accompany her on dangerous missions, while she risked hers in trusting them. Obviously Hall was an excellent judge of character since this virtually always worked out, but the book doesn’t give any sense of her methods, probably because the author doesn’t know.

I also came away with the sense that Purnell was perhaps a little too enamored of her subject, heavily criticizing anyone Hall didn’t get along with. It’s interesting that Hall’s career never really went anywhere except in occupied France: before the war she largely seems to have been held back in her attempted diplomatic career by gender prejudice, and it was at least partially the same story afterwards in her years with the CIA. However, I couldn’t entirely share the author’s indignation with the CIA’s failure to fully utilize Hall’s talents when during the decades after WWII the agency was busy toppling democratically-elected progressive leaders in Latin America to replace them with right-wingers who were friendly to American business interests and whose torture and murder of dissenters was pretty similar to the Nazis’ methods. While Hall’s having a desk job during those years doesn’t exempt her from her share of moral culpability – which Purnell never acknowledges – it at least lets the book focus instead on the straightforward excitement of the French Resistance years, with everything after that summed up in a single chapter at the end.

As an interesting and enjoyable book that introduced me to an impressive woman I would not otherwise have known about, I found this worth reading. But it’s sufficiently biased and speculative that I find it a bit difficult to recommend.

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review 2020-04-21 05:25

Twenty-six-year-old Marian Engstrom has found her true calling: working with rescue dogs to help protect endangered wildlife. Her first assignment takes her to the winter landscape of northern Alberta where, amid the punishing cold of the oil sands, she falls in love with her mentor, Tate Mathias. That following summer, while apart from each other on independent assignments, Marian receives the shattering news of Tate’s tragic death. Worse still is the aftermath in which she discovers disturbing inconsistencies about Tate’s life and begins to wonder if he could have been responsible for the unsolved murders of at least four women. Hoping to clear Tate’s name, Marian reaches out to a retired forensic profiler who is still tormented by the open cases. Her exploration becomes a meditation on memory and instinct, and an all-consuming quest to not only identify a killer but to understand herself and the man she loved.
From the breathtaking Rocky Mountains in Montana, to the vast deserts of Utah, to the lush rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, THE LAST WOMAN IN THE FOREST explores the darkest and most beautiful aspects of human nature and the natural world. Capturing this duality in prose that is both vivid and atmospheric–indeed the landscape is as alive as Marian herself–Les Becquets tests our notions of what it means to trust and to love and makes us feel deep in our bones the redemptive power of the wilderness.










Have you ever had someone offer a ride when you're broke down on the side of the road???  This is the story of what could happen when you ignore your gut reaction and say yes, anyway.

The overall message the author is trying to portend with this story is a necessary one, but possibly one that we already know...and truthfully the execution of it was sort of off.  I don't know exactly what it was, but I found this to be a little awkward...from the romance between these two characters to her search for answers about him once he dies.  I also thought that the dogs they worked with would be more prominent in the story...I never really quite got what their job entailed.  As far as the mystery goes, I could foresee everything before it happened...and nothing really surprised me.

The narration was decently performed by the two main narrators.  It also had short vignettes from each of the killer's victims...these were seriously brutal to listen too, but I did like that each of them was performed by a different narrator.  There is a postscript at the end of the book where the author tells the reason for writing the story and what she researched and who helped her with research for the book and it was interesting.




Plot 4/5
Characters 2.5/5
The Feels 3.5/5
Pacing 3/5
Addictiveness 4/5
Theme, Tone or Intensity 3/5
Flow (Writing Style) 3/5
Twisty-ness/Mystery 3/5
Originality/Believability 3.5/5
Ending 3.7/5

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review 2020-04-19 20:03
Good Introduction to ACT in Action
Be Mighty: A Woman's Guide to Liberation from Anxiety, Worry, and Stress Using Mindfulness and Acceptance - Jill Stoddard, PhD.

Be Mighty: A Woman’s Guide to Liberation from Anxiety, Worry, and Stress Using Mindfulness and Acceptance by Jill Stoddard promotes a novel therapeutic approach within contemporary context and leverages cultural references in a way that is accessible and entertaining.  Stoddard begins by explaining why there is such a prevalence of anxiety in western culture, particularly among women. She points out that inherent inequality, unrealistic expectations, shifting gender roles and competition have exacerbated a problem that is already endemic to our society.  The author lays out the ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) theory by clearly explaining its concepts and terminology; and demonstrating how the theory is uniquely suited for today. ACT uses the popular ideas behind the Mindfulness movement, adding acceptance and committed action goals to propose a new way of viewing and managing anxiety. The book reinforces the concrete steps for adopting this approach with interspersed journal prompts and summarizing “Takeaways” at the conclusion of each chapter.  Personal anecdotes and case studies help to illustrate outcomes that have been experienced using ACT and underscore its easy implementation.  Potential obstacles, both internal and external, are addressed with suggested strategies for overcoming some common pitfalls. The book is concise and well-structured for the non-clinician, and Stoddard’s warm colloquial tone is inviting for the reader. Pop culture references and some humorous metaphors make for easy digestion, but occasionally miss the mark and may serve to date the book prematurely. Overall, Be Mighty is a solid introduction to ACT and a helpful tool for those seeking an alternative approach to managing the distress faced by many modern women.


Thanks to the author, New Harbinger Press and Library Thing for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

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review 2020-03-04 20:02
The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window: A Novel - A. J. Finn

I really have to say that at first I found myself a little bored with the start of this. I didn't really get the character of Anna Fox. But slowly and surely, Finn drew me in. I found myself feeling claustrophobic reading about Anna and her endless days with her unable to leave her home. When there looks like a little light may come in to Anna via a new neighbor, she witnesses something that no one believes happened. I have to say the ending surprised me, I thought I knew where this was going and was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.


"The Woman in the Window" follows Anna Fox. We don't know what has happened to Anna, but the woman is broken (literally) and is dealing with a mysterious accident that has left her agoraphobic. All Anna does now besides drink (seriously this book has put me off of wine...for like a day, but still!) is spy on her neighbors with her camera. We have Anna judging those around her, but also herself. 

Anna...well Anna is going to be hard to like. A former child psychologist, Anna now roams message boards counseling other agoraphobic people. Even Anna is like, no one should be coming to me for advice. You get to see Anna in the real world, and Anna online. You are also at one point given glimpses at the person Anna was before. She definitely still seems to see into people at times, but the wine is clouding her and you realize that she's naive about things to the point you want to just tuck her away somewhere.

When Anna meets her new neighbors, the Russells she finds herself drawn to the family and to the teenage boy who tugs at her heartstrings. When she starts to question the family dynamic though is when things start to go sideways.


There are other characters in this book (no spoilers) I thought were very interesting. You don't get the full story about everyone though until the end. The doubting policeman makes an appearance, but with a different vibe than would have been in other books I think. Everyone here except a select few people I ended up sympathizing with a lot. 


The writing I thought at times was raw. There's a flashback scene that I think will hit a lot of people. The flow in this one works too. You have Finn marking off the month and days of the calendar. 


The ending though as I said above was a shocker. I was not expecting it at all. I had to go back and re-read some things since it definitely changes things up a lot when you read knowing the information. 


At the end things are hopeful, but Anna is still naive I think. A flawed character that I was shocked I ended up rooting for in the end. I got a bit worried when someone called this "The Girl on the Train" but this actually did work as a tightly written thriller. I wish more authors thought through plots besides yelling twist it seems every couple of pages. I think Finn did a nice job of modernizing "Read Window". Since Anna was a fan of black and white movies (hope you like the references) I thought it was a solid touch that Finn did a homage of sorts to James Stewart. 

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