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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Spies, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 49
1. Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye - an audiobook review

Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye by Samantha Seiple, Read by Danny Campbell
Scholastic Audiobooks
3.5 hours
Best for upper middle grades and/or high school

I recently reviewed Lincoln's Spymaster for AudioFile Magazine.  A link to my review of this biography of the nation's most famous private investigator is here: [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/107600/]  Pinkerton's is a compelling story, well-told and read.

Antietam, Md. Allan Pinkerton ("E. J. Allen") of the Secret Service on horseback, Creator(s): Gardner, Alexander, 1821-1882, photographer, Source: Library of Congress 

0 Comments on Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye - an audiobook review as of 11/9/2015 8:03:00 AM
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2. Spectre and Bond do the damage

The durable Bond is back once more in Spectre. Little has changed and there has even been reversion. M has back-morphed into a man, Judi Dench giving way to Ralph Fiennes. 007 still works miracles, and not the least of these is financial – Pinewood Studios hope for another blockbuster movie. Hollywood roll over and die.

The post Spectre and Bond do the damage appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salsibury

Zenji Watanabe is 17 years old in the summer of 1941, a Nesei born on Honolulu to Japanese parents.  Naturally, he is fluent in both Japanese and English.  He has also just graduated from high school and is thinking about studying Buddhism in Japan, Meanwhile, he was working to help support his family - mother, older brother Henry, younger sister Aiko, father deceased.

All that changes when Zenji's JROTC commanding officer Colonel Blake shows up at his house one day.  He wants Zenji to be interviewed and tested, but for what?  To travel to the Philippines to translate some documents from Japanese to English.

But when Zenji arrives in Manila, he is instructed to stay at the Momo, a hotel where Japanese businessmen like staying, to befriend them and keep his ears and eyes open.  He is given the key to a mail box that he is required to check twice a day to be use for leaving and receiving information and instructions.  Zenji is also given  a contact person, Colonel Jake Olsten, head of G2, the Military Intelligence Service, and even a code name - the Bamboo Rat.

In December 1941, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and the war in the Pacific begins.  It isn't long before the Americans are forced to withdraw from Manila.  Zenji chooses to remain, giving his seat on the last plane out to another Japanese American with a family.  Not long after that, he is taken prisoner by the Japanese, who torture and threaten him trying to make him admit he is the Bamboo Rat, and considering him a traitor to his county - Japan.

Eventually, the Japanese give up and Zenji is sent to work as a houseboy/translator for the more humane Colonel Fujimoto.  Fujimoto seems to forget that Zenji is a prisoner of war, and begins to trust him more and more.

By late 1944, it's clear the Japanese are losing the war in the Pacific.  They decide to evacuate Manila and go to Baguio.  Even though food is in short supply, Zenji starts to put some aside for the day he may be able to escape into the jungle and wait for the war to end.

But of course, the best laid plans don't always work out the way we would like them to and that is true for Zenji.  Will he ever make it back to Honolulu and his family?

WOW! Graham Salisbury can really write an action-packed, exciting and suspenseful novel.  Salisbury was born and raised in Hawaii, so he gives his books a sense of place that pulsating with life.  Not many authors explore the Japanese American in Hawaii experience during World War II and not many people realize that they were never, for the most part, interned in camps the way the Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians on the west coast of the US and Canada were.  And although Hawaii was only an American territory until it became a state in 1959, if you were born there, you had American citizenship, just like Zenji continuously tells his Japanese captors throughout Hunt for the Bamboo Rat.

At first, I thought Zenji was too gentle, too innocent and too trusting for the kind of work he was recruited to do, which amounted to the dangerous job of spying.  But he proved to be a strong, tough character even while he retained those his aspects of his nature.  Ironically, part of his survival as a spy and a POW is based in what his Japanese Buddhist priests had taught him before the war.

One of the nice elements that Salisbury included are the little poems Zenji's mother wrote.  Devising a form of her own, and written in Kanji, it is her way of expressing her feelings.  They are scattered throughout the book.  Zenji receives one in the mail just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and keeps it with him as long as he can, deriving comfort from it.

Like the first novel I read by Salisbury, Eyes of the Emperor, one kept me reading straight through until I finished it.  It is the fourth novel in his Prisoners of the Empire series, and it is a well-crafted, well-researched story, but it is a stand alone novel.  Zenji's story is based on the real wartime experiences of Richard Motoso Sakakida.

True to form, Salisbury brings in a lot of history, along with real people and events, but be careful, fact and fiction are seamlessly woven together.  He also includes the tension between the Filipino people and the Japanese after the Philippines are occupied by the Japanese and the cruel treatment of the Filipino people.   And included is the tension between Chinese and Japanese in Hawaii because of the Nanjing massacre of Chinese civilians in 1937/38.

All of this gives Hunt for the Bamboo Rat a feeling of authenticity.  There is some violence and reading the about Zenji's torture isn't easy, so it may not appeal to the faint at heart.

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat is historical fiction that will definetely appeal to readers, whether or not they particularly enjoy WWII fiction. And be sure to look at the Author's Note, the Glossary and additional Resources at the end of the novel.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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4. From the Archives #28: Lucy of the Sea Rangers by F.O.H. Nash

I don't get sick often, but when I do, I like to read comfort books.  Usually that means an old book I have read before that just makes me feel good.  So at the beginning of February, when I found myself home with a respiratory infection, I started to reach for an old Nancy Drew or Chalet School book, but decided to reread Lucy of the Sea Rangers.  I love old books about Girl Scouts and Girl Guides and have a small but nice collection of them.

In this novel, Lucy Butler, 16, is a Sea Ranger, a branch of the Girl Guides, but living in London, she and the other Rangers have never had any real sea experience.  The Blitz is just beginning, so when the department store she works in is damaged by a bomb, Lucy is off to the small village of Sea Bay in Somerset to live with her Aunt Nell and help out in her shop.  Best of all, Sea Bay is located right on the beach.

It doesn't take long for word to spread among the village girls that Lucy is a Sea Ranger.  And although Lucy misses her best friend and fellow Ranger Sally, who is still in London,  she manages to meet and become friends with a girl named Betty, who also has lots of Guide experience.  Before long, they two girls have cobbled together a patrol for the local girls.

One afternoon, Aunt Nell tells Lucy that Mr. Grant, who runs a large guest house and golf course, needs some clerical help and Lucy immediately thinks of her friend Sally.  Wouldn't it be grand if Sally came to live with Aunt Nell and could work for Mr. Grant.  On her way to talk to Mr. Grant about this, Lucy and Betty see a small plane crash land on the edge of the golf course.  Out come a man, a woman and a young boy claiming they had just escaped from Holland and the Nazis.

Feeling sorry for the family, the Vanhuysens are quickly given jobs and help from the trusting villagers.  But when a fire threatens to destroy the club house on Mr. Grant's gold course, Lucy becomes suspicious of the Vanhuysens when she finds herself suddenly surrounded by fire with no way to escape and realizes that Mrs. Vanhuysen is responsible to it.  Perhaps this refugee family isn't who or what they claim to be, after all.

Aside from the possible spy family story line, which is somewhat interesting, the novel provides a lot of Guide and Ranger information, from how patrols were formed, naming them, ranks and activities, to making uniforms.  And of course, there is the usual collection of girls with different personalities for added interest.  In fact, the reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement wrote of Lucy of the Sea Rangers that aside from the spy business "...which is distressingly inevitable by now, there is a healthily ordinary atmosphere about this story." (TLS November 20, 1943).

Lucy of the Sea Rangers is a fun look at guiding during the war in England and a bit of history not many people know about.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

You probably know that Queen Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret were Girl Guides when they were young, but did you also know that Queen Elizabeth became a Sea Ranger in 1943?

Two books that may be useful to anyone interested in Guiding in fact and fiction are
How the Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton  and
True to the Trefoil: A Celebration of Fictional Girl Guides by Tig Thomas, editor

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5. Still Working

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6. Unexceptional?

The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari is a welcome change.  No magical, undiscovered world-changing super-talented children here!  No half human, half immortal orphans!
Nope, this book revolves around two children so bland, so mediocre, so unremarkable as to be almost invisible to the world around them.

And that makes them PERFECT for the secret work that The League of Unexceptional Children does.

When the Vice-President is kidnapped in the middle of the night, Jonathan and Shelly are recruited to go undercover to find him before the VP can disclose the nation's most valuable nuclear codes.   Jonathan and Shelly don't actually need to go undercover.  They are so unremarkable that Jonathan's teacher thinks he's a new student almost every day.  No one even hears Shelly when she talks.

After a slow start involving an incompetent security guard and a short villain, the book turns into a spy thriller heavy on spycraft-ish talk and trappings and with more comic escapades than thrills.

To say much more will tell you almost all.  This is a quick fun read in which two ordinary kids fumble through saving the country.  They even compete with two superspy kids from Europe.

The best thing about this book - for me, anyway - is the way the characters of our heroes develop.  They may look and act boring to the world at large but, given a task that challenges them, they show some spunk, if not much talent.  Hmmmm, could there actually be a redeeming message in this silly book?  ....... Nope, probably not.

Key words:  Quick, Funny, Slapstick, Spies! 

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7. Giveaway! Win Also Known As by Robin Benway!


About the book:

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of Also Known As by Robin Benway? Just will out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following. US mailing addresses only.

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8. The Double Traitor

So I finally read The Double Traitor, by E. Philips Oppenheim, and I’m not surprised that it’s Evangeline‘s favorite of his books, because it’s awesome.

Francis Norgate is a young diplomat, recently assigned to Berlin. He’s sent home again after only a month, having offended one of the Kaiser’s family members, which sucks for him professionally, but turns out to be for the best. On the way home, Norgate encounters Mr. Selingmann, a German businessman, and becomes suspicious of him. But neither his bosses, his friend who’s a cabinet minister, or Scotland Yard will pay any attention, so he singlehandedly sets himself up as a double agent and does what he can to prepare for war.

The Double Traitor isn’t as twisty as the other Oppenheim books I’ve read, but it’s suspenseful in a fairly straightforward way, keeping you guessing about whose loyalties lie where. You’re never in doubt of Norgate — which is nice because it allows you to sit back and watch him work — but pretty much everyone else is a bit of a question mark. Mostly this is a novel about how Norgate goes about being a double agent, which it turns out is a thing he’s mostly pretty well fitted for. He’s also ridiculously open at times — I love that he’s constantly going to his friend Hebbelthwaite and saying, “So, this is what I’ve been getting up to lately in my capacity as a German spy,” but…well, really?

There were things that I found disatisfying, and threads that were dropped and never picked up again. I never figured out exactly what happened with the suicide of one of the characters early in the book, and I objected pretty strongly to the way Oppenheim dealt with Norgate’s manservant. But mostly this was almost as much fun as I’ve ever had with an Oppenheim novel. It helps that the other Oppenhem novel it most resembles is my favorite, The Great Impersonation (which I’ve apparently never written about? I could have sworn I had). Both are about spies and impending war, and a particular type of young man working alone for his country. I like Oppenheim less when he does financial conspiracies and politics and people who are totally self-absorbed. But this has only a little bit of those, and lots of patriotic fervor and a young couple who work well together and almost an excess of spies. It’s pretty cool.

Tagged: 1910s, adventure, ephillipsoppenheim, spies, wwI

4 Comments on The Double Traitor, last added: 1/2/2014
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9. That Cat who came in off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt

Mr Tibbles – a shy reporter on the local newspaper – has been threatened with the sack. It’s perhaps no surprise: Mr Tibbles is mad about cats, and all his stories end up revolving around felines one way or another. What his editor wants, however, is news!

Photo: Sarah

Photo: Sarah

An act of kindness brings Mr Tibbles into contact with Minoe, a rather strange young woman who appears to be able to talk to cats. Through the town’s network of feline pets and strays Minoe starts starts to deliver interesting titbits of exclusive news to Mr Tibbles; cats across the city overhear all sorts of conversations often revealing juicy gossip and insider information, and when Minoe learns of these pieces of news from kitty comrades, she passes them on to her friend the reporter.

Mr Tibble’s job is looking up until he uncovers information which could lead to the downfall of a local powerful businessman. Will the reporter be brave enough to expose the evil goings on? Will he be believed, when his only witnesses are pussy cats?

Copy_of_Cover_Cat_who_came_in_off_the_RoofA funny and yet quietly profound tale of courage, friendship and what it really means to be human, The Cat Who Came in off the Roof, by Annie M. G. Schmidt, translated by David Colmer is a gem of a story. Ideal for fans of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, or cross-species tales of identity such as Stellaluna or Croc and Bird, this book would make an especially good class read-aloud, with lots of opportunities to discuss what life looks like from different perspectives, helping readers and listeners walk in another’s shoes, as well as perhaps learning a thing or to about overcoming shyness, and how to stand up for what you believe in.

From the mangy, feisty stray cat who you end up rooting for, to the hilarious school cat with a penchant for history lessons and a slight;y different (some might say out-dated) understanding of the term ‘news’, Schmidt has populated her story with a super array of characters. The narrative beautifully unfolds with unseen and fine tuning, climaxing with an exciting and rich ending which is deeply satisfying even though not everything is tied up neatly and not all strands end happily. Despite plenty of kittens and purring, this book never patronises its readership.

Knowing the original Dutch language version as we do as a family, I can also comment on the gorgeous translation. Colmer has wittily and cleverly translated linguistic and cultural jokes. His phrase ‘miaow-wow’ for when the cats meet up for a big parley is genius and has now entered our family parlance. If I nitpick I might personally have chosen -thorpe rather than -thorn for the Dutch -doorn, when translating the town’s name but I feel mean mentioning this as Colmer’s voice is pitch-perfect; at no point will you notice the text as a translation for it reads authentically and smoothly.

This must-read book will make you laugh out loud (whether you are a dog person or a cat fan). It will make you feel like for a brief moment you’ve witnessed and understood the best of humanity. It may also make you rather nervous next time you find a cat sitting ever so quietly next to you whilst you are having a private conversation!

I do so hope Pushkin Press are now thinking about translating Schmidt’s earlier work, Ibbeltje, which shares many characteristics with The Cat Who Came in off the Roof and has the added advantage of brilliant illustrations by another glittering star in the Dutch children’s literature firmament: Fiep Westendorp.

For reasons which will become clear upon reading this charming and magical book Minoe not only can speak the language of cats, she is also known to climb trees when dogs approach. It took about a nanosecond for M to decide she wanted to play-by-this-particular-book by climbing as many different trees as she could one afternoon at the weekend. So, armed with a local map (printed from http://www.openstreetmap.org/) we set off to map all the local trees good for climbing in.


Each tree we climbed we identified (it seems that around us oaks, ash and willow are the best climbing trees).


We remembered the last time we deliberately climbed trees in order to read on location.


Getting out and climbing a tree? Reading a truly terrific book? What more could you ask for as a lovely way to while a way a few hours!

Whilst climbing we weren’t listening to music, but these tracks could go with reading The Cat Who Came in off the Roof:

  • This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof by Brian Setzer
  • Everybody Wants to be a Cat from The Aristocats film
  • The Cat theme from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

  • Other activities which you might be inspired to try alongside reading The Cat Who Came in off the Roof include:

  • Reading more books in more trees. The very first I’d have to recommend are the Toby books by Timothee de Fombelle, about an entire world of miniature people having giant adventures in an oak tree.
  • Walking around your neighbourhood and greeting the cats you come across. Could you create a backstory for each one? What are they called? What do they get up to when you’re not there?
  • Writing a family newspaper. This is potentially a super project for the summer holidays – and you can get some great tips and downloadables to get you going from this post over on Playful Learning.
  • When did you last climb a tree? What secrets might your cat be able to tell me ;-) ?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Cat who Came in off the Roof from the publisher.

    And briefly…. thank you with all my heart to all of you who commented on my last post, or got in touch via email, phone, snail mail and more. Life goes on and plots are being hatched and plans being laid. As and when I can reveal more I’ll be sure to let you know the latest.

    3 Comments on That Cat who came in off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt, last added: 6/29/2014
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    10. Novella Review: For Her Spy Only by Robyn DeHart


    May Contain Spoilers


    I picked up For Her Spy Only because I was in the mood for a quick read.  I enjoyed this quite a bit, but thought the ending was very rushed.  Maybe I just liked the characters so much that I would have liked to get know them even better.  There’s some intrigue, adventure, and an unconventional hero, which was a refreshing change.  Alistair couldn’t be further from a smooth talking operator, and I enjoyed that Winifred accepted him for who he was, and the thought of changing him never crossed her mind. 

    When Winifred is stranded in a disabled coach on Christmas Eve, her unlikely rescuer is none other than Alistair, Marquess of Coventry.  Rumors swirl about the reclusive man, claiming that Alistair murdered his young wife, but after meeting him, Winifred dismisses them as idle talk.  Alistair’s dark reputation, however, gets her pulse pounding, and she decides that an affair with him will spice up her life.  She is also the victim of unkind rumors, which began after she was jilted at the altar, so she feels, with her reputation already in tatters, that she has nothing to lose. 

    Six years later, Winifred has an unwelcome visitor.  Alistair is standing on her door step, asking after her husband, who has recently passed away.  Alistair reveals that he’s a code-breaker, and in order to protect the Crown, he needs the help of her late husband’s maps to help decipher his latest assignment.  Unfortunately, the maps he needs have been stolen.  Winifred agrees to help him locate the maps, mainly to get him back out of her life.  She has a big secret she’s keeping from him, and she’s terrified that he’ll discover that she’s been hiding his son from him for all these years.

    I didn’t blame Winifred one bit for hiding Oliver’s existence from Alistair.  He made it very clear that he never wanted children, and took precautions to prevent an unwanted pregnancy during their brief time together.  Obviously unsuccessful precautions.  Winifred decided to raise her son without telling Alistair, but now she’s terrified that he’ll discover that he has a son.  She’s not certain what his reaction will be, but she’s sure it will be dreadful.

    The hero made this read for me.  Alistair is somewhere on the autism spectrum, and while he’s a whiz at cracking codes, social interactions are a trial for him.  He is painfully blunt and has no sense of humor.  Most people bore him with their mindless nattering.  Winifred intrigues him because she doesn’t pester him with small talk, and she accepts him for who he is.   Bullied as a child and shown only distain from his mother, he prefers to keep his own company.  That is, until he is unexpectedly reunited with Winifred and begins to develop feelings for her. Gasp!

    As previously stated, I thought the ending was very rushed, but the unusual hero made up for that shortcoming.

    Grade:  B

    Review copy provided by publisher

    From Amazon:

    England, 1814

    When Winifred is rescued from her snow-stranded carriage by the notorious and reclusive Alistair, Marquess of Coventry, she is instantly drawn to him. Jilted by her betrothed and socially ruined by untrue rumors, Winifred is tired of paying for crimes she didn’t commit and decides to play the seductress London society claims she is. Thinking a night of passion shouldn’t leave any lasting effects, she instead finds her heart marked forever.

    Six years later, Alistair is working for the Regent as a spy. A search for Napoleon’s English supporters leads him to the beguiling Winifred, recently widowed with a young son. He hasn’t forgotten how the unconventional beauty warmed his bed, and the heat between them rekindles immediately. The spymaster is determined to uncover all of plucky Winifred’s secrets. Especially the one regarding her son…

    The post Novella Review: For Her Spy Only by Robyn DeHart appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    11. Excerpt and Giveaway: Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen

    I’m excited to be part of Shana Galen’s pre-pub tour for Love and Let Spy.  I have an exclusive excerpt from the book, as well as two giveaways for you to enter.  Check out the other excerpts by following the entire tour!


    As soon as they stepped into the supper room, the noise from the ball dimmed. Jane’s head throbbed in relief. What she would not give for a night of quiet and a good book on ancient weapons or deadly poisons. Out of habit, Jane scanned the room, taking quick note of her surroundings. Several tables had been laid with delicacies of every sort—-cold meats and thick sauces, glossy fruits, savory breads, and sumptuous sweets. The hot dishes would be set out right before the call to supper, but Jane would have been quite happy with the cold dishes alone. She thought she’d eaten a piece of cheese at some point this afternoon, but that might have been yesterday. She’d spent the better part of the day at the Barbican’s offices, and there was never anything to eat there.

    “Now, Jane,” her aunt turned to her and whispered hurriedly, looking back at the door as she did so. Who was she expecting? “I want you to be polite.”

    “I am always polite.”

    “Yes, but sometimes you are polite in such a way as to actually be insulting. The person to whom you are speaking might not notice, but I do.” Her aunt’s large hazel eyes fastened on Jane’s face and held. Jane did not look away. Instead, she studied her aunt’s handsome features—-her glossy auburn hair, her high forehead, her pointed nose, and her firm mouth. She was barely forty, several years younger than her husband, and she had obviously been a beauty in her day. She was still a beautiful woman, intelligent as well. Jane felt a little sorry for her, because like most women of her station, there was little for her to do but sip tea, gossip, and marry off her sons and daughters.

    But Lord and Lady Melbourne had no sons or daughters. That was a shame, because her aunt would have been a wonderful mother. She had taken in the broken daughter of her husband’s brother and raised her with affection and kindness. And even though Jane had been young when she’d come to live with her aunt and uncle, she had never thought of them as mother and father. There was a distance between them, a formality.

    Lady Melbourne peered at the door again, and Jane followed her gaze. “Who is it I am to meet?”

    “A Mr. Dominic Griffyn. His mother is the Marchioness of Edgeberry.”

    Edgeberry… Jane had an image of a passel of attractive young men, all with blond hair and brown eyes. They might have been her brothers for all the resemblance they shared.

    Her name is Bonde, Jane Bonde…

    A beautiful and eligible member of the ton, Jane has more than a few secrets: she’s one of the Crown’s most elite agents. She may be deadly, but she doesn’t know a thing about fashion, flirtation, or love…until Dominic Griffyn shakes up her carefully stirred world and asks her to be his bride. He’s exactly the kind of man she’s not looking for. And he’s dangerous, because falling into his arms is so much more satisfying than saving England from her enemies.

    He’s an improper gentleman who needs a wife…

    Tall, dark, and tortured, Dominic Griffyn is haunted by demons from his past. When his stepfather insists that he marry, Dominic allows himself to hope that the beautiful but mysterious Miss Bonde might help him forget his troubles. As they grow closer, it’s clear that there’s more to Jane than danger. She might be just what his neglected heart needs.

    Pre-order Love and Let Spy:

    Amazon: http://amzn.to/1r9gG4W

    B&N: http://bit.ly/1kFuGOQ

    Apple: http://bit.ly/1nfku4t

    Kobo: http://bit.ly/1mgWs8Z

    IndieBound: http://bit.ly/Wne0GR

    BAM: http://bit.ly/Wnepcl

    Indigo: http://bit.ly/1u08WqK

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    I am giving away a copy of Lord and Lady Spy! US addresses only, please

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Check out the rest of the stops on the tour to read all of the excerpts.


    From the TBR Pile


    Excerpt One


    SOS Aloha


    Excerpt Two




    Excerpt Three


    Urban Girl Reader


    Excerpt Four


    Long and Short Reviews


    Excerpt Five


    The Book Vixen


    Excerpt Six


    Cocktails and Books


    Excerpt Seven


    Manga Maniac Café


    Excerpt Eight


    The Reading Café


    Excerpt Nine


    Broken Teepee


    Excerpt Ten

    The post Excerpt and Giveaway: Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    12. Review and Giveaway: Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney


    The last Mary Jo Putney I read was a Signet Regency Romance that was published in the 90s. I loved this line, and still have a box of Signet Regency paperbacks in the the basement.  When I had an opportunity to read a brand new book by Putney, I jumped at the chance.  I enjoyed Not Quite a Wife, though I did not buy into the conflict between Laurel and James.  I guess I am so indifferent to violence that I couldn’t understand why Laurel would leave her husband, James, after he defended her and himself from an assassin.  She didn’t even ask him for an explanation for his actions – she just packed her bags and walked out on her young, loving husband.

    Laurel Herbert and her brother have been operating an infirmary and home for abused women and their children in Bristol.  Laurel is shocked when her newest patient is carried into the ward.  It’s James, her estranged husband.  He’s been beaten and robbed, and he’s suffering from a fever.  In the 10 years that they have been apart, Laurel has settled into a comfortable life, helping disadvantaged women learn skills to assist them in earning their independence.  Nostalgia and her confused feelings for her husband lead to a moment of passion between her and James.  Because he’s out of his mind with fever, James thinks he’s just had a very erotic, very vivid dream, and Laurel isn’t willing to divulge the truth.  Sending him on his way the next day, she returns to her duties and tries to put James out of her mind.

    Unfortunately, her momentary indiscretion leaves her pregnant.  Putting on a brave front, she approaches James, confesses, and they agree to a month long reconciliation.  They’ll need to put up with each other for the sake of their child, so Laurel reluctantly agrees to accompany him to London for one month, with every intention of returning home afterwards.  Despite her misgivings about James, she knows that it would be best of all involved to attempt to reconcile.

    This is an enjoyable read, but I didn’t feel that there was much conflict between the protagonists.  Laurel just can’t forgive James for taking a life, regardless of how justified he was.  James is a spy, and it’s his job to protect the Regent and all of England, but he doesn’t take any satisfaction from the fact that he’s killed.  It eats at his soul, and this darkness within him is what originally drew him to Laurel.  Though they were both very young, from the moment he saw her, James knew that he would love Laurel forever.  I think I liked that best about this story; he really did love her from that moment on, and when she left him, it destroyed him.  Determined to let her find her happiness, he respected her wishes and stayed away from her.  Now that he’s been given a second chance, he’s going to do everything in his power to keep her.  James was kind, patient, and understanding of Laurel, sometimes more than I thought she deserved.  The lack of communication between them was the biggest obstacle they had to overcome, and it took more than ten years to finally learn to talk to each other.

    I’m kind of a sucker for sea battles, so the evil Captain Hardwick and his attempt to make off with Laurel’s lady’s maid was a welcome diversion.  It added a life threatening complication, and gave James a chance to be a hero.  It also gave Laurel some insight on how it felt to defend your loved ones, regardless of the consequences.  The entire abduction episode kept me on the edge of my seat, and I found the resolution to the battle fitting.


    Not Quite a Wife

    The Lost Lords # 6

    By: Mary Jo Putney

    Releasing August 26th, 2014



    Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

    James, Lord Kirkland, owns a shipping fleet, half a London gaming house, and is a ruthlessly effective spymaster. He is seldom self-indulgent…except when it comes to the gentle, indomitable beauty who was once his wife.

    Laurel Herbert gave James her heart as an innocent young girl—until she saw him perform an act of shocking violence before her very eyes. That night she left her husband, and he let her go without a word of protest.

    Now, ten years later, a chance encounter turns passionate, with consequences that cannot be ignored. But as they try to rebuild what was broken, they must face common enemies and a very uncommon love….

    Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/06/not-quite-wife-by-mary-jo-putney-lost.html

    Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18048060-not-quite-a-wife?from_search=true

    Buy Links

    Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Not-Quite-Wife-Lost-Lords/dp/1420127160/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406678719&sr=8-1&keywords=9781420127164

    B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/not-quite-a-wife-mary-jo-putney/1117555664?ean=9781420127164

    Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/not-quite-a-wife

    iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/not-quite-a-wife/id836627729?mt=11#

    Author Info

    Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written over 60 novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for bestselling authors. In 2013 she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Though most of her books have been historical romance, she has also published contemporary romances, historical fantasy, and young adult paranormal historicals. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two and four footed.
    Author Links

    Website: http://www.maryjoputney.com/

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaryJoPutneyAuthor

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/MJPutneyNews

    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/33876.Mary_Jo_Putney

    Rafflecopter Giveaway (3 Print Copies of Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney )

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    The post Review and Giveaway: Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    13. Spotlight: Spy Fall by Diana Quincy

    I have a spotlight for Diana Quincy’s Spy Fall, which looks like a fun read.  The heroine jumps out of airplanes.    She’s got to be nuts!


    When a fiery French parachutist lands on a drunken Lord Cosmo Dunsmore, he surmises she’s an angel sent from above. But is she a spy after something far more sinister than his debauched soul?

    A fearless parachutist is out of her depth …


    Mari Lamarre is gaining fame for her daring aeronautic endeavors, but her riskiest adventure begins when she collides with the darkly charismatic son of the Marquess of Aldridge. If her mission succeeds, Cosmo’s father will be ruined.
    A rakehell falls for a dangerous woman …

    Surrendering to a fierce passion, the two embark on a torrid affair, even as Cosmo vows to protect his family at all costs. But in doing so, will he risk losing the captivating beauty who’s swept into his life and made off with his heart?

    Author Bio:

    Diana Quincy is an award-winning former television journalist who decided she’d rather make up stories where a happy ending is always guaranteed. Diana’s reporting background is probably the reason many of her books are inspired by true-life events.

    Growing up as a foreign service brat, Diana visited many countries and is now settled in Virginia with her husband and two sons. When not bent over her laptop or trying to keep up with laundry, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family and dreams of traveling much more than her current schedule (and budget) allows.

    Social Media Links:


    Website: http://www.dianaquincy.com/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/Diana_Quincy

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianaQuincyRomance

    Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/dianaquincy/

    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7045151.Diana_Quincy

    Buy Link: Amazon Exclusive for the first six months

    Click cover for product page


    They reached the hot air balloon, where a stable groom stood waiting to assist her. She stooped to untie one of the thick cables tethering the contraption to the ground.

    “What I have in mind will give you great pleasure,” she said quietly.

    His inky eyes went alert. “Is that so?”

    “Release that cable, if you please,” she called to the groom.

    He tipped his cap. “Yes, miss.” And proceeded to do just that.

    Gesturing toward the other cable, she said to Cosmo. “Untie that, will you?”

    “Whatever for?” He glanced at it before frowning back in her direction. “If you completely untether it, the balloon will fly away, as you well know.”

    “Exactly.” She leapt into the wicker boat. “Allons. Let us go.”

    “Go where? You want me to go up in that?” He took a step back. “I most certainly will not.”

    She leaned over the edge of the gondola. “Pour le plaisir, remember?”

    Shaking his head, he backed away. Switching to French so the groom wouldn’t understand, he said, “This is most assuredly not the sort of pleasure I meant.”

    “You can show me what you do have in mind,” she said in the same language, as she bent over to retrieve and throw sand-filled ballasts out of the gondola.

    “Come away from there and I gladly will.”

    “I prefer that you come in here.” She offered him the most wickedly sensual smile in her feminine arsenal.

    He blinked. Then swallowed. “Angel, you will be the death of me.”

    “Perhaps just a little death.”

    He narrowed his eyes at her. La petite mort was the French term for the peak of sensual pleasure. “Is that a naughty French reference? Or are you teasing me?”

    She laughed aloud, exhilarated at the thought of soaring into the clouds with him. “You shall have to fly with me to find out.”

    The post Spotlight: Spy Fall by Diana Quincy appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    14. Review: Twice Tempted by Eileen Dreyer

    May Contain Spoilers


    I was in the mood for a historical romance, so I fired up my Kindle and started reading Twice Tempted.  I was hooked from the first page.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but a sweet romance, sprinkled with spicy interludes and a light spy thriller wasn’t it.  I enjoyed as the mystery slowly revealed itself, as well as the secondary characters helping Alex and Fiona solve it.  They actually made the read for me, because Chuffy and Mairead were so unique and their eccentricities were delightfully surprising.

    Fiona isn’t having a good day.  The man she has obsessed over for the last four years has just delivered the heartbreaking news that her older brother Ian has been killed.  Worse, her cranky grandfather promptly throws Fiona and her twin sister Mairead out on the streets, because the honorable old man can’t abide the thought of Ian’s scandal rubbing off on his good name.  His granddaughters were only tolerated because Ian was his heir.  He can’t forgive them for the stain of growing up in the slums, and he can’t wait to be rid of them.

    Alex, Ian’s friend, is dismayed to find Fiona and Mairead gone when he returns to inform the girls that Ian is still alive and the news of his demise was premature, as was the outrage he was accused of.  Now Alex truly is a man of honor, and he is consumed with guilt for not being there to protect the girls.  Four years ago he delivered Fiona to her grandfather’s estate, and after stealing a kiss from her, he thought that she was in good hands.  Little did he know that Fiona was verbally abused by the marquess, and constantly made to feel unwelcome in her new home.  Alex had only known love and support from his own family, so the thought that Fiona and Mairead would be treated so poorly never occurred to him.  Now he’s determined to find her and give her the life she deserves.

    When Alex locates the young women, they are not interested in his plans for their future.  Both Fiona and Mairead are consumed with their intellectual pursuits, and they have no intention of giving up their mathematics and astronomy for a life of luxury.  Fiona has serious trust issues stemming from her childhood in the slums, and she doesn’t believe Alex is capable of delivering on his promises.  She fought to keep her and Mairead safe and fed, and it wasn’t always easy.  I have to say that I don’t understand where Ian was during this time; after their mother died, why didn’t Ian do anything to see the girls in a safer environment?  There was no excuse for him to have left them alone and defenseless for so long, regardless of his circumstances. Ugh.

    I had a hard time putting Twice Tempted down, especially as Alex and Fiona became more enmeshed in the plot that threatened to destroy both of them.  They both have trust issues due to their pasts, and secrets they are keeping from each other.  I enjoyed the action, the romance, and how the diverse characters interacted, gaining strength and confidence from their new friendships.  This was a fun read!

    Grade:  B

    Review copy provided by publisher

    From Amazon:

    Fiona Ferguson’s troubles began with a kiss . . .

    It feels like a lifetime ago that Alex Knight saved Fiona from certain doom . . . and stole a soul-shattering kiss for good measure. Wanting nothing more than to keep her safe, he left her in the care of her grandfather, the Marquess of Dourne.
    But Fiona was hardly safe. As soon as he could, the marquess cast her and her sister out on the streets with only her wits to keep them alive.

    Alex has never forgotten that long-ago kiss. Now the dashing spy is desperate to make up for failing his duty once before. This time he will protect Fiona once and for all, from a deadly foe bent on taking revenge on the Ferguson line-and anyone who stands in the way . . .

    The post Review: Twice Tempted by Eileen Dreyer appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    15. Only the Good Spy Young

    Only the Good Spy Young Ally Carter

    I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who has this problem-- you read a book and are ready to review it, only to realize that you never reviewed the previous book in a series? Or am I the only who's stupid enough to try to review every book they finish?

    And it's not because I didn't enjoy the book. I mean, I pre-ordered this one and it arrived on my doorstep during ALA Annual 2010. Now, 2010 was in DC, so after a day of conferencing, I came home to shower, eat, change and then go back for the Printz reception. Only, NEW GALLAGHER GIRLS. Never mind the huge bag of highly-anticipated ARCS I had just carried home. NEW GALLAGHER GIRLS. Of course I started reading it. Of course I got so caught up in it that I was late the Printz reception and missed the 1.5 acceptance speeches.

    But, afterwards, I got to talk to Ally Carter herself. And tell her that I was late and missed speeches because her book was (so far) really, really good. She didn't look at me like I was crazy or nuthin'. Because she's nice.

    And then MT Anderson dropped some cake on me, but that's another story.

    Anyway, because I've waited so freakishly long to blog about this (ALMOST 2 YEARS?! WTF?!) The details are hazy, so here's the description from the book jacket:

    When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn't know was that the serious, real-life danger would start as soon as her junior year. But that's exactly what happened when she faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her.

    Now the danger follows her everywhere, and even Cammie "The Chameleon" can't hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most trusted allies is actually a rogue double agent, Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers--or even her own heart.

    Despite the fact the details are hazy, here is what I remember


    A whole new level of excitement and danger-- it's not a game anymore and things are getting real.

    Shifting alliances-- you really don't know who's good and who's bad anymore-- lots of gray areas.

    Even better? Lots of backstory. Exciting exciting backstory that's super-relevant to the plot.

    LOVE this series. And luckily the next installment is out! Huzzah!

    Book Provided by... my wallet

    Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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    16. Out of Sight, Out of Time

    Out of Sight, Out of Time Ally Carter

    Cammie remembers leaving school to find the Circle of Cavan, to keep everyone else out of danger.

    She wakes up 4 months later in a convent in the Alps.

    She remembers nothing in between.

    But suddenly she's back at school, trying to discover what she did on her summer vacation. The adults are freaked. Her friends are treating her oddly. And Zach is apparently now a student.

    Oh, and if you think that the teachers at Gallagher Academy will cut you a break because you have amnesia and missed the first month of class, then you haven't been paying attention.

    Love! First, off Gallagher Girls, of course there's love.

    I like Cammie's struggle as she tries to come to terms with this person in the mirror that she doesn't recognize, as her friends try to come to terms with her, their anger at her leaving, the mystery of what the hell happened.

    Not as many cool gadgets, or spy lessons, but enough snipers and car chases and explosions to keep a girl happy. This book really focuses on who Cammie is now, and the mystery of what happened to make her that way.

    Now, some things I caught onto right away (and if you know how "Early one Morning" and Spike go together, you will, too.) But who the bad guys were and why was a surprise.

    It's a page turner that kept me up all night.

    AND! MY FAVORITE PART! I can't talk about here, because it's a spoiler, but click here if you've read it already.

    Book Provided by... the publicist, for review consideration,

    Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

    0 Comments on Out of Sight, Out of Time as of 3/29/2012 8:18:00 AM
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    17. Dreamers of the Day

    Dreamers of the Day. Mary Doria Russell. 2008. Random House. 254 pages. 

    I suppose I ought to warn you at the outset that my present circumstances are puzzling, even to me. Nevertheless, I am sure of this much: my little story has become your history. You won't really understand your times until you understand mine.

    There were a few things that I just loved about Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell. For example, I loved the first few chapters. Readers see the impact of World War I and the 'Spanish' influenza on our heroine, Miss Agnes Shanklin. She truly lost everyone. Her mother. Her sister. Her brother-in-law. Her two nephews. Her brother. These chapters spent describing both the war and the influenza were truly fascinating. Here she is as a young woman trying to make sense of the world, of the war, of her place in it all, she's just an ordinary woman, a school teacher, and within weeks or at the very most months, to face such sudden devastation.
    A few months after these losses, she decides to visit the Middle East, to visit Egypt, Cairo, in particular. She wants to see the land where her brother-in-law and sister spent their happiest years together before the War. Her sister was friends with T.E. Lawrence, and soon she is too. She is soon mingling with other famous people too--like Winston Churchill and Lady Gertrude Bell. She is listening to their heated discussions on the Middle East. Everyone has an opinion on what is best for the many people who live there, an opinion on who should rule, how they should rule, how many countries or nations, etc.
    She also makes a "special" friend while in Cairo. A man who is very, very interested in what she has to say. A man who listens intently. A man who always treats her with such kindness and respect. But this "relationship" has its basis in politics too, as she later realizes.
    But as much as I loved a few things about this novel, there were other things that I just did not like at all. And these weren't small things that were bothering me. For example, I did NOT care for the narration at all. I do not like dead-narrators, for the most part. People who are telling their life story from beyond-the-grave. I do not like dead people narrating on the present, and sharing their so-called wisdom. I especially do not like opinionated dead narrators who treat Christianity with disdain and contempt.

    Read Dreamers of the Day
    • If you are interested in novels set during the 1920s, this one, I believe, is set in 1920/1921.
    • If you are interested in reading about World War I, the 'Spanish' influenza, etc.
    • If you are interested in politics and history
    • If you are interested in the Middle East, the formation of the Middle East; much of this one is set in Egypt, but they also travel to Palestine.

    © 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

    4 Comments on Dreamers of the Day, last added: 4/11/2012
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    18. The Shadow Collector's Apprentice by Amy Gordon

    It's 1963, and in the small town of Medley, Cully Pennyacre's summer is about to get more complicated than he ever imagined possible. With his dad on a world-traveling hiatus and his family's apple farm losing financial ground, Cully takes on an apprenticeship that ends up adding more to his life than just a little extra cash. Click here to read my full review.

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    19. Out of Sight, Out of Time (YA)

    Out of Sight, Out of Time. Ally Carter. 2012. Hyperion. 304 pages.

    "Where am I?" I heard the words, but I wasn't sure I'd said them. The voice was too rough, too coarse to be mine. It was as if there were a stranger in my skin, lying in the dark, saying, "Who's there?"

    Out of Sight, Out of Time is the fifth book in the Gallagher Girls Series. Did it disappoint? No!!! It was just as fabulous as I expected, as I hoped. Am I growing tired of this series? No, not yet! I'm not sure I ever will. What do I like best about this series? Well, to be honest I love the balance. How it's plot-driven, premise-driven, to a certain extent, so much does depend on pacing, action, and mystery. But. The main character, the narrator, is such a GREAT character. I mean there's nothing flat about her at all. She's so fascinating. I feel about Cammie Morgan the same way I used to feel about Georgia Nicholson. (These two series are SO VERY DIFFERENT from one another, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about either one.) I suppose what I mean is that I enjoy her character so much that I'm just always glad to spend more time with her. There's also a good balance between action/adventure/mystery and humor/romance.

    What can I tell you about this specific adventure? Well. Not much. Not much at all. Because it is the FIFTH book. And you need to read books one through four to meet the characters, to get to know the plot, to know what the big, big mystery is that we're trying to solve. I do think the books are getting even better. (And I loved the first ones!)

    Read Out of Sight, Out of Time
    • If you're a fan of the Gallagher Girls series
    • If you're looking to find a boarding school full of girl spies
    • If you're looking for action/adventure with plenty of danger and plenty of fun
    • If you're a fan of Ally Carter

    © 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

    0 Comments on Out of Sight, Out of Time (YA) as of 4/28/2012 9:09:00 AM
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    20. Sunday Salon: Fake Mustache

    Have you been to the Spy Museum here in DC? I highly recommend it. Don't forget the gift shop, either-- they have a great selection of cool spy things, but also an amazing bookstore with fiction and nonfiction for all ages (seriously, excellent book selection).

    How excellent? Well, they realize that a slapstick comedy about a fake mustache turning your best friend into an evil super-genius and the only way to stop him is to dress up like a tween superstar cow girl and then team up with that cow girl and her wonder horse is the PERFECT fit.

    So, on Friday, Tom Angleberger will be there signing copies of Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O'Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind.

    Here are the details:

    Come to a fun-filled mustachioed family event at The International Spy Museum on Friday May 18th from 2-4 PM. Don’t have your own mustache? Not to worry, they will be handing them out free. Theirs won’t be the Heidelberg Handlebar #7 with special powers that stars in the book, but they will be hairy none the less.

    Books will be available at the store. This event is free.

    Here's the review I ran last month:

    When Lenny's best friend buys a suit and a fake mustache for that "man about town" look, everything goes wrong. The Heidelberg Handlebar #7 has special powers and Casper (or, as he's now known, Fako Mustacho) becomes an evil mastermind. He robs banks for billions of dollars and rigs a presidential election. Only Lenny isn't hypnotized by the power of the mustache. But, with the help of Jodie O'Rodeo, a former TV Cowgirl sensation, they might just be able to save the world.

    As you can probably tell from the plot description, this one is wackier, siller and more of a tall tale than the Origami Yoda books. As such, it wasn't really my cup of tea BUT it's one that middle graders will eat up. I liked the fact that Jodie O'Rodeo did all her own stunts, just not her own singing. I also like that both Lenny and Jodie narrate this one, but they don't alternate chapters--it's more or less in thirds. I also liked the crazy things invented by he Heidelberg Novelty Company.

    ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA

    Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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    21. Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven

    It has been almost a year since I reviewed Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven.  As you may recall, Velva Jean married at 16, learned to drive and at 18, drove from North Carolina to Nashville by herself, leaving her husband and hoping to a sing at the Grand Ol' Opry.  Talk about coming of age.

    But then World War II began and VelvaJean found herself in the WASP Program (Women's Airforce Service Pilots.)  Now, in Becoming Clementine, it is June 16, 1944, Velva Jean is 21 and a seasoned pilot.  So seasoned that she has just become the first woman to fly a B-17 Flying Fortress across the Atlantic Ocean to Preswick Airfield, Scotland.  Proud of her accomplishment, she also has an ulterior motive for accepting this challenge - her beloved brother Johnny Clay, a paratrooper, hasn't been heard from since October 18, 1943 and Velva Jean is on a personal mission to find him.

    As luck would have it, Preswick has been short of pilots since D-Day, less than two weeks earlier and Velva Jean decides getting to Europe would be the best way to find Johnny Clay, so she convinces all relevant authorities to let her copilot a mission to France.  On July 13, she gets orders to fly to Roun, dropping supplies and a team of OSS agents and returning immediately to base.

    Naturally, over France, the plane is hit by enemy ground fire and badly damaged though still flying.  Then, when they finally find the place to make their drop, they realize it has been compromised by Germans.  In an attempt to avoid them and singing "My Darling Clementine" to keep herself calm, the plane nevertheless crashes. Velva Jean's flight crew is killed.  The team of five she was to drop does survive, but, angry and disgusted, they want to leave Velva Jean behind and try to find their own way.

    Well, they may have wanted to leave Velva Jean, but she was a woman with a mission and a strong will.  Eventually, the survivors meet up with a member of the resistance and that begins their journey through occupied France with the aid of the Underground, eventually ending in Paris.  Through all this, Velva Jean finds herself more and more attracted to the leader of the OSS team, Émile Gravais and eventually this becomes a mutual attraction.

    In Paris, Velva Jean is given a new identity, Clementine Roux, an American who married a Frenchman, unable to return to the US after the war began and her husband was killed.  Now, she is pulled into the mission Gravais and his team are to accomplish - rescuing an important agent code-named Swan being held in a woman's prison in Paris.

    Velva Jean alias Clementine's new mission: get herself picked up and sent to the same prison.  Is that what happens?  No, it isn't.  And don't think for a moment she has forgotten about Johnny Clay.

    One of the things I found very interesting in Becoming Clementine was how difficult it was for Velva Jean to embrace her new identity as Clementine Roux.  It is a testament to her strong sense of who she is that made Velva Jean want to keep surfacing, even in the face of danger.

    I did feel that some of the technical bits about planes and things like that could have used some editing, mostly because I have no idea what I was reading about.  Confession: I thought skipping those bits but actually read on, all the while realizing that my fear of flying was getting the best of me and that some readers would find this fascinating.

    Becoming Clementine has something for everyone: excitement, espionage, romance (but not much sex, none explicit), action, but it also has violence, lots of it and cursing, lots of that, so be warned.  It is a gritty, fact-paced novel but I felt it may still have the same level of YA appeal that Velva Jean Learns to Fly had even since it is still a coming of age story of sorts.  After all she had been through, it was hard to realize the Velva Jean is only 22 by the end of this novel.

    And yes, there will be a fourth Velva Jean novel in autumn 2013.

    This book is recommended for readers age 18+ and sophisticated teens with an interest in WWII
    This book was received as an E-ARC through Net Galley

    For another review of Becoming Clementine at So Much So Many So Few, followed by a wonderful interview with the author Jennifer Niven

    1 Comments on Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven, last added: 9/28/2012
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    22. Chase Danger, Super Spy, #2: Pirates of Pineapple Island by Case and Lisa Olivera

    4 Stars Chase Danger, Super Spy: Pirates of Pineapple Island Chase & Lisa Olivera Adam Goodman 32 Pages:    Ages: 4 to 7 ................... From Website:  7-year-old super-spies Chase Danger and Princess Ali Bali must think fast when they discover pirates have stolen Zalezgon’s magical pineapples.  But that’s not all!  Ali’s little brother Aiden has been [...]

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    23. Santa’s Eleven Months Off by Mike Reiss

    5 Stars Santa’s Eleven Months Off Mike Reiss Michael G, Montgomery Peachtree Publishing 32 Pages   Ages: 4 to 8 (+) Cover & Jacket:  From December first through Christmas, Santa Claus got down to business, making fifty zillion toys for the world’s good girls and boys. All that month, he worked his rear off. Then he [...]

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    24. Tamar, a Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal by Mal Peet

    Tamar is one of those stories that is difficult to talk about without giving too much away and spoiling the twist that comes at the end of the novel.  And Tamar is well worth the read just to get to that.  It begins in 1979, when William Hyde asks his son Jan if he and his wife would consider using the name Tamar for their expected baby, to which they happily respond in the affirmative.  It is this daughter, Tamar, who narratives the story that follows.

    The story then switches to 1945, introducing Dart and Tamar, undercover names (based on English rivers) for two Dutch born, British trained agents for the SOE (Special Operations Executive) just as they are about to parachute into the Nazi-occupied  Netherlands to work with the Dutch Resistance in an attempt to reorganize it during that terrible Hunger Winter when so many people died of starvation.  Once inside Holland, Dart, who is the team's radio operator, operates under the name Dr. Ernest Lubbers, living and setting up his radio at the local mental asylum.  Tamar, under the name of Christiaan Boogart, is fortunate enough to be placed in the home of Marijke Maatens.  Tamar/Christiaan and Marijke have been lovers for a while, but when Dart/Lubbers realizes what is going on between them, he becomes very angry and jealous.  He has also fallen in love with Marjike.

    The narrative moves to the spring of 1995.  Jan Hyde's daughter Tamar Hyde is now 15.  Her father has be missing for a few years and her beloved grandmother, Marijke, has recently passed away, after being placed in a nursing home because she was seemingly suffering from dementia.  Now, her grandfather has just committed suicide.  As a result of that, Tamar finds herself in possession of a box full of his World War II memorabilia.  Tamar knew that her Grandad "was fascinated by riddles and codes and conundrums of labyrinths, by the origin of place names, by grammar, by slang, by jokes...by anything that might mean something else.  He lived in a world that was slippery, changeable, fluid." (pg 111)  And so Tamar begins a journey to figure out that codes messages her Grandad has left regarding his life and suicide.

    From here on the story alternates between 1945 and 1995 as events unfold and characters are explained.  I don't want to say too much more at this point and risk an unintended spoiler, which can so easily happen with suspense novels you feel enthusiastic about.

    Tamar is an exciting, suspenseful, very sophisticated and often gritty YA novel, but it is definitely not going to be everyones cup of tea.  A lot of readers said they had a hard time getting into the story, while others complained that it was big (379 pages)  and too slow moving, while other readers thought it was a 5 star story.  I tend to be on the side of the 5 star folks.  

    Peet's teenage narrator proves to be quite formidable.  One would almost think beyond her 15 years, but given Tamar's life experiences so far, maybe her formidability is completely understandable.  Through her voice, Peet details her discoveries in a very straightforward style, clean and clear, yet it is all done in such lyrical prose that sometimes it often made me almost forget the subtext of the title.  Without my realizing that he had done it, Peet has taken that subtext espionage, passion and betrayal, wound and woven them together in a story that left me unsuspecting until the very end and then totally surprised.  In fact, after I finished it, I thought the whole novel is really a reflection of of William Hyde's love of all things enigma and that, I think, that is what makes Tamar such an unusual story.  And yet, all along the way, Tamar gives us innocent (?) hints about where things are going.

    The book is recommended for readers age 14+
    This book was bought for my personal library

    Walker Books Australia has a very nice teacher's guide here.

    This book was awarded the following well-deserved honors:

    2005 Carnegie Medal
    206 Wirral Paper Back of the Year
    2008 ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
    2011 De Gouden Lijst

    This is book 4 of my 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry
    This is book 2 of my 2013 European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader

    14 Comments on Tamar, a Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal by Mal Peet, last added: 2/1/2013
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    25. Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway



    Title: Also Known As

    Author: Robin Benway

    May Contain Spoilers

    From Amazon:

    Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.


    When I saw Also Known As on Netgalley, I immediately requested a copy.  I love YA books featuring spies, espionage, and danger, and this title looked like it had all of that in spades.  Plus, as an added bonus, protagonist Maggie is a gifted safe-cracker.  Seriously, it just doesn’t get any more fun than that!  The first chapter kind of bogged me down, but once I hit my stride, I gobbled Also Known As in just an afternoon.  I didn’t want to put it down, and it had me so engaged in the story that I was able to overlook a few inconsistences that would have driven me crazy otherwise.  This is a fun read, with a confident though in over her head heroine, and an engaging cast of supporting characters.  I really hope Maggie will return for more adventures.

    Maggie has been living the life of a spy forever.  Both of her parents are employed by the Collective, and they spend their days trying to make the world a safer place by putting the brakes on gun runners, human traffickers, and other nefarious plots designed to shake up the world order.  Maggie has been cracking locks since she was a toddler, and she fully expects to follow in her parents’ spy footsteps, cracking locks and stealing away with evil doers’ plans to destroy peace and stability.  When she’s given her first solo assignment in NYC, she couldn’t be more thrilled.  All she has to do is befriend Jesse Oliver.  Jesse’s father runs a powerful publishing empire, and he’s planning to run an expose outing Maggie, her family, and the Collective.  If she can’t steal the documents that threaten to ruin her family, they will be in big, big danger.

    Now, I’m not even going to wonder why the Collective, a super secret spy organization, is putting an inexperienced spy in charge of saving everyone’s bacon.  Instead, I allowed myself to get sucked into Maggie’s upbeat and very entertaining narrative.  She has all of the confidence in the world, and she is going to make everyone proud of her.  She is going to live up to her legacy and steal those damaging documents!  All she has to do is pretend to be friends with Jesse, and she’s in like Flynn!

    Only that’s not how things work out.  As Maggie embraces her assignment, she’s determined to do everything in her power to be successful.  But as she makes friends with a social outcast, and gets caught up in going to school and hanging out with kids her own age, she starts to see that it’s more difficult to pretend that she ever had thought.  And after she and Jesse connect on a personal level, she realizes, to her dismay, that she’s not pretending anymore.  She really likes him, and she really likes her new friend Roux, and she knows her parents are never going to understand her lapse in judgment.  They’ve trained her better than that, haven’t they?

    I loved Maggie’s anxiety about hurting her new friends.  Now that she actually has some, she is loathe to lose them.  She is lying to everyone, though, and it’s making her miserable.  Being a teen spy is just not as easy as it sounds!  She can’t let her parents know that she kissed Jesse (and that she’d do it again in a second), or that her friendship with Roux isn’t just for cover.  She is dealing with so many issues that she never considered, it’s no wonder she can’t get a decent night’s sleep!

    Also Known As lived up to all of my expectations, and even exceeded them.  The pacing is spot on, the plot never lagged, and Maggie is a fun, likable character, even if she did need to be knocked down a peg or two.  Recommended for fans of Ally Carter.  Check back later today for your chance to win a copy of Also Known As!

    Grade:  B/B+

    Review copy provided by publisher

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