Tuesday, February 28, 2017

review: missing man by barry meier

In Missing Man: The American Spy Who Vanished in Iran, Barry Meier details the life of Robert Levinson from his days as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to how he came to disappear in Iran in 2007. Unfortunately some of those details are still not known as Levinson remains missing. Without some sort of revelation as to Levinson’s status now, Missing Man felt unfinished but Meier does an excellent job of pulling together multiple sources to reveal Levinson’s likely role as a contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. Meier writes that Levinson was not on an officially sanctioned mission, but was in Iran to gather intelligence (the specifics of which are unclear, but Levinson’s cover story of investigating counterfeit cigarettes is clearly false given the information Meier shares). Missing Man is a meaty book that paints a picture of the real man behind the spy headlines.

About the audiobook: There are a lot of details and names in Missing Man that make the audio format less than ideal—it would’ve been nice to be able to go back to reference previous instances of a person’s appearance in the narrative. Ray Porter narrates with a level tone that works for this journalistic accounting of events. The audio version runs 8.5 hours and was published by HighBridge in May 2016.
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox. For more information: http://www.helpboblevinson.com/

Monday, February 13, 2017

feaure: jen lancaster

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Back in 2011 and 2012, I wrote about book signings held by Jen Lancaster (twice), Meg Cabot, and Ally Carter for a now-defunct site. Since those posts are no longer available, I'm sharing them here. Below is the second one about Jen Lancaster visiting the Seattle area. It first appeared June 2012.

When an author with the popularity of Jen Lancaster comes to town, Third Place Books just outside Seattle always moves the book signing to the larger Commons area that features a stage and plenty of seating. Even so, there were only a few empty seats as Lancaster answered questions for nearly an hour before moving on to the book signing portion of the evening.

The ever-amusing Lancaster talked about her pets (of course) and upcoming books amongst other topics like reality TV (she does enjoy Ice Loves Coco) and books by others (Fifty Shades of Grey came up, but she didn't elaborate much). Next out will be The Tao of Martha detailing her attempt to follow the edicts of Martha Stewart. Her struggles to make varied crafts and recipes sounded hilarious, especially as she related the Easter celebration that went so very wrong. Who knew Easter eggs shouldn't be hidden well before the kids arrive on a hot, sunny day! She noted that her next work of fiction will clearly be fiction (unlike If You Were Here which seemed inspired by her own house-hunting adventures) because she realized how distracting it is to read a book that might be the author's real life after reading Bethenny Frankel's Skinnydipping. The next novel should be released in early 2013 and is said to be about high school girls, time travel, and the band White Snake.

Monday, February 6, 2017

review: broken glass by v.c. andrews

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After the huge backstory dump that made up The Mirror Sisters, Broken Glass finally gets to the action. Broken Glass begins where The Mirror Sisters had left off--Kaylee has been kidnapped after being set up by her identical twin, Haylee. Haylee tells their parents, the cops, and anyone else who wants to know that Kaylee willingly ran off with an older man she met online; Haylee pretends to be terribly broken up about her sister being missing. Kaylee, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how to stay alive. The man who took her is delusional and believes Kaylee is to be his bride. Kaylee wisely goes along with his delusions as best she can as she investigates her surroundings to hatch an escape plan. Haylee's part of the story consists of much the same fake wailing over Kaylee repeatedly, but Kaylee's parts actually have some action and forward-movement that make the story entertaining.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Friday, February 3, 2017

review: lethal by sandra brown

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One minute Honor Gillette had a relatively simple life as a widowed mother and the next an injured man was pulling a gun on her in her front yard. So begins Sandra Brown's Lethal. Honor initially thinks it's just bad luck a man wanted for murder showed up at her home, so she offers him her car and expects he'll be on his way; Lee Coburn has other plans. Honor's husband was a cop and Coburn believes he had information—information that led to his "accidental" death—that Honor now possesses. Honor doesn't believe it possible her husband would've had anything Coburn would want, but soon the events she witnesses make her start believing Coburn is being framed by dirty cops.

Lethal provides multiple thrills and plenty of action as the conspiracy unfolds. The layers of the conspiracy come apart some though when the big reveal is finally made. Honor and Coburn have a nice rapport and the evolution of their relationship feels authentic, but the shifting perspectives (Lethal is told through a number of narrators) interrupted that development too much at times.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

feature: ally carter

Back in 2011 and 2012, I wrote about book signings held by Jen Lancaster (twice), Meg Cabot, and Ally Carter for a now-defunct site. Since those posts are no longer available, I'm sharing them here. Below is the one about Ally Carter visiting the Seattle area. It first appeared March 2012.

An overflow crowd turned out this week at Third Place Books just outside of Seattle, WA for Ally Carter's book tour promoting the latest Gallagher Girls book Out of Sight, Out of Time. During the hour-long question and answer session that came before the book signing, Carter answered questions about the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series and gave some writing advice.

In explaining how she got the idea for Gallagher Girls, Carter revealed that it was all because of her misunderstanding about a plot point from the TV show Alias. Carter thought Sydney's sister went to spy school. When she found out that wasn't the case, Carter decided she had to write that story. To make the series as authentic as she could, Carter did plenty of research about the CIA. Carter said she approaches the Gallagher Academy as if it's real and has the classes the girls take involve real training exercises used by the CIA. The audience was thrilled to find out a sixth book that takes Cammie through graduation or death--"whichever comes first!"--is in the works. She also told the captivated group the series will not end without the truth about Cammie's father being revealed. But right now, Carter's working on the third Heist Society book. When creating a new story, she uses a notebook to plot it out. That notebook goes just about everywhere with her; Carter's not even taking a break for the tour though she did leave it at the hotel during the appearance.

In regards to writing advice, Carter said you must give yourself permission to write badly and that she did plenty of it in her early teens. Carter also told would-be authors to write and read as much as possible while not worrying about publication. She said you should read everything, not just the genre you're interested in, in order to learn how words work. When asked what she reads, Carter said The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was one of her earliest inspirations and she now primarily reads young adult books including those by E. Lockhart and Holly Black.

Carter's tour for Out of Sight, Out of Time wrapped up today in Wichita, KS.