Twitter and Facebook

Sunday, 29 May 2016

We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen

(Book received from, and review written for,

Disappointing                                         My rating:   Didn't finish it   

Set in Norway this crime novel starts with Varg Veum sitting beside his dying girlfriend, and then travels back to the events leading up to that moment.

Varg is a private investigator hired to investigate the disappearance of Mons Maeland - a land owner and industrial developer (though it says on the back of the book that he is a wind-farm inspector).   The start is a little vague and confusing - or mysterious, depending on your point of view.  There are family conflicts and another unexplained death/disappearance in the past.  For the first third of the book Varg meets with various people enquiring about the whereabouts of Maeland, during which the wind and rain swept landscapes of Norway are well described.

After reading a third of the book I gave up with it.  The novel has received great reviews from others, so maybe I gave up too soon.  Despite interesting themes of wind farms, family conflict, crime etc. it wasn't holding my attention.  It would have been helpful if I had written down the names of all the characters (there are not too many), rather than just the main protagonists;  that would have saved a lot of flicking back to remind myself who people are. 

This is the first book I have read by Gunnar Staalesen; perhaps I should have started with another of his novels.  

Friday, 20 May 2016

Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors: How the Luckiest Man in the World Became a Spy by Michael Connick

Computers, spies and excitement                                      My rating:  5 out of 5

This novel, based on true events, tells of how Stephen Connor, a US University graduate, accepts employment by the NSA (National Security Agency) to avoid conscription into the Vietnam War.   Following working as a programmer in the early days of computers, Stephen  is then is transferred to the CIA and a role in Iran where the Shah is still in control.  Whilst there, working for Iran's secret intelligence service, he becomes a source of great concern to the KGB.  Then follows an assignment to Vienna, Austria - working with Austrian counter intelligence and anti-terrorism.  The KGB, completely unknown to Stephen, can't believe that he has yet again turned up at the place of a major operation they are carrying out, and so Stephen's life is in grave danger - whilst he is happily visiting the tourist sites of Vienna.

A great book that starts off with interesting glimpses into the computer world in its early days, then moves into the fascinating final part of the Shah's reign, and gallops into excitement and action when Stephen arrives in Vienna.  The book contains humour - mostly involving Stephen's unwitting and naive tumbles into the world of espionage and danger, and the chaos he causes within the secret service agencies.  It contains many interesting stories and historical facts of the years between 1968 and 1982 and it has excitement and heart racing moments as Stephen's gets the action and excitement that he imagined the espionage world was full of.

A short, interesting and gripping self-published book.  Well worth reading.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne

Publication date 14 June 2016

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Romance, mystery and suspense                                      My rating:  5 out of 5

Andrea, the mother of two teenagers and a toddler, carer to her slightly dotty mother and partner to Jonathan,  is thinking of giving up her teaching job and starting up a new business.  And then her home burns down leaving her homeless, possession-less, dog-less and for some reason Jonathan has also disappeared.    Fortunately the moody (but good looking) neighbour opposite steps into help, and so begins this fast moving, fun story about Andrea's chaotic life, and that of her family, friends (not all of whom are a friendly as they should be) and neighbours. 

Things are not quite as they seem at first, and the book rushes along with plenty of mystery and suspense, feel good moments, romance and disasters. All punctuated by strops from the teenage daughter and witticisms from the dotty mother.  This is a wonderful book to make you laugh, sigh and read a little bit longer than you really have time for.   

A great womens' fiction book. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Long Time Lost by Chris Ewan

(Book received from, and review written for,

Exciting race through Europe                               My rating:  4 out of 5

Kate is in hiding under a police witness protection scheme.  When those she is hiding from arrive to kill her, Miller offers to take over Kate's protection using his own  private protection scheme.  However his terms are that if she wants to live she must give up every part of her previous life - and that may be too much to ask. 

Then, unexpectedly, Miller finds himself in a race against time to save the clients he has hidden away all across Europe.  His clients are not always as grateful and obliging as he would hope, and, as his is an illegal protection scheme, he can't look to any law enforcement agencies for help.  Who is Miller? Can Kate trust him? Who is he protecting, and from what?

The first page of this thriller is exciting and dramatic, and the action and drama continues throughout the book, alongside a great story.   Miller's team are people you get to know through the book and are an interesting group.  Their roles certainly made me stop and think about what hiding and protecting people might involve in real life.

The book travels through many European locations starting in the Isle of Man and Manchester, then travelling to Hamburg, Rome, Arles in France, Prague and Brienz in Switzerland  etc.  Life is very hectic during these visits, so mostly the reader only gets a quick glimpse, often at a running pace, but enough is shown of some of these settings to give the reader a flavour of their character. 

The themes of starting a new life afresh and hiding one's past are interesting in themselves, as are the logistics of keeping track of these people and keeping them safe - particularly with all the positives and negatives of technology if you are trying to stay hidden.

Quite apart from the thrilling pace of the book, and the action, there are some great background stories going on , which give the characters life and interest.  Most of the book is involved with only a few main characters, though there are quite a number of peripheral characters and sometimes I found I had lost track of exactly what had happened to them.  However the writing was so good that I did not need to go back and check it out, the author clarified things quickly as the story progressed. 

There is so much going on in this book that it is not a quick read but is easy to follow.  My guess is that most readers will rush through it, but the writing style also makes it perfect for short stints of reading.  Perfect for a holiday, long flight, or if you just want to escape into a great book. 

Overall a great, and exciting thriller.  I hope to read more of Chris Ewan soon.