Portrait of a Spy by Gabriel Allon – Book

Daniel silva Portrait of a spy You Tube

Europe is in an economic recession and it is flooded with refugees who cannot speak the language of their new nations and who have difficulty finding work that will pay enough to support their families, or even a single person. In this post 9/11 world refugees inhabit areas around Europe’s cities and some mosques are centers of religious radicalism where young men are recruited to terrorize the West. Portrait of a Spy(Gabriel Allon Series, Book 11) by Daniel Silva deals with an environment we recognize from our very recent past, a set of circumstances that could easily flare up again in the future.

Gabriel Allon, now a retired Israeli spy, leaves his cottage in Cornwall to visit Isherwood Studios in London, run by Julian Isherwood, friend of Gabriel and of Israel. Gabriel is a talented art restorer who often restores damaged paintings, sometimes for Isherwood. Gabriel’s wife Chiara is with him. As they are walking near Covent Garden Gabriel spots a suicide bomber. Bombs have been used in the past few days in Paris and in Copenhagen, and a bomb is about to detonate in Central London.

No one else identifies this man as a terrorist but Gabriel’s experiences set off warning signals. He even knows what time the bomber will trigger the detonator because it is timed to when a plane hit a target on 9/11. Gabriel is almost on time to stop the killing. Gabriel has his gun out to shoot the bomber when two London policemen arrest him. The bomber detonates. Gabriel’s guilt calls him back to duty as a spy. He even has a fair idea of who is running this group of terrorists. When he is vouched for by Graham Seymour, head of MI5 he joins forces with Adrian Carter of the CIA in Washington, DC and a cohort he has hunted down bad actors with on the world stage many times. Chiara is on board and eventually his team joins him in the new high tech national security center in DC.

The man Gabriel is seeking has been out of view for years and is believed dead. But Gabriel does not believe it. Word is that the terrorist group is running out of money which means these guys will go to ground for a while. Gabriel visits a young and wealthy Arab business woman he met when she was a young girl in the South of France (Book #6, The Messenger). Nadia al-Bakari was with her father (a wealthy funder of terrorists) when Gabriel killed him. She is also a philanthropist, helping especially Arab women. Nadia forgives Gabriel and agrees to buy a recently restored painting to create pool of invisible money that will go to tempt the terrorist and his group into the open.

As usual with Gabriel Allon spy thrillers the plan unfolds in great detail before we get to the actual op and the usually violent end game. Terrorists and other bad actors who stay hidden are well-guarded and very paranoid. They are hard to kill. Gabriel does not usually get off without injury. We always wonder what will happen to him this time. He also does not like to put others in danger, although he will do what he must to take out someone whose intent is to harm many. How do things turn out for Nadia?

It is Silva’s contention that Saudi Wahhabism has led to a good deal of the terrorism unleashed on Europe and America. He also feels that America’s supposed Allies, the Saudi’s, are responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the intended attack on Washington that shocked America and the world. And yet we remain tied to Saudi Arabia, probably for oil more than loyalty. A fiction author, such as Daniel Silva, writing a spy thriller like Portrait of a Spy, is freer than others to speak candidly about his world view and these spy thrillers always connect to events in the real world. This one upped my heart rate.

Equally bizarre, as I am writing this it is 9/11, seventeen years later, and they are reading the names of those killed in the attack on the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center on my TV news. A most strange coincidence.

You can find me a goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson.

 

September 2018 Book List

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September 2018 Book List

It’s September already and I haven’t finished my summer reading yet, so I still have quite a pile of books spilling over into fall. You won’t find many starred selections to add to my pile on this list yet. But I am guessing I will be choosing more titles from this list in the future. There are many things that divide our attention these days and reading, a time-consuming pastime, may seem hard to fit into your schedule, but a single book, ostensibly about only one topic, brings to mind so much more than perhaps the author even intended. For depth, for language, for character, for ideas, for world view, no other media offers as much as a great book. Find time if you can in this busy season to read some books that appeal to you.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Washington Black: A Novel by Esi Odegyan

A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed

Lake Success: A Novel by Gay Shteyngart

We That Are Young: A Novel by Preti Taneja

Transcription: A Novel by Kate Atkinson *

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

French Exit: A Novel by Patrick deWitt

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock: A Novel by Imogn Hermes Gowar

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel by Heather Morris

Mysteries and Thrillers

Cross Her Heart: A Novel by Sarah Pinborough

The Wildlands: A Novel by Abby Geni

Rylan Does to Detroit by Peter Leonard

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Wild Fire: A Shetland Island Mystery by Ann Cleeves

Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel) by Robert Gilbraith

The Piranhas: The Boy Bosses of Naples: A Novel by Roberto Saviano Antony Shugaar

Depth of Winter (A Longmire Mystery) by Craig Johnson

Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit (A Kopp Sisters Novel) by Amy Stewart

The Forbidden Place by Susanne Jansson

The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelicanos

Nonfiction

Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization by Mary Beard

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth’s Ultimate Trophy by Paige Williams

Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr

Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL by Jeff Perlman

These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

Daeman Voices: On Stories and Storytelling by Philip Pullman

21 Lessons for the 21stCentury by Yuval Noah Harari

Biographies and Memoirs

My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science and Senseless Love by Dessa

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by De Ray Mckesson

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House by Norman Eisen

In Pieces by Sally Field

A Song for the River by Philip Connors

The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation by Miriam Pawel

The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War by Neal Bascomb

New York Times Book Review

Aug. 2

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (F)

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (F) *

Metamorphics by Zachery Mason (F)

Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo (F)

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley (F)

Nonfiction

The Trials of Nina McCall by Scott W Stern

Dopesick by Beth Macy

Amity and Prosperity by Eliza Griswold

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela *

Light of the Stars by Adam Frank

City of Devils by Paul French

Rome: A History of Seven Sackings by Matthew Kneale

What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha

The Poisoned City by Anna Clark

Conceivability by Elizabeth Katkin

An Excellent Choice by Emma Brockes

Kissinger the Negotiator by James K Sekenius, R. Nicholas Burns, and Robert H Mrookin

A Girl Stands at the Door by Rachel Devlin

In Search of Mary Shelby by Fiona Sampson

Aug. 12

Fiction

Hit and Misses by Simon Rich

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

The Middle Man by Olen Steinhauer

Playthings by Alex Pheby

The Shortlist

Sugar Money by Jane Harris

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning

The Removes by Tatjana Soli

Nonfiction

Crashed by Adam Tooze

Aroused by Randi Hutter Epstein

Empress by Ruby Lai

No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

Killing It by Camas Davis

Carbon Ideologies by William T Vollmann

Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein

No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L Moore

Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition by Roger Scruton

Into the Hands of Soldiers by David D Kirkpatrick

August 19

Nonfiction

The Tangled Tree by David Quammen

Into the Hands of the Soldiers by David D Kirkpatrick

The Third Bank of the River by Chris Feliciano Arnold

My Year of Dirt and Water by Tracy Franz

Borrowed Time by James Freeman and Vern McKinley

After the Educations Wars by Andrea Gabor

Rising by Elizabeth Rush

The Equations of Life by Charles S Cockell

Devil’s Mile by Alice Sparberg Alexiou

Fiction

Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson

The Family Tabor by Cherise Wola

A Long Island Story by Rick Gekoski

Crime Fiction

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Isolation Mountain by Stephen O’Connor

The Breakers by Marcia Muller

Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill

August 26

Nonfiction

Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas

The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy

I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold (Memoir)

Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow

Jello Girls by Allie Rowbottom

Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Small Animals by Kim Brooks

The Fighters by CJ Chivers

Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi

Fiction

The Traitor’s Niche by Ismael Kadare

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

If You See Me Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers

The Shortlist

Love by Hanne Orstavik, trans. by Martin Aitken

Wait, Blink: A Novel by Gunnhild Oyehaug, trans by Kari Dickson

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors

Sept. 2

Nonfiction

The Splintering of the American Mind by William Egginton

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Hait

Arthur Ashe: A Life by Raymond Arsenault

Bitwise by David Auerbach

Identity by Francis Fukuyama

The Lies that Bind by Kwame Anthony Appiah

Dead Girls by Alice Bolen

Against Memoir by Michelle Tea

Dickinson’s Nerves, Frost’s Woods by William Logan

Fiction

Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter

Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman

The Garden Party by Grace Dane Mazur *

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Read Me by Leo Benedictus

The Shortlist

A Walk Through Paris by Eric Hazan, trans. by David Fernbach

My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now by Peter Mayle

A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomical Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment by Stéphane Hénaut and Jeni Mitchell

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living by Mark Greenside

Crime Novels

Gravesend by William Boyle

Depth of Winter by Walt Longmire

In Her Bones by Kate Moretti

Sunrise Highway by Peter Blauner

Publisher’s Weekly Tip Sheet

August 6

The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth (F)

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (F) (Graphic Novel)

So Much Left Over by Louis de Bernieres (F)

Nameless Serenade: Nocturne for Commisario Ricciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni, trans. from the Italian by Antony Shugaar (F)

Perennial by Kelly Forsythe (F) *

Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin (F)

Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins (NF) (Essays)

The Blue and the Black: A Cop Reveals Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris (NF)

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hanna Kim (F)

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (NF)

A Short Film About Disappointment: A Novel by Joshua Mattson (F)

The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987 by Riad Sattouf (Memoir)

Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah (F)

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf (NF)

August 13

Blind Kiss: A Novel by Renée Carlino (F)

Pinnacle City by Matt Carter and Fiona J. Titchwell (F)

Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century by Nate Chinen (NF)

Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill (Mystery)

The End of all Our Exploring by F.Brett Cox (Short Stories)

Pretty Things by Virginia Despentes (F)

Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, The American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna (NF)

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (Mystery)

De Gaulle by Julian Jackson (Bio)

The Carrying by Ada Limón (Poems)

Amateur: A True Story about What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee (NF)

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, trans. from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (F)

August 20

Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood by James Baldwin for his nephew, Ages 10+ (reprint)

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (Fantasy)

Fogland Point by Doug Burgess “a standout” (F)*

Red, White, Blue by Lee Carpenter (spy novel)

Heartbreaker: A Novel by Claudia Dey (F) “it’s the voice”

Desirable Body by Hubert Haddad (F)

Summer by Karl Ove Knausgaard (F)

The Boy on the Beach: My Family’s Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home by Tima Kurdi (NF)

Notes from the Fog by Ben Marcus (Short Story)

Swift Vengeance by T Jefferson Parker (F)

A Life of My Own by Claire Tomain (Memoir)

August 27

Pandemic 1918: Eyewitness Accounts from the Greatest Medical Holocaust in Modern History by Catharine Arnold (NF)

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers (NF)

The Imposter: A True Story by Javier Cercas (Bio)

Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames (Fantasy) “a messy glorious romp” *

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas (NF)

21 Lessons for the 21stCentury by Yuval Noah Harari (NF)

Little Comfort by Edwin Hall (F)

The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves by Eric R Kandel (NF)

Been So Long: My Life and Music by Jorma Kaukonen (Memoir)

Dog Symphony by Sam Munson (F)

September 3

Better Times by Sara Batkie (Short Stories)

Small Fry: A Memoir by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Memoir)

Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman (F)

Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs by Bill Cunningham (Memoir)

Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Life in Contemporary Palestine by Marcello Di Cintio (Memoir)

The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House (NF)

Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, The Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America by Mark Jacobson (NF)

Every Day is Extra by John Kerry (Memoir)

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (F)

After the Winter by Guadalupe Nettel, trans. from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (F)

We That are Young by Preti Taneja (F)

Ponti by Sharlene Teo (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain – Book

love-and-ruin-book-cover ohiomagazine.com

Paula McClain wrote about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson in her novel, The Paris Wife and, this time, in Love and Ruin she writes about Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn. I can understand the fascination with the women who married this literary giant. What kind of woman does such a legendary figure find himself attracted to? Hemingway was a handsome guy. Women found him desirable. It is almost tempting to wonder why only four women. But Hemingway sounds like he was not really a “ladies man”. He spent most of his social hours with men. He also seems to have seen women as occupying pretty traditional roles in a marriage, although he seems to have treated his wives as companions some of the time. Everyone in Hemingway’s world had a nickname.

Some readers do not value a fictional account of a Hemingway wife as they would a nonfiction one, but Paula McClain does do her homework, which she describes after the novel ends. So Love and Ruin is grounded in fact. But the day-to-day exchanges in a marriage are usually private business between husband and wife, although friends are privy to some of it, and can only be imagined in fiction.

Martha Gellhorn and her mother were recovering from the death of Martha’s father when they made a trip to somewhere as different and faraway as they could get without complicated travel arrangements. They fled to Key West and who should they meet in a bar almost immediately upon their arrival but Ernest Hemingway.

Both mother and daughter were pretty, long-legged and not at all shy. Ernest, married to Pauline Pfeiffer (Fife) with three boys (two from his first marriage) had his home, with his wife, right there in Key West. But he offered these two Gellhorn women a tour of the island. It was then he found out that Martha Gellhorn was a published writer. He began their relationship as her mentor. She was quite a bit younger. It seemed innocent enough.

If they had never gone off to report on the Spanish Civil War (Franco) at the same time (together) they might never have fallen in love and broken up Hemingway’s thirteen year marriage to Pauline. But Martha Gellhorn was not a “little wife” type of girl. She always wanted to be at the center of the biggest storm. She wanted to live life and she insisted that involved covering events like wars that only men generally wrote about. She and Ernest began as fellow war writers; she for Colliers, he making notes for a novel. Both felt more alive when death was everywhere around them.

When they needed to get away from the war they fled to Cuba, a place that Hemingway loved almost as much as Key West. They could not go to Key West because Hemingway was still married to Pauline. Martha found an old Cuban farm and when her book sold she used the money to restore it. It became the famous Finca where Hemingway still resided at the end of his life.

Martha imagined a sort of nirvana, with two writers living and sharing their craft, but Hemingway did not cooperate. He was demanding and selfish, and loving and ardent, and a partier and a hard drinker. Martha often found him exasperating. But just before World War II began Hemingway and Pauline divorced and Martha and Ernest married. They went to Hawaii for their honeymoon but trouble already was brewing. Martha had an independent streak that Hemingway despised and when she wanted to go off on her own to work or visit home he pouted and acted out. Although they both went off to London to cover the war they were more like rivals than sweethearts by then. Their marriage barely survived the war.

HEMINGWAY's wives France 24

Martha Gellhorn went on to have her own career as a writer of some fame and Hemingway wrote one of my favorite books Islands in the Stream. Hemingway remarried to Mary Walsh, a bond that lasted until they both died in a plane crash in Africa. We leave Martha behind when her marriage to Hemingway ends which belies the contention that this is a book about Martha Gellhorn. It is a book about a Hemingway wife, but one stamped out of such an independent and adventurous mold that the marriage was doomed to end in ruin. It made me aware of her as a writer and a dashing person who was ahead of history, and an admirable person in her own right.

You will have to decide about the fiction/nonfiction choice for yourself and also about whether or not this is a “chick” book. But Martha Gellhorn is worthy of our attention and Paula McClain made her quite real. A worthwhile read.

The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva – Book

the Rembrandt Affair HubPages

Book 10 in the Gabriel Allon Series, The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva, begins with Gabriel back in Cornwall, England by the sea and this time he is with Chiara. They have been released from the Israeli Secret Service, now being run by Uzi Navot from the “Office” on King Saul Boulevard. There is something quite romantic about Cornwall but also simple and rugged that seems appropriate to a man like Gabriel.

The problem with writing a long series of books with basically the same cast of characters is that accommodations must be made for readers who, perhaps, start with Book 10. This means that the author must describe characters that many readers already know, again and again. There are ways to do this but some people who have been with a series from Book 1 begin to find the repetition a bit tedious. However, in writing a series, readers also want the familiar characters to stay basically the same. Silva decides, in this case, to plug in old descriptions, sort of like boiler plates, to make the necessary introductions, or fill-in parts of the backstory. He has used more creative writing solutions to this dilemma in the past.

It took longer than usual to build to the action, but once the ride began, the thrill ride, Gabriel got called back into action, and since the mystery to be solved was about a painting, a Rembrandt, Gabriel and Chiara got sucked right out of Cornwall fast. It was Julien Isherwood’s fault, the Jewish/British art dealer. Where did a new Rembrandt come from? What was its provenance? Does this painting have any connection to the recent rash of art thefts museums are experiencing? Why is a man dead?

The hunt for this Rembrandt painting takes us back to the Nazi’s and the Swiss banks because there was no greater theft of a culture and a people than the possessions and the money stolen from Jewish families before they were railroaded off to concentration camps to be killed. A large part of what the Israeli Secret Service does is related to trying to restore things stolen from Jewish people and bringing those who stole and murdered to justice. This Rembrandt painting (not real, but symbolic of real paintings) has a sad, sad story to tell and conceals a secret that will help catch a greedy man posing as a very generous man.

This post war mishegas becomes entangled with Iran’s nuclear program because we are no longer dealing with the first generation of war criminals. We are now dealing with their children. How does the child of a father who was in the German SS turn out? Is he tainted by the sins of the father, or does he try to atone for the sins of the father?

What starts out slowly, gets very absorbing once it heats up. This time it is not Gabriel who takes a beating, and there is a new girl on Gabriel’s team. Will this be Zoe’s only appearance in a Silva book, or will she crop up again? What scary part of the world will Gabriel take us off to next time. Keep reading.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Mesfegh – Book

my year of rest -You Tube

Do we act the way we do because of nature or nurture? Is our behavior inevitable, either genetically, or by upbringing, or do we always bear final responsibility for the way we behave? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Literally. If you consider the cover of My Year of Rest and Relaxationby Ottessa Mosfegh you might expect period fiction, but what you get is something quite of-the-minute, new and fresh right down to its bones. The young women our attention is focused on does not even have a name, perhaps because the book is written in the first person, but perhaps with some symbolic significance also.

We listen to a pretty, blonde, thin, 26-year-old who is already exhausted by life. She finds no authenticity anywhere, nothing to dedicate herself to, nothing to love, even, apparently herself. She nails the superficialities of various “cultural tribes” she is surrounded by at Columbia and in her neighborhood. The 40-something moms on the upper East Side come under her judgmental perusal as do the young males in the art history department at her college and the avant-garde artists who exhibit at the gallery where she works. She finds little to really admire in her handsome on-again, off-again boyfriend, Trevor, or her best friend Reva. Only Harrison Ford and Whoopi Goldberg escape her societal ennui.

When she is a junior at Columbia art school she loses both of her parents. Her parents were not exactly warm and fuzzy. About her mother she says: “She was not the type to sit and watch me draw or read me books or play games or go for walks in the park or bake brownies. We got along best when we were asleep.” “My father slept on the sofa in the den that year.” “None of us had much warmth in our hearts. I was never allowed to have any pets. Sometimes I think a puppy might have changed everything. My parents died one after the other my junior year of college – first my dad from cancer, then my mother from pills and alcohol six weeks later.”

Is our girl experiencing some kind of separation anxiety or does the loss of even bad parents cause us grief? Did her family’s inability to connect destroy her ability to feel empathy and affection? She decides that she will sleep for a year and then wake up a new person. Her inheritance from her parents allows her this option and she gets to sleep through the year in a very nice apartment on East 84thSt. which she owns outright.

But it is not so easy to sleep for an entire year. A psychiatrist must be found who has few compunctions about using a prescription pad. Dr. Tuttle is perfect, a real psycho-babble nut who knows her way around insurance rules. Pretty soon our blondie’s life becomes a long list of meds that she pops or guzzles whenever sleep is hard to find. Trazodone, Ambien, Nembutal, Solfolton, Xanax, Lithium, Haldol, Neuroproxin, Maxiphenphen, Valdignor, Silencior, Benadryl, Robitussin, NyQuil, Seconals, Libriums, Pacidyls, Noctecs, Miltowns, Lunesta, primidone and Risperdal, chewable melatonin…until she meets the ultimate sleep drug, Infermiterol. Too bad Infermiterol has one very worrisome side effect.

Even after a couple of months of chemical abuse our sleepy-head, catching sight of herself in the lobby mirror on one of her rare trips to the Egyptian bodega down the street says, “But I was tall and thin and blond and pretty and young. Even at my worst, I knew I still looked good.” But we wonder if anyone could actually survive on this much medication.

We have only covered two somnolent months of a long year. There is plenty more to this story. Do we care about this young lady? Should we care about her? Is there a message to this madness? Only you can decide. But for people who are tired of conventional fiction this certainly isn’t that. Just the gutsiness that comes up with fiction like this makes it well worth a read. Does it matter that our girl’s long sleep ends at a significant historical moment?

I keep thinking about this one, trying to care about this character. My admiration is more for form than any significance to the human condition at this point. Some books have to percolate. I also have a few caveats. One, don’t try this at home. Two, many of these scripts did not work as sleep aids. Three, as an experiment in rebirth, the outcome seems inconclusive.

Look for me on goodreads.com

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, You Tube

The Defector by Daniel Silva – Book

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In order to fully understand The Defector (Bk. 9, Gabriel Allon Series) by Daniel Silva it is helpful to recall the events at the end of Moscow Rules (Bk. 8, Gabriel Allon Series). Gabriel manages to escape from Russia (barely) with a Russian journalist, Olga Sukhova, whose colleagues have been assassinated, and with a man, Grigori Bulganov, who saved Gabriel’s life by making sure he did not die in Lubyanka, the Russian prison.

In The Defector we find out what Bulganov is up to in his new home, London. Silva, Daniel Silva, the author, calls London a Russian city because so many dispossessed Russians live there. Olga Sukhova, also in London with a new identity, is keeping a low profile. But Grigori is tempted out of hiding by another Russian who lives the high life in London.

When Grigori disappears on his way to a Chess game, Graham Seymour, head of British Intelligence, is not terribly upset. He decides that Grigori has become homesick and has “un” defected. However, when Gabriel Allon hears that Grigori is gone he has a different reaction. For one thing he knows that a very bad and powerful oligarch, Ivan Kharkov is still alive and well, although he has to stay in Russia for now. Gabriel also knows that he was able to help Ivan’s ex-wife Elena liberate some of Ivan’s money ($20 million) from a Swiss Bank. Since Elena is in protective custody in an unknown location with the couple’s two children, she needs that money. But you can imagine how much Ivan wants to get his hands on Elena, his children, and Gabriel. Since he can’t leave Russia right now, he must find a way to bring everyone to him.

Ivan Kharkov is a stone-cold bully boy who makes his money selling Russian weapons to people the rest of the world wants to keep weapons away from. Ivan’s hero is Stalin and he strives to model his behavior on the cruelty Stalin used as he purged (killed or tortured) any Russian citizen who he imagined might harbor sentients against his government (regime). Ivan managed to buy the dacha that once was Stalin’s summer home. Ivan uses his dacha to reenact Stalin’s bloody purges on a smaller scale.

When Gabriel doesn’t react right away to the disappearance of Grigori Ivan takes someone else and who he takes definitely gets Gabriel and his team moving.

Daniel Silva and his Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon, along with his team of Israeli operatives, expose bad actors all around Europe and the Middle East and offer up the satisfaction of giving them what they deserve in fiction, even though we often do not experience such justice in real life. When The Defector ends are we finally shut of Ivan Kharkov? My lips are sealed.

In notes at the conclusion of The Defector, Silva connects his fictional spy story to actual historical events that inspired it.

“There, from August 1937 to October 1938, an estimated twenty thousand people were shot in the back of the head and buried in long mass graves. I visited the recently opened memorial at Butovo with my family in the summer of 2007 while researching Moscow Rules, and in large measure it inspired The Defector. One question haunted me as I walked slowly past the burial trenches, accompanied by weeping Russian citizens. Why are there not more places like this? Places where ordinary Russians can see evidence of Stalin’s unimaginable crimes with their own eyes. The answer, of course, is that the rulers of the New Russia are not terribly interesting in exposing the sins of the Soviet past. On the contrary, they are engaged in a carefully orchestrated endeavor to airbrush away its most repulsive aspects while celebrating it achievements. The NKVD, which carried out the Great Terror at Stalin’s behest, was the forerunner of the KGB. And former officers of the KGB, including Vladimir Putin himself, are now running Russia.” -Author’s Note

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Daemon Books

August 2018 Book List

Books with Glasses bigAugust 2018 Book List

There is not as much current politics in the August publications as in other recent months but that doesn’t mean that all these new books are upbeat. Readers know, however, that plenty of really good reads are not necessarily cheerful, and some are downright dark. This month we have some writers who manage to be both funny and thought-provoking.

Once again I am sharing the list of new books I compile each month to help me (and you) select what to read next. This list has only titles, but, in each case, if you go to the source of my lists you will find more information about these titles. Amazon offers summaries of each book on its Amazon books page. The New York Times Book Review has assigned each of the titles on their list to an expert reviewer and these reviews are available on line and Publishers Weekly publishes a Tip Sheet each week where experts summarize and offer commentary on each book on their list. If a book sounds interesting go to the source and check it out, Google the title or try your library.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Meet Me at the Museum: A Novel by Anne Youngson

Severance: A Novel by Ling Ma *

Rust and Stardust: A Novel by T. Greenwood

Up From Freedom by Wayne Grady *

The Air you Breathe: A Novel by Frances de Pontes Peebles

Other People’s Love Affairs: Short Stories by D. Wystan Owen

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The Marvelous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim by Marcia Douglas

Cherry: A Novel by Nico Walker

Ohio by Stephen Markley

Fruit of the Drunken Tree: A Novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Middlemen: A Novel by Olen Steinhauer

Feared: A Rosato and DiNunzio Novel by Lisa Scottoline

A Double Life by Flynn Berry

Rust and Stardust: A Novel by T. Greenwood

Pieces of Her: A Novel by Karin Slaughter

The Washington Decree: A Novel by Jussie Adler-Olsen, Steve Schein

The Third Hotel: A Novel by Laura Van Den Berg

Tailspin by Sandra Brown

Putney: A Novel by Sofka Zinovieff *

Vox: A Novel by Christina Dalcher

Biographies and Memoirs

Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammed Lori

King Con: The Bizarre Adventures of the Jazz Age’s Greatest Imposter by Paul Willetts

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien

Been So Long: My Life and Music by Jorma Kaukonen, Grace Slick

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon by Charles Casillo

The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC 5, and my Life of Impossibilities by Wayne Kramer

All Happy Families: A Memoir by Jeanne McCulloch

Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris *

Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Last Hero by Christian Di Spigna

Tooth and Nail: The Making of a Female Fight Doctor by Linda D. Dahl

Jell-o Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Black God’s Drums by P Djèli Clark

Temper: A Novel by Nicky Drayden

Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells *

Note to self: Murderbot Diaries

#1 All Systems Red

#2 Artificial Condition

#3 Rogue Protocol

#4 Exit Strategy

Dreadful Company (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel) by Vivian Shaw

Blood of the Gods (The Ascension Cycle) by David Mealing

Shadow’s Bane (Dorina Bassarak) by Karen Chance

The Warrior Queen (The Hundreth Queen Series) by Emily R. King

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Joel Martinsen

Raven Cry (Raven’s Mark) by Ed McDonald

Foundryside: a Novel (The Founder’s Trilogy) by Robert Jackson Bennett *

The Descent of Monsters (The Tensorate Series) by J. Y. Young

Nonfiction

Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart by Mimi Swartz

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City by Sam Anderson

Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology by Lisa Margonelli

Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge by Susan Hand Shetterly

Beyond Birds and Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and Equality by Bonnie J. Rough

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen

Devil’s Miles: The Rich, Gritty History of the Bowery by Alice Sparberg Alexion

Epic Hikes of the World (Lonely Planet) by Lonely Planet

Gross Anatomy: Dispatches from the Front (and Back) by Mara Altman

New York Times Book Review

July 6

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (F)

Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy (Short Stories)

White River Running by John Verdon (Crime)

SNAP by Belinda Bauer (Crime)

Stay Hidden by Paul Doiron (Crime

Baby’s First Felony by John Straley (Crime

Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard (F)

Basic Black with Pearls by Helen Weinzweig (F)

The Wind in My Hair by Masih Alinejad (NF)

My Brother Moochie by Issac Bailey (NF)

From Cold War to Hot Peace by Michael McFaul (NF)

The Unpunished Vice by Edmund White (NF)

Imperial Twilight by Stephen R. Platt (NF)

House of Nutter by Lance Richardson (NF) (Men’s Fashion Designer)

Tailspin by Steven Brill (NF)

Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson (NF)

Kicks by Nicholas Smith (NF)

The End of the French Intellectual by Shlomo Sand (NF)

July 15

Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams (F)

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam (F)

The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz (F)

T Singer by Dag Solstad (F)

Armand V by Dag Solstad

Give People Money by Annie Lowrey (NF)

The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang (NF)

Proust’s Duchess by Caroline Weber (NF) *

The Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein (Memoir) *

See You Again in Pyongyang by Travis Jeppesen (NF)

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (Essays)

Squeezed by Alissa Quart (Essays)

Yes We (Still) Can by Dan Pfeiffer (NF)

Little Panic by Amanda Stern (NF)

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography by Deborah Levy

July 22

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (F)

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (F)

After the Monsoon by Robert Karjel (F)

The Third Hotel by Laura Van den Berg (F)

The Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek

The Sinners by Ace Atkins (Crime)

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay (Crime)

The Last Thing I Told You by Emily Arsenault (Crime)

Some Die Nameless by Wallace Stroby (Crime)

A Double Life by Flynn Berry (Thriller)

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (Thriller)

The Price You Pay by Aidan Truhen (Thriller)

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones (Thriller)

The Banker’s Wife by Christina Alger (Thriller)

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes (Thriller)

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (Thriller)

Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox (NF)

July 29

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li (F)

The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise (F)

Early Work by Andrew Martin (F)

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg (F)

Inappropriation by Lexi Freiman (F)

We Begin Our Ascent by Joe Mungo (F)

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon (F)

The Storm by Arif Anwar (F)

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (F)

The Distance Home by Paula Sanders (F)

Sabrina (Graphic Novel) by Nick Drnaso (F)

The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani (NF)

Sugar: The World Corrupted by James Walvin (NF)

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers by Ben Passmore (NF)

Milk! By Mark Kurlansky (NF)

Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man by Michèle Gerber Klein (NF)

Loulou and Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent by Christopher Petkanas (NF)

Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric by Madison Moore (NF)

Publisher’s Weekly

July 9

The Brink: The President Reagan and the Nuclear War Scare of 1983 by Marc Ambinder (NF)

Just a Shot Away: Peace, Love, and Tragedy with the Rolling Stones at Altamont by Saul Austerlitz (NF)

New Poets of Native Nations, ed. by Heid E Erdrich (Poetry)

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen (F)

A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety by Donald Hall (NF)

Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jenson (F) (YA+)

Baby Blue by Pol Koutsakis (F)

Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, trans. from the Spanish by Heather Cleary (“a wickedly entertaining tale”)

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography by Deborah Levy (Autobiography)

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim (F) (sounds very cool) *

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Mosfegh (F) (Next on my Kindle)

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (F) *

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen (NF)

The Lost Chapters: Finding Recovery and Renewal One Book at a Time by Leslie Schwartz (NF)

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (F) *

July 16

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (F)

The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons (Short Stories)

The Annotated Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, editied by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, and Anthony Rizzulo (F) (A Deluxe Reissue)

OK, Mr. Field by Katherine KIlalea (F)

Homeplace: A Southern Town, A Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk by John Lingan (NF)

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire (F) *

Bad Call: A Summer Job on a New York Ambulance by Mike Scardino (Memoir)

The Other Woman by Daniel Silva (F) *

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (F)

The King’s Assassin: The Secret Plot to Murder James I by Benjamin Woolley (NF)

Condomnauts by Yoss, trans. from the Spanish by David Frye

July 23

Devil’s Mile: The Rich, Gritty History of the Bowery by Alice Sparberg Alexiou (NF)

The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins (NF) *

Contagion by Erin Bowman (Science Fiction)

Mary B by Katherine J Chen (F)

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl (F)

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (F)

July 30

I Didn’t Talk by Beatriz Bracher, trans. from the Portuguese by Adam Morris (F)

Brother: A Novel by David Chariandy (F)

The Ghost Script by Jules Feiffer (F)

Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis (F)*

Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar (F) *

The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies by Dawn Raffel (NF)

Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw (F)

A Wolf Apart by Maria Vale (Fantasy)

The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools by Vanessa Siddle Walker (NF)

August 6

If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar (Short Stories)

The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth (F)

So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernières (F)

Nameless Serenade: Nocturne for Commissario Ricciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni (F)

Perennial by Kelly Forsythe (NF) (Columbine) *

Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin (F)

Maeve In America: Essays from a Girl from Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins (Essays) (“meaningful and funny”) *

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris (NF)

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (F)

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and The Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (NF)

A Short Film about Disappointment by Joshua Mattson (F) (“rife with ingenious humor and inventiveness”) *

Before She Sleeps: A Novel by Bina Shah (F)

Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf (NF)

Feel free to capture for personal use only.

*Top of my reading list