2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.
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Book Review: Murder by the Book by Claire Harman

I am a big fan of true crime, particularly historical true crime, and was immediately intrigued by the tie-in to the literary figures of the time given their stature and the cultural implications (and resonances with contemporary cultural battles over video games and music). Unfortunately, I found the book underwhelming in both regards – which was a huge disappointment… This may have been a murder that rocked Victorian London, but the presentation was surprisingly cold and clinical for all that. I didn’t need sensationalism, but was surprised at how dry the recitation of details felt – and there were PLENTY of details… Continue reading Book Review: Murder by the Book by Claire Harman

Book Review: The Vinyl Frontier by Jonathan Scott

How fascinating this one was! Like apparently many (most?) Americans, I had no idea any of this happened. A golden record, sent into space? Marvelous idea, that. But how sad is is it that I had no idea it happened? Especially since I was alive at the time. I was born in 1973. Granted, I was very young in 1977, but I was still alive during major chunks of the space exploration., yet never heard a word about this. The concept of reaching out throughout time and space is fascinating, as is Carl Sagan himself, as were the discussions over what to include and how to send it. Continue reading Book Review: The Vinyl Frontier by Jonathan Scott

Book Review Blurb: Strange Tales of World Travel by Gina Gaille and Scott Gaille

What a crazy, quirky, creepy, utterly fascinating collection of anecdotes and tidbits this was! Through a series of related stories about the oddest experiences ever encountered during travel to unusual and far-flung places, the Gailles have amassed a collection that is entertaining, informative, hilarious, frightening, and definitely encouraging – albeit with caution! – World Travel… Thanks to the Gailles I now know how to save myself from sharks (this is the first story and was such a marvelous opening to the book!), snakes, royalty, Anthrax in the wild, sea ice, and cape buffalo – to name but a few. With humility and humor, the tales of dangerous and unusual experiences around the globe provided insight, information, and entertainment. This was a great find!

My thanks to the authors for providing a review copy. This provision in no way shaped my review – the book is fantastic and fun to read and worth every penny!

Author Interview: Will Steadman, Author of Apocalypse Watch and The Exodus Hour

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Will Steadman, author of the Brandt Swindon series. Will Steadman is a veteran himself with a history of classified work, so suffice it to say when it comes to spy thrillers, he knows his stuff. And he’s been generous enough to share some of it with us, via the following interview. I’ve read the books – Swindon’s exploits are a testament to Steadman’s love of travel and his exploits in the world of secrets and missions. It’s an easy series to read with just enough nail-biting to keep you wondering whatever (and wherever) in the world the story will take you next. Without further ado, I bring you Will Steadman!

Book Blurbs
In APOCALYPSE WATCH, the first in the series, Brandt Swindon thought he had left his old army life behind him — until a missing nuclear warhead pulls him back in. Brandt’s uneventful life as a European tour guide is interrupted by a failed kidnapping, and the catch? Brandt was the intended target because of his military experience with nuclear warheads. A shadowy group has gotten their hands on one of the bombs, and Brandt is one of the few men on earth who can activate it. For Brandt’s protection, he’s assigned CIA agent Casey Stephens as a bodyguard. As she and Brandt chase the thieves through Venice, Prague, and Istanbul, Brandt finds himself in a very different kind of danger: the beautiful, brilliant Casey might just be the death of him.

The next book in the series is THE EXODUS HOUR. With ruthless killers in pursuit, Brandt and Casey must flee across Europe to protect the Russian and themselves. Can they save their love and make it through the hunt alive?

Interview with Will Steadman

Where did the idea for the series come from?
I spent two years on classified assignments for NATO. The experiences I had and the interesting characters I met stuck with me so long I had to write about them.

In your blurbs and bio, you’ve mentioned the books are inspired by true events-can you expand on that?
There is only one 100% true event in the books. The prologue in Apocalypse describes two American Generals overflying Russia and being forced down. That event was the genesis of book one and an actual aviation mishap two weeks before I was scheduled for the same destination. Since I was not allowed to do a non-fiction chronicle I had to fictionalize to be published. Many events and details had to be omitted but all reflect a writer/participants novelized view of who, what and where. They ranged from frightening to absurd and comical. I still treasure the experiences.

The books are full of deception on multiple levels – do you plot the layers or do the secrets and revelations find their way into the stories?
That is a fascinating question for writers. Where does the story come from? For me there has to be some loose plot direction. But I try to allow plenty of room for the story to tell me where it wants to go. I never know the ending until I get there.

Do you share Brandt’s love of travel and history?
I confess to being a travel junkie. I get anxious, touchy, agitated if I’m not on the road or planning another trip. I think of history and travel as BFF’s

Where are some of your favorite destinations?
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit or work in fifty countries but still enjoy living in my small mountain town. As far as large cities,
I consider Paris, Sydney and Vienna special. The cities where I enjoy spending the most time are smaller, with a rich history and varied traditions. Prague and Florence score high on that list.

What’s next for Brandt and the crew?
The Prague Connection is in an early stage. My editor said take it slow—third books can burn you out if you’re not careful.

About the Author
A veteran of classified assignments with the Army and NATO. Will uses his experience with foreign services to create interesting and entertaining characters. His novels have been described as moving with the pace of an Olympic sprint. He has climbed 20,000 foot mountains in the Andes, survived a career in finance and traveled to fifty countries. With his wife of fifty years he splits his time between homes in Colorado and California.

Book Review: The Night Window by Dean Koontz

What a deliciously satisfying – if a bit deus ex machina-reliant – conclusion to this incredible series! I have reviewed each of the books in order. You can find them here: The Silent Corner, The Whispering Room, The Crooked Staircase, and The Forbidden Door.

I loved Jane Hawk from the moment I met her. Her willingness to fight the good fight against absolutely impossible odds was endearing and the way she always managed to find someone – often at the least likely but most opportune time – willing to do battle with her gave me hope for the ability of light to defeat dark even when such defeat seems not only improbably but nigh on impossible. The books got steadily darker and more gruesome and I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of the previous installment (The Forbidden Door) for precisely that reason. It felt like things were being drawn out past believability for the story and into the grounds of sensationalism purely to keep readers reading. Continue reading Book Review: The Night Window by Dean Koontz

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