Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “spies”

Reader Round Up: August


August became my vacation month this year. Due to obligations, responsibilities, and unexpected events, my usual casual days of unwinding during summer before powering back up for the school year dwindled down to about two weeks of fetter free days. Amazingly enough during this hectic summer I found time to read. Actually, reading is what kept me sane. Chocolate might have, but that calorie thing always has me rethinking my grab towards the Dove bar whilst shopping.

Due to the unusual amount of stress this summer I read more than usual and this resulted in my hitting my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 101 books (and then some) earlier, much earlier than expected. Maybe stress can be a good thing after all? I do know reading is my go-to for relieving craziness that comes from being overwhelmed with the unexpected.

Here are the highlights for August reading:

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
If you appreciate Indiana Jones and Lost World you will want to explore this foundational novel. Written around 1885, as a challenge to write something better than Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Haggard succeeds in providing an adventure in Africa that brims with narrow escapes, lost treasure, mysterious strangers, cruel villains, and legends to perpetuate. Several movie adaptations, yet none come close to the actual novel.

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Fans of Downton Abbey this is a book for you. English gentry, family drama, war drama, convenient plot devices, surprising plot turns, likable heroes, inspiring heroines, emotional involvement. It’s all there—all 977 pages. Update: the miniseries wasn’t exactly the plot, but decent.

Shakespeare’s England edited by R.E. Pritchard ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The title is a bit deceptive in that it is actually an account of what life might have been like during the 1600 and 1700 time period in England. While this is the era when Shakespeare was prominent, the book is not focused on Shakespeare and his England. Fascinating information otherwise.

Sleeping Tiger by Rosamunde Pilcher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A perfect airplane read: light, non-demanding, read in the two hours of flight.

Researching James Herriot I read several of his books, mainly biographies. A separate post is here.

A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Hailey ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A fascinating arc of a woman’s life; however, it lost its appeal midway through due to the overly dramatic plot and epistolary device wearing thin. I am interested in watching the mini-series with Sally Field, as she strikes me as being capable of portraying the main character Bess having watched her in Places of the Heart.
Update: Even Sally Field couldn’t breathe solidity to this flimsy soap opera.

Report from Argyll by Alan McKinnon ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
If James Bond ‘60s espionage tales are on your list, look for this little Crime Club edition. The story comes complete with sexist dialogue, political undercurrents, skulking villains, plot twists, and red herrings.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A classic I wanted to revisit, yet I couldn’t finish. And I wanted to. However, beyond the dated attitudes and interactions, let alone cliche characters, I could not easily digest Heinlein’s diatribe against societal conventions and practices such as religion, politics, and gender roles. It felt like the novel had been designed around his views, not so much around the unique idea of a Man from Mars adapting to the planet of his heritage. The novel did give us “grok” which is something worthwhile.

The House of Paper by Carlos Dominguez ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
More of a short story then a novel and at barely 100 pages it might be a stretch to consider it a novella. One has to appreciate magical realism to fully grasp the focus of the story. The illustrations by Peter Sis are a bonus.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII by Sonia Purnell ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Just when we think WWII might be exhausted for story angles, along comes the absolutely fascinating story of Virginia Hall, who might have gone unnoticed had it not been for scrupulously researched work of Sonia Purcell. Considering how Hall remained recalcitrant about her feats of super spy achievements in France, Purnell has honed a fascinating portrait of a person, no matter that she was an American woman with a prosthesis, who helped greatly during WWII, particularly with France’s efforts to free itself of the Nazi regime. Update: a movie is in the making

Yes, it is an eclectic list. Bouncing around to what catches my eye seems to be my indiscriminate pattern of reading selection. See anything of interest?

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