Friday, March 25, 2011

23. A Lesson in Secrets

By:  Jacqueline Winspear
Rated 5 Stars

In this book Masie is asked by the Secret Service to take a job at Cambridge as a Philosophy professor at a college dedicated to the furthering of peace.   Masie is tasked with the job of finding out if the staff or students are part of the Communist party and are engaged in activities that are a threat to the Government.

Sure enough, Maisie is not there more than a day or two before a man is murdered and Scotland Yard is called into investigate.  Maisie engages in a delicate dance between investigating subversives for the Secret Service and assisting Scotland Yard (unasked) solve the murder. Maisie turns up a group of students sympathetic  to the growing SDP in Germany and warns the Secret Service about their activities.  The Secret Service is more concerned with ferreting out Communists than they are Fascists and this creates a certain amount of conflict between Maisie and the SS.  At that point my brain switched over to real life and I remembered that it was in just this very period in time that Trinity College in Cambridge was the place that  The Cambridge Five met and became the most effective  espionage agents against the British and American interests in the history of spydom. Using 20/20 hindsight perhaps the SS and Winspear should have expanded Maisies mission to include both groups.  But then no one had a clue at the time that that nest of vipers was forming its self so I guess being clueless is appropriate.

This book is not heavy on plot.  The main mystery was the murder and the spy hunt merely peripheral it seemed to me.  Meantime, back at the ranch (London) another mystery develops and is left to Billy to investigate.  I thought that much more could have been done with this mystery but perhaps Winspear thought Maisie had her hands to full already.

But is was a lovely visit into Maisie's world.  Winspear is a master at creating an atmosphere that drips with authenticity and her secondary characters are always credibale, both new and those from previous books who have become old friends.

One of the things I like most about Maisie is that she is never static.  She is not stuck in time but moves on with her life appropriately, according to the situation that is unfolding in Britain at the time each book is set.

Publisher's Summary

Maisie Dobbs' first assignment for the British Secret Service takes her undercover to Cambridge as a professor—and leads to the investigation of a web of activities being conducted by the emerging Nazi Party.
In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs' career takes an exciting new turn when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard's Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities "not in the interests of His Majesty's government".
When the college's controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Richard Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote's death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance.
To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain's conduct during the Great War, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—in Britain.
As the storm clouds of World War II gather on the horizon, this pivotal chapter in the life of Maisie Dobbs foreshadows new challenges and powerful enemies facing the psychologist and investigator

Thursday, March 24, 2011

22. Whirlwind

By:  James Clavell
Rated:  4.5
From:  Library
Format:  Hard Cover Book

This is not the exact cover from the book but from some sort of game but I liked it much better than the book covers so I used it instead.  It is the first book by James Clavell that I didn't give a 5 star rating.  That in no way indicates that this book was not just as well written or as convoluted as the others, it's just that the the subject matter was not as interesting to me as his Asian based novels were.

Whirlwind is one of his later books. They are all connected although this one is a lot more loosely connected than the others. Andrew Gavalan is a Director of The Noble House and is operating a fleet of helicopters in the Middle East.  This setting allows the author to give the reader is an insight into why the Middle East is as it is and why it reacts as it does to 'infidels." Although the writing is somewhat dated  I certainly learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about Iran and the Iranian revolution. Some of the characters from Noble house are carried over  and put in cameo appearances but the Noble House Tai Pan has retired and there is a new Tai Pan who was one of the minor characters from the previous book.  Without Ian Dunross the Noble House is not the dynamic force that it was.  Disappointing.  Also another one of the characters who puts in a brief appearance from Noble House is Profitable Choy.  Sadly he has turned into a villain. :(  I kind of liked Profitable Choy.

From Library Journal
Andrew Gavallan, based in Scotland, runs a helicopter company operating in Iran during the Shah's reign. When Khomeini comes to power, Gavallan must get his pilots and their families, and his valuable helicopters, out of the riot-torn country. Complicating matters is his power struggle with his company's secret owner, the Noble House of Hong Kong. The pilots' escape efforts form the basic story but as usual in a Clavell novel the action sweeps across many lives: lovers, spies, fanatics, revolutionaries, friends and betrayers. British, Finnish, American, and Iranian, all are caught up in a deadly religious and political upheaval. Clavell effectively portrays the chilling and bewildering encounters when Westernized lifestyle clashes with harsh ancient traditions. This novel, the fifth in what he calls his Asian Series ( Noble H o use, King Rat, Tai Pan, Shogun ) is certain to be in much demand.

21. Great Railway Bazaar

By:  Paul Theroux
Rated:  5 Stars

I love this author. He paints such beautiful word pictures that I feel I am right there on the train with him.

Publisher's Summary
In 1973 the novelist Paul Theroux made a decision that dramatically altered his career and changed a genre. He would travel Asia by train (from London to Japan and back), write copious notes, and, on his return home to London, write a book about the experience. Published in 1975, The Great Railway Bazaar achieved a popular and critical success rare in publishing. The book became a classic of travel writing and created a model for the genre that today remains vibrantly alive. (The very interesting back story of this seminal work is relayed by Theroux in his 2008 book Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.)
Chapter one begins: "Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it. Those whistles sing bewitchment: railways are irresistible bazaars." Muller, with these first sentences, displays his mastery of phrasing and timing; his subtleties of intonation; his coloring and fluent shifts of emphasis and stress. Throughout The Great Railway Bazaar he displays the incomparable quickness and assurance with which these exceptional narrative qualities develop and transform at every turn of phrase, change of scene, and development of plot. This astonishing ability is Frank Muller's modus operandi, making him one of the greatest and most popular audiobook narrators of all time.

19. The Three Muskateers

By Alexander Dumas

Rated 4.3 Stars

I love these free downloads.  The readers are all volunteer and it's kind of catch as catch can to find one you really like but this one was very good.

I have been using this for a book to listen to when I quilt.  It's really pleasant to be entertained while doing needlework.  Of course this story is dated but it's so dated that it doesn't matter a bit.  It's probably the only story about France that I have ever enjoyed.  France and Ireland are just two countries I can ever get enthusiastic about.  The U.S., Canada, India, China, England and Scotland are much more my cup of tea.

Publisher's Summary

Mixing a bit of seventeenth-century French history with a great deal of invention, Alexandre Dumas tells the tale of young D'Artagnan and his musketeer comrades, Porthos, Athos, and Aramis. Together they fight to foil the schemes of the brilliant, dangerous Cardinal Richelieu, who pretends to support the king while plotting to advance his own power. Bursting with swirling swordplay, swooning romance, and unforgettable figures---including the seductively beautiful but deadly femme fatale, Milady, and D'Artagnan's equally beautiful love, Madame Bonacieux---The Three Musketeers continues, after a century and a half of continuous publication, to define the genre of swashbuckling romance and historical adventure.

Friday, March 4, 2011

20. The Far Pavillions

By:  M. M. Kaye
Rated 5 Stars
From:  Library
Still Reading

I love this book and just wanted to visit with it again so I decided to do a leisurly re-read.  The product Description is gushy but justified but it doesn't say anything about the book.  So I am inserting a link to a wonderful customer review on amazon.

Review on amazon

Product Description

When The Far Pavilions was first published nineteen years ago, it moved the critic Edmund Fuller to write this: "Were Miss Kaye to produce no other book, The Far Pavilions might stand as a lasting accomplishment in a single work comparable to Margaret Mitchell's achievement in Gond With the Wind."

From its beginning in the foothills of the towering Himalayas, M.M. Kaye's masterwork is a vast, rich and vibrant tapestry of love and war that ranks with the greatest panoramic sagas of modern fiction.

The Far Pavilions is itself a Himalayan achievement, a book we hate to see come to an end. it is a passionate, triumphant story that excites us, fills us with joy, move us to tears, satisfies us deeply, and helps us remember just what it is we want most from a novel.

18. The Marvelous Land of Oz

By:  L. Frank Baum
Rated 5 Stars
Download libravox.0rg

This was just a quick, delightful re-read of a book I read so long ago that it was the same as a first read.  After All Clear I needed something totally different.  This was certainly totally different.  I loved all the Oz books when I was young.

Publisher's Summary

The Marvelous Land of Oz is the second Oz book.
In this sequel to the original book, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman are back with a boy named Tip as well as a host of new characters, including Mr. H. M. Woggle-Bug, Princess Ozma of Oz, Dr. Nikidik, and Old Mombi. When the Scarecrow, now the ruler of the Emerald City, is driven out by General Jinjur and her all-girl army, his friends--the Tin Woodman, a boy named Tip, and Jack Pumpkinhead--try to restore peace. Dorothy isn't in this story, though she is mentioned frequently by her friends.

17. All Clear - Redux

By: Connie Willis
Rated 4.5 stars

There were still some odds and ends that I hadn't really gotten a clear picture of in my first read.  This was an extremely convoluted story line.  I think I have finally gotten a handle on why Colin and Eileen understood at the end of the book how they had met before in time.  Anyway I'm done with this book for a while.  Maybe I will do another re-read in 5 years or so.  If I'm still able to follow such a complicated story when I'm 81.

Here is my original journal entry after I read it last November.

All Clear November 2010