Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Spy Among Friends

Ben Macintyre has written another excellent book. A Spy Among Friends is the story of Kim Philby, British spy and the highest person in MI6 (the British version of the CIA) to spy for the Soviets. Philby’s gift was that he was charming and charismatic. He befriended many, many people in the spy world and he was able to ply from the many, many secrets that he then passed to the Soviet Union.

Philby grew up privileged. His father as a huge personality and an expert on the Middle East. Philby went to the best schools. He got into MI6 through a request to a friend. From there, he advanced in the organization, earning the trust and respect of many. He betrayed that trust repeatedly.

Macintyre tells a story about the Soviets asking Philby to obtain the names of British Agents inside the Soviet Union during World War II and when Philby comes back and says there are none, the Soviets (during the height of Stalin’s paranoia) do not believe him. Even though Philby states that the focus was on Nazi Germany. It is almost comical how the Soviets handled Philby at the beginning.

Macintrye tells and engrossing story, full of rich detail and language. I had to stop several times to look up words. I LOVE that. More than the vocabulary lesson, however, this book is a lesson in what happens when people ignore the obvious signs that things are not right. (Look to the missed signals about 9/11 to know this still happens.) Even though signs were point to Philby being a Soviet asset, nothing was done for a very long time.

I found the end of the book most fascinating. The British finally caught on that Philby was a Soviet spy. They did not immediately arrest him and sent his friend to Beirut to confront him. The Brits let him walk away and defect to the Soviet Union where he lived out the rest of this life. Macintyre presents a good argument that the Brits let Philby defect because they could not stand putting the man on trial in the public and letting out (1) British spy secrets and (2) admitting how far into MI6 the scandal went.

If you are a fan of spy novels, the Cold War, and superpower spying, this is the book for you. It is a well-written history of the most embarrassing double agent in Britain’s history.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was paid no compensation for the review. This review reflects my opinions of the book.

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13 Reasons Why

I have to admit, prior to this year, I was pretty much a snob when it came to reading YA books. I read the Hunger Games and thought it was so terrible that there couldn’t possibly be any YA literature out there that would impress me. Then I found “The Fault In Our Stars”, which blew me away. I got another recommendation in 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Again, I was not let down.

The book is told from the perspective of Clay, who receives a box of old-school cassette tapes in the mail from Hannah, who has recently killed herself. She explains in the first tape, that each person who is receiving the tapes had a role in her decision to kill herself. She insists the tapes be passed on. There is a second set of tapes that she has entrusted to a person who will send them out into the world if the thirteen people don’t pass the tapes along.

When I said this book is told from Clay’s perspective, that is only half right. It’s also Hannah’s story. Her tapes are “played” for us. We follow Clay as he listens to each tape and tries to discover what he did to belong on the list.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot. After I finished the book, I read some of the reviews on Goodreads. The negative reviews seemed to be focused on the opinion the book “glorifies” suicide. I thought quite the opposite was true. I thought it was an honest portrayal of suicide from the victim and survivor’s points of view.

I remember struggling greatly with depression when I was in high school. Outwardly, you would never know that I was thinking like Hannah does. I was a master at hiding my true feelings. In a lot of ways, I still am. I think that 13 Reasons Why shows that sometimes we miss the signals. We see the clues but don’t recognize them for what they are.

This book also deals with aftermath. After listening to the tapes, Clay’s perspective of the other students mentioned changes. He rages against the malice that was shown to Hannah. He marvels at the things he was not aware of. Clay is the good kid. Studies hard, has a job, doesn’t party, stays out of trouble. Even good kids are affected by suicide.

I gave this book to my son to read in the hope that he will. And in doing so, he will understand that you may feel alone, but you only are if you allow yourself to be. I want him to be one of the decent people. Not the jock who takes advantage of the drunk girl. Which I’m confident he will not be. But I want to keep reminding him how one’s actions have an impact on other people. I think this book is an example of that much, much more than a glorification of suicide.

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Bones Never Lie

Bones Never Lie is the 17th in the Temperance Brennan series. The television series “Bones” is based upon this series of books (with some VERY significant differences)> I have read all of the books in the series about a forensic anthropologist who splits her time between North Carolina and Montreal, Canada.

In this book, girls are going missing and turning up dead…..and there’s a connection to one of Tempe’s earlier cases. She is asked by the police in North Carolina to find her colleague from Canada, Detective Andrew Ryan, who has gone into hiding since his daughter died of a heroin overdose. Withe the help of her mother, who makes an extended appearance in this books, she tracks Ryan down and tried to convince him to come back to work.

Once back in North Carolina, they link the disappeared girls to a missing girl in Vermont. The pieces of the story come together slowly. But the plotting is fast-paced. I do not want to reveal much more of the plot, but I did enjoy this book. I love mystery series and I especially love mystery series in which the characters are well-developed. Kathy Reichs does a good job of writing three-dimensional characters, all with strengths and weaknesses and human foibles that she describes richly.

The book is not being published until September 14, 2014. I won an advanced reader’s copy from Goodreads and was not paid any compensation for my review. The fact that the book was free does not reflect in any way my opinion of it. If you are a long-time reader or a first-time reader of this series, you will not be disappointed.

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