GUEST POST: About THE RUSSIAN LIEUTENANT by Peter Marshall by Peter Marshall

The Russian Lieutenant
This is a story about Marina Peters, whose grandparents, Vlad and Marina Petrov, emigrated to England from Russia in the 1930s. She is a likeable and quietly ambitious single young woman working in the Communications Department of the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth Base.

Nikolai Aldanov is a handsome 35-year old widower and a Lieutenant in the Russian Navy who has been corresponding with Marina through an online dating site. The pair have been sharing details of their lives, common interests and histories. But when his ship visits Portsmouth and Marina arranges to meet her Russian Lieutenant in person, she has no inkling of the unexpected consequences of her date, as she is introduced into the ruthless world of international espionage

This is a first novel by a former journalist and broadcaster, Peter Marshall. Since his retirement in 2002, he has written or edited a dozen books on subjects including satellite communications, space flight, international travel plus two biographies. But he explains that after a career in the world of news and information he often thought about trying his hand at fiction!

Peter said: “It was the Salisbury novichok incident which focused my mind on a story bringing together Russian spies and my past experiences in both journalism and the Royal Navy – I also served as an RNVR officer in the 1960’s. Once I started writing, I found it was a really compulsive activity to create my own narrative. One chapter quickly led to another and before long I had 50,000-plus words – without knowing quite how it would end! Then after completing it with a dramatic finish, and finding a publisher, I have now embarked on writing a sequel involving some of the same characters.

“I suppose words have always been my fascination from my early days as a reporter with local and national newspapers, and then ten years with BBC News. I moved into international TV news with a subsidiary of the BBC and Reuters and became involved in developing the use of satellite communications for global news coverage and distribution. This took me to the United States, where I was involved in satellite broadcasting until my retirement when I moved back to the UK and my native West of England.”

Peter was elected as Chairman of the Royal Television Society in 1986; and during his years in America he became President of the Society of Satellite Professionals.

“The Russian Lieutenant” is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk as a paperback or e-book.

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BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Russian Lieutenant by Peter Marshall

I didn’t have time to help out the publicist and read this book, so I volunteered to post this Spotlight and the Guest Post by Peter Marshall that’ll go live in a bit. I appreciate the offer to receive and read the book, and pass these along in case some of you want to give this a read.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Russian Lieutenant by Peter Marshall
Release date: April 11, 2019
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 136 pages

Book Blurb:

Marina Peters, whose grandparents, Vlad and Marina Petrov, emigrated to England from Russia in the 1930s, is a likeable and quietly ambitious single young woman working in the Communications Department of the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth Base, a member of the Dockyard Commodore’s staff.

Nikolai Aldanov is a handsome 35-year old widower and a Lieutenant in the Russian Navy who has been corresponding with Marina through an online dating site for some time. The pair have been sharing details of their lives, common interests and histories and have struck up quite a friendship.

When Marina arranges to meet her Russian Lieutenant in person, she has no inkling of the unexpected consequences of her date, as she is introduced into the ruthless world of international espionage.

About Peter Marshall:

Peter MarshallPeter Marshall was a journalist in his early career, working for local and national newspapers and then the BBC before moving to Visnews, the international TV news agency (now ReutersTV) where he became General Manager. This drew him into the satellite broadcasting business, first in the UK and then in the USA for 12 years. In the UK, he served as Chairman of the Royal Television Society; and in the USA he was elected to the Satellite Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in the satellite business.

On his retirement, back in his native West of England, he began writing again and has worked as author or editor on a dozen books – on space flight, on travel and then two biographies. And now he has drawn on some of his past experiences to write a first novel – partly inspired, he says, by his promixity to the tragic Novichoc poisoning events in Salisbury. He has enjoyed writing “spy fiction” so much that he is already working on a sequel to this story about Marina and her “Russian Lieutenant.”


The novel is available at amazon.co.uk.

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs: Goblin Royalty, Coyote, the Strangest Zombies you’ve Run Across Combine and an excess of “Next”s

Storm CursedStorm Cursed

by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, #11

Hardcover, 355 pg.
Ace, 2019
Read: May 8 -10, 2019

Adam grinned at me, “That which doesn’t destroy us . . .”

“Leaves us scratching our heads and saying, ‘What’s next?'” I said.

There’s always plenty of things that can answer that “What’s next?” question in the land of Mercy Thompson — but Storm Cursed seems to have extra nexts in it. Briggs is such an excellent series writer — there’s always a great mix of classic favorites (Zee, Uncle Mike, Mary Jo and Ben) and the new (Goblin King, the events of Silence Fallen, the baddies of this book) — like a favorite band touring in support of their new album that no one’s heard yet, she sprinkles in enough of the familiar with the new that you can enjoy the songs you can sing along with and appreciate the new for what they bring to the table.

We start off with the typical mini-adventure featuring Mary Jo, Ben and Mercy — with a little bit of Larry mixed in. There’s a goblin on the run from law enforcement after causing some mayhem in California who thought the Tri-Cities would be a safe place to lay low. Boy, was he wrong. This goblin accomplishes a lot of other things, though. He brings Mercy and the pack into a new part of the area and the law enforcement there, for starters.

This sets things up perfectly for Mercy and Mary Jo to come to the aid of said law enforcement when it comes to a very strange supernatural outbreak. Miniature zombie goats. ’nuff said.

Zombie goats — no matter their size (as important as it is to Mercy and Stefan) don’t just show up one day. They’re the product of witchcraft, and with Elizaveta still in Europe following Silence Fallen the Ti-Cities is ripe for new witches to move in and usurp her. I’m not going to tell you if they’re successful or not, but they sure make things interesting for the defenders of the area like Mercy and Adam. This also gives Sherwood Post, the mysterious wolf sent by the Marrock to be a part of this pack after something happened that he can’t talk about/remember involving witches. He apparently picked up a thing or two, and gets the chance to demonstrate that.

I’ve liked Sherwood since he showed up the first time, and now I’m super-intrigued by him.

There’s a big, summit-like meeting between representatives of the U.S. and the Fae leadership in the making — and the Pack has a lot to do with making sure it happens without a hitch. Naturally, for reasons that are unclear (at first), the new witches in town are working to disrupt it for their own ends. Because there’s not enough going on without that — an excess of nexts, really.

Speaking of excess — Coyote is lurking in the background of many of these events and he’s determined to keep Mercy in the middle of things, for his own reasons. If he’d just been up front with her, I think she’d have been on-board without hesitation (and certainly seems glad to have helped once she figures out his play). Instead, he manipulates her into doing what he wants — which is bad for the character, good for the reader, because he’s so much fun to read, especially when it comes at Mercy’s expense.

No matter what happens in a Mercy Thompson book — they’re filled with fun, and it’s easy to fool yourself into only remembering the fun parts and pushing the darkness and trauma aside in your memory until the next book comes along and reminds you just how messed up things can get for Mercy and the rest. This book is no exception — but in may ways the evil they confront this time is a special kind of Evil that requires at least one capital when you talk about it. What happens throughout this book, what’s uncovered here — especially the last few chapters — is probably the most inherently disturbing that Briggs has given us yet. I wondered at more than one point, if even Atticus O’Sullivan could hate witches as much as Mercy does (for good reason!). I decided the two would probably end up in a tie, but that Mercy has more recent evidence for her prejudice.

There’s something that happens in the climactic battle scene that I want to talk about more than I want to talk about anything else in this book — because in the long run it’s going to be bigger and more important than anything else that happens or I’ll eat my hat. It’s so small, so quick that it’d be easy to miss — 2 sentences on one page, then twelve pages later 2 more sentences. And Briggs has at least one novel’s worth of plot seeded right there. I love when I see an author do something like that and make it look effortless. And I think I’m underselling it. But I’ll have to leave it there — maybe in book 12 (or 15) when it happens, I’ll remember to say, “Remember that thing I didn’t talk about in Storm Cursed? This is it.”

Overall, this is another very solid entry in an incredibly reliable series, and I’m already excited to see what happens in book 12. Still, I get the feeling that Briggs is holding back a lot lately — here more than usual. Maybe it’s to keep the tone light, maybe it’s to keep the page count in check. Maybe it’s just me. But it seems to me that the last few books could’ve easily been deeper, darker, and more exciting, if Briggs would just allow that to happen — like she’s pulling her punches. As much as I love these characters, this world and Briggs’ writing, I just can’t get as excited about them as I want to. This is a great read — please don’t misunderstand me — but it could be better, it feels like it’d be easy for her to make it better. So I’ve got to stick with 4 stars — which feels like I’m pulling my punches, too.

—–

4 Stars

Fletch and the Widow Bradley (Audiobook) by Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller: An oddly contemporary-feeling Fletch novel that’s good but not really good.

Fletch and the Widow Bradley (Audiobook)Fletch and the Widow Bradley

by Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller (Narrator)
Series: Fletch, #4 (#3 Chronologically)

Unabridged Audiobook, 5 hrs., 28 min.
Blackstone Audio, 2018

Read: April 1 – 4, 2019

Fletch checks in to his office before returning from a few days away to find out that he’s fired. He’d filled in for an injured colleague to write a profile on a small local business that the Gazette had written an exposé about a few years before, just to see how they were doing in the aftermath. They were doing fine, and Fletch had quoted recent memos from the CEO demonstrating that. The teeny tiny problem there is that the particular CEO had been dead for a couple of years. Quoting corpses is generally frowned upon (unless you’re writing about voters’ views on Chicago politicians, I guess), and so Fletch is fired. Not only that, he’s probably finished forever as a journalist.

Understandably, Fletch is incensed. He’s angry. He’s also mystified — he knows what he read. He knows he did good work — how did they fool him? More importantly, why? If his career is over, he’s going to know why it happened. So he starts interviewing those nearest the dead man — his business associates, family, and so on — he eventually flies across the country a couple of times (and up to Alaska, too).

At this point in Fletch’s life, he is notoriously dead broke — recently divorced (again) with attorneys looking for alimony payments, and (as mentioned) fired. So how does he afford the gas and airline travel? Well, he found a walled with a whole lot of money in it and cannot find the owner. So he borrows a little bit. This is a very odd little storyline that I honestly have never fully understood. Not the events in it, but the reasoning behind its inclusion in the book. Other than to give Moxie (more about her in a moment) and Fletch something to talk about, and to give Fletch money for plane tickets.

Now, close readers might pick up a thing or two (if they haven’t read the books anyway) — I said Gazette (the paper that Fletch was almost certainly fired from after Fletch) and “at this point in” his life and “recently divorced.” This is the first time where Mcdonald bounces back in time for a novel — this is why I’ve noted publication order and chronological order in my post headings for this series. Mcdonald needs Fletch to have a newspaper job to tell this story — and post Fortune, that’s not really likely (it’s not like he needs the money). This chronological flexibility is both rare in a series like this one, and will become a hallmark of the books.

The best reason to read this book is the introduction of the character Moxie Mooney. Moxie’s an actress — daughter of the legendary Freddie Mooney — a major acting star of both stage and screen. Moxie’s still struggling to make it at this point, but she’s got talent. She’s also a long-time on-again/off-again romantic partner to Fletch. There’s more chemistry between the two, more genuine feelings and more obvious compatibility between Moxie and Fletch than there is between any two people in this series. She’s funny, she’s quirky, she’s driven — not unlike Irwin Maurice himself. I’m not sure how often I would have re-read the book without her

At the end of the day, this one doesn’t have the same impact and entertainment value most of the rest of the series does. There are some great moments — and I love Moxie — but there’s something missing from this one. Still, Fletch books are like that old line about pizza — when it’s good, it’s really good; and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

—–

3 Stars
2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

GUEST POST: 16 Bedtime Stories to Inspire Young Girls

I’m very happy to have this guest post today — I don’t talk about kids’ books nearly as often as I could, but I do know some of these titles — most of them look pretty good. It’s good content and a spiffy looking picture, what more could you ask for?

16 Bedtime Stories to Inspire Young GirlsFor parents who struggle to get their kids to sleep at night, there isn’t anything quite like a good bedtime story. That relaxing time together is a great way to transition into sleep, while instilling in your child a lifelong love of reading. Many bedtimes stories teach great lessons and values, as well. Kindness, bravery, and perseverance are all often on display in children’s books. However for many little girls, there are a few important lessons missing from the classics. While the modern woman knows that women don’t have to be princesses, and the damsel can save herself, the lessons in children’s literature are still catching up.

That’s why Sleep Advisor created this visual round-up of children’s books to inspire the young girl in your life. With lessons from real life female heroes, to fairytales with a modern kick, each one of their selections is designed to empower young girls.

For the princess-lover, there’s stories of princesses taking their own destiny in their hands. To instill positive self-esteem and acceptance for others, there are children’s tales that help them learn to love and appreciate their own and others’ differences.

Pick one up today, or check a few out from your local library to empower your daughter or niece to live up to her fullest potential!

The Liar by Steve Cavanagh: Another Fantastic Ride with the Wiliest Lawyer in Print!

The LiarThe Liar

by Steve Cavanagh
Series: Eddie Flynn, #3

Paperback, 327 pg.
Orion Books, 2017

Read: May 6 – 9, 2019
Eddie’s being sued in a way to attack the legacy — and the finances — of his friend/mentor Judge Harry Ford for a case he had back in his days as a defense attorney. Harry’s client was found guilty — and insane — and died about a decade later in a treatment facility she’d been sentenced to for murder. This is an important case for Eddie and Harry for multiple reasons, but as interesting as this case is, it takes a backseat to the main case in this novel.

Leonard Howell’s a former marine who runs a security company — who specializes in K&R (kidnap and return) — that Eddie knew back when they were both kids. His nineteen year-old daughter was recently kidnapped herself and Howell has a plan to retrieve her. He just needs to get around the FBI to pull it off. Enter his need for his old acquaintance Eddie Flynn — both to help him trick the FBI and to represent him because he’ll no doubt be arrested for carrying his plan out. But he doesn’t care too much about that, as long as his daughter is saved.

Eddie remembers what it feels like to have your daughter kidnapped and signs on — let’s be honest, he probably would have anyway. It’s a good thing he does, because Howell’s plan goes awry in fairly significant ways and he finds himself arrested for a lot more than anyone expected. Which is just the beginning of the book — it gets a lot more tangled, interesting, and exciting after that.

You know, for legal thrillers there’s a lot of action in the Eddie Flynn books. Sure, a good deal happens inside the courtroom — but Eddie’s not Perry Mason. What happens outside the courtroom is frequently more interesting than what happens inside. Which is saying something, because Cavanagh captures what’s most exciting about the cases and trials procedures as well as anyone does. As exciting — and important — as what happens outside the courtroom can be, for me, a legal thriller needs to land the courtroom stuff, or why bother? When Eddie is playing to a jury, interacting with a judge, messing with opposing counsel or questioning a witness? He’s fantastic (not infallible, as he proves here) — I’m not sure Mickey Haller could’ve handled this one any better (and likely not as well).

Just because the title uses a definite article, don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s only one in the book. You’d be better off not trusting anyone, including our beloved protagonist — well, almost anyone (I’ll have to leave that vague so as not to ruin anything).

One thing I want to note, and can’t think of a smooth way to work this in — what Eddie accomplishes in this book have more to do with his being a good lawyer and a smart guy than his past as a con man. He gets opportunities to flex those muscles, yes, but it’s not what defines him as a character here. Eddie the mostly-reformed con-man is a great character, don’t mistake me. But Eddie the scrappy lawyer, appeals to me more.

That said — early on, Eddie does something to help his client using the principles of Three Card Monte — and the wise reader would learn from this, because Cavanagh does the same thing. You will think that Cavanagh is doing one thing — and if you’re the type to try to figure out ahead of time where the mystery is going, whodunit, etc. (like I am), you will think you know where he’s going. And then when a Major Reveal happens which is pretty surprising, but really confirms all your theories — you start to feel smug and confident. Which is when Eddie and his creator probably start smiling — because within thirty pages of that, another Major Reveal comes along and totally blindsides you. I really never recovered from that for the rest of the book, honestly. Most of my theories remained largely intact, but they all had to be interpreted differently, and the motives behind them all changed.

I’ve never had a complaint about Cavanagh’s writing before now, but I didn’t realize he was nearly as clever as he is. I absolutely loved the way he fooled me — without cheating — and kept the tension mounting throughout this book in unexpected way after unexpected way. It’s just a great ride — right up to the point where Eddie demonstrates, again, just how stupid it is for people to make him angry. You’d think word would get around NYC courts about what happens when people challenge Eddie… A good series that gets better every time — do yourself a favor and pick this up. It’s a decent jumping on point to the series, too — you don’t have to know the first books, I shouldn’t forget to note).

—–

4 1/2 Stars

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire: Annie at the Crossroads (literally, mystically, metaphorically, and probably a couple of other adverbs, too)

That Ain't WitchcraftThat Ain’t Witchcraft

by Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid, #8

Paperback, 357 pg.
Daw Books, 2019
Read: April 24 – 29, 2019

           I didn’t know these woods. I’d never been to Maine before, and [didn’t have any of the family bestiaries to prepare me for what I might find. There are cryptids everywhere in the world, which only makes sense, when you consider “cryptid” means “science doesn‘t know about it yet.” New species are discovered every year, brought into the scientific fold and lifted out of cryptozoological obscurity. These days the word mostly gets used to mean the big stuff some people say is real and other people say is a big hoax, like Bigfeet, unicorns, and the occasional giant snake.

(Always assume the giant snakes are real. The alternative is finding yourself being slowly digested in the belly of something you didn’t want to admit existed, and while I’m as fond of healthy skepticism as the next girl, I’m a lot more fond of continuing to have my original skin. As in, the one I was born with, not the one the snake has left me with after a little recreational swallowing me whole.)

After Annie, Sam, Fern and Cylia leave Florida and the disaster that was left in their wake, they bounce around a little before settling on something that is about as non-Florida as you can get on that side of the country — central Maine. They find a house that needs a tenant for a few months while the owner is off to Europe and settle in to enjoy a time off the roads to regroup, rest and recuperate.

Ahh, such a good idea.

But first, they meet a neighbor, James Smith. It turns out that he’s a sorcerer, who’s itching for a fight with the Crossroads for the way they fulfilled (or didn’t) a deal with a friend of his from a few years’ back. Annie owes the Crossroads something, and it just might come time to pay up — which isn’t good news for James. If that wasn’t enough, Leonard Cunningham — Annie’s Covenant connection and the presumptive future leader of the group comes to town on her tail.

So much for the three R’s.

Annie’s solution to the problems she faces here is so… Annie. On the one hand, this is obvious, she’s a different character than Alex or Verity — and this series has never been the kind where the Price kids are interchangeable. But there is just no way that Verity or Alex would even consider doing what Annie tries. In many ways, she reminded me of Harry Dresden with the way that she dealt with the final problem. No, not by throwing a lot of fire, snark and energy around, but by coming at the problem in a way that you just don’t see coming (although, that’s not ruling out snark and fire) that seems more than a little reckless. Up to that point, Annie and crew had reminded me a lot of Sam and Dean Winchester and their crew.

This was really such a great way to wrap up this Annie arc — it’s going to be hard to put her aside for a book or three. Verity’s a lot of fun, Alex is a great reluctant hero who’d rather be researching things — but Annie? Annie’s really my kind of Urban Fantasy character — in the vein of Dresden, Atticus O’Sullivan, Ree Reyes, etc. And her friends are a lot of fun, too. The only thing this book is missing that’d really make it fantastic are the Aeslin mice — their absence is felt, particularly because Annie can’t stop thinking about them. Of all the things that McGuire has brought into my life, these mice are my favorite — and it’s been too long since I’ve had a decent dose of them.

I’m not sure how to talk about this without digging into details — and I’m this close to tossing out my spoiler policy and pulling an all-nighter to produce 20-30 pages about the InCryptid Dire Straits Trilogy. So much of what makes this book work is as its the culmination of this trilogy-within-the-greater-series. While I don’t think the book is perfect, I don’t remember a single problem I had with it — and felt the same way while reading it. Everything worked — the voice, the characters, the villains, the stakes, the challenges, the solution, the emotions, the quips, the action. I spent a good deal of time unsure how many of Annie’s little group were going to survive, and this isn’t normally that kind of series. I don’t think I actually shed a tear at the height of the novel — they weren’t far from the surface. This met and exceeded every expectation I had for this book and made me rethink my estimation of the series as a whole.

This is easily the best of this very good series — in fact, were this the final book in the series, I’d be satisfied. I’m very, very glad that it isn’t — please don’t misunderstand — but if it were… Heart, humor, thrills, and a very clever conclusion, pulled off in a way that the whole series has been leading to, but you don’t see coming. I don’t know how McGuire can equal it — much less top it. But since we’re talking Seanan McGuire, she will, probably not in book 9, but soon. Go get it — you’ll be better off if you start with #1 (Discount Armageddon), but you could get away with starting at #6 (Magic for Nothing), you can still appreciate a lot of the goodness if you jump on here, but you’ll miss so much you won’t enjoy it the way you could.

—–

5 Stars