Showing posts with label spies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spies. Show all posts

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje

by Michael Ondaatje

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

I’ve just joined a book club! Each month, I’ll post my review and the opinions of my fellow book clubbers. This month, we read Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018.
Next pick is Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. Why not read along with us? Our next book club meeting is on 31 January, and I will post shortly after that.

From the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of The English Patient: a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement.
In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself - shadowed and luminous at once - we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel.
But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings' mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn't know and understand in that time, and it is this journey - through facts, recollection, and imagination - that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.

In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. We were living on a street in London called Ruvigny Gardens, and one morning either our mother or our father suggested that after breakfast the family have a talk, and they told us that they would be leaving us and going to Singapore for a year. Not too long, they said, but it would not be a brief trip either. We would of course be well cared for in their absence. I remember our father was sitting on one of those uncomfortable iron garden chairs as he broke the news, while our mother, in a summer dress just behind his shoulder, watched how we responded. After a while she took my sister Rachel’s hand and held it against her waist, as if she could give it warmth.
Neither Rachel nor I said a word. We stared at our father, who was expanding on the details of their flight on the new Avro Tudor I, a descendant of the Lancaster bomber, which could cruise at more than three hundred miles an hour. They would have to land and change planes at least twice before arriving at their destination. He explained he had been promoted to take over the Unilever office in Asia, a step up in his career. It would be good for us all. He spoke seriously and our mother turned away at some point to look at her August garden. After my father had finished talking, seeing that I was confused, she came over to me and ran her fingers like a comb through my hair.
I was fourteen at the time, and Rachel nearly sixteen, and they told us we would be looked after in the holidays by a guardian, as our mother called him. They referred to him as a colleague. We had already met him—we used to call him “The Moth,” a name we had invented. Ours was a family with a habit for nicknames, which meant it was also a family of disguises. Rachel had already told me she suspected he worked as a criminal.
The arrangement appeared strange, but life still was haphazard and confusing during that period after the war; so what had been suggested did not feel unusual. We accepted the decision, as children do, and The Moth, who had recently become our third-floor lodger, a humble man, large but moth-like in his shy movements, was to be the solution. Our parents must have assumed he was reliable. As to whether The Moth’s criminality was evident to them, we were not sure.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Our book of the year – and maybe of Ondaatje's career” ~ Daily Telegraph Books of the Year
“A novel of shadowy brilliance.” ~ The Times
“Fiction as rich, as beautiful, as melancholy as life itself, written in the visionary language of memory.” ~ Observer
“Ondaatje brilliantly threads the mysteries and disguises and tangled loyalties and personal yearnings of the secret world ... and has constructed something of real emotional and psychological heft, delicate melancholy and yet, frequently, page-turning plottiness. I haven’t read a better novel this year.” ~ Telegraph
“[A] haunting, brilliant novel from Ondaatje … Mesmerizing from the first sentence, rife with poignant insights and satisfying subplots, this novel about secrets and loss may be Ondaatje’s best work yet.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“A lyrical mystery that plays out in the shadow of World War II … Ondaatje’s shrewd character study plays out in a smart, sophisticated drama, one worth the long wait for fans of wartime intrigue.” ~ Kirkus

Book Clubbers’ Thoughts
“We’re so lucky we didn’t live through any of that. My parents are both English and I’ve heard stories of what they went through. My grandmother had to ‘go away’ during the war and didn’t come back until ten years later. When she died, we found assorted passports and other interesting things. She may have played a role similar to Nathaniel and Rachel’s mother.” ~ Denise
“I thought the greyhound trading and low-level criminality was an interesting aspect.” ~ Jan
“It would make a great movie. It’s an engaging book because it makes you think. It was a really interesting way of telling the story. Nathaniel had to infer what happened to his mother. You never really find out what happened to everyone.” ~ Kerrie
“I liked the historical aspect of the story and learning about the difficulties the characters endured.” ~ Kerry
“I read Nancy Wake’s biography and was interested to compare it to this book. In both books, everyone only knew the part they had to play in the war effort. There was no sharing of information. Warlight is a sad book with many layers. To Nathaniel and Rachel, their mother leaving them was worse than if she had died.” ~ Marie-Louise
“I didn’t really get into it. I thought it lacked emotional depth.” ~ Maryann
Conclusion: generally positive reviews.

My Review
I got this book on loan from the library.

By Lynda Dickson
In 1945, just after World War II, fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his sixteen-year-old sister Rachel are left in the care of their mysterious boarder when their parents move to Singapore for their father’s new job. In their parents’ absence, Nathaniel and Rachel live a seemingly idyllic life, full of eccentric characters, illicit adventures, and secret romances. But all is not as it seems, and danger is lurking just around the corner. Later, as an adult, Nathaniel takes a job with the Foreign Office, where he tries to uncover the secrets of his mother’s wartime past and learns more than he bargained for.
The novel begins with a great opening line:
“In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.”
What follows is a series of vignettes describing the incidents that shape Nathaniel’s life. His childhood stories are recounted by an adult Nathaniel in the manner of a memoir, complete with lapses of memory and the inability to recall certain details.
“You return to that earlier time armed with the present, and no matter how dark that world was, you do not leave it unlit. You take your adult self with you. It is not to be a reliving, but a rewitnessing.”
When he later attempts to piece together the puzzle which is his mother’s life, it’s interesting to see how he interprets these events differently with the benefit of hindsight. Seemingly insignificant incidents from his childhood - such as the radio program his mother listens to, or the route he travels on through the city – take on a whole new meaning when new information comes to light.
“We order our lives with barely held stories. As if we have been lost in a confusing landscape, gathering what was invisible and unspoken […] sewing it all together in order to survive, incomplete …”
Nathaniel also tells us stories about his mother and the people she was involved with – things that he could not possibly know.
“I had not been told anything, but […] I know how to fill in a story from a grain of sand or a fragment of discovered truth. In retrospect the grains of sand had always been there …”
Throughout the book, the author reveals the depth of his research, giving us a fascinating insight into the day-to-day life of the working class, as well as glimpses into the secret world of wartime espionage. This charming coming-of-age story morphs into a spy mystery and an ode to those unsung heroes of the war.
“There were so many like her, who were content in the modesty of their wartime skills.”
It is also a poignant reflection on how our lives are determined by the things that happen to us in our youth. Nathaniel is very much a product of his unorthodox upbringing.
“What I am now was formed by whatever happened to me then, not by what I have achieved, but by how I got here.”
I just wish we had learned more about Rachel and the impact that these same events had on her life.
Warnings: sexual references, coarse language, sex scenes.

Some of My Favorite Lines
“Nothing lasts. Not even literary or artistic fame protects worldly things around us.”
“I sat silent on the floor, listening to this fairness of sharing I already knew existed nowhere else in the world, which could occur only in dreams.”
“In youth we are not so much embarrassed by the reality of our situation as fearful others might discover and judge it.”
“We passed industrial buildings, their lights muted, faint as stars, as if we were in a time capsule of the war years when blackouts and curfews had been in effect, when there was just warlight and only blind barges were allowed to move along this stretch of river.”
“I think it was becoming clear that it was not just my mother’s past that had become buried and anonymous. I felt I too had disappeared. I had lost my youth.”
“She was unchanged, still constantly new.”
“He’d been an adventurer, and now I stood there, claustrophobic within his life.”
“We lived through a time when events that appeared far-flung were neighbours.”

About the Author
Michael Ondaatje
Michael Ondaatje is the author of six previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English Patient won the Booker Prize; Anil's Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"DEFCON Darcy" by A. J. Lape

(The Darcy Walker Series Book 4)
by A. J. Lape

DEFCON Darcy, the fourth book in A. J. Lape's Darcy Walker Series, has just been released. Also available: Grade A Stupid (FREE), No Brainer (only $0.99), and 100 Proof Stud.

The author joins me today for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. She is also sponsoring our exclusive giveaway for an ebook set of the first four books in The Darcy Walker Series.

Fisher Stanton, Valley High School’s Nantucket wannabe, has a cheating girlfriend. When he hires Darcy Walker to chase her to a local club, in true Darcy fashion she stumbles upon a dead body. Thing is, this body has secrets ... and Darcy’s mysterious friend, Jaws, and the reporter, Tito Westbrook, have a vested interest. Both enlist Darcy to find the person responsible who has eluded them for years, but Darcy doesn’t solve crimes for free anymore - especially where Jaws is concerned. Knowing Darcy’s Achilles heel, Jaws blackmails Darcy into working for him.
In a true test of wills, Darcy and Jaws battle head-to-head - Jaws needs Darcy to help him end a bitter grudge war; Darcy needs Jaws to divulge the mystery surrounding her mother’s death. Haunted by a past that shaped her present, Darcy will stop at nothing to get answers. Even if it means breaking the law and being disloyal to her new boyfriend, Dylan Taylor, in the process.
DEFCON Darcy gives Darcy’s demons a name and ties up loose ends that made Darcy into the verb that she is. What she thinks she knows as truth, isn’t. What she wishes wasn’t true … is.
The problem is, when your life goes DEFCON 1, not everyone lives to tell about it.

This wasn’t the way I wanted to be buried. I wanted to be buried in the DEFCON DARCY cape my mother made. I wanted the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir to sing "Amazing Grace," and street dancers to perform on the sidewalk with pants to their knees. I wanted my zits popped, my toenails done in black, my fingernails in orange, and my hair to be styled as lush and full as a hooker on Main Street. I wanted a boob job. I wanted to die with a perfect C-cup showcased in a low-cut black velvet dress. After all of those wishes had been fulfilled, I wanted a Frank Sinatra impersonator to sing "My Way" as I was lowered into the ground. And last but not least, I did not want to die a virgin … NOPE.
I tried to cork the tears, but they wouldn’t cooperate. I’d met a slew of crazy people in my life, but he brought a whole new level of psycho to the playing field. Calm yourself, Darcy, I said. Relax. Breathe deep. But he was so bad, I knew I’d have to endure something heinous before he’d get in touch with what form of conscience he had, if any. I almost said, Forgive me, God for him, but instead muttered, I hope he rots in Hell and closed my eyes.

Praise for the Book
"Freaking loved it!" ~ Elienora the Sensation on Goodreads
"A. J. Lape has just destroyed me. Seriously, hands down, the BEST writing I have read in the last YEAR. There is not a word to describe how of one swoop, she has touched on every emotion. In one night, I was hysterical with both laughter and devastation. And I was not even finished yet. A. J.'s books are ALWAYS good, but I actually choked on my spit gasping and giggling at the same time. Utterly amazing writing." ~ Justine of Bex 'n' Books
"This series is truly one of the best series I have read in my lifetime. The author seems to have poured her heart and soul into this book and after every book I always wonder how she could top the last. This book was no exception. Honestly I am sitting here now, after reading it, and wondering what to do next. Darcy's world is truly a place you want to be part of. You can easily get lost in her world. Thank you A. J. Lape for this fantastic series. I series that I don't want to end and a series I would love to see as a movie." ~ Lavinia Urban

Interview with the Author
Hi A. J., thanks for joining me today to discuss The Darcy Walker Series.
For what age group do you recommend your books?
Grade A Stupid is categorized as teen fiction simply because of the age of the protagonist, Darcy Walker. Readers, however, span all ages, thankfully. Plus Darcy ages as the series progresses, so the reader will get to eventually see her graduate, get a job, and experience all those other wonderful things we get to as adults … insert some sarcasm J Plus her normal shenanigans where she finds dead bodies and outruns the Grim Reaper.
What sparked the idea for this series?
I think Darcy was always in the back of my mind wanting to burst out … LOL. She’s a very loud character. But to answer your question, I have two daughters and love rooting for them and the underdog. Darcy comes wired a little differently than other girls and carries around a lot of demons that surface as the series progresses. Hopefully, I’ve created a character that everyone can identify with.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novels?
For me, it most usually is the character’s story. The Darcy Walker Series has always been more about the journey than the mystery … it’s been peeling her back like an onion so the reader understands what makes her into the "verb" that she is in a world full of nouns. DEFCON Darcy, book four, finally gives all of Darcy’s demons a name.
What was the hardest part to write in these books?
I think it was allowing Darcy to be the everyday teenager. As a mom, you want to protect your kids, keep them away from bullies, definitely away from danger, but Darcy gravitates to that like a moth on a flame. In Grade A Stupid, I had to relinquish control and allow her to tell me what happened … even if I didn’t like it.
How do you hope this series affects its readers?
I hope Darcy is an inspiration that you can find success no matter what hand life dealt you, and that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. She never gives up … I admire that in her. And I hope it reminds people to look for beauty in everyone. Sometimes life tries to shove someone’s square-peg mind through society’s round hole … that’s wrong. I don’t like it when someone’s spirit is killed just because they are different.
How long did it take you to write the first book?
Grade A Stupid was written in 2008 but it literally took me about three years before I got courage to show someone what I’d written. Yeah, we writers suffer insecurity at times. Our characters are like our children and you feel for them and just want people to understand them. That being said, my youngest who had just turned nine at the time encouraged me to put myself out there … so glad I did! The Darcy Walker Series has remained in the Top 100 teens mysteries and thrillers since its debut … I still pinch myself.
That's fantastic! What is your writing routine?
I usually plan my day the night before, believe it or not. Then I get up in the morning, take my youngest to the bus stop, and then come home, crack open a can of Coke, and hit the ground running. Sometimes I write with music in the background, sometimes the TV, sometimes it's just silence with my listening to my dog snore and hamster run on her wheel. All depends on how I’m feeling that day.
How did you get your book published?
I indie published which means I did it all myself and hired promo companies to help me.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
I used CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) for my paperbacks, which is a service where you just pay for printing on demand. All you do is have someone format your book to their specifications and then upload a pdf. Then when someone buys your book, Amazon takes their cut and you take yours. Books are discounted for authors if you want to buy them yourself for author shows.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Read and chase after my daughters … plus I’m a Netflix junkie. I like to just veg with my remote when I have the time … when I can steal it away from my husband, that is.
What does your family think of your writing?
Totally supportive and even though they think it’s probably weird, they let me talk about the characters like they are real. I’m sure one of my daughters will probably tell a therapist that some day but you do what you gotta do J
[*Laughs*] Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I come from a really small town called Garrison, Kentucky, in the USA. Garrison is a place you go through when you are basically trying to get somewhere else … LOL. Population is less than a thousand. But I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything. My sister and I had great parents who supported us in whatever we attempted. There weren’t a lot of opportunities growing up in a small town, but they instilled in us the value of hard work and perseverance.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Oddly, my sister was the bookworm growing up. I was just too hyper, had to be moving, or playing sports outside with my cousin.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I started writing about Darcy Walker I didn’t set out to be a writer. She just wouldn’t stop talking in my head. It drove me insane until I brought her to life. [Um ... therapist, anyone?] I came from a writing background having majored in English and Journalism in college, so that transition wasn’t hard, but it by far, wasn’t what I wanted to do "when I grew up". Life sometimes dictates where you land in life … but I have no complaints.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Absolutely. The experiences Darcy goes through are influenced by things that happened to me or others I know.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I absolutely adore Janet Evanovich, J. R. Ward, Karen Marie Moning, Liliana Hart, Lara Adrian, Tina Folsom, and Gemma Halliday. They’ve totally got it going on, and I can’t wait to read their books when they are released.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I have such great readers!!! I have a fan club/street team on Facebook and I get to talk to them daily. It’s been the biggest blessing to find out that Darcy and her world are touching people in a positive way. They tell me that she encourages them, that she’s a good role model for not quitting, and they like the fact that she makes them laugh. Yeah, that’s a great feeling when you can make someone laugh. My number one goal.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’m currently trying to wrap my head around a plot for book five and gearing up for the release of DEFCON Darcy, which hit online retailers today (17 February)!
Well, congratulations on your new release, A. J., and thank you for taking the time to stop by today. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
A. J. Lape is the author of The Darcy Walker Series which has stayed on Amazon's teen's mysteries and thrillers bestseller's lists since its debut in 2012. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, two daughters, an ADD dog, a spoiled hamster, and an unapologetic and unrepentant addiction to Coca-Cola - plus a lifelong love affair with bacon she has no plans to sever. A graduate of Morehead State University with a Master's degree in Communications, she's a PI wannabe and recently joined the Citizen's Police Academy in her hometown but daily stops crime through the fictional ADHD character of Darcy Walker. If the FBI ever checks her computer, she'll be wearing prison-orange due to the graphic and disgusting "wiki" articles she looks up ... all in the name of career research, of course.

Enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win an ebook set of the first four books in The Darcy Walker Series by A. J. Lape. And don't forget, everyone can download a FREE copy of the first book in the series, Grade A Stupid.