Thursday, May 5, 2011

Twice a Spy by Keith Thomson

Twice a Spy: A Novel
Twice a Spy: A Novel by Keith Thomson

The blurb:
In the tradition of Robert Ludlum, Thomson's novel featuring a former spy and his son poses the question: What happens when a CIA agent can no longer trust when a CIA agent can no longer trust his own mind?

Retired CIA operations officer Drummond Clark and his son, Charlie,  are on the Iam in Switzerland, along with NSA operative Alice Rutherford.  While Charlie helps Drummond undergo an experimental treatment for Alzheimer's, Alice works to exonerate them from criminal charges against them in the United States.  That is, until she is renditioned -- or in lay language, kidnapped.

To get her back, the father-son duo must travel to Martinique and plumb Drummond's damaged memory to locate a hidden cache of weapons.  All the while, the Clarks are tracked by a formidable CIA case officer and his team.

I enjoyed Twice a Spy partly for the spycraft which was fascinating and fun, but largely because of the father-son interplay.  What would it have been like to have had 007 or an elder Jason Bourne as your father?  Charlie Clark is finding out just that - except his father is in the early stages of dementia.  So it takes some understanding, creativity, and patience to get the elder Clark to reveal his techniques, his craft, and his secrets.

The father-son dynamic and Drummond Clark's dementia add a certain levity and sadness to the novel and make Twice a Spy a particularly enjoyable read. If you are partial to spy novels and thrillers, don't miss Keith Thomson's Twice a Spy!

ISBN-10: 9780385530798 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (March 8, 2011), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Keith Thomson is a former semi-pro baseball player in France, an editorial cartoonist for Newsday, a filmmaker with a short film shown at Sundance, and a screenwriter who currently lives in Alabama.  He writes on intelligence and other matters for the Huffington Post.  Learn more about him at

A Tina Fey sort of Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!  To celebrate, I'm sharing A Mother's Prayer by Tina Fey.  The audio clip is hilarious. : )

Libertine's Kiss by Judith James

Judith James is one of the first romance authors that I'd discovered when I'd started my blog.  I was fortunate to have received a review copy of her first novel, Broken Wing,  through Bostick Communications.     (Here's the link to my review of Broken Wing.)  The following year, I joined the blog tour and reviewed James's second novel, Highland Rebel.  (Here's the link to my review of Highland Rebel.)   Judith James's third novel, Libertine's Kiss came out in 2010, but it has taken me a while to maneuver through NetGalley with my Kindle.  So, I apologize for the delay - here's the rundown on Libertine's Kiss.  Judith James's fourth book, The King's Courtesan, comes out in August 2011. 

Libertine's Kiss (Hqn)
Libertine's Kiss by Judith James

The blurb:
Abandoned by his cavalier father at a young age, William de Veres grew up knowing precious little happiness. But William has put the past firmly behind him and as a military hero and noted rake, he rises fast in the ranks of the hedonistic Restoration court. Though not before he is forced to seek shelter from a charming young Puritan woman…

The civil wars have cost the once-high-spirited Elizabeth Walters her best friend and her father, leaving her unprotected and alone. She flees an unwanted marriage, seeking safe haven, but what she finds is something she never expected. When her kindness and her beauty bring her to the attention of William, and then the king, she will have a choice to make. After all, can a notorious libertine really be capable of love?

Set in England during turbulent times - from Cromwell's bloody reign through the return of King Charles II - Libertine's Kiss  captures the political uncertainty and violence of the period and places each romantic lead firmly in different camps.

The story begins with William de Veres, a loyal subject of Charles Stuart, who has entered England to raise funds for the Stuart's return.  With the royal funds practically depleted, de Veres has to resort to highway robbery and other dangerous methods.   As things go awry,  de Veres is injured and in his escape comes across an isolated cottage and pleads for help.  He doesn't recognize his old friend, Elizabeth Walters, who takes him in, cares for him, and aids his journey.  He isn't aware of the extreme danger that he puts her in.

In contrast, Elizabeth is a solid Republican, the daughter of a general who lost his life supporting Cromwell.  Elizabeth and William de Veres had been neighbors  and best friends as children even as  their parents were on opposite sides politically.  While de Veres fails to recognize her, Elizabeth immediately knows her best friend.  She keeps their old friendship a secret and when he leaves, Elizabeth Walters is caught and punished for aiding an enemy.  She loses her property and nearly loses her life.  The punishment drastically changes Elizabeth's situation and it's with some desperation that she decides to go to court to seek redress upon King Charles II's return to England.  Though a stroke of luck, de Veres sees his old friend as she reaches court.  Elizabeth's presence recalls a gentler, nobler side to de Veres and he tries to protect her from the court, King Charles II, and himself.  It's here that the love story really begins.

Judith James succeeds in creating a historical romance of the best sort.  Historical events are critical to the plot and somehow it seems that the main characters meet and befriend the important figures of the time.   While both de Veres and Elizabeth Walters are shaped by the events around them, they've modern temperaments and are clearly characters that we care about, sympathize with.  Even their worst acts make them more likable.  Once again, Judith James has delivered an engrossing and wonderful read!

ISBN-10: 0373775059 -Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher: HQN Books (August 1, 2010), 384pages.
Review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

About the Author:
Judith James has worked as a legal assistant, trail guide, and counselor. Living in Nova Scotia, her personal journey has taken her to the Arctic and the West Coast. Her writing combines her love of history and adventure with her keen interest in the complexities of human nature and the heart's capacity to heal. To learn more, visit her website at You can follower her on twitter as well judith_james

Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

Tabloid City: A Novel

Tabloid City: A Novel by Pete Hamill

A violent crime draws together a cast of characters that find themselves interconnected in other ways.  The crime,  the intertwined social network, and these unusual characters give us an unsentimental picture of New York during the recession.  We meet:
  • Lew Forrest of the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, an aging and successful painter who has lost his sight. His closest companion is Camus, a black labrador; 
  • Cynthia Harding of Greenwich Village, a socialite particularly committed to the New York City libraries and literacy.  Her longtime lover is Sam Briscoe of the New York World; 
  • Sandra Gordon, whose precociousness at a dinner party in Jamaica drew the attention, sympathy, and mentorship of Cynthia Harding. From children's books to a passport and education, Cynthia helped Sandra find her place; 
  • Sam Briscoe, the editor of New York World, the last afternoon newspaper in New York and a fixture in journalism circles;
  • Bobby Fonseca, a young journalist, who lives and breathes his work; 
  • Ali Watson of Fort Greene, Brooklyn,  a New York City homicide detective;
  • Malik Shahid, a young New Yorker turned religious fanatic/fundamentalist;
  • Josh Thompson, a veteran from the wars in the Middle East who has lost his home and his family and is on the streets of New York;
  • Beverly Starr, an artist from Gowanus, Brooklyn;
  • Consuelo Mendoza, an illegal immigrant from Mexico living in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; and
  • Myles Compton, a hedgefund manager whose bad investments and shady dealings lead him to abscond in the night.
 While each of the personalities are carefully constructed, I was particularly drawn to the women who are given central roles in the novel.   Sandra Gordon is a secondary character but her strength, independence and vulnerability all come across so clearly.   The interaction between the aging and nearly blind painter Lew Forrest and his long lost muse, Consuelo Mendoza is particularly touching.   Even the socialite Cynthia Harding who only appears briefly is complex and fleshed out.  Through a high profile murder and its aftermath, Tabloid City  gives a fascinating and unsentimental glimpse of today's New York.

ISBN-10: 0316020753 - Hardcover $26.99
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (May 5, 2011), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Pete Hamill is a novelist, journalist, editor and screenwriter.  He is the author of 20 previous books, including bestselling novels Forever and Snow in August and the bestselling memoir A Drinking Life.  He lives in New York City

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy

OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy

The blurb:
Ellie Taylor loves nothing better than a good argument.  After all, she's been arguing with her Zeydeh (grandfather in Yiddish) since she could talk.  So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she's sure that if she wins the final tournament, it'll be her ticket to a scholarship to the best speech school in the country.  Unfortunately, the competition at CSSPA is hot -- literally. His name is Devon and whether Ellie likes it or not, being near him makes her sizzle.  Luckly, she's headstrong and confident enough to take on the challenge -- until she begins to suspect that the private scholarship's benefactor has negative feelings towards Jews.  Will hiding her true identity and heritage be worth a shot at her dream?

Dominy's heroine, Ellie Taylor, has been arguing all her life.  A born debater, confident, funny, and determined, Ellie signs up for Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp so that she can win a full scholarship to the best private school in her area, the school with one of the best debate societies in the state.    Ellie realizes that winning the scholarship also means pretending to be Christian and repudiating her Jewish heritage and identity, this raises all sorts of problems.  Tough for Ellie, but great for us readers because it also gives Dominy the chance to exploit her skill at comedy. 

Dominy has a gift for humor.  Everything that might go wrong does - and in such a way that I kept chuckling and laughing out loud.   Likable characters, witty dialogue, and situational comedy - OyMG is such a fun read!

ISBN-10: 080272177X- Hardcover $16.99
Publisher: Walker & Company (May 10, 2011), 256 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
A former advertising copywriter, Amy Fellner Dominy earned her MFA from Arizona State University in 2004. OyMG is her first teen novel. Amy lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her hubby, two teenagers, and various pets. Visit Amy at