Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

 Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith is a mysterious, suspicious, relentless page turner of a book. Leo Demidov is an officer in Moscow’s MGB, the organizational precursor to the KGB. Leo is also a decorated hero of WWII with his picture plastered all over the newspaper. Working for the MGB in 1950s Stalinist Russia means that Leo’s life, and the life of everyone around him, is rife with fear and paranoia. Leo has a tiny bit of protection since he works for the MGB, but he is more than aware of how quickly the security afforded to him by his job can be snatched away.

The Soviet Union under Stalin’s rule lives under the heading that there is no crime. That simply isn’t true. Crime that happens is quickly quelled by the MGB and is usually stopped before it happens by quick capture and interrogation. Leo handles a variety of cases and on one of his missions, he is assigned to talk to the family of a young boy who died. The family is convinced that the boy was murdered, a fact made worse by the fact that the boy’s father works for Leo at the MGB. Tasked with making sure the family understands the boy’s death was an accident, Leo tries to get them to understand the situation.

Another of Leo’s cases puts him at odds with a different subordinate, to the point that the man seeks revenge. Forces come to a head and Leo’s steady life is rocked. Faced with the decision of whether or not to denounce his wife as an enemy spy, Leo seeks advice from his parents and wrestles with his decision. Leo is a believer in his country with his work record and military history backing up his beliefs. Asking him to denounce his wife has the potential to push him over the edge.

Circumstances collude to destroy Leo’s life. He is dispatched out of Moscow and exiled to a country village. Leo finds the body of a child killed in the same way as the young boy in Moscow, a fact that puts his whole demeanor on edge. The death he was forced to cover up in Moscow cannot be a coincidence and Leo soon believes a serial killer is after Russia’s children. The official government standpoint is that these deaths are a coincidence. This rankles Leo and sets him down a path to find the real killer, while he also works to keep he and his wife safe.

This book was a riveting read. Tom Rob Smith conveys the melancholy and oppressiveness of Stalin’s Soviet Union very well. Add in murder, espionage, intrigue, and suspense, this piece of thrilling historical fiction comes to life as Leo works to solve crime in a country where crime simply doesn’t exist. This is also the first book in a trilogy, so you can keep reading about Leo’s adventures (The other two are on my list!).


This book was made into a movie starring Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman. It’s on my holds list! Hopefully they stayed somewhat true to the book.

 


This book is also available in the following formats:

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

I have been reading a lot of World War II fiction recently, purely by chance. 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson fit so neatly into the timeline of a previous WWII book that I had read that I noticed myself mixing storylines. Once I realized, I paid more attention and started taking notes (Taking notes is more than okay to do! Even when you’re not in school.) This novel was enjoyable and I found myself connecting to most of the characters.

22 Britannia Road tells the story of a family’s rediscovery of each other after World War II. Silvana and Janusz were married right around the beginning of the war. Their marriage began sweet and full of promise with each other’s past left fully in the past. Silvana’s family was less than caring about her, while Janusz is very close to his. Silvana and Janusz settle in Warsaw where they work at keeping their marriage together. Janusz leaves Silvana and their young son to join the military. Years pass, both during the war and after the war, with Silvana and Janusz doing whatever they have to in order to survive.

Once reunited the family moves to England where they struggle to put the past behind them. Both Sylvana and Janusz have secrets though, plus the area where they are living brings its own issues to the surface. Janusz has very much adapted to the English way of life, while Sylvana and their son still mostly speak Polish and have troubles adapting to their new normal life. Settling into their new house, Sylvana and Janusz begin a tentative new life, rediscovering each other and their new home after the ravages of war. Each of them carry secrets that even before they are voiced begin to eat away at Silvana and Janusz inside. What did Janusz do those six years that he was gone? Where did Sylvana and their child end up? How did they survive?

This novel juxtaposes both the present day and the past to show what happened to Silvana, Janusz, and their son during the time when they all were separated from each other. I greatly enjoyed the flashbacks because it helped me to justify and see some of the reasons that each family member behaves the way that they do. This psychological fiction really had me thinking about the secrets we keep from the people we love and the secrets that we’ve become so accustomed to that they eventually feel like our normal life.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Looking for a new book in OverDrive, I offhandedly asked another librarian if she had heard of The Queen of the Tearling. She said she had heard of it, that it had won some awards or been on some lists and that it was supposed to be a good read. Taking that as a good enough endorsement for me to read it, I checked it out and started listening to it after work. Holy smokes! I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s the first book in a series and I honestly can’t wait to read the rest of the books. I am hardly ever motivated enough to finish the next books in a series unless I am blown away by the first. Johansen blew my mind with the first book, so my hopes are up for the next two.

The Queen of the Tearling is a fantasy novel packed full of adventure, journeys, and self-discovery, while also telling the story of a young girl’s coming of age. Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is a young exiled princess, who, on her nineteenth birthday, is summoned back to the castle where she was born to take her rightful place on the throne. Her mother died when she was young, but before she died, she sent baby Kelsea into exile to be raised and hopefully kept out of harm’s way. Every Raleigh Queen is murdered by assassins and therefore her mother wanted to keep her safe. Rumors swirled around the young princess with some thinking her dead while others believed her to be alive and as frivolous and vain as her mother. Mysteries abound and young Kelsea must work tirelessly to secure the trust of her people.

Kelsea looks nothing like her mother and also acts nothing like her. She knows the throne is her rightful place, whether she wants it to be or not. Trained and schooled in exile, Kelsea was only privy to the information her two guardians would give her, leaving her with wide gaps in her knowledge of Tearling history and her own mother’s life. Once Kelsea finds her way to the castle and proves she is the rightful queen, her troubles begin. Her uncle has been acting as regent since her mother’s death. He wants the kingdom for himself, despite the fact that he is rather unpopular amongst both the commoners and the nobility. He has also made a rather complicated alliance with the sorcerous Red Queen in neighboring Mortmesne, something that doesn’t sit well with Kelsea and a wide variety of the Tearling people.

This apocalyptic universe has a lot going on. Kelsea, having grown up in isolation, finds herself smack dab in all the problems. She is identified as the true queen by the fact that she is marked and is wearing the Tearling sapphire around her neck, a necklace that she has been wearing since birth. The longer she wears this jewel, the more she realizes that it is more than just your traditional necklace. It has magical powers and Kelsea isn’t quite sure how it exactly works… In addition to being protected by her sapphire, Kelsea is accompanied by the Queen’s Guard, a group of knights who have sworn an oath to protect the queen. They are a dedicated selection of men who sometimes are the only thing standing between Kelsea and her enemies. This book is a treasure trove of fantasy, dark magic, journeys, adventure, and self-love. Kelsea loves books and learning, a fact that I related to well. This book was incredibly put together and kept my interest the whole time. This heroine is no damsel in distress. Kelsea may need help at times, but she will ask for it and will strive to make herself better. She may be idealistic, but given her age and sheltered life, that is to be expected. I’m hoping that the next books explain the backstory further, but other than that, The Queen of the Tearling  sets up an intriguing world that will hold your interest all the way through.


The Queen of the Tearling is also available in the following formats:


This book is the first in the trilogy. The second book is The Invasion of the Tearling and The Fate of the Tearling. (Stay tuned for reviews of those once I finish them!)

 

Letter 44, Volume 3: Dark Matter by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque

letter 44 vol3Series books of any kind are one of my favorite things to read. I get hooked into the characters’ lives and find myself wondering just what is going to happen to them in the next volume. This is what was happening to me as I sat waiting for Letter 44, Volume 3: Dark Matter to be released for me to read. (I have previously read and reviewed the first two volumes, so check out the reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2!)

Letter 44, Volume 3: Dark Matter continues investigating into the lives of the astronauts on the Clarke and the people on Earth. At the end of the previous volume, President Blades released the knowledge of the presence of alien life in space to the people of Earth despite being warned of the disastrous consequences this could have for everyone involved. After the release of this information, world war broke out. Countries are battling for control of the planet, most notably a coalition of nations led by the United States and a secret second group that is being controlled by former President Francis Carroll and the barrage of secret weapons he had developed during his term as President.

While this battle for control of the Earth rages on, the crew of the Clarke has been captured and is being held somewhat captive by the aliens that they discovered in space. The only way for them to try to escape is to cooperate fully with their captors, much to the chagrin of some crew members. Left with a ship that has been partially destroyed and having no way to communicate with people back on Earth, they are left to rely on the small tidbits of information they can gather from the aliens. Gaining access to information through somewhat back channels and limited access to the aliens’ own communication devices, the crew learns that a massive threat is heading straight towards Earth, a danger that no one on earth knows about. Communications become a dire need and the crew of the Clarke is forced to use any means necessary to find ways to contact Earth. Massive world war, corrupt politicians, alien life, asteroids heading toward Earth, assassination attempts, and crazy high-tech weaponry make this an incredibly fast-paced read, action-packed, compelling, and gripping. I could not put this book down and am immensely looking forward to the next volume!

G.I. Joe: Origins Omnibus, Volume 1

gi joe originsNeed a good old-fashioned American graphic novel about heroes? Look no further than G.I. Joe: Origins Omnibus, Volume 1. This graphic novel has everything you could hope for in a superhero graphic novel, except that the characters are more realistic for kids to hope to become and to look up to. Nobody in this book was born a God with special powers(Heeeyyy Thor and Loki), none were bitten by radioactive spiders(Lookin’ good, Spider-Man), received their powers through some sort of solar flare/energy boost(Fantastic Four), nor do they have tons of money to buy all the fancy equipment they could ever want(Here’s looking at you, Iron Man). The people in the G.I. Joe program mostly all have military backgrounds with the skills and training they received as part of those organizations playing a major role in their initial selection to and their subsequent success in the program.

G.I. Joe: Origins Omnibus, Volume 1 gives readers a much-needed glimpse into the origin stories of various members of the G.I. Joe team. Something I noticed throughout this volume was the level of secrecy that is shown in both the selection of new members to the team and the shadowing of the actual name of their organization. This level of secrecy is necessary for them to maintain once readers see the wide variety of highly dangerous and covert missions they go on.

The origins of the G.I. Joe team came out of the changing and new era of war. New kind of war and fighting means that the good guys need to find a fighting force. The war that the G.I. Joe team finds themselves fighting is not out on the battlefield; it is instead being waged within cities, involving more innocent bystanders and a new breed of villain that is willing to do anything to create havoc. Check out this graphic novel to learn more about each G.I. Joe and to really see how this team came together.

Letter 44, Volume 2: Redshift by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque

letter 44 vol 2Previously I reviewed Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity and was instantly intrigued. As a result, I decided that I needed to find the second volume to figure out how the story progressed. Letter 44, Volume 2: Redshift goes further into the extraterrestrial life the astronauts on the space ship, Clarke, discovered in the first volume.

With President Blades struggling to deal with if and when he should alert the public to the existence of the aliens, he finds himself having to deal with other people in the government who are calling for him to tell the truth and if not, risk being impeached. This alien presence is becoming more than he think he can deal with and instead of following the plan laid out for him by the previous administration, he decides to go his own way and ends up thinking more short-term than long-term. That decision ends up costing the American people dearly.

While Blades deals with threats from inside his administration and tries to balance everything happening outside, the people on spaceship Clarke are struggling just to live day-to-day. Losing one of their own on the asteroid and with a newborn baby on board, they are trying to figure out what the aliens want and what their device is actually for. Learning what the aliens plan to do throws the crew into a state of panic, especially when it is discovered that one of their own has the ability to communicate with the aliens. This second volume is jam-packed with action, sabotage, danger, and the struggle to survive. Personally, I cannot wait for the third volume, so I can catch up the crew of the Clarke and see how Blades is doing as President.

Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule & Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque

letter 44 v1What would you do if you were thrust into a situation that you initially thought you could control, but then you found out that everyone who had prepared you had either lied to you or had been unaware of a certain MAJOR event? Would you panic? Would you want to tell everyone about the secret you just learned about? This is the predicament that newly-elected President Stephen Blades finds himself in on his very first day in office in Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity.

In this first volume, President Blades is ushered into the oval office to find a letter for him from the previous President. Opening the letter and expecting to have to dive headfirst into fixing the critical issues facing the nation caused by President Carroll, Blades instead discovers the one singular event and reason behind the country’s involvement in two major wars, the economy collapsing, and the healthcare system to be failing. It’s a national and world secret that only a handful of people are aware of: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, one that was able to cloak itself somehow and had the potential to be dangerous. In order to learn more about this, a team of 9 astronauts made up of both military members and scientists was sent into space to discover what is really going on.

This graphic novel divides focus between Blades and the group of astronauts who are almost to their destination. As the astronauts prepare to reach their destination, you learn their ship, the Clarke, is becoming increasingly damaged and should not have been sent on this mission so quickly. Secrets abound both in the air and on the ground, leaving readers to wonder what really is the truth and showing that President Stephen Blades has the ultimate power in his hands. All that’s left is for him to decide what to do with it.

Stay tuned for a review from Volume 2 (and be on the lookout for Volume 3)!

The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies by Martin Millar

the goddess of buttercups and daisiesDo you like reading about ancient gods and goddesses like Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus, etc? I know I do. One thing I found lacking when I was reading about them was that there was never any story about their day-to-day lives. Sure, everyone knows the Athena sprung whole out of her father Zeus’ head after he swallowed her mother to try to keep her from being born, that Aphrodite rose full-formed out of the sea foam, and that Zeus was a philandering God who had many different girlfriends and illegitimate children despite the fact that he was married to Hera, the goddess of weddings and marriage, but what about their everyday lives?? Martin Millar has attempted to tackle this question in his new book, The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies.

In The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies, Martin Millar looks at both the daily life of the gods and goddesses, but also at the lives of the people who relied on them to make their lives work. (Admittedly more attention is paid to the citizens than to the gods, but interesting tidbits and stories are thrown in for good measure.) In this fantasy epic, the lives of Athenian citizens are in dire straits as the city is in its 10th year of war with Sparta. In hopes to end the war, a peace conference is being held around the time of the festival of Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and wine who was also known as a patron of the arts.

Aristophanes is struggling to get the necessary funds to guarantee his play’s success and to make up for the fact that he didn’t win first prize at last year’s festival. His rival playwrights are receiving any and everything they could possibly want, while the politicians and festival sponsors seem to be conspiring to make sure his play fails gigantically. One group in town wants peace, while the other group wants war to continue. Aristophanes’ play about peace will never succeed without money, so he is forced to make some deals with some less-than-reputable people in town. Add in various people praying to the gods and asking for help and soon Athens finds itself the center of attention of some meddlesome gods who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the outcome they desire.

This funny, compelling, and witty adventure into the lives of average Athenian citizens and the gods they turn to for help will have you eagerly turning the page to see what destruction and mayhem could possibly come next.

The Water Diviner

water divinerActors taking a turn behind the camera as directors or producers has become increasingly more common. Russell Crowe has joined the ranks of such actors with the 2014 film, The Water Diviner, in which he both stars and directs this Australian historical fictional war drama.

In The Water Diviner, Crowe stars as Australian farmer Joshua Connor, who lives in Australia on a working farm with his wife and their three sons. After the unexpected death of his wife, Connor heads to Turkey in 1919 after the Battle of Gallipoli in order to find his three missing and presumed dead sons in order to bring their bodies home to be buried next to their mother. Connor repeatedly finds obstacles thrown in his way that bar his ability to, at first, make it to Gallipoli and then to get the officials there to even help him find his son. Facing tension from the military and different governmental agencies while abroad, as well as discrimination in Turkey from the locals who see him as the reason why their family and friends didn’t come home from the war, Connor soon realizes that everyone and everything around him has drastically changed from the war and that he must find a way to survive.. Finding his sons becomes Connor’s driving force through life, leading him to discover things that he is not quite ready to know.


This movie is loosely based on the book The Water Diviner by Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios. Check out the following books to learn more about the Battle of Gallipoli.

the water diviner bookturning the tide of wargallipoliworld war 1the anzac girlseden to armageddon

 

 

Kill the Messenger

kill the messengerI don’t know about you, but my attention is always peaked when I start watching a movie and it says, “based on a true story” somewhere in the opening credits. I watch the movie trying to absorb as many of the facts as possible, so that when the movie ends, if I still find the topic and people the movie is about interesting, then I can go research more. My newest “based on a true story” movie is Kill the Messenger starring Jeremy Renner.

In Kill the Messenger, Renner plays Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who worked for the San Jose Mercury News, who finds himself entangled in a political and drug war when he at first becomes tricked into helping a younger drug dealer get his charges dropped in trial. Webb inadvertently stumbles upon a huge life-changing story when he digs deeper into the initial story he was presented with and finds a connection between the U.S. government and a Central American war. Through investigative reporting and tracking down anyone that could possibly be tied to this case, Webb finds that a United States intelligence agency has linked themselves to a group of Central American drug smugglers. Webb’s story seems to only be getting better until he is dragged in front of operatives for the agency and is told, in polite terms of course, that if he does not stop, he will be unequivocally endangering his life, the lives of his family, and the lives of everyone he knows. Here is when everything starts going downhill for Webb. This movie can be described as a riveting suspense, an explosive race for the truth, and even a compelling political drama. I was intrigued by the suspense and the cover-ups that happen throughout and how everything you think you know, you actually don’t know at all. Check out this movie and let me know what you think!


If you’re interested in learning more about Gary Webb, the journalist who exposed the CIA, check out the books below. They contain essays written by Webb, while Kill the Messenger by Nick Schou is one of the two books that the move is based on.

ktm bookinto the buzzsawyou are being lied to