What if the Cuban Missile Crisis had not been peacefully resolved? What if the Soviets had detonated nuclear bombs over Long Island? And what if your...moreWhat if the Cuban Missile Crisis had not been peacefully resolved? What if the Soviets had detonated nuclear bombs over Long Island? And what if your family was the only one with a bomb shelter? This is the premise of Todd Strasser's book.
But this is not a philosophical treatise. We aren't asked actually asked "what would you do if...". Rather, we are presented with the situation as it is, and through Strasser's very vivid writing, asked to put ourselves in the shelter and experience it through Scott's eyes.
Neither is this a political treatise. Strasser keeps the focus so tight on Scott, his first-person narrator, that we can't even quite tell what's going on politically or militarily. We only know tensions are rising on the world stage. It's a very realistic portrayal of how the world looked to a 12 year old in 1962, but the technique has it's pitfalls as well, the biggest one being that I am not 12 years old and would have liked a bit more insight into what was going on in the wider world.
Although this lack of information bothered me while I was reading the book, looking back, it seems almost a nitpicky complaint about a book that is so strong and readable.(less)
I enjoyed George Bishop's first novel, Letter to My Daughter and was excited to read this book, his second. I was not disappointed. Bishop explores si...moreI enjoyed George Bishop's first novel, Letter to My Daughter and was excited to read this book, his second. I was not disappointed. Bishop explores similar themes in this book, as his narrator looks back on his childhood and the lives of his parents.
Alan Broussard, Jr. looks back on his freshman year of high school, when he fell in love for the first time, his father was his science teacher, his parents' marriage fell apart and came back together, and the comet Kohoutek didn't quite show up. Bishop is adept at bringing his characters to life and managing all of the threads of his narrative. The story isn't complicated or startling, but it's believable and satisfying.(less)
Now with the elite Special Operations Executive, Maggie continues her somewhat maverick approach to acts of derring-do on behalf of His Majesty with a two-pronged mission in Berlin. Unfortunately, most of the people she encounters during her exploits there fail to come alive on the page. Add to that less-than-convincing mission details and some entirely-too-coincidental meet-ups, and this adventure just doesn't measure up. But MacNeal has already proven that she has what it takes in this genre, so I'll continue to hope for good things in future Maggie Hope adventures.
Two additional notes: First, this book shouldn't really be called a mystery, since there is no mystery to be solved. Second, MacNeal shouldn't feel the need to rip off scenes from tv shows, although I'm sure it was entirely an unconscious thing on her part. She chose one of my favorite scenes from an excellent show (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but I was still very disappointed. Her writing is strong enough without resorting to copying, even from the greats.(less)
In my review of Winston Churchill's Secretary, the first of the Maggie Hope books, I said that the series showed promise as MacNeal settled into her t...moreIn my review of Winston Churchill's Secretary, the first of the Maggie Hope books, I said that the series showed promise as MacNeal settled into her talents as a writer. With this second installment, MacNeal is certainly starting to live up to that promise. Although some of the language is still a bit clunky (and there are far too many mentions of birds), the story itself flows much more smoothly than it did in the first book and MacNeal takes fewer shortcuts to get her characters in and out of situations.
Newly installed with MI-5, Maggie Hope is placed at Windsor Castle at Christmas in 1940. Posing as Princess Elizabeth's math tutor, she is really there to ferret out a possible plot against the future queen's life. Descriptions of life at Windsor Castle during this period are well-done, and glimpses of historical personages are clearly well-researched. Once again, MacNeal does an excellent job bringing to life a fascinating aspect of Britain during WWII, while at the same time allowing Maggie to grow as a character and as a spy. I look forward to reading more!(less)