Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading Thread - July 2021 edition

Yes! I love that story.

For a terrific fictional take on WWII espionage, D-Day and the expected Calais landing, see Ken Follett’s 1978 novel Eye of the Needle.

I’ve now started, on Boycott’s recommendation, Riley Sager’s novel Lock Every Door. I’m about an hour into the audiobook. The structure of the book is intriguing, jumping back and forth from the present (with the heroine hospitalized after - maybe? - being hit by a car) and a few days earlier (when she first comes to an exclusive, ritzy but kinda spooky Manhattan apartment building, The Bartholomew, to begin her three-month stint as an apartment sitter). So far, so good.

Finished The Rambling , by Jimmy Cajoleas, which was a lot of fun. It’s a Middle Grade fantasy, and one of the best fantasies (possibly the best) I’ve read so far this year.

I’ve been reading The Book of Animal Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong, by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson for a while now. I’d started it just to get inspiration for a writing call for submission for animal poems, but it’s very interesting.

Thanks for that! I’d forgotten that Garbo repeatedly walked into a British embassy (in Madrid, I think?) and offered to be spy but they kept putting him off, thinking he was a nut or a dilettante. It wasn’t until he offered his services to the Germans, got various spy gear from them and then returned to the British embassy to show it to his earlier contact that he was taken on as a double agent.

Finished The Book of Animal Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong , by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. My favorite fact is that actually, there’s only one map that says “Here Be Dragons”. It’s from the 16th century (IIRC) and instead of being in the middle of the ocean, it’s near Komodo Island…

Started Vectors, a collection of SF stories by Charles Sheffield.

On page 224, about halfway through, I’m giving up on The Last Human. A couple of days ago, I was still enjoying it, but now the plot has completely run out of steam. Looking at the reviews on Goodreads, I see a lot of people had the same issue.

Correct, Madrid and Lisbon both actually. Then he took his German gear to the Americans, recently entered into the war, who told the Brits, “Hey, you need to listen to this guy.” But it was not only that the embassies did not believe or trust Garbo, although there was that too. It seems the British ambassador to Spain was fanatically intent on maintaining Spain’s official neutral stance and absolutely forbade any activity that might draw controversy (which naturally frustrated the few British intelligence agents in the embassy).

Finished Vectors , a collection of SF stories by Charles Sheffield, which I enjoyed. My favorite was “Marconi, Mattin, Maxwell”. (Italics his.)

Now I’m reading Take Me With You, by Andrea Gibson.

Thanks for that, too, Siam_Sam.

Currently reading The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird. It’s about a pandemic that kills only the men. It’s very well done; I’ve had to keep a box of Kleenex handy throughout.

Although we aren’t currently required to wear masks here, I’m starting again as of today. I feel like it’s only a matter of time anyhow.

Finished Take Me With You , by Andrea Gibson, which was okay.

Now I’m reading A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece, by Hannah Breece, edited by Jane Jacobs.

Finished Operation Garbo: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Spy of World War II, by Juan Pujol Garcia and Nigel West. A fantastic story. Pujol himself is the spy in question, and he wrote chapters 1-4, 6 and 11, while West wrote chapters 5, 7-10 and the epilogue. Code-named Garbo, Pujol was arguably the main reason for the Allied’s success on D-Day. Acting as a double agent for Britain’s MI5 security agency, the Germans believed him to be working for them instead, and Pujol invented in his imagination an entire complex spy network he supposedly controlled in the UK to persuade the Germans that Normandy would be just a feint and that the real main invasion force would land at Calais. This kept most of the German forces in Calais, making them seriously undermanned at Normandy. As rough as the invasion was, it could have been far worse without Pujol’s efforts and might have failed altogether. The Germans code-named him Arabel, but the Brits named him Garbo, reasoning he must be the greatest actor in the world. They also thought that if the Germans got wind of an agent named Garbo, they might figure it was a woman. But the Germans never did figure it out and believed him to the end. Pujol was decorated with Germany’s Iron Cross and Britain’s MBE. To protect himself and his family from vengeful Nazis if his secret ever got out, he faked his death after the war and disappeared to Venezuela, where he taught English for a while for Shell Oil and then ran a movie theater. West, who is actually an English politician named Rupert Allason, managed to track him down in the 1980s for the book and to reunite him with his fellow surviving spies. By all accounts, Pujol was a nice guy and to me will always be one of the really great men in history. Anyone who has an ancestor who survived D-Day action owes him a huge debt of gratitude.

Next up, it’s back to LA noir with The Promise, by Robert Crais. An Elvis Cole-Joe Pike entry, it also features LAPD K-9 Patrol officer Scott James and his 85-pound German shepherd Maggie from Crais’ Suspect.

Finished A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece , by Hannah Breece, edited by Jane Jacobs. It was very interesting.

Now I’m reading Never Nosh a Matzo Ball, by Sharon Kahn. It’s a cozy mystery.

Just finished it. Up to O’Brian’s usual high standards, with Capt. Aubrey’s and Dr. Maturin’s enduring high-seas friendship still at the core of his storytelling, although there’s a climactic battle on a Pacific island that takes place largely off-stage. As always, I would rather the author had shown rather than told me what happened.

I’m over halfway through Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door and it’s bogged down a little, as the heroine Jules tries to figure out what happened to a fellow apartment-sitter at the Bartholomew, but I’m pressing on.

Still digging John Scalzi’s The Ghost Brigades, as a new CDF Special Forces soldier goes through high-tech basic training.

Started Dark Sky yesterday. It’s the latest (#21) in the Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box. Thus far it’s entertaining just like the other novels, and it has a higher page-turning factor.

Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth Avi Loeb

Makes the case that Oumuamua, the interstellar object that passed through the solar system in 2017 was an alien lightsail, based on its unusual size and trajectory.

The author is a respected scientist, not a History Channel crank, and he makes a number of good points. In particular, he points out, the scientific establishment accepts the possibility of extra dimensions, string theory and super symmetric particles; despite a complete lack of evidence for any of these things, yet the same establishment is dismissive of any discussion of technological alien life.

The book hasn’t convinced me (not that my layman’s opinion is particularly important) but I am now at least open to the possibility.

The book is completely non technical, and is interspersed with Dr Loeb’s life story. The prose is clear and concise. Recommended.

Finished Never Nosh a Matzo Ball , by Sharon Kahn, which was okay.

Now I’m reading Overnight Code: The Life of Raye Montague, the Woman Who Revolutionized Naval Engineering, by Paige Bowers and David R. Montague.

I finished Dark Sky by C.J. Box. Now I’ve just started Sooley by John Grisham.

I finished it in one sitting~very good.

Finished Overnight Code: The Life of Raye Montague, the Woman Who Revolutionized Naval Engineering , by Paige Bowers and David R. Montague, which was interesting. Recommended for anyone who enjoyed Hidden Figures. I could see this being turned into a movie like that one was, or maybe a documentary.

Now I’m reading After Worlds Collide, by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer. (I didn’t like When Worlds Collide, and I don’t anticipate liking this one either, but I belong to a book club that’s reading it.)

Just started Andy Weirs Project Hail Mary