Russian Spies in the US – Alias style

Originally posted on Wed, Jun 30 2010 at ROPL.org.

If you watched TV in early 2000s, you might remember a clever spy show on ABC called Alias. You might also remember that several main characters on the show were revealed to be Russian spies. Who knew that life could (allegedly) imitate art?

You might feel as though you’ve stepped back in time – or picked up a classic spy novel, but you’d be wrong. On Monday June 28, 11 people were arrested on suspicion of being part of a Russian spy ring – in the United States. Yes, it’s still 2010; we haven’t gone back in time. And yet, in the New York, Boston and Virginia areas, these people were arrested.

While the case is still ongoing, here are some news sites with relevant (and interesting) material:

And in case you do want to catch up on your spy reading, here are some fiction and non-fiction titles to keep you going:

  • Pandora’s Box by Clive Egleton
  • The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst
  • Eye of the Archangel by Forrest DeVOE
  • Bonded Fleming, a James Bond omnibus by Ian Fleming
  • Jason Bourne (series) by Robert Ludlum (and others)
  • The Defection of A.J. Lewinter and The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell
  • The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John Le Carré
  • Once a Spy by Keith Thompson
  • Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles by Will Clarke
  • Old Boys by Charles McCarry
  • The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer
  • The Book of Spies: an anthology of literary espionage (short stories) by Alan Furst (ed.)
  • Young Bond (series) by Charles Higson (YA)
  • Alex Rider (series) by Anthony Horwitz (YA)
  • Gallagher Girls (series) by Ally Carter (YA)
  • FBI 100 Years: an unofficial history by Henry Holden (nonfiction)
  • Legacy of ashes: the history of the CIA by Tim Weiner (nonfiction)
  • The secret history of the CIA by Joseph Trento (nonfiction)
  • MI6: inside the covert world of Her Majesty’s secret intelligence service by Stephen Dorril (nonfiction)
  • Defend the realm: the authorized history of MI5 by Christopher M. Andrew (nonfiction)
  • Secret wars: one hundred years of British intelligence inside MI5 and MI6 by Gordon Thomas (nonfiction)
  • The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British spy ring in wartime Washington by Jennet Conant (nonfiction)
  • Perfect spy: the incredible double life of Pham Xuan An by Larry Berman (nonfiction)
  • Secret empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the hidden story of America’s space espionage by Philip Taubman (nonfiction)
  • In denial: historians, communism & espionage by John Earl Haynes (nonfiction)
  • The haunted wood: Soviet espionage in America–the Stalin era by Allen Weinstein (nonfiction)

The Zombie Next Door: a Feed book review

Originally posted on Wed, Jun 30 2010 at ROPL.org.

Imagine living in a Resident Evil world where even the dogs are zombies and everything you know about defending yourself you learned from George Romero films. Then imagine that you’re a blogger, you live and breathe the news and you’ve only got one goal – finding (and telling) the truth.

Enter into the world of Georgia and Shaun Mason. They live in a world not too different from our own, except they’re born after 2014 – the year the world changed. Scientists cured cancer, they destroyed the common cold and what did the people of Earth get? Zombies. The Mason siblings are on a mission to find and expose the truth. They blog, they count hits, they run surveillance and they tell the world their stories.

Then everything changes.

Sound exciting? It is. Mira Grant’s book Feed is a nail biting, suspense filled novel that will keep you up at night. I know, because it did exactly that when I was reading it. What makes Grant’s book so enthralling is not just the plot, but the way she tells the story. If you want adventure, pop culture and zombies – look no further. But if you especially like books that take risks and don’t let you take anything for granted – Feed’s the book you’re looking for.

It might not be the next best seller, but it’ll keep you reading – and wanting more. And you’re in luck, Feed is the first book of the Newsflesh Trilogy. I can’t wait for the rest.

Love zombie books? Here are some more titles:

Generation Dead (series) by Daniel Waters (YA)
The Death Collector by Justin Richards (YA)
Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby (YA)
You Are So Undead To Me and Undead Much by Stacey Jay (YA)
The Enemy by Charles Higson (YA)
The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (YA)
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
Breathers by SG Brown
World War Z by Max Brooks
Monster Planet and Monster Island by David Wellington
Awakening by Nick Tapalansky
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
Paul is Undead by Alan Goldsher
State of Decay by James Knapp
Dead Sea by Brian Keene
The Walking Dead (series) by Robert Kirkman (Graphic Novel)
The Living and the Dead by Jason (Graphic Novel)
Zombie Tales (series) by Multiple Authors (Graphic Novel)
The New Dead (short stories) by Christopher Golden (ed.)
The Living Dead (short stories) by John Joseph Adams (ed.)
Gospel of the Living Dead by Kim Paffenroth (nonfiction)
Zombies: a field guide to the walking dead by Bob Curran (nonfiction)

More than just your average coming of age story

Originally posted on Wed, Jun 23 2010 at ROPL.org.

Tired of vampires, werewolves and zombies? Looking for something different, something a bit more realistic? Look no further! Francisco X. Stork’s two brilliant novels might be just what you’re looking for.

In Marcelo in the Real World, we’re introduced to the wonderful character of Marcelo. A high school student who suffers from something akin to Asperger’s, Marcelo attends a special school for students with learning disabilities. His father, a high profile lawyer, wants his son to attend a regular high school and issues his son a challenge. If Marcelo spends the summer working for his father, he’ll be able to stay at his special school. Marcelo agrees and what transpires is one of the most beautiful, moving stories you’ll ever read.

Stork’s most recent novel, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, is another coming of age story with a twist. Like Marcelo, Pancho is a 17 year old trying to figure out his life. But unlike Marcelo, Pancho has no family to support him. His father was killed in an accident, leaving Pancho to care for his mentally disabled older sister. But when she’s found dead, Pancho is turned over to Catholic orphanage. Bent on revenge after feeling the police have failed him, Pancho wants no friends. His only goal is to find out who killed his sister. But as with Stork’s previous novel, all is not as it seems. Pancho meets DQ, another teenager, who changes his life, even while Pancho is fighting that very change.

Both of these novels are located in the teen section, but are exquisitely written and extraordinarily thoughtful. They’re appropriate for both teens and adults, and both will leave you satisfied. Though Storks’ two books are coming of age stories, they don’t rely on solely on the overused boy meets girl clichés. Instead, they are contemporary stories that we can all identify with, in one way or another.

More coming of age novels with a twist:

  • Right Behind You by Gail Giles
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  • Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns by John Green
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  • Me, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine
  • Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
  • Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron
  • Hero-Type by Barry Lyga

José Saramago: 1922-2010

Originally posted on Fri, Jun 18 2010 at ROPL.org.

1998 Nobel Prize winning Portugese author José de Sousa Saramago has died at the age of 87. Though often a controversial figure, Saramago’s works transcended the language they were originally written in.

One of his most popular works was Blindness, about a disease that causes people to go blind. It was turned into a film in 2008. Saramago wrote about the human condition, and often in a unique style. He was an ardent Communist and often made very controversial statements.

In spite of his controversy, and perhaps partly because of it, Saramgo’s books remain popular. He is often compared to such writers as Philip Roth and Thomas Pynchon. His most recent book published in English is The Elephant’s Journey (RO’s copy is in Spanish), and his last book, Cain, was published in 2009 and probably will be released in English in 2011.

Saramago’s works available at the library:

  • El viaje del elefante (The Elephant’s Journey, Spanish)
  • Blindness (book on CD and downloadable)
  • Death with Interruptions
  • Seeing
  • The Cave
  • Journey to Portugal

More Information:

Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life

Originally posted on Tue, Jun 01 2010 at ROPL.org.

Primarily known for her columns, Molly Ivins was not born a columnist, even though she did long to write from a young age . In Bill Minutaglio & W. Michael Smith’s engrossing biography, Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life, we are allowed to step inside her life. She was born in California, but grew up in Texas, which is when most of the world met her.

Before I picked up the book, all I knew about Ivins was that she was a journalist from Texas who didn’t seem to like former President George W. Bush and had died of cancer. When I finished the book, it was as though I’d been living her life along with her. Minutaglio and Smith’s writing and story telling turns A Rebel Life into more than just the story of a woman’s life and death.

We learn of an ambitious woman who was writing up until the moment she died. Ivins’ life was filled with challenges, from the death of the man she called her true love to the alcohol and smoking that would cause her many problems through the years. We also discover, as Minutaglio and Smith tells us, that there were two things she wanted most — to write and to help people, mostly friends, but also people she barely knew.

A Rebel Life is, at it’s heart, about a successful liberal journalist who grew up and lived in Texas, left and then came roaring back. But it’s also the story of Ivins’ rebellion against her parents, her attempts to break into the world of serious journalism (for example, by writing for the New York Times), and how, by the end of her career, any paper who hired her was lucky to have her. Ivins’ biography is about an extraordinary woman speaking her mind and a moving, often heartbreaking, book.

Books by Molly Ivins

You got to dance with them what brung you: politics in the Clinton years
Shrub: the short but happy political life of George W. Bush
Bushwhacked: life in George W. Bush’s America
Who let the dogs in?: incredible political animals I have known
Bill of wrongs: the executive branch’s assault on America’s fundamental rights