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Latest Reviews

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Tightrope / Simon Mawer.
Author: Mawer, Simon.
Publisher: London Little, Brown, 2015.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 20/11/2023 4:13:57 PM
Member Rating:
Tightrope is a sequel to The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. I strongly recommend you read this latter book before you read Tightrope, otherwise you will be straining to understand some of the relationships and fail to fully appreciate the characters.

The war is over and Marian returns to England after working with the French Resistance and spending 18 months in a German concentration camp. Can she, after all she has been through, after all the loses she has experienced, return to civvy street and a normal life? She may adopt the shell of normality, a marriage and nine-to-five job, but her past will not leave her in peace. The Cold War is heating up. A relationship with a charismatic Russian marks her as a prime candidate for a honey trap. But will she be trapping the Russian or will the Russian trap her. Slowly but surely Marian becomes subsumed in the world of espionage. Belligerents lurk in every dark corner. She needs to disappear.

A good story encapsulating the disruption caused by war the morals of technological secrets and super weapons and the tugs of loyalty to nation vis-à-vis loyalty to ones principles and beliefs.
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The girl who fell from the sky / Simon Mawer.
Author: Mawer, Simon, author.
Publisher: London : Abacus, 2013. -- ©2012
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 3/11/2023 2:02:30 PM
Member Rating:
During World War II the British SOE its military special operations branch sent 39 women behind enemy lines. 26 of these survived the war. This is a fictionalised story of one of them. You will need to read the book to see if she was one of the survivors or not.

Follow Marian Sutro half-French half-British through her recruitment her gruelling and exacting training, her parachuting into French, her work with the French resistance and finally her attempts to inveigle a key French physicist to flee from Paris to England. It is this last mission that is the most sensitive and personal to her.

Before fleeing to England Marian while still a school girl established a close relationship with Clément a young scientist and friend of her brother. Clément is now a key physicist who may advance the allies research into the atomic bomb. Marian finds herself mixing a professional mission with sentiments from the past when she reunites with Clément.

Entry into the world of the Resistance is a baptism of fire for Marian. There is an appropriate buildup of tension towards the conclusion. Will it end favourably for our heroes or will the forces of oppression exact a price
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Ancestral journeys : the peopling of Europe from the first venturers to the Vikings / Jean Manco.
Author: Manco, Jean, author.
Publisher: London Thames & Hudson, 2015.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/10/2023 12:39:11 PM
Member Rating:
What were the origins of all the ethnic groups of Europe? Indeed, who were the very first Europeans? This book is about the waves of migration that entered Europe from Cro-Magnon Man 45,000 years ago to the Vikings.

A word of warning from the outset ... this book contains a significant amount of genetic analysis that you would almost need a PhD in genetics to follow. I actually skipped the first two chapters that focused on the archaeological, genetic and linguistic methodology that underlies this study. I was more interested in the results of the research, rather than the research itself. I also skipped the analysis of haplogroups (genetics again!) in each chapter for the same reason. It merely added confusion to an already complex picture. And, the picture is complex, at least until we get to the ancient Greeks about 4,000 years ago. It was this latter part of the book that truly drew my interest.

So, Jean Manco did not write a book specifically for the layman ... it would be more suited to an undergraduate course at university. That said, there is a wealth of information to be mined from this book, but mine it you have to. There will be rewards for your efforts.
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Old sins / Jane A. Adams.
Author: Adams, Jane, 1960- author.
Publisher: Edinburgh : Severn House, 2021. -- Edinburgh : Severn House, an imprint of Canongate Books Ltd, 2021. -- ©2020
Review by: Ende, Kim  on: 1/10/2023 6:53:56 PM
Member Rating:
Another well written 'cat and mouse' DCI Henry Johnstone story.
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Esther : the extraordinary true story of the First Fleet girl who became first lady of the colony / Jessica North.
Author: North, Jessica, 1956- author.
Publisher: Crows Nest, NSW Allen & Unwin 2019. -- Crows Nest, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin, 2019. -- ©2019
Review by: Kendy  on: 20/09/2023 9:21:25 AM
Member Rating:
A great insight into Australian History and the story of a brave woman who come to an unknown country on the First Fleet and rose from convict to high standing lady.
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The old rogue of Limehouse / Ann Granger.
Author: Granger, Ann, author.
Publisher: London, UK : Headline, 2023. -- London : Headline, 2023. -- ©2023
Review by: Ende, Kim  on: 5/09/2023 8:47:59 PM
Member Rating:
Another good Insp Ross & wife mystery, full of intrigue, twists and turns.
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The last heir to Blackwood library / Hester Fox.
Author: Fox, Hester, author.
Publisher: Sydney, NSW : HQ Fiction, 2023.
Review by: Ende, Kim  on: 5/09/2023 8:45:03 PM
Member Rating:
A gripping gothic yarn.
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Breaking cover / Stella Rimington.
Author: Rimington, Stella, author.
Publisher: London Bloomsbury, 2016. -- �2016
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/09/2023 3:48:32 PM
Member Rating:
For the spy genre, this story is slow in starting. It was not until page 60 that a hint of espionage was given. Then it was another 40 pages before the spooks actually started making moves. So the first 100 pages was devoted to introducing the characters and establishing their backgrounds, relationships and roles.

The Cold War may be over but the Ruskies are still up to dirty tricks. It is the job of the novel's protagonist Liz Carlyle, a senior officer in MI5, to disrupt their attempts to infiltrate both MI5 and MI6. Key to the Russian's plans are the two deuteragonists of the novel - Peggy Liz's right-hand assistant and Jasminder, a legal academic recently appointed to the newly created MI6 position of Director of Communications. It is through their dubious relationships that the Russians are engineering their espionage.

This story lacks the sophistication and subtlety of a John Le Carre or Gerald Seymour novel. By half-way through, it becomes obvious how the Russians are operating. British intelligence seems almost incompetent at seeing the obvious. What's left for Liz, other than to stymie their plans, seems formulaic. The characters are both stereotypical and predictable.

Still you may wish to give Stella Rimington's novels a go. After all, she was the director-general of MI5 in the 1990s.
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Lessons in chemistry : Book club set 148.
Author: Garmus, Bonnie, author.
Publisher: London : Penguin Books, 2023. -- ©2022.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 21/08/2023 6:05:14 PM
Member Rating:
Lessons in Chemistry - more like lessons in life that are taught in this book, especially - but not exclusively - the plight of a talented and independent woman in 1950's America.

Elizabeth Zott is a gifted chemist - the only female chemist in a research centre staffed by mediocre male colleagues. Except for one, with whom after a rocky start, she establishes a close professional-personal relationship. Sadly, after a freak accident she finds herself widowed without having been married and with a child she didn't want. Her salvation comes in hosting a very unconventional, scientifically-oriented, afternoon cooking show that empowers undervalued housewives.

This is a funny book. Bonnie Gamus has an easy-going, tongue-in-cheek, brash style that will have you nodding in affirmation, smiling and occasionally laughing out loud.

Take a trip through life with the unconventional Elizabeth Zott, her anthropomorphic dog, her too brief relationship with the brilliant Calvin Evans and her precocious daughter Mad. Like Elizabeth, you may find yourself agreeing that life should be a bit like chemistry.
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Powering Up: ; Unleashing the Clean Energy Supply Chain / Finkel, Alan. [TP]
Author: Finkel, Alan.
Publisher: Collingwood, VIC : Black Inc., [2023] -- Melbourne, VIC : Black Inc, 2023.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 16/08/2023 12:50:35 PM
Member Rating:
The importing of energy into our economies from external sources, first fire, then domesticated animals, wind, water, coal, oil and gas has been an essential ingredient in the advance of our species. Now we are on the cusp of a new challenge -to find sources of energy that do not threaten the very environment in which we live. "Powering Up" by Alan Finkel, Australia's recently retired chief scientist, is a book about this challenge.

Finkel considers the materials needed to build, transmit and store this new green energy and the economic geopolitical and ethical issues involved. There are technical and engineering challenges. Backup and storage of energy is needed to smooth out supply from intermittent sources such as solar and wind. Government policy will be crucial in providing regulatory certainty and incentives. It must balance the rights of interested parties while meeting its responsibility to this global exigency. Finkel stacks up the figures and does the sums to show the scale of this green venture.

Finkel finishes his analysis by looking specifically at Australia's prospects, opportunities and challenges.

Powering Up is an up-to-date, comprehensive coverage of the transition to a green clean energy supply.
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