Moscow Embassy: The Angara Club by Thomas J Mitchell – #BookReview – #politicalfiction

2020 CIPA EVVY AWARD WINNER for Thrillers and Suspense.

Book Blurb:

Moscow Embassy by Thomas J MitchellINSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS—A POWERFUL PORTRAYAL OF ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL EMBASSY PROJECTS IN HISTORY—the construction of the US Embassy in Moscow from 1996 to 2000. Moscow Embassy “The Angara Club” BLENDS HISTORICAL FACTS, FAMOUS CELEBRITIES, AND VIVID IMAGERY to bring this novel to life. The story of American construction workers who are recruited by the Russian KGB to plant listening devices and engage in other espionage activities while the new Moscow Embassy is under construction—and while US intelligence agencies working in concert with Britain’s MI6 are going to great lengths to neutralize the Russian threat. It is also the story of the men and women in the public and private sectors—the nomads who go from one country to the next, building these beautiful facilities for the US government. With a cast of colorful characters and a plot filled with danger and political intrigue, Moscow Embassy “The Angara Club” is a fascinating novel about an industry most people never think about. The story of American construction workers who are recruited by the Russian KGB to plant listening devices and engage in other espionage activities while the new Moscow Embassy is under construction—and while US intelligence agencies working in concert with Britain’s MI6 are going to great lengths to neutralize the Russian threat. It is also the story of the men and women in the public and private sectors—the nomads who go from one country to the next, building these beautiful facilities for the US government. With a cast of colorful characters and a plot filled with danger and political intrigue, Moscow Embassy “The Angara Club” is a fascinating novel about an industry most people never think about.

His Review:

How do you protect an embassy and its’ personnel in a foreign country? Mitchell’s book explores this in detail. You cannot hire Russian Contractors because the primary mission would be to put listening devices all over the building. Therefore, the object is to build a structure without foreign assistance.

Moscow Embassy by Thomas J MitchellSteel needs to be purchased for the building. In the case of the U.S. Embassy the structure will be eight floors above ground. The costs are prohibitive to bring the steel by ship into Russian ports and then bring them by rail to the construction site. Therefore, locally sourced steel which met the building specifications was the answer.

Mother Russia is trying to figure out how to put listening devices into the steel during fabrication. The Americans tasked with maintaining the integrity of the building continually examined the beams and rejected those with listening devices. The Russians then developed very sophisticated methods of attaching the devices to the edifice.

A cat and mouse game was played throughout the construction period. Some of the devices were obviously detected and removed. The final solution was to allow the devices in selected locations in the building. Then by adding sound deadening devices or sound dampers the result was allowing the enemy to eavesdrop on those discussions the U.S. wanted the enemy to hear. False or misinformation is as important as no information against a foreign power.

The book explains very completely the means Russia used to compromise some of the contractors working on the project. Russia and her satellites have many very beautiful ladies they involve in information gathering. This makes for a very interesting back and forth between the two governments. The ladies were required to get to know the contractors and get them to fall in love with them.

CE WilliamsThe result is a very interesting mix of romance and intrigue. I could see the way that the ladies were used and some of them wound up marrying the guys and moving here to the states. I wonder if they are involved in information gathering even though they are now U.S. Citizens? A very interesting problem to contemplate! 4.5 stars – CE Williams

We received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are his honest opinions.

Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Book Details:

Genre: Political Fiction, Espionage Thrillers
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
ASIN: B0829DLJ7Z
Print Length: 344 pages
Publication Date: December 2, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Moscow Embassy [Amazon] 
Barnes and Noble 

Add to Goodreads

Thomas J Mitchell - authorThe Author: Thomas J. Mitchell is a world traveler, writer, musician, and fitness enthusiast. He has been involved in construction management of embassy projects for over 20 years. Mr. Mitchell lived in Moscow and worked on the construction of the Moscow Embassy between 1996 and 1997 and again between 2013 and 2015. During his long career he has been involved with the construction of several other embassy projects located in the South Pacific, Africa, and Central and South America. He currently works as an embassy construction consultant from his home base in the Southwest. Moscow Embassy “The Angara Club” is his debut novel.

©2021 CE Williams – V Williams V Williams

 

TV Netflix Series Maid vs #Audiobook Maid by Stephanie Land – #TBT

TV Netflix Series Maid vs Audiobook

 

Another Netflix original that I noticed had been adapted from a popular book by a debut author. As you know, I am loving the challenge of listening to the audiobook to see how much (or little) Netflix changed and made it their own. Did they make it better? Worse? And as also mentioned before, I noticed a radical departure from some of the original books (although not quite so much with Longmire, but thankfully for the Virgin River series).

The storyline by Stephanie Land chronicles her experiences of taking on approximately 25 hrs work a week as a maid (I would call her a housekeeper—not really a maid)—who is trying to care for her toddler daughter and take classes toward a degree. She writes in detail of her struggles with a broken welfare system (Washington state), assistance, that sometimes takes days of time to complete applications, numerous trips to the separate agencies, and then suffer through wait times of months, even years for relief.

Netflix Series

Sarah Qualley - actress
Alex–played by Sarah Qualley – Attribute Wikipedia

Alex is a single mother with daughter Maddy who has escaped the child’s abusive father and homelessness to perform housecleaning duties for clients of a cleaning service where she is paid minimum wage. The series began on October 1, 2021 and was written by both Stephanie Land and Molly Smith Metzler. At 5/8”, the 27 year old Sarah Margaret Qualley  (who plays Alex in the title role) was born in Kalispell, MT to parents Andie MacDowell (who also appears as her mother) and Paul Qualley.

Rylea Nevaeh Whittet - child actress
Maddy–played by Rylea Nevaeh Whittet – Attribute-imdb.com

Billed as a limited series, Season 1 of Maid has ten episodes. I say Season 1 as it has been holding the Top 10 spot since the premiere. Since the season ended with a solid (happy) conclusion, there is debate regarding a continuing story. Maddy, the sweet cherub-faced toddler is adorable and steals any of her scenes (I think anyway).

There are additional support characters (but the POV is all Alex)—the father—not the most supportive of dads, and the storyline zooms in on the various houses where she is assigned to clean, their stories, houses, and the relationship (or lack thereof) to their housecleaner.

My Thoughts

This one starts out fairly slow building (after the initial fleeing in the night scene) the whos, whys, whats, whens, and wheres. Episode 1. Episode 2 begins building on the stories of the homes—who they are. Some are fleshed more than others depending on their involvement with Alex, many of whom have none at all. She names each of the houses—“the sad house,” “the porn house,” etc.

The story continues to build conflict with her ex—Sean—who is getting progressively violent. Conflict escalates with each new financial burden—carefully calculated on screen showing deductions into deficit. Her mother’s character is an aging hippie, alternately a helpful grandmother or not. I really like the fictional additions—the stories of some of the housecleaning homes, but there are holes in the series. I believe she is getting child support, but it doesn’t appear in the financials—only that of her earnings(?).

She is over the moon with her daughter and seldom (maybe once in ten episodes) gets tired or cross with her. I understand the overwhelming exhaustion—and times when she needed a break. And she does, from time to time get those. She has a pessimistic attitude, facing one crisis after another, not always making the wise decision. She tends to snoop when opportunity presents itself, trying on clothes while decrying the small pilfering by a co-worker.

I was the daughter of a mother left with two children, no education or working experience. I can remember the struggles, the panic, and the admonition that we could “NOT get sick this winter” (we wouldn’t dare!), wherever that was going to be. She never had a break, nor did we have any kind of child support. There were days she simply ironed—for eight hours (and any income is deducted from welfare).

Sometimes Alex just doesn’t feel authentic.

Audiobook (Blurb)

At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.

Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.

Her writing as a journalist gives voice to the “servant” worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone.

My Thoughts

Maid by Stephanie LandMs. Land wasn’t a teenager when she split from her ex. Nor at 28 (29?) did she seem to have an education she could apply to any available job, falling back on housekeeping as a way to spend time with her daughter. But at 25 hrs a week housekeeping, she was below the poverty line which left her with mounds of applications for aid, the embarrassment of food stamps, the doctors who only see the “Medicaid” patient, the WIC quandary. The failure of the system, heaven knows, is rather massive in any state, but Stephanie is detailing the failures, one at a time, over and over.

The more griping and negativity I heard, the greater my exhaustion of hearing about her victimization. She seems openly envious of anyone with more than she, perhaps not considering what it took to get them there. She may have tried on their shoes, but she didn’t walk in them.

Overall Impression

Okay, I’m scratching my head over this one. Clearly, I did not care for the audiobook, read by the author or not. I could not engage, work up the sympathy. SOOO many thousands of women going through the same and they may, as my mother did, cry in their pillows at night, but they carried on without pointing fingers at everyone else.

Netflix, as they usually do, found a strong middle ground, showing both the failures and the successes, building empathy where due, focusing on the child, lifelines for abused women, groups, and helplines. Conflicts and resolution. Light at the end of the tunnel only to have the light smashed and the tunnel black again. The storyline moves, however gradually, in an upwardly mobile direction.

I don’t think Netflix softened or frosted over the critical situation of the women. But they did provide just that sliver of hope that the tide will turn. And indeed it does. I’d recommended the Netflix version, but certainly cannot the audiobook and by that extension the book as well.

Book Details

Full Title: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive
Genre: Poverty & Homelessness Studies, Government Social Policy, Social Public Policy
Publisher: Hachette Audio
ASIN: B07MNHMYCP
Listening Length: 8 hrs 34 mins
Narrator: Stephanie Land
Audible Release: January 22, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link(s): Maid [Amazon] 
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

Add to Goodreads

Stephanie Land - authorThe Author: Stephanie Land is the instant bestselling author of “MAID: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.” Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and many other outlets. Her writing focuses on social and economic justice. Follow everywhere @stepville or stepville.com  [Goodreads]

 

 

©2021 V Williams V Williams

The Missing Sister by Elle Marr – a #BookReview #thriller

Did CE, the Vicarious Blogger* love this one?

Book Blurb:

An Amazon Charts bestseller.

The Missing Sister by Elle MarrIn Paris, her twin sister has vanished, leaving behind three chilling words: Trust no one.

Shayna Darby is finally coming to terms with her parents’ deaths when she’s delivered another blow. The body of her estranged twin sister, Angela—the possible victim of a serial killer—has been pulled from the Seine. Putting what’s left of her life on hold, Shayna heads to Paris. But while cleaning out Angela’s apartment, Shayna makes a startling discovery: a coded message meant for her alone…

Alive. Trust no one.

Taking the warning to heart, Shayna maintains the lie. She makes a positive ID on the remains and works to find out where—and why—her missing sister is hiding. Shayna retraces her sister’s footsteps, and they lead her down into Paris’s underbelly.

As she gets closer to the truth—and to the killer—Shayna’s own life may now be in the balance…

My Thoughts 

Debut author Elle Marr apparently hits it out of the ballpark with The Missing Sister.

Officially released on April Fool’s Day, she has garnered more than 3,000 ratings on Goodreads but at less than a 3.61 average. At kinder, gentler Amazon, just over 500 ratings (as of April 2) with a 3.9 average rating (one day after release). Someone did one bang-up job of promoting and marketing because it certainly had the buzz before it hit the official board.

The location of Paris is a crucial component of the well-plotted suspense identical twin device. Shayna, the twin purportedly favored by their parents for being the serious goal-driven half, has come to identify and return home with the body of her sister. But the message she finds in Angel’s apartment contradicts that the body they possess at the Paris morgue might be she. Trust no one should mean that…but Shayna is also the damaged twin.

It is Angela that received the wild side, at times pushing her twin well beyond her boundaries. Angela appears to have found a more accepting “family” in the Parisian academic scene, where she was pushing through a doctoral degree. It would seem she had a comfortable safe location close to her studies and specifically the catacombs underneath the city–until she disappeared and “found” days later in the River Seine.

Here is my problem: Shayna has a finite amount of time to either claim the body and return home with it, or, feeling she would have “felt” it if her sister died, has the same short time to find her alive. But why would she be hiding? And the pace slows

Shortly upon her arrival, the reader is introduced to the first of a number of suspicious characters, red herrings, lovely jaunts through the city and atmospheric street-side cafes. (Brought back so many memories, though most of ours consisted of the cathedrals since that was where we were singing.) In between the sojourns, she digs into Angela’s papers, belongings, anything looking for additional twin-type clues. She finds an occasional clue, but they come painfully slow. The process doesn’t get really serious until near the conclusion and Shayna makes some bad choices in between.

There is shared history to examine, the relationship between the twins (as with my own father, the identical twin deemed the bad one), and the secret–that awful secret between them that drives what appears to be a permanent wedge. (In the case of my dad and uncle also a permanent one. I never understood that, until additional information came out long after his death.) In this case, I couldn’t identify with either Shayna nor Angela, and while I enjoyed the travelogue, didn’t the French characters. The big reveal doesn’t exactly come as a shock–you might have guessed it all along–but I did enjoy the hair-raising climax and finally getting the real skinny.

A meaningful effort for a debut and I can see where this author will grow into a compelling storyteller–this was a good start. Just wish it hadn’t been spoon-fed quite so sparingly. This is one you’ll either connect with or won’t, but may provide some entertainment in the meantime. I received this digital download from the publisher through NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a name you’ll see on award lists. 3.5/5 stars

His Thoughts

The Missing Sister by Elle MarrIdentical twins are at times a psychological mystery. Elle has wrapped this up masterfully in this tale of intrigue and suspense involving identical twins. They have many of the characteristics I have read about including developing their own language and calligraphy.

Families always seem to have dominant and recessive individuals within siblings. Our twins, Shayna and Angela, are no exception to the rule. Angela is the strong dominant twin and Shelby is the recessive twin, or is she? A death of both their parents while Angela is completing a Doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris puts this conjecture to the test.

Angela is missing! Shayna is called to Paris to identify a body in the morgue and possibly send it back to San Diego, California for burial. The morgue is closed for the weekend so Shayna goes to her sister’s apartment to pack her things.

The psychic alarm in Shayna’s head has not gone off! She is certain that were her sister dead she would have felt something in the ether. Thankfully Angela’s boyfriend Sebastian is there to help her pack and go through Angela’s things. A whiteboard in Angela’s apartment has a cryptic message in their personal script, “Alive: Trust No One!”

CE WilliamsOur author, Elle Mann, develops twists and turns more explosive than a roller coaster. Who can she trust to help her solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance? Skillfully the reader is drawn into intrigues which include over two hundred miles of catacombs under Paris. Read this book and enjoy the intrigue which is “The Missing Sister!” 5 stars CE Williams

Book Details:

Genre: Kidnapping Thrillers, Women’s Detective Fiction, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
ISBN: 1542006058
ASIN: B07QYMXX41
Print Length: 294 pages
Publication Date: April 1, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: The Missing Sister (Amazon)

+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Two Five of Five Stars Four and One Quarter Stars

Elle Marr - authorThe Author: Originally from Sacramento, debut author Elle Marr explored the urban wilderness of Southern California before spending three wine-and-cheese-filled years in France, where she earned a master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris. She now lives and writes outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband, son, and one very demanding feline. Connect with her online at http://www.ellemarr.com, on facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

©2020 CE Williams – V Williams V Williams

*As coined by Nina of The Cozy Pages

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