“Red Rabbit” by Tom Clancy

"Red Rabbit" by Tom Clancy — Kimia Wood A Soviet plot to assassinate the pope. A KGB communications officer trying to defect to the West. And star CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who…is there.

Tom Clancy builds his Cold War-era spy adventure slowly and deliberately…with detailed settings, in-depth character philosophizing, and realistic portraits of the mind-sets and world-views that create the situation.

Characters

Clancy’s recurring star, Jack Ryan, is a CIA analyst and teacher’s pet (and possibly the weakest character here). In fact, he does very little except agonize until the last chapter or so.

He does, however, act as a bridge. His ostensible role in the plot is as liaison between the British and American intelligence operations…and in this way, he also provides for Clancy to paint a clear and memorable picture of the differences between America and Great Britain.

A diverse cast

One of the things Clancy does with excellence is draw out the differences between different countries.

Ryan moves from America to a station in Britain, his homeland’s ally. Yet there are still so many things he must get used to: they drive on the “other” side of the road…everyone drinks tea, not coffee…words are pronounced differently (and some things are called by different names altogether)…the outlook on life is subtly shifted…even the TV shows are different (and Ryan doesn’t understand the sit-coms’ humor).

This underscores the culture shock of the Soviet “Rabbit” and his family when they flee a country of regulations, controls, and corruption to one of individual freedom. From assuming that the KGB watch and follow everyone at any and every time, to a place where you can walk onto a car dealer lot, pick out a car, pay for it, and drive away. From a nation where VHS players, bras, and nylons are luxuries snuck in through Hungary (and only affordable to the elite, like KGB officers) – to a place where they’re taken for granted, and every middle class family can afford them if they wish.

The ground-work for this change is laid with deliberate and poignant brushstrokes…perhaps slower than I would have chosen, but there’s no denying Clancy’s touch for choosing an exact turn of phrase to communicate his meaning, or for seeing to the heart of a mind-set he doesn’t hold himself and portraying it in believable philosophical prose.

This laying-bare of cultures holds the greatest value of the work.

Life Philosophies

A lot of time is spent in the different characters’ thoughts, dealing with their mental outlooks on life in minute detail.

Like the KGB chief…does he really believe in the Communist party’s rhetoric? Or does he rather believe in “power” – AKA himself?

When the communications analyst discovers that his government wants to kill the pope, what will he do? Should he blindly trust that his government knows best? Is he developing…a conscience?

What about Jack Ryan and his CIA overseers? Are they in this game for patriotism? To protect innocent people? Because the Soviets are inherently evil and must be stopped? When they hear that the pope is in danger, they debate whether they can protect him without revealing how they learned about it…because of course national security comes before the life of the head of the Catholic Church, right?

Some Complaining

Ryan’s loose Catholic faith adds an interesting dynamic, as he weighs his patriotism and religious feeling against the political concerns of his CIA bosses.

It also gives him something else to worry about, which seems to be most of what he does throughout the book.

When his bosses assign him to accompany some Brits on an operation as a CIA liaison, he freaks out and insists that he’s an analyst, not a field operative. He’s had some bad experiences with “hands-on” cases in the past…he has apparently stopped a terrorist attack in London before as a tourist (ex-Marine tourist, of course) and faced down a terrorist home invasion, but these experiences were only hinted at. Is there a different book I should have read first? Did Jack Ryan really need to be in this book at all?

His wife (an MD eye surgeon) is even more annoying – adding practically nothing to the narrative, nosing into Jack’s job even though she knows it’s secret, and nagging him for smoking/eating unhealthily. The only time her complaining seems well-founded, and actually lends sympathy to her character, is when her surgical colleagues leave a patient sedated on the operating table while they go for lunch and a pint. Remind me to never get medical care in Great Britain!

Cautions!

Clancy sometimes has trouble making it clear whose head we’re riding in, and you have to travel back through several paragraphs of mental narrative to get re-oriented.

There’s also sporadic language (including f-bombs and profanities) that seemed to get more intrusive as the book went on.

Also includes references to sex within married couples.

The Chess-man of Spy Thrillers

This book is about three-dimensional, conflicted people interacting with each other from different mental starting points. Mr. Clancy takes his time setting up all his dominoes, so that when they collide we say, “Oh, it was inevitable” as well as, “Oh, how is this going to turn out?”

If mental exercises, world-view exploration, and slow-cooking spy drama is your thing, you might enjoy Red Rabbit. I did enjoy it, but for my main spy-action reading, I prefer the bullets-and-fisticuffs of Robert Ludlum.


Red Rabbit is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo (as paperback or audiobook), and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s newsletter for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier. You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits!

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018

This past year, my mother gave the entire family a reading challenge of fifty books – that we hadn’t read before! This gave me the opportunity to read several new authors, which I will share with you for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post!

Independent Authors

Since I read fifty books this past year – and kept track of them all! – I’m able to split this list into “indie” authors and more “traditional” or classic authors.

So, for authors I read for the first time in 2018, and who publish their books independently:

1—E.B. DawsonAuthors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood
(Nomad of the Emirates)

A good writer with a fresh, interesting perspective on things.

She also has a third-culture heritage. Check her out!

Author’s site

2—Sarah Holman
(Kate’s Innocence)

Her mystery was actually a mystery!! but oh, she needed a competent editor!

Author’s site

3—Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
(Twisted Dreams)Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood

She took a story I’m not that crazy about (Sleeping Beauty) and a setting I wasn’t sure about (cross-genre dream-worlds) and wrote a tale that sucked me in.

Probably because of the feisty younger brother.

Author’s site

4—Allison Tebo
(The Reluctant Godfather)

A competent author with a bright future before her…though if it were me writing the story, I wouldn’t have let romance solve the world’s problems.

That’s me. Grumpykinz.

Author’s site

5—Amanda Tero
(Coffee Cake Days)

Her short story really nailed what it’s like to grow up in a large, homeschooling, Christian family.

Author’s site

Other Indie Authors from this year:

Julie C. Gilbert (The Collins Case)— I’m glad I read her story, as I’ve referred to it several times in my own work…as something not to do. I feel bad, but really…gotta be honest, or how will we grow?

Ruth O’Neil (Come Eat At My Table)— A really slow-simmering story joined up with an uninspired writing style to…sneak up on my emotions when I wasn’t looking!

Traditional/Classic Authors:

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood1—Robert Ludlum
(The Bourne Identity; The Janson Directive)

His suspense is AMAZINGLY SUSPENSEFUL; his mysteries are deep and twisty; and his plot “onions” have layers upon layers of juicy, edge-of-your-seat intrigue.

But you gotta have a strong constitution and conscience.

(Read my full reviews for content cautions.)

Author’s Goodreads page

2–Roger Zelazny
(The Chronicles of Amber)

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia WoodThis is a fantasy series with world-ending stakes, told through the eyes of the very relatable Corwin — who doesn’t trust his eight brothers farther than he can throw them, but will drop everything to hear to latest gossip about what they’re up to.

It’s super fun. My brother has yet to yield and read it.

(Also: Zelazny could have used a competent editor. But that’s the way it goes.)

Author’s Goodreads page

3—Larry Correia
(Monster Hunter International; Monster Hunter Vendetta; and Monster Hunter Alpha)

Fulfills the genre. So if you’re into splatting monsters with jacked-up firearms…full steam ahead!Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood

My brother (who gave up on the reading challenge when he got a job in March) has read through to Book 6 and is eagerly awaiting the next one.

Another fun fact: Mr. Correia self-published MHI, but then signed with a publisher — Baen Books. Proof of what can happen to you if you know your audience, get them to trust you, and write a gripping, solid, entertaining story!

(Read my full review for content cautions.)

Author’s site

4—Sabine Baring-Gould
(The Book of Were-Wolves)

This book was profound, interesting, and somewhat disturbing. If you want to know about the actual history of were-wolves and their legends, this is a good, readable book.

Author’s Wikipedia page

5—Tom Clancy
(The Hunt for Red October)

Red October was good, honest fun. It’s dubbed the father of the “techno-thriller” genre, and I can see why. While it wasn’t as pulse-pounding as Ludlum’s stuff, it did manage to make the science of submarines sound exciting (or at least interesting).

Author’s Goodreads page

Other “classic” authors I read this year:Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood

Blake Snider (Save the Cat)— A must-read in writers’ circles…for good reason. I’ve gotten a little bored with the glut of writing gurus on the internet—so if you’re only going to buy one writing book, Save the Cat is a good, all-bases-covered source-text.

Ian Fleming (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)— This is the first James Bond story I’d ever read…and frankly, Robert Ludlum is better. Sure, Ludlum has sex – and more violence – but I don’t come away from his stories feeling so empty.

John Grisham (The Racketeer; The Testament)— I know John Grisham is a really big name (at least in the circles I’ve touched) but my first impression was…bleh. Mom convinced me to try another of his books, and it was…okay…? I guess I didn’t loathe the main character of The Testament—so that’s a plus.

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia WoodSir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe)— This is a classic, a treatment of Robin Hood and King Richard, a treatise on racism and classism in 12th century Britain, and well worth reading. Even if you’re not into historicals, it might teach you something!

Virginia Myers (Vessels of Honor)— As a Christian, this book was an amazing example of showing grace and love to people we don’t see eye-to-eye with!

Mike Mikalatos (Good News for a Change)— This book is about talking to others about Jesus, but it would be useful for so many other situations because it’s about actually listening to people while conversing with them and is AWESOME.

What Will I Read in 2019?

I had a lot of fun with this reading challenge, and met a lot of new “author” friends!

Let’s see what cool new books I read in 2019.


Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by baking, knitting, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier, plus occasional updates on her latest reading and writing exploits.

“Chronicles of Amber” by Roger Zelazny

 The “Chronicles of Amber” have long been my dad’s example of what inspired him to write. He told us that Zelazny’s writing was so bad, he figured, “If he can get published, so can I.” And, at the same time, the story Zelazny was telling was so gripping Dad had no choice but continue.

Now, I’ve had an opportunity to form my own opinion. I agree about the story part…but the writing wasn’t that bad. If Zelazny had gotten an editor who could actually read, we’d have nothing to complain about.

But let’s talk about the story.

Who Is “I”?

Our first-person protagonist starts the story in a private medical institution, with no memory. As he makes his escape and tracks down his past, we’re eased into a fantasy world unlike any other.

Corwin is a good traveling companion. While he has to grow in several areas, he’s got enough deprecating humor, goodwill, and smarts to make us root for him. Continue reading

“Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott

"Ivanhoe" by Sir Walter Scott — Kimia Wood Published in 1819, if you’re looking for some honest-to-goodness, played-straight, exhaustively researched yet swashbuckling-fun story of medieval chivalry and derring-do, you could do worse than Ivanhoe.

Set in the 12th century – during that period of time made famous by every rendition of Robin Hood, when the head-strong and vivacious King Richard was out of the country, and the unpopular Prince John ruled in his stead – Ivanhoe explores racism, classism, male-female tensions, concepts of chivalry, and religion, all mixed with enough action and entertaining turns of phrase to keep the pace going. Continue reading

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card — Kimia Wood Published in 1985, Ender’s Game has won Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel, been adapted to a movie, and has led to six sequels and related novels. It is regarded by the internet as a foundational entry in the sci-fi genre.

For the first half I wondered why anyone would praise it (and despaired for the culture that would). Then, somewhere in the second half, I acknowledged it had gained something worthwhile.

The Beginning

Aliens have attacked Earth. For over fifty years, the entire world has been held under the rule of a truce, focusing resources and manpower to preparing for the aliens’ return. One resource the military desires is a brilliant strategist to act as commander for their fleets.

So far so good, eh?

Then the first chapter almost made me put the book down; but I was stubborn, and love to write scathing reviews, so I kept going. Continue reading

Top Ten Mysteries

I’m a huge fan of mysteries. “Top Ten Tuesday” is a list-making meme currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and the theme for this week is a FREEBIE. Since I’ve noticed a troubling lack of mystery-related lists for Top Ten Tuesday, I offer up my list of the top ten…specifically, the mysteries which most took me by surprise or had the most satisfying twists!Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

1– Have His Carcase, Dorothy Sayers

Mystery author Harriet Vane is on a walking tour along the coast of England when she discovers a body with its throat cut. Along with her suitor and friend, noble sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, she sets out tracking down suspects, busting alibis, and cracking conspiracies.

The twist is truly original, beautifully foreshadowed, and is surprising yet inevitable – and thus very satisfying.

All in all, an excellent mystery story, with a smattering of romance mixed in.

2– Gemini Rue (2011)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodThe hook for this sci-fi puzzle game is a former assassin hunting for his long-lost brother. But there’s way more in this story about organized crime, friendship, and whether we can really trust our memories.

Read my full review to see how the twist totally floored me and made me a fan for life!

3– The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodA man washes up in the Mediterranean Sea, riddled with bullets and more dead than alive. Several months of care on a tiny fishing island restore him to health, but not to himself – he can’t remember who he is.

Once he steps off the island, a world of danger and secrets rears up, threatening to swallow him unless his “gut-instincts” from who he was can keep him alive long enough to figure it out.

This amnesia mystery is not for everyone, but if you’ve got a strong stomach and conscience, it’s a fascinating onion of conspiracies and secrets!

4– The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This classic noir detective film stars the iconic Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade – smooth-talking, quick-thinking, razor-sharp intelligent, and sly as a fox. When his partner is murdered, Sam sets out untangling a conspiracy of greed and murder, accompanied by a beautiful and mysterious woman wound in a cocoon of lies.

It’s not just a cultural icon — it’s also a terrific mystery story.

5– Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother-in-law to be is murdered in the dead of night. Lord Peter’s brother is arrested for the crime, and to clear him Wimsey must delve deep into his sibling’s darkest secrets.

Full of intelligence and British wit, this is a fantastically tangled tale that resolves with a dramatic twist that stuns the entire House of Lords!

6– The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

This is a suspenseful and intriguing mystery, with a satisfying ending. There are a lot of characters, but they’re colorful and individual enough to be easily distinguished from each other.

7– “Now You See Him…” (Columbo Season 5)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

Image credit: marketwatch.com

The main question of Columbo is not who committed the murder, but how our shabby, trenchcoat-wearing, cigar-chomping protagonist assembles the evidence to finally nail the culprit.

In this episode, Lt. Columbo faces down a magician. While the ending might be a little “goofy”, it’s adorable, satisfying, and totally condemning (of the bad guy, that is).

8– Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

Fourteen passengers on a train. One is brutally murdered in the night. It has to be one of them…but who? The Russian princess? The Swedish maid? The American secretary?

Only Hercule Poirot could solve such a case. And trust me, it’s worth it to read the original classic!

9– “Candidate for Crime” (Columbo Season 3)

This episode is one of my all time favorites. As the ending stretches on, Columbo seems to be doing nothing, while the murderer trundles along doing exactly what he wants. Then, in the last five minutes of the show – BLAM! Columbo unleashes his smarts, and the perp can do nothing but hang his head in defeat.

10– Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (2010)

Another video game – but one well worth your time! Sissel awakes in a junkyard to discover that he’s dead…but not just dead, dead with powers. He remembers nothing about his life, and must use his abilities to unravel the mystery of his own murder before dawn!

Full of easy physics puzzles, bright humor, and unforgettable characters, if you venture into Ghost Trick you will make friends for life (and also explore a neat amnesia mystery)!

Honorable Mention– The Tuesday Club Murders, Agatha Christie

This book is good the way pizza and popcorn are good. Perhaps they don’t have many vitamins, but they’re great to chow down on once in a while.

The short stories in this volume each feature a little mystery, and can be finished in about one sitting each. If you like brain puzzles, clever clue-laying, and brilliant old ladies, you’ll suck this down like a peanut-butter chocolate shake – just as I did!

What are some of your favorite mysteries? What story twists have made you go, “Uhg! I should have seen that coming. This is awesome!”

(Did you see what I did? I went through a whole TTT post without mentioning the Master Chief!)


Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodKimia Wood grew up under an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Join the mailing list for a FREE copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier!

“Christmas Carol” Sings the Eternal Song

This is a re-blog from last year, but the points it makes are still true this year! And if you still haven’t read Dickens’ classic work, now’s a great time. Better yet, if you haven’t read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2 or Matthew chapters 1-2, it’s available for FREE here – and here…and here or here (for Mac). What’s your excuse?

And if you go see the new movie The Man Who Invented Christmas, let me know what you think! WORLD Magazine gave it a recommendation!

Three Things to Think On This “Holiday Season”

51ycpilxgcl If you’re like me, you’re pretty familiar with the mythos of A Christmas Carol, but have never actually read the original. This year, I remedied that.

Charles Dickens’ original story of rich, cantankerous, “Bah-Humbug” Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas, and the joy of celebration is available on Project Gutenberg and on Amazon as free ebooks (or as an audiobook!), so there’s no barrier to enjoying this classic tale.

As I read Dickens’ version of the story, three things jumped out at me.

Scrooge is still a sympathetic character.

Yes, he snarls at carolers, deals rigidly with his clerk, and Bah-Humbugs the charity collector, but his actions are so over-the-top he is not really villainous. His evil, uncharitable nature is more a caricature of real-life tyrants than otherwise. Further, in the visions of the Ghost of Christmas Past, we glimpse the back-story that led Ebenezer to this point, offering a counter-point to his self-insulated misery.

Everyone (bar grumpy Scrooge) is full of “holiday spirit.”

From the cheery Christmas fruits on the shelf, to the grocers working Christmas morning, to the customers bubbling with good humor toward each other, everyone shows Ebenezer the general aura of “good cheer” that supposedly characterizes the season.

How about us, in the modern world? Did you banter with the people waiting with you in line? Were you cheerful toward your waitress, when you were eating out to celebrate and she was working her feet off on a holiday? Did you show Christmasy compassion and kindness toward your check-out clerks, your annoying uncles, that out-of-control kid in the mall?

Sharing “good will” certainly includes bestowing donations on the “work-houses” of our day (a la Christmas Carol) but it involves so much more than that. I admit it’s difficult, in the midst of extra hours, presents, coordinating vacation plans, and all the rest of the bustle, to remember an upbeat attitude, but it seems to me sort of the whole point. The new-made Scrooge does {SPOILER} give generously with his money, but he also starts giving smiles, greetings, well-wishes, and time – he frivoles at his nephew’s party, leaves his office to enjoy the Christmas-day streets, and invests not just money but time and himself in a relationship with his clerk’s family.

Did anyone else have trouble remembering to be generous with ourselves this year?

Everyone goes to church.

There’s no indication Scrooge’s Christmas day was on a Sunday, but when the church bells ring, everyone sallies out to their ecclesiastical duties (cheerfully, of course).

In 2016, Christmas Day was also Sunday, which is highly fitting. On Christmas, we remember when God the Son came in human flesh as a defenseless baby; on Easter (and, technically, every “first day of the week”) we remember that His purpose in coming was to die on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins, and to rise again, defeating Death forever.

How many people struggled with whether or not to go to church that morning? How many churches cancelled services so people could “be with their families,” forgetting that worship of God was the whole point of Christ-mass?

Yet, in the London which Charles Dickens portrays, everyone gladly follows the bells to the church – Ebenezer Scrooge included.

Forget “Christmas Movies” – Do Your Christmas Reading!

If your only experience of this classic is an abridged children’s version, or one of the movie versions, or vague cultural references, it’s worth it to pick up this Christmas classic and consider the allegories, lessons, and themes it celebrates for yourself.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

God bless us, every one.

Get More Than You Pay For With Free Books

Get More Than You Pay For With Free Books

Over the past year or so, I’ve been downloading and reading free ebooks from a number of sources – partly because I have a weakness for free, partly because I want to find greats reads for you that you don’t have to shell out a penny for!

But sometimes “you get what you pay for”. Sometimes a book is free because we wouldn’t slog through it for any other reason.

Is that the rule? Are the reading-gems the exception? I’ve dug back through my review archives to figure out which books are worth reading (and worth paying for, even if I didn’t have to).

Note: All deals are listed as of this writing. Authors naturally have the prerogative to change how they charge for their works. By that same token, some books that I loved but couldn’t list because they didn’t qualify might become free again later 😉! Continue reading

Top Ten Best Books for Children to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly list event created and hosted by the Broke and Bookish blog. Today’s theme is “Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read”.Top Ten Best Books for Children to Read — Kimia Wood — books

Perfect! I’m approaching the time of life when this consideration is important, so here are the books that will be important for me to share with my children (should they ever appear). From picture books, to chapter books, to read-alouds, here are fun and timeless reads for kids of all ages! Continue reading