The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle is a novel from Philip K. Dick. It has been turned into a stellar television series on Amazon Prime. There are currently two seasons available for viewing (as of April 2018).

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This is a dystopian alternate history set in “America” 1962. It posits that the Axis forces won WWII and that the continent is now divided between the Japanese Pacific State (western side of continent) and the Great Reich (the rest of the continent) with a slim band of neutral zone between the two territories.

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This is such an imaginative show. I have often wondered what would have happened if history had gone the other way. I love that there is a show exploring this (and incredibly thankful it is only on TV)!

The Man in the High Castle is Amazon’s most streamed show. So that must mean lots more people than just me enjoy it 🙂

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The main part of the story follows two characters: a woman from the Pacific States (Juliana) who gets pulled into the Resistance, and Joe, a man from the Reich with questionable allegiances.

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It is startling to see some of the most iconic images from the free world turned into Nazi symbols. The American flag, Times Square …

The Man in the High Castle is a drama. It does have some humourous parts and the violence is manageable, but the material can be heavy at times.

One of my favourite quotes:

You’re about to die horribly but your hair is fine.

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I started watching this series on a whim the other night because I was bored and the weather was bad. Well, ice and freezing rain pretty well had me stuck inside all weekend and I binged on both seasons. This show is completely addictive. It has a tendency towards cliff-hanger endings – both for individual episodes and seasons – so you will constantly find yourself clicking on just one more episode.

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There is an element of mysticism or other-worldliness to this show which greatly surprised me. The storyline takes on more meaning towards the end of the second season and starts to become more clear why they included it, but I still think I would have preferred the show without it.

What strikes me most about The Man in the High Castle is how complicated each character is. They all have multiple levels. I approached the show thinking that the Nazis would be the antagonists and the Resistance would be the protagonists, but it is much more complicated than that. Even the Nazis who do terrible things are softened in the show by their love for the families. And the “freedom fighters” come across much more strongly as terrorists.

Everything is not as it seems. No one is all good or all evil. We are just different shades of grey.

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The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)

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In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

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The Alice Network has become my favourite book of the year so far. I couldn’t stop listening to it. And I have already started trying to pimp it out to all my friends and family.

It was very interesting to learn more about the spy networks operating during WWI; this isn’t a subject matter that we touched upon when I was in school, mostly focusing on either the trenches or the homefront during the Great War, and then spending the majority of the semester on the Second World War. I had to keep reminding myself that this takes place during 1915. Thinking of how different times were back then … women didn’t even have the right to vote yet, so it is absolutely remarkable that there were real-life female spies operating throughout Europe.

The pace of this story is excellent. Detailed but quick and there were never any parts I felt like skipping ahead through due to boredom. The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, did an amazing job. The characters were all very real to me, which led to heartbreak at times.

I know that The Alice Network has been a bestseller since its release in 2017, and there continues to be a long wait list at my library. It is also a book that has been covered in numerous book clubs and I can see why.

If you haven’t read this book yet, I strongly encourage you to do so ASAP. Push it to the top of your TBR list. I have heard from fans of Kate Quinn that this isn’t even her best book so I will definitely be listening to her others in the near future.

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Cop Town (Karin Slaughter)

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Karin Slaughter, author of the bestselling Will Trent novels, is widely acclaimed as “one of the best crime novelists in America” (The Washington Post). Now she delivers her first stand-alone novel: an epic story of a city in the midst of seismic upheaval, a serial killer targeting cops, and a divided police force tasked with bringing a madman to justice.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Relentlessly paced, acutely observed, wickedly funny, and often heartbreaking, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s most powerful novel yet—a tour de force of storytelling from our foremost master of character, atmosphere, and suspense.

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Cop Town is the third book I have read from this author. It is VERY different from the other two in so many ways, so that was surprising and fun.

One of the biggest differences is that this book is set in the 1970s instead of modern-day. It follows two main characters, a pair of female patrol cops in Atlanta named Maggie and Kate, but also includes scenes from the main baddie’s POV. The story takes place over four days – Kate’s first four on the job – and they are full of action, intrigue and dirty cops.

Cop Town is eye-opening. True to history, Slaughter’s writing is full of the misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and police abuses of power that were rampant in the 1970s. It is amazing to think that not so long ago, police departments were worse than half the perps they chased down.

I changed my mind several times on the true identity of “Fox” over the course of the book. I will happily tell you I was wrong in the end. I never convinced myself s/he was this person or that, but I definitely wasn’t leaning in the right direction. This is awesome in a thriller, I hate when the ending is really predictable or completely out of left field!

Whether you are a fan of Ms. Slaughter or have just been reading my latest blog posts, you will be aware that she usually writes dark psychological thrillers in which characters are raped and tortured, often graphically. Cop Town doesn’t contain any of this explicit content, so I would recommend it as the book to start with if you are new to dark stories.

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