Of Our Own Device

Of Our Own DeviceWhat Do You Do When You Realize That The American Dream You Ve Been Working For Isn T Enough If It S Yours Alone And What You Re Told To Do Will Destroy The Only True Friend You Ve Ever Had Summer Of Jack Smith Is A Rookie CIA Case Officer Posted At The American Embassy In Moscow Despite His Gregarious Nature, Jack Is A Lonely Man Not Only Is He A Reluctant Spy, He Is Also Gay When He Meets Eton Volkonsky, A Talented Nuclear Physics Student, Jack S Bosses Instruct Him To Develop The Russian As A Future Agent Their Friendship Deepens, And Jack Is Torn Between His Suspicion That Eton And Friends Are With The KGB And His Attraction To The Man But He Continues Telling Himself And His Bosses That He Is Just Doing His Job, Developing His Agent Only When He Leaves Russia Does Jack Admit That He Has Been Fooling Himself He Takes On Assignments In Various Countries, With A Hope That Eventually They Will Get Him Back To MoscowAs Introspection And Growing Doubts About What He Does For Living Torment Jack,the World Is Buffeted By A Whirlwind Of Dramatic Events Diplomatic And Spy Wars, The Rise Of AIDS, The Chernobyl Catastrophe, The War In Afghanistan And The Disintegration Of The Communist Bloc Given A Second Chance, Will Jack Make The Right Choice I always find it very difficult to write a review of a book that deeply moved me I had a look at my reviews of my all time favorite books recently, and had to hold myself back not to make them disappear forever They sound like a disjointed mumbling of a ten year old girl who has just discovered the existence of an exclamation mark Besides, these reviews are not very helpful But again, I am running out of words when I try to explain how GOOD this story is, how GREAT the characters are and how I always find it very difficult to write a review of a book that deeply moved me I had a look at my reviews of my all time favorite books recently, and had to hold myself back not to make them disappear forever They sound like a disjointed mumbling of a ten year old girl who has just discovered the existence of an exclamation mark Besides, these reviews are not very helpful But again, I am running out of words when I try to explain how GOOD this story is, how GREAT the characters are and how I want all of you to go through these oceans of emotions and to experience the same intensity of feelings while reading this book.Okthe story Set in the middle end of the 1980s in Russia West East Germany USA this novel offers EVERYTHING that a fan of a powerful political spy thriller can only dream of the most excited history, a spies war on a very high level, complex politics, a lot of research hats off to the author WOW But even if this part alone deserves 5 stars, the best, THE VERY BEST, the most fascinating, stunning, breathtaking, amazing, grandiose part isYESa LOVE STORY The characters Jack, a CIA officer at the American Embassy in Moscow is a spy, he is lonely, gay andsimply one of the most compassionate characters EVER Eton, a promising Russian physics student, a grandson of Professor Volkonsky, a world leading specialist in nuclear physics and a member of a nomenclature circle, with a mysterious family background and deeply in the closet how it could be not at this time and in this country But Eton is in the first place a talented musician, a songwriter, front man and lead singer of the band Krylia So you see, according to fundamental laws of physics, they can t be together Their relationship is a developing one It starts VERY slowly, the sexual tension could be hardly ignored from their first meeting, but this hidden slow built relationship is something you can t write THAT easy You either can do it or not M.K South brought THIS love story and its development to uttermost perfection The writing very descriptive and could possibly be diluted in some parts, but during the most part of the book I felt it was authentic to the development of the story and the story just couldn t do without it I don t want to get rid of a single sentence No way Again, I have to thank admire the author for all his historical knowledge and for his research and everything in between It is just this kind of this accurate writing that left you astounded and speechless and amazed and force you to google and google and google That makes your reading progress slower but it worth it, believe me.In spite of all I said above, I ll try to remain reasonable You shouldn t read this book if you do NOT like realistic historical fictionif you are NOT interested in politics AT ALLif your ONLY idea of a spy novel is James Bond moviesif your understanding of a love story I avoid on purpose the word romance here is not possible without long detailed sex scenes Please, read this book if you do NOT want to miss one of the most emotional and intense love stories EVER if you don t afraid to read a book of this lengthif you appreciate extremely well done researchIf you LOVE historical fiction you can authenticate yourself withif you understand and estimate a beautiful and excellent writing And finally something for your eyes My casting for the main characters Beautiful, emotional, exciting, scary, thrilling, fascinating the list of adjectives could go on and on.HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.P.S I m in the worst book hangover EVER after Damn you all, Eton, Jack and M.K South Poor me A fantastic BR with my girls, Alona, Sofia, Katerina. 4.5 It s 1985, Glasnost and Perestroika have come to Russia, AIDS, which had been steamrolling through the gay community, is making its presence known to the world at large, and the Year of the Spy is in full swing between the C.I.A and the KGB Welcome to the world compellingly and masterfully brought back to life by M.K South in Of Our Own Device To his colleagues in the American Embassy in Moscow Jack Smith is a recently appointed junior officer with the USIA In reality he s a deep co 4.5 It s 1985, Glasnost and Perestroika have come to Russia, AIDS, which had been steamrolling through the gay community, is making its presence known to the world at large, and the Year of the Spy is in full swing between the C.I.A and the KGB Welcome to the world compellingly and masterfully brought back to life by M.K South in Of Our Own Device To his colleagues in the American Embassy in Moscow Jack Smith is a recently appointed junior officer with the USIA In reality he s a deep cover C.I.A operative whose persona is that of a gregarious, friendly, and at times oblivious American, though he is no such thing It turns out Jack is uniquely qualified for life as a spy He s a gay man who came of age in a less accepting era I m guessing he s over 25 but under 30 and place He grew up in an infelicitous household, complete with dead mother and an abusive, alcoholic, bigoted father In short he knows how to hide in plain sight in spite of physically being a looker tall dark with cornflower blue eyes All he wanted was an escape, a better life, a ranch in California, the reality of which the army and later the C.I.A promise like a mirage in the desert Jack is tasked with befriending any and all comers and, when possible, recruiting future agents or being a dangle He not only speaks fluent Russian but due to his own curious nature is knowledgeable of the s and culture which endears him to the locals and he can t help but return the affection In spite of everything he s wonderfully human and that s one of the almost surprising things the author does so well making the characters fully rounded individuals who live in a recognizable world and don t necessarily subscribe the easy construct of spy, agent, villain, hero etc Within Jack s purview falls Eton May Volkonsky, the son of an American and what amounts to Russian royalty the grandson of, in the world of the book, the Soviet originator of the Nuclear Winter Theory and a physicist in his own right He s also a musician, a poet, and generally a sweet soul who seems almost too fragile for the harsh world of the 1980 s USSR Even so, he s no wilting flower in need of rescue In need of love Who isn t The book opens, during a performance of Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky at the Bolshoi Theater, the spy thriller fans may think of the Mission Impossible or Jason Bourne movies but as the story progresses it put me in mind of the Bourne books and even of Le Carre, with the almost relentless emphasis on the daily minutiae in the life of a spy which paired with that of a bureaucrat is endless reports, counter intelligence runs to make sure you are or are not being shadowed by the organs , answering to office drones who are not in the field, and agencies who at times have contradictory agendas In Jack s personal circumstances he also has to work extra to keep up the facade of a heterosexual man All of this is exhausting when all he wants is a weekend trip to Helsinki, have some meaningless sex, and watch the Live Aid concert I don t know how much is too much to reveal in terms of the plot events of the book The bare bones would be that Jack comes in to the orbit of Eton, Lara, an aspiring actress and the daughter of the Deputy Minister of Culture, and their circle of friends Though they re all young, 20 or 21, they re irresistibly attracted to Jack and all of his Americanness For Eton, Jack is wide open spaces and a dream like California I had Hotel California , the whole album, on repeat for a week It really sets a tone for the book Eton feels an unspeakable attraction for Jack, one he can t quite iterate even to himself He has no point of reference for it Jack feels the same but he s so deep in the closet due to work, the times, and choice that a future together isn t a foregone conclusion not least of all because almost all of Jack s interactions with Eton are based on suspecting Eton of possibly being a current or future KGB agent and trying, albeit halfheartedly, to recruit him as an asset for the C.I.A Needless to say those are less than ideal circumstances for anything meaningful to develop and though this is definitely not a romance, M M or otherwise, the relationship between Eton and Jack does shape the course of the story and ultimately of their lives Some might object to some of Jack s interactions with Eton,specifically how he treats him, like a potential agent, however he behaves entirely how a well trained case officer should Bravo.The bulk of the story takes place during 1985 1986 at the height of a veritable spy tit for tat between the U.S and the slowly collapsing USSR These are perilous times, everything is in flux, the earth is shifting, who can be trusted where do you draw the line how close to the edge can you stand without falling over how much of your authentic self can you sacrifice for what you believe to be the greater good The denouement of the story takes us to the latter part of 1989 when the cracks that were evident within the power structures have become craters Afghanistan, the Soviet Union s Vietnam, is blowing up, Denmark legally recognized the first same sex marriage, and things in Berlin are about to take a sharp turn Coincidentally Berlin is where our principals meet again after a lengthy separation They haven t gotten through the years unscathed and they can t remain static I won t lie The book is long and initially it gave me pause but once I started it was like reading the diary of someone, Jack, with a life wayinteresting than my own The bulk of the story is told from Jack s P.O.V but there is a small section of journal entries from Eton, which is genius, because we get to be in the head of this complicated, smart, and beautiful Russian man, Jack s counterpart and very much his equal They both come from a place where they need to hide an important part of who they are Such are the seeds of what promises to be a great relationship Jack and Eton will linger in your mind long after you turn the last page Ultimately this wasn t a 5 star read for me because I desperately wanted, nay needed another chapter, an epilogue, or any kind of coda to comfort my heart as to Jack Eton s future That s how much M K South makes these characters vibrant and alive I cared about them like dear friends whose story I never wanted to end For those interested in genre classification I d say this isof a spy thriller action suspense with a same sex couple as part of the story, and all that entails in that place and time, but definitely not a romance, though there absolutely is a love story Full disclosure The author offered me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, however after reading the first chapter I realized I was all in and purchased my own copy because, whenever possible I like to support artists writers and don t want any BS fromfingers crossed Review also up on the blog I would like to share a few thoughts about this really OUTSTANDING book.To get to the point other reviewers were so right This is NOT a romance Rather, it s an EPIC, CONSUMING LOVE STORY Romance doesn t hit it too weak and to little to grasp what this book offered in its entirety It is so muchEven if you know it won t last and it ll hurt you in the end But in your heart of hearts, you ll know what you have to do to be with that person, no matter what For as long as it lasts It I would like to share a few thoughts about this really OUTSTANDING book.To get to the point other reviewers were so right This is NOT a romance Rather, it s an EPIC, CONSUMING LOVE STORY Romance doesn t hit it too weak and to little to grasp what this book offered in its entirety It is so muchEven if you know it won t last and it ll hurt you in the end But in your heart of hearts, you ll know what you have to do to be with that person, no matter what For as long as it lasts It s not just love, Eton It s fate On the one hand there is this spy story, which is the plot skeleton And one the other hand there is a wealth of history History that many of you will only know from the news at that time, from television, from films or books The events are over 30 years in the past And yet it was for me as if it were yesterday In this case, however, it was history I have lived and experienced for myself Minutely described are events that occurred in the mid 80s At that time I was a bit younger than the two main characters, which are in their early or mid twenties The historical events were very well researched and woven into a nerve racking story When you have experienced those things in your real life, you will experience this story a lotintensively I have seen many scenes with my own eyes I lived through it close up and I was a part of this revolution you will read about When readers write how moving this is, I can assure you how exciting it was to experience it and relive it while reading this book There s no other fair price for Love Only one s life is enough, only life is enough Of course I love you I love you so much it hurts Can t even start telling you what you mean to me I missed you so bad No, it must be something larger than love, from the very first day It must have been fate.What would someone do to keep the ones they loved safe What would he do The Blurb already mentions a lot of events that you will experience.I think it s evenintense when you know what the author is writing about when you feel the fear yourself.I grew up in the Eastern Bloc and experienced the hardships and fears close up.As it was when families were separated by a wall and you couldn t have contact with your nearest relatives How letters came to the addressee only via middlemen How telephone calls were intercepted And you could be sure to have Stasi spies everywhere.I witnessed the November Revolution as student in Leipzig at that time We danced on the streets on the 9th of November 1986 And Coming Out is a wonderful movie by the way, but always in context under which conditions it was filmed, where and in relation to the time then.I think everyone will perceive and appreciate this book differently.For me is this book a wonderful work It feels very real And the love story is heartbreaking because of its authenticity.I will never forget Eton and Jack One of the most intense and genuine love couples I have read about.The secondary characters are also strong and multi faceted The story was so poignant that the characters didn t get out of my mind for the last few days And I still have to think about this story.But dear Author, I needThe end is good I read it twice to be sure but it s not enough for me.I need literally two cowboys who happily ride in the Californian sunset PLEASE This book is very well researched which in this case is both a good thing and a bad thing Let me explain The good part is that the facts as laid out in the book make you want to go and look fordetails, for pictures andfacts, a thing I did and enjoyed The bad thing here was that South was not curbed by a good editor not to use all that research in the actual book but rather to use it in those mysterious magical writerly ways so that we the readers get the story, get the emotions This book is very well researched which in this case is both a good thing and a bad thing Let me explain The good part is that the facts as laid out in the book make you want to go and look fordetails, for pictures andfacts, a thing I did and enjoyed The bad thing here was that South was not curbed by a good editor not to use all that research in the actual book but rather to use it in those mysterious magical writerly ways so that we the readers get the story, get the emotions without the overload of all the nitty bitty facts South tells the story using real life happenings to move the story forward and so I felt that the story had a very slow rhythm Believe me I m not a very slow reader and I ve come to trust my judgement regarding this as I ve known myself to read gulp down books at a much faster rate than I did this one This one I couldn t.So although I liked the story, I kept imaging it being told in another way As usual I enjoyed the company of my fellow buddies in this one, Lenka, Alona and Katrina D Reviewed by Jenn for Diverse Reader Of Our Own Device by M K South almost felt like it was written just for me It has all the things I love all together mystery, suspense, history, spies, intrigue, and romance all rolled into one incredible book It s 1985 and we meet Jack Smith, a rookie CIA Officer, posted at the American Embassy in Moscow The eighties were crazy times in American Russian politics and this book touched on so much of what was going on in tho Reviewed by Jenn for Diverse Reader Of Our Own Device by M K South almost felt like it was written just for me It has all the things I love all together mystery, suspense, history, spies, intrigue, and romance all rolled into one incredible book It s 1985 and we meet Jack Smith, a rookie CIA Officer, posted at the American Embassy in Moscow The eighties were crazy times in American Russian politics and this book touched on so much of what was going on in those days The spy thriller aspect of this book is so well written and very compelling I am so impressed by the amount of research that must have gone into this book So back to Jack Jack is young, smart and he also has a secret Jack does what he needs to for his job, for the way he believes he s supposed to live But Jack yearns and that yearning made me ache for him at times Imagine being a gay man in 1985 with the AIDS epidemic now imagine being in Russia at the same time Not a very safe world for a man who already works in a dangerous profession Jack gives himself little vacations away from his real world to carry himself through till the next time he can be his true self, but you feel his loneliness.When Jack is assigned to recruit a target, things start to get really interesting Jack isn t expecting to like the group of young people he is to make friends with, but he does His world is suddenly opening up and at the heart of that is a Russian student named Eton Jack s assignment to get close to the student who is working on a project having to do with the Nuclear Winter Theory Getting close is Jack s job, getting too close could be Jack s downfall Being attracted to an assignment isn t ideal, being hopelessly attracted to a same sex assignment could be deadly Now is the part where I can t tell youbecause of spoilers but trust me it s all so good This was my first book by this author and it s a long one I honestly didn t realize how long until it was over because I was so invested and entertained throughout The book touches on some heavy subjects, as mentioned above, the AIDS epidemic is a backdrop throughout the book The history is also heavy at times, giving us those behind the scenes glimpses at a time in our history where I was payingattention to Madonna than to Russia I truly loved this part I love when a book causes us to pause and remember to give respect to those who came before us In the case of this book, it s the courage that gave me the most satisfaction Jack and Eton, as well as all the people living through and surviving such seemingly insurmountable obstacles A book like this makes us reflect on what was, what is and what we hope will be If you can t already tell, I loved this book It s a long historical fiction and those don t always get the love they deserve this one certainly deserves some love Scene Two friends at a restaurant Friend 1 Wow, the food here is really terrible Friend2 I know And such small portions, too I m at a complete loss I don t know how to rate this book The espionage aspects were completely over my head, so essentially I skimmed 80% of it, looking for the love story parts When I got to them, I found the writing sophomoric The characters were well developed but their dialogue was clumsy Jack s exclamation point filled inner monologue was over the top Scene Two friends at a restaurant Friend 1 Wow, the food here is really terrible Friend2 I know And such small portions, too I m at a complete loss I don t know how to rate this book The espionage aspects were completely over my head, so essentially I skimmed 80% of it, looking for the love story parts When I got to them, I found the writing sophomoric The characters were well developed but their dialogue was clumsy Jack s exclamation point filled inner monologue was over the top Eton s diary entries provided a second POV that abruptly stopped Of Our Own Device had all the signs of a DNF but I couldn t stop reading it I couldn t NOT finish I had to know what happened and further, if things didn t work out for Jack and Eton, it was going to be REALLY unpleasant around here So I don t know what to do with my stars This was a weird restaurant The food wasn t great, yet I finished my dinner and ordered coffee and dessert 4.5 stars.Loved it If you love a love story, but need it to bethen a simple romance, you re going to love it If you love a story that is full of historical events that shaped our world as we know it, you ll love this book.But most of all I loved the characters I loved Eton s clever naivety, his quiet and total love He is the perfect character for me.I also really loved Jack, but OMG, Eton just stole my heart It s very obvious that the author know what she is writing about and did a goo 4.5 stars.Loved it If you love a love story, but need it to bethen a simple romance, you re going to love it If you love a story that is full of historical events that shaped our world as we know it, you ll love this book.But most of all I loved the characters I loved Eton s clever naivety, his quiet and total love He is the perfect character for me.I also really loved Jack, but OMG, Eton just stole my heart It s very obvious that the author know what she is writing about and did a good background research of the period.The writing is great even if sometimes it s too detailed and in need of a better editing, it was still an amazing and intense read.I would say this book is a mixture of Voinov s Special Forces with Tal Bauer s Enemies of the State.Highly recommended I would definitely love to readabout E and J, or anything from the author Jack Smith is a somewhat reluctant CIA agent under deep cover in soviet era Moscow in the mid 1980s Preternaturally handsome, he is at heart a gay man, but as a spy he is whatever the company requires him to be as an American working in Soviet Era Moscow he does whatever is required to project an image of banal heterosexuality Jack is smart, savvy, suspicious as is required of him, while remaining empathetic and as the novel progresses, increasingly sympathetic towards the group of Russian n Jack Smith is a somewhat reluctant CIA agent under deep cover in soviet era Moscow in the mid 1980s Preternaturally handsome, he is at heart a gay man, but as a spy he is whatever the company requires him to be as an American working in Soviet Era Moscow he does whatever is required to project an image of banal heterosexuality Jack is smart, savvy, suspicious as is required of him, while remaining empathetic and as the novel progresses, increasingly sympathetic towards the group of Russian nomenclature students he has befriended as part of his job Erin Volkonsky is a shy, lonely PHD student, deeply closeted due to the spurious social conditions of the time, and an avid writer It is through his writing that most of his beautiful characterisation takes place Eton is also a near genius, ambivalent nuclear physicist and passionate musician, the grandson of a Soviet nuclear physicist, royalty whom, due to his mysterious family history is marked as an unwitting pawn of the CIA in Moscow The relationship between Jack and Eton is a tantalising slow burn of forbidden sexual tension, angst and mutual suspicion Spanning almost a decade, three continents, and set against a back drop of real life events from the spate of US ambassador ejections from Moscow, Chernobyl, the Soviet Afghan war to the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is as thrilling as it is unpredictable and the last 20 30% of the book is a perfectly nail biting race to its conclusion At almost 300,000 words oood is an opus Part epic love story, Cold War spy thriller, history lesson and cultural exchange, this book is a REALISTIC and meticulously researched spy thriller and one of the best books I ve read all year Detailed and knowledgeable, but perhaps a little overlongAt 766 pages this is quite a long novel, but the characters are richly formed and keep you wanting to find out what happens in the end.The author does deliver huge detail to the daily life of an American spy in Moscow and East Berlin in the 80 s including the boring stuff such as report writing They also give good insight into counter surveillance routines, dead letter drops and the like as well as period detail of 80s Moscow and Berlin Detailed and knowledgeable, but perhaps a little overlongAt 766 pages this is quite a long novel, but the characters are richly formed and keep you wanting to find out what happens in the end.The author does deliver huge detail to the daily life of an American spy in Moscow and East Berlin in the 80 s including the boring stuff such as report writing They also give good insight into counter surveillance routines, dead letter drops and the like as well as period detail of 80s Moscow and Berlin However, this is not the classic spy novel in so much the key characters are in a gay relationship Whilst you may think this makes the book a m m romance it does add an extra level of secrecy that needs to be kept against the background of prejudice and the AIDS epidemic As previous reviewers have said, the sex is quite graphic, but is essential to the main character development and story.A good debut from a new author, that probably could have benefited from better editing but of definite interest to fans of spy fiction, Soviet GDR history buffs, and readers looking for an intense m m love story.I received a review copy from the author and was not obliged to write a positive review A Joyfully Jay review 4.25 starsOf Our Own Device is set during the 80s and covers most of the decade It primarily takes place in Soviet Russia and Germany Both nations faced massive turmoil during the 80s, turmoil that played out on American televisions and left an indelible impact on my own childhood Of Our Own Device covers everything from the AIDS crisis, to Chernobyl and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and does so with a strong sense of historical relevancy The history in this book reads A Joyfully Jay review 4.25 starsOf Our Own Device is set during the 80s and covers most of the decade It primarily takes place in Soviet Russia and Germany Both nations faced massive turmoil during the 80s, turmoil that played out on American televisions and left an indelible impact on my own childhood Of Our Own Device covers everything from the AIDS crisis, to Chernobyl and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and does so with a strong sense of historical relevancy The history in this book reads as factual and well defined within its place And the fact we see so much of it from a Russian perspective adds to the novelty of the story I don t know anything about spy craft, but everything about Of Our Own Device has a realistic, believable feel to it and I give the author huge kudos for the depth and breadth of the story and unwinding the complexity of Russian US relations at the end of the Cold War The only downside to this aspect of the book is the pacing There are definitely moments that lagged and there were times the where the information was somewhat excessive.Read Sue s review in its entirety here