Transcript / 2024's Unmissable Events and Two New Books — 16 February 2024

Transcript / 2024's Unmissable Events and Two New Books — 16 February 2024

Friday, 16 February, 2024

This is a transcription of ‘LoLT: 2024’s Unmissable Events and Two New Books — 16 February 2024’

This episode is brought to you by BetterHelp. Give online therapy a try at and get on your way to being your best self.

David: I want to tell you one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. This is going to be obvious to some people, but it really helped me out. It’s that, in a relationship, there are three parts. There’s you, there’s the other person, and there’s the relationship itself. And they all need care. If you’re going to have a successful relationship, all three of those parts need to be in working order and they all need to get attention from time to time.

David: I got that advice from a therapist. Therapy can be a great place to work on the challenges you face in all of your relationships — with friends or family or your work or your significant other.

David: If you’re thinking about trying therapy, consider BetterHelp. It’s entirely online. It’s convenient and flexible. They’ll work around your schedule. You just fill out a questionnaire and they will match you up with a licensed therapist. And if you don’t like that one, you can switch any time for no additional cost.

David: Become your own soulmate, whether you’re looking for one or not. Visit / strongsense today to get 10% off your first month. That’s BetterHelp — H E L P — dot com slash strongsense.


[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, a Cold War thriller with a rock & roll heart.

David: A ghost story set during WWI.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: Before I talk about a new book set in Prague, a tiny history lesson. After WWII, Czechoslovakia was a communist country. It wasn’t part of the Soviet Union, but it was behind the Iron Curtain. Then, in the late sixties, there was a period called the Prague Spring. The Beach Boys played here. You could get Beatles records and blue jeans. The rules loosened up a little bit — it was called ‘socialism with a face.’

Melissa: But then, in August of 1968, the Soviet Union decided it had had enough of these long-hair, good-time hippies and invaded. After that, Czechoslovakia returned to a more repressive flavor of Communism until 1989, when the regime changed for good.

Melissa: The book ‘Strawberry Fields’ by Patrick D. Joyce begins on August 20, 1968 — the day the tanks rolled into Prague.

Melissa: The story opens just before dawn on the Charles Bridge. Our heroine Josie Brouková, a reporter from Toronto, is waiting in the fog to meet a contact known to her only as The Shrouded Man. But the cops show up before he can explain why he summoned her. As he makes his escape, he tells Josie, ‘I am the Walrus.’ And then, ‘Go to the Cafe Skryš. Listen. The Playwright will understand. Trust no one else.’

Melissa: Josie gets snagged by the authorities, and as they drive toward the station, she sees tanks and soldiers everywhere. The Soviet army has taken over the city. And Josie finds herself at the heart of dangerous political machinations.

Melissa: In just 150 tight pages, this story weaves together breathless chases, cryptic clues, acts of brave stupidity, and a little romance. It’s also an excellent tour of Prague landmarks, including the famous Café Slavia and Old Town Square — and there are references to the works of Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka, and the Beatles.

Melissa: Patrick Joyce, the author, is a former reporter. He grew up in embassies full of diplomats and spies because his father was a Foreign Service Officer and Soviet expert. They lived in Moscow, the Philippines, Myanmar, Germany, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

Melissa: This is the second book in the Sing & Shout series, but it’s a great place to start because it’s a prequel to the first one, ‘Back in the USSR.’ That book is set in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. Patrick told me that the next book in the series takes place on a train between Moscow, Leningrad, and Helsinki. I’m excited for that!

Melissa: If you enjoy a little espionage set in romantic Cold War locations populated with upstanding heroes who make delightfully dangerous decisions, you’ll like these books. This one is Strawberry Fields by Patrick D. Joyce, and it’s out now.

Melissa: If you wanted to do a little Prague Spring project, you could read THIS book with ‘The Wall’ by Peter Sís and ‘Prague Spring’ by Simon Mawer. And listen to our Prague episode! I’ll put links to all of that in show notes.

David: Katherine Arden is the author of ‘The Bear and the Nightingale.’ That’s a story about a daughter of a woman who might be a witch. It’s set in the deep and dark woods of Russia. I talked about how much I enjoyed that book in our ‘Forest’ episode.

David: She has a new book out. It’s called ‘The Warm Hands of Ghosts.’ It’s a WWI story. A sister hears that her brother is missing and presumed dead. She receives his personal effects. But something doesn’t make sense to her. She decides to go to the battlefields of Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital. She’s going to look for him. The book alternates back and forth between her story and her brother’s harrowing tale. The book has a strong sense of Flanders and some paranormal elements. It blends rich history with gothic fairy tales. If you liked ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,’ you might enjoy this.

David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

David: This week, I was distracted by a list I found on the National Geographic site. That list is called ‘10 unmissable events worth traveling for in 2024.’ I doubt anybody on Earth will attend all 10 events, but it would make for a fantastic year.

David: One of the stops is an ultramarathon through 143 miles of the Manu National Park in Peru. Participants will trail-run through cloud forests, Andean grasslands, and rainforest, and cross river after river over five days. Previous marathoners give the event high marks for being well-run, but also describe the race as quote ‘unpredictable and relentless.’ That’s in early June. It’s supposed to be hot and humid; they advertise that as a feature. That’s going to be a ‘no’ for me.

David: Also on National Geographic’s list is a swim across the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Usually, that strait there — the one splitting Asia and Europe — has very busy shipping lanes. But three days every year, they close it to traffic so that a couple thousand people can swim from one continent to another. It’s a 4-mile swim with a party at the end. That’s in August.

David: Also on the list are the Tango World Cup in Argentina, a street art festival in the UK, and a kite festival in India.

David: But the one that got my attention most was a bike ride across Kenya. It’s 310 miles/500 K over seven days with 60 other cyclists. It’s through a national reserve. They have unprecedented access. Typically, you can’t get out of your car at this reserve. You start at a lake known for its herds of flamingos and ride through a savannah that houses elephants, lions, giraffes, and gazelles. There’s a video of one of the previous participants saying they had a zebra run alongside the tour for ten minutes. You stay in luxury accommodations along the way. It’s a fully supported ride with meals, mechanics, and medical aid. And it’s all for a good cause. It’s a charity event to support, a non-profit that helps children and their mothers in sub-Saharan Africa. Fees are about $3500 a person. They do the run twice a year, once in February and once in November.

David: I do not know who is doing all 10 of these unmissable events. But, if you’re out there, have fun storming the castle.

Melissa: Visit for more on the books we talked about today and links to those unmissable events around the world.

David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of Cody McLain/Unsplash.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.