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wandapedersen39

Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Currently reading

A Beautiful Truth
Colin McAdam
Prentice Alvin
Orson Scott Card
Broken April
Ismail Kadaré

 

It's official--but I'm not sure what to do about it.

 

I've always maintained that I don't need a husband, but I could sure use a wife!

 

Unfortunately, I make women's wages and can't afford to support a wife!  Plus I have no desire to sleep with her....perhaps I'm a gay man trapped in a woman's body???

 

Can you tell that this has been one of the longest weeks ever?

Paranormalcy / Kiersten White

Paranormalcy - Kiersten White

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

 

Young adult novels can be hit-or-miss for me. This one is kind of in the middle, because I quite enjoyed the story while being disappointed by the writing.

There are so many good elements—Evie herself has great potential, as a teenage agent for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. But she’s a teen, so she has teen concerns like forging an identity for herself, getting motivated to do school work, wondering if she’ll ever meet a boy, and trying to figure out what “normal” life is.

Evie’s best friend is a mermaid who runs the command centre at IPCA and they communicate through a translator of some kind. When Lisha, the mermaid, gets riled, her curses are translated by the machine as “bleep.” Resulting in Evie using “bleep” a lot in her everyday conversation. A neat way around the swearing dilemma in YA fiction.

The ability to see through glamours is Evie’s special talent and she actually “sees” and apprehends the young man who becomes her boyfriend during the course of the novel. Once again, fitting with the YA format, this relationship is very chaste and they get no further than hand-holding and kissing.

My major complaint is the lack of emotional depth to Evie. When people important to her IPCA life are killed, she seems to barely register these deaths, but instead concentrates on prom dresses and whether her boyfriend actually likes her. Although faeries are set up as the bad guys, they lack any real grit as villains.

For my money, if you like Paranormalcy, you should definitely try Lisa Shearin’s SPI Files, starting with The Grendel Affair. I found it funnier, more suspenseful, and definitely better written.

 

Spook Street / Mick Herron

Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron

A shakeup at MI5 and a terrorist attack on British soil set in motion clandestine machinery known to few modern spies. David Cartwright isn't a modern spy, however; he's legend and a bonafide Cold War hero. He's also in his dotage and losing his mind to Alzheimer's. His stories of -stotes- hiding in the bushes, following his every move have been dismissed by friends and family for years. Cartwright may be losing track of reality but he's certain about one thing: Old spooks don't go quietly and neither do the secrets they keep.

 

Mick Herron has really hit his stride with the fourth book in the Slough House series! River Cartwright is an inspired creation, grandson of an admired British “spook” (that’s a spy to you & me) who has been sabotaged during a training exercise by a frenemy and ended up in Slough House, the place where failed spies go to be punished for their sins.

There’s been a bombing of a shopping centre, plus River is starting to worry about his grandfather’s mental state. He has the same concerns that everyone has about relatives with dementia, plus the added concern that his grandfather may indeed shoot someone who comes to the door, believing that they are out to get him. That spy-paranoia doesn’t just go away just because he is losing his grip on every-day life.

As per usual, Herron provides a complex plot, with plenty of twists & turns to keep the reader on their toes. There are interesting revelations from the past, political machinations of the most vicious & devious kinds, and Herron isn’t afraid to sacrifice a person or two along the way. The ending is also skillfull—I was given enough resolution to satisfy, while still left with enough loose threads that I am happily anticipating the next installment. Well played!

AB Negative

AB Negative - Kevin P Thornton, Robert Bose, Shona Jayne Barnard, R. Overwater, Al Onia, S.G. Wong, Brent Nichols, Axel Howerton, Axel Howerton, Susan Calder, Therese Greenwood, Randy McCharles, Sharon Wildwind, Dwayne E. Clayden, Janice Macdonald

A solid little collection of short stories in the mystery and noir genres.  I have the pleasure of being familiar with several of the authors because of a writers & readers conference that I attend here in Calgary each August. 

 

With short stories, I often find myself wishing that they were longer and more detailed—several of these stories would, in my opinion, have been better suited to novel-length works, or at least novellas.  As with most short story collections, some appealed to me more than others.

 

It was refreshing to read stories set in my home province and, in some cases, in my own city.  I also give kudos for the very clever title of the volume (AB is the abbreviation for Alberta, dovetailing nicely with the blood group).

Bewitched & Betrayed / Lisa Shearin

Bewitched & Betrayed - Lisa Shearin

Elf seeker Raine Benares finds lost things and missing people- usually alive. After bonding with the Saghred, a powerful soul- stealing stone, she must hunt down its escapees. Especially since one of them is also hunting her, also hot white magic paladin and drool-worthy black mage.

 

As much as I enjoy the Raine Benares series (and I do enjoy it), I have to admit that the story doesn’t advance very much in each book. There is plenty of action, plenty of opportunities for Raine to beat on things or get beaten upon, but the actual story of her unwilling partnership with the evil Saghred stone doesn’t move much.

What this installment does give us is a shift in the three-way bond that she, Mychael, and Tam have been trying conceal from the Council. In some ways, it is nice to have resolution of the issue, if you believe that there must be only two people involved in an intimate bond. I find myself a bit disappointed, as I’d been hoping that we might actually get a realistic vision of what a polyandric relationship might look like. I see no reason why Raine should have to choose between Mychael and Tam—why can’t she choose them both? But apparently I am in the minority on this one.

Raine continues to be the competent fighter who tries to know her own limits. She is realistic enough to fight dirty when the occasion requires it and to rely on the people around her rather than go it alone. She is stubborn and snarky and yet often worried about her potential future if things go sideways with the Saghred. I am charmed by her circle of friends and relatives who have her back and I am heartened by the addition of a female goblin who may provide that necessary female friend that I believe that all female protagonists should have in their arsenals.

A Morbid Taste for Bones / Ellis Peters

A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

In the remote Welsh mountain village of Gwytherin lies the grave of Saint Winifred. Now, in 1137, the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey has decided to acquire the sacred remains for his Benedictine order. Native Welshman Brother Cadfael is sent on the expedition to translate and finds the rustic villagers of Gwytherin passionately divided by the Benedictine's offer for the saint's relics. Canny, wise, and all too wordly, he isn't surprised when this taste for bones leads to bloody murder.

The leading opponent to moving the grave has been shot dead with a mysterious arrow, and some say Winifred herself held the bow. Brother Cadfael knows a carnal hand did the killing. But he doesn't know that his plan to unearth a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice...where the wages of sin may be scandal or Cadfael's own ruin.

 

I am quite sure that I used to own a copy of this novel, back in the early 1980s. I finally donated it because I just couldn’t get into the story. Now, I look back at my younger self and shake my head, because this time around I found the story to be very accessible and very easy to engage. Another instance of the right book at the right time—not suitable for me in my 20s, but eminently suitable for me in my 50s.

I think that Brother Cadfael will become an old friend—I will certainly be reading the next book of the series! In my opinion, Peters transplants the murder mystery genre into medieval times extremely well. She gives Brother Cadfael common sense and logic to work with, plus a good dose of human psychology. How he deals with the Church hierarchy and the other Brothers feels very real and is often amusing.

The action begins slowly—the reader must be patient as Peters builds the story towards the murder, but after that, the action is unabated until the final resolution. This story is quite different from the forensic-based murder mysteries that crowd today’s shelves, but that very difference recommends it. Not exactly a cozy mystery, but a gentler one. No gore or psychopaths to deal with here.

Finally.....I recruited a friend to help me haul my ancient television out to the car for recycling on Saturday.  I also took a VCR and an old laptop (Windows XP vintage).  My friend took 2 laptops.

 

It makes me happy every time I walk by that space in the bedroom where that TV has been lingering for years.  That open space makes me smile.

 

Hurrah for spring cleaning!

 

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead / Tom Stoppard

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard

Hamlet told from the worm's-eye view of two minor characters, bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, reality and illusion mix, and where fate leads heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.

 

Each of us is the star of our own life. You may be a bit part in someone else’s narrative, but in your own mind, yours is the story that matters. Or you may struggle to find meaning in your own life, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this play by Tom Stoppard.

Last night I attended a live broadcast of the National Theatre production, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Josh McGuire. The set was very simple and the dialog was copious and delivered rapidly. I couldn’t help but admire how well they knew their parts.

There was definitely a “Waiting for Godot” vibe to the production, as R & G wait for some kind of sign or direction as to what they are supposed to be doing.

A knowledge of Shakespeare’s Hamlet isn’t necessary to appreciate this play, but I think it enhances the viewer’s appreciation.

Recommended.

Current stack from the public library

Silent Spring - Rachel Carson, Linda Lear, Edward O. Wilson Crocodile on the Sandbank - Elizabeth Peters Paranormalcy - Kiersten White Snake Agent - Liz Williams Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas A Beautiful Truth - Colin McAdam A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

Its a good thing that I have a relatively unscheduled weekend coming up!  I've got a friend coming over to help me haul an old, old TV out of the house & off to recycling.  Then I've got to take a couple of boxes of books to the used book store.  Anything they don't want will go to the Calgary Reads book sale in May, to support literacy in the community.

 

Spring cleaning and spring reading.

 

 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd / Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie

In the village of King's Abbot, a widow's sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study--but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow's blackmailer. King's Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd's wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim's home. It's now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King's Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd--a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard, and by Sheppard's ingenious sister, Caroline.

 

M. Poirot, what were you thinking? Retiring to a small village to grow vegetable marrows? I too would hurl them in fits of regret! As if marrows could suitably engage those little grey cells!

Excellent depiction of the competitive sport of gossip. Small communities everywhere suffer from it. That is one of the reasons that I came to live in a city—I can actually keep my private life relatively private!

Dame Agatha really did set the patterns for current mystery literature, didn’t she? Very, very enjoyable and as usual, I had no idea who the perpetrator was until M. Poirot did the big reveal.

Dinner

Dinner: Changing the Game - Eric Wolfinger, Melissa Clark

 

I quickly perused  this cookbook last night.  I have to say that the photography is beautiful and that most of the recipes are not outrageously complicated.  Still, I think most of them would be weekend cooking for me, when I have a bit more time.  I think I would also want company to enjoy them with me...

Hôtel Transylvania / Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Hotel Transylvania - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

The classic tale that introduced the legendary Le Comte de Saint-Germain, first published in 1978 and spawning 14 titles in the Saint-Germain epic, is now available in paperback. A fixture in 1740s Parisian society, Saint-Germain is a perfect gentleman--and a vampire. When the fiery young Madeline falls in love with him, a group of evil sorcerers targets her for their black mass--and only Saint-Germain can save her soul.

 

Hôtel Transylvania was probably a cutting edge book of its time (the late 1970s), but today it feels a little old fashioned. However, I can certainly see its place in the process of getting to the abundant vampire fiction that we have today.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula merely hinted at the sexual nature of vampires. The vampire snuck in at night like a clandestine lover and had to get up close and personal to bite his victim. Blood transfer is pretty intimate after all.

A couple of years before Hôtel Transylvania was published, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire appeared and updated the vampire legend for the times. These were vampires who could interact with humans, who could live for many centuries, and who felt strong emotions. The eroticism of the vampire-human interaction became more explicit. This was a way-station along the path that has led us to the completely sexual vampire of current urban fantasy.

Enter Le Comte de Saint-Germain. Although he does drink blood, he also provides pleasurable sexual experiences during the process. There is some hint that he obtains energy from the sex as well as the blood meal. He is apparently over a thousand years old, is able to handle religious symbols such as crucifixes, and can endure sunlight and running water if properly grounded with his home earth in the soles of his boots.

An aspect of this book that marks it as a product of its time—it is set in the France of Louis XV and revolves around a Satanic cult in the French court (supposedly linked with La Voisin, an alleged sorceress in the court of Louis XIV). Published in 1978, Hôtel Transylvania appears just before the Satanic cult panics of the 1980s. The physical & sexual abuse ascribed to the bad guys here is very similar to that attributeded to the cults of the 1980s. Rather like the Salem witch trials, it turned out that panic-stricken people have very active imaginations.

This was my first time reading the first book in the series—I vaguely remember several volumes in the late 1980s, which I enjoyed more at the time.

On the Edge / Ilona Andrews

On the Edge - Ilona Andrews

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, between the world of the Broken (where people drive cars, shop at Wal-Mart, and magic is a fairy tale) and the Weird (where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny). Only Edgers like Rose can easily travel from one world to the next, but they never truly belong in either.

Rose thought if she practiced her magic, she could build a better life for herself. But things didn’t turn out how she planned, and now she works a minimum wage, off the books job in the Broken just to survive. Then Declan Camarine, a blueblood noble straight out of the deepest part of the Weird, comes into her life, determined to have her (and her power).

But when a terrible danger invades the Edge from the Weird, a flood of creatures hungry for magic, Declan and Rose must work together to destroy them—or they’ll devour the Edge and everyone in it.

 

This is probably my least favourite Ilona Andrews offering to date, but I still really enjoyed it. I feel like I am reading historical background to books 2 and 3 of the Innkeeper Chronicles, learning the backstory of the arbiter, George. I can also see this particular book as a blue-print for Burn for Me, which is, in my opinion, a stronger offering (and both BfM and OtE tip further into the paranormal romance direction than the Kate Daniels series did).

There is at least one obvious fairy-tale element here—Declan can win Rose’s hand by performing three difficult tasks. Plus, she is living in poverty and working a minimum wage job, evoking Cinderella comparisons. Also obvious is a fairly standard romance trope—reluctant allies developing genuine feelings for one another. Add in a Romeo-and-Juliet type angle, with Rose and Declan being from extremely different family backgrounds, and how can you miss? There are built-in communication problems to confound the couple as they try to navigate their relationship.

Another solid offering from the Andrews writing team. I will definitely read book two and I’ve already picked up books three and four second hand, so they are a foregone conclusion. I am worried that I am almost caught up-to-date on their published works—rereading will be my solution until more are published!

One Fell Sweep / Ilona Andrews

One Fell Sweep - Ilona Andrews

Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog.

Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.

 

This installment of the Innkeeper Chronicles manages to be very satisfying while leaving the reader anxious for the next book! Some things are “settled” (or at least the beginnings of settling has begun), but enough loose ends are left to entice me along. Please tell me that there will be a volume 4? I need to know what has happened to Dina’s parents! And although it seems a foregone conclusion, I want to know what Dina’s sister, Maud, decides to do.

I loved the sibling dynamics in One Fell Sweep. The teasing between the two sisters, the insights that they have on each other, the love, and the support. I adore Dina, but I’m also becoming a fan of Maud.

I was also delighted that the trademark Ilona Andrews banter continued—the dialog sparkles. Plus, the new role for Officer Marais is genius! We get some brand new aliens to enjoy, we get to know Caldenia a bit better, see what Beast can do when necessary, and meet Sean’s parents. All in all, a lot of personal information, all while fighting a righteous battle whose conclusion is not easily foreseen.

I am ever so glad that I have purchased all three of the Innkeeper books, as I can easily envision reading all of them over-again from the beginning while I wait for number 4.

A Court of Mist and Fury / Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses Book 2) - Sarah J. Maas

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world torn apart.

 

This is an enormous book. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was able to conquer it, however.

The things I liked?
- Getting to see more of various fairy courts (Night and Summer, for instance).
- Seeing Tamlin’s “perfect” plans being derailed by Rhys, the charming bad boy.
- Feyre escaping the controlling relationship that she found herself in.
- Watching Feyre explore her new abilities.
- Seeing the set-up for an extreme Fae-Human war.

The things I wasn’t crazy about:
- This book could have been one third the size without all the angst about what Feyre feels, what she should do, was she being fair, all that crap that unnecessarily complicates relationships.
- It reinforces the “women like bad boys” sterotypes that plague us. Despite the fact that Rhys turns out to be a nicer guy that Tamlin in every way that is important.
- Yet another book which tells women that a relationship is the most important achievement in our lives, rather than our talents and accomplishments.

Basically, Feyre has gone from being a fragile human, needing protection, to a strong Fae woman who needs a supportive partner. Tamlin was her entrée into the Fairy realm, but once she returns with him to the Spring Court, he goes all controlling on her—restricting her contact with others, restricting her movements, and acting like an abusive spouse. I’m all for getting away from abusive partners.

The whole romance-y genre drives me crazy, because I enjoy the books, but the subtext messages in them drive me up the wall!

I wonder if Maas’ plan is to write a book set in each of the Fairy Courts? Despite my complaints, there is no doubt that I will be reading on, to see how things turn out.

The Eye of the World / Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World  - Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

 

The Wheel of Time turns….and I am now on The Wheel.

What a kitten-squisher of a book! I had the hardcover edition from the library. When I fell asleep reading it, the thump as the book landed in my lap would wake me every time! (Not that this was a boring book, just that I’ve been having sleep issues lately.)

I hope to take a little breather from The Wheel before I head on to book 2. But I will need to move on while I still remember who’s who. This is one of the better swords-and-horses fantasies that I have found during my reading project, and judging from the number of books times the thickness of each one, I have many hours of reading pleasure in my future.

Book 254 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.