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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

Plague
C.C. Humphreys
No Rest for the Wicked
Kresley Cole
Thunder Heights
Phyllis A. Whitney
A Mystery of Errors
Simon Hawke

Wildfire / Ilona Andrews

Wildfire - Ilona Andrews

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

 

Well, I slurped that down in one evening flat! And it was delightful. I will no doubt read it again, savouring it more slowly.

All the signs point to the Hidden Legacy series consisting of only 3 books. But there are so many things that just call out for more volumes! Leon finally has found his magic and started to use it. Arabella and Catalina have been required to use their talents too. I need to know more about all of them.

Plus, the big conspiracy theory that has been behind all three novels hasn’t been fully explored yet. Sure, the conspirators sustain a lot of damage during the course of Wildfire, but we still don’t know who the criminal mastermind is.

The whole “becoming a House” process has just begun, and there are bound to me challenges. I want to know what those issues are! And how do Nevada & family cope with Evil Grandma?
Not to mention that I just enjoy Nevada’s family and would be interested in whatever crazy things they were doing. And although Nevada and Connor may seem like a done deal, those two will always have challenges and I want to witness those.

Please, Ilona & Gordon, tell me there will be more books in the Hidden Legacy world!!!

It was good.  Really, really good.

The Curse of the Kings / Victoria Holt

The Curse of the Kings - Victoria Holt

For centuries the tombs of the Pharaohs were haunted by a deadly curse. And when two eminent archaeologists have died mysteriously, Judith Osmond was certain that it was the curse at work. Then, overnight, her life changed.

There was an unexpected inheritance. Then Tybalt, a young archaeologist and the man she adored, asked her to marry him. But Tybalt planned a honeymoon amid the tombs of the Pharaohs, and suddenly it looked as if the curse of the kings had come to haunt Judith . . .

 

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List ***

I really enjoyed Victoria Holt’s books when I was in my teens. Re-reading them as a mature adult has been a bit disappointing. Having always had a bit of thing for Ancient Egypt, I recall being enchanted by The Curse of the Kings. Unfortunately, having just recently read The Lord of the Far Island, I can now see far too clearly how formulaic Holt’s romances were.

The main character is an orphan, she gets her education as a fortunate extra with the children of the gentry, she’s beautiful & spirited, and she gets miraculously saved from a desperate life as a lady’s companion by snagging the man intended for the well-born gal. Still, there is a slightly older, beautiful woman who seems like she might be competition for the husband’s interest and there are mysterious goings-on.

I think my main beef with this book is Judith’s education. The reader is told repeatedly how she has read ever so many books on archaeology and Ancient Egypt, and yet there is her new husband explaining tomb paintings to her, pointing out Anubis and Amun, as if she has never seen a book before and she acting like it’s all brand new!

And I had never realized before how undemonstrative Tybalt is! I associate the name Tybalt with fiery passion, so it seems strange to have this cold man share the name.

Perhaps I should have let sleeping dogs lie, but I have another of Holt’s books out of the public library, which I will likely read.

Undead and Unwed / MaryJanice Davidson

Undead and Unwed - MaryJanice Davidson

It's been a helluva week for Betsy Taylor. First, she loses her job. Then, to top things off, she's killed in a car accident. But what really bites (besides waking up in the morgue dressed in a pink suit and cheap shoes courtesy of her stepmother) is that she can't seem to stay dead. Every night she rises with a horrible craving for blood. She's not taking too well to a liquid diet.

Worst of all, her new friends have the ridiculous idea that Betsy is the prophesied vampire queen, and they want her help in overthrowing the most obnoxious, power-hungry vampire in five centuries - a badly dressed Bela Lugosi wannabe, natch. Frankly, Betsy couldn't care less about vamp politics, but they have a powerful weapon of persuasion: designer shoes. How can any self-respecting girl say no? But a collection of Ferragamos isn't the only temptation for Betsy. It's just a lot safer than the scrumptious Sinclair - a seductive bloodsucker whose sexy gaze seems as dangerous as a stake through the heart...

 

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List ***

Before there was Molly Harper’s Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs there was MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and unwed. They feel somewhat related, but although I really enjoy Harper’s fiction, I think I have had enough of Davidson’s. The difference, for me, is in the main character. I can relate to Jane Jameson (Harper)—she’s educated, she’s a librarian/bookstore owner, she’s snarky and sometimes a bit neurotic, but always basically good-hearted. Betsy Taylor (Davidson) is another kind of woman entirely—she’s shallow, uneducated, unfocused, mouthy, selfish, and seemingly completely motivated by designer shoes. I’m sure there’s a target-market for Betsy out there somewhere, I’m just not it.

It’s not that she doesn’t get some good lines, like “I was the Queen who brought all the tribes together, who ruled them as one. Like the Speaker of the House, only way more blood thirsty. More Book of the Dead crap, which Tina had been reading to me all night. It was like attending Bible school in hell.” Or when she first meets Eric Sinclair, “His shoes were—whoa! Where those Ferragamos? It was a rare and wonderful thing to see a properly shod man in an underground mausoleum.”

The “humour” missed its mark for me as often as it hit. I felt the author was trying too hard. But, as I have often stated in my reviews, my comprehension of humour in print is challenged. I had to order this volume via interlibrary loan in order to read it, making feel that I had to finish the book to justify ordering it from another part of the province. I shan’t bother with further volumes.

It's available today!
It's available today!

Dark Prince / Christine Feehan

Dark Prince - Christine Feehan

***2017 Summer Lovin' Reading List***

Not my cuppa tea, your mileage may vary. It does provide a unique spin on the vampire mythos. There are two forms, the virtuous Carpathian and the corrupt vampire. When a Carpathian goes bad, he or she becomes a vampire. Their problem? Hardly any Carpathian females and those who still exist seem to have only male children. Without a life-mate, the Carpathian men are eventually reduced to a state where they can't see colour, can't experience much emotion, and can hardly avoid going vamp.

And that right there was my biggest issue with the whole book. It is entirely driven by male sexual needs and women are ultimately responsible for containing them. There isn't a sympathetic male character in the whole book! Well, I guess there is the priest who was a decent man but all the other human men are criminal, abusive, or teetering on the edge of violence. All the Carpathian men are arrogant assholes--controlling, condescending, seemingly unable to listen to anyone, even each other. (And how creepy is it that all these hundreds-of-years-old men are now standing around staring at Raven's belly, wondering when she is going to produce a girl child that they can perhaps claim as a life-mate?)

My other problem? Raven herself. For someone who thinks she's smart, she does nothing to prove it. She's smart enough to escape from the "protections" that Mikhail has constructed for her, but then goes wandering off into the woods, barefoot and half-naked. Both Raven & Mikhail go on and on about love and trust, but their behaviour says that there isn't all that much trust.

I respect the folks who love this series, though. The whole life-mate concept, while seeming claustrophobic to me, might seems tempting to those who would like to be sure about their relationships. We live in a world of 50% divorce rates--how nice would it be for everything to click magically into place when we meet a magical life-mate? No doubts, no regrets.

Not every book is for everyone, and I am done with this series. My TBR list is too long to waste valuable reading time on books that make me roll my eyes this violently.

Soleri / Michael Johnston

Soleri - Michael Johnston

I am a big fan of anything Ancient Egyptian and of King Lear, so when I heard this book described as inspired by both of those things, I knew I had to give it a try. The environment and the architecture were definitely reminiscent of Ancient Egypt, as were the names and some of the religious observances, but the author definitely gave his world its own traditions and quirks.

I didn’t really see the King Lear comparison—unlike Shakespearean tragedy, there were survivors! I guess the Harkan king, Arko Hark-Wadi could have been somewhat equivalent to Lear, but he is not nearly passionate enough to truly do justice to that monarch. However, that does not mean that it was a disappointing book.

All the members of Arko’s family, in fact, seem rather cold and calculating, even when they are supposedly in love with someone. There are manipulations and misunderstandings galore! If you enjoy back-stabbing and elaborate plots to sabotage rivals, this is the book for you.

I suspect there will be a sequel—there were enough loose ends left hanging to justify one. Probably sales of this volume will determine whether the sequel sees the light of day. I, for one, like messy endings, so I am okay with Soleri’s final pages, but if you need things wrapped up neatly, you may find it frustrating.

Guilty Pleasures / Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty Pleasures - Laurell K. Hamilton

***2017 Summer Lovin' Reading List***

Another title in what seems to be morphing into my Summer Vampire Reading List. I liked this one and will probably read on, at least for another book or two, in the series.

These are old-school vampires, susceptible to both crosses and holy water, something fairly uncommon in current urban fantasy. Anita knows that she is opposing evil, not just being prejudiced against a new segment of society.

There was also, I thought, a nod to Anne Rice's vampires, specifically Claudia. The biggest, baddest vamp in Anita's town is actually a 1000 year old little girl!

I'm not exactly sure why, but Anita reminds me of Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock. I think it may be a matter of kickass attitude, but Jane is much more comfortable working for and around the undead than Anita.

Anita needs a woman friend right away!! She can't continue to lean on the psychopathic Edward (although I must admit that he has a treasure-trove of weapons, making him a handy kind of guy to know. If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy). Anita also has an unexplained talent for resisting vampire glamour which I will be interested to learn more about. Plus its pretty obvious that Anita is riding for a fall when she declares, "I don't date vampires, I kill them." I predict she'll be dating one in the next book.

The Lost City of the Monkey God / Douglas Preston

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story - Douglas Preston

My friend Barbara recommended this book to me, so really how could I refuse? Especially once I found out that much of the action takes place in Honduras, a country that I have been interested in visiting for several years. Why? The Lovely Cotinga, that's why (have a look at http://www.sabrewingtours.com/hondura...

But I think I may be cured of that desire now. You see, in addition to the anthropological research and the jungle exploration (poisonous snakes, hip deep mud, and unremitting rain, anyone?) there ends up being a fair amount of discussion of insect-bourne disease. A number of the team were infected with Leishamaniasis by the bites of sand flies. What is easily done can be difficult to undo and they struggle to find treatment options. Most of the world's victims of this disease are among the poorest people on earth--if they had money to spend on drugs, the pharma companies would be doing the necessary research. But that's not the way things are.

Now, I am one of those people that biting insects adore. In fact, I was just at a family reunion and I think I heard everyone say at some point, "Oh, mosquitoes love me!" So apparently it is a family trait and as I sat in their attractive midst, I did get only 3-4 mosquito bites. But I am hardly encourages to brave Hondruas, even for the most beautiful bird. Sorry, Lovely Cotinga!

Broken Homes / Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch

This installment meanders a bit, as it juggles multiple story lines, plus lessons in architecture. Thomas "Oh was that your Tiger tank?" Nightingale gets to show why he's the teacher and Peter & Lesley are the apprentices. I particularly enjoyed Toby's increased role in this book, being Peter's magic detector (the yap-o-metre) and camouflage (a man with a dog is virtually invisible, apparently).

Peter has matured since the first book. Lesley gives him a hard time, needling him about why he and Beverly Brook aren't sleeping together yet. In the first couple of books, Peter would have jumped in first and thought things through later, but he has learned to think with his big head and is suitably cautious. After all, if your relationship with a goddess goes pear-shaped, you know who is going to suffer most (and it won't be Beverly).

I'm still enjoying the effortless multicultural and inclusive cast of characters, however don't imagine that I have no criticism! I'm not wild about the Faceless Man as an antagonist (although I did enjoy Peter's reference to his lab as the Strip Club of Dr. Moreau). But, having read to the end of this volume, how can I doubt that I will read the next to see the next event in the drama?

Blood Games / Chealsea Quinn Yarbro

Blood Games - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Finally, I met the enigmatic Olivia who corresponded with Saint-Germain during the first two books! She is an excellent character and the Ancient Roman setting was an inspired choice. I can’t imagine all the historical research that Yarbro must do for each novel—so far, she has skipped through three entirely different time periods and seems to maintain the accuracy of each one reasonably well.

Also long awaited was Saint-Germain actually using his vampire powers a bit more. What is the point of giving your main character exceptional abilities if you aren’t going to utilize them? It was also good to see him lose his temper and make errors. Up to this point, he has been the uber-rational, uber-calm master mind who never screws up!

I seem to be on a vampire kick this summer and I’m enjoying the variety of perspectives as I switch authors. Yarbro’s fiction is from a time before the paranormal craze that we find ourselves in today and is interesting just for that.

The family gathering for my aunt's 80th birthday party
The family gathering for my aunt's 80th birthday party
All the cousins from oldest to youngest, plus two aunties
All the cousins from oldest to youngest, plus two aunties

So, this was how I spent last weekend.  Let's call it Sleepless in Seattle, because we were in Seattle and we got very little sleep.  We are only missing 2 cousins from my dad's side of the family.

 

We talked and laughed and ate and drank and talked some more.  I heard more good family gossip than ever before.  Some cousins hadn't seen each other for 48 years!

 

It was great getting to know one another again.  And I think I heard absolutely everyone say, "Mosquitoes love me!"  Now I know where this trait comes from!

The Essex Serpent / Sarah Perry

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890's, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners' agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

 

Being a fan of Mary Anning, I couldn’t help but be charmed by the story of Cora Seaborne, a fellow admirer of the female fossil finder. Perry manages to illustrate the debate between the scientific and the spiritual as Cora debates these matters with the local vicar, Will Ransome. They especially clash over the issue of the Essex Serpent, possibly a relic of the Cretaceous haunting the Essex shoreline. Which beliefs are true? When is belief harmful?

Released from a brutal marriage by her husband’s sudden death, Cora gets to indulge her inner naturalist and spend time wandering the trails, forests and shores of Essex. She finds freedom in dressing like a man and trying to forget the societal limitations on her gender. Her son, obviously depicted as somewhere on the autism spectrum, is a cause for concern.

A parallel story is that of Cora’s secretary/companion, Martha, who is a socialist and passionately interested in social justice issues. When a man of means fancies her, Martha uses that interest to point him and his fortune towards housing issues in the East End of London.

There’s a lot going on in this novel, but Perry manages to keep all the balls in the air and the plot ticking along quickly. Recommended for those who enjoy reading about the Victorian time period, albeit with a very modern view point.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones / Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

 

A dark fairy tale, told in Seanan McGuire style.

This is a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway and although I think I liked that book just a titch more than this one, this is still an excellent book. It follows Jack (Jacqueline) and Jill (Jillian) through their childhood and the experience of finding “their door,” the portal to The Moors, another world where fictional people and beasts roam. Up to this point, Jack has been sculpted by her mother into a perfect, clean, nearly-immobile little princess and Jill has been encouraged by her father to be the tomboy, almost-son that he desires. On the Moors, the tables are turned—Jack gets to be active & competent, Jill gets to try out her ultra-feminine side. Each of them explores both extremes of femininity.

Even with the role reversal, they still struggle to understand one another and care for one another. Just as family members do. There are many ways to be a girl (and a boy) and there are many ways to deal with family. This is an interesting exploration of both of those issues.

How Not To Die / Michael Greger

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease - Michael Greger, Gene Stone

The vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented through simple changes in diet and lifestyle. In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-renowned nutrition expert, physician, and founder of NutritionFacts.org, examines the fifteen top causes of premature death in America -- heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson's, high blood pressure, and more -- and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing us to live healthier lives.

 

Well this was a very interesting read! Since I have been contemplating changes to my diet, it arrived on hold for me at the public library at an opportune moment. I went shopping yesterday for esoteric items like hibiscus tea and ground flax seed and some less unusual items like more walnuts, fruit & vegetables.

I’m a believer in evidence and Dr. Greger provides boat-loads of that. Now my task is to test these ideas with myself as guinea pig and see if they actually work for me. I’ve been controlling my blood pressure with medication for many years now and just got the warning from my doc that my blood sugars are creeping upwards. The time for action is now!

However, there is a lot of repetition in this book. It got to the point where I wanted to skip entire chapters because I knew that I was just going to get more of the same. It gets almost to the point of being preachy, something that I detest. I also wish that he had dealt with the issue of the title at the beginning, rather than right at the end. Properly, the book should be called How Not To Die Prematurely and he admits this in the final paragraphs. It is not a prescription for immortality.

Meat-eaters (and I am one of them) will find this challenging. However, I keep my own notebook of recipes that I went through this weekend & I made notes. I certainly have enough vegetarian recipes that I enjoy to keep myself well fed while I try out this regime. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I will definitely be adding more fruits, vegetables, and nuts even while I try to wean myself off of too much meat. I don’t know whether I will ever be a vegan—I’m not sure I have enough self-righteousness for that—but a dietary improvement is in order.

I Contain Multitudes / Ed Yong

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong

Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial partners, and introduces us to the scientists on the front lines of discovery.

 

First of all, kudos for an excellent title, referencing the poetry of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. It is not the only literary reference and I truly appreciate that in a science writer.

Yong gives the feeling of being on a safari, observing exotic wildlife. He makes single-celled organisms as interesting as wildebeest and lions. We have come a long way in understanding this part of the ecosystem, and we have miles to go before we perfect that knowledge.

The microorganisms were here first. All of the multicellular animals & plants have evolved in concert with them and it should come as no surprise that we have vast colonies of microbes on us & in us. In fact, they are essential to our proper function—witness the microbe-free mice that researchers have created to experiment with these ideas. Their guts and immune systems don’t function properly and the animals don’t behave like normal animals either.

Before reading this book, I had a much too simplistic view of the human microbiome. Now I know a number of the factors that can influence it (diet & antibiotics are only two of a long list) and that “good” bacteria can do bad things if the system is out of whack (dysbiosis, my new word for the month).

Not to mention cool things like using bacterial infections to control mosquito-bourne diseases!

Recommended reading.