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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

False Positive
Andrew Grant
Sweep of the Blade
Ilona Andrews
The Gun Seller
Hugh Laurie
Diamonds Are Forever
Ian Fleming

Chapter 12, Part 3

Sweep of the Blade -  Ilona Andrews

They broke apart.  His eyes had turned dark.  She saw raw, naked lust in his face, and it thrilled her.

“Looks like I have some use of my left arm,” he said.

“It does,” she said and emptied the cartridge of sedative into his back.

 

 

 

The Andrews do the slow-burn romance really, really well. 

Bright We Burn / Kiersten White

Bright We Burn (And I Darken) - Kiersten White

Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?

Lada's rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won't rest until everyone knows that her country's borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed's peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister's indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before--including her relationships--can Lada truly build the country she wants.

 

For some reason, I had a hard time convincing myself to pick this book up—it had been sitting & staring at me for just over 2 weeks. Look at that gorgeous cover! All of the covers for this trilogy have been absolutely lovely, but this one is the best in my opinion. I love that exploded pomegranate!

Once I got past the first two pages, I had no more problems. I was right back in Wallachia with Lada and in Constantinople with Radu and Mehmed. I knew enough about the actual historical events that I was aware of how things would have to end—but Ms. White gave me the best possible ending given the circumstances. [I think she jiggered with the facts just a bit to improve Lada’s death, but why not, when you’ve already made Vlad Tepes into a woman?]

I have read that the people of Romania still honour Vlad as a harsh, but fair ruler. White definitely stays true to this notion. A great story, told well in a new & interesting way, and the best possible ending. Certainly a trilogy that I’ll be recommending to others.

Reading progress update: I've read 38 out of 335 pages.

Smiley's People - John le Carré

 

So I took an early lunch, because three of the stooges from my coffee time debacle had chosen to have a long, loud training session at the work station just behind mine.  And what happens?  Madame Speech Impediment shows up and sits close to me.  She is then joined by Ms. Slyly Malicious and Miss Self-Righteous Gossipy-Pants.  And they proceed to have a loud conversation.  Never-ending.

 

I cannot get out of here fast enough!  2.5 hours until I can escape.  I usually don't take an afternoon coffee break, but you can bet I will today and I'm going to go out & sit in my car.

 

Signed, Ms. Cranky-Pants.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 22 out of 335 pages.

Smiley's People - John le Carré

 

Trying to get started on this spy novel over my coffee break this morning.  Unfortunately, in our new building the coffee room doubles as a meeting room.  So, I'm at one end, attempting to read.  At the other end is a meeting of four people--two of them speak English as a second language, one has a speech impediment, and the fourth is (let me be blunt) dumb as a sack of hammers.  They are discussing a rather complex fix that needs to be done in our new computer system and trying to make themselves understood to each other.

 

I cut coffee short and I am so glad that I'm going to start vacation at 3:30 pm this afternoon!  I apparently really need the break.  I'm cranky.

 

 

A Fatal Waltz / Tasha Alexander

A Fatal Waltz - Tasha Alexander

At her friend Ivy's behest, Emily reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon—Ivy's husband—is arrested for the crime.

Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name, Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiancé, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.

 

Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves are attending a party together, now that they are affianced. And of course, since this is an historical mystery series, there is a murder. It reminds me of Agatha Christie in that way—wherever Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot happen to go, there will be a murder. Christie tended to set her mysteries in a small town, to ensure that everyone knew one another. In this series, Alexander had chosen a certain stratum of society, who all socialize with and gossip about one another.

It seems that this series will also be a bit like Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence series too. This couple will team up to solve murders and diplomatic incidents together, like Tommy & Tuppence and their espionage endeavours. I have no idea whether Tasha Alexander set out to model her characters after Christie spy duo, but I will soon have the chance to hear her talk about her writing experience—the conference that I’ve been waiting all summer for starts tomorrow!

This is an engaging series and I will look for an excuse to read the next book as soon as I can.

TBR Thursday

Ashenden, or, The British Agent - William Somerset Maugham In the Month of the Midnight Sun - Cecilia Ekbäck Diamonds Are Forever - Ian Fleming From Russia With Love - Ian Fleming A Royal Pain - Rhys Bowen The Gun Seller - Hugh Laurie The Human Factor - Graham Greene

 

Okay, so I had to check my calendar to make sure this was actually Thursday.  It's the day before I start a week's vacation, a day before the When Words Collide conference.  Tomorrow, the temperature is supposed to reach 36 C (98 F), so I will be glad to spend most of it in an air conditioned hotel.  We have a weather inversion holding the hot weather over our city (and its also holding a lot of forest fire smoke, so I'll be glad to be out of that too).  Thankfully, we are supposed to get a break from this heat, starting Saturday.

 

So, I doubt I will get much reading done this weekend.  I'll be rubbing shoulders with authors instead.  Most of my planned reading now is for the Summer of Spies.  Clearing the decks to be ready for Halloween Bingo.

 

I'm too cheap to pay for internet at home, so I probably won't be posting much over the upcoming week.  I wish you all good reading, friends, and a great week.

 

The Sweep of the Blade : Chapter 12, Part 2

Sweep of the Blade -  Ilona Andrews

 

Arland: “Well, sure, it sounds unwise when you put it like that.  But I won.”

 

 

Maud: “You are an idiot. I abandoned my sister and a perfectly good inn and traveled half way across the galaxy for an idiot.”

 

 

 

It's agony to only get a snippet per week.  But in a good way.

All Set for Halloween!

It's here!  My Halloween Bingo card, courtesy of Moonlight Madness.  Thanks also to Obsidian Blue for organizing this wonderful event!

 

I appreciate the effort that you both put into this!

 

Reading progress update: I've read 272 out of 480 pages.

Bright We Burn (And I Darken) - Kiersten White

 

Just as good as the first two books in the series!  I'm not sure why I had such a struggle to get myself to read this--I knew I was going to enjoy it.

 

I should easily finish it this evening.  The next person in the queue will get their chance on time (or even a little early).

 

 

Just 3 days until the When Words Collide conference begins!

— feeling excited

 

I've read at least one book for each Guest of Honour and I'm ready to fangirl.

 

Plus, Guy Gavriel Kay (a guest of honour last year) is back and hosting a session on Friday afternoon!!!  *swoons*

 

Erin Lindsey and Tasha Alexander may feel like I'm stalking them before the weekend is over.  :)

 

I'm going to begin by going to a 2 hour session where all the guests of honour will be doing readings from their work. 

 

What an excellent way to begin a week's vacation!

 

 

 

Moonraker / Ian Fleming

Moonraker - Ian Fleming

As the super patriot and war veteran who’s bankrolling Britain’s top-secret Moonraker rocket program, Sir Hugo Drax should be above reproach. But there’s more to this enigmatic millionaire than he lets on. When M suspects Drax of cheating at cards in an exclusive gentleman’s club, he sends Bond in to investigate. But exposing the deception only enrages Drax—and now 007 must outwit an angry man with the power to loose a nuclear warhead on London.

The mysterious death of the head of security at Drax’s missile base gives Bond the perfect opportunity to go undercover to find out the secret agenda of the supposed British war hero. With the help of another agent, the lustrous Gala Brand, 007 learns the truth about Drax’s battle scars, his wartime allegiances—and his murderous plans for the deployment of Moonraker.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

The oddest so far in the James Bond series. I was about two thirds of the way through when I started to wonder when something of significance would happen! The last third, however, held all the action that I’d been asking for.

A very slow start, back to Bond & his card expertise. Having just read Tim Powers’ Last Call, which heavily involves poker and other games of chance, I was maybe a bit worn out with the card games! However, what I did find fascinating in the opening pages of the book was Fleming’s description of James Bond’s schedule:

”It was the beginning of a typical routine day for Bond. It was only two or three times a year that an assignment came along requiring his particular abilities. For the rest of the year he had the duties of an easy-going senior civil servant—elastic office hours from around ten to six; lunch, generally at the canteen; evenings spent playing cards in the company of a few close friends, or at Crockford’s; or making love, with rather cold passion, to one of three similarly disposed married women; weekends playing golf for high stakes at one of the clubs near London.”


This is Fleming, the now-married man, describing his life during his stint in naval intelligence! It could almost have been written by his biographer, Andrew Lycett.

The third book in the Bond series, this is first one in which Bond doesn’t get the girl. I found the last sentence to be a bit sad: “He touched her for the last time and then they turned away from each other and walked off into their different lives.” Fleming drew so much from his personal life for these books that it makes me wonder who he had in mind when he wrote such a melancholy final line.

Last Call / Tim Powers

Last Call - Tim Powers

Set in Las Vegas, Last Call concerns the fate of Scott Crane, former professional gambler, recent widower, blind in one eye--and also the lost natural son of the man who is determined to kill him. In this novel, Crane is forced to resume the high-stakes game of a lifetime--and wager it all.

 

I wanted to like this book much more than I did—there was much in it that appealed to me, but as with Powers’ The Anubis Gates, I found myself somewhat underwhelmed. Much of this reaction will be due to my lack of familiarity with both tarot and (especially) poker. I fooled around with tarot cards in my late 20s, but never really committed myself to learning the art. And I think the kids at the back of the school bus tried to teach me poker during my high school years, but that was many decades ago and my memories are hazy at best.

There is a lot going on in this book and it speaks to Tim Powers’ skill as a writer that he managed to successfully weave it together into a cohesive story. Here are some of the elements he incorporates: archetypes & Jungian psychology, mythology of Egypt, Greece and Rome, the Arthur Legend and the Fisher King, T.S. Eliot, Bugsy Siegel, Las Vegas and Lake Mead.

As in The Anubis Gates, there is a body-snatching element to deal with as well. These are the only two books of Powers’ repertoire that I’ve read, so I found it interesting that they both had this esoteric characteristic in common. Come to think of it, poetry featured prominently in TAG as well, so it is obviously a great interest to this author.

Book number 292 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

Her Royal Spyness / Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness - Rhys Bowen

Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.

So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg... She's gate-crashed a wedding... She's making money by secretly cleaning houses... And she's been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.

Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub... and someone is definitely trying to kill her.

 

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

What an absolutely charming beginning to a series! Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is a poverty-stricken gentlewoman, 34th in the line of succession to the throne, trying to keep up appearances with little to no income. This author makes the most of the fascination with the Royal family and the deportment of Queen Victoria and her successors. For example:

”The sight of one female person slinking across the forecourt on foot would definitely have my esteemed relative-by-marriage, Her Royal Majesty and Empress of India, Queen Mary, raise an eyebrow. Well, probably not actually raise the eyebrow because personages of royal blood are trained not to react, even to the greatest of improprieties. Were a native in some dark corner of the colonies to strip off his loincloth and dance, waggling his you-know-what with gay abandon, not so much as an eyebrow twitch would be permitted. The only appropriate reaction would be polite clapping when the dance was over.”



A great deal of fun is had with the whole “we are not amused” stereotype, the contrast between Britons and Americans, and the differences between the classes. Don’t be looking for hard-hitting class commentary here, however. Most of the fun derives from the fact that Georgie and her brother are so clueless with regard to the actual running of a household and are so dependent on their servants that they can barely start a fire or boil water for tea.

There is a romantic aspect to the tale as well—Georgie is expected to either find suitable employment for a woman of her rank or find a husband with enough money to keep them in the style that they are accustomed to, money being more important than love in the equation. Georgie, however, has her own ideas on the suitability of husbands and she may have to dodge some of Queen Mary’s ideas on the subject.

Light & fluffy, perfect for summertime reading!

Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 480 pages.

Bright We Burn (And I Darken) - Kiersten White

 

 

Okay, I have 4 days to read this before it's due at the library.  Six people on the waiting list.  I've delayed as long as I can.

 

Now, go!

Master of Plagues / E.L. Tettensor

Master of Plagues - E.L. Tettensor

Having barely escaped the clutches of the Darkwalker, Inspector Nicolas Lenoir throws himself into his work with a determination he hasn’t known in years. But his legendary skills are about to be put to the test. A horrific disease is ravaging the city—and all signs point to it having been deliberately unleashed.

With a mass murderer on the loose, a rising body count, and every hound in the city on quarantine duty, the streets of Kennian are descending into mayhem, while Lenoir and his partner, Sergeant Bran Kody, are running out of time to catch a killer and find a cure.

Only one ray of hope exists: the nomadic Adali, famed for their arcane healing skills, claim to have a cure. But dark magic comes at a price, one even the dying may be unwilling to pay. All that’s left to Lenoir is a desperate gamble. And when the ashes settle, the city of Kennian will be changed forever...

 

So, I have now finished all the published works by this author that I know of, and I’ll be seeing her at the When Words Collide conference in just over a week. Overall, I have to say that I like her writing. I didn’t like this book quite as much as I did the first one of the Nicolas Lenoir series, but that was probably just me—I’ve managed to overload myself just a bit lately and I’m feeling a bit pressured to read and read fast to make library deadlines, rather than reading as my spirit leads me!

As it was, right about half way through this book, the plot grabbed me and I then went fast & furious to the ending. Although this plot line is wrapped up, I have the sense there may be a third book in the offing and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it. There are still issues to be dealt with, namely Lenoir and his junior partner Kody need to sort out their professional relationship and Lenoir needs to make some arrangements about orphan Zach too. It seems a bit harsh to rely on the kid for information but not make his life good enough that he can leave pick-pocketing behind.

Now that I think about it, although this book inhabits the same fantasy world as the first volume, this was a more prosaic plot line, with human enemies rather than paranormal ones. This rather dismal Victorian-esque world is well suited to the paranormal, so use of a plague as the main problem was a bit disappointing.

Nevertheless, I will be interested to hear the author’s perspectives on writing and writers at the conference.

Reading progress update: I've read 104 out of 535 pages.

Last Call - Tim Powers

 

This is a really weird mix of poker and tarot cards, with the cards causing threatening things to happen.

 

I'm a hundred pages in and I still don't have any idea what exactly is happening (but that's parr for the course with Powers' writing & me).

 

But it certainly isn't boring!