174 Followers
210 Following
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

Jade Dragon Mountain
Elsa Hart
Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean
Morten A. Str√łksnes
Doomsday Book
Connie Willis

Murder of a Stacked Librarian / Denise Swanson

Murder of a Stacked Librarian - Denise Swanson

There’s no place like Scumble River at Christmastime, and this year, school psychologist Skye Denison has twice as much to celebrate—and to do. In addition to the usual holiday frenzy, Skye’s wedding to police chief Wally Boyd is less than a week away—that is, if the groom isn’t too busy working to attend. The town’s sexy new librarian, Yvonne Osborn, has just been murdered, and the list of suspects is piling up faster than late fees on an overdue book.Yvonne’s strict sense of right and wrong annoyed some townspeople and infuriated others. Did her high standards lead to her death? Skye is distracted by worries about what havoc the crazy Dooziers will wreak on her wedding day and whether she’ll fit into her dress. But Skye can’t afford to leave any page unturned because unless she works quickly to expose the scheming killer, her happy ending may be put on permanent hold.…

 

I may have stepped into this series at book 16, but I needn't have worried that I would be missing out on anything.  In fact, the author may have over-explained a few details!  I was unsurprised to read Charlaine Harris' blurb on the cover--this book reminded me very strongly of two of Harris' series (Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard). There is the same attention to a lot of tedious detail.  We know how often Skye cleans her cat's litter box and we know every bite that she eats plus far more than we need to about her personal hygiene habits.  

 

But those seem to be characteristics of cozy mysteries set in the Southern States.  That, plus the image of the Southern mother being over-bearing and persistently entangled in her children's lives (thinking of Molly Harper's Jane Jameson series too).  Add to that Skye's preoccupation with marriage, her weight, and doing everything perfectly, all of which make me roll my eyes!

 

So this was not the right book for me, but I know for a fact that there are cozy mystery readers out there who will eat this up and ask for more.  That's why there are over 16 books in the series.  In some ways, I'm glad, as I really don't need more series clamouring for my attention!

12 Days at Bleakley Manor / Michelle Griep

12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas - Michelle Griep

When CLARA CHAPMAN receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, BENJAMIN LANE.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

 

A sweet Christmas story, easily read in one evening. It’s a combination of historical fantasy, Gothic romance, and mystery story, set in a big ole English edifice, Bleakly Manor. Me thinks it owes a bit to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, as a number of people are anonymously invited to the Manor for the 12 Days of Christmas with promises of rewards should they stay the full 12 days. Their host is not in evidence and the rules quickly change: only one guest will get the reward, the person who makes it to the 12th day. Things quickly begin to happen, eliminating guests by choice & by happenstance.

The Gothic romance aspect involves the two main characters, Clara Chapman and her former fiancé Benjamin Lane. Clara considers herself abandoned at the altar and left penniless. Ben has to be rescued from prison, where he has been merely surviving, wondering why Clara hasn’t come looking for him. The mystery includes deducing who has done this to them and why. Clara is your classic Gothic heroine, orphaned, poor, and separated from her love by a grave problem.

There are interesting details involving the Victorian celebration of Christmas and a seasonally appropriate message about caring for others and the nature of love.

If you’re looking for a cozy Christmas mystery, you could do much worse that 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.

The Last Command / Timothy Zahn

The Last Command - Timothy Zahn

The embattled Republic reels from the attacks of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has marshaled the remnants of the Imperial forces and driven the Rebels back with an abominable technology recovered from the Emperor's secret fortress: clone soldiers. As Thrawn mounts his final siege, Han and Chewbacca struggle to form a coalition of smugglers for a last-ditch attack against the empire, while Leia holds the Alliance together and prepares for the birth of her Jedi twins. Overwhelmed by the ships and clones at Thrawn's command, the Republic has one last hope--sending a small force, led by Luke Skywalker, into the very stronghold that houses Thrawn's terrible cloning machines. There a final danger awaits, as the Dark Jedi C'baoth directs the battle against the Rebels and builds his strength to finish what he had already started: the destruction of Luke Skywalker.

 

 

 

Well, I am glad to have finished this trilogy. Kudos to Rich Kelly for the wonderful cover art depicting Grand Admiral Thrawn. I wish he’d been on the first book cover of the series, giving me a better image of the master-planning Imperial villain. Is it wrong of me to like Thrawn better than any of the good guys? But I do—he’s smart, he’s cultured, he’s emotionally controlled. And he is by far the most complex character in the trilogy.

As I’ve said in reviews of the previous two books, the writing is about the right level for the 10-13 year old crowd. By all rights, there should have been a romance between Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker, but that opportunity isn’t taken up—another reason that I feel these books are written with much younger people in mind. Those two should be making Jedi babies!

You know, one of these days I’m going to have to watch the Star Wars movies—maybe next time there’s a Star Wars marathon being shown in town.

Book number 308 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

It's finally Friday!

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown / Seanan McGuire

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown - Seanan McGuire

For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She's been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.

The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won't let him die, and he's looking for the one who got away. When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there's going to be hell to pay--possibly literally.

Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker's luck runs out?

 

A big step up from Sparrow Hill Road, the first book which was basically a series of short stories. Not that that’s a bad thing, just not what I had been expecting. This is a true novel, with one intense story line. I was “supposed” to read other books before picking this one up, but I couldn’t resist its siren song. And I read it in two evenings, desperately wanting to know if ghostly Rose Marshall could get where she wanted to be.

This was the confrontation Rose had been dreading, pitting her will against that of her murderer, Bobby Cross. She does it with style, smarts and bravery plus a generous dollop of help from her friends. Even her frenemies get involved. I was on the edge of my seat throughout, wondering how each twist and turn would pan out.

I was interested to see McGuire reference the Price family again (a connection with her InCryptid series) as a potential haven for Rose. Mary, the crossroads ghost, featured in Tricks for Free, #7 of InCryptid, so we now have no doubt that these two series take place in the same universe. McGuire also introduces a bean sidhe as one of Rose’s friends, perhaps a connection to McGuire’s October Daye series. Wouldn’t it be fun to see all three story lines intersect at some point in the future?

Small Gods / Terry Pratchett

Small gods - Terry Pratchett

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was: 'Hey, you!' This is the Discworld, after all, and religion is a controversial business. Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods, of every shape and size, and all elbowing for space at the top. In such a competitive environment, shape and size can be pretty crucial to make one's presence felt. So it's certainly not helpful to be reduced to appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone's book.

In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast: for the Great God Om, Brutha the novice is the Chosen One – or at least the only One available. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love. He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please...

 

The captain frowned. “It’s a funny thing,” he said, “but why is it that the heathens and barbarians seem to have the best places to go when they die?”
“A bit of a poser, that,” agreed the mate. “I s’pose it makes up for ‘em….enjoying theselves all the time they’re alive, too?” He looked puzzled. Now that he was dead, the whole thing sounded suspicious.


Dare I admit that this is my very first encounter with the writing of Terry Pratchett? I’ve seen the praise of his work from my friends and acquaintances and have been meaning to get to him sooner or later, so I’m glad that my reading project got me started.

Wow, Pratchett is an excellent writer, able to keep many balls in the air while still being humourous. This is very definitely a critique of organized religion of the modern sort, dressed up in the clothing of the Greco-Roman period. He makes good use of the early Christian idea that heathen gods ceased to exist as their worshippers drifted away. Also the notion that those best qualified to lead are the least likely to seek leadership positions. Plus, he plays with the tortoise/turtle mythology that is common to so many cultures. Very skillful.

Book number 303 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

The Towers of the Sunset / L.E. Modesitt

The Towers of the Sunset - L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Tells the story of Creslin, son of a powerful military matriarch, who chooses exile rather than an arranged marriage. He sets out on a search for his true identity as a man, developing his magical talents through constant conflict with the enigmatic white wizards of Candar.

 

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, with the male/female role reversal. The young man, Creslin, who is kept in seclusion to be pure for marriage, the reluctance to teach him fighting skills because he will have women to defend him, his major life role to be a consort to a powerful woman somewhere. And because he has insisted on learning to fight and to ski, we get a runaway groom instead of a runaway bride! I’ve read this particular pattern with a female lead character quite often and it was refreshing to see a male character get the same treatment.

Later in the book, there is some interesting exploration of the nature of man-woman relationships, the differences between the priorities of the sexes when it comes to love, perhaps? Not as spot-on for me as the beginning of the story, but still a long way from the fiction where only the man’s opinion matters.

Somewhat confusing sometimes was the alignment of the colour black with Order Magic and white with Chaos Magic. Kind of reversing the usual good/evil colour associations. Not that either form of magic is painted entirely good or evil—Creslin learns that he can certainly cause bad things to happen with his Order magic. It’s like the old saying about knives. It isn’t the knife that is good or bad, it’s the intention of the person wielding it.

Book number 302 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

A link for my paleontology-loving friends

 

Ichthyosaurs were busy in the oceans while dinosaurs stomped on the land.  They are an example of convergent evolution, being reptiles that developed many traits in common with the mammalian dolphin.

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181205134118.htm

 

Now we know they have more similarities than shape!

 

Reading progress update: I've read 118 out of 288 pages.

Small gods - Terry Pratchett

Another pause, a tar-pit of silence ready to snare the mastodons of unthinking comment

Menu Monday (but on Tuesday)

This delay until Tuesday is becoming habitual for me!  I find it difficult to get everything organized on a Monday morning--that's my story & I'm sticking to it!

 

I'm afraid that the first menu item that I'm reporting was a dire failure from my perspective.  I got the recipe off the interwebs and it sounded great.

 

Bang-Bang Shrimp with Pasta:

 

 

I really didn't like the sauce.  Maybe it was the Thai Sweet Chili Sauce which was a major component of the sauce.  Now I've got part of a bottle of the stuff and must find a way to use it.  I've found two chicken recipes that I'd be willing to try to use it up.  I didn't mind the taste with the shrimp, but disliked it on the pasta, if that makes any sense.  So it might be fine on chicken.

 

Next up was Cashew Chicken:

 

 

There were two half peppers (red and yellow) getting elderly in my crisper and this also had the benefit of using 1 can of water chestnuts (from my pantry hoard).  My inner hoarder has obviously had the upper hand during my grocery shopping recently and I must start planning menus based on the number of cans that I will be able to use up.

 

This weekend, I decided that something must also be done with a bowl full of apples that were getting soft and unpleasant for lunches.  A quick consult with a cookbook which I've got on loan from the library, and I hauled out the slow cooker and made Crustless Apple Pie.  Which is basically chunky applesauce, but I like applesauce. 

 

 

This is my version.  Following is the picture from the cookbook:

 

 

Finally, I made a Ground Beef Curry:

 

 

 

This used a jalapeno pepper that was on its last legs, a large can of tomatoes, and ground beef & frozen peas already in the freezer.  Not to mention using up two potatoes.  Since I adore curries of all descriptions, this was a great winter evening meal.

 

Bon appétit, friends!

 

Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 288 pages.

Small gods - Terry Pratchett

 

Okay, I'm liking this better today.  Yesterday must just have been a bad mood day all around.

 

I will definitely finish this.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 72 out of 325 pages.

The Grimm Legacy - Polly Shulman

 

I need to be ready to discuss this book on Friday night for book club.

 

More effort is obviously required (at a time when all I want to do is curl up & re-read old favourites).

 

 

2019 Reading Plans

Moonlight Snow was asking about 2019 reading plans.  I am so glad that someone else is already making plans for 2019!

 

I signed up for too many reading challenges in 2018.  I'm over my goal of reading 220 books, but I will never finish the list of books that I'd planned for 2018.  Thankfully that doesn't stress me a bit.  I'll do what I can and then just let it go!

 

So I had basically decided to give myself a year to fly and be free.  Read whatever took my fancy, whenever I wanted to.  However, I've had a look at what I've already organized and realized that some of my reading is mapped out.

 

1. Planned for 2019http://booklikes.com/apps/reading-lists/949/planned-for-2019

This includes 12 selections for my real-life book club, a certain number of books for my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project, books by authors attending this year's When Words Collide conference, plays for my Shakespeare project, and new releases that I'm anticipating and/or series that I really want to continue.

 

2. MerMay: http://booklikes.com/apps/reading-lists/902/mermay

During the month of May, I intend to read books featuring mermaids.

 

3. Summer Reading Theme: A Study in Sherlock 

  1. http://booklikes.com/apps/reading-lists/898/a-study-in-sherlock
  2. The original Conan Doyle canon plus new fiction based on the Holmes mythology.  June, July & August.

 

4. Halloween Bingo: Should our hostesses deign to run such an event for us in 2019!

 

5. Remembrance Day Reading: There are several books by Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel that I would like to read during November.

 

6. Christmas Books

  1. http://booklikes.com/apps/reading-lists/958/christmas-mysteries
  2. Not just mysteries, but some other Christmas books too.

 

So, even though I'm not signing up for any challenges, my reading life in 2019 will be full and active.

 

What are you planning for the New Year?

Reading progress update: I've read 51 out of 288 pages.

Small gods - Terry Pratchett

 

I can see why other people enjoy this.  I might actually do better with an audio book version, as I really struggle with humour on the page.

 

But at least I'm not hating it, so there's that.

Sweep of the Blade / Ilona Andrews

Sweep of the Blade -  Ilona Andrews

Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn't in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had swore off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined.

Try as she might, she can't just walk away from Arland. It doesn't help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is a powerful vampire House, and Maud knows that a woman who turned down the proposal from its most beloved son wouldn't get a warm reception. But Maud Demille never shied from a fight and House Krahr may soon discover that there is more to this human woman than they ever thought possible.

 

Otubar reached over and plucked Helen from the bed. “Come with me, child. It’s time we tested you with other weapons.”
“If you do well, I will give you cake,” Ilemina said.
Helen’s eyes lit up. “What kind of cake?”
“Delicious kind,” Otubar told her.



And that’s what this little novella-swollen-to-novel was—delicious cake with frothy icing! No nutritional value whatsoever. It was a fun little paranormal romance, getting Maud & Arland together with lots of blood and severed limbs along the way.

From the beginning of the Innkeeper series, I have been on Team Arland. Sean Evans was fine as a love interest for Dina, but I loved Arland immediately and I will read anything featuring him. There is no doubt in my mind that Maud is a better match for him than Dina was, so I was thrilled to travel with Maud and little Helen to his home planet and sort things out.

Reading an ongoing, serialized work such as this one is less satisfying than being able to read a fully edited, printed version, but still entertaining. I had something to look forward to every Friday (besides the end of my work week). I will definitely be buying the print version (and not just to enjoy the R-rated bits that the authors weren’t posting to the interwebs) to add to my Ilona Andrews collection, to be enjoyed repeatedly.

My House Smells Wonderful....

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes - Gina Homolka, Heather K. Jones

I have the Crustless Apple Pie in my slowcooker and it smells great. It is basically just chunky applesauce, but there is nothing wrong with that!

 

There are a few recipes in this book that I want to try. But I am glad  my library had it on the shelves.