170 Followers
206 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

Sweep of the Blade
Ilona Andrews
A Fatal Inversion
Barbara Vine
Progress: 174/317 pages
The Mysteries of Udolpho
Ann Radcliffe
Progress: 272/654 pages
Black Sun Rising
C.S. Friedman
Progress: 220/496 pages

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore / Matthew Sullivan

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel - Matthew J. Sullivan

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind. Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

 

I’m always on the look-out for a good book about a library or bookstore and I’m also a fan of the mystery genre, so when I ran across this title, it went on my “to read sooner rather than later” list right away. I really enjoyed it—largely because of the setting (the bookstore) but also because the suicide wasn’t the only focus of the story. It becomes obvious early on that there is a mystery in Lydia’s background too, and one that she must sort out if she’s going to figure out why Joey Molina killed himself in her bookstore.

It takes courage to face the past and you can’t blame people for avoiding it whenever possible. Lydia is wary of becoming “Poor Lydia,” the girl who survived the Horrible Thing. But when your childhood trauma was front page news back in the day, it’s hard to avoid being recognized. It’s even harder to come to try to come to grips with a crime that’s colder than Greenland.

I loved the gradual reveal of Lydia’s memories and how she starts to try to make sense of them as an adult. I also found her gradual reunion with her father to be realistic and well done. There are lots of co-incidences and synchronicities required to weave the different story lines together, but nothing too incredible to deal with—I’ve seen real-life situations that would be more unbelievable than this. I also liked the slightly messy ending, being the sort of reader who doesn’t like everything tied up too neatly.

Perfect as the “Book that involves a bookstore or library” selection for my PopSugar challenge this year.

Staked / Kevin Hearne

Staked - Kevin Hearne

When a druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he's bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers—led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus—have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It's time to make a stand.

As always, Atticus wouldn't mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ornery archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: Turns out when you stiff a troll, it's not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki's mark and elude his powers of divination—a quest that will bring her face-to-face with several Slavic nightmares.

As Atticus globetrots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won't come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend.

 

I read this to fill the Dead Lands square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

There’s plenty of vampire action in this installment of the Iron Druid chronicles to qualify it for my Dead Lands entry for Bingo. Plus it was a great choice for a Friday evening after a long week’s work!

I think this is one of the best books in this series—for once, I was perfectly content with the ending, even though at least one of my favourite characters was lost along the way. Granuaile and Archdruid Owen both get their own chapters and concerns. Owen’s troll troubles were highly amusing and his new Druid school was encouraging. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about Granuaile’s campaign against her step-father, beyond finding it quite realistic that it would take up more time and energy that she had anticipated.

Atticus seems to have finally have got things settled down, at least until the opening of the next (and last) book. A good choice on the author’s part, I think, to finish up before the ideas get feeling to repetitive. There’s only so much fleeing & smiting that he can do before he’s fought & fled from everything and everybody.

I think it’s a toss-up between the first book and this one for my favourite Atticus tale.

Made to Kill / Adam Christopher

Made to Kill: A Novel (L.A. Trilogy) - Adam Christopher

Raymond Electromatic is good at his job, as good as he ever was at being a true Private Investigator, the lone employee of the Electromatic Detective Agency--except for Ada, office gal and super-computer, the constant voice in Ray's inner ear. Ray might have taken up a new line of work, but money is money, after all, and he was programmed to make a profit. Besides, with his twenty-four-hour memory-tape limits, he sure can keep a secret.

When a familiar-looking woman arrives at the agency wanting to hire Ray to find a missing movie star, he's inclined to tell her to take a hike. But she had the cold hard cash, a demand for total anonymity, and tendency to vanish on her own.

Plunged into a glittering world of fame, fortune, and secrecy, Ray uncovers a sinister plot that goes much deeper than the silver screen--and this robot is at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

 

I read this to fill the Modern Noir square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I became kinda fond of Raymond Electromatic by the end of this novel. He’s a robot with a heart for gold and limited short term memory. The author made it clear that he was a great admirer of Raymond Chandler and the noir detective genre, but that he was trying to write “Raymond Chandler’s lost science fiction novel.” Unfortunately for Mr. Christopher, it is extremely difficult to write as beautifully as Raymond Chandler. However, I can tell that he had a good time trying.

Things get a bit complex and confusing about 2/3 of the way through, but everything sorts itself out in the end. There are more books in the series if you’re a fan, but I think I know Mr. Electromatic well enough at this juncture. A fun Halloween read.

Evil Librarian / Michelle Knudsen

Evil Librarian - Michelle Knudsen

#EvilLibrarian He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

 

I read this to fill the Cryptozoologist square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

Demons qualify as a paranormal species for my Cryptozoologist square and this book was a charming little jaunt into the demonic scene! I’m always looking for books concerning libraries and librarians and this one delivered a cute story with interesting problems for our heroine, Cyn, to solve. Like how to kiss that cute guy, Ryan, in her high school musical and how to rescue her best friend from the demonic clutches of Mr. Gabriel, the new school librarian.

Cyn and Annie are typical high school girls, at least until Mr. Gabriel comes to their high school and starts to show overt interest in Annie. How can it be only Cyn who realizes that something is dreadfully wrong with the whole scenario? Neither girl has ever had a boyfriend, but thankfully this only worries them peripherally. Cyn is focused on her future in musical theatre and Annie just wants to escape her house full of small children that everyone expects her to take care of while she’s not in school. Annie has the more serious problem of the two girls, being taken for granted by the adults in her life, and is therefore more open to the seduction of the older Mr. Gabriel.

Lucky Cyn gets thrown together with her classmate, Ryan, and she must struggle to maintain her focus—on the school play, rescuing Annie, saving the school, all while enjoying her new proximity to the guy she’s been crushing on. I appreciated that Cyn was written to enjoy the relationship while not basing her entire self-worth on it and that her friendship with Annie continued to be just as important to her as it had always been.

The dialog is sharp and often cute, the situation reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the book is a whole lot of fun. Apparently there will be a sequel and I will definitely be interested in reading it.

Reading progress update: I've read 220 out of 496 pages.

Black Sun Rising - C.S. Friedman

 

I am loving this fantasy novel.  It has refreshing differences and comfortable similarities to so much fantasy that I've read.

 

 

Menu Monday

 

It's fall and there were lovely crisp cabbages available at the grocery store.  I couldn't resist picking one up!  As a result, this week's photos are a bit cabbage-heavy.

 

 

First up was Vegetable Soup with Rice and Lentils.  I also had some fresh rutabaga that one of my cousins had grown.  So the vegetables consisted of onions, garlic, carrots, rutabaga and cabbage. 

 

 

With a spot of toast, it made a lovely lunch.  And I've packed a small bowl for my workday lunch today.

 

 

Next up was my trusty Cabbage Roll Casserole.  All the yummy taste of a cabbage roll, but without the fuss of assembling a cabbage roll.

 

 

With a dollop of sour cream, it was a great supper.  And I have plenty left to eat as leftovers for this upcoming week, which is a bonus.

 

 

Finally, while the cabbage roll casserole cooked, I threw together an Apple-Rhubarb Crisp.  I am now officially out of rhubarb, as I used the last bag in the freezer to make this crisp.  How long until spring?  Oh right, this is Canada.  It will be a while.

 

So my friends, bon appétit.

Reading progress update: I've read 199 out of 336 pages.

Staked - Kevin Hearne

 

A great way to spend Friday evening!

 

I do love Archdruid Owen--he's hilarious.

Reading progress update: I've read 222 out of 560 pages.

Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier

 

I remember a comic book that I owned as a child, telling the story of the Swan Princes.  I read it over and over and over again.

 

This is an excellent re-telling of that old tale. 

TBR Thursday

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré The Reader - Traci Chee Staked - Kevin Hearne

 

I'm still picking away at Fatal Inversion on my coffee breaks and The Mysteries of Udolpho some evenings. 

 

Udolpho and Daughter of the Forest are Halloween Bingo Books.  The rest on are my Planned for 2018 list, fulfilling various book challenges. 

 

Friday nights are for comfort--I plan to spend my Friday evening in my jammies with popcorn on hand and Staked as my "trashy" book for the event.  It may have to substitute for When Darkness Comes, which I had selected for the Deadlands square of my Bingo Card.  Whoever has that one out of the library is now 5 days late in returning it!  Usually when that happens, the book is lost.  Our library has only one copy, so I am less than optimistic.

 

In the meantime, my favourite used book store is having an anniversary sale--30% off to celebrate 30 years in business.  I'm seriously considering stopping in there this evening on the way home.

 

Happy reading, friends!

 

Reading progress update: I've read 272 out of 654 pages.

The Mysteries of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe

 

You know, the thing I find most horrific about this tale is the lack of personal control any of the women have over their own lives.  They are always in danger of having some older man take over their property or decree whom they must marry.

 

I am so glad I live in the 21st century in a democratic society.

 

 

Menu Monday

I really didn't have to do much cooking this past week--I coasted with turkey leftovers and scrambled eggs.

 

But, I did make Honey, Mustard & Herb Chicken, from the Yum & Yummer cookbook.

 

 

Here are the chicken thighs, fresh from the oven, with their lemon slice hats.

 

They also plated up attractively:

 

 

However, they tasted more lemony than Honey-Mustard, and I'm not sure that I'd make them again.

 

I also had two sweet potatoes that were really needing attention, so I assembled Pork & Sweet Potato Pie yesterday.  I was headed to the theatre in the afternoon, so I cooked the parsnips & sweet potatoes in the morning.

 

 

The parsnips form the base, then there's a ground pork layer, covered with mashed sweet potatoes and heated through in the oven.

 

 

My sister gave me two zucchinis, so I must get them grated up (maybe tonight) and next week's offerings may feature some zucchini recipes.

 

Bon appétit, everyone!

 

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 160 out of 654 pages.

The Mysteries of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe

 

It has taken a long time, but Emily is now finally an orphan.  Enter the Evil Aunt who is determined to run her life, that is until the Aunt remarries and the new husband decides to run everyone's life.  He breaks off Emily's engagement and is now preparing to drag the whole household back to Italy.

 

Let the Gothic goings on begin!

 

 

TBR Thursday

Made to Kill: A Novel (L.A. Trilogy) - Adam Christopher Evil Librarian - Michelle Knudsen Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel - Matthew J. Sullivan The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes

 

I'm currently working on The Mysteries of Udolpho, which pretty much demands that you take things slow and gentle.  I feel like I've been reading forever, and the girl isn't even an orphan yet.  And she must be an orphan for this to be gothic!  It's one of my Halloween Bingo choices, so I've got to persevere.

 

I've got two more Halloween Bingo books waiting.  I've read a few pages into Made to Kill, but I'm making myself wait to start Evil Librarian

 

And I've got two books from my planned reading list for the year, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I've heard very mixed reviews on the former, but the latter should be a reliably good read.

 

Also on my schedule is a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which I'm attending on Sunday.  Our city's Shakespeare Company is doing a season centred on Hamlet, which this play kicks off.  Next up will be Hammered Hamlet, followed by Hamlet, a Ghost Story.  The fourth play is The Hamlet Frequency, but I've got my fingers crossed that I will be in France at that point.

 

I still need to get my Science Fiction & Fantasy books organized--maybe I can squeeze that task in as well.

 

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

The Brightest Fell / Seanan McGuire

The Brightest Fell - Seanan McGuire

Things are slow, and October "Toby" Daye couldn't be happier about that. The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn't have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.

When Toby's mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do...until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes. Now Toby doesn't have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks. Not with Jazz and Tybalt's lives hanging in the balance. But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she's never met, one who's been missing for over a hundred years?

 

 

Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell.

Here I am, eleven books into the October Daye series, still enjoying it immensely. This is one of the books which is tough on Toby—she learns that hard, hard lesson that we sometimes have to learn. Your family doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. Sometimes you have to lean on your friends, lean on them hard, and trust your own instincts and abilities.

People can surprise you—Simon Torquill certainly plays that role in this book. Simon was put to sleep for a century in the last book and Toby is forced to bargain to have him awoken before the elf-shot has worn off. He’s not her choice of confederate, but her mother Amandine has left her no choices. McGuire makes a pretty good case for not judging our competition until we have spent some time with them.

It seems that everyone gets hurt in some way in this installment—May & Jazz are ripped apart, Tybalt is imprisoned, Raj has to assume the responsibility of the Kingdom of Dreaming Cats, Sylvester must allow something that will enrage his wife, Simon must save his daughter, The Luidaeg must put up with a constant parade of intense fae folk through her formerly isolated home. Toby gets pulled back towards humanity and must find a hope chest to return herself to her new Fae normal.

These books which contain the difficult choices and make Toby work with people she would normally avoid often end up being the most powerful in the series and this book is no exception. At the end, there is no question that she still has far to go, but we pause to let everyone rest & regroup. I’m next in line at the library for book number 12, Night and Silence, but it will probably be a couple of weeks, giving me time to rest and consider too.

 

The Ghost in the Glass House / Carey Wallace

The Ghost in the Glass House - Carey Wallace

In a 1920s seaside town, Clare discovers a mysterious glass house in the backyard of her new summer home. There she falls in love with Jack, the ghost of a boy who can’t remember who he was before he died. Their romance is a haven for her from the cruel pranks of her society friends, especially her best friend, Bridget, who can’t wait to grow up and embark on romances of her own. As Clare begins to suspect an affair between her mother and Bridget's father, she retreats to the glass house. But that haven begins to crack when she realizes that Jack has lied to her about his name . . . From a dazzling and fearless new voice comes a shimmering story full of wonder and mystery, in a world where every character is haunted by lingering ghosts of love.

 

I read this book to fill the Ghost Stories square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I found this story to be somewhat reminiscent of Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree (or maybe it should be the other way around, since this was published before The Lie Tree.) I think it was a combination of a main character who is starting to question a parent’s choices and the time spent in the cave by the sea, complete with perilous journey to get there.

Strangely, it also reminded me of Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls, with the frenemy relationship between Clare and her BFF Bridget. Clare is a bit like Kate, with her desire to find true love and Bridget is a lot like Baba, longing to experiment with life, excitement, and boys.

Many people say that teenage girls become obsessed with horses when they are looking for a safe outlet for their love and attention. Clare hasn’t got a chance of finding a horse to lavish her care upon, but she finds Jack, the ghost boy in the glass house behind their rented summer home. What could be safer than a ghost for a first real relationship?

Not as strong nor as well written as either The Lie Tree or The Country Girls, it is still a pleasant story and I wouldn’t hesitate to offer it to a young adult.