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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

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health
Erica Sonnenburg, Justin Sonnenburg, Andrew Weil
The Hazel Wood
Melissa Albert
Progress: 33/368 pages
The Fuller Memorandum
Charles Stross
They Came to Baghdad
Agatha Christie
Looking for Alaska
John Green

TBR Thursday

Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind Dora Doralina - Rachel de Queiroz The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert Looking for Alaska - John Green

My reading life is still being driven by due dates!  I have 5 days to read Wizard's First Rule, which is quite a thick book, so I'm feeling a bit of pressure.

 

Dora, Doralina is an interlibrary loan, which I'm unable to renew, so its next.

 

Then, finally, I get to read one of the Summer of Spies books, The Bourne Identity, which I'm hoping will be a quick read. 

 

I can hardly wait to read The Hazel Wood because, well, fairies.  I do love the Fae!

 

Finally, my real-life book club choice: Looking for Alaska.  (I may also have to read The Name of the Star quickly, as I think we're combining our July & August meetings.  One of our members is moving to Italy and we want to have a suitable send off for her.)

 

Combine this with changes in guests for the conference that I'm headed to in August  (Deanna Raybourn is no longer going to be a guest of honour, but Tasha Alexander and Andrew Grant will be) and I'm scrambling to fit in a book or 2 by them before mid-August.

 

My reading time in indeed spoken for and I'm longing to get spying!

 

Have a great weekend!

Reading progress update: I've read 498 out of 572 pages.

Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson

 

Due back at the library in 2 days and I will finish it this evening or know the reason why!

 

It's been a bit of slog. 

Reading progress update: I've read 260 out of 572 pages.

Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson

 

Apparently Mars crews haven't acquired new social skills since junior high school.

 

Sigh!

Reading progress update: I've read 149 out of 496 pages.

The Constant Gardener - John le Carré

 

Just as this book is really getting going & getting good, I have to set it aside to work on other books, due sooner at the library.

 

At least I'll have this one spurring me on to get those finished & get back to Justin and the investigation of Tessa's death.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 186 out of 400 pages.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Alfred Birnbaum, Haruki Murakami

 

Very unconventional and amusing. Not sure how I feel about his female characters, however.

 

Macbeth / Jo Nesbø

Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Jo Nesbø

He’s the best cop they’ve got.

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

Unless he kills for it.

 

 

My enjoyment of this book suffered greatly from a case of bad timing—it came in at the library when I was in the mood for lighter, happier reading. And yet, I’d waited many weeks for it and there were 60 people behind me in line, so I felt duty bound to read it and pass it on. Perhaps I should have returned it and rejoined the line of holds.

Macbeth is a dark, bloody story. Jo Nesbø is expert at dark and bloody plot lines. This is a match made in hell. But I came to realize that when I watch Shakespeare’s version, I am insulated. There are kings and thanes and witches and iambic pentameter, none of which occur in my regular life and I’m able to distance myself from the violence, the blood and the back stabbing. This version, set in a modern town and police department, removed that cotton wool and exposed my nerve endings! During the first third of the book, I had a difficult time picking it back up after a break, because I knew the basic story line and knew that death and destruction were coming. Seeing it in modern terms, with modern weapons, in a current setting somehow made it so much worse and made it so much more relevant to a 21st century reader.

In Nesbø’s version, Macbeth is the successful head of a SWAT team in a town seething with corruption, double dealing and drugs. Everyone is on the take, it seems, if the price is high enough. Macbeth, orphan child, former circus performer, recovering addict, has come up in the world and is poised to go even higher. His love, Lady, has similarly come up from violence and poverty to now own a large and successful casino.

I thought Nesbø’s choice to make Hecate the head of the most successful drug cartel in the town was brilliant, and especially to have three women brewing the drugs. One of these three, Strega (Italian for witch, dontcha know) is Hecate’s main way of communicating with Macbeth and Lady, among others.

Someday, when I’m more in the mood for dark and dangerous, I may take this book on again and see what I make of it the second time around. In the meanwhile, I may check out the National Theatre’s production of the play (starring Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff) later this month at my local movie theatre.

TBR Thursday

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Alfred Birnbaum, Haruki Murakami The Constant Gardener - John le Carré Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind Dora Doralina - Rachel de Queiroz

I am soooo close to finishing Macbeth by Jo Nesbo!!  This evening I will conquer it, I swear!

 

It's due at the library first.  Then, I'll be working on the books above--I've put them in the order that they are due.  I'll be glad to be caught up and be able to read according to whim, rather than being date-driven.

 

Have a great weekend!

All those sayings that we use, unknowingly quoting the Bard!

Reading progress update: I've read 390 out of 464 pages.

Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Jo Nesbø

 

An involuntary nap last night prevented me from finishing this book.  Tonight I will conquer!

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 311 out of 464 pages.

Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Jo Nesbø

 

Three days remaining, 60 people waiting.  I'm feeling the pressure.  Hopefully I can get close to the finish line tonight.

Murder in Mesopotamia / Agatha Christie

Murder in Mesopotamia - Agatha Christie

When nurse Amy Leatheran agrees to look after American archaeologist Dr Leidner’s wife Louise at a dig near Hassanieh she finds herself taking on more than just nursing duties – she also has to help solve murders. Fortunately for Amy, Hercule Poirot is visiting the excavation site but will the great detective be in time to prevent a multiple murderer from striking again?


 

***2018 Summer of Spies***


It must have been the exotic location of Afghanistan, but this Hercule Poirot mystery really made me think about M.M. Kaye’s series of mysteries, set in similarly foreign settings. Last summer, I read both Death in Zanzibar and Death in Cyprus, and I have a feeling that Murder in Mesopotamia may have been one of the influences on Kaye. Perhaps it was the English nurse as narrator—an Englishwoman in an alien environment, applying her standards of judgement to the events (and to Hercule Poirot as investigator).

The solution to the crime was suitably obscure. Christie fools me more often than any other mystery writer that I’ve encountered so far. She is expert at the art of misdirection!
Christie portrays the archaeological setting so accurately—the reader can tell that she went to many dig sites with her second husband. She gets the surroundings, the finds, the group dynamics, etc. just right. You can taste the dust and feel the heat as you read.

I could also appreciate her confidence as a writer. This is a Poirot mystery, but the man himself doesn’t appear until well into the book and we see him only through the eyes of Nurse Leatheran. Altogether a very skillfully assembled mystery story, perfect for summer reading.

The Hunchback Assignments / Arthur Slade

The Hunchback Assignments - Arthur Slade

The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania's efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a mad scientist is turning orphan children into automatons to further the goals of the Guild. Modo and Octavia journey deep into the tunnels under London and discover a terrifying plot against the British government. It's up to them to save their country.

 

Although others have classified this book as young adult, I would consider it to be for a younger audience than that. I would recommend it for tweens and young teens. I’m rating it three stars, but that’s for the reading experience from my current vantage point as an adult. I think that if I’d read it at the right age, I would definitely have rated it at four stars.

The story is an interesting mix of steampunk elements and allusions to classic literature. The main character, Modo (the hunchback of the title) harks back to Quasimodo of Victor Hugo and Modo’s partner in crime, Octavia Milkweed, reminds me obliquely of La Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Quasimodo & Esmeralda, Modo becomes enamoured with Octavia. Unlike Quasimodo, Modo has a paranormal ability to change his appearance for limited amounts of time. Because of his crush on Octavia, he spends quite a bit of time & effort to avoid being seen by her in his natural state—this is obviously a state of affairs that will progress in future volumes.

The story’s villain, Dr. Hyde, has some roots in Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, without the virtuous Jekyl state. He performs many horrible experiments on both adults and children, but nothing vivid enough to leave younger readers with nightmares, unless they are ultra-sensitive. The bolts that he inserts in his experimental subjects reminded me strongly of the popular-culture version of Frankenstein’s monster.

Unlike so many of these alternate history Victorian stories, this one seems to be aimed more at boys than at girls, although I think any girl of the right age would definitely identify with Octavia. But with Modo as the narrator of the tale, the appeal to boys is greater. Since I think that reading for young men is a neglected demographic, I am glad to know about this fun, engaging series.

The author, Arthur Slade, will be attending the When Words Collide conference this August (2018) and I am glad that I read one of his books before hearing him speak there.

The Hanged Man / P.N. Elrod

The Hanged Man - P.N. Elrod

On a freezing Christmas Eve in 1879, a forensic psychic reader is summoned from her Baker Street lodgings to the scene of a questionable death. Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury (named after her godmother, the current Queen of England) is adamant that the death in question is a magically compromised murder and not a suicide, as the police had assumed, after the shocking revelation contained by the body in question, Alex must put her personal loss aside to uncover the deeper issues at stake, before more bodies turn up.

Turning to some choice allies—the handsome, prescient Lieutenant Brooks, the brilliant, enigmatic Lord Desmond, and her rapscallion cousin James—Alex will have to marshal all of her magical and mental acumen to save Queen and Country from a shadowy threat. Our singular heroine is caught up in this rousing gaslamp adventure of cloaked assassins, meddlesome family, and dark magic.

 

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Recommended for fans of the Victorian lady detective form of fantasy.

I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the steampunk subgenre, although I seem to be warming up to that category as I read more of it. This novel is one of those best suited to my particular tastes in fantasy.

I chose it partly because of the series title, Her Majesty’s Psychic Service. It is definitely a mystery with a dollop of romance—I’d been hoping for something spy related, from that series title. But there was enough intrigue that I’m still counting it towards my Summer of Spies.


I loved the family complications that the heroine, Alex Pendlebury, coped with throughout the story and the workplace machinations that also had to be factored into her calculations. Operating on the theory that forgiveness is easier to get than permission, Alex shows a lot of initiative on the investigation, aided by the sometimes-prescient always-handsome Lieutenant Brooks.

As Patricia Briggs wrote in her blurb for the book, there is “Murder, mayhem and tea.” If you like alternate-history Victorian adventure with witty banter and paranormal talents, this is the book for you. Now I am just crossing my fingers that Ms. Elrod will be publishing another volume in the series eventually.

Reading progress update: I've read 235 out of 464 pages.

Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Jo Nesbø

Okay, I wanted to quit around the 1/3 mark, but things are better now.  Who knew that writing Macbeth in modern terms would hit so much harder than a story set in the past?

Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 464 pages.

Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Jo Nesbø

Five days left to finish this, and I'm struggling.  I mean, I know that Macbeth is a grim tale, but this retelling is so bleak!

 

I'm having a hard time returning to it each time I set it down.

Reading progress update: I've read 91 out of 351 pages.

Murder in Mesopotamia - Agatha Christie

***2018 The Summer of Spies****

 

I should be reading Jo Nesbo.  But somehow, I couldn't resist the lure of Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie!

 

Very fun so far.