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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 City
Fonda Lee
Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12)
Jim Butcher
Progress: 189/448 pages
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
John le Carré
Progress: 183/381 pages
Ian Fleming
Andrew Lycett
Progress: 186/496 pages

Did Agatha Christie influence Ian Fleming?

They Came to Baghdad - Agatha Christie

This is a frequent enough question that Google filled it in for me when I asked!  Here is a quote from a website that provides some info:


A character by the name of James Bond appeared in a 1934 short story, Rajah's Emerald, which was published in the Agatha Christie anthology, The Listerdale Mystery. The Bond character from this short story is not a spy or action hero, but he does deal with an adventure that has to do with a stolen emerald, hence the title, and pines for the heart of a young woman named Grace. Was 007 creator Ian Fleming humoring readers when he named his classic protagonist, James Bond? According to the www.007magaizne.co.uk: "Ian Fleming's wry sense of humor has been well-documented over the years, making it highly possible that he may very well have hoaxed everyone and have also been influenced by Agatha Christie's writings, as her books were bestsellers during his formative years."


It's point five on this web page:




Interesting, yes?



BTW, the link in the actual article is misspelled and doesn't work.  Even when you spell it correctly, it only goes to a generic page for the magazine, nothing specific to this question.  WP

Reading progress update: I've read 96 out of 221 pages.

Looking for Alaska - John Green


Obvious paraphrase of Marilyn Monroe:


"If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."




Reading progress update: I've read 78 out of 320 pages.

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health - Erica Sonnenburg, Justin Sonnenburg, Andrew Weil


Finally, a book about gut bacteria that may have some practical advice!  I've been reading books like this one for years, looking for guidance.


Crossing my fingers that the advice will be useful when I get to it.

Reading progress update: I've read 80 out of 221 pages.

Looking for Alaska - John Green


I had the lunch room all to myself this morning for my coffee break--a lovely respite from the usual carping and cavilling that I usually have to tolerate in the office.


Reading about boarding school is better than dealing with coworkers!

Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 221 pages.

Looking for Alaska - John Green


Reading for my RL book club as part of our year of YA.


Not the best of the books we've read this year, but certainly not the worst book I've ever read either.


Each section has a heading:  "XX days before."  Each time I see it, I wonder, "Before what?"  And that is what is keeping me reading right now.



Reading progress update: I've read 78 out of 364 pages.

They Came to Baghdad - Agatha Christie


***2018 The Summer of Spies***


Well, I think all of the characters are rounded up and everyone is headed towards Baghdad.


And I see what my buddy readers have warned me about:  this is not one of Dame Agatha's most stellar efforts.



How could I forget?


We also saw this Black Bear grazing by the side of the road on Saturday!  I haven't seen a bear in years, so this was a treat.


Bus Trip to the Rockies on Saturday

Bow Lake


Mountain peak shrouded in cloud


Wild strawberries in bloom


Orange peel mushrooms (they don't shed spores from gills like most mushrooms, but from those bright orange surfaces)


Poppies under a bench at the Lodge by Bow Lake


The raven known as Frank at the lodge at Bow Lake


Frank is having a bad hair day

The amazing glacial blue of Peyto Lake


One of the Wildlife overpasses over the Trans-Canada highway


Castle Mountain

The Fuller Memorandum / Charles Stross

The Fuller Memorandum - Charles Stross

Computational demonologist Bob Howard catches up on filing in the Laundry archives when the top secret Fuller Memorandum vanishes - and his boss, suspected of stealing the file. Bob faces Russian agents, ancient demons, a maniacal death cult, and finding the missing memorandum before the world disappears next.



***2018 Summer of Spies***


3.5 stars—the best one of the Laundry Files that I’ve read so far.

Perhaps because we’re into historical references that I’ve actually lived through. Younger folk may roll their eyes at all the Cold War references in this volume the way I rolled mine during all the WWII/Nazi references in the first book of the series.

There’s much less computer jargon in this third novel, for which I was thankful. Bob may be a computation demonologist, but he talks more like a regular guy here. There was also a section in the first few pages of the story about “Losing my Religion,” which in Bob’s case means that he must give up his comfortable atheism because of his current knowledge of the eldritch gods who could easily wipe out humanity if their attention was drawn our way. Much more philosophical that you would normally expect from such a fantasy tale.

The series does contain a lot of amusing pop culture references. Bob’s coworkers, Pinky & Brains, show up again in this installment and although Brains is not trying to take over the world, he does take over Bob’s new phone to install beta software that prevents Bob from returning the phone. Bob & Mo also name the phone—the NecronomiPod. Highly appropriate for a series that references Lovecraft in many fond ways. Not to mention Bob’s reading material while on the train, which he describes as “a novel about a private magician for hire in Chicago,” which would seem to me to be Harry Dresden! Plus Bob’s kidnappers at one point ask, “What has it got it its pocketses?” (along with 2-3 “my Precious” occurrences). Stross’ geek cred is maintained with these details.

At least in this installment we learn the significance of paper clips, which perhaps explains the zeal of the Auditors in questioning the Laundry employees regarding their inventories of those office supplies. (It’s not all just the Pointy Haired Bosses trying to make their employees’ lives miserable).

The author (unsurprisingly a former computer programmer) manages to continue to combine elements of James Bond, Lovecraft, and Dilbert successfully to create a funny and readable sci-fi series. The Laundry—successfully defending humanity against the NIAs (Nightmarish Immortal Aliens).

The Hazel Wood / Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.


Don’t go into this novel expecting a romance featuring a handsome prince or some fae lord. It isn’t that kind of fairy tale. This is one with a dark overtones, like some of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales that lived up to the grim part.

The first section of the book sets up Alice’s life with her mother Ella. They have spent their lives in transit, trying to stay one step ahead of the weird bad luck that has dogged their lives. Ella refuses to talk about her own mother, Althea Proserpine, or Althea’s property, the Hazel Wood. The book that Althea wrote (Tales from the Hinterland) that made her famous (or infamous) is almost impossible to find and Alice has become quite fixated on acquiring a copy. When Alice’s grandmother dies and her mother is kidnapped, Alice must decide whether to follow her mother’s last instruction: stay away from the Hazel Wood.

Of course if Alice wants her mother back (and she does) there is only one thing to do—find the Hazel Wood and figure out what the heck is going on. She must brave the Hinterland and all its strangeness to learn about her heritage once and for all. She discovers that the Hinterland contains a variety of folk—those who are refugees from her world and those who are native, consisting either of Stories or those who surround the Stories as supporting cast so to speak. If you are a Story, you relive your Story over and over again without end. Can Alice disrupt the Story that holds her life hostage?

It struck me that many of us are caught in similar loops in our lives that we have a difficult time recognizing and breaking out of. Don’t we all have that one woman friend who flees one abusive man only to end up almost immediately in a relationship with another jerk? Or your friend who is so busy collecting people to take care of that her own life goes nowhere? Or the man walks by a room full of nice women directly to the one woman who will never be faithful or committed to a relationship? It’s easy to see these patterns in others, much more difficult to recognize them in our own lives and much, much tougher to actually break those patterns.

So no, this is not a fairy tale romance, but it speaks to the patterns visible in fairy tales and in our own lives.

Reading progress update: I've read 33 out of 368 pages.

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert


I'm already entranced with this book, only a few pages in.


But I have miles to go before I sleep (or read) this evening.  Groceries to buy, supper to cook (Tandoori Chicken), a rhubarb apple crisp to make, charging my camera battery and getting all packed & organized for my mountain adventure tomorrow.


At least the desire to get back to The Hazel Wood will keep me motivated to get all the tasks done.



The Bourne Identity / Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum

His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators -- led by Carlos, the world's most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him.


***2018 Summer of Spies***

Perhaps I came into this novel expecting a bit too much—I’ve never seen the movies, only advertising for them, so I didn’t go in completely blind to the story, but about as close as you can get in our society. I can certainly see that this would make a great shoot-‘em-up, car-chase intense movie. I really can’t say that I cared whether Bourne got his memory back or who he actually was. I would have been much more interested in more exploration of nature of the memory loss rather than all the frantic chasing around!

Kudos to him for his good taste in women, however. I was amused to find out that she was Canadian, from my city. It was also revealing that, although she is a very capable, knowledgeable economist in her own right, she is still often referred to as a ‘girl.’ Oh, I do not miss the 1980s!

I did very much like the book’s ending, but for me it is the perfect ending. I won’t ruin it by continuing on with the rest of the trilogy.

TBR Thursday

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert The Fuller Memorandum - Charles Stross Looking for Alaska - John Green They Came to Baghdad - Agatha Christie The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson The Spy Who Came In from the Cold - John le Carré

I will finish The Bourne Identity soon.  Then I'm off to visit The Hazel Wood and see what the Fae are doing there.


For The Summer of Spies, I'll be reading The Fuller Memorandum, They Came to Baghdad and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold


RL Book club selections are Looking for Alaska and The Name of the Star.


Life is interfering with my reading these days.  Do you ever go weeks without anyone wanting to do things on the weekends, and then suddenly everyone wants to do something on the SAME weekend.  Just like no one phones for days, then suddenly everybody calls.


Off to the mountains on Saturday (Peyto Lake) with my trusted friend Barbara.  With any luck, I will have photos to share on Monday.


Have a fun weekend, y'all.

Reading progress update: I've read 254 out of 566 pages.

The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum





His female companion is a CANADIAN.  And she is from CALGARY.


Oh, we are wild & crazy wenches, we Calgarian women!



Made me giggle.

Reading progress update: I've read 40 out of 566 pages.

The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum


Okay, this is going to be fun, I think.



Dora Doralina / Rachel de Queiroz

Dora Doralina - Rachel de Queiroz

"What kills you today is forgotten tomorrow. I don't know if this is true or false because all that's real for me is remembrance." In her old age, Dora reflects on the major influences in her life: her mother, her career in the theater, and her one true love. Set in Brazil in the early part of the century, Dora, Doralina is a story about power. Through her fierce resistance to her mother and her later life as a working woman and widow, Doralina attempts to define herself in a time and culture which places formidable obstacles before women. Married off by her mother to a man she does not love, told what to wear and eat, Dora's reclaiming of herself is full of both discovery and rage. For her, independence is the right to protect herself and make her own choices. From a life confined by religion and "respectability," even her passionate attachment to a hard-drinking smuggler contains an act of free will previously unavailable to her. Dora, Doralina is an intimate, realistic, and vivid glimpse of one woman's struggle for independence, for a life in which she owns her actions, her pleasure, and her pain.


I read this book to fill the Q position in my quest to read women authors A-Z in 2018. I will honestly tell you that it is not a novel that I would naturally pick up so I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as someone who regularly reads literary fiction.

This is a character driven story which reads very much like an autobiography. It is basically a window into the world of women in Brazil in the first half of the twentieth century. Brazilian society, as in many societies at the time, is extremely macho and women don’t have all that much latitude.

The book is divided into three sections, representing three stages in the life of our narrator, Dora. The first section is Dora growing up and struggling with the control of her domineering mother. Dora refers to her as Senhora, not mother, and seems to be one of the only people in the household who longs for freedom. Dora ends up in a marriage which was more-or-less engineered by Senhora, and while she doesn’t mind her husband, she’s not desperately fond of him either. When he is killed, Dora takes a page from her mother’s playbook and uses her widowhood to give herself more freedom in the world.

The second section is Dora’s adventures in the world outside her mother’s farm. She finds employment and eventually ends up on stage, despite her shyness. She is both fiercely independent and highly reliant on her friends in the acting company, a duality that she freely acknowledges. And it is during her travels with the company that she meets the love of her life.

Part three is her life with The Captain. He reminded me of her first husband in several ways (his drinking, his macho possessiveness) but Dora’s feelings for him make the marriage an altogether different experience from the first.

Documenting women’s lives is an important pursuit, filling in the blanks of previously ignored reality. The novel also shows the particular barriers that many South American women are up against culturally.