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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

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

Reading progress update: I've read 189 out of 448 pages.

Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) - Jim Butcher

 

 

A little urban fantasy pick-me-up.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 183 out of 381 pages.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John le Carré

 

Ah, the title now makes some sense to me.

 

 

Okay, I'm exhausted from a weekend full of family events, but this made me smile.

 

Happy Monday, everyone!

Once Broken Faith / Seanan McGuire

Once Broken Faith: An October Daye Novel - Seanan McGuire

Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.

Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.

Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.

As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.

Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

 

Thank goodness for Toby Daye. Yes, she’s a Fae hero who spends more time than she wants to rescuing the unwary and binding the wounds of her friends. And she even helped me—it’s true, this novel saw me through the last bit of the worst headache that I have had in many, many moons.

When I’m not feeling well, I reach for urban fantasy. It, along with pain killers, coffee, and soft lights, will see me through whatever is wrong in my world. This series is a particular favourite because I am also nuts about the Fae. Love ‘em. It all started with Patricia Briggs—I first encountered the Fae in her Mercy Thompson series—but it may culminate in McGuire’s October Daye series.

These books have perhaps become a bit predictable—Toby will end up covered in blood at least twice and will probably die/be on death’s door once. Two or three of her Buffy-like circle of friends will have something dire happen to them, which Toby must defy death to fix. Fae royalty will have to be told to get their heads outta their butts. But you know what? When you’ve got a migraine, predictable is good. It doesn’t take your best literary analysis skills to appreciate the book.

I enjoy all the various forms of Faerie found in these pages—someday I have to find time to read some folklore and get caught up on Selkies, Pixies, Coblynaus, etc. I also must reiiterate my fondness for the sea witch, the Luidaeg. She’s fierce and loving and uncompromising and loyal. And she’s got plans for our Toby girl. I’ll be reading on in the series to learn more about that, you betcha!

Tripoint / C.J. Cherryh

Tripoint - C.J. Cherryh

Merchanter Cargo Chief Marie Hawkins has never forgiven the crime, nor sought justice. Only vengeance. And, for 23 years, the Hawkins's clan ship, Sprite, has lived with her vendetta - and with her son, Tom, the boy sired in the violent assault.

Marie's attacker, Austin Bowe, is captain of the Corinthian. When both ships dock at Mariner Station, Marie vanishes and Tom searches for his mother...only to find himself trapped on Austin's ship with a half-brother he never knew he had and a crew fanatically loyal to Bowe. Now as the Corinthian flees the pursuing Sprite and a raider guns after both, the lives on board the two Merchanter ships are in the hands of Tom Hawkins. To save them all, Tom must trust his sworn enemy...His father.

 

 

Normally, I enjoy Cherryh’s work a lot—but this novel I struggled with. It’s that whole “story based entirely on a rape” scenario that I have a hard time with. I’m having exactly the same difficulty with Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series, which I still plan to continue on with and it’s the reason that I stopped reading Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series after two books.

I had hoped that Cherryh would make Marie Hawkins a more understandable character, a woman who had a son as a result of a long-ago rape and dealt with it. Instead, it seemed to me that Marie was pretty unstable and had made her son Tom’s mental state questionable too. Is it a good thing when the son is better off as a prisoner/crew member with his pirate father than with his mother on a family ship? I guess this is Cherryh’s exploration of some of those problems that we can’t seem to get rid of, rape and child abuse. I don’t know about you, but I really want to believe that we can conquer those problems before we make it into space. Perhaps I watched too much Star Trek as a child.

The ending made me happier with the book, so if you find yourself floundering during the first chapters like I did, I would encourage you to read on. I’m not saying the end justifies the means, but I was quite satisfied with the end result.

Book number 290 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

Reading progress update: I've read 299 out of 352 pages.

Even - Andrew  Grant

"We've got two and a half hours left. Varley's going nuts. It's chaos. So much for well rehearsed protocols. More like setting a bunch of monkeys loose in a banana plantation."

 

Bog Child / Siobhan Dowd

Bog Child - Siobhan Dowd

Digging for peat in the mountain with his Uncle Tally, Fergus finds the body of a child, and it looks like she’s been murdered. As Fergus tries to make sense of the mad world around him—his brother on hunger-strike in prison, his growing feelings for Cora, his parents arguing over the Troubles, and him in it up to the neck, blackmailed into acting as courier to God knows what—a little voice comes to him in his dreams, and the mystery of the bog child unfurls.

Bog Child is an astonishing novel exploring the sacrifices made in the name of peace, and the unflinching strength of the human spirit.

 

A charming YA novel. It combined two things that I love to read about—Ireland and those archaeological wonders, the bog bodies. Fergus, the main character, is out early one morning surreptitiously digging peat with his Uncle Tally when they discover the peat-stained body of a young girl. When it is determined that she is an Iron Age body, not a modern murder victim, Fergus is encouraged by the archaeologist in charge of the dig to stay interested & involved. As she has a charming daughter, Fergus is only too happy to assist them.

There are some interesting juxtapositions—Fergus’ brother is on hunger strike in prison and Cora, the archaeologist’s daughter, is struggling with an eating disorder. [As an aside, I remember listening to the news regularly in 1981 to hear about the fates of those Irish hunger strikers, especially Bobby Sands.] Fergus is a runner and is pressured into moving envelopes during his runs which presumably have something to do with IRA explosions, but he has also befriended a young Welshman stationed at the village to guard against such things. Both are seeking escape, Fergus from rural Ireland and the young solider from the coal mines of Wales. During all these pushes and pulls, between family and community, law and anarchy, Fergus must pass his final exams with at least three B marks in order to enter University at the end of the summer, to achieve his way out.

We also get some flashbacks to the life of the Bog Child, with some choices of her own to make. I went to a museum display of Bog Bodies that visited my city years ago—there was a large photo of Tollund Man who was found in Denmark and my sister & I both thought that he looked very much like our Danish grandfather, also from Jutland. What a link to the past!

Reading progress update: I've read 186 out of 496 pages.

Ian Fleming - Andrew Lycett

Page 167

 

"The first time Oatsie [Marion Leiter] met Ian, she took him to task for his cavalier treatment of Millicent Rogers...."Mr. Fleming," she said when they were introduced, "I consider you a cad."  "You're quite right, Mrs. Leiter," Ian replied.  "Shall we have a drink on it?"

 

 

 

 

Berlin Game / Len Deighton

Berlin Game - Len Deighton

When a valuable agent behind the Iron Curtain signals he wants out, it's up to Bernard Samson, once active in the field but now anchored to a London desk, to undertake the crucial rescue. But soon, Samson is confronted with evidence that there is a traitor among his colleagues. And to find out who it is, he must sift through layers of lies and follow a web of treachery from London to Berlin until hero and traitor collide.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Whether you’re reading the rather fanciful spy fiction of Ian Fleming or the gritty tales of John Le Carré, there seems to be liquor involved and in rather high quantities. Make Len Deighton’s protagonist, Bernard Samson, another of the spies who is a fan of copious amounts of liquor. I was right on track when I laid in a good supply of gin when starting my Summer of Spies.

Other than the liquor, Deighton’s work leans more toward the grittier realism of Le Carré. I’d never read either one of those authors before this summer and I’m impressed. Berlin Game is set in the same time period as The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and is also concerned with Cold War politics and the Berlin Wall. There’s a traitor in London somewhere and it is up to Samson to suss them out.

It’s not too long, not overly predictable and decently written. I don’t think I’m a big enough fan of the genre to continue on with the series, but I’m glad to know a little bit about Deighton now.

N or M? / Agatha Christie

N or M? - Agatha Christie

The final words of the dying man...the code names of Hitler's most dangerous agents...the mysterious clue that sends Tommy and Tuppence to a seaside resort on a mission of wartime intelligence. But not as husband and wife. As strangers, meeting by chance, setting an elaborate trap for an elusive killer.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

A fast, fun expedition into espionage! I liked the fact that Christie allowed her main characters to age and change a bit. As is true for most of us, they retained their basic characteristics which turned them into spy hunters to begin with, but they are dealing with details that afflict us all as we age. Younger folk (including the Beresford children) no longer see our relevance and no one wants the skills that we have on offer—just ask anyone who is over 40 and unemployed and they will tell you all about it!

Tommy must have a thick skull, because he once again gets clonked on the head in this novel, but manages to come out of things un-addled. The plot is not as smooth as Christie’s murder mysteries, but it is fun to see Tuppence trying to pretend to be a middle-aged lady who knits & gossips. Tommy at least gets to go out and play golf.

I’m currently reading a biography of Ian Fleming and I’m at the point of reading about his experiences in WWI in the Royal Navy’s Intelligence Unit—although this T&T caper seems a bit outlandish, it’s not that far off of some of the imaginative schemes that NID came up with to try to thwart the Nazis, which surprised me a lot. All of the global intelligence services have come a long way since the 1940s.

A bit of summer fun.

Reading progress update: I've read 260 out of 352 pages.

Even - Andrew  Grant

 

This is just ridiculous!  This author's just a clone of his older brother, Lee Child.

 

Completely unbelievable, leaning toward the hilarious.

Reading progress update: I've read 95 out of 496 pages.

Ian Fleming - Andrew Lycett

 

 

I'm no apologist for IF and his misogynistic tendencies, but OMG, his mother.  She could make anybody hate women!

Reading progress update: I've read 185 out of 352 pages.

Even - Andrew  Grant

 

This author is the younger brother of Lee Child.  I've only read one of Child's Jack Reacher novels and when my book club discussed we just hooted with laughter at the supposedly cool details.

 

I wish I could say that Grant was better but there was one OTT female villain who will no doubt figure in my eventual review.  I want to ask my book club to read this one too, so we can have another laughing meeting!

Reading progress update: I've read 86 out of 236 pages.

N or M? - Agatha Christie

Then her lips set grimly.  There had been an eyelash in the fold of the paper this morning.  The eyelash was not there now.

She went to the washstand.  There was a little bottle labelled innocently: "Grey powder" with a dose.

Adroitly Tuppence dusted a little of the powder on to the letter and on to the surface of the glassy japanned enamel of the box.

There were no fingerprints on either of them.

Again Tuppence nodded her head with a certain grim satisfaction.

For there should have been fingerprints--her own.

 

Originally published in 1941.  Very similar to They Came to Baghdad. And also to Casino Royale by Fleming.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold / John Le Carré

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold - John le Carré

In this classic, John le Carre's third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his career but undertakes one final, bone-chilling assignment. When the last agent under his command is killed and Alec Leamas is called back to London, he hopes to come in from the cold for good. His spymaster, Control, however, has other plans. Determined to bring down the head of East German Intelligence and topple his organization, Control once more sends Leamas into the fray -- this time to play the part of the dishonored spy and lure the enemy to his ultimate defeat.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

I can’t have a Summer of Spies without reading John Le Carré, he’s written too many of the most well-known espionage classics. Having enjoyed The Constant Gardener, I decided to switch gears and try something in the Smiley series. George doesn’t feature very much in this book, although he certainly does make an appearance. While his presence seems trivial at first, by book’s end I realized that he’d played an interesting role in the outcome.

This novel took me back to the bad old days of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, and the risks of defection from behind the Iron Curtain. All the stuff that I studied in junior high & high school. I also remember when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989—it was a time of great hopefulness that seems like a naïve, idealistic dream nowadays. I was impressed by the gritty but beautiful descriptions of things, the wheels within wheels of plotting, and how well Le Carré led me down the garden path, only to surprise me during the last pages.

You couldn’t get much more different from the fantasy-spy James Bond tales! Cocktails vs. alcoholism, sophisticated women vs. a plain library worker, gambling at a casino vs. gambling with your life. There’s not much in Alec Leamas’ life that any reader would aspire to and no one in their right mind would want to change places with him. And yet, I like Le Carré’s version better. At least Leamas values his Elizabeth and tries to protect her, not because she is some frail female flower, but because all human beings deserve to be protected from being abused.

A must-read if you are interested in the espionage genre.

The Desert Spear / Peter V. Brett

The Desert Spear - Peter V. Brett

The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power.

Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not.

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar'Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons--a spear and a crown--that give credence to his claim.

But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure.

 

This book is a distinct change of view from the first one, The Warded Man. We must back up and approach this story again, this time from the Krasian point of view. Jardir, who seemed like simply a back-stabbing traitor in book one now has his own version of the same events, giving us an alternate POV in this one.

We learn far more about Krasian civilization, which seems to be heavily based on early Middle Eastern cultures, with warrior values, harems of women, and contempt for outsiders, both non-warriors within the culture & actual foreigners. Many parallels can be seen within Arlen’s agrarian society, which is extremely patriarchal and very hidebound (very like medieval Europe), something which can happen when a society is under siege.

It almost seems, in this installment, that everyone has become much too comfortable with the demon-haunted night. Both societies seem to be channeling their inner demon hunters and the tension of the first book is gone in this regard. Hints are happening that we may soon get the POV of the demons—will they get the same sympathetic treatment as Jardir?

Arlen and Jardir were friends at one point—now they are rivals. Which one will become the great Unifier who will unite humanity and defeat the Corelings (demons)? But while Jardier claims to be the Deliverer, Arlen denies the title just as strenuously. Nevertheless, the demons clearly see them both as threats. These men could also have been rivals over Leesha if Brett had written things a little differently, but that ship seems to have sailed.

I’m displeased that my library doesn’t have book three and there’s no time for them to order it before I see Peter Brett at the When Words Collide conference in August. I’m not usually known for laying out the dinero for new books, but if I can get a bit of a discount at the merchants’ corner, I’ll maybe spring for book 3 (since I note that the library has books 4 & 5).