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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 Witch Elm
Tana French
Progress: 36/464 pages
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
Stephen Brusatte
Sweep of the Blade
Ilona Andrews
A Fatal Inversion
Barbara Vine
Progress: 221/317 pages
The Waste Lands
Stephen King, Ned Dameron

It's so much easier to find women holding weapons....

Breath of Fire - Amanda Bouchet Magic Triumphs -  Ilona Andrews Trail of Lightning - Rebecca Roanhorse Dark Queen - Faith Hunter The Myth Manifestation - Lisa Shearin Stalking Jack the Ripper - Kerri Maniscalco The Devious Dr. Jekyll: An Electric Empire Novel - Viola Carr

...than to find women holding flowers!

 

Who knew that I was such a violent creature.  :)

 

Diwali Task

I'm going to repeat a couple of photos from last week to fulfill my task of sharing a photo of a sweet treat that I've made.  I made Orange Gingerbread for my book club last Friday:

 

 

That glaze is made of icing sugar and orange juice.

 

 

My book club ladies weren't bowled over, but I brought left overs to work on Monday and my coworkers begged me to keep it in my repertoire.  So I take it that these baked goods improved with a bit of age.

 

Happy Diwali!

TBR Thursday

Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean - Morten Strøksnes Magic Triumphs -  Ilona Andrews SuperMutant Magic Academy - Jillian Tamaki The Mark of Zorro - Johnston McCulley Dark Force Rising - Timothy Zahn Hellburner - C.J. Cherryh

 

I'm currently working on The Witch Elm (which is due in 9 days) and The Waste Lands.  Not to mention that I need to finish A Fatal Inversion and get going on The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs.

 

I finally read 2 books last week because I was sick of them showing up here on Thursdays.  The same will probably be true of Shark Drunk eventually.  In the mean while, Magic Triumphs is due in 16 days, with 20 people waiting for it.  It will be my next priority after The Witch Elm

 

I think that The Mask of Zorro, with the rearing horse on the cover, will be one of my 24 Tasks of the Season.  Dark Force Rising will also fall into this category, being the second book of the Thrawn Triology. 

 

SuperMutant Magic Academy will count towards my Book Riot Read Harder challenge for 2018 and Hellburner is part of my ongoing Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

 

You know what?  I'm cutting way back on reading challenges next year, so I have time to read what I please.  Not sure that I'm completely ready to abandon ship this year, but next year will be mine own, to do with as I please.  And I have ideas about that.

 

My sister from B.C. is coming to our province today and tomorrow I must driver to Red Deer to catch up with my youngest sister.  Then we will all go & visit my niece and her new baby, little Hazel.  Then, my sisters & I will go visit elderly relatives in our home town.  So, you will hear little from me until Tuesday.

 

Have a great weekend, friends.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 36 out of 464 pages.

The Witch Elm - Tana French

 

Is it wrong of me to like Toby better now, now that he's had the shit kicked out of him by burglars?

The Reader / Traci Chee

The Reader - Traci Chee

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

 

Librarians, pirates, and assassins, oh my! Once again, I am charmed by a young-adult author.

I loved the magic of reading & literature—quite literally in this story. Sefia, our young female main character, has inherited a Book, her only legacy from her beloved parents. Somehow, Chee makes it seem not only likely, but inevitable, that Sefia would teach herself to read this book and then use it to see the past and explore the present. Her pursuit of the truth about the Book and the loss of her parents & her aunt, lead her to follow a criminal outfit and she eventually rescues a young man who they have been forcing to fight other youngsters to the death for some obscure purpose. He is so traumatized that he is unable to speak, but his fighting prowess leads Sefia to name him Archer.

Chee writes a very egalitarian world without making a big deal about it. For those of us who grew up with fantasy where we had to have a sex change to identify with most of the characters because they were almost all male, this is a very disorientating experience! To read about an assassin, and suddenly realize, wait this is a woman! Same on board the pirate ship—there’s a ship’s boy, but also a ship’s girl, not to mention numerous female crew members. It’s all written matter of factly, and I found myself running face first into my own assumptions on a regular basis. What a pleasant change!

There is the inevitable romance between Sefia and her rescuee, Archer, but it didn’t overwhelm the main plot and was gently developed. I will be pleased to follow their story further in The Speaker.

London Rules / Mick Herron

London Rules (Slough House) - Mick Herron

London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one.  Cover your arse.

 

Regent's Park's First Desk, Claude Whelan, is learning this the hard way. Tasked with protecting a beleaguered Prime Minister, he's facing attack from all directions himself: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat's wife, a tabloid columnist, who's crucifying Whelan in print; from the PM's favourite Muslim, who's about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, despite the dark secret he's hiding; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who's alert for Claude's every stumble.

 

Meanwhile, the country's being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks, and someone's trying to kill Roddy Ho.

 

Over at Slough House, the crew are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. But collectively, they're about to rediscover their greatest strength - that of making a bad situation much, much worse.

 

It's a good job Jackson Lamb knows the rules. Because those things aren't going to break themselves.

 

I think Mick Herron’s Slough House series just keeps improving! Herron brings his characteristic humour to the creation of the failed spies of Slough House, with characters who all exhibit personal problems that interfere daily with their ability to function.

Eight months of anger fucking management sessions, and this evening she'd officially be declared anger free. It had been hinted she might even get a badge. That could be a problem--if anyone stuck a badge on her, they'd be carrying their teeth home in a hanky.



Roderick Ho, the obnoxious computer nerd, gets to shine not-so-brightly in this installment. He’s been assigned to Slough House because of the ridiculous self-delusionary bubble that he inhabits, not because of a work screw up. And the nature of his personal fantasy life tips him into the hands of North Korean operatives, bent on showing the U.K. that the Hermit Kingdom is its superior.

Despite the fact that all the other damaged members of the House despise Rod, when a car tries to run him down while he is stalking Pokemon on his way to work, everyone decides that they need to protect one of their own. Needless to say, Ho didn’t notice the attempt on his life and remains pretty clueless throughout the book. After four other volumes, we would expect no less (or is that no more?) of the Rodster.

Jackson Lamb, the malignant supervisor of Slough House, is at his obnoxious best in this installment. He is smoking to excess, drinking to excess, not maintaining his personal hygiene, insulting everyone who crosses his path, and (still) emitting reeking farts at will. But as truly horrible as he is, he protects his own. I was particularly happy, when at the end of this book, Lamb insists

that Roddy Ho be returned to Slough House rather than terminated.

(show spoiler)

 

 

As Lamb remarks: Slough House, putting the “us” in “clusterfuck.”

 

Black Sun Rising / C.S. Friedman

Black Sun Rising - C.S. Friedman

Over a millenium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold, and the colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.
Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people - Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer - are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy...

 

This book has been one that I’d been looking forward to in my SFF reading list and I was not disappointed! It has much more good/evil complexity than many of the fantasy books that were previously published (before 1991). Although it is in many ways a typical quest tale, Friedman gives it a couple of twists that distinguish it from earlier quest tales—one member of the party is undoubtedly evil and the party is looking to track down a demon-type entity which has stolen the memories of one of the party. This demon must be killed to restore her to some semblance of normality. Normally, all of the questers would be good guys (sometimes corrupted like Boromir in LOTR), but this is like inviting one the Nazgul to join you in your travels! They are not looking for an object, but for a target, bringing back a memory, not a trophy.

The world Erna, where this tale takes place, reminded me somewhat of Sheri Tepper’s world, Grass. There is a malign feeling to Erna and its inhabitants toward the humans who have settled there that felt familiar from that world. I also was reminded of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series—the settlers of Erna didn’t actually choose the planet so much as get stranded there and have to deal with the fae emanations of the new world, just as the Darkover colonists must deal with their unchosen planet. Plus, the changes to humans and the rakh of Erna made me think of Julian May’s The Many Colored Land, and the adaptations of the ship-wrecked Tanu & Firvulag on ancient Earth.

Having enjoyed all of those books, these were all good associations for me. Although most groups fulfilling a quest have to deal with the price of success, I thought this one explored the notion of “how much power at what cost” very effectively. It is, of course, the first book in a trilogy, so I didn’t expect things to wrap up neatly, but I was pleasantly surprised at how unsettling the ending was—Ciani is restored, but has been very much changed by the whole experience; the priest has to let go of his preferred outcome; the Hunter has realized his limitations. I very much look forward to continuing the series.

Book number 296 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

Diamond Fire / Ilona Andrews

Diamond Fire -  Ilona Andrews

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle. Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home. Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic. But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness. Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

 

My preferred retail bookstore had this novella on the shelf several days before the release date, so I hurried in to pluck it quickly before someone realized the error! (I was also on a Christmas shopping mission for my 2.5 year-old great-nephew, so it was a two-birds-one-stone shopping excursion).

I have read and re-read the Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series more times that I care to admit right now. I’m not exactly sure why this fantasy world appeals to me so strongly, but it does. When the authors wrapped up the initial trilogy and weren’t sure if they would be able to publish more, I verged on despondent! Three books was simply not enough for this world and these characters! I wanted more!

This charming little novella is the bridge between the Nevada-Rogan plot line and starting a new series that stars Nevada’s sister, Catalina. The first chapter features Nevada’s point-of-view, which the reader is used to, and then we are transitioned over to Catalina quite easily.

Catalina is in the throes of learning how to use her newly-acknowledged magic, to be an adult investigator for the family business, and to interact more comfortably with people outside her immediate family. I think any young person can relate to the last two, as can older people who remember those years. Her magic (labelled Siren by the testing committee) is unusual and powerful, leading to interesting situations. This makes the upcoming series very appealing and I will be watching eagerly for the release date in 2019 of the first book.

Thanks to the Andrews for continuing on with the series and to Avon for agreeing to publish them.

Menu Monday

Once again, I've been struggling to convince myself to cook.  But having this photo project to contribute to has encouraged me to keep on producing better food for myself.

 

First up, Harvest Baked Oatmeal:

 

 

This provided breakfast for a whole week!

 

 

Next up was Smoky Tomato Soup:

 

 

It all started with bacon because bacon makes everything better.  Hence the bacon sprinkles on the soup surface.

 

Please also note the Cornmeal Cheese Muffins on the side.  Nummy!

 

Then, I had bits & bobs to use up, so made a Frittata:

 

 

An excellent way use up a leftover baked potato, a red pepper that was on its last legs, some Italian sausage that I had defrosted but not put to good use yet, shredded cheese that had been open for a while, plus some eggs that had lingered in the fridge for a while.

 

 

Then, it was time to bake for Book Club.  They are my guinea pigs, so I tried a new recipe for Orange Gingerbread:

 

 

This was made with quinoa flour and almond flour.  The glaze was icing sugar & orange juice.

 

 

It was not bad, but didn't get rave reviews.  I rather doubt that I'll make it again.

 

And finally, on Saturday night for a treat, I made Hoisin Pork Ribs:

 

 

This is one of my all-time favourite recipes, a real comfort meal.  These are the left-overs, because I couldn't wait to dig in once they were ready.  With rice & broccoli, they made a great cool weather Saturday evening event.

 

Happy cooking, friends!

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 190 out of 256 pages.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes

 

My First Task of the Festive Season!

 

Reading a book from a completed series.

 

Plus, it fits with my previous reading plans for 2018.  Two birds, one stone.  So to speak.

 

Should finish it up on Saturday at the latest.

Christmas Mystery books

 

After a chat with Moonlight Snow about festive reading, I got curious about the Christmas themed mysteries available at my public library.  Which inevitably led to a list, because listing is what I do.

 

I look forward to reading at least a couple of them this December.

 

Jingle, jingle!

TBR Thursday

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes The Reader - Traci Chee The Witch Elm - Tana French Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean - Morten Strøksnes The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte

 

How many times have The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Reader appeared on my weekly TBR post?  But now I have added incentive for TVofDT, as it is part of a completed series and therefore qualifies for my First Festive Task.  Yay!

 

And of course, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is part of the Flat Book Society, which I am finally participating in for the first time. 

 

I'm also going to have to pay attention to Tana French's The Witch Elm, as there are 147 people on the library waiting list!!! 

 

Plus, who can resist the tale of two nutty Norwegians who decide to fish for Greenland sharks from a tiny rubber dingy?  Shark Drunk should be entertaining.

 

My book club meets on Friday, when we will be discussing Grave Mercy.  I am planning to bake this evening and I'm seriously considering making Orange Gingerbread.  Photos on Monday.  I also have Mexican food on the brain because of the Festive Tasks, so that will be factored into this week's grocery list.

 

I'm meeting a group of women friends for brunch on Sunday at a little bistro within walking distance of my home.  That may be worth a photo too.

 

Have a fun & festive weekend, folks!

Reading progress update: I've read 254 out of 336 pages.

London Rules (Slough House) - Mick Herron

Ho's room was heavy with an acrid, non-specific odour which caught and bottled, would probably kill rodents, or old people.  Louisa was breathing carefully.  On any list of rooms she was never likely to find herself in, this one was right behind Benedict Cumberbatch's, though for diametrically opposite reasons.

The Mysteries of Udolpho / Ann Radcliffe

The Mysteries of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe

The Mysteries of Udolpho is the story of orphan Emily St. Aubert, who finds herself separated from the man she loves and confined within the medieval castle of her aunt's new husband, Montoni. Inside the castle, she must cope with an unwanted suitor, Montoni's threats, and the wild imaginings and terrors that threaten to overwhelm her.

 

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

This is the mother of all Gothic romance, originally published in 1794. Twenty-first century readers may find themselves challenged by the style. Here is Wanda’s recommended reading instructions for The Mysteries of Udolpho:

1. Practice your patience. Readers in the 18th century weren’t in a rush and didn’t expect lean prose or fast plot development. Don’t read to a deadline if you can help it—trying to rush through will probably frustrate you further.
2. Develop your taste for scenic descriptions. Because you’re going to be reading a lot of them. Apparently good people spend a lot of time gazing at the mountains and the moon and rhapsodizing about them and bad people can’t be bothered. Now you know which kind of person you are.
3. Speaking of which, decide whether you are going to read all of the poetry & songs or not. I started to skip them about 1/3 of the way through the book. It was minutes of my life that I wasn’t going to get back.
4. Prepare yourself to be horrified, not at the so-called horrors of the book, but at the limited role of women in 18th century society. Their lives are controlled and run by the men who claim authority over them. If their wishes are listened to at all, they are lucky.
5. Prepare yourself for the boredom of women’s lives, at least upper-class women, who seem to do a lot of sitting around. You can paint, you can read, you can admire the scenery (see #2 above), you can do needlework. Sometimes, you can go for scenic walks. If you’re really lucky, your controlling men (see #4) will take you to a party. But mostly you sit around in your dreary chamber and talk to yourself.
6. There will be crying and fainting. Lots and lots of it. Or swooning or being rendered speechless. In fact the main character, Emily, seems to subsist on meals consisting of a few grapes and half a glass of wine, after staying up most of the night listening for mysterious music or watching for spectres. It’s no wonder that she tips over so easily, as she’s under-nourished and under-slept all the time.

This is where so many of the Gothic romance tropes got their start—the orphaned young woman, struggling to make her own way in the world, adored by every man who stumbles across her path—she and her true love have a communication issue which leads to a horrible misunderstanding and much suffering on both sides, until the truth comes out. Radcliffe introduces the mystery element too—who is the woman in the miniature portrait left behind by Emily’s father? Why does Emily look so much like her?

Truly, I’m glad to have read this ancestress to the Gothic romances that I’ve enjoyed since junior high school. But wow I’m also glad that writing styles and expectations have moved along.

Flat Book Society

— feeling happy
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte

 

I am happy to report that this book is waiting for me at the public library, so I'm set to join in the Flat Book Society discussion of it.

 

What with this & the Festive Tasks, I think the rest of my year is all wrapped up!