178 Followers
213 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

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
Sam Kean
Lion (Movie Tie-In)
Saroo Brierley
Narcissus in Chains
Laurell K. Hamilton
Progress: 445/644 pages
Strong Poison
Dorothy L. Sayers
Doomsday Book
Connie Willis
Progress: 226/578 pages

Bayou Moon / Ilona Andrews

Bayou Moon - Ilona Andrews

The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where people shop at Walmart and magic is a fairytale–and the Weird, where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny…

Cerise Mar and her unruly clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands between the state of Louisiana and the Weird. When her parents vanish, her clan’s long-time rivals are suspect number one.

But all is not as it seems. Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over into the Edge—and Cerise’s life . William, a changeling soldier who left behind the politics of the Weird, has been forced back into service to track down a rival nation’s spymaster.

When William’s and Cerise’s missions lead them to cross paths, sparks fly—but they’ll have to work together if they want to succeed…and survive.

 

One of the main things that I love about the Andrews’ female main characters is that they are very self-sufficient & competent to run their lives. They are acknowledged to be high functioning people by their families & circles of friends. Not only can they handle the vicissitudes of life, they can defend themselves and their dependents.

Another reason that I love their books? The humour. In this book, when Cerise and William first meet, they are both “undercover.” She thinks he’s an ass and secretly calls him Lord Leatherpants. She is smelling rather pungent, and William not-so-secretly calls her the Hobo Queen.

William leaned forward and pointed at the river. “I don’t know why you rolled in spaghetti sauce,” he said in a confidential voice. “I don’t really care. But that water over there won’t hurt you. Try washing it off.”
She stuck her tongue out.
“Maybe after you’re clean,” he said.
Her eyes widened. She stared at him for a long moment. A little crazy spark lit up in her dark irises.
She raised her finger, licked it, and rubbed some dirt off her forehead.
Now what?
The girl showed him her stained finger and reached toward him slowly, aiming for his face.
“No,” William said. “Bad hobo.”



There are, of course, the obligatory rocks in the romance road. As Shakespeare told us, the course of true love never did run smooth. But that line is from Midsummer Night’s Dream and the plot line of this story is more Taming of the Shrew.

TBR Thursday

Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked - James Lasdun You Could Live a Long Time: Are You Ready? - Lyndsay Green Lady Slings the Booze - Spider Robinson

So I'm actually almost finished everything on last week's TBR Thursday!  Yay me!

 

I'm really looking forward to Strong Poison, as I keep hearing good things from several of you (and I'm pretty enamoured of Lord Peter anyway).

 

And speaking of hearing from the rest of you, it sounds like very few of the Flat Book Society are too impressed with The Disappearing Spoon.  I'll still give it a shot, since I have it out of the library.

 

Next up is my February RL Book Club selection, Give Me Everything You Have.  I've actually previously read this, but way back in 2013, so this is more a brush-up to allow me to talk about the book with the club ladies.

 

I've also got retirement on my mind.  I'll be taking a 2 day course in February on preparing to retire.  But I remembered a book that I read way back--it was published in 2010 and that's probably when I encountered it.  The author's thesis:  that we concentrate too much on financials and not on the social aspects of retirement.  So I'm going to revisit You Could Live a Long Time, Are You Ready? now that I'm nearer that event to help me get my house in order.

 

Finally, I want to get back on track with my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project and the next book on the list is Lady Slings the Booze.  Sigh!  If you're a big fan of puns, Spider Robinson is the writer for you.  Unfortunately I just find them pun-ishing and I'm not too fond of his version of women either, so thank heavens its a short book.

 

I seem to also be slipping in a number of re-reads of old favourites, so we'll see how much progress I make on this list this week.

 

Looking forward to seeing what all my friends are enjoying too!

 

Have a great weekend!

What Angels Fear / C.S. Harris

What Angels Fear - C.S. Harris

It's 1811, and the threat of revolution haunts the upper classes of King George III's England. Then a beautiful young woman is found raped and savagely murdered on the altar steps of an ancient church near Westminster Abbey. A dueling pistol discovered at the scene and the damning testimony of a witness both point to one man, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experience in the Napoleonic Wars.

Now a fugitive running for his life, Sebastian calls upon his skill as an agent during the war to catch the killer and prove his own innocence. In the process, he accumulates a band of unlikely allies, including the enigmatic beauty Kat Boleyn, who broke Sebastian's heart years ago. In Sebastian's world of intrigue and espionage, nothing is as it seems, yet the truth may hold the key to the future of the British monarchy, as well as to Sebastian's own salvation...

 

Perhaps a 3.5 star book?

Certainly good, but maybe not exactly my cup of tea. Probably because of the time period, which so many people seem to adore. I, however, have a complicated relationship with the time of carriages, cloaks, dueling pistols, and severe class distinctions.

I also went into this expecting a paranormal angle of some sort, which was completely off base. Yes, our hero, Sebastian St. Cyr, has a couple of special abilities, but as the author explains at book’s end, this is from a documented genetic condition, not a paranormal cause.

If you enjoyed this book or this time period, I would recommend Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia or Veronica Speedwell series. Also try E.L. Tettensor’s Nicolas Lenoir duology or The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod. These last two have distinct paranormal aspects, which made them preferable for my reading tastes.

In the Bleak Midwinter / Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the Bleak Midwinter - Julia Spencer-Fleming

Heavy Snow...Icy Desires...Cold-Blooded Murder

Clare Fergusson, St. Alban's new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Millers Kill, New York. She is not just a "lady," she's a tough ex-Army chopper pilot, and nobody's fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town's police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who's also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby's mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other—and murder...

 

I never know these days when I pick up a mystery whether it will be a hit or a miss—I have read so many of them at this point that I’ve become pretty picky.

So I was pleasantly surprised by this selection—for a first book of a series, it was great. First off, I enjoyed the author’s style. I was never distracted by the words, I was able to immerse myself in the world of Millers Kill, N.Y. and go with the flow.

Secondly, I really connected with her two main characters, Rev. Claire Fergusson and the Chief of Police, Russ Van Alstyne. I loved Clare’s independence, the unexpectedness of her being an Episcopalian priest, being ex-army, driving an impractical hot little red car, and learning the ins and outs of this new community where she has been hired. I also couldn’t help liking Russ, who grew up in the community and has returned after his army career.

Just like Agatha Christie, Spencer-Fleming has chosen a small town as a setting for her story. It gives Clare and Russ a much better knowledge of the people around them, making the crime-solving aspect much more informed and interesting. Solving murders in a big city involves much more luck, while these mysteries set in small communities allow for much more exploration of the human decisions that pull people into criminal acts.

Unlike so many series where I’ve sampled one book and feel no need to follow up, I suspect I will catch up with Claire and Russ again in the near future!

The Wisdom of Psychopaths / Kevin Dutton

The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success - Kevin Dutton

In this engrossing journey into the lives of psychopaths and their infamously crafty behaviors, the renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals that there is a scale of “madness” along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.

 

As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused—qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century.

 

 

If you choose to read this book, I would advise regarding it completely as entertainment. Don’t expect it to reveal too much about the issue of psychopathy—it tells the reader much more about the author than about this mental condition.

This is a book to be enjoyed for its anecdotes, not for its scholarship. The author seems to believe that quite a number of psychopaths populate his life—from his father to one of his childhood friends. Plus he tells an entertaining story of his visit to Broadmoor Hospital, where psychopaths are securely housed.

Despite the author’s enthusiasm, I’m not sure that we regular folk have anything of any great import to learn from psychopaths. Much more significant in my opinion is the ability of regular folk to recognize these damaged people and deal with or avoid them, something that the author doesn’t even broach. This seems to be more the author as a fan, rather than a realist about the condition.  Still an entertaining read.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic / Emily Croy Barker

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic.

 

Not quite what I was anticipating—which is a bit of an issue when the book is over 500 pages!

Under normal circumstances, I adore books which include the Fae, which this one does. Nora, our main character, bumps into an odd guy on campus and he rather obscurely grants her wish for a complete change of pace in life. One assumes that he is a member of this book’s Faitoren who was inhabiting our world, instead of the alternate world that Nora is transported to.

This is very much an alternate reality book—like Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series, H. Beam Piper’s Paratime novels or Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. In this iteration, Nora gets transported into a rather medieval world which relies on magic rather than technology. Of course, she discovers some facility for magic, which saves her life from being total drudgery.

One of my main issues was the character of Aruendiel, the magician who rescues Nora from the Faitoren and assumes responsibility for her in this very, very patriarchal world. He’s no Dumbledore or Gandalf—he’s cranky, prejudiced, and arrogant. His relationship with Nora is a very reluctant one, consisting more of feeling responsible for her than any affection. Then when the balance seems to twist towards Aruendiel wanting more of their relationship, he isn’t willing to unbend enough to verbalize it, leaving Nora really to twist in the wind, wondering if she’s imagining things. Just to confuse things even more, Aruendiel seems to try fairly often to foist her on other men as a wife or he is searching for a “window” to send her home to her own reality. There’s a limited amount of speculation about the magician’s age and I gained the feeling that he was way too old to be a viable love-interest for Nora.

There is some exploration of the notion that Nora, coming from our reality, doesn’t act enough like a (subservient) woman in the magic time line. But the chances to explore the nature of the relations between men and women gets short shrift (except on the many occasions when Nora is pissed off about it). She basically works like a galley slave on Aruendiel’s estate except when he grants her special privileges to study or practice magic.


Although Nora ends up feeling attracted to Aruendiel, I just couldn’t feel the basis for it. He was too old, too arrogant, too prejudiced against women. I could understand some respect for him as a teacher (although he didn’t seem to be all that great an instructor, honestly), but beyond that was beyond my ability to suspend my disbelief.

Nevertheless, there’s a lid for every pot and I’m sure that this book will suit a lot of readers better than it did me.

The Advent Killer / Alastair Gunn

The Advent Killer - Alastair Gunn

Christmas is coming. One body at a time. Three weeks before Christmas: Sunday, one a.m. A woman is drowned in her bathtub.  One week later: Sunday, one a.m. A woman is beaten savagely to death, every bone in her body broken.  Another week brings another victim.

As panic spreads across London, DCI Antonia Hawkins, leading her first murder investigation, must stop a cold, careful killer whose twisted motives can only be guessed at, before the next body is found. On Sunday.  When the clock strikes one . .

 

Somehow this murder mystery didn’t grab me the way some of them do. I started it in late December, but then had a long hiatus until finishing it in early January. It’s a solid enough story, with enough red herrings to keep me from being positive who dunnit until close to the end of the book.

My problem was that I didn’t really connect with the main character, Antonia Hawkins. She seemed to me to be rather thin-skinned and inept for someone who had risen as high in the ranks as she had. And I really disliked her tendency to mix her work and private life indiscriminately. I know that it can be hard to keep those lines from blurring, but Tonia seemed to just heave herself precipitously back into a work relationship with no self-reflection at all. And there’s far more snotty weeping that I care for in a main female character!

Nevertheless, it’s not a bad book and was certainly appropriate for the Christmas season. A few good murders keep the holiday from getting too saccharine sweet.

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie / compiled by L. Klinger

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917 - Leslie S. Klinger

Agatha Christie is undoubtedly the world’s best-selling mystery author, hailed as the “Queen of Crime,” with worldwide sales in the billions. Christie burst onto the literary scene in 1920, with The Mysterious Affair at Styles; her last novel was published in 1976, a career longer than even Conan Doyle’s forty-year span.

The truth is that it was due to the success of writers like Anna Katherine Green in America; L. T. Meade, C. L. Pirkis, the Baroness Orczy, and Elizabeth Corbett in England; and Mary Fortune in Australia that the doors were finally opened for women crime-writers. Authors who followed them, such as Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy Sayers, and, of course, Agatha Christie would not have thrived without the bold, fearless work of their predecessors—and the genre would be much poorer for their absence. So while Agatha Christie may still reign supreme, it is important to remember that she did not ascend that throne except on the shoulders of the women who came before her—and inspired her—and who are now removed from her shadow once and for all by this superb new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger.

 

A historically interesting collection of short stories by women in the crime/mystery genre. They are products of their time, published before the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Don’t go into this volume expecting the quality of those two talented women writers!

These are the roots of women writing in this genre from the late 1800’s into the early 20th century. If you’ve read books like Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho or Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, you will have a fairly clear idea of what you are getting in this collection. The best part is that these are short works—there is no need to wade through the pages and pages of description that the reader encounters in the two novels reference above. You can sample and decide if there are authors whose work you wish to pursue further.

I put a hold on this book in my public library, believing that I would get more contemporaries of Ms. Christie, those who were writing “in her shadow,” so it wasn’t quite what I was anticipating. Still, it made an excellent book for coffee breaks, allowing me to read a whole story before having to set the book down & return to business.

TBR Thursday

What Angels Fear - C.S. Harris In the Bleak Midwinter - Julia Spencer-Fleming The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success - Kevin Dutton Lion (Movie Tie-In) - Saroo Brierley

 

My sister is coming to visit this weekend, so I'm sure my reading time will be curtailed.  For one thing, I have to get the guest room shoveled out so she has a place to lay her weary head!  As I've been unearthing the bed, I've discovered last year's Christmas presents--perhaps I need to make some decisions? 

 

My sister runs a house cleaning business, so I need to have everything clean enough that she won't insist on working while she stays with me.  Not that I would mind the help, but I know that she wears arm braces because of all the scrubbing that she does and I want her to save her effort for people who are paying her.  (Is it evil that I have actually marked off a couple of household projects in my mind that I will enlist her on if she insists on "being helpful"?  Neither should require any scrubbing, just re-organizing.)

 

But, back to the point of this post, these are the four books that I have out of the public library that have holds on them.  I've got a much larger stack of books beside my reading chair, but these four will have to get first attention.

 

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

 

Very Good, Jeeves / P.G. Wodehouse

Very Good, Jeeves! - P.G. Wodehouse

Whatever the cause of Bertie Wooster's consternation — Bobbie Wickham gives away fierce Aunt Agatha's dog; again in the bad books of Sir Roderick Glossop; Tuppy crushes on robust opera singer — Jeeves can untangle the most ferocious muddle.

 

What an excellent first book for 2019! Wodehouse writes like a charm, making me giggle whilst turning a gorgeous phrase. And it’s as if he knew the women in my family when he says, “Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can’t get it.” My sisters, my niece and myself frequently suffer from being hangry if we are not fed & watered on a regular basis. Having a pleasant outing requires copious amounts of coffee, regular feedings, and sufficient snacks for the day. So Jeeves plan to disrupt Mrs. Bingo Little’s school friendship through depriving her of lunch plus delaying tea-time was entirely believable to me.

I love Bertie’s willingness to flee the house to avoid unpleasantness, his suffering being known as a lunatic in order to avoid jobs & women. He is the ultimate peace-at-any-pricer. The all-knowing expertise of Jeeves is the perfect foil to the very fallible B. Wooster.

If you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of Mr. Wooster and the inimitable Jeeves, what are you waiting for?

Menu Monday

Well, I might as well confess right now that in 2018 my inner hoarder got the best of me.  I was unable to by-pass a sale of canned goods that I knew that I could use at some point.  As a result, the canned goods shelf in my kitchen in over flowing.  One of my New Year's Resolutions is to use up what I've got before I buy more.

 

The second thing is my new recipe file--it is stuffed full of magazine pages and photocopies, all of food that sounds good to me.  So my second Resolution is to try more of these recipes.  Any that are good, I copy into my personal cookbook, then I send the photocopies to my sister.  She has recently let me know that she appreciates my being her personal test kitchen.  She cooked several things over the holidays that turned out well.

 

So, in the interest of pursuing my Resolutions, here are the canned goods used to produce a Pumpkin Pie Crumble for a family event over Christmas:

 

 

And here is the complete crumble:

 

 

Topped with a bit of whipped topping, it was quite delightful:

 

 

More recently, I made Mexican Pork Stew:

 

 

It only required one tin of tomatoes, so you are spared the "Can Photo."

 

However, I was very happy to move all of these items out of inventory:

 

 

The creamed corn went into this Creole Cornbread:

 

 

When it was fresh from the oven, it was quite pleasant, if a bit crumbly.  Leftovers are not nearly as nice, even when heated, so I think I will return to my cornmeal muffins in future.

 

Also produced during this session was Deconstructed Cabbage Roll Soup:

 

 

The recipe made an enormous amount, so some has been pitched into the freezer, to provide a home-cooked meal on one of those evenings when I have no desire to cook anything.

 

2019 is off to a good start! 

 

 

 

New Year's Resolutions

 

Finally, a list of resolutions that I think I can live with!  I can guarantee that Number 1 and Number 4 will happen and I will certainly hope that I can achieve Number 5!

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 87 out of 356 pages.

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917 - Leslie S. Klinger

 

This is turning out to be a perfect coffee break book.

 

However, I only have 5 days left to read it--too many holds at the library, I can't renew it.

 

Among my other tasks for the weekend, I must see if I can finish this.

What Do You Do When You're Awake at 4 a.m.?

Njal's Saga - Anonymous, Robert Cook

 

I had a restless night, more so than usual.  I'm often awake for a few minutes at 3 a.m., but this morning I found myself wide awake at 4 a.m.  Sometimes, if the right radio show is on, the program can lull me back to slumber.  A quick check of CBC radio found a documentary about this Icelandic saga--what is says about Icelandic history, society, etc.  Perfect!  I heard enough of the radio program to know that I'd be interested to read the saga and then I was unconscious again until my alarm.

 

Thank goodness for CBC radio!

Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 356 pages.

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917 - Leslie S. Klinger

 

Okay, I really enjoyed Harriet Prescott Spofford's Mr. Furbish.

 

Like any collection of short fiction, some I like better than others.

TBR Thursday

Lion (Movie Tie-In) - Saroo Brierley Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker What Angels Fear - C.S. Harris Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire

So, a new reading year begins!

 

These are the books that I have out of the public library right now.  Lion is the January book for my real life book club.  Unfortunately, I'm going to miss our January get-together, but I'll still read the book this month.

 

Wicked will be another title finished in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.  I'm looking forward to having more time for this project in 2019.

 

The other three books are purely for reading pleasure!  Strong Poison in my next step in the Lord Peter Wimsy series, which I've found highly entertaining.  And both What Angels Fear and The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic have been on my TBR list for ages.  I'm finally going to take the time to enjoy them.

 

Ahhh, reading what I want to with no arbitrary reading goals!  It feels rather sinful, but I'm going to enjoy myself.

 

What's next with you?