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review 2018-06-19 16:44
The Constant Gardener / John Le Carré
The Constant Gardener - John le Carré

Tessa Quayle-young, beautiful, and dearly beloved to husband Justin-is gruesomely murdered in northern Kenya. When Justin sets out on a personal odyssey to uncover the mystery of her death, what he finds could make him not only a suspect but also a target for Tessa's killers.

A master chronicler of the betrayals of ordinary people caught in political conflict, John le Carré portrays the dark side of unbridled capitalism as only he can. In The Constant Gardener he tells a compelling, complex story of a man elevated through tragedy as Justin Quayle-amateur gardener, aging widower, and ineffectual bureaucrat-discovers his own natural resources and the extraordinary courage of the woman he barely had time to love.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

So its summer, finally and at last, here in the Great White North. It’s time for some summer fun reading about espionage! This is my first venture into Le Carré’s work and I enjoyed it.

I had expected a rather light & frothy thriller and instead I got a serious examination of big pharma—its use of the unfortunate as test subjects and its desire to put profit well ahead of human kindness. Also explored is the nature of colonialism in Kenya, reminding me a bit of The Poisonwood Bible. Heavy subjects for a popular novel!

I also got a reminder on the nature of marriage—those of us on the outside of a marriage really have no idea what’s happening on the inside. On the outside, Sandy and Gloria Woodrow look like the stable, steady couple and Justin and Tessa Quayle look like a precarious, unmatched union. The book begins from Sandy Woodrow’s point of view and quickly disabuses the reader of the notion that his marriage is solid. Woodrow’s constant search for sex outside his marriage was tiresome and it was a relief when I reached the point where Le Carré switched to Justin’s POV. There we discover that, far from being unstable, Justin and Tessa trusted and loved each other a great deal.

Thereafter followed the labyrinthine machinations that I had been expecting. Who knows what, who is hiding something, what can be done about it all? I can definitely see why The Guardian lists it as one of their 1000 recommended books.

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review 2018-06-19 16:12
Wizard's First Rule / Terry Goodkind
Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind

In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher's forest sanctuary seeking help . . . and more.

His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence. In a dark age it takes courage to live, and more than mere courage to challenge those who hold dominion, Richard and Kahlan must take up that challenge or become the next victims. Beyond awaits a bewitching land where even the best of their hearts could betray them. Yet, Richard fears nothing so much as what secrets his sword might reveal about his own soul. Falling in love would destroy them--for reasons Richard can't imagine and Kahlan dare not say.

In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword--to invoke within himself something more noble. Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed . . . or that their time has run out.

 

I’ve read quite a number of “high fantasy” epics as part of my SFF reading project and the Sword of Truth series is yet another one. Maybe I’ve read a few too many of these series over the past couple of years, as I was quite weary by the end of the first 100 pages. Goodkind believes in getting right to it—by 100 pages we are introduced to Richard Cypher (our chosen one for this series), Kahlan Amnell (his love interest & travel companion), and Zedd (the obligatory wizard). Not only that, Richard’s brother is set up as the corrupt politician who is going to cause trouble later. I guess it’s a toss-up between those who don’t want too much exposition or description and those who would like a gentler introduction to this new fantasy world. I cut my high fantasy teeth on Tolkien, so I tend to favour more introductory material before plunging into the adventure.

Warnings to those who are sensitive souls: both torture and pedophilia are aspects of this story. If you choose your TBR based on avoiding these issues, strike this book from your reading agenda. The torture section, where Richard is in the power of a Mord-Sith, Denna, is rather long and dwells lingeringly on her brutal treatment of Richard. We learn about what Mord-Sith are right along with Richard. Needless to say, they are on the Evil side of the equation in this story.

Richard’s talents appear to be a questioning nature, insisting on getting to the truth of things, and an ability to see things from another’s perspective and appreciate them despite their behaviour. This is how he manages to find an affection for Mistress Denna and sweet talk a dragon, among other diplomatic coups. The fact that he is portrayed as a highly unusual man because of these capabilities (to empathize with others) I leave to your judgement.

Richard and Kahlan have a whole Romeo-and-Juliet plot line going through most of the book, probably one of the oldest plot devices going. If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings you will also see echoes of Wormtongue when you consider Richard’s brother Michael and hints of Gollum when you read about the former Seeker who has been distorted by magic. Not to mention Zedd’s tendencies to give incomplete advice and to disappear when he is most needed, rather like Gandalf.

I think that perhaps my adoration of modern urban fantasy is a reaction to the plethora of rather medieval settings and simplistic good-vs-evil plots of much of high fantasy. There’s a place for both and I enjoy them both—they use many of the same tropes, after all—but we all need variety in both our physical and reading diets.

Book number 289 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2018-06-19 00:39
Tales of the Weird
National Geographic Tales of the Weird: Unbelievable True Stories - David Braun

A long time ago there was a cartoon of Calvin and Hobbes and Calvin says to Hobbes, "I have a thoroughly useless command of knowledge." Or something along those lines. This book will add to that knowledge. It had some weird, some interesting and some downright disgusting, don't eat while you read this, entries. 

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review 2018-06-18 16:45
THE SHARING KNIFE PASSAGE by LOIS McMASTER BUJOLD
Passage - Lois McMaster Bujold

Audiobook

I keep forgetting how young Fawn is. I like how the Lakewalkers aren't shown as completely good and the farmers mostly bad. Sad middle imagining what happened to the father and the rest of the crew. Enjoyable book/series. I'm planning on reading more of the series.

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review 2018-06-18 13:01
Better Late Than Never
Better Late Than Never - Jenn McKinlay

This book starts with the first ever library return where you could return your books without a fine, no matter how late they were. The library ends up being filled with books being returned after weeks, months and years. Lindsey, the library director, asks her usuals at the "Crafternoon" to help check books back into the library and arrange them for placement back on shelves. She even offers prizes for the book that was returned after being gone the longest. The ladies find a book that was checked out 1 day before the person who borrowed it was murdered. Lindsey takes the book to the police and then starts her own investigation with Robbie, an old English actor with a crush on her, to find out who really murdered the lady, an English teacher at the local high school. 

 

This also has Lindsey "talking" about her relationship with Sully and then the two of them coming out and letting the whole town know. 

 

It was a cute story and there were some moments that were too crazy to be probable, but still a fun story. 

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