Category Archives: Wisdom From Kammbia Column

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 31: Ascending by Meg Pechenick

What if you were the only person on a spaceship with an alien race? You were the person groomed to speak an alien language and take part in an intercultural exchange between planets? You would want to do it in the first place? If you did, how you feel about it? Excited? Optimistic? Groundbreaking? Or would you feel scared? Alone? Unsure what made you reach that kind of decision?

Those questions I just mentioned in the prior paragraph are the questions that Avery Alcott, the protagonist of Ascending by Meg Pechenick has to deal with in this excellent first-contact story. The last first contact story I’ve read was The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Ascending has some similarities to The Sparrow in terms of linguistics and how does an individual assimilate into an alien culture. However, The Sparrow has a religious perspective (Catholicism) that Ascending does not. Both novels have done an excellent job of detailing the highs and lows of such an intercultural exchange.

The Vardeshi visited Earth and did not like what they saw from our planet. They vowed to never return. However, they came back twenty-five years later after their initial visit. This time, the Vardeshi agreed to accept an Earthling onto their ship to learn more about humankind. They chose Avery Alcott to be the sole representative from Earth for a year long mission to become a member on their ship headed into space.

Avery transitioned onto the Vardeshi spaceship well in the beginning but as the time passed, the conflicts and issues between cultures clashed. Pechenick does an excellent job with Avery showing realistic issues in this scenario. Also, she reveals Avery’s inner thoughts that go from eagerness to despair in a believable fashion.

I enjoyed reading Ascending and Avery Alcott was a compelling protagonist. However, I thought the reveal of a romance later in the novel did not set right with me. The hints were there earlier in the novel, but I did not feel convinced about the romance. It seemed out of place between those characters. That quibble should not stop readers from reading this excellent novel. I highly recommend Ascending and it continues my recent string of novels that have become my favorite reads of 2019.

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 30: The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

It is interesting how a certain sub-genre presents itself to you as a reader. I have not been a historical fiction reader throughout my reading life. However, I read several historical fiction novels over the past couple of years. Beginning with the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay like Children of Earth and Sky, A Brightness… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 29: The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli tells the story of Luca Vianello, heir to a gondola-making business. However, he is a participant to a tragedy that strikes the business and alters the course of his life. Luca begins to pick up the pieces of his life and becomes a boatman to an established and famed… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 28: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

King writes an interesting, psychological story about a nine year old girl that gets separated from her family and lost in the woods. King probes the internal psyche of a young girl in such a situation and uses the power of imagination in the form of her favorite baseball player, Tom Gordon of the Boston… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 27: Map of Shadows by J.F. Penn

J.F. Penn wrote a fast-paced, dark fantasy thriller about a young woman named Sienna that belongs to a family of mapmakers and their connection to another world called the Borderlands. Map of Shadows is the first book of the trilogy and does a solid job of setting up the conflict between the people of this… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 26: The Pearl by John Steinbeck

One of the most often quoted verses of biblical scripture is from the New Testament book of 1 Timothy 6:10: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Even if you are a non-religious person, I’m pretty sure you have heard that verse of scripture in a secular fashion. It seems… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 25: Chronicle Of A Death Foretold

For the world-renowned novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, most readers have read or attempted to read One Hundred Years of Solitude or the more accessible Love In The Time of Cholera. Some (like me) have read both novels. However, Garcia Marquez has a body of work that gets overlooked by those aforementioned books. I was in… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 24: How The Light Gets In by Louise Penny

One of the great joys of reading is coming upon a series that you would have never read at first glance. This has happened to me with the Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny. I’m a not a big mystery or crime fiction reader. However, I read The Long Way Home two years ago and… Continue Reading