Monday, June 11, 2018

“The Wonderful World of Bernies” by Bernard M. Patten – The Emergence of a Genius

Bernard M. Patten's Unusual Path


Though they are relatively few when compared to the rest of us, notably great people have come and gone throughout history in greater numbers than we'll probably ever fathom. After all, not every sort of greatness will lead to public and historical recognition, and many of the people standing behind humanity's greatest feats and discoveries will largely remain mysteries, at least for the majority of us. Thinking about these great people which we did and didn't know, we can't help but ask ourselves how exactly do they come to be? Are they born with irrevocable talents? Do they simply happen to be at the right place at the right time? Where do their drives and ideas come from? Where they always destined for greatness? How do their lives differ from a regular person? The questions requiring answers are many, and surprisingly enough we get quite a few of them in Bernard M. Patten's The Wonderful World of Bernies.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

“The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence” by Alyssa Palombo – Passion Immortalized


Alyssa Palombo's Re-Imagined Romance


I think it's safe to say, over the course of human history, we never really had a solid idea of how to treat the concept of love, one of the few unquantifiable phenomena we know exists with steel-like certainty. Societies have tried to impose various rules, morals and traditions around it, changing them time and time again to fit the climate of the epoch. The saying dictating chivalry being dead, while greatly exaggerated, points to the idea of romance having lost importance over the years... and while I can't exactly vouch for how it was a few centuries ago, there has been a general trend of substituting practicality in favour of emotional satisfaction. Some dream of going back to a simpler time when romance took a central stage in peoples' existences, as does Alyssa Palombo in her novel titled The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

“Robicheaux” by James Lee Burke – Grasping Hands from the Darkness

A Return to James Lee Burke's Louisiana Backwoods


A distinguished place in terms of people, geography and history, Louisiana has for a long time attracted countless artists, begging to be studied and used for its limitless potential as a source of inspiration. James Lee Burke is one of the many authors to have seized upon this opportunity, using the atmospheric backdrop for his detective series, Dave Robicheaux. Centring on a broken and haunted war veteran turned detective, the series has seen him tackling one ghost from his past after the next all while trying to stay afloat in the twisted and murderous swamps practically beckoning to him. In the latest novel about the alcoholic, Vietnam veteran, widower detective, titled very simply Robicheaux, we once again return to the mysterious towns and backwoods of Louisiana as a murder investigation takes the titular character on a path of self-discovery he could have never anticipated.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

“Love and Other Consolation Prizes” by Jamie Ford – Raffled into a Pilgrimage

Jamie Ford Digs up Forgotten History


America's history may be relatively short when compared to most other countries in the world, but it is already full of small pockets in danger of being forgotten by our records. While some would argue it best to sweep things under the rug, I feel most of us agree a country should own up to its history, no matter how grim it might be, so the same errors do not repeat themselves. In an attempt to remind us of the tragedies we've forgotten, some authors have taken it upon themselves to shine light on subjects hitting close to home, and it's precisely what Jamie Ford did with his numerous writings centred on Asian-Americans during the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Song of Willow Frost. We'll be exploring another one of his acclaimed novels revolving around the subject, titled Love and Other Consolation Prizes , centred on a Chinese boy with a most peculiar destiny.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

“Blood of the Four” by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon – An Odyssey of Gods and Slaves

Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (Book cover)

Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon United


The idea of co-authorship is in itself a fine practice, often allowing lesser-known authors to make their talents known by collaborating with established figures. Unfortunately, in many cases proficient authors sink into complacency and essentially allow their partners to do all the work for them, being content with merely slapping their names on the cover and drawing the profits from it. There are times however when a partnership between authors gives rise to something great, a work that exceeds what either could have achieved on their own and pulling them in a direction neither have really considered. I'd say that Blood of the Four would fall under this umbrella, written in cooperation by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, two deeply respected and skilled authors in their own rights.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

“Knight's Shadow” by Sebastien de Castell – The Homeland Under Siege

Revisiting the Epic World with Sebastien de Castell


Fantasy is understandably one of the most common genres authors tend to gravitate towards, presenting them with a blank canvas with innumerable paints at their disposal, a world of infinite possibilities and equally numerous tropes and conventions. There are some who seek to bravely reinvent the wheel, while others such as Sebastien de Castell prefer to mostly work within the boundaries of what has already been achieved in an attempt to weave breathtaking stories banking on a whole lot more than mere novelty. In the first book of The Greatcoats series, de Castell established an epic and marvellous universe for his fantastic adventures, and thankfully it was only the beginning as we get to explore it in greater depth in the second book titled Knight's Shadow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

“House of Spies” by Daniel Silva – Destroyer of the West

House of Spies by Daniel Silva (Book cover)

Daniel Silva's Legendary Spy Returns


A great deal of authors have made a name for themselves writing thriller series centred on one character, taking them from one worldly location to the next as the books expand further and further. Unfortunately, for many of these writers the quality of the series begins to dip exponentially once they get far enough to run out of ideas, and ultimately fans consider only the first few books worthy of attention. It's a fate that befell far too many people, but Daniel Silva has managed to avoid it with grace and dignity as he published the seventeenth book in the Gabriel Allon series titled House of Spies, without losing a single step from his earlier days. For those unfamiliar with him, Gabriel Allon is an Israeli master spy as well as an art restorer (even heroes need hobbies) whose life essentially consists of stopping an endless stream of terrorists from destroying the world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Mississippi Blood" by Greg Iles – Beneath the Veil of the Deep South

Into Cruel Territory with Greg Iles


The United States might officially be a single entity, but one could make the argument the divisions between its various subcultures are so pronounced the country is in fact composed from a few smaller countries roughly-slapped together. The difference in the people's mentalities and customs are quite noticeable from coast to coast and border to border, and I believe it's fair to say the Deep South is certainly one of more interesting microcosms on this continent. Seeped in cruel and violent history, it's a place where traditions of old mix with progressive ideas, one where glamour and blood appeared in equal measure. In the final chapter of his Natchez Burning trilogy titled Mississippi Blood, Greg Iles takes us back there once again as we follow Penn Cage on what will perhaps be the most trying and critical time of his life.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

“The Gift” by Louise Jensen – The Balance of Life and Death

Exploring a Cycle of Mysteries with Louise Jensen


Organ donation is the kind of topic most of us are going to ignore until either something very interesting happens in that world, or it begins to concern us directly. However, if we stop to think about it just for a little bit, it must be an incredibly bizarre experience to be living with someone else's organ beating inside of you, especially if the donor in question had to be dead to make that happen. The cycle of life and death is a curious one, and organ donation (or recycling, if you will) only adds to the strangeness of the whole affair. For authors such as Louise Jensen, it can set the perfect stage for a gripping and unsettling thriller mystery, as it did for her novel The Gift.

“Points of Impact” by Marko Kloos – The Critical Turning Point

Marko Kloos Turns the Tables


In the previous books of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos we were presented with a vast and long-standing conflict between Earth and a race of alien invaders known as the Lankies. Despite the enemy's technological superiority, earthlings managed to hold on by a thread and have slowed the invasion to a screeching halt. However, they aren't exactly out of the woods yet as the great conquerors are looming above them and have still a considerable amount of fight left in them. The struggle between humans and warring aliens is one that has come back time and time again throughout science-fiction literature, and there are seemingly a million different outcomes to this sort of scenario. In some of them mankind prevails, but in many others it gets obliterated, assimilated or enslaved... in the sixth novel of the series, titled Points of Impact , we get to witness the turning point of a critical stalemate.

"Two Nights" by Kathy Reichs – A Life Buried Deep

Kathy Reichs' Ode to the Lonely


The scars we bear, both physical and psychological, ultimately shape us more than we would ever like or care to admit. We live our lives in accordance with the things we want to avoid, with the knowledge that tremendous pain and suffering not only exist, but can only be staved off rather than circumvented. Many people who end up living lonely lives have been hurt and scarred in some ways, enough to make them lose faith in the world around them. In Kathy Reich's Two Nights we are presented with just such a heroine, named Sunday Night.

“Dark Network” by James McCrone – An Election of Spies and Traitors

James McCrone and the Sanctity of Balloting


While countless critics of the United States election system will always be present, and generally not without reason, there are few out there who would deny the sanctity of the voting process itself, the tremendous importance it has in determining a country's future. It shouldn't come as a surprise that some people have been found guilty of voter fraud, risking their life in freedom to give their favourite candidate an ever-slighter chance of winning the election. The extremes people can go to in order to decide on the future of an entire nation have no limits, and as we see it in Dark Network by James McCrone, the second book in the Imogen Trager trilogy, the line separating friend from enemy is razor-thin in that atmosphere.