Saturday, July 14, 2018

“A Casualty of War” by Charles Todd - Scars of the Mind

The Charles Todd Team Returns to World War I

Endless literature, both factual and fictional, has been created on the topic of the First World War, the events leading up to it as well as its eventual historical repercussions. It came to an end a hundred years ago, and the further we step away from it, the less real it all feels in a certain sense. While we know without a doubt the events did take place, I believe very few of us actually feel a connection to them or the people caught up in the meat grinder... at this point, they are all just stories. Then comes along the writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd with the novel A Casualty of War, reminding us people as real as you and I took part in the war, and they were no less damaged by it than the unfortunate veterans of today.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

“Another Woman's Husband” by Gill Paul – A Tragic Spotlight for Women

Gill Paul's Tale of Betrayal and Friendship

Princess Diana is one of the few figures in modern history found fascinating all around the globe. Today, what most people remember about the woman is her tragic ending as well as the controversy surrounding it... even to this day the question hangs in the air as to what really happened in that car crash, and how accidental it was in the first place. Nevertheless, it seems her eventful death overshadowed her even more remarkable life, one which lends itself to works of historical fiction such as Another Woman's Husband by Gill Paul. Though not directly centred on the famous figure herself, it does present a compelling portrayal of two very special women in history and a stab at lay beneath a scandal which shook the whole world up.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

“Operator Down” by Brad Taylor - The Nuclear Anti-Democracy Party

Brad Taylor Shows his Espionage Chops

Ever since Ian Fleming's James Bond rocked the world through countless novels and movies, the idea of a super-spy has become immensely popular all around the world. After all, what could more exhilarating than a man with all the brains, brawn and charm the world could afford? As it turned out over the years, many things can be more exciting as the archetype begins to seem more and more like a relic of the past. It takes a certain amount of skill and know-how to create an engaging super-spy figure these days, and I have to say while many authors have tried, not too many have can claim to have known the success Brad Taylor has. Penning multiple series with their own special agents, Taylor has given his all to the thriller espionage genre and still going strong as ever with his latest Pike Logan novel titled Operator Down.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

“Fraulein M.” by Caroline Woods – The Immense Weight of Family Roots

Caroline Woods Jumps through History

Despite the countless fiction and non-fiction books written on the Second World War, I somehow doubt it will cease to make for an engaging setting for novels of virtually any genre. It remains a period in time fraught with pain and hope in equal measure, of stories waiting to be told. The impact Nazi Germany had on the world cannot be overstated, and in some cases is even felt to this very day. After all, the people of the Third Reich were all humans, and once all was said and done, most tried to go back to their regular lives. Understandably, many of them did whatever they could to hide their history and affiliations, even if they weren't to blame for them. In her novel titled Fraulein M., Caroline Woods takes us into the heart of a family drama where a woman discovers her family roots to be quite different from what she expected.

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.