Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Hannah's Heirloom Trilogy" by Rosie Chapel – A Double Life 2000 Years Apart

Hannah's Heirloom Trilogy by Rosie Chapel (Book cover)

The Rosie Chapel History Tour

Time travel is a concept that has been approached from many different angles by countless authors, each one trying to accomplish something specific, to materialize their concrete view of the concept's realization. While some like to get down into the details, there are others for whom it's really more of a way to transport the reader into an unfamiliar setting while sticking with a familiar type of character, sometimes even being a stand-in for the audience. For authors like Rosie Chapel, time travel is more part of the plot than the actual plot itself, at least if we just take a look at the three novels which constitute Hannah's Heirloom trilogy. Just to give you the lay of the land, they follow the titular heroine as she travels the world in modern times and in each book finds herself transported into the past as a woman she seems inexplicably linked to. Juggling life between the past and present, she experiences the attack on Herod's Fortress, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and life in the badlands of Northumbria... all while trying to further her search for her ancestor's carved pomegranate and feed a blossoming love with her best friend, Max Vallier.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

"Provenance" by Ann Leckie – A Political Coming-of-Age

Provenance by Ann Leckie (book cover)

A Return to the Imperial Radch with Ann Leckie

When Ann Leckie began penning her now-famous trilogy, she had no idea the extent of the world she would end up creating and how many stories it would be able to encompass within itself. Throughout the three novels she developed it to such an extent that the world itself became a character of its own, one that begged for further exploration... which is precisely what she gave us in her latest novel, Provenance . Before having a look at the story itself, I'd just like to mention that while the novel does take place in the same general setting, it isn't really related to the afore-mentioned trilogy and can be completely read on its own. With that being said, the more background knowledge you have about this world and the fresher it is in your mind, the better of a starting understanding you'll have about the dynamics at play here.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Home" by Harlan Coben – Bring the Boys Back Home!

Harlan Coben's Take on Hope

Hope is a rather funny concept, for on one hand it can give us the will to live, to continue fighting and enduring, while on the other hand, it can deceptively lead us from the frying pan into the fire as it becomes an obsession and an inability to accept reality. Luckily for us though, literary characters are fortunate enough not having to contend with such frustrating real-life dilemmas. For them, hope is without a question the path (and literary device) to follow and cling to, as Win Lockwood does for over a decade in Harlan Coben's Home .

Thursday, November 02, 2017

"Midnight on Mars" - The Many Faces of Fear

M.C. Glan's Fading Humanity

The idea that one day we'll be forced to leave Earth and look for a shelter elsewhere is certainly not without foundation. With each and every second we are further exhausting the non-renewable resources that make our civilization turn round, and even if we manage to move on to completely recyclable energy and solve all the critical worldly issues (such as hunger and diseases), we'll still have to deal with a dying sun. In other words, whether it takes two thousand or two billion years, one day we'll have to leave this planet of ours if we want to survive. M.C. Glan is an author who decided to play on that aspect in her first published effort, the novella Midnight on Mars.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

“What the Hell Did I Just Read” by David Wong – The Unreliable Narrators

Into David Wong's Absurdity

David Wong is a writer that doesn't need much of an introduction for those who are into horror comedies. His John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders have catapulted him into relative stardom, demonstrating his capability of bringing something original and hilarious to the genre. Perhaps without really wanting to, Wong created one of the most memorable and likeable trios in recent memory with Dave, John and Amy; a band of arguable losers and definite misfits who seem to be drawn to circumstances as strange as they are themselves. Reluctantly, they've saved their worthless little town of [Undisclosed] on more than one occasion, battling threats that seem much more ridiculous and nonsensical than actually deadly (despite it being the case). With the third book in the series, What the Hell Did I Just Read, Wong returns to our three beloved stooges and has them recount a rather unbelievable story.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

“The Idea of You” by Amanda Prowse – The Loss of Motherhood

Amanda Prowse Explores the Mother

Being a parent is one of those aspirations that transcends race, gender, culture, nationality and whatever else you may have. It's a biological, cultural and psychological yearning that governs the grand majority of us, to the point where many people don't even need to have a debate with themselves as to whether or not they want children. Unfortunately, nature and genetics are cruel and unforgiving, making it extremely challenging, if not impossible for certain people to conceive. This painful yearning for a child that never comes is one known to far too many people, and it serves as the central theme for Amanda Prowse's emotional and captivating novel, The Idea of You.

As the story opens we are presented with Lucy Carpenter, a woman who is about to turn forty, is pregnant and has a new husband, Jonah. She has always had problems maintaining a pregnancy, and feels this is indeed her last chance to bring into this world a child of her own. Life feels quite hopefully, if not idyllic to a certain extent, until the day that Jonah's teenage step daughter, Camille, comes over to stay with them. Her arrival only serves to complicate things within the household, straining the marriage between Lucy and Jonah as the former is unable to build a bridge between herself and Camille... not to mention that she remembers all she cannot have when looking at the young girl. Soon, Lucy's life takes a turn for the worst and it all begins to tear apart at the seams, and she begins to wonder if there is actually any salvation in sight, whether it will be possible for her to have the family she always wanted.

The Strife of Infertility

To begin with, I'd like to say that the subject matter this book deals with is quite dark and heavy, depicting a lifelong tragedy that many people are sadly familiar with. The unfulfilled desire to have a child is a powerful force that can shape someone's life, and that's an idea which I believe Prowse manages to communicate with remarkable skill and precision. Everything that Lucy feels in regards to her inability to conceive is explained in great detail, bringing us so close to the character that we can practically hold her hand. While it might be a novel, the reality of her situation makes it feel as though we're reading a biography.

Some of the most touching parts of the book in my opinion were the monologues from Lucy to her unborn child that she is carrying. There is just something truly touching, gentle and pure in the way she addresses it and how she uses it as the scope through which she examines her life before and after. We are also given some curious insights as to how the whole situation affects Lucy's household, how it shapes their hopes and dreams for the future and becomes their main point of focus. All in all, I'm inclined to believe that Prowse's depiction as to the psychological effects of a fertility problem (whichever guise it may come under) is true-to-life and comes from either research or personal experience in the matter.

The Family You Didn't Want

Though a decent amount of the book revolves around what we just previously discussed, a big chunk of it is also dedicated to another concept: assembling the family you didn't want. Lucy always had a perfect image of the family she would build for herself, but ultimately things turn out very differently as her husband's sixteen year-old step daughter is the child she ends up with. Watching Lucy's failed attempts at bonding with a teenager who hates her ring very true and are quite inspiring to watch as they develop into something more positive over the course of the story. Through these attempts to put together a cohesive household, even though it isn't the one she dreamt of, Lucy slowly learns what it means to be a parent, what it means to be a mother.

Rest assured, there are some twists in the plot to keep you on your toes, even though most of the book does move along at a slow pace and places a much greater focus on character development. I do admit that overall, the story remains a pretty gloomy and depressive one despite the uplifting moments and qualities it may have. The parts that revolve around the family rather than the unborn child have a few superfluous sections, explorations of the past that don't add much to the story. Nevertheless, those aren't big enough problems to say they ruin the book or anything of the sort.

The Final Verdict

All in all, The Idea of You is not a novel I would recommend to absolutely anyone, being slow in its pace, focusing much more on character development, and dealing with heavy real-world topics that won't resonate with everyone. If those aren't things that bother you and you feel like the subject at hand interests you in one way or another, then I strongly recommend you check the book out; as long as you can get invested in it, the story won't leave you indifferent in the slightest.

Amanda Prowse

Personal site

Amanda Prowse is an English writer hailing from London who is currently best-known for The Food of Love, I Won't Be Home for Christmas and My Husband's Wife . Her books have reached the number one spot on many bestsellers lists, having sold millions of copies around the world.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

“The Sudden Appearance of Hope” by Claire North - The Hopeless Grasp for Identity

Being Invisible with Claire North

The question of man's identity is one that has preoccupied philosophers throughout the ages, with there being many disagreeing schools of thought as to what makes us who we are. Some argue that we are how others perceive is, others think that our memories make the core of our identities, not to mention all the theories revolving around biology and spirituality.

In other words, our identities are probably composed from a large number of different aspects, but we never really take the time to stop and wonder about it... or perhaps more importantly, what we would do if we were robbed of our identity. That's precisely the kind of scenario our protagonist faces in The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North.

Hope is a normal girl living a normal little life, until one day in high-school a strangeness takes over her life: she becomes forgettable in the literal sense of the word. People simply begin forgetting about her existence, to the point where even her own family has absolutely no recognition of her. In seemingly no time at all, not a single person on Earth remains who can recognize or remember Hope... something she manages to turn to her advantage by becoming a thief. After all, what better trait could a criminal yearn for than being instantly forgotten? She manages to hold on to some semblance of a life, getting used to the idea of being the loneliest person on Earth until the end of her days. But as was always the case with Hope, her fate takes a very strange turn as she encounters the one thing that will not forget her: a camera.

At the same time, she hunts for the people behind an app called Perfection, telling people what to eat, how to dress, where to go, and basically how to live. She feels the world surrounding her is a plastic one, and so are the people in it. But could her condition be somehow connected to this systematic homogenization of society?

A Life None Consider

We take it for granted that the people we know will recognize us tomorrow, the day after, and for years to come most likely. We never even consider the possibility of actually being forgotten by the world around us, but it's quite clear that Claire North has given it a whole lot of thought, at least while writing the book. She understands how to hook us from the very first pages, showing us this girl with whom we feel something is very wrong. When she reveals her condition to us, she masterfully plays up the mystery surrounding it; how did it come to pass? Can it actually come to an end? What is life really like under those conditions? She spends a good amount of time answering those things throughout the book and essentially creates an extremely detailed portrait of Hope and the unique struggles she faces. I would say that despite her many flaws, Hope still makes for quite an enjoyable and interesting protagonist we can often relate to, sharing her fears and challenges, albeit on slightly different levels.

There are lots of philosophical concerns that come to the fore with as the story develops, with the question of one's identity being at the very center of them. Are we still ourselves if not a single person in the world can remember our existence? How much freedom do we have in choosing who we are when we figure in nobody's memories? How many of our decisions are truly our own? How many of our decisions do we want to be our own? Would we be more content if we were to be guided through something like the Perfection app (which actually seems like quite a plausible development in the real world)? Is non-conformance a precursor to social invisibility? There's enough to send you into a very long and taxing think-tank, that's quite certain.

A Life of Danger and Intrigue

While there might be a profound and reflective stew to digest in this book, I want to underscore the fact that certainly doesn't lack in adventure, action and intrigue. As mentioned before, Hope turned to a life of crime and has become a thief, going for increasingly valuable targets (notably jewels) while being pursued by some baffled investigators. However, cameras and fingerprints begin to betray her and the pursuers start to get wiser as to how she must be caught. This cat-and-mouse game is thrilling to watch and brilliantly-written, creating many tense passages where you're curious to see who will outsmart whom. By her nature, Hope lives a globetrotting life of intrigue and we're along for the ride every step of the way.

Additionally, her pursuit of the people being the Perfection app is an interesting thread to follow, and as you might imagine it puts Hope in the crosshairs of much more dangerous people than she could have imagined: a filthy-rich corporation very much intent on keeping its profits going at the expense of the people. While this section of the story does come with a good amount of heavy-handed commentary, some obvious analogies and criticisms, it all fits within the context of the story and ultimately enhances it.

The Final Verdict

To cap things off, The Sudden Appearance of Hope is an original novel that certainly strays off the beaten path in more than a few respects. It has a unique premise, a wealth of food for thought and an engaging plot that is equal parts adventure and social commentary. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to see what the fuss around Claire North is all about, as well as those who are looking for a solid philosophical thriller that won't leave them indifferent.

Catherine Webb 

A pen name used by Catherine Webb. Catherine Webb (A pen name - Claire North) is a British author who completed her education both at the London School of Economics and the Godolphin and Latymer School. She has written under the pen names of Kate Griffin and Claire North, and amongst other awards and nominations won the John Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August .

Friday, August 25, 2017

“Times of Victory” by Pedro Luis Adames Valdez – A Place Under God's Wing

Times of Victory by Pedro Luis Adames Valdez (Book cover)

The Meditations of Pedro Luis Adames Valdez

The topic of religion is one that's becoming increasingly contested with the advent of globalization as it became apparent that there are many more faiths out there than meet the eye. Each and every one has its own belief system and designations, with a few being much more heavily-proliferated and discussed than others, namely Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Simultaneously, the sceptics are more numerous than ever before, with atheism and agnosticism gaining popularity, especially amongst the intelligent elite. Whether or not you're a religious person though, I believe that there is much for us to learn from the teachings passed down through holy scriptures for they often connect with our lives in surprisingly non-religious ways. I myself am not a religious person, and thus it is precisely the approach I took to Times of Victory by Pedro Luis Adames Valdez.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

“The Boy Who Saw” by Simon Toyne – Putting the Ghosts of War to Rest

The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne (Book cover)

Simon Toyne and the Lost Identity

Compelling characters that consistently stimulate our desire to discover them across multiple books are few and drastically far in-between, with virtually ninety-nine percent of protagonists being throwaway vehicles used to conduct a single story. Even when it comes to book series it is rare for an author to truly capture our interest with the same person one novel after the next... and I would argue that Solomon Creed, created by Simon Toyne, accomplishes that to perfection. Here is a character with no memory or knowledge of himself, besides the words stitched into his perfectly tailored jacket: “This suit was made to treasure for Mr. Solomon Creed”. While his mystery is certainly the centre of his world, it does take a back seat to more pressing cases, as we see in The Boy Who Saw, the latest book in the series.

The events begin unfolding as Solomon follows up on some crucial clues in regards to his identity: the name of the tailor who made the suit, and an address in the South of France. Unfortunately for him, the tailor ran afoul of a vicious murderer who carved the Star of David into his bloodied chest, along with the words “Finishing what was begun” smeared on the wall. As Solomon's tremendous luck would have it, the police believe him responsible for the crime and rip his freedom away. Alone as he ever was, Solomon must find a way to escape his situation and find out who out there is hunting down survivors of the Holocaust, in particular those who escaped a tragic fate in one specific concentration camp. While he digs dip to the roots of a conspiracy and attempts to put the old ghosts of war to rest, he may also find out a thing or two about his own identity.

Power in Spades and Bursts

Those of you who are already familiar with the Solomon Creed character and have read the previous book should know, more or less, what to expect from this second book in the series in terms of technique. The story is divided into 112 rather short chapters, pretty much all of them focusing on action rather than philosophical developments or descriptions. Toyne is quite brilliant when it comes to hooking the reader in, with virtually every chapter having some strong and impactful moments that will make you desperate to read on and find out where it all leads to. Compared to the first book I would venture to say that this one is more focused on the plot and tends to wander around much less, which frankly is to be expected considering there is far less of a need for world-building and character introductions.

As far as the thriller genre goes, I think other authors should take notes from how Toyne goes about it in this book. The pace never lets up and the thrills never stop, always keeping alive a strong sense of danger and mystery; you never feel safe or as if you have a moment's worth of rest. While things do move along quickly, each chapter flows well with the next one and it all ends up feeling like one continuous string of text rather than 112 different parts, and that's despite the complexity of this globe-trotting plot.

The Mystery Remains

As you might have guessed, this time around things take place in France rather than the United States and the plot we are being presented with has very little, if anything at all to do with what we learned in the first book. The mystery surrounding Solomon's identity is the constant hook that maintains your interest in the character, and I have to say to Toyne is sure taking pleasure in teasing us with scraps of information. We do find out a little bit more about him, but in reality the answers we get only raise additional questions that will surely lead to more discoveries in future novels.

I should warn you the author doesn't shy away from graphic naturalism and that there are some pretty gut-wrenching scenes that won't exactly be suitable for the faint of heart... especially ones relating to the Holocaust. At the same time though, he doesn't go overboard with exaggerated gore and violence or anything of the like; he presents a harsh reality and doesn't take pleasure in spilling blood without reason. While most of the difficult passages are ultimately fantasy, it is difficult to become dissociated from them to the point of being unaffected.

The Final Verdict

With everything being said and done, The Boy Who Saw is without question a worthy continuation to the Solomon Creed series, with Simon Toyne masterfully unravelling two mysteries without ever giving the reader a chance to get the hooks out. It's a solid and tightly-woven thriller that delivers in every way you would expect a book in this genre to. If you are curious about the captivating Solomon Creed character, want to see the author at his best, or simply enjoy riveting murder mysteries, then I guarantee you will find enjoyment from this novel.

Simon Toyne

Personal site

Simon Toyne is a British former TV executive-turned writer who specializes in thriller fiction and is best-known for his Solomon Creed series as well as the Sanctus Trilogy.

More of the Simon Toynes's book reviews:
The Searcher

Thursday, July 27, 2017

“The Almost Sisters” by Joshilyn Jackson – The Racist Charm of the South

Joshilyn Jackson Ventures to the Middle of Nowhere

The Southern United States, though plastered with stereotypes and generalizations, is a complicated and unique enough place on this Earth with its own sort of internal system that has remained the same throughout the years, even as one government took over after another. Joshilyn Jackson, like a few other authors, has used the South as a setting for her stories on more than one occasion, being perfect for family dramas and sagas because of the traditions found in it. In The Almost Sisters she takes us into a little town located in Alabama, one that personifies what that part of the world is all about.

More precisely, the book begins as we are introduced to thirty-eight year-old Leia Birch Briggs, recently pregnant with a biracial baby from a one-night stand. Soon after she returns back to her little Alabama town and finds herself surrounded by her conservative family. As she steels herself to bring them the shocking news of her life developments, she gets upstaged by her half-sister whose marriage explodes for the whole world to see. Adding on to the misery, it comes to light in the most uncomfortable way possible that her ninety year-old grandmother has been hiding the fact that she has dementia for some time now. Finally, adding insult to injury, as she tries to settle her grandmother's affairs and cleans out the old family house that has stood there for generations Leia stumbles upon an old secret dating back to the Civil War, one with humongous implications for the family.

A Life of Misadventures

The Almost Sisters is one of those novels that would be difficult to classify in a single category, sprawling into numerous genres at once and borrowing from them whenever necessary. There is a healthy combination of drama, romance, social issues, humour, tragedy, and general meditations on human life.

As a character, Leia herself embodies this approach, making for a very interesting and flawed narrator with layers upon layers of complexities, and as each one is peeled back we come to see her more and more as a real person; I would be surprised if she wasn't based on someone specific for the amount of believable details we get about her nerdy life and dorky aspirations. Seeing her go from one misadventure to the next and the horrible timing with which it all takes place is a real pleasure, and as she grows on you she'll start to feel more like a friend than a book character.

Speaking of the cast, the rest of the people we meet here are, for the most part, no less interesting than Leia herself. Her grandmother is a real riot of laughter both because and in spite of her condition, her best friend Wattie is always up to something (the Birchie and Wattie moments are some of the best), and all the smaller people we encounter along the way have something unique to add to this journey.

When the Laughter Ends

While this book definitely has its fair share of comedy and quirky mishaps, there is also a more serious side to the coin, one that reminds us of grim realities and pushes us to ponder on the current state of affairs we seem hell-bent on ignoring. As you might know, racism is not only a big issue in the Southern US, but it's one that has been growing in size and explosive potential over the last few years, threatening to eventually create a schism in the country. Jackson doesn't ignore that for one bit and on many occasions we get a front row seat to racist thoughts and actions, analyzing and processing them from different perspectives. Thankfully, the author doesn't make it over-the-top and that helps give it a realistic and believable feeling.

In addition to racism the book has a few other major themes worth mentioning, and they mostly revolve around family, loyalty, trust, honesty, as well as the power and importance of secrets. As Leia digs deeper and deeper into the mystery her grandmother buried she also comes to share the many lessons her family has learned through the years, as well as adding her own experience to the mix. All of this makes for welcome pauses from the comedy, establishing a pleasant rhythm that is maintained throughout the entire story.

Some Final Words

To cap it all off, The Almost Sisters is what one may call a successful novel, delivering on every front it sets out to conquer. There are tears, laughs, and long introspective sessions to be had with this novel, presenting a world and a story that feel as real as your own life. If you enjoy stories about family secrets and want a solid book that will make you feel and think like few others in the genre then I recommend you add it to your collection.

Joshilyn Jackson

Personal site

Joshilyn Jackson is an American author who made her entrance onto the literary stage not too long ago but has managed to gain some traction with lauded novels such as The Opposite of Everyone, Gods in Alabama, and more recently, The Almost Sisters.

More of the Joshilyn Jackson's book reviews:
Someone Else’s Love Story

Monday, July 03, 2017

"The Thirst" by Jo Nesbo – Hunting on the Tinder Grounds

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo - front book cover

The Hunt for Lonely Hearts with Jo Nesbo

The idea of seeking out complete strangers to date through various mediums certainly isn't anything new. There are lonely hearts advertisements, dating clubs, a whole array of websites dedicated to specific demographics, and more recently phone applications. Upon hearing those words you're most likely thinking of the one everyone has been using lately: Tinder. Quick, simple and efficient, it has become an integral part in the lives of many people and it seems there are only more and more users on it every day. There is, of course, a downside to this approach: you might be able to try and meet with anyone you'd like, but you cannot control who intends on meeting with you.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

“Time Travel: A History” by James Gleick – The Birth of the Human Obsession

Time Travel: A History by James Gleick (Book cover)

James Gleick Asks the Pertinent Questions

To go back or forth in time, travel the fourth dimension, to wind the clock whichever way we want it to... that's one of the many seemingly unachievable wishes all of humanity shares. Mastering our movement through time would definitely make life much easier, but of course, that's a concept that comes with many paradoxes that raise valid questions about its viability. And nevertheless, we don't lose hope and keep on dreaming that some day we'll literally be able to take a walk down memory lane. But when exactly did our obsession with this whole thing start? How did it develop? Is there any actual promise to it, scientifically-speaking? These are all questions that James Gleick has set out to answer in his latest book, Time Travel: A History.

Before beginning, it should be mentioned that James Gleick isn't some random Joe who learned everything about time travel from the Terminator movies. He is a very respected author and science historian who has written books on very complex matters, often focusing on the cultural impacts that our technological advancements have. Long story short, he is a very smart man who is more qualified than most of us to speak on this topic.

Time Travel from A to Z

Anyhow, to get on with the show, Gleick begins his exploration of the concept all the way back in 1895, with HG Wells' Time Machine. He looks into how it was presented back then and how we first viewed its consequences. From there, he slowly works his way up to the present day, tracing the evolution of the concept of time travel in literature and pop culture. He delves in great length into the different time travelling scenarios that have been conjured up over the decades, what makes sense about them, their drawbacks, and of course, the paradoxes they inevitably entail. Parallel to that, he also takes the time to see how time travel has been met in scientific circles, and theoretically-speaking, if it's something that we can one day hope to achieve.

Perhaps better classified as a long essay about the history of time travel, this book is a real gold mine of information, containing virtually everything that's pertinent to the subject you could think of. Gleick leaves no stone unturned, tracing the complete history of the concept's evolution, often stopping along the way to raise interesting questions or provide some insightful details. Of course, at the end of the book many of the questions are without answer, and we do have to content ourselves with believing that further technological advancements will allow us to find them... but even so, there is an indescribable amount of things to learn about the concept.

Is This Take on Time Travel Worth Reading?

While the subject of time travel is definitely very complicated and touches on science branches that can take decades to master, Gleick does a fantastic job at appealing to a wide variety of readers, regardless of whether or not they are knowledgeable in those domains. The language is somewhat simple, and even stays relatively so during the more “scientific” moments. In other words, it appeals to the science-fiction buffs as well as those of you who are simple interested in learning about time travel in the context of popular culture. If that's the kind of topic that caters to you (and let's face it, who doesn't want to learn about travelling through time?), then I highly recommend you give this book a chance.

James Gleick (August 1, 1954)

James Gleick

Personal site

James Gleick is an American author and science historian who has mostly dedicated his work to studying the cultural impact of our technological developments. He has tackled many complicated subjects, with his better-known books including Chaos: Making a New Science and The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. He has been awarded, amongst others, the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

“Kill Process” by William Hertling – Angie and the Electronic Goliath

Kill Process by William Hertling - book cover

An Accelerated Evolution

A mere few years ago the term social networks wasn't even a thing because there was really only one, MySpace, and the relative few who used it (at least in comparison to today's social networkers) didn't give it all that much thought or importance. However, fast forward to today and it's impossible to imagine a world that isn't dominated by Facebook feeds, Twitter posts, Instagram snaps and whatever else we may have. We are experiencing an accelerated cultural evolution, to the point where we may very well be the first people who have the ability to feel nostalgic about memories from only five or ten years ago, the first to see countless inventions become obsolete one year after the next. There are some who applaud these advances and claim them to herald a new golden age for technological progress, while on the other hand there are those who pay more attention to the dangers involved.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

“A Climbing Stock” by Andrew Hiller – A Deal with the Green Devil

A Climbing Stock by Andrew Hiller (book cover)

The Power of Desperation

Most of us like to believe that we have enough integrity not to make any deals with the devil should the opportunity present itself, no matter what offers may be put on the table. Desperation, however, has the power to drastically change our minds and priorities, and it is quite likely that there is a right set of circumstances in which every single person on Earth would sell their soul to the devil. As a matter of fact, making dubious deals with strange and otherworldly creatures is a concept that comes much easier to some than it does to others, as is the case in Andrew Hiller's A Climbing Stock.

Friday, April 28, 2017

“Fields of Fire” by Marko Kloos –The Iron Fist of Humanity Strikes Back

Fields of Fire by Marko Kloos (fron cover)

Marko Kloos Takes the Fight to the Enemy

While our weapons and tactics may change throughout the ages, it's quite arguable that the nature of war remains the same, plunging ultimately expendable masses into the heart of carnage and chaos. While wars fought between humans feel senseless and childish when viewed from an outside perspective (what other species moves so eagerly towards its own extinction?), knowing the art itself is a necessity... for there may very well come a day when our greatest enemy won't be amongst us, but will rather descend from the skies, as it did in Marko Kloos' acclaimed Frontlines series.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

“The Mistress” by Danielle Steel –A Triangle of Obsessions

The Mistress by Danielle Steel - book cover

Danielle Steel Tackles a Dangerous Romance

The subject of forbidden love is about as old as humanity itself as we have always managed to find factors by which divide ourselves, including skin colour, ethnic origin, religious adherence, social standing, wealth... it's the kind of list that inexhaustibly goes on and on. Nevertheless, it hasn't stopped countless people from trying to jump over those barriers and go for the life they believed fate had planned for them all along. It's a concept so courageous and romantic in its nature that it has tantalized the imaginations of many famous authors throughout the centuries, and continues doing so to this very day, as is evidenced by Danielle Steel's The Mistress.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

“The Food of Love” by Amanda Prowse – How to Disappear Into Nothingness

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse - front cover

Amanda Prowse's Deep Understanding

The fight against bad food and obesity has been raging in the United States and certain parts of the world for decades now, with seemingly more and more people being afflicted every single year. We've devoted countless resources to this fight, with oh so many trying to push their supplements, diets and exercise plans that promise to be the ultimate solution we've all been waiting for.

However, there is another side to the coin of weight issues that gets seldom explored in the media and popular culture: anorexia/bulimia. While it may seem ridiculous at first glance that people would starve themselves in countries where food is over-abundant, it's a psychological affliction that affects many more people than we realize, especially because of how easy it is to hide it for a long time.

Friday, March 03, 2017

“The Secret Wife” by Gill Paul – A Pendant of Revelations

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul (Front cover)

A Royal Family in Royal Peril

The early 20th century was a period of great turbulence in many places around the world, and Russia was certainly one of the more prominent ones with a countrywide revolution taking place in 1917. It was a period of terror, death and chaos, one where many prominent people met their maker at the hands of the Bolsheviks. As far as the royal family goes, it's general knowledge that they were all executed with impunity... but over the decades, some people came forward claiming to be the long-lost children of the Romanov family. Ultimately, their claims could never be verified as true, and coupled with the discovery of additional remains that bore the Romanov genes, the hope for the children's survival is now virtually non-existent. However, the romanticism of the notion that at least one of them survived the massacre or managed to perpetrate the family line in secret is as enthralling today as it was back then, and that was the spark Gill Paul needed to write his acclaimed novel, The Secret Wife.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

“Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury – Carnival of Darkness

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The Power of Melancholy

Nostalgia is a feeling that comes us over every single one of us at some point or another, whether we're simply lost in the carefree days of our childhood or just daydreaming of a time when things were better. For the most part, we can only experience that feeling in relation to our own past; after all, how can one feel nostalgic for something they never had? Nevertheless, that's exactly what Ray Bradbury does to us in his classic novel Something Wicked This Way Comes: he makes us yearn for a time and a life we've never lived.

Monday, February 06, 2017

“The House by the Lake” by Ella Carey - The Memento of a Bygone Life

The House by the Lake by Ella Carey

The Good Days Before the Storm

World War II is a conflict that needs no introduction, forever marking our history books with a litany of studies dedicated to dissecting every single part of the conflict, studying it and bringing the truth to light. The damage and chaos it caused are unquantifiable, claiming millions upon millions of lives and forever wounding many more. So many were forced to flee and leave behind the things and people that made up their lives until then, essentially becoming stripped of the great parts of their identity that they've worked their whole lives to assemble. When the war finally came to an end, many people tried to return to their lands but too much suffering had been sown into the land; thing would never go back to the way they used to. And so, many people carried souvenirs of a time they knew would never return, a time before the innocent were consumed by war.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

“The Blood Mirror” by Brent Weeks – Save the Rotten Empire

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks

Brent Weeks Powers On

Brent Weeks brought us the Lightbringer series a few years ago, and at the start it was supposed to be a trilogy. However, as is likely to happen with successful science-fiction series, Weeks chose to extend the story beyond what he had originally planned, and at the moment there are supposed to be five books to it... until further notice, of course. We've already looked at the other books in the trilogy (The Black Prism , The Blinding Knife and The Broken Eye) and so I'm not going to spend too much time talking about the kind of world we're being thrown into, but for the more forgetful ones among us, here's a brief recap of what the whole thing is about.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

“Killing the Rising Sun” by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard – Triumph of the American Eagle

Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
The Second World War is one of those historical periods that will undoubtedly be studied over and over again for decades, if not centuries to come. Even with all the memories and records that were lost to war and destruction we are still digging up more and more information to fill our textbooks and libraries with. For very good reasons, the European theatre of war is the primary subject of focus for most people who are interested in that period; after all, it's where everything began and many of the most important decisions were made. While America's conflict with Japan near the end of the war usually gets glossed over in general terms amounting to Pearl Harbour, Iwo Jima, and nuclear bomb.