Thursday, December 13, 2018

“The Night Crossing” by Robert Masello – Beyond the Shroud of Evil

“The Night Crossing” by Robert Masello (Book cover)

Robert Masello Reintroduces Bram Stoker

Countless authors have tried to make a name for themselves over the thousands of years humans have known how to write and read, but unfortunately very few succeeded in transcending time, their works staying relevant and revered regardless of the era. Bram Stoker is one of the more modern authors to have achieved this distinction, creating a horror icon in Dracula which still persists strongly to this very day. When one's name becomes so well-entrenched in the annals of history, it becomes tempting to see them as larger-than-life, perfect subjects for works of fiction... something perfectly exemplified in Robert Masello's The Night Crossing.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

“The Storyteller's Secret” by Sejal Badani – In the Wake of the Fall

Sejal Badani Brings us to India

Tragedy is a sadly inescapable aspect of existence, but unfortunately it strikes some far harder than others. There are entire philosophies, theories and schools of thought about mending the human mind and helping it recover from the worst of hardships and misfortunes. While we've certainly made progress on this front in recent decades, it remains a topic largely clouded in mystery where we are still far from finding a one-size-fits-all approach. Different people must often find their own ways of dealing with grief, and for some this means rekindling with their cultural roots. At least, this is the approach chosen by the main character in Sejal Badani's The Storyteller's Secret.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Interview with Nina Romano – Inexhaustible Inspirations

While there are a few careers where it is possible to learn everything there is to, authorship fall as far from this category as humanly possible. Virtually every single author, whether they've written a hundred novels or a hundred words, will admit they always have more to learn and new horizons to explore... it's a never-ending journey towards knowledge. Though Nina Romano definitely doesn't hold all the answers, she has been walking on this path since her early years and possesses a certain aptitude which can only come through time and experience: she understands herself within the context of her work better than most others. In our interview with her, we discuss her methodology as an author, how she approaches the writing of a book, and the many milestones she has traversed in her literary life.

Monday, October 29, 2018

“Pronto” by Elmore Leonard – The Sins of the Accountant

Pronto by Elmore Leonard (Book cover)

Elmore Leonard and the Runaway Bookie

Though logic dictates we ought to be imagining the world of organized crime via large men in suits smoking in dank, poorly-lit basements, the reality is a bit less romantic than that. As it happens, even organized crime wants to stay under the radar and within the confines of the legal world as much as possible, which means they need to have regular civilians working for them. Bookmakers have for a long time now been a favourite “venue of investment” for criminal enterprises, being businesses which can deal in large and irregular amounts of cash. Needless to say, not all bookies came out unscathed from such arrangements. In Pronto by Elmore Leonard, we actually have a bookie who not only works for the mob, but also likes to skim a bit of cash off the top... and the FBI are trying to make him flip over on his boss.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

“City of Endless Night” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – The Headless of the Metropolis

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Craft Another Mystery

Collaborations between authors seems to be an increasingly common practice in the digital age, mostly due to the fact communication has evolved to the stage where it's at. It allows various smaller authors to join forces in hopes of increasing their chances at writing a quality novel and gaining recognition. Perhaps more relevantly to our case, it also opened the door for well-established authors to cooperate in hopes of combining their strengths to create something which would outclass what either of them can do on their own. Douglas Preston and Lee Child have already worked together on some occasions and their works have certainly been on the original side of the spectrum, and recently they have returned to the fore once again with City of Endless Night.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

“Where Are They?” by Steven Lazaroff and Mark Rodger – The Search for Spacial Kindred

Where Are They? by Steven Lazaroff and Mark Rodger (Book cover)

Steven Lazaroff and Mark Rodger take the Logical Route

Our society has most recently developed its tremendous fascination with outer space, largely due to the fact our observational and communicative technologies have advanced by nigh-incalculable leaps in the past decades. However, the allure of the stars always captured the imagination of our ancestors, even as primitive as cavemen if we are to judge by the paintings they left behind. We have been striving for countless years to gain a few more grains of knowledge on what lies beyond our Earthly realms, and if we take a look at the progress we have made in its totality, we would find it is both extremely significant and insignificant at the same time. We might know a lot more than we once did, but it still remains virtually nothing in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, Steven Lazaroff and Mark Rodger have decided to compress this sum of human knowledge into a book titled Where Are They?.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

“My Dear Hamilton” by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie - A Woman of the Revolution

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (Book cover)

Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie Embark Onto the Boat of Revolution

The founding of the United States of America is a history mired in blood, war and scandals of all sorts. A revolution against the British Empire could never truly have been a peaceful affair, and while countless people suffered, they also had the golden opportunity of truly making a difference in the history of the world... an opportunity which a few seized with a death grip. I think it's safe to say the Founding Fathers belong to that group of people, assembling together the political system which would eventually evolve into the country we have today. While much is made of the men behind the constitution, less attention is dedicated to the people surrounding them, especially their wives. In particular, Alexander Hamilton's wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, is more than deserving of her own place in the pages of history, something Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie attempt to give her in their novel titled My Dear Hamilton.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

“Gunpowder Moon” by David Pedreira – The First Lunar Murder

David Pedreira’s Conspiracy on the Moon

Once upon a time the moon seemed to hold countless mysteries and was the next big step for humanity to take in terms of exploration. The possibilities seemed limitless, and witnessing our cosmonauts traversing the void of space to land on a new rock successfully, albeit a satellite, was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

As our technology grew however, it seems our fascination with our sole natural satellite came to a bit of a standstill; it seemed in the end, it ultimately remains a dusty rock full of craters. However, this doesn't stop it from tingling the imaginations of authors who still look to the stars with inspiration, and at times it gives very interesting results, such as David Pedreira's Gunpowder Moon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

“In America” by Nina Romano – The Great Depression of Dreams

In America by Nina Romano (book cover)

Nina Romano Concludes the Trilogy

When I first laid eyes on the first book of the Wayfarer Trilogy, I will admit I didn't think of it as anything more than a regular romance novel. However, Nina Romano definitely managed to open my eyes to the possibilities laying within the genre, focusing as much on the human nature surrounding love as the phenomenon itself. The second book in the series only improved my desire to finish the trilogy, showcasing Romano's ability to visit new and interesting vistas of humanity while staying on her thematic course. I can only hope other authors out there will take notice of her works and witness the true potential of the romance genre, how it can be so much more than an emotional Sunday night read. I believe the third and final book in the series, titled In America, exemplifies it even more than the previous ones.

Monday, August 20, 2018

“Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs” by Israel Finn – Brief Pictures of Horror

Israel Finn's Cacophony of Terror

The genre of horror, in literature just like in movies, lends itself to some interesting studies, especially when tracing its development through time. What was once considered horrifying has now turned into nothing more than a cliche, and it feels as if boundaries are increasingly difficult to push the further we get into it. I believe it has come to the point where for most people, horror doesn't really scare them any more as much as it startles, grosses out or makes them feel uneasy. We rarely find ourselves truly scared by any fictional work, and if we do it's only temporary as we are introduced to rules and familiar elements which engage rather than terrify us.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

“Lemon Blossoms” by Nina Romano – Nothing More Precious than Family

Nina Romano Explores a Different Realm of Love

Love comes in literally all shapes and sizes, one of the few truly formless aspects of life which can create miracles and join people who would have otherwise never noticed each other's presence. Most people who enjoy romance novels would agree to stories of difficult love being the most interesting and engaging ones. It's the type of quest we can all relate to, the one with the potential to make us root for virtually any character; it just touches us on such a profound level we have yet to truly qualify the effect.

As an author, it seems Nina Romano certainly agrees with this line of thinking, or at least it's what her approach to her Wayfarer Trilogy seems to indicate. In the first book of the series, we were introduced to a pair of star-crossed lovers never meant to be together and all the obstacles life threw in their way. In the second book, titled Lemon Blossoms, we witness a different a whole other realm of difficulties which lay on the path to a fulfilling love.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

“The Woman in the Woods” by John Connolly – From the Belly of the Beast

Deep into the Woods with John Connolly

Death has always been an integral part of human life, and it should come as no surprise we have developed countless ways to try and deal with its many aspects. As a result, this creates some social expectations which can divide between the natural and unnatural demises. When a person dies, it is expected we'll be able to find out who they were, how it happened, and trace the chain of events which led up until that point.

When we are unable to obtain these answers, what we are generally left facing is an abnormal atrocity, or what we refer to in the world of literature as a mystery. In John Connolly's The Woman in the Woods we get treated to just such an affair, and although at first it begins to seem like a very normal excursion it becomes increasingly apparent something rotten is at play.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

“The Secret Language of Women” by Nina Romano – Daggers in the Heart of Fate

Nina Romano's Star-Crossed Lovers

Scientists have been trying for a while to isolate the physical processes accompanying what we call love, and for the most part, they've managed to boil it down to a few chemicals firing in some receptors. Nevertheless, it's a mystery we have yet to pierce completely down to its very core, for we are still having trouble quantifying what makes us fall in love with any specific person... often times, it happens without rhyme, reason or warning, which is the main reason it can be equally tragic and beautiful. As a matter of fact, innumerable stories of star-crossed lovers populate bookshelves around the entire world, offering authors the perfect canvas to explore many aspects of human nature as well as history. Nina Romano is an author who took that canvas and turned it into a real wonder with her historical romance novel titled The Secret Language of Women , the first entry into the Wayfarer Trilogy.

Friday, July 20, 2018

“The Glass Forest” by Cynthia Swanson – Threnody for a Marriage

Cynthia Swanson's Glass House

While overtly it might seem like the ties binding people to each other are obvious and can be observed with common sense, the more profoundly we think of them, the more we realize things aren't exactly set in stone. We have yet to unanimously define the abstract concept of love, and yet it is the sole thing holding countless people together, regardless of culture or religion. Many would be hard-pressed to elaborate until reaching a final truth as to the reason they enjoy the company of certain of people and consider them friends. For most of us, these might just be some philosophical musings we ultimately brush away and forget. For some however, they are the beginning of an unravelling, a profound introspective journey during which they are forced to reevaluate their lives... and that's precisely the fate awaiting Angie Glass in Cynthia Swanson's The Glass Forest.

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.

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.

“Awakening Macbeth” by Carmen Amato – Staking a Soul

Awakening Macbeth by Carmen Amato (Book cover)

Carmen Amato's Historical Nightmare

Books can contain within them anything ranging from the tamest and most hopeful words to the darkest and vilest accounts of human behaviour imaginable. When we open the pages of a book and begin to invest ourselves in it, we are invariably affected by what we read, and each bit of information we absorb will influence is in one way or another. At the end of the day though, we have the power of closing the book and moving on to something else, dissociating ourselves from whatever disconcerting information we may have acquired. Unfortunately, in Carmen Amato's Awakening Macbeth, that is not an option for University of Virginia professor Brodie Macbeth.

“Phenomena” by Annie Jacobsen – The Top Secret U.S. Telepathy Program

Into the Extra-Sensory Perception Tunnel with Annie Jacobsen

Coined by Frederic W. H. Myers all the way back in 1882, telepathy is a concept which involves the transference of ideas from one person to another without using any sort of physical interaction... in other words, mind-reading. Many experiments were conducted since then in an attempt to prove the concept truthful, but ultimately none of the ones yielding positive results were remotely in line with standards by which reputable scientific trials abide by; they lacked proper control and weren't repeatable. Long story short, no real evidence exists to suggest telepathy to be anything more than fantasy, but that of course hasn't stopped us from believing in it... or more precisely, it hasn't prevented the U.S. government from pouring innumerable funds to research it across multiple decades. In her book titled Phenomena, Annie Jacobsen chronicles the government's research program into what is essentially the paranormal.