Sunday, September 17, 2017

Book Review: Railsea

China Mieville's 2012 YA novel Railsea is a bizarre mishmash of any number of things ranging from Giant Monster Movies to Moby Dick and the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. It follows a young doctor's assistant on a train named Sham, who begins the book covered in blood and, no...

Okay, so the book takes place in a world covered in train tracks and populated in those who live in hard rock areas where the giant Moles and other monsters can't...

So there are trains that travel out searching for moles to butcher - sort of like whaling ships...

OK - simply put, this novel is really an immersive experience. Going into it with little expectation (except that I'm a fan of the author), I found myself quickly drawn into Sham's world and into the mystery that he spends most of the novel attempting to solve.

In some ways, the less you know going in the better, but believe me, it's well worth the journey.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The 2016 Bram Stoker Award winner for best novel was John Langan's The Fisherman; a really neat take on traditional cosmic horror.

The novel focuses on two widowers, Dan and Abe, and their shared hobby of fishing, but then quickly moves into their back stories, and the story of a fateful fishing trip. On the way to a spot called Dutchman's Creek, they stop for breakfast and briefly chat with the cook about their plans. When he hears where they plan to go he tells them his own story about the creek, which, like many of the best stories travels backwards and deeper into stories involving some truly dark and horrific goings on at the creek.

I've never read Langan before, but found the book to be a compelling read, initially harmless looking and then moving into something much scarier than I expected, and something that has me feeling a little nervous about those out of the way places I liked to explore as a kid.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Movie Review: IT

So anytime I decide to see the film adaptation of a book I particularly like, here are my fears:

1) The movie will be so faithful to the book that there was no point in seeing it
2) The movie is so different from the book that there was no point in calling it the same title
3) They won't have my favourite parts
4) The won't have cast whoever I think should have got the role
5) The producer/writer/director will have simply missed the point

Having just seen the previous Stephen King adaption - The Dark Tower (and it fulfilled worries 2, 3, and 5) I was really nervous going into IT, a long-time favourite of mine, and one that has already been adapted (and that I saw as a kid when it originally aired), luckily, I didn't need to be worried.

IT was pretty darn great, the story was well-told, the scares were incredible, and I was really impressed by all of the performances. A Horror film focusing on the value of friendship has a difficult road to walk, but this one did it incredibly well.

I could get into spoilers, but instead I'll simply state that I was simply shocked the whole way through with how much I liked the film as a movie, not just a horror movie, but a movie overall. This may end up being the first Horror movie I'll decide to own since It Follows back in 2014.

Well worth the watch!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review: Eyes Like Leaves

Charles de Lint's Eyes Like Leaves was a pretty fascinating read for me, sort of a "what could have been novel". Originally written as his fourth novel, the story falls nicely into the High Fantasy sub-genre (think Lord of the Rings), rather than the Urban Fantasy he's much more connected to these days. The author actually notes in the introduction that the advice he was given by an editor at the time was only to publish if he wanted to focus future works on High, rather than Urban, Fantasy.

The story works quite nicely as a traditional quest-style novel, following a bard, a wizard in training, and a young woman who all seem to be tied together through destiny to the strange creatures who have suddenly begun attacking people throughout the land.

De Lint shines best with characters and setting, and although he does a great job with this novel, I'm a much bigger fan of his urban fantasy stories. A fun read, but really for dedicated fans rather than new readers of the author.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book Review: Rage of Ares

The act of reading the final volume in any series is always a little bittersweet for me; I know I can go back and reread any of the books at my own pace, but this will be the last time I get to visit with these characters for the first time. As I've been working my way through a list of historic fiction set in Ancient Greece, I've since passed the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars and am nearly onto books focusing on Alexander the Great. While working my way through the main list however, I've been able to return again and again to the life of Arimnestos in Christian Cameron's Long War series, returning to the Persian War for another look at just how a war lasting so long affects any group of people.

Rage of Ares takes the battlefield right back to Arimnestos' homeland Plataea, for the final battles of the war and does a really great job wrapping everything up. I'm still not a fan of the Glossary appearing at the front of the book, but the author's notes, and in this specific case, a technical look at the battle by a historian, added a number of really interesting details to the series which began back in Killer of Men.

Well worth the read and yes, I'll probably revisit the series again, but next up for me will be Cameron's books focusing on Alexander the Great.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: If I Understood You Would I Have This Look on My Face?

Between September of 2004 and March of 2011 I worked my way slowly, one class at a time, through an online Bachelor's degree majoring in Communication Studies. The courses I took ranged from courses on Communication Theory and Analysis through the history of Mass Media and even included a couple courses on the Ancient World (which ended up being incredibly useful!).

In the end, a Communication Studies degree showed me over and over again the importance of ensuring that both sides of any message confirm what they have said/heard.  This knowledge has led me to be a better husband/father/friend/librarian (and hopefully blogger), and I think spending any time on understanding how people communicate and relate to each other is time worth spending.

So as you can imagine, when I saw Alan Alda's latest book, If I Understood You Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating, I immediately added it to my hold queue at my local library and looked forward to checking it out.

First off, the book is really readable, Alda does an amazing job of pulling the reader in and keeping them interested throughout, both with personal stories and

Secondly, much of the focus on the book looks at the benefits of better communication in fields such as the sciences, wherein a large number of incredibly smart people doing smart things sometimes have trouble communicating the most important aspects of their work to us regular folk.  The benefits of having at least one communications course in virtually any field of study should not be overlooked.

Finally, Alda makes a really intriguing connection between communication and Improv; showing how skills learned in the practice of improv can help empathize and relate with others and significantly improve your ability at communicating more efficiently and effectively.

A fascinating read and well worth the look.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: Tyrant

Valerio Massimo Manfredi's Tyrant (2005) moves away from mainland Greece and into the Greek colonies in Sicily.  Following the life of Dionysius I of Syracuse the novel follows both the rise and fall of the character, as told from the point of view of journals and private papers he left for his son.

The novel follows Dionysis through his early frustrations as poor leadership causes a number of Sicilian cities to be destroyed by Carthage, and then follows his own rise to power, which starts, as is all too often the case, with the best of intentions, but ends in pure corruption.

A really interesting, readable novel, that showcases a part of the ancient world I was less familiar with.

Well worth a look!