Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Review: Half Lost, by Sally Green

Last week I finished the last of Sally Green's Half Bad trilogy, Half Lost, and I think in many ways it perfectly ended the world she set up and ended up being a deeper mediation on the nature of war and its cost to the combatants than I was expecting out of a Young Adult Dark Fantasy book.

The book continues the story of Nathan Byrn, a young wizard born from mixed parentage, with one parent following Black Magic and the Other White, and his place in a world that despises him for the circumstances of his birth and raised him in an environment where he grew up knowing just how despised he was.

This series was a really great find for me (my youngest daughter actually found it first, I just followed her suggestion to check it out), and left me feeling that the series had managed to find a pretty great ending, and one didn't have me wishing for more, but simply wishing to share the series with others.

A really great read.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review: Beauty

Put simply, Sheri S. Tepper’s 1991 novel Beauty, is an examination of a number of classic western fairy tales (both Grimm and Perrault stories are represented) which includes elements of Science Fiction and focuses strongly on issues of Environmentalism and women’s roles in the middle ages.

The story follows Beauty (of the Sleeping variety, rather than the one with the Beast), as she moves through a number of classic stories taking on (mild, 25-year-old spoiler) various roles in various fairy tales. The story also includes a trip to a dystopian future and journeys to the more fantastic realms of Faerie and Hell.

Although slow to start, I found I enjoyed the narrative more and more as Beauty began to stretch beyond her own story. In many ways the book reminded me of Ursula K. Leguin’s Lavinia, although as a huge fan of the Ancient World, I did enjoy that one a little more.

An interesting read I would be happy to add to my own collection.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review: Homer's Iliad

Continuing with my journey through Ancient Greece in Historical Fiction, I moved to my fifth title, and the first that some may not consider historical fiction. The Iliad of Homer. Now, to be fair, unlike any of the other titles on the list I'm working through, The Iliad is attributed to Homer in the eighth century BCE, with the events portrayed occurring about four hundred years earlier.

My personal understanding of historical fiction is any story that takes place before the lifetime of the author telling/writing it. Using this definition, the Iliadcounts.

Unlike the other titles on the list however, The Iliad is written in Dactylic Hexameter (which you can read more about here), making it a little trickier to follow for the modern reader. Luckily, the story was originally an epic poem, so I went as close to that as I could by listening to an audiobook version (the poem takes roughly 9 hours to complete).

The story itself takes place during a few weeks in the final year of the ten-year siege of Troy and largely focuses on the characters of Achilles and Hector. The cast is huge, and the violence was shocking even for me (a pretty big fan of the horror genre). Also the gods of Ancient Greek mythology figure largely in the story and are often at odds with each other over who should win any given battle in the story.

For centuries, people have listed The Iliad as a must for anyone's reading lists, and although I got lost in the narrative and had to go back more than a few times, I found the experience rewarding and look forward to continuing my survey of Ancient Greece through historical novels.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: The Ivory and the Horn

Charles De Lint’s second collection of short fiction set in Newford felt much more interesting to my than Dreams Underfoot (which I also quite liked), with the first collection I was pretty enamoured of how he was building this fascinating city setting and how he would cross multiple characters over throughout stories, switching timelines, perspectives, etc., but with The Ivory and the Horn, although there is a lot of that too, the stories move into some pretty dark territory, and allow the reader to read about some deep real world issues (such as falling in love with a good friend, the effectiveness of social work, dealing with a friend’s depression), and uses fantasy elements to draw the reader in.

For me, stories like “Dead Man’s Shoes”, a vengeance-based ghost story worked great as effective horror, but others like “The Wishing Well” showed exactly how insidious a crisis can be and how easily people might ignore it. The collection moves easily from issues involving homelessness to urban fantasy (my favourite of the latter is “Mr. Truepenney’s Book Emporium and Gallery” which asks how responsible we are for our dreams.

A great collection, and definitely had me looking forward to reading my next de Lint book.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

So I decided to wait a few days after viewing the movie, because I left simply thinking:


Which, although a good representation of my mind at the time, doesn't necessarily make for a good review.

So here we are, about half a week later, and it's time for me to dig in, which I'll do in five points:

1) Spider-Man is pretty much point-on.
Tom Holland (In the Heart of the Sea), was, for me, the breakout surprise of the film. Yes, he was shown in the second trailer, but the film (and the actor) does such a good job of bringing Spider-Man to life, that even though he only in the film for ten minutes or so. Seriously, Spider-Man was worth the ticket price alone.

2) The movie is two and a half hours long, but uses it all wisely. As compared to say Age of Ultron or perhaps more specifically Batman & Robin (1997), the movie has an even dozen superheroes, all of which have extensive backstories and motivations, and gives each of them good service. Obviously most of the focus goes to Captain America and Iron Man, but even the smaller players, like Vision and Ant-Man, have scenes which develop their characters while moving the story forward.

3) The de-aging effect introduced in Ant-Man is still blowing me away. Yes the film has some spectacular effects, things explode and the action is quite intense, but an early scene showing a teen aged Tony Stark interacting with his parents shocked me with how seamless it looked.

4) Yes, some of the sides chosen seemed to feel like a way to make sure the teams were even. A sort of "team A already has a flyer - let's move him to team b", did feel a little artificial, but the result had me overlooking the issue at the time.

5) The Black Panther gets a great introduction. Without going into spoilers, Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther is served quite well by the film, making a character, new to most of the audience, one in which they'd like to follow into a standalone film. A great addition to the film, and definitely helped to show more of an Avengers World.

The movie is well worth watching, and although I'll admit, in many ways I'm a cheap date when it comes to Marvel movies, I'm continually impressed by how much I, a Canadian, am enjoying the Captain America franchise.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Book Review: The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns

Selected for one of my monthly book clubs, Stephen Dobyns The Burn Palace was a surprisingly fun Horror Murder Mystery, which also worked as a buddy cop story to boot. The novel begins with the abduction of a baby from a small town hospital (the baby is replaced in his crib with a large snake), and quickly shifts back and forth between its many main characters, including a young boy named Hercel Jr. who ends up with a friend he didn’t ask for and (mild spoiler) one of the more horrific narratives I’ve come across in recent fiction.

Many have compared the writing to Stephen King, and although I can see the comparisons; small town setting, horrific elements, supernatural elements, a young teen or pre-teen facing things that would make adults run screaming, I found Dobyns definitely had his own flavor – and although I can’t get into my favourite bits of the novel in terms of the Supernatural elements due to spoilers, it felt like a great cop novel for me, bringing an incredibly dark idea to a small New England town.

A Hearty thumbs up!

FaceBook Experiment: The Book Exchange

So last month I came across an interesting looking post in my FaceBook Feed:

(Side note - if any of my readers are interested, now you know how to find me on Facebook!)

And as a long-time reading enthusiast, I clicked on the "Like" button and awaiting further information.

I was rewarded a day later with the following direct message:

Hi! So the way this works is you'll copy and paste this status:
Hey Facebook Friends! I'm participating in an international book exchange. I'm a huge bookworm and can't wait to see how this works out! Who wants to join me? All I need are at least 6 humans to participate! You only need to send one book to the address I will give to you. It may be bought new, or use one of your favourites that has been laying around untouched! Expect to receive approximately 36 books back!!! If you are interested, let me know or click "like" and I will PM you the details
#savetheculture 🌏🌞

Or make a similar one about #savetheculture and send one book to:
To the people who will like your status, you will give my name to have them send a book to
Then change the addresses and write yours when you're passing this on to get books back! Hooray for bookworms!

So It's now been a month and here's how it broke down; I sent away a book (mailing cost, $10) and over the next few weeks received a couple in the mail myself.

Now, you'll note I didn't receive 36, but I did get to send a book I was done with to a good home, and I got a couple new (to me) books for my trouble.

Worth it? Sure - the effort on my end was pretty low, and I doubled my original investment.

Also I liked the fact that this was about book sharing, rather than a business opportunity. Will I get anymore books? Probably not, but I still had fun, and I have to admit it's nice getting stuff in the mail that isn't a bill.