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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Twenty-Three - A Review


After reading the first two books in this Promise Falls trilogy I waited quite awhile before picking up this last book.  I don’t know why I waited so long but now that I’ve read it I’m on the fence about this one.

THE TWENTY-THREE by Linwood Barclay

Promise Falls is a small town that has been under siege for a long while now and the number 23 seems to be important to whoever is perpetrating the horrendous acts.  Now it’s the Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd and as the sun rises people are dropping like flies.  It doesn’t take long to figure out that something has been put into the water supply.   As if that wasn’t enough for the hospital and police department to deal with another murder occurs – one bearing horrible similarities to two past, as yet unsolved, murders.  Could all these events be related?

Mr. Barclay once again gave me a page-turner.  Things in Promise Falls were happening and they were happening quickly.  For this reader it was almost too much, too quickly.  Just when I was catching on to what was happening with the water the scene switched to the murder and then a quick cut to the mayoral candidate and then back to the water treatment plant.  While I don’t mind a lot of action this instalment in the trilogy seemed overpopulated and slightly out of control.  The mystery of “23” was solved and yet with everything that went on there were still some questions unanswered. 

Mr. Barclay has stated this is his last visit to Promise Falls.  We’ll see? 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the author’s website)

After spending his formative years helping run a cottage resort and trailer park after his father died when he was 16, Barclay got his first newspaper job at the Peterborough Examiner, a small Ontario daily. In 1981, he joined the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper.

He held such positions as assistant city editor, chief copy editor, news editor, and Life section editor, before becoming the paper’s humour columnist in 1993. He was one of the paper’s most popular columnists before retiring from the position in 2008 to work exclusively on books.

Barclay was born in the United States but moved to Canada just before turning four years old when his father, a commercial artist whose illustrations of cars appeared in Life, Look and Saturday Evening Post (before photography took over), accepted a position with an advertising agency north of the border. Barclay, who graduated with an English literature degree from Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, was fortunate to have some very fine mentors; in particular, the celebrated Canadian author Margaret Laurence, whom Linwood first met when she served as writer-in-residence at Trent, and Kenneth Millar, who, under the name Ross Macdonald, wrote the acclaimed series of mystery novels featuring detective Lew Archer. It was at Trent that he met Neetha, the woman who would become his wife. They have two children, Spencer and Paige.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Fosgate's Game - A Review



I’m always on the lookout for a good horror story so when I got the email that I’d won a copy of this one I was quite excited to read it.  I’ve read a few other novellas by Mr. Cassidy and, like those, this one did not disappoint. 

FOSGATE’S GAME by David C. Cassidy

Chadwick and Fosgate were business associates but that was all they had in common.  Fosgate is a hunter, a brute, insensitive to other people’s feelings, concerns and fears.   Chadwick was more sensitive – his ulcer flares up when he is in Fosgate’s company, the hunter’s trophies on the wall disturb him and thunderstorms are a phobia – and tonight’s dinner did indeed take place a very dark and stormy night.  Chadwick understands that Fosgate takes a perverse sort of joy playing on his fears but it cannot be helped; these ongoing evenings are a necessity of doing business.

But this night is different.

This night Fosgate shares a mysterious secret about an object he picked up in his travels, a chess set with pieces so grotesque Chadwick could not comprehend why and who would have carved them.  The set should have stayed hidden in it’s case.  It emanated evil, but worse; Fosgate wanted to play!

This book had me in its grip from the first page.  Chadwick’s fear and loathing of Fosgate was palpable and as the evening and Chadwick’s discomfort progressed so did mine. Since I don’t care for Jason and Chainsaw “slasher” type horror finding a good old-fashioned scare seems few and far between these days.  Rest assured there is still the requisite amount of mayhem, death, blood and gore but Mr. Cassidy does not feel the need to slap you in the face with it … one quick mention and the rest is left to the readers imgination … like some of the masters of the genre he understands that this reader does not need to feel splattered in blood to feel fear.  How does it all turn out?  Satisfyingly twisted thank you very much!

Kudos!

I’d like to thank Mr. Cassidy for providing me with this book through a contest
with no expectation of a review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from amazon)

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several best-selling novels of horror and suspense, including The Dark, Velvet Rain, and Fosgate's Game. An author, photographer, and graphic designer--and a half-decent juggler--he spends his writing life creating dark and touching stories where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen.

But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots. David lives in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD--Multiple Activity Disorder--he divides his time between writing and blogging, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

To learn more and connect with David, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or visit his website: http://davidccassidy.com http://www.facebook.com/davidccassidyauthor http://www.twitter.com/davidccassidy

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Echoes in Death - A Review


After the last few books I was ready to give up on this series.  I’m quite glad I decided to plough through one more.  I thought this was the best one in quite a while.


ECHOES IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

In start of this 44th book in the In Death series Eve and Rourke have just returned from a lovely vacation on their private island in time to attend the Winter Ball, a charity event.  Eve, of course, hates every minute of the schmoozing, fancy dress and toe numbing heels.  She was looking forward to getting back to work on Monday but work finds her as she and Rourke are driving home when a young woman, naked and beaten, runs out in front of their car.  Eve Dallas is suddenly back on the job … heels and all.

They manage to rush Daphne Strazza to the ER in time to save her life, but when Eve goes back to investigate it is quite obviously to late for her husband.  Daphne swears the devil himself broke into their home after a dinner party, tied up her husband and then repeatedly assaulted her.  Eve understood that it couldn’t really have been the devil, but who was this master of disguise – who, as it turns out has targeted several other couples before and probably has a list of future victims as well.

With Echoes in Death Ms. Robb has gone back to what I enjoyed about these books at the beginning – the crime, the squad, the investigation and Rourke to go home to.  It was a relief to me that Rourke took a little bit of a back seat in this one.  Frankly, he was becoming annoyingly controlling and invasive of Eve’s space in the last few entries.  Yes, he still helped with some computer work but this case was solved by good old police work.  Well 2060’s style police work.  Therein lies my only complaint with this book ... the solving of the case seemed to come out of the blue.  All at once Eve seems to have an epiphany and the bad guy is in the interrogation room.  Did I miss a chapter or two?  Was it supposed to be a surprise or did Ms. Robb realize the page limit was looming and she better get this case solved.  

Echoes in Death has ensured that I will pick up at least the next instalment. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)

With a phenomenal career full of bestsellers, Nora Roberts was ready for a new writing challenge. As her agent put it, like Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and caffeine-free Pepsi, a pseudonym offered her the opportunity to reach a new and different group of readers. The first futuristic suspense J. D. Robb book, Naked in Death, was published in paperback in 1995, and readers were immediately drawn to Eve Dallas, a tough cop with a dark past, and her even more mysterious love interest, Roarke.

The series quickly gained attention, great reviews, and devoted readers. Since the debut of Loyalty in Death (the ninth In Death book) on Halloween 1999 on the New York Times bestseller list, every J. D. Robb title has been a New York Times bestseller. While fans had their suspicions, it wasn’t until the twelfth book in the series, Betrayal in Death (2001), that the publisher fully revealed that J. D. Robb was a pseudonym for bestselling powerhouse Nora Roberts. Unmasked, Nora Roberts fans who hadn’t yet picked up one of the Robb books were quickly playing catch-up.

The In Death books are perpetual bestsellers, and frequently share the bestseller list with other Nora Roberts novels. J. D. Robb publishes two hardcover In Death books per year, with the occasional stand-alone original In Death story featured in an anthology.
Forty-four books later, there is no end in sight for the ever-popular In Death series.

Friday, 24 March 2017

I Liked My Life - A Review


I hadn’t heard any buzz about this book, but the cover caught my eye from the “express read” shelf as I was hurrying past it on my way to the “holds” shelf at the library.  When that happens (more often than I should probably admit) I read the synopsis on the inside cover but I also flip through the book and read some random sentences and the first line.  How could I resist a book whose first line read “I found the perfect wife for my husband”?

I LIKED MY LIFE by Abby Fabiaschi

Madeline is devoted to her teenage daughter, still in love (mostly) with her husband and proud of being a stay at home mom.  She, possibly rightly, knows that she is the glue that holds her family together.  She’s happy with her family and her accomplishments.  That’s what she and everyone around her thought until Maddy, for reasons unknown, went to the roof of the library building where she worked and ended up dead and broken on the tarmac below.

As her family comes to terms with her unexpected death Madeline finds that although her mortal life is over she is not quite ready to leave her family totally to their own devices.  A presence - but not really a ghost - Madeline has to learn how to navigate in this limbo where she finds herself and, more importantly, how to steer her family in the right direction before she ascends to wherever she is meant to go.

Told from the perspective of the three family members, Brady (husband and father), Eve (daughter) and Maddy herself.  This style is perfect for this book because it gives the reader the insight they need into all three characters that an omniscient narrator could never accomplish in the same satisfying manner.  Despite the fact that this book primarily deals with the death of woman, the pain and the grief her husband and daughter go through and their tense, often difficult, road toward forming a new type of relationship at it’s heart this is a feel good book.  Yes, it is sad in places and I can even admit to being angry with each of the characters at different points, it made me smile at others and, boy, I liked this book.

It never occurred to me while I was enthralled in the read but if you liked “Lovely Bones” then this is a book you should definitely pick up and read.  The books are different in many ways, the same in others but certainly with the same type of feels.

It didn’t take too much deciding to come up with my 5 star rating but I hesitated for a couple of moments wondering if I enjoyed this book so much because of my age.  It will definitely appeal to the “mature” woman but I truly believe it will appeal to young women and older teens just as much.  It’s a story of family, love and friendship and how to get through the tough times.

* Twenty percent of the author’s proceeds support women and children’s charities around the globe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)

After graduating from The Taft School in 1998 and Babson College in 2002, Abby climbed the corporate ladder in high technology. When her children turned three and four in what felt like one season, she resigned to pursue writing.

In March, Abby signed a two-book, hardcover deal with St. Martin’s Press. Her debut upmarket women’s fiction novel, I Liked My Life, will be released January 31, 2017.
Abby is a human rights advocate interested in economic solutions to social/cultural problems.

She is Director of the Board for Made By Survivors, an international nonprofit organization with a unique prosperity model that uplifts victims from sex trafficking and extreme abuse.

She and her family divide their time between West Hartford, Connecticut and Park City, Utah. When not writing or watching the comedy show that is her children, she enjoys reading across genres, skiing, hiking, and yoga. Oh, and travel. Who doesn’t love vacation?

I Work at a Public Library - A Review


I am a bit of a sucker for this type of book.  Interacting with the public for most of my working life I have a few amusing stories up my sleeve too.  I think that sets my expectations pretty high.

I WORK AT A PUBLIC LIBRARY by Gina Sheridan

The tag line on this book is “A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks”.

Crazy?  Not so sure.

Humorous?  Borderline.

I can’t honestly say that, for me, there were any laugh-out-loud moments as I read this book.  I found it mildly funny at best so that was a little disappointing.  I understand that Ms. Sheridan was sharing some of these stories in a blog and eventually had other librarians sending her stories that she added to her own and shared a select number in this book.  I may go and check out the blog sometime just to see if she could have made better choices.

My favorite story in the book?  Ouchies, Library … I stubbed my toe just as someone dropped a book into the inside book drop.  As I yelped and howled in pain, a child on the other side said “Mommy, I think we hurt he book”.

All that aside I do applaud any literary effort that celebrates libraries and librarians.  I use my library A LOT and am so grateful they do what they do.  For that reason I tacked another ½ star onto my rating of this book … 3 ½ stars!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the book jacket)



Gina Sheridan is a librarian in St. Louis, Missouri, where she lives her partner Travis.  When she’s not collecting stories, she’s exploring cemeteries, dressing up her cats, or taking pictures of things overlooked by regular people.  You can visit her website at www.iworkatapubliclibrary.com

The Ice Dragon - A Review


I read and enjoyed the books in the Song of Fire and Ice series, and let’s face it; very few authors are as ruthless as Mr. Martin when it comes to killing off characters in the most gruesome ways.  When I saw this book at the Dollar Store (sorry Mr. Martin, sad for you – good for me), despite my self-imposed book buying ban I had to pick it up to see what Mr. Martin considers YA fiction.

THE ICE DRAGON by George R.R. Martin

Adara was a winter child, born during the worst winter anyone could remember.  Unfortunately, her mother died in childbirth – no one knows if that, the storm or her father’s (albeit) hidden blame resulted in her not ever feeling cold.  When other children tired of their winter games and ran inside for warmth Adara went alone to build her ice castle.  It was there she first met the Ice Dragon of legend.  No one had ever seen it other than from afar but after several winters Adara not only touched it but also rode on it’s back.  They developed a unique friendship out of mutual loneliness.

As war encroaches ever closer on her village neighbours and friends are leaving.  Even Adara’s uncle, a King’s Dragon Master, warned her father to leave but he was a stubborn man.  When it was too late to leave and the only thing that could save them was Adara’s dragon it became a question of which friend was willing to sacrifice more for the other.

While not totally without war, bloodshed and death Mr. Martin has definitely toned it down for the younger audience intended to read The Ice Dragon.  What there is, I would consider age appropriate and not graphic - happening “off page”.  He does give his young reader a page turning story and a poignant lesson about what it means to be a friend.  An added bonus is the wonderful illustrations. 


I enjoyed the book and am glad I “splurged” and picked it up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the book jacket)



Mr. Martin is a six time Hugo and two-time Nebula Award winner, is the author of the most wildly acclaimed and anticipated series in recent history, A Song of Ice and Fire, the basis for HBO’s show Game of Thrones.  Time magazine named him “One of the most influential people of 2011”.  He currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



 

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR (from the book jacket)



Luis Royo is a prolific Spanish artist best known for his lush fantasy illustrations.  More than thirty books of his collected art have been published, including “Women, Dead Moon”, and the “Malefic Time” series.  Royo’s artwork is featured in Spectrum 3 and has been exhibited in Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, New York, Seattle and St. Petersburg.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Switching things up with a movie review



I was fortunate enough to see Kedi (Turkish for cats) at the Rogers “Hot Docs” in Toronto last night and I am not using the word “fortunate” lightly.  It was a delightful film.  I always walk into documentaries, especially those featuring animals, with a certain amount of trepidation because of what I might see.  With Kedi my greatest fear was that it would be tear-inducing account of the hardships feral cats face in the streets of Istanbul.  Oh yes, I’d watched the trailers but they always put the best parts into those don’t they?  Thankfully, my trepidation was unfounded.  I am sure they purposely left out “ugly” but, with my blinders permanently in place, that was fine by me.


The cats of Kedi are not feral cats – wild and uncared for, they are “street cats” (as the film’s English title infers) – cats that are cared for, fed, petted and loved by the people with whom they share their city.  As one of the people featured in the film explained “we all have running tabs at the vet’s office”.  From the fisherman who discovered an abandoned litter of kittens and took over feeding them using a syringe to the shop owner who was administering antibiotic drops to a kitten with an eye infection there wasn’t much in this film that didn’t make me smile.


Common belief is that they first arrived on Norwegian trading ships and just stayed (a few of the cats definitely bore traits common to the Norwegian Forest breed).  And why not stay?  They are treated like the royalty I’m sure they believe they are.  The people in the film were eloquent in describing why the cats were such an important part of not only their lives but also the life of the city that they have roamed freely for centuries.  Kedi is also a truly beautiful film to watch … Istanbul on film is both breathtaking in the long shops and quite real, dare I say gritty at times, when the camera went to street shots and then even to cat’s-eye level.

That entirely aside, and as it should be, the cats were the stars of the film.  Each of the featured felines had a distinct personality.  With a gentleman, a psychopath, the lover and the hustler the movie could be a Hollywood blockbuster but these cats are just going about their days and, more often than not, getting their own way.  Even President Obama was not immune to their powerful charms when he bent down to pet one of these felines on a tour of Hagia Sophia.

There was a serious side to Kedi that cannot be overlooked.  The people are concerned about the gentrification of their little part of the city.  They worry about themselves but also about what will happen to these cats that are so much a part of their lives.  Now the cats lounge in the sun on car windshields, relax in store doorways, perch upon high walls, sprawl on top of awnings and curl up on sidewalk cafĂ©, they have their private little hidey-holes and safe places to disappear into when they need alone time.  The citizens fear for them when all there spots disappear.  Where will they go … both people and cats?


I must admit there was a big – okay huge – part of me that watched this film with my Canadian mentality and wondered why they would not start a Trap/Neuter/Release program in this beautiful city.  The people pick up and cuddle kittens, interact with these cats, feed them and look after their health … why not spay and neuter? But, this is a review not a platform so, definitely, this is a film I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone but especially those with a soft spot for furry feline friends.