30 December 2011

Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs

Break No Bones -- Four Stars

This is the ninth book featuring the character Temperance Brennan, now a lead character in the Fox show Bones. I love crime thrillers, its my weakness. Give me a good murder and a decent plot twist and I will be a pathetic reader, begging for more. Yes, I have found all that in this novel.

Tempe is on an archeological dig in South Carolina when she finds a body that is not like the others, Much too young to be Pre-Colombian, still intact as well. This sends Tempe on a modern investigation that leads her down a road she never thought she'd be on when she agreed to go to the sea-side in the first place.

Full of technical jargon that is blessedly dumbed down for we poor regular folks, the story is one twist after another. Between the bodies that keep turning up and the boy friend/ex-husband in her life, Dr Brennan has no time to relax. I rather enjoyed the book and look forward to the next Brennan novel patiently waiting on my shelves.

12 December 2011

Drood by Dan Simmons

Drood -- Four Stars

I picked this up at Borders when they were having their final farewell. I do enjoy reading Dickens' novels, like most literary people, so I was attracted to this book because of that aspect. I was not prepared for a book that was such an in depth telling.

The story starts with the Staplehurst accident on 9 of June 1865. Charles Dickens was a passenger along with his pretty, young mistress when the train derailed and fell into a ravine. When Dickens starts to help the wounded and dying, he sees a fantastic man in a theatre cape. His name is Drood and he haunts the rest of the story.

The book is written in a fashion of a memoir, the narrator being a friend and contemporary of Dickens, one Wilkie Collins. He starts as a side character to entire Drood affair, but all too soon finds himself wrapped in the centre of a world of mesmerism (hypnosis) and  opium. The novel covers several years, from 1865 to Dickens' death in 1870. While we watch Dickens' age we also watch the narrator, Mr Collins, fall into his own madness.

I have to give Dan Simmons applause. He wrote a novel in the modern age using language that was common to the Victorian English age. No mean feat, let me assure you. Drood is also the first Simmons novel I have ever read and was notably impressed. I was also pleased by the level of research that went into the novel. Wilkie Collins had his share of success in the 1800's, but I had never heard of him and thought the character pure fiction. Imagine my surprise when I happened upon his most famous novel, The Moonstone, in a book shop the other day.

While a mammoth novel of over nine-hundred pages, it was well worth the read. I am so glad I picked it up that day.

18 September 2011

The Chicago Way by Michael Harvey

The Chiago Way
4 Stars-

This was a happy accident sort of purchase. I bought it in a major book sale for a few dollars and figured why not. What a wonderful "why not"!

Michael Kelly is a private investigator in Chicago. His old partner shows up one day with a cold case for him, the next he finds himself dead. Kelly isn't simply investigating a murder, he's thrown into a case that had its origin twenty years ago and the bodies just keep dropping. Kelly now has to question everything. Is someone a friend, lover, enemy? All three?

The novel has a great feel to it, like reading something from Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. The "hard boiled" detective had its hey-day in the 1930's and 1940's and it is a delight to have a modern equivalent. I'm a fan of the masters and have the entire "Philip Marlowe" series (that's by Chandler, so you know). Michael Kelly has the same sort of attitude and tone as Marlowe. This is the mystery novel I have been waiting for! Now I have to go and find book two in the series. I'd grumble, really I would, but I enjoyed the story and lead character far too much. 

Someplace To Be Flying by Charles DeLint

Someplace To Be Flying
5 Stars-

All right, so I'm partial, but who can blame me? I love DeLint's work and must say that his mixture of urban fantasy and traditional folklore has burrowed its way into my heart with no intent of leaving anytime soon.

In this story, we don't really see any of the usual characters. They are mentioned, but never introduced. Instead there is a focus on a lesser known pair of characters, Lilly and Hank. When she goes in search of the animal people from Jack's stories, Lilly finds more then she bargained for. One of these people try to kill her, but Hank turns up just in time to lend a hand with some serious help from the Crow Girls. This first encounter with a world neither of them understand bring downtown Hank and uptown Lilly together, in ways that neither of them would have ever expected.

I think the great take away from this novel is family. Sometimes we make mistakes with our kin and we have to atone for them, sometimes our family resembles a pack of wolves out for blood and there is no atonement. Sometimes when we introduce a member of the family we add that they are the ones we chose, not the ones we born into. Hank had a rough life, his family is odd and a little damaged, but good.

I could  not put this story down, I am always ready to dive headlong into a DeLint novel and only coming up for coffee. 

06 September 2011

The Bar Code Rellion By Suzanne Weyn

The Bar Code Rebellion
Four Stars

This was a grand conclusion to the series. All right so, it isn't really a series as they go, more like a long story. Hard to explain, anyway...

So once I finished the first book, The Bar Code Tattoo, I had to see how it ended. We pick up where we left off, with Kayla in the rebel camps, trying to find the courage she's always had, but never realized. She has found a new ability to go with her visions of the future, telepathy.

We follow her as she travels across the country to get away from those chasing her and find friends she's lost. In her travels, she finds out that there is far more behind that tattoo then simple medical and financial information. The tattoo is not a protection, it was never meant to be. But what is it, and is that information worth killing for? To find out, you have to join the rebellion yourself, fight against the control of a government that never meant to protect you.

This story brings back memories of history class, the Sixties most especially. That was a time of much unrest, when the general populous was not exactly against the government, but they didn't exactly support it either. People protested being sent places they didn't want to go and doing things they didn't want to do. Basic freedoms were still in place, you weren't branded like cattle.

These books make you think, they make you take stock of what is offered as a protection when in reality its more of an imprisonment. Global positioning systems in our cell phones and cars are for our safety, what if we get lost? But it's also used for tracking. Fluoride is put into the drinking water. Vaccines are forced upon our children, a new one that is supposed to prevent certain cancers in women actually causes other cancers! How far is too far? That is what Suzanne Weyn is trying to tell us all in her books. She is forcing us to ask ourselves... how far is too far?

24 August 2011

Outlaw by Angus Donald

*****-5 stars
I happened upon this at my local library. I enjoy stories of Robin Hood, keeping in mind that Robin is almost pure legend. Most of the stories we are told are, more or less, happy. Robin exchanging quips with his merry men, laughing while he slaps his Lincoln green thigh. If that is the story you're looking for, then don't bother.

This is an alternative telling of a legend we all know so well. Alan is a young fatherless boy in the streets of Nottingham, a cut purse and a thief. When the sheriff makes it his mission to catch every thief and remove his right hand, Alan is sent to Robin. He swears his allegiance to Robin of the Hood until death.

Alan stays with Robin, but isn't prepared for the things he sees. Robin is bloodthirsty and godless in a time when gentle nobles rule the land and are allied with the great Mother Church. In all respects, Robin is a dangerous man and a boy of fifteen summers enters into his inner circle. When the sheriff has Robin and his valiant men surrounded, it looks like there is no hope left, but this Robin... there's always something up his sleeve.

I loved this book! Adventure, intrigue, there's even a damsel in distress! For a story that is based off of a legend that we all know so well, it was well written and thoroughly entertaining.    

15 August 2011

The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn

The Bar Code Tattoo
*****- Five Stars

I happened upon this little gem whilst meandering though my local library. Oh the joys of books to read, free of charge! This book was just leaning ever so slightly off the shelf, so I adjusted it, then decided to take a closer look. "Closer", indeed! I read it in a few hours on the road this weekend.

We start in a world set in the future. Everything is smaller and faster then ever before. The latest "in" thing is to get this tattoo on your wrist of a bar code that is unique to you and only you. But see there's a problem in Utopia, isn't there always?

Kayla is one of the very few people who think there is something wrong morally about having your identity plastered on your arm for all the world to see. Medical records, criminal records, schooling records... every personal thing about you is right there for anyone with a scanner to see. Kayla refuses to get the tattoo, which starts to pose problems after the government makes it a law to be tattooed by seventeen.

What path will Kayla choose now? To follow the government and be a good little docile sheep, following the herd? Or will she take a stand for her morals? Are morals and self integrity really important anyway? Is "safety" the price for freedom?

A wonderful story, but then I'm a sucker for the "False Utopia" stories. 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Giver... There are more I'm sure, but these are my favourites. Is safety the price of our personal freedom? Can we be free moral agents, allowed to make mistakes, yet maintain freedom? What is price we are individually willing to pay? Well... you answer......

17 July 2011

Forests Of The Heart by Charles De Lint

Forests of the Heart

Rated-- *****
All right, so this was a "fluff" book, one that you read purely for the entertainment, for the joy of the story itself, not because you expect to receive anything of wisdom in the pages. De Lint is among my favourite authors and his Newford stories are always on my reading shelf. I truly never tire of reading his tales.

Charles De Lint manages to mix ancient folklore, spiritism, and Christianity in a way that never comes off as anything other then a beautiful story. In this one, De Lint doesn't follow the characters that his fans have grown to love so dearly, but introduces us to all new people! A singular treat.

The story opens in the deserts of the American Southwest with a young woman who has powerful medicine in her. She travels to Newford because she was called, by something or someone she isn't sure. She gets dragged into an ancient battle between the spirits, a place that no one wants to be. You never try to attract the attention of spirits as old as creation itself. The list of characters is numerous and wonderful. We are all taken on an adventure to find a way to lock an ancient spirit away before he can destroy anyone in his bloodlust. Where will you stand?

De Lint again gives us, not only a story of people and fantastic possibilities, but a story of loves won and lost. Of fear and hope, of dreams and nightmares. Truly, this is a wonderful novel of pain and beauty, one I am pleased to have spent the night reading.

08 July 2011

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five

Rated- *****
I read this book earlier this year and I have to say it was rather incredible. Personally, I don't care for war, I think that murder in any way is morally reprehensible. That being said, Vonnegut has written a great fictionalized biography. It is both funny and painful, beautiful and sickening. I was not sure if such a thing can be accomplished, but Mr Vonnegut has proved me very wrong.

Written when the Cold War was in it's height, Vonnegut showed the world how he survived World War II, similar to the manner that the crew of M*A*S*H had in Korea. The brutal honesty of this novel makes you hate the idea of war being anything but a horrible idea. He shows us all that there is no glory in going to war, only nightmares and death.  We are taken for a short walk through his memories and are shown that there is no such thing as a fair war.

Slaughterhouse Five has been touted as the first of the anti-war novels. I'm not sure if this is true, but certainly was the first one I'd read. And I am glad of that. I don't think any other novel could have captured the true grit and horror that is war.

While at times, he seems to ramble on and digress, Vonnegut uses this as a way to compare "normal" to "horror". Sometimes they are starkly different, sometimes they are reflections of each other. There are moments in which we, as readers, are unsure where the story is going and why, but then no one really knows their path. I believe that Vonnegut was trying to show us that. To me, he succeeded with flying colours

06 July 2011

The Twelfth Card by Jeffery Deaver

The Twelfth Card

Rated- ****
I just finished this novel, the sixth in Jeffery Deaver's famous Lincoln Ryhme series. I feel it is only fair to tell you now that I enjoy mental candy, brain fluff if you will, by way of books that really are trivial and hold no other purpose other then to completely entertain me. My "go-to" genres in these instances tend to be either murder/thriller or urban fantasy.

Deaver is one of my favourite authors for this mental junk food. His plot lines are everywhere and often have several things going on at once. With the forensic science and the psychology going one in this book, one is never sure where the story is going. Deaver's tale has more twists in it then the Colorado River.

We are introduced to a young girl from Harlem who is determined to get out by using the only weapon she has, intelligence. She is researching an ancestor and happens upon a great "secret", one that some one is willing to kill for. Enter Lincoln Rhyme- a forensic scientist who has one major problem aside from his course manners, he is paralyzed from the chest down. His partner and lover is Amelia Sachs, a street smart cop with a scientist's brain. She works the crimes scenes in the way Rhyme used to. Together they work to solve the mystery of who hired a hit on a teenaged girl and what a "secret" from one hundred and forty years ago has to do with it.

I was very pleased with the experience of reading it. Mr Deaver never disappoints his readers. This was no exception, I am happy to report.

04 July 2011

Pilgrim by Timothy Findley

I finally finished this novel the second time around and could not have been happier... that it was finally over! The story flings itself over vast time lines, let alone vast places. The plot is a detached, curious mess.

The lead character, known throughout the story as only Pilgrim, has the inability to die. He has tried various methods, all without success. This one wishes he had, only so the tale would be very short. Pilgrim has had many lives, among them a rape victim of Leonardo Di Vinci and again as a shepherd boy. All these lives has driven Pilgrim insane, where we meet Carl Gustof Jung. Yes, the very same who broke bread with Freud.

What irritated me more then any other was the fact that the plot never went anywhere. Findley simply talks in circles and eventually spirals out of control into some ungodly mess. I could honestly have spent the week it took me to trudge through this... I can't call it work, I could have knitted a sweater! I'm not entirely sure what drove me to purchase this book in the first place, or why I challenged myself to read it completely through but I sorely regret it.

I'm A Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson

I'm A Stranger Here Myself
A wonderfully poignant collection of Bryson's published news paper article. After twenty years in England, where he married and had his children, Bryson returns to America to an interesting version of culture shock. We follow him over a few years worth of articles as he reeducates himself with the strange ways of Americana. Everything from a day at the beach to children leaving the nest, Bryson shows us his world, both intimate and familiar.

His style is humorous and quirky, a lovely mix. You can see Queen's English as well as American English in his writing, a trait I rather enjoy. He is at times annoying with his views, as an old man on his front porch, but then he's no spring chicken. Some of his writing are silly and happy memories from childhood, or experiences with his own children. Other occasions show his profound disappointment in the difference between England and America. One gets the feeling that, while he is a patriot, he's also a "red coat".

The articles are all short, a few pages at most, and makes for a quick read. I would definitely recommend this book to, well just about anyone.

Dreams Underfoot by Charles De Lint

Dreams Underfoot
The start of a grand adventure through a world so beautiful and dangerous that we cannot help but read more, to be guided through such a place where the Dreamlands and the World As It Is are so close the most fantastic things will happen, if only you believe. De Lint has created, in this collection, a world  of his very own that he has graciously shared with the rest of us. In his city of Newford, we see the light and dark sides of the Dreamlands and fairy.

Never does he disappoint with his fantastic tales of shape shifters, fairy, first cousins, and the people who happen to fall headlong into such a world. Since I first was introduced to De Lint's world, I fell in love with it, like a junki does with heroin. I can never wait long till my next Newford fix.
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