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review 2017-08-17 18:03
Plague / C.C. Humphreys
Plague - C.C. Humphreys

London, 1665. A serial killer stalks his prey, scalpel in his hand and God's vengeance in his heart. Five years after his restoration to the throne, Charles II leads his citizens by example, enjoying every excess. Londoners have slipped the shackles of puritanism and now flock to the cockpits, brothels and, especially, the theatres, where for the first time women are allowed to perform alongside the men. But not everyone is swept up in the excitement. Some see this liberated age as the new Babylon, and murder victims pile up in the streets, making no distinction in class between a royalist member of parliament and a Cheapside whore. But they have a few things in common: the victims are found with gemstones in their mouths. And they have not just been murdered; they've been . . . sacrificed.  Now the plague is returning to the city with full force, attacking indiscriminately . . . and murder has found a new friend.

 

Chris Humphreys is an inspired historical fiction author. I met him last weekend at a literary conference and he is smart, funny, and charming as the devil. He definitely benefits from his acting background, particularly his ease with performing Shakespeare (we got an excerpt from one of the Henry plays during his key-note address). During one of his panel discussions, he mentioned that as an author, one must choose how the dialog will be written—choose your form of “bygone-ese” as he called it. Humphrey’s ease with the English of Shakespeare and his playwright’s ear for what will sound good gives his fiction a feeling of reality, using just enough older vocabulary and never becoming too 21st century.

There is, of course, theatre involved in the novel—a subject that the author is knowledgeable and comfortable with. But the variety of characters, from highwayman to serial killer to royalty, gives the story a breadth that I appreciated. As a reader, you are not limited to merely the theatre of 1665, you experience many parts of London. In fact London itself could be counted as a character.

I will be working my way, gradually, through all of Chris Humphreys works and will definitely look forward to more. Highly recommended.

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review 2017-07-31 19:39
The Lost Ones / Sheena Kamal
The Lost Ones - Sheena Kamal

It's late. The phone rings.

The man on the other end says his daughter is missing.

Your daughter.

The baby you gave away over fifteen years ago.

What do you do?


Nora Watts isn't sure that she wants to get involved. Troubled, messed up, and with more than enough problems of her own, Nora doesn't want to revisit the past. But then she sees the photograph. A girl, a teenager, with her eyes. How can she turn her back on her?

But going in search of her daughter brings Nora into contact with a past that she would rather forget, a past that she has worked hard to put behind her, but which is always there, waiting for her . . .

 

I’m not sure how this book even got on my TBR list—but it came in at the public library for me last week, so I must have seen something along the way that prompted me to put a hold on it. I’ve obviously had it on hold for some time and now that it’s published, voila!

A woman with a past. Alcoholism. Sexual assault. A baby given up for adoption. Homelessness. Indigenous heritage, making her invisible to the justice system unless it is making life more difficult for her.

And yet she has talents and has carved out a very small place in the world for herself. One phone call shatters all of that progress and plunges Nora Watts back into the world with a vengeance.


I would definitely read another book about Nora. I hope Ms. Kamal finds another story that Nora could tell.

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review 2017-07-25 20:19
"Canadian West: When Calls the Heart" by Janette Oke
When Calls the Heart (Canadian West #1) - Janette Oke

I'm not a fan of the description on the back of this book. "Beth discovers that [Wynn] also has determined never to marry." Okay, we don't get to that part until page 164 (out of 221). It doesn't make sense for this information to be made known before reading it. To make things worse, for a portion of the book, we are supposed to believe that Wynn is already married (though it's obvious he isn't, even without the poor description, which brings me to my next point).

It was frustrating how naïve Elizabeth could be. First she couldn't figure out that Higgins was planning on marrying her, despite his aggressive flirting. Then she took ridiculous precautions to protect herself from "wolves" -- they're animals; not zombies! Next she couldn't stand the mice in her house, but couldn't stomach any methods of getting rid of them. Then she couldn't figure out why a man named Wynn Delaney would have an interest in a child named Phillip Delaney. And when she finally realized that there was a family connection, she couldn't imagine any other connection between the two beside father and child. Like, she thought Wynn was married with children and flagrantly flirting with her in front of everyone in town including his wife, despite otherwise being a respectable man. How is it that she's so sensitive to flirting except when it came from Higgins, anyway?

(spoiler show)


Also, normally, I hate it when people complain about a book (or movie) being "preachy" because I feel like they're being overly sensitive and acting like they were tricked into reading a "Christian" book despite the fact that the description of the book was very open about the spiritual content. However, in the case of When Calls the Heart, "preachy" is an accurate description. Whether that's a bad thing or not, I don't know. I felt like it was a bit unnatural, like it switched to the author speaking directly to the reader instead of conversations within the story.

I did still enjoy it. Though I couldn't tell you why. I do love Wynn Delaney's name. There's one good thing. Haha. Doesn't it just roll off the tongue? Anyway, I'll continue the series, but there are other Janette Oke books I'd recommend rather than this one.

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text 2017-07-21 22:25
Go Wild!
The Extinction Club - Jeffrey Moore

This was my first experience of work by Canadian author, Jeffrey Moore and perhaps to the author's credit 'The Extinction Club" isn't easily pidgeon-holed. It's certainly thrilling, but there are also elements of brutal crime, a key character (Celeste) is a teenager, but it's not really a 'young adult' novel, at one point crumbs even seemed to be leading down the path of a ghost/monster story, but no. What does stand out is the use of the book as a brash exposé of the abject capacity of man for cruelty and the depraved abuse of wild animals, as well as their own kind. Designed to be hard-hitting, in parts the book adopts the tenor of a documentary and yet the tension builds from the classic clash of good and evil.

 

Nile Nightingale is an unlikely hero. Hiding out in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, from a series of stateside misdemeanors and a litigious ex-partner with designs on his inheritance, the recovering alcoholic is in poor shape. However, when he rescues a discarded burlap sack from sinking into marshland, he discovers inside 14 year-old Celeste, beaten and stabbed. Both damaged by their respective experiences. Nile and Celeste contrive to rehabilitate each other and rediscover the spirit to not be cowed, but rather to find the courage to stand up for what it right.

 

For Nile especially, the adventure smacks of a chance for redemption, but brimming with challenge, the temptation to take the path of least resistance is palpable. In describing the burgeoning connection of the main characters the book is also touching and ultimately demonstrates that humankind is simultaneously capable of great virtue and altruism, which can set the species apart.

 

Thus, by casting a light on the dichotomy between the hunted and the hunters, Moore alludes to the possibility that the abuse of power is the greatest weakness of all. Still, for all the uncompromising wildlife protection zeal, Moore's inclusion of wacky cameos, such as Welshman Myles Llewellyn, at least confers a little lightness to the barbarous gloom. Bore da! 

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text 2017-07-20 07:56
East Van Saturday Night - submissions, round two

 

East Van Saturday - four short stories and a novella, has just been sent out to three more Canadian publishers.

 

The process began in November of last year when I decided that self-publishing another work (currently I've self-published eight novels and two plays) wasn't going to achieve what I wanted.

 

What do I want?

Critical, serious consideration for my writing and you're not likely going to receive that as an self-published author.

 

Why? Because it's now dead easy to self-publish and guess what, everybody's doing it. In 2015 alone, 625,327 ISBN numbers were issued for individual indie books.

 

In the past six months I've submitted to five publishers. If you think sending out submissions is easy, well, I guess it depends on what you're comparing it to.

 

Consider:

- publishers are obsessively specific about how your manuscript should be presented: what font style, what type size, margin widths, headers, etc.

- part of the submission package is to explain why you think your work is a good fit for them,

- you must provide details on how you're prepared to market your book,

- in most cases they will not accept simultaneous or multiple submissions,

- they won't let you know they received your submission,

- you are under no circumstances allowed to contact them in any way,

- they won't let you know if they reject your work, they'll just shred it, using "a secure process".

 

Okay, so it's not that difficult, it's just extremely annoying to have to deal with their arrogance - and that's without ever having the opportunity to speak with any of them.

 

To make it even more galling, in 2014-15 these guys (and gals) received $30 million dollars in Canadian government subsidies - that's my tax money.

 

And what exactly do they do for this money now that all the services: editing, cover design, production, marketing and distribution can be done by the author or purchased from experts relatively inexpensively?

 

One thing.

 

They're the gatekeepers to literary acceptance. If you're an indie author you're a joke, if your traditionally published you're accepted by the literati.

 

Not that I'll make any more money. Emerging authors are lucky to receive a fifteen percent royalty on traditionally published books.

So here we go again.

 

East Van Saturday Night - four short stories and a novella, are to some degree autobiographical and impart to the reader why you can take the boy out of East Van, but you'll never take East Van out of the boy.


Though the stories are all set in East Vancouver (with the exception of Hitchhike, which is a cross Canada misadventure during the "summer of love"), the themes have universal appeal and the music, the fashions and the culture are distinctly familiar to "boomers".

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

Amazon Author Page   https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

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