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review 2020-06-01 13:20
Terrific characters and a ray of hope in a dark, dark world
Blackthorn - Terry Tyler

I’ve read quite a few novels by Terry Tyler, and the whole of the Project Renova series, and I was looking forward to this one as well, as it is a story set in one of the settlements we visited in the last novel in the series, Legacy(you can find my review of Legacy here and there are also links to the rest of the novel available on that post).  Blackthorn is a pretty memorable place and my previous visit to that world made me think of Westworld (the old movie rather than the series, which I haven’t watched), because it was like an amalgamation of the worst of Ancient Rome and a Medieval court. Some of the events that happened in that novel are bound to be fresh in the minds of readers, and they are referred to in this novel, but I think even people who haven’t read any of the other novels in the Renova Series would be able to enjoy this one, as the author does a great job of creating a vivid world, and it’s not difficult to understand the rules and get to know the characters that play the different parts. Yes, those who have read the whole series will have a fair more background, and it fits in beautifully with the rest, but that should not deter new readers from trying it (and judging by the reviews, it seems that many new readers have enjoyed it as well).

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the plot, because there are a number of surprises, and the author has built them up perfectly and paced the story so that we discover each bit of information with the characters at a particular point in the story, sharing in their feelings and emotions, and that helps explain and justify their actions. Most of the story is told in the first person present tense, by the three main characters: Evie, a young girl, a shacker (because there is a strict social order, and where you are born determines your lot in life in Blackthorn. It’s very difficult to rise above one’s station and those who try pay dearly for it), who works in a bakery and leads a very modest life (she has no other option), clever, witty, and a bit of an outsider; Byron Lewis, a guard from a family with a long tradition in Blackthorn but also a bit of an outsider; and Lieutenant August Hemsley, who is a good an honest man, a bit of a loner and has always tried his best to do his duty, remaining blind to some of the most unsavoury aspects of life in Blackthorn. There are also brief chapters told in the third person (and in italics) that offer readers some hints and clues as to other things that might be going on behind the scenes and that our three narrators have no access to. Although those three get to learn plenty about what is really going on, readers get an even closer look at the darkness and horror most of the population are completely unaware of. This is a dystopian novel, science-fiction about a possible future if civilisation were to collapse (in this case due to a virus, a particularly scary thing to read at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic), and it touches on a lot of themes: social control, organised religion, faith, spirituality, and tradition, power and manipulation, family, friendship and identity…

I have mentioned the main characters and the way the story is narrated. There are other characters who play important parts, like Ryder Swift, an outlier who used to visit Blackthorn every year, charismatic, good at telling stories and a favourite with the shackers, who becomes something of a religious leader; Wolf North, the governor, a master manipulator who is one of the darkest characters in the whole story, and many others with smaller parts, like Evie’s friends and relatives, the other guards, the women who live in the House of Angels (I’ll let you learn about that when you read the story)… but if I had to choose one, my favourite would be Evie, who reminded me of Lottie, one of my favourite characters in the whole of the Project Renova series. Tyler excels at creating characters, some likeable, some dislikeable, but all real human beings (no matter what strange worlds and circumstances they might live in), and we see how the three protagonists grow and develop during the novel (the three of them are keen readers, so that helps the connection as well), refusing to be defined by socially-designated roles and categories and coming into their own. This helps us engage with them and feel touched, marvelled or horrified by their experiences, and we feel sorrow when we leave them (although the author hints at a possible follow up on some of the characters’ adventures).

Notwithstanding the author’s focus on her characters, she manages to create a truly compelling and realistic world in Blackthorn, one that might feel fairly alien to our daily experience and we might not like, but one we can understand, and some aspects of which might be uncomfortably recognisable. Her description of the different parts of the city, the conditions the inhabitants have to live in, their routines, their way of life, their hardships and/or privileges are seamlessly woven into the story, rather than told in long stretches of information dumps, and we learn all we need from wandering around Blackthorn’s streets with the narrators, sharing in their observations, their day-to-day life and their adventures. We see their homes, their places of work, we follow them to the bakery, the prison, the outskirts, the governor’s home, the bars, their friends’ homes, and we get to know the hidden spots in Blackthorn as well. This is done in a fluid style, with an eye for detail that does not disrupt the narrative or interrupt the plot (even when there are short chapters that take us back to earlier moments in the story), and the writing is perfectly in sync with the narrative, not calling undue attention to itself but rather serving the story. There are contemplative and beautiful moments; there are some funny touches; some truly horrific events, and some touching and hopeful passages as well. Tyler’s writing mastery keeps increasing with every novel as demonstrated by this book.

The ending hints at new beginnings and at many more stories. It brings some wonderful surprises and some disappointments (not totally unexpected), but I won’t go into details. I loved it, and, for me, it is a hopeful ending.

This is another great novel by Terry Tyler, and one set in a world that most readers will be able to connect with. I loved its unlikely mix of characters, the fantastic baddy (Wolf North his pretty up there with the best, or worst, depending on how you look at it), the masterful way the story is told, and how it makes us pause and think, about the past, the present, and the future. A few words of warning, there are some violent scenes (not extreme but upsetting), some very dark and nasty happenings, and its take on official religions could be challenging for some readers. Personally, I can’t wait to read the sequel to Hope.


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review 2020-04-01 16:50
A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie
A Share In Death - Deborah Crombie

I've picked up several in this series over the years when they've gone on sale, without ever reading any of them, including the first one. I thought that the series would appeal to me, and I wasn't wrong.


I liked the main characters. It's a very British mystery, which I also liked (in spite of the fact that Crombie is actually a Texan, which is weird).


I liked it - it's a keeper, although I have no idea when I will be able to really dive in. I typically only buy books like this when they are deeply discounted (like $1.99 each), or when I can get them from the library. The library is a no go right now.

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text 2020-03-31 18:14
Master Tracking Post: First In Series

As BrokenTune said, I do love a master tracking post. I also have a bunch of first in series on my TBR list that I've been planning on getting to - so I can decide if I want to move on, or if I want to just take them off my list. This seems like a great time to make some progress on that project.


I'm going to add to this as I go along, but this is a good starting point. These are all books I currently own.




Bernie Gunther: March Violets by Philip Kerr

Inspector Ian Rutledge: A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

Jackson Brodie: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

The Enzo Files: Extraordinary People by Peter May

Paddy Mehan: Field of Blood by Denise Mina

Inspector Wexford: From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell

Jess Tennant: How to Fall by Jane Casey

Perveen Mistry: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

India Black: India Black by Carol Carr


Speculative Fiction (Fantasy & Sci Fi):


The Kingkiller Chronicle: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Gentleman Bastard: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Lightbringer: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Chronicles of St. Mary: Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodie Taylor

Wayfarers: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Monsters of Verity: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

The Nightmare-Verse: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Nevernight Chronicles: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Folk of the Air: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Imperial Radch: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Legend: Legend by Marie Lu

Red Rising Saga: Red Rising by Pierce Brown



Keepers will be added to my ongoing series list. Life's too short to keep reading this lame series will not be added to my ongoing series list.




Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James: A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie


Life's Too Short:

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review 2019-12-18 00:53
A.I. Reality Check
The Kraken Project (Wyman Ford Series Book 4) - Douglas Preston

What happens when an A.I, programmed to go into space, changes its mind, and decides to live its own life?


Preston tackles the question of Artificial Intelligence and what happens when they are so self-modifying and quick to learn that they can function as a human being who can also control a frightening amount of electronic and internet-based information.


A thought provoking and fast=paced story.



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text 2018-06-08 18:14
Family summer movie series project

A few weeks ago, my husband, son and I decided that we would try to work our way through some movie series this summer.


We started with Harry Potter, and watched all eight of the movies. This took a couple of weeks. Both my son and I had seen them all more than once, but my husband hadn't seen the last two, and hadn't watched any of them for several years. It was hugely fun, so we decided to move on to a new series.


We settled on Star Wars next, and decided to go in chronological order, not release order. My recollection was that the first three movies were pretty bad. I wasn't wrong. Ultimately, I ended up thinking that Phantom Menace - believe it or not - was the best of the three. Attack of the Clones was completely, indefensibly terrible. We're at the mid-point of Revenge of the Sith, which is also simply awful. We've been hate-watching them, at this point, which is entertaining in its own way. We are going to struggle through the end of Revenge of the Sith, which may represent the nadir of the series, and then move on to Rogue One, and at least Nick and I plan to go see Solo this weekend.


I liked Rogue One, and I've actually heard pretty good things about Solo, so I'm looking forward to that one. I've enjoyed all of the remaining movies, so starting with the shitty trilogy was probably a good decision.


We haven't decided where to go from here, but have a several possibilities:


Mission Impossible (5 movies, one in the pipeline)

Bourne (5 movies)

Back to the Future (3 movies)

Men in Black (3 movies)

Marvel Cinematic Universe(we've already watch through Phase II of the MCU)

DC Extended Universe

Pirates of the Caribbean (5 movies)

Indiana Jones (4 movies)


What I am missing? Any suggestions? The movies have to appeal to me, my husband and my 18 year old son, which is why James Bond isn't on the list - I don't think he would be interested in the Roger Moore/Sean Connery Bond movies, although we might do a truncated watch of the Pierce Brosnan/Daniel Craig Bond movies, which I think he might enjoy.


P.S.: Anyone who suggests Twilight will be mocked. Mercilessly. ;)


Additional suggestions:


Middle Earth (6 movies) (no idea how I missed this one)

Jurassic Park (5 movies)

Star Trek (reboot only, 3 movies)

Terminator (5 movies)

Godfather (3 movies)

Narnia (3 movies)

Mad Max (4 movies)

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