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review 2020-08-21 21:20
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

“No mourners. No funerals.”


If I could apologise to a book I would, ever since it was released and every time I saw it flooding my Instagram feed I dismissed it. Now and again I would go back to it and re read the synopsis, but again I would say it wasn't for me. I enjoyed Bardugos first Grisha trilogy and was so excited when I discovered she was bringing out more books based in the same world. But this duology is completely different, this features six thieves and the heist of a lifetime.


Somehow I've gotten to this point where I read this book and fell in love with it, honestly I think I enjoyed more than her first series. I listened to it on Audible and the cast was absolutely superb. Although we have six main characters only five of them have a voice, although I have been reassured that in sequel that changes.


So the plot, Kaz Brekker, a notorious young criminal, is offered the score of all scores. The motherload, one that could change is life forever and make possible the revenge he so desperately seeks. Kaz brings together a crew to break into an impossible fortress and steal a scientist who is responsible for creating a drug that enhances a Grisha powers.


Via the various POVs we learn who our thieves are, their pasts, how they're connected and their feeling for each other. They're not all connected to each other and several of them have really tragic pasts and don't really do the whole sharing thing. Somehow this crew has to find a way to trust each other, not so easy when most of them want to kill the other, to pull off the heist.


Throughout the book I was forever second guessing people and their motives, was someone about to double cross someone else, is someone else really working with another rival gang hoping to beat them to it?? I loved this book and I loved the characters, Wylan is the only one who didn't get a voice so I look forward to knowing more about him and his background, especially with his father after they came face to face towards the end.


If you're looking for the similar fantasy adventures that were in Shadow and Bone you won't find it here, although we're still in the same world we're just no longer in Rava; the home of the Grisha. The story takes place in Ketterdam and Grisha are bought and sold. I was a fool for waiting so long to read this book and think it wouldn't be for me, it's exactly the type of thing I would watch.


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review 2020-05-19 02:17
Prescient. Gripping. Haunting. Unpredictable. What stories should be.
King of the Crows - Russell Day

... for me at least, the first week of the Lockdown was the worst.


Knowing it had happened to me. I hadn’t escaped, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones. Lucky to be safe or lucky to be dead. Take your pick. I was neither.

That right there gives you a pretty good idea what kind of light and fluffy read this is going to be.


There are two timelines in this story—the primary focuses on a post-pandemic London, while the other shows what happened to a couple of the characters mid-pandemic (with plenty of material describing what the pandemic was like for others). In the primary timeline, Europe is a disaster—a "wasteland"—and eight years after the Outbreak, it's beginning to put itself back together. But it's going to take a long, long time to recover from this. Don't let the fact that "eight years after" this fictional outbreak is 2028 bother you at all.*


* Good luck with that. I'll get back to this in a bit.


I'm not going to try to list all the various ways that Day uses to tell this story: I'm certainly going to forget several. So here's a partial list: here's a third-person 2028 narrator describing a police investigation, a first-person perspective on the same investigation; a first-person account of that same detective's life during the Outbreak; selections from a screenplay made about a group of Londoners during the Outbreak; selections from the Outbreak-memoir of one of those Londoners; and third-person narration of the same (N.B.: these three will vary in telling ways); redacted 2028 prison correspondence about the Outbreak; excerpts from scholarly works on aspects of the Outbreak (including a very illuminating work on the slang of the time); graffiti from 2021; internet message boards. Day weaves these together to tell his story, build the world, and help you to understand it. Frequently, I read something from the 2028 timeline, and understood it—only to find a new depth to it several pages later after getting another piece of the puzzle from 2020/2021. It's hard to juggle that many narrative forms/voices/perspectives/calendars as a reader or a writer—Day pulled it off better than I did (any problems I had following things I attribute to myself, and it was pretty easy to clear out my misunderstanding with a minimum of backtracking*). It definitely helps paint the picture of the scope and variety of effects the sickness had on the world more efficiently than a consistent first- or third-person narrative would be able to.


* This would be easier in hardcopy than on an e-reader in my opinion. But that's just a guess.


There are times (several of them) when I felt that the characters were getting lost amongst the plot and worldbuilding and sickness. But when I stopped and thought about it—and eventually got to the point where I didn't have to—I realized I had a pretty solid idea about who these people were and was more invested in them than I expected. I thought there was so much going on that the people were getting hidden, but really, Day's work was subtle—working in the characters into my subconscious like you give a dog its medicine. Normally, this isn't something I require (or would like)—and it's not Day's usual M. O. (quite the opposite), but I think this approach really fit the novel and the story/world.


“They weren’t zombies,” he says, softly. “Don’t call them zombies.”


No one who was involved in the Outbreak for real uses the zee word.

So exactly what was the sickness?


I remember reading a couple of years ago about these ants that would succumb to a fungus which would short-circuit their brain and make them do certain things before killing them—or something like that, vague memories here. Then there were stories about parasites controlling the host's actions—both of these stories had their 15 seconds of fame on social media around the same time (I may be messing the details up a little bit, but I'm not writing history here).


In Day's world, one of these kinds of parasites will reside—asymptomatically, I should stress—in cats, who would pass it on to humans. Skipping the details, the humans would get very sick and then, survivors would maybe succumb to a psychosis that would make them violent. This sickness, HV-Tg (Human Variant-Toxo gondii), in a little more than a year would kill more than 20 million in Europe (at least 33% of France's population) Et voilà!—an easy to believe pandemic that results in Zombie-like people wandering around.


Now, if one of those who'd "switched" and become violent infected you during an assault, well, you were likely to succumb. There were enough of these ("psychos" or "Gonzos"), and the sickness was so widespread, that the police and military couldn't keep up, that civilians were forced to take action and defend themselves, their family and neighbors. People quickly forming into gang-like associations for mutual protection. It was a literal kill-or-be-infected (and likely killed) situation.


One such association became known as The Crows or The Kings of the Crows. They developed a legendary status mid-and post-Outbreak—and are the subjects of the memoir and film mentioned above. One of their number who happened to survive (and gain notoriety enough to get a publishing deal for a memoir) is the subject of the 2028 investigation. They survived the worst of the worst in one of the hardest-hit cities. They did so via means and methods that many (including their own) would find deplorable, but under circumstances that not only permitted, but required, those actions.


We also see what happens to an American in Paris for work when the Outbreak reaches the point that International travel is canceled (particularly to the U.S.). Her allies will never be considered the Kings of anything, and the contrast between how she survives to what the Crows do is pretty striking.


In 2028...eh...you know what? You should read that for yourself. I'm going to say something I'll regret.


The biggest killer in those days wasn’t the disease or the psychos, it was stupidity.


However, it has been pointed out by many historians, logic was one of the first casualties of the Outbreak.

Some of the best moments of this book have nothing to do with advancing the plot, they're little bits showing what the world of the Gondii-pandemic looks like. The man telling the story about taking his girlfriend to the ER because of a burn—how they were treated, and how she became infected. The soldiers coming back from a Middle East deployment being completely unprepared for what had happened to their home country. The mother and son who traveled with the Crows for awhile.


Ultimately, it's not the story you think you're getting...or is it? The marketing tag line is, “Ocean’s Eleven meets 28 Days Later.” It is, all things considered, a good, catchy line. I'm not sure it's all that accurate a description of the novel (but it's not inaccurate). What it is, really slides up on you—and when you see it it feels like it was obvious all along (even if you wouldn't have said that 20 pages earlier). There's a straightforward crime story at the heart of this novel—it's just surrounded by so many layers, that you can miss it—there's the sickness, there's the horrible social and political context (both mid- and post-Outbreak), there's what the characters are going through otherwise—and the whole thing is drenched in social commentary about 2020 society, e.g., sexism, economics, medical care.


And that's not even touching the context we're reading it in now. I truly wonder what I'd think of this book if I'd read it last Fall. I'd still like it, I'd still be impressed by it—but I don't know if it would resonate with me the same way. There's almost nothing about Gondii that's comparable to COVID-19. But the way that people and governments respond—well, that's pretty different, too. but if you can't see what's going on around us reflected in this novel? You're not paying attention. That Day appears so prescient says something about his skill and observation (and a lot about Western culture, too).


I can see why people cling to the idea that the Gonzos were trying to tell us something. Something’s out there trying to get a message through: there’s a plan. Compared to the idea that it was all just chance, it’s a comfort of a type. Chance doesn’t care and can’t be appeased and can’t be reasoned with. Chance means it could all happen again.
Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/05/18/the-king-of-the-crows-by-russell-day-prescient-gripping-haunting-unpredictable-what-stories-should-be
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review 2020-04-13 18:38
Review: Tevinter Nights by Bioware


Ancient horrors. Marauding invaders. Powerful mages. And a world that refuses to stay fixed.


Welcome to Thedas.


From the stoic Grey Wardens to the otherworldly Mortalitasi necromancers, from the proud Dalish elves to the underhanded Antivan Crow assassins, Dragon Age is filled with monsters, magic, and memorable characters making their way through dangerous world whose only constant is change.


Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights brings you fifteen tales of adventure, featuring faces new and old, including:


"Three Trees to Midnight" by Patrick Weekes
"Down Among the Dead Men" by Sylvia Feketekuty
"The Horror of Hormak" by John Epler
"Callback" by Lukas Kristjanson
"Luck in the Gardens" by Sylvia Feketekuty
"Hunger" by Brianne Battye
"Murder by Death Mages" by Caitlin Sullivan Kelly
"The Streets of Minrathous" by Brianne Battye
"The Wigmaker" by Courtney Woods
"Genitivi Dies in the End" by Lukas Kristjanson
"Herold Had the Plan" by Ryan Cormier
"An Old Crow's Old Tricks" by Arone Le Bray
"Eight Little Talons" by Courtney Woods
"Half Up Front" by John Epler
"Dread Wolf Take You" by Patrick Weekes


Like all anthologies, it’s hit or miss.  The main appeal of the book comes from not just being a return to Thedas, but the range of adventures and information it gives.  Set after the events of Inquisition, we get a glimpse of what the Venatori have been up to, insights into how the Mortalitasi function in Nevarra, a little Grey Warden-ing, some Crows in action and a few cameos from some favorites like Dorian Pavus and Cassandra Pentaghast. 


It’s a mixed bag, but it adds to the lore & mythology of Dragon Age as well as a few teases into what might be coming next.  Good stuff.



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review 2019-10-15 02:07
A Parliament of Crows by Alan M. Clark
A Parliament of Crows - Alan M. Clark

An engaging work of historical fiction based on the true crimes of the Wardlaw sisters, three women whose survival instincts, honed in the Civil War, proved to be deadly to other family members....including small children. Until the death of a daughter/niece finally brought them to the attention of the law.

Clark brings empathy and a depth to this novel that one rarely finds in true crime accounts, recreating the pivotal moments of these women's lives leading to their downfall.....and offering a look into their minds, the unholy bond that drove them, and displaying the personalities that turned these three sisters into a singular deadly whole...a triad of black widows acting as one.
Finally, he offers a look into the trial that ended their spree, and sent them into a self destructive spiral as stress induced insanity shattered their unholy union.

A brilliant piece of fact based historical fiction. Highly recommended.

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text 2019-08-07 21:46
Pre-Party Prompts - Day 7 Favorite Halloween Bingo Authors
Connections in Death - J.D. Robb
Under Currents - Nora Roberts
A Deadly Brew (A Tourist Trap Mystery) - Lynn Cahoon
A Very Mummy Holiday (Tourist Trap Mysteries #11) - Lynn Cahoon
Mr. Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal
The Undoing (Call Of Crows) - Shelly Laurenston
The Mane Event - Shelly Laurenston
The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings - Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales - Edgar Allan Poe,Stephen Marlowe
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle


JD Robb/Nora Roberts 

Lynn Cahoon

Susan Elia MacNeal

Shelly Laurenston

Edgar Allen Poe

Victor LaValle

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