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Search tags: when-words-collide
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review 2018-04-18 15:40
Corvus / Harold Johnson
Corvus - Harold Johnson

Eighty years have passed since flash floods, droughts, and tornadoes ravaged the North American landscape and mass migrations to the north led to decade-long wars. In the thriving city of La Ronge, George Taylor and Lenore Hanson are lawyers who rarely interact with members of the lower classes from the impoverished suburb of Regis and the independently thriving Ashram outside the city. They live in a world of personalized Platforms, self-driving cars, and cutting edge Organic Recreational Vehicles (ORVs), where gamers need never leave their virtual realities.

When Lenore befriends political dissenter and fellow war veteran Richard Warner, and George accidentally crash-lands his ORV near the mountain-sheltered haven of a First Nations community, they become exposed to new ways of thinking. As the lives of these near-strangers become intertwined, each is forced to confront the past before their relationships and lives unravel.

 

The author of this book will be coming to the annual When Words Collide conference here in Calgary in August. I try to read at least one book by each of the guests of honour before the conference and since I am a birder, how could I resist a book called Corvus?

I really enjoyed the book—Mr. Johnson is a talented writer. I loved how many threads he managed to weave into this story, everything from Aboriginal issues to climate change to poverty issues. He also painted an intriguing and rather grim view of the future. I loved his Organic Recreational Vehicles, developed from birds—swans, ravens, hawks, etc. One of the main characters, George Taylor, purchases a Raven ORV and true to Raven’s mischievous nature in Aboriginal tradition, George is taken on some unexpected adventures.

Some of Johnson’s themes are really overt—there are a couple of places where I was dismayed with the bludgeoning of the reader with his opinions (even though I agree with them). That prevented this from being a higher rated read for me—your mileage may vary.

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review 2018-04-05 19:35
Vlad : the Last Confession / C.C. Humphreys
Vlad: The Last Confession - C.C. Humphreys

Dracula. A name of horror, depravity and the darkest sensuality. Yet the real Dracula was just as alluring, just as terrifying, his tale not one of a monster but of a man... and a contradiction.

 

His tale is told by those who knew him best. The only woman he ever loved...and whom he had to sacrifice. His closest comrade...and traitor. And his priest, betraying the secrets of the confessional to reveal the mind of the man history would forever remember as The Impaler. This is the story of the man behind the legend...as it has never been told before.

 

Once again, Chris Humphreys has written a captivating book—the tale of Vlad, Prince of Wallachia, told retrospectively as a confession to a Church functionary by his mistress, his closest frenemy, and his confessor. Vlad, who is Prince, hostage, crusader, lover, ruler, friend, steadfast enemy, and, of course, the Impaler. As Humphreys points out in his afterword, the man is still honoured by the Romanian people, for whom he is synonymous with just (if brutal) rule and honour.

I have to point out that this is an intense book. About half way through, I had to set it down and go read something less gruesome. And yes, many people are tortured and/or impaled, so if you have a weak stomach for that sort of thing, you may want to give this book a miss (although I would absolutely recommend that you try some of Humphreys’ other offerings, as he is a fabulous writer). This would definitely qualify for Grim-Dark and most of it is semi-verifiable history. Humphreys visited many of the sites where the action happened, so the environmental descriptions are evocative. As an actor, I think he brings a unique way of understanding the behaviour and motivations of the people he is writing about, giving a very visceral feel to the actions of his characters.

I must say that I am also reading a YA series set in the same place/time (Kiersten White’s The Conqueror’s Saga) and although I have really enjoyed both of them, there is no comparison. White’s series makes Vlad into a woman, Lada Dracula, and it is also well worth reading. By contrast, Humphrey’s version very much deserves an “Adult” rating, as it is much darker & grittier.

If this time period interests you, if you enjoy well-written historical fantasy, or if you have a yen to learn more about the man who served in some small way as the template for the modern vampire mythos, this is definitely the book for you.

 

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review 2018-03-28 18:59
The Shoe on the Roof / Will Ferguson
The Shoe on the Roof - Will Ferguson

Ever since his girlfriend ended their relationship, Thomas Rosanoff’s life has been on a downward spiral. A gifted med student, he has spent his entire adulthood struggling to escape the legacy of his father, an esteemed psychiatrist who used him as a test subject when he was a boy. Thomas lived his entire young life as the “Boy in the Box,” watched by researchers behind two-way glass.

But now the tables have turned. Thomas is the researcher, and his subjects are three homeless men, all of whom claim to be messiahs—but no three people can be the one and only saviour of the world. Thomas is determined to “cure” the three men of their delusions, and in so doing save his career—and maybe even his love life. But when Thomas’s father intervenes in the experiment, events spin out of control, and Thomas must confront the voices he hears in the labyrinth of his own mind.

 

Will Ferguson once again creates a very readable novel with so many ideas going on in it that it left my brain whirling! And yet, it all worked together and wasn’t confusing or overwhelming. All the ideas that he played with fit together nicely—what is mind? Is religion still relevant? Is science where its at? He even threw in that old “nature vs. nurture” idea.

Thomas Rosanoff is our main character—raised by his father as an experiment after the death of his mother. (There are echoes of the urban legend about B.F. Skinner’s daughter). Thomas is maybe-brilliant, but definitely one of the most self-centred characters I have ever met, but I felt that he meant well. He did want to help people, if only for his own ends.

The coming together of the three mental patients, all of whom believe themselves to be Jesus Christ, could have been very sacrilegious, but despite Thomas’ very materialist views of the world, the mind and the soul, it remains human and even funny. There was a point, when Thomas’ domineering father became involved, when I almost quit reading—I found it painful to see him being overwhelmed yet again by the great man. I’m glad I pushed on and finished the novel, however, as it left me with a glow of good feelings.

Read for my 2018 PopSugar Challenge, a book about mental health.

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review 2017-12-11 22:36
Deadly Sting / Jennifer Estep
Deadly Sting - Jennifer Estep

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

 

I couldn’t resist another installment of Elemental Assassin—I need a regular supply of urban fantasy if I’m to be happy these days!

Estep continues to provide action-filled plots, consistent with the world of Ashland that she has created for our reading pleasure. Nevertheless, it’s the action between Gin and Owen that rivets the attention in book 8, as we wonder if these two star-crossed lovers will find their way back together again.

This time around, we see Gin doing the patient Griselda routine, while Owen tries to sort himself out. She’s not happy about it, particularly as it seems that Owen and his sister Eva seem to continually need her assistance to get out or stay out of the clutches of Ashland’s underworld. Owen is willing to accept the assistance, but not necessarily Gin.

Gin actually gets some self-reflection time in this book—time to realize that she does make very pragmatic, unromantic decisions mostly and that this may be hard for those closest to her to live with. But she certainly proves that she is a strong, independent woman—Owen may be “needing some space,” but she continues to run her restaurant, take courses, spend time with her friends, and defend herself from all the opportunistic villains who want to take her down!

With her sister Bria and her pals, Jo-Jo and Sophia Deveraux and Roslyn Phillips, we are definitely getting into Bechdel test territory. Certainly they do discuss the men in their lives, but plenty more besides that. That’s what I like to see—a woman realistically surrounded by supportive women friends who are there to listen, support, and help when they can! More of this, please, Ms. Estep.

P.S. All the Southern cooking got to me--I ended up making Cornmeal Cheese muffins half way through the book so that I could concentrate on reading again!

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review 2017-12-11 22:32
Widow's Web / Jennifer Estep
Widow's Web - Jennifer Estep

Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town.

Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back in town, she thinks he’s hers for the taking.

Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

 

It really struck me as I was reading this volume of the Elemental Assassin series (number 7, if you’re counting) that Jennifer Estep is really working her way through all the relationship issues that a woman can have. The first couple of books revolve around being fixated on the wrong person—the one you’ve got chemistry with, but not necessarily shared values. The relationship that’s doomed from the start, but you’re still inexplicably drawn to (that would be detective Donovan Caine).

Then Gin meets Owen Grayson, someone she’s got things in common with—this is the stage where she’s found someone who could be compatible, but she’s not sure he’ll accept all of her, even the ruthless parts. They do the “do we really trust each other” dance for a couple of books, before seeming to settle into a pretty solid relationship.

The last book tested Gin’s commitment—bringing Donovan back into her life, seemingly anxious to reconcile. She passes on Mr. Caine, realizing that they still have polar opposite values and that it couldn’t possibly work. This book, its Owen’s turn, as his former fianceé Salina returns to Ashland, determined to get him back.

Things that I have complained about in earlier books—repetition, mostly—isn’t present in this installment. Estep seems to have either matured as a writer or found a much more stringent editor who doesn’t put up with it. As a result, the books are much more entertaining and my irritation quotient is dramatically reduced.

A nice little urban fantasy hit to keep my addiction alive!

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