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Author Archives: Lesley

Fade to Black, Francis Knight, 2013

If I were giving ratings out of 5, I’d probably give this a 3 or 3.5.

I picked it up because of the tagline: Some Heroes Prefer the Shadows.  It is a dark urban fantasy with a reluctant and flawed hero.

FadeToBlack

Our hero, Rojan Dizon is a people-finder for hire in the tower city of Mahala.  Turns out Rojan is a pain-mage, and his particular powers give him an edge when finding people.  But he is a reluctant mage, since he has to hurt himself (or someone else) to use any significant power.  Also, he is cautious of the addictive nature of magic power.

This story follows Rojan as he tries to find his niece. He has to come to terms with his power and find balance to defeat the kidnapper.

The setting of the city of Mahala is well constructed and I certainly would not want to live there.  Most of the story takes place in an area completely sealed off to protect the rest of the city from a toxic substance (but not really).

I thought this was moderately well written and developed, but I just couldn’t connect with Rojan or sympathize with the victim characters. It was well paced. I’m not going out of my way to get my hands on book 2.

 

 

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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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Forbidden, Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, 2011

I enjoyed it and I will read the next in the series, but I didn’t love it. I don’t really know why.

Forbidden

This is the first in the Books of Mortals trilogy.  It has a very interesting premise – a future where the people of earth are living completely without any emotions except fear. The world has been at peace for 450 years, with everyone following a code of behaviour called Order, and ruled benevolently??? by a small group of people called Royals.

Of course, all is not really great in this future world, even though everyone is oblivious. All creative thought is gone.  Any elderly, sick, injured, or otherwise imperfect person is simply killed as being against Order.  Fear drives everyone to obey and to report anyone who doesn’t. There is just stasis and fear.

Now the plot.

Some Royals have an agenda to seize power.  It is a closely held secret that emotions were eradicated on purpose by a virus that altered DNA.  The plotting Royal scientists have developed a serum to restore the dark emotions, like anger and jealousy. They give the serum to a Royal named Saric who is very close to the King. The idea is that the Saric’s new passions will allow him to overthrow the King.

Countering this group of Royals is a young man named Rom who encounters a member of a secret group and is entrusted with a vial of serum that will restore all emotions, and a quest to find a boy whose blood holds the key to restoring emotions to everyone.  Rom and a small group of friends have to race to find the boy.

I enjoyed more a book from Ted Dekker’s Circle series – Green – with another volume from that series on my shelf right now.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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Triggers, Robert J. Sawyer, 2012

I am a big Robert Sawyer fan.  I find his topics intriguing and his near future believable.   I am also a sucker for anything set in or around Toronto.   My favourites are Flashforward, Mindscan, Rollback, and Calculating God.

Overall, I enjoyed Triggers. It has a very interesting idea – it follows a small group of people at a hospital in Washington DC who have been exposed to a freak medical accident and who now can each “read” another person’s memories. While most of this affected group are average folk, the President of the United States is certainly not average, and now someone else has access to his knowledge of a secret upcoming military action.  The story describes how various people deal with having another person’s memories, with the search for a cure, and with finding and containing the person who is reading the President’s memories.

triggers

Although set in DC, there is CanCon (yeah!).  The doctor character, who was also affected by the accident, is Canadian and there are descriptions of his memories from growing up in Canada.  I chuckled at the mention of a government-produced short film about a famous Canadian doctor investigating seizures by stimulating different parts of a patient’s brain while the patient describes what they see, hear, or smell at different times.   I saw this short as a kid – many times – and it left an impression. To this day, every time I smell burnt toast I wonder if I am going to have a seizure.

Having said I enjoyed Triggers, I was quite disappointed by the ending.  I won’t give any spoilers, but the conclusion comes too abruptly and doesn’t reach its potential.

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in science Fiction

 

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Krampus, The Yule Lord, Gerald Brom, 2012

This was a hit with me.   It draws in elements of Krampus, Santa Claus, Norse mythology, and Christianity in a very good tale.  I’d call it dark and humorous fantasy. It is unexpected and entertaining.

Here, Krampus is the son of Loki and Hel while Baldr (aka Santa Claus – yes The Santa) is the son of Odin and Frigg.  Krampus and Baldr have been warring for a very long time.  In fact, Krampus has been imprisoned by Baldr for several hundred years when he makes his escape in 2012 with revenge on his mind.  Yuletide is his season, and he wants it back.  Turns out Baldr has a dark past, and maybe he doesn’t deserve to be loved by children the world over.  It’s hard to imagine hoping Santa loses.

I can’t really do a better summary than the official one:

“One Christmas Eve in a small hollow in Boone County, West Virginia, struggling songwriter Jesse Walker witnesses a strange spectacle: seven devilish figures chasing a man in a red suit toward a sleigh and eight reindeer. When the reindeer leap skyward taking the sleigh, devil men, and Santa into the clouds, screams follow. Moments later, a large sack plummets earthward, a magical sack that will thrust the down-on-his luck singer into the clutches of the terrifying Yule Lord, Krampus. But the lines between good and evil become blurred as Jesse’s new master reveals many dark secrets about the cherry-cheeked Santa Claus, and how half a millennium ago, the jolly old saint imprisoned Krampus and usurped his magic.

Now Santa’s time is running short, for the Yule Lord is determined to have his retribution and reclaim Yuletide. If Jesse can survive this ancient feud, he might have the chance to redeem himself to his family, to save his own broken dreams…and help bring the magic of Yule to the impoverished folk of Boone County.”

Fun is Santa’s sack – actually a door into any room the holder wants.  Think of a warehouse full of toys, reach into the sack, and pull a toy off the shelf. Supporting characters include an unlucky songwriter, and several surprising minions on both sides.

I have since googled Krampus, and I found out there are Germanic tales originating pre-Christianity about him as a punisher of naughty children during the Yule season.  He is described as demonic in appearance.

I picked this book up from the Library because I noticed on a special display so the cover artwork was facing out.  This is the cover:

Krampus

 

Turns out the author did all the artwork, including several items inside the book – and all the illustrations are very cool and very dark.

I will be looking for The Child Thief, a retelling of Peter Pan.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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Amped, Daniel H. Wilson, 2012

Loved it.   I also loved Daniel Wilson’s other novel Robopocalypse.

AMP Final FIX

This is near future science fiction set in the US.  It moves quickly and it draws you in.  It is not long, a Sunday afternoon will do.

Here’s the premise.  Neurological disease or low intelligence can be cured with a device implanted directly on the brain. It is a routine treatment, even government sponsored.   However, the device also boosts, or amplifies, intelligence and other abilities.  As the number of super-smart amped people grows, a Senator plays on the insecurities of the “regular” humans to lash out against the amps.  The hero is an amped schoolteacher with a unique implant.

According to Wikipedia, a Robopocalypse movie was planned and either dropped or put on hold.  I can easily see Amped as a movie.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2013 in science Fiction

 

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The Hobbit, Tolkein, 1937

It may seem crazy for someone who reads as much fantasy as I do, but I had never read The Hobbit.  It has been on my bucket list for a long time but somehow I just never got around to it.

the hobbit

But, I want to see the movie and I had to read the book first.

I fully expected to really enjoy The Hobbit, but I have to admit to some disappointment. I realize this is a kid’s book, but I thought the characters were pretty shallow and the quest was lacking noble motivation.  I found some dialog overly difficult; I had to reread some dialog passages.  And I found it hard to connect with any character.  I have to admit to a pet peeve of mine.  I really don’t like the use of song lyrics as a storytelling device.  I know they often hold important story line information, but I still tend to skip reading them.  The Hobbit uses song lyrics.

All that said, I would recommend this to any kid as required reading for any kid into fantasy or adventure.  It introduces many iconic races and the heroic quest. It has gotten me thinking about revisiting the trilogy.

I can watch the movie now.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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Bloodsucking Fiends, Christopher Moore, 1995

I enjoyed this.  I leave been noticing Christopher Moore books in the stacks @ the library for some time.  I don’t know why, but I seem to spend a lot of time in the M Fiction section, and his books are very brightly coloured so the spines stand out.

bloodsuckingfiends_lg

I picked up Bloodsucking Fiends based on the jacket summary.  “Jody never asked to be a vampire …” This was right up my alley with ordinary people thrust into an absurd situation.

Here,a young woman named Jody is attacked on the street and wakes up a vampire – although it takes some time to figure that out. She clearly needs the help of someone who can move around in the day, and soon meets Thomas, who is a would-be author employed as a grocery store stock clerk, new to the city. Young, lonely, and very naive. Together, Jody and Thomas learn about what a vampire can and cannot do. The mystery vampire who turned Jody is a constant presence and a threat, with unclear motives.

Bloodsucking Fiends is well written and well paced but not long. It is funny, in an absurd way with an interesting cast of characters. Only Jody and the mysterious vampire who made her are supernatural, everyone else is very  mortal with a slant to the eccentric.

This is the first in a series and I will keep my eyes open for the others.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Fantasy, Humour

 

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What is Ann Watching?

Musings on TV and Movies