Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Review: The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

The Tenderness of WolvesThe Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mrs. Ross, a stifled housewife living in the wild of 1867 Canada, stumbles upon the murder of a Quebecois fur trapper and it sets a chain of events that leads to her only son being named a suspect and a manhunt organized for him. Not one to sit back and let this happen in front of her, she picks up and follows another trapper and his dogs, hoping to find her son before the hunters do.

Mrs. Ross is not the only character in this novel, there are so many story-lines and points of view that it becomes like a kaleidoscope around the main event. I found the spinning and swooping into the worlds of so many different characters quite dizzying to the point where I would lose track of who was who initially until I finally settled into the novel. The historical details of the novel were so well researched and applied that it added a rich realism to the worlds of each character. It made for a work of fiction that was indeed quite a spectacle to behold.

I'm a bit torn on this novel. I found the characters fascinating, and being a history geek I loved all the details about life on the frontier, fur trapping, living in a fort, and who can resist a good murder mystery with a dose of family angst? And yet, I did not find myself swept off my feet by the story the way I was hoping to be. I felt this tense sort of edge of my seat eagerness as I read the book in two sittings, but in the end it just didn't happen for me.

At the end of everything, however, I was real pleased with the character of Mrs. Ross and found the glimpses in her backstory so interesting that I was hoping there would be more of it. I also enjoyed the characters William Parker and Donald Moody. They were well written but their stories ultimately feel so unsatisfying in their resolution that one almost wonders why so much care was taken to introduce us to them at all.

There is so much spectacle, in the historical detail and the meticulous description of the landscape, that there are parts in the novel where the murder mystery itself really doesn't seem to matter. The ultimate conclusion of the mystery does not fall with the stunning stroke the author was hoping for but more like just another revelation along the trail.

I recommend this book because it is well written and perhaps my own coolness towards the story won't be mirrored in the heart of another reader. I just wish that I could have LOVED it like I wanted to.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: I Chose to Die by Ksenia Anske

I Chose to Die (Siren Suicides #1)I Chose to Die by Ksenia Anske

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The opening paragraphs of Ksenia Anske's novel jump right into the action. Abused, fragile, waif-like teenager Ailen Bright has decided to commit suicide by drowning herself in the bathtub. Her own nerves, and her father's rage stop her in the act but do not kill the desire.

We learn everything we need to know about Ailen in the beginning chapter of the novel, how she's buckled under years of degrading abuse from her strict and cruel father, how she has only one real friend, and how she has a rich fantasy life in which she talks to the beautiful Siren figurines carved into the bathtub, and ultimately, how she is determined that her life must end by her own hand.

It's pretty heavy stuff for the casual reader to initially take in, but the beauty of this wildly imaginative and earnestly written novel is, that the swift pace of it, the cinematic eye for details, and the well written main character keep you hooked and moving along. There really is no scene that bogs down as character details and memories are tied into the scenes that move forward, so the reader is treated to a fully fleshed story that is a definite "read in one sitting" shoe-in.

I really liked the novelty of having the "Siren" as the mythical creature of choice in this novel, which is a refreshing change from the vampire/werewolf/zombie trend that populates the market right now. Ksenia's sirens are true to their legend, they are beautiful yet cruel creatures who use their exquisite singing voices and feminine charms to lure unsuspecting humans to their death. They suck the soul straight from the mouth of a human, and even admit to loving the taste of babies!

The most controversial aspect of this novel would be Ailen's suicidal determination and the "reward" it initially brings her. What I liked, however, was that the consequences of Ailen's actions, and her ultimate will to live and love become the overwhelming force of her character. Her relationship with her father is fleshed out with painful honesty, and any young girl or woman who has suffered such a domestic situation I think will understand the vicious cycle of fear and hate of, yet ever present desperation to be loved by the very man who is abusing them.

The third act of the novel is a roller coaster of action scenes worthy of any summer blockbuster, with showdowns between humans and sirens and siren hunters in public venues, and motorcycle chases, and entanglements with the police. It definitely is not boring and it does not disappoint!

Some of the twists and turns within the novel I found a tad bit predictable, and the continuous action could possibly be toned down a bit to make way for a more literary type story, but then again that is probably just a personal quirk and in no way takes away from the enjoyable read that this is. At any rate, this is one book I must say I really, really hope someday gets a Hollywood treatment.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: The Data Chase

The Data ChaseThe Data Chase by Louis Bruno

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When most of us hook into a video game to play we're usually chomping at the bit to lose ourselves into some fantasy world, or battlefield, or zombie apocalypse and we never really put much thought into the world of the people who have actually created these games. Naturally, if we actually did stop and think, we'd probably imagine the stereotype of holed up think-tank nerds who have never seen the light of die as they sit in front of computers writing code.

Well, in Louis Bruno's latest novel, "The Data Chase", the world of video game creation is far more than that. In fact, it's a complex world that crosses the line into espionage and terrorism, double agents, human experimentation, and weapon's manufacturing.

At the center of the story is Dean Kane, a man who has rose from the bottom of the video game business to become top in his field. His road to the top has not been an easy one, suffering heartbreak, betrayal, and the loss of his son through his wife's devastatingly disastrous pregnancy. Still, he has survived, and made new friend's and allies to face the villain across the table: Vladimir Maynard.

Maynard is a ruthless, brilliant man who hasn't met a terrorist he doesn't like, or a super weapon he wouldn't want to use. His legion of evil gamers and minions is spreading over the world like a plague, infiltrating Dean's ranks and finally forcing Dean to leave behind his luxury apartment and lonely life to fight him in a chase that runs across the world, to be met with painful ghosts from the past.

As in Bruno's previous novels, his vivid imagination and great eye for a good action sequence takes center stage. The novel rarely slows down as the characters are kept breathless, sweating, running, and fighting to the next chapter in their fates. Double agents and double crosses, last minute plot twists, and sudden violence always threaten to hop on the reader without warning and it certainly kept me on my toes.

Three of the major characters are women, all of them in love with Dean at different stages of his life, and all of them feisty, intelligent and with enough fight in them to take care of themselves in a fight. The romance elements embedded in the story are written with all the lust and passion to match with the action/thriller part. Sex scenes are graphic, hearts are broken, and EVERYONE busts down into tears, especially Dean who really is suffering from a wealth of beautiful women chasing after him.

At times the romance parts did bog me down a bit, as I felt rather eager to go chasing after the villains and was impatient to get to the bottom of all the double crossing and action. To Bruno's credit, though, he did put serious attention to the emotional identities of all the women involved, and did not cast them as brainless sex kittens as might be done in a James Bond film, and the storyline involving the descent of Dean's ex-wife into schizophrenia is particularly sad.

All in all, I heartily recommend this book if you're looking for a great afternoon spent with an action/thriller, the sort you'd see on a summer movie screen.

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