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Vengeful Hank and Other Shortweird Stories — Marcel St. Pierre

8 Dec

hank

 

Publisher: Mkz Press
Released: April 23rd, 2016
Genre: Short stories, comedy, flash fiction
Source: Review copy from author

 

Canadian comedian, actor and television writer Marcel St. Pierre brings his years writing sketch comedy and advertising copy – where brevity is key – to bear in this, his first book of short stories. St. Pierre’s playfully accessible writing style complements an ability to conjure unique characters and situations as universally ridiculous as a Gary Larson ‘Far Side’ cartoon. The stories are fast-paced, quick-witted – some laugh-out-loud and some even poignant and sweet. If you like the absurdity of Steve Martin’s ‘Pure Drivel’ but haven’t the time, commitment or attention span to stick with any printed word much longer than the length of several text messages or a Facebook post, this is the perfect book for the cottage or your daily commute. “(An) offbeat linguistic romp – delightful twists – sketches of a sunshine mind making leaps of logic into the absurd…” – Sheree Fitch, author, Kiss The Joy As it Flies, Stephen Leacock Literary Humour Award-shortlist “Never has a title of a book so correctly advertised what is between the covers… I laughed, ate a sandwich, worried about Marcel for a while, then laughed again. Read!” – Colin Mochrie, comedian, author ..”. funny, charming, surprising, whimsical – a delight… an imaginative gem where what’s real is redefined and the absurd has become the new normal. I couldn’t stop smiling from the moment I picked them up.” – Don Ferguson, Royal Canadian Air Farce “I take a deep breath and read nine stories. They’re very clever… and weird. Like Marcel” – Peter Wildman, The Frantics.

From Goodreads

This book is weird. And funny. But yeah, a whole lot of weird. But I like that about it. I think it knows it’s weird and it embraces its weirdness. And I can get behind that.

A lot of these stories are a page or less, making for a quick read. It’s also super easy to pick up and set down. Although once I started reading it, I didn’t set it down a lot. I kept flipping through story after story, wondering just how weird things were going to get. And I was never disappointed.

Some of the stories are laugh-out-loud funny while others kind of just left me scratching my head and wondering about the sanity of the author. But it worked. The writing is tight but also airy and whimsical.

While this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, those who enjoy their humour very very odd or are looking for a different kind of read will definitely love this book.

 

Fragment — Craig Russell

6 Dec

fragment

 

Publisher: Thistledown Press
Released: Oct 1st, 2016
Genre: General fiction
Source: eARC from publisher

 

When avalanching glaciers thrust a massive Antarctic ice sheet into the open ocean, the captain of an atomic submarine must risk his vessel to rescue the survivors of a smashed polar research station; in Washington the President’s top advisor scrambles to spin the disaster to suit his master’s political aims; and meanwhile two intrepid newsmen sail south into the storm-lashed Drake Passage to discover the truth.

Onboard the submarine, as the colossal ice sheet begins its drift toward South America and the world begins to take notice, scientists uncover a secret that will threaten the future of America’s military power and change the fate of humanity.

And beneath the human chaos one brave Blue Whale fights for the survival of his species.

From Goodreads

 

This was a different kind of read than I usually delve into, but I just LOVED Russell’s Black Bottle Man so much that as soon as I heard he was publishing another novel, I wanted in. And I am so glad that I did. Fragment took me by surprise and I was engaged from the opening.

This book reads like one of those blockbuster disaster movies (think Day After Tomorrow) and for some reason I can’t get enough of those movies. From the beginning the tension and peril is clear. There’s no lazy build up to the action and I love that. Russell pretty much just jumps into an “Oh shit” moment. This sets the pacing for the book and while it was tight and fast-moving it never felt rushed or overdone.

But Fragment goes beyond the basic disaster plot. There’s depth here and a message and thankfully we aren’t hit over the head with it. There’s a subplot having to do with whales that’s really really cool. And speaking of cool, how cool is it that one of the main characters is a whale? Pretty freaking cool.

There’s a lot of science in this book, but it isn’t written about in a way that is dumbed down or will make non-science peeps’ eyes glaze over. I’m not overly sciencey and I didn’t have any issues following along. This can be tough to do, but Russell handles it well.

There’s a lot going on, plot wise, with different storylines all coming together towards the end. There’s also a bit of a cheesy moment or two, but I feel that it works with the story.

I really enjoyed Fragment and can’t wait to see what Russell puts out next.

Strike — Delilah S. Dawson

17 Oct

strikePublisher: Simon Pulse
Released: April 12th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

The hit list was just the beginning.

Time to strike back.

After faking her own death to escape her term as an indentured assassin for Valor Savings Bank, Patsy is on the run with her boyfriend, Wyatt. All she wants to do is go home, but that’s never going to happen—not as long as Valor’s out to get her and the people she loves.

Left with no good choices, Patsy’s only option is to meet with a mysterious group that calls itself the Citizens for Freedom.

Led by the charismatic Leon Crane, the CFF seem like just what Patsy has been looking for. Leon promises that if she joins, she’ll finally get revenge on Valor for everything they’ve done to her—and for everything they’ve made her do.

But Patsy knows the CFF has a few secrets of their own. One thing is certain: they’ll do absolutely anything to complete their mission, no matter who’s standing in their way. Even if it’s Patsy herself.

From Goodreads

 

I liked Strike soooo much better than Hit and I liked Hit so that’s saying a lot.

There are more characters in Strike, and the element that I liked the most was the different group dynamics. Everyone has been through their own version of hell and it was fascinating to watch how they all interacted with each other. I always gravitate towards dystopia and post-apocalyptic literature and shows where the setting and what’s going on isn’t always the focus, but rather, how people interact with each other in these settings. Sometimes it’s done in a realistic manner and others not so much. For me Dawson nailed it.

I also enjoyed the relationship between Patsy and Wyatt way more than I did in Hit. I just felt that their connection made more sense in this book and was more believable to me.

While I enjoyed the over plot of the book (I don’t want to talk about it and give anything away) there were some elements that felt a bit convenient to me. But that’s okay. Even in a shitty world coincidences do happen. 🙂

I think fans of Hit are really going to enjoy Strike. And if you weren’t a huge fan of Hit? I think there’s a good chance that you’ll still enjoy this book.

In a Dark, Dark Wood — Ruth Ware

26 Sep

 

 

darkwoodcan

 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Released: July 30th, 2016
Genre: mystery, thriller
Source: ARC from publisher

 

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room….

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

From Goodreads

This book was just delicious! Honest characters who don’t really know each other (or like each) stuck together at a house in the middle of nowhere and something happens. This is one of my favourite types of mysteries. It’s also the hardest type to review because I don’t want to give anything away.

Three quarters of this book had me on the edge of my seat. I knew something had happened but I wasn’t sure. The writing flicks back between after the event and leading up to it, leaving the reader feeling as unsure as Nora, the main character. I do feel that toward the end of the book things fizzled out a bit as far as the mystery goes but it wasn’t a huge letdown to me. It was the natural denouement of the story. It’s just that up until that point things were just so enticing that it was a bit of a jolt.

I’m fascinated by group dynamics (blame it on my sociology degree) and the way these characters interacted with each other just drew me in. No one is perfect, some of them are a bit on the crazy side and each one is dealing with their own baggage. This just added to the overall tension of the story and the mystery of what happened.

In a Dark, Dark Wood was a solid mystery, the perfect book for curling up with on a chilly fall night.

Black Bottle Man — Craig Russell

13 Jan

blackbottlePublisher: Great Plains Publications
Released: April 15th 2010
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Source: Review copy from author

 

 

 

Forced to move every twelve days, what would happen to your life? 1927. Rembrandt is the only child in the tiny community of Three Farms. Soon his two aunts grow desperate for babies of their own. A man wearing a black top—coat and a ’glad—ta—meet—ya’ smile arrives with a magic bottle and a deadly deal is made. Determined to undo the wager, Rembrandt, Pa, and Uncle Thompson embark on the journey of their lives, for if they stay in one place for more than twelve days terrible things happen. But where and when will they find a champion capable of defeating the Black Bottle Man? Time ticks. Lives change. Every twelve days. . .

I am woefully late in writing this review. Several times over the past few months I sat down and tried to write it but I couldn’t. I enjoyed this book so much that I wasn’t sure what to say about it. It happens sometimes. I always find the reviews for books that blew me away are the hardest ones to write. And this book did blow me away.

I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. The premise sounded interesting, but I wasn’t really sure it was going to be my thing. Well, it was. I read it in one sitting and did that happy sigh I do when I finish one of those books that I know I’ll read again and again.

The plot and the writing style work together beautifully and remind me of stories like Stephen King’s The Stand, but without being derivative of them. The themes and the feel of the writing are reminiscent, which is a good thing in my books. The Stand is one of my favourite novels, and I loved the similar good vs bad threads.

I was also surprised how much I enjoyed the religious aspects of the book and how well they worked with the plot. I am in no way a religious person and religion and religious themes are sprinkled throughout Black Bottle Man. But never once was religion used in a preachy way.

The fact that they have to move every twelve days is a cool way to have the story move forward both figuratively and literally. Think of those novels and movies where secondary characters weave in and out (I’m thinking Cold Mountain). They only appear for a little bit, but they have an affect on the plot.

My only complaint is that I felt things were wrapped up a bit too quickly in the end. Of course, that could be in part due to the fact that I didn’t want the book to end. 🙂

The Masked Truth — Kelley Armstrong

6 Jan

maskedtruthPublisher: Doubleday Canada
Released: October 13th 2015
Genre: YA suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

 

 

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

From Goodreads.

Gah! How do I review this amazing thriller without giving anything away! Okay, okay, okay. Here goes:

Kelley has never written anything that I haven’t just absolutely loved, regardless of genre or age group. She is, by far, my favourite author. Period. So I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to like The Masked Truth. And I did.

This book just sucked me right in. It was another book I basically read in one sitting. (Isn’t it GREAT when that happens?) I loved everything about this book. There was nothing that disappointment me.

I actually think this was some of Kelley’s most solid and diverse writing. The way she writes Riley and Max just blew my mind (especially Max, but that’s all I’m saying on that). The way she dealt with his diagnosis and the way it factored into the main plot was perfection.

This was definitely a suspenseful read and even when I thought I had things figure out, I didn’t. And those are the best kinds of suspense novels. The ones that keep you guessing right until the end.

Cauchemar — Alexandra Grigorescu — Blog Tour

7 Mar

cauchemar blog tourPublisher: ECW Press
Released: March 17th, 2015
Genre: Southern gothic mystery
Source: paperback review copy from publisher

Gripping, fast-paced, gorgeously written, and with unforgettable characters, Cauchemar tells the story of 20-year-old Hannah, who finds herself living alone on the edge of a Louisianan swamp after her adopted mother and protector dies. Hannah falls in love with Callum, an easy-going boat captain and part-time musician, but after her mysterious birth mother, outcast as a witch and rumoured to commune with the dead, comes back into Hannah’s life, she must confront what she’s been hiding from — the deadly spirits that haunt the swamp, the dark secrets of her past, and the nascent gift she possesses.

Like the nightmares that plague Hannah, Cauchemar lingers and haunts.

From Goodreads

 

While there were elements of Cauchemar that I really, really loved, there were other things that just didn’t do it for me. But here’s the thing: the things I had issues with actually added to the layering of the story and the unbalanced feeling from what was going on, so it didn’t take away from the story and my enjoyment, but actually added to it. Weird huh?

Here, let me try to explain. The two things that I had issues with were the pacing and progression of Hannah and Callum’s relationship. They met and things moved quite quickly. A lot of their earlier interaction left me feeling confused, like I was trying to catch up to what was happening. But this wasn’t a bad thing, nope. This is such an eery and creepy and scary story that my discomfort with how their relationship developed added a layer to my “What the hell is going on?” mentality that I maintained for a large part of the book. Which is also good, since the mystery of what is happening to Hannah is one of the core plot points.

Grigorescu’s descriptions of the swamp where Hannah lives made me feel like I was there. Not that I would want to be. Because there’s some pretty weird crap happening. And I loved that it wasn’t always clear if the mystical things were good or bad. For example, Hannah’s mom. You get the feeling she’s an evil witch (literally) but then at other times the author makes you wonder if maybe she’s actually good and trying to help Hannah.

This was definitely a different read than my normal fare, but I enjoyed it. The tone was perfect for a gothic novel and I think I’ll be delving into the genre some more.