About me

My name is Lianne, and I am an avid reader. When asked what I read, I usually say ‘words on a page’, since I will read just about anything. Fiction, non-fiction, literary, genre, graphic novels. Really, the only things I’m not crazy about (although I will read examples once in a blue moon) are romance, westerns, and hard-boiled detective novels.

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Summer reading in winter…

39971767Sometimes, reading a book can be the adventure you would like to go, if not for money or time or many other reasons.

Coves of Departure, by John Seibert Farnsworth, is more along the lines of the adventure that sounds cool, but hopefully wouldn’t be popular. Kayaking off the coast of Baja California to study delicate ecosystems. Travelling into the desert to observe buzzards. Things that sound intriguing, but it would be better for the environment that the average person didn’t do it. For that matter, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the physical side of things.

Still, reading this book let me experience things second-hand, since Farnsworth definitely paints a vivid picture for the reader. I found myself sinking into the book, slowing down, as if I was reading it in a summer heat-wave instead of a cold winter. It also slowed me further as I took side-trips into the internet to look up the wildlife he describes

Very much recommended to anyone who loves reading about the environment. I look forward to seeing what the author does next.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me read this

Don’t fall down *this* rabbit hole

40164340I’ve been reading Simon R Green’s books for about three decades now (seriously, I started with Blue Moon Rising, back in 1989). Trying to keep up with his output is almost impossible.

Lately, I’ve been sucked into two of his current series: the Ghost Finders series (which I think of a contemporary fantasy version of the TV show Scorpion) and the Ishmael Jones series (which leans more in the Cthulhu direction, with a touch of the British TV show The Avengers).

The most recent book in the Ishmael Jones series is Murder in the Dark, the sixth in the series. In this one, Ishmael and his partner Penny have been dispatched to an isolated country location where a mysterious hole to… someplace has been found. One of the scientists studying the hole has died under mysterious circumstances, and they are supposed to figure out who did it and why. Oh, and maybe whether the hole is a danger beyond the general location it already is in.

But once they get there, they end up stranded with no way out, and people are dying one by one. In order to figure out who the killer is, they first have to figure out the origin of the hole, and where it is a passage to. Oh, and how might it tie in to Ishmael’s distant past, which even he cannot remember

For a book that covers less than 24 hours, the tension builds nicely, and it starts to look like no one is going to survive. And as I am sucked along, I can’t wait to see what happens next for our investigators.

While you don’t have to read the entire series before tackling this book, I do recommend that you read the first book in the series, if only to get the origin of this partnership.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me read this

Giant sharks! Yay!

40758773I’ve said in the past that I love a good disaster story, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I also love a good monster story. For example, the first Sharknado was a ton of fun, even if the follow-ups tried way too hard.

Michael Cole’s Thresher is also a shark story, but a much more fun (and almost believable) story. First off, go Google ‘thresher shark’ and check out just how freaky this shark is. Then picture one that ended up ingesting an experimental compound that increases its size and aggressive nature. Pretty scary.

Now, go to a small beach town where the grand sea festival is coming up. Take a big city hero cop who is trying to drink himself to death after a personal tragedy and his chief of police friend trying to save him from himself, mix in a rookie cop who has her own personal tragedies, a politician trying to make her reputation, a scientist trying to warn everyone, and top with a family of shark hunters brought in to stop the thresher shark before it can ruin the festival.

Yep, I’m sure everyone has a pretty good idea where this is going. I can see this as a movie on SyFy, no problem. It was a fun romp of a read, and I look forward to checking out some of his other sea monster books.

Ancient Woods and Modern Cities

36742955I did some googling, and was surprised to find out that Coldfall Wood is an actual ancient wood in London, England, covering 14 hectares. In this book, there are other ancient things there; ancient beings who do not like what humanity has done with the world. Beings that plan to turn things back to the way they used to be.

Coldfall Wood, by Steven Savile, is actually a sequel (the first book is called Glass Town), even though this fact is not exactly advertised on the cover, but while there was a learning curve to get the hang of who the characters were, the story was pretty much standalone.

Basically, an ancient king/goddess-consort takes advantage of a tear in reality caused by the events in the first book, and he wakes a number of his followers, placing them into the bodies of contemporary youths, all connected by an abusive foster home. This inadvertantly has the side effect of inflaming racial tensions. There are also a seres of young girls who drop into coma-like states, only to all wake up at the same time, all saying the same thing. Police find an old man alone in a house, with greenery shoved down his throat, but when the greenery is removed, he wakes up.

The story builds well, filling in details from the previous book without being overwhelming about it, and the dark atmosphere grows more and more intense. My only complaint was that while the ending was satisfactory, it didn’t quite live up to the tension that had been built. But it did leave me hitting Google, looking up elemnts of myth and geography that intrigued me, so I would call it a success.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me read this

It’s Readathon Time!

It’s the 24 in 48 Readathon this weekend. I’m not going to do hourly updates, though. Instead, I’m going to update as I finish books.

7:40 am – Book one finished (I had less than 50 pages to go) was The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson, which was also a book for the Read Harder Challenge (a true crime book about a non violent crime) a fascinating read about salmon fly tiers, and the lengths they go to for exotic feathers.

1pm – along with a trip to the doctor’s to get the results of my shoulder ultrasound (no tears, so exercise and stretching until it gets better), drop off a library book and hit The Works for lunch. Along with all that, I finished Kingdom Of Needle and Bone, the new Subterranean Press novella from Mira Grant. Fabulous read, As usual from her.

6:30 pm – After a much needed nap, I finished I Met A Traveller In An Antique Lad, a Connie Willis novella, also from Subterranean Press. I also have been listening to a Clive Cussler audiobook and read a little fan fiction as a bit of junk food.

At bedtime last night, I’d read for 10:09. I’m halfway through a collection of short stories, and there was 4 hours left in an audiobook, for a total of the equivalent of 400 pages. I’ll definitely finish both today and I’ve got a couple more books waiting in the wings.

2:30 pm – Finished the audiobook of Sea of Greed by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown. Always fun in audiobook. I also finished The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories by Teresa Solana, translated from Catalan. Highly entertaining crime stories, full of black humour.

9:45 pm – I ended up not finishing anything else. My eyes are burning, so I went back to an audiobook that had been stopped for a library book, and listened to a couple of hours of that, around the family Sunday dinner.

In the end, I made it to 20:15. It’s looking like 20 hours is pretty much the max I can do in two days.

Who’ s afraid of the big bad gay

39196330

A new year, and time to start catching up on reviews of last year’s reading.

Ike’s Mystery Man by Peter Shinkle is a very interesting combination of biography and history. On the whole, it is a biography of Robert Cutler, who was the first National Security Advisor.

He was also a gay man working in the government during the McCarthy era, when not only communists, but ‘sexual perverts’ were being hunted as security risks. It doesn’t appear that he went to great lengths to hide his sexuality, but he was never exposed. In fact, some powerful people seem to have deliberately shielded him.

So, while we learn a lot about the man’s life, through school and war and finally government work, as well as his infatuations with younger men, we also get a view of the changing view of government. For example, the book looks at the primary era of the CIA trying to change governments around the world in the US’s favour, even though the hindsight of now says that those regime changes rarely worked out well in the long run. We also get a first-hand view of how dangerous it was to be a gay man in government, although I get the feeling that he rarely was a lover of his paramours as much as a mentor. But while he never faced exposure, a number of the younger men in his circle of influence ended having to resign instead of being exposed.

The author is a relative of Robert Cutler, and had access to, among other things, a series of diaries that he gave to the young man who was the great love of his life, although the man in question had several regular lovers. Later in life, Cutler seemed to vacillate between great joy whenever they were together to intense depression when he didn’t get the reassurances he wanted that he was the focus of the life a man less than half his age.

All in all, it was a fabulous read about a part of recent history I knew little about. After all, few people think twice about gays in government anymore, but even in Canada, there was a long period of time when public servants could find themselves under investigation because someone made an accusation. In Canada, they were hooked up to a device called, I kid you not, the Fruit Machine in an attempt to determine homosexuality. Thankfully, the world, for the most part, has moved past that stage.

 

Wizards can’t solve everything

38085968As the world is on the brink of World War Three, suddenly wizards appear, destroying all of the world’s nuclear weapons, and taking control of the world. In Wizards Rising: The Cataclysm, four of them take control of North America for only three years (or so they say). A social worker, Amanda, wins the position of Supreme Liaison between the ordinary people and the wizards, and finds herself torn in different directs as she starts to learn more about the wizards and their society and what they are really looking to do with the world.

A nice part of the novel is that every time I started to think ‘that’s a little ridiculous’, the author threw in a little twist that made that ridiculous element make perfect sense. The wizards are supremely powerful, but seem immature, but there is a reason for that. They place arbitrary limits on the age of people applying to the Supreme Liaison position, and fill it through a process that seems more appropriate to a reality television show, but there’s a reason for that.

I also appreciated the fact that there was no quick and easy fix at the end.

While not a perfect read (I wanted to know more about what was happening outside of North America, as well as more about the Wizarding culture), I do hope there will be a sequel, since the world has been completely altered in the end, and I’d like to see what happens next. This book also goes to show that self-published doesn’t mean bad. Sometimes it just means that the subject matter doesn’t quite fit into the mainstream publishing houses.

The price of Globalization

In a lot of ways, Bombardier Abroad: Patterns of Dispossession does not live up to the title. Maybe putting them the other way around would have been better. The majority of the book is about three cases of dispossession, and how the Bombardier company ties in. For those who don’t know, Bombardier is a Canadian company that creates transportation products of various types (rail, air, sea), and in the last year drew the ire of American company Boeing, leading to Trump imposing massive tariffs.

First is the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and the ways that Han Chinese are displacing the native Tibetans. This chapter focuses on the building of a train line to Tibet, which is being used to bring in Han Chinese tourists and businesses, as well as troops to prevent unrest, and transport out the product of Chinese-owned and controlled mines. But the only tie-in for Bombardier is that they sold a number of train cars to China for the line. The main objection was that Bombardier didn’t cut off the chance of any business in China by refusing to make train cars for them.

The second chapter covers a South African high-speed rail line that Bombardier was a part of a coalition of companies that bid on the project. In this case, the author doesn’t really make the case that the railway was completely bad, just that it doesn’t do anything for poor people who have transportation issues. The railway is designed to service business classes moving between large cities without any service to poorer communities that need better transportation more. While I don’t disagree that the money is not well aimed, I don’t see it as quite so immoral as the author implies for Bombardier to be involved.

The third chapter deals with another railway line in Israel. Now this project had heavier moral implications, since there were moves to appropriate land from Palestinians for the line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But while the project is problematic, Bombardier has little involvement. They sold some train cars to Israel, and not for the first time, and the author implies that Bombardier should have take the high road, and again refuse to be even tangentially involved.

Basically, the summation is that a company with shareholders should cut off avenues of business. Or that since Bombardier has received funds from the Canadian government, the government should order them not to do business (non-military) in countries that Canada has reasonably congenial relationships with. Neither option sounds terribly realistic. Perhaps one could say that Bombardier should have pushed the South Africa project to include more options for future expansion that would benefit the poorly serviced communities.

I sympathised with the urge, but it really didn’t make much sense. I think the author would have been better served by writing a book about dispossession, perhaps using railway lines as a common thread, but the focus on one company weakened some of the point.

Agatha Christie on Mars

36262384I love a good mystery, and one of my favorite classics is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, in which a group of people, each with their own dark secrets, are trapped on an island, dying one by one.

It is easy to see how that book was likely an inspiration for this novel.

As One Way starts, Frank Kittridge is in prison for killing his son’s drug dealer. He has no contact with his now ex-wife and son, and is just existing. Then a man from the company that runs the prison presents him with a way out. But not on Earth. They are recruiting prisoners to go to Mars to build the base for the scientists and astronauts that would follow. Thinking that this would give his son something to be proud of, Frank agrees.

The training is tough, with his only real contact being other convicts being trained, and a guard who is a sadist. And before he really feels they are ready for it, Frank and the others, along with the sadist, are loaded into the rocket as frozen cargo and sent to Mars.

Of course, everything starts going wrong. First, part of the early loads sent to Mars went off-course slighting, and are at the absolute limit of what they can reach, and without those loads, they are dead. Retrieving the first one also results in the death of one of the team due to a fault in her spacesuit. She is the first death, but not the last. The convicts are working hard, and dying one by one until the last few realize that it isn’t just accident, but they are being murdered. But on a team of all murderers, who do you suspect.

I did have a couple of little issues with the plotting. No one realizes who the killer is or why until the very end, which is a little silly. No one is that trusting. I also don’t know how the company thought that they could cover everything up. Really? And why was there addictive drugs on the ship? One character dies of an overdose, and another develops and addiction, which leaves me wondering how it was that dangerous drugs were sent.

And I get the feeling that the author didn’t really know what to do with his female characters. There are two among the convicts, and they both die almost immediately on arrival on Mars, like he couldn’t wait to get rid of them rather than dealing with the complications that being female in an isolated, mostly male, group. I wish he could have done more with them.

Still, while I had figured out whodunnit and why well before the still living characters did, the book was a good read, and I look forward to the second book in the series.

A different type of Classical Poetry

40893727Reading classical poems can always be problematic, because attitudes have changed drastically over time. The poems of ‘Antarah ibn Shaddad in War Songs were written in the sixth century CE (or more than 1400 years ago, in other words). Today, the idea of a warrior (not soldier) who will then turn around and compose poems about his enemies, his allies, his *horse*, is just not something that feels real to a modern reader. Or writing odes about his lost love, while also referring to ‘my woman’ (ie, a slave who travels with him).

I found the historical lessons in the introduction to the book to be fascinating, and I’m wondering if there are any books about ‘Antarah ibn Shaddad, or about the time period. Apparently there is a comic book based on him, though.

Beyond all that, the poems were enthralling (although sometimes a very modern term will make me stumble, since I expected something a little more stilted). My only wish is that while each poem is preceded by notes about the translation, there is a lot of material in the appendixes (such as commentaries from Arab writers closer in time to the original), that I would have preferred to have had with those notes instead of having to flip back and forth. But considering that this is a publication from a university press, I really appreciated the thoroughness of the coverage.

And this is why I don’t run

27917989In Death Chase by Lizella Prescott, Mira, Isabelle, and Kimmy are college friends running a 50km wilderness race together when strange things, disturbing things, start happening. Along the trail they find strange art, threatening messages, possibly poisoned cookies and beer left on the route.

As we go, we learn that the three are trying to repair their friendship after something bad had happened that had finally led to Mira going into rehab for a year. As they go along, and especially after finding a dead body, we find out through flashbacks just what happened that their friendship needed repairs. Mira is the focus, and driver, of the events, and as we go, we learn just how bad it was. It got to the point where I wondered why the other two would even bother to have anything to do with her, considering the fallout.

I did see part of the end twist coming, but the rest of it still caught me off-guard. And as for the ‘what happened after,’ it was painful and oh so believable.

All in all, I found this book to be the perfect little thriller, closer to a novella than a novel at only about 170 pages, with the tension ramping up to an explosive conclusion. It proves that gems can be found from small presses.