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Bookends: Introducing the Burning Girl January 30, 2020

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Bookends: Introducing the Burning Girl

by Dan Davidson

December 26, 2018

– 775 words –

 

Bone Music

Bone Music

by Christopher Rice

Thomas & Mercer

450 pages

$24.95

 

“Bone Music” is how Charlotte Rowe describes the sensation she feels as the drug Zypraxon begins to take effect. She had accepted the pills from her analyst because she was having trouble sleeping.

Charley, whose original name was Trina Pierce, sleeps poorly because of her childhood. When she was a baby, her mother was murdered by a pair of serial killers who, oddly enough, decided to take the baby who was also in the car and raise it as their own child. Over the years they continued to kill people, though Trina was never involved in this activity.

They were caught when she was about 7, around the time they were starting to train her to kill birds as practice for what they considered her later vocation as their acolyte.

Being returned to her father turned out to be dreadful for her. He saw money in her story, wrote a largely fictional account of what had happened to her, parlayed that into a franchise of “Savage Woods” slasher films, and put her on the talk show and live appearance circuit until she rebelled in her teens, sued him and won her independence as well as enough money to change her name and her life.

But she has stalkers, and she doesn’t sleep well. Dylan Thorpe has been helping her with that, has given her someone sympathetic to talk to, and has won her trust. So, when he finally suggests the drug, which he calls a kind of anti-depressant, she decides to give it a try.

That night, her number one stalker, Jason Briffel, breaks through the security around her isolated rural home and terrifies her. Which triggers the drug and turns her into a fast healing, super strong, weaponized woman for the next three hours.

During this time she cripples Jason, disables most of the members of a motorcycle gang that tries to run her down when she flees her home in his car, and heads west, to where she grew up with people she could trust after she was emancipated from her father.

She has become the Burning Girl. She doesn’t know what that means or how to deal with her new abilities. She doesn’t know that she’s been the target of a very illegal drug test that has already killed a number of people (all volunteers as it happens) before Thorpe selected her for his next trial.

Thorpe (not his real name) is a rogue ex-miltary man and scientist, whose secret project for a major pharmaceutical company had been a failure.

Cole Graydon is the head of that company. The two of them used to be close, but are at odds now. Graydon had no idea what Thorpe was up to, but is prepared to take advantage on it once he finds out.

Luke Prescott is a small town police officer who used to be a high school bully back when teenage Charley was still Trina, but he’s grown up a lot, and has had to make some sacrifices to protect his eccentric brother Bailey. Much to his surprise, and Charley’s, he becomes an important member of the small group of associates who know what she is capable of doing, a team that includes that brother, Charlie’s lawyer and a older family friend.

Tracked down by Graydon’s company and placed under extreme surveillance, Charley finds her friends threatened. In order to safeguard those people, Charley agrees to carry out a test posed to her by Graydon and Thorpe: track down and deal with some manner of villain. The target she selects is a serial killer the press has labeled the Mask Maker.

The first section of the book deals with the discovery of her new power. Part two is about learning her limits and the final section is about tracking down the killer.

In addition to Charley’s point of view, we also spend time with Graydon and with Luke and learn more about the project that produced Zypraxon.

When used on male subjects, and the only other woman to take the drug, it caused them to develop all of Charley’s abilities, but to turn them on themselves and literally tear themselves to pieces. The researchers called it “going lycan”.

Christopher Rice is the son of Vampire Lestat novelist Anne Rice and collaborated with his mother on one novel set in her fictional world of the undead. He has produced a number of other novels and this one is set to be the opening volume of a series with the overall title of The Burning Girl. Blood Echo is due out in February, about a year after the first book.

 

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Bookends: Introducing the Irish Country Novels January 29, 2020

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Bookends: Introducing the Irish Country Novels

by Dan Davidson

December 20,2018

– 783 words –         

 

An Irish Country DoctorA Irish Country Doctor copy

or The Apprenticeship of Doctor Laverty

By Patrick Taylor

Narrated by John Keating

Series: Irish Country, Book 1

Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins

MacMillan Audio

$48.00

paperback from Forge Books

448 pages

$9.05

 

A note of thanks this week goes to Michael Enright on CBC’s Sunday Edition, for his interview with Patrick Taylor, a retired doctor who lives on Salt Spring Island and is currently churning out a series of historical books his publishers are calling the Irish Country Novels.

Taylor, himself an engaging guest, hails originally from Ireland, and started his medical career as a general practitioner in an eccentric village in rural Ulster, somewhat akin to the one in which he sets his novels. Ballybucklebo isn’t an actual place, but is cobbled together from memories of places where Taylor practiced before he emigrated to Canada.

The primary focus in this first book of the series is on young Dr. Barry Laverty, who is fresh out of medical school, a newly minted MD, and seeking employment. He answers as ad placed by one Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, who is looking for an assistant.

When we first meet Barry, he and his temperamental VW, named Brunhilde, are trying to find Ballybucklebo, which seems to exist just off the edge of the only map he’s able to find. He meets a young fellow on a rusty bicycle who gives him the sort of local directions that only ever make real sense to locals, bolts like scared rabbit the moment Barry mentions O’Reilly’s name.

He arrives at the combination office and residence just in time see the large and imposing doctor toss one of his patients into a rose bush and tell him to come back when he has clean feet if he wants his sore ankle seen to. It is not an auspicious beginning

Still, Barry needs the work and O’Reilly needs the help, so they strike a tentative bargain. Barry’s concerns are somewhat alleviated by the return of the ejected patient, bearing clean feet and two lobsters, and by the discovery that O’Reilly worked with Barry’s father on a warship during WW II. However strange he may be now, this is the man that his father has spoken so highly off when discussing his time in the Royal Navy.

From here, this book assumes some of the flavour James Herriot’s tales of veterinary life, only with people as clients instead of animals. O’Reilly has an eccentric manner and an eccentric practice, and Barry is very much the outsider and innocent.

He disapproves some of his boss’s methods, but is continually surprised when they work and slowly comes to realize that hey are based on a much experience with his clientele. He also discovers that the man’s gruff exterior conceals a deeply caring and generous soul – and that O’Reilly hates it when anyone tries to tell him that it’s there.

This novel covers roughly a month in Barry’s trial period, during which we see the team tackle an acute case of appendicitis, deal with a hypochondriac major, assist a young woman who is accidentally pregnant, dig deeper into the health of at least one of the practice’s regular clients, deliver a baby or two, and save several lives.

Each of them makes the odd mistake, but things mostly work out. They come up with a devious plot to force a disagreeable village councillor to help a number of needy people and accomplish a number of victories that have more to do with being local crusaders than being doctors.

It appears that O’Reilly has been dong some of this stuff all along, but it does seem that having a young, idealistic confederate is giving him some new ideas.

Barry discovers a young woman name Patricia on one of his infrequent trips to Belfast. She’s studying to be a civil engineer (this is in the early 1960s, when it would be unusual) and is not sure she has room in her life for a serious boyfriend.

We meet the efficient and motherly Mrs. Kincaid, who has housekeeper of this residence through two generations of doctors and looks happy to be seeing a third come to stay.

As the month ends it looks as if Dr. Laverty has been accepted into the community and that he might just linger awhile.

John Keating did a marvellous job reading this book, and produced a profusion of voices and varieties of Irish accents that really made it come alive.

At just about 11 hours, it was a perfect companion on this week’s trip from Dawson to Whitehorse and back.

 

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Bookends: What Happens when the truth is fiction January 29, 2020

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Klondike Sun, mystery, thriller, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: What Happens when the truth is fiction

by Dan Davidson

December 13, 2018

– 652 words –

 

True FictionTrue Fiction

by Lee Goldberg

Thomas and Mercer

237 pages

$24.95

 

Some years ago novelist Ian Ludlow spent a relatively short period of time doing some work for a US government agency. Along with several other writers, he was asked to dream up some plausible terrorist plots to be used for training purposes and simulations.

The team did the job, got paid, forgot all about it, and went back to their lives – until one of those plots suddenly became a real live event. A passenger plane was deliberately crashed onto the beaches of Waikiki, its controls apparently taken over by some kind of digital remote control.

Ludlow recognizes the scenario as one he came up with, and decides to contact the other writers to see if they feel the same way. The trouble is that they have all died recently, due to ill health and accidents.

When Ludlow absorbs this information and lines it up with the fact that he narrowly missed dying when his house burned down, and was later injured in a hit and run accident, he realizes that his days may well be numbered.

He is on a book tour for his latest thriller when the full impact of his danger strikes him and he realizes that he, and Margot French, the young woman who has been assigned to him as a minder by his publisher, need to go to ground.

French has been house sitting and so they make their way to the place where she is staying to hide out. She feels like she’s been abducted, but things are just strange enough to make her go along with him at first.

Then a hired female assassin tracks them down and they, by sheer dumb luck, manage to kill her before she can kill them. From that point on French is convinced.

What happens next is a cross country run for their lives, a run which pairs them up with a wealthy survivalist (with who Ludlow had worked on a sci-fi mystery television series), and makes them realize that significant resources are being expended to make sure they can’t tell anyone what they have figured out.

Long before they do, we know that they are being pursued by a privately run mercenary outfit which has used the plane crash and subsequent false intelligence to stage a coup in order to enable them to take over the intelligence gathering and response agencies of the United States.

Ludlow finally realizes that it was his own cleverness at storytelling and plotting that got him into this mess, and he is going to have to use the same skills and inventiveness to come up with a way to save himself and his two companions.

What he ends up doing is to come up with a way for the bad guys to kind of give themselves away. It’s kind of a sting operation and, while you can see it coming and realize that it probably wouldn’t work in reality, it’s fun to watch it develop, and you want to believe it.

Goldberg has written for a lot of TV shows, including Monk and Diagnosis Murder, and has penned books based both of those shows. His output for television includes scores of scripts for a variety of shows (kind of like his protagonist’s career) and he ‘s written over 30 novels, some co-authored with other writers. He has been nominated for both the Edgar and Shamus awards.

The ending of this book led me to believe that he may have intended it to launch another series, and his social media and Wikipedia entries reveal that this is the case. The next book, Killer Thriller, is due out in February. I wouldn’t mind reading it, but I’m not sure how he could follow up this one.

 

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Bookends: The Many Lives of Phil Collins January 29, 2020

Posted by klondykewriter in autobiography, Bookends, Klondike Sun, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: The Many Lives of Phil Collins

by Dan Davidson

December 5, 2018

– 806 words –

 

Not Dead Yet: The Memoir Not DeadYet

by Phil Collns

384 pages in hardcover

Crown Archetype

Kindle edition

$13.99

 

Phil Collins is not a well man. At one point he lost the hearing in his left ear. Later some dislocated vertebrae robbed him of his ability to play the drums or piano, though he did later regain some ability to drum. He’s had concussions and has most recently had trouble walking due to a condition called “drop foot”.

He’s about eight months older than me, and the litany of his injuries makes me feel healthy.

Following his announced retirement from performing and his third divorce, around 2010, he spent several years in a pretty deep depression, basically drinking himself to death. It took several interventions, rehab and a bit of an epiphany to get him to stop.

In this book. published in 2016, he claims to have been sober for three years. Indeed, the later chapters of this book are a very frank confession about his years of self-abuse.

It’s not surprising that being deprived of his art sent him into a tailspin. He’d been involved in show business since he was a child, had played drums since the age of five, was known as a drummer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor.

He was in stage productions of “Oliver” as a boy and would have appeared in a crowd scene in the Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night” if his scenes had not been cut from the final print. His part in the movie “Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang” also hit the cutting room floor.

Later on, after being in several rock bands, he was hired to sit in on a recording session for George Harrison’s song “Art of Dying” on the album All Things Must Pass. Collins says his tracks (which he thought were not very good) were not used in the final mix, but Harrison later agreed that he had been there.

In 1970, after an extensive audition, he was picked to be the drummer and backing vocalist for the progressive rock band, Genesis. During that period he also did a lot of session work for other people’s projects. In 1975, lead singer and front man Peter Gabriel left the band and Collins sort of fell into the role after the band had auditioned a number of possible replacements.

The Collins’ era version of the band was much more commercially successful than it had been previously, but even its hectic schedule wasn’t enough to keep him busy. He continued to do session work and performed with a jazz fusion group called Brand X, as well as beginning work on his first solo album.

His singular song writing process was quite a bit different from the group process that fuelled Genesis and, while the voice is the same in this period, the songs are different. Between his solo career and his success with Genesis, it seemed for a time that Collns was to be heard everywhere.

As happened with the Bee Gees when disco faded, there was a bit of a reaction against his music among the critics, even though it still sold well.

Collins’ love life is a bit of a mess He spent decades bouncing back and forth between two high school sweethearts, marrying and divorcing one of them, and later marrying two other women, the latest of which he has reconciled with following his alcoholic crash. He is very clear that most of his marital problems were either his personal fault or the unintended consequences of his career.

Of the period after that third divorce, he gives a lot of detail and sums it up bluntly: “I went through a few bits of darkness; drinking too much. I killed my hours watching TV and drinking, and it almost killed me.”

According to his website he’s still circling the world with versions of his Not Dead Yet tour, though some references indicate that he has to perform sitting down. He’ll be in New Zealand and Australia in early 2019.

This is a very engaging memoir, one that encouraged me to listen to all of my cassettes, CDs and digital material from both of his careers while I was reading it.  He comes across as a likeable, but driven, fellow, who starts out by admitting that this is his version of events.

“What you are about to read is my life, as seen through my eyes. It might not comply with the memories of others involved, but it’s the way I remember it.”

As proof if this, Wikipedia reports that his first life, who lives in Canada, is currently suing him for his account of their marriage. On the other hand, he and his third wife have reconciled.

 

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Bookends: Adventures in Other Dimensions January 29, 2020

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Mythology, Science Fiction, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Adventures in Other Dimensions

by Dan Davidson

November 28, 2018

– 842 words –

 

The Game   The Game

by Diana Wynne Jones

iBooks Edition

HarperCollins Children’s Books

204 pages in print

$11.99

 

It would be difficult to say anything about this book if I took the space to list the accomplishments of Diana Wynne Jones. To quote from her Wikipedia entry: “Her work has been nominated for several awards, among them twice as a finalist for the Hugo Award, fourteen times for the Locus Award, seven times for the Mythopoeic Award (which she would win twice out of those seven nominations), and twice for a World Fantasy Award, which she would also end up winning in 2007.”

She influenced a long list of writers and her bibliography, including books for all ages, stretches t for several pages of a separate entry.

Fantasy author Neil Gaiman, who was a friend for many years, cites her as an influence, and has noted he avoided reading some of her work because the ideas were too close to things he wanted to write about himself.

American Gods for instance, mined and updated figures of Greek Mythology in a way similar to that which takes place in The Game.

We begin by meeting Hayley, who has been living with her grandparents, but has been packed off, for reasons she doesn’t really understand, to live with some other relatives in Ireland. Here she meets a whole slew of cousins she never knew she had, and is introduced to the Game, a kind of scavenger hunt that they like to play.

It’s some time before she catches onto the fact that their scavenging expeditions actually take them into the other dimensions of the mythospehere, and into realms where creatures and beings of magical power exist. Indeed she finds that most of her adult relatives are somehow related to the gods and goddesses of legend. She learns where her parents really disappeared to and how to free them from their punishment.

This one’s recommended for readers in grades 5 through 8, but it’s a lot of fun no matter how old you are.

 

Trey of SwordsTrey of Swords

iBooks Edition

by Andre Norton

Kindle Edition

Ace Books – paperback

192 pages

$6.99

 

Andre Norton was the penname of Alice Mary Norton, whose publishers probably decided that a writer of science-fiction adventure novels needed to be male when she started out back in the 1950s, after having already written a number of historical novels ad one Cold War type thriller under that and two other pen names

In the field, she covered all the bases:  time travel, space travel, human adaptation, psychic abilities, alternate histories and parallel dimensions. In the early days much of this material was what we would call young adult fiction, now, but she kept growing.

Borrowing from Wikipedia again, “She was the first woman to be a Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, first woman to be SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) Grand Master, and first inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.”

She was active until her death in 2005, and mentored a lot of female writers by sharing author credit with them in her later years, particularly in the Witch World series.

She often wrote three to five novel series about characters and settings.

Her most complicated series was set on the Witch World, or Escarp, which started out as what seemed to be a simple alternate dimension adventure in which an Earth soldier of fortune, Simon Tregarth, ends up in a world that seems to be dominated by women who wield magical powers. In that first book, which I read back around 1967 (and still have) the powers seemed to be mostly psychic in nature, and because Tregarth was not native to that world, he had some abilities which native males did not.

Norton developed this setting, its history and social structures, far more than her earlier work and, while the first few novels were still science fictional in their approach to the stories and lore, later ones (there are some three dozen of them) moved fully into the fantasy genre and began, more and more, to be about female characters.

This book is a collection of three interconnected and overlapping novellas, each one involving the invocation of magic through a particular type of sword.

In Sword of Ice a half-breed named Yonan uses the power of the sword hilt that he discovers while climbing, to forge a blade of mystic ice with which he and his lizard-man friend Tsali defeat an assault on the refuge of their to peoples by a dark force, also awakening a frozen hero from the past during this adventure and rescuing Yonan’s adopted sister, Crytha.

In Sword of Lost Battles, Yonan and that hero, Uruk, travel into the past to change history and prevent the resurgence of a warlock named Targi.

While the events of the second story are going on, Crytha, who is a fledgling and poorly trained young witch, finds that she has to undertake her own battle against the machinations of Laidan, a sorceress who is Targi’s ally. She must either prevail or be possessed by the evil one and used to damage the people of the valley.

This book was the sixth of the original Witch World novels and began Norton’s practice of creating smaller series arcs within the overall saga. This is part of the Escarp cycle, set years after Tregarth’s arrival. Some of his children are mentioned peripherally, but the focus has shifted to native Escarpians and would generally stay there from this point on.

Both of the books I’ve covered this week are available either as single volumes or within e-book omnibus editions.

 

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Bookends: Married Academics find more adventure than they bargained for January 28, 2020

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Bookends: Married Academics find more adventure than they bargained for

by Dan Davidson

November 21, 2018

– 800 words –

 

Beyond the Pale   Beyond the Pale

by Clare O’Donohue

Midnight Ink

349 pages

$21.99

 

The story begins with a man named Eamon Byrnes, who is at home, but not at all happy, in a small island village in Ireland. He is terribly unhappy about something; in a bit of a panic really. While he is contemplating the confusion that has come into his life on this dark and windy night, there comes a knock at the door.

We won’t find out just what all that was about until Hollis and Finn Larson finally arrive in the same place, nearly 300 pages later. For two tenured professors, the path that takes them to Doolin Island is quite a bit out of the way of anything they would have considered when we first meet them

Hollis is a historian and Finn a professor of English Literature. They’ve been married for long enough to settle into a bit of a rut in their relationship. Hollis would like to travel, but Finn is content to increase his knowledge of the world by experiencing it vicariously.

Into their life barges David Agnelli. He’s a former boyfriend of Hollis’ from her university days. More importantly, he took the same training course that she did when she was contemplating joining the CIA many years earlier. While he tells then at first that he is working now for the State Department, it soon becomes clear that he isn’t.

Finn has previously been involved in authenticating a piece of art for a major museum and the agency wants him to take a close look at a manuscript that purports to be a play written by Brendan Behan. The Agency thinks it isn’t, but that it contains coded information about a foreign plot. They want Finn to take a look at it and see if it’s what they think it is. He’s already turned them down, so they come at him through Hollis.

Hollis really likes the idea of an all expenses paid trip to Ireland. Also, she thinks this task mght just spice up their lives a bit. She has no idea how much.

While Hollis did chose academia and a professorship over being an agent, the one thing she took away from that experience was that she liked being in good shape: runs 5 miles a day in all sorts of weather; takes exercise classes; practices some of the moves she had learned in fight training. She’s never explained any of this (or about the CIA connection) to Finn, but it turns out to very fortunate that she’s maintained some of her physical skills.

In Ireland they are provided with $50,000 Euros to acquire the book, and given directions as to where they might find it. Things very quickly go off the rails. They are followed. The person they are supposed to meet is missing. Another person is killed. Two other people approach them with threats. Even David, when he turns up at last, is not quite what he told them he was.

So there is mystery, intrigue, plots within plots, at least two different sets of antagonists who are after the book, and lots of travelling. Some of it takes place while they are captured by one set of their foes.

Early on in the story, David reminds them that they should trust no one, and that turns out to be true.

The late William Goldman used to specialize in this sort of “test to destruction” kind of story, in which a protagonist is pushed to the limit of his or her abilities and then has to exceed them. In this story, the Larsons also exceed the limits of what their comfortable, but somewhat humdrum, life together had become.

From what I can see on her website, O’Donohue has previously published mostly in that side of the mystery genre known as the “Cozy Mysteries”. There have been six books in what she calls the Someday Quilts series, and two featuring a television documentary producer named Kate Conway.

This type of mystery tends to be a bit less graphic in terms of their action, small town in their settings, and often blend a romance thread into the plot. A number of different series of this type, generally produced out of Vancouver (pretending to be various places in the USA), turn up on the Bravo Network, after they have aired on the Hallmark Channel.

O’Donohue has obviously decided to stretch herself a bit vary her settings and move into the thriller sub-set of the mystery genre. This is the first book in what she is calling the World of Spies series. Whether subsequent volumes will feature the same characters is not clear.

 

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Bookends: Some Seasonal Kids’ Stories Leading to Christmas January 28, 2020

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Bookends: Some Seasonal Kids’ Stories Leading to Christmas

by Dan Davidson

November 13, 2018

– 688 words _

 

The Snowflake MistakeSnowflake Mistake

by Lea Treleavan and Maddie Frost

Maverick Arts Publishing

32 pages

$17.99

 

Of course we all know that every snowflake is different from every other snowflake. Apparently that’s not actually true, but the odds of finding two alike are about one in one million trillion, so you’ve probably never found a pair. Who walks around looking at snowflakes with a magnifying glass anyway?

Suppose, though, that they were supposed to be all the same, that the Snow Queen, living in her ice castle high in the sky, had a machine that gathered in cloud stuff, squished it down flat and punched out identical snowflakes.

In her opinion, “If any don’t match, they’re not fit to be seen.”

And then, suppose that one winter day she had to go off to look after another problem and she left her rather flighty daughter, Princess Ellie, to run the machine.

And suppose Ellie wasn’t paying proper attention, tried to run the machine too fast, and broke it.

In a panic, Ellie snipped snowflakes by hand, and with the help of a lot of birds, managed to solve that problem.

Now, all she had to do was worry until her mother noticed that things looked a bit different.

She did, and she was angry, but when she looked at the whole big picture instead of looking flake by flake, she decided that the result looked just fine.

“Each flake is unique in its own special way / but seen all at once, it’s a dazzling display.”

This is a clever little story. originally published in England. The appropriately named artist, Frost, came up with some cheerful illustrations to go with Treleaven’s quite readable rhymes.

 

Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins     Mrs Claus Yakes the Reins

story by Sue Fliess

illustrated by Mark Chambers

Two Lions

32 pages

$17.99

 

One Christmas Eve, Santa woke up sick, so sick that he decided he would have to cancel his world wide trip this year. Ms. Claus agreed that this would be a disgrace, so she and the elves packed up the sleigh, mapped out a route, got a list of supplies, and prepared for her and the reindeer to make the trip themselves.

“Then Ms. Claus bravely climbed onto the sleigh. / ‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I will save Christmas Day.’”

It wasn’t an easy trip. It started out fine, but then the weather acted up and she was nearly blown out of the sleigh by tornadoes, blizzards and sleet.

Then the fuel started leaking (It doesn’t just run by reindeer power?), making for a rough ride, and she had to solve that problem. After that her carefully planned route got a bit cockeyed, and there’s a two-page map showing how strange it got.

There were other things in the air, and dodging some ducks got the reins tangled up in one reindeer’s antlers, but they managed to untangle things and get back to the North Pole on time.

She was so exhausted that she fell asleep in the living room, in the sleigh, with the reindeer dozing all around her when Santa brought her some cocoa.

 

Dino-Christmas   Dino-Christmas

by Lisa Wheeler

illustrations by Barry Gott

Carolrhoda Books

32 pages

$17.99

 

Apparently there are scads of Dino books out there, in which dinosaurs dance, race cars, swim and skateboard, so I guess it just makes sense that they also get involved in Christmas.

In this book, a bunch of anthropomorphic dinosaurs dress up like oversized people and get seriously involved with all things Winter, starting with falling leaves and carrying on through snowball fights, skating, hockey, and getting ready for Christmas.

The book is packed with colourful, active computer generated artwork by Barry Gott and bouncy rhymes by Lisa Wheeler.

“Dino streets are all aglow / as autumn winds turn into snow. / Everyone is full of cheer. / Dino-Christmastime is here.”

Since I’m sure the creators of the book know that Hallowe’en comes before Christmas, I can only assume that the very last page is simply a teaser for their next project.

 

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Bookends: Keeping Away from the Irish Troubles January 28, 2020

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Bookends: Keeping Away from the Irish Troubles

by Dan Davidson

November 7, 2018

– 975 words –

 

Nothing but Memories   Nothing But Memories

by Derek Fee

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

418 pages in print

$19.66

Kindle edition offered as a free entry to the series

 

As the world begins to get a little nervous as to what might happen to the peace between the two Irelands now that the Brexit mess threatens to harden the open border between UK ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it’s interesting to read a story set in a period just a few years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. This happened on April 10, 1998, and it brought 30 years of sectarian killings to an end.

In the world of Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson, it transformed his Royal Ulster Constabulary into the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It’s still a force largely made up of Protestants, who are used to distrusting and disrespecting Catholics.

Just exactly how many years have passed since the end of the Troubles is not entirely clear in this book. Murals and graffiti still litter the streets of Belfast in this story, but they were still in place to be seen by the bus tour we took a few years ago, so that doesn’t help me to find the time frame.

Wilson’s official problem is that it seems the killing of Protestants has begun again. By the time we’re well into the story there have been three murders, staged to look like the old style sectarian killings, and Wilson, who is a sensible man with few prejudices of his own, is having to ride herd on some of the more rabid members of the Belfast Murder Squad, who want to treat the case as a reopening of hostilities.

Wilson is given the case to pursue as much as a punishment as anything else. Sure he’s a good officer with an impressive record of closing cases, but he’s refused to play the status games over the years, turned down offers to join the local Orange Lodge, and has little time for anything but proper enforcement of the law, To him, part of that is not doing anything to stir up a resurgence of the Troubles.

To make things more difficult for him, he is assigned a new detective constable, DC Moria McElvaney. That she’s a woman is only part of the problem. The worst part is that she’s a Catholic, being inserted into a completely male, determinedly Protestant, outfit.

Wilson is a widower, racked with guilt over the way he was unfaithful to his wife before her death from cancer a few years earlier. Something of a philanderer before she took ill, he has been celibate since, and is disturbed to find in himself a stirring of interest in this new young woman who has been thrust into his life. He doesn’t try to do anything about it, but is distressed by some of his own urges.

He is probably saved from pursuing those thoughts by the reappearance an old flame. He and Queen’s Council Katherine McCann had had an affair back when he was married. He broke it off out of a sense of duty to his wife. McCann is back in Ireland now to push for the development of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

If this is the book’s way of referring to the revival of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, which Wikipedia says was being attempted in 2002, that may give a time frame for the book.

It emerges, thanks to some savvy data mining by the new DC, that there is a connection between the murdered men, and that these killings are probably not so random as they have been made to appear. Something nasty and obscene from the time of the Troubles is being covered up, and a psychopathic killer has been hired to do the job.

This is not a spoiler, because we met this man very early in the story, and though we didn’t know just why he was killing, we knew he was working from a list and was reporting to an employer. Just before and after each murder we spend some time in his head.

Wilson and McElvaney do manage to chip away at the plot, and uncover some choice leads, only to have them shut down by another spate of killings. The killer goes so far as to murder one of Wilson’s key officers, one who simply knew things he shouldn’t, and who was playing both sides of the power game. He makes a similar attempt on Wilson the same night, but, by then, he had given himself away to a local contingent of Catholic mobsters and that, in turn, reveals his presence an location to Wilson’s CID squad.

This story does not end well for Wilson. There is still a need to cover up past evil, and Wilson is ordered to stand down once the killer has been taken, leaving him frustrated and knowing that something really dirty is going on.

There’s a coda which tells us readers just how that plays out, but that knowledge is above Wilson’s pay grade.

Irish author Derek Fee is a former oil company executive and European Union Ambassador, having lived in Holland, Iran, Belgium, Malta, Kenya, and Zambia, and now living and writing in Connemara on Ireland’s West Coast. His published works include books on technology, political thrillers and some popular mysteries, so which Nothing But Memories is the first in a series that numbers at least eight books at this writing.

Fee is one of an increasing number of genre writers who have bypassed publishers and gone straight to the self-publishing game. Some of these people really need editors, by Fee seems to have studied his form and this book was quite enjoyable.

 

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Bookends: Tales that take place between the Dresden Files January 28, 2020

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Tales that take place between the Dresden Files

by Dan Davidson

October 31, 2018

– 875 words –

 

Brief CasesBRIEF CASES

by Jim Butcher

Kindle Edition

$16.99

 

Ace Books

444 pages

$30.22

 

There are 17 books in the Dresden Files so far, 15 novels and two short story collections, of which this is the second. Since the novels about Chicago’s only card carrying wizard/private eye (because they are written in that style) generally take place at breakneck speed in less than a week, it figures that there would be lots of space for other, lesser, events to take place.

And since the books which have appeared about once a year since Storm Front in 2002, have been collected in omnibus editions, adapted and added to as graphic novels, a form the basis of a tabletop role playing game, I’s no surprise that Butcher has been in demand to appear themed fantasy anthologies.

All but one of the stories in this collection came into being that way, and gave the author the chance to fill in some of the blanks. As with the first collection Side Jobs (2010) he has provided little introductions to tell us where these tales fit in the grand scheme of things.

If you are a fan and want to know just exactly where the stories fit, there’s a section on Jim-Butcher.com that will spell it all out for you.

Here are some notes on the stories

* A Fistful of Warlocks” – There were wizards before Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden grew up to become a thorn in the side of the White Council. One of them was Anastasia Luccio, the Captain of the Wardens of the White Council when we first met her. Born sometime in the early 1800s, she spent the latter part of that century tracking down warlocks (bad wizards) in the American West. This tale sees her teamed up with Wyatt Earp.

* B is for Bigfoot”  – At some point Butcher realized he had never dealt with the issue of the existence of Sasquatches. So he had one of them, named Strength of a River in His Shoulders, of the Three Stars Forest People, hire Harry to look out for his half-human son. The stories featuring Irwin take place over a number of years from high school to private prep school and then on to university.

* “I was a Teenage Bigfoot”

* “Bigfoot on Campus,”

* “AAAA Wizardry,” – In this story Harry instructs young wizards on the Four As of casework: Ascertain, Analysis, Assemble, Act. He does this by illustrating his points with the story of a case that almost didn’t go well.

* “Curses” – Harry explains why Chicago’s home baseball team never wins the series

* “Even Hand” –in which mob boss John Marcone fends off an attack by the some nasty beings called the Formor, in order to protect a woman and a child and persuades himself that he was really doing it just to test the defenses he had prepared against the need to someday deal with his sometime enemy/ally, Harry Dresden.

* “Bombshells,” –At one point Harry appeared to have died. On earlier story dealt with the reactions of Chicago homicide detective Karrin Murphy. This one covers similar ground from the POV of Dresden’s apprentice, Molly, who is really not ready to assume the responsibilities Harry left behind. She copes with the assistance of a pack of helpful werewolf people.

* “Cold Case,” – Later, Molly was drafted to assume the mantle of the Winter Lady by the Mab, the faerie Queen of Air and Darkness. It’s a considerable power upgrade and it comes complete with temptations and liabilities that Molly has to learn to cope with.

*”Jury Duty” – You’ve read the one about the hung jury on which one unconvinced juror ties up the whole process. What happens when that one juror is Harry Dresden, who knows the that the plaintiff isn’t guilty, but can’t tell anyone how he knows.

* “Day One,” – in which the Medical Examiner turned Knight of the Cross, tells a tale. Waldo Butters is still learning his new calling. The sword chose him, not the other way around. It was a surprise then and it still is. This is his story.

* “Zoo Day,” –  a three part tale told from the POV of Dresden, his daughter, Maggie, and his oversized mystical dog/familiar named Mouse. Yes, Harry has a daughter. Her mother is a dead vampire, but that’s another story. On this trip to the zoo, strange things happen, and we see them from overlapping points of view.

When I picked up the first of the Dresden paperbacks in the Dawson Community Library, it never occurred to me that I would still be reading about him a dozen years later. Each book is a treat, and the week of Hallowe’en seemed a good time to review this one.

Dresden enjoyed a 12 episode television season back in 2007. Rumour has it that a revived series may be appearing in the near future. As much as I enjoyed Paul Blackthorne in the role, he’s tied up on the Arrow TV series now, and it would actually be good to get someone who’s close to Harry’s height in the role.

 

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Bookends: Spooky Tales for Hallowe’en January 28, 2020

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Childen's, fantasy, Uffish Thoughts, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Spooky Tales for Hallowe’en

by Dan Davidson

October 23, 2018

– 653 words –

 

Brave Little Camper Saves HalloweenBrave Little Camper

written by Rosa Von Feder

illustrated by Jen Taylor

Cottage Door Press

11 pages

$7.99

 

Farmer MacDonald was very upset when she discovered that her prize pumpkin, the giant one intended to be a float in the Halloween parade, was missing from her garden. It had been stolen by some pesky raccoons.

Her solution was to decorate a Little Camper (actually more like a trailer) that happened to be in a nearby field. It was the right shape to dress up as a big pumpkin and be pulled in the parade by the farmer and her tractor.

This book doesn’t explain just where the Brave Little Camper came from, but kids might recall it from a previous book in which it somehow saved Christmas.

Board books aren’t very big, which explains the page count here. They’re intended to be durable and teach kids how to turn pages without ripping them. This one is filled with cheerful illustrations that have a distinctly orange tint to them.

There is a final two page spread which shows raccoons making nice with everyone and using the camper as a place from which to sell little pumpkin pies, which they apparently bake. This makes no sense at all, but it lets the book end on a happy note.

 

The Ghostly Carousel Ghostly Carousel

Delightfully Frightful Poe,

by Calef Brown

Carolrhoda Books

32 pages

$17.99

 

Most of the 17 poems in Brown’s book are presented as two-page spreads with the verse on the left and the rest of the two pages a backdrop painting to illustrate the rhyme. A few of them are shorter and just get single pages.

They vary in theme from young witchy cooks and zombies, ghostly creatures, demons, and spooky children, among many other things.

The artwork is colourful, though a bit on the dark side. It does, however, pretty much take the sting out of anything that might possibly be unsettling about the text.

The poems do basically have rhyme and metre, which lends them to a kind of chanting when you read them aloud, but they’re generally not set out of the page that way, so you have to work at it. It’s aimed at ages 5 to 9, so they will need a little help.

 

Sammy’s Spooktacular HalloweenSammy's Halloween

by Mike Petrik

Two Lions/Amazon

40 pages

$17.99

 

Sammy comes from a family that really goes to town on its Halloween decorations every year.

“They had the biggest, creepiest, jump-scariest haunted house in the neighbourhood.”

The entire family got into the act and each had a specialty. Sammy, however, was the most obsessed with the event and wanted to start planning the next extravaganza the day after the last one.

The family made the mistake of challenging him to find ways to top last night’s production – and that turned out to be a bit of a muchness.

Sammy spent the next several months figuring out a way to work a Halloween theme into every major holiday, and even into everyday events. You just never knew when a ghost or a spider, or zombie snowmen might turn up.

“Every birthday party, sleepover and family celebration saw the testing of new ideas.” And so the whole thing began to wear a bit thin. After the mess on the Fourth of July (thunderstorm on the BBQ), his parents finally said he had to stop.

He was depressed, until his brother and sister came to him and said his ideas were really good; they were just happening at the wrong times. They all put their heads together, developed his ideas as a team, and when the next Halloween came, they were ready.

This book has more of a story than the other two, and some really goofy illustrations to show the things Sammy tried out and how his family reacted to them.

 

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