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Bookends: Three books with magical tales April 16, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Childen's, fantasy, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Three books with magical tales

By Dan Davidson

December 20, 2017

– 665 words –

 

Classic Storybook Fables

Classic Fables

Retold and Illustrated by Scott Gustafson

Artisan/Workman

84 pages

 

$19.95

 

This beautifully illustrated book is much larger that the average picture book and ha s much more complex text. In a note at the end, Gustafson cites the original sources for all eight of the tales he has chosen for this book, his fourth foray into this anthology style territory. In this case he read many versions of the stories and then retold them in his own style.

“The Ugly Duckling” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” were originally told by Hans Christian Andersen.

“Beauty and the Beast” was written by Gabrielle-Susanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

“The Crow and the Pitcher”, “The boy who Cried Wolf” and “The Mice in Council” are attributed to the storyteller we know as Aesop.

“The Little Red Hen” is said to be Russian in origin.

“The Boy Who Went to the North Wind” is from Scandinavia.

The fashion in children’s books these days is to be quire cartoony, and there’s nothing wring with that, but it’s nice to see a really well painted version once in awhile. Gustafson works in oils.

 

Magic in a Year

The Magic in a Year

Written by Frank Boylan

Illustrated by Sally Garland

Flowerpot Press

32 pages

 

$21.99

“Every year has months and seasons.

I love each for different reasons.

Turn the page and you will see

What makes each month special to me.”

Rhyming books are particularly fun for the 4 to 8 year olds that this book was written for, but can be fun for older kids as well.

 

Boylan’s rhymes take us through the year, with each double-page highlighting a new month. Garland’s illustrations, dome in a combination of acrylic paint and pencil, tweaked with a variety of digital tools, are lively and colourful, suited to the poems.

On the cover, Boylan credits Sara Coleridge for inspiration and her 1834 poe

m “The Garden Year” is reproduced on the final pages. Boylan has used the idea and the meter of the original poem in creating his text.

Ther author lives in Canada, though he was born in Ireland. The illustrator lives in Glasgow, making this book a very international creation.

 

Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the MuseumMr. Owliver copy

Written and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken

Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

32 pages

$21.90

Carolyn Bracken is perhaps best known for her artwork on the books in The Magic Schoolbus series of educational adventure books. Here, she undertakes the task of providing a children’s primer in art history.

Mr. Owliver is the night watchman at the Animaltown Art Museum and each night he wanders through the rooms, reacquainting himself with his “friends” the paintings. The fun of this is that all the paintings are animalized versions of real works, such as the “Mona Lizard” by Leonardo Da Vinci, “American Gothic” by Grant Woodchuck, and so on.

Sometimes it’s the name of the painting that has changed; sometimes it’s the name of the artist. At any rate, the person who used to be in the frame is now a different species.

The mystery in this little tale is that one night – the night of Mr. Owl’s birthday – all the characters in the paintings have vanished, and there is nothing left but their backdrops and settings.

I’ll leave it to you to learn where they eventually turn up, because I wasn’t to focus on the last four pages of the book, This is where Bracken credits all the works she has altered for her book, gives their names, who actually created them, and where they might be found. They are all staples in any standard art history book and, of course, could easily be found these days by typing their right names into a search engine.

Finally, the last two pages provide a basic art history timeline, from the 1500s to just before World War I.

It’s a great idea and it’s really well executed.

 

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Bookends: Tracking Reality back to the Source April 16, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Science Fiction, thriller, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Tracking Reality back to the Source

By Dan Davidson

December 13, 2017

– 718 words –

Savior's Game

By Sean Chercover

Thomas & Mercer

272 pages

$10.49

There are lots of disadvantages to coming in on the third volume of a trilogy. From the clues in this book, it appears that in The Trinity Game andThe Devil’s Game, Daniel Byrne, a former investigator for a secret Branch of the Vatican, in charge of authenticating miracles, has undergone a crisis of faith. After debunking 721 such events over a ten-year period, case number 722 turned out to be something different.

It involved Daniel’s uncle, an ecclesiastical con man named Tim Trinity who called himself a Reverend, and who suddenly began to manifest actual precognitive powers. Eventually these seem to be accounted for by a mysterious mental virus, which causes people to have visions and eventually become mad and catatonic. They call it the Plague.

This problem continues into book two, which introduces a couple of secret organizations. Daniel is recruited by the Foundation to work against the Council, which seems to have plans for world domination, but eventually decides to take matters into his own hands and eliminate the Council’s chief agent. Along the way, he began experiencing some of the symptoms of the Plague, beginning with what he believes to be auditory hallucinations.

Along with the doctor who had assisted him in the second book he drops out of sight, changes his name, and seeks to understand what might be happening to him. By the time we join the story in book three, he and his partner have had to separate to remain hidden, and Daniel has begun to have visions to go with the voices he has been hearing.

He learns, from his previous allies in the Foundation, that the Plague, which they have renamed AIT (Anomalous Information Transfer) is spreading, and that thousands have been infected, more each week.

Gaining some level of control over his visions, he finds himself able to visit what seems to be an alternate reality, one in which things seem to be more real than the reality he has always known. He meets the woman who goes with the voice he has been hearing and learns that this other place had been experiencing a population growth that matches the spread of AIT.

Visitors refer to the place as the Source. This used to be a friendly place, but lately it has come to be dominated by one individual, who has a vast amount of the “magical” energies (teleportation, other mental abilities, manifestation of objects and food, among other things) that every one seems to possess to some degree in this place.

This individual has used his abilities to create a massive tower, and seems to have enslaved most of the other visitors to the place, using their – I almost want to write “worship”, though that’s not quite the right term. They are in an addictive, meditative state.

This man has come to think of himself as a god-like being, and he intends to harness the power of AIT to extend his control from the Source into the real world, which he considers to be just a pale facsimile of the world he controls.

Daniel has to come up with ways to survive in both worlds, stop the AIT plague which threatens to overtake most of humanity, and stop a plot to plunge the world into a devastating conflict which will further the plans of the being who calls himself Noah.

From what I’ve written you’ll get the impression that this is an oddly shaped book, one which partakes of some features of the action thriller genre, while other parts seem more akin with something out of Dr. Strange. To some degree there’s a touch of the Matrix here, or that Christopher Nolan film, Inception.

From the Amazon.ca descriptions of the first two books (which I admit to mining for this review), I would venture that they have far less of the mumbo-jumbo/alternate reality flavour than does this final volume. If this whole story line intrigues you, might want to pick up used or Kindle editions of the first two books (available for around $2 each). I got enough out of book three to be content without doing that.

 

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Bookends: Beating back against the Apocalypse March 1, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Beating back against the Apocalypse

By Dan Davidson

Fuller MemorandumSeptember 11, 2017

– 749 words –

 

The Fuller Memorandum

By Charles Stross

Ace

320 pages

Kindle edition: $8.99

 

 

This is how Bob Howard warns us not to read this book.

“This is the story of how I lost my atheism, and why I wish I could regain it. This is the story of the people who lost their lives in an alien desert bathed by the hideous radiance of a dead sun, and the love that was lost and the terror that wakes me up in a cold sweat about once a week, clawing at the sheets with cramping fingers and drool on my chin. It’s why Mo and I aren’t living together right now, why my right arm doesn’t work properly, and why I’m toiling late into the night, trying to bury the smoking wreckage of my life beneath a heap of work.”

Bob, an agent name picked for its resemblance to the writer Robert E, Howard, creator of Conan, and member of the Lovecraft circle of American fantasy writers, is an agent in an arcane branch of the British Secret Service which is known as The Laundry. It deals in sorcery and magic or, as Bob prefers to term it, a branch of applied mathematics.

You don’t apply to join the Laundry; you get drafted (or killed) after you’ve accidentally almost done something very dangerous with numbers, generally (these days) involving the use of a computer, although such things have been done in the past without them.

Stross’s Laundry novels are what happens when eldritch fantasy of the Cthulhu type gets dumped into a literary blender with various sorts of spy/thriller fiction. Each one is a little different than the one before it, with the ghosts of assorted spy master authors from Green to Fleming and others lurking between the lines. In addition there’s always a healthy dose of bureaucratic spoofing of the “Yes Minister” or Farley Mowat (the first chapters of Never Cry Wolf) variety.

As a 21st century sort of magician, Bob carries a loaded PDA around with him instead of a grimoire, with incantations pre-inscribed and ready to cast at the push of a button. About midway through he has to replace it and trades up for a tremendously amusing spoof of a certain Apple product. At the office, he’s sort of the local IT expert, but he’s also a field agent, as is his wife, Mo.

While Bob is more of a traditional magic user, Mo is bonded to a particularly powerful demon that appears in our reality as a bone white violin. When she plays it, with bleeding fingers, spells are cast and, generally, nasty people die.

This book is partly about what happens when Mo’s work follows her home. She’s been on an assignment. Imagine something like Israel taking out an Iranian nuclear facility, only make it an attempt to breach the protective walls that are keeping some proto-nasty beings from crossing over into our dimension. They used to rule here, and they’d like to come back. Mo put an end to that, but the human agency working with them decides to take its revenge back in London.

It doesn’t work, but the implications are bad. To get to Bob and Mo and pass the wards around their home implies inside knowledge, which means the Laundry has been infiltrated – again. On top of this, Angleton, Bob’s top boss and the head of the agency, vanishes, after sending Bob off on a routine sounding investigation that turns out to be anything but.

As a result, an apparently innocent human being is killed in an eldritch burst of power. Bob is held responsible for this and placed on kind of administrative leave, pending a review of his actions – kind of like a police officer being investigated for having discharged a firearm.

This leads Bob to the question of the existence of a document called the Fuller Memorandum, which outlines how a extremely powerful entity, with the lovely name of The Eater of Souls, was bound into symbiosis with a human agent, and how, if the bad guys in this story manage to gain control of this being, they could invite all the elder gods to come and sample the buffet on planet earth.

Bob’s job – on leave pending an Audit or not – is to figure out just what the ungodly have in mind and prevent it from happening. It is a tale with many twists and turns, no small amount of sarcastic humour, and moments of both sheer terror and tenderness. I highly recommend the series.

 

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Bookends: The tale of the Immortal Man February 17, 2018

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Man of LegendsBookends: The tale of the Immortal Man

By Dan Davidson

September 5, 2017

– 824 words –

 

The Man of Legends

By Kenneth Johnson

47 North (Amazon)

413 pages

$21.95

This story begins with a batch of seemingly random encounters. A number of quite different people, with an assortment of different personal issues, are approached by a man who makes a suggestion to them or nudges them in a specific direction, and when they follow his urging they find that it makes a positive difference in their lives.

The man is named Will or, at least, that’s one of the many names he has used during his extended lifespan. He appears to be about 33 years of age, and has seemed to be that old since about 33 AD. There are various legends about immortal men that are linked to that date. They are always connected to the crucifixion of Christ. One is the story of the Wandering Jew. Another is linked to the Roman soldier who stabbed Jesus with spear while he was hanging on the cross, in order to check whether or not he had died. In both cases the men are said to be cursed to live until the Second Coming.

The character who becomes Will is not either of these fellows, but has been similarly afflicted due to something he did to Jesus while Christ was carrying his cross along that uphill climb to Calvary. We don’t learn what this was right away.

Will’s curse has been tampered with by another agency, a former angel who also goes by a variety of names. Will can only stay in one place for three days at a time before he experiences extreme pain and must move a fixed distance away. Further, once he has been in a particular place, somewhat more than three centuries must pass before he can be there again.

This curse has caused him to lose everyone he has ever loved. He saw his original family grow old and die. All of his important friendships must, of necessity, be ephemeral in nature. This is a bit of a plot problem, for we are asked to believe that he has been an important factor in the lives of a number of significant historical personages over the centuries, and it would have been hard for him to sustain any long term relationships for the length of time needed to form strong relationships.

The three day factor also applies to his health. Early on, when the full import of what had happened to him began to sink in, he attempted suicide a number of times. He failed. His body repairs itself from any sort of damage within three days.

Twice in his long life he has lived in hope of his time coming to an end. The first time was at the end of the first millennium AD, which some texts had prophesied would mark Christ’s return. The second time is where we pick up the story, approaching the end of the year 2000, and the real beginning of the 21st century in 2001.

It’s New Year’s weekend when an aspiring journalist named Jillian Guthrie, who is working for one of those tabloid supermarket “papers” while looking for a way out, discovers a series of pictures while putting together a spread for her paper. The same man, looking the same age, stands alongside Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gandhi in three different photographs spanning eighty-five years of history. More to the point, she has recently seen this man in the flesh. She persuades a colleague to help her track down this mystery man.

At about the same time, Will is busy saving some people from a burning building. He is horribly burned himself and becomes a news story. Jillian recognizes his face in the newscasts and haunts the hospital where he has been taken.

Not far away is the dapper young man who has often turned up in Will’s travels over he centuries – his original name usually rendered in English as Lucifer Morningstar.

Also nearby is an agent of the Vatican, tasked with a generations old task of tracking down the nameless immortal whose existence is so perplexing and perhaps troubling to the Roman Catholic Church.

Finally, there is Hannah, an elderly former UN Envoy with whom Will had enjoyed his last romance many decades earlier, from whom he had to flee the last time that Vatican agents got this close to him.

We learn a lot of Will’s personal story while he is slipping in and out of delirium in the hospital. Some we get from the Vatican agent, some more from Hannah.

The story builds to a climax of supernatural proportions, in which many of the bit players we met at the beginning of the book play a significant role.

Quite often fantasies of this nature don’t take matters of good and evil seriously. This book was refreshing in that it did.

 

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Bookends: A Novel that Mixes Mythology and Marxism February 14, 2018

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Bookends: A Novel that Mixes Mythology and Marxism

By Dan Davidson

June 7, 2017

– 829 words –

 

Deathless

Deathless

By Catherynne M. Valente

352 pages

$19.21

Kindle edition

$10.99

 

“The Death of Koschei the Deathless” is an iconic piece of Russian folklore, which Catherynne M. Valente has adapted into a fantasy novel. It helps to have read the legend, so I will refer you to the version in Andrew Lang’s classic 1890 collection, The Red Fairy Book, which is available online.

In Valente’s re-telling, the time frame is moved into the 20th century and the story takes place between the time of the Russian Revolution and 1952.

It is primarily the life story of a young woman named Marya Morevna. We meet her as a girl watching her three sisters being courted for marriage by three strange young men. Only Marya is able to see that these men are shape shifters, who arrive on the property as birds and then transform into suitors.

As she gets older we discover that she has the ability to see many kinds of other mythical creatures, including the Russian version of house elves, who are linked to the house and the family.

As time passes, and the Revolution takes philosophical hold on the nation, the large house becomes the corporate property of many families, and all their elvish attendants come with them.

In time, a suitor comes for Marya. His name is Koschei and, unknown to her, at first, he is a mystical creature known as the Tsar of Life, one of the great magical beings of Russian mythology. As part of their courtship, before the consummation of their union, they go on a strange journey, riding in a succession of automobiles that turn into horses at the end of each part of the trek, enjoying strange and marvelous meals that always leave Marya ill, and moving farther and farther into another reality.

Events in this strange fairyland mirror those in the mortal world to some extent. All the Russian mystical beings take on some aspect of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine and use the Party’s phrasing in addressing each other.

There are gaps in the narrative during which Marya is altered by her new life. She takes on some of the aspects of power, battles in the struggle between the Tsar of Life and the Tsar of Death. The book has six distinct parts, and there is a bit of a disconnection from one to the next, though they do all link together.

One sequence has her undertaking a number of impossible tasks set for her by the dangerous Baba Yaga, as part of the process by which she proves herself worthy of her husband.

Koschei’s legend foretells of his doom and death at the hands of a mortal man named Ivan, and, as the story moves into the WWII sequences, an Ivan becomes lost in battle with the invading Germans and stumbles into the mystic realm, where Marya is attempting to stave off an invasion by Koschei’s enemies. She meets Ivan and, sickened of the struggle, as well as overcome by a longing to reclaim her mortal life, falls in love and runs off with him.

They end up back in the real world of Leningrad, which has gone through many name changes since she was young, and occupy the war damaged home of her youth. When Koschei tracks them down there, Marya traps him in the basement and chains him there, as in the myth, not telling Ivan what she has done, but making him swear never to go into the cellar.

Things do not go well for them in the starving city and we expect the worst, but suddenly we find ourselves in the idyllic Russian village of Yaichka, where everything is perfect and nothing ever seems to charge. It is an illusion, but it goes on for several chapters until events cause it to break down.

There is sadness and loss in this novel. There are plots and counterplots, and some confusion for all the major characters. Marya ends up in a land on the other side of death, seeming to be an echo of her old life, but a place where it seems that almost no one recognizes her, and it’s not at all certain how she will fit in. And yet, the story ends on note of hope.

Catherynne M. Valente is an American author of fantastic fiction, and poetry, who has been racking up an impressive list of nominations and awards in various categories ever since winning the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 2006. In the speculative fiction genre, she has won the Andre Norton, Hugo, Mythopoeic and Locus awards, and been nominated again for some of them, as well as the Nebula and the World Fantasy awards.

Wikipedia has a long list of her published books (since 2004) and an even longer list of her short fiction. This one has been interesting enough to make me try out another one sometime.

 

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Bookends: A Magical Homage to Other Magical Stories February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Lev Grossman, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: A Magical Homage to Other Magical StoriesThe Magicians Trilogy

By Dan Davidson

March 29, 2017

– 920 words –

 

The Magicians Trilogy:

The Magicians; The Magician King; The Magician’s Land

By Lev Grossman

Kindle Edition

1315 pages in print

Penguin Books

$36.99

 

I freely admit that I was enticed into entering this magical excursion by the rather enjoyable television series that has been based on it. I caught only one episode while it was being broadcast last year, and it was scheduled against something else that we like to record and watch, so it wasn’t until season one turned up at Jimmy’s (yes, we still have a video store) that we picked it up and got into the story.

That done, decided I wanted to read the rest of the story.

They should manage to get three full seasons out of this series and, unlike Game of Thrones, it’s all been finished by the author, so there’s no excuse for violating the narrative too badly.

There’s a lot of blather in the comments about this series in the response section at Amazon. It’s Harry Potter for adults. It’s Narnia without the gloss of Christianity.

That’s all true, of course, but saying it that way escapes the fact that without those books, and others, like works by Ursula LeGuin, T.H. White, J.R.R. Tolkien and Dianne Wynne Jones. Lev Grossman would not have written this story.

The central character of the series is Quentin Coldwater, and we meet him just out of high school, when he is about to apply for university. The one he finds, or that actually finds him, is Brakebills College of Magical Pedagogy, and yes, it is sort of a Hogwarts for young adults. Brakebills is not exactly in our dimension, mainly in the sense that time doesn’t flow quite the same way there. Quentin’s parents are led to believe that he is enrolled at some prestigious business school, that he has a scholarship, and that’s pretty much the last they see of him.

Quentin has always been fascinated by magic, and is a pretty good self-trained stage magician, but he’s always wanted the real stuff, the type of thing written about in the Fillory and Forward novels of his literary hero, Christopher Plover. In these books the Chatwin children travel back and forth between England and Fillory by means that are very like those used by the children in C.S. Lewis’ books.

After getting most of the way through his years of study at Brakebills, where there have been a number of magical assaults and at least one murder, Quentin and his friends in the Physical Kids (one the “houses” at the college) learn that Fillory is real and can be accessed in two stages by travelling through an intermediary world called the Neitherlands, which is a kind of hub for interdimensional travel.

Fillory is not only real, but both wonderful and dangerous, and they find they have been led to find it by Jane Chatwin, the actual girl from the books, who wants them to deal with the monster that her brother, Martin, has become.

Readers who have seen the first series will be surprised to discover that the B plot, which involves Quentin’s high school friend, Julia, is largely absent from book one, and doesn’t turn up in any detail until the second book, where it alternates as flashbacks with the main plot in which Quentin, Julia, Eliot and Janet have become kings and queens in Fillory, once again emulating the Narnia books.

The main plot of The Magician King has to do with the group’s attempts to prevent the “gods” (if that’s what the beings who are the source of magic are) from reclaiming all the power that has leaked out into the various worlds, but we also spend a lot of time with Julia’s back story, and the book lacks the weakness of some middle novels because of the juxtaposition of these very different narratives.

At various times in all three books Quentin is forced to return to Earth, and spends years there before getting back to Fillory. In the first book he returns on his own after being savagely injured in the climatic battle with Martin. In the second he and Julia have to find their way back to Fillory after leaving to search for a magical artefact left behind on Earth. In the final book, The Magician’s Land, Quentin actually spends some time back at Brakebill’s as a teacher before getting involved in a scheme which he hopes will lead him to find a way to restore the humanity of the love of his life, Alice (did I forget to mention Lewis Carroll?), who became a being of pure magic in order to defeat the Beast back in the first book.

If we think of Quentin’s adventures as the A plot, the B plot of the third book is about how to save Fillory from coming to an end, and much of that is a separate adventure by Elliot and Janet, until events finally bring them all together again.

A lot of the characters in Grossman’s trilogy are damaged souls, and a lot of the story, which consumes decades of their lives, is about how they manage to become worthwhile people in spite of the damage.

I picked this e-book set up in November, and just finished the final book a week or so ago, leaving time between each volume to let the story settle. It was well worth the time.

 

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Bookends: Stories with Animals for Kids February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Childen's, fantasy, Uncategorized, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Stories with Animals for Kids

By Dan Davidson

March 8, 2017

Sleeping gypsy

 

– 802 words –

The Sleeping Gypsy

By Mordecai Gerstein

Holiday House’

32 pages

$16.95

 

The Sleeping Gypsy is one of Henri Rousseu’s most famous paintings.

Mordecai Gerstein first saw a photograph of this painting when he was 8 or 9 years old, and it left him full of questions.

Who is the girl? Why is she sleeping under a full moon in the desert? What is that instrument lying next to her? Will she play it, or did she? What will the lion standing over her do?

He says this book is an attempt to answer these and other questions.

In his story, Rousseau falls asleep and is soon deep into a dream in which he follows the girl across the desert, watches her stop for lunch near a river, play and sing a song to the night and stars, and finally go to sleep.

The moon comes up and the animals come out to investigate this human who made the strange sounds. Then the painter, with his equipment in hand, enters the dream and begins to compose the painting, trying to get the snake, the ostrich, the baboon, the turtle, the rabbit and the lizard to be still and stop looking over his shoulder. Only the lion cooperates, and so only the lion gets to be in the dream sketch.

 

The dream comes to an end and, waking up in Paris, Rousseau completes the painting he has just dreamed.

 

One of the neat things about this little fantasy is that Gerstein has done it in an approximation of Rousseau’s style, which he writes about in a short author’s note at the end. It’s a delightful book.

 

I Am So Bored

I am so bored

By Henrike Wilson

Sky Pony Press

32 pages

 

$16.99

If you’ve had kids, you’ve had bored kids, and this book is very much for them, only its main character is a bear, a soft focussed little bear in a somewhat soft focussed forest.

No one want to do anything with him, Everyone is busy doing things they want to do, none of which seems to catch his interest, so he wanders in the woods, feeling sorry for himself, and finally flops down in what starts out to be a determined sulk, “and did nothing, Absolutely nothing at all.”

And all around him, things start happening. The clouds make interesting shapes in the sky. A mole pops out of the ground. A bird flies by, and he decides to

 

pretend to be a bird and “flies” back to be with his family.

In the end he understands that there’s no need to be bored. If he simply does nothing, he can “just wait to see what happens, because something always will.”

 

The Lost Kitten

By Lee & Komako SakaiLost Kitten Gecko Press

32 pages

$22.95

 

 

The writer’s full name is not given for this book, but the illustrator is apparently one of Japan’s most famous names in this field.

The story begins when a mother cat and two kittens arrive at the door of Hina’s house. When she and her mother see it there, the mother cat seems to be telling them to look after one of the kittens, and she walks off with the larger, less scruffy, one.

At first, Hina thinks it would be nicer to get a healthier looking kitten from the pet store, but after they have washed and brushed it, revealing its startlingly blue eyes, and after it has begun to purr when she strokes its fur, she begins to change her mind.

They make it a little box and comfy bed, and then mother goes out to get some cat food, leaving Hina in charge of the kitten. But when Hina goes to find the kitten, which had been sleeping under a cupboard, it’s gone, vanished; she can’t find it anywhere.

This reminds her of the time she got lost in a big store and couldn’t find her mother, and how frightened she had been. Did the kitten feel the same way?

Maybe it got out the door when mother left, so she pokes around outside. But it’s chilly, so she goes back in to get a coat – and that’s when she finds the kitten, snuggled under her sweater on the floor in the closet.

And that’s how the kitten came to be named Sleepy.

 

+++++++++++++

 

The only annoying thing about these books is the lack of technical information. The stories are clever and the artwork is enchanting in different ways, but something is missing.

It used to be standard practice to have some note about how the images were created. Three quite different media were used to make the illustrations in these books, but no information is provided, and the websites that connect to these names didn’t provide it either.

 

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Bookends: A Quintet of Really Dark Stories from Stephen King February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Full Dark, No Stars, Klondike Sun, Stephen KIng, Uncategorized, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: A Quintet of Really Dark Stories from Stephen Kingfull dark

By Dan Davidson

March 1, 2017

– 907 words –

 

Full Dark, No Stars

By Stephen King

Pocket Books

560 pages

$18.99

or e-book

$10.99

 

Every few years Stephen King drops another big book of short stories on us. The one prior to this was Just After Sunset, and contained 14 tales that one could actually classify as short stories within its 539 pages. I say this because none of them were more than 80 pages long and most were way less. Some were as short as 10.

That’s not the case with Full Dark, No Stars. Only the bonus story not listed in the table of contents is actually a short story, a mere 25 pages, which is really short for King.[

There are five other items. Just five. Don’t worry. Years ago King wrote that he didn’t consider himself a literary superstar, but he always gave good weight. Most of these would fall into the novella category. Some of them might be a little longer that they needed to be, but they are never boring.

He opens up with 1922 (p. 3 to 191), a tale named for the year that Wilfred Leland Jones began the journey that led to his writing his confession just before his death. Fans of the genre will probably recognize this as a long-winded homage to Poe’s “A Telltale Heart”, a story in which a man’s guilt tortures him so that he eventually goes mad. Jones went mad well before his end in 1930. This is a tale of a marriage gone bad, of a son corrupted by his father’s foul deeds and of karma raining down hell on all the major players, including some who were basically innocent when we first met them.

When Wilfred killed his wife fairly early in the story, he set in motion a chain of events that doomed more than her. He’s not a reliable narrator, so we are free to assume that a lot of what he later perceives is guilt driven insanity. It’s a powerful story.

Next up is “Big Driver” (pages 195 to 357), a story which owes something to the Jodie Foster movie The Brave One, which is referenced in the telling. King likes to write about writers. Tess (last name?) writes cozy mysteries about the Willow Grove Knitting Society, and it never occurred to her that she would be involved a Charles Bronson Death Wish style revenge thriller.

When the big truck driver who stopped to help her with her flat tire rapes her, beats her and leaves her for dead in a drainage ditch along with several other bodies, Tess survives instead, manages to get home and in a more than slightly altered state of mind, applies herself to finding and dealing with the people who were responsible for what had just happened to her.

It’s a dark story, but it ends well.

“Fair Extension” (pages 359 to 405) is a twist on the deal with the devil story. Mr. David Streeter was dying of cancer when he met George Elvrid (figure it out), who offered him a life extension with a whole lot of options. The trick was that for everything good that happened to him, something bad had to happen to someone else – or maybe to the world at large; that’s sort of hinted at. What we do know is that the lives of his best friend and every member of that man’s poor family suffer horribly over the ensuing years.

What we also know is that the end result of this story, told to us cheerfully from Dave’s point of view, is that Dave becomes an utter rotter of a human being and is happy that way. This is a full dark story.

“A Good Marriage” (pages 407 to 526) is the tale of Darcy Anderson who, after 25 years of happy marriage, suddenly discovers that her husband, Bob, is an insane serial killer. She’s in no danger, as he explains to her the night she figures it out. It’s another side of his personality, a side that roamed freely before they got married, stopped entirely for 15 years, and has recently become active again. But, for her, he can stop, and apparently does. But this is another kind of devil’s deal, and one she has to decide how she will live with, or not.

There’s a Constant Reader afterword to this book, in which King explains (because he’s happy to do that) where the ideas for these stories came from, and his own theories about the importance of stories that are “both propulsive and assaultive”, stories about “ordinary people in extraordinary situations.”

Then there’s the really short story called “Under The Weather” about the advertising agency man who manages to convince himself, though we know better, that his wife has not died in their bedroom several days ago. This is an EC Comix kind of horror story, so it’s funny in a very dark way.

Looking at this entire book, what I notice is that the really downer stories are the ones in which the viewpoint characters are male, while the stories focussing on women are ultimately uplifting, even when they feature terrible events.

I’ve had this book for a while, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. It is still available, about 18 different formats, two of which I’ve listed above.

 

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Bookends: Game of Thrones Goes off the Main Track February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Science Fiction, Uncategorized.
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A Feast For Crows

Bookends: Game of Thrones Goes off the Main Track

By Dan Davidson

February 1, 2017

– 916 words –

 

A Feast for Crows

(A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)

by George R,R, Martin

Random House of Canada

947 pages

$10.99

 

In a postscript for A Feast for Crows, George Martin admits quite frankly that the story got away from him and he probably became a bit too intrigued with some of the secondary characters in his expanding cast. So he and his publisher, knowing they could count on scads of sales any way, broke the book in half. This book and number 5, A Dance with Dragons, take place within the same time frame, and deal with different members of the cast.

If you want to know how Jon Snow is making out back at the Wall, you’ll have to wait until you get to book 5, because Samwell Tarly is about the only member of the Night’s Watch you will follow in this book, and he’s on a quest that takes him away from that place. Jon is mentioned only in terms of his early interaction with Sam.

We do follow two other members of the Stark family, Sansa and Arya, but they spend a lot of their time being other people. Sansa has been taken in hand by Littlefinger (Lord Petyr Baelish), perhaps to save her from the machinations of Queen Cersei, or perhaps for Littlefinger’s own devious ends. She is not using her own name and pretends to be his daughter. We do see that she is becoming more of a person and less of a Barbie doll princess as she copes with her various problems, but her destiny remains uncertain.

Arya is simply trying to survive, as she has been pretty much since her father was executed back in book 1, and to do that she takes on a number of personas in several different locales. The youngest of the Stark girls, she is a long way from making her mark in the world, yet she continues to seem to have a lot of promise.

Brienne of Tarth, the mannish woman who would be a soldier, has pledged to Jamie Lannister that she will find and protect Sansa Stark – but she doesn’t know where to find her and ends up having many adventures on her way to a very nasty cliffhanger that I’ll just bet doesn’t get resolved until book 6, if it does at all. Martin has a habit of actually terminating characters that he’s made us grow fond of, so who knows.

Jamie, meanwhile, is on his own quest, happy to be away from his sister, wishing he could rescue their remaining son from the madness that he can see enveloping her, coping with the loss of his sword hand, and actually doing quite a bit of good in the world.

Our first impressions of this man were supposed to have been set by that scene back in book 1 where he caused young Bran Stark to fall from a great height and lose the use of his legs. Between that and the incest that produced both of his sons, there seemed nothing to like about this man. Over two books, Martin has succeeded in shining light into the better parts of his nature.

Cersei seems to have been driven further round the bend by brother Tyrion (aka – “the Imp”) murdering their father and the loss of her eldest son, Joffrey to poison by persons unknown, both events in the previous book. Determined to be a female version of her father, Tywin, she engages in a multiplicity of plots, while serving as regent for her very young son, Tommen, who is now the king. Most of these schemes simply serve to isolate her more and leave her in a dreadful mess at the end of this book.

If these weren’t enough characters to have to juggle, Martin introduced a whole new subplot of characters from the Iron Islands, who will, apparently, play a big role in the next several volumes, of which there are supposed to be three.

If you only know this story from HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation, be aware that these books are just as violent, but not nearly as sexy as the TV series. In fact, this book is notably less prurient than the earlier three. HBO has insisted in showing us highly detailed scenes that are generally more lightly sketched in print.

If you’re dying to know what happened to Jon Stark and the Night Watch, Bran Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, Varys the Spider, or Melisandre (the Red Priestess), you’ll have to wait.

I’ve been reading this series as part of a four volume e-book version that I acquired during a KOBO sale a few years ago. This works pretty well on a pad, but referring to the material in the appendices at the end of each volume is a nuisance, and I’ve found it easier to check on family details in one of the numerous Wikipedia pages devoted to this series.

Martin is a novelist and short-story writer in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, as well as being a television producer and screenwriter. The other large project he’s involved in as editor and writer is the Wild Cards shared universe anthology series about people with super powers, which currently totals about 21 volumes, the earliest of which have recently been reissued with additional material added.

 

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