Vicious: a book review

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NO MOTIVE

For more than two years, he held Seattle in a terror grip. A cold-blooded killer who abducted young mothers right in front of their sons and murdered them execution style. Then, as suddenly as the killings began, they seemed to stop.

NO MERCY

Susan Blanchette is looking forward to a relaxing weekend getaway with her fiance, Allen, and young son, Matthew. But something about the remote lake house doesn’t feel right. A woman vanished from the area a year ago, and now Susan thinks she’s spotted someone lurking around the property. And when Allen disappears, her fear grows…

NO ESCAPE

A psychopath has returned, ready to strike again. Someone who can’t resist the urge to kill, who derives pleasure from others’ pain, and who is drawing nearer to Susan as each minute of the weekend ticks by. But she’s just one pawn at the heart of a killer’s deadly game. A killer who is unrelenting, unstoppable, and absolutely vicious…

Vicious was recommended to me by a close friend who has never really taken a keen interest in reading. When she told me about this amazing murder thriller she was reading, and how she was hooked, I had to read it. Anything that gets her reading is something to be commended. Being that I work in a bookstore, I was familiar with Kevin O’Brien’s name, but I had never read any of his books before.

The story follows that of Susan Blanchette, who is going to Cullen, outside Seattle, to a cabin her fiance Allen has rented for the weekend. On the trip there, she meets a strange man who is too friendly, and a group of shifty teenagers. One by one, their fates are entwined as they become caught up in the web of Seattle’s serial killer Mama’s Boy, who kills young mothers but leaves their sons unharmed.

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419: a book review

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From international bestselling writer Will Ferguson, author of Happiness™ and Spanish Fly, comes a novel both epic in its sweep and intimate in its portrayal of human endurance.

A car tumbles through darkness down a snowy ravine. A woman without a name walks out of a dust storm in sub-Saharan Africa. And in the seething heat of Lagos City, a criminal cartel scours the internet looking for victims. Lives intersect. Worlds collide. And it all begins with a single email: “Dear Sir, I am the daughter of a Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help…” Will Ferguson takes readers deep into the labyrinth of lies that is “419”, the world’s most insidious internet scam.

When Laura Curtis, a lonely editor in a cold northern city, discovers that her father has died because of one such swindle, she sets out to track down – and corner – her father’s killer. It is a dangerous game she is playing, however, and the stakes are higher than she can ever imagine. Woven into Laura’s journey is a mysterious woman from the African Sahel with scars etched into her skin and a young man who finds himself caught up in a web of violence and deceit.

And running through it, a dying father’s final worlds: “You, I love.”

First of all, 419 was the winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, which is probably the most prestigious literary award in Canada. That alone piqued my interest in reading this, so as soon as it came out in paperback I was all over that like flies to honey – or corpses, because for some reason flies like both.

If you aren’t put off yet, keep reading!

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Songs of the Earth: a book review

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Gair is under a death sentence. He can hear the music of the earth – music with power – and in the Holy City that means only one thing: he’s a witch, and he’s going to be burned t the stake. Even if he could escape, the Church Knights and their witchfinder would be hot on his heels, while his burgeoning power threatens to tear him apart from within…

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper is an epic fantasy of, according to a Library Journal review, A Song of Ice and Fire proportions. It was an extensive story with a unique setting, and a very interesting and intricate magical system. It was a good read altogether, but it was one of the most confusing books I’ve read in a very long time. Let me explain why: Continue reading

New short story: Pathos

Everyone! Go check out Pathos, a short story by my friend Elisa Nuckle. It’s a story that questions the meaning of existence through virtual reality; it’s a path society is heading toward already through technology addiction. It’s a dystopian future that makes you think, and it’s only $0.99, so it’s affordable for such an interesting read. Do it!

Blue Milk Special: a webcomic review

My favourite strip

Blue Milk Special is one of the webcomics I religiously follow. Made by married artistic team Rod and Leanne, it is a parody strip that chronicles the Star Wars original trilogy. They started with A New Hope in 2009, and are now partway through the Empire Strikes Back, after completing two lesser known stories in between that tie things together.

This is more than just another parody of Star Wars – which, even the artists will agree, is done to death. While they do make fun of the common things that were done by the likes of Robot Chicken and Family Guy, they up the ante with a laid-back Vader who is rarely seen without coffee, a Carrie Fisher-ized Leia, an Admiral Ackbar with Spider-Man-like qualities, and a hero in everybody’s favourite unknown character: Biggs Darklighter. Loving Star Wars fans that they are, they poke fun at George Lucas from the ’70s and current day, and how much change has been made to the original trilogy since its conception: an example of this is when they decide to change Chewie’s look, and incorporate it into the story rather than just go back and pretend the original look never happened.

Even if you aren’t a huge Star Wars fan (like me; look what I did in the name of fandom) you’ll get a kick out of BMS. The jokes and characters are enough to keep even someone who doesn’t like Star Wars in stitches.

So kick back, relax with a glass of blue milk (but avoid the special), and enjoy the ridiculous antics of Luke, Leia, Han, Vader – and not least of all Biggs.

Sorry, Han

How To Be A Canadian: a book review

How to be a Canadian. Don’t worry: here, the phrase is not punctuated by the usual soul-searching question mark. Instead, the Ferguson brothers boldly assert that, since they have both been Canadian their whole lives, they are uniquely qualified to dissect Canadian society. Besides, Margaret Atwood told them to do this book, but that’s another story.

As a guidebook, How to Be a Canadian contains “a wealth of information gathered from fact-filled articles that [the authors] sort of remember reading somewhere,” but frankly, the facts are there as a framework for a wicked sense of humour. The jokes, which fill every page, are sometimes juvenile: “There are 30,000,000 people in Canada– all of whom have, at some point, frozen their tongues to the side of a flagpole.” They are sometimes pointedly amusing: “Often, when the UN needs a cereal box translated, they call in the Canadians, who parachute out of stealth bombers clutching boxes of Capitaine Crounche.” And they are often laugh-out-loud, fall-out-of-bed funny: “There is the assumption that Canada has only two seasons: Winter and Not Winter…In fact, Canada has no fewer than six distinct seasons: Tax; Hockey; More Hockey; Still More Hockey; Summer (also known as the July Long Weekend); and finally Good God, Isn’t the Hockey Season Over by Now?!”

Will and Ian Ferguson divide their guidebook into such useful sections as How to Find Canada on a Map; Canada: A Rich Tapestry (Who to Hate and Why); and my personal favourite, Twelve Ways to Say “I’m Sorry.” Nothing defines the national character more than our “sorry,” especially vis-a-vis the Americans. As the authors point out, “once you learn how to properly say ‘I’m sorry,’ you will no longer be trying to become Canadian, you will have rewired your brain to such a degree that you will actually be Canadian.” For a true Canadian, the opportunities for saying “I’m sorry” are endless, but there is one uniquely Canadian “sorry”: the one you use when someone else steps on your foot.

The book concludes with a quiz designed to evaluate your level of Canadianness. For example, if you hear the name “Elvis” and think of figure skating, you get 1 point. If you can’t remember if you’ve ever curled or not, because of how drunk you were, you get 50 points. If you know the words to “Barrett’s Privateers” but not the national anthem, you get 10 points. And so on. The perfect score is zero points; I’ll let the Fergusons explain why: “So, you couldn’t even be bothered to do the damn quiz. Too much effort, eh? You just skipped to the end. Talk about slack. Talk about lazy. Talk about Canadian! Congratulations. You are now one of us.” –Marven Krug

If you’re American, English, Zimbabwean, what-have-you – I’m sure at one point you’ve wondered just what it’s like to be a Canadian, and if all the national stereotypes are true.

Let me – and this book – tell you that yes, they are.

Will and Ian Ferguson teach the reader how to dress like a Canadian (mullet, plaid flannel shirt, jeans), how to speak like a Canadian (our bastard language of English and American), and the proper use of the word eh? – which, unbeknownst to all nonCanadians, is an art form in itself.

The book is excellently written, with self-depreciating jokes peppered throughout (because Canadians are world-class at making fun of themselves), and is so spot-on with the Canadian history and cultures that it should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in learning more about Canada.

Plus, Margaret Atwood suggested it. It has to be good, eh?

 

Dominant Race: a book review

Lilia is a genetically altered human – a modified – with special animal instincts and abilities. She is half wolf and half human under the microscope, and it shows in her territorial pack mentality.

When Lilia learns about a growing threat against all modified, she leaves home for the first time to join a militia that, like her and her family, survive in the fragmented remnants of the United States, the Old People country.

Their enemies?  The Eighth General of the Greater Cities and the ever-expanding devolved, degenerate modified that are mindless killers, blind instinct and rage in human form.  When a coup occurs in the First City, Lilia and the other defenders must choose: help reinstate a government in the business of killing their kind, or defend a radical modified in the business of killing everyone else?

Dominant Race is a novella by Elisa Nuckle, available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, with Apple to come. It’s only $2.99, and it’s a steal for something so enjoyable.

In a not-so-distant future, scientists and experiments have created a race of modified humans, those who have animal DNA mixed in with human. The main character, Lilia, is a wolf modified, living a sheltered life with her family in the ruins of North America. Although the strength of the animal DNA varies with each individual, Lilia’s wolflike characteristics are strong, and it shows in the way she behaves with others.

Throughout the course of the story, she has to learn the hardships of leaving home, discover a whole new world she never expected – and all the joys and difficulties that come with it – and doing what is right in the face of oppression and prejudice. It isn’t an easy path – when is it ever? – but the style of writing and the emotion evoked will leave you laughing, in tears, and desperately wanting more.

Dominant Race is dystopian science-fiction like nothing else; completely unique, with a cast of characters readers will fall in love with – and love to hate. I’m not just saying this because I’m friends with the author: Dominant Race is well worth the read, and since it’s only $2.99, how can you possibly go wrong?