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Commentaires écrits par
Jeffrey Swystun (Toronto & Mont Tremblant)

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Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52)
Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52)
Prix : CDN$ 9.99

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Co-depedent Relationship, July 28 2014
This rebooted series of the Batman franchise continues to pull me in. Though this was the weakest of the three volumes I have read, it was still very interesting to see how the author and artist dealt with one of the grandest co-dependent relationships in comic book history. Here we have the return of the menacing and psychotic Joker whose face has been sliced off and distractedly reattached (graphic novel indeed!). Of course, he wants Batman to pay for something...maybe just anything. The fascination the two hold for each is downright uncomfortable as is their inability to put the relationship to an end (psychiatrists would have a heyday).

The resolution was satisfying but like Moriarity at the Reichenbach Falls, one expects that the Joker will reappear with plenty of deadly gags in the future. On a side note, I am so out of touch with comics in general, I stopped buying them about thirty years ago, that I was perplexed by the number of sidekicks Batman now has. It is great to see Batman using actual detective skills in these stories which provides the linkage to his roots while making for more intrigue and mystery...heroes are often more relatable when they are not so "super".

Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
Prix : CDN$ 9.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Nearly Bat-tastic, July 26 2014
This volume wraps up the story involving the shadowy force that has controlled Gotham since its inception (or does it?). I love the dark energy the authors and artists have imbued in Batman. He now resembles the original detective that Bob Kane established in the 1940's. While the Owl story was a tad weak it was balanced with amazing atmosphere and a sharp engrossing tease dealing with Alfred's family and their service to the Waynes. I am hooked on the series.

The Pale House (A Gregor Reinhardt Novel)
The Pale House (A Gregor Reinhardt Novel)
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Prix : CDN$ 10.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Principled Soldier, July 26 2014
A principled soldier of the first world war turned Berlin detective turned military policeman, Gregor Reinhardt, is trying to make sense of how Germany followed the Nazis and what will happen to his country as the Second World War comes to its conclusion. This introspection has led him to belong to a secret anti-Hitler resistance. All the while he continues discovering and solving crimes as the Nazis retreat. In this second of the series, Reinhardt is back in Yugoslavia in 1945.

At the outset of the book he is reassigned to the Feldjaegerkorps whose formation became necessary in the latter part of the war to help maintain discipline near the front lines. Here he discovers a massacre which hides a deeper conspiracy. McCallin treats us to the byzantine structure of the Nazi war machine where fanatics still exist in large number, the cruel Ustaše, and shadowy partisans. The author prides himself on historical accuracy and that dedication adds to the well constructed and exciting story, as well as, interesting characters who populate Reinhardt's world. I will keep tuning in to see what fate lies in store for the detective.

Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)
Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)
Prix : CDN$ 4.25

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Dark Detective Reboot, July 23 2014
Batman remains my favourite comic book hero. I began reading his adventures in my youth in the seventies. That era was enjoyable but I was more drawn to the earliest portrayals not because of his brooding and backstory but because Batman was positioned as a detective. He was a street crime fighter not a "superhero" tangling with outlandish villains in increasingly bizarre scenarios. To this day I believe the introduction of Robin as a youthful Watson changed the trajectory of Batman's character and though it increased sales, it created a path leading to satire rather than intelligent gritty action.

I have bought only a handful of graphic novels in my adult years so purchased The Court of Owls in hopes I would reconnect with the detective in the bat suit. It sets out well and gives the sense of an early Gotham. I enjoyed that the plot took time to develop and introduce the title's menace. The artwork is very good though the text a bit heavy giving the impression of an imbalance. Overall, it was satisfying but not just for my original purchase intent, additionally, I was treated to an imaginative reboot that credits the canvass Bob Kane and Bill Finger established in 1939 when they first sketched the dark vigilante. Suffice it to say, I have ordered Volume 2.

All That Is
All That Is
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Prix : CDN$ 12.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Stark Appraisal of Life, July 22 2014
Ce commentaire est de: All That Is (Kindle Edition)
“The power of the novel in the nation’s culture had weakened. It had happened gradually. It was something everyone recognized and ignored. All went on exactly as before, that was the beauty of it. The glory had faded but fresh faces kept appearing, wanting to be part of it, to be in publishing which had retained a suggestion of elegance like a pair of beautiful, bone-shined shoes owned by a bankrupt man.”

With that line Salter addresses life and his profession skillfully and stealthily within the confines of his tale. There is a lament and melancholy to what he pens that is honestly and starkly delivered. The book opens during World War Two and follows Philip Bowman and his changing universe of spouses, friends and colleagues through the ensuing decades. NY Times reviewer, Malcolm Jones, wrote, "With his customary knack for scenes and characters chiseled with a stonecutter’s economy, Salter constructs Bowman’s world out of dozens of glistening miniatures and tossed-off portraits, each bristling with life." Those characters and their stories rotate and intersect in a finessed dance that is fascinating to absorb but they are not bristling with life...they reflect realities that are often boring, self-absorbed and disappointing.

At the book's centre is Bowman who reacts to life rather than taking advantage. Salter provides glimpses of Mad Men, Cheever, Updike ... all of which I like but it is delivered in a tapestry that is all Salter with his deep, yet simple prose. My favourite being, “They made love simply, straightforwardly — she saw the ceiling, he the sheets.” I urge you to take it slow and not expect cliffhanger action with every chapter or the book overall.

So drink it in with drink like Bowman would, "He liked to read with the silence and the golden color of the whiskey as his companions. He liked food, people, talk, but reading was an inexhaustible pleasure. What the joys of music were to others, words on a page were to him.”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Vol 1 (Escaping the Dead)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Vol 1 (Escaping the Dead)
Prix : CDN$ 1.00

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Commendable Tease, July 21 2014
Throw yourself back a couple of years to when the Afghan conflict had a higher commitment of US and Coalition troops. Now imagine that those forces are challenged not by the Taliban or Al Qaeda but by the dead. Author Lundy sets up a quick and engaging premise with these 79 pages acting as a commendable tease for his ongoing series. The small force tactics and action is fast-paced and fun. So too, is speculating where the next entries will go plot wise. So I have been hooked and will return for more.

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 - 5) (Silo Saga)
Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 - 5) (Silo Saga)
Prix : CDN$ 5.99

2.0 étoiles sur 5 "Science fiction version of Fifty Shades of Grey", July 14 2014
For some time I had read references to this series. Most of the buzz was about how it took off as a self-published work through word-of-mouth. As a marketer, I loved this tale especially how he sold the print rights but retains 100% of the digital. And now there may even be a film version. Such attention indicated that the story and writing must be engaging and strong. Unfortunately, that is not the case. After finishing the book I looked through the Amazon customer reviews and professional ones. Undeniably, it is has been well received but I am far from the lone dissenter. Many who question its popularity have gone to great lengths to justify their stance so I encourage prospective readers to look through these in detail.

For me, it struck me as a weak Young Adult offer or as The Guardian's reviewer states it is the "science fiction version of Fifty Shades of Grey." Comparison's to E.L. James' bestseller does not amount to literary praise. The dystopian premise was interesting but the book is quite boring and the characters underdeveloped. I stubbornly stuck it out and was slightly rewarded with some action about sixty percent of the way in but overall I never engaged with the plot. There should have been a rigorous edit to smooth the five instalments out and remove repetition. Howey gets five stars for timing and business acumen but two stars for a story that should have remained underground.

Want Not
Want Not
Prix : CDN$ 9.14

3.0 étoiles sur 5 How Did I End Up Here?, July 8 2014
Ce commentaire est de: Want Not (Kindle Edition)
On page 17, I was absolutely bowled over by the paragraph that began, "He hadn't intended a late night..." It resonated so strongly because all of us have been in the same situation. The character speaking is Elwin and the plight of his life is gripping and soon interlocked with an amazing cast of rich personalities. All of them at multiple but different times ask, "How did I end up here?" That question is certainly the theme of the novel. Author Miles is undeniably an accomplished observer of human behaviour and relationships. Here are a few of my favourite musings...

- "The great sin of parenting, Sara felt, was letting your children aim too low. Allow them to settle, and that's just what they'd do. Loose expectations were like junk food; kids just gorged themselves."

- "What we leave behind, he'd come to believe, is mere simulacra, the invented residue of our public selves."

- "How obscene and astonishing it was, she thought, that amidst all this digital plenty, there could still be nothing."

He not only observes people but the things we have created. Take this home description as an example, "It was a three-story Colonial, circa 1890, majestic and maybe even ostentatious when it was built having been divided and subdivided over the years, overhauled and under hauled, and modernized and plasticized, its honey-colored plank floors layered and relayered with linoleum sheathing, its pineboard exterior inhumed with aluminum cladding..." That house is a metaphor for how we coat ourselves in protective layers and various guises as we make our way through life.

Where professional reviewers have used the word "corrosive" to describe the book I see it as insightful satire that leans towards the darker corners of life. In fact, no one is happy in this book so it was definitely off-putting. It lacked the hope found in Charles Dickens or the sweetness of Richard Russo both whose works remind of the scale Miles has attempted in Want Not. I was definitely impressed but not uplifted and ultimately the novel frustrates and trails off collapsing to a degree because of its weight and length.

Extraction (Kindle Single) (Special Agent Pendergast)
Extraction (Kindle Single) (Special Agent Pendergast)
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Prix : CDN$ 0.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Never Enough Pendergast, July 3 2014
I have read all that Preston & Child have pumped out and thank them for the fun adventures. Their creation, Aloysius Pendergast, is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters. His back story comes out in intriguing dribs and drabs with each new story and that is the case with this short story Extraction. It is a tiny tale within a tale told by Pendergast to his ward Constance Green about a very real Tooth Fairy and his brother Diogenes. The story is tight and creepy but a bit too even to offer the thrills of the novel-length Pendergast outings. Still, new readers will be intrigued and no doubt want to learn more about the Pendergast universe and fans will find it fun bridge between novels.

Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Prix : CDN$ 16.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Famous Mashups (and smart marketing), June 27 2014
Ce commentaire est de: FaceOff (Kindle Edition)
There is an adage in marketing...the slicker the premise, the tougher the execution. FaceOff has a great premise that involves the the pairing of two authors and their famous characters. That is what the International Thriller Writers envisioned when members collaborated to produce 11 short stories. Picture these literary mashups...

· Patrick Kenzie vs. Harry Bosch in “Red Eye,” by Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly

· Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast in “Gaslighted,” by R.L. Stine, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child

· Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport in “Rhymes With Prey,” by Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford

· Michael Quinn vs. Repairman Jack in “Infernal Night,” by Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson

· Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce in “The Devil’s Bones,” by Steve Berry and James Rollins

It was fun to see characters I have been exposed to working together to solve mysteries and shoot a few rounds off. It would help if you are familiar with at least a subset of the authors. If so, you will appreciate and enjoy the concept and be exposed to new writers and their creations (which is smart marketing). In terms of the works, there is a mix of good and so-so like any collection.

It kicked off with a gritty meeting of Harry Bosch and Patrick Kenzie both who I enjoy. The dialogue was believable as was the cold case story they solve which became kind of a theme for other entries in the collection. That theme continued with John Rebus and Roy Grace who investigate a crime involving Mods and Rockers from the 1960's. After those early entries, I believe the rest were more gratuitous than good. The worse crime was the use of the wonderful Agent Pendergast in his outing. Still, it is fun in the aggregate and interesting to see how things turn out. Another cool bit is the fact that each author donated their story and all of the proceeds from the book go to fund International Thrill Writers.

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