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Commentaires écrits par
Jeffrey Swystun (Toronto & Mont Tremblant)
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   

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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.

FaceOff
FaceOff
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.

The Innocent (Will Robie)
The Innocent (Will Robie)
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Prix : CDN$ 7.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great Screenplay, June 17 2014
Ever since Absolute Power it seems as though Baldacci writes for the big screen. All the way through The Innocent it was if the chapters were scene blocks for a motion picture. By no means am I suggesting that it isn't entertaining as a book because it absolutely is. The plot went deeper than anticipated, the action was more visceral than expected and the characters worthy of connecting with (except some of their interactions were a bit sugary). He is the king of the vanilla-thrilla and I applaud his ascension to that throne, still, I believe he is going shock us all in a future effort where the thrills will be less formulaic and the originality will impress.

Lexicon: A Novel
Lexicon: A Novel
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Prix : CDN$ 10.99

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Axiomatically Au Courant, June 16 2014
Ce commentaire est de: Lexicon: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
I have always believed in the power of words. They can inspire and illuminate. Words can also maim and hurt. In Lexicon, they can control and kill. Author Barry has imagined an X-Men-like academy whereby certain gifted people, though broken, can find purpose and fulfillment (albeit with a certain subjugation). This organization and its minions know people and know the lexicon that can manipulate them to almost any action, “The most fundamental thing about a person is desire. It defines them. Tell me what a person wants, truly wants, and I'll tell you who they are, and how to persuade them.”

Throughout this engrossing and thrilling novel, I saw aspects of my wife's profession...psychotherapy and my own...branding and marketing, "What we're doing, or, I should say, what you're doing, since no one has taught me any good words, is dropping recipes into people's brains to cause a neurochemical reaction to knock out the filters. Tie them up just long enough to slip an instruction past. And you do that by speaking a string of words crafted for the person's psychographic segment. Probably words that were crafted decades ago and have been strengthened ever since. And it's a string of words because the brain has layers of defenses, and for the instruction to get through, they all have to be disabled at once."

This is both a thriller and thinker of a book. It moves with speed, engages with credible characters, and entertains by presenting a shadowy world that exists just below society's surface. The conspiracy element is accentuated by the breaks in between chapters that draw on social media conventions and questionable traditional media reporting. In the end, Barry gets us thinking about power and control, "All empires fall, eventually. But why? It’s not for lack of power. In fact, it seems to be the opposite. Their power lulls them into comfort. They become undisciplined. Those who had to earn power are replaced by those who have known nothing else. Who have no comprehension of the need to rise above base desires.”

There was no need for me to be eleemosynary towards this work as I found it coruscating. The writing is chrysostomatic without being orotund. It was a pulchritudinous read and one I greatly recommend.

Sherlock: Season Three (Original UK Version)
Sherlock: Season Three (Original UK Version)
Prix : CDN$ 29.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 25.50

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Sharp Return to Form, June 13 2014
After a dip in Season 2 it was fantastic to see Holmes and Watson return to form. Ripping good mysteries are only part of the magic Doyle originally created. What makes for an engaging re-imagining or interpretation of this literary gift is the relationship between the consulting detective and retired military doctor. Cumberbatch and Freeman play the relationship for all that its worth including deep affection, co-dependency, ying and yang, sarcastic but never inappropriate homophobia, Batman/Robin and more.

"The Empty Hearse" is the first episode and it follows Holmes' return to London and the thoroughly enjoyable reunion with John Watson who has thought him dead. The two go on to dispatch an underground terrorist network. In "The Sign of Three", Watson and Mary Morstan tie the knot. This episode rang as a bit of a sitcom given the use of flashbacks and heavy handed humour. It was almost as if the series was punning itself. The final episode "His Last Vow" leads Holmes into a conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen. Billed as a "terrifying" villain I felt this professional blackmailer a bit wimpy when compared with Moriarity or any other of the baddies the duo has faced...not to mention the fact that Magnussen is completely upstaged by a significant side plot that involved Watson and his wife. The good news is Season Four is well set up with a face-off with Holmes' arch nemesis. The game is afoot, or on, or whatever - just as long as it continues.

The Retreat #1: Pandemic
The Retreat #1: Pandemic
Prix : CDN$ 3.19

4.0 étoiles sur 5 “Nobody likes a clown at midnight”, June 13 2014
That is a Stephen King line so imagine instead of zombies that civilization faces an apocalypse where people are turned into laughing crazed killers. It is an intriguing premise. A virus that is transmitted by bites, blood, saliva, etc. infects and turns people into maniacal killing machines who collaborate and are lucid enough to operate machinery and handle weapons. This is a terrifying prospect so thankfully they can be killed like any human rather than just the zombie headshot. This series opens with a novella length outing that establishes the threat and introduces us to an army unit doing its best in a confused and besieged world.

It starts with a bang by placing the reader in the middle of small unit action in the city of Boston. Character development in a featured squad was particularly appealing. I felt their fear and anxiety as they attempted to hold it together and pull off an impossible mission. As the world deteriorates the stage is set for the second entry in this series with what can only be called "strategic withdrawal". I am curious to see where this story will go.

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