Category Archives: Canadian Authors

Book Review – Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol

I have just spent a few months finishing up reading Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol, and today I finally finished it. I have to say, the title seemed to provoke more interest and intrigue than the content provided. I enjoyed the character of Laek, a free-thinking teacher from New York in what could conceivably be called a near-future dystopian period, but I absolutely disliked his wife and his two children, basically because Sokol stops at crucial junctions in the story to do a chapter on every single person in the family and their point of view on the same event, which could have been consolidated instead of making the reader read laboriously through the same event four times. If each character was to have his or her own chapter, I would have preferred for that chapter to carry the story a little further, but in this book that just simply didn’t happen. The parents moved much of the story along, the sister a little bit, and the youngest child’s chapters were all completely unnecessary.

That said, I do enjoy a certain sense of national pride when I read this book – that Canada is where people go to find hope and a new life (this publishing house publishes several Canadian-based works, so I expected nothing less from them). They leave New York to get away from violence and terrorist groups to find a new life and hope in Montreal. I enjoyed Sokol’s accurate use of the intermix of English and French that characterizes much Canadian speech, especially in Quebec, and I thought the mood of a Canadian city in winter was captured best of all. Also, I enjoyed the sexual/relational freedom Laek and his wife Janie enjoy in their marriage, as their relationship with Philip seems to represent a bridge between the bad parts of the U.S. they are leaving behind and the good memories they made there.

All in all, I give this book a solid 3 out of 5 stars, for an interesting storyline, but no more than 3, for taking too long to reach a climax and the staunch formulaic nature of the manuscript.

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Poetry Post – ‘stardust’ by daenor

One of my dirty little secrets is that I have completed writing an anthology of poetry, but it is as-yet-unpublished.

My poetry pen-name is daenor (which is roughly translated to shadowflame in Quenya – a form of High Elvish created by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings, and many, many others), and hence why my blog’s address is daenorestel.wordpress.com instead of sharaleereads.wordpress.com. (Additionally, estel is the Sindarin or more common Elvish word for hope, a name I chose because though some days I feel like shadow, and some days I feel like flame, writing always gives me hope).

elvishestel

It can sometimes take me a while to finish a book for review, but I thought I’d share with you one of my poems maybe once a week, and see what you think of them. And what better poem to start with than this? I give you one that actually references my pen-name (but in English), and is based on the great 2007 movie ‘Stardust’ (directed by Matthew Vaughn, starring Charlie Cox and Claire Danes, based on the book by Neil Gaiman):

stardust

Without further ado, here it is. Please enjoy stardust:

stardust

a fallen star,

unlikely boy –

such treasure found.

if i could shine

like that,

i would:

to you be bound.

a darkness stands

between us,

won’t you

break it down?

let starlight

gently

flood the night:

receive your crown.

i am not golden,

i am but

a shadowflame

to flicker in

the corner,

whispering your name.

there are so many reasons why,

both yes and no.

you stand there,

i forget them and

i simply glow.

– daenor

shadowflame


Fated: Book 1 – A Draemorian Chronicle: The Western World by Sebastien Leonard

Featured image

When I first read Fated: A Draemorian Chronicle: The Western World by Sebastien Leonard, I was provided with a rough draft to offer my editorial thoughts. My feedback on the rough draft revolved mostly around how much I liked the characters, the potential of the fascinating world Mr. Leonard had created, and my appreciation of the parallels he had drawn between the history of his world and that of ours. I told him to flesh things out a little more and that I would love to see a more polished version in future. Well, I just finished the final version, and to be honest – I was not disappointed.

As a reader, a writer, and sometimes editor (and especially as a writing reader who edits while reading), it is SUCH a joy to me when I see someone reach a potential that I know they have. Leonard’s writing had a spark to it when I read the rough draft. It is so wonderful to see that spark fanned into a flame.

The book is composed of two major parts: the first part being a compilation of journal entries from the minstrel, Sorrownote, and a collection of documents from various characters in the second part who each introduce the histories of the various parts of Draemoria in their own unique voice as a backdrop to the story. The second part is a novella involving the writers of those documents in a battle that sets the readers up for the rest of the series (and, Sebastien tells me, a future video game franchise as well!).

The first part of the book was completely revamped from the rough draft, and I loved how each document was separated by a journal entry and the voice of the character was made much clearer throughout. The rough draft had me confused, but this final version is exactly what I was hoping for.

The novella had a few problems with grammar and sentence structure in the middle, but because the first part of the book had been arranged in such a way that I really cared about the characters and attained that suspension-of-disbelief element, I only really thought about it after the fact instead of being stopped in my tracks, because I was actually so involved in the story that I didn’t care about the grammar.

The rough draft was also devoid of illustrations, and when I received my copy of the final draft, I was elated because Derek Sproule had done some absolutely beautiful artwork for it. A fantasy novel is never really complete without proper illustrations, and the map of Draemoria was also really helpful in helping track the band’s journey throughout the land. The illustrations capture the essence of the novel at its heart, and I really liked that. It was clear the illustrator and the author both shared the same vision, and especially for a new fantasy series, that is very important.

Map of Draemoria

Map of Draemoria.

Derek Sproule's illustration of 'Paradigm: Island of Ash'

Derek Sproule’s illustration of ‘Paradigm: Island of Ash’

This book is total fantasy nerd fun, and I love it. I think it would make an AMAZING graphic novel, if the opportunity ever arose, and I am actually really excited for the day it becomes a video game because I could see myself TOTALLY addicted to it. The thing to remember when reading this book is that it is the beginning to a series, and Leonard is purposely choosing to introduce the history first so the reader has background to go on, much as one would in a video game’s script, and that the story itself will deepen and become more intricate as other books come out. I am very excited about this new author and I hope you all go and buy his book. I give it a very well-deserved 3.5 stars out of 5.

Support Sebastien and help him get more books in print here: https://www.inkshares.com/projects/a-draemorian-chronicle-the-western-world

See more of Derek’s work here: https://www.facebook.com/DerekSprouleFineArt

So long, and happy reading!