Tag Archives: 3 stars

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.


Book Review – ‘Gothic Art Now’ compiled by Jasmine Becket-Griffith

As the name suggests, Gothic Art Now (published in 2008), brings together several genres of current Gothic art in a book full of death and decay, melancholia and madness – for those who love every minute of it. To be honest, I felt the works represented seemed somewhat limited (I felt there should have been a wider variety of artists represented – too many of them had more than three entries in the anthology, and anyone who has ever been on DeviantArt will tell you that there is no shortage of artists just as, if not even more, talented as those represented in the book, even in 2008). I also felt the heavy heavy reliance on Adobe Photoshop in nearly every single one of the pieces was a tad disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I understand Photoshop takes great skill to master and to create with, but a bit more variety in methods of creating would have been nice. Categories were divided into eight different kinds of new Gothic art: Femmes Fatales, Men in Black, Gothic Elegance, Industrial Goth, Lurking Horror, Dark Fantasy, Creepy Creations, and Grim Comics. The cover photo (‘Autumn Has Come’ by Natalia Peirandrei, done with markers and watercolours on watercolour paper), was one of my favourites, as well as the pieces showcased below. Overall, some very great thought-provoking pieces, and interesting read, and I give it a hearty 3 out of 5 stars.

Some of my Faves

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‘Semaphore’ by Steven Kenny, done in oil on linen.

I think she looks a little like breelark here with her long braid.

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‘Black Roses and Bite Marks’ by Tom Lavelle, done in pencil, digitally painted.

Like a mix of Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe if they ever became vampiresses!

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‘Stick Girl’ by Gus Fink, using mixed media.

I love the weird additions to an already slightly-creepy vintage photograph. Reminded me very much of the weird photographs in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs.

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‘Marco’ by Jessica Joslin, sculpture.

Because let’s face it, organ-grinder monkeys kind of look like this anyway. And this one won’t steal your money. ;P

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‘Trick’ by Krisgoat, a digital painting.

And last but not least, the adorable Trick, who has a sweeter sister (not included in the book) named Treat – she can be found here.

So there you have it! This was a great find at Value Village, and a lot of fun to look through. Recommended library reading or used-book purchase, if you’re interested in the darker side of art. If you are looking to buy something, however, I would recommend going to your local Indigo/Chapters/Coles outlet (or for those of you in the States, something like Barnes & Noble) and finding something with a bit more variety and more of an exploration of technique, etc.

Peace out and stay creepy! >^.^<


Book Review – The Cosmic Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

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There are a lot of people who are either on one side of the spectrum or the other when it comes to this book, with not a lot of middle ground to spare. Some people love it because they love both science fiction and C.S. Lewis. Some people despise it because they feel his apologetics in this book are a tad lacking (especially compared to his non-fiction apologetics like Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain) or that his prose and character development are a bit flat. I actually agree with both sides, and find it very difficult to say I do or do not like this book.
While I am not completely one way or the other when it comes to this book, I have actually read the entire trilogy, and compared to the other two (Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), this one is at the bottom of the list in clarity, elegance, function, and in just plain storytelling.  Lewis’ description is eloquent, and the introduction of other races is mildly interesting, but I felt as if I were reading an essay, or perhaps an article form of a rough draft idea for a sci-fi novel instead of that tying together of story and philosophy and theology that I so enjoy about everything else Lewis has written.

In this first volume of the trilogy, Ransom makes his way from Earth to Mars (or Malacandra) as a sort of crash-test dummy after he is captured on a walk by an old academic rival (Weston). They both end up on Malacandra together and we get to experience the consequences of men who choose to exploit and conquer versus those who choose to learn and love. We learn about Oyarsa (a Christ-like figure who, according to this trilogy, is in all worlds, but in different forms), and we learn that Oyarsa has a plan for Ransom’s future, even after he returns to Earth (or what the Malacandrans call Thulcandra) – enter the second book, Perelandra, which will be discussed in a future post.

The story stands on its own, which is very important in a series or a trilogy, but when all three books are read, the encompassing story arc tells us of our past, our present (or Lewis’ present, anyway – the second World War was on while he wrote most of these) and our future, not only here in the corporeal realm, or even in our own atmosphere, but in the spiritual realms and in all other realms as well. As a book, I give this volume 3 stars out of 5, but I have a much higher opinion of the trilogy as a whole. I would recommend familiarizing oneself with the Bible or some sort of basic level of Christian theology and end-of-days prophecy (especially closer to the end of the trilogy) as you read this, so you can really grasp the full extent of the allegory here, but the books as a set are also worth the read. Perhaps start with borrowing these from the library before you spend money on them, though. They’re not for everyone, though for those who enjoy them, they are certainly worth every penny and more.

Have you read anything by C.S. Lewis? What did you think of it? Happy reading, and be wary of trespassing on mad scientist academic rivals! (The consequences could be out of this world! 😉 )


Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘The Twilight Saga: Twilight’ by Stephenie Meyer

My wife delighted in challenging me to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, and despite my many delays I completed it nearly a year after being challenged. (An over-the-weekend reader I am not).
For those of you living in a cave and came out to read my review (a fine choice) Twilight is the love story of Forks, Washington exile Bella Swan and with the both unbelievably handsome and strange Edward Cullen. Through a variety of odd events/rescues, Bella finds out that Edward and his family are vampires. Drawn to one another, despite their differences, Bella soon finds herself in the world of the fascinating and dangerous world of the Cullens. With all its risks, Bella is left to decide whether or not a life with Edward is possible, and Meyer’s work ends happily with the two together.
While widely criticized (particularly the simplified movie version) for having a predictable storyline, a variety of romantic and high-school cliches, and at times groan-inducing/creepy acts of love (Edward watching Bella sleep every night comes to mind) Twilight does have some redeeming and enjoyable parts to it.
One of the things I noticed reading this work was Meyer’s naturalistic feel to the whole work. Forks, Washington really comes alive, and the idea of the dark, damp brooding forest surrounding the characters really helps add to the books feel of strangeness and beauty. Likewise, Meyer writes in an easy-going, at times quite humorous, style that instantly connects the reader with the mind and world of a high school student. Bella, despite how odd she believes she is, is a very easy person to understand and relate to. Certain relationships, like the one between Bella and her father Charlie are charming in both their distance and closeness. Even with all the supernatural things happening in Twilight, the characters and the environment are very real.
Meyer’s use of tension, especially when Bella is in Port Angeles, or dealing with the Tracker in Phoenix is very effective, and even had me an out-and-out critic of Twilight, really into it. Despite my best efforts, I actually did enjoy reading this book.
Now, only 3 books left to see if this will hold up.

3 stars out of 5

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‘Resurrection: Amazing Grace’ by Elizabeth Davies (February 21st, 2015)

Re-posted from LiveJournal:

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This is the second book in Elizabeth Davies’ Resurrection trilogy, and while still more interesting and well-written than most eBooks I have been unfortunate enough to read, I did not find it up to par with the first book in the trilogy, State of Grace. I truly enjoy the characters and the exploration of Brecon, Wales throughout various periods of history in this trilogy, but it is severely off-putting that the heroine, Grace Llewellyn, is constantly getting severely battered around (and not even seeking medical help!) without ever being able to properly fend for herself. I mean, she’s a pilot, right? Don’t you have to be really level-headed and focused to fly an aircraft? She’s really resourceful and sturdy, but would someone with the analytic skills required of a pilot really not look both ways when crossing an unknown street? I mean, yes, she’s been transported in this instance to 1873, but this basic safety principle has been ingrained in modern-day people since childhood, and would especially be put into effect by a person like Grace whose career involves piloting an aircraft. I mean sure, there are coordinates she must follow when flying, but she would also have to scan the sky at some point or other – she would be used to checking. There is no excuse for her to get run down by a horse because she didn’t look before she stepped out of an alleyway. And what was with refusing to go to a hospital when she returned from the 1700s??? Her collarbone was freaking BROKEN. I understand that she doesn’t want people to keep her in hospital because of her tumour, or to ask too many questions. But I mean, her consultant, Mr. Cunningham, is okay that she’s not in hospital, so if anyone had a problem with her leaving, she could refer them to him. She could explain her broken collarbone and bruising to thugs. They could be masked. The whole scene where Ianto smuggles her to London was basically just so Jeremiah could wipe her memory there. It was completely unnecessary. There could have been a better way to make that happen. However, I really do enjoy the time-travelling vampire romance idea, and I truly look forward to seeing if Grace will become a vampire or not, and if she and Roman will meet in their future.  Also, it bothers me to no end that this book series is advertised as a trilogy, when in reality it is more like three volumes of the same book.
3 stars out of 5.


‘The Flame: Mode of Living’ by Bornbazie Flame (August 12th, 2014)

Reposted from LiveJournal:

I was contacted by Bornbazie Flame (real name unknown) to review his book on what is known as The Flame: Mode of Living. I am interested in philosophy, and always willing to read new things, so I agreed. Perhaps I’m simply an ignorant layperson or perhaps I’m merely stupid but I honestly can’t tell you even now what exactly TF:MOL is. Below is my review:

The Flame: Mode of Living by Bornbazie Flame (which can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Mode-Of-Living-The-Flame-ebook/dp/B00JI99L0O), was sent to me for review via LinkedIn. (The below image is the front cover of the book, and was never clearly explained):
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I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

While the idea behind this book was promising – learning to maximize the energy fields of the universe to impact those around you (and, ultimately, yourself), I found it confusing and difficult to get through. Basic principles were introduced with extensive use of scholarly language, but with an absence of clarity and tangible life examples. Specific terms were often used to describe principles or points in a section of the book, but were not in themselves clearly identified or outlined. While reading, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was still in the introduction and would soon get to the real core of the ideology, which unfortunately never happened. This book left me wanting more, and not in a good way.

However, the principles themselves were sound, the advice given – especially in regards to being considerate towards other living things – was excellent. I was also fascinated by the idea of other people being mirror images of ourselves.

I think the best addition to this book would be a clearly stated glossary of acronyms and terms, especially when those terms are usually used to mean something completely different in a day-to-day context, as happened with some of the wording I came across. The average reader and seeker would benefit greatly from this, as well as from more of a history of what exactly Mode of Living is, who adopts it, and where it originated from.

All in all, I found the book to be a good effort, with good advice and a lot of potential. It simply needs some tweaking before it can reach its maximum impact.