Stringing Away February Blahs

February Blues

What’s your bluest month of the year? For me, it’s easily February. Ironically, the shortest month of the year feels like the longest, because nights seem endless and winter is at its deepest. Long, cold nights make for oppressive days.



But there are things out there that can help speed up time by lifting one’s spirits. One such found treasure often resides in music.  Fantastic music. Check this out. This gives me Snoopy Happy Dance Feet!

Take On Me – aHa – Brooklyn Duo at Carnegie Hall. The Brooklyn duo are a couple team that do piano/cello covers of popular music. Check them out on Youtube, Spotify, etc.


A Monster Calls, and while this is billed as a YA book, it is really applicable to any age group starting with teens and beyond. One of the constants of life is death. If we’re lucky it doesn’t happen to someone we know or love until later in life. For each of us, this first encounter can be extremely traumatic and debilitating. Death’s reach is everywhere. It can strike down anyone we know. Friends or family. Siblings or parents.

My mom passed away when I was almost fifty so I was very fortunate. Almost 11 years later, I still deal with. I lost a writing friend, last year to cancer. He was just one year older than me. Others I know have not been so fortunate. Some lost a parent as a child. A Monster Calls deals with a young boy and his mother’s battle with cancer.

The symbology in the book is heavy but the stages of grief the boy goes through are real. Love the book. Need to hunt down the movie.

Dark Matter, by the author of Wayward Pines, Blake Crouch. Crouch has mastered the art of the thriller. Dark Matter is written with a lean, mean style that borders of being near point form at times. But Crouch’s evolution as a writer from Wayward Pines to Dark Matter is quite visible. In Dark Matter, there is enough breathing room established that made me care for the characters, especially the protagonist, which Wayward Pines never did.  If you’ve read, The Flicker Man by xxxxx, you should check out Dark Matter.


The Ritual – an English horror movie that was getting some buzz but when I watched was left underwhelmed. It borrows elements of The Blair Witch Project and The xxxxx Man but offers nothing new or of note.

Thor Ragnorok – the most underwhelming Marvel movies have been the Thor movies. The character and the world he inhabits are just too goofy to take seriously. There is never any sense of true consequences or danger as this world is about gods and magic. Both of which means that anything that can happen can also be undone. But this installment was at least fun as director Taiko Watitiko has the proper sensibilities for such a universe. Playing off of Chris Hemsworth’s innate comic timing, throw in a dash of the Hulk, a pinch of Led Zeppelin, throw them all into a blender, and you get a silly, fun romp of a flick.

Cloverfield: The God Paradox – an interesting situation where Paramount, desperate for a franchise that can compete with the Disney/Marvel/Lucasfilm machine, felt that the latest flick in the Cloverfield film family was not strong enough to release theatrically. The God Paradox is easily the poorest of the three films so they dumped onto Netflix and cut their losses. They thought well.




Le Bars of January

So January is winding down and all in all it’s been a pretty good month. We had a couple weeks of really cold -40 Celsius weather but no real snowfall since before Christmas. However, that streak ended this last Friday when we got 15 cm of snow. The thing with living in Alberta in the wintertime is that when you get snow it sticks around until spring. But c’est la vie, compared to what I’m seeing on the news for weather and other parts of the world we’re getting off pretty easy.


On the reading front, I just finished reading Stephen R.Donaldson’s first book in his new series – The Great God’s War – Seventh Decimate. The premise of this book is two kingdoms are engaged in a brutal unrelenting war. A war that is fought with magister’s on both sides that wield the magical decimates of fire, wind, drought, lightning, earthquake, or of pestilence. And that is what happens to the country of Belleger. Desperate to regain the lost power of their magister’s, Prince Bifalt is sent on a desperate quest to the Last Repository to find this book of the seventh decimate.

After the verbal density of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles, this book was a breeze to read in comparison. Not only is the book slim in the number of pages, a mere 302, it is also markedly bereft of Donaldson’s trademark dense vocabulary. In some ways, this felt like reading a Coles note version of a Chronicles book so it was an interesting change of pace. Bifalt does share some characteristics of Covenant in that his character flaws are so deep and pervasive that it makes it difficult for the reader to empathize with him. I suspect, and hope, that as the series progresses Prince Bifalt will grow and so will my attachment to him.


It has a kickass cover too!


Another book I read was My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.

This was a hard read because of the subject matter but the skill level of Tallent – Tallent’s got talent! (sorry had to go there) – is quite evident in this book.

My Absolute Darling is a book peopled with archetypes rather than actual characters. This is plain to see in the dialogue. And the inner dialogue of Turtle. The characters are avatars playing the part of the oppressor, victim, the experienced, the naive, and so on.

Certainly, understand why many will balk at the sexual content that is used as the driving force of the story. This happens whether or not one wants to have to deal with it, either in real life or in a piece of entertainment. Facing ugly things is never pleasant. The power of this book are those tender moments that happen in the worst of circumstances even to the most hardened of characters like Turtle.

Disturbing? Hell yeah! But isn’t that what the best of the arts accomplish by making us face the ugly? It makes the beautiful all the more so.


On the movie front, my wife and I, sat down to catch a Spanish horror thriller on Netflix called The Bar. This is a bottle type movie where eight characters are trapped in a Spanish café when a man outside the doors is shot and killed. One of the patrons inside the restaurant decides to go and try to help the man and subsequently is quickly shot in the head too.

What follows is a swirl of conspiracies, finger pointing, group dynamics breaking into little cliques – only to fall apart as new accusations are raised. You have your stereotypical characters and how they act is conventional but how they interact is not. The characters literally end up swimming in a cesspool of human waste as they struggle to find their way out.

This one was quite fun.



Back Off! Back Off! ARQ’ing Firestarter

firestarter_novelOne of the excellent side benefits of doing the Stephen King podcast is it gives me a vested interest in re-reading his books.  For our next one we will be revisiting Firestarter. Haven’t read this one in a long time and in my memory it sits below his top stuff works. I think my memory became tainted by the Keith David / Drew Barrymore movie. A flawed effort but with some redeeming qualities.

As to the book, it exists in two parts. The first part is a chase movie with Andy McGee and his seven year old daughter fleeing from the minions of the shop. The second half is an escape story. Both halves are pieces of clockwork precision in execution and ratcheting up the tension. But what really sells the story are not the bombastic set pieces but the quiet moments between Charlie and her father as he tries to help Charlie sort out the moral implications of using her powers. There are also small but twisted moments between Charlie and her assasin to be – Charles Rainbird.

Thoroughly enjoyed my re-read and much more than I thought I would. Also one of my favorite King book covers.


Netflix keeps out pumping new content and one of them was a SF time travel movie – ARQ – that takes place for over 99% of  it, in the same house. It’s Groundhog Day on a three hour loop with plenty of nifty twists along the way. Robbie Amell – Arrow’s Stephen Baldwin’s younger brother and Rachel Hunter – last seen in another Netflix original – Marvel’s Jessica Jones – do great work together as a fractured couple caught in the middle in of a war between a giant corporation and a rebel group. It’s well done and well worth a watch.

Dark Tower movie addendum – a rough print of the upcoming Dark Tower movie trailer leaked for a while on the internet. I’ll defer making any comments on it and will wait for the full fledged trailer expected to drop this Christmas. The quality was terrible and many FX shots were not completed.  I will say that overall the trailer has got me excited with only one sequence causing me doubt.

Book Review: End Of Watch

This is one of King’s smoothest books akin to a very aged Scotch.
So satisfying.
Not only is this one slick puppy it is as tightly crafted as a Swiss watch with genre conventions so seamlessly woven into the characters you never notice them until after the revealing moments.
End of Watch is the end of the Bill Hodges trilogy and in my opinion is the best of the three. It’s not just that King surprisingly brings in some fantastical elements to what has been a grounded mystery/thriller series but our affection for the characters which King is always so good at bringing to life. I still find it surprising that King went this route but am so glad he did. This is one helluva of a page turner and an excellent wrap up to the series.
He really stuck the landing with this one.
When I opened the book, I saw no words. I fell into a shared experience.

The City of Mirrors By Justin Cronin

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin




Cronin didn’t just stick the landing, he nailed it and drove it deep into our hearts.

After the wonderful first novel and then the frustrating narrative tack taken with the unnessarily chrononoligically crippled second book – that relayed events better told in a linear fashion IMO – the final state of this series was up in the air pending the third book.

Thankfully and joyfully, Cronin delivers a third book where the breaks from the forward thrust of the narrative, enhance instead of detract. Never in The City Of Mirrors was there a moment where I longed to get back to the main story. Something that occurred far too frequently in the second book.

The strength of Cronin’s writing – throughout this series – is his ability to craft complex, flawed, and oh so wonderfully human characters. This is one of those exceptional series where you feel for all the characters, be they the main or supporting ones.

Cronin’s second biggest draw for me is his ability to tie individual personal moments to large scale events. An amazing talent, all the more so, because like all true gifts, he makes it look so easy.

This is a story about history and legends and people and about how all three intermingle. It is also a story that delivers on its promises and allows the reader the satisfaction of having all three made known to the characters in the story.

Mostly it’s a story about people. A story about love.

On deck – End of Watch by Stephen King. Wow – what a wonderful streak of books I have been reading!