Monday, 31 January 2011

Frankenstein: Lost Souls by Dean Koontz (Book Review)

From the inside flap:

“The war against humanity has begun. Victor Leben, once Frankenstein, has not only seen the future—he’s ready to populate it. Using stem cells, “organic” silicon circuitry, and nanotechnology, he will engender a race of superhumans—the perfect melding of flesh and machine. With a powerful, enigmatic backer eager to see his dream come to fruition and a secret location where the enemies of progress can’t find him, Victor is certain that this time, nothing and no one can stop him.

“It is up to five people to prove him wrong. In their hands rests nothing less than the survival of the human race.

“They are drawn together in different ways, by omens sinister and wondrous, to the same shattering conclusion: Two years after they saw him die, the man they knew as Victor Helios lives on. Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison; Victor’s engineered wife, Erika 5, and her companion Jocko; and the original Victor’s first creation, the tormented Deucalion, have all arrived at a small Montana town where their old alliance will be renewed and tested—by forces from within and without, and where the dangers they face will eclipse any they have yet encountered. Yet in the midst of their peril, love will blossom, and joy, and they will discover sources of strength and perseverance they could not have imagined.

“They will need all these resources, and more. For a momumental battle is about to commence that will require all their ingenuity and courage, as it defines what we are to be…and if we are to be at all.”

This is a very creepy story with tension and suspense deepening as the story progresses. By the time I got to the end I was hooked into a great story despite it being the fourth in a series and not having read any of the previous books. There was sufficient explanation of the characters’ roles from the previous books to keep me interested. A fault I found was an over explanation of the character, the cloned Victor, near the ending. Though I must say, Victor, is definitely a monster to be avoided. The rather abrupt ending just as the action was well in high gear was a bit of a disappointment; and makes this book not a stand alone.

Although this book is listed in the genre of general fiction it encompasses science fiction, adventure, police procedural, romance, and rather heavy on the horror. All of these components make for excellent fiction. There are also elements of dry humour provided by the PIs and secret FBI agents. The character, Deucalion. 200 years old, has special talents like the ability to move through walls and teleport from location to location.

Throughout there are subliminal messages which the reader can obtain from between the lines. Mr. Koontz has a fine grasp of what makes America tick. All in all, an excellent read and one I recommend. I look forward to the next installment.

The review copy was kindly provided by Cassandra Sadek.

Format: Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Bantam, an imprint of Random House
Author website:
Available: June 15, 2010

Also available in paperback and ebook.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Book Review)

From the publisher:

Alfred Gibson's funeral is taking place, and Dorothea, his wife of twenty years, has not been invited. The Great Man's will favours his children and a clandestine mistress over the woman he sent away when their youngest child was still an infant. Dorothea initially accepts her exclusion, but then she begins to examine her own life more closely. Her recollections uncover deviousness and the frighteningly hypnotic power of the genius she married, but also raise questions about her own complicity - questions that finally compel her to face her grown-up children and the two women she has long felt stole her husband.”

Longlisted for both the Man Booker and Orange Prizes, Gaynor Arnold’s debut of her fictional account of the marriage and life of Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine will appeal to those who like reading about the Victorian era.

A long time fan of the books of Charles Dickens I thought this book would be a nice introduction into what his life was like during his life of marriage and writing. “Girl in a Blue Dress” captivated me throughout the telling of Alfred Gibson’s life, detailing with vivid description of his quirks and antics to acquire the woman he desired to marry, which carried through to his writing and future success in literature, theatre and speaking engagements; and raising children. All the foregoing as told through the viewpoint of his estranged wife, Dorothea Gibson.

It brings to the forefront the difficulties women had during the Victorian era, their limitation of choice once they became married. Dorothea, or Dodo, as she is called by her family and Alfred, initially appreciates being with her sweetheart husband despite their meager lifestyle. When Alfred’s writing career takes off with great success, complete with social functions and lavish dinners held at his new house, Dodo begins to find herself overwhelmed with producing children on a yearly basis and a lack of private time with her husband. After being wife for twenty years she is ousted from the family home and placed into private lodgings. Scandal ensues with suspicions directed at Dodo’s sister, Sissy, who came to take care of the children and remained in the household; and at a young actress, Wilhelma Ricketts, whom Alfred takes as a mistress, and whom ends up with a share of his estate.

Ms Arnold describes in wonderful detailed characterizations of how everyone has an impact on each other complete with consequences of actions. It is a thrilling yet sad story, even tragic of how marriage and circumstances of those involved have far reaching effects. A mismatched marriage from the beginning: Dodo from a prosperous family with parents who disapproved of her suitor, to Alfred, an overambitious man working toward success to escape a childhood of poverty through his own parents’ mismanagement of money.

As to the true life story of Charles Dickens I am ignorant, except for his parents’ stint in debtors’ prison, and one of his sons joining the North-West Mounted Police after a naval career. However; “Girl in a Blue Dress” has raised a curiosity in me to look farther afield for more information.

The review copy was provided by Cassandra Sadek.

Book format: paperback, 432 pages
Publisher: McCelland & Stewart
Author Info : Gaynor Arnold
Available: July 6, 2010

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Parker Ridge - Hiking Trails

[1-At parking lot just off the Icefield Parkway]

The hike to Parker Ridge is located in Banff National Park, Alberta and is one of the easier trails in the area.

Distance: 2.7 km one way
Elevation gain: 250 m
Maximum elevation: 2250m (7,380 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Time: 3 hours round trip
Trailhead: Parking area on the west side of the Icefields Parkway,
4 km south of the Banff-Jasper boundary.

Check for snow conditions with ParksCanada before ascending as the trail may be snowbound in places making the destination inaccessible until early July.


This trail ends in a spectacular view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and surrounding mountains. It is a good idea to take a coat with you as the wind over the top of the ridge can be quite brisk.


It is a relatively easy trail through a forested area with swtichbacks that open up into alpine meadows with a variety of wildflowers during their brief flowering season in July.


Care should be taken to refrain from shortcuts on the switchbacks as this damages the fragile plantlife.

[5 - Trail and Icefield Parkway can be seen below]

Take your time on the switchbacks before becoming winded from the ascent.

[6 - Ribbon of Icefield Parkway seen below]




[10 - Cresting the top of the ridge]


[12 - Rocky Mountain Gaot]

These goats are often seen in the higher rocky terrain above the treeline. They tend to be shy of most humans.



The trail rises quickly above the treeline and crosses a high open ridge to an awesome view of the 9km long Saskatchewan Glacier. This glacier is an eastern branch off the Columbia Icefield.



This is another view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.


Source: ParksCanada

Photo Credits: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][13][14][15][16]-mala_x1 CC=nc-nd-flickr, [12]-Dallas1200am CC=nc-nd-flickr, [17]-KB CC=nc-flickr.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Consolation Lakes - HIking Trails

[1 - Road to Moraine Lake - click to enlarge]

The closest town to Moraine Lake and the Consolation Lakes is Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

[2 - On Moraine Lake Road cresting ridge - click to enlarge]

[3 - Moraine Lake]

Moraine Lake is nestled in what is known as the Valley of the Ten Peaks. These are known as the Wenkchemna Peaks which are 3,000m (10,000 ft) high.


Distance: 2.9 km (1.8 mi) one way, taking 2-4 hours round trip
Elevation Gain: 65m (213 ft).
Trailhead: the bridge at the rear of Moraine Lake Picnic Area.

This hike is considered easy to moderate.

This area is prime bear country and hikers are required to travel in groups of 6. A good recommendation would be to wear proper walking shoes or hiking boots as the terrain will be rough in spots and there is crossing of scree and bouider strewn areas.

The trail begins by crossing Moraine Creek at the southern outlet of the lake.

[5 - Trail]

The trail proceeds around the rockpile.

There is another trail here that leads up to the top for a nice view of Moraine Lake.

[6 - Crossing stream]

[7 - Yellow Rumped Warber]

This bird was previously known as the Myrtle Warbler in the east, and Audubon’s Warbler in the west. In the summer these birds can be found across the top of the continent and they migrate to Central America in the fall. Its diet consists of bayberries, wax myrtle berries, insects, spiders, and fruit. During the breeding season it builds nests in confiers, laying 4 to 5 white eggs with brown and gray spots. The eggs are incubated for 12 to 13 days with the hatchlings leaving the nest in 10 to 12 days. Size 5 ½ inches.

The trail passes the Tower of Babel, 3,00m (10,170 ft) located on the right (west).

The trail moves through subalpine forest of Engelmann spruce and fir.

Just before the Lower Consolation Lake the trail opens into a large lush meadow.

[8 - Meadow and Panorama Ridge to the east in the background]

Lower Consolation Lake is contained by a large rockslide from the Tower of Babel.

[9 - Lower Consolation Lake with Tower of Babel in background on left]

As stated at ""Tower of Babel," the top of which is over 700 metres below the summit of Mount Babel.Walter Wilcox named the Tower of Babel after it reminded him of the story in the bible in which the Tower of Babel reached to the heavens. It was a huge rockfall from the Tower of Babel which formed the dam which holds back Moraine Lake. Walter Wilcox had thought when he named the lake that the rocks were carried forward by an advance of the glacier in the valley and left as a terminal moraine."

[10 - Consolation Lake - click to enlarge]

[11 - Consolation Lake looking north to Mount Temple - click to enlarge]

[12 - Consolation Lake - click to enlarge]

[13 - Hoary Marmot]

[14 - Imposing cliffs of Mount Babel]

[15 - Scree slope]

Continue to Upper Consolation Lake by crossing Babel Creek where the trail follows a rather wet trail along the eastern shoreline and areas of scree that can pose a hazard to the unwary hiker.


The summits of Bident Mountain and the four peaks of Quadra Mountain rise from a spectacular glacier lying above steep cliffs at the southern end of the valley containing Consolation Lakes.


Sources: ParksCanada, A Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Michael Vanner, Paragon, 2006, p.211.

Photo Credits: [1]-jockrutherford CC=sa-flickr. [2]-marketingfacts CC=nc-flickr. [3] wikimedia commons. [4] Balykat CC=nc-flickr. [5][6][8][12][14][16][17] subindie CC=nc-nd-flickr. [7] whipstar CC=nc-nd-flickr. [9] Borkybash CC=nc-sa-flickr. [10] Binoo CC=nc-nd-flickr. [11] pencrush CC=nc-nd-flickr. [13][15] listentoreason CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Bow Lake

This photo is of Bow Lake just off the Icefields Parkway.

Photo Credit: karenwithak CC=nc-nd-flickr.