Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Bank Holiday All-Dayer (A Short Story) by Andrew David Barker

It is the summer of 1996 and Anthony Parker is on an all day Bank Holiday bender, a session fuelled by alcohol, drugs and girls. As the tag-line says, things are bout to get messy.

I very much enjoyed Barker's earlier stories (The Electric, Dead Leaves) so I was looking forward to this. I wasn't disappointed.

Parker, the lead character of this story isn't a particularly likable person but he tells an interesting story. Other than going from pub to pub, drinking Red Stripe, dropping tabs and a random sexual encounter in the pub toilets not a lot happens. But what the author does do is give a more or less perfect snapshot of the time. I remember 1996 well and Bank Holiday All-Dayer absolutely nails it.

Another plus is the 'soundtrack'. As Porter goes through his parade of excesses there is an accompaniment of music mentioned either in tunes played by bands in the pub or tracks on the Jukebox, tunes that take you back to the crazy, hazy summer of 96 - and every one is a corker. A well curated choice indeed.

The minus side - at only 32 pages it is over too soon (although, paradoxically, it is just the right length). I would have loved to have spent more time with these characters, but that has always been the case with Andrew David Barker's books.

A very enjoyable 4/5* read

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts - A Review

I'll admit that this was a strange one.
The early parts of the book hooked me in - our 'hero' Alma is set the task of solving an impossible murder when a body is found in the boot of a car in a fully automated car making factory. Add to this a near future setting where the majority of the population is constantly online, addicted to Shine (basically a full online existence) and you have a gripping tale to keep your brain busy.

Alma has a problem though, her partner is I'll and has to be treated every 4hrs or she will die - and only Alma can administer the treatment. This is where things nearly came unstuck for me as it seemed every 4 hours Alma would administer the treatment then get in a 'scrape' that meant she would not be able to save her partner but, thanks to epic derring-do gets back by the skin of her teeth. I nearly gave up at this point but thankfully didn't as the second half of the book really cranked things up a gear and made for a thrilling end.
The story felt both futuristic and black and white era cinema-ish with a strong Hitchcock vibe.
4/5* Recommended

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Early thoughts on Jay Kristoff's Nevernight

Jay Kristoff's Nevernight has been on my radar since I first saw it. I have got a copy of the second in the series, Godsgrave, coming for review so, time to get on with it.

Now, I've only read the first few pages and normally wouldn't blog until the book was finished but circumstances here are, I guess, a bit different. What I'm wanting to say is something that needs saying while it is still fresh in my mind.

Now, as most of you will know I read a lot. I've read many authors, both 'new' and 'new to me' that have made me take notice that this could be something special. I think Jay Kristoff may have surpassed them all.

The first chapter here tells two stories side by side, one of a sexual tryst, one of a murder. The thing is, the way the two different storylines are written, although being very different, they are practically identical. The way Mr Kristoff uses his words is so clever I really feel appreciative I have the chance to read it. I sat, coffee cup in one hand, book in the other and read, then reread. Mind ever so slightly blown.

Will the rest of Nevernight continue in this vein? I don't know, but I'll tell you something - I'm looking forward to finding out. I'll post my review here when I'm done but, until then I'm going to lose myself in the words of Nevernight

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Results of this year's Gemmell Awards

From Alex Davis at Edge-Lit 6

2017 DAVID GEMMELL AWARDS FOR FANTASY WINNERS ANNOUNCED Tonight, at a prestigious prizegiving ceremony at Derby's Edge-Lit 6 event, the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy were presented to acknowledge the very best epic fantasy titles published through 2016, as voted for by the reading public. With a past roll of honour of popular and acclaimed award winners, tonight added even more great names to that elite list. The Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel was claimed by Gav Thorpe's Warbeast, published by Black Library. Part seven of the multi-author Realmgate Wars series, the title was initially published in an attractive hardback in 2016 and is the latest in a number of well-reviewed titles for this prolific New York Times bestselling author. Warbeast saw off stern competition from John Gwynne's Wrath,  Jay Kristoff's Nevernight, Mark Lawrence's The Wheel of Osheim and Brandon Sanderson's The Bands of Mourning.   The Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut was won by Megan E O'Keefe with Steal the Sky, published by Angry Robot Books. The first title in The Scorched Continent first saw publication in early 2016, and has already been followed by the second and third parts of the series, Break The Chains and Inherit the Flame. Megan's book won ahead of an exciting array of debut fantasy writing talent in Mark De Jager, Christopher Husberg, Adrian Selby and Jon Skovron.

The Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art was won by Alessandro Baldasseroni for his work on Josh Reynolds' Black Rift, published by Black Library. Part of the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar series, Baldasseroni's work saw off artwork from previous 2-time winner Jason Chan (for Mark Lawrence's The Wheel of Osheim) and past award winner Sam Green (for Brandon Sanderson's Bands of Mourning) as well as artworks from Paul Young (for John Gwynne's Wrath) and Kerby Rosanes (for Jay Kristoff's Nevernight). Awards chair Stan Nicholls said: 'This year's Gemmell Awards shortlists once again represented the great range of fantasy fiction published in the past year, and the results continue to be exciting and unpredictable. I'd like to offer a hearty congratulations to all this year's winners for their superb books and artwork, as well as the publishers involved in making these great titles happen.' The Gemmell Awards will return in 2018, and will be celebrating their tenth anniversary next year. For more information, visit http://www.gemmellawards.com/

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Fourth Monkey by J D Barker

Most people, I guess, know of The Three Monkeys (sometimes The Three Wise Monkeys) - See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. This serial killer novel introduces us to the concept of The Fourth Monkey - Do No Evil.

For a while now the murderer known as The Fourth Monkey Killer (4MK) has been punishing various people in Chicago for perceived 'evil-doing' by kidnapping their daughters and sending the 'accused' bits of them back in a small white box. First they receive an ear (Hear No Evil), then eyes (See No Evil) and finally the tongue (Speak). The next day the body of the kidnapped and now mutilated daughter is found in the city.

Where this novel differs from your usual serial killer tale is that as the story opens our murderer has just stepped in front of a bus on his way to post his latest little white box. All else he has on him is a few cents, a laundry ticket and a diary.

From the off the race is on to find and rescue the latest victim who is already minus an ear. Inserted into the story though is the diary which tells of 4MK as a child and gives clues to how he got to where he is. And to be fair it's no surprise he ended up a psychopathic murderer when you look at his family.

Leading the search for the victim (and also studying the diary) is Detective Sam Porter who has been on the 4MK case from day 1. Sam is an interesting character and the realisation bombshell that dropped on me halfway through the book is why I am not discussing him more here (Spoilers!)

All in all, this was an enjoyable read with plenty of twists, turns and WTF moments that had me guessing for a lot of the book and a reveal I never saw coming.

Highly recommended - 4.5/5*

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Fallen Angel by Matthew Blakstad

Sean is a computer genius, Jon is an artistic 'man of the moment' and together they are in more than a bit of bother.

Told in flashback between the mid 1990s and the 2000 Dot Com Crash this E-novella is good fun (if a little 'tech confusing' at times). It is 'book zero' in Blakstad's Martingale Cycle and I've had my eye on 'book 1', Sockpuppet, since it came out last year and Fallen Angel has just pushed it further up my tbr pile.

Matthew Blakstad is certainly one to keep an eye on

4/5 stars

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Thoughts on Adrian Albert Mole

So, this week (April 2nd 2017 to be precise) sees what would have been the 50th birthday of one of my favourite fictional characters - Adrian Albert Mole, Diarist Extraordinaire and voice of a generation.

I've been a fan of the Mole diaries since they first came out in 1982. Maybe the fact that I was only 6 weeks older than the fictional Mole made him seem more believable, I don't know, but there was certainly something there that 'clicked'. With each subsequent volume I would be eagerly waiting to see what our 'hero'  would be up to this time around, what scrapes he would get into and even now, all these years later on, if I need something to cheer me up a little the Mole diaries are often my first port of call.

The life of Adrian Mole was never easy (but that would have been boring) . Right from the beginning his family was an awkward, tangled mess .His mother left for Sheffield with their neighbour early in the first book, his dad took up with Doreen 'Stick Insect' Slater then his mother came back, Doreen was dropped and the family was back together - but not for long. Trying to keep track of the family relationships should have been difficult but Sue Townsend, somehow, made it all quite easy.

Mole was very much the social commentator, always seeming to have something to say or advice to offer on the events of the day. He wasn't always right and his advice, although well meant, was often wide of the mark but, bless him, he tried. With his letter writing, poetry writing, play and novel writing (unpublished) he sees himself as an intellectual but isn't as sharp as he thinks he is (entry Monday January 18th 1982 - 'School. First day of term. Loads of GCE homework. I will never cope. I am an intellectual but at the same time I am not very clever).

As time went on he did eventually get published (an offal cookbook) but the things he worked on his whole life still remain unpublished. I guess if Sue Townsend was still with us he may have tried the self publishing route but would have got himself in the usual kerfuffle.

And that brings me to the end of Mole.

I remember quite clearly when I heard the news that Sue Townsend had passed. I was, as you would expect saddened by the news but also remember thinking 'Adrian Mole is dead' too. And, for some reason, that hit harder. No more Adrian Mole diaries.

I heard later on that Sue Townsend had been early on in the process of a new volume before she passed on but that it would now never see the light of day. I would have given anything for those pages and it gave me an idea that has sat in my head ever since...

Picture the scene... Glenn, Adrian's son is going through some boxes in his dad's room and comes across one filled with diaries. The last one is short, finishing abruptly. As he reads a tear drops from his eye. After the last entry he goes to the next date and starts to write...

'My name is Glenn Bott-Mole, son of Adrian Mole. My dad passed on last night (details?). He was a good man. These are his diaries of a life lived...'

That would have been the forward which would have been followed by the final entries. The rest would have been 'Memories of Adrian Albert Mole' by other major characters from the series, written by fans/comedy writers. Any proceeds would go to charity of the Townsend Estate's choosing.

Thank you Adrian Mole for a lifetime of chuckles. You were only a fictional character but I think of you as a friend.