Friday, 30 December 2016

The BlogCave Best Of 2016 (shorter than planned version)

Right then, as another year draws to a close it's time for me to look back on my favourite books of the past twelve months. Due to 'stuff' this is probably going to be a fairly brief post (well briefer than I originally planned) but hopefully I may be able to expand it a little in the new year.

I'm going to start with  

Best Young Adult novel - Three favourites in this category and all came from David Fickling Books. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and The Call by Peadar O'Guilin would have both been good enough to take the title any other year but The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt just took the lead as it was the one that constantly had me thinking 'NO! He's not going to go there' (Spoiler Alert - He did)
 Reviews for all three can be found on the blog post list

Next up -

Best Collection

To be fair there was only one contender for this as this one blew all others out of the water - Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson. This is a collection of his shorter tales from The Cosmere with added extra bits. Some of these I'd read before but having them all in one edition really gives you an idea of the scope of the man's imagination.

And now for a bit that a lot of people will disagree with me about

Biggest Disappointment

This goes to Mr. King's little boy Joe Hill for The Fireman - started out really well but just tapered off and lost my attention. I'd really been looking forward to it too as I've really enjoyed his other stuff.

Right, back to the good stuff now.

Best Shorter Novel

Several were up for this, namely:

Bradley P Beaulieu - Of Sand And Malice Made
Paul Kane - Sherlock Holmes and The Servants of Hell
ClovenHoof and The Trump Of Doom

but appearing on tables in Waterstones already, Tad Williams scoops this one with 'The Heart of What Was Lost' a return to his land of Osten Ard.

Best Short Story In An Anthology

This one goes to KT Davies for 'The Devil's Spoke' which was in 'Eve of War', a cracking anthology from those lovely folks at Fox Spirit Books. Any of these stories could have come out on top but 'Spoke' was the one above them all that had me really wanting more, to see the short turned into a novel.

Best Horror

This one does go to Paul Kane - Sherlock Holmes v The Cenobites in 'Sherlock Holmes and The Servants of Hell' by an author who is pretty much an expert on both Holmes and all things Hellraiser. A corker of a read

Finally (for now)

Best Novel

Again many to choose from here but, narrowing it down

New Pompeii - Daniel Godfrey
The Tiger and The Wolf - Adrian Tchaikovsky
Spiderlight - Mr Tchaikovsky again
The Black River Chronicles - David Tallerman and Michael Wills
The Malice - Peter Newman
The High King's Vengeance (which I am 3/4s of the way through) - Steven Poore

All most excellent but there is one that stood out for me, and that is



                                                  DRUM ROLL.............

The Silver Tide by Jen Williams. This will probably not come as a surprise to many as I seem to have been 'bigging up' both this book and the Copper Cat series to all and sundry constantly.
 So, why this book? Well, it's the end of the series, ends needed tying up and they were. Once again the location, and thus the type of story changed (this was Pirates of The Caribbean ish with added time travel). The story has got better with each volume (and it started off at level AWESOME). And then there was the ending, oh my days the ending. The final scene is one of such cinematic beauty and wonder that, I'm not ashamed to say, I had a tear in my eye. THAT is how you finish a series.

And now, just because I can, I'm adding a final category

Best Debut

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey (review, as with most of the mentions on here on the blog list page) - Jurassic Park but with Romans instead of Dinosaurs. Epic Stuff

So, maybe not as brief as it was going to be but there you have it. 2016 has been a good year for books and I feel 2017 may well be even better

Have yourselves a Happy New Year and see you in the future

Monday, 26 December 2016

Clovenhoof and the Trump of Doom by Heide Goody and Iain Grant - A Review

For those of you not familiar with the series Jeremy Clovenhoof is The Devil, Satan himself, kicked out of Hell and now living in a small flat in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. Also exiled, this time from Heaven, and also living in the suburbs of Birmingham is the former Archangel Michael, Clovenhoofs nemesis (although they do get on, to a point). Also, if you aren't familiar with the series do please go and look up the other books, you really are missing a treat.

Anyhow, back to business, as this chapter in the misadventures of Clovenhoof opens it is the last day of October 2016 and both himself and Michael, with the aid of Nostradamus' Apocalypse Bingo realise that the End Of The World could well be nigh. There are 16 signs on Nostradamus' Apocalypse Bingo and 15 of them have come to pass. If Donald Trump was to win the US Election in one weeks time that would (probably) be the 16th and final sign, the end of the world, and Clovenhoof hasn't finished watching Game of Thrones yet.

Between the two of the them Clovenhoof and Michael plan to disrupt things and postpone The End Of Days. Clovenhoof will go to America and do all he can to derail Trump's attempts to win the Race For The Whitehouse while Michael will attempt to reverse Brexit by reuniting Britain and Europe with the greatest Eurovision Song Contest entry ever.

As you would expect, nothing really goes completely to plan

Not even remotely close to plan


At times you forget there ever was a plan.

And that is where this book, like the others in the series, shines, The chaos that ensues is such that I often find myself thinking 'no, he isn't going to do that' but still laughing out loud when the inevitable happens.

I may have said in previous reviews that, although Jeremy Clovenhoof is Satan, he is more of a likeable rogue than the Ultimate Crown Prince of Evil. Any time spent with him In the works of Goody and Grant is something I look forward to and although I dread to think what he will be up to next I await further adventures eagerly.

5/5* and a bottle of Lambrini

The Black River Chronicles: Level One by David Tallerman and Michael Wills

If, like me, you are a fan of Dungeons and Dragons style 'quest' novels you'll be used to the idea of the 'quest party'. You know the kind of thing I mean - a collection of heroes, each with their own individual skills, i.e. a Mage, a Healer, a Warrior,  a Rogue, a Ranger. The thing is, each story seems to start with a fully formed party all ready for action. You may get a bit of origin story but, to be fair, nobody ever really asks the questions, how do you become a renowned Mage, Warrior or Ranger, how do you get yourself started on the path to becoming a questing hero.

Until now that is. The Black River Chronicles tells the story of four aspiring heroes, Areinelimus Ironheart Thundertree (Wizard), Hule Tremick (Fighter), Tia Locke (Rogue) and Durren Flintrand (Ranger) as they try to make their way through The Black River Academy for  Swordcraft and Spellcraft (a Hogwarts for the Questing world is probably the best comparison),

At the Academy all pupils are split into one of four groups (Wizard, Fighter, Rogue or Ranger) where they learn the tricks of the trade for their particular skillset. After a while they are put into 'parties' (one from each group) where they will have to learn to work together and complete quests set by the Academy with the aim of raising their capabilities and 'levelling up'. As you would expect, our four heroes don't get on particularly well at the start and when their first quest mission ends in spectacular failure all does not look good for the future. Thankfully they are saved when Storesmaster Cullglass takes a chance on them, setting them other quest missions which are slightly more successful but........don't things seem a little bit 'off''? What does Cullglass want with the artifacts our heroes retrieve? Will they ever reach Level Two?

What we have with this book is a great fun read where the pages just fly by, plenty of questing, adventuring, Dungeons, magic, battles and traps. The characters are interesting, each with their own little secrets and the world, as it opens out, is an adventurers dream, For me the pages just flew by and I won't lie, I was disappointed when it was all over. Here's hoping for more adventures with Durren, Areine, Tia and Hule - and the sooner the better for me

5/5*

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

The Hanging Tree is the 6th in the 'Peter Grant' series and follows on from Foxglove Summer. Whilst very much in the same vein as the previous 5 books (crime is committed, turns out to be magic related, PG gets out of his depth but wins through) it shows no sign of becoming tired (or of winding down any time soon)

This time around a young woman dies from an overdose at a party in one of the wealthier areas of London, which just happened to be attended by the daughter of Lady Ty and said daughter is claiming she supplied the pills. Lady Ty (one of the many Gods and Goddesses of the London rivers) asks Grant to prove her daughter is lying and clear her name. Throw into the mix a magical work by Sir Isaac Newton, an appearance by shady American 'special ops' types and the return (as expected) of Grant's nemesis The Faceless Man and his ex colleague Lesley and you have what could, in other hands, be a very 'busy' book.

And that is the one thing that always surprises me with these books - the pace always feels steady, even with the action scenes (and there are a good few of these), never seeming to get above a gentle trot.

Where did The Hanging Tree succeed? - well, in bringing Peter Grant back to The Capitol after 'Foxglove Summer' had taken him out into the wilds of the British countryside there was more vibrancy to the story for me. I enjoy seeing more of the mystical side of London, the supernatural folk and the history too.

The story kept me guessing for a good while and the supernatural elements seemed plausible and the story itself moved Grant's development as a character along nicely.

Where did it not succeed? - for me The Faceless Man thing needs either tying up or putting on the backburner for a while. He is starting to get like The Master in 70s Doctor Who, where you know he is going to make an appearance whatever the story event is and will outwit our hero enough to be back again in the next episode. I'm always hoping for resolution with the Lesley angle as well - I still can't believe she has gone over to Team Faceless but again The Hanging Tree hasn't really resolved anything there.

So, I guess the question is, did I enjoy The Hanging Tree?

Easy answer that one - YES!

Would I recommend it to others?

Most certainly, but I would advise reading the series in order.

3.9/5 stars

Friday, 9 December 2016

Magician's End by Raymond E Feist (or, Time To Man Up and Get On With It 😉)

Back around the time I left school in 1983 I picked up a copy of Magician by (then) new author Raymond E Feist. I guess it was another of the books that started me on my fantasy reading path as it is still one of my 'go to' reads all these years on. Over the years I've picked up all his books and devoured each and every one. Admittedly some were better than others but all were of a decent standard and all were enjoyed.

Three years ago the series finished with Magician's End and although I have owned a signed copy since then I've never started it. I guess I don't want the journey to be over but now the time has come to turn the page and start the final journey.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Earlier this week I posted my review of Brandon Sanderson's 'Arcanum Unbounded'. As you may have guessed I am a big fan of Mr. Sanderson's work and at the same time I received my copy of AU I also got a copy of his debut novel 'Elantris'.

I first read 'Elantris' back probably sometime round 2008. I heard that Brandon was finishing Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' series after RJ's passing and wanted to see what he was like as an author so 'Elantris' was the book I chose. The story is one that pretty much stands fantasy tropes on their heads and I liked that. The idea of peasant turns out to be secret heir to the throne and hero in waiting has been much used, maybe overused at times so what BS did was to have the Prince become, more or less, a 'non-person'.

So, "Yay!" for something different but that wasn't, on it's own going to be enough. What about secondary characters, what about World building? Again, happy to be able to say both were competently handled. Brandon handles his characters well, keeping them interesting but fairly 'real'. As for world building - anyone who has read BS will know just how big his ideas are and I guess 'Elantris' was just the start of his plans for the Cosmere. The world feels solid and believable and stays in the memory long after the story is told. I was sold on Brandon Sanderson early on in 'Elantris' and still am.

Why did I want to go back and reread 'Elantris'? Well, it's long been a favourite of mine and this new copy is "published with 10,000 words of bonus content" (according to the back page blurb) so I was curious. Would the extra content improve the book? Would the story still hold up as well as I remember it? The first question I still don't know the answer to. The bonus content is a few deleted scenes added at the end of the story, which are interesting but do they improve the story? Probably not much but I enjoyed reading them and looking at the ideas of 'what could have been'

As for whether the story still holds up, well that I can answer with a resounding "YES!" I felt I picked up on things I may have missed first time around but whether this was because of the extra words or just because this is a story told by a first time author already on top of his game, well, I'm tempted to go with the latter.

In short then, an excellent debut with plenty of fresh ideas. A fine place to start your journey into the worlds of The Cosmere.

Recommended

Just out of curiosity, if anyone feels like responding, what was your first experience of reading Brandon Sanderson and what brought you to his books?

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Defender by G X Todd

Earlier this year, while attending Edge-Lit in Derby, I was lucky enough to be introduced to new author G X Todd. In short, she had a forthcoming book to push and I'm a reviewer so it was to be expected. Ms. Todd had a pamphlet which contained the opening pages of Defender and some other promotional bits and bobs. On the way home I opened said pamphlet and started to read.

Then I read it again.

When I got up the next morning I read it again, just to be sure.

Sometimes you just know when something comes along that is a bit special, and trust me, Defender is more than a bit special. That same day I got in touch with the author and made sure I could get my hands on a review copy when one became available. In due time one arrived - time to see if the whole thing matched up to the teaser.

The story is set seven years after an 'event' which saw a lot of the people suddenly hear a voice in their head that encouraged them to kill either themselves or each other. As a result of this 'event' the America in which this story is set is a much emptier place. There is a lot of mistrust, for obvious reasons - you can't always know who hears the voices and who doesn't.

Our heroes are Lacey, a 16 year old with a likeable attitude and Pilgrim, a solitary biker (who I saw as a cross between Jason Statham and The Undertaker). Two total opposites who are forced to get along when Lacey convinces Pilgrim to help her get to her sister's house 600 miles away.

At first it seemed a very easy going journey while I got to know the characters and get used to the voice in Pilgrim's head but then, around the 50 page mark (of 450 pages) everything exploded in a wealth of violence and horror and the whole pace of the story changed. From there on in it was a race to the end while not wanting it to be over. A lot of the characters we meet later in the story carry their own woes and troubles, making for an uncomfortable read at times - but, hey, it's the end of the world as we know it and (no matter what REM tell us) we're not expected to feel fine.

It will be compared, I guess, to the likes of King's 'The Stand' but for me there is one major difference - as much as I have enjoyed what I read of The Stand I have yet to finish it. Defender I just devoured.

G X Todd has written something a bit special here and, trust me, you are going to be hearing a lot about her and about Defender in 2017. G X Todd is not just going to be 'The Next Big Thing', she's going to be the benchmark for other 'Next Big Things'

And she drives a massive mobile library - how cool is that?????

So, I'm giving Defender 5* and marking it as one to watch for 2017.

Release date for Defender is January 12th 2017

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio

Early in October this year I received a review package from Quirk Books which held 'Warren the 13th and The Whispering Wood' and a sampler of 'Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye'. 'Whispering Wood' is the second in the series so I started in on the sampler for 'Eye' - and I can say, quite confidently, that I enjoyed the three chapters provided. So much so that I requested the complete book.

It arrived and was just as much fun as I had hoped it would be.

Our Hero, Warren, is the latest in a long line of Warrens (hence 'the 13th') and, at only 12 years old is the bellhop, valet, groundskeeper and errand boy of the creepy family hotel, now run by his uncle and his uncle's new wife, Annaconda. As you would expect, Annaconda is very much the evil aunt, the uncle is pathetic and poor old Warren is very much put upon by her.

You see, there is a rumour that somewhere in the hotel is an artefact, the titular All-Seeing Eye and Annaconda wants it. She isn't going to do all the hard work herself though, oh no! That'll be for Warren to do.

This is a gorgeously put together book aimed, I would say, at readers between 8-15 yrs (but suitable for all really). The print is double columned on most pages and on those pages where it is only a single column that is only due to the glorious illustrations - and there are plenty of those (by Will Staehle). With puzzles and riddles to solve along the way and a cast of delightful (and dreadful) characters this is a really fun book. Imagine Harry Potter set in Gormenghast Castle and you won't go far wrong.

I'm going to put my copy to one side for my littlest niece, and I will pass it on to her when she is old enough to enjoy it - but I may just take it up for a reread or two before then

Highly Recommended

Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson - A Review

It would not be an understatement to say Brandon Sanderson is prolific. The scope of his imagination is unbelievable but the thing that stands out for me is that however much the guy writes the quality level never seems to drop.

Arcanum Unbounded is a collection of short(ish) fiction set in his Cosmere and encapsulating several of his series.

'What is the Cosmere?' I hear you ask.

Well, the best I can explain it is that The Cosmere is a series of different worlds and settings in which BS sets his stories and series. Somewhere along the line these stories and series are all going to come together to link all his worlds, making it into one epic universe (this is what I mean about Brandon's imagination!)

Over the past few years BS has published several of the stories included here either as e-book only versions or through his website. They are all stories that can be read separate from the main series. There are stories from his Elantris, Mistborn and Stormlight Archives series and, as all the different series vary in setting there is enough here to keep it fresh from story to story. Everybody who reads Sanderson will, I guess, have a different favourite series (for me it is Elantris - and yes, I know it is a single novel but as there are stories from that world included here I'm counting it as a series).

As for the book itself - well, what can I say, it is a really nicely put together volume. The stories have notes, appendixes (appendices?) and star maps for each system making it all so much more than just a rehash of his back catalogue with an extra story and part of a graphic novel thrown in.

So, in short, if you are new to Brandon Sanderson or have been thinking about trying out his books this is a good place to start. If, like me, you are a long time fan you'll want to own this anyway.

Unsurprisingly this gets 5* from me

And then there's the cover art. The copy I own is the UK version and the cover art would have been enough for me to want to own this.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Gemmell Awards 2017 at Edge-Lit 6

DAVID GEMMELL AWARDS FOR FANTASY TO BE PRESENTED AT QUAD AS PART OF DERBY’S EDGE-LIT 6 EVENT

The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy are among the most prestigious awards in genre fiction, presenting prizes for the very best in fantasy novels and artwork each year. Presented in memory of one of epic fantasy’s biggest and most loved authors, the awards have been presented since 2009 and have a roll of honour including Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Mark Lawrence, Brandon Sanderson and many more bestselling names in the field.The awards will be presented for the 9th time in 2017 as part of Edge-Lit 6, Derby’s annual fantasy, horror and science-fiction day. The prize-giving ceremony will see the award presented for Best Fantasy Novel of 2016 (the Legend Award), Best Fantasy Debut of 2016 (the Morningstar Award) and Best Fantasy Cover Art of 2016 (the Ravenheart Award).Edge-Lit 6 runs on the 15th July 2017 at QUAD, Derby’s independent cinema and art space, and each year brings together some of the finest UK talent in genre fiction. With a growing reputation for quality and an audience of 200+ each year, the event offers an array of panels, workshops and book launches as well as popular yearly features such as the live Edge-Lit raffle.Alex Davis, Literature Officer for QUAD, said: ‘Over the last decade the Gemmell Awards have become a high point in the genre calendar, and have been presented at some of the biggest conventions and fantasy events in the UK. I’m delighted to be working with them to bring the ceremony to Edge-Lit, which makes the 2017 running even more exciting!’Stan Nicholls, Chair of the David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy, said: ‘Edge-Lit has established itself as one of the highlight events of the genre year, and the Gemmell Awards are thrilled to be part of 2017’s line-up. Devoted as they both are to championing the best of speculative fiction, the Gemmells and Edge-Lit are a perfect match. Roll on next July!’Edge-Lit 6 runs from 10am-11pm on the 15th July 2017 at QUAD, Derby. Tickets are on sale at http://www.derbyquad.co.uk/film/edge-lit-6.aspx and cost £30, including access to all sessions on the day and an event goodie bag. For more information, or for any queries, simply email Alex Davis, Literature Officer for QUAD, at alexd@derbyquad.co.uk

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Shadow Moths by Cate Gardner

Shadow Moths is a chapbook containing two stories by Cate Gardner, 'Blood Moth Kiss' and 'We Make Our Own Monsters Here'.


And they are two cracking little tales.

First to the table is 'We Make Our Own Monsters Here', a really creepy tale of a puppeteer seeking out the best in the business to take him on as an 'apprentice' - be careful what you wish for. This had everything I want from a creepy story, in fact, how Ms. Gardner managed to get so much story into these few pages is quite an accomplishment. Very creepy and unsettling

Next up was 'Blood Moth Kiss', a total change of pace. Hard to explain without spoilers but what Cate did here has left me with an earworm that I never saw coming.

Highly recommended and has certainly left me wanting to find more Cate Gardner stories and more from the publisher - Frightful Horrors

'The Heart Of What Was Lost' by Tad Williams - some thoughts (spoiler free)

January 3rd 2017 sees the long awaited return of Tad Williams to the land of Osten Ard which was the setting for his mammoth beast of a trilogy (or quadrilogy if you bought the paperback version) Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I was fortunate enough to get hold of an advance copy so here are my thoughts.

It has been 23 years (give or take) since Tad wrote in this setting and since then has gone on to write other series in other worlds - Otherland, Shadowmarch, The Bobby Dollar series - and the stand alone novel War of the Flowers. My main concerns when hearing of the return to writing in Osten Ard, I guess, were, would it be the same OA we left behind all those years ago, would the characters feel the same?

I can safely and happily say that after only a few pages reading THoWWL it was clear that we were back in Osten Ard I remember and all was good. I guess it was the literary equivalent of comfy slippers and a favourite arm chair.

The story is set just after events at Green Angel Tower. The day has been won, Ineluki, The Storm King, has been defeated and his Norn army are in retreat, heading north to their ancient citadel Nakkiga harried by an army led by Duke Isgrimnur.

Character views come from both sides and although the Norns are the obvious 'bad guys' Williams does a good job of making us bothered about them. You feel for their plight as they rush toward Stormspike and (hopefully) safety. Don't get me wrong though, there are still heinous acts performed by some of their number (one of which, quite early on, had me thinking for days 'did they really just do that?). But also there are moments of poetic beauty in here - the revelation of The Heart of What Was Lost (don't worry it'll all make sense when you read it) nearly moved me to tears.

All things, as they must, come to an end and as this chapter in the history of Osten Ard closes both sides are put through the wringer. How it all ends I will leave you to find out for yourselves but what I will say is, I'm glad Tad decided to return to Osten Ard and to allow us to travel the paths again with him, THoWWL leaves me waiting eagerly for The Witchwood Crown, the first in he series 'The Last King of Osten Ard (Spring 2017)

One final thought, and this is just a personal thing really. When I first picked up The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn book 1) back in 1988 I was a mere strippling  of 21 years old. The character of Simon was very easy to associate with but now, with The Heart of What Was Lost more or less ending M,S and T I find myself knocking on the door of 50 and find myself associating more with Duke Isgrimnur (older and more weary I guess ;-D)


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Looking towards next year (or, It's All About The Williamses)

I know, it's only just November, but as the nights draw in I like to look to nose round and see what new books are on the horizon. Early January 2017 sees the return of Tad Williams to the land of  Osten Ard, the setting of his much loved series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, with a short novel 'The Heart of What Was Lost (set just after To Green Angel Tower). April then sees the start of a new series from him, The Last King of Osten Ard  (again, same land but this time set 30 years on) with The Witchwood Crown. It's been a long while since we walked these paths and I for one cannot wait to see what's in store.

Another new series I am waiting excitedly for starts with The Ninth Rain (23rd February). To say I am a fan of Jen Williams would probably be a bit of an understatement. Her Copper Cat series had it all - good storytelling, variety of settings and characters you want to be your friends. The new series promises to be just as much fun. Here's the description from Amazon:


Jen Williams, acclaimed author of the Copper Cat trilogy, featuring THE COPPER PROMISE, THE IRON GHOST and THE SILVER TIDE, returns with the first in a blistering new trilogy. 'An original new voice in heroic fantasy' Adrian Tchaikovsky
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces - talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.
When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza 'Vintage' de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.
But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure'lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall...


All in all 2017 looks to be another good year for fantasy fiction. More of my choices will follow in the weeks ahead

     

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Dominion by Peter McLean - A Review

Dominion is the second book in McLean's 'Burned Man' series but is contained enough to work as a stand-alone novel (and I know because I hadn't read the first, 'Drake', when this popped through the letter box.

The 'hero' of Dominion is Don Drake, a diabolist and former hitman who is conned into going up against The Rotman, an entity that is destroying the underparts of London. When Rotman turns out to be the archdemon Bianakith Drake soon realises he is out of his depth - and Bianakith is only the beginning. With his unrequited love interest, his Guardian Angel (almost fallen Angel) Trixie and his patron, The Burned Man he still needs every trick up his sleeve to save the day.

Drake is an interesting lead, a mix of Harry Dresden and Felix Dexter with maybe a bit of Bobby Dollar thrown. He seems a bit worn down by life and having Trixie living with him is affecting him  (he seems equal parts in love and in fear of her), as is keeping The Burned Man in a 9 inch tall fetish in a spare room. Drake likes a drink and swears a lot but, for me, that makes him more believable. Events later in the story leave him even more 'put upon' but I'm not going into those here - wouldn't want to spoil the fun for you.

With stories like this the supporting cast are essential to get right and McLean has done just that. The crowd in Wormwood's club, a supernatural meeting place, for example, are various shades of grey, any of them could be friend or foe. Even Drake isn't sure who he can and can't trust.

Dominion is very much a Dark Urban Fantasy tale and the London setting, as it usually does, serves the story well. The city is dark and grimy, the lower levels, below the Underground and populated by Gnomes, is even darker and grimier and is also rotting away (thanks to The Rotman). Will Drake and friends save the day, save the Gnomes and save the city? That's for you to find out but you'll enjoy the journey - I know I did

As I said at the beginning of this review Dominion is the second book in the series but, and this is where it feels Peter McLean has been really clever, there is enough here to inform you of past events (in 'Drake') but not enough to make reading the previous novel unnecessary - in fact I'm planning on reading 'Drake' as soon as I get chance. I also feel that, with everything that is going on in the backstory, the whole tale of Don Drake has a lot more to offer and more surprises to reveal

Highly Recommended

Monday, 31 October 2016

Spectral Book of Horror Stories (Book 3) - A Review

Every year, as Halloween approaches, there is, as you would expect, a surge in the number of horror novels and collections that are available. With all this choice though it is not always clear which to go with for the best chills and frights.

Thankfully my attention was drawn to Spectral Book of Horror Stories 3 (SBoHS3), not least because of the cracking cover art by Holly Madew. On looking at the contents list I saw a few 'reliable' names (Dan Weatherer, Adrian Cole, Dave-Brendon de Burgh) but many more that I didn't know. As with all books of this ilk there is a range in the quality of the stories but I'm happy to say they were all good, none stood out for the wrong reasons.

If I had to pick favourites I guess I'd go with Lou Antonelli's 'Three Twilight Zone Variations on a High School Reunion' (an author goes back to his old school and relives 1975), Jason V Brock's 'COULROPHILIA' (because, y'know, it's got clowns) and Cotton Face by Dan Weatherer (which has a definite Bloody Mary/Candyman vibe going on. But there are so many others I could have chosen from, Monster Horror, Ghost Horror, whatever takes your fancy I'm pretty sure you'll find something here to keep you looking over your shoulder on a dark night.

A very nicely put together book

4.3/5 *

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Wrong Train Blog Tour with Jeremy de Quidt


Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of 'The Wrong Train' (Jeremy de Quidt, David Fickling Books) for review. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale and repost my review here.


"It's late at night, a boy runs for the train but on catching it he realises that it's not the one he meant to catch. He gets off at the first possible station he can but doesn't recognise it. After a while an old man and his dog turn up and regale the boy with a story while he waits for a train to take him back.

And so begins one of the creepiest, scariest books I've read in a while.

The stories the old man tells, you see, are of the ghostly and unsettling variety.

As the night goes on the boy gets more uncomfortable with the old man and the old man himself gets slightly more sinister. It's clear from the off that the old man is in charge of the game, indeed all the events and storytelling seem to be leading towards what he refers to as 'my little game'. And when it comes time to play, when all becomes clear - well, let's just say this reviewer had his socks knocked clean off.

The storytelling here is very much of the highest standard, the stories within a story idea works really well and I'm not ashamed to say, the author unnerved me at times. There were certainly several occasions when I could see where he was taking the story and I thought 'NO!! He's not going to do that. I was wrong and he did.

The Wrong Train is aimed at a Young Adult audience but shouldn't be restricted to that bracket. It is not a comfortable read but it is a very good one. This book will be enjoyed by older readers too.

So, in short, I cannot recommend The Wrong Train Highly enough. Go get yourself a copy soon as you can (it's from David Fickling Books)

5* It's been a long while since a book unsettled me like this and I loved every uncomfortable minute of it"


When the chance came to take part in the 'The Wrong Train' Blog Tour I didn't need asking twice. So, with no further ado, please welcome Jeremy to the BlogCave as I ask him "What scared you as a child"







Andy looked at me over his laptop.

“You told Beth at Reader’s Corner that you never read scary stories when you were a child because you had nightmares?”

“That’s right,” I said.

He looked at the laptop, I could see him reading the tour blog post.

“So, scary stories were never your inspiration,’ he said. “You just pour it all out of that dark ink you carry round in your head now.”

“That’s right.”

He looked up.

“Do stories scare you, now?” He asked.

“Not really,” I said. “I don’t read scary things. If I do it’s to take them apart - admire all the ropes and pulleys behind the words. See how other people do it.”

“Some stuff must scare you, though?”

“Course it does,” I said. “Fear’s not rational. Once someone lets a story into that part of their head they don’t have the key to, all the dark things in there will get up and play with it.”

He grinned, turned the lamp round so that it was pointing directly at me and said.

“So, what actually was it scared you, kicked off all those nightmares, when you were a child?”

“Specifics?”

“Specifics,” he said.

“How many do you want?” I could see we were going to be there all day if I tried to give him the whole list.

“Three,” he said.

“Ok,” I said. “Three.”

I thought about it for a moment and then held up a finger.

“Number One:

Because I didn’t read or want to watch scary stuff, what I just glimpsed in pictures - in photographs in newspapers and magazines, on covers of books - they were a big way to let the bad things in. Some would be awful in the way that only those pictures can be - I remember seeing a photograph of Belsen in the pages of a history book an uncle had. Others were awful in a way intended to shock and entertain - there was a series of American Civil War bubblegum cards that were all gore and death.

What they did was put the image in that unlit closed-off part of my head that I didn’t have the key to - added it to the ones that were already there - and come nighttime and darkness all the bright lights went on in there and that dark imagination of mine would feed on it and turn it into something else, much worse.”

I held up another finger. “Number Two:

Being alone in the dark - bedroom light out, hall light out, dark. Especially in the dead of night.

Home is supposed to be safe, but it didn’t feel safe and when everyone else was asleep they might just as well not have been there at all. All I was left with is whatever I wanted to fill up the dark with, and I was never short of ideas for that. They came creeping across the floor, around the doorpost, down the walls from the ceiling - tapped at the glass behind the curtains, hid in folds of cloth.”

I held up a third Finger. “Number Three,” I said.


“I listened too much and asked too many of the wrong questions. There’d have been a scary film on that I hadn't seen, and lamb to the slaughter I wouldn’t able to stop myself asking what it had been about. ‘What happened?’ I’d say, and even as I said it I knew that I was going to regret asking. Maybe not then, maybe not an hour later, but come the dark - come that bright light getting switched on in the locked room inside my head, boy was I going to regret it. And I did. Every time.

“Were you a timid child?” asked Andy.

“Not at all. I sawed a .410 shotgun cartridge in half on a stone step at infant’s school because I fancied the shiny brass bit at the end…”

“You what?”

“But you could say that was plain ignorance. And I put a .22 brass starting pistol cap in a brick wall once and hit it with a hammer and nail…”

“at infant’s school? A shotgun cartridge…”

“And if there was anything of a bone breaking height to throw myself off or round, I was your boy. But dark imagination, that was a demon I had no hold on at all.”

I looked up at Andy and felt myself slowly smiling in what I hoped was a friendly way.

“Still don’t…” I said.


And on that note Jeremy must leave for the next stop on his tour and all that remains is for me to say "Thank you for stopping by"





*WARNING: NOT FOR PASSENGERS OF NERVOUS DISPOSITION* THE WRONG TRAIN Jeremy De Quidt Publishing in hardback from David Fickling Books on 1st September 2016, priced £10.99


Master of horror, Jeremy de Quidt, is back with this terrifyingly good collection of ghost stories that will send shivers down your spine. 
Just don’t say we didn’t warn you…


“It dawned on him slowly that there was something wrong…”
It’s late. Dark. A boy rushes to catch a train, leaping aboard just before it pulls away. Suddenly he realises that it’s the wrong train. He’s annoyed, of course, but not scared… Yet.
He gets off at the next station, but the platform’s empty, and it doesn’t look like any station he’s seen before. But he’s still not scared… Yet.
Then a stranger arrives – someone with stories to help pass the time. Only these aren’t any old stories. These are nightmares, and they come with a price to pay.
…Scared yet? You will be.

Praise for Jeremy de Quidt: “Pacy, exciting and inventive” - Guardian        “Thrilling, dark and exciting” - The Bookseller

About the Author:



Jeremy de Quidt is available for interview and to write features. For further information please contact Carolyn McGlone, PR Manager: carolyn@davidficklingbooks.com; 01865 339 008



Abendau's Legacy by Jo Zebedee - A Review

And so we come to the end of the Abendau series. As is usually the case this is all building to final confrontations in that Kate, our hero, is facing his final battle against The Empress (aka his mum). To this end the pages fly by but, in a slightly unexpected way (or maybe not, given the books' title) the majority of the story is carried by the children.

There is a good bit of tying up of loose ends to be done, and that is done well, leaving a complete tale that I plan to go back to and read again in one go.

Jo Zebedee has built an interesting, enjoyably satisfying series here, very Star Wars like in style. I predict more big things from her in the future so remember the name.

5.5/5*

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds - A Review

I have said before that when it comes to sci fi novels I don't like them to be too tech heavy. I prefer my sf to be more about the characters and while I accept there has to be some science I need it to be something I understand. For that reason alone 'Revenger' rates highly with me.

Revenger tells the tale of two sisters, Adrana and Arafura, who join the crew of Captain Rackamore in the hopes of saving their family from bankruptcy. Due to their 'sympathetic' abilities they are able to help navigate entry into baubles, tiny pockets of space that hold technological trinkets that may make a fortune for all. Everything is fine until disaster strikes.

A curious novel this, it starts out very much as a YA tale but soon becomes a lot more adult oriented (not in a saucy way, more grown up sci fi). The scope of the story is huge and the ideas of the baubles and their hidden treasures did give it a 'Pirates of the Caribbean in Space' flavour.

With enough twists and turns to keep the pages flying by and a varied and interesting cast of characters I hope this is just the start of story. More please

4/5*

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Tribes (Marc Craig 14) by Catriona King - A Review

Could two different murders the team are investigating be linked? What are the ties with the South? Will North and South be able to cross borders and work together? This, the 14th story featuring the Belfast Murder Squad, is just what I would have expected - a twisty crime tale with a bunch of personal storylines in the squad (and for one of the team things could not get any worse).

With several characters from earlier in the series making appearances it helps to have read the other books but The Tribes works well as a stand alone novel too - but be warned, if this is your first meeting with Marc Craig and his team you'll be wanting to get the rest of the set.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye - sampler reviewed

So, yesterday's post bought a parcel from Quirk books which included a book - Warren the 13th and The Whispering Wood, a sampler - Warren the 13th and The All Seeing Eye, 2 small packets of Cadbury's Buttons and a strip of transfers. The books looked lovely so I decided to give the sampler a read straight away, out of curiosity.

And I'm oh so glad I did. Our hero is Warren the 13th "the lone bellhop, valet, waiter, groundskeeper and errand boy of his family's ancient hotel". The latest in a long line of Warrens he is a strange looking little chap, but quite likeable. His hotel has run to ruin now that his Uncle Rupert has taken over along with his quite evil new wife Aunt Anaconda (who is searching for the titular All-Seeing Eye).

The book itself is gorgeous (but then again, it's Quirk Books - they always seem to produce a high quality product) with all pages illustrated by Will Staehle and the type set in an old style two column per page layout to compliment Tania Del Rio's wonderful story telling. The sampler is only three chapters long but those three chapters are enough to get me intrigued. I really enjoyed this and look forward to (hopefully) getting hold of the full version before I set out on book 2 in the series (Whispering Woods).

A great start to a series I hope will continue for a good while. Warren's adventures are aimed at Middle Grade readers but I really think readers of all ages will enjoy Warren's adventures.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Two O'Clock Boy by Mark Hill - A Review

Everybody has a favourite first line (or lines)from a novel, one that sticks with you long after the final page has been turned. The Two O'Clock Boy is going to be joining a few peoples list for this I believe;

'THE BOY LOVED HIS PARENTS MORE THAN ANYTHING ON THIS EARTH. AND SO HE HAD TO KILL THEM'

From this doom laden beginning we are introduced to the latest unorthodox detective on the block, DI Ray Drake. The crime in this first outing for Drake is the murder of several families all of which have one family member who is linked to Longacre Children's Home which burned down 30 years ago. A lot is not known about what happened at the home but Drake knows more than he is letting on. The thing is, Drake doesn't want others to know about his links to the past and fears that when it catches up with him his career will be over.

What through me a little with this book is that it is marketing as the first in the DI Ray Drake series but the main investigative duties are passed on to DS Felicity 'Flick' Crowley and she does carry the majority of the story but as Drake's backstory unravelled it became clear he is the main man.

The book slips between events now and events at Longacre in 1984 as both stories rush to a climax that will keep you guessing right up to the end (that may sound like a cliché but it really did keep the twists coming).

As for the main characters, Drake grew on me as the story went along. He's not just another recently widowed detective with a slightly estranged daughter, he's really dark at times and, most importantly, interesting. Think Luther meets Dexter and you won't be far wrong.
Flick Crowley, on the other hand seemed to develop as she went along, going from a nervous DS leading an investigation for the first time, through a 'wet blanket' phase as she seemed to be losing control and getting led by the nose by Drake away from the Longacre link, until she finally managed to grow a spine and follow her instincts. I liked the latter Flick more, I must admit.

As for the story itself, this is a dark, psychological, twisty narrative that defines 'unputdownable' and to say it is the debut of author Mark Hill makes it even more impressive. I look forward eagerly to more investigations with any who survive The Two O'Clock Boy.

The Two O'Clock Boy is currently available as an ebook but will be available in April 6th 2017 - Welcome to the Next Big Thing in crime fiction 5/5*

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Requesting Reviews

As a general rule, over the last few years the books I have reviewed on here have been just books I have chosen to read myself and blog about. A few have been requests for reviews but I guess I've been a bit like The A-Team - "If you want to request a review and if you know where to find me........"

So, on that note, maybe it is time to make things a bit easier. If you have a book you would like reviewing the options are;

1) Just ask me here on the blog,
2) Send me an email at andyangel44@gmail.com or,
3) Message me on Twitter (@andyangel44)

I can also be found on Facebook as Andrew Angel (personal page) or Andy Ebookwyrm Angel (blog page) - review links are posted on both as well as Amazon (.com and .co,uk) and Goodreads. If you want links posting elsewhere just let me know

I tend to be open to most subjects but my main leaning is towards Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Crime Fiction (although I have reviewed books for infants, Regency Romance and even a book on building houses for cats, so anything is open to consideration.
I am happy to receive books in both e-book and physical forms. E-books are easier to send but physical books allow other people to see what I am reading and are therefore better as adverts for the author and the publisher.

If this interests you please feel free to get in touch, also, feel free to pass this on to others

And before anyone asks I'll point out that I don't charge for reviews. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you like the review and want to do something nice drop a couple of coins in a deserving charity box - that'd be nice

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Exile by Martin Owton - A Review

While I do share the current love of Grimdark in Fantasy Fiction I also enjoy the slightly lighter side of the genre as well. Exile, the first in a 2 book series would, in my opinion lean toward the lighter side of Grimdark - not too dark and not too fluffy, an excellent blend.

The story concerns Aron (the titular exile) in a tale of heroism and treachery which ends in some pretty epic fight scenes. He is employed by the Earl of Nandor to rescue his heir but betrayal changes everything. There is a good bit of family politics, fun to read banter, hints of 'Destiny' all things you would expect in this kind of tale but it is all wrapped up in some excellent story telling. The world is well realised - and being a very 'visual' reader this is something that is very important to me - and populated with interesting people, Gods, and a decent history.

As a hero Aron is just what you would expect, dashing, brave, admired by the ladies, but he also come across as a decent sort, not big headed or 'better than everyone else' (and it makes a change for the hero not to be a 'former turnip farmer').

So, heroic fantasy verging on the lighter side of Grimdark that all sets up nicely for 'Return To Nandor' (out later this year). A very enjoyable read that I will be looking to read again. Martin Owton is an author I have no hesitation in recommending and one I am putting high on my 'authors to watch' list

4.75/5* (I'm saving the extra .25 of a star for the final book)

Sunset Over Abendau by Jo Zebedee - A Review

Sunset Over Abendau is the second in Jo Zebedee's 'Abendau' series and works well in that context. This part of the saga is set 10 years after the events of Abendau's Heir (although the prologue follows on almost immediately from the end AH). The early chapters make a good job of reintroducing characters and seeing where they are now but this does seem to be at a slower pace, but then, THEN, what I was expecting from the prologue happened (I know, I'm being vague but I don't want to spoil things for you) and the story transforms into a finger burning, page turning race to the end. The fact that the main story only covers a short span of time probably helps this as well. And all I will add to that is that I am so glad I have book 3 to hand as I really want more, more, MORE.

When I reviewed Abendau's Heir I compared it, in style, to Star Wars and I am not going to change that. This is Sci-Fi built on character, scene, story and not something you need an engineering masters degree to understand, and thankfully Jo Zeb does characters well.

How will the events of Sunset affect our heroes? Only time will tell (but you won't have to wait too long, Abendau's Legacy will be available from 24th October). This is shaping up to be a series that will place the author up there with the 'names' in Science Fiction. It is said that women are under represented in Sci-Fi writing - Jo Zebedee might just be taking steps to rectify that.

5/5*

Onwards to Abendau's Legacy

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Osloff and the Turk by Iain M Grant

Osloff and the Turk is a story that forms part of a larger work 'The People Factory'. It was sent through to me in chapbook form for review as I am a fan of the Iain Grant's other work (the Clovenhoof series with Heide Goody). The difference here is that the Clovenhoof tales are funny and at times ridiculous while 'Osloff' is in a more serious vein.

What we have here is a locked room mystery set in Saxony, 1796. An inventor has invented a chess playing automaton and while it is being tested/exhibited a murder is committed - and the only people in the room are the victim and the automaton.

The story is told in a series of letters and the style of writing reads very much of it's time, which impressed me a lot.

I'll be honest, I didn't manage to solve the mystery myself but it was a fun read trying (I do like a good murder mystery). What is no mystery is whether I will be reading the full version of 'The People Factory' - That's a resounding YES from me.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Beelzebelle by Heide Goody and Iain Grant - A Review

Everybody's favourite Prince of Hell is back, and this time he has a baby....and a monkey. What could possibly go wrong.

With Beelzebelle, the 5th in Goody and Grant's Clovenhoof series, Jeremy Clovenhoof (aka Satan, exiled from Hell and now living in suburban Birmingham) is back leading the story and where he goes, chaos follows. Trailing along in his wake, trying to pick up the pieces are his neighbours Ben and the man-hungry Nerys, and his nemesis Michael (aka St. Michael, exiled from Heaven, also living in the Birmingham area). And what is that chaos? - well, start with JC getting a baby (and a monkey), joining SCUM (Sutton Coldfield Union of Mothers) and getting himself, Ben and Nerys made temporarily homeless, then throw in a new church being built by a slightly dodgy seeming chap, the death of Nerys' dog and the sudden appearance of a mighty monster - The Beast of Boldmere.

As expected from this series chaotic scene follows chaotic scene but somehow the authors manage to tie everything up by the end. Just when you think things cannot get any dafter they somehow manage to up their game finishing up with a scene of such magnificent insanity and (that word again) chaos that it would take the likes of Cecil B DeMille to film it (and I would love to see a visual version of the Clovenhoof stories)

What I really like about these stories is that in Jeremy Clovenhoof Goody and Grant don't portray Satan as 'Ultimate Evil' just someone who likes a bit of fun and mischief, okay, a LOT of fun and mischief. JC is one of those people you would end up hanging around with (even though you know it won't end well) and contrary to what you would expect from The Prince Of Darkness he does often try to do the right thing (often in a very convoluted and roundabout way, but the right thing nonetheless).

If I had to compare these authors with anyone, and I may have said this before, I would say Tom Holt at his best, but if I went in a shop with enough to buy only one book and it was a choice between the two I'd come out with Goody and Grant book every time.

5/5*

Monday, 26 September 2016

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson - some thoughts

So, Friday I got home from work and there was some post for me......book shaped post.
On the plus side it was:

a) book shaped
b) from David Fickling Books

On the not so much of a plus side, the envelope was pink - very pink, very very pink indeed. But, as I said, it was book shaped and that trumps all.

What was inside was a sampler of a 2017 release 'All About Mia' (and a small pack of Harbour - another tick in the + column). 'AAM' is very much aimed at the female YA market, certainly not something I would expect to read, but on Sunday afternoon I needed something to read and AAM was close to hand and you know what? I really enjoyed it.

The story, as far as the sampler goes concerns Mia, a 16 year old middle sister. Oldest sister Grace is the academic one, younger sister Audrey the sporty one. Mia is neither academic or sporty, what she is, is Trouble (with a capital T, and possibly a capital R,O,U,B,L and E too). Not trouble in a nasty way, more Tracey Beakers and I found her fun as a character. The set up is that Grace comes home early from her gap year with 'a surprise' (no prizes for guessing what). When this doesn't get the reaction Mia hoped for from her parents it seems you are left with the idea that she is going to 'have escapades and get into scrapes'. I don't know what these will be but I look forward to finding out.

This is my fifth book from David Fickling Books and so far they have all been high quality, both in story and presentation.

A full review will appear here when the book is published in it's entirety.

Recommended

Monday, 5 September 2016

Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P Beaulieu - A Review

Of Sand and Malice Made is a prequel to Twelve Kings (Twelve Kings in Sharakhai in the US) and tells a story in the earlier life of Pit Fighter heroine Ceda, aka The White Wolf. The book is made up of 3 novellas that make a whole tale.

In this story Ceda comes to the notice of Rumayesh, one of the Ehrekh, ancient beyond years. What Rumayesh wants she gets, how will Ceda escape her clutches.

With this prequel we return to the desert city of Sharakhai, destined to become one of the great creations of modern fantasy fiction. The whole city is almost a character in itself with it's markets, fighting pits, shadowy back streets and the docks where the mighty sand ships come and go. The story itself is very Arabian in feel, it reminded me of both Aladdin and one of my favourite TV series of recent years, Atlantis. It is certainly a nice change to get fantasy fiction in a different setting to the usual Euro Middle Ages that most Fantasy Fiction seems to have.

As a lead character Ceda really works well, she spans the gap between child and adult without being too much of either. She is a fighter to be feared, one of the best pit fighters there is, but still enough of a child to keep her sense of fear and wonder. Travelling the streets of Sharakhai with her is a joy.

As for the book itself, this is a really nicely put together volume. The cover art is lovely and there are two maps (and I do like a good map). The only down side really is that some of the interior art is a tad on the dark side but that doesn't detract from an excellent story.

As a prequel 'Of Sand and Malice Made' works as both a continuation of Beaulieu's Sharakhai series and an entry point for those who have not visited before. Whichever you are, this exotic, mystical city will catch hold of you and never let go.

5/5 stars

Cat Castles by Carin Oliver (sample) - A Review

Ok,so,in the post today was a sample of a book called 'Cat Castle's (20 Cardboard Habitats You Can Build Yourself) by Carin Oliver, published by Quirk Books.

It is, basically, what it says it is - instructions on how to build various projects for your cat. From cardboard. As if your cat will actually be grateful for all the effort you put in. The book itself has 20 projects, this sampler has 2 - Airplane and Pyramid.

The instructions are fairly easy to follow, but, seriously, why would you want to bother. I like cats, cats are lovely but cats really couldn't care less if you spent half the afternoon building 'Cat Headquarters' or 'Crazy Condo'.

The illustrations are wonderful, I will say that, but probably for the wrong reasons. With cat expressions that range from 'why did you bother' and 'I am not going in there' to 'Seriously, if this gets printed I am going to puke in one of your shoes, and you won't know which one until it's too late' they did make me chuckle.

On a serious note though, one thing troubled me. With the Airplane Habitat there are instructions to make a propeller and attach it with wire, and for me this is wrong - NEVER construct a plaything (which it is when it all comes down to it) for a pet with bits of wire. The wire is not necessary. The cat won't care if the propeller doesn't turn.

So, all in all, a strange little book. If you like crafting and cats this could be just the thing for you (as long as you are prepared for the cat to not be bothered about the time you've put in)

3/5 stars

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Kings or Pawns by J J Sherwood - A Review

Kings or Pawns is the first in J J Sherwood's 'Steps of Power' sequence and a very promising start it is too.

In an Elvish land a young elf becomes king and a general, tired and possibly slightly disillusioned after many years of fighting must carry on leading the army in a war he longs to quit but cannot.

The new king, Hairem, is beset by his corrupt government and even when he tries to right wrongs in said government he is thwarted by those who want to keep their power and ill gotten games. A lot of the early stages of KoP is scene setting and plot building, as you would expect but the ideas are interesting enough to keep the reader hooked in until the sub plots and side quests kick in in the second half of the book. And oh, what a busy second half it is, plenty of twists and turns leading to a satisfactory conclusion (although you may have to stop for breath by the end).

The character list in the second half really seems to explode, and my only fault with KoP (and it's only a little one) is that there is so much going on in the later stages that it feels 'over busy - I had to check it was under 400 pages as it felt like an epic, almost 'Sanderson-esque' in scope.

I will add that, as a long term fan of High Fantasy I have never been a fan of the elven races but the ones in this series look like changing my mind.

A well paced, if at times over busy, introduction to a series that promises to be Epic in size and scale

4/5 stars

Oh, and one final thing, check out the cover art - "HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!"

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt - A Review

It's late at night, a boy runs for the train but on catching it he realises that it's not the one he meant to catch. He gets off at the first possible station he can but doesn't recognise it. After a while an old man and his dog turn up and regale the boy with a story while he waits for a train to take him back.

And so begins one of the creepiest, scariest books I've read in a while.

The stories the old man tells, you see, are of the ghostly and unsettling variety.

As the night goes on the boy gets more uncomfortable with the old man and the old man himself gets slightly more sinister. It's clear from the off that the old man is in charge of the game, indeed all the events and storytelling seem to be leading towards what he refers to as 'my little game'. And when it comes time to play, when all becomes clear - well, let's just say this reviewer had his socks knocked clean off.

The storytelling here is very much of the highest standard, the stories within a story idea works really well and I'm not ashamed to say, the author unnerved me at times. There were certainly several occasions when I could see where he was taking the story and I thought 'NO!! He's not going to do that. I was wrong and he did.

The Wrong Train is aimed at a Young Adult audience but shouldn't be restricted to that bracket. It is not a comfortable read but it is a very good one. This book will be enjoyed by older readers too.

So, in short, I cannot recommend The Wrong Train Highly enough. Go get yourself a copy soon as you can (it's from David Fickling Books)

5* It's been a long while since a book unsettled me like this and I loved every uncomfortable minute of it

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Call by Peadar O'Guilin - A Review

Imagine, if you will, an Ireland that is cut off from the rest of the world, an Ireland where the Aes Sidhe, the early dwellers in the Emerald Isle who were banished by human settlers have decided it is time to come back. That's what you have in 'The Call' and it makes for a dark, chilling but ultimately rewarding read.

The general gist of the story is that Ireland is now isolated, ever since the day when planes fell from the sky and boats washed up on the shores, all more or less empty. No-one enters or leaves the island. The Aes Sidhe, a kind of Irish fairy folk, have decided it is time to end their exile and are trying to force their way ever closer from their land to this. These fairy folk are not what you might expect though - no tinkerbells here. These are a nasty, vicious race and they are coming for the nation's children.

It is because of this children are sent to special schools where they are taught survival skills so they will be ready when The Call comes.

What is The Call? At some point in each child's life they will be taken, without warning, and transferred to the land of the Aes Sidhe, an horrific, grey land where they have to survive The Hunt. They are gone from this world to that for 3 minutes and 4 seconds but are in the lands of the Aes Sidhe for 24 hours. If they survive The Hunt they are returned to this world, if they are caught they are tortured, disfigured, often (but not always) killed and then their dead bodies sent back. Very few who are Called and survive are without scars both mental and physical.

The schools set up to train the children are brutal places, designed to turn their pupils into warriors that may have a fighting chance. Into one of these schools comes our heroine Nessa. She is not like the other kids as she suffered from polio as a youngster which has left her with weak legs. Some think she should not be there but she is a battler and does what she can to keep up or improve her chances.

Most of the story revolves round the time at school, the interactions between pupils and staff, the training and just waiting to see who will be called next (seriously, they just disappear leaving only a bundle of clothes - they always turn up naked in the AS land - and the surprise never wears off).

Things start to get a bit more frantic though when a fairy hill is discovered on school land, The Sidhe are getting closer, The Calls are getting more regular, sometimes with several pupils going at one time and still Nessa waits till they decide it is time to take her.

I found Nessa to be a quite likeable lead character. Although she has her disability she makes the most of her situation and doesn't get all mopey about life. Quite a large part of the story questions (through some of her fellow pupils) whether she should actually be allowed to be at the school as it is training pupils to survive and it is quite obvious to them that with her disability she will not do so and so should have been 'terminated, at a younger age to allow more resources for those who might have a chance.

I will say that I really enjoyed this book. It is dark, it is unsettling, at times the tortures performed by the Aes Sidhe are downright horrific but above all it is a tale well told.

The Call is classed as YA fiction and would probably appeal to fans of such things as The Hunger Games and Maze Runners. Myself though I would recommend it to all ages (YA and upwards obviously)

5*

Also, a quick nod (and my thanks) to David Fickling Books who published this and were kind enough to supply me with a copy when I asked. They are publishing some cracking fiction, check them out if you get the chance.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling et al - A Review and possibly some general thoughts and meanderings.

So, the Midnight hour between Saturday and Sunday came and went and another chapter in the life of Harry Potter and friends is upon us. When I first heard it was coming out, but would be in script form I wasn't sure if I would bother with it. It's not a 'Harry Potter' book in the form we are used to, it's only 'based on' an original story by J K Rowling and plays are so hard to read - you only get brief descriptions, stage directions and the spoken words.

And the doubts in my head will have lasted about 2 seconds - of course I would be getting the new book. IT'S HARRY POTTER!!!!

And, yes, I will be hoping to see the stage play - again, IT'S HARRY POTTER!!!!

So, Sunday lunchtime saw my better half and I in Waterstones, and Café W (renamed Potterstones for the day). We had excellent food, Harry Potter themed buns and I left clutching HPatCC and eager to make a start on it.

I guess you want to know if it was worth the excitement, well, for me at least, I'd say yes. The story starts 19 years after the end of Deathly Hallows and although we have a new cast of characters in the Potter/Weasley/Malfoy kids there are enough of the original cast around to make it feel like familiar ground. Things are not good between Harry and his youngest son Albus - quite a bit of 'teen angst' going on, how do you live up to your famous father's reputation when you think you are always going to be in his shadow, that kind of thing. The resultant adventures revolve round a good bit of time travel and trying to 'do the right thing'

For me the time travel thing is where it all fell down a bit but as this is a series aimed more at younger people I guess I can let that slide. The paradox stuff just threw me out of the story a little at times (if A happened, then B happened, C couldn't have happened even though it did). It didn't take much for the story to draw me back in though.

The story is very much what you would expect from Harry Potter so if you liked the original books and can get your head around the script format there is nothing to stop you really enjoying it. There are plenty of nods to the original series so some knowledge of events is useful (especially Goblet of Fire). The story feels very much like an expansion of the Potterverse, a continuation of the story, if you will, not, as some people have said, "a blatant cash grabbing venture".

If anything, the book has made me even more keen to go see the stage play at some point. I was entranced by Harry and co right from Philosophers Stone, each new volume added to the wonder and now, with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child we have been given another slice of the cake - and it is good cake. Not perfect but not far off.

In the last few days I believe J K Rowling has said that "this is it for the Harry Potter series". I hope she changes her mind because it seems like there is plenty of life left yet in The Boy Who Lived

4/5 stars

Thursday, 21 July 2016

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey - A Review

Part Science Fiction, Part Fantasy, part Thriller, this all adds up to one heck of a ride. The fact that this is the author's first novel makes it even more impressive.

The general gist of the story is that NovusPart, a large energy company have discovered a new technology that allows them to bring matter from the past to 'the now'. They have started by bringing citizens from Pompeii (hey, it's not a spoiler, the clue is in the title) forward and housing them in the replica New Pompeii. They do not know they have left 'original' Pompeii but some are starting to guess something is not quite right. Into the mix comes our hero Nick Houghton, research ,student, who is brought in as NovusPart's Historical Advisor. His actual recruitment seems a tad shady but he is just happy to be a part of something this big.

As a second story strand Kirsten Chapman 'wakes' in her bath only to discover she has been murdered.

As a general rule I am not a big fan of 'Michael Chrichtonesque' Sci-Fi Thrillers but New Pompeii certainly changed my mind on that. The way the author described both New Pompeii and it's occupants felt believable. It felt very much like seeing it through Nick's eyes which, for this reviewer is just how it should be.

The 'Kirsten' chapters added a lot of mystery to the proceedings. It is obvious her 'death' had a big part to play in the storyline but right up to the reveal I wasn't sure just what it would be.

If I had to find a downside to things it would just be my ignorance of historical terms, which I had to look up sometimes (but, hey, I've learnt stuff now so not that much of a downside really)

As for the characters - Nick was nerdish, Kirsten puzzled and the big chiefs of NovusPart just the right shade of 'big business sinister'. They all worked well for me.

I enjoyed this book a heck of a lot and wouldn't be surprised to see it on beaches and in airports all summer. Will it be filmed? Of that I have no idea but somebody, somewhere should take a chance on it (Oh, if only Mr. Spielberg read my blog)

Full marks to Daniel Godfrey for a very interesting and fun read - V/V stars

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Oddjobs by Heide Goody and Iain Grant - A Review

The Apocalypse, the end of the world as we know it, is coming............

It will happen this Friday.........

In Birmingham (UK)

(unless new girl Morag Murray and colleagues can prevent it)

That is the general premise in this latest comedy horror/crime novel, the first in a new series, from Clovenhoof creators Goody and Grant. There is a secret government agency whose job is keeping the general populace unaware of the threat by the other-worldly Venislarn and Morag is starting her first day with them having been transferred from the Edinburgh branch after an 'incident'

As with the Clovenhoof books (of which I am a big fan) there is a lot going on in this book - wannabe amphibian gangster chavs, telepathic curry, an upstairs neighbour with way too many cats, fish porn, Ancient Gods and that aforementioned Apocalypse (due Friday) but it 'doesn't feel like a busy book. Considering all that is happening the story is well paced and holds together really well. The Venislarn are all kinds and varieties of grotesque, Morag and her colleagues range from cute and slightly ditzy to super serious and the side characters are a comedic delight. Also, as a setting, the city of Birmingham works really well

How would I describe the style of the book? Let's just say that if Tom Holt and Robert Rankin sat down to discuss writing a book with H P Lovecraft I think they would be more than happy to come up with something half as good as this. I hope Oddjobs brings Goody and Grant the success they deserve and look forward to more in this series.

Oddjobs was an absolute delight - 10/10

Saturday, 2 July 2016

You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames - A Review

This novella (94 pages) dropped through my letter box yesterday morning. As is usually the case with Pushkin Vertigo books, the blurb made it sound really promising. It is now 5 hours or so since I finished it and I still don't quite know how I feel about it.

The story is a fairly straightforward one - the daughter of a senator has been taken and put into the sex trade, he has a lead and hires Joe, ex Marine, ex FBI to get her back. The thing is, Joe has seen things that have left him damaged. He is the typical 'hero type', loner, broken, violent and his back story explains the reasoning behind his ways quite well. I think the problem I had was that the story was too short and could have been easily expanded a little. Also, Joe, as flawed as he is, comes across as a bit of a psychopath at times and by his final actions here seems to be on a darker path that probably will not end well for him, but we may never know as the story ends with the job only half done.

Good points - punchy prose, brutal violence and a lead character that could carry a series (apparently it is soon to be a feature film starring Joaquin Phoenix).

Bad points - the story felt too short and ended too abruptly with the job only partly done, almost as if this is just a teaser trailer for the main event to come

3/5* - I enjoyed it enough but felt slightly cheated at the final page

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A Family War by Stewart Hotston - A Review

This was an interesting read. For me Science Fiction can go two ways - tech heavy (which usually turns me away) or tech light (which I tend to quite enjoy). Thankfully, although there is a good bit of future technology in 'A Family War' it is not at the expense of a story well told.

The set up is a future Earth where business rules and the technologically enhanced Oligarchs are the top of the tree. The Oligarchs are scientifically enhanced humans with almost Godlike powers and our heroine, Helena, is one of them. The world is on the verge of a new World War and the only hope of preventing a possible genocide is a small child, which Helena must find.

Where the story really comes alive here is the world in which the reader is taken, obviously future earth but still close enough that the possibilities are plausible. The rich get all they can afford while those without struggle on. The differences in class are notable but Helena may have to overcome these differences if the world is to survive.

I will say that not all character motives are clear (which is a good thing) but once things start to drop into place the reader may need to re-evaluate the way they thought the story was going.

The good points - fast paced story, believable and not too complicated technology, good and vivid world building populated with interesting characters

The bad points - my only real gripe comes back to the technology, it did get slightly repetitive at times but that wasn't to the detriment of the story so I'm happy to let that slide.

As a first book in a series 'A Family War' sets things up nicely for further volumes (which I will certainly be looking out for) and the fact that this is a debut novel, well, that leaves me quite excited for Mr Hotston's future. The Big Time beckons (and please, somebody, make a movie of this)

4.3/5

Monday, 20 June 2016

Portmanteau by Paul Beardow - A Review

Portmanteau, by Sheffield author Paul Beardow , is not going to be an easy book to review - but don't worry, it's for all the right reasons. The thing is, there are so many twists and turns, so many WTF just happened moments and I don't want to spoil a single one of them.

The story revolves around Psychic Investigator Harry Macadam and his team at the Portmanteau Investigations Agency and a missing person case. Each member of Portmanteau has a different kind of 'Psychic Ability'. You've got a hacker who can find anything on any computer, a guy that can 'wind back time, like a film to see what happened at certain points and others that you will come across as the story progresses. As often happens the missing person case links to a dead body pulled from a river and links that Harry and co. discover lead back to a truly despicable underworld trafficking ring. When you throw Harry's personal/home life into the mix you get a good depth of story and a decent feel for believable characters.

I must say I found this a remarkable story. I was drawn in from the start (I finished it in a couple of days) and from early on there was a sense of something being 'not quite right'. When the twists, turns, revelations came however they were certainly not what I expected. Many times I found myself backtracking as I thought 'if that just happened then that earlier thing could not have just happened' - but thanks to the clever writing and planning by the author I was proved wrong. He even pulled off one death scene (I'm trying not to spoilerise things, but, 'hey, it's a thriller, people die in it' isn't totally unexpected) that many authors would not have managed. Harry's is a crazy world that makes a lot of sense.

For me, the sign of a good story is something that keeps you thinking long after the final page and a week after I finished I'm still on the 'did he really just do that?' track

This is a novel of layers and I believe it will benefit from a reread before the second Harry Macadam story comes out later this year.

I've thought long and hard about the star rating and have decided.............(Drum Roll)............

4.3 out of 5 stars - An interesting, puzzling 'onion' of a book from a first time author with a lot of promise. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Beardow

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Deep Magic (Issue 50, June 2016)

Deep Magic is (was) a magazine of 'clean' fiction in the fantasy genre from 2002 to 2006. It shut down after 49 issues but now, 10 years later, it is back in electronic form with a bumper 50th issue.

Just to clarify here, 'clean' fiction is stories without sex, gratuitous violence or strong language. This does not affect the quality of the stories here though. The lack of the aforementioned sex, violence and strong language does not detract from the quality of the stories provided for your entertainment (in fact, if anything, it felt quite refreshing at times). The whole description of 'clean' may make you think 'Young Adult' but Deep Magic is not a 'YA' magazine (not that I'm saying there is anything wrong with 'YA')

So, what do you get in Deep Magic? Five short stories, all of which I enjoyed and by authors I will be looking out for again. They cover fantasy/ magic settings in the main but there is also the SF tinged 'The Perfect Specimen' (which, although not a bad story was probably my least favourite). Added to this, you get the first 6 chapters of Charlie N. Holmberg's new novel, 'Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet' (which is certainly going on my 'To Read' list)

That is not all though.........within these pages there is an article by bestselling author Anthony Ryan ('How I Edit a Novel' - as someone quite new to the editing scene I found this both useful and interesting), Harper Voyager US Executive Editor David Pomerico (Returning To The Light) and interviews with cover artist Eamon O'Donoghue (who did the absolutely gorgeous cover for this edition, trust me, have a look, it is stunning), and a chap you may have heard of......



Brandon Sanderson.


This e-magazine has been sat on my kindle as bedtime reading for the last couple of weeks and I must say I have got a lot of enjoyment out of it. It is just the thing for that end of the day wind down. Will I be reading further editions - most certainly.

A high quality return for Deep Magic and if the standard remains this high I can see only good times ahead for them

4.5/5*

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Tiger and The Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky - A Review

Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the 10 book 'Shadows of the Apt' series has kicked off a new series and this time, instead of humans with insect attributes he gives us tribes of shape shifters........and does it well.

Maniye is the Wolf Clan Chieftain's daughter and, like all her tribe can shift to Wolf form. Her mother though was Queen of the enemy Tiger Tribe and because of this she is also able to take Tiger form. The problems this causes lead her to run away but her father needs her as he plans to use her in his plans to take over the north. He sends Broken Axe, one of his warriors to fetch her back.......the chase is on.

As with SotA Adrian's world building really brings this book to life. The cold north is a believable place as are the people who populate it. The first time I read a character shifting to Wolf form was a real 'goosebumps' moment - and this is coming from someone who isn't a massive fan of Werewolf fiction.

This door stop of a book is an excellent start to the series and the future volumes are only going to get better. If you haven't got a copy yet go get one now, and, if possible, go for the physical copy - the cover art is gorgeous.

Often I don't give a first book in a series full star rating as I like to leave room to rate upwards in later volumes but this time I have to - it really is storytelling of the highest order

5/5 stars

Ashley's Tale by Mike Duke - A Review

Ashley's Tale is only short (around 54 pages) but it certainly packs plenty in. It starts in brutal fashion with Ashley being kidnapped at knife point and, to be honest it made for slightly uncomfortable reading for a short while. Things picked up quickly though when the realisation of what was happening kicked in. It's tricky to review this short story without dropping spoilers so I'm going to trust and hope that you will pick it up and see for yourself.

I will say though that following Ashley's journey was interesting with enough twists and revelations to keep
momentum going. The ending leaves things open for more of the story.

In short, a dark, intense, violent tale of revenge with characters of dubious morality that hooked me in. For a first time author this is impressive stuff - bring on the next

4/5 stars

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Last Call At The Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger - A Review

Well, I didn't know quite what to expect when this popped through my letterbox. The press release seemed to be selling it as a Buffy The Vampire Slayer style urban fantasy set in the bars of Chicago (So, Buffy The Bartender I guess). Thankfully I'm a big Buffy fan so decided to give it a go - good choice as it turns out.

The story itself revolves around Bailey Chen, a college graduate who is now living back with her parents while searching for employment. Until she finds that 'perfect job' her 'best friend from high school', Zane, has got her a job working in the back of a bar. As it turns out Zane and his co-workers are no ordinary barrels - using various specifically mixed cocktails gives them certain powers for a limited time (example Martini = invisibility) and they use these powers to keep the drinkers of Chicago safe from demons that prey on them when alcohol has had it's effect.
After stumbling onto the fact she is a natural radiologist Bailey soon becomes part of the team. There is much for the reader to enjoy with this book.The three main strands -fighting the Tremens (the aforementioned demons), the search for the perfect Long Island Ice Tea (the Holy Trail of cocktails that could have devastating consequences for the human race if it falls into the wrong hands) and all the 'personal life's stuff you would expect from this kind of book - all sit well together and the story as a whole certainly left me hoping there will be more.

What makes this book that little bit different is that throughout the story there are sections from The Devil's Water Dictionary which is, basically, the mixologists must have guide to cocktails and their uses. Very entertaining and useful if you wish to make your own cocktails (I'll certainly be trying a few out).

All in all this was a fun read and if you are a fan of Buffy and Urban Fantasy certainly worth your time. Also, the book itself is really nicely put together so well done Quirk Books for that.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Twelve Kings In Sharakhai by Bradley P Beaulieu - A Review

This review was originally posted on Theresa Derwin's TerrorTree site (www.terrortree.co.uk)


12 Kings in Sharakhai –
Author: Bradley Beaulieu
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 3rd Sept 2015
Page count: 592pp


One thing you need to know before you pick up this book – 12 Kings In Sharakhai is a big book, one of those that will eat away at your free time and keep you up well into the night. Forgive me the clichĂ© please but 12 Kings really does put the Epic in Epic Fantasy.

Usually I’d start a review with the characters but the desert city of Sharakhai deserves pride of place this time. Sharakhai is huge, a massive trade and diplomatic hub in the middle of the desert peopled by the vast array of differing peoples you would expect. Luckily Bradley P Beaulieu has the world building skills to bring such a city to life. You get the feel of the desert’s heat, the dust and sand, the narrow streets and the imposing buildings. When the story starts out we are in the fighting pits and I swear it was just like reading in 3D Surround Sound.

It is in the fighting pits we first get to meet our hero Ceda, who fights as The White Wolf, a popular figure amongst those who come to watch and gamble on the outcome of the battles. Right from the start it is clear that Ceda is a bit special as she easily defeats an opponent much bigger than herself. Ceda is a strong, independent warrior type, maybe a bit Xena-like at times but she isn’t over cocky with it which I liked. She still needs her friends around her and they round off her character well.

Back to Sharakhai; The city is ruled by the 12 seemingly immortal kings that give the book it’s title. Many people live in fear of them, many hate them. Ceda is one of those people. As it turns out the Kings have secrets, secrets they want to keep at any cost. We find out through flashbacks that Ceda’s mother discovered one of those secrets when Ceda was only 8 years old. When she tried to make use of her knowledge she was taken by the Kings, executed and her body hung from the city walls as an example to others.

Ceda is not about to let them get away with it and 11 years later she wants her vengeance.

I’ll admit, this book had me excited from the minute I heard of it. I’m a sucker for a big sprawling epic and this certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s good to get away from the pseudo-medieval settings that most fantasy epics go for – the setting here being more Persian in feel. Beaulieu does a good job of bringing the desert to life and although the city is bustling and the characters are many the narrative doesn’t feel crowded. There is a lot of mystery in this story and you aren’t always sure who is in the right, who is in the wrong – at times there are groups against each other who are actually both aiming for the same ends – but it all makes for what is probably going to be one of THE fantasy books of the year and a series that will surely be up there with the Big Boys

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Guest Post by Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör and My Best Friend's Exorcism

So,today I have the honour of hosting a guest post by Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör and new release, My Best Friend's Exorcism, which I've read and very much enjoyed, I think you will too (review published earlier on this blog)

So, without further ado.......Heeeeeeeeere's Grady!!



FORGOTTEN HORROR MOVIES OF THE EIGHTIES THAT YOU NEED TO SEE, LIKE, NOW
Chances are good that you’re a normal person who doesn’t remember much about any horror movies from the Eighties, and in that case there are some great films out there just waiting for you to discover like Lifeforce, Near Dark, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and The Evil Dead II. But just in case those are all old hat to you, here are some neglected classics that pack in more fun and scares per second than many more modern, more expensive, and more well-known films.

The Stepfather (1987) - one of those movies from the Eighties that scarred everyone who saw it, Terry O’Quinn (Lost) plays a real-life serial husband who got married and lived the all-American life until some minor setback sent him into a rage, at which point he murdered his entire family, and moved on to the next one, where everything started all over again. Featuring one of the sickest narrative fake-outs ever put on film, even in an era when women-in-peril movies dominate cable television, this flick still stings.

Trick or Treat (1986) - there might be something better than a heavy metal horror movie about a record that summons a demonic rock star when it’s played backwards, that features cameos by Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons as well as music by Fastway and an electric guitar that kills people, but I can’t think of it right now.

Boxer’s Omen (1983) - Hong Kong horror has always been gunky and crunky, but its grandest achievement is this movie about...well, who cares? What matters are the endless battles between wizards in which live chickens are eaten, animated alligator skulls give birth to bats, flying fetuses rise up out of piles of vomit and strangle Buddhist monks with their entrails, and dead girls are sewn into the bellies of crocodiles.

The Entity (1982) - Barbara Hershey plays a single mom who’s just holding on, trying to make a life for her kids, so she really doesn’t have time to cope with a ghost haunting her modest middle class house. Jaws drop and eyes pop as viewers realize that this ghost wants a new girlfriend and it’s selected Barbara as its main squeeze. How do you stop a phantom lover that won’t take “no” for an answer? Featuring some of the creepiest setpieces ever put on film, this is the kind of movie that sears itself onto your brain forever.

Night of the Comet (1984) - it’s the end of the world and the only survivors are two Valley Girls and a bunch of mutated sleazebags. Like, Oh My God! Gag me with a spoon! By turns adorable and awesome, it’s a movie that teaches us that the least of us (airhead mall rats) will rise to the occasion when the pressure’s on and the call comes to pick up machine guns and ventilate mutant skulls in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It also happens to be a fantastic movie about female friendship.

Special Bulletin (1983) - it’s hard to describe to people who are too young to have lived through it, but those of us who grew up in the Eighties were firmly convinced that we’d probably die in a nuclear holocaust. Not helping the problem were made-for-TV movies like Special Bulletin, a found footage film that purported to be a newscast breaking into regular programming to detail the tense stand-off in Charleston Harbor between the military and terrorists who had a nuclear device. The movie ends with a failed raid on the terrorists and the device going off, resulting in scenes of charred, radioactive bodies being buried by bulldozer. It didn’t help that I lived in Charleston. Both times this film aired on television the state telephone system melted down as it got overloaded with calls from frightened relatives who wanted to make sure we were still alive. We were alive, but totally traumatized.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is out now in hardback from Quirk Books, £14.99.

Grady Hendrix lives in New York. He is the author of Horrorstör, a novel about a haunted IKEA store, which is being turned into a series by Gail Berman (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl). Previously a journalist, he is also a co-founder of the New York Asian Film Festival. Visit his website www.gradyhendrix.com or follow him on Twitter @grady_hendrix.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Ruin (The Faithful and The Fall book 3) by John Gwynne - a review

This review was originally posted on TerrorTree (www.terrortree.co.uk) around August 2015


Right, before we get started, please be aware that Ruin is the third of four books that make up ‘The Faithful and The Fallen’ (the two previous are Malice and Valour, book 4 is, I believe, to be titled Wrath and is currently a Work In Progress). You need to know this because you really don’t want to pick up Ruin not having read the two previous volumes – trust me, you would not have a clue what was what, who was who. Also, weighing in at just under 750 pages and currently in Hardback, this book is HUGE!

To be fair though the size of the book is a fair representation of the size of the story. Ruin picks up directly from where Valour left off. Our heroes are, as you would expect, separated and in various parts of the land, the ‘enemy’ seems to be growing stronger and the dangers and battles just continue to get bigger and bigger. Our main hero, Corban, thought to be The Bright Star, the ‘chosen one of prophecy’, fills the role of village lad turned hero ably but unlike some heroes he doesn’t always seem happy with his lot. You get the idea that he is doing it because someone has to and it might as well be him. As a character I like him a lot.

On the other side of the coin we have the ‘bad guys’. We have Queen Rhin, who is just Evil and High King Nathair who we have seen grow from spoilt brat type in the earlier books to Corban’s opposite, the one he is destined to face in the final battle (although he did start out thinking that HE was the Bright Star). As a character he has probably had the most interesting ‘journey’.

The chapters are done as viewpoint chapters (a la Game of Thrones) so the story never really stands still for too long. The downside to this for me (and this is only my point of view) is that after finishing chapters featuring some of the characters I found myself rifling through the pages to see how long until I was coming back to them. I guess there were just some storylines and characters I found more interesting or held my attention more.

As for the world itself and the peoples of it, there is a nice map in the front (useful for keeping track of who’s where) and a cast of characters, with a few words to remind you of who’s done what and where we left them at the end of the last book – both of these were invaluable. I did feel that some of the place names were reminiscent of Tolkein in their pronunciation, but again, that’s not a bad thing.

Where John Gwynne really shows his strength, in my opinion, is the battle scenes. The guy really knows his weaponry and tactics. The battles are brutal and bloody, just as they should be (especially when you chuck giants, bears, draigs and huge wolf like beasts into the mix). All through the book it builds, the smaller battles leading towards bigger and bigger ones and leading to a climax that will knock you for six (I had ideas of what was coming but I never expected what did). As a middle book you would expect to have a lot of wandering around to get people and artefacts where they need to be for the big finale of the final book but this never really felt like that. I have no idea how things will end up in the great scheme of things but I know it isn’t going to be an easy ride for Corban, his allies and the readers.

Gwynne’s writing has improved over the course of the three books so far and I have no reason to doubt it will continue through book 4. This is a big book in a big series by an author who looks like being one of the main players on the British, indeed Worldwide, fantasy scene for many years to come, so put yourself some time aside to lose yourself in this epic. Just don’t expect to come out of it with your heart in one piece