Thursday 19 December 2013

King's Artesan by Cas Peace - A review

This, book 3 in the first of the 3 trilogies, picks up from exactly where the second ended. Major Sullyan (Sully)has won her battle but is suffering severe injuries as a consequence. With help she manages to remove the majority of the poison on her body but there is still a small portion within her she can't reach and if it is left there it will kill her.

The answer turns out to be that to cure her completely she needs the staff, the 'maguffin' from the first book, which is still in Taran's cellar back in their home realm but Sully, due to the poison in her system is unable to cross between realms so it is up to her friends to retrieve the staff before the enemy get to it.

This is a very good end to a quite remarkable story and the author has done a very good job of tying up the loose ends here while setting things in motion for the next series in the trilogy. The whole world (or series of world's if you want to think of it like that)is well realized and the lead characters are the kind of people you want to spend time with. Add to that a quite clever magic system and you're onto a winner.

As a lead character Sully is probably one of the best there is at this moment in time. She is a leader who cares for, and about, those under her command and her friends but is prepared to do what
 is needed to get the job done.

So, the next up will be a new trilogy and hopefully it won't be too far away as I can't wait to travel in Cas Peace's realms again.

A phenomenal effort - 5 out of 5 stars

The Broken Shore by Catriona King - a review

The fifth book to feature Superintendent Marc Craig and his squad is more of what I expected - an intriguing murder to keep you guessing (even when you think you have the answer you'll find you are doubting yourself), a good feel for Belfast and the surrounding area, and the company of characters that feel like old friends.

The Crime this time involves the murder of a young woman where method and location have startling similarities to a murder 30 years ago, at the height of The Troubles. There is also a side Story that is a lot closer to home for one of the characters.

There is reference to events from earlier in the series and appearances from at least one character from a previous story so it would be of benefit (although not essential) to read the other books first.

As with the previous books in the series the storytelling is top notch, making you want more when the book is over. There is insight into the lives of the squad members, sometimes little things, sometimes momentous, but even the little things feel like they matter.

I am looking forward to the next book and seeing where things go for Marc Craig and his team. One thing is certain - Catriona King is a writer who deserves to be up there with the best of the crime writers -I see a bright future ahead for her

Friday 13 December 2013

Nine Lives by Terry Tyler - a review

I must say that until recently I haven't been a massive fan of short stories but here is another collection that has helped to change my mind.
I have been a fan of Terry Tyler's long fiction so trying the "short stuff" didn't take too much thinking about.
What we have here are nine excellent slices of human life, each slightly different but all well told. The author, as she usually does, gets you right under the skin of her characters. The stories, as you would expect, are not over long but that doesn't lessen the enjoyment factor.
A good solid collection suited to both male and female readers. Hopefully there will be more like this in the future.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Painter of the Heavens by Bart Stewart (a review)

I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a true and fair review.

This is a story of two parts, the first being the meeting, relationship etc of the two main characters, Penny and Lyle, the second part being the aftermath of their actions. When they meet it seems in his bookshop. She falls for him straight away and they have several discreet dates but he tells her he is on the verge of "something big" so she must keep their relationship secret and tell no-one.

After several dates he lets her in on his secret - he, along with an acquaintance, has forged a letter from William Shakespeare and now he knows he can trust her he needs her help to sell it at auction, after which they will spend the future together living a much better life from the profits.

As you would expect from this kind of story things go wrong just as they are about to make good their escape to pastures new and the story turns into a hell for leather chase and that is where the story real picks up pace. The first 3/4's of the book felt like it could have been a strand for a season of Desperate Housewives and went at a much steadier pace.

The main problem for me was the lead characters - I just didn't connect with them overly. Lyle, as he needed to be, was a somewhat shady guy but Penny was just a little too wet. The way he treat her at times I would have expected her to leave him but she just kept going back to him.

The final resolution of events worked out well though. That seemed more like the Penny I would have expected her to be.

All in all, an enjoyable enough book that would make good holiday reading (and as for the Desperate Housewives comment - that was meant as a compliment, I was actually  a fan of the show)

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Shot Through The Heart by Ed James (review)

Ed James will be better known to his readers for the (quite excellent) Cullen books, a series of detective stories set in and around Edinburgh.

This latest from him moves him firmly into supernatural/ Hammer House of Horror territory - and, boy, has he done it well.

The story revolves around Mark Campbell who is writing a book on 'The Clearences' - not a good time in Scotlands history. Having a wife and new baby Mark uses an assistant to do some of his research but gets a call to say she is missing.

Mark goes up to the village of Ruthven to search for her but (as you may expect) all is not as it seems. Some of the villagers will talk to him, some won't, but there are certainly 'things afoot' in the Highlands of Scotland.

I do not want to give too much away so all I will say is, the book is very atmospheric and ramps up a lot of the tension by suggestion rather than blood and guts on every page. We see a man slowly seeming to fall slowly apart as he tries to come to terms with what is happening both to him and around him.

As I mentioned earlier, very much in the Hammer vein but also rather reminiscent of mid career James Herbert (when I felt he did his best work)

4 and 1/2 stars

Friday 18 October 2013

Congress of the Dead by Timothy W Long (a review)

What a brilliant idea....America was in shutdown at the time this short story was written, politicians bickering over the budget, people not being able to go to work in certain sectors. In a time of gloom and despondency one man set out to have some fun and put a smile back on peoples faces by doing what he does best.......sending the zombies to Congress.

What impressed me first and foremost was that although this is only a short story there is still time for the author to give a reason for the start of the zombie outbreak (so few zombie authors do that these days).

Timothy. W. Long is one of the leaders in the field of both zombie fiction and comedy zombie fiction. This falls firmly into the latter catagory and is a must read.

Now, any chance the same can be done for the UK government ;-)

Monday 14 October 2013

Six of the Best: A Hellish Half Dozen by Kevin Bufton (a review)

A couple of weeks ago I entered a competition on facebook, the prize was a copy of this book - thankfully I won. This is a really good collection!

As you would expect from the title their are six short stories in this collection, three zombie tales and three general horror.

The book opens with Mother's Milk, a truly disturbing tale of mother and child in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. I had become a little tired  the whole zombie genre before reading this story but this author has really made me change my mind. It has moments that will truly set the reader on edge, horror as it should be.

Next comes 'The Shoot' where a wrestling fan gets to interview The Masked Marauder, the first interview the MM has ever done, and learns a secret he wasn't expecting.

Next up, '53' another zombie tale, set in the same universe as Mother's Milk. The 53 in the title is the time between death and reanimation. The story is set in what is left of a hospital and shows another angle to life after the apocalypse.

Roots, story 4 is set in the Old West with a father and two sons under siege from..........tumbleweed

The Wren is in the style of a folk tale set around Christmas but certainly not with a Christmassy ending.

The final story, Hooked, is another zombie tale but this time with a nautical leaning and set in the mid 19th century.

All these stories are of a very high quality. Horror, as a genre, can seem a bit overdone at times but this collection gives me hope for the future. I will certainly be looking out for more from this author and I suggest that, if horror is your thing, you do too, but for now I am heartily recommending this collection to you.

The Starers by Nathan Robinson (a review)

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Imagine, if you will, the usual zombie/ heroes under siege story.....then turn it on it's head!!

The heroes, such as they are, are Dylan Keene,  his wife Kirsty, daughter Lucy and his brother Lennon. It starts, innocuously enough, with Dylan and Lennon heading home from a night in the local pub. What they do not notice is the guy at the bus stop who just sts and watches them......he is just the first.

By the morning there are more. Many more. They are on the lawn, they are surrounding the house. Throughout the town everybody seems to have just stopped to stare at the Keene house.

The 'family under siege' aspect of the story is one that has been done many times before but always, you know something is going to happen. The zombies, or whatever the threat is (and let's be honest, these days it's nearly always zombies), are going to attack at some point and start with the ripping and tearing and flesh eating. And that is where this story is different, the antagonists, the people outside, do..................absolutely nothing! They just stand outside the house and throughout the town, and just .................stare.

It really is quite unsettling for the family, they cannot leave, and the people outside continue to do......nothing!!

Something is coming, but no-one knows what and when the something arrives, things will surely take a turn for the worst.

This is a good turnaround for the genre, the unzombie novel and a good tale it is too. Nathan Robinson is certainly a name to watch for the future - you'll be hearing a lot more from him.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Beyond the Tempest Gate by Jeff Suwak - a review

This novella, telling the tale of The Holy Knight Gabriel and his quest to go beyond the elemental Tempest Gate to dispose of the demon Elezear really is a pleasant surprise.

The tale kicks off with Gabriel approaching the Gate by boat. The Gate was put in place by wizards after an earlier event (sorry if I seem vague here but I don't want to give spoilers). He is on a quest to rid the world of the demon Elezear, a quest that only he, as The Holy Knight, can complete.

The chapters flow well - current storyline / backstory / current storyline etc and there really is so much here that I really found it hard to believe it was only a novella (76 pages but worth every penny/cent/euro).

The world on both sides of The Gate is really well drawn as is the actual Gate itself and shows good skills for world building which promises lots for this author, as does the way he adds little twists to the characters and their motivations.

Some of the scenes later on in the story reminded me, in a way, of the films of the late Ray Harryhausen - and I do believe this story would benefit from being filmed by a quality effects studio.

So, all in all, a wonderfully told tale that will leave you wanting more from Mr.Suwak - I know I will be eagerly waiting for more from this promising young author

Monday 9 September 2013

Go see a show

So, this weekend, my better half, Marie, and I headed down to London on a mini-break. We always try and see a show when down in the capital and this year we went for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory..................and, boy, did we make an excellent choice.

The show was quality from start to end, actors, story, stagecraft all beyond wonderful. Believe me, we left the theatre with a smile and the knowledge that we had just seen something special.

It did make me realise though, and I'd not thought about this before, but I believe Charlie and the Chocolate factory may well have been the story that set me off on the path that leads to where my reading preferences are today. The world of Charlie Bucket is a place of wonders and magic and the characters are so larger than life it almost seems like an understatement.

The point I wanted to make today though is this - you can go and see all the multimillion dollar blockbusters at the cinema you wish but if you want a truly magical and entertaining evening, go to the theatre.

A theatre show is a one chance thing - the actor forgets his/her lines there is no retake, the scenery/effects are only as much as you can fit on the stage, but it is so much more than a movie experience. You almost feel as if you are a part of the show and you are certainly part of the experience.

So, take the chance - GO SEE A SHOW!!! (and hey, you'll be supporting the arts as well)

Saturday 17 August 2013

Guest post by Cas Peace

Today, my blog features a guest post from Cas Peace, author of the Artesans of Alba series from Rhemalda Publishing. An article about getting the books published, the blurb for the books (and trust me they are a wonderful series) and a chance to enter a draw to win copies.
So, please welcome Cas
Cas Peace.jpg

Author Bio:
Cas Peace lives in the lovely county of Hampshire, UK, where she was born. On leaving school she trained for two years before qualifying as horse-riding instructor. During this time she also learned to carriage-drive. She then spent thirteen years in the British Civil Service before moving to Rome, Italy, where she and her husband, Dave, lived for three years. They enjoy returning whenever they can. As well as working on her writing, Cas loves walking, growing cacti, and playing the bodhran. She supports many animal charities and owns two rescue Lurchers, Milly and Milo. She also loves to sing, and is currently writing and recording nine folk-type songs to accompany each of her fantasy books.
See the video of her performing ‘The Wheel Will Turn,’ from King’s Envoy, live at the King’s Envoy book launch in 2011:
All her songs are available as free downloads from her website:
Blurb for King’s Envoy:
Taran Elijah’s quest for knowledge uncovers a plot that threatens the world…
In Albia, the Fourth Realm, the precious Artesan gift is dying. Although born to the craft, Taran is struggling to achieve his potential. Against his friends’ advice, he embarks on a foolhardy plan to acquire the teaching he craves. Alone, he crosses into Andaryon, the Fifth Realm, but instead of finding a mentor, he stumbles upon a treacherous plot.
In the wake of Taran’s actions, Albia suffers a series of vicious raids. Major Sullyan of the High King’s forces is sent to oppose them. But a dark and treacherous force is moving through the realms and both Taran and Sullyan will feel its power.
Their craft, the lives of their friends, the very existence of their realm are under threat unless they expose and oppose the evil.
Blurb for King’s Champion:
After surviving brutal torture and escaping from Lord Rykan’s dungeons, Major Sullyan is trapped in Andaryon, too injured to cross the Veils. Slowly dying and determined to find some purpose in the shattered remains of her life, she travels to the Andaryan capitol to offer the Hierarch her sword and Artesan gifts in the fight against Rykan and his vast army. Because women hold no power in Andaryon, Sullyan is met with prejudice, hostility, and suspicion.
Before she can seek vengeance on the field of battle, she must prove herself to the Hierarch’s generals. Finding support from the unlikeliest sources, Sullyan sets a plan in motion to defeat Lord Rykan and end his bid for the throne. The fate of two realms depends on her success, but her strength is fading fast, and time is running out.
Blurb for King’s Artesan:
Unable to purge herself of the poison that is slowly killing her, Major Sullyan remains trapped in Andaryon. The only thing that can save her is the Staff, which still lies buried in Taran’s cellar.
Robin Tamsen sets out on a desperate quest to recover the artifact, but the enemy is two steps ahead of him. Sonten knows where the Staff is, and he will stop at nothing to get it back. If he does, Sullyan’s life will be forfeit and no Artesan will be safe.
The race for the Staff has begun.
How I Kept Going in the Dark Days
Sometimes, when I look back on the last two and a half years, I have a really hard time remembering what it was like trying to get my fantasy series published. Here we are in 2013, and King’s Artesan, the third book in the first trilogy of my Artesans series, has just been published by Rhemalda Publishing. The entire process has been a wonderful experience – from Rhemalda’s initial request to read the full ms of King’s Envoy, to getting an offer, receiving the contract, trying to understand the contract, getting advice on it and doing some negotiating, to signing (and becoming a bona fide “AUTHOR” – Yay!!) through the editing process, the book layout and cover design. All of this has been a true rollercoaster of excitement, self-doubt, euphoria, worry, achievement depression, elation, and stress. Pretty much the full gamut of human emotions. Sometimes I wonder how on earth I coped with it!
Having said that, I guess the dark days of researching publishers and agents, submitting, and getting rejections, were just as high and low. I’d forgotten the childlike excitement of finding a new outfit to submit to. That initial buzz when you read “what we are looking for” and realise that your book fits the bill to a T. Writing that very carefully-worded query letter I mustn’t sound cocky – but how do I sound upbeat and enthusiastic without sounding cocky? and agonising over the synopsis. Just how DO you condense 150,000 words and a complex plot and sub-plot into three pages?? It simply can’t be done! And then printing off the brand-new, shiny white, never-touched-by-human-hand sample chapters of your masterpiece that you just know they’re going to love, and slipping it into a specially-bought, double-strength manila envelope that – yes! – you lovingly kiss for luck as you send it on its way.
Then – eventually (maybe) – there’s a thump on the doormat. Your fingers tremble as you struggle to open the SAE you so carefully enclosed. You can tell before you open it that they’ve returned your sample chapters. Oh-oh. Is that good or bad? It’s good, surely – they’ll want the entire ms sent in one go, silly, they won’t ask you to just send chapters 4 – 31! Still trembling, you slip out the letter – only to find it’s actually your letter, the one you spent so much time on. Not a good sign. The heart begins to droop. It droops further when you fish around in the envelope and find (if you’re lucky!) the standard, pre-printed rejection slip. “Thank you for your query, but I’m afraid your work doesn’t fit our list at present. Yours, A. N. Agent.” If you’re even luckier, you might get a personal letter from your chosen recipient telling you that they thought your work was good, it just wasn’t for them. Is that better or worse than the standard, impersonal slip? What’s even luckier – and I was fortunate indeed to receive a few of these – is the entirely personal, hand-written reply giving you valuable feedback and even a suggestion as to whom you might try next. Those really help lift spirits downtrodden by the evil rejection of your potentially-award-winning masterpiece!
So how did I keep going during the ten years it took me to find Rhemalda Publishing? The answer is Faith. Faith in myself and my work. Every time I received a rejection, I allowed myself to feel disappointment. It’s no good telling yourself not to, you will anyway so you might as well accept it! Then I picked myself up and looked for someone else to query. I didn’t waste too much time thumping the wall, or smashing plates, or being grumpy to my husband (yes, I was sometimes, sorry Dave!) I just tried to stay positive. I do believe that if you feel negative, you invite negativity, but if you stay positive, positive things will happen. Somewhere deep inside, I just knew my books would find their home. Too many agents and publishers told me that for me to doubt it. I just hadn’t found the right one yet. Too many coincidences associated with my characters or storyline kept happening and they all helped keep me motivated and pushed me to keep trying. And I took notice of that old mantra we’ve all heard a million times – NEVER GIVE UP. Because it works.
And now here I am, celebrating the publication of Book Three, King’s Artesan. I am in talks with Rhemalda regarding the next trilogy in the series, Circle of Conspiracy. If all goes well, the next three books could be published during 2014. After that comes the final trilogy, Master of Malice. And I am also working on a YA prequel to the series, working title Maiden of Mysteries.
So you already know my advice – have faith and KEEP TRYING. You never know how close you could be to that deal … J

Now, for the link to the rafflecoptor prize draw

Good luck to all and thanks for joining us today

Friday 9 August 2013

The Demi-Monde (Summer) by Rod Rees - a review

And the fun and adventure continue with Summer, the third book in Rod Rees' quite wonderful Demi-Monde series. For starters though, let me advise that you read Winter and Spring (books 1 and 2 in the series) first because, believe me you will be completely and utterly lost. This is a series that rewards you for sticking with it by opening up a new area of the Demi-Monde with each new book - this being the third we visit the area known as The Coven (Rangoon, Tokyo and Beijing) as well as the places we visited in earlier episodes.

The usual characters are here, but there are a bunch of new "figures from history" again, half of the fun is wondering who will make an appearance next. If you've got this far really you'll know what to expect - the humour and clever wordplay once again running strong throughout.

With Summer things are slowly starting to come to a head, ready for Fall, the fourth and final book in this thoroughly entertaining series. All the major players are starting to show their hands, things in The Demi-Monde and The Real World may never be the same again. It's going to be down to a small group of heroes to save both worlds.

In short, rip-roaring, non stop action in a cyber reality and the real world. Don't miss this series, it's a real treat.

Four and a half stars

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Doctor Who - The Tick Box Terror

Right, first things first - a few little points

  1) This post is just my thoughts and opinions on the recent revelation of the twelfth incarnation of Doctor Who. The thoughts and opinions are all my own and I am not trying to upset anyone. If I do upset you, please feel free to let me know.

  2) This may be a bit of a rambly post.....

Still with me?


Right, earlier this year Matt Smith announced his intention to leave the role of Doctor Who incarnation number 11. Straight away the usual questions and statements started to be raised in the press and public -  It's time for a black actor to take the role, it's time the Doctor regenerated into a woman etc etc.

I don't get it

I really just DO .NOT. GET. IT!

Okay, in the Let's Kill Hitler episode Melody, the friend and (although they didn't know it at the time) daughter of Amy and Rory was  a darker skinned actress who regenerated into River Song so the possibility of The Doctor changing skin colour I can accept.

The one that really gets my goat is the idea that a The Doctor should change gender. It really does not make any sense to me. It is a fact of life that men and women are 'built' differently. If it were possible, the mechanics of it just, for me don't add up.

But, and this, to me, is where I feel strongest - why can't it just be left alone. The character of The Doctor is a white, male so let's just leave it at that and be happy. There is no need whatsoever to enter the Tick Box realm where a character is not chosen because he/she is the right person but because it's seen as pc to give them the part ( and here's a small point - I've never heard anyone suggest he should be Chinese or any other Asian race)

Now, after my little mini rant (or rantlet ,if you will), my thoughts on the new Doctor

In 1996 I just happened to fall across a drama on BBC1 and watched it just because there was nothing else on at the time. That drama was The Crow Road (based on the Iain Banks novel of the same name) and one of the main characters was Uncle Rory (who was missing but appeared to the main character Prentice McHoan as a ghost type) who was played by Peter Capaldi.

This show turned out to be one of my all time favourites and my initial thoughts included "that guy would make a brilliant Doctor." So, as I'm sure you'll have guessed by now, when Peter Capaldi was announced as Doctor 12 I was over the moon - matter of fact I still am. I think he will do a great job.

But, as you would expect, and I suppose it's inevitable, some people are not happy. He is too old, he is not 'pretty enough', he is white, he is a he yadda yadda yadda......

I believe he is the right person for the job and the future of the show is in safe hands.

As I said at the beginning of this post I have not set out to offend or upset anyone here and if you feel I have, please accept my heartfelt and most sincere apologies. Please feel free to respond or get in touch.

Right, if you've stayed the distance here, thank you for listening/ reading.

I'll be back to the book reviews soon but Doctor Who is a show that has been my 'thing' since seeing The Sea Devils in 1972 and I felt I had to say my bit.

Saturday 27 July 2013

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence - a review

King of Thorns continues the story of  Honorous Jorg Ancrath, now ruling the Renar Highlands, taken from his uncle at the end of Prince of Thorns. It is now four or so years after the events of Prince and all is not well.

The Prince of Arrow and his army are at the gates and ready to take Jorg's castle and lands. The Prince of Arrow is intending to become the emperor of the 100 Kingdom's and all prophecies seem to say he will be successful in his quest.

As before the main story is set in two timelines - "now" and "four years earlier". The events of the two timelines work well to take the story along at a good pace, events in the past being revealed, often, just as they become relevent to events "now".

Added to these timelines we also get scraps from the journal of Katherine Ap Scorron, Jorg's aunt, the one woman he really seems bothered about (and that may well be an understatement!). Also, part of Jorg's tale from "4 years ago" led to events that were to drive him to insanity. The only cure for this was to visit a man who put all these events in a box "NEVER to be opened". These events trickle out slowly through the tale so you seem to have four storylines going on but it is done in such a masterful way that I at no time thought "what the hell is going on here"

Many middle books in trilogies are travel books and this is no different. The "4 years ago" section covers a lot of ground from the lands of ice to the Mediterranean like land of his Grandfather. The difference is that many middle books can be the weaker of the three. This is certainly not the case here, not by a long way. The land of this series is obviously future Earth. You can tell by just looking at the map. The place names are often very similar to the world we know now as well (Barlona for example) and as before, there are hints of the science from the world before. Mark Lawrence paints a wonderful picture of his world and it is a pleasure to travel in it.

Jorg always seems to be at his best when the odds are against him and with the Prince of Arrow at his gates there seems to be no way of winning. The events at the climax of this story - I never saw them coming. The author throws such a curveball as I haven't seen in a long time. The twist is very, VERY clever.

With this book Mark Lawrence hasn't just pulled the rabbit out of the hat, he's also taught it to do tricks, learn spanish etc get my drift. Possibly the best fantasy book I have read this year and the only reason I am giving it 4.5 stars is that on this performance Emperor of Thorns (which is now in my possession) will be even better and will earn the 5 stars.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - a review

This Young Adult novel is the first in a series , The Grisha, set in the nation of Ravka - a land very similar to Russia at the time of the Tsars. The big powers here are the Grisha, the 'magic users'.
The story follows Alina, an orphan, who is tested for 'Grisha powers' at a young age (along with her fellow orphan Mal) they both test negative and time goes on.
When they leave the orphanage as they get older and join the army, Alina as a cartographer's assistant and Mal as a soldier. They are together on a trip through the Shadow Fold - a darkly impenetrable slash across the land, growing year by year, that houses horrors and creatures that are almost beyond imagination.
When they are part way through their sand skiff is attacked and in a blinding light Alina unleashes her magic........
After a strong start I did feel this was going to be a bit of a Harry Potter meets Twilight kind of book (Alina goes to learn how to control her magic and comes to the attention of the dark, brooding Darkling - the Chief Grisha) but it turned out to be a lot better than that.
It turns out that Alina is the opposite and also the partner to The Darkling (a kind of light/dark balance) and she may be just what is needed to sort out the Shadow'll just have to read this quite excellent little book for yourself.
There were two things that really sold this book for me. The first was the setting, as I said earlier it is reminiscent of Tsarist Russia, the atmosphere of the place seeps off the page and stays with you long after the book is finished. The second is the characters, and this was quite refreshing for me. There are not many that feel GOOD or EVIL, most are a blurry grey, more realistic in my eyes.
The story goes on at a steady pace for the first half of the book but somewhere just past the middle things step up a couple of gears and give you enough twists to keep you from putting the book down.
All in all a very competent and well told story with many good ideas - I shall be looking out for the next in the series, believe me

Saturday 20 July 2013

The Demi-Monde; Spring by Rod Rees - a review

Spring is the second volume of Rod Rees' four volume Demi-Monde series.

If you've read volume 1, Winter, (and if you haven't, you really do need to as coming into this blind you really will be confused) you will know that the Demi-Monde is a massive computer simulation allegedly for the US military to train soldiers. The reality is a lot more frightening. It is populated with simulations of some of the vilest, nastiest people from history and someone has plans for the real world.

The first book finished on 3 separate cliff-hangers, and where this book stands out for me, the start here is just before one of the fore-mentioned cliff-hangers (similar to how Dr Who used to handle episode starts/ends back in the day).

A good few of the main characters are still here but this volume also gives more time for secondary characters, mainly Burlesque Bandstand, the former bar owner and general wide boy, and his 'associate' Rivets. These two are really good fun.

One of the characters , Catherine Sophia, Doge of Venice, a new for this volume, though was, in my opinion, quite iritating. The problem is the way she speaks. She has spent a lot of time in many of the other European sections of the Demi-Monde so the way she speaks is a cobbled together mish mash of several accents and this can grate a bit after a while.

Back to the good stuff though...Spring introduces us to the Paris and Venice sections of the Demi-Monde in all their glory. Also, some interesting new people from these sectors, Michel de Nostradame, Robespierre, the Marquis de Sade, even appearances from Josef Mengele, Cassanova and Mata Hari.

In the real world Aaliz Heydrich is settling into her role as the daughter of the US president (in the place of Norma who is still trapped in the Demi-Monde).

There is a lot going on in this story but I believe that even though we are now at the half-way point in the series there is still so much we are unaware of, lots more surprises and revelations to come.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence - a review

Set in the 100 Kingdom's, this is the story of Jorg, the titular Prince and his gang of  'Road Brothers'.

It is clear from the start that Jorg and the brothers are not nice people. They roam the land looting and burning more or less everything and everybody they come across - and Jorg, although the leader, is only 13.

Please don't let this put you off because the differences between Jorg and many other fantasy heroes is what makes this a refreshingly different story (although it probably strikes as similar to Game of Thrones - can't say for sure as I haven't read GoT).

Early on in the story Jorg decides (or is it decided for him?) that he will turn for home and claim his birthright as the son of the king. We learn through flashbacks how Jorg came to be where he is, and these flashbacks really and meat to the bones of what is already a meaty story.

The world of the 100 Kingdoms is our world way into the future after what seems like a massive nuclear event. There are many hints at this, most intended (Jorg reads the likes of Plato, Euclid, Nietzsche and Sun Tzu) and some maybe not so ("Hangings, beheadings, impalements - oh my" - reminiscent of  "Lions and tigers and bears - oh my" from The Wizard of Oz, but of all things, would The Wizard of Oz still be remembered several thousand years in the future?). The church is still around, much as you would expect in a medievil setting with 'Dear Jesu' an oft spoken phrase and references to Ave Maria, David and Goliath, Gog and Magog etc.

They also still read and quote Shakespeare in both natural (Is this a dagger I see before me) and bastardized (Now is the winter of our Hundred War made fearsome summer by this prodigal son) forms.

The story has everything you could want from modern fantasy - heroics, quests, betrayal, all set in a well realised land and with characters you will come to enjoy (for all their foibles). It is followed by two more books (King of Thorns - out now and Emperor of Thorns - out August 2013) and if they are half as good as this one I shall be a very happy reader.

Saturday 13 July 2013

In The Valley of Shadows by Crystal Connor - a short post

Late last night i finished reading an ARC copy of In The Valley of Shadows the final part of Crystal Connor's Spectrum Trilogy - and, believe me, it was a cracker. The book mixes fantasy, horror, sci-fi and police procedural - a lot of genres to fit into one book but she's pulled it off and done it well. I've followed this series from the beginning and am very happy with the way it has finished up.

Some authors write better in certain genres but with Ms Connor that is not the case - she seems to be able to write well and co-herently in each different genre covered in this book. The police characters are believable as are the scientists and their works. The battle scenes in the more fantasy based areas you could quite easily believe had been written by someone who 'specialises' in writing fantasy. I have high hopes for the future works of Crystal Connor and feel hers is a name you will be seeing a lot more of in the years to come.

 As this is an Arc copy, things may change before the final published edition hits the shelves so I won't be putting a review up until that final edition is available. This, though, has been a cracking read.

Friday 12 July 2013

Dyed in the Wool by Ed James - a review

This, the fourth in the Cullen series, is the best so far.

The main crime revolves around a body found in a car at the bottom of a 'bing' (a scottish term for a shale or slag heap) but leads take the team to other possible crimes.

There is quite a lot of back story with the team and there is a fair bit of reference to the previous 3 books in the series so it is a good idea to read those first (you won't be sorry, they're all good).

There are surprises in this book that may well affect the future of the team and I look forward to the next one in the series.

My only complaint with the story waqs that one of the main story threads went on throughout the story and was resolved in the blink of an eye, but that is only a minor quibble and doesn't detract from a brilliant story well told.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday 9 July 2013

A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough - a review

It is the near future but not so different to the one we live in now. Everything and everyone seems to have links to The Bank - the massive, often mysterioeus institution at the heart of all things financial and possibly otherwise.

Our hero, Cass Jones, is investigating two crimes - a botched gangland hit that resulted in the death of two young schoolboys, and the murders by a serial killer 'the man of flies'. Then, just when things can't get any worse Jones gets the news that his brother, who works for The Bank has killed himself and his family in an apparent murder suicide.

As bad as it can get? No, no,no, no, no - On investigation Cass Jones finger print is found on the gun used to kill his brother and family (along with other incriminating evidence).

This is a very dark, sinister and quite gritty crime story which pitches somewhere between horror and urban fantasy but is probably closer to urban fantasy. As the first book in the Dog-Faced Gods trilogy it tells a good story but leaves you with more questions than answers and sets things up nicely for book 2.

The hero character is flawed, as you would expect but is also, I believe, a lot more than he seems to be (more than even he knows). How this series is going to pan out, I wouldn't even want to guess but I can assure you of one thing - it's gonna be a hell of a lot of fun finding out!

Thursday 4 July 2013

The express diaries by Nick Marsh - a review

This story started out as a role playing game based round the Call of Cthulhu system

The year is 1925 and in London and ageing professor is convinced he has found clues to the location of The Simulacrum - a mysterious ancient statue.

The 'gang' he assembles to help him track down the Simulacrum are a varied bunch who all have their part to play in the search.

As you would expect the professor and friends are not the only ones searching for the artifacts. As they set off across Europe on the wonderful Orient Express they are pursued by a dark cult. Getting to it first will certainly be a challenge and the horrors they face along the way are exceptionally nasty.

The story is told in a collection of diary entries, journal entries, newspaper clippings and the likes. This gives the story a good feel and I also felt that the entries by the different characters all seemed to have individual voices. The writing certainly felt 'of it's time.

My final comments are reserved for the physical book itself - the hardback edition (which I was provided with in exchange for a fair and honest review) really is a joy to own, a must lovely book with beautiful illustrations. Any bookcase would be proud to own this volume

4.5 out of  5 stars

Wednesday 3 July 2013

The Awakening by Nicole MacDonald - a review

This book is the second part of The Birthright trilogy and follows on from the cliffhanger ending of book 1.

The girls, Cat, Laura, Sian and Kassandra are still in their new world and are coming to terms with their new 'elemental' powers and abilities which they will need if they are to defeat Jenivet. I will not go into the details and after effects of the cliffhanger here because you really need to read book 1 before you head into this volume. This is a 3 part story not 3 separate stories.

There is a fair bit of romance in this book so I guess it may be more aimed at a female audience but there is a good bit of action and adventure too so guys, give it a go, you'll be glad you did.

The characters here work well together both the human and creatures (especially the Griffins - they really cracks me up).

My main fear here was that this book may suffer from "middle book syndrome" where things just drift along waiting to be tied up in the final volume -definitely not the case here though. This volume stands up well and ends with another cliffhanger.

Also, the different perspectives for the different characters were a lot easier to get on with in this volume.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday 19 June 2013

King's Artesan by Cas Peace - Cover Reveal


Available August 2013

The race for the Staff has begun.

Rykan’s Staff is vital to Sullyan’s survival. In order to retrieve it, Robin Tamsen must cross the Veils into Albia and go to Taran’s village. He arrives too late.

Intent on reviving his own plans for conquest, Sonten forces Taran to reveal the Staff’s location. Outwitting Robin, he besieges the village of Hyecombe and takes possession of the Staff.

If Robin cannot stop Sonten taking the weapon back to Andaryon, Sullyan’s life and the lives of every Artesan are forfeit. Yet it is not just Sonten he must battle, but also one of his own. And the mysterious Albian Baron hasn’t abandoned his plans, either…
Add here

Cas Peace was born in Hampshire UK, in 1957, and has lived there most of her life. Her first career was as a horse-riding instructor, and horses remain very close to her heart. She then spent 13 years working for the British Civil Service before leaving the UK to live in Italy for three years, 1991-1994. She speaks passable but by no means perfect Italian, and loves to return to Italy whenever she can.

Cas's other great loves are anything to do with animals, especially dogs and horses, (she supports many animal charities) and also singing. Cas loves folk songs and along with her husband, who plays guitar, has performed in many a Southern England folk club. Sometimes they even asked her back! She writes folk songs to accompany her fantasy novels, and offers them as free downloads from her website.

Monday 17 June 2013

Tethers by Jack Croxall (a review)

This YA novel by newcomer Jack Croxall is a wonderful story of adventure set in Victorian London.

Two weeks ago 13 year old Karl was caught trespassing in a village neighbours garden but before he is caught he sees, through the window, an engraved silver box which looks out of place among the clutter of the house. Although told by his mother to stay away, he returns with his friend Esther. There is no sign of the box, or Mr. Statham, the neighbour so Karl and Esther break in, only to find out they are not alone! They escape the other intruders, barely, but not before Karl discovers a note book under the floorboards.

This notebook is the start of a journey that will lead the two children from their tiny village of Shraye to the by land and by river to Nottingham, with peril at every turn and enemies round every corner Karl and Esther will need all the help they can get from their new friends to stay alive and out of denger.

I was quite surprised to find this is Jack Croxall's first book. The characterisation is a joy and the setting is such that rather than reading the story you, at times, feel you are there.

As a story it reminded me, as others have noted, of the Sally Lockheart novels of Phillip Pullman, by way of The Famous Five. A wonderful debut and hopefully the story is not over yet.

If you have a young adult reader, treat them to this book, if not, treat yourself

Friday 14 June 2013

The Demi-Monde (Winter) by Rod Rees - a review

The Demi-Monde - a computer simulation designed for the US military, peopled by some of the most dangerous and psychopathic characters from history, for training the US military in Asymmetric Warfare Enviroments. It is "the first simulation product ever to be platformed on and operated by the ABBA quantum computer" This computer has enough processing power to simulate sentience in the Dupes (the 'characters in the simulation') and herein lies the root of the problem. The US military want to shut the simulation down but the Dupe leaders have other ideas!

They have managed to trap Norma Williams, the daughter of the US President in the Demi-Monde and have shut down all but one of the access ports. Until Norma can be rescued the Demi-Monde continues to exist.

Enter Ella Thomas, an eighteen year old American who is the perfect match (indeed, the ONLY match) for a dormant Dupe in the Simulation, who has to go in, rescue the President's daughter and get her out.

The first section of this book sets the story up well, telling you all you need to know about the Demi-Monde, while having every alternative chapter actually set in the Demi-Monde. An appetiser, if you will.

The second section, though, really steps things up a gear as Ella enters the Simulation and we are introduced to more of the Demi-Monde's inhabitants such as Vanka Maykov, who takes Ella under his wing and, one of my favourite characters in the early sections, the disreputable club owner Burlesque Bandstand who has great comedy value.

The world of the Demi-Monde is a semi-steampunk victorian setting and very well realised. It is split into different sections representing various 'Real World' settings, all side by side with the five main sections (Noirville, The Coven, Rodina, The Rookeries and Quartier Chaud) seperated by five rivers. Each area has it's own belief systems and ideas for rule. This first book in the series deals only with events in The Rookeries and a small part of Rodina.

It is obvious from early on that there is more going on than meets the eye and later books will open the story out even more. Thankfully I have volume two (Spring) near to hand as Winter finishes on three seperate cliffhangers.

There is a lot of 'derring-do', capture and escape and general rollicking adventure in this book, which means the story rattles along at a good old pace - I reveiwed from the Hard Back edition and though it is a chunky doorstop of a book it was over far too soon. The characters are very well defined and believable (the transformation of Trixie Dashwood is especially well done). The world comes to life off the page and feels real, and it also reminded me of the gaming worlds of, for example, Grand Theft Auto, where you are only allowed to play in one section until you have completed set tasks. The other areas are there, you can see them, but you can't get into them yet - I am looking forward immensely to visiting these places in the remainig three books of the series

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Park Avenue by Christopher Smith (a review)

This, the 6th book in the Fifth Avenue series, is up there with the best of thrillers.

The story centres around Leana Redman and her family. And what a family they are - she is all but estranged from her father, mother is in jail for murder, her cousin Pepper (one of the best characters here, just for comedy value) wants to head the family business and Leana's partners dad is the head of the New York Mafia.

In the past Louis Ryan has made it his business to destroy the Redmans. He is dead now, but that isn't going to stop him! He had a plan B and now that plan B is in place - two assassains are hired to finish off the Redman's and people around them. There are 10 names on the list, Leana, her brother Michael and her father are the final 3. There is a lot of quite inventive murder on the way to the final three, all of it quite nasty.

The finale comes at the opening of two massive new Manhatten hotels on the same night - one by Leana, her first project the other by her father (wouldn't you just know he'd have to open on the same night!). Will anyone survive? I'll leave that for you to find out.

This is a story of greed, revenge, big business, rivalry and family - if Jackie Collins and Mario Puzo got together to write something like Dallas - this book is what they would only dream of.

There are faults - mainly with one of the characters who, every time she appears, someone has to bring up the fact that her husbands ex-wife caught them 'on the job', but these are only tiny things that do not detract from the fact that this is a corker of a book. I read it on holiday and was constantly thinking "oh, just a few more pages" and before you know it half the afternoon is gone.

I have not read the previous books in this series (this was a review copy) but you can be sure I will be getting to them the first chance I get

Highly Recommended

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Shaman of Stonewylde by Kit Berry (a review)

So, we reach the end of the Stonewylde story - and what a way to finish this wonderful story.

These are dark times indeed. The spirit of Magus is still around, waiting for the chance to pounce, several old faces try to return and some want a return to the Hallfolk/ Villagers way of living. Yul and Sylvie are still struggling with their relationship problems - every time they seem close to working things out something else drives them apart.

The story, as ever is very involving and beautifully told. Kit Berry paints a vivid picture that makes the people and places of Stonewylde come to life - and that, for me, was the problem with this book - I kept putting it down because I didn't want to get to the end, knowing that this is the last book ever in the series.

But, eventually I bit the bullet and finished it. I was astounded, amazed, saddened and stunned. The last section of this book may well be the most wonderfully written and moving end I have ever read - after finishing the last page I think I just sat for 10 minutes or so trying to take in what had just happened.

Bravo Ms. Berry, you've done a wonderful job. The gates of Stonewylde may now be closed but I will be going back to these books for many years to come.

I am planning to do an overview/lookback of the whole Stonewylde series in the next week or too so please check back here if this would be of interest.

Monday 3 June 2013

The Waiting Room by Catriona King (a review)

The Waiting Room - the 4th book in the to feature DCI Marc Craig and his team at Belfast Combined Crimes Unit and the best yet.

The story begins with the discovery of a young girl's body left hanging upside down and mutilated on a church altar. The girl is the daughter of a diplomat. On investigation the team discover a trail of depravity that reaches to some of the most powerful people in the Belfast area. Can DCI Craig and co. find and stop the members of the Library Club (it'll become clear!) before any more girls are killed?

Once again this is a very well told tale by Catriona King and the crime is by far the most unsettling. As in the previous books in the series what sets this apart for me is the team working on the case - they have lives outside the CCU and are people you can care about - a prime example being one of the team (I'm not saying who - SPOILERS!) has something going on that you are aware of but the details are not revealed until later on in the book - and this actually had me concerened for the character in question.

As I've said, this book is the darkest in the series, the criminals are the most despicable of people and the book is the best so far - MORE PLEASE!

Monday 13 May 2013

Everville; The First Post by Roy Huff (a review)

As a first book in a series this holds a lot of promise. It is aimed more at young adults but all ages could find it an enjoyable read.

The story throws you in at the deep end really when, right from the first page, Owen, our hero, falls unconscious in the medical rooms at Easton Falls University, where he is just starting out his freshman year. While out cold he finds himself transported to the world of Everville, where he meets the Keeper, who tells him of a threat to the land.

In short time he is back in the medical rooms at EFU - no time seems to have passed. From here there is a lot more to-ing and fro-ing between our world and Everville, the nature of the threat is explained and Owen's friends - Dante and Anika - become involved.

At times this seems very much like Harry Potter for the slightly older generation but that is not a bad thing.

On the negative side, it did feel a trifle disjointed in parts and the revelation of the 'bad guy' towards the end felt a bit tacked on but, on the whole, this was a good read and I will be looking forward to the next in the series

The Sum of all Men by David Farland (a review)

This series has been on my radar for many years but for some reason I never got round to starting it.................oh, you foolish, foolish person! Turns out I've been missing a real treat.

Although the story is fairly standard fantasy stuff there are two things that really stand out;

1) The magic system, whereby people can be empowered by taking enhancements from people - making the person recieving the the enhancement more powerful but leaving the donor a wreck. At times this can be quite horrific or saddenning, depending on the situation, whether the enhancement is taken by force or freely given and as a plot device it is really well used.

2) The description of the world. Right from the very first page this land jumps off the page. It feels real and alive. For me, this makes a story all the more enjoyable.

All in all, quality storytelling and characterisation, set in a believable land - It took me a while to start this series but I'm really glad I did.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

New Tales of the Old Ones ( various) - a review

This little gem of a collection from Knightwatch Press is a tribute anthology to the works of HP Lovecraft. There are stories from 8 authors and, to be honest, there isn't a weak one amongst them.

This is horror at it's most horrifying so if you're looking for sparkly vampires you're in the wrong place.

Lovecraft wrote his stories in the early part of the 20th century so, for me, The Curse of the Frasers by Emma Bunn probably has the most Lovecraftian feel, just by dint of being set round the earlier part of last century. But that is to take nothing away from the other authors on show here - all have a good grip on what makes a good Cthulhu Mythos tale.

Sometimes the terror creeps up on you, sometimes it's in your face but it's always, always there.

How good is this collection? I started on it last night with the intention of just reading one or two stories. I didn't put it down until I was done with it.

You know that nightmare you had?

The really bad one that kept you from going back to sleep?

That was only the warm up act!!!!

The Old Ones are back (and thanks to Knightwatch Press they are in safe hands)

More please.

Monday 6 May 2013

Watch these publishing houses - they will be big!

Short post just to say keep an eye on these three great publishing houses.

At present I have several titles for review and they all have a lot of promise and among these are;

Grimm and Grimmer volumes 1 and 2 from Fringeworks

New Tales of the Old Ones (New Cthulhu Mythos) from Knightwatch Press

Code Z: An Undead Hospital Anthology from Knightwatch Press

Machina Mortis from Knightwatch Press

And then there's Crooked Cat Publishing who's numbers are growing by the day - many and varied titles in a mix of genre's from Anthony Price's 'The House of Wood' a psychological horror, to Catriona King's D.C.I. Craig novels, quite possibly the best crime series I have read in a long, long time via such authors as Pamela Kelt, David W Robinson and Tom Gillespie.

These are great publishers - have a look at their pages, you won't be sorry

Sunday 5 May 2013

House of Wood by Anthony Price (a review)

Three years ago Rachel James was caught up in terrible events at the House of Wood that ended in tragedy. She survived and left for college, vowing to never return to Willows Peak.

Move to the present, and the death of Rachel's parents changes things - she has to return for the funeral and on approach to the town she sees the last thing she expects.............someone is rebuilding the House of Wood!!

This is a cracking tale of horror and possession in the style of the books I was reading when I first discovered this genre many years ago. No vampires, no werewolves, no zombies, just a tale that creeps up on you, and once it has a hold, doesn't let go 'til the last page is turned.

While the deaths are being investigated Rachel has to stay in town and meets 'new guy in town' Doctor David Cochrane, a psychologist. She agrees to talk to him about the 'event' over dinner and it is here that the story really picks up a couple of gears.

During the evening the whole story comes out (in flashback), the atmosphere grows tenser, and the book gets more difficult to put down.

I must say, I thought I knew where the story was going. It seemed the author was leading the story one way, but in the end he wrongfooted me, and I am glad to have been wrong.

The climax was strong and fast paced, the resolution believable and satisfying.

And then...............The Epilogue - WOW!

Another winner from Crooked Cat Publishing.

Friday 26 April 2013

Full Circle by Terry Tyler (a review)

This book is a follow on to last year's Dream On, so the first point I have to make is that you really ought to read Dream On first. The majority of the characters from Dream On reappear at some time during this story and 'knowing them' before hand really improves the read (trust me, I've been waiting for this with an itchy kindle since I heard it was coming out and I wasn't disappointed - far from it in fact.

The story takes place three to four years after the events of Dream On. At the start Dave is living with his partner Isabel and their baby, Ariel is back from a failed attempt to crack the American music scene, Shane is 'up north' with his partner and their baby and Janice is settling into married life. The rock band Thor are still going, although without Shane who is now in a Bon Jovi tribute band.

The core of the story, as before, revolves mainly around the will they/won't they of Dave and Aerial. They are obviously meant to be together but there always seems to be something in the way - and I'm not saying either way.

A lot of the magic and fun with this tale though comes from the other characters, the 'extras' if you like. Mel is little changed from before, still aiming for the life of celebrity and Hello magazine, Shane likewise is still the same as he always was, and even though he is devoted to his baby daughter he still can't resist the temptations of the flesh.

This may all come across as a bit chick-lit but trust me, this is a story for male and female readers both. I found, as soon as I started reading that it was like meeting up with old friends, the kind you really enjoy spending time with and miss when they are not there.

The author, Terry Tyler, seems to be getting  stronger and more confident  with each book she writes and I am looking forward to more from her in the future. The book is neither heavy going or lightweight fluff, just a well told tale of friends, lovers, family and ROCK!!!

Very much recommended

Monday 15 April 2013

Grimm and Grimmer (various authors) - A Review

This collection from Fringeworks is the re-telling of several fairy tales, some in the original (ish) setting, some more up to date.

Did you love the tales of the Brothers Grimm as a youngster - then you'll love these tales. There is Rapunzel in here, Hansel and Gretel are here, as are the wolf and the three little pigs (and boy, is that a cracker). There is also a fun take on The Princess and The Pea and a modern day The 3 Goldilocks and The Bear.

There is not a bad story here - some are stronger, admittedly, but all are worth the entrance fee on there own. So step inside this collection and go back to the stories of your youth - told for the grown up kids we've become

There are more of these collections to come, and I will be the first in the queue for them.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Whitstable by Stephen Volk (a review)

It is 1971. A man, sad, broken and devastated by the loss of his wife walks along the beach at Whitstable in Kent. He is approached by a 10 year old boy who wants his help.

The man is Peter Cushing but the boy recognises him as Van Helsing, the vampire hunter he has played on the silver screen. He needs 'Van Helsing' to save him from his mother's  boyfriend who he believes is a vampire that comes to him in the night......

This novella has several things in its' favour, the first, and strongest (for me) is the sense of loss in the character of Peter Cushing. It is only a month or so after the death of his wife and it is really hitting him hard. He doesn't want to have to face people, he doesn't want to interact with the world. The depth of feeling with this character is so strong that you may just want to reach into the pages of the book to console him.

The second is the horror of the boys' story and his skin crawling nastiness of the mothers' boyfriend. Cushing may have vanquished all kinds of monsters at the movies but will he be able to stand against the monster in the real world.

The final meeting between the two takes place in a cinema where one of Cushing's movies is playing while they face off and this is very cleverly done. It gives a very real sense of reality to the event, flicking from Cushing the Big Screen Hero, to Cushing The Man, back and forth and on and on. Trust me, tense doesn't even come close.

This is a wonderfully written and absorbing novella that, in my opinion, deserves to be a massive success.

This novella is a work of fiction written to mark the centenary of the birth of Peter Cushing and as such is a worthy tribute to a great actor.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

The Visitor by Catriona King (a review)

This is the third novel by Catriona King to feature D C I Marc Craig and his team from Belfast CCU.

The story this time concerns the death of a young woman on a maternity ward and the hunt for her killer. The team suspect she may be the latest victim of a serial killer. To make things just that little bit harder for all involved, the victim's father is one of the Belfast "old boys" with a history dating back to the troubles and his own idea of justice.

The story rattles along at a good old pace, building up to a tense ending (the best of the series in this reviewer's opinion!) and will keep you guessing right up to the very end as to who the killer is.

As with the other books in this series (A Limited Justice and The Grass Tattoo) the members of the team at CCU are a good part of what makes this story flow so well. Their are issues outside the investigation that make the characters feel real, make you really want to invest in their story lines but that don't push the investigative element of the story into the background.

Book 4 should be with us later this year and when it arrives I, for one one, will drop whatever else I am reading to spend more time with D C I Craig and the team.

Sunday 24 March 2013

James Herbert's passing - a few thoughts.

This week has seen the death of James Herbert, possibly the greatest horror writer of my generation.

I remember very well, the first time I saw one of his books - it was his first, The Rats, and would have been around 1979. I was at scout camp and would have been, I guess 12 years old. One of the older scouts bought it and we all sat around while he read out the most gruesome bits (and, trust me, to 12 year old me, brought up on The Famous Five etc this was an eye opener).

James Herbert was the author who got me into reading horror and for that I will be forever grateful. His were stories that really could scare the hell out of you at times but could also make you think "what if".

If it hadn't been for James Herbert, I may have missed out on the likes of Graham Masterton, Guy N Smith, Clive Barker and Shaun Hutson - and I devoured books by all these authors, and still do.

Rest in peace now Mr Herbert and thank-you

A Beginning (The Tower and The Eye) by KIra Morgana - a review

A Beginning (The Tower and The Eye) starts out as a pretty standard Dungeons and Dragons romp. You have your basic characters (Human, Dwarf, Cleric, Theif, Elf) and all the cross race banter you would expect. You have a dungeon to explore (loaded with traps, threats etc) and you have an Ancient Enemy.

When you put all these elements together you could have a run-of-the-mill story but thanks to the authors love of, and experience with all things d+d, what you get is a short story with a lot of promise for the series it is setting up.

There are twists and turns to the story that I didn't expect and an ending that left me stunned, in so much as I never saw THAT coming.

A grand start to what promises to be a classic fantasy series for years to come

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Wheel of Time re-read (books 1-4) by Leigh Butler (a review)

WOW!!! I wasn't sure at first, reading somebody else's thoughts on a fantasy series that is very dear to my heart, but within the first couple of chapters I was hooked.

The chapters are broken down into two parts - What Happened (speaks for itself really, but it is a brief description of evevts in the chapter, and Commentary, which is Ms. Butler's thoughts on those events.

Each chapter is short, punchy and does exactly what it needs to to fill you in with all the salient points, but also has enough "Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about him/her/that place/event" moments as well.

In short, Ms. Butler has done a fantastic job with this re-read and made a priceless accompaniment to The Wheel of Time series.

Monday 18 March 2013

Ocean Strike by Damien Lewis (a review)

A British agent in Port Louis, Mauritius gets information of a threat to the UK. The information is sent to London - a container ship is heading towards Sellafield with enough Sarin to cause a bigger disaster than the 9/11 attacks in New York..............................and it's only 3 days to Christmas!!!!!!!!!!

This short story rattles along at a good old pace. The action is pretty much relentless (as you would expect under the circumstances!) but not over the top in terminology. The author obviously knows his stuff and this shows, making a very readable book.

Would I read more by this author.........................Hell Yeah!!!!!!

Sunday 10 March 2013

Oz The Great And Powerful (a review of kinds)

First off, let me just say that

a) This is the first time I've reviewed a film in any way shape or form

I saw this film in its IMAX version this afternoon, and friends, it was GOOD! Ok, some of the effects were better than others (and there were some ropey ones) but the good ones really worked well.

The story is that of Oscar "Oz" Diggs (played by James Franco) a fraud magician with a travelling fairground in 1905 Kansas. He is a smoothy with the ladies but is rumbled by an ex conquests, the shows' strongman he legs it and escapes in a hot air balloon.

As with The Wizard of Oz, the Kansas scenes are filmed in monotone, and, also as in Wizard a twister takes our "hero" to another land - the glorious technicolour land of OZ.

And this is where the IMAX comes into its own. The land looks beautiful, the colours are bright and there are many little things happening in the background to make you feel involved with the scenery.

There are quite a few nods to the old film and also a few hints at back story ( ie what made the cowardly lion the way he is),
Franco is excellently cast as Oz, a con man out of his depth, trying not to get too involved when everybody is depending on him to save the day. There are good performances too from Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachael Weiss as the witches of the South, East and West (especially Kunis, possibly one of the best performances of her career in my opinion).

The Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion are replaced in this film by Finlay, a flying monkey and a little china doll that will just melt your heart.

A good story with a blockbuster ending, I would give this film 4 out of 5.

Saturday 16 February 2013

The Dominus Runes by Peter Lukes

What a brilliant
and enjoyable book this is.

Do you like future earth sci-fi? How about if we chuck in a touch of fantasy? Now, to that we'll add horror (and images that could have come from the imagination of Clive Barker)!

Still with me? Right, now to all that add a bunch of characters that would be at home in a noir detective/ gangster type novel.

And there you have it - a mix of genres that don't always work together but in this case really do, with scenes that'll have you picking your jaw off the floor just in time for it to drop again.

With Peter Lukes the future of Sci-fi is in safe hands. This guy deserves to be up there with the big names - surely it is only a matter of time.

Sunday 3 February 2013

The Wheel of Time - general thoughts and ramblings

So, this week I finally turned the last page of A Memory of Light - the fourteenth and final volume of the Wheel of Time series.

I started reading the series way, way back in 1990 and that got me thinking - I've been reading and following this series for half of my lifetime.

I remember being in WH Smith one Friday afternoon back in '90 and seeing the first book in the series, The Eye of the World - It was HUGE!!! The first thing that got me was the cover art - I was a big fan of Daryl Sweets covers and this was one of his best. I guess I was already sold on the book before I read the cover blurb but the blurb only turned a "want" into a "must have".

Needless to say I got the book home and devoured it. Thankfully book 2 and book 3 followed fairly quickly (and possibly books 4 and 5) but after a while there came a bigger gap between books and also, some of the books seemed to be a lot of reading for very little happening - but I had to keep on with them, for when things did finally happen they were usually well worth the wait.

Then, in 2007, the author, Robert Jordan, died leaving the series unfinished. Thankfully he had prepared for this eventuality and left enough notes for the book to be finished after his passing. The job of completing the final book was given to Brandon Sanderson - the ending was in sight.

The final book turned out to be 3 books but, in my opinion, that was for the better as there was a hell of a lot of story to be told.

The whole WoT story deserves to be recognised as a masterpiece in my opinion. I've been with these characters since they left the village of Emond's Field in the Two Rivers all those years ago. I've watched them grow into the roles they were given. I sat at 2am one morning, back when book 5 had just been published, stunned because Moiraine, one of the main characters had seemingly been killed off (it was expected but I guess I always thought there would be a way out). I remember feeling both sad and cheated at the death of Mr, Jordan and dubious about the ability of Mr. Sanderson to finish the job (and boy was I wrong there - he turned out to be THE BEST CHOICE!!).

I've had the good fortune to have met both Mr. Jordan and Mr. Sanderson at book signings and two nicer guys you couldn't hope to meet.

These books have been a big part of my reading life and will continue to be so as I now plan to start a complete re-read.

Fire in the Blood by Ed James - a review

Book 3 in the Scott Cullen mysteries and the series goes from strength to strength.

The story this time revolves around the finding of a body in a whiskey cask at the Dunpender Distillery. The body could be one of two people, a son of the distillery owner or a former worker - both have been missing since distillation in 1994.

Again, Cullen and his boss Brian Bain continue to rub each other up the wrong way and these interactions add to the general mixture of characters in the investigating team.

The story rattles along at a good pace and the ending really ratchets things up a notch.
Looking forward to more in the series

Friday 18 January 2013

After The Fairytale by Angie Hulme (a review)

Right, first things first, I must say I read this book several years ago and this review is based on that copy. The kindle edition is to be published sometime in the middle of January and may differ (though only very slightly)

The story is a continuation of the tale of Cinderella and what comes after.

As it begins, the ball is over, and Cinderella (now Queen Cinderella) is married to King Osman). This does not sit well with Royston - Osman's boyfriend of 15 years (yes, you read that right!). Also, the Wicked Stepmother is dead, the Evil Stepsisters are loocked up and the Fairy Godmother is banished to a tower by the sea.

There is everything you good want from a good fairytale here with just the right amount of twistyness. The land of Lamonsia is beautifully described and the weird and wonderful creatures that inhabit this world fit in just right.

So, treat your kindle, and come see what happens when "and they all lived happily ever after" has been and gone and life continues AFTER THE FAIRYTALE.

A 5* read

Thursday 10 January 2013

Decision Maker by Vanna Smythe (a review)

Anniversary of the Veil book 2

Early in 2012 I read Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1) and found it to be a brilliant fantasy debut. I had high hopes for this, the second book in the series.....and I was not disappointed.

I usually find that trilogies (as I guess this will turn out to be) consist of a strong first book which sets everything up and gives you all the world-building and information you need, an equally strong third book which brings all the pay offs, climaxes and loose end tie-ups, and a second book. This second book usually consists of a lot of movement and general faffing around to get everything in place for book 3. Book 2's can sometimes be hard work and a bit of a drudge.

This is not the case with Decision Maker, not by a long way.

The story continues to tell of Issa, the Beacon, who is needed for a ceremony that will reinforce the Veil separaing the two worlds, and Kae, her protector, who knows what will happen and does not want her to take part.

With this book there is also a fairly wide cast of side characters, some good, some bad but nearly all a shade of grey between the two poles. People do things for reasons they think are right and, for me, this makes the story even better.

At the heart of all this though is a love story and this is the strongest thread. When all things play out at the end of the book a tear may well be shed, but fear not, all is nicely set up for the third book and I have every faith that the author will make it another wonderful read.

Protector was my choice for best fantasy book of 2012. We are only 10 days into 2013 but I already feel that anybody wanting to beat Decision Maker to the 2013 title is really going to have to pull out all the stops.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Disbelief by Angie Hulme (a review)

Oh, this is good!

This is Very Good!

This book was written when the author was just starting out and has been produced for Kindle with little or no changes. As such it reads like an early attempt at writing but don't let that put you I said before, this book is good!

The story starts out as a love story, but just as you are getting comfortable with it...................BANG!!!!!
it becomes a novel of revenge...........but then............BANG!!!!!!!!!!! gamechanger #2 and it becomes a horror novel.

As much as I wasn't expecting the sudden swerves in the storyline they benefit the work well and although "I couldn't put it down" and "It was a real page-turner" are phrases often overused in book reviews in this instance they are both true and relevent.

A very good earlyy effort for Ms. Hulme and one I will read again in the future