Monday, 1 December 2014

Haunted - edited by Alex Davis and Ryan Merrifield (a review)

Winter is approaching, the nights are drawing in and a readers taste is drawn to a good old fashioned ghost story.

This collection from Boo Books is just the right thing - five ghost stories from five different authors and not a bad story among them. They are; The Snap End Morris Men by Paul Melhuish Cloven by Amanda Bigler Turning the Cup by M.R. Cosby Little Spring by Michael Bracken Promises You Can Keep by Kevlin Henney

If I had to pick a favourite I would go with The Snap End Morris Men,partly because I liked the setting and partly because it is kind of relevant to now, but that is not to take anything away from the other tales. Each one is spooky, some may wrong foot you (Cloven certainly did me!)

So, pull a chair up to the fire, get yourself comfy and prepare to be spooked. An excellent quality collection - congratulations to all involved

The Venus Complex by Barbie Wilde (a review)

Step into the mind of art historian and serial killer Professor Michael Friday. It's an unsettling place to be, downright disturbing at times, but I'll let you in on a little's fun at times too and you'll find yourself not wanting to leave.

This story is told in a series of journal entries, some detailing his crimes and the preparation involved, some just rants at the world in general (and you'll probably find yourself nodding in agreement here!) It all starts with a confession of infidelity from his wife and him driving purposefully into a tree - killing her (as planned) and badly injuring himself. He is clever enough to make it seem like an accident and this leaves him financially comfortable enough to have the time and money to indulge in his new hobby - serial murder.

Seen through the eyes of Friday he is transforming the victims from ordinary women to Goddesses, arranging the bodies in the pose of various art works based on the Goddess Venus. I will say, the murders involve a goodly amount of quite graphic sex but it is that well written that it doesn't feel gratuitous. It is all part of Michael Friday's mindset, an often disturbed mindset, granted, but one that will have you turning page after page.

So, a disturbing horror novel but an engaging read - 5 stars

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Careless Word by Catriona King (a review)

The Careless Word is book #8 in the Marc Craig/Belfast Murder Squad series and is very much of the same excellent standard of story telling as the previous 7.

As is usual the story refers back to events in previous books but can be read as either a stand alone novel or as part of the series. The story revolves around an explosion in a small book store in the Smithfield area of Belfast, with only one survivor - is it a return to the old days of The Troubles or a more modern threat? Will they be able to get the survivor to speak? Marc Craig and his squad need to solve quickly as there is a wedding on the horizon. The clock is ticking....

As usual with Ms. King's books there is very much a sense of place. Belfast, it's people and places come to life on the page. What I really liked though was a change in some of the personel in the Squad. Jake, one of the regulars, is absent on medical grounds and two new faces are added Carmen McGregor, a snippy Scot from Edinburgh with a bit of an attitude (who I hope will become a regular) and Ken Smith, from the army's bomb disposal unit. Both these characters added something to the story for me, while I didn't really miss Jake (mainly because his behaviour towards another team member earlier in the series made me dislike him - that's how good the writing is here, you care about how the characters interact with each other, almost as if they were real)

So, another cracking book from Catriona King, which I have no hesitation in giving 5 stars to. As always I look forward to the next in the series

Monday, 3 November 2014

Bad Moon Rising by Francis di Plino (a review)

I was offered a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Bad Moon Rising is the first book in a crime fiction series (4 so far)featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey and his team. It is, I do feel I must point out from the offset, at times a very violent book. The perpetrator of the crimes is not a nice person....not even close. The thing is though, for all the violence and nastiness what you have here is a very good story indeed.

In his own way D.I. Storey is very much what you would expect of a leading copper character - broken marriage, family issues, going off on his own hunches etc, but he doesn't come across too badly out of all that. He is a character that feels believable, not too much of the "woe is me" thing going on. His team all play their parts admirably and there is enough potential with this team to make me want to read more.

As for the main story itself - somebody is killing off the local prostitutes is the short version I guess. There are a few side stories as well - Storey's daughter doing her own investigation at school, the colleague who wants Storey to investigate the possible spousal abuse of a friend. All the little bits tie up nicely but it is a hell of a ride to get to the end. There are at least 4 possible culprits and quite a few red herrings along the way so it'll certainly keep you guessing.

As the first book in a series this is an admirable effort and I will certainly be reading the rest of the D.I. Paolo Storey books. I'd happily suggest you give them a try too.

4.5/5 stars

Monday, 20 October 2014

Goblin Moon (Mask and Dagger1) by Teresa Edgerton - a review

First things first, let me just say I was offered a copy of this book (by Tickety Boo Press) in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The book is a re-issue (originally published in 1991) but has aged well and does not feel out of place in today's market. The actual writing style (and believe me, Ms. Edgerton has a very sumptuous prose style) means the story reads like one of the classics. Imagine, if you will, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Terry Pratchett writing together (with possibly a hint of Stan Lee) and you will have an idea of what to expect.

The setting is a 'Regency-esque' one with what I tend to think of as an Upstairs/Downstairs cast of characters. You have the upper classes (the sickly Elsie, her companion Sera, the foppish Lord Skelbrooke - who may be more than he seems), and the lower classes (represented by the likes of Caleb Braun and his grand-nephew Jedidiah). Add to this Dwarves, Gnomes, Goblins, Trolls etc. and you have a varied and colourful assembly.

The story starts with Caleb and Jedidiah working as river scavengers (as the name implies they make their living scavaging what they can from the river). What they find when they open a coffin they have 'retrieved' as it floats downriver sets up one strand of the story. There is plenty going on though besides this, but not enough to make it over complicated. What keeps the story tied together nicely is that most of the main characters know each other, even though they move in different circles most of the time (Jenk, the antiquarian book dealer is Grandfather to Sera, Caleb ends up working for Jenk, Sera and Jedidiah have known each other for on and so forth)

As a fantasy novel it is quite unlike most other stories in the genre - and that is a good thing. There are no sprawling quests or epic journeys here, just a dark brooding city that feels not unlike Pratchett's Ankh Morpork at times. A city with more than its' fair share of undesirables, a city with places you don't want to be after dark (to be honest, places you don't want to be in broad daylight!), a city in need of...........A HERO!!

There were moments I found myself holding my breath as I read, and moments I felt like giving a rousing "Hurrah!" A thoroughly enjoyable read and a book I think will be just right now that the nights are drawing in. If I did find a downside, my only real gripe (and it is a tiny one really) was that there seemed to be a lot of clothing terms I didn't know and had to look up - but that's just me and will not stop me from giving a rating of 4.5 out of 5. I look forward to reading the next in the series when it comes out.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Betrayal's Shadow (Mahaelian Chronicle, Book 1) by Dave-Brendon de Burgh (a review)

Just for perspective, I have been reading and loving epic fantasy novels ever since I picked up a copy of Pawn of Prophecy (Belgariad book 1)in 1983. That's 30 years ago, and since that fateful day I have read a lot...and I mean A LOT! Most new series that came out, I was there. With the dawn of the kindle/e-reader age the field got bigger, and, to be fair, the quality wasn't always there.

The main problem, for me, was variety. Realistically there are only so many times you can join the farmboy/villager/baker/general low-born person destined to be king in a quest for the sword of destiny/magic ring/family heirloom that will save the world. What I want is someone to raise the bar a little, tell me a new story. There are authors out there who do - Sanderson, Rothfuss, Abercrombie and now Dave-Brendon de Burgh (DBdB).

DBdB tells a story full of momentous WOW! moments. There is a cast of characters that walk that grey line between good people and bad. Not everything is clear, right up to the very last page you will be wondering at motives. I do not want to drop spoilers, so what I am going to do is tell you what made this stand out for me (you can get the story synopsis from the amazon kindle page)

First off is the world - from our first meeting with High General Brice Serholm on an island populated by babarian tribesmen to the markets and on to the Palace where lives a king who has ruled for 500 years the whole world comes to life. You don't just read the story, you are left with a sense of actually being there as events unfold.

Secondly, the characters. As I said earlier, many of the characters occupy the grey area between truly good and truly bad people, often doing what they have to whether they want to or not. These charaters do not have an easy time and, revelations (which I never saw coming) later in the book only continue to make things tougher for them - and books 2 and 3 are only going to make their problems grow.

Finally, the magic systems. For me this is where DBdB really ups the stakes. Magic can be a very difficult thing to do differently but believe me when I say DBdB really does pull it off. There is a scene early on, at a place called Shorwin's Hold, where a battle takes place and the first real use of magic occurred. Suffice to say I was amazed, a brilliant and, clever way of using magic - beat that I thought. And he did....... In a later scene a man is taken for execution - reading the scene I thought "oh, probably get his head chopped off or something along those lines". I was wrong....very wrong. I can honestly say, hand on heart, I never expected the method. It was stunning, mind-numbing in a way and will live with me for a very long time. Bravo Sir.

As for the story itself - I said earlier on that it was epic fantasy, and, while this is true, it is so much more than that as well. There is a hint of sci-fi in there also. And the monsters (and to be fair, there has to be monsters) are straight from horror fiction with more than a hint of the zombie apocalypse. In lesser hands this could be an awkward mix to get right but, like a master baker DBdB has got the ingredients just right. The ending, indeed the whole story, sets things up nicely for book 2, which I wait for with baited breath (until then, there is also a prequel novella - A Song of Sacrifice, also available on amazon).

Fantasy fiction needs authors with new ideas, authors that will surprise you with revelations and bombshells you never saw coming, authors that can say "step into my world and prepare to be challenged". Dave-Brendon de Burgh does all of these things. As a first novel, this is probably the best I have read since Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. Big boots to fill but this author, in my eyes will do it.

The purchase links (Amazon USA and UK) are available in the comment under this post

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Betrayal's Shadow by Dave-Brendon de Burgh - some thoughts

As you may be aware, I read a lot and always have done for as long as I can remember. Although I read most genres my main area has always been fantasy, and more particularly Epic Fantasy. I guess it's the whole "new worlds, New creatures, new quests, journeys, magic etc". The downside to being a fantasy reader though is repetition, repetition, repetition. There are only so many tales of humble farm boys becoming the King you can realistically get through before tedium sets in. Over the last few years a few author's have stepped up the game with new magic systems, story ideas etc, the fore runners here being the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie. Well, to this list you can now add the name of Dave-Brendon de Burgh the South African author of Betrayal's Shadow (book 1 of the Mahaelian Chronicle). I am only about half way through this and a review will appear on here when I've finished it but I had to post so I could share his world with you. It is a world painted with a broad brush, where the buildings, the scenery, the knights, and other citizens step off the page and into your imagination fully formed and raring to go. Imagine a scene, set in a market, which is so vividly written you can smell the wares on the stalls - that's what you get here. What really got me itching to post though was the magic. A magic so potent and so powerful it actually left me stunned at what I had just read......and this is in the first half of a book that just keeps getting better and better. This is, I believe, the most exciting new fantasy novel /world for me since Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. As I said, a review will be posted on here when I have finished but until then, if fantasy is your thing, do whatever you have to do to get your hands on a copy, you won't be sorry. And remember the name - Dave-Brendon de Burgh - you'll be hearing a lot of him in the future.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop (a review)

This story, as you would maybe expect in a fantasy novel, begins with a prophecy 'She is coming' The 'She' in question is Jaenelle, destined to be a Queen more powerful than any before her, the saviour of the land etc etc, not just a witch but Witch. After the prophecy 700 years pass. The realm is an even darker place now, ruled over by Dorotea...and by dark I mean REALLY dark. Males break witches before they come into their power, through rape and torture. Those witches who escape the 'breaking' torment the males out of vengeance (don't even get me started on the psychic controlled cock rings!!!!!) When we meet Jaenelle, she is only a young child, with childish questioning which helps set the scene, and draws a good picture of the realms. She is destined, as the prophecy stated, to become the leader of a Brave New World but will need the help of her 'defenders' Lucivar, Saetan and Daemon Sadi - the names kind of give things away a little. This is not an 'elves, unicorns and fluffy bunnies' type of fantasy - this is dark and at times quite disturbing book but if you stick with it you may well find yourself enjoying it more than you would expect. One thing I did find a bit troublesome is the jewel based magic system, consisting of 13 different jewels ranging from white (least powerful) to Black (the most powerful). There is a guide at the front thankfully, I did find it useful, I must say. At times I did find this a bit disturbing and unsettling but once into the story I found myself quite looking forward to the next in the series. For a dark and, at times slightly disturbing novel there is a story here that makes the occassional squirming worth while 3.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Electric by Andrew David Barker - (a review)

Earlier this year I met up with Alex Davis, the publisher and editor of Boo Books, at a comic fair in Sheffield. During our chat he mentioned a book that was going to be published by his press in the near future, which was about a cinema showing films for ghosts made by ghosts. I must say I was intrigued by the premise and looked forward to the day I could get my hands on a copy. That day came last Saturday, and believe me when I say it was worth the wait.

The story plays out over the last week/weekend of the school summer holidays in 1985, and starts with the lead character Sam Crowhurst cycling by the river after saying goodbye to his friends David and Emma. Sam is still getting over the death of his father, as is his mother, which is why he is in no rush to get home. While meandering by the river Sam comes across an old shack with a bit of an old movie poster in it. The shack leads to a path which leads inevitably, to The Electric, an abandoned cinema. Though it is deserted and nigh on derelict Sam feels drawn to it and sets off to explore. What he, and his friends when he fetches them to see it the next day, will find at The Electric will change them all.

I can't say too much about the plot as it may well spoil the reading experience of this quite wonderful book, but the general gist is that there are ghosts in The Electric and they are watching films that were never made, starring actors from different eras of cinema. There is a magic on the screen but also, there is a magic here in the printed word.

The Electric is, at heart, a ghost story, but more chilling than horror in style. It is also, though, a coming of age tale. The three lead characters are all fifteen years old, approaching the last year of school and on the threshold between childhood and adulthood. Two of them have lost a parent so there is grief and sorrow thrown into the mix of teenage emotions. I thought I had the general idea of where the story was going to end up but I'm not ashamed to say I was only partly right. There were two scenes at the end that I honestly believe will stay with me for a very long time, and one sentence that actually brought tears to my eyes.

On this showing, Andrew David Barker is one to watch for the future, an author with a writing style that draws you into the book and into the story knowing you are in safe hands but not sure what will be round the next corner. The book reviewed is a limited edition hardback (98/150) but is also available as a kindle edition. I bought the copy myself so feel justified in giving it 10/10 for both the story and the physical book itself.

Andrew David Barker and Boo Books (Alex Davis) - remember those names, you'll be hearing more from both of them in the future.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Godless by Ben Peek (a review)

The Godless is the first in a new epic fantasy series by Australian author Ben Peek. It is a big, big book that promises lots and, I'm happy to say, delivers on those promises.

The story is set in a world that was once populated by Gods, but they fought a terrible war and are now all dead or dying (hence the title of the book). These dead or dying Gods are, in effect, leaking their 'Godly Power'(for want of a better word) and these 'leakages' give some people 'powers'. Contrary to what you may expect though, these 'powers'are seen as a curse, not a gift by most people.

The action of the story takes place in the City of Mireea which is built atop the buried body of the God Ger. There are three chief protagonists, the first being Ayae, a trainee cartographer. She is an orphan who came to the City as a child and is happy in her life. This all changes when she is caught in a fire at her place of work. It is a horrific blaze but she is untouched by the flames. She is then called as 'cursed' and people turn away from her, even those she loves. The second main character is the mystic Zaifyr, a man thousands of years old, who may be able to help Ayae learn how to use/cope with her gift/curse. Due to the many years he has lived this character is used as a kind of 'infodump' at times as his part of the story contains a lot of history. This is not a bad thing though as there is a lot of it and following it as part of his life story makes it interesting. The city of Mireea, at the time of the story, is on the verge of attack by a neighbouring army who want the body of Her and the associated 'Godly Power'.

 This brings us to the third and final arc of the story, concerning Buerlain, the leader of the mercenary group Dark. They are charged with infiltrating the approaching army to find their plans and any possible weaknesses. This section of the story is very much in the 'Grimdark' vein and is another refreshing aspect to the story as a whole. With a large cast of minor characters this is a book that you need to give time to, but that time is well rewarded with a good piece of fantasy fiction that is possibly like nothing you have read before.

 Good world building, good characterisation and some great ideas. This is certainly a series I will be following eagerly and I recommend you do the same. 4/5 stars

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Legend Of The Chained Oak - Movie Review

When a local writer begins to investigate Oakamoors mysterious chained Oak, the chance find of a seventeenth century journal detailing the reasons for the Oaks chaining throws a new and terrifying light on the popular legend. Accounts of human sacrifice, witchcraft and warnings of a curse placed on the village by a woman named Mabel Othan litter the tattered pages. An enthusiastic and experienced team is hastily formed and begin to investigate the journals outlandish claims. However, as they begin to dig deeper into the myth and folklore that surrounds the Oak, a series of chilling events lead the team to believe that maybe the horrifying claims of witchcraft and human sacrifice made by the journal hold an element of truth after all… (taken from the accompanying film description)

I've just had the privilege of watching this little gem of a short film and must say I am really impressed with it. I read the story (same title) a while back and was interested in seeing the finished results of the film so, thankfully, Dan Weatherer, the author, agreed to send me a copy. As is right I will give my honest opinion of it.

This is a low budget film (£500 to make) but it comes over a lot better than a lot of films with budgets that would dwarf this amount. The acting by all involved is believable, especially the leading ladies, Amy and Faye Ormston who do "hysterically terrified" really well. As well as the cast, the local scenery adds to the 'fear effect', especially when the investigators attempt to contact Mabel at the site of the titular Chained Oak. Most of the story is done in a 'filmed documentary' but the bits that really unsettle are when there are just the cameras left on at night.

I really don't want to drop any spoilers here,so all I'll say is, if you get a spare half hour and the opportunity to see this film, take it. Do whatever you need to do to see it, but don't, whatever else you do, disturb Mabel!!!

4.5/5 stars - Well done to all involved

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Coercion Key by Catriona King (a review)

This is the seventh in Catriona King's D.C.I. Craig series and there is no let up in the quality of the writing.

The series, as a whole, flows nicely, with occassional mentions of previous events, relating to both old cases and the lives of the members of Craigs' squad. With this in mind it is helpful to have read the previous books in the series ( but not vital - it also works as a stand alone novel ).

The novel starts with Easter approaching and the squad in a bit of a lull, with not much to keep them busy since the events of two months earlier ( see The Slowest Cut - book 6 ) but that soon comes to an end when Dr. Winter, the pathologist hands Craig three files. These files are for three separate suicides, all of which would go unnoticed if not for the fact that they all had plenty to live for and all wrote exactly the same worded suicide note.

I found this to be another step up in gear for the author, the idea of murder by suicide being a particularly clever twist - each book so far has had something different to work with, no formulaic same old same old here. The storytelling is confident, as I would expect, and the threat to the squad will have you heading toward the seat edge. After one particular incident ( you'll know it when you get there ) I was so stunned by what had happenned I had to put the book down and walk away as I wasn't sure I wanted to see the fallout.

And that, for me, is the true strength of this series. Yes, the crimes are intriguing, the story lines are gripping but the true heart of this series is the lives of the squad. I've found I really care about what happens in the day-to-day of the characters, be it the little things or the life changing events.

A top quality addition to a wonderful series (and surely only a matter of time before someone picks this up for filming )

5/5 stars

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Wheel-Mouse vs All The Crazy Robots by Celyn Lawrence - a review

I found this book via a post on Facebook. It is a charity book with all proceeds going to help Celyn's hospice respite care, I believe. Celyn is only 8 years old, has Cerebral Palsey and can only communicate via an interface type board.

The book is not long but the story in it is fantastic and very entertaining. The hero is, as you would guess from the title, a mouse who zumms around in a special wheelchair (zumming is much faster than zooming!) The people are under threat from All The Crazy Robots. The robots do poos, they even do poos when they are flying. The robots poo on everything and everyone - and only Wheel-Mouse can save the day.

The story has everything a young reader, or youngster being read to would want (a heroic mouse, robots and poo - what more could you ask for). The book is illustrated by the author's dad and these illustrations are a delight which just add to the loveliness of the story.

After finishing the book I found my thoughts wandering back to it and to the author and when I think back I don't think of Celyn as a poorly little girl, I think of a little lady who would have been laughing her little socks off at the antics of Wheel-Mouse, the robots (and let's not forget all the poo).

If you can see it in your heart to download this book (77p) then thank you very much indeed (and don't worry if you don't have a child to share the story with -I'm 47 and I loved it.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Treading On Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - a review

A feel good story of friendship, growing up and unrequited love.

Donny and Hazel are twins, close, as twins often are, but also different characterwise. The story centres around them moving to London to further their educations after A levels. The twins take lodgings with Jaz ( the landlord ) and Selene ( the gorgeous Selene, love of Donnys' life, woman of his dreams etc. etc ).

Jaz is everything Donny isn't. He is the life of the party, he is surrounded by friends, and he sleeps with women.....LOTS of women. Jaz takes Donny under his wing (whether he wants to be there or not) and so starts an eventually quite moving friendship.

But, at the heart of all this is Selene. Donny is in love with her from day one (or possibly before as she seems to be the embodiment of a character from a favourite book from his younger days). Unfortunately Selene is engaged  to Melvin.....

This is very much a story built on strong characterisation - even the lesser characters like Hippy and Mule, friends of Jaz, come across well. Donny starts out as a naive and at times slightly Adrian Mole-ish type but grows into more of a maturity thanks to Jaz, who, in turn becomes a more likeable soul.

As I say, this is a story of growing up, friendship etc. I won't promise you happy endings, I won't promise you'll leave without a tear in the eye but what I will promise you is a good read, a good time with characters you would want to be friends with.

I was offered a copy of this story in exchange for a frank and honest review - and I'm glad I accepted it. I read the book on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Blood Guilt by Ben Cheetham - a review

Welcome to the dark side of Sheffield in the first of Ben Cheetham's Steel City Thrillers.

Four years ago Harlan Miller was a Detective Inspector with a lot of promise, but losing his son in an accident sent him into a downward spiral. As we join him at the beginning his marriage is not in a good state, he is drinking and, in a drunken fight he kills a man.

He, serves his time but the Harlan Miller who emerges from his four year incarceration is a changed man - and not in a good way.  He is haunted by his crime and tries to make amends to the wife of his victim but she will not forgive him.

Within days of his release a child is abducted, and the child just happens to be the son of the man Miller killed. The police are not getting anywhere and the mother turns to the only man who can possibly do anything to find her son, the man she hates more than any other - Harlan Miller.

This is not a book populated with nice characters. Miller is, at times, a wretched soul. He hates who he is, what he has become, but under the circumstances this makes him a more believable lead. He becomes a kind of vigilante, working outside the law but with the benefits of his time spent in the police force. He is not a nice man but he is not a bad man. He just wants to do what he feels he has to to make his life bearable. There is a lot of miserable despair, loathing and hate here but it adds to the atmosphere

As you would expect, the criminals range from the pathetic to the truly vile and evil. It is not a comfortable read, but it is a good one - I finished it in 3 days. There are red herrings a plenty, several twists (I believed I knew one of the culprits, and was feeling quite smug as Miller drove up to his house, but then he drove straight past it - I was wrong).

At the heart of this book is the Steel City itself, Sheffield (my home town, as well as the authors') in all its' dark, brooding, northern glory. It lends itself well to the story, and, as a reader, it makes a nice change to be spending time with characters in places you know well.

I wouldn't hesitate to give this story 4.1/2 out of 5 stars. There are at least 3 more Steel City Thrillers to come. The first, Angel of Death is out now (and will be reviewed here in the near future) and features a whole new set of characters at the start of a planned trilogy

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Slowest Cut by Catriona King (a review)

This, the 6th book in the Marc Craig Crime Series is, by a long way, the darkest yet.
It starts, as all good murder mysteries do, with a body. The body in this case belonging to a school headmistress, Eileen Carragher. The murder has been a long and torturous process involving lots (and I mean lots) of cuts to the body and finishing off with one final, fatal cut. More bodies follow, killed in the same way and secrets of the lives of the victims come to the fore. Who are the bad people - the victims or the killers.
This is not a book of black and white - the grey line down the middle plays a much bigger part, but, having said that, the ending, when it comes is the right one. Satisfactory and very well done.
As is often the case with these books the dark storyline is tempered with a happy side story for one of the team (but I'm not saying who obviously!!). These parts were wonderfully written, with a hint of magic that really shines through.
Another winner from Catriona King - bring on the next!!!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Grower's Gift by Vanna Smythe - Cover Reveal

Todays' Blog post is a cover reveal (with link for the uk  version and book description - I'll post US link if I can find out how.....I am a novice at this kind of thing) by one of my favourite new authors, Vanna Smythe (author of the Anniversary of the Veil series)

The book is The Grower's Gift (Progeny Of Time#1) and is certainly going straight on my kindle. Anyway, without further ado, here it is:

Product Details

In 2102 the Earth is plagued by draughts, floods, and blizzards that come in the middle of summer. The rich and powerful of North America have pulled back into the six remaining megacities, erasing all trace of a central government and leaving the millions displaced by the environmental crisis to fend for themselves in the dying world. But sixteen-year-old Maya is certain she was born with the power to heal the Earth and make it habitable again.

The only place she can learn to use her gift is a school, which is run by the ruthless head of the city of Neo York. But the school is only a front for a facility where they will extract Maya’s magic and then discard her. Only Ty, the heir to the city, can keep Maya from being destroyed at the facility. And Ty’s loyalty to his family has never wavered. Will his growing love for Maya be strong enough to save her?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Home and Hearth by Angela Slatter (a review)

Home and Hearth is the latest chap book from Spectral Press. As such it is only short, 25 pages or so, but oh what a tale you get within these pages.

The story starts as Simon, a school age boy, returns home after a trial for "a bad thing" (I'm not going to drop spoilers on you if I can help it!). His mother, Caroline, is glad to have him home but as time goes by she starts to wonder if she really wants him back.

The feel of the character of Caroline is really good - you get a sense of the shame she feels when outside, the love of a mother for her child but also the fear of what that child is or may become. Overall, I found this to be a tense, well told tale and must say, the end surprised me a little but, again, was really well done - I don't think I saw the swerve coming until it happened.

Another winner from Spectral Press and another author I will be looking out for more from in the future

Monday, 12 May 2014

Keira's Quest: Perceptions by Kristy Brown(a review )

Perceptions is the third in the Young Adult series of novels, Keira's Quest.

As with the two previous books, this starts off more or less straight from where book 2 finished (so don't go thinking you can go hopping in mid series). At the start Keira is stuck in Zakk's realm while the Witch Queen is on Earth and has taken Keira's image.

For the most part this is a book of two halves. The Keira parts are interesting as we get to see more of the people and places in the realmand there are some interesting ideas here. For me, personally, though the strongest and most fun sections are those with the Witch Queen in our world.

As she has taken Keira's identity we, and her friends and allies get a totally different "Keira". Its entertaing watching her sow seeds of chaos and disruption amongst the friends.

Will Keira be able to get back home? Will any of her friends still be talking to her if she does ? Trust me, it's fun finding out ;-)

I guess my only gripe is that this is another short book. I would like to see more of tje people and places of the Realm. But don't let me put you off, this is another strong part of the whole tale.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, 9 May 2014

I wish I was at Stonewylde - a post a year in the making

I have been planning to write this post for nearly a year but for some reason all attempts seemed to fail. I couldn't find the angle I wanted I guess. Then, last night, driving to work a magnificent heron flew across my line of vision, and I thought to myself "I wish I was at Stonewylde". And that, I guess, was my lightbulb moment.

I have also been wanting to start a series of posts along the lines of  "The book that....." to highlight some of the books that have influenced my reading life. This post will also contain the first of these I guess, but more on that later.


The Stonewylde series consists of 5 books, starting with Magus of Stonewylde. In 'Magus' we meet Sylvie, the joint lead in the story. She is in hospital, due to being allergic to modern living. As a possible cure, or at least a chance of respite, she is offered the chance, with her mother, to go to Stonewylde, an enclosed community in the heart of the English countryside. At Stonewylde the people live a more self sufficient life and follow the old ways. It is an idyllic place and Sylvie soon starts to adapt to the way of life and her health starts to improve.

While at Stonewylde she starts up a friendship with a young man, Yul but it is frowned on, as the leader of the community, Magus, despises Yul and is determined to make his life a misery. This is where you start to see the dark underside to Stonewylde, and  believe me, at times it really is brutal enough to make you wince as you read.

I am not going into too much detail of the story here as I have already posted reviews elsewhere. Here I just want to say how much the books affected me. The community itself felt like somewhere I would want to be. The author Kit Berry being very knowledgeable about the 'old ways' and the festival's. The descriptions of the lifestyle, the flora and fauna all touch the soul and leave you with a sense of the magic. A truly beautiful series.

The series is set in two parts, the first three covering the arrival of Sylvie, Magus' reign of terror and his battles with Yul. The second set is the books four and five which see (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!) Yul and Sylvie grown up and running Stonewylde. Things are good for now, Stonewylde is thriving, but evil is never far away and Yul and Sylvie's love will be tested and threatened.

The third and fourth books also introduces their children and more of the beauty and magic of Stonewylde as the modern world starts to encroach.

And this brings me to........


That may sound a bit over dramatic but believe me Shaman of Stonewylde, the fifth and final book in the series left me emotionally ruined like no book before or since (and this is testament to Kit Berry's skill as an author.)

In 'Shaman' Stonewylde is facing it's darkest hour. Yul and Sylvie are more or less estranged, dark shadows loom over Stonewylde and things look beyond saving. The overall feeling is that the story ends with a death. I expected that, I even had it in my mind who would die. I didn't like it but I knew it was coming so I prepared.

I was wrong. It wasn't who I expected and prepared for.

It was so much more shocking than that! I'm not ashamed to say this book brought me to tears. Even now, writing this, I can feel the trickles on my spine.

It's taken me a year to write this, and only now do I feel I'm ready to go back and reread this wonderful, beautiful, emotional series of books.

So, the gates of Stonewylde are opening for me again, I'm going back. Why not join me.


Easy enough this bit. All I need to say is THANK YOU Kit Berry for writing these books and for being someone I think of as a friend. Job well done lass ;-)

Blessed Be

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Haunting of Highdown Hall by Shani Struthers (a review)

The Haunting of Highdown Hall is the first in the 'Psychic Surveys' series - and a great start it is too!

The story revolves around Ruby Davies, who owns the Psychic Surveys business with her assistants/associates Theo, Ness and Corinna. They are based in the South of England, covering  Brighton, Lewes and the surrounding area. The purpose of the business is helping spirits/ghosts pass 'into the light'.

It seems there are quite a few hauntings in this area which helps the reader get used to the way the team works. Their way involves the use of communication (with the ghost) and the cleansing of the site with crystals, smudge sticks and the likes - no religion or exorcism here.

The main haunting here though revolves around the titular Highdown Hall and the ghost of Cynthia Hart, the biggest movie star of her day who died in the 1950's but refuses to move on. The present owner of Highdown Hall wants her gone and is prepared to ruin the reputation of Ruby and Psychic Surveys if they fail.

There really is something for everyone here- a ghost story first and foremost, it is also a mystery (what is stopping Cynthia moving on and who is the other figure she is so scared of?) and, from very early on, a romance angle when Ruby meets Cash, a website developer. Watching their relationship grow with the story is actually quite pleasant reading - it just feels natural, not cloying and sickly. Add to this the humour and 'awww' factor of Jed the ghost dog (hope he comes back for book 2) and you really do have a winning combination.

Romance and mystery with a proper English ghost story at it's heart 5/5 stars

Monday, 5 May 2014

Rom Zom Com - a review

I'll be honest, I was starting to believe the zombie genre had been done to death. What it was really missing was a different angle, something to make things fun again.....and then this little gem from Knightwatch Press dropped into my inbox. Things are looking up.

What we have here is a collection of 12 stories that add a new section to the genre - the ROMantic ZOMbie COMedy. It starts with Generation Z - where Wes is made an offer but can anything (or anyone!) convince him to 'sign on the dotted line'?

I'm not going to go through every story - that'd be unfair to you, the reader, I don;t want to spoil things for you, but I will mention a couple of my favourites, namely 'The Ardent Dead', featuring a different take on zombies (they don't want to eat your brains they want to hump them out) and the question of what would you do for a loved one that's been turned, and Family Life, which is exactly what it says - a tale of undead family life...with a twist.

Basically, what you have here is everything you would expect from a RomCom - but with added zombies. Really, you can't go wrong.

Great fun - 4/5 stars

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Who Is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace (a review)

Tom Adoyo, a breakfast radio news and weather reporter comes home to find a note from his girlfriend. It reads;

                                    I have not left you. But I am gone.
                                    Please just carry on as normal.
                                    Love always

And so begins a tale that is quite wonderful in its' quirkiness. Tom, as you would expect tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. Where is Hayley?, Is she coming back? Is she still his girlfriend?

It seems her friends, and colleagues were aware she was going somewhere but no-one is able  to tell Tom what is going on. His search leads him to a group of people with a slightly odd but fun hobby, but will they lead to Hayley and answers. And who is the girl that seems to be following him

This is a funny and clever novel of love, loss and finding yourself. It is very hard to say much about the principle idea of the 'group' but if you keep in mind the fact that Danny Wallace, the author, is the same man that;

                  a) Started a cult by accident (Join Me)

                   b) Started his own country (How To Start Your Own Country)

     and        c) Said YES for a year (Yes Man)

 you can expect that it is an off the wall idea that will become more believable as the story goes on.

I really recommend this book to one and all (and if you see it in the airport book shop as you fly out on your summer hols this would make an excellent beach/poolside book).

Read it before it is made into a film (as it surely will be) to really appreciate Wallace's gift as a storyteller

5/5 stars

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms by Julia Suzuki (a review)

Several months ago I received a message on Twitter asking if I would consider reviewing a YA/ Middle Grade novel featuring dragons as the main characters. I considered this for all of 2 minutes and (thankfully!) said yes . The result of this conversation was an envelope popping through the letterbox a week or so later with this gem of a book in it.

So, the story - In the Land of Dragor, over the mountains live  7 Dragon Clans. The great war is over and the dragons are separated from mankind. In her cave the dragon Kiara lays a 'strange egg'. The strangeness of the egg is that it is multi-coloured not the usual 1 colour egg.

From the off-set it is clear that Yoshiko is different. As you would expect from this kind of story, when Yoshiko goes to Fire School to learn the craft of being a dragon he finds both friends and enemies. He is not the most confident of dragons and at times is bullied by others. Again though, as you would expect, Yoshiko has a secret destiny which may lead to him becoming a great dragon.

This book stands a lot of comparison with the likes of Harry Potter (Fire School is more or less Dragon Hogwarts) but it is also its' own story. Younger people will love Yoshiko and I think older people will too. I see this as the sort of story parents will read to kids and then carry on reading for themselves once the littlies are asleep.

I also have to say the book itself is a really well produced thing. There are certain books it is a pleasure to own and I have to say this is one of them

4/5 stars (with an extra star for the physical book itself)

The Carbon Trail by Catriona King (a review)

A man finds himself in a shower, in a bathroom. There is a lot of blood. It is not his, but he has no idea of who's it is......or who he, himself is!!!

The man, it turns out, is Jeff Mitchell, a research scientist working with a new form of carbon. He has a wife, a child (neither of whom he knows) and very little clue as to what is happening or why.

All through the story bits of information are drip fed through as Mitchell finds bits of his memory coming back but, and here's the catch, some of the memories that are coming back to him don't seem to be his! Add to mix the fact that he has been under surveillance for 9 months, his boss wants to make deals to sell his research to foreign powers and Mitchell himself is (was) planning to double cross his boss and give the research elsewhere and you have yourself a fantastic read that may well keep you reading well into the dark hours of the night.

I found this to be a really clever story, lots of twists and turns and even when things start to come together it is not obvious how things are going to end.

Catriona King is the author of the Marc Craig/ Belfast Murder Squad series and The Carbon Trail sees her move to new characters and a new setting (New York). As with the Marc Craig books the characters are well developed, the kind you can actually care about. This is a big, ballsy thriller that brought to mind the works of Dean Koontz and Michael Crichton. With this book Catriona King has really upped her game (and the bar was set at a very high level to start with)

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Stuck On You by Jasper Bark (a review)

This short novella starts with a bang (well two really) and doesn't really stop till the last page.

Here's the back story, Ricardo is travelling from Arizona to New Mexico to buy artisan gifts for his girlfriend to sell back home. Now, Ricardo is a bit of a ladies man so when he meets Consuela, a young Mexican who needs to get back over the border to America, there is only one way this is going to end. The rub here is that Consuela is smuggling something in her stomach that they have to get to the buyer.

On the journey they flirt until they have no option but to pull up and 'do the deed'. Unfortunately while they do they are struck by lightning, which kills Consuela and leaves Ricardo stuck inside her, as her muscles have contracted in death. Will Ricardo be able to survive long enough to be rescued (and how will he explain This to his girlfriend?). What was Consuela smuggling in her stomach?

This is both an erotic and disturbing little tale, but trust me, it's a bloody good read. Good horror isn't meant to be comfortable and Jasper Bark does a good job of making the reader as uncomfortable as possible.

4.5/5 stars

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Moribund Tales by Erik Hofstatter (a review)

A bit of a mixed bag this one. It's a collection of short stories (9 over about 50 pages).

The collection starts off well with INTERNAL ABDUCTION, a slightly predictable but still enjoyable "body horror" tale. This is followed by LAST STRAW OF HUMANITY, a "creature in the cellar" story that didn't finish as I thought it might.

For me, the best of these stories were TEARS OF REPENTANCE, a historical tale of love and vengeance, and INFANTS FINGERS (more vengeance with added deception). INFANTS FINGERS is the only tale in this book that isn't told in the first person, and, in my opinion, is better for it.

The last two stories, ON THE EDGE OF THE MARSH and AFFECTIONATE CADAVER,  both left me feeling a bit short changed, but not in such a bad way. I just wanted more from the story. "MARSH" had an interesting set up that ended without answering all my questions - the story had real potential and I would very much like to see an expanded version. This felt very much like a sample chapter.

AFFECTIONATE CADAVER, again, could do with being longer. The story is horrible (in a good way - one of those that makes you uncomfortable, as a good horror story should!). And the main character is a truly vile person. A cracking end to the book.

All being said and done, this is a decent little collection of stories at just the right kind of length for a coffee break. I will be looking out for more from this author.

3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Last God Standing by Michael Boatman (review - first published on TerrorTree)

An interesting premise here, and one that works really well. After 2000 years doing “the job he was created to do” God has quit and come to live among humanity. He is now Lando Cooper, living in Chicago and working in his Dad’s Auto supplies shop…….he also aspires the make it as a stand up comedian.

Unfortunately for Lando he is being regularly challenged by God’s from the elder pantheon (think Greek, Roman, Indian God’s and you get the idea) who want to take his place as Supreme Being. On top of all this a murderous new God known only as The Coming is on the horizon and getting closer.

This novel has a lot going for it. The idea on it’s own is a good one – God lives among us (as do other God’s and even Lucifer) but he is just a regular guy! There are several battles between Lando and other Gods and at times these can be quite epic but there is also home life (the interactions between Lando, his parents – both separated – and their partners are, at times funny enough to make your sides ache) and his love life.

So, all Lando has to do is face and beat an array of God’s, The Coming, and win the girl’s hand while not letting anyone know who he is/was. Oh, and win a slot at the comedy club night and host a TV customers show. There is, needless to say, quite a lot going on but it is to the author’s credit that at no point does it feel rushed or crammed. There are moments that will make you chuckle, touching moments and one’s to make you laugh out loud (the restaurant scene with his girlfriend and her family is a work of comedy genius in my opinion).

The other plus for me is that although the main character is God the book itself is not overly religious or preachy – just a good fun read that I will happily recommend to anyone

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Soul That Screamed by Dan Weatherer (a review)

The Soul That Screamed by Dan Weatherer
Now, this is, in my opinion, just how story collections should be. There is plenty of variety, more or less something for everyone. This is a first collection from Dan Weatherer, but to read his words you get the feeling of reading someone who's been doing this for a while.
Some of the tales here have the voice and style of the 'old masters' like Poe, Lovecraft, and M R James (The Legend of the Chained Oak, Florian, Siar's Rock) while others feel a lot more modern. There are ghost stories in here, there are zombie/re-animation stories here, there are demons a plenty, a 'creature feature (Fly Bad Butterfly, Fly - particularly disturbing for me this one as I have a ridiculous fear of butterflies and moths) and two darkly comic tales  ('Once A Butcher's Wife' and its' follow up 'Always A Butcher's Wife').
Weather comes across on the page as a more than competent author with a selection of 'author voices' to entertain you. I think we will be hearing a lot more from him in the future (I certainly hope so) and would be interested to see what he would do with a full length novel (and I want more stories of Agnes Ferry, the eponymous butcher's wife - you've got to love the old dear, even if she is a nasty piece of work at times)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams (a review)

The thing with being a fan of fantasy novels, series etc is that there is a lot to choose from out there - and a lot of it is formulaic, the same old same old, if you like. You often have to wade through a lot of  "average" to find a gem.

Fortunately Jen Williams debut 'The Copper Promise' is such a gem - and then some!

The story has everything you would want from a fantasy novel. There are the heroes, Wydrin (aka The Copper Cat) and Sebastian, a disgraced knight. There is a dispossessed Lord. There is a Dragon, there is an army of the aforementioned dragon, there are villains. And there is oh so very much more.

Oh, and dungeons complete with traps and treasure (can`t forget the dungeons!!).

But what this story has, above all else, is heart. It is a big world, with big characters but it feels real. You will care about their plight and their adventures.

What else sets this book above standard fantasy fare? One of the big things for me was the army of the dragon's children. They are developed in a very clever and believable way but I'll leave you to find that out for yourselves ;-)

The book itself was originally released in four separate parts and is still available as such on Amazon (for kindle) so if you wish to you can buy part one and give it a try if you want to but I would say just get the whole thing in one volume - you'll be glad you did!

The Copper Promise is the kind of story that got me reading fantasy in the first place and I honestly believe this will one day be looked on as a classic of the genre. And also, that Jen Williams will be a big name, up there with the likes of Sanderson, Rothfuss, Weeks, and Tad Williams.

Highly recommended - 7 stars out of 5 (and yes I can do that because a. it's that good, and b. it's my blog)

Go treat yourself and join Wydrin, Sebastian and Aaron Frith in the first of many adventures

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorne (a review)

As a general rule I don't read biographies. For me to pick one up it has to be of someone who interests me and I often end up not as engaged with the subject as I would have hoped, last year's Bruce (Springsteen) being a good example.

My second concern here was that I have been a fan of Thorne and her band, Everything But The Girl, from, probably, the late 80's. They say don't get to know your heroes, they will only disappoint you - well I'm glad to say that this wasn't the case here. Far from it in fact.

As an author Thorne has a syle that tells her story in a comfortable way. School days, being in her earlier band (The Marine Girls) and gigging with them fills the early part of the tale but what I believe I enjoyed most was the recollection of how she met Ben Watt (her now husband and fellow EBTG bandmate) as a fellow student in Hull. A lot of the stories, I soon realised, were relevent to the songs of the band and the fact that the songs were records, as it were, of actual events (especially 'Hadfield') lends a different feeling to both the music and the book.

All in all Thorne has done a good job with this, so much so that it isn't so much like reading, more like sitting in a comfy chair by the fire with an old friend and reminiscing.

If all biographies were this good I would read more 5/5

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Rainbow Man by P B Kane (a review)

Daniel Routh lives in a small fishing community on the island of Shorepoint with his mother and his little brother Mikey. After a storm he, his brother and two friends, Jill and Greg follow a rainbow and find a body on the beach. This strange, unknown man, when he recovers, becomes a part of community life, everyone seems to love him but Dan is not convinced. Alas he seems to be the only one though.

This is P B Kane's first foray into YA fiction (he is better known as Paul Kane) and a very fine effort it is too. Not as much of an all out horror story, more of a creeping fear. It makes you feel as though you are watching events, you want to yell at the characters to wise up to what is happening.

I must say I really enjoyed this and by the end I was so wrapped up in the story that when the 'reveal' of who the man on the beach really is I never saw it coming even though I should have guessed.

Hopefully Mr Kane will write more in this genre as well as his usual adult horror tales.

(and if you have a young adult reader treat them to a copy of this..........and read it yourself when you can pry it out of their hands )

Monday, 6 January 2014

Invent-10n by Rod Rees - a review

The year is 2030 and there are cameras everywhere. It is a bleak Britain with everyone (well, almost everyone ) being observed and controlled by the Government. There is very little oil, gas, heating, lighting etc - all in all, a pretty miserable place.

The Government is wanting to send all the "Gees" (Russian refugees) back to where they came from but things change when Ivan Nitko ( one of the 'gees') is found to have a new power source (the invent-10n of the title). Sebastian Davenport, a low level Government worker is sent to Scarborough to meet Nitko and try and get the details of Invent-10n but they haven't counted on Nitko's new PR person, Jennifer Moreau, who is as anti-government as there is.

The story is told from the point of view of both Sebastian and Jennifer (but as her alter-ego Jenni Fur). Their parts of the book are written in the style of blog posts or diary entries and along with these there are also newsletters, magazine/newspaper type articles that help to explain what is happening in the world. These sections also give clarity to the terms used to describe the people and places of 2030 Britain.

The two main characters are very different but also similar in ways. Sebastian works for the Government while Jenni Fur hates them and everything they stand for but maybe Views will change along the way (you don't really think I'm going to tell you do you?).

For me the strongpoint of this book is Rod Rees' gift for characterisation. While Sebastian comes across as a bit meek and mild Jenni Fur is totally in your face.  She talks in a hep style of years ago and throws in other bits of slang and at first I thought this could be a bit of a bind but it is so well written that it feels natural and within a few pages you barely notice that it's slang.

For me Jenni Fur is one of the best female leads out there today.

One other thing to think about while you are reading this book - there are cameras everywhere, watching your every move. You are constantly being told what you can or can't say and do......maybe Rod Rees' vision of 2030 isn't all that far away.

A cracking and well presented book - 5 stars

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams (a review)

Bobby Dollar is an Angel Advocate, whose job on earth is to plead the case for the souls of the recently departed. At point of death each person is judged, with an advocate (from Heaven) and a prosecutor (from Hell) trying to "win" the soul - good people go to Heaven, bad people to Hell and those in the grey area spend a time in Purgatory before moving on.

Things start to go wrong for Bobby when he turns up to plead for a soul and the soul in question has disappeared - and this is only the first! Added to this, a short while after, the Prosecutor,  Grasswax is found murdered (most gruesomly ) at the scene of the missing soul and Bobby starts to look around and solve the mystery. There is also the small problem of a missing item, belonging to one of Hell's big hitters, which everyone seems to think Bobby has (apart from Bobby) and everyone wants to get there hands on.

The world of Bobby Dollar (aka The Angel Doloriel) is not what you might be expecting in a tale of the eternal battle between Heaven and Hell. It is a gritty, Chandleresque version of our world. Our hero himself also, is not what you would expect from a member of the Heavenly Host, a very rough round the edges guy with a habit of getting into trouble. The story starts at a run and picks up more speed as it goes along with hardly a chance to draw breath. Unsure who to trust, constantly on the run, pursued by demons and monsters, and falling for The Countess of The Cold Hands (yeah, that's right an Angel in love with a member of "the other side") - life with Bobby is far, far from dull, with a full supporting cast of the weird and wonderful.

This is possibly Tad Williams' best work since Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, which will appeal to fans of The Dresden Files and Mike Carey's Felix Castor books. I'm certainly looking forward to more in this series.