Friday 30 January 2015

Sorrow's Isle by Jen Williams - a review

I don't tend to give 5 star ratings to short stories but in this case I'm making an exception. The reason behind this is simple - this story, set before the events of The Copper Promise, is just what a good short should be. The characters, Sir Sebastian and the wonderful Wydrin of Crosshaven fit comfortably into the narrative, making it feel like time spent with old friends, and the story itself doesn't try too hard to be too clever and deep.

It is a straightforward quest story with our heroes hired to find a girl missing on the titular island. You get action, peril, all in the right amounts. I've said before that The Copper Promise was very much in the style of the old Dungeons and Dragons game. That being the case both this short and the forthcoming sequel are like expansion packs - new lands, new creatures etc .

The writing and storytelling of Jen Williams is an absolute joy so treat yourself to Sorrow's Isle and join Sebastian and Wydrin on their quest - you'll be glad you did.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (a review)

This is the first book in the Shadows of the Apt series, a 10 book set (and not small books either). My plan is to give a brief review on the blog for each book in the series and do the main review for the series as a whole when I'm done.

The world here is a world at the start of its' industrial age but also a world on the brink of war. Thanks to the industrial revolution angle we get to see a slightly different world to what we usually get with this type of story and also the introduction of things like mechanical transporters, railways, airships and the likes (giving it a steampunk/fantasy hybrid feel at times)

The big selling point though are the races of man. Each different race shares characteristics with an insect so you have, for example, Beetle kinden, Spider kinden, Dragonfly kinden, each with different abilities, I expected to maybe struggle with this at first but they are written in such a way that it all feels natural.

The characters develop well throughout the course of the book (and they have to grow up quickly as Mr Tchaikovsky really puts them through the wringer at times)

As the first book in a series 'Empire' sets things up nicely with more or less non stop action and a nice lead into book 2. I have high hopes for Shadows of the Apt and, having started book 2, I see no reason to doubt that this will become a series held up there with the 'fantasy classics' in time

4.5/5 stars

Sunday 11 January 2015

Comedians vs Horror Writer - 2 reviews in 1

Two books up for review here. The first is Dead Funny, a collection of horror stories by comedians, edited by Robin Ince and Johnny Mains, of which I was sent a review copy. The second is The Adventures of Dalton Quayle by Paul Kane (a book I purchased for myself).

The reason I am reviewing both books together is simple - one is horror stories by comedians, the other is comedy by a horror writer. I was curious to how they would compare against each other and who would do best in the others genre.

So, first up Dead Funny. As soon as I heard of this collection I knew it would appeal to me so getting a review copy was a bonus really. There are 16 stories in this set, by comedians you will have heard of and some you may not, names like Rufus Hound, Al Murray, Phil Jupitus, Sara Pascoe, Katy Brand and Reece Shearsmith. As a collection there are some very dark tales here especially the opener 'Dog' by Reece Shearsmith, which I found quite unsettling. I guess I knew from there this was going to be a good read. Al Murray's 'For Everyone's Good' was also a stand out for me

Not every story is great but I didn't find any that didn't really belong. If you are looking for a good and dark collection you won't go far wrong with this.

And so we move on to The Adventures of Dalton Quayle by Paul Kane. Now, I will let it be said here, Paul Kane is one of my favourite authors of the last few years. For this collection PK steps away from the horror scene (slightly) and heads into humour with a bunch of stories that owe a lot to Sherlock Holmes with a lot of nods to genre films.

The stories, as with Holmes, are told from the journal of Dalton Quayle's friend and associate Dr Humphrey Pemberton. There are other hints of Holmes (Inspector Le Strange, the house keeper Mrs Hudsucker, his arch enemy Siphiliti). The settings range from the English countryside to the Wild West (Dalton Quayle Rides Out) via the depths of the sea (Dalton Quayle's Wet One). Each tale is a fun read and each mystery is nicely tied up. A very satisfying collection that had me laughing out load many times, and sometimes just rereading lines and passages in awe of PK's skill with wordplay. A book I will certainly comeback to again.

So, which comes out on top of the two books? Dead Funny is maybe not what you would expect from comedians but is a very good idea for a collection and hopefully there will be a volume two (if you're reading this Robin and Johnny please consider it ;-D), Dalton Quayle was also not quite what I was expecting - much funnier than I thought it would be and, for someone who is a big Sherlock Holmes and genre fan a joy to read.

I guess I'm going to call this a dead heat. Two books that are both worth your perusal and enjoyment.

Dead Funny - 4.5/5 stars

The Adventures of Dalton Quayle - 4.5/5 stars

Thursday 8 January 2015

Continuum: The STAR WARS Phenomenon As Experienced From The Inside by Tim Dry (a review)

Tim Dry has led a varied career. He's been part of performance troupe SHOCK, one half of Tik and Tok (and if you don't know Tik and Tok do yourself a favour and look them up on your favourite video watching channel), he's been a mime and an actor. It's mainly the actor persona here but the music gets a look in too.

The book, as the title suggests, covers the time that Tim was given the chance to appear in the third STAR WARS film, Return of the Jedi and the years following when he was asked to attend conventions of all shapes and sizes.

It is, as you would expect, a very anecdotal book but the thing is, some people can tell anecdotal tales and some cannot. Fortunately Tim Dry can and does so really well. Reading this is very much like sitting in front of a roaring fire, with a comfy chair and a large brandy and just listening to funny story after funny story. Not all the conventions and collector gatherings are the most glamorous of settings but all have a story.

Throughout the book Tim Dry comes across as a bit of a cheeky chappy (my favourite story was the fart noise escapade in Kamen, Germany). The humour is schoolboy like in tone at times but for STAR WARS fans, Tim Dry (in his various guises) fans or just fans of a well told anecdote you won't go far wrong with this book. I will certainly be looking out for more from Mr. Dry in the future

Saturday 3 January 2015

The Shadow Tech Goddess by Ren Garcia (a review)

First things first: I was sent a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Shadow Tech Goddess is the 8th in Garcia's League of Elder books. The question I was asked by the author was along the lines of "would readers be able to follow/understand the story lines if they started reading the books here?" (This is the start of the 4th series in the ongoing story). My answer to this would certainly be yes. I felt at home with the characters from the off and gladly threw myself into the story.

This is the first of Garcia's books I have read and I found the characters and worlds to be well created and interesting (they had a Napoleonic feel to me at times). The setting is very much a mix of Sci-fi and Fantasy with a healthy dose of multiple possibility existences. The worlds visited by Paymaster Stenstrom and Lady Gwendolyn draw the reader in, certainly some of the most interesting places I have visited in a while.

I also feel I have to mention the art work here. The cover of the book (and the others in the series) are small works of art that I would gladly have on my wall. The internal illustrations too, are a bit special.

I will certainly be going back to the very beginning to fully absorb into Ren Garcia's universe (universe's?) but if you are looking for a jumping in point this is as good a place as any.

5/5 stars

Thursday 1 January 2015

D.I. Paulo Storey books 2 and 3 by Frances di Plino

I've decided to place these two books, Someday Never Comes (book 2)and Call It Pretending (book 3) in the same review as they are part of the same series and, although the two crimes are separate the back stories of the police operatives run through both books.

The first then, Someday Never Comes. I must say, and this may sound odd but bear with me here, this was not an easy book to read, very uncomfortable in places, but a very good book indeed. The story revolves around child trafficking, child prostitution and a faded Rock Star on the comeback trail. As with the previous book in the series, Bad Moon Rising, there are enough false trails, red herrings etc. to keep you guessing right up to the final reveal. As well as the main story there is the fallout from Bad Moon to deal with as well. Storey's daughter is in hospital and things are more strained than ever between Paulo and his wife. There is a chink of light however, in the form of his daughter's psychiatrist, but just when things are looking better a spanner is thrown in the works which left me wishing the author would just give the man a break.

So, with the crime solved, and Storey's love life as much in limbo as ever, we move on to Call It Pretending(book 3). I found this one to be a very clever and 'tricksy' book. The main story revolves around events that took place years ago. Somebody is killing people off and leaving a note with each body (starting "1 down, 5 to go" then "2 down, 4 to go" etc.)Obviously there is a link but the squad are short of ideas. Will they get to the killer before the killer reaches the end of the list? Again, as with the previous books, plenty of false trails and the likes to keep you guessing (and I never suspected the actual killer). Things are a little bit better for Storey in his personal life for now and this brings some lighter moments. In fact, things are looking good for just about everyone on his team, apart from one, whose secret, revealed only to Paulo brings things down to earth with a bump.

So, what we have here is two separate stories both very well told with a set of good strong back stories for the main characters that will keep you looking out for the next in the series.

Someday Never Comes 4/5 stars

Call It Pretending 4.5/5 stars