Wednesday 26 December 2012

Lexi Revellian

I read two of Lexi's novels early in my kindle owning days, long before I thought of reviewing books.  She has a classy and readable style of writing and her work is always enjoyable.

Ice Diaries  Ice Diaries

My review - 

This story suggests that in a few years’ time, a pandemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Those remaining, presumably immune, have to find a way to survive after the weather changes and Britain is covered in 20 metres of snow. Tori is a member of a group who co-operate to forage and try to keep civilisation alive in their small community. She rescues a man from the storm to find he is a renegade member of a travelling group of survivors. She, and we, don’t know who is the villain in this group, and who the good man.

Lexi Revellian is an articulate and classy writer and I enjoyed her previous books, Remix and Replica. This story is well told in the first person by Tori, an ordinary person with no special skills (like me), the characters are believable and varied and the story has a pace and an excitement born of the situation and the interaction of the people in it. In such a situation, we might ask ourselves how we would behave. The story has the possibility of being continued. I enjoyed it very much and hope that it will be. 

Terry Murphy

This is the first of Terry's books that I've read.  It's very funny and I do love a laugh.

Weekend in Weighton  Weekend in Weighton

My review -

Eddie Greene is a new private detective and his very first client doesn’t last 24 hours before being found dead. Eddie’s task of finding his client’s killer isn’t made any easier by the fact that he has fallen foul of Weighton’s Mr Big, Jimmy Cartwright, and his thugs. Jimmy warns him off but our hero is determined. Eddie is a very likable, fast talking and fast thinking chap and all the characters in the book have three dimensions. 

This is a brilliantly told tale with a number of linked stories. There are some great one-liners here, for example, ‘I’d never not solved a case, and I didn’t intend to start with my first.’ I was very rapidly drawn in to the plot. Terry Murphy has a sharp wit and a knack for a story line and I found this book extremely funny and very satisfying. I believe there will be another Weighton book. I look forward to it very much.

Monday 24 December 2012

Alan McDermott

Gray Redemption ends the Gray trilogy of fast action stories.  It's superb!

Gray Redemption  Gray Redemption (Tom Gray #3)

My review -

This is the exciting denoument of the Gray Trilogy which features ex-SAS man Tom Gray and his personal crusade to tackle injustice, which we followed in Gray Justice and Gray Resurrection. He and his surviving friends are attempting to return to England where people in the heart of the government, want the world to believe he is dead. There is a sub-plot intriguingly twisted around this, which involves terrorism and a virus which can affect humanity genetically in an unexpected way. You have to read on!

Alan McDermott writes a great thriller and at times this book became almost nail-bitingly exciting. The books definitely have to be read in order because we get to know the characters in the earlier books and the start of this one builds up the plot and thickens the intrigue, rather than being character driven. As the first book began with the unpunished death of his young son, it was lovely to find Tom reminiscing about him at the end – and what a very satisfying ending it was… with just a little bit of a hanging thread. Absolutely brilliant!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Darren Humphries

Another short story by Darren Humphries which is prompted by the date.  Feb 14th!

The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D.'s St. Valentine's Day Massacre The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D.'s St. Valentine's Day Massacre

My review -

Agent Ward and the delicious Veronika are planning a Valentine’s night celebration when he is called to attend a case.  A greetings card factory has been attacked, or rather, just about annihilated.  Paper hearts and roses are scattered like confetti at an enthusiastic wedding.  Green gelatinous goo is left at the site.  What’s going on?  You’ll have to read it and find out…..

Darren Humphries has hit upon a winning streak with this character and his writing has mellowed and grown more assured over the time I have been reading his work.  I suspect Agent Ward’s humour, sarcasm, heavy irony and plain sense of fun are Darren’s own.  When added to the imaginative scrapes in which our agent finds himself, it makes for a winning combination.  Agent Ward fans, get your next fix here!  

Here's a little seasonal offering not to me missed.

The Man From U.N.D.E.A.D.'s Christmas Carol  The Man From U.N.D.E.A.D.'s Christmas Carol

My review -

Agent Ward, The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D., stands on his doorstep on Christmas Eve, just as his love interest Veronika is preparing egg nog. The glowing features of his former boss, in the guise of his door-knocker, then tell him he is to visit Christmases past, present and future. He meets his younger self and ensures that Ward Junior henceforth nurses a burning desire to become and agent when he grows up. He meets a present day adversary in the Oxford HQ, then travels to a future in which it appears that he is already dead!

An egg nog will never be the same again! This is another little belter of a short story from the man who has created a genre all his own. This is a truly Wardic tale and a great Christmas offering from Darren Humphries. Merry Christmas!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Paul Fenton (P A Fenton)

Paul's books are always very funny but with a dark streak.  This one is dark but with funny streaks.  I always very much enjoy his writing style and his own brand of humour.  This latest one is no let-down!

Natural Deselection  Natural Deselection

My review -

Chloe Bright is a business analyst working in a London office. She's a New Yorker and came to London to escape from an incident in her past. There's some wonderful corporate-speak in use here as the company brings in a consultant and Chloe becomes involved with him. The story is dark, Urban Noir, you might say, but nevertheless is shot through with Paul Fenton's own wonderful sense of humour. Chloe receives nasty and increasingly threatening messages on her phone and also appears to have a strange woman, masquerading as herself, stalking her on the underground. Her involvement with the `consultant' brings out more information than she's happy with. Her best friend at work tries to help her but that causes them both problems.

This is a really good thriller and the need to know what happens, what everyone is really up to, keeps the pages flying by. It's more serious than the author's usual stories but it full of memorable phrases that made me laugh a great deal. I found the ending, though a little poignant, very satisfying. An excellent read!

Wednesday 12 December 2012

A bit of a natter

Book and review blogger Joo has been interviewing authors over the last year.  She has decided to try a few readers and allowed some of the authors to choose the questions.  I'm first reader in the hot seat!

If you could live in the age and setting of a book, which book, and why?

I always loved the Arthurian Legends and fancied myself in Dark Age Britain.  I know it would be a brutal life and, compared to today, nasty and short too and I’d undoubtedly be a grubby serf not a noble lady!  My favourite books of this genre are T H White’s The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, which begins with The Crystal Cave.

Does it annoy you the book finishes well before 100% because the author mentions their other works at the back of the novel. Do you mind if the author includes a synopsis or even an excerpt?

It does, on the whole.  I never mind a synopsis, or the blurb, but on the occasions when I’ve thought I had 12% still to go (there’s a kindle reader’s statement!) and the plot should still be thickening, it’s suddenly the end and I’ve got a chapter I don’t want to read.  Even if I want the author’s next book, I really don’t want it now.

Are you put off if you see a book is part of a series? Or does that entice you, knowing that if you like it there are more books to enjoy?

Not at all.  As a keen reader of fantasy, I love a series.  I have also recently read some modern crime trilogies and far from putting me off, I appreciate the chance to get deeper into the story and to get to know the characters better.  I sometimes think it must be harder to sell a series because you need the reader on board for the long haul.  The author is asking for commitment on the reader’s part but the reader also looks to the author for a good outcome.  I’ve never got over the total disappointment, after slogging my way through 6 thick books of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, to get to the end which I will not divulge (spoiler!).  I felt totally let down.  I have gradually learnt to trust authors again though!

Do you read the Look Inside before purchasing? Always? Sometimes, depending on the reviews? Never?

Only occasionally and generally if the author is completely new to me.  If I have a recommendation from another reader who I know shares my taste, I will read the blurb and then generally go for it.  If I’m not sure, or the reviews seem to be contradictory (why not?  No two people are the same) then I might Look Inside.  I can tell from an excerpt that long if I’m really not going to get on with the book.

Do you read for hours at a time, or in short bursts, or a mixture of the two?

In the day it tends to be short bursts but I read most evenings from tea-time to bed-time and then again in bed!  I discovered recently that I don’t know how to work my own television!  I never put it on but occasionally stop reading to watch something special.  If it depended on me though, it would rust away in the corner!  I love and relish the opportunity to have a really good soak in a book.

How important are reviews of a book to you? Would they influence your choice to buy it?

I do look at reviews but I look cannily, I think.  If a book has lots of good reviews, I check to see if the reviewer has reviewed anything else.  If it comes from a regular reviewer then I’ll take it at face value. If there’s a string of five star reviews from people who only have a single review to their name, then I take them to be his mates, his mam and his gran!  Reviewers with a bit of experience behind them – not necessarily top reviewers but with more than a dozen, say, are more likely to make me want to read the book.  I like it when they use the work ‘enjoyed’ !

Do you think you remain unbiased when reviewing books by people you know or interact with on the internet?

I hope I do.  I try to.  You have to ask yourself why you are reviewing a book.  I’m doing it primarily to let other readers know what I think of the work.  A review is only one person’s opinion and we all look for different things in our books.  If I tell people that I thought a book was amazing because I like the author, then I’m doing the readers no favours and ultimately I’m doing the author none either. Readers will find it’s not as good as I made it out to be and won’t take my other reviews seriously; authors will think they are writing books I like when they aren’t.  Eventually no-one will believe me!  I have to say that usually I find a book I love and then get to know the author afterwards.  It’s usually that way round.
How do you feel about leaving negative reviews?
It’s a hard thing to do.  When I’ve loved a book I want to shout about it and I can write a review quickly and enthusiastically.  I love reviewing good stuff.  Because I choose books I expect to like then I often do enthuse about them.  Why would I choose to read something I don’t think I’ll like?  Sometimes though, something about the blurb or someone’s recommendation will entice me in and I find to my dismay that I really don’t get on with it.  It’s maybe poorly written or the plot’s thin and predictable.  Maybe the characters are wooden and unconvincing.  I read a book recently where the man and wife talk to each other as if they’re addressing a committee meeting.  I will finish it, and give it a chance but if I really feel it’s poor then I have to say so.  Sometimes I’ve been awake for hours at night trying to think of ways to say it.  It’s not fair to fellow readers to suggest a book is good if I don’t think it is.  I would always say why I didn’t get on with it though.  I think those reviewers that say ‘This book is a load of rubbish’ help no-one.  You don’t help an author to let him/her think the book is good when it isn’t.  You also don’t help the good authors if you try and class them all the same so as not to cause offence.  I would always hope to be helpful. 

Are you more lenient with regards mistakes if you know a book is self published, or do you believe the authors should have hired an editor to make sure it's the best it can be?

I notice mistakes.  It’s just the way I am.  However, I prefer to point them out to the author privately unless there are lots, or it’s a matter of poor style, in which case I might suggest the book needs an editor.  I am aware that when I pay £2 or less for a book, the author isn’t being paid enough to afford an editor.  Traditionally published books have the resources of a publishing house to ensure they don’t come out with errors (doesn’t always happen though!).  Indies aren’t on a level playing field and I’m always pleased when fellow readers are prepared to help them out too.  Even really good authors can’t proof read their own work.  You read what you meant to write, not what you actually wrote. 
So, to answer the question (!) I don’t expect perfection but I’m happy to help.

If something an author did upset or bothered you, would it stop you reading more of their work, even if you've read their stuff before and enjoyed it?

I’m not sure how this would apply.  I would judge the book by the standard of the writing and the imagination of the author rather than any perceived view of his or her morality.  I don’t need to like an author as a person to enjoy reading his/her work.  Generally though, you get a feel for the person behind the book and I might be a bit shocked if I found they were up to no good!

So that's what I'm all about.  Thanks Joo - it was painless really!

Rosen Trevithick

Rosen Trevithick's last book was a funny one.  This is much more thoughtful and serious in some ways but still has that spark of humour that has me making highlights.

The Ice Marathon  Ice Marathon

My review -

This is the story of Emma, a young woman of 30-ish, who suffers from bi-polar disorder but who manages it with medication.  She is set up with a date by her flatmate and the two of them don’t get on.  The evening (or early next morning) ends with a brutal but mutual sex act which results in her pregnancy.  To save the baby from harm, Emma has to give up her lithium which keeps the disorder at bay.  Emma and Simon get together again in an off and on way and I really found I wanted to know what happened. 

To me, the clever part of this story is that it is a first person narration by Emma and we see her bipolar disorder begin to creep up on her.  Because she is telling us about it, we can see her rationale for her over-excited, hysterical behaviour, all the reasoning behind her fear and despair.  We know where things are heading before she does.  If this were described in the third person we’d only see the results, not the reasoning.  This aspect is extremely well done.  I also found some of the writing very funny – even in desperate situations, Rosen Trevithick can pull a funny out and I found myself highlighting a phrase or two that made me giggle.

There’s an exciting and ultimately satisfying ending to this story.  Very enjoyable.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Katie W Stewart

I read this story in a couple of sittings.  It's excellent - and it makes you care.

Treespeaker  Treespeaker

My review -

This is a fantasy tale for Young Adults, but people of that age pull no punches and neither does the author. Jakan, the Treespeaker, is one of a tribe of forest dwellers and through his gifts he can discern the will of Arrakesh, a forest spirit. Someone arrives within their community with the intention of cutting down the forest and enslaving the people. It's not an uncommon theme and was effective in Avatar, for example. Here, it's handled extremely well and touches upon human emotions and motivations with which young adults are just coming into contact, though they will deal with them as older adults too! We feel the greed of the interloper, the unfairness of what happens to Jakan, the disempowerment of the Treespeaker and the helplessness of his tribe. On the plus side we meet with loyalty, friendship, an urge for the common good, and I'm always happy to 'meet' a wise older woman - I like a good role model!

Katie W Stewart has an excellent writing style. It's clear, engages the reader in the subject and makes the characters feel real. I found that I cared about Jakan and his family and about the fate of the forest. I loved some of the other characters he met too, including the little girl who helped him when he was injured. If you're a lover of a good fantasy adventure story, enjoy some deeper things to think about than just orc and mage wars, and appreciate some good quality writing, this is absolutely the book for you. I enjoyed it hugely!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Darren Humphries

This is a collection of short stories in a variety of genres.  Some may surprise you.

Sharing a Fence with the Twilight Zone  Sharing a Fence with the Twilight Zone

My review -

The short story genre has grown on me since I bought my kindle and this collection is a great example of why.  We have several distinct types of story here.  The first group are often funny, wry, sometimes thought provoking; the second are, as they group title suggests, dark, apocalyptic and harsh.  The third group returns to the style of the first, sometimes outright funny, sometimes wryly amusing, always original.

Darren Humphries is often thought of as a humorous fantasy writer – a style of writing he does particularly well.  This collection of stories will prove that he is much more than this.  It’s well executed, thoughtful and far ranging.  It deserves a place on every e-shelf.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Nicola Palmer

This is the first Nicola Palmer book I have read and I admit I fell for the Christmas theme.  It's a delight!

One Strange Christmas One Strange Christmas

My review -

In this delightful short story for children, nine year old Jake wishes for something exciting to happen on Christmas morning. He believes firmly in Father Christmas - he's seen him! He wakes up to a heavy fall of blue snow - and the day becomes stranger still. It's a story for children which doesn't talk down to them and is a very pleasant read for an adult too. We meet Jake's family - his older brother Ben, who no longer believes in Santa, elves, even magic.

The writing style is easy for a child to follow - I'm going to try it on my 8 year old Granddaughter over the holiday! It doesn't patronise though, and is eloquent enough to engage an adult's attention. I love to try a few Christmas stories at this time of year and this one is a good one! It touches upon the heavily burdened mum, cooking the dinner for family and guests, the dad who has to work on the day and misses out on family time, but mainly, young Jake, who feels people are missing the magic of the season by falling asleep after lunch. I agree with him. If you haven't got children to read this story to, read it for yourself and remember when you felt the magic. You'll enjoy it.

Monday 3 December 2012

Will Macmillan Jones

This is the third in The Banned Underground series.  I love them and now await a fourth!

The Vampire Mechanic (The Banned Underground)  the Vampire Mechanic (The Banned Underground)

My review -

Will Macmillan Jones' latest Banned Underground story is another jolly romp with the musicians and their acquaintances. Grizelda (an ever present frog-producer in times of trouble) helps a fragile and sickly-looking Fungus, and the gang meet a sort of anti-Santa (and his Notsleigh) as well as finding the real Sleigh and Santa's Little Helpers (all over 6ft tall) while the Old Gentleman himself is away on his hols. The hapless followers of the Grey Mage are there too, abusing his credit card! The mechanic of the title is uniquely qualified to suck in his teeth and give an inflated quote for sleigh repairs.

There are some wonderful moments in this story - look out for a harassed airman from RAF Valley, a bolshy satnav and a little tribute to The Italian Job that I absolutely loved!

Will has developed a great style and pace with this series (although I still don't like footnotes) and I look forward very much to the next episode, due in spring, I believe (and hope!)

Jim Webster

Dead Man Riding East

Jim has created a wonderful fantasy world.  This is the second book in this series.  My review for the first can be seen on Amazon.

Dead Man Riding East  Dead Man Riding East

My review -

n this new adventure in the `Swords' series, we again follow Benor and watch and feel as though we take part in his hectic life. He both pursues and is pursued when he `liberates' a prince's concubine (and keeps her!) and the prince, naturally, doesn't want to let the matter rest. As well as being an excellent fighter, one of his companions on the journey is a master of the haute couture trade and manages to combine these two rather successfully.

Jim Webster has created a credible fantasy world here, populated by its own races, both rivals and allies, and with an intriguing group of wild creatures which you can almost taste when they are described as food species! There is a good deal of action in this book but also some softer, `Ahhh!' moments which I won't describe for fear of spoiling the story. Needless to say, he has once again used his own writing style to give us some wonderfully memorable phrases. I like his style and his gentle humour.