Thursday 31 January 2013

Sam Kates

Sam is a new author to me and I started with this book of short stories.  It's excellent!

Pond Life  Pond Life

My review -

This is a little gem. It's a book of varied short stories but each is perfect - not something you always feel about collections. There's nothing here you would say was a make-weight. There are ten stories (and an excerpt from the authors book - I haven't looked at this because I don't want to spoil it for myself) and each is beautifully written. There are a couple of stories about obsession, one about World War 2, a girl who says she can fly, a way of dealing with noisy neighbours - all human life is here! 

Sam Kates' style is easy to read; deceptively so, I think, as the language is used imaginatively and rather evocatively. The stories here range from horror to humour and sometimes one story contains both. Many have been previously published and it's evident that he is an experienced story teller. Sam Kates has form! I am very keen to read his horror novel too. I feel he's an author to watch. This collection is really excellent.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Vernon Baker

If you love mysteries surrounding Knights Templar, hidden secrets and celestial beings, this is the one for you.  I really enjoyed it.

Slow Boat to Purgatory Slow Boat to Purgatory

I have just finished this Slow Boat to Purgatory (Book 1) and rushed to check that Book 2 is available.  I will certainly be reading this before too long.  The story, telling as it does of an immortal Knight Templar, a secret Order of the Broken Cross who search for him and Alex, the ex-serviceman who has been left details of a 'secret' by his grandfather, invites comparison with Dan Brown's books. I think it's a pity to try to classify Slow Boat in that manner as it's complex and has its own structure and cast of 'celestial beings'. The story is rich with demonology, a view of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory which harks back to medieval times and 'good' and 'fallen' angels who are barely distinguishable.

I enjoyed the story, its pace, its easy movement from modern times to the thirteenth century and its cast of sometimes strange beings.  It was easy to like Gaspar, the Templar, easy to dislike the Order, who had fingers in pies everywhere, yet even when they met their doom I felt a little sad for them.  This is the first of Vernon Baker's books I have read and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  He creates a frightening 'other world' populated by powerful unseen creatures and I'm eager to immerse myself in there a second time!

Thursday 17 January 2013

David M Staniforth

This is the second in David's Fuel to the Fire fantasy series.  I've enjoyed them both immensely.

Ruler's Desire (Fuel to the Fire)  Ruler's Desire (Fuel to the Fire)

My review -

We are once again in the twin worlds we entered in Fuel to the Fire and the barrier between them is weakening, potentially allowing evil to swamp and totally overwhelm good. Davran, the girl brought up disguised as a boy, is pivotal in fulfilling an old prophecy. She returns to her `dark' world with Ronyn, her dragon trainer friend, to her family who thought she was dead. She needs to persuade the downtrodden people that hatred is fuelling the Ruler Saurian's power, and they must refuse to hate. Unfortunately, Saurian manipulates them and tries to persuade Davran to fall in love with him and rule with him. The story builds to a great climax and there are enough dangling threads to ensure that David Staniforth will be able to continue this tale into at least another book.

The writing contains some clever and powerful imagery, lovely descriptions and a thoughtful take on love, hatred, power and manipulation in ruling and swaying a people. I was particularly taken by the concept of The Unfortunates, those who are not truly, peacefully dead, because they took their own lives. There is much debate about whether fighting justly in a hopeless cause is actually suicide. You can't win, but you haven't despaired. Saurian uses the fear of becoming an Unfortunate as a tool to oppress the people; to prevent their rebellion. I have really enjoyed both these books in the Fuel to the Fire series. I would heartily recommend them to anyone who enjoys thoughtful and beautifully written fantasy tales.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

David Wailing

This is the latest in David's 'Auto Series'.  It's a cracker!

Copy  Copy

My review -

This is the fifth book in David Wailing's series of longish shorts (Bermuda shorts?) known collectively as The Auto Series. They are set 10 years from the present and are centred around the Auto - a sort of on-line digital assistant which understands its owner's tastes and interest and can even converse on the owner's behalf. Our protagonist Derek is listening to a broadcast of a book launch as the story opens. After a gap of 5 years when the author was reported as dead, 6 new books in the series have been issued. There's an interview with the reclusive author but only Derek has noticed that the new books seem to be rehashed stories, even rehashed descriptions, from the earlier books. 

David Wailing can take a science-fiction story, of the Auto which runs your life, and can push the boundaries of his own theory. It's a great skill. Would you trust a device to buy things for you? To organise your social calendar? If you give a machine such power, what happens when you no longer own it? I have enjoyed all the Auto stories which have been funny, thought-provoking and often a little worrying. This is the darkest of them by far and is an absolutely gripping read. The old saying 'For heaven's sake don't let them make any more progress!' springs readily to mind. I find myself wondering if the author can push his own theory any further? If he does - I want to be there reading it!

Monday 14 January 2013

David Wailing

This is another in the popular Auto series of short stories.  I love these and hope there will be an Auto Anthology in the future.

Backup Backup

My review -

This is another story in the Auto series by David Wailing. He has created a not-too-distant future in which people allow their 'electronic assistants' - think smart phones with knobs on - to organise their lives, including their interpersonal relationships. If your auto isn't turned off when you die, it's still interacting with you, with others.

David Wailing's books are always cleverly written. He also has a skill in anticipating the way current trends could come to fruition. Strange fruit indeed! How would you feel if you could go to a parent's grave and feel you could share a conversation? Comforted? How about if you could enter a virtual room and meet your dead family and friends and take part in conversation they are having with other dead people? Spooked? Scared? Horrified? You'll have to read the story and find out! Brilliant, as usual.

A Splendid Salmagundi

I edited this book but it doesn't prevent me from having an opinion!

A Splendid Salmagundi  A Splendid Salmagundi

This book has won the Indie Book Bargains award for best anthology for 2012

My review -

This is an exuberant sampler of the work of a number of Indie authors who are members of the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle Forum (and one or two as yet unpublished readers from there). Some offer a story in their usual genre; some have taken a completely new style - they are a versatile lot. As editor of the book I can't choose favourite stories; it would be like choosing your favourite from among your children! I have enjoyed the work of some people new to me - it's a great way of finding new authors. I've also read work from those I already love and smiled in self congratulation - I was right about them!

There's a lot of humour in here; there is horror and disturbance; there's even a true story or two. A smattering of poems adds seasoning. I think this is altogether a great collection. I would say that wouldn't I but I didn't write it! Excellent value for the price.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

David M Staniforth

This is the first of a potential series - there's another out at the moment.  Well worth a read for the fantasy fan.

Fuel to the Fire  Fuel to the Fire

My review - 
This is the story of a girl on the brink of womanhood in a world where pretty girls are taken as sexual playthings by the ruler whose taste leans towards torture and murder. Her parents have disguised her as a boy. She makes her way into a parallel world where she finds a more loving environment amongst a family who have historically always been dragon trainers. To prevent evil overtaking both worlds, she has to go back - on a black dragon, the most dangerous.

The story is interesting and imaginative; it's written using some lovely language and I found it very enjoyable. There was some good descriptive writing - I found the dragon fight absolutely gripping and had to grit my own teeth as the dragon's were damaged! There are some characters here with considerable depths - the despotic ruler's assistant; the Keeper, Hesperus, whose role I don't fully understand; the Miller who was once a Dragon Trainer. If you're a lover of a good, imaginative fantasy tale, you'll enjoy this story. There's at least one sequel and I can see it won't be long before I read that too.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Jamie Sinclair

The 24 Hour Jazz Cafe   The 24 Hour Jazz Cafe

This great story starts with a death by natural causes. It’s the sad death of Emily, a young, musically talented woman and we meet Mitch and Rupert, the two men who loved her. We also discover the sleaze and corruption of small town life, with the council, the police and local businessmen all partaking in, or turning a blind eye to, bribery, indecency and all manner of nastiness. Mitch and Rupert decide to try to get justice. Mitch, an outcast all his life due to his ability to glimpse future happenings, foresees a murder and Rupert, his only friend from schooldays, joins him in trying to avert it.

The characters in this story are very well drawn. We have oily toads of council members who think they are untouchable, a keen, thorough and likable female police inspector chasing justice and the two friends, both grieving for their lost love. The plot is well constructed and story lines interwoven together. I felt the initial part, although it came in with a bang with Emily’s death, built slowly but not tediously, until we realised the depth of corruption and the way justice seemed to be in favour of those with deep pockets – or nasty secrets they could spill if they didn’t get their own way. This is a story of love, friendship, people battling against the disadvantages of childhood influences; it flags up so many questions. It’s a thoroughly gripping read and I enjoyed it very much.