Friday 18 October 2013

Stuart Ayris

This novella is a travelogue with a difference.  If you love Stuart's playful use of language and vivid imagination you'll adore this.

The Buddhas of Borneo The Buddhas of Borneo

My review - 

This charming, magical, chaotic travelogue of a novella takes us with the author on his five day visit to Borneo. With a Stuart Ayris book, you are aware that you are reading his unique description of the place and events alongside the amazing things happening on the inside of his head. There are descriptions of places many of us will never see, alongside a conversation with a monitor lizard and a card game with the pygmy elephant from a picture on the wall. He describes the cave inhabited by clouds of bats, and from which the nests for the famous bird's nest soup are collected. He takes us to an old prisoner of war camp and he shows us the island where the female turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.

His writing is lyrical and creative, artfully constructed and layered in meaning. I love it when a writer can link together commonly used words and make me see something in a different way. This book can be read in a couple of evenings but the beguiling voice of the man who has not lost the child's eye view is going to remain with you. 

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Nicola Palmer

A delightful story of a young boy growing up.

The Stranger in the Shed The Stranger in the Shed

My review - 

Rory is a very bright and articulate 11 year old who doesn’t get on with his peers.  It doesn’t help that his father is a celebrity chef and his mother has left the family home.  His older sister is studying psychology and seems to want to analyse him!  Nobody seems to understand how Rory is feeling – certainly not his school fellows.  Then he meets Angus.  Not just a stranger but very strange.  He understands Rory in a way nobody else does, but he also infuriates him.  We come to see both Rory and Angus in a new light as this charming story progresses.

The tale is a quick read for an adult but contains a lot of wisdom.  Don’t dismiss it because it’s for young people.  It’s very well written and whips along at a good pace.  I enjoyed this very much!

Monday 14 October 2013

Hunter S Jones and An Anonymous English Poet

This is a collaborative book by an author I've never come across before and an author/poet whose work I have previously read and loved.  This works seamlessly here.

September Ends September Ends

My review 

I really enjoyed this story which documents the relationships of Liz Snow, who felt lost and adrift since she and her brother were in a car crash in which he died. She entered a brief unsuccessful marriage then, while concentrating on her career, became involved with Pete who shared her love of poetry. She eventually met and married Jack, the poet whose blog they both followed. The story is told from different points of view and in the form of emails, letters, diary entries and narrative. There is a fairly racy section in the first half of the book in which Liz and Pete share their fantasies in a private chatroom, and later in the flesh. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t class this as Erotica, nor would I say it’s Romance. It charts the evolution of a number of interwoven relationships and it’s fascinating.

The whole story is beautifully told and the poet Jack is brought to life by means of his poems. We are brought up against personal loss and the characters' reactions to those experiences. I was especially impressed that Jack's poems are different in style from Pete's although written by the same (anonymous) member of the authorship collaboration. I'd love to see more from this pair. It's a seamless collaboration and there's scope for more.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Mark R Faulkner

Mark Faulkner writes these stories so engagingly.  There's horror but there are flashes of sensitivity and understanding which highlight and contrast.  Lovely stuff.

The Dark Stone The Dark Stone

My review - 

This is the story of Sam who was a survivor of a terrible plague which killed all his family and almost everyone in his small town. He was befriended by another young boy, Joshua and eventually taken away by a group of monks with whom he found a happy and peaceful life. A couple of years later the monastery was sacked and Sam was the only survivor. As he escaped, he took a dark stone with him, which gradually but inexorably altered his behaviour. 

The writing is fluent and descriptive and I loved the away the story flowed. The author is able to describe both beauty and horror and to evoke both disgust and pity. This is sensitive horror. I felt for Sam as he had to cope with the death of all those he loved, and later as he found his own actions were beyond his control. I felt his anguish as he lost his innocence and fell prey to the power of The Dark Stone. A great story with its own built-in horror.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

David Wailing

This is the collected Auto stories with 3 added - and I'm guilty of thinking it would just be more of the same. I'm glad to be so wrong!

Auto (Auto Series)  Auto (Auto Series)

My review - 

I wondered what I would be getting with this book, having already read all those short stories published individually. Three extra stories, yes, but what did they add to the mix but more of the same? Well, now I know. Strangely these three, one at the beginning, one somewhere in amongst, and one at the end, set the other stories in a context. Each story stood alone and gave considerable food for thought, but when connected, they make a whole which really asks some questions. It doesn't give all the answers though, and leaves us with the knowledge that there will be more.  I do find myself thinking that this must read rather differently if you come to it all here for the first time.  For me it both linked earlier stories and drew out a meaning from them which wasn’t obvious previously.  I would urge people who think of skipping the stories they’ve already read, not to do so.  Read this in its entirety. 

David Wailing has shown us a future which some might find exciting, but he fills in the gaps and gives us the down-side of a society where it's no longer possible to be secretive. These stories and their characters connect to make an excellent whole.

Friday 4 October 2013

Ray Kingfisher

This story takes us back to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen.  It's real food for thought.

The Sugar Men  The Sugar Men

My review - 

This latest book by Ray Kingfisher begins as the life of Susannah Morgan is drawing to an end.  She is an American citizen but was born a Jew in Berlin.  She has suppressed her memories and not told her children of what she went through.  In her last few months of life she makes the decision to go back to Germany and to visit the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she spent a year as a teenager.  Gradually she allows herself to revisit her memories and with them comes the decision to visit one other person who is very important to her.

This book is wonderfully told and expressed and it doesn’t pull any punches.  Susannah appears to be a crusty old dear and makes jokes when her children are trying to talk to her seriously.  Eventually she trusts herself and then trusts them with the times in her life which took so much from her.  They also took much from the soldiers whose job it was to liberate the camp.  The story the book tells is now so far in the past that not many people still remember it.  It’s a story which should never be forgotten.

Thursday 3 October 2013

David Wisehart

This is the first David Wisehart I've read but I doubt it'll be the last. It's a cracking medieval quest story with smatterings of Latin and some great characters.

The Devil's Lair  The Devil's Lair

My review - 

This story is a Grail Quest and a journey which follows Dante's route into the inferno.  The group undertaking the quest includes an epileptic girl, a friar, a poet and a knight who lost his memory after a deep head wound.   Their world is devastated by the plague, the Black Death.  Their quest is to acquire the lance of Longinus, the soldier who pierced Christ's side, and take it into the underworld, through the nine circles of hell.  There they will use the lance to gain possession of the Grail and bring it back to earth to help to heal it.  Not all of them will return!

This is an intriguing concept and the writing is scattered with antique words and Latin phrases.  Much of the Latin can be understood by anyone with a smattering of church Latin – it’s biblical quotations and pieces from the Mass for the Dead. Mostly it comes off, except for odd times such as when the author apparently unwittingly used a bit of Cockney rhyming slang.  The mediaeval mind was wonderfully conjured here and I very much enjoyed the read.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Darren Humphries

Here's a quick read - another couple of short stories featuring Agent Ward.

The Man from UNDEAD - Frights and Fireworks The Man from UNDEAD - Frights and Fireworks

My review - 

This is a pairing of short stories featuring the popular Agent Ward from UNDEAD. The character has matured and mellowed and is now so laid back he’s practically horizontal. His exploits in the haunted house in the first story are superb, with some lovely references to look out for! In the second story, London, and in particular parliament, once again face a bonfire night threat.

These short, seasonal stories are part of a series which could well be grouped as ‘Around the Year with The Man From UNDEAD’ – but probably won’t. They are a great idea and provide an additional variety of plots to complement those we meet in the longer series.