Wednesday 30 December 2015

Tim Arnot

If you've read the first two books in the series you'll be glued to this one. If you haven't, read them now!


My review - 

It goes without saying that if you’re reading this you’ve already read Wanted and Hunted. I’ve read them both and love them so this was a must-read for me. The group of characters is here broken into two and Flick Carter and her boss, Princess Jessica, AKA Lieutenant Dixon, are aboard a slave ship and their situation looks hopeless. Socko Garrett is back in his old haunts and is determined to prove that the two girls are alive. The wicked Prince Edward, Jessica’s brother, has taken over the ruling reins and put Socko on a Most Wanted list, penalty of execution and a huge reward. Things don’t look too good for him, either.

I read this book avidly and it didn’t feel as long as I know it is. We zipped about from place to place, from fear to terror, and the action never let up. We lost a few characters on the way – you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. And I can’t tell you how good it was to find out what happened to the Pantomime Villain character of Edward. I wanted to hiss and boo whenever he appeared. You can really get caught up in this story if you’re not careful!

I received an advance review copy of this book.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Will Macmillan Jones

This second horror story by the author is even better than the first - so... roll on the third!

Portrait of a Girl

My review - 

This is the second of the author’s horror stories and it takes me back to the kind of Dennis Wheatley books I devoured in my younger days. There’s that sense of menace throughout the story. The hapless Mr Jones, who was hounded by the police when he was an innocent victim in The Showing, is once again drawn into something he cannot control. A portrait of a girl in the local art gallery draws him almost hypnotically and he even begins to dream of it. He goes in to ask the price but it’s far more than he can afford. He leaves his details as an expression of interest, and then, when a young man goes missing and was last seen in the vicinity of the gallery, the police pay their first call upon Mr Jones. More young men fall under the portrait’s baleful influence and once again, Mr Jones has to convince the police he’s not to blame.

This is an engrossing and thoughtful study of a man in the grip of an obsession which has drawn lesser men into peril of their lives. He has the help of a friend to offer him some protection from a very real menace older than them all, and it’s a story which keeps on moving right to the end. Christmas is the time for ghost stories. Draw the curtains, settle down and give this a try!

I received a review copy of this book.

Thursday 17 December 2015

M T McGuire

After having enjoyed her K'Barthan series, I'm pleased to see M T McGuire is still making us laugh.

Escape from B-Movie Hell

My review - 

Student Andi Turbot discovers something disturbing about her best friend Eric. He’s really a massively tall lobster-type creature with seven eyes. An alien. He’s on a recce mission to earth to find out if the natives are sentient. I’m not sure I could prove that I am. She is taken on board a huge craft and then the politics begin. There’s a meteor on the way to smash into earth. If humans were wiped out, the aliens could colonise. It’s against their laws to kill sentient creatures but someone’s stopping them from deflecting the meteor. Like I said, politics.

This is a funny story, full of great characters, even though most of them wade through marmite scented goo and have a tendency to clack their pincers at you. There’s serious stuff at the bottom of it but it’s taken lightly and, although it’s a long book, trust me, it flies past. I love this and would enjoy more or similar.

I received a review copy of this book for an honest review.

Monday 14 December 2015

Will Macmillan Jones

This is the second in a series which I've read to my grandchildren. They keep pestering me for the next one!

The Return of the Goblins

My review - 

Wobbles, as Lisa's brother Jeremy calls her, is a girl named Lisa who has Snort the dragon as a friend. Her brother is friendly with the man next door who is expecting a delivery of lizard eggs. He shouldn't be keeping them as they are rare. The Goblins want them, and they wouldn't mind eating Jeremy – after he's stolen the eggs for them.

I read this story to my granddaughters one holiday, a chapter each evening. I thought they might find the more horrid aspects of the goblins' characters rather frightening for bedtime but they loved them. It was exciting, not scary and as little girls they were rooting for Wobbles. When I read that the third Snort and Wobbles book would be called The Headless Horseman, they cheered! Bring it on, says Gran.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Lucas Bale, Alex Roddie - editors - and others

This is a superb speculative fiction collection all on a theme of Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment

My review - 

This is a second anthology from a great group of writers. I’d have bought this for the first story alone. As I always find, some stories from a collection like this stick with me, mean more to me, than others. However, they are all a good read and a different interpretation of the theme.

Atonement is set in the Beyond the Wall series of books and the reader is quickly drawn into the oppressive regime. Lahm buys his own freedom by working as a bounty hunter. Is he really free? This is perhaps more like reparation than punishment. Really atmospheric, as always with Lucas Bale’s writing.

I loved the little Mowgli-type character in Oubliette. This punishment hole into which the condemned are cast to be forgotten had me intrigued. I’d love to read more about this character.

To some extent The Marque, quite a horror story, echoes the first in that it questions to what extent we can be free. Would you save yourself or co-operate with an alien invader. Who is brave and who is the coward? Thought-provoking.

I loved Arcadio’s Valley in which the old people (I take things too personally!) want their real lives back. Echoes here of David Wailing’s Auto series.

And the finale – the punctuation mark at the end – is another question about freedom. There was a wonderful Adam and Eve moment in here – “The woman lied to me!” Humanity curtails its own freedom but is the cure a worse crime than the original greedy devouring of the earth and its resources?

I haven’t mentioned all the stories though I enjoyed reading them – you’ll have to read them yourself and I suspect your choice of memorable ones will be different. As speculative fiction goes, we’re here with some of the best. 

Monday 7 December 2015

Jonathan Hill

The versatile Mr Hill does it again with a new genre for him, the psychological thriller. A compact story but it's all there.

The Anniversary

My review -

This novella is narrated by a misfit of a man who lost his partner last Christmas and who, naturally, makes others feel uncomfortable in a season usually associated with merriment. We never learn his name. We see him observing others, studying their reactions and apparent feelings while being untouched by them himself. His loss initially elicited my sympathy but he is not a character to warm to. He draws the attention of a colleague and invites her to visit on Christmas Day – the anniversary of his partner’s death.

The story is episodic, flitting from scene to scene, and could be disorientating if it were not for the little clues, the words or phrases slipped in, which allow us to connect things up. Ah – that’s what he meant. You need your thinking head on but the experience is worth it. I love this story because it has the feel of a jigsaw and gives the same satisfaction as the reader slips another piece in place and the picture fills out. Very well done and a cracking, if uncomfortable, little read.

G J Reilly

This is the second in a series and really keeps the ball rolling.


My review - 

The Second in the Book of Jerrick series sees our protagonists a couple of years older than when we last met them. As before, we are pulled in different directions as we wonder who are the goodies and who the baddies. Nothing is quite as it seems. Michael and Tamara in particular, best friends in the first book, find themselves in opposing sides in a monumental struggle which affects the whole world.

One of the really enjoyable aspects of this book is the way that traditional stories we've all known since childhood are cleverly woven through the tale. It's as if the story of Michael and Tamara, the Council and the Inquisitors, is our story too. I'm intrigued to know how it's all going to be resolved. Bring on Book Three!

I received an advance copy for review.

Friday 4 December 2015

Lexie Conyngham

This latest Murray of Letho mystery is one of the author's best, in my view. I enjoyed it immensely.

My review - 

There are wicked things afoot in Letho. An old woman, allegedly a witch, has been found murdered then a young maid from the Letho household goes missing. When another lady disappears, Charles Murray is hard pressed to know what's going on. His wife is heavily pregnant and talk of witches is rife, spreading through the area like fire through dry tinder and upsetting her Ladyship.

This book contains the usual kind of mystery which the level-headed Murray copes with well, but it is all shot through with uneasy sightings, an unchancy mirror and the cry of 'Burn the witch'. It’s one of the best Murray of Letho stories, I think, and I enjoyed this one very much indeed. 

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Stuart Ayris

This is typically Stuart Ayris - playfully worded in some cases but it gets to the heart of what humanity is all about. And I loved the butter bean-eating goat!

Merzougaville, Baby

My review - 

This is why Stuart Ayris fans read his books. It's a typical Ayris story, beginning with an almost forty year old man taking a holiday in Marrakech and rescuing a macaque monkey. As with many of his stories it takes the form of a journey and our hero meets a number of characters on his way. Stuart's books often seem to me to be like mythology for modern times. They are stories which you couldn't imagine occurring in real life but which are there to entertain you and to teach you something.

I always enjoy the author's playful word-building. Not satisfied for his purposes with the existing dictionary, he creates compound words of his own with which to paint the scenery. If you've read his work before you'll love this. If you haven't, it's not a bad place to start.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Jim Webster

Here's the second in the Port Naain Intelligencer series. It's another cracking short story.

My review -

Tallis and Benor are asked to help when a young woman, engaged to a rich young man, appears to be the subject of blackmail by a man claiming to be her husband. They dig deeper and find a whole web of deceit.

I love these stories. They are adventurous, funny and have a classic feel to them. Jim Webster writes real women, too. Sheena, the wife of Tallis, is a favourite of mine, intelligent, resourceful and wise. I also have a soft spot for Mutt, the orphan, old for his years, who has attached himself to the group to the benefit of all. Another great tale from the Port Naain Intelligencer.

Alex Roddie

This is not Alex's usual genre. After reading this I hope he'll write more of it!

Cold Witness

My review -

John Marshall is sent to the abandoned facility at Orford Ness to repurpose it for radio broadcasting. It was the centre of a secret project known as Cobra Mist. When he enters the buildings he becomes subject to what he thinks are migraines. Another worker there had reprogrammed Cobra Mist to run a secret project of his own.

This is a study of personal reality. Who are we? How do we know? Who is dreaming and who is the dream? There is a Matrix-like quality of wondering what truly exists. I found this story very creepy, partly from the feeling it so brilliantly conjures that the mind is fragile and its contents may not be real. Partly, too, it was my own phobia of abandoned building which ramped up this feeling of unease throughout the story. A very good read for lovers of sci-fi and speculative fiction.