Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Godless by Ben Peek (a review)

The Godless is the first in a new epic fantasy series by Australian author Ben Peek. It is a big, big book that promises lots and, I'm happy to say, delivers on those promises. The story is set in a world that was once populated by Gods, but they fought a terrible war and are now all dead or dying (hence the title of the book). These dead or dying Gods are, in effect, leaking their 'Godly Power'(for want of a better word) and these 'leakages' give some people 'powers'. Contrary to what you may expect though, these 'powers'are seen as a curse, not a gift by most people. The action of the story takes place in the City of Mireea which is built atop the buried body of the God Ger. There are three chief protagonists, the first being Ayae, a trainee cartographer. She is an orphan who came to the City as a child and is happy in her life. This all changes when she is caught in a fire at her place of work. It is a horrific blaze but she is untouched by the flames. She is then called as 'cursed' and people turn away from her, even those she loves. The second main character is the mystic Zaifyr, a man thousands of years old, who may be able to help Ayae learn how to use/cope with her gift/curse. Due to the many years he has lived this character is used as a kind of 'infodump' at times as his part of the story contains a lot of history. This is not a bad thing though as there is a lot of it and following it as part of his life story makes it interesting. The city of Mireea, at the time of the story, is on the verge of attack by a neighbouring army who want the body of Her and the associated 'Godly Power'. This brings us to the third and final arc of the story, concerning Buerlain, the leader of the mercenary group Dark. They are charged with infiltrating the approaching army to find their plans and any possible weaknesses. This section of the story is very much in the 'Grimdark' vein and is another refreshing aspect to the story as a whole. With a large cast of minor characters this is a book that you need to give time to, but that time is well rewarded with a good piece of fantasy fiction that is possibly like nothing you have read before. Good world building, good characterisation and some great ideas. This is certainly a series I will be following eagerly and I recommend you do the same. 4/5 stars

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Legend Of The Chained Oak - Movie Review

When a local writer begins to investigate Oakamoors mysterious chained Oak, the chance find of a seventeenth century journal detailing the reasons for the Oaks chaining throws a new and terrifying light on the popular legend. Accounts of human sacrifice, witchcraft and warnings of a curse placed on the village by a woman named Mabel Othan litter the tattered pages. An enthusiastic and experienced team is hastily formed and begin to investigate the journals outlandish claims. However, as they begin to dig deeper into the myth and folklore that surrounds the Oak, a series of chilling events lead the team to believe that maybe the horrifying claims of witchcraft and human sacrifice made by the journal hold an element of truth after all… (taken from the accompanying film description) I've just had the privilege of watching this little gem of a short film and must say I am really impressed with it. I read the story (same title) a while back and was interested in seeing the finished results of the film so, thankfully, Dan Weatherer, the author, agreed to send me a copy. As is right I will give my honest opinion of it. This is a low budget film (£500 to make) but it comes over a lot better than a lot of films with budgets that would dwarf this amount. The acting by all involved is believable, especially the leading ladies, Amy and Faye Ormston who do "hysterically terrified" really well. As well as the cast, the local scenery adds to the 'fear effect', especially when the investigators attempt to contact Mabel at the site of the titular Chained Oak. Most of the story is done in a 'filmed documentary' but the bits that really unsettle are when there are just the cameras left on at night. I really don't want to drop any spoilers here,so all I'll say is, if you get a spare half hour and the opportunity to see this film, take it. Do whatever you need to do to see it, but don't, whatever else you do, disturb Mabel!!! 4.5/5 stars - Well done to all involved

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Coercion Key by Catriona King (a review)

This is the seventh in Catriona King's D.C.I. Craig series and there is no let up in the quality of the writing.

The series, as a whole, flows nicely, with occassional mentions of previous events, relating to both old cases and the lives of the members of Craigs' squad. With this in mind it is helpful to have read the previous books in the series ( but not vital - it also works as a stand alone novel ).

The novel starts with Easter approaching and the squad in a bit of a lull, with not much to keep them busy since the events of two months earlier ( see The Slowest Cut - book 6 ) but that soon comes to an end when Dr. Winter, the pathologist hands Craig three files. These files are for three separate suicides, all of which would go unnoticed if not for the fact that they all had plenty to live for and all wrote exactly the same worded suicide note.

I found this to be another step up in gear for the author, the idea of murder by suicide being a particularly clever twist - each book so far has had something different to work with, no formulaic same old same old here. The storytelling is confident, as I would expect, and the threat to the squad will have you heading toward the seat edge. After one particular incident ( you'll know it when you get there ) I was so stunned by what had happenned I had to put the book down and walk away as I wasn't sure I wanted to see the fallout.

And that, for me, is the true strength of this series. Yes, the crimes are intriguing, the story lines are gripping but the true heart of this series is the lives of the squad. I've found I really care about what happens in the day-to-day of the characters, be it the little things or the life changing events.

A top quality addition to a wonderful series (and surely only a matter of time before someone picks this up for filming )

5/5 stars

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Wheel-Mouse vs All The Crazy Robots by Celyn Lawrence - a review

I found this book via a post on Facebook. It is a charity book with all proceeds going to help Celyn's hospice respite care, I believe. Celyn is only 8 years old, has Cerebral Palsey and can only communicate via an interface type board.

The book is not long but the story in it is fantastic and very entertaining. The hero is, as you would guess from the title, a mouse who zumms around in a special wheelchair (zumming is much faster than zooming!) The people are under threat from All The Crazy Robots. The robots do poos, they even do poos when they are flying. The robots poo on everything and everyone - and only Wheel-Mouse can save the day.

The story has everything a young reader, or youngster being read to would want (a heroic mouse, robots and poo - what more could you ask for). The book is illustrated by the author's dad and these illustrations are a delight which just add to the loveliness of the story.

After finishing the book I found my thoughts wandering back to it and to the author and when I think back I don't think of Celyn as a poorly little girl, I think of a little lady who would have been laughing her little socks off at the antics of Wheel-Mouse, the robots (and let's not forget all the poo).

If you can see it in your heart to download this book (77p) then thank you very much indeed (and don't worry if you don't have a child to share the story with -I'm 47 and I loved it.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Treading On Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - a review

A feel good story of friendship, growing up and unrequited love.

Donny and Hazel are twins, close, as twins often are, but also different characterwise. The story centres around them moving to London to further their educations after A levels. The twins take lodgings with Jaz ( the landlord ) and Selene ( the gorgeous Selene, love of Donnys' life, woman of his dreams etc. etc ).

Jaz is everything Donny isn't. He is the life of the party, he is surrounded by friends, and he sleeps with women.....LOTS of women. Jaz takes Donny under his wing (whether he wants to be there or not) and so starts an eventually quite moving friendship.

But, at the heart of all this is Selene. Donny is in love with her from day one (or possibly before as she seems to be the embodiment of a character from a favourite book from his younger days). Unfortunately Selene is engaged  to Melvin.....

This is very much a story built on strong characterisation - even the lesser characters like Hippy and Mule, friends of Jaz, come across well. Donny starts out as a naive and at times slightly Adrian Mole-ish type but grows into more of a maturity thanks to Jaz, who, in turn becomes a more likeable soul.

As I say, this is a story of growing up, friendship etc. I won't promise you happy endings, I won't promise you'll leave without a tear in the eye but what I will promise you is a good read, a good time with characters you would want to be friends with.

I was offered a copy of this story in exchange for a frank and honest review - and I'm glad I accepted it. I read the book on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Blood Guilt by Ben Cheetham - a review

Welcome to the dark side of Sheffield in the first of Ben Cheetham's Steel City Thrillers.

Four years ago Harlan Miller was a Detective Inspector with a lot of promise, but losing his son in an accident sent him into a downward spiral. As we join him at the beginning his marriage is not in a good state, he is drinking and, in a drunken fight he kills a man.

He, serves his time but the Harlan Miller who emerges from his four year incarceration is a changed man - and not in a good way.  He is haunted by his crime and tries to make amends to the wife of his victim but she will not forgive him.

Within days of his release a child is abducted, and the child just happens to be the son of the man Miller killed. The police are not getting anywhere and the mother turns to the only man who can possibly do anything to find her son, the man she hates more than any other - Harlan Miller.

This is not a book populated with nice characters. Miller is, at times, a wretched soul. He hates who he is, what he has become, but under the circumstances this makes him a more believable lead. He becomes a kind of vigilante, working outside the law but with the benefits of his time spent in the police force. He is not a nice man but he is not a bad man. He just wants to do what he feels he has to to make his life bearable. There is a lot of miserable despair, loathing and hate here but it adds to the atmosphere

As you would expect, the criminals range from the pathetic to the truly vile and evil. It is not a comfortable read, but it is a good one - I finished it in 3 days. There are red herrings a plenty, several twists (I believed I knew one of the culprits, and was feeling quite smug as Miller drove up to his house, but then he drove straight past it - I was wrong).

At the heart of this book is the Steel City itself, Sheffield (my home town, as well as the authors') in all its' dark, brooding, northern glory. It lends itself well to the story, and, as a reader, it makes a nice change to be spending time with characters in places you know well.

I wouldn't hesitate to give this story 4.1/2 out of 5 stars. There are at least 3 more Steel City Thrillers to come. The first, Angel of Death is out now (and will be reviewed here in the near future) and features a whole new set of characters at the start of a planned trilogy

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Slowest Cut by Catriona King (a review)

This, the 6th book in the Marc Craig Crime Series is, by a long way, the darkest yet.
It starts, as all good murder mysteries do, with a body. The body in this case belonging to a school headmistress, Eileen Carragher. The murder has been a long and torturous process involving lots (and I mean lots) of cuts to the body and finishing off with one final, fatal cut. More bodies follow, killed in the same way and secrets of the lives of the victims come to the fore. Who are the bad people - the victims or the killers.
This is not a book of black and white - the grey line down the middle plays a much bigger part, but, having said that, the ending, when it comes is the right one. Satisfactory and very well done.
As is often the case with these books the dark storyline is tempered with a happy side story for one of the team (but I'm not saying who obviously!!). These parts were wonderfully written, with a hint of magic that really shines through.
Another winner from Catriona King - bring on the next!!!