Monday, 17 November 2014

The Careless Word by Catriona King (a review)

The Careless Word is book #8 in the Marc Craig/Belfast Murder Squad series and is very much of the same excellent standard of story telling as the previous 7. As is usual the story refers back to events in previous books but can be read as either a stand alone novel or as part of the series. The story revolves around an explosion in a small book store in the Smithfield area of Belfast, with only one survivor - is it a return to the old days of The Troubles or a more modern threat? Will they be able to get the survivor to speak? Marc Craig and his squad need to solve quickly as there is a wedding on the horizon. The clock is ticking.... As usual with Ms. King's books there is very much a sense of place. Belfast, it's people and places come to life on the page. What I really liked though was a change in some of the personel in the Squad. Jake, one of the regulars, is absent on medical grounds and two new faces are added Carmen McGregor, a snippy Scot from Edinburgh with a bit of an attitude (who I hope will become a regular) and Ken Smith, from the army's bomb disposal unit. Both these characters added something to the story for me, while I didn't really miss Jake (mainly because his behaviour towards another team member earlier in the series made me dislike him - that's how good the writing is here, you care about how the characters interact with each other, almost as if they were real) So, another cracking book from Catriona King, which I have no hesitation in giving 5 stars to. As always I look forward to the next in the series

Monday, 3 November 2014

Bad Moon Rising by Francis di Plino (a review)

I was offered a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Bad Moon Rising is the first book in a crime fiction series (4 so far)featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey and his team. It is, I do feel I must point out from the offset, at times a very violent book. The perpetrator of the crimes is not a nice person....not even close. The thing is though, for all the violence and nastiness what you have here is a very good story indeed. In his own way D.I. Storey is very much what you would expect of a leading copper character - broken marriage, family issues, going off on his own hunches etc, but he doesn't come across too badly out of all that. He is a character that feels believable, not too much of the "woe is me" thing going on. His team all play their parts admirably and there is enough potential with this team to make me want to read more. As for the main story itself - somebody is killing off the local prostitutes is the short version I guess. There are a few side stories as well - Storey's daughter doing her own investigation at school, the colleague who wants Storey to investigate the possible spousal abuse of a friend. All the little bits tie up nicely but it is a hell of a ride to get to the end. There are at least 4 possible culprits and quite a few red herrings along the way so it'll certainly keep you guessing. As the first book in a series this is an admirable effort and I will certainly be reading the rest of the D.I. Paolo Storey books. I'd happily suggest you give them a try too. 4.5/5 stars

Monday, 20 October 2014

Goblin Moon (Mask and Dagger1) by Teresa Edgerton - a review

First things first, let me just say I was offered a copy of this book (by Tickety Boo Press) in exchange for a fair and honest review. The book is a re-issue (originally published in 1991) but has aged well and does not feel out of place in today's market. The actual writing style (and believe me, Ms. Edgerton has a very sumptuous prose style) means the story reads like one of the classics. Imagine, if you will, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Terry Pratchett writing together (with possibly a hint of Stan Lee) and you will have an idea of what to expect. The setting is a 'Regency-esque' one with what I tend to think of as an Upstairs/Downstairs cast of characters. You have the upper classes (the sickly Elsie, her companion Sera, the foppish Lord Skelbrooke - who may be more than he seems), and the lower classes (represented by the likes of Caleb Braun and his grand-nephew Jedidiah). Add to this Dwarves, Gnomes, Goblins, Trolls etc. and you have a varied and colourful assembly. The story starts with Caleb and Jedidiah working as river scavengers (as the name implies they make their living scavaging what they can from the river). What they find when they open a coffin they have 'retrieved' as it floats downriver sets up one strand of the story. There is plenty going on though besides this, but not enough to make it over complicated. What keeps the story tied together nicely is that most of the main characters know each other, even though they move in different circles most of the time (Jenk, the antiquarian book dealer is Grandfather to Sera, Caleb ends up working for Jenk, Sera and Jedidiah have known each other for years...so on and so forth) As a fantasy novel it is quite unlike most other stories in the genre - and that is a good thing. There are no sprawling quests or epic journeys here, just a dark brooding city that feels not unlike Pratchett's Ankh Morpork at times. A city with more than its' fair share of undesirables, a city with places you don't want to be after dark (to be honest, places you don't want to be in broad daylight!), a city in need of...........A HERO!! There were moments I found myself holding my breath as I read, and moments I felt like giving a rousing "Hurrah!" A thoroughly enjoyable read and a book I think will be just right now that the nights are drawing in. If I did find a downside, my only real gripe (and it is a tiny one really) was that there seemed to be a lot of clothing terms I didn't know and had to look up - but that's just me and will not stop me from giving a rating of 4.5 out of 5. I look forward to reading the next in the series when it comes out.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Betrayal's Shadow (Mahaelian Chronicle, Book 1) by Dave-Brendon de Burgh (a review)

Just for perspective, I have been reading and loving epic fantasy novels ever since I picked up a copy of Pawn of Prophecy (Belgariad book 1)in 1983. That's 30 years ago, and since that fateful day I have read a lot...and I mean A LOT! Most new series that came out, I was there. With the dawn of the kindle/e-reader age the field got bigger, and, to be fair, the quality wasn't always there. The main problem, for me, was variety. Realistically there are only so many times you can join the farmboy/villager/baker/general low-born person destined to be king in a quest for the sword of destiny/magic ring/family hirloom that will save the world. What I want is someone to raise the bar a little, tell me a new story. There are authors out there who do - Sanderson, Rothfuss, Abercrombie and now Dave-Brendon de Burgh (DBdB). DBdB tells a story full of momentous WOW! moments. There is a cast of characters that walk that grey line between good people and bad. Not everything is clear, right up to the very last page you will be wondering at motives. I do not want to drop spoilers, so what I am going to do is tell you what made this stand out for me (you can get the story synopsis from the amazon kindle page) First off is the world - from our first meeting with High General Brice Serholm on an island populated by babarian tribesmen to the markets and on to the Palace where lives a king who has ruled for 500 years the whole world comes to life. You don't just read the story, you are left with a sense of actually being there as events unfold. Secondly, the characters. As I said earlier, many of the characters occupy the grey area between truly good and truly bad people, often doing what they have to whether they want to or not. These charaters do not have an easy time and, revelations (which I never saw coming) later in the book only continue to make things tougher for them - and books 2 and 3 are only going to make their problems grow. Finally, the magic systems. For me this is where DBdB really ups the stakes. Magic can be a very difficult thing to do differently but believe me when I say DBdB really does pull it off. There is a scene early on, at a place called Shorwin's Hold, where a battle takes place and the first real use of magic occurred. Suffice to say I was amazed, a brilliant and, clever way of using magic - beat that I thought. And he did....... In a later scene a man is taken for execution - reading the scene I thought "oh, probably get his head chopped off or something along those lines". I was wrong....very wrong. I can honestly say, hand on heart, I never expected the method. It was stunning, mind-numbing in a way and will live with me for a very long time. Bravo Sir. As for the story itself - I said earlier on that it was epic fantasy, and, while this is true, it is so much more than that as well. There is a hint of sci-fi in there also. And the monsters (and to be fair, there has to be monsters) are straight from horror fiction with more than a hint of the zombie apocalypse. In lesser hands this could be an awkward mix to get right but, like a master baker DBdB has got the ingredients just right. The ending, indeed the whole story, sets things up nicely for book 2, which I wait for with baited breath (until then, there is also a prequel novella - A Song of Sacrifice, also available on amazon). Fantasy fiction needs authors with new ideas, authors that will surprise you with revelations and bombshells you never saw coming, authors that can say "step into my world and prepare to be challenged". Dave-Brendon de Burgh does all of these things. As a first novel, this is probably the best I have read since Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. Big boots to fill but this author, in my eyes will do it. The purchase links (Amazon USA and UK) are available in the comment under this post

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Betrayal's Shadow by Dave-Brendon de Burgh - some thoughts

As you may be aware, I read a lot and always have done for as long as I can remember. Although I read most genres my main area has always been fantasy, and more particularly Epic Fantasy. I guess it's the whole "new worlds, New creatures, new quests, journeys, magic etc". The downside to being a fantasy reader though is repetition, repetition, repetition. There are only so many tales of humble farm boys becoming the King you can realistically get through before tedium sets in. Over the last few years a few author's have stepped up the game with new magic systems, story ideas etc, the fore runners here being the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie. Well, to this list you can now add the name of Dave-Brendon de Burgh the South African author of Betrayal's Shadow (book 1 of the Mahaelian Chronicle). I am only about half way through this and a review will appear on here when I've finished it but I had to post so I could share his world with you. It is a world painted with a broad brush, where the buildings, the scenery, the knights, and other citizens step off the page and into your imagination fully formed and raring to go. Imagine a scene, set in a market, which is so vividly written you can smell the wares on the stalls - that's what you get here. What really got me itching to post though was the magic. A magic so potent and so powerful it actually left me stunned at what I had just read......and this is in the first half of a book that just keeps getting better and better. This is, I believe, the most exciting new fantasy novel /world for me since Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. As I said, a review will be posted on here when I have finished but until then, if fantasy is your thing, do whatever you have to do to get your hands on a copy, you won't be sorry. And remember the name - Dave-Brendon de Burgh - you'll be hearing a lot of him in the future.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop (a review)

This story, as you would maybe expect in a fantasy novel, begins with a prophecy 'She is coming' The 'She' in question is Jaenelle, destined to be a Queen more powerful than any before her, the saviour of the land etc etc, not just a witch but Witch. After the prophecy 700 years pass. The realm is an even darker place now, ruled over by Dorotea...and by dark I mean REALLY dark. Males break witches before they come into their power, through rape and torture. Those witches who escape the 'breaking' torment the males out of vengeance (don't even get me started on the psychic controlled cock rings!!!!!) When we meet Jaenelle, she is only a young child, with childish questioning which helps set the scene, and draws a good picture of the realms. She is destined, as the prophecy stated, to become the leader of a Brave New World but will need the help of her 'defenders' Lucivar, Saetan and Daemon Sadi - the names kind of give things away a little. This is not an 'elves, unicorns and fluffy bunnies' type of fantasy - this is dark and at times quite disturbing book but if you stick with it you may well find yourself enjoying it more than you would expect. One thing I did find a bit troublesome is the jewel based magic system, consisting of 13 different jewels ranging from white (least powerful) to Black (the most powerful). There is a guide at the front thankfully, I did find it useful, I must say. At times I did find this a bit disturbing and unsettling but once into the story I found myself quite looking forward to the next in the series. For a dark and, at times slightly disturbing novel there is a story here that makes the occassional squirming worth while 3.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Electric by Andrew David Barker - (a review)

Earlier this year I met up with Alex Davis, the publisher and editor of Boo Books, at a comic fair in Sheffield. During our chat he mentioned a book that was going to be published by his press in the near future, which was about a cinema showing films for ghosts made by ghosts. I must say I was intrigued by the premise and looked forward to the day I could get my hands on a copy. That day came last Saturday, and believe me when I say it was worth the wait. The story plays out over the last week/weekend of the school summer holidays in 1985, and starts with the lead character Sam Crowhurst cycling by the river after saying goodbye to his friends David and Emma. Sam is still getting over the death of his father, as is his mother, which is why he is in no rush to get home. While meandering by the river Sam comes across an old shack with a bit of an old movie poster in it. The shack leads to a path which leads inevitably, to The Electric, an abandoned cinema. Though it is deserted and nigh on derelict Sam feels drawn to it and sets off to explore. What he, and his friends when he fetches them to see it the next day, will find at The Electric will change them all. I can't say too much about the plot as it may well spoil the reading experience of this quite wonderful book, but the general gist is that there are ghosts in The Electric and they are watching films that were never made, starring actors from different eras of cinema. There is a magic on the screen but also, there is a magic here in the printed word. The Electric is, at heart, a ghost story, but more chilling than horror in style. It is also, though, a coming of age tale. The three lead characters are all fifteen years old, approaching the last year of school and on the threshold between childhood and adulthood. Two of them have lost a parent so their is grief and sorrow thrown into the mix of teenage emotions. I thought I had the general idea of where the story was going to end up but I'm not ashamed to say I was only partly right. There were two scenes at the end that. I honestly believe will stay with me for a very long time, and one sentence that actually brought tears to my eyes. On this showing, Andrew David Barker is one to watch for the future, an author with a writing style that draws you into the book and into the story knowing you are in safe hands but not sure what will be round the next corner. The book reviewed is a limited edition hardback (98/150) but is also available as a kindle edition. I bought the copy myself so feel justified in giving it 10/10 for both the story and the physical book itself. Andrew David Barker and Boo Books (Alex Davis) - remember those names, you'll be hearing more from both of them in the future.