Tuesday, 26 May 2015

25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf by Jo Thomas - a review

I ordered this book after meeting the author at an event in Sheffield at which she did a reading from it. I enjoyed what I heard so got the book hoping it would be more of the same - it was.

It is the story of Elkie Bernstein, a 15/16 year old girl living in Wales who finds herself fighting against Werewolves. She isn't a superhero or a Buffy The Vampire-A-Like 'Chosen One' just a regular teenager having to fight off something that common sense says shouldn't exist. Who is sending the Werewolves and why? You'll find that out for yourself when you read it ;-)

The way the book is set out is kinda given away by the book title - 25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf therefore 25 different chapters each one a different 'way' (and several intermissions too). As examples

Method 1 - With A Stake

Method 5 - Parvovirus

Method 17 - Nail Gun

You get my drift I'm sure.

The story itself reads (as it says on the back cover) as part survival guide, part diary. The only problem I really had with it was that with each chapter passing some of the methods blurred into one but I got round this by reading a chapter or two every couple of days which allowed me to appreciate it more and also meant, to my advantage, the book lasted longer and I got to spend more time with Elkie and her Werewolf killing ways

A very enjoyable read

4/5 stars

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker - a review and thoughts

This is the book horror fiction fans and, more particularly Clive Barker fans have been waiting for. And that wait has been a long one. The Scarlet Gospels is a major event in publishing but was it worth the wait? I finished the book this morning so I know what I think - loved the story but had some issues with the book itself.

I think the best way to review this is to do it in two parts so, if all you want is a review of the story aspect of TSG then feel free to just read the first part


What we have here is a final meeting between two of Clive Barker's greatest creations - P.I. Harry D'Amour and the Cenobite Hell priest Pinhead.

As it begins Pinhead is hunting down and killing all the great magicians of Earth and gathering all their knowledge with the intent of staging a coup and taking over Hell. While Harry is on an investigation a portal to Hell opens, Pinhead steps through and battle begins.

Pinhead offers Harry the chance to be his witness/chronicler of his grand coup but when Harry refuses he (Pinhead) takes Harry's friend and associate, the blind medium Norma, hostage and returns to Hell. Harry must follow but how will a mere mortal manage to survive Hell and beat Pinhead on his own turf?

I'm taking it that if you are going to read TSG you will know of  Mr Barker's work either from his fiction or his films so you will know what to expect - you will not be disappointed. If this is your first time in his company then be warned - this is gruesome, visual, visceral horror of the highest calibre - "We have such sights to show you."

I'll admit that I am a big Barker fan and I awaited this volume with both excitement and a hint of trepidation, I knew what I wanted it to be and I had an idea, also, of what it could be. I'm happy to say I had nothing to worry about - this is so much better than I ever hoped it could be.

The biggest selling point with Clive Barker is his imagination. The creatures and demons he concocts are of the most horrific, fantastic and horrifically fantastic ilk. There are creations and places here that you would think had come from the mind of a madman but there is also beauty in the madness. Barker is wordy enough with his descriptions and visualisations to give his creations life on the page, indeed his version of Hell is up there with the best of worldbuilders.

Where, for me, Barker stands out  though is with the creatures of Hell. They are not just 'token evil', they have character, they have story and, most importantly they have fears. They feel real. I will not spoilerise things for you but there was one character makes an appearance in the later section of the books that really surprised me. I would have expected to hate or at least dislike but ended up feeling sorry for in a way and understanding the way he feels (I may well come back to this in another blog post when everyone has had a chance to catch up.

So, in short, good storytelling, good story, excellent characterisation and a satisfactory ending

5/5 stars

which brings us to part 2 of this post


Okay, I'm going to take you back to a point I made right at the start - this is Major Event Publishing, The Scarlet Gospels is a BIG DEAL. This is something people have been waiting a long time for. As  fellow blogger Jim McLeod (and if you haven't checked out his Ginger Nuts of Horror site) said - with a book as important as this every man and his dog should be all over the proofing of this. Alas they were not.

The biggest, I guess, and most noticed point was on page 33 so I'll use that as an example - spacing matters!!!! tomovewithaferalfelinegrace is not a word. Even an entry level proof reader should have spotted that.

There are others too, often just a wrong word (what I think of as spell checker laziness ie same/some where a word is misspelt but still a real word, although not the word you need). These things should have been picked up before the book went to press. I would expect things like this from a small press publisher but not a giant like MacMillan,

The second point here is the cover (UK version) itself. If you have just bought this book or are planning to please remove the cover before and during reading. The gold lettering on the front does not hold up well to constant handling and may be rubbed away with regular contact.

I have one other issue but that is something I am going to go back to and look again so I will not go into detail here but sufficient to say there should not be this many issues with a book of this magnitude.

Right, rant over. If you've read through this far please don't let my misgivings in the second part of the review put you off. The Scarlet Gospels is a great read, Barker at his best

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Only The Good Burn Bright by Dan Weatherer - a review

First things first, let it be known I was sent a copy of this as a review file for my kindle in exchange for a fair and honest review - and here's the first honest bit..........I enjoyed it so much I went to Amazon and paid for a proper copy - it really is that good.

This is  the second short story from Dan Weatherer  (the previous being 'The Soul That Screamed')  and is pretty much what I was hoping for.

The author has a really good touch when it comes to telling a tale and shows his skills by mixing things up a bit. You get what is almost a novella to kick things off with 'Behind Every Door', proper short stories and the occasional bit of Flash Fiction. Dan tells historical tales, downright nasty tales and even one (Mad About Marcy) which is told in telephone transcript (this was possibly my favourite of the whole collection). He also has many 'story telling voices' which is quite refreshing. You never quite know what you are getting next........well..........most of the time...........

One character makes a return appearance from 'The Soul That Screamed' and it was one of the stand outs from that collection (so, yeah, in that one instance I did know exactly what I was getting). That character is Agnes Ferry, aka The Butchers Wife, who gets a visit from her sister in 'A Butcher's Wife Interrupted. This was the first story I looked out for and I wasn't disappointed.

All in all, this is a good collection that will keep you entertained while also keeping you watching over your shoulder. The only thing letting it down is that there are a few typo's (but not too many - I've seen a lot worse) so for that I am giving it 9/10 stars

I leave you with one thought - remember the name Dan Weatherer. One day the world will wake up and take notice of this guy's talent.

Friday, 1 May 2015

And The Fox Crows by V C Linde - a review

Throughout history, as long as man has been telling tales, the fox has featured a lot. Many cultures have told stories of the crafty fox, the wily fox, the hunted fox and this poetry collection by V C Linde takes us on a journey through the ages from ancient to modern. There are some you may know (from Aesop's fables) but also many you will not, tales from Russia, Ancient Japan and Native American culture right up to the modern day where the last three poems, City Life, Operation Foxglove and The First Field show how much life has changed for the fox.

And all these are framed by Pan which breaks it up nicely. The whole thing has a lovely feel to it, bringing the adventures of the fox to life. It is a short book, coming in at just 54 pages, but for me it feels just the right length. Much more could have been 'fox overkill' but the author has judged it just right.

I will say at this point that I do not read vast amounts of poetry but I know what I like and I like this very much indeed. And The Fox Crows is a book I am happy to have on my shelf and one that I will dip into for many years to come.

5/5 stars

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Details for the first Conan Doyle Convention( Knightswatch Press)

Please find below the details for the first Conan Doyle Convention hosted by KnightsWatch Press in Birmingham, England on 30th May 2015. If you get the chance to share the details with your friends and acquaintances  then that would be much appreciated
Greetings All,
The 30th of May is the day – The day of the very first Conan Doyle convention being hosted by KnightsWatch Press. This is a first for the gang at KnightsWatch and we would be delighted to host you for free so you can join with us in all the hijinks inspired by Conan Doyle’s Eponymous scientific hero, Professor Challenger. We’ll also be talking Holmes and Mycroft.
The City Tavern, Birmingham is the place – The place to be for all Conan Doyle fans where we will kick things off with a discussion led by our special guest Tom Ue from the university College of London about Conan Doyle’s little known scientific hero, Professor Challenger.
Next will be a panel Hosted by Michael R Brush on Sherlock vs Challenger where we will debate the great differences between Detective and Scientist.
But that’s not all. Along with the launch of an amazing Challenger short story collection, compiled and edited by the KnightsWatch Team, we will also be hosting a panel, led by Theresa Derwin, on Steampunk vs Historical fiction where we will discuss how the Victorian Era inspired the world of literature and how Steampunk became a new genre of literature.
All of this is enough to whet the appetite but there’s more books a coming. Michael R Brush will be releasing his very own book centred around the character Mr Holmes – Mycroft Holmes that is, in an utterly new and original story that explores the famous sleuth’s brother. Look out for Mycroft Holmes and the Necromancer by Michael R Brush.
Finally, we move on to the day’s main event. A 90 minute play, presented by Don’t Go into The Cellar, which explores The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes.
This is an event for all Conan Doyle fans both young and old, we welcome you one and all and look forward to you joining us at Conan Doyle Con.
For free ticket places, interviews, review copies of the books or more information contact KnightsWatch CEO Theresa Derwin at
Tel: 07929 923 734

Check out our fabulous websites:

Each slot is 50 minutes with a ten minute comfort break at the end (included in times below)
Introduction: 12:15 - 12:30 KnightWatch Press (Theresa Derwin)
12:30 - 13:30 Tom Ue on Professor Challenger
13:30 - 14:30 Panel: Exploring Doyle's Worlds: Sherlock vs Challenger (Michael R Brush, Steve Lockley, Jan Edwards, Tom Ue)
14:30 - 15:30 Book Launch: Challenger Unbound (anthology of Challenger adventures) & Mycroft & the Necromancer Michael R Brush
15:30 - 16:30 Panel: Steampunk vs Historical Fiction: What did the Victorians Ever Inspire us To? (Rhys Hughes, S G Mullholland, Theresa Derwin)
16:30 - 18:15 Don't Go Into the Cellar presents the 90 minute play 'The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The History Suite by Catriona King - a review

The History Suite is book #9 in the DCI Craig series and, I'll be straight with you from the outset, one of the best so far.

I have been a fan of this series since day 1, finding each instalment to be different enough to stop the narrative getting stuck in a rut. Some stories you know who the murderer is from early on, some will keep you guessing right up to the end - and The History Suite is one of the latter. There were several points where I was pretty certain I knew the culprit only to be changing my mind 5 minutes later.

The other thing that keeps the series going strong is Craig's team itself. The backstories with them, at  least speaking for myself, are as important as The Main Event. I want to know what is going on in the lives of the Squad and Ms King doesn't disappoint here - there are good, bad and possibly life changing events for them in this volume.

The story itself revolves around the murder of an on duty nurse at St Mary's Healthcare Trust in Belfast. It could be a random attack (but be fair, it's not really a spoiler to say it isn't). As details come out about the victim and other workers at The Trust several persons come onto Marc Craig's radar. Will he solve the mystery before anyone else gets hurt or, indeed, winds up dead?

I will say this was a real page turner for me (I got through it in 2 days) and the only real disappointment is that I now have to wait for book 10 to be published

Afterthought: Someone really needs to think about getting these books turned into a screenplay - it's what Sunday evening television is begging for


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A Rotten Core by Lee Hulme (a review) and some thoughts on fairy tales

So, over the weekend I got to see Snow White and The Huntsman - a film that turned out to be a lot better than I expected it to be and it reminded me of this little collection which I reviewed on Goodreads back in February last year but seem to have missed putting up on here. That is now rectified as I am posting that review on here followed by some thoughts on fairy tales.

First, the goodreads review;

    This collection recalls the fairytales you grew up with but maybe not quite how you remember them. First and foremost of them is a version of Snow White that shows many of the characters in a different light to the one you would have expected. The seven dwarves are all in there along with the step mother, the hunter and Snow herself but this beautifully told tale actually seems more plausible than the Disney version you are most likely to recall.

Among the other stories, my personal favourites were 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' (best last line in a story for a long time - still makes me chuckle now) and 'Elixir' a tale of the perils of eternal youth.

Also in here you'll find, among others, Narcissus, The Three Little Pigs, A fairy who owns and runs a brothel and mamy more.

A quality collection that will make you think again about the stories you grew up with

Fairy tales are the stories most of us grew up with, the first foray into fiction, the tales that shape our reading future. As a kid the tales are funny, kinda cute at times (3 little pigs building little houses) but when you go back to them as an older person many hold a much darker side. How did we not have screaming nightmares about the wolf dressed up as Grandma or the little girl being chased off by bears. I guess that's just the way the imagination of a child works.

For me, the first story I remember was The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Anderson. The book was on the shelf in our class library back in infant school and I couldn't get enough of it. Reading 'A Rotten Core' made me think about looking up The Tinderbox - and you know what? I still enjoyed it.

So, go grab yourself a copy of A Rotten Core and then, maybe, go back and visit the stories of your childhood days

4.3/10 stars