Saturday, 24 September 2016

MOUNTAIN MAN by Keith C Blackmore

5 out of 5 stars

Zombie apocalypse/serial killer/thriller

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
On Goodreads HERE


Well, I wanted a new zombie apocalypse series to get stuck into, and I saw this one mentioned in a review for one of The Walking Dead books (the reviewer thought the TWD book was rubbish and suggested Mountain Man as something much better).  So I tried it, and loved it. 

I wasn't sure at first, because the first few pages included much talk of bodily functions and too many sentences starting with 'He'; I thought it was going to be grisly realism for the sake of it and not very good writing, but within a few pages I changed my mind.  The story is set in Canada and starts over two years after the zombie virus hit the world.  Gus has found himself a house up a mountain which he has made safe, and got the scavenging for supplies thing down to an art.  Only trouble is, he's got an alcohol problem (which he doesn't see as a problem) that needs constant feeding, and doesn't realise how much he's missed other people, until he saves someone who becomes his companion.  Later, another new friend is not all she seems, and lurking in the background is a danger more sinister than the walking dead....

One of the things I love about this genre is reading about how the characters survive, on a day to day basis, and there's plenty of that, but also lots of thrilling and well-written human and zombie showdowns.  It's quite a brutal sort of book, not for the faint-hearted, but the characterisation is great (I really liked Gus's friend Scott), and the characters' thoughts on their present situation versus the old world, versus just dying, are interesting.  I read it over a period of a couple of days, definitely recommend it if you like this genre, and am looking forward to starting book two.


Thursday, 22 September 2016

THE LADY ANNE (Above All Others: Book Two) by Gemma Lawrence

5 out of 5 stars

Tudor historical fiction

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
On Goodreads HERE



I was so looking forward to this book, having adored the first in the series, and I read it over a period of two days.  It follows the period of Anne Boleyn's life between her arriving back in England after her education in France during her early and mid teens, through to her ill-fated betrothal-that-wasn't to Henry Percy of Northumberland, to her falling in love with Henry VIII and he with her, and his deciding that he will end his marriage to Katherine of Aragon so that Anne may be his queen.

I loved the portrayal of Anne as a young woman, so full of life and all that stood before her, so sophisticated and wise in some ways, yet in others a romantic idealist; she projects onto Percy the qualities she wanted the man of her dreams to possess, only to find him wanting.  I noted that she sees herself, at first, as much more practical and wise than her older sister, Mary, though in fact it is Mary who is the realist, accepting her life for what it is, whereas Anne has high and sometimes unlikely ideals.  And, of course, it was Mary who ended up with the happy life...


I enjoyed her thoughts on affairs of the heart, desire and jealousy:
'We become so blinded by jealousy that when it takes hold of us we cannot see that it is removing us still further from our goals with its malicious fingers.'
'A life with no risk taken, especially for love, is a life that is not worth living.'

I liked the first half of the book alot, but I loved the second half; I was eager to see how Ms Lawrence would portray the affair of the heart between Henry and Anne, and I was glad to see that she thinks, as I do, that Anne loved Henry as much as he loved her.  Of course there was some ambition, but in the early days it seemed that she was working alongside her father and Norfolk to achieve her goals for herself, not as a pawn used by the two scheming men.


Something else I liked: a little glimpse into the future.  I found out, via this book, how Anne's cousin and a later wife of Henry, the ill-fated Catherine Howard, ended up living in poorer circumstances; I never knew exactly how she and Anne were connected before.  As I was reading about Anne looking on her as a baby, I thought, ah, if only they knew....

Gemma Lawrence's portrayal of Anne Boleyn continues to be the most convincing, in depth and fascinating of those I have read, and I am so looking forward to the next book.  Highly recommended.


LA PETITE BOULAIN, the first book in this series, is reviewed HERE, with Amazon buy links and links to my reviews of other books by Gemma Lawrence.


Monday, 19 September 2016

THE ROAD TO WOODBURY by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

5 out of 5 stars

Zombie Apocalypse

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE



Being a Walking Dead obsessive, I was pleased to discover these books; no, they're not those awful books-from-the-TV-series written by some-screenwriter-who-can't-get-any-screenwriting-work, but actually written by the man himself, Kirkman, the creator; they're not the story you see on the AMC series but the one in the comics, which has certain similarities to the TV series and some same/similar characters.  I was glad about this in many ways, as I haven't read all the comic books so I didn't know what was going to happen.

This story is much, much darker than the one on TV, and Woodbury a much more scary place, as though all the worst characters have got themselves in one place.  Not so viewer-friendly at all!  The book starts off with main character Lilly in a camp that goes wrong, then leaving to go on the road with Josh (who reminded me of Tyreese) and Bob Stookey, who is nothing like the Bob Stookey in the AMC series apart from the fact that he's a nice guy who has a drink problem.  Eventually, they end up at Woodbury.  It's all most sinister and dangerous, but I was glad to see Martinez there as a 'goodie'; I always thought he would have been one of the decent guys if fate had dumped him with Rick's crowd instead of The Governor's.



I really enjoyed this book, the tension and suspense made me abandon the other things I should have done this afternoon, and I'm now going to start the next in the series - The Fall of The Governor, in which, I believe, some of the characters we know and love will appear.

The first book in the series, The Rise of The Governor, is reviewed by me on Amazon UK HERE








Friday, 16 September 2016

MORE THAN SURVIVAL by Kate L Mary

5 out of 5 stars

Zombie Apocalypse Novella

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
On Goodreads HERE



I love Kate Mary's zombie apocalypse books, and this one is every bit as good as my favourites in the Broken World series.  

Lucy was nine when the virus hit, and has spent the past eleven years in relative safety in a mountain cabin with her uncle.  During that time, she's grown from child to woman without having experienced any of the 'normal' growing up stuff that girls do.  Then she meets Sawyer....

I knew this was a zombie apocalypse book (favourite genre) crossed with romance (one of my least favourite genres), and feared there might be too much emphasis on the latter, with not enough to satisfy my devastated world/survival cravings, but this was not the case.  It's a terrific story and so well written, I read it over the space of three or four hours, and found it completely unputdownable.  The relationship between Lucy and Sawyer was totally believable, and there was lots of info about what the world is like eleven years on - fascinating, and all possible.  

There's no indication that there will be more about Lucy and Sawyer, but they make a great team, and there is some unresolved stuff going on in the settlement down the mountain, so I hope Kate M is going to tell us what happened next!  Great stuff, and nothing to do with the Broken World series, so you can read this without having read any of her other books.  

Broken Stories is reviewed HERE, leading to links to my reviews of the rest of the Broken World series.



THE DCI JONES CASEBOOK: ELLIS FLYNN by Kerry J Donovan

3 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
On Goodreads HERE


Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber's Review Team


I've read a couple of this author's other books, and still like On Lucky Shores best, which I recommend highly.  This one is a standard sort of British detective crime thriller, generally well planned out.  I liked the plot itself, and thought the baddies were suitably horrible, very convincing.  From what I can see, Mr Donovan certainly knows his stuff about police procedures, no problems there.  Some reviews say the plot is a bit far-fetched, but this is fiction, isn't it?  It wasn't a problem for me.

I thought where this book fell down was the characterisation/dialogue, which was, at times, almost like a something out of a comic book, or a spoof; Captain Jean-Luc, the French detective ('Jean-Luc, the same as your Captain Picard in Star Trek'), came across like something out of 1980s comedy series 'Allo 'Allo; he and Jones's sidekick Alex, a Swedish Brigitte Nelson type, preface their English phrases with 'how do you say' every five minutes, not forgetting Alex's 'ja' at the end of too many sentences, and their misunderstandings of English phrases 'is this what is called in England being a butter-fingers?' and something about uncovering 'the Ring of the Vice'.  We know they're French and Scandinavian; it's not necessary to remind the reader every time they open their mouths.  I couldn't decide if it was meant to be spoof-like or not; I just found it irritating.

The book begins with the wonderfully depraved Ellis Flynn's grooming of young teenager Hollie Jardine; this made for an excellent opening to pull the reader straight in, but was, alas, was let down by poor proofreading, and by the fact that part of the initial detective work hinged on the discovery of some photo booth pictures of Hollie and Ellis. Hollie was so excited about these, persuading Ellis to have them taken.  This leapt out at me: do teenagers do the photo booth thing any more?  I thought that was more something of 15 or 20 years ago; these days, teenagers take photos and videos on their phones, constantly.  I know this is set in 2011, but virtually all teenagers had camera phones/smartphones by then.

I'm sorry not to give a better review, because Mr Donovan is a jolly good writer in so many ways, and I can see by others that this book has been received very well, so perhaps it's just me!  As far as the plot and suspense go it's fine; it's just the dialogue and proofreading that let it down—and I'd still read another book by him, especially if he wants to revisit Chet Walker!

On Lucky Shores reviewed HERE

The DCI Jones Casebook: Sean Freeman reviewed HERE




 

Monday, 12 September 2016

THE BLUE RIDGE PROJECT by Neil Rochford

4 out of 5 stars

Thriller

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
On Goodreads HERE




Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber's Review Team
 
This is a complicated and cleverly thought out thriller with three main strands that come together smoothly; it's a jolly good plot, original and unusual.  Murders, evil politicians, psychosis, mind control, dark secrets from the past—it's got the lot.  I wasn't quite sure at first, it just seemed like another forgettable crime suspense thriller type book, fairly readable but not that memorable, but then at about 25% it suddenly got more interesting, and I started to get seriously into it about half way through.  There's a well placed 'before' section that explains how all the situations you read about first have come about; the planning gets a tick from me.

Two things made this book not work as well as it might have done, for me.  One was the characterisation, or lack of it.  Most of the characters remained one dimensional, their dialogue mostly used as a vehicle for the plot, and with little insight into their heads.  The exception to this is main character Robert, who I could 'see' a bit more than the others (and psycho Lyons was good, too), but female cop Andrea was a man in all but name (why is it than women writers can usually write men better than male writers can write women?).  Because there were so many characters and they didn't walk out of the page and into my imagination, I sometimes got confused with who each one was.  Even when the plot is the star of the show, if you don't connect with the characters you don't care what happens to them.  I'd also be tempted to trim the cast list down.

My other minor complaint is that I thought the book could do with final proofread, and another edit.  Example: 'She pushed open a door to reveal a spacious lounge.  There were two comfortable-looking brown-leather chairs across from each other with a small, round, wooden table held up by a wooden sphere, instead of legs, that had been carved and polished with great care, and a round, flat piece of wood for the table top.' 

This would have been much more succinctly written as 'In the spacious lounge stood two comfortable looking brown leather chairs separated by a small, immaculately carved and polished, wooden table.'  You don't need to know that the doctor pushed open the door before she and Andrea walked into the room (let it be presumed), and maybe we don't need to know about the plinth, either.  This one just jumped out at me but there were a few similar.  I only put this in detail because at the end of the book the author has expressed the desire for feedback via reviews.

Having said all this, I would still recommend The Blue Ridge Project, and the author has a good handle on suspense; it kept me interested and I wasn't tempted to abandon or skip read.  I gather this is Rochford's first novel; I am sure he will iron out his debut novelist dodgy bits, as most do.


Saturday, 27 August 2016

MURDER & MAYHEM by Carol Hedges

5 out of 5 stars

Victorian Murder Mystery

On Amazon UK  HERE
On Amazon.com HERE

On Goodreads HERE


Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber's Review Team

I've read the other three of Carol Hedges' colourful, amusing and really rather brilliant Victorian murder mystery series, and this was every bit as good.  They're complete stand alones, by the way, no need to read them in order.

Murder & Mayhem follows the stories of several wonderful characters: lovely, outwardly superficial, privileged Daisy Lawton, a girl looking forward to her first 'season'; Ms Hedges very cleverly avoided the trap of making her merely empty-headed, but gave her a heart of gold, too, especially when it came to her friend, poor Letitia, who is bound to a life of drudgery by her horrible father.  Then we have the would-be anarchists, Persiflage and Waxwing, Scottish detective Lachlan Greig, and various other upper middle class ne'er-do-wells, street rogues and those eager to make money by foul means, mostly the evil 'baby minders' around whom the story centres.

Inspector Lachlan Greig: '... a certain glint in his eye possessed by those who have found they are generally more intelligent than most people around them but haven't yet learned that the most intelligent thing they can do is not to let said people find this out.'

Mr Sprowle, landlord: '... educated in the School of Hard Knocks, leading to a degree in Resentment.'

Just two lines I picked out, there are so many more little gems. 

This book is not just a clever story with hilarious characterisation and descriptions so good you want to read them twice.  It's an insight into how difficult life really was for women in those days, only 150 years ago, and a view into Victorian London as clear as any film or TV drama series.  When I got to 84% I thought 'oh, no, I've only got a little bit left', and tried to make it last as long as possible.

I believe this might be the last in the series but I do hope not; as long as Carol Hedges keeps writing these books I'll keep reading them as soon as they're available, and you should, too!

Death & Dominion is reviewed HERE, with links to reviews of Honour & Obey and Diamonds & Dust.  All include Amazon buy links.



Friday, 26 August 2016

ATOMIC NUMBER SIXTY by Dave Johnston

3 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
On Goodreads HERE


Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber's Review Team

This is an unusual book, split into sixty chapters that take one minute to read, each.  It's based around a girl called Holly, her parents, friends, love life and thoughts on life.

It's pleasant enough to read, certainly 'high speed reading' for today's busy lives, and quite funny in places but generally I felt the humour missed the mark and the 'kookiness' of the characters was overdone; the quality wasn't as consistent as it needs to be for a book this short.  The main character is female but her 'voice' seemed male to me; it's often quite challenging to write as the opposite sex.  Also, there are quite a few punctuation errors and an excess of exclamation marks that I found irritating.

It's a great concept, clever, but I think more thought should have gone into the actual writing.  Sorry I can't be more positive, but a review is only one opinion; I'm sure a lot of others will like it very much.