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Window on the South Wall
Window on the South Wall
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars How Many Words Does It Take to Sum Up a Life?, 19 Jun. 2013
Window on the South Wall by Jeremy Mark Lane is one of the shortest stories I have ever read. At only 3 pages, it has to deliver a lot in a very small amount of time.

The story is told through an anonymous young man's eyes. There are no names in this story. He lives in a children's hospital, and is their oldest patient (at 19). He is paralysed from the neck down, and spends his days in emotional agony, waiting for an end that never comes.

One day a stranger visits the hospital. A beautiful woman, and light is brought into his dark life once again.

A quick, little story that doesn't really end. In place of one, we are given something more akin to a new beginning. This book is the outline of a story. The bare minimum required for understanding and interpretation. It provides the reader with basic edges, that they can expand on and fill in themselves.

However, because of its length, the story is over before it's begun. So it can be a little difficult to immerse yourself in, but - as with most short stories- it gets better with time. Because you can read the entire book in the time it takes to brush your teeth, the ending can come rather abruptly. Give your mind a little time to catch up and for the meanings to sink in.

The plot is complicatedly simple. It conveys everything you need to know about the character's emotions, but not necessarily everything you'd want to know. There are a lot of gaps, but the story wouldn't feel quite so ethereal if every little detail was given.

Overall, I enjoyed what there was of it, but I often have an internal debate when it comes to short stories. On one hand, I wish there was a little more, that they were a little longer, but on the other hand, I don't. Adding more information can distort the atmosphere too much and lessen the meaning of the story. It's down to the individual in the end.

Interesting and a little eerie, with just a hint of bittersweetness.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Cold Fusion 2000
Cold Fusion 2000
by Karl Drinkwater
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh the Complexity of Living, 18 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Cold Fusion 2000 (Paperback)
Cold Fusion 2000 by Karl Drinkwater begins with an interesting prologue.

The first chapter is made up of brief paragraphs describing the most important parts of our protagonist Alex's life, with the help of some suitable song titles worked into each sentence. We get a brief history of Alex between 1992 and 2000 (when this story takes place).

Alex is a 32 year old man living in Manchester, with a passion for sciences and poetry. He teaches physics and other sciences part-time at a local college, still lives at home and, like all of us, wonders what his life could've been like if he'd made different choices throughout it. Starting with the year he began his PhD in Physics. That year he fell head over heels with another student, only for her to break his heart, resulting in him dropping out of college and veering his life of track.

Alex is a complicated man. Like every other person on the planet, he has his ups and downs. He can be optimistic or very pessimistic, and has a tendency to 'give up the fight' before it's even started. Still living with his mother, along with his kid sister Kelly and her friend Natalie, none of whom share his passion for science, can take its toll. That and the fact that he's quite neurotic, is a little OCD, is very introverted, slightly germaphobic, obsesses over routine, is possibly autistic and a bit of a cliche nerd and geek (yes they are two different things). Case and point- Star Trek is one of his favourite shows.

He also gets frequent blackouts- lasting only a few seconds, but he can never remember anything about them, apart from a couple fragments at most. His neuroses all seem to stem from his painful split with his long-past girlfriend.

When he breaks up with his current girlfriend, he considers changing. Something. Anything. But Alex is also a procrastinator and is afraid of change. Whenever he puts his mind to changing something, he always has a reason not to.

He always wanted to get his papers published, and is constantly reading about his favourite things. The subject du jour- the RHIC (Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider) that is about to be turned on for the first time. During his research, he picks up on the same numbers time after time, and they act as a motif throughout the story.

He thinks about the past a lot and mourns the one that got away, his first love. So when she turns up in Manchester, he can hardly believe it.

To say anymore would be to spoil.

This is almost a coming-of-age story. A reminder that maturity is not all-encompasing, Some things take longer to grow. A look into how powerful a pull our past can have on us and how much it can affect us, but we all have the power to change that. The past does not hurt us because we try to move on, it hurts us because we do nothing. A simple change in attitude can completely alter our perceptions and the way we are perceived by others.

A bittersweet, slightly confusing ending, that leaves a little hollowness, along with new, tentative hope. A small hint- the story is not always as black and white as first it seems. You really have to pay attention to the small clues in this book. Remember everything. One tiny, little detail can change how you perceive the entire story. The revelation that comes with understanding, only adds to the bitterness left at the end.

There's a few different interpretations of this story, that are each entirely down to the reader. You'll be wondering long after the pages (or in my case iPad) close. This is the perfect re-read. Like with the completely irrelevant murder mysteries genre, once you get to the end and have all the answers, it's fun to look back and see all the obvious clues you missed first time through. It is the ending that makes this book. A plot that seems so ordinary, and sometimes disjointed, becomes an epiphany, but only for the reader. That is what makes it so good. For the characters, the story is simplicity itself, but for those reading it, it is hours spent wondering. Thinking back, seeing clues that could point in so many different directions. An almost personalised book- each person will get something a little different from it. There can be confusing aspects, but overall, this is a simple plot about living. Moving on from your past and yourself.

In the end, the world is what we make of it. Not positive or negative. A neutral that waits for us to imprint on it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2013 11:28 AM BST

by Karl Drinkwater
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just More Proof That Visiting a Small Island Is a Bad Idea, 13 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Turner (Paperback)
Turner by Karl Drinkwater is a fast-paced story horror/thriller.

The book starts '2 months ago' and introduces us to Tom Stanley- a cycling fanatic. He loves to spend his holidays out in the wild, undisturbed parts of Wales, with nothing but his bike. This time he's headed for a small village in Anglesey, Wales- courtesy of a creepy story from a friend. Why he's going to an island that so spooked his comrade, is probably one of those human nature things I'll never understand.

The destination he's heading for is Stawl Island (better known as Devil Island- translated directly from the Welsh), a tiny village on the coast. The theory is that the name came from piracy in the thirteenth century. There is another rumour. One that says the name came about because Satanists occupied the island. The island is occasionally connected to the mainland by a sandbar- subject to tides and weather.

Once in the village, he feels a kind of unease and eeriness about the place. It's too quiet and the villagers are a little 'off'. Nonetheless, he decides to stay the night, but the village may have other plans for him.

Cut to the present. We are slowly introduced to three new characters. First, Chris- who has been living on the island for two weeks. Around thirty and with a bit of a past, he's come to the village looking for a new place to start a peaceful life. He too has noticed odd things about the place. For one, women are rarely seen, apart from the mysterious Bran Ddu- who exudes an odd, unnatural air.

Now on the hunt for a job, he takes a tip from the local barman and heads towards the logging camp. After a night of drinking, he gets to the camp hours later than arranged and finds it empty- abandoned.

Next we meet David- a young cop who has also recently moved to the island. He requested the transfer after an incident at his last post, and is looking for the relaxation that comes with a tiny community with no crime. He has a love of jogging, and often goes jogging around the island with his dog Spotty. But he's not the only thing running through the forests.

Finally Megan- who's taken herself on a camping holiday in order to persuade herself that she's completely and utterly, 100% over her ex. She's been on the island for three days, watching the wildlife and solving a puzzle book she brought along.

The three characters are all eventually thrown together. All three go through varying degrees of awareness about what exactly is going on on the island. Soon, all three find themselves on the run, but escape is barred by the lack of a sandbar. A storm is upon them and it's vicious waves have tossed the sand aside. They have nowhere to go. No choice but to wait for the sandbar to reform. They'll have to wait it out and hope they survive long enough to get the chance.

First impressions of this story are as follows. The first time we see the village, it is immediately creepy and unsettling. For anyone who is genre-savvy, you'll instantly expect the worse. There are a lot of homages to various horror films in this book, and the first few scenes in the village reminded me a lot of King Kong and Deliverance. The villagers communicate in an unknown language (unknown to the protagonists anyway) and give off a creepy aura. Common sense denies there's anything wrong, but instinct screams for you to run. On a small side note, if I was ever in a situation of being in one of those creepy towns or villages from so many horror movies, I would follow my instincts. Between mild embarrassment and horrific death, I certainly know which one I'd choose.

Some of the timeframes can be a little confusing until later in the book. Until Megan, Chris and David all met up, I hadn't realised they were there at the same time. But that's only the half of it. This is a very confused story, but for good reason. It is a chaotic string of events, that eventually tie together. There are a few leads that go absolutely nowhere, and some things that seem of grave importance are, in fact, meaningless.

I've been quite ambiguous about the plot because we are given so little information. Anything I tell you could spoil the story. I don't want to mention anything beyond first impressions of the characters, for fear of ruining the book. Which leaves me with very little that I can actually tell you about the story.

We are given the same information as the protagonists- which is very little. The 'why's', 'who's', 'what's' and 'how's' are predominant. Why is is happening? Who are these people? Who can be trusted? How can they escape? What the hell is going on? We gain understanding as they do- if they do. For obvious reasons, they aren't exactly in the loop, and so, neither are we. We do get a little more information than they do, but it doesn't really help to make any sense out of anything. Which can make the events very hard to grasp, but create that brilliantly terrifying fear that comes from being hunted and from not knowing why. The tension is palpable.

There are a lot of 'dark magic' elements to this. How much of any of it is real, is unclear. I'm pretty sure it's mostly rubbish, intended to brainwash the necessary people, but I could be wrong. It's dark science or dark magic or just dark nature.

The climax is the only thing I really have any criticisms for. When we get the reason behind everything, it just seems a little flat and unoriginal. The build-up to it is so raw and substantial, that the ending is just a little overshadowed by it. The villain is one of the most disappointing aspects. The actual ending after the climax peters out a little, but still manages to keep that unease. Having said that, neither the climax, the villain or the ending are bad, they're just not as great as the bulk of the story. The villains reasons are their own. To them, the reason is everything. To us, it's not really a reason. I know I said the end is a little lacklustre. We aren't given any answers up to that point, and when we finally get the big one I was expecting a little more. In the end though, the reason is irrelevant.

When we start to get those answers, they can be even more terrifying. It's human nature to want to know 'why', but the cold truth of it is that sometimes some people, some things, don't need a 'why'. As you drown in the confusion and fear paralyses your body and mind, the 'why' won't really matter. What difference would it make, knowing the reason for the madness? Sometimes, it is better not to know.

There are a lot of horror aspects to this story, but without taking them too far into the genre. I would class this book somewhere in between horror and thriller. There is a lot of violence and gore, but it's also integral to the story- which is very much a thriller trait. Often horror has violence and gore for the sheer hell of it, with no reasoning behind it other than to shock the audience.

Any horror themes present are more young adult based than adult based. Young adult horror mostly revolves around the monster in the closet, the things that go 'boo', urban legends and myths. Adult horror is generally more psychological, and a lot of it applies the 'shock' method of adding things in for the sole purpose of being shocking, gruesome or disgusting. There's no necessity. It has no effect on the story. If it's a movie or a game, it's the same principle as adding in jumpscares. They're completely irrelevant, serve no purpose, but always scare the audience (unless they're terrible).

I admit that between the two, I am much more a fan of the urban legend inspired young adult horror and not much of a fan of adult horror. Make no mistake, horror is horror. And this book does horror. It will creep down your spine and tense your muscles. Those myths and legends that inspire young adult horror, have always been scarier to me. Adult horror disturbs me more, but children's horror was always more terrifying because those monsters and demons always seemed so real to me. When we're alone and in the dark, it's the monsters we feared as children that haunt the shadows.

Somewhat of a digress there, but back on track now. Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. This is one of those books where the story will carry you more than the characters. To me the characters are almost irrelevant. We are given very little background on any of them. They mostly take a back-seat, and just get carried through by the plot. Very typical of horror. Anyone who's seen any horror movie will know the basic characters you get in every one. For the most part, they're just vessels that allow us to see the events, and that's what these characters are.

A little background before you go. There actually is a Stawl Island. It is a small village in Wales and even has it's own Lord. It was a hotbed for pirates. There's even a sandbar that connects it to the mainland. However, everything else (you'll be glad to know) is entirely fictitious. In fact, the island wasn't even open to tourists, but after this book, the current Lord of Stawl Island is thinking about changing that.

This book is a fast-paced, nerve fraying, seat grabber of a story. It starts off a little slow, but once it gets going, there is absolutely no stopping it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2013 10:20 AM BST

What Makes You Die
What Makes You Die
Price: £5.56

3.0 out of 5 stars A Bipolar Writer, With a Chaotic Mind and an Alter Ego Named Gideon, 8 Jun. 2013
What Makes You Die by Tom Piccirilli is an odd read.

The main character, Tommy Pic, may share the author's name, but I am assured that all characters and event are fictitious (though to what extent, who knows?). The story starts with him waking up in a psych ward, strapped down to a bed (a commonplace occurrence for him apparently). The last time he woke up with the straps, was a couple years previously, when he attempted to 'hara-kiri' himself with a steak knife. Not because he wanted to die (necessarily), but because he was trying to get Gideon out. Gideon lives in his stomach, and is the ghost of a giant komodo dragon- who lived during the Pleistocene Age, and whose fossil is now on display in the Queensland Museum in Australia. For those wondering, it didn't work. He lost four foot of intestine, but Gideon is still inside him.

A depressive, bipolar, alcoholic, who is subject to frequent blackouts, Tommy is lost in the past. He is a screenwriter, though somewhat of a failed one. There was a time when he was moving up in the scene, living in Hollywood, he had the world in his hands. A few of his scripts were picked up, but then changes were made, he lost his spark and all his money and is now most famous for films he despises, and living in his mother's basement.

His father died when he was eight, one of his friends went missing a few years later, and his wife left him when his career took a downward turn. Memories haunt him, and due to his imagination and profession, they play out in front of him, like one of his movies, with full surround-sound. He spends hours lost in his own mind. He focuses on his failings and his losses, creating a bleak environment, that looks as washed out as he feels.

But the words don't flow anymore. He's tried everything. So when his agent, Monty, tells him he loves his latest manuscript, Tommy is more than a little confused (while breaking the fourth wall a bit. The manuscript is 'What Makes You Die', but seems to tell a completely different story to this one). Monty returns his script with amendments and asks him for the next act by Monday. Tommy leaves panicked. The script is written on his paper, has his name, everything about it screams that he wrote it, but he can't remember writing it at all.

He meets various characters, though I'm not sure how many of them are actually real, but neither is he, and attempts to find closure, or finish his script, or come to terms with his past, or any number of things.

If you're having trouble figuring out the plot, don't worry. The entire book is practically told constantly in Tommy's mind, with not too much dialogue. Because of this, if can be confusing for the reader, as Tommy's mind is a chaotic mess, his thoughts whirl around in his head, howling. It is a jumbled flow of information, that is hard to understand and yet somehow causes unease. I doubt even he understands half the stuff that happens in this story.

There are times when this book is quite tiring to read. There are no breaks in the story, just a constant, turbulent flow of turmoil, self-loathing and uncertainty, that takes its toll after a while.

This is a bleak, reasonably dark story, but with a surprising amount of humour. I would describe it more, but one of the characters (Timmy Pic himself, in fact) explains it so well, I'll let him do it:

"Innocent kid who hasn't had his liver torn out and stuck on a pike yet:

Mr. Pic, some of your work is intensely stark and bleak, but it's also surprisingly funny. How
do you manage to put so much emphasis on such spiritual pain and have laughs along the

That describes his writing style in a nutshell. To hear the answer you'll have to read the book. Oh, and what a good answer it is.

Going through the story, with its lack of direction, there comes a point when you believe you've found the plot. It seems like it's going to be this big thing, this conclusion, this remedy for his mind, something to fix the damage that begun so long ago and help get his life back on track. Then it finishes with a a completely different, very ordinary and not quite fitting ending. There is a hopeful air to it, though it's still a little unsure, but doesn't entirely work with the rest of the story.

It's almost like the majority of the book is coated in deep fog, that makes it hard to tell what's going on, and then it lifts right at the very end and changes the story, it changes everything. The oddities that frequent the pages are made trivial and such a normal ending does not fit with the insanity that came before it.

After finishing the book, I went back, thought about the plot and discovered it to be something very simple- a writer overcoming his writer's block. There are a few additions and complications, but that is basically what the story is, though you wouldn't know it. But they do say it's the journey and not the destination.

Overall, this is an unusual book, quite macabre in places, and will most likely be a hit-or-miss kind of book. You'll either like it or you won't. For what it's worth, I enjoyed it, though most likely didn't understand most of it. I'm not even entirely sure whether most of the events in the book even happened or were just delusions of Tommy Pic's mind. I don't think he knows.

Maybe I enjoyed it because it was unusual. Because it's not something you read everyday. Why I enjoyed it isn't really relevant, all that matters is that I did- though the confusion does lessen than somewhat.

Disclaimer: I received this book through a Librarything giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

The Bench
The Bench
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars But For the Kindness of Children, 5 Jun. 2013
This review is from: The Bench (Kindle Edition)
The Bench by F.C. Malby is a remarkably short story (in more ways than one).

Sitting on a bench in a park, we meet Bill (though his name isn't important). An old man, weary from the trials of life, he sits and watches as the world goes by without him.

One day, a little girl greets him, one who is very astute and mature for her age. She teaches him some simple life lessons, through very simple, yet quite profound ways.

A very quick read (at only 5 pages), but meaningful nonetheless. There's very little I can say without spoiling anything. The story is so short, it's almost over before it's even begun.

There are some interesting conversations and concepts present, all met by a very sudden end. It leaves you with the beginnings of hollowness, but there just isn't enough familiarity for it to be anything more than a slight tug. I will say this, because the story is so abrupt in its end, the message and consequential ending that it creates, gain more strength and depth the longer it's been since you finished the story. In other words, it can take a little time to sink in, but the story only gets better with it.

On another topic: the little girl's lessons only work because of her age. If she had been older, they could've seemed pretentious and condescending, though imaginative. As it is, her age makes both her personality and her lessons sweet, innocent and kind, yet very mature and surprisingly eerie, as well as showing her awareness of the world around her.

If you are someone who likes all the questions answered and all the strings tied up in a pretty bow, this may not be for you. There is just enough description and just the right amount of information and hints given, to understand the story, but nothing more. Most of it is left pretty ambiguous, and for good reason. This story would not work anywhere near as well, if we had all the answers. It would be more mundane and less universal. This is minimalist writing at its best.

There are only really two characters in this story, and yes they are both given names, but those names are largely irrelevant. They are outlines of people, allowing many different characters to fit in their places. The answers (especially to the ending) are all debatable and up for interpretation. The 'who', the 'why', the 'what' are never given solid form, and it's down to the reader to imagine.

An interesting read, that is a good example of why quality is more often than not, better than quantity.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

A Life Less Ordinary
A Life Less Ordinary
Price: £3.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey Can Take You Many Places, 3 Jun. 2013
A Life Less Ordinary is the first book published by Victoria Bernadine.

Starting out at 'minus 31 days', we meet Manny Mankowski, a 45 year-old woman, who feels unmotivated and unattractive. She sticks to her routines like clockwork. Goes to work, goes home, repeat process.

To get her through the boring trivialities of life, she's created an imaginary beau- Harvey. Her Mr. Perfect. Harvey acts as her inner voice. Not just a conscience, but also a true reveal of her inner thoughts, some selfish and dark, some reassuring and hopeful. He is her sounding board.

He helps her get through the days, but when she's passed over for a promotion at a job she's been doing for fifteen years, it tips the scales. Now off balance, she's thinking hard about her life. The missed promotion is a wake-up call and just puts emphasis on the 'dead-end' aspect of her career. But the deciding factor comes when she is faced with the prospect of another fifteen years working the same job at the same place, and she quits.

She's decided to have her mid-life crisis (her words, not mine) in the form of selling her house and most of her belongings and departing on a six month road-trip around the States and Canada. But she doesn't want to travel alone, so she puts out an ad for a travelling companion and awaits the results, much to the shock of her sister, Daisy and best-friend, Rebecca.

Zeke Powell works for an e-magazine called 'What Women Want'. He's a blogger famous for rocking the boat. He can be arrogant and fancies himself a ladies man, but is a good guy when push comes to shove. His boss, Leah, is also the wife of his best-friend, TJ, and she suggests he reply to Manny's ad and go with her on the trip. All for the purposes of their blog. They want to expose her 'mid-life crisis' to the world and try to gain popularity for their e-zine by doing so. He wants a scoop and he doesn't mind being a little cruel to get it.

Of course, he doesn't tell Manny that. So, off they go, choosing the next destination from a hat (or plastic bag in this case), with Zeke (unbeknownst to Manny) blogging about her actions and his reactions along the way. He sees her as vulnerable and unaware and doesn't want to hurt her, but of course it won't stop him from writing, so he has to tone down the level of harshness usually present in his work.

They spend the time sight-seeing and generally exploring everything they can, all down to Manny's itinerary. The point of the trip for Manny, is to get out of her comfort zone and learn how to connect with people again. To be comfortable with strangers and start enjoying life. Zeke may just learn something along the way too.

Meanwhile, Rebecca is struggling with changes of her own. Thirty years ago (when she was sixteen) her (then) boyfriend got her pregnant, changing her life forever. He abandoned her, her parents disowned her and if it wasn't for Manny and Daisy's parents, her life would've just about ended there.

Now her daughter, Jaime, is a grown woman, going through a divorce of her own. Mother and daughter don't have the best relationship, but Rebecca finds herself looking after Tris, Jaime's ten year-old daughter, as Jaime sets out to find the father she never knew.

At the same time, Daisy's marriage is failing. She spends her nights at the casino. Her husband, Hub, is an estranged partner and father to their two teenage kids, and is rarely around. She labels herself a 'married, single parent'. They're already unhappy marriage is put to the test when Daisy discovers something Hub has been keeping secret.

Finally, Tj and Leah are trying for a baby, but are having complications. They're taking fertility tests to see if there's an actual biological reason why they're having such a hard time.

As you can tell, there are quite a few storylines going on in this book. All connected through theme, they focus on the complications of life- in all meanings of the word. There are many forms a journey can take, and many endings and beginnings to them. Change can be for the better or worse, through a decision we've made or something we had no control over, but in the end, it is what we choose to make of it. So many sub-plots can be confusing, but it works here, and each one is just as interesting and meaningful as the others. The focus is on Manny's journey, but the other stories aren't any less significant.

The description of travelling is beautifully done, namely the emotions experienced. The wonder of a new place, the almost child-like joy and excitement. The curiosity, a little nervous tension and the anticipation all mixed up with good old-fashioned fun. How the journey differs when you share it with another, even just a stranger met along the way. It's so addictive and infectious that I'm almost tempted to take off on my own six month adventure.

The characters are complicated and unique. They're not infallible. The relationships and conversations between them are enjoyably witty and very wry, especially between Manny and Harvey and Manny and Zeke. Harvey is more of a safety blanket. He's a constant figure, but is only ever constantly present, when Manny is stressed, afraid or nervous.

The relationship between Manny and Zeke is oddly endearing. Somehow, with all the confidence he shows and she lacks, Zeke comes across as the older of the two. Sometimes. Manny's friendly personality and honesty open people up to her. Zeke, however, while not necessarily dishonest (depending) is a closed-book. He won't straight out lie, but he will emit details or refuse the question. But it leads to quite hilarious interactions between the two.

The characters are well-rounded and well-written. And you know what? I'm actually going to miss them. As odd as it sounds, they've grown on me. It's always sad when one journey ends, but you just have to keep looking forward to the next, and you'll always have the memories.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. To the point that I had trouble putting it down, and only managed it when (at 6 am) I was facing sheer exhaustion. What kept me reading so obsessively? In short, the characters. I've commented on why I think they're great characters, but I'm not sure I can so easily pinpoint why exactly I liked them so much. They're very real, and the way they interact with each other is as though they've been friends forever (which in many cases they have), and they pull you right into that inner circle. They make you their friend. They're not necessarily the most original characters, but when I'm with my own friends, or meeting someone new, I don't compare them to others, I don't find fault in similarities or unoriginality, I just see them for them. And that's what these characters are to me- just them.

A rather subtle ending, with a call-back to the beginning. Such small things can be so big, while such big things can be so small. Life is scary. We all know it. They're will always be things we wish we could run away from, forget or change. But strength comes in not letting fear win. In standing up and fighting back. Yeah, life is scary, but it's real, and what more could we hope for? What better reason do we need to live purely for the sake of living? To come out of our shells and be who we really are, to let people see us as we really are. What better motivation do we need to do something a little less ordinary?

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Going Out in Style
Going Out in Style
Price: £2.51

4.0 out of 5 stars How Many Ways Can You 'Go Out in Style"?, 29 May 2013
Going Out in Style by Daniel Kelley is a collection of six short stories, each centred around the title theme, 'Going Out in Style', whether for better or worse. There are various directions and meanings one phrase can have and six of them are explored in these stories.

In the first, 'Performer', Thomas L. Blatten is being 'let go' from the Philharmonic Orchestra he's been with for 42 years. Playing fourth chair French horn was not something he saw himself doing for so long, but when he won the job all those years ago, he couldn't be bothered to go through it all again and 'got stuck'.

At 65, he wonders what's in store for him now. What does his future hold? As his final concert plays, he criticises aspects of his life and the people in it, all with a cynical flair. He relives moments of his life, getting this job, meeting his wife, his children and ponders the future with a bleak, monotone voice.

But Thomas has a plan for his final performance. He intends to be remembered.

In 'Bathtub Ripples', 37-year-old Andie is running herself a bath, enjoying the luxurious sensations and the joy it brings. As the story progresses, her mind turns to the past. Her failed relationships and her childhood up to the life she now leads. What starts off as a light story about simple pleasures, takes a darker turn.

The third story, 'Getting to Know You', finds an author on a book tour. All he wants is for it to be over so he can go home. He's uncomfortable in public and around people in general, so distances himself with arrogance and vanity.

After the final signing, a woman approaches him on the street as he waits for the valet to bring his car round. She claims to be a fan, but his demeanour instantly causes problems. But her wit is a match of his own and she refuses to back down.

Fascinated and terrified by this brazen woman, with no qualms about giving him a piece of her mind, he begins to open up. This only leads to further intrigue, as revealing anything about himself is an incredibly rare event. Does he want that to change?

'Thinking Back' is a story that tells exactly the way its title would imply. Beginning on a Saturday, it works backwards to Wednesday, revealing the answers in its wake.

Maddie and her husband Dave are enjoying some family time with their two children, when the police knock on their door. One of their neighbours, a good friend of theirs, is dead. Murdered. A few quick questions and the policewoman asks them to get in touch if they remember anything that could help with the case.

As the days rewind, the 'who' and the 'why' take form and the inevitable truth comes out.

In the penultimate story, 'Doing It All', we meet Simon Oddgrove, as he lies on his bed thinking. A very 'go with the flow' kind of man, he's never put too much thought into anything. Decisions are something he doesn't do, preferring to leave it to chance or someone else.

Growing up close to his Aunt Nettie, she is the relative he stays in touch with most frequently. When he was younger, she labelled him 'a boy of potential', something he has never forgotten. In the past, she has met exactly three of his girlfriends, two of which ended the relationship shortly after. The third, Etheline, is his current girlfriend and his aunt and her get along peachy.

But Simon hasn't been returning either of their calls. He's been forced to make a decision and is unsure of what to do. Having never made a decision in his life, this is too much for him to handle. So he shuts himself off from the world and lies on his bed, thinking.

The final story is 'A Child's Game' and tells the story of Janice and her complicated love-triangle, built from lies and false promises. She finally understands the reality and is looking for closure. All it takes is a little paper and some scissors.

An enjoyable set of stories, with some similar plots, but each with their own individuality, while still maintaining the connection to the others. The emotions range from heartwarming to heartbreaking and a lot of the stories centre around regrets and how people react to them, deal with them or don't.

Each story is broken up into sections, often three, much like a script. Act One, Act Two and Act Three and (as is tradition) a little more is revealed in each part. It's an interesting style to incorporate into a short story, but it works very well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short book. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be 'Bathtub Ripples'. The description of the perfect bath is fantastic and the direction the story takes is a perfect mix of chilling, uncomfortable and inevitable bittersweetness. I found myself cringing with the description and naively hoping for an alternate outcome. All this in eight (Kindle) pages.

With five other stories, there's bound to be at least one, if not more, for everyone.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Déjà Vu (The Saskia Brandt Series Book One)
Déjà Vu (The Saskia Brandt Series Book One)

3.0 out of 5 stars A Time Paradox, A Wanted Man and The Digital Woman, 16 May 2013
Deja Vu by Ian Hocking is the first book in 'The Saskia Brandt Series".

Set in the year 2023, the story begins in Berlin. Saskia Brandt is returning to her office after a breakup with her boyfriend Simon- who was upset that her job with the FIB (Federal Office of Investigation) was always calling her away.

Having returned two days earlier than expected, she wonders where her secretary is. Computers in this future have very advanced AI and conversations with them are the norm. Which leads Saskia to ask both where her secretary is and why the air conditioning is off of her computer. Though it is extremely intelligent, its answers are not very helpful. But Saskia is able to solve the puzzle quickly when she finds her secretary's body in the fridge- with a stab wound below her left ear.

Realising that she is being framed, she goes to her superior, Beckman, and tells him what's happened, to which he replies that she needs to deal with it herself. Being charged with murder in this world leads to different repercussions than our own. If you are found guilty (which generally you are), you are executed (if you're lucky) or subjected to a brain wipe (which leaves you as a very literal, programmable blank slate).

Trying to find evidence that could prove her innocence, she manages to find and enhance a still shot of the murderer's face (off of the blade he used to kill her secretary). When the image comes back, her world falls apart. She's staring at a photo of herself. Scrutinising her mind for the missing memories of killing the woman, she's met with the cold truth that her whole life is fabricated. She has no memories of who she is that weren't created and implanted by someone else.

Beckman informs her that her mind was erased three weeks ago- after she was found guilty of murder- and that this was all a test to see if she could be part of a special group. One trained to hunt down other killers. He gives her a choice- work for him (receiving false memories and becoming his puppet) or be executed. With little choice, she accepts and is given her first mission.

Meanwhile in Nevada, Jennifer Proctor has invented the time machine. She works with the same facility that her father, David, used to work for. He lost his job after he was accused of planting a bomb in their own base in 2003. The explosion killed his wife and cost him his career, though he was acquitted of the charges.

David has been called to Scotland, to the deserted base to find his old friend, Bruce- who has broken into the labs. What he finds is a dying man. Both men wanted to destroy the project they were working on twenty years ago, but have been unable to. David plans to rectify that. This time, he is the one who plants the bomb- killing Bruce in the process and making David a wanted man, armed only with his pocket-computer (a prototype) called Ego and a drawing his daughter made when she was younger, he must depend on his wits and the help of a mysterious woman and her cryptic messages.

Saskia is now after David Proctor. She meets Klutikov, a Russian agent who is also a puppet like her. He tells her about the microchips in their brains, that transmit the false memories and knowledge they possess. If her chip fails, so does she. Her mind and body do not come from the same person. Her body is that of a killer she never knew and she is a parasite plugged into it. Even her being, what she calls herself, is just a bunch of donor memories.

Teamed up with an older Detective in Edinburgh, Pihilp Jago- who she affectionally nicknames Scotty, they search for the elusive David Proctor. Throughout, Saskia keeps seeing random flashes of another woman- the woman this body belonged to, but they are too disjointed and vague. All she comes away with is a woman's name- Ute. Does she want these memories? Does she want to meet Ute- who the press nicknamed the "Angel of Death"?

There are a lot of Greek and Shakespearean references scattered throughout this book. In particular, the three fates- who cut your string when they deem that your life is up. Quite fitting seeing as Saskia's life is in another's hands. I also got echoes of something else. For anyone who has seen Joss Whedon's Dollhouse series, this holds a lot of similarities. The obvious one being, wiping the minds of people so that you can insert new ones that make them anyone. They can have any skill, they can be anything their creator desires.

Time-travel (which is present in this story) is always tricky to work with. The unavoidable paradoxes can leave crumbling holes in the plot. Here, it is done well. The points align, while still leaving necessary things ambiguous. There is still that question of whether you can actually change anything in the past or whether it has to happen because it's already happened. Best not to dwell on it too long. If you're looking for a scientific, deeply detailed explanation of time-travel and the many issues around it, this is not that.

I don't have too much to say about the characters. The one character who really stood out to me was, as you might expect, Saskia. The thought that your personality, your mind, your being is all a digital splicing of other people is extraordinary- both in its obscureness and in the fear it creates. That you are an intruder, a stranger in your own body must be a terrifying thing. What would you do? Would you want to know who the other half of your 'self' had been?

The ending was a conclusion. What I mean is, all the strings are brought together and the questions answered. The reader is brought full circle, back to the very beginning. There's nothing more to really say. It was a little anticlimactic. The penultimate big reveal gives us the whole picture of Saskia, in all its dramatic glory. But afterwards, the story fizzles out and just ends. There is the finale, where everything is wrapped up, but so much of the pace is lost, that it just sits there.

I'm not sure whether I'll carry on with the series. I found the concept intriguing, but the plot less so and with the reveal of Saskia's backstory, I'm left wondering if there's any more that I want to know.

Overall, a good read. If you're a fan of action, sic-fi or the paradoxes of life- this is for you.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Elusive (On The Run International Mysteries Book 1)
Elusive (On The Run International Mysteries Book 1)
Price: £0.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romantic Getaway in Italy, Bullets and A New Life As a Fugitive Included, 12 May 2013
Elusive by Sara Rosett is the first book in the "On the Run" series.

Starting out in Dallas, Texas, we meet Zoe Hunter- a fiery, red-head (aren't they always) who spends most of her time trying to support herself. She does a lot of odd-jobs, such as dog walking, but her main sources of income come from books she copy-edits for an independent travel company and office spaces her aunt gave her as early inheritance. Her aunt promised they would be a great investment. She rents out two of the offices.

One of those offices is rented by her ex-husband and his company (GRA- Green Recyclable Services). It's a company he started and co-owns with Connor (a man with great disdain for any digital technology). They have a secretary named Sandra and that's it. Three employees. Jack handles all the computer work (because of Connor's aversion) except the accounts, which Connor handles. Together, the three of them manage to scrape by and the company's stocks seem to be increasing in value surprisingly quickly.

Zoe and Jack may be ex-spouses, but they still share the house. Not because they want to, but because they can't afford to sell it or get their own places. So they have a very delicate set-up designed to give them their own spaces and keep them apart. Zoe has the entire downstairs, while Jack gets the upstairs. Jack uses the front door, Zoe uses the back. This ensures they never meet. Jack doesn't even use the kitchen, he has a hot plate and mini-fridge upstairs that is apparently all he requires.

Returning to his office after lunch one day, Jack finds something amiss. Sandra is out at the orthodontist and has been given the rest of the day off, but Connor should be there. He should be able to hear him from his own office. And someone has used his computer. As he stares at the screensaver and blinks the screen into life, he finds his bank account on the monitor. All of his company shares are sold, including ones he didn't own. There is now twelve million dollars in shares. Much more than they had. Opening his drawer he finds his gun, that he leaves at home, in the attic.

Later, Zoe gets a visit from the police. They found Jack's car at the side of a bridge. Someone reported seeing a man getting swept away down the river. The story goes that Jack tried to seek cover under the bridge from the tornado that passed by earlier in the day. He must have slipped on the bank and fallen into the fast-moving water below. The police aren't hopeful.

Zoe is in a daze. She doesn't know how to feel. Going to his office to let Sandra and Connor know that Jack's missing, she instead finds it empty. There's an odd smell coming from the office and she follows it to Connor's door. Inside she finds Connor, a bullet hole through his forehead.

Now the FBI are involved. What started out as a search for a missing man has turned into a hunt for a fugitive. But Zoe can't believe that. Jack is not the type to cook the books then kill a man for the money and go AWOL. But now the FBI are very interested in her. She's the closest person to Jack. The only family he has is a cousin in Vegas. Zoe is his next of kin, which of course puts her in prime suspect position.

Realising that situation is quickly going from back to worse, Zoe thinks it's best to contact his cousin, Eddie. She goes upstairs to find his computer and locate Eddie's details. But calling the number, she finds two shocks in store. One, Eddie is a woman and two, she claims she doesn't know Jack then hangs up. Trying to call back she gets put through to voicemail. Irritated she accidentally knocks over his lamp and finds rolls of money hidden inside the base. Determined to find out more, she thoroughly checks the house and comes up with more money and two passports, one for a woman named Irena and the second for a Brian Kenneth McGee- who's photo is that of her ex-husband's.

Confused and afraid that the police will use this against her, she tries to make a decision. But when she finds the police coming back with a warrant, she chooses to run. Grabbing a few essentials, she decides on Vegas. If Eddie won't take her calls, she'll just have to go to her in person. Right now, she's the only lead Zoe's got.

With one partner dead and the other missing under suspicious circumstances - along with millions of dollars-the question of fraud and murder are only shadowed by one question- Where is Jack Andrews? Or for Zoe- Who is Jack Andrews? Discovering the answer will take her on a roller-coaster journey through Dallas, Vegas, Rome, Naples and Venice. Well, she's always wanted to see Italy.

The characters were typical of this genre. You have the bad guys, the good guys and the normals. Within the groups, you have the 'good guy who's not used to bad', the 'bad guy pretending to be good', the 'really bad guy', 'the betrayer', all the usual suspect that make this genre so formulaically enjoyable to read. I would put this story between cozy mystery and thriller. There are darker elements, but for the most part I would say it's more of a light-hearted read.

The ending was strong. It resolves on, literally, the last line and is most definitely an incentive to check out the next book. I was enthralled by the story. Those who are familiar with me will know I can't resist a good mystery- whether it be cozy or dark. I will be checking out the next part of the story and thoroughly recommend this book for anyone who likes a good whodunit, with a little humour and romance thrown in.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

The Devil's Grin (An Anna Kronberg Thriller Book 1)
The Devil's Grin (An Anna Kronberg Thriller Book 1)

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Terrifying Disease, A Man Who's a Woman and Sherlock Holmes, 6 May 2013
The Devil's Grin by Annelie Wendeberg is the first book in the 'Kronberg Crimes' series.

Set in Victorian England, this book is a mix of fiction and historical facts. Disease coats the streets and Jack the Ripper haunts the alleys. People will do anything to survive.

The year is 1889 and Doctor Anton Kronberg has been asked for assistance in identifying a possible cholera victim at the Hampton Water Treatment Works by Scotland Yard's Inspector Gibson. Anton works at Guy's Hospital in London in the ward of infectious diseases. The best bacteriologist and epidemiologist in England. Cholera is one of many constant threats and the hospital is always packed three to a bed, leading to the further spread of disease.

Going to inspect the dead man, Anton meets the famous Sherlock Holmes, who surprises both Anton and the reader by discovering that Anton Kronberg is in fact Anna Kronberg, a female doctor who earned her degree in Germany. Anna is reasonably upset. This is an era where women are forbidden to study medicine or become doctors. The only women in a medical field are nurses. Anna works very hard to keep her identity secret by changing her countenance and her appearance, even going as far as to keep a bag filled with water in her trousers so her colleagues can occasional see her 'peeing' at the urinals, to leave no doubt in their minds that she is a man. If her secret was ever revealed, she would be incarcerated for life.

Anna is just as sharp and observant as Sherlock. The two decide to work with each other (which neither of them are particularly used to or pleased about) after finding a few discrepancies on the body. The two will have to learn to deal with one another and try to get along with someone just as knowledgable as themselves. They will no doubt get on each other's nerves, but there is amicability and understanding there too.

As they begin to see more into the dark underworld and corrupt corporations that are involved, they begin to realise just how deep they're in. Could the man have been killed by tetanus? If so, how could he contract it without any deep wounds or without consuming a tetanus infected animal? Is it possible he was murdered? They must also learn to battle with their own dark demons and consider how far either of them are willing to go to find the truth, even if it means risking their lives or that of others.

The title of this book comes from one of the symptoms of a tetanus victim- a grin. It is a telltale sign of tetanus.

The characters are intriguing. Sherlock is Sherlock. What can I say about this character that isn't already known to every person under the sun? His depiction here is very similar to his original character. Obviously, there will be slight discrepancies, not just because of a different author, but also because he's interacting with people he's never met before. All people act differently depending on the person they're with, including Sherlock. For fans of Sherlock, don't worry, he is still true to himself, if not for the occasional phrase I couldn't quite picture him saying.

Sherlock himself is already a character who's interesting enough to carry the story, but Anna/Anton's character was equally compelling, to say the least. Forced to hide her gender, she spends so much time as a man, that she questions her identity. It's not that she's transgender or confused about her sexuality, but more that she has seen the pros and cons of being a member of each gender and she wonders which one it is better to be and which one she is more suited to. Add to that the fact that she must completely shed her female self, so as not to be discovered, and it's not wonder she's unsure.

Like Sherlock, she will push herself to her physical and mental limits to get an answer. Together, the chemistry these two characters share is palpable. I'm bringing it up because I'm sure people will wonder, but the only similarity between her and Irene is that the two are equally as intelligent as Sherlock himself. They can outwit him. But Irene is very sure of her gender and obviously loves being a woman and the ability to make Sherlock uncomfortable with it. Anna isn't even sure what gender she wants to be. Their personalities are very different and these two characters are not to be confused.

Anna and Sherlock can singlehandedly carry this story. The plot is interesting and dark, but even if it had been terrible, I believe that Anna and Sherlock would still make it work. They're just that entertaining and thought-provoking.

An incomplete ending, this is a series that connects all its stories through plot, not just characters. It is not often that the same story will continue through the series. The same villain perhaps, but generally when you start a new book, a new plot begins as well. For those who aren't fans of endings without resolution, there is enough of a conclusion to satisfy. We just aren't given the whole picture. The final line will leave fans of both this book's characters and Sherlock Holmes hurrying to the next instalment.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

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