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Joshua Winning

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Earth Power
Earth Power
Price: £2.32

4.0 out of 5 stars A smart, knowing supernatural thriller, 1 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Earth Power (Kindle Edition)
Ignore the slightly hippy-esque title and you'll discover this first Aquarius Investigations novel is a pacey, involving supernatural thriller with loads of style. With its quirky sense of humour, great ear for dialogue and occasional shiver-inducing scenes, it's the kind of book you can imagine being turned into a moody BBC drama.

I'm a huge fan of paranormal stories that draw on real-life phenomena, and Adam J. Black tackles that brilliantly in Earth Power. Set in and around Sheffield, he takes advantage of the rich history and spooky locations to tell a tale that you believe could really happen. Black also has a knack for creating flawed and interesting characters, with Sam Watkins a particular highlight. I was disappointed with the lack of attention to certain characters - such as Gemini, who merely drifts in and out as the plot demands - but as this is the first book in the series I imagine those characters will come more to the fore in later books.

Earth Power was a quick, involving read that felt like a cross between Poltergeist and The Wicker Man. Though some of the elements didn't come together as well as I'd have liked towards the end, that didn't stop my enjoyment of a smart, knowing thriller that isn't afraid to try new things. Can't wait for book two.

(I was given a free copy of Earth Power in return for an honest review.)


Alliance (Alliance #1)
Alliance (Alliance #1)
Price: £2.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Want a fantasy without vampires?, 12 Aug. 2013
Alliance is a paranormal romance so hot your e-reader will frequently threaten to burst into flames. Crammed full of Incubi, Succubi, vampires, werewolves and angels, it's a contemporary fantasy that's refreshing in its frank and realistic approach to relationships, and contains more than its fair share of mysteries.

Luckily, vampires and werewolves (who have arguably over-stayed their welcome in paranormal literature) take a back seat this time around in favour of our lead Incubi Keller and Hudson. Their relationship forms the backbone of this novel. They've known each other since childhood, and they share a room at a college that's populated with other supernatural creatures. Only problem: Hudson's gay, and he's got a thing for ladykiller Keller.

In Alliance, plot takes second place to characters. Which isn't a bad thing when the characters are this involving and well-written. Hudson and Keller's evolving relationship is fascinating and realistically played-out, their individual POV chapters offering insight into their different thoughts about certain events and - most tantalisingly - each other. Are they star-crossed lovers? Or is Hudson doomed to heartbreak? That tension throbs throughout Shannon Dermott and Danyele Johnson's story and makes for an addictive read.

The Incubi angle is also well played. Unlike vampires, there's still an aura of mystery surrounding Incubi, and it was fun getting to know how they think and feel. Naturally, if your leads are Incubi, sex isn't ever far off, and Alliance is sexy without straying into porn-y, 50 Shades Of Gray levels of description; it's far more interested in the emotions than the physical attributes (though I did lose count of how many times a character thought about how amazing their abs were).

If there's anything negative to be said about Alliance, it's that the lack of plot might put some readers off. While the plot picks up in spades in the book's final chapters, the story's previous obsession with the minutiae of Keller and Hudson's developing relationship means just as interesting developments - such as their mission to find an Oracle - take a backseat, which can be frustrating. Luckily, the final chapters of the book are packed full of plot and make up for earlier slow points. The only other negative is the character of Cain, who often stretches the realms of believability. Though that's explained later on, it's jarring for much of the novel.

Though I enjoyed Alliance, I feel I should add that it's a book that really needs an editorial polish. There are quite a few mistakes throughout, whether that's using the wrong word ('my' when they mean 'me') and stylistic slip-ups (both 'makeup' and 'make-up' are used within pages of one another). There's also the odd continuity blip, such as characters being topless than suddenly wearing a shirt, or Keller being fine with Hudson seeing him naked in one chapter, but then shocked to see Hudson naked in the next. These errors were a distraction from an engaging, well-told story.

And Alliance IS engaging and well-told. It contains one of the better examples of gay relationships I've ever read. Considering Alliance was written by two women, the plausibility of the gay characters and scenarios in the book is truly impressive. I'm looking forward to book two...


Tanglewood Road (Demonic Survivors Book 1)
Tanglewood Road (Demonic Survivors Book 1)
Price: £3.94

4.0 out of 5 stars A quick, creepy and addictive read, 9 Aug. 2013
A tightly-written horror story, Tanglewood Road is a quick, creepy and addictive read. It reminded me of some of the better Point Horror books, and I liked that Elliot Arthur Cross updated the 'teen horror' formula by writing a lead character who's a gay teenager. Less clear is whether Cross intended our teen lead's parents to be quite so stupid, or if it was a necessity of the plot. (What parent leaves their recently suicidal son alone by flying away for two days?)

The book's opening is supremely unsettling and there are some great visuals as our lead, Cody, realises that his neighbourhood is suspiciously quiet. The reason for that is really scary, and I loved the build-up of the first half of the book, where the stakes incrementally raise and you genuinely have no idea what's going to happen.

It's a bit of a disappointment that the Tanglewood Road's initial mystery - surrounding a character called Tanglewood - is dropped halfway through in favour of something else. Luckily, it's replaced with equally interesting characters and situations (not to mention a well-handled romance), but when you've got an idea as creepy and involving as Tanglewood you really want to see it played out. Here's hoping for Tanglewood Road Part II...


FALCON LORD -- BOOK THREE "ESCAPE FROM THE SKOOKUMCHUCK": A Steampunk Fantasy Adventure Novel (FALCON LORD TRILOGY 3)
FALCON LORD -- BOOK THREE "ESCAPE FROM THE SKOOKUMCHUCK": A Steampunk Fantasy Adventure Novel (FALCON LORD TRILOGY 3)
Price: £4.64

4.0 out of 5 stars A book of big ideas, 6 Aug. 2013
This third entry in the Falcon Lord series is something of a steampunk Wizard Of Oz, with all the thrilling adventure, colourful characters and terrifying villains that label implies. D.A. Metrov has crafted a franchise novel that also works brilliantly as a standalone, and there's something in here for everyone, from philosophical musings to world-hopping excitement. This is a book of BIG IDEAS; intelligently written and with a fantastic, nerve-shredding climax.


Chosen of Azara
Chosen of Azara
Price: £3.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and well-written, 29 July 2013
This review is from: Chosen of Azara (Kindle Edition)
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Chosen Of Azara for review, and I'm happy to report that it was fantastic.

An epic fantasy that doesn't bow down to the conventions of the genre, Chosen is set in a warring land where men in power screw things up for everybody else in their quest for yet more power. That's about the only conventional thing about Kyra Halland's book, which also involves time travel, unexpected POV switches and a truly epic scope.

Things start off with a young princess married off to a man from another land in order to stop a war. Just as you're waiting for a hundred pages in which the woman falls for her betrothed while wondering if he's ever going to love her, something really shocking happens that jerks the narrative off in a really unexpected direction.

That's the main strength of Halland's novel - it keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you've got everything sussed, the plot takes a sharp turn that wrong-foots you completely. While the protagonist swaps are occasionally frustrating, that's only because you've grown to know one character so well that you want to see them through to the end. Luckily, all of the characters in Chosen are engaging and well fleshed-out.

In particular, Chosen contains a number of genuinely strong female characters. While the women in the story are often considered pawns by evil men, they refuse to be pigeon-holed or ordered about. These women are headstrong and unconventional - one of the heroines is a mother, the other is a young woman who's afraid of upsetting societal balance. The commentary on gender play and the unfair balance of power in relationships makes for thoughtful reading.

Chosen of Azara is an epic fantasy with a splash of saccharine-free romance. It's fantastic to find a book this smart and well-written, though readers might be disappointed to discover it's a stand-alone. Considering how rich the world-building is, you'll wish Chosen was the first in a series.


Kick-Ass
Kick-Ass
by Mark Millar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bloody, naughty and funny, 24 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Kick-Ass (Paperback)
Really bloody, really naughty and really, really funny. John Romita Jr's claret-splattered artwork is perfect for Mark Millar's lean, punchy storytelling. Arguably, the film adaptation upped the ante and created yet more iconic images, but this is a short, sharp burst of brilliance that's a must-read for any self-respecting comic lover. And even un-self-respecting ones. Probably especially those.


The Song of Achilles
The Song of Achilles
Price: £4.80

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully evocative piece of work, 22 July 2013
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A beautifully evocative piece of work. Descriptions you can really sink your teeth into and a lead character that it's impossible not to fall utterly and completely in love with. I recommend this to everybody I meet; there aren't many books I can say that about.


Grinny (Puffin Books)
Grinny (Puffin Books)
by Nicholas Fisk
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the scariest books I've ever read, 22 July 2013
This review is from: Grinny (Puffin Books) (Paperback)
One of the scariest books I've ever read, Grinny is pretty much where my obsession with skin-crawling chillers began. I'm still in awe of Fisk's ability to turn ordinary things into things that absolutely terrify. Though I've not read it in years, the thought of Grinny still gives me chills.


You Are Mine (Mine #1)
You Are Mine (Mine #1)
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid, thought-provoking concept, 22 July 2013
Though it's slow-moving in places, that's part of the charm of You Are Mine, which puts us firmly in the shoes of young Serena. Like all women in this alternate world, her life is dictated my men - and she's about to be married off to the highest bidder.

It's a solid, thought-provoking concept that taps into relatable real-world issues. Serena's a great heroine, physically vulnerable but mentally strong. Her forthright nature is endearing and admirable, and I couldn't wait to find out what she'd do next.

There's a bigger world at play in You Are Mine than we actually get to see (events are all narrated in first-person by Serena). I'd love to explore that world more, and there are hints that sequels could expand the canvas to encompass the other lands referenced by Serena. And though romance novels aren't really my thing, the relationship between Serena and Zade was extremely well-handled, never slipping into sentimentality or hyperbole.

The relaxed pace might put some readers off, but there's lots to enjoy in this alt world drama. Highly recommended.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
Price: £3.66

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A well-written thriller with a let-down ending, 22 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gone Girl (Kindle Edition)
Ran out of steam a bit towards the end and the final chapters were a let down, but for the most part this is a well-written thriller with neatly-drawn characters. Some great observations, too, not least the description of the mythical (and elusive) 'Cool Girl'. Be interesting to see how it translates to the big screen.


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