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Ross Kitson (Halifax, Yorkshire)

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A World Of Their Own
A World Of Their Own
Price: £1.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and varied speculative fiction anthology, 6 Sept. 2015
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Anthologies are not everyone's cup of tea, or in this case magic potion. Much like getting a box of chocolates and losing the little card that tells you what you're devouring, the experience can be random in both a pleasant (strawberry cream) or not so enjoyable (coffee) way.

This anthology was sent to me as an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) from one of the authors. There are a large number of contributors to the work, all who had at some stage a connection with a group of authors who met on the Harper Collins website Authonomy. The group, from a thread called The Alliance of Worldbuilders, shared an interest in speculative fiction and acted as a critique/support/social group before drifting from the aforementioned site into the realm of Facebook and, in a number of cases, publishing.

One of the reasons I rarely read anthology is that I'm not a huge short story fan. Often they feel incomplete, unsatisfactory, undeveloped, or lost in their own literacy--making up for absence of a good yarn with excess description or narrative. Flash fiction especially grates on my nerves, as it is rather tricky to do decently, and can feel pretentious.

So I'm happy to report that this anthology, and its fifteen or so contributors, entertained me immensely. Inevitably there were works that appealed to my tastes more than others, yet there were very few `coffee chocolate' moments where I genuinely thought to skip onto the next story. There are a few that seemed to allude to other works, or to pre-existing fictions, that piqued my curiosity enough to investigate further. Let me bring a few highlights of those, and then note the others:

Will Macmillan Jones's Dwarfs R Us is a pun-saturated tale of the awesome witch Grizelda returning her broom to the repair shop. I've read a few of the author's books, and for fans of the lighter end of satirical fantasy this is good reading. Be prepared to groan out loud at the gags, though.

David Muir's They Rise and We Smite is a longer paranormal fantasy along the lines of the Dresden Files and Aaronovitch's PC Grant series. It's tale of hidden wizard bloodlines descended from gorillas, and interaction with the world's established religion, was very entertaining. The OTT battle scene at the end made me chuckle, and made up for the hefty info dump at the start necessary to establish the milieu. Muir returns to the setting in the Night of a Thousand Spells, with a rather unique baby going through dark mages like rusks.

Valerie Willis's Destiny's Game also had the feeling of being part of a greater work or setting. It would appeal to those with a taste in paranormal romance, a la City of Bones or Beautiful Creatures. The use of angels was nicely done, and the pace of the work kept me engaged, as did the light dialogue.

Jeremy Rodden's How to Create a Villain is set in his cartoon world of Toonopolis, a fantasy setting populated by animated creatures. Despite the comical setting the story is quite serious, and a good introduction to Rodden's style and quirky characters. As a short story it works well, and definitely intrigued me into reading more (or at least waiting for the exclusive Netflix series it probably deserves--LOL).

In amongst the other stories with their speculative fiction feel there were a few clunkers and a few real standouts. Troll by KA Smith was superb--a reflection on urban decay mirrored by the physical and psychological deterioration of a homeless man. The language was skilled and the prose excellent, as was the story conclusion. The Thief Gets Away by TRM was a perfect fantasy short, with quirkiness, spot on dialogue and two cool little creatures living in someone's hair. Lost Time Memory by Sam Dogra, again, was a perfect short story--great structure and characterisation. A good indicator of a successful short story is when you want the story to be expanded further, that there's more to tell within the setting--namely it has hooked you into the milieu. Wyrm by AFE Smith was similar to the aforementioned pair in this--a great fantasy short, with solid plot, characters and a suitable twist (even if you guessed it half-way through--LOL).

And finally, given that the anthology is dedicated to her, it would be remiss not to mention Lindsey J Parson's contributions: Matilda, and Phoenix Feather. Of the pair, Matilda really enticed me--a poignant tale of a witch entering the twilight of her years, and her last adventure, with a companion demon. As an illustration of Lindsey's talent it sits perfectly in this collection of fantastical tales.

The anthology is raising money for the World Literacy Foundation and for that reason alone it's worth a purchase--but more than that it's an excellent collection of diverse speculative fiction stories with some talented contributors. Definitely recommended.

Mountains of the Moon (World of Neveyah)
Mountains of the Moon (World of Neveyah)
Price: £1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid adventure fantasy prequel, 18 Aug. 2015
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(Few spoilers in review)

Prequels are an odd beast. They take lots of aspects you enjoy about a work, but then have to provide something fresh, self-contained yet alluding to events of the series they proceed. They can feel rather patched together at times, contrived in their structure.
I'm happy to report that Mountains of the Moon doesn't suffer from this handicap. MotM is the prequel to Tower of Bones, the first in the Neveyah series and tells the tale of Wynn Farmer, father of John and grandfather to Edwin Farmer from the main series. In a manner not dissimilar to Ed, he passes through a portal from his parents farm into Neveyah, following the instructions of a prophecy and in the footsteps of his own legendary father.
Wynn has a magical attraction to the ladies, a gift from the gods to ensure he gets the right consort and begins the generations that will save Neveyah in the future from the minions of Tauron the Bull God.
What follows is a solid adventure fantasy wherein Wynn embarks upon a personal and physical journey, meeting companions and mentors on the way. The discovery of this new world, and its sorcery and religions, allow us to learn the background detail of Jasperson's excellent milieu. The detail of the world, its magic, its faith and the customs of Neveyah are rich and detailed and on a par with some of fantasies best. It was one of the highlights of Tower of Bones, and Forbidden Road, and this depth (without slowing the plot) is apparent in this book also.
The characters are well drawn- Wynn is brilliant yet naive and clumsy; Rall is tempestuous and at times conflicted; Devyn, although introduced late, has a slight air of danger to him; and Jules is the maverick, the rogue of the ensemble. To each their is a spouse, a female counterpart who are every bit as strong and focused as their husbands. This element is a welcome change to standard fantasy fare, and one I enjoyed in Forbidden Road, although it threatened to slow the story a touch mid-book.
The action is solidly written and, with the range of monsters, reflects the series origins in fantasy gaming. My only qualm about the book is that it takes 2/3 of the book before the main quest begins, which seemed too far through for me.
Was this a vital part of the series, to have a prequel? Probably not, although it adds a richness to the main series much in the way The Hobbit does with LOTR. Does it read well as a book? Absolutely. If you are in the mood for excellent souls adventure fantasy then you'd do well to read this.
5 stars from me.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2015 10:26 PM BST

Huw the Bard
Huw the Bard
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A unique heroic fantasy prequel., 8 April 2015
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This review is from: Huw the Bard (Kindle Edition)
Huw the Bard is a prequel to Connie Jasperson's The Last Good Knight, a book I hold in particular affection as it was one of the first Indie books I read several years ago when I first heard of self-publishing.
It follows the journey of Huw Olwyn, a bard fleeing the massacre of his fellows/family, as he escapes northward admits political upheavals. The journey acts as a framework on which Jasperson fleshes out the history of Huw's world, and matures his character.
The narrative is very cleverly done. I found it's style quite unique, almost as if the prose was part of a ballad that Huw was recounting. The humour is well done, and balances well with some fairly intense scenes of violence and sexual content. The fact these aspects are handled in a very sensitive and empathic way are a testament to Jasperson's skill as a writer.
Inevitably the appearance of the various key characters in The Last Good Knight pepper the book, and help drive Huw's journey north. The encounters with monsters and creatures in the latter part of the book contrasts with the threats of evil nobles and their cronies in the earlier sections- and this progress in the story brought to mind elements of role playing games, and authors such as Jack Vance and Moorcock. A fitting pedigree for this excellent book to join.

Heart Search - book three: Betrayal
Heart Search - book three: Betrayal
Price: £2.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Epic finale to the trilogy, 26 Feb. 2015
Heart Search 3- Betrayal

I received an ARC of Carlie Cullen's HS3-Betrayal to review, having read and reviewed the first two books in the trilogy.
One nice thing about trilogies is the opportunity to watch story arcs unfold over a longer period than a single book gives you, and Carlie exploits this to its full advantage.
In brief, in books one and two we were introduced to a paranormal world running in parallel to our own, with covens of vampires living a nocturnal existence alongside our own. New vampires- neophytes- are created from inoculation of venom into a human's system. Vampires have the usual enhanced senses and physical prowess, and also latent abilities (sometimes several) which resemble superpowers in many places. The ruling caste are the Commissioners, the oldest of the kind, who the covens owe allegiance to.
At the end of book two, when Remy found Joshua ( who had turned in bk1 at the outset), she became a vampire and took her twins to live with Josh and best friend Jakki, in a neighbouring mansion to the main coven. During these events, Josh had found a bomb planted at the mansion, placed by Liam- a neophyte created in a reckless moment by one of the coven.
Book three takes these two plot strands forward. Remy is getting used to life with Josh and the twins, but struggling with her new identity, the remnants of her old life ( being very close to her twin) and Josh's altering dominant persona. Liam's plans to attack the coven are facilitated by a traitor, whose identity is kept secret until the final chapters.
This disquiet and distrust makes the book very enjoyable, as you try and second guess who the traitor is (codenamed Phoenix) and the tension strains relationships, and also puts a previously minor character into a hostage situation.
Of the three key characters, Jakki shines the most for me. Her personality, her independence and challenge to rigid tradition in the coven, and her precognitive ability make her great to read. Remy, whose story I loved in books 1and 2 wasn't as strong for me this time, although the struggle with her past life is a key element.
Finally, Josh is a tricky character to take to. He's clearly awesome at everything, but the prior rise to dominance in the coven has created an arrogance and irritability that I didn't like. His manner of speaking to his men is midjudged, and his relationship with Remy complicated.
The book raised some intriguing ideas with me. I like the formality of the coven, the way they address one another and interact. It can make dialogues drag out too much, but it complements Carlie's very detailed prose. Their disregard of human life as a food source is disturbing in places, and leads to some very dark humour as they kill their victims. The involvement of the half -vampire toddlers in the proceedings treads the line between inspired and bonkers, and their acceptance of feeding on prey touches the edge of disturbing.
Yet why shouldn't it be disturbing? The current spate of Vampire teeny paranormal series dance around the darkness of the subject. These aren't clean nice model vamps, these are predators who munch their way through half of Essex by the end of the book. They swear, they fight, they murder, and they have sex. In fact the sex scenes in the book pull no punches- with graphic detail that would push this book into Adult category (and make HBO keen on filming it!!!).
The end comes with great pace and excitement, with twists and surprises galore. The conclusion felt a little rushed, and there were some loose strands that didn't resolve to my satisfaction. I think Erika's ordeal and it's consequences could have been explored, as well as Josh and Uppteon's dagger. Yet these are small points in an otherwise excellent conclusion to the trilogy, and I do wonder if one day Carlie will return to the paranormal world she has created?

Crossy Road
Crossy Road
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 21 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Crossy Road (App)
Addictive. I play this game for long periods at a time

Heart Search: book two: Found: Volume 2
Heart Search: book two: Found: Volume 2
by Carlie M A Cullen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mature and confident sequel, 15 Aug. 2014
This is the second book in Carlie Cullen's trilogy, and follows the ongoing story of Josh and Remy, and their family. Without spoiling too much, Josh was turned into a vampire in book one and fled from his relationship with Remy, settling with a 'coven' in the South-East of England. Remy searched for Josh, going on a nostalgic journey to locate him and in the process learning about her own strengths.
The sequel picks up, I think, a year or so later, with Remy coping with her twins and their gifts. However, the coven can't seem to leave Remy alone and before long she's drawn into the intricate politics of Josh 's vampire world via her close friend, Jakki.

The book marks a maturation in style compared with book one, and Carlie Cullen has definitely found her stride with the characterisation. The narrative is very detailed, and this may not suit all tastes, although I found it added to the 'realism' of the story. The conversations between vampires erred on the overly- formal at times, but this was made up for with some excellent scenes - notably between Josh and Remy. I found Remy a well-rounded and convincing character, and to me she is definitely the key character in the book.

Carlie Cullen tosses in some solid teasers for the next book- a turncoat vampire, some wild neophytes, a strangely insane police woman, and not one but two love triangles! And then there's the small matter that the vampires are eating half of Kent every night! I'm also fascinated to see how Josh and Remy's family deal with book 2's events and their consequences.

Genuinely looking forward to the next Installment.

Injustice: Gods Among Us (Kindle Tablet Edition)
Injustice: Gods Among Us (Kindle Tablet Edition)
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars best game, 16 July 2014
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This game is a perfect game. The loading speed is slower but it is quite a big game. It also doesn't need WiFi so you can play it on the move.

Music Player - Free Player
Music Player - Free Player
Price: £0.00

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish, 2 May 2014
This review is from: Music Player - Free Player (App)
I thought it would actually let me search for songs because I don't have any song cos my device is new.

Despicable Me: Minion Rush
Despicable Me: Minion Rush
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars amazingly addictive, 18 April 2014
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This review is from: Despicable Me: Minion Rush (App)
Minion rush is a hilarious version of subway surfers. Just with MINIONS. This game will have you hooked for hours on end.

Crown Phoenix: The South Sea Bubble
Crown Phoenix: The South Sea Bubble
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Epic Finale, 2 Nov. 2013
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A quick declaration: I had the pleasure of drawing the maps for this series of books, and am thus listed (rather loftily) as `illustrator.' This created an odd situation of discovering what things on my map meant as I read about them!

It is highly likely that anyone reading Crown Phoenix Book 4: The South Sea Bubble will have already read the first three books in this excellent quartet. The books form two `pairs' with books one and two focusing on Simon, Neil and Maryam, with the latter two concentrating on Neil's sisters--Lizzie, Ninna and Matilda (and through them the Squire's son, Toby). The setting is Edwardian, with an increasing dash of science fiction and fantasy--enough to warrant a `steampunk' categorisation.
Yet in a way this is a book that transcends label and genre. It is a children's book that does not patronise; it is a science fiction book with magic; it is a love story without sentimentality. Alison creates a very believable and enjoyable range of characters, none more so than the often awkward Lizzie. Beyond others in the novel, it is her compassion for her family, her determination, and her love for Toby that brings everyone through the final devilish plot of Barbara Cantwell. And what a delicious villain Barbara is--a remarkable beauty, seemingly flawless on the exterior, yet a vile callous creature within.

Alison creates a fascinating mystery set within the grounds of the mansion from the last book, now functioning as a hospital for recovering addicts. Strange visions of a submerged bathysphere enter the dreams of both Matilda and Lizzie, and ultimately provide a mystical link with Toby who resides far away on the Lamplighter's Special. But the strange abilities that Lizzie has developed after the events of book three are not unique, and Barbara has become far more dangerous. The plot moves at a greater pace than the prior books, with a more confident style to the writing. The various solutions to the mysteries fall into place perfectly, all at the correct moments to keep the tension going. More than others in the series, the children are the true heroes in the book--unravelling the strange occurrences without need of aid from Mana. Perhaps that was why of the four books I enjoyed this one the most--it was as if the children within it had come of age, shown that with spirit and determination, and indeed love and friendship, that evil could be conquered.

There is enough bizarreness and weird science to keep the steampunkers happy here, and what I found refreshing was that there was little need to info dump on the reader. Whereas most things become clear in the end, there is still a mystique remaining at the end of the book. Not all matters need explanations--some things are simply magical. There was a hint of Alan Garner, E Nesbit and Pullman in this work--and Alison DeLuca definitely matches their pedigree.

So I completely recommend this as a grand finale to the series and, in my opinion, the strongest of the four. Get the lot!

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