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Claws and Robbers
Claws and Robbers
Price: 6.92

4.0 out of 5 stars A new take on werewolf fiction. British werewolves too, at that!, 19 July 2014
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This review is from: Claws and Robbers (Kindle Edition)
Pro's (major):
1) As a British reviewer, it's very refreshing to come across a British werewolf 'tale' that doesn't portray werewolves solely as villains or destructive monsters, but has it that good, organised, human-protecting werewolves exist too!

2) The main characters have left me wanting there to be a sequel, given the world-changing event in this story - and see how the pack and the police will interact in future.

Con's (minor):
1) It's best to make a written list of who's who in this story as you read it. Being a Kindle story, I was dipping in and out of the book over time - and I lost track of some of the many minor characters were.
2) The Superman-like strength of the werewolves, even in human form. The 'traditional' rules of werewolves in modern fiction is that they head faster than humans, and can be stronger and faster when in lupine or halfway form. But lifting and flinging vans and cars through the air? That's overdoing it.
3) The villains. There's barely any interplay seen between them - which means for the most part they're a shadowy menace, without character depth.
4) The transformation scenes. Not enough detail. One character's first change into a werewolf is 'cut' (human on one page, in agony from the oncoming change - then suddenly a wolf, when we return to the scene).

Despite these problems, I'll be looking forward to a well-written sequel that will explore further the character interplay and plot possibilities 'Claws And Robbers' has started!


Doctor Who: Dreams of Empire: 50th Anniversary Edition
Doctor Who: Dreams of Empire: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Justin Richards
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars for the first half, and 4 stars for the second half, 29 Mar 2014
Cons
• I found this story to be slow and difficult to get into for about the first 70 pages. And the Doctor still running away from guards after Victoria’s capture did not strike me as realistic for him.
• Victoria – never the most independent of the screen companions, she is portrayed as less of a screamer here. But she still doesn’t actually do much except what the Doctor tells her to. Also, Helana Trayx could’ve been developed more as a character.

Pros
• I was able to work out most of the twists in advance, including the identity of the main villain. The trick is to pay attention to how certain characters speak, such as Prion. However, on page 147, I’m not sure that the identity of the expected ‘her’ is ever revealed…
• The VETACs. For a change, the Doctor has to fight against an enemy that can’t be totally stopped. It’s the battle scenes, and how the TARDIS crew and those with them survive that lifts the second half of the book.
• The characterisation of the 2nd Doctor is spot on. Milton Trayx, invented for this novel, is a thoroughly likeable character also.
• The interrogation scene involving Tordoc. This twist did take me by surprise. Well played, Mr Richards!

In summary, a reasonable book. But for those eager to know the answers to the book’s mysteries may find the pacing slow at times.


Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens: 50th Anniversary Edition
Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Stephen Cole
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars ‘Starship Troopers’ – but with an Agatha Christie plot, 22 Mar 2014
Warning – possible spoilers!

In the future, the Earth-empire is at war with rebelling Schirr fighters. During a training exercise on an asteroid, ten Empire troopers encounter the dead bodies of the leading Schirr fighting faction, the TARDIS crew, and something nasty lurking in the dark tunnels…

Pros
• Stephen Cole is a good writer. He gets into the minds of not only Ben and Polly, fleshing them out – but also most of the troopers. Frog is particularly noteworthy – a hard-bitten, squat woman who, due to injuries in her youth, speaks with an artificial voice box.
• The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ section hidden in the last third of the book. Possibly unique to any Doctor Who novel, ‘Spider’s Web’ draws you into the minds of the characters who are still alive, via their neural network, even as you look for clues to identify who amongst them (or elsewhere) is working to a separate agenda…
• The cherubs
• The infection

Cons
• Although atmospheric and incident-packed in places, the book did feel slow at times, particularly during the first half.
• The First Doctor. As this is set before the coming of the more jovial Second Doctor, and the revelation of the Time Lords, Mr Cole presents the Doctor as mainly a silent, aloof, and mysterious man (we are never privy to his thoughts – unlike the characters mentioned above). As a result, he comes across as unfeeling and rather unlikeable.
• The bland 2013 re-issue book cover. It doesn’t show the Schirr – unlike the original cover.

For those wishing to solve the mystery, pay attention to everything that is said regarding the disappearance of the first trooper - and who says it. The final clue is in the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ section – and with it, I worked out who was the traitor. Interestingly, the Doctor was fooled completely…

Although I’ve rated this four stars, three and a half is really my verdict. Those interested in seeking more of Mr Cole’s work are advised to read/listen to the excellent ‘The Feast Of The Drowned’!


Lycanthrope Moon
Lycanthrope Moon
by Robert Rootes
Edition: Paperback
Price: 25.53

3.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas...but the delivery could've been better, 24 Sep 2013
This review is from: Lycanthrope Moon (Paperback)
The Amazon.com blurb for this book sounded good: A secret facility, where scientists conduct research on captive werewolves who can project their dreams or memories of their experiences into the sleeping minds of ordinary humans. And there was the romantic storyline of Chris discovering Courtney's new secret, and setting out to rescue her from the facility.

So why only three stars? I saw a number of spelling and grammatical errors on my ebook reader (the three-quarters symbol appeared several times, too). But the main problem is the slow pacing. For the most part, Chris is a dreary character (only his kind nature and his psychic ability make him interesting) - and the high school scenes were less interesting than Trevor's work life at the facility. Courtney doesn't even show up until halfway into the story! She is only infected at the two-thirds stage of the book. And her kidnap and eventual rescue by Chris occurs way too late to make up for the earlier crawling pace of the story (which plays out over something like two and a half years). Despite the surprise of Courtney and her family being British, I found it difficult to like Courtney until she got kidnapped. Out of the three lead characters, Trevor seemed the most likeable.

The ending is bleak. Only one character is happy at the end. I would've like to have read what eventually became of Autumn and Chris. And the lycanthrope condition is treated as negative - Courtney and the other carriers seem unable to control their transformations (apart from a scene where Courtney seems to transform and leap over a pair of 12 foot high fences, on two legs!). Ultimately, the werewolves are dangerous - and are regarded as having to be contained, or killed.

To summarise - a story with potential, but the problems above let it down.


Kiss of the Vampire
Kiss of the Vampire
by Lee Weathersby
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An evil vampire plots against his undead brother and his human squeeze..., 29 April 2013
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Warning - spoilers!

Franz Drake is not happy, having floated in his coffin for three months in the Gulf of Mexico. Starved of blood, and driven insane by his ordeal, he plots revenge against his brother Simon, who failed to hear his telepathic call for help. Franz is also annoyed that the woman Simon was taking an interest in during Franz's moment of need, has survived his telepathically-controlled gunman. Once ashore, the bloodmaster vows to destroy the unsuspecting Simon and Cassie...

What's good about this book? It's well written, with engaging characters, and with a decent plot. Our heroine, Cassie, is a fat bookshop owner who is forced to slim down when Franz's remote assassination on her life leaves her in a long coma. Simon saves Cassie by forcing some of his vampire blood onto her, and she awakes from her coma - just as Franz arrives on land and starts killing innocent people. Possibly even more repulsive than Franz is the human Jerry Wiltz, wife-beater and child rapist - and Ms Weathersby does a good job of getting into his head. The author also clearly knows about hurricanes, and uses one to act as the backdrop to the book's climax.

There's a few problems, however. The book is 443 pages long, and is slow at times. E.g. the scenes when Mike goes swimming and ends up releasing Franz from his coffin. It's never explained what grabbed Mike's foot in the water (was Franz playing mind tricks on him?). Also, it takes a while before Cassie realises what Simon is. Later, when Clarise has her back injury, Paul, Eric, and Simon all seem to be shy of using Clarise's name when talking about how she is. And I felt it was a shame that neither she, or the vampiric Bev, were able to help Cassie at the end.

Other points: Janey and Davey. The development of the traumatised 9 year old Janey during the book is one of its best features. At one stage or another, the entire Wiltz family gets turned into vampires. Janey and her baby brother Davey are still alive at the book's end - and I was interested in learning how they would fare afterwards, wondering if they would mentally age, whilst (presumably) not aging physically! And the climatic battle is a bit rushed. Most of the vampires break out of the icehouse, and go forth into the storm... And then, what happens to them? Do they drown, or get blown away? In particular, some clarity over Jerry's final fate would have been welcome.

One last thing. The cover. It's good, but who's the vampiress? The black hair hints at it being Cassie - but she never becomes a vampire in this novel! It's a shame there was no sequel, with her becoming Simon's undead equal, and potential foster mother to Janey and Davey.

Overall though, a good book. I'm glad I was able to hunt it down.


Revenge of the Vampire (Puffin Adventure Gamebooks)
Revenge of the Vampire (Puffin Adventure Gamebooks)
by Steve Jackson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Fighting Fantasy books!, 30 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
(Warning: some spoilers follow!)
First of all, a thank you to Amazon (and the providing bookshop) for enabling me to track down an affordable copy of this hard-to-find book! This was one of the last of the original Fighting Fantasy books - and is a sequel to Vault Of The Vampire, also by Keith Martin.

Apart from Zagor the Warlock, the only reoccurring villain in the FF series was the vampiric Count Reiner Heydrich. In this book, he has somehow come back to life and is now stalking Analand, in the Old World. Unlike `Vault', the action is spread out across a wide area, and your hero will have to travel a lot.

Good points about the book:
Most of the paragraphs are detailed and well-used; the illustrations help the Hammer-horror feel of the story; there are some cracking foes to fight (including female vampires); there are coffins to destroy to help weaken Reiner; there are sources of help; and the locations (the Halls of the Stars, Mortis Mansion; some caves; and a couple of secret places) work. Afflictions and Faith points (as in `Vault') appear again.

Bad points:
There's a LOT of opponents to fight (too many ghouls, in particular); you will need a high skill score to fight with; there's a lot of secret paragraphs; and some of the paragraphs carry mistakes. E.g., paragraph 276 states that you will have to pay all your money to a farmer for his horse, if you want it in to pursue the vampire's coach. The problem is you will then need to pay for lodgings at the next inn... So, you have to cheat on payment to the farmer, if you are to locate and fight Igor! Later on, paragraphs 142 and 210 should be the other way round (otherwise, if you have killed Igor, you will find yourself fighting him again!); and I experienced a `time slip' at the witches' mountain, after killing the Basilisk, but choosing NOT to attack Shevala. Maybe these errors were corrected in a later issue of the book? Another problem is that Reiner doesn't seem to actually speak at all - so for a lead villain, he makes for a dull character... And, whilst his sister, Katarina, also reappears (having been encountered in `Vault'); she feels very much a `bolt on', serving little purpose.

Despite these drawbacks, I'm glad I finally got to try this gamebook out again. Keith Martin was one of the best writers in the series - and I prefer the horror-themed books, as they were better written and plotted than some others in the series.


Tamed
Tamed
by Douglas R. Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Good - but doesn't join all the dots!, 9 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Tamed (Paperback)
Warning - some spoilers!

First of all, great concept - having werewolves stuck in dog-like form, and being brutally conditioned to serve as pets for the rich! Nice to see that there are successful authors who see werewolves as something other than monstrous, evil creatures to be killed - or as young hunky alpha male types (usually American) wooing the women they have to protect. This book is refreshing different. There's some gore, some horror, and some romance. But the mix here feels right. The emphasis is on how greedy and nasty some people can be - but also how decent people can fight back.

The villain, Bernard Henderson, and his company - the WereHouse - are kidnapping people (such as the tramp Steven, who we encounter) and are turning them into `wergs', the dog-like creatures, who are then sold as pets. One night, paramedics Christine Alt and Billy are answering a call where a werg has killed its owners. In the encounter, Christine gets infected, and Billy goes missing. After her first change into a werg, Christine is hunted down by Rogue Werg eliminator Aiden Talik and his team - only for Aiden to discover Christine's secret. And now knowing the hideous truth behind the wergs he has previously killed, Aiden bails out of his employ by the WereHouse - and tries to expose them, with the help of `werewerg'/werewolf Christine, who begins to learn how to control her change. But they have a big fight on their hands...

So far, so good. But there's a few flaws. When Christine is with Aiden - and then later Bernard - surprisingly neither of them asks Christine how she got infected (she instead works it out for herself). Also Aiden's realisation that he had been tricked by Bernard about the cause of his parents' deaths comes across as rather sudden (after years of unquestioning acceptance). When Christine finds the lost Billy, he's a werg - but there's no explanation as to why (presumerably he was bitten by the same rogue werg that infected her, and kidnapped by the hunters). Surely she would have snapped questions at Bernard, soon after her discovery? And on page 288, line 3, `escape' should read `escaping'. Also, it's made clear that Christine loses her hand and toe nails by the time of her first change - but do they grow back, when she resumes human form? And Mr Brown curiously never provides much in the way of physical descriptions of his characters! A little more care with details would've helped this book.

Some of the chapters are too short. Also, I would have liked for there to have been a scene where Christine and a certain male ally stand together as wergs against their enemies. Oh, and there's a surprise involving a Senator. Again, it's never properly explained as to why it happens. And nobody asks...

But as for the story... It's good (if a little slow in places, to start with). Christine and Aiden are fine characters. Bernard is delightfully-repulsive (you'll keeping reading to find out what happens to him!). The action scenes are gripping. And the last chapter... Well. I didn't spot that coming! Nice one. I would like to see a sequel, to see what else Christine and the other werewergs get up to! This book would make a great film, in the right hands. 4 stars.


Dracula Game
Dracula Game

4.0 out of 5 stars A game with some bite! Tests memory and strategic play, 11 Aug 2012
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dracula Game (Toy)
Well, this is interesting. There's been comments on the internet that it's a memory game, and that there's not much strategy involved. I would say both memory and strategic play are core to winning. Also, it's a two-player game - but you can do it as a two-team event...

The set up: Dracula is hunting for victims in Victorian London, whilst Professor van Helsing (not `Dr' as described in the game notes) is out to destroy the vampire count's coffins. Once either of them have found five of their `targets', they have won the game. But both players have energy cubes, and if either of them loses all of their cubes as a result of losing combats or encountering their enemy's symbol of power, then the other player wins. The third way of winning is if a player discovers that his/her opponent is holding onto their own remaining target cards whilst none are on the gameboard (e.g. Dracula discovers that there are no remaining victims on the board, and the van Helsing player is holding onto the victim cards left, then the Dracula player wins)!

There is no die. Play is controlled by the use of Action Cards, which have different speed and strength attributes - enabling you to fight against vampires/vampire hunters, whilst you hunt down coffins/victims (the Encounter Cards - which are placed face-down on the board). Most of the Action Cards have special abilities, also. And Dracula's abilities are naturally different from van Helsing's. Then there are the barriers to slow you and your opponent down...

The advice given is that each game lasts for around half an hour. I'd say give yourself an hour for each game, especially when you are new to it. The rules are reasonably involved (but not that complex, once you get playing).

There are three main disadvantages to the game as it is designed:
1) None of the other characters from the Dracula novel are used!
2) When Dracula and van Helsing met on the gameboard, there is no fighting between them!
3) Dracula is the stronger character, going on the special abilities of his Action Cards - which gives him an edge over the Professor.

To overcome these negative points, I've created some modifications. For example, including dice rolls to determine the results of fights between the main characters and also when they fight vampires/vampire hunters. And having Mina and Jonathan Harker as two of the victim cards - where having Jonathan on the board means that at the end of his/her turn, the van Helsing player rolls for a 5 or 6 to kill a vampire in the Dracula player's Encounter Cards-yet-to-play deck; and where Mina being on the board means that van Helsing loses no energy cubes if he comes up against Dracula's Amulet. But it's up to you if, and what, modifications you use.

I suggest you try this game, test it as the rules stand - then decide for yourself. It's certainly `novel'! A lot of thought went into creating this game. And the design of the game set is nicely done too. If you are into vampires or strategic games, give it a whirl!


Sherlock Holmes - The Shadow of the Rat & The Tangled Skein (Mystery & Supernatural) (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)
Sherlock Holmes - The Shadow of the Rat & The Tangled Skein (Mystery & Supernatural) (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)
by David Stuart Davies
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two plagues - one of the supernatural kind!, 7 Aug 2012
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The Shadow Of The Rat:
An interesting, well-written story where the stakes are high. The British government is blackmailed, as London is targeted for an outbreak of bubonic plague! Mycroft is called into action. Stamford, the man who only appeared in the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories to introduce Watson to Holmes, makes an appearance here - which in turn, leads to a dangerous case where Holmes becomes a pawn of the Countess Dubeyk...

There are many good ingredients in this story: a female lead villain (rare in the ACD stories), her deadly panther, a black villain (again, rare in Doyle's tales of Holmes), and the giant rat of Sumatra itself. Also, there is a nerve-racking action sequence in the middle of the tale - where Watson is forced to punch Holmes' lights out, and ensure that both of them escape from the enemy's home!

What lets the story down are the last three chapters and epilogue. A police raid is put in place, to tackle the enemy's base of operations, after Holmes and Watson track down the location. I was looking forward to a ripping action sequence, with our heroes braving the plague rats and Holmes steeling himself to face the Countess for the last time. Unfortunately, the author takes the story down a watered-down route (the `Encounter in Solomon Road' makes no real sense, in retrospect - and feels like a cop out) - and after many good chapters, the climax and ending just didn't work for me. 4 stars for the main story - but three for the last few chapters and epilogue.

The Tangled Skein
Now for the tale I bought the book for. ACD purists may sniff at this story of Holmes & Watson squaring up to Count Dracula. Well..., I like well-written Sherlock Holmes stories and good vampire fiction - and this meets both criteria!

The vampiric theme doesn't actually kick in until the end of Chapter Nine. Before that, we have a cracking account of the villain from `The Hound Of The Baskervilles' making assassination attempts on Holmes' life. Although this story doesn't fit neatly with the events in `Dracula', we do get Professor Van Helsing entering the story to educate Holmes and Watson, after their first encounter with a vampire. Later, the action moves from London to Dartmoor - where our heroes make deductions to track down the Count, whilst battling against Dracula's servants.

Holmes and Watson make errors (for example, more than once they don't have any crosses with them). And the villain from `Hound' makes his final (unfortunately, non-speaking) appearance towards the end in a gory scene. The pacing of the story is a little wrong - I would have liked more of the tale to have been set in Dartmoor. Consequently, the climax feels a little rushed - but it is still great. And there's a surprise appearance from a certain `animal' that Holmes previously would not have believed in!

But little niggles aside, is `The Tangled Skein' any good? Yes. 4 and a half stars! I enjoyed it more than the four original ACD novels! And both stories are certainly in keeping with the atmosphere of Doyle's work. They are also better-written than a certain modern-day TV series...

And for the price, this book is a bargain. If you are a Holmes fan who likes the detective to take on more unusual and dangerous cases than usual, try it!


The Eternal Battle
The Eternal Battle
by Keith Gouveia
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Well, the concept was good..., 28 Aug 2011
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This review is from: The Eternal Battle (Paperback)
Saw this book on the internal, and thought that the summary of a good werewolf fighting against vampires sounded promising and had good potential - so decided to get it.

This turns out to be Mr Gouveia's first published book. With the copy I got, the press is even called 1st Books Library. Unfortunately, the author's lack of experience shows...

Basically, the story is about a cop, Mike who - along with his police partner, John, and the coroner, Steve - tackle a master vampire who has just arrived in the USA. Whilst the three investigate the initial murders and realise what they are dealing with - the vampire, Jean (as in the French for `John') has co-incidentally decided that Mike's wife, Julie, would make a fine replacement for his recently-deceased vampire love. And so he woes her, and persuades her to become a vampire by her own choice. Ridiculously quickly. Also, to boot, he gets her pregnant. And, apparently because of the vampire blood entering her system, Julie gives birth within a couple of days!

It goes further. The son, Daniel, thanks to his half-vampire breeding, continues to grow and age at an accelerated pace. As the battle between Mike and his allies versus Jean, Julie, and other vampires, grows - Daniel is soon able to talk (without being taught), and grows into Mike's incredibly-wise ally, who uses his vampire abilities (levitation, increased strength, blood-sucking) against Jean, Julie, and their vampirised victims. I was hoping that vampire Julie would re-consider her loyalties, and keep us readers guessing to the end. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen - and it would have been good if Mike had another lady on his side, to help him get over the loss of Julie. Again, no such luck...

Mike's (unnamed) mother is mentioned a couple of times - and is then forgotten about by the author, presumably so she can't ask Mike questions like: `Why is my grandson suddenly 8, then 14 years old!?', `How come your wife was only pregnant for two days?', and `Have you bought Daniel a wardrobe of clothes, if he's growing so fast?'

The `park your brain whilst reading this story' problems go on. There is a gory, but well-written raid on Fort Knox(!) by the lead two vampires - but the most outlandish sequence is near the end, when a newborn werewolf decides to go evil by having the full moon transform him when he's an airplane passenger. The plane ends up crashing - but although the werewolf is in two pieces, he survives because... Well, let's say that the author's imagination has just gone way too far by this stage! And the end... It's a bit ambiguous, and not satisfying enough. Presumably the author was considering writing a sequel.

Other faults: shallow characterisation. For example, regarding background details Jean is described as `a distinguished gentleman', and we find out that he was a molder (or similar), and that he was bitten by Vlad Tepesh. Apart from that - nothing! The writing of Julie's mortal death feels flat and rushed. And the lead characters generally don't sound shocked enough when anyone else in their position would.

But what is most evident in this book is how rushed it apparently was, in being printed. Either that, or between them 1st Books Library and Keith Gouveia have never heard of thorough manual proofreading! For example, on page 3, overthrow is written as `over throw', page 33: wail is put down as `wale'. On page 232, we get: `Your not to tired?' instead of You're not too tired? Page 98: a nurse is referred to in the general text as `the rude b****', without due justification - and I lost count of the number of words with incorrect use of apostrophes, missing commas and question marks, `Your' instead of You're, and so on. On page 283, a paragraph has return breaks inappropriately breaking up the lines.

I have never read a book before with so many errors. And I hope I'll never come across another one so poorly proofread.

This book gets 2 stars. Mainly because there is some good action scenes, and there is a heroic werewolf. But too many problems, as described above, made this book a chore to get through.


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