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M. Brookes
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Set in Stone
Set in Stone
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A decent horror tale, 9 July 2016
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This review is from: Set in Stone (Kindle Edition)
This short story grabbed me from the opening line. It sets the scene well, and promises secrets and horror. Unfortunately the rest of the story doesn't quite live up to that opening. It's far from bad, I enjoyed it a lot. It's well written and tightly plotted, but it lacked a certain sparkle.The opening led me to think that it would be something more.

That grumble aside it progressed at a decent pace, and there's some good conflict and emotion here. I'd previously read The Reconstruction Descending by this author and that contained some wonderful imagination. This newer story is better written from a technical perspective, but doesn't quite offer the same richness.

I am perhaps being a little harsh, the story does have many things going for it, and it's superbly told, just not quite as good as the earlier work. If you like a dark tale, then you should give it a try.


The Dark Mister Snark
The Dark Mister Snark
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, 9 July 2016
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This is an unusual read, and a little out of my usual reading comfort zone, but it's also a lot of fun! It's in the form of rhyming prose, and credit must go to the author for the consistency of the text. It provided a bouncing cadence to the read that ripped through the pages. Only on a few occasions did it falter with forced rhyme, but they were very few.

It also has a nonsensical style, which isn't something I encounter very often, and again top marks to the author for carrying it so successfully. It's a dark tale, but one that is full of life. The crows in particular were a delight.

It's only real downfall is that it's a short read, I would have happily read more about Mister Snark's antics. Highly recommended!


The Mote in God's Eye (Mote Series Book 1)
The Mote in God's Eye (Mote Series Book 1)
Price: £4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A cracking take on first contact, 9 July 2016
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I loved this book. It's a great take on first contact. It's a topic that fascinates me, and one that is often tackled by science fiction authors, and this book is a fascinating read. It touches on details that I hadn't thought of in this situation.

The book is formed from two parts. The first is the initial contact with the aliens and the expedition to initiate first contact. This was my favourite part of the book. The aliens are well realised, with just enough commonality to allow the reader to relate to them, but with sufficient differences to make them feel alien. To be honest, I would have been happy to read more about this process.

Naturally the aliens have a secret, one that threatens any possible deal with humanity. This leads into the second part of the book with the political fallout and dealings within the human empire. While this didn't interest me as much as discovering the aliens, it did raise some interesting points and does set it up nicely for the next book.

It does have it's flaws though. The core story is fine, but some of the components don't match up. The characterisation is limited in many cases with most just filling their roles for the plot. Don't let that put you off though, this is a gem of a read.


Wasteland Gods
Wasteland Gods
by Jonathan Woodrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent read with some nice ideas, 2 July 2016
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This review is from: Wasteland Gods (Paperback)
This was a thought provoking read. Without the supernatural aspect this would have portrayed an excellent descent in madness, and at times I thought that was what the story was about, and perhaps it might have been stronger for it. The divine beings felt more like plot devices compared to the visceral experiences of the human characters. I suspect this is too keep them mysterious, but it makes them the weaker part of the story.

And it's with them that that the book really shines. You feel for Billy and his loss. While the events follow a familiar pattern, the emotion is well realised and draws you into the wreckage of his life. This same feeling is drawn with the other characters. The entry of the first of the divine beings changes the course of his life and sets things up for the rest of the plot. Here the book is weaker, but is more than compensated by the rest of the story.

Things do get confusing as the story progresses, although the clues are there as to what is going on. There's a diverse range of characters, and enough mystery to keep you pondering. I liked the author's writing style, and the pacing pulls you through the story well. It fell a little flat at the end with a grand appearance from another divine character who ties things up for Billy, without really explaining anything about the backdrop the story was drawn across.

So, it has some disappointments, but overall it's a tight, and well written story with some nice ideas.


Paradise
Paradise
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but wait for the actual book to be finished, 23 Jun. 2016
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This review is from: Paradise (Kindle Edition)
I was a bit disappointed with this book, in part because it's actually a short story and not a longer piece that I'd expected from the blurb. Which will teach me not to check the number of pages first. Not that I don't enjoy short stories, and indeed, I was quickly drawn into the world portrayed.

It's very well written, and the seemingly sedate entry with the family waiting in line to be sent to Paradise really drew me in. It worked well to get to know the family and also establish the circumstances of this near future world. There's definitely something sinister at play, this becomes apparent through the characters beyond the family, but also with a lovely throw away line from the mother.

All too quickly the story ended, which was a big shame as I'd enjoyed the build-up so far, and then encountered my biggest problem with the story - it just ends. No matter how short the story there should be a conclusion. There isn't one here, it reads like the opening chapters of a longer book, which apparently is in the works, but not available yet.

As the opening of a longer story it works well, so much so that I'm looking forward to it, but as a stand alone short story it is sadly lacking.


Circus of Horrors
Circus of Horrors
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Some great moments, but felt a little flat overall, 22 Jun. 2016
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This review is from: Circus of Horrors (Kindle Edition)
I found this book a bit of a mixed bag. It starts well with a trio of cannibal clowns, but loses it's way a bit. The scene is set well with a failing troupe of circus performers who have the fortune to meet a charismatic man who turns their fortunes around. Quite naturally things are not what they seem and this man interferes in their lives in a dramatic fashion. It's here that the book needed more work. This character should have felt more sinister than it did, and indeed to an extent this issues covers the whole story.

The elements are certainly there, and there are some intense horror moments, but they are an exception. These tended to be more limited to the more physical shock horror, but the story cried out for something more insidious. I feel that it needed more of an undercurrent to make the shocking moments a bit more fitting.

There's an interesting array of characters, but apart from a few exceptions they lacked depth, and some more development with them would have helped strengthen the plot. In some ways the number on offer fights against some of the more personal conflicts at play.

The biggest issues for me were the reveals. First you learn the secrets of two of the main characters, and they come out of the blue and make a big claims. To be honest they felt a little forced, and would have enjoyed greater impact as acts in themselves, rather than trying to force them to certain historical events.

Beyond this was the end reveal, and a change in circumstances. Again it felt too much, and wasn't really needed. With some more development the circus itself had all the horror the story needed, and the ramp up at the end could have been something more meaningful. That being said I did enjoy the choice at the end, although it didn't really fit with the characters behaviour throughout the book.

It's true that I had issues with the story, but the writing was solid, and it's a fast paced read. It has some bizarre moments, and I did enjoy it overall. Worth a look if you're searching for something a bit different. I should warn you that it's not for the squamish!


War Factory (Transformation)
War Factory (Transformation)
by Neal Asher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking sci-fi action, 20 Jun. 2016
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There aren't many authors whose latest releases push their way to the front of my TBR list, but Neal Asher is one of them. He's one of my favourite contemporary science fiction authors, and I'm always eager to read his latest offering. The main reason for this isn't just the craft of his writing (good as it is), but the strength of his world building. The Polity universe is an interesting, and diverse place. There is a wealth of technological wonders there, but also a balance.

Although the balance isn't so obvious with some of the characters, especially with the rogue AI Penny Royal who manipulates circumstances, AI, human and Prador alike to its on ends. It is there though, resting upon the fine edge which events waver.

I didn't like one aspect to the technology - I'm not a big fan of time travel in stories. The handling in this book is different to the approaches I've seen before, and used in a novel fashion.

The story continues straight from the first book, with Penny Royal seemingly plotting to address problems for the Prador and the Polity that he created. These all centre around the War Factory, and it's this character that I found most fascinating. Even more so because its never dealt with directly in the story, you learn aboiut it through the memories and actions of the central characters. The AIs in the universe often seem like god-like beings with staggering intelligence. They have their flaws though, and that makes the story compelling.

The cast of characters continue from the first, and so continue to evolve due to their own actions and from Penny Royal's machinations. We get to meet the Prador King, and that is another of the author's strengths. He provides a convincing realism to the aliens in his story, in particular with their biology. Their motivations aren't quite so distinct, although maybe that says something about the universality of life's desires.

Another new character, that appears is a forensic AI, and here we have a glimpse of what Penny Royal will face in the next book. I can't wait!


Emanation: Volume 1 (Shadeward)
Emanation: Volume 1 (Shadeward)
by Mr Drew Wagar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A quality read, 11 Jun. 2016
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Before I get into the review proper, I have a pet peeve I need to vent. I'm really not a fan of made up phrases to set a scene, and the technique is used a lot in this book. Now it's generally a style choice, but in my opinion it adds a barrier when reading a sentence. For flora and fauna, or anything else local it's not too much of a problem, however when it's used for familiar concepts then it breaks the flow of reading.

With this book the big issue for me was the labels for time. Now there is a very good reason the author chose this option (in fact, it's described in detail at the end), but for me it disrupted my pacing as I read the story.

And don't even get me started on made up swear words...

As I say, it's a pet peeve of mine, and is the only major issue I had with the book. The world building is well constructed, with some detailed research evident. The basic premise might be a familiar one, namely that of a civilisation long after a cataclysm, but the setting brings something different to the tale.

For the most part it reads like a fantasy novel, but there's some deep sci-fi in here as well - this is most evident at the beginning and at the end. It follows three main threads, two sisters who are long separated, and unaware of each other's situation. Their lives follow very different paths, and there was a point about halfway through the book where it clicked as to how their threads interconnected. I think I might have been a little slow realising that point, but when I did it added another level to the story.

I've already mentioned that I appreciated the world building, and part of that is the history of the world. There's a lot of mystery here, and pieces are unravelled as the three threads progress. My favourite thread was that of a boy rescued at sea. It's with this thread that we start learning more about the ancient history of the world, as well as rediscovering some of what came before.

Despite my pet peeve, there's a real craft to the writing, and it describes an excellent story with some depth and enough mystery to keep me interested. Definitely worth a read.


Portrait of a Girl (Mister Jones Mysteries Book 2)
Portrait of a Girl (Mister Jones Mysteries Book 2)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb horror, 7 Jun. 2016
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I read the first book in this series (The Showing) some time ago, and it was an excellent take on the traditional haunted house theme. Unfortunately for the lead character in that book it appears that the paranormal isn't quite done with him. For me, this wasn't quite as strong as the first book, but does deliver on a fine horror story.

Here we have a mysterious painting that exerts some level of control, or deep seated fascination with some of those that gaze upon it. This element of the story builds well, with some well structured development. It's carried by a small cast of characters, most of which are the police officers trying to find the two men who have vanished, apparently connected to the painting.

The police investigation didn't feel as solid as the supernatural side, although their task was a difficult one with no real evidence to work from. There is one big anomaly here, and that was my biggest problem with the book. There's a big element to the painting that isn't investigated, although it does get mentioned right at the end, so now I'm curious if that feeds into the next book, and if it's all connected by more than just the lead character.

It's a big enough flaw to knock it down from a great read, but don't let it put you off, as this is a tightly written tale. It's a quick read and apart from my gripe, it works. Well worth checking out for those who like a little darkness with their supernatural.


The Long Utopia: (The Long Earth 4)
The Long Utopia: (The Long Earth 4)
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas, but could have been deeper, 6 Jun. 2016
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This is the fourth book in The Long Earth series, and while the individual books aren't the greatest, I do love the series. The strength of all the books is the deceptively easy way they cover complex concepts by rolling them into a compelling narrative, with a diverse range of characters. Even with the fourth book in the series the authors manage to keep the core premise fresh.

After The Long Mars I was curious as to where they would take the story next, and this book takes it into a familiar direction with aliens. Naturally it's not quite so simple as that, and there's a considerable build-up to the main event. And here we encounter one of the downsides to the story. As with the earlier books the finale feels rushed compared to what preceded it. In all cases the ending is fitting, but just too abrupt.

The story covers how mankind adapts to the events on Earth and the expansion of humanity into the Long Earth. It also delves into some of the history of the talent, although this aspect feels more of a distraction to the more significant events at play.

Another weakness is reflected in its greatest strength. There's some great ideas here, but they're not really developed as deeply as they could be. For me, this and the forced pacing are the biggest problems with the book, but despite these issues it is an enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward the the release of the next one in the series.


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