Friday, 3 April 2020

HIGHLAND COVE by Dylan J Morgan @dylanjmorgan #RBRT

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads


How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In A Nutshell:  Five twenty-somethings investigate a supposedly haunted abandoned asylum on a Scottish island.

A highly atmospheric story that gathers momentum like skeletal fingers walking slowly up your back, Highland Cove is a book that will delight lovers of dark, horrifying ghost stories that do not necessarily end well... 

The party of five who set out on this foolish mission—to make a documentary in a haunted asylum on a lonely Scottish island—each have their own story, and the characters are well-defined, particularly Liam, for whom this project is something of a passion, and Alex, the sceptical rich boy who has been invited purely because he is willing to fund it.  Dylan Morgan's descriptive powers are first class, and I particularly liked the meeting in the pub, early on, with the old sailor who was to take them across from the mainland.

I was pleased to find that the horror certainly ramps up during the second half, with many surprises, and I thought the last twenty per cent was actually the best part, with a twist in the tale or two that I didn't expect, at all.  I felt that some of the detail in the first half could have been chopped down a little, but on the whole I'd say that this is a fine, well-written book with good plot, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes to become immersed in a novel on the gory horror end of the supernatural genre.







Monday, 23 March 2020

HIGHWAY TWENTY by Michael J Moore

3.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads



How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Contemporary creature horror, small-town America

I enjoyed reading this—I like books set in small-town America, and this had a rather B-movie, pulp fiction feel to it, suitable for the genre.

The townspeople of Sedrow Woolley, Washington State, are disappearing—then they come back and they're ... different.  The book starts off with a man abducting a small boy, and finding that he has bitten off more than he can chew; a most compelling, if shocking, beginning.  The main characters are a mechanic called Conor and a homeless man, Percly, who sleeps in a disused train, and the story alternates between their chapters, written in third person point of view.

The great strength of this story is the characterisation and dialogue, which was spot on and totally convincing, particularly the highly likeable Conor, his wild and boozy girlfriend, Shelby, and his colleague, John.  It's a very easy read, a page-turner, and flowed well; Mr Moore can certainly spin a yarn, and the suspense was delivered well, too, with the story unravelling at a good pace.

My only complaint is that it did feel a bit too pulp fiction at times; I could imagine it being a slim volume that one might pick up in a 'dime store' in 1950s Sedrow Woolley, with a picture of a cartoon damsel in distress running away from a monster, on the front—it does need a better proofreader/copy editor, as I found more errors than I would expect, with issues like backwards apostrophes at the beginning of words, and the odd wrongly assigned dependent clause.  But it's good, and basically well-written.  If you enjoy these sort of stories and aren't too picky about minor errors, I think you'll love it.



Tuesday, 10 March 2020

SUBJECT A36 by Teri Polen @tpolen6

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads 



How I discovered this book: I have 'met' the writer through Twitter; she was asking if anyone would like an ARC.  The subject matter interested me, so I said yes please!

In a Nutshell: YA Dystopian, genetic engineering.

I admit that I didn't realise this book was YA when I went for it—my fault!  It's about some time in the future when the fortunate (the rich) of an unnamed place in the US live in 'The Colony', and where they can pay for genetic engineering to ensure their families have the best health and looks.  The book starts with Asher, as a boy, having to flee from an army after him and his sisters to harvest their genes.  In chapter two, he is seventeen, and an operative with the insurgents, who free children captured for gene harvesting, aiming to reunite them with their families where possible.  

The other main character, who has his own POV chapter, is Oz; a bit of a misfit, humourous; I liked him.  

Asher and his people discover that The Colony is searching for a certain person, known as Subject A36—and the fight is on.

This is a very 'easy read', and the writing flows very well indeed.  I am not the ideal person to review it as I am over 45 years older than the audience for which it was intended, but I am sure that if I was between 11 and 14 it would be right up my street!  It's a good story, imaginative, and far from entirely unfeasible.

Friday, 6 March 2020

SINGULARITY SYNDROME by Susan Kuchinskas #RBRT

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads



How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.  I chose it after enjoying the first in the series, Chimera Catalyst.

In a Nutshell: Dark technological goings-on in a dystopian world, post climate change.  Set in California.

'Finder' is back, complete with dog/bird chimera The Parrott, and human/baboon Altima, as he uncovers a venture capitalist's plan to rule the world by AI, making humans compliant by means of a nutritional energy drink.  The idea that AI could eventually overtake humans is one I've read a fair bit about, also that its integration with humans (Numans, in this book) could be the next stage in our evolution.  I find this hellish in the extreme, and it makes me glad I was born when I was.

We don't know exactly when the book is set, but I imagine it is probably in about a hundred years' time; Finder mentions helicopters being used in the wars of 'the last century'.  The state of the planet (the Big Change) is revealed to be not only down to the slow deterioration of climate change, but another disaster.  I enjoyed the plot, but what I liked reading about most about is Finder himself, a most engaging character, and the world-building elements.  Although the story paints a grim picture of human life in the future, it is not without a certain light touch that I wouldn't exactly call humour; it's more pathos mixed with astute observations, and off-the-wall characters.

In this book we find out a bit more about Finder's life when he was younger, including his real name; I like the way his character is slowly building, and I'd love to read more about what has happened between now and the time in which the book is set - more background.

Having read the notes at the back, I know Ms Kuchinskas is well-informed about her subject matter, and this is evident; it is imaginative, clever and extremely well-written.  I'd definitely recommend it to fans of 'cli-fi', but you should read Chimera Catalyst first.  I liked this more than the first book, and hope there will be more!



Wednesday, 26 February 2020

CHILD OF WATER by Gemma Lawrence @TudorTweep

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads

 

How I discovered this book: I've read almost all of this author's books and always look forward to a new one.

In A Nutshell:  The early life of Empress Matilda, Book #1 of the Heirs of Anarchy series.

The early years of Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror, who, at the age of 8, was sent to marry the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.  Child of Water takes us through Matilda's younger years as she leaves England a child, and, under tuition from her beloved Heinrich and others, becomes the wife, Empress and regent he wants her to be.  After his death, she is recalled to England by her father, King Henry I of England.

I loved this book, which taught me a great deal about a period in history of which I know little.  I hadn't realised, for instance, that Geoffrey of Anjou was so much younger than her.  Matilda's path from precocious child to extraordinarily intelligent and perceptive young woman, beloved by her people and adored by her husband, is beautifully and convincingly written, as is her disorientation when she realises her only option, as a widow, is to return to her father's court, where she is received very differently—and her frustration about the lot of women, even her perceptions of freedom versus the reality.

One aspect of this book that I liked very much was the intricate detail about how the people lived, particularly the descriptions of London on Matilda's return.  Although not always part of the story it did not seem out of place, but gave a more three-dimensional background to Matilda's life.  I have enjoyed passages like this in this author's previous books, and am glad that she included more domestic and historical detail in this one; that it is a story of England, not just the main characters.  The author's notes at the back add extra snippets of information.

The book ends with Matilda's marriage to Geoffrey planta genista....I am so looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and her struggles for the throne against her cousin, Stephen.  Well done, Ms Lawrence!


 

Monday, 17 February 2020

STILL YOU SLEEP by Kate Vane @K8Vane

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads



How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In A Nutshell: A redundant crime reporter and a news blogger aim to solve the mystery surrounding the suspicious death of a young woman.

I chose this book from the review team list because I'd read another book, Brand New Friend, by this author and was most impressed by her characterisation.  Although this is a crime novel - not my usual choice - it concentrates on those involved in the situation (families, friends), and the journalists looking into it, which is why I enjoyed it much more than I might have done had it been a police procedural.

Vikki Smith is a young woman with a learning disability who is found dead from a drug overdose.  The police write it off as an accident but online journalist Tilda Green and redundant crime reporter Freddie Stone believe foul play to be afoot; Freddie knows the family and Tilda scours social media on a daily basis, discovering much that makes her suspicious.

The story is very 'real life', warts-and-all, and one aspect that I liked is how current it is, both sociologically and in the way in which Tilda delves into every intricacy of social media, though I did wonder if it would go over the heads of people who don't know exactly how Twitter works, on quite a complicated level.  I'm a Twitter addict, though, so I really appreciated how well the author understood its idiosyncrasies.

The characterisation, dialogue and the logistics of the plot deserve a round of applause, though I felt there were one or two many storylines and character points of view.  Social media strategies, dysfunctional families, social prejudice, drug dealers and abuse, alcoholism, two-faced politicians, unrequited love, alt-right versus liberal politics; every scenario is written most convincingly, but I'd sometimes get to the beginning of a new chapter from yet another POV and think, 'Hang on a minute, who's Simon?', and have to look back to remind myself.  The addition of so many plot threads and characters actually dilutes the evidence of her strengths; Ms Vane is a highly competent and readable writer. Less could be so much more, but this is really the only complaint I have about this book.

Still You Sleep flows along so well, wrapping all storylines together at the end, is entertaining, real, so relevant to today's world, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who appreciates well-drawn characters by a writer who has a sharp understanding of topical issues - or who simply enjoys working out mysteries. 



Tuesday, 11 February 2020

NIGHT SERVICE by John F Leonard @john_f_leonard

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads



How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: A Bus Ride Into Hell

In this horror novella, Luke is on his third date with Jessica and, finally, is getting to spend the night with her - but first they have to get from their night out in the city centre to her home, in a village miles away.  Luke would get a taxi, but it would bankrupt him, so they settle on their only option: the night service.

Also on board are a drunk skinhead, a chatty old man, a woman and a baby, and three members of a rock band.  All seems, if not fine, then not too much of a worry, until the bus begins to speed up, and they begin to realise that the silent driver is missing out all the stops...

Born from the author's many travels on the night service in his younger days (it says in the notes at the back), this is a fun horror story that kept me turning the pages in its unravelling of unexpected developments, and well-painted atmosphere.  Although horrific, it is not without humour, and it sits well in the novella length, without any padding or excess detail that would slow it down.

The only aspect I was not so keen on was the constant use of the subordinate clause - short, staccato, incomplete sentences - to emphasise urgency, shock, fear.  I'm not necessarily a traditionalist when it comes to literary styles, and thought that sometimes, although not 'correct', it worked well, but other times it was used to the extent that it marred my enjoyment of the story.

The ending features another nice little twist; I'd say that if you love this genre and prefer shorter books that will only take you a couple of hours or so to read, you should like this.


Good article about sentences, subordinate and independent clauses HERE