Wednesday, 29 April 2015

SURVIVING THE EVACUATION Book 4: Unsafe Haven

5 out of 5 stars

Zombie apocalypse

On Amazon UK HERE 
On Amazon.com HERE



Now, that's more like it!  I loved this fourth episode in Frank Tayell's post apocalyptic world as much as the first one.   In Unsafe Haven the story goes back to the beginning and a completely new set of characters - single mother Nilda, her thirteen year old son, Jay, and her neighbour Sebastian.  To say any more would be to give the plot away, but suffice to say it's every bit as gripping as the original story about Bill.  

We follow Nilda through her ideas and plans for survival and trying to get a community together, through the inevitable realisation of the hopelessness of it all, and her pain as she loses people.  During this story we also get glimpses of another character, Chester.... and find out the identity of Sam, the man Bill was signalling from his window and who he thought had left him alone.  

If you enjoy stories of survival against all odds as much as I do, you'll really like this, too, and I love the way all the stories and characters begin to tie up, all the individuals from the four books coming together.  There are also a few thought provoking moments, about the nature of mankind and the question: is it just time for the species to end, and are all the survivors just clinging on to a metaphorical fast sinking ship?  Can't wait to read book five!

Only one tiny annoyance: English people using American speak.  For instance, saying they're operating 'out of' Anglesey, instead of 'from', and a middle-aged monk talking about being 'tasked' to do things.  Made my pedantic side go grrr, but I suppose doesn't really matter that much - this makes no pretence at being great literature!

Book 1: London reviewed HERE 



Book 2: Wasteland reviewed HERE 



Book 3: Family reviewed HERE


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

SURVIVING THE EVACUATION Book 3: Family by Frank Tayell


4 out of 5 stars

Zombie apocalypse

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE



.... and so it continues.  Episode three sees the removal of those who had double-crossed Bill and Kim, and the reunion with those for whom they'd been searching, together with the journey to the beach in Wales where Sholto is sure lies the beginning of their rescue.  

This was a mixed one for me.  I read the free short story, in which we are introduced to George Tull, the (relatively) young and sprightly resident of an old peoples' home.  This story takes place just as the outbreak starts, and is very, very good - go read it!  Some of the conspiracy uncovering and resolving stuff I found a little bit too outlandish, coincidental and not in keeping with the realism of the rest of it (if talking about realism when referring to a zombie apocalypse novel doesn't seem too daft), and also a little information-heavy; George didn't seem to bear much relation to the old chap I'd met in the short story.  There was too much long conversation which was all there just to impart the background and subsequent cover-ups to the reader, it wasn't that interesting to read.  

However!  There were also some splendid bits.  There's a truly shocking episode around the middle, when the group have come through a fairly zombie-free few miles, only to look over a hill into the abyss - literally millions of them, all on a shambling march to nowhere.  I won't say how they hide from them because it'll spoil it if you read it, but the descriptions of this, their escape and how the horde of moving undead turn the countryside into something like the face of the moon were so good I read it twice.  There's also a balloon ride that I read twice, too, and I loved some of Bill's thoughts about the world and the situation they were in.  

To sum up - some bits were a bit tedious, but I still really liked it, and am still going to start book 4.... now!


Book 1: London reviewed HERE


Book 2: Wasteland reviewed HERE


Book 4: Unsafe Haven reviewed HERE  




Sunday, 26 April 2015

CHANGING PATTERNS by Judith Barrow

4.5 out of 5 stars

1950s family drama

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE



Now, this is what I love to see ~ a sequel that is better than the first!  Ideally, writers should improve on their craft all the time, even if they do so without realising; I've read a few books from series this year and been pleased to find this the case, every time, and particularly so with this novel.

Pattern of Shadows followed the fortunes of the Howarth family in working class northern England during WWII; Changing Patterns takes the story into 1950.  I read this book over a period of about 48 hours and thought about it when I wasn't reading it.  What made it good?  It's easy to read, a bit like watching a soap opera; yes, it's an everyday story of simple folk.  Its main USP, though, is the realism, which made me feel two different things.  Firstly, a comfortable nostalgia; I was not born until 1959, but know that people of my parents' generation see those post war years as something of a golden age.  You know, when people had proper family values and were so grateful just to live in a time of peace that they were more appreciative of seemingly trivial pleasures.  The other side, though, is somewhat darker: the prejudices, particularly amongst the ill educated, and the sense of being in a social straitjacket.  This book portrays both sides so well.  

In the first book I did not warm to the main character, Mary Howarth, but I came to like her much more in this one, along with ex POW, Peter, and Mary's sister, Ellen.  Oh, and the horrors of living with the battleaxe mothers in law!  The book is sometimes very graphic in its realism and made me extremely glad the stork didn't drop me in Ellen's situation; Mrs Booth was quite revolting.  And then there is the gross and despicable George Shuttleworth...
I'd say that if this sort of family drama is your favourite thing to read, you will love this book; it's very well written and is a fine example of the genre.  I shall definitely be reading part 3 when available; it's about the next generation and is set in the 1960s.  I so look forward to Ms Barrow's take on an era I really do remember.

A note to the proofreader: at 66% Ms Barrow has used the word 'scran', which is northern slang word for food.  "Good scran that, our kid,".  Alas, the proofreader/editor has changed it to 'scram'!  This made me laugh, as I am a southerner who has moved to the north east in recent years, and before that I hadn't heard of the word, either.  There - you learn something new every day, indeed!


PATTERN OF SHADOWS by Judith Barrow reviewed HERE


LIVING IN THE SHADOWS by Judith Barrow reviewed HERE

 


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

CONCEALMENT by Rose Edmunds

4.5 out of 5 stars

Financial thriller

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE



Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber's book review team 

When I was about 20% of the way through this novel I described it to someone else as 'immaculate', which is an odd way to describe a book, but it seemed fitting, and still does.  Concealment is flawlessly presented, so well structured, formatted and edited; not so much as a spare half sentence, anywhere!  As someone who hates wading through waffle, I so appreciated that.


Now, I have no knowledge of or interest in high finance, so please note my high star rating and understand that, therefore, it must be extremely good!  It is.  In the first 7% there is a fair bit of explanation about tax shenanigans, and I feared that, despite the fact that it's so sharp and well written, I might not enjoy it so much, simply because I would have to concentrate very hard to understand it.  But if you're a financial dum-dum like me, please don't be put off - it still begins at a cracking pace and soon delves further into the action, the people, the motivations.


This is a murder whodunnit, and protagonist Amy Robinson is determined to find out the answers.  Along the way, though, she has to deal with the repercussions of her psychologically damaging childhood, and a complex tangle of conspiracy amongst colleagues, clients and people she thought she could trust.  It seems that everyone is against her, and worse, but is she just being paranoid?  I loved the way the suspense was built up - nothing like reading that someone will be dead in a few days to keep you reading!


I thought the relationships throughout the book were expertly, and often amusingly, painted.  The characters are all well defined and clear and the writing style made me connect with Amy immediately and root for her throughout, especially as the other characters were all so delightfully unlikeable - some wonderful baddies!  Rose Edmunds has portrayed the slimy boss Ed Smithies, the self-serving best friend Lisa (I hated her!), the two-faced ex-husband Greg and troubled, chauvinistic Ryan so well.  Amy's own descent into psychological hell is fabulously well done, and I found the parts that looked back into her childhood absolutely fascinating. 


If you are particularly fond of financial thrillers you will LOVE this, and if, like me, you don't know your share options from your allocations of divisional overheads (I haven't got a clue what any of that means), you will still enjoy it very much—I read it over a period of two days because (cliché alert!).... I couldn't put it down!


NEVER SAY SORRY by Rose Edmunds reviewed HERE

 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

SURVIVING THE EVACUATION: Book 2: Wasteland by Frank Tayell

4.5 out of 5 stars

Zombie apocalypse

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE


Yes, the second of the series read in 24 hours, too!  In which Bill Wright's leg gets better enough for him to move around a bit, he travels south, meets people, abandons old plans, makes new ones, gets betrayed, discovered - oh, look, it's another page turner, right?  Put it like this - husband and I were watching a good film and he fell asleep; I very quietly turned the sound down to low and picked up my Kindle so I could read as much of this as possible before he woke up again....!

Bill and Kim's experience is a lot more terrifying than in other zombie apoc books I've read, or indeed The Walking Dead.  In Frank Tayell's books there are hardly any survivors and a hell of a lot more zombies; I notice that each person who writes these stories has a slightly different take on how the infection spreads.

We discover more in this part about Sholto and the Prometheus project - all good stuff.  I found the ending a little bizarre, and not quite in keeping with the realism of the rest of the book, which is why I have knocked half a star off an otherwise fab second episode.  And I've already bought the other three.

Book 1: London is reviewed HERE


Book 3: Family is reviewed HERE


Book 4: Unsafe Haven is reviewed HERE  




Wednesday, 15 April 2015

SURVIVING THE EVACUATION: Book 1: London by Frank Tayell

5 out of 5 stars

Zombie apocalypse

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE



Just read this in the space of 24 hours - it's not a very long novel, only just over long novella length, I think....  no, just looked at the blurb, it's 74K words long, must have seemed shorter because I was enjoying it so much!

This is the journal of Bill Wright, the man who was unlucky enough to break his leg just as the trouble started.  The first half of the book is taken up with his survival, hope and growing despair as he recuperates in his flat, the second half with his escape and attempt to find a place in which he can be safe and live some sort of life again.  Alongside all the day to day worries, though, he uncovers to the reader (and to himself) the real truth behind the outbreak and the 'evacuations'...  suffice to say I downloaded the next straight away and will start reading it as soon as I have posted this review!  

I'm fascinated by tales about survival against all odds, and think Frank Tayell has done a marvellous job of this.  It's a lot more intelligent and well written than many books in this genre that I've started and abandoned, and the pace of the first part is spot on.  I found the intricate details of Bill's ideas for day to day survival completely engrossing, and a round of applause for not just copying half the scenarios from The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later or Survivors; this actually paints a slightly different picture of such a disaster, and not one in which the protagonist keeps coming across groups of people who just happen to have all the skills necessary to survive in the new world, either.  Loved the conspiracy orientated bits, and I can't wait to read the truth about Lenham Hill.....

I'd definitely recommend this to any fans of this genre - and it's set in England, too!

Book 2: Wasteland reviewed HERE


Book 3: Family reviewed HERE 


Book 4: Unsafe Haven reviewed HERE

 



BEYOND THE GREAT RIVER (People of the Longhouse Book 1) by Zoe Saadia

4 out of 5 stars

Native American History

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE



Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber's book review team

This series takes place a short while after the Peacemaker series, which brought about the Great League of the Iroquois.

The story centres around Kentiko, a young girl who does not behave as a young woman of her tribe should; she wants to fight, track, explore, rather than engage in domestic matters.  Disappointingly for their warrior father, her brother, Migisso, does not feel comfortable with the path laid out for him, either. He does not want to follow in his father's footsteps but instead follows the tribal medicine man and knows he has a gift for healing.  He was my favourite character.  The third main character is Okwaho, from a neighbouring tribe, who becomes part of a small force that invades Kentiko and Migisso's village.  Then Kentiko and Okwaho meet...

As with Zoe Saadia's other books, I was aware all the way through it of the detailed research that goes into her work.  It's more than just research, though; she seems to have an innate feel for the people of the time, so much that the reader is not able to tell which bits stem from fact and which from her own imagination: the evidence of a truly talented historical fiction writer.  The domestic detail is the part that fascinates me the most, giving a real insight into the way these people lived.

The book is beautifully written as ever, and shows the story so well from all points of view.  For me this book was a bit detail rather than event heavy, but I still read it in just a few sittings; it was interesting rather than being a 'what's going to happen next???' page turner like the Peacemaker series.  Given the ages of the main characters, and their dilemmas, I felt it was in some ways more of a YA novel; it would definitely appeal to teenagers - and, of course, for anyone with an interest in ancient American history all this writer's books are an absolute treat.


THE GREAT LAW OF PEACE by Zoe Saadia reviewed HERE, with links to the other books of hers that I've reviewed


Thursday, 9 April 2015

SENIOR SEX PARTIES 5 by some bloke called Sally Hollister

0 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK HERE


I ruined my customer cred on Amazon after someone sent me THIS LINK ~ an article showing the worst of the worst of Kindle book covers.  It was touch and go: should I download this or 'But... you're a horse'?  Senior Sex Parties 5 (though I think the one I'm reviewing is actually 2, but I daresay they're all the same!) won; until I looked it up I am happy to say I knew nothing of this murky area of Amazon ~ oh, that I still didn't.  But I've had to find out about it, so you can, too!

I read it whilst waiting for my husband to come out of the doctor's surgery for a routine appointment, with time to spare.  Whoever this Sally Hollister geezer is, he's got it sussed - a five minute read of badly written filth, slap on a cheap 'n' cheerful cover, stick it on Amazon for just over a quid, and Bob's your uncle!  Or Bob's the OAP next door with the 'enormous todger', perhaps.

Do not be fooled by the presentable - nay, moderately attractive, even - couple on the cover.  The sex crazed seniors in the world of Sally Hollister are called Bert, Dinah and Frank and say things like "Ey-up, luv, make us a cuppa then I'll give you a bit of anal."  A comment below tells me that they call the 'author' 'The Thinking Erotic Readers' Writer'.  All I can say is that I wouldn't like to see stuff for those who don't think, then.  Can't be worse than this riot of assorted orifice filling, all in the cackling tone of "Ooh, he's a right one, our Bert!"

It's probably the least erotic book I've ever read, and it's not even funny, it's just disgusting.  It's like someone sat down and thought, I think I'll write the most revolting book I can; believe me, it's seriously gross.  I was thinking of writing a proper review of it, just for a laugh, stuff like "I felt the character of Frank could have been developed more", but I thought if I did there would be bound to be someone who took it seriously....!

(When I told my friend Phil Conquest I'd read it, he said "Did it work as a stand alone?")

Next week: The Silver Swingers I: The Adventure Begins.... 



Wednesday, 8 April 2015

ULTRA VIOLENCE by Mark Barry

4.5 out of 5 stars

Violent drama, football hooliganism

On Amazon UK HERE 
On Amazon.com HERE


The blurb:
Forty. Receding pate. Dental problems. Failing marriage. Delinquent son. Psycho boss parachuted in to cut the big earners.
A few lost marbles.
It hadn't always been like this.
He used to be a Face. A Player. A Terrace Celebrity. Now he’s just another faceless nobody on the brink of despair in a world he no longer recognises.
Yet, one freezing winter’s day, a chance meeting with a face from the old days at Notts County changes everything.
Especially when there’s an intriguing proposition on the table. One he may find difficult to refuse. 


I know nothing about and have zero interest in football, and the culture of organised football hooliganism fascinates me only in a horrified sort of way, but having recently read Mark Barry's fabulous Once Upon A Time In The City of Criminals I wanted to know more, so I chose to read this, his most successful book to date.

Something I've noticed after reading a book I've loved is that I can't always remember if it was written in the first or third person.  This is, I think, because the characters have come alive to the extent that I've been able to see inside their heads, whether their tale has been told in their own words or not.  Ultra Violence, however, has set a new standard.  It's written in the SECOND person, yet I still felt I knew the unnamed main character as well as if he'd told the story himself, or if I'd had it narrated to me.  Yes, that's right, a whole novel written in the second person, and it works so well.  A brave, clever choice and yet another indication of the talent of Mr Barry, who is fast becoming my favourite 'indie' of all those I've read.


Ultra Violence is depressing, it's sad, it made me feel fed up about how different things were in my own youth, it tells of the unsavoury, the prejudiced, the lacking in culture, the unwashed underclass of society (the Bullys!) and those who've wrecked their own lives, but I couldn't put it down.  The story alternates between the past and the present all the way through, until they meet at the end, a structure I always find effective.  Fabulous ending, too.  I love a great ending. I gather in the new edition there are two alternatives, but, alas, I had the old one on my Kindle.

Oh, and I still think the main character is a closet homosexual, by the way.  So closet he couldn't admit it to himself, perhaps.  Don't know if anyone else agrees with me.  From about fifty per cent in I was waiting for the Big Reveal....


ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE CITY OF CRIMINALS by Mark Barry reviewed HERE 


CARLA by Mark Barry reviewed HERE


THE NIGHT PORTER by Mark Barry reviewed HERE 



Monday, 6 April 2015

A DIVIDED INHERITANCE by Deborah Swift

5 GOLD STARS

Epic 17th century historical drama

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE 



What a story!  A masterpiece indeed.

A Divided Inheritance starts off in London, where Elspet Leviston finds herself usurped in her father's eyes by the appearance, out of nowhere, of her cousin, Zachary Deane.  The story travels to Spain in the time when Muslims were being persecuted and driven out of their country, not a period of history with which I am familar, though this didn't matter as I soon picked up exactly what was going on; however, there's a brief history at the back of the book that you might like to read first.

There were so many elements about this story that I loved, not least of all Deborah Swift's clearly intricate research and wonderful storytelling capability.  It's got the lot: the bleakness of life for a young woman in the slightly impoverished middle classes, the marriage forced on her for business expansion, followed by Elspet's personal growth when she is thrown outside her secure, limited existence, tested in ways that make her alter her entire outlook on life.  The story takes the reader from the dark alleys of London to the bright colour of 17th century Seville, and I loved the multi-faceted Zachary, in many ways the villain of the tale but so beautifully painted that I rooted for him throughout. 

With lost love, double dealing, desperate flight in terrible circumstances and the horror of religious persecution, this is terrific, unusual novel that I think puts Deborah Swift right up there with the best and well known historical fiction writers.  Highly, highly recommended.


SHADOW ON THE HIGHWAY by Deborah Swift reviewed HERE 




THE GILDED LILY by Deborah Swift reviewed HERE