Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Stay Happy by James Josiah - A Review

 This, even several weeks after finishing it, has not been an easy book to review. Mostly because whatever I say carries the risk of spoilers and although I will try my best you may want to read the book first... and you will want to read this book!

It starts with the birth of Ryan AndErsen's daughter and goes through the challenges of coping through Ryan's eyes. The first part of the book is quite humorous in places and goes along at a pleasant pace but you get the idea there is a 'game changing moment's coming and it approaches with the inevitability of a slow motion car crash. You can see what is coming but, much as you may want to, you cannot look away.

 From that moment the story changes a lot as Ryan tries to cope with the aftermath.

Stay Happy is a well written tale that will drag you through the emotional wringer, a story with all the 'feels'.

I will certainly be looking out for more from James Josiah

4.5/5*

Thursday, 26 October 2017

In The Post Today

Interesting postal delivery to The BlogCave today


Now, that's a very nice envelope, not anything I was expecting, so I eagerly opened it up and found...

           What a pleasant surprise then to see it contained the author's preferred text version of one of my favourite novels of all time - Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. And it is gorgeous. Chris Riddell has done the illustrations. I am a big fan of CR's artwork anyway, so, added bonus.

And,to top it all, even the press release is a lovely thing to look at
 So, thank you very much to Katie at Headline,  and to Headline Books. You've made this Blogger very happy indeed.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Starborn by Lucy Hounsom - A Review

Right, first things first, this is likely to only be a short review. I finished Starborn yesterday afternoon and am already a good way into the sequel, Heartland. Also yesterday, I was offered a Netgalley 'treat' review copy of the final volume, Firestorm. (Needless to say I fair snapped the publisher's hand off). For this reason I plan on doing a short review for each book and a more in depth look at the series as a whole after.

So, Starborn... as the first in a new series by a debut author it certainly ticks all the right boxes

Young person living in the middle of nowhere ✔

Mysterious strangers in town as a pivotal day approaches ✔

Lead character leaves home with strangers ✔

Adventure and discovery of Destiny ensues ✔

Yes, as a storyline it feels like nothing new at first, but be patient...

Where a story or series like this can stand or fall is on things like characterisation, world building and the magic system and on these 3 points Lucy Hounsom stands tall.

The Characters - this was a strange one for me. All came across as realistic, believable etc but none stood out. By which I mean, all were equally (ish) effective. I was interested in all but none really above others.

The World - I do like a good map, which this book has, to follow the journey but I also like to be able to 'see' the places visited in my reading mind and not every author can quite pull it off. Lucy Hounsom does - really well.

The Magic - I like my magic to be a bit different to usual, or a new twist at least and I thought LH pulled this off quite well with her Solar and Lunar magic.

So, yeah, I really enjoyed this and, as I say, am already well into book 2.

For this debut I am giving 4/5 stars. I would have gone higher but I expect Heartland and Firestorm will be even better so I have to give myself room to mark up.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Empire of Time by Daniel Godfrey - A Review

It is 15 years after the events of New Pompeii, Nick Houghton is now Decimus Horatius Pullus and the Romans are carrying on in their typically brutal Roman way and the outside world doesn't like it.

When an artefact is uncovered at the real Pompeii that has Nick's name on it it becomes obvious that someone in the future has control of the time travel device (currently held by the Romans in New Pompeii). But who? and how will it affect things?

As with New Pompeii this is a baffling (in a good way) tale that all becomes clear eventually. Swapping scenes between Ancient Pompeii, the modern world and ancient Romans in the modern world took a bit of getting used to but doesn't get in the way of a cracking story.

I previously compared Dan Godfrey's work to that of Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park with Romans) and after reading this I see no reason to change that opinion. I read this book on holiday and got through it in a couple of days but it was the perfect poolside read, a good mix of Sci-Fi and Mystery - what more could you ask for.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Age of Assassins by RJ Barker

As a long time reader of fantasy fiction I am often looking for someone to do something a little bit different, to stir the pot a little. With this fantasy/whodunnit RJ Barker has done just that.

Throw in a protagonist with a disability (but not a disability that is dwelt on overly long) and a well realised locale and you have something a bit special.

Our hero is Girton Clubfoot, a trainee assassin who, with his master Merela Karn we first meet sneaking into Castle Maniyadoc through the sewage gate. Inevitably they are caught but it turns out they are there for a reason - somebody has murder in mind and our assassins are to find out who.

The story is very character driven and, thankfully, Barker does a great job here. I cared about Girton and an event later on in the story, which could have gone either way for his future development was handled really well. Sometimes young characters can be a tad annoying, all full of angst and hormones but not so much here.

The story is interspersed with flashbacks that fill in Girton and Karn's backstory, which again works well as we see that Karn is not what might often be expected.

So, did I enjoy this? I don't think there's any real doubt about that is there?

A cross between Robin Hobb's Farseer novels and tv's Merlin this is a fine start to a series I eagerly await more of. A very strong debut in a year of strong debuts - 5/5*

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Bank Holiday All-Dayer (A Short Story) by Andrew David Barker

It is the summer of 1996 and Anthony Parker is on an all day Bank Holiday bender, a session fuelled by alcohol, drugs and girls. As the tag-line says, things are bout to get messy.

I very much enjoyed Barker's earlier stories (The Electric, Dead Leaves) so I was looking forward to this. I wasn't disappointed.

Parker, the lead character of this story isn't a particularly likable person but he tells an interesting story. Other than going from pub to pub, drinking Red Stripe, dropping tabs and a random sexual encounter in the pub toilets not a lot happens. But what the author does do is give a more or less perfect snapshot of the time. I remember 1996 well and Bank Holiday All-Dayer absolutely nails it.

Another plus is the 'soundtrack'. As Porter goes through his parade of excesses there is an accompaniment of music mentioned either in tunes played by bands in the pub or tracks on the Jukebox, tunes that take you back to the crazy, hazy summer of 96 - and every one is a corker. A well curated choice indeed.

The minus side - at only 32 pages it is over too soon (although, paradoxically, it is just the right length). I would have loved to have spent more time with these characters, but that has always been the case with Andrew David Barker's books.

A very enjoyable 4/5* read

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts - A Review

I'll admit that this was a strange one.
The early parts of the book hooked me in - our 'hero' Alma is set the task of solving an impossible murder when a body is found in the boot of a car in a fully automated car making factory. Add to this a near future setting where the majority of the population is constantly online, addicted to Shine (basically a full online existence) and you have a gripping tale to keep your brain busy.

Alma has a problem though, her partner is I'll and has to be treated every 4hrs or she will die - and only Alma can administer the treatment. This is where things nearly came unstuck for me as it seemed every 4 hours Alma would administer the treatment then get in a 'scrape' that meant she would not be able to save her partner but, thanks to epic derring-do gets back by the skin of her teeth. I nearly gave up at this point but thankfully didn't as the second half of the book really cranked things up a gear and made for a thrilling end.
The story felt both futuristic and black and white era cinema-ish with a strong Hitchcock vibe.
4/5* Recommended