Saturday, 27 September 2014

I have been a bit too much like the title of this blog.

I'm afraid I went AWOL and spent a lot of time rather caught up in my studying. It took me a while to figure out a balance that menat I could continue reading and reviewing as much as I did.

I'm sorry.

I would like to say that I will be getting back to writing reviews! I have found the balance and found the time. I am letting my hands wander over my 'to be read' books and seeing what they'll grab on to.

Until then. Thank you for staying patient.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Modern Suburbia by Chris Merlo

This book is a fictional commentary on the shady underdoings of a modern, built up, suburban town somewhere in America.

The storyline itself is rather intriguing, with the author trying to show us that he can create a plausible crime/suspense novel based mainly in a town that, from the outside, seems quiet and normal. Obviously, that's not going to hold true though, as otherwise there wouldn't really be much of a story to write about.

Nathan is a hired transporter of not completely legal goods whom we first meet as he's being pulled over by a traffic officer for speeding. From there it just gets worse for Nathan and the people he's transporting for as he's dragged to jail and and fails to make the meet-up time.

As we are introduced to crooked fat cats, international terrorists and amazingly talented computer hackers you begin to see that no town is truly peaceful as Teal County's dirty little secrets are dragged into the light.

I thought the idea and storyline behind this novel were well thought out and rather intriguing. Unfortunately what could've been a good novel was let down into a mediocre one by the way it all came across. The style of setting the plot out to the reader seemed a bit too hurried to me and I felt I was being force fed too much description where it wasn't needed and not enough where I thought it was. It was as if Merlo was attempting to show he could be mysterious and lead the reader on but at the same time not lose your attention but it wasn't gone about in a way that was entirely plausible.

I almost feel that the author has some sort of vendetta against all law enforcement as there wasn't a single member of the force or jail system that wasn't a brute with a love for dishing out violence. Maybe I live a life too much on the right side of the law or in the wrong country to see that every police officer and jail guard has it out for lawbreakers and will find any excuse to beat them to a bloody pulp. It would be fine if it were just the odd one or two but making it the entire lot just made it too unbelievable for me.

The characters themselves are an interesting bunch, policemen notwithstanding, as they seem to show villainy in all walks of life, from the druggie girl (who, of course, comes from a broken home and is used to using her good looks) to the main character Nathan, who takes it upon himself to right a few wrongs in his own way and the big fat cat with his nice little cover of some corporate (large in a plush office) desk jockey. Mix in the FBI and the German Terrorist (sorry ladies, not Alan Rickman style) and it will lead to some explosive action and even a well written car chase.

This was an okay read that I was wishing would be good. I loved the idea and some of the scenes were brilliant. Unfortunately there were other moments where you'd have a scene interrupted for the next two paragraphs with a new character's life story (even in a sex scene?!) and it was not assumed that the reader could make their own conclusions but instead I felt as if I was being force fed exactly what I should think about a person. I do think there is such a thing as too much information if it keeps being beaten into you to hate a person or that someone is really rich (to describe every scene down to the last plush fibre of a carpet everytime said fat cat is in a room is a bit much, I get the hint).

The plot twists are well planned out, however. These do not suffer from information overload but are slowly eked out to keep you wondering and reading. To be honest I loved the book for its potential and would read a Chris Merlo novel again in the hope that these first time book issues have been ironed out as it's definitely worth keeping an eye on this Chris Merlo fellow.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Bob Moore: Hostile Territory by Tom Andry

He's back! After the chaos of his last adventure Bob Moore, PI, is back in the saddle, so to speak.

I will state here that if you haven't read the previous books then there will be mentions of plot spoilers ahead. Also, why are you skipping to the third book in the series? Seriously, who does that?

Still reeling after his previous adventure it appears at first that our flawed private investigator has found his niche working undercover. The only issue being a slight lack in his accounting skills. However, we should all know by now that nothing is ever as simple as it should be. With the tragedy of Nineteen still on his mind, his new leg and feet being constant reminders of his reasons for hating Supers and an unexpected visit from the United State's Vice President with an offer that he could happily turn down you wonder if this poor man really needs to have people stalking him as well? He really does attract trouble and Mind is no help with her hilariously sarcastic responses and almost constant nagging.

With two ambassadors disappearing from the Supers' newest annoyance to Bob, the Super City, he is tasked with finding out what happened and to do so he must pose as the third US Ambassador. Obviously he's the poster boy for public relations and the like. Put a politician from every country in the world together and there will be squabbles, alliances and behind closed doors pacts made and that is what Bob has been thrown into. Now remember that this is a guy who has annoyed pretty much all the powerful Supers that are left and he's now on a floating city full of them!

You'd think for someone like Bob this would be enough to have him emptying the not so mini mini-bar but no, wait! There's more. Let's just throw in the mere idea of someone from his past that isn't his ex-wife and watch him squirm. Although the squirming around his ex-wife is pretty fun to watch anyway. This is definitely a hint to grab some popcorn and pull up a chair.

Andry has done a brilliant job of pulling together influences from popular culture and blending it with his own unique creativity to really sell the believability of this world and it's inhabitants. The idea of a superhero or main character of a storyline being untouchable was discarded a long time ago and Mr Andry has been sure to keep it in the history books. You have an alcohol dependent, overweight main character, the females leads will never be someone you'll want to mess with or imagine as damsels in distress and, would you believe it, even the secondary characters feel fleshed out and cared for. The Supers are never to be considered as safe, not in these books, and to be the spectator as they realise that is not fun or uplifting but it sure as heck keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series, despite the shortness of the books (quality over quantity), and it's clear that there is a lot of research done to make some of the scenarios more believable (not so much believing I'll see anyone fly past my window anytime soon mind). There are enough plot twists to make you wonder and question your own feelings towards certain characters and, I'll be honest, I even put the book down and refused to believe what I was reading at one point.

I recommend this as a must read for those who like action, adventure and just a bit of an exciting romp through a fantastical world not completely dissimilar from ours when it all boils down to basics.

For Tom Andry's website go here:

To buy this book, Kindle edition, click here or for the UK price without working out the exchange rate yourself go here .
For other versions (ie: if you haven't got a Kindle) then here is the Smashwords link!

Seriously, use these links and buy this eBook!!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings **possible spoilers**

This book follows a family having to cope with a tragedy in their lives. The husband, Matt King, is forced into a position where he has to take care of two daughters he barely knows whilst also dealing with the fact that his thrill seeking wife is lying in a coma with little chance of recovery. Add on to this the fact that he has cousins all grasping for various amounts of money from his large family business that he doesn't care for and you just know that it's going to be a rather interesting journey.

The story starts with the wife, Joanie, already in the coma and Matt being confronted with the fact that he is a poor father when it comes to dealing with the every day things necessary when caring for a child. He had obviously been a stay-away dad due to work and business and it is there as an under-current throughout the book. Things are made worse when he is informed by the doctor that Joanie will never wake up and had made a living will where she did not want to be kept alive by machines.

Right from the beginning you can sense that these are not the only problems this family will face, and you'd think they would be enough for anyone, and there are revelations and realisations that jump up and slap these people in the face (one or two punches too) throughout the book. This is a real tragicomedy, at times you find yourself laughing at some dry humour and then stop yourself as you remember the feelings behind the comment.

Matt King is a father who doesn't have a clue and a husband who hid in obliviousness. His business kept him away from his family to the point where he doesn't recognise who his daughters have grown into, one a precocious, spoilt bully and the other a recovering drug addict who'd been sent away to boarding school. Most of the humour, tinged with guilt or sadness, is based around his attempts to make up for his time away, trying to grab hold of little children he thought he knew but instead getting the older versions who don't even think they need him. The children are definitely the more intriguing of the characters.

Whilst there is a main plot twist that is focused on I found myself more interested just reading the family dynamics as they change and evolve, not a normal family but definitely better than they were before the tragedy.

This is a lovely book, if set around tragic circumstances, about different family members with different coping mechanisms and all with their own secrets who go off on a slightly different sort of 'family holiday'. I feel that the character of Matt King could have been expanded upon in that it was all too perfect - his only flaw was his total obliviousness to what was happening and even that's turned to his advantage at times.

I would recommend this for a holiday read, or for a book on a flight. It's not too long but will keep you reading.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Phantom Of The Opera - Gaston Leroux

Having seen the show and the more modern film I thought it was a crying shame that I had yet to read the book that started it all.

For those who don't know; this is a story of tragedy and (occasionally unrequited) love. It's so hard for me to write about this book as it's always been in the background of my mind for me and now I find myself back to the root of what started it and, whilst this was a lovely read, it was slightly disappointing  as it didn't quite live up to the hype I'd piled on it. Not to say it isn't a good book though but, as has been the case with the book for most of it's history, it has always been overshadowed by stage & screen (there were moments it even went out of print in the twentieth cent.).

This Gothic romance tells the story of a a chorus girl caught in a love triangle between the Opera Ghost, Erik, and the French nobleman she knew from her childhood, Raoul. As this story progresses Christine becomes an amazing opera singer who is even used as a replacement for the Prima Donna, this she attributes to her 'Angel of Music', who she wholeheartedly believes in being an angel.

This novel starts off in an investigative format, with the author setting the idea that what he is writing is an article to disprove the idea of the Opera House being haunted by a ghost and, what's more, that the same man (for he states he believes it's a human) is responsible for the disappearances and deaths that occurred around the same time the 'ghost's' activities were at it's highest. Leroux uses the idea of the unnamed author/investigative journalist to introduce us to the only character left who can really tell the story of what happened, including insights into the Phantom's previous life that's not been brought up on stage or on screen.

For those who have never read the book but been exposed to the story in another way, like myself, you may be forgiven for thinking that this is just a classic french tale of romance with just a touch of angst thrown in - but wait!! This book is not only romance but also a fine example of a gothic horror at the time of being written. You have a ghost that is never really seen except for his actions, he has the ability to be all over the opera house & yet not be caught. At the same time there is a young, impressionable girl caught up in the thrall of this unseen Angel of Music with an infatuated old friend trying to save her from his grasp.

Although I believed this to be a well known story I found parts that were completely new to me and put the whole thing in a different light. It was a lot more horrifying and terrifying than I thought and the romance seemed, at times, to play second fiddle to the phantom's devious acts.

Although I found Erik to be well written I must confess to believing that Raoul and Christine seemed to only be written as two-dimensional characters for Leroux to compare Erik against. They had moments but most of the time they fell flat and couldn't hide from the fact that they really were just supporting characters in this tale about a man's descent into darkness, literally and figuratively, as he tried to hold onto the light the only way he knew how.

I enjoyed this book, though at times it was slow due to the style of writing, and for such a short read (I thought it'd be a lot longer) it ould definitely hold it's own, probably why it's become a classic!

I recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed the various adaptations of this story as it will give you a whole new outlook. Also a good read for lovers of the gothic novels.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson

Janie Ryan is born to a long line of Aberdeen fish wives and into a childhood of living in hostels, B&Bs and council estates. This book follows the trials and tribulations of growing up with a mother who, whilst always wanting to provide the best for her child, has poor taste in men and really does get close to hitting rock bottom all shown through the eyes of a child.

The book starts with the birth of the latest Ryan woman, who's father is a mysterious, married American, and it is from there that things are seen to go downhill with her first 4 weeks in this world being spent in a women's help centre. This is Janie's first introduction as to what to expect in her life and, to begin with, she sees it all with the childish innocence that makes it seem all that much worse for the reader.

As fear and shame are gradually introduced into her life far too soon for our liking she comes to see the differences between her family and home compared to others, usually coming out worse. This, however, is a slow process and throughout most of the book I'd say that her innocence protects Janie from what could've been some devastating truths for a young girl. Eventually though the bitterness and awareness win out and the last third of the book is told through the eyes of an angry, teenage cynic who see's her mum as she really is and doesn't want to become her, despite the groups and habits she falls into.

There are some really touching moments in this book that push the reader along to read 'just one more page' until you find you're at the end and, for me any rate, very grateful for having the family I have. I found Janie to be a character that I started to invest my feelings in as I followed her through her childhood. Ms Hudson does well to make sure the reader relates and empathises with Janie as well as her mum and you find yourself hoping that the next move and the next guy will be the right one for all of them.

On the surface this appears to be a tale of woe about a single mother being given all the short straws and the daughter having to suffer too. If you look deeper, however, it's a tale about the strength of a bond between a mother and her child, how it didn't matter how bad things got for her because she could handle it as long as she had her daughter with her and knew she was safe.

This is a very interesting read and an emotional piece of modern fiction that gives the reader an insight into a life which they possibly have never had to experience. It leaves you hoping for more, hoping for better and really hoping that Janie Ryan does good with her life. Kerry Hudson has managed to make a potentially depressing subject into something laced with wit and occasionally humourous observations.

What makes this all the more interesting is that the 'About The Author' bit in the back of the book lets us know that Kerry Hudson is not writing this without any knowledge of her subject but has lived in council estates and B&Bs (and I really hope that's as far as her knowledge goes because some of it is heart wrenching) so you just know that she knows.

I recommend this book for anyone looking to pick up a new author (her twitter mentions she's working on a second book so she hopefully isn't a 'one-time appearance' sorta woman) as well as people who are interested in modern fiction that isn't just women sipping wine in their flats, deciding to take on the world and picking up a guy on the way - this is a far more interesting and thought provoking stance on the genre.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

50 Shades of grey by E. L. James **possible spoilers**

WARNING: Mature content will be mentioned & mature language in quotes used as this is a mature book.

There is a section in this book where the male character claims that he is 'Fifty shades of fucked up' and I'll be honest - that's an accurate description for this book and the entire premise behind it.

I thought it was worth me reading at least the first book in the trilogy so that I could form an honest opinion based on actual knowledge instead of listening to hearsay - In a way I'm glad I did that but I would've been happier avoiding it and the furore surrounding it and just carried on with reading Les Miserables.

This is definitely a 'Marmite' book - you'll either love it or hate it. I am now going to try to keep my anger to a minimum in order to not just sound like some harpy spewing hatred through this blog.

The story behind this (I know, there is a story folks, it's not just about BDSM and a virgin who can then have orgasms at the drop of a hat!) follows a completely innocent & naieve 21 year old Anastasia Steele who finds herself interviewing the suave, sophisticated, drop dead gorgeous, billionaire Christian Grey. There is chemistry between them and Mr Grey has taken a definite interest in Ana, showering her with expensive gifts and treating her to helicopter rides. This all culminates in him introducing her to the BDSM lifestyle in the hope that she will accept him and this lifestyle in order to stay with him. However, it must be noted, he doesn't 'do' relationships. It is an arrangement - contract drawn up and everything - that he'd like her to agree to.

What follows is Ana becoming emotional, confused, eager and curious as she debates with herself whether this is something that she really wants. She does work out halfway through that, whilst this may scare her, it will let her be with Mr Grey and that's all that matters to her.

Now, whilst the idea behind this book is a good one, I found there were a few too many instances that had me gritting my teeth and feeling like I was the only one who saw this as a bad way to start any relationship with another person (I'm not talking about relationship in it's romantic sense, I mean what exists between two people getting to know each other). I found the characters were too predictable and cliche. With Ana being your typical clueless main character who admires her best friend for being able to attract all the men but not being able to see that every guy she's come into contact with has fallen head over heels for her and Christian being the billionaire, untouchable, looks to die for guy who happens to have a dark past that's hidden from the world it just all seemed a bittoo predictable and unbelievable.

Throughout this book Ana believes that if she goes with what Christian wants (despite her trying to appear as an independent, strong young woman) then she'll be able to do what no other woman has yet managed and change the unfeeling Mr Grey. This is not a good idea for a woman to take away from this book (yes, it's fictional, but people do still look for lessons to take away) as if I had a man find out where I lived and worked after our first meeting, tracked my mobile phone after our second and then find out where my mother lived and 'conveniently' end up staying in a hotel where my mum and I were drinking - my thoughts would not be running along the lines of 'Oh how romantic'. I also would not be willing to overlook his actions and emotional/sexual manipulations just because he's more knowledgeable than I am - there should be something along the lines of common sense telling me to get out (oh wait, she did want a break from him to think about it but then he followed her).

In my mind there is nothing normal or healthy about what happens between these two in this book but it is made acceptable with the reasoning that Mr Grey was abused when he was younger so he can take it out on any woman who falls under his spell.

What the author initially had here was a good idea for a plot, unfortunately the lack of character building, some rose tinted glasses on certain actions and some rather immature writing let her down. It felt choppy and hard to get into - in fact the best written parts were, surprisingly, the erotic scene, although I have read many people's comments on how it was poorly portrayed and threw a dark light on the BDSM lifestyle and as I personally have no knowledge of this I will refrain from commenting.

All in all I did not enjoy this book at all (as those who have read my social networking posts can attest to) and will not be continuing on to the next book. However, if you are able to gloss over the poor writing and two-dimensional characters as well as passing off questionable actions on just a guy being in love then please, pick this book up. If you want a quick, steamy read and have read the blurb and what others have said and feel it's for you - pick it up. This is just my own personal take on the book and I did not care for it.