Monday 27 August 2012

The Resurrectionist by James Bradley

The Resurrectionist After killing my kindle I had to turn to my bookshelves for a read for my commute to work. I picked this book up at a swap event on World Book Night and have been meaning to read it for a while.

Gentleman's son Gabriel arrives in London in 1826 to study with one of the city's greatest anatomists. It is a time where the study of the human body is thriving, but to serve the demand for cadavers there is a seamier side to the city. Not only is Gabriel exposed to body snatchers, he also begins to associate with prostitutes and drug users. In time he is drawn to the underworld and discovers how easy it is to forget your morals. Transferring his allegiance to his tutor's rival signals the end of his life as a respectable young man.

I love historical fiction and this was an alluring prospect. This is essentially a book of three parts; the young man finding his feet in a new city, the descent into addiction and crime and what comes thereafter. The author offers up a dark view of the London of the time, with plenty of description to conjure up the feel of places Gabriel visits. Some of the descriptions of the work of the grave robbers and anatomists made me feel a bit queasy, being fairly blunt. However as evocative as the writing is, I began to find the narrative wordy and had to stop myself skimming the text on more than one occasion.

I found that the tale was very nuanced and a lot of information was left to inference and supposition. I don't mind an author leaving parts open to interpretation but it was too frequent in this book and I felt like I was doing all the work. I struggled to get through the second part in particular, despite it being to most shocking part of the tale, but felt the novel was redeemed by the final part. Possibly because the characters and their conduct remained fairly mysterious I didn't really care what happened to any of them, which was a shame because they should have been a rich cast.

Had it not been for the third part of the book I think I'd have given this book a lower rating than I have. However the ending rounded off the story in a way I appreciated and I preferred the slightly different feel to it. Overall it's not a book I'd recommend and I think I'd want to sample any other work by the author before buying another one of his books.

Format: Paperback
Publisher: Faber & Faber
My Rating: 2*

Saturday 25 August 2012

Advent - Angels of the Night by Wyatt Damon

Advent - Angels of the Night"After being called a freak for as long as he can remember, Angelo knows his 18th birthday will change his entire life. He comes from a family of demons and, on that day, he will become one of them. He is determined to do what is right, unlike his father, who murdered his mother.

But unlike his family, Angelo’s curiosity leads him to knowledge that puts his family and friends’ lives in danger. When mysterious murders occur in Graven, The Town of Angels, Angelo fears that an old enemy may be back to finish a job. 

He is faced with the ultimate decision: to stay on the Light side, and try, with all his might, to become an angel like his mother, or join Hell’s Army and bring the world to its knees" From

I don't often read books that feature demons, werewolves or any of their like, but the blurb for this book struck me as being as little bit different so I decided to give it a go.

The book starts with a fearful young boy being protected from harm by his devoted brothers. Having set the scene we then pick up the thread as Angelo approaches his 18th birthday. He is afraid of his upcoming transition to demon, and is scared that the circle of friends and the life he has found will fall apart. Brothers Leon and Eric are there to guide him but none of the three have a full idea of what they are about to face.

Told in the first person from Angelo's viewpoint we find a young man who really wants to be normal; hang with friends, find a girlfriend, avoid the school bully, but is facing a terrifying situation. We discover more about his situation as he slowly uncovers the truth about who and what he is. I liked Angelo and his love interest, and felt for him trying to overcome the conflict he's faced with but found some of the characters a bit like caricatures and wasn't as invested in any of them as I probably should have been to have made the most of this story.

As far as the plot went, the murders mentioned in the blurb didn't really feature until later in the book and their introduction into the plot felt a bit forced and the fact they had occurred was largely glossed over and neither here nor there really. I think they could have been left out and had no negative effect overall.

Some of the writing conveyed the tension and fear well but at times the action scenes felt a bit rushed and I found myself struggling to keep visualising what was happening. I also found some of it a bit predictable and when I got towards the end and realised the tale would only be concluded in a later book was a bit disappointed. I'm not sure I'm enthusiast enough about it to read any more but didn't really get a proper conclusion.

Maybe this was a step too far outside my comfort zone and other people might love this book, but for me it was just okay.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Rebel ePublishers
My Rating: 2*

Disaster Over!

If I've been a bit quiet lately it's mostly because I had a minor disaster the other night. I'd been sat on the sofa reading, put my kindle on the floor reading to pick up again, went to get a drink and when I came back and sat down managed to send the TV remote plummeting onto my kindle. In a bout of pointless optimism, despite the fact most of the page had frozen bar a small square in the corner edged with black and white stripes, I tried an overnight charge and a reset but to no avail. 

My kindle was well out of warranty and as it was purely my fault the call I put in to Amazon was more out of hope for some magic bullet to fix my poor kindle than in expectation of getting a new one. They weren't that kind but in their usual helpful manner they did offer me a 20-25% discount off of certain models. 

As it happens none of those was the 3G keyboard version which I wanted, and I had some gift vouchers for one of the UK retailers who stock kindles so this morning I have now been able to sort out my kindlelessness. I'm very happy to have a working one again; I have got the kindle app on my laptop but don't like reading on it, and I don't have such a massive stack of books to read on my shelves! Amazon also deserve another pat on the back for the help they gave me today with changing my kindle email address. On my old kindle I had an address that was just my name, the new one was followed by a random number. A quick click for a callback and about 3 minutes on the phone with a very friendly member of staff got that swapped round no problem.

I'm now in the process of moving all my books back into their collections (it's gonna take a while!) and I'm looking forward to getting back to the book I was reading when it died. I'm sure I was about to get to a pivotal bit! 

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Coming Soon: The Uninvited (Krewe of Hunters series) by Heather Graham

The UninvitedThis is Book 8 in the Krewe of Hunters series. I only read book 4 (The Evil Inside) in August last year, also as an advance review copy, so I had to go and double check I was right that this was the 8th. And it is, Heather Graham is a machine!

This book is set in a Philadelphia mansion that is a feature of the city's tourist trail. There are plenty of ghost stories attached to the house, and a number of curious deaths in recent decades, but head guide and academic Allison is sceptical. When she finds a colleague dead, having apparently impaled himself on his replica bayonet, she certainly doesn't believe ghosts were involved. When there is another mysterious death and a former visitor falls into a coma rumours are flying that ghost of Butcher Bedford is the culprit but Krewe member Tyler Montague is convinced otherwise. Both Allison and Tyler believe there is an earthly explanation, and the time they spend together begins to change Allison's view of the world of the paranormal, and her initial distaste for the Krewe's involvement evolves into an overwhelming attraction for Tyler. Allison and the team have to work together to get to the bottom of the strange events and prevent more untimely deaths.

Having read two of the books in the series it appears that the members of the Krewe who mainly feature change with each book, so not having read previous stories is no handicap. This book is narrated largely from Allison's point of view and this allows the reader to discover how the Krewe work through her eyes. The writing is fluid and makes for an easy read.

I liked the overarching story in this book and was wondering which of two prime suspects would turn out to be the real villain. The book serves up a good helping of the paranormal combined with a little bit of romance and that's obviously a successful formula for this author. However I definitely preferred The Evil Inside. While I learnt a little history that I didn't already know and enjoyed the descriptions of the mansion it wasn't as thrilling as I'd like and I never really felt any sense of peril threatening the lead protagonists.

This was a good read, and I can imagine reading further books in the series but they won't be heading my To Be Read list.

Format: Kindle, ARC, anticipated release 28th August 2012
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
My Rating: 3*

Friday 10 August 2012

The Wrong Stuff , K'Barthan Trilogy Part 2 by M. T. McGuire

The Wrong Stuff, K'Barthan Trilogy: Part 2Having already read the first book in the trilogy, Few are Chosen, I was interested to see what the Pan of Hamgee would be up to next. In this book he kicks off by rescuing the Chosen One, Ruth and whisking her away to safety. She's not particularly impressed though, especially when he then leaves her on top of a high rise building and within the grasp of Lord Vernon.  This book really progresses the story of the mysterious Candidate and their Chosen One, who will potentially save K'Barth from the governance of Lord Vernon. While looking for a safe refuge from Lord Vernon, and the Police who are keen to question them, they find help from the resistance but still have a lot of frustratingly unanswered questions. By the end the future of K'Barth hangs in the balance and the Pan still has more to go through before he has any chance of a happy ending.

While there is a lot of action and drama throughout the book, with car chases, plotting and murder, there is plenty of development of the characters. We aren't flooded with a large number of new characters, instead the author allows us to become better acquainted with those who were introduced in the first book. The Pan is as appealing as ever, so self-deprecating but well meaning. There is a definite Will they Won't they scenario with him and Ruth, with circumstances constantly getting in their way. Swamp Thing Big Merv was the revelation for me, going from the sort of gangland boss who dispatches victims to the bottom of deep rivers with concrete boots to secret softie. 

I'm not a big fantasy or sci-fi reader, partly because I find some authors' creations very off-putting, but the different species we are introduced to in the series are all very familiar but with a twist. It makes it easy to visualise the weird and wonderful characters we're introduced to. Swamp Thing Big Merv once disguised with a hat sounds not dissimilar to a member of the cast of TOWIE (ie he looks like he has a bad fake tan) and other than his flamboyant dress sense the Pan isn't immediately out of place on the streets of London. Another reason I've really enjoyed this series is because it is a bit tongue in cheek with plenty of puns thrown in. This is in the same vein as the likes of Grant Naylor's Red Dwarf series, and as that is one of my favourites it's probably no surprise this hits the mark with me. 

I found it interesting when I re-read my review of the first book that I mentioned I thought it was good for a YA audience but had enjoyed it myself, as this book didn't feel YA at all. Not because of any amount of bad language, sex or graphic violence, it just felt like a fantasy book with a comic bent. I'll be looking out for Book 3.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Thursday 2 August 2012

Dead Ringer by Allen Wyler

Dead RingerNeurosurgeon Dr Lucas McCrae is in Hong Kong to carry out what should be a routine medical demonstration. When he uncovers the cadaver head he is to perform the demonstration on he is shocked to discover it is his best friend Andy Baer. He convinces himself he must be wrong but a niggling concern grows out of control when he returns to Seattle to discover Andy is missing. Elsewhere Detective Sergeant Elliott is looking into the disappearance of a prostitute she has befriended while working undercover. The trail leads to DFH Inc, a funeral home that also provides body parts for medical research. When the pair's paths cross it seems clear there is a link between the missing people and that DFH's involvement is more than just a coincidence. Their problem is proving it, especially when there appears to be a leak in Wendy's department.

The author is a renowned neurosurgeon and his background is a clear benefit as this book is a grisly but worryingly plausible thriller. The reader is thrown into the story from the very start and I was compelled to read on to discover whether the duo would be able to link DFH to the disappearances or whether all the evidence would go up in smoke before they could find a way to prove their suspicions. 

While the main plot moves at quite a pace there is still time for the author to develop the main characters. We discover Lucas is trying to salvage a crumbling marriage and Wendy working with her ex-husband. As two intelligent attractive people thrown together in stark circumstances it's no surprise when the sparks start flying. This provides a welcome relief from the gruesome business at hand. The bad guy, DFH boss Bobby Ditto was seriously creepy, and almost convincing in his justifications for what his company is doing. The balance between moving the plot on and building characters with some depth has been well done. 

This is very much the sort of thriller I enjoy and although there is a lot to the story it is progressed in a nice linear fashion, it was not difficult to follow and for me it reached a satisfying conclusion. I think had it not been for a couple of parts which seemed to push the boundaries of what was likely this would have been a definite 5* book.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions
My rating: 4*

Dead Girl by Mark Boss

Dead GirlWhen I find an author I like I'm more than happy to read further books by them. Last year I read and reviewed Hired Guns by Mark Boss, and found it a refreshing action read. As such I was keen to take a look at this book. This is completely different to Hired Guns though and I have to admit that to start with I was going to just give up and stop reading because I didn't think it would be my thing. However I like to give a book a good chance, read on a bit further and found myself lured in! I don't like to put in spoilers but in this case it would be hard to write any sort of review and explain why I enjoyed it without revealing the premise so be warned before you read on.

Sixteen year old Dahlia is hospitalised after a football accident, then a subsequent scan shows she has an inoperable brain tumour. She lapses into a coma and finds her way to the Shadow Lands. This is a parallel universe where  the world she knows is crumbling. Her home town is inhabited by ferocious mutant animals and tribes of feral children. Somewhere is the monster she must find and slay (and quickly) in order to return to our world - her cancer monster. In her quest to get home she also meets Faders (ghostly individuals who have given up their fight but are yet to die) and another Relentless (a person who won't stop fighting their illness) who has been in town for some time.

Faced with strange mutant monsters chasing a girl through a grim and dank parallel world I did wonder what I was getting myself into until the main premise of the plot was revealed. I thought the idea of patients in a coma being present in an alternate reality where they have to literally battle their illness was a very clever one. While it's a pretty horrible thought, as one of the young characters points out, they'd rather be there and fighting than present in reality and suffering.

I liked Dahlia, who after overcoming her shock turns out to be a resourceful and mature 16 year old, and felt for her as she assumed responsibility for a group of young feral children despite it conflicting with her search for her monster. The other character who was less prominent but plays an important role, and who I hope will appear in future Shadow Lands books, was Fader Boy. There's a hint of potential romance and he shows that not all Faders are completely resigned to their fate, providing a little spark of hope.

The author paints a picture of a world that is all too familiar but where water permeates and ruins virtually everything that might be useful to those stuck in the Shadow Lands. I could really imagine the sort of bone aching chill from being constantly damp and cold, and think Mark did a really good job of creating the nightmare world Dahlia finds herself in.

There were a few minor typos and it's not a long book but generally I found this an absorbing read and I'm so relieved I didn't give up on it. It's such an interesting mix of horror and fantasy and I'd love to read more about the Shadow Lands. Although the main protagonist and a lot of the minor characters are young this has some rather grim moments so it's probably not suitable for younger readers, although I can imagine the appeal for perhaps mid teens upwards. 

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*