Archive for February, 2017

Angel Manor by Chantal Noordeloos

February 25, 2017 - 8:00 pm No Comments

Angel Manor by Chantal Noordeloos

Published by Horrific Tales Publishing on 12th November 2014

396 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

In honour of Women in Horror month this book was top of my list to read.

Freya has inherited Angel Manor from her “nutty” aunt, ignoring her mom’s wishes to sell it, she decides with her friends to turn it into a hotel. Strange things start as soon as they arrive, but with the nuns still haunting the building can they survive.

Freya was quite a weak needy character. Throughout this story, she never once stood on her own two feet. Whether at the start where she had Oliver and Bam to lean on, or further on with Logan or Marie-Claire, she always had someone there to watch her back. Although rather tiresome, it wasn’t a bad thing as it helped develop the other characters.  One of favourites was Terrance, a minor character but a bad lad trying to go good.

From the prologue to the final page there is enough gruesome action to keep the majority of horror fans happy whilst keeping with the traditional horror theme of the haunted house and the monster in the basement. Having evil nuns was a good idea as I always sense an air of sinisterism with them and feel that they have something to hide.

The suspense and terror builds up as the story progresses and just when you think the story has finished with the ending you expect; the author has one last surprise and another secret is revealed.

A fast-paced action filled book and another author I will follow

 

Ultraxenopia (Project W.A.R. Book 1) by MA Phipps

February 24, 2017 - 10:00 am No Comments

Ultraxenopia (Project W.A.R. Book 1) by MA Phipps

Published by Shire-Hill Publications on 5th January 2017

332 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

At the age of 21 Wynter has to sit an exam, an exam to decide her job and living status. However, when she suffers what she thinks is a panic attack, her whole life changes. When she sees flashes of her future self she knows she is in trouble. Taken by the State, questioned about PHOENIX (a terrorist organisation) she knows she has to find the man of her dreams.

Wynter was quite a shy young woman, not wanting to draw attention to herself, but the more she found out about her condition, and the danger she was in, did make her a stronger woman. She still has a sense of vulnerability about her but always knew when she had to man-up.

As this is set in a dystopian world then expect comparisons between other books in the genre, but this book is not a copycat. The original storyline of her being used as a guinea pig in the lab and what she is to become knocks the comparisons out the window. Written in the main character’s POV, this book grabbed me from page 1. With the suspense building through the story made it a book I did not want to put down. The story flowed smoothly and it had an evenly balance of action and sci-fi. The medical procedures were explained well and I never once was confused. There is a romance storyline, but this ran undercurrent to the main storyline

The ending of the book did not feel like a cliff-hanger but has left it open for the already published book 2.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author

Suspended: Vagabond Circus: Book 1 by Sarah Noffke

February 22, 2017 - 11:23 pm No Comments

Suspended: Vagabond Circus: Book 1 by Sarah Noffke

Published 15th January 2016

245 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

The Vagabond Circus is run by Dream Travellers, a band of magical people that want to give the audience back their belief in magic again. The circus is run by ex-psychologist, Dr Dave Raydon, who has his own mental health problems, overcomes them to put on the greatest show on earth. Using each Dream Traveller’s abilities Dr Raydon places them in their ideal role for the show.  After Finley joins the team, it starts a chain reaction which involves love, mystery and murder.

Although the circus is run by a big team of people, the author introduces us to just a handful.  Zuma, Jack, Jasmine and Finley are the acrobatics, the stars in the circus, working close together they each need to trust other, but with Finley keeping secrets trust is hard to give. Titus is the creative director, working closely with Dr Raydon, the circus is his life.  One of my favourite characters was Sunshine, an empath, who had an air of sadness around her, she was not afraid to speak her mind.

The more you read this story the more you know about the character’s lives except Finley, just like his character, his life story and mission is a mystery, it is not till the end of the book do we actually find out why he is at the circus. This kept the story interested as throughout the author teased us with why he was there. The connection with Zuma and Finley and their love/hate relationship kept you guessing whether or not they could pull of the show.

Whilst reading the scenes of the show it reminded me of the Cirque du Soleil as they also have a magical feel to them.

With book 2 and 3 out, I can continue following the adventures of Finley

Kinship: The Uncertain Life of a Vampire Hunter by Caroline A Gill

February 22, 2017 - 9:44 pm No Comments

Kinship: The Uncertain Life of a Vampire Hunter by Caroline A Gill

Published by St Helena Press on 26th October 2016

174 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

Valen is a vampire hunter, going from city to city, clearing the nests of vampires. As the battles with the vampires become more and more difficult, Valen knows that he is losing the war. With other hunters keeping secrets and a mysterious light source at one scene, Valen does not know who to trust, but when he came across an enigmatic woman playing darts, he knew that he had to put his faith in someone.

The way the author describes Valen, you can sense he is a man on a mission, but that it took its toll. He took every death and every failure to heart.

As this is a story about vampire hunters you can expect action from the moment you start reading. At the start of this book, I did feel sorry for Valen as he had no one to watch his back or to talk to when he was feeling really depressed.  However, after he joined up with a partner his whole demure changed and he did start to feel more confident with himself and his actions.

Running through the story is the mysterious light source and whilst some fact about it come out, I hope more is explained in book 2.

This book is different to others that I have read about vampire hunters as this shows the loneliness of a vampire hunter. A good read full of vampire kills

 

 

Empire Games by Charles Stross

February 22, 2017 - 6:28 pm No Comments

Empire Games by Charles Stross

Publisher: Tor on 17th January 2017

Page count: 324

Reviewer: Steve Cotterill

The first book in a new trilogy of the Merchant Princes novels, Empire Games is set seventeen years after the original books. It is very much a Charles Stross novel, ticking all the boxes that you would expect him to cover, and doing it extremely well. The series centres on the concept of world walking and is based in a (small) multiverse where the reader knows about four different time lines. These range from a divergent, and authoritarian United States, the Commonwealth a rebellious ‘steampunk’ style world which is rapidly modernising, and two timelines that are destroyed. One of these was nuked by the USA at the end of the first trilogy and we are told it ‘still glows’. The other is an object of curiousity which in this book Stross links to a group called the ‘forerunners’, a group of frighteningly powerful individuals who may be linked to the source of the world walking gene.

Empire Games introduces us to Rita Douglas, a latent world walker who is recruited by the Department of Homeland Security to be trained as a deep cover agent. The story follows her recruitment, via a mixture of skulduggery and ‘friendliness’, and training as an agent. As a result, while the world walkers from the first series do feature, their story is largely to do with the politics of their adopted homeland, the Commonwealth, as it approaches as crucial stage in its development. Stross carefully sets the stage for a coup by a proto Stalin. While the coup has not happened by the end of the first book, he is clearly laying tracks for the rest of the trilogy. These chapters allow us to catch up with what’s happened with some of the characters from the first trilogy, as Miriam and her relations attempt to ready the Commonwealth for a war with a terrifyingly powerful enemy and to deal with the United States. Miriam’s oft repeated mantra is ‘The Americans are coming’, and I would argue that this is the beat the novel marches to. The American are, after all, coming.

There’s a lot of tradecraft, training and internal politics within Rita’s plot line, too but they’re largely the internal machinations of the Department of Homeland Security. When she is activated as a spy, it’s because the USA has discovered the Commonwealth timeline, and a number of their drones have been shot down by nuclear weapons. As a result, she is sent in to look around and report back on what she finds. Stross handles this well, deftly giving the reader a sense of how strange it would be to step into a world many decades behind the one we know. His experience of writing weird espionage fiction shows through here.

Rita is a curious character, highly introverted and self contained, she is constantly assessing the situation, and while she is shown to be highly resourceful, it is clear that until the end of the novel she does not fully sign up to the ideals of the government she has been persuaded to work for. As a result it does take a little time to warm up to her, because its never clear how much you actually know her, and how much she is holding back. I found myself wondering if in some respects she had not actually told Stross as much as he would have liked, the same way that Shadow in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods was firm in keeping the author out.

One wrinkle Stross throws in is her Grandfather, Kurt Douglas, a defector from East Germany (back when there was an East Germany), who is pretty obviously a Stasi sleeper and has raised his family to know about basically spy stuff. He’s a curious character who acts as the wise, cynical, mentor. His influence over Rita is clear, to the extent that her geocaching hobby is clearly just a way to practice old fashioned spying, dead letter drops and dealing with discreet packages. Again, we are kept in the dark about Kurt’s true origins but he will doubtless form a significant part of the rest of the trilogy.

As a reader of Charlie’s blog it’s been interesting to watch the formulation of this book, and hard not to smile, and agree, when he has complained that events in the real world have screwed up his ‘grim, meathook future’. As a result the novel is darker than it was initially intended to be, the state in the USA is much more controlling and he makes it plain that there is a panopticon of surveillance in addition to increased levels of knowledge denial and racism (weirdly LGBTQ issues do not seem to be a huge deal and when Rita gets a girlfriend nothing is said). The novel is very much of the now, it addresses the trajectory our society seems to be heading down, and as such it is what I would label ‘good science fiction’. If you enjoy multiple timelines, espionage and real politic this comes highly recommended, and as it is not really necessary to read the first trilogy to understand what’s going on (though I would recommend you read them anyway), it is a good jumping on point for new fans.