Archive for July, 2017

Blackwing: The Raven’s Mark 1 Ed McDonald

July 30, 2017 - 6:38 pm No Comments

Blackwing
Author: Ed McDonald
Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 435pp
Release Date: 27th July 2017
Online: @EdMcDonaldTFK, @Gollancz, @StevieFinegan, #Blackwing

Captain Ryhalt Galharrow has brought a crew of mercenaries/soldiers into the ‘Misery’ where sympathisers have fled. And it’s his job to get them back. On his arm, he has a tattoo of a raven, which materialises in an incredibly painful way into real life and allows him to talk to Crowfoot; one of the Nameless and his boss of sorts. Stuck in the Misery, Crowfoot suddenly Orders the Captain and his crew to head for Station Twelve to find a woman.
There are plenty of twists and turns on our journey and it is a blend of Grimdark fantasy, magic and a kind of post apocalyptic setting.
“Everything in the Misery is broken. Everything is wrong”.
Ah, the Misery. Difficult to explain without too many spoilers but I’ll give it my best shot.
If you’re into genre TV, for me it felt like a mix between the underside in Stranger Things with a blend of Purgatory from S7/8 of Supernatural.
It’s a dark, unforgiving place that feels ‘other’. And the creatures tha live there are deadly, weird as hell and dangerous.
Captain Galharrow, the narrator, has that rugged, worn, anti-hero vibe going on, tarnished by life. A perfect example is how he describes his band of followers;
“How I’d managed to pick up such worthless gutter rats I couldn’t recall. Out of brandy, twenty miles into the Misery and a troop of vermin at my heels.” Brilliant tone of voice full of sarcasm and nonchalance with a good dose of pessimism here.
One of my favourite of the Gang is Nenn; a female cutthroat with her nose torn off, a wooden one in its place. She chews black sap, swears, fights and is the right hand woman for the captain. I love the fact that McDonald points out quite early, she is not ‘with’ Galharrow in a romantic or sexual sense. In fact, he uses humour to effect as Galharrow tells the reader he’s not exactly handsome, his jaw had “certainly taken enough of a pounding” and though Nenn claims to get a ‘hellcat in the sack’ their relationship remains platonic. We have a strong, unique female character who is judged by her skills and qualities not her skill in the bedroom. Fabulous.
The banter and ribaldry between the crew is really entertaining and humorous, the dialogue sharp and witty. There is a penetrating darkness to the environment and the action that happens in the book, making this a gritty and sometimes cruel read. There’s plenty of bloodshed and a fair old body count to be had here! This is not for the faint hearted.

Just an additional note yo add is it’s a beautiful looking book to hold in your hands, the paper edges dyed black and a gloriously grim and mysterious cover.
A brilliant gripping debut that I suspect will garner awards in 2018.

Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders

July 29, 2017 - 3:07 pm No Comments

Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders by Clive Barker , Neil Gaiman , Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Brian Kirk, Stephanie M. Wytovich, John Langan, Brian Hodge, Richard Thomas and Lucy A. Snyder

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing 28th June 2017

288 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

One thing that Crystal Lake Publishing can do well is put together some amazing anthologies and this is another example of their work. This anthology has a mixture of stories and poems that will play with your imagination. Old photos, ash monsters, gnomes and even the Holy Grail all play their part in the stories. For this review; I will pick a few that I enjoyed.

The Baker of Millepoix by Hal Bodner: To get over the death of his husband, Henri decides to move to Millepoix. To help occupy his mind Henri became the local baker, but after a freak accident, his pastries did more than stop the hunger. At the start, you could sense Henri’s grief and even with his new venture you knew that he still had not moved on. Whilst he tried to fit in, it was not until the freak accident that he felt wanted and this story showed just how compassionate he was. Whilst there is a supernatural feel to this story, this was a story about grief and acceptance.

Madame Painte: For Sale by John Langan: A gnome is for sale and with it comes a warning Must keep outside. The story told by the shopkeeper was very similar to the instructions given to keep a gremlin, although the consequences were deadlier. A creepy story that ended all too soon.

Chivalry by Neil Gaiman: When Mrs Whitaker finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop, she does expect the visitor that arrives soon afterwards.  If you like rummaging in junk shops this is everyone’s dream and to have the mysterious visitor is most women’s dream. Mrs Whitaker was a lovely OAP who was happy with what she got. I loved the way she looked forward to the visitor and even the simple things like making him a sandwich gave her pleasure, although I did laugh when she used him to move all the heavy furniture on one of his visits and the ending how could she be so lucky.

The Wakeful by Kristi DeMeester: The story is about the relationship between Charlotte and her pupil Edith. This story had an eerie feel to it mainly due to the descriptive way author described what was happening to Charlotte. Whilst you do not know what Edith is or the power she has over Charlotte, you can let your imagination run loose.

This anthology is a good example of the weird and the wonderful. This will also suit readers that are not horror lovers as there is such a mixture. It’s a book that you can curl up with and forget the world. Whilst I am not a poetry lover the 2 poems in this book fitted in perfectly. Thank you Crystal Lake you have not let me down.

Dalysian Hope by Jamie Summer

July 28, 2017 - 9:27 pm No Comments

Dalysian Hope by Jamie Summer

Published 20th March 2016

421 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

What would you do if you started hearing strange noises and get awaken by mysteries creatures trying to kill. This is the dilemma that Sophia Evans has, all she has been told was to follow her instincts and she will know who to trust. Fleeing for her life she is drawn in to a magical world that will see her fight for her life and is she the one to save a race.

As a 17 year old, Sophia was very independent and I think that was due to the fact that she had lived by herself for quite a few years. When she met Ren and Ash she was like every hormonal teenager and I was shocked that she did not scream when they appeared in her bedroom. As her powers were revealed she handled it very well, as  the stronger she got and as more of her purpose was revealed, she was even more determined to do her best. The two men in her life were completely different. Ren was all serious and had a sadistic feel to him whilst Ash was all flirty and fun loving, Despite their differences, when Sophia was in danger they both were there to protect her.

I loved that no-one would give Sophia the complete story, only snippets of what she need to know and as a teenager you could feel Sophia’s frustration, from a reader’s perspective this added mystery to the story as I was always second guessing the author and did not know what to expect. The story flowed easily and the suspension was building to the final scene. With more of her history explained at the end it leads nicely into book 2. This is perfect for young teenager and adults alike. A good start to a fantasy series with a difference

The Spawn of Lilith – Dana Fredsti

July 26, 2017 - 8:56 pm No Comments

The Spawn of Lilith
Author: Dana Fredsti
Publisher: Titan Books
Page count: 400pp
Release date: 20th June 2017
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

 

Lee Striga is a stunt woman at the top of her game, working with the legendary Katz crew; the equivalent of stunt person royalty. Her crew is going great until someone places her landing air bag in slightly the wrong position, during a routine high fall.
Lee does the drop, and wakes up in hospital with recent memories eradicated and her body in pretty bad shape. But as she heals, she longs to get back into the business; a business where shifters, fae, goblin and all sorts of supernatural creatures work in Hollywood.
On the road to recovery, Lee gets the chance to work on a film with a semi-decent budget as a stunt worker for annoying pain in-the arse actress Portia. But of course, things dont go quite as smoothly as they should, and pretty soon, people on the set are dropping dead, torn to pieces by god-knows-what sort of being.
Fredsti nails the cheap ‘bad’ film experience complete with ‘script’ excerpts with predictably villainous dialogue from – well – the villain. Think Ming the Merciless on a budget. As for attitude towards females in the industry, never mind the so-called ‘concubines’ in the film Lee is working on, she sees herself as curvy, which is fine but she’s regarded as too big to be a leading actress at a size 8, bearing in mind that’s USA ‘8’ which equates to a ‘6’ in the U.K. The sad thing is that Lee’s observations on the industry are based on Fredsti’s many years as an actual stunt woman. As Lee puts it, when being fit for a costume, “eight wasn’t exactly the gargantuan size she was implying.”
There’s a refreshing honesty here.
Axel the horny demon (literally) makes for great comic relief, but also, unfortunately, an indication of how some men in the industry treat women. Thankfully, all of the men aren’t shallow has-beens; Ben being an example of a solid actor and downright nice guy.
On a set later in the book, past the halfway mark, there’s some great banter between Lee and the producer Dobell about low budget SF/horror movies and being a lover of those films, I instantly recognised the kind of films and could guess the studio she is on about when gems such as “Crocksnake” and “Arachnogator” are mentioned – you might say, the well known low budget studio is kind of a “refuge” for B-Movie actors. There are so many pop culture references and ‘in jokes’ about LA and the movies but the kind a reader will easily get, because they are based around some accepted stereotypes. Which, by the way is when this book gets scary, because Fredsti actually worked in the industry meaning a lot of the arseholes she’s talking about? Yeah, they’re probably real. Sheesh.
As for Lee’s ‘voice’ – well – it hits 10 on the sarcasm Richter scale and I literally snorted my coffee out a couple of times through laughter. You’ll see what I mean when she describes actress ‘Portia’.
In a world where parking meter gods get bribed with Hershey Kisses, burly red-headed bar tenders hide secrets and creatures hide in the dark, Fredsti offers a brand new take on the Urban Fantasy genre.
I adored this book; the humour, the mayhem, the characters and the underpinning mystery.
This is a million shades of movie madness awesome. 5/5

The Anatomy of Monsters: VOL 1 by Lisa Vasquez, Ramsey Campbell, Gary McMahon, Nicholas Vince, Brian Hodge, Carl Jennings, Donelle Pardee Whiting, Josh Malerman, Steven Chapman, Greg Chapman, Robert Teun

July 25, 2017 - 10:35 pm No Comments

The Anatomy of Monsters: VOL 1 by Lisa Vasquez, Ramsey Campbell, Gary McMahon, Nicholas Vince, Brian Hodge, Carl Jennings, Donelle Pardee Whiting, Josh Malerman, Steven Chapman, Greg Chapman, Robert Teun

Published by Stitched Smile Publications on 7th July 2017

334 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

Monsters have always played a big role in storytelling. This anthology has 19 stories some monsters you will recognise straight away. Every story is different and for this review I am going to list my favourites.

I Know I Promised You a Story by Gary McMahon: When an editor receives a biographical story from an author, he learns more about the author than he wants to. At the start of the story you can imagine the editor just sitting thinking he is reading a work of fiction involving the imagination of a young boy, but as the story progress you realise that this is more serious and that lives could be in danger.

Family Tree by Nicholas Vince: When Bryan receives an email from his twin brother Adrian, who he had not seen for over 20 years, what starts out as a family union soon results in a secret that will affect him and his family. Whilst I had an idea what the secret was I could not imagine how Bryan felt when Adrian asked for the favour and the twist at the end with the locket.

Whitechapel by Alisha Jordan: Whilst an old lady is dying she reminisces about her past. We all know what happen in Whitechapel but with a feminine twist and the reasons behind the murders makes this more believable than all the speculation at the time.

Le Mort Vivant by Steven Chapman: A story about a young boy, who believed he was a monster due to his mother. Whilst reading this story I was actually thinking of another monster and it was not till the end that I realised who this story was about. The story was more heart breaking and it shows that monsters are usually created by the intervention of others. As a mom, I could not think of doing this my children and putting them through this trauma.

Nightswimming by Laura Mauro: When a survivor of Katrina, is a victim of domestic violence, she gets her revenge in a unique way. Thanks to Disney this creature has been tamed but this author takes it back to its true form, a scary eerie creature.

To Walk in Midnight’s Realm by Simon Bestwick: Written as a letter, this story explains what happened to John leading up to his death and the task he wants Matt to do. Reading this story, it feels like you are with John on his journey, when he meets the creatures the graphic way his friends died added intensity to the story as you could sense what danger John was in. However, this story was more than a horror story this was a story about love and regret.

With each story, I was trying to guess who the monster was and whilst some are identifiable a lot came from the authors imagination. Set over different time frames, each story took you are a different journey. Whatever type of monster you like I am sure that you will find a story or 2 to enjoy. With some great authors, this book is a must read for horror lovers and whilst I don’t judge a book by its cover, the art work by Greg Chapman is gorgeous