Thursday, October 31, 2013

Zombies VS Vegans

A Single Girl's Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseA Single Girl's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse by JT Clay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a crazy adventure story of a novel! For a zombie novel, this was very quirky and had some nicely original twists - a fresh bud in an oversaturated genre. The characterisation was great - Q being an awesome character, and her relationship with young Hannah was priceless. You've got to love the precocious a six year old!

Q has prepared all her life for the Zombie Apocalypse, but she never thought she would be away on a Vegan camping weekend when it struck. And she would never have been there at all, if it weren't for the super sexy hippy musician, Rabbit. Now she's out in the middle of nowhere, with a group of pacifists as the zombie hoards begin to close in.

It was so ridiculous and outrageous that it made for an awesome, super-quick read. There were times of sorrow, but times of laughter and times of wondering if anyone could possibly get out of it alive.

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Destiny, Dreams and the Desire for Popularity

The Dream KeeperThe Dream Keeper by Mikey Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting and imaginative novel that works on several different levels. Ultimately, it is an adventure novel - the forces of good against the forces of darkness as Parker and Kaelyn help Dream Keeper Gladamyr fight against the evil usurper of the Dream realms.

Underneath that, however, is a storyline that will strike a chord with many of the young readers - ages probably 11+ - and that is the desire to be popular: Parker doesn't want to be branded a "loser" so badly that he is prepared to lie to his friends over something of no more consequence than a computer game; for Kaelyn it's too late - the "Plastic" crowd have already branded her as such, all because of her aunt Zelda, a psychic. Self doubt and loathing plague her throughout the story, but are interspersed with some true acts of heroism that really make her shine.

Add into this: the magical setting of the Dream world; Gladamyr - a Dream Keeper whose mere existence proves that your birth does not shape your destiny; a villain set on destroying the human race; the trials and tribulations of trying to "keep cool in school" and you've got an enchanting story, a fast-paced, diverse and slightyl surreal adventure and an overall jolly fine read.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Adventures Await, in Alternate-Europe of 1888

The Forever EngineThe Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I highly enjoyed this novel, which felt like a combination of scientific romp and espionage adventure.

Jack Fargo is a modern-day ex-soldier, seeking the simple life of a scholar in an effort to overcome the trauma of the battlefield and the tragic death of his wife. Alas, it all changes for him when a fluke explosion of a new, experimental weapon, blows him back in time, to London, 1888. Fargo is quick to adapt and think on his feet, but all he really wants is to return to his own time and his daughter, Sarah. Alas, events conspire against him and he is flung on an adventure carrying him across Europe and into the mountains, seeking the only man that might be able to help him - but is more likely to bring further pain and heartbreak.

For a debut novel, this is a jolly fine read - Chadwick clearly knows his stuff (a fact confirmed by his past work with Traveller and Space 1889). The science might be slightly implausible, but Chadwick explains it convincingly well, and in the exact amount of depth that it needs to be explained. Never once, throughout this entire novel, did I feel my interest waning.

Not only does he have the plotting tight and coherent, but he also develops excellent characterisation. From the brave, quick-thinking protagonist/narrator; to the somewhat unlikeable, cowardly Gordon and the potential love interest, French woman Gabrielle, who has some interesting quirks and a secret of her own. Even the minor players are well thought out.

Overall, this is a really good book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope to see more of Fargo and this alternate-1888 in the future.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

You'll laugh, you'll cry... but you won't put it down!

StimStim by Kevin Berry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I highly enjoyed the story of Robert, a university student with Aspergers Syndrome. Robert's story is candidly told - his view of the world clearly described and just a little bit different. Some parts will have you gritting your teeth ("I can't believe he just said that!"), and others snorting with laughter. It is also deeply poignant, and very moving, especially as you watch Robert and Chloe's friendship grow, and also experience the understanding of their NS flatmate, Stef.

Berry has captured Robert's voice extremely well - with his precise, slightly formal way of speaking; his straightforward, honest-to-the-point-of-innappropriate; his little quirks - it is the sort of book that could only be written by someone with a deep insight into the aspie mind.

I would highly recommend this to everyone over the age of about 16/17 - NS or aspie: for the former it will offer a deeper insight, and for the latter, open the awareness that you are not alone.

I look forward to reading more in the future.

Thanks to Kevin for the almost-advance reading copy!

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Colourful Fun with a hint of Steampunk.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy (A Tale of Fontania #2)The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A colourful and fast-paced, action-packed and entertaining romp in the ever-so-slightly-magical-but-also-quite-scientifc world of Fontania.

Else has a real knack for creating quirky characters - in this case, Sibella the "little" Queen, who follows protagonist, Hodie when he runs away, and more-or-less, by accident or intent, ropes him in to helping her save her kingdom from the pompous emperor of Um'Binnia.

The plot bounces along, twisting and turning in topsy-turvy rhythms with some totally madcap moments and a hearty dose of humour. The description of the technology is nifty - it could be steampunk, but it has the playful colour and fun of rather crazy, over-the-top inventions, maybe what Dr Seuss would invent.

With giant toads, ogres, dragon-eagles and much more, this is one adventure that you will want to be whisked up and away on!

This is the second in her Fontania books - the first being the "Travelling Restaurant", but they are stand-alones and I have not read the previous one, although I feel now I should. Previously, the only Else novel I have read was her adult historic novel, "Wild Lattitudes", which was also populated with a cast of rather quirky characters and is definitely worth venturing into, although it does have a certain outrageousness not usually found in historic novels.

I do wonder, was there some deeper metaphor/meaning to the ugly squirrel? I suppose bad deeds will come back to bite you, yes?

Special thanks to NetGalley and Gecko Press for providing me with the review-copy ebook.

Speaking of Gecko Press - they are purveyors of quality literature for children and I have seen some beautiful books come out of their publishing house. If you want something slightly different, a bit - or a lot - special, then definitely look their way!

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

A fresh voice in fantasy fiction

History's Shadow I: Legends Born (Book One: Tahir Edition)History's Shadow I: Legends Born by K. Dzr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fantasy adventure of epic scale - whilst quite a long book (and thus good value for money) and whilst it does concentrate on Tahir's upbringing and training, it did not drag at all, and I found the antics of him and his childhood friends rather delightful (even the fights - such typical boys, despite their differences in appearance). I would have liked to see Roddy play a more important role, but that's just a small niggle.

With the uninhibited freshness of self-published fantasy, this was a charming tale, with an obvious level of thought and research put into the settings and with a colourful cast of intriguing characters.

An enjoyable world that I would be happy to venture into again.

Free ebook of this title was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Fowl Kind of War.

The Dirty BombersThe Dirty Bombers by Ed Taylor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a lover of Watership Down and a writer of animal protagnoist novels, I jumped at the chance to read this title. Gulls have always held character to me - garrulous, greedy and bold. I did enjoy this book. It moved along at a clipping pace, showed the situation from both viewpoints, allowing the reader to both sympathise with the gulls and the poor villagers being besieged by these fowl bombs.
Animal protagonist books can usually fall into two or three different categories - there are the allegory type ones, like Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and Animal Farm; the semi-realistic ones like Watership Down, the Kine Saga and the fantasy ones like Tailchaser's Song and Redwall. This falls into the second camp and does so in a manner that is more-or-less convincing - the gulls behave much as gulls are expected, with the addition of structure and military organisation.

I enjoyed it, the plotting is tight and the characters - both human and avian - entertaining. Whilst the gulls plans for non violent protest may seem sound to them, there is an ever increasing sense of dread as you realise that their "peaceful" actions are condemning them to the probability of a cull. The ending seemed rather sudden, but I am not sure more was required.

My main issue is that I am not sure how well considered the audience is for the writing. It is listed as a "teen" book and considered an analogy of the Palestinians and Israelis conflict. However, given the "dirty bombs" delivered by the gulls, I feel it would probably garner more interest to the younger readers - it would have made a pretty neat plot idea for the 7-10 age range. However, the writing style is entirely unsuited for this age group, with a few (rather tame) curse words, rather mature concepts and relatively complicated prose. I do not think that there are many teens who would be interested in reading a book where the main characters were gulls. However, I could be wrong - and I certainly have devoured animal novels my entire life. So, in summary, it's a decent and enjoyable read, but I am not sure of the intended market.

Interestingly enough, soon after I started reading this, a news article popped up in my Google Newsfeed about the scourge of black-backed gulls in one of our major cities - they are carting rubbish from the local tip and depositing it and their droppings on high end businesses in the seaside district. A cull of their numbers may be approved.

eARC received courtesy of Troubador and NetGalley.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

InterSpecies Communication

Mind BondMind Bond by Julie Haydon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something tremendously romantic about the thought of being able to psychically connect with a non-human animal and communicate via telepathy. So, the concept of being an Inter Species Telepath is awesome, and had me immediately hooked on this book. The main character, Christa, mentally connects with a wolf whilst on vacation in Sakima National Park. This is a fictional (I'm fairly certain) US park that appears to be based on Yellowstone. I do find it a little bit cliched that in all of these style of stories - whether they be shifters or psychics, the animals they connect with are always the most charismatic, the most romantic - in this case: wolf, eagle and cougar for the three main IST characters. All predators, all considered symbols of power, freedom and the wild. Of course, having someone who became telepathically bonded with a squirrel or a blue jay would probably hold rather less appeal for the reader.

The story is a richly crafted, complex affair - dealing not only with Christa's newfound bond; but also a brother, kidnapped as a child; friendship; her relationship with the distinctly unlikeable Tom; a brutal poacher who is killing and removing tails as trophies; some rednecks and a wide cast of other characters all creating a rich tapestry and entrapping the reader into the story. Haydon weaves her web well, her emotive and evocative language bring the scent of pine, the chill in the air, encompasing the power and grace and the divine wildness of the wilderness. Her passion is evident in her words, and cannot fail to touch those that read it.

This was a hard tale to let go - I am already craving a sequel!

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It's a Kind of Faerie

Damselfly (Damselfly, #1)Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am having mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is beautifully written with an interesting premise and a good general sense that thought has been put into creating the dystopian world of somewhere in the 2060s. On the other hand, the plot felt a bit weak at times, and certain events did not sit well with me. Why, for example, in a world where people are starving to death would lilliputan people - essentially faeries - be considered a sign of hope for the future? Unless they were being bred as spies, they would serve no other purpose except as scientific curiosities. Which is, indeed, what Lina is - a scientific curiosity.

Despite being sentient and intelligent, human in general form and figure, she is treated like a pet, a novelty, a being with no rights or will of her own. Lina, of course, rebels against this. She behaves at times courageous, rebellious and selfish - all typical of the teenaged girl she really is. The six Toms, from whom she is supposed to choose a mate, are an interesting cast of characters - well, at least two of them are, the others are treated as basically peripherals, with little more role than to make up numbers. I also wondered at times if the author had taken the diminutive stature of her main characters into consideration - what effect would the high altitude of sky-diving have on such a small body mass? (How high do songbirds fly?). Would the 6-foot wave they surfed upon not be a treacherous, unsurmountable mountain? Of course, with wings, there's always an escape route - but do wet wings work?

Overall, the storyline was interesting, the protagonists and her situations making for a compelling storyline and the concept was intriguing however, like many dystopia novels, it is another that does not stand up well against over-analysing and over-thinking the premise.

I could not help but feel that the story is not yet finished (a sense clarified by the "Damselfy #1" tag above), and that there will be other tales to tell. I do rather want to know what Blue's issues with Lina were, and would like to see more of Shrike. The ethical and moral aspects were intriguing too, and I would like to see them explored in more detail.

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