Yellow Tape and Coffee by Pat Luther Review

A superb debut novel

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Let’s kick off with a warning before I start this review. Pat Luther’s Yellow Tape and Coffee is a big book, and I mean a really big book. The print version is 706 pages long, that’s not an easy undertaking for anybody, let alone the casual reader. I think that might put some people off and that’s a huge shame because this is a very good book.

Yellow Tape and Coffee follows a number of different but interwined stories, stories that bring to life four different people from various backgrounds all with their own agendas and ideals.

For four hundred years a secret society of werewolves has remained hidden in Portland, Oregon. Some people want nothing more than to reveal this society, while others will do anything to maintain the status quo. Intriguing right?

For the most part the book is chocked full of action and great character development. There are moments of dullness I have to say but that has to be expected in a book of such epic scale and vision.

The biggest difficulty for me in reading Yellow Tape and Coffee was getting over my initial prejudice about one of its main selling points, werewolves are just not my thing. I think they’re boring, tedious and over done.

I’m thankful to say though that I was wrong. Pat Luther has managed to breathe new life into this over-milked cow.

I have to give special mention to Luther’s writing talents. His work is filled to the brim with wonderful imagery and description while managing to remain concise and flowing. The novel is also well edited, for being 706 pages long there’s little to nothing I would be happy putting in the bin. Some of the dialogue felt a little over bloated sure but for the most I’d personally want nothing to change.

As for the multiple view points this is not really my cup of tea, I like a concise story where I can really get to know one character really well. At points I did dislike the jumping from one person to another but once I’d gotten used to it it was no problem at all. In fact I learnt to findthe mix of characters enthralling, each one was as vivid and intriguing as the last.

The female lead Veer needs special mention however, she is sharp, intelligent and a fierce investing reporter who is uniquely well written. A true example of female protagonist writing done well.

Overall Yellow Tape and Coffee is more than a solid debut, it’s a magnificent one and Pat Luther is certainly one to check out and keep an eye on. He has managed to balance suspense, humour, a little bit of terror and drama in a delightfully composed cocktail of literature.

I would love a sequel to this novel but whatever he writes next will certainly be on my list.

Highly recommended.

Rating…

Rating: 9 out of 10.

You can get a copy for yourself from Amazon.

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay Review

The third book in the Dexter series misses the mark

cover of Dexter in the Dark

I have already reviewed the first and second books in the Dexter series so check them out first.

Miami’s part angel part demon sociopath Dexter Morgan battles an evil more powerful than he can imagine in his third outing.

Miami homicide is flummoxed by the ritualistic murders of two young women. Their bodies have been decapitated, burnt, and neatly laid out with their heads being replaced with ceramic bulls’ heads.

Sgt. Deborah Morgan, Dexter’s sister, follows the forensic evidence and arrests professor Jerry Halpern. Yet while the professor languishes in jail the murders continue.

This case clearly calls for the specialised talents of my favourite forensic technician who moonlight in his own time as judge jury and executioner of Miami’s underworld.

Unlike his first two outings however Dexter is on the back foot. This time around the familiar dark spirit that spurs Dexter on in his bloody deeds has left, leaving Dexter all alone.

Dexter’s evil spirit has been driven from his body by other spirits, a scary feeling I’m sure. And of course it couldn’t have come at a worst time for Dexter who’d just begun to bond with his fiancé’s children, Aston and Cody, who seem to have the makings of apprentice serial killers themselves.

This struggle between Dexter and his new demons is a little dull and predictable, certainly in comparison to the first two books.

That beautifully sharp wit of Dexter is still very much present but having to face a future without his dark companion means that the third book is filled with introspection and contemplation, it’s not bad but it’s not great either.

Rating…

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Dearly Devoted Dexter Review

You can find my review of the first book in the series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter here.

This second instalment in Jeff Lindsay’s hugely popular Dexter series see’s our horrible yet loveable serial killer become a family man, while still trying desperately to bring his own brand of justice to two mysterious murders.

Dearly Devoted Dexter see’s my favourite murderous blood spatter analyst search for Reiker, an accomplice of a paedophile Dexter’s already had his wicked way with. Not only only that, he must work with his detective sister Deb and federal agent Kyle Chutsky to investigate and find a torturer with ties to El Salvador. All while under the watchful gaze of Sergeant Doakes, a colleague who senses the darkness within Dexter.

Dexter is a wonderfully self aware character who examines his own lack of humanity with the reader with some very funny dark humour, he’s quite charming if truth be told, if you ignore the frequent murdering anyway.

And that’s the biggest selling point for this novel, the likeability of Dexter and his wise cracking narration is easily the best part, at least for me, if you don’t like that kind of thing I’d steer clear of this series.

Dexter likes to tell you he’s a monster, that his dark passenger is really his only personality trait, yet Lindsay writes him with a little more depth and complexity than that. This is shown most evidently in his bond with his sister and step children Astor and Cody.

Lindsay’s reliance on Dexter is however a weakness too. Because his primary protagonist is so compelling he becomes lazy when it comes to the plot. The story here is surface level at best, it’s not overly compelling and is certainly thin at points with Dexter’s snarky narration lending it the thin veneer of competency.

Overall this is a nice fun murderous tale, if you enjoy blood soaked pages interlaced with dark humour then you’ll be pleased here. It’s nothing ground-breaking but it’s still a nice twist on the usual serial killer novels you’ll read.

Rating:

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

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1984 by George Orwell Review

This masterpiece is more relevant today then ever before

When I first read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (hence-forth referred to as 1984) I was in school, and it didn’t really hit me as anything brilliant. I found it a little dull and dreary, and the undertones didn’t mean much to me.

Now though Orwell’s dystopian vision of our future really hits home, and it scarily feels a little familiar. We live in a world where Big Brother exists and is always listening and watching, shout out to the NSA, MI6 and the CIA, also let’s not forget to say hi to your Alexa.

Orwell gave us a dark world of never ending wars, where xenophobia is the main weapon of the government, a world where refugees being shot at sea is used for movie inspirations and is cheered in cinemas across the nation. A world where the truth doesn’t truly exist, it is not “something objective, external, existing in its own right” — but instead it’s, “whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.”

Our books hero though see’s it all a little bit differently than he should. Early on Winston Smith promises to reject the party line and instead promises to defend “the obvious” and “the true”. As he tells himself “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” even though his party will insist that “two and two make five”.

Within this novel Orwell gives us a dark dystopia called Oceania, a place where the government controls everything, even its own reality. Propaganda is ever present within people lives, where ridiculous tabloids and sex-filled movies are made to control them and keep their interests away from politics and history.

Books and news articles are regularly and routinely rewritten so that the past becomes a blurry mess where the truth is hidden and twisted into the parties version of reality.

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Unsurprisingly 1984 hits harder in this modern world of fake news and ‘post-truths’, a world where nationalism is on the rise and where ‘alternative facts’ are just as relevant to people than the objective truth.

This is a world not unlike Orwell’s hellish vision of 1984.

Perhaps we should all take after Winston a little more, take a look around ourselves and rebel a bit.

It is scary to see how easily our world could fall under the control of a twisted and cruel overlord, where the truth is not what we see but what we are told. A world where an ever present and omnipotent power can see and control our every waking thought and movement. A world where our very lives are in their hands.

That I think is the most frightening but power notion that Orwell presented to us in 1984. He gave a stark warning for the entirety of the human race, a warning to resist mass control and oppression, and not blindly allow it to take control.

Rating:

Rating: 10 out of 10.

What do you think of our review? Let us know by voting below…

Lord of the Flies by William Golding Review

Lord of the Flies cover

During the silent but terrifying Cold War William Golding produced his masterpiece, Lord of the Flies. Not only is it a gripping tale about a group of schoolboys forced to survive on a deserted island after a plane crash, it is also a brilliant allegorical tale about the conflicts between civilization and primal savagery.

This simple and easy to understand symbolism has made Lord of the Flies on of the most popular and beloved books in the world. It is a memorable and chilling tale with characters portrayed with nuance and subtlety.

The novel focuses on a series of events that occur after a plane crash leaves a group of young schoolboys stuck on a deserted island at the height of a nuclear armageddon. It is at its heart a story of those boys shocking survival.

At the beginning the boys feel like their dreams have miraculously come true. They find themselves master of their own domain, without an annoying adult to be found. However, it doesn’t take long for them to realise they need a leader, someone to follow. The books main protagonist, a boy named Ralph, is quickly chosen to lead the group, thanks mostly in part to his popularity.

It isn’t long though before dissent begins to ferment. What appeared to be a dream situation at first quickly unravels and sinister moments quickly sprout up throughout the story.

The Lord of the Flies is a thought provoking and action-packed story of surviving against all the odds, but it’s also deeper than that.

William Golding uses his novel to explore three important aspects of human society. Human’s gravitate naturally towards social and political order, we want and need legislation and governments to have order in our society, hence the boys use of the conch and platform.

Secondly human’s are naturally inclined to being violent and savage if given the chance. This leads to a natural need for a military for defence, as shown by the boys who become hunters and then murderers.

Finally Lord of the Flies shows us that human society is naturally tuned to believe in divine interventions and supernatural beings, as shown in the sacrifices and dances the boys use to appease what they call the “beast”.

If you have never had the chance to read Lord of the Flies before now I heartily recommend you rectify that immediately.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett Review

I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan, his Discworld collection is a majestic vision of a humorous, dangerous and quite absurd universe within which anything is possible. That being said some of those stories are better than others.

His first two books in the series, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, for instance are not exactly his best. They are certainly quite funny and take a parodic shots at many fantasy tropes, but because of that they don’t really have their own voice. Those two novels feel disjointed, like a bunch of jokes held together with the flimsiest bit of plot tape.

His third novel though, Equal Rites is definetly where Pratchett finds his own voice, now he has a real plot and some actual storytelling behind the wonderfully crafted jokes.

At its core Equal Rites is a tale about equality and the injustices of the Discworld, and it does a great job of exploring these themes while maintaining a witty tone. While I greatly enjoyed the first two books in the series it was really Equal Rites that first got me hooked onto Terry Pratchett.

This is a fun, humerous, and well crafted story about a young girl names Esk and her experiences of growing up in the world of magic. As the third in the series Pratchett doesn’t bother diving too much into the Discworld mythology, this allows him to progress the story much more easily, yet sadly this will leave big points of confusion for readers who may start their journey here.

The story is simple, there’s nothing ground-breaking here at all, yet it is well executed and the main character is remarkably charming, making for an all around fantastic read.

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One criticism I would have though is the finale, the grand spectacular ending we were promised page after page is none existent, the great battle between witches and wizards is highjacked and ignored, possibly so as not to fundamentally change the social status of the Discworld, yet it feels like a copout all the same, and makes the entire journey seem almost pointless.

The biggest strength of Equal Rites is the wonderful character development we get to experience. Unlike the first two stories the character here feel more fleshed out, more real rather than simple one dimensional parodies of other, bigger, fantasy characters. These beings are charming, witty, likeable, but also hugely flawed, and it is their moments of self actualisation that are the most interesting to me. Throughout the novel these characters grow, change, evolve, they become better, or indeed worse, than they were when we first met them.

Characters are a huge part of Pratchett’s writing so it’s great to see that even early on in his career he was so adept at this skill.

Of course with Equal Rites being so early in his Discworld career there are some low points. He spends too long trying to explain Discworld’s magic and how it works, this is tedious and unnecessary and upsets the otherwise excellent flow of the novel.

The best thing about Equal Rites though is its ability to resonate with people, whether or not they are a fan of fantasy novels there is something to love about this book. The story of a young girl asking why women can’t be wizards transcends the genre, and while it’s not a masterpiece it is a strong and easy to read novel that explores those real world topics in a unique and brilliantly funny way.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope Review

Who’d have thought that Star Wars and Shakespeare go hand to hand perfectly?

Well it turns out that author Ian Doescher did and he hits it out the park with ‘Verily, A New Hope’ the first entry in his Star Wars/Shakespeare saga.

As it turns out, the story of Star Wars, with all of its drama, tragedy, romance, humour, and amazing characters fits brilliantly into Shakespeare literary world.

As a big Star Wars fan, and somewhat of a Shakespeare admirer I jumped at the chance to check this book out, and boy am I glad I did.

I love A New Hope, I know the story inside and out, but this was like experiencing it all over again for the first time. As soon as I opened the book and read a Shakespearian version of the famous opening scroll I knew I was in for one hell of an enjoyable experience.

For the most part the script here follows the events of A New Hope beat for beat. Every now and then though the author is able to take advantage of creative license and grants a character an aside or a soliloquy to convey their feelings to the audience, it’s very Shakespearian, and it’s very fun.

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What is strange reading this book though is seeing how the art of storytelling has evolved over time.

Today writers are told to show don’t tell, they have to show a characters thoughts and motivations, simply telling the reader about them is too easy, too simple for a modern audience. Yet Shakespeare is filled with character soliloquies where we are told in no uncertain terms about their emotions, thoughts, and desires.

Even though the story being told here is only 40ish years old it felt like reading something from hundreds of years ago, it felt utterly foreign.

I loved it though, no matter how strange it felt to read. Where it would really shine though is on the stage, as all of the great Bard’s works do. This is made for the theatre and boy would that be a treat.

11.22.63 by Stephen King Review

If you could go back in time and change the course of human history would you do it? Even if it meant sacrificing so much of your own life in the process?

Well that’s the premise of Stephen Kings 54th fiction book, 11.22.63.

King gives us a new protagonist in the form of Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls Maine, because of course he is. It doesn’t take long for King to uproot our heroes life and sent him hurting back through time to the world of 1958 small town America.

Gone are the cell phones and tablet computers, now Jake finds himself in a world filled with Elvis, Plymouth cars, a beautiful librarian called Sadie Dunhill, and of course a troubled loner called Lee Harvey Oswald, a man who slowly comes to dominate Jake’s life.

11.22.63 is Stephen King at something resembling his best. His prowess with weaving together political, social and popular culture into this version of baby-boom America is exquisite. The suspense is palpable across most of its many pages, not to mention its many trips through time.

King is best known for his out and out horror novels, and while this certainly isn’t a horror book it does have enough existential and psychological dread to keep the heart pounding and the mind racing.

The complexities and ethical dilemmas of time travel are well explored in 11.22.63, what will altering the past do to the future? What will it mean for Jake personally? Will he really be creating a better world or is that some naïve hope he must cling to to see his mission fulfilled?

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You see no matter how long Jake spends in the past when he returns to his own time only two minutes will have elapsed, this allows him the chance to go back in time over and over again to the same point and keep trying to change the past and the future. If something doesn’t work out to his liking, and quite often it doesn’t, he can try again, but something, perhaps the past itself, really doesn’t like being changed. The closer Jake gets to his goal the more something out their in the universe wants him to fail.

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While this was a good read, with many interesting questions to ponder, it does get bogged down a little during the middle section. Across many of the middle chapters the suspense and tension we had come to love waned slightly, never disappearing but certainly lessening its grip upon you. During this part King focuses on the romance between Jake and Sadie, which while interesting was certainly a good deal longer than it needed to be, about two hundred pages longer if I’m honest.

Once we get into the final third of the book though the action picks up once again and King does a good job at answering most of the questions he posed at the beginning. It’s a mostly satisfying conclusion which wasn’t quite worth the lengthy wait but rounded out the story nicely enough.

All in all this was a good read that I’d recommend for fans of King or time travel stories in general. Just be warned it is a long slog and the ending isn’t quite worth the time invested. King is great at creating his characters, and Jake is no exception, he’s a down on his luck teacher striving to find purpose in the mess that his life has become, he’s no larger than life hero, he’s simply a man doing what he believes is right. But not amount of interesting characters will improve the poor pacing on offer here.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

11.22.63 is available from Amazon.

Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmbury Review

Spellbreaker is the first book book in a brand new two book series written by bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg. This series will be set in an alternate Victorian-era England where magic is common, and where those who can wield it are the powerful and wealthy elite.

The books heroine, Elsie Camden, is a lowly orphan who also happens to be an unregistered spellbreaker and member of the clandestine group, The Cowls, who undertake missions to protect the common people from the abuse of the magical elite.

During one of these, for lack of a better word, goodwill assignments, her spellbreaking abilities are discovered by another wizard, Bacchus Kelsey, and she must make a deal with him if she wants to escape prison.

As Elsie struggles under her various allegiances she becomes enraged and her true loyalties are tested like never before.

This is not your typical fantasy novel. It takes place in a small area of the overarching world and has a small cast of characters. This is a book about relationships more than anything else. There’s no high stakes end of the world stuff here, this is good old fashioned character development at the front and centre.

There’s not much to be found here though for fantasy readers who love a darker and gritter look at the magical worlds. There’s little challenging or unpredictable here, its quite simple and straightforward if truth be told.

Yet there are likeable characters that are well written and fleshed out to the point that I can recall their mannerisms and quirks long after I finished reading.

Elsie for instance is a charming and loveable heroine who takes on the Robin Hood mantle for this novel. She strikes back at the haughty elite in defence of the downtrodden.

She is overly naïve at points, and we as a reader are way ahead her for most of the story, which is frustrating to read, and we spend more time shouting at her to hurry up to her inevitable realisation, than we do enjoying the story.

The plot is convenient and simple, it never surprises or astounds you. Elsie is a simple but charming character who never does anything out of the ordinary, she is also predictable and boring. She is however, loveable, and willing to sacrifice everything for those around her, making her one of the most likeable protagonists I’ve met for a while.

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But Elsie is not the only protagonist of this novel. Bacchus is a secondary hero who has his own point-of-view chapters. These chapters are great at launching his character and fleshing out his desires and objectives.

Bacchus is a wizard on the verge of attaining his mastery but he has sympathise for Elsie and her motives thanks to his own backstories. Bacchus struggles to fit into the English magical elite thanks to his lowdown status, giving him an innate connection with Elsie.

The romance between Elsie and Bacchus feels quite forced if I’m honest, its nice and the payoff is good but it doesn’t feel at all natural. There’s no chemistry between the two and the beginning of their relationship is filled with blackmail, distrust and resentment. There is little in the way of authentic evolution here to ever see them as genuine lovers.

Their relationship may feel satisfying on the face of it but when you think about it it’s a little shallow and disappointing.

The plot of the novel is simple and straightforward but it’s still satisfying to read and enjoy. The villain is easy to determine but the journey of our heroes to their realisation is satisfying regardless.

There are a number of plot threads left hanging for us to keep us intrigued for the next book, a book I myself will be looking out for, but one I don’t expect much from.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Spellbreaker is available from Amazon.

Eyes of Sleeping Children by D.A. Butcher Review

D.A. Butcher comes out swinging hard with this stunning debut novel. Eyes of Sleeping Children is a psychological thriller set in the 1930’s and takes place in a depression hit Kansas that is about to bare the brunt of a giant dust storm.

The focus of this story falls squarely upon the Lockhart family, and specifically upon the father Louis. As the storm begins to attack their small family farm the Lockhart’s seek shelter in their cellar.

Eyes of Sleeping Children Cover

Yet the storm is but the beginning of this families tragedies, after awakening from a troubled night of sleep Louis finds that his son, Jesse, is missing, yet there is neither a sign of forced entry or that the young boy has left the house.

Who, or possibly what, is to blame? While Louis looks for an answer within the reality he understands, his wife begins to break down and lay the blame squarely upon a figure from the realm of nightmares, The Sandman.

Louis must work quickly if he has any hope of ever seeing his son again, he sets out on a journey that will delve into the past, and into secrets long since lost to time.

But that’s enough about the book’s plot, I really would not want to ruin this one for you.

This is a daring, but well executed, debut novel that takes a number of different genres and themes and makes them all coalesce brilliantly as the story comes to its climax.

At times this feels like a locked room thriller, while at other times it delves wonderfully into some psychological twisted world that sends shivers racing up and down your spine. And yet through all of that it somehow manages to blend and balance it very nicely with a depression era set family and their day to day struggles and drama.

The story is told through the eyes and mind of Louis Lockhart, and for the most part he is an engaging and interesting character that we as outside readers can easily empathise with. And while there are a supporting cast of mostly interesting characters it is with Louis that we are firmly embedded, both narratively and emotionally.

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As Louis frantically begins his hunt to find his missing son the book ratchets up a notch and becomes a zealous race to unravel the mysteries and discover the truth lurking in the shadows. Over time though it is Louis himself who begins to unravel and whose mind deteriorates, while this gives for some excellent character focus and really brings Louis alive and fleshes out his characterisations, it also slows down the pace of the book at points to little more than a crawl. While this is not a major issue it does make the book feel imbalanced.

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Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing

Author Spotlight is our series that aims to give writers a platform to talk about the artform we all love, writing. This time around D. A. Butcher joins us to talk about his life, his struggles, and his passion for writing. Check out this excellent article. I grew up in London. My mother is Italian … Continue reading “Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing”

However, as the story enters its final acts it rekindles the fire that had burned so brightly at its opening. In fact by the final pages this book had burnt not only itself out but me as well, there are some disturbing scenes throughout this novel that have stayed with me long after the final word has fluttered its way through my mind.

The twists and turns that lead up to the grand finale are mind bindingly well conceived and that climax, boy was that a treat to behold. Throughout most of the novel I thought I knew the truth, I thought I was an all knowing reader, but I was very much mistaken, Butcher had more than a few tricks up his sleeve to leave me feeling the fool.

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Indeed so much of this book has stayed so vividly with me that while writing this review I feel like I have only just put it down when in reality I finished this book week ago, and have read many others since then.

Not only is the story well conceived it is also very well written, Butcher has the skills and talents of a much more seasoned writer.

There are a couple of negative points though, as with any book. I think there are a few pacing errors that make the book feel unbalanced, it almost feels like there are two books wearing the trench coat of one sometimes. The dialogue can at times feel a little stilted, and I would say there are a few too many metaphors and similes used which can slow down the pace of the book somewhat, but this is me being overly pedantic and attempting to find something to balance this review.

Overall this is easily one of the best debut novels I have ever read, indeed it is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read period, and I will no doubt be diving back into again soon, and I sincerely implore all of you to do the same.

Rating

Rating: 10 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out Eyes of Sleeping Children for yourself, and I highly recommend you do, you can find it over on Amazon.

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Fiona’s Guardians by Dan Klefstad Review

I love vampires and I’ve have written about them more than once on this website, so I loved it when Fiona’s Guardians dropped into our inbox. This unique and intriguing novel was just the thing to devour over a free weekend.

Daniel is more dedicated to his job than most people are, and certainly far more than he should be. Daniel’s job is his life, and it’s an unusual life to say the least. You see Daniel is the guardian of a 250 year old vampire named Fiona.

Daniel’s main job is pretty straightforward actually, to supply Fiona with 10 pints of blood every day. He also needs to manage a bunch of investments to fund this, but its really the acquisition of the blood that’s his main focus.

This is certainly no easy feat but when Fiona becomes the target of a secret group of vatican vampire hunters (called Mors Strigae) its gets even more difficult, not to mention deadly.

This is an interesting story which for the most part fully delivers on what it promises. The idea of exploring the day to day activities of a modern day vampire assistant is intriguing and is easily the most fleshed out and well defined aspect of the novel. Everything about the job is explored and given purpose and meaning within the larger context of the story. Daniel on the other hand is not, he felt a little forgotten and lost within the confines of his job.

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An exploration of the Vampire and its Sexuality

Vampires have enjoyed something of a renaissance in modern literature and one of the main reasons for that is the sexual nature of what is otherwise a monster from the depths of mankind’s nightmares

Though I suppose that was intentional, for all intents and purposes he was his job, his whole life revolved around Fiona and what he had to do to guard her and service her needs. Yet it still would have been nice to know him more as a character and feel some sort of connection with him, but I understand why he was explored so little.

As for the plotline itself I was invested enough to read to the end quickly, but I also found it a little convoluted with numerous perspectives from various characters, I think a more limited narrative structure and focus would have been beneficial.

At points I found myself losing my grip on the story as I attempted to correlate the new perspective with what I had already read. When you couple this flowing between perspectives with different time periods it can be a little difficult to keep everything straight in ones head.

This sadly also moves focus away from Daniel and Fiona, which is a shame because this is their story and sometimes they feel sidelined by anothers narrative.

With that said though this was an enjoyable read that I would heartily recommend for any horror or vampire fans, doubly so if you love both. It is a fun and exciting read that could do with a polish but then so could we all.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

You can get a copy of Fiona’s Guardians from Amazon.

The Tower by Valerio Massimo Manfredi Review

Wow, this is a bad book, I need to get that out of the way first of all, this is not on my recommended list in any way shape or form, unless as a means of torture I suppose.

I had high hopes for The Tower, it teases a mythical millenia long secret that has impacted human society from the Roman Empire to present day. That should be interesting, and yet Manfredi butchers the execution so inexplicably that I wonder how this even came to print.

But let’s do an overview first before I get into it.

At the begining of the book we are told how an American archaeologist by the name of Desmond Garret disappeared in the Sahara desert some ten years ago. This disappearance it turns out is just the most recent in a string of mysterious incidents in the area over the previous two thousand years. Myths about the area are abound, including one that tales the tale of thousands of Roman soldiers who were killed by a mythological race of headless men known as the Blemmyae.

Garrett, we are told, was searching for the Tower of Solitude, the final mystery of a long dead civilisation. Garrett’s son, Philip, is now heading towards the tower in the hopes of finding his father.

Then we are introduced to Garrett’s old enemy, the completely copy and pasted evil villain Selznick.

The story also occurs in Vatican City where priests are monitoring a space borne signal hitting an unknown receiver. Of course the receiver and The Tower of Solitude are the same thing.

This should be a good book right? It has an interesting premise with potentially huge payoff. Its like Indiana Jone had a love child with the Da Vinci Code, its not going to be a masterpiece but its going to be a thrilling ride.

Except no.

Manfredi is a decent writer, his use of prose and ability for description is above average, it’s his plotting and oversaturation of action and inflated plotlines that leave an awful lot to be desired.

Within this book not only do we have a son searching for his father, an evil villain and nervous Catholic priests, we also have a member of the French Foreign Legion, a spy network, a love triangle, another love triangle, a lost individual, a desert princess, kidnap, lots of fighting, and well I’m bored now. There’s lots more going on here that should be mentioned but I don’t want to type up any more.

This is less of a story and more of Manfredi simply vomiting up everything and anything he can think of and somehow believing it makes a good story, it doesn’t, it really really doesn’t.

And it seems he knew that because the book kind of ended, pointlessly and without any conclusion. Nothing changes, nothing happens, and no answers are given. None of the characters have an arc, none of them change as a person.

Its like Manfredi gave up part way through and just ended the novel, how this got published I do not know, his other work is far better than this.

Let’s just say avoid this one.

Rating

Rating: 1 out of 10.

If you think this is the kind of book for you you can find it on Amazon.

Hollow Road (Maer Cycle book 1) by Dan Fitzgerald Review

On the face of it Hollow Road (The Maer Cycle Book 1) by Dan Fitzgerald sounds like a straightforward and very formulaic fantasy novel. Three characters, Sinnie, Carl, and Finn are sent off on an adventure by a wealthy benefactor, and of course each character has devoted their life to a different profession.

Sinnie works for a travelling circus and is a badass with a bow, Carl is an experienced soldier, and Finn is training as a mage.

The Hollow road opens with the three childhood friends undertaking a mission back to the village of Brocland where they all grew up, taking with them the body of another friend, the son of a wealthy man called Leavitt. Not everything is quite as it seems however and what sounds like an easy mission is anything but.

While the story of a group of friends going on an adventure with dubious motives sounds familiar, its the characters and their development that sets the Hollow Road apart and makes it a truly unique experience to behold.

Along the route of their journey the three friends evolve, becoming closer while exposing their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, but also showcasing their strengths and courage.

Dan Fitzgerald

When you combine these heroes with the mythical race known as the Maer you have a truly enjoyable read that keeps you hooked from start to finish.

For me the Maer are the standout aspect of the novel, they are an interesting and well thought out unknown element throughout that provides mystery and intrigue, and yet the truth about them is never quite what you thought it would be. The only downside is that they come into the story too late I found, I wanted more of them, I wanted to learn more, to know more.

Dan has done a great job with the writing here, its descriptive but with a good balance of action that keeps the plot moving along at a fast pace. What stands out for me though is his prowess with writing dialogue. While many writers write stilted or cheesy dialogue Dan has managed to create very natural sounding conversations, which is not as easy as it sounds.

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Sinnie, Carl, and Finn sound just like old friends would, they have an easy banter that really brings their decades old friendship to the forefront of the novel, their repartee is what hooks you into this story and you want nothing more than to experience their changing relationships and see what happens next.

And on that note I really cannot wait to see what Dan does next with these characters, there’s so much to see and do in this world he has created, and so many places for these characters to take us.

I highly recommend you check this book out.

Rating

Rating: 10 out of 10.

You can pre-order your copy of Hollow Road for yourself from Amazon, it is released on the 17th of September.

Warehouse Dreams by Theresa Halvorsen Review

This is an interesting novel with complex moral issues at its core, and an interesting sci-fi plot to keep you engaged.

Like many good science-fiction novels Warehouse Dreams raises, and attempts to address, an interesting ethical dilemma. Should we, as a society, sacrifice the few in order to improve the lives of the many? Should we allow scientists to mess with our genes to create the ‘perfect’ human? And if so should we allow the rich to take advantage of that?

Theresa Halvorsen spares no time in getting this hypothetical situation going. She doesn’t bother with a slow build-up, or with a gentle introduction to the characters and setting, instead she throws us straight into the action and just gets on with telling her tale, and for the most part this works very well.

The focus in Warehouse Dreams is very much on the characters, the action, and the rapid exploration of her story.

Warehouse Dreams tells the story of Kendle, assistant to the administrator of the Warehouse, the only school for children with Wild psychic abilities. Unlike the scientifically perfect ‘Bred’ children (those scientifically created), the Wilds are unpredictable and ostracizes by society, leaving them with nowhere to go, nowhere but the Warehouse anyway.

Soon a handsome new teacher called Stephen begins working at the school to teach telepathic control to the children. It doesn’t take long for a relationship to bloom between him and Kendle.

This is a sci-fi adventure novel with an underlying pseudo-romance that is both intriguing and unique.

I’m not going to say anything else about the story here because quite frankly you need to experience this book for yourself. So I’ll move on to my commentary.

A notable weakness of the novel, at least for me, was the lack of description. The action and the characters take precedent here over language, and while that helps move the plot along with a brisk pace, I did feel that at times a little poetic prose would be nice. Though that’s a personal preference and doesn’t really take away from the overall experience.

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Warehouse Dreams is a character driven story, its primary focus is on their emotions, their thoughts, and on their development. So it’s a great thing that Kendle, Stephen, and many of the students are well realised creations that fully inhabit the world Halvorsen has crafted for them.

While this may sound like a simple formulaic YA novel on the face of it, it is actually far more than that. This is really an allegory of societies treatment of minorities and the differently abled. This book poses questions about how we live, the level of scientific intrusion we are willing to endure for a better life, and the way in which we treat people different from ourselves.

This is a well crafted novel with complex moral issues at its core, and an interesting sci-fi plot to keep you engaged, no easy feat all told.

There are still many questions and aspects of this universe to explore so I sincerely hope there are more installments coming.

Rating

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

You can get yourself a copy of Warehouse Dreams from Amazon.

If you have a book you’d like us to review you can get in contact with us at submitbooklytical@gmail.com

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King Review

Second novels are difficult. You have numerous expectations on your shoulders, both from fans of your first book and from your publishers. The fans of your first book want to also enjoy your second novel, and the publishers want you to also widen your audience, that’s a lot of pressure.

It must have been a bit of shock to both then when Stephen King suddenly changed from the abuse-terror and semi-realisitc plot of Carrie to vampires for his followup. I bet there were a few concerned looks in the publishers offices.

It was a good job that Salems Lot is a damn fine novel.

What’s surprising about Salem’s Lot is its slow build up, which even at its most long winded is still enjoyable to read. A good portion of the book is taken up with introducing us to its main character, Jerusalem’s Lot (Salem to the locals).

Yep you read that right, it’s the town itself that’s the star of the show. This was a kind of warm up for what King would later do to his more famous fictional towns of Derry and Castle Rock.

He gives us vivid descriptions, details and nuances of the town, then he slowly and methodically populates it with a host of characters so unique and outlandish as to rival any daytime soap opera. Every facet of human life can be found within the boundary lines of Salem’s Lot, and they all want to know who the stranger is that just moved into town.

This stranger is a writer called Ben Mears and he grew up in the titular town, and let’s just say he has some bad memories of it. In particular of the Marsten house, which looms across the rest of the town from a nearby hill.

Ben has returned to his hometown to work on his next novel, the details of which we never discover, except beyond the fact that it involves “the recurrent power of evil”, and the creepy gothic house atop the hill.

As you’d expect Ben gets straight to stomping around his old town, giving King ample opportunity to expand the details of the main setting. Ben doesn’t do a lot of writing, instead he meets and befriends a wild collection of townsfolk, including Father Callahan, a priest with a drinking problem, a kid who loves old horror films, and Susan a girl who loves his writing skills.

This total disregard for his main objective allows King to spend half the novel simply establishing the town and the world it inhabits. And as for the actual vampires, well you won’t be seeing them just yet.

They are hinted at though, and the biggest hint comes in the form of Mr Straker, who along with an absent Mr Barlow has opened up an antique shop in the town. They have also bought the Marsten house to live in while they set up their business.

When a young boy dies under mysterious circumstances the only person who pays any real attention outside of his family is the inept local lawman.

As a reader the townsfolk are frustrating, they’re all so wrapped up in their own lives that they cannot see the inevitable death and destruction that is barrelling quickly towards them.

Around the halfway mark though the proverbial shit finally hits the fan. More people begin to die, babies come back to life and seek blood instead of milk. Nighttime is no longer safe.

The first half of the novel is slow and deliberately plodding, it lulls you into a false sense of security so that when the vampires eventually show themselves you are whisked off into a whirlwind of action, it barely lets you take a breathe.

This action heavy portion of the novel takes place over just two days and sees Ben and his new friends try to end the quickly spreading vampire threat.

When I first read this book years ago I didn’t like the slow first part and I loved the action heavy finale. Now though, for whatever reason, its the opening that intrigues me the most.

This is a slow opening for a novel, make no mistakes, this is a drip feed of a build-up, but boy is it worth it. King imbues every passage with impending dread, and when the action finally unfolds it is a real payoff.

This isn’t the greatest vampire novel ever written, for me Bram Stoker’s masterpiece still holds the crown over everything else, but it is certainly one of the most entertaining. It takes the monstrous creature, puts it in a small town and sits back to watch the blood flow, and flow it most certainly does.

I highly recommend Salem’s Lot to previous fans of Kings other novels and to anyone interested in the horror or vampire genres. If you don’t like slow burning books though I’d recommend staying clear.

Rating

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

You can grab a copy of Salem’s Lot from Amazon.