Author Spotlight: James Huck discusses his writing method

Author Spotlight is our new series where a guest author writes about their process, their love for the art, and of course, their work. This time out James Huck joins us.

I began writing short pieces some time ago, but they were fragments of stories and parts of characters. It wasn’t until I reached a crisis in my career and life that the writing process crystallised and ideas became paragraphs and chapters.

I suppose I am the original Sick Teacher, although I have nothing on my principal character Aileen Byrne.  As a devoted career teacher myself I have experienced the rollercoaster that working in a State run school in the UK can be. 

After fifteen years I had climbed up the greasy pole to the point where I thought that I could really begin to put my pedagogy into practise. However, I let my principles and my pride stand in the way of corporate pragmatism and slipped straight back down.

Serious two or three thousand word writing days began as a form of cathartic therapy. A process whereby I could give voice to all my ideas. All my pent up, controlled, constrained and irrepressible creativity erupted from me. Long years of ‘towing the line’ and following directions; sparking creativity in others by repressing it in myself. 

To help control it I took long walks with my Working Cocker Spaniel, Jet. Together, she and I walked for miles every day. I allowed my feet to just follow the path, my mind emptying of worry, travelling along country paths on autopilot as she sniffed and chased pigeons and squirrels.

I suppose I entered a meditative state. The characters began to exist without my conscious direction and the plot revealed itself before me as I walked. Characters began to explain how they felt and why they were behaving as they were. At one point, I imagined them arguing about a particular plot device as Aileen argued a Head Teacher would never behave in such a manner in public. Needless to say, she made her point well and the plot was altered accordingly.

Once I returned home with a tired, and often muddy and soggy dog, I would set myself up at the kitchen table, dog lying across my feet, my laptop open and try to capture the action that had occurred that morning.  Sometimes I could instantly recall everything; sometimes my memory was not quite up to the task.  However, I always got there in the end.

Jet

Some days I hit a block, not sure how to get from the point of the story that I was at, to where I wanted it to be next. I found that the only way through this was to walk and then write – no matter what. Even if it was a day where fifty or a hundred words were hard fought for. The only way to get to where you want to be is to write through it. I had to just keep writing, deleting, writing, deleting, writing and so on, until it just felt right.

Writing has become a part of my life now. I couldn’t give it up. My career needs to fit around my writing as I have become a writer who is also a teacher, rather than the other way round. I have begun to write my second novel, the characters have begun to take shape and they have begun acting through the plot. I am excited to find out what happens.

You can check out James’ work for yourself 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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Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith Review

Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith is a collection of three intriguing stories set in, of course, Nevada. These stories are not simply separate entities though, they are interlinked and connected throughout, they are connected through characters, plot, and the theme of death. Death is an ever-present figure throughout these stories, its dark fingers manipulating the…

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.

Author Spotlight: Dominic Hodgson discusses his love for writing and his series The Ragnarök Chronicles

By Dominic Hodgson

When I saw the posting for being among the authors contributing to this series, the examples given for the kinds of topics that could be covered included discussing why I got into writing in the first place. Well, the answer to that is that I always have been, at the latest since the age of four, wherein toys would become characters and rooms their terrain.

Of course many of the ideas from that time weren’t ones that I’ve subsequently looked to pursue, plus to this day my head will at any moment offer me yet more premises big and small that cannot all be explored.

However, there were nevertheless favourites among them that lingered, granted they evolved over time into stories that don’t sound like they were made up by an infant, and as these chosen ideas were collected, I would make note of them upon numerous A5 slips of paper. This then led to a day when I was around ten where upon looking at all these papers together across my desk it occurred to me that with a little tweaking they could conceivably exist within the same continuity.

Thus timelines were drawn and elements were made officially recurring, leading to The Ragnarök Chronicles being born, albeit not in exactly the same form as it’s in today. I decided this would be what I would spend my life doing, getting this grand science fiction saga to publication so that the world could join me in getting to know this connected multiverse.

With this always having been my driving passion therefore, almost every pursuit I have taken in life has been chosen because it might help me in getting to this goal.

I found ways to do my writing for school assignments, I did work experience in a publishing house. I elsewise read plenty alongside, mainly series of fantasy. I was fortunate enough to additionally have a hand at alternatively telling stories through the likes of theatre, both scripted and improvised.

At university I studied English & Creative Writing, during which I finished writing the four books that would comprise the first chapter in this franchise I am creating. In the meantime I also worked as a tutor of Maths and Science, with those being just as much passions of mine, even if I don’t want to properly go into those fields beyond using interesting parts from them to strengthen the worlds of my books.

It’s at this point that we come to the current wider societal circumstance. It had always been my plan to, after finishing with tutoring, take at least something of a break to completely dedicate myself to my writing, so when it came to now spending more time at home I made sure I made the most of it in that regard.

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As such in the last couple of months I’ve re-edited my first manuscript, Gift of the Mancynn, and gone through the process of having it self-published, as well as building the foundations for a greater online presence to aid in the spreading of word to go with it. With how long it can take, and because I already had most things ready, it didn’t seem best to me to pursue traditional publishing routes in, once more, the present situation.

I can’t know what the future is going to hold, I can’t assume that this state of dedicated writing will last, but while it does I shall push forward still, with the rest of this first set of four books similarly set to be able to be released at apt times, hopefully regularly over the course of the next year so that readers won’t be left waiting long for the following instalment.

So enough about me. What is this Gift of the Mancynn I mentioned actually about? 2016 was a turbulent year for many, especially for Philip Quint, who learned of his apparent role in a plan for the wider scope of reality. He has always possessed special abilities, ones he cannot explain yet is also aware must be kept secret.

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Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith Review

Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith is a collection of three intriguing stories set in, of course, Nevada. These stories are not simply separate entities though, they are interlinked and connected throughout, they are connected through characters, plot, and the theme of death. Death is an ever-present figure throughout these stories, its dark fingers manipulating the…

He’s therefore otherwise had a pretty regular adolescence, however at the end of his latest school year things take a turn of the uncertain, this coinciding with him being approached by mysterious otherworldly figures. They inform him that they gave him these abilities so that he could, when the time is right, take on the position of their emissary on Earth.

Philip and his friends are hence swept up in a journey around the globe and further, discovering en route just some of the ways in which it has been shaped from the outside, all the while the chosen teen knows he must decide whether he should embrace or reject this destiny, if he can in the second case at all.

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There’s an ancient conflict spanning the dimensions that’s reached its way to Earth, the immortal Brethren Lords seeking to turn our world to their own devices, meanwhile other forces may be looking to manipulate these powerful beings in turn. The wheels are already in motion, all that can change is whose side anyone’s on. Who can Philip trust?

The Ragnarök Chronicles, as the broader series, seeks to combine various avenues of science fiction with interpretations of just as many world mythologies in stories set across time, space and beyond. Just as how the likes of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books can be read relatively independently of each other while all existing within the same world, there just being some weaving threads through recurring characters, so too can the different areas of The Ragnarök Chronicles be dipped into on their own yet if consumed together build towards a wider history (although here the respective ‘sub-series’ are denoted by the year in which they’re set as is made clear on each book’s cover).

With it planned to ultimately consist of fifty-five entries in total, this is to be an endeavour that shall continue to play a major part in my life overall. That being said, there are other works also buzzing around my head that I’d secondarily like to get to if I get the chance, including ideas for other franchises that already exist; people who know me will likely have heard me say that I want to write for the likes of Doctor Who someday.

Even if that doesn’t come to pass that again won’t stop the thoughts being there all the same, for instance I have even less of a chance of ever being involved with Nintendo yet that hasn’t prevented me right now from coming up with twenty-one new Mario game concepts over the course of much more time than is good for my efficiency with more important matters.

Well, on that lattermost note, I probably should actually be getting back to work. I’ll leave you, reader, with just this then: whatever it is you are reading, I hope it’s a good one.

You can check out Gift of the Mancynn for yourself over on Amazon.

Trillium by Margaret Lindsay Holton Review

Trillium by Margaret Lindsay Holton is an epic multi-generational saga that spans 250 years and is set around the shores of Lake Ontario.

We are first introduced to 19 year old soldier Tom as he struggles to cross the raging Niagara River. Tom eventually becomes the patriarch of the Hartford family, and it is with him that the saga begins, a saga that explores human behaviour across distinct cultures and generations.

This epic tale begins by looking into the history of the indigenous populations and their struggles against the new settlements and buildings being erected across Southern Ontario and the Niagara River.

While Tom may be our first protagonist he is by no means our last. This saga takes us through three very distinct families all of whom seek out land in Canada to make their fortune.

This is a book that celebrates the rich history of its gorgeous setting, as well as the beginning of its famous ice wine industry. But it does so much more than that too, it explores the influx of migrants from Mexico and Italy, it deals with a man struggling with his sexual identity, and it deals with con men and hedonists.

This is a novel packed with a cornucopia of different characters and personalities, each as vivid and cultivated as the one before them. This is a masterpiece of interweaving stories that span over two centuries of Canadian history. But it’s also a little confusing. There are a lot of stories and people to remember here, and sometimes I found myself a little lost at what was going on, but I think that’s part and parcel for this kind of work. It’s also a shame that we don’t get to spend more time with each family as the narrative whisks off to another place in time.

On the other hand this does make our short time with each character that little bit more precious, and I found myself more captivated by characters like Anna because of the short time I would get to know her.

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There is also a lot of attention paid to the farmhouse, and its transformation over the many years. Details like the introduction of indoor plumbing and double pane windows are not missed out or glossed over here, and while that may sound boring it is actually fascinating to visualise the house changing as new families come and go. In many ways the house is the central character, it is the one constant in an ever changing sea of characters.

The main problem I had with the story was it’s pacing, a lot of the first half of the book is a slow burn, very slow in fact, most of the action gets going towards the end and while it’s a decent payoff I did force myself through a fair bit of the opening.

Holton has achieved a rich and varied novel filled with beauty and wonder as well as revulsion and shock. Her use of language to create unrivalled imagery is akin to a painting on a canvas, this is a rich and imaginative world she has created but it’s the characters she has given form to that are the standout gem to be found here.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out Trillium for yourself you can find it on Amazon.

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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Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith Review

Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith is a collection of three intriguing stories set in, of course, Nevada. These stories are not simply separate entities though, they are interlinked and connected throughout, they are connected through characters, plot, and the theme of death. Death is an ever-present figure throughout these stories, its dark fingers manipulating the…

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

Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith Review

Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith is a collection of three intriguing stories set in, of course, Nevada. These stories are not simply separate entities though, they are interlinked and connected throughout, they are connected through characters, plot, and the theme of death.

Death is an ever-present figure throughout these stories, its dark fingers manipulating the events and leading to a twisted finale.

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Arrowsmith is a description master, all three of the stories are packed to bursting point with wonderfully curated description that at times read more like poetry than a story.

Sadly though at more than one point this is also a weakness. This emphasis on being highly descriptive slows the flow of the story down to a crawl and detracts from the plot to the point where it can become confusing as to what is occurring on the page.

I found this issue to be more prevalent in the first, and for my money least interesting of the three stories. The other two tales are more focused on the characters and the plot, creating a much tighter reading experience, it also helped create characters that I cared for.

The second story in particular was my favourite, its tight focus on just two characters allowed them to grow and take seed in my mind, even for just a brief time. I found myself invested in that story in a way I never became with the first one. Each story has its strengths and weaknesses but for me the middle tale was the strongest.

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Darkly Dreaming Dexter Review

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is one of the most unique and bizarre serial killer novels you will ever find. Our protagonist, can’t quite call him our hero, is a sociopathic murderer with a twist, he has a conscience, or at least a moral code. He will only kill the guilty, the people who have escaped justice.…

I read all three of these stories in one sitting, although devoured may be a more accurate description. This was a great read, each story was a rollercoaster of a journey that all came together in a gripping and unexpected conclusion.

The stories all flow in and out of each other seamlessly creating a deep and rich world that is clearly larger and more alive than the small snippets we read in the page.

I have to congratulate David on his particular skill on bringing his characters to life in such a small amount of words. It was only on the second, more careful read through, that I could fully appreciate the sensitive subtlety he put into his characters that helped bring them to life.

The main complaint I have though is that this collection was so short, too short for the final story in particular I felt. I was just beginning to enjoy the journey and it was over. And the second story really felt like it could have been at least a novella, there was far more to explore there but it was cut off so quickly.

Yet that makes for a quick well paced read that all told was highly enjoyable.

I highly recommend you check out Nevada Noir it really is a brilliant read.

You can grab a copy of the book for yourself on Amazon.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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

Sorcerer’s Duel Review

Before you read this review I’d suggest checking out my thoughts on the first book in the series.

W H Cann brings back Grogaan and his friends to take us on a brand new adventure into the heart of the inky darkness of space.

This time Grogaan and his soul-mate Ellarna learn to harness their magic and train to become Guardians. This is not a straightforward business however and the heroes are soon back to undertaking another dangerous mission where they will tempt fate more than once and attempt to deal a painful strike to the Empire.

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For me personally the first novel in the series lacked the emotional punch that could have made it a standout classic, I just didn’t really care about the characters who what would happen to them. Thankfully in Sorcerer’s Duel the emotional investment is much better.

For the first time I actually feel like I care about Grogaan and am willing him to succeed where so many others have failed. In Path to Vengeance I wouldn’t have minded if Cann had killed him off, at least that would have been unexpected, but in Sorcerer’s Duel he’s a different character and I hoped with each new page that he’d still be breathing.

But its not just the characters that are better in this second outing, everything is damn well better.

The story line is also a lot more fun, it’s more action packed and has a much quicker sense of pace than the original. Even Cann himself seems more comfortable with the futuristic fantasy world he has created, from reading this story I get the sense that the writing has been easier this time, I bet the characters are slightly clearer and the universe more colourful and vivid in his mind.

From reading this novel and comparing it with the first one it is as though I am looking literary evolution in the face. I have witnessed not only the evolution of a fantasy world but also the evolution of the author behind it. Cann has come on leaps and bounds since the first novel and has created a much more exciting read for all his hard work.

I look forward to future adventures.

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

You can check out Sorcerer’s Duel for yourself on Amazon.

Path to Vengeance Review

With his father, brother and fiancée lying dead at the hands of Krelathan raiders, Grogaan’s life is ripped apart, he is consumed with grief, anger and rage. He vows to himself that he will have his revenge and he sets out on his ‘path to vengeance’ by purchasing four starfighters for him and his friends, which they extensively modify to give them the advantage in battle.

Grogaan battle against the trauma of his immense personal loss but no matter how much he tries he suffers from recurring bouts of severe depression.

No matter what he suffers through personally though he will find his vengeance.

Path to Vengeance was a rather entertaining read for me. As a lover of almost anything science-fiction I have read any book I can my hands on this genre and while Path to Vengeance may not be a standout classic it is an above average read and well worth a look if you have some free time on your hands.

Fair warning though the books opening is a bit of an uphill battle. There’s little emotion to be found in the opening scenes and it’s not until we explore Grogaans backstory that we have any feelings at all for his plight, though it’s not in ample supply.

When we do have that little more substance to his character though Grogaan is a somewhat likeable hero, he may not be a fun loving guy but after what he’s been through that is more than understandable.

There’s a handy surprise in store for our hero however as he soon discovers that he is in fact a wizard. Yes you heard me correctly, he is a WIZARD. Now like me you may immediately think of a Jedi and in a manner of speaking I guess the Jedi’s may have been the inspiration behind this development.

But after finishing the novel I think it is something different. This is a fantasy novel filled with magic but set in the future. Take any fantasy novel and move it forward a few thousands years and this is it. But Star Wars is fantasy over science-fiction so that’s still kind of the same thing, but this same concept is portrayed very differently.

Not only does this novel have magic wielding Wizards but there is enough tech in here to make an apple fan boy salivate with jealousy. From laser cannons and light-speed engines this novel has any creatively imaginable tech a sci-fi geek like me could wish for.

The only thing I could want to make this novel that all important must read is another edit or two. Some paragraphs, and even some entire scenes, simply aren’t necessary and it would really make the novel much easier to read if they were wiped out or drastically streamlined.

At some points the novel seems to drag on needlessly and the slog of reading it threatened to halt my progress altogether. Soldiering through though and the prize was well worth it. Beneath some points of poorly edited text this novel is a shining gem and it was an enjoyable read.

I am looking forward to the next novels in the series and I’m confident that the more W H Cann writes about this universe the better and easier it will become to read.

Rating

Rating: 7 out of 10.

You can check out Path to Vengeance for yourself on Amazon.

You can also check out my review of the second novel in the series, Sorcerer’s Duel.

The Phoenix Conspiracy Review

The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard Sanders is a science-fiction novel set in a future Universe where mankind has managed to create a sprawling Empire stretching across a huge swath of the galaxy. Opposing them are two rival alien Empires.

On the face of it the Human Empire seems to be largely peaceful. However, a rogue captain attacks an innocent alien civilian convoy and quickly plunges the galaxy to the brink of war.

The hero (I guess I have to call him that), is Lieutenant Commander Calvin, Captain of an Intel Wing ship, which seems to be a sort of futuristic equivalent of the C.I.A. Calvin is tasked with finding this rogue Captain and bringing him to justice.

This he manages to do right at the beginning of the story, but when the Captain is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death everything goes tits up for Calvin. The captain is inexplicably able to take control of his transport ship and makes off into the inky blackness of space.

Calvin is sent off in pursuit. On board his ship though is a brand new XO, and I dont think there has ever been a more hateful character put to paper.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the books good points.

So here are the good points…erm….

It’s free. That’s always a big bonus if you’re looking to try something new.

The first 20-25% of the novel are actually quite good, at more than one point the plot dipped and twisted quite well giving me more than a few surprises. It is also well placed for the most part and never got boring, and to give him his due Calvin has his moments as a compelling well formed hero.

So ye that’s the good stuff. Sadly it’s not exactly a long list.

So anyway down to the bad bits, this part is a little longer I’m afraid.

First I’ll begin with the setting. This novel has a very Star Trek type feel to the Universe, sadly it feels even cheaper than Star Trek the Original series does in retrospect, which is no mean feat considering.

One of the novels weakest points for me was the technology available to our hero. Apparently even though humans have built large lumbering star-ship that blunder their way through the endless darkness of space, they also still rely on basic rifles, this in a universe where force-fields and shields exist. So primitive.

If technology has advance advanced enough to create force-fields why in hell are the marines and Special Forces still shooting piddly little pieces of shrapnel down corridors at alien enemies armed with superior weaponry?

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One of the primary reasons I enjoy science-fiction is the creative worlds and technology that adorn their pages. Massive battleships firing highly charged laser beams across countless kilometres of space to crash into invisible shields and dissipate into nothing. Men armoured in huge battle suits and laser guns firing down numerous insectile enemies in narrow corridors filled with smoke and flickering lights. They are the sort of things many people expect from science-fiction, not bullet firing guns that wouldn’t look out of place now, a time where space flight is still in its infancy.

One of the biggest things to do when you write a sci-fi novel is think big, think monumental and go for it, sometimes the more insane the better, we want to see an exciting future full of new and exciting prospects and objects to discover and enjoy.

They even use paper. PAPER! Come on Richard give them an iPad or something. Hell what about giving Calvin a touch sensitive desk that doubles as a computer or a voice activated central computer and holographs. I’m reading about a futuristic human Empire battling for control of the Universe, give them some fun toys to do it with. Not paper. Who wants an intelligence officer buried under paper. I’d stake my life on the fact that the real C.I.A is light years ahead of the technology at the disposal of Calvin and his friends.

Always remember if your writing a science-fiction novel about great galactic wars make it big and make it exciting. Use your creativity.

But I can over-look the lack of any advanced technology, it is the characters that really make me want to pull my hair out.

2 dimensional doesn’t even begin to describe the characters that inhabit the pages of this book. Everyone is a clichéd stereotype, except for Calvin anyway. The women are beautiful and the men can’t help but lose their self-control in their presence. Even when the man and woman are at loggerheads the man will suddenly loses all of his self-control and fall under the spell of the woman.

Let’s look more closely at the two primary characters. Commander Calvin is supposedly a gifted young intelligence officer and brilliant captain. Yet he’s an habitual drug user who is regularly comatose in a drugged stupor when he should be on the bridge.

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Path to Vengeance Review

With his father, brother and fiancée lying dead at the hands of Krelathan raiders, Grogaan’s life is ripped apart, he is consumed with grief, anger and rage. He vows to himself that he will have his revenge and he sets out on his ‘path to vengeance’ by purchasing four starfighters for him and his friends,…

The first time I read this I couldn’t help but think; “Hold on a second…Why the hell should I care about him then?” And from then on I didn’t like him, I couldn’t have cared less what happened to him, and when the ship was taken from his control I couldn’t help but think he deserved it. And if you lose your readers belief and love for your character, especially your antagonist, then you have lost the reader.

But it was his second in command that really made me want to scream in frustration. Commander `bloody’ Presley, the most tight arsed officer who ever lived. Presley is from the Navy and as such is a stickler for the rules and discipline of the battleships, rules and discipline that Calvin has demolished on his more informal vessel.

Now on the one hand Calvin is an idiot and is unfit for military command, all his officers are friends and feel free to question his decisions, on this count Presley is right on the money, the ship is a shambles and really should be replaced with a better crew.

Yet Presley is such a two dimensional cardboard cut-out it is insanely infuriating and you’ll find yourself disagreeing with her just so you don’t agree with her. You will spend most of your time trying to work out how the author ever thought she was a viable addition to the story. At one point in the story the author actually writes this for her:

“She knew he was right, but didn’t want him to be.”

While that may not seem all that irregular, humans after all are very egocentric, its indicative of Presley’s entire character. She has to be right all the time no matter what, and no matter how much evidence to the contrary she has smashed into her face.

Any military commander will tell you to listen to the advice given to you and to act in the best interests of the unit not your ego, and sadly Presley is so damned egotistical she would sacrifice the whole galaxy so no one else could say she was wrong.

At one point she annoyed me so much it actually made me want to break my Kindle in half.

I think I’ve ranted on long enough and I apologise for chewing your ear off, I just struggle to understand the point of this novel. The story doesn’t really go anywhere and the story just ends abruptly, meaning you have to buy the sequels to learn anything. And those sequels are costly, especially for independently published novels.

Overall I’d say if you enjoy sci-fi books by all means give it a go, its free so you have nothing to lose, but don’t expect it to be a particularly fun read and don’t expect it to make any sense unless your then willing to pay for the next novel. I for one will never pay for the next books and don’t think I will ever lose any sleep not knowing the outcome of Calvin or Presley.

You can try the book for yourself over on Amazon.

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Survival Year Review

Can you imagine a world where every citizen could directly weigh in on politics and the actions of his or her host government from their cell phone?

In this not-so-distant sci-fi future, Jennifer French’s Survival Year offers this scenario as a true possibility. There’s international betrayal, a love triangle and a common desire to bring the world together in the face of global political upheaval, not unlike the current events we’re now experiencing. The more I read of Survival Year the more I was convinced that what the characters had planned could potentially work. However, It was impossible not to recognise the negative possibilities, as well.

If there was ever a more in-the-now fictional story regarding the geopolitical landscape I have yet to read it. This is one hell of a political thriller.

French outlines what could potentially be an answer to the global political decline – financial, commodities, communications – 100% government transparency. French is well aware of the potential world she lays out in her book; she’s got a background in cyber ethics. But there’s not just political intrigue within these pages, there’s also love, action, and even a few assassination attempts to keep the plot moving and interesting, after all the political aspects can get a little dry.

As far as her writing style goes French warmed up and the plot moved along more naturally as the book entered its second half. Katarina, part of the Survival Year committee, is the main character. She’s got some co-stars and they have some focus where it matters but Katarina is very much the heart of the tale. She is a confident woman who is more than willing to give it all up in hopes of changing the political climate for the greater good. Despite a few flaws she is a compelling character and is more than able to hold her own as the focus of the story.

For those paying attention to the various political events happening around the real world, this book will give pause. I had a rather strong reaction to it, and there are few books about which I can make that statement. Survival Year is a relatively short read, but it has the qualities you’d find in a much longer book.

Highly recommended.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Before I Go To Sleep Review

When I heard about Before I Go To Sleep I couldn’t help but think, “here we go again, it’s another simple romantic thriller with very little to offer the reader beyond a few shocks and a maybe a couple of awws.” But it wasn’t long before I realised this wasn’t just a simple copy and paste story.

Every day our dear heroine Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear each time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he’s obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis, all because of a mysterious accident that sadly made Christine an amnesiac.

This book is a surprisingly complex thriller filled with intense moments of suspense. Every word of dialogue seems to have a double meaning, causing the reader to question everything they are told. Did this accident actually happen or is it all a manifestation of her own mind?

She wants to run from herself, from her new reality. The reality where she has to learn everything about her life each time she awakens. A reality with this stranger called Ben who claims to be her husband.

Most thrillers make the reader want to scream at the character on the page. Saying things like don’t go there, don’t do that, it’s him run! S.J. Watson has managed to write a book where the reader has become as clueless as the characters as to what is happening and what will happen.

But when you get to the end all the signs have been there, and you were as blind to them as Christine was. You both failed to see them, and you both feel that same sense of being lost and alone.

Like any novel this one has it’s faults as well as its shining moments. For example, in Christine’s diary that she uses to remind her of her new life there is no mention of cell phones. The last real memory she has is from her twenties when there were no mobile phones, and yet throughout the story she is constantly using her cell phone.

This is just a trivial thing of course but with a novel like this all those small overlooked details do stick out. There were more such moments throughout the novel but some are more integral to the plot so I shan’t mention them here.

This book was the author’s first published novel. It is on the whole very well written and edited. It was quickly picked up by Hollywood and was transformed into the movie of the same name starring Mark Strong, Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.

If you want to get a copy you can head over to Amazon. I strongly recommend this novel if you fancy a good thriller.

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Helens of Troy Review

How can I best describe Helens-of-Troy to you? I could say it’s simply like Twilight but without all the crap bits in there but then that doesn’t leave any Twilight left so that would be a poor example. One other review I have seen described it as Gilmore Girls meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I have to say that’s not all that far wrong, although unlike Buffy it doesn’t make you want to scream in frustration through various points of high shrieking, poorly written plot lines.

Like Gilmore Girls, this book focuses upon the often turbulent relationships between three women, a grandmother, the mother, and the teenage daughter. Just like Rory the teenager, Ellie, is a sometimes sullen young girl struggling to break free of the barriers imposed upon her by her mother. And just like Rory she too appears to be older and wiser beyond the 15 years she has lived.

Unlike the Gilmore Girls however, it is the mother, Helen, who is the uptight woman who seems stuck in an age that has long since expired. Opposing her is the Grandmother, Helena, a rather eccentric ‘old’ woman prone to wearing revealing clothing in full view of the neighbours and entertaining a certain Police Officer in her bedroom.

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The novel begins with Helen and Ellie moving in with Helena (that’s a mouthful) in a small town called Troy. Things quickly escalate with a dead body being found on the Grandmother’s porch swing instead of the stuffed pieces of cloth being used to scare the trick-or-treaters.

Ellie doesn’t seem at all fazed by the dead body (a little strange but hey she’s probably grown up mowing things down on the Playstation), she is however slightly more scared the next morning after finding out her dream of a kidnapped young girl was actually a vision of the real event. A young girl has been taken from the town and no-one knows where she might be.

Clear panic ensues. But what Ellie isn’t telling people is that she knows who took the child. She knows the culprit is not within the realms of mortal understanding. It is a Vampire.

Now stop groaning right now otherwise I’ll put you in the naughty corner. Yes Vampires have recently been battered to death with the pen and paper of numerous writers (cough cough Meyer and Harris), and of course the money hungry corporate suits who wont be happy until they have bleed the Vampire species for all their non-existent blood. But this Vampire is different.

The Vampire inhabiting the pages of The Helen’s of Troy is very much a Dracula, Barlow esq type character who embraces his Vampire roots and has given in to the evil that inhabits his veins.

This is not some brooding ‘feel sorry for me I’m a vampire’ type ponce that has originated in recent years. This is a pure blooded daemon feasting upon children and seeking his revenge through whatever means necessary. And you know what? He’s damn funny for a dead guy.

But not all is lost. You see the Helens have a secret of their own, it is a secret the grandmother has embraced, that the mother has denied and that the daughter has yet to discover. They are special the Helens. Very special indeed. And they are the only hope against the encroaching darkness.

This book was a pleasure to read. Not only is it a nice chance from the rest of the modern Vampire drivel I’ve read but its witty and almost every chapter has one sexual innuendo or another, I laughed so often when reading this book that I started getting embarrassed with all the other people on the bus staring at me. But you know what? I don’t care. Every now and then you get a book that is so witty you can laugh at the same joke numerous times throughout the day. The jokes, the scenarios, the imagined looks on the characters faces keep screaming back into your mind throughout the day bringing a soft chuckle and a wide smile to your face. This is exactly what The Helens of Troy is. Yes there are a few grammatical and spelling mistakes that were missed during an edit but who bloody cares. I know what it’s supposed to say and 9 times out of ten its something that will rock my world.

The speech is fluid and dynamic, the description vivid and engaging, the characters funny and lovable.

I already miss Ellie’s ups and downs in making friends and falling for the local charmer. I loved old Helena and her inappropriate clothing and the mild mannered way in which she used her bosom to enthral the neighbour. And I even fell in love with Helen, she may be uptight, she may need a slap once in a while but she loves Ellie more than anything in the world and if there is one thing she can do to protect her daughter it is come to terms with the truth of who she is, and embrace it. To stop fighting the truth about what she and her family are and just go with the flow.

I loved this book and you can guarantee I will be reading it again before long. For a few days I can escape the boring monotony of the real world and once more fight alongside the Helens and get a few good laughs into the mix.

Go and grab your own copy of this book. You won’t regret it.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Rating

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Andor Awakening Review

When it comes to new authors the experience generally goes in one of two directions. More often than not you find yourself on a perilous slope that quickly puts you on your arse and sends you careering through brambles, thorns and all manner of sewage and nasty icky things. These first time writers are either too lazy or inexperienced to really unearth the true potential of what could very often be a good novel. Either that or their novel is just a really bad idea. As a reviewer these types of novels make you want to hit someone with a stick.

Anyway, without any further ado or how’s your father, let’s crack on with it.

Along with two other books I had this with novel with me when I went on holiday a few weeks back, I was finished with it in just over a day. I devoured it in almost one sitting, I even have the sunburn to prove it (blaming you for that Brendan).

I loved it, it was great read. The story line moved with such speed and ferocity that I was afraid to put it down for fear that it would all be over when I once more turned my gaze upon its pages.

This is a book that will not hook you in. No that’s not enough, this book will pretty much grab you by the neck, shake you around, and then pull you right into the war torn world of Shae.

One of the strongest points about this book though is the raw emotion that the author is able to not only put across to the reader but smash it into their face at the same time. You don’t so much read this book as experience it. From start to finish you are right there alongside the characters as they face whatever trials and tribulations are thrown at them. You are alongside Andor as he picks himself up, tries to find out who he is, what has happened to him and try’s to avoid becoming Razian pie.

The dialogue, plot and imagery is all one big thumbs up from me. This book simmers with a hidden power that is truly magnificent, not only is this book a great debut, it’s great period. A highly recommended read and I look forward to the next instalment.

You can grab your own copy of Andor Awakening from Amazon.

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Hero Book Review

If we take it at face value Hero seems like a simple run of the mill Tolkien-esq novel of grand adventure. It’s pages are filled with larger than like villains and a small unknown hero who is tasked with nothing short of saving the entire world. Sound’s familiar doesn’t it?

Unlike Frodo though the 16 year old Elf Saberen is a powerful central figure who proves that he is more than capable of holding his own against the rapidly encroaching darkness.

While Tolkein built a vast network of supporting characters in everyone’s favourite fellowship, Ben Smith forgoes this in favour of focusing on just two primary travellers. While this works exceedingly well at the beginning of the story it does begin to feel flimsy and strained towards the latter portion of the novel.

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Andor Awakening Review

When it comes to new authors the experience generally goes in one of two directions. More often than not you find yourself on a perilous slope that quickly puts you on your arse and sends you careering through brambles, thorns and all manner of sewage and nasty icky things. These first time writers are either…

That being said though Hero is a well-crafted and very enjoyable read that can’t fail to entertain. I took the book on holiday with me and I devoured the entire book from cover to cover in just over a day. I promptly passed it around my family and they each enjoyed it just as much as I did. Even my girlfriend who has a past with disliking fantasy books begrudgingly admitted a passing enjoyment of Hero, and that’s a bigger compliment than I could ever hope to give. If your novel is enjoyed by so many people with so many different tastes you know you have a good book.

My favourite aspect of Hero, comes not from its sweeping vistas of imaginative mountains or the epic adventure that sees Saberen pulled roughly from his comfortable life and thrust into a quest for the good of the entire world. No. For me the greatest aspect of this novel are the similarities of my adventures in the fictional worlds created by The Elder Scrolls Series.

Climbing a narrow path up a mountain to the mysterious cave at the top and the sudden, often heart pounding, appearances of various monsters and wild animals are paralleled almost seamlessly with Saberen’s adventures across Havaen. Hero is without a doubt one of the best Fantasy novels I have read recently. It is exciting, beautiful and all around bloody marvellous.

It is already back on my shelf waiting for me to get a few spare hours for me to re-join Saberen on his journey.

You can grab a copy of the book for yourself on Amazon.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.