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Book Review: Birdman by Mo Hayder

Back of the book reviewer comments.

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‘A first class shocker’ Yeah Right, I thought It can’t be that bad, I thought. Oh how wrong I was.

They are very common in the literary world. Little comments from reviewers about a book that appear on publisher websites, on the back of the book or on the first page. Wherever they are, when picking up a book I prefer not to read the because they are sometimes exaggerations, saying one thing when the book is nothing like it. Mo Hayder’s Birdman was no different. The Guardian commented that it was ‘a first class shocker’ and going into Birdman I had no idea how right they were.

The decaying bodies of strippers have been discovered on a dig site in Greenwich, London. This case soon has London retching when an autopsy reveals that bodies have been mutilated and the killer left a little gift in their rib cages, a small bird. Detective Inspector Jack Caffery heads the investigation behind the killings, while battling his own demons.

Birdman is a very disturbing and yet gratifying story. Our main character DI Jack Caffery, is a troubled and plain man, but still holds up as a strong character. The story is told from multiple point of views, but this only done to give an insight into some of the characters and it continues the story flawlessly. Hayder’s writing style is very technical, participially in the areas that focus on the police and the investigation. Birdman doesn’t feel like a book that was researched, it feels like a book that has been written after years of association with the police force and encounters with criminals and prostitutes, and that just makes it even more chilling.

For me Birdman was an uncomfortable but exhilarating read. Hayder’s descriptive language knew no bounds. She didn’t pull her punches in this book. She tells you everything no matter how twisted or gruesome it maybe and at times you will forget where you are and what you’re reading. An example of this was on a bus ride home from work, it was the moment Jack and his partner Essex entered the killer’s home for the first time. A smell was described, the feel of the floor was described and I followed the characters as they went into a room filled with pictures on a wall. Pictures of victims every image described with then other paraphernalia, some very illegal paraphernalia which were described in great detail. That was when I noticed there were school kids on the bus and one had taken the seat behind me and I was reading a book that touched on topics that would instantly make people think I wasn’t right in the head. I didn’t want to be responsible for exposing this kid to all of this craziness so I turned my back to the window and continued reading, feeling very very dirty. There will be moments for you if you are interested in seeking out Birdman, but for every public cringe worthy moment, there will be triumphant annoying character moments that just pleases my sadistic soul because annoying people need to have someone punch them once in a while.

If you are interested in looking for Mo Hayder’s Birdman it is available on Amazon, Audible and any of your local book stories. I got my copy from Waterstones, Thanks Waterstones!

By the way Birdman is the first in a series I will be getting to the next book, ‘Treatment’, I just need to prepare myself first.

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Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company by Homer Hickam

Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company  is not a book you can read on its own.  There are two other books in the series, making this the third and it shows. Unfortunately I have not been able to find the others and thus will be reviewing my copy as a stand alone and it is not easy to do so. Since this book heavily relies on readers reading the first two in the Helium 3 series, you will be confused and lost for most of it. The idea behind the story is interesting I have to admit. Humans have now colonized the moon before the beginning of the book, there was a war between the new Lunians and those left on Earth. That is honestly all I got from that of a back story.  Our protagonist for most of the story is Maria who was at one point the title character’s girlfriend. There seem  to be some tension there but it wasn’t well explained. It was more of a ‘she loves he but left hi,  she hates him because she left him ‘ thing going on there and I found her the most annoying character in the whole book.

“The Earth is devastated and the worst elements of humanity are determined to take over the moon. It’s up to the settlers of the harsh, gray moon to fight back.

Kidnapped by an evil group intent on the destruction of the world and capture of the moon, Maria Medaris, co-leader of the moon’s richest and most powerful family, initially fights for her life, but is soon dazzled by the promises and enticements of her captors.

Crater Trueblood, once rejected by Maria but still in love with her, and Crescent, a female bioengineered warrior fiercely loyal to Crater, use their cunning and deadly skills to come to her aid.

But will Maria be on their side when they get to her? And what of the Earth itself which is in the crosshairs of a destruction not seen since the massive extinction of the dinosaurs?

The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance”

From the writing style I suspected that  it was written for young adults. I disliked it very much. At no point was I drawn into the world of Crater Trueblood and I found myself asking for explanations that I had to look up online. There is a moment at the beginning of the book where Maria goes into space it doesn’t give a description of space nor her surrounds,what she was feeling during the flight. Something to pull the reader into the world. Instead it states plainly that 20 minutes later she arrived her destination. I couldn’t help but think that was a wasted experience.

There isn’t a lot that is  really explained in the book, even if it was the third book in the series. It feels like the author assumed that the reader read the first two books and coming in at book three meant I was completely clueless about the story. It wasn’t until I looked up a summary of the first two that I somewhat understood the background. The third book for me was a bit lacklustre.  I would have loved to hear a bit more about the war they reference to in the book.

All in all Crater Trueblood and the Lunar rescue was not appealing to me. Which is a shame because it sounded amazing, I would have loved to hear more about the war between Earth and those who landed on the Moon.  if you are interested in it i suggest reading the first two before going onto the 3rd or you’d be very clueless.

Crater Trueblood series is available online or in any of your local bookstores.

Hadrian and Royce

Book Review: The Riyria Revelations by Michael J Sullivan.

 

Finally, finally finished with this epic. It has been a very extensive fete finishing a 6 book trilogy in a month and a half, but it’s finished. Originally, I was not going to do a traditional review of the series, I thought that doing traditional review would spoil too much. I was going to do a top ten list titled ‘ Top Ten Reasons Why Riyria Revelations is Awesome’, but we have restricted our selves to a few top ten-lists each year, and I’m sure the other writers of The Torch EG wouldn’t be very happy about me using it up. That, and I decided against it because as I came to the climax of the 5th and 6th book, ‘Heir of Norvon’, I noticed that this book series could not be summed up in 10 bullet points, and while I will not write pages upon pages of a review nor will I analyse or nit pick at every possible point, it deserved a good honest and solid review. So here it goes:

The Riyria Revelations’ volumes, ‘ Theft of Swords’, ‘Rise of Empire’ and ‘Heir of Norvon’ are the most enjoyable, entertaining, well written, gripping, page turning, nail biting, annoying and most fun pieces of literature, I have ever had the fortune to read. The last time I was so invested in a story, with such well rounded characters and a plot that had you looking for the next book in the series, I was nine years old and began the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate.

The series takes place in the fictional realm of Elan where there are three race of beings, Elves, Humans and Dwarves. It is also home to the greatest pair in Apeladorn (the name given to the four nations under the rule of humans), Riyria, founded by master thief Royce Melborn and Master swordsmen and fighter Hadrian Blackwater. They can steal anything you need, information, a rare object or book, all for the right price. After taking a rather simple job, they find themselves facing execution for the murder of the King of Melenger. Help comes in the form of an unlikely source, and their recuser states that she will help them to escape if they kidnap the Prince of Melenger. Reluctantly they accept and find themselves a part of a much bigger conspiracy.

A simple story but it keeps you going back for more, The Riyria Revelations has very well rounded and well written characters, the character development is very well done. Especially with annoying characters. Just like in my review of The Jester, there were characters I did not like to the point of loathing but, they developed and changed. Each character was instrumental to the story and there weren’t any strays. I love Sullivan’s writing style. He gives you amnesia, mentioning or just saying a blurb, dropping it in between the lines without anything else, then a few chapters later, he hits you with it once more. It gave me that awesome feeling of discovering or figuring out a small mystery with every chapter that passed by.

I have to recommend getting the audiobook if you can get your hands on it. Tim Gerrard Reynolds gives life to Sullivan’s characters, making them people you love to hate and hate to love. His female voices always made me chuckle. Through him you truly become invested in their stories and antics.

I highly recommend Riyria Revelations, a simple story with such layers and depth, and two of the most well-rounded, well written, well represent and well…just plain awesome main characters that you have ever seen. They are the reason I looked for the main books. They play off of each other amazingly.  They are light and dark, yin and yang, you do feel for them when they come across hardship and you cheer for them when they triumph. Personally I would say that they e the R2D2 and C3P0 of Elan. Thank goodness for Riyria Chronicles. I will never say this to Hollywood but a prequel to this series was needed.

If you can get your hands on a copy of Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, or Heir of Norvon, please do and if you can, listen to the audiobook on Audible. It is well worth the subscription.

 

Books From My Youth

BFMY: THE WORST: Once by James Herbert

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It might be bland but it’s still miles better than that other book I don’t like.

Once, until recently, was the worse book I have ever read. Oh, that book was just taken over by a certain novel I might get to in due time. Once isn’t the newest story in the world. In fact, Once is very predictable. The villains are annoyingly predictable villains, the protagonist is bland and uninteresting and the story is just as predictable as its characters. But the story and the characters are not what I find annoying about Once.  It is pure and simply porn in a fantasy setting.

A bit of background:  I received my James Herbert collection when I was around 15 years old. My mom had it in her book collection and I wanted something to read so I opened it and began with Moon. Yeah, I don’t really remember Moon, however I do remember Once. while it isn’t work the worse book I’ve ever read it is in that list.

If you want to check it out just to cure your curiosity go ahead, Honestly better books within that genre have come along and have actually done want Once failed to do. Check out Karen Moning’s Fever Series for an example of that. Like I said in the No body True article, I love James Herbert’s work when he is good, he is very good but when he’s bad, he’s awful.

 

At least that is my opinion.

Lovecraft feature

A Horror Fan’s View on H.P Lovecraft’s ‘At The Mountain of Madness’ and ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’

Let me start by saying I’m not an avid H.P.Lovecraft fan. In fact the only reason why I started looking into the work of Lovecraft is because my other half is a huge Lovecraftian Fanboy. Personally, I never got what was so terrifying about his stories. That was because I never knew what Lovecraft was about, that and I’ve been absorbed into what I think is scary. Freddy Kruger, Jason, Chucky, and the Jigsaws of my generation. A conversation with my other half, which steered into the background of Lovecraft’s work, peaked my interest. And, as my long-term readers know, I’m a sucker for anything that will scare the living daylights of out me. That does not include Spiders, Spiders can leave the planet and I’ll be a happy bunny.

Anyways, the conversation was generally about our favourite horror authors, I explained what I thought about Edgar Allen Poe and he said Lovecraft. Upon telling me about a Lovecraftian creäture that whispers the details of the end of the world to you while you sleep. He stated:

‘ Insanity is the scary part.’

The common theme in Lovecraft’s novels is insanity. Characters seeing a glimpse of something and going insane, figuring out what no human being should know and their minds completely giving out. I hear the term, ‘ It’s indescribable’ a lot when talking to the other half about Lovecraft’s creatures. That is true. When reading ‘ At The Mountain of Madness’ the narrator describes every inch of the creäture and I could not picture it in my head, I simply could not get my head around the words on the page. I could picture the human and dog remains that were ripped a part. I could see the blood across the snow, but I could not imagine the looks of these creatures with Star Fish like tentacles for heads. ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ was a little easier to imagine, before reading the book I watched a Let’s Play of a video game that was loosely based on the story. I knew what Innsmouth Eyes looked like, or at least another person’s idea of what they look like.

Lovecraft’s insanity and my term for insanity are completely different, I understand the concept of seeing something so horrific that you literally lose your mind, it happens in real life, I have an idea of what would make me lose my mind. The popular concept of Insanity being locked inside your own head with the nightmares that you can not escape from is kind of scary. When I think of insanity being scary, I think of something like the video game Outlast, where you play a person that who is locked inside an insane asylum with the residents on the loose and trying to kill you. You can not fight them, you can not protect yourself, all you can do is run, hide and pray they don’t find you. You could argue that it is the same, both concepts of insanity have you being locked inside of a place that you can not escape, whether it is voices, something you’ve seen, done or just a person stalking you in the shadows.

The location and story of ‘At the Mountain of Madness’ made me think of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ aka ‘Who Goes There?’ by John Campbell Jr. Humans in the Antarctic discover something alien that has been there for thousands, maybe millions of years. It kills them leaving only two, both shaking from the experience, one survivor is on the brink of insanity. Both are stories about Isolation, Paranoia, insanity, and stumbling on to something that should be left alone. Being chased by an unknown that you can not or do not want to see.

My other half always says that what he loves about Lovecraft is the no win scenario, there is no happy ending. Eventually Cthulhu will awaken, a person who has seen a Shoggoth will have something taken from them, you will die, it will happen and there is nothing you can do about it.

‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ has this element in it. The narrator just stumbles into Innsmouth and learns of its history, only find out about himself in the end. He can not do anything about it. It is going to happen, no matter how hard he looks in his mirror, no matter how much he denies it. He is getting older, he will change. His video game counter part does not fair better either. Due to our ‘there is always a happy ending society’, I assume that the idea of a no win scenario doesn’t exist for some of  you. If you are finding it hard to comprehend think of it like this:

One day our sun will die and when it does, our solar system will end. That is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune will no longer be around. Our sun will swell up and extend to Jupiter’s orbit, that means the inner planets will be swallowed up by the Sun. We will die. There is no surviving, no escape, all we can do is wait for it to happen. Even if some of the outer planets survive they will become rogue planets floating in the frozen depth of space. There is no happy ending for us or them. It is human nature to try to rationalize the fear away, we have billions upon billions of years left, the human race will die out by then. That doesn’t change anything. It will still happen. There is no escaping it. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing every day and expecting the out come to change, we go about our lives thinking that everything we do will change the outcome of life. Like fish we swim about our daily lives but it doesn’t change the fact that there is no happy ending. There is merely insanity.

 

The Jester

The Jester (A Riyria Chronicles Tale) by Michael J Sullivan

What can I say about Riyria? Well for starters they are 100% complete

Hadrian and Royce

See, Royce totally could be Garrett’s dad.

and utter win. Okay, maybe I can’t say that for sure since I only just started reading, Theft of Swards; the first Volume in the Riyria Revelations series, but it does look that way.

Riyria Revelations are three novels within the Epic Fantasy genre written by Michael J Sullivan. They were published by Orbits Books in 2011 and 2012, but they were around long before that since they were self-published by Sullivan and were originally six volumes. Once Orbits began publishing Riyria, six became three and these books are incredibly long. Harry Potter can eat it’s dust. By the way when Riyria Revelations was self-published it sold 90,000 copies, thus proving that anyone who says self-publishing is a waste of time or stupid can go to hell.

I’m not going to start talking about the Riyria books until I’m at least finished with ‘Theft of Swords and knee deep in the second Volume, Rise of Empire. But I am going to talk about the Short story that got me interested in the series, The Jester.

Originally written for the ‘Unfettered’ Anthology, a compilation of short stories by some of the biggest names in Epic Fantasy. It was made to help fellow writer, Shawn Speakman, pay his medical bills. At the time Speakman had battled and survived cancer. He had the disease previously and apparently this meant that he couldn’t get health insurance. One would think that him beating cancer was a good thing and helping a man fight for his life would better than kicking him when he’s down but what do I know I’m just a human being who writes articles about books that I’ve read on the internet and not politician nor a doctor. Anyway out of this came ‘Unfettered’ and while I am happy for the anthology, I am sad that it came to be under such unfortunate conditions. I do hope to find and read it some day.

So The Jester was among these high fantasy stories, it is part of the prequel series named The Riyria Chronicles and takes place after the last book ‘ Rose and Thorn’ from Chronicles and before the first book ‘Theft of Swords’ from Revelations. Sullivan himself states that readers don’t need to read the Riyria Series to jump into The Jester. It is a stand alone story and was made to be enjoyed by readers fully. That’s cool but I kind of wish it was attached to the previous books because I would love to have seen the character of Wilma in the main book for reasons I’ll make clear when we get to the characters.

The story begins the way all stories should begin, with the characters falling to their deaths. They are Royce, Hadrian, Wilma and Ms annoying herself, Moira. Of course she is the only female character in this story and is the most annoying. She is a middle aged woman who thinks she is some kind of treasure hunting warrior and decides everyone is wrong and an idiot except for her. Oh joy. Yes she annoys me to no end. I might as well call her Ms Irritating, and I shall. Continue reading

Books From My Youth

BFMY: The Best vs The Worst: Nobody True by James Herbert

So we have come to up date.  There are tons of other book series that I haven’t touched on, but I would really rather get this  out of the way since it is going to open the flood gates that I won’t close for a while. Through out my childhood I have read series after series that I have liked and never really met anything that I didn’t really have a taste for. Those books didn’t come until adulthood; well not adulthood — more late teens.

James Herbert is a great writer, and sparked my interest in adult themed fiction, obviously paving the way for Karen Moning with her Fever Series and others. If you haven’t noticed from reading the ‘Books From My Youth’ Series (with the exception of Anita Blake, which was written by Chris Carlsson), my taste in books has evolved and shaped the type of books I like in my adult life. ‘Goosebumps’ led to ‘Grizzly Tales,’ ‘Bluford’ led to ‘Point Horror,’ ‘Remember Me’ led to ‘Nobody True,’ James Herbert led to Karen Moning; you get the drift.

Like I was saying, James Herbert is a great writer.  Well, he’s more of a mixed bag. See, when he’s good he is very good and can produce the likes of  ‘Nobody True’ and ‘Creed.’  When he is bad, he is very bad and produces the likes of ‘Once’ and ‘Moon.’  I don’t have the time nor patience to go through The Herbert Collection book by book.  I’m doing that with Bluford and it is taking very long, which is why I started doing five books at a time and an analysis, and I still haven’t finished it. No, I won’t be going through all of the books; I will just concentrate on the best and the worst: ‘Nobody True’ and ‘Once.’

Let’s start with, in my opinion, is the best book by James Herbert. ‘Nobody True’ is about James True who has outer body experiences which he can not control. One night, while having an OBE, True returns to find that he has been brutally murdered. The killer has now set his eyes on True’s family and it is up to True to catch this killer.   Unfortunately for him. he’s dead, so that is going to be an interesting task to undertake.

As I said in my ‘Remember Me’ article, the premise of these two books are very similar.  Shari Cooper is killed and finds that she is walking the earth as a ghost and must find out who killed her so she can have peace.  James True is not really dead but he isn’t alive either and he must find his killer. The only difference is that the stakes are higher for True; his killer is targeting his own family and True must find a way to stop the killer from striking again.

If I were going to put these two books side by side, I would say that ‘Remember Me’ is better. Its characters are well rounded and flushed out a little more than ‘Nobody True.’   Both books are told in first person, but it seems that James is the only person in that book to have a personality. The family we are meant to care about aren’t very likeable and unfortunately, there aren’t any sequels to flesh out the other characters like ‘Remember Me’ did. I did enjoy ‘Nobody True’ and I do think that is one of the best of Herbert’s Collection. I picked up and didn’t put it down. Though the repetition in ‘Nobody True’ was a bit cringe worthy at times, I enjoyed Herbert’s writing style. Over all it’s a pretty nice book and a solid read. It is, however, 600 pages long, so if you do pick it up you will be in it for a while.

That is the best of James Herbert, and then there’s the worst, the one I hate with all my heart: ‘Once.’

remember me

BFMY: Remember Me By Christopher Pike

After the Bluford Series (Yes, I will be getting back to that next month), I was in a different place, a different school and even a different country. I marked this time as my Pike/Rees years, when I became a huge fan of authors Christopher Pike and Celia Rees. While Celia had books that I found cool, like ‘Witch Child’ and ‘The Vanished,’ it was Christopher Pike’s story ‘Remember Me’ that made a long lasting impression on me. “Remember Me” was published in 1989.  It was a New York Times Best Seller and sparked two sequels, both of which I have read. While I enjoyed “Remember Me” and “Remember Me: The Return,” I wasn’t a huge fan of “Remember Me: The Last Story.” However, I do admit that ‘The Last Story’ was a fitting end to the series.

So, what is “Remember Me” about? Death, plain and simple. Yes, death was in Animorphs and Grizzly Tales and the Bluford Series, but they were told from the perceptive of the survivors.  They focused on how the death of a friend or loved one had an affect on the surviving characters.  “Remember Me” looks at death from the point of view of the person who died. Shari Cooper is a normal 18 year old, until the day she dies. She sets out to find the person that killed her. :Remember Me: The Return” is set around another character, Jean Rodriguez, who dies but you don’t follow her; you follow the person who takes over her body.  “Remember Me: The Last Story” follows Shari once more as she is given a second chance at life.  This time her life has meaning, but while following that meaning she stumbles onto a horrible secret.

I don’t want to spoil the books for you; it is better for you to go out and read them yourself and make up your own mind about them.  Christopher Pike is an awesome writer.  His look at death is something to be admired. The characters are all strong.  Shari is a strong female protagonist and is a good magnet keeping the books connected to each other.  Jean, is also a strong female protagonist that serves as a person we all can relate to. Peter as a male lead is also a well flushed out character.  His trials are interesting especially in the second book. My issues with the third book, the ‘Last Story,’ comes with its premise.  While I won’t tell you what that is, I will admit that it does make the world of “Remember Me” bigger.  Of course there would be a life after death, but it doesn’t really touch on that.  You would think it would go onto looking at the concept of heaven or hell or some kind of after life but instead it looks at the beginning of humanity and that is where the story lost me.

Nevertheless the “Remember Me” Series is very much worth a read. For a story that was aimed a teenagers the concept of what happens after you die is well handled. If I could define the books by a genre, “Remember Me” would be a solid murder mystery.  “Remember Me: The Return” is a solid drama and “Remember Me: The Last Story” is a fair but flawed Paranormal Science Fiction story.

The “Remember Me” series made me love stories that looked at what happened to you after you die.  It lead me to James Herbert and his book “Nobody True,” which had a similar premise but a key difference and I’ll talk about it when I get to that book.  But, for now, look for the “Remember Me” Series on Amazon or in your local book store.  It is totally worth it.

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Book Review: Poe – A Life Cut Short by Peter Ackroyd.

This is a biography of legendary American writer Edgar Allan Poe. It begins with his death detailing the strange 20140109_202644circumstances surrounding it. Ackroyd follows Poe’s steps and actions during his trip to New York, which stopped in Baltimore then on to Philadelphia and back to Baltimore, where he met with members of his family. The writer’s death is treated with the utmost respect and mystery.  Ackroyd frequently refers to his research and the words of colleagues to paint a picture of Poe’s travels. It shows that he was a true Poe admirer.

The chapters that follow paint a larger picture of Poe’s life from birth, and you do find several revelations surrounding the author’s life. For example, his birth name is Edgar Poe; Allan was the name given to him by his adoptive parents. While he had a well-maintained relationship with his adoptive parents, Poe lacked a view of his birth parents. He wrote this later in life about his mother:

‘ I, myself never knew her and never knew the affection of a father. Both died within a few weeks of each other. I have many occasional dealings with Adversity, but the want of parental affection has been the heaviest of my trials.’

The pages continue to follow his life with the adoptive parents Frances and John Allan, an upper class couple, his time at school, and slowly flows into the the man who we have come to know. There are also tons of little nuggets of shocking and interesting truths that will have you awkwardly looking away for a moment as well as stating the occasional ‘Oh, so that’s where he got that from.’ Continue reading