Friday, 27 January 2017

A tangled web by M.L.Sparrow - a review

 to be released on February 1st, I was lucky enough to be given a preview copy of this interesting and intriguing short little novella by M.L.Sparrow recently in exchange for an honest review. 
This was the first thing I've read by this author and I have to say, it was an absolute delight to read.

Set just before, during and after the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan a few years back, the book follows the life of young teenager, Taiyo, who becomes caught up in a web of lies when she finds herself torn between two boys - twin brothers with whom she has been friends with for most of her life.

As Taiyo finds her lies becoming ever and ever more involved in her bid to avoid hurting anyone's feelings, her world is quite literally rocked by one of the biggest natural disasters in all Japan's history as Taiyo finds herself coming close to losing everything she loves...

This was a short read but one that was nonetheless highly intense. The characters were highly believable, memorable and well crafted, and it is a testament to Miss Sparrow's writing that after only a few pages, I almost felt like I knew them - so quickly was I absorbed into their world.

If I had one complaint, it was that I thought the book was too short and I thought that at some points, M.L Sparrow could have gone into more detail about the tsunami and it's after effects considering they play such a crucial role in the story, but this was a small aside. Also, I would have liked to know about what happened to the characters after the story ended, but the truth is, Miss Sparrow here has managed to do what so many authors spend their whole career trying to do and then miserably failing - leaving her audience craving more.

Like I say, this was the first thing I had read by Miss Sparrow - who describes herself as an author who refuses to restrict herself to one specific genre, instead choosing to write whatever she feels like at the time - but you know what, I'd happily read her again and in the end, who can ask for a better recommendation than that?

A Tangled Web is available from Amazon on February 1st.
Meanwhile, if you want to know more about her, here are her links...

Monday, 3 October 2016

31 days of horror part 2

October 2nd 2016 
Internet problems at home are meaning I'm a bit behind on Blog posts at mo, but hopefully it should all  get fixed soon and I should be able to catch up.
Meanwhile, I thought I'd kick off today's post with a few recommendations for films to watch over the Halloween period - starting with a couple of favourites of mine.

1) Contracted - I've talked about this film before, but this is a great gross-out film to start off your 31 days of horror viewing. A young girl is date-raped at a party, only to wake up next morning to realise she has contracted a sexually transmitted disease that slowly causes necrosis. 
Over the next three days, we, the viewer, witness as her health rapidly starts to decline - leading to all sorts of nasty moments that to describe here, would only spoil your viewing pleasure.
A sequel that followed is not so good, but this film stood out for me and I loved every minute of it!
For a full review featured earlier, simply search Contracted in the search bar at the top of this Blog.

2) + 3) {rec} and {rec} Genesis - Again, I have talked about these films before, but Spanish horrors {rec}and {rec} 3 remain two of my favourite horror films of all time. There are 4 films in total in the series, but of them, these two, in my mind, are the strongest so far.
In {rec}, a film crew documenting the lives of people working the night shift find themselves at a local fire station recording all that goes on there. All is fairly boring and mundane until the point when they are called out to help an old lady, trapped in her apartment.
The film crew go with them, but shortly after arriving, the whole apartment complex is put under quarantine and it soon becomes clear that something is very, very wrong. 
The old lady is sick, and the sickness is spreading - infecting anyone and everyone she comes into contact with and turning them into violent and deranged killers who simply refuse to be stopped.
With nowhere to go, the film crew desperately try to uncover the cause of the virus before it is too late!
{rec} is a brilliant film - at 90 minutes, it is intense, claustrophobic, and shocking to the extreme with plenty of shocks and thrills to keep the adrenaline pumping. 
The contrast between the slow start, and what follows afterwards, is simply sublime and everything happens so quickly, you are sure to be left by the end credits with your heart pumping as this is certainly a film that leaves nothing to the imagination.
{rec} 3, or {rec} Genesis as it is better known, occurs at the same time as {rec}, but outside the city and instead based at a wedding. It receives mixed reviews because unlike the previous two films, it is more light-hearted in tone and the found footage style is quickly abandoned but you know what, I love it simply because it is so different.
It starts like a wedding video, with shots of the happy couple getting ready for their big day, but before the end of the night, everything has all gone to hell. 
One of the guests at the wedding is a vet, bitten by a dog owned by a family who live in the original apartment building, and it isn't long before he begins running amok and infecting everyone else.
I love this film, and not just because it features a chainsaw wielding bride, but also because of the unique twists and turns the story takes.
There are plenty of surprises here and those who dismiss this film as being too different from the others are simply missing the point.
Like the sorbet course in a meal, this film is almost like an interlude, a little break or refresher, before things go back to being serious for the fourth and final chapter.

For me, these three films are a perfect start to Halloween and your 31 days of horror movie viewing.

Look out for more recommendations soon...

Sunday, 2 October 2016

31 days of Horror part 1

October 1st 2016

This year, for Halloween, I have decided to take part in 31 days of Horror  and so will be publishing a different Blog post every day to celebrate the world of horror and talk about some of my favourite books and films, along with discussing some of my own writing - which is something I don't do very often on this blog.

One of the things I intend to do is to suggest 31 different books and films for you to sit and enjoy over this Halloween period, and I'd like to begin with a book by a fellow British author who goes by the name of Iain Rob Wright.

Iain started giving away 5 of his titles recently to try and help encourage people to discover his work, a tactic I have seen several other writers employ of late, and seeing he was a fellow Brit, I decided to sign up to the offer and give him a go.

Sea sick is a a zombie novel with a difference, comes highly recommended, and is unlike any other zombie book I have ever read. 
An ex-cop heading off on a cruise to try and relax, rest and recuperate after some very trying times of late, soon finds himself facing danger when a zombie outbreak breaks out on the ship. In the midst of trying to deal with the problem, the ex-cop is killed...but the next morning he wakes up again as though nothing has happened!
As he progresses through the day, the former policeman slowly starts to realise time has started mysteriously repeating itself and that he is living through the same day all over again. 
Again he tries to stop the zombie outbreak from happening, and again he is killed, and again he finds himself waking up the next morning as though nothing has happened. 
Soon, it starts to become abundantly clear what it is that appears to be happening - somehow he has been caught up in a loop in time and unless he can find out why, it looks like he has been doomed to live out the same day over and over and over, forever and ever, for the rest of time.
Only that's not entirely true...because time is slowly running out...

This is one of the best and well written horror novels that I have ever read - hell,miss one of the best books I have ever read full stop. It is very clever, unique and offers something very different in a niche genre that can often be accused of treading the same ground and repeating itself.
If you only ever read one of Iain Rob Wright's books, I recommend you read this one!

Since reading this, I have gone on to become a big fan of Iain Rob Wrights, and other titles I have enjoyed immensely include The Final Winter about an apocalyptic snow storm; Animal Kingdom which tells the story of what happens when animals across the world all start attacking, trapping one father and his son in a zoo; 2389, about an outbreak at an amusement park on the moon, and The Picture Frame - this last of which also comes highly recommended because it links together several of his titles in a very, very clever way.

Of them all though, Sea Sick remains my favourite and so is my first book recommendation for 31 days of Horror!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Revival, and why I'm worried about The Dark Tower movie...

Stephen King still remains my favourite author of all time ( he sits proudly at the top of my top 3, closely followed by Robin Hobb and John Connolly) but in recent years I've kind of stopped reading his books for no reason other than that I don't read anywhere near as much as I once did now I am a writer.
That said, when I saw Revival in a charity shop recently for just £2, I knew I had to have it.
Revival is very "Hearts in Atlantis" in style in that it is very much a nostalgia piece.
It begins way back in the sixties when a young boy first encounters the new reverend in town, and then goes on to tell the story of how this man continues to feature in this boy's life through the next few decades as he slowly becomes a man and discovers that both their fates are intertwined.
It is a great book and right up there with King's best, but to say any more about it would be to do it an injustice.
It is just one of those books you need to experience for yourself, but I'm happy to say it never disappoints and ranks right up there as one of my favourite King books that he has ever written.

King is an awesome writer who thinks nothing of crossing genres and always trying to deliver something that his readers might not think to expect. 
The films of his many books are a very different animal entirely though, and that is why I'm worried about the film adaptation of what is arguably his greatest work, The Dark Tower.
Putting aside that they have cast Idris Elba as Roland, the gunslinger, (shock, horror - a black man in what is supposed to be a white man's role - not like Hollywood has ever done anything like that before, is it? Aeon Flux starring Scarlett Johansen, I'm looking at you) - something I really don't have a problem with btw - the history of King's books being translated into film is not a favourable one.
Yes, there have been some truly great movie adaptations, but equally there have been just as many bad ones, if not more. 
One of the things that does give me hope about The Dark Tower film though is the fact that it appears to be, from all accounts, not a faithful adaptation of the books but a kind of sequel.
Those who have read The Dark Tower novels from beginning to end will be aware that Roland's journey across the Wastelands is not the first time that he has attempted to reach The Dark Tower and that with each climax, his quest appears to begin anew.
The movie, it appears, is going to show a whole new cycle of events as Roland begins his journey all over again; thus explaining this time around why the colour of his skin has changed and why we will not be seeing, at least in the first film, some of the characters that we readers have come to know and live like Eddie and Odetta.
This isn't the Roland Deschain readers think they know, but a new interpretation as the gunslinger begins his journey from the beginning for what is allegedly the last time.

Doesn't mean it's going to be any good, but the chance to experience a whole new chapter of The Dark Tower, albeit on the big screen, has to be a good thing, right?
I mean, the last fix we had was with the interim novella, The Wind through the keyhole and that was years ago so anything new has to be a good thing, right? Right?

That's the problem, we really don't know.

Recently, I had the misfortune to watch Carrie 2: The Rage and it was awful.
I love the original Carrie, and even quite enjoyed the remake hen I saw it on Netflix recently, but the sequel is atrocious. It was like Beverly Hills 90210 with telekinesis, the actors couldn't act their way out of a paper bag, and an attempt to catch up with lone survivor, Susan, many years later never really goes anywhere. The story teases that the same man who fathered Carrie White is also responsible for fathering the new girl in this film, ignoring the fact of however many years might have passed between his fathering both children, and then never really goes anywhere with it.
Susan, now a teacher, seems to know a hell of a lot about recessive genes and how the telekinesis gene is passed on through the male and then is woefully under-used and the whole thing just feels like a disaster. 
And what is up with those tattoos that suddenly seem able to move across her body when the new girl's powers come into effect? 
Don't even get me started on that.

Yes, I know, Carrie 2 is not really an adaptation of a King book, more a shameless cash-in, but the fact remains, King books rarely make a successful transition to film.

In future blog posts, I intend to look at some of the many success and failures that have occurred over the years, but the law of averages states that The Dark Tower movie has a lot of work to do and a lot to prove if it is going to be one of the better ones.

And that, that is why I'm worried it's going to suck.

Still, there's always the remake of IT to look forward to, right?

Saturday, 28 May 2016

What I have been watching...

So, as you know, I have this perchant for nasty little movies that I like watching late at night, and one that I have discovered recently is a little little known Aussie gem from 2009/ 2010 called The Loved Ones.

Lola is a bit of a social misfit. She is also the unpopular one at school, so when she finally plucks up the courage to ask the guy she fancies to their end of school prom, inevitably he turns her down.
Brent has his own issues - he was partly responsible for his dad's death in a car accident - and besides, he's going out with one of the hottest girls in school and already taking her to the dance.

Unfortunately, as is often the case in such movies, Lola is a bit of a nutcase. Alone out in the wild, taking some time out for a bit of manly brooding and a crafty smoke, Brent suddenly finds himself being attacked and subdued and when he wakes up, he is being held prisoner - by Lola and her dad.

If Brent won't take her to prom, she'll bring him to her own prom. 

Though dancing is the last thing on her mind...

What follows next is what can only be described as 'torture porn' as Lola begins mentally and physically abusing Brent, along with assistance by her father. Though not as extreme as some films that I have seen, nonetheless there are more than a few bits that make for uncomfortable viewing in this rather stylish and often fun horror thriller.
A side-plot featuring Brent's best friend and his own date with the school goth never really goes anywhere other than providing a little bit of light entertainment and comic relief, but overall, this is a pretty neat film with one or two clever twists and the kind of dark humour that Australians seem to do so well. 4/5

The other film I've been watching is Contracted, Phase 2.
Following on from the first film, this time we follow Riley - the guy who had unprotected sex with Sam, the infected girl, towards the end of the first film. 
Following her subsequent death -spoilers - Riley goes to get himself checked out by his brother-in-law, a doctor to make sure he hasn't contracted anything himself. Despite being given a clean bill of health, he still begins to panic - especially after extracting one of Sam's finger nails from underneath his skin where she scratched his back during sex back in the first film.
Much as in Contracted, we see his condition gradually worsening, but this time we we also get another person's perspective thrown into the mix as we follow a police officer trying to track down the person who started off the virus in the first place.
This sub-plot is one that is only ever partially explored and that is one of the main downfalls of this sequel. For when the movie finally ends, even during the end-credits sequences, we, the viewer, are still left with more questions than answers. 

I liked this film and it has some very nice uncomfortable - and often very nasty - scenes including one (spoilers again) that sees Riley pissing blood, but the problem is it all feels a bit too much like what has come before. It is more of a traditional zombie film than the first one with reports of the outbreak spreading across the city whereas the first film offered, at least in my opinion, something a little different.
Inevitably it was always going to be difficult to repeat the success of the first film but, for me, I don't think this sequel really works and it all ends up being a little disappointing. 
Which is a shame because I had such high hopes for this!

The critical response means we probably won't get a third instalment, and hence any real kind of answers, and they is both a good thing and a bad thing.
Rec 4 suffered from trying to go on too long (3 was good, 4 just felt pointless) and probably it is a good thing that the Contracted series ends here - but I still out have liked a few more answers. 3/5

One thing I am looking forward to is the imminent release of my friend, Kathy Denver's debut book.
Ever since discovering the likes of Christina Engela and Christopher Burch's The Icarus Void, I've been looking out for more bold, new reads and from the looks of it, Kathy Denver's book, The Guardians, looks like it might well fit the bill. 
More fantasy than horror, here is the blurb:

 "Eli a warrior witch, faces off against a race of entites known as the D'thseh, whose intent is to feed of the pain and misery they inflict on non-magical humans. 

When a member of his coven is brutally murdered, Eli and his friends must prepare themselves for a battle like no other they have faced before. 

With the resurfacing of the Dark Ones, a faction of witches that practice dark magic, Eli must not only face the on coming storm he must also face the demons of his covens past. 
One they may not survive."

And you can find her release party, being held this weekend, here:

Feel free to stop by and meet the might even win some prizes!!

Until next time, ciao...

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Toneye or not Toneye, that is the question...

When I first stumbled across author Toneye Eyenot on Facebook,  a couple of years ago, I really wasn't sure what to expect. With his constant deliberate mis-spelling of certain words on his posts (such as eye instead of I) I was left kind of thinking, 'who IS this guy?'

Since then, however, we have become firm friends and one of the things I have discovered is that Toneye is not just loyal to a fault to those he considers his friends, but also that he is not just a thoroughly downright decent bloke (even if he is Australian - joke!) but also a consummate professional when it comes to both his writing and editing skills.

So, as you can no doubt well imagine, when I had the pleasure of reading the first two books in his Sacred Blade series recently for review, it came with a certain sense of trepidation

What if they were no good? I asked myself. What if I didn't like them?

Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about...

The sacred Blade series begins with The Scarlett Curse and deals with Scarlett, the chosen carrier of the Sacred Blade - a weapon with a mind of its own that has a thirst for blood that must be regularly sated. The blade has chosen it's next target - a local nobleman named Joshua Melkerin - but when Scarlett moves to take his life, things do not go as planned and in return for her failure, Scarlett is forced to pay a penance that soon ends in tragedy.

Joshua's Folly, the second book in the series, is more of a prequel than a sequel and instead of continuing the story, instead takes us back in time to show us what happened prior to the events in The Scarlett Curse, depicting all that came before leading up to Scarlett's failed attempt at Joshua's assassination. This second book goes into more detail about The Sacred Blade, and sets everything up nicely for a third instalment, leaving the reader with many questions that are yet to be answered...

With these two books, the first two instalments in what looks like will possibly go on to be a much bigger series, Toneye Eyenot introduces us into a world that is scarily all too believable. It is a world where magic has not yet died, and one where mankind, it seems, plays only one small part in a much bigger battle between forces we cannot hope to understand.

These two books together are amongst one of the strongest openings to a fantasy series I have yet had the pleasure of reading. They are best described as High Fantasy, written in a not dissimilar style to George R R Martin or Robin Hobb, though with a much darker hue hanging over them that threatens to only get darker as the series progresses.

From conversations with Toneye, I am led to understand that are plenty of times when he nearly gave up on writing The Scarlett Curse and, at times, thought it would never live to see publication. I, for one, am very glad if did and think this has the potential to be one of my favourite ever fantasy series.

Toneye has an easy style and personally, I can hardly to read book 3 - due out at the latest, early next year.

If I had one comment, it would be that perhaps you might like to read these books out of order. 
Though Joshua's Folly was obviously written much later, given the extra detail it goes into regarding the background behind The Scared Blade and its creation, finishing it, I found myself wanting to re-read The Scarlett Curse to remind myself what came next, even having read both books close together. 
Joshua's Foly essentially is the set-up for The Scarlett Curse, so to my mind reading that first makes more sense than reading these in the order they were written.

Regardless of which order you chose to read them in however, one thing is certain - if you haven't read Toneye Eyenot yet, you are certainly missing out and this could well be the series you are looking for while you're waiting for your next George R R Martin fix...

And I think we all know how long that may take....

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Found footage gone wrong and why you probably shouldn't be havingunprotected sex....

As some of you well know, I am something of a big fan of the whole found footage genre - recently I talked about how much I enjoyed the lost-in-the-woods Bigfoot flick, Willow Creek, and famously I have developed a bit of a reputation for loving the movies {rec} 1-3 (4 is good, but a bit below par).
So when I saw some fairly good recommendations for a film called Grave Encounters, I thought I'd check it out.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I bothered.

A small group of film-makers are filming the sixth episode of their amateur ghost-hunting show, Grave Encounters, and decide to film in an abandoned asylum - the twist, they're going to be locked in so they can't leave.
After a few interviews with locals and people familiar with the asylum (including some behind-the-scenes footage that shows them bribing a local itinerant landscaper to make up a spooky story for them) as per the usual format, the group prepare their ghost-hunting equipment and are locked in for the night.

At first, it is all business as usual - we have the usual stereotypes;  the butch, brave camera man, the cocky host, a fake medium who, frankly, is really annoying from the get-go, and the token female - and as the group patrol the abandoned corridors, we see them all hamming it up for the camera and trying to capture done half-decent footage that they can use to give their latest show a spooky feel that audiences will love. But then things start to go wrong - both for the cast and for the hapless viewer watching this awful travesty.

Something grabs the hair of the token female, there in the dark, freaking her out. Mysterious noises are heard, and radio communications between the team become unreliable and sporadic. Though no presence is caught on camera, the group soon decide enough is enough end retire to the front entrance to await their release.

Unfortunately for them, the guy supposed to release them at the allotted time, never shows. In desperation, and getting even more freaked out now, the team smash down the door - only to find that it no longer leads outside but instead, to more dark and spooky corridors that twist and turn and that ultimately, either end up leading nowhere or worse, bringing them back around full circle.

With it still appearing full dark outside, despite their watches indicating it should now be daylight, the team realise they are trapped - unable to escape - and are now at the mercy of some very vengeful spirits.

This film escapulates everything that is bad, nay awful, in the found footage genre. The characters are dull, annoying, two-dimensional and the whole plot offers nothing new that has not been done before. The whole 'lost in an abandoned area' angle for example, was done so much better in As above, So below, set deep beneath Paris' famous catacombs. The whole 'spooky noises in the dark' has already been over-done several times in the Paranormal Activity series. And don't even get me started on the dodgy CGI here!!!

Honestly, if you're looking for some late night thrills and spills, you'd do well to avoid this. It truly is bad - one of the worst films of its kind I've seen - and the worst thing is, they even made a sequel!!
This sequel, apparently, does a Blair Witch 2 and treats this film like a movie - with a new cast tracking down the actual asylum this was filmed in so they can repeat the exercise depicted here for real.

Seriously?!? Don't bother. 
I've had scarier trips to the bathroom than this - absolutely avoid AT ALL COSTS!

Much better and far more nasty is the short, indie film, Contracted.
Contracted follows the life of a young, very troubled woman over the course of three days after she manages to contract a particularly nasty sexually transmitted infection following a one night stand where she is essentially date raped in the back of a car.

Samantha is a lesbian, or at least she seems to think she is - it seems to be a lot more complicated than that, but she also has a history of taking hard drugs so at first, her mother thinks she is just relapsing and drifting back into bad habits when her daughter starts acting strange.
By the time she realises something is seriously wrong, it's already far too late.
Over three days worth of filming, we, the viewers, watch as Samantha slowly gets worse and worse - her skin begins to feel sore around her stomach area on day one, she begins getting her period a lot harder and heavier than normal, and by day two, her eyes have turned bloodshot and her nails and teeth are starting to fall out along with big clumps of her hair.

The film is essentially the story of one woman's descent into complete bodily shutdown over three days - the sexually transmitted infection appears almost undetectable at first, a doctor she visits puts her feeling rough down to a head cold, but as it quickly becomes apparent, the infection seems to  trigger some kind of necrosis; basically causing her body to start to rot away.
It is uncomfortable viewing and certainly made me feel ick in more than a few places, there were even moments where I had to look away even though I knew what was happening - and when a film does that to a hard core horror aficionado like me, you know it must be bad!

The ending is a tad predictable - if you've seen enough of these kind of movies, you know where it's going and that the film can only ever end one way - but the journey there, the important part, is well worth the watch.
I loved it and you know the most important part - it was original and like nothing else I'd ever seen done before.
And you know what, that is probably the strongest recommendation I can give this film.

Full marks to Contracted, 5 out of 5.

Would I watch it again? Hell yes - I'm even looking forward to the sequel, Phase 2...

But thoughts on that later...