Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Books read in March, part 1

When a recovering alcoholic and former guitarist returns to play with his old band one last time after reading a mysterious book, he has no idea just what he has let himself in for.

After smashing up his car on the way home, whilst giving one of his former band mates a lift, the lead character soon finds himself caught up in a horrific nightmare from which he can’t seem to escape, as the author of the book subjects him to a night of personalised terror.

Will Haunt You is my14th read of the year, obtained through netgalley in exchange for a honest review, but though I was quite looking forward to reading this, which is why I requested it, I actually found myself starting to struggle somewhere around the half-way mark to the point where I almost, very nearly, considered just throwing in the towel and giving up.

For me, personally, I found the whole thing a bit of a convoluted and confusing mess with several different plot points all attempting to converge into one, until I found myself struggling to even understand what the hell exactly was going on.

Overall, for me at least, the whole thing just didn’t work and as such, is not something I can personally recommend.


Much better is Edgar Cantero’s Meddling kids, a modern-day take on the old Scooby-Doo TV series that many of you reading this, like me, will have probably grown up with.

A few years ago, someone made a short fan film of The Power Rangers that looked at how those characters might have fared as they moved into adulthood, and Cantero’s book here attempts to do something very similar.

Years after solving their last and biggest mystery, a group of former crime-solving teens, and the descendant of the dog that was their canine companion, now each of them broken and maladjusted adults, return to the town that was their former holiday home to revisit the scene of their last case, convinced they left something unfinished.

But as they return to their old stomping ground and beginning their investigation anew, they soon discover that this time around the culprit is more than just yet another man in a mask in a thrilling adventure tale that is quite literally packed to the rafters with Lovecraftian undertones.

I really, really enjoyed this and can’t reccomend it enough. The book is lots of nostalgic fun, but more than that is also a bloody good read. What starts off as a pastiche of the old Scooby-Doo cartoons quickly develops into more of a homage, and is quite simply a cracking tribute that manages to do its source material proud.

4* out of 5

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Ant Middleton and Lone Survivor.

Books 12 and 13 of 2019 are Ant Middleton’s autobiography, First man in, and Nikki Landis’ zombie novel, Lone Survivor.

Ant Middleton is best known for his role on S.A.S: Who Dares Wins where members of the general public are put through a gruelling set of S.A.S training lessons in a bid to see if they would be tough enough to make it right through to the end of the course, but he is also a man who has served this country not just in the Paras but also in the Special Boat Squad, an elite group of soldiers who quite literally are the best of the best.

Much of Ant’s time in the Special Boat Squad is still classified top secret, so anyone expecting to learn anything from those times is going to be sadly disappointed, but this is more about how he got to the point of where he is today, along with several life lessons he has learnt during his time in the armed forces that helped ground him and shape him into the man he is today.

It’s a highly enjoyable read, full of very helpful advice and coping strategies at the end of each chapter, and I can’t recommend this enough - 4 stars.

Lone Survivor is the first in a new series by Nikki Landis and is what can only be described as a horror novel mixed with a heavy touch of romance, and as such is something of a very mixed bag. 
Bailee is the last woman on earth, or so she thinks, and has learnt to adapt and survive in a world currently overrun by the undead for the last year on her own, but then she discovers she is no longer alone...

There are other survivors out there, attempting to rebuild some kind of society, and she might just be the key to it all...

I was given a copy of this as an Arc, an advanced readers copy, in exchange for an honest review and as such, really wanted to enjoy this but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. 
It was enjoyable enough for what it was, but for me it lacked any depth or originality to the point where I kept thinking I’d read this before somewhere because so much of the story seemed familiar.

The Zombie genre nowadays is quite literally flooded, the market arguably overly saturated, and so to stand out in this day and age you really need to try and bring something new to the table and this is where I think this book ultimately fails. In my own recent release, a collection of Zombie shorts entitled Fear of the Dead, I tried to do something different by telling each story from a perspective you might not have heard from before, but 
with Nikki Landis’ book it just feels a little like there is nothing much here that long-time horror fans won’t have seen before.

The cause of the outbreak too, for me personally, felt overly more complicated than it needed to be and the title of the book, Lone Survivor, is something of a misnomer as the lead character is only alone for just a few short chapters before suddenly she is thrust into the midst of a new community, fighting hard to restore some kind of order. I would have liked them, personally, to have turned up a little later in the book as I think some of the strongest chapters come early on in the book when Bailee is still alone, but that’s just me.

I really, really wanted to enjoy this, like I say, and I only wish I could be a little bit more positive about it, but the lack of originality  and the constant feeling that I’d read all this before somewhere - or at the very least, seen the same situation play out before in too many other books before this - for me,  meant the whole thing kind of just left me a little bored.

If you’re fairly new to the genre, or a big fan of Nikki Landis’ writing, then this is probably for you but if, like me, you’ve been around the block a few times, chances are you too will have seen everything here all done before and for that reason alone, I’m afraid I can only give this 2 stars out of 5.

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties is my eleventh read of the year and at just over 700 pages in hardback, is one of the reasons why it has been so long since the last time I posted.

Written by Stephen King, alongside his son, Owen, the book tells the story of what happens when all of the world’s women slowly start falling asleep and one after the other, begin slipping into what can only be described as a coma from which, as it soon becomes apparent, it is dangerous to try and wake them from. 

Meanwhile, in the small town of Dooley, a young woman mysteriously emerges from the woods, appearing as if from nowhere, leaving a trail of death and destruction in her wake. 
Her name is Evie, Evie Black - or at least that is what she calls herself - and though the towns people of Dooley might not know it yet, she is the key to it all, everything that is currently happening, and whatever happens to her will go on to help decide the fate of the entire world....

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of Stephen King and though much of his later and more recent work has its critics, there are plenty of his recent releases that I have still enjoyed.
Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them.

When I first picked this up, it was on loan from the library and I ended up returning it in the end both because I was struggling to get into it, and because I knew I would never in a million years get to finish it in time before it was due back.

Fast forward a few months, and when I saw this in a local charity shop, I decided to try and give it another go. 

In hindsight, I really shouldn’t have bothered.

Discussing this book with others online, on social media, the general consensus of this book is that it’s 300 pages of character development and then another 400 or so pages of story where, let’s be frank, not really a hell of a lot happens. 
And having read the book for myself, I can tell you they’re not far wrong.

The story in itself is okay, but that’s about it. For something that, in appearance, is not far off the size of something like The Stand, this book is nowhere near as epic or anywhere near as memorable. If I’m honest, it almost feels like a cash-grab and though I did not hate it, it really wasn’t something I think that I will bother to read again and as far as King books go, I’d probably rate it as being almost as disappointing, if not more so, than Doctor Sleep - the belated sequel to The Shining which similary failed to impress when I read it last year.

I don’t know how much of this was written by King, and how much by his son, Owen, or whether King just gave his name to this book to help boost sales, but for me personally this was nowhere near as good as the work of his other son, Joe Hill who - with the exception of Horns which I really couldn’t get on with - has successfully managed to carve himself out his own reputation without feeling the need to hang onto his father’s coat tails.

If you’re thinking of giving this a go, look at the length and the size of the book first. If, after that, you’re still willing to invest a lot of time and effort into what, ultimately, is a not very rewarding experience then fine, good luck to you, I wish you all the best, but this is one of those books where even I started to skim read towards the end in a bid to finally finish it off and that is something I very rarely do.

A weak 2/5 just because it’s King but really, I really wouldn’t bother with this if I were you because time is too short and there are plenty of other, better reads out there.

Monday, 21 January 2019

A frosty reception...

My tenth read of the year so far is another Matthew Cash novella entitled Frosty - a spooky winters tale for long, dark nights that is sure to send shivers down your spine and put a chill in your heart.

Reg is a homeless person, down on his luck and a bit confused to the point where he can barely remember who he is anymore. One cold, dark night, he seeks refuge in an old, downed tree with the intention of trying to get at a few hours sleep, but little does he know he is not alone...

Little Stevie hasn’t many friends and has never really seen real snow before, so when he wakes up to find his town blanketed in white, he persuades his step-dad to take him over the park so he can play...

And it is there that he encounters what’s left of Reg...for Reg is no longer quite the man he used to be, as a group of bullies who like to pick on Stevie are just about to find out!

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this as much as the previous book I read by Cash and found it a little harder to get into. It was still a good read, but lacked some of the depth and flair of the previous novella which is why I’m only giving it 3 * out of 5.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still good - just not as good as some of his other work - and I still stand by my earlier statement that Matthew Cash remains one of the most under-rated British writers around.

The cat came back...a review...

Darren Johnson is drunk, depressed, and pining over the loss of his girlfriend when, on the way home one night, he spots a small, grey stray cat out in the rain and in a moment of chivalry, decides to take pity on the little fella. Taking him in and giving him shelter for the night, Darren leaves the cat out in the hall while he passes out in his bedroom, but the very next morning, when he wakes up, he quickly finds very good reason to regret this decision...

For while he has been asleep, the little cat has also been busy - defiling and destroying his whole apartment!!

Fuming and absolutely furious, Darren takes the cat and throws him back out on the street...but then, the next night, mysteriously the cat comes back...

Darren awakes in the middle of the night to find the cat somehow back in his apartment.

Once more, Darren ejects the cat - this time kindly donating him to an old man, who lives a few floors down, and who takes in and feeds abandoned waifs and strays, but once again, the next night, the cat comes back.

No matter what Darren tries to do, the cat always seems to want to return to him - until finally he is forced to resort to desperate measures to try and rid himself of this unwanted pet.

But even then, still the cat comes back!

Matthew Cash is a true British talent and an author who is exceptionally gifted and talented at crafting very clever stories.
I have had the pleasure of reading a number of his efforts over the last few years, and not once have any of them failed to impress. 
This though, is by far, one of my favourites of all the stories yet I have had the pleasure of reading by him.

With this short, little novella, Matthew Cash has created a chilling and terrifying read that is sure to make you look at your own cat a little differently from now on.

Be warned though, the book does contain a few scenes of animal violence and brutality so if that is something that doesn’t appeal, you might be best avoiding this.

This book is ideal for fans who might like Matt Shaw, and if you have read and loved any of his books, I would really recommended you checking out Matthew Cash!

A strong 4/5 and I look forward to reading more by this author soon.

Monday, 14 January 2019

More book reviews for January, 2019

Books 6, 7, and 8 of 2019 includes two awesome novels and, unfortunately, one not quite so.

As previously mentioned, Graham Masterton is one of those authors who sometimes can be a little bit hit and miss. Unfortunately, The Sleepless is an example of the latter.

The Sleepless is one of those rare Masterton books I had not encountered before, so when I saw it in a local honesty library (where you can either exchange books or alternatively simply pick one up for a small donation), I decided bravely to give it a go.

Unfortunately I just couldn’t get on with it.

Following a promotion to the position of senior judge, one man and his family are involved in a helicopter crash en-route to his accepting his appointment. Somehow, by some sort of miracle, the man and his family all manage to survive the crash, but as they approached by a mysterious stranger they soon begin wishing they’d died on impact.

When a former Insurance investigator suffering from PSTD is called back to his previous job to investigate the crash, after being made an offer he simply cannot refuse, he encounters a mystery he becomes determined to solve.
But at what cost?

Unfortunately this book simply wasn’t for me. I found it hard to connect with the characters and despite a very grisly opening scene featuring the rather ironically named ‘Jaws of Life’ - ironic because of the way in which they are here out to use - I really just couldn’t get on with this book. Within only a few chapters, I found myself ‘skimming’ pages and one look at how many pages I had left (for it is not a small book) was enough to convince me not to continue.

Fans of this Blog will know that I don’t like giving up on books but at the same time, I have long  reached that point in my life where I am no longer willing to endure something I’m really not enjoying and  unfortunately I’m afraid this was just one of those books I just couldn’t get on with.

Sorry Graham if you’re reading this...

Thankfully, Elevation by Stephen King was a much quicker and more enjoyable read. More of a novella than a full novel, it returns us to King’s Castle Rock, the home of such works as Cujo , The Dead Zone,  and Needful Things and on the surface is the story of a man apparently losing weight whilst on the outside remaining exactly the same.

But it is also much more than that and in the spirit of stories like The Green Mile, ends up being just as much about tolerance as it is anything else.

I really enjoyed this and thought it a nice little read and a good return to form for King. It also features a sneak peek at Gwendy’s Button Box, and this is another of his that I must pick up at some point..,

Finally, we reach Thomas.S. Flower’s Island of the Flesh eaters.

 A playful homage to the ‘Video nasties’ of the eighties, The book looks and reads almost like a new imagining of the classic Zombie movie, Zombie Flesh-eaters - with one scene early on playing out almost exactly like it does in the movie! 

Despite this though, and despite the book being more than a little predictable if you have seen the afore mentioned movie, Island of the Flesh-eaters is a highly enjoyable read as one young boy and a local reporter search for the boys missing sister on a holiday island resort,  in a plot that could also be accused of borrowing heavily from the console game, Dead Island.

If all this makes the book sound highly derivative, then that’s because it is, but that’s not to say that the book isn’t good, because again, it is - it’s very well written and that is enough to almost make you forgive the author for borrowing so heavily from other source material. 

I found the characters well written and easy to like, and this was a short, sharp read that doesn’t pull many punches.

Would I read something else by this author? That’s a question I often ask myself when reviewing a new book and here, the answer is a solid and resounding, yes. I would love to see what this author can do with more original material, and from this example he is certainly one to watch.

If you’re looking for something to really get your teeth into (pun intended) then this book probably isn’t for you. If however, you’re looking for something short and sweet that you don’t have to think too much about, then this probably IS for you. 

It’s a good, solid read despite its over-reliance on familiar tropes and definitely one of the better Zombie books out there and something I would have no problem reading again.

A great little tribute to the eighties, 4 stars out of 5 - losing a star  simply because  I felt like it played out a little too closely to Fulci’s classic zombie movie for my liking despite being very well done. 

Welcome to the jungle, baby...

A review of Matt Shaw’s The Island...

Both awesome AND gruesome, The Island is everything you might expect from uk horror author, Matt Shaw and then more so.
In what can only be described as a clever parody of the popular Bear Grylls show, The Island sees several ordinary people dropped onto a remote desert island to test their mettle and see just how long they can survive against all odds.

But what starts out as just another reality tv show soon takes a turn for the worse when one of their number is accidentally killed...

Seeking aid, as the contestants realise their only contact with the outside world appears to have been cut off, any former intention between the survivors to work together quickly begins to break down as the producers manipulate events from behind the scenes.

In this game, there can be only ONE winner and in this show, it’s every man (or woman) for themselves.

Once again, Shaw has excelled himself with yet another grisly tale.
The ending of this book teases his next offering and I for one simply cannot wait to see what this authors sick mind can come up with next.

A very confident and well deserved five stars out of five!