Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The last book for me so far this month, and my 23rd of the year, is the sequel to Thomas Flower’s Island of the flesh eaters that I reviewed earlier this year.
City continues exactly where Island left off, detailing what was going on while the character from the first book, Mark, was off hunting for his sister.
Franco Hernandez, a dockhand, seemingly delirious and suffering from a fever after being attacked by the Captain of an otherwise abandoned ship, is rushed to a nearby hospital, but it isn’t long before he succumbs to his wounds and is declared officially dead.
As his body is on its way down to the morgue however, Franco rises from the dead and proceeds to attack others in the hospital - infecting them in the process...
And just like that, so the zombie apocalypse begins...
Before long, the whole city of Houston is in danger of being overrun. A handful of survivors band together to try and seek out some kind of escape, but as the army of the dead continues to grow, so too do their odds of survival start to stack up against them...
When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead shall walk the earth...

This was a great book, and a wonderful, nostalgic, short, sharp read  that is the perfect follow-up to Island of the flesh-eaters. Whilst that book could be described as ever so slightly derivative at times, City  stands out on its own and is the perfect tribute to zombie movies of the early eighties when this book is set. With shows like Stranger Things all the rage at the moment, the eighties have never been more popular and Thomas Flowers here perfectly encapsulates that with this, his latest novel in his Flesh-eaters series.
At the end of this book, that finishes on a real ‘wtf happens now’ moment, Flowers teases a third instalment, Empire of the flesh-eaters, and after reading this, I’m definitely looking forward to it and hope to see the characters from both these two first books finally meeting up.
Even if they don’t, the way this book ends, Empire promises to be every bit as epic.
Meanwhile, if you only read one zombie book this autumn, I for one recommend it be this one...

Books read in August part 3

Continuing my list of books read in August, books 21 and 22 of the year for me are the latest books in the Jack Caffrey series by popular crime novelist, Mo Hayder. 
As you can see, I’ve really been getting through a few books this month and making up for lost time, but these last two books were simply so addictive, I found them impossible to put down.  
The last few Jack Caffrey novels for me, it is fair to say, have been a bit of a disappointment. Ever since Hayder moved her titular detective inspector from his own native London to Bristol, his new stomping ground, it has almost felt a bit to me like Hayder has struggled to find Caffrey’s voice, but books 6 and 7 of the series, Poppet and Wolf respectively, are actually the first of her books in a long time to actually feel like Jack Caffrey novels. 
Both books are very cleverly written, with some neat twists and turns, and really do capture the feeling of the first couple of books - Birdman, and The Treatment. Poppet, in particular, is especially good - finally resolving something that has been hanging over the last three books a bit like a dark cloud, but Wolf is also a very good read.
I read both books in a couple of days each, and was really able to get my teeth back into the series with these last two entries. 
Together, they have done something I’d never thought they’d do, and restored my faith in Mo Hayder’s ability to write not just a good book, but a gripping and compelling thriller.
Both books come highly recommended, and I look forward to more in the series...

Books read in August part 2

Next up for August, and book 18 of the year, is City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong. 

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret that she has kept for most of her life, but when her past comes back to haunt her, she jumps at the chance to flee to a remote town, cut off from all other civilisation, with her best friend so that the pair of them can start afresh.
But this new life comes at a price.
In this remote, isolated town, someone is attacking and murdering the residents and Casey’s price for staying is finding out who is responsible.
This book started off okay, and was a good read for two thirds of the book, but for me, the third and final act of the book let me down. By its end, I felt a tad disappointed by what I had just read which is why I’m only giving this 3 out of 5 stars.
I’ve never been Armstrong’s biggest fan, but I loved the idea of this book and thought it had real potential.
Unfortunately though, the last few chapters really didn’t pay out for me which is why I have rated this so low.
I always think the real test of a good book is whether or not I would keep it. 
This one, I ended up donating which I think about sums up what I thought of it.

Book 19 of the year for me is Sharpes Tiger by Bernard Cornwell. The first book, chronologically, for Sharpe sees our erstwhile hero starting off his career in deepest, darkest India, fighting on behalf of the British colonies. A great insight into that particular period of time, the book was a really good read - the first Sharpe book I gave ever read - and certainly left me wanting to read more in the series.

My 20th read this year is The first casualty by Ben Elton. 
Set during the First World War, a former police inspector who refuses to fight on the grounds he doesn’t believe the war is one anyone can win, finds himself first incarcerated for his beliefs, and then sent to the front line when a senior officer is murdered.
Amidst all of the blood, the mud, and the fighting, his only hope of redeeming himself is solving what at first looks like an impossible crime, but the further he investigates, the closer he starts to come to the truth.
This was another great book that really sucks you in and takes you in really deep and dirty into what it must have been like for those brave men out on the front line. It’s also a great thriller and has certainly encouraged me to look out for more books by this former comedian who, in recent years, really seems to have done well for himself after starting out in stand-up over 20 years ago now at least.
This book reminded me a lot of a combination of Bernard Cornwell  and Sebastian Faulk’s novel, Charlotte Gray, and I would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy their historical fiction. 

Books read in August 2019

It’s been a while, and my life has been kind of hectic these past few months - which is why I’ve not really been reading - but now that things are finally starting to settle down, I’ve found myself picking up a few books again these past few weeks or so.
First up, and book 16 of the year, is One Kick by Chelsea Cain.
Cain is best known for her series of novels featuring Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell, so this is a bit of a departure for her, but I have to confess, without a doubt, that this is probably her best book to date. 
Kick Lannigan is an abuse survivor who has tried, and to a large extent failed, to put her past behind her. When two children are abducted in and around the Portland area, Kick finds herself approached by a mysterious man, calling himself Bishop, who wants her to use her particular set of skills and experience to good use finding them. 
But the closer she delves into the case, the more she once again finds herself drawn back into her own terrifying past.
This is a very, very good book, but be prepared - may contain a few triggers for anyone who has suffered abuse in the past. The character of Kick is brilliantly imagined which makes this, at times, a very traumatic and emotional read as well as being a taut and very clever thriller but as I said at the beginning of this review, is probably the best thing Cain has ever written.
What a shame then, that Cain seems to have largely foregone her novel writing career recently in favour of writing comic books.
One Kick comes highly recommended and really is a cracking read that I rate very highly for fans of her work.

Next up, and number 17 on my list for this year, is A book of bones by John Connolly. As regular readers of this Blog will know, I am normally a big fan of his Charlie Parker series, but this one unfortunately left me feeling a bit cold. 
A body is discovered on the moors of a NorthEast England, supposedly offered up as some sort of sacrifice to an ancient god, but it is not the first...nor is it to be the last. Still smarting from his last encounter with them, Parker attempts to hunt down Quale and Mors, but in doing so, his search takes him first to Amsterdam and then to London, England as they, in turn, search for the last few missing pages of The Atlas - the book that may well just allow them to finally awaken the ancient god they follow from his eternal slumber.
And only Parker stands in their way...
This book was okay, but suffered from being overly long with just s few too many characters for my liking. Indeed, Parker almost feels like a bit character in his own novel at times, and although I enjoyed this, it definitely wasn’t on par with previous books in this series.
4/5 stars only, I’m afraid.

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.