Friday 27 February 2015

Review, Masks, E M Prazeman, 5* :-)

As said, I still have a stack of good reads in the queue, so I'm trying to be a better blogger, if only to get them out there, while I sit here contemplating the arrival of my own debut offering. With that very much in mind, here's a debut novel I really enjoyed recently:

Masks, E M Prazemen, 5*
published Wryd Goat Press LLC

These jesters don't wear bells any more - so you won't hear them coming!

Mark, orphaned and destitute, is bought into a nobleman's house where he becomes both a catamite and a student. When he is nineteen his patron's Jester, Gutter, gifts him a living Jester's mask. But Mark hesitates to wear it, unsure of the new life it could offer and of the motives behind it. A jester's mask really does change things.

How far can he trust Gutter's generosity?
Who really murdered his mother?
Why is another Jester telling him to run and hide?

This is a brilliant debut novel, well written, well paced and with characters I loved. I've bought the sequel. So do take a look.

Hopefully I won't take so long to add more next time.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Review, Inspector Hobbes and the Curse, Wilkie Martin, 5* :-)

Inspector Hobbes and the Curse, Wilkie Martin, 5*
published by The Witcherley Book Company.

"A humorous mystery series titled Unhuman... suitable for a wide readership from teen upwards."

the disaster-prone Andy, currently lodging with the oversized Inspector, his elderly, tooth-collecting housekeeper and a delinquent hound, will have to stumble his way through sheep deaths, missing pheasants, big cat sightings and ruthless big business interests to survive this story.

Oh, and he thinks he's falling in love, there's something very worrying lurking in the woods, and he's a bit worried his less-than-human Inspector might take the law into his own huge hands.

As all this suggests, this book is an urban fantasy with a twist, built around an eccentric protagonist and a tongue in cheek humour worthy of Pratchett or Holt.

I'll definitely look for more.

And that concludes the promised 5x5 stars, and catches me up - a bit. Trouble is, I still have a stack more really good reviews to pass along.
But I guess they'll wait a little longer.

Monday 23 February 2015

Review, Magic City, Recent Spells, edited by Paula Guran, 5* :-)

Magic City - Recent Spells, an anthology, edited by Paula Guran. 5*
published by Prime Books.

I don't generally feel the urge to read a lot of short stories, so if I can really recommend one I figure it has to be good.

This collection is a positive smorgasbord of Urban Fantasy. Hey, it includes work by Charles de Lint, Jim Butcher, Nancy Kress and Simon R Green. Obviously I was going to read it. And it delivered, every bit as well as one might expect it to - a series of good to great stories that will provide me with some new names I can look out for in novel form as well.

What more could one ask?

Sunday 22 February 2015

Review, Lock In, By John Scalzi, 5* :-)

Lock In, by John Scalzi, 5*
published by Tor

Lock In is the end result of a new virus. 4% of victims suffer meningitis, 1% end up 'locked in'; aware, but unable to move or respond. But that 1% equals 1.7 million Americans so new laws, government research and support systems are instituted. Result: the sufferers can now 'live' in automaton bodies and lead 'normal' lives again.

Among the best known victim is a Senator's son, Chris Shane, afflicted when two years old and  grown up as the poster boy for his kind. But Chris wants to do a real job and joins the FBI - facing this challenge just as it looks like the government is about to pull the plug on the funding that makes life 'livable' for his less-wealthy fellows.

This is a near future SF novel that manages to be credible, intricate and at times even humorous. As a fan of television's Almost Human I was probably the target audience, and this does seem to be the time for the concept to surface. Even so, the characters are strong, so is the plot, and the world building. Honestly, it was a clear 5 star rating from the first page.

My only gripe: I can't quite see how Scalzi could write a sequel - and I'd dearly love to meet these characters - all of them - again.

Gripping read.

Saturday 21 February 2015

review: Zac and Mia, by A J Betts 5* :-)

Zac and Mia, by A J Betts
pub Houghton Muffin Harcourt.

Teen Zac is in an isolation ward, again, enduring treatment for leukemia and ably supported, always enthusiastically, by his mother. The ward area is generally quiet, even hushed. mother and son play a humouring game, trying to stay cheerful. But when Mia arrives everyone knows it - music plays, full blast, on the other side of Zac's wall, there's shouting between Mia and her mother... and thus begins an unusual, unlikely and frankly unforgettable story.

Told in the two teen 'voices', this is a beautiful novel; well told, peppered with detail and with a slow-build climax well worth getting to.

I initially hesitated over whether to review this one or not.
 Don't stop and think, just grab it and read. It's a winner .

Friday 20 February 2015

Review: Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge, 5* :-)

"When Triss wakes after an accident she knows something is wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her, and her parents whisper a lot behind closed doors. She looks in her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out."

What should I say? I was hooked from page one. This one is magical, and a must-read for anyone who likes subtle dark fantasy - or possibly Stephen King?

It may be listed as a children's book but don't believe it. This is younger fiction meets horror, in the way some Victorian children's books managed. I could imagine sharp-beaked Arthur Rackham crows as illustrations much more than today's fluffy kittens.

Maybe not for the very young, but it isn't marketed for them. For teen to adult though, it's a beautifully written, imaginative tale. Well worth a look even if you don't normally try something a bit younger sounding.

New Year, already? Ouch, my life is caught up but my book reviews are way behind.

Yeah, so it's already well into February too. It's just taken me a while to catch up, that's all, and  I'm sure anyone reading this has been busy too.

It appears, however, that I'm now officially a NetGalley Top Reviewer - who knew? I wouldn't have, except I suddenly noticed the logo on my NetGalley page a couple days ago. Made me feel quite proud. Though it's possible one or two people I've reviewed this year wouldn't agree. ;-)

It made me think though. For one thing, I'd got bogged down and hadn't passed on my reviews as much as I should have. For another, I know I'm now looking at finding out what people have to say about my own novel which will be available to review here and there any day. Ah well. People will love it or hate it, or possibly both at once. I'm reminding myself that a British publisher said the story would be "too difficult to market" - and trying not to expect too much.

If you do read it, please give me a comment, either way. I'd really like to hear them.

In the meantime I see I have a stack of 4 or 5 star books in my reviewed stack, so to make things up a bit I'm going to blog 5 5-star reviews over the next 5 days for anyone looking for a really good read.