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The Shelter
The Shelter
Price: $0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative of an English Summer and Getting up to No Good, March 14, 2014
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This review is from: The Shelter (Kindle Edition)
The Shelter is a novella by the independent writer James Everington in the style of Stephen King's The Body which resonated with me in the fact that it is about a group of children (in this case four boys) getting up to no good during a school summer holiday. Set in England, it brought back memories of those long six week holidays, with not much to do except going exploring with friends. It is something we probably don't let our children do today but, without Foxtel, Apple, X-box or PC's, our options for entertainment back when I was a teenager in the late 70's and early 80's lay in the outdoors.

The story of The Shelter is related by a thirteen year old Alan Dean who, with his best friend Duncan and two older boys that he knows from school, goes in search of an old air raid shelter that supposedly lies outside of their village. When they get there it's location seems a bit bizarre with the shelter being located in the far corner of a field, the atmosphere changes too with the incessant buzzing of wasps and a feeling of rising anger that threatens to overwhelm the boys themselves.

Driven by excitement and fear, and wondering if this is the resting place of Martin, a local schoolboy whose disappearance has dominated the news reports lately, they open the metal lid that covers the entrance to the shelter. Everything appears normal until a simple prank leaves Alan in a terrifying situation and open to a supernatural event. But did it really happen?

As children we are ready to accept the unknown, and in a state of heightened terror we can imagine any amount of horrors. Yet for all those nights of being too afraid to look under the bed, or in the closet or at that bundle of clothes thrown on the chair that looks like something unimaginable.......... did any harm ever come to us? This then brings doubt and cynicism into the mind of the adult, and the realisation that there never was anything there at all. This is the thought that the older Alan will ponder as he reviews the events of that summer.

The writing style does need some polishing, and the idea itself of using a group of bored children to propel the story along isn't all that original - just read Stephen King and Dan Simmons - but I found that I really liked it because of the memories that it stirred up for me and I almost (almost mind you) felt a pang for a genuine English Summer.


Roadrage
Roadrage
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Psychological Thriller, June 7, 2013
This review is from: Roadrage (Kindle Edition)
After enjoying some very positive reviews for his first novel Niedermayer & Hart (my favourite `Indie' read of last year) Martin has presented us with his psychological thriller Roadrage.

Forget the why's and wherefore's of the plot and just accept the fact that there are potentially some dangerously crazy people out there and, if they had hold of your personal information, how much damage could they do to your life? One such person sets his sights on destroying the life of Gil Harper, an unassuming illustrator, who is learning to live again after the tragic death of his wife. What starts out as a brief incident on the motorway one rainy Christmas night sends Gil's life spiraling out of control.

There are some nice touches here and there; I liked the gear shift chapter headings, and dear old Spike...... what a lovely brave little character he is. Some of the other characters I suspect are based on people Martin has known from his acting days (Sally, Gil's love interest, is involved with the theatre). I was suspicious of Sally from the start, and I was trying to work out how she would fit into the scheme of things, but you will need to read the novel to find out why she is so secretive.

This novel will get you thinking about the danger of being a creature of habit, and the security of your own personal information. After all, we all live in the age of the internet where everything is accessed by passwords - and you can't possibly remember them all, you have to write them down........... somewhere....... don't you?


Nobody's Slave
Nobody's Slave
Price: $3.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nautical Adventure and History Lesson, March 21, 2013
This review is from: Nobody's Slave (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed this fictional account of survival and friendship between Tom (a young English sailor) and Madu (a young black slave) set amidst the back drop of Francis Drake's third voyage to obtain slaves from Africa to sell to the Spaniards.

I feel that I have an affinity with Francis Drake as I originally hail from Plymouth in South Devon and, before his retirement from the Royal Navy, my late father was based at HMS Drake in Devonport and my wedding reception was held there too. However, after reading this novel and Tim's blog post Queen Elizabeth's Slave Trader my illusions about Francis Drake have been slightly shattered, though Tim does remind us that Drake was a man of his time and should not be judged too harshly.

Many of the events depicted in Nobody's Slave actually happened, and I liked the way that we were shown the aspirations of Madu before his captivity, the manhood test required by his tribe and his desire to be accepted by his stern step father. We see Madu as a human being with hopes and dreams and not as a commodity to be bought and sold.

Madu and Tom's destinies become intertwined and their friendship, which begins on rocky ground, strengthens as fate reverses their fortunes. This is a coming of age story for Madu and Tom, as well as a nautical adventure story, and a bit of a history lesson too.

The narration is straight forward and easy to read though (my only criticism) there were some scenes which would have benefitted from more descriptive writing to portray the intensity of the action taking place instead of keeping all the narration on an even keel. But, overall, it was an enjoyable read.


Mama Said
Mama Said
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously Insidious, January 17, 2013
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This review is from: Mama Said (Kindle Edition)
A delightfully nasty little story that will have you hooked and on the side of the disturbed narrator. Read it in your lunch break, you will be glad you did.


In the Tall Grass
In the Tall Grass

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Distasteful, December 12, 2012
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This review is from: In the Tall Grass (Kindle Edition)
Please, Stephen King and Joe Hill, if this is the best that your two heads can give us then don't collaborate again.

I am a fan of both authors, but this is truly awful. The subject matter is distasteful at best. If you are 'expecting' or have young children then give this novella a miss, it will upset you.

I love horror, but this is gratuitous at best and it fails miserably.


The Unfading Heiress (Soul Switch Trilogy Book 1)
The Unfading Heiress (Soul Switch Trilogy Book 1)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Grand Scope of Imagination, December 1, 2012
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I am not a regular reader of fantasy, but I did appreciate the scope of imagination required to bring this story to life. Having read it, and dissected it, I can say that Walter definitely loves to tell a story and this shines through as you read.

The themes are common themes, unrequited love, a quest, friendship, and a love that transcends boundaries. However, it is said that you should not try to write something that has never been written before but write something that only you could have written; and I can see that Walter's love of indigenous legends and stories evidently inspired much of this work.

I think that Walter has a wonderful imagination and I only wish that I had half the drive that Walter has to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard!) and see it through to the end, and for that alone The Unfading Heiress deserves five stars from me.


Solitary Thoughts: A Series of Subjects Addressed
Solitary Thoughts: A Series of Subjects Addressed
by William Goff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.35
26 used & new from $0.13

4.0 out of 5 stars Profound Thoughts on Today's Society, August 27, 2012
Solitary Thoughts is a hard book to review because the opinions expressed in the various essays are unique to the author. William Goff has very strong opinions about today's society, that of corporate greed and mass consumerism, amongst a number of other subjects addressed.

I agree that we live in a world that has gone mad, and which is greedy and selfish. Human beings have this innate ability to over consume, be it food, cars, houses, or technology. We seem to think that this will buy us happiness but it comes at a cost - heavy debt, declining health, and stress. Over consumerism has resulted in mass production of products, which lack any true style or craftsmanship, and are soon outdated causing us to live in a disposable society.

The essays in Solitary Thoughts focus on the author's feelings about these various subjects. The presentation of the book is excellent, the cover is very tasteful and each essay is not too long; but there is negativity surrounding each one so I found that reading just one or two at a time every couple of days was enough. I did find the essays rather verbose and I needed to read each one a couple of times to fully comprehend what the author was actually trying to convey.

My favourites were "The Dancer" which is the most optimistic of the essays, and I really liked "Theatre of the Mind" as its structure is reminiscent of my favourite short story (Midnight Express by Alfred Noyes).

The essays are not light reading, nor are they uplifting, but each one does contain something profound which makes it worthwhile taking a look at this independently published book


Pygmy
Pygmy
by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.85
197 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Satire on Consumerism and Greed, February 2, 2012
This review is from: Pygmy (Paperback)
Pygmy is a diminutive 13 year old terrorist from a country/state that is never named, but is likened to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and China. This `country' has arranged for several of its young `operatives' to stay with host families in America as a kind of student program.

The operative's mission is code-named `Havoc' (surprise surprise for a Chuck Palahniuk novel!!), and it is to take place at the National Science Fair where money tainted with a neurotoxin will be released and it is hoped that the money will be spread around until all the capitalists are killed.

This story is told via Pygmy's regular dispatches to his superiors, and is written in a drone-like pigeon English which at first is quite hard to read, but you do get into the rhythm of it. As well as learning about Pygmy's time in America you also find out about his formative years and his training leading up to the mission. Pygmy rarely mentions actual names, so his host family, the Cedars, become familiar to us as `Pig Dog Brother', `Cat Sister', `Cow Father' and `Chicken Mother'. Things look dire for America with such indoctrinated and well trained operatives, but things do go a little awry when Pygmy realises that deep down he does feel emotion and that strange feeling is actually fondness for his host `cat sister'.

Pygmy is a satire on Western, particularly American, consumerism and greed. It is certainly a very original novel, not just for the plotline but also in the way that it is written. After reading the first chapter I debated whether to make my life a misery over the next few days or just forget it and move onto something else. Luckily I decided to persevere and I read a very clever, shocking and funny novel.

I don't recommend Palahniuk novels to people I know as he's very confronting and not to everyone's taste, a lot of readers I know would be offended by his work. But, for the record, I thought this was a great novel though I think he has limited his readership because of the narrative voice.


The New Death and others
The New Death and others
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inject Some Fun Into Your Dark Fantasy Reading, December 8, 2011
If you like your short stories cynical and twisted, or your fairy tales fractured, then this is a perfect coffee table book full of cynical and twisted tales, interspersed with some very good dark poetry.

Mr Hutchings left a message on my blog asking if I would read and review his book. I had put the call out to `independent authors' in an earlier post for my 2012 Reading List, but I think this was a random request and I'm so pleased to have been asked as this little book really tickled my sense of humour and touched those dark chords that draw me to unsettling and unusual fiction.

I have never read a book quite like this, it has no particular order, being a total mix of work which makes it perfect for picking up and selecting a page at random. I didn't like some of the stories, but I did appreciate most of them, and the poetry I thought was wonderful.

An obvious cat lover, there are several references to cats throughout, such as the disturbing How the Isle of Cats Got Its Name and the gorgeous little poem My Cat is Not Like Other Cats, which all of us cat lovers can definitely identify with! In The Death of the Artist it is revealed that all writers and artists have cats, a fact which takes on a sinister significance; and now I fully understand that when my Tenshi is staring intently at nothing she is actually enhancing her mental powers!!

Of all the short stories I really liked the atmospheric The Scholar and the Moon which has less of the cynicism that prevails in most of the other work, and the nightmarish The Dragon Festival. The poetry, as I have said, is very good with some of it being based on actually stories by Lovecraft, Dunsany and an author I have only just recently `discovered' - Clark Ashton Smith.

Yes, some of the stories are corny or just plain silly, but others have a touch of sheer brilliance to them. If you tend to get bogged down with some heavy reading, which I do on occasion, this is a breath of fresh air. I didn't want to put it down, and looked forward to the twisted endings and the clever play on words and ideas. Even the corny stories got a giggle as well as a groan out of me.


Specter of The Covington Fencibles
Specter of The Covington Fencibles
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tight Creepy Read, October 16, 2011
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Well, the old adage says that you can choose your friends but you can't choose your relations and I guess some families would like to bury the memories of any undesirables within their ranks. But not so with William Deen, for deep within the Deen family tree roots there lies a very unlikable man and an abhorrent act, and now he's been revealed!

Living in Australia, I'm not too knowledgeable about the American Civil War, but I found that the opening scenes enabled me to set the scene quite well and the overall feeling was like that creepy Clint Eastwood Civil War Movie 'The Beguiled'.

We follow the life of Deen's ancestor, through the civil war and into civilian life. Times were tough, and he was tough on his family, and the victim of the crime that he committed when fighting with the Covington Fencibles is waiting....waiting.... and you can only think that the real life L B McGrew must have been so terribly weighed down by his act for it to haunt him on his death-bed.

With one foot firmly planted within historical fact and the other tottering into the spectral realm I found that this was a nice tight creepy read before going to sleep. I was very pleasantly surprised.
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