Review: Owl Stretching by K.A. Laity

Owl Stretching
by Kate Laity

My 140 character tweet review of this one was  ‘Owl Stretching is wonderful, weird, lyrical and feels a bit like doing opium and playing space invaders with William Blake’

I can’t really usefully expand on that, but i’ll try. The tagline of the book is ‘Shamans vs Aliens’ and that’s about right, its also very much Ro’s journey to discover herself and mend bridges she had thought well and truly burnt.

In a world where nothing much grows any more and all the animals are gone there seems to be no hope against the aliens and the endless war Ro is a civil servant who’s best friend has been in a coma for ten years. When Simon miraculously awakes it sets a whole chain of events in motion for Ro, Simon and everyone who is prepared to follow them as they try and find a future.

Now the traditional disclaimer, I have far less time to read these days which is why I no longer accept review copies. Additionally I know far more writers than I did when I started out so its often the case that I am reviewing people I know and like and consider friends. Given that Kate also writes and edits for Fox Spirit it would be fair to point out a potential conflict of interest. Since my interest both as Un:Bound and as Fox Spirit remains the sharing and enjoying of great stories though I would refute that. I may not be 100% impartial, but who truly is and i’m so totally right.

Alt.Fiction 2013

After a fantastic Alt.fiction 2012 I was very much looking forward to continuing to run the event for two more years and seeing how we could draw a new audience to our fantastic genre fic family, or at least draw the audience that normally hides their fandom on their kindle.

Sadly there have been changes at my day job recently and I’m afraid my free time is going to be squeezed somewhat over the next year or so delivering the projects for work. As a result i’ve had to step down from Altfiction 2013. I will send on my thoughts and notes so far to WEM and hopefully the event next year will find a new lead and be a huge success.

Nottingham Writers Studio

I love Maxine’s writing and this looks great!

We still have a few places left on our Nottingham Writers’ Day coming up on Saturday 13 October with Maxine Linnell. Maxine is the author edgy YA novels Vintage and Closer, and will be sharing her secrets in an intensive one-day workshop on writing young adult fiction. She will help you kickstart your story, find a theme, address teen issues, adapt your use of language and voice, and avoid possible pitfalls, and will be providing individual feedback on your writing.

To book your place, contact Robin at admin@nottinghamwritersstudio.co.uk. Further details can be found on our Writers’ Day page.

The workshop fee is £50 for NWS members and concessions, and £75 full price, which includes the workshop, a buffet lunch, and a light dinner with the tutor and participants. The workshop runs from 10.30am to 4.30pm at the Writers’ Studio in Nottingham’s Lace Market, with dinner at 5pm.

 

Review: In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

In the Miso Soup

by Ryu Murakami

I got this one on kindle after it came recommended from a friend, it’s not something i’d normally buy. I’m actually very glad I did. It’s a strange and very unsettling book, focussing around a young Japanese sex tout guide and his American Client ‘Frank’.

Kenji becomes increasingly anxious about his client as things don’t quite add up.

The story is dark, creepy and disturbing, as you might expect from Murakami. It’s also very clever, brilliantly crafted, horrifying in the truest sense and utterly gripping. I read it quickly in one evening (no doubt losing some of the subtlety and beauty of the writing) because I had to know how it ended before I could possibly focus on anything else. It’s strange seeing the Japanese sex trade through accepting but slightly jaded Kenji and at the same time Frank who brings his American sensibilities and his own issues to the scene.

Worth a try for anyone looking for something a bit different, an alternative sensibility in writing and a clever well written tale.

Second Shot by Zoe Sharp

ok first the disclaimer, I consider Zoe a friend. What this means in real terms is that if I wasn’t enjoying the book i’d pop it back on the shelf and leave it till another time, or never. Still, I believe in full disclosure so consider this it, Zoe Sharp is awesome, a truly and brilliantly fabulous person.

She’s also a damn fine writer.

In second shot we join Charlie Fox in the middle of some pretty ferocious action, we then zip back to the start of the case and follow to and beyond that point. It’s a device that I often find irritating but in this instance it definitely adds a frisson to events and to the character of Simone.

I loved Charlie, she’s tough and fierce and a bit not right in the head but she’s not bullet proof or infallible and she has no super powers, she’s not even better at everything than everyone else. She is however dedicated and determined.

The action is nicely paced, keeping the reader tied in all the way along, but with enough quiet moments to allow the reader to attach emotionally to the main characters. Also, the fight scenes. Ah the fight scenes. Sharp knows the anatomy of a fight. She knows the moves, the body’s responses and the pain. The fight scenes are fantastic, they were dirty and grim and agonising. If everything else hadn’t sold me on this series the fights would have.

Clever, entertaining and tough. Can thoroughly recommend this series.

Reviewing, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

wrestler ‘mankind’s’ Mr Socko. Now reviewing on Amazon?

There has been a lot of discussion on twitter and blogs the last few months about the ethics of the industry. Jeremy Duns has exposed plagiarists and he and Steve Mosby have taken Stephen Leather to task as an unapologetic example of the sock puppetting and use of fake id’s to both push your own books and run down others that is rife.

It’s been a bloody time and the latest is the spotlight turning once again on the dubious review tactics used on Amazon. I do not habitually post my reviews on amazon, I have only done so when the authors have asked me to spread the word and even then I usually to a shorter version than the full unbound review.

Thing is, it’s coming to light that people review for money, making the reviews worthless. It’s always happened, truth be told, if you have reviewed for any length of time then on some level you are probably aware of it. There were debates when I was a more active reviewer about the idea of bloggers having to declare whether they receive freebies or payments (unbound had always been open about receiving books so I didn’t follow the end of that discussion, it seems it may have come in, in the US).

I’m not sure that there is a way for amazon’s reviewing system, or any public reviewing system to work properly, but it does seem that a lot of energy is put into fakes and stacking the deck. As a reviewer it’s a background noise I always just sort of accepted, it’s sucky, but it’s been on the scene longer than I have and will be long after I stop reviewing, which I haven’t officially yet (It’s called a hiatus folks). Now that i’m dipping my toes in publishing with Fox Spirit though it’s changed things a bit. Now it’s hitting my protective nerve. It’s hard enough to get any kind of profile for your authors and their books, it’s tough to get noticed in this market and it’s tough to get honest reviews of their hard work and talent. The last thing any of us needs or wants is a bunch of skuzzbags stacking the deck against us with fake accounts, punitive reviews of books by authors they don’t like or the (common to goodreads it appears) classic of reviewing a book that isn’t even finished yet.

So this is my advice to readers and buyers out there. Look at the reviews by all means, then look at the reviewers, if you follow the blogs you build a sort of relationship, you know what sort of books they like, where your tastes overlap, what bugs them for no good reason. So on Amazon et al  follow the breadcrumbs, check other reviews by them, do due diligence and at least try to ensure you are getting someone’s honest opinion, not the meaningless rating of a sock puppet.

Press Release from Anachron Books for The Red Knight

We at Anachron Press are pleased to announce our first novel publication, The Red Knight, by KT Davies (The author of ‘The Deal’ from our Day of Demons anthology).

The Red Knight is the first book in an epic fantasy series, and we’re absolutely delighted to publish this wonderful story. It will be available in a staggered launch with the eBooks (Kindle, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, iBooks etc) coming 27th July and a trade paperback coming a few weeks later. Price TBC.

Cover:

Blurb:

A thousand years have passed since the Clan Lords and the Fey commanded dragons and raised mighty citadels. The remnants of their ancient power lie dormant and a new conflict threatens the kingdom of Antia…

King Daris rules a peaceful and prosperous land, but his conniving brother Jerim covets the throne and civil war looms.

But there are worse threats to Antia than mere human greed.

Two people will stand against mortal and demonic enemies: Alyda Stenna, Captain of the Hammer of Antia returns from campaign to a hero’s welcome after prosecuting war abroad with brutal efficiency.

Garian Tain, the spymaster’s apprentice, hunts for an assassin through the streets of the capital while the knights bask in the adoration of the crowds.

This is just the beginning.

Both will fight overwhelming odds in a bid to save the kingdom. War and betrayal will test them to their limits. One will rise; one will fall; both will be changed forever.

Stay tuned for more details soon.

Fox Spirit is pleased to announce the release of its first title, a serial killer thriller ‘Requiem in E Sharp’ by South African author Joan De La Haye.

‘Sundays in Pretoria are dangerous for selected women.

A murderer plagued by his childhood, has found a distinctive modus operandi to salve his pathological need to escape the domination of the person who was supposed to cherish him.

As The Bathroom Strangler’s frenzy escalates and the body count mounts, Nico van Staaden, the lead detective on the case, finds himself confronting his own demons as he struggles to solve the murders of the seemingly unconnected victims. The lack of evidence in the sequence of deaths and pressure from his superiors are challenges he must overcome.’

The ebook will be available from 9th July at Amazon and shortly after at Wizards Tower and other outlets.

The book will be made available as a paperback for print on demand later this year.
The release of ‘Requiem in E Sharp’ will be followed later in July by Joan’s post-apocalyptic zombie novella ‘Oasis’. The re-release of her horror novel ‘Shadows’ will be in August.

Also in August Fox Spirit will be releasing its first cross genre ‘Bushy Tales’ anthology ‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon’. This collection features the writing talents of Adrian Tchaikovsky, K.A.Laity, Wayne Simmons, Sarah Cawkwell and many others, with cover art by Vincent Holland-Keen and internal illustrations by Kieran Walsh.

For more information on our authors, books and publishing schedule please visit www.foxspirit.co.uk

Guest Reviewer K.A.Laity | Some Kind of Fairytale by Graham Joyce

Some Kind of Fairy Tale
Graham Joyce
Doubleday
June 2012

From the low white walls and the church’s steeple,
From our little fields under grass or grain,
I’m gone away to the fairy people.
I shall not come to the town again.
Lord Dunsany, “The Fairy Child”

A handful of writers make up my “buy whatever they write” list and Joyce is one of them, along with people like Liz Hand and Clive Barker. The title of this one hooked me instantly, as fairy tales are kind of an obsession with me. I had the additional delight of speaking with Graham at Alt.Fiction about the “extremely dangerous fairy folk” as we should call them, because those who associate them with twinkly lights and tinkling laughs just don’t know the truth.

Be very sure: they are extremely dangerous.

The novel begins with Tara Martin showing up at her folks’ front door on Christmas day—after having disappeared twenty years ago. She’s disheveled and exhausted but she doesn’t look that much different from when she went missing two decades before. Her vanishing aged her parents and threw her older brother Peter into agonized spirals of despair. Tara’s old boyfriend, the perpetually adolescent musician Richie, seems frozen in time as well as brittle from all the suspicion heaped on his head.

“The modern superstition is that we are free of superstition.”

Everybody’s glad Tara’s back—initially. But then come their questions and her grudging acquiescence to their endless pokes of curiosity: she was away with the fairies. More or less—I’m not giving credit here to Joyce’s elegant reveal. Naturally, everyone doubts this revelation and the ways in which they cope with her insistence on the story play out beautifully as part of the characters Joyce has drawn with such care.

I was in agony all the way through the book, wondering how it would end. That’s perhaps the most exquisite suffering there is: wanting to rush to the conclusion, yet not wanting the story’s delights to end. The ending was perfect. I really can’t recommend this book enough. If you know fairy lore, every echo of the prose will delight, like the fact that Peter becomes a blacksmith and works with iron. Each chapter is headed with fantastic quotes from great minds, many familiar, some completely new gifts for me. This is one of those magical stories that captures something elusive and true.

As Tara says to Richie at one point, “Sometimes I think we are asleep; that we only a dream. When we sleep we get a chance to see what life is really like. That’s it. In our daily lives, we don’t know what it means to be fully conscious. And I don’t say I like it.”

Joyce captures the extraordinary nature of a traumatic event with precision. And the struggle of holding onto her experience echoes the similarly painful process of being a creator in the face of the world’s indifference. “The effort of maintaining a singular belief in the face of overwhelming opposition was exhausting. Tara could see how easy it would be simply to give way, to accept that she was deluded, to let the memory become a ghost and then to let the ghost fade.” Hers is a journey of heartbreak and joy you will find irresistible.

And you’ll never look at that carpet of bluebells quite the same.

Reviewed by K. A. Laity

The Kill Crew by Joseph D’Lacey

The Kill Crew
by Joseph D’Lacey
pub Stonegarden.net

The five word review? ‘F*ck me that was great’.

Sheri volunteers on the kill crew regularly, she’s on it more than a lot of the men that volunteer and she’s damn good at it. Since the world went quiet it’s pretty much what keeps her going. Can’t say much more than that for fear of spoilers.

D’Lacey does a superb job of little by little building the world post ‘event’, letting the reader in on what they need to know and creating the characters that matter. The knife edge between hope and inevitability is handled masterfully and I was held, rapt throughout. There are some nice twists and the action is mostly deceptively gentle in pace for a fairly violent story.

Zombie fans, this is….. something wonderfully, deliciously different and yet still right up your street. It asks the questions zombie tales usually duck and hints at things that twist your head a little.

In short, it’s brilliant, it’s tempting me to Meat even though the subject matter is a particular squick issue for me. I will perhaps read everything else he’s written first…. also, that cover, very Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse.