Review | The Leaping by Tom Fletcher

The Leaping
by Tom Fletcher
Pub: Quercus

The Leaping focusses around a group of friends who work together in a call centre, share a house, and never seem to have got past student life really.  When Jack and his new girlfriend move to a place in the country it seems to good to be true and of course, it is.

It’s a perfect example of how you can pass 200 pages with almost nothing actually happening and still be utterly gripped. I read quickly, in two or three sittings for the bulk and the first section is focussed on the day to day life and relationships of the characters.

When the action finally happens it happens hard and fast and it left me repulsed, fascinated and very very glad I was on a busy train in glorious sunshine. It’s more than just a werewolf story and the Leaping itself is a truly horrific event.

It’s deeply atmospheric and disturbing, superbly written with a cast of sympathetically flawed characters. The build up of tension starts early and to maintain it until the final act is a testament to Fletcher’s understanding of how fear and anticipation interplay.

I’m not primarily a horror fan but this is exactly the sort of book I love, a story about people primarily, creepy and unpredictable.

Review | The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

“In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?”

When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was going to be a zombie-story. Ever since I suffered my way through the first Resident Evil movie, I have had horrible prejudices towards anything involving zombies. In my experience, zombie books have always been about people that I didn’t really like much, screaming and running around and getting eaten, and I have usually been on Team Zombie for as long as I could stand to keep reading. Had someone told me this was a zombie-thing, I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

So I’m glad nobody said anything, because I quite enjoyed the book.

This might have something to do with the fact that although the book is full of walking, hungry corpses, they are not the most interesting characters in the story. I have read several reviewers say they didn’t like Mary. I disagree. I think Mary did her best, with the cards handed to her. I also think that she displayed major cahones every now and then. Her brother, Jed, had his moments of being the worlds biggest *insert very bad word here*, but always seemed to make up for it in the end. There’s even a lovable dog (and it doesn’t get killed!)

All in all, the book deals with the relationships between Mary and these people that she has grown up with, after they are forced to escape their peaceful village when the zombies break through the security fence that surrounds it. Although their relationships undergo great changes, there isn’t really a lot of character development. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if Mary had undergone some more personal growth. There was potential there that wasn’t really taken advantage of. I’m still not sure what I thought of the ending. It came on very, very suddenly. Then again, this is a series, so hopefully that won’t matter so much once I get cracking on the sequel.

Review | Hounded by Kevin Hearne

by Kevin Hearne
cover: Gene Mollica
pub: Orbit

Druid Atticus O’Sullivan has stayed in one place too long, an old enemy has found him and he is going to have to run again or finally stand and fight. So, tired of running after over two thousand years Atticus is going to fight, to the death if the Morrigan is correct.

This is a fun urban fantasy, quick and easy to read with a lead character and his wolfhound who are easy to like and root for. There is plenty of action, gods from all kinds of pantheon’s and heaps of backstabbing and betrayal. And werewolves. I approve of the addition of werewolves to almost any book.

It’s always fun seeing theologies mixed and Hearne does it capably, i’m hoping some of the supporting characters are developed further as the series goes on because they start well and should be just as engaging as Atticus.

Review | Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

Death in little Venice by Leo McNeir

The book is set in London’s Little Venice and on the canal system in Northamptonshire with a lot of information on Politicians and the workings of the Government .included in the plot
His description of the Houses of Parliament and the way they (the politicians, researchers ,Police etc (Corridors of Power)manage to work in the building was brilliant and I too had felt very privileged when I went there and was given a guided tour by my MP’s PPs. I was told it took them nearly 4 months to find their way round the buildings.

The story is brilliantly structured and we are kept in suspense for most of the book with accidents happening thick and fast to our heroine Marnie Walker. Who works as an interior designer with the help of an apprentice by the name of “Anne with an “e” “

The description of the heating put into her old MG TA by the garage was a brilliant touch , they “had produced something based on thermo-hydraulic principles rather like the system used on the new Mercedes SLK range of supercharged two-seaters “it turned out to be a hot water bottle , but what a fantastic description.
It is a mystery book I can recommend to anyone ,but for those who enjoy the canals and are interested in their history then it is a must as Mr McNeir has obviously done his research into the history of them and finds it possible to tell you a lot as the story progresses.
The book is published by Enigma Publishing and the print is so very clear and easy to read I only wish some of the other publishers would copy it. For those of us whose eyesight is not as good as we would like , this too is very important in our enjoyment of a book . Full marks to Enigma.

Review | The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This was my book groups choice and probably the first one in a long time, other than the ones i’ve picked, which i’ve actually finished.

It follows Victoria through two timelines, coming out of a group home and 18, living rough for a while and back when she was younger, finding at last a foster parent who might really want her.

It’s obvious from the fact that she is leaving a group home at the beginning of the novel that things with Elizabeth do not eventually work out but the reasons why and her gradual building of a life as an adult are drawn through the novel, interweaving past and future to build a story.

It’s well told and I found the young, defiant, troubled Victoria interesting and not unsympathetic, if not particularly likeable. I also found the Victorian obsession with giving flowers meanings and Victoria’s gift with that interesting. The book went off the boil about half way through for me though, as Victoria’s character mellowed I found I still didn’t particularly like her and found her less interesting. The choices she made, no doubt because she had a troubling childhood and was damaged, seemed idiotic and at times the story became a little insipid.

It’s largely well written and has some moments, but the first 100 or so pages held me, after that it was an effort to finish. The great revelations weren’t all that great and the ending attempted the balance of bitter sweet and never quite hit the mark.

Review | The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown by Paul Malmont

There’s a fine line when using real-life people as characters in a fictional story.  Go against what everyone knows about the person and you run the risk of having readers not invest in your characters.  Be too on-the-nose in your characterizations and, well, you run the same risks, with the added benefit of a lot of eye-rolling.

Somehow Paul Malmont manages to side-step the issue (for the most part) in his new novel The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, mostly by reveling in the on-the-nose observations and jokey references to his character’s future real-life accomplishments.  A quasi-sequel (it takes place some years later in the same “reality”) to his wonderfully off-beat debut novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, The Astounding…follows the adventures of a group of quirky SF writers hired by the Navy in WWII to put into effect all the wonderful death rays, jet packs, and invisibility formulas popular in the pulps at the time (look no further for the title reference, as all were pulp magazines made famous for the talent they bred).  So a motley group of scientist/writers including Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp, and L. Ron Hubbard join Robert A. Heinlein race against time to come up with the secret behind Nikola Tesla’s last project, something that could change the face of the planet for better or for worse depending on who gets their hands on the secret.

On hand to help our heroes are a bunch of people familiar to many readers both in and out of the world of science fiction: besides Nikola Tesla, Ray Bradbury and Damon Knight crop up, John Campbell (editor of Astounding and a writer in his own right, penning the great story “Who Goes There” which would become the basis for John carpenter’s THE THING) plays a prominent role for the team, and even Jimmy Stewart manages to make a cameo.  Of course no WWII pulp story would be complete without a meeting with Albert Einstein, but Malmont wants to have more fun than that, so we also Robert Oppenheimer and Richard Feynman to boot.  The book is filled with obvious references to later careers: Isaac has problems expressing his emotions, and works through it by writing a robot story he hopes will go somewhere.  Hubbard is mesmerized by the huckster showmanship of religious cults foreshadowing some ideas he has to make a quick buck or two.  And Heinlein was a great writer of short SF, but he’s left that behind because he’s never been able to crack the skill of writing a full novel…or has he?

Growing up these were the writers I was drawn to.  My adolescent years were spent in the pages of Asimov’s Foundation novels and Robot stories, Heinlein’s future histories.  I still have my dog-eared copies of L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall and The Incomplete Enchanter.  And every tattered Bradbury paperback lines my shelf with pride.  So I gladly embraced the silliness of The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown and simply did what I did as a kid, and I strive to do with every book I read now: dive in a revel in a world I’d revisit again and again.(

Review |The adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Jenna Fox wakes from a year-long from a coma following an accident. Her memory is a blank. Her family move into a cottage, far away from everything they once knew. To give her a quiet place to recover, they say. But Jenna feels that something isn’t right. Her parents are hiding things from her. Her grandmother speaks of Jenna before the accident, as if she was a different person. Slowly her memories start to trickle back and Jenna learns that her recovery has come at a terrible cost.

This book takes place somewhere in the future. That didn’t come through in the story at first, and led to a somewhat confusing moment further into the novel. It might just be because I’m not used to reading sci-fi and therefore slow on the uptake. ‘The adoration of Jenna Fox’ brings up a lot of questions around what happens when science goes to far, as well as what it is that makes us who we are.

The only perspective in the story, is Jenna, but you still get a wide variety of characters and her observations of them offers lot of depth, even though you never get a peek inside their heads. I pretty much gobbled this book down at record breaking speed and it stayed with me long after I finished reading. If you’re one of those people who enjoy a little bit of science fiction mixed with just an ounce of teen angst and a pinch of ethical philosophizing, then this might just be the book you’re looking for.

Review | The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

Willie Cooper is a very ambitious archeology student with a bright future. Until she has an affair with her professor and becomes pregnant. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she has an…uhm…episode and tries to run his wife over. 
She returns to her hometown of Templeton on the same day that a gigantic, dead monster surfaces in the town’s lake and causes a media-circus unlike anything Templeton has ever seen.

It’s not very easy for a 28 year old woman to move back in with her mother. Especially not when that mother is Vi, an ex-hippie and a born-again christian. It becomes harder still when Vi confesses that Willie isn’t, in fact, the fatherless product of free love in the 60s. Her father is a upstanding citizen right there in Templeton – but Vi won’t divulge a name, only that the man is related to the famous poet, Marmaduke Temple, through a liason at some point in the past.

From the book description: As Willie puts her archeological skills to work digging for the truth about her lineage, a chorus of voices from the town’s past – both sinister and disturbing – rise up around her to tell their sides of the story. Willie discovers that the curse of the Temple family runs deep. In the end, dark secrets come to light, past and present blur, old mysteries are finally put to rest, and the surprising news about more than one monster is revealed.

I loved this book! I would eat this book if I could. Or at the very least, lick it tenderly. But I borrowed it at the library and I’m not sure where it’s been, so I won’t. I thought Willie and Vi were wonderful all the complexity of a typical mother-daughter relationship was very nicely described, through two characters that aren’t exactly typical. I really enjoyed all the little family secrets that came out as Willie searched for her father, and the way they all came together in the end. The story moved along at a perfect pace and then ended just as it should have. I wasn’t left thinking “it was good, but it would have been slightly better if blah-blah-blah…” It was like eating a perfect piece of cake.

Review | The Traitors Gate by Sarah Silverwood

The Traitors Gate
by Sarah Silverwood

The second on her first YA series, The Traitors Gate picks up the story of Finmere and his friends Christopher and Joe where The Double Edged Sword leaves off. If you haven’t read the first book this review may contain spoilers.

Starting with a sense of relief and celebration after the recent victory in the Nowhere some of the Knights are less confident their troubles are over. The three boys are all changed by the experience, Joe particularly altered by his new burden, leaving some distrustful of him.

When people are found infected with a madness that Tova the Storyholder saw and the sky darkens with an unnatural storm it becomes obvious it isn’t over. The biggest battles are still ahead. With knew Knights on board and unusual new allies the three boys and the Knights are entering a fight between good and evil for both worlds.

The first book was fantastic, a real adventure set between worlds and between childhood and manhood for the boys at sixteen. Traitors Gate continues all of that but is darker and more treacherous taking turns neither the boys nor the reader expects. Silverwood doesn’t pull punches either, no coddling the reader with the promise that good always triumphs, sometimes evil gets exactly what it’s looking for and sometimes good finds itself with the most unlikely warriors on it’s side. There is madness and horror as well as courage, there are senseless tragedies because face it the world is cruel and people caught up in frenzy of grief and anger can do truly awful things. Nothing is what it seems and it’s all to play for.

I am eagerly anticipating book three and the conclusion of Finwick’s journey.

Review | Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.
Genesis 6:5

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

The book is written in three parts, where the first and final part take place in modern times, where we follow the young nun Evangeline, who comes from a a long line of angelologists. Not that she knows that, of course. She’s in for quite a surprise. Part 2 takes place during WW2, and revolves around the mysterious – but deeply troubled – Gabriella (Evangeline’s grandmother) and her bookish friend Celestine.

Evangeline is eventually to join her grandmother and the other angelologists in the fight against the nephilim – evil hybrids that were created when a group of angels disobeyed God and mated with human women.

I was skeptical of this book at first. After having plowed my way through quite a few Dan Brown wanna-be’s, I was worried this would just be another one of those. Then I leafed through it, noted that some parts were drowning in footnotes, and my skepticism grew. I ended up enjoying the book, though. Sure, it didn’t wow me. It’s not a brilliant piece of fiction, but it was okay. Gabriella quickly became my favorite character. First she’s this deeply troubled, very mysterious beauty from a wealthy family. Then she’s this kick-ass old lady who can drive a get-away car and fire a gun at the same time.

There were parts if the book that I had trouble swallowing. It is based on Biblical lore, which it takes completely literally. Especially the story of Noah is greatly emphasized. Then it turns right around and talks about genetic research done on the evil angels. As someone with a scientific background, it was very hard to stop my brain from going into a long rant about how genetic facts makes the story of Noah impossible. this might not be the book for you, if this sort of thing annoys you. If you can ignore that, then this is a nice read.

There is a sequel to this book coming out in 2012. I’m not opposed to the idea of reading it. I probably will.