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 | Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Hounded
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 | 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.

Writers Reading | Paul Byers

Although things are changing somewhat, we have one last writers reading before we go and check out the fans shelves. Thanks to Paul Byers for joining us here.

____________________________________

CARDINAL SIN

AS a writer, we all have things we should do and things we shouldn’t do. I’m not talking
about the lyrics of the Jim Croce song that says you shouldn’t spit into the wind or tug
on Superman’s cape; I’m talking the serious stuff here and I’m afraid I am guilty of
committing a Cardinal Sin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now again, I’m not talking about the classic sins of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust,
envy (okay maybe a little envy of Steven King or Dean Koontz for their success) and
of course the last sin, gluttony. (but it was only a dollar more to supersize it!) No I’m
talking about the Cardinal sin as a writer that I commit by give away the books I just
finished reading for someone else to enjoy instead of telling them how wonderful the
book was and then making them go buy it, thus supporting the author! That’s why my
bookshelf is not as full as some of the past contributors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, neither of the bookcases is really mine, and the slanted one is not from the
Titanic, I just used them for the illustration. The books I have (those I have left) are
stashed under the stairs at home piled with a bunch of other stuff.

I think most writers will agree that it’s important not only to write, be to read a lot as
well. While my bookshelf may not show it, I do read, though not on the scale as other
here have. (here comes envy again to those who have the time to read) The only time I
get to read is at work during lunch and I average about two books a month.

So what do I read and what has influenced me? For the most part I read what I write,
action thrillers and adventures, but I’m not limited to that. When I was younger, I went
camping with my folks a lot and they were really into Louis L’Amour. I enjoyed the
classic cowboy stuff but it was more than that, I also learned things from him. Did you
know that when you’re walking in the woods, you should turn around every once in a
while and looked where you’ve been so it looks familiar when you are on your way back
so you don’t get lost?

Or when you come in from the cold, never get into a gun fight. Your fingers are stiff
and won’t work the gun as well as when they are warm. You don’t know how many
times that one has saved me!

But L’Amour has written more than just westerns. One of the best books I’ve read is
called the Last of the Breed, about an Air Force officer captured by the Russians and his
escape and trek across the vastness of Siberia.

I’ve also enjoyed crime thrillers from Jeffery Deaver and James Patterson and even
gotten a little of the spooky stuff with Dean Koontz. Deaver has a great way of
educating his reads in areas they may not be familiar with without you even knowing
you’re in school! One of the best books I’ve ever read is Dean’s, (yeah, we’re on a first
name basis, lol) was Odd Thomas. Great, great book! I hated the ending, but it was the
only one that kept the credibility of the book. I would recommend it to anyone.

He is such a good writer that I use one of his passages from his adaptation of
Frankenstein when I talk to high school kids about creative writing. To me, it’s a great
way to use description in your writing. It gives description but also lets the reader fill in
the blanks with their own imagination.

Here it is: Victor’s immense lab was a techno-deco wonder, mostly stainless-steel and white ceramic,

filled with sleek and mysterious equipment that seemed not to be standing along the walls but to be imbedded in them, extruding from them. Other machines swelled out of the ceiling and surged up from the floor, polished and gleaming, yet suggesting organic form.

What action library would be complete without talking about Michael Crichton and
Tom Clancy. I like Clancy’s early stuff and tried to pattern my books like his with short
chapters that leave you hanging at the end of each one as you jump from one part of
the story to another. Michael Crichton is such a good writer, in his book, Prey, in the
first 100 pages nothing blew up, nobody got killed, nobody invaded the world and yet it
still held my interest and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I’m going to throw a dark horse name out here along with the well-known writers that I
like to read, Jeremy Robinson. He is what we would classify as a mid-lister but he writes
some great stuff. He is your sci-fi, monster, action adventure kind of guy. Great fast
paced stuff.

I’ve also had a couple of friends who have written young adult books and though they
would not have been my first choice to read, I did read them and I did enjoy them. A
well written book, no matter the genre is a pleasure to read.

So there you have it, even though my bookshelf may not show it, I do like a variety

of books on different subjects. So hopefully I’ve taken all the good qualities of these
writers and put them into Arctic Fire and Catalyst and the rest of my books yet to come.

Thanks for your time in reading and to Adele for having me here. Click on the links to
learn more about my books or myself and shoot me any questions you might have.

www.paulbyersonline.com

info.paulbyersonline@yahoo.com

 

Event | Robert Rankin at Leicester Phoenix

As part of the Alt.Fiction annual programme Robert Rankin appeared at Leicester’s Phoenix Digital Art Centre. Rankin is an entertaining speaker, lively on stage, witty and full of good stories, an hour flew by. Of course I may be forever scarred by the thought of the blue suit.

After the talk there was time for a signing and Robert took time to talk to his fans as he signed.

An excellent event, look out for more signings and events in your area from Writing East Midlands ‘Alt.Fiction‘ brand.

Robert Rankin’s latest book Mechanical Messiah is available now and if you’ve never read him before I would personally recommend going back to the Brentford Trilogy.

Event | FantasyCon 2011

This weekend saw me at my third FantasyCon. The first (2009) I was clueless and misstimed everything. I popped to Nottingham in the morning on Saturday, when everyone was still in bed after drinking friday, and left at tea time just as things started to warm up.

Learning my lesson, last year (2010) I spent the weekend in Nottingham and that changed everything. I committed myself to ‘conspace’ (it is a different space/time structure to the real world) and had a much better FCon. It might also have helped that I knew a few people by this point.

This year the Con moved to Brighton and the sun shone, the sea sparkled and somehow I still didn’t manage to get any candy floss. The Royal Albion isn’t a conference hotel really, so there are quirks to the layout and such that may have provoked occasionally comparison to ‘The Shining’ but overall it worked and the atmosphere for the weekend was fantastic.

This was the first time i’d been invited to be part of the programme, moderating the ‘Maintaining an Online Presence’ panel with Lee Harris, Adam Christopher, Scott Andrews and Stephen Hunt. I was a little nervous and may have had a bit of a coughing fit, but overall I think it went well, my panellists were excellent speakers, well informed and considered and we had some good questions from the audience.

Other than that I attended some reading.
Lou Morgan read from the upcoming ‘Blood & Feathers’, wisely acquired by Solaris.Well read and I am looking forward to that one coming out. Lou handled difficult questions about mythology and religion very thoughtfully and with a nod to her own knowledge still being limited. This book will be one for urban fantasy fans to look out for.
Rob Shearman read the first story from ‘Everybody’s Just So So Special’ which is a another  fantastic selection of short stories. His reading was wonderfully animated and brilliantly delivered. Again, time for questions saw Rob dealing with everything with his usual warmth and humour.
Simon Bestwick ably read two extracts from his horror writings,The Faceless (out next year) and Angels of the Silences dark and atmospheric. The extracts were well selected to give a flavour, difficult without giving away key plot points.
Vincent Holland-Keen read his short story from the new Anarchy Press  anth, coming soon. It ties loosely with Lost and Found and since I was there and he is one of us video footage will be going up on the Un:Bound youtube channel, for posterity. It was well delivered and is a great story. There was only time for a couple of questions as the reading was slightly longer.
Finally Guy Adams read a chapter from ‘Restoration’ that was originally written as a short story taking a seat in true Jackanory fashion. The first question was ‘can you read some more’ and since it was the last reading of the weekend he sought another suitable passage while answering the other questions.

I was extremely impressed with the quality of the readings, all the ones I attended were extremely smooth and enjoyable, which is not always the case. The attendees at FCon seemed more interested too with a pretty full room at all five I saw.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of unnecessary calories, conversation, meeting up with friends, getting to know new people and a lot of laughing. Apart from the raffle, when time stood still, but I was impressed with our hosts game attempts to keep it moving. I have lost my voice and sleep gained some books and new friends and am definitely going to have to spend more time in London just to have all the coffees i’ve promised to go for (oh the terrible terrible hardship). All in all an excellent weekend.

A huge shout out to the Redshirts btw, who did an amazing job throughout and seemed to be a very small number for everything they achieved!

My pictures are on the Un:Bound flickr set.

Coverage Round up, which I will add as it goes up.
Adrian Tchaikovsky starts at the end.
Christopher Fowler contemplates the venue
First timer Rhian Bowley covers her weekend
A before and after from Simon Kurt Unsworth
A round up of the award winners and a few comments on the process
Rob Spalding fears for his liver
A quick look from Lily Childs
My lovely roomie Karen Davies shares her thoughts
Danie Ware’s views of a sweaty Brighton
The lovely Pablo Cheesecake shares his overview
Fantasy Faction provides a superb look at the con
And Wilf contemplates one of the arguments that raged in the bar 

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.

Events | FantasyCon

Welcome to a somewhat revamped Un:Bound. This is going up a few days earlier than scheduled. In part that’s because I am going to be insanely busy between now and leaving for FantasyCon and in part it’s because I wanted everyone to have our schedule for the event.

The Un:Bound team will be represented by me and Vince this year. Sadly Kat can’t make it. We will be filming the awards again, so will be there till close of play Sunday I guess. Before then at 2pm Friday I am delighted to be moderating a panel on maintaining your online presence with an excellent panel.

At 11am on Sunday Vincent is doing a reading of a short story for Anarchy Press’s forthcoming anthology. It is linked with the Office of Lost and Found but stands alone for those who haven’t read the novel yet.

Other than that we will mostly be in the bar, nursing our tap water (wild things that we are) so we hope to see lots of you there.