Book Review: Whispers Of Pachamama by Lucia Ashta

 

whispersAnd now for something completely different!

Sometimes it’s great to get out of your comfort zone and let a new author really take you by surprise. I spotted this on a free promo, and the cover impressed me. Once I started reading however, I was even more impressed.

When a logger discovers a strange woman while working in the Amazon, he becomes obsessed with her even though she disappears almost immediately. He finally meets her again, following her into the heart of the dangerous jungle, where he discovers a predestined fate, and a life he would never have even contemplated.

Whispers Of Pachamama, while a relatively simple fable, is a beautifully written one. As a fan of classical magical realism from authors such as Carlos Fuentes, I was instantly drawn to the narrative and style, and the lush landscapes coupled with elegant prose makes this an effortless, yet ultimately satisfying read.

The novella length suits the tale perfectly, telling a compact story without the over-embellishment often seen with new writers attempting this genre, and the author’s Latin American roots show a clear understanding and respect for this wonderful writing style and its origins.

Really looking forward to reading more from this author.

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Book Review: Apocalypse Hill by Matthew Stott

apochillOne of the most promising new talents I’ve come across in the last year has been British author Matthew Stott. His Tales From Between series was eerily entertaining and now Matthew has entered the realm of more serious adult horror with this new episodic series.

Set in the fictional Apoc Hill, dark forces centre around the inhabitants of an old house, where a young girl lives with a murderous father and brother, she herself now prone to murderous thoughts from the demons within, setting in motion a hideous chain of events.

Bill Reed is a writer, keeping busy in his daughter’s absence, who suddenly finds himself faced with terrifying behaviour from those around him.

Meanwhile as the mayhem begins, another young girl, Alice, waits patiently for her father in a car, quickly noticing that something bad is outside, and hoping for his return.

Although the title suggests apocalyptic goings-on, this is very much a horror apocalypse rather than the usual end-0f-world/post nuclear/zombie outbreak that has been flooding the market lately, and while there are still some elements of traditional stories in this vein, Stott’s solid horror credentials breathe new life into the genre with some genuinely creepy characters, and as macabre events unfold relentlessly, the reader is constantly in a state of flux, and wrenched from any comfort zone they may have had. The fear and confusion of the main characters seep silently into the subconscious, and Stott’s knack of taking an everyday location and transforming it into a seething hellhole is a rare talent.

The ending introduces the second part, while offering enough story to satisfy the reader, yet I predict few will be, as this page turner delivers on every level, and will drag you kicking and screaming back to the next instalment.

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Book Review: Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno

titanSci-fi author Rhett C. Bruno impressed me with his debut novel, the space opera The Circuit: Executor Rising and the sequel  Progeny Of Vale, so when he announced a new novel on the way, this time through Random House’s Hydra imprint, I was delighted to nab an ARC.

In the distant future, man has moved to the outer planets after a catastrophic meteor impact on Earth three hundred years previously. Many settled on Titan, with the new atmosphere and conditions gradually changing the settlers over time. Now known as Ringers, they eke out an existence on Titan, treated as second class citizens.

Malcolm Graves is a collector, a bounty hunter of sorts, paid to do the bidding of a large corporation, who finds himself embroiled in a bitter struggle when, while visiting Earth terrorists bomb a commemoration of M-Day,  the day the meteorite struck.

Called back to duty and paired with a strange new partner, Zhaff, he must find answers, but is he ready for the real answers?

Titanborn is fast-paced, giving little time for dallying, save some back story concerning Malcolm’s estranged daughter and as the plot develops, we are given enough insight into his character to take his side, even though he may not be the most appropriate hero, given his past actions.

There’s an interesting dynamic between Zhaff and Malcolm, which although introduced fairly late in the story gives them just enough time together to fall short of being a typical “buddy” relationship, but there is plenty of interaction between them to keep the plot buoyant enough to reach the shocking conclusion.

The back drop is well crafted and believable, with Bruno once again displaying his considerable world building skills, and there are important themes explored throughout, making this not only an entertaining, but thought provoking read. There are noir-ish shades of some of Philip K. Dick’s works which add a lot of atmosphere and mystery, and enough tense action sequences to keep the reader hooked.

Available now

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Book Review: The City Of Woven Streets by Emmi Itaranta

emmiFinnish author Emmi Itaranta’s second novel came across my desk recently, and although I’ve become a little jaded with fantasy offerings of late, the gorgeous cover and interesting premise caught my attention.

The City Of Woven Streets is an elegant fantasy set in an intricately crafted world where dreams are outlawed and those without a craft are considered lessers, and left to fend for themselves. Eliana is a young weaver in the House of Webs, but has a shameful secret – she can dream.  If her secret were to be revealed, she would be banished to the House of the Tainted, a prison from which there would be little chance of return.

When an mysterious woman is discovered with her tongue cut off and Eliana’s name tattooed on her skin, she is taken in by  the House of Webs, and as Eliana tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her arrival, she discovers an invisible network of power behind the city’s facade, as the sea begins to slowly rise around them, threatening to drown the entire city.

Itaranta does a wonderful job of avoiding the usual tropes associated with the genre, keeping proceedings fresh with beautifully descriptive prose and immersive, richly textured landscapes. Her characterisations are detailed enough to engage without feeling too bloated or overdeveloped (a practice which seems to be rife in modern fantasy) and the character of Eliana herself is expertly understated initially, while at the same time, her predicament intrigues us enough to follow through, and observe her development into a much more complex individual as the narrative flows.

The City Of Woven streets is far more a work of literary fiction than just another mass-produced genre piece. There’s no setup to cash in on an epic series, just a single tale told expertly and eloquently, with compelling characters and a unique style, often thought-provoking and more importantly, entertaining.

Out now from Harper Collins

 

 

Review: ‘Til Death – Second Impressions by Jason Anspach

TilDeath2_FT_tempFINALOne of my favourite books from last year was Jason Anspach’s retro noir-ish spooky detective mystery ‘Til Death. It was a breath of fresh air, and a fun read, and now Jason’s back with a sequel.
Detective Sam Rockwell returns with his sassy fiance Amelia as they investigate more shady shenanigans, this time heading to San Francisco to track down a Return (a recently deceased ghost with unfinished business) who has outstayed it’s welcome.

As the investigation progresses, once again Sam finds himself mixed up in something far bigger than he could ever have expected, as he and Amelia are exposed to more danger than ever before.

Once again, Anspach does a commendable job of evoking the 50’s era, with wonderfully detailed descriptions and informed cultural references, as well as the snappy, movie-style banter between the various characters throughout, and the fact that it never takes itself too seriously is a big plus.

The Cold War backdrop, coupled with the vivid nostalgia balance each other nicely, and although there is the usual violence and mayhem involved with a murder mystery, and a ruthless villain to contend with, Anspach keeps proceedings as lighthearted and funny as possible, maintaining the all-important entertainment factor at all times.

Once again, M.S. Corley is on art duty, and his gorgeously retro cover is the icing on the cake.

If you haven’t checked out the original ‘Til Death, you can pick it up at a reduced price until April 29th as well as this sequel.

Witty, warm and decidedly old-school, this sequel delivers laughs and peril in equal measures with all the style and grace of an almost-forgotten era.

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Book Review: Compile:Quest by Ronel Van Tonder

compile ronelIt’s easy to become jaded with the plethora of Dystopian fiction knocking about right now. It feels like everything’s been done before, and a lot of newer authors seem reluctant to break the mould.
Enter South African author Ronel Van Tonder. Her novel Compile:Quest came across my desk recently, and having been hugely impressed with recent efforts from her fellow South Africans Lauren Beukes and Charlie Human, I was tempted to give this one a go.
Set in the distant future, Compile:Quest introduces a dystopian world where large numbers of the remaining population live in domed cities, segregated from those outside, largely controlled and manipulated by advanced technology and social media, seamlessly linking each “denizen” to each other, as well as the network owned by the mysterious SUN corporation.
When Peppermint, a denizen of the dome is called for what seems to be a routine medical exam, she is quickly ripped from her everyday life and subjected to testing in a secret facility. As she learns the reasons why, she makes a discovery that changes her life and unveils SUN’s dark plans.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the dome in a harsh wasteland where solar flares have forced survivors to live in squalor underground, Jinx, a soldier in the Rooivaik embarks on a mission to find the truth about her parents, while engaging in negotiations with another dangerous militia group.

The strength of Compile:Quest is in Van Tonder’s prolific prose, each carefully constructed set piece expertly described in impressive detail. The technological elements are both believable and practical, and the narrative is gently peppered with South African colloquialisms, giving it an authentic voice and feel throughout, without being too obvious, and although there is a glossary provided at the end, most readers should be able to figure them out by the time they reach the conclusion.

Compile:Quest’s combination of great storyline, edgy attitude and strong characterisations make for a riveting read, and will have the reader reaching straight for the next book in the series.

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Book Review: Blink by Will & Paul Swardstrom

 If you’re a fan of movies like Men In Black or shows like The X-Files and Fringe, then Blink should be right up your street. The Swardstrom brothers work flawlessly together to create a fun and exciting start to this series as Agent Smith and Co. investigate strange occurrences that lead to a huge conspiracy spanning entire dimensions.

Blink is frenetically paced and never lets up, and the main characters are well crafted with snappy dialogue to match the pace of the narrative. The authors have a lot of fun with the agents names, with lots of geeky references, and the story develops quickly enough to keep the reader’s interest, with a great finale.

While some of the concepts will have been seen before in the shows mentioned above, the Swardstroms add enough of their own concepts and personality to give it their own mark, and it sets the tone for other novels to come. Hugely enjoyable.
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