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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Zero Hour 3 Is Go!

  For those following my post-apocalyptic serial Zero Hour on Kindle, Zero Hour Part 3: Revelations is now available! Thanks to everyone for their support so far, the response has been amazing. Now, back to work on part 4.

Book Review : Apocalypse Weird: Phoenix Lights by Eric Tozzi

phoenixThe world of Apocalypse Weird takes yet another twist this time Aliens want in on the apocalyptic action and no better author than Eric Tozzi to introduce them. Set in Phoenix, Arizona this latest addition to the Apocalypse Weird series cranks up the tension from “Edge Of Your Seat” to “You Have No Nails Left” with an alien invasion disaster extravaganza on an epic scale that once again pushes the boundaries of the series. Tozzi’s vivid imagery lends an almost movie-like feel to proceedings while the characters are well-presented and the dialogue is snappy and to the point. The pace is brisk and gives the reader little time to pause for thought, quickly jumping to the next set piece with the odd detour on the way and plenty of surprises in store. Another highly entertaining addition to the world of Apocalypse Weird that makes it’s own mark while still keeping the tone of the series so far.

Once again, production values are top notch on this release with a fantastic cover from M.S. Corley. On promotion all this week at the bargain price of $0.99c /£0.99p

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My Top 10 Scifi / Horror Books For 2014


It’s been a busy year! I reckon I’ve gotten through around 35 books this year so it’ll be hard to whittle it down to a top 10. I’ve noticed a lot of the lists about this year are very safe and samey so I’m shaking it up a bit. Also unlike most of the other lists around I’m including self-published titles, of which there have been some outstanding examples this year. Sincere thanks to all the authors and publishers who have supported me this year!

1. Eleanor by Jason Gurley


I absolutely loved this one. Highly original and thought-provoking. Jason has since bagged a publishing deal with Crown so expect this book to be everywhere next year, albeit in a revised edition.










2. Sand by Hugh Howey


Hugh pulled out all the stops with this tense post-apocalyptic actioner. It’s a riveting read from start to finish.












3. World Of Trouble by Ben H. Winters


Ben’s iconic detective Henry Palace unravels the final pieces of the puzzle as asteroid Maia hurtles ever closer to earth. He really couldn’t have finished this trilogy any better.











4. The Martian by Andy Weir


A huge success this year, this originally self-published scifi thriller features a quick-thinking wisecracking astronaut stranded on Mars. You will never clench your buttocks more. Think of it as Gravity with a little Ferris Bueller thrown in.









5. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix


This beautifully designed and innovative take on the haunted house theme transferred to retail was a blast. Think House On Haunted Hill-meets-Ikea.










6. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

broken monsters

This supernatural crime thriller was a gem strengthened by Beukes unique style and unflinching attitude.











7. The Fourth Sage by Stefan Bolz


My YA pick for this year, this is a no-nonsense dystopian epic which should definitely NOT be split into two movies to bore the pants off the general public.











8. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs


A thoroughly enjoyable sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, expect to see a lot of this series next year as the Tim Burton movie is released (hopefully not starring Johnny Depp as Miss Peregrine)











9. Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells


A huge hit on Amazon this year, Fluency is a brilliant fusion of classic and modern scifi and paves the way for what should be a very entertaining series.










10. The Other Of One  (Book One) by Brian G. Burke


My middle-grade/early teen pick for this year. I’ve been raving about this one for a while but it deserves a shot. An epic fantasy tale with an Irish twist to rival anything else that’s been released in this genre this year with a lot of heart, plenty of action, humour and scares to keep 11-15 year-olds (and many adults!) interested. Looking forward to book two next year.




























Book Review: Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

fluencyOne of the runaway sci-fi hits on Amazon this year has been Jennifer Foehner Wells’ space thriller Fluency and quite frankly it’s a welcome addition to the genre. Borrowing from many classic sci-fi themes, Fluency centres around the discovery of an alien spaceship seemingly marooned in  a nearby asteroid belt. Linguist Dr. Jane Holloway is recruited reluctantly to join an exploration to discover the secrets of the ship, known to NASA since the 60’s as “The Target”.

Once they arrive however Holloway discovers that the ship is not entirely abandoned and the ship’s alien navigator quickly contacts her telepathically and starts to reveal the secrets of the ship and its past to her, preparing her for an experience she could never have expected.

Fluency moves at a breakneck pace in a very cinematic fashion,  the narrative mostly linear with some minor flashbacks to fill in gaps in the back story. Wells does a fine job of dealing with the technical side of proceedings without resorting to complicated jargon (I know I know, some geeks love the jargon but not this one!) The human technology is believable and the alien technology while advanced, is also impressively practical.

While much of the story concerns Holloway as the protagonist, her relationship with the rest of her crew is a difficult one, with some of the crew believing she is being manipulated by the alien Ei’Brai and particularly Walsh, her commander distrusting them both. As events unfold it becomes clear that there is great danger on board and relationships become strained as the crew fight both for survival and command. As the story progresses, Holloway develops a painfully slow relationship with fellow crew member Alan Bergen who’s sometimes schoolboyish behaviour towards her provides plenty of sexual tension and his frustration towards Holloway and Ei’Brai’s developing connection also provides a few laughs at times as it seems he just can’t catch a break. Some of the other crew members tend to get lost in the narrative at times, with the pace allowing little development to their characters but where some might see this as a flaw in the writing, others may see it as a tribute to Star Trek’s classic dispensable Redshirts, allowing the main players to confidently take centre stage.

While the strong female character has become a bit of a cliché in sci-fi over the past few years, it’s worth noting that many of these female characters have been written by men. What makes Fluency so refreshing is that Holloway’s character develops in a much more believable fashion given her circumstances. Sure she has to eventually toughen up and fight, but she’s much more than that. She’s a brilliant mind faced with a life-changing event and not just her life but the entire planet’s and her decisions will have monumental consequences. Her ability to focus is paramount and though it may seem she is being manipulated at times, she quickly takes control of her relationship with Ei’Brai. As the story reaches its gripping conclusion it also lays the groundwork for an exciting continuation of this rapidly unfolding saga.

Littered with plenty of nods and winks to classic sci-fi and some clever pop culture references, Fluency is a thrilling, bumpy ride that rarely falters and firmly cements Jennifer Foehner Wells’ standing in the indie scene as an innovative and refreshing new voice in modern sci-fi.


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Book Review: Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Gurley_EleanorTragedy has a profound effect on any family. A decision made by a family member in the past reverberates throughout time, reshaping possibilities, closing doors that should have been left open and opening ones that should have never even existed. A young girl, struggling with these consequences, finds herself torn from reality by strange forces that will affect her life forever.

A mesmerising mix of surreal fantasy, science fiction and beautifully written drama, Eleanor is one of those rare moments in a reader’s lifetime when they start to remember why they love reading so much. A story that grips from the first chapter and never lets go. Exquisitely-crafted characters and breathtaking imagery fuse effortlessly with an ambitious and original plot, bringing to life a story so captivating it refuses to be put down.

While dealing with darker themes such as suicide and addiction, Gurley displays an empathy with his characters I’ve rarely seen, neither glamourising their decisions or preaching against them but allowing the characters and their actions to speak for themselves. Conventions of genre are refreshingly swept aside. Many will try to tie it down, to quantify it, to classify it, but this book defiantly refuses to be pigeonholed into some obscure sub-genre.

Fans of Jason Gurley’s other work will be pleasantly surprised. This is Jason as you’ve never seen him before. As brilliant as his other work is, this is his most confident and accomplished book yet, and being the culmination of almost 13 years work it rightfully demands and deserves an audience. Easily one of the best novels you’ll read this year.

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Book Review: Wool by Hugh Howey


After coming down from finishing Justin Cronin’s The Twelve a friend insisted I try Hugh Howey’s Wool. “Not another dystopian thriller.” I thought, but my friend had recommended The Passage and The Twelve which I loved so I couldn’t refuse.  I decided to give it a whirl.

Wool takes place many years in the future when an unknown cataclysmic event has left the remainder of humanity to survive in a huge underground bunker called the ‘Silo’ 144 floors deep all linked by a spiral staircase providing a self-sufficient environment for a few thousand of what seems to be the last of the human race.

Sealed off from what remains of the outside with only a large screen displaying the devastation of what has become of the world, people go about their daily business as normal under the ever-watchful eye of the sinister I.T. department who, along with the mayor seem to be running the operation of the Silo and controlling it’s citizens only allowing births by lottery following a death. This also creates issues with class distinction within the Silo leading to inevitable tensions within the groups controlling the essential operations. Criminal behaviour is threatened with ‘cleanings’ which involve a one way trip to the outside of the Silo to clean the camera sensors broadcasting the obliterated landscape to the inhabitants inside. Unfortunately this results in the cleaner choking to death on the toxic atmosphere due to the poor quality of the protective suits manufactured in the I.T. Department.

A series of events leads Holston the sheriff to volunteer to clean in his wife’s footsteps with his recommendation for his replacement being a young engineer Juliette who had previously helped Holston on a murder case in her department. She’s a strong female character, resilient and innovative with equal parts sass and common sense. Some would say a good choice for a sheriff. We’re also witnessing the birth of what is one of the most important female characters in science fiction since Ellen Ripley.

However when Jules takes up her post she quickly realises that there are other forces at work and deception around every corner. The Grand Scheme Of Things is grander than anyone could ever have imagined, but Jules’ standing with her peers in Mechanical as well as her own expertise offers much help with discovering the truth of not only what happens outside the Silo but what caused the terrifying event that left them to exist there.

Howey’s world is truly horrifying at times but the pace is brilliantly levelled throughout without having to resort to over-dramatic gimmicks to keep the reader interested. The whole experience is wonderfully claustrophobic There are parts in the book where you almost find yourself gasping for air. Everything within the world is well devised and practical with every aspect of the Silo (bar the I.T. department) running on age old seat-of-the-pants engineering practices with every skilled worker having an apprentice or “shadow” as the people of the Silo refer to them. There are no high tech gadgets helping these people survive and they depend on recycling and sometimes reverse engineering as much as they can of the technology they have available. The characters are believable and well cast and you genuinely feel for these people, almost as if they are your own descendants.  Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances led by a protagonist few could dislike and an antagonist (Bernard the head of I.T.) everyone will.

Wool has a lot to say about the world we live in today but the beauty of it is that it does so without being overly preachy and by giving us a gripping addictive thriller to boot. Behind the lies and deadly schemes is a story of hope under impossible circumstances and the beginnings of a sprawling sci-fi epic that will resonate with fans of the genre for many years to come.

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