Category Archives: Book Reviews
Senan Gil Senan is an author who I’ve reviewed several times before, namely his two-part (to date) highly acclaimed Outlander Sci-Fi series, and his equally well-received short story collection, A Stitch in Time.
In addition to his regular writing, Senan Gil Senan is a regular reviewer and valued contributor to the IASD FB writing group and its sister site at:
Available for pre-order now prior to the 9th February launch date …
A first-rate thriller that effortlessly blends elements of different genres. The central premise of the story definitely excels in the traditional thriller style, bringing into it rival intelligence agencies, international and domestic espionage, enemies both home and abroad, and a host of enigmatic characters, particularly several ex-military. Amid all the high-powered spying and covert warfare, there’s also a horrifically unpleasant brutal assault and murder that provides the catalyst for further events. Added to this more familiar framework, the author soon incorporates a variety of high-tech and speculative parapsychology/esp themes, adding a distinct ‘sci-fi’ feel to the story. Some of these ideas and technology, and indeed several of the characters, bear an obvious resemblance to elements of the Matrix, though minus all the ‘human battery’ nonsense I’m glad to say – I couldn’t help thinking at one point this might well have been how ‘The Matrix’ ended up had it originally been a Michael Crichton book. Indeed, early in the story the author deliberately plants those similarities in the reader’s mind with a few throwaway references, and yet, they are quickly expanded upon and treated in an entirely different and original way while drawing in other topical areas of research ie, quantum physics and nanotechnology, to enhance the story. There are lots of twists and turns along the way, with many of the original similarities with The Matrix re-emerging again in the latter part of the story, but again, retaining their own originality.
The central character, Hano, at first seems like a most unlikely hero or main protagonist, and certainly no ‘Neo,’ at least not initially. Superficially, Hano couldn’t be more different to his potential colleagues – young, no military background, lacking ambition, and socially awkward/shy on account of some unspecified level of autism, possibly linked to the unique talents that lead to his recruitment as a ‘remote viewer’ with a secret government agency.
For such a clever and ambitious storyline, the author avoided over-complicating things, and I found it surprisingly easy to follow. I was particularly impressed too by the way in which the author handled Hano’s autism, treating it as just another descriptive aspect of his character/persona, alluding to it only where necessary in the same way being young or old, male or female, or even tall or short might be relevant in a story. The science/tech aspects were subtly explained/shown without too much ‘info dumping,’ and again, pretty much at a level that might be expected for the sort of reader with at least a modicum of interest in science and technology, but not obviously beyond the average layman in such areas. Likewise, the military action/characters were not over-emphasised to the point of turning the book into a semi-military story, though having said that, the one tiny reservation I had here was that there were times when some of the military characterisations, fight scenes, and confrontations felt a little ‘skimmed over’ (though better that than over-elaborating and getting stuff wrong), and where, if I’m honest, I felt the author was slightly ‘winging’ it in that respect. Thankfully it didn’t spoil the writing or story in any way, just one tiny area where there might be a little room for improvement in any future/similar books of what has the potential for a cracking good series.
Though I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous books, this latest ranks as his best to date in my opinion. An easy and well-deserved 5 stars!
To follow Senan Gil Senan elsewhere on social media, please see below:
More about the author …
Senan Gil Senan believes that it is the job of a writer to visually transport a reader to a place he or she is unlikely to venture. Then without alienating them, it is to introduce them to a pattern of thought that may differ from their own.
His writing is not typical of the science fiction and dystopian genres. It is more visionary, in that it examines the effect of technology and bio-engineering on future society. He is an adamant believer that humans will integrate more and more with technology in order to keep up with the deluge of technological advances created by the advent of artificial intelligence. He believes that this emergent sentience will be shaped by human interaction, much the same as a child.
His own interests include psychology, noetic science, physics, theology & philosophy and ancient history. He agrees with RR Martin who said that any writer who is looking for an intriguing character, a gripping scenario or plot twist, needs to look no further than the pages of a history book.
He was named Senan, by his father Patrick Gilsenan who thought that the name would look good on the cover of a book. He was an Irish printer who yearned to see his own prose and poetry appear in print. Sadly he died before achieving either ambition. Senan left behind the beauty of Sligo in Ireland to set off for London and oblique strategy of career choices. These included working fourteen years as a computer systems engineer. He has also worked as a self-employed financial trader, a writer, an employment adviser, and as a bar manager. He still lives in South London with his wife and family.
A great introduction to a talented and new author for me, Norman Turrell is the best-selling author of several books covering Sci-Fi, fantasy, horror, and other strange stories, and one I discovered via the IASD Indie Author Support And Discussion Fb group/website.
Memoirs of a ‘so-called’ Witch
Advertised in an online social media post as ‘a short, cheap read’ hardly does this little gem justice. I must admit, a cursory glance of the cover would have had me scroll pass this one, assuming it to be a book on either homoeopathic remedies or cooking with natural ingredients. Thankfully I was intrigued enough to catch the sub-title and blurb, and was rewarded with a short novella length story and an hour and half of bewitching entertainment. Even before I got into the wider story, the opening imagery struck me as some of the best I’ve read in a long time. Far from just providing unnecessary padding or distracting me as is so easily the case when they’re over-done, the descriptive elements here really brought the story alive for me; images of picturesque woodland cottages with old-worldly rustic kitchens and sitting rooms, bottled potions and herbs sitting on shelves, and wizened old witches and the spritely younger generation learning their craft filled my imagination.
This is a story that through its flashbacks to the past spans three generations, of old and now somewhat forgotten knowledge being passed from mother to daughter in each case. It’s also one filled with drama as both a young and then aged Amelia recalls the past, and what today might be called superstition and old wives’ tales, but which was once as very real to the people of the time as modern medicine and science are to all of us today. Though hardly on a par with the witches of Salem or burnings at the stake, there is throughout a strong undercurrent of witchcraft and magic, and indeed the danger of such practices or even the suspicion of it brought on by the use of herbs and potions. If I had but one minor concern, I would have preferred a more conclusive ending, though having said that, perhaps the author will reveal more of the young Amelia’s past life in the future and answer some of the questions the story left me with. Nonetheless, an easy five stars for this one.
With the exception of the cover, images are simply to illustrate my review and do not form part of the book
Norman Turrell can also be found at the following social media links …
Click HERE for the Norman Turrell’s Amazon author page …
Toneye Eyenot is an author I discovered via The Bold Mom horror review/promotion blog. With an extensive catalogue of novellas, short stories, and even some flash fiction covering everything from werewolves to vampires, ghouls and demons to freaks and the supernatural, there’s pretty much something for everyone among the horror fan community …
This is the first story of his I’ve read/reviewed, but it proved to be every bit as good as I had been told.
See below for the author’s social and other media links …
Bookbub: @Toneye Eyenot
This is a fine and well-written novella length story that draws on the folklore and mythology of werewolves and Lycans, those creatures of the night that epitomise the horror that can accompany a full-moon. Written in the first person from the perspective of Shona, a Lycan and high-ranking member a werewolf/Lycan pack, we learn that she has good reason to hate humankind, showing them no mercy when she confronts them.
As the Wolfhaven pack prepare for their long-term and, ultimately, final battle with their hated human adversaries, the action is both savage and gory, yet doesn’t rely on overly explicit bloody detail for its impact, instead being portrayed in a cold and matter-of-fact way that, if anything, makes it all the more chilling.
While this is a story filled with savagery and hatred towards humans, the author skilfully avoids losing the reader’s sympathy with subtle commentary on why such animosity exists, and the differences between how wolves and humans interact with nature and the environment. Amid all this savagery though, there are some wonderful lines of subtle humour too i.e. …
‘… the humans played their final hand, and we are biting it off.’
‘… he showed a bit of guts, so I won’t gorge on his.’
Although this is an easy five stars for me, I would have liked just a tad more explanation of the subtle differences between werewolves and Lycans woven into the narrative, but otherwise, this is an absolute must-read for any horror or ‘creature tales’ fan. I’m not sure at this point if ‘Wolvz: Whispers of War’ is to remain a stand-alone novella or is the first of a continuing series (hopefully it is!), but either way, I’m looking forward to reading a whole lot more from this author.
Click HERE for Toneye Eyenot’s Amazon author page:
This latest short story collection is the fifth by John M. W. Smith that it’s been my pleasure to read and review. John M.W. Smith has had many stories published in various women’s weekly magazines and literary journals, and his short story collections are an established favourite among Russian readers where as well as being hugely popular, are also used as an English language teaching aid.
In addition to my review here of ‘More Longer Wacky stories,’ I’ve also included my past reviews of some of his other collections.
See below for John M.W. Smith on social media …
It’s been a few years since I read one of this author’s excellent short story collections, and I must say this latest novella lengthed 13 story anthology is the best so far. As in previous collections, the stories culminate in some unexpected twist in the tale, some quite startling while others are more of Ah-ha moment, though not once did I remotely see what it would be in each case. Mostly the stories stick to just one or two female characters (though not always), allowing the author to develop them more than is usual within the confines of a short story. Some of the tales are truly uplifting and will make the reader smile, but in a bit of a departure from previous books, others are indeed a tad sad, and equally sad, are more reflective of the not so nice side of human nature, as is the case in A Lonely Heart Breaks Easily.
This collection is definitely grittier, and with more of an edge to some of the stories that I’ve seen in previous ones, venturing into more controversial (almost taboo) themes such as in the third offering, It’s So Easy to Fall in Love, where the wronged woman turns out to be far more predatory than the reader is originally led to believe.
Most of the author’s stories centre around female characters, some strong and self-assured while others are often more fragile and vulnerable, so in some respects it’s easy to see why they would enjoy such popularity in women’s magazines/journals, and yet, I maintain, these stories are of a much wider appeal to anyone who enjoys cleverly crafted scenarios, great writing and dialogue, and in every case, an unexpected but totally satisfying conclusion to a story. I really can’t praise these little gems more highly.
MY PREVIOUS REVIEWS OF THE AUTHOR’S WORK …
Wacky Stories with Twist Endings – Volumes 1 to 4
(Available in eBook & print formats via Amazon)
This is a short collection of eight humorous short stories, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘twist at the end’ in the first four stories are more the sort to make you smile and chuckle rather than gasp in amazement, but every scenario and ending are entirely believable and just the sort of situation that any reader might readily identify with. In the later stories, the twist ending tend to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them, and the stories steadily become a little more intricate.
The author keeps the number of characters to a minimum in each case, and within the obvious confines of a short story, the characters are well-developed with convincing and natural dialogue. Each story is written in an easy to read and follow style, yet despite their apparent simplicity, all are actually very clever and well crafted.
By the author’s own admission, the stories are primarily aimed at a female readership, but the quality of writing and story-telling does I believe give them a much broader appeal. I shall certainly be reading and reviewing the other three volumes in this series.
Another short collection of eight short stories; as in the previous volume of this collection, every story is well crafted and wholly believable. Again, not one of these stories will fail to bring a smile and a chuckle to the face of the reader, but unlike the previous volume, the stories here are a little more involved, with a slightly more adult and mischievous flavour to them.
For such short stories, some of them are quite complex, dealing with issues of romance, family, and work issues. Again the characters are convincing and well-developed. The increased complexity of the stories, as compared to volume one, does require a slightly greater degree of concentration from the reader, but the rewards are more than worth it.
Overall, another great volume of well written and light-hearted stories which fans of the short story genre and women in particular, will really enjoy.
Well, this is the third volume of stories I’ve reviewed in this series and once again, I’ve not been disappointed.
Without reiterating too much of what I’ve said in my previous reviews, each of these delightful short stories has an unexpected, and in this volume more so than in previous ones, a quite often rather `naughty’ and punchier twist in the ending – never more so was the term `naughty but nice’ quite so appropriate. Compared to previous volumes, I think the stories here are, whilst still quite charming, are tending towards slightly more adult orientated themes. Again the reader never really sees what’s coming, and the author is an adept at leading the reader up the garden path so to speak before firmly tugging them back to a really effective punchline and conclusion.
What I’ve also noticed and enjoyed in this third volume is the way author very quickly settles the reader into feeling comfortable and familiar in what they’re reading; although each story is different and unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in names, places, and the domestic settings in which they occur that you could almost feel that you’re reading another chapter in the lives of the characters in a previous story, much like that sense of familiarity you might encounter in reading the sequel to a novel. By employing such techniques, many of the characters appear much more developed and rounded than they might otherwise, given the limitations of the short and flash fiction genres.
I would agree with the author’s own admission that his stories are indeed aimed at a primarily female readership, and this volume perhaps more than in previous ones, but as your typical Neanderthal male, I too enjoyed them immensely and as such would contend that they still have a much broader appeal that of their intended market. Another great collection, and again, highly recommended …
This is the fourth and last volume of the ‘wacky stories’ series. Like the previous ones, all the stories are well written, and mostly with a deliciously naughty twist in them.
One of the dangers of anthologies such as this is that there can be a tendency for the stories to become repetitive, but here we have a refreshing diversity. Just when you think you’ve got the stories figured out, the author throws in a couple that are as delightfully sentimental and smile-inducing as you can imagine; the first story has quite an adult theme to it, treating the reader to a really sharp and almost shocking twist, whereas in another of the stories, the author leads the reader in a very definite direction, only to delight with a more gentle shock, and of the most touching confirmations of enduring love as I’ve read in a long time.
Yes, the stories are aimed at a female readership, but I think their appeal extends much further. I will certainly be reading some of the author’s differently themed anthologies in the near future. All in all, a great series that I would heartily recommend not only a female readership but anyone who enjoys cleverly written stories of the ‘twist in the tale genre’…
Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page, and links to all his books …
Sarah has studied English language and literature, and history, with delight since her early teens. She is a qualified adult literacy tutor and has written short stories, in addition to other resources, for her students. Her published articles have been in magazines dedicated to wildlife and dogs. The Royal Command series, her debut into full-length fiction, has been well received. Book One, Dangerous Liaisons, is a Romance Finalist in the Independent Author Network Book Awards 2015 and the first version of this book, now lightly edited, gained a five-star rating from Readers’ Favorite within weeks of publication.
Sarah’s hope is that readers will enjoy her novels as an escape from reality, but be left understanding that fame and fortune often comes at a high personal cost. Also, an increased perception of the threat to animals: those shot in the name of sport for trophy heads, endangered species, many poached for their fur and ivory, and tragically discarded pets.
In addition to the above, Sarah Stuart is a prolific reader and is a Readers’ Favourite official book reviewer, and a valued member of and contributor to the IASD indie author support and discussion site …
Further links to the author’s social media are listed below:
Romance and melodrama don’t normally feature high in my reading preferences but I was in the mood to read something different, and this looked like it would fit the bill.
After the day from hell, to say that Richard’s life and those closest to him will never be the same again would be the mother of all understatements. I’m tempted to say that some elements are at first reading a tad implausible, but Sarah Stuart weaves them into the story with such seemingly effortless writing that you accept and believe them from start to finish.
The same qualities and compassion that led Richard Carpenter to adopt a problematic and previously abused little stray dog are the same ones that would make him the perfect father and husband. After his ex-wife, Naomi, turns up on his doorstep with a teenage girl, Maria, declaring her to be his daughter, Richard Carpenter is facing life-changing choices and dilemmas. Being the sort of man he is, Richard doesn’t hesitate in accepting responsibility for Maria, determined from the start to be the best father he can be. What emerges is a story of domestic and personal drama, filled with twists and turns at every juncture as his life lurches from one tribulation to the next while trying to build a home and future for his new family.
Some of the characters, male and female alike are as delightfully loathsome as ever graced the page of any book: an ex-wife who thinks nothing of dumping her teenage daughter with a complete stranger to her simply because the girl would get in the way of her new and extravagant lifestyle, a gold-digging fiancée that makes Cruella De Vil look like Mother Theresa, who calls off the wedding the moment her would-be future husband’s fortunes take a turn for the worse and who then strands Maria with a non-existent aunt just to get him back, and an utterly vile teenage lad who would threaten anything and anyone to hide and keep quiet what he’s done to name but three.
Amid all the turmoil going on in his life and a string of failed relationships with totally unsuitable women, indeed narrow escapes in some cases, Richard is lonely and desperately wants to settle down with a woman he truly loves, one who loves him in return and in the same way.
Starved of the love she never got as a child, Maria too wants love and the man of her dreams, and in one final twist of fate, both Richard and Maria might just find the happiness they both crave.
The first book I’ve read by this author but certainly won’t be the last. One of the easiest five stars I’ve given all year, so thoroughly looking forward to the sequel and other books by Sarah Stuart!
For details of all the author’s work, see HERE for Sarah’s Amazon author page:
Professional by day, book nerd and fantasy champion by night, Susan is a masked crusader for the fantastical world. Championing mythical rights, she quells uprisings and battles infidels who would slay the lifeblood of her pen. It’s all in a night’s work, for this whirlwind writer. Welcome to the quest.
Book One of the Spirit Shield Saga is now an award winning novel! April 1st, 2017, it was awarded First in Category for Young Adult Mythology and the Dante Rossetti Grand Prize winner for Best Young Adult fiction of 2016 by Chanticleer Reviews.
Susan Faw is also a contributing member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion network of writers and authors
Click HERE for IASD website – Click above pic for Susan’s IASD profile link
Goodreads: Susan Faw
Book One of The Spirit Shield Saga
By Susan Faw
I’ve always been a bit wary of epic fantasy sagas for fear they’d be too fantastical or far-fetched to enjoy. I was more than pleasantly surprised here though; whereas many such stories have too many different storylines that take too long to converge, Seer of Souls was remarkably easy to follow and understand from beginning to end with the different strands of the story being closely interlinked.
There is quite a dramatic start in the birth/death of two new-born twins, which tied in nicely with the wider story further on. There are several themes to the story that have been explored elsewhere but here they are merged and given their own originality; the central character, Cayden for example, put me in mind Andre Norton’s ‘The Beast Master,’ with his animal summoning abilities, while the idea of royalty and wizards is reminiscent of the King Arthur legend. The imagery of the Kingsmen soldiers in their battle armour and royal regalia, combined with the burning of witches and banning of magic had a certain medieval feel to it with echoes of the Cromwellian era and the battle between Parliament and the Royalists. There was of course magic, mythology, and elements of fantasy but they don’t overwhelm or distract from the basic story the way a sci-fi film might with too many special effects. To this end, much of it is set amid a more-earthly setting and definite storyline, with characters supping pints and tradesmen going about their business. ‘Healers,’ Mother Nature, and Goddesses along with a mythical underworld play their part, all of which have much in common with druids and paganism, so again, there is a comfortable familiarity in the way they’ve been portrayed here.
Another aspect of the writing that made for easy readability is that it wasn’t filled entirely with weird and esoterically named characters and places; yes, some of the names were unusual enough as you’d expect in a fantasy saga but they were balanced with more recognisable ones too. The overall story, which I won’t give away plot-wise, had just as many common elements such as ambition, treachery, struggles for power, and rebellion, with human and mortal battles fought alongside the more magical ones.
The author makes clear this is the first part of a series, so readers shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed when finding there are still many questions to be answered at the end. Having said that, the story here still reads well as a stand-alone one as far it goes, but clearly with further elements to be expanded upon, i.e. that side of the story surrounding the main character’s equally gifted twin sister, Avery, and future battles to be fought. This is a well-written and entertaining addition to the fantasy saga genre, and a great introduction to it if you’ve not read anything like this before.
See HERE for link to the author’s Amazon author page:
Anne Francis Scott is a Readers’ Favorite award finalist author in paranormal fiction. She has a fascination for haunted houses, ancient cemeteries, and ghostly mysteries with a twist–passions that fuel her writing, giving her the chance to take readers to an otherworldly place and leave them there for a while. She hopes that journey is a good one…
To read more about why Anne travels down the haunted trail, see link below:
At the bottom of that page, you’ll find the recording of her interview with Real Paranormal Activity – The Podcast, where she talks (okay, maybe rambles a little) about some of her personal paranormal experiences.
For news on upcoming releases, cover reveals, and more:
Subscribe to Anne’s newsletter: newsletter.annefrancisscott.com
You can reach out to Anne with any questions or comments here:
Lost Girl captures perfectly the sense of eeriness of a big old and deserted house stuck out in the backwoods of nowhere. The central character, Alison, has had a troubled past and is still fragile from personal loss and recent events, and has moved there from the city for a fresh start and to find solitude and peace and quiet for her work as a sculptor.
I’m not totally swayed by notions of the paranormal and was therefore glad not to have had to suspend my disbelief right from the offset. The story starts off quite sedately, giving the reader some insights into Alison’s character and situation. From then on though, the author slowly builds the tension and sense of unease with lots of little-unexplained things, some of which she tries to write off as her imagination. There are too many pieces to the puzzle for it all to be coincidence though and she soon suspects there’s a lot of history in her new house, much of it connected directly to her, but how or why is a mystery.
I also enjoyed that the paranormal aspects of the story were intertwined with living people and more earthly bound motives, events, and mystery, which for me, made this chilling story all the more credible, allowing me to put aside any initial scepticism I have about the paranormal. Although there was an element of horror too, it wasn’t overdone; the strength and quality of Lost Girl come more from the sense of atmosphere and genuine fear it creates as the story progresses rather than adding unnecessary blood and gore, though what there was of that blended seamlessly into the overall story. Writing-wise, there was good dialogue and characterisation throughout but without padding out the peripheral characters, all of which played their part in adding to the overall picture.
Lost Girl is an excellent stand-alone story but clearly leaves enough doubt and speculation at the end to provide a solid foundation for book two in what will eventually be a trilogy. Book Two has now been added to my reading list, and if its anywhere near as good as the first, then I’ll definitely be adding book three when it comes out.
See HERE for Anne Francis Amazon author page
Gordon Bickerstaff was born and raised in Glasgow, spending his student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, he learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and cut the grass in the Meadows.
*If he ran the lawnmower over your toes, he says … “sorry.”
He learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before retiring to write fiction. He lives with his wife in Scotland, where in his own words … “corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.”
Gordon Bickerstaff writes the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds and Tabula Rasa. They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.
In addition to the above, Gordon is a valued member and contributor to the IASD writing group and an avid supporter of other authors.
Gordon’s social media:
Deadly Secrets is the first in an ongoing book series numbering five to date. It’s a fast-paced thriller that blends lots of blood and gory violence with an intriguing story. It kicks off with the central character, Gavin Shawlens, being called to the suspicious death of a dog being housed at some kennels. The case is a mystery to him, and the story quickly takes a different direction before he makes the connection
I won’t give any of the plot away but will say it has all the elements that, say, a Michael Crichton fan would expect in a book: a secret government investigatory organisation, the accidental discovery of a ‘flawed’ process for a revolutionary new food ingredient, various international parties willing to stop at nothing to get their hands on, and political and corporate intrigue. Alongside the main story, there’s also some gruesome nasty side-lines of a corporate mogul’s business that could almost warrant a whole new book in their own right. There’s a fair sprinkling of science and biochemistry littered throughout to give the main story credibility, but not so much as to leave the average reader overwhelmed or baffled by it all, with lots of easy to read analogies to clarify things.
It was good to have a central character/hero type character that wasn’t the stereotypical action man, but one with all the more usual frailties and fears that most of us might feel in the same situation. There were lots of unexpected twists and turns in the characters’ personal lives that fitted the story perfectly but all totally believable.
The ending is clearly designed to intrigue the reader as to future stories, leaving hints of unfinished business which I’ll be reading up on in the near future. Great book!
See here for Gordon Bickerstaff’s Amazon author page and other books …
Having already read and reviewed Darkly Wood by Max Power (my favourite book back of 2014), along with several other of this author’s books, I was delighted to see that he had written a sequel, Darkly Wood II.
As well as being an author, Max Power is a prolific book reviewer/blogger, and a valued contributor to the Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb group. Further information on Max Power and his writing can be found at the following social media below and via other links at the end of this blog post … and speaking of blog sites, when you’ve finished all the author’s novels, and are eagerly awaiting the next (I’ve still one more book to go), his blog site provides an equally entertaining collection of his other writings to fill the gap.
On YouTube – Max Power
On Fb – @maxpowerbooks
On Twitter – @maxpowerbooks1
Darkly Wood II – Available in both eBook & print editions …
This chilling sequel to Darkly Wood brings us back to the mysterious wood perched above the sleepy village of Cranby. The mystery returns with love and terror walking hand and hand through the seemingly innocent paths of the place that has generated many fearful tales. This time however, there is an even more sinister presence. Much time has passed since Daisy escaped the terror of the wood and on the surface little has changed. But behind the tree line, a new danger lurks. Fans of the original will be taken to darker depths and first-time readers will discover the true art of storytelling from the mind of the award-winning author Max Power. Heart-stopping, fast paced, unrelenting danger lies waiting for you between the pages. Sometimes love is all you have. Sometimes, love is not enough. Darkness is coming …
The woman who never wore shoes
By Max Power
Having read and enjoyed the author’s first book in this series I was looking forward to reading the sequel. I must confess I had some doubts that it simply wouldn’t have the same impact second time around given that some of the mystery of Darkly Wood would already have been revealed to readers of the first book.
I’m happy to say that Darkly Wood II is every bit as creepy and mysterious, and even better than Book One; Max Power doesn’t just write stories, he literally sculptures every word and sentence with the consummate skill of a Michael Angelo, bringing to life the image in the reader’s mind like the subtle brush strokes of the classical artist adding that indefinable something extra that creates a masterpiece.
Like its prequel, Darkly Wood II embodies many different themes i.e. bloody and horrific murder, tragic romance, unrequited love, mysterious disappearances, the paranormal, and a host of others. Likewise, the format is similar to the first book in that it reads much like a book of short stories, all tied together by the central theme of the mysterious Darkly Wood. This time, however, there is more of a central character and story in the form of the ‘evil personified’ Wormhole, a man (or monster?) every bit as mysterious as Darkly Wood itself, anchoring everything together in a more coherent manner.
Readers of the first book will immediately see that that events have in their way come full circle, with two new generations of characters following on from Book One. Holly Coppertop, the granddaughter of Daisy May from the first book, having read the mysterious Tales of Darkly Wood finds herself similarly trapped and imperilled by it. Can Daisy May draw on her own experience and nightmares of that place to save her granddaughter and her daughter, Rose? And will she have to sacrifice herself to do so? But apart from this one nod to a chronological timeline, Darkly Wood, its characters and their stories, all appear to exist in their own particular corner of time and space, detached from the real world.
The many twists and turns here are only matched by the equally rich array of fascinating characters. Who could not be intrigued to know the background and stories of the other equally enigmatically named cast? Charlie Callous Colson, Blenerhorn Mastiff Wormhole, Matthew Squelby, and Cathecus Flincher are but a few of the new characters to wet the appetite. And lastly, there’s Darkly Wood’s strange metamorphosis of two of them into the ‘beast boy’ Woody twins?
Whilst this book is hardly lacking in blood and gore, its strength, readability, and sheer enjoyment stem from the author’s unrivalled ability to weave a complex array of gruesome and creepy tales and folklore into something far greater than the sum of its parts – it’s like the stories of Hansel and Gretel have been given an Edgar Allan Poe make-over to form one super sublime myriad of horror.
A must-read for any fan of the classical and psychological horror genres. Can’t wait to for book three in this captivating series!
See also my review below for the first book in the Darkly Wood series …
By Max Power
This is a book that embodies horror, romance, and the paranormal in a way I’ve rarely seen. With a good opening narrative, right from the start the author conjures up an atmospheric sense of creepiness and the macabre reminiscent of a latter-day Edgar Allan Poe or Dennis Wheatley, so much so that one can almost imagine Christopher Lee or Vincent Price playing the part of one of the characters, particularly that of Lord Terrence Darkly.
Initially we learn of the mystery and horror of Darkly Wood by way of the central character, Daisy May Coppertop, reading through a copy of a book of tales about Darkly Wood – a book within a book so to speak but at that point that’s all they are, just stories, but certainly nothing to be alarmed about, at least not yet.
What starts off as Daisy and Benjamin, intrigued by the apparent sight of a strange looking boy in the distance, taking a seemingly innocent and pleasant walk along the edge of a nearby woodland soon turns into a dark and fear filled battle not just to escape its clutches but simply to survive. Faced with ever-increasing danger and a sense of time running out for them, the bond between Daisy, and Benjamin, her new found friend from the local village, grows into something much more than simple friendship or first love.
The writing technique is both clever and imaginative, using descriptive narrative to set the tone and atmosphere early on, using the opportunity to inform the reader of many nuggets of information that come into play later in the book, gradually introducing just the right balance of dialogue and action. The numerous but short chapters make for a very readable style of writing, and by way of the different tales of the book within the book, the author keeps the story alive and fresh throughout. In books such as this the author often requires the reader’s implicit consent to suspend their disbelief, but here the reader is left in no doubt whatsoever as to the mystery and horror of the wood; in one of the chapters the author cleverly demonstrates the ‘other worldliness’ of the wood when in one particular tale, someone trying to find their way out of the wood tries using their field craft skills to escape only to find all the laws of nature and physics don’t seem to apply in the heart of Darkly Wood. As the story progresses the seemingly unrelated tales of the wood draw closer to form an intricate pattern; surprises and shocks keep the reader entranced, drawing you in just as Daisy and Benjamin are drawn further and further into Darkly Wood. Filled with twists and turns and new revelations at every juncture, an amazing and diverse array of characters, and a conclusion as eerie and unexpected as anyone could imagine, this is definitely one of my favourite reads of 2014.
Please visit Max Power’s Amazon Author page for more info about all the author’s work …
Max Power on the IASD … click pic below for link …
Mark Heathcote is an American veteran of the North Korean war, having served just short of 400 patrols of the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea, a sort of no-mans land much like the bandit country of Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles.’
I discovered these two books quite by chance from a comment on one of my previous review blogs. From what I understand, the author is working on a third book, a spin-off From Defcon 4, and there is a possible documentary being discussed based on Call Sign: Purple Three, both of which I’m looking forward to …
Although these two books were written several years ago, the current situation with North Korea and its leadership ensures the subject matter of both books remains topical; whilst there have been steps of late to bring a lasting peace to the area, given the bravado and king-sized egos of the two ‘leaders’ in question, as well as the possible consequences should hostilities escalate there, this still remains a dangerous and volatile part of the world.
See also: Twitter: Mark Heathco @dmzpatrolleader
Defcon 4 Korea:
Land of the Morning Calm
More a novella than a novel, this is a short but enjoyable read that packs in a lot of content. Set during the mid 80’s this was very much the cold war of North-East Asia during the very real tensions that existed between the American backed South Korea and the Chinese backed forces of the North, and given the current state of affairs between the USA and that part of the world, a story that indeed echoes the continuation of that conflict.
The heart of the story centres around the activities of an American front-line infantry unit along the North-South Korean border and their frequent encounters with their North Korean counterparts. Inter-spaced with these firefights we witness the saving of some North Korean refugees fleeing to safety, and through their rescue learn more of the seedier side of such conflicts, the human trafficking, the spying and ruthless exploitation of the most vulnerable; related to this we also hear a little about secretly dug tunnels along the border in aid of such activities, drawing parallels with the more widely known Vietnam conflict.
The author has clearly blended fact and fiction based on his own experience and service during the time; not having served in the American military or in that part of the world myself I can’t really vouch for the authenticity of the events or the ground fighting descriptions but from a purely reader’s perspective they were fast paced, well written and entertaining, and the author’s decision to write in the first person gave the writing an added pace and intimacy. There’s a lot of American military terminology and abbreviations just as there is with any military force whatever the country but the author does, for the most part, make clear their meaning, and in those instances where he doesn’t the context in which it/they are used makes it easy enough to guess without having to resort to the glossary at the end.
As a British veteran, I can appreciate the author’s view of this being a ‘forgotten war’ in much the same way many British veterans who served tours in Northern Ireland resent their service being largely forgotten, overshadowed as it were by more recent conflicts.
If I had but one gripe I would suggest the author should either make the eBook version freely available via Amazon KU or reduce the price somewhat given that it’s currently almost the same price as that of the paperback version (which is also only available via third-party sellers on Amazon which might be a bit off-putting for some people).
Overall, an enjoyable little read that should appeal to fans of military-themed action/conflict stories, and I’m looking forward to reading the author’s other, book Call Sign: Purple Three.
Call Sign: Purple Three
Patrolling the US Sector of the Korean DMZ
As I said in my review of the author’s previous book, Defcon 4, the Korean war and the Cold War type conflict along the Demilitarised Zone, or DMZ, between the North and South is a largely forgotten one, and little known or understood by most of the world. In this respect, it is much like the conflict between the British Army and the IRA terrorists during ‘The Troubles’ at the same time.
Just as Russian tanks and personnel vastly out-numbered their NATO counterparts in Germany and the rest of Western Europe during the Cold War, North Korean forces also out-numbered the American and South Korean forces in the ration of 12 to 1, making for a frightening prospect should they decide to invade, a very real possibility at the time. As well as the military situation on the ground, the author also highlights the psychological and propaganda aspect of the war, mentioning the regular blasting of North Korean music along the border for the American patrols to hear. Not only did they face the threat of full-scale invasion on a day to day basis, but had to be constantly alert to infiltration and tunnelling from the North to the South. Despite the cessation of open hostility, lives were lost on a regular basis, and those on patrol were most at risk, both from the North Koreans and hidden mines.
This is a book written very much with the military or veteran reader in mind. The author has spared no effort in his attention to technical and operational detail. I’m also pleased to say, included are dozens of photographs that supplement the vivid picture the author has created, detailing what it was like for the infantry patrols of the time, in this case, the mid-80s. Although heavy on description and minute detail, it is written in the first-person and is interspaced with lots of excellent dialogue between Sgt. Heathco (the author) and other military personnel he served with. This gives much of the book an easy to read conversational style, providing context to much of the military description. As you would expect, some of this dialogue might appear raw to the point of crudity for anyone who hasn’t served, like when Sgt. Heathco is explaining the toilet arrangments for some men on their first patrol. Through this and some of the regular conversation, the author brings emphasis to the human and personal side of the conflict rather than just an ‘account’ of it.
Although a well deserved 5 stars, for the benefit of the civilian reader, or indeed non-American military, I would have preferred a glossary of American military acronyms and terminology at the beginning rather than the end of the book. I would also have prefered the excellent photographs to have been evenly spread throughout rather than all being placed roughly in the middle. But these really are minor considerations. Overall this is an exceptionally well-written book with an authenticity that could only come from someone who has lived every moment of what they’re writing – a poignant and fascinating insight into just what it meant to be on a real patrol along and in the DMZ.
*Further to when I read the first of Mark Heathco’s books, both the eBook and paperback versions are now available directly via Amazon.