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Military Matters – Poetry Review

This is just one of Tom Benson’s many books that I have a reviewed and each time I have I have been thoroughly impressed, though for very different reasons in this case. Tom Benson, he is a prolific writer whose works include a number of novels, short stories, flash fiction, and several poetry anthologies. For further information on Tom Benson, please see his blog at:

http://www.tombensoncreative.com

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stars5Poetry to break the heart and lift the spirits in equal measure…

 Military Matters, by Tom Benson (available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle)

pt6This is a substantial anthology of poetry by author Tom Benson. The poems themselves follow a broadly traditional style and format, covering the life and times of the British soldier during times of modern warfare and terrorism. Set amidst the backdrop of Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, every poem tells a story, each one unique in its own way. The subject matter covers everything from frontline battle operations to the pride and dedication of those who serve, saddening tales of heroism, love, and its loss, and of loyalty and courage. You’ll not find the glorification of death and war as epitomised by Brooke or indeed the flowing prose of Owen in his vivid accounts of its horror. What the reader will find here are the hard, often tragic and brutal, but always true and honest observations of a man whose marched and trudged in the very same boots and in the same wars as the men and events he portrays in his poems. In comparison to these past writers, I would say Military Matters bears more relation to Owen than to Brooke, perhaps on account of, Like Owen, Tom Benson did indeed live and experience the things he writes about, whereas Brooke’s sonnets were borne more from the hopeful idealism with which Britain entered the first world war.

Tom Benson neither glorifies nor condemns, but with acute poignancy relates the thoughts, feelings, and accounts of a soldier’s life and the job he does. Whilst the author assures the reader that people and events in the poems are largely fictitious, there can be no doubt amongst the lines and verses there are real memories and experiences upon which some of them are based. I doubt if any serving or ex-serviceman or woman could help but be moved, and pause for thought whilst reading through this anthology. Military Matters also presents a unique and heartfelt glimpse to the non-military reader of a different world and one that helps protect and maintain the peaceful one in which we all hope to live and enjoy our lives.

Those readers who have read and enjoyed the works of Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke might well appreciate these up-dated, modern-day accounts of war and the military and how they compare.

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For further biographical information on Tom Benson and links to his previous and current writing projects HERE for Tom Benson’s Amazon author page …

Twilight – Book Review

Twilight: Short Stories

by Maurice Northmore

stars5A great variety of stories here, many treading a fine line between the mainstream and the surreal. Loved it!

694b4bdf7183a2d82767668a9580d9bbe9922491-tinyThis anthology is aptly named; the stories tread a fine line between the mainstream and the surreal. The variety of settings and scenarios never fail to hold the reader’s attention and take them somewhere new with each story, whether it be during a storm aboard a transport ship or the cells of a Bangkok jail. In each story the author skillfully manages to set the scene and atmosphere to such an extent the reader really does feel like a fly on the wall of what’s happening, which is quite apt as in one of the stories, a very clever and original idea, the narrator is indeed, ‘a fly on the wall.’

At nearly sixty thousand words, this is no throw-away effort of slightly elongated flash fiction, but a real collection of well written and thoughtfully developed stories that keep the reader thoroughly entertained, effortlessly combining elements of the adventure genre with that of the thriller and suspense.

Some of the stories follow the tried and trusted short story format of providing the reader with a clever and unexpected ending, whilst in others they simply draw to a logical and satisfying conclusion, thus keeping the reader guessing and intrigued right to the end.

I would definitely recommend this to fans of the short story and novella genre, and indeed anyone who enjoys reading well-written stories of any length.

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See HERE for Amazon links to all the author’s works …

Twist in the Tale – Book review (& ebook article)

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Twist In The Tale, by Mathew Williams (available on Amazon kindle)

A great little collection of short stories, each with an unexpected ending that surprises or makes you smile, or both. There’s a nice variety of stories here, from the heart-warming to the slightly dark, so the reader is never quite sure what they’ll be getting next, but is never disappointed. One particular story, ‘Only Make Believe’ was as gentle and heart-warming as is hard to imagine, and, without giving anything away, the final line brought as wide a smile to my face as I can remember.

If I had to make one tiny criticism, and it’s nothing to do with my enjoyment, it would be that I would have preferred a slightly more informative description in the amazon blurb as there really isn’t enough grab the ‘potential’ reader’s attention. And on a purely selfish note, I would have liked a few more stories to make for a longer read. Well worth reading…

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 Ebook & Self-Publishing?  Some personal thoughts on the matter…

Despite its success, the whole ebook and amazon kindle phenomenon has not been without its critics, and concerns about its effects on the more traditional publishing industry. It’s true that the advent of the internet and the rapid expansion of free or relatively inexpensive self-publishing via Amazon, Smashwords, blogging, and a host of others has resulted in a lot of, shall we say, ‘less than professional’ writing to be made available.

Proponents of traditional publishing might well argue that with a traditional and well known publisher, the reader is assured of the quality of the writing in advance? I don’t know about your experiences but for myself, I’ve read some pretty awful stuff in traditional print too, long before Amazon was little more than a barely known webpage.

In answer to the last point though, if a title and cover grab your interest, then both Amazon and Smashwords provide the facility to browse through free samples of whatever you’re considering buying. And since many of the books, including most of the classics on both Amazon and Smashwords are either free or in many cases, less than a few pounds, such arenas have made reading a lot more accessible and affordable for a lot of people. I know my own reading has doubled, if not trebled, in both quantity and variety since I got my Kindle.

Much of the early criticism of self-publishing was by way of comparison to ‘vanity publishing’, where hopeful writers might be lured into parting with thousands of pounds following exaggerated praise of their work and promises of best-selling success. But today? Self-publishing is completely free with little more than a few basic internet skills, and even without those skills, it can still be achieved with for little more than a hundred pounds or so. Yet still there is criticism that any amount of money aspiring writers might spend promoting their work is at best, optimistic, and at worst, delusional. But why? Not every amateur writer has aspirations of becoming the next Zadie Smith or Harold Robbins. For many, it’s just an enjoyable hobby, so why shouldn’t they spend whatever they like on it if it brings them satisfaction? Apart from writing, other hobbies of mine include cycling, outdoor pursuits, keep fit, sports, all of which I’ve spent money on over the years; if it’s acceptable for golfing and motor cycling enthusiasts to spend hundreds, if not thousands on their hobby, without the slightest hope or intention of profiting from it, why not writers too? Even bloggers, for whom their writing platform is the simplest and freest of all, might well spend a small amount for a premium theme to improve the look of their work.

The evolvement of the self-publishing arena can in many ways be compared to that of the music industry. In the past ten or fifteen years we’ve seen the virtual disappearing of all the traditional mediums of music. Vinal and cassette tape are now largely collectors items; even the CD is losing ground to the ipod and digital downloads. Many of today’s biggest recording stars started their careers building their audiences on the likes of Youtube and Myspace. And even the traditional method of ‘gigging’, is that so very different from blogging?

Whatever one might think of ebooks, the Kindle, Amazon, Smashwords, blogging, and many other forms of self-publishing, they’re all here to stay in one form or another. Let’s embarace and make the very most of them….

A to Z Stories of Life and Death, by D.Biswas – Book Review

AtoZ

A to Z Stories of Life and Death, by D. Biswas  (available on Kindle and via Smashwords.com)

This anthology of flash fiction / short stories is one I discovered while blogging, and certainly glad I did. For any aspiring writer who enjoys both reading and writing in the flash fiction / short story genre, this is well worth reading, not just for its enjoyment value, but as a lesson in literary writing.

As delightful and thought provoking an anthology as I’ve read in a long time. The stories themselves fall largely into the flash fiction genre and occasionally the vignette, though to pigeon-hole them this way hardly does them justice. The settings span the globe but are set mostly in the Asian sub-continent and the far east. The topics and social issues they deal with are both difficult and provocative: domestic abuse, poverty, sexuality, and exploitation to name but a few.

As a European reader, I was captivated by the author’s accounts of life in other cultures, many of which are saddening and hard to comprehend; our (European) notions of poverty and deprivation are quickly turned on their heads by the honest and sensitive way in which they form the backdrop to the stories. Elements of the storyline in each case often deliberately remain unwritten, i.e. implied or hinted at, forcing the reader to use their imagination and interpret each story in their own way and really think about what they are reading. Some of the stories conclude with a glimmer of hope for the future set against the harrowing circumstances of what’s gone before; others do not, which for me really gives them added authenticity – life isn’t all about happy endings.

If all the reader is looking for is light entertainment then this book probably isn’t it, but for stories that really engage the reader, gets them thinking, challenging their own perspectives and thinking, then these twenty six literary jewels would be hard to surpass.

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