Cover Love Letter

When scanning the shelves for prospective books, neither the spine colour and font interest me, it’s all about about if I recognise the title/author, or if the title is quirky enough to arrest my relentless and speedy march to the end of the shelf.

It would be remiss of me not to take the time to repost this absolutely gorgeous specimen, which is one book to certainly judge its cover by.  This beauty was cunningly placed in my eyeline, demanding my attention and money, both of which were duly and happily paid.

It is a shame that there aren’t more well thought out and intricate covers adorning shops everywhere, after all the appeal is not just for the bibliophile but also a way to entice those normally not interested in reading into picking up a book.  For those interested in more of Christopher Gibbs’ work, check out his visually arresting portfolio here.

Also worth a mention is Stephen King’s, The Wind Through the Keyhole, which used mosaic design technologies to incorporate thousands of rader’s faces into the artwork used on the back cover illustration of the first edition, which I think is a wonderful give back to the fans, especially those with magnifying glasses who wish to find themeselves.

Terrance Dicks

A spate of drafts covered this one over, so although less topical now than it would have been at the time, it is with great sadness that I write about the recent passing away of one of the icons of Doctor Who literature.

A prolific writer of a plethora of books, for many he was best known for his work on Doctor Who, for which he novelised sixty-seven of the TV scripts. Dicks did more than just write the books, he was script editor of the television show, as well as writing and producing.  His stories and direction added some subtle slants to the series with social and political stories.

For all the memories of the show – and there are many – it is to the books that I fondly remember getting out of the library, repeatedly.  Looking through the Target covers, I picked out Doctor Who and the Daleks, The Three Doctors, and The web of Fear.  Two of which were written by Dicks, as well as Meglos which I picked up in a book sale for the bargain sum of 20p.

Now having amassed a complete (I think) set of the novels, it seems fitting to pick one to read soon.  There is plenty to choose from so I will probably pick a random title and post something in due course.

Reading Embers

In case you missed it live, (as we did) here’s Jess’ video.   Ten minutes before kick off we lost electricity, and with the water being off as well, it was a torrid thanks to the ridiculously hot time.  Crissy has the foresight to download a film off Netflix and have her phone charged which went some of the way to helping, before a nap until the electric coming on woke us up.

If you fancy hearing Jess in the flesh and seeing what her work is all about then click below, follow on Facebook, and all that other stuff.

Viridian Gate Online: Live!

After a very long day in Manila which involved: queueing, a lack of manners, coffee, and heat that felt closer to the mid 40’s than the 35 degree reality, I came home to a message from author J.D. Astra.

On the 11th April at 08:30pm MST, Jess will be reading chapter one of book two of her Firebrand series.  You can tune into it here, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theastralscribe/ and then go buy the book right there and then, together with book one, reviews coming soon.

All this is a bit confusing as it will be live on the 12th in this part of the world but after struggling with the maths I still have time to do a post and let you all know before it happens.  If you fancy a trip into the world of Viridian Gate Online, or just want to sample the writing of J.D. Astra then this is the way to go about it.

I feel guilty for having accumulated many books that I need to review for people, and so need to get a move on but after cravenly contriving to forget that for this evening, I’m off to seek some much-needed sleep.

Viridian Gate Online: Side Quests James A. Hunter, J.D. Astra, et al

An extinction-level asteroid is cannonballing toward Earth. In humanity’s final hours, a lucky few earn a one-way ticket to the brand-new, ultra-immersive, fantasy-based VRMMORPG, Viridian Gate Online. Making that leap of faith might mean survival, but it comes with a steep price tag: “Travelers” will forever be stranded as digital avatars inside a fantastical world filled with vicious monsters, all-powerful AIs, and cutthroat players. Let the games begin …

This being my first introduction to this particular world, I had no idea what the bigger picture was going in (except for a beta read I did for Viridian Gate Online: Firebrand, review coming soon), but I got into the book extremely quickly and it offered enough tantalising glimmers to keep me intrigued, for this and further adventure in the universe.

Each story brings forth a mixture of pacy action, humour, and plenty of variety.  My favourites included, VGO creator James A. Hunter’s heist story in A Gentlemen’s Work, blog favourite Jess Harpley (AKA J.D. Astra) offers her trademark action set pieces in The Raiding of Rowanheath, and Nicholas Reid’s Buried Alive is an ancient Egypt fan’s delight.

As you would expect there are plenty of gaming and fantasy references but with a fun feel.  You don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable about either to enjoy the stories.  The mentioning of real world, and historical references show the cross over and remind the reader of the original premise whilst not taking them out of the VGO digital world. Continue reading “Viridian Gate Online: Side Quests James A. Hunter, J.D. Astra, et al”

Viridian Gate Online

An extinction-level asteroid is cannonballing toward Earth. In humanity’s final hours, a lucky few earn a one-way ticket to the brand-new, ultra-immersive, fantasy-based VRMMORPG, Viridian Gate Online. Making that leap of faith might mean survival, but it comes with a steep price tag: “Travelers” will forever be stranded as digital avatars inside a fantastical world filled with vicious monsters, all-powerful AIs, and cutthroat players. Let the games begin…

Recently I have been dipping my toes in something a bit different from my usual literary tastes.  As someone with little enough time for gaming, it is perhaps best that I live that life vicariously through the means of a humble book.

Having got my hands on two of the nine books in the Viridian Gate Online series, so far,  I am looking forward to immersing myself in this virtual world, whilst sagely nodding along to references that I may or may not quite get.

As the ever long, and still growing list of books continues to weigh heavy on my time, and my shelves, never let it be said that I don’t keep stretching my boundaries, in new and interesting directions.

Thanks to James. A. Hunter, and J. D. Harpley for securing me these copies, reviews will be coming just as soon.

11.22.63 – Stephen King

In 2011, Jake Epping, an English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, sets out on an insane – and insanely possible – mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

Leaving behind a world of computers and mobile phones, he goes back in time to a time of big American cars and diners, of Lindy Hopping, the sound of Elvis and the taste of root beer,

In this haunting world Jake falls in love with Sadie, a beautiful high school librarian.  And, as the ominous date of 11.22.63 approaches, he encounters a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald.

This sizeable novel from the wordy wordsmith himself, Mr King has so much of everything in it.  The inexactness of that statement is accurate as the number of little details is vast, and as such I read this book with a huge amount of appreciation.

I avoided this book for a long time because, for me a time travel story and King just didn’t seem to gel together in my mind but once I started reading, I thought it worked really well.  The element of ‘how would I exploit the past if I could time travel’ is explored = and takes the focus off of the main plot, which itself flows logically and languidly (a good thing) according to the rules set out.

When all else fails, give up and go to the library

Jake is often just as focussed on the smaller picture as much as his larger mission, and it is fascinating to get caught up in, as does he. There is the usual whole heap of nostalgia which the author always excels at, allowing the reader to feel like they miss that time and place, despite many not having lived through it.  There is a brief cameo from some of the characters of IT, as well as a couple of Dark Tower references, which is pleasing to those knowledgeable but won’t make any difference to those not familiar with the particular works. Continue reading “11.22.63 – Stephen King”

Coming Soon!

When this popped up on my Facebook feed it was a pleasant surprise.  Regularly reviewed author Jess Harpley (AKA J.D. Astra) is part of a forthcoming anthology from Shadow Alley Press. Of which more details available soon. Check out the publishers if it takes your fancy!  At a later date will also see book two of the Earth’s Peril series, I reviewed book one, Sway’s Demise here if anybody needs a refresher.

The Eye-Dancers – Michael S. Fedison

Seventh-grader Mitchell Brant and three of his classmates inexplicably wake up at the back edge of a softball field to the sounds of a game, the cheering of the crowd. None of them remembers coming here. And as they soon learn, “here” is like no place they’ve ever seen. Cars resemble antiques from the 1950s. There are no cell phones, no PCs. Even the spelling of words is slightly off.

A compulsive liar, constantly telling fantastic stories to garner attention and approval, Mitchell can only wish this were just one more of his tall tales. But it isn’t. It’s all too real. Together, as they confront unexpected and life-threatening dangers, Mitchell and his friends must overcome their bickering and insecurities to learn what happened, where they are, and how to get back home.

The answers can be found only in the mysterious little girl with the blue, hypnotic eyes. The one they had each dreamed of three nights in a row before arriving here. She is their only hope. And, as they eventually discover, they are her only hope.

And time is running out.

The Eye-Dancers, is a story of friendship that has a great nostalgic vibe, bearing similarities in feeling to such coming of age stories like Stephen King’s The Body (the film being titled Stand By Me), mixed in with a classic sci-fi, à la The Twilight Zone.  Both of which infuse the prose with their respective flavours and make this story extremely enjoyable to read.

There are plenty of real world YA issues covered here, from self-doubt to broken families, all without getting too heavy.  It’s the mixture of the real life and fantastical, and the way Fedison balances it, that is a real strength for this book. The mystery itself is not as clear-cut or clichéd as adult readers long familiar with the genre may guess at when reading the blurb, which is a relief and not at all surprising, considering the author’s blog posts, the link of which you will find at the bottom of this post. Continue reading “The Eye-Dancers – Michael S. Fedison”

Intraterrestrial – Nicholas Conley

Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

Inveterate coffee drinking author and fellow blogger Nicholas Conley is back again with another fine offering which treads the fine line between what is real and what may not be.  He also comes up with such prose as this, which makes me happy:

The coffee was too hot and too grainy.  The fiery grounds jabbed at Camille’s tongue like a tattoo gun.

Conley’s fourth novel is yet again a very good piece of writing and just like his other novel Pale Highway, draws on his experiences working in the understaffed healthcare system to reinforce the plight of Adam and family with solidly realistic emotional reactions.  The strong start brings in the challenging themes straight from the off:  Bullying, being orphaned, belonging, puberty, guilt, and family problems, all before the main story of a terrible and all too easy to imagine car accident really kicks off.

I’m glad that the decision to focus on both Adam and his parents separately was chosen, this help balance out the physical and psychological effects of the real world whilst making room for the retention of the feeling of tangible and unfettered imagination in Adam’s story.  Both parts work well together, allowing the realistic edge of the hospital to give way to the extravagance of imagination, ensuring for an easier but no less challenging read. Continue reading “Intraterrestrial – Nicholas Conley”