There are certain things you just shouldn't do. During a quiet moment at work, you shouldn't open up aThis review first featured on Addicted to Media.
There are certain things you just shouldn't do. During a quiet moment at work, you shouldn't open up a book on the Kindle app on your iPhone and begin reading it and if you do, you most certainly shouldn't get hopelessly addicted to said book, to the extent that you simply cannot put it down. If you're going to do all that, might I suggest that there is no better book than Jack Croxall's standalone dystopian thriller Wye.
Wye is a young girl, sixteen-years-old to be precise and she is making her way across the Wasteland of what is now Dead England. Pursued by zombies, Wye and her band of fellow survivors are making their way to the east, to a cabin that may or may not exist on the coast of England. Realising that they are perhaps the last people left alive on earth, Wye keeps a diary to document their journey as well as The Sickness and The Spread of the disease.
If you think this sounds remotely familiar to anything you've read before, think again. Author Jack Croxall leads you down an overgrown path in the English countryside and then twists the story again and again... and again. Everything you thought you knew about zombie thrillers is here with allusions to Warm Bodies, The Walking Dead and everything inbetween but nothing, nothing is as it seems.
I loved Jack Croxall's style of writing with a fervour I usually reserve for Lauren Oliver. And like Lauren Oliver, Jack has written a novel where nothing else matters in life except the moments where you are reading this story. Work? It'll take second place, as will any study or family commitments you might have. Valentine's Day? Fine, but only if there is a long afternoon reading session scheduled in there among all the chocolates, flowers and fancy dinners.
There were entire paragraphs which I wanted to highlight, save or tweet but alas, I was too busy reading to stop for any length of time. Suffice to say, I loved Jack's lyrical style of writing and the voice that he gave to Wye.
As a narrator, Wye is wonderfully flawed. You soon become aware that you can't trust a word she says and that is okay. More than okay, in fact, Wye is the perfect narrator to give a human touch to a most unusual catastrophe.
It might only be February but I'm already claiming Wye to be my book of the year for 2016. It is so good that I considered downgrading all my previous star-ratings in order to adequately reflect the act of giving this book five stars.
I give Wye by Jack Croxall a superb five out of five stars and would highly recommend it to any reader who is in the mood for a book that really moves them....more
Every year an average of 23 passengers disappear from cruise ships without a trace. This is the first tThis review first appeared on Addicted to Media.
Every year an average of 23 passengers disappear from cruise ships without a trace. This is the first time one has come back.
The problem is that the young girl Anouk is too traumatised to speak despite evidence that something terrible happened during her disappearance.
Martin Schwartz is an undercover detective working in Berlin. Left devastated following the loss of his wife and son on a cruise ship five years earlier, Martin is free to take the more dangerous and seedy cases as required of him by the police force. He has nothing to lose.
Martin never wanted to set foot on board a ship again, nevermind the ship from which his wife and child disappeared but then he receives a phone call he can’t ignore. On board the Sultan of the Seas as it sails to New York, Martin begins to investigate Anouk’s reappearance as well as the strange circumstances surrounding the assumed suicide of his wife and son.
What he uncovers is a web of child abuse and murder, a killer who will stop at nothing to exact revenge on those deemed guilty of the most depraved of crimes. Time is running out for Martin but can he solve the crimes before he is the next to go overboard?
Passenger 23 is a novel by Sebastian Fitzek and the third of his novels to be translated from German into English and dramatised for Audible. Like The Child and Amok, Passenger 23 is narrated by Robert Glenister and features an all-star cast including Max Beesley (Hotel Babylon) as Martin, Anthony Head (Merlin) as ship captain Daniel and Rebecca Hall as Elena.
I thoroughly enjoyed this dramatisation which was brought to audio by Johanna Steiner and was thrilled to recognise Anthony Head’s distinctive voice.
Fans of Sebastian Fitzek will notice certain themes in his writing including child abuse and exploitation, teenagers running riot and bad mothers but even then it has to be said that the storyline in Passenger 23 is dark. From the very first chapter, Martin Schwartz is working to apprehend the very worst criminals in society, people who would take a boy off the streets and return him to those very streets once they’ve made use of him.
While I enjoyed the plot and especially the resolution, it is certainly possible that this book might be too dark for many readers.
Nevertheless, if you can stomach the subject matter, Passenger 23 is fast-paced and fascinating. Taking place almost entirely on board the Sultan of the Seas, this is a claustrophobic and terrifying thriller that will have you listening way into the night.
I give Passenger 23 an excellent four out of five stars and would especially recommend listening to the Audible dramatisation....more
Gidion Keep is a teenage vampire hunter upholding a long Keep family tradition of hunting. When Gidion’s mother died at the hands of a vampire, Gidion’s father quit the business and it fell to Gidion’s grandfather to train Gidion in secret and pass on the legacy.
When Gidion saves a woman from a vicious vampire attack, he is stunned when she recognises him. It turns out the secrecy of his craft is the least of his worries for as Gidion closes in on the local vampire coven, he uncovers a deadly plot to kill off a student and a teacher. Worse yet, the vampires know they are being hunted but it may just be that Gidion’s biggest threat lies within his own group of friends at high school.
Gidion’s Hunt is the first novel by Bill Blume and the first in the Gidion Keep, Vampire Hunter series. Originally titled Tales of a 10th Grade Vampire Hunter, Gidion’s Hunt is not just another vampire novel. Blume has written as realistic a novel as possible, focusing not on the vampires themselves but on the type of person that would put themselves in danger in order to hunt and destroy monsters.
The novel is gritty, fast-paced and entertaining. Gidion is a likeable hero and just the right shade of bad boy. Blume pulls no punches and the vampires are pretty nasty at times, reducing their victims to mindless slaves or worse, draining them of blood and killing them.
I really enjoyed the high school dynamics and was reminded of Joss Whedon and the high-school-as-Hell metaphor that we saw in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Just like in high school, loyalties are fickle, only valid for as long as they provide social capital, and Gidion is left wondering who he can trust right until the very last page.
Gidion’s unconventional relationship with intended vampire victim Tamara is another highlight of the plot. Rather than endless pages of angst and insecurity, they really just get on with it despite their age difference.
Without giving the plot away, the best aspect of the story is the reveal of the Big Bad and the motives driving their actions. In an ultimate display of scorn, insecurity and revenge, the actions and decisions of the Big Bad were realistic and chilling.
Ultimately, Gidion’s Hunt would be a four star book but for one thing: the rampant misogyny of the male characters. You’d expect that a book featuring a male vampire hunter as a protagonist might only be read by boys but you’d be wrong – the primarily readers of young adult fiction are females, of all ages, and we don’t like being referred to as whores and bitches.
I’m glad that Blume has released Gidion’s Blood, the second book in the series, and I’m definitely going to read it but I do hope he tones down the misogyny before he alienates a good part of his readership.
With that in mind, I giveGidion’s Hunt a qualified three out of five stars. I would definitely recommend it to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Teen Wolf and I will be reading the next books in the series.
May 2015, Hammersmith Apollo, London. Nick Cave finally responds to the crowd's baying requests and plaThis review first appeared at Addicted to Media
May 2015, Hammersmith Apollo, London. Nick Cave finally responds to the crowd's baying requests and plays "Staggerlee" from his 1995 album with the Bad Seeds, Murder Ballads. Transfixed, I stand watching the performance, hanging onto every word and think to myself, there's a great story behind this song.
And there is. In Christmas Eve 1895, "Stack Lee" Shelton entered the Bill Curtis Saloon in St Louis and got into an argument with Billy Lyons. Stack Lee mashed Lyons's hat and Lyons responded by grabbing his white Stetson. Stack Lee drew out his Smith & Wesson .44, Billy drew out his knife and bang! Stack Lee shot Lyons in the belly and left.
This is just one tale in a fantastic new collection of stories by Richard Polenberg. Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired "Stagolee," "John Henry," and Other Traditional American Folk Songs.
Painstakingly researched and thoroughly entertaining, in this book Polenberg describes the historical events and true stories behind America's most famous folk songs.
While some of these songs have been quite colourful (I'm thinking specifically of Nick Cave's "Staggerlee") that's nothing compared to the truth behind the lore and in many cases truth really is stranger than fiction.
There is the incredible story of Omie Wise, who was drowned in the Deep River, North Carolina in 1807. The murder of this pregnant woman over 200 years ago had quite the impact on the area and now there is a Naomi Falls, a Naomi Bridge and even a large cotton mill named Naomi Falls Manufacturing Company.
What is most notable about the collection is that beneath the entertainment value there is a real indictment of an inequitable and unfair legal system in which African Americans were very often guilty until proven innocent and in many cases they were convicted with the flimsiest of evidence.
In “Duncan and Brady”, we learn about Harry Duncan who was convicted for the murder of policeman James Brady. Testimony that would have exonerated him was dismissed as hearsay and the weapon used in the murder was not considered relevant for evidence. Of course, the sad stories that form the basis of our beloved folk songs aren’t always about wrongful convictions. There was no doubt that Frankie Silver killed her abusive husband Charles but no amount of public pressure and understanding of her predicament could prevent her from going to the gallows.
Not all of the stories behind our most famous songs are known. For example, nobody knows who first wrote ”House of the Rising Sun”, the most famous version of which was recorded by The Animals. There was once a Rising Sun Hotel in New Orleans but it burned down in 1822.
Given the subject matter, it is more likely that the song stems back to the colourful period where prostitution was legalised in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. In the chapter “House of the Rising Sun”, Polenberg tells us about this period which included racial segregation of brothels and even a white pages of sorts to prevent patrons from being swindled.
Of course, some stories are so famous that they permeates ever corner of popular culture. No bandit has had more songs written about him than the outlaw Jesse James and he was of course the subject of the famous Brad Pitt film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. (Incidentally, if you’ve never heard the superb score for the film by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, you should rush out and do so immediately).
Not only does Polenberg discuss the famous story of Frank and Jesse James, he also tells the less well known story of Cole Younger who so captured the imagination of people that songs about him were released during his own lifetime.
Fascinating and well-researched, Hear My Sad Story provides a backdrop to some of the world’s most famous folk songs. Listening to the old folk tracks on YouTube as I went along, I was fascinated by how many of the songs I recognised and was certainly familiar with some of the names like Frankie and Johnny and of course, Stagolee.
I give Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired "Stagolee," "John Henry," and Other Traditional American Folk Songs by Richard Polenberg a superb five out of five stars and would highly recommend to lovers of blues, jazz and folk music and anyone whose imagination has been stimulated by a murder ballad....more
Based on friends' reviews, I expected to dislike this book but I really enjoyed it. The ending is a big shock but I'm ever hopeful we'll come back froBased on friends' reviews, I expected to dislike this book but I really enjoyed it. The ending is a big shock but I'm ever hopeful we'll come back from this. ...more
I did enjoy this book and would definitely have rated it higher if I hadn't guessed the major plot point at the beginning of the book. It is never funI did enjoy this book and would definitely have rated it higher if I hadn't guessed the major plot point at the beginning of the book. It is never fun reading an entire book, full of red herrings and misdirection, when you've guessed the big reveal right at the beginning. ...more
There is nothing ordinary about Luke Manchett. Good looking and popular, Luke is on the rugby team, has his eye on the beautiful Holiday Simmon and isThere is nothing ordinary about Luke Manchett. Good looking and popular, Luke is on the rugby team, has his eye on the beautiful Holiday Simmon and is not above teasing local outcasts like Elza Moss. The problem with treating people badly, is you never know when you might need their help.
That day arrives when Luke's estranged father dies and bequeaths to him a most unusual inheritance. Lured into signing a document with the promise of untold riches, Luke accepts ownership of the Host, a collection of restless and vengeful spirits. When it becomes clear that Luke has no idea how to control them, the spirits become increasingly belligerent, hell-bent on exacting revenge for being enslaved for so many years.
As Halloween approaches, Luke realises that aside from his deerhound Ham, he has only one ally and everyone he knows and cares for is in danger.
Thirteen Days of Midnight is the stunning debut by author Leo Hunt. Hunt began writing the story in his first year at the University of East Anglia when he was just 19 and he has said that it arose from a desire to write something he would have wanted to read when he was a teenager. In that, he has been more than successful.
Thirteen Days of Midnight is fast-paced, exciting and extremely entertaining. I loved the idea of the Host and especially liked that each of the eight ghosts had a distinct personality and purpose. The Host exceeded my expectations in their capacity for evil and Hunt pulls no punches as the spirits impose their will and run riot across town.
Luke Manchett is a fabulous anti-hero, the popular boy-turned-outcast who gets his comeuppance when all his so-called friends desert him as soon as things get weird. Written in the first person, from Luke’s point of view, Thirteen Days of Midnight sucks the reader into Luke’s impossible predicament from the very first page and doesn’t release them until the nail-biting, breathtaking finale.
If Luke is falling from high school grace, it is the former outcast Elza who proves to be a more than formidable and competent force in the book. Without divulging any spoilers, I will say that I loved that traditional roles were reversed and that true character triumphed over popularity.
My favourite character in the book was Luke’s cowardly deerhound Ham. I haven’t encountered a canine character this well-written since Garth Nix’s Disreputable Dog, star of his novels Lirael and Abhorsen. Hunt is obviously a very observant dog-lover and he has said that he based the character on his deerhound Ruby.
Fans of Thirteen Days of Midnight will be thrilled to know that a sequel is in the works. Leo Hunt has confirmed that he has written a draft of the sequel, to be called Eight Rivers of Shadow, and it will hopefully be released in Summer 2016. I love the title and cannot wait for this release.
Thirteen Days of Midnight is the most entertaining and original fantasy or paranormal young adult novel I’ve read in a long time and has immediately made me a fan of Leo Hunt’s work. I have no hesitation in giving Thirteen Days of Midnight an excellent five out of five stars and would recommend it to all lovers of young adult paranormal fiction....more
Stop me if you've heard this one before. In a not-so-distant future, the human race is under threat and a massive church-like structure has emerged to control the populace and protect them against the threat.
In Rachel Vincent’s The Stars Never Rise, that threat is a shortage of souls and the emergence of soul-devouring demons, and the church-like structure is The Church.
While I'll give credence to the author for the originality of the souls idea, its manifestation as still births and the subsequent attempts of those in authority to control reproduction sound like something straight out of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.
Perhaps at this point I should stop to point out that Rachel Vincent is one of my favourite authors and if this book has come out ten years ago, I would probably have loved it. Not only is it fast-paced and entertaining, set in a dystopian nightmare, but it provides a searing critique of right-wing tendencies and the dangers inherent when church and state are too closely aligned.
The problem is that at this point, it is just another dystopian book and as much as I want to love anything that Rachel Vincent pens, I'm overcome with the glaring similarities to other works.
Take Finn for example, a human soul without a body but one that is able to possess other bodies (in a good way, of course). The body-snatchers idea feels like Stephenie Meyer's The Host which in itself was taken from a whole genre of B movies dating back to the dawn of Hollywood. The bodiless soul idea reminded me a a little too much of Gena Showalter's Intertwined and the idea of walled cities and badlands reminded me both of Lauren Oliver's Delirium and Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden series.
There was also another snag. As much as I love Rachael Vincent, I just couldn't reconcile the notion of finite souls. To me there are both new souls and reincarnation and for some reason I couldn't suspend disbelief enough to consider a finite number of souls (if you can use that term when dealing with the purely esoteric).
I guess the ultimate measure of young adult book is whether it makes you snort with derision and The Stars Never Rise made me snort. Out loud. It was towards the end and Nina had only just admitted she couldn't make out the colour of a car in the dark when she mentions Finn's bright green eyes. Again. For the 1,000th time. I'm fairly new to this notion of the Young Adult fiction stereotype of green eyes (having green eyes myself and never noticing they were rare or overused) but I can see why readers are becoming so irritated by this particular stereotype.
So how would I rate this book and would I recommend it? I would definitely recommend The Stars Never Rise if you are new to the realm of dystopian fiction or if you're going through that phase where you simply can't get enough of it. You'll love it, it's good and you'll likely finish it in one sitting. But if you're about to pick it up and you're wondering if you have the energy for yet another dystopian young adult adventure? Maybe give it a miss.
With a heavy heart, I give The Stars Never Rise a disappointing 2 out of 5 stars. It feels strange to do so because really, what was I expecting? I doubt I'll read the next in the series and quite frankly, I'd prefer it if Vincent returned to more unusual urban fantasy like we saw in Soul Screamers and the Unbound series.