Tag Archives: horror

A flurry of reviews

I don’t write a lot of reviews, but every now and then, a cluster of books come along that have something about them that really appeals to me. This next lot cleaned out my TBR list and triggered my desperate plea for more reading material. 🙂

Reviews on Amazon

The first review is for ‘Allies and Spies‘, book 2 of the Unravelling the Veil series, by D. Wallace Peach :

5/5 No middle book sag here!

After falling in love with the first book of the series, Liars and Thieves, I was a little apprehensive about whether the second book could live up to the first. Second books are a bit like the ‘middle child’ of a family. You get all the surprises with the first one so what’s left for the second?

I needn’t have worried. 😀 Allies and Spies sees the story grow up and out, both in terms of the plot and the characters.

I really didn’t like Alue very much in Liars and Thieves, but she really comes into her own in book 2. I can’t tell you what she does, but she saves both Naj and Tallin from a very nasty death. More importantly, she does so by coming into her strength. She’s always been brave, but there’s a difference between physical courage and the courage needed to overcome your own shortcomings. Or even to recognize them. Yet that is precisely what all three of the main characters must do if they are ever to solve the mystery of the disappearances that have claimed so many lives.

That said, I have a secret fondness for tortured characters and in book 2, Naj suffers. That suffering serves to catapult him into a greater understanding of his world and himself, but that’s not much consolation on a personal level. I truly feel for Naj. 😦

And finally, Tallin. In many ways, Tallin the Changeling was my favourite right from the start. There’s something about his easy going nature that is very appealing. His alter ego Slick seems to encapsulate his personality perfectly – cute, cuddly, cunning, and naughty. But Tallin has demons of his own, and in book 2 he faces at least some of them.

I wish I could tell you about the plot, but if I do I’ll spoil it for everyone. Let’s just say that some things become clearer, but the forces behind the disappearances are still shrouded in impossibilities.

I can tell you about the writing though. Peach makes writing on multiple levels look easy. The prose is lyrical, the dialogue is always just right and the pace is perfect. No typos, no plot holes, no ‘what the?’ moments. Definitely no saggy middles! The story. Just. Flows. And takes us with it.

This series is character driven fantasy of the highest quality, and I recommend it to everyone, even those who don’t normally read fantasy. I’d give it 6 stars if I could.

The second review is for Tales from the Annexe, by Audrey Driscoll.

5/5 Dipping a toe into the world of Herbert West

I absolutely adored the Herbert West series and really enjoyed revisiting the world in which the series is set. Of the new stories, the one that will probably stick in my mind the longest, and give me nightmares, is The Ice Cream Truck from Hell. I will never think of Mr Whippy the same way again. lol

Beautifully written horror-ish short stories that all lovers of good writing will enjoy.

Review no. 3 is for ‘Serang‘, by C.S. Boyack.

5/5 Coming of Age in a time of chaos

Serang bears a slight similarity to the Karate Kid story, but only because the main character is young and learns martial arts. Beyond that, Serang is a lovely, unique story about a young girl who is given to the Temple to be raised by monks. These monks are both male and female, and there is no qualitative difference between them. All monks learn martial arts. Which style of martial art they learn depends upon their individual personalities – i.e. what suits each monk the best.

When the temple is destroyed, Serang is saved by one of the wandering monks who also survived the carnage. He continues Serang’s education in martial arts and living off the land. There are exciting fight scenes, but they are not the main focus of the story. Serang’s development and growth are the drivers, and I have to say that I loved the story from start to finish.

I would recommend Serang to anyone who loves reading about ‘becoming’ and the triumph of the human spirit.

And there you have it, three very different authors, genres and stories, but I enjoyed every single one.

Have a great Sunday [in Australia] or Saturday [everywhere else]!

cheers
Meeks


POED – a review

I’m one of those people who only ‘know’ Edgar Allan Poe by a sort of cultural osmosis, so I can’t give you an expert’s perspective on Candy Korman’s third monster story, POED. I can’t even give you a horror fan’s view of the story because I don’t like horror. But I can tell you that POED is a dark story indeed. In fact it is easily the darkest of Candy’s three monsters to date.

POED is not a retelling of any of Poe’s stories, however it does contain many references to them. Those familiar with Poe’s work will recognize The Usher Institute for the Study of Criminal Psychopathology, the setting of the story, as a nod to Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher.

The story of POED is told in the first person by the unnamed Director of the Institute, another nod to Poe’s style. For most of the story the Director appears to be speaking to a character named Edgar Allan who, we are told, is a journalist. As the story unfolds we learn that the Usher is not only a research institute, it is also the repository for a number of criminally insane inmates whose family connections guarantee they receive the very best of care, far from the eyes of both the public and the law.

The reason the Director is now revealing this information to a journalist is that he is in fear of his life. He has reason to believe that one of the three most powerful families with relatives in the Usher is moving to have him ‘disappeared’ out of fear that he may reveal their secrets and those of their murderous relatives.

Although the story is set in the modern day, the Director speaks in a mannered, almost prissy fashion that is reminiscent of earlier times. Yet despite this apparent affectation, his claims sound quite rational. At first. However as he reveals the horrific stories of these three inmates, his paranoia seems to deepen until the moment when he catches the journalist going through his files and accuses him of being in league with his enemies.

So, is the Director right? Is the journalist a spy sent to trap him? Or is this a dream within a dream? Yet if it is a dream then what is the reality?

I re-read the ending three times and I’m still not sure. But the ending is chilling no matter which way you interpret it because it is either a glimpse into insanity or… something else. To find out what that something else may be you will have to read the story for yourself, however I will say this, it will keep you thinking about the Usher Institute for a very long time.

Every time I review a novel, one of the things I ask myself is ‘did I enjoy it?’ Most of the time that question is easy to answer, but POED is such a departure from what I usually read that, like the ending, I’m still a little baffled. I can’t say I liked the character of the Director, and yet I was fascinated by him. In the same way,  the story of POED gave me the creeps, and yet I could not put it down.

On a more objective level, I have to applaud the way in which Candy Korman has written this story. It is hellishly clever and I suspect that if Poe were still alive today, he would approve of POED.

If you are interested in learning something of the background to POED then I highly recommend this interview Candy did with Bookcast.

And if you’re in the middle of reading POED right now, then I wish you… pleasant dreams.


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