Spoiler-Free Book Review: “The Queen’s Resistance” by Rebecca Ross

The Queen’s Rising, American writer Rebecca Ross’s debut novel, was one of my favourite fantasy reads of all time. I was enchanted by the world, Ross’s gorgeous atmospheric writing style, and the story of Brienna, a heroine who wasn’t over-the-top feisty and quirky, but believable and likable.

Ross didn’t originally plan to write a sequel, as she described in her Instagram post:

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Today, my second book comes out, and I honestly can’t even believe it! 😭✨ THE QUEEN’S RESISTANCE almost didn’t happen, and what I mean by that is it was originally supposed to be a companion novel to TQR, not a sequel. A companion novel which would focus on a new heroine in the world, because I believed I had finished Brienna’s story. * * In 2016, I wrote a companion novel. Hated it. Scrapped it. Wrote another companion novel. Still wasn’t satisfied with it. I was beginning to panic, because it was about time for me to deliver something to my editor, and I had no idea what my second book needed to be. The companion books were lacking something, and I didn’t know what that *something* was. All the same, I wasn’t going to publish a book I was not 100% in love with. * * In February of 2017, I was sitting on my back deck, throwing the frisbee to my dog. I had a journal open on my lap, and I was trying to brainstorm. And out of the blue, Brienna returned to me and quietly said, “Continue my story. And Cartier? He has a lot left to tell, too.” * * I did exactly as she said: I started to write this book by hand, reuniting with Brienna. And I knew she was right: her story was not finished, & this book was as much Cartier’s as it was hers. * * The words began to flow. This story caught fire—I had been seeking that spark, which my companion novels lacked. And this book poured out of me in 24 days. * * It was a magical, emotional, cathartic experience. And I knew that my second book was meant to be this—a continuation. A book where I could dig deeper and build upon the first. * * THE QUEEN’S RESISTANCE marks the end of the series. It is bittersweet, but I think you will understand why this is the end when you reach the final page. Which I bawled like a baby when I wrote it. * * Thank you all for your love & excitement & support! Thank you for purchasing, requesting, recommending & reviewing my books. I cannot tell you how grateful I am, and how much it means to me. * * I hope you enjoy this little story of mine. It is a book I poured my heart into. And I know my name is on the cover, but this book doesn’t just belong to me anymore. It belongs to you. 🧡✨

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TL;DR: she eventually decided to write a sequel that she liked. It carries on immediately from The Queen’s Rising, so of course, be sure to have read that one first.

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“Brienna is a mistress of knowledge and is beginning to settle into her role as the daughter of the once disgraced lord, Davin MacQuinn. Though she’d just survived a revolution that will return a queen to the throne, she faces yet another challenge: acceptance by the MacQuinns.

But as Queen Isolde Kavanagh’s closest confidant, she’ll have to balance serving her father’s House as well as her country.

Then there’s Aodhan Morgan, formerly known as Cartier Évariste, who is adjusting to the stark contrast between his pre-rebellion life in Valenia and his current one as lord of a fallen House. As he attempts to restore the Morgane name, he let his mind wander—what if he doesn’t have to raise his House alone? What if Brienna could stand by his side?

But Brienna and Cartier must put their feelings aside, as there are more vital tasks at hand—the Lannons’ trial, forging alliances, and ensuring that no one halts the queen’s coronation. Resistance is rumbling among the old regime’s supporters, who are desperate to find a weakness in the rebels’ forces.

And what makes one more vulnerable than love?”

Much like the first novel, it took a while for the action to begin. I really enjoyed this in TQR as I loved exploring Magnolia House, Brienna’s life studying the passion of knowledge, and the culture of the world around her. In Resistance, it took a while for me to get into the story. Brienna and Cartier are in Maevana preparing for Queen Isolde’s coronation, and various problems crop up, building in seriousness until things get dangerous about two thirds in.

That being said, the story is filled with many enjoyable twists and turns, many of which I did not see coming. As many readers do, I made guesses as to what was coming, and though I was right about a certain character, there were many other things that surprised me. Predictability can kill a story, and Ross did an excellent job of keeping me on my toes.

Much like Allegiant by Veronica Roth, the chapters switch between Brienna and Cartier’s perspectives. Unlike in Allegiant, however, Ross did a great job of distinguishing their voices so it was easy to follow whose eyes I was seeing the world through. It was a joy to get inside Cartier’s head, to understand how he felt and thought and what many emotions he held back. I thought I could guess the reason for this style of writing, but I was happily proven wrong.

The Queen’s Resistance was much, much darker than the first book. We see much more of the effects of King Lannon’s tyrannical rule and much of the action was much darker than the first. In a way, this symbolises how much Brienna grows throughout the stories; when we first meet her, she’s a pretty innocent seventeen-year-old with not much to worry about except getting her passion cloak; in Maevana, she witnesses brutality, torture, and cruelty. No more details here without reading it yourself!

Ross kept her poetic writing style that caused me to fall so hard for her first novel. Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first, this is still an excellent book. I love Brienna; she’s strong without falling into the stereotype of the “witty tomboy” we often see in modern books. I also enjoyed seeing the tougher side of Cartier’s character. I give The Queen’s Resistance four stars out of five.

4stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “My Mum Tracy Beaker” by Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson was one of my favourite authors when I was a child. Most British kids who like reading have at least heard of her. I’ve written about her top ten books, though she’s now written over one hundred. Her stories are mostly about little girls in the working class dealing with real-life issues such as bullying, poverty, abuse, and family issues.

When I was small, my aunt bought me a set of some of Wilson’s best titles, such as The Story of Tracy Beaker, The Bed and Breakfast Star, Bad Girls, Buried Alive!, The Suitcase Kid, and Double Act. I read those books dozens of times all the way through my childhood and teens, and even got a couple of them as ebooks for a reread.

I bought Wave Me Goodbye last year and it was cool to see that Wilson’s writing style hasn’t changed much. I came across My Mum Tracy Beaker and immediately bought it; I liked the first three Beaker books and it was cool to see that the little girl I grew up reading about was now grown up with a child of her own.

91KcVczAr6L“Tracy has returned, hand in hand with her daughter Jess, she’s ready to make her childhood dreams come true. 

Jess and Tracy Beaker are the perfect team. They do everything together. Jess thinks Tracy is the best mum ever, even when she shouts at her teachers!

Tracy has made the perfect home for Jess, leaving The Dumping Ground far behind her. Yes, their flat’s a bit mouldy. It’s only just big enough for two. And the Duke Estate is a bit scary. 
But it’s their happy home. 

Until Sean Godfrey, Tracy’s rich boyfriend, whisks them away to his mansion, life of fast cars and celebrity stardom. Will Jess’s brilliant mum turn into a new person altogether? And will Tracy realise that her childhood dream might not be what she needs after all?”

Despite having modern references such as selfies, Instagram, the internet, and cell phones, it was diving into this 400-page paperback still held the nostalgia of the ’90s with references to things like The Magic Faraway Tree (an old book by Enid Blyton, another childhood favourite) and The Wizard of Oz.

Tracy Beaker is still fierce and short-tempered, but she’s also a wonderfully sweet mother to Jess (from whose view we see this story). She always takes her daughter’s feelings into account, takes her seriously, and does her best to take care of her. Though Tracy has many problems from her difficult childhood, she’s extremely loyal and independent. She makes a big fuss of people’s birthdays, no doubt because she always had “half a birthday” in the Dumping Ground, the home she grew up in.

Jess is much shyer and is reminiscent of some of Wilson’s other books: she likes reading, she’s shy, gets bullied, and doesn’t have many friends. A sympathetic character like this is a Wilson trope.

We see characters from the first three books. Cam is there, of course, still with a wonderful relationship with Tracy, whom she refers to as her mother and says she loves her, showing how grateful she is the woman fostered her. There are other familiar faces, too, but no spoilers here!

A neat little easter egg is when Jess read two books; though they aren’t named, they’re described enough where I could understand they were Hetty Feather and Lola Rose, the latter of which is my favourite book by this author.

The story was pretty good, though it could have been shorter. Tracy can’t let go of her childhood dream; those who read The Story of Tracy Beaker might know she always dreamed of being rich and living in an enormous mansion with posh furniture. Jess, however, is happy with their little flat and it being just the two of them. I enjoyed this book, but I don’t think it’s Wilson’s best. Then again, it’s aimed at children so maybe I’ve just grown too big for it!

If you read this book, I’d recommend reading the first three books so you can spot the references. I give My Mum Tracy Beaker three stars out of five.

3stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Four Dead Queens” by Astrid Scholte

I’ve been reading a lot of debut authors by big publishing houses recently. I came across the newly-released Four Dead Queens by Australian author Astrid Scholte, and immediately loved the cover, which screamed romance and magic and fantasy. Anything with “queen” in the title catches my interest at once, so I pre-ordered the paperback and eagerly awaited its arrival.

It’s so pretty!

9781760524418“Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead. 

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.”

The book is an interesting blend of sci-fi dystopia and fantasy. Every other chapter was from a queen’s perspective and another from Keralie’s. This was fascinating as I expected the queens to be dead right at the beginning of the story, and learning about their intricate lives and secrets gave them details that made me care about them even when I knew they were going to perish.

I was actually more interested in the goings-on of the palace than in Keralie’s story, partly because the queens were more fantasy and the MC’s was more dystopian/sci-fi. The seventeen-year-old, whose personality and storyline is very reminiscent of the Divergent trilogy, is a fairly typical YA tough girl, short but spunky, kicking and punching and always with a smart joke on her tongue. I suppose she was likable if you like those kinds of characters, but I cared far more about the queens, who seemed much more vulnerable and real, and the identity of the mystery assassin.

My favourite queen was Corra: her past, the pressures of pretending to be a stoic Eonite, and her secrets that threatened to tear her world apart. Every queen had her own motives and personality, and it was bittersweet to find out so much about them to know that they were going to be murdered.

I wasn’t keen on the romance between Keralie and Varin. For all they went through together, there didn’t seem to be much chemistry, apart from her (slightly pervy) attitude towards his perfect body and skin. He was stoic and handsome, but there wasn’t much else to him. The book would have been just as satisfying if they’d turned out to be best friends.

The twists were what made this book really fun for me. Every time I had a prime suspect or assumption in mind, I was proven wrong. Earlier today, I hit a plot climax and had to tear my eyes from the book to go to work. It was all I could think about throughout my shift!

All in all, this was a great debut novel that I’ll probably read again in the future. I loved the world-building, although there could have been more detail about the wars and the quadrants themselves, such as a closer look at Ludia. The palace sounded fascinating, and I loved the relationships between the queens, how they worked hard to take care of their lands even when their clashing personalities sometimes made things difficult. The murders themselves were also thrilling, Ms. Scholte carefully concealing the gender of the assassin to keep our minds open about who it could be. I honestly didn’t guess until it was revealed, and I’m super happy I didn’t see the twist coming.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Ms. Scholte and her work. I give Four Dead Queens four stars out of five!

4stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Apt Pupil” by Stephen King

So continues my venture through Different Seasons, Stephen King’s four-part collection of novellas. After Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is Apt Pupil, the story of a young boy and an old man who share and suffer mutual blackmail. A movie adaptation came out in 1998, sixteen years after the book’s release.

kapook_world-176686“If you don’t believe in the existence of evil, you have a lot to learn.

Todd Bowden is an apt pupil. Good grades, good family, a paper route. But he is about to meet a different kind of teacher, Mr. Dussander, and to learn all about Dussander’s dark and deadly past… a decades-old manhunt Dussander has escaped to this day. Yet Todd doesn’t want to turn his teacher in. Todd wants to know more. Much more. He is about to face his fears and learn the real meaning of power—and the seductive lure of evil.”

Todd is described in the very first line as an “all-American kid.” On the surface, he’s perfect. Sun-kissed blond hair, a great smile, and even better grades. Too clever for his own good.

He’s sussed out his neighbour’s true identity. The old German isn’t an innocent immigrant, but an ex-Nazi with a truly horrific past. Todd’s got the goods on him. But he doesn’t want money… he wants to be told. Told everything. Every grisly detail of the Nazis’ horrific acts on their victims.

If only Todd knew at thirteen where his actions would lead, he’d have left the old man alone.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Stephen King doesn’t digress as much as he did in Shawshank, which I preferred; we lived through Todd and Dussender’s mutual disdain, their hold on each other, the odd relationship not of friendship, but respect forming between them. Todd’s grades suffer; he has nightmares, his sick fascination with the unthinkable twisting his life in ways he could never have anticipated.

Horror isn’t always monsters and zombies; there are many horrors of real life that we have to live with, some more than others. In Apt Pupil, there was always something lurking, something that was going to happen, I could feel it. The tension was paramount throughout, leading to an explosive and satisfying ending. Neither characters were likable due to their natures, but it was fascinating to experience their discomfort, their constant fear, and their growing disdain of those they felt were beneath them.

The past is the past, but is it truly? Todd is affected by things that happened before he was born, and yet he is living them.

The dialogue was just great. I was in the 1970s, experiencing the slang of teenage Todd and the second-language love of idioms by Dussander. Stephen King also has a gift of taking similes and idioms a step further, making them his own. There were some quotes that had me laughing.

“It was impossible to tell his age. Todd put him at somewhere between thirty and four hundred.”

“Don’t you dare die on me, you old f***!”

“He looked like death with a hangover.”

It was a fun little Easter egg that Andy Dufresne of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was mentioned, too. He was one of Dussander’s bankers before he (Dufresne) was arrested.

Apt Pupil was awesome, and I might check out the movie at some point. I give this charming novella five stars.

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Book Review: “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King

Movie buffs, Morgan Freeman fans, or anyone with good taste in film has seen or at least heard of the 1994 masterpiece The Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Of course, it was a novella first, written by the American master of horror, Stephen King.

I recently received a paperback named Different Seasons as a belated wedding gift containing four of King’s novellas, one of which is the 129-page Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which would inspire the classic movie released twelve years after the story’s publication.

91h9ji0d2KL._RI_Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is the story of two men convicted of murder – one guilty, one innocent – who form the perfect partnership as they dream up a scheme to escape from prison.”

It isn’t a horror, though arguably the true “horrors” of prison life, such as “solitary” conditions, bribery, rape, are discussed. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is a tale about perseverance, patience, and hope. It’s about holding onto what’s right and staying strong even in the toughest of times.

The book is just a novella, and a lot was added to make it into a movie. It’s not the only of King’s stories to be adapted in this way; more examples include The Mist and 1408 (which, incidentally, are both horrors).

It’s written from Red’s point of view, and though the story is about Andy and his time at the prison of Shawshank, we find out a lot about how Red observes, thinks, and feels. Interestingly, Red was a white man in the book (described as having greying red hair), but Morgan Freeman was perfect for the role in the movie adaptation.

Red is the person who can get things for you. In prison, he’s an important man who’s approached when someone needs things like alcohol, a pack of cards, or a dirty book. His friendship with Andy begins when the younger inmate asks him to get a poster of Rita Hayworth to put in his cell.

Andy shows up at Shawshank for killing his wife and her lover, and appears mild-mannered, calm, and even casual; he strolls about as though he’s at ease with the world and his words are carefully chosen. After advising a guard on how to keep his inheritance without it being taxed, Andy, who had been a banker before his stretch in prison, starts helping the other guards with his finances and, in turn, gets to live alone in his cell and is protected from the Sisters, a vicious gang of rapists.

You might know the rest of the story, and if you haven’t, I won’t give it all away.

Red tells the story in an order that isn’t chronological, often jumping back and forth between the years to talk about events and people. Much of it is also skimmed over, told rather than shown, which I thought would be against the number one rule in writing. Though it wasn’t completely confusing, it was jarring at times to go from the early ’70s back to 1959, but since I knew the story it wasn’t completely baffling. I did think, though, that I would have preferred to be shown through certain events rather than them being mentioned off-hand as something leading up to the “present.”

The movie also improved on many things. If you haven’t seen the film or read the book, stop reading now. If you don’t care about spoilers or you know the tale, read on.

**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!**

There are some vast differences between Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and its movie adaptation. Here are a few examples.

  • In the movie, the leader of the Sisters is beaten to within an inch of his life for his treatment of Andy. In the book, they fade into the background when Andy is given protection.
  • Tommy, the young man who met the real killer of Andy’s wife, is transferred to a minimum-security prison, a sort of bribe by the Warden to get him out of the way. In the film, he’s shot dead by a guard; it’s an evil and shocking twist, though the concept of Andy’s only hope willingly leaving him behind is sadder and, in a way, darker.
  • Red doesn’t officially find Andy in the book. It ends with him out of prison and receiving the hidden letter he found after following his best friend’s clues and clinging to the hope that he may track him down someday. Movie watchers enjoy happy endings, and the on-screen story had a much more feel-good ending. Whether that means it’s better is debatable.
  • The best change from book to film was what happened to the Warden. After Andy’s escape (which is identical in both versions), Warden goes a bit loopy and retires early, always wondering how Andy managed to outsmart him. In the film, he’s found out for all the scams he’s running and fatally shoots himself.

Stephen King’s writing was impeccable, as always; it felt very ’50s, with plenty of old slang that was a joy to read. There were some amazingly funny quotes, too, which had me giggling as I read the paperback on the train.

“A man humping his butt across country in a gray pajama
suit sticks out like a cockroach on a wedding cake.”

“Cell doors opened; prisoners stepped in; cell doors closed. Some clown shouting, ‘I want my lawyer, I want my lawyer, you guys run this place just like a frigging prison.’”

“One wit suggested that Andy had poured himself out through the keyhole. The suggestion earned the guy four days in solitary. They were uptight.”

The image of an inmate, who probably detests the guards and is good at acting dumb, making a completely useless suggestion for kicks tickled me pink.

Overall, the book was a charming day in the life (though the story spans over several decades) of two inmates, one of which manages the impossible out of patience, dreams, and hope. Andy is a gorgeous character, mysterious and calm and completely likable. Overall, I think I prefer the movie, but the book was still a pleasure to read and I’ll probably reread it in the future. I give Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption four stars out of five.

4stars

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Book Review: “Lair” (The Rats Trilogy Book 2) by James Herbert

Lair is the sequel to The Rats, British horror writer James Herbert’s debut novel. Lair was published in 1979, five years after its predecessor and Herbert’s sixth book overall. The old cover art of Lair is too adorable not to show you!

It takes place four years after “the Outbreak,” the coined term for the infestation that led to hundreds dead in London and eventual evacuation to exterminate the filth.

Carrying on from the epilogue, several rats survived the onslaught, and though they are much fewer in number, they escape from their hiding place to wait, hide, and breed until their thirst for human flesh brings them to the surface again.

*Note: this review contains some spoilers.

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“The mutant white rat had grown and mated, creating offspring in its own image. They dominated the others, the dark-furred ones, who foraged for food and brought it back to the lair.

Now the dark rats were restless, tormented by a craving they could not satisfy. But the white slug-like thing that ruled them knew. Its two heads weaved to and fro and a stickiness drooled from its mouth as it remembered the taste of human flesh . . .”

Unlike in The Rats, Lair takes place in Epping Forest, a large wood on the outskirts of London. It takes longer for the vermin to attack this time; there are many “close calls” and sightings, building up the tension for the first third of the novel. Always, I wondered whether a new scene would lead to an unfortunate death or a lucky escape.

One aspect I really liked about the first installment is Herbert’s quick introduction to the backstories and lives of the characters, whether or not they fall victim to the rats. Whether suggested by his editor or on his own, it’s unclear, but it seemed like many of the victims were not very nice people and therefore it was less upsetting and more fun reading about their deaths or encounters with ruined corpses. A couple cheating on their spouses. A pervert who likes to flash young women. A grumpy farmer who doesn’t trust the law.

Harris, the main character from book one, is briefly mentioned, but we’re introduced to a new MC: Ratkill employee called Lucas Pender, our hero of Lair. Their struggle to track down and eliminate the rats in Epping Forest is real. The rats are stronger, smarter, and more deadly than ever before, often outsmarting their mortal enemies even though the humans know not to underestimate them.

Some scenes had me on the edge of my seat. Would they escape? Would the protective suits, which worked so well in the past, hold against the onslaught of vicious teeth? Would they finally destroy the creatures or had the rats hidden too well?

Herbert introduced political aspects to the novel, suggesting the economic consequences of an infestation in Epping Forest, an area that is home to hundreds of people and a green belt area that London politicians would dearly love to seize. The hesitation of the forest’s protectors exacerbates the situation despite Pender’s early warnings, giving the story a very real edge. How many times in the real world has common sense been abandoned for the sake of money and control?

The story was all about action and not much character development. I wasn’t aware Whittaker had a beard until almost the end of the book. If there was any description of Pender, I missed it; I imagined him as a normal-looking white bloke with darkish hair. I wasn’t keen on the love scene, but that’s personal preference; I tend to skip over over-the-top descriptions of sex and it didn’t feel it really had a place in a sci-fi horror. I appreciate that it might have been a respite from the gore, however, and it didn’t ruin the story for me.

All in all, Lair was pretty good. The shock value had worn off after recently reading The Rats, of course – there are only so many ways you can describe someone getting torn apart and eaten to death – but Herbert handled it well, offering fresh environments and more tension with creative new ways for the rats to attack and take their victims by surprise.

The ending was great. We finally find out the location of the rats’ lair and there was plenty of excitement. I can’t say much else without giving it all away!

If you haven’t read The Rats yet, it’s a great classic horror. I’ll probably wait a while to read the final in the trilogy, Domain, so perhaps the gory scenes can be shocking and scary again. That being said, Lair had plenty of tension to make up for it, and it’ll be interesting to see where Domain takes the story of these mutant rats that just won’t die! Lair was a fun read, and I give it four stars out of five.

4stars

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Book Review: “The Rats” (The Rats Trilogy Book 1) by James Herbert

I am all about horror at the moment!

After finishing Nobody True, my mum recommended I read The Rats, James Herbert’s debut novel. I had a faint memory of my dad saying he’d read it and it had “scared the crap” out of him. And my dad’s a big man who doesn’t scare easily.

I bought The Rats. As you might imagine, it’s about rats. The original cover just screams ’70s, don’t you think?

*Note: this review contains minor spoilers.

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“It was only when the bones of the first devoured victims were discovered that the true nature and power of these swarming black creatures with their razor sharp teeth and the taste for human blood began to be realized by a panic-stricken city.

For millions of years man and rats had been natural enemies. But now for the first time – suddenly, shockingly, horribly – the balance of power had shifted . . .”

Imagine any horror film. Most likely the opening scene is some unlucky sod getting mauled/attacked/sliced apart as a spooky introduction to the antagonist. The Rats starts out in much the same way, except, unlike a movie, we learned a bit about the character before they met their unfortunate fate.

I actually really liked this. We were given tidbits, a run-through of the person’s life, even if that was the last time we would ever “see” them alive. Some might argue this is pointless – why would you care about their lives, hopes, and past mistakes that led them to their untimely death?

I realized that it’s because of their past lives that they ended up getting killed in such a horrible way. Take Henry, the vagrant at the very beginning of the story. Perhaps if it wasn’t for his office affair that led to defamation, resignation, and eventually crippling loneliness that took him from successful businessman to alcoholic vagabond, he wouldn’t have slept in the abandoned house where the first of the killer rats attacked.

Take Dave, the teenager who was on his way home to catch the last train after messing around with his girlfriend. Maybe if he’d gotten an earlier train, stayed over at her house, or not met up with her that night at all (not necessarily a mistake, but an unfortunate coincidence), he wouldn’t have ventured into the station from which came the inevitable attack.

The mother who left her one-year-old alone to nip next door to borrow some tea (yes, it’s a British book) may not have perished along with her baby if only she’d taken her daughter with her. George the zookeeper ended up getting mauled by one of his beloved animals after he foolishly let it out of its cage instead of saving himself.

Harris is the main character of this story, and I liked him a lot. He’s brave, though he doesn’t try to play the hero; he’s a school teacher, a normal bloke with common sense but who wants to help out the area where he grew up, first in his career and then with the infestation. The rats themselves are really scary; they’re well-described, absolutely vicious, and Herbert did a great job of portraying the situations where you knew that as soon as one rat showed up, you knew the victim would be overwhelmed within moments.

Harris and the police struggle to beat back the terrifying rat infestation. These fearless creatures are getting bolder by the day, and it’s only a matter of time before the whole city is taken down. The amount of action and sense of urgency kept the pages turning.

The Rats was published in 1974, whereas Nobody True was released in 2003. The Rats is not badly written by any means, but I could see how Herbert’s writing style developed from his debut to the later novel, which ran much more smoothly. Writers never cease to improve if they constantly work on their craft, and part of me wishes I’d read The Rats first as, compared to Nobody True, some of the prose was quite clunky. There were also several typos in the Kindle edition, which surprised me.

These didn’t ruin my experience, though, and it shouldn’t deter you from reading it, either. The Rats is a classic novel every horror fan should pick up and I give it four stars out of five. I’ll definitely be buying the next one, Lair.

4stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Nobody True” by James Herbert

I enjoy reading now, but I read a lot more as a child. My mother has probably gobbled up even more novels than I have; when I was growing up, she’d have stacks and stacks of books, shelves stuffed of volumes, rooms packed with tomes, tables groaning under paperbacks. Before the days of the Kindle, her collection looked even more impressive.

There was a book I’d read part of when I was a kid, around twelve or thirteen years old. I’d always remembered the story, and when she came to visit I described the plot. Like the genius she is, she rattled off the author’s name at once and we found it: Nobody True! I remembered the cover and also remembered I’d read half of it. I don’t know why I stopped reading; looking back, the theme was probably too mature for me at the time.

There were many things about the book I’d forgotten, but the hook is a winner: what if you astral travelled, gained control of out-of-body experiences, even using this skill to explore the world around you without limits? And what if, one night during a business trip, you came back and you had been killed? Not only murdered, but brutally so: hacked, mutilated, your body completely destroyed?

The hook stayed with me, and it’s for that purpose I sought out the novel again.

4e6612c40a39f602e4dba518684016ee“What happens when you lose your body?

Jim True knows. He has returned from an out-of-body experience to find he has been brutally murdered and his body mutilated. No one can see him, no one can hear him, no one, except his killer, knows he still exists. Freed from his body, True embarks on a quest to find his killer and discover why and how he has managed to survive.

As he closes in on his murderer, True discovers that even the very people he loved and trusted have betrayed him. He meets his killer, a strange and sinister figure who can also leave his body at will.

In James Herbert’s Nobody True, an epic and deadly battle ensues between True and a seemingly unstoppable and hideous serial killer – a man now intent on even more murders, including True’s wife and child.”

Contrary to many of the books I review, this novel is relatively old; Nobody True was published in 2003 by Pan Macmillan. Herbert himself died in 2013, but I enjoyed this book so much I felt compelled to write this review.

Herbert’s writing style is witty, snappy, and engaging, which drew me in from the very first line, although the main character (the book is written in first person) tends to go off on tangents a bit (something the MC, Jim True, acknowledges). There is a lot of speculation on actual astral travelling, and the book is written as though the event actually happened, a trait I love in any genre of book and something that also appears in The Saga of Darren Shan, which is also, interestingly, a horror.

The plot was full of twists and turns, some of which I expected, other ones I didn’t. I found one of the twists at the end was mildly interesting but unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but that didn’t mar my enjoyment; in fact, it made me want to read the book again to look out for clues for said twist.

There were parts of this book that terrified me; at many points I was holding the phone (I was using the Kindle app; it’s costly to send paperbacks to Japan) an inch or so from my face, with what I imagine is a wide-eyed expression when I was reading on the train and whatnot. The only book that has scared me more is Gerald’s Game by Stephen King, though it was close. I think I actually enjoyed Nobody True more as a whole.

There are several people in the story you might consider to be antagonists, though undoubtedly the main one is the serial killer, a monster both inside and out. Suffering a facial deformity from birth, bitterness, jealousy, and insanity have twisted this killer into a merciless, horrifying mess. This serial killer was truly terrifying, described with flair.

As well as an exciting horror story, there was even a nice sentiment or lesson to be learned from the book as a whole. Though it had been a brutal story, it left a pleasant feeling at the end, a message that is relevant to everyone. I’ll let you find that one out for yourself, though.

My only issue with the book is that we don’t find out what happens to one of the characters, and though this can easily be explained away by the book’s message, I was still waiting for an explanation as to what happened to them. Nevertheless, Nobody True was fantastic and I’m really glad I remembered it and sought it out. My mum has introduced me to some great works and I doubt this one will be the last. I give this book five stars!

5stars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Reavers of the Tempest” by J.M.D. Reid

Not gonna lie; I love matte covers.

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Following Above the Storm is the second installment of J.M.D. Reid’s The Storm Below series, a five-segment fantasy telling the story of a world above an ever-churning blanket of clouds and lightning. The Storm was conjured to rise the lands of the faithful, and now races live in (relative) peace in the sun, leaving the doomed, named the Stormriders for the deadly Cyclones they wield, in darkness.

What more could there be to worry about besides the dangers of the Navy, including gigantic tornadoes hell-bent on destroying everything one loves, as well as the tormented ramblings of a chained, tortured goddess? Oh, right. . . a jealous friend, a frustrated assassin, and a pocketful of plague.

reavers-ebook_reid-1800x1200“Pirates rampage across the skies!

Ary, Chaylene, and the crew of the skyship Dauntless are called into action again! The Bluefin Raiders pillage and burn, but the greatest threat lurks aboard the ship…

Vel plots murder.

Wanting Chaylene for himself, he waits for his chance to poison Ary. Only it’s not poison he carries…

It’s a plague.”

The story continues to focus on Ary, Chaylene, and poor, foolish Vel’s love triangle. However, this is just one of the many plots of the story. Reavers of the Tempest is a military fantasy through and through.

Though the dangers of Cyclones remain, our young characters are called to action to fight against the Bluefin Raiders, vicious pirates who pillage the skies, murder, and steal ships and their cargo. In the shadows, Vel plots murder, blinded by infatuation for Chaylene and encouraged by an assassin.

More of the world and the truth behind its history are revealed in The Storm Below‘s second installment, leaving readers hungry for more. Ary is plagued by dreams and visions of a trapped goddess and discovers there is more to him being Stormtouched than being condemned by the Church, something that might even help them…

What really made this book for me was the exciting finale. Ary’s discovery of his newfound power, the struggle against the pirates, and the consequences of Vel’s actions all tie nicely together for a powerful installment of this series.

I’m thoroughly enjoying The Storm Below. It’s not a world I’ll be able to forget easily and though the cast of characters grows with each book, they are real and distinct enough where I don’t get confused (with the main characters, at least). I give Reavers of the Tempest four stars!

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Above the Storm” by J.M.D. Reid

It arrived!

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I’d already read the ebook, but I decided to get a paperback of J.M.D. Reid’s debut novel, Above the Storm. It’s the first in a five-piece series called The Storm Below telling the intricate story of a floating world above an endless, churning storm – a unique world you’ll have a hard time forgetting.

I’ve been a fan of J.M.D. Reid ever since I came across his short story, The Assassin’s Remorse. Captivated by Reid’s world-building, I was an instant fan. He’s been talking about his The Storm Below series for years; no doubt such an enormous, detailed universe with its own rules, characters and, of course, the story itself, has taken years of this talented author’s time and energy. Above the Storm dropped in October 2018.

50414323_1199432536879361_3773116747922538496_n“To save the world, Ary must die!

Ary, a young man scarred by his past, is thrust into the dangers of the military. But he carries a deadly secret: the dark goddess’s touch stains his soul. 

Her taint threatens to destroy all he loves.

He must hide the truth from the other marines and the woman he loves. Can Ary survive the dangers of service and the zealous assassin plotting his death?

Are you ready for the action, danger, romance, and betrayal exploding across the skies Above the Storm!”

I wasn’t new to Reid’s Above the Storm world when I first delved into this novel, having already read same-world shorts such as Plight of the Arshion and The Captain’s Mad Plan. The ever-swirling Storm separates the good, Riasruo-worshipping races from the Wrackthar, those left below after the war two centuries earlier. Those below, nicknamed the Stormriders, send vicious Cyclones to attack those they envy above, and the military protects its citizens from destruction.

When they come of age, every citizen of the Autonomy and the Empire receive Blessings from the sun goddess, Riasruo, in one of three levels: Lightning, Pressure, Wind, and Mist, on the Summer Solstice of their seventeenth year. Ary and his two best friends, Chaylene and Vel, all receive their Blessings and Ary hopes to marry Chaylene and work as a farmer in their hometown, Vesche.

During Ary’s childhood when a Cyclone attacked his town, he foolishly stayed behind to watch, enthralled by the action. Struck by lightning during the battle and therefore touched by Theisseg, Riasruo’s unholy sister, Ary dreams of the trapped Storm Goddess and is tormented by her pain.

Drafted into the military, Ary and Chaylene marry to stay together before they must face four years of naval duty and to join the good fight against the Cyclone-wielding Stormriders. With Vel jealous of their relationship, the pressures of duty, vicious rumors about Chaylene’s fidelity, the ever-churning dangers of those from beneath the Storm, and whispers of an assassin in Ary’s midst, Reid’s debut novel is a fantasy adventure that you’ll find impossible to forget.

I’ve always liked Reid’s writing style; it flows well, activates your imagination, and impresses with originality. Above the Storm is fantasy, certainly, though it is a romance secondly, focusing on the love triangle between Ary, Chaylene, and Vel. My favorite characters are Zori, a fiercely loyal and fun-loving girl who joined the Navy to escape a life of prostitution, and Estan, a Vaarckthian scholar with an inquisitive mind who fell out with his wealthy family when his thirst for knowledge questioned the teachings of the Church.

Not all is as it seems in Above the Storm; in fact, the first novel barely scratches the surface of the real, horrific truths. I was thirsting for more when I finished this book, to follow the several storylines and find the answers to the questions I had.

I give Above the Storm five stars!

5stars

Get Above the Storm on Amazon US
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Visit J.M.D. Reid’s blog