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I started this book early Sunday afternoon and come midnight I was only twenty or so pages from the end. Unfortunately I had to wait all of Monday to find out the ending.

It has been a long time since I’ve been able to claim I nearly read a whole book in a day. This probably says a lot about the reading level of the book rather than how hooked I was by the plot.

Perhaps because it has been out for a while I felt the book already familiar while I was reading it. I don’t think I have read it before but the slow unravelling of Chrissy’s life seemed neither unexpected or surprising.

Just because there is no shocking twist this did not detract from the overall quality of the book. The writing style was easily readable and the structure balanced back story and action to create an interesting story and believable characters.

I’m not a fan of amnesia as a character development technique. It’s not something I have come across in everyday life and I find the concept hard to believe. Chrissy suffers from the same condition as Drew Barrymore in the film Fifty First Dates and every time they go to sleep they lose any memories they made that day. For the purpose of the story it is best to “suspend disbelief” and just enjoy the plot.

Whilst an enjoyable read and an impressive debut novel I don’t think it brought anything new to the table. I pretty much guessed the ending but it was well written and worth reading to see how it all played out. A good holiday read if you have not yet read this one.

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howellpsionicbookfourthequesthowellpsionicbookfiveguardianangels

 

The Psionic series is a pentalogy revolving around a highly detailed world of humans and Psionics. Psionics refer to people who have acquired extra mental capacities such as telekinesis, mind control and a whole range of completely original abilities too.

The Pentalogy follows the story of Adrian Howell who coincidentally shares the name of the author. (Henceforth if I refer to Howell I mean the author and Adrian, the character.) After initially discovering he has the power of telekinesis he is plagued by headaches sent by an agent of the Angels. After his parents are murdered and his sister goes missing Adrian is alone with two rival factions vying for his allegiance.

I decided to review books four and five together as I read them without a break. A testament to the building of plot and suspense: I simply could not wait to find out what happened next after I turned the final page of The Quest.

The first three books set up and build upon the endearing characters of Adrian, Alia, and Cindy. As they inhabit the world of Psionics so they accumulate other equally rounded characters (Mark and Terry as examples). By the time you reach book five, every character whether minor or major are recognisable. The cast is truly staggering but each character Howell chooses to embellish with back story and personality is integral to the finale.

Book four had an unusual plot structure with most of the dramatic action happening at the beginning and then journey-style action happening in the middle. The final portion of the book slows down a beat or two but Howell still manages to keep the intrigue high. Although unusual the plot structure works immensely well. A whole host of new characters are introduced. I was concerned at first that they would overshadow the existing characters but they get roped into the overall story well and Book Five could not have worked without them. Although introduced towards the latter part of the series Howell gives enough time and attention to each character so that they do not get disregarded as another name or faceless character.

Book Five was a satisfying solution to the pentalogy. All loose ends were seen to and all plot points were given ample attention. Again a few more new characters were introduced with ample amounts of detail balanced with keeping the plot moving forward. Unlike Book Four, Guardian Angel had no let up of action. A points there may have been a little less action and a little less life-in-danger at points but the pace was unforgiving. After all the building of tension between the factions, high drama was to be expected and Howell definitely did not disappoint.

I do not want to say too much more about the series as I do not want to give any more away about the plot than I have already. The whole pentalogy is truly worthwhile reading. For anyone who wants to try a book by a self-published author this is definitely the place to start and the bench mark to set against the others in the market. Just because it is self-published Howell has proved quality does not need to be compromised.

On a personal note I’m a little sad that I’ve finished the series. Back to Lord of the Rings I guess!

The complete series is now available for download via Amazon.

If you want to know more about the author or the series you can read Howell’s blog here. It is not written in character but he has retained his pen name for the time being. There you will find details and links to all of the books in the Psionic Series and more detailed information about the author and contact details.

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howellpsionicbookthreelessergods 

The Psionic series is a pentalogy revolving around a highly detailed world of humans and Psionics. Psionics refer to people who have acquired extra mental capacities such as telekinesis, mind control and a whole range of completely original abilities too.

The Pentalogy follows the story of Adrian Howell who coincidentally shares the name of the author. (Henceforth if I refer to Howell I mean the author and Adrian, the character.) After initially discovering he has the power of telekinesis he is plagued by headaches sent by an agent of the Angels. After his parents are murdered and his sister goes missing Adrian is alone with two rival factions vying for his allegiance.

Books one and two explore the finding of his new powers and how he adjusts to live without the family he has grown up with. He develops strong bonds with Cindy and Alia and accepts them as a kind of new family but he never stops hoping for his lost sister Cat. Foolish mistakes and an escalating level of danger lead Adrian to claim he will never put himself in a dangerous situation again. Of course, that doesn’t last for long.

Lesser Gods picks up soon after Book Two finishes. Adrian is starting to go on missions for the Guardians in the Ravens team. However a mission goes awry and Adrian finds himself once again in captivity. Howell doesn’t spare any details here. The reader is treated to detailed descriptions on all the suffering and abuse Adrian suffers at the hands of his captors.

The second part of the book feels almost as though it should be a separate book altogether considering all the suffering and healing Adrian has to go through. But really it is a long crescendo that doesn’t really slow down until the end of the book. The series feels as though it has really been building up to a showdown between the Angels and the Guardians and the blood-trial is the first real taste of large scale action. This isn’t just a mission with a few highly trained individuals, this is two factions in the same living space. Howell builds the scene for the trial well and the … events that ensue don’t skimp or detail or tension.

On a personal note, this is my favourite of the series so far. You know you are reading a good book when you race through it to find out what happens and then feel slightly disappointed at the end because there’s no more to read. I consoled myself with the fact that I still have two more books to go and the war is really heating up now so I will get straight onto them.

As always the style and quality of writing is excellent showing that self-published fiction can be just as worthy of shelf-space and readers’ time as anything produced by the Big Six.

The complete series is now available for download via Amazon.

If you want to know more about the author or the series you can read Howell’s blog here. It is not written in character but he has retained his pen name for the time being. There you will find details and links to all of the books in the Psionic Series and more detailed information about the author and contact details.

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howellpsionicbooktwothetower

 

The Psionic series is a pentalogy revolving around a highly detailed world of humans and Psionics. Psionics refer to people who have acquired extra mental capacities such as telekinesis, mind control and a whole range of completely original abilities too.

The Pentalogy follows the story of Adrian Howell who coincidentally shares the name of the author. (Henceforth if I refer to Howell I mean the author and Adrian, the character.) After initially discovering he has the power of telekinesis he is plagued by headaches sent by an agent of the Angels. After his parents are murdered and his sister goes missing Adrian is alone with two rival factions vying for his allegiance.

He narrowly escapes Ralph and manages to find a quasi-family he can just about tolerate. But the new family isn’t enough, he is still haunted by the idea that his sister is captured and alone. So he risks it all to find her. Landing himself and Alia in an underground prison.

Book Two: The Tower sees the return of Adrian, slightly older and yet still facing a mass of trouble due to his recently gained powers.

Fresh out of captivity, Adrian looks forward to respite in a safe environment surrounded by people like himself. Cindy and Alia live with him and they find between them a semblance of normal family life. Then he meets Terry. She abuses, humiliates and bullies him, all in the name of education.

The safe environment doesn’t stay so for long. At the welcoming ceremony a spy is released from their prison and it looks like an inside job. The Angels seem to be able to obtain alarmingly detailed information about Cindy putting everyone’s lives in serious danger. The guardians are convinced there’s another spy. And Adrian seems the likeliest suspect…

Howell does a lot of character development with the younger members of the cast. Alia no longer cowers and whimpers in the presence of strangers but she still relies on her older brother to keep her safe. Adrian is learning to listen to authority but still struggles to surrender complete control. Terry is an enigma to Adrian in the beginning and their eventual truce impacts both of their developments.

It is interesting when characters develop because of their interaction with each other rather than the happenings in the plot. It gives the characters an extra dimension of humanity. Alia is able to communicate with strangers because she feels safe and protected by Adrian and also through being desensitised to it after her incarceration. This shows she is overcoming her past demons and accepting her current situation as her new family.

The Tower takes place in very few locations compared to the first book but the development and dilemmas faced by the characters are increased ten fold as the Angels seek what they are truly after and doubt creeps into the mind of Adrian. What do his dreams really mean?

The complete series is now available for download via Amazon.

If you want to know more about the author or the series you can read Howell’s blog here. It is not written in character but he has retained his pen name for the time being. There you will find details and links to all of the books in the Psionic Series and more detailed information about the author and contact details.

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howellpsionicbookonewildborn

 

The Psionic series is a pentalogy revolving around a highly detailed world of humans and Psionics. Psionics refer to people who have acquired extra mental capacities such as telekinesis, mind control and a whole range of completely original abilities too.

The Pentalogy follows the story of Adrian Howell who coincidentally shares the name of the author. (Henceforth if I refer to Howell I mean the author and Adrian, the character.) Adrian is just about thirteen years old in Book One: Wild-Born although because of his size most people think he is a lot younger. Throughout his younger years things just happened around him. Things fell off walls and shelves. Because it had always happened he thought it was normal. Until he went camping and people started to call him weird.

Imbued with curiosity and the imagination of a young child he starts to experiment. Nothing really comes of it until he has an accident. Lying in hospital recuperating his returns, out of boredom, to his experiments. For reasons he can’t explain he simply can make things happen. Weakly at first he manipulates his environment. Then, out of hospital, his experiments become more ambitious to the delight of his younger sister, Cat.

Adrian has absolutely no idea the consequences of this sudden power, but he is about to find out. He is tortured by headaches more painful than he has ever known. Then one night, a storm blows in and upsets the entirety of his life as he has known it.

Howell’s YA Urban Fantasy has enough gore, conspiracy and heart to appeal to the maturer reader also. It is set within our world but there is a secret undercurrent of warring factions and Psionics in hiding from various threats. Between the spaces of reality a whole world exists where anything is possible. A man with nightmares so powerful it shakes the very ground and warps anything near him; a entire underground operation that captures and tortures psionics to death or insanity, and an unlikely family that find and save each other.

There are many characters that populate just the first book, but each is rendered in such detail and with such empathy that regardless if they are a main character or a side character holding the door open for them on their way out, they feel as real and as tangible as anybody else.

The real action starts when the source of Adrian’s headaches is explained. His whole world is turned upside down and a touching journey begins to bring his sister back to him. Howell maintains the pace without tiring the reader. Each setting is created with the same level of literary skill as the characters making for an entirely vivid read without getting too bogged down in the details.

The Psionic series is entirely self-published by Howell and to date it is the best produced e-book I have seen. Not even a typo has managed to escape the author’s notice. It really is a pleasure to read a book that has had so much care taken over it.

The complete series is now available for download via Amazon.

If you want to know more about the author or the series you can read Howell’s blog here. It is not written in character but he has retained his pen name for the time being. There you will find details and links to all of the books in the Psionic Series and more detailed information about the author and contact details.

(Will be reviewing Book Two: The Tower just as soon as I finish reading it. I’m already at 27% and I only started it last night!)

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Love Thy Neighbour follows the lives of two neighbours. One is Clark Hayden who has returned from university to look after his mother who is rapidly sucumbing to dementia in the wake of her husbands recent death. The other is the polite subserviant Pakistani wife, Ariana Amin.

Maria Hayden throws the neighbourly trust into disarray when she informs the authorities that she believes three terrorists turned up on her doorstep.Police officers make a half-hearted enquiry and infer that Maria’s mental capacity renders the information unreliable. Clark’s curiosity is piqued however and inadvertently begins his own private investigation of the quiet neighbours over the road. Clark is dragged into international terrorism, CIA cover-ups and a deadly plan that no one else seems wise to.

Mark Gilleo builds the story through layers of interweaving narratives giving every possible perspective in a short time frame. Although the pace is slow to begin with each scene is key to the finale. Even the characters that join the plot at a late stage are as well formed and memorable as those that dominated the beginning.

Gilleo gives the reader both the terrorists’ perspective and those against them without leading the reader to empathise with either party. Each individual’s arc through the novel seems as worthy and dramatic as the next.

Due to the thriller-nature of the novel the slow set up may put off some readers. However the more patient reader will be rewarded with a tense, climatic finish neatly rounding up all of the loose ends.

Gilleo is an exciting new voice in the market bringing together intelligent plots and memorable characters. His next novel Sweat is due to be published this year.

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Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible is a pacey urban fantasy/horror novel set in a village north-east of Philadelphia. Bauer expertly builds suspense with unsettling supernatural occurrences and drip feeds enough clues to keep the reader engrossed in the scandalous past and present of Three Bridges, formerly known as Schuetten.

The residents live in the shadow of the Volkheimer legacy and the Catholic church. A host of unwanted secrets bubble under the surface of the narrative. More specifically, in the sewer system. The construction of a new restaurant disturbs the long buried secrets of Three Bridges. Debris floating amongst the abject waste of the sewers sets the tone of a dark narrative.

C. G. Bauer writes from the point of view of Johnny Hozer, later known as “Wump” due to a very specific event in his early adulthood. The narrative is in first person and heavily colloquial. Being English this did present a few problems with certain brands and phrases having no meaning for me at all. However the voice of Hozer was so strong and fully formed that these quirks only served to add to the character of Hozer.

The narrative holds the attention of the reader with expert timing of the supernatural. Sparse and explainable events sow the seeds of doubt and flash backs fill in the gaps of knowledge that combine to expose the criminal neglect of the Volkheimer Tannery and unravel the horrific truth about the Monsignor.

Bauer ploughs straight into action in the prologue where Hozer witnesses the extremely short life-span of a newborn child. The contrast with Hozer’s bewildered twelve-year old voice to his hardened sixty-five year old voice sets the precedence for a narrative that swings from horror to investigation. Hozer’s perception is deeply embedded in the past and his desperation to seek justice drives the plot forward with well paced momentum.

In this novel Bauer raises questions about responsibility. The main dominant male positions in society put in jeopardy the safety and morality of all of the villagers. Each of the superior figures harbour clear ambitions to which they will spare no cost in order to achieve. Their disregard for the well-being of people is as harrowing as the physical horrors that occur. A misguided perception on the value of human life propagates a dangerous backdrop for this dark horror story.

At times the plot begs incredulity but the character and plot development swallows the more fantastical scenes with a well earned sympathy for the characters and a deep seated need to resolve all the mysteries of The Three Bridges.

Bauer is the author of several short stories, the latest of which is to be published in the anthology 100 Horrors in the very near future. A promising new voice in Horror, this book comes highly recommended for readers seeking a new author.

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Gollancz never fail to disappoint. I have yet to read a book from their S.F Masterworks collection that I did not enjoy even a little bit. The collection is expertly chosen by people who know their Science Fiction inside and out. Flowers for Algernon appeared in their top ten list: http://www.orionbooks.co.uk/genres/sf-fantasy/gollancz-blog/the-results-are-in!.

I bought the title from Amazon and it sat on my shelf for an undue length of time. When I finally got down to reading it last week I pretty much stayed in one place the whole weekend till I was done. Bad for your eyes …

I don’t usually go for an epistolary style novel; however this seemed the only logical way to tell Charlie Gordon’s story. His character was deeply thought out and explored during the novel with ample time given to the science behind the fiction. The psychological reasoning behind the success of Charlie was as interesting as his failure. Each moment of the process was mapped out in intimate detail giving the whole novel a deeply human feel. I would recommend this to a reader who has not read a lot of Sci-Fi and wants a gentle way in to the genre. You don’t need a vast knowledge of science to read this book (as with The Quantum Thief).

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I started this novel nearly two months ago on September 8th. Usually, if I enjoy a book, I can consume it within a couple of weeks. Even if I don’t enjoy a book I tend to give up on it within the same time frame and chalk it up to an ‘incompatible interest/style’. After nearly twelve months perusing raw and amateur fiction on authonomy.com, it does not take me long to conclude whether I will be able to finish the book.

That may seem dismissive but when reading takes up such a large amount of concentrated time, it seems a waste to spend it on a book that I won’t enjoy. A bad film is bad for a record time (for me) of whatever length Pearl Harbour was. Others loved the film but it wasn’t for me. A book, on the other hand, is bad for as long as you intend to sit and read it. And reading can take a long time if you are not enjoying it.

Difficult books are harder to gauge. They are easier to put down but more satisfying when they are finished. I still intend to finish Lord of the Rings but I can’t quite bring myself to start all over again when I got so far. Why do the names have to be so complicated? The more I delve into Fantasy and SF the more need I feel to explore the classics. All genres should have a grounding and a history, even if they are relatively new.

ChiZine Publications specialise in breaking these genre rules. See their “philosophy” page: http://chizinepub.com/about/philosophy.php their aim is to “find authors and manuscripts that are trying to move the genre forward”.

When I started reading The Pattern Scars the deviance of the novel was unclear. It started as any book would with the protagonist at some defining point in their youth. This point leading them to develop a fundamental characteristic that would shadow their every movement from this point forth. For Nola it was the manifestation of her gift. Her mother saw fit to sell Nola to a brothel. From this point on Nola seemed unable to find herself a safe place where she belonged. Some authoritarian figure always managed to put Nola into a further state of vulnerability.

There is plenty of scope in this novel to explore it fully with a psychoanalytic method but I won’t do that here. For me, the true power of the novel was the gore. Never have I read a book so bloody or graphic. At many points I squirmed as imagined corpses and general rotting filled my mind. The colours and intended beauty of the pattern seemed surreal against the backdrop of horrific images that tended to frame it. I struggled with this, feeling that the imagery of the Pattern conflicted with the suspense built up in the horrific images. It was difficult to follow the pace of the novel as it lurched and lulled hence my sporadic reading (not helped by the arduous process of moving out). Though it sounds like I am complaining, The Pattern Scars was very well written with a fascinating and original storyline.

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Space is set in the southern states of USA. It depicts a couple, deeply in-love, who are torn apart – both in themselves and from each other – by their daughter. The novel opens with a touching scene of family unity, underpinned by Deede’s awareness of her daughter’s absence. The contrast between the unity and the following panic concerning their daughter’s well-being when they learn she has overdosed sets up the tone for the rest of the novel.

Through the spiritual voice of Deede, Emily Sue Harvey candidly exposes what it is like to live with a drug addict. Each tiny victory is blown out by catastrophic failure and Deede’s hopeless optimism begins to wear thin. The reader is dragged along on an emotional roller-coaster; the tracks being Faith’s road through drug addiction and the cart is the tenuous family solidarity that creaks and groans with each new obstacle. Any moment it will derail sending the Stowe/Eagle clan to destruction.

The tight-knit family from the prologue struggles to hold it together. Gradually, one by one, they turn their back on Faith. Her name is ironic. No one has faith in her yet it, and support is what she needs to find her way back to the tracks. Dan Stowe reacts with vigorous discipline and Deede with the more softly, softly approach. Whether either of them has it in them to turn their daughter around is irrelevant. It is the emotional drama which gives this novel its charm.

The characterisation in this novel is the key to its power. Each character is fully realised and has distinct relationships with others. The conflicts that arise out of family solidarity and logic cast the reader into a see-saw as to who to sympathise with. As relationships become strained or sometimes strengthened as the novel progresses the drama and impact escalates.

Recovering from drug addiction is hard, and even harder to write about. Harvey unflinchingly goes into insightful detail on the experience from both mother and daughter perspectives. The plot itself is harrowing at times but incredibly real and true to life. Love still shines through the text despite the desperate situations proving Noni’s comment:

“With all its sham, drugery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

Published by The Story Plant

Kindle Edition 13th Sept 2011

Paperback 20th Oct 2011

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