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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!)

Long Time No Post

It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything even remotely to do with reading. Between wedding plans, Christmas and general home improvements I haven’t found much spare time to be reading at all.

I have picked up the kindle again and am proud to say I have finished reading Tolkien’s The Two Towers. I even managed to read it quick enough that I still retained most of the side characters names and know the gist of the plot. I did put it down for a while around the Entish part and I think that was about the point that I got stuck last time ten years ago!

I am onto the final book now and it would be great to say I’ve finally read lord of the rings but I won’t hold my breath just yet.

As a side book to lighten the mood of the archaic sounding narrative of Tolkien I decided to try out some of the free self published books available on Amazon. The first one I tried was particularly amateur. I won’t list the title as I didn’t give it a fair reading, probably no more than a few paragraphs.

The second one, Adrian Howell’s Psionic Book Four: The Quest was far more entertaining. I hadn’t read any of the prior books but this didn’t seem to matter as the narrative was clear and easy to follow. Any important preceding events were mentioned when they had an impact on the current plot and the technical aspects of the characters abilities were fairly simple to follow.

The action started from the first page and do far, 10%, it hadn’t let up yet. I will post a full review when I get to the end and I already have the previous three books downloaded so I can get the full picture of what happened Adrian and his sister.

The quality of this eBook is not just in the writing but in the editorial care the author has taken over their work. I try not to get too caught up in the technical aspects but it is far more enjoyable to read a book that has been cared about.

I think I have read as much as about writing as I have fiction itself. And reading other people’s advice doesn’t seem to help me develop my own style. Yet I buy into their advice, trawl the internet for how to construct a plot, and generally tie myself up in knots thinking this is far too complicated for me. I just want to write but I don’t know how.

The thing is, I can write. I know how to hold a pen. I know how to type on a keyboard (I don’t even have to look – go me!) So what is it about crafting a novel that I find so damn hard?

It was never difficult when I was a child. Looking back on what I wrote then, yeah there’s a few flaws and no I don’t think anyone else would read it. But I did it. I finished the stories I started and even sent a few off to some publishing houses. Their letters were firm no’s in every case but I did it and kept trying. Where did that all change? Surely it should be the other way around. Why am I so reluctant to finish anything and send it off to be rejected? Am I afraid now I no longer have the excuse of being a child for my failings. Will I have to admit to myself, no you are never going to be a writer?

All the books I buy and blogs I read tell me I can be a writer, no matter what. Just keep going. Is this a marketing ploy for me to keep buying their books to find out what I should do next?

[Written on a Saturday morning instead of working on a plot outline for my next book / avoiding editing my previous book …]

 

 

Twelve Books Later

I hardly even know where to begin. Since the last time I posted I’ve read twelve books. Twelve! I feel like I’ve been glued to my Kindle and neglected everything else. Certainly my own creative writing has taken a back seat to it all. But there’s a good reason for it. I wanted to read the popular books, a decision spurred on by reading My Sister’s Keeper, and find out what makes them so successful.

In no particular order, then, these are the books I read…

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

I never heard of this trilogy until it was due to be released as a film. By the time the trailers rolled around I had heard more than I wanted to. The trailer itself confrmed my suspicions: an americanised version of “Battle Royale”. I won’t compare the books to the Japanese film as it has been done, many times and there’s nothing more than I can add really. Except my own opinion as to why the Japanese film is more disturbing than these books. The children in “Battle Royale” were all from the same class and they had grown up not knowing that what they would end up doing to each other was a distinct possibility.

Aside to that the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale was well executed. It’s a shame that Katniss was so indecisive. At times I felt like reaching into the pages, shaking her hard and screaming stop leading them both on, just pick one and stick with it. A writer who can illicit such a reaction has certainly done her job well.

The fighting in the arenas was also interesting. Collins is the first female writer I have come across who can write fighting into a book without it seeming forced or unbelievable.

Although these books are aimed at the young adult market I would not hesitate in recommending them to any reader if they fancy something different.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

This is my second read through of the book in an attempt to read the whole set. A feat I undertook at fourteen and am still yet to do. Somewhere between the lengthly setting desciptions and multitude of names I struggle to read these books. The plot and fighting in between does little to help me on my way. It doesn’t help that I’ve also seen the subsequent films before I managed to get to the books so I already know what happens.

However reading this for the second time on holiday where I only had beer and cabaret hotel entertainment for distractions I really got into this one. I’m not about to deconstruct a book written over the period of two decades. My meagre graduate knowledge pales in comparison to the writers’ ability. That said it wouldn’t be a favourite for me as it is for others.

Nineteen Minutes & The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Two unrelated books are set in the same area. The lawyer Jordan McAfee makes an appearance in both books but other than that there is no crossover. Both books centre around a court trial and the effect of the crime across a vast range of characters. Picoult switches between male and female perspectives and does a convincing job on both angles. The merits of her writing stem from characterisation rather than plot. I found both a little predictable; but it was not the outcome of the trial that was intended to suprise the reader but instead the resolve and reactions of the main characters. The interplay between her characters and overall development has solidified my opinion that Picoult is a good writer in the Women’s Fiction genre.

Ringworld by Larry Niven

A continuation of my aim to read more sci-fi led me to read this book. I’d not heard of it but was recommended to read it by a friend. I struggled my way through, not wanting to appear uncouth or uneducated for not being able to finish it. I struggled to see its point, what it was trying to convey and the plot seemed slow and awkward. I finally managed to finish it on holiday with no distractions. Whether it was due to the lengthy time I took to finish this book or if I really have no business reading sci-fi I did not get the ending. At all. I later discovered my friend had given up three parts of the way through the book so I should not have felt ashamed.

That said the technology in the book and the imagined alien races were fascinating. The plot itself did nothing for me. For a reader looking for a book about exploring an alien planet I would direct them towards Dan Simmons’ Hyperion.

Twilight Quadrilogy by Stephanie Meyer

My main reason to read these books that I have so long avoided will be better explained by the last book in my list.

If Hunger Games’ Katniss seemed an irritating character, she had nothing on Bella Swan. At times I hoped the vampires bit her to stop her being a hormonally-driven lovesick wreck of a person. Twilight also revolves around a love triangle except that Bella has already made her choice but keeps the other guy around as a back-up. To fill the needs that a dead guy can’t. A warm cuddle for one. Twilight severely lacks a danger-filled arena to break up the mushy bits.

In comparison to other vampire novels, this does not live up to standard. It brings little new to the genre except perhaps that the vampire’s diet dictates the colour of their eyes. The final penultimate battle is marred by being written from Bella’s perspective – who had the genius shield p0wer that sucked all the exciting action potential out of the scene.

I can hear people asking why I bothered to read all four if I hated them so much. My answer is I wanted to see if Jacob Black won in the end, he was the only character I felt warranted any sympathy. Also I heard a rumour about the vampire biting the umbilical cord with his teeth. The answer is I can’t tell you, the wonderfully stoic Bella Swan managed to faint, again. The pregnancy sequence was the books redeeming part. Enough gore and horror to place this book on the edge of the vampire genre.

And finally…

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

No, I didn’t like it. No, I couldn’t put it down. For the sake of a writing blog I will focus on its merits as literature. Another irritating character but I’ve torn her apart once so no need to do it again. The descriptions of both mundane and erotic scenes seemed repetitve. Each chapter brought a recap of what had happened before. And I noticed a continuity error in the contracts. Something I’ve never seen before, not even in indie-published novels. The extraneous characters to the unusual love affair seemed flat and unformed.

What I didn’t know when I was reading this book was that I could have read it all online, for free. And no I don’t mean trawling PirateBay for ripped off ebooks. It started out life on FanFiction.net as pornographic twist onTwilight. Some genius then swapped out all the names and published it practically word for word. There is still a version of this FanFic online if you look hard enough.

Still this is the first erotica book I have read so I will thank the person who recommended it for opening my eyes. Still, I think I will stick to my regular books in future. I’d take a bloodbath in an arena over whips and chains any day thank you! Especially if the chains are applied to any form of Bella Swan.

Before I even start writing this I’m shooting down my own argument. There is a lot of criticism being brandied about already on this and previous books. But I can’t let this slide by without even acknowledging it’s going to happen.

I’m being unfair … perhaps. JK Rowling, to me, will struggle to shake off the Harry Potter saga. But in this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17693206 Rowling announces the title of her new ADULT book. The article gives a brief idea of what it is all about and as usual Rowling is a master at witholding details. The only thing you can glean from this article is that there is someone named Barry Fairweather and there is a village called Pagford.

Now is it just me or do those three words seem like they belong in the same region of bookshop as the Harry Potter books did … YA or younger?

I admit I own one or more preconceived ideas when it comes to Rowling’s writing. I read every HP book, the earlier ones several times. However as each book came out I re-read it less (I’ve still yet to re-read Deathly Hallows). And whilst this may appear to be the actions of a fangirl I’d never list HP as one of my favourite books. Individually, perhaps the first one for the magic it promised, but as a series not at all. This may have something to do with my age as I read the first book at age 11/12 and the last one when I was 20 – so most likely I outgrew the books. From the style of writing, particularly in the later books, I don’t think Rowling can make the shift to an adult market.

Thinking back, I almost didn’t read the HP books because I thought ‘Harry Potter’ sounded like the name for a character I would have read about in primary school so perhaps I’m making the same mistake again?

On a side note my own creative writing is going fantastically well … not. It’s probably all just jealousy on my behalf! Ha!

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.

This is one of those books where I watched the film first and instead of being compelled to see the originator of such heart wrenching drama I was completely put off.

You can’t judge a book by its film adaptation any more than you can from its cover, blurb or glowing amazon review. However, each source of unreliable information does indicate the prowess of the writing on some level.

I did not enjoy or hate the film. I was moved by the story but anything remotely related to cancer seems to reduce me to a jibbering wreck.

So, background out of the way, I’ll get to my point now. From the first blast of Anna’s perception of the world I knew this was a great work. The story encompasses six points of view, each with a strong voice and a unique story to tell. Kate’s condition has a profound affect on everyone who meets her and it is how their lives change accordingly rather than the disease itself that forms the heart of the narrative.

Picoult spins an intricate web of emotional suffering and strained relationships. The story flits between present and past without losing the pace or crowding the narrative. It is a cliche to say the book is better than the film but it is a cliche for a reason.

My Sister’s Keeper reminded me of a book I picked up in a local charity shop about three years ago. Again it deals with a parent with a child suffering from an acute form of lukeamia. I would recommend Harvest of Heartache to anyone who was touched by the suffering of families in cancer-stricken times. The recommendation comes with a warning, the latter book had me in floods of tears compared to the sniffle of the former. Then again real life always seems more harrowing than Hollywood.


I read all three books in such a short amount of time I decided I needed to do something other than reading. There is no way I could have read so much without literally doing nothing else. I even to a break to read another book entirely between the second and third book.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduces the characters of Blomkvist and Salander and their inquisitive nature to uncover the truth. The book opens with Blomkvist’s indictment for libel concerning a financial empire he has written a condemning article about. A sabbatical he hopes will provide an answer to his struggling magazine takes him on an intriguing journey to solve a murder that happened many years ago.

The first book is a story on its own whereas the second two books are one story split into two. All of the action being in The Girl who Played with Fire and the tedious investigation taking up about 80% of The girl who kicked the hornets nest. If you can’t tell I struggled with the last book but I still had to find out how it all ended up.

The journalism aspect of the trilogy is extremely relevant today with the controversy surrounding the tabloids. Blomkvist and his reporters dig up information using questionable and perhaps illegal means. And the reporters aren’t the only spies. The government agencies and some law enforcers also have the means to acquire illegitimate information. However Larsson leads the reader to sympathise with the causes, these people need to be exposed. The public has a right to know.

And essentially the reporters decided we had a right to know the most intimate details of a “celebrity’s” life. I use the term loosely as not all targets were particularly famous, just the by product of a reality tv show ten seasons past its sell by date.

Here I think is where the reporters went wrong. There was no public interest in the stories they published about who slept with who, just mild curiosity. Now if they had uncovered a conspiracy or a terrorist plot they would have been hailed as heroes. But, unfortunately, sex sells better than mystery. Greed got the better of their shady morals and now they are being punished for it.

Perhaps in future they will print celeb focused drivel and write something interesting about the world.

Slow February Syndrome?

I’ve been putting everything off lately; writing, reading, paying bills … eek! Thing is I have nothing to show for it. No book review, no spangly new draft or short story entry.

I have managed some small feats such as attempting to use a sewing machine, getting to grips with a new phone and taking the day off work to watch the Superbowl.

I didn’t understand it until the final quarter. I do understand that the winning quarterback got a shiny new corvette, how do his teammates not hate him? Certainly makes English football (or soccer) look poor in comparison! Nor do we make such a spectacle of the key matches – except perhaps of the world cup although we are seldom participants of the final matches and so interest tends to die down early. Only diehard fans of the sport follow it through to the end.

So all in all, bar one review of a book I read at the end of january my creative hobbies have been unproductive so far. Is everyone else this slow so far or am I the only procrastinator?


 

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.