Anglesey Blue by Dylan H Jones – Review

7 03 2017

Anglesey Blue is a pleasant surprise in a genre I rarely read. Written in 3rd-person, past-tense (again, uncommon in the genre), Jones’ narrative flows well and engages the reader effectively. Despite being a little exposition-heavy at times (for my taste) Jones’ excellent dialogue offsets what could’ve been a minor quibble in the chunks of exposition.

The dialogue feels ‘current’ in a way that many crime writer’s don’t always manage and always has purpose, whether in moving the plot forward or in slowly peeling away to reveal more depth to the characters than one might expect. For me this displayed an impressive technique in showing rather than telling in the dialogue sections, and clearly a strength for this writer.

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The plotting is tight, and mostly pacey, but where it lacks pace, I sensed important groundwork and character development being laid down for future stories, which is always welcome.

 A very solid start to a series. I will definitely pick up the next book.

You can find Dylan H Jones at Bloodhound Books and Amazon.





The Road by Cormac McCarthy– Review

8 08 2015

Depression Trigger warning:

This is my first Cormac McCarthy novel and in all honesty it’ll probably be my last. At present I have no desire or intention of ever reading McCarthy’s work again. This isn’t a reflection of the quality of his writing, which is in fact, wonderfully creative. Staggeringly so.

McCarthy employs a very simple, but wholly immersive narrative style in this book. His characters are nameless. Cormac gives them a gender and a rough age, but that’s about it. His sentence structure is stripped down to the bare bones, in that he discards conventional use of punctuation and grammar, in favour of a flowing, short structure, cut with the occasional longer, more poetic monologue from the narrator’s point of view.

This approach is hugely effective. The short, sparse structure reflects and amplifies the bleakness of the world he has placed his poor characters into. The longer monologues are beautiful, insightful and heart-breaking at times; these moments shine a bright light onto the broken structure between, making the shadows they cast and struggles described in them all the more dark…. inescapable.

Aside from the skill in the rudimentary narrative and prose, Cormac employs some of the most immersive, descriptive settings and conveyance of the complexities of emotions his characters suffer through I’ve ever experienced.

This book is so wonderfully written, it is simply beautiful, the use of language to convey such hardship, such stark, stripped back humanity and beauty, but by God, it is bleak as fuck, and the most emotionally-draining piece of literature I’ve encountered.

The world of The Road is so very bleak, so lacking in joy or comfort or hope. Reading this book was a trial for me, I didn’t want to continue, but its beauty and humanity and raw splendour dragged me along despite myself.

If you are in any way prone to depression or periods of low moods, I would recommend avoiding this book, at least until happier times. It is a marvel, it is simply one of the most staggeringly gorgeous and horrifically desperate pieces of fiction I’ve read. I’ll never read this book again, but the gap it let in me will remain forever.





Daydreams and Devils by Robert Cowan – Review

8 08 2015

With his second offering, Robert Cowan has avoided any treading of water and built on the best of his debut, The Search for Ethan, developing his skillset substantially. With shifting narrative, complex and engaging characters, and an entertaining plot peppered with occasionally acerbic humour, Cowan’s sophomore offering shows none of the signs of that difficult second album. Instead Cowan’s lovely writing simply entertains and immerses the reader into a very real-feeling setting and into the lives of his very relatable characters.

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In Daydreams and Devils, we see a more confident Cowan, gaining his stride and stretching his literary legs, culminating in a novel that significantly betters his first novel, which itself was a very good book. Cowan deserves a larger readership and with offerings such as this book, he’s well on his way to producing an excellent body of work for new readers to discover and binge on.

You can find Robert Cowan and his books at Amazon US and UK.

Daydreams and Devils is available for 99p/99c at Amazon now.





Wannabes by Michael Logan – Review

8 08 2015

Wannabes is a wonderfully nasty, unexpectedly warm, funny, insightful, and clever satire that should feel like a fusion of John Niven’s Kill Your Friends and Second Coming, except that Logan’s Wannabes is much funnier, infinitely more skilfully-written and wholly more relatable than Niven’s work.

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Logan’s writing in invigorating, inventive, wholly engaging and oozes satirical insights throughout. This is a writer unhampered by over-editing or expectations who simply writes the very best stories he has to tell. Logan’s passion for his work screams from the page. By the book’s end he has managed to pull the reader into the murky, classy, imaginatively filthy worlds of the music business, Heaven and Hell, and the psyche of a predatory serial killer.

Logan writes these characters extremely vividly and engages his reader so skilfully, that he or she comes to care about even the filthiest, most depraved of them, simply due to his passionate writing and his skill in presenting many-layered characters, whom Logan makes you empathise with and invest in, despite their flaws and sometimes crass behaviours.

With Wannabes Logan is an exciting new voice and joins a new breed of Indie and Hybrid authors, such Ryan Bracha, Gerard Brennan, Keith Nixon and Craig Furchtenicht, in producing quality, engaging, hugely imaginative and original, modern-feeling literature that oozes skill and creativity.

For me, Logan is my literary find of 2015 so far.

You can find Michael Logan and his books at Amazon UK and US, as well as at http://www.freelancelogan.com/logan/.

Wannabes is available at a special price of 99p/99c





The Switched by Ryan Bracha – Review

27 05 2015

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I wouldn’t want to be Bracha. Not for anything. I feel sorry for him in the most profound way.
It’s not the vacant expression sketched permanently on his face that elicits my sympathy for him. Nor the sagging, sweat-stained moob impression on his sad oasis-esque polo shirt.

It’s not even the resigned way he carries himself, like only the most wretched shit-stain of a man who’s accepted his slide into deep ugliness can affect.
Not even the rancid, gamey oily pungent Stench of his grimy Breath elicits my Pity. None of those are a patch on Bracha’s one true inescapable obstacle.
The sad fact is that Bracha has written his finest novel to date and will most likely never scratch at those heights again let alone improve on it.

That’s what I’m telling myself at any rate, but the truth is that Bracha will do what he always does and go on developing his skills and pushing himself further from any comfort zone he could slip into.
Ryan Bracha is that sort of cheeky wide-o who asks for a blowy straight after he’s been knocked back for a tit squeeze. He has no shame and no sense of limitations.

Unwilling to restrain himself to a single comfortable genre or writing style, Bracha has shoved all desire to settle into a formulaic groove aside and elevated his writing one more time. In The Switched, Bracha ‘switches’ effortlessly but never gratuitously between first and third person and present and past tense, as the story demands.

Many writers would struggle to maintain consistency with such changes, or overuse the mechanism, Ryan effortlessly (it’s not but it reads like it is) employs the shifting narrative and perspective to add urgency, humour and purpose to each scene.

Taking  all the creativeness of Strangers are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet and follow-up Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, Bracha throws in a hefty helping of technical skill- earned by hundreds of hours writing The Dead Man Series- to temper his surging imagination and desire to put his characters through the wringer for your entertainment.

What we have in The Switched is the perfect blend of creative flair with technical skill from a writer who is at the peak of his powers…so far.

The biggest development, for me, in Ryan’s writing with The Switched is that Relationships are now front and centre and the driving force for the novel. Where in previous books, the story was the driving force for his characters, in The Switched, Bracha’s characters drive the story. The characterisation and development is exceptionally good in this novel.

 

That the sweetest, most compelling and real relationship in the book is between two men, one of whom is a woman inhabiting her partner’s former body, is a testament to the author’s new-found ability to expose the tender weakness of the true individual rather than the shell of the person.

 

Reading The Switched holds all the manky, unsettling, thrilling insidiousness of playing a game of ‘just the tip’ and leaves the reader wondering just how much more Ryan Bracha is still capable of.”

The Switched is available for pre-order at Amazon UK and US now.





The Banjo String Snapped but The Band Played On by Ryan Bracha – Review

26 06 2013

Ryan never fails to entertain and inspire.

I always look forward to new story from Ryan Bracha. Very few new and even fewer Indie-writers have the imagination Bracha possesses or the guts to tell a story uncompromisingly. Most new writers find a preferred writing style (narrative, viewpoint etc) and stick with it; Ryan has absolutely no fear and uses many engaging writng styles. John Niven is a standout at this as were Chris Brookmyre and Irvine Welsh early in their careers. Ryan has a very Scottish feel to his writing, in that the characters and situations he creates are invariably entertaining, challenging, complex often brutally exposed and often funny as hell.

Awaiting a Bracha publication is comparable to what Monday mornings (new release day, pre-downloads) were like for a long-term music fan. I don’t get quite the same satisfaction ‘ripping open’ a Bracha book as I did flicking through 45s and later CDs, but it’s close enough to that excitement for now.

With The Banjo String Snapped But The Band Played On, Ryan continues his series of short-stories and his run of form. Whilst I preferred Bracha’s previous book, Baron Catastrophe and The King of Jackals, I found plenty in this book to entertain and engage with.
Ryan’s writing is experimental, he takes chances and is developing with each story, but I had trouble connecting with this particular tale. This is no fault of the author, his prose is as fresh and gripping as ever; but rather as the reader, I found the multiple changes of viewpoint difficult to follow, mainly because I’m a bit simple at times.

I’m docking Bracha a single rating star for one main reason.

I desperately wanted and perhaps expected the main characters to be the actual Jesus, Superman etc and was gutted that they were merely some mates on a Stag-do. I suspect this says more about me than it does about Ryan’s book, but it’s my review and I wanted the real Jesus, so four stars it is.

With the quality of Ryan’s writing he only has himself to blame; he continuously readjusts the readers expectation of his books, each brings something different than the last, and I wanted more from this. Despite my own personal preferences, this is a very good read; smart, vapid and concise writing at its best, but next time give me more Messiah.

Ryan is an affiliate author with Paddy’s Daddy Publishing
Banjo is free on Amazon on 26/6/2013

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