Storm Over Warlock – Andre Norton

An ok little sci-fi story.   Andre was the earliest of women sci-fi writers, even before Ursula K Le Guin, and this book certainly feels quite old school in that it has quite a few elements that you’re more likely to find in pure fantasy books these days.

Not really the kind of thing i would think the youth would be into these days, but for us old school types who enjoy going back in time and don’t care if people mix witches, warlocks and dream spells in with their lasers, spaceships and food pills it’s quite an enjoyable little read and a wonderful piece of sci-fi history.

Essentially, a scout team are on a new planet, named ‘Warlock’, setting things up when aliens arrive and destroy them all, except the youngest and newest member of the team and two wolverines.   Then it becomes a case of surviving on an alien planet while being hunted by the aliens.   And so the story begins as more things are discovered about the planet and its native flora and fauna along the way.

Available as a single book or in the collection, ‘Visions of Distant Shores’.

Andre’s Page

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The Lock In – Colby R. Rice

The third book of this enthralling series is just as good as the first two.

‘The Lock In’ continues where ‘The Taken’ left off.   Ezekiel has decided which side she needs to be on, but the problem with that idea is that she soon begins to realise that they might have different plans for her, ones that don’t include her being on their side.

So Ezekiel finds herself running on the streets again, but after the bombings everything has changed.   Faust makes an appearance with his minions the Ninkashi, who are all very hungry, and much mayhem, gore and death ensues as more of the story and characters are slowly revealed to us.   And that’s what makes these books so good: they are incredibly action packed, fast paced books, dark and not so pleasant, which contrasts so well with story and character backgrounds — that reveal more of the plot — getting drip fed slowly throughout that action.   So even after 3 books, i’m still not sure what’s really going on, but it really doesn’t matter, because to get here has been an awesome ride.   The destination is somewhere ahead, who cares where, the journey is more than good enough.

There simply isn’t any downtime in these books.   Find a comfy chair or bed and start reading, you may be there for a while.

Colby’s Page

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The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Oh my, what an incredible book.   It is a roller coaster of emotion, from smiles, giggles and laughs all the way through to crying your eyes out and feeling heartbroken.   Although i’m sure there are people who can read this book and never feel a thing, which is entirely possible if you refuse to surrender yourself to the story and characters, but then what’s the point in reading a book if not to surrender to it completely?

Characters…   There isn’t one awful character, everyone in this book is nice, or funny in some way, even the grumpy lock keepers and their moustachioed wives with dogs that wee on Max’s hands bring a smile or giggle to you.   And that’s what makes this book so hard to take in places, you can fall in love with the characters and feel for them so completely.   Other books have those nasty characters, the evil ones to balance the good, and that holds you in balance and never lets you fly off into the good characters so much, this book doesn’t hold you back from that.

Places…   Nina is a genius when it comes to putting you into a place, a room, even a simple field.   The way she describes tastes, textures, sounds, sights, smells, makes it all feel like a dream you are in.   She never overdoes it, and always when the story needs it.

Emotions…   You feel them along with the characters as you are taken into their lives.   So many haven’t loved for 21 years (or there abouts).   21 seems like the magic number in this book.   You have to go 21 years without love to be a main character in this book.   But none of it ever seems unreal, just a coincidence.   This book is about losing, about finding, about tragedy, about love, about dying, about living, its got the most wonderful high moments and most heartbreaking lows.

Story…   The best bit.   And that’s the bit where i will use the last book i read to draw a few comparisons.

This was my second reading of this book, having last read it just over 2 years ago before i started writing reviews.

One thing i remember when reading it last time was that it reminded me of ‘Heart of Darkness’ and so the plan was to wait a couple of years and then come back to it having read ‘Heart of Darkness’ immediately before and then write a review of both books and see if there were any similarities.

These two books are so similar, yet so very different.   The template is definitely there, that of the river boat voyage, the bizarre encounters along the way and the deeply emotional journey of our boat captains.   We begin one sitting on the Thames in London while the other begins sitting on the Seine in Paris.   A description of companions ensues before we are taken on our voyages.   And there’s where they differ.

In HoD we are on a voyage up river into the centre of the land, into the darkness and ignorance of man’s soul and what he’s truly capable of at his worse.   While in TLPB we are on a voyage down river to the sea, into the light and opening up of a man’s soul from 21 years of darkness and ignorance, and we’re shown what people are truly capable of at their best.

Whereas in HoD we have Kurtz and his fiance, in TLPB we have Luc and Manan’s diary.

In HoD the final conversation with Kurtz is replaced with the final entry in Manan’s diary, while Luc replaces the crazy Russian.

The bizarre encounters along the banks are quite awful episodes in HoD as they expose Marlow to ever more wrong, and dim the light ever further, while in TLPB the bizarre encounters along the banks expose Jean to ever more right, and turn on the light ever brighter.

And instead of pilgrims on the boat they are replaced with a runaway writer, a cook, and another writer who has been waiting for the love of her life to turn up; while the cannibals are replaced with 2 cats.

And no, i have no idea if Nina has even read ‘Heart of Darkness’, maybe she has, maybe she hasn’t.   And even if she has, was that any influence on ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’?   I could write and ask, but i simply love the not knowing because it really doesn’t matter.   What mattered was that the first time i read TLPB i could barely remember reading HoD, it had been decades, and both were read while under the influence of alcohol, numbed, but this time i decided to read them one immediately after the other and i have been sober for 22 months.   This time i wasn’t numbed by alcohol and really felt both books, i really felt that i read them both, and i really felt that they complemented each other in so many ways.

To be taken right into the depth’s of Charles Marlow’s darkness in HoD and be left hanging there at the end only to go immediately to the depths of Jean Perdu’s darkness in Paris and be then taken back into the light was quite the literary journey, and definitely one i would very much recommend for anyone looking for a true roller-coaster experience.

But however, and whatever, you want to read, just make sure ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ is on your ‘To Read’ pile, everyone should read this book.

I have also read ‘The Little Breton Bistro’ but wasn’t writing reviews at that time either.   But i assure you, it’s also a wonderful book.   And Nina’s latest book, ‘The Book of Dreams’ is now out, which i’ll most certainly get around to as soon as i’ve re-read ‘The Little Breton Bistro’.

Nina’s Page

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Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

The book that inspired the film, ‘Apocalypse Now’.

I read this book many, many years ago and i especially wanted to read it again before re-reading ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’.   From my long ago memory of Heart of Darkness it struck me that there was something similar going on in the two books so i wanted to re-read both.   More on the similarities in the next review, for this review i’m just sticking with ‘Heart of Darkness’.

So what did i think?   It has the usual politically incorrect Victorian wording and attitude to non-Europeans, which tends towards appalling, even more so than usual as this book is mostly telling a story of the Belgian Congo when the Belgians were exploiting it and its peoples.

There’s a lot been said about this book, both good and bad, and you can read more on the wiki page if you want to know more.

For me, i’d like to see the glass half full with this one.   Yes i understand the other side of the debate, and i most certainly do not condone any colonialism, i absolutely condemn it all, but…

This book was written in the Victorian age and i do feel that if you are going to read Victorian literature then you have to lay aside your modern prejudices, morals, ethics, etc., and understand that the people writing it were victims and hostages of their own age as we are of ours.   It’s not so much politically incorrect as it’s far more politically ignorant.   And for me that is what a lot of this book is about: the political ignorance of the age.

Yes, Conrad uses words that are considered repugnant now, but they were not considered so when he wrote this.   And its the words, i feel, that create the problem for a lot of people, allowing those to cloud their judgement of Conrad’s attitude and opinion.   If you can take that step back and accept the words to be used as they were used in his age by white Europeans, only then can you see what Conrad was really saying ‘when’ he wrote this book.   You really cannot read this book as though it were written by someone in the 21st century for people in the 21st century.   It’s a piece of history written a long time ago, read it as such.

So considering that, from my perspective, Conrad is very clearly appalled with the worse of white Europeans descending upon the peoples of Africa appearing almost deity like — and exploiting that appearance to the maximum — simply due to their modern technology, their equipment, their immaculate white clothes in a hostile environment of sweat and mud.   What chance would any person who has lived a natural life in a completely natural world have of remaining unaffected by the power and influence over the natural world that white Europeans had at their disposal?

Conrad makes clear that he alone, amongst the white Europeans on the boat, can see the humanity in the people’s of the Congo, while others would just consider them wild animals.   How the sounds of the Congalese connected to a part of him, as only a human could connect to another human.

The only white person in the whole of Africa that Conrad wishes to speak to is Kurtz, the rest he seems to dismiss as arrogant fools and idiots who should never have been there.

One also has to remember that Conrad actually did go on this journey on a steam boat up the Congo to one of the inner stations, he witnessed what the Belgians were actually doing there, and he knew very well what Europe was being told about the people that lived there.   The most telling part of this book is simply Kurtz’s last four words… ‘The horror, the horror!’

When Marlow, the protagonist, finally arrives home and meets Kurtz’s fiancé and she asks him what his final words were he cannot bring himself to tell her the truth because he feels it would crush her to know what he did in her name, as Kurtz only went there to win his fortune in order to be considered worthy to be her husband.   One can quite clearly see the metaphor here, that Conrad himself, when he came back from the Congo, didn’t have anyone to speak to of the horror that he had witnessed being done in the name of the progress of European nations at the expense of those they dehumanise.   There seems to me that if we place Conrad in Marlow’s place, we get to realise that when Conrad was in the Congo, he had no one to understand his feelings of horror, that he only wished to find one person amongst it all that he could talk to.   And when he came home to Europe how was he to explain to the people of Europe the horror that was being done in their name by the worse of them that they would send to Africa on their behalf — and would they even want to listen?

So for me, this is what this book is, Conrad’s description of what he’d experienced in Africa that he felt no one would, or could, listen to; that he felt no one he knew would understand.

If only he could have found just one person at the end of his own journey to talk to who understood.

Joseph’s Page

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The Taken – Colby R. Rice

After such a relentless beginning to this series in The Given i did wonder if this book would keep up with the pace: i most certainly wasn’t disappointed.

As i surmised in my review of ‘The Given’, more characters and groups were added along the way slowly building even more complexity and depth into the story, our protagonist finally has to decide which group she’s going to join, and all this is done with never a dull moment.

Once again, it’s incredibly well written, fast paced, and just sucks your attention in as it keeps rewarding you by revealing ever more bits and pieces of the story as you go along.

I do admit to not being aware of having read any urban fantasy before.   I kind of got put of the whole genre by the awful stuff TV show stuff.   So it’s really nice to be shown just how good this genre can be when done really well.   The magic system, which Colby calls ‘Alchemy’, is well put together and certainly works for the story really well, as each group and character seems to have something different to reveal about it as they themselves get revealed within the story.

All there’s left to say is… so far, so very, very good, and its definitely left me wanting a lot more.

I’ve got a few other books to read but i’ll be back soon with ‘The Lock In’.

Colby’s Page

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The Story of Sorrel – Joseph R. Lallo

Isn’t that just the most awesome cover?

This book is supposed to be a side shoot from ‘The Book of Deacon’ series, and while it is a fairly stand alone story, i do feel its quite an important part of the series and a definite must read if you want to fully enjoy the whole series. It is best read right before ‘The Crescents’, as, although ‘The Crescents’ is set many years in the future, ‘The Story of Sorrel’ sets the stage for everything that happens in ‘The Crescents’.

So, what about the story? Well, obviously from the cover art, we’re dealing with Sorrel, who is a malthrope, and a rather large dragon.   Yes, i admit it, i love dragons, and any good story about dragons always gets a big thumbs up from me, and this is a very good dragon story.   Malthropes are really interesting creatures that Joseph created for this series and mixing up a story with malthropes and dragons is, quite simply, wonderful.

I say malthropes, plural, because you will remember from reading ‘The Rise of the Red Shadow’ that when Sorrel left she wasn’t alone, she had her two children with her.   So along with Sorrel’s story we also get to find out what happened to the children too.

So a completely new environment, a completely new dragon, fairies and malthropes, and maybe a few other things as well.   It’s Joseph at his best and absolutely essential reading for Deacon fans everywhere.

The 11th book in ‘The Book of Deacon’ series.

Joseph’s Page

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The Given – Colby R. Rice

Wow, that was intense.

The book begins with a car chase trying to retrieve the ‘Final Page’, which has been stolen, but then jumps 2 months forward into the story proper giving no explanation of what the ‘Final Page’ is, who the people were, or what events preceded it.   I believe this is called foreshadowing — someone please correct me if i’m mistaken.   But, whatever the literary device is called it’s certainly done with great effect.   It throws you, head first, straight into the non stop action of this relentless book, which isn’t going to let you off its hook until you get to the end, and even then, it’ll leave you hooked on the next book in the series.

As we leave the enigmatic first chapter and begin to move through the book, more and more is slowly revealed.   The various characters appear, which Colby does a wonderful job bringing to life, and it feels as much a character driven story as a plot driven one.   All the characters are really good and well written.

And as the characters are revealed so is each of the various groups that they belong to within the world of the story.   And then, within each group, sub-groups begin to appear, each with their own rivalries and agendas.

Thrown into the middle all of this is our protagonist, Ezekiel, who, along with her little sister, are simply trying to survive.   But you really get the feeling that the only way of surviving the future that is coming to them is to join one of the many groups.

Getting to the end of the book and looking back: the whole book is mostly setting the stage and introducing the various characters and groups that i presume will be the basis of the story going forward, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s more to be added.   It really is an incredibly complex and diverse dystopian future humanity has found itself in, but’s it’s never too complex to leave you confused — a very fine line that Colby walks incredibly well.

Final thoughts… i’m very much left looking forward to reading The Taken, but i just have a quick novella i pre-ordered and have been eagerly waiting to read to whizz through first.   So yeah, i’ll definitely be back very soon with more of Ezekiel’s world.


Also available in ‘Uprising’.

Colby’s Page

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Of Mutability – Jo Shapcott

When i set up this website i added my whole Kindle collection from Amazon.   Amongst many books that i didn’t know i had was this one, and i’ve still no idea how it appeared on my account.

Although i don’t normally read poetry, i usually enjoy it when i do, and i was actually looking forward to reading through this collection.

But i have to say, i’m seriously disappointed.   I made it 10% in, which i admit is not very far, but i really couldn’t take any more.

I have no idea when random babble written as bad prose that then gets chopped up randomly into lines that have no cadence, meter, rhythm, rhyme, structure or style got defined as poetry, but it seems that some people now claim it is.

I suppose its the same type that class ‘Sewing Machine in Hessian Sack’ as modern art — utter bollox!

Here’s some modern poetry (apparently)…

It may please the Sunday Times
cryptic crossword
crowd while drinking
coffee from a disposable cup
(see front cover), but
i very much doubt it
will please anyone


Jo’s Page

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The D’Karon Apprentice – Joseph R. Lallo

The 10th book in ‘The Book of Deacon’ series.

Wow, i really, really enjoyed this book.   The series just keeps getting better.

In this episode we finally find out how the D’Karon got into the world in the first place, and also why.   And so, once more, ‘The Chosen’ have to get together and do their thing to try and stop it happening all over again, while all the time trying to prevent the war between the Alliance and Tressor from re-igniting.

And while all this is going on Myn’s found herself a boyfriend, sweeet.   This for me is the best bit about this book as, other than a brief time with Solomon who is only a handbag dragon, Myn has never met a real dragon before.   So Myn, not doing anything by halves, finds herself a big, manly, battle dragon to play with.   It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s everything a first crush should be — just with two rather large and very dangerous dragons.

And Ether’s having her own crisis of existence at the same time.

Brilliant stuff.   And now onto ‘The Crescents’.

Joseph’s Page

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The Redemption of Desmeres – Joseph R. Lallo

The 9th book in ‘The Book of Deacon’ series.

I really liked this book.   Desmeres is one of those characters that one just loves to read about.   He’s the best at what he does, he knows it, and certainly isn’t shy about letting everyone else know it either.   Now some might say they can’t abide him and his full of himself attitude and overbearing confidence, but isn’t that why James Bond is such a popular character?   Isn’t that why so many of us root for our favourite sports stars?   There’s that bit in all of us would just love to pile on through life with that attitude that everything will just work out ok for us because we’re so damned good at what we do, and everytime something knocks us down we’ll just bounce straight back up again and give it an even better go next time, and that’s the bit that we love reading about in characters in books, the bits that we struggle to find within ourselves.

So onto the story…

In ‘The Battle of Verrel’ Desmeres had previously found himself at the bottom of a shit pit of his own digging when he did the dirty on The Chosen and helped the D’Karon for a while.   And so he found himself having to lend a load of his best weapons to the Undermine in an attempt to climb out of said shit pit.   But, whereas he maybe should have let them keep the weapons, Desmeres made clear that he would have them back once the D’Karon were defeated.   And so we begin this book with Queen Caya and the Undermine having all their weapons stolen back by Desmeres and in doing so getting himself firmly back down in the aforementioned shit pit of everyone’s disapproval once more.

So Queen Caya is left with no choice but to assign the Elite to hunt him down and bring him to justice, if for no other reason but to save face.

And so begin the hunts and evasions around the Northern Alliance lands, while all the time Desmeres is attempting to fulfill a plan of his own for his own redemption that requires him to stay ahead of the Elite.

And i have to say, this is a great story.   One of the best of the series.

Once again, as usual, great characters by Joseph, and a great plot with a few interesting and fun twists and turns, some expected and some not so expected.   A really good read.

And now onto ‘The D’Karon Apprentice’.

Joseph’s Page

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