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Review: Lo’Life Book 1 – Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay (Titan Books)

The Blurb:

”The tragedy of suicide is not death. It is what dies within us whilst we live.”

Working the Homicide squad, Alexis Bianco believes she’s seen every way a life can be taken. Then she meets the mysterious Lola and finds out she’s wrong. More weapon than woman, Lola pursues a predator with a method of murder like no other.

The Tormenta.

If you think you’ve never encountered Tormenta, think again. You’re friends with one. Have worked for one. Maybe even fallen in love with one.

They walk amongst us—looking like us, talking like us. Coercing our subconscious with their actions.

Like the long-legged beauty that seduces the goofy geek only to break his heart, causing him to break his own neck in a noose. Or the rockstar, whose every song celebrates self-harm, inspiring his devoted fans to press knives to their own throats. The pusher who urges the addict toward one more hit, bringing him a high from which he’ll never come down. The tyrannical boss, crushing an assistant’s spirit until a bridge jump brings her low.

We call it a suicide. Tormenta call it a score, their demonic powers allowing them to siphon off the unspent lifespan of those who harm themselves.

To Bianco, being a cop is about right and wrong. Working with Lola is about this world and the next…and maybe the one after that. Because everything is about to change. The coming of a mighty Tormenta is prophesied, a dark messiah known as the Mosca.

To stop him, Bianco and Lola must fight their way through a cryptic web of secret societies and powerful legends to crack an ancient code that holds the only answer to the Mosca’s defeat. If this miscreant rises before they can unmask him, darkness will reign, and mankind will fall in a storm of suicides.

Nobody’s safe. Everyone’s a threat.

I don’t read much in Urban Fantasy, to be honest.

I think it’s because there is such a massive emphasis placed on certain things that always seem prevalent in the genre, which, unfortunately, bring it closer to Paranormal Romance. There are plenty of authors I’ve yet to read, and the ones that I have delved into (Kate Griffin, Seanan McGuire and Chuck Wendig, to name a few) have impressed me.

Urban Fantasy has to, in my opinion, succeed at the following:

1) it must be set, largely, in an urban environment. The genre isn’t Country Fantasy. 2) There must be sufficient secondary world-building to make the reader miss the urban environment, and vice versa. 3) The magic has to be interesting and different – Kate Griffin and Chuck Wendig succeed massively at this. Among, of course the other necessities, such as good character growth, and interesting plot, etc.

When I first set to reading ‘Romeo Spikes’ I struggled to get into the book – not because it was badly written (it isn’t), or because it wasn’t interesting (it is), but because it was different. It’s one of the ways that I know I’ll enjoy a book – the difficulty of the read added to the certainty that I want to read the book.

‘Romeo Spikes’ doesn’t have fairies, or fae. There’s no Celtic-feel to it, and neither does it have a Norse flavour. Joanne manages to create a world that is at once surprising as it is interesting, bringing in a Biblical-mythology layer that makes her world fresh and captivating, which allows the characters to react and change as they should in a world they don’t know much about. The exploration of the world, as a reader, was one of the highlights of the book, for sure.

Character-wise, Joanne does jump around a bit, and most of the time it works – the reader will experience different perspectives (on both sides of the novel’s central conflict), and in particular, Bianco and Lola’s character-arcs are really well-written, engaging and attention-holding, with plenty of little clues along the way that will tug and push the reader along as they wonder just where these two stand. The Tormenta are interesting creations, but that’s all I’ll say – read the book and discover them for yourself. :-)

One aspect of the novel that tripped me up was the time-change in some of the chapters – there is very little or no warning, and I found myself having to re-read the chapter’s beginning to get my bearings again, because the plot had suddenly jumped into the past. This interrupted the novel’s otherwise great flow. But that’s my only real problem with the book. :-)

The world-building is great, and I’m sure many other readers will be left thinking about “real” or Historical events and the cool spin Joanne put on them. The characters are all interesting and well-fleshed out, and the book’s climax is a real surprise! And what “magic” there is in the book doesn’t overwhelm or confuse. Joanne’s style has a great flow and her descriptions are crisp, colourful, atmospheric and suitably brutal (at times).

If you’re looking for Urban Fantasy that doesn’t follow the conventional rules of the Genre (which no book should do, but you know what I’m getting at) and also builds an interesting new world, then Romeo Spikes should definitely be added to your shelf. I’m looking forward to the next book! :-)

8 / 10

LoLife_RomeoSpikes_cvr

To order copies of the book, check out the following links: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Book Depository, Exclusive Books. You can also read an excerpt from the novel here, and for more info on Joanne, check out her page on Simon and Schuster here. Don’t forget to browse Titan’s website – plenty more good reading to be had!

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Double Review: The Dragon Factory & The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger Series)

It’s been a while since I’ve read the first Joe Ledger super-adventure, Patient Zero, and as you can read in this review, I loved it. :-) It did set the bar extremely high for sequels, and I was really scared of being let down – after all, how do you top a hectically fast-paced, explosively brutal and supremely imaginative novel like Patient Zero?

Well, I don’t have a clue – but Jonathan Maberry does.

The Dragon Factory

As I began with The Dragon Factory I was a bit stunned at how it began – it’s one of those novel-openings that shows the main protagonist in extreme danger – but I thought it was very cleverly done because I actually did worry that Joe would bite the big one in the novel. After the massive dangers he faced in Patient Zero I was sitting there thinking, “Dude, I know you’re good, but jeez, this might be a bit much for even you to deal with!”

At the end of that scene the novel then launches with Joe’s POV chapters, interspersed with POV chapters from a variety of other characters, most central to the tale, others not. One of the very difficult things that a writer sometimes does is not only switching POV but types of POV – Joe’s POVs in the books are First-Person, while the other characters are Third-Person, and it’s a risky venture, swapping POVs like that, because the reader might just be jarred out of the book; Jonathan managed these POV-switches so well that the entire read was practically seamless, so no jarring. :-) Also, Jonathan sets the scene at the beginning of each chapter by giving the reader the place, date and time in which that scene takes place, just in case there is any confusion. So the book’s structure was well thought out and it flowed seamlessly from scene to scene, which helped the pace of the novel pick up when the action began shredding walls and ceilings and stuff. :-)

That’s another aspect of Jonathan’s novels that impress the hell out of me – the pace of these things is absolutely incredible! I first started with The Dragon Factory by listening to the audio-book, but audio books need to be savoured and enjoyed, i.e. you need to be relaxed when you listen to one – and the thing is, Jonathan doesn’t let you relax. In fact, I found myself biting my nails and pacing up and down and punching the air and uttering short and very un-manly squeals when I read the novel. Took me three days, give or take a couple of hours, and at the end of it I was breathless and amazed. :-)

The book’s action scenes are beyond hard-hitting and thrilling – Jonathan puts his characters through so many wringers that a new plural for ‘wringer’ needs to be invented, and his characters are affected by this: they get battered, beaten, struggle to understand the morality of the lives they lead, etc. They don’t just reload and keep on blasting. The book’s plot is as interesting, if not more, than that of Patient Zero, and bigger in scope, too, though the shadow of Patient Zero is there – its effects still felt by all the characters who survived through the events that followed Joe Ledger’s joining the DMS. And the climax is, well, shattering – certainly left me quiet for a long while, while at the same time itching to read the next Joe Ledger novel.

There are many ways to judge how good a novel is, and one of those many ways is the ending – for The Dragon Factory’s climax to hit me as hard as it did and still leave me foaming at the mouth for the next novel means that it’s a damned good novel; Jonathan Maberry has become my own high watermark of Speculative Thriller excellence. :-)

So, 9 / 10 for an insanse, highly enjoyable and utterly unputdownable novel!

To order your copies of The Dragon Factory, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

The King of Plagues

King of Plagues was an extremely clever novel, in many ways – even got me thinking about thriller writers and whether they might constitute a threat to America’s national security! ;-) (Seriously, you’ll have to read it to understand what I mean by that.)

The novels opens some months after the end of The Dragon Factory and there are many repercussions that the characters are still dealing with – which already impressed me because of the real sense of continuity that this series has. The scope of the novel is a bit smaller than in The Dragon Factory but this works for the novel, and through the read I came to agree with this risk that Jonathan took – after all, sequels should be bigger and better than the previous books, but that doesn’t always have to do with length, events, action, etc. The ‘bigger and better’ can also mean that the characters get a tighter focus, so that the conflicts they feel and the shit they go through seems as hectic -if not more- than the bombs exploding around them and the bullets zip past them.

A very surprising character returns in The King of Plagues, and as soon as I realized who this character was I knew that all manner of fireworks were going to explode – it’s also the moment that the novel really kicks into high gear, and because it happened early enough in the novel, well, I finished the book in two days or something – yep, it was that cool. :-) One of the villains in the novel (yep, you read that right – Joe and the DMS faced truly insane odds in this book) was handled so well that when the moment of revelation came (regarding who that character actually was) it was a punch to the gut – really awesomely done! And there was also one very intriguing character who I really hope to see more of – his role was small, but he’s damned memorable (when you meet him you’ll probably agree with me).

The King of Plagues also struck me as being a pretty topical book, because it didn’t have anything extravagantly cool like zombies or genetically modified freaks in it: the novel takes a pretty dark and alarming look at fanatics, insanity and the terrifying willingness of man to hurt man, whether because of a post in an online forum or because of not actually caring enough. But I never once thought that Jonathan was preaching, which I thank him for. :-)

So, is it the best book of the series so far? Yep, I think so. A helluva read, as fast-paced and exciting as I know Jonathan can be, as imaginative as ever, and totally cements Joe Ledger’s position as the most kickass asskicker in Thrillers. Die Hard and 24 just wouldn’t be able to keep up with or stop this man, that’s for sure!

9 / 10

To order your copies of The King of Plagues, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

And head over to Jonathan’s site – this post has info on the latest Joe Ledger thriller, Assassin’s Code, and all you need to know about the Joe Ledger series of novels and short stories. :-)

Also, check this out – snatched it (with his permission) from Jonathan – I think it’s AWESOME:

And I absolutely cannot wait -although I’ll have to, being in South Africa- to read Assassin’s Code! Here’s the awesome cover:

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Am I back? Almost!

Hey everyone! :-)

Things are finally starting to take shape on my side of things: I’ve settled into my new place to stay, I’ve spent a very enjoyable two-weeks-and-a-bit in a psychiatric facility (and no, that’s not the meds talking – it really was amazing!), and I’m getting my life in order – which includes learning how to cook, getting my own transport, buying a fridge, and plenty else. :) I’ve also finished the second draft of my (first) Fantasy novel (I even have a title – only took me six months after finishing the first draft) and, for want of a better word, everything ROCKS at the moment. :)

I don’t have regular access to the internet, though, but I have read plenty of books since I ‘froze’ the blog, so I’ll be updating the blog with new reviews hopefully at least once a week – the reviews coming up will include the following:

Rod Rees’ The Demi-Monde: Winter,

Glen Cook’s The Tower of Fear,

David Goyer’s Heaven’s Shadow,

Pittacus Lore’s The Power of Six,

Daniel Polansky’s The Straight Razor Cure,

and a couple of others. :)

Like I said, this won’t be as regular as it was before, but at least they will start appearing again.

Until then.

BE EPIC!

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Un:Bound Video Editions

I am utterly and completely jealous. There, I’ve said it!

Yes, the Un:Bound Video Editons have been around for some time now, but I’ve only just started watching them because I’ve only recently upgraded the ADSL line to a 4meg line. :)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen these videos yet, go on and watch them! They are informative, feature excellent (and fitting) music, and celebrate SFFHUF – what could be better? To my mind, the Video Editions are a completely professional production, and I’m going to spend the rest of this evening catching up because I’m utterly hooked! :)

The first episode features some great people that I’ve only even corresponded with on Twitter and via email, and you also get a peek into the offices at Tor (Julie, Chloe, you have no idea how jealous I am of that awesome wall) as well as OtherWorlds 2010; you even get to see some magic tricks! Had a good laugh at those, I’ll admit. ;)

Check out this link over at Un:Bound to get the low-down on everyone who’s involved in bringing the Video Editions to us. I think you’ll agree that they all do an incredible job! :-)

Here are the links you’ll need:

Episode 1,

Episode 2,

Episode 3,

Episode 4.

Do go through and have a look, and when you’re done, head over the Un:Bound Video Editions blog and check out the out-takes (I love out-takes), behind-the-scenes vids and even vids that showcase how the animations you saw in the first episode were done.

I’m actually sad that it’s taken this long for me to check out the Video Edition, but I’m so glad that I did! :-)

So, congrats to Adele, Vincent, Alasdair, Lee and Kat for an awesome show! :-)

 

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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An Important Update from John Jarrold

Hey everyone, something very important here from John Jarrold – if you, or anyone you know, has been trying to get hold of John then you may have been picking up some problems. Here’s why:

THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE CONTACTS PAGE OF MY WEBSITE (www.johnjarrold.co.uk) – IF YOU (OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW) HAVE SENT ME A MESSAGE THERE SINCE THE SITE WAS REVISED AND UPDATED IN EARLY JULY AND HAVEN’T HAD A FULL REPLY, I HAVEN’T SEEN IT. PLEASE E-MAIL ME DIRECT AT: j (dot) jarrold (at) btinternet (dot) com. I WILL COME BACK TO YOU STRAIGHT AWAY TO CONFIRM RECEIPT. APOLOGIES.

So spread the word – the next big name in Fantasy, Horror or SF might be trying to get hold of John. :-)

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Review: Suicidals Anonymous by J Robert King

Some years ago, I decided that the only way to solve problems and deal with pain was to kill myself. Obviously I didn’t succeed – either that or I’m Patient Zero of a zombie-disease. :-) Anyway, I swallowed approximately 120 strong pain pills and slashed my left wrist (I’m right-handed) and tried to pass from this world. I’m not saying this to shock you, or to gain sympathy, or any positive or negative comments regarding what I did. I’m bringing this up because of what I started reading last night and finished reading this afternoon.

Many might consider Suicidals Anonymous an absolutely terrible novel – because of the taboo subject it focuses on. Others will probably think of the novella as brilliance. Still others, and I’m a part of that minority, will see the novella for what it is – the closest anyone will ever come to understanding the intention to commit suicide.

Rob uses the story of Chris, the *failed* author, and his urge to kill himself to force us to look at just what suicide is and means, but it’s not just suicide that Rob focuses on; things take many turns, shocking, hilarious, deep and very, very dark, and Rob doesn’t allow you to catch your breath. The story absolutely hurtles along, with hardly a pause for toilet breaks or food. Chris is you, me, someone you know. He’s confused, depressed, ebullient, maniacal. I may not have found myself in the situations he found himself in, but I sympathized with everything he went through. How could I not, having survived suicide?

But do you have to be a suicide-survivor to enjoy and understand (at least, on the surface) Chris’ story? Not at all. You may not ‘enjoy’ it, but it’ll probably gut-punch you something heinous. And that is the mark of the kind of stories we all want to read – a story that’ll make you wince, make you swear, make you tremble. A story that’ll make you tremble and want to put the novella down because maybe you don’t want to think about what you’re reading, but you can’t, you’re drawn to the tale, to Chris, to facing the thoughts of suicide you’ve had because of Chris, and to finally understand that wanting to end your own life, on your own terms, for your own reasons, makes you human.

Suicidal’s Anonymous is disturbing, brilliant, funny and uplifting – and not always for the face-value reasons. I urge you to read this and experience it – you may not like it, you may not even understand it, but one thing’s for sure – you’ll look at the world with different eyes.

10 / 10

For more info about Rob and his work, check out his official website here; to order Suicidals Anonymous eBook click here for the US (Kindle), and here for those who frequent MobiPocket. For those wanting a hard copy of the novella, follow this link to Popcorn Press.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Reviews, Uncategorized

 

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