Thursday, February 23, 2023

 This Week, I've Been Braving. . .

Deadly Ground

I rather enjoyed the first installment of the Base Fear series – Deadly Secrets – by S.C. Fisher, involving the Daniels family and their move into a military married quarter ay Ynys Mon, Wales, following dad’s new posting in the RAF. As we discovered, the house comes with a rather sinister history. One that begins to bleed into their everyday lives and take over.

Of course, that story set the scene for what now takes place in Deadly Ground. And as the blurb highlights, events take a dramatic twist and become much more menacing.


It wasn’t just the house. Something else stalked her family; something ancient and relentless.

In book two of the Base Fear series, (the sequel to Deadly Secrets), Paige Daniels must wage war against the entity that has staked a claim on her family, or lose her loved ones forever. With her little brother, Griffin, and her friend, Ben, by her side, can Paige unearth the final secrets her new home guards?

Time is running out, and this ground is deadly.


Once again, S.C. Fisher’s knowledge of military procedure comes to the fore.

As the unknown entity haunting their home starts to emerge more fully, the family is thrown into a panic. But what to do? This IS a military home, after all, and certain protocols have to be followed. But when those protocols fail to help in any way, it’s left to Paige and her brother – and close friend, Ben – to do what they can to stay alive and prevent an ancient evil from taking root and spreading.

As you can imagine, the pace of this second story steps up a gear, and maintains an intensity that has you rooting for Paige and Co as things turn from bad to worse. Folk law and myth are also combined with the actual history of the story’s setting – Llyn Cerrig Bach – a place where ancient relics were discovered during WW II dating back more than 2000 years. So kudos there, because mixing reality/history with fiction is a surefire way to strengthen any story with a foundation that will pull the reader in and involve them in the magic from the word go.

Great fun!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

This Book Really Cut Me Up.

See My Review Of. . .

My Heart is a Chainsaw

As followers of my blog will know, I’m absolutely ‘stacked’ when it comes to my read and review list. So much so, that sometimes I don’t have time to scour the internet for fresh ideas. Especially those that will fit my ‘quirky’ preferences. However, THAT’s where Black Gate Fantasy comes in, as the staff there have an eye for spotting things that will appeal to my particular tastes.

Just look at the blurb for My Heart is a Chainsaw:


Jade is one class away from graduating high-school, but that's one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she's composing her epic essay series to save her high-school diploma.

Jade's topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she's convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.

As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town's history, the tragic deaths than occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer.

As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities slasher and Final Girl.



So, we have all the ingredients of an absolute gem here.

Jade Daniels is something of a social misfit, both at school and within her local community. Her dad’s a deadbeat drunken bum; her mother’s absent; nobody gives a damn about her. And to top it all off, she walks the proverbial tightrope by retreating into a blood-tinted haven in which 1980’s horror movies color her perspective. But that’s how she copes, by viewing the world about her and all its pressures through a lens of grime and gore.


Weird eh?


Well, it would be, except for the fact that Jade is a walking library when it comes to the horror genre. She knows everything. All the twists and turns. All the feints. All the clichés and tropes. So much so, that when the everyday drudgery of life is suddenly jarred by a number of unexpected deaths, Jade becomes convinced she can see the link. There’s a serial killer on the loose. A killer who is no doubt preparing for a grand, July 4th slasher-fest finale.


The thing is, nobody believes her when she tries to tell them what’s coming. So how the hell will she convince the authorities that they have to do something?


Well, as I found out, this is a story of two halves. Or more accurately, a story of 99.5% Awesome and 0.5% What the hell?


Let me explain. . .


Jones’ knowledge of the horror genre is encyclopedic, giving his main character an undeniable depth that makes you just want to dive in and help her. Yes, Jade’s a rebel. She’s an oddball who deliberately tests the boundaries of what’s acceptable. But she also has a heart of gold. She wants to help an unwilling and undeserving community from a fate worthy of the most horrendous bloodbath imaginable, and she goes out of her way to do just that. In doing so, she digs herself an ever deepening hole in which her reputation will remain forever buried.


But she doesn’t care. She wants to do the right thing. . .
And nobody believes her, setting in motion a chainsaw of events that are as morbidly hypnotic as they are inevitable and compelling. Jones sprinkles clues throughout his narrative that point toward an apocalyptic climax. And you can literally feel the tension building as we inevitably head toward that climax, until . . . BAM! The story leaves you floundering.


And not in a good way.


As I mentioned above, 99.5 % of the story is a 5-star blitz of excellence. A blitz that suddenly fizzles to a puff of elusive smoke in the last pages that – how can I say this – takes all the wind out of your sails, and all the pzazz out of the fabric of the story.

In fact, I had to re-read the last chapter in its entirety three times. Yes, THREE times, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something vital in my haste to witness the grand finale.


You’ll see what I mean if you read this story for yourself.

All that work. All that depth and creativity. All those breadcrumbs and slow, pressure cooker buildup for . . . THAT? There was certainly nothing grand about it. And as for a finale? I’m sorry, I’m still waiting.


I note with interest how many other reviewers thought the book was brilliant. And to be fair, it is. Except for the ending, which I felt was a horror story in itself. A shame, as this could easily been one of the best books I’ve read and reviewed in a long time.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

 Take a Stab at My Review Of. . .

The Pendragon Protocol

Whenever I have a spare half hour, I like to scour the bookshelves of various sites on the lookout for something a little bit different. I read a great deal. So, anything that comes across as unconventional is always welcome.
And speaking of unconventional, take a gander at this little blurb regarding The Pendragon Protocol by Phillip Purser-Hallard


The Circle are the modern-day successors of the Knights of the Round Table. Armed with the latest military hardware and operating from a hidden fortress on the South Bank, they protect 21st-century Britain from certain very specific threats - criminals who, like the Circle's own Knights, have characters from Arthurian legend living inside their heads. Jory Taylor, the Knight bearing the device of Sir Gawain, has grappled on the Circle's behalf with mercenaries, serial killers and far-right terrorist cells. However, when he is captured by Gawain's traditional enemy the Green Knight, he discovers a new side to the myths he lives by - one which, as he learns more about this clandestine world, becomes both threateningly personal and terrifyingly political. The legends of King Arthur are not the only stories with influence on the British psyche - and some of the others have their own, very different agendas. A smart, contemporary political thriller and a new kind of urban fantasy, The Pendragon Protocol is the first volume in The Devices Trilogy.


How about that for a quirky twist on the usual fantasy fare?

And it’s a great concept. Building on the principle that focused belief gives certain concepts, certain totems or ideas, the power to actually manifest in the present. In this case, the mythos surrounding King Arthur and his knights.
And it’s cleverly done. This isn’t a case of a bunch of guys and girls getting ‘zapped’ by a mystical crystal, or drinking a magical elixir to get supernatural abilities. Oh no. This story is much more believable, and centers on the psychosomatic. The way the subconscious mind perceives things – and can use them as a focus/mantra – to manifest certain talents in a physical way. (Think of athletes before they run, jump, lift or throw things you and I can only marvel at). And then weave that into a fantasy setting. In this case, the skills and characteristics attributed to Knights of the Round Table.

Clever eh?

I certainly thought so, especially as the storyline itself is also made all the more credible by an unusual ‘narrator’ style delivery. And it works. The exploits and events portrayed within the book are as down to earth as they are relatable. You form a connection to the main character and those around him that helps to involve you in what’s going on. Add to that the twists and turns of a nice little espionage-thriller, and you get a great action adventure that’s bound to please.

The Pendragon Protocol. The first book in the Devices Trilogy. A series I think I’ll delve into a little more as time goes by. I’d recommend you get to know it too.