Sunday, 30 October 2016

Book Review - Two Minds - Matt Shaw & Sam West



I received an ARC Copy of this book from the authors.

Right, so I'm well versed in the work of Matt Shaw, although Sam West is an author I'm aware of, I have never read. So when a trademark black cover book gets announced by Shaw, I'm usually in an expectant frame of mind as what to expect, only this was different, or so I thought.

The book starts off very unassumingly as two strangers - Sally and Jack meet in a bar. Their conversation moves along tentatively with the characters being written in first person perspective by each author. West takes on the roll of Sally while Shaw takes Jack. The whole story is written with each author taking on a small section story and sending it backwards and forwards to the other.

As the story starts, you find yourself asking where is this going? The conversation between our two characters starts off innocently enough, you find it almost as if the authors are teasing the reader with what is going to happen, maybe they were finding their own way. As the story begins to unfold, we begin to learn of the deep flaws within both of these characters. Both of these people are looking for something, yet neither author is willing to give the game away... Yet. The whole opening scene is a deliciously woven thread of tension.

So after the initial scene, the book moves on to somewhere much more sinister. This is where the extreme nature of these guys really begins to pan out. People who have read the Peter Chronicles by Shaw may be familiar with the type of relationship that develops between the two. The style of writing between both authors works extremely well and both compliment the other.

About half way through, the book really takes a nastier turn as scenes are introduced which may leave you wincing and quite possible retching. Consider yourself warned, this is not for the faint-hearted or for anyone that doesn't like their horror realistic, and splattered with sex and violence.

Its difficult to sum this up because I don't want to give any spoilers. You find it difficult to sympathise with either of the characters as you are thrown into a zig-zag of emotions as you think you are getting to grips with them, and then a massive curve ball is thrown in for good measure. Just when you think its gone about as far as it can go, something else happens and it goes even further. That being said, Its not gore porn, there is a solid story line - albeit dark and very twisted, its there.

I have to give a warning, within a fairly short book, these guys have created a story that is likely to get under your skin and remain with you for a while. The characters are basically vile - the worst type of people imaginable, and they are totally unashamed. If horror at the most extreme end of the spectrum is your thing, go check this out. It may even shock the most hardened of reader. If you're not, I would steer well clear. This one is likely to make you cry.

My rating - a very sick and twisted 5/5

Book review - Amy - Stuart Keane



Stuart Keane's latest release - Amy is the third book in the chronicles of Amy and the sequel to his earlier novella - Charlotte. I received an ARC of the novel.

I was interested to see how the final book in the trilogy would shape up after following the story of a young girl and her sadistic imaginary friend. The original book, Charlotte was a suspenseful and violent piece of brooding, dark fiction. The prequel to Charlotte - Awakening, for most part was a powerful, gut wrenching biopsy of a young child growing up suffering abuse at the hand of the one person that she should have been able to trust; a story that will stay with the reader for a long, long time and the background to the creation of Amy Brunswick's imaginary friend.

So..

This brings us to the latest piece - simply titled Amy. November, 2021 - We return to Lake Whisper. Amy Brunswick, now eighteen years old has been contained within Whispers Ward for the last eight years, since the unexplained massacre in her family home all those years ago. During her incarceration within the facility, Amy has been using the time to reflect upon her experience, Keeping herself to herself and the inner beast that is Charlotte remaining dormant. That is until the opening scene which sees Dr Stone sanctioning her release under questionable circumstances.

The book doesn't hang around, it gets straight into the action from the offset, immediately encompassing Amy Brunswick into a shroud of mystery and suspicion. The next few chapters were probably my favourite part of the book where we see an unexpected swerve into the unknown, as characters and plot are introduced that could be  reminiscent of a modern day version of Evil Dead. These are scenes that are dark, visceral and Keane in his element, offering the reader first class thrills. There is one character in particular who I won't name, who becomes absolute evil personified - you'll know exactly who I mean when you read it.

So, back to the main plot where we see Amy Brunswick going in search of her mother - Patricia Price. A woman who since abandoning her daughter in Whispers Ward nearly eight years ago has moved on to a new marriage and family life with her husband, Walter and her two boys Ethan and Corey. Patricia has feared that the day of her daughters release, knowing full well that she will be spending the rest of her life constantly looking over her shoulder. This love / hate relationship forms the main catalyst for the latter part of the book as we see the depths that a woman will go to protect her family against her eldest child.

I can't really give much more than that without some major spoilers, so I will leave it there. Throughout this book you will find yourself asking the question - Is Amy Brunswick a bad person? Is Charlotte in control of Amy or is Amy in charge of Charlotte? Does Charlotte even exist or is she a scapegoat of Amy's darker side of nature? Where reasoning is provided, you may find yourself feeling empathy for the character yet.. not.

That, I believe is what makes this book so good. Although the pieces are all slotted into place and the boxes are ticked, you are left with lingering questions and afterthoughts. Just as I thought I had the end sussed, Keane throws in another little twist that left me way off mark. Touche.

In summary, a wild and thoroughly horrifically entertaining read. A fantastic stand alone book, but the final piece in an amazingly powerful trilogy.Think The Exorcist meets Evil Dead meets Cape Fear and you may be somewhere near the mark. There are a fantastic new breed of horror authors currently emerging from the UK and Keane is at the forefront of that crowd. This book is testament to his amazing talent.

My rating - 5/5

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Book review - Flies - Andrew Lennon



For Andrew Lennon's latest offering, he gives us Flies - A short story. I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

Justin is a young man, a very wealthy and spoilt young man. He's not really a very likable person. He's a bit lazy, but that's okay because his daddy owns the company that he works for, which gives him the right to be work shy. He's one of those - to hear him talk, he's always swamped under with work; there simply aren't enough hours in the day. Justin is used to getting his own way in more than one sense of the word. He is a man with seriously questionable integrity, believing that people can be bought and sold as a commodity.

One day whilst at work, Justin takes enormous advantage of a fly in his office and calls his father with the impression that the place has a serious infestation and that he has called in a fumigation team. The result; an afternoon off work. He gets himself off down to The Pony Dive, a local gentleman only club, where he instigates a business transaction with his favourite stripper - Cherry.

With a date lined up, Justin departs to set up his upcoming party with recreational pharmaceuticals. As the afternoon progresses, those pesky flies seem to be getting everywhere.

So, what did I think of it? I thought it was a top notch story. With it being a short, I can't really give the game away too much. It flows along nicely at a steady pace giving a decent amount of character development, especially in the case of our friend, Justin. I really felt like I wanted to slap him around the face at moments. You're not entirely sure where the story is going to be headed, you have an idea of what the story involves - hence the title, but that's really about it. Like with most writers, I can see the maturity of Lennon's writing and story telling ability over time. This flows seamlessly, he obviously had a great time whilst writing.  An almost tongue-in-cheek, comedic great time.

It is a creepy little number and will most likely make you start scratching, fully intended. It really strikes me as the type of story that would have fitted perfectly in place in Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone. The cover image is actually a really good representation for the feel of the pulpy style of tale contained within. If I had one gripe, it would be that the ending, albeit totally unexpected just seemed to be a little abrupt. I think it could have been strung out just a little further to really strengthen that creepy undertone that's carried throughout so well.

In addition, there is a great short Sci-Fi horror short from Michael Bray and a creepy little number from Shaun Hupp that really sits well with the main title. The third bonus story from Norman Turrell isn't what I would traditionally class as horror, but its worth a read.

All in, a very solid 4/5.