Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Devil's Footsteps by E. E. Richardson

Author: E. E. Richardson
ISBN # 0-385-73263-5
282 pages

Continuing with the theme of missing children, I picked up a copy of this book which caught my eye in the shop (although I borrowed it from the library) as it looked incredibly sinister - I was right! It's incredibly dark & a gripping read from start to finish.

A local legend - that of The Devil's Footsteps - has been turned into a childish skipping rhyme:

One in fire, two in blood,
Three in storm & four in flood,
Five in anger, six in hate,
Seven in fear & evil eight,
Nine in sorrow, ten in pain,
Eleven death, twelve life again.
Thirteen steps to the Dark Man's door,
Won't be turning back no more.

But what sinister secrets are behind it that's keeping the adults of the town blind to the children that have disappeared over the decades? Why is it that the children know that there's more to be afraid of in the woods - & in other places - than meets the eye?

Why weren't books for kids written like this when I was the age you're supposed to be when you're reading these books? Everything else seems to be watered-down mush by comparison! This is another author of so-called teen-fiction that I will most certainly be keeping an eye on!

Rating: 7/10

The Vanished by Celia Rees

Author: Celia Rees
ISBN # 0 439 98232 4
208 pages

This was originally published as one of the Point Horror series of books for teenagers & has since been republished. Nevertheless, this story remains rather chilling & is incredibly well-written. More raw than Rees' later Witch Child & Sorceress (which, you'll remember, I have already read & loved), but still showing some of her power with words.

It's has some of the usual elements - new kid in town with a dark secret in his past, childen vanishing without a trace left, right & centre, & it's down to the new kid, along with his two new buddies from the school paper (they've been working on the psi files to increase flagging sales) to find out what's been going on & who is the mysterious Billy with whom all the stories seem to originate?

I'm going to have to get hold of all her other books now as that's three out of three so far & that's unusual for me!

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Falling Sideways by Tom Holt

Author: Tom Holt
ISBN # 1-84-149087-3
406 pages

It took what felt like forever to read this hideously tedious book. I'll admit to not exactly being a Tom Holt fan. I want to be, as everyone always says "If you like Pratchett, you'll love Holt", but that simply isn't so - I adore Pratchett but so far I've only been able to find one book by Tom Holt that I even remotely came close to enjoying & it wasn't this book, it was Snow White & the Seven Samurai.

Falling Sideways is a confusing jumble of nonsense, barely strung together, to form an incomprehensible hash-job of a book. I hated it. I couldn't see any point to the story at all. I mean, I know it's supposed to be in the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't make any kind of sense at all!

So, yes, I hated this book & I severely regret that I will never gain back the time I wasted in reading it.

Mr Holt, I don't suppose you'll ever see this, but I won't be bothering with any of your books again as I'm always disappointed by them. I'm sorry, but there it is - I just can't see the point in getting into overly complicated plots which go nowhere, characters I just can't bring myself to care about, & confusion just for the sake of it.

In fact, the only positive thing about reading this particular offering is that I've now found something that strips the Kim Harrison debacle of its "Worst & Most Dull read Ever" title. Mr Holt, you've made that experience seem like a dream by comparison. Thank you. It's been dire.

Never again!

Rating: 1/10

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Memory of Demons by David Ambrose

Author: David Ambrose
ISBN # 0-7432-3070-1
304 pages

Take a dash of Coincidence & a pinch of Superstition & what you come up with is A Memory of Demons.

I'm not saying the book wasn't good, I'm just saying Ambrose already covered ghosts & self-created synchronicity, all he added here was a little reincarnation & revenge for good measure. Suspensful - check; moody - check; dark - check: He got all the right ingredients, but the recipe just wasn't quite as tasty as his previous offerings. Still, I've not been put off - I'll still keep my eyes peeled for any other titles & see what they have to offer.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, August 22, 2005

Coincidence by David Ambrose

Author: David Ambrose
ISBN # 0-7432-0690-8
290 pages

Isn't it always the small, insignificant, seemingly inconsequential things that lead to the bigger picture? Well, that's what this book does - strings together all the little things to create a whole larger than the sum of its parts. We follow the story of a writer as he decides to the subject of his next book will be coincidence, which sets him down a strange path that may, or may not, be of his own devising. Is he affecting the world around him as he makes his choices? Is it really all just synchronicity? Or is there something, or someone out there making all the moves for him?

It could be seen as slightly coincidental that I even read this book, as it was only because I enjoyed Superstition so much that I purposely looked for another by the same author & this was the 1st of the two I picked up (I've just started Memory of Demons now) & I certainly wasn't disappointed. Slightly harsher in feel than Superstition, slightly edgier & faster-paced (& with good reason, as it's only half as many pages, so Ambrose had a lot to squeeze in there!), this one sped past; my eyes moving down the page quick as lightening. I actually managed to sit down & read this one in just a couple of hours.

If Demons is half as good as these two have been, I'll be a very happy bunny!

Rating: 9/10

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce

Author: Graham Joyce
ISBN # 0312868332
342 pages

In a word; bizarre. A nightmarish tale of innocence corrupted, minds infiltrated & lives turned up-side-down as childhood gives way to adulthood.

To tell the truth, I'm not altogether sure I understood the point of the story, but I can't say that made any difference in my enjoyment of the tale which is fiendishly well-told.

If anyone ever thought the Tooth Fairy was nice, they should read this book - it will give them an entirely new view on the subject!

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Blast from the Past by Ben Elton

Author: Ben Elton
ISBN # 0552146641
368 pages

Whenever I know I'm not going to have much reading time, I like to nip back to an older favourite, most often one I've read many times. On this occasion I was actually looking for my copy of Past Mortem, but I found Blast from the Past first & decided to re-read it instead. I wasn't disappointed.

All those little plot twists I'd forgotten were recognised & welcomed like old friends as they approached & I'll admit I found myself grinning from ear to ear every time I picked up the book to continue, as I knew, from experience, exactly what was coming next.

This is actually the first book I read by Ben Elton & it still manages to hold up against some of his later, more polished offerings; the sparkling wit & punchy plot are there, all set out with a simplicity that is perfection. I still honestly believe that this is one of his best novels to date.

Even if it weren't, it served as a reminder of how clever Mr Elton can be when he puts his mind to it & makes up for me being bored to tears throughout High Society last week!

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Superstition by David Ambrose

Author: David Ambrose
ISBN # 0330367447
419 pages

In a word: Gripping. Want another one? How about intriguing? Or engrossing? An absolutely absorbing page-turner. Altogether un-put-downable.

To start with, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this book, despite it being on a subject which has most often provided me with hours of reading pleasure - the supernatural & the power of the mind. A group of eight volunteers agree to take part in a scientific experiment to create a ghost with spectacular results. Then things take an unexpected turn, leaving the group in a most unusual position as the thing they have created decides it has a mind - and a life - of its own.

I'd never even heard of this author before picking this book up by chance in the library, but Mr. Ambrose has made quite an impression on me & I shall be looking out for more of his work on my next visit.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

High Society by Ben Elton

Author: Ben Elton
ISBN # 059304939X
346 pages

I've never thought much of Mr Elton as a stand up comedian, but I love his work as a writer (both script-wise & novels). Unfortunately, this particular offering was rather a let down in comparison to his previous literary outings. The interconnected stories of too many people jumped around all over the place & I found I didn't really care about any of them in particular. It wasn't even as funny or clever as his other books - his usually sparkling wit completely buried under the politics, which is a shame, because a lot of what he was trying to say made plenty of sense.

It's not one I'd recommend - more on the heavy side than the others (I know it's a heavy subject matter, but then, so was global warming & environmental disaster & that was handled incredibly well in This Other Eden.

If you want his sarcasm at its very best, read either Past Mortem or Dead Famous - absolute gems, both of 'em - but give High Society a miss.

Rating: 1/10

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Author: William Goldman
ISBN # 0345418263
400 pages

I've been a fan of the movie ever since I first saw it - who wouldn't be? After all, it has everything - Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles. High Adventure - it does everything it says on the tin.

And so does the book.

Like many, I believed the story that the movie was made & shot in the way it was because the writer had been read the book by his father when he was sick as a young boy. Complete with interruptions ("She does not get eaten by the eels at this point..."), it made for a touching & believable tale in itself.

Here's where I got the surprise - the book is actually written that way. It's written supposedly as an abridgment of a lengthier novel, apparently penned by someone by the name of S Morgenstern.

And I completely bought into that.

Then I got a little suspicious, as I was fairly sure that there was no such real location as Florin - that both it & Guilder were pre-Euro cash from the Netherlands. I did a little research &, hey presto, it conspires that the whole thing is a myth. But it's a bloody clever one!

The wit & dark humour of Goldman is the thing that strings the whole tale together - his satirical style brings moments of wonderful drama & hilarious comedy completely to life & I found myself completely engrossed in the story. In both stories actually - the story of The Princess Bride, & the story of this wonderful tale being told in stilted English, being lovingly abridged, by a father to entertain his son with "the good bits" while he is sick in bed.

I have completely fallen in love with this book & I can see it being read & re-read over & over in the future.

Rating: 10/10

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling

Author: J K Rowling
ISBN # 0747538484
251 pages

Not bad. Not bad at all. This one picks up where The Philosopher's Stone left off (as if there's anyone on the planet who doesn't already know that!), in the summer holidays between Harry's first & second year at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. All the favourites from the previous book with a few extras thrown in for good measure, most prominently Ginny Weasley (younger sister of Ron & the seemingly millions of other Weasley boys); the ghost haunting the girl's loos, Moaning Myrtle, & the flamboyant new teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts, Gilderoy Lockhart.

My main gripe is that Professor Snape is barely mentioned at all. He was my favourite character in the last story (although, even in that one, was criminally underused) & I only wish he'd featured more heavily in this one, but he hardly graced the pages at all. My greatest wish is that he be given the coveted Dark Arts teaching post he so richly deserves in the sequel (my sister is lending it to me).

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sorceress by Celia Rees

Author: Celia Rees
ISBN # 0747555680
301 pages

Written in a different style to Witch Child (this is the sequel), but no less captivating for it. This picks up Mary's story as seen through the eyes of one of her descendants who also has some of the same gifts as Mary had. We're also given some information on what happened to some of the other characters in Witch Child after Mary left them - shown as the results of research made by a fictional author, Alison Ellman, who is a character in this new story herself.

This really highlights the difference between two cultures - that of the Puritan settlers (accusing Mary of Witchcraft) & the Native Americans (revering her as a healer - a Medicine Woman of great power) - & shows that both had people who were sympathetic to her plight, as well as those who feared her & saw her as an enemy.

I really enjoyed both these books & may well look out for other titles by this author.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

Author: Eoin Colfer
ISBN # 0141381647
343 pages

This is the fourth full-length Artemis Fowl novel (there having been a short story published: The Seventh Dwarf, which fits between the 1st & 2nd books) & although it certainly delivers, it doesn't feel quite as complete as the previous offerings of Artemis, our, now 14-year-old, criminal genius.

It picks up a year after the end of the previous story, The Eternity Code; after all knowledge of The People has been wiped from his memory - or has it? The Fairy Folk are in need of a criminal mastermind, so they must be in trouble! It's Artemis to the rescue - if only he can get his memories back & convince himself that Pixies are real & he's not hallucinating after all!

Very enjoyable, but only if you've read the first three, otherwise this will make absolutely no sense at all, having completely missed out on the backstory provided by the previous adventures of the Irish boy-genius & his Fairy friends.

Rating: 7/10