10/10 Jared does not have friends.
Because friends are a function of feelings.
Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.
But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.
Soon his feelings will send him fleeing across the country, pursued by a man who wants to destroy him and driven by an illogical desire to share pathogens with the woman who bamboozles him the most.
And Jared cannot!
Because feelings will ruin your life, especially if you aren’t supposed to have them…
, as soSimon Stephenson is a Scottish writer based in Los Angeles. He previously worked as an NHS doctor, most recently in paediatrics in London. His first book, LET NOT THE WAVES OF THE SEA (John Murrays, 2011), was a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It was serialised as ‘Book of the Week’ on BBC Radio 4 and won ‘Best First Book’ at the Scottish Book Awards.Simon moved to the US followed the success of his spec screenplayTo say that there has been hype about this book would be an understatement - It's always a positive sign when a film deal is signed in advance of the book being published - but when the film deal is with Edgar Wright - director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Baby Driver, it's hard not to be too excited about reading it! So my hopes were certainly high when I began reading and, I am very glad to say - I was not disappointed.
This is an odd book - there's no way around that. Told completely from the perspective of Jared (a robot dentist), it's part road trip and part bildungsroman, and combines prose with film scripts that set the tale well for the reader. The author's work as a screen writer is in clear effect here, and his love for film shines through - working wonderfully well and serving as far more than a gimmick - in parts they evoke the passage of time or the changing of emotion far more clearly than standard prose may do.
Emotions are, of course, a big part of the plot - as Jared learns about the things he is feeling, and realises he may be far more than he first thought - aided hugely by Dr Glundenstein's feelings wheel.
The combination of "fish out of water" tale and innocent hero in Jared makes for a beautiful read - absolutely funny but also extremely moving in parts. Stephenson does not take the emotions and feelings of his characters lightly - they're treated with great sensitivity and depth. In fact, there are some parallels to Jared and to those on the autistic spectrum which, as someone who has worked in the special needs field, I found utterly fascinating - and yet I was also reminded of classic films like ET and Short Circuit in the company of Jared - it's a brilliant combination and one that is both a great piece of science fiction, and just a fantastic book full stop, that will take you on a tour of places, emotions, and understanding.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Midas PR for that, and I heartily recommend this read!
The Bericean army was in Malabrim for the ninth straight fighting season. Over the past 9 years, Zybaro, the leader of a small band of unknowns, had evolved from his days as a minor usurper of a tiny kingdom. Now, almost the entire country of Malabrim was under Zybaro’s control, and his army was large enough to easily challenge Bericea’s army. Still, Bericea continued its raids into Malabrim, hoping to stem Zybaro’s methodical progress and thwart his tyrannical methods of control. Zybaro had seized village after village, forcing anyone capable of joining his army and enslaving all who remained in deplorable working conditions to supply his troops.
The latest conflict with Zybaro had pushed General Darnon to a decision, one he had resisted making for over a year. Though he still held grave reservations about the Prophecies, he was willing to support the clerics who would attempt the summoning. The details of the ritual had recently been discovered in an ancient tome. The clerics were confident they could bring forth the Summoned Ones of Prophecy, those mysterious beings who would aid Bericea in its time of greatest need.
Darnon also had concerns about the location of the summoning. It would have to take place deeper into Malabrim than they had ventured in many years. And even if the ritual was effective, it would be a great challenge to get the Summoned Ones safely back to Bericea, along with the soldiers sent to protect them. However, Darnon felt that morale was so low, if they survived this battle, he owed his troops the hope the summoning ritual could bring.
Join the soldiers of Bericea and the Summoned Ones through a life-or-death struggle. The Summoned Ones are a college-aged group of friends from a small Kentucky town near the Daniel Boone National Forest who find themselves somehow brought to a chaotic world through magic. Their epic journey will push the Summoned Ones beyond the limits of their endurance. This unlikely group will discover many truths about themselves and experience another world beyond their imagination.
Darryl A. Woods grew up in rural Ohio, and has a huge amount of rural tales from his youth and adulthood that have compelled him into becoming a storyteller. A degree in Systems Analysis led to a day job designing databases, which, when combined with a side business transforming houses with his wife, and evenings and weekends spent woodworking in the family business with his father-in-law, have given Daryl a huge amount of varied experiences - and as a huge fan of writers such as Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks and Brian Jacques, fantasy seemed the natural place for Darryl to write this novel - although it skillfully blends many real world elements alongside the more fantastical.
I'm a huge fantasy fan too - I came to it fairly late, but absolutely love the way elements of myth and magic can be combined with stories of humanity and emotion in order to create compelling stories that genuinely transport the reader to another world. That is quite literally what happens in "The Summoned Ones", as a group of friends from rural America are transported into a lengthy conflict, far away from everything they have known before. "The Summoned Ones" contains many elements of fantasy I love - characters from 'our world' to serve as viewpoints for the reader, a clever system of magic that has clearly been thought out in great detail, and maps! I love a map, and Woods has clearly pictured his world in great detail - helping the reader see exactly what he is intending us to see, and pulling us into the world that be easier.
Woods is a skilful writer, and ensures that he combines world building with action well - the plot flows, and it's easy to keep turning the pages without noticing how the time passes. In terms of characterisation - there are a lot of characters for the reader to get to grips with initially, which could prove confusing, but Woods allows the reader to get to know them all well - although several I imagine are going to have significant developments in upcoming books in this series!
My one issue was in the fact that sometimes plot could slow down slightly when something specific was being explained to the reader - in some cases it felt like the reader could have learned about various aspects throughout the story, as opposed to multiple sections that feel like they're full of expository text. However, this is the first book in a series, and world building is necessary and expected, so it certainly didn't put me off - and will allow future volumes in this series to find their own pace away from the need to explain everything in detail.
All in all - this is a cracking read - a strong fantasy debut and one that combines a range of fantasy ideas to create a world that feels real and compelling to read about. I look forward to further books in the series, and thank both Darryl A. Woods and Emma Welton of Damppebbles for the copy.
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/31HTPbr
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Z1mLsY
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summoned-ones-darryl-
Published in paperback and digital formats by Bresford Ridge Publishing on 29 th February 2020
Twenty-seven bodies, vacuum-packed, buried in a woodland trench. Some have been there for years, some for just days.
When DI Brendan Foley recognises one of the Warrington 27, he knows this case is about to shake his world.
Detective Sergeant Iona Madison is a skilled boxer and a vital support for Foley. Theirs is a newly established police force, and loyalties are about to be tested to the extreme.
Pressure mounts as news of the mass grave is plastered over the news. Brendan knows they can’t crack this case alone, but he’s not letting a rival force take over.
Their investigations lead them into the murky underworlds of Manchester and Liverpool, where one more murder means little to drug-dealing gangs, desperate to control their power bases.
But as Madison steps into the ring for the fight of her life, the criminals come to them. It’s no coincidence that the corpses have been buried in Foley’s hometown. The question is, why?
Rob Parker lives in a village near Manchester, UK. A married father of three, Rob is also the author of the Ben Bracken books A Wanted Man, Morte Point, The Penny Black, Till Morning Is Nigh and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow. He writes full time, as well as organising and attending various author events across the UK - while boxing regularly for charity.
One of my favourite things is a good, well crafted crime thriller - and despite the amount of them on the shelves of bookshops across the country, ones that truly grip whilst also building character and avoiding cliches are really rather hard to come by. So it was with great delight that I listened to the Audible book of Rob Parker's 'Far from the Tree' - a story that I found myself unable to press pause on, so wrapped up was I in the grim yet real world that Parker has created.
No good crime thriller is without a successful duo at the heart of it - and 'Far from the Tree' is no exception. Brendan Foley and Iona Madison work brilliantly together as foils for the listener, and whilst they do tick some of the crime cliches (troubled backgrounds, skeletons in closets etc.) it doesn't matter here, as the author brings these characters to life with such vivid work that the cliches instead become key aspects of both character and plot, and at no point feel unrealistic. These are real, working policemen who I could see on the job in the real world - and it is absolutely to Parker's credit that no suspension of belief is required at any point.
I won't go into the plot too much - as the twists are frequent, brilliant, and at times rather breathtaking. Suffice it to say, this is a dark, brooding read (as any book that starts with the discovery of 27 corpses is rather likely to be), and plunges the reader deep into the criminal underbelly of the North West, but the author has care to ensure that it is a balanced read also - the violence isn't of the gratuitous kind that often stalks books of this nature, and the deaths are handled with sensitivity and care - with the deceased being handled as people who had lives and backstories rather than just tools for plot development. I've seen this described as suitable for fans of both Ian Rankin and the tv show Line of Duty, and that's exactly how I would pitch it - the world and character building of Rankin combined with the breathtaking twists that Line of Duty is so known for.
I would be remiss not to mention Warren Brown's excellent narration too - Warren Brown is best known for leading roles in shows such as 'Luther' and 'Strike Back', although he's firmly embedded in my head as the evil (and impaled) Andy Holt from Hollyoaks. He's excellent here - being from Warrington his accent is (unsurprisingly!) spot on, and whilst I already rated him as an excellent actor, he excels himself here - spending multiple hours with just one voice can be difficult if the narrator is poor, but Brown is an excellent guide to the dark and shadowy corners of the world that Rob Parker has skilfully created.
Many thanks to Amber at Midas PR for a copy of the Audio Book in exchange for an honest review
Against a backdrop of enigmatic nights scattered with spoken-word poetry in London, Venice, Accra and Paris, Ekuah tries to reconcile her personal journey with the love she struggles with for Dee Emeka, a gifted musician who is both passionate and aloof in his treatment of Ekuah.
After 18 months together, he disappears from her life, confirming her worst fears about the unstable foundation of their relationship. She attempts to graduate university whilst retreating into herself, searching for new validations and preoccupations from heartbreak.
Life marches on and Ekuah finds personal fulfilment in her poetry and community work. But when she must choose between her first love and the promise of a new, unexpected love, in the form of Jay Stanley, can she handle the vulnerability and forgiveness required?
Grappling with her examples of love, Ekuah must forge her own path. With an increasingly successful career, she finds herself travelling around the world. When her rise intersects with Dee's own fame, the two are pushed to reach a final resolution.
Author Maame Blue is a Ghanaian Londoner, podcaster, and author.
A previous life saw the author as a psychotherapist, but now manages projects for Not-for-Profits.
Splitting her time between Melbourne and London (currently in London) the author recently saw a lot of kangaroos. So there’s that.
Narrator Vivienne Acheampong is an actress and accomplished voice artist. Recent appearances have included The Other One, Holby City and Famalam.
Love is hard. Most of us would agree with that - having spent years suffering through endless awkward dates, or wasting time in a relationship you know isn't right but can't bring yourself to break out of. Thankfully these days, things are a lot less painful for me on that front - but they are for Ekuah - the protagonist of Bad Love.
Author Maame Blue writes skilfully - hooking you in as soon as the book is begun, and ensuring that the reader gets to know Ekua swiftly. She's real, flawed and rounded - a perfect companion to spend a few hours with, and one who is wholely believable, leading me to root for her to make the decisions that would be right for her, rather than the ones that would make for good plot twists!
For a book that has a relationship lacking trust and honesty at the centre, it's refreshing to see how honestly Maame Blue writes. There is a rawness and a bluntness to both the writing and to Ekua's character that works fantastically - and the author doesn't hold back when talking about the ups and downs of relationships. Dee and Jay also leap off the page - there is a very three dimensional feel to to 'Bad Love', I imagine due to quite how realistic the characters feel.
Added to that - Ekuah's travels allow the reader or listener to embark on a trip to some wonderful places around the world in her company - which at this point in time is particularly welcome!
I listened to this book on Audible, and was highly impressed by the narration from Vivienne Acheampong too - she fits the voice of Ekuah perfectly for me - and there are wonderful facets in her voice of hope, weariness, and excitement as the story progresses. In addition, she makes Ekuah truly feel like someone who you might know or meet in the street - author and narrator combined have created something truly special that is well worth whiling a few hours away with!
Many thanks to Amber at MidasPR for the opportunity to review this.