21 January 2013

Review: Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

Ashen Winter is the second book in the dystopian series Ashfall by Mike Mullen. The series is set after a super volcanic eruption at Yellowstone plunges the United States into chaos and follows teenager Alex Halprin as he tries to find his girlfriend, Darla, who has been kidnapped by a cannibalistic gang, and his parents, in the dangerous post-eruption world. I have to admit I haven't read the first book, Ashfall, but was surprised how easy it was to get into this as a stand-alone story. There were a few references to the events in Ashfall but they were written in a way which meant those who hadn't read the first novel could flow the story easily.

Ashen Winter is the best book I've read in a long time, I literally could not put it down. The book flows brilliantly  with just the right pace to both cover the details and move the story along. There are some fantastic moments of suspense, such as when Alex becomes trapped in a cannibals garage. Alongside some very poignant emotional moments - where you really feel for Alex and his companions - there were a few tears shed whilst reading it. One of the great aspects of Ashen Winter is the excellent characterization, each character is fully fleshed out, believable and with their own take on the situation. The plot was utterly realistic,  there were no miracle recoveries from injuries or lucky breaks, and I was really pulled into the story. The ending was satisfying and wrapped up the story nicely, whilst leading onto the third, as yet unpublished book.

Overall, a fantastic book for fans of dystopian fiction, and one which I think would also do well as a young adult read. It doesn't matter if you have not read the first novel, it makes a good stand-alone story, although I've already ordered a copy of the first book and will be keeping my eyes peeled for the third due 2014.

A Kindle version is available from Amazon for £7.43.

[A ARC was provided by NetGalley]

16 January 2013

Giveaway: Chief Inspector Jewel Friedman by Jan Jacob Mekes

I've got a fantastic giveaway for you today. Jan Jacob Mekes is an up- and-coming self-published author from the Netherlands. He has recently released a collection of five intriguing and bizarre murder mysteries following Chief Inspector Jewel Friedman, a young Scotland Yard detective. In "The Magic Bullet", Jewel solves a locked-room murder mystery. In another story, she finds that even on a holiday in Hawaii, she can't get away from work, and in "Skewered at the Shard", Jewel is confronted with a burglary gone horribly wrong. 

Interested? Well Jan Jacob Mekes is very kindly offering three lucky readers a chance to get their hands on a copy completely free - just by entering this giveaway!

To be in with a chance of winning just do one or more of the things on the Rafflecopter widget  Entries close on 13th of February when the three lucky winners will be announced.

Can't wait? Unlucky this time? You can purchase Chief Inspector Jewel Friedman from Amazon for Kindle or for all other devices at Smashwords

a Rafflecopter giveaway

14 January 2013

Review: Two Evils by PJ Tracy

I'm a big fan of the Monkeewrench series by PJ Tracy and Monkeewrench #6 - Two Evils (or Off the Grid for US readers) is the latest installment. We find Grace relaxed for the first time in a long time, wearing a dress and enjoying the high seas with ex-FBI agent John Smith. However their peaceful existence is shattered when two men board their boat late on night and try to kill John. We later find out that John has been monitoring the internet for terrorist groups and accidentally stumbled upon a Halloween terror plot.

A big part of the Monkeewrench series is the suspense in each book, and whilst Two Evils has some great moments of suspense, there isn't that same build up of tension that you find particularly in the first few books. That being said, the book was well written and the moments of suspense that were present had me on the edge of my seat. The plot was very good, with enough complexity to keep me guessing, though the final 'encounter' was a bit anti-climatic with very little action. I especially liked the sub-plot between Grace and Magozzi, and am looking forward to it being explored more in the next novel.

Overall a good solid, enjoyable read which will appeal to both fans of the series and new readers. Two Evils will be available as a Kindle e-book in the UK on January 17th.

[A review copy was provided by Penguin Books]

7 January 2013

Review: The Frozen Shroud by Martin Edwards

The Frozen Shroud is Martin Edward's latest offering from the Lake District Mysteries series, a series I've been meaning to read for quite a while. The Frozen Shroud is based around two historical murders in the remote fictional Lakeland village of Ravenback, and the events when a third murder happens mirroring the first two.

The novel is well written, with little touches, such as referring to a non-Cumbrian as an incommer, making it very realistic in its setting; a fact that I'm sure will please lovers of the Lake District, as too few books are true to this setting. The pace however is too slow for my liking with the action not really getting going until 40% into the book. There are also a few too many long conversations between characters that add little to the plot, which is a particular bug bear of mine. The main characters are well written, but the extended cast of characters - particularly in the first half of the book, can make following what is going on difficult. The large number of characters comes in very useful in the last section of the book, providing many possible suspects and motives to the killings. The twist at the end is superb  the killer being someone you would never have suspected.

Overall, a 'soap-opera' style mystery that is well written and which kept me guessing till the end.

The Frozen Shroud is released on April 2nd and will be available in dead-tree format from Amazon for £8.33. Currently there is no information on an e-book release, however as Kindle versions of several other books in the series are available I've no doubt one will be available after release.

[An ARC was provided by NetGalley]

1 January 2013

Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

The Uninvited is a dystopian novel set in the present day, where children start behaving oddly and attacking adults close to them. From a few isolated incidents, modern society soon reaches breaking point and a new equilibrium is reached.

The underlying message of The Uninvited - that our current society and population growth is unsustainable - is an interesting one, and is explored in a novel way. However, I felt the idea was not delved into as much it could have been, and I, as a fan of dystopian fiction, was left wanting more. The start is absorbing but slow, with the rest of the novel feeling rushed which leads to very little attention being paid to the issues arising from the collapse of society. Instead the book jumps forward to a unsatisfying ending. 

The novel itself is easy to read, with the characters, particularly Hesketh, making an emotional connection with the reader. The inner monologue from Hesketh, was particularly interesting in its portrayal of someone with Aspergers, and this aspect of his charactersation was particularly well done. The logical approach of Hesketh makes it easier to take in some of the more far-fetched aspects of the plot. 

I enjoyed the book on the whole, and finished it in a few hours; the intrigue surrounding the source of the 'pandemic' carrying me onwards. The eventual explanation is somewhat unexpected although not all together convincing, which the author alludes to with a line "Let string theory work that out". One niggle with the ARC version was extremely poor formatting, with many missing letters and several misspellings  This made reading it on my Kindle frustrating, and hopefully the retail version is better. 

Overall the premise is a good one, with an intriguing take on the issue of overpopulation, however the author fails to take full advantage, and as such the novel is merely a good read - rather than something more outstanding or thought provoking. 

The Uninvited is available from Amazon as an e-book for £7.40 or as a paperback for £5.99. 

[An ARC was provided by NetGalley]

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