Category Archives: review

‘Get 1000 Readers for Your Self-Published Book’ by John Spencer (2018)

Kingdom Collective Publishing | 2018 | Kindle edition | 13 pages


You’ve self-published the book you always wanted to write.

What’s more it has a great cover, a killer blurb and even a couple of reviews (from your friends)…

…but no-one seems to find it, let alone buy it.

It seems an uphill struggle of constant promotion to get any interest.

Why is this?

This short book contains ONE trick that can help ensure you create a self-published book that is loved by its readers.

The author of this book requests that, should one choose to review it, that they don’t reveal the big secret revealed with its scant 13 pages, which is fair enough.

Suffice it to say that this is the sort of book that any prospective self-published author should pick up immediately. It’s a free download from Amazon, and worth every penny.

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‘C Is for Cthulhu’ by Jason Ciarmarella (2014)

C IS FOR CTHULHU by Jason Ciaramella
ComixTribe | 2014 | Kindle edition | 26 pages

C is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Book is a lushly illustrated alphabet book featuring monsters and characters inspired by the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.

The book contains 26 Lovecraft-themed illustrations, featuring Cthulhu, H.P., Hastur, Black Goat, Eldritch, and many more and is the perfect blend of creepy and cuddly, making this a favorite book of Lovecraft fans of all ages.

A tricky one to review, this. After all, it’s just a kids-style picture book, an A-Z of the Cthulhu Mythos, with some of the cutest wee cartoon renderings of some of Lovecraft’s most famous creations.

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‘Writing Horror Fiction’ by Guy N. Smith (1996)

A & C Black Ltd | 1996 | paperback | 116 pages

This writer’s guide looks at the development of horror fiction and explains how to write short stories, graphic novels and horror fiction for children and adults. Beginning with the initial idea the author shows how to build on it, developing characters and plot. There are ideas for selecting and approaching publishers and information about contracts and publication.

This handy writer’s guide was probably perfectly serviceable when it was published but much has become redundant thanks to advances in technology.

Smith treats writing as a serious business, as much as an art form, which is only right and proper. Unfortunately, the business has moved on since 1996… a lot.

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‘World War Hulk’ by Greg Pak (2008)

Marvel | 2008 | Kindle edition | 224 pages

An epic story of anger unbound! Exiled by a group of Marvel “heroes” to the savage alien planet of Sakaar, the Hulk raged, bled and conquered through the pages of last year’s Planet Hulk epic, rising from slave to gladiator to king. Now the Hulk returns to Earth to wreak his terrible vengeance on Iron Man, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt… and anyone else who gets in the way. Stronger than ever, accompanied by his monstrous Warbound gladiator allies, and possessed by the fiercest and purest rage imaginable, the Hulk may just tear this stupid planet in half.

Growing up, I was never a reader of comic books (I know – I’ll hand in my geek card forthwith) but I was always aware of the big players thanks to the various television shows, cartoons, and films in which they appeared. Of course, in 2018, you’d have to have been living under a rock not to know the major names in the Marvel and DC Universes but, even so, I had never read a full run of comics, despite enjoying the antics of their silver screen adaptations.

I recently took out an Amazon Prime subscription and, as part of the benefits I receive, there is a selection of books that I can read for free on my Kindle, amongst which is a range of graphic novels. With the star thus aligned, I figured, why not?

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‘Death, Infection, the Devil… and Jed’ by Howard Carlyle (2018)

Orion Books | 2017 | paperback | 113 pages

Four different stories of horror, all with deadly outcomes.

How would you handle a bullying co-worker? Brian did it perfectly!

What if a deadly virus left you as the last man standing… What would you do?

Would you make a deal with the devil to get everything you wanted… Martin had the chance and took it with horrific consequences.

How far would you go for your favorite dish of homemade soup… Jed went that one step further than normal.

* ‘Enough’ (2017)
* ‘The Wildfire Virus’ (2017)
* ‘Mr. Louis Fable’ (2015)
* ‘Jed’s Homemade Soup’ (2018)

It’s reviews like this that make me feel like a proper heel. After all, here’s a writer who clearly loves what he does, and the genre in which he writes, and has put some care and effort into the production of his first mini-collection of his work and I’m sitting in front of my laptop saying that… well… it’s not very good.

Of the four stories on offer, none of them is particularly original, each treading a well-known horror path, as you can likely infer from the Goodreads blurb posted above.

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‘Hospital Station’ by James White (1962)

Corgi Books | 1962 | paperback | 191 pages

Science fiction with a difference.

Hospital Station does not deal with galaxy wars, or science gone mad. its heroes are not space-men, or technicians.

Hospital Station is the story of a vast galactic hospital – where everyone – and everything in the universe can be treated.

The heroes are doctors and nurses – who have eight legs – or none; who breathe methane – or water. Each patient is a fantastic and challenging problem – getting close to an invalid – whose ‘food’ is radiation. Caring for a baby – who weights half a ton.

Hospital Station.

The incredibly account of a hospital in the sky.

One of the few things more enjoyable than finding a new author (by which I mean, of course, new to me), is finding a new author and discovering that they’re pretty damn good. Even better than that is finding a pretty damn good new author who also has an extensive back catalogue.

James White certainly falls into this category, having released 28 books in his lifetime, of which half belonged to the Sector General series (of which this book, Hospital Station, is but the first instalment). Oh, and since it was part of my original conditions, yes: this book is good… very good.

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‘Brain Freeze’ by Tom Fletcher (2018)

BRAIN FREEZE by Tom Fletcher
Puffin | 2018 | paperback | 113 pages

A little girl discovers that eating ice cream from her grandfather’s old ice-cream truck gives her the power to travel through time, in this brilliant, funny and heartwarming story from bestselling author Tom Fletcher.

This kid’s chapbook was released as part of this year’s World Book Day, and I read it with my five-year old girl.

She loved it, which should be all the recommendation you need, but that doesn’t make for an incisive review now, does it?

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‘Free 5: Flash Fiction’ by Paul D. Dail (2011)

De Los Diablos Books | 2011 | Kindle edition | 28 pages

Five Flash Fiction horror pieces, all under 1000 words.

Each piece also includes a brief afterword from the author with a bit of background on where he got the idea for the story.

A little insight into the life and mind of a horror writer.

* ‘A 250 Word Introduction from the Author’ (2011)
* ‘The Professional Crier’ (2011)
* ‘I Spy with My Little Eye (2011)
* ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’ (2011)
* ‘The Death He Expected’ (2011)
* ‘Another Oldie but Goodie’ (2011)

I love flash fiction. When done well it is the epitome of the storyteller’s art, condensing a story to its bare essentials, delivering the tale with speed and sharpness of a well-aimed ice pick to the temples.

This collection, alas, is not done well.

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‘The Secret Life of My Imaginary Friend’ by Andrew Lennon and Stephen White (2018)

THE SECRET LIFE OF MY IMAGINARY FRIEND by Andrew Lennon and Stephen White
self-published | 2018 | Kindle edition | 19 pages

Officer Norman was only a teenager when his quiet neighbourhood fell victim to a brutal serial killer’s bloody games. Too young to help, but not too young to feel helpless. Now, twenty five years later, as he patrols his beat, he can’t help but wonder about the killer. A killer who is still out there, somewhere. Haunting memories of a case never to be solved… or is it?

White and Lennon bring you this short horror story that is packed with brutal murders in every second breath.

As standalone short stories go, this is one that pleases and frustrates in equal measure.

It’s a standard tale – small-town cop finds himself mulling over a string of murders that took place in his hometown, years before he joined the force. We’re taken along for the ride and expected to spot who among the small number of characters present to us is the likely killer.

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‘Dead Simple’ edited by Harry Bingham (2017)

DEAD SIMPLE edited by Harry Bingham
Orion Books | 2017 | paperback | 113 pages

Dead Simple is a thrilling collection of short stories from some of the best crime writers around. The stories include the perfect murder and an unusual way to solve crimes. From prison cells to cosy living rooms, these dark, chilling tales will grip you with every twist and turn.

This collection includes specially written short crime fiction from Mark Billingham, Clare Mackintosh, James Oswald, Jane Casey, Angela Marsons, Harry Bingham, Antonia Hodgson, and C. L. Taylor.

* ‘Hardscrabble’ by Mark Billingham (2017)
* ‘The Funeral’ by Clare Mackintosh (2017)
* ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ by James Oswald (2017)
* ‘Old Tricks’ by Jane Casey (2017)
* ‘Tell No Lies’ by Angela Marsons (2017)
* ‘The Perfect Murder’ by Harry Bingham (2017)
* ‘The Night Before the Hanging’ by Antonia Hodgson (2017)
* ‘Bird in a Cage’ by C. L. Taylor (2017)

This anthology was released as part of the Quick Reads initiative, something of which I am thoroughly in support. It’s a series of short books aimed at adults who don’t read often, or who find reading a chore, to discover the joy of reading books for pleasure.

How can you not love a mission like that?

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