The Gift Of Joy by Ian Whates

Book Cover The Gift Of Joy by Ian Whates

This book was part of the EdgeLit 2016 goodie bag.I thought it was an interesting choice. I’d heard of Whates but never read one of his books. This was is a collection of unrelated short stories. Whilst all science fiction these stories embodied the wealth of different ways that the genre has provided a diverse variety of settings and ways to tell a story.

Whilst I enjoyed all the stories in this book the most enjoyable bit of the book for me wasn’t in the stories, it was between the stories. No that wasn’t wasn’t me attempting to be clever I actually meant the spaces between the stories. After each story the author talks about the story. Whether it be that he wanted to write something based on that part of London or whether it was a particular type of dystopia that he’d always wanted to try there was something different after each story. This could have been a disaster but wasn’t. Partly from the endearing honesty and passion that comes across but mainly because every time I read the anecdote after a story I knew exactly why Whates had written the story. For me this added a new layer of interaction and feeling of being involved in the story. I loved that and would love to see this done again.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would and only part of that is due to the anecdotes. I’d recommend buying this book just for them but the stories are well worth a read too.

Torn and Frayed by David Cranmer

Torn and Frayed Book Cover

The seventh book in the Drifter Detective series sees Jack Laramie wandering in to yet another new town.  This story felt different from some of the other Drifter books. It felt like Laramie was going to settle down and this was going finish the series with a nice and neat ending. I was wrong. Fans of clean endings may find this one frustrating. I really liked the ending or as some may have thought the lack of one. For me the entire series has been about Laramie never really getting closure for his issues and that was emphasized nicely in this story.

In this story Laramie finds himself embroiled in a long running bitter feud that could not have ended well for anybody. As usual the gains from this adventure are at best minimal and Laramie continues his hand-to-mouth tour of America with redemption still beyond the horizon.

I enjoyed this book but I have to admit that I preferred the bonus story at the end. Missing was a Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles story set in The Old West. I’ve been a fan of these characters for a while and it wasn’t a surprise that I enjoyed it. My one  criticism was that having sat with my thumbs on the triggers I had trouble understanding how anybody could describe the Maxim as a large pistol. For me  it has always been a weapon apart. That said the use of the gun in the story worked really well and was an interesting way to show that time of the gunslinger was at risk from modern weaponry.

Neil Adams MBE: A Game Of Throws

Neil Adams MBE: A Game Of Throw Cover

This book was a first for me. Never before have I heard about a book and basically begged the publisher to let me be one of the first to read it. Like a lot of people I did Judo when I was young. Neil Adams was one of those god like sports stars on the TV. I loved the spirit and power that came through.

I have often been disappointed by biographies. Not because they were not interesting but because there often seemed to be a lack of honesty. Either a white-washed perfect life or a deliberate bad-boy image there just to enhance a reputation. Happily this was not the case here. This book reminded me of a book called Snowboard To Nirvana that I read years ago. Although there was no religious language in this book there was a clear message about learning lessons to reach a better place. What was that place?

It wasn’t necessarily as a world beating Judoka, I  thought there would be more Judo in this book. Don’t leave just yet, hear me out. This book had more to do with Neil Adams as a person than as a Judoka. It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I realized what it was about for me. This book was all about learning, how to play better by being a better person. Then I thought some more and realized it wasn’t actually about Judo players as much as it was about transitioning from one phase to another. In this case from Judoka to coach. The lessons in this book could help a lot of young martial artists but more importantly I think most of us could benefit from taking a step back and looking at where we are, how we got here and how we can improve ourselves and those around us. It was also interesting to hear such an honest portrayal about how family dynamics can affect so much about a person and how they approach their work.

I know that sounded rather like a review for a self-help book, and at times I did think of this book in that way. There was more to it though. There was a passion that effused every page and the section about Chris (no spoilers from me) had me in tears at my desk during a lunch time reading session. Not exactly a cool thing for a middle-aged man but unavoidable when reading something that raw and emotive.

There were a couple of things that were repeated. One of which was in this book at least three times. At first I thought it was lazy writing but then I realized it was a teaching aide. Repetition of an important lesson, not just for the sake of competition but for life in general. It was a simple one too, smile. That’s it. When the brown stuff hits the fan smile and do your best to deal with it.

I loved this book and it took me back to all those great martial arts lessons and why I enjoyed them. Go play was something I heard a lot and sparring with that in mind always resulted in some of the most fun I ever had getting bruised and beaten. Smiling and bowing off the mat before laughing and joking with friends was always my favourite part of martial arts and I still miss that feeling.

Neil Adams – More than a Judoka, Sensai, coach and media personality. A person with all the struggles that entails.

Larry by Adam Millard

Cover Art Larry by Adam Millard

I picked this book up at EdgeLit last week. I’d never heard of the author but he had a stand there selling his wares. There were some books with better looking covers but hearing the author describe the premise behind this story I just had to give it a go. The cover art was perfect for the book. It summed up the splatter elements but more importantly hinted at the humour and rather bizarre nature of this story. I wondered why the author put SQUUUUEEEEEEE on the dedication. You’ll find out as I did pretty soon after you start reading this.

I loved the simplicity of this story. In terms of plot and characters there was nothing that surprised me. The fast-paced easy to read prose made reading this novella a really quick read. There is more to it than that. The sense of humour in this book was brilliant. At times it was subtle but on other occasions it hit you in the face like a blood soaked axe (that was a spoiler). There were quite a few horror references littered throughout this story and at one point near the end it felt like there were so many my brain was going to explode. It didn’t and I enjoyed feeling like I’d found something extra hidden within this deceptive story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and plan to read some more of Millard’s work.

And The Fox Crows by V.C. Linde

Book Cov er And The Fox Crows By V. C. Linde

Stephanie Johnson did an amazing job with this cover. My wife rarely says anything about the books I read but she said wow when she saw this cover. Upside down it kind of looked like lady bits, but that might just have been me projecting.

This book was all about foxes. I liked the way Pan was used to place the foxes within the world. This book challenged me as a reader. The thing that I liked the most was also the thing that made this difficult to read as a whole. These poems because of their origins have a different structure and rhythm. After reading the whole book in one go (it is about fifty pages so not that impressive) I went back and read each poem one at a time. It worked better when I did it that way as  I could focus on that poem rather than the overall flow that I usually look for.

I enjoyed this collection and was disappointed that there were not more poems as I could happily have read more. Foxes for me have always been a sign of wilderness. Even in an urban environment they seem to embody what it is to be out there alone in the wilds. That came across really well in this book.

The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

Book Cover The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

The cover just about summed up this book for me. From the misanthropes to the degenerates there was a theme of self abuse particularly substance abuse. When it comes to Brit Grit and hard-boiled noir I can think of few authors I have enjoyed more than Brazill.

Every character seemed not only real but like somebody I knew and could relate to. The real genius for me was how the author managed this with a cursory description and a killer one liner. I have considered writing down a list of Brazill’s genius quips as his books are worth reading just for those.

I have been used to most of the authors noir being set in his fictional Seatown but the first story starts with some ex-pats (or immigrants as we’d call them over here) on the continent. I found this setting to be an interesting change of pace and something I’d like to read more about. I was however most eager to get back to Seatown.  For me Seatown sounded like Jaywick Sands but in the north east but I’m fairly sure the way these stories were written will mean it sounded like a different town to each reader.

I have deleted about fifteen drafts of this paragraph. It was supposed to be a brief description of the stories. Every time I tried to describe them I made the stories seem rubbish. So much of this book happens inside the readers head that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it justice without rambling. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed it and will be nudging Brazill to ask if there are any more stories set in Spain coming out soon.

Eve of War Edited by Mhairi Simpson and Darren Pulsford

Eve of War Cover Art

This book is yet another anthology from Fox Spirit. This is yet another example of their high quality work. I can’t remember a single typo that stopped the flow of my reading and that is something I really cherish in a book. This was a well structured and coherent tome that just worked. It has a different feel to other books by this publisher. The descriptions of the combat scenes were well thought out and I could see myself stepping through them in a way that I hadn’t felt in this kind of anthology before. It seemed like the authors wanted this book to feel like the movements were real rather than trying to exaggerate or try to create new body dynamics. I am pretty sure more skilled martial artists than me could re-create most of the combat with ease.

About three quarters through this book I was expecting to say that all of these stories are on a level and that there were no glaring dips in quality. That was until I read Lucille by Alec McQuay. That story hit me hard. It was so emotional not just because of the writing but by how it reminded me of my nan. I could easily see my nan’s inherent sense of justice and inability to accept bullying to lead her in to a similar situation. I’m not sure quite how to describe why I liked this story so much other than because of the raw emotion it engendered. I think I need to read that story a couple more times once it has settled in to me brain. The final story in this book was by Chloe Yates and yet again she made me laugh and entertained me. When I die I want Yates to write my epitaph because she is the mistress of one liners.