Outliers: The Shape of Things to Come (Outliers Saga Primers Book 1)

Book Cover Outliers

It would have been easy to view this as a trailer or an advert, because it was. There was much more to this than a simple advert though. This “book” had a wonderful look and feel. Why did I put bunny ear quotes around the word book? It didn’t feel like a book. It felt like a dossier. A collection of seemingly disparate materials brought together by a subtle thread. I could almost see the papers spread out across my desk. As an old role-playing gamer (I’m both old and played them for a long time) this felt like a particularly intriguing background section of a game. If you’ve ever played Achtung! Cthulhu the layout is similar but the artworks does seem crisper in this. The artwork really begs the reader to buy a paper copy or use a high quality screen to read it on. The different textures on the different letters and documentation worked really well to section things without obvious chapter headings. I liked that as it flowed really well.

This was more than a shiny bauble. For A Fistful Of Diamonds in particular was a particularly enjoyable read. It had vivid characters, a story that made sense and some twists on morality to get my head around. This story added punch and a feeling that it mattered. I really cared by the end of this. I’d have bought this just to read that story.

I finished this taster wanting more, much more. If this group of writers manage to pull together a lot of content at this level as coherently as they did here then it could be something spectacular.

 

 

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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.

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.

 

 

Wolf At The Door by Theresa Derwin

Wolf At The Door by Theresa Derwin

I’ve read a few stories by Theresa Derwin and I have always enjoyed her take on zombies. I’m not sure anybody else would have written a romantic comedy for zombies. I was looking forward to reading this to see what else the author could bring to the table.

I have read too many stories that fail at writing a period story to take anything for granted. This book manages to somehow manage a tone that suggests Victorian to me without resorting to obvious and heavy handed word choices. There was a light touch to the language that made me think the author had an old soul.

If the author had left it there this would have been a solid collection of stories, but she didn’t. There was a time warp between stories that was surprisingly easy to detect just from the author’s voice. Each time period had a completely different sound in my head. I didn’t need to think about the specific words or any titles about when a particular story was set. Everything I needed was there just below the surface.

I really enjoyed this book and will probably come back to it at some point to enjoy the voices.

 

 

Piercing The Vale edited by Adele Wearing

Piercing The Vale

WARNING! THIS REVIEW IS INHERENTLY BIASED AS I AM IN IT.

This was difficult to write. Part of me wanted to scream “LOOK AT ME”, whilst the rest of me was thinking how crap my story sounds compared to those around it. This isn’t about me though. This is about another fine book in the Fox Pocket series. I can’t talk about this series without mentioning the cover art. I love them all and this one may be my favourite one so far. I’ve asked the editor several times if there is any chance of a poster version of all the covers.  Sarah Anne Langton really makes these books stand out.

This book contained some really interesting stories. There were some very different perspectives and a nice variety of length and paces to each story. My personal favourite was by Connected by Alasdair Stuart which was short and punchy. The biggest surprise for me was the poem by Chloe Yates. I had to read it a couple of times to get the rhythm but the emotion was  powerful and serious. Yes I just said Chloe Yates has written something serious. The first time through I was expecting a cock joke at the end. I’m glad there wasn’t as it would have spoiled something quite magical.

Objectively I enjoyed this book and although not my favourite in the series there was nothing that I didn’t enjoy reading. Casting aside objectivity you should buy this book. No really, BUY THIS BOOK. Hopefully I’ve got that out of my system and will not be spamming links every hour.

Fury: A supernatural horror novel by Joan De La Haye

Fury by Joan De La Haye

Fury was a deeply disturbing and at times uncomfortable book to read. The sexual violence that kicks this story in to action was cleverly written to convey how truly nasty it was without needing too much exposition. My warped little mind took all the hooks and made things much more horrific.

Angela had a bad day. A night out with her friends  goes badly wrong when she was lured away by a honeypot working for a criminal gang. What happened to Angela was beyond what anybody should ever have to endure. Something happened at that moment and Angela’s spirit was released to gain revenge on those that had wronged her.

There was an interesting counterpoint in this story. Another victim called Alice experienced her ordeal in a completely different way. Her journey had no less peril and in a different way was just as disturbing. I was left wondering whether her situation was down to her personal desires or whether the Stockholm Syndrome was more of an influence. Either way her life looks set to be tumultuous at best.

I still think Requiem in E# is my favourite story by Joan De La Haye, but this one is clean, snappy and has a nice flow to it.

In An Unknown Country Edited by Adele Wearing

In An Unknown Country

This book is the seventh in the Fox Pockets series of books. These books are smaller than a Kindle and fit nicely in to cargo pockets with room to spare.

This book was had a really unusual feel to me. It felt like a travel log. That is if a dark force gave Bill Bryson glimpses in to places no mortal mind should ever see and twisted the entire universe to fit the cruel and disturbing holiday wishes of an unknowable entity. I don’t think this was a deliberate theme and was all just part of my twisted little mind but it does show how reading this book got inside my thought processes.

I would normally try and pick out a couple of stories that I enjoyed the most in an anthology but I’m not going to. I found that although these stories had very different characters, themes and settings there appeared to be a cohesion and equality amongst the writing quality. There were no obvious peaks and troughs making this a smooth and easy to read book.

This is an ideal book to spend 15-20 minute chunks reading short stories without getting frustrated about having to try and pick up the plot. This was exactly what I needed to get me back in to the habit of reading new books again.

 

Netflix Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

I Don’t usually review films and this is my first Netflix review. I had been looking forward to this for a while. I really enjoyed how gritty Daredevil was and had extremely high hopes for this series. It was not what I expected. I’ve seen many attempts to capture a noir feel on screen fail miserably. Krysten Ritter manages to make everything seem so natural in a way that fit perfectly. It didn’t feel like anybody was forcing a 1930s feel it felt much more like how things should have evolved.

The very best thing about the series is David Tenant as The Purple Man. I was worried that he might come across as a bit too cheesy for the dark feel I was hoping for. I was utterly wrong. It was a masterful performance that added extra layers of darkness I hadn’t expected.  The attention to detail was great. Jessica Jones drinks a lot of whisky throughout the series. I challenge you to count how many different brands she drinks.

Ritter and Tenant were the clear stars but the support cast worked really well. I enjoyed how Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple linked Jessica Jones to Daredevil and how Mike Colter’s Luke Cage was a numb as I’d hoped he’d be.

I watched the final six episodes of this series straight through. I’ve gone back and watched the final episode again and the pivotal moment between Jessica and Kilgrave not only still surprised me but lost none of the impact. It was the kind of ending that I wanted to see. Whether you are a Marvel fan or a crime noir fan this series is a much view. I’m struggling to find anything about it I didn’t like.

Satan’s Sorority by Graham Wynd

Satan's Sorority by Graham Wynd

When I started reading this I thought it was going to be a little too erotica for my tastes. Whilst there are wild lesbian orgies in this book they are there for a reason. It was a refreshing change for me. I have read plenty of horror stories about marginalized outsiders coming together in Greek row to find themselves through each other (this may be a little literal in this story) but usually end up with them becoming popular once people discover their inner beauty. That doesn’t happen here. If  anything Sigma Tau Nu are shunned even more at the end.

For those more learned than me there are plenty of literary and occult references in this story.  Putting a twist on Goethe’s famous character by making it female was interesting and also made the ending more surprising for me.  I enjoyed the ending, even if it was more of a beginning than an ending.

Sometimes when I read a book I find a single line sums it up perfectly. The poets often claimed that death wore a mask, but they never said it wore a sorority pin. Not yet anyway.

How the West Was Written: Glossary by Ron Scheer

How The West Was Written: Glossary

Just in case the title is not clear enough THIS BOOK IS A GLOSSARY OF TERMS. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is what I call a Ronseal title. It does what it says on the tin. There were two questions that I struggle with. Why would any sane person buy a glossary? How on earth do you write a sensible review of a glossary. I hope to answer at least one of those.

This book contains a list of words and phrases. Some were new ways of using existing words and some were the beginning of the etymology for words and phrases. All of the entries in this tome can be found in the vast array of fiction written about this era. I had no idea that some of the phrases I use today had their roots in The Old West. I read this book from start to finish but a more useful and entertaining use for it would be to pick a page at random and read a few entries. This book gives the reader access to so colourful and interesting turns of phrase. I challenge you to use at least one term from this book at work over the next week.

I found this book really interesting. Like a thesaurus it is something to use when you are having trouble expressing yourself and I will certainly be doing so.