Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, the Cave and the Footbridge by Robert B. Sloan

Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, the Cave and the Footbridge by Robert B. Sloan

Afraid of being caught by trackers from another world, a young mother abandons her baby boy in a tomato box inside the screened porch of a children’s home. The staff at the orphanage name him Hamelin Stoop, but he grows up longing to learn his real name, find his parents, and thus discover his true identity.

Life is not easy for Hamelin. He belongs to everyone, though in some ways to no one fully. And the people he is closest to leave him one by one. A letter from an older friend advises Hamelin to “keep waiting and keep hoping.” Bitter experiences force Hamelin to wait, but he has to learn how to hope.

When the children’s home forgets his eighth birthday, he sneaks away at night. He soon discovers that he isn’t just running away — he is being summoned by the Ancient One. Guided by the Great Eagle through a mysterious cave, Hamelin must pass a dangerous test of courage before he can find his parents.

Hamelin’s failures, fears, and hopes become part of a larger story, a story of a great struggle between worlds and kingdoms where the old myths of magic, evil contracts, and enslaved children turn out to be real.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book one in the Hamelin Stoop series from Robert B. Sloan is a fantasy novel for a young adult audience. In the last year or so I have tried my hand at reading YA books, and to my surprise, they have been enjoyable while not being too childish. I am also a huge fan of fantasy, more specifically the works of Sir Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. The books that make up the Discworld series are filled with subtle innuendo and adult humour that, while not overt, adds a really entertaining and enjoyable element.
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With these two factors in mind, I wondered how I was going to get along with this book. The last young adult book I read was Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold. It was filled with adventure and thrills, without being overly taxing but equally not treating the reader as a child. Very quickly though, I found the first Hamelin Stoop to be something different.

The book builds towards a main event, a trial if you will, for the lead character. Along the way the lead, Hamelin, has to face a series of events that build his character. Growing up in a children’s home since before he was one, he already had to grow up without parents. Throughout his development, Hamelin encounters loneliness, family, loss, fear and bullying along the way, along with a difficult test that he ultimately fails.

All of these are dealt with in a mature manner, not condescending or trivialised. The emotions he goes through when dealing with his defeat are well developed. You feel his disappointment, his anger and his determination to better himself should he get a chance to make up for his perceived failure. The book culminates in Hamelin looking to redress the balance and conquer the trial. Slightly infuriatingly, the book ends here, luring the reader on to book two in the hopes of finding out how successful he is. Hamelin Stoop is slightly darker than I had anticipated for a YA book, though not dark in the usual sense. It is very grown up while easily accessible and an all-round enjoyable read.

My rating:
goodread

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Friday Face-Off – 20th October 2017

Friday Face-Off – 20th October 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring an umbrella: “The umbrella won’t stop the rain, but it will help you to get out during rainfall.”

I’ve gone for another book from one of my favourite authors that I have yet to read: Mr Mercedes by Stephen King.

Cover A:

umbrella1

Cover B:

umbrella2

Cover C:

umbrella3

Cover D:

umbrella4

Cover E:

umbrella5

And the winner is… COVER A!

Simple and effective in my opinion. The cold blue of the umbrella combined with the vivid red of the bloody rain is ominous and dark. Covers B and D get honourable mentions this time round, running cover A pretty close to the line!

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

I have managed to run out of themes right now, so unless I come up with something new, I will look at some of last years’ themes to reuse – with all-new covers of course!

Friday Face-Off – 13th October 2017

Friday Face-Off – 13th October 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a windmill: “The tall white windmills that came to her mind. How their skinny long arms all turned, but never together, except for just once in a while two of them would be turning the same way, their arms poised at the same place in the sky.”

This week I am going with Dean Koontz’s Cold Fire.

Cover A:

windmill1

Cover B:

windmill2

Cover C:

windmill3

Cover D:

windmill4

Cover E:

windmill5

And the winner is… COVER C!

I found this cover to be pretty atmospheric. The dark windmill off to one side, and the red sky with birds flying across the foreground make for an interesting image.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring an umbrella: “The umbrella won’t stop the rain, but it will help you to get out during rainfall.”

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

A perfect world, at any price.

Miller Frank’s Utopian ideal is not such a good thing for Jimmy Renfro. Charged with fraud, he now works the tube, an atmosphere breaking conduit for the wealthy to travel to the Ouroboros space station, Imago. Within the mysterious station, their personalities are uploaded to robotic shells known as Zeroes.

When Jimmy comes into possession of a briefcase full of data tabs containing the profiles of several influential personalities, it begins a deadly game that may result in his end. Pursued by government and corporate assassins, with not just his own life at stake, but that of humanity, can Jimmy discover the truth about the tabs before he is caught?

Gravity’s Truth is a fast-paced Cyberpunk thriller by the author of Frame and Future’s Orphans.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have been lucky enough to read through the first draft for the third books set in A.K. Alliss’ Ouroboros world hot off of the press. It follows along from the world created in Frame and Future’s Orphans, following the collapse of social structure around the world. The book starts with Miller Frank, a man with an ideal. That ideal is to create a Utopia from Dystopia.
Gravity Truth prisma
Unfortunately for some, Jimmy Renfro included, Utopia doesn’t look all too different to the hard slog the world is trying to break free of. A chance encounter gives Jimmy an opportunity to turn his fortunes around, returning himself to a position in life that he once held. Things never are quite so easy though, as apparently unknown forces seem to stop at nothing to regain possession of the briefcase Jimmy finds himself carrying. The case that could be a return to fortunes, could also see the end of his life.

Once again, Alliss has cleverly and expertly crafted a vivid world. The characters are also well defined so the reader feels a connection to them. As I read through the book, I found myself flip-flopping the way I felt about characters with each new revelation as to their back stories and future intentions. The story is well paced and at no point feels laboured or dull.

When thinking back about the preceding pair of books, Gravity’s Truth is a very different vibe to it. Firstly, this time around Alliss really goes to town playing with the science-fiction elements. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Frame and Future’s Orphans always flirted with science-fiction but it definitely plays a much bigger role this time out. This time around, the book feels different as well. The predecessors had a big feeling of loss. There was nothing to fight for, to strive for and aim at. The world was irrevocably changed for the worse, and there is nothing that can be done. But with Gravity’s Truth there is a sense of hope. Frank has hope to make a better world. Renfro also felt hopeful of turning his fortunes around, and building a better life for himself.

Once again, it is clear A.K. Alliss has pushed his writing on another step. He has taken what he has learned from the first two books and used these as his foundation for Gravity’s Truth. It is a fantastic way to expand on the world created, bringing about a new feel to the series. You can find Gravity’s Truth in paperback on Amazon now, and on Kindle from 6th December 2017.

My rating:
goodread

Friday Face-Off – 6th October 2017

Friday Face-Off – 6th October 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a whale: “Stop telling such outlandish tales. Stop turning minnows into whales.”

This week I have gone with a literary classic, Herman Melvilles’ Moby Dick.

Cover A:

whale1

Cover B:

whale2

Cover C:

whale3

Cover D:

whale4

Cover E:

whale5

Cover F:

whale6

Cover G:

whale7

Cover H:

whale8

And the winner is… COVER H!

Something about this cover catches my eye. Between the simple monochrome visuals, to the stylised appearance of the whale and the hunters.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a windmill: “The tall white windmills that came to her mind. How their skinny long arms all turned, but never together, except for just once in a while two of them would be turning the same way, their arms poised at the same place in the sky.”

Friday Face-Off – 29th September 2017

Friday Face-Off – 29th September 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a train: “Time goes faster the more hollow it is. Lives with no meaning go straight past you, like trains that don’t stop at your station.”

For this theme I have returned to one of my very favourite book series – The Dark Tower. More to the point, book three in the series, The Waste Lands.

Cover A:

train1

Cover B:

train2

Cover C:

train3

Cover D:

train4

Cover E:

train5

Cover F:

train6

Cover G:

train7

And the winner is… COVER A!

I absolutely love this book, especially Blaine the Mono – a sentient and suicidal monorail. That is the irony – that none of the covers featuring a train actually depict a monorail, but I love the menacing appearance in cover A, which makes it my winner this week.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a whale: “Stop telling such outlandish tales. Stop turning minnows into whales.”

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pigeon-Blood Red held my attention from the very beginning. The blurb caught my eye, so I had a hunch the tangled mess described would make for entertaining reading. The way it is written added a nice twist for me as well. Too often, we see things from the view of the innocent that are caught up in the mess, or the hunted party. What Ed Duncan has created here is a tense, fast-paced thriller of sorts and told it from the view of the hunter.
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More than that, through the progression of the story, we come to learn a little of the background of the hunter, Richard “Rico” Sanders and how it informs his character. It gave reason to why Rico is such a closed off, independant character that seems to exhibit little or no emotion. Yet Ed Duncan has also developed his characters well. The way he has created relationships between his characters and added back stories adds to the emotional investment I felt I had with the main players throughout the book.

Although it became fairly clear how the deceitful ways of one of our victims was going to impact on the innocent parties in the story. Some level of empathy is felt towards Rico, while a sense of karma settles around the victims. The characters are written in such a way that Ed Duncan has lured the reader into feeling specific emotions towards them. The book is fast paced, and flows well thanks to their only being a handful of key characters, keeping things slick and well driven.

Decisions play an important role in Pigeon-Blood Red. Greed afflicts one victim, along with lustful choices. His choices drag his long-suffering wife into his ever-growing problems. An encounter between Rico and his marks’ wife leads to an important decision, with potentially life changing consequences.

In Pigeon-Blood Red, Ed Duncan has crafted a fantastic story with depth and brilliantly developed characters. The story is well paced, never feeling laboured or unnecessary, and the each individual character feels just that – individual. I look forward to seeing how this book ties in with its sequels, and how the main characters interact as they cross paths again.

My rating:
goodread