Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Stratosphere by Brian Cox @BrianCoxWrites #bynr #scifi #bookreview

The Stratosphere - The Birth of Nostradamus

GBU Review: 3/5
Amazon.UK | Amazon.com

I wasn’t too keen on the cover. I wasn’t sure what the symbolic silhouette of the people represented. First glance, it looked like one of those traffic crossing signs you see outside schools. The author name wasn’t prominent enough and as a thumb nail, hard to see.
The title was spot on, though. I liked the way the name ‘The Stratosphere’ seemed to be written in blood or that was my impression anyway. The blurb was bold and strong but the last lines: And it certainly is not an alien invasion or zombies. The threat is imminent, and it lies waiting where you least expect… I’d have liked to have shortened it to: It’s is not an alien invasion or zombies. The threat is imminent, and it’s waiting (or coming) … but that’s me being picky. Overall, it’s a strong blurb.

Look inside is the next most important thing about a book, and this book has a prologue. Again, it’s strong and draws me in straight away. It asks the question: If freedom is the power to exercise choice, what would happen in a world where everyone is free? And I’m left wanting to know what does it mean by ‘everyone is free’? Free to do whatever they like?

Chapter one opens with a girl called Nancy and her ‘gaggle’ friends waiting to attend a lecture, and the authors draws me a picture of a bolshy schoolgirl that’s hard to shake off as the story suggests, further in, that she's older. And as Nancy becomes the unlikely hero, I still can't shake her nastiness. There is a little bit of back story in the first chapter but it’s not overdone.

But still in chapter one, I’m suddenly in another POV of Gus. Gus has motor neuron, and given that the book is set in the far future I’m surprised the author chose this disease instead of making one up, because surely, medical advances would have cured this illness? (This is explained further in the book, and the story needs Gus to have some kind of disability).

Bearing in mind that I’m still reading the ‘look inside’ I’m overwhelmed with many names and their corresponding POVs. It’s a lot to take in, and I’m struggling to keep my interest in the story (it’s the intriguing blurb and prologue that keeps me going) as all the characters are introduced at once.

We’ll, I’m glad I persevered because the concept does push boundaries and make you think about humankind. It’s a ‘sad’ book; showing the bad side of human nature, I’d even go as far to say that it’s a horror story.

It shows the advances of virtual reality where humans can exist in The Stratosphere, living their dreams, while the world collapses around them. The book, as aforementioned, is set in the very far future with today’s verging technology firmly being used, debunked or discarded ie 3D printers, robots.

Affection, love and even sex between real people is rare as is pregnancy, because people are doing as little as possible to stay alive just to exist inside the ‘Strat.’  The Professor who created the Stratosphere has realised his mistake and tries to right his wrongs, but it seems he’s one person against the rest.

Brian Cox writes a very good, very thrilling, post-apocalyptic book and once through the boring (and confusing) opening it became extremely exciting. It tells us of a possible future for human kind if we allow virtual reality to dominate us.

Cox tells me the book has been edited, but editing is not all about typos or grammar, sometimes you need an editor to rein in the writer’s flow.

Over all, the storyline is very well researched, thought provoking and downright scary. And I do think it's a possible future for us all if we allow technology to take us over.

Big Brother is dead.
The real threat is not government.
It is not big business.
It is not artificial intelligence.
It is not your friends, your colleges or your neighbors.
It is not climate change, a comet, or a supernova.
It is not an EMP, WWIII, terrorism or a nuclear accident.
And it certainly is not an alien invasion or zombies.
The threat is imminent, and it lies waiting where you least expect…

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

B.P. Smythe #macabra #shortstories #bookreview


From a Poison Pen


At first glance, I'd have overlooked this little pocket of (gory) fun. The cover didn't reveal anything of its contents other than a title and author's name. I wouldn't have known if the book was a collection of shorts (which it is), a novelette or a full blown novel. The title does suggest a horror or a thriller of some kind.

In the look inside we have the usual copyright page, an author dedication and the TOC, then it's straight in with the first story called Constricted Love. It opens with a belly-dancing scene which becomes a little dramatic as the snake attacks the belly-dancer. Then the scene is over and seemingly forgotten, but the story does catch my attention and I'm drawn into Julian's world of greed and self-gratification, and the story is all tied up at the end.

There are ten stories in total and all in verifying lengths (the first probably the longest). They all had the same horror/story with a twist theme. Some are set in the modern day while others are set in times gone by, and the characters are all carefully drawn with their own set of flaws, likes and dislikes and with their own story to tell.

There were some editing issues such as missing speech tags but nothing to take the reader from the enjoyment of the stories. The stories were written in a mixed POV but I felt this was quite skilfully done.

From a Poison Pen is described as a collection of 'dark, humorous and macabre tales' that 'explores the disturbing side of human nature', and I think that sums it up accurately. They aren't 'safe' stories where the hero gets his just desserts, they are dark, and sometimes disturbing stories of the dark side of human nature.

My favourite was Girls of BDM which I thought was some kind of new erotica but in fact was a story set in the concentration camps during the WW2. There were a few formatting issues in this story with live links where, I think, the author had researched something and copy and pasted a name or a slogan to place in the book and forgot to unlink the text.

I summed up the book as 'pocket of gory fun' and it was.

The Blurb

What happens when a member of the Hitler youth ends up in a concentration camp?

How does a beach side cocktail get in the way the way of one woman’s scheming?

What leads a teenage girl to rain down fire and brimstone?

This collection of dark, humorous and macabre tales explores the disturbing side of human nature. 

From a Poison Pen is the first book in a trilogy of collected short stories by B.P. Smythe.

Monday, 31 August 2015

What constitutes a trashy novel?

I always thought the answer was gratuitous sex scenes amongst shallow characters, but others have told me it's an insignificant plot.

I Googled the answer and (palpitations!) it brought up chick lit. Chick lit! Surely not. Other answers are a formulaic book written for scandal or simply a badly-written book. It seems no one really knows the true answer. Maybe it's an easy-reading book that you've enjoyed?

When I brought up this question with a group of writers, a gentleman answered: ‘Any book written by a female.’

Yeah, I know, idiot, and not because the group was mainly made up of women. So the question is still out there—what constitutes a trashy novel?

Meanwhile, my own trashy, chicklit novel (with no gratuitous sex scenes or insignificant plot) is now free in the Amazon lending library. Feel free to check it out:
A Proper Charlie

 What’s a girl to do when she discovers her boss is a wanted man?


She's losing her job.
She's losing her boyfriend.
She can only afford to eat spaghetti hoops on toast.
She's called Charlie... Charlotte, ginger, ginge, Duracell or carrot.
Yet with all these odds against her, she pushes forward to take the lead story on her paper at London Core.

Shame no one knows.

Shame she's the office general assistant and not a real journalist. Shame it's on missing prostitutes and Charlie thinks pretending to be a 'tart with a heart' will get her that story.
She doesn't just get a story.
She becomes the starring role.

 Unashamedly trashy!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Jason Ayres


My Tomorrow Your Yesterday


Sometimes I buy and review a book just because it's one I want to read for pleasure, and My Tomorrow Your Yesterday was one such book.

It wasn't the cover that pulled me in on this occasion, it was the strong blurb. The first sentence tells us about the protagonist, he's 54 and he's about to die. The second sentence tells us 'the next day, he woke up'. If that doesn't pull in time travel-loving readers nothing will!

The cover is strong. The back to front calendar and a lone man staring up at it in confusion completely matched the blurb.

The title also summed up the story, so all in all, blurb, title and cover all corresponded nicely together.

Look inside began with the Epilogue with the title Death and introduced the protagonist Thomas Scott. He’s in hospital, confused and obviously dying. There is a woman sitting by his bedside and she says, ‘Happy New Year Dad.’ Then he dies.

The next chapter is labelled Cancer, and Thomas wakes feeling well enough to watch TV. A news broadcast tells him ‘preparations are underway for tonight’s New Year celebrations’ and so, remembering the woman’s ‘Happy New Year’ words from yesterday is confusing for the protagonist. 

It's a strong opening.

During the story we are taken, alongside the lead character, on a journey to slowly realise we’re going backwards in life. Each day runs forwards, but in the early hours of the morning we’re pinged back to the start of the day before.

So as Thomas slowly starts to ‘get better’ from cancer he realises he can make changes so he never gets the illness in the first place by not smoking and eating healthy, although he wakes up every day with nicotine withdrawal symptoms until he hits the point where he first began smoking and simply doesn’t begin. Here, I wonder why he went through the pain of the withdrawal when, by not starting to smoke, it’d never happen anyway?

Thomas doesn’t remember his life so the people coming and going are new to him ie his daughter, but the connection between him and his family is strong and touching.

The author takes Thomas through a sticky patch where he seeks out prostitutes and has a girlfriend almost thirty years his junior, which I found distasteful, but Thomas is obviously a lonely middle-aged man. There is evidence of a wife, killed by a drunk driver, and as Thomas is pulled backwards through time he plans to save her and maybe change his sad future.

The author doesn’t take us through every single day of Thomas’ backwards life but in significant periods where the character makes changes to alter his future. We’re not told why any of this has happened but that only adds to the mystery and appeal of this book.

And when Thomas relives his own birth it 'resets' time and he begins life going the correct way but we're not told if he remembers anything of his other topsy-turvy life or even he’s destined to yo-yo for eternity.

All in all this is a fantastic story for time-travel lovers. So unique and quirky, and worthy of a 5/5. It’s British so expect Britishisms.

I didn’t find any errors in the book.

When 54 year old Thomas Scott wakes up in a hospital bed on New Year’s Day he has no memory of who he is or why he is there. Racked with pain from a terminal illness, death swiftly follows.

The next day he awakes to find himself alive again and confused, especially when he discovers that it is now New Year’s Eve. As the days pass he begins to realise that he is living his life backwards one day at a time.

So begins the extraordinary tale of a man who goes to sleep on Sunday nights and wakes up on Saturday mornings: A man who cannot form a meaningful relationship with a woman because when he jumps back to the previous day, she has no memory of him. And a man who can win a fortune from gambling any time he likes, but has only one day to spend it.

Trying to find some purpose in life he resolves to find out as much about his own personal history as he can. Learning of the death of his wife and an attack on his daughter, he prepares to make changes in the past to secure their future.

From middle-aged father all the way back to childhood, the passing years present all manner of different challenges as he grows ever more youthful.

Set in and around Oxford between the years of 1970 and 2025, this unique concept for a time travel novel features plenty of humour, nostalgia and “what if?” moments.

Taking place in the same universe as the author's Time Bubble series, this is a standalone novel aimed at a more adult audience. It can be enjoyed without the need to have read those earlier books.