Showing category "Book reviews" (Show all posts)

All Out War

Posted by Paul Samael on Saturday, August 12, 2017, In : Book reviews 


All Out War” by Tim Shipman seeks to answer the question “why did the UK vote to leave the EU?”  As you might expect, there were many reasons – but what the book conveys quite well is that there was no inevitability about the outcome (there were, after all, only about 700,000 votes in it, on a turnout of 33.5 million).  If even a relatively small number of things had played out differently, Brexit might not be happening.  Here are just a few examples:
  • 16 year olds:  Had 16 year olds...

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Single to Morden by Spike Evans

Posted by Paul Samael on Monday, February 27, 2017, In : Book reviews 



As regular readers of this blog would know (if only there were any), I like to maintain the pretence of being a reasonably conscientious reviewer of free fiction by self-published authors.  This normally entails doing a review that consists of several paragraphs (at least).   And more often than not, it affords another unmissable opportunity to give commercial publishers a bit of a kicking for not doing a better job of finding (and publishing) new fiction (happily allowing me to extend the re...

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Stumps of mystery

Posted by Paul Samael on Monday, October 31, 2016, In : Book reviews 



“Stumps of mystery: stories from the end of an era” by Susan Wickstrom describes itself as “a novel in stories” – and it’s certainly true that it occupies a space somewhere in between a full-blown novel and a book of short stories.  Structurally, it’s similar to some of David Mitchell’s fiction, where you get a series of separate but linked stories - I am thinking in particular of “Ghostwritten” and “Cloud Atlas”.  

But whereas Mitchell tends to leap around a lot in ter...

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The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

Posted by Paul Samael on Friday, February 26, 2016, In : Book reviews 



This is an excellent “big picture” sci-fi novel, which is available for free online – but it’s not one for the faint hearted (owing to a certain amount of disturbingly graphic content – of which more later).

Caroline – along with the rest of human race – “lives” in a virtual environment where she can do almost anything.  But being something of a contrary sort, Caroline most wants what she can’t have.  She is a so-called “death jockey”, who spends much of her time arrang...

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Taking Candy from the Devil

Posted by Paul Samael on Saturday, October 10, 2015, In : Book reviews 



For me, this somewhat quirky novel by Robert P Kaye falls into the category of what Graham Greene used to call “an entertainment” – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, although it does touch on some satisfyingly serious issues along the way.  Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Here’s what it’s about:

Chris Bly is returning to the family home in the Washington Cascades with his tail between his legs, having tried but failed to make it big in the unforgiving world of West Coast tech...

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Ted Chiang: sci-fi or something else?

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, July 12, 2015, In : Book reviews 



As previously noted, this blog does not have its finger on the literary pulse of our times.  And so it is with Ted Chiang, a multiple award-winning author who I stumbled across only recently from The Economist blog.  In fact, he has been publishing stories since 1990, when I gather his first one appeared in the now sadly defunct Omni magazine.  This biographical detail made me feel a little nostalgic, because as a teenager during the eighties I was an avid consumer of Omni (pocket money permi...

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Day Gazing by Carla Herrera

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, In : Book reviews 



I first read this collection of short stories a while ago and had been meaning to do a review of it for some time.  But in a way, I’m glad I waited because it’s meant that I ended up re-reading the collection in full – and there were a number of stories that I got more out of on the second (or even third) reading.

Anyway, the first thing to say about this collection is that, although it’s subtitled “Weird Shorts”, all the stories are written in a very accessible way – so don’t ...

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The Fifth Lectern

Posted by Paul Samael on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, In : Book reviews 



With the UK general election campaign underway, now seemed a good time to review "The Fifth Lectern", a self-published novel by Andy Cooke about what might have happened if the 2010 UK general election had turned out slightly differently.  The key change that the author has made is to have the surge in support for the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) occurring not in 2014-15 (as it has in real life) but back in 2010.   The background to this is recounted in a novella-length prequel to "Th...
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The Inelegant Universe

Posted by Paul Samael on Saturday, January 31, 2015, In : Book reviews 



This collection of short stories by Charles Hibbard is thought-provoking, varied and beautifully written.  And if short stories aren’t really your thing – although in this case I would urge you to make an exception - the author has a number of other longer-form fictions available on Smashwords (discussed briefly below). 

But getting back to “The Inelegant Universe,” what can you expect from this collection?  Well, here are some examples to give you a flavour:

  •  “Fare ...

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Pedalling Backwards

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, September 28, 2014, In : Book reviews 



“Pedalling Backwards” by Julia Russell is a very well written literary novel which has attracted an impressive haul of positive reviews on Amazon, and two five star reviews (including mine) on Smashwords. 

Lizzie, her husband and her parents have rented a holiday cottage on a bleak, muddy island in the Blackwater Estuary.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, for starters, Lizzie has recently lost a baby.  Her husband thought it would be a good idea for them both to get away from things fo...

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HHhH by Laurent Binet

Posted by Paul Samael on Thursday, July 31, 2014, In : Book reviews 



This book by the French author Laurent Binet is described in its blurb as a “novel” but I think it would be more accurate to categorise it as “faction.”  What I mean by that is that the book is based quite closely around actual historical events but it also has certain features in common with other genres, like memoir or, at times, fiction.  I have blogged about faction before – in particular a book called “Red Plenty” by Francis Spufford, who started off writing a factual accou...

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Abraham the Anchor Baby Terrorist

Posted by Paul Samael on Saturday, March 8, 2014, In : Book reviews 



This is a very interesting and well written novel by Sean Boling, whose collection of short stories (“Pigs and Other Living Things”) I have already reviewed on this blog.  It’s about an attempt by Islamic terrorists to insert a long term “sleeper” agent into the US.  This is to be done by smuggling a pregnant Algerian woman into the country and passing her off as a South American immigrant;  her son, the Abraham of the title, is to be raised to carry out as yet unspecified tasks on ...


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The Hole in the Wall

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, In : Book reviews 


"The Hole in the Wall" by Clare Fisher is another mid-length piece (longer than a short story, shorter than a novel) of the type which I have been trying to promote on this blog because it is so under-represented in modern fiction (but I recognise that I may now be in severe danger of boring people to death with this point).  Luckily, we live in the age of the e-reader, which seems to be (slowly) helping to create more of a market for mid-length fiction - so maybe, eventually...


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The Future Manifestations of Saint Christina the Astonishing

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, November 13, 2013, In : Book reviews 





This short book describes eight appearances of the medieval “Saint” Christina the Astonishing (the unofficial patron saint of people affected by mental illness) in the near and distant future.  The “real” Saint Christina is said to have risen from the dead during the course of her funeral – and when I say “risen”, I mean literally soaring up to the roof of the church where the ceremony was being held.  According to Wikipedia, she flew up there because she couldn...


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3 by Moxie Mezcal

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, November 3, 2013, In : Book reviews 



3 is a collection of three long-ish, meaty short stories by Moxie Mezcal.  By “meaty” I mean that they could almost qualify for the novella tag – because there is so much going on in terms of plot and interesting ideas that by the time you’ve finished, you are left with the kind of feeling more commonly associated with longer fiction.
 

The first story, “Home Movie,” is about a porn store DVD which has been replaced with what appears to be a snuff movie – is it ...


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The Prodigals by Frank Burton

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, October 9, 2013, In : Book reviews 



“The Prodigals” is an ambitious contemporary novel by Frank Burton, who runs Philistine Press (click here for an interview with him on that subject).  It follows the lives of four troubled young men in Manchester.  Well, that bit of the review was easy, because I have just copied it straight off the book description on Smashwords.  And it is a perfectly accurate description – but I can see why the author pretty much stopped there, except for adding that the book is also...


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Corpus Callosum

Posted by Paul Samael on Thursday, August 1, 2013, In : Book reviews 



This is an excellent literary novel with a sci-fi element (but if you are not a big fan of sci-fi, don’t let that put you off, because the focus is much more on the characters than the science).  The basic premise is that technology has been developed which allows the contents of your brain to be uploaded into a “BrightBox” – but in most other respects, the world of the story is very similar to our own.  Joey and Jeannette are twin sisters.  When Joey is fatally injured in a fire, Jea...

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Theories of International Politics....and Zombies

Posted by Paul Samael on Thursday, July 18, 2013, In : Book reviews 



I’m not usually much of an impulse buyer, but when it comes to ebooks I sometimes find it harder to resist – you get the book right away, often at a price lower than the hard copy and there’s no storage issue (so to the nagging voice in my head saying “Are really you going to like this book enough to want to have it taking up space on your already creaking shelves?” I can say “Get stuffed”).  Anyway, “Theories of International Politics…and Zombies” by Professor Daniel Drez...

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Shen by Heather Douglass

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, In : Book reviews 



So far in my reviews of free fiction, I’ve tended to focus more on the rather nebulous category of “literary fiction” (whatever that may be) rather than more well-defined genres like science fiction.  Heather Douglass, however, is an author with a foot in both camps.  I am indebted to Bernard Fancher for pointing me in her direction, as she had published several shorter pieces in the “literary” category of Smashwords, one of which he had reviewed.  These are well worth a read – I ...

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Trade by Lochlan Bloom

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, May 26, 2013, In : Book reviews 



“Trade” by Lochlan Bloom is narrated from a point in the not too distant future when an internet platform (a sort of cross between Facebook and Ebay) has radically changed the way that people approach sex.  Sometimes you have a feeling from the first page that something is going to be worth reading - and for me, “Trade” delivered on that initial promise.  The premise was sufficiently intriguing and enough happened in terms of plot to justify the label “novelette,”...


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The Third Person

Posted by Paul Samael on Monday, May 20, 2013, In : Book reviews 




It’s the 1980s.  Lizzie, our narrator, is 14.  Her father has left home and her mother doesn’t seem to be coping too well in his absence.  Lizzie spends an unhealthy amount of time holed up in her bedroom, practising her calligraphy, tending her Victorian bottle collection and making devious and elaborate plans.  These generally involve eloping with Mr Phillips, the shopkeeper (if only he would stop being so obtuse and realise that he and Lizzie are destined to be togethe...


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Faction or fiction

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, In : Book reviews 



While on holiday last week, I thought I would put the accuracy of my Goodreads recommendations to the test, so I chose some of the books they had suggested to me based on my own ratings of books I’d enjoyed (or not – but mostly the former).  So far, the recommendations have been somewhat wide of the mark.  Take “Ascent” by Jed Mercurio.  It’s about a Russian, Yefgenii Yeremin, who (after an appalling childhood in Stalingrad) manages to become a fighter ace during the Korean War.  He...

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Unpredictable

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, In : Book reviews 



“Unpredictable” is a collection of 3 short stories by Bryan R Dennis available as an ebook free of charge on feedbooks.com. 

Oh no, I hear you sigh, not another collection of short stories (e.g. see here and here for previous reviews of short story collections).  But let me try to make the case for short stories in general – and then why you should try these ones in particular.  First, short stories are a good way of trying out a writer to see if you might like their longer work (in...


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The Ant Farm

Posted by Paul Samael on Saturday, February 2, 2013, In : Book reviews 

 
 
If someone had told me that I would enjoy a novel about statistics in the poultry industry and knitting (yes, knitting), I would probably have responded that I was more likely to develop a keen interest in the drying times of different brands of matt emulsion.  But one of the things I have come to enjoy about reviewing free fiction by self-published authors is the potential to be surprised – both by the quality of some of the writing and by my own enjoyment of books about subjects which, ...

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Pigs and Other Living Things

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, In : Book reviews 


 
Rather like Stories for Airports, "Pigs and Other Living Things" by Sean Boling appears to be another collection of well-written short stories that’s in danger of getting buried under the ever-expanding mass of self-published books on Smashwords.  I wish I could say that the many thousands of loyal readers of this blog (ah, if only...) can be relied upon to rescue it from that fate.  But since my daily total of “eyeballs” rarely climbs above the low single figures (even allowing for th...

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The Judas Tree

Posted by Paul Samael on Tuesday, October 16, 2012, In : Book reviews 



Patricia Le Roy is an established novelist – she has at least 8 books to her name and I gather that one of them (“Angels of Russia”) was the first ebook ever to be put forward for the Booker Prize. “The Judas Tree”, currently available for free on obooko, is the only one that I have read so far – but on the strength of that, I will definitely be reading some of the others.  

Its starting point is the death of a French woman, Anne, who was (seemingly) happily married to Matthias, an...

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In Durleston Wood

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, October 3, 2012, In : Book reviews 



Michael Graeme is something of a phenomenon on feedbooks, where he has published 20 books and had well over 200,000 downloads in total (which is pretty impressive by any standards - and certainly by comparison with my own relatively feeble download stats).  He’s also a firm advocate of self-publishing (see this post) - as opposed to banging your head against a brick wall trying to get a commercial publisher to take you on (from which you may deduce – correctly - that I wholeheartedly agre...

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Ledman Pickup

Posted by Paul Samael on Friday, September 21, 2012, In : Book reviews 



This story/novella from the extremely profilic Tom Lichtenberg is well written, entertaining and thought-provoking – and well worth a read, even if sci-fi is not usually your thing:

Zoey Bridges makes her living testing gadgets – but on this occasion, the portable device she’s been sent doesn’t seem to do anything.  She sends it back, only to discover (to her horror) that it’s got lost in transit.   She and the gizmo’s obsessively secretive designers then try to track it down - but...

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Falling and The End of the Circus

Posted by Paul Samael on Saturday, August 25, 2012, In : Book reviews 

 
 
Two thoughtful short stories from Bernard Fancher available on Smashwords: 

"Falling" is about the murder of a child, but with a rather different slant from most mystery/crime fiction and a more thoughtful, literary approach.  Instead of the conventional “who dunnit”, the focus is on the emotions of the detective who dealt with the case as she goes to return some of the child’s belongings, once the murderer has been convicted.  The facts of the case are conveyed briefly and fairly disp...

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Besserwisser

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, July 29, 2012, In : Book reviews 

 

UPDATE 1.2017:  Sadly, this book is no longer available on Smashwords or elsewhere so far as I can see - which is a pity.

This novel by Steve Anderson has already received a number of positive reviews on Smashwords and elsewhere, but I was also drawn to it for personal reasons – of which, more later.

The starting point of the novel is simple: after one beer too many at the Munich Oktoberfest, our rather hapless hero, Gordy, is unable to resist passing himself off as a Fulbright scholar, ...


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Stories for Airports

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, July 15, 2012, In : Book reviews 


 
I’m puzzled as to why this excellent short story collection on Smashwords hasn’t been reviewed before, because it appears to have been on the site for some time (since 2009?).  But maybe that’s the problem – unless you’re fortunate enough to get a review at a reasonably early stage, your stuff tends to get buried under increasing amounts of everyone else’s stuff.  Anyway, I hope that what follows will encourage more people to give it a try.

As the blurb says, these stories are not...

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Coming Home

Posted by Paul Samael on Friday, June 29, 2012, In : Book reviews 

 


“Coming Home” by Chris Gallagher is a full length novel about Aidan Pennock’s return to the Yorkshire village where he grew up, following many years in the army, including tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Put like that, it sounds like it could be a rather dour affair, focussing on the well trodden fictional path of a soldier having difficulty adapting to civilian life.  But refreshingly, Aidan is not the kind of personality to just sit around wallowing in self-pity.  There is an...

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Afrika Reich

Posted by Paul Samael on Thursday, May 10, 2012, In : Book reviews 


 

I seem to be on a bit of thriller binge at the moment – just finished “The Afrika Reich” by Guy Savile, a rather more conventional action/adventure-focussed thriller than “Endgame” (which I reviewed last month).  I was interested in it for two reasons. 

Firstly, I gather that its author initially tried it out on the peer review site yourwriteon.com, which is something I’ve done with my own writing – so I was interested to see the final product, once he’d been signed up by...


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Endgame

Posted by Paul Samael on Monday, April 16, 2012, In : Book reviews 

 

 
Just finished “Endgame” by Matthew Glass, a highly intelligent political thriller which – despite its somewhat dry-sounding subject matter – had me completely hooked. It’s about how a run on a bank could morph from a major financial problem into something akin to the Cuban missile crisis (but with the Chinese taking the place of the Russians).  It’s worth reading purely for how convincingly this very frightening scenario is laid out.  

Other recent books have tried to make connec...

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IQ84

Posted by Paul Samael on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, In : Book reviews 

 

Avid readers of this blog (are there any?  I wonder…) may have concluded that I do not exactly appear to have my finger on the literary pulse (see this post, for example) – but how wrong they are, because not only have I read Books 1, 2 and 3 of the thumping great tome that is Haruki Murakami’s "IQ84", which has only been out since October last year but Lo!  here is my review of it:

First of all, I should probably make it clear that I’m a fan of quite a lot of Murakami’s earlier...


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Sonny's Guerrillas by Matthew Asprey

Posted by Paul Samael on Friday, February 3, 2012, In : Book reviews 

 


I've just started a new section of my website devoted to reviews of free fiction by self-published authors, my aim being to demonstrate that "free" and "self-published" do not always deserve the stigma that is sometimes attached to them.  This first review is of "Sonny's Guerrillas" by Matthew Asprey.  


UPDATE 11.2013:  Sadly, this book is no longer free - one of the perils of setting out to review free fiction is that authors who get a positive response to their work may (quite understandabl...
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Holiday reading (2)

Posted by Paul Samael on Thursday, September 8, 2011, In : Book reviews 

 

I also read “One Day” by David Nicholls – yes, that one with the orange cover that you’ve probably seen people reading on the train etc.  Many, many people have read this book, so I can hardly claim to be at the cutting edge of new fiction by reviewing it now.  I can, however, claim to have a unique perspective, being possibly the only person in the world to have tackled it after reading a moderately obscure work of Polish science fiction (see previous blog entry).  

Anyway, for ...


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Holiday reading (1)

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, September 4, 2011, In : Book reviews 

 

Just back from holiday, during which (among other things) I read Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel “Return from the Stars”. It’s about an astronaut, Hal, who returns to Earth following a near-light speed mission.  This means that time passed much faster on Earth than it did for him, so everyone he knew at the time of his departure is long dead.  The world he returns to is considerably more technologically advanced than the one he left and human civilisation has lost all interest in spacef...


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About Me


Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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