Review | 2032 | AS Anand

I read a couple of flash fiction collections by AS Anand a while ago and remembered I'd downloaded his novel 2032 and not got round to reading it. It is listed on Amazon as 2032 - An Experimental Post-Apocalyptic Novel and the contents page shows that the work is structured around a series of dates in 2032.

It reads more like a very large flash fiction collection than a conventional novel. There are some obvious links between some of the items; some other items have a more tangential link to the main theme and some of them seem disparate and isolated. I found 2032 difficult to get into and in Part I didn't recognise the author I had admired so much in the previous collections. By Part II, either I was becoming accustomed to the format or the author had taken more control of his writing because I thought the pieces were much better. There was some sharp, precise writing demonstrating imagination and originality and this continued throughout the remainder of the novel.

A dystopian novel is not usually to my taste apart from the classics - 1984 and Brave New World - but as I was interested in the writer's style I persevered with the content. The world of global domination, Sectors, insurgents and presidential excess develops intermittently through the piece and I found myself being gradually drawn into it.

I really enjoyed reading some of the more peripheral sections of which two bore an uncanny resemblance to The Guardian Book Blog on a day when the regulars have over-dosed on mutual aggrandising.

Some of the writing was even better than the pieces I'd enjoyed in the previous collections. There is a variety of writing styles of which some works better than others. The last entry is amazing - if it's real it is clever and prophetic. Overall if you want to try something different, then 2032 is well worth a look.

Review | The Bird That Nobody Sees | Stuart Ayris

I read A Cleansing of Souls by Stuart Ayris a few days ago and posted a blog about it on the same day that the author published his new novel, The Bird That Nobody Sees. I downloaded this with the intention of reading it later in the summer. No chance. I glanced at the opening pages and couldn't put it down; every spare moment has been spent reading it and quite a few things were put on hold so that I could finish it.

The blurb says it's the second book in a trilogy but I didn't register that until afterwards so it definitely will stand alone; and I am intrigued by FRUGALITY. Is this something like "If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs and blaming it on you…" that everybody knows or is it the writer's own? If it's his, well, it's really great; if we all took it as our daily mantra and implemented it we could improve our world hugely.

From reading the other novel, I expected to be entertained, to be given something to think about and to admire the quality of the writing and I wasn't disappointed. There are some lovely descriptive passages in The Bird That Nobody Sees, some interesting word play and at times writing that is almost poetic. The dialogue is real and makes a big contribution to making the characters live. The story-line is original, well constructed and entirely plausible (Eastern Region Angel Collective??? Yes, entirely plausible).

I am not going to give anything away but when it is explained why certain characters are doing what they do, it is so heartrendingly sad and poignant that it makes a tear come into your eye; but it's not one bit sentimental. There are aspects to the story which provide a social commentary on the world we are living in but done with a deft, light touch so as not to be preachy just honest and sincere.

The setting is Chelmsford (which is in Essex in case you've never been there) and the town (or city) features in the novel as one of the characters which are all very well written. They're real and full of personality and you feel like you've met some of them before. They're engaging and you are interested in what they're doing and what they're going to do next and they drive the novel on at a fair old pace.

The author has offered a beautifully written narrative; a lively and engaging story; excellent characterisation and sensitive social commentary. If The Bird That Nobody Sees was just that it would be a very good novel. But it has something else that I wasn't expecting. Stuart Ayris can write funny: at times a quiet chuckle and sometimes a great guffaw. This is one of the most amusing and entertaining novels I've read for quite a while. The Bird That Nobody Sees is getting five stars on amazon from me and if I could give it ten I would.

Review | A Cleansing of Souls | Stuart Ayris

I noticed on the Kindle Users' Forum that Tollesbury Time Forever by Stuart Ayris had reached the semi-finals of the Amazon Book Awards for 2012 and as I hadn't read it yet thought now would be a good time. When I was downloading it I noticed A Cleansing of Souls by the same author and decided to read that first.

Apart from the opening chapter, the novel is set in 1989 and is a remarkable evocation of that era. Some scenes, for example in the Benefits Office are strongly relevant to the present day.

There are two main characters: Michael and Tom. Their lives are separate but come together briefly before separating again. Each character is complex and dealing with personal, emotional and social issues of an intense and disturbing nature. Each character is very well written and you quickly become involved in the lives of both men and concerned about them. Some aspects of their lives are similar and many are not and afterwards you are left pondering about where they overlap and what the factors that lead to their behaviours were and how things might have been different for them. Not to give the story-line away but there are some very poignant and moving scenes although unexpectedly the novel does end on an optimistic note. The cast of supporting characters are equally well drawn particularly Tom's father George and Tom's friend Sandy and her parents.

The story-line sustains your interest right through to the end although you have to give it some concentration at first to get into it. This is a thoughtful and reflective novel but there are plenty of scenes where direct action moves the story forward, ensures a good pace and offers several surprising developments.

There is some beautiful, lyrical, descriptive writing which is not over-done but creates vivid images as you read.

The lay-out of the novel is interesting using blocked paragraphs with a wider spacing between paragraphs than you usually find. The consequence of this is to slow you down as you read; you can't speed read this novel. But then why would you want to? It is a novel to savour and think about because it raises some challenging and controversial issues.

I was really impressed by the author's ability as a writer and the quality of this novel. A Cleansing of Souls deserves its many five star reviews on Amazon and really is a very good literary novel.

Kindle ebooks | VAT

There is a petition on the government's epetition web-site which concludes on August 8th to scrap VAT on ebooks. It's got over 5000 signatures but I suspect it hasn't got more because Kindle books on Amazon originate in Luxembourg and attract a lower rate (3% I think) so probably many ebook readers wouldn't think there was a case to argue. However I think that the rationale for the petition is very interesting. The petitioner contends that paper books use oil based inks and glues, consume a great deal of energy for paper production and printing, use fuel oil for distribution, over use land for warehousing and then when discarded many paper books end up in  landfill sites. The argument is that ebooks are far more environmentally friendly using a tiny fraction of the energy of a paper book for production, distribution and storage and at the end its life it is simply deleted. I wondered why an ebook didn't count as a book anyway and found out that for official purposes, a book has to have a stiffened cover different to the paper which the rest of the book is printed on. So that's that then. Here's the link to the epetition on the Downing Street web-site anyway.

Underground Book Club magazine

Edition 3 of Underground Book Club magazine has been distributed this week; more info on their FB page!/UGBookClub

or web-site

My review of  The Godling: A Novel of Masalay was in Edition 2 of UBC; it's a really good read and has

great extended content at the Godling web-site

Review | Sloth (The Seven Deadly Sins) | AS Anand

Sloth by AS Anand is a collection of seven flash fiction stories and is one of a series themed around The Seven Deadly Sins. I got this as a free download, read it quickly and enjoyed it so much immediately downloaded another (Pride) in the same series.

Each story is self-contained and quite different and separate from the others. A liberal blogger, a man with a curious addiction, a couple trying to re-kindle their love life are some of the characters introduced. The writing styles vary but each story is well written. Concise, precise, with the clarity of a pane of glass, AS Anand gives you the story, the thoughts, the emotions in short, intense bursts. I particularly liked "Hair of the Dog" and "The Glasshouse Liberal".

I discovered Flash Fiction a few months ago and have already read two really good collections which I wrote about previously. I think AS Anand has a good command of this way of writing too; there is nothing superfluous in his style and in a few short pages you get a well constructed and completely formulated story.

I realised that I had downloaded his full length novel 2032 - An Experimental Post-Apocalyptic Novel some while ago and never got round to reading it so I've moved it up my "waiting to be read" list and will be interested to see if the quality of the writing is sustained in a larger work.

Review | The One You Love | Paul Pilkington

I got The One You Love by Paul Pilkington as a free download and at the time of writing it's sales ranking is #6 free in the Kindle Store and the blurb says it was number one for a full month in 2011 with over one million downloads. It's got 282 customer reviews and they go on for pages and pages. Overall it gets 3.5 stars and loads of terrible one star reviews as well as plenty of good reviews too.

I wondered why so many readers loved it and probably even more seemed to loathe it. There was a clue in the blurb which said that this was a new edition which had been professionally copy-edited and scanning quickly through the one star reviews, the complaints were mostly to do with spelling and punctuation; although there appeared to be a serious plot failure too.

Well I am pleased to say that the presentation - spelling, punctuation, typos, formatting - was good enough and the plot error had vanished; what I read was a well constructed, entertaining suspense mystery with elements of romance that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Emma Holden is an aspiring actress whose fiancé vanishes just before the wedding leaving his brother battered and bloody on her bathroom floor. She has had a stalker in the past and it looks like she's got one still while her family are keeping secrets from her which Emma must unravel if she wants to see her fiancé alive again.

I found The One You Love to be a fast moving, generally plausible, page -turning novel that was easy and quick to read but one that kept my interest right up to the end.

Review | Not What She Seems | Victorine E Lieske

Not What She Seems by Victorine E Lieske is a well presented, easy to read romantic suspense novel.

Steven Ashton is quite good looking, successful and very, very rich. Emily Grant is quite good looking, unsuccessful and very, very poor. She is on the run and he spends most of the novel running after her. There are twists and turns in the plot which at times stretch credulity but author Victorine E Lieske always brings the story back down to earth and you keep turning the pages to see how it all turns out and how she is going to explain away the intricacies of the plot.

The author makes you sympathetic to the main characters and wary of those who are not acting in their interests. Emily has a child, Connor, and you really feel for him as he is dragged from one place to another as the plot unfolds and yet all the time he just remains a sweet little kid apparently unaffected by all the trauma.

No sex, drugs or rock and roll in this novel. Steven and Emily are very chaste and the early stage of their romance is nearly all verbal, hardly physical at all. There are a few additional bodies as well as the main murder victim who don't get a great deal of attention and the perpetrator rather vanishes into custody but that doesn't affect the main story so you can live with that. Overall an enjoyable read, ideal for the beach or a very wet Sunday afternoon in July.

Review | Missing Person | Jack Erikson

I downloaded Missing Person by Jack Erikson after reading a preview in one of his other books. As I anticipated it was a quick and easy read which I enjoyed reading. When a retired college professor finds a bundle of old love letters he is intrigued and tries to work out the story of yet another eternal triangle; here a woman who is involved with two men neither of whom are willing to let go with rather serious consequences. The professor discovers the truth and is faced with the dilemma of what to do about it. This time Jack Erikson offers a much more plausible ending to round off a neatly constructed (longish) short story.

Review | Perfect Crime | Jack Erikson

I got Perfect Crime by Jack Erikson as a free download; it is a quick and easy read and has a very mixed set of reviews on Amazon. I'm with those who liked the book because although there are elements of implausibility in the ending, the characterisation of the female protagonist is really interesting. She is a woman who has been cheated on by her husband and she plans the perfect crime to exact her revenge. Her background is in engineering and she brings the same clinical detachment to her revenge project as she would to any project at work. I don't know if her revenge strategy really is plausible but it worked for me and I was persuaded that she managed to implement it as intended. So long as you don't take it too seriously (and who would?) this is a good read. The author includes two samples of other titles at the end of Perfect Crime and they both seemed to be similarly easy-reading crime thrillers which looked as though they would be worth a look so I downloaded Missing Persons for the special offer price of just £0.42p.

Review | Black | Corey Cummings

This is the story of Blake and Cora May who meet by chance in a grocery store. In many ways Black by Corey Cummings is a straightforward love story where things that have happened in the past impact on what is going on in the present. The "Black" of the title is the name of the dog belonging to one of the main characters and he is as much a part of the story as any of the human animals. The story line is plausible and engaging and the characters are well imagined and real.

Two aspects of the writing make this novel really interesting. First, although otherwise well punctuated, the author has chosen to write dialogue without using inverted commas. This jumps off the opening pages and initially I thought this was typographical errors on a huge scale until I realised that apart from the missing inverted commas the writing was very well constructed and presented. (Someone recently told me that James Joyce used this trick so I suppose this author is following in the footsteps of greatness). Once I'd got over my prejudice that demands correct punctuation, I found that it didn't really matter; the writing made just as much sense as if the inverted commas had been there. The consequence is that you really focus on the dialogue.

The other interesting aspect is the way view points keep shifting; there are five main characters in this novel and the story is moved along from the differing perspectives of these characters. This works very well and all the components fit together to make a cohesive whole.

The author Corey Cummings is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin according to the author's details and the winner of prizes there and at the start of the novel he thanks everyone in the undergrad. writing programme for their support so I presume this novel is a product of his writing course. Well it certainly worked: a relatively mundane story is transformed into something lively, original and worth reading by breaking some rules and taking some risks.

Review | The Winnowing | Chris Fyles

The Winnowing by Chris Fyles is a disturbing and perplexing novel: disturbing by confronting head on some serious issues like bullying, racism and mental health; perplexing because when you reach the end of the novel you are not sure whether or not you have become part of the delusional world of the protagonist Richard Brot.

You first meet Richard Brot as an adult living a squalid alcoholic life-style and believe me author Chris Fyles has written such a vivid, detailed account of Brot's daily life that you can almost smell him. However you become intrigued by Brot and start to wonder how he ever got into such a state. The author then takes you back to Brot's school days and family life and you accompany him as he moves forward towards maturity. Brot is the narrator in this novel and he seems to want three things: a girlfriend, to be popular and to do what's right. He is particularly bothered about morality and doing the right thing but things don't always work out as he would wish.

I can't exactly say I enjoyed reading The Winnowing but it was definitely worth reading. The author writes well with a sharp incisive style and there is some good dialogue although there is some unusual formatting of some of the dialogue sections. All the characters are well drawn and create strong impressions as you read. Brot comes over like a genuine adolescent and his so called friends are equally authentic.

I am still puzzling over the title: winnowing is to sort out the wheat from the chaff or more figuratively, to sift through the evidence. And that is what I'm left trying to do - get really to the heart of what is going on in this novel. I think it is a novel that will stand up to reading again and I don't think that there is any greater compliment to a novel than that.