Thursday, 23 November 2017

All Rights Reserved: A New YA Science Fiction Book by Gregory Scott Katsoulis (Book Review)



This is easily my favourite book of the year.

It reminds me a lot of Orwell's 1984 (which I've actually never read, but know enough about to make it feel like I have).

In the distant future, all forms of communication are copyrighted. A shrug more than 2.5cm high costs you money. Crying or laughing, unless you can prove it's involuntary, costs you money. Speaking costs you money. The word "Sorry" costs a flat $10, and is considered an admission of guilt which opens you up to an InstaSuit from the person you're saying it to. The value of other words fluctuate wildly, depending on the market, and some people make it their business to scour those markets and use the cheapest possible words to say what they want to say (which change from day to day).

It's not just communication - all forms of expression carry a cost. There are a few hairstyles still in the public domain, but wearing your hair in any other style incurs a monthly fee. Likewise with clothes.

And the penalties for copyright violation are far-reaching. If your great-grandparents once illegally downloaded a song, you can be held liable to pay damages, or be carried off into lifetime servitude if you can't afford it.

That particular part of the book fascinated me, because the whole idea that people should be held liable, and have to pay for something their long-dead ancestors did reminds me of what's happening in South Africa right now with land reform and Black Economic Empowerment. I know that's not the intent, and in South Africa's case, the motivation is ostensibly more altruistic, but it goes to show how easily things can get out of control.

And everything in this dyspotia is out of control. And it's not too far-fetched, either. A couple of tweaks to copyright law here, a few fudges of Free Speech there, and we're on a slippery slope. You already can't technically sing the melody to "Happy Birthday" without paying someone royalties. All the rights holders need is a way to enforce it so that it's not prohibitively expensive to collect, and you'll have to pay $100 whenever you sing it at someone's birthday party.

Scary stuff.

Editing-wise, it's no worse than some of the bestsellers I've read, and it's better than most. But I long to read a flawless book again. It's been a long time since I've clicked that fifth star....

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Need Editing for your Flash Fiction Story? I'm now available on Fiverr


As a multi-genre author of short stories, flash fiction collections, and novelettes, I am uniquely skilled in the English language.

As such, I can provide proofreading of your flash fiction story, in any genre, catching spelling errors, typos, and glaring plot holes.

My own work is written in British English, but I'm fully capable of sticking to American spellings and phrasings if you prefer.

Click here to find out more. It's only $5. :)

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Friday is International Stand Up to Bullying Day

This Friday (17 November) is International Stand Up to Bullying Day, and bullying's a topic that's very close to my heart.

A couple of years ago, I published a story called Stingers. It's a shocking story about what can happen when bullying goes too far, and it was recently taught as a set work in a High School English class in South Africa. Please take a look and consider buying a copy. And if you like it, please share this post with your friends. :)

Click the cover for more information:


Monday, 13 November 2017

The Art of Forgetting by Peter Palmieri (Book Review)


About the Book


A contemporary medical suspense with an engaging romantic element, set in the western suburbs of Chicago. A brilliant author trapped by his crippling amnesia. The only one who can free him, a doctor plagued by his past. When dark forces threatens to quash Dr. Lloyd Copeland's controversial cure, his career and his life, he discovers that falling in love is the ultimate complication. Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented by the conviction that he has inherited the severe, early-onset dementia that has plagued his family for generations - the very disease which spurred his father to take his own life when Lloyd was just a child. Withdrawn to a life of emotional detachment, he looks for solace in hollow sexual trysts as a way to escape his throbbing loneliness. Still, he clings to the hope that the highly controversial treatment for memory loss he has devised may stem his genetic destiny and free him from his family's curse. But when odd mishaps take place in his laboratory, his research is blocked by a hospital review board headed by Erin Kennedy: a beautiful medical ethicist with a link to his troubled childhood. The fight to salvage his reputation and recover the hope for his own cure brings him face to face with sordid secrets that rock his very self-identity. And to make matters worse, he finds himself falling irretrievably in love with the very woman who seems intent on thwarting his efforts. The Art of Forgetting weaves the suspense of a Tess Gerritsen novel with the heartfelt contemplation of Abraham Verghese. The result is a memorable story that will keep you thinking long after you read the last page.

My Review (4 / 5 Stars)


Rivetting. What a great story.

There's this doctor, a neuroscientist, in truth. He's afflicted with a family curse: every man in his family for generations has succumbed to the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. Because of this, he's made it his life's work to try to find a cure, but he's also foresworn himself to love, because after seeing what his mother went through when his father committed suicide, he never wants to put a woman through that pain.

When he gets caught in some sticky legal situations with his research, though, it's up to him to try and find out what's going on. Is he being deliberately blocked and, if so, why and by whom?

The pacing is just perfect, and the stakes are nice and high. The copy needs some work, but it's very well researched. If you enjoy a good medical drama, you're sure to enjoy this book.

Click here to find out where you can pick up a copy.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Bread and Milk: A Black Friday Horror Story



16:45

Friday at last!

Mark stifled a yawn and glanced at his watch. What a long week. All he wanted to do was go home, crack open a beer and snuggle on the couch in front of the TV with his wife.

His phone vibrated on the desk. He picked it up and glanced at the screen.

Kate:
Hi honey. Would you please stop at the shops on the way home and pick us up a loaf of bread and some milk? Love you.

Mark sighed. He peaked his head over his cubicle dividers. Everyone was still hard at work, their heads down. He supposed nobody would miss him if he snuck out now.

17:32

The parking lot was a mess. At this time on a Friday afternoon? And then it hit him: Black Friday. He groaned. Outside of Christmas Eve, the worst possible day to be at the shops. Why South Africa had seen fit to pick up on this obscene American tradition, he couldn’t say.

After driving around for ten minutes, he finally found a space, as far away from the entrance as it was possible, it seemed.

17:44

As he predicted, the shop inside was a nightmare. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting someone. Glancing around, he saw people pushing and shoving to get at the last remaining items on almost empty shelves. It seemed like there was nothing left. What was everyone still doing here? He hunched his shoulders, stuck his hands in his pockets, and made a beeline for the bread.

It actually wasn’t so bad at the bread racks. There was still quite a bit left, and the crowd had thinned a bit. With a muffled “Excuse me,” he stuck his hand between two women who were arguing over expiry dates, grabbed a loaf, and hugged it to his chest as he headed towards the milk—which of course was all the way at the back of the shop.

17:52

To get to the dairy aisle, he had to go through the toy section. That was quite an achievement. Soccer moms crammed the aisle, bustling to get at blonde haired dolls or the latest robotic dogs. Nobody seemed to pay him any attention as he shouldered his way through.

By the time he reached the milk, the loaf of bread in his hands had been squished to the point where it might have been mistaken for a bag of hamburger rolls.

There were two bottles of milk left by the time he reached the refrigerated shelves, and as he got there, a burly man lunged in front of him. With a “Sorry boet,” he snatched up one of the bottles. Mark reached in and grabbed the last one, before turning to see a woman scowling at him. He smiled a sheepish apology and started towards the checkout lines.

17:58

Standing in the line, Mark groaned inwardly as he saw the massive queue of people in front of him. Many had trolleys fully loaded with electronic devices, toys, and groceries. At this rate, it would take an hour to reach the front. He looked around frantically, to see if there was perhaps a shorter line. There wasn’t.

He spied a coffee display with a sign advertising 50% off his favourite brand. People were literally stampeding to get at that; an old lady had been knocked to the ground. He briefly considered leaving his queue to fetch himself one, but one look behind him changed his mind. At least twenty people were now lined up behind him. Besides, he remembered there was still a full pot in the cupboard at home. Best to stay put.

18:22

Three more people ahead of him. And they didn’t look like they had too much stuff. He’d be home soon.

He felt a vibration in his pocket. He shifted the milk into his other hand and tucked the bread under his arm so he could fish out his phone. Then, realising he’d reached into the wrong pocket, blushed and swapped everything over the other way.

Mark glanced at the screen.

Another message from Kate:
Oh, by the way, babes, are you still at the shops? I see there’s 50% off coffee. Won’t you pick up three pots for us?

Mark hit reply, and hastily typed:
Saw it too. All out. Sorry. 




Tuesday, 31 October 2017

My Top 4 Horror Reads of All Time



Mwahaha. It's Halloween, and I thought I'd help you get into the spirit a little. I took a look at my Horror shelf on Goodreads. There are 28 "read" books on it (out of a total of 226 read--I think I need to read more horror), and I found four of them which I'd rated five stars.

So, in no particular order, here are my top four horror stories of all time. Click on a cover to find out where you can pick up a copy.

Enjoy!

Mold by Lindsey Goddard


About the Book

When a new mother is forced to move into an old boarding home, she discovers the dark secret behind the phantom mold that keeps appearing on her walls.

My Review

I really enjoyed this little story. Not so much scary as creepy, it's very psychological.

The writing is brilliant, and the pacing is just right. It definitely made me think... and I liked the open ending, too!

The End of the Trail by Louis Rackovich



About the Book

A barren land of salt and snow; a castle where underground paths twist and turn in endless circles and a reclusive king has not shown his face in years; a forest where few things are what they seem. An unnamed hero must navigate through these places as he takes on the task of tracking down a supposed witch, in a story that blends dream and reality, rumor and truth, danger and hope.

My Review

There isn't much to say about this book, because it's so short that I don't want to give anything away. It's not too short, though: the length is just right. And not because it was bad. Quite the contrary, it's a fully composed story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

It was creepy, but not too creepy. It was beautifully written. It made me think. And the ending, while somewhat predictable, was utterly satisfying. You can't go wrong.


One for the Road: An Illustrated Story by Stephen King


About the Book

This much-loved tale is narrated by Booth, and elderly resident of a small Maine town that neighbors the infamous Jerusalem's Lot, and it takes place a couple of years after the events in King's novel. Booth describes a winter's night years ago, when he and his friend, a bar owner named Herb Tooklander (Tookey), receive a visit from a distressed motorist named Gerard Lumley, whose vehicle had become stranded in a ferocious blizzard . . . with his wife and daughter still inside. At first critical of Lumley for driving in such weather, both men are horrified when they realise the Lumley's car is stranded in Jerusalem's Lot, widely regarded to have 'gone bad'. Nevertheless, they still decide to drive out in a snow plough and attempt to save Lumley's family. Instead, they barely manage to save themselves.

Widely regarded to be one of King's finest short stories—itself a sequel of sorts to what so many feel is perhaps his finest novel—'One For The Road' is the author working at the top of his form. For years people clamored for another visit to 'Salem's Lot'. Well, here it is . . . a wintry little coda to one of King's scariest works. All the classic elements are here: an empty town, heavy weather, Yankee accents . . . and the monsters, of course. Let's not forget the monsters.

My Review

I listened to the audiobook of this one, that I found on YouTube, but I now can't find it anywhere. Good luck if you're trying to source it!

One for the Road is somewhat of a sequel to 'Salem's Lot. I don't think you'll miss much if you read this one without having read Salem's Lot, but don't read this one if you intend to read its predecessor, or it'll be spoilt for you.

A man shows up at a bar one day, in a town a short distance from Jerusalem's Lot, saying that his car ran out of fuel in the Lot, and he left his wife and daughter there while he came to look for help. The narrator and his friend finally agree to drive him back to fetch them, but they're not happy about it, because of the legendary creatures that inhabit the Lot.

The pacing is fantastic, and the tension builds perfectly. The ending is quite satisfying. I don't know who the audio-book narrator is, but he does a fantastic job in reading! I don't know if I would've given the book five stars if I'd have just read the book myself.


It by Stephen King



About the Book

Welcome to Derry, Maine…

It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real…

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them back to Derry to face the nightmare without an end, and the evil without a name.

My Review

It took me a month or so to read this book, and over that month I had the privilege to know some very interesting and lovable people. I knew them throughout their childhood and adult lives. I played with them, built dams and clubhouses with them, drank with them, ate with them, and smoked with them. And when I was finished, I missed them dearly. Even It, I got to know briefly about where It came from and what Its motivations were for being on this earth.
I even got to know Derry like my hometown, and I feel after all this time that I could get from anywhere in town to anywhere else in town with my eyes closed.

This familiarity is a testament to the incredibly rich writing skills of Mr Stephen King. Every character and every place is entirely believable and entirely consistent, which is no small feat considering there are so many of them, and the story is so long!

This book is meant to be a horror. I must say there are times when I felt "creeped out," but I don't think anything in the book truly scared me - although I definitely felt and identified with the terror the characters were feeling all those times!

This is a story about repressed memories, lost for many years, that come back when the people need to remember, but bury themselves again when the need is done. It's a story about friendship conquering all, but it's also a story about people coming into your life for a purpose, and then disappearing again when the purpose is completed (which is kind of sad).

"It" was the first Stephen King I actually READ, although I've seen many of the movies... the movie is NOTHING like the book! It definitely wasn't the last King book I read, though.

Honourable (I hope) mentions

It's worth mentioning the two horror books I wrote here, Billy's Zombie and Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction. No reviews for these, because I wrote them, and that would be pretentious. Besides, because I wrote them, they're obviously among my favourites!

Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

A perfect introduction into the inner workings of the weird mind of Graham Downs, this collection of flash fiction paranormal stories contains:

The Thing in the Window,
An Automatic Decision,
Telepathic Link,
The Witch of Wellington, and
The Christmas Bird.
All have been newly edited and polished since publication on his website in 2014, and some with new endings.

It also contains the never-before published story, Under the Sheets, about an old woman who believes she is being haunted by a strange ghost, living under her bed.

Billy's Zombie


Young Billy MacIntyre has always been a weird kid, always taking every little slight to heart.
One day, he decides to exact his revenge on all those simpletons who have done him wrong. And he does it by taking a book of Necromancy out of the library, and raising a zombie from the dead!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Repulsive Origins - The Captain: A Short Story by Brian W. Foster (Book Review)

About the Book

When a supervillain attacks civilians, the US Army is first on the scene. Lieutenant Samuel Shields is given the impossible task of protecting lives and property. His weapons won’t hurt a three-story tall enhanced hostile, and even if he could figure out a way to take the enemy out, he’s not allowed to engage under any circumstances. Instead, he must wait for the so-called superheroes to show up.

Leave it to the politicians to create such a FUBAR situation.

Two children are put in danger, and Samuel is forced to make a life-altering decision. If he follows orders, he’ll have the deaths of two kids on his conscience. But if he disobeys, he risks his life and, worse, a court martial.

My Review (3 / 5 Stars)

You know, I've been wanting to get into Superhero fiction for a while. I don't know why it took me so long.

The actual short story is sort of okay. I was frequently confused, and it struggled to keep my attention. I don't think it went into as much detail as I would've liked, explaining the world that the author has created.

AFTER the short story, however, there's a three-chapter sample of the book that the story is a prequel to, called Repulsive. I thoroughly enjoyed that! In fact, if I'd read that first, and then The Captain's origin story, we might be looking at a four- or perhaps even five-star review.

So, despite my relatively low review of Repulsive Origins - The Captain: A Short Story, you better believe the next one's going on my TBR.

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.