14 – peter clines


I originally got this as an advance review copy for the other half, as I thought it sounded right up his street.  But he’s been having a bit of a slack reading period lately – he keeps re-reading old favourites and not picking up anything new.

So, after having it for a couple of months (it was released on 5th June), I thought I’d give it a bash myself.

Nate Tucker has a low-paid job and needs to find somewhere low-rent to match it.  When a vague acquaintance tips him off about a cheap apartment hes heard of, he decides to check it out.

He can’t believe his luck and moves in straight away, further cheered when he runs into his gorgeous blue-haired neighbour sunbathing naked on the roof.

However, he soon starts to notice that there seems to be some strange quirks in his new abode.  The cockroaches are green for a start, and one light fitting only glows with black light – no matter what bulb he puts in it.  and then there are they two apartment doors that look like they have been paonted closed for tens of years – including the mysterious, heavily padlocked apartment 14.

When his geeky neighbour Veek points out that there are no power lines going into their building, they decide to rally the other tennants and investigate – much to the horror of Oskar, their secretive caretaker.  What could he possibly be concerned about them uncovering?

I had absolutely no idea where this story was headed.

It started off like a slightly quirky mystery.  Nate is young, likeable, intelligent but not so much that it’s annoying, a bit of a slacker at work, funny – he’s just ‘normal’.  You can imagine all of the characters living in the same building.  All they have in common is their love (or need) of the cheap rent.

So, it starts as a mildly intriguing, entertaining grown-uop Scooby Doo romp.  And that is actually how Clines pushes it, getting the characters to decide whether they are Shaggy, Fred, Scooby, Daphne or Velma.

And then suddenly it gets rather weird, and I was thinking “WTF??”.  But this was in a good way! The investigations start to get more serious, and they start to uncover more historical oddities about the building.

But towards the end, it becomes completely and utterly surreal – which I hadn’t been expecting at all! It moves from being some kind of mystery into something more sci-fi – completely genre-hopping.  I can understand that this could turn some peopel off, but to be honest, I loved it!

I’d grown to love the characters, and the way that they adapted to the different aspects of each situation felt realistic.

The narrative was actually very easy to read, but the story had so many layers that I couldn’t work out where it was going, and it’s nice to be surprised like that sometimes.

I’m not sure who I would recommend it to, but I’d love to discuss it with some friends who had read it.   If I’d known what it wa slike, I would have suggested it as our Book Club read one month!

zed: a cosmic tale – michel gagné

Zed: A Cosmic Tale

I have never read a comic book / graphic novel ever. Ever!  Even though I live with a total geek who plays XBox at every opportunity, reads as much sci-fi as possible and has a graphic novel reading history (although not in recent years).

Anyway, apart from worrying about being branded a geek myself, I have had no real desire NOT to read graphic novels, it had just not come about.  However, I spotted this one available as an Advance Review Copy while I was looking for something for The Man to read, and how could I resist that cute little alien thing on the cover?  And it’s purple! I like purple!

OK, obviously I’m far too intellectual and deep to be swayed by looks, and I would never judge a book by its cover, but…well…

Zed is appearing before the Hierachy of the Galaxy to present his invention, along with nine other young inventors as part of a competition.  There’s a huge crowd gathered from planets across the galaxy to see not just the inventions but also Krah, the loudest rock band in the galazy.  Zed’s proud that his parents have also made the journey.

But when he starts the demonstration of his invention, something goes wrong.  Horribly, horribly wrong, and our poor little hero ends up having to battle not just for his own life, but also the fate of his home planet.

I loved this.  Don’t be swayed by the cutesie little alien, it covers some deep and dark events, and there seem to be a few missing heads within its pages.

Me and The Man read this together last night – it only took us about an hour, and The Girl has just read it. Like me, it was her first graphic novel, and she also loved it!  She did say “Ewww!” at a couple of points, but I knew she could deal with it – she is 13!  (There were only 2 minor swear words within.) She was more traumatised by the frame where Zed was getting changed and you see what is obviously his little alien willy.  When I say traumatised, it wasn’t quite like this moment.

I believe that this book was pulled together from existing stories that Gagné had written over 11 years, and I felt that there were moments that the story didn’t seem to flow very easily but I could forgive it almost anything as the drawings are wonderful!  They are a mixture of cutesie, amusing and dark.  There were a couple of frame comparisons at the end too which showed an original drawing and how much detail Gagné had added for the final product, which was really interesting.

I will now actively look for more graphic novels – it was great to have something that all three of us could enjoy and discuss.

The Man with his graphic novel experience would give it a good 3.5/5, me 4/5 and The Girl 5/5!  Give us more Zed!

Zed: A Cosmic Tale will be released on 12th Feb 2013

0.4 – mike lancaster


I picked this up after seeing someone else’s review on Goodreads.  I like reading books that are aimed at YA and teens as I can check them out before handing on to my 12 year old daughter – if I think they’re a) good enough and b) suitable.

This definitely ticked both boxes – in fact The Man has read this too and really enjoyed it.

“My name is Kyle Straker and I don’t exist any more.” it starts.  The book is written as transcripts of audio tapes that have been found.  The tapes are of teenager Kyle Straker telling the story of his last summer of ‘normal’ life and are interspersed with notes from the transcriber.  The notes make it obvious that the world has moved on a lot since Kyle’s days and that our present time as we know it now is pretty much unknown for some reason.

Kyle lives in Millgrove, a small village of roughly 1,000 people just outside Cambridge.  During the village’s much-attended annual talent show, he and three others agree to be hypnotised as part of his best friend’s act.  However, the real story starts once the act is over.

I totally loved this book.  It’s only 273 pages long, and as it is written with a teenager’s voice and aimed at teenagers, it is extremely easy to whizz through.  But don’t think that means it is scant on depth or content, because it isn’t at all.

There are so many fantastic ideas and concepts and observations in this, that it will appeal to anyone.  In fact, I picked up the next in the series and started reading it straight away as I felt quite excited by it all.

It is also very funny.  The little ‘transcribers notes’ were the most amusing – a description of a Happy Shopper to those that have never experienced one brought a smile to my face.  I also liked the note that went alongside an entry that mentioned Coldplay. “O’Brien makes a persuasive case for a ‘Coldplay’ referring to a kind of dramatic or musical presentation characterised by being utterly bereft of any signs of genuine emotion.”  *snigger*

I think it will be a brilliant first foray into sci-fi for my daughter, and having just finished the next book, I am trying hard to resist buying the third, and am reading something very different instead!

portal – imogen rose


This is another of those books that I read to ‘test out’ for The Girl.  It’s the first in a series, which is the kind of thing she likes, so I thought “I’ll give the first one a crack and then can hand the whole lot over to her if it’s OK”.  Plus it was free on Kindle (back in June when I forst downloaded it) – which is always my favourite price!

When pregnant, married scientist Olivia goes out on a friend’s hen night in London, she doesn’t realise that a seemingly chance-encounter with a handsome musician will change the lives of her whole family, but Rupert’s first words to her are “Olivia, I’m your Rupert. Come and find me two years ago”.

The later story then follows Olivia’s teenage daughter, Arizona who wakes up in the back of her mum’s car – but all is not as it was!  She isn’t the person that she believes herself to be, and isn’t in the life that she’s been living – and she’s also somehow 8 months in the past!  Far from the hockey-playing, mother-hating tomboy she has always been, she finds she apparently has a different surname, is a Barbie-style cheerleader – and her dad has been replaced by this guy called Rupert who everyone treats as if he has always been her dad!

What on earth is going on?!

I had to read this not as a grown woman, but as a tweenage girl – and if you read it that way, it’s a well thought out captivating story that leaves you wanting more (and luckily there IS a lot more!)

As an adult, I could pick holes in the plot or the seemingly rushed writing, but I don’t believe it was aimed at me – and I know that The Girl is going to love it!  I believe every young girl has had those “What if?” thoughts, that they’re not supposed to be living the life that they are, that their parents aren’t really their parents and one day some rich celeb/rich businessman etc is going to turn up on their doorstep and tell them that they’re their real long-lost parent!  This really plays to that unspoken fantasy!

And I enjoyed the journey – it’s a really fun story!

oh this is awful – i LOVE it!

one of the best ideas ever to hit our TV screens!

Me and The Man have a bit of a soft spot for really awful B movies.  They’re fantastic to while away a lazy afternoon, or on a Fri/Sat nmight when we’ve had a couple of drinks.  hell B movies are good any time of the week!!

They are usually shown on ZoneHorror or Sci-Fi channel, and we’ve had some brilliant ones over the years.  Sometimes, our mates come round and we tend to turn into Mystery Science Theater 3000 which was maybe one of THE most genius inventions ever to hit our TV screens – oh how I miss it.

Anyway, yes, we turn into a showing of that, just sitting there taking the piss out of the acting, out of the sets, out of the script, out of the ‘speshul’ effects and generally enrichign the whole experience.

I wish they’d bring back MST3K (as i believe fans always called it) – I remember watching it with my two closest mates back in the early 90s eating crap food, pissed out of our heads!  Oh the good old days.

Anyway, this afternoon, me and The Man watched the fabulously awful Snakehead Terror – which was not terrifying in the least, but had brilliantly awful continuity and some real laugh out loud bad acting and dialogue 🙂 although it didn’t have the required ‘slight’ star.

Of course – THE ultimate film to get this treatment is tha AMAZING Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus )please DO click on the link and watch the trailer if you’ve never seen it).  It stars 80s pop kitten Debbie Gibson (except now that she’s grown up, she’s Deborah!) and has everything we ever wanted from a B movie.  It’s fantabulous, and I have forced many many of my friends to watch it – and there have been no disappointments yet.

Another great B movie that has all the required elements is the wonderful Warbirds, which has WWII american female fighter pilots, Leo from Charmed, Japanese soldiers and pteradactyls!!!  It’s brilliant – I loved it.  there was another one called Locusts starring Lucy Lawless (Xena) which also fit the bill, but just didn’t quite touch the genius of Warbirds.

God bless ZoneHorror and SciFi channel – they really need to bring back MST3K though!  I’d be a brilliant script writer for the aliens!

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