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SMOKE AND MIRRORS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This collection of short stories by master story teller Gaiman is even more like a collection of fairy tales than his long works. His novels may have depth and scope that the short form lacks, but you still get hints of that here, along with variety.

Gaiman’s style is incredible, he is able to conjures worlds and characters with his words that spring up in their mind’s-eye. For me “Babycakes” and the final story in the collection “Snow, Glass, Apples” stood out. The first a brutal and unforgiving look at humanity, powerful for a single page story, the second a retelling of Snow White with a twist.

Even in his early fiction Gaiman has the ability to draw you in.

A beautifully imaginative and diverse collection from one of the world’s finest story tellers.

A Pint of Bloody Fiction – Featuring MY story!

Posted in Life..., Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by stanleyriiks

A couple of months ago I hadn’t written anything for ages. A couple of months, I thought, but when I checked it turned out to be almost a year. When I saw a call for submissions of 200 words by House of Horror for their new anthology A Pint of Bloody Fiction, the urge was irresistible. I whipped up a 200 word story in half an hour, and then spending twice that long editing it!

I sent it in, and the acceptance wasn’t long coming. Why isn’t it always that simple? The grin on my face stayed for over a week; anyone who know what a miserably bugger I normally am can testify this is an extremely rare event.

So my story “The Blade Bites Deep” appears in the collection, alongside some other stuff by some other writers. (Who are actually pretty good too!)

This burst of confidence also unleashed a six week write-fest, where I wrote something every couple of days. About twelve stories were produced in that time, and now the inspiration seems to have taken a backseat I better get to editing and submitting the buggers before my own version of writers block (life in general, grrr!) starts getting in the way again. So wish me luck!

And go get yourself a copy of  A Pint of Bloody Fiction and tell them I sent you!

Within the pages of this book of nightmares you will find horror stories in small doses, just enough to quench your bloody thirst. From an insomniac vampire to a library filled with human skin bound books, this collection will take you on a wild ride of chills and thrills without you even having to leave your seat. With each story being no more than 200 words, this collection is only a fraction of what these writers can do. Forty-Two chilling tales from many talented authors, trust me you will not want to put this book down.

Available now from House of Horror, Lulu.com and coming soon to Amazon.

DIFFERENT SKINS By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I wrote this review a few weeks ago. I think it’s a good review, and it will be published in the first edition of the Morpheus Tales Review Supplement. Before putting it up here I wondered how the space and distant I’ve had since reading the book had changed my opinion. Actually, it hasn’t. I think that Different Skins is an amazing book, both the stories are moving and emotion-evoking. You can’t help but be sucked into the worlds that McMahon creates, the stories actually touch you emotionally and intellectually. That’s what I look for in my life, I don’t just want to read a book, I want to experience it. That what happens with Different Skins. I cannot recommend this book enough. Go do yourself a favour and buy this book:

http://www.screamingdreams.com

This is one of those books that it is a pleasure to hold. It feels nice. It looks stunning, the cover and back cover by Vincent Chong are exquisite. Even the interior looks and feels nice, it feels like you’re holding a good quality book in your hands. It feels very similar to the limited editions from Blood Letting Press, except in paperback.

OK, so it doesn’t particularly matter what the book feels like, it’s the content that really matters. Right? But my point is that it does matter, holding a book that feels nice just adds to the pleasure. And this book can be judged on its beautifully subtle and disturbing cover.

Introductions are normally a waste of time unless they’re by the author, Tim Lebbon’s intro doesn’t stray too far from this. But he does mention that he read McMahon’s stories as a writer would. I completely agree with him on this, although I probably read as a writer differently to Mr. Lebbon. McMahon’s stories, two novellas in this collection, are packed with ideas and details and phrases that I wish I’d written, that I want to use in one of my stories. There are just so many “I wish I’d thought of that” moments!

The first story, Even The Dead Die, is a ghost story set in a London occupied by the dead, and it’s so rich and powerful that it made me feel like a teenager again, discovering my first horror story. Every page sparkles with ideas and brilliance, it’s like reading the very best of Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker. McMahon’s London is dark and nasty and brutal, but it’s also perversely beautiful. And so is his first story, dark, rich, tragic, powerfully and perversely beautiful.

The second story really shows the breadth of McMahon’s skill. In The Skin is a very different story, a personal tale of loss and neglect, a story of life. The story of Dan, who goes on a business trip to New York and upon his return, finds that his son is not quite the same, that his wife is slightly different. His family is not who they were before he left. The second story in the collection is as different as it possibly can be, this is a much more personal tale, without the glitter and glamour, the brilliance or the ideas of the first story. And yet it touches you more deeply, more subtly than the first story. Its horror is all the more real for its understated openness and its horrible sense of loss. My favourite story of the collection was Even The Dead Die, then I read In The Skin and had to change my mind.

OK, so the services of a proof-reader wouldn’t go amiss (although the typos have been spotted and will be fixed for the next print run), and there is no Charing Cross Road Station, but what you get when you buy this book is something much more than you will expect.

Despite its length and cost, it’s a 120 page book for the price of an epic novel at £7.99, that quality I mentioned earlier makes reading this book worth more than any price you can put on it. I was shaken putting this book down, mentally and emotionally shaken. Reading the first story made me feel alive, reading the second made me feel empty. It is that power that I search for as a reader. It is the quality of the production and the contents of this amazing collection which pushes it beyond insubstantial things like money, it’s like the Lord of the Rings, Anansi Boys, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld… reading this book is an epic experience that will touch you in ways that few experiences can.

I recommend Different Skins wholeheartedly and unreservedly, and will be seeking out much more of Gary McMahon’s work.

FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2009 by stanleyriiks

The last collection of King’s I read was Different Seasons, it’s also one of my favourite collections, and definitely one of my favourite books by Stephen King. Although this is another collection of four novellas, that’s where the similarities end. Different Seasons was filled with stories that weren’t particularly genre tales, Midnight is most definitely and easily defined as horror. Also, the stories seem longer, each of them being almost novel length.

The best of the stories are the book-ends, “The Langoliers”, and “The Sun Dog”. The last of which is very reminiscent of Needful Things. “The Langoliers” harks back to the Twilight Zone. The other two stories, Secret Window, Secret Garden (a classic writer in trouble story from the master), and The Library Policeman (a strange and overlong ghostly tale of childhood hauntings and alcoholism, is well told, but just too long), really do sit in the middle.

None of the stories contained in this huge book really stand out on their own, which is probably why they’ve been collected. Stephen King writes best about characters, and to allow them to really grow he needs a long novel, that’s why Needful Things and some of his other books work so well. That’s also why “The Langoliers” works, it’s about a small group of characters in a desperate situation. As I think about it, these stories will feel very familiar to a King fan, the group of people in trouble, the writer attacked, the stranger who doesn’t fit in, and the shopkeeper whose greed will drive him to his death.

This book is huge, and because of its size it’s quite hard work. Like most of King’s novels, it’s easy reading, and he manages to evoke fear, even if you know what’s going to happen. Not particularly inventive, King still manages to entertain, but this is a McDonalds of a book, satisfying but ultimately of no lasting substance.

Power Reading

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Since almost the beginning of this year, I’ve been, what I like to think of as, power reading. Taking the advice of Stephen King, not personally I’m afraid, but from his book On Writing, I’ve been reading as much as possible. Power reading, basically ever spare minute has been involved in reading, a spare moment at work, during the adverts of tv programmes (which I’ve cut back on), I’ve also started listening to audiobooks, so that H G Wells and Andre Norton tell me tales as I walk to work and wait for the opening credits at the cinema.

I haven’t played with my xbox since January.

I haven’t played with my girlfriend since May. She’s a damn sight harder not to play with than my xbox!

Every spare moment has been absorbed with reading.

It’s got to the point where my life is no longer split up into minutes, hours, days and weeks, but pages. While I run my bath I think I have time for twelve pages, between adverts is a two page stretch. Time is now counted in pages. Which of course becomes a little difficult when changing books, so it may well be time to demand that publishers don’t try to cram too many words onto a page and try to work between them to come up with the perfect number, with the perfect font size and just stick to that for every book. Harmonisation of words to a page is my new cause!

Anyways, this power reading over the last few months has become something of an obsession as I try to work through my quite considerable collection of books. I’ve managed to buy very few books this year, only about twenty, which isn’t too bad for me. But it still means I have about a thousand to go. Yikes!

Now, since the power reading marathon started I think I’ve managed to do a book in an average of three days. I can’t remember taking longer than four days to read a book this year. I have tried to stick to books of between three and four hundred pages. When power reading I find it’s more of a sprint to the end, so longer novels can get a bit sticky.

But this weekend I’m going to Copenhagen, to suffer the delights of Trivoli and another Scandinavian Capital City (last weekend away in July was to Stockholm). I know, poor me. My girlf loves all that is Scandinavian, and I can’t refuse a holiday opportunity, so on Friday off we go. But last Wednesday this left me with a dilemma. Do I start a nice short book and rush through it before we leave, or pick a huge book that will take me over the weekend. I pack light, and when I say light I mean minimal. We’ll be there for three nights, so I need three t-shirts, three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, a camera and charger, ipod and charger, phone and charger, toiletries (consisting of mini mouthwash, mini toothpaste, toothbrush, mini shower gel), and what I wear on the flight: jeans, t-shirt, waterproof jacket, sunglasses, trainers, socks and pants. I will take a small rucksack and it will be half filled, at most. So there is only room for one solitary book. Hence the dilemma.

I could probably have read a book in between, but I thought I’d use this opportunity to have a bit of a slow down, to take a break from the breakneck reading. So I chose an epic, a collection of novels, by the aforementioned King. Four Past Midnight, the paperback version obviously, to minimise weight in my rucksack. So I’m taking a break and having a rest, and will be intent on enjoying Copenhagen over the weekend, and once I get back and I’ve finished the epic collection of Mr King, I’ll be back on course for some more power reading, at least until I go to Berlin in October. Such a hard life!

Audio books

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by stanleyriiks

If Stephen King tells you to do something you do it. And Stephen King told me to read a lot, well in his book On Writing he says if you want to be a writer you have to read a lot, and I want to be a writer. Every day I slog to work and back, every day I am abused and mistreated, every day I read: I want to be a writer.

So I bought a few audio books off Ebay, thought I’d catch up on some classics, so H. G. Wells and Jules Verne to start off my collection.

I listened to The Invisible Man and was impressed. The cheap CD I got from Ebay was basically a collection of downloaded audio books from Librivox. I visited the website and found there were loads of books waiting for me to listen to, so obviously I’ve filled up my ipod with Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

Audio books take a bit of getting used to, it takes a little more concentration than listening to 30 Seconds to Mars and Papa Roach. But once you get your head in gear it’s off you go.

Librivox hasn’t got everything available, but it is free. Amazon do a range and so does Apple at their download store, I bet your local bookshop does too.

Think I might download Justineby de Sade next!

Reading had never been so easy!