Across the Pond : Review of Shades of War

Anyone who knows me or who has read my review of Thief will already realise I am a big fan of Sarah-Jane Lehoux. I was therefore eagerly anticipating the release of her second novel, Shades of War, when it came out last year. Believe me, it wasn’t a disappointment.

Starting off in familiar territory, Sevy finds herself on a reluctant quest that leads her into the unexpected, meeting old friends and new enemies. Mind you, Sevy collects enemies like a stray dog collects fleas.

The plot snakes throughout the book ensnaring your imagination. Complex tales are told and the characters’ pasts are revealed through the layers of shed words. Prey and predator are taken on a sinuous journey culminating at a destination of pain intermingled with joy.

Shades of War is no less than a fabulous follow-up to Thief;  Masquerade, the third of the series, is due to be published later this year. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting Masquerade because I can confidently say thatthis world need more Sevy!

sarah-jane lehouxSarah-Jane Lehoux has always had a passion for storytelling. From grade school tales of cannibalistic ghosts, to teenaged conversations with God, to her latest fantasy adventures, she’s attempted to share her love of the quirky and unconventional with her readers.

Sarah-Jane currently resides in Ontario with her husband and horde of cats. With a degree in anthropology and a diploma in animal care, she is employed as a veterinary technician. In between wrestling with rottweilers and fending off fractious cats, she has continued to craft stories that will entertain and provoke. For more information, please visit or follow @sarahjanelehoux on Twitter.

Across the Pond : Review of Thief

I originally wrote this a while ago but as the third book is out soon wanted to refresh everyone’s memories. Look for my review of the second book, Shades of War, tomorrow.

*Disclaimer. I know the author online but I bought my own copy of this book and she did not request a review

I was warned that the main character, Sevy, was a bitch – and she is – but she is that way for a reason, several in fact and though you may abhor her lack of morals and her mercurial temper you come to care for her in a strange, if slightly warped, way. Jarro is the swooningly handsome thief with a heart, oh dear that makes him sound terribly clichéd yet he has that pinch of spice that makes him much more. Then there’s Revik, a dark elf with fire-red eyes and the terror of the bogey-man trailing him through the dank, crime-ridden streets of Eloria.

Ms Lehoux’s style of writing is akin to a celtic knot; well designed lines of prose curving into a beautifully wrought tale taking you within itself and twining around the corners of your mind. I enjoyed the way her story unfolded through the eyes and minds of her characters as one by one you were told the tale through the differing perspectives of woman, man and dark elf. This literary device gave you glimpses of their backgrounds and insights into their personal lives, thoughts and feelings. You saw Eloria in its depravity and yet discovered there were slivers of hope and love lurking beneath the dross. You learned about the homelands and lore of the dark elves, shunned by humans as being below even the lowest guttersnipe in the city.

I don’t want to give away too much (well anything really) but suffice it to say that you are going to be horrified, surprised, saddened and left wanting more when the tale reaches its last page. Yet fear not, there are more delectable tales just peeking over the horizon.

Order the book (as pdf or dead tree version) at Mundania Press or through Amazon, Waterstones and other good outlets.

Check out Sarah-Jane Lehoux’s own website for more information.

Across the Pond : Q&A with Tristan J. Tarwater

I recently read and reviewed Botanica Blues by Tristan J. Tarwater (I loved it by the way) and thought it might be nice to ask her a few questions to share with you. So here you are.

Q: I love to know the inner workings of writer’s minds – where did the idea for Botanica Blues come from? 

A. The idea for Botanica Blues kind of stemmed from another story I started before it that deals partially with the aftermath of BB. I wanted to write about how that happened. I kind of have this spot in my brain dedicated to Puerto Ricans in the Lovecraft Mythos and the first line of the story came up and I thought, ‘How is that NOT some kind of wish for the Elder Gods to consume the Island of Enchantment?’ The rest just kind of came to me, the voice, the tense and I came up with Luis.

Q. The way Quintana not only photographs the crime scene but also draws what he sees – “Drawing makes it stick more” – is that something you do? To me it feels like when you’re a kid and writing down words multiple times to learn to spell them. 

A. I do write things down. If I write a grocery list, if it’s written I can probably grab most of what’s on the list from memory. I type things to remember them too but I still keep paper journals for notes, maps, things like that.

Q. Botanica Blues has quite an ending. Have you thought what might happen beyond that? Is there a plan for another short story? 

A. I have ideas for a few short stories, set before and after. I like Yang a lot and there’s obviously a lot of weird stuff going on that must be dealt with, both setting up for Botanica Blues and in the aftermath.

Q. You have a cat, is that a help or a hindrance when you write? 

A. HA! My cats actually don’t mess with me much when I’m writing. My office is in the kitchen and I keep my desk pretty messy. There are way more comfy spots in my house, though sometimes our boy cat will hide under the desk. They tend to hang out by the windows and my office is in a corner with mostly inorganic light. The way it should be.

Q. What’s the one question you really wanted me to ask? 

A. Hmm. Dang, that is hard. Maybe why does the Lovecraftian Mythos appeal to you, why Lovecraft? And I think the idea of destruction through discovery is interesting to explore. There are gaping holes in his own world that are fun and terrible to fall into and expand upon. Clawing at the limits of human understanding and doing it through the eyes of more people, people with different backgrounds than the typical Lovecraftian protagonist, with the amazing glut of knowledge we have…and knowing there’s still more out there we don’t know? It’s exciting.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Tristan, her life & words. If you haven’t picked up Botanica Blues yet here’s your chance to win an e-copy all for yourself. 

To enter: make a comment below and next Friday (6th July) we’ll pick someone at random to receive an e-version of Botanica Blues.

Across the Pond : Review of "Botanica Blues"

I discovered a downside to the Kindle app on my Android the other day (well, I guess it applies to ebooks in general). I’d taken my tablet to finish this story while having a meal before a Blink 182 gig in Manchester. Great gig by the way, All-American Rejects were fab too.

Anyway, I settled down and continued reading … an event happened … the book ended.

The book ended! I wasn’t even thinking about considering the fact I was nearly at the end of the book. You see with a dead-tree you have this dead giveaway – you can *see* that there’s only a few pages left. With an ebook there’s no visual clue unless you obsessively check the little numbers that appear when you tap the screen.

I was like “what?” And then I was sad coz the book had ended.

So enough waffling let’s get back to the book, well short story I guess would be more accurate. Tristan sent me this to see if I’d like it and would care to review it on Troll in the Corner. I am always more than happy to try out new (to me) authors so I immediately said yes.

Botanica Blues can be described as many things – urban-fantasy, indie, sci-fi/horror, crime thriller – but when it comes down to it labels don’t really matter, it’s whether you enjoy a book or not. I enjoyed this (I wouldn’t post a review otherwise).

The blurb

Luis Quintana must uncover the horrible truth about his newest case as a consultant for the local police – a ritualistic mass murder. When his investigation involves a frightened santero and an old friend in an asylum, Quintana recognizes the lurking terror he escaped once before and subsequently fights to maintain his sanity.

A modern day Lovecraftian tale of terror.

It opens with a spilled drink & a text message and ends … yeah, you don’t think I’m that mean to tell you how it ends do you?  Suffice to say that Tristan’s evocative words provide your mind with images of city life, death and tell of a threat from somewhere people have never imagined.

There was only one little, teensy-weensy thing I had a problem with, and this might be because I’m from England so don’t come across it very often. I didn’t understand the few Spanish (?) phrases. OK, I could have looked them up in Lady Google but I’m lazy and I had no internet access where I was.

But that was the one, only and less than atom-sized beef I had – I really enjoyed discovering Tristan’s words and will be hunting out other words she wrote to add to my (rather long) ‘to-read’ list.

In short – Botanica Blues was readworthy, well-crafted, complex,  interesting and left me wanting to read more of Tristan’s words.

Here’s where you can sample  Botanica Blues (personally I’d just skip the sample and buy it).

tristan j tarwaterTristan J Tarwater is the author of The Valley of Ten Crescents series, as well as several other stories that hope to see the light of day. Born and raised in New York City she remembers reading a lot, visiting Museums and the Aquarium frequently and wanting to be a writer from a very early age. Her love of fantasy and sci-fi spills over into what she reads and watches in her free time as well as the collection of dice, books and small metal figurines that reside in her home. She currently lives in Central California with her Admin, Small Boss, a cat that knows it’s a multipass and Azrael.

Find more info and links to her work at Back That Elf Up

Look out for my interview with Tristan later this week.

Across the Pond : Stealing is Wrong

I hear a lot about theft of Intellectual Property from my writer friends (here and here) and it always annoys me when I hear about people’s hard work being pirated. So when I saw this posted on Facebook I thought I would add a post here so more people will firstly be aware that horrid people do this, and secondly know if they see something like this not to buy anything.

Stolen Art at MCM Expo – read the post & check out the links to the images. This is UK-based but could be happening anywhere. The following is taken from the previous link, the writer is obviously very annoyed at what’s been going on.

This “stall” belongs to a Dealer who exhibited at London Expo this weekend.

Images look familiar? They should. They’re all STOLEN.

This guy claims to be the “genius” behind these works of art. Truth is, the majority, if not ALL of them, have been swiped from deviantART, printed on canvas and sold WITHOUT PERMISSION.

This guy is a fraud, a plagiarist, a thief and liar. Why is he even allowed to exhibit at London Expo.

We all need to gather proof that this guy isn’t all he claims to be. If you recognise ANY of these images. PLEASE SHARE OR COMMENT BELOW. A lot of these works are by American artists. We need to inform them and put a stop to this.

So, if you see stuff like this going on do check whether the seller actually has the rights to sell the work before buying anything. If you recognise any work then let the creator know if you can.

Across the Pond: Review of “Dracula World Order”

Dracula World Order by Ian Brill
Dracula World Order by Ian Brill

As quite a newbie to graphic novels, I was pleased to be asked to review this as I like to try different genres and I have been mainly reading through The Sandman series recently.

As with all graphic novels, the words and images convey the story, not just the narrative as with “regular” novels. Dracula World Order is quite a different style to The Sandman series, however this was totally appropriate – the use of dark shadows and sharp lines compliment the story which is quite relevant to current events.

Dracula has converted the top 1% of humanity; the remaining 99% are imprisoned slaves…or food for the 1%. Alexandru, Dracula’s son, is the leader of the revolution against the 1%, gathering a team to battle against the Vampire elite.

This is the first of a series; well, I hope there will be more as the reader is left on a cliffhanger. I read it through three times in one evening and each time the story got better. I realised more was going on than initially seems. As the writer, Ian Brill, states:

This is [a] story of greed, power, family, monsters and a whole lot of kick-assery. It’s a story I have wanted to tell for a long time, and I am honored to share it with you.

Go here to find out more about this graphic novel and its writer and creator Ian Brill.




Across the Pond: Review of "The Hoax"

Initially, I thought I had mistaken the genre; the story begins with a man, his resolve to conquer his drinking and his murder. A commonplace murder, except for the blood. However, as the tale unfolds you begin to sense that all is not commonplace, that there are far more intricacies lurking beneath the surface.

Family ties and blood are at the heart of this tale of control and heavenly creatures. Friends, strangers, priests, and the FBI come together to fight against the mind-controlled, the false messiah, and the hoax-master.

I love a story that leads you down winding arteries of narrative to an unexpected heart of the tale. This is one of those that I will read again (and probably again). It encompasses the crime, mystery, and fantasy genres successfully which, together with a well-crafted style of writing, makes this book a joy to read. I started this on Monday morning and finished it Monday evening. The only reason I didn’t read straight through was down to being a responsible mother with family responsibilities, which sometimes really sucks when you want to just read a book to the end. 🙂

adrienne jonesAdrienne Jones is a speculative fiction and award winning humour writer, and author of the books Brine and Gypsies Stole My Tequila. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

You can read further information and purchase The Hoax from Mundania Press.

Across the Pond : Cons, Brit-style

Over the last few years, as my kids have got older, I realised that freedom is just over the horizon. In preparation I have been looking at various conventions being held in the UK that I may be able to attend at some point.

One organiser that caught my eye was StarFury Conventions. They organise a few conventions each year, mainly in London but there are some in Birmingham (the UK one). Their cons cover various fandoms from Dr Who to Game of Thrones as well as non-geek such as Glee & the L-Word. The first one I heard of, because my brother went last year, was the Vampire Ball. The 2012 Vampire Ball will be held in September and guests will include James Marsters among others.

Now, I’m not sure how other countries roll when they attend cons but here’s a Brit perspective of the recent Inva3ion con held in May 2012.

This was my fourth convention ever, and they just keep getting better. They are run by a guy called Sean Harry, and his company StarFury Conventions, and they are just the perfect mix of sci-fi geekery, and all night partying. These are not like your Comic-Con type events you may see on TV shows or the news when people talk about conventions, they are much smaller affairs with a much more relaxed atmosphere. There are usually a good selection of guests doing talks through the weekend, and quite often they will join you for a good party each evening. All the attendees are fantastic as well, you couldn’t hope to meet a better group of people. Read the full article >>>

To me, conventions should be about the fans being able to interact with the actors and writers behind their favourite shows and this seems to be what StarFury achieve. Although, on a side note, if I ever met Patrick Stewart I think I would lose the power of speech.

You find some of the guests really do embrace the fans and enjoy themselves at these conventions, and to be sat in the bar whilst Aaron is tweeting pictures of gifts he’d been given, and telling Wil Wheaton that his fans are so much better, shows how fun these events are.

I am now researching conventions in the UK to see which ones I might attend. Inva3ion 2013 sounds fun but I am always open to other ideas – so bring on the suggestions.

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