Pencil Lead

* * * * * * * * 8/10

Fran Heath

pencil-lead-book-cover-largeLyle was a character I found surprisingly easy to sympathise with. He’s uncertain of what he wants, in life or anything, with no hope or prospects coming his way. This is of course mostly due to lack of effort to make anything of himself, but then, what do you work toward if you don’t know what you want? He’s a character so uncertain of himself that he comments on how he is a different person for certain people, because that’s who they think he is. He makes a show of his life and makes a show of being… himself.

A good deal of the book is getting to know Lyle before he meets Holly, and from there focusses on their destructive relationship which doesn’t really get any oomph until they involve escorts. While anyone else might look at that as being the beginning of the end and unhealthy while it lasts, neither of these two are able to see beyond their own confusion and certainly in Lyle’s case, selfishness.

I wasn’t very fond of the ending. It went quite quickly and suddenly from a couple hell-bent on ruining their lives as fast as they can, to a rather heavy moral lesson on the dark side of ‘escorts’. I wouldn’t describe it as a happy ending in particular, though I suppose that would depend on how you see happiness coming out of a relationship like that. I’m not too sure the choice Lyle and Holly made in the end was to the benefit of either of them.



* * * * * * * 7 / 10

LeVar Ravel

517uZolDueL._SY346_Elizabeth, known better as Gwen, has been made a fool of. Her husband and their business have been made fools of. The only reasonable way to deal with the cause of their unhappiness is with a hitman.
The best man for the job is the man who makes his hits look like suicide, making certain that his employers are never implicated in the death at all. No one knows how he does it, they just know he’s the best.
The story starts off well and is hard to put down. The characters interact well, Gwen and Charles in particular, and in a way that while it’s easy to see how they got where they are, it’s still frustrating. By the end of the book, it was like I’d known them for years.
It does come a little heavy on the moral lessons, the ending a little cloying. The story itself is good, though.

The Soul of Nemach

* * * * * * 6/10

Scott Butcher

download (1)A story set in the 40’s, where the threat of Nazi invasion is palpable. Nemach and Humphrey must outwit the bad guys and stop them interfering in the filming of a movie that could aid the war effort.

It’s a nice little comedy which at times feels a little under-written. I got the impression that I had picked the book up mid-way through a series. Being a short book, there wasn’t much time to get to know the characters so they came across as being a little one-dimensional.

Even so, it’s not a bad story and could be an excellent series if the author gives it a little more attention.

Coldheart Canyon

* * * * * * * * *  9/10

Clive Barker

download (1)Todd Pickett has a face-lift that goes horribly wrong, and has to go into hiding until he has recovered, in the hopes that he will recover. The perfect hiding place is found in Coldheart Canyon. The beautiful house and grounds are neglected but liveable, and although are not to Todd’s usual tastes, he is quite happy to stay. It isn’t long before Todd finds out why Coldheart Canyon is so lost to the world, however.
This one was read in just a few days. I wasn’t sure about it to begin with, having started at the start like you do, about a canyon. It didn’t take long to get right into the story though. The the celebrity name-dropping made me smile, but at the same time made the book much more real and was much easier to get into the plot.
These are not people I can relate to, with problems that I am faced with and at no point was there an attempt to ‘normalise’ these super-stars for me. This was much appreciated.
Where I was disappointed is in how much story happened after the story ended. Everyone except the dead got their happy-ever-after, everything worked out well and it was as glittery, shining and fake as the people the book is mocking. In a way it was the perfect ending, but it went on for a little too long and felt a bit like the author was uncertain of where to stop.

A House Without Windows – Books

Stevie Turner

* * * * *  5/10

The book started out very strongly, told at first from the perspective of Amy, a young girl who was born to a kidnapped woman. She has been in captivity her whole life and her point of view is entirely convincing, as is the character change to Beth. The emotions are very real, the dialogue genuine and the plot compelling.
I was glad to see it didn’t end where it could easily have but instead went into the effect the kidnapping had on both Amy and Beth’s lives, the effect it had on their loved ones too, where Beth’s fiance had moved on and had a child with another woman. There was some moment where I found myself holding my breath as I wondered ‘will they, can they, how can this work out’.

Where the book failed for me was chapters 38 – 44. They were completely unnecessary and felt a lot like they existed only to add to the word count. What little information that’s needed from these chapters would have been better presented from chapter 45 onward.
I found Liam to be insufferable in these chapters. His constant correction of Beth’s British English became a nuisance – it wasn’t a particularly humorous joke to begin with and wore very thin very fast. Perhaps because constant correction is a technique employed by abusers to demean their victims, I found it coloured my view of Liam almost irreparably.

Chapter 45 is where we come to reading about Joss. Joss is Beth’s son, fathered by her kidnapper and the reason she escaped. Here is where the story picks up again, slowly at first but the plot is back on track and the characters are once again readable.
Joss puzzled me somewhat throughout this section of the story. That he wanted to meet his father is understandable, that he felt anger toward Liam at being lied to is also understandable but that he thought his biological father might be someone who he could play happy families with was a little too far-fetched. He knew what Evans had done to his mother and sister, and yet he still wanted a father-son relationship isn’t believable.

With some editing and a lot of deleting, this would be a ten-star book. Well worth the read, and mostly well thought out.

Buy it here

Gone Home – PC game

* * * 3/10

I know next to nothing about computers. I can tell you it has windows 7 on it and that’s about it. I’m assured by someone much more technologically advanced than I am that I have “8gig Ram, 500gig hard drive… you know what? It’s an Advent Monza N2. Google will give much better information than I can.
Anyway. I mention because I bought Gone Home and the Laptop doesn’t like it at all. Not a bit. I can play anything else with little problem but this game wouldn’t even load at first. My technologically advanced friend had a look at it, got rid of something to do with ’32’ and that made it so the game would open. It’s slow, juddery, takes an ice-age for the character to cross the room and generally isn’t much fun, which is a shame.
There is a lot of detail gone into it and an interesting plot. Someone cared very much about what they were creating. While attempting to look up ways to fix the game, given that a refund doesn’t look possible, I saw that the creators bent over backwards to help people fix whatever problems they were having.
If you have the braining abilities to fix any problems you might experience, go for it. If you’re like me an know nothing, either ask someone who does or don’t buy it.


The game itself:

It’s a very basic plot, to be honest. You play as the main character coming home from holiday to find the house is empty. You wander around, picking up objects and some of those objects will give you a ‘journal entry’ from the main character’s sister. Anyone would guess the ending less than ten minutes into playing.

That said, there is something to the idea of learning about this family, so perfect and with a family portrait to prove it, but beneath the surface there are problems like any other. There’s so much detail packed in, giving so much information on what turns out to be a broken family looking desperately for solutions and in some cases, really missing the mark.

I picked this game up on sale and wouldn’t recommend paying full price for it. It’s a lot of money to get little in return, and that’s not just because I’m biased against to begin with. There really isn’t much to the game. I completed it in less than two hours, despite it freezing up and generally being terrible to play.


Available on Steam