Book Review: The English Monster, by Lloyd Shepherd.

The English Monster is a hard-to-follow, stretched out novel, with poor transitions between times and settings, virtually zero character development, and too many stories and events for a single book.
On the upside, it has an interesting mixture of elements, i.e. history, piracy, black-magic, which makes for an intriguing story, mostly due to wanting to know how it all comes together, in the end.

Discrimination plays a large role in the book, as it would in any story set in the chosen era. A running theme of racism adds, not only truth and realism but an emotional connection to the book and its characters. It creates graphic images which show how horrible things were back then if you were not a privileged white male.

The language, events, and very nature of the novel clearly show it is aimed at an adult-and-older demographic. Sex, cussing, and rich history are the biggest giveaways.

Specificity to a certain point is good. Going past that line, as done by Lloyd Shepherd in The English Monster, while it does paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind, it causes a loss of interest in the book – pages 269-280 is the best example.
As for directness, Lloyd has used as little as possible. Large chunks of the book are unnecessary and lead the reader away from the story. In turn, the economy of writing is affected by the lack of directness. While the novel is very wordy, Lloyd is economic with things commonly associated with economic writing, i.e. doublets, and overuse of synonyms.

Balanced is not a term I would use to describe The English Monster, however, this can be considered a good thing. A variety of emotions is important to keep readers interested, but that does not mean it has to be the same for every single book. This book is supposed to be tragic, and while snippets of comedy or romance wouldn’t hurt, the consistency of despair and evil reflects well the book’s story and characters.

The book’s story is very original and plays a nice twist on past events. While not as intricate as other crime novels I have read, it has a unique tale. The straightforward and easy-to-guess narrative is made up for by the out-of-the-box concept of the story.
As for the characters, the majority are basic and undeveloped, and the reader is not given enough time to connect with them, so much so that they cannot be considered cliché as they do not have enough traits or personality to be so. A few of the characters are a little more advanced, though not by much. These characters are not cliché either, most for the previously given reason, though the central character is not because he is well designed and has many original aspects about him. All characters are, however, bland and uninteresting.

After evaluating the book in detail, I have concluded that The English Monster is not a good book, but could be enjoyed by a specific audience – old adults, with a taste for the particular era of history, who enjoy an old-fashioned book style.



Book Review: Torn, by Casey Hill.

The second novel in the Reilly Steel series, Torn is a crime/thriller novel written by the Irish couple, Kevin and Melissa Hill, under the pseudonym, Casey Hill.

Unlike most crime novels, Torn retains most of its secrets and mysteries until the end reveal. The reader is not given the correct information throughout the novel to piece together the killer’s identity. On top of this, misdirection and misconception lead the reader astray from the killer. While this keeps seat-edges warm, it takes away from the fun and mystery of a book in this genre.
Having said this, it does add a certain ‘shock and awe’ factor to the final plot twist, having no idea it is coming.
As for the story itself, the narrative, concept, design, and delivery are all well thought out and well executed. The intricacy of the plot killings gives the book an originality and an impacting effect on the reader, particularly the foundation of high-literature, and its cultural and religious undertones.

The rustic settings contrast with the modern policing but match well the killer’s methods and reasoning, based on an old text, which in turn is based on a much older text than itself.

Battling sexism on two fronts, not only is the central protagonist a female cop, they emphasize upon this using the character of Kennedy, an old-fashioned cop who is not entirely comfortable with the position of his female co-worker. While women’s rights and freedom have greatly increased over the years, there are still some who believe they are beneath men. This book, like many others, is important for showing a strong, independent, successful, intelligent, beautiful woman, doing everything she sets her mind to.

There is a great deal of diversity amongst the characters, yet many are cliché. Take Kennedy again as an example – a set-in-his-ways cop, too chubby for his clothes, and as grumpy and cynical as they come. Plus a love for coffee, booze, dive bars, and unhealthy snacks.
However, as I said, there is a variety of characters, all with their own unique features and quirks, and each with a different, three-dimensional personality. Chris – the mysterious, brooding cop with a tragic backstory; Reilly – the strong-as-steel cog that keeps everything running; and Reuben – the snobby, upper-class Englishman who thinks he is funny.

Comedy and seriousness are well balanced. There is not so much comedy that you forget about the dark events of the story, but enough to keep it light hearted. The writing is economical, direct, and specific. A couple of things happening and being told to us seem potentially pointless and irrelevant, depending on what occurred in previous novels. In spite of that, the story moves along briskly.

I did not notice any errors or mistakes in writing whilst reading it. As for the accuracy of the police talk and processes, I cannot say.

I cannot discuss the themes of the book without giving away too much of the story, so I shall leave this review without them.

Based on everything I have written and having read the book, I believe the basic intended target audience for Torn is teens and young-adults, both male, and female.
A great read, with many twists and turns. Definitely recommended – though, if I were you, I would start with the first book in the series.




Comic Book Review: The Best of ‘Curse of the Spawn’ (Todd McFarlane productions).

As you will notice from the title, this review is not like my others. I will be discussing a collection of comic books from the Curse of the Spawn, a spin-off series of the comic series Spawn, which have been compiled into a ‘best of’.

Spawn is neither Marvel nor DC, and is not as widely known as, for example, Spider-Man or Superman, yet is still relatively famous amongst comic book nerds. I think the reason for this is, not only the smaller frame of it, i.e. fewer characters, fewer comics, etc. but because of the potential fan base. With a typical superhero comic, you are able to adapt characters and settings to fit any role you wish, however, Spawn targets and appeals to horror and supernatural fans, almost exclusively.
The comics seem aimed towards a male demographic. Almost each of the stories contains a central, stereotyped sexually attractive female character. As a matter of fact, the artwork is heavily based on character stereotypes – a fat blob of a detective, a large but stupid henchman, and so on. They almost borderline cliché.

The artwork is brilliant yet messy. It uses a sketchy style, relying heavily on lines and shading. I believe this is done purposefully to match the genre, story, and style of the series – dystopian, supernatural, and inherently evil comics. While making it harder to discern the layout, the monochrome print suits well the dark quality and theme.
The main themes set the basis for the story – crime, the supernatural, death and apocalypse, judgment and retribution. You can see a lot of research has gone into the series – the characters, the religious aspects, the background of the story and course of events, and the supernatural law of the universe.
The graphic content, mature themes, and intelligent vocabulary are but a few factors which make Spawn more appealing to an older audience than what Marvel or DC produce.

The bulks of speech and text are unusual for comic books and can be viewed as both a good different and bad different. On one hand, it slows the pace of the comic, and sometimes prevents that flash-quick reading you’d expect. On the other hand, it provides great detail which you won’t often receive and brings something new to many readers of the form.

While there is diversity amongst characters, backstories, and settings, a lot of the individual stories revolve around a similar plot. Plots that are both interesting and intricate – they are, nonetheless, repetitive.

Overall, the pros outweigh the cons. I definitely suggest reading this. However, I would recommend it more to teenage readers and above, and to people who enjoy a darker piece of reading. Despite it being aimed towards a male demographic, it is, of course, equally enjoyable for both sexes.



Book Review: The Last Good Man, by A.J. Kazinski.

“A. J. Kazinski is the pseudonym of filmmaker and author Anders R∅nnow Klarlund and author Jacob Weinreich.”

I certainly had mixed feelings towards this book whilst reading it.
Very interesting to begin with, the book’s latter half revealed a boring and disappointing side.
A not-at-all-thrilling crime novel, The Last Good Man wasted what could have been a fantastic plot on an ending which left me unsatisfied and displeased.
I cannot say I am hugely disappointed with the quality and direction of the narrative as the book cost me £1. It just seems a shame that such vast amounts of research and detail amounted to nothing good.

Despite sitting on my windowsill for over three months the book was an easy read, even with the occasional foreign name or word, or bad translation now and then. In fact, the writing quality was inconsistent with most aspects of the book – it was good. Direct, economical, specific, and all dialogue matched well with the speaking character.
The characters themselves are uninteresting, with the exception of Hannah. A few of the characters also seem, in my opinion, written in solely for plot convenience. Another flaw involving the characters is the relationships in the book – they are awful.

If I am honest, the only redeeming parts of this book are: the character of Hannah, and the detail and richness of the story’s plot.

Constant switching between characters and their stories and points of view is irritating, and often unnecessary. The plot twist completely undermines everything the book has built towards up to that point and takes away all intrigue. There is not a single piece of advanced or important literature to be found within these pages, even with the many irrelevant ones.

In spite of how I usually end my reviews I really do not recommend this book. With almost no good things to say about it I cannot see why anyone would enjoy this book all the way to the end.