Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dark Disciple: Star Wars

Dark Disciple: Star WarsDark Disciple: Star Wars by Christie Golden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After Count Dooku mercilessly commits genocide on a planets fleeing inhabitants simply for siding with Republic, the Jedi Council decides something unthinkable for them...assassination. The plan as decided by the council is to assassinate Count Dooku thus ending the war and saving countless lives. Jedi Master Quinlan Vos is chosen for this surprising mission and the Council's orders get even stranger as Vos is ordered to team with former Sith Acolyte Asajj Ventress in order to end Dooku.

When I saw there was going to be a Star Wars book that focused on Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos, I jumped on the opportunity to read it. It was somewhat of a mixed bag for me as I vacillate at times between liking and disliking the story. Dark Disciple is based on unproduced episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV show. In many ways it shows as the stories plot is occasionally sidetracked by removing focus from Vos and Ventress is favor of main series protagonists Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. There are also a few random point of view chapters with some characters of little importance to the book and series.

Vos and Ventress set off on what becomes a surprising Star Wars love story. Their early interactions were what I expected based on what I know of each of them, but things changed as emotions formed and were expressed to each other. To see Vos in love wasn't so shocking, but seeing Ventress in love was like watching the toughest man you've ever known cry over a TV commercial. It invariably leaves you with a what on Earth is happening here moment. The depth of love and conviction Ventress had for Vos was surprising, but mostly in a good way after getting over the moments of shock.

No Star Wars tale involving Jedi and Sith would be complete without some lightsaber fighting and philosophical debate between the light and dark side of the force. Both were handled in a manner consistent to the main series films, but I have to say the philosophical debate left me feeling it was too simplistic. This is no fault of the author since it's often been as simplistic as a Sith Lord putting doubts into a Jedi's head and using those doubts to pull that Jedi closer to the dark side. It's just crazy to think a chat with a guy trying to kill you with his laser sword could completely overwhelm a literal lifetime of training and experience against such things.

Overall Dark Disciple was a fun and quick read that centered around some interesting characters who normally don't get the spotlight.

3 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Pilo Travelling Show by Will Elliott

The Pilo Traveling Show: A NovelThe Pilo Traveling Show: A Novel by Will Elliott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you've not read the first novel The Pilo Family Circus and there's a slim chance you might one day in the future, then don't read this review as there may well be spoilers of story ruining proportion.

In a calamitous finale the Clowns of the Pilo Family Circus suffered an ending to beat all endings when they were ripped apart as the boss, Kurt Pilo finally flipped, Gonko was carried off into the pits of hell and you would think there was no way back for the boys. Except Jamie of course he realized a much more euphoric final day in the world next door to hell, in that he actually survived and made it back home. Story over you'd think, after all everyone's dead, not quite though. Hoo-fucking-ray the boys are back in The Pilo Traveling Circus and what's unmade in the soul stealing realm of the circus can be remade, in somewhat haphazard fashion anyway.

Jamie is back home with not a clue as to how he suddenly appeared, wearing a clown suit, with a bag that might of contained a special powder in his pocket and a friend, missing. Suspected murdered, there is only one possible suspect, him. Murderer, but there's no proof, no body and not a fucking Scooby doo as to what's gone on.

Meanwhile back at the Pilo Family Circus, drum roll, that little pile of Pilo, George, is in command riding some grotesque that makes him feel like a giant, all of 5ft 3" with a nasty case of little bloke syndrome. One year ago Kurt Pilo burst out of his human form with devastating consequences and now with the lash, a time of repair, rebuild, regurgitate and resurrection. After all the world needs its distractions and entertainment, it needs its circus.

'Below the Funhouse, beside a sacrificial stone slab long unused, a tunnel twists into the showground’s true depths, covered with a lid of wooden boards. It is not so very far down, in truth, despite being far from sight and mind. Its rock walls shine red and orange. Where that tunnel ends and meets the stone cavern floor, a pair of baggy clown pants sit in a crumpled neglected pile. Forlornly, half-heartedly, the pockets now and then bulge with magically conjured bits and pieces summoned in the vain hope of escape: a small parachute puffs out to catch a gust of hot wind; a climbing pick clangs uselessly to the floor, a white flag of surrender weakly flutters. In time, all of these things dissolve back into air.'

Gonko's magic pants, desperately waiting for the appearance of the backside that's going to refill them. How can you possibly have any feelings for a pair of pants, well I felt a little sad.

'The time crawls by slower than it ever has. At the end Gonko cannot remember his name or occupation for the rage has conquered all. He manages somehow to hug the acrobat when ordered to and to say something resembling “sorry.” When the angry mist clears, he is standing ankle deep in the rubble of a wagon, with various aches indicating his own hands and feet destroyed it.'

And the man himself, forced into circus therapy to curb his anger and violence aimed at the acrobats. George still won't give the Clowns their show back, instead they're forced up to the surface to track down escaped circus members. This is where a plan and the traveling circus are born, George needs to be reminded of his standing. Gonko and the Clowns need Kurt back and they'll do anything to get rid of George with scheming, conniving, bribery and as a first resort, the threat of violence.

I love the whole concept of the Pilo Circus, it survives on little shiny pieces of the soul stolen from the tricks as they are entertained by the different shows. Anyone unfortunate enough to wander through the ticket collectors gate loses a bit of themselves and the show thrives. The world building is simply out of this world, a fantasy right next door to the bottomless pit. There's not so much in the way of character depth but to be honest it's really not needed, there's action and malicious reaction all the way and it's a joy to behold. Gonko is one of my all-time favourite characters and there is no stopping him as the clowns run riot in cunningly sneaky guise.

Another thoroughly entertaining, violently warped tale that you can't help being dragged in and bounced around by, and this is every bit as good as its predecessor.

'Night night, said Gonko’s fist.'

Also posted at http://paulnelson.booklikes.com/post/...

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Guest Post: From Dark Places interviews Jamie Kent Messum

Author Interview: Jamie Kent Messum

A big welcome 'From Dark Places' to Jamie Kent Messum.

I recently read Jamie's second novel Husk (booklikes review & Scream) and really pleased that Warp Films has optioned it for an international TV series so congratulations are definitely in order, great news .

To the interview:

I really enjoyed your latest novel Husk, what was your favourite scene and the one you had second thoughts about?

My favourite scene is when the main character, Rhodes, meets his first client in the book, Mr Navarette. The objective was to give readers a solid introduction to what the job of Husking entails. I think it came off quite creepy, which was a bonus. I don’t want to add any spoilers for anyone that hasn’t read the book yet, so I’ll just say that I had second thoughts about scenes where important characters succumb to certain fates. Not because I wasn’t sure about where the plot was going, but because I was quite fond of them and felt uneasy about designing their demise.

Do you plan a follow up?

I definitely have a sequel in mind that continues on from where Husk left off. There is an overall story growing in my head right now that I hope will eventually see Husk become a trilogy.

Have you struggled to get inside any of the characters you’ve written about and are you prone to masses of research?

Not really, I find getting into my character’s heads a most enjoyable aspect of the storytelling process. Research is important, but I don’t like to go overboard. I believe that if you get too technical or too descriptive, you can bore a reader and lose them easily. I’m not a fan of bullshit. I like to use what is necessary, and put some faith in my readers and their imaginations as well.  

It’s my view that a good author needs to be an exceptional study of people, do you notice things others don’t or does it all come from the imagination?

I think it’s a healthy dose of both. You definitely have to be observational and take notes, but then you need the imagination to embellish and reconstruct those aspects into an exciting and fluid narrative. Although I put great emphasis on writing as a craft, I think the story should come first and the writing a very close second. I don’t care how talented a writer someone is, if there is no good story to go with it, I’m not really interested.

If you were stuck on a desert island and could choose 2 books as companions. 1 to read again and again, and one, page by page to wipe your backside with. Which books would you choose?

To read over and over, I’d have to go with ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a brilliant book, and quite a fitting read while stuck alone on a desert island. To wipe my ass with... definitely ’50 Shades Of Grey’. 

(good answers)

Who are your favourite characters both from what you’ve written and what you’ve read?

In my novel ‘Bait’, I was quite fond of the character Ginger. She was a hardass, take-no-prisoners kind of gal with just enough of a soft spot. In ‘Husk’ I was rather fond of the character Mr. Shaw. He had a relatively small role, but his limited presence felt quite big. From what I’ve read, Hannibal Lecter from ‘Silence Of The Lambs’.  I found his character to be fascinating and unlike anything I’d ever read before.
What’s the funniest thing that's ever happened to you?

Oh, there’s an awfully long list of things I could pick from...

Is there a particular book that made you want to be a writer?

There are three:  the first was ‘Rust & Bone’ by Craig Davidson. The second was ‘Tacones’ by Todd Klinck. And the third was ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King (which I included in my list of the 5 books that made me a better writer). 

(list can be found on his website, link further down)

What’s next in the pipeline and can you give us some inside information? Just between me and you of course ;)

I’m working on a couple of new novels at the moment. One is a more traditional horror/thriller story with a southern gothic vibe. The other is a book about a new addiction/fad that surfaces unexpectedly and becomes problematic in the Western World, something that people would latch onto in a heartbeat if it was an actuality. 

Know any good jokes?

Q: What did Clint Eastwood say to his pottery instructor?
 A: “Go ahead, bake my clay.”

*I’m here all week folks!

(nice one)

When you’re not slaving over the books, what do you like to do?

-My former career was that of a musician, so I’m still into it in a big way. I don’t play much anymore, but I’m a huge fan of live music and late night record stores. I’m always on the prowl for great music. Hiking and exploring with my dog and wife. Travelling as much as I can, and enjoying an active social life of haunting local restaurants and bars.

Was Bait an instant accept from the Publishers or did you have to wait and wait for the nod? (I’ve just started reading this one incidentally and it’s certainly grabbed me)

After I got my literary agent things happened very quickly and Bait certainly garnered a lot of interest from publishers, but there were some concerns and reservations over the content of the novel. When you’re writing about drugs, addicts, and aspects of society that the average person would prefer to ignore, there’s a danger of crossing the line with many readers. Bait was the kind of book that really polarized audiences. People either understood it, or didn’t, and as a result either loved it or loathed it.
Reading your résumé you’ve certainly been around and done loads of different things, have you found your love in writing and do you see yourself still doing this in 20 years or does the entertainment business get more of your time?

As an author, I’ve found my place in this world. Originally, I didn’t have too much of an interest in being a writer. In fact, what I really wanted to be was a rockstar. But I did always see myself as a storyteller of some kind.  At first I tried to tell tales through film, then music, but it never seemed to work out the way I hoped. When I finally honed my writing skills enough (don’t be fooled, it took quite some time), everything seemed to click into place and I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.  

Two novels released in two years, do you set yourself a personal target or just let it flow as is?

If I had my way I’d be knocking out a book a year, but with all that’s involved in getting a book published it might be more of an 18 month to 2 year period. I have no shortage of ideas for novels for the foreseeable future, so until I get a bad case of writer’s block, I’d like to be as productive as possible.

Any issues close to the heart you’d like to share?

I have a few convictions: I’m against animal cruelty. I don’t believe artists should work for free or have their art stolen.  And I really don’t think most people read enough these days.

Brilliant stuff my thanks again to Jamie for taking the time to answer all my dodgy questions and good luck with Husk.

A little more about the author

Here's his press release photo in an awesome catalogue pose.

J. Kent Messum is an author & speaker who always bets on the underdog. He lives in Toronto with his wife, dog, and trio of cats. His first novel BAIT (August 2013, Penguin Books) won the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for ‘Best First Novel.’ His second novel HUSK (July 2015, Penguin Books) was recently optioned for an international TV show by Warp Films in the UK.

And here's his website and social media links:
Official Website: http://ow.ly/Q1uv7
Twitter: http://ow.ly/Q1ueQ
Facebook: http://ow.ly/Q1u45

Here's Husk


For a lucky few, death is merely an inconvenience. With the help of technology the mind can survive long after a body has been laid to rest. This afterlife, however, is far from paradise . . .


Rhodes is a 'Husk'. It's an illegal, controversial and highly lucrative job - renting out control of his body and mind to the highest bidder. It's a sure way to gain a better life, but some clients go too far. Sometimes, he wakes up with scars.


Then the visions start - terrible sights that haunt his waking hours. They could be dreams, or they could be something far worse - they just might be memories . . .

Buy 'Husk' on Amazon: http://ow.ly/PYoXr

And here's the trailor Youtube link

Forgotten English

Forgotten EnglishForgotten English by Jeffrey Kacirk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forgotten English is a collection of antiquated words and their histories.

When I saw this book, I was picturing a dictionary full of words that have fallen out of favor. While it is that, it's also a lot more.

Forgotten English contains a lot of words, some seldom used, some probably never uttered aloud in several centuries, and a lot of fun facts pertaining to them. Did you know that a stirrup-cup, a mug of some alcoholic beverage handed to a horsed patron of a tavern as he leaves, is the origin of the phrase "one for the road?" That's just one of the words within. Don't get me started on Scandaroon, Nimgimmer, or Kingsevil....

Some of the entries ran a little long. I would have preferred more definitions and less of the fluffier bits. The writing style was pretty good and I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I hadn't just read The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson.

This book was not precisely what I imagined but I enjoyed it just the same. 3 out of 5 stars.

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