Faulty Bones – J M Fraser Review

Destined love thwarted by a supernatural con game.

Two bankrupt card players, lured by black magic and a casino-chip counterfeiting scam, get lost within the folds of a world no longer true.

Faulty Bones follows the journey of Mike and Amy–a couple of restless drifters who misdirect their anchors to the shifty part of town. Can they overcome her gambling addiction and his tenuous grasp of reality to find their way back on the grid? A pair of scheming mobsters, a demonic con man, and a series of ripples in the sands of time won’t make the going easy.

Nothing proves to be as it seems in this novel, and that’s the essence of a good scam. Are you a clever enough detective to guess the secrets before they’re revealed?

Why did I pick this up?: Casinos, gambling, demons. Need I say more? It sounded like a really great fantasy style read.

Good points: Well, once again this was a book with an interesting premise. Time travel, a noir fiction side, and poker! The story has plenty of humour and a fun-loving side, too!

Quibbles: The first few chapters were just plain confusing. I know what the author was trying to do (write one narrative going backwards and the other going forwards), but it didn’t work for me. It’s a very difficult thing to do and they didn’t pull it off. The romance felt odd, to me, and the story crawled until about half way through, when it finally got going a little.

Overall (TL;DR): It’s a good book in a lot of ways, but you really have to stick with it and persevere through the confusing and slow beginning.

-K Hart

The Rise of The Automated Aristocrats – Mark Hodder Review

Progress on Alternate: In the hands of beta-readers

Current Review.

This is the sixth and final volume of Burton and Swinburne’s adventures. I think it really does sum up and conclude the story pretty well, despite the reviews I’ve read to the contrary. I love The Beetle, and the storyline there (yes, you get no spoilers here). I also very much like bringing Edward Burton into it.

However it is also clear that this was where the story needed to end. It was just too complicated, and it was leaving steampunk behind and going very much for an oddly surreal alternate world that was making less and less sense. It was a big writing task to take on, really, and I think it began to take its toll towards the end on both plot and characterisation. But the ambitious storytelling is still a selling point – it made it unique, and as someone who is no stranger to biting off more than I can chew myself, I’m always pleased when someone manages to do just that and then chew it anyway.

Finally, the very ending of this book finished just as I’d hoped it would, with the addition of a moment with a tiny plant that the plant-lover in me squealed at – it was a lovely touch, considering previous happenings in the book. To quote Swinburne, who oddly enough begins to say this phrase more and more throughout the books as they go on, so that it becomes less of the unusual way he speaks and more a catchphrase: My hat!

I honestly think, as with many series, the earlier books here are the better ones. But those earlier books set a high enough bar that it didn’t matter one jot. These books are on my bookshelf, and they’re on there to stay!

-K Hart

The Return of the Discontinued Man – Mark Hodder Review

Progress on Alternate: FINISHED??? I… Help. I don’t know how to react to this.

Current Review:

Super short review today because tired writer actually feels sleepy for once.

Burton and Swinburne #5 moves back into the surreal. And I sort of love it but I don’t know why. I should, by all rights, loathe this. So complicated, bouncing around of plot… but I don’t. And I just… couldn’t if I tried.

I’m currently in a state of shock due to my own writing progress, but I do want to say, quickly, that I’m heading towards the end of the Burton and Swinburne series now and as much as I don’t want it to stop, because I want to read more and more of their adventures as characters… I think I’m glad. There’s only so much complex plot someone can realistically pull off, and Mark Hodder is pushing the boundary here. Still doing it, but by the skin of his teeth.

-K Hart

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi – Mark Hodder Review

Progress on Alternate: Editing at 84%

Current Review:

Burton and Swinburne #4. Yay, at last. One I haven’t read before comes onto my shelf. I was quite sad that it took me a little while longer to get into this book than it had into its predecessors, however when I did I began to enjoy it just as much.

Mentions of Bram Stoker, Charles Dodgeson, and even Rosetti and the Pre-Raphaelites were all greatly appreciated by the happy history and literature fan in me. Though, as I believe I’ve read in another review of this book, you do have to wonder now… how many alternate realities, exactly?

I do think Mark Hodder managed really well to actually keep things together, which is impressive in itself given the many millions of complexities that come with writing time travel – I wouldn’t like to see his planning board!

I also had an increase in respect for the sheer fight in Isabel Arundell, I have to admit…

I don’t really know what else to say. If you’re reading this I will assume you have read the rest of the series in which case I encourage you… keep reading! As far as I’m concerned there hasn’t been a dip in writing quality large enough to justify an incomplete reading of this series yet! And I have hopes for its continued improvement.

-K Hart

The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack – Mark Hodder Review

Progress on Alternate: Editing at 31%

Current Review:

The Burton and Swinburne Novels #1.

I have to start by saying that I am already a little biased with this book, because it contains, among its cast of characters, Algernon Swinburne, a poet I adore. But yes, I do love this. A steampunky adventure featuring some of the oddest and most hilarious figures of the time.

Not to mention the new interpretation of the causes of the Spring Heeled Jack mystery. Mark Hodder gives these figures an odd sort of life, keeping to their fundamental personalities in most cases but accentuating them, turning them into what are almost odd little charicatures of themselves.

Each chapter begins with quotes, some from the book’s characters. And at the very end? A description of what those characters ACTUALLY did with their lives.

This is the sort of steampunk that I can’t help but love. Well-researched, twisting history rather than making it up from scratch. And it’s FUN. With those incredible one-liners and watching figures I recognise get caught up in this incredible mystery, there was no way I wasn’t going to love it. Mark Hodder writes skillfully, and writes like someone I’d love to sit down and talk to. I recommend these books A LOT to people I know that might enjoy them, and for good reason.

-K Hart