Review: “The Upstairs Room” by Kate Murray-Browne

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne is a book made up of three distinct stories:

1) The first is the story of family reaching breaking point. As they struggle with young children, a new house, and a young and free new lodger, Elenor and Richard start to face how neither of them have ever been truly happy with their choices, and whether or not this means their marriage is a sham, or simply more real than the idealised image of it they have had.

2) The second is about a young woman trying to work out who she is. Zoe lives in someone else’s house, works in someone else’s shop, and sleeps with someone else’s boyfriend. All around her are people who seem to know what they’re doing, while she struggles to work out if she will ever find what she is “supposed” to do with her life.

3) The third is a ghost story, where a young couple and their new lodger discover their new house is haunted by a presence that doesn’t want them there. As Elenor gets sicker each day she remains but recovers once outside, Richard refuses to accept that his new house can be anything but perfect. But as Zoes starts to encounter inexplicable night terrors, the three of them need to decide whether to face their own prejudices to run away.

All three of these stories would be interesting to read. Mixed together as they are, they just don’t work. I can see what Murray-Brown was going for, but there is just too much going on. Her main problem is focusing on too many characters. Each time the story gets going and starts to engage you, you’re suddenly faced with huge chunks of back story. And you get this for all three main characters; Richard, Elenor, and their lodger Zoe. If Murray-Brown had focuses on either Zoe or Elenor, the book would have have a simpler through line and got bogged down in itself less often. As it is, the story is so diluted all tension is lost.

It’s a shame, as the writing and characters are good. There is a great book in here. Here’s hoping next time she gets a better story editor.

Recommendation: The Johnny Maxwell books

I find it strange how there are some of Terry Pratchett’s books that tend to get forgotten. Maybe people have come to blend him and the Discworld so much that his books outside that series don’t get the same recognition? Or maybe they just aren’t aware of them? But, as a whole, I believe his children’s books don’t get the recognition they deserve.

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The Johnny Maxwell books are examples of these. Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), Johnny and the Dead (1993) and Johnny and the Bomb (1996) tell three separate stories about Johnny Maxwell, a boy who seems to have a ability to see through the world into something more; whether it be entering a computer game while he sleeps to save the aliens from the players, speaking with the ghosts of the dead to save their graveyard from destruction, or travelling back in time to the Second World War.

I’ve always felt that Pratchett had a real knack for children’s books. He was able to take the ideas and themes found in all his work and streamline them for a younger audience. Rereading them now I find it a little odd and oversimplified, which is maybe why they are overlooked, but as a child I remember them being incredibly real. They felt like adult books to me. I was already reading the Discworld novels at this point, but I know now that a lot of the details went over my head.

I prefer the Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings) (a separate series, but there are enough connections to assume these two series are in the same universe) but I’ll always have a soft spot for the Johnny Maxwell books. If you’re a fan of Pratchett but not given these ones a go, I highly recommend it. 

For the record, Johnny and the Bomb is my favourite.

One final point: having been introduced to these book through the audio book versions I cannot read them without hearing the words in Tony Robinson’s voice. I don’t get that with the Discworld books. There’s just something about these three that sticks in his voice. Weird how that happens. 

Halloween Countdown: 9 days

We have 9 days left in our Halloween Countdown, and as it’s a Sunday and we all hopefully have a little more free time today I thought I’d suggest something a little longer; Vicious by Oliver Park.

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There’s so much going on in these 13 minutes, but without any superfluous padding or spelling out of the story. A girl comes home one night to find her front door open. After a search of the house turns up nothing she settles down to sleep, only to be woken first by nightmares, and then something more.

I was surprised by this one. I usually find that the ideal length of short horror films is between 3 and 6 minutes or so. Once they go over that length they tend to lose the tension. Either the core idea gets flabby and the audience loses interest, or it just feels like there is too much going on and they need more time to set every up.

A lot of this goes to Rachel Winters, who manages to pull off the exact balance of terror and proactivity needed to keep us. Another cardinal sin I’ve noticed over and over again researching this list is characters acting scared because they are supposed to, but when there is no reason for them to. (Note to directors, a call coming in with a blocked number at night isn’t scary in itself. Stop thinking it is). Here, the protagonist acts far more like someone might actually react in the situation, rather than acting scared because the film requires it.

So make yourself a cup of tea, turn out the lights and give it a watch.

Ultimate Halloween Giveaway!

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Do you like reading?

Do you like horror?

Do you like free stuff?

Are you looking forward to Halloween?

Well, I might just be able to help you there. AuthorsWriteInc.com are hosting the Ultimate Horror Book & Prize Giveaway! The grand prize winner – to be announced on Halloween – will receive 5 horror classics bundled with their matching Funko Pop figures.

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And they and one other runner-up will also win over 25 horror ebooks from horror authors all over the world, which might just include a copy of something by little old me.

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For your chance to enter, head over to the Ultimate Horror Giveaway page.
Good Luck!

 

The Æther Collection – OUT NOW!

The Æther Collection is out now!

That’s right, as of today you can now purchase my new horror anthology in both e-book and paperback.

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Æther. The fifth classical element. A theory. A myth. A joke. A fringe theory no scientist in the modern age would ever take seriously.

That is until 1898 when Professor Goldfarn proves its existence and the possibilities it offers. Soon æther permeates every aspect of the of the scientific world, with research providing new technologies in power and communications the likes of the which the world has never seen.

But sometimes… sometimes things happen that can’t be explained by technology. What if æther could be more than simply a power source. What if it played a far greater part in human evolution that anyone has considered? What if is has other properties? What if it could be used to affect human emotion and thought?

What if could it even be a link between this life and the one that comes after?

 

Those of you lucky enough to be selected as winners in my GoodReads and Twitter giveaways should have already received your copies in the post. I hope you’re all enjoying them.

And for the rest of you, you can get your copies here:

A quick note; currently there is a glitch on Amazon stating that the paperback is temporarily currently out of stock. If you’re looking to buy from here, please ignore and go ahead and order. The warning should be gone soon. 

And please, once you’ve finished it please leave reviews or recommendations on places like Amazon and Goodreads, or any online reading forums you might use. Reviews and word of mouth are the self-published writer’s best friend. The more reviews I have online, the more likely it is people will discover my work. Even if it’s just an anonymous star-rating, every single one helps.

And, of course, I just like to know what you all think.

So go out and spread the word. Word of mouth is my friend, as are you, so let anyone you know who enjoys reading that The Æther Collection is available now.