SJB Gilmour Writes

…and rants and ruminates…

Category: Reviews

Five Stars To The Sisters By Kate Forster

Before I start, I should say The Sisters is not my favourite genre. I’m pretty much a fan of Sci-fi, Fantasy, Crime, and Horror, in that order. Chick Lit and Romance usually have about as much interest for me as reality tv, which I hate.

That said, I loved The Sisters. Perhaps because I read so little of this type of book, (and everyone knows there’s a lot out there,) I found it a great read.

Kate Forster knows her stuff when it comes to the rich fantasy worlds of the siblings. She also nailed dysfunctional families. The protagonists were fun and different and flawed in their own ways. The antagonists were slimy enough to make you want to hurl rotten fruit at them.

All in all, The Sisters is a great escapist romp.


Like most genre novels, in this case escapist chick lit, The Sisters has the usual bunch of a few twists and turns. The sex was realistic, and Forster’s dialogue flowed perfectly.

The supporting cast each played their roles beautifully except one – a knight in shining armour kind, who I found a little predictable. I’m sure readers who enjoy… Okay, I’ll just come right out and say it – trashy sexy romance – would love him.

In fact, I had as much fun watching how Forster wrote for her readers as much the story itself. By about 85% in, I had a hunch about the ending, but I was enjoying myself so much, I kept on reading till the big happy ending.

Will I read more of Kate Forster’s work? You betcha. Looking forward to it.


Five Stars To Shadows In Zamboula

Howard’s swashbuckling hero was more the Conan I prefer – that of the wandering mercenary and thief, than that of a leader of an army or pirate. As always, the writing is superb, with a rhythm and vocabulary that grips you from the very first sentence. Like so much of Howard’s work, Shadows in Zamboula’ story practically leaps off the page and, if you read in bed like I do, banishes sleep until the very last word.


Five Stars To James And The Giant Peach


I read this ages ago when I was a kid. Back then, I didn’t really appreciate the poetry, rhythm, and meter of Dahl’s writing. Now I’m a dad reading re-reading this tale decades later, only this time, I’m doing so aloud to my four year-old daughter at bed-time.

She’s loving it. Reading it out loud is a breeze, and putting Dahl’s inflections of his characters’ into their conversations is a hoot.

Get this book and read it. If you have kids, read it to them, but you don’t need youngsters to enjoy Dahl’s writing. There’s a reason his work has endured and is considered classic by so many. Brilliant!


You’d Think I’d Have Learned By Now…

So I’ve been travelling in Europe for the day-job for the past couple of weeks, which has had me staying in a number of quite different hotels.  Now before this little rant goes any further, I must point out it’s all been my own fault; I booked the hotels myself – well all but one which was provided for me by a supplier, and very nice it was too.

I stayed in one joint in Frankfurt which was supposed to be four stars, but I think their math was out.  It was okay.  Warm, almost quiet, and the room had all I needed, except for real soap.  I hate that squeezy bottle stuff.  It always leaves my skin feeling slimy.  Never mind, as I brought my own.  The breakfast was good, and the service was polite.

The next place in Italy wasn’t so polite, but the food was excellent, and the room, though old and not much more than a cupboard really…  In fact, it might have been a cupboard.  I did wonder why there was a mop and bucket in the bathroom.  Still, it was okay and even had wifi, though I had to sit in foyer to get it.

Then I came back to Germany.  Oh boy.  Hotel Diplomat on Ostendstrasse, is a two-star dive, and that’s putting it mildly.  Both the night and day desk receptionists were both quite mad.  Think a German version of Fawlty Towers and you’ll just about have it.  I got yelled at and gestured at quite a few times.  But that’s cool.  I can get that at the day-job from customers occasionally, so no biggie.

The kicker was the bathroom.IMG_3277 IMG_3279 IMG_3280

Let’s just say bathing was an adventure.  I particularly liked the broken soap dish.  I managed to squat in the tiny tub – no shower curtain, you’ll note – without slicing myself open.  For me, that’s quite the accomplishment.  I can injure myself just looking at something sharp.  In fact there’s an unwritten rule in House Gilmour:  Never give Sam a tool, except a kitchen knife.  I’m not bad in the kitchen if I don’t say so myself, but I digress…

I won’t dwell on the state of the bathroom, or the noise from the hall, both from other guests and the cleaning staff who were quite vocal.  What really got to me was the smell(s).  It took me a while to realise what I was smelling at first, then it dawned on me.  Smoke.  Now in Germany, most places are smoke-free.  That means if you walk anywhere, you’re constantly walking though clouds of smoke from the smokers standing outside.  It doesn’t take long before you smell of it yourself which means you stop noticing the smell.

Apparently this smoke-free rule went for Hotel Diplomat’s rooms as well.  Just not its halls.  Every so often, the air vent which blew air in from the hall, pumped in the stale blue hue of whatever the folk in the halls were smoking.  So, everything in my room stank anyway.

Then there was a mystery odour.  Its identity wasn’t a mystery.  I can recognise toast cooking at a hundred paces.  What did baffle me was  its source.  Every morning I’d wake up to that delightful smell, and follow my nose down the stairs to the breakfast room.  That’s when I encountered the great conundrum.  The smell dwindled, and there was no bread or toaster in which to put it.  There were just a few bread rolls and some sliced deli meats and cheeses. I asked for the location of the toaster and all I got was a look of wary bewilderment one sometimes gives crazy people one sees wandering about waving their arms and talking in word-spaghetti.

I really should have read more of the reviews of Hotel Diplomat.  I know it seems I’m doing an awful lot of complaining here.  I mean if it was so awful, why did I stay?  Well here’s the odd thing.  In a strange way, I sort of enjoyed it.  No, I’m not masochistic.  It was so bad it was almost funny.  At times it was actually hard to keep from laughing at the staff who spent more time yelling at each other than doing any kind of work.

Superwife and I used to go to an Indian restaurant, the name of which escapes me.  Not that it matters, we just called it “Interesting Indian”, and left it at that, for the same reason.  The lady who ran that greasy spoon was all smiles in the dining hall, then she’d barge into her semi-open kitchen and have very loud, very lively, and at times a little scary, conversations with her kitchen staff. By “conversations” I mean really angry remonstrations.  If she was my boss, I’d be a quivering mass within an hour, and that’s coming from an ex-military guy who sells shoes for a living.  Sadly, Interesting Indian closed down a few years back, and we’re yet to find another quite so “interesting.”

My father impressed upon me at a very early age that travel was a form of education.  He’s right folks.  Get out and see how the world works.  If you see how things are done well, you can improve your own service by emulating them.  If you see people making big blunders, you can insure yourselves by not repeating them.


Writers, Do Your Duty!!!

We hear it all the time.  That constant bleat from writers begging readers to leave reviews.  Hell, I’ve sounded off about it myself a few times.  But, it’s a two-way street, ladies and gents.  When a reader reviews your work, even if it’s a measly one or two star review, you have an opportunity – no, scratch that.  You have an obligation to reach out and contact the reviewer.

They read your book.  They paid for it (even if it was free, their time could have been spent doing something else, or worse, reading something else.  Just think about that for a moment, yeah?), and they went to all the effort of letting you and the whole world know what they thought.  They’re giving you direct feedback, and an opportunity to hone your craft, fix mistakes, and best of all encourage them to read more.

Writers, when a reader reviews your work, thank them.  Value them.  Encourage them to read more, and not just by lambasting them with pushy demands to like this page or that.  Don’t autorespond!!!  You’re  WRITERS.  You make stuff up for a living.  You can surely string a few original sentences together to thank a reviewer.  Trust me on this, it’s the best advertising you’ll ever get, and it’s free.  The reviewer will never forget it, and be very, very likely to read more of your work.

How do I know this?  Well not too long ago, I read a book I liked so much I left a review.  My review wasn’t any great piece of literary craftsmanship in itself, but it was a five-star review ( I rarely write reviews unless I can give a book at least four stars), and I meant every word.  You know what?  The author responded.  Publicly.  I’m a 43 year-old guy, and I’m squirming like an embarrassed shy schoolkid who just got a pat on the back from his teen idol.  I’m not going to go all stalker-ish on the writer, but I sure as hell will read every single book they turn out.  Every.  Single.  Book.


A Brilliant Series!!! 5 Stars to John Connolly’s “The Creeps”

The Creeps – 5 Stars.



This, boys and girls, is how Young Adult (YA) writing should be done.  Connolly has already earned his stripes as a true master of macabre and creepy Adult and Paranormal genres.  When he turned his hand to the something lighter (The Gates, Hell’s Bells), he produced a quality of work to which all others in the genre should aspire.  His style is fun, easy to read, and best of all, he makes his characters all so delightfully and humbly flawed, one cannot but root for them all, even the antagonists.  Anyone who loved Harry Potter should give this a go.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy it every bit as much, probably more.  The Creeps is a wonderful conclusion to what really has to be the standout series in a decade.  I’ll be re-reading it again and again, and, I’ll wager, so will you.


Five Stars From An Aussie Reader!

I love it! Five Stars for Golden Mane from an Aussie reader!



This Just Made My Day

Five Stars for Armies of Nine!

“Once again very entertaining. Couldn’t put it down. This is a fantastic series, I recommend these books to anyone who loves to read about magic and adventure.”


Sniff! A 1 – Star Review

You know, I probably should be slightly bothered by this review, but funnily enough, I’m not.  Now I’m not going to spout all the old cliches about taking the good with the bad.  Most of the time, I do wring my hands and moan and carry on like a pathetic drama queen if I get a bad review.  But this time…  Nup.  Sorry.  What the reviewer’s really saying is that they didn’t like the premise, the setting, the genre, or the theme of the book, or in other words, it wasn’t their cup of tea.  We’ve all been there.  Actually, I kind of admire them for reading it all the way through – or at least taking the time to write a review in the first place.  Normally, I just delete it from my Kindle app and move on to the next book on my tbr pile.


I’m Back!

I’m Back!  And, now that I’ve made it through the metric tonne of crap on my desk, I can start doing the important things, like explaining why Armies Of Nine is taking so freaking long, answering fan mail (Yes, I do get it occasionally!) and blogging.

crap 002 cropped



Armies of Nine.  Well, it’s like this…  I have a day-job.  And, I have two young kids.  Sometimes, these take up a lot of my time.  Also, I’m bi-phasic (that’s fancy new-speak for a bi-polar person whose moods swing rapidly).  The past six months have been bloody hectic, and on the odd occasion when I have had time to write, my head just hasn’t been in the right space to do so.  The good news is that things have calmed down a lot and now, finally, I can write.  July 30 is the official date, and nothing is gonna change that.  Armies of Nine will be released on July 30, 2013.

Fan mail.  While I do occasionally get the odd crazy missive from a reader, most are lovely.  Like this one!

“…I absolutely LOVE your books. They are the first ones about werewolves that I’ve heard about that isn’t gory. I am waiting excitedly for Armies of Nine. The way you write the books is so good that I can’t tell what is going to happen next…  …Please finish writing the next book soon. I can hardly wait!!”

Reading that just made my day.  Aren’t I a lucky bugger?



* (Don’t you just love that tin?  I bought it in Singapore.  It’s spot in my house is now right there in what was formally known as my “Hole” in our Ikea bookshelf.  That place has now been renamed “Sam’s Crap Hole”.)