Review: The Vanity Game

“Take a pinch of TOWIE [The Only Way Is Essex], add a measure of vapid sleb culture, throw in a few dark temptations, lob the lot OTT, and you’ve got a recipe for a premier league winner.”

— Val McDermid

Blurb: “Ripping the lid off the world of celebrity culture, The Vanity Game is a satirical black comedy that’s as disturbing as it is hilarious. For professional soccer ace Beaumont Alexander, life couldn’t be better. He’s rich and famous and living a life of A-class luxury in his Essex mansion, The Love Palace, with his beautiful pop-star girlfriend, Krystal McQueen. Idolised and envied all over the planet, he’s an international megabrand; seemingly invincible, and every bit as vain as you might expect from a man who has the world at his fingertips as well as his feet. But a celebrity party kickstarts a chain of events that turns his dream lifestyle into a waking nightmare. It begins with too many drugs and an attractive waitress, and leads to an argument with Krystal that doesn’t end well. Then a shady cartel steps in and changes his life forever. Beaumont Alexander is about to discover that substitution is a fate worse than death.”

Review: H. J. Hampson’s The Vanity Game from Blasted Heath offers a slice of sleb culture with a lot of grit and blood. I hated Beaumont from the start: he’s everything I hate about the fame game. It’s an uphill battle getting your reader to follow the adventures of a character who is so often absolutely loathsome; it’s a battle Hampson wins. I despised the spoiled, pampered footballer but I was hooked into the story right away. Where is this going to go? That’s the question that keeps you reading. And I did! I almost — almost — developed sympathy for him as events unfolded. More importantly, I had to know how things would turn out. It’s a terrific examination of the seductiveness of fame, the manipulations it involves and the cocoon it develops around those who get raised so high — and how vulnerable that plush prison leaves them. But make no mistake: this isn’t a dissertation. It’s a cracking good read that will surprise you with all the twists and turns. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be famous and can’t understand the current mania for it. After you read this book, you will have second thoughts about the allure of the spotlight.

Reviewed by K. A. Laity


Why Reviews On Amazon Don’t Mean Anything.

The first thing you did when you read this title was either strongly agree with me or completely disagree (I guess you really don’t have other options like you read the title and threw up, or even maybe ran outside screaming, but what I really mean is you are strongly for either side). How many of you out there actually look through reviews, saying “Oh look at this nothing but 5 star reviews”. Well if you ever said that guess what that’s how cheats sell books.

I’m not going to call out names or make claims, but I read an interesting forum discussion about a book I wanted to read. I even tweeted the book from Amazon, telling people to look at it. Turns out this writer, makes money by posting fake reviews on his book. Gasp.

We all want to be a best seller. Some of us even go further than other writer’s, sending hundreds of queries, paying for advertisement and becoming the salesman we know we need to be to sell a book we believe in. But what if the easiest thing to do is just to get your book high enough on the kindle boards to sell itself. The reason I even came across the book was because it was ranked high in the horror section. So I wanted to see if I could get an interview with this author, after all I’ve been pretty successful with that lately, I even got Les Edgerton to agree to answer some questions (the guy wrote a great book called Hooked, everyone needs to read it). Turns out as I type in his name into google, it suggest to look at fake reviews.

Spoiler: The image has the author’s name.

So after a quick read here and there, I sat and turned off the lamp in my office. I know how it feels to get low ratings on a book, it hurts, but it’s that hurt that makes you a writer. It’s like that first rejection letter. After the first twenty, they make that one acceptance look like a bright light at the end of the tunnel. But what if you just forged all those acceptance letters and then used that to get your writing career further?

I say, read something because you know the author and if you don’t know them, look them up. Dont rely on reviews. There are certain people I don’t read because they are jackasses and I wouldn’t have known that until I contacted them (I don’t read anything under the Trestle Press publication).

But I will read anything by Paul D. Brazil (helluva a guy), B. R. Stateham (he was a grump the first time I talked to him, great guy now 🙂 ), Julia Madeleine (she write’s great stuff), K. A. Laity (the funniest and friendliest of all the writers, and she writes here at A Knife And A Quill. So maybe I’m kissing up, sue me.) Heath Lowrance (By far the shiniest of the hidden gems out there) and the list goes on. They are also not afraid of giving anything out for free, or a $1 for charity. I read them because the are great and good people and even they have a 1 or 2 star review out there, even Stephen King has plenty of 1’s and 2’s out there .

Review: Róisín Dubh

by K. A. Laity

I know a lot of Irish folks who get a little tired of seeing outsiders plunder their mythology without careful study, so it’s a delight to be able to share a new comic series that digs into the darkness of Irish myths for some grand storytelling. Rósín Dubh is an original graphic novel from Atomic Diner, the publisher of Irish titles such as Freakshow and Atomic Rocket Group 66.

The team includes:

Story: Rob Curley and Maura McHugh
Script: Maura McHugh
Covers and Lettering: Stephen Byrne
Art: Stephen Byrne (Issues 2 & 3)
Stephen Daly (Issue 1)

Synopsis: It’s 1899, and the cusp of a new century in Ireland. 18-year-old Róisín Sheridan harbours ambitions to become a rival of the magnificent English actress Ellen Terry, if she can persuade her father that a career on the stage is ladylike. Her plans are destroyed one horrific evening when she and her parents are viciously attacked by Abhartach: a neamh-mairbh who has been released after 1,400 years in the ground. To survive and seek revenge Róisín must take up a new calling, one determined by ancient Gods whose agendas are not clear, and which will place her entire existence in jeopardy.

Review: The story grabs you from the start, flipping back and forth between Róisín and her parents inside a coach and the wild hunt going on outside in the black night. We get the bloody back story of the Abhartach, who sought ever darker means to gain power and paid the price by becoming a monster: neamh-mairbh means ‘half dead’. Although the people got together to subdue him for centuries, there are always those who seek out that kind of power and release it once more into the world. Róisín and her family pay the price of that release — and she gets a harsh introduction to the supernatural history of the Abhartach and his blood-thirsty ways. In the second issue, Róisín returns from the dark journey into the west with new gifts: a sword, a cloak and a hooded crow Fainche who will guide her. The art thrusts you into a moody world, almost Mignola-esque in its noirish tones but identifiably Irish in its sensibilities. The pacing of the story grips you immediately and rips right along. Good stuff — I’m counting down the days to the next issue.

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