Friday, 1 August 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Wraith Powers in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Trailer - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warner Brothers Interactive have asked us to remind you that Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor will now be released on the 3rd October.

The title will be released for the following formats:
PC
PS3
PS4
Xbox 360
Xbox One

In addition to this there's also a brand new trailer to keep you psyched, or rather in this case, wraithed.  LOL:


 
Also remember that fans who pre-order  Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will get access at the game’s launch to  The Dark Ranger exclusive bonus pack. Available at all participating retailers, the pack will provide exclusive content and challenges for players including:  
  • Dark Ranger Character Skin
    • Begin your own quest for vengeance with a new Dark Ranger character skin that embodies Talion's darker side
  • "Test of Power" Challenge Mode
  • Face Sauron's Captains and defeat them to earn powerful Runes and gain a head start in the game
  • Test your speed, skill and strategy and measure yourself against your friends on the leaderboards 
  • Access to Exclusive Leaderboards for "Test of Power" Challenge Mode
    • Test your speed, skill and strategy and measure yourself against your friends on the leaderboards in this challenge mode



    Hopefully this will have whetted your appetite so remember to keep your blades sharp and your wits sharper.

    Gareth and Lady Eleanor

Thursday, 31 July 2014

HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION REVIEW: Flavia Alba 2: Enemies At Home - Lindsey Davis

Release Date: 17/04/14
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

From renowned author Lindsey Davis, creator of the much-loved character, Marcus Didius Falco and his friends and family, comes the second novel in her all-new series set in Ancient Rome. We first met Flavia Albia, Falco's feisty adopted daughter, in The Ides of April. Albia is a remarkable woman in what is very much a man's world: young, widowed and fiercely independent, she lives alone on the Aventine Hill in Rome and makes a good living as a hired investigator. An outsider in more ways than one, Albia has unique insight into life in ancient Rome, and she puts it to good use going places no man could go, and asking questions no man could ask. Even as the dust settles from her last case, Albia finds herself once again drawn into a web of lies an intrigue. A mysterious death at a local villa begs may be murder and, as the household slaves are implicated, Albia is once again forced to involve herself. Her fight is not just for truth and justice, however; this time, she's also battling for the very lives of people who can't fight for themselves. Enemies at Home presents Ancient Rome as only Lindsey Davis can, offering wit, intrigue, action and the further adventures of a brilliant new heroine who promises to be as celebrated as Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina, her fictional predecessors.


REVIEW:

I’m a huge fan of Lindsey’s Falco series so when I had a chance to start a brand new series last year, I couldn’t wait to see what would occur with a new character and Lindsey’s own identifiable style. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed and with a cracking lead character that the reader can associate with alongside great quips, wonderful turns of phrase as well as a delightful mystery to uncover all round generated something that was pure agony to put down.

Add to this an escalation in events with an ever increasing body count, tight lips within the investigation and all round, a frustrating case becomes one that really does hit the spot for readers. Great stuff.


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Assassins Creed: Unity latest Game Trailer - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
As many know we're huge fans of the Assassin's Creed franchise so we've been following the news in association with the title pretty tightly so much so that we can't wait to get our hands on the latest outing in the French Revolution for the Next Gen of consoles.

As you've already seen it's a very high end product, they're pushing the current boundries of the systems and with the gamer being able to enter 1 in 4 buildings you know that its going to be huge.

Back this up with cracking storyline, some oppulent settings as well as being able to do joint missions with your friends and its a title that will feel like quite a long wait away, however to help ease your burden and hopefully something that will sate your craving a little, we have the latest trailer on hand for your perusal:



Hopefully like us you can't wait to embark on this historical period and of course the new dawn for the next gen consoles.

All the best and keep you blades sharp but your blades sharper,



Gareth and Lady Eleanor

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Fearless - Emma Pass

Release Date: 24/04/14
Publisher:  Corgi Children

SYNOPSIS:

The Fearless. An army, powered by an incredible new serum that makes each soldier stronger, sharper, faster than their enemies. Intended as a force for good, the serum has a terrible side-effect - anyone who takes it is stripped of all humanity, empathy, love. And as the Fearless sweep through the country, forcing the serum on anyone in their path, society becomes a living nightmare. Cass remembers the night they passed through her village. Her father was Altered. Her mother died soon after. All Cass has left is her little brother - and when Jory is snatched by the Fearless and taken to their hellish lair, Cass must risk everything to get him back.


REVIEW:

A young adult title that hits the reader hard from the outset as scientific chemical advancement is proven once again to be utilised for the military application that leaves the world at threat from the violence of those without fear. It’s a book that has a solid lead character that the reader can support alongside identify with and with events spiralling out of control really hits the viewer hard as they look at what they’d do in her place.

And that’s just for starters. The adventure is dark, in places gruesome and of course really is expanding YA UF to the max in a tale that many adults will enjoy as well. Back this up with stunning prose and of course top notch pace and all round it’s a title that you’ll find hard to put down until the final page. Cracking.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

HISTORICAL SPY FICTION REVIEW: Thomas Hill 3: The King's Return - Andrew Swanston


Release Date: 24/04/14
Publisher:  Bantam

SYNOPSIS:

The king's coronation brings hope. Until a murderer strikes. Spring 1661. After years of civil war followed by Oliver Cromwell's joyless rule as Lord Protector, England awaits the coronation of King Charles II. The mood in London is one of relief and hope for a better future. But when two respectable gentlemen are found in a foul lane with their throats cut, it becomes apparent that England's enemies are using the newly re-established post office for their own ends. There are traitors at work and plans to overthrow the king. Another war is possible. Thomas Hill, in London visiting friends, is approached by the king's security advisor and asked to take charge of deciphering coded letters intercepted by the post office. As the body count rises and the killer starts preying on women, the action draws closer to Thomas - and his loved ones. He finds himself dragged into the hunt for the traitors and the murderer, but will he find them before it's too late?


REVIEW:

I love returning to yesteryear to be immersed in a world that is just as complex and politically tricky as the one in which we currently live and whilst I’m not under the constant threat of death from my own side alongside the opposition, when I’m thrust into those days, I want to be able to feel the city that I walk through with the principle character, the cobbled streets, the stench of the gutter and of course the various scents of a live city and to be honest its t tricky thing to pull off.

Why?

Well it’s a fine line between what many would assume is either info-dump or too little detail and when that vies against storyline it can be a bit of a pickle for the author to get it right, and sadly for me, that’s where Andrew has failed in this the third outing of his high octane series. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, I love the puzzles, the storyline and of course the principle player however without that additional detail it could technically be set in any time. Don’t get me wrong it does work on so many levels but if I don’t get the full experience I’m left feeling a little cheated.

Monday, 28 July 2014

FICTION REVIEW: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste - Valerie Martin

Release Date: 20/02/14
Publisher:  Weidenfeld and Nicolson

SYNOPSIS:

A mystery unsolved to this day A mystic who confounds the cynics A writer looking for the story that will make his name A ghost ship appears in the mist. To the struggling author Arthur Conan Doyle, it is an inspiration. To Violet Petra, the gifted American psychic, it is a cruel reminder. To the death-obsessed Victorian public, it is a fascinating distraction. And to one family, tied to the sea for generations, it is a tragedy. In salons and on rough seas, at seances and in the imagination of a genius, these stories converge in unexpected ways as the mystery of the ghost ship deepens. But will the sea yield its secrets, and to whom? Intricate, atmospheric, and endlessly intriguing, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is a spellbinding exploration of love, loss and the fictions that pass as truth.


REVIEW:

There is probably no other ship out there that has had more written about it be it truth or fiction in one form or another than the Mary Celeste and whilst no one will ever really know what happened, author Valerie Martin has taken the reader on a journey based around the real lives of those involved. Its fascinating reading and all round generates an overall picture that will give the reader a completely new look at the mystery.

Its quirky, I love the writing style and the prose just flows from the page. All round it’s a cracking book and one that I had no problem immersing myself within. A great piece.


YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Promise Not to Tell - Jennifer McMahon

Release Date: 03/04/14
Publisher:  Indigo

SYNOPSIS:

Kate Cypher has returned home to Vermont, after a telephone call from friends who are worried about her mother's failing health. On the night she arrives, a young girl is murdered, a horrific crime that eerily mirrors another from Kate's childhood.

Three decades earlier, her misfit friend Del, shunned and derided by her classmates as "the potato girl", was brutally slain. Del's killer was never found, and Del achieved immortality in local legends and ghost stories.

Now, as the new murder investigation draws Kate irresistibly in, her past and present collide in terrifying and unexpected ways. But nothing is quite what it seems - and the grim spectres of her childhood are far from forgotten.


REVIEW:

To be honest this book was one that for me as a reader really didn’t stand out. The principle character was forgettable, the reasoning behind her choices confusing and when the reader gets to the meat of the tale its not really sure what its trying to be whether a crime thriller or a ghost story. Its nothing that stands out from the crowd and to be honest it was more than a little predictable which all round left me feeling cheated so sadly I won’t be rushing to pick up another title by Jennifer.


Sunday, 27 July 2014

TRUE CRIME: City of Gangs - Andrew Davis

Release Date: 13/03/14
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

A new type of criminal is in our midst - a dangerous, ruthless, well-armed man, who will stick at nothing, not even murder. He is introducing into this country the gangster methods of Chicago and New York...Trade depression has thrown into unemployment thousands of unskilled youths who have nothing to do but lounge about the street corners of our slums in gangs.' John Bull weekly newspaper, 1932. During the 1920s and 1930s, Glasgow gained an unenviable and enduring notoriety as Britain's gang city - the 'Scottish Chicago'. Now Andrew Davies, author of the acclaimed The Gangs of Manchester, brings to life the reign of terror exerted on Glasgow by gangs like the Billy Boys, the Kent Star, the Savoy Arcadians and the South Side Stickers. Out of the most dilapidated and overcrowded tenements in Britain, stepped young men and women dressed like Hollywood gangsters and their molls. On the city's streets, they took centre stage in dramas of their own making, fighting territorial battles laced with religious sectarianism and running protection rackets modelled on those of the American underworld. Drawing on fifteen years of original research, Andrew Davies provides compelling portraits of legendary figures such as 'Razor King' John Ross and Billy Fullerton, leader of the Billy Boys - described as the 'Al Capone' of the city's East End. He sheds new light on the way the city's police and judiciary dealt with the gangs and reveals the fascinating role played by the media in creating myths of the underworld. During what the Daily Express described as 'The War on the Gang', Glasgow's police were led by Chief Constable Percy Sillitoe (who later became head of M15), determined to maintain the image as a tough, gang-busting cop he had forged in Sheffield during the 1920s. This dramatic story, played out against the backdrop of the most volatile of Britain's cities, provides a new window onto the most turbulent period in modern British history and a timely reminder of how deprivation, unemployment and religious bigotry are a toxic cocktail in any era.


REVIEW:

Crime is something that’s always held an allure for the reader and whilst there are times in the fictional world when the reader will declare that its gone to far, when you get to read the true story of how some of the gangs came about, it’ll more than fascinate as well as scare the reader in equal measure.

Its factual, is written in an easy to approach manner and when added to an authorly style that brings research over without having it like an info-dump all round generates something that is a wonderful read. Great stuff.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Lagoon - Nnedi Okorafor

Release Date: 10/04/14
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria's legendary mega-city, they're more alone than they've ever been before. But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine. Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world...and themselves. 'There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.'


REVIEW:

This title is a book that will fulfil what a lot of old Sci-Fi B Movie fans look for in a title. It has an interesting premise , a simple yet sound set of questions and of course has the reader questioning events as they occur within. It’s a real page turner and whilst in some respects it’s a good commentary on social political aspects of modern society it’s a book that hits out at the spirit of man as seen through another species.

Whilst the characters are pretty basic I did quite enjoy the title purely as I’m a huge fan of what the author did within the pages. All round a solid enough book and one that deserves some recognition time.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

URBAN FANTASY SHORT STORY COMPENDIUM REVIEW: Games Creatures Play - Ed. Charlaine Harris and Toni L P Kelner

Release Date: 03/04/14
Publisher:  Jo Fletcher Books

SYNOPSIS:

Everyone plays something - whether it's solitaire or squash or stockcar racing, World of Warcraft or World Wrestling Entertainment tournaments, darts or dodgeball. Games bring out the best in us, the worst in us, the thing-we-never-expected in us. Human beings just naturally like to test their limits, both mental and physical - and why should the supernaturals be any different? In their latest anthology international superstar Charlaine Harris and award-winning mystery writer Toni Kelner have collected stories that feature ghostly players, bloodthirsty interruptions, and competitions with deadly outcomes, from some of the top writers in the fantasy, horror, crime and mystery genres. Game on!


REVIEW:

I’m a huge fan of books that bring together a whole host of authorly talent from across the genre as it not only gives the reader cracking tales but also allows them to try authors that you may not have had the finances to purchase in case you don’t like it. (After all we’re all watching the pennies these days.)

Its fun, has some cracking play on games and how the “creatures” unwind and all round gives the reader a short stories that they can dive into during journeys or lunch breaks to get away from the real world. As usual the talent within is top notch and when edited by two top notch names in the genre, all round gives it a seal of quality that you can’t ignore. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Night Broken - Patricia Briggs

Release Date: 11/03/14
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam's ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from her new boyfriend. Adam won't turn away a person in need, but with Christy holed up in Adam's house, Mercy can't shake the feeling that something isn't right. Soon, Mercy learns that Christy has the farthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back and will anything to get him, including turning Adam's pack against Mercy. On top of this, there's an even more dangerous threat circling. Christy's ex is more than a bad man - in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies pile up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her world apart.


REVIEW:

Mercy strikes back with trouble heading her way when Adam’s ex-wife returns with ulterior motives of her own. As usual with Patricia, the writing draws the reader in, with our heroine Mercy, growing into her new role within the pack as emotions run high in this epically charged title.

It has the usual sass, the quirkiness that I love and when added to cracking one liners, careful manipulation of the wording and of course a magical supporting cast all round generate something that is hard to put down. Back this up with great prose, wonderful turns of phrase and all round I was a more than happy reader.

Friday, 25 July 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor to be Available Earlier and New Trailer - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warner Brothers Interactive have contacted us to let us know that due to the fan excitement, they're releasing Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor earlier than expected on the 3rd October.

The title will be released for the following formats:
PC
PS3
PS4
Xbox 360
Xbox One



Also remember that fans who pre-order  Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will get access at the game’s launch to  The Dark Ranger exclusive bonus pack. Available at all participating retailers, the pack will provide exclusive content and challenges for players including:  
  • Dark Ranger Character Skin
    • Begin your own quest for vengeance with a new Dark Ranger character skin that embodies Talion's darker side
  • "Test of Power" Challenge Mode
  • Face Sauron's Captains and defeat them to earn powerful Runes and gain a head start in the game
  • Test your speed, skill and strategy and measure yourself against your friends on the leaderboards 
  • Access to Exclusive Leaderboards for "Test of Power" Challenge Mode
    • Test your speed, skill and strategy and measure yourself against your friends on the leaderboards in this challenge mode



    Hopefully this will have whetted your appetite so remember to keep your blades sharp and your wits sharper.

    Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: ComicCon Trailer for Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warner Brothers Interactive, have sent us te trailer from ComicCon for this Autumn's  release Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.

As you'll be able to see from the Trailer it definitely looks a whole host of fun with a lot of the improvements that had been made with Marvel Lego, being added to this one to give it that super hero shine.  But don't just take our word for it have a look yourself:




Lego: Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, is set for release on the following formats:  
PSV  
PS3
PS4  
3DS  
Wii U  
Xbox 360  
Xbox One
PC  

We hope you too will look forward to grabbing those bricks and earning those heroes with the super studs.  LOL  



Gareth and Lady Eleanor

FANTASY REVIEW: Unwrapped Sky - Rjurik Davidson

Release Date: 24/04/14
Publisher:  Tor

SYNOPSIS:

A hundred years ago, the Minotaurs saved Caeli-Amur from conquest. Now, three very different people may hold the keys to the city's survival. Once, it is said, gods used magic to create reality, with powers that defied explanation. But the magic - or science, if one believes those who try to master the dangers of thaumaturgy - now seems more like a dream. Industrial workers for House Technis, farmers for House Arbor and fisher folk of House Marin eke out a living and hope for a better future. But the philosopher-assassin Kata plots a betrayal that will cost the lives of godlike Minotaurs; the ambitious bureaucrat Boris Autec rises through the ranks as his private life turns to ashes; and the idealistic seditionist Maximilan hatches a mad plot to unlock the fabled secrets of the Great Library of Caeli Enas, drowned in the fabled city at the bottom of the sea, its strangeness visible from the skies above. In a novel of startling originality and riveting suspense, these three people, reflecting all the hopes and dreams of the ancient city, risk everything tor a future that they can only create by throwing off the shackles of tradition and superstition, as their destinies collide at ground zero of a conflagration that will transform the ancient city...or destroy it.


REVIEW:

Readers of the fantasy genre are often used to following a tale from the point of view of a humanoid person be it an Elf, a Dwarf, human or in some cases Orcs, however being told a tale with one of the key characters being a minotaur is something a little different for the reader.

The book is solidly written and whilst its quite slow to start with, the build up is required to allow the reader the chance to get to know not only the world and the cultures within as the tale unfurls. All round a solid start and with luck, the pace will pick up in future outings now that a lot of the world building has been done.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Blood Kin - Steve Rasnic Tem

Release Date: 13/03/14
Publisher:  Solaris

SYNOPSIS:

Steve Rasnic Tem's new novel Blood Kin is set in the southern Appalachians of the U.S., alternating between the 1930s and the present day. It's a dark Southern Gothic vision of ghosts, witchcraft, secret powers, snake-handling, Kudzu, Melungeons, and the Great Depression. Blood Kin is told from the dual points of view of Michael Gibson and of his grandmother Sadie. Michael has returned to the quiet Appalachian home of his forebears following a suicide attempt and now takes care of his grandmother old and sickly but with an important story to tell about growing up poor and Melungeon (a mixed race group of mysterious origin) while bedeviled by a snake-handling uncle and empathic powers she but barely understands. In a field not far from the Gibson family home lies an iron-bound crate within a small shack buried four feet deep under Kudzu vine. Michael somehow understands that hidden inside that crate is potentially his own death, his grandmother's death, and perhaps the deaths of everyone in the valley if he does not come to understand her story well enough.


REVIEW:

OK, you want a story that is a little different to the normal type books that you pick up. You want a story that has a sense of history, that brings interesting characters from the past and present to light where history meets present as events unfurl. What Steve does well is set the story up in the beginning part. You get chance to know the characters within and then for some reason, the book seems to lose its way part way through taking a lot time to pick back up again.

The prose is reasonable enough but when a story loses direction, I do find it hard to get back in once the pace picks up. Yes you expect lulls and peaks to give you chance to recover but for me, this outing felt like it did too little too late for it to come back round for me. I did love the concept, I did love the characters and all round it is a reasonable title but not one that’s going to be repeated in my yearly highlights.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: RUNEFEST set for 11th October - Jagex


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Jagex have let us know about upcoming Runefest, the Festival for Fans of Runescape to meet the deevlopers and other like minded individuals, however this year they're doing somehing a little different.  Here's what they've had to say:


"Jagex Games Studio, makers of the multi-award winning fantasy MMORPG, RuneScape, has today unveiled plans for the game’s annual fan convention: RuneFest. This year players will have the option to attend for free by using their in-game gold reserves and bartering with the community for Bonds, which can then be used to not only acquire a ticket to RuneFest, but be swapped for accommodation, merchandise, and more, without a cent (or penny) spent!

This year, RuneFest will take place on Saturday 11th October at Tobacco Dock, London, and give RuneScape fans the chance to meet the developers behind the game, as well as get a sneak peak at content planned for the future. In addition to being purchasable with Bonds, tickets can also be bought for £99 when they go on sale from Monday 28th July. Jagex has partnered with a local hotel so accommodation can be purchased by attendees with Bonds. The virtual currency can also be swapped for 
Crystal Coins allowing RuneFest visitors to secure consumables and merchandise at the event itself for free.



“Over the past 13 years RuneScape has built up a loyal fan base who are as enthusiastic about the game as we are,”  said Jane Ryan, community and events director at Jagex. “RuneFest is our chance to celebrate everything that makes RuneScape special with those who mean the most to us: our players.  This year we wanted to make sure as many of our players could join us as possible, so we’re allowing players to purchase pretty much everything with their in-game currency.  Players can essentially come to the entire event, without spending a single penny!” 

RuneScape Bonds were introduced into the game in September 2013 and are available to buy either with real world cash or in-game gold from the RuneScape website. To join in with the RuneScape community and become a part of RuneScape today visit www.RuneScape.com."

In addition to this, this is how the Coins and Bonds work out:

The cost (in Bonds) for the ticket and hotel packages are as follows:
Ticket Only
·       1 RuneFest ticket = 35 Bonds
·       2 RuneFest tickets = 70 Bonds

Hotel Only
·       1 twin room on 10th October = 55 Bonds
·       1 twin room on 11th October = 55 Bonds

Ticket and Hotel Package
·       2 RuneFest tickets plus twin room on 10th October = 125 Bonds
·       2 RuneFest tickets plus twin room on 11th October = 125 Bonds
·       2 RuneFest tickets plus twin room for both nights (10th and 11th) = 180 Bonds

Crystal Coins are available in the following packages:
·       1 Bond = 10 Crystal Coins (equivalent to £2.50)
·       5 Bonds = 50 Crystal Coins (equivalent to £12.50)
·       20 Bonds = 200 Crystal Coins (equivalent to £50)

TV TIE IN FANTASY REVIEW: Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros - Matthew Reinhart

Release Date: 10/04/14
Publisher:  Bantam

SYNOPSIS:

Inspired by the Emmy Award-winning title sequence that opens each episode of the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros is guaranteed to thrill the show's legions of fans. Featuring stunning pop-up recreations of several key locations from the series, including the formidable castle of Winterfell, the lavish capital city King's Landing, and the Wall's stark majesty, this book takes readers into the world of the series like never before. Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros features five stunning spreads that fold out to create a remarkable pop-up map of Westeros, as well as numerous mini-pops that bring to life iconic elements of the show, such as direwolves, White Walkers, giants, and dragons. All the pops are accompanied by insightful text that relays the rich history of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, forming a dynamic reference guide to the world of Game of Thrones. Visually spectacular and enthrallingly interactive, Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros sets a new standard for pop-up books and perfectly captures the epic scope and imagination of the series.


REVIEW:

I’ve been a huge fan of the Song of Fire and Ice series for a number of years and with the tv series being such a big hit, its great fun to have a pop-up book that also pulls out as a map. Its quirky, it is wonderfully put together and as a huge fan its something I’m going to treasure and utilise quite a few times.

All round a great bit of fun and a wonderful addition to any GoT fan, definitely something unique and of course perhaps that different option for either a birthday or Christmas. Great stuff.

YOUNG ADULT URBAN FANTASY SHORT STORY COMPENDIUM: Rags and Bones - Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

Release Date: 13/03/14
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

Featuring stories by Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix and the authors of Beautiful Creatures, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, this is a unique and imaginative collection for readers of all ages. There are some stories that will always be told, tales as timeless as they are gripping. There are some authors who can tell any story. In RAGS & BONES, award-winning and bestselling authors retell classic fairytales and twisted tales in the way that only they can. With magic and love, they bring these stories - whether much loved or overlooked - back to life. Read 'Sleeping Beauty' as only Neil Gaiman can tell it. See 'Rumpelstiltskin' through the eyes of Kami Garcia. And learn of Rudyard Kipling's 'The Man Who Would Be King' from the inimitable Garth Nix.


REVIEW:

Whilst we all loved hearing the fairy tales and traditional stories as children, sometimes things are lost in either the language or the modern interpretation of the original meanings, so its always a great joy when modern authors tackle some of these tales to bring them bang up to modern times. Here, in this volume, a lot of the big names in the YA market tackle some of the classics and bring them to life.

Its well written, they’re short enough to dip into for travel time and to be honest it’s the chance for readers to travel roads with authors that they may not have considered before. It’s a wonderful presentation and all round will be a book that will be treasured for quite some time. I can’t wait to share them with my nephew’s and niece. Great stuff.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Angel of Death - Ben Cheetham

Release Date: 08/05/14
Publisher:  Head of Zeus

SYNOPSIS:

Would you break the law to see justice done? A former prostitute turns to murder in order to take revenge on the men who abused her. Sheffield: a bankrupt businessman has murdered his family. It seems like an open-and-shut case: a desperate man resorting to desperate measures. Middlesbrough: a woman named Angel is heading south. She is a woman alone. A prostitute. Now a murderer. And she has only one thing on her mind: revenge. Two crimes, a hundred miles apart, but a terrible secret connects them. And although the courts may not agree, DI Jim Monahan has all the proof he needs to bring down justice on a group of particularly vicious criminals...


REVIEW:

I tend to read a lot of crime books and whilst most of them follow the tale through from start to finish, what this title also throws into the mix is a lead character who has to war with his own beliefs and his faith in the law. Its wonderfully written and the reader is given a principle player that is rounded but also emotionally involved in everything he does.

Add to the mix, some solid police work, quite a few twists and of course an authorly style that will not only entertain but help give the reader a tale that’s a little different to a lot out there and al round, you really can’t afford to miss this book.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Through Dead Eyes - Chris Priestley

Release Date: 14/03/14
Publisher:  Bloomsbury

SYNOPSIS:

Alex joins his father on a business trip to Amsterdam. During the day he hangs out with the daughter of a family friend. They visit the usual sights but also coffee shops and flea markets off the beaten track. At one of these markets Alex spots an ancient-looking mask. Before he knows what he's doing he buys it. Later, in his hotel room, he feels compelled to put the mask on. Alex is sucked into a parallel Amsterdam, one from centuries before which begins to reveal the dark past of both the building he is staying in and the little girl who once lived there ...edging stealthily towards the terrible twist.


REVIEW:

I love a ghost story that brings in for me, the chance to travel to somewhere I’ve never been and whilst for some Holland (and in particular Amsterdam) isn’t exotic, it’s a place that I’ve heard about from people who have been and told me that it can be quite an eerie place to visit at times.

That really gets my imagination going, so when I have an author basing a story there, I love the chance to explore (if only in my imagination.) What Chris does well is bring the city to life and works the format around it pretty well. I loved the journey that the book took me on, I enjoyed the characters exploration but for all that, for me the characters felt a little flat against a bustling breathing environment.

All round it’s a solid enough story and the concept was ideal, however when the characters feel flat, that really takes me longer to get through a title as I don’t have that emotional attachment.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

FANTASY REVIEW: The Barrow - Mark Smylie

Release Date: 04/03/14
Publisher:  PYR

SYNOPSIS:

Action, horror, politics, and sensuality combine in this DEBUT EPIC FANTASY novel for fans of George R. R. Martin and Michael J. Sullivan, set in the world of the Eisner Award-nominated Artesia comic books.

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword buried in the barrow of a long-dead wizard, they think they've struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map turns out to be cursed and then is destroyed in a magical ritual. The loss of the map leaves them dreaming of what might have been, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place.

Stjepan Black-Heart, suspected murderer and renegade royal cartographer; Erim, a young woman masquerading as a man; Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire; Leigh, an exiled magus under an ignominious cloud; Godewyn Red-Hand, mercenary and troublemaker; Arduin Orwain, scion of a noble family brought low by scandal; and Arduin's sister Annwyn, the beautiful cause of that scandal: together they form a cross section of the Middle Kingdoms of the Known World, united by accident and dark design, on a quest that will either get them all in the history books...or get them all killed.


REVIEW:

I’m a huge fan of what I like to call Dark Fantasy, the type where the heroes are never whiter than white and the villains are never as black as you’d like to imagine, where the only thing that really seperates them is the point of view of the story. Here in this book by Mike Smylie is a tale that situates itself firmly in the blacker side of the genre as hard core action meets blood drenched battles, sex and pretty much all the other things you can handle.

Its well written, was a title that I had fun with as rather than taking itself too seriously with humour and cracking world building. All in a good bit of fun and something that I look forward to revisiting in the future.


URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Midnight, Texas 1: Midnight Crossroad - Charlaine Harris

Release Date: 08/05/14
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

From Charlaine Harris, the bestselling author who created Sookie Stackhouse the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a new, darker world - populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that's how the locals prefer it? Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It's a pretty standard dried-up western town. There's a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There's a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there's new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he's found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth . . .


REVIEW:

I’ve been a huge fan of Charlaine’s for quite a few years going through a lot of her books and culminating in a massive love affair with the Sookie Stackhouse series (now sadly finished.) so when I heard about a new series that brought old friends to the fore I couldn’t wait to embark on a whole new set of adventures.

Yet, upon picking it up I found that I had a hell of a hard time getting into it. The writing felt clunky and awkward, there were too many individual characters having their say and all round, felt unsatisfactory with it being a hell of a struggle to read. All round I found this a great disappointment and as a reader I felt more than a little cheated. A great shame as I was really excited about this.



Monday, 21 July 2014

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Popular: A Memoir - Maya Van Wagenen

Release Date: 15/04/14
Publisher:  Penguin UK

SYNOPSIS:

New York Times Bestseller Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek is a touchingly honest, candidly hysterical memoir from breakout teen author Maya Van Wagenen. 'School is the armpit of life ...and my school is no exception.' Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at 'pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren't paid to be here,' Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular? The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise-meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humour and grace, Maya's journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence. "The real deal...A teenage John Green for the next generation. Stunning". (Margaret Stohl, bestselling co-author of the bestselling Beautiful Creatures series). "Popular is wonderful. It is charming, touching, entertaining - and brought back a lot of memories about my own high school anxieties. I will be saving my copy to give to my daughter when she is a little older". (Jo Elvin, Glamour). "I was inspired by [Maya's] journey and made a point of saving a copy of 'Popular' for my sister, who starts middle school this fall. Maybe if I had read it when I was her age, it could have saved me from a world of hurt, or at least put that world in perspective". (Maude Apatow, New York Times Book Review). "Made me smile, giggle and question what my idea of popularity really is...A must read this summer". (Guardian Books Blog). "Honest, funny, and thought-provoking". (Gretchen Rubin, number 1 bestselling author of The Happiness Project). "Her year-long experiment in popularity is timeless; the intelligent and humane way she gets to the heart of the matter is uniquely her. Funny, determined, and wry, Van Wagenan has written a wise, heartfelt guide for other kids eager to keep up". (Rachel Hartman, NYT bestselling author of Seraphina). "A talented writer, she's funny, thoughtful and self-effacing...Teens will readily identify with her". (Kirkus). About the author: Maya Van Wagenen is fifteen years old. When she was eleven, her family moved to Brownsville, Texas, the setting of Popular. When not hunched over a desktop writing, Maya enjoys reading, British Television, and chocolate. She now lives with her parents and two siblings in a rural Georgia. She is a sophomore in high school but still shares a room with her sixth grade brother. Remarkably they have not yet killed each other.


REVIEW:

A book for the teenager that is written by not only an approachable young woman but one that many readers will be able to associate with. It’s well written, a title that works on many levels and to be honest is something that will show everyone that you may not be popular but you’re still a person.

Add to this a social experiment based on advice from an old book and all round it’s an entertaining read for old and young alike. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Apocalypse Now Now - Charlie Human

Release Date: 03/04/14
Publisher:  Arrow Books

SYNOPSIS:

Neil Gaiman meets Tarantino in this madcap, wildly entertaining journey into Cape Town's supernatural underworld. I love the smell of parallel dimensions in the morning. Baxter Zevcenko's life is pretty sweet. As the 16-year-old kingpin of the Spider, his smut-peddling schoolyard syndicate, he's making a name for himself as an up-and-coming entrepreneur. Profits are on the rise, the other gangs are staying out of his business, and he's going out with Esme, the girl of his dreams. But when Esme gets kidnapped, and all the clues point towards strange forces at work, things start to get seriously weird. The only man drunk enough to help is a bearded, booze-soaked, supernatural bounty hunter that goes by the name of Jackson 'Jackie' Ronin. Plunged into the increasingly bizarre landscape of Cape Town's supernatural underworld, Baxter and Ronin team up to save Esme. On a journey that takes them through the realms of impossibility, they must face every conceivable nightmare to get her back, including the odd brush with the Apocalypse.


REVIEW:

A South African novel that brings a lot of the modern classic influences into it. Whilst I wasn’t enamoured of the book, I did like the concept, I liked the idea’s explored within and could see the work that had gone into it.

Personally I found the principle character hard to get on with, I felt that it took a while to get anywhere and for me, it’s a series that I won’t be returning to as it’s not struck me as a must read. Whilst there will be quite a few readers out there that will love the book, for me it didn’t hit the right spot, leaving this more as a marmite type of title.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

HISTORICAL CRIME THRILLER - A Wolf in Hindelheim - Jenny Mayhew

Release Date: 06/03/14
Publisher:  Windmill Books

SYNOPSIS:

This is an atmospheric and gripping novel from an exciting new voice for fans of The Snow Child and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. South-West Germany, 1926. The disappearance of a baby girl calls for Constable Theodore Hildebrandt and his son Klaus to visit the remote village of Hindelheim, a place where nothing ever happens. But the news of the missing baby has brought darkness to the community. It is as if someone or something wicked is playing a game. As the wind blows and the mist thickens, tensions rise amongst the villagers as everyone falls under suspicion. And when the rumours begin and secrets start to unravel, the quiet village of Hindelheim is set to change for ever.


REVIEW:

I love books that try to do something a little different and whilst it seems quite popular at the moment to bring historical crime to the fore, readers will be taken on a hell of a journey of what seems early on to be a crime title set in Pre-World War 2 Germany. Its not, it’s a tale that explores the mind-set of not only the people concerned but of Germany itself at the time. It’s definitely something that really strikes the heart of the reader and whilst it’s something that could have been heavily overpowered in any number of ways, what Jenny has done is bring the tale to the fore with an emotional aspect leading from the fore with believable characters letting the reader get a fuller flavour.

It’s a stunning title and whilst perhaps not for everyone it’s a book that I did get a lot out of as it is something that really gets to the readers heartstrings as we can look back on the time period concerned with the beauty of hindsight. All round a great book with characters that not only draw you in but one that has been carefully crafted for maximum effect.


FANTASY REVIEW: Dragon Queen - Stephen Deas


Release Date: 15/08/13
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Praised by the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Brent Weeks, Stephen Deas has made dragons his own. In the years before the Dragons laid waste to man's empire, the fearsome monsters were used for war and as gifts of surpassing wealth to buy favour in the constant political battles that tore at the kingdoms. Notorious in these battles was the Dragon Queen. And now she is a prisoner. But no-one is more dangerous than when caged...The critics, fellow authors and readers alike are agreed - if you love dragons and epic fantasy, Stephen Deas is the writer for you. The man who brought dragons back to their full glory, might and terror. Dragon Queen is a companion volume to the Memory of Flames trilogy and to THE BLACK MAUSOLEUM.


REVIEW:

Ah, returning to a magical world that has danger not only from dragonkind but also from those who pursue them as Stephen Deas deftly mixes political machination, treacherous dealings and bloodshed in a new epic volume in what for me is one of the premiere modern dragon series out there.

The writing is intelligent, the combat when it comes hard and fast and when you add in cracking prose and a pace that will set the world alight all round generates a story that I’m more than happy to while a few hours away on. I can’t wait to read the next outing and see what else he has in store for us.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

SCIENCE FICTION CRIME REVIEW: The Forever Watch - David Ramirez

Release Date: 01/05/14
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

The Noah: a city-sized ship, half-way through an eight-hundred-year voyage to another planet. In a world where deeds, and even thoughts, cannot be kept secret, a man is murdered; his body so ruined that his identity must be established from DNA evidence. Within hours, all trace of the crime is swept away, hidden as though it never happened. Hana Dempsey, a mid-level bureaucrat genetically modified to use the Noah's telepathic internet, begins to investigate. Her search for the truth will uncover the impossible: a serial killer who has been operating on board for a lifetime...if not longer. And behind the killer lies a conspiracy centuries in the making.


REVIEW:

To be honest I’m a reader that likes to try a whole host of different stories personally as I love not only adventure but to be given the chance to try new authors work to see what they bring to the table. Whilst this is a debut novel, its one that, for me, was a hell of a struggle to get into. It was a slow starter, the set up felt like it took a long time and for me, I really struggled to associate with the characters within.

All round, whilst the concept is definitely interesting, for me the execution was lacking. All round a great shame.

Friday, 18 July 2014

GUEST BLOG: Have I created a Monster? - Tom Harper

Here at Falcata Times, we love to play host to authors.  Here with Zodiac Station (Hodder, 19th June) recently released, we couldn't wait to find out about how he created his Monster.  Here's what Tom had to say: 

My latest book, Zodiac Station, came out last week.  It’s my twelfth novel, and it’s not like the others.  Those were easy to describe, in their various ways: some were straight historical novels, some were thrillers about history.  Zodiac Station is different.

One review described it as a techno-thriller.  Another as horror.  SFX magazine gave it a four-star review, and my publicist is muttering about sending me to the World Science Fiction convention.  My father texted to describe it as ‘Mary Shelley meets Michael Crichton’, which I liked.  Amazon’s blurb says it’s ideal for fans of Dan Simmons, which is flattering, and Kate Mosse, which I don’t see.  My contract says something about ‘conspiracy thrillers in the vein of John Le CarrĂ©’, but no-one pays any attention to that.  The world ‘chiller’ gets used a lot, probably because it’s set in the Arctic.
Perhaps they’re all right.  The book’s about a remote research station, high in the Arctic, where bad things start happening to the scientists.  More than one review mentions The Thing, which is indeed an apt comparison.  That would account for the science fiction.


There are certainly scientists in my book, and one or two of them might be mad.  There’s a lifeless, alien environment which could kill them at any moment, populated by hairy, man-eating monsters.  There’s Zodiac Station itself, a steel canister parked on the ice like a marooned spaceship: think a more oblong Millennium Falcon.  Buzz Lightyear cameos.  Yet I still insist it’s just a contemporary thriller.


There’s something about the Arctic that puts us in mind of space.  It’s the most otherworldly place on Earth (it looks a lot like Planet Hoth); it’s where Superman goes to feel at home.  Read an Arctic thriller (other brands are available), and chances are the author will have one eye on the stars.  Fallen satellites, crashed meteorites (possibly bearing extra-terrestrial life) – to say nothing of interdimensional portals, cosmic polar bear deities, aliens and predators.  It’s a far-out place.


And we’ve always known it.  To see the Northern Lights, as I did on Svalbard, is to see particles from the sun pouring through a gap in the Earth’s magnetic shield.  To the ancient Greeks, the Northern Lights were chasmata, rifts in space that opened doors to other worlds (an idea Philip Pullman picked up and ran with); the Vikings believed they formed a bridge between earth and heaven.  Other cultures have seen them as celestial foxes, dragons and ghosts.  Native Americans understand them as the distant flicker of battles waged between good and evil.  To Gerald Manley Hopkins, the Northern Lights were ‘a new witness to God.’  However you look at it, it’s somewhere at least halfway to another world.


The funny thing is, I didn’t realise any of that when I started Zodiac Station.  I wanted to write about the Arctic, just as it is.  I wanted to convey the sense of cold, the isolation and the paranoia of a remote research base, with a few nods to my literary predecessors.  I wasn’t interested in science fiction: I wanted to explore science fact, the issues of a changing planet that play out at the poles.  I’d never even seen The Thing (in any version), before I started the book, though in retrospect it’s such an obvious point of reference.

 

What have I created?  All I know is, it’s the book I wanted to write, about a place that’s loomed large in my imagination since childhood.  If gods and monsters have crept in, it’s not because I took them: it’s because I found them there.

Whatever it is, I hope you like it.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

FANTASY REVIEW: The Queen of Tearling - Erika Johansen

Release Date: 17/07/14
Publisher:  Bantam

SYNOPSIS:

Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...


REVIEW:

To be honest with you I spend a lot of time in fantasy worlds and whilst I always enjoy being treated to a new one, this title sadly had so many elements wrong with it that it felt like the fantasy aspect was more of a second thought with references that were from an earlier version still hanging on to this one.

A key example of this is the use of America, England, the literary books within (that the queen cherished) all round left me feeling cheated with the work within feeling like it was haphazard and shoddy. Don’t get me wrong I did like a lot of the elements within but when the reader is amidst fantasy and then suddenly has real world references thrown in it ruins the illusion with something that could quite easily have been fixed.

Secondly whilst I did get to like the Queen and her principle guards there was so much wrong considering that she had been raised in isolation. Yes she had books to read but her knowledge seemed to encompass way too much for it to be purely literal with her interactions feeling way too scripted to be functional considering that she’d only had two people in her life until 19.

It just didn’t work on that level and all round left me feeling what the hell was happening within the book. All round, its not a book that a lot of fantasy fans will love and with so much confusion surrounding the world building alongside the competency of the principle cast all round left me feeling cheated.