Friday, 22 May 2015

FACTUAL TRUE CRIME REVIEW: Looking for Madeleine - Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

Release Date: 07/05/15
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

The 2007 disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann from her bed in Portugal touched millions around the world, and has aroused sometimes dark controversy. The years pass, but this most emotive of cases still makes headlines worldwide. Award-winning authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan have written the first reliable, independent account - drawing on in-depth interviews and rigorous analysis of both the Portuguese and British police investigations. Are we closer now to the truth about Madeleine's disappearance? Was the child abducted, or did something else happen? A senior officer on the continuing British police probe told the authors after the first edition of this book was published: 'The case is solvable'.


REVIEW:

To be honest, if you’re interested in the Madeleine McCann cae and you want an unbiased review of the whole case then you really don’t want this book. The authors sadly side with the family right from the get go and continue to not flag up inconsistancies throughout their “investigation.”

Its a book that feels more like a propaganda statement for the family rather than anything to present the facts in the manner in which the novel is portrayed in the description. All round, pretty much an epic fail for me as a reader and one that I want to make others aware of so that they can borrow it from the library (if they have to read it.)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: The Collector - Nora Roberts


Release Date: 21/05/15
Publisher:  Piatkus

SYNOPSIS:

Lila Emerson is fascinated by other people's lives. As a house-sitter, she loves looking after the glamorous, sophisticated homes she could never afford herself. And as a writer, she enjoys watching the world go by, dreaming up stories for the people she sees from her window. But then one day she witnesses something only too real - the brutal and shocking murder of a young woman living across the street in New York. And now, because of what she saw, Lila's own life is in immediate danger from an audacious, single-minded assassin who kills for profit and for pleasure. With the police following a false lead, Lila is on her own. Her only hope is to team up with Ashton Archer, an artist with his own complicated reasons for getting involved. Lila wants to trust the passionate, quick-witted Ash - but is she letting her feelings blind her to his motives? Either way, Lila will never watch from the sidelines again...


REVIEW:

I don’t know if currently I’m just in a funk but recently it feels that I’ve gone through so many titles that haven’t had maximum enjoyment from and left feeling a bit cheated and that’s the same for this, the latest book from Nora Roberts.

The problems that I had with this book included a lead character I couldn’t get on with, a plot that felt flat and something that I’ve seen time and again in other titles (but then again when the book has references to Rear Window you know that it’s a very well explored plot already.)

Back this up with prose that felt quite lack lustre and dialogue that felt flat rather than the usual reader friendly snappy type that she’s known for an all round I felt more than a little cheated.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Second Epic Trailer for Lego Dimensions - Warner Brothers Interactive



Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Great Scott, its a scary world out there and now with transdimensional transportation, the world of lego is in a huge amount of trouble.

We can't wait to see what it brings and with the latest trailer showing that Doc Brown and Marty McFly will also be available its going to be quite a journey.

Other franchises appearing in the title that we know of so far include:
Ghostbusters
DC Superheroes
Ninjago
Wizard of Oz
Scooby Doo
The Simpsons
Lord of the Rings

Jurassic Park
Doctor Who


The title is set for release on the 27th September 2015.  Prepare of Lego awesomeness and lets be honest here, I don't think it's going tobe just the kids getting excited.  Dad's and Grandads are also rubbing thier hands together.  LOL

But don't just take our word for it check out the latest trailer:

My only disappointmens so far is that it doesn't look like you'll get that mysterious glowing box to house the lego in.  Other than that we can't wait.



Gareth

FICTION REVIEW: Day Four - Sarah Lotz

Release Date: 21/05/15
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

The trip of their dreams becomes the holiday of their nightmares: DAY FOUR is Sarah Lotz's extraordinary, unmissable follow-up to the book that made headlines around the world, THE THREE - perfect for fans of The Shining Girls, The Passage and Lost. Four days into a five day singles cruise on the Gulf of Mexico, the ageing ship Beautiful Dreamer stops dead in the water. With no electricity and no cellular signals, the passengers and crew have no way to call for help. But everyone is certain that rescue teams will come looking for them soon. All they have to do is wait. That is, until the toilets stop working and the food begins to run out. When the body of a woman is discovered in her cabin the passengers start to panic. There's a murderer on board the Beautiful Dreamer...and maybe something worse.


REVIEW:

Ok the second book by Sarah Lotz and whilst its billed as the sequel to The Three it’s a title that is only based in the same world rather than a follow on from the original. Whilst the change of prose was OK, I did leave wondering why the author changed her writing style from first to third person when it had worked so well with the original. Don’t get me wrong, the book si swell written and I loved the way that the description of the Cruise ship came across but for me the pace was sadly lacking for a certain amount only to speed up the closer to the end we got leaving me thinking that I’d have been happier as s reader if a certain amount had been glossed over to concentrate more on the build up.

All round, it is a solid enough title however at the end of the day, I was left feeling a little cheated with the book almost as if deadlines interrupted and the author didn’t have enough time to polish the book to the standard of Three. It is OK but at the end of the day following on from a successful release has to be hard for any writer. Here’s hoping that Sarah’s next book has a little extra time.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Book of Phoenix - Nnedi Okorafor


Release Date: 07/05/15
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

They call her many things - a research project, a test-subject, a specimen.An abomination. But she calls herself Phoenix, an 'accelerated woman' - a genetic experiment grown and raised in Manhattan's famous Tower 7, the only home she has ever known. Although she's only two years old, Phoenix has the body and mind of an adult - and powers beyond imagining. Phoenix is an innocent, happy to live quietly in Tower 7, reading voraciously and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human. Until the night that Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated, Phoenix begins to search for answers - only to discover that everything that she has ever known is a lie. Tower 7 isn't a haven. It's a prison. And it's time for Phoenix to spread her wings and rise. Spanning contents and centuries, The Book of Phoenix is an epic, incendiary work of magial realism featuring Nnedi Okorafor's most incredible, unforgettable heroine yet.


REVIEW:

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Nnedi’s work before and for me she is an author who always manages to bring a beautiful story to the reader. The descriptions are wonderful and with top notch prose as well as characters that you want to spend time around, all round generates a tale that is nigh impossible to put down.

Add to this an identifiable writing style and an overall arc that will make you smile as well as believe and you really can’t ask for more. An absolutely cracking title and one I’m recommending to a good few others.

Monday, 18 May 2015

HISTORICAL FICTION: Master of War 2: Defiant Unto Death - David Gilman

Release Date: 12/02/15
Publisher:  Head of Zeus

SYNOPSIS:

FRANCE: 1356. Ten years ago, the greatest army in Christendom was slaughtered at Crecy when Thomas Blackstone and his fellow archers stood their ground and rained death on the steel-clad might of French chivalry. Blackstone left that squalid field a knight. Now, Blackstone commands a war band and has carved out a small fiefdom in northern France. But the wounds of war still bleed and a traitor has given the King of France the means to destroy first his family, and then the English knight himself. As the traitor's net tightens, so the French King's army draws in. Blackstone will stand and fight - in pitched battle and in single combat. He will defy his friends, his family and his king. He may yet defy death, but he can't defy his destiny: BLACKSTONE: MASTER OF WAR.


REVIEW:

The second book from David in his cracking Master of War series and one that I’ve been waiting for for what feels like forever. Not that I’m an impatient reader but when you get treated to a story that really resonates, that gives you a principle hero that you love spending time around as well as a lead character that has to struggle to make his own way in the world all round gives me a book that I just can’t put down.

Yet whilst the first is the announcement, it’s the second that sets the pace for whether a writer can be an author as they have to stick to deadlines and produce a title of the same level of quality as a book that they may have spent years on polishing to within an inch of its life. Here a great many writers fail and sink without a trace but when an author rises, the second novel for me is the one that chooses how far up the TBR pile they start.

For me, David not only matched the quality of the original but for me exceeded it. I loved the way that Thomas carries on growing as the tale unfurls. The supporting cast is crisp and when added to an overall arc that really keeps the story moving at quite a clip, I’m more than a happy reader. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Midnight 2: Day Shift - Charlaine Harris

Release Date: 07/05/15
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Welcome to Midnight, Texas. It's a quiet little town, perched at the junction between Davy Road and Witch Light Road, and it's easy to miss. With its boarded-up windows, single traffic light and sleepy air, there's nothing special about Midnight ...which is exactly how the residents like it. So when the news comes that a new owner plans to renovate the run-down, abandoned old hotel in town, it's not met with pleasure. Who would want to come to Midnight, with its handful of shops, the Home Cookin diner, and quiet residents - and why? But there are bigger problems in the air. When Manfred Bernado, the newest resident in town, is swept up in a deadly investigation suddenly the hotel and its residents are the least of the towns concern. The police, lawyers and journalists are all headed to Midnight, and it's the worst possible moment ...


REVIEW:

Whilst I’ve dearly loved a lot of Charlaine’s work there is something about this Midnight series that just doesn’t work for me. The sentences feel stunted, the characters flat and all round left me feeling that this was a person writing under a famed name only slightly changed.

For me as a reader I disliked the characters, hated the prose and all round felt more than a little cheated by spending quality reading time on a book that let me down. Sadly a series I won’t be reading any more titles in and here’s hoping that as a reader that the next set of texts by Charlaine will make up for my loss of trust.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

FANTASY REVIEW: Steelhaven 3: Lord of Ashes - Richard Ford

Release Date: 07/05/15
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

The third novel in Richard Ford's magnificent fantasy series has enough thrills, valour, guts and glory to satisfy any die-hard fan of David Gemmell and Joe Abercrombie. FIGHT TO THE DEATH...The queen of Steelhaven has grown in strength. Taking up her dead father's sword, she must defend the city from the dread warlord Amon Tugha and his blood-thirsty army now at the gates. A vicious, unrelenting four-day battle ensues, the most perilous yet...OR BOW TO THE ENEMY No side is immune from danger as all hell breaks loose, with the threat of coups and the unleashing of the deadliest and darkest magick. Loyalty, strength and cunning will be put to test in the quest for victory. What fate awaits the free states?


REVIEW:

I’ve pretty much enjoyed this cracking series by Richard Ford since I picked up the original and with each successive novel the author has not only managed to help grow the world in wonderfully vivid colour but also presented characters that expand with it. Its definitely a great piece of solid writing, the prose is sharp and when you get to the action sequence s they really take your breath away. All round a series that I can’t get enough of and one that will be at the top of my TBR pile for quite some time to come.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

TV SERIES DVD NEWS: Arrow Sason 3 and The Flash Season 1 Digital Downloads - CW

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Are you up to date wiht your Super Heroe series?  Just discovered The Flash and Arrow just as the latest season of each is about to finish?  Well our friends at CW have asked us to let you know that the Digital releases are out today for Arrow and on the 26th May for Flash.  (With DVD to follow later this year.)

Here's what they're about:



After being gone for five years, during which he suffered unimaginable ordeals, billionaire Oliver Queen returned home to Starling City with a mysterious agenda and a set of new skills that he uses in a war on crime in this hard-hitting action series. Reinventing the DC Entertainment character for a modern-day audience, the Arrow is not a super hero ... but a hero -- every bit as formidable as the criminals he's hunting. Determined to right his city's wrongs and sworn to bring justice to those who have corrupted it, Oliver (aka The Arrow) -- with the help of his iron-fisted right hand, John Diggle, the tech-savvy Felicity Smoak and the newest member of the team, Roy Harper -- narrowly defeats the vengeful Slade Wilson, his onetime ally and mentor on the island of Lian Yu. But like all wars, there are casualties. Sacrificing herself for her children, Moira Queen falls at the hand of Deathstroke, sending Oliver's sister, Thea, into self-imposed exile with her biological father, Malcolm Merlyn. Now, to honor his fallen friends and family and protect the people he loves, Oliver must rededicate himself to his cause -- to become a beacon of hope for those most in need, and a weapon of justice against those who prey upon them. He is The Arrow.




From the Arrow creative team of executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg and director David Nutter, THE FLASH is a fast-paced super hero drama that follows the high-speed adventures of the Fastest Man Alive. Written by Berlanti, Kreisberg and DC Entertainment's Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, the action drama follows Central City Police scientist Barry Allen, an everyday guy with the heart of a hero and the genuine desire to help others. Standing still emotionally since the day his mother was murdered (and his father unjustly jailed for the crime), Barry was taken in as a child by the investigating Detective West and raised in a cop's home alongside West's supersmart daughter (and Barry's dream girl) Iris. But when an unexpected and devastating accident at the S.T.A.R. Labs Particle Accelerator facility strikes Barry, he finds himself suddenly charged with the incredible power to move at super speeds. While Barry has always been a hero in his soul, his newfound powers have finally given him the ability to act like one. With the help of the research team at S.T.A.R. Labs -- including billionaire visionary Harrison Wells, biogenetics expert Caitlin Snow and the eternally upbeat Cisco Ramon -- Barry begins testing the limits of his evolving powers and using them to stop crime, ensuring that no one suffers a similar tragedy to his own family history. Working with his adopted father Detective West; West's conceited partner Detective Eddie Thawne and Iris West, who's earning her degree in Criminal Psychology, Barry uses his superhuman abilities to help the people of Central City and stop the rogues' gallery of villains -- many of whom have also been altered by the particle accelerator explosion. Concealing his identity behind his incredible velocity, Barry can not only accomplish feats faster than human comprehension, but also taps into an energy that allows him to access moments out of time -- both past and future. With a winning personality and a smile on his face, Barry Allen -- aka The Flash -- is finally moving forward in life ... very, very fast!

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Star Wars: Lords of the Sith - Paul S Kemp

Release Date: 23/04/15
Publisher:  Century

SYNOPSIS:

As the Emperor continues to close his iron fist over the galaxy, occasionally situations arise that he does not want to trust even to his notorious apprentice and right-hand man, Darth Vader. When the Emperor ventures out personally with Vader to handle a new political treaty, their journey lands them in the middle of insurgent action. Alone on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their awesome martial skills to survive!


REVIEW:

Whilst a lot of people love the good guys, I have to say that I’m a big fan of the villains purely because they’re not constrained and can do exactly what they want. Here in the latest Star War’s title we get a book of Vader and one that really works well for me as a reader as I felt that Paul not only got the principle character down to a tee but brought him across in such a way that it made the book not only gripping but one where we see his full transformation to the darkside completed through the careful manipulation of the Emperor.

It’s deliciously dark and when added to the overall arc is a title that works wonderfully well for me. Back this up with good dialogue as well as a cracking pace and all round I was a more than happy reader.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

GUEST BLOG: What Makes The "Perfect" Fantasy Roleplay Game? - Marc Turner



With Witcher 3 [set to be released] on 19 May in the UK, epic fantasy author Marc Turner looks at Skyrim and Dragon Age: Inquisition to determine the elements that go into making the ‘perfect’ fantasy RPG.

If I said the words ‘fantasy role-playing video game’ to you, which titles immediately spring to mind? For me, the two most enjoyable of recent years have been Skyrim and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Skyrim and DA:I set the standard by which Witcher 3 will be judged, so where did those two games go right and wrong, and how might Witcher 3 compare?

Exploration

Everyone who enjoys fantasy likes to lose themselves in a new world. When it comes to role-playing game-worlds, size is important. I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but Skyrim’s world felt a lot bigger than DA:I’s. Skyrim is an ‘open world’ game, which means that you can go where you like, when you like, and choose how and when to approach missions. Set off in a random direction, and you’ll always find something interesting. Until it kills you, that is.

DA:I on the other hand is a bit more linear, in that the world is split into regions, and there are some areas you can only visit later in the game, either because they’re not available or because the enemies are so strong. Whilst you could never call the world in DA:I small, it doesn’t quite have the scope of Skyrim. In DA:I’s favour, you get more variety in landscape (from a forest to a bog to a desert). But I think it’s fair to say most people don’t play a game to admire the scenery, and I actually preferred the continuity of theme with the frozen tundra of Skyrim.

Witcher 3 is going to follow the Skyrim open-world model rather than the DA:I regional one. The world is going to be even bigger than Skyrim’s – around twenty per cent bigger, in fact. Developers claim it will take two hundred hours to complete everything in the game. Two hundred hours! But who needs sleep, right? With twenty-four hours in a day, you could be finished in just over a week . . .

Companions

Skyrim and DA:I took very different approaches to companions. In Skyrim you can enlist a companion, but I spent most of my time travelling alone. In DA:I you can travel alone, but I spent most of my time with companions. So which is better? No sitting on the fence from me, I’m going to come straight out and say . . . both?

In DA:I, the conversation of your companions can make travelling around so much more enjoyable. At key points in the story they give opinions on your decisions. From time to time they engage in banter. Sometimes it’s amusing, sometimes it’s informative, but it’s always entertaining – provided you pick the right followers to travel with, of course.

In Skyrim, by contrast, your companions are not so much people as walking pieces of furniture. They say next to nothing. For example, the contribution of your housecarl, Lydia, is generally limited to a warning of ‘I’ve got a bad a feeling about this’ just as a dozen giant spiders drop down from the ceiling. Thanks, Lydia, whatever would I do without your premonitions? That gave me a sense that I was really facing the world alone, but I liked that. I liked the emptiness and isolation of Skyrim. It made the game more dramatic, more menacing.

From what I’ve seen, Witcher 3 will again be following in Skyrim’s footsteps in that you’ll be spending most of your time alone. As to whether there are meaningful characters that you can team up with, only time will tell.

Gameplay

One of the aspects I liked about Skyrim was how much variation in gameplay you get from playing different character classes. The experience of playing as a two-handed warrior is completely unlike that of playing as, say, an assassin. And if you want to blend the classes a little, you can do. Sword in one hand and spell in the other? No problem.

On the other hand, I thought the combat in DA:I was far more enjoyable, especially the dragon fights. In Skyrim, when you reach a certain level, killing a dragon is no more taxing than drawing your sword. In DA:I, it’s far more challenging (even if one or two of the character classes are overpowered). You need to choose the right companions and the right tactics – and it can still go horribly wrong.

Plus the dragons in DA:I ‘feel’ more real. In Skyrim the dragons just stand there and slug it out with you, whereas in DA:I the dragons will flinch when you land a powerful hit, swat you with their legs and tail, and so on. In DA:I, a dragon fight is an epic encounter. In Skyrim, it can become little more than a nuisance.

What will Witcher 3 offer? No dragons for a start, I think. On the plus side, though, there will be a huge array of monsters, and it’s said that when you go hunting them you have to pay attention to what time of day it is and even to the weather. That suggests a complexity of gameplay that is very far from the ‘hack and slash’ found in some titles.

Story

Another aspect in which DA:I surpassed Skyrim for me was the story. I thought Skyrim’s main storyline was one of the weakest parts of the game. A story should end with a bang. The tension should build, the stakes should mount, and the final confrontation should be the most thrilling and challenging part of the game. In Skyrim, it wasn’t. The bad guy went out with a whimper. Victory cost you nothing. And in the aftermath, life pretty much went on exactly as it had done before. ‘Oh, so you saved the world, did you? Now go and fetch me ten of these herbs.’

Many of the same charges could be levelled at DA:I, I suppose, but at least there were a couple of epic moments along the way. Like the fight to save Haven, for example, and the time when you find Skyhold in the mountains and are appointed as Inquisitor.

As to what Witcher 3 will deliver, we will have to wait and see. It certainly seems to have all the right ingredients for a great storyline: a main character with supernatural abilities; a backdrop of war; a quest to eliminate a powerful enemy called the Wild Hunt. But those ingredients by themselves are not enough. It’s what the game-makers do with them that counts. Great worldbuilding only takes you so far. A great story will make the difference between a fun game and a memorable one.

What I have heard about Witcher 3, though, is that it is said to have thirty-six different ending variations. The one you get depends on the choices you make in the game. So I guess if I’m not happy with the ending, I’ll only have myself to blame . . .

Marc Turner was born in Canada, but grew up in England. His first epic fantasy novel, When the Heavens Fall, is published by Tor in the US and Titan in the UK. You can see a video trailer for the book here and read a short story set in the world of the novel here. The short story has also been narrated by Emma Newman of Tea and Jeopardy fame, and you can listen to it free here. Marc can be found on Twitter at @MarcJTurner and at his website.

Monday, 11 May 2015

FILM NEWS: Samsung Discover Superhero Formula with Marvel Avengers: Age of Ultron - Samsung


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Samsung, have sent us this information in conjunction with Marvel: Avengers: Age of Ultron:
"There is so much more to a Super Hero than just using superpowers, as intelligence and technology make up the definitive formula discovered by Samsung as part of its collaboration with Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Researchers found that the ultimate formula for a Super Hero is:

(Strength + Intelligence + Technology + Speed + Likeability + Superpowers + Morality = Super Hero)

The formula was developed in line with the launch of Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which recently recorded the biggest opening weekend of 2015, in which Samsung technology including the brand new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge smartphone, features heavily.

The study of 2,000 Brits found that strength (79%) and intelligence (71%) were both rated more highly than actual super powers, showing that being a Super Hero is not all about flying and x-ray vision. Similarly morality (57%) and likeability (45%) both make the formula ahead of traditional Super Hero traits like a Super Hero outfit or a catchy name, with more women (51%) than men (39%) valuing likeability in their hero.
When it came to the super powers we would like ourselves, it was invisibility that topped the list for both men and women, with 23% of the vote, followed by time travel (19%). Technology features highly in the make-up of a Super Hero, with Super Hero cars (30%) topping the list of “super gadgets” Brits would most like to have, followed closely by Virtual Reality headsets (17%).

Conor Pierce, Vice President IT and Mobile, Samsung Electronics UK and Ireland, said:
“Super Heroes have fascinated us for generations, with some of Marvel’s originals remaining firm favourites for decades. What is really interesting is how they have developed as society has developed, seeing technology and morality up there in the list of what makes the ultimate Super Hero is a real testament to that.

“Samsung’s collaboration with Marvel is a perfect example of how the real world interacts with the fantasy world of Super Heroes. In fact, if you look at the elements of the formula such as strength, speed and intelligence these can be applied to our Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge handsets – they’re the Super Heroes of smartphones!

“The collaboration is designed to bring together two of the world’s most iconic multi-media brands, and means we’re able to bring unrivalled content, products and experiences to fans around the world.”

The formula can also be applied to “real life” Super Heroes, with nearly 60% of respondents saying that firemen most fit that combination of speed, strength, morality and technology.

The Samsung and Marvel collaboration gives consumers extraordinary exclusive content coupled with an unrivalled visual experience. As well as creating one of a kind mobile technology for the movie Samsung has developed a range of exclusive accessories featuring Marvel favourites for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge handsets."





Thursday, 7 May 2015

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Awesome - Eva Darrows

Release Date: 07/05/15
Publisher:  Ravenstone (Rebellion)

SYNOPSIS:

Seventeen-year-old Maggie Cunningham is tough, smart, and sassy. She's also not like other girls her age, but then, who would be when the family business is monster hunting? Combat boots, ratty hooded sweatshirts, and hair worn short so nothing with claws can get a grip, Maggie's concerns in life slant more toward survival than fashion or boys. Which presents a problem when Maggie's mother informs Maggie that she can't get her journeyman's license for hunting until she loses her virginity. Something about virgin blood turning vampires into pointy rage monsters. Maggie's battled ghosts and goblins and her fair share of house brownies, but finding herself a boy - fitting in with her peers - proves a much more daunting task than any monster hunt. Did you know normal girls don't stuff their bras with holy water balloons or carry wooden stakes in their waistbands? And they care about things like "matching" and "footwear." Of course, they also can't clean a gun blindfolded, shoot a crossbow, or exorcise ghosts from a house. Which means they're lame and Maggie's not. Because Maggie's awesome. The Awesome, in fact. Just ask her. She'd be more than happy to tell you. After she finds herself a date.


REVIEW:

This was a bit of a strange book for me as whilst I acknowledged that there would be sex in it before I began, I did find that the way that the character was being callous with her “first time” in order to be able to improve in her career, I felt that it was something that should have had a more realistic feel.

Yes she “did the deed” and the author was pretty good with the descriptive, however the one thing that really annoyed me was that it was the usual unbelievable oregasmic sex that populates fiction when for a lot of ladies their first time is anything but. That said, the tale did weave a solid story, the action sequences were well written and for me, the principle character had a believablility that will work for many readers of the target audience (late teen.)

All round a solid opening title and a book that left me asking questions so much so that I will definitely be reading future outings to see what the author has in store for this unusual if intriguing family.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

SCI-FI REVIEW: Old Venus - George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois

Release Date: 06/03/15
Publisher:  Titan

SYNOPSIS:

From pulp adventures such as Edgar Rice Burroughs's Carson of Venus to classic short stories such as Ray Bradbury's "The Long Rain" to visionary novels such as C. S. Lewis's Perelandra, the planet Venus has loomed almost as large in the imaginations of science fiction writers as Earth's next-nearest neighbor, Mars. But while the Red Planet conjured up in Golden Age science fiction stories was a place of vast deserts and ruined cities, bright blue Venus was its polar opposite: a steamy, swampy jungle world with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation. Alas, just as the last century's space probes exploded our dreams of Mars, so, too, did they shatter our romantic visions of Venus, revealing, instead of a lush paradise, a hellish world inimical to all life. But don't despair! This new anthology of sixteen original stories by some of science fiction's best writers - edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois - turns back the clock to that more innocent time, before the hard-won knowledge of science vanquished the infinite possibilities of the imagination. Join our cast of award-winning contributors - including Elizabeth Bear, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Gwyneth Jones, Mike Resnick, Eleanor Arnason, Allen M. Steele, and more - as we travel back in time to a planet that never was but should have been: a young, rain-drenched world of fabulous monsters and seductive mysteries.


REVIEW:

As a reader who spends a lot of time with their head in a book, I do like it when I have a collection of short stories just to dive into when I have either a quick break or to utilise on travel time. Edited by two well established authors, the host of authors demonstrates an ability to bring the best of the genre to the fore as so many big names have contributed.

Its full of adventure, has different tales for every Sci-Fi taste and when added to a one off price for readers to try names they may not have had chance to yet, also gives you chance to add more names to your TBR pile (of which mine is already huge.)

All round a cracking set of fun and one that was a pure joy to devour and whilst every story may not be for all readers, theres enough options here to allow you to find something special.


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

LADY ELEANOR TOY REVIEW: Monster High: Amanita Nightshade - Mattel

Release Date: 09/01/15
Publisher:  Mattel

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION:

Once, every 1,300 years, the Corpse Flower blooms. Following mons-tradition, the bad seed of the Corpse Flower, Amanita Nightshade, will wake up too. Making every other flower in the garden look like a weed, she is sure to grow on the ghouls of Monster High. Her pretty dress creates quite a stink designed with her cultivated style and in her signature colours of green and purple. Garden-inspired skelements include ruffles, pleats and sheer fabric.

Flowers and leaves of poisonous plants decorate her flowing skirt and vibrant accessories that include jewellery, a hair-raising headpiece, scary sweet bag and to-die-for shoes that have creepy cool climbing vines for heels. And the fingerless gloves really grow on you. A model/fashion designer, Amanita Nightshade, comes with her modelling portfolio (with signed headshot) and a diary with extra-gory details about her unique un-life. Able to turn photosynthesis into photo-genius, girls will love adding this character to their Monster High collection for monster play and display. Includes doll wearing fashion and accessories, portfolio/headshot and diary. Colours and decorations may vary. Doll cannot stand alone. Ages six and older.


REVIEW:

Whilst a lot of people tend to think of Dolls as something for young girls to play with, Lady Eleanor has always been a lady who loves the different, something that breaks from the mould and celebrates the differences for children of all ages. So when Monster High burst onto the scene a few years ago, she was right at the forefront of the queue as she’d seen and fallen in love with the original Draculaura, a Vampire Vegetarian whose dress sense alongside sense of fun seemed to echo her own outlook on life.

Since picking up her first doll she’s gone on to collect quite a few with each having something that just jumps out at her whether its their sense of fun, their hair or even something as simple as stunning shoes. Each doll has something different for her and whilst she just won’t add any doll to her collection, each one is unique for her and can always put a smile on her face as she shares her collection with visitors.

Her latest addition is the wonderfully dark and totally planterrific Amanita Nightshade who has a lot to offer everyone who see’s her and as such I’ll let Lady Eleanor take you through what makes this gore-gous doll so must have.

Amanita Nightshade is a special type of doll, she has an absolutely terrific look with her purple and blue hair accompanied with her black flower hairpiece and glittering ebony earrings. They stand out straight away and when added to her purple and blue eyes (with a surrounding of leaves due to her plant heritage) really allows her to facially stand out from any other doll.

Throw into the mix a dress of purple and black tulle that highlights her green skin as well as heels that accentuate the flowing, growing feel as the “vines” climb her legs, for me makes her something entirely special. Finally add to this packaging that differs from the original box feel to a clear plastic that allows the doll to stand equally beautifully either on her own or still wrapped makes this a definite must have.



URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Alpha and Omega 4: Dead Heat - Patricia Briggs

Release Date: 03/03/15
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

The Alpha and Omega novels transport readers into the realm of the werewolf, where Charles Cornick and Anna Latham embody opposite sides of the shifter personality. Now, a pleasure trip drops the couple into the middle of some bad supernatural business ...For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles's role as his father's enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal - or at least it starts out that way ...Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae's cold war with humanity is about to heat up - and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire. DISCOVER THE NEW CHARLES AND ANNA NOVEL - FROM THE NO. 1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING PATRICIA BRIGGS. The Alpha and Omega novels: Cry Wolf Hunting Ground Fair Game Dead Heat


REVIEW:

OK, I have to admit that I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Alpha and Omega series, however this latest outing really won me over with a title that was not only gripping but one that really brought a whole new level to the fore. It’s a fun UF read, has great characters and when you add Patricia’s brand of snarky dialogue to the book as well as a top notch high octane storyline all round gives me a book that was nigh impossible to put down. Top notch.


YOUNG ADULT FANTASY REVIEW: Summoner 1: The Novice - Taran Matharu

Release Date: 05/05/15
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

Fletcher was nothing more than a humble blacksmith's apprentice, when a chance encounter leads to the discovery that he has the ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, he must travel with his demon to the Vocans Academy, where the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. The academy will put Fletcher through a gauntlet of gruelling lessons, training him as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire's war against the savage orcs. Rubbing shoulders with the children of the most powerful nobles in the land, Fletcher must tread carefully. The power hungry Forsyth twins lurk in the shadows, plotting to further their family's interests. Then there is Sylva, an elf who will do anything she can to forge an alliance between her people and Hominum, even if it means betraying her friends. Othello is the first ever dwarf at the academy, and his people have long been oppressed by Hominum's rulers, which provokes tension amongst those he studies alongside. Fletcher will find himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with nothing but his demon Ignatius to help him. As the pieces on the board manoeuvre for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands ..


REVIEW:

A new Young Adult fantasy title that brings a number of elements to the fore feeling like its part Harry Potter, part Pokemon but on the whole its so much more.

The writing is a joy to read. Its to the point, keeps the reader glued and when added to an arc that has such huge scope, leaves this as a wonder that just doesn’t let up from start to finish. Back this up with a cracking cast (both supporting and prinple) and all round your Young Reader is going to be in for a treat.

Cracking.

Monday, 4 May 2015

YOUNG ADULT EARLY READER REVIEWS: The Deep Dark Sea - Tony De Saulles and Belinda dn the BEars and the Porridge Project - Kaye Umansky

Release Date: 19/03/15
Publisher:  Orion

SYNOPSIS:

Early Readers are stepping stones from picture books to reading books. A green Early Reader is a first factbook. It's never too early to find out about...THE DEEP DARK SEA. Did you know that there are more living creatures in the sea than there are on land? Or that Lantern fish have glow-in-the-dark bodies to tell other lantern fish that they are nearby? Or that the viperfish has such big teeth that it can't close its mouth? Discover a world of incredible sea creatures in this brand-new full colour non fiction Early Reader from bestselling Horrible Sciences illustrator Tony De Saulles.


REVIEW:

Getting a young reader started on books is always something that can be quite difficult, however when you can find something that they love as the content you’ll find that it becomes an item that will not leave their hands. With a nephew who can’t get enough of sea creatures, this book was an absolute cracker to find. Its got some weird and wonderful animals in it (some of which I hadn’t heard of.) is something that I know he’s going to love.

The language is simple and whilst theres a lot of text it will allow your young reader the joy of making their own way through it as well as having some magical illustrations that will stay with them for a long time. A huge thank you to Orion Childrens Books for this as I know its going to see a lot of use. Magic.



Release Date: 19/03/15
Publisher:  Orion

SYNOPSIS:

Belinda lives in Honeybear Lane with her mum and dad. The house next door is empty ...until, one day, The Three Bears move in. Their house in the woods has been knocked down to make way for a motorway, and now they need Belinda's help to cope with the outside world. After all, bears can't live on porridge alone. Kaye Umansky's new series for Early Readers is just as warm and delightful as her Algy's Amazing Adventures books. Every page is illustrated in full colour by Chris Jevons.


REVIEW:

A young reader story that has a lot to offer as a certain fairy tale gets a reworking to delight readers of today. Its quirky, easy to follow and when added to some cracking illustrations is a book that your young reader will want to read more than once. All round a fun read and one that I had a lot of fun when I sat down with my niece who thoroughly appreciated it.

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW BOOK: Horrid Henry's Jumbo Joke Book - Francesca Simon


Release Date:12/03/15
Publisher:  Hatchette Childrens Group

SYNOPSIS:

The next three Horrid Henry joke books - HORRID HENRY'S HILARIOUSLY HORRID JOKE BOOK, HORRID HENRY'S PURPLE HAND GANG JOKE BOOK and HORRID HENRY'S ALL-TIME FAVOURITE JOKE BOOK - collected together in one outrageously funny bumper volume. Horrid Henry fans will laugh their heads off!


REVIEW:

Ah with nephews and a niece, I’m the type of guy who has problems finding new jokes for them. (Well to be honest most of the ones I know are not age appropriate for which I blame my Dad. LOL) So to have one of their favourite book/tv series do this for me is an absolute gem.

It has loads of jokes that are funny, some cringeworthy to an adult and of course some with a bit of a twisted sense of humour which suits me down to the ground. The only problem I’ve had with this book is that a certain “Grandad” has been caught trying to steal this from me so that he’s going to be the funniest around his grandkids. Cracking.

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Mortal Kombat X - Warner Brothers Interactive

Release Date:14/04/15
Publisher:  Warner Borthers Interactive

SYNOPSIS:

Mortal Kombat X is NetherRealm Studios' next highly anticipated installment in its legendary, critically acclaimed fighting game franchise, which propels the iconic franchise into a new generation. The game combines cinematic presentation with all new gameplay to deliver the most brutal Kombat experience ever, offering a new fully connected experience that launches players into a persistent online contest where every fight matters in a global battle for supremacy.

For the first time, Mortal Kombat X gives players the ability to choose from multiple variations of each character, impacting both strategy and fighting style. Players step into an original story showcasing some of the game's most prolific characters including Scorpion and Sub-Zero, while introducing new challengers that represent the forces of good and evil and tie the tale together.

New and Klassic characters
Featuring Klassics such as Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Raiden and Kano, as well as new characters such as Cassie Cage, Kotal Kahn, Ferra-Torr and D'Vorah, the roster will include fan favourites where both good and evil must battle it out.

Character variations
Mortal Kombat X offers three different versions for each playable character, all of which have their own fighting style, special moves, abilities and strategies. The variation that players choose affects the style and overall strategy by which the game is played.

Epic cinematic storyline
A deep story mode continues up to 25 years after the events of 2011's Mortal Kombat and advances the dark tale, introducing new characters such as Cassie Cage, daughter of fan favourites Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage.


Visceral kombat
Mortal Kombat X introduces the next evolution of fighting with the return of X-ray and finishing moves that showcase brutal battles like never before with enhanced graphics and animations.



REVIEW:

OK, this is the first time I’ve played Mortal Kombat, my other fighting experience mainly comes from Tekken and whilst I feel like Tekken had become a little stale, I was more than intrigued about MK as I’ve seen a few of the filsm. So thinking that I had nothing to lose I picked it up and cracked on to see what all the hype was about.

OK, lets keep this simple, the graphics are simply stunning, the moves incredibly smooth and whilst at times when playing Tekken I just mashed all the buttons to see what would happen, this one is more strategic as you have to try and plan what you’re doing and have a strategy to try and break the combo’s of your opponent.

Tis definitely a lot of fun and whilst a number of people can just jump in, I do suggest that you go through the tutorial first so you can find out what works for you. All round, I loved the way it looked, had a lot of fun beating the snot out of the console (and in turn trying to not get whupped by Lady Eleanor) and when added to a whole range of characters alongside solid storytelling generates something that you’ll play for quite a while. Great stuff.

My only real complaint is having to buy some of the “classic” characters separately as ti felt a bit cheeky especially when you’ve already [aid a good amount to start with. If they’d come as a separate DLC late in the year I could maybe understand it but to have them ready from the beginning, that’s a bit off in my opinion.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Legends of Gaming Live announces forthcoming Event


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Callused Thumbs,
We've had the trailer land for an epic gaming event at London's Alexandra Palace in September.  Tickets are now available from thier website here.



Visitors will get the chance to get thier hands on some top stuff as well as getting access to the latest and greatest titles.

We can't wait to see what comes of out of this gamer friendly event and we wish them all the best,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor