Thursday, 28 August 2014

HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION REVIEW: The Devil in Marshalsea - Antonia Hodgson

Release Date: 28/08/14
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

WINNER OF THE CWA HISTORICAL DAGGER AWARD 2014. Longlisted for the John Creasey Dagger Award for best debut crime novel of 2014. London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses into the hell of a debtors' prison. The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of the gaol's rutheless governor and his cronies. The trouble is, Tom Hawkins has never been good at following rules - even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the Captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet. Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon, Tom's choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder - or be the next to die. A twisting mystery, a dazzling evocation of early 18th Century London, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.


REVIEW:

Whilst there are quite a few novels out there that deal with historical fiction or crime, very few delve into it from the point of view of the gaolee. In this case the books principle character Tom Hawkins who has to face the hell of a sentence in debtor’s prison. The book is well writer, the prose bringing the time period to life and when you throw into the mix a lead character that the reader can really get behind really does help the book move on at quite a clip.

Its definitely different to pretty much any other title out there and is a book that I was more than happy to read, add to the mix that its also a debut and I’ll be seeing what Antonia comes back with as her second outing. Great stuff.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: "The Evil Within" releases Vocal Talent List - Bethesda

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Bethesda has contacted us to let us know that gamers for "The Evil Within" are in for a real treat with the Voice Talent that they've obtained.  Here's what they had to say:

"The Evil Within cast includes Academy Award nominee Jackie Earle Haley ("Lincoln," "Watchmen," “A Nightmare on Elm Street”), Screen Actors Guild Award nominee Jennifer Carpenter ("Dexter," “Quarantine,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”), and film and television star Anson Mount ("Hell on Wheels,” "Safe”).
The Evil Within, out October 17th in Europe, embodies the meaning of pure survival horror. Highly-crafted environments, horrifying anxiety, and an intricate story are combined to create an immersive world that will bring players to the height of tension. With limited resources at their disposal, players will fight for survival and experience profound fear in this perfect blend of horror and action.

Academy Award nominee Jackie Earle Haley, who is no stranger to horror, having recently played Freddy Krueger in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, lends his voice to The Evil Within’s main antagonist, Ruvik.  Making his video game debut, Anson Mount, best known for his role as Cullen Bohannon in AMC’s Hell on Wheels, assumes the role of lead protagonist Sebastian Castellanos. Players assume the role of Sebastian, a veteran police detective, throughout the game in their terrifying struggle for survival. 


Rounding off the cast is Jennifer Carpenter, well-known for her role as Debra Morgan in the hit Showtime series Dexter, who plays Juli Kidman, Sebastian’s Junior Detective partner. As part of recently announced Season Pass plans, players will be able to assume the role of Juli Kidman in post-launch content to experience The Evil Within from an entirely new perspective. 

"One of the most crucial elements to any successful survival horror game is the setting and sound, which includes the depth and authenticity of the voice acting," said Mikami. "We brought together a great cast of experienced actors to help ensure that players really believe our characters’ emotions and the tension they feel in every scene." 


In The Evil Within, Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners are called in to investigate a gruesome mass murder. After seeing the slaughter of fellow officers, Sebastian is ambushed and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a deranged world where hideous creatures wander among the dead. Facing unimaginable terror, and fighting for survival, Sebastian embarks on a frightening journey to unravel what’s behind this evil force.

Slated for release on October 16th in Australia and October 17th across Europe, The Evil Within is in development for the Xbox One®, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, Xbox 360, PlayStation® 4 computer entertainment system, PlayStation 3, and PC. For more details on The Evil Within please visit the official site at http://theevilwithin.com/."

We hope you're looking forward to getting as scared as us,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Warner Brothers Interactive and DC announce Lego: Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Launch date - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warner Brothers Interactive, have let us know the release date for Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham which is set for the 14th November on the following formats:

PS3
PS4
Xbox 360
Xbox One
PSV
3DS
Wii U
PC

And now for your viewing pleasure, the trailer:

 

With November being a very busy month for us here at Falcata Times (game wise) we can't wait to embark on spending time with the DC heroes and here's hoping that after the success of the Marvel Lego title that we'll also get that special treatment here.

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



Gareth and Lady Eleanor

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Vampires: A Hunters Guide - Steve White and Mark McKenzie-Ray

Release Date: 20/08/14
Publisher:  Osprey Adventures

SYNOPSIS:

For centuries, vampires have lurked in the shadows, preying upon the weak and defenseless. Now, with world population centers booming, the vampires have found rich new hunting grounds. But help is at hand, Vampires: A Hunter's Guide contains all the information necessary to recognize and combat the growing vampire threat. After exploring the origins of these dark and terrible creatures, it examines the numerous vampire species and subspecies that exist around the world today. Focusing on the hunters' weapons, tactics and skillsets, this book provides information on identifying and eliminating vampires, noting the best practices from the secretive, powerful and dedicated hunters from around the world, and throughout the ages. With full-color illustrations of predator and prey, this is the ultimate resource in the fight to save humanity from the vampires.


REVIEW:

Having read the Zombie guide a while ago, I was more than interested to see how the other supernatural races would fare in this series from Osprey. It brings a sense of history to an urban fantasy world with snippets from the past blending wonderfully with an unseen modern world where these creatures existence is hidden from the public.

The illustrations are wonderful, and with it written in a sense of a document for these special forces that combat the creatures of the night, all round gives you something that is a whole heap of fun to spend time around. I can’t wait to see what they do for the Shapeshifter and hopefully a title set around other’s to cover a lot of the creatures we may not be familiar with.



Saturday, 16 August 2014

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: The Killing Season - Mark Pearson

Release Date: 16/08/14
Publisher:  Arrow Books

SYNOPSIS:

DI Jack Delaney is trying to make a clean break. Tormented by his troubled past, he has taken his young family out of London, swapping the mayhem of London for the tranquil calm of the north Norfolk coast. Except it's not so tranquil. After a terrible storm hits Sheringham, a body is discovered beneath the rubble of a collapsed cliff. Natural disaster? No, this looks like murder, and Jack is the only local resident qualified to investigate. But when more disappearances follow and the local police step in, Jack finds himself plunged dangerously deep into the investigation - and in the sights of the killer on the loose.


REVIEW:

Ok, so I’ve not read any of this author’s writing before, but I’m a huge fan of a crime tale told well and with characters that I just love to spend time around, and that’s what Mark presents in this title in spades. The lead character, DI Jack Delaney, is not only well rounded, but a character with quirks and foibles that help make him more real in the readers mind, which when backed with a family that steps straight from the page into a believable house next door, all rounds helps gives this a solid grounding.

All round, this title is one that I was more than happy to spend the time with, especially when added to a pace that allows you to take breathers whilst deciphering the clues as they’re unearthed, which when blended with good prose and of course dialogue that really fires the imagination all round gave me a very pleasurable evening. Great stuff.

Friday, 15 August 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Ubisoft Updates from Gamescon 2014

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Well Gamescon has been awash with tons of Ubisoft Game info so here's the highlights on our three, Assassin's Creed: Unity, Assassin's Creed: Rogue and Far Cry 4.

We hope this will help bring you up to date:


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 managed to get a look at the wonderful Solo Gameplay for this, the Next Gen's first offering.

As you'll see,  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 more than hit the spot.  We can't wait to embark on our mission to save Paris:







Now onto our second Assassin's Offering Info, that of Assassin's Creed: Rogue where we get to see some of the new features and gameplay that readers can expect from this recently revealed title for those on last gen consoles.  

Whilst there isn't too much known at the moment, it does look like its going to be a game that really challenges the player as we turn the skills of the Assassin's back against them.

It definitely looks interesting so here take a look yourself:
 


 

Other than that here is all the current info we have on it:

18th century, North America. 

Amidst the chaos and violence of the French and Indian War, Shay Patrick Cormac, a fearless young member of the Assassin Brotherhood, undergoes a dark transformation that will forever shape the future of the American colonies. After a dangerous mission gone tragically wrong, Shay turns his back on the Assassins who, in response, attempt to end his life. Cast aside by those he once called brothers, Shay sets out on a mission to wipe out all who turned against him and ultimately become the most feared Assassin hunter in history. Introducing Assassin's Creed Rogue, the darkest chapter in the Assassin's Creed franchise yet. As Shay, you will experience the slow transformation from Assassin to Assassin Hunter. Follow your own creed and set off on an extraordinary journey through New York City, the wild river valley, and far away to the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic in pursuit of your ultimate goal to bring down the Assassins. Become the ultimate Assassin Hunter For the first time ever, experience the Assassin's Creed universe from the perspective of a Templar. Play as Shay who, in addition to the deadly skills of a Master Assassin, also possesses never before seen skills and weapons:
  • Equip Shay's deadly air rifle for both short- and long-range combat. Distract, eliminate, or confuse your enemies by using a variety of ammunition, including specialised bullets and grenades.
  • Protect yourself from hidden Assassins with your enhanced Eagle Vision. Use your vision to constantly assess your surroundings and detect Assassins hiding in the shadows, on rooftops, and in the crowds.
Slowly descend into darkness Witness Shay's transformation from an adventurous Assassin to a grim and committed Templar willing to hunt down his former brothers. Experience first-hand the events that will lead Shay down a dark path and set him on a course that will forever change the fate of the Assassin Brotherhood. New and improved naval gameplay Cast off in your ship, The Morrigan, and fight your way through the icy seas of the North Atlantic and the narrow waters of America's river valleys. Assassin's Creed Rogue builds on the award-winning naval experience from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag with all new gameplay including:
  • New enemy tactics: Defend yourself from Assassins as they attempt to board your ship and overthrow your crew. Fight them off quickly to avoid losing too many crew members.
  • New weapons such as burning oil, which leaves a trail of fire behind to burn enemy ships, and the puckle gun, capable of delivering continuous machine gun-like fire.
  • An arctic world full of possibilities: Ram through ice sheets to discover hidden locations and use icebergs as cover during naval battles.
Vast, diverse open world to explore Shay's story will allow you to explore three unique environments.
  • The North Atlantic Ocean: Experience the cold winds and towering icebergs of the arctic in this expansive naval playground.
  • The River Valley: A large hybrid setting of the American Frontier mixing seamless river navigation and ground exploration.
  • New York City: One of the most well-known cities in the world, fully recreated as it existed in the 18th century.
AC Rogue will be available on the following formats on the 10 November 2014: PS3 Xbox 360. We expect more news from Gamescon and will keep you, the reader, updated.



Finally we're onto Far Cry 4, a title that from the latest trailer looks set to continue upon the success of the third outing with a whole new set of skills, weapons, gameplay and of course the chance to team up with friends to take down the enemy.

Its defintiely a game that we can't wait to embark upon and with Lady Eleanor by my side, its going to be a title that will see lots of mayhem, trouble and of course revenge (although that will probably be Lady Eleanor if I beat her to a kill, LOL.)

Here's a look at the latest trailer for you and whilst this is for the PS4, it will be available for the Xbox One:

 

Finally here's all the latest info on the game for you:

Welcome to Kyrat!

Built from the legendary DNA of its award-winning predecessor, Far Cry 4 delivers the most expansive and immersive Far Cry experience yet in an entirely new and massive open world, with integrated drop-in/drop-out co-op play.
Hidden in the towering Himalayas lies Kyrat, a country steeped in tradition and violence. You are Ajay Ghale. Travelling to Kyrat to fulfill your mother's dying wish, you find yourself caught up in a civil war to overthrow the oppressive regime of dictator Pagan Min. Explore and navigate this vast open world, where danger and unpredictability lurk around every corner. Here, every decision counts, and every second is a story.
Explore an open world filled with possibilities
Discover the most diverse Far Cry world created yet. With terrain spanning from lush forests to the snowcapped Himalayas, the entire world is alive... and deadly!
  • From leopards, rhinos, black eagles, and vicious honey badgers, Kyrat is home to abundant wildlife. As you embark on your hunt for resources, know that something may be hunting you.
  • Scout enemy territory from above in the all-new gyrocopter and then plummet back to earth in your wing suit. Climb aboard the back of a six-ton elephant and unleash its raw power on your enemies.
  • Choose the right weapon for the job, no matter how insane or unpredictable that job might be. With a diverse arsenal, you'll be prepared for anything.
Pagan Min
Pagan Min is a raging narcissist with a God complex. He's always been a fan of his own image and the presentation of himself as a brand. Ambitious and ruthless, the self-proclaimed King of Kyrat was every bit the charismatic leader. He conquered Kyrat slowly, pulling people to his cause – including the Golden Path rebels. Quickly enough, idealism surrenders to reality. Pagan Min believes that Kyrat's problems lie in its connection to the past. In trying to sever those connections, Pagan Min causes a split in his own camp. He may control much of Kyrat, but in making enemies with the Golden Path a rebellion is born.
Co-op: bring a friend
Not every journey should be taken alone. Far Cry 4 allows for a second player to drop in and out at any point, re-imagining the cooperative experience in the true spirit of Far Cry for the next generation. You'll now be able to discover and explore the living open world of Kyrat together.
The arena: what will you become?
Prove your combat prowess and fight for survival and fame in the arena. Earn the respect of roaring crowds and test your will to survive, battling man and beast alike, until only one contestant remains standing.
Multiplayer
Get a taste of Kyrat's embattled history in a brand new adversarial multiplayer mode. Play as a heavily armed soldier of the Golden Path rebellion, or as a member of the ancient Kalinag warrior tribe equipped with the lethal power of nature.
Map editor: deathtrap designer
Create and share your own maps using the most powerful and intuitive map editor ever offered in the Far Cry franchise. Your creations will get the attention they deserve thanks to its enhanced tools, improved interface, and the ability to publish and share your maps with the community.

Hopefully this will keep you up to date with the latest Ubisoft developments.


Gareth and Lady Eleanor 


 

FANTASY REVIEW: The Memoirs of Lady Trent 1 and 2: A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents - Marie Brennan

Release Date: 14/02/14
Publisher:  Titan

SYNOPSIS:

Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.


REVIEW:

This was a book I’d been looking forward to for quite some time as the premise was something that instantly struck a chord with me especially as I have a fondness for the imaginative fictional documentary, The Last Dragon. What unfurls within is a book that has an almost Darwinesque feel to it bringing the Victoriana of an alternate world wonderfully to the fore.

It has a rich descriptive prose, some cracking concepts and of course when added to an author with a clear love of the subject matter all round generated something that was not only unique but something that was a pure joy to spend time with. A cracking start to a new series and one that I hope many others will recognise as well. Magical.




Release Date: 29/05/14
Publisher:  Titan

SYNOPSIS:

Three years after her fateful journeys through Vystrana, the widowed Mrs. Camherst defies convention to embark on an expedition to the savage, war-torn continent of Eriga, home of the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics. Accompanied by an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave heat, fevers and palace intrigues to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian.


REVIEW:

The second book in the series and one that continues to build upon the hard work of the original. I love the way that the authorly voice within brings a sense of strength to the piece alongside passion for the subject matter. Its definitely something quirky, something unique and for me, is a series that would make a more than fascinating TV series that will give the reader a visual look into something that has garnered the readers attention for years.

Back this up with solid prose, cracking dialogue alongside observations and all round I was a more than happy reader.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

FACTUAL REVIEW: Dian Hanson's History of Pin-Up Magazines - Dian Hanson


Release Date: 30/03/14
Publisher:  Taschen

SYNOPSIS:

The Birth of Newsstand Pin-up. This is the definitive annotated and illustrated history of pin-up magazines - 1900-1969. Open your notebooks, sharpen your pencils, and get ready for a history lesson like none you've ever experienced. You're about to learn everything you could ever want to know about the world history of men's magazines - not magazines about sports, not fashion, not hunting or fishing or how to build a birdhouse in ten easy steps, but those titillating periodicals embracing the subject dearest to all heterosexual men's hearts and other body parts: the undraped female form. Editor Dian Hanson traces the fascinating development of the genre from 1900 to 1969 in three compact, informative volumes. In Volume 1 you'll learn about the first magazines that appeared around 1900 in France, Germany, and the U.S., and follow the development of the genre through the First and Second World Wars. Covered are men's magazines masquerading as movie magazines, humor magazines, art magazines, nudist magazines, and "spicy" fiction. Volume 2 documents the proliferation of pin-up magazines following World War II, most notably a little item called Playboy that debuted in December 1953 and spawned dozens of imitators. This volume also charts the emergence of English men's magazines, fetish magazines, and the top five covergirls of the 1950s. Volume 3 begins with an explosion of new American pin-up magazines following the loosening of U.S. obscenity laws, and continues with French titles in decline, England going pervy; nudists going hippy, and Germany going pervy, hippy and political.


REVIEW:

Whilst I know that Dian has published with Taschen before, this was my first look at the authors work and the chance to get to see an area that I fell in love with since seeing images on the war planes of the Second World War. I love pin up and I’m a huge fan of Bettie Page so the chance to get behind the history of the pin-up as well as to see how its developed alongside the opportunity to see why it grips the audience so, I couldn’t wait to embark on what I felt would be quite a comprehensive history.

The books were definitely interesting and whilst at times it felt a little clipped, I did get a better idea of the genre as a whole. I loved the way that the author drew the audience in and of course with the top notch set of pictures accompanying it rather proved the various points of view. All round a series that I had quite a bit of fun reading and one that I’ll be referencing from time to time in the future. Great stuff.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Gamescon Trailers for Assassins Creed: Unity and MIddle Earth: Shadow of Mordor


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 from Gamescon:






Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,  
Our friends at Warner Brothers Interactive have contacted us with teh latest feed from Gamescon for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (which will now be released 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

LADY ELEANOR MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT REVIEW: Paranormal Intruder - Caroline Mitchell

Release Date: 1/12/13
Publisher:  Create Space Independent Publishing

SYNOPSIS:

An innocent family finds itself completely helpless against the sudden onset of paranormal activity in their quiet rural home. A knife embedded in a kitchen cupboard, crockery smashed by invisible hands, and blood-chilling growls emit from thin air. Caroline and her husband Neil search for answers as they try to protect their family from the unseen entity that seems determined to rip them apart.
The biggest question looms over them like a dark cloud ... who is going to help us? There are emergency services for many things, but not of this nature. It might be easier to believe temporary insanity, if not for the vast amount of witnesses. Police, fire services, mediums, priests and investigators all become embroiled in the mystery. The family struggles to cope, and Caroline grows concerned for her husband’s failing health as he withdraws from the world. However, the entity has only just begun.
Paranormal Intruder is the true story of one family’s brave fight against an invisible entity. Described as one of the best-documented cases of paranormal activity, this page turning book will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.


REVIEW:

Whilst reading my Facebook wall one day I came across a share about this book, which after reading the blurb and as a fan of horror movies as well as ghost stories I thought I’d give it a go as I’m more than interested in getting to read someone’s real life account of a haunting.

Yes, generally a lot of them are all based in historic places such as tales of the past Kings and Queens or a haunted old inn yet this one stood out as it was set in a fairly new property, not something that you’d think would be haunted.

So upon opening the pages the reporting of the events started straight away and to be honest never slowed down.unlike so many others. What this title has done completely differently was to sit down and explain everything in a clear concise manner that also allowed you to get to know the victims of this haunting. There was no bravado or heroic stances from the family concerned and after doing what they could, they took the only step left to them which was to leave their home but even that didn’t end the paranormal events.

All in, this is a book that has a lot of twists and turns within, taking the reader from tears, from when the family had to rehome their dogs or your hair standing on end as the events are described in detail, yet throughout it all, it was clear that the familial bonds were strong as they stood together against the unseen foe.

I have read other reviews and am shocked at certain people's attitude to part of the story ( I will not go into it ) and I want to say to them until you have been literally been to hell and back don't be abusive about people’s reactions to a situation like this. The books author also has a blog which is very interesting and in my opinion is something definitely worth looking at. I would definitely give this book 10 out of 10 and I'm glad the author could come forward with this story it may well help others.

Monday, 11 August 2014

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Warlord's Gold - Michael Arnold

Release Date: 03/07/14
Publisher:  John Murray

SYNOPSIS:

Autumn,1643. As an increasingly bitter war rages across England, Captain Innocent Stryker leaves Oxford with orders to recover a lost treasure, vital to the success of the Royalist cause. But a seemingly simple mission to the remote Scilly Isles is soon jeopardised, for enemies lie in wait. A formidable Parliamentarian agent has been sent ahead of Stryker's force, intent on defeating Royalist plans. Feared by ally and enemy alike, he is a man whose determination is only matched by his hatred for Stryker. The quest for the gold takes Stryker across storm-ravaged seas, through enemy territory and finally to the Royalist stronghold of Basing House. And it is there that Stryker will face his most dangerous challenge yet.

REVIEW:

If you love Historical Fiction and want kickass action, solid plotlines and of course danger coming from every direction then you really have to read Michael Arnold. He has a great way of bringing the English Civil War to life as well as blending historical fact into the tale to help give it an extra edge.

Back this up with great prose, magical pace and of course a lead character that you just love to spend time around makes this a series that is not only a pure joy to read but a wonderful piece of escapism from the real world. Great stuff.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: My Life as a White Trash Zombie - Diana Rowland

Release Date: 05/07/14
Publisher:  Corsair

SYNOPSIS:

Angel Crawford is a loser. Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken. That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue - and that it's an offer she doesn't dare refuse. Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey - just when she's hungriest! Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat. Literally.


REVIEW:

I always love something a little different and this book by Diana has certainly hit the spot with a new take on the Zombie as they get to stay not only normal if they get their fix but function like an everyday human but with a whole new set of problems to combat. Back this up with a great twist on a crime story (if a little simplistic) and all round it more than hit the spot.

I really look forward to seeing what Diana hits back with next in the series as well as seeing how our heroine will grow in future outings. Great fun.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Seventh Miss Hatfield - Anna Caltabiano

Release Date: 17/07/14
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Rebecca, a 15-year-old American, isn't entirely happy with her life, comfortable though it is. Still, even she knows that she shouldn't talk to strangers. So when her mysterious neighbour Miss Hatfield asked her in for a chat and a drink, Rebecca wasn't entirely sure why she said yes. It was a decision that was to change everything. For Miss Hatfield is immortal. And now, thanks to a drop of water from the Fountain of Youth, Rebecca is as well. But this gift might be more of a curse, and it comes with a price. Rebecca is beginning to lose her personality, to take on the aspects of her neighbour. She is becoming the next Miss Hatfield. But before the process goes too far, Rebecca must travel back in time to turn-of-the-century New York and steal a painting, a picture which might provide a clue to the whereabouts of the source of immortality. A clue which must remain hidden from the world. In order to retrieve the painting, Rebecca must infiltrate a wealthy household, learn more about the head of the family, and find an opportunity to escape. Before her journey is through, she will also have - rather reluctantly - fallen in love. But how can she stay with the boy she cares for, when she must return to her own time before her time-travelling has a fatal effect on her body? And would she rather stay and die in love, or leave and live alone? And who is the mysterious stranger who shadows her from place to place? A hunter for the secret of immortality - or someone who has already found it?


REVIEW:

OK, I was looking forward to this as the book blurb sold itself to me. There was time travel, some great concepts of immortality and when backed with a mystery, I was pretty much sold. So when the title landed I pretty much ripped the packaging open with my teeth and sat back to enjoy what I thought was going to be a story with a whole lot of fun attached.

Sadly what unfurled within was a huge let down. The principle character was sadly more 2d than fully rounded, she changed emotionally with no real explanation and when added to a plot that had more holes in it than Swiss cheese started to push incredulity as well as belief with coincidences too far in the opposite direction.

All round quite a depressing book and one that I won’t be returning to. If you have a mind to read this, then please borrow it from your local library and save yourself the cash.

Friday, 8 August 2014

DVD REVIEW: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher - Sony Home Entertainment

Release Date: 04/08/14
Publisher:  Sony Home Entertainment

SYNOPSIS:

After interfering with a top secret mission, THE PUNISHER is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. AGENT and AVENGER, BLACK WIDOW. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop LEVIATHAN, a global terrorist organization that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the AVENGERS, hangs in the balance.

DVD bonus features:

“Espionage and Punishment” featurette -- This featurette looks at the exciting versions of these popular Marvel characters as adapted in this stunning style of anime. From early concept art and storyboards to the final film, all aspects of creating the compelling story of this unique anime feature are explored.

“The Vigilante Vs. The Spy” featurette – A look at the Marvel’s Frank Castle (The Punisher) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow). Each of these characters feature dark and complex origins that led them to extreme action and extraordinary lives.

Go behind-the-scenes of AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL: BLACK WIDOW & PUNISHER with two revealing, making-of featurettes “Espionage and Punishment” and “The Vigilante Vs. The Spy.” In both featurettes, fans will hear from filmmakers on the highly anticipated pairing of two of Marvel’s most deadly Super Heroes.


REVIEW:

I’d been looking forward to this since I heard about it a few months ago, yet whilst I was excited, I did wonder how they could bring two major kickass killers to a 12 market without compromising on what fans will be demanding. What the tale brought across was something that was sadly lacking. The story was pretty sketchy, Black Widow was overly emotional and when you add the Punishers no nonsense attitude, it left me feeling that she was more a damsel in need of rescue and emotionally unable to cope with the situation.

It felt wrong, it didn’t have the strengths that I was coming to expect from this and to be totally brutal BW was little more than a tease with her sly comments who would fall apart as parts of the story were uncovered. All in, it just didn’t work and to be honest its not one I’ll be re-watching in the future.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Ubisoft Announce Second Assassin's Creed title to be released in November - Ubisoft



Hail Mighty Readers and Followerso f the Calloused Thumbs,
We've been hard at work doing our research on the forthcoming Assassin's Creed: Rogue which was announced a couple of days ago.

Whilst the teaser trailer doesn't give much away:

Here's what we've discovered so far about it:
18th century, North America. Amidst the chaos and violence of the French and Indian War, Shay Patrick Cormac, a fearless young member of the Assassin Brotherhood, undergoes a dark transformation that will forever shape the future of the American colonies. After a dangerous mission gone tragically wrong, Shay turns his back on the Assassins who, in response, attempt to end his life. Cast aside by those he once called brothers, Shay sets out on a mission to wipe out all who turned against him and ultimately become the most feared Assassin hunter in history.

Introducing Assassin's Creed Rogue, the darkest chapter in the Assassin's Creed franchise yet. As Shay, you will experience the slow transformation from Assassin to Assassin Hunter. Follow your own creed and set off on an extraordinary journey through New York City, the wild river valley, and far away to the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic in pursuit of your ultimate goal to bring down the Assassins.

Become the ultimate Assassin Hunter
For the first time ever, experience the Assassin's Creed universe from the perspective of a Templar. Play as Shay who, in addition to the deadly skills of a Master Assassin, also possesses never before seen skills and weapons:
  • Equip Shay's deadly air rifle for both short- and long-range combat. Distract, eliminate, or confuse your enemies by using a variety of ammunition, including specialised bullets and grenades.
  • Protect yourself from hidden Assassins with your enhanced Eagle Vision. Use your vision to constantly assess your surroundings and detect Assassins hiding in the shadows, on rooftops, and in the crowds.
Slowly descend into darkness
Witness Shay's transformation from an adventurous Assassin to a grim and committed Templar willing to hunt down his former brothers. Experience first-hand the events that will lead Shay down a dark path and set him on a course that will forever change the fate of the Assassin Brotherhood.
New and improved naval gameplay
Cast off in your ship, The Morrigan, and fight your way through the icy seas of the North Atlantic and the narrow waters of America's river valleys. Assassin's Creed Rogue builds on the award-winning naval experience from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag with all new gameplay including:
  • New enemy tactics: Defend yourself from Assassins as they attempt to board your ship and overthrow your crew. Fight them off quickly to avoid losing too many crew members.
  • New weapons such as burning oil, which leaves a trail of fire behind to burn enemy ships, and the puckle gun, capable of delivering continuous machine gun-like fire.
  • An arctic world full of possibilities: Ram through ice sheets to discover hidden locations and use icebergs as cover during naval battles.
Vast, diverse open world to explore
Shay's story will allow you to explore three unique environments.
  • The North Atlantic Ocean: Experience the cold winds and towering icebergs of the arctic in this expansive naval playground.
  • The River Valley: A large hybrid setting of the American Frontier mixing seamless river navigation and ground exploration.
  • New York City: One of the most well-known cities in the world, fully recreated as it existed in the 18th century.

AC Rogue will be available on the following formats on the 10 November 2014:
PS3
Xbox 360.

We expect more news from Gamescon and will keep you, the reader, updated.

All the best,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Sacred 3 - Koch Media

Release Date: 01/08/14
Publisher:  Koch Media

SYNOPSIS:

Sacred 3 First Edition XBOX 360 is the next AAA installment in an established and successful franchise that has sold over two million copies so far. It is a console-driven Action-RPG with breathtaking visuals, spectacular effects, iconic characters and highly addictive gameplay.

Even in a team of legendary heroes, there is rivalry. In addition to its stunning single player adventure campaign, Sacred 3 brings a whole new aspect to the genre: competition! Opposing teams and individual players can now compete thanks to skill based gameplay, a strong multiplayer experience and countless online community features. It's not just about winning the game, it's about crushing your competition.

Explosive and accessible action experience
Intense multiplayer - captivating single player
Sophisticated game design and addictive reward-system
Deep, immersive universe with rich lore and distinct cultures



REVIEW:

OK, for me, this was a reminder and a fond return to a similar game to Gauntlet (which sadly goes to show how old I am.) and whilst its an OK game to play on your own, it is much more fun if you either play with a few friends or other gamers online as you compete to get the most kills and to utilise the skills that you unlock as you progress through levels.

That said however, there are quite a few problems with the title such as the script which feels like it’s trying to go for funny and stereotypical comments for the characters rather than trying to push the boundaries for what I understand is quite a solid world build from previous incarnations. Add to this a rather confusing set of graphics (as there’s some great fmv on the very beginning) which then leads to graphic novel images between loads and storyline which left me a tad confused.

Add to this voice acting that felt more than a little flat with a dodgy scripting and all round it’s a bit of a disappointment.



FICTION REVIEW: The Confabulist - Steven Galloway

Release Date: 07/08/14
Publisher:  Atlantic Books

SYNOPSIS:

"How much of our lives is real and how much is an illusion? The world's gaze is focussed on the feats and daring of the amazing Harry Houdini, while not a soul is aware of down-and-out Martin Strauss. However, Strauss' fate is inextricably linked with the magician's, and as Houdini continues to rise, and Strauss continues to fall, their lives will converge in spectacular and devastating fashion...At once entertaining and suspenseful, historically rich and cleverly told, The Confabulist is an novel of magic and memory, truth and illusion, and the ways that love, hope, grief, and imagination can - for better or for worse - alter what we perceive and what we believe."


REVIEW:

OK, I know a little about Harry Houdini and whilst the story has been manipulated factually, as a reader I prefer the story to carry itself over accuracy and that’s what Steven Galloway has done well in this book. The story has an almost magical feel about it, the prose is sharp and when added to the culmination of rounded characters all round gave me a book that I had a lot of fun with and had a hard time putting down, which for me is the sign of cracking writing. Magical.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Cop Town - Karin Slaughter

Release Date: 17/07/14
Publisher:  Century

SYNOPSIS:

Atlanta, 1974. As a brutal killing and a furious manhunt rock the city, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the police force will also be her last. For life is anything but easy in the male-dominated world of the Atlanta Police Department, where even the other female cops have little mercy for the new girl.

Kate isn't the only woman on the force who is finding things tough. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When Maggie and Kate become partners, and are sidelined in the search for the city's cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach boiling point.

With the killer poised to strike again, will Kate and Maggie have the courage to pursue their own line of investigation? And are they prepared to risk everything as they venture into the city's darkest heart?


REVIEW:

Ah, Karin Slaughter, a real guilty pleasure and an author that I just love to spend time with, yet whilst I love spending time in the more modern times of her tale, with this release we’re treated to a story set in the seventies that brings two female cops together to solve a crime. Whilst many readers may think that this is the story that will be a type of Cagney and Lacey sort of story it’s completely different as she’s brought the prejudices and fears of 70’s America to the fore leaving our heroines out not only in the cold with the criminals but their own colleagues as well.

It’s definitely a book that I loved as the storyline not only worked extremely well but also brought together cracking dialogue, top notch prose and of course characters that you really want to spend time with as they feel so real. It’s a great piece of writing and whilst this is currently a standalone, I hope it won’t be for long as these two ladies deserve a series all to themselves. Great stuff.

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.