Tuesday, 22 July 2014

FANTASY REVIEW: The Barrow - Mark Smylie

Release Date: 04/03/14
Publisher:  PYR

SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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


REVIEW:

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

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


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

Release Date: 08/05/14
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

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


REVIEW:

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

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



Monday, 21 July 2014

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

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


REVIEW:

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

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

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Apocalypse Now Now - Charlie Human

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

SYNOPSIS:

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


REVIEW:

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

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

Sunday, 20 July 2014

HISTORICAL CRIME THRILLER - A Wolf in Hindelheim - Jenny Mayhew

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

SYNOPSIS:

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


REVIEW:

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

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


FANTASY REVIEW: Dragon Queen - Stephen Deas


Release Date: 15/08/13
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

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


REVIEW:

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

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

Saturday, 19 July 2014

SCIENCE FICTION CRIME REVIEW: The Forever Watch - David Ramirez

Release Date: 01/05/14
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

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


REVIEW:

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

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

Friday, 18 July 2014

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

 

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

Whatever it is, I hope you like it.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

FANTASY REVIEW: The Queen of Tearling - Erika Johansen

Release Date: 17/07/14
Publisher:  Bantam

SYNOPSIS:

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

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


REVIEW:

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, 16 July 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Runescape Announces Legacy Mode - Jagex


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Jagex have let us know about the new Legacy Mode for Runescape.  Here's what they had to say:

Jagex Games Studio, makers of the multi-award winning fantasy MMORPG, RuneScape, today announced that following a landslide vote Legacy Mode has been launched into the game. Development of Legacy Mode, an alternative to 2012’s Evolution of Combat system, started earlier this year following a Power to the Players poll where it gained 80% of the player vote.

The introduction of the new mode, which offers a more traditional look and old style of combat gameplay, was beta tested by players whose feedback has shaped the development of this feature.


“Power to the Players has been a hugely successful initiative,” said Phil Mansell, executive producer for RuneScape. “It has really empowered our players to work collaboratively with us to make RuneScape the best it can be. It has truly democratised our development process and given our players the means to decide how the game evolves. Some of those features, like Legacy Mode, are changes we didn’t originally plan but which the players have voted to say how important it is to them. This has made Legacy Mode particularly exciting for us as it shows what’s possible when the community is given the power to make large-scale decisions about their game”


Mansell continued: “The new mode allows players, particularly our veteran players, to engage in combat in a style that they are familiar with, whilst still being able to play side-by-side with those who prefer the faster pace of Evolution of Combat.”  


Power to the Players is an initiative implemented by Jagex that allows players to direct and shape future content within RuneScape. Since its launch earlier this year over 50 separate votes have been put to the players, ranging from top tier content such as the upcoming Elf City expansion, all the way down to smaller quality of life improvements.

To join in and be part of RuneScape, sign up at www.RuneScape.com.

Friday, 11 July 2014

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Queen's Man IV: Prince of Darkness - Sharon Penman

Release Date: 15/05/14
Publisher:  

SYNOPSIS:

AD 1193. England lies uneasy, a land without a king. Richard the Lionheart languishes in an Austrian dungeon, his brother John hungers for the crown. In the Lionheart's stead, Eleanor of Aquitaine rules. Mother to both Richard and John, Eleanor is no stranger to the game of thrones. She is determined to prevent the outbreak of civil war, but at court treachery is endemic and there are few men she can trust. Justin de Quincy is one of the few. Sharp-witted and bastard-born he is the Queen's most trusted agent, a foil to John's machinations. But now John himself has asked for de Quincy's aid. De Quincy mistrusts John's sly charms, but with the welfare of Queen and Country at stake he will have to prove his mettle - or find an early grave - as he searches for the dark heart of a conspiracy that threatens the course of history.


REVIEW:

OK, this is the fourth book in the Queen's Man series (originally released in 2005) and whilst I haven’t read the others, I did quickly become engrossed in the storyline. It takes off at an extraordinary pace and to be honest its one that really doesn’t let up from start to finish. Just thank the many deities out there that I decided to read this late at night when I was on my own as I think any disturbance would have been met with irritation.

The principle character is likeable, I loved spending time in his footsteps, seeing the emotional aspects intertwined with the intellect and when backed with a delicious plotline that has great prose and of course dialogue all round gave me a thoroughly enjoyable story.

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Land of Shadows - Rachel Howzell Hall

Release Date: 23/05/14
Publisher:  Titan

SYNOPSIS:

Detective Inspector Hanlon. She'll break but she won't bend. A woman with a habit of breaking the rules and a fierce loyalty to the few people she respects. Her boss, Corrigan. Looks like a street copper promoted above his ability. Underestimate him at your peril. Enver Demirel. Known in the boxing ring as Iron Hand. Now soft and gone to seed. But he would do anything for Hanlon. Now the kidnap of a 12-year-old diabetic boy has blown the case of some missing children wide apart and the finger is pointing at the heart of the Met. Corrigan sends in the only cop in his team who would care more about the life of a boy than about her own career. Hanlon. And then he sends Demirel to spy on her...


REVIEW:

Crime is a guilty pleasure of mine and to be honest I love spending time delving into the criminal mind as well as getting to see the Police work behind the scenes as the story arc is investigated. What occurs within this tale is a crime scene that brings back vivid memories from years before and when the reader gets to the meat of the matter, the emotional aspect really works well.

Back this up with solid crime work, cracking dialogue and all round great prose generated a story that I was pleased I spent the time with. Great stuff.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

STEAMPUNK REVIEW: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow 2 and 3: A Clockwork Heart, Sky Pirates - Liesel Schwarz

Release Date: 05/06/14
Publisher:  Del Rey

SYNOPSIS:

The honeymoon is over...A plague of clockwork zombies is afflicting London, and as more people mysteriously disappear, so grows the panic. For Eleanor Chance, she is still figuring out her abilities as the oracle, and how to keep the dark designs of the Shadow realm at bay. But then Marsh, her newly-wed husband, is abducted. Can she save him from the fate of a clockwork heart before it's too late? Book two in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow series, from the award-winning author of A Conspiracy of Alchemists.


REVIEW:

To be honest for me, this book felt a little flat, the storyline wasn’t really that sure on where it was going and when the reader looks deeper into the overall arc, it felt that a few things were added to bulk the book out rather than something dynamic and to the point. What occurred within was a tale that whilst Steampunk could easily have been any sort of UF type of tale out there which also felt that the reader was being treated with kid gloves almost as if the author had to quickly get it dealt with due to deadlines.

Add to this a lead character that didn’t gel with me, a villain that never really reached full potential and all round I was very disappointed with this offering. A great shame.



Release Date: 05/06/14
Publisher:  Del Rey

SYNOPSIS:

Whatever it takes...Eleanor Chance has made it her mission to find her husband who has been cursed to roam the netherworld. But her plans are scuppered when a band of sky pirates attack, led by a man hell-bent on revenge. And rumour has it the Council of Warlocks has fallen under the sway of the nefarious Shadow Master - who wants her dead at any cost. Being chased from all sides, Elle will have to channel all of her powers as the Oracle to try to save the man she loves...


REVIEW:

Sadly for me whilst the original story was pretty solid, these last two so far have felt flat. They never seem to grip the glory of the original and whilst they’re so so, they’re not something that really gets going throughout almost as if writing to deadline has not allowed the pieces to become as polished or fixed as they perhaps should have been.

Whilst some out there will enjoy them, for me, I just couldn’t get into the story within, due to the same sort of problems that I’ve had previously of not being able to get a firm grip with the principle player. All round a great shame for me as I did have high hopes for the series.



Wednesday, 9 July 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Lords of the Fallen Release Date Confirmed - Square Enix

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
We've had some news on the forthcoming Lords of the Fallen from Square Enix and whilst it's been a game on our own personal radar for quite some time we always like to know when the title is coming out so that we can let our readers know.

Lords of the Fallen will be released on 31st October 2014 for the following formats:
PC,
PS4
Xbox One.

In Lords of the Fallen, you are Harkyn, the best of the worst of humanity. A convicted criminal, Harkyn is given a chance for redemption. But just as the rulers of the world get close to finding a way to banish all evil from humans, an army of the long-ago defeated god attacks the human realm. Released from prison, Harkyn and his mentor, Kaslo, set out on a mission to stop the war.

And for your delectation here is the current trailer to whet your appetite:

As well as the stage demo from E3:
 


Hopefully we'll see you on the battlefield and hope to punish the Fallen God's army,



Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Jagex Supports United for Wildlife on Runescape - Jagex

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Jagex Games Studio, makers of the multi-award winning fantasy MMORPG, RuneScape, has supported a campaign by United for Wildlife, a collaboration between seven of the world’s most influential conservation organisations brought together by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, to help promote the protection of rhinos in the wild.

Starting today, RuneScape players will have an opportunity to show their support of wild rhinos, and support for the United for Wildlife campaign, by learning about the animals’ plight as they answer a series of one-a-day questions over the next fortnight. Successful players will unlock a white rhino pet if they answer three questions correctly, and a rare black rhino pet if they correctly answer ten. During the two week period and for a fortnight afterwards, the rhino pets will provide players with an experience boost during their RuneScape adventure.


Furthermore, two young conservationists supported by Fauna & Flora International, one of the seven charities that make up United for Wildlife, are to be immortalised in the game after having their voices recorded for use as special in-game characters. Trang Nguyen from Vietnam and Mauricio Guerra from Colombia, will provide facts and help further explain the plight of rhinos across sub-Saharan Africa, to players as they move about the game. The partnership with United for Wildlife is the latest charity initiative supported by RuneScape and Jagex, following previous success stories over recent years.

 “United for Wildlife is a fantastic initiative that aims to preserve some of the world’s most endangered species in the wild. The RuneScape team is really proud to play our part in this important conservation project,” said Neil McClarty, brand director of RuneScape. “Our community has always shown amazing support for the many charity campaigns we’ve been involved with over the years, and we fully believe that they will continue this by throwing their support behind United for Wildlife's latest drive.”



“As a member of the United for Wildlife collaboration I’m delighted that we’ve been able to combine our collective conservation aims with RuneScape’s passionate audience,” said Ros Aveling, deputy CEO, Fauna & Flora International. “Innovative approaches to reaching a younger audience, who are traditionally hard to engage in conservation, are vital to the success of United for Wildlife and to the protection of critically endangered wildlife.”
(Images in the article appear coutesy of ZSL.)

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Time to Die - Alex Howard

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

SYNOPSIS:

Detective Inspector Hanlon. She'll break but she won't bend. A woman with a habit of breaking the rules and a fierce loyalty to the few people she respects. Her boss, Corrigan. Looks like a street copper promoted above his ability. Underestimate him at your peril. Enver Demirel. Known in the boxing ring as Iron Hand. Now soft and gone to seed. But he would do anything for Hanlon. Now the kidnap of a 12-year-old diabetic boy has blown the case of some missing children wide apart and the finger is pointing at the heart of the Met. Corrigan sends in the only cop in his team who would care more about the life of a boy than about her own career. Hanlon. And then he sends Demirel to spy on her...


REVIEW:

What many people tend to forget is that within stories, are that there are more people within the story than just the principle character. They need fleshing out and have to feel real to the people in the background looking into this world. It’s a tricky line to tread and whilst you don’t have much time to get it done without it feeling like your bogging the story down with unnecessary baggage it is still something that has to be done in order to get the tale across.

Whilst I wasn’t a huge fan of the lead character here, I did love the way that Alex has managed to generate a whole host of supporting cast that feel as real as DI Hanlon. It also has great pace and whilst the subject is horrific within, its something that helps bring it all back to the reader as real world meets fiction in an intense investigation. It has some solid police work within, the reader is given a glimpse behind the curtain and all round with the dialogue it works very well for me as a reader. Back this up with a solid understanding of prose and all round it’s a cracking read.


FANTASY REVIEW: Paladin's Legacy 5: Crown of Renewal - Elizabeth Moon

Release Date: 27/05/14
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

Eight kingdoms in danger, an enemy that cannot die...Count Jeddrin has received a grisly message. His son, Filis, is dead, brutally killed by Alured the Black - the first move in his plan to take the eight kingdoms. But Filis managed to send his own message, telling of the dark forces that control Alured, warning of something more than human behind the man's eyes...Meanwhile, Dorrin Verrakai, last of a long line of magelords, must forever leave the home she loves in order to protect powerful magic relics created by her ancestors. For their power is desired both by Alured, and by the dark elves infesting the kingdoms. Searching for answers, her friend and King, Kieri, considers waking the magelords from their ancient slumber...


REVIEW:

The fifth and final part of the Paladin Legacy and to be honest with you what a hell of a way to see the final volume of the series end. As usual with Elizabeth the prose is razor sharp, the key aspects hard hitting with the action being hard fought giving the reader a story that really fulfils the fantasy need within.

Back this up with great characters and of course great detail alongside the wrapping up of so many threads that have left readers questioning for years. All round a satisfying read and one that is definitely going to prompt a whole series reread when I have the time. Magic.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Doctor Sleep - Stephen King

Release Date: 22/05/14
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

An epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon. King says he wanted to know what happened to Danny Torrance, the boy at the heart of The Shining, after his terrible experience in the Overlook Hotel. The instantly riveting DOCTOR SLEEP picks up the story of the now middle-aged Dan, working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire, and the very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals. On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless - mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the 'steam' that children with the 'shining' produce when they are slowly tortured to death. Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him and a job at a nursing home where his remnant 'shining' power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes 'Doctor Sleep.' Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra's soul and survival ...The first print run of DOCTOR SLEEP in paperback has two jacket styles. These are only available while stocks last and if you are ordering online we cannot guarantee which cover you will receive.


REVIEW:

Kubrick’s film of The Shining still scares the hell out of me and whilst I still get that delicious chill from the book, I always what would happen to Danny after the events in the original. Within the book, Danny, an alcoholic like his father, has to face his own hard truths as he discovers more children with their own versions of “The Shining” which leads him to face the darkness within.

All round it’s a book that whilst not truly classic King (as it’s not as dark) does have the hope of redemption within, backed up with the identifiable King writing style as well as solid prose and decent dialogue all round gave me a book that I had fun reading.



HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Sisters of Treason - Elizabeth Fremantle

Release Date: 22/05/14
Publisher:  Michael Joseph

SYNOPSIS:

Sisters of Treason is a powerful and moving story of passion and peril in Tudor England, perfect for fans of Hilary Mantel. Mary Tudor clings fearfully to the English throne. Seeing the threat posed by her cousin, Lady Jane Grey, the Queen orders her execution. But what of Lady Jane's young sisters - Katherine and Mary? Cursed with royal blood, they must endure the perils of a Tudor court, closely observed by its paranoid Queen. Entranced by the drama, intrigue and romance of court life, young Lady Katherine's desire for love leads her to make ill-advised and dangerous liaisons. Burdened with a crooked back, her younger sister, Lady Mary - the 'mouse' - is seen as no threat and becomes privy to the Queen's most intimate secrets. Yet Mary, who yearns to escape court dramas, knows her closeness to the Queen could be her undoing. For the Queen is childless and in ill-health. If she should die, her fearsome sister Elizabeth will inherit the crown. Then Katherine and Mary will find court a maze of treachery and danger - where possessing royal blood is the gravest crime of all...Praise for Elizabeth Fremantle: "A great read. Sisters of Treason totally transports the reader to the Tudor court, with all its tensions and games". (Katherine Webb, author of The Legacy). "A major new voice in historical fiction". (The Bookseller). "Rich and enticing". (Stylist). "Electric". (Good Housekeeping). "Wildly entertaining". (Huffington Post). Elizabeth Fremantle holds a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. As a fashion editor she has contributed to many publications including Vogue, Vanity Fair and The Sunday Times. Sisters of Treason is her second novel, following on from Queen's Gambit.


REVIEW:

Historical Fiction taking the readers on the journey through the lives of the Grey Sisters through the turbulent times of the Tudor’s. Wonderfully written with solid prose and of course following the tragic course of events from a failed try at the throne, all round gives the reader a story that was not only hard to put down but one that wrenches at the heart strings.

All round it’s a book that was a pure joy to read, taking the reader through a rollercoaster of emotions and along with cracking dialogue goes to show why the author is one to savour with a nice glass of wine.



Monday, 7 July 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Transformers Universe MMORG Roll's Out for Beta - Jagex




Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,

Our friends at Jagex Game Studio have asked us to let you know that Transformers Universe MMORPG is now live for beta.

Here's what they had to say:  

TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE, the free, 3rd-person MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game, is proud to announce it’s going in to open BETA and is now open to all gamers from this Friday (July 4th).

Going in to Open BETA means now players can simply register and instantly jump straight into the action as a TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE Commander.

This weekend we’re going to be celebrating this fantastic milestone with a double XP weekend, 24 hour live twitch stream (3pm GMT 5th July – 3pm GMT 6th July) and $75,000 in prizes to be won over this weekend.

“We’re delighted to be opening our game to the public, a game we believe is worthy to be Jagex’s second massively multiplayer online game!” said Mark Gerhard, Jagex’s CEO & CTO. “Our BETA community have been having enormous fun playing, as have we, often being schooled by them! Everyone has been absolutely fantastic throughout the closed BETA and provided us with great feedback which we continue to implement into the game service through our weekly updates.” 

He continued: “True to our heritage we’ve pioneered a game in which all content can be enjoyed for free, simply through play. With almost two million battle victories recorded during the closed BETA, our players evidently had the most fun – and success – while playing together with their friends in teams. I’ve been delighted to see teams invent strategies and tactics that we had not even imagined, and can’t wait to see what new players come up with."

Now is your time to take control of an ever expanding squad of all-new Transformers warriors in heated battles of skill across multiple maps and game modes. With a range of customization available in the form of weapons, armour and powercores, each one of these unique Transformers warriors can be modified to match your playing style.

PC and Mac players can choose to install or play the game directly in their browser @ www.transformersuniverse.com
TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission. ©2014 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved."



Let the Oil and Energon flow,  


 




Gareth and Lady Eleanor

FACTUAL REVIEW: Josephine - Kate Williams

Release Date: 05/06/14
Publisher:  Arrow Books

SYNOPSIS:

This is the incredible rise and unbelievable fall of a woman whose energy and ambition is often overshadowed by Napoleon's military might. In this triumphant biography, Kate Williams tells Josephine's searing story, of sexual obsession, politics and surviving as a woman in a man's world. Abandoned in Paris by her aristocratic husband, Josephine's future did not look promising. But while her friends and contemporaries were sent to the guillotine during the Terror that followed the Revolution, she survived prison and emerged as the doyenne of a wildly debauched party scene, surprising everybody when she encouraged the advances of a short, marginalised Corsican soldier, six years her junior. Josephine, the fabulous hostess and skilled diplomat, was the perfect consort to the ambitious but obnoxious Napoleon. With her by his side, he became the greatest man in Europe, the Supreme Emperor; and she amassed a jewellery box with more diamonds than Marie Antoinette's. But as his fame grew, Napoleon became increasingly obsessed with his need for an heir and irritated with Josephine's extravagant spending. The woman who had enchanted France became desperate and jealous. Until, a divorcee aged forty-seven, she was forced to watch from the sidelines as Napoleon and his young bride produced a child.


REVIEW:

To be honest this was a book that I became interested in purely for the fact that I wanted to read up a little bit more from the female point of view in the French Revolution and whilst I was fully aware of Napoleon during this time, I really didn’t know anything about his first wife Josephine (or rather Marie Josèphe Rose (her birth name.)

So whilst I had originally picked this up on a whim to learn more, what I managed to obtain from this book was a figure of strong womanhood, who not only managed to change herself like a chameleon to suit her social status’ but also managed to escape the guillotine a fete in itself. She was charismatic, she was a fascinating character and whilst many tend to think that Napoleon was the power in the relationship, in reality it was more an equal footing for both.

All round this book not only kept me glued but when backed up with solid research which is presented in an easy to follow manner, all round I was hooked from the first chapter onwards. Great stuff.