Wednesday, 29 February 2012

NEWS: Deja Review

Hail Mighty Readers,
Here's this months round up of previously reviewed titles that have either been released in PB format or have undergone new binding/artwork. (Covers in review may differ from current incarnation.)

This month you'll find:
02/02/12 BALE, Tom - Blood Falls
02/02/12 Ed. Christopher Golden - Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead
02/02/12 TCHAIKOVSKY, Adrian - Heirs of the Blade
06/02/12 MITCHELL, Sandy - The Emperors Finest
07/02/12 RIDPATH, Michael - 66 Degree's North
09/02/12 BRITAIN, Kristen - Blackveil
09/02/12 DEAS, Stephen - The Order of the Scales
09/02/12 MABERRY, Jonathan - King of Plagues
09/02/12 SYKES, Sam - Black Halo
16/02/12 GOODMAN, Alison - The Necklace of the Gods
16/02/12 HOFFMAN, Paul - The Last Four Things
16/02/12 HOWARD, Jonathan L - Johan Cabal 3: The Fear Institute
16/02/12 HUNT, Stephen - Jack Cloudie
23/02/12 COOPER, Elspeth - Songs of the Earth

If we've missed one please let us know,



Gareth

FANTASY REVIEW: A Crown Imperilled - Raymond E Feist

Release Date: 23/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

The penultimate volume of the mighty Riftwar Cycle War rages in Midkemia but behind the chaos there is disquieting evidence of dark forces at work. Jim Dasher's usually infallible intelligence network has been cleverly dismantled; nowhere is safe. He feels that the world is coming apart at the seams and is helpless to protect his nation. Quiet palace coups are underway in Roldem and Rillanon; and King Gregory of the Isles has yet to produce an heir. In each kingdom a single petty noble has risen from obscurity to threaten the throne. Lord Hal of Crydee and his great friend Ty Hawkins, champion swordsman of the Masters' Court, are entrusted with the task of smuggling Princess Stephane and her lady-in-waiting, the lovely but mysterious Lady Gabriella, out of Roldem to a place of greater safety. But is there any safe haven to be found? Meanwhile, Hal's younger brothers Martin and Brendan are attempting to hold the strategic city of Ylith against an onslaught of Keshian Dog Soldiers, and a mysterious force from beneath the sea. The Kingdom might lose Crydee and recover; but if Ylith falls, all is lost. An unknown player appears to orchestrating these conflicts. Can Pug and the Conclave of Shadows track down this source before Midkemia is destroyed?


REVIEW:

Having enjoyed the previous tales in the series, I was really looking forward to this story, until that is I was reading it and the sheer amount of editing problems as well as discontinuity error’s reared their head. You have to rewrite parts to make sense (as two of the characters get mixed up), you have to make sense of what the author’s trying to say and to be honest this is a bad enough thing to get through on a two bit operation, not a multinational company like Harper Collins. Whether a big part of this is due to loss of data and having to go back to earlier version’s I don’t know but when a company (as well as an author) relies on reputation it is taking things a little far.

That said, I did enjoy the parts that made sense, the tale is building up for a few additional revelations and the world of Midkemia really is in dire peril. All round, it did have some positive elements but the overall standard is sadly lacking especially when a friend of mine told me that “An Author is only as good as their last book.” If that’s the case REF has a hell of a lot to do to restore confidence in his brand and as a reader I would suggest that perhaps longer is taken to make sure that the fan’s don’t feel cheated.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Blood Ocean - Western Ochse

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Kavika Kamalani is one of the Pali Boys, post-Cull heirs to an ancient Hawai’ian warrior tradition who believe in overcoming death by embracing their fears and “living large.” His life on the Nomi No Toshi, the “city on the waves,” is turned upside down when one of his friends dies, harvested for his blood, and he sets out to find the killer. Kidnapped himself and subjected to a horrible transformation, Kavika must embrace the ultimate fear – death itself – if he, his loved ones, and the Pali Boys themselves are to survive.


REVIEW:

One of the things about the wonderfully inventive Afterblight series is that you can never be sure of what you’re going to get, this release being a prime example of that. Here, within this title by Weston Ochse is a story of betrayal, a tale of redemption all blended with a coming of age element set in an apocalyptic future.

It’s well written, the characters are crisp and whilst I didn’t always get on with the authors prose it was a story that will stay with you after the final page is turned. Add to this some decent dialogue a reasonable pace all brought together with an author’s writing style that guides rather than forces the view points and it’s a tale that I was pleased I took my time to read.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

FICTION REVIEW: Lone Wolf - Jodi Picoult

Release Date: 28/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

When Luke Baxter is involved in a car accident which leaves him in a coma, his family are gathered together against the odds; and they face an impossible dilemma.

His daughter Cara is praying for a miracle. She will fight everything and everyone to save her father's life.

His son Edward can't imagine that a man who once ran with wolves could ever be happy with a different life. But he hasn't spoken to Luke for six years. How can he dare to speak on his father's behalf?

But now they must choose:

Do they keep Luke alive, hoping for a miracle?

Or do they let him go?

What would you do?


REVIEW:

Jodi Picoult is well known for her ability to not only tug at the readers heartstrings but give them a story that they can fall in love with as they get to know the characters within and yet this one has something a little different within, chapters about the behaviour of wolves which also mimics to a certain degree the mannerisms of humans. Its cleverly done, the plot line may throw some readers and if you have no interest in wolves it may well not be the best book for you.

Personally I had a lot of fun reading this title as its different chapters allowed me to take breaks from the high tension within with the authors careful and meticulous research coming to the fore. Add to this characters that I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next to alongside solid pace and dialogue left me reading late into the early morning until the last page was turned.

FANTASY REVIEW: Widdershins: Thief's Covenant - Ari Marmell

Release Date: 28/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Filled with excitement and adventure, this is an engaging fantasy novel for young adults. Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of Davillon's aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one night a conspiracy of forces - human and other - stole it all away in a mist of blood and murder. Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon's underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It's not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had...but it's hers. But now, in the midst of Davillon's political turmoil, an array of forces is rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she's built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something dark and ancient is reaching out for her. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her - but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don't finish the job first.


REVIEW:

Ari is an author that is a little hit or miss for me, either I really like what he’s doing or its something that doesn’t quite click with me as a reader. In this title, it’s more of the later as I found the lead character not only dislikeable but also one that I felt I couldn’t get a real handle on as I did end up wondering if, at times, she was mentally ill as the god like aspect felt that it could have been a mental illness over a real deity acting within her world.

All in, this was a big miss for me as I felt that it never really got going, didn’t achieve much for me as a reader and after struggling right to the very end, was more relieved at having completed it than for enjoying the story. A great shame all round.

Monday, 27 February 2012

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: The Killing Room - Richard Montanari

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Nothing will ever be the same again...

In the heart of Philadelphia's badlands, Homicide Detectives Byrne and Balzano are called out to a particularly chilling crime scene. Once the pillar of the neighbourhood, an abandoned church has become a killing room.

At first it looks like a random act of violence. But then a second body is found, and a third. Each crime scene more disturbing than the last, each murder more brutal. And it soon becomes horrifyingly clear that a cold, calculating and terrifyingly precise mind is at work.

With very few leads, and a mastermind who always seems to be one step ahead, Byrne and Balzano are faced with challenges they could never have imagined as they race against time to hunt down their killer, before it's too late...


REVIEW:

OK, you’re at a loose end and want something to scare the hell out of you whilst being safely tucked up in bed, with a warm duvet and a big glass of something alcoholic. You want a story that could happen in the real world, investigated by full fleshed out characters that have grown through their previous outings and are of course old friends to you. So what are you going to reach for?

Well at the moment, I’d have to recommend Richard Montanari’s latest, The Killing Room. It has great characters, the prose is ideal and of course with top notch dialogue backed up with a wonderful pace, it’s a book that’s hard to put down. (Although let us just say don’t leave the bottle nearby as quietening your nerves “medicinally” may well be the type of phrase used that also equates to “I don’t feel well, tell the boss I’m sick.”) Don’t get me wrong, this book has plenty of scare for all but when you add the authors unnerving ability to creep under your skin and to make each sound you hear something else, this may well be the book to make you sleep with the lights on. Great stuff all in and a book for me that puts Richard back up to form. I’ll eagerly be awaiting his next outing.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Dog Faced Gods Trilogy (3): The Chosen Seed - Sarah Pinborough

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

His nephew has been kidnapped and, as he works desperately to save Luke, Detective Inspector Cass Jones has been framed for murder. He's on the run, being hunted by former colleagues, and is unwelcome wherever he goes . . . until he gets help from a very unexpected figure from his past. Detectives Hask and Ramsey are on a different case - searching for the killer behind the lethal Strain II virus currently sweeping its way through London . . . a search which throws up an unexpected clue that suggests Cass might be innocent of murder after all. But when they're ordered not to investigate further, they realise the mystery behind the murder is far greater than they thought. Somehow it's linked to Mr Bright, and to the Network which manipulates everyone from the shadows. A rift is growing between these rival factions as Strain II takes a firmer hold on the city, and as the Interventionists warn of a final battle which will bring them all together - or, once and for all, tear everything apart. Cass Jones is going up against The Bank and its sinister employees one last time. He needs every ally he can get, and this time he means to find answers - even if he has to uncover the true history of humanity to do it. And the more he learns, the more everything hinges on finding Luke . . .


REVIEW:

Sarah is an author who has pretty much mastered the art of sleight of hand, just as you think you know what’s happening, she pulls something out that you really didn’t see coming and leaves you wondering how in the hell she did that. Add to this the usual cast of great characters who’re fully fleshed alongside a plotline that delivers horror and treachery in abundance as well as giving the reader a full octane knuckle gripping ride and it’s a tale that was a pure joy to read.

Finally add to the mix an edge of the seat of your pants to the Dog-Faced Gods trilogy, alongside paranoia of an almost Roman level and it really is the best of the lot. I’m really going to miss this series and think a reread will be in order in the near future.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Fourth Wall - Walter Jon Williams

Release Date: 02/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Dagmar Shaw got out of the game . . . and into the movies. Sean is a washed-up child actor reduced to the lowest dregs of reality television to keep himself afloat. His life was a downward spiral of alcoholism, regret, and failure - until he met Dagmar. But Sean has secrets, dark even for the Hollywood treadmill of abuse, addiction, and rehab. And Dagmar is a cipher. There are dark rumors about her past - people tend to die around her. Now, she wants Sean for something. A movie, she says, but with her history, who knows what her real game is?


REVIEW:

This tale is one of love, betrayal, double dealing and of course abuse all melded together with an appearance (albeit quite small) of Dagmar whose previous two outings (Deep State and This is Not a Game) let you know that with Walter Jon Williams you can never be too sure on your footing. Unsurprisingly this tale proved to be no exception to the rule as he brought together almost two unlikely characters in this amalgamation of multiple genres with a good deal of murder as well as double dealing as the principle character, Sean seeks to deal with his own issues alongside with those thrust upon him by the plotline.

It’s quirky, it has its moments, but for me the tale as a whole didn’t quite mesh together as it should have done. Don’t get me wrong, the action was decent and the characters were fairly well fleshed out but what let this down was the improbability of the events within even though I really wanted it to work. Sadly for me, it’s not Walter’s best book to date but it is reasonable enough to warrant a read although a rent from a library may be the best option here.

FACTUAL REVIEW: The Confessions of a Poacher (1890) - John Watson and James West

Release Date: 01/03/03

SYNOPSIS:

The tips and tricks of a true countryman who started dabbling in the fine art of poaching as soon as he was old enough to slip unseen through a copse at dusk or slither along the river bank to a trout filled pool. These observations of nature are so well written that it is hard to imagine you are not out of doors when reading them. At first all is seen through the eyes of the trainee poacher and we feel the lure of the night as the young rustic watches his father's eventide preparations. He assembles his wires, nets and snares; his dogs and the trusty old flintlock and then he is away into the night. There are chapters on poaching Partridges, Hares, Pheasants, Salmon and Trout, Grouse and Rabbits each packed with lore, experience and wisdom. We learn how to intoxicate partridges by feeding grain steeped in spirits; how to entice pheasants away from the safety of the keeper's cottage by the surreptitious dropping of grain on a daily basis. The night time use of nets to take salmon from pools and sleeping grouse from the heather are described as are ferrets working the hedgerows in search of the humble rabbit and we hear how, before the days of artificial rearing, the keeper would pay as much as six pence for a pheasant's egg little realising that it had been liberated from his own stock the previous night. Even if you are not contemplating a life of rural crime there is still much you could learn from this delightful book, so also could the local squire, his keeper and the constabulary but let us hope that they do not pick up too many tips about the fine art of poaching.


REVIEW:

Coming from a family with a history of gamekeepers, I’ve always been interested in the other side of the coin. What this book brings to the reader is an open honest account of the writers life as a poacher. It has some tips and tricks utilised by those in the Victorian period alongside the methods utilised to obtain their prey.

All in this is a book that is not only fascinating but a book that will keep readers interested throughout, especially when you add the wonderful artwork within. This will become a much cherished title in a number of homes and I already know of one person who is looking at “poaching” it from my shelves.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: John Shakespeare 3: Prince - Rory Clements

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Spring 1593. England is a powder keg of rumour and fear. Plague rages, famine is rife, the ageing Queen's couriers scheme: Elizabeth's Golden Age is truly tarnished. Meanwhile Spain watches and waits - and plots.
Into this turmoil a small cart clatters through the streets of London, carrying a deadly load. It is the first in a wave of horrific bombing attacks on the Dutch immigrant community that will change John Shakespeare's life for ever.
Driven on by cold rage, Shakespeare's investigations will take him from magnificent royal horseraces to the opulent chambers of Black Luce's brothel, from the theatrical underworld of Marlowe and Kyd to the pain-wracked torture cells of priest-hunter Richard Topcliffe, and from the elegant offices of master tactician Robert Cecil to the splintering timbers of an explosive encounter at sea.
As Shakespeare delves ever deeper, he uncovers intricate layers of mystery and deception that threaten the heart not only of the realm, but of all that he holds dear.


REVIEW:

Historical Fiction is a genre that requires a great deal of preparation and whilst some of the facts within may seem like modern references, historically they’re accurate and correct for the times within. In this case, the emotional as well as political turmoil about foreigners taking English Homes as well as jobs (which reached its height during the Great Fire of London.) The book is adaptive, wonderfully creative and takes the reader on a wonderful journey throughout.

Add to this an author that believes in giving the reader not only a journey but solid prose and of course decent pace that matches the time. All in a great piece of fun and one that I really enjoyed.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Greatcoat - Helen Dunmore

Release Date: 02/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life.

Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window.

Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in.

His name is Alec, and his powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on hers ...


REVIEW:

Hammer is a relatively new imprint and is setting the standard high with their releases. None perhaps more so than this release which is a cracking ghost story from well-known author Helen Dunmore. The story centres around the character of Isabel who develops as the story wends it merry way with a touch of the macabre, solid atmosphere and of course well developed plot line. Add to solid world building, character development that works well for the reader and of course the authors renowned ability to give the reader multiple hooks which also allows you suspend some of your doubts.

All in a wonderful read and one that I had a lot of fun with. I’ll definitely be looking at reading more of Hammer’s offerings.

Friday, 24 February 2012

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Grave Minder - Melissa Marr

Release Date: 02/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

When Rebekkah returns to her small-town home for her beloved Grandmother's funeral, she little suspects that she is about to inherit a darkly dangerous family duty on behalf of Claysville's most demanding residents -- the dead. Everyone in Claysville knows that the Barrows are no ordinary family, but no one can really explain why. When respected matriarch Maylene Barrow dies suddenly her granddaughter Rebekkah returns to the small town she grew up in, where she must face the demons of her past -- the suicide of her half-sister Ella, the person she was closest to in the world, and the subsequent break-up of her parents marriage. And she also re-encounters Byron, Ella's old boyfriend, someone to whom she has always felt a deep and mysterious connection. But the demons of the past are nothing compared with what the future has in store for Rebekkah. Her grandmother has left her an inheritance both wonderful and terrible. An onerous responsibility now rests on her shoulders -- one for which she is ill-prepared to say the least. For behind Claysville's community-spirited, small-town facade lies a dark secret. One that ties Rebekkah and Byron together in an inextricable bond, and that will require them both to sacrifice everything to keep their friends and neighbours from harm.


REVIEW:

I haven’t read any of Melissa’s YA work so I really ddiin’t know what I was letting myself in for with this title. The book blurb read well and being in the mood for something a little different (the inventiveness of the backstory really struck a chord) I really couldn’t wait to pick this title up.

What unfurled within was a story that hooked me from the beginning. I loved the character of Rebekkah, the quirks and of course the roundedness that allowed you to associate with her and when added to the inventive background as well as a kick ass love story that was melded together with a mystery, then you really are in for a real treat. Back that up with a decent understanding of prose as well as pace and it was a satisfying read all in. Great stuff.

FANTASY REVIEW: The Legend of Eli Monpress - Rachel Aaron

Release Date: 02/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief. But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age, and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his grand plan into effect. Because Eli won't rest until he's amassed a fortune. Step one in his plan is to increase the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. He'll start small for now though: he'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while. Like a king ...This omnibus edition contains: THE SPIRIT THIEF, THE SPIRIT REBELLION and THE SPIRIT EATER


REVIEW:

The compendium of Rachel’s three Eli Monpress tales which not only means that you get to enjoy them back to back but something that also means you get sheer value for money. It’s wonderfully inventive, gives the fantasy reader a story with an overall arc that not only impresses with the sheer scope but generates character growth throughout that keeps the reader fascinated from start to finish.

Finally add into this a cracking debut that not only announced the author to the reader but sets a wonderful standard for others to follow and overall it’s a series that you really have to read.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

FANTASY REVIEW: Dragon Apocalpse 1: Greatshadow - James Maxey

Release Date: 02/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Greatshadow is the primal dragon of fire, an elemental evil whose malign intelligence spies upon mankind through every candle flame, waiting to devour any careless victim he can claim. The Church of the Book has assembled a team of twelve battle-hardened adventurers to slay the dragon once and for all. But tensions run high between the leaders of the team who view the mission as a holy duty and the superpowered mercenaries who add power to their ranks, who view the mission primarily as a chance to claim Greatshadow's vast treasure trove. If the warriors fail to slay the beast, will they doom mankind to death by fire?


REVIEW:

Having read the previous titles by James, I really was looking forward to this title. It had all the elements I wanted, solid fight sequences, heroes of epic proportions and of course a plotline that doesn’t let up from the start to the end. All that and more was present within and when you add solid prose alongside characters you care about, its really a tale that’s hard to put down.

All in, this tale took me back to my Forgotten Realm days and reminded me how much I miss some of those titles. Thanks to James and Solaris for bringing back not only fond memories but also allowing giving me another series to treasure.

FICTION REVIEW: This River Awakens - Steven Erikson

Release Date: 26/01/12

SYNOPSIS:

In the spring of 1971, Owen Brand and his family move to the riverside town of Middlecross in a renewed attempt to escape poverty. For twelve-year-old Owen, it's the opportunity for a new life and an end to his family's isolation and he quickly falls in with a gang of three local boys and forms a strong bond with Jennifer, the rebellious daughter of a violent, alcoholic father. As summer brings release from school, two figures preside over the boys' activities: Walter Gribbs, a benign old watchman at the yacht club, and Hogdson Fisk, a vindictive farmer tormented by his past. Then the boys stumble on a body washed up on the riverbank - a discovery whose reverberations will result, as the year comes full circle, in a cataclysm that envelops them all...Steven Erikson first novel, "This River Awakens", is a lyrical, tender and disturbing portrayal of a rite of passage that is both harsh and revelatory


REVIEW:

Having been a fan of Steven’s Malazan series, I was wondering what he’d come back with and to be honest it’s a title that I really didn’t enjoy. Sadly it lacked a lot of the skill from the Malazan world for me and to be honest I didn’t like the tale overall as I hated the characters within and also had strong feelings about their actions.

Whilst many people will read this book purely for the fact that its Steven name on the cover. Personally I’ll wait for more of Steven’s fantasy stories. So if you’re buying it purely because you love the Malazan series, please be aware that this is completely different.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Four and Twenty Blackbirds - Cherie Priest

Release Date: 10/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

What Eden Moore digs up in the roots of her diseased family tree takes her across the South, from the ruins of the Pine Breeze sanitarium in Tennessee to a corpse-filled swamp in Florida, and back in time to the Civil War, when the taint in her family bloodline sets in motion events building only now to a supernatural crescendo.


REVIEW:

I love a good horror story and when I heard about Titan reprinting Cherie Priest’s dark title I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. After all it has a cracking principle character that the reader gets to associate with through the years which when backed with the ghostly themes and of course some characters that aren’t the full shilling, the reader is left wondering if the principle player has similar problems or if there is something deeper going on within.

What unfurls within this book is a story that keeps the reader hooked as it wends its way through various emotions which make it not only hard to put down but nigh impossible. Add to this a myriad of supporting cast alongside cracking prose and dialogue and the reader really is in for a treat. Haunting, dark and of course wonderfully atmospheric, I found this a real treat to read. Thank you Titan and Cherie.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: In the Mouth of the Whale - Paul McAuley

Release Date: 19/01/12

SYNOPSIS:

Fomalhaut was first colonised by the posthuman Quick, who established an archipelago of thistledown cities and edenic worldlets within the star's vast dust belt. Their peaceful, decadent civilisation was swiftly conquered by a band of ruthless, aggressive, unreconstructed humans who call themselves the True, then, a century before, the True beat back an advance party of Ghosts, a posthuman cult which colonised the nearby system of Beta Hydri after being driven from the Solar System a thousand years ago. Now the Ghosts have returned to Fomalhaut, to begin their end game: the conquest of its single gas giant planet, a captured interstellar wanderer far older than the rest of Fomalhaut's system. At its core is a sphere of hot metallic hydrogen with strange and powerful properties based on exotic quantum physics. The Quick believe it is inhabited by an ancient alien Mind; the True believe it can be developed into a weapon, and the Ghosts believe it can be transformed into a computational system so powerful it can reach into their past, collapse timelines, and fulfil the ancient prophecies of their founder.


REVIEW:

If you love a story that is dependent upon characters with a wonderful spacey twist and a plotline that moves at a decent pace then this title by Paul McAuley is a tale that you really will have to spend your time with. Its got top notch prose, some decent dialogue and an overall arc, which when blended with the author’s unique writing style makes this a story that kicks the Science Fiction genre off to a cracking beginning this year.

All in a wonderful read and one that I had a lot of fun with. Hopefully you will too.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

THRILLER REVIEW: Joe Hunter 7: No Going Back - Matt Hilton

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Jameson Walker approaches Joe Hunter when his daughter Jay and her friend Nicole go missing at a gas station in the Arizona desert while on a cross-country trek across the North American interior. He mentions that a robbery/homicide at the gas station as worrying as the girls were due to be in the vicinity at that time. Joe accepts the job of locating the girls, though not at first convinced there's much to worry about. As Joe picks up the girls' trail he discovers that other young women have also disappeared in the area, and comes across the brutish Logan family.


REVIEW:

I’ve been a fan of Joe Hunter since my contact at Hodder let me in on this series. They promised action, they promised a guarantee and of course they also promised a character that you could not only associate with but one that “you’d love to have a pint with in your local.” Since starting with Matt way back with book four, its been a series that has not only gone from strength to strength but one that is increasing building the success of the series as the dangers get bigger, the action more epic and of course Joe himself is becoming more cinematic with every appearance.

Add to this top notch action, an author who knows how to direct the reader as well as adding great pace, solid dialogue and backs it all up with some careful twists and overall its still a series that I can’t wait to get my hands on.

FACTUAL REVIEW: Plataea 479 BC - William Shepherd, Ill. Peter Dennis

Release Date: 20/01/12

SYNOPSIS:

Plataea was one of the biggest and most important land battles of pre-20th century history. Close to 100,000 hoplite and light-armed Greeks took on an even larger barbarian army that included elite Asian cavalry and infantry, and troops from as far away as India, with thousands of Greek hoplites and cavalry also fighting on the Persian side. At points in the several days of combat, the Persians with their greater mobility and more fluid, missile tactics came close to breaking the Greek defensive line and succeeded in cutting off their supplies. But, in a fatal gamble when he nearly had the battle won, their general Mardonius committed the cream of his infantry to close-quarters combat with the Spartans and their Peloponnesian allies. The detailed reconstruction of this complex battle draws on recent studies of early 5th-century hoplite warfare and a fresh reading of the ancient textual sources, predominantly Herodotus, and close inspection of the battlefield.


REVIEW:

I love finding out about the past and whilst I did get history lessons at school, it never really dealt with the sort of things that I was interested in, that of the battles and troops that shaped the past. For me, perhaps none more so than the battle of Plataea which kept Europe out of the hands of the most powerful Empire of the time, the Persians.

This title released by Osprey takes the reader by the hand and leads them through the events that led to the battle, the troop movements, the forces arrayed on both sides as well as the social and political aspects of the day. Its wonderfully detailed, the artwork within beautiful and the whole thing is explained in fine detail for the reader.

Add to this the fact that this is not just for the military history buffs but is a great tool for writers to utilise as well to help get the flavours correct and it’s a title that fulfils a lot of different angles for all readers in general. A great addition to the Osprey publishing house and one that I really recommend to others.

Monday, 20 February 2012

GUEST BLOG: We need to talk about Takaar - James Barclay

It seemed like such a simple win at the time. Get yourself a hero, a character practically deified by his people who, at a pivotal moment, loses his courage and as a direct result causes the deaths of over 100,000 of those people. Then, deal a set of circumstances whereby this fallen hero is the only person who can save his race from disaster. But make his redemption complicated. Not just because everyone hates him but that in the intervening decade since his failure, the isolation and his guilt have driven him mad. Oh, and slap pointy ears on him and make him an elf, one of the ruling line of immortals. Call him, Takaar.

It’s a gift, right? Now don’t get me wrong, I love Takaar. I love the idea of him and what he creates within the Elves trilogy. But boy oh boy, every line about him causes such pain. The scrutiny, the doubts, the grinding anxiety over every little detail.

And all this is because an insane character is an incredibly dangerous one. And that’s because his very unpredictability can become a predictable plot device if you aren’t very careful. So you have to be VERY careful and even then accept you aren’t likely to get it right all the time.

You see, the way I chose to go with Takaar was to make him face the very things that sent him mad in the first place. So the isolation effects eventually manifested themselves in their being another voice in his head. Takaar craves company but cannot really handle people anymore and relies on his tormentor to make sense of it, only his tormentor seeks to undermine him at every step.

The effects of his guilt have manifested themselves in an obsession with learning new ways to kill himself, to escape the guilt if you like and the knowledge, but not the true comprehension, that everyone who once loved him now hates him. Again, his tormentor plays on this, trying to get him to kill himself and Takaar refuses to take that step. His tormentor calls it cowardice but it is actually a last great remaining strength.

As you can imagine, this makes him very twitchy around people, and it makes people very nervous around him. It’s an unhealthy mix and inevitably leads to Takaar doing or saying the wrong thing, the bizarre thing and occasionally absolutely the right and lucid thing.

Now the key problem for me was that I couldn’t afford to use Takaar as a way to drive the plot forwards, add sudden tension or create an incident – or very rarely anyway. The odd time you’ll get away with it but becomes old very quickly. But the fact is that he is unpredictable so he will do these things that create tension etc but you cannot trail it because he’s unpredictable. Can you see the knots I got myself tangled in?

Here’s what I worked out, and I’m merely scratching the surface of what’s required. First, you can kind of trail a psychotic event but not in any traditional build-up kind of way. There can be no; ‘he disliked the man and someday he was going to do something about it’ type stuff. What there can be are a few apparently throwaway lines, usually from his tormentor like ‘he really should have told you’ and ‘it’s not the way it should be done’, spread about among the general chatter inside his head. Now if I get that right, some readers will pick up on the cues, expect something to happen but not know when. This is a desired result. And another set of readers will not see the event coming but be able to say ‘oh right, should have seen that coming’. Also a desired result. It’s important that Takaar does not know when he will snap in any direction though he is being provoked at every turn. Unlike a sane individual, his decisions to act come straight out of his subconscious.

Second, the people around Takaar can trigger the sort of event that they fear by either consciously or unconsciously goading him into it. Auum, who once revered Takaar, tries to understand him and ends up despising him, is a particular example of someone who knows Takaar’s weaknesses and uses them against him.

Thirdly, Takaar’s events almost always trigger something but the effects may not be felt for a long while afterwards and this is because something he says or does can affect his behaviour or that of another character further down the line – and in this regard he is no different to any sane character.

Lastly, Takaar has to go on a journey like every other character. He can’t just stay as mad as he was when first encountered because his circumstances change and hence so does the nature and manifestation of his madness. And while I don’t expect readers to identify with him necessarily, I want them to be fascinated, frustrated and shocked by him. Frustrated particularly because there is the desire for redemption within him but not the wit (when we first meet him) to make it happen. He remembers what he once was but shies away from being that person again while desiring it utterly.

There is joy in writing him too. Every conversation he has with his tormentor is to be savoured while drafting. And every conversation he has with another character while simultaneously responding to a voice that character cannot hear is just great fun.

If I get Takaar mostly right in all three Elves books, I’ll be delighted. And he’ll be one of, if not the, most important characters I’ve written.

My advice for what it’s worth for any of you thinking about involving an insane character in your work is this: do it but handle with extreme care...

FANTASY REVIEW: Elves 2: Rise of TaiGethen - James Barclay

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

THE ELVES ARE ENSLAVED Calaius is occupied by an implacable, relentless enemy. The great elven cities are little more than prison camps. Elven slaves are forced to destroy their beloved rainforest to harvest timber for their masters. The enemy has no mercy, no honour and little skill in battle. The enemy is Man. Those few elves who remain free are fragmented, in squabbling factions, and they must unite before they can take a stand against Man. Many believe that the battle is already lost, but Auum is not one of them. He knows Men's numbers are great but their tactics are weak; he knows Men think the Elves are already beaten; he is convinced that his people must fight now, or see their race destroyed. Takaar disagrees. He believes Elven salvation lies in unlocking their magic, not in fighting pitched battles against Man. He is determined to save his people too, but his tactics are entirely different ...and if some Elves must die now to ensure Calaius will be free of Man in the future, it's a sacrifice he is willing to make. The Elves must choose their sides. Whatever they decide, victory will win their freedom ...and failure will mean extermination ...


REVIEW:

It’s no secret that I’ve enjoyed the Raven series by James Barclay nor is it a secret how much fun I had with the last outing, Elves: Once Walked with Gods, yet this title does something a little different. Yes you still get the high octane action, the bloody conflict and phyrric victories where you mourn the death of each character passing, but when you add the lessons learned along the way with a brand new character who’s also schizophrenic then it gets a whole load more complex.

The writing is gripping, the characters multifaceted and of course when you add to the mix solid prose as well as dialogue, it’s a book that shows not only James growth as a writer but one that also demonstrates that an author who continues to improve with every release shows not only commitment to his craft but one that believes that the fans deserve the best.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

CRIME REVIEW: Vanished - Liza Marklund

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

At a derelict port in Stockholm, two brutally murdered men are found by a security guard. In the same area a young woman, Aida, is on the run from a deranged gunman. Meanwhile, journalist Annika Bengtzon is approached by a woman wanting her story published in the Evening Post. She claims to have founded an organization to erase people's pasts - giving vulnerable individuals a completely new identity. Annika helps Aida to get in touch with the foundation. But as she begins to investigate this woman's story, more bodies turn up and she finds herself getting dangerously close to the truth - that all is not as it seems...This title is previously published as "Paradise".


REVIEW:

Having been switched on the Scandinavian Crime wave a while ago I’ve always tried to keep up with the latest and one of the authors that have been riding the new wave is Liza Marklund. Part of the problem with a book written in another language originally is that so much depends upon the translation and whilst you can have the best in the world some of the phrases won’t always come over or there’s something lost in translation.

Whilst I enjoy Liza’s writing, one of my niggles at the moment is the predictability of the author as a lot of the same devices are used time and again almost as if there’s been a dice roll as to what’s happening. Don’t get me wrong, she does do the story decently but when you can see where it’s going, it can be a little off putting. I want not only surprise but I want it to come as a bolt out of the blue, not something moving at a snail’s pace that I see for quite a way. Add to this other problems that include very clipped sentences and overall I wasn’t that impressed with this story. OK, it was reasonable but when reading a book, I want not only 110% but something to happen that surprises me and sadly that just didn’t happen on this occasion.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Merlin 2: Prophecy: Death of an Empire - MK Hume

Release Date: 19/01/12

SYNOPSIS:

Merlin's epic quest continues as he journeys to Constantinople in search of his father. Myrddion Emrys of Segontium is the product of a brutal rape, but when King Vortigern hints at his father's identity, Myrddion embarks on a journey across France and Italy to Constantinople. It is a voyage that is to turn the young healer into a man of great renown. Serving under General Flavius Aetius at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, Myrddion saves the lives of thousands of warriors and, on his arrival in Rome, he heals many more, including Cleoxenes, Envoy to Emperor Theodosius of the East, on his way to a delegation with Attila the Hun. But a deadlier conflict between Emperor Valentinian of the West and Senator Petronius Maximus is still to come and Myrddion must use all his strength to carry out his work in a world that is evil.


REVIEW:

In the realms of historical fiction there are some authors who explode onto the scene and disappear just as quickly or, in the case of authors like MK Hume, build up with a solid body of work that thrills and delights readers as they discover her. As with Marilyn’s other books, this one continues to add a real “Arthurian period” (5th and 6th Century AD) feel to the series, with the historical setting given a realistic feel with hard combat, an honour system in place with major characters fighting to preserve their world against the masses giving the reader a feel for an earlier struggle with Cornwell’s Saxon series.

All in this story does a great twist to the already established mythos and with the authors wonderful twist on the already convoluted tales, it’s not only a breath of fresh air but one that I hope will stand the test of time. Magical.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Darkest at Dawn - Christine Feehan

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

'Dark Hunger' - Juliette is a beautiful activist devoted to the liberation of animals confined in a foul and humid jungle lab. But then she stumbles upon an unexpected prisoner unlike any she's ever seen. Or touched. Riordan De La Cruz, an immortal Carpathian male, is trapped and caged, his desire for revenge only beginning. She will release him from his bonds. He will release her from her inhibitions. Both have voracious appetites that must be sated. 'Dark Secret' - Rafael De La Cruz has spent centuries hunting vampires, but now he's following the scent of a human. Colby Jansen is a rancher and the sole guardian of her younger half siblings. She is prepared to protect them with her life against Rafael's blood claim. But the arrogant and fiercely sensual Rafael is after more than her family - he wants Colby. And there's nothing she can do to stop his raw desire to possess her.


REVIEW:

OK, before we go any further I’m going to warn you that this is two stories that have previously been released, the first, book 14: Dark Hunger, the second, Book 15: Dark Secret. Don’t get me wrong, the books were more than fun to revisit, but this is one of my bugbears when books are released so that people think that they’re buying something new when they’re not. It’s a little unfair and overall its something that really needs to be made more obvious.

Other than though, if you haven’t read these two or are new to the world then this could be a great way to get your hands on two titles for a bargain price. They are great, the plotlines wonderfully magical and of course when you add the authors writing style to this, they’re a great deal all in.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Demi Monde 2: Spring - Rod Rees

Release Date: 05/01/12

SYNOPSIS:

The Shadows grow ever darker across the Demi-Monde. And as the soldiers of Heydrich's ForthRight goose-step into Paris and the long-forgotten evil that is Lilith is awoken, it falls to Norma Williams to lead the resistance. Lost in the virtual nightmare that is the Demi-Monde, she must come to terms with these terrible responsibilities and with the knowledge that those she thought were her friends are now her enemies. To triumph in this surreal cyber-world she must be more than she ever believed she could be...or perish.


REVIEW:

Having read the first outing in this series by Rod some time ago, I did find that whilst I enjoyed the book, it took me a little while to remember and get back into the swing of things. This isn’t a bad thing per say but I think that personally I’d have benefitted from a reread prior to starting this book.

All in, this book was like the first, cracking characters, a great sense of depth and also dashes from multiple genres that will help this story appeal to a wide an audience as possible. Back this up with an author who understands pace, some top notch prose and a good healthy dose of believable dialogue and the reader is in for another treat from Rod who proves that he’s not a one hit wonder.

Friday, 17 February 2012

GUEST BLOG: The Road - Adam Baker

People sometimes ask me why end-of-the-world stories are so popular.

Back in the seventies and eighties, zombie flicks were considered disreputable trash, little better than pornography. Cheap, nihilistic giblet-strewn gore-fests shelved at the back of the VHS rental store alongside other ‘adult’ titles.


But, these days, zombies have gone mainstream. Brad Pitt is filming World War Z. Walking Dead is a hit TV show.

So what changed? How have zombies captured the public imagination?

I have a theory.

Survivalist tales are parables of resilience in the face of social upheaval. The debt-fuelled prosperity of the nineties is over, and we have entered an indefinitely prolonged period of austerity. This economic gloom is not fully reflected in mainstream popular culture. US TV is still dominated by talent shows, forensic procedurals and lavish period sagas on HBO. But the science-fiction/fantasy genre acts as a collective subconscious. Our anxieties become monsters, and chase us in our dreams.

Let me give you an example.

The TV show Walking Dead features a disparate group of survivors trekking across zombie-ravaged America. They travel in a convoy headed by a battered RV. Each night they camp by the roadside and cook over an open fire. The imagery is vividly reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, his depression-era saga in which bankrupt farmers load their possessions onto trucks and head west looking for a new life.

Theoretically, these two tales are miles apart. Steinbeck’s story is direct polemic, gritty social realism. Walking Dead is fantasy horror for geeks. Yet, at heart, both sagas depict the same situation. Shattered communities. Social dislocation. Families struggling to find refuge.

That’s the paradoxical appeal of apocalyptic fiction. Escapist fantasy that is urgently, viscerally real.

Adam's new book, Juggernaut was released on the 16/02/12 from Hodder and Stoughton.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Juggernaut - Adam Baker

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Iraq 2005 Seven mercenaries journey deep into the desert in search of Saddam's gold. They form an unlikely crew of battle-scarred privateers, killers and thieves, veterans of a dozen war zones, each of them anxious to make one last score before their luck runs out. They will soon find themselves marooned among ancient ruins, caught in a desperate battle for their lives, confronted by greed, betrayal, and an army that won't stay dead...


REVIEW:

To be honest I picked this up as Lady Eleanor told me that she’d enjoyed Adam’s debut, Outpost. However when I started this the main thought that I couldn’t shake throughout was how similar the tale was to certain elements from the Resident Evil film series. Yes the author does give the reader what they want, but when all you can think throughout is that’s similar to X or Y then you really aren’t left with any choice but to persevere and see if it gets better.

Alas for me, the novel was predictable and whilst the setting has moved to make it topical, it’s a story that for me, was a little too obvious as the events unfolded. That’s not to say that the action wasn’t solid and it did fulfil the readers expectations but if you’re looking for something ground breaking, you won’t get it, especially when there’s no real connection between the reader and the main characters. All in, this was an OK read and whilst its not the best zombie horror I’ve read it’s certainly not the worst.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Summer Stars 2012 Release Date - Deep Silver


Hail Mighty Readers and those of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends over at Deep Silver have let us know the release date for their Summer Stars game: 01/06/12.

Summer Stars lets players experience a large variety of events, special challenges and competitions at exciting venues around the world. With more than 18 different disciplines & challenges, Summer Stars 2012 covers a whole range of summer sports. Players can prove their talent in disciplines like Triple Jump, Mountain Biking, Diving or Sprinting and become a top athlete in the career mode.

In multiplayer mode, they can compete directly with up to three friends or family members on split screen – delivering a gripping “just one more go” experience. Summer Stars 2012 also leaves it up to the players to decide how far they will be physically involved in the gameplay: the game supports traditional arcade-style controls style controls as well as motion control via Kinect for Xbox 360, PlayStation®Move or Wii.

So prepare to enjoy your time with the game and have fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Star Wars: Darth Plagueis - James Luceno

Release Date: 19/01/12

SYNOPSIS:

This title tells the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Once, not so long ago, there was a great Sith Lord called Darth Plagueis. So powerful and wise was Darth Plagueis that he could manipulate the dark side of the Force to save others from dying. Eventually Darth Plagueis became so powerful that the only thing he feared was losing his power. Then, as is the way of the Sith, he was murdered by his apprentice, Darth Sidious. So went the tale told by Chancellor Palpatine - Darth Sidious himself - to Anakin Skywalker, and since that moment in "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith", fans have clamored to know the true story of Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious. This stand-alone novel is a dark and moving tale of two Sith and their quest for ultimate power over life and death...


REVIEW:

As a fan of the Star Wars Universe perhaps one of the most wanted titles is the story behind the master of the Emperor, Darth Sideous. So when you have such a pivotal book for a series you really have to make sure that it hits not only the right notes but also helps to demonstrate how the pupil became the master and what attracted him to the Dark side originally.

This title does all of this, adds some cracking detail with top notch prose alongside pace. In addition to this, James also adds flesh to Palpatine’s background as well as demonstrating the manipulations that he would become famous for. All in, this story will have you gripped from start to finish and for me, is my favourite story for the series. Cracking.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Midwife of Venice - Roberta Rich

Release Date: 16/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

At midnight, the dogs, cats, and rats rule Venice. The Ponte di Ghetto Nuovo, the bridge that leads to the ghetto, trembles under the weight of sacks of rotting vegetables, rancid fat, and vermin. Seeping refuse on the streets renders the pavement slick and the walking treacherous. It was on such a night that the men came for Hannah. Hannah Levi, a midwife in the Jewish ghetto, is known throughout Venice for her skills. When the Conte di Padovani appears at Hannah's door imploring her to attend his wife in her travails, Hannah's compassion is tested. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it's also punishable by torture ...and death. But Hannah cannot turn down the money the Count will reward her with if she is successful in delivering him an heir. With such a handsome sum, she can save her own husband, Isaac, who was captured at sea and taken to Malta as a slave of the Knights of St. John. Aided by her "birthing spoons" - rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births, themselves illegal, will Hannah be able to save both mother and child? And if she fails how will she be able to save herself, let alone her husband?


REVIEW:

Historical Fiction has to do a number of things to capture the reader, firstly they need a solid believable lead character and perhaps secondly they need to do not only the research on the time period, but make sure that the reader can connect to the relevant time.

What Roberta does with this story is present a story that has great depth, with solid prose and of course an overall arc that not only grips the reader from the start but allows them to feel the periods prejudices and worry about the effects of choices upon those within. It’s clever, it’s a story that’s hard to put down and of course it’s a tale that will keep you gripped to the last page. Magical.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

GUEST BLOG: A Playlist for Talina in the Tower - Michelle Lovic

The characters in this novel have strong voices of their own. In some ways, I envisioned this book like a play or even an opera. So there are choruses of cats in a smelly sanctuary, of villainous Ravageurs in their bloodstained dining room, and of Witches and Righteous Wraiths in the courtroom that hovers above the Rialto Bridge.

The individual characters also have their thought-music, of course. Here are the notes and words I can imagine playing in their heads.


Talina Molin is the heroine of this story. Wild dark-gold hair springs from her head like a curtain of tangled corn husks. After many escapades, she has come to be known as the most impudent girl in Venice, though also as one of the cleverest. She longs to be a writer, and has a passion for cookbooks and magic. When her parents disappear, she is forced to go to live with her cold-hearted Guardian in his twittering tower on the edge of the city. After a mishap over a recipe and a spell, she finds her human shape can no longer be taken for granted. Unless fiery Talina keeps her temper, she’s in danger of becoming the very thing she most despises. So her song would be ‘The Girl Can't Help It’ by Bobby Troup.

Ambrogio Gasperin is the son of a prosperous bookseller. He’s an indefatigable arguer – all training as he wants to be a barrister. He’s always had something of a crush on Talina, his classmate, and he’s soon drawn into her adventures. Ambrogio will get his longed-for day in court, but not in front of an ordinary human judge and jury. His song would be ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by The Beatles. (‘You say yes, I say no; you say stop, and I say go, go, go / You say goodbye, and I say hello.’)

Signorina Tiozzo is the most hospitable cat-lady in Venice. She homes and feeds dozens of strays in a smelly refuge called the Ostello delle Gattemiagole. Her track is obvious: ‘Quarantaquattro Gatti’, an Italian song about forty-four cats without a home. (A cartoon video of the song can be seen on YouTube.)

Bestard-Belou is one of the bully-boy cats in Signorina Tiozzo’s refuge. He’s a big grey cat with orange eyes. His catchphrases include ‘Dog-bite-my-ear!’ and ‘Is you stoopid or something?’ So I can imagine Bestard-Belou singing along to Joe Dolce’s ‘Shaddap Your Face’. He’d also like Tom Lehrer’s ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’, especially the bit about taking home a squirrel to experiment on. His fellow bully-boy, the ginger cat Albicocco, would like Cab Calloway’s ‘We the Cats Shall Hep Ya’.


The Contessa is an aristocratic pure-white cat who is the queen of the bully-boys. For all her elegance and superiority, she is slightly questionable in the morals department, but she’s also a very loving mother. So her song is ‘That's Why the Lady is a Tramp’ by Rodgers and Hart. Or ‘Killer Queen’ by Queen.

Brolo is a sympathetic black-and-white cat who also lives in the cat refuge. He’s an eternal optimist, and therefore the recipient of frequent bad surprises. His catchphrase is ‘What a down-in-the-dumper!’ I based his character on the eternal optimist played by Eric Idle in the crucifixion scene at the end of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. So obviously his song is ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

The Ravageurs are mysterious hyena-like creatures – invisible to adults – who haunt Venice by night. They speak with exaggerated and incompetent French accents and devour rich, complicated French food. And they think that they have a right to everything and everyone in Venice. Their history, however, is murkier than they claim. And their ambitions seem to be too monstrous to be countenanced …I suppose the obvious song for them is ‘Hound Dog’. Or perhaps the Mafia anthem ‘Non Su Lupu’ (‘I am Not a Wolf’).

Altopone is an argumentative rat – a gruff individualist and one of the very few of his species who is not totally intimidated by the Ravageurs. His name is a pun on that of the famous American gangster Al Capone, whose family was Italian. I think Altopone would like Frank Sinatra singing ‘I Did It My Way’.

Professor Marìn is an old friend of my readers as he also appears in The Undrowned Child and The Mourning Emporium as a wise expert in all things magical. Here, in Talina in the Tower, we meet the professor as a young, fresh-faced man, with some rather romantic tendencies. The white hair of earlier books is here red and curly – but the brain underneath it is just as wise. I think he’d enjoy ‘Love Potion No. 9’ by Leiber and Stoller.

Mademoiselle Emilie Chouette is the French mistress who teaches Talina and Ambrogio. To the pupils at her school, she has always seemed a ferocious martinet – ‘a fire-breathing dragon’, as Ambrogio calls her – but Professor Marìn has a magical way of bringing out a softer side of her nature. She’d obviously need a French chanson: 'Choux Pastry Heart' by Corrine Bailey Rae. Or even the classic ‘Chanson d’Amour’ by Manhattan Transfer.

Uberto Flangini, Talina’s Guardian, lives in a crumbling bell-tower that twitters with thousands of sparrows who have nested in its crevices. He is a famous author of so-called ‘cautionary tales’ – books in which naughty children meet terrible ends. Talina’s Guardian seems remote and forbidding, even cruel – he’s also a confirmed cat-hater. But in fact he nurses a tragic secret that will be revealed at the end of the book. I think he would like Respighi’s The Birds, as it would make him feel at home. But he would also enjoy the soundtrack for Shock-headed Peter, by the Tiger Lillies, a haunting, horrifying, hilarious take Heinrich Hoffmann's Struwwelpeter. As he lives up so high, he’d probably choose ‘Flying Robert’, about a boy who drifts up into the air and is never seen again.

Giuseppe Tassini, the famous Venetian historian, is a real character from history. His book Curiosità Veneziane explains all the streets and palaces in Venice. The real Tassini was very fond of fine dining as well as history, so he’d enjoy a song that combines strong flavours with the past: his song is ‘Pastime With Good Company’, thought to have been written by Henry VIII. It’s soothing and melodic, and would make an excellent accompaniment to a good meal. (I do, however, find it quite impossible to visualize Tassini wearing ipod ear-buds at the Marciana Library or in the Archives.)

(With thanks to Jane Stemp. Moira Butterfield and John Doherty for their suggestions.)


For more information please visit Michelle's Website or her blogs:
History Girls Website
An Awfully Big Blog Adventure

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Talina in the Tower - Michelle Lovic

Release Date: 02/02/12

SYNOPSIS:

Savage hyena-like creatures threaten Venice - the Ravageurs are on the prowl and seizing men, women and children. On the night of 30 June 1846 Talina's parents disappear and she and her cat, Drusilla, are forced to go and live with her Guardian and his three savage dogs in his lonely tower in the northernmost edge of the city. Here she discovers that she has the ability to change herself into a cat, but changing herself back into a girl isn't quite so easy. As a cat she learns about the Ravageurs and how over the centuries they have become semi magical creatures, visible only to children in the human world, and that they are intent on destroying Venice. She is determined to save the city - it's time for desperate measures - and her adventures are about to begin.


REVIEW:

I love a great story that takes you on a whirlwind adventure and to be honest Michelle’s writing always does that for me. Here in the latest release is a story that gives you magic, high adventure and of course an overall arc that will enchant you from the first page to the last. Add to this Michelle’s solid use of prose, cracking dialogue and a lead character that the readers will want to embark on their adventure with and it’s a story that was a pure joy to read.

Finally add to this a sense of whimsy, an enchanting story overall and a whole host of supporting cast members that will make this a hard tale to forget. Great stuff.