Friday, 31 August 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:
02/08/12  COBLEY, Michael - The Ascendant Stars

30/08/12  DUNMORE, Helen - The Greatcoat

If we've missed one please let us know,


Gareth

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Civil War Chronicles 3: Hunter's Rage - Michael Arnold

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:
Hunter's Rage, the third in The Civil War Chronicles, Michael Arnold's acclaimed series of historical thrillers, sees battle-scarred hero Captain Stryker, 'the Sharpe of the Civil War', take on his oldest foe. 'Stands in comparison with the best of Cornwell' Yorkshire Post Posted to the hostile territory of Dartmoor, Captain Innocent Stryker and his men are attacked by an elite cavalry unit commanded by the formidable Colonel Gabriel Wild and suffer heavy losses. Stryker has already clashed once with Wild, and the Roundhead has sworn to seek his revenge. After the attack, Stryker is faced with the annihilation of his company as he is hounded across the moor, eventually seeking shelter on an isolated tor populared by an enigmatic former priest who harbours no love for the King's cause. Colonel Wild is assisted in his revenge by Osmyn Hogg, Parliamentarian Witchfinder, who shares his own deadly history with Stryker. To save his honour and his life, Stryker must lead his men to glory from the protection of the lonely granite-topped hill. Into this atmosphere of intrigue and danger comes the beautiful but mysterious Cecily Cade. Stryker comes to her aid, unaware that she carries with her special knowledge that may prove the key to Royalist victory. The battle between Stryker and his old foes takes him from the bleak isolation of Dartmoor, through the war-ravaged lands of southern England and finally to Stratton, where the bloody battle between Cornwall and Devon will decide the fate of the south-west.


REVIEW:

OK, I haven’t spent time with Michael Arnold or his character Stryker before, although from friends in the know I have been tipped the nod that this is a series that I really had to try. Whilst this is the third book in the Civil War Chronicles, I felt that I didn’t have any problems fitting into the time period (although to be honest here I recently spent quite a bit of time reading up on this particular time in English history so that probably helped.)

What unfurls within is a story of high adventure, gripping action, heart rending sadness and of course justified vengeance. Its full of fascinating facts and when you add a descriptive style of prose that really transports you to the various scenes, leaves me wondering how much I’ve missed by not reading the previous outings (hopefully something I’ll get chance to rectify soon. All in a great read and one I’m pleased I took the time to discover. Thanks to my friends for the recommendation and to John Murray for sending.


CRIME REVIEW: The Abbey - Chris Culver

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SENSATION Addictive, thrilling, exhilarating...You won't be able to put it down. Ash Rashid is a former homicide detective who can't stand the thought of handling another death investigation. That's until his niece's body is found in the property of one of the city's wealthiest citizens. The coroner calls it an overdose, but the case doesn't add up. Against orders, Ash launches an investigation to find his niece's murderer. But the longer he searches, the darker the case gets - and if he doesn't solve it fast, his niece won't be the only family member he has to bury...Discover for yourself the US crime novel that became a word of mouth phenomenon. The Abbey is the beginning of a major new series, featuring one of the most fascinating detectives in the history of crime fiction.


REVIEW:

I love a good crime mystery, so when this title by Chris Culver landed it sounded right up my street. I loved the intrigue, the lone detective trying to uncover the truth regardless of what he’s told by others and whilst to a certain degree that is the core of this title, it was a book that soon began to niggle me as I felt the character was more impulsive than his background really should have allowed him to be especially considering the effect that he could have on such a personal case in allowing the guilty to escape in a court of law.

Whilst I did enjoy this to a certain degree a lot of the supporting cast was flat, the tale also felt almost driven by numbers so that it could reach its linear end and all in I felt that it didn’t do the job as snappily as it could have done with a little more editing time thrown in. Don’t get me wrong, it filled my time in but against a lot of other crime titles out there, this one left me feeling that there was a lot more that could have been achieved if the author had had a little extra time to work out the characters more rather than relying on pace to keep you fuelled alongside the character long lucky streak that should have resulted in a good few injuries from various situations.

All in its OK, but against a lot of others out there, its sadly middle of the road.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

FANTASY REVIEW: Shattered Kingdoms Book 1: Blood's Pride - Evie Manieri

Release Date: 30/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

A generation has passed since the Norlanders' great ships bore down on Shadar, and the Dead Ones slashed and burned the city into submission, enslaving the Shadari people. Now the Norlander governor is dying and, as his three alienated children struggle against the crushing isolation of their lives, the Shadari rebels spot their opening and summon the Mongrel, a mysterious mercenary warrior who has never yet lost a battle. But her terms are unsettling: she will name her price only after the Norlanders have been defeated. A single question is left for the Shadari: is there any price too high for freedom?


REVIEW:

Fantasy has long been convoluted with stereotypes and simplistic styling’s that allow the reader to delve into a world without real depth, then came George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen and now Evie Maniere’s First Book of her Shattered Kingdom’s series, Blood Pride.

To say its complex is an understatement, the characters wonderfully rich and diverse with each following their own path during the catastrophe that has unfurled. Add to that a multifaceted tapestry of world building that works wonderfully well and a whole host of heroes and villains to root and boo for which really will leave you without a chance to catch your breath as one chapter unfurls into another.

Finally add to this a clear understanding of how each culture has developed; a delightfully dark and delicious plot which when added to an author with a good understanding of pace alongside prose will leave you in no doubt demanding more.
All in a great read and one of my tips to watch this year in the Fantasy debuts categories of a number of awards. It’s going to take some beating.



VIDEO GAME NEWS: Assassin's Creed 3: Inside Assassins Creed 3: Episode 2 - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Hot on the heels of the last V-Blog our fellow Assassin Guild Co-Patriots at Ubisoft have sent us the second instalment of Behind the Scenes of Assassin's Creed.  It shows some of the really sleek new moves for combat, some very clean evasion and of course Connor doing what we know the Assassin's do best.  

So hot off the press (released just 40 minutes ago) we present to you the second instalment:

Stay tuned for the third part which deals with the history of Connor and remember, hone your skills, sharpen your weaponry, its going to be one hell of a struggle starting 30/10/12. All the best, Gareth and Lady Eleanor

ALTERNATE HISTORY: Northlands 3: Iron Winter - Stephen Baxter

Release Date: 25/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

It is 1315. And darkness is falling . . .

Many generations ago the Wall was first built to hold back the sea. Northland, a country of fertile plains and ancient forests rescued from the ocean, has become a thriving civilisation based on trade, technology and tradition, centred on the ancient home of the first builders, Etxelur. The whole of Europe, spanned by the Northlanders' steam caravan lines, has been changed in ways that could never have been predicted.

But nothing can last forever, not even the Wall. The weather is changing, growing colder, and in the wake of the long winters come famine, destruction and terror. And as whole nations are forced out of their lands and head for warmer climes, it seems that even Northland may not be able to endure.

But there is one man, an elderly scholar, who believes he can calculate why the world is cooling, and perhaps even salvage some scraps of the great civilisation of Etxelur. As he embarks on his grand quest across the world, as nations struggle for survival and the fires of war burn in the gloom, only one thing is certain.

The Ice is coming.

Stephen Baxter's epic series of a changed world reaches its chilling conclusion as the medieval world fights for survival in the cold of a winter without end.


REVIEW:

For me, this series by Stephen Baxter is one that has not only given me a lot of reading pleasure but also taken me on a journey that has not only thrilled but enchanted me by taking one simple concept and expanding upon it. The writing as ever is wonderfully fresh, the characters within bringing the world to life and when added to the authors authorative writing style, really helps bring it all to the fore.

Add to that great prose, a wonderful arc and of course pace that keeps it moving with the inclusion of climate changes to help bring a level of reality which all in makes this a series that I generated one hell of a ride from start to finish. Great stuff.



Wednesday, 29 August 2012

CUISINE REVIEW: Pickled: From Curing Lemons to Fermenting Cabbage - Kelly Carrolata

Release Date: 01/09/12

SYNOPSIS:

In a culinary pickle? Not anymore!

Once a dreary necessity, pickling has turned into a culinary art form, with pickled components popping up in four-star restaurant dishes and trendy drinks across the country. Now you too can create your own gourmet preserved ingredients and explore the flavor-packed potential of fermentation!

Pickled features a range of accessible techniques, as well as recipes that highlight your favorite tastes, including:

Pickled Figs
Asian Chopped Salad with Crispy Noodles and Kimchi
Green Coriander Chutney
Watermelon Cosmo

With helpful asides that delve into the science and history of this previously humble practice, this cookbook is your delicious entry into the world of gourmet pickling.


REVIEW:

In a world where we’re looking for ways to not only preserve home grown food or to find ways to use up what’s on offer from the supermarkets, often we overlook the art of pickling unless of course it the traditional pickled onion that many of us have a taste for.

What this book from Kelly brings is a whole selection of choices that will make not only wonderful meal accompaniments but also create new tastes for the adventurous eater. It’s interesting; it’s fun and of course if you have someone looking to make something for friends on the build-up to the seasonal holiday at years end, they’ll find inspiration alongside tried as well as tested items that really will add that extra sparkle to leftovers.



FACTUAL REVIEW: Ninja: 1000 years of the Shadow Warrior - John Man

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:
The Ninjas today are the stuff of myth and legend in comics, film and electronic games. But once they were real, the medieval equivalent of the SAS: spies, saboteurs, assassins. In their secrecy, undercover skills and determination to survive, they were the opposite of the overt, self-destructive samurai. Could they fly? Make themselves invisible? Of course not.It was just that their skills gave them a magical aura. As a result, martial artists and story-tellers have turned them into fantasy creatures, from James Bond to Mutant Turtles. In Ninja John Man goes in search of the truth. In a journey to the heartland of the ninjas, he takes us from their origins over 1,000 years ago, through their heyday in the civil wars that ended with Japan's unification in 1600. But that was not the end of the ninja ethos. That re-emerged in World War Two as a little-known counterpart to Japanese militarism. Ninja ways live on in the real 'last of the ninjas', Hiroo Onoda, who held out in the Philippine jungle for 30 years. From feudal Japan to 21st Century Hollywood, John Man's epic story reveals the reality behind one of the world's most enduring legends.


REVIEW:

If there’s one factual author out there that for me does not only cracking research but brings the subject matter to the reader in a friendly and accessible way, then that author is John Man. Here in his latest outing he delves into the myths and legends of perhaps one of the most fantastical sects to ever walk the earth, especially when you look at the myths that still ride high in today’s films and fiction.

Within the title he explores the truth, brings it together with stories to help back up the viewpoints and adds another layer with a realistic bent to the often misaligned warriors. It’s addictive reading and when rediscovered through modern eyes brings the whole thing vividly to life as you see the acorn from which the great oak sprang from ancient times right up to the second world war.

All in a cracking read and one that I’ll be dipping into time and again. Great stuff and if you’re an author a wonderful research material that will have you brimming with idea’s time and again.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Assassin's Creed 3 - Official GamesCom 2012 Naval Warfare Walkthrough - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Ubisoft have let us have know about the new Assassin's Creed III trailer that, hot of the embargo press, (5pm today) is a live comentary Gamescom with added narration from Creative Director, Alex Hutchinson who brings the beauty of naval warfare to the player.

But don't just take our word for it, view this little beauty yourself.  As you can see from the graphics, its not only state of the art but also brings sea conditions into the strategy to aid you capture your goals.

We really can't wait to get our hands on this title so we're counting down the weeks with Lady Eleanor carefully using her hard earned assassination skills to modify the calander.  How are you marking yours?
Enjoy,
Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Lego Lord of the Rings Packshot plus Gollum Photo's - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warner Brother Interactive have sent us the box art for the forthcoming Lego Lord of the Rings game, but we didn't think that was good enough for our readers, so we sent in our spy, who shall remain nameless ("Yes my preciousssss....") to hide around the various scenes and snap some pictures of the various characters in a number of situations.  So here without further ado we present a few of these cracking pieces:
"Is that a fish in your pocket or are you pleased to see me"  Asked Frodo.

 "Ah home sweet homses"

Elfses are doing it for themselves

 "Moria?  More like More Goblinia"

Gandalf lights the way
  

Hopefully this has tickled you as much as it has us and you're looking forward to it this Fall as it lands for the following formats: 
DS
3DS
PSV
PS3
Wii
PC
Xbox 360.

LADY ELEANOR ART BOOK REVIEW: Motel Fetish - Chas Ray Kryder and Eric Kroll

Release Date: 15/05/12

SYNOPSIS:

Behind closed doors. Lustful places, luscious women. A number of years ago I began to see distinctive layouts in "Hustler's Leg World" that got me nervous. The photographs were that good. Whoever it was had style and made the women his women. Krider women. Women I began to desire on a monthly basis. In the world of professional golf there is an expression "the world's greatest golfer not to win a major tournament." Chas Ray Krider was the world's greatest erotic photographer not to have a book. Thanks to TASCHEN we now have over 160 Krider images to pore over. To salivate over. Like a good film noir, he takes us to lustful places. Is it a crime scene or a sea of lust? These beautiful, languid women wait for whom? For me. For you. They play the "waiting game" beautifully. An ass in the air, a pair of crossed legs in nylons, all bathed in warm tones. A still life unstuck in time. So this is what goes on behind closed doors? Oh, I almost forgot. Alongside these many Midwest femme fatales is Dita, raven-haired icon. Not since Betty Page has a woman fleshed out so correctly a vintage girdle and bra ensemble. Enjoy. He takes you places where you only vaguely think you have been. Eric Kroll, editor and pupil.


REVIEW:

As a fan of Pin Up Art I’m always interested in the perception of the form in the 50’s. As such this book by Chas Kryder seemed to be right up my street especially with Dita Von Tease appearing within. Sadly for me this book feels more like one man’s personal choices of photographs for his own gratification rather than the fun images of fetish wear of the fifties represented by models like Bettie Page.

Unfortunately for me, the images within felt cheap, tacky and with the photographers choice of cheap nasty charity “vintage” lingerie that was taken in what felt like a seedy motel room without the benefit of being staged. Add to this, models that look bored with the poses and look like they’re having as much fun as someone getting smacked in the face with a wet fish which all round left this title feeling fairly flat.

Finally the photographers writing and use of language felt over stuffed with ego fluffing that when read made me feel that this was more about power alongside personal preferences rather than exploring the fetish world of the fifties with a fun attitude. All in for me this was a great disappointment.



URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Blood and Feathers - Lou Morgan

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:
“What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘angel’?” asked Mallory.

Alice shrugged. “I don’t know... guns?”

Alice isn’t having the best of days: she got rained on, missed her bus, was late for work. When two angels arrive, claiming her life so far is a lie, it turns epic, grandscale worse.

The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; an age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. the angels must act to restore the balance – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem – alice will learn the truth about her own history... and why the angels want to send her to hell. What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side? Caught between the power plays of the angels and lucifer himself, it isn’t just hell’s demons that Alice will have to defeat...


REVIEW:

As usual with a debut, I always get a mixed feeling of what I’m going to get. Firstly nerves as I’m worried that I could have spent the time better with a more known name and secondly elation as I realise that all bets are off alongside the gloves as the new author comes out punching.

What Lou brings to the reader is a story that has emotional context, a wonderfully rich context and of course a story that has redemption in many forms hidden within. It brings new light to the two sects within (angels and demons) and allows the reader to immerse themselves as emotion turmoil mixes with battle sequences as our heroine seeks to find her place alongside the truth about herself.


Monday, 27 August 2012

SCIENCE FICTION AUDIO BOOK: Warhammer 40K: Malediction - C Z Dunn

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

On the world of Amadis, veteran Imperial Guard officer Regan Antigone is being honoured for his role in the planet's liberation from the forces of Chaos, some twenty-five years earlier. But when his old comrade, Master Tigrane of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter, arrives to join the festivities and asks to hear the glorious tale told once more, Antigone falters. With the details of his account cast under close scrutiny and with the judgement of the Imperium hanging over him, will his noble reputation remain intact?


REVIEW:

To be honest whilst I’m a huge fan of the Black Library’s Audio Books, this one felt a little flat as I didn’t feel that they’d matched the vocal talent up to the correct characters, the principle, Dark Angel felt more a combo of overacting alongside comedic vocally so that the seriousness didn’t quite come across. That’s not to say that the writing wasn’t good, it was, it took the reader on a journey and allowed the reader to get a tale that not only took them on a journey but brought a past event to life through the use of hindsight.

All in it was solid but sadly the vocals didn’t bring it to the reader as well as it could have done which left me feeling a little cheated with this audio cd. A great shame.



HISTORICAL FANTASY REVIEW: Fate - L R Fredericks

Release Date: 05/07/12

SYNOPSIS:

FATE is the story of Lord Francis Damory's quest for the elixir of immortality. Set against the magnificent background of the eighteenth century where science and magic, death and beauty meet in the gilded salons of the decadent nobility and the brothels and debtors' prisons of London, Francis tells of his many love affairs and his deadly duels, his encounters with courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists, Rosicrucians, visionaries, monsters, charlatans, spies and assassins. His travels take him through France, across the Alpine passes to Venice and the pirate-infested Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, Cyprus and distant, exotic Constantinople on the trail of his mysterious ancestor Tobias who might - just possibly - still be alive.


REVIEW:

To be honest I read quite a bit of fantasy so I’m always on the look out for something a little different as well as something that brings a story over in a way that not only entertains but gives me something a little bit extra. What this title from LR Fredericks presents is a story with a whole host of element that blend together to create a great whole. If you want a love story, you have it, you want adventure, yep that too and if you like something that pushes boundaries bring historical fiction and fantasy together then all in, you’re in for a treat.

Add to this some solid prose with a huge cast and all in it’s a standalone that works very well. Back that up with an author who loves to tell a story that brings their own identifiable style and all in, you’ve got something a little bit special. Great.



Sunday, 26 August 2012

HISTORICAL SPY FICTION: Clarenceux 3: The Final Sacrament - James Forrester

Release Date: 16/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

September 1566. William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms, lives quietly with his family in London, with a document in his possession that could destroy the state. The aged Lady Percy, Countess of Northumberland, has not given up trying to find it. Nor has she forgotten how he betrayed her and the Catholic cause - she has spent the last two years planning her revenge. But then eloquent and adventurous courtier, John Greystoke suddenly seems most concerned for Clarenceux's safety. And why, on behalf of the government, does Francis Walsingham have spies watching Clarenceux's house day and night? When his wife and his daughter go missing, Clarenceux finds himself on the run with his other young daughter, hunted by Lady Percy's agents. He knows he must finally destroy the document, even if it should cost him his life - but how can he, until he has reunited his family?


REVIEW:

If you love historical fiction set in Tudor England that weaves the wonders of a spy thriller in a time where a wrong step either way could see your own side kill you just as much as your foe. Add a dark twist with the key characters wife and one of his daughters missing which leaves the reader in no doubt that it’s a game where one throw of the die is all you have. Live or die, conquer or fail, its all you have along with your wits.

What James also brings to the mix is a story that grips you from start to finish, brings the stench of the time to the readers nostrils and will have you watching your step with each new development. Finally throw into the mix solid pace, wonderful prose by an author who knows what the reader wants and all in its been a wonderful third outing.



SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Total Recall - Philip K Dick

Release Date: 09/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

Contains 25 classic short stories, including “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, which inspired the film TOTAL RECALL.

Philip K Dick was one of the masters of science fiction, and his short stories consistently broke new ground. His work has provided the inspiration for many successful films, including BLADE RUNNER, MINORITY REPORT, PAYCHECK and more.

Here are his final short works, including the short story which was the inspiration for TOTAL RECALL.

Also included is a selection of other astounding tales, often touching on Dick’s most important themes, A man remembers killing his wife – but can he trust his memories? If you were to discover that you were an android, what experiments would you perfom on yourself? A supercomputer decides to attack Northern California – can it be talked out of doing the job it was designed for? Can history rewrite itself?

All of these questions will be asked as you enter the world of Philip K Dick’s remarkable imagination.


REVIEW:

Whilst many people have heard the name or watched a number of the films associated with the sci-fi authors writing, I found it quite a departure as well as an interesting time to sit back and see the stories that set the film world alight. The writing, whilst aged to a certain degree works well, the stories thought provoking whilst also furthering the tale of the characters and for me, proves why Philip K Dick is one of the names to read within the genre.

Add to this a huge collection of stories that can be easily dipped into during journeys or lunch breaks and all in it’s a very satisfying read. Magic.



Saturday, 25 August 2012

GUEST BLOGS: “Who Wants to Live Forever” - Suzanne McLeod

Hello! And thank you to Falcata Times for having me guest blog. My Spellcrackers books are set in London (the city of my birth and heart!) and, like most cities, London has lots of inspiration to offer any writer including well-known places such as Leicester Square, Harley Street and the fabulous Harrods; some wonderful parks and open spaces like Regent’s Park – with its fantastic London Zoo – and nearby Primrose Hill; all of which make appearances in The Shifting Price of Prey (which is out August 30th (UK). *inserts obligatory self-promotion* :-D)

Something else that has inspired me is the amount of statues in London; there are hundreds! One of the earliest scenes that popped into my head when I started writing the Spellcrackers books was of a pixie cavorting on one of the bronze lions in Trafalgar Square.

“The pixie was squatting on the flank of one of the four bronze lions that guarded the base of Nelson’s Column, swishing its barbed tail like an angry cat. Its blue-grey scales shimmered in the sunlight, and its lipless snout was stretched in a taunting grin. No way was it going to make this easy. Then, as if to hammer that thought home, the pixie flapped its vestigial bat-like wings, cart-wheeled along the lion’s broad back, and jumped up to perch on the statue’s huge head.” - Excerpt from Full-Scale Demolition – Spellcrackers short story 0.5

Of course, once I’d thought of that cart-wheeling pixie, I then had to think of what it was up to there. :-) So I interrogated my muse (a.k.a. my little grey cells) and discovered that pixies love statues! Who knew? *g* And while pixies are about the same size as a kitten and, other than their sharp chitinous teeth, pose no more threat, pixies are dangerous when it comes to statues, as they love to scatter them with pixie dust and thereby animate them. A big part of Genny’s job has always been to catch the pixies, ship them back to Cornwall from whence they came, and clear up whatever dust they’ve left behind, and that doesn’t change in The Shifting Price of Prey.

“The eagle on top of the RAF monument on Victoria Embankment had taken up dive-bombing the glass-topped pleasure boats on the Thames, leaving scratches on their plastic roofs; the gold wolf’s head fountain at the Aldgate pump had howled randomly at passers-by, resulting in one man being taken to hospital with a suspected heart-attack; the griffin at Temple Bar had become an intermittent flame-thrower, leaving scorch marks on nearby buildings; the left sphinx at Cleopatra’s Needle had whispered childish riddles, smacking down a heavy clawed-paw regardless of whether the answers were right or wrong; Eros in Piccadilly had targeted passing double-decker busses with badly shot arrows, luckily managing to miss anything alive; and so my day had gone.” – Excerpt from The Shifting Price of Prey – Spellcrackers #4

As you can see the pixies had a blast with those statues. And I had a blast choosing which statues to include as I wanted them to have some connection to the events in the book, even if that connection isn’t too obvious. 

The RAF monument with its gorgeous golden eagle was a given as it’s the entrance to Tavish the kelpie’s home on the River Thames, and Tavish has a crucial part to play (unsurprisingly) throughout the story.

The wolf’s head on the Aldgate pump I included as it’s said to mark the spot where the last wolf was shot in London, probably sometime in the late seventeen hundreds, which was when wolves were hunted to extinction in England. Now that’s a fascinating tidbit . . . *teases*
The griffin at Temple Bar was my next choice, because who doesn’t love dragons? Plus there’s an ancient custom that the reigning monarch stops at Temple Bar before entering the City of London, so that the Mayor can offer her or him the City's pearl-encrusted Sword of State as token of loyalty. And, as beautifully shown on the cover, Genny now has a sword! It’s not the Sword of State but it does have a dragon engraved on the blade and (as you would expect) Genny does get to use her sword!!! *teases again*

The left sphinx at Cleopatra’s needle (the needle isn’t actually from Cleopatra’s time but was made during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III; the sphinxes are Victorian copies) I chose because Genny has a mystery to solve and so a riddle-spouting sphinx seemed apt. And because Thutmose III was an expansionist ruler and created the largest empire Egypt had ever seen. While none of the characters in the book are connected to Thutmose III they are connected to other empires and Genny has to find a mysterious ‘Emperor’.

And Eros! (The statue is actually of Anteros a close ‘relative’ of Eros.) Well, all I’m going to say is that he’s the god of love! *Looks innocent*

Oh, and there’s one other statue that gets a very brief mention – the fifteen-foot bronze of Freddie Mercury rocking it outside the Dominion Theatre. Mostly because it’s Freddie, and hey, who needs another reason. *g*But also because Queen’s ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ is a kind of theme tune for the book!
Bio: Suzanne McLeod is a UK author who writes the Spellcrackers.com series, full of magic, mayhem and murder, and liberally spiced with hot guys, kick-ass chicks and super-cool supes! Books #1 - #3 are published by Gollancz in the UK and Ace in the US. Book #4 – The Shifting Price of Prey – releases on Aug 30 (UK only so far). 

Outside of the UK it can be purchased from The Book Depository 

or 



Picture Attribution:
These pictures from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en]
Freddie Mercury, Dominion Theatre, photo attribution: Fallschirmjäger 

MILITARY FANTASY: Control Point - Myke Cole

Release Date: 16/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

All over the world people are 'coming up latent' - developing new and terrifying abilities. Untrained and panicked, they are summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. US Army Lieutenant Oscar Britton has always done his duty, even when it means working alongside the feared Supernatural Operations Corps, hunting down and taking out those with newfound magical talents. But when he manifests a rare, startling power of his own and finds himself a marked man, all bets are off. On the run from his former colleagues, Britton is driven into an underground shadow world, where he is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known ...and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.


REVIEW:

To be honest this was a book that whilst grabbing my attention was a title that I read a few pages from and put down for a little while in order to catch up with some other titles that I fancied a little more. Sadly for me, when I finally did pick this book up and managed to get over the slow build up at the beginning, what I was given was a story that moved along at quite a pace that not only gave me full octane action but delivered a military fantasy that really kept me reading late into the night.

The author, whilst new is a man who has written what he knows and brings a military authority (he was a military contractor) that really gave it a gritty feel that really brought it to life. Add to this a good turn of prose, a cracking lead character and a wonderful nod to superheroes who’ve gone before and all in this book was a real debut joy. Great stuff.



URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Spellcrackers.com 4: The Shifting Price of Prey - Suzanne McLeod

Release Date: 30/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

Genny's life has never been busier: the summer solstice is approaching, magic is going haywire, Spellcrackers.com is under inexperienced new management, and London is hosting this year's Carnival Fantastique. Then a unicorn is found horribly mutilated in Regent's Park, garden fairies start dying out of season, and an eminent wildlife activist and her young son are snatched from a Conservation Conference. Searching for answers takes Genny and her friends, Tavish the kelpie and the super-sexy vampire Malik al-Khan, deep into magical London to the decadent and dangerous Forum Mirabilis, the secret, bloody heart of the Carnival Fantastique. And it's not long before Genny and her friends are under attack from a millennium-old adversary as they fight to save both the victims and themselves ...


REVIEW:

Suzanne has been one of UK Supernatural Urban Fantasy Authors to go to when I want something that is not only familiar but also something that is home grown. Here in the latest outing, Genny has a whole host of trouble and to add to her woes, Spellcrackers.com is facing a management crisis due to those sneaky herd fae, the Satyrs.

As with Suzanne’s other titles, it has fast paced action, great prose and of course characters that you love to spend time around, however this time out, there are a few strong sexual sequences that add a deeper flavour to Genny’s emotional context. It works well, it’s full of (mis)adventure and for me, its something that I really can’t get enough of as there’s always someone looking to make a buck or double deal to get what they want.

Throw into the mix a whole new host of villains backed up with foes of old and all in its been a triumph to sit back and devour. Great stuff.


Friday, 24 August 2012

HISTORICAL FICTION: Stigmata - Colin Falconer

Release Date: 09/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

1205AD: Philip of Vercy sails away from the roasting wasteland where he has passed the last year. As a Knight of the Realm, he has fought the infidel in the Holy Land. Now, after twelve months of savage, bloody warfare in the scorching sun, he is finally coming home to his castle, to peace, and to his beloved wife. But France offers neither comfort or peace. His wife has died in childbirth, his young son is dying of a wasting disease, and, in the south, his Cathar countrymen are being brutally persecuted. When Philip hears rumours of a healer in the Languedoc, a young woman blessed by God and marked with Christ's Stigmata, he rides out on a desperate quest to save his son. His journey takes him into a vision of hell that outstrips even what he saw in Outremer. Disgusted by the senseless slaughter, Philip gradually becomes embroiled in the Cathar cause. And then he finds his miracle: Fabrisse Berenger, the beautiful, loving daughter of Cathar parents. She is bewildered by her strange wounds, but Philip is fascinated by them...and more fascinated by the serene goodness of Fabricia herself. Together, the pair must flee persecution under cover of darkness - but they cannot hold off the Pope's soldiers forever. Their destiny will be decided in the snows of the Black Mountains where Fabricia and Philip must make choices not just to save their lives, but their souls.


REVIEW:

Colin Falconer is one of those historical fiction authors that takes a subject and not only researches it thoroughly but also has the talent to take you to the heart of the matter whilst making you feel that you’re seeing history being made at the time of the events. As with his other work the story has a cracking pace, the lead character Philip of Vercy believable and when blended with religious heresy alongside crusade, makes for an edge of your seat read.

Add to this top notch prose a wonderfully almost cinematic feel to the story and of course a lead character that you can really get behind and all in it’s a wonderful read. Great stuff.




HISTORICAL URBAN FANTASY: Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau - Guy Adams

Release Date: 24/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

Following the trail of several corpses seemingly killed by wild animals, Holmes and Watson stumble upon the experiments of Doctor Moreau. Determined to prove Darwin's evolutionary theories, through vivisection and crude genetic engineering Moreau is creating animal hybrids. In his laboratory, Moreau is building an army of 'beast men' in order to gain control of the government...


REVIEW:

I love Sherlock Holmes and when an author throws him in at the deep end with a touch of the paranormal, you know its going to be something spectacular, after all, logic whilst still applicable, its thrown into the deep end and forced to accommodate the nigh impossible.

What Guy brings to the fore in this offering is the challenge facing our intrepid hero and his sidekick Watson, as they face off against a scientific foe like no other. Its witty, it’s clever and of course brings the full flavour of the time period which when added to solid action, great pace and no nonsense combat all in makes for a very satisfactory read.



Thursday, 23 August 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Inside Assassins Creed 3: Part One - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Thanks to our friends in the guild at Ubisoft, we've been informed via the network about the Vblog for the inside scoop on what it takes to bring AC3 to life.

Here, in the first of four parts we get to delve into the reimaginings of the franchise as well as getting a fuller flavour for what is to come on the 31st October.  Hopefully this will whet your appetites as much as it has ours with Lady Eleanor currently battling her way through the previous instalments to get herself in tip top shape for the new title to land.

So without further ado here's the VBlog:



All the best,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor

THRILLER REVIEW: Vin Cooper 5: Warlord - David Rollins

Release Date: 09/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

VIN COOPER IS HUNTING FOR A KIDNAP VICTIM. THE CIA IS HUNTING FOR A MISSING NUCLEAR BOMB. Special Agent Vin Cooper has just returned from an off-books mission in the Congo. Now he's caught up in something even more dangerous. An ex-airforce colleague has been kidnapped. His severed hand, buried in a KFC bucket with a demand for five million dollars, has found its way to Cooper's door - and he has just 21 days to pay. Tracking the missing man's movements from a topless revue in Vegas, to the shark-infested Pacific, the favelas of Brazil and finally to the pirate-patrolled waters off Somalia, Cooper discovers his ex-colleague is now an undercover agent working with a vicious Colombian arms dealer. Meanwhile, the CIA are searching for a stolen thermonuclear device. Suddenly, Cooper's quest to find his friend becomes a journey to the heart of a chilling conspiracy. A journey that Cooper might not survive...


REVIEW:

If you love high octane thrillers, then the odds are you’ve probably already read one of David Rollin’s previous Vin Cooper titles. Here, in the fifth outing for our hero is a story of Nazi’s. nuclear threat and of course a seemingly unrelated case that brings our lead character to the case. It’s definitely quirky and one that I really enjoyed with its no holds barred attitude and no nonsense attitude keeping to the story.

Finally throw into the mix huge action sequences and you know that its pretty much going to hit the spot. My only concern is that for me I felt that the sex within was not required as I felt that it detracted from the story. All in a good bit of fun and definitely an author I’ll spend more time with again.



SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories - John Jackson Miller

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

BThis collection of nine "Lost Tribe of the Sith" stories is suitable for fans of the "New York Times" bestselling "Fate of the Jedi" series, as it features the origin story of the tribe of Sith that play such a crucial role in those novels. The bestselling "Fate of the Jedi" novels introduce the "Star Wars" universe to a long-forgotten tribe of Sith. This collection of stories tells the origin of that tribe. Written by John Jackson Miller, this paperback will include all eight of the "Lost Tribe of the Sith" stories, as well as "Pandemonium", the never-before-seen final chapter that will only be available in this collection.


REVIEW:

This is not only an interesting book but one that, for me, works pretty as a lost sith ship seeks to survive on a primitive planet. It’s different and the usually antagonistic sith have to learn to work together whilst also adding their own unique twists to the situation.

It’s definitely something that is different to a lot of other books in the universe and for its uniqueness it has to be one of my favourites as I found that the writing style worked very well for the format, add to this some great twists, an overall arc linking the tales within and of course some kick ass action to keep fans more than happy and all in this book was a real joy. Great stuff.



Wednesday, 22 August 2012

APOCALYPTIC FICTION: The Dog Stars - Peter Heller

Release Date: 07/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

THE ROAD - but with hope. Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible. So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won't have enough fuel to get back. What follows is scarier and more life-affirming than he could have imagined. And his story, THE DOG STARS, is a book unlike any you have ever read.


REVIEW:

To be honest this is a book that ended up on my TBR pile for quite a while as having caught The Road (the film not the book) and not having enjoyed it, I really needed to keep clear of something that I felt wouldn’t be up my street. Sadly for me, this has proven to be a huge error on my part as having finally sat down to make my way through this title I was not only surprised at how good it was but at how the lead character came to life in his brief passages for me as a reader.

Add to this not only a man facing a bleak future of emotional loneliness but it is a story of hope as well as love for the future. Its definitely something far away from the norm but the way that the author brings the prose alongside carrying the plotline really makes this book come alive. Finally add to this a solid supporting cast that you can believe in, a solid arc alongside wonderfully written prose and all in this has been a real gem.



FANTASY HORROR REVIEW: The Heretic Land - Tim Lebbon

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

AN ISLAND PRISON. AN OCEAN FULL OF MONSTERS. NO CHANCE OF ESCAPE.

Arrested by the Ald, scholar Bon Ugane and merwoman Leki Borle awake on a prison ship bound for the island of Skythe - a barren land warped and ruined by ancient conflict. Survival is tough and the colony's original inhabitants are neither friendly nor entirely still human.

But something else waits on the island, a living weapon whose very existence is a heresy. Destroyed many years ago, it silently begins to clutch at life once more.


REVIEW:

I love a good fantasy tale so when you get one that blends elements that should make a cracking story, I’m a reader that tends to get annoyed if I feel unfilled. Whilst part of this book had feelings that were reminiscent of Steven Eriksons Chained God, others brought a feeling of Chateau D’If from the Count of Monte Cristo. Add to this some monsters and an enclosed population and all in it should have been something spectacular.

Sadly for me I felt it that the principle character wasn’t as defined as he could have been, he didn’t move me into really caring for his fate and when the other elements started to come together it left me thinking that it was a mishmash of things I’ve seen before. Don’t get me wrong, the concept was solid and of course the prose was decent but overall due to these failings, it isn’t a title that for me stood out against the masses out there.



Tuesday, 21 August 2012

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Darksiders 2 - THQ


Release Date: 21/08//12

SYNOPSIS:
Awakened by the End of Days, Death, the most feared of the legendary Four Horsemen embarks on a quest to undo Armageddon. Along the way, the Horseman discovers that there are far worse things than an earthly Apocalypse, and that an ancient grudge may threaten all of Creation. Become the terrifying force which everything fears but nothing can escape. Death Lives in Darksiders II.

Darksiders II follows the exploits of Death, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, in an action-packed tale that runs parallel to the events in the original Darksiders game. This epic journey propels Death across an expansive gameworld as he tries to redeem his brother, War, the horseman blamed for prematurely starting the Apocalypse in Darksiders.

Like the original Darksiders game before it, the second game in the series is primarily a hack 'n slash adventure. The game takes place across netherworld environments, including "The White city," an outpost where angels live, and "The Eternal Throne," a floating fortress where the Lords of the Dead stand guard over souls that need to be cleansed. Although Death is the most feared of the Four Horsemen, his physical abilities are very different than his brother, War. Death is far more nimble, and relies on a combination of melee and ranged attacks. In combat Death's primary weapon is his huge iconic scythe, with a wide range of other weapons and usable items that must be gathered as the game progresses. Weapons can be dual-wielded, upgradable armour can be acquired for protection and Death has access to a terrifying and powerful pale mount.
Key Game Features

Become the most feared of the legendary Four Horsemen, able to destroy entire worlds and battle forces beyond Heaven and Hell
Explore startling gameworld environments reminiscent of heaven and hell
Customise your experience with varied armour sets, weapons, and skill trees allowing players to create their own Death
Explore a vast open world, complete dozens of side quests and customise your Death with a full leveling system, skill trees and endless equipment combinations
Death is a nimble and agile character capable of incredible acrobatic feats allowing the player to explore the world like never before
Argul’s Tomb DLC pack offering extra gameplay content, including a whole new dungeon to explore, further extending the Darksiders II experience



REVIEW:

OK, I played and loved the first game but at times, it felt that it was overly complex and tricky and left me wondering if I’d ever find a way out from some of the problems to which I was presented, yet even that couldn’t stop me from donning the guise of Death and seeking a way to help War from his predicament.

What you get to do in this game is a start off in what I’d like to call a trainer world (The Forgelands) which will allow you to get to grips with the games hero as well as allowing you to update your skills from the training given. Its huge, has plenty of dungeons and of course plenty of things for you to scythe your way through like a hot knife through butter. The skills are adaptive and whilst some of the places will have you scratching your head you need to sit back take a look around and remember the skill sets that you’ve discovered as well as a few tricks to figure out the next path.

The game controllers are reactive, give you a good degree of control and also allow you as the player to have a lot of fun whilst not only building up the points for trading but also for giving you the chance to find some hidden gems to gain better bonus’ later. There’s an update all ready and waiting for you to either spend your points on or to download directly from online, there’s also a few very tough enemies that will take you some time to figure out their weaknesses to defeat.

Add to this a huge amount of gameplay for your buck, newly developed worlds that will allow you to discover and mangle your way through that feels entirely in keeping with the original and all in this is a game with a ton of fun to be had. Finally throw into the mix good graphics, some amazing cutaway scenes and a huge set of vocal talent to help make this game something special and all in you’ve got a real treat on your hands.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Adeptus Mechanicus 1: Priests of Mars - Graham McNeill

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

Legend tells of a foolhardy expedition, led by the radical Magos Telok, which ventured out into the unknown space beyond the Halo Worlds in search of the 'Breath of the Gods' - an arcane device with the power to unmake and reshape the very stars themselves. Thousands of years later, the ambitious Lexell Kotov musters his Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet and sets out to follow in mad old Telok's footsteps. With the might of the Imperial Guard and the Space Marines to augment his own forces, he searches for the hidden clues which will lead him to greatest power that the galaxy has ever known. But who knows what ancient perils may yet lie outside the Imperium and the dominion of mankind?


REVIEW:

All hail the machine god cult that Graham brings to life in this title. As with the other books written by him, the combat is hard and fast, the body count high and when you add to the mix ship combat alongside hand to hand, it inevitably ends up as a dark chaotic combination that will have readers salivating.

That said, whilst I’m a huge fan of Graham’s writing, I did find this title a little hard to get into at the beginning, as for me it felt a little disjointed yet due to persevering with the book a few pages longer, I found myself getting quite into it with the each of the individuals grasping my attention as their lives hung in peril. Add to this the usual solid prose, cracking pace and of course a few twists and all in it was a solid title.



FANTASY REVIEW: Traitor Spy Trilogy 3: The Traitor Queen - Trudi Canavan

Release Date: 02/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

Events are building to a climax in Sachaka as Lorkin returns from his exile with the Traitor rebels. The Traitor Queen has given Lorkin the huge task of brokering an alliance between his people and the Traitors. Lorkin has also had to become a feared black magician in order to harness the power of an entirely new kind of gemstone magic. This knowledge could transform the Guild of Magicians - or make Lorkin an outcast forever. The Traitor Queen is the triumphant conclusion to the Traitor Spy Trilogy, which began with The Ambassador's Mission and continued with The Rogue.



REVIEW:

If you’ve read the other two books in the Traitor Spy trilogy, then the odds are you’ve been hotly waiting this title to see how Trudi ties it up. As usual, the plot is fast paced, the characters solid and with a few twists thrown in, it’s a book that was hard to put down as we waited to see how fate would play out its final hand to each of the cast members involved.

Add to this great prose, an author who continues to improve with each offering and for me this is Trudi’s best series to date. Great stuff.



Monday, 20 August 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Assassins Creed 3: New Naval Battle Trailer - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Ubisoft have let us have know about the new Assassin's Creed III trailer that brings the beauty of naval warfare to the player.

But don't just take our word for it, view this little beauty yourself.  As you can see from the graphics, its not only beautiful but brings weather and sea conditions into the strategy to aid you capture your goals.

For us, Assassin's Creed 3 is looking like its going to be the one to set standards for quite some time to come.  So prepare for Civil War, grab your axe and prepare to settle a few Templar scores... All the best, Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Risen 2 - Deep Silver



Release Date: 03/08/12

SYNOPSIS:

Many horrible years have passed since the Gods abandoned the world and the titans rose from the confines of their prisons. They devastated everything in their path with unstoppable force.

However, there is a place on the southern tip of the Old Empire which still seems safe from the clutches of the Titans – the “Crystal Fortress” in Caldera. It is the headquarters of the Inquisition and a place of refuge for the people. It is repeatedly attacked by sea monsters, and supply ships are sunk en route. Nobody knows how long the walls will hold; food and weapons are gradually running out.

The nameless hero, devastated by the developments on Faranga, now drowns his sorrows in rum in the harbour town Caldera. As the situation grows more and more dire due to the shortage of food, he sets out on a mission to put an end to the sea monsters once and for all.

Experience a totally unique, tropical fantasy setting in an open world complete with firearms, dirty tricks and a brand new magic style
Vastly improved graphics, brand new weather, water and light/shadow effects.
Shape your own game experience and even the game world itself depending on your actions and choices. Every decision made has a consequence.
Several unique islands, all lovingly designed by hand with no copy and paste set pieces.



REVIEW:

OK, I haven’t played the first Risen game so I didn’t know quite what to expect but there are a few things that need to be addressed straight away, firstly you will die a lot. It’s not a case of how much skill you have with the console, it’s not a matter of having the best weapons that money can buy, it’s just that period, death will be your constant companion so you will have to use what many would call the “paranoid” save. (It’s not paranoid when you see how often you die.)

Add to this a game where the graphics feel blocky and clunky against a number of other games out there and for many this will be a very short adventure as they could well be turned off. That said, I did persevere with the game and as I levelled up and my skills got better I didn’t die as much, I learned what style of gameplay suited me and for an RPG it’s an OK offering. The game is big and you will spend quite a bit of time sailing between islands in order to try to pick up additional pieces of booty as you develop the ability to capture them.

However if you’re expecting the full pirate adventure you’re not going to get that, money was hard to come by (you couldn’t capture ships for the cargo to sell) with the only real income coming from whatever you could find and the odd bit of robbing of people’s homes or pickpocketing. With the worst bit being after killing a certain pirate captain you couldn’t even take his ship or grab anything from it to sell. (And let’s face it cannons are a licence to mint gold.)

Other than that my only real complaint was to do with the level of swearing within the game, I felt a lot of it was unnecessary (with the f-bomb being dropped every few lines) and as such detracted from the game. Yes on the whole it has flaws but the deeper you get, the more you’ll get form this adventure and as such I feel that perhaps many will give up a little too early and lose out on a solid bit of fun.

If there is to be a Risen 3 I would like to make a few suggestions to be implemented, firstly that they have some sea battles (such as the ones to come in the forthcoming Assassin’s Creed 3), that you can tailor the sub skills to suit you (IE if you put it in Cunning you the get some sub points that you can choose how to spend in the following skills, pickpocketing, lock picking or Silver Tongue. This will allow the player to tailor the game more for their own personal preferences and would allow the player to add skill sets quite quickly that they feel would enhance their own enjoyment. Finally I’d like to recommend a different clothing style allowing the player to have multiple layers such as shirt and waistcoat, jacket, trousers, boots that could be done in a similar style to Daggerfall.

All in this is perhaps a game you may want to wait to reduce in price before purchasing but on the whole I did have fun and I did enjoy levelling up to see what else I got for my skill points. So yes, I would think it was worth picking up but if you get frustrated quickly and hate having to repeat due to forgetting to save then this won’t be the title for you.