Friday, 31 May 2013

DEJA REVIEW: May 2013

Hail Mighty Readers,
Here are this months book reincarnations (covers may not match the new incarnation), please click on the cover to go to that titles review:






 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

NEWS: Titan Hollywood Girl's to promote Stephen King' s Joyland - Titan

Hail Mighty Readers,
Our friends at Titan have let us know about the publicity for the forthcoming Stephen King novel Joyland.  Here's what they had to say:

"Encouraging UK book lovers to act on King’s call to arms and buy paperback copies from traditional retailers, a team of ‘Hollywood Girls’ from the world of JOYLAND will be touring shops and literary events during the week of the book’s publication to give away free JOYLAND-branded bags of popcorn. Bookstore shoppers will also be able to win free books and exclusive JOYLAND prizes by tweeting pictures of the Hollywood Girls.

Sales Director of Titan Books, Tim Whale, elaborates: “We believe that the excitement galvanised by the Hollywood Girls with their popcorn machine will ensure that fans will respond to King’s rallying cry and buy their copies of JOYLAND from their local bookseller”.

Dressed in the costume designed by Glen Orbik for the cover of the book, four ‘Hollywood Girls’ and their vintage popcorn machine will start their tour at Crimefest in Bristol on June 1st and end at Stoke Newington Literary Festival on June 9th. They will travel via Foyles Charing Cross Road [June 4th] and Forbidden Planet Shaftesbury Avenue [June 7th].  There will also be 50 bags handed out by booksellers on June 4th at Foyles Royal Festival Hall, Foyles St Pancras, Foyles Westfelds Statford City and Foyles Westfield White City."

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Jane True 6: Tempest Reborn - Nicole Peeler

Release Date: 28/05/13
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

NOW SHE REALLY MEANS BUSINESS ...Times may be tough, but supernatural halfling Jane True is not about to give up. She's ready to tear down heaven and earth to save her lover Anyan, despite those who believe he's lost. Luckily for Jane, those who've given up on Anyan do not include those closest to her. Defying The Powers That Be, Jane and company form their own crack squad of misfits - in whose hands the fate of the world may well rest. With a little help from her friends and the universe, Jane embarks on her greatest adventure yet, confident that with great sacrifice comes great reward. The question is, who will be that sacrifice? THE CONCLUSION TO NICOLE PEELER'S SEXY, CAPTIVATING AND IRRESISTIBLY FUN JANE TRUE SERIES


REVIEW:

The final story in this cracking Urban Fantasy series (at least for now) and one that won’t disappoint readers who’ve come to not only love Nicole’s quirky principle character, Jane but also love the myriad of supporting cast members who’ve made it so memorable (my own personal favourite being Grissy) who’ve helped the series go from strength to strength and prepared Jane for the epic battle that she’s about to undertake in this outing.

As usual with Nicole, the writing is crisp, the prose slick and when added to characters that the reader just loves to hang around makes this a series that’s not only a guilty pleasure but one that you’ve counted down the release dates for since its release. Back that up with cracking storytelling, solid arc and a villain that’s been hidden in shadows until she was ready and all round it’s a cracking end to this magical series. Great stuff.



Tuesday, 28 May 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Shambling Guide to New York City - Mur Lafferty

Release Date: 28/05/13
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

COULD YOU FIND A HOTEL FOR A HARPY? OR A BAR FOR A BIGFOOT? Following the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel writer in New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position, though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can't take off her resume - human. Not to be put off by anything - especially not her blood-drinking boss or death goddess co-worker - Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her assignments turn deadly when the careful balance between humans and monsters starts to crumble with Zoe right in the middle.


REVIEW:

Whilst this might sound like a weird and unusual tour book to New York, it’s actually a humorous, wonderfully paced title that brings the best of Urban Fantasy to readers with cracking prose and of course a lead character that you’ll love to spend time around especially when zombie’s break out, constructs un-nerve and all whilst Zoe’s trying to do her day job.

Add to this a whole host of supporting cast members that will more than pique your interest alongside win your heart and all round this was a book that I had a lot of fun with. I can’t wait to see what Mur does with New Orleans.



Friday, 24 May 2013

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Metro: Last Light - Deep Silver



Release Date: 17/05/13
Publisher:  Deep Silver

SYNOPSIS:

It is the year 2034.

Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro, the remnants of mankind are besieged by deadly threats from outside – and within.

Mutants stalk the catacombs beneath the desolate surface, and hunt amidst the poisoned skies above.

But rather than stand united, the station-cities of the Metro are locked in a struggle for the ultimate power, a doomsday device from the military vaults of D6. A civil war is stirring that could wipe humanity from the face of the earth forever.

As Artyom, burdened by guilt but driven by hope, you hold the key to our survival – the last light in our darkest hour…

Key Features:

A gripping, story-driven first person shooter, Metro: Last Light is the hugely anticipated sequel to 2010’s critically acclaimed classic Metro 2033.
Experience thrilling combat with an exotic arsenal of hand-made weaponry against deadly foes – both human and mutant – and use stealth to launch attacks under the cover of darkness.
Explore the post-apocalyptic world of the Moscow Metro, one of the most immersive, atmospheric game worlds ever created.
Fight for every bullet and every last breath in a claustrophobic blend of survival horror and FPS gameplay.
Next generation technology boasting stunning lighting and physics sets a new graphical benchmark on both console and PC.



REVIEW:

I love a dark apocalyptic future and after Gareth had filled me in about the novel by Dmitry I couldn’t wait to get my hands this game. After all when you have dark, dingy, claustrophic tunnels, and open air environments that leave you feeling vulnerable, then it’s a game that brings the atmosphere to the max for the gamer.

Add to this a rarity of ammo that will leave you carefully choosing the weaponry that suits your gameplay style to maximise its usage alongside making sure you have enough air filters to survive the toxic areas and all round it’s a game that will haunt you long after you switch off the console. (To make the most of this I played it late at night in the dark whilst wrapped in my duvet.)

The graphics are solid, the sound effects have the player keenly listening to the background for early warning signs of impending attack and when added to vocal talent that really takes you deep into the game all round made this a cracking experience for me as a player.

Throw into this a twisted double dealing plot, the chance for the player to put something right that the protagonist did wrong in the past alongside never truly knowing who you’re allies are all round made this a great experience for me as a gamer. I’ll definitely play through again soon just as soon as my dreams return to normal. Great stuff.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Bleeding Land 2: Brothers' Fury - Giles Kristian

Release Date: 23/05/13
Publisher:  Bantam

SYNOPSIS:

Rebel Cast out from his home, rejected by his family, Tom Rivers returns to his regiment. But his commander believes the young hothead's recklessness and contempt for authority has no place in his troop. But to a spymaster like Captain Crafte, Tom's dark and fearless nature is in itself a weapon to be turned upon the hated Cavaliers - who else would dare to infiltrate Oxford, now the Royalist capital, to destroy the King's printing press and strike a blow at the very heart of the enemy?

Renegade Raw with grief at the death of his father, Edmund Rivers rejects the peace talks between Parliament and the King. He chooses instead to lead a hardened band of marauders across the moors, appearing out of the frozen world to fall on unsuspecting rebel columns like wolves. But Prince Rupert - recognising in Mun a fellow child of war - has other plans for him, from stealing a colossal gun, to tunneling beneath the walls of Lichfield. The only peace the enemy will get from Mun Rivers is that of the grave.

Huntress Her heart broken following the deaths of her beloved Emmanuel and her father, Bess Rivers takes the hardest decision of her life: to leave her new-born son and depart Sheer House in search of the one person who might help her re-unite what is left of her broken family. Risking her own life on the road, Bess will do whatever it takes to find her brother Tom and secure his Royal pardon, but can she douse the flames of her brothers' fury and see them reconciled?



REVIEW:

I love a journey into the past and getting to live in history alongside heroes that you wish had existed in times of peril that shaped the nation and perhaps, as far as Britain is concerned, one of the most startling times was during the English Civil War when brother fought brother, father fought son and whole families were torn asunder as the Roundheads fought the Cavaliers.

To this arena, Giles began a saga that places his lead characters family in just such a situation as they fight for their leaders under separate banners with familial bonds being pulled and torn with various struggles. It’s a story of heartrending proportions, a story that taps into the readers emotions and with Giles’ usual style of graphically written combat backed up with dialogue that works wonderfully all round makes this a book to sit down to and lose oneself.

Add to this a very strong story arc, great prose and all round I had a lot of fun with this title. I can’t wait to see what the next part has in stall for all concerned.




Wednesday, 22 May 2013

ARTS AND CRAFTS REVIEW: Sweet Knits - Catherine Graham-Evans

Release Date: 23/05/13
Publisher:  A and C Black Publishers

SYNOPSIS:

Some children like to slay dragons, others prefer to sip tea with princesses, but any child will find something to wear, play with and love within the creative knitting patterns featured in Sweet Knits: Knitted Treats and Clothes for Kids. From flower-shaped tea cups to cute summer dresses, cosy jumpers to fun room decorations, these projects encourage customisation for truly unique pieces full of personality. Step-by-step instructions and charming colour images accompany you through each and every pattern. The projects are easily adapted to suit knitters of all levels, as easy alternative directions are given alongside any tricky or complex design elements, and tips are provided throughout on how to simplify patterns. Garments come in sizes for children from birth to ten years, and there are even a couple of items for grown-ups, too! With suggestions on how to adapt and personalise each design to make unique pieces, the projects in Sweet Knits provide cosy hand-made treasures that grow with your child and stir young imaginations.


REVIEW:

I love a book that has multiple projects and fun things that can be made to brighten up a bedroom or even just to add a touch of colour to other area’s of the house during bleak winter days, as such this title by Catherine is something that will more than please knitters the world over with designs that can be made for kids lots of fun, whether its knitted biscuits or brightly coloured strawberry’s or even a knitted Daisy Chain, there’s something for everyone within.

It’s easy to follow, has great concepts and of course wonderful coloured pictures so you can see what you’re doing, back that up with relatively easy instructions to follow alongside a list of wools required and all round it’s a whole set of projects for the home knitter to make. Great stuff.




Tuesday, 21 May 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Ubisoft Announce First Xbox One Titles - Ubisoft



Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Ubisoft, hot on the heals of the forthcoming Xbox One Console, have let us know about thier forthcoming releases for the new system.

Here's what they have to say:
"Today, following the announcement of Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, Ubisoft revealed that two of its most highly-anticipated titles – Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and Watch Dogs – will be available on the platform later this year. Ubisoft also announced that these titles will be among at least six next-gen games released for Xbox One in the system’s first year.

“The next generation of consoles will reinvigorate our industry and make it possible for us to deliver incredible new entertainment to gamers,” said Yves Guillemot, co-founder and chief executive officer, Ubisoft. “Our teams are using the innovations in connectivity, immersion and social gaming included in Xbox One to create original and memorable next-gen gaming experiences.”

In addition to Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and Watch Dogs, Ubisoft will deliver a mix of new episodes of existing franchises, new IPs and digital titles for Xbox One within the system’s first 12 months on the market. More information about the lineup of games planned for the new system will be available during Ubisoft’s press conference at E3. 



About Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag:
Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag tells the story of Edward Kenway, a young British man with a thirst for danger and adventure, who falls from privateering for the Royal Navy into piracy as the war between the major Empires comes to an end. Set at the dawn of the 18th Century, the game features some of the most infamous pirates in history, such as Blackbeard and Charles Vane, and takes players on a journey throughout the West Indies during a turbulent and violent period of time later to become known as the Golden Age of Pirates. Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag features a vast open world with more than 50 navigable locations. Combat combines the weaponry of the Assassin’s Order with armaments of the era, and rewards both daring and stealth. And the series’ acclaimed multiplayer experience is more varied and ruthless than ever in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag.


About Watch Dogs
In Watch Dogs, players will be immersed in a living, breathing and fully connected recreation of Chicago. Players will assume the role of Aiden Pearce, a new type of vigilante who, with the help of his smartphone, will use his ability to hack into Chicago’s central operating system (ctOS) and control almost every element of the city. Aiden will be able to tap into the city’s omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control systems such as traffic lights or public transportation to stop a chase, and more. The city of Chicago is now the ultimate weapon. Fans can stay connected to Watch Dogs by visiting the official website, Facebook page and Twitter account."

URBAN STEAMPUNK REVIEW: Bannon and Clare 2: The Red Plague Affair - Lilith Saintcrow

Release Date: 21/05/13
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart - or conscience ...After defeating a clockwork army bent upon regicide, the sorceress Emma Bannon and genius detective Archibald Clare have come to respect each other's skills, despite the fact that magic and logic are usually opposing forces. So when the Queen asks Emma to track down a missing doctor who holds the key to a deadly new weapon, Archibald's deductive talent may be just what she needs to find the man, before his destructive discovery sets the entire capital city ablaze ...The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.


REVIEW:

The latest book by Lili and one that continues to build upon the success of the first of her Bannon and Clare series bringing the delights of Victoriana Steampunk head on with Urban Fantasy as magicks vie against the brains of Victrix’ investigators. Its well thought out, the characters are a sheer delight to be around and when backed with delightful dialogue, some fiendish twists alongside bringing some added light with characters of the time period all round makes this a book that is a sheer delight.

Throw into the mix an author who loves to spin a cracking yarn that when populated with emotional conflict throughout all round gives the reader something very special to enjoy. Great stuff.




Monday, 20 May 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Splinter Cell Blacklist Co-Op Missions - Ubisoft

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Ubisoft have let us have a look at the latest Splinter Cell: Blacklist Co-Op Trailer.  It not only looks spectacular but also looks like the game that you'll have fun working your way through as a double team.

(In my case I get to do the Stealth and Lady Eleanor will be blasting the living hell out of everything (including me probably. LOL.)

Anyway here's that sneaky peak for you:


So prepare for August, its going to be one hell of a mission statement.


All the best,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Batman Arkham Origins Trailer Announcement - Warner Brothers Interactive


Hail Mighty Readers,
Our friends at Warner Brothers Interactive and DC have let us know about the five minute teaser Trailer for the latest Game in the Batman Arkham series currently set for release on the 25th October 2013.

Not only do you get to play with good ol Bats, but if you order early you get access to play Deathstroke.  

The trailer looks pretty cool to us and lets face it with so many great games released towards the end of this year, you know its going to have to be something pretty hot to not only give the fans value for money but keep them glued with the next gen consoles set to be released possibly in November.

Anyway, here's the trailer for your perusal:


For more information visit the official website.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

STEAMPUNK REVIEW: The Iron Sea's 2: Riveted - Meljean Brook

Release Date: 13/09/12
Publisher:  Penguin UK

SYNOPSIS:

Meljean Brook, "The New York Times" bestselling author of "The Iron Duke" and "Heart of Steel" returns to the Iron Seas with a riveting new adventure of steampunk and passionate romance...A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland's inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island is enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land, and of seductive witches who steal men's hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic - and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom. Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Kalla took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airship Phateon, flying from port to port in search of her sister, and longing to return home ...but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard. Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika's secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them - and generating lots of steam..."Riveted" by Meljean Brook is steampunk romance at its very best ...and steamiest. Praise for Meljean Brook: "A stunning blend of steampunk setting and poignant romance - smart, sexy, breathtaking, and downright addicting". (Ilona Andrews). "Meljean Brook has brilliantly defined the new genre of steampunk romance". (Jayne Ann Krentz). Meljean Brook lives in Oregon with her family. She is the author of the "Iron Seas "steampunk series, which include "The Iron Duke" and "Heart of Steel", and are also published by Penguin. For more information and "Iron Seas" extras, please visit the website.


REVIEW:

I love a Steampunk novel that brings not only Victoriana to life as it should have been but also brings the tempestuous aspect of a romantic and wild love affair to the fore. This title from Meljean not only does this with a smart and sassy heroine but gives the reader solid pace, great twists and cracking world building thrown in.

Add to this an author who understands not only her target audience but loves to entertain and you know all round that its going to be a book that will be hard to put down. Finally throw into the mix a huge arc that doesn’t answer all the questions (which leaves things open for future outings) and all round I was more than happy I made time for it. Great stuff.



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag Trailer: Under the Black Flag - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
We've been doing some research and found an advert for the forthcoming Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, that we hadn't seen before.  As such we felt that it was our duty to bring it to you so here you are:



Like us we hope you'll be excited at these in game graphics as well as preparing to sail the high sea's and make your fortune.

All the best,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor 


URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Price of Fame - RC Daniells

Release Date: 15/08/12
Publisher:  Clan Destine Press

SYNOPSIS:

When film and TV graduate, Antonia Carlyle, sets out to make a documentary about doomed eighties band, “The Tough Romantics”, she uncovers far more than she ever imagined. The band’s story is one of tragedy and betrayal and the circumstances surrounding the death of singer, song-writer, Genevieve James, are not as they had seemed. Had an innocent man been charged with her murder? Could his suicide have been avoided?

Antonia’s growing psychic link with the dead girl and the conviction that justice must be done, leads to an obsession to find the truth, despite the desperation of the other band members, each with their own agendas, to keep Antonia from raking up the past.
Antonia must face her own demons, and those of the band, to uncover the past and confront the present. Will it be enough to lay Genevieve’s ghost to rest at last


REVIEW:

I love a novel that tries different things and not only succeeds but does it in such a way that its not only refreshing but also something that you weren’t expecting. This title by established fantasy author Rowena Cory Daniells’ is a title that brings some cracking urban fantasy to the fore wrapped up in a crime mystery alongside telling the tale from several points of view. It’s definitely intriguing and something that will keep you glued from start to finish.

Add to this sharp prose, cracking principle characters that are more about discovering the truth rather than sitting back and letting the past lie and all round it’s a title that more than fitted the brief from me as a reader. I really do hope that it’s picked up by other publishers around the world as it’s something that I think would do well for them.



Tuesday, 14 May 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Wolfenstein: New Order Announcement - Bethesda

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Bethesda have managed to ship some top secret information out to us from the Resistance.

"Wolfenstein®: The New OrderTM reignites the series that created the first-person shooter genre. The year is 1960 and the Nazi’s have won World War II. War hero B.J. Blazkowicz must launch an impossible counter-offensive against the monstrous Nazi regime that has conquered the globe.


Intense, cinematic and rendered in stunning detail with id® Software’s id Tech® 5 engine, Wolfenstein sends players across Europe on a mission to bring down the Nazi war machine. Infiltrate their most heavily guarded facilities, battle high-tech Nazi legions, and take control of super-weapons that have conquered the earth – and beyond. Wolfenstein is under development at MachineGames, a studio comprised of a seasoned group of developers recognized for their work creating award-winning games.

Story:                 

Europe, 1960. The Nazis turned the tide of the war using a new kind of mysterious, advanced technology. Using unrelenting force and intimidation, they have brought even the most powerful of nations to their knees. The Nazi regime now rules the globe with an iron fist. Play as the one man who dares go up against the world’s most formidable military. You are B.J. Blazkowicz, the American war hero. You are the only man capable of rewriting history."

But don't just listen to us, take a look at this pretty cool trailer:


We hope to see you on the field of honour and can't wait to tackle those Robot Guards in the final quarter of the year.




Gareth and Lady Eleanor

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Blackwell Pages 1: Loki's Wolves - K L Armstrong and M A Marr

Release Date: 07/05/13
Publisher:  Atom

SYNOPSIS:

In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarok that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters - wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds - all bent on destroying the world. But the gods died a long time ago. Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history - because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt's classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke. But knowing the legends and completely believing them are two different things. When the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming and kids - led by Matt - must stand in for the gods in the final battle, Matt can hardly believe it. Matt's, Laurie's, and Fen's lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team to stop the end of the world.


REVIEW:

I’m a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong’s work and have loved her Young Adult as well as her adult titles with each successive release, yet this title is different from both as its aimed at a younger market still, that of the reader being in the 8+ age group. Whilst there will be quite a few people who will love this, I personally had a lot of problems as it felt rather rushed, the characters pretty flat and all round really didn’t give me that magical feeling that I’ve had from her work previously as she’s given the readers characters that they can get to know and love to spend time around.

Whilst this is a joint project, with two well-known authors writing together I had expected a lot more than what I received. All round it is OK and future titles may well pick up and take this to something pretty epic but if your young reader wants a book with a Norse feel to it, I’d heartily recommend John Flannigan’s Outcast series.




Monday, 13 May 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Bringing the Golden Age of Piracy to life: Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag Trailer - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Ubisoft have let us know about the latest Assasssin's Creed IV: Black Flag trailer that brings the time period to life for gamers.

Lets just say that we really can't wait to take to the high sea's and meet the legends of old, all whilst we seek about making our own riches and kitting out the Jackdaw..

But don't just take our word for it, have a look yourself:

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag will be released on 1st November 2013.   All the best,   Gareth and Lady Eleanor

FACTUAL HISTORICAL REVIEW: In the Shadow of the Sword - Tom Holland

Release Date: 04/04/13
Publisher:  Abacus

SYNOPSIS:

In the 6th century AD, the Near East was divided between two great empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on, and one had vanished for ever, while the other was a dismembered, bleeding trunk. In their place, a new superpower had arisen: the empire of the Arabs. So profound was this upheaval that it spelled, in effect, the end of the ancient world. But the changes that marked the period were more than merely political or even cultural: there was also a transformation of human society with incalculable consequences for the future. Today, over half the world's population subscribes to one of the various religions that took on something like their final form during the last centuries of antiquity. Wherever men or women are inspired by belief in a single god to think or behave in a certain way, they bear witness to the abiding impact of this extraordinary, convulsive age - though as Tom Holland demonstrates, much of what Jews, Christians and Muslims believe about the origins of their religion is open to debate. In the Shadow of the Sword explores how a succession of great empires came to identify themselves with a new and revolutionary understanding of the divine. It is a story vivid with drama, horror and startling achievement, and stars many of the most remarkable rulers ever seen.


REVIEW:

To be honest I’m the type of person who loves to read historical fiction and then delve into the world with factual research. Its one of those little quirks of mine that really does give me pleasure when I get to see how similar we are to those who have gone before. Whether it’s a demand for beer or for more personal items that come only from home, its great to see how it all worked together with the world as it was then.

Here in this title by Tom Holland, the reader is given an account of how the New Roman Empire faced off against the Persians which led to the ruination of one and the decimation of the other, so much so that they never recovered. It’s pretty detailed, has some wonderful research behind it and when added to a writer who loves to bring history to life for the reader really makes this something solid to sit back and enjoy. All round a great book and one I’ve enjoyed, especially when you get to read about some the characters from the time.




Sunday, 12 May 2013

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Age of Scorpio - Gavin Smith

Release Date: 18/04/13
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Praised by Stephen Baxter and Adam Roberts, reviewed ecstatically by SFX magazine Gavin Smith's first novel VETERAN announced an exciting new voice on the SF scene. WAR IN HEAVEN, set in the same universe followed. Now comes a new stand-alone SF thriller. Of all the captains based out of Arclight only Eldon Sloper was desperate enough to agree to a salvage job in Red Space. And now he and his crew are living to regret his desperation. In Red Space the rules are different. Some things work, others don't. Best to stick close to the Church beacons. Don't get lost. Because there's something wrong about Red Space. Something beyond rational. Something vampyric ...Long after The Loss mankind is different. We touch the world via neunonics. We are machines, we are animals, we are hybrids. But some things never change. A Killer is paid to kill, a Thief will steal countless lives. A Clone will find insanity, an Innocent a new horror. The Church knows we have kept our sins. Gavin Smith's new SF novel is an epic slam-bang ride through a terrifyingly different future.


REVIEW:

I love to spend time between the covers of books. This is purely as I get to live multiple lives spending time in multiverses that give me something special with each expedition and whilst not every book is to my own taste they do give me something different from the norm whether its lessons in writing or telling a story in a different manner to that which I’m used to.

Yet Gavin has always been an author that whilst I thought was OK, was never one that really jumped to the top of my TBR pile when it landed. Don’t get me wrong, its solid storytelling, it has great combat and when added to characters that are needed to stand against the trials that Gavin throws at them really should give you goose-bumps at the very thought. Yet for all of this, it’s the characters that aren’t hooking me in the way that they should be. They feel fairly flat and whilst the story is pretty high octane they don’t have me caring enough to really worry about their health when each matter reaches a head.

All round as usual something reasonable and definitely a book that I had an alright time reading but still nothing to make me stand up and shout about.



Saturday, 11 May 2013

CRIME REVIEW: The Blood of Crows - Caro Ramsey

Release Date: 27/09/13
Publisher:  Pengiun UK

SYNOPSIS:

"The Blood of Crows" is the fourth instalment in Caro Ramsay's epic Anderson and Costello series. For one Scottish cop the beat is about to get dark and very bloody...DI Colin Anderson is having a bad week. His conviction of paedophile Skelpie Fairbairn is declared unsafe - putting Fairbairn back on Glasgow's streets and leaving Anderson under investigation. Add to this a gangster torched alive, a teenage boy tortured then dropped off a bridge and the suicide of a cop who worked an unsolved child kidnapping way back in 1996 and Anderson's got his hands full. Then one night, a young girl is tied to the river bank and left for the tide. Anderson gets there, but she dies in his arms. Working round the clock his team discover these strange crimes are linked to an elusive criminal mastermind known as The Puppeteer. But unable to find him, unable to stop the murders, Anderson is forced to follow the only lead he has - Skelpie Fairbairn...But which is worse - The devil you don't know, or the one you do...? Caro Ramsay's Anderson & Costello thrillers have been widely recognised as one of the most significant new series in the genre in recent years and Ramsay's utterly unique investigators are ready to become the nation's favourite Scottish cop duo. "Absolution" is the amazing opening to this stunning series. Subsequent titles include "Dark Water" and "Singing to the Dead". Fans of Ian Rankin and Val McDermid will love this series. Praise for Caro Ramsay: "Brilliant in twisting the tension tauter with each page". ("Guardian"). "Ramsay handles her characters with aplomb, the dialogue crackles and the search for the killer has surprising twists and turns". ("Observer"). "Many shivers in store for readers, followed by a shattering climax". ("The Times"). Caro Ramsay was born in Glasgow and now lives in a village on the west coast of Scotland. "Absolution" is her first novel, which was shortlisted for the CWA's New Blood Dagger for best debut of the year. This success was followed by two further DI Anderson and DS Costello novels, "Singing to the Dead" and "Dark Water". The fourth book in the same series, "The Blood of Crows", is also released this summer.


REVIEW:

I love a crime novel when it feels that it has a real sense of authenticity bringing alive a city that I’ve only viewed through occasional visits. Whilst this doesn’t give you a great flavour of the heart beating its way through the inhabitants, the colours that you see do allow you to visualise a lot of the locations that Caro describes beautifully within the pages.

The story has some great characters all of whom are various shades of grey and seeking to do what is right for their home rather than what the law sees as black and white. Add to this great prose, cracking pace and a story that keeps you hooked to the end really does make this a treat to savour. Great stuff all round and one that I was more than pleased I took the time to read.

Friday, 10 May 2013

FANTASY REVIEW: The Merchant Princes 3 and 4: The Traders War - Charles Stross

Release Date: 09/05/13
Publisher:  Tor

SYNOPSIS:

For one ex-journalist, the nightmare has just begun. Miriam Beckstein has said goodbye to her comfort zone, and the transition from journalist to captive in an alternative timeline was challenging to say the least. As was discovering her long-lost family, the Clan, were world-skipping assassins. Now civil war rages in her adopted home, she's pregnant with the heir to their throne and a splinter-group want her on their side of a desperate power struggle. But as a leader or figurehead? Meanwhile, unknown to the Clan, the US government is on to them and preparing to exploit this knowledge. But it hadn't foreseen a dissident Clan faction carrying nuclear devices between worlds - with the US President in their sights. The War on Terror is about to go transdimensional. But Mike Fleming, CIA agent, knows the most terrifying secret of all. His government's true intentions. 'Stross's ability to combine interesting ideas with solid plotting is one of his great strengths', Asimov's Science Fiction, 'Stross sure ends things with a bang ...satisfying and chilling', RTBookreviews.com, 'These books are immense fun' Locus


REVIEW:

The second compendium in the Merchant Princes series (featuring The Clan Corporate and The Merchant’s War.) Its great value for money, the reader gets cracking storytelling and when added to cracking storytelling, top notch prose and a wonderful story arc really does give the reader something special. Add to this that the compendiums are being released over successive months and the reader gets a this whole epic without the major wait between volumes.



Thursday, 9 May 2013

GUEST BLOG: That First Solo Novel - Stella Gemmell

Having had the pleasure of reading Stella's debut title "The City" a little while ago, we were sitting on this guest blog as something of a special feature for our readers.

We love the humour within alongside the honesty, so hopefully you'll check out her debut, and now onto Stella's feature:

"I was really looking forward to writing my murder mystery.

I’ve always liked whodunits. In books, in films, on TV. Most of my life I’ve been reading them, savouring the blue-blooded ‘tecs and the red herrings, enjoying their quirks and weaknesses, addictions and compulsions - from Wilkie Collins’ Sergeant Cuff, through Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, to Rankin’s Rebus. And, sometimes I thought, I could do that.

But it had to be different. Not set in ancient Greece, which is the only historical period I know anything about (too much research). Not a cat detective (so tempting but, I know, it’s been done.) So I thought I’d set my mystery in a fantasy, quasi-medieval world. I’m sure I’m not the first to think of that, but I’m the first I’ve read.

So it started, as all the best murders do, with the discovery of the corpse. It was washing about deep in a sewer, but there were some clues – military tattoos and a piece of cloth. My proposed detective was intrigued by the body, and it was my intention that he work his way up through the geographical and social strata of the City to finally unveil the culprit in the last few pages.

But after the first few chapters of desperation in the dark I needed to get away from the sewers for a bit, and moved out to a wide open battle plain.

That was my first mistake.

Within her first few pages I fell for my heroine, the warrior woman Indaro, and found myself compelled to find out what might happen to her and her comrades. She was so like me (apart from the warrior part, and the gorgeous Burne-Jones hair and the thinness) it was amazing!

My husband often spoke of the annoying way a character will sometimes go racing off in the wrong direction, while you stand there yelling impotently, ‘Come back! The plot’s this way!’ I didn’t expect that to happen to me. But Indaro had a mind of her own and, after a bit of a struggle, we came to a compromise – we’d both go where she wanted to go.

I had no choice but to follow and trust she knew what she was doing. And she did, not just because she was strong, and a great warrior, and had the blood of the powerful in her veins, but because she had good instincts.

Writing women in battle is still hard (although not apparently to Steven Pressfield). Even in the world of fantasy, mine anyway, they are not as physically strong as the menfolk. And brute strength, in a medieval-type world, is always going to be the deciding factor in a battle, before the coming of artillery.  So the women warriors I wrote about were all veterans who had long since found a way to live and die with their male comrades. Indaro and Doon, and others to follow in their bootsteps in the sequel to The City, are not soldiers because they want to be, but because they have to be and, like millions of women down hundreds of generations, they just get on with it.

But I’ve got this great idea for a whodunit..."

SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY REVIEW: The Fictional Man - Al Ewing

Release Date: 09/05/13
Publisher:  Solaris

SYNOPSIS:

One of the most exciting new voices in British fiction has written an extraordinary novel. In an L.A. where fictional characters are cloned into living beings, the author Niles Golan is on the verge of hitting the big-time - if he can just stay on top of reality long enough to make it. Hollywood: Niles Golan is writing a remake of a campclassic spy movie. The studio has plans for a franchise, so rather than hiring an actor, the protagonist will be 'translated' into a cloned human body. It s common practice Niles' therapist is a Fictional. So is his best friend. So (maybe) is the woman in the bar he can t stop staring at. Fictionals are a part of daily life now, especially in LA. In fact, it's getting hard to tell who's a Fictional and who's not...


REVIEW:

Science Fiction, in the classical sense are books that are always looking for ways to challenge the reader and make them think whether it’s a question about things that are greater than us or questioning our own choices in the greater scheme of things, so when Al’s latest book landed I was more than intrigued to see how he would play the characters out in not only a world that is different from our own but one that generated a new culture for the reader.

What occurs within is a story that questions our abilities to choose, would we want to be greater than the sum of our parts or would we chose to have others make our choices for us and what does it mean to be human?

Al’s book is interesting, has some solid twists but to be frank I felt that it was a book that would have sat better as a novella rather than a full novel as part of the script felt a lot like filler rather than giving it any real direction. Don’t get me wrong it was something that distracted the reader whilst Al questioned you about your beliefs but all round I felt it would have been punchier had a lot of the story search been avoided.



Wednesday, 8 May 2013

SPY THRILLER REVIEW: Black Bear - Aly Monroe

Release Date: 09/05/13
Publisher:  John Murray

SYNOPSIS:

From the author of ICELIGHT, winner of the 2012 Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, BLACK BEAR is the fourth in the critically acclaimed Peter Cotton series following the fortunes of British spy Peter Cotton as he navigates the treacherous uncertainties of the post-war world. For all fans of John le Carre, Robert Harris, Eric Ambler and Graham Greene. 'Confirms Aly Monroe's genius for creating tension...' Daily Telegraph Sent to Manhattan as part of the British effort to build intelligence into the new United Nations Organisation 'from the foundations up', Agent Peter Cotton wakes up in the Ogden Clinic on East 76th Street, a private facility reserved for very special patients and veterans. He is told he was found badly bruised, slumped in a doorway, and that he had been injected with at least three 'truth-drugs'. He is lucky to be alive. Plagued by vertigo, colour blindness and tunnel vision, and unable to be certain what is real and what hallucinatory, Cotton must piece together what has happened to him, find out who is responsible and why. What he discovers is even more unsettling. His biggest uncertainty? Why he has been allowed to live.


REVIEW:

I love a story that works on many levels and to have one that delves into a time of the Cold War whilst the second world war is still within memory all round is a cracking setting for a reader to delve into. Add to this a story that has some great twists, well written and of course a tale that keeps the reader on the edge of what’s reality vs. imagination all round gives this something of a bite.

That said, I had problems with the lead character as he wasn’t what I was expecting to come to the fore within a tale like this which when backed with some twists that were a little too subtle left me more than a little confused by the books end. Now I’m not saying its bad and there will be a lot of people out there that will get it more than me, but when I don’t understand a lot of what has happened then I tend to get niggled as I feel a little stupid for not comprehending it.




Tuesday, 7 May 2013

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: What Comes Next - John Katzenbach

Release Date: 01/05/13
Publisher:  Head of Zeus

SYNOPSIS:

Retired psychology professor Adrian Thomas has spent a lifetime delving into other people's disturbed minds. Now he's been diagnosed with degenerative dementia, and all his thoughts are of ending his own life while he still can. But his clouded mind clears when he witnesses a kidnapping: a teenage girl, snatched off the street and bundled into a white van. The police dismiss him as a confused old man. But Adrian knows what he saw. And he knows he might be this young girl's only hope for rescue. His search will lead him into the chilling world of online pornography, and the elite community who subscribe to the website What Comes Next. A website where the viewers decide what happens to their on-screen hostage. A website that is about to feature a new star: a frightened teenage girl known only as Victim Number Four...


REVIEW:

OK, I’m not that up on this author but when a story comes from a recommendation from a friend that I trust, I love to dive in. This comes with a couple of wonderful points to it.:
1) I don’t know what I’m going to get so I have no expectations
2) I’m guaranteed something special as I trust the recommendation.

What this story brought to the fore was a dark tale that had one hell of a pace set within, it grabs you from the outset, refusing to let go and when added to solid prose and a principle character that you will love to spend time with all round gives you a tale that won’t see the bedside table until you’ve finished it.

All round I’m going to definitely keep an eye on John’s future books as if they’re all this good, I’ve got some great reading times ahead.

Monday, 6 May 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Jessica McClain 2: Hot Blooded - Amanda Carlson

Release Date: 23/04/13
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

It hasn't been the best week for Jessica McClain. Her newly found mate has been kidnapped by a goddess hell-bent on revenge, and Jessica is positive she can save him. But being the only female werewolf in town comes with its own set of rules and powers ...if only she understood them. Aided by two vamps, two loyal Pack members and one very reluctant human, Jessica must rescue her man while coming to terms with what being a wolf really means. The second novel in the Jessica McClain series is a full-on action adventure featuring one angry goddess and plenty of monsters, demons, and a few newly risen beasties ...


REVIEW:

OK, I read Amanda’s debut last year and whilst I absolutely loved it, I had a little bit of trouble getting into the beginning of this book as I felt that it was a little rushed alongside being a tad disorientating which for me ruined it a little bit. Personally I’d have preferred a little reminder as to what had already gone before so that I wouldn’t have had to reread the first title to refresh my memory, its not a bad thing mind you as the book was delightful however if unlike me you don’t tend to keep everything you read in your own personal Library (yes I would like a publisher to sponsor wall to wall shelving for my bedroom so that I can have everything on display) then a reminder would have been helpful.

That said, the book when you delve back into the full adventure was definitely something that was not only delightful but brought our new female were to the fore as she sought to free her mate from the clutches of Selene the Moon Goddess. It has great action, some wonderful twists and when added to demonic villains as well as lethal traps all round make this a book that was a joy to devour. I really can’t wait to see what Fate and Amanda have in store for Jess in her next outing.



Sunday, 5 May 2013

FANTASY REVIEW: The Dagger and the Coin 3: The Tyrant's Law - Daniel Abraham

Release Date: 30/04/13
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

The great war cannot be stopped. The tyrant Geder Palliako begins a conquest aimed at bringing peace to the world, though his resources are stretched too thin. When things go poorly, he finds a convenient target among the thirteen races and sparks a genocide. Clara Kalliam, freed by having fallen from grace, remakes herself as a "loyal traitor" and starts building an underground resistance movement that seeks to undermine Geder through those closest to him. Cithrin bel Sarcour is apprenticing in a city that's taken over by Antea, and uses her status as Geder's one-time lover to cover up an underground railroad smuggling refugees to safety. And Marcus Wester and Master Kit race against time and Geder Palliako's men in an attempt to awaken a force that could change the fate of the world.


REVIEW:

I love a cracking fantasy where I can not only get lost in the world but have fun trudging with the adventurers within so that I can get a fuller picture and for me Daniel Abraham has delivered that a lot of the time when I read his work. Here in the latest outing is a book that takes you on one hell of an adventure as the great war grinds its way across the land. It’s dark, it has a lot of characters to cheer for within and whilst our heroes do their utmost to try and finish a quest to save the world from itself, it’s a title that has hope scattered throughout the pages.

As usual with Daniels writing the prose is sharp, the dialogue wonderfully delicious and when backed with a plot line that has a good sense of pace to it there’s really not much more a reader could ask for, add to the mix, danger lurking around many corners and all round its one that will rend the readers emotions as it takes so much with one hand whilst giving a balm with the other. Great stuff.


Saturday, 4 May 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Night Watch 5: The New Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko

Release Date: 02/05/13
Publisher:  William Heinemann

SYNOPSIS:

Walking the streets of our cities are the Others. These men and women are guardians of the Twilight, a shadowy parallel world that exists alongside our own. Each has sworn allegiance to one side, fighting for the Light, or the Darkness. But now, beyond the continuing struggle comes a peril that threatens their very world . At Moscow airport, Higher Light Magician Anton Gorodetsky overhears a child screaming that a plane is about to crash. He discovers that the child is a prophet: an Other with the gift of foretelling the future. When the catastrophe is averted, Gorodetsky senses a disruption in the natural order, one that is confirmed by the arrival of a dark and terrifying predator. From the Night Watch headquarters Gorodetsky travels to London, to Taiwan and across Russia in search of clues, unearthing as he goes a series of increasingly cataclysmic prophecies. He soon realizes that what is at stake is the existence of the Twilight itself - and that only he will be able to save it.


REVIEW:

I’m a huge fan of the Night Watch and whilst I haven’t watched the myriad of films out there I have sat back and enjoyed each tale as it arrived giving me an adventure in the Urban Fantasy world that brought a whole new perspective to the genre giving the reader something unique.

Here within the latest outing the danger has increased so its not so much about the fate between one of the two sides but something that has dragged the whole world into the fray. The danger is dark, the twists even blacker and when added to a translation that works wonderfully well for the English market all round gives the reader another cracking experience.

Finally throw into the mix an author who loves to twist expectations, deliver something that few others are doing in the genre at the moment and all round will leave the reader satisfied, then you have to give this cracking series a go.




Friday, 3 May 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Chalice - Phil Rickman

Release Date: 01/05/13
Publisher:  Atlantic Books

SYNOPSIS:

Glastonbury, legendary resting place of the Holy Grail, is a mysterious and haunting town. But when plump, dizzy Diane Ffitch returns home, it's with a sense of deep unease - and not only about her aristocratic family's reaction to her broken engagement and her New Age companions. Plans for a new motorway have intensified the old bitterness between the local people and the 'pilgrims', so already the sacred air is soured. And, as the town becomes increasingly split by violence and death, Diane, local bookseller Juanita Carey and the writer Joe Powys must now face up to the worst of all possibilities: the existence of an anti-Grail - the dark chalice.


REVIEW:

I love a supernatural title that not only draws me in but gives me solid characters, an unusual twist and of course wraps it all up in a page turning storyline, so whilst I have heard of Phil’s work before I hadn’t had the experience until now.

Whilst this book was released by Macmillan in 1998, it’s the newest incarnation by Corvus that I sat down to read, it not only gave me one hell of a read but also gave me top notch prose, some wonderfully delightful twists and backed it all up with an eerie feeling that accumulates in your neck hairs. Add to this that it was late night reading and to be honest with you I didn’t want to put it down and sleep, so much so that I finished it in the early hours of the morning and as with any tale of darkness those first rays of light can be a real help to relax you enough to sleep. All round a great book and one I was pleased I took the time to sit back and enjoy. Great stuff.



Thursday, 2 May 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Rayman Legends - Mariachi Madness Level Walkthrough - Ubisoft


Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Ubisoft have sent us a trailer where you can see Mariachi Madness on the forthcoming Rayman Legends (Out on the 30th August) for the following formats:
Xbox 360
Wii U
PS3.

It looks like a hell of a lot of fun and if you're looking for something that is not only bright but makes you smile when you play then this looks like a game that might be for you.



All the best,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor

GUEST BLOG: Changing Hats: Who Would You Have Been in the British Civil Wars? - Robert Wilton

Having loved Robert's debut Emperor's Gold (recently rereleased as Treason's Tide) we couldn't wait to have him back with his new book Traitor's Field.

Here, Robert brings his own take on the English Civil War.....



Cavalier or Roundhead?

The first historical espionage novel drawn from the archive of the Comptrollerate-General for Scrutiny and Survey had illuminated that curious organization's role in the shadows in 1805, as Britain faced the imminent threat of invasion by Napoleon. (You heard it here first: Falcata Times June 2011 - http://falcatatimes.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=wilton.) When I was wondering which bit of the Comptrollerate-General's history to focus on next, there happened to be a book about British Civil War battles on the shelf beside me and, as usual, I instinctively asked myself that question: Cavalier or Roundhead?

I think I'd always assumed Cavalier. Something about the hats with the big feathers, and the romantic sense of a lost cause.

But there'd been a book I'd read recently about Oliver Cromwell, and I'd been struck by his struggle to balance the principles he believed in passionately with the need to maintain some kind of stable government in the country. And now, scanning the shelves, I was wondering about the Comptrollerate-General: what does a secret organization dedicated to maintaining national stability do when that stability is irretrievably smashed? How did the Comptrollerate-General, the secret power behind Government for four centuries, manage the transition from Charles I to Cromwell?

The answer to my question turned out to be Traitor's Field, out now from Corvus.

Traitor's Field reveals the story of the organization, and the country, from the King's execution to the defeat of Royalism and the flight of the young Charles II in 1651. Drawing as usual on documents from the Comptrollerate-General archive, it throws light on a series of mysteries.

At the heart of the narrative is a secret battle between two remarkable men: one an old Royalist, ruthless veteran of decades of European war, ready for any intrigue or outrage in his effort to protect the old order; the other is a young official rising in Cromwell's service, a brilliant product of the new order starting to realize just how much of a challenge the country is facing. Through the great battles of the period - from Preston, through 'Cromwell's miracle' at Dunbar, to Worcester - through the desperate struggles over political liberty and religion, through a spiralling campaign of deception and violence, these two men fight and take each other's measure, until finally they meet face-to-face, for the first and last time.

Traitor's Field is their story, and it leaves neither of them the same. In passing, we also learn more about some incidental mysteries: about what was behind the assassination of Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, the loved and loathed, revered and feared figure murdered in a Doncaster street in 1648; about the fate of the Crown jewels; about the soldier in the grave.

The more I read around the period, the more fascinating and nuanced I found it. It was a truly dramatic time in British history, when the old idea that there was and could only be one model of government, and one form of religion, was broken for ever; suddenly one truth was replaced with a multitude of possible truths, and the spread of printing meant that each of these possible truths - about how to run a country, or how to worship God - could be heard by large numbers of people. For the first time people could express an independent opinion; and for the first time people could choose between competing opinions.

Amongst other things, this national chattering was a environment perfectly fitted for spies - for those wanting to spread deception. Traitor's Field contains some of their work - competing versions of the truth and outright lies; revelations desperate and inexplicable; coded messages and coded messages written by the wrong hands - all offered for the reader to choose between them.

And the more I read, the more I began to wonder who I would really have supported. There was a nobility about the Royalist struggle to preserve all that they knew and loved. But there was also something inspiring about those trying to seize the opportunity to change the world for the better: not only those wanting more power for Parliament, but those starting to explore wild new ideas of political, social and economic equality that wouldn't be realized for another three centuries - even the first stirrings of environmentalism.

It also turned out that some people on both sides wore those splendid hats with the feathers. What to choose? How to survive? How to protect what you hold dear? Cavalier or Roundhead?




Additional News:  Our Friends at Atlantic Books have let us know about this exciting V-Blog by Robert about Traitor's Field: