Saturday, 30 November 2013

FANTASY REVIEW: Warhammer Fantasy: Skarsnik - Guy Haley

Release Date: 30/06/13
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

The goblin chieftain Skarsnik's name is known and feared throughout the Old World. When a greenskin horde threatens the borders of the Empire, the greatest military minds in Altdorf seek assistance from a most unlikely source - the disgraced poet Jeremiah Bickenstadt. Though long since consumed by madness, he claims to have spent a great deal of time in the company of the feared Warlord of the Eight Peaks, and can offer a unique insight into what it is that drives and motivates him. From humble beginnings, a monstrous legend is born.


REVIEW:

Ah the sneaky git finally gets his own book and to be honest I’m a huge fan of this guy. After all if you want a rampaging mob of greenskins, there’s really nothing better than having it all led by a Night Goblin with brains. As usual with Guy Haley, the book is well written, he gets around the difficultly of the language by using an intermediary and when you add great action sequences alongside a few shocking twists, it all works rather well.

Back this up with some wonderful turn of phrases, some crackingly imaginative sequences and all round I was a more than happy reader. Great to see one told from this point of view and here’s hoping that a few more non-human races get a crack at telling their tales. Magic.

Friday, 29 November 2013

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Devil's Apprentice - Jan Siegel

Release Date: 10/10/13
Publisher:  Ravenstone

SYNOPSIS:

The Devil is retiring... but who's taking over? When teenage Pen inherits the job of caretaker for a London building with no doors and only a secret entrance from the caretaker's lodge – which she must never use – little does she know it will lead her into unbelievable danger. For Azmordis, also known as Satan, a spirit as old as time and as powerful as the Dark, Immortality is running out.

In the house with no front door, a group of teenagers are trapped in assorted dimensions of myth and history, undergoing the trials that will shape them to step into his cloven footwear – or destroy them. Assisted by only by an aspiring teenage chef called Gavin and Jinx, a young witch with more face-piercing than fae-power, Pen must try to stop the Devil's deadly game plan – before it's too late.

By turns very funny, very scary and always thrilling, this is an incredible return to YA for Siegel.


REVIEW:

This was a book that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time, firstly because I love the premise and secondly as I know that it would be a cracking title for young and old readers alike from the relatively new press Ravenstone.

How did I know this, well I loved their first book Lupus Rex, so knew that it would be something different, something novel and of course something that would fill the readers imagination with something unique in its own right. What unfurls within the pages is a tale that at times is humorous, at times dark all backed up with a mysteriousness that can leave you wondering what exactly what is going to happen with the unpredictability leaving you quite often at the not only the edge of your seat but with that niggling book demon whispering about one more chapter before you turn the light off.

It has solid prose, some great twists and when you finally finish the last page, you’ll find it’s a book that you thoroughly enjoyed. Great stuff.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

FANTASY REVIEW: Drakenfeld - Mark Charan Newton

Release Date: 10/10/13
Publisher:  Tor

SYNOPSIS:

The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive ...Receiving news of his father's death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King's sister has been found brutally murdered -- her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power. Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.


REVIEW:

Mark has always been one of those authors who likes to leave the readers with questions rather than deliver a story that is a simple affair from A to B. He does so in such a way that you end up questioning what you’d have done in those circumstances which when blended with a fantasy element all round works very well.

As usual the prose is sharp, the pace ideal but for me it’s the depth of the characters that he brings to the fore that really sets this out from a fair few others, they’re believable, they have their own agenda’s and tend to see the world in shades of grey rather than a straight forward of black and white of a great many fantasy authors.

This works very well for Mark’s writing which when blended with his own unique twist and sense of wonder all round generates a tale that will stay with you long after the final page is turned, so much so that you’ll end up telling others about the book and the questions it raises. That is a sign of a great writer.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

URBAN STEAMPUNK REVIEW: An Apparatus Infernum Novel 1: Bronze Gods - A A Aguirre

Release Date: 10/10/13
Publisher:  Titan

SYNOPSIS:

Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko work all hours in the Criminal Investigation Division, keeping the citizens of Dorstaad safe. They're assigned a potentially volatile case where one misstep could end their careers. A ruthless killer is stalking the gaslit streets, weaving blood and magic in a lethal ritual that could mean the end of everything they hold dear...


REVIEW:

Ann was an author I first got to grips with when she originally released Grimspace. I fell in love with her characterisation; they jumped from the page into the readers imagination and helped make the pages fly by. They felt real, they had nuances and of course many facets that the reader couldn’t help but fall in love with.

So when I learned that she was writing an Urban Fantasy Steampunk title I couldn’t wait to see if the skills that she presented with her debut would carry on in this new title. Not only did this happen but as an author she has grown learning new skills with each new release so much so that I felt that there was nothing that I could really pick any problems with between the pages.

As with her original novel, here, the characters speak volumes, the world is imaginative, has humans with fae powers and of course brings a kick ass murder mystery to the fore for the principle players to delve into. It works on a great many levels and when you add cracking prose, to the mix alongside an author writing style that’s instantly identifiable as an Ann Aguirre, then all round I was a more than happy reader. Great stuff and definitely something that I’ll be adding to quite a few people’s Christmas Gift baskets.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

FANTASY REVIEW: Rojan Dizon Novel 3: Last to Rise - Francis Knight

Release Date: 26/11/13
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

The towering vertical city of Mahala is on the brink of war with its neighbouring countries. It might be his worst nightmare, but Rojan and the few remaining pain-mages have been drafted in to help. The city needs power in whatever form they can get it - and fast. With alchemists readying a prototype electricity generator, and factories producing guns faster than ever, the city's best advantage is still the mages. Leading the alchemists is Rojan's sister, with a risky plan to help tap the mages' strength and overcome the armies marching towards them. With food in the city running out, and a battle approaching that no one is ready for, risky is the best they've got ...


REVIEW:

The second novel in this cracking fantasy series is one that not only grabbed my attention with the debut but also has managed in this, the second book to not only expand upon the world but also help the character grow so much so that the series feels like its about to take on a life of its own.

Add to this some great twists, solid prose and a reluctant hero all round makes this a cracking fantasy to purchase for any fan of the genre. The only downside, is if you haven’t already read the first I’d suggest that you do so and if you have, then I’d suggest a reread, not because you’ll have forgotten any of the details but it’s a pleasurable way to help you relax and get the most from this book. Great stuff.

Monday, 25 November 2013

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 1 - Take 2 Interactive

Release Date: 12/11/13
Publisher:  Take 2 Interactive

SYNOPSIS:

Burial at Sea - Episode 1 is the first part of the story-driven downloadable content of BioShock Infinite, which was released on November 12th. This DLC puts the player in the perspective of Booker DeWitt in a new story, taking place in the city of Rapture right before its fall.


REVIEW:

Having loved playing Bioshock Infinite I couldn’t wait for the chance to return to spend time with Booker and Elizabeth so when this outing became available, with these two characters as well as returning to a familiar Rapture setting, I couldn’t wait to embark.

Whilst this follows its own plotline, please be aware that whilst you can play it without having played the full game first, this add on with have spoilers, so I urge you make sure you’ve finished the original first otherwise you may have elements spoilt. What this title does is bring the edgy horror elements into an enclosed environment which, as a player will find you sneaking round corners hoping to get the jump on villains as ammo is in short supply so a quick melee attack can be a lifesaver.

Its lots of fun, has great twists and of course with the storyline taking the reader on a great journey, this addition will keep you playing for a couple of hours leaving the reader not only on the hook but demanding the second part when the cliff-hanger ending finishes playing. Great stuff.

THRILLER REVIEW: Pharoah - David Gibbins

Release Date: 10/10/13
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

Fans of Dan Brown and Clive Cussler will love the thrilling new Jack Howard action adventure from Sunday Times bestseller David Gibbins. 1351 BC: Akhenaten the Sun-Pharaoh rules supreme in Egypt...until the day he casts off his crown and mysteriously disappears into the desert, his legacy seemingly swallowed up by the remote sands beneath the Great Pyramids of Giza. AD 1884: A British soldier serving in the Sudan stumbles upon an incredible discovery - a submerged temple containing evidence of a terrifying religion whose god was fed by human sacrifice. The soldier is on a mission to reach General Gordon before Khartoum falls. But he hides a secret of his own. Present day: Jack Howard and his team are excavating one of the most amazing underwater sites they have ever encountered, but dark forces are watching to see what they will find. Diving into the Nile, they enter a world three thousand years back in history, inhabited by a people who have sworn to guard the greatest secret of all time...


REVIEW:

A story that really didn’t deliver what I was expecting from the blurb and to be honest I was disappointed with the overall effect as it left me feeling cheated. The story was OK and whilst a lot of the tale did take the reader on a journey through time, the key part to the story felt rather short and without any real detail that I was looking forward to.

All round a book that I felt was lacking and perhaps not up to David’s usual high standards almost as if, because it was part of the Jack Howard series, as if it were expected to sell itself. A great shame for me.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Violent Century - Lavie Tidhar

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart. But there must always be an account...and the past has a habit of catching up to the present. Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism, - a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields - to answer one last, impossible question: What makes a hero?


REVIEW:

To be honest this is a superhero novel that has all sorts of origin threads that have been explored in recent films such as Captain America and a few of the other Marvel titles. The fact that one of the witnesses in the trial is Stanley Martin Lieber (who for those in the know is Stan Lee) goes to show how deep an influence that Mr Lee has had on Lavie.

Its definitely a quirky book, something pretty unique and when it delves into the second world war as told from a superhero point of view really takes the reader into an uncomfortable world that will dig itself in deeper into the psyche.

Add to this solid prose, some cracking characters and of course an overall arc that really gets to the heart of the matter makes this a book that will stay with the reader for quite some time.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

LADY ELEANOR HORROR REVIEW: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death - Martyn Waites

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Hammer

SYNOPSIS:

Autumn 1940, World War Two, the Blitz. Bombs are raining down, destroying the cities of Britain. In London, children are being removed from their families and taken to the country for safety. Teacher Eve Parkins is in charge of one such group, and her destination is an empty and desolate house that appears to be sinking into the treacherous tidal marshes that surround it. EEL Marsh House - Far from home and with no alternative, Eve and the children move in. But soon it becomes apparent that there is someone else in the house; someone who is far deadlier than any number of German bombs...The Woman in Black.


REVIEW:

OK, I had high hopes for this book, after all I’ve had friends rave for years about the much loved Woman in Black by Susan Hill and as such hearing that there was an authorised sequel released gave me the chance to sit back and get that wonderful chill up the spine during the dark winter night reads that I had planned.

Unfortunately what I got was a title that fell far short of what I was expecting, it felt weak, the chill factor was missing and to be honest there weren’t any real twists that you couldn’t see coming from a mile off. It also felt poorly written when you compare against the original and to be honest I am left wondering if it was just a quick way to cash in on the success of what has gone before. A great shame to be honest.

Friday, 22 November 2013

FACTUAL BOOK: TV SHOW TIE IN: Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who Exclusive Except - Gollancz

Hail Mighty Readers,
Today we have an exclusive extract from the wonderful "Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Dr Who - Edited by Steve Berry."  (Out now and published by Gollancz with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Research UK.)

The book is a wonderful addition to any Whovian's collection and with this weekend  (23rd November 2013)  seeing the 50th Anniversary Special Edition (The Day of the Doctor.)  We couldn't think of anything better to feature to help prepare you for the weekend.
 
Kristin Hersh
Songwriter, founder of US indie band, Throwing Muses

"Wanted to be touched by a Weeping Angel
The Doctor was my dad. Or my dad was the Doctor, I’m not sure which. They looked alike and people called Dad “Doctor” for what seemed to me to be flimsy reasons. So I figured those were our home movies with the monsters made out of stuff we found in the back of the garage and the cheap lasers. I knew we were poor and couldn’t afford the expensive lasers rich kids’ dads shot bubble wrap and mop-head monsters with.

My father had to use science to outwit evil garbage cans ’cos his weapons and spaceships were so crappy. But that made him cooler than the rich dads, cooler than the rich TV stars, cooler than real doctors who only seemed interested in listening to heartbeats.  Peering into your life through a keyhole positioned on the outside is a striking thing to do. Science measures everything; it can’t help it. It measures your heartbeats — which’re pretty goddamn repetitive and therefore boring, no matter what gross love songs tell you — and it measures your wild adventures. The Doctor’s adventures are yours through this universal keyhole and you know it, whether you’re sitting on your couch or racing around, all tense and terrified. Weirdness is everywhere and it’s always about to kick in. It’s probably sitting in the back of your garage right now, waiting to strike: cool.

One little shift in your parameters like this, one little shift in your perception (like: right next to the shop on the corner is eternity and eternity is homemade!) means that our adventures only start with our heartbeats. Then they ooze into surrounding tissues and crawl out of our ears onto the couch, eventually body-slamming us within inches of our lives and sanity. And what saves you from facing your mortality? Morality, of course!  Every time… that and a cheap old two-bit laser you taped together yesterday afternoon.  Now we know the micro and the macro, the small picture and the big one. We’re all visible through the same keyhole, those of us with pounding hearts."

LADY ELEANOR HORROR REVIEW: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24 - Ed. Stephen Jones

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Robinson Publishing

SYNOPSIS:

For nearly twenty-five years The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror has been the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to showcasing the best in contemporary horror fiction. Comprising the most outstanding new short fiction by both contemporary masters of horror and exciting newcomers, this multiple award-winning series also offers an overview of the year in horror, a comprehensive necrology of recent obituaries, and an indispensable directory of contact details for dedicated horror fans and writers. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror remains the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to presenting the best in contemporary horror fiction.


REVIEW:

To be honest whilst I’m a fan of Horror and love the idea of a compendium bringing the best of the genre to the fore, I felt a little let down with this book as the New Wave of Horror is not really to my own personal taste. Its too safe, it tends to rely on a singular pay off line and all round really doesn’t put a chill down my spine.

Don’t get me wrong, the book does have some spectacular pieces within but when I’m not getting that chill then I feel a little let down. All round the pieces within will more than please a fair few readers as the stories are to the point, great for travel and of course give the reader a great way to kill some travel time but for me its just a so so title.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

GUEST BLOG: So you’ve written a million-word fantasy epic, what happens next? - Tom Lloyd

The quick answer is, something else – something different. If I was an epic fantasy author machine, I’d probably keep banging out the trilogies to give my loyal fans more of what they want. Except it wouldn’t be the fans I was doing that for – the group most interested would be the Orion Sales Department. Sure if I was a big bestseller who could guarantee sales for a new Twilight Reign novel, I’m sure my publisher would be waving lots of money at me for the next in the production line – you see that all the time. Now I’ve not seen sales figures, but I’ll bet money I can barely afford to wager that, to pick the first example I can think of, Pratchett’s book, Nation, despite excellent reviews, will not have sold nearly as well as the next Discworld book to follow. And that’s bloody Sir Terry Pratchett, almost an industry in himself. I stopped reading Raymond Feist years ago, but those are still coming and Pug’s still saving the world I believe – and selling so far in excess of mine it’s not even funny. Except to Raymond and his publishers maybe.

As it is, the question I got asked was – what’s next? The ending of Dusk Watchman was pretty final, but there are always stories to tell in an entire world, lives in potentia just waiting for me to pick up a pen (keyboard?). The epilogue gave a glimpse that life goes on despite the destruction and horror and I certainly had a pang of wanting to know the lives of the generation to come – but you have to know when to end a series like that, otherwise you’re just undermining your own work.

So what did I want to do? Without even knowing it, the story becoming Moon’s Artifice in my head was pretty different and taking on a shape of its own in part because of those years of epic. It’s set all in a single city, not across half a continent. It takes place roughly over a week, not two years. It has a small set of characters and no real armies, Twilight Reign had 500 named individuals and more people died in each of its instalments than are ever involved in Moon’s Artifice. The higher castes at least have gunpowder weapons and are an entirely different breed to the shining knights of the Twilight Reign despite the universal markers of arrogance and privilege you can see in both.

But that’s the bigger picture. Looking closer, you see Narin is clearly no Isak – he’s not been built for the job, he’s not a hero and he’s certainly no superhuman white-eye. He’s a copper and not even a particularly good or senior one either. They’re both moved by a sense of duty, but in utterly different ways. Narin’s best friend is an immoral, dangerous indiv— ok, so that one might have a few similarities, but we’ve none of the high politics going on around them, none of the wealth or power Isak could bring to bear. Narin must work inside the structure of his world, either evading or seeking permission from his superior. Isak answers only to the Gods, and the answers he gave them tended to not be hugely tactful.


It’s funny how sometimes things just fit together though. I started writing Isak when I was eighteen and that’s the age he starts out at. Narin I’d always planned to be older, early 30s, and I got around to writing him when I was 32. In the Twilight Reign, Tila & Vesna’s wedding was written two weeks before my own, in Moon’s Artifice Narin hears he’s going to be a father and a few weeks after I delivered the manuscript, my own little girl arrived. But such is life and for me, it’s often just a sign you’re going in the right direction.

So whether you’ve read the Twilight Reign or not, Moon’s Artifice will feel very different. It may put off some fans who want huge epicness with extra demons on the side (though there are demons still, I may be doing something different but I’m still me) but it may win me others among the non-european-medieval-epic crowd. Only time will tell, but there’s more to me than the Twilight Reign and in the immortal words of Blind Melon ‘when you stop dreamin' it's time to die.’

Tom's latest book: Moon's Artifice is 21/11/13 (today), by Gollancz.

FANTASY REVIEW: Moon's Artifice - Tom Lloyd

Release Date: 21/11/13
Publisher:  

SYNOPSIS:

In a quiet corner of the Imperial City, Investigator Narin discovers the result of his first potentially lethal mistake. Minutes later he makes a second.

After an unremarkable career Narin finally has the chance of promotion to the hallowed ranks of the Lawbringers - guardians of the Emperor's laws and bastions for justice in a world of brutal expediency. Joining that honoured body would be the culmination of a lifelong dream, but it couldn't possibly have come at a worse time. A chance encounter drags Narin into a plot of gods and monsters, spies and assassins, accompanied by a grief-stricken young woman, an old man haunted by the ghosts of his past and an assassin with no past.

On the cusp of an industrial age that threatens the warrior caste's rule, the Empire of a Hundred Houses awaits civil war between noble factions. Centuries of conquest has made the empire a brittle and bloated monster; constrained by tradition and crying out for change. To save his own life and those of untold thousands Narin must understand the key to it all - Moon's Artifice, the poison that could destroy an empire.


REVIEW:

Tom is an author that I’ve loved for quite some time. His fantasy is not only imaginative but believable, has some great development and of course when added to an author who knows how to bring top notch characters to the fore that not only help immerse you but give you a guide to help you immerse.

Add to this a story arc that brings the best of multiple genres together whilst stepping out into its own territory all round generates something unique which when blended with some great prose, wonderful dialogue and of course spartan descriptiveness all round allows this hardcore fantasy crime tale to weave its own spell. Great stuff.




Wednesday, 20 November 2013

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: The Abomination - Jonathan Holt

Release Date: 21/11/13
Publisher:  Head of Zeus

SYNOPSIS:

THE VICTIM: On the steps of Santa Maria della Salute lies the body of a woman, wearing the robes of a Catholic priest. In the eyes of the Church, she is an abomination. THE INVESTIGATOR: Captain Kat Tapo has matched the victim's tattoo to graffiti in an abandoned asylum. Now she's been ordered to close the case. THE HACKER: Carnivia.com is a virtual Venice that holds the city's secrets. Only its reclusive creator can help Kat unearth the shocking truth...THE ABOMINATION has arrived.


REVIEW:

OK, you want a crime thriller that is going to deliver not only a kickass story but bring characters to the fore that you’ll quickly fall in love with and want to spend your fee time alongside. It has some great twists, a plot that really doesn’t let go and takes you to an exotic locale that is so well described you feel that you’re there yourself.

Back this up with some wonderful turns of phrase, some great prose and of course dialogue that really does help you get into the characters world which when blended with characters you can’t help but like all round generated a book that was nigh impossible to put down.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Eidolon - Libby McGugan

Release Date: 28/10/13
Publisher:  Solaris

SYNOPSIS:

When physicist Robert Strong – newly unemployed and single – is offered a hundred thousand pounds for a week’s work, he’s understandably sceptical. But Victor Amos, head of the mysterious Observation Research Board, has compelling proof that the next round of experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider poses a real threat to the whole world. And he needs Robert to sabotage it.

Robert’s life is falling apart. His work at the Dark Matter Research Laboratory in Middlesbrough was taken away from him; his girlfriend, struggling to cope with the loss of her sister, has left. He returns home to Scotland, seeking sanctuary and rest, and instead starts to question his own sanity as the dead begin appearing to him, in dreams and in waking. Accepting Amos’s offer, Robert flies to Geneva, but as he infiltrates CERN, everything he once understood about reality and science, about the boundary between life and death, changes forever.

Mixing science, philosophy and espionage, Libby McGugan’s stunning debut is a thriller like no other.


REVIEW:

As a reader I’m always a fan of the “Spirit of Man” when it comes through in books. With individuals who refuse to be broken, who stand tall for what they believe in and continue trudging forward regardless of the adversity that they face, so I was more than interested in this book by Libby McGugan which promised all this and more.

What she brings to the table brings all the best elements of Urban Fantasy with a cracking Science background to the table and allows the readers to ask questions as the story reveals itself over the pages. Add to this some wonderful turns of phrase and a lead character that not only questions his own sanity (along with the reader) really allows you to get to the heart of thing as Libby’s wondorous prose really does take you on a journey. A great way to spend some quality time with a debut that’s announcing a cracking talent. Magical.

Monday, 18 November 2013

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Blood of Heaven - Kent Wascom

Release Date: 11/11/13
Publisher:  Atlantic Books

SYNOPSIS:

It is 1861, and Angel Woolsack is a Confederate about to breathe his last, as the Union forces make their inexorable approach. Rejected by his wife, his wealth no longer useful to him, he sets about recording his testament. His story is that of a preacher's son, who flees the hardscrabble life of his itinerant father and falls in with a charismatic highwayman. The novel moves from the bordellos of Natchez to the Mississippi plantations, and finally to the back rooms of New Orleans where would-be revolutionaries are plotting to break away from the young United States. The Blood of Heaven is a remarkable portrait of a young man seizing his place in a violent new world.


REVIEW:

I love a debut book as you’re never sure what you’re going to get, so after hearing from other readers that this was a top notch title, I couldn’t wait for a copy to land so that I could get on with it. It seemed like a cracking concept, the blurb spoke volumes and of course when you set it up with what sounds like a joke (a Preachers son and a Highwayman) takes the reader into Southern America in the world of the 19th Century.

So having done some basic homework, I settled down to be amazed and started reading.

What unfurled within was a story that I had a hell of a time to get through. I hated the characters, I couldn’t associate with them, I disliked the lack of any real description for the landscape and all round felt rather cheated especially when I could see the sheer talent behind the piece with some great prose and some solid turn of phrases. All round, whilst it will appeal to a fair few, I found that this book just wasn’t for me especially when you really don’t care about the characters survival. All round a disappointment for me.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Immortal Empire 3: Long Live the Queen - Kate Locke


Release Date: 12/11/13
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

Xandra Vardan thought life would be simpler when she accepted the goblin crown and became their queen, but life has only become more complicated. The vampires, werewolves and humans all want the goblins on their side, because whoever has the goblins - wins. With human zealots intent on ridding the world of anyone with plagued blood and supernatural politics taking Britain to the verge of civil war, Xandra's finding out that being queen isn't all it's cracked up to be, and if she doesn't do something fast, hers will be the shortest reign in history.


REVIEW:

I’m a huge fan of this series as I love the way that Kate brings Urban Fantasy and Victoriana together especially with the wonderful mix of the supernatural races and their clear definitions. It works wonderfully well, is like a good coffee (dark and rich) whilst also bringing a great cast of characters to the fore, so much so that you really can’t put the book down once you’ve begun.

Back that up with a solid story arc, some great sleight of hand as well as a kickass heroine and all round I was a more than happy reader. Great stuff and long may the Queen reign.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

FANTASY REVIEW: Tower and Knife 3: The Tower Broken - Mazarkis Williams

Release Date: 01/11/13
Publisher:  Jo Fletcher Books

SYNOPSIS:

The world is at breaking point. The nothing, a terrible darkness caused by the festering wounds of a god, bleeds out the very essence of all, of stone, silk - and souls. Emperor Sarmin thought he had stopped it, but it is spreading towards his city, Cerana - and he is powerless to halt the destruction. Even as Cerana fills with refugees, the Yrkmen armies arrive with conquest in mind, but they offer to spare Sarmin's people if they will convert to the Mogyrk faith. Time is running out for Sarmin and his wife, Mesema: the Mage's Tower is cracked; the last mage, sent to find a mysterious pattern-worker in the desert, has vanished; and Sarmin believes his kidnapped brother Daveed still has a part to play. The walls are crumbling around them...


REVIEW:

The latest outing for Mazarkis and to be honest having been a little unwhelmed by the previous book, I was wondering if it was the book two curse hitting or whether the author was saving things for a pretty hard hitting third outing. And so, having picked up the book (finally) I settled back to see what would be revealed, and boy was I pleased I did.

The storyline has a huge amount going for it. The characters continuing to add to their personal growth and when you add dialogue that just leaps into your mind you know that it’s going to be something cracking Add to this solid prose and all round, a solid release that will more than entertain the reader. Magic.



CRIME REVIEW: Mangle Street Murders 1: The Mangle Street Murders - M R C Kasasian


Release Date: 07/11/13
Publisher:  Head of Zeus

SYNOPSIS:

Gower Street, London, 1882: Sidney Grice, London's most famous personal detective, is expecting a visitor. He drains his fifth pot of morning tea, and glances outside, where a young, plain woman picks her way between the piles of horse-dung towards his front door. Sidney Grice shudders. For heaven's sake - she is wearing brown shoes. March Middleton is Sidney Grice's ward, and she is determined to help him on his next case. Her guardian thinks women are too feeble for detective work, but when a grisly murder in the slums proves too puzzling for even Sidney Grice's encyclopaedic brain, March Middleton turns out to be rather useful after all...Set between the refined buildings of Victorian Bloomsbury and the stinking streets of London's East End, THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS is for those who like their crime original, atmospheric, and very, very funny.


REVIEW:

Crime stories set in Victorian England are always going to draw parallels between what occurs within and what has gone before, in particular Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. What happens within this book is a story that has a solid enough beginning, adequate prose and characters that were solid enough to help carry the story out. But for me it didn’t stand out from the crowd.

That was the let down and whilst the premise solid pretty well, the book overall sadly didn’t quite deliver what I was hoping for. That said, there are worse books to spend your cash on but if you want something that’s ground breaking, then sadly this isn’t it.

Friday, 15 November 2013

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Tinder - Sally Gardner

Release Date: 07/11/13
Publisher:  Indigo

SYNOPSIS:

Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he walks a dangerous path. A half beast half man gives him shoes and dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery. He meets the beautiful Safire - pure of heart and spirit, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. He learns the powers of the tinderbox and the wolves whose master he becomes. But will all the riches in the world bring him the thing he most desires? Fairy tales are often the cruellest stories of all; in this exquisite novel Sally Gardner writes about great love and great loss.


REVIEW:

I’ve always been a fan of Grimm Fairytales so when I get the chance to read a modern retelling by a favourite author I always jump at the chance. Here Sally Gardner takes on “The Tinderbox” in what can only be described as a spectacular outing for readers of all ages. The prose as usual is sharp, the pace ideal but for me its Sally’s trademark characterisation that really brings the whole thing to the fore.

Add to this some solid dialogue and a wonderfully woven rich tapestry of classic storytelling and all round I was a more than happy reader, making sure that I save this book to one side for when my niece is old enough to appreciate it (and probably after a few more rereads myself.) Great stuff.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

CRIME REVIEW: Bitter River - Julia Keller


Release Date: 03/09/13
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

Bell Elkins returns in this electrifying thriller from Pulitzer-prize winner Julia Keller. For fans of Dennis Lehane and Linwood Barclay. When tragedy hits Acker's Gap, no one escapes its effects. In Acker's Gap, West Virginia, a high-school student - sixteen, full of promise, and pregnant - is found murdered in a car at the bottom of the Bitter River. Her death devastates the community, but one among them must be responsible. Bell Elkins, Raythune County's prosecuting attorney, is determined to bring the killer to justice. But someone else has their own agenda. Amid the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains, another act of violence is about to strike. As Bell and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong work to uncover the truth, one thing is certain: no one can truly understand Acker's Gap until they are in the thick of it. Bell returned to her hometown to make a difference. But just how much is she willing to risk?


REVIEW:

Whilst Crime in a big city takes you on a helter-skelter ride, the ones that tend to get to you emotionally are the ones set in small towns, after all everyone knows everyone else so the crime is not only more personal but harder hitting emotionally. That’s what works wonderfully with this new title by Julia Keller, as a young woman is murdered with a huge number of secrets that will see the light of day.

It’s very dark, the prose is sharp but the emotional context is what really hits the reader, the way that the principle characters interact with the supporting cast really works wonders and when you add into this multifaceted believability all round makes this a book that I had one hell of a time putting down. All round a great book and one that has definitely added Julia a top spot in my TBR pile.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Bobby Dollar 1 and 2: The Dirty Streets of Heaven and Happy Hour in Hell - Tad Williams

Release Date: 06/06/13
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

BOBBY DOLLAR ISN'T YOUR AVERAGE ANGEL. Sure, he takes the occasional trip to Heaven, but his job as an advocate - arguing the fate of the recently deceased - keeps him pretty busy on Earth, and he's more than happy to spend the rest of his time propping up the bar with his fellow immortals. Until the day a soul goes missing, presumed stolen by 'the other side'. A new chapter in the war between heaven and hell is about to open. And Bobby is right in the middle of it, with only a desirable but deadly demon to aid him.


REVIEW:

I love it when an author hits the reader with something not only a little different but something that’s ground breaking in its own right. Whilst there are quite a few books out there that fit into the Urban Fantasy Crime PI, this one takes that concept and turns it on its head as the story’s principle hero is an attorney who argues your case for the divine side against the dirtiest fighting team from H E double hockey sticks.

Its definitely quirky, it has some great twists and when you throw into the mix an author who knows how to bring it all into one epic format, that will not only entertain but linger in your thoughts all round gives you something to savour. Just thank the book gods that I didn’t have to wait for the second title as it would have been an eternity in its own right.




Release Date: 24/09/13
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

Bobby Dollar has a problem or four of epic proportions. Problem one: his best friend Sam has given him an angel's feather that also happens to be evidence of an unholy pact between Bobby's employers and those who dwell in the infernal depths. Problem two: Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell, wants to get his claws on the feather at all costs, but particularly at all cost to Bobby . Problem three: Bobby has fallen in love with Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands, who just happens to be Eligor's girlfriend. Problem four: Eligor, aware of Problem three, has whisked Casimira off to the Bottomless Pit itself, telling Bobby he will never see her again unless he hands over the feather. But Bobby, long-time veteran of the endless war between above and below, is not the type of guy who finds Hell intimidating. All he has to do is toss on a demon's body, sneak through the infernal gates, solve the mystery of the angel's feather, and rescue the girl. Saving the day should just be a matter of an eon or two of anguish, mutilation and horror. If only it were that easy.


REVIEW:

OK, the second book in the series and to be honest with you, one that after the pretty epic beginning felt more than a little flat. Our principle hero is still as strong, the dialogue excellent but when you add to this something sadly lacking with the plot as well as overall story development all round left me feeling a little cheated. That’s not to say that it’s a bad book, its just that when the tale isn’t furthered it feels more like filler for a solid and high action conclusion in the third part. A great shame.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Conquest - John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

Release Date: 26/09/13
Publisher:  Headline

SYNOPSIS:

The start of an epic new series from bestselling author John Connolly, and Jennifer Ridyard. For fans of THE 5TH WAVE. Earth is no longer ours. It is ruled by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilised yet ruthless alien species. But humankind has not given up the fight, and Paul Kerr is one of a new generation of young Resistance leaders waging war on the invaders. Syl Hellais is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father's stronghold, hated by the humans, she longs to escape. But on her sixteenth birthday, Syl's life is about to change forever. She will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save the life of one human: Paul Kerr. Only together do they have a chance of saving each other, and the planet they both call home. For there is a greater darkness behind the Illyri conquest of Earth, and the real invasion has not yet even begun...


REVIEW:

I like books that take me on a journey, and whilst this is something new for fans of John Connolly it brings his talents to the young adult audience alongside all those magical ingredients that he bring to his other characters. Firstly you have great lead characters, they work well within the world, have so many facets that readers will forge links almost instantly.

Add to this top notch prose, some great twists, backed up with cracking pace and all round you can’t go wrong. Definitely a new string to his bow with the plotline being seamless between the authors. All round cracking fun.


CRIME THRILLER: The October List - Jeffery Deaver

Release Date: 26/09/13
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

You wait, desperately, for news of your daughter. At last, the door opens. But it is not the negotiators, or the FBI. It is her kidnapper. And he has a gun ...Two days ago, life was normal. How did it end like this? Every crime scene begins at the end. To know what happened, you must work backwards, piecing together the events that came before. The ultimate thriller writer, Jeffery Deaver puts your brain - and your nerves - to the ultimate test with THE OCTOBER LIST, in a masterful mystery that unfolds from the end back to the beginning with many a breath-taking twist along the way.


REVIEW:

This is a book that I really am not sure on even when I finished it a few days ago.. Whilst it is a brave attempt at giving the reader something different telling the story in reverse was something that really didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t like the way that it resolved itself, I didn’t like the characters involved and all round it irked me that I had to keep remembering the answer whilst trying to pick up the problem.

All round a great shame and whilst I have to applaud Jeffrey for trying this, it’s a method that didn’t work very well for me.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

CRIME REVIEW: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing - PD Viner

Release Date: 12/09/13
Publisher:  P D Viner

SYNOPSIS:

Something very bad happened to Dani Lancing. Twenty years later, her father is still trying to get her to talk. Her best-friend has become a detective, the last hope of all the lost girls. And her mother is about to become a killer. A hauntingly original debut that will stay with you long after the last page.


REVIEW:

A strange yet captivating tale of murder and how it effects those closest to the crime. Its definitely something unusual, has some solid twists but when you look at the boom , it’s the characters that make this book not only heartbreaking but something entirely different to a lot of the crime books out there.

Add to this solid storytelling, some wonderful twists and of course tightly woven prose all round helps this book achieve its goal to give you something unique. Great stuff.


URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson

Release Date: 26/09/13
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.


REVIEW:

I love Brandon Sanderson’s writing so when I heard that he’s brought his attention to creating a new type of superhero title I couldn’t wait to see what would arrive. What unfurls within is a story of hope, a tale of tragedy, an epic of deception and all brought together with cracking characters that you’ll just want to spend time with. Its certainly different to a lot of the books out there with more akin to Ennis’ version than anything else.

Back that up with a top notch helping of vengeance and all round I was a more than happy reader. Great stuff.

Monday, 11 November 2013

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Iron Guard - Mark Clapham

Release Date: 26/09/13
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

The 114th Mordian Iron Guard, pride of their world, renowned for their heroic actions at the Siege of Defure, are deployed to the mining world of Belmos VII, unaware that a terrible affliction plagues the local populace. As the Guardsmen attempt to track down the source of the corruption, panic spreads and the brave men of Mordian soon find themselves surrounded by enemies, both from within the Belmosian population and from without...


REVIEW:

The Imperial Guard fight a war against not only an unknown foe but also have to face off against the Dark Eldar who see an ancient device of truly evil proportions. As usual with the Black Library, the story is key and whilt a lot of people thoroughly enjoy the hardened tales of the elite fighting units such as the Space Marines, I’ve always had a soft spot for the everyday man who whilst not as hardy, gives, in my opnion, a greater sacrifice to the Imperium.

What Mark brings to the fore is a story of human suffering, of the human struggle and for me really does revitalise the 40k world with this cracking story. Back that up with the chance for the Unbreakables to return in a future outing and all round I was a more than happy reader.

FANTASY REVIEW: Hunter of Sherwood 1: Knight of Shadows - Toby Venables

Release Date: 29/09/13
Publisher:  Abaddon

SYNOPSIS:

Guy of Gisburne has a story, one the liar Robin Hood has obscured for centuries. In legend he was the Sheriff of Nottingham's henchman, the man who could not defeat Hood. But this errant knight, spy for the crown and hunter of Sherwood was never anyone's accomplice, or petty hoodlum. This thrilling reinvention of the Robin Hood legend is the beginning of a major new series. As George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman reinvented a character from Tom Brown's Schooldays, so Toby Venables finds Guy of Gisburne a character in the most thrilling episodes of his age.


REVIEW:

I’ve always loved the tales of Sherwood, the outlaw hero standing up for the people against a corrupt king, but there have been times when I’ve yearned for a richer, darker story, something that allows the reader to get to the heart of the tale afore propaganda took over, so it was quite a breath of fresh air to get a book told from Guy of Gisbournes point of view.

Its got some great action, wonderful turns of phrase and takes the reader not only on an adventure but gives them something pretty damn special all in. Add to this sharp prose, great dialogue and of course a lead character that you can really get behind all round gives you something pretty damn special. Thank you Toby for a great read.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

FANTASY EBOOK SHORT STORY REVIEWS: Tomb of the Golden Idol 1 & 2 - Andy Hoare


Release Date: 14/08/13
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

A band of intrepid adventurers led by the mighty dwarf Khargrim Khargrimsson delves into the jungles of Lustria in search of ancient treasure. Facing fiendish traps and the reptilian guardians of lost and hidden temples, they have their ultimate prize clear in their minds - the golden idol in the legendary Tomb of Destiny. But will they turn on one another before the fearsome lizardmen lay even a single claw upon them?


REVIEW:

Two short Warhammer Fantasy stories that feel part of a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game rather than a pure story on its own merits. Don’t get me wrong it will entertain, it will give readers a bit of light hearted entertainment but it feels pretty linear and simplistic with it appearing more obvious in some places rather than others.

In short, OK but don’t expect anything mind blowing from these stories. A great shame.

FANTASY REVIEW: Warhammer Fantasy: Time of Legends: The War of Vengeance 2: Master of Dragons - Chris Wraight


Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

For millennia, the elves of Ulthuan and the dwarfs of the mountain realm have been friends and allies. Now that time is over and the War of Vengeance has begun. Prince Imladrik, master of dragons and Ulthuan's finest warrior, is ordered to leave his beloved homeland and lead his host in a war he does not believe in. Facing the fury of the dwarfs, the jealousy of his brother and the ever-present threat of Malekith's dark elves, Imladrik must balance his love for his wife and home with the thrill of battle.


REVIEW:

The second book in the War of Vengeance series that this time takes the point of view of the Elves, from a hero who’s fighting a war he doesn’t believe in. Its tragic, it brings the a believability to the fore and also the chance to bring the strength of character through due to the struggles on both personal and for the culture to which he battles for their survival.

It’s a great read and really does work well on so many levels. The action is solid, the prose cracking and when added to an overall arc that furthers the series to a wonderful level all round gives a story that will have many readers demanding the third part.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

DVD REVIEW: ATM - Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, David Brooks - Lionsgate

Release Date: 14/10/13
Publisher:  Liongate UK

SYNOPSIS:

Three office workers find themselves trapped by a sadistic psychopath in this horror from director David Brooks. Offering a ride home to his co-worker and love interest, Emily (Alice Eve), after their late night Christmas party, David (Brian Geraghty) feels obliged to help out when another employee, Corey (Josh Peck), asks for a lift to the nearest cash dispenser. But after entering the stand-alone unit, the three soon realise that they are being watched by a threatening hooded figure lurking in the car park. Trapped inside the booth, with their phones left in the car and panic setting in, they are horrified when the figure savagely murders a passing dog walker, setting in motion a terrifying game of cat and mouse.


REVIEW:

OK, so this is a film that you just can’t take seriously. It’s got a cast with the survival instinct of a manically depressed Lemming, has no real script other than lets go on a murder spree with a killer that’s dressed in a Parker that feels about as scary as parp in a spacesuit. And worryingly these are the film highlights.

So why would you rent this? Well to be honest it’s so bad that it’s funny and after a good 20 mins of laughing at the futility of it, we decided to mute it and do our own voice overs. OK, yes this might sound a little silly but for some entertainment, well it was worth having it in the TV. If you haven’t got the inclination to do this, then I’d advise you leave it purely on the shelf, unless of course you want to get vengeance on a relative that constantly gets you bad films in which case this would be the ultimate killer that might teach them a lesson.

URBAN FANTASY CRIME: Prayer - Philip Kerr

Release Date: 03/10/13
Publisher:  Quercus

SYNOPSIS:

Special Agent Gil Martins investigates domestic terrorism for the Houston FBI. He is a religious man who is close to losing his faith; the very nature of his job has led him to question the existence of a God who could allow the things that Gil sees every day. But Gil's wife Ruth doesn't see things the same way and his crisis of faith provokes a fracture in their marriage. Gil's world is breaking apart. At the same time, Gil starts to investigate a series of unexplained deaths that bring this crisis of faith into uncomfortable focus. When Esther, a disturbed woman, informs Gil that these men have been killed by prayer, Gil questions her sanity. But as the evidence mounts up that there might be something in what she says, his new-found atheism is severely challenged, more so as he finds his own life is next on the line.


REVIEW:

OK, something a little different and to be honest as a huge fan of the original Blatty Exorcist anyone who claims to want to write their own version of this classic is going to have a hard time not only convincing me as a reader that its going to be on par but has to bring something novel to the table to help it stand out on its own.

As a huge reader I thought that I’d be a little unhappy with the overall project but when I sat down and concentrated on the tale as it wound its own way, I was more than intrigued to see a story that I could really get behind. What Philip brings to the fore is a solid lead character, some good twists and backs it up with cracking pace to help the reader have a sleepless night. It delivers, has more in common with the older style of horror than a lot of the more modern tales and all round presented a title that generated a few scary moments when I finally dropped off.



Friday, 8 November 2013

LADY ELEANOR FACTUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY REVIEW: Autobiography - Morrissey


Release Date: 17/10/13
Publisher:  Penguin Classics

SYNOPSIS:

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades. Achieving eleven Top 10 albums (plus nine with the Smiths), his songs have been recorded by David Bowie, Nancy Sinatra, Marianne Faithfull, Chrissie Hynde, Thelma Houston, My Chemical Romance and Christy Moore, amongst others. An animal protectionist, in 2006 Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon by viewers of the BBC, losing out to Sir David Attenborough. In 2007 Morrissey was voted the greatest northern male, past or present, in a nationwide newspaper poll. In 2012, Morrissey was awarded the Keys to the City of Tel-Aviv. It has been said 'Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status that Morrissey has reached in his lifetime.' Autobiography covers Morrissey's life from his birth until the present day.


REVIEW:

Having discovered Morrissey at the age of 13 due to sharing a passion for James Dean, I found, after working my way though a fair amount of his catalogue, that I liked his music, I loved the way with which he delivered his “message”, the descriptive contempt behind the words spoke volumes and over the years, with each impassioned speech he gave about events, I found myself liking him more The fact that he was a Manchester Lad come good, from working class roots, like myself also said a hell of a lot to me, so much so that when I heard about his autobiography I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

What unfurls within is a book that starts out almost as if it were one of the author’s songs. It was lyrical, it had deeper emotional context behind the word count but as it started to get going, I noticed a lot of cracks within the Morrissey plasterwork. Pieces that he didn’t want to reveal to the reader, hiding a lot of events that occurred during childhood that helped form him and tended to jump about without any real direction or timeline to follow along. This not only jarred the writing style but also left me feeling a little jaded about the star, especially when the majority of the book was about the various musical lawsuits to which he was embroiled.

Add to this that a fair number of other things didn’t come up, for example his passion of James Dean limited to a few pages alongside an almost passive mention about his vegetarianism (which for a guy who has venues selling veggie only food for the audience as well as being known for the song “Meat is Murder) seemed to not delve into the authors life as I expected.

All round this book fell short of what I was wanting. It missed out huge parts such as his venomous rants against the establishment, barely mentioned the Moors Murders which he was a campaigner against Hindley and Brady, as well as carefully picking its way through some of his early life and the book left me feeling that it was the fans that exploited him, not the ones who had supported his career or purchased his records but people who just grabbed what they wanted without giving him anything in return. A great shame.

MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT REVIEW: Faeries and Elementals for Beginners - Alexandra Chauran

Release Date: 08/11/13
Publisher:  Llewellyn Worldwide Limited

SYNOPSIS:

You can discover how to attract faeries and elementals to your home and garden - and befriend these powerful nature spirits. From ashrays to will-o'-the-wisps, this practical beginner's guide introduces a wide assortment of wild and wondrous creatures. With elementals divided by air, fire, water, and earth, you'll learn the unique qualities of each, how to catch sight of them, and respectfully request their help with healing, protection, getting a job, attracting love, and more. Along with step-by-step instructions for invoking faeries and elementals, you'll find rituals, meditations, and everything you need to begin safely interacting with these magical entities.


REVIEW:

Spirituality is a matter for each person to find their own path to and to be honest I’m a curious reader enough to see what others bring to the table with their own beliefs. Here within this book by Alexandra is a compendium on how to bring some elemental beings as well as the faeries into your own life. Each has their own benefits as well as downsides and to be honest the key thing here is to find balance between them all. It’s fascinating, has some means of bringing balance as well as harmony into your own life as well as giving you ways and means to find your own type of inner peace. All round a solid enough title and one that will definitely speak volumes to those sympathetic to the writing.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

LADY ELEANOR VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Ubisoft

Release Date: 29/10/13
Publisher:  Ubisoft

SYNOPSIS:

The year is 1715. Pirates rule the Caribbean and have established their own lawless Republic where corruption, greediness and cruelty are commonplace.

Among these outlaws is a brash young captain named Edward Kenway. His fight for glory has earned him the respect of legends like Blackbeard, but also drawn him into the ancient war between Assassins and Templars, a war that may destroy everything the pirates have built.

Welcome to the Golden Age of Piracy.

Key Features

A BRASH REBEL ASSASSIN – Become Edward Kenway, a charismatic yet brutal pirate captain, trained by Assassins. Edward can effortlessly switch between the Hidden Blade of the Assassin’s Order and all new weaponry including four flintlock pistols and dual cutlass swords.
EXPLORE AN OPEN WORLD FILLED WITH OPPORTUNITIES – Discover the largest and most diverse Assassin’s Creed world ever created. From Kingston to Nassau, explore over 75 unique locations where you can live the life of a pirate including:
- Loot underwater shipwrecks
- Assassinate Templars in blossoming cities
- Hunt for rare animals in untamed jungles
- Search for treasure in lost ruins
- Escape to hidden coves
BECOME THE MOST FEARED PIRATE IN THE CARIBBEAN – Command your ship, the Jackdaw, and strike fear in all who see her. Plunder and pillage to upgrade the Jackdaw with ammunition and equipment needed to fight off enemy ships. The ship’s improvements are critical to Edward’s progression through the game. Attack and seamlessly board massive galleons, recruit sailors to join your crew and embark on an epic and infamous adventure.
EXPERIENCE THE GRITTY REALITY BEHIND THE PIRATE FANTASY – Stand amongst legendary names such as Blackbeard, Calico Jack and Benjamin Hornigold, as you establish a lawless Republic in the Bahamas and relive the truly explosive events that defined the Golden Age of Piracy.
THE BEST ASSASSIN’S CREED MULTIPLAYER EXPERIENCE TO DATE - Put your assassination skills to test and embark on an online journey throughout the Caribbean. Discover a brand new set of pirate characters, and explore exotic and colourful locations. Additionally, create your own game experience with the new Game Lab feature – craft your own multiplayer mode by choosing abilities, rules and bonuses. Play and share your newly created mode with your friends.


REVIEW:

OK, now I know that there are quite a reviews out there already, however to be honest I'm surprised at how quickly a fair few people have managed to get them up so quick with so much gameplay time within. (Currently I'm on 63% with just over 70 hours logged in.)

The game is huge, has the cracking free roam option on the biggest world yet designed by the Ubisoft Crew. It has quite a bit of stuff to do on the high seas with not only massive epic battles but islands to explore, discoveries to be made and of course my personal favourite the locating of treasure maps and discovering their locations.

Throw into the mix a massive range of items to improve such as upgrading your ship, Edward himself, through hunting on land and water (yes whaling but you also go after sharks as well), all round help you give your character the best chance on his various missions. However one thing that left me feeling a little flat was the option of collecting the art pieces within the game, they didn't do anything other than decorate the home whereas in previous games they've helped the user gain finances with timely updates.

Yet having mentioned all this, I realise I've not managed to get to the solid story arc (although to be honest James Kidd didn't surprise me as I suspected that twist for quite some time) some good interaction between the actors ability coming through in not only the characters facial movements but their vocal stresses.

However whilst so far this has been mainly positive there are quite a few downsides to the game. Firstly a fair few items are quite pricy, you'll be saving for quite some time and to be honest you'll find the money burning its way through your hands at the rate of knots. The graphics, despite being designed on a new engine haven't been improved to the degree I'd have expected and sound wise I did find that some of the effects were quite muted. Add to this that, when pirating as a gamer I wanted a smooth rope boarding (which felt more like the character climbing the rope rather than sailing across, perhaps even showing it as they did in the advert with a side on view) and in addition to this I would have loved the chance to have ripped sails with a dagger like the roguish Douglas Fairbanks Junior which to be honest did leave me feeling a little short changed.

This all said, the game is a huge amount of fun and whilst it plays on a different angle to what has gone before, I do wonder if a little something has been lost as they try to pile on the quantity whilst letting some of the quality slip. It is fun, I'm spending a whole heap of time ravaging the Caribbean but all round, I still think the second AC title is still my favourite.




Lady Eleanor is Falcata Times Mistress of Mayhem, be it in the Horror Genre or on the console, she gives it her all and loves to blow the hell out of anyone who gets in her way.  You can often find her perusing the game sites to get the latest gossip on what’s arriving next or checking out the latest movie/book releases to see what grabs her attention.

In addition to this Lady Eleanor is a lifelong fan of pin up and in particular the Fetish Queen of the 50’s Bettie Page and whilst the name is an alias, its due more to her love of a song by the same title by the group Lindisfarne rather than her dominating presence when she lays down the law.

(Artwork by Isis Sousa for Falcata Times)