Tuesday, 25 February 2014

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Shadow Ops 3: Breach Zone - Myke Cole

Release Date: 28/01/14
Publisher:  Headline


The third book in Myke Cole's acclaimed Shadow Ops series. The Great Reawakening introduced magic into an already volatile world. Many of those with newfound powers have been conscripted by the US Army ...but when the barriers between our reality and the source of this magic starts to fall, they will have to decide who they are really fighting for.


The third outing for Myke Cole’s Shadow Op’s and to be honest it’s his best to date as the prose has become sharper, the characters more accessible to the reader and when added to an overall arc that keeps you glued from the first page to the last and all round I was a more than happy reader.

Add to this some great twists, a high octane finish to the series and an author who has clear idea’s of what his readers were expecting makes this a cracking conclusion. Great stuff.

Monday, 24 February 2014

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Alien: Out of the Shadows - Tim Lebbon

Release Date: 31/01/14
Publisher:  Titan


The massively acclaimed Alien franchise is one of the most successful of all time, beginning with the first film in 1979. In a dramatic twist, this novel will return us to that time, to Ellen Ripley, and to never-before-revealed secrets of the Weyland-Yutani Corporations...secrets that lead into the events of the second film, Aliens...and beyond!


OK, I’m a huge fan of the films and to be honest I think it would only have been fair had they not added Ripley to this title. She was unnessessary, faced no real danger as with the time scale we know she survived and all round sadly dragged what was otherwise a solid title down from good to merely reasonable.

Whilst the action was good and hard hitting, I did find it hard to keep going with the book purely for the fact that we knew she’d live. It lost huge elements of its danger and placing it in established history really does limit what is possible. Perhaps next time they should leave Ripley in the Life Pod and give us all a new hero to face off against the Hive Foes.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

CRIME THRILLER: What She Saw - Mark Roberts

Release Date: 04/02/14
Publisher:  Atlantic Books


When a nine-year-old boy is left to die inside a burning car on a sink estate in Peckham, DCI David Rosen is drafted in to investigate. The young boy has been severely burned, and is now fighting for his life. As Rosen and his team begin to scour the crime scene for forensic evidence, they discover something chilling; a graffiti image of a sinister eye, drawn in exquisite detail above the site of the wreckage - and behind it, a series of mysterious markings, etched into the wall. Could the markings represent a secret code left by the killer - a code that will hold the key to the investigation?


OK, so for me, Mark’s first book The Sixth Soul was essentially a middle of the road book that whilst not outstanding, was solid enough to put Mark on my TBR list. The prose was good, the concept within believable and with cracking dialogue alongside proper crime solving generated a story that I felt was a lot better than the original.

Add to this some solid sleight of hand from the author backed up with an author who has clearly learned from what has gone before demonstrates that he’s a name to watch.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Lego: The Movie Videogame - Warner Brothers Interactive

Release Date:14/02/14
Publisher:  Warner Brothers Interactive


Enter the most fantastical world of LEGO building where gamers can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary with an all-new and unique digital master building ability

Transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and experience the ultimate LEGO building experience in the all new The LEGO Movie Videogame. Step into the world of Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average citizen who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. Players guide him as he is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.

Enjoy a delightful and surprising mix of over 90 characters as seen from the film including Batman, Superman, the Green Ninja, Gandalf and more in 15 exciting levels.
Smash more bricks in a fascinating environment made of LEGO bricks.
Collect and use LEGO instruction pages to build in a new way.
Journey through fantastical worlds like Flatbush Gulch, Cloud Cuckoo Land and more!
Harness the awesome power of the Master Builders to virtually build extraordinary LEGO creations.
Enjoy a brand new animation style as seen in the film that simulates the movement of actual LEGO toy sets.


OK, I have to say from the start that I’ve been a fan of the Lego games for quite some time, so for me, it was pretty much a no brainer to get this one as I thought I’d get a lot of the humour, a lot of the fun and of course the wonderful world building that’s gone before in this latest outing.

That said however, I have to say that I was severely let down. For me, I hated the almost stop motion animation FMV sequences, I disliked the worlds and all round it felt more like a huge step back from recent releases that made the world so much fun to spend time in. Marvel had great things like characters that morphed, the animation was smooth and the characters within were not only delightfully animated but entertained me for many hours of gameplay that it took to not only complete 100% but also to obtain every character.

What did this one offer, poor characters that were 2d, bringing what felt like a Lego version of the Matrix to the player with various worlds that felt substandard compared with whats gone before. Back this up with irritating characters, parodies of what’s gone before and all round I was greatly disappointed, so much so that I won’t be playing through again to gain all the extra characters available.

CRIME THRILLER: Until Death - Ali Knight

Release Date: 07/11/13
Publisher:  Hodder


Marriage is a prison for Kelly. Her controlling and manipulative husband Christos videos her in the house, has her followed and tracks her every move. She may be desperate to leave, but she's not stupid. If she runs, he'll make sure she never sees her children again. Christos has a mistress, Sylvie, keen to pander to his every whim and even keener to step into Kelly's shoes, should she ever vacate them. Kelly thinks it's stalemate for their twisted threesome, but one of Christos's container ships is about to dock in London with a secret cargo that will change all their lives forever. If Kelly is to escape, it will be in a way she never imagined, and people will get hurt ...


If you want a dark tale of suspense, mystery and escape then you really have to give this title by Ali Knight a go, within the principle players are trapped within their own lives, held together by the dark manipulations of Christos which makes for not only heart rending reading but a story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

As usual with Ali’s writing, its intelligent, hits the right spot for the suspense reader and will, in its own way, have you questioning what you’d do in the same situation. Add to this some great turns of phrase and all round it’s a solid read, but to take that next step for the reader, Ali has generated characters that feel fully rounded, have their own whims and desires which when carefully boiled into a powder keg generates something that is truly electrifying. Great stuff.

Friday, 21 February 2014

CRIME SHORT STORY COMPENDIUM: A Darker Shade - Ed. John-Henri Holmberg

Release Date: 09/12/13
Publisher:  Head of Zeus


Original Swedish crime stories from the masters of Nordic noir. Includes a never-before published short story by Stieg Larsson. Ever since Stieg Larsson shone a light on the brilliance of Swedish crime writing with his bestselling Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, readers have devoured this dark and compelling genre. Now the nation's best crimewriters have been brought together to form the first ever anthology of Swedish crime. Contributors include: - Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. - Henning Mankell, creator of Wallander. - Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, creators of Martin Beck. - Eva Gabrielsson, writer and thirty-year partner to Stieg Larsson.


OK, in the crime market, most readers know that the Swede’s have not only come but invaded and conquered the genre in recent years, so whilst a lot of readers tend to know individual writers such as Stieg Larrson, there’s a whole myriad of other talent from Scandinavian Crime Writing within each bringing their own take of blood, crime and lust to the reader.

It’s a great book to sit down with to break up journey time or even a lunch break and will leave you chilled to the marrow as each story gives you that deliciously dark hit that you’ve delved into the pages for. All round a great outing and one that will not only turn heads but give readers a fair taste of authors to look out for.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

THRILLER REVIEW: A Steel City Thriller: Blood Guilt - Ben Cheetham

Release Date: 26/12/13
Publisher:  Head of Zeus


'Last night, eight-year old Ethan Reed was abducted at gunpoint from his home by an armed intruder. We are urging members of the public to get in touch. A coordinated search of the local area will be carried out.'Four years ago, Detective Inspector Harlan Miller killed someone. Now - divorced, alone, consumed by guilt - the world outside his prison walls holds little for him. Until, mere days after his release, an eight-year-old boy is abducted. Ethan Reed. The son of the man he killed. Frustrated by a police search that finds nothing, driven to desperation by repeated appeals that bring in no new leads, Ethan's mother knocks on the door of the man she has reason to hate most in the world. She has one question to ask - beg - of Harlan Miller. Find her little boy. Do whatever it takes.


This was a book that I liked the sound of from the blurb and whilst I really got into the concept as the tale wound its way, I had one major problem, the principle character, I really just couldn’t stand him. For me there was no real hook to get the reader to associate with him and when added to a thoroughly dislikeable personality had me wondering if I’d made a huge error.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept was fairly strong, some of the twists were very clever but when I don’t care for a principle character how am I meant to actually care whether they live or die or achieve their objective. All round a book that I’m pleased I read but not only that’s going to make me reach for the authors next book immediately.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Wolfenstein: New Order New Trailer - Bethesda

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Bethesda have released the latest trailer for the forthcoming Wolfenstein game and wow does it look fun.

Here's what they've had to say:
We’re pleased to announce Wolfenstein: The New Order, the first-person action-adventure shooter, will be available in Australia on May 22, 2014 and throughout Europe on May 23, 2014. As an added bonus, everyone pre-ordering the game will be invited to access the DOOM beta with their copy of Wolfenstein: The New Order. For more information on the DOOM beta access pre-order bonus, as well as applicable terms and restrictions, please visit: www.wolfenstein.com/DOOM.

Currently under development at MachineGames, Wolfenstein: The New Order reignites the franchise widely recognized for pioneering the first-person shooter genre. Set in the 1960s, the monstrous Nazi regime has used mysterious advanced technology to win World War II. They now rule the globe with an iron fist. Wolfenstein: The New Order sends you across Europe on a harrowing mission to bring down the Nazi war machine.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is slated for release on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. For more information on the game visit: www.wolfenstein.com."

We hope you're as excited as we are,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Sacred 3 Launch Trailer - Deep Silver

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Deep Silver have let us have the Announcement Trailer for Sacred 3.

We're really quite stoked about this and here's what they've had to say:
"Deep Silver today announced that the next instalment of the famed Sacred franchise, Sacred 3, will release on consoles and PC this summer. Sacred 3 takes players back into the fantasy realms of Ancaria, where they will need to band together in the hope of vanquishing the deadly tides of evil. Sacred 3 will be released for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and for the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft as well as Windows PC.
“The paramount development goal for Sacred 3 has been to create a seamless online and offline co-op experience”, said Remy van Leeuwen, Brand Manager of Deep Silver. “By creating a game built around the central concept of co-op gameplay, we’re expanding the series to new audiences without compromising the rich lore and fantasy of the Sacred universe.”

Sacred 3 features classic arcade Hack ‘n’ Slash action centred around drop in, drop out cooperative multiplayer for both offline (2 players) and online (4 players) play. The game brings back fan-favourite characters such as the Seraphim, Ancarian, Khukuhru and the Safiri, as well as introduces a new character, Malakhim. Each character class features its own unique skills and weapons which can be upgraded to match the player’s very own combat style. As they master the art of war, players will fight their way through enemy hordes and try to outshine their fellow companions on their way to become the greatest hero of all. The inclusion of mission stats and online leaderboards will continue to drive competition both locally and online. Victory Is Ours. Glory is Mine."

We can't wait to see what happens wtihin,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor 

YA FANTASY REVIEW: The Queen of Darkness - Peter Hamilton

Release Date: 02/01/14
Publisher:  Doubleday


Taggie and Jemima are holidaying on their dad's farm. They know just what to expect - a tumbledown old cottage, sunshine and strawberry picking. But then Jemima sees a white squirrel wearing glasses...and soon after, their father is captured and whisked away to a faerie world that's fallen to Darkness. But why would anybody want to kidnap boring old Dad, especially the dreaded King of Night? Could it be that their family isn't quite as ordinary as they believed? As Taggie and Jemima venture into fantastic Realms, they discover magical powers they never knew they had. Powers they're going to need during the desperate race to save their father. But the sisters will also need all the friends they can find - no matter what kind of folk they are, or where in history they belong...


Something completely different from Peter Hamilton and a tale that will strike a chord with older and younger readers alike as Peter adds his own brand of writerly magic to an epic adventure for the children’s market. The characters within are a pure joy to sit back and spend time with and when added to high octane pace, some quick twists and of course the authors own hugely twisted imagination, all round generates something that is nigh impossible to put down. Definitely a story that I’m recommending to many younger readers out there to not only keep the love of reading alive but to hold up as an example of something truly wonderful to behold. Great stuff.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

CRIME THRILLER: In the Blood - Lisa Unger

Release Date: 02/01/14
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster


About to graduate from university in upstate New York, Lana Granger takes a job in town looking after eleven year old Luke. Expelled from schools all over the country, manipulative Luke is accustomed to controlling the people in his life. He likes to play games. But in Lana he may have met his match. Or has Lana met hers?

Because Lana is a liar. She has told so many lies about where she comes from and who she is, that even she can't remember the truth.

Then Lana's closest friend Beck mysteriously goes missing, and Lana's alibi for the night of the disappearance doesn't match with eyewitness accounts. Now, Lana finds herself lying again - to friends, to the police, to herself. Lana is willing to do almost anything to keep the truth - about her last night with Beck, about everything - from coming out. Even so, it might not be enough to keep her shocking secrets dead and buried. But somebody knows all about Lana's lies. And they are dying to tell.


Lisa Unger is one of those authors that I really have to grab when I see a new title out. I love the way that she hooks me in within the first few pages, generates characters that I want to spend time around and when she adds her own identifiable touches to a seemingly simple plot outline, all round has me gripped until the last page is turned.

Back this up with some great prose, wonderful dialogue and of course her own macabre twists all round leaves me with a book hangover (due to lack of sleep.) Thank you.

Monday, 17 February 2014

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: You're Mine Now - Hans Koppel

Release Date: 09/01/14
Publisher:  Sphere


Anna and Magnus have a happy marriage, but when, in a moment of madness, Anna has a brief fling with Erik, a man she met at a work conference, she lives to regret more than just her infidelity. Erik is a disturbed individual who goes to extreme lengths to get Anna's attention, including kidnapping her ten-year-old daughter and attacking her mother. Before she knows it, Anna's life is in the grip of this psychopathic stalker and she must try desperately to escape his clutches before it's too late...


A seriously modern story with a deliciously dark twist in its poisoned tail as Fatal Attraction meets Scandinavian Crime in a cracking book that really doesn’t let up from the opening chapter to its last. Its got some great twists, emotional desires and requirements from a cast of characters who not only feed the darkness within each other but fan the flames to a height that will end in an uncontrollable forest fire leaving all in wasted heaps at the tales conclusion.

Add to this some great dialogue, solid prose and for me a story that will leave me questioning the human condition for quite some time.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Hannibal: Fields of Blood - Ben Kane

Release Date: 30/01/14
Publisher:  Arrow


The killing fields of Cannae provide the setting for one of the bloodiest battles in history. But who will triumph? Hannibal and his warrior army, or the mighty legions of Rome. By the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Forgotten Legion trilogy. Hannibal's campaign to defeat Rome continues as he marches south to confront his enemy. With him is a young soldier, Hanno. Like his general, Hanno burns to vanquish Rome. Never has the possibility seemed so likely. But a stealthy game of cat and mouse is being played as Rome's generals seek to avoid confrontation. Eventually the two armies meet under a fierce summer sun. The place is Cannae - the fields of blood. The battle will go down in history as one of the bloodiest ever fought, a battle in which Hanno knows he must fight as never before - just to stay alive.


Ben is an author I’ve loved for years and as such, he’s an author that has gone from strength to strength especially with his latest series following the war between Carthage and Rome. It brings the past to life, giving the reader a sense of the time not only politically but also from each civilisations point of view which when backed with characters that the reader can easily associate with all round gives you a great reading experience.

Back this up with an additive writing style, some great combat sequences and of course some wonderful lulls with cracking dialogue and all round I was a happy reader.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Blind Alley - Danielle Ramsay

Release Date: 30/01/14
Publisher:  Mullholland Books


Three brutal attacks. One near-fatal beating. And a deadly score to settle. DI Jack Brady is riding high after the successful outcome of his previous case, but his world is about to come crashing down. There's a serial rapist plaguing the streets of Whitley Bay. Three young women have been horribly abused, and his boss and the press are screaming for answers. Everything seems to point to his old friend and foe, gangster Martin Madley, though Brady still struggles to believe he's capable of such acts. With time running out before the villain strikes again, Brady must follow every scrap of evidence. But there are forces at work he knows nothing about, and his persistence is leading both him and those close to him ever further into danger...


I love a crime story that hooks me from the get go and that’s what exactly what Danielle does in this, the third outing for Inspector Jack Brady. It has some solid twists, characters that the readers can believe in alongside carefully constructed plot line that has realistic crime solving which when backed with an overall arc alongside authorly talent that continues to grow with each subsequent title all round gave me an experience I was more than pleased I had.

Friday, 14 February 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: The Evil Within has a launch date - Bethesda

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our spy at Bethesda has managed to smuggle out some info in connection with The Evil Within.

Here's what they had to say:
"We’re pleased to announce The Evil Within, the new survival horror game from legendary director, Shinji Mikami, will be available in North America on August 26, 2014 and throughout Europe on August 29, 2014. The Evil Within is in development for the Xbox One, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, and PC.

Developed by Shinji Mikami and the talented team at Tango Gameworks, The Evil Within embodies the meaning of pure survival horror. Highly-crafted environments, horrifying anxiety, and an intricate story are combined to create an immersive world that will bring you to the height of tension. With limited resources at your disposal, you’ll fight for survival and experience profound fear in this perfect blend of horror and action.

While investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder, Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners encounter a mysterious and powerful force. After seeing the slaughter of fellow officers, Sebastian is ambushed and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a deranged world where hideous creatures wander among the dead. Facing unimaginable terror, and fighting for survival, Sebastian embarks on a frightening journey to unravel what’s behind this evil force. "

We hope you're getting as excited about this as we are.

All the best,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor.

FANTASY REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki - Joanne Harris

Release Date: 13/02/14
Publisher:  Gollancz


The novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods - retold from the point of view of the world's ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki's recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself. Using her life-long passion for the Norse myths, Joanne Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel.


I love a book that’s a little different and whilst Joanne is well known for her YA Fiction, her first adult Fantasy is one that not only hit the right notes for me but also gave me a mischievous as well as fascinating character with Loki. Add to this some cracking mixing of ancient myth with cracking modern storytelling alongside wonderful prose and pace all round left me a more than happy reader.

Definitely a book that I’d recommend to young readers looking to move adult titles and when blended with a wonderful sense of awe all round makes this a book that deserves to do well. Great stuff.


D. B. Reynolds is the RT Award-Winning author of the popular Vampires in America series of Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy and an Emmy-nominated television sound editor. She lives with her husband of many years in a flammable canyon near Los Angeles, and when she’s not writing her own books, she can usually be found reading someone else’s. 

Visit her blog at www.dbreynolds.com for details on all of her books, for free stories and more.  

WARNING:  This story is racy and contains adult themes.

Marcella preened as the woman slid lace straps over smooth shoulders, cupped full, youthful breasts into silk-lined cups before twisting the front snap closed.  Round globes of smooth, golden skin plumped over the top of the cups, framed by the same delicate lace that curved over the woman’s shoulders. Marcella could feel the weight of the woman’s breasts straining gently on the straps, stretching the cups to their fullest. It was what Marcella had been created for, to caress and shape that loveliest part of a woman’s body. This was perfection. She was perfection. Her lace was imported from Italy, her silk from the finest weavers in France. It was a mark of distinction, a recognition of her beauty, that she was named at all. Most bras and panties were nothing but underwear, a style number on a tag. But Marcella was lingerie, meant to show off the grace of a woman’s body, to charm and seduce.

The woman slid one finger under a delicate strap, straightening it on her shoulder, making the slightest adjustment, shifting the weight of her breast, before bending to draw on the matching panties, with their tiny triangle of lace in the front. Triple bands of satin glided over the woman’s hips until they met the narrow thong that outlined the firm, round cheeks of her bottom. Marcella was pleased. She’d been designed for a body just like this woman’s, for strong curves and full, firm breasts. 

The woman shot to attention suddenly, whipping around to pull on a silk robe. Marcella recognized the feel of it, the way it slid seamlessly over her lace without catching or snagging.  Just lovely. The perfect wrapping, meant to be peeled away to reveal the true beauty beneath it, the enticing elegance of Marcella herself. She imagined the man’s thick fingers, slipping carefully beneath her lacey straps, sliding them down the smooth skin of the woman’s shoulders, delicately pulling away the lovely curves of the silken bra cups to display the woman’s breasts. He’d pause, admiring the way the gorgeous lace framed their fullness, the way its creamy color brought out the golden glow of the woman’s skin. He’d move to the clasp next, slowing again to appreciate the cleverness that went into the twist snap, the perfect melding of form and function as the clasp blended seamlessly into the beauty around it. He’d twist it gently, understanding intuitively that such a clever design would never require anything but the most delicate touch. 

The woman would sigh with pleasure as the bra fell away, as the soft silk offered a parting caress, the lace scraping gently over her desire-swollen nipples, giving them one last stroke before baring them to her lover’s eyes. And then, with a final, admiring gaze for its perfection, the Marcella bra would be carefully set aside and the man would turn his attention to the seduction that was the Marcella panty. His hand would glide slowly over the woman’s flat belly, drinking in the anticipation, delaying the moment when his fingers would dip beneath the smooth satin of the panty’s straps. He would marvel at the perfect symmetry of the triple design, the flawless detailing. And then he would go to his knees, his lips kissing the woman through the satin, pausing over her smooth mound, his tongue dipping beneath the satin where it met the seam of her thigh, where Marcella would be hiding the heat of the woman’s sex. 

And finally, the man would reluctantly slide the panties down the woman’s long legs, his covetous gaze following their slow journey over the woman’s thighs, her calves, her ankles, until the panty too would be safely set aside, joining the bra, to be donned and appreciated another day.

The man’s deep voice drew closer. Marcella quivered in excitement, her lace rubbing the woman’s nipples to hard peaks that the man would appreciate. The robe was whipped away, tossed to one side, forgotten as his gaze drank in …

Marcella shrieked in silent shock as her front clasp was ripped open, her imported silk torn as the man’s rough hands caught on the delicate fabric, as his thick fingers cupped the woman’s breasts, his thick thumbs scraping over the woman’s enlarged nipples as Marcella had pictured her own silk perfection doing. The fragile lace straps were yanked down the woman’s arms, one of them torn from its mooring in his haste, holding on by a single silken thread as the bra went flying through the air to land in a dark corner behind the bed.

If she’d had breath or voice, Marcella would have moaned in agony as the perfect triple strands of satin on the panty were snapped without ceremony, one side hanging useless as the woman fell back onto the bed, as her legs spread wide to accommodate her lover’s hips. The man shoved aside what was left of the panty, the velvet over steel of his cock slamming between the woman’s thighs, the woman crying out in pleasure, her naked breasts crushed against his chest, her smooth mound rubbing against the rough hair of his groin as he fucked her over and over again, the juices from her arousal soaking the torn satin of her panties until with a sharp cry and a shout, the couple orgasmed together, arms clenched, bodies slick, his release joining her arousal to drench the once-pristine Marcella panty.

The couple roused at last from their post-orgasmic stupor. Marcella lay in her dark corner, waiting for the woman to retrieve her beautiful lingerie, to mourn its damage and promise to restore it to its former perfection. Marcella heard the woman’s soft voice and then finally, she was brought back into the dim light of the bedroom.

“You’ve ruined another one,” the woman laughed. 

“Sweetheart, I don’t care about the wrapping, only the present.”

Marcella gasped mutely as she was tossed away, her lovely Italian lace torn, her French silk sinking into the pile of used tissues and discarded nail polish in the bathroom trash, the soaked remains of her satin panty landing on top of the bra before the trash can lid closed with a snap, and there was nothing but darkness.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Warner Brothers Interactive Announce Dying Light Trailer

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warner Brothers Interactive have shared with us the trailer for the forthcoming game Dying Light that shows a Zombie outbreak from a different point of view.

Here's what they had to say:
"Kill or be killed," they say. But is that what you would do?

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Techland are asking that very question in the latest trailer for Dying Light. Doctors, teachers, fathers, sons...or so they were. But now they've lost the light behind their eyes, and are vicious monsters who become even more threatening as day turns to night. When neighbours turn on neighbours, and the fight to stay alive becomes the only thing keeping you alive, what will become of humanity?

We’ve become used to killing zombies in video games over the years, but who were these zombies before they became infected? Is there still a human inside of them? In the ‘Humanity’ trailer, Techland aims to address the reality behind the zombie fiction, and present a deeper vision of what a zombie epidemic would mean for humankind.

In the new trailer for Dying Light, fans will see what has become of the city of Harran after a vicious outbreak begins to spread. As day turns to night, players will have to do whatever it takes to survive. They may even have to make choices that will make them question their own sense of humanity.

And now onto the trailer:

We hope you've enjoyed this and like us can't wait to see what the game holds in store.

All the best,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

GUEST BLOG: Just Remember This... - Anthony Riches

In all my time writing ‘The Emperor’s Knives’ I found myself coming back to one question time after time. At this point, of course, you’re probably thinking that I was pondering on the merits of the many and different styles of fighting that were seen in the empire’s arenas, over the hundreds of years that the gladiatorial arts held Rome’s population in their thrall. Or, you might wonder, was I perhaps taken up with the question of why it was that a little known Etruscan custom of human sacrifice came to be so popular, second only to chariot racing in the affections of Romans? In truth it was neither of these perfectly valid questions that pre-occupied me.
No, reader, the question that was exercising my mind was far more down to earth. Why was it, I mused, that the women of Rome were so very keen on gladiators. And when I say “keen”, I really mean it. To the apparent disgust of the more surviving writers of the time, Rome’s women found much more to attract them in the sweaty, scarred body of a professional fighter whose arena trade branded him as ‘infamis’ - lower than the lowest in the city - than in their own august and sensitively composed works. And, trust me, the gladiators knew only too well the power they wielded.  

Women with money would hire gladiators as bodyguards for an evening out in the city, not simply for their protection but for the pleasure that might be had from their close attentions. The slave girl Chrysis in the Satyricon remarks that ‘there are those who can only get on heat with the absolute dregs…the arena certainly does it for some.’ More than a few famous Romans were reputed to have been fathered by the virile gladiators of the day, and even the real life imperial villain of the Empire series, the Emperor Commodus, was the subject of dark mutterings as to his true parentage. And he did grow up to be fascinated with gladiatorial sport…  

Whether taken with a big pinch of salt or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that gladiators were widely associated with wild, sweaty, brutal sexuality. Gladiator figurines have been found with enormous penises, some even arching back to attack their owner in a particularly Roman visual satire. Gladiator blood was an especially strong juju, and a men marrying a bride whose customary hair parting had been performed with the customary spear head would have been doubly delighted were that spear head to have been dipped in the blood of a dead gladiator, with the power to make her faithful for the length of their marriage. Gladiators were even rented out for sexual purposes, it seems, an apparent perk of the role. These men, steeped in their literal infamy, drew women to them like moths to their flame, and were it not for the genuine opportunity for a man to meet his gods in the arena every time he fought (alright, many bouts were carefully staged, much like modern wrestling, but put two men together with sharp iron and bad things frequently happened) one might even be a little jealous of them.  

Mind you, it wasn’t just the women who were turned on by the sight of blood on the arena sand. The arches (fornices) outside the arena, used by prostitutes to entertain their clients, were so busy that the name stuck, and to this day we still call the sexual act ‘fornication’. Well I do. I love a good old meaty Latin word under such circumstances.  

So it wasn’t just the women who were aroused by the whole fight to the death thing. The fact of it, I suppose, is that deep down the human animal still harbours the same visceral instinct to glory in blood and death that sent the Romans into such ecstasies two thousand years ago. After all, it’s the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms, no matter who much we’d like to think we’re better than they were. Scratch the 21st century metrosexual hard enough and you’ll find a Roman pleb with all his lusts and pleasures, beneath the surface? Now there’s a thought to close on.
Oh, but before I close, I hope you will read and enjoy two books. One’s my own ‘The Emperor’s Knives’, the seventh book in the Empire series. The latter of the two is Philip Matyszak’s ‘Gladiator’, which I pillaged liberally in the writing of the former (and much of this post for that matter). He’s a great author of Roman fact and fiction, and I heartily recommend him to you.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Empire 7: The Emperor's Knives - Anthony Riches

Release Date:13/02/14
Publisher: Hodder


The seventh novel in Anthony Riches' acclaimed Empire sequence brings Marcus Aquila back to Rome, hunting the men who destroyed his family. But the revenge he craves may cost him and those around him dearly. The young centurion's urge to exact his own brutal justice upon the shadowy cabal of assassins who butchered his family means that he must face them on their own ground, risking his own death at their hands. A senator, a gang boss, a praetorian officer and, deadliest of all, champion gladiator Mortiferum - the Death Bringer - lie in wait. The knives are unsheathed, and ready for blood ...


The latest outing for Centurion Marius “Two Knives” Corvus who in his quest for vengeance has travelled to Rome. As with Anthony’s other books the tale is full of high octane action, has some magnificent twists and when added to a comraderie that gives the reader a bond with not only the principle player but the unit around him all round generates a book that is not only hard to put down but nigh impossible.

Back this up with some great dialogue, some cracking turns of phrase and of course an authorly style that really works well always moves Anthony to the top of my reading pile. Finally I’d like to add that if you’re a fantasy reader and love David Gemmell’s work, then try Anthony Riches Historical Fiction, it not only has notes of David throughout but also in the latest title has something that you’ll more than appreciate. Great stuff.