Thursday, 30 July 2015

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Crazy Love You - Lisa Unger

Release Date: 30/07/15
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster


Love hurts. Sometimes it even kills... Darkness has a way of creeping up when Ian is with Priss. Even when they were kids, playing in the woods of their small Upstate New York town, he could feel it. Still, Priss was his best friend, his salvation from the bullies who called him "loser" and "fatboy... and from his family's deadly secrets.

Now that they've both escaped to New York City, Ian no longer inhabits the tortured shell of his childhood. He is a talented and successful graphic novelist, and Priss... Priss is still trouble. The booze, the drugs, the sex--Ian is growing tired of late nights together trying to keep the past at bay. Especially now that he's met sweet, beautiful Megan, whose love makes him want to change for the better. But Priss doesn't like change. Change makes her angry. And when Priss is angry, terrible things begin to happen...


There are times as a reader that you not only want to be creeped out but treated to a cracking Crime Thriller story in the process and that’s exactly what Lisa Unger delivers in this, her latest release. It has all the elements that make her writing so Moorish, a cracking arc, top notch prose, magical dialogue and characters that you just want to spend a lot of time around as you find their foibles alongside weaknesses not only endearing but really makes them feel human.

Here within this book you end up asking yourself a lot of questions about what is and isn’t happening and when the author throws in quite a bit of sleight of hand into the mix as well as an arc that seems to deliver all you could want, really makes this a book that you just can’t let go of. Cracking.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Lego Dimensions New Trailer and Details - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Lego and Warner Brothers have let us know about the latest news alongside the new trailer for the forthcoming Lego Dimensions, here what they had to say:
"LEGO® Dimensions™, the upcoming entertainment experience that merges physical LEGO® brick building with interactive console game play.  The game features an original story that combines characters and worlds from 14 of the most popular entertainment brands including DC Comics™, The Lord of the Rings™, The LEGO® Movie, The Wizard of Oz™, LEGO®   Ninjago, Back to the Future™, Scooby-Doo™, LEGO® Chima™, Doctor Who, Jurassic World, Ghostbusters™, The Simpsons™, Portal™ and Midway Arcade.
In the game, there is an ancient planet at the centre of the LEGO® Multiverse inhabited by an evil mastermind, Lord Vortech. It is said that he who controls the Foundational Elements that this planet is built upon, controls all of the Multiverse. Lord Vortech has vowed to be that ruler, summoning characters from a variety of LEGO® worlds to help him find these building bricks of LEGO® civilisation. Some have agreed, others have rebelled, and only the combined powers of the greatest LEGO® heroes can stop him.   


When a mysterious and powerful vortex suddenly appears in various LEGO worlds, different characters from DC Comics™, The Lord of the Rings™ and The LEGO® Movie are swept away. To save their friends, LEGO® Batman™, LEGO® Gandalf and LEGO® Wyldstyle journey to locations beyond their wildest imaginations, and they soon realise that Lord Vortech is summoning villains from across different LEGO® worlds to help him gain control. As his power grows, worlds mix, unexpected characters meet and all boundaries are broken. Our heroes must travel through space and time to rescue their friends before the vortexes destroy all of LEGO® humanity.
Launching 29th September LEGO® Dimensions will be available for Xbox One, the all-in one games and entertainment system from Microsoft and the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment systems and Nintendo´s Wii U™ System.

To view the new LEGO® Dimensions story trailer, please visit the WB Games UK YouTube channel at"

We can't wait to see what this wonderful world has in store for us,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Batman: Arkham Knight - Warner Brothers Interactive

Release Date: 23/07/15
Publisher:  Rock Steady Games


Batman: Arkham Knight brings the award-winning Arkham trilogy from Rocksteady Studios to its epic conclusion.

Developed exclusively for next-gen platforms, Batman: Arkham Knight introduces Rocksteady's uniquely designed version of the Batmobile. The highly anticipated addition of this legendary vehicle, combined with the acclaimed gameplay of the Arkham series, offers gamers the ultimate and complete Batman experience as they tear through the streets and soar across the skyline of the entirety of Gotham City.

Be the Batman
Live the complete Batman experience as the Dark Knight enters the concluding chapter of Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy.

Players will become the world's greatest detective like never before with the introduction of the Batmobile and enhancements to signature features such as FreeFlow Combat, stealth, forensics, and navigation.

In this explosive finale, Batman faces the ultimate threat against the city that he is sworn to protect, as Scarecrow returns to unite the super criminals of Gotham and destroy the Batman forever.

Introducing the Batmobile
The Batmobile is brought to life with a completely new and original design featuring a distinct visual appearance and a full range of on-board high-tech gadgetry. Designed to be fully drivable throughout the game world and capable of transformation from high-speed pursuit mode to military-grade battle mode, this legendary vehicle sits at the heart of the game's design and allows players to tear through the streets at incredible speeds in pursuit of Gotham City's most dangerous villains. This iconic vehicle also augments Batman's abilities in every respect, from navigation and forensics to combat and puzzle-solving, creating a genuine and seamless sense of the union of man and machine.

The epic conclusion to the trilogy
Batman: Arkham Knight brings all-out war to Gotham City. The hit-and-run skirmishes of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which escalated into the devastating conspiracy against the inmates in Batman: Arkham City, culminates in the ultimate showdown for the future of Gotham.

At the mercy of Scarecrow, the fate of the city hangs in the balance as he is joined by the Arkham Knight, a completely new and original character in the Batman universe, as well as a huge roster of other infamous villains including Harley Quinn, The Penguin, Two-Face, and the Riddler.

Explore the entirety of Gotham City
For the first time, players have the opportunity to explore all of Gotham City in a completely open and free-roaming game world. More than five times the size of Batman: Arkham City, Gotham City has been brought to life with the same level of intimate, hand-crafted attention to detail for which the Arkham games are known.

Most Wanted side missions
Players can fully immerse themselves in the chaos that is erupting in the streets of Gotham. Encounters with high-profile criminal masterminds are guaranteed, while also offering gamers the opportunity to focus on and take down individual villains or pursue the core narrative path.

New combat and gadget features
Gamers have at their disposal more combat moves and high-tech gadgetry than ever before. The new 'gadgets while gliding' ability allows Batman to deploy gadgets such as batarangs, the grapnel gun, or the line launcher mid-glide, while Batman's utility belt is once again upgraded to include all-new gadgets that expand his range of forensic investigation, stealth incursion, and combat skills.


OK, this review has taken me a while to get done. Not because I wanted to complete the game before doing so (although I have done) but mainly because, with it being the third and final outing (at the moment for Rock Steady games) felt that it was missing something that the other two titles had.

Don’t get me wrong, the game had great graphics, cracking combat sequences and you also got to use the batmobile (for the first time) but it seemed to lack something which for me translated as top notch storyline, relying more on repetitive combat alongside ruining the whole batmobile with overuse.

All round, whilst it was a solid game to play, I would have preferred is if the Arkham Knight had been more of a side line with our favourite bat villain taking centre stage again (although he couldn’t have previously died in the last title) all round really didn’t give me the goose-bumps and farewell I’d expected in a trilogy. It was more of a damp ending rather than a huge bang and all round sadly left me disappointed .

Friday, 24 July 2015

DIGITAL RELEASE NEWS: Smosh: The Movie Available Digital Release

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our online friends have asked us to let you know about the Smosh movie (out of Digital DVD yesterday), which brings the online You Tube duo to the masses in this Alex Winters (Yes he of Bill and Ted fame) to the big screen (or rather bigger than the PC monitor. LOL)

Here's the trailer:

Hopefully you'll enjoy,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

Thursday, 16 July 2015


Release Date: 16/07/15
Publisher:  Century


This is the new novel from the bestselling author of ready player one. It's just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He's day dreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom-if he can make it that long without getting suspended again. Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer. At first, Zack thinks he's going crazy. A minute later, he's sure of it. Because the UFO he's staring at is straight out of the video game he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada-in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. But what Zack's seeing is all too real. And his skills-as well as those of millions of gamers across the world-are going to be needed to save the earth from what's about to befall it. Yet even as he and his new comrades scramble to prepare for the alien onslaught, Zack can't help thinking of all the science-fiction books, TV shows, and movies he grew up reading and watching, and wonder: Doesn't something about this scenario seem a little too...familiar? Armada is at once a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien-invasion tale like nothing you've ever read before-one whose every page is infused with author Ernest Cline's trademark pop-culture savvy.


Ah having loved Ernest’s original release, I really couldn’t wait to see what he’d return to the fold with and as with the original you can tell his passion of video games is not only heavily influential within but also brings a nostalgic look to the reader alongside using tropes from throughout the genre that really helps build a history for the world.

Its definitely quirky, has a ton of geek jokes within (including many film references) as well as presenting a principle character that you just really can’t let go of let alone want to spend time away from (so much so that you’ll find putting the title down nigh impossible.) All round a cracking title and for me, a definite Sci-Fi favourite of the year alongside being one that will make many a summer reading list. Cracking.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Release Date: 16/07/15
Publisher:  Gollancz


The starship Ariel is on a mission of the utmost secrecy, upon which the fate of thousands of lives depend. Though the ship is a mile long, its six crew are crammed into a space barely large enough for them to stand. Five are officers, geniuses in their field. The other is Will Kuno-Monet, the man responsible for single-handedly running a ship comprised of the most dangerous and delicate technology that mankind has ever devised. He is the Roboteer. Roboteer is a hard-SF novel set in a future in which the colonization of the stars has turned out to be anything but easy, and civilization on Earth has collapsed under the pressure of relentless mutual terrorism. Small human settlements cling to barely habitable planets. Without support from a home-world they have had to develop ways of life heavily dependent on robotics and genetic engineering. Then out of the ruins of Earth's once great empire, a new force arises - a world-spanning religion bent on the conversion of all mankind to its creed. It sends fleets of starships to reclaim the colonies. But the colonies don't want to be reclaimed. Mankind's first interstellar war begins. It is dirty, dangerous and hideously costly. Will is a man bred to interface with the robots that his home-world Galatea desperately needs to survive. He finds himself sent behind enemy lines to discover the secret of their newest weapon. What he discovers will transform their understanding of both science and civilization forever...but at a cost.


I’m a reader who loves to spend time in far flung future and every chance I get, I can be found travelling the various galaxies alongside intrepid heroes whatever their origins (terrestrial or extra-terrestrial.) What Alex does well in this title is bring his leading protagonist to the reader. He’s a person who stands out and whilst perhaps not the best example of humanity has foibles that allow ourselves to connect so well. Back this up with cracking storytelling, top notch prose and a good helping cracking universe building all round gives the reader a book that is fun to spend time between the sheets with.

Friday, 10 July 2015

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Empresss Game - Rhonda Mason

Release Date: 10/07/15
Publisher:  Titan


The Empress Game, the tournament that decides who fills the final seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire's supreme ruling body, has been called. The seat isn't won by votes or marriage. It's won in a tournament of ritualized combat. Kayla Reunimon, a supreme fighter, is called to battle it out in the arena.


This first novel in what looks to be an epic series really takes the reader on a rollercoaster of a ride as an exiled Princess with psy abilities seeks to hide her identity whilst trying to keep her brother and herself alive in an epic game of life, death and double dealing in a universe of complexity and manipulation.

It’s a well written novel and whilst the plot at times feels like the author is trying to cram a bit too much into the one title, it’s a starter that will keep you demanding more as each page is turned. Add to this a principle character that will strike a great many chords with the reader at how she deals with the hand life’s dealt her and all round it’s a book that made me pay attention. I look forward to future outings.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Lego Dinemsions Announces The Doctors Arrival - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our Lego buddies (as well as our Warner Associates) have let us know about the latest addition to the Lego Dimensions Universe with this cracking new trailer featuring "The Doctor."

Here's what they have to say about it:
"Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment revealed today at San Diego Comic-Con details about Doctor Who™ in LEGO® Dimensions™, the upcoming entertainment experience that allows players to expand their imaginations beyond traditional gaming to merge physical LEGO brick building with interactive console gameplay. Peter Capaldi, who plays the 12th Doctor, Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara Oswald, and Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy, will voice their respective characters from the long running British science fiction television series in LEGO Dimensions.

In a new trailer giving the first look at the Doctor Who gameplay, worlds collide in ways only possible in LEGO Dimensions, such as the TARDIS popping up in Gotham City and Hill Valley, the Doctor battling alongside Homer Simpson in Aperture Science, riding a haunted mine car with Scooby and Shaggy, or fighting alongside Kai and Cragger in a Ninjago battle arena.

Doctor Who, which has never before been in a LEGO videogame, will be playable in the LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack with a complete Doctor Who level where the game’s heroes continue their quest while encountering Daleks, Cybermen and other adversaries from the Whoniverse.

Fans who want more Doctor Who in LEGO Dimensions will be able to purchase the Doctor Who Level Pack which includes an additional mission-based Doctor Who level, along with a LEGO minifigure of the 12th Doctor and LEGO models of the TARDIS and K-9, all playable in the game. When the 12th Doctor is defeated in the level, he returns as the 1st Doctor and then regenerates back up to the 12th Doctor again. The interior of the TARDIS will reflect the corresponding Doctor the player embodies or can be manually selected. There’s even a jukebox inside where players can choose among different versions of the Doctor Who theme music. The TARDIS and K-9 models can each be physically built and then rebuilt twice to do entirely different things in the digital game for massive variety.

There will also be a Doctor Who Fun Pack, which includes a playable Cyberman minifigure and Dalek model which can be physically built and then rebuilt twice for a total of three different objects.

Launching 29th September 2015, LEGO Dimensions will be available for Xbox One, the all-in one games and entertainment system from Microsoft and the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment systems and the Wii U™ system from Nintendo."

Our only disappointment so far is that we haven't been offered a Jelly Baby!

We'll see you in the Lego Dimensions Universe,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

BOOK NEWS: Orbit Online Writing Workshop for Fantasy with Karen Miller - Orbit

Hail Mighty Readers,
Our friends at Orbit have got a great announcement for writers out there, here they are to tell you more:
"The international science fiction and fantasy publisher Orbit Books will be launching an online fantasy writing workshop this summer, hosted on It will be led by Karen Miller - a million-copy bestselling author who rose to fame with her debut The Innocent Mage, and whose most recent release is the critically acclaimed epic fantasy The Falcon Throne.

The free week-long event, which starts on 27th July 2015, will invite aspiring authors to take part in a communal online “write-along” challenge, during which they will each be encouraged to pen their own sample of a new fantasy novel. They will also be invited to submit this sample into a competition at the end of the week.

Miller will be kicking off the writing workshop by setting a writing challenge for aspiring fantasy authors on 27th July, and will be providing advice and words of encouragement throughout the week. She will also taking part in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, during which time participants will be able to put their own questions on writing to her.

Miller said: “One of the hardest things about starting a writing career is the feeling that you're alone, that nobody understands what you're going through, and that it's really hard to figure out how to do it right! That's why I'm so excited to share a little of what I've learned since I wrote my first fantasy novel. It's been a wild ride, these past few years, and if a new writer can be helped by something I've said, it will make all the hard work worthwhile.”

Any aspiring authors interested in taking part should follow @OrbitBooks on Twitter for details and updates."

We hope you'll join us in joining in,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

Monday, 6 July 2015

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Lego Jurassic World - Warner Brothers Interactive

Release Date:  12/06/15
Publisher:  Warner Brothers Interactive


LEGO Jurassic World: Following the epic storylines of Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, as well as the highly anticipated Jurassic World, LEGO Jurassic World is the first videogame where players will be able to relive and experience all four Jurassic films.


OK, with lego you tend to either be a huge fan or someone who hates it and whilst I’m the former, I have to say that I do expect a lot from each of the outings to make it not only fun but also something that entertains me as an adult.

This time we embark into the world of the Jurassic films and to be honest I’ve had a hell of a good time. There’s something extremely rewarding about smashing lego bricks with either a car or with a dinosaur. Yep, you read that right, smashing the hell out of stuff with Dino charges or stomps. It’s a great lot of fun and when you throw Lego humour into the mix all round generates something that will entertain for quite some time. All round a wonderful piece of fun that has a lot going for it and a lot of replay value as you return to freeplay levels to get the maximum points and of course picking up all the bonus’ that you couldn’t without some additional characters. Great fun.

Friday, 3 July 2015

FANTASY REVIEW: The Hollow Gods 2: The Hunter's Kind - Rebecca Levene

Release Date: 02/07/15
Publisher:  Hodder


Krish once believed himself but a humble goatherd, but now knows he's the son of the king of Ashanesland - and the moon god reborn, as foretold. Now, with his allies Dae Hyo and the mage Olufemi by his side, Krish has begun to sieze control of Ashanesland... and receive the worship he is due.

But Kirsh has many enemies, including Sang Ki, the bastard lord, who has discovered the key to Krish's overthow in the distant Moon Forest. There lives a girl named Cwen, a disciple of the god known only as the Hunter. And she has made it her life's mission to seek out Krish and destroy him.

If Krish has any hope of defeating his enemies, he must travel to the forbidden Mirror Town and unlock the secrets of its powerful magic. And the price of his victory may be much greater than the consequences of his defeat.


OK, this is the second book in the series and whilst I haven’t read the first (a problem I will correct soon) I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I loved the way that the author brought the principle characters across, wove a rich tapestry of a world and then populated it with cultures that made this book pretty unique in its own right.

Told from multiple points of view the tale generates such complexity within that you can’t help but take notes to make sure that you don’t miss anything. Back this all up with solid prose, good dialogue and of course an overall arc that just keeps giving to the reader and you know that it’s a series that really does beg to be read by a great many. Absolutely cracking.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

FANTASY REVIEW: Cursed Kingdoms 3: The Blood Curse - Emily Gee

Release Date: 02/07/15
Publisher:  Solaris


Those who drink the water shall thirst for blood. They shall be as wild beasts. A blood curse is ravaging the Seven Kingdoms. Fugitive Osgaardan prince, Harkeld, is the one person who can destroy it. Guarded by Sentinel mages, pursued by Fithian assassins, he begins the final-and most dangerous-stage of his quest: entering the cursed kingdom of Sault, where drinking even one drop of water means madness and death. But the mages aren't the only travellers heading east. Princess Brigitta, abducted by Fithian assassins, is also bound for Sault-unless she can escape. And in close pursuit is her loyal armsman, Karel. Young orphan, Jaume, is also headed for Sault-where he will be forced to make decisions that will change the fate of the Seven Kingdoms forever.


A return to a fantasy world that is not only imaginative but one that grows with each outing. Its definitely a world that readers want to not only get lost in but enjoy spending time within as its full of vivid colours, a kickass over arc and one that’s also backed with a writing style that for me is identifiable as characters fight foes without alongside within as emotions war with duties.

The book is full realised and when the reader adds cracking prose alongside dialogue that really helps the characters become fully realised within the mind all round generates a book that has such a strong cast both major and minor. All round a magical read and one that whilst authors hate to hear, was one I just devoured as I couldn’t allow it to rest. I can’t wait for a whole series reread.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

FANTASY REVIEW: Darkhaven - A F E Smith

Release Date: 02/07/15
Publisher:  Solaris


Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren - true heir to the throne - hasn't inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.


A novel that introduces readers to not only a world of wonder but full of dark intrigue, murder and mystery as events unfurl that throws a city out of balance. Its definitely a book that thoroughly captivated me which when added to solid prose alongside an arc that has a lot of room to grow for future outings, all round gives the reader a thoroughly enjoyable read.

All round whilst this is my first read of Smith’s writing I really can’t wait to embark on other outings as it’s not only friendly but a style that is so engaging you’ll eagerly await the next time that you pick it up for your next read. Cracking.

Guest Blog: World Building - A F E Smith

Worldbuilding and plot are like the chicken and egg of fantasy: people often want to know which came first. Do authors create a fascinating new world and then figure out a plot to fit inside it? Or do they come up with a plot first and then build a world around it?

For me, at least, the answer is something in between. When I wrote Darkhaven, it started with an initial idea that was really just a vivid scene – the scene that’s still the opening of the book. So there was a vague suggestion of plot, a little bit of setting, but not much of either. After that, I probably came up with the basic elements of the main plot, which in turn suggested a certain kind of setting – and then that setting, in turn, suggested further refinements and additions to the plot. So the worldbuilding and the plot evolved together, each influencing the direction of the other.

Consider the city of Arkannen, which is where the events of Darkhaven take place. I started out with Darkhaven itself, the tower at the heart of the city, because that’s where my character Ayla is fleeing from at the beginning of the book. I knew she was trying to evade the law, and I didn’t want to make it too easy for her. In a modern city her obstacles would be video surveillance, cell phone tracking, use of credit cards; in an industrial revolution era city, where it would be far easier to go undetected, the solution was to make Arkannen very structured. So it has seven ‘rings’ or concentric walled circles, each with a single gate. Each of the city’s rings also has its own purpose and character, allowing me to present Ayla with various different environments to navigate. And in turn, this highly structured setting suggested new plot points, particularly when it came to the final act of the book.

The same was true when it came to the kind of time period in which to set the book. I didn’t want to give it a medieval setting, but I still wanted to have swords and horses alongside the steam trams and factories. So industrial revolution was perfect for me, because it’s always a time in history when new and old coexist. And once I’d made that decision, when I was seeking an unusual weapon to give my female mercenary an advantage over her competitors, the obvious choice was a pistol: a new technology to set against the old ‘technology’ of bladed weapons. In turn, that opened up a whole new strand of the plot, because – not to get all spoilery about it – it turns out that pistols have very specific effects in my world that other weapons don’t. In fact, those effects will play a significant role in Darkhaven’s sequel. So once again, a general bit of worldbuilding led to a new plot point, which fed back into the worldbuilding again.

I don’t know about other authors, but for me, I think it’s pretty much inevitable that worldbuilding and plot should be intertwined like this. In fact, perhaps it’s a mistake to think of them as being separate entities at all. Like the chicken and the egg, neither could exist without the other. Something similar is true of plot and character – it’s impossible to develop the characters of a novel and develop its plot independently of each other, because the plot has to be consistent with how the people in it would behave. After all, you can’t have a plot that exists without characters. And you can’t have a plot that exists without worldbuilding, either. Things happen to people, in places.

One of my favourite parts of writing is how exciting it can be when a previously underdeveloped aspect of the world or strand of the plot comes to life and brings something I hadn’t thought of to the story, or turns out to be connected to another strand I thought was unrelated. I imagine it would be possible to design a fully complete world and populate it with fully developed characters, then set them in motion; the plot would follow from the characteristics of the people and their setting, as inevitable as the laws of physics. Or you could come up with a detailed and clever plot, then build the people and their world around it, retrofitting their characteristics to suit the requirements of the story. But neither of those approaches would hold any surprises for the author. Letting the story and the world grow together, and develop organically, is much more fun – and, in the end, probably more satisfying for the reader too.