Monday 31 January 2011

NATURAL WORLD REVIEW: Ice Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History in Three Acts - Kieran Mulvaney

Release Date: 06/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

The polar bear is one of the most recognisable animals on the planet. Yet if global warming continues at its present pace, summer sea ice could disappear entirely from the Arctic Ocean by the year 2040. Polar bears could be extinct within a generation.

Ice Bear is the definitive account of an iconic species: its life, its past, and its uncertain future. These beautiful bears are creatures of paradox: Arctic residents whose major problem is not staying warm, but keeping cool. Officially classed as marine mammals, they are the world’s largest land carnivores. They begin life in a snowdrift; at birth they weigh just twenty ounces. Fully grown, they become massive predators that can walk almost silently, ten feet in length and close to 2,000 pounds. Wandering thousands of miles over the course of a year, they are, above all, creatures of the ice. Without sea ice and the life it supports, polar bears cannot survive.

Kieran Mulvaney is an expert on the Polar regions who has led three expeditions to the Arctic as well as Project Thin Ice 2006: Save the Polar Bear - the successful first attempt to reach the North Pole in summer and draw attention to the impact of climate change on polar bears. This book blends natural and human history, myth and reality with scientific and personal observation, to tell the story of these remarkable animals, the region in which they dwell, and the rapid changes overtaking planet Earth.


REVIEW:

This is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for the best part of 18 months. Alas due to delays it’s been a long wait and whilst its finally arrived, I’d almost wished that it hadn’t as it’s a wake-up call to the world to help save an endangered species now rather than waiting for its painful demise as the Arctic Ice caps melt. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this book but when such beautiful creatures are on the verge of disappearing within many peoples memory due to mankind’s selfishness then it’s time to stand up and be counted.

The book is wonderfully written as the author takes the reader on a journey to the Arctic Circle in order to allow us to see this impressive creature (10ft in height and 2000 pounds in weight) in all its glory and whilst we can revel in its majesty we have to remember exactly what these mammals are capable of. Add to this an informed well-spoken voice to help carry this title through which when backed with an almost travel journal vocal style allows the reader easy access to this elusive creature. Let their voices be heard before the we’re only left with an echo as they’ve gone the way of the Dodo.

DEJA REVIEW

Hail Mighty Readers,
Here's this months round up of previously reviewed titles that have either been released in PB format or have undergone new binding/artwork. (Covers in review may differ from current incarnation.)

This month you'll find:
Blonde Bombshell - Tom Holt
Thirteen Years Later - Jasper Kent


If we've missed one please let us know,



Gareth

Sunday 30 January 2011

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Hellblazer: India - Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Simon Bisley

Release Date: 26/10/10

SYNOPSIS:

Wanted for a murder he didn't commit, Constantine leaves the UK and heads to India on a quest for purity in an effort to resurrect his dead girlfriend. But something wicked haunts the slums of Mumbai, leaving beautiful young women in its wake. An incredible clash of old and new cultures sets the stage for Constantine in India as he mingles with street kids, billionaires and Bollywood. Can London's quintessential street mage pay the price for enlightenment without losing his sanity? With greed, sex, demons and dancing, Mumbai has never been hotter than this.


REVIEW:

One thing that you know that you’re going to get with Hellblazer is a classic interpretation of modern magus against the demons and evil men as a damned soul seeks enlightenment in India. It’s beautifully written with Peter’s script selling the mysteries of India to a western audience as well as bringing into it some past history that parts of the west would sooner forget. Back that up with the beautiful artwork of Giuseppe Camuncoli and it’s a tale that works well on all levels. Finally add to this first story the classic one-liners for which Constantine is well known and the reader goes away happy.

The second tale within this title is one of punk and conservatives, of politics and mayhem and is one where we get the chance to see a young Constantine at play as a misspent youth returns to haunt him. For this script you really needed an artist who could create the feeling of the period and perhaps there is none better than Simon Bisley who projects strength, violence and magic within his lines.

All in this title is definitely one that screams classic Hellblazer to the reader and if you miss this, you’ve missed something extra for the mythos. A real treat and one that I can’t help but recommend.

Saturday 29 January 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Lost Fleet 1: Dauntless - Jack Campbell

Release Date: 28/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

The Alliance has been fighting the Syndic for a century, and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is Captain John Black Jack Geary - a man who has emerged from a century-long hibernation to find himself heroically idealized beyond belief. Now, he must live up to his own legend.


REVIEW:

If you’re looking for a book to help introduce historical fiction fans to Science Fiction, then this could well be the book for you. After all if they love sea battles and authors like Patrick O’Brian then this book by Jack Campbell will hit the spot as it battens down the hatches and runs for home.

Its creative, it has additional elements that are part Buck Rogers part Andromeda as well as adding a dash of Battlestar Galactica which when backed with a wonderful sense of pace really sell the piece. Finally back that up with a commanding lead character that keeps the readers, as well as the supporting cast on their toes with touches of heroism and sacrifice and you know it is an opening book to a series that really will satisfy that battle lust they’ve been waiting for. Great stuff.

Friday 28 January 2011

CRIME REVIEW: The Holmes Affair - Graham Moore

Release Date: 06/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

For over a century, the secrets of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's missing diary have lain buried. Now all that's about to change ... Victorian London : As the world mourns the demise of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Sherlock Holmes at the foot of the Reichenbach Falls, Conan Doyle has a new preoccupation, as a chance encounter sets him on the trail of a brutal killer targeting vulnerable suffragettes. Together with Bram Stoker, he roams the dark streets of Victorian London searching for clues as to what happened to the girls. Modern-day New York : Literary researcher Harold White's lifelong obsession with Sherlock Holmes turns into something far more sinister. The world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, and only Harold is familiar enough with the arcane mysteries of the Holmes novels to recognise the clues the killer has left. Clues which will lead him not only to a murderer prepared to stop at nothing, but also to the mystery of Conan Doyle's missing diary - and a secret that Conan Doyle, a hundred years earlier, risked everything to hide ...


REVIEW:

This one is a bit of a strange book as it’s a title of two tales, one set in the time of Arthur Conan Doyle, the other in the modern era as a much rumoured treasure associated with the great man is unearthed. It’s definitely interesting, it has multiple hooks and to be honest it doesn’t paper over the characters making them all sweetness and light allowing the reader to see them warts and all. Whilst it was fascinating to get the two separate stories it did feel more like two short stories that really shouldn’t have met almost as if the author didn’t have enough for one seriously big adventure.

Don’t get me wrong both had their strong points, both had their weaknesses but overall it did feel that perhaps the author should have split it into two separate books and concentrated on each separately making each a tale worthy of Holmes himself. If you want a book that will while away a few hours or one that will entertain then this will do that, if you want one that builds up a whole set of mysteries without giving itself away then there are other titles out there that might be better suited.

Finally if you want a book that plays on themes that have a certain connection to real life within a fictional world then this book does have some of those dancing within. It was definitely interesting, it definitely amused but to be honest a lot of the mystery was more than elementary with the author revealing a lot of the hints and tips of Doyles throughout which made parts a little bit to predictable.

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Legends of the Mouse Guard - David Petersen, Jeremy Bastian and Others

Release Date: 28/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Inside the June Alley Inn, mice gather to tell fantastic tales, each trying to outdo the other. A competition, of sorts, begins. The rules: Every story must contain one truth, one lie and have never been told in that tavern before. Legends of the Guard is a new Mouse Guard anthology series featuring the work of artists and storytellers handpicked by series creator David Petersen.


REVIEW:

Having loved the first Mouse Guard title that was released, we were absolutely chuffed to bits when this next title arrived, For the heroism of the Mouse Guard world is something that is just too gorgeous to put down.

The artwork is exquisite, the illustrations bright and colourful and when backed with fantasy tales of daring do, is just a tale that we couldn’t put down. Whilst this book is a little different from the first (the original creator having allowed a few new artists to play in his world) the story that interlinks the various threads was a pure delight and matched up to the various styles beautifully. Add to that some great stories of heroism and it’s a title that we just couldn’t put down. Highly recommended and a graphic novel for collectors of all ages.

Thursday 27 January 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: The Heroes - Joe Abercrombie

Release Date: 27/01/10

BOOK BLURB:

They say Black Dow's killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbour, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they've brought a lot of sharpened metal with them. Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honour on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he's far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it's his own. Prince Calder isn't interested in honour, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he'll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn't have to fight for it himself. Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins any more, he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him? Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts, or even the strongest arms that prevail. Three men. One battle. No Heroes.


REVIEW:

The reader returns to the land of the First Law trilogy at a crucial point in the battle for the north. It’s brutal, it’s definitely bloody and it’s got a body count that would have not have frightened any Medieval general.

It’s definitely a title that will sate the reader who loves a solid fantasy, the characters are vivid and Joe’s comprehension of battlefield humour really shines through. Add to this some cracking prose, some spartanesque descriptive style and not a single word is wasted in this epic struggle. The fate of the north may not be completely writ but Joe has got one hell of a struggle on his hands as his talent improves with each successive title. A seriously good read and one that will hopefully garner the respect as well as reader time that it deserves.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: True Soldier Gentlemen - Adrian Goldsworthy

Release Date: 27/01/11

BOOK BLURB:

The year is 1808, and Hamish Williams is a 'gentlemen volunteer' in the 106th regiment of foot, a man serving with the ranks but living with the officers, and uncomfortable in both worlds: looked down on by those with the money or influence to buy their rank, and distrusted by the common soldiers who know he is not one of them. But Williams is determined to prove by deeds alone that he is a man worthy of advancement, and when the 106th embarks for Portugal to begin what will become known as the Peninsula War against Napoleon, he knows his chance of glory is at hand. Soon he is receiving a sharp lesson in the realities of war, as the 106th undergoes a bloody baptism at the hands of the French - and he realises that his single-minded devotion to honour may not, after all, be the quickest route to promotion. Combining the vivid detail of a master historian with the engaging characters and pulsating action of a natural storyteller, TRUE SOLDIER GENTLEMAN is the first volume in what promises to be a classic series.


REVIEW:

Any historical fiction title wthat sets itself during the Napoleonic War, that follows the soldiers is invariably going to be compared to Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe. (Even if they have verses from Over the Hill printed inside.)

Whilst there are a number of similarities this title follows the fortunes of the 106’s Gentlemen Soldiers (aka the Officers) and whilst the body count along with the cost in blood is high, the rewards are even more so.

All in, the action is acceptable, the plot outline is reasonable and to be honest it’s the characters that keep this tale alive. Personally, I’m not much of a fan of the officer class and prefer to stick to the common man but even so, I did get a lot of fun from this title. Obviously this isn’t Cornwell so you may not get exactly what you’d expect from him, but the authors title is enjoyable and with a bit more character building added it could well become a seriously good take on the Spanish portion of the Napoleonic war.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

THRILLER REVIEW: The Stonehenge Legacy - Sam Christer

Release Date: 11/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Eight days before the summer solstice, a man is butchered in a blood-freezing sacrifice on the ancient site of Stonehenge before a congregation of robed worhsippers. Within hours, one of the world's foremost treasure hunters has shot himself in his country mansion. And to his estranged son, young archaeologist Gideon Chase, he leaves a cryptic letter ...Teaming up with an intrepid Wiltshire policewoman, Gideon soon exposes a secret society - an ancient international legion devoted for thousands of years to Stonehenge. With a charismatic and ruthless new leader at the helm, the cult is now performing ritual human sacrifices in a terrifying bid to unlock the secret of the stones. Packed with codes, symbology, relentless suspense, and fascinating detail about the history of one of the world's most mysterious places, The Stonehenge Legacy is a blockbuster thriller to rival the very best of Dan Brown.


REVIEW:

To be honest you probably know by now that I love a debut as the author has carte blanche with which to fascinate, to attract as well as mystify the reader and that’s just what Sam Christer does with The Stonehenge Legacy. There’s the mystery of a secret society bound into the ancient stones of one of England’s best Neolithic sites, there is the mystery of a father’s death that sets his son on discovering the truth and there’s that wonderful touch of a possible romance bound within a very tight story. It has something for everyone and when backed with a wonderful descriptiveness alongside an opening chapter that makes it hard to put down, the reader is in for a real thrill ride from start to finish.

Add to this characters that you can believe in, a cracking sense of timing as well as pace and when rounded off with a breakneck pace alongside a mystery you could believe the reader really won’t know where to turn. A stunning debut from this author and one that I really can’t wait to see what is achieved next time.

Monday 24 January 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Pirate Devlin 2: The Hunt for White Gold - Mark Keating

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Sold by his father for four guineas, Patrick Devlin was working as a servant to Royal Navy Captain John Coxon when he was catpured by pirates. Now, Devlin has himself become one of the most feared pirates in the world - and Coxon his most bitter foe.

But in this thrilling new historical adventure it is not gold that Devlin is chasing, but something even more valuable.

The early 18th Century is obsessed with the flavours of the New World - coffee and chocolate. And only one material enables the kings, queens and rising middle classes of Europe to drink without burning their fingers on the handles of their cups - Chinese porcelain.

In a brilliant conspiracy story reaching from the unknown empires of the East to the restless new colonies of America, a letter has gone missing. In the letter lies the formula for the manufacture of Chinese porcelain, and whoever can find the letter can name his price - and even change the course of history, by enriching the nation that owns the secret.

Valentim Mendes, a Portugese noble who has crossed swords with Devlin before, now seeks to blackmail him into finding the letter. And wherever Devlin goes, his nemesis Coxon is never far behind.


REVIEW:

Having loved Marks first novel in the series, The Pirate Devlin, I really couldn’t wait to sail the high seas for further adventures. Whilst this title continues the tale of Patrick, Mark has taken a different angle to keep the reader just as engrossed by further expanding the characters within. It’s beautifully descriptive, the characters are magical and whilst the tale is still full of daring do, Marks creativity gets to take the reader to new heights as his great control of prose and pace really won’t let you put the title down.

Add all this to a great overall arc, enemies both new and old which when backed up with dangerous situations where the author plays for keeps leaves the reader with a tale where you hope that your favourites live. So shiver me timbers me hearties, splice the mainbrace, swash some buckles and prepare to sail the high sea’s with a crew of dangerous vagabonds, adventure is to be had with gold to be treasured…

Sunday 23 January 2011

CUISINE REVIEW: Perfect Slow Cooking - Elizabeth Brown

Release Date: 06/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Would you like to get the most out of your slow cooker? Do you want to create healthy home-cooked meals with the minimum of effort? Do you want to save money and time without compromising on taste? Perfect Slow Cooking is an indispensable guide to this healthy and economical way of preparing meals. Covering everything from how to choose the right appliance to advice on the most affordable cuts of meat, it walks you through every aspect of the slow-cooking method and offers tried-and-tested tips that will help ensure all your meals taste fantastic. With a selection of mouth-watering recipes for soups, curries, roasts and desserts, alternative options for those occasions when you don't have all the ingredients, and useful advice on finding the time to cook during a busy day, Perfect Slow Cooking has all you need to prepare delicious, healthy home-cooked meals on a budget. The Perfect series is a range of practical guides that give clear and straightforward advice on everything from getting your first job to choosing your baby's name. Written by experienced authors offering tried-and-tested tips, each book contains all you need to get it right first time.


REVIEW:

As an owner of a slow cooker, I’ve always stuck to the basics such as a hot pot or a good old casserole and I’ve always wondered exactly what else could be accomplished with this wonderful cooking method. What Elizabeth’s book does not only helps you to learn how to make the most from your slow cooker but also gives you tips on looking after it, helping to convert other recipes to this method as well as accompanying a whole range of delicious recipes to get you started.

There’s something for everyone’s taste within whether you like vegetarian food or a soup, some deserts or a good solid main course with cuisine from around the world to cite a Lamb Tangine or a Jambalaya as well as solid British favourites like Lucky Irish Stew with Dumplings for example. It’s a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen and as such I can’t recommend it enough especially if you love the idea of a throwing everything into one pot and coming back to a beautifully cooked hearty meal. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Good Fairies of New York - Martin Miller

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Morag and Heather, two eighteen-inch fairies with swords, green kilts and badly dyed hair fly through the window of the worst violinist in New York, an overweight and antisocial type named Dinnie, and vomit on his carpet. Who they are, how they came to New York and what this has to do with the lovely Kerry - who lives across the street, and has Crohn's Disease, and is making a flower alphabet - and what this has to do with the other fairies (of all nationalities) of New York, not to mention the poor repressed fairies of Britain, is the subject of this book. It has a war in it, and a most unusual production of Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and Johnny Thunders' New York Dolls guitar solos. What more could anyone desire from a book?


REVIEW:

They got cars big as bars, they got rivers of gold, but the wind goes right through you, It’s no place for the old…. as the good fairies are about to find out in Martin Millar’s latest title to be rereleased. It’s definitely quirky, it’s got some great twists and the characters really do stand out as he interweaves a whole cross section of society together in this one magical offering.

Add to that a descent plot outline, some great one liners and you have a title that will appeal to Urban Fantasy readers both young and old. A real joy to read and one that we just had to pass on (although if you do be aware of Neil Gaimans warning in his introduction…)

Saturday 22 January 2011

CRIME REVIEW: Kill Me Once - Jon Osborne

Release Date: 20/01/11

BOOK BLURB:

Nathan Stiedowe is seeking perfection - and he has been learning from the best. Recreating some of the most sickening murders in history, his objective appears chillingly simple, but his true motive remains unclear. On the trail of this sadistic monster is FBI Special Agent Dana Whitestone. Driven by the brutal childhood slaying of her parents, Dana's relentless pursuit of the most evil and twisted criminals has seen her profile many violent cases. But never has she encountered a maniac as demented as Stiedowe, or a mind as horrifyingly disturbed...


REVIEW:

In a world that’s chock full of fictional crime titles that centre around a serial killer, new authors have to find a way to give the reader something special that not only chills them to the bone but horrifies as well as frightens them. Many readers seek solice within the thrill that they get from titles that explore the case through pathology, others by reading titles where the detective is key. However one element that has not been as explored as it could have been is the tale from the point of view of the serial killer.

This is what Jon Osborne has done, in this his debut title that seeks to launch him up there with the likes of Karin Slaughter, even so far as following a punishing schedule that will see the second title in the series published in the next six months. It’s going to be tough but with the characters within this first novel, the author has a real chance of creating something special. Within this story the characters are believable, the dialogue realistic and the prose alongside pace really keeps the reader glued as each element is revealed which makes this a great first title and one that demonstrates that this year has some cracking new talent breaking out.

Friday 21 January 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: A Thomas Chaloner Adventure 6: The Body in the Thames - Susanna Gregory

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

In the dilapidated surroundings of the Savoy, a delegation from the government in the Netherlands is gathered in a last ditch attempt to secure peace between the two countries. Thomas Chaloner, active in Holland during Cromwell's time, is horrified at the violent aggression and hatred shown to the Dutch by ordinary Londoners, but is more worried by the dismissive attitude with which they are greeted by the King's ministers and officials. He has experienced the futilities of war at first hand and has no wish to witness another. Then the body of his former brother-in-law is found in the Thames, and Chaloner discovers the dead man has left enigmatic clues to a motivation for his murder. These may be linked to a plot to steal the crown jewels, or perhaps to a conspiracy to ensure that no peace is secured between the two nations. Whichever it proves to be, Chaloner knows he has very little time to decipher the pointers left to him...


REVIEW:

Crime and mystery are two sub genres that go well together and one of the upper echelon in the historical fiction genre is Susanna Gregory. Here in the sixth book in the Thomas Chaloner series, the mysterious disappearance of a dutch national who also happens to be Thomas Chaloners brother in law sparks a whole new level of intrigue as our tales hero has to fathom the deeper meaning as well as play with politics in this dangerous time of English History.

It’s definitely got a cracking set of characters with each being fully rounded even if they’re playing a bit part, the dialogue is crisp and the prose is something that works really well for the period to which the piece is set. Back that up with a great sense of pace as well as a wonderful sense of timing and plot twisting and you know that it’s a mystery that will keep you glued to the end. Whilst a number of people may worry about jumping in so far into a series, I can state that you can enjoy this title with no prior knowledge of the other books in the series. A sign that the author welcomes all to her world and hopefully you’ll get just as much fun out of it as an established fan. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Steven De Selby 2: Managing Death - Trent Jamieson

Release Date: 20/01/11

BOOK BLURB:

Steven has a new job, with an important-sounding job title: Australia's Regional Death. On a good day he thinks it has quite a ring to it, but on a bad day (that's most of them) it's more of a toll. He's recently averted a Regional Apocalypse, but a huge national death count - instead of a normal, manageable death count - is still a big risk. And with barely a month to go until his first Death Moot, where the world's thirteen Deaths get together to talk, er, death, Steven feels a crisis is imminent. People are dying in the unusually brutal summer heat. Monstrous Stirrers are on the rise as their dark god draws near. Someone is trying to kill him. And he has a conference to organise. Steven must start managing Death, before it starts managing him, or this time the Apocalypse will be more than Regional.


REVIEW:

Having loved Trent’s original tale of the business of death I really looked forward to this one to see what other new challenges would present themselves for Steve De Selby and whilst he survived the previous title by the skin of his teeth, our hero is to learn that its not easy at the top and that everyone’s out to get you. Its wickedly good fun, it has great characters and above all else it’s a plotline that you really can’t put down.

Add to this a deliciously dark sense of humour that pokes fun at death as well as giving the reader some great prose and you really can’t afford to miss this title. Finally add a magical sense of timing, some great prose alongside great pace and you know that it’s a title that will keep you glued to the last page. It will be interesting to see what Steve’s next book will do as after all, any author who has no qualms about grabbing the reaper and playing his ribs like a xylophone, pretty much has no limits. Great stuff.

Thursday 20 January 2011

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Midnight - Stephen Leather

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Jack Nightingale found it hard enough to save lives when he was a cop. Now he needs to save a soul -- his sister's. But to save her he has to find her and they've been separated since birth. When everyone Jack talks to about his sister dies horribly, he realises that someone, or something, is determined to keep them apart. If he's going to save his sister, he's going to have to do what he does best - negotiate. But any negotiation with the forces of darkness comes at a terrible price. And first Jack must ask himself the question: is every soul worth saving?


REVIEW:

As a fan of Stephen’s first book in this series, where he blended Urban Fantasy with good old fashioned crime, I was interested to see how the story would develop. What occurs within is a book that not only gives you the best of both genres but one that really will help establish Nightingale as a firm fan favourite. Not only is he fully rounded but he has great characteristics where no matter what he faces, he struggles through against the odds to come up trumps at the last minute.

Its real seat of the pants reading and I suspect the same with the writing. Add to this a great sense of pace, some wonderful authorly sleight of hand and when its backed with great prose, descent dialogue and characters that you can’t get enough of, you know that it’s a tale that really will keep you glued to the last making this real nail-biting fiction and a title that readers will just love.

FANTASY REVIEW: Pax Britannia: Gods of Manhattan - Al Ewing

Release Date: 20/01/11

BOOK BLURB:

NEW YORK, USSA - The steam-powered city of tomorrow where psychedelic beat-poets rumble with punk futurists in the rain-drenched alleys, and where mad science colludes with the monstrous plans of the Meccha-Fuhrer! NEW YORK, USS - City of dazzle and danger. Only here could we find The Blood Spider, Doc Thunderand the saint of ghosts known as El Sombra! NEW YORK, USS - The setting for a bloody battle ofsteel will and science gone wild in a contest to save the city of tomorrow - or end it!


REVIEW:

Having read Al’s first excursion into the Pax Britannica Steampunk universe (El Sombra), I was intrigued to see what he’d come up with for his next excursion to the lands of America (or the USSA as its known), especially as his Zorroesque character was a real gem of an edition to this dark twisted world.

Whilst the action has shifted to New York, the characters are just as much fun however the exception to this was Doc Thunder who whilst interesting was way too powerful in a Captain America meets Superhero type of way. Personally I’d have preferred it had he been modelled more on Doc Savage (the Ron Ely version) than Superhero as Ewing added a parody of a cross between Batman and the Shadow in the guise of the “Spider.”

All in it is definitely something different to the much established Ulysses Quicksilver of Jonathan Green but it is a great romp into a different world. Personally I’m more a fan of the spirit of man aspect of titles over superpowers as things have to get a little bit too silly to present them with a real challenge. (Incidentally there is a tip of the hat to Stan Lee within these pages for you to keep an eye out for.) On a final note whilst the art work by Mark Harrison was great to enhance the readers imagination I have wondered how much of the collage was a hodgepodge of work already created as I’m sure that I recognise a lot of them from larger feature pieces rather than the amalgamation which did leave me feeling that it was more of a secondary consideration rather than an overall theme.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: The Hammer - KJ Parker

Release Date: 20/01/11

BOOK BLURB:

The colony was founded seventy years ago. The plan was originally to mine silver, but there turned out not to be any. Now an uneasy peace exists on the island, between the colonists and the once-noble met'Oc, a family in exile on a remote stronghold for their role in a vaguely remembered civil war. The met'Oc are tolerated, in spite of occasional cattle stealing raids, since they alone possess the weapons considered necessary protection in the event of the island's savages becoming hostile. Intelligent, resourceful, and determined, Gignomai is the youngest brother in the current generation of met'Oc. He is about to realise exactly what is expected of him; and what it means to defy his family.


REVIEW:

If there is one thing that you can tell, it’s a KJ Parker novel, the writing style, the prose and the dialogue all scream this author and to be honest you know what you’re going to get, a story with guts, glory and above all else a principle character facing not only personal dilema’s but also overcoming the odds to succeed.

Its definitely beautifully written, the characters vibrant and above all else a dialogue style that really is enjoyable so much so that you feel that you know the principle player pretty well. Back that up with a reasonably paced tale backed up with an established history (The Company) and you know that it’s a title that really will fulfil all the promise of the book blurb.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

GUEST BLOG: In Praise of the Personal Essay - Diane Girard

Here's a new feature that we're introducing this year, guest posts by friends of the blog. Here, in the debut, is a post by our friend Diane Girard, writer and observationist...

I enjoy reading and writing personal essays. If your only experience with the essay format was writing the academic essay during your school years, then you could discover that reading a personal essay or perhaps writing one, is not at all boring. It can be fun and even, dare I say it, enlightening. Imagine that! And allow me to tell you why I believe it.


Fortunately, especially for writers like me, a personal essay need not adhere to a strict format. To quote Wikipedia, the source of many definitions, both dubious and correct, “the definition of a personal essay is vague.” Although like any other piece of writing, it should have a subject, thoughts about the subject and an ending, there is room for opinion and for tangential thoughts. It can even include an aside like this one:

My earliest memory of writing an essay for school is not pleasant. We were charged with the task of writing about our summer vacations and I did. Unfortunately, I did it so well that the teacher assumed my mother had written it and she blessed my words with an F.

Personal essays can include anecdotes and mini-stories that illustrate the subject and allow the readers to draw their own conclusions and very occasionally, because it wouldn’t be wise to do it often, they might point gently toward a moral. I use anecdotes frequently and readers tell me they enjoy them.

The focus of a piece can be as small as what kind of pajamas you prefer. In the winter, I like flannelette ones and I have written about them and other types of lingerie, in Keep Those Paws off My Pajamas. Or, the focus can be on something that most people have experienced, or will experience; like the possibly negative effects of gym membership, which I attempted to explain in Fitness Follies: My Life at the Gym. (These essays and others appear on www.seniorwomen.com.)

There is really no limit to what you can write about, provided you are not the only person who would be interested in your thoughts. I’ve considered serious subjects like greed, (the stock market fiasco and the desire for higher and higher returns on money), Canada’s decision not to participate in the Iraq war, and Remembrance Day among other topics.

Since most personal essays are not very long, they do not require the months, and in some cases years of concentration that are required to write a novel. And, if you have are opinionated -- I’ll bet you are -- you have an opportunity to present your personal view on a topic of your choice.

I’ve found it’s the concrete details that make words come to life and since the personal essay is a form of creative non-fiction, an occasional slight exaggeration of the facts is permissible and sometimes more humorous than the literal truth.

I should also tell you that there are a lot of markets for personal essays. You’ll see them on the Op Ed pages of newspapers, in magazines and journals, and collected in books. Although I haven’t worked hard at marketing my essays (I’m lazy) and I don’t write tons of them, they have been published in diverse places including Adbusters Magazine, The Western Producer (newspaper) The Waterloo Record (newspaper) and my blog at http://upwritewoman.blogspot.com/

So, if you are tempted to write one, read some: you can find them everywhere, and then take the plunge. The water is warm and full of other friendly swimmers. Have fun.

Monday 17 January 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Demi-Monde: Winter - Rod Rees

Release Date: 13/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE IN VIRTUAL REALITY. The Demi-Monde is the most advanced computer simulation ever devised. Created to prepare soldiers for the nightmarish reality of urban warfare, it is a virtual world locked in eternal civil war. Its thirty million digital inhabitants are ruled by duplicates of some of history's cruellest tyrants: Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Holocaust; Beria, Stalin's arch executioner; Torquemada, the pitiless Inquisitor General; Robespierre, the face of the Reign of Terror. But something has gone badly wrong inside the Demi-Monde, and the US President's daughter has become trapped in this terrible world. It falls to eighteen-year-old Ella Thomas to rescue her, yet once Ella has entered the Demi-Monde she finds that everything is not as it seems, that its cyber-walls are struggling to contain the evil within and that the Real World is in more danger than anyone realises.


REVIEW:

2011 is going to be a year of top quality reads if, the recent selection I’ve read is a cross section of releases is anything to go by. So far, there has been some great crime tales, some serious fantasy and now a science fiction story that just blew me away.

Contained within the pages of this tale by Rod Rees is a tale that has multiple storylines. Part Matrix, part Escape from New York, with a dash of Film Noir and a whole host of imagination. Beautifully written, this title also has a whole host of unforgettable characters which, when blended with a serious kick ass plot alongside a great sense of pace made this book a seriously guilty pleasure to enjoy. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that others have hit the “One more chapter” phrase during reading. With over 500 pages the pace hardly lets up and flies by in a flash, so much so I expect a few jobs to have workers taking a day or two off due to lack of sleep. Just don’t hold us accountable if the boss catches you out.

Sunday 16 January 2011

INTERVIEW: Dan Abnett

As huge fans of Dan Abnett with the recent rerelease by Titan of Primeval: Extinction Event (reviewed a few days ago) we thought that it would be best to have a word with the master wordsmith.

So thanks to our Friends at Titan, here for your viewing pleasure is an interview with Dan. Here he talks about what he wish he's learned earlier as well as what to do when faced with critism, its an interview no writer can afford to miss...



Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?

Dan Abnett: It’s given me a greater opportunity to do so. My published work helps me to get people to take me seriously when it’s a project of my own. Over all, there’s no great change. It’s very hard work, and the hardest part is persevering.


FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?

DA: I’d show someone what I’ve done and invite them to read a little. I talk to them about what I can do, and what they might like me to do. Actually, profile is increasingly important, so making myself available on blogs, Facebook, interviews like this one...


FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your method's of writing?

DA: I lot of what I do is called tie-in or franchise fiction, and the same goes for comics, so I think I’ve developed a fairly decent skill-set when it comes to taking someone’s franchise apart so I can understand it and write in or about it effectively. It’s also taught me to be very dedicated and diligent. A deadline is a serious thing. I don’t just write ‘when the muse takes me’. It’s a proper job.


FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?

DA: Funnily enough, show don’t tell. So I’d rather have had the experiences to learn from rather than be told about them.


FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?

DA: A thirty-two inch waist and a chainsword?


FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?

DA: They’ve all got to be a little bit like me, somewhere. There is a characte rint he Inquisition novels called harlon Nayl who I always joke is supposed to be me, but he’s far too heroic and tough. There’s a minor character in Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero, called William Beaver, who is the hero’s biographer. I think he’s probably more me.


FT: What of lifes little addictions could you not live without and why?

DA: Tea. Movies. Reading. I actually had to give up quite a few of life’s pleasures (like alcohol, coffee and driving) last year when I developed late onset epilepsy. I should be able to drive again soon, but the others are gone forever.


FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?

DA: A book. A good book. And a notebook and pen.


FT: Previously you've had some problems when others have critised your work, how do you think you've changed to adapt to it or would you say that you're just the same?

DA: Not sure specifically what you’re referring to. I listen to criticism and try to take things into account. If you can do something that your readers will like more, you should try and do it. But I don’t listen to plain bad-mouthing. Criticism needs to be constructive.


FT: On long journey's, reading is often the pleasure of choice, who's work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?

DA: Peter Temple, Stephen King, Kelly Link, John Buchan, Borges, Lovecraft...


FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?

DA: I am very fond of my books, because I’ve spent a lot of time with each one, but the answer has to be it’s always the one I’m working on next...the one I’m most invested in.


FT: With everyone having thier own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of their work, who do you think should play your principle protagonists and why?

DA: I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that. On my blog, readers regularly come up with their own cast lists and we play the casting game. It changes over time. Ibram Gaunt used to be James Coburn circa The Magnificent Seven, but I’m not sure who he is now.


FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?

DA: I don;t know. Does a good long lie-down count? Actually, I usually spend the first day or two after finishing a book tidying the office and the house, doing all the chores that have been put off by the deadline.


FT: What was your impression of an authors lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?

DA: I’m not sure what I expected, really. A corona typewriter, an ascot, a villa in the Bahamas, and a cigarette holder. By the time I got there, it was PCs, a tee-shirt, my basement and there was a smoking ban.


FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?

DA: Keep reading.

Saturday 15 January 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Harbinger of the Storm - Aliette De Bodard

Release Date: 12/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons – and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God’s power.

The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery.

When he hears rumours of a sinister cabal of sorcerors he must face up to demons, not all of them his own.


REVIEW:

Having had problems with Aliette’s principle character in her original release, I wondered how this next title would improve upon what has gone before. Here, Aliette has gone back and done some major reworking which when backed with the depth to which this tale develops allows the reader to find some hooks to get behind for this, the principle player which when added to the hard work and world building of what has gone before makes this something pretty special. Its unique it has a great concept behind and above all else it has mystery and magic which takes this crime thriller into a whole new theatre.

Back that up with some seriously descent prose, some cracking story telling as well as a serious sense of pace which allows the lulls and peaks to take you by surprise and it’s a treat all the way through. Finally back that up with characters that the reader can associate with and you know that Aliette is an author to not only watch but one to set your standards by. Great stuff.

Friday 14 January 2011

ART BOOK REVIEW: Cartoon 360 - Harry Hamernik

Release Date: 26/11/10

SYNOPSIS:

With the help of this title, readers of all skill levels and ages, particularly beginners who may have little or no experience, learn how to draw a wide variety of fun, simple cartoon people. The author starts with basic lines and shapes, and then lets them in on great secrets to redrawing their characters in many different poses that bring them to life. This encouraging book is loaded with techniques, exercises and step-by-step demonstrations that give readers results that they can be proud of.


REVIEW:

In a world of creativity there has been a lot of information as well as help out there to take your writing to another level as well as aiding you to sell your work. For years finding a lot of information has been hard as well as nearly impossible so it’s a great delight when I originally came across the Writers Market by Writers Digest. Now I find that they also have one for Screenwriters as well as one for the songwriter within.

What this title contains is a guide to helping submit not only your work but also demo’s, some tips to avoid getting ripped off as well as a great guide to finding out about royalties as well as contracts and long term prospects. Add to this some great articles about the industry by people who have been there as well as the usual useful information such as agents, contacts etc. and you’ll never leave this title far from your instrument of choice as well as recorder which makes this a book that will become indispensible and one that will be bought time and again for the Songwriter in your life.

Thursday 13 January 2011

ARTS AND CRAFTS REVIEW: The Songwriters Guide 2011 - The Writers Group

Release Date: 26/11/10

SYNOPSIS:

Containing comprehensive information you need, this book helps you to learn what to do and how to do it.


REVIEW:

In a world of creativity there has been a lot of information as well as help out there to take your writing to another level as well as aiding you to sell your work. For years finding a lot of information has been hard as well as nearly impossible so it’s a great delight when I originally came across the Writers Market by Writers Digest. Now I find that they also have one for Screenwriters as well as one for the songwriter within.

What this title contains is a guide to helping submit not only your work but also demo’s, some tips to avoid getting ripped off as well as a great guide to finding out about royalties as well as contracts and long term prospects. Add to this some great articles about the industry by people who have been there as well as the usual useful information such as agents, contacts etc. and you’ll never leave this title far from your instrument of choice as well as recorder which makes this a book that will become indispensible and one that will be bought time and again for the Songwriter in your life.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

CRIME REVIEW: The Killing Place - Tess Gerritsen

Release Date: 24/06/10

BOOK BLURB:

Something terrible has happened in the snowbound village of Kingdom Come, Wyoming. Twelve eerily identical houses stand dark and abandoned. Meals remain untouched on dining room tables. Cars are still parked in garages. The human occupants have vanished, seemingly into thin air. This is the unsettling place where Maura Isles finds herself trapped during a snowstorm. She has joined a group of friends on a drive to an isolated ski lodge, but when a wrong turn leaves her car stranded in deep snow, she stumbles down a private road into the valley of Kingdom Come, where she takes shelter - and disappears. Days later, Jane Rizzoli flies to Wyoming to search for her missing friend. A crashed vehicle has been found with four badly burned bodies still inside. The authorities assume that one of the women is Maura. But is it? Jane Rizzoli's search for the truth leads her to Kingdom Come, where a terrifying and gruesome discovery lies buried beneath the snow.


REVIEW:

As a long time fan of Tess’ writing, it probably won’t come as a surprise to find out that I loved this book. There’s danger, there’s emotional conflict and the reader will have their heart in their mouth for a good part of this tale. Beautifully written, backed up with great supporting characters alongside some top notch dialogue and the reader is in of a real thrill. Add to the mix that the tale can be read as a stand alone and its something that a number of people will soon be turned on to. With luck, so much so that the TV series featuring these characters will be picked up by UK TV.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

REISSUE: FANTASY REVIEW: Primeval: Extinction Event - Dan Abnett

Release Date: 23/01/09

BOOK BLURB:

When strange anomalies in time start to appear Professor Cutter and his team have to help track down and capture a multitude of dangerous prehistoric creatures from Earth's distant past...and distant future.An Entelodon goes on the rampage down Oxford Street in central London causing untold damage and loss of life, and Cutter decides a new approach to tackling the anomalies is needed. When a mysterious Russian scientist arrives at the ARC, Cutter thinks he might have found the answer...In this brand new original never-seen-on-TV Primeval adventure Cutter and the team are forced to travel to Siberia to confront an anomaly problem on an epic scale...


REVIEW:

If you’re a fan of the show, then you’ll really love this tale as Abnett puts his twist on the mythos of shows parameters, that of gateways in time to everything from dinosaurs to future species. Well written, gripping and full of action as you’d come to expect from Abnett, add to the mix that its set just before the opening of the third season and it is a tale that must be grabbed and devoured quicker than a T-Rex in an all you can eat steakhouse. Fun, adventurous and hopefully a taste of things to come in this superb series. Titan have done themselves proud by grabbing Abnett for this latest adventure.

Monday 10 January 2011

DVD REVIEW: Resident Evil: Afterlife - Milla Jovovich, Wentworth Miller, Dir: Paul WS Anderson

Release Date: 10/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Experience a new dimension in action horror as director Paul W.S. Anderson uses the 3D technology pioneered by James Cameron and Vincent Pace to take movie lovers on a nightmare thrill-ride. It's been five years since the zombie virus swept across the globe, and Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still traveling tirelessly in search of survivors. When the Umbrella Corporation ratchets up the stakes, an old friend turns up to lend Alice a helping hand. Rumor has it that some survivors have found sanctuary in Los Angeles, but when Alice and friends show up they find the city overrun with zombies, and quickly realize they've stumbled into a diabolical trap. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi


REVIEW:

As a huge fan of all things Resident Evil I was a little disappointed with the third film and hoped that they’d really pick things up for this, the fourth. Alas my hopes were dashed as the title started out being ridiculous and ended up keeping the silly outline that felt flat whilst appearing to be nothing we haven’t seen before

Within the film there were nods to Dawn of the Dead as well as the Walking Dead (also with a tip of the hat to a certain villain in Silent Hill) and when backed with what felt like type casting for Wentworth Miller (he starts off in a prison cell) really left me feeling like I didn’t know what the hell the franchise was trying to achieve. Effects wise they seemed to borrow heavily from the Matrix, which whilst cutting edge for its time is now feeling a little more than dated and over used.

Finally back that up with lacklustre plot with the characters just seeking to go from A-B without any real depth or reasoning and you were left with a film that followed a basic set of numbers without achieving anything. I really hope that if a fifth instalment is made that they get someone in to script it that knows what they’re doing or perhaps even open it for fans to writer as I personally felt that they could have done a better job.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch

Release Date: 10/01/11

BOOK BLURB:

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.


REVIEW:

Whilst Ben is known for some of his adaptations, this is his debut urban fantasy based in a world of his own devising. What makes this tale so engaging is that he’s taken a London that many are familiar with, added a secretive branch of the London Met and backed it up with a cracking paced, action packed story arc with some magic, some ghosts and of course a villain of huge proportions.

Back that up with a fairly unique voice as well as some great characters that you can’t help but care about and its going to be interesting to see what arrives from Ben’s imagination. US readers please be aware that this book has been released in the US as Midnight Riot. All in a great start to a very promising series and one that will be popular with fans of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor alongside Suzanne McLeod’s Spellcracker series which makes this a British Institution in the making.