Monday 28 February 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Outlander 7: An Echo in Bone - Diana Gabaldon

Release Date: 30/06/11

SYNOPSIS:

The year is 1777. The place, North Carolina. And as the American rebellion grows in intensity, Highlander Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire need to decide which side their family is going to be on. The choice should be an easy one, given that Claire was born in the twentieth century and has already seen the future - in history books. But things are never simple where the Frasers are concerned, as father and son unwittingly come face to face on the battlefield, and an old adversary reaches forward in time to threaten the next generation. Up to now, Claire and Jamie's love has survived every danger history has put in their path, but in the chaos of war, with families bitterly divided against each other, is the future finally going to catch up with them?


REVIEW:

Fans of Diana’s writing have had to wait a little while, for this the seventh release in her Outlander series. Whilst the readers may have been left a little apprehensive due to the lack of action within the last book (A Breath of Snow and Ashes) then they’ll be pleased to see that it picks up in this release. Whilst the history concerned is well known to the reader, the characters within have a quality that the reader just can’t let go of. They’re beautifully created and with the next generation getting bigger and better chances to take centre stage the reader has a lot to look forward to.

What can be a little troublesome is the sheer amount of subplots within, so much so that as the tale progresses it can be quite easy to either get confused or wonder what the author is intending with these for future titles. Diana is an author that represents quality writing, one that my Mum put me onto as she’d read the series from its inception way back in the early 90’s and whilst it has taken me a few years to appreciate this authors writing it’s the emotional context that she does well which when backed with a great writing style, a serious sense of pace as well as a need to give the reader the emotional content that they desire which creates a series that few others can currently even dream of.

All in a seriously wonderful read, although to be honest, I was lucky enough to be able to get the most from this due to a reread of all the titles from the original release (Outlander) which is what I’d advise other readers to do as well. Great stuff.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit:: Stealth - Karen Miller

Release Date: 25/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Planet by planet, darkness creeps across the galaxy. Among warriors and generals, among ordinary beings living in far-flung worlds, the fear will not go away: We are losing this war...

Anakin Skywalker feels it, too. The Separatist Alliance, with ruthlessness and treachery, is beating the Republic to every strategic target. But after a costly clash with General Grievous for the planet Kothlis, Anakin has a mission that will focus his anxious mind. Alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi, he is posing as a long-lost native of Lanteeb, an impoverished world on the Outer Rim. This seemingly unimportant planet has drawn the interest of the Seps—and Anakin and Obi-Wan soon discover the disturbing reason: A scientist enslaved by General Lok Durd is drawing on Lanteeb’s one natural resource for a devastating bioweapon.

Now Anakin and Obi-Wan have entered the eye of a storm. Their presence has been exposed, Lok Durd’s plans unveiled, and a fight has begun for survival behind enemy lines—and a chance of winning a war that must be fought at any cost.


REVIEW:

Usually I’m a fan of Karen’s writing but with this title in the Star Wars Clone Wars Gambit series it fell a long way short to keeping this reader happy. The plotline was stuff we’ve seen before almost a direct rehash, the characters felt flat and clichéd and to be honest with you so little actually happens that the tale really felt like a cash in on the franchise rather that a serious offering.

Whilst this is there to help finish this part of the series off (building to a climax for the next book) the whole thing really felt more of a damp squib than a roaring lion almost as if the author was a little short of managing to create a decent two-parter title without having to go for much overused plotlines. A great shame all in and one that I won’t be recommending to fans of the franchise. If you have to buy one book then make it the other recent Star Wars release: Knights Errant. You’ll be so glad that you did.

NEWS: 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:
Watcher of the Dead - JV Jones
Secrets of the Fire Sea - Stephen Hunt
Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay
The Golden City - John Twelve Hawks

If we've missed one please let us know,



Gareth

Sunday 27 February 2011

INTERVIEW: Jessica McHugh

A lot of people tend to know all about the big author but we at Falcata Times, also like to bring you the small guy (or in this case woman.) Jessica is the author of a number of short stories and currently 7 full length novels and whilst she isn't a full time author yet, its the heart and determination that made us sit up and pay attention to her.

We will shortly be reviewing The Sky: The World for you and hope that you'll help support those on the way up just as we do.


Here Jessica chats about writing, about cats and about marathons of America's Next Top Model...



Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Jessica McHugh: I think it's true to a certain extent. Sometimes I do feel the affliction over the gift and I definitely believe that writing is something I have to do, but I also want to do it. My pen isn't like an inky gun to my head. I have a greater love for it than that. For me, the affliction stems from the fact that I can't do what I love all the time. That's the only torture for me: knowing that I'd be a much happier writer (and person) if I could focus on my books all day instead allowing a full-time job to interrupt.


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

JM: I was always a storyteller. If you asked my parents, they might switch "storyteller" for "liar", but still...I loved living in my own little world and began writing stories and poetry at a very young age. I was especially fond of the typewriter my grandfather had. Every time we'd visit my grandparents, I'd shut myself up in his study and go nuts on that thing. The stories were terrible, most likely, but you have to start somewhere, right? An instance in 4th grade sticks out to me too: my teacher distributed pictures to everyone in the class and we had to write a story based on the picture. My picture was called "Mr. Linden's Library" and my story was about a bookstore filled with books that devoured children based on the type of book it was. A book about vines obviously pulled the poor reader in and one about the sea washed a child away with a tidal wave. I still have that story on my bookshelf.


FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

JM: When I was younger, I used to say "I can't write short stories. I'm a novel girl", and this was before I ever wrote a novel, so I don't really know what I based that assertion on. I think I was just too timid to try writing short stories; I couldn't fathom how I was going to fit everything I wanted to say into a few pages. Then came the job that really started my writing career: an 11 hour a day job sitting in a perfume kiosk in our local mall. It was an awful job with no benefits and low pay, but it did afford me a lot of time to read. After an entire week of burying myself in HP Lovecraft anthologies, I started writing my own short horror stories. Were they derivative? Absolutely. But they were just the beginning. As I wrote more and more, I started veering away from Lovecraft and toward McHugh, and before I knew it, I had stacks of notebooks filled with short stories. I wouldn't say that if you can write a short story, you can write anything because everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and it really depends on the story. I have some that I think are really great and some that...well...let's just say that they need work.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

JM: I'd say "Only super rad people read my books. You want to be super rad, don't you?" Okay, I probably wouldn', but I'd think it.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

JM: For my forthcoming release, "Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things", in 20 words or less, I'd say its "The Wizard of Oz meets A Nightmare Before Christmas."


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

JM: My Roald Dahl collection is vast. Each and every one of his books will be on my shelf for the rest of my life. As for someone whose books I must read right away, I'd say Bret Easton Ellis. To say that Mr. Ellis has made an impact upon me as a writer would be a vast understatement.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

JM: It really depends on the book and how much of the story I thought up initially. My suspense novel "Rabbits in the Garden" came almost completely from a dream. I'd say 75% of that story was written the moment I woke up. Sometimes, I sit back and the book just happens, and sometimes I have to write an extensive outline. It really depends on the ease of the story and what else I'm currently working on; I often work on several different books at once. I don't usually know how the story is going to end or how my characters personalities are going to develop, but that's something I enjoy about writing. If I can surprise myself, I can surprise the reader.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

JM: Beer, wine, and champagne: the holy trinity. ;) Truthfully, writing is relaxing for me most of the time. I like to hang out in my Writing Hut with a beer, put some LOST on in the background, and let the day slip away. I used to read all the time, but I was on a hiatus for a while because I was writing so much. I'm getting back into it now though. I recently finished The Time Traveler's Wife and I'm currently reading World War Z and....ahem...Ramona Quimby, Age 8. It's good stuff.


FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

JM: I bet most of my friends wished I kept more of that stuff to myself, but I don't. I'm quite talkative and often spill all of my secrets. However, my biggest guilty pleasure is writing during marathons of America's Next Top Model. Because I've seen them all so many times, it's more like white noise in the background and I don't have to look up at the TV at all.


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

JM: This is the first time someone has asked me this question, and it's actually extremely pertinent. My cat Tyler is about 7 of my stories. I believe he's actually going to be on the cover of the second book in my "Tales of Dominhydor" series as there is a race of creatures in Dominhydor called...wait for it...Tylira. In the first and second books, he is the best friend to the female lead and the relationship absolutely mirrors the dynamic we had going on for so long. My husband and I actually just got a new kitten as well, and I felt it was only fitting to put her into the series too, so she shows up in the third book.


FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

JM: My latest release was "The Sky: The World" from Reliquary Press, and I have to admit: I loved writing every character in that book. Writing Jack Racine, an opium-addicted cad, was as much fun as writing the mysterious Doctor Azaz, founder of the new science called picoepistemology. I got to play so many different roles in that book, and I don't think I could choose one that I liked the most.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

JM: I think each of my protagonists have tiny elements of me, but so do the antagonists. However, I don't think I'm really similar to any of them. What would be the fun in writing about someone who's anything like me? If people wanted to read that, I could just publish my middle school diaries and I really don't think they'd sell very well.


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

JM: A new hobby of mine is participating in these word challenges on Facebook called "In a Sentence" and "Wordstew". They're really fun and allows me to read some really talented writers as far as gain exposure for my own work. I highly recommend those sites to anyone who enjoys writing challenges.


FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

JM: I ask myself questions. My books are the answers.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

JM: Rarely, but yes I do. In that situation, I either work on extensions and revisions on the book I'm having trouble with or switch to one of my other story projects for a bit. That usually breaks the block pretty quickly.


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

JM: Does that mean writing in the bathroom? Because I totally do that. I write anywhere at any time. If I ever have to wait for something, out comes the pen and paper. And if I don't have a pen and paper, I'm not above using eyeliner and my leg to get work done.


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

JM: I do prefer writing with the television on in the background, but I find that I get more writing done without it or with music playing. One of my favorite rituals lately is listening to my friend Colin's radio show with a glass of wine and my notebook. He plays a lot of Regina Spektor and Bob Dylan and really chill music that gets my pen moving.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

JM: I've been writing seriously since about 2001, but I never tried to get published until my now-husband encouraged me in 2008. I had tons of stories, but I had no faith in myself, so I did have any preconceptions about publishing. I didn't think I would get published, and now I've had 6 books published by a variety of companies in less than three years.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

JM: For me, it's food, period. I can't live without it and even though it may not be the best thing for me sometimes, I love to gorge myself.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

JM: "PINS" is my next novel. I started writing it late last year, but I had to stop to work on my Dominhydor books. I'm really looking forward to returning to it though. Eva “Birdie” Finch is tired of telemarketing and serving jobs, but pickings are slim in Cumberland. The only even slightly appealing option is PINS: a strip club/bowling alley just over the state line. But learning how to confidently dance nude for strangers isn’t Birdie’s only obstacle, especially when fellow dancers start turning up dead. I like to call it blood-spattered T&A.


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

JM: Facebook, Geekologie, IWatchStuff, SFReader.com, and....probably Facebook again.


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

JM: Only in high school. I've been wanting to take classes, but I'm so protective of my writing time, I just haven't gotten around to it. Creative Writing was one of my favorite classes in school though. I still have the notebook full of writing prompts from that class.


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

JM: I don't think you can ever get past it. You just have to accept it. It always hurts though. It's never fun to hear that someone doesn't like your work or even when you get a rejection letter that makes it pretty clear that the publisher didn't even bother to read your work.


FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

JM: I'll let you know as soon as I quit my full-time job and start writing for a living. From the outside, it seems like it would be a dream come true.

For more information and to keep up to date with Jessica please visit her website.

FANTASY REVIEW: The Sky: The World - Jessica McHugh

Release Date: 20/09/10

SYNOPSIS:

In 17th century London, an elusive stranger named Doctor Azaz introduces a new science called picoepistemology to the world, thereby leading to the invention of aeroplanes, the capability for regenerative materials, and a new means for reproduction. Over 200 years later, the mysterious Doctor continues to work from his ivory tower and witnesses, firsthand, the plane crash that takes the lives of Air Chief Marshal Toby Racine and his pregnant wife. Captain Jack Racine, polar opposite to his brother Toby except in aerial talents, doesn't buy the police's explanation of Toby's crash and decides to take matters into his own hands---after he downs a gin and a few drops of laudanum, that is. Joined by his aerobatics team, The Sherwood Six, Jack sets out to discover the truth behind Toby's death. But in doing so, he discovers that Toby was on a secret mission from Doctor Azaz and that the good Doctor would like vice-ridden Jack to pick up where his brother left off. The Sky: The World takes readers on an adventure from London to Egypt , from 1848 to 1584 and back, and through the delicately complex world of Jack Racine, The Sherwood Six, and a god amongst men: Doctor Azaz.


REVIEW:

Whilst not every author manages to sign a deal with one of the big houses, some of the smaller independent ones like Reliquary Press have managed to score some serious talent. That’s what occurs within this title by Jessica McHugh, the writing is imaginative, the dialogue is the type that readers will love and when backed with a decently paced plot as well as some outstanding characterisation makes this a difficult title to put down.

While the title was one that I wouldn’t normally seek, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing and with so much happening in a novella format in such quick succession. It was enjoyable, it was a title that gave me a satisfying read and above all else it was a title that mean’s I’ll have to look at the independent a little more often.

Saturday 26 February 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Star Wars: Knight Errant - John Jackson Miller

Release Date: 17/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

A thousand years before Luke Skywalker, a generation before Darth Bane, in a galaxy far, far away...

The Republic is in crisis, torn by plague and conflict. The Sith roam unchecked, vying with one another to dominate the galaxy. But one lone Jedi, Kerra Holt, is determined to take down the Dark Lords—one act of sabotage at a time. Her enemies are strange and many: Lord Daiman, who imagines himself the creator of the universe; Lord Odion, who intends to be its destroyer; the curious siblings Quillan and Dromika; the enigmatic Arkadia. So many warring Sith weaving a patchwork of brutality—with only Kerra Holt to defend the innocents caught underfoot.

Sensing a sinister pattern in the chaos, Kerra embarks on a journey that will take her to many worlds and into fierce battles against even fiercer enemies. With one against so many, her only chance of success lies with forging alliances among those who serve her enemies—including a mysterious Sith spy and a clever mercenary general. But will they be her adversaries or her salvation?


REVIEW:

Originally a comic this early republic title has finally made the lead to the novel and as such is so much better. The characters within just come to life and give the reader a turbulent time where life is cheap, mercenaries even cheaper and of course the Sith rule all. Beautifully written, this title is one that really will satisfy the reader with great prose, some decent characters and above all else a great sense of timing with moments of high action and troughs of doubts. All in a great piece of writing from John and one that hopefully fans will clamour for more from. Great stuff.

WRITING ADVICE: The Everything Guide to Writing Children's Books - Luke Wallin, Eva Gordon

Release Date: 18/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Writing for children is fun and rewarding - if you can break into the fiercely competitive world of children's book publishing. With The Everything Guide to Writing Children's Books, 2nd Edition readers learn how to write and promote a children's book that will impress any publisher. Whether writers have a basic idea or manuscript ready to go, they'll need to build a successful career as a children's book author. This clear and concise guide helps readers: formulate an original idea, create an outline, and write the book; learn the basics of children's storytelling, from point of view to story pacing; find helpful writing workshops and conferences; design a winning book proposal, get an agent, and negotiate a contract; create a marketing a publicity plan; and, use professional and social networking sites to promote their book. Full of eye-opening insider information and invaluable writing advice, this book should be on every aspiring author's bookshelf. It features: advice on how to protect your work, and to gradually build up confidence; updated information on using the internet to promote yourself as a writer (blogs, websites, professional networking sites, social networking sites); information on M.F.A. programs, both traditional residency and brief-residency, with writing for children tracks; and, details of the YA phenomena, including Harry Potter and Twilight.


REVIEW:

To be honest with you, I’ve read writing guides on everything from novels to dialogue, from pacing to specific genres yet I’ve never looked at one before that deals with young adult. Whilst my own preferred writing method is more for the picture book side of things, this title has a lot to offer. After all there’s a hell of a lot of information out there but it can be confusing as well as misleading, so having a title to help hold your hand is a great thing.

Not only does this title deal with finding the right type of Young Adult Literature for you to write but also gives you advice on what your title needs to contain for the relevant age group. Back that up with some help on obtaining an agent, query letters alongside how to make the most of self-marketing and web presence and you can see that this is a title that could be worth its weight, especially when you back that up with the authors friendly voice to help encourage you.

All in a descent book and one that whilst perhaps not pertinent to all writers is one that can definitely help point you in the right direction which whilst focuses purely on the US market doesn’t make the advice incompatible to the UK one as the advice is pretty universal. Finally add to this some advice on your writers writes and it’s a title that is worth the read if only to help point out some floors in your master plan.

Friday 25 February 2011

THRILLER REVIEW: Charlie Parker 5: The Whisperers - John Connolly

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Charlie Parker returns in the chilling new thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author of THE LOVERS. The border between Maine and Canada is porous. Anything can be smuggled across it: drugs, cash, weapons, people. Now a group of disenchanted former soldiers has begun its own smuggling operation, and what is being moved is infinitely stranger and more terrifying than anyone can imagine. Anyone, that is, except private detective Charlie Parker, who has his own intimate knowledge of the darkness in men's hearts. But the soldiers' actions have attracted the attention of the reclusive Herod, a man with a taste for the strange. And where Herod goes, so too does the shadowy figure that he calls the Captain. To defeat them, Parker must form an uneasy alliance with a man he fears more than any other, the killer known as the Collector ...


REVIEW:

If you want a serious thriller that’s gives you value for money, a mystery all wrapped up in intrigue and double dealing then this title by John Connolly is the one for you. Whilst recent releases haven’t quite captured the magic of some of his earlier novels, this one is back up to speed with such a great set of characters, a good sense of pace and an overall arc to please even the fussiest reader.

All in a great read and one that I was pleased to enjoy at a time when things have gone topsy-turvy in reality so much so that it’s definitely one of my highlighted titles of this year to date.

FANTASY REVIEW: The Seven Realms 2: The Exiled Queen - Cinda Williams Chima

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

The second book in an epic fantasy series from Cinda Williams Chima. Adventure, magic, war and ambition conspire to throw together an unlikely group of companions in a struggle to save their world. You can't always run from danger! Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden's Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn't mean danger isn't far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery -- but the bargain they make is one Han may soon regret. Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana'Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen. The Exiled Queen is an epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.


REVIEW:

Having really enjoyed the first title in the Seven Realms series I’d been looking forward to the next one, although I have to admit, that when it landed I’d forgotten lot of what happened in the original (The Demon King.) Thus confused a quick reread was in order (and I’d like to suggest to the publisher that for the third part that they include a quick round up of what’s happened in the first two.)

As with the original, the characters are solid, the authors writing style similar to early David Eddings and above all else the story moves on to allow the characters to grow. Whilst parts of the trek feel a little slow, the overall distance has built the story up for quite a few available paths in the next release. Add to that some decent scripting, a reasonable sense of pace and the reader has a book that will, if not blow them away as much as the original, at least give them a journey to enjoy that sets up the next for something quite interesting.

Thursday 24 February 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Deep State - Walter Jon Williams

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Dagmar Shaw is one of the world's hottest designers of alternate reality games. She is the Puppetmaster and thousands of gamers are dancing on her strings. But when the campaign she is running in Turkey comes into conflict with the new, brutal regime, she realises that games can have very real consequences. When an old friend approaches Dagmar with a project so insane, so ambitious, she can't possibly say no, she is plunged into a world of spies and soldiers. A nation hangs in the balance and in a world of intrigue and betrayal, the master player must face the possibility that she has, herself, been played. Dagmar is the Puppetmaster, but when the bullets are real and her 'puppets' start dying, is any cause worth it?


REVIEW:

Whilst the original novel was not only fascinating but one to keep you glued to the last page, this one was more of a miss than a hit as it felt that it was more of a novella rather than a full length title. It was overdrawn, the characters nowhere near as fresh as the original title (This is Not a Game) and when looked at overall felt rather like a damp squib from Walter rather than his usual roaring lion.

All in, throughout this novel I kept hoping that the author would do something to save this title rather than just leave it to drag out for page after page, leaving me sadly disappointed by the final pages turning. Whilst I wouldn’t call it the authors best work, it is acceptable and will do what the blurb leads you to believe but if you want something hard hitting or even in the same league as the original then you’ll be sadly disappointed.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Helion Rain - George Mann

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

The world of Idos is on the verge of destruction, wracked by catastrophic storms and plagued by ravening tyranids. Into this maelstrom come the Raven Guard 4th Company, the warzone perfectly suited to their lightning-strike methods of combat. Led by Veteran Sergeant Grayvus, their mission is simple - to rescue the planet's last survivors. But in the midst of this nightmare, they receive new orders to locate and destroy a power station. The station is built upon a fault line, and the resulting quake would swallow thousands of tyranids and turn the war in the Imperium's favour. Grayvus and his company must fight their way through genestealers, acid spore mines and a deadly biomorph if they are to succeed and reclaim Idos for the Imperium.


REVIEW:

I love audio books, they give you the chance to multitask as you enjoy a good story and yet be able to continue doing things without worrying about missing things like trains stops or travelling to your destination. What you get with a Black Library audio book is a story that is not only well told but one that will occupy many a car journey for the younger listener with some serious vocal talent bringing the story to life.

Add to this great scripting, some wonderful acting and some good solid sound effects and it’s a product that will more than hold up. Great stuff.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Lady of Hay and Time's Legacy - Barbara Erskine

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of a much-loved bestseller, this new edition of Lady of Hay brings Barbara Erskine's eerie, atmospheric and utterly compelling story to a new generation. Lady of Hay has sold over three million copies.

In London, high-flying journalist Jo Clifford is planning to debunk past-life regression in a hard-hitting magazine piece. But her scepticism is shaken when she undergoes hypnosis and finds herself reliving the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, a noblewoman during the reign of King John.

As she learns of Matilda's unhappy marriage, her love for the handsome Richard de Clare and the brutal threats of death at the hands of King John, it becomes clear that Jo's past and present are hopelessly entwined and that, eight hundred years on, a story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to begin again…


REVIEW:

Having heard the name but not having read any of her work, I was pleasantly surprised when this, the 25th Anniversary of Barbara’s first book landed. It was an opportunity to try an author that others have raved about as well as a chance to see what so many had fallen in love with, after all for a book to last for over 25 years in print there has to be something there.

What unfurls within is a complex plot, some wonderful twists and characters that the reader can really get behind. Whilst there were a few little errors, readers fail to remember that this was the authors first book so a lot of the mistakes can be glossed over and whilst it could appear a little dated now, the overall skill and talent is something that was a pure joy to read. Back that up with some great prose, some delicious dialogue interwoven with intrigue, romance and plot and you know that it was something special. A real pleasure to enjoy.



Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Barbara Erskine returns with this beautiful and haunting tale of dark forces and mystical powers. In present-day Cambridge, Abi, a recently ordained priest of the Church of England, is appointed to a notoriously difficult parish. The priest in charge is the charismatic but fundamentalist Kier. He objects to her mysticism, her practice of healing in particular. When she sees a vision of a congregation in an old church, Kier accuses her of witchcraft, but Abi soon sees more visions; an entire Roman family history, dark with betrayal and a promise of bloody revenge. With foreboding forces building up to violence, Abi must battle the approaching terror along with her own personal demons, drawing upon the expertise of Druidry and shamanism from a questionable source!


REVIEW:

Whilst I may have skipped ahead having just read Barbara’s first novel, I was keen to see how she had developed as a writer so jumped in on the latest release, Time’s Legacy which is Barbara’s Eleventh full length title. What unfurl within are, from what other fans I’ve spoken to have said, typical Erskine trademarks of lovingly crafted characters, solid plotlines and above all else a well-tuned sense of pace that works beautifully with the authors style.

Add to this great timing, some intriguing concepts and dialogue which when backed with time travel and dual plotlines which made this a book that was a sheer delight to read and one to recommend to fans of Diana Gabaldon (although let’s face it you probably already know about her work if you’re reading this.) Finally, add to the mix a wonderful sense of fulfilment upon completion and you may well feel that it’s a going to be a long wait for the next title by Barbara.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: The Assassini Act 1: The Fallen Blade - Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Venice, 1407. The city is at the height of its powers. In theory, Duke Marco commands, but Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They seem all powerful, yet live in fear of assassins better than their own. On the night their world changes, Marco's young cousin prays in the family chapel for deliverance from a forced marriage. It is her misfortune to be alone when Mamluk pirates break in to abduct her - an act that will ultimately trigger war. Elsewhere Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, cuts a man's throat. Hearing a noise, he turns back to find a boy drinking from the victim's wound. The speed with which the angel-faced boy dodges his dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. He knows then he must hunt him. Not to kill him, but because he's finally found what he thought was impossible - someone fit to be his apprentice. Award-winning author Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a master storyteller. Here, he blends history, politics and dark fantasy in a compelling vision of an alternative Venice.


REVIEW:

Whilst this latest book by Jon Courtenay Grimwood will be cited as fantasy, I prefer to think of it as Historical Urban Fantasy as there’s a touch of the Vamp and the addition of Loup Garou’s haunting the streets of this politically charged double dealing world of ancient Venice. Whilst he’s had to be careful that the tale hasn’t gone too Assassins Creed, it’s a story that has not only been wonderfully researched but one that will thrill and enthral the reader with its use of clever prose, artfully disguised misdirection and tied up with a landscape that defies belief.

Add to this a masters touch for spinning a tale, a great understanding of pace and the reader really will have something new and evolving to keep on their shelves which makes this first title in the series a real treat and one that will be reread from time to time with as much passion as the first expedition.

FANTASY REVIEW: Conan's Brethren - Robert E Howard

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Robert E. Howard was a pulpwriter who turned his hand to everything from historical adventure and detective stories to Western and boxing fiction - and invented the genre now known as sword-and-sorcery: it is for these tales of heroic fantasy and horror that he is best remembered. His mighty heroes - including an English Puritan adventurer sent on redressing grievous wrongs, the king of a mythical, antediluvian empire contemporary with Atlantis, a Pictish warrior-king - all these brothers of the sword and more bestrode the pages of WEIRD TALES and the other pulp magazines of the twenties and thirties. This companion volume follows on from the success of the first Gollancz Big Black Book featuring Howard's world-famous barbarian king, and contains all the stories featuring his brothers-in-arms, collected together in chronological order, as fresh and atmospheric today as when they were first published in the pulp magazines of more than eighty years ago. Compiled by and with an Afterword by award-winning writer and editor Stephen Jones, and with cover image, frontispiece and internal pictures by the award-winning artist Les Edwards.


REVIEW:

The second leather bound title from Gollancz that brings the reader more tales from Robert E Howard originally published in the Pulp Magazines of the 20’s and 30’s. Rather than concentrating on Conan this time you get to meet more of Howards principle heroes like the Solomon Kane and Kull.

Beautifully presented this edition will be a wonderful addition to any readers collection and beautifully priced. Add to that some great writing, some characters who defined the stereotypes alongside some all action plots and you know that this book is one to be treasured.

Monday 21 February 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Malazan Book of the Fallen 10: The Crippled God - Steven Erikson

Release Date: 21/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Savaged by the K'Chain Nah'Ruk, the Bonehunters march for Kolanse, where waits an unknown fate. Tormented by questions, the army totters on the edge of mutiny, but Adjunct Tavore will not relent. One final act remains, if it is in her power, if she can hold her army together, if the shaky allegiances she has forged can survive all that is to come. A woman with no gifts of magic, deemed plain, unprepossessing, displaying nothing to instill loyalty or confidence, Tavore Paran of House Paran means to challenge the gods -- if her own troops don't kill her first.

Awaiting Tavore and her allies are the Forkrul Assail, the final arbiters of humanity. Drawing upon an alien power terrible in its magnitude, they seek to cleanse the world, to annihilate every human, every civilization, in order to begin anew. They welcome the coming conflagration of slaughter, for it shall be of their own devising, and it pleases them to know that, in the midst of the enemies gathering against them, there shall be betrayal. In the realm of Kurald Galain, home to the long lost city of Kharkanas, a mass of refugees stand upon the First Shore. Commanded by Yedan Derryg, the Watch, they await the breaching of Lightfall, and the coming of the Tiste Liosan. This is a war they cannot win, and they will die in the name of an empty city and a queen with no subjects.

Elsewhere, the three Elder Gods, Kilmandaros, Errastas and Sechul Lath, work to shatter the chains binding Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, and release her from her eternal prison. Once freed, she will be a force of utter devastation, and against her no mortal can stand. At the Gates of Starvald Demelain, the Azath House sealing the portal is dying. Soon will come the Eleint, and once more, there will be dragons in the world. And so, in a far away land and beneath indifferent skies, the final cataclysmic chapter in the extraordinary 'Malazan Book of the Fallen' begins.


REVIEW:

The book that fans of Erikson’s Malazan series have been longing for as well as dreading at the same time, as the climactic battle between good and evil, man and gods plays out in this, the conclusion to this epic series. As usual with Erikson the substantial cast has been nothing short of huge as well as intriguing, the cultures varied and above all else the author over this ten book cycle has create principle players that the reader cares about. Whilst not all have survived (Erikson plays for keeps) to face the final challenge the series has been nothing short of a joy to read from the start to its end and one that will please readers the world over.

Whilst it will be sad to say farewell to a great many literary friends within, Stevens writing has done what few other epic authors have done before, that is stick not only pretty close to schedule but produce a series that had a clear goal and outline from the start. The writing doesn’t let up from the outset, the prose chasing the pace in an almost manical way in such a style that the book was nigh impossible to put down and as such left me wondering in places how I could have missed some of the clues from previous titles. Definitely a series that has gone out with a bang and hopefully readers will be pleased to hear that Steven has been contracted for more titles set within the Malazan world. A real joy to read and if you’re prepared to take on a challenge worth reading from the outset again just to get the most from this volume.

DVD REVIEW: Operation Endgame - Zach Galifianakis, Joe Anderson, Fouad Mikati

Release Date: 21/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Somewhere beneath Washington, D.C., an intense rivalry is heating up between two opposing teams of government assassins. The hired killers in the organisations take their names from Tarot cards. The Fool (Joe Anderson) is the latest recruit. Reporting for his first day on the job, The Fool is shocked to find that his boss is dead, and the office is on lockdown. To make matters worse, the building has been rigged with explosives, and it's going to blow soon. Now, in order to get out alive, The Fool will have to root out the killer in his midst, and make a quick escape before his co-workers catch him in their crosshairs.


REVIEW:

There are times when you want to watch a film that doesn’t rely on intricate plot twists, where the budget isn’t huge and it entertains without any real brain power required.

That’s exactly what you get with this title and whilst the DVD cover is misleading the title does pretty much what the viewer wants: Trained Assassin’s murdering each other with everyday office items.

It did what I wanted, it kept me amused and whilst the characters were acceptable (although to be honest I wanted more Ving Rhames) for the budget it wasn’t that bad especially when it chose to rely on traditional Effects over the all too common computer generated ones. Whilst it won’t set the world alight it will keep a certain percentage of the audience happy. If you want a thriller with more twists which keeps you going longer, then you might want to try Salt.

Sunday 20 February 2011

THRILLER REVIEW: The Rome Prophecy - Jon Trace

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

A woman has been arrested on the streets of Rome. She's young. She's beautiful. She's covered in blood. And she claims to be on the run from a mighty power that centuries ago brought the eternal city to its knees. Ex-priest Tom Shaman teams up with a headstrong policewoman to unravel the mystery. But within Rome's churches and corridors of power, stealthy enemies are conspiring against them. And someone is re-enacting sinister legends from the city's bloody past...Loaded with action that rockets from gothic plazas through majestic cathedrals and into the vast catacombs lurking beneath the city, this electrifying thriller will dazzle fans of Dan Brown and Chris Kuzneski.


REVIEW:

I love a great mystery, one that gives you puzzles that intrigue as well as befuddle, mix a bit of hidden sects and wraps it up with great characters as well as life and death situations. That’s exactly what you get in this, the second thriller by Jon Trace and one that demonstrates what a cracking author he is with a great sense of pace. The book has great action sequences, has wonderful emotional context and when wrapped up at its conclusion with a twist that will leave the reader wondering what exactly he has in store next for the stories two principle characters. All in a fun read and one that whilst taking a good few hours to complete felt that it just rushed by.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Hellhole - Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Only the most desperate would ever dare to make a new home on Hellhole, a planet ravaged by natural disasters. Persistent volcanic eruptions, destructive storms and recent damage inflicted by asteroid impact make the planet a dumping ground for undesirables, misfits and charlatans. But its location out on the wild frontiers of the Constellation, among the Deep Zone worlds, makes it the final refuge for those fleeing from the rule of Diadem Michella Duchenet - a tyrant with a sweet face, but a dark and heardened heart. General Adolphus, the military leader exiled to the planet when he was defeated in the first revolution against the Diadem, is determined to transform Hellhole into a place of opportunity. While the colonists are diligently working to develop the planet, the General is forging secret alliances with the leaders of the other Deep Zone worlds. He dreams of turning his prison into the centre of a new coalition of planets free from the Diadem's iron grip. Back on the decadent capital planet of Sonjeera, surrounded by corruption and consumed by the plots and feuds of the old guard nobles, Diadem Michella is confident that the General has been neutralized. She has no idea of the revolt growing in the Deep Zone ...or does she? But what no one knows is this: the planet Hellhole, though damaged and volatile, hides secrets of historic magnitude. Lurking beneath the surface are the remnants of an obliterated alien civilization, detailing an unrecorded past, which, if unearthed, could tear the fragile human civilization apart.


REVIEW:

Readers of Kevin and Brian’s joint projects will be aware of a number of things, firstly that they play for keeps and are not adverse to killing off characters, secondly that the cultures are on a turning point and above all else there are some single minded individuals determined to do their best to change things for the better.

Back that up with some descent prose alongside a reasonable pace and it’s a Science Fiction book by the numbers that will please readers of the genre. Whilst it’s not exactly ground breaking it does do what these two authors do well and presents the reader with a story that will entertain to while away the hours. All in a good bit of fun although I’m expecting a few twists along the way in further titles with the Saturday Matinee endings that will leave the reader clamouring for the next title in the series.

Saturday 19 February 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: The Waters Rising - Sheri S Tepper

Release Date: 27/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

The long-awaited and much-demanded sequel to A PLAGUE OF ANGELS, continuing the story of Abasio, once a farmboy, now, so Blue, his talking horse, is happy to inform people, a man who goes hither and thither helping orphans in this world where renascent mythical beasts and fairy tale 'archetypes' now live...And when he comes agross little Xulai from Tingawan, one of the Ten Thousand Islands, far across the western Sea, she informs him that she too is an orphan, and implores his help carrying out the last request of the Princess Xu-i-lok, who has been dying since the day she married Duke Justinian, who refused the royal order to marry Alicia, the Prince's sister. Xulai is Princess Xu-i-lok's Soul Carrier, and the task she must complete means visiting the scary forest in the dead of night - but it is the only thing that will bring the princess a measure of peace. Abasio, helper of orphans, promises though she must do this alone, he will be near, to aid her if necessary ...and it is, for there are dark things abroad ...And Xulai's job is not yet done, for with the princess now dead, the grieving Duke is left a widower - and Alicia, Duchess Altamont, still wishes to marry him. It's not just the man she wants, but his lands too ...and her plans do not bode well for anyone except her ...


REVIEW:

To be honest this book felt like a mishmash offering that really didn’t do much from start to finish. Yes there were some interesting characters but it felt like the author kept changing her mind every few minutes and introduced new subplots that by the books end felt like they were a waste of time entirely. Back that up with a confused case, many pages of info dumps that felt like they were more sub-notes for the author than to entertain the reader and you were left with a book that you wondered how it managed to make it to publishing.

I did originally have high hopes for this title and as such felt not only cheated but left wondering why I had wasted my time reading it. It was confusing; it didn’t achieve much and felt to a certain degree that it had borrowed heavily from certain Eastern texts. A great shame all in and it has left me with not only a bad taste but wondering if I should ever pick up another Tepper novel again.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Autumn: The City - David Moody

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

A disease of unimaginable ferocity has torn across the face of the planet leaving billions dead. A small group of survivors shelter in the remains of a devastated city, hiding in terror as the full effects of the horrific infection start to become clear. The sudden appearance of a company of soldiers again threatens the survivors' fragile existence. Do they bring with them hope, help and answers, or more pain, fear and suffering?


REVIEW:

Having read David Moody’s work before I was hoping that this one would be different, as it featured Zombies rather than altered humans but alas it was pretty much the same as all his other titles except rather than still being living, breathing altered humans they died and were re-animated as the living dead. As the days grind on the survivors noticed that the deceased were becoming more intelligent as each day passed almost as if they’d undergone a rebirth and were having to learn things from scratch which made this a real hook.

Sadly that’s as good as the story gets as the rest is mundane, depressing, annoying and to borrow an overused word from Shaun Hutson (which it felt like David did within this title) sucked. The characters were weak, two dimensional and to be honest you really wished them to get munched quicker. All in a disappointment with the worst part being getting to the end only to find that there’s another title that you’re going to have to wait months for to carry on the tale which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. A great shame all in as some of the ideas were quite novel and could have made this something special that no one else has utilised before rather than a humdrum, over used cliché that it was.

Friday 18 February 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Shape of Things to Come - HG Wells

Release Date: 17/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

When a diplomat dies in the 1930s, he leaves behind a book of 'dream visions' he has been experiencing, detailing events that will occur on Earth for the next two hundred years. This fictional 'account of the future' (similar to LAST AND FIRST MEN by Olaf Stapledon) proved prescient in many ways, as Wells predicts events such as the Second World War, the rise of chemical warfare and climate change.


REVIEW:

HG Wells has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for myself, I’ve loved his War of the Worlds, I thoroughly enjoyed The Time Machine and have been entertained many a time by The Island of Dr Moreau. So when this title was rereleased in hardback by Gollancz, I felt it was time to reacquaint myself with this prolific author and to see what this title was about.

Whilst I hadn’t read this book before I was wondering exactly what I was letting myself in for with this title from his later period of writing and whilst a number of events had an echo within our own history you can see the authors political views coming through quite strongly as well as his idealised version of society. It is well written, the characters engaging and the concepts discussed will generate quite a varied number of discussions amongst readers and whilst many feel that they can avoid reading this due to the films that have been released they don’t do this title any real justice for the work that’s within. Definitely a title that I’d suggest that you read once as it is not only the shape of things to come (at least genre wise) but a title that will have influenced a great many of today’s writers who have taken Well’s torch and carried it proudly.

CRIME REVIEW: The Cutting - James Hayman

Release Date: 06/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Someone is stealing the hearts of beautiful women ...Portland, Maine. A missing high-school athlete's mutilated body is found in a scrap metal yard. Her heart has been surgically removed. The same day a young businesswoman is abducted ...Former NYPD detective Michael McCabe believes both crimes are the work of one man. A killer with surgical expertise who is targeting young women. Now McCabe and his team face a race against time to rescue the missing woman and unmask this sadistic killer - before it is too late. The Cutting is one of the scariest debuts of the year. And the first in a great new series.


REVIEW:

So you want a new crime novel? One that brings new talent to the genre as well as giving the reader a chill that will last a good while with realistic Police procedure, some villainous twists and backed up with a twisted writerly sense of humour? Well that is what you’ll get along with a good sense of pace, a hero that you can settle back and spend time with and when backed with the final touches of decent scripting which overall leaves a satisfied reader. Whilst as a new author there are mistakes the overall effect of the tale demonstrates an author who has not only potential but one that will be able to build on a good foundation set by the is original release.

Thursday 17 February 2011

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Spellcrackers 3: The Bitter Seed of Magic - Suzanne McLeod

Release Date: 17/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

BOOK BLURB


REVIEW:

As a fan of the Spellcracker series, I was a little disappointed back in October when I discovered that the new title was to be delayed until Feb. Still that said, I had the opportunity to plan part of my new year reads around it so made sure that the “supplies” (A Chilled bottle of Dandelion and Burdock, some Mint Puffins and a decent bagette) were available for my guilty free extended reading session. (Well a guy has to look after himself.)

What unfurled within was a story that had plenty of twists and turns, some magical double dealing and perhaps best of all a beautifully paced mystery that took smarts alongside kickass attitude to solve. Back that up with some character growth, a good pinch of romance and some skulduggery that will take time to unfurl how deep it extends and the reader really has a treat in store. Finally add to the mix an author who continues to grow in their writing who adds the London magic into her own mystery tour which leaves the readers as satisfied as a “moth” in a certain Diamond Club.

INTERVIEW: Stewart Binns

Stewart Binns has had a rich and varied selection of careers yet something within has always drawn him back to English History.

Here in his debut novel that passion is clear so we thought that it would be interesting to get to know this Man from Lancashire along with is vices. With subjects ranging from Camra to twins. However don't mention the Clarets...



Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Stewart Binns: To be ‘afflicted’ sounds like a tortured artist in his/her garret. I’m certainly not that. My day job (telly) is storytelling and I’ve written non-fiction before, so fiction is just an extension of my passion for stories. The ability to tell stories is a gift for sure, although learning the techniques for fiction was a challenge for me and it took a lot of heartache to get them right – assuming I’ve done so!


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

SB: I got there slowly as I realised how important words were in my TV scripts.


FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

SB: See above. I’m a great admirer of brilliant copywriters/speechwriters and have worked with some. “Just do it!” (Nike) is a brilliant piece of writing.
I once worked with a guy called Rob Siltanen who wrote a commentary for the IOC’s Celebrate Humanity Campaign, read by Robin Williams:
Shots of the 100m: Speed…You measure speed in seconds.
Shots of weightlifting: Strength…You measure strength in pounds.
Shots of Derek Redmond trying to finish the 400m in Barcelona in 1992, helped by his father, after tearing his hamstring: Courage…You can’t measure courage.
30 secs, 17 words – brilliant.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

SB: Blackmail? Plead poverty? Pretend I’m a tortured artist in his garret? It’s a bloody good story of an English hero.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

SB: That’s Helen’s job! I’d take longer, but here goes: England, heritage, honour, justice, freedom, courage, guilt, regret, oppression, violence, lust, greed, innocence, struggle, carnage, cruelty, violence, truth, death – how many is that?!


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

SB: The 2011 CAMRA Good Beer Guide, Wisden 2010, anything to do with Burnley Football Club.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

SB: I make sure I know the history back to front and as much as possible of what is known of the central characters so that everyone/everything fits, then I just make it up as I go along.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

SB: Drink claret, Fullers London Pride, play with my twin boys, DIY, try to deal with the wilderness at the bottom of our garden, watch sport, fiddle with model railways. Non-fiction in prep for the next book.


FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

SB: Mind your own business! – but it involves exotic rituals at a legendary and terrifying place called Turf Moor.


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

SB: No pets, although I always had dogs as a kid and we’re about to get dogs for the boys.


FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

SB: Edith Swan-Neck. It’s obvious when you meet her – page 207


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

SB: I’m just like him of course.


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

SB: See above. They don’t.


FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

SB: Out of thin air.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

SB: No


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

SB: Early in then morning, late at night. It drives them mad, but my study is tucked away at the far end of the house.


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

SB: I love all romantic/emotive music, especially classical, but I don’t hear music when I write. However, I do see the scenes very vividly and try to visit all the places that occur in the narrative. I don’t write anything until I can visualise the setting and characters in


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

SB: That it’s glamorous.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

SB: The sewage system of the human imagination. Hope it doesn’t need explanation.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

SB: It’s called Crusade and is a sequel to Conquest. Hopefully it will be the second of a trilogy I’m calling The Making of England. The third part will be called Magna Carta.


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

SB: Clarets Mad, Penguin, BBC, Amazon, Guardian


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

SB: No.


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

SB: I took criticism on board. Only had one rejection – which was several years ago and of a very early and poor version of the manuscript. They were right to reject it, it was awful – I was still learning my trade.


FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

SB: You are totally free to follow your imagination wherever it will take you. It’s very hard to make a living out of writing.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Conquest - Stewart Binns

Release Date: 17/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

It's 1066 - Senlac Ridge, England. William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, defeats Harold Godwinson, King Harold II of England, in what will become known as the Battle of Hastings. The battle is hard fought and bloody, the lives of thousands have been spent, including that of King Harold. But England will not be conquered easily, the Anglo-Saxons will not submit meekly to Norman rule. Although his heroic deeds will nearly be lost to legend, one man unites the resistance. His name is Hereward of Bourne, the champion of the English. His honour, bravery and skill at arms will change the future of England. His is the legacy of the noble outlaw. This is his story.


REVIEW:

If you love a classic fantasy hero but long for it to meet with Historical Fiction, then this title by Stewart Binns’ may well be the book for you. The authors hero, Hereward is similar to David Gemmell’s Druss the Legend with the principle characters wife having a lot of similarities to Rowena. It’s an interesting take on the events that shaped the future of England and its one that will appeal to a great many readers. Whilst there are some clunky moments within, the authors exuberance and passion really leach through to keep the reader glued to the story with some decent battle sequences, some wonderful prose and above all else characters that you really want to hang around.

Add to this a wide and varied rampage around 11th Century Europe alongside some interesting historical snippets added within and the reader will have an adventure to savour. It is going to be interesting to see what crops up in Crusade, the second novel in the series, although to be honest my biggest bugbear is that you know that the tales hero will live no matter what happens with the story told from a retrospective point of view which leaches away some of the danger. Even so, a descent jaunt and far from the usual historical time period selected by a great many authors.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Fallen Kings Cycle 1: The Sworn - Gail Z Martin

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

As plague and famine scourge the Winter Kingdoms, a vast invasion force is mustering from beyond the Northern Sea. And at its heart, a dark spirit mage wields the blood magic of ancient, vanquished gods. Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. And neighbouring lands reel toward anarchy while plague decimates their leaders. Drayke must seek new allies from among the living - and the dead - as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle. Then someone disturbs the legendary Dread as they rest in a millennia-long slumber beneath sacred barrows. Their warrior guardians, the Sworn, know the Dread could be pivotal as a force for great good or evil. But if it's the latter, could even the Summoner-King's sorcery prevail?


REVIEW:

A new publisher for a new cycle in Gail’s Winter Kingdoms and one that can be started by new readers without any worries about what has gone before. Personally speaking, I like the fact that the reader can jump straight in, but with the fact that the original series was such an eye opener then it would be a great shame to miss it.

As usual with Gail, the writing is wonderful, she has a masters touch with pace, a cracking understanding of prose and knows how to lead the reader a merry dance to a tune that only she can hear. Finally add to this a great sense of character and a startling assembly of cast members within the world and you know that the title is going to be something that will make you pay attention especially as you await the next instalment with baited breath.

CUISINE REVIEW: The Gypsy Kitchen - Lisa Lamme

Release Date: 28/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Readers can forget ordering expensive take-out whenever they're confronted with a seemingly empty fridge. Instead, they just need to take another look. With some Gypsy Kitchen magic, they'll be able to take whatever that 'empty' fridge has to offer, mix it with what's inside those 'bare' cabinets, and create satisfying and tasty dishes everyone will enjoy. Lisa Lamme shows readers how to...dress up Caesar salads with some English mustard; add Szechuan style to boring chicken with tahini; use Ranch to take steak skewers to a new level; turn up a vegetarian dish's heat with hot sauce; and, more! Now novice cooks and seasoned foodies can go gourmet with a simple sweep of their kitchen, turning the little they have into anything they crave.


REVIEW:

With me taking a recent look into cuisine titles to not only improve my kitchen skills but also giving myself the chance to learn new techniques, I wanted one that would help me keep to a budget with my shopping, to utilise leftovers and above all else help me learn some new recipes for something different as well as special.

What this book does is deal with some basics and whilst it did have a lot of potential I felt that it didn’t quite live up to the hype. After all what the author calls basic kitchen essentials I feel is pushing things a little far especially when you add up the cost of these ingredients such as balsamic vinegar, various wines/spirits as well as all manner of herbs/spices. Then when you go through the book and find no pictures of the finished product left me wondering why this title was such a good one.

I don’t doubt that the author knows her onions (so to speak) but as every chef/cook will tell you, you feast first with your eyes. It’s a thing of comfort, it helps you get an idea of how it’s meant to look and when backed with the taste sensations from the ingredient list can leave you with a desirable list of recipes that you can’t wait to try. Finally, my last criticism is to do with some of the recipes, whilst you don’t need a ton of ingredients to make something descent, I’d have thought that you’d need at least to add a few bits. One recipe that drew my attention was Mushroom soup that relied on a can, some stock, a singular herb and some milk/cream. I mean surely you’d have added some fresh mushrooms, perhaps some chestnut, a handful of field and finished off with some Shitaki just to give it a real earthy flavour? But no the author felt that wasn’t required.

All in, this book didn’t live up to my expectations and at the end of the day I felt that it really could have done a little more to make it more appetising to the end user. A real shame to be honest.