Thursday 31 March 2011

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:
03/03/11 CHARLTON, Blake - Spellwright
17/03/11 MAGRS, Paul - The Bride that Time Forgot
17/03/11 FEIST, Raymond E - At the Gates of Darkness
24/03/11 BUTCHER, Jim - Dresden Files: Changes
24/03/11 COBLEY, Michael - The Orphaned Worlds
31/03/11 HARRIS, Charlaine - Dead in the Family

If we've missed one please let us know,



Gareth

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Hellforged - Nancy Holzner

Release Date: 31/03/11

SYNOPSIS:

A demon is stalking Vicky's dreams-just as several of Deadtown's zombies are viciously attacked and become really dead. And when Vicky realizes she is the only connection between the victims, she suspects that the demon is somehow working through her dreams to become Deadtown's living nightmare.


REVIEW:

When I read the original novel in the series, I was instantly struck by how much scope there was for the world within, the author had some outstanding characters which had been beautifully detailed in such a way that there was someone within that would appeal to any fan of the urban fantasy.

So when I heard that the second novel was being released I really couldn’t wait to get a copy. What Nancy does well is create drama with characters that the reader will love, backs that up with some seriously delicious prose and tops it off with a good dollop of kick ass action that is so fulfilling it feels like a five course banquet. Add to this dialogue and backstory to die for (or undie in some of the cast’s cases) which leaves you desiring more. A real treat and one that demonstrates that Deadtown is here to stay.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Sword of the Templars - Paul Christopher

Release Date: 07/07/09

SYNOPSIS:

The deadliest weapon is the truth. After a life on the front lines, Army Ranger John Holliday is now teaching at West Point Military Academy. But when his uncle passes away, Holliday discovers a medieval sword among his things - sinisterly wrapped in Adolf Hitler's personal battle standard. Then someone viciously burns down his uncle's house and Holliday's secret fears about the mysterious sword ring alarmingly true. Holliday must delve into the past and piece together the puzzle that was his uncle's life - his involvement with the enigmatic warriors known as the Knight's Templar. But his search for answers soon becomes a race against a ruthless and cunning opponent, willing to die for their cause. Can Holliday live long enough to reveal the treacherous but critical truth?


REVIEW:

I love a good mystery and when it brings an old mysterious order to the fore its usually a good way to being a series. What unfurls within the pages is sadly lacking and whilst the intrigue is there, the principle male character doesn’t fit in too well. He’s brash; he’s a lecturer at West Point and to be honest with you too blasé as well as unorganised to really be ideal material for the reader to latch onto. Add to this one point early on when the characters elderly relatives bequest is all thrown back and tossed aside as if a millions of dollars are inconsequential.

Whilst I did struggle through to the end of this title I would sadly advise others to avoid it, the tale is predictable, the lead characters detestable and perhaps worst of all its not very clean with the characters being forced into situations that they clearly didn’t want to be in or suited to sort on their own. A sad affair all round.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

INTERVIEW: Megan Crane

As massive fan's of the 80's Lady Eleanor and I just couldn't resist the chance to revisit the decade of Legwarmers, Fame and Aha (to name but a few things).

So having loaded up the MP3 with some classic music that symbolised the decade, we spoke to another 80's fanatic by the name of Megan Crane, whose new novel (funnily enough entitled I Love the 80's) to see about her inspiration, her guilty pleasures, writing, and discover that she's nearly as voracious a reader as we are...



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?

Megan Crane: I think that's true--but I also wonder if it makes me a bit precious to think so. Probably. What I think is true about those statements is that gifts strike me as being pleasant, love-infused, etc. I feel that way about music. I love to sing, listen, enjoy. Writing, on the other hand, is hard work and in order to be any good at it you have to be willing to tear it apart, hate it, figure it out. Far more a compulsion and an affliction than a gift, I'd say. But that's what makes it rewarding.


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

MC: When I realized I had few other marketable skills. In fact, none.


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?

MC: I think short stories are a very specific form, and if you can write them, you may learn how to write them well. But a short story is not a book, or for that matter, a poem. I think the only way to learn how to write something well is to write it, and then write another, and carry on like that for a long time, hoping that you improve as you go. I wrote a lot of short stories once upon a time. I think one or two might have been decent, but once I started writing books, I realized I much preferred that form. Also, I've learned that anything shorter is always, always harder. But maybe that's just me.


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?

MC: If I was standing right there, I would employ guilt. It's unlikely that every other author will also be there, isn't it? I'd have the clear advantage.


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

MC: What would you do if you woke up in 1987 with your famous rock star girlhood crush?


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?

MC: Oh, I have a lot of autobuys. I'm very loyal to the authors I love. I import all Marian Keyes novels to the States, for example, as I can't bear to wait for the books to come out over here. The new Karen Marie Moning FEVER book comes out today (as I write this, in fact) and I plan to head to my local bookshop shortly to pick it up and devour it.


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?

MC: A mixture of both. I usually have a vague idea of where I'm heading, but it's vague enough to allow a lot of variation along the way.


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

MC: I read to relax. Lately I've read the first two books in Stacia Kane's UNHOLY GHOSTS series, a couple of Jennifer Echols books, the new Michelle Rowen, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, the first Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, the latest Natalie Anderson, a book I really disliked for my book club...


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

MC: I don't believe pleasures should engender guilt. I happily read romance novels, watch teen-focused television shows, and stopped feeling guilty about such things ages ago. A good story is a good story.


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?)

MC: I have three cats and a dog. They are all spoiled, lazy, and demanding. I love them dearly. Two of the cats appeared in an old book of mine, but I think that's it.


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

MC: I just loved Tommy Seer. Maybe I have a crush on him, just like Jenna.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

MC: I have yet to find myself transported through time to face my (numerous) 80s-era crushes, but I understand how you can get caught up in those things. I remember being a lovestruck twelve year old girl quite clearly, and I still listen to old Duran Duran songs. It's hard to let go of the things that first made your heart beat harder.


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

MC: My major hobby is reading, which obviously helps with writing, as it's always instructive to see how other writers solve narrative problems. Also, reading is fun.


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

MC: I keep looking for an online store like iTunes, but have so far been out of luck. Some ideas simply appear, fully formed. Others come slowly, over time. I don't have any idea where they come from. LIfe? Dreams? Books? All of the above?


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

MC: I take a good, hard look at my bank balance and bills, and soldier on. If that doesn't cut it, I try to figure out what about the scene isn't working. Sometimes I have to back up a ways to see it, but it's almost always a case of not knowing my characters well enough or taking the easy way out of a story problem.


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?

I am becoming more and more nocturnal the longer I write, which I'm not pleased about. My husband is an artist, however, and keeps far stranger hours than I do, so I suppose it works out well.


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?

MC: I have to do the actual writing in silence, as music (particularly with lyrics) distracts me. But I compile long playlists for each book, to help get me into the mood for each. The I Love the 80s playlist was particularly fun to put together!


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

MC: That once I was published, everything would be easy. That has not proved to be the case. But it's still so rewarding, and so exciting. I doubt I would feel that way about any other job.


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

MC: The vanity of fools. I'm just kidding. For me, it's always been a compulsion.


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

MC: I really wish I'd already written it... But I feel certain it will be delightful once I do.


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

MC: Jezebel, Twitter, Facebook, Mediabistro, Goodreads


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

MC: I took a creative writing course in college, but that was while I was still writing very pompous short stories in which I took myself very, very seriously. My professional craft lessons since then have mostly come from RWA Conferences and getting to know other authors. And from writing book after book. I'm currently writing my nineteenth published/soon-to-be-published book. I don't know any better way to learn how to write books than to... write a lot of books.


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

MC: Well, you don't ever really "get past" those things. But you do learn to take them in stride. I think you have to be so stubborn to sit down and write a book in the first place. Eventually, you learn to apply that stubbornness to the criticism and the rejection, too. Everyone is criticized and rejected. The trick is learning from it, not letting it knock you down for too long, and getting right back up and starting over again.


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

MC: The worst part is that you never have any holidays and you've essentially signed up for having school papers due for the rest of your life. But the best part is that you get to write for a living. What's better than that?

FICTION: I Love the 80's - Megan Crane

Release Date: 03/03/11

SYNOPSIS:

Jenna Jenkins was getting married to her long-term boyfriend, Adam, and she was sure her life was all coming together. Until Adam left her for a twenty-three-year-old yoga instructor. To ease the pain, Jenna threw herself into her teenage memories of the late, great Tommy Seer, killed when his car crashed off a bridge in 1987, when she was just twelve, and focusing on the man who has been - and always will be - the true love of her life, however worrying that may seem to her best friend, Aimee. One day, working late, or thinking about Tommy at her office after dark, a freak accident sends Jenna back to 1987. It's a few short months before Tommy will die and Jenna's job is apparently working as his assistant. But Tommy is not the guy she imagined. He's mean and rude and obnoxious. But he is still deliciously good-looking. When Tommy takes her into his confidence, she starts to see the real him beneath the image and finds herself more in love than ever. He suspects someone is trying to kill him - and she knows it won't be long before they succeed. Why is she here? Is she meant to save his life? But how can she without revealing the bizarre, unbelievable truth?


REVIEW:

In all honesty I absolutely loved the 80’s. I own a hell of a lot of the music, I remember the teen infatuations (damn you Clark Wyneford Datchler for announcing your marriage in the late 80’s) and also the makeup, pop socks as well as dance moves to a large number of the tracks. So when I heard about this title coming out from Megan I was looking forward to a flashback in time. Cue a massive 80’s playlist, out with the fond memories and a good glass of Beaujolais in tribute.

Unfortunately the book didn’t live up to what I was expecting with my main gripe being the principle character. She was inconsistent, felt contradictory with a prime example of this being the writing style as the lead player comes across more as an obsessed teen rather than the more mature expectations of a mid-thirties woman which made this more than a little off putting. Add to this numerous time travel oddities and rather clichéd supporting cast members which leaves the reader feeling very confused in a plot that goes from mildly interesting to insanity within a few short pages.

Finally add to this numerous plot holes as well as predictable story arc and it’s a title that you may well be best borrowing from your local library.

Monday 28 March 2011

DVD REVIEW: The Gathering - Christina Ricci, Ioan Gruffudd, Brian Gilbert

Release Date: 23/03/11

SYNOPSIS:

Christina Ricci (Monster) stars in this spine-tingling supernatural thriller about an American backpacker in rural England whose life takes a turn for the worse after a car accident. During recovery, she is befriended by a researcher (Stephen Dillane) studying a buried 1st Century church embedded with images of Christ's crucifixion. She begins to have horrific visions of the townspeople and their deaths. Is the town cursed or are her visions spirits from the unearthed church grasping for life? What is uncovered will shock and terrify you!


REVIEW:

OK, I love a film that tries to do something different and something that will not only entertain the viewer but will also create a lasting chill down their spine as they recall scenes. Upon the original read of this titles blurb I thought that it would partly be a modern interpretation on the themes of the Wicker Man and when added to a cast list that looked pretty decent left me with the impression that it was going to be an incredible film.

Alas it wasn’t the case. The plot line was a little flimsy, the events within too much of a religious fervour and to be honest it grasped at straws as things that could have been done very well were only half baked. The script felt stinted in places and with a quality writer like Anthony Horrowitz on board I had expected more and yet there were places where it felt that is writing came to the fore within the explanations from the art historian. Add to this that I also felt that the time of the release could have been better concerning the events within due to an on-going Coroners Investigation and the creators could have been more sympathetic.

All in it was an OK film but with the cast they had when backed with the writer it should have been so much more.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Kitty Norville 8: Kitty Goes to War - Carrie Vaughan

Release Date: 13/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Three soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are in custody at Ft Carson in Colorado Springs. They're werewolves, suffering from post traumatic stress, which has left them unable to control their shapeshifting, unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them; after her own battles in KITTY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS (Kitty #7), she feels a great deal of sympathy for them. The soldiers were part of a unit fighting Taliban insurgents in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. Their captain, the original werewolf, transformed the others; their new-found strengths including the ability to survive untold violence while infiltrating remote enemy positions, made them the perfect soldiers for this mission. But it was the captain who kept the group together and kept them sane; when a particularly potent mortar attack killed the captain, the remaining lycanthrope soldiers grew more and more wild, until the final three survivors were captured and delivered to Dr Shumacher at the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology for treatment. Kitty tries to bring the men into her own pack, to socialise them back into some kind of normal existence, but the group's sergeant has other plans: he's intent on driving out Kitty and Ben and becoming the leader of a new squad of killers.


REVIEW:

As a huge fan of Carrie’s Kitty Norville I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. As usual its well written, the characters as engrossing as even and with Cormac getting a brand new lease of life as well as a whole hatful of new tricks it was going to be a seat of the pants journey. The prose were strong, the characters continued to grow as Kitty and Ben’s connection has and when backed with great action sequences it made this the usual quality that I’ve come to expect from Carrie.

That said, whilst I did enjoy this title it did feel more like it was a couple of short stories blended to create a novel length title which while it was OK, I did feel each could have been expanded more to create two full length titles rather than rushing to conclude both parts which were unrelated except in order to help generate the lead character with a way and means to get to a certain point in the tale. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it but the fact that these two arcs felt fairly short did leave me wondering if the research time either wasn’t available or the deadline approached a lot faster than the author anticipated.

Sunday 27 March 2011

INTERVIEW: Robin Blake

Having lived a rich and varied life, Robin Blake is a man with a passion for history and a gift to write. Blending the two seemed like a logical step and with Historical Crime titles on the increase I was more than interested in this new release from Pan Macmillan.

Here we chatted to Robin about his writing methods, period musical interludge and the pressures of writing for a living...


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?

Robin Blake: Writing is a profession. You have to work at it, learn it and profess it. As in any other job some writers at on extreme are plodders, and a very few at the other are geniuses. Few of those who are acclaimed as geniuses, and even fewer Oscar Wildes, who acclaim themselves as geniuses, are actually geniuses.


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

RB: At around the age of ten.


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?

RB: I have not heard that said, though it may be true. Short story writing is very difficult. In a long story, for example a novel or novella, numerous incidents are related by the story teller; in a short story the incidents must be pared down to a very few – maybe to just the one – without losing the kernel of the story.


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?

RB: Most book shoppers have a pretty good idea what they’re looking for. If they’re interested in a crime puzzle set against an interesting historical background and employing lively characters, then I would politely suggest they try mine. I wouldn’t try to dissuade them from buying another book; I’d encourage them to buy both.


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

RB: I refer you to my previous answer.


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?

RB: There are broadly 2 kinds of books in my bookshelves. Some are working books – 18th century texts, reference books, historical studies, Shakespeare, the Bible – and the rest are the accumulation of volumes I have acquired over the years, for one reason or another. There are no must-haves, but quite a few that I re-read or re-dip into every now and then.


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?

RB: I develop character profiles and plot-lines in advance and then find it impossible to follow them. Doesn’t everybody? New ideas keep jumping out from behind the bushes as you go along, forcing you to modify or even change direction.


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

RB: I relax when I’m walking and listening to music, but I never do both at the same time.


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

RB: If I told you my guilty secrets they’d no longer be secret.


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?)

RB: We have a family cat called Mushroom whose traits are those of most cats: calculating, athletic, winsome when he wants something from you.


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

RB: I think it’s a bad idea for novelists to favour some characters over others (they get spoiled), though I did rather enjoy making up the religious non-conformist Timothy Shipkin in A Dark Anatomy. He is a woodcutter and a member of a sect (invented by me) of Septenarians, who follow the notion that everything important, in this life and the next, relates to the number seven. His physical appearance is loosely based on that of Samuel Beckett.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

RB: Not very. They are fictional.


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

RB: I associate the word “hobby” with things like building scale models of HMS Victory with match sticks. I think I am too busy building scale models of in my head.


FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

RB: Imagination plus reading.


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

RB: Yes. A long solitary walk sometimes works.


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?

RB: I try to write during the usual working hours, depending on time pressures.


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?

RB: As it is set in 1740 the soundtrack of A Dark Anatomy would be the kind of music popular at the time. Handel was by far the most successful musician in England. Very good English composers included Thomas Arne and William Boyce.


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

RB: That it would be easier than it is.


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

RB: If you mean the desired product of writing, ie reading, it carries a kind of pleasure quite different from music. It can be the food of love, or the food of anything else, including food. But it is about the interchange of meaning and feeling, words and emotions. Songs and operas may possibly be like that but wordless music is not: it’s stirring but meaningless.


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

RB: It will be a sequel to A Dark Anatomy, ie another 18th century mystery featuring coroner Titus Cragg and his friend Dr Luke Fidelis.


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

RB: BBC news, my bank, the Falcata Times, the site of the Diderot/d’Alembert Encyclopaedia project and robinblake.co.uk (which I’ve been editing).


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

RB: I once attended Robert McKee’s weekend scriptwriting course. It had quite a strong celebrity following at the time. McKee was great as an entertainer and his dissection of the film Casablanca was expert, so it was not money wasted. On the other hand McKee’s prescriptions were too formulaic and I doubt I learned any imperishable lessons.


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

RB: Rejection and ill-informed criticism makes me angry and inwardly vengeful, but I like to think I learn from constructive criticism.


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

RB: The best aspect is your independence. The worst is exactly the same: you are on your own – your success, your failure, are yours and yours alone. You can blame others if you suffer criticism, but in the end it is you yourself.

HISTORICAL FICTIONR EVIEW: Themis 1: Under Enemy Colours - Sean Thomas Russell

Release Date: 05/02/09

SYNOPSIS:

It is 1793. The thunder of cannon fire echoes across the English Channel, chilling the stoutest hearts ...The opening skirmishes of the French Revolutionary War send ageing frigate HMS Themis into waters swarming with enemy ships of the line. Instructed to survey the French coastline, she's soon in the thick of the action: cutlasses slash and bayonets skewer, cannons splinter decks and sever limbs. Onto the smoky deck strides young Lieutenant Charles Hayden. With an English father and a French mother, the Admiralty are reluctant to give Hayden his first command. Instead, he is to act as a bulwark between the Themis' tyrannical Captain Hart and a mutinous crew. Steering a course between the cowardly captain and the treacherous crew, English common sense and French pride, Hayden must first master his wits before challenging the might of the French naval war machine.


REVIEW:

If you’re a fan of Patrick O’Brian’s “Lucky” Jack Aubrey and CS Forester’s Horatio Hornblower then you cannot afford to miss this new series by Sean Thomas Russell featuring Lieutenant Charles Hayden who helps restore the crew of the HMS Themis to their full glory as he battles against the insurrection from within the crew alongside fighting the good fight against the French.

It’s beautifully written and readers will find themselves carried away on the tide with the crew hoping as each battle is fought that favourite characters will survive against the odds. Add to this an authoritve background woven within the pages, decent prose and overall a rather fitting use of the English language for the principle characters. All in, this was a read I thoroughly enjoyed and look forward to other titles in the series.

Saturday 26 March 2011

INTERVIEW: Kevin Brooks

With the recent release of his first adult title, we felt that we just had to have a chat with children’s author Kevin Brooks. In a gritty, dark noir genre PI story he brings a new type of gumshoe to the fore, one who is barely living day to day as past experiences continue to haunt his waking hours.

What will turn a children’s author to the dark side? What can you expect from his new book and perhaps most intriguing of all the truth about the creation of a modern PI…



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?

Kevin Brooks: It's very true for me. As much as I love to write, I also need to write, and if I go for a while without writing I begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. I have no idea where this need comes from, or what it means, but I'm quite happy to leave it unanalysed.


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

KB: At a very early age – maybe five or six years old.


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?

KB: I'm not sure this means anything really. A short story is a short story, just one form of writing. Some people can write them, others can't; some people can write them and write novels; others can't ... and so on.


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?

KB: I wouldn't.


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

KB: Crime fiction, dark, contemporary, English, private investigator, ruined soul, anti-hero, noir, love, death, loss, despair ... and all for only £6.99.


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?

KB: Lawrence Block, James Lee Burke, Cormac McCarthy.


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?

KB: I always have a framework planned out for the story before I start writing, and I always know when – and usually how – the story will end. I don't include character profiles in this framework, but I spend a long time developing the characters in my mind before writing, and they always evolve and develop as the book progresses.


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

KB: A bonfire always relaxes me – in fact, the truth is, I'm a bonfire addict. Also, reading (of course), watching TV – crime drama, news, sport – and watching films, and I'm very partial to doing nothing ... and sleeping.

I've recently read The Last Talk with Lola Faye, by Thomas H Cook, Columbine, by Dave Cullen, Apathy for the Devil, by Nick Kent, and I've also been re-reading the Matt Scudder series by Lawrence Block.


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

KB: If it makes me feel guilty, and few know about it ... do you really think I'm going to tell you?


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?)

KB: My wife and I have four dogs, three rabbits, six sheep, five chickens, and one goat. I've often included dogs in my novels, not necessarily based on mine, and I suppose one of their key traits is that they allow us to form incredibly close relationships with another species, which – to me – is a very special thing.


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

KB: John Craine, the main character, because I grew up reading classic American crime fiction – Chandler, Hammett, Cain, etc – and it's always been a dream of mine to create my own PI hero/anti-hero, a character based on the traditional PI myth, but brought up to date, and developed beyond the myth into a reality.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

KB: Similar in some ways, but not in others (and if you read the book you'll understand why I'm reluctant to say any more).


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

KB: I don't have time for hobbies.


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

KB: From everywhere, anywhere, and nowhere.


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

KB: My personal opinion is that writers block doesn't exist, it's just a myth (and sometimes, perhaps, just an excuse). I've never really understood why writers alone should be singled out as suffering from any kind of 'blockage'. We never hear of architects block, or electricians block, or call-centre workers block ... why should writers be any different?


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?

KB: I write for 3-4 hours in the afternoon and another 3-4 hours in the evening.


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?

KB: I work in silence, but music still plays a significant part in my writing. Before being a published writer, I spent a long time writing, recording, and performing music, and although writing novels is in some ways very different to writing songs, the importance of rhythm and emotional expression in both is fundamentally the same. So when I'm writing, I'm always aware of the rhythm of everything – from that of the whole novel, all the way down to the rhythm of individual sentences and words. For me, the book itself is the soundtrack to the story.


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

KB: One of the attractions of being a writer for me is that it's essentially a very solitary occupation, and I'm very comfortable with solitude, but although I was aware that writers occasionally have to leave their garrets (blinking at the unfamiliar daylight) to promote their books, it came as something of a shock to me when I realised how much we have to talk sometimes. I've become used to it over the years, and I'm now quite happy to travel all over the world promoting my novels ... but I still find the notion of actually talking about my books quite strange. But strange is fine.


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

KB: Going by the number of celebrity cook books in in the shops these days, maybe writing has become the love of food? Or perhaps, on a slightly darker level, and in view of the ability of words to transport us to those timeless places where everything and anything is possible ... writing is the opium of the soul.


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

KB: My next novel – as yet untitled – takes place shortly after the events described in A Dance of Ghosts, with John Craine temporarily closing down his investigation business and leaving town to let everything that happened blow over, and to give himself time to recuperate. He books himself into a slightly run down hotel on Hale Island, a small and somewhat bleak island just off the coast of Essex. Hale holds memories for John, he used to visit the beach with his parents when he was a child ... but the island also holds family secrets. And as John begins looking into these secrets, he starts to find a lot more than he expected ... and he also starts to suspect that he might be losing his mind.


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

KB: Facebook, Amazon, Wikipedia, Babel Fish, HMRC.


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

KB: No.


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

KB: Before my first novel (Martyn Pig) was published in 2001 (after initially being rejected by every publisher and agent in the universe), I'd already spent a long time trying to make a living from music and art, so I already got used to criticism and rejection, and I knew that you just have to accept it. It doesn't mean your work is no good, and the way to respond is to just keep going – write something else, something better, and if they don't like that ... write something else, something even better. And never give up. If you give up, you won't succeed; but if you keep going, you just might.


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

KB: The best is that it allows you to what you love doing all the time, and that in itself is something to be treasured and never forgotten. The worst ...? Well, I didn't get published until I was forty, and before that I'd done lots and lots of real jobs, and in comparison with that – ie having a real job – there simply isn't a 'worst' aspect of writing for a living. There might be a 'least best' aspect, but even that's going to be a thousand times better than the 'best' aspect of any real job.

CRIME REVIEW: A Dance of Ghosts - Kevin Brooks

Release Date: 17/03/11

SYNOPSIS:

PI John Craine is struggling to cope with the weight of his past. Sixteen years ago his wife, Stacy, was brutally murdered. Craine found her body in their bed. And since then, to escape the pain and the unanswered questions, he has buried himself in work by day, and whisky by night. But one phone call changes everything. The mother of missing young woman Anna Gerrish calls on his services, and Craine soon finds himself at the centre of a sinister web of corruption and lies that leads back into the murky waters of the past - and to the night that Craine has spent over a decade trying to forget. As he delves deeper and deeper into the case everything gets increasingly, terrifyingly, personal. And it's down to Craine to stop history from repeating itself...


REVIEW:

With having read so many crime titles on the trot each title has to bring something new to me to keep me not only engrossed but to remember the specifics a while after turning the final page. This is exactly why this title by children’s author Kevin Brooks stands out in this, his adult debut.

The characters are cleverly thought out, they’re fully rounded and have foibles like real people, they have consciences, they have flaws and they have vices that allows the reader to be able to associate with them. Add to this a great understanding of pace, some wonderful sleight of hand, some cleverly concealed plot devices and an overall arc that will keep the reader guessing to the end. It’s a great read and when you add a touch of the film noir PI to the story, a title that really will remain for quite some time.

Finally add to this simplistic description that keeps it moving along at its own pace and it is clear that as Kevin has learned a large number of tricks on how to get to the meat of the tale from his earlier works.

CRIME REVIEW: The Night Season - Chelsea Cain

Release Date: 04/03/11

SYNOPSIS:

Heavy rains have burst the banks of the Willamette River; several people have died in the furiously rising waters . . . but the latest victim didn't drown: She was killed before she went into the water. Soon, other victims are found, and Police Detective Archie Sheridan realizes that Portland has a new serial killer on its hands. Reporter Susan Ward is on the story, but she's also got other leads to chase, and some secrets can be too frightening for prying eyes . . . with Archie following a bizarre trail of evidence, and Susan close behind, the pair must unearth the identity of a vicious murderer, and uncover the truth behind a mystery more than sixty years old . . .


REVIEW:

As a fan of the previous Gretchen Lowell titles I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book as I never know what the beautifully crazy serial killer is going to do next. The only thing I do know is that it will be inventive, it will be twisted and certain characters will return to face the wrath time and again. So I was a little disappointed when I found out that she only really had a cameo at the titles end with the rest of the book devoted to a new killer with a remarkable method of murder.

Or rather it would have been remarkable had the author dialled it back a bit and come at it from a more logical point of view. Without going into detail about the murderous method I would suggest that if you are to read this title that you have to suspend your disbelief to the nth degree and when backed with an interesting subplot backstory the reader will be highly entertained. Finally add the usual degree of prose, decent pace as well as wonderful authorly voice to the title and you know that it’s a pretty decent title provided you can escape the illogical mess of the murder method especially of a certain state trooper who personally I think is more comedic than of any real sense. If however you do want to stick within the realms of possibility then this may not be Chelsea’s best title for you and you may wish to return to an earlier title for a wonderful sense of righteous murder by one of the Crime World’s most memorable serial killers.

Friday 25 March 2011

INTERVIEW: Steven Savile

With his latest title hitting the shelves today, (Black Chalice, reviewed below this interview) we grabbed a quick word with Steven to find out a few things about his own “Chivalrous” nature.

Here he chats to us about writing, what he can’t live without and how addictive little things like Coffee can be to a writer, dammit….



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

Steven Saville: I’m not entirely sure it has. Like a lot of writers I still have this little voice inside me still whispers “Shhh be quiet, you don’t want them to find out you’re making this up as you go along…” and occasionally mocks, “I can’t believe you’re still getting away with this.” I think a lot of us feel something similar, like we can’t believe we get to do this for a living and expect someone to turn up at any moment and say, “Hey, Sav. You’re a big fat faker.” Actually, amusingly, I’m listening to Ben Folds’ A Working Day from Lonely Avenue – lyrics written by Nick Hornby that starts all gung-ho about his creative genius then rapidly goes down hill, including things like, some guy on the net thinks I’m shit and he should know, he’s got his own blog, and I’m a loser, I’m a poser, yeah really, it’s over, I mean it, I quit, everything I write is shit. So I guess that’s a perfect encapsulation of the inside of my head when it comes to my confidence or lack thereof.

So, invariably what happens is I send stuff off to the agent thinking “There’s no way anyone is going to like this…” and when an offer comes back that little voice says “I can’t believe they fell for it AGAIN!”

It’s a very strange game this. I am genuinely humbled though by every single person who goes and spends money they’ve worked hard to earn to buy one of my stories. So more than anything I think I am more appreciative of readers than I was when I was younger. Back then I think it was more of a divine right of writers to be read, now my thoughts are more in line with ‘you sacrificed 7.99, meaning you chose it over a McDonalds or a movie ticket, or a latte and cake down at Nero’s, so I know I have to give you at least that back in value.’


FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?

SS: Does very cheaply count? The truth is for a long time I’ve been able to hide behind franchise names like Warhammer and Stargate and Torchwood, but over the last few years I’ve stepped out of the comfort zone and into creating my own worlds, like Black Chalice, which whilst on the surface appears to be part of a created concept is 100% me, for good or ill, and Silver, my debut thriller, which as of writing is tearing up the Amazon UK charts and hovering around #13. It’s exciting to be out there alone. If I were meeting a prospective new reader who wanted to know what of mine they should read those are the two I’d pick out right now because I think they’re the best examples of where I am as a writer. As to a sales pitch though, I don’t know. I write across the board. Horror, thriller, fantasy, science fiction, dramatic comedy… you name it, I think I am probably a sales guy’s worst nightmare as you never know what it’ll be next.


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

SS: The answer is probably radically. I used to think of writing as a great adventure. I remember sitting down to write The Secret Life of Colours (The Last Angel) without a clue what was going to happen from that opening line: It was another day in hell. I had no idea what was going to happen from then, and my hero, Dan Manelli, a good old hard drinking Italian cop became Gabriel Rush, a Native American psychic before the ride was over. With The Sufferer’s Song I spent about two months creating dozens of lives in Westbrooke, the fictional Northumbrian village, spinning stories about them, and setting up a brother vs. brother showdown for the last chapter, only to start writing and have one of the two brothers go and kill himself before I was 100 pages in, meaning right up until the day before I finished the 160,000 word manuscript I had no idea how it was going to end. Or Laughing Boy’s Shadow, the first chapter of which came out in a rush after getting home from watching Aimee Mann in concert, and like Secret Life was just a rush of ‘ooh what’s going to happen next.’

Then I got my first professional writing gig and found I needed to write a series bible of about 10,000 words covering themes, characters etc, and a detailed 10,000 word outline of the novel, for the editors at Black Library to take to the acquisitions meeting so the marketing boys knew what they were going to be selling. It was the same with Sláine and Necrarch and Primeval. Torchwood: Hidden was a little different, it was just a case of pitching an idea and the editors signing off on it, though the story I really wanted to do, Dr Who on a submarine with zombie submariners was nixed, there was a lot of freedom.

It was almost an act of rebellion with the last 3 novels, Silver, London Macabre and Black Chalice, that I only worked off a single page concept, which was much more liberating than the extreme confines of having done such detailed outlines before, but still offered the safety net of knowing exactly where I was going beat for beat.



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

SS: I think this one links to the last one, in that, at the end of the day you need to find the method you’re most comfortable with – outlining isn’t evil. I kinda wish I could tell the 20 year old me that. Might have saved me some very weird moments… then, I think the only other thing I would have said would be something like ‘have faith’ or … no… actually… ‘Be the best Steven Savile you can be. Don’t try and be the best Stephen King or Clive Barker or Jonathan Carroll or David Gemmell. Be the best Steven Savile you can be, because no-one ever got to St Peter only to be told, ‘man, if only you could have been more like Clive Barker, then you’d have really been using the talent God gave you…’


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

SS: Oh man, my protagonists are almost all badly damaged human beings, like Alymere in Black Chalice, or Noah Larkin in Silver. I don’t write big strong heroes. My ex-father in law used to joke ‘when will you write a happy story’ and I never had an answer for that. The only happy story I ever tried to write ended up being utterly heartbreaking, so I guess the answer is probably no time soon. But, I think all of my protagonists have something in common, and that’s courage to carry on even long after their self-belief has waned. It’s something I like to think I’ve given them, but in truth I think they’re very much idealized version of the man I wish I could be. I wish I had their strength.


FT: Which characters are most like you and why?

SS: That’d be telling, wouldn’t it? If we look at the cast of Chalice, I don’t have the confidence of a Bors de Ganis, who is modelled after my grandfather – a man who used to carry pit ponies on his shoulders and carry sacks of coal 10 miles home for his mother when he was young. He was a giant of a man with a beautiful big heart. I don’t know if I am more like Lowick, who is something of a bear, a brave caring soul with massive internal conflicts tearing at him, or more of an Alymere, in that I frequently doubt myself. Probably somewhere between the two.


FT: What of life’s little addictions could you not live without and why?

SS: An easy one: coffee. I’m a coffee shop writer. Right now I am in Akademibokhandel in Hötorget, Stockholm, which is our version of Borders, basically. I’ve got a large latte to my left and a cinnamon bun to my right. Without these things no books would ever get written.


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

SS: As sad as it sounds, it’s my iPhone. I’ve got documents to go running on it, it’s got Bluetooth obviously, and I’ve got a little stowaway keyboard. I can write, listen to music, surf the net, do the social networking rubbish and it fits into my pocket. Steve Jobs basically owns my soul.


FT: How has multiple novels under your belt changed how you accept criticism?

SS: Having had some charming souls inform me during the writing of one particular novel that they wanted to come to the local signings and slash my face with a knife my ability to cope with folks saying they don’t like a book is much easier. I really only get frustrated nowadays when someone says something like ‘I thought this was great, but I’ll only read the next one if it is discounted and has good reviews…’ it’s like the reader doesn’t trust their own judgment. The fact is the more you sell the more people you’re not going to please, so if you can hit 33-33-33 love-meh-hate you’re doing okay as a writer and have done your job. Remember you should be pushing yourself, meaning you’re going to write stuff that will turn some readers off just because it touches raw nerves or goes against something they believe. At the end of the day NOT reading your reviews would be a much healthier way to go. I know lots of writers who say they don’t, but can still quote every one star review on Amazon. Trying to think about it a little more honestly, I guess the first few reviews still feel fairly important, so I’m very much on edge waiting for those to come in, but I can still remember when my first couple of things came out and you wouldn’t hear any sort of feedback for months until the trades like The Bookseller ran a little review, or it was covered in genre fanzines etc. It’s a brave new world now with barriers well and truly torn down.


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?

SS: I have a few favourite disconnect writers that I always associate with travelling – David Nicholls (One Day, Starter for Ten, The Understudy) for instance, Mike Gayle (The Importance of Being a Bachelor, The To Do List), Lee Child (Jack Reacher books), stuff that I can just kick back and immerse myself in. Nothing too heavy. Oddly my flight patterns seem to be tied to the release of certain authors. I’ve found myself landing in London the same week as Douglas Coupland has had a new novel out every time since the release of JPod. He’s one of the few writers who I find laugh-out-loud funny whilst also being deeply connected to my generation. My current ‘wants’ are all laced with nostalgia for the 80s and my youth. I guess it means I am entering my mid-life crisis.


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

SS: It’s supposed to be the one I’m working on, obviously, but I am still going to plump for one that’s not on any shelves yet – London Macabre. My agent describes it as the bastard child of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman. It’s quite different from anything I’ve ever done… is massive in terms of story. It’s one of those I can’t give an elevator pitch for. Not even remotely. I sat down almost 2 years ago and started to write, knowing I finally wanted to give everything to trying to get it right. London Macabre was the result. In terms of the ‘next’ one… of all the ideas percolating right now, Glass Town is the one that excites me the most because it is every bit as unique as London Macabre. I think I finally have the confidence to start telling those stories that are unique to me. It’s taken a while, now I just have to hope it’s worth the wait.


FT: With everyone having their 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?

SS: Hmm, let’s pick Silver because it’s actually one a friend of mine asked the other day and I’ve been thinking about ever since:

Konstantin Khavin, Jean Reno, without a doubt.
Noah Larkin, Rufus Sewell.
Orla Nyrén, Orla Brady, her namesake.
Jude Lethe, Justin Long.
Ronan Frost, George Clooney.
Sir Charles Wyndham, Sir Ian McKellan.

A veritable cast of erm six.


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?

SS: You know, I genuinely don’t. And I’m completely unsuperstitious. When I finished Chalice for instance, I seem to recall taking the next day off to read a book and watch tv, then dove into doing a short story I owed Jean Rabe for an anthology. When I finished Silver my folks were over from Newcastle so we went out for a meal to a steakhouse in the city. When I finished London Macabre I wound up doing about 4 interviews the same day to promote Fantastic TV. I feel like I should have a nice single malt and smoke a cigar or something. That feels like the writerly thing to do.


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

SS: When I was young I used to correspond with a few writers I loved like Richard Laymon and Stephen Lawhead, and I always held these guys up on a serious pedestal. I adored the different places they could take me and was in awe of their gifts. I always imagined in my head landing the first book deal would change my life. It didn’t. I carried on with the day job for years before I finally walked out. Now I understand that a writer is a businessman as well. I get that beyond the actual writing you need to be at least passingly familiar with so many other trades, like accountancy, marketing etc. It ain’t all waiting for the muse.


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

SS: One’s already appeared up top, about being the best you you can be, not the best some other guy who’s already out there. The other is that it isn’t a race. If you write 3 truly brilliant short stories a year and 1 brilliant novel every 2 years, and have a career that spans 30 years you’re looking at 90 truly brilliant stories and 15 brilliant novels and that by anyone’s yard stick is one hell of a career.

FANTASY REVIEW: Malory's Knights of Albion 1: The Black Chalice - Steven Savile

Release Date: 17/03/11

SYNOPSIS:

Son of a knight and aspirant to the Round Table, Alymere yearns to take his place in the world, and for a quest to prove his worth. He comes across the foul Devil's Bible – written in one night by an insane hermit – which leads and drives him, by parts, to seek the unholy Black Chalice. On his quest he will face, and overcome, dire obstacles and cunning enemies, becoming a knight of renown; but the ultimate threat is to his very soul. Malory’s Knights of Albion: The Black Chalice is the start of an exciting new series of never-before-seen Arthurian adventures.


REVIEW:

Growing up I was told tales of Arthur and his knights and I suspect it was probably one of the first fantasy’s that I was introduced to. It’s a love that has stayed with me many years after the fact so when I heard about this title from Abaddon, and the fact it was being written by Steven Saville, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Whilst the reality of the knights were more brutal and barbaric, it’s the romanticised version originally created in song in the 11th Century that the modern reader is more familiar with and whilst the code was introduced (purely as a life preserver for a lot of the knights to prevent them killing each other) it is an image that has remained firm into modern life.

What Steven creates within this title is a book that has all the romance and standpoint of a book that harks back in great tradition to the original Mort D’Arthur by Thomas Mallory and brings new stories of the Round Table to the fore. It’s wonderfully creative, the prose ideal and for me, it suits Steven’s writing style down to the ground. Back that up with additional touches that brings other mythos from the British Isles into the mix and the overall concept is one that will endear itself to a great many readers.

All in a great read and one that I couldn’t put down once started; add to the mix some solid characterisation, superb dialogue fitting to the text with some clever footnotes and the reader really does have a treat in store. I’ll eagerly await other titles in the series to see how these future tales of honour, courage and friendship progress.

Thursday 24 March 2011

ART BOOK REVIEW: Framed Ink - Marcus Mateu-Mestre

Release Date: 25/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

This is the ultimate guide to visual storytelling. Using his extensive experience of working in the comic book industry and for movie studios, Mateu-Mestre explains a step-by-step system for the best visual communication. From creating a single image, visual character development and environment, to composing steady shots, and establishing continuity, with practical examples, this book covers it all.


REVIEW:

Whilst a lot of the how to titles out there deal with getting the initial shapes and composition sorted for singular pieces, this title by Spanish artist Marcos Mateu-Mestre deals with a whole lot more. Whilst initially he does deal with composing one image, he looks at the narrative story of the piece as a whole allowing those with an interest in either storyboarding for films or for illustrating graphic novels to learn tips and tricks that have taken years to learn.

It’s beautifully written with clear, easy to understand tips and when backed with practical demonstrations allows the reader to absorb in minutes lessons that without the illustration would have taken a lot longer to understand. Add to this not only an authoritive voice upon the subject but a respected name within the film genre makes this a title that you really can’t miss. Whilst it won’t tell you all about drawing it will help make sure that you get your composition right to make it work for you rather than at times confuse the audience. All in a great title and one that I wouldn’t restrict to just artists but would also recommend to those who want to write film scripts or even help writers compose their scenes to get the most impact from their work.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Vampire Trilogy 3: Bite Me - Christopher Moore

Release Date: 03/02/11

SYNOPSIS:

Abby is dedicated to turning herself into a vampire. Her boyfriend Steve is researching a serum to turn the undead back into mortals. Chet ? an enormous vampire cat ? is busy turning the stray cats of San Francisco into vampiric kitties. And vampire lovers Jody and Tommy are imprisoned in a bronze statue and have to try to escape ...In the unpredictable, blood-sucking, thrillingly paranormal San Francisco Christopher Moore has created, a love story unfolds that has real warmth and bite.


REVIEW:

The third book in Chris’ Vampire Trilogy and of the two that I’ve read the best. Picking up where the previous title pretty much left off (well five weeks later) the key protagonist in this title is Abby Normal (yep Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein joke right there) who as minion and emergency Countess of the City Bay area to the city’s two Bronzed Vampires seeks to survive a humdrum existence as well as battling Vampire Kitties. Its definitely fun and returns to Chris’ earlier humour that I felt was missing from the previous book (You Suck.)

Add to this some great cameo’s from the supporting cast, some wonderful twists backed with some cunningly crafted turns and the reader has a treat in store, especially if you’re seeking something a little different to a lot of the Vamp fiction out there.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Paladin's Legacy 2: King's of the North - Elizabeth Moon

Release Date: 24/03/11

SYNOPSIS:

King Kieri's realm has been destabilised by political wrangling and his court is blind to the dangers - until an assassination attempt on their king. And when this backfires, Kieri's enemies start planning an invasion using dragonfire, a force unseen for hundreds of years. In King Mikeli's adjoining kingdom, his crown is threatened by a bandit prince. Alured the Black claims his lineage gives him dominion over all the lands. His ambition is boundless, his methods are ruthless and he will not be swayed from his goal, whether or not it undermines a region already on the brink of war. Dark mages also watch for weakness and hunger for their own lost powers. The Kings of the North must plan wisely, as disaster is a sword's breadth away.


REVIEW:

As a huge fan of fantasy, I tend to keep an eye on the artwork that’s coming out. For a number of years, I’ve absolutely loved the art of Paul Young so when this title by Elizabeth Moon landed I really had to dive straight in. What unfurls within is the second part of a series that has a huge number of elements as politics vie with heroics, romance vies with violence and the reader is thrust into a world that one small error can lead to catastrophic calamities. It’s well written; the characters shine and with decent prose alongside a great understanding of pace the reader are in for a treat. A real humdinger of a title and whilst I missed the first part, the second one didn’t leave me feeling alienated, it did however leave me wondering how much of the world’s colourful background that I missed and I really want to catch up.

Monday 21 March 2011

GUEST LINK : Inside the Blogsphere: In case of Disaster...

Hail Mighty Readers,
Our Friend John Ottinger posed an interesting question to us as well as a number of other book blog friends. In case of disaster which books would you save? You can find our response over at his site here.

All the best,



Gareth

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Prophecy 1: Clash of Kings - MK Hume

Release Date: 20/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

Amid the bloody battlefields of Britain, Merlin is marked for greatness...In the town of Segontium, a fugitive is washed ashore. He brutally rapes the granddaughter of the king of the Deceangli tribe, leaving her to bear his son, Myrddion. Spurned as a demon seed, the boy is raised by his grandmother and he is apprenticed to a skilled healer who hones his remarkable gift. Meanwhile, the High King of the Celts, Vortigern, is rebuilding the ancient fortress at Dinas Emrys. According to a prophecy, he must use the blood of a demon seed to make the towers stand firm. Myrddion's life is in jeopardy. But the boy has a prophecy of his own and a richer destiny to fulfil. Soon Vortigern shall be known as the harbinger of chaos, and Myrddion must use his gifts for good in a kingdom besieged by evil. So begins the healer's journey to greatness...


REVIEW:

Having loved Marilyn’s interpretation of the King Arthur story, I was interested to see where Merlin would take her. Whilst there are some similarities between this and the popular Channel Four two part mini-series starring Sam Neill, Marilyn’s writing not only enchants the reader but keeps them glued to every page as she weaves her own literary eldritch spell. It’s beautifully told, it has a more realistic feel and above all else it’s the characters that enthuse the reader from the start to finish. Whilst we all knew that the hero of the piece wouldn’t die, the moments of high tension really did bring a lump to the throat and have you wondering how he was going to escape his current predicament.

All in a story to keep of Historical Fiction that really does transcend genres allowing it to appeal to fans of Fantasy alongside Historical Fiction, add to this great prose, some delicious dialogue and when backed with moments of high tension made this a read that will leave you demanding the second instalment as soon as possible.

Sunday 20 March 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici

Release Date: 06/01/11

SYNOPSIS:

I was ten years old when I discovered I might be a witch...The sixteenth century: the era of queens. Catherine de Medici is an impressionable, mystical girl. She is orphaned and taken hostage by her enemies, and manipulated by her advisors; yet she is to become France's most powerful regent. History will make her name synonymous with evil, but she is all too human. Humiliated at the hands of her husband and his mistress, and haunted by her gift of second sight, she must rise above her troubles and fight to save her dynasty and adopted country from the brutal Wars of Religion...In THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, C W Gortner vividly depicts the turbulent life of one of history's most notorious yet misunderstood women.


REVIEW:

Whilst I am a reader of Historical Fiction I tend to stick to names I know such as Philippa Gregory who presents me with a tale that not only hooks me with the lead characters but also gives me a story based on historical events, so when I was given this title to review I was a little apprehensive as I’m a creature of comfort who likes to stick with what I know.

What originally struck me with the book was the cover image which whilst it was similar to a lot of the HF titles out there was (after finishing the title) a little bit misleading and I would have preferred a portrait of the leading lady as the courage displayed within the book should be recognised rather than prettied up to appeal to the modern audience. It also would have made the title stand out more rather than fitting in with the multitude of other books out there in the same genre.

Whilst I am aware of the Medici name as a leading power in Italy during the renaissance, I wasn’t that familiar with Catherine or who she married so it was an adventure to embark upon this fictionalisation of her life based on surviving documents and one that I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead. What unfurled within the first few pages however had me hooked from the outset and with the wonderful addition of a family tree to the proceedings kept it not only easy to follow but allowed me to observe things that might otherwise have passed me by which when added to the authors own unique voice allowed me to become easily drawn into this world of murder, deceit and politics within one of Europe’s Royal Courts.

All in this book is beautifully written, the characters almost reachable across the centuries and the author knows how to hook a reader to the last page, especially when you add his afterward that allows you to learn the fate of the lead characters surviving children. The only downside was, as mentioned before, the samey cover and the title which I felt would have been better had Confession not been used as to me it has a seedy aspect associated with it. The Catherine within this book had nothing to repent and lived her life based on the cards that she was dealt to have to confess felt not only misleading but wrong. Other than this the only thing that I would have done would have been to add portraits of the principle players for the reader as CW made me curious enough to look them up on line and it would have added a whole other layer to the title had they been to hand during the reading.

That said, I definitely enjoyed this book so much that I will actively seek out other titles by this author and with luck others will discover his talent in order to give some of the more established genre names a run for their money.