Wednesday 30 November 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:
10/11/11 CHAN, Kylie - Red Phoenix
10/11/11 CHIMA, Cinda Williams - The Exiled Queen
10/11/11 HAMILTON, Laurell K - Hit List
10/11/11 HARRIS, Charlaine and KELNER, Toni LP - Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
10/11/11 KNIGHT, Ali - Wink Murder
10/11/11 RAJANIEMI, Hannu - The Quantum Thief
24/11/11 BECKER, James - The Nosferatu Scroll
24/11/11 ROUX, Madeleine - Alison Hewitt is Trapped
30/11/11 WARD, JR - Lover Unleashed

If we've missed one please let us know,



Gareth

HISTORICAL FICTION: Sworn Sword - James Aicheson

Release Date: 04/08/11

SYNOPSIS:

January 1069. Less than three years have passed since Hastings and the death of the usurper, Harold Godwineson. In the depths of winter, two thousand Normans march to subdue the troublesome province of Northumbria. Tancred a Dinant, an ambitious and oath-sworn knight and a proud leader of men, is among them, hungry for battle, for silver and for land. But at Durham the Normans are ambushed in the streets by English rebels. In the battle that ensues, their army is slaughtered almost to a man. Badly wounded, Tancred barely escapes with his life. His lord is among those slain. Soon the enemy are on the march, led by the dispossessed prince Eadgar, the last of the ancient Saxon line, who is determined to seize the realm he believes is his. Yet even as Tancred seeks vengeance for his lord's murder, he finds himself caught up in secret dealings between a powerful Norman magnate and a shadow from the past. As the Norman and English armies prepare to clash, Tancred begins to uncover a plot which harks back to the day of Hastings itself. A plot which, if allowed to succeed, threatens to undermine the entire Conquest. The fate of the Kingdom hangs in the balance ...


REVIEW:

To be honest having read quite a few books set around the time of the battle of Hastings I was wondering what James would bring to the table to make his title stand out. What unfurled for me was definitely Cornwell in the Norman Period, it had great characters, plenty of battles and prose carefully mixed with pace that kept you going throughout.

Add to this a wonderful sense of style, a meticulously researched historical background and some of these gems added without it looking like an info dump that kept the whole thing ticking over nicely. I’ll definitely be reading James’ next title and hope that it continues to meet this high standard.

URBAN FANTASY CRIME REVIEW: Harley Davidson 1: First Grave on the Right - Darynda Jones

Release Date: 30/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Private investigator Charlotte Davidson was born with three things: looks; a healthy respect for the male anatomy; and the rather odd job title of grim reaper. Since the age of five, she has been helping the departed solve the mysteries of their deaths so they can cross. Thus, when three lawyers from the same law firm are murdered, they come to her to find their killer. In the meantime, Charley's dealing with a being more powerful - and definitely sexier - than any spectre she's ever come across before. With the help of a pain-in-the-ass skip tracer, a dead pubescent gangbanger named Angel, and a lifetime supply of sarcasm, Charley sets out to solve the highest profile case of the year and discovers that dodging bullets isn't nearly as dangerous as falling in love.


REVIEW:

Debut authors face the warzone with their first release. It matters not whether they’re an officer or a grunt, well provisioned or mending and making do, it’s a case of standing up and taking the flak hoping that their luck is in and that magical bullet won’t come for them.

What Darynda presents in this, her debut is a title that has a cracking lead character, she’s feisty, she has guts and perhaps best of all she’s not all powerful as she’s flawed more than once in this outing. Yes she can take her punishment, yes she has allies but there are also the doubters around whom she has to work. Its cleverly written, the supporting cast decent and when added to an overall plot that not only introduces the reader to her world but also accompanied with a kickass plot and it’s a title that really will please the Urban Fantasy Crime reader.

All in this title, whilst having some flaws, was a solid entry into the publishing world. Add to this decent prose, good dialogue and a character that the readers will just love to spend time around. I suspect that future outings will reveal more than one skeleton in the Davidson closet.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

VIDEO GAMES REVIEW: Skyrim - Bethesda

Release Date: 11/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim XBOX 360 video game is the fifth addition in this classic fantasy gaming series. The game is set in an ancient land that has been ravaged by civil war and plagued by a fierce God in the form of a massive dragon. As a strong and skilful warrior you must battle hard if you are to save the land of Skyrim. With fantastic open- world gameplay this first-person video game is action role-playing at its very best. The Elder Scrolls v Skyrim XBOX 360 video game is packed with action from start to finish and will prove very hard to put down.


REVIEW:

OK, so you’ve slaughtered your way through Daggerfall, cunningly snuck around Morrowind and of course you’ve managed to solve the problems within Oblivion that brought a Daedra Lord through to end the reign of the Septims. So what are you going to do now?

Well worry no longer as you can tackle the Dragon problem of Skyrim, the land of the Nords, where it’s cold, its snowy and there’s not only big things that go bump in the night but also things that will squish you as soon as look at you. (And yes we mean Mammoths and their Giant Keepers.)

What Skyrim brings to the Elder Scrolls franchise is a game that is different to what has gone before with new additions such as additional skills that you can pick as you level up, a whole range of quests and a game that is a whole lot bigger than what has gone before. Alongside the huge size, there’s a wealth of vocal talent, a whole range of gameplay styles to suit the player (I’ve been sneaking round and sniping whereas Lady Eleanor is more the charge up the middle swinging.)

Finally add to this a lot of creatures, a massive range of missions and it’s a game quite unlike any other out there (especially when you add the new “Shout” power.) It’s got a huge amount of land to explore, a huge amount of missions and of course so many hours of gameplay that I’ve still not got anywhere near completion after a few weeks of multiple hours a day.

That said, the one down side is because it’s so different to the previous titles and that it will take the player some time to get into as well as adapting to the new changes. It’s definitely worth persevering with in my opinion as it has so much to offer the gamer. Cracking.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: House of Comarre 2: Flesh and Blood - Kristen Painter

Release Date: 06/10/11

SYNOPSIS:

With the Ring of Sorrows still missing, and the covenant between othernaturals and mortals broken, Chrysabelle's life outside the realm of vampire nobility is about to take another downhill slide. She's vowed to help the outcast Malkolm find a way to lift his curse, but that means returning to the home city of the vampire who's trying to kill her. The breaking of the covenant has also activated an ancient organisation designed to protect mankind - the Kubai Mata. And when Kubai Mata Thomas Creek comes to Paradise City, Chrysabelle finds herself torn between the need to save Malkolm and the desire to stay on the path of light. Finally fulfilling her vow to Malkolm proves devastating for Chrysabelle. If she survives, what's left of her life will never be the same.


REVIEW:

The second book in the House of Comarre series and one that will enhance the authors reputation with the way that she weaves her eldritch spell upon the reader. The principle character is complex with emotions running sway with what many would deam common sense, the choices have far reaching outcomes and when added together with a fast moving plot as well as the authors own writing style, it’s a title that won’t let go.

Add to this some great prose, a passion within where love and treachery go hand in hand alongside a whole host of new problems that require solutions and it was more than satisfactory for this reader.

Monday 28 November 2011

NEWS: RIP Anne McCaffrey

We’re sad to report that Anne McCaffrey passed on the 21st November at her home in Ireland.

The 85 year old author best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series has one more novel (as yet untitled) due for publication in June of next year.


We wish her family well at this time and may the crystal singer’s voice echo for eternity.

THRILLER REVIEW: Covenant - Dean Crawford

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Humanity has always believed it is the only intelligent species of life in the universe. But while excavating in Israel, an archaeologist unearths a tomb that has remained hidden for 7,000 years. Inside lies a secret of such magnitude that the story of mankind is instantly rewritten - and its future thrown into terrible danger. Only one man can piece history back together again. Only one man will risk everything to prevent a catastrophe that could tear the world apart. That man is Ethan Warner.


REVIEW:

To be honest about this title, it’s a book that I was heavily interested in and had a great cover blurb but as I read it I kept finding all sorts of holes that meant that the overall piece didn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the lead character but it wasn’t something I haven’t seen time and again in other books. Almost as if it’s a stereotypical outing with a Science Fiction twist that for me didn’t bring the title to the fruition I was hoping for.

The pace was reasonable, the prose acceptable but overall it just didn’t grab my attention like a number of other more recent reads. Finally add to this a tale that feels that it went on a little too long and sadly this book wasn’t a title that will stay with me for that long.

CRIME REVIEW: Lily Bard 5: Shakespeare's Counselor - Charlaine Harris

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Cleaning woman and karate expert Lily Bard is a woman with a complicated past. Trying her best to cope with her terrifying memories, she decides to join a therapy group in her adopted hometown of Shakespeare, Arkansas. As it turns out, the group members' feelings aren't the only things that need sorting out, as they assemble for a session only to find a woman dead, left on display to send a twisted message. Lily soon finds herself embroiled in the murder and its aftermath. Some of her own terrible secrets have been dredged up, and she may not be able to rest until she can untangle the 'who' and the 'why' of this terrible crime. But can she do so before the killer strikes again - and before her own nightmares send her over the edge?


REVIEW:

The last one for now and one that delves into the mysteries associated with the past for the principle character Lily. It’s well written, its emotional and the principle players take their relationship to a deeper level emotionally and spiritually within the context. It’s a beautiful book and when you add Charlaine’s trademark writing traits into the mystery alongside the plot it’s a book that really will have you on tenterhooks.

Add to this a wonderful sense of fulfilment as emotional wounds begin to heal and the reader really is in for a treat in this current farewell to a cracking series. All round a great experience and one I’m pleased that Gollancz has chosen to print for the UK audience.

Sunday 27 November 2011

CRIME REVIEW: Lily Bard 4: Shakespeare's Trollop - Charlaine Harris

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Shakespeare, Arkansas is home to endless back roads, historic buildings, colourful residents - and the occasional murder. It is also home to Lily Bard, the local karate expert and cleaning woman, who's got a particular knack for finding skeletons in closets. But when Deedra Dean - the local woman of ill repute - is found murdered, her lifestyle leaves more than a few suspects. And being familiar with Deedra's dirty laundry could make Lily the next resident of Shakespeare to die ...


REVIEW:

I love a light read that can make you think and deliver the goods for the reader and at a time of year when you’re heavily occupied with other matters and want something to entertain as well as get the little grey cells firing, then these Lily Bard titles are probably going to be the books for you.

Personally I love the characters within, I like the depth of them, I enjoy their traits and perhaps most of all I love the quaintness of the town which is how I imagine a lot of the South in the US to be. It’s quirky, it has all sorts of interesting places to visit and overall it’s a series that has kept me engaged and calm quite nicely with its charms and plots. Great fun all in.

CRIME REVIEW: Lily Bard 3: Shakespeare's Christmas - Charlaine Harris

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Lily Bard has started over in the quiet town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, where she works as a cleaning lady. But she's about to go back to where she came from, and where Lily goes, danger follows ...Determined to move beyond her violent past, Lily heads to Bartley, her hometown, for her sister's Christmas Eve wedding. But there's something in the air besides festive cheer: the town's doctor and nurses have been bludgeoned to death, and Lily's detective boyfriend has followed an eight-year-old kidnapping case straight to Bartley. It just might have something to do with the murders ...and with her sister's fiance. With only three days to the wedding, Lily must work fast to clean up the messy case before her sister promises to love, honour and obey a killer.


REVIEW:

Another cracking Harris title and one that for the time of year is going to be a lot of fun to help the reader unwind from the hard days preparations. As with the other titles its wonderfully creative, the cast continues to grow and with the current mystery its one that is going to be hearbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It’s intriguing, it’s an arc that won’t let you go and its definitely one that will stay with you until the final page is turned and you discover all the inner truths behind the latest tale.

Well written, thought provoking and it’s a cracking read all in that I absolutely couldn’t put down. It really does show how far Charlaine has come on in these series and why she’s one of the biggest names in the Urban Fantasy genre today.

Saturday 26 November 2011

CRIME REVIEW: Lily Bard 2: Shakespeare's Champion - Charlaine Harris

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Lily Bard has started over in the quiet town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, as a cleaning lady. She works out her anger and the pain of her past with martial arts. For Lily, the gym is a place to get away from her troubles, not find more of them. But when she stumbles on the corpse of a local bodybuilder, his neck broken with a barbell, the town's underlying racial tensions begin to boil over. The white victim was connected to two unsolved murders of black residents in Shakespeare, and a dogged policeman is determined to stop the killing. Lily may have to decide whether to stay and fight for justice, or run away one more time.


REVIEW:

Against the first book in the series this one is by far stronger allowing the reader to see that Charlaine learned the job on the run. The characters are crisp and believable, the plot line has all the hallmarks of a classic Harris title and above all else it’s the emotional interactions that make this a superior title all round. The descriptive is gripping, the prose fast paced and allows the reader only just enough time to hang on and the stories arc is one that wouldn’t be out of place in a number of timelines in the US.

Finally add to this a great sense of prose and dialogue that some writers can only dream of and this is a cracking title for the crime fan.

CRIME REVIEW: Lily Bard 1: Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Welcome to Shakespeare, Arkansas Disguising herself with short hair and baggy clothes, Lily Bard has started over as a cleaning lady in the sleepy town of Shakespeare, where she can sweep away the secrets of her dark and violent past. However her plan to live a quiet, unobserved life begins to crumble when she discovers the dead body of her nosy landlord. Lily doesn't care who did it, but as the suspicion of the police and local community falls on her, she soon realises if she doesn't unmask the murderer, her life might not just crumble: it might also end.


REVIEW:

To be honest with you, you can tell that this is an early Charlaine Harris novel, it has all the key things that has made her name well known with the Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connolly series such as a strong lead character alongside interesting plot lines but this one feels quite naïve and simplistic with the plot.

Don’t get me wrong, it will hit that mystery spot for a lot of readers, but when you’ve read her other series this will perhaps leave you wondering why there aren’t as many twists as you’d expect from her other work whilst remaining a testament as to how far Charlaine as advanced as an author from these early titles. That said however the setting is easy to imagine, the supporting cast is superb and the prose with the pace were admirable. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series.

Friday 25 November 2011

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Assassins Creed: Revelations - Ubisoft

Release Date: 15/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

When a man has won all of his battles and defeated all of his enemies; what is left for him to achieve? Ezio Auditore must leave his life behind in search of answers, in search of the truth. In Assassin's Creed® Revelations, master assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of the legendary mentor Altaïr, on a journey of discovery and revelation. It is a perilous path — one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.

In addition to the culmination of Ezio's award-winning story, a refined and expanded online multiplayer experience returns with new and additional modes, maps, and characters, allowing you to test your slaying skills against others from around the world.


REVIEW:

As a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series I’ve been part of a massive countdown for the release of this game. It’s been a long wait and whilst for Ezio its been centuries for us its felt almost as long, in this his final outing.

What the game gives the player is more of the same with some new additions, firstly the inclusion of bombs (which did leave me wondering what the makers were considering when they added this feature) and a throwback to Altair with a separate storyline featuring Desmond.

Whilst I had a lot of fun with Ezio and Altair, I did find the separate chapters with Desmond simplistic and to be honest boring as it felt more like a step back than forward as you had to work out the solutions to puzzles utilising shapes. For me, it didn’t add anything to the game and I’d have wandered round as Desmond fighting where need be and of course utilising his own escape from the compound. It would have added a better layer to the game than what was presented.

Overall the game was a lot of fun and it had a lot of options for the players to utilise. However where the bombs are concerned I would suggest that you try them out to figure out which ones suit your style of play. (I happen to like the sticky treasure bomb and smoke grenades.) Finally the game will please a lot of fans for what it does but the conclusion will leave you wondering what the next excerpt will bring to the fore. With luck a female lead character such as the ancestors whose burial chambers were investigated in Assassins Creed 2.

LADY ELEANOR ART BOOK REVIEW: Pinxit - Mark Ryden

Release Date: 25/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Fuzzy bunnies, big-eyed girls, meat, magic and mystery Mark Ryden's carnival of kitsch. Blending themes of pop culture with techniques reminiscent of the old masters, Mark Ryden has created a singular style that blurs the traditional boundaries between high and low art. His work first garnered attention in the 1990s when he ushered in a new genre of painting, "Pop Surrealism", dragging a host of followers in his wake. Ryden has trumped the initial surrealist strategies by choosing subject matter loaded with cultural connotation. Ryden's vocabulary ranges from cryptic to cute, treading a fine line between nostalgic cliche and disturbing archetype. Seduced by his infinitely detailed and meticulously glazed surfaces, the viewer is confronted with the juxtaposition of the childhood innocence and the mysterious recesses of the soul. A subtle disquiet inhabits his paintings; the work is achingly beautiful as it hints at darker psychic stuff beneath the surface of cultural kitsch. In Ryden's world cherubic girls rub elbows with strange and mysterious figures. Ornately carved frames lend the paintings a baroque exuberance that adds gravity to their enigmatic themes. Complex in its arcane and idiosyncratic subject matter, Ryden's work can leave no viewer unmoved. This sweeping retrospective book brings Ryden's work to the world, with nearly two decade's worth of paintings and works on paper, broadening the horizons of his uncanny universe.


REVIEW:

I love artwork that makes you question and think about the image, so when we had the opportunity to view this title by mark Ryden, it was something we couldn’t leave alone as he merges the world of very doll looking characters with bizarre, macabre twists with his own musings that bring a wonderful sense of humour and whimsy to the viewer’s mind.

It’s cleverly done, it has a great flow about it and for me, it was a book that kept me wanting to see more to figure out what he was going to come up with next to titillate my imagination. Finally add to this a title that’s backed up with the artists own musings about the creations and overall it’s a book that whilst overpriced currently, will make a cracking addition to your own personal library when the mass market print arrives probably next year.

Thursday 24 November 2011

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: The Bomber - Liza Marklund

Release Date: 24/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Seven days. Three killings. And one woman who knows too much...Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is woken by a phonecall in the early hours of a wintry December morning. An explosion has ripped apart the Olympic Stadium. And a victim has been blown to pieces. As Annika delves into the details of the bombing and the background of the victim, there is a second explosion. These chilling crimes could be her biggest news story yet. When her police source reveals they are hot on the heels of the bomber, Annika is guaranteed an exclusive with her name on it. But she is uncovering too much, and soon finds herself the target of a deranged serial killer...


REVIEW:

I love a good crime story and leading the from the front is the Scandinavian crowd at the moment with their brooding landscape, tough people and of course a cracking setting for a solid crime story to keep the reader in their thrall.

This title has great pace, a cracking lead character in Annika and when you add to this a realistic quality that when blended with a journalists curiosity it makes a great start to a book that is going to take readers on a journey into darkness. Add to this a stark descriptive style, a deep sense of foreboding within and it’s a story that I had a hard time putting down. Just remember to make sure you have a light to hand as sounds in the dark may never be the same again. Haunting and wonderful, scary and tantalising. Cracking.

URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE REVIEW: The Lost Angels: Avenger's Angel - Heather Killough-Walden

Release Date: 24/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

The first in Heather Killough-Walden's fantastic new paranormal series, THE LOST ANGELS, features Uriel, the Angel of Vengeance
Four thousand years ago, four archangels were cast down to Earth in human form. God's favourites, they came to find their mates, the other half of their souls made only for them, without whom they will ever be complete.
Uriel, Gabriel, Azrael and Michael, however, were not alone. They were followed by another, determined to find the archesses for himself, and whose power cannot be underestimated. But after centuries of fruitless searching, the archangels - and their enemy - have all but given up hope.
Until one day beautiful and gifted Eleanore Granger crosses paths with Uriel, the Angel of Vengeance. And as a storm rages, outside forces conspire together, initiating an age old battle of good versus evil to win the first archess.


REVIEW:

I’m a reader that at times is a sucker for a good love story with solid action as well as outstanding characters, unfortunately this title wasn’t the one to bring it all together for me. Don’t get me wrong, the principle players were interesting, the premise decent and of course the arc was reasonable but altogether it didn’t quite feel like it gelled that well to keep my interest and as such took a few starts and stops to get through.

Whilst this book however wasn’t for me, I did end up reading it more to make not of the authors skills and they will appeal to a lot of reader out there, especially if they have a Romeo and Juliet fixation or love a lot of the mushier Urban Fantasy titles but personally, it felt dated as well as a novel that could have toughened up as it went through to add steel to its backbone for the modern reader. That said I will watch out for future releases by Heather and I hope that a future title is just right for me.


Wednesday 23 November 2011

CUISINE REVIEW: Simply Good BRead - Peter Sidwell

Release Date: 18/08/11

SYNOPSIS:

Nothing beats the smell and taste of freshly baked bread and Peter Sidwell has created over 50 delicious, easy-to-follow recipes for baking loaves using either conventional methods or a bread-maker. Simply Good Bread is packed with dozens of ideas to suit every mealtime and occasion: you'll find everyday breads such as French Onion Bread to make a simple lunch really special; Sun-dried Tomato and Thyme Loaf that's perfect for a dinner party; and Peter's favourite Cumbrian Whigg Bread - great for family picnics. With this book you too can enjoy the wholesome goodness and versatility of home-made bread.


REVIEW:

I’m a simple person with simple pleasures and to be honest, whilst I do enjoy wonderfully cooked cuisine with a variety of accompaniments, it’s the simple traditional dishes that really mean more, they have that homely feel and remind you of childhood as well as giving you something warm and nutritious on those cold winter nights, it’s almost as if it tucks you up in bed and reads you a bed time story.

That said, my one real guilty pleasure (although I don’t think it is) is to get freshly baked bread, rip it open (or get a good doorstopper slab) and smear butter within, allow it to melt for a moment or two and then eat as is. It’s a great way to enjoy things and lets face it, with things like a casserole or a pot dish (see our review of Perfect Slow Cooking by Elizabeth Brown) it’s an almost magical combination.

So when this book from Peter landed I couldn’t resist flicking through the contents to see what I could make and enjoy. Within there’s a bread for almost every dish and occasion and when you add the joy of simple things like Damper bread it is something that can be done on the run or for a barbeque. (In fact one of the things he recommends is cooking it rolled up on a stick, although what I’d suggest is perhaps cooking some sausages and then wrapping the bread around before cooking it so you get a portable meal on the go.) It’s great fun, has some wonderful options and with the holiday period coming up I really can’t wait to try the Chestnut bread to get that wonderful smell as well as spirit into the house. Great stuff and the next time I’m back in Cumbria I think I’ll have to visit his Keswick café.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Tomes of the Dead: Double Dead - Chuck Wendig

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Coburn's been dead now for close to a century, but seeing as how he's a vampire and all, it doesn t much bother him. Or at least it didn't, not until he awoke from a forced five-year slumber to discover that most of human civilization was now dead but not dead like him, oh no. See, Coburn likes blood. The rest of the walking dead, they like brains. He's smart. Them, not so much. But they outnumber him by about a million to one. And the clotted blood of the walking dead cannot sustain him. Now he's starving. And nocturnal. And more hacked-off than a bee-stung rattlesnake. The vampire not only has to find human survivors (with their sweet, sweet blood), but now he has to transition from predator to protector after all, a man has to look after his food supply.


REVIEW:

I love a good horror story that takes an established convention and then turns it on its head so when I heard about this story from Abaddon where you had a Vampire fighting Zombies to protect his food supply (the humans) I was really looking forward to it landing. Firstly because I thought it was a clever idea and secondly because it was appearing in an established series so I thought that most of the world building was done so that the tale could get down to the real nitty-gritty of the story.

Sadly however the story that I read fell far short of my expectations. Why?

Well, the principle character of Coburn was detestable as well as arrogant with no redeeming traits for me. I really didn’t care about him and when you added what felt like smart alec dialogue as well as prose this rather than encouraging me in, left me feeling cheated and annoyed. A great shame to be honest as I loved the concept but one bad book does not sower a series so here’s hoping that the next one picks up.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Humanity's Fire 3: The Ascendant Stars - Michael Cobley

Release Date: 03/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Battle-ready factions converge above Darien, all with the same objective. The goal is control over this newly-discovered planet and access to the powerful weapons at its heart. Despotic Hegemony forces dominate much of known space and they want this world too, but Darien's inhabitants will fight for their future. However, key players in this conflict aren't fully in control. Hostile AIs have infiltrated key minds and have an agenda, requiring nothing less than the destruction or subversion of all organic life. And they are near to unleashing their cohorts, a host of twisted machine intelligences caged beneath Darien. Fighting to contain them are Darien's hidden guardians, and their ancient ally the Construct, on a millennia-long mission to protect sentient species. As the war reaches its peak, the AI army is roaring to the surface, to freedom and an orgy of destruction. Darien is first in line in a machine vs. human war - for life or the sterile dusts of space.


REVIEW:

Whilst I haven’t been the biggest fan of Michaels Humanity Fire series this one has picked up the pace and overall arc where the others felt a little flat. The characters felt like they grew and when you add to this decent pace as well as solid prose, it was a vast improvement on the previous two.

Whilst Michaels series does have some major flaws in it to date, this title has a round up, a list of characters and generally makes this book accessible to those who haven’t read the previous releases. All in a decent enough release although for my fix on this type of Science Fiction I’ll stick with Peter Hamilton who I feel is a better rounded Space Opera author.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Lightbringer - KD McEntire

Release Date: 22/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Wendy has the ability to see souls that have not moved on—but she does not seek them out. They seek her. They yearn for her . . . or what she can do for them. Without Wendy’s powers, the Lost, the souls that have died unnaturally young, are doomed to wander in the never forever, and Wendy knows she is the only one who can set them free by sending them into the light.

Each soul costs Wendy, delivering too many souls would be deadly, and yet she is driven to patrol, dropping everyone in her life but her best friend, Eddie—who wants to be more than friends—until she meets Piotr.

Piotr, the first Rider and guardian of the Lost, whose memory of his decades in the never, a world that the living never see, has faded away. With his old-fashioned charms, and haunted kindness, he understands Wendy in ways no one living ever could, yet Wendy is hiding that she can do more than exist in the never. Wendy is falling for a boy who she may have to send into the light.

But there are darker forces looking for the Lost. Trying to regain the youth and power that the Lost possess, the dark ones feed on the Lost and only Wendy and Piotr can save them—but at what cost?

Lightbringer is a YA urban fantasy/romance set in a world a breath away from our own. Similar in tone to Tithe and Unleashed, Lightbringer tiptoes down the line between love and horror as Wendy discovers herself and the darkest parts of the afterlife.


REVIEW:

I love a good ghost story and when this title landed by debut author KD McEntire, I was expecting a real treat as I had elements of Medium, elements of Ghost Whisperer and of course the authors own touch to give you a story that should take you to a world with new rules especially when its a cross over adult/ya title.

Whilst I partly expected a touch of Trent Jamieson into the mix I was a little surprised at the book as a whole as the idea was fresh and interesting but sadly the execution let the title down as it seemed to stop and start and felt that it didn’t really have the cohesion that as I reader I expect. The lead character was interesting but sadly the overall blending of narrative, dialogue and execution left me thinking that the book was only half finished and lacked the final polish that I come to expect.

Sadly this won’t impress many but for a debut author, it will hopefully lead to many other successful titles provided lessons are learned.

Monday 21 November 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Eagle 11: Praetorian - Simon Scarrow

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

The brand new thrilling Roman adventure from the bestselling author of THE LEGION and THE GLADIATOR. The city of Rome in AD 50 is a dangerous place. Treachery lurks on every corner, and a shadowy Republican movement, 'the Liberators', has spread its tentacles wide. It is feared that the heart of the latest plot lies in the ranks of the Praetorian Guard. Uncertain of whom he can trust, the Imperial Secretary Narcissus summons to Rome two courageous men guaranteed to be loyal to the grave: army veterans Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro. Tasked with infiltrating the Guard, Cato and Macro face a daunting test to win the trust of their fellow soldiers. No sooner have they begun to unearth the details of the Liberators' devious plan than disaster strikes: an old enemy who could identify them, with deadly consequences, makes an unexpected appearance. Now they face a race against time to save their own lives before they can unmask the mastermind behind the Liberators...


REVIEW:

Cato and Macro are thrust back into the cut throat world of Rome in this, the latest outing for our heroic duo who as usual are up to their necks in the thick brown stuff as they’re played on the chess board of Romes Political Machination by Narcissus. It’s devious, has all the elements of a bygone Rome and of course, pitches the soldiers into a world that they’re not really equipped for.

Finally add to this, great pace, cracking prose alongside a great heaping dollop of double dealing which leaves the reader sated by the books conclusion. If you want an Historical Fiction series that ticks all the boxes of Cornwell for the Roman period or even just a book to keep you tied over and happy for the seasonal period, they you really have to get this. Cracking entertainment with a massacre or two thrown in.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Wicked 4: Out of Oz - Gregory Maguire

Release Date: 01/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

The marvellous land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who's knocking at the door. It's none other than Dorothy. Yes, that Dorothy. Amid all this chaos, Elphaba's granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now, Rain will take up her broom in an Oz wracked by war. Out of Oz is a magical journey rife with revelations and reversals, reprisals and surprises - the hallmarks of the brilliant and unique imagination of Gregory Maguire.


REVIEW:

Having been upset with the series after the cracking opening of the first book, this last one in the quartet really picks up the pace and returns to the form that the fans came to love from the first outing. It has great characters, the plotline moves at a great pace and the reader is given a wonderful set of players to march alongside to cheer or book accordingly.

Add to this a wonderful story arc that will keep you glued, top notch dialogue and an expansion to the established which leaves the reader in no doubt as to the work that’s gone into the series to make this one the best yet. Finally add to this a good enough title to restore a certain amount of faith in Gregory and with luck, it lets the series go out with a huge explosion that has been demanded for quite some time. Cracking.

Sunday 20 November 2011

SPY THRILLER REVIEW: Assassin of Secrets - QR Markham

Release Date: 10/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

Mulholland Books presents...ASSASSIN OF SECRETS The agent: Jonathan Chase, the United States' top operative. He will protect and serve his country at all costs. The target: the Zero Directorate, a shadowy organisation who are kidnapping, interrogating and murdering spies. He knows that they will come for him...but not if he finds them first. Chase is on the hunt. But the Directorate lies in wait, and the inescapable truth is that the closer he gets to stopping his enemies, the closer his enemies get to him.


REVIEW:

Due to it being revealed that the book is at the centre of a plagarism scandal, I have deleted the review that I had previously given this title.

We're sad that this happened but as such felt that it was only fair in light of the circumstances.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Iron Druid 2: Hexed - Kevin Hearne

Release Date: 06/10/11

SYNOPSIS:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.


REVIEW:

The second book in Kevin’s Iron Druid series and one that continues to give the reader a fast paced, action packed story that features many of the characters from the original. It has some light hearted moments, a host of future adversaries and of course the obligatory bad coven that aided the first title to stand out so much.

Finally add to the mix a forthcoming theme and battle against a certain Nordic Thunder God as well as things coming to a head in the Celtic pantheon and the reader will have to hold onto their hat for the third book. Just be pleased that it’s out next month so that you can get you fix of Atticus and the rest of the characters and the mightiest of hounds Oberon.

Saturday 19 November 2011

FANTASY REVIEW: Sword of the Canon 1: Initiate's Trial - Janny Wurts

Release Date: 27/10/11

SYNOPSIS:

The long-awaited beginning of the fourth story arc - Sword of the Canon - in the epic fantasy series, the Wars of Light and Shadow.

Betrayed and double-crossed, Arithon s'Ffalenn is held captive by the Order of the Koriathain. The desperate Fellowship Sorcerers have gambled the weal of Athera and forced through the perilous bargain that spared him, as the last Prince of Rathain, and their sole hope of unity. To suspend the Prime Matriarch's decree of execution, Arithon lives only to battle Marak's horde of free wraiths, unleashed one by one from the shielding grip of the star wards.
But on the day the last wraith is redeemed, the inflexible terms sealed by Dakar's oath of debt will come to be forfeit…
Against a world backdrop, in which the Religion of Light has undergone schism, the zealot True Sect's canon grips Tysan, its high priesthood stands consumed by its thwarted ambition: to conquer Havish, last crown bastion and backbone of order that secures the terms of Paravian survival. Now Lord Mayor of Etarra, Lysaer s'Ilessid must fight the pull of the Mistwraith's curse, and battle for sanity to uphold his just ethic. Another young defender will stand at his side, newly sworn by the Sorcerer's auspices.
As Arithon's life once again becomes the fulcrum that shifts the game board, Elaira's choice might save or break the unstable future; while at large and answerable to no mortal law, Davien and the dragon that holds his service throw in the wild card no one predicts…


REVIEW:

Readers have long been after the next part in the Wars of Light and Shadow and Janny doesn’t disappoint with this, the opening to a new part of the epic series. It’s cleverly written has some classic fantasy double dealing and a lead protagonist that will keep the reader interested as well as wondering what Arithon can do to turn things to his own advantage if only to save his own skin.

Add to this a great overall arc, some hints as to darker aspects to come alongside decent prose, dialogue and description which overall will keep the reader more than satisfied with this release. Cracking good fun.

FACTUAL REVIEW: The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex - Mark Kermode

Release Date: 08/09/11

SYNOPSIS:

In "It's Only a Movie", the incomparable Mark Kermode showed us the weird world of a film critic's life lived in widescreen. Now, in "The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex", he takes us into the belly of the beast to ask: 'What's wrong with modern movies?' If blockbusters make money no matter how bad they are, then why not make a good one for a change? How can 3-D be the future of cinema when it's been giving audiences a headache for over a hundred years? Why pay to watch films in cinemas that don't have a projectionist but do have a fast-food stand? And, in a world in which "Sex and the City 2" was a hit, what the hell are film critics for? Outspoken, opinionated and hilariously funny, "The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex" is a must for anyone who has ever sat in an undermanned, overpriced cinema and asked themselves: 'How the hell did things get to be this terrible?'


REVIEW:

I’ve been more that familiar with Mark’s snark and smart accurate comments for years about the cinema and film in general. It is witty, it has great points (most of which I agree with) and when backed with a thorough understanding of the audience as well as the film industry it gives the reader a book that is not only informative but one that was a real joy to read.

Whilst it won’t be long before we lose the skills of the heroes of the cinema (the projectionists) the book pays homage to these unsung champions as well as helping to explain to the layman what happens in the film process alongside things like how some films become blockbusters whilst also panned by many. Finally add to this a well-deserved nomination in the Galaxy Nation Book Awards and it’s a title that you really have to get for that film aficionado in your life.

Friday 18 November 2011

COMEDY REVIEW: Beyond a Joke - Bruce Dessau

Release Date: 13/10/11

SYNOPSIS:

Beyond a Joke is a celebration of comedy - one of the modern world's most dominant and compelling art forms - but it is also the story of comedy's dark side, homing in on the scandals that have surrounded some of light entertainment's biggest stars, and telling it as it is, featuring quotes from those that were there at the time. How the devoted laughter of those fans onstage never seemed to be enough for these moody, prickly, ego-driven entertainers. How they would constantly seek more thrills when the curtain came down. The offstage antics of certain comedians would make even rock stars blush. The number of comedians who have had to deal with paternity suits would make a book in itself.

While Beyond a Joke explores the extremes of this world it also addresses another question. Are comedians naturally dysfunctional, or does the stress and pressure of the job make them dysfunctional? Ruby Wax once told me that she had builders in her house who were just as emotionally unstable as most stand-up comedians she had worked with. But they don't want to go on stage and plead with an audience to love them. There is something about wanting to make strangers laugh for a living that is intrinsically, fundamentally, strange. Stand-up is doubly peculiar in that respect. It's just the one person emotionally naked on the stage in front of maybe thousands of people. No safety net, no back up. It takes a particularly odd person to want to pursue comedy as a career. And, as Beyond a Joke will reveal, the behaviour of comedians once they are successful in their chosen career makes them even odder.

Bruce Dessau is the only person who could write this book. From Russell Brand slashing his chest onstage to Jo Brand trashing a friend's car on the motorway, he has heard it all. Bruce Dessau knows where the bodies are buried.


REVIEW:

There’s a popular song called the Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson, and when you think about it, a lot of professional comedians have had traumatic or dire upbringings which, according to Bruce Dessau is why they seek approval so much from the audience. This book takes the reader on a journey from the birth of British Comedy up to modern times with some of the more recent crop of humourists.

Whilst this book does deal with the darker issues within the comedy circuit that led to Jo Brand on more than one occasion (a former Psychiatric Nurse) to say that some of her contemporaries should seek professional help, a fair part of it is more based around the exploits of the comedians away from the circuit which neither enhances or adds anything to this title. All in its OK, but with a lot of the book spending a lot of time about the personal deviances then it’s a title that will be only for a select few. A great shame to be honest.

FANTASY REVIEW: Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor

Release Date: 29/09/11

SYNOPSIS:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came. In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.


REVIEW:

I love a new series when it lands as you never know where the tale is going to take you or the way that the author is going to lead you by the hand. However the key trait that I look for in any book, and one that’s key to help keep me glued from the first page to the last, is that its got to have a cracking lead character.

Within this book, that role is taken by Karou who is smart, has many admirable attributes and above all else is as complex as the plot line which means that you can never be too sure which way the story will go. It’s clever, the prose is decent and the pace is something that works very well for the majority of the title however for me, Daughter of Smoke and Bone felt more like a novella stretched with the last third added just to extend it to novel length. It will be interesting to see what happens next and I’ll definitely give it a go, but please stay with it and keep going to the end to get the full flavour.

Thursday 17 November 2011

NEWS: Christmas Updates

Hail Mighty Readers,
Lady Eleanor and I have been in contact with the Royal Mail who have let us have Father Christmas' address for your young readers to write to.

Whilst we realise that its a little early we all know how busy the big man is in December so wanted you to be able to get your letters there sooner rather than later as he has promised to "reply to as many as he can" however they have to be sent by the 14th December.

The address is:
Santa/Father Christmas,
Santa’s Grotto,
Reindeerland,
SAN TA1

Please remember to make sure that whoever writes to Father Christmas writes their name and address clearly as well as to affix a first or second class stamp to the letter.

In addition to this, if you're up and wonder where in the world he is on Christmas Eve, NORAD are providing official Santa Tracking here.

All the best,


Gareth and Lady Eleanor

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend - Peter Ackroyd

Release Date: 14/11/11

SYNOPSIS:

This is an immortal story of chivalry, treachery and death told anew for our times. The legend of King Arthur has retained its appeal and popularity through the ages: Mordred's treason, the knightly exploits of Tristan, Lancelot's fatally divided loyalties and his love for Guenevere, the quest for the Holy Grail. Now retold by Peter Ackroyd with his signature clarity, charm and relish for a good story, the result is not only one of the most readable accounts of the knights of the Round Table but also one of the most moving.


REVIEW:

This is a cracking retelling of the Arthurian tales written by Thomas Mallory in his novel “Le Morte d’Arthur” by writer Peter Ackroyd who brings the original to the modern audience in a clear, concise and wonderfully adaptable viewing for the reader.

It has great prose, the pace gives the reader what they want and also brings a touch of our own past back to the future with the ease from which this version flows (unlike the Mallory which for me took its time to go anywhere and was a little too flowery.) Finally add to the mix a tale that has clearly been years in the making with great value for money and a chance to pass on the original stories to the next generation, makes this a story that was a real joy to read.

LADY ELEANOR ART BOOK REVIEW: Great American Pin-up Art - Charles G Martignett and Louis K Meisel

Release Date: 29/05/02

SYNOPSIS:

This illustrated text tells the story of the American pin-up as a genre as utterly American as the paintings of Edward Hopper. It describes the genre's origins and development, showcasing the most important artists.


REVIEW:

This title rereleased by Taschen, takes the reader on a journey to discover the best of the pin up genre by the originators and some of the best still out there. It’s got artwork by greats like Vargas, Elvgren as well as Al Moore carefully selected by the books authors Charles Martignett and Louis Meisel to give the reader a title to love.

Whilst my own personal tastes for Pin-up is more along the lines of the cheeky cheesecake sense of fun, this book gives you a wonderful journey and a cracking way to get to know the artists who inspired a future generation such as Olivia DeBerardinis, Jennifer Janesko and Luis Royo. A cracking title all round and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.