Saturday 31 March 2012

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:
01/03/12 BUCHANAN, Col - Stands a Shadow
01/03/12 TCHAIKOVSKY, Adrian - Dragonfly Falling
06/03/12 ROTHFUSS, Patrick - The Wise Man's Fear
08/03/12 McDOUGALL, Sophia - Savage City
08/03/12 REDICK, Robert VS - The River of Shadows
08/03/12 WILLIS, Connie - Blackout
15/03/12 RYAN, Carrie - THe Dark and Hollow Places
15/03/12 AITCHESON, James - Sworn Sword: 1066: The Aftermath
15/03/12 MAGRS, Paul - 666 Charing Cross Road
29/03/12 CORDINGLY, David - Spanish Gold
29/03/12 ROBERTS, Imogen - Island of Bone

If we've missed one please let us know,


THRILLER REVIEW: Fault Line - Robert Goddard

Release Date: 29/03/12


The new race-against-the-clock thriller from the master of the triple cross.

Not all scars are visible. Jonathan Kellaway needs no reminding of that on the verge of his retirement from china clay conglomerate Intercontinental Kaolins. The company has left its mark in pits and spoil heaps around the world. But it has also left a no less enduring mark on some of those who have worked for it, Kellaway included. Its past, as well as its future, is a treacherous place.

So Kellaway is surprised when IK's founder and former chairman, Greville Lashley, sets him a final task before he quits. The academic hired by the board to write the company's history has discovered a gap covering several years in the records of the small Cornish china clay outfit Lashley started with and where Kellaway also began his career. He is despatched to Cornwall to learn what has become of the missing documents.

But the search is a voyage into dangerous waters. A dead friend, a lost lover and a clutch of mysteries from Kellaway's youth in Cornwall and Italy in the late 1960s come back to haunt him -- and to tempt him with the hope that he may at last learn the truth about the tragedies and misfortunes that blighted those years. It is a truth that has claimed several victims before. If he pursues it hard and long enough, he may only add himself to the list.

But pursue it he must. Because the truth, he belatedly realizes, is the secret that has consumed his life. This time -- this last time -- he will not stop. Until he has found it.


Robert is always an author to give you a thriller that doesn’t hold back, keep you up late at night and of course generate a story that will satisfy the reader with every passing page. As usual Robert takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride as well as generating a story that has believability as well as double dealing.

Add to this great prose, solid description and an author who doesn’t waste unnecessary words with filler and overall the reader is in for a treat. Finally add to the mix top notch talent, a solid overall arc and the reader really won’t regret spending their money on this top notch title.

SPY THRILLER REVIEW: An American Spy - Olen Stenhauer

Release Date: 20/03/12


"Milo Weaver is still haunted by his last job. As an expert assassin for the Department of Tourism, an ultra-secret group of super-spooks buried deep in the corridors of the CIA, he fought to keep himself sane in a paranoid and amoral profession. Now, the Department has been destroyed, and with it Weaver's livelihood. Finally he can spend time with his family - without constantly looking over his shoulder and fixing one eye on the exits. Weaver's former boss is not so settled. For Alan Drummond, Tourism was everything. Now, all he wants is to take revenge on the Chinese spymaster that exploded their operations from within. Weaver tries to persuade him to leave sleeping cells lie, but when Drummond disappears from a London hotel room after a serpentine journey through the world's cities, Weaver is sucked back down into his old life. Investigating Drummond's intentions in London throws up more questions than answers. Why was an ex-Tourist in his hotel room that night? Why is homeland security suddenly asking questions? And how are the Chinese connected? Soon, Weaver is sifting through what secrets, lies and misinformation he can extract from the sources he still has on the ground. If his time as a Tourist has taught him anything, it's that nothing and no-one can be trusted - even within the CIA itself..."


I like a spy thriller that takes me on a ride and whilst this, is the third title by the author to feature lead character Milo Weaver, its my first outing with Olen. What I received for my time was a thriller that grabbed me for a seat of the pants ride with a lead character who was not only gripping but one that almost threatened to break my neck if I left the book too long.

Add to this a story that kept moving with multi-faceted twists and turns, a whole host of problems alongside never being sure what was relevant and what was smoke with mirrors and overall I was in heaven as I turned each page to read what the hero was up to. Finally add to the mix a writing style that grabbed me with solid prose, great dialogue and of course a set of prose that just didn’t let up like the pace and it was a tale all in that was satisfactory.

Friday 30 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: Careful What you Wish for - VM Zito

As a genre, horror has often tapped into the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the times, appropriately), resonating with each era's societal fears. In the 50s, with potential nuclear war hanging over our heads like a mushroom cloud, radioactive monsters like Godzilla terrorized the populace. In that same decade, McCarthyism in America inspired alien invasions and pod people in disguise. In the 70s, as younger generations challenged conventions of religion and sexuality, horror assured us that devils existed and that promiscuity was punishable by large slashing knives.

And in 1968, a year notorious for civil turmoil and race riots in major American cities, we watched civilization collapse in one night -- that event known as Night of the Living Dead.

So here we are, over forty years later, enjoying another resurgence of the zombie apocalypse. Zombies are the rage now -- but the appeal feels different this time, less driven by fear, more attributable to something else. Something quite opposite, actually...


We live in an age of perceived powerlessness, in which 99% of us feel paralyzed by our ordinary lives, enslaved by the 1% running the government and the economy. Short of a winning lottery ticket, nothing will change for us. We'll keep punching the clocks at our insipid jobs, following orders. We'll keep depositing our pennies into insufficient retirement funds. We'll keep losing our jobs, while our homes lose value and gas prices climb higher and higher.

Unless the zombies come and save us.

Then it's a chance to start over. Then money and politics and government regulations mean nothing. Then it's survival of the fittest. Heroes will rise; we imagine ourselves as kings of the zombie world, ruling over the new undead lower class. Sure, there will be bloodshed. Yes, you might lose a friend or two. But just think of all those abandoned shopping malls -- free stuff!

Today, it's easy to sit back and watch Night of the Living Dead for its scares, without appreciating the film's societal context, but remember... 1968, race riots, etc. Now consider the hero in Night: a black man named Ben. (The first black hero ever in a horror movie.) Romero anticipated the empowerment that a zombie upheaval could bring to the under-represented amongst us, after the power structure is turned on its head. And modern zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead often feature bumbling idiots-turned-badasses in the face of Armageddon.

What am I saying? That we, as a society, want a zombie apocalypse? Well, yes. At least in the way that every kid sometimes wishes his parents would disappear, leaving him full run of the house, no rules, no responsibility. Of course it would end badly, with filthy dishes piled in the sink, unpaid bills, empty cupboards, no electricity or heat. And yet it's tempting... very tempting.

Just remember how it worked out for poor Ben. When the zombies come, you might be a hero for the night. But in the morning, you're just another one for the fire.

-- V.M. Zito


Release Date: 29/03/12


The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States.

It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead to deliver peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco, for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you . .


The best thing about getting a new author is that you know that its going to be an all out war to win your affection. However whilst I always love a new author, when something is billed as “ideal for fans of the Walking Dead” I ended up a little put off as I couldn’t get into the TV series.

Sadly that one little thing stopped me ripping my way through this faster than a zombie through a still living person and now I’ve finished it, I have to say that its one of my favourite Zombie debuts of all time as well as making this a title that’s going to be well up on my UF favourites for the year.

It’s well written and whilst the concept on paper is remarkably simple, it is one that will attract readers the world over as the stories hero is manipulated into doing the governments bidding. Add to this shady Government dealings, foreign power interaction and a hero whose kept in the dark and overall this story really will grab you firmly by the unmentionables until the last page is turned. All in a cracking story and when backed with an author whose writing style I couldn’t get enough of, definitely a title to get before the hype hits.

Thursday 29 March 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Age of Aztec - James Lovegrove

Release Date: 27/03/12


The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monkey 1 House - November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning - and the Aztec Empire rules the world.

The Aztecs' reign is one of cruel and ruthless oppression, encompassing regular human sacrifice. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador.

Then the Conquistador is recruited to spearhead an uprising, and discovers a terrible truth. The clock is ticking. Apocalypse looms, unless the Conquistador can help assassinate the mysterious, immortal Aztec emperor, the Great Speaker. But his mission is complicated by Mal Vaughn, a police detective who is on his trail, determined to bring him to justice.


For me, James’ Age series is one that not only rode into a new direction but is one that has set the standard for others to follow. The writing is phenomenal, the use of the deities inspired and when he added human characters that are the pawns, it really brought the whole thing to life for me as a reader.

The writing really took me to the world he generated and with the action, dark deeds which when backed with a wonderful sense of pace, it made it a title that pretty much didn’t get anywhere other than the top of my TBR pile. Finally add to this, some wonderful author sleight of hand, characters that you could really get behind which when backed by his authors understanding of what the readers wants as well as needs and all in this was a title that didn’t live to see the sunrise.


Release Date: 01/03/12


Imagine a near-future city, say London, where medical science has advanced beyond our own and a single-dose pill has been developed that, taken when pregnant, eradicates many common genetic defects from an unborn child. Hope Morrison, mother of a hyperactive four-year-old, is expecting her second child. She refuses to take The Fix, as the pill is known. This divides her family and friends and puts her and her husband in danger of imprisonment or worse. Is her decision a private matter of individual choice, or is it tantamount to willful neglect of her unborn child? A plausible and original novel with sinister echoes of 1984 and Brave New World.


Ken MacLeod is one of those authors that really hits the reader where it hurts within his writing, taking a futuristic world and asking questions that many readers would find not only uncomfortable but are fascinated to hear the answers. His writing is wonderful descriptive, takes the reader on a journey and by the novels completion always gives them something unique to look back upon from the pages that they’ve read. It’s one of the reason’s that he is one of my favourite Science Fiction Authors and of course this book is no different.

Within the pages, the quandary posed is one of whether its right to trust wholeheartedly without questioning what’s going on around you as well as remembering that if something sounds too good to be true, the chances are it is. Bring into this political machinations, religious debate and of course Ken’s own slant of the future which overall generates a lively book for debate. Its thought provoking, it has some wonderful turns of phrase and when you add the authors own identifiable writing style alongside solid pace and prose, you know it’s a book that really will satisfy that Science need within you.

All in a great sense of exploration as well as a journey travelled and definitely a book I’ll be recommending to others. Thanks Ken.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Audio Book Unabridged: Horus Heresy: A Thousand Sons - Graham McNeill

Release Date: 27/03/12


Censured at the Council of Nikea for his flagrant use of sorcery, Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion retreat to their homeworld of Prospero to continue their use of the arcane arts in secret. But when the ill-fated primarch forsees the treachery of Warmaster Horus and warns the Emperor with the very powers he was forbidden to use, the Master of Mankind dispatches fellow primarch Leman Russ to attack Prospero itself. But Magnus has seen more than the betrayal of Horus and the witnessed revelations will change the fate of his fallen Legion, and its primarch, forever.


Alongside Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill is perhaps one of the other heavy hitters for the Black Library’s 40K line. The writing is not only crisp but the action is heavy with blood, guts and gore that will keep the reader hooked within especially as its Marine Vs. Marine in this none stop action thriller set during the Horus Heresy.

It’s dark, the audio medium works well and when you add that you’re getting the full force of the authors writing talent as none of the text is slashed then you know that you’re in for something special. Great stuff all in and a real treat for all.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Matthew Swift 4: The Minority Council - Kate Griffin

Release Date: 15/03/12


Matthew Swift, Midnight Mayor, is in charge. And London is having its issues. The new drug on the market is fairy dust and it turns humans into walking drug labs. Teenage vandals are being hunted by a mystical creature. And criminals are dying by magical means. If Swift is going to save London from a rising tide of blood, he's going to have to learn his lessons - and fast.


Whilst the previous books bring supernatural London to the readers, they’ve always felt a little lighter than this title which is the darkest of the set. Within the pages, the reader is taken on a journey into the darkest recesses of the drug addled mind as hero Matthew Swift delves into his city’s problem where walking drug labs (ordinary humans) are grabbed by the Supernatural community to feed their fix.

Its fast paced, the characters outstanding and when you add some wonderfully deliciously evil twists alongside great prose the reader is in for a real treat. Finally throw into this the author breaking out from her comfort zone with a newer style that keeps everything flowing and overall it’s a title that was a treat for me.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Audio Book Unabridged: Warhammer 40K: Horus Heresy: Prospero Burns - Dan Abnett

Release Date: 27/03/12


The Emperor is enraged. Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons Legion has made a terrible mistake that endangers the very safety of Terra. With no other choice, the Emperor charges Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, with the apprehension of his brother from the Thousand Sons home world of Prospero. This planet of sorcerers will not be easy to overcome, but Russ and his Space Wolves are not easily deterred. With wrath in his heart, Russ is determined to bring Magnus to justice and bring about the fall of Prospero.


I love an audio book but when you normally get them, they story has been slashed to the nuts and bolts to keep it down to a certain length and as such a lot of the detail is usually missing. So I was very happy when I learned that the Black Library was bringing some of the Horus Heresy titles to the fore to allow readers to feel the full force of battles both on the field as well as within the minds of men without having to cut anything out.

As with the other Black Library audio books it is fun, it has the full on flavour of the Dark Future universe and of course the characters within will remain within the readers mind for quite some time to come. (In fact I dare you to read any Horus Heresy titles after listening and not place the vocals to the characters.) Add to this a foreboding sense throughout due to background atmospheric music alongside cracking talent reading the tale and you know that its going to be a gem. Great stuff.

FANTASY REVIEW: Shadow Trilogy 3: Shadow's Master - Jon Sprunk

Release Date: 27/03/12


A land of death and shadow where only the strongest survive. Yet that is where Caim must go to follow the mystery at the heart of his life. Armed only with his knives and his companions, he plunges into a world of eternal night where the sun is never seen and almost every hand is turned against him. Only Kit, spectral vision and often unreliable accomplice, will stand by Caim in his darkest hour. But how much can he rely on her, when he can't even fulfil her greatest wish? Kit is in love with her companion, and he may not even know it. And even a Fae's tolerance will only last for so long...Caim has buried his father's sword and found some measure of peace, but deep in the north an unfathomable power lays waiting. To succeed on this mission, Caim will have to more than just survive. He must face the Shadow's Master.


I’ve loved Jon’s writing since I picked up Shadow’s Son a while ago. The world was not only gripping but the lead character was one that had many different aspects to his character that made him not only one that you want to spend time with, but one that will haunt your waking moments as you promise yourself just one more page.

The writing is crisp, the prose ideal and when you add the fantasy element, he’s an author that really does deliver what the reader wants. Finally throw into the mix the culmination to the trilogy and it’s really a tale that you can’t afford to pass up. Great fun all in and definitely an author I’m going to be interested in seeing what he comes back with next time.

Monday 26 March 2012

VIDEO GAMES NEWS: Risen 2: New Trailer - Deep Silver

Hail Mighty Readers and those with the Calloused Thumbs,
Deep Silver today released a new trailer for the forthcoming pirate RPG Risen 2™: Dark Waters.

A world in chaos and a war that seems to be almost lost.

Monsters have risen from the sea and the titans have ravaged the world, endangering all that live.

But there is still hope: one man, a nameless hero, takes it upon himself to save the world.

Only the fearless pirates seem to know a way to deal with these beasts from the deep.

Will he succeed in obtaining their secret artefact?

Risen 2: Dark Waters will be available on April 27th 2012 for Windows PC and on May 25th 2012 for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3.

THRILLER REVIEW: Kill Shot - Vince Flynn

Release Date: 07/02/12


For months, Mitch Rapp has been steadily working his way - bullet by bullet - through a list of the men responsible for the slaughter of 270 civilians including his own girlfriend in the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing. His next target - a Libyan diplomat - should be easy. Prone to drink and currently in Paris without a bodyguard, Rapp quickly tracks the man down and sends a bullet into his skull while he's sleeping. But in the split second it takes the bullet to leave the silenced pistol, everything changes. The door to the hotel room is kicked open and gunfire erupts all around Rapp. When the news breaks that Libya's Oil Minister has been killed along with three innocent civilians and four unidentified men, the French authorities are certain that a wounded gunman is still on the loose in Paris. As the finger-pointing begins, Rapp's handlers have only one choice - deny any responsibility for the incident and race to do damage control. Rapp has become a liability, and he must not be taken alive by the French authorities. But alone in Paris, on the run from the authorities and from his own employers, Mitch Rapp must prepare to fight for his life.


If you like a thriller that brings espionage, double dealing and one of the world’s best assassin’s to the fore, then you’re going to love this new Vince Flynn thriller. The story is fast moving, the characters intriguing and to be honest whilst there are some flaws, I tended to ignore them as I sat back and let the tale wend its merry way through my imagination.

The writing is crisp, the prose decent and when you add to the mix the authors ability to keep you firmly within his grasp then the reader is in for a real treat. Finally add this an author who knows how to add nuances within the characters psyche which when backed with the spy worlds double dealing and all in you know that the reader is in for a treat.

CUISINE REVIEW: The Little French Kitchen - Rachel Khoo

Release Date: 15/03/12


Rachel Khoo serves up a modern twist on classic French cooking. Rachel Khoo was determined to get to grips with French cooking, so to learn more she moved to Paris, not speaking a word of French, and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, the world-famous cookery school. Six years later, she still lives and works in Paris, cooking up a selection of classic French dishes from all over the country and giving them a fresh makeover with her own modern twists. From a Croque Madame muffin and the classic Boeuf bourguignon, to a deliciously fragrant Provencal lavender and lemon roast chicken, Rachel celebrates the culinary landscape of France as it is today and shows how simple these dishes are. The 120 recipes in the book range from easy, everyday dishes like Omelette Piperade, to summer picnics by the Seine and afternoon 'gouter' (snacks), to meals with friends and delicious desserts including classics like Creme brulee and Tarte tatin. It's a book that celebrates the very best of French home-cooking in a modern and accessible way. Real French food is no longer something only served in fancy restaurants; Rachel will show how you can add a little French culinary touch to your everyday life at home, no matter where you are in the world, or how big your kitchen is!


OK, this is going to sound like an excuse but for me, French Cuisine has always seemed like fancy food that takes forever to prepare and designed more for a dinner party than everyday use. This stereotype was reinforced when you start looking at the whole Michelin Star system and to be blunt, I’ve always thought that it wasn’t for me. Yes I like my French Bread and my Pain Aux Raisins but for me the stereotype has proven to be one that’s hard to do away with, especially when you also watch some of the cheffy things on the TV where they start talking big foreign words that you don’t have a clue what they mean and the product that they serve is unrecognisable from what comes out from your own Kitchen. (That said, whenever I’ve been to France I do like to have a rummage around places like the Patisserie or the Chocolatiere as I do like a lot of their sweeter things, but on the whole I’ve always been intimidated by the whole thing.)

Luckily for me, this title by Rachel Khoo landed and whilst I’m still scared of it, I’ve found an absolute ton of recipes that are easy to prepare, taste divine and of course give me that “je ne sais quois” when I bring them out. Like Italian Cuisine (my comfort zone) the recipes depend on quality ingredients prepared quickly and served on completion. It can bring families together and it makes eating an experience to cherish. Back that up with food for all types of celebrations (be it a fancy meal or a picnic) and this title will allow you to really give it your all.

All in, it’s a wonderful book and this does for French Cuisine what I want, it makes it accessable for anyone who likes to spend time in the kitchen as well as helping to remove the stuffiness alongside fear that the words French Cuisine normally conjures up.

Sunday 25 March 2012

FACTUAL REVIEW: All the King's Men - Saul David

Release Date: 02/02/12


"The British soldier", wrote a Prussian officer who served with Wellington, "is vigorous, well fed, by nature highly brave and intrepid, trained to the most vigorous discipline, and admirably well armed...These circumstances explain how this army ...has never yet been defeated in the field". From the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 to the Downfall of Napoleon in 1815, Britain won a series of major wars against France that enabled her to lay the foundations of a global empire. By Waterloo, she was the paramount maritime and industrial power in the world, and would remain so for much of the nineteenth century. This is the story of that extraordinary century and a half of martial success and the people who made it possible: the soldier - kings William III and the first two Georges; the generals Marlborough, Wolfe, Moore and Wellington; and the ordinary British redcoats who - despite harsh service conditions that included low pay, poor housing, inadequate food and brutal discipline - rarely let their commanders down in battles as far afield as Blenheim, Plassey, Quebec and Waterloo.


As a reader, whilst I’m fairly up on the General’s points of view on various wars, it’s how the rank and file troops were armed and equipped that always kept me interested. This book by Saul David takes the reader by the hand and gives you the information on how the soldier changed from the Restoration (the 1660’s) through to Waterloo (1815) via the various equipment changes and also the training alongside how they interacted on the field.

War is an ever changing beast yet this title by Saul really does bring it all to life, allowing the reader to follow the information in an easy to understand method as well as making it easy to recall. All in a cracking title and one that I’ll be referring to time and again. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: An Alex Verus Novel 1: Fated - Benedict Jacka

Release Date: 15/03/12


Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and waterways. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle. In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won't sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you're looking for, he might just be able to help. That's if he's not too busy avoiding his would-be apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a mysterious relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.


I’m a big fan of the Urban Fantasy title, however the book has to do a number of things for me in order to help it stand out:
1) It has to be different to anything out there already.
2) It has to hit with a huge impact as being a debut it’s the authors chance to impress having had a lot of time to polish.

What this title has going for it is that the author brings to the fore a whole new world that has not only interesting aspects but characters that step up and fight for what they believe. It’s a decent enough offering but when you add the blurb from Jim Butcher on the cover it really should be something that is outstanding and this is just a title that for me is just better than average.

That said, I did like it, as I enjoyed spending time with the principle character but when you add just too many similarities to Harry Dresden I was left wondering what it brought to the fore that Jim hasn’t done before or better. Which in my opinion was sadly not enough of a difference for me to recommend it on the same level as that series.

Saturday 24 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? - David J Kowalski

The average length of a marriage is approximately 7.8 years. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst investigating the formation of friendships, concluded that you lose about half of your close network members every seven years. So how did I end up stuck with Joseph Kennedy, Jonathan Wells and John Lightholler for almost 10 years, and why won’t they leave me the hell alone?

As a first time novelist I will be honest with you. When I first started writing The Company of the Dead, Kennedy, Wells, Lightholler, Morgan, all my cast… were just variations on a theme. They had their assigned tasks, they had the characteristics I thought appropriate to their successes and failings. But that was that. Clearly I had work to do. With my eyes closed, so to speak, hearing their words, I often could not tell one from another. But something happened.

Initially it was difficult. I had to deliberately differentiate their manner of speech, their turn of phrase. How quick they were to anger, how they coped with obstacles and problems. I had to factor in their physical appearances, their social and cultural backgrounds, and force them to grow.

Eventually they started to surprise me. The deliberate pairings of odd couples started to produce odder results. Friendships I tried to force flowed naturally. Rivalry, required by the plot, stemmed readily for more reasons than I thought I could imagine. Some critical mass was achieved and I did not need to force anything, as what followed grew out of the character’s themselves.

I’d heard of authors finding themselves as mouth pieces for their characters, acting more like biographers than actual writers. I’d put it down to bad writing. I mean how could a writer be surprised about the words coming out of their character’s mouths. By the last third of my novel, however, that is exactly what was happening. Eventually I started trusting the process. Besides, it seemed actually easier than making things up, if that makes any sense.

So, are the characters in my book based on people I’ve read and known about? Sure they are. But, to an extent, so are my real friends. Here’s what I think. We identify certain features we like or don’t like, based on previous relationships. These characteristics, reproduced in the people we meet, surely influence our future choices of friends and enemies. And here was a chance to make some new friends… literally.

And Kennedy, Wells, Lightholler, even some of the nastier cast of my novel, came to dinner, and never bothered leaving. When I wasn’t at my laptop they were still at my shoulders, offering ideas, balking at the lines I wanted them to say and seemingly coming up with their own. Sometimes it feels like we all journeyed together through time, real and imagined, to get the book done, and frankly, I can’t complain about their company.

The Company of the Dead, David Kowalski, 23rd March, £8.99.
For more details please visit the Titan Website.

ALTERNATE HISTORY REVIEW: The Company of the Dead - David Kowalski

Release Date: 23/03/12


A mysterious man appears aboard the Titanic on its doomed voyage. His mission? To save the ship. The result? A world where the US never entered World War I. In April 2012, Joseph Kennedy - nephew of John F. Kennedy - lives in an America occupied in the East by Greater Germany and on the West Coast by Imperial Japan. He is 1 of 6 people who can restore history to its rightful order.


There are times I like a tale of simplicity and others where I really want something that is not only going to mash my brain but twist it to new heights of imagination in a story that I can’t believe hasn’t been delivered to the reader before. Here in this release is just that, a story of what if’s, how’s and of course twisted quandaries that leave you not only wondering about how it could have happened by changing one event but deliver it all wrapped up in clever prose and plotting that really does please the conspiracy theorist within us all.

Add to this, solid breakneck pace, some wonderful characters that will immediately form connections with the reader which when tied together with great prose and imagination, really does take a multi-genre tale to new heights.

All in, this was a story that delivered everything I wanted, gave me pause for thought and wondered what else David will have in his imagination for future releases. A great debut all in and one that will make one hell of a film.

Friday 23 March 2012

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Charley Davidson 2 and 3: Second Grave on the Left, Third Grave Dead Ahead - Darynda Jones

Release Date: 05/01/12


Charlie Davidson sees dead people. As grim reaper extraordinaire it's her job to convince them to 'go into the light'. But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), Charlie dons her Private Investigator hat to solve the crime.


Having enjoyed the first book I was looking forward to seeing what Darynda would come up with in her second offering. After all, the first book sets the world and announces the author, the second has to hit home just as hard to keep the fans die hard demanding the next title.

What the second Charley Davidson title does is allow the character to grow and breathe a bit more as her role as a reaper grows. Add to this some clever twists with an author who knows how to manipulate you and you’re in for a treat. At least that what I was expecting and pretty much got until I found part of the tale unbelievable as no matter who you are the act of betrayal is never an easy pill to swallow, no matter who it is. All in, apart from this problem I had a story that I not only enjoyed but one that left me wondering what the third part would have in store.

Release Date: 31/01/12


Charlie Davidson sees dead people. As grim reaper extraordinaire it's her job to convince them to 'go into the light'. But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), Charlie dons her Private Investigator hat to solve the crime.


Upon the conclusion of the second title, I really couldn’t wait to get my hands upon the third excerpt. As with the others, it has a gripping lead character, a wonderful set of twists and turns which when backed with an author with a great idea of where the overall arc is leading, leaves the reader not only demanding but salivating for the next part.

The writing is crisp, the prose wonderfully devilish and when backed with dialogue that you can really get behind, makes this title a special one to enjoy. Finally add a character who’s back on form after the hiccup in the previous title and all in, it’s a book that you really can’t put down. Great stuff.

Thursday 22 March 2012

VIDEO GAMES NEWS: Darksiders 2: New Trailer - THQ

Hail Mighty Readers,
Our friends at THQ have let us know about this tasty clip to whet your appetite for the forthcoming Darksiders 2. Its the first one of a two parter but with it looking this good, we really can't wait to get our hands on it.

THQ: Darksiders 2: Death Strikes Part One

Lady Eleanor is currently working her thumbs in preparation of her marathon gaming session. We can but wait to see what else THQ brings to the table.

VIDEO GAMES NEWS: Risen 2: Fifth Character Named by Deep Silver

Today Deep Silver revealed another character from the epic pirate RPG Risen 2: Dark Waters, due for UK release April 27th 2012 on PC and May 25th on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

As the former ship's doctor and a talented distiller, Bones has heavy hardships behind him.

He was betrayed from his shipmates and friends and left to rot on a small island, for no reason.

After a long period of loneliness, hopeless wandering and the constant struggle for survival, he was finally found by the natives of Maracai Bay.

They tried to return him to good health, but succeeded only with his body. His spirit could not be made whole again.

Infected by the madness and jungle fever Bones suffers from persistent paranoia, visions, fear of death and choleric temper tantrums.

Since then, he lives out his life among the residents of Maracai tribe and hopes to release his wearied soul.

Will the nameless hero help the unfortunate pirate and free his soul? Can he win Bones over to become a valuable team member?

ALTERNATE HISTORY STEAMPUNK REVIEW: The Pillars of Hercules - David Constantine

Release Date: 20/03/12


Alexander, Prince of Macedon, is the terror of the world. Persia, Egypt, Athens after another, mighty nations are falling before the fearsome conqueror. Some say Alexander is actually the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and the living incarnation of Hercules himself. Worse yet, some say Alexander believes this...The ambitious prince is aided in his conquest by unstoppable war-machines based on the forbidden knowledge of his former tutor, the legendary scientist-mage known as Aristotle. Greek fire, mechanical golems, and gigantic siege-engines lay waste to Alexander's enemies as his armies march relentlessly west - toward the very edge of the world. Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, past the gateway to the outer ocean, lies the rumored remnants of Atlantis: ancient artifacts of such tremendous power that they may be all that stands between Alexander and conquest of the entire world. Alexander desires that power for himself, but an unlikely band of fugitives - including a Gaulish barbarian, a cynical Greek archer, a cunning Persian princess, and a sorcerer's daughter - must find it first ...before Alexander unleashes godlike forces that will shatter civilization. "The Pillars of Hercules" is an epic adventure that captures the grandeur and mystery of the ancient world as it might have been, where science and magic are one and the same.


To be honest I picked up this title more from curiosity as to how the amalgamation of Steampunk and Historical Fantasy would work together but as a cat owner I should have realised that it wasn’t the best course of action. The book was convoluted and whilst I don’t mind a little tinkering with timelines to keep things interesting and to fit more in keeping with the story, this tale really took a lot of liberties as there were major flaws throughout.

Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for one who has read quite a few books on Alexander it can be more than tiresome and when you throw into the mix a lot of double dealing and concealing of facts until after the event, it can come across as a mishmash of concepts that sadly never reach their potential, especially when you add way too many characters to keep a solid idea of who is who upon.

All in, the idea was more than interesting and I suppose that it could work quite well in another time or place. However for the period that the authors chosen and the overactive imaginations within, the author sadly didn’t have enough substance or plot outline to keep the story moving on an even keel for me as a reader. That’s not to say others won’t enjoy it, but when you add all the flaws up together it will be a book I think a large number of people will spend their money on whilst not getting their full bang for their funds. A great shame.

URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE REVIEW: Immortality Bites 4: Stakes and Stiletto's - Michelle Rowen

Release Date: 08/03/12


'My name is Sarah Dearly. Fledgling vampire and part-time bartender, at your service. Welcome to my highly disfunctional life.' Newly-vamped Sarah Dearly wants her normal life back, but fate is fighting against her. She tries to get a nice, regular job - and gets staked at the interview, only to be rescued by a masked vampire who calls himself the Red Devil. Then a wallflower-turned-witch curses her, making her a bloodthirsty, sun-allergic nightwalker - the worst vampire there is. As if all that weren't bad enough, she can't get married because her 600-year-old boyfriend Thierry is in a centuries-long marriage of convenience he can't escape. As Sarah's nightwalker tendencies make her more dangerous, even to those she loves, she'll have to counteract that curse, unmask the increasingly intriguing Red Devil, and - oh yeah ' get a commitment from her man. But if that's what it takes to secure her happiness, Sarah is ready ...even if it means embracing her inner vamp to do it.


There are times when all I want is a different type of tale that gives me adventure with a touch of humour. In the Urban Fantasy genre for me that need is usually sorted by authors like Jim Butcher whose Harry Dresden series is a real guilty pleasure. Yet whilst I get a lot from that, he is a little sparse on the romance and for me, at times, as the Beatles once said “All you need is Love.”

To that end I decided to try Michelle Rowen’s Immortality Bites series and whilst this is the fourth book, I did enjoy what unravelled within the pages as I had a wonderful recap at the beginning that meant whilst I know I’ve missed a hell of a lot from the previous three books, Michelle has been kind enough to give a brief recap so that I can get down to the nitty gritty and enjoy what is to occur.

What happens within is a tale of chaos, a tale of love and of course a tale with the lead character finding new ways to not only get herself into trouble whilst trying to get out of some more, but presents a title that is not afraid to laugh at itself. Its bizarre and yet it allows readers to see that vampires are human too. Yes they are sexy, yes there’s the love story but at the end of the day despite certain physiological differences, it allows the reader to associate with them in so many different ways as to make this compulsory reading.

Add to this a quirky yet fun writing style and this book was a whole lot of fun as well as being something a little different for me to devour. Great fun.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

NEWS: Anarchy Books Magnificent Seven and Giveaway

Hail Mighty Readers,
Our friends at Anarchy Books have made us an offer that we couldn't refuse.

On Good Friday (April 6th) they're giving away free copies of thier imaginative Vivisepulture, which is a title dedicated to the late Colin Harvey. Within this book are feature stories by a whole host of talent which must have been crowbarred within:

Neal Asher,
Tony Ballantyne,
Eric Brown,
Richard Ford,
Ian Graham,
Angry Robot Lee Harris,
Colin Harvey,
Vincent Holland-Keen,
James Lovegrove,
Gary McMahon,
Stan Nicholls,
Jordan Reyne (musician of the wonderful album Children of a Factory Nation),
Ian Sales,
Steven Savile,
Wayne Simmons,
Guy N. Smith,
Adrian Tchaikovsky,
Jeffrey Thomas,
Danie Ware,
Ian Watson,
Ian Whates
Andy Remic

In addition to this, they'll be launching a Magnificent Seven new novels (although with better survival odds for the authors concerned:
New York Blues by Eric Brown (hardcore SF heavyweight!),
A Jar of Wasps by Luis Villazon
Silversands by Gareth L. Powell
The Last Reef
by Gareth L. Powell
Fynoderee by Alexander Caine-Duncan,
Young Punks: A Tale of Anarchy in the UK by Paolo Sedazzari.

And just to add to the fun, they’ll also be releasing a soundtrack to Young Punks by a brilliant raw new punk band, The Mice, containing their stunning mad single Sex Shop.

FANTASY REVIEW: Malory's Knights of Albion 3: Dark North - Paul Finch

Release Date: 13/03/12


When King Arthur faces a challenge for his crown from the restored Roman Empire, he must call his supporters from every corner of the British Isles. One knight, Sir Lucan – the Black Wolf of the North – has more reason than most to join the coming campaign: his beautiful wife, Trelawna, hoping to lead a new, better life in Italy, has absconded with a young Roman officer.

Lucan’s squire, Alaric, fears for his overlord’s soul after a battle with the Penahrrow worm taints his blood; but is more afraid still for the safety of Lady Trelawna, whom he always loved from a distance. Meanwhile, the Roman family she has fallen in with are the corrupt and influential Malconi clan, and their matriarchal head is the sorceress Zalmyra. She sees it as her motherly duty to stop Lucan, with every demonic force she can summon…


I’ve loved the Malory Knights of Albion series since its first title was released. It harks back to fantasy as well as giving the reader a whole set of stories that feel that they have a background within our own world almost as if they have been inspired by the story tellers of yesteryear. It’s catchy, the characters really come to life and when you add authors to the mix that know how to wind the reader round their little fingers to wring the most from their reactions, it’s a series that has won a place in my heart with each passing title.

Add to this great pace, some wonderful descriptive prose and of course a story with lead character I could really get behind and all in it’s another satisfactory read for me. Great stuff all in.

ART BOOK REVIEW: Abakan 2288 - Luca Zamprioli

Release Date: 24/02/12


"Abakan 2288" takes you inside an imaginary future world where natural resources are dwindling, which is dominated by robots - Hard Doll Machines - mass-produced from recycled metal. It also creatively reveals how to conceptualize, fabricate and finish machine robots. This is a mixture of the steamunk aesthetic with mecha designs and sci-fi which gives a stunningly original vision of the future.


Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of the Tokyo Robot creations, I have to admit a passion for the Titan protectors of Mankind that is utilised by Games Workshops Warhammer 40K. What this book from Luca brings to the fore is a wonderful world of the artists own sculpture creations that give you not only a sense of a dark future but also wonderfully creative pieces that are unique.

It’s a joy to read, it demonstrates how you can make your own and even talks the reader through a few of the steps for painting as well as creating the original pieces on paper. A cracking title from Titan and one that I really did get a lot of fun from whilst reading that will be picked up time and again to get inspiration when I get the urge to create my own.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

FANTASY REVIEW: Warhammer Fantasy: Knights of the Blazing Sun - Josh Reynolds

Release Date: 05/03/12


The Knights of the Blazing Sun are a noble and venerable order of templars dedicated to the warrior-goddess Myrmidia. The young knight Hector Goetz is sent to the distant island of Svunum to investigate the disappearance of a group of knights. Reunited with his comrades, he battles vicious pirates and bloodthirsty raiders, but from his increasingly disturbing nightmares Goetz realises that there is more to the place than meets the eye. As northern savages lay siege to the island, a deadly secret is revealed that threatens to damn his order for all eternity.


If you like a story of warfare that’s blended with politics and ulterior motives, then this title by Josh Reynolds would well be the book for you. The lead character of Hector Goetz is an idealist and whilst having to face truths that are unpalatable to a young knight, its ones that ultimately lead to a greater victory.

Whilst this novel does contain gripping fight sequences, the overall tale is one where you’re never quite sure who to trust as the world unravels around the hero. Add to this atmospheric turmoil both emotionally and spiritually and this title by Josh is something special that brings the world to life. Finally add to this a good sense of pace backed up with decent prose and all in it’s a title that is different to what’s gone before which makes this a very refreshing novel.

CUISINE REVIEW: Gennaro's Italian Home Cooking - Gennaro Contaldo

Release Date: 16/02/12


When an Italian cooks dinner, it's always a meal to savour and enjoy with as many people as can be found to share it with. In GENNARO'S HOME COOKING, Gennaro shares his favourite family recipes - the ones that will feed a crowd of hungry guests, from his 90-year-old father to his three-year-old twin girls. Older generations give advice, all hands are on deck to help, and the whole family sit themselves down at the large dining table to join in the feast together. The table is like the altar - to eat, drink, discuss, argue and confess - but most of all to enjoy the wonderful food! All the recipes cater for large numbers of people, but have tips on how to adapt them for smaller groups, there are hints on how to prepare things in advance and advice on which dishes go with what, so it is full of creative menu ideas. With GENNARO'S HOME COOKING you have everything you need to make your own kitchen a little slice of Italy.


Having spent a number of my formative years working in an Italian Restaurant its perhaps one of the cuisine styles that I’m most comfortable with as I know how to utilise the wonderful ingredients from that region of Europe to create wonderfully tasty as well as deliciously flavourful meals.

What this book by Gennaro does is give the reader the chance to create a few gems with an authentic taste of Italy. Its utilises seasonal vegetable and helps make meal times not only a family affair but a talking point for everyone to come together and share the experience. Add to this some wonderful combinations, great dishes to mix and match and something for all occasions really makes this a creative and delightful recipe book.

Monday 19 March 2012

FANTASY REVIEW: The Macht Trilogy 3: Kings of Morning - Paul Kearney

Release Date: 01/03/12


For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange, brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody campaign. He is not yet thirty years old.

A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and fought their way back out again, passing into legend. Corvus's father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the Asurian Empire.


I’ve loved this fantasy series by Paul Kearney since the first outing a couple of years ago. The action is fast and hard hitting which when backed with solid writing, a decent plot line and of course a whole host of characters that bring the Greek’s Vs Persians to a fantasy world, really gives the reader a real tale of guts and glory as they wend their way into history.

The writing has great pace, the characters flaws and when backed with Paul’s understanding of what a fantasy reader wants in a story, makes this a title that’s hard to not only put down but finish as a number of the characters have become readers friends throughout their exploits. Finally add to the mix some wonderful dialogue backed with a great sense of timing and all in it’s a great conclusion to a cracking series.

ART BOOK REVIEW: Structura 2: The Art of Sparth - Sparth

Release Date: 27/01/12


This visually stunning book includes never-before-seen art from video game concept artist Sparth. As well as images from "Assassin's Creed" and "Halo", he also showcases his book cover art, as well as fantasy and science fiction pieces. His work is accompanied by step-by-step tutorials on different Photoshop techniques. This is an unmissable volume for fans of Sparth's work and aspiring designers.


If you’re looking at original artwork behind a number of games one of the names that will appear time and again is Sparth especially looking at work from Halo as well as Rage. It’s detailed, its inspirational and also allows the reader a glimpse into the world of the artist. Add to this the artists own words to backed up with his artwork and a wonderfully comprehensive put together title makes this a book that is not only hard to put down but one you’ll open time and again.

All in this is a wonderful offering a great book for fans of the games industry.

Sunday 18 March 2012

CUISINE REVIEW: The Pure Package: The Diet for Food Lovers - Jennifer Irvine

Release Date: 05/01/12


If you think a healthy, balanced diet means bland and tasteless food then you would be wrong. With over 70 tried tried-and-tested recipes THE PURE PACKAGE will help you to create healthy and delicious meals that can be adapted to suit a variety of needs. Whether you want to get fit, lose weight or simply detox, THE PURE PACKAGE will provide you with the nutritional know-how and guidance to achieve a healthy eating plan. With snacks and treats, delicious dinners, light lunches and nutritious breakfast ideas, together with weekly shopping lists, handy tips and straightforward substitutions, you will be able to cook healthy, gourmet food with a difference. THE PURE PACKAGE plan is easy, enjoyable, stress free - and effective in helping you break old habits and achieve your goals.


The first few months after a holiday period usually see’s a lot of people not only worrying about their waist lines but also struggling to do something about it, usually giving up part way through due to the feeling of starving overruling their ability to cope.

However rather than running straight to any number of weight loss programmes, you may want to read this book by Jennifer Irvine as it gives you not only lots of choices but flavourful, tasty and fulfilling meals that you won’t believe is a diet.

Add to this an easy to follow three week plan and a whole host of help including portion control and overall it’s a book that is helpful in so many ways.

Saturday 17 March 2012

FACTUAL REVIEW: Homers Odyssey - Gwen Cooper

Release Date: 06/01/11


The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. But Homer was no ordinary cat. He was a three week old, abandoned, eyeless kitten and Gwen was unable to resist his charm. It was love at first sight. Homer, tagged as an 'underachiever' from day one, quickly proved his doubters wrong revealing himself to be a tiny dare devil with a giant heart and a passion for adventure. The kitten they said would never be as independent or as playful as the other cats eagerly made friends with every human who crossed his path, scaled seven foot bookcases with ease and chased off an intruder in the middle of the night. He even survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Centre. "Homer's Odyssey" is the story of one cats unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, his constant happiness in the face of all obstacles and his ability to inspire and transform Gwen's life. He kept her company through the ups and downs of daily life and by the time she had met the man she would marry Gwen realised Homer had taught her the most valuable lesson of all: love isn't something you see with your eyes.


As a Servant to the Feline Nation, I love to read books about people’s experiences with animals that are truly ambassador’s to the human world that present not only a positive message but one of love and hope. This is truly the case with the story of Homer, a blind kitten who not only struggled to overcome his own problems but also gave love and loyalty to his new owner.

It’s fascinating, it is heart breaking and of course a story of hope and perseverance. All in a wonderful read and one that is a positive message for all. A great story all in and one that I really am pleased I took the time to read. Thank you.

Friday 16 March 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Player of Games - Iain M Banks

Release Date: 10/08/89


The Culture - a human/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game ...a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life - and very possibly his death.


Having read a number of Iain’s Culture titles I wanted the pleasure of not only refreshing my memory but also embarking o nt he adventure again a number of years after the original journey. This opportunity presented itself wonderfully with the announcement of World Book Day when this was one of the titles selected.

What you get in this title is a space opera unlike any other as games are played, characters manipulated and of course a wonderful sense of the double dealing and politics unlike other titles of the time. Its quirky, it quickly immerses the reader within this unique universe and above all else it was a tale that twisted its own way not only through your imagination but into your very being so that you’ll recall it for quite some time.

Add to this an author with a great sense of pace and prose who knows when to twist the knife or to let you go which leads to a very satisfactory reading experience. Great stuff.

Thursday 15 March 2012

CRIME REVIEW: Snakes and Ladders - Sean Slater

Release Date: 15/03/12


When Homicide Detective Jacob Striker discovers that a string of recent suicides might actually be covered-up murders, his investigation quickly leads him to the Riverglen Mental Health Facility. The victims were all patients from the support group overseen by psychologist Dr. Erich Ostermann. And when Striker discovers Larisa Logan - a dear friend of his, and a patient of Ostermann - has gone missing, his investigation goes into overdrive. Time is running out. And the evidence tells him one very important fact: that Larisa knows something about the murders. Even worse, she is trapped. She can't return to the hospital because her own life is in danger. Larisa's only chance for living is to escape. Racing against time and a chilling adversary, Striker searches desperately for Larisa. It is a dangerous game they play. Where one right step can catapult you to a place of dominance - and one wrong step can leave you sliding to your doom. It is a game of psychopaths. It is Snakes & Ladders.


Crime is big business and whilst writers have utilised the cop vs serial killer arc for years, there always has to be something special in the mix to keep it not only fresh but of interest to the reader.

In this, Sean’s second title, the reader is treated to a story of murder, of twisted ideals and of course a cop that once he has the bit in his mouth won’t let go.

Add to this a story with a great sense of pace, characters that you believe in as well as solid prose alongside a pace that makes it very easy reading and the reader really is in for a satisfying break from the real world. Great stuff.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

VIDEO GAMES NEWS: Risen 2 Release Date - Deep Silver

Hail Mighty Readers and those of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Deep Silver have let us know about the release date for the forthcoming Risen 2. Here is the information:

"Risen 2: Dark Waters will be available on April 27, 2012 for Windows PC, on May 22, 2012 in the USA and Canada and on May 25, 2012 in European countries for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3.

Risen 2: Dark Waters will be available via digital distribution for PC, and for both PC and consoles as a retail version, as well as a Collector’s Edition in certain territories."