Sunday, 31 March 2013

DEJA REVIEW: March 2013

Hail Mighty Readers,
Here are this months book reincarnations (covers may not match the new incarnation), please click on the cover to go to that titles review:


GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Stitched Volume 1: Garth Ennis and Mike Wolfer

Release Date: 31/03/13


American and British soldiers find themselves in Taliban-controlled mountains, hunted by the murderous undead! Think The Walking Dead meets Black Hawk Down!

Three American soldiers, the survivors of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, struggle across the Taliban-controlled mountains. Injured and lacking food, water, and medicine, they discover something far worse than enemy fighters among the sun-bleached rocks: an ancient supernatural power, murderous and unstoppable. Despite a timely rescue demise by a handful of British S.A.S. commandos, they're still hopelessly outnumbered by the shambling, ragged undead and the evil human intelligence that controls them. Critically acclaimed graphic novelist Garth Ennis and horror master Mike Wolfer rip the horrors of war right from today's headlines and thrust it beyond the boundaries of sanity.


Having recently read the last part in Ennis’ Boys Graphic novel series I was left wondering what I was going to get next, purely as Ennis always hits the spot for me, I love his wit, the way he brings a story over and of course throwing the reader in at the deep end so that they’re at the heart of the story from the beginning.

What this latest tale brings is a story of a crew in Afghanistan whose chopper crashes whilst on a pick-up, whilst this seems like the norm, they’re thrown into a war against Zombies, or Stitches as they’re known as modern man /weaponry faces off against ancient black magic and brute force.

All round it’s a story that I loved, especially when added to artwork that not only fascinated but keeps you glued through each sequence. All round a great read and I can’t wait to see what Volume 2 produces.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

ARTS AND CRAFTS CUISINE REVIEW: Character Cake Toppers - Maisie Parrish

Release Date: 05/03/13
Publisher:  David and Charles


Character Cake Toppers: Learn how to make amazing fondant cake topper designs, with over 65 fun ideas for sugar characters, bases and accessories. Whether it's a pirate with his treasure chest and parrot, or a kitten with a comfy cushion and a ball of yarn to play with, each cake topper design has three unique features for you to make - use these individually or mix and match from different designs to create your own unique cake toppers! Basic cake decorating techniques are explained with clear illustrated step-by-step instructions, so everyone can make fun cake toppers for birthdays, weddings and any occasion! From Maisie Parrish, author of the bestselling Fun & Original series!


OK, this might seem like a strange book for someone like me, however having recently witnessed what happens when a grown man is left with royal icing and asked to make an octopus and starfish (yes Dad, I saw what you made for your Grandson’s cake) when the person viewing it couldn’t tell what it was (it was underwater themed and the Octopi left some people thinking it was some sort of weird spider) thought that it was about time to learn how to do it properly, so next year, people won’t be scared by the cake.

This book by Maisie brings a whole set of characters to life, whether you want to make an artist, a racing car or even a pirate with a treasure chest (amongst a host of others) in easy to manage steps from colouring the icing through to basic shapes and then moulding them, allowing the reader to create something spectacular with just a little time. It’s a great way to help you make something really special and whilst there is an outlay on some tools, if you look after then, they’ll last years.

All round a cracking book that will give you idea’s that when you’re comfortable with, that you can then modify to create different themes for those special people in your life. Great stuff. 

This book is available from:

Friday, 29 March 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Injustice: Gods Among Us Semi Final Battles - DC and Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
We've just been telexed the latest results for the epic Quarter Final Battles that DC asked you to vote on last week.

And to be honest you really have to watch them, its definitely something worthy of the epic heroes and villains within.

So without further ado, here's this weeks first battle:

Batman Vs The Flash  

Onto the second:  
Superman Vs Green Lantern  

The final is now all set up for two weeks time, however if you disagree with some of the winners remember you can fight it out yourself when: Injustice Gods Among Us is available on the 19th April for:  
Wii U        
Playstation 3      
Xbox 360 

URBAN STEAMPUNK: The Good, the Bad and the Infernal - Guy Adams

Release Date: 26/03/13
Publisher:  Solaris


Every one hundred years a town appears. From a small village in the peaks of Tibet to a gathering of mud huts in the jungles of South American, it can take many forms. It exists for twenty-four hours and then vanishes once more, but for that single day it contains the greatest miracle a man could imagine: a doorway to Heaven. It is due to appear on the 21st September 1889 as a ghost town in the American Midwest. When it does, there are many who hope to be there: traveling preacher Obeisance Hicks and his simple messiah, a brain-damaged Civil War veteran; Henry and Harmonium Jones and their freak show pack of outlaws; the Brothers of Ruth and their sponsor Lord Forset (inventor of the Forset Thunderpack and other incendiary modes of personal transport); finally, an aging gunslinger who lost his wings at the very beginning of creation and wants nothing more than to settle old scores.


Guy Adams is one of those authors I either love or hate and to be honest with you, this is a book that really didn’t strike me as my usual sort of fare. The characters within felt flat, the plotline fairly predictable and to be blunt, at the end of the day was a book that having read is not only that I’d recommend as a great place to start with this author. Don’t get me wrong, it does have the usual patterns within that say it’s a Guy Adams novel such as clipped prose, some cracking turns of phrase and of course some dialogue that hangs around in your mind, but all round, it just wasn’t a book that took me on the journey into the unknown that I was wanting. All round a great shame but not every book is a hit.

ARTS AND CRAFTS REVIEW: The Craft of the Knot - Peter Randall

Release Date: 30/11/13
Publisher:  Adams Media


A treasure trove of knot instruction and lore! The Craft of the Knot introduces you to the skill and beauty of knot tying. Filled with detailed instructions, history, and lore, you'll discover a wide range of uses for ordinary rope. From camping and climbing to crafts and sailing, this charming guide also includes knot illustrations for every occasion to show you how to master any tie. Whether you want to brush up on the basics of hitches and bends, or create complex and beguiling decorative knots, The Craft of the Knot provides you with the information you need to fasten the perfect knot every time.


With so many convenient tools to utilise to make things, there are a lot of the old skills that we’re starting to lose, whether it’s foraging or the ability to fix things (due to the mentality that its cheaper to buy a new one) it won’t be long before a lot of these skills are lost forever. One such skill is the art of the knot, something that every boy scout used to know and is quickly becoming restricted to people like sailors.

This book brings it all to the fore with its wonderful demonstration on how to tie as well as use each of the knots within and whilst you might not think that you need too many, there are some within such as the Butcher Knot that is definitely worth taking the time to learn so that you can quite easily create something special in your own kitchen.

All round this book is easy to use, has great illustrations and all round is a great item to keep referring to. So much so that I keep it on the top of my knapsack so that future camping expeditions will not only give be made easier, but the setting of things like a cooking utility about the camp fire will be a breeze. Great stuff.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

GUEST BLOG: Haunting the Historian - Karen Maitland

Thank you so much, Falcata, for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I’m sometimes asked why I weave myth, magic and superstition into my historical fiction. The implication is that these elements should play no part in the historical fiction genre. My answer is simply – how can any historical fiction writer ignore them?

As writer I try hard to enter the world of my medieval characters. I’m lucky in that having lived in Africa for a period I know the daily struggle of fetching water from the river and having only candle-light to deal with the terrors of the night. But I also try to experience the activities of my characters so that I can understand the problems and skills involved. For Company of Liars I spent time with a glassblower. For Falcons of Fire and Ice, I learned to handle birds of prey.

But to really conjure up that time and place I have to enter the mind-set of the characters. They lived in a world where monsters, demons, angels and ghosts were part of the everyday life, no less to be feared than the storm which destroyed their crops or the plague that took their children. Even great theologians such as Bishop Grosseteste, (1168/9-1253), wrote treatises about the poison of the basilisk and casting the evil-eye, and Christian priests were taught the rituals of raising spirits.

The nightstalker or draugr was one such monster. He’s found in many early tales from all over northern Europe, including Grendel, the ‘walker-in-the-night’, which appears in the 8th Century Anglo-Saxon saga of Beowulf; the ghosts in Prodigiosa by Yorkshire’s Canon William of Newburgh in the 12th century, and the 14th century ‘Glam’ who appears in the Icelandic Grettis Saga.

Early tales of the nightstalker suggest a terrifying creature, whose eyes shot flames and who tore off the roofs of the halls he attacked with his bare hands. He appears during the hours of darkness, vanishing at dawn. You can imagine that if you lived in Saxon times, particularly in places like Iceland with its burning lava which could erupt at any time, or you huddled in the long dark nights, fearing attack from other tribes who would burn your hall and vanish back into the dark, these draugar became the embodiment of those night-time terrors. But if you believed in the monster, you also knew he could be killed, just as Beowulf had done. So it gave you a feeling of control over life, in the same way as placing a twig of rowan in your baby’s cradle made you feel you could protect him.

But by the latter half of the Middle Ages and indeed right up until the nineteenth century, the draugr was transformed into a revenant, one of the undead, a human corpse which had been raised to wreck vengeance. He takes the form of an apparently normal human who remains visible and tangible both day and night, but is possessed of immense physical strength and a voracious appetite.

In these tales we gain a great insight into the unwritten social rules of the time. There are many accounts in Iceland and northern Europe in which a nightstalker appears as a stranger at the door. He would be offered food and lodgings without question. Even when he devoured every morsel in the cottage and kept them up all night shouting and singing, the social norms of hospitality meant the family didn’t throw him out.

And when the family did finally realise they had taken one of the restless dead in their cottage, they would call on the combined efforts of the whole village to help destroy it. So you begin to understand from these records that belonging to a community in medieval times was literally a matter of life and death. If you were excluded from it, by excommunication or being shunned, it was a death sentence, because if you were attacked or your house caught on fire or you were sick, there was no one to come to your aid.

Life in the Middle Ages was a complex interweaving of acts to try to control an unpredictable and dangerous world, where death could strike with warning or apparent reason. From kings to lowly peasants, people watched for omens as we might watch the weather forecast or movements on the stock-exchange. They hung the relics of saints in their homes alongside iron horseshoes and toad-bones. They offered fervent prayers in church for a good harvest whilst leaving bread and salt in the corner of the fields to appease the boggarts who might destroy the crop.

So as a historical fiction writer, for me it is just as important to describe the charm the archer wore as the bow he fought with, because it gives us just little glimpse into his mind as he fearfully walks into that great battle and the terror of purgatory that he believes lies waiting for him on the other side of death.

How about you – have you read your horoscope today? Are you wearing your lucky pants? Do you have a lucky number for the lottery?

(The following images within the article are in the public domain and have been taken from Wikimedia commons:
Grendel – ‘Grendel’ by J.R. Skelton 1908, from the ‘Stories of Beowulf’
Volcanic eruption
Dead being raised by priests.)

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Falcons of Fire and Ice - Karen Maitland

Release Date: 28/03/13
Publisher:  Michael Joseph


Karen Maitland, the author of the hugely popular "Company of Liars", has written a powerful historical thriller which takes you right back to the darkest corners of the 16th century. Intelligently written and meticulously researched, "The Falcons of Fire and Ice" is a real treat for all fans of CJ Sansom and Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose". "A tour de force: dark and woven with the supernatural". ("Daily Mail" 1564, Lisbon). The Inquisition displays its power and ruthlessly spreads fear. Heretics are tortured and burned. Any who oppose the Church's will realize that silence is preferable to a slow and agonizing death. Isabela, daughter of the Falconer at the Royal Court, is about to be caught in the Church's terrifying schemes. The slaughter of two of the King's precious white falcons sees her father arrested and imprisoned. As punishment he and his family will be killed unless the birds are replaced. Isabela, young and headstrong, decides that only she can save her father. These birds are impossibly rare, and she will have to travel far and into strange lands to find them to clear her father's name. It is a journey that will take her into a dark and dangerous world filled with menacing people driven by fearful beliefs. And, unfortunately for Isabela, the Church has sent a companion to ensure she never returns...Step back in time with Karen Maitland's "Dark Tales" and discover a world full of imagination in "The Falcons of Fire and Ice" - "A thrilling horrible vision of the Dark Ages". ("Metro"). Karen Maitland travelled and worked in many parts of the United Kingdom before finally settling in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln. She is the author of "The White Room", "Company of Liars", "The Owl Killers" and "The Gallows Curse". The latter three titles are available as Penguin paperbacks.


For me, Karen is one of those Historical Fiction authors that can be enjoyed not only by the YA market but the adult as well. It’s clear she does her research, its clear she’s in love with not only the time that her characters inhabit but also the skills that they’ve acquired that help make them who they are. As with all her other stories, it has a solid premise behind the background and when you add to this characters that you just can’t help but feel you know, alongside an overall arc that keeps the mystery moving, you really can’t help but lose yourself within.

Add to this some wonderful prose, a great sense of timing which when added to the authors ability to carefully weave in the eldritch moment from the fears that plague the various cultures at the time and you know that it’s a book that is going to stay with you. All round a story that has woven its way into my heart and one I’ll read a good few more times when time allows, as I can guarantee that with hindsight alongside the way that the stories are created that you’ll notice additional details upon subsequent readings that you missed the first time. The sign of a great author.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

STEAMPUNK REVIEW: Lord Kelvin's Machine - James P Blaylock

Release Date: 22/03/13
Publisher: Titan  


Within the magical gears of Lord Kelvin's incredible machine lies the secret of time. The deadly Dr. Ignacio Narbondo would murder to possess it and scientist and explorer Professor Langdon St. Ives would do anything to use it. For the doctor it means mastery of the world and for the professor it means saving his beloved wife from death. A daring race against time begins...


I’ve been having a bit of a Steampunk binge recently and to be honest whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the first book the second left me feeling a little flat and whilst this book does a good job of traveling from A-B, sadly overall it seems to be going from believable Steampunk to completely unfathomable believability which put me off completely.

Don’t get me wrong the characters within are passable for the reader but when you find the title not only dragging but a story that you’d rather ended leaves me thinking that I won’t be embarking on another adventure with James for quite some time.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

NEWS: Charity Auction by Ben Kane

Hail Mighty Readers,
Blog friend Ben Kane has let us know about an exclusive item to bid upon from himself to aid the the forthcoming Charity Walk himself and a few others are embarking upon.

We let the man himself tell you about it:

"Greetings to all of you! I hope that wherever you are, you're warmer than I am in Somerset.  26th March, and it's 0 C, freezing. My office is a little warmer, but not much.

Anyway, sorry to drop you another email, but some of you might be interested in having a copy of the final proofs of Hannibal: Fields of Blood.  This is 400 odd pages of A4, printed as the book will look when it is bound.  It's what authors get to do their final edit on. I have NEVER sold one of these before, but with comparable authors, they are worth hundreds of pounds within 2-3 years.

If you want to read more, go to my Facebook page at

I have put up this manuscript for auction  to raise money for the charity walk that I am doing in late April, along Hadrian's Wall, in full Roman gear, including hobnailed boots.I am raising money for Combat Stress, which helps veterans with PTSD, and Medecins Sans Frontieres, which helps thousands all over the world in conflict zones. So far, we have raised over £6600. Our aim is to raise £7500, or more.


I won't give the details of the giving site just yet, as you will only need it if your bid wins!

The competition runs until 8 p.m. UK time, Wednesday March 27th.

As of this moment, the bidding stands at £210.... let me know your bid by email, or on Facebook, please.

Thank you!

Best wishes


So you want to help worthwhile charities with your reading addicition.  Now's your chance.

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Watch_Dogs Trailer Announcement - Ubisoft

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends from the network, have let us know about a forthcoming game that will not only give you one hell of an experience but also allow you as the player to do all manner of tricks with electronical devices.

It's pretty hardcore from what we've seen and to be honest it looks like a game that's got quite a few hours of play within, but don't take our word for it, have a look yourself:

Watch Dogs will be available from Ubisoft later in the year on the following systems: PC Playstation 3 Xbox 360. All the best, Gareth and Lady Eleanor

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Clone Republic 2: Clone Rogue - Steven L Kent

Release Date: 22/03/13
Publisher:  Titan


Presumed dead after his troops were massacred, Lt. Wayson Harris has gone AWOL as a bounty hunter. But, thanks to his clone conditioning, Harris finds himself drawn back into the U.A.'s service by his mentor and creator, Admiral Klyber. Now, with separatists rebelling against Klyber throughout the galaxy, Harris must decide whether he should fight against them ...or work for them.


Whilst the first set the tone for the series, the second book always has to hit back with something a little harder to make sure that the author makes an impact and to be honest that’s exactly what this, the second book in the series has done. Great prose, wonderful descriptive and of course a break neck pace really bring this tale to the fore. Add to the mix top notch political machinations as well as combat that leaves you breathless and all round I was more than satisfied with this title.

Finally add to this an author who clearly knows where he’s going alongside an arc that I really hope will be made into a game at some point and all round I was definitely in Military Sci-Fi heaven by the tales end. A great series.

SCI-FI REVIEW: Clone Rebellion 1: The Clone Republic - Steven L Kent

Release Date: 22/03/13
Publisher:  Titan


Private first-class Wayson Harris was raised among thousands of clones to be the ultimate soldier. But Harris isn't like the other Marines: he has a mind of his own. He figures he's paying for that when his first assignment is the smallest Marine outpost in the whole U.A. When a rogue general surfaces, the remote desert world Harris thought was a dead-end posting becomes anything but.


Whilst this book is new to the UK market it was originally released in the US in 2006. Whilst written a few years before, the book is definitely one that is in vogue at the moment as clones take the centre stage in brutal bloody combat to reach the objectives that those in power want. Death tally’s matter little and to be honest its this sort of hard core militaria mindset that really brings this book to life.

Told through the point of view of Harris, the lead character has a lot of facets that allow the reader to get hold of this bleak future with relative ease. Its works wonderfully well with cracking prose and were this a game I believe there would be a cult following in a very short time. (Which really isn’t that surprising as the author did start out in the game industry.) All round a solid enough beginning for a series and whilst the ending left you on a cliffhanger, I am lucky enough to be starting book two shortly. I just hope that the momentum built up in the first is matched in the second.

Monday, 25 March 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Injustice: Gods Among Us Semi Finals - Warner Brothers Interactive and DC

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warner Brothers have let us know all about the ultimate battle of superhero supremacy for the upcoming fighting game, Injustice: Gods Among Us.

This week the Semi Final Combatants facing off are:

Batman Vs The Flash
Superman Vs Green Lantern

So here's the Semi Final Round up for you:
  However are you one that feel's that your hero was duped?  Do you have a greivance that needs to be aired?  Well Injustice are offering you the chance to get your thoughts across so view thier trailer here:
To vote on each week’s battle, visit:     All the best and may your hero win,     Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag World Gameplay Premiere - Ubisoft

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Ubisoft have let us know about the latest Assasssin's Creed IV: Black Flag, trailer with in game footage.

Lets just say that it looks stupendous and we can't wait to get our hands on it to set sail on the High Sea's with Kenway.

But don't just take our word for it, have a look yourself:
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag will be released on 1st November 2013. All the best, Gareth and Lady Eleanor

URBAN MILITARY FANTASY: Seal Team 666 - Weston Ochse

Release Date: 15/03/13
Publisher:  Titan


Halfway through SEAL training, promising cadet Jack Walker is whisked away to join a special ops mission: SEAL Team 666. Battling demons, possessed humans, mass-murdering cults, and evil in its most dark and ancient form, SEAL Team 666 has their work cut out for them, and it's not long before Walker finds himself at the centre of a supernatural conflict with the entire world at stake.


Recently I seem to be spending quite a lot of time with one military or another, whether its fighting in ancient Greece with the Hoplites or standing shoulder to shoulder with a fantasy army, its always an adventure as you leave each of the lives within the story. Yet sometimes its great to get a story set in the modern era with something unexpected such as in this title where you have a special Seal Unit that fights the Supernatural. The body count is high, the team life expectancy is at times quite short and to be blunt it’s a brutal but necessary life for those involved.

Add to the mix, some solid prose, an author who has a great understanding of the weaponry involved alongside tactics, which all round give you something thoroughly enjoyable. Back this up with a real kickass plot line, some cracking blending of supernatural mythos and all round I was a happy reader, although the only real downside for me were the Homunculi who, for me, made me think that they were all little Tango Men. LOL

Sunday, 24 March 2013

WRITING ADVICE: Revision and Self-Editing for Publication - James Scott Bell

Release Date: 14/01/13
Publisher:  Writers Digest


Take your first draft from so-so to sold! You've finished the first draft of your novel-congratulations! Time to have a drink, sit back...and start revising. But the revision process doesn't have to be intimidating. Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, Second Edition gives you the tools and advice you need to transform your first draft into a finished manuscript that agents and editors will fight for. Inside you'll find:

Self-editing techniques for plot, structure, character, theme, voice, and more that can be applied as you're writing to reduce your revision workload.
Methods for fine-tuning your first draft into a tight, well-developed piece of literature.
The Ultimate Revision Checklist, which seamlessly guides you through the revision process, step by step.
New Chapter! Exercises and techniques for "deepening" your work to engage and excite readers like never before.

Whether you're writing a novel currently or have finished the first draft, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, Second Edition will give you the guidance you need to revise your manuscript into a novel ready to be sold.


OK, you’ve spent quite a bit of time writing your first draft. Congratulate yourself, you’ve achieved something really special here, but lets face it, you know that you’re going to have to go through it and start editing to make it not only better but slicker. It’s a tricky conundrum about what to keep, what to cut and what to rewrite but you know what, this book is there to help.

It gives great advice, some wonderful techniques and aids you to polish the manuscript so that it shines. It’s a tool that the writer really does need and whilst you can pay out for an expert to do it, in my opinion its always best to tackle a lot of it yourself so that you get used to having things done without getting too upset. It also demonstrates that you’re willing to put in the time to make sure that your book is the best it can be. All round a great little item.

WRITING ADVICE: The Writers Lab - Sexton Burke

Release Date: 30/11/12
Publisher:  Writers Digest


The Writer's Lab provides writers, journalers, and creatives (anyone with a desire to write, really) with a medium for playing around with prose, poetry, etc. There are no rules here - only creative prompts and plenty of room for writing, sketching, diagramming, and planning stories, essays, and more. The "Lab" is loaded with fun exercises that foster creativity and a love of writing, along with space to experiment with your craft and improve it. Want to plot a murder? You can do that here. Create the cast of characters for your next novel? There's room for that. Feel like designing your own planet? Try page 144. In the Lab, you can play, experiment, and explore the nuances of fiction without having to create anything more challenging than a page or two of content. It can be picked up or put down on impulse, available to inspire creative thinking and offer pure joy on demand.


Sometimes you have an idea that just forms and the inner writer just can’t help but sit down and get on with this epic project that your muse is forcing you to create with her point blank shotgun. Other times you want to sit down and relax to write something but cannot for the life of you think what you want to do.

At times like this, you need to reach for this book, it has a lot of questions and exercises that get your inner writer moving which not only helps you ask the right (or write) questions but gives you a whole host of new idea’s to explore as well as helping you improve the skills that you’re developing. It’s a great little tool and to be honest when dressed up in the fun way that they’ve done with this feels more like taking a break than doing any real work. All round a cracking title and one I’ll use each time I get stuck. Great stuff.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

MYTHS AND LEGENDS REVIEW: Jason and the Argonauts - Neil Smith, Jose Daniel Cabera

Release Date: 06/03/13
Publisher:  Osprey Adventures


The voyage of Jason and the Argonauts and their hunt for the Golden Fleece is one of the most enduringly popular of all of the Ancient Greek heroic myths. Accepting the quest in order to regain his kingdom, Jason assembled a crew of legendary heroes, including Hercules, Orpheus, Atalanta, and the twins Castor and Polydeuces. With this band of warriors and demi-gods, Jason set sail in the Argo on a journey across the known world. During their quest, the Argonauts faced numerous challenges including the Harpies, the Clashing Rocks, the Sirens, Talos, the bronze giant, the sleepless dragon that guarded the fleece, and, of course, the fickle will of the gods of Olympus. Filled with magic, monsters, sword fights, and sacrifice, this ancient adventure story is given new life by Neil Smith who also examines its historical context, its classical sources and its enduring legacy.


Grab your swords and sandal’s as Neil Smith tackles the myth of Jason and the Argonauts in this cracking new title by Osprey Adventures. Using carefully researched material and presenting the story in a way that the modern reader will love, this title is a book to be savoured.

Back that up with cracking artwork, some wonderful still shots from the films and of course the writers own interpretation of the films and all round you are going to get something special. A cracking title and definitely a series I’m going to collect in order to share with my nephews.

MYTHS AND LEGENDS: Dragonslayers: From Beowulf to Saint George - Joseph McCullough, Peter Dennis

Release Date: 06/03/13
Publisher:  Osprey Adventures


With its fiery breath, scaly armour, and baleful, malevolent stare, the dragon became the ultimate symbol of evil and corruption in European folklore and mythology. Often serving as a stand-in for Satan, or the power of evil gods, dragons spread death and hopelessness throughout the land. Only heroes of uncommon valour, courageousness, and purity could hope to battle these monsters and emerge victorious. Those that did became legends. They became dragonslayers. The list of dragonslayers is small, but it is filled with great and legendary names. Hercules, Beowulf, Sigurd, and Saint George all battled to the death with dragons. Other heroes such as Cadmus, founder of the city of Thebes, Dieudonne de Gozon, the Knight of Rhodes, and the Russian warrior Dobrynya Nikitich might be less well known to western readers, but also fought and defeated dragons. This book retells the greatest legends of this select group of warriors, while examining the myth of the dragonslayer in historical, mythological, and even theological contexts.


I’ve been a fan of Osprey for quite some time. I love the way that they bring beautiful artwork to historical knowledge giving the reader the chance to see as well as read all about the key points that have helped shape the world of today. So when I heard about them bringing out their own books of Myths and Legends I was quietly sat there hoping that the care and attention that they brought to the history would also be brought to this new series.

I really shouldn’t have worried. Within this book the reader gets cracking Dragon Slaying stories from Beowulf to Saint George as well as illustrations that will take your breath away. It has an authoritive writing style, some wonderful research and all round makes this a book that you will enjoy dipping into time and again making this a wonderful title to share with younger readers.

Friday, 22 March 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Black Swan Rising Trilogy 3: The Shape Stealer - Lee Carroll

Release Date: 14/03/13
Publisher:  Bantam


Garet James and Will Hughes find themselves back in 21st century Paris, each with an unusual romantic quandary. The 400 year-old remorseful vampire that Garet still loves remains trapped in time, in 1602, as is Marguerite, the young Will's love, who might reconsider her decision to reject him now that he has become an unvampire. Their time reversing prospects include guidance from the Institut Chronologique and from another time-traveller, the astronomer Johannes Kepler who Will encounters on one of the bridges across the Seine. It is by no means an easy task. And complicating things further is the fact that they appear to have brought with them a monster from the past: the shape-shifting, blood-drinking Marduk. They set out to find Marduk, but it's not easy to find a creature who can change shape at will. When they realize that Marduk has not only stolen Will Hughes' face, but also his identity, they fear that he has teamed up with their old nemeses John Dee and Cosimo Ruggieri to gain control of - and destroy - the world's financial markets. And when they learn that Marduk is on his way to New York, Garet fears that her family and friends will be his next target. Will and Garet leave Paris for New York, where they also hope to resolve their own romantic dilemmas. Which Will does Garet really love? The innocent young man - or the man wracked with remorse for his history of violence and bloodshed? And does Will still love Marguerite? Or has he fallen in love with her time-travelling descendant?


The concluding part of the trilogy and to be honest its one that has felt forever in arriving. It’s a book that I’ve been demanding for ages and to be honest counting down the day has really been a hardship. So was it worth my time, have I been right in counting down?

In short, yes I was, its hard hitting and with so many threads to tie up its going to be a book that is not only high octane but one that will keep the reader guessing to the end. It has great prose, some wonderful turns of phrase and for me the real triumph is the authors utilisation of the characters that we’ve come to care about in the previous two instalments. All round a cracking end and one that will leave many fans worn out wondering what the two authors are going to hit back with.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Dead Island Riptide: They Thought Wrong Trailer - Deep Silver

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Deep Silver, have let us have a sneaky peak at the latest trailer for this forthcoming game, and if you thought things got bad in Dead Island, then think again as the gang reunite with a new member added to thier ranks.


So for your viewing pleasure the latest trailer:

Join us on release date as Lady Eleanor slaughters her way around the inhabitants.  

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

GUEST BLOG: Leave the door open - By Michael Marshall

Many years ago I consulted a hypnotherapist in the hope of giving up cigarettes. It didn’t work. This was my fault, not hers: the very next day I went to give a talk to lifers in Shepton Mallet prison, one of the most dismal places I’ve ever been — and the inmates were all smoking furiously the entire time I was there. During the conversation prior to being hypnotised – or perhaps as part of it, I wasn’t sure where one ended and the next began — the therapist mentioned the idea of a red cross. She noted that as soon as someone tells you not to think of a red cross, that’s all you can think of. The mind doesn’t truly understand negation, and so helpfully serves up an image of a red cross because that’s the ostensive subject matter of your thoughts.

I’m coming to believe that the term ‘cross-genre’ works the same. It doesn’t function when you think about it. It only helps when you realise it actually just means... ‘fiction’.

Many readers don’t even know the concept of ‘genre’. They don’t have to. So far as they’re concerned they simply read ‘books’. Stuff presented as fact is non-fiction, the rest is fiction. It’s simple. Or it should be.

The only people who give a lot of thought to genre are writers or readers who’ve been backed into a corner, penned in, over-categorised. In many circles being assigned a genre is akin to having ‘niche interest’ tattooed across your forehead. There’s a ‘horror genre’, an ‘SF genre’ and a ‘crime genre’, with the ‘thriller genre’ hanging off the latter like a disreputable slack-jawed cousin. There are others, too, further sub-divisions within the low-rent end of town.

The word comes from French, of course, and means ‘kind, sort, style’. If you say a book hails from the crime genre then you’re declaring that – to paraphrase Lincoln - if someone likes books of this kind, this might be the sort of thing they’ll like. You’re implicitly also saying, however, that if you don’t see yourself as a fan of this style of fiction, this is the kind of thing you probably won’t like. A genre designation will put off as many people as it attracts — and often far more. It closes the door to the book being considered on its own merits. There are many intelligent and worthwhile stories written within the ‘horror genre’: but labeling them thus is like painting a red plague cross on their house. Similarly science fiction, which people are happy to watch in the cinema but often won’t go near in the bookstore. Tell a lot of people that a book is science fiction or fantasy and they won’t touch it with a barge pole, in case it turns them into a geek, immediately upon contact.

It wasn’t always like this. When D. H. Lawrence wrote his classic tale The Rocking-Horse Winner in 1926 – about a boy who can predict the results of horse races – nobody revoked his Literary Writer card and told him to bugger off to the fantasy ghetto. The obsessive pigeon-holing of books into OCD-friendly genres is a feature of the last several decades, and wholly divisive. Worse still is a book that doesn’t even slot neatly into a genre. This is what the term ‘cross-genre’ is supposed to help with, but in fact it’s the kiss of death. It effectively announces “Not only is this book not proper literary fiction, it doesn’t even fit in one of those icky genres! It must really suck!”

But if a work can’t be dismissed away into a genre, surely that means it’s simply…fiction? Why lever the word ‘genre’ into the conversation for the sake of it? It’s the red cross problem all over again. The term ‘cross-genre’ declares that a book doesn’t fit into a genre, and thus in theory opens the very idea of genres to question — but has the word enshrined right there within it. The term implodes. It’s meaningless.

And yet some of the most interesting recent fiction is intriguing precisely because it doesn’t fit. J. Robert Lennon’s MAILMAN, Niffenegger’s THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE, or Ishiguru’s NEVER LET ME GO, not to mention everything David Mitchell’s ever done, notably CLOUD ATLAS: all dare to play with themes and styles and techniques from multiple ‘genres’, and present them as general fiction. And it works. It produces works with energy and imagination and the power to show new things.

This is what I’ve always tried to do, especially in my new book WE ARE HERE. Sometimes events happen within these novels that don’t fit comfortably within ‘literary fiction’ or even consensual reality — in the same way that superstitions don’t, or believing you knew your mother was going to call just before she did, or the notion that people are ‘meant to be together’. Real life has strange and magical stuff in it too, but we don’t label ourselves as ‘cross-genre’. We’re just people.

So let’s forget about the term and think about these books as ‘fiction’ instead. It opens a lot of doors.

URBAN FANTASY CRIME REVIEW: We Are Here - Michael Marshall

Release Date: 14/03/13
Publisher:  Orion


It should have been the greatest day of David's life. A trip to New York, wife by his side, to visit his new publisher. Finally, after years of lonely struggle it looks as though the gods of fate are on his side. But on the way back to Penn station, a chance encounter changes all of that. David bumps into a man who covertly follows him and, just before he boards the train, passes by him close enough to whisper: 'Remember me.' When the stranger turns up in his home town, David begins to understand that this man wants something from him...something very personal that he may have no choice but to surrender. Meanwhile, back in New York, ex-lawyer John Henderson does his girlfriend Kristina a favour and agrees to talk to Catherine Warren, an acquaintance of hers who believes she's being stalked by an ex-lover. But soon John realises that Catherine's problem is far more complex and terrifying than he could ever have imagined...There are people out there in the shadows, watching, waiting. They are the forgotten. And they're about to turn.


I love a crime story that brings elements of the supernatural into them and to be honest if you want heart palpitations, night frights and to be jumping at every little noise (if you’re reading this alone) then you will more that get your moneys worth from Michael Marshall’s new book.

The writing as usual is crisp, the prose wonderful and when added to a solid pace and an easily visualised scenario’s then you’re in for a treat. Yet whilst this is always key to any book for me, one other thing that I have to add are the characters populating this shadowy world, they’re delightful and whilst the villains are people who truly take the darker aspect of the human psyche you’ll still find yourself fascinated at how well the author manages to meld it altogether without giving the reader information overload. Back this up with a lead character that you just route for and all round I was a satisfied reader. A cracking read all round.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

NEWS: James Herbert RIP

We're sady to bring you the news that James Herbert has passed away today aged 69 in his sleep at home.

Here is the article that his publisher, Pan Macmillan said:
"James Herbert was born in London’s East End on 8 April 1943. At the age of ten, he won a scholarship to St. Aloysius Grammar School, Highgate, and aged sixteen started studying graphic design, print and photography at the renowned Hornsey College of Art. He then found work in an advertising agency where he rose to the rank of Art Director and Group Head.
He began writing his first novel when he was 28. Ten months later he had completed The Rats, conjuring a London overrun by mutant, flesh-eating rodents. He submitted the manuscript to six publishers, three of whom replied. Of those, two rejected the novel and one accepted it. At its publication in 1974, the first printing of 100,000 copies sold out in three weeks, firmly establishing him as Britain’s leading writer of horror and one of the country’s greatest popular novelists.

The author of twenty-three novels, James Herbert was published in 34 languages including Russian and Chinese and has sold over 54 million copies worldwide. They include The Fog, The Dark, The Survivor, The Magic Cottage, Sepulchre, Haunted, Fluke and Creed, and of course The Rats trilogy, all considered to be classics of the genre, while his later bestsellers including Portent, The Ghosts of Sleath, '48, Others, Once..., Nobody True and The Secret of Crickley Hall all enhanced his reputation as a writer of depth and originality.

Four of his novels, The Rats, The Survivor, Fluke and Haunted were made into films. The Magic Cottage was dramatized for Radio 4 and more recently, last December, The Secret of Crickley Hall was aired as a three-part serial on BBC One.

The paperback of his 23rd novel, Ash, was published just last week.

James Herbert was awarded the OBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours list, the same year he was made the Grand Master of Horror by the World of Horror Convention. James’ popularity with his fans was at its peak in the last few months with a series of sell out public events across the country.

He married his wife, Eileen, in 1967; she survives him with their three daughters, Kerry, Emma, and Casey.

Macmillan Publisher, Jeremy Trevathan, James Herbert’s editor for ten years, says,

“Jim Herbert was one of the keystone authors in a genre that had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a true testament to his writing and his enduring creativity that his books continued to be huge bestsellers right up until his death. He has the rare distinction that his novels were considered classics of the genre within his lifetime. His death marks the passing of one of the giants of popular fiction in the 20th century.”

If you'd like to leave a message of condolence, please do so on the wall of James Herbert's Facebook page."

WRITING COURSE: The Nuts and Bolts of the Novel - Audrey Niffinger

Hail Mighty Readers,
Our friends at Random House have let us know about a two day writing course taught by renowned Audrey Niffenegger held at the Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells between the 12th and 13th of April 2013 with applications to attend closing on 3rd April 2013.

Here's the details:"If you’ve started your novel but aren’t sure how to progress then this two-day course will give you the impetus you need to move forward. Two of the key elements of novel-writing are structure and characters. Structure is sometimes referred to as plot, but Audrey Niffenegger prefers to talk about structure or architecture to give a sense of building things, as it’s about how the parts of the book relate and support each other.

This is the first time that bestselling author and experienced creative writing teacher Audrey Niffenegger has ever taught in the UK.
Friday 12th April
10am - Tea, coffee, pastries
Introductions. Discussion of what each student is working on and an overview of the class schedule.
Discussion of structure in the novel: What is possible? What is easy to achieve? How do you develop structure as you write?

1pm - Lunch

2pm - Continue to discuss structure using the example of The Great Gatsby (copies will be sent out prior to the course)
Discuss fluidity vs. rigidity in writing. How do you tear something down and repurpose its parts? How do you control the rate of reveal?

Tea and coffee will be served at approximately 3pm

5pm - Conclusions for the day

5.30pm - Finish
Followed by an optional drinks reception with Audrey

Saturday 13th April
10am - Tea, coffee, pastries
Characters: What makes a memorable character? How do you build relationships? How do you get a character up-and-running? Work on character questionnaires.

1pm - Lunch

2pm - Discussion of morning’s exercise
How does character tie in with structure?
Tea and coffee will be served at approximately 3pm

3.30pm - Q & A: what novel writing issues are you most concerned about?

5pm - Conclusions for the course

5.30pm - Finish

For more information and costs on attending please visit here.

LADY ELEANOR VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Tomb Raider: A Survivor is Born - Square Enix

Release Date: 05/03/13


Tomb Raider is an Action-Adventure game that introduces players to the origin of one of the most identifiable video games icons of all-time, Lara Croft. The game features a blend of survival, stealth, melee and ranged combat, and exploration gameplay as a young Lara Croft is forced to push herself past her know limits to survive and unravel the dark history of a forgotten island. In the process she will unlock the adventurer within her. Additional game features include: weapons both familiar and new, upgradable items, a variety of play environments, and human and animal enemies.

A Survivor is Born

When the first ever Tomb Raider game launched in 1996 it was a revolution. Outstanding in terms of graphics, gameplay, and storyline, it changed the way that video games were played and developed forever. Fronting the games assault on the world was the central character, Lara Croft. Lara was also to have an incredible impact, quickly becoming the most recognized and celebrated female action heroine and an icon for the video games industry.

This newest rendition of Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to the hardened survivor that she would become known as. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.
Key Game Features

Tomb Raider Rebooted - The new version of Tomb Raider is designed to reboot the game series for both the new generation of gamers, as well as longtime fans.

The Origins of Lara Croft - Set before even the earliest of classic games in the series, Tomb Raider serves as an origin story for Lara Croft, detailing her metamorphosis from an unsure young woman, to a superstar adventurer.

Diverse Gameplay - The game incorporates a variety of gameplay genres, including survival, stealth, melee and ranged combat, exploration, and more
Weapons - Utilize a variety of weapons, including bow and arrow, an ice ax, and pistol.


I remember the original Tomb Raider on the Playstation way back in the last century (hey it was 1996) and to be honest with the puzzles and the third person shooter point of view, Lara was a constant friend with each successive outing. Yet having taken a break for a number of years, this reboot would have to do something to not only bring the old fans back but to generate a need within the new gamer to play.

What this title does is take you back to the beginning of Lara’s career when she is sceptical, young as well as unsure of herself, all to discover that she’s shipwrecked on an island facing a zealous cult lead by Brother Mathias set to return the Sun Queen to a mortal incarnation.

Whilst there will be some who won’t like this new Lara, I have to say that I loved it. The game is story driven with the fans getting to see a vulnerable Lara, help mould her to her future and with solid voice acting really works well, add to the mix the ability to adapt the game to suit your playing style (I played through with the bow more than anything else) alongside the option to duck and cover, really gives you some heart stopping moments as Lara faces one hell of a fire fight. Yet that’s not all, the game designers allow the player to gather salvage to upgrade equipment as well as the upgrading to learn survival skills to help you throughout.

Add to this cracking cinematic cut sequences, some great twists, destructible scenery alongside the obligatory tombs to explore, all round make this a game that I had a lot of fun playing.

That said, whilst I enjoyed this, a lot of the supporting cast did feel quite weak, barely 2d cut outs more there to aid/save Lara than feel fleshed out into real characters that you could care about and for me, one of the weakest parts of the story was the quickness in which Lara gets over her ability to kill. Don’t get me wrong, I understand having to move through it, but when one minute she feels inconsolable and the next she’s a hardened killer, there should have been some transition where she learns to accept the necessity for survival.

All in I had a lot of fun with this game, and with the ability to upgrade and revisit locations as well as finding additional quests all round gave me a good number of hours completing them and to be honest I’m really looking forward to embarking with this new Lara on her next mission.

Lady Eleanor is Falcata Times Mistress of Mayhem, be it in the Horror Genre or on the console, she gives it her all and loves to blow the hell out of anyone who gets in her way.  You can often find her perusing the game sites to get the latest gossip on what’s arriving next or checking out the latest movie/book releases to see what grabs her attention.

In addition to this Lady Eleanor is a lifelong fan of pin up and in particular the Fetish Queen of the 50’s Bettie Page and whilst the name is an alias, its due more to her love of a song by the same title by the group Lindisfarne rather than her dominating presence when she lays down the law.

(Artwork by Isis Sousa for Falcata Times)

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Mercy Thompson 7: Frost Burned - Patricia Briggs

Release Date: 05/03/13
Publisher:  Orbit


Mercy Thompson's life has undergone a seismic change. Since becoming the mate of Alpha werewolf Adam and stepmother to his daughter Jesse, her life finally seems to be calming down. But after an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy suddenly can't reach Adam or the rest of the pack. All she knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam's disappearance may be related - and that the pack is in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.


To be honest with you I usually read a book in the space of a few hours and whilst it’s a skill that allows me to get through so many great titles, it is one that I sometimes rue as I feel that it’s a shame to read a work that has taken so many months to create in such a short time.

Knowing that I had a new Mercy Thompson (Hautman) book to read, I decided to take a different tack this time. I limited my reading to a chapter at a time so that I could think about what was occurring within as well as getting to enjoy the suspense (even though there were a few times it nearly killed me to put the book down) to the max.

I’m pleased that I did, Mercy is settling into her role quite well, the characters are all firm friends and when you add a great pace alongside an arc that leaves the reader with a lot of questions at the end you know that its going to be something special. Throw into the mix old foes and new as well as some amalgamations that could lead to future co-operation and all round it’s a book that I loved. Great stuff all round.