Wednesday, 27 January 2021

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Stranger TImes - CK McDonnell

Release Date:  14/01/21

Publisher: Bantam Press


There are dark forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular), so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them . . .

A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but mostly the weird), it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable.

At least that's their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little of the publication he edits. His staff are a ragtag group of misfits. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door - and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who's got problems of her own.

When tragedy strikes in her first week on the job The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious investigating. What they discover leads to a shocking realisation: some of the stories they'd previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker forces than they could ever have imagined.

The Stranger Times is the first novel from C.K. McDonnell, the pen name of Caimh McDonnell. It combines his distinctive dark wit with his love of the weird and wonderful to deliver a joyous celebration of how truth really can be stranger than fiction. 



I love a book that takes the world and flips it on its head, and whilst this tale has a certain feeling of good omens within, its totally unique with the addition of solid characters and a world that is like our own but with the creepy nature to one side.

Well written with good prose and of course characters that you not only want to spend time with but feel fleshed out with their dialogue will have you thinking of people you know as we all have some characters within our daily lives, cracking twists, personal drama alongside apocalypic world bending conspiracy theories go to make this a book that whilst I found a little hard to get into originally was more than pleased I carried on to the end.

All round a top notch read and an opener to a series that will hit the spot with a large number of readers especially fans of not only Terry Pratchett but Tom Holt. Definitely a series to watch and for me gives me something else to look forward to during this pandemic.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

SCI-FI CRIME THRILLER: War of the Maps - Paul McAuley

Release Date: 07/01/21

Publisher: Gollancz


On a giant artificial world surrounding an artificial sun, one man - a lucidor, a keeper of the peace, a policeman - is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity, but is too valuable to the government to be truly punished. Instead he has been sent to the frontlines of the war, to use his unique talents on the enemy. So the lucidor has ignored orders, deserted from his job, left his home and thrown his life away, in order to finally claim justice. Separated by massive seas, the various maps dotted on the surface of this world rarely contact each other. But something has begun to infiltrate the edges of the lucidor's map, something that genetically alters animals and plants and turns them into killers. Only the lucidor knows the depths to which his quarry will sink in order to survive, only the lucidor can capture him. The way is long and dangerous. The lucidor's government has set hunters after him. He has no friends, no resources, no plan. 


But he does have a mission. 



Paul has always been an author that I've loved to spend time with. He's known for rich world building, creating characters that I want to get to know and above all else giving me a pace that is crafted well knowing when to let me take a breather and when to keep me holding my breath through the high octane sequences. 


This title is no exception and with this book, Paul;s principle characters put personal ideal's above those of superiors. Its delightfully dark in a dystopian way, brings a hero to the fore that whilst flawed is multi faceted and is just fascinating to be around. Add to this a cracking crime aspect within alongside dialogue that moves the story forward, all round makes this a book that will easily occupy the reader away from the very real worries of the world.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

SPIRITUAL REVIEW: Elemental Magic - Nigel Pennick

Release Date:  12/11/20

Publisher: Inner Traditions


Learn how to use the principles and practices of natural magic for personal development and spiritual empowerment 


• Offers detailed descriptions of the magical properties of minerals, animals, plants, and the earth’s cycles and how to use them in your own practice


 • Explores the magical laws of nature and how to guide your inner energy to work in concert with cosmic energies 


 • Details how to design your own ceremonies, practice elemental meditations, and craft your own magical talismans, wands, and divining rods 


An expert on European rural folk magic traditions, author Nigel Pennick presents a comprehensive introduction to the principles, rituals, practices, and magical tools required to draw on the magic inherent in the natural world. He explains how people throughout the centuries have built a relationship with the elemental energies around them using simple, everyday practices in order to attune themselves to nature, the seasons, and the cosmos for magical purposes. 


The author explores earth, mineral, and plant magic as well as the magical properties of the earth’s cycles and concentrated places of power within the landscape. He examines magical workings with animals, drawing on authentic traditions such as the Toadsmen or Toadswomen, whose power is given by toads, and the Berserker qualities conferred by magical bondings with wild animals like bears and wolves. He explains how to craft your own magical talismans, wands, and divining rods; design your own ceremonies; practice elemental meditations; fortify your health with herbs and crystals; and set an altar with the right food and drink for your intention. 


Pennick also describes how the practical techniques of natural elemental magic work through interactions between the inner world of the mind and spirit, the outer world, and the otherworldly. He shows that having a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all things and the inner power of these magical elements strengthens the practitioner’s harmony with nature, and thus their power. By harnessing the elemental energies around us, we can work with nature for personal development, spiritual empowerment, and the successful achievement of our desires. 



Whilst only a small title weighing in at 148 pages, this book is one that I found to be quite an interesting read. Not only does it delve into the various aspects of respecting and utilising the elements in your every day life but for those who feel a greater kinship with them rather than other new age practices. its well written, explains how differing culture around the world work with the elements in their own practices and how some are replaced with others to help the world make more sense. 


The author is knowledgeable, has an easy going manner and through their tutourage allows the reader to fully make sense of everything. Definitely a book I was more than happy to spend time with and whilst my own beliefs are different from those within, I do find common ground amongst this title alongside pieces that fit into my own philosophy. Whether your wiccan, pagan, or other I highly recommend this title, after all anything that helps you find other knowledge to help make your own life happier has to surely be a good thing and with chapters on utilising crystals alongside animals and plants to create rituals its a title that has a lot to offer.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

SCI-FI REVIEW: STAR WARS: Rise of Skywalker - Rae Carson

Release Date: 29/10/20

Publisher:  Del Rey


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - Witness the epic final chapter of the Skywalker saga with the official novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, including expanded scenes and additional content not seen in theaters! 


The Resistance has been reborn. But although Rey and her fellow heroes are back in the fight, the war against the First Order, now led by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, is far from over. Just as the spark of rebellion is rekindling, a mysterious signal broadcasts throughout the galaxy, with a chilling message: Emperor Palpatine, long thought defeated and destroyed, is back from the dead. Has the ancient Lord of the Sith truly returned? Kylo Ren cuts a swath of destruction across the stars, determined to discover any challenge to his control over the First Order and his destiny to rule over the galaxy--and crush it completely. Meanwhile, to discover the truth, 


Rey, Finn, Poe, and the Resistance must embark on the most perilous adventure they have ever faced. Featuring all-new scenes adapted from never-before-seen material, deleted scenes, and input from the filmmakers, the story that began in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and continued in Star Wars: The Last Jedi reaches an astounding conclusion. 



A well written adaptation of the movie with a few additional details that didn't make it into the film due to streamlining. The prose are sharp, the descriptives on point and for me as a reader really took me into the world in a way that the film never did. 


Throw into the mix a deeper understanding of the characters and the chance to enjoy the thrills and spills in excellent combat sequences all round make the book, in my humble opinion way better than the movie. All in this is a great addition to any star wars collection and for me, demonstrates why Rae Carson is an author that is high on my tbr list.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Rivers of London 8: False Value - Ben Aaronovitch

Release Date: 17/09/20

Publisher:  Gollancz


The massively anticipated brand new Sunday Times bestselling RIVERS OF LONDON novel.

Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm.

Leaving his old police life behind, he takes a job with Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner's new London start up: the Serious Cybernetics Corporation.

Drawn into the orbit of Old Street's famous 'silicon roundabout', Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle.

But magic is not finished with the Met's first trainee wizard in fifty years...

Because a secret is hiding somewhere in the building. A technology that stretches back to Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and forward to the future of artificial intelligence. A secret that is just as magical as it technological - and twice as dangerous. 



I love the books by Ben and whilst I'm glued each time a new one arrives, I have to say that this one didn't feel quite as polished as a number of other titles.  It felt that the dialogue felt forced, the characters didn't feel like they were developing despite major changes in their lives and when an old foe returned it left me disappointed as they were there more for a cameo and not to do or say anything.

All in, whilst I felt disappointment with this title, I did enjoy it and against a lot of other writing out there it is still a cracking british urban crime fantasy, but when you look against what has come before, for me, this one was sadly flat. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

FANTASY REVIEW: Age of Madness 2: The Trouble with Peace - Joe Abercrombie

Release Date: 15/09/20

Publisher: Gollancz


Second in the AGE OF MADNESS trilogy, THE TROUBLE WITH PEACE is the next instalment of a series which is revolutionising fantasy . . . Conspiracy. Betrayal. Rebellion. Peace is just another kind of battlefield . . . 


Savine dan Glokta, once Adua's most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way. 


For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye . . . before it kills her. 


Unrest worms into every layer of society. The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply. 


The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever. 



The second book in Joe's Age of Madness series is another wonderfully written epic tale where twists and turns keep the reader guessing as to what is going to happen. As you'll expect from his writing, the prose is razor sharp, the pace even through quieter sections wonderfully brisk and whilst you do get chance to breath, he knows what to do to keep you on the edge of your seat. 


When it happens, action is fast, deadly and precise with no extra fuss, just letting it speak for itself which when backed with top notch characters that you what to spend time around, all round makes this another gem that will be reread (if not before) in time for the next outing.

Monday, 7 September 2020

YOUNG ADULT COMPENDIUM REVIEW: The Time Travelling Caveman - Terry Pratchett

Release Date: 03/09/20

Publisher: Doubleday


*A brand new collection of short stories from the incredible Sir Terry Pratchett!*

Imagination is an amazing thing.

It can take you to the top of the highest mountain, or down to the bottom of the deepest depths of the sea.

This is where it took Doggins on his Awfully Big Adventure: a quest full of magic and flying machines. (And the world's best joke - trust me, it's hilarious.)

It took three young inventors to the moon (where they may or may not have left a bottle of lemonade) and a caveman on a trip to the dentist.

You can join them on these adventures, and many more, in this incredible collection of stories . . . 



If you're wondering how to introduce your child to the wonderful writing of Terry Pratchett, before you get on to my personal favourite of the Discworld. However whilst there are books for younger readers by the author, I've always found that short stories are the way to go. This recently released title brings his imagination to the fore with a collection of stories originally published (and since polished up by Terry) in his local papers.

Its has a story for every type of reader, is easy to dip into and also accompanied with art that will just fire your child's brain with wonderful images and hopefully, at the end of the day, help the explore their own world and find the wonderment within. Magic.