Monday, 31 August 2020

SCI-FI REVIEW: Star Wars - Legends: Thrawn: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command - Timothy Zahn

Release Date: 27/08/20

Publisher: Century  


SYNOPSIS:

It’s five years after the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and drove the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting Jedi twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights. 

 

But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to build. 

 

Features a bonus section following the novel that includes a primer on the Star Wars expanded universe, and over half a dozen excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years! 

 

REVIEW:

An original appearance with Thrawn and a character that for me is equally as fascinating as the rebel alliance main cast. Set a few years after the fall of the emperor and written in the early 90's, this book became cannon prior to some rewriting due to the change of ownership. As you'd expect with Zahn, it has a good understanding of pace, a wonderful series of twists and turns and of course characters that you really want to spend time around. A real joy to sit down with and return to brighter days as well as reintroduce myself when facing the latest offering in the next few days. Magic 

 

 

Release Date: 27/08/20

Publisher: Century  


SYNOPSIS:

The dying Empire’s most cunning and ruthless warlord, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has taken command of the remnants of the Imperial fleet and launched a massive campaign aimed at the New Republic’s destruction. Meanwhile, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian race against time to find proof of treason inside the highest Republic Council—only to discover instead a ghostly fleet of warships that could bring doom to their friends and victory to their enemies.

Yet most dangerous of all is a new Dark Jedi, risen from the ashes of a shrouded past, consumed by bitterness, and scheming to corrupt Luke Skywalker to the dark side.

Features a bonus section following the novel that includes a primer on the Star Wars expanded universe, and over half a dozen excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years!

REVIEW:

More from Thrawn and the myriad of associated characters as the reader is once again whisked away into a universe far far away. As with the original novel in this series, the reader has solid character development, some solid twists and turns that add extra flavour and help colour how the vacumn is being filled left by Vader's and the Emperor's death and for me, really does give the reader a series that is great fun to spend time around.

Whilst it might be an unpopular choice I would love to spend more time within the imperial sector rather than with the rebels, purely as its so interesting to get to see a counter argument to the rebellion. 

 Add to the mix, dialogue that moves the plot along and a spartan descriptive style that allows you to get to the meat of the story rather than some which have extra fluff added to increase the size.  



Release Date: 27/08/20

Publisher: Century  


SYNOPSIS:

The embattled Republic reels from the attacks of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has marshaled the remnants of the Imperial forces and driven the Rebels back with an abominable technology recovered from the Emperor’s secret fortress: clone soldiers. As Thrawn mounts his final siege, Han Solo and Chewbacca struggle to form a coalition of smugglers for a last-ditch attack, while Princess Leia holds the Alliance together and prepares for the birth of her Jedi twins.

The Republic has one last hope—sending a small force into the very stronghold that houses Thrawn’s terrible cloning machines. There a final danger awaits, as the Dark Jedi C’baoth directs the battle against the Rebels and builds his strength to finish what he already started: the destruction of Luke Skywalker.

Features a bonus section following the novel that includes a primer on the Star Wars expanded universe, and over half a dozen excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years! 

 

REVIEW:

The final part in this series and one that has been building for an epic conclusion as events that will come to shape the future of the universe are played out on a galactic chess board. Well crafted, topped off with characters on all sides that you care about really does leave you in doubt about the conclusion as you reader really want to see either side lose.

As usual with Zahn, great dialogue, top notch pose and characters that just step out of the pages into the readers imagination in such a way that this series is a firm fan favourite and a great way to spend quite a few hours during this difficult time.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Dark Ages 3: The Bear King - James Wilde

Release Date: 20/08/20

Publisher: Bantam Press


SYNOPSIS:

Bridging the gap between 'Game of Thrones' and Bernard Cornwell comes the third and final chapter in James Wilde's epic adventure of betrayal, battle and bloodshed . . .

AD 375 - The Dark Age is drawing near . . .

As Rome's legions abandon their forts, chaos grows on the fringes of Britannia. In the far west, the shattered forces of the House of Pendragon huddle together in order to protect the royal heir – their one beacon of hope.

For Lucanus, their great war leader, is missing, presumed dead. And the people are abandoning them. For in this time of crisis, a challenger has arisen, a False King with an army swollen by a horde of bloody-thirsty barbarians desperate for vengeance.

One slim hope remains for Lucanus’ band of warrior-allies, the Grim Wolves. Guided by the druid, Myrrdin, they go in search of a great treasure – a vessel that is supposedly a gift from the gods. Success will mean a war unlike any other, a battle between two kings for a legacy that will echo down the centuries. And should they fail? Well, then all is lost . . .

This is the shattering conclusion to James Wilde’s rousing reimagining of the myth of King Arthur . . . 

 

REVIEW:

The third book in the series and one hell of a novel that takes out the dark ages with a huge bang. As with James' work its a pure joy to dive into, the characters are people you want to spend time around, the dialogue is crisp but for me, the thing that James does extremely well is no nonsense action sequences that allow you to enjoy the full scope of whats happening with out losing sight of the minutae.

Its well written, has solid prose and all round is an author that really leaves me wanting more. I'm always sad when I finish a book that I've loved and whilst its a long wait for the next installment I take great comfort in rereads where I notice other details that I missed on the first read.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Maximum Ride: Hawk 1: Hawk - James Patterson

Release Date: 23/07/20

Publisher: Arrow (Young)


SYNOPSIS:

Maximum Ride lost her fight to save the world. But from the ashes of the old world, a phoenix has risen… she calls herself Hawk.

Hawk doesn't know her real name. She doesn't know who her parents were, or where they went. The only thing she remembers is that they told to wait on a street corner until they came back for her.

That was ten years ago.

The day that she finally gives up waiting is the moment her life changes for ever. Because the promise becomes reality: someone is coming for her.

But it's not a rescue. It's an execution. 

 

REVIEW:

To be honest I know that James Patterson mentors a lot of writers and releases a lot of books each year, however I do wonder who is there to monitor quality as well as maintaining the good name of an author with this title.

It felt like a rushed job, had no real characters development, lacked any pace and overall sadly left me with dialogue that was more filler than substance. Sadly add to the mix that it felt like a rush job in order to grab some cash and all round I was left feeling very disappointed.

Friday, 28 August 2020

SPIRITUAL REVIEW: Psychic Witch - Matt Auryn

Release Date: 01/03/20

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications


SYNOPSIS:

Discover how to be a powerful psychic witch with this book on wielding energy and awakening your psychic senses. Psychic Witch explores the relationship between psychic ability and magick, interweaving them to create a strong foundation for accessing the full potential of your mind, body, and spirit. Mat Auryn reveals some of his most closely guarded tips, practices, and meditations so that you can master the perception and manipulation of energy. Featuring over ninety exercises and the inner tools you need to perform magick anywhere and at any time, Psychic Witch helps you tune in to yourself and the subtle energies of the world 

 

 

REVIEW:

To quote Shakespeare "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Hamlet Act 1 Scene 5) and to be honest I feel thats pretty much true when your delving into magic and other new age ways to help live your life. 

 

Each person has to find a path that works for them and for some, like me, its discovering the magic within and learning to enhance and utilise it to improve my life. Its one of the reasons why I read so many spiritual titles. Each adds a little something to my understanding and whilst bits and pieces fit within my own philosophies I really love finding my own path . 

 

This title by Matt Auryn takes the reader on a journey into a different area, and whilst its pretty common now to find books dealing with moon or sun magic, finding something that deals more with following your own intuition and tapping into its potential is a lot harder. 

 

Matt's writing style is easy to follow, gives you exercises in order to follow and all in has helped me to become more intuitive within my own life, I love the way that i can dive in and reread as well as relearn earlier parts as i develop and whilst Im still a novice I am noticing differences when I make choices that are improving my life. A solid read.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

HISTORICAL FICTION URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Devil's Bride - Mark Alder

Release Date: 10/04/20

Publisher:  Gollancz


SYNOPSIS:

The story of Julie D'Aubigny is well known. Her tumultuous childhood, her powerful lovers, her celebrated voice. Connected to most of the nobility of 17th century Paris, feted for her performance, unwilling to live by the rules of her society, she took female lovers, fought duels with noblemen and fled from city to country and back again. 

 

But now the real truth can be told. She also made a deal with the devil.  He gave her no powers or help, but he kept her alive for only one reason. To take revenge... 

 

REVIEW:

When history gives larger than life characters to the world, authors often turn their attention to them and whilst I know Julie D'Aubigny by historical reference, getting to meet the character in Marks book was not only an eye opener but presents a character that you really wish more was written about. She has some cracking traits that appeal to a modern audience which in her time were considered scandalous. Is figuratively and descriptively well rounded. Has a great sense of purpose with cracking dialogue that just trips off the page, almost as if the amalgamation was part D'Aubigny and part Mae West. 

 

The story is far ranging, really does bring this period of french history to the fore and with Marks wonderful sense of prose and pace, really gives you something that you will not only love but will have a place on your favourite shelf and is a cracker for anyone looking for something wonderful to distract them at this time.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

SPIRITUAL REVIEW: Essential Oils for Beginners - Kac Young

Release Date: 08/02/20

Publisher:  Llewellyn Publications


SYNOPSIS:

This approachable guide shares the secrets to improving your health and wellness through the use of twenty essential oils specifically chosen for their versatility and practicality. Kac Young shows you how these oils can be made into cleaning products, massage oils, aromatics, aphrodisiacs, magical formulas, and more. Explore the many ways essential oils can be used for personal empowerment and well-being, such as peppermint for pain relief and rosemary for weight loss. Designed to help you enjoy essential oils throughout your life, this impressive book provides profiles for each oil, application and safety guidelines, diffusing and pairing insights, recipes, and more. A must-have resource for your bookshelf, Essential Oils for Beginners enhances spirituality, happiness, beauty, and fortitude. 

 

REVIEW:

Whilst i have used essential oils for a number of years, I've never really learned which one is meant to promote various health benefits and to aid in other area's such as your own magical practices, crafting massage oils and cleaning products. 

 

Its well crafted, explains which scents go with which and how to build on various notes on differing levels to create new scents for your own personal scents. In addition, its easy to reference, is something that is easy to thumb through and find the various sections you want and above all else is written in an easy to understand manner in order to help you learn as you go without wasting expensive materials. 

 

All round a very happy reader and one that will keep returning to this title time and again not only to check basics but in order to help build up other options for future use.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Damned Emperor's 2: Commodus - Simon Turney

Release Date: 05/03/20

Publisher: Orion Books


SYNOPSIS:

Rome is enjoying a period of stability and prosperity. The Empire's borders are growing, and there are two sons in the imperial succession for the first time in Rome's history. But all is not as it appears. Cracks are beginning to show. Two decades of war have taken their toll, and there are whispers of a sickness in the East. The Empire stands on the brink of true disaster, an age of gold giving way to one of iron and rust, a time of reason and strength sliding into hunger and pain. The decline may yet be halted, though. One man tries to hold the fracturing empire together. To Rome, he is their emperor, their Hercules, their Commodus. But Commodus is breaking up himself, and when the darkness grips, only one woman can hold him together. To Rome she was nothing. The plaything of the emperor. To Commodus, she was everything. She was Marcia. 

 

REVIEW:

Apart from the big named emperors this is one that I do know a little about prior to reading and whilst most are familiar with the name due the gladiator film with Russell Crowe where Joaquin Phoenix played the aforementioned emperor many others draw a blank when asked as to whom he is. 

 

This title by Simon takes the reader on a journey through the eyes of a female acquaintance of Commodus through the years of growing up and one who has to learn to live in a dangerous time of Rome where one wrong word would have repercussions either through the point of a knife or more subtle means. 

 

 Its well written, really takes you into the world of ancient Rome and above all else allows you to get to know the players with in the tale so much so that you care about their fates. Back this up with solid prose, dialogue that leaps off the page and of course a story that really does draw you in all round makes this second title in Simon's Damned Emperor series a hard title to put down. I can't wait to see what Simon hits back with next, especially as at the end of this period we're about to hit the year of the five emperors, a really twisted time where no one knows where they stood and ideal fertile historical fiction material.

Monday, 24 August 2020

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Camelot - Giles Kristian

Release Date:  14/05/20

Publisher: Bantam Press


SYNOPSIS:

'So beautiful, so haunting . . . bitingly real . . . Giles has given us a vital, glorious story: rich, rewarding, and utterly revealing of our times' Manda Scott 

 

Following his acclaimed Sunday Times bestseller, Lancelot, Giles Kristian's new novel returns us to the realms of Arthurian legend . . . 

 

Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been seen these past ten years. Now, the Saxons are gathering again, their warbands stalk the land, their king seeks dominion. As for the lords and kings of Britain, they look only to their own survival and will not unite as they once did under Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur. 

 

But in an isolated monastery in the marshes of Avalon, a novice of the order is preparing to take his vows when the life he has known is suddenly turned upside down in a welter of blood. Two strangers - the wild-spirited, Saxon-killing Iselle and the ageing warrior Gawain - will pluck the young man from the wreckage of his simple existence. Together, they will seek the last druid and the cauldron of a god. And the young man must come to terms with his legacy and fate as the son of the most celebrated yet most infamous of Arthur's warriors: Lancelot. 

 

For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son – the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive . . . 

 

REVIEW:

Im a huge fan of anything to do with the Arthurian period as well as a tale that takes me into a world that is rich in imagination and gives me top notch action alongside characters I care about. Whilst in some respects this is a revamped version of Gallahad's story, what Giles has done is present the reader with a tale that whilst keeping a lot of the elements of the original has not only a new spin but something thats brought up for the modern reader. 

 

Its dark, has some good twists and when added to Giles' writing style affords the reader cracking prose alongside top notch action which when backed with characters that you feel like you understand not only their motives but their hope and dreams thanks to the slower build up, all round generates a book that is hard to put down.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

SPIRITUAL REVIEW: Llewellyn Complete Book of Reiki - Melissa Tipton

Release Date: 29/02/20

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications


SYNOPSIS:

TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE WITH REIKI Discover the deep healing benefits of reiki and learn how to begin or advance your own practice. Llewellyn's Complete Book of Reiki shares the many ways reiki can uplift your spirit and restore your well-being. With dozens of exercises and more than 100 illustrations showing hand positions, symbols, and more, this thorough reference book is ideal for students and practitioners of every level. Within these pages, you will find helpful information and practical tips on the most important topics in reiki, including: 

 

• Vibrational Healing • Sensing Energy • Hand Positions • Symbols • Mantras • Traditional and Non-Traditional Techniques • Reiki Self-Practice • Professional Practice • Conducting Sessions • Teaching Reiki • Reiki Attunements • Reiki for Children and Pets • And More 

 

Reiki has the power to change your life from the inside out, and the more you interact with this energy, the more profound and far reaching the changes will be. This book shares insights into the many branches of reiki, helping you unlock your inner gifts for improved physical health, emotional balance, and spiritual vitality. 

 

REVIEW:

As a person who has utilised Reiki for a number of years, I love to find ways to improve my own practice and to enhance the experience not only for the recipient but also for myself as the practisioner.   This title has a great many exercises for the reader to follow, explains clearly the origin of reiki as well as how to utilise your full potential. 

 

Its written from a point of view of one who understands the practice, has a great deal of advice and is easy to follow and refer back to.    All in, as usual, from Llewellyn a title that will be used to as a reference guide time and again and is worth its weight in gold.  Cracking.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

SPIRITUAL REVIEW: The Reiki Teachers Manual - Tina M Zion

Release Date: 20/01/20

Publisher: WriteLife Publishing


SYNOPSIS:

This standard-setting book is designed for students, practitioners, and teachers of Reiki--newly enhanced to enrich classes for current teachers, give new teachers confidence, and offer practitioners a greater understanding of what is actually happening during a session. This manual includes a quick reference to answer student questions, consecutive steps with time approximations, ideas for structuring hands-on practice sessions, methods to increase the power of your attunement, ways to teach attunement to others, detailed descriptions and uses for the symbols, fifteen concise and informative handouts, a list of supplies for each class, and more. 

 

REVIEW:

Whilst I'm not quite a beginner in Reiki, I've never known how to expand things so that I can help pass on what I've learned to others and that's what this title does for the reader, walking through everything from setting up being able to teach it to others but also helps you build your reputation through word of mouth and practices as a professional service. 

 

It has good business practices within, helps you hone your own skills and also allows the reader access to teaching materials that will help you in your goal. Its professional and spoken to the reader with the authority of someone who has walked this walk and come out the other side. 

 

Each reader will take various lessons away from each reading and with an easily accessible help section within alongside idea's on how to put together good handouts for your clients all round makes this a title that will be read quite a few times.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Ghost of Tsushima - Sucker Punch

Release Date:  17/07/20

Publisher: Sucker Punch


SYNOPSIS:

In the late 13th century, the mongol empire has laid waste to entire nations along their campaign to conquer the East. Tsushima island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive mongol invasion fleet led by the ruthless and cunning General, Khotun Khan. As the island burns in the wake of the first wave of the mongol assault, Samurai Warrior Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving members of his clan. He is resolved do whatever it takes, at any cost, to protect his people and reclaim his home. He must set aside the traditions that have shaped him as a Warrior to forge a new path, the path of the Ghost, and wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Tsushima. 

 

REVIEW:

I loved the look of this game from its very first teaser trailer that I saw and couldn't wait to give this title a go especially as it had a great studio behind it (Sucker Punch) whose other previous titles I'd had a lot of fun with.

So what does this title offer?

Well firstly and perhaps most importantly its a game that is a huge open world setting during the time of the Mongol invasion of the Japanese island of Tsushima in 1274. It has beautiful scenery, is idyllically coloured and brings a realism to the landscape that just captures your imagination.

The protagonist has flaws who in the opening sequence sees his beliefs and way of life devastated and has to find his own way in a new world that challenges him to the core in order to save his people. There are multiple twists and turns to his arc, each of which allows you to change your tactics as well as re-evaluating what you will and won't do to save your world which is then also given additional believability with a huge supporting cast of characters who each have their own back stories as well as goals throughout the game.

Each aspect adds multiple layers to draw you in as well as giving the player the chance to see how each section develops the various arcs with numerous options on tactics and combat styles and whilst I loved getting new additions the key thing I found was you could quickly be overwhelmed and hit area's of the story that you weren't quite ready for earlier than expected.

I would say to have multiple saves in case you need to go back because you hit an area too soon and encourage gamer's to fully explore the section of the world that they're in, in order to get the most of finding things such as charms, shrines and hot springs. Its worth doing as not only do you get to fully explore the beauty that this world has to offer but also affords you many opportunities to try out the unique photo mode that will have you taking multiple snaps throughout.

All in I had a lot of hours put into this and whilst I haven't fully picked up every trophy yet, I'm working on it even after the main story and the only two complaints that I had at the end of it was that I wasn't ready to finish and that I would have liked the options of other main weapons not just a katana. Don't get me wrong it was extremely well done especially when fighting duels, becoming cinematic but as a fan of pole arms I would have liked to be able to use one or even a chain weapon or two. That said, it is a really a minor gripe and for the final AA title for the PS4 its one hell of a swan song although I do wonder if they might have been better saving this for the release of the PS5.