Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Nigel: My family and other dogs - pre review thoughts

It is not often that I read biographies and even rarer that I read ones that heavily feature animals. The last was probably Marley and Me, and that absolutely wrecked me.

With 'Nigel' though, I feel I am on fairly safe ground. I know he's had injury problems by I also know he has recovered so I know this will have a happy ending. How do I know this? For those who don't know him, Nigel is the star of Gardeners' World* (BBC2 Friday's) where he is ably assisted by his friend and owner Monty Don. That 1/2 an hour on a Friday evening is pure tv gold, watching Nigel poddle along in the background as MD advises viewers on all things gardeny. And that's what drew me to this book. Seeing the way Nigel and MD interact together you know that here is a devoted pair. I'm already a few chapters in and already the mutual love between man and man's best friend is obvious.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy this (and hopefully the tears will be few and far between).

*although we rarely refer to it as Gardeners' World, it's usually "Nigel's on at 8"

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

C21st Gods by David Tallerman

If I'm being honest I don't usually bother with comics and graphic novels just because they go by so fast. This one has the name of David Tallerman on the cover so I decided to give it a go - and I am glad I did.

While investigating a series of gruesome murders discovers links to The Old Ones. Things are bad now and they aren't going to get better any time soon.

As you would expect from this kind of story a lot is owed to H P Lovecraft, the father of the Cthulhu Mythos so if you know HPL you know what to expect here. This is dark and gruesome stuff and Anthony Summey's art does a really good job of bringing the story to graphic life on the page.

The only complaint I have is that, as I said earlier, it is over too soon and I want the next volume NOW! (So I guess that's a good thing really).

Certainly worth a look as, for something so short it got me hooked straight away.


Friday, 10 March 2017

The Hammer and The Goat by Peter Newman

This short story is set during the timeline of Peter Newman's debut novel ' The Vagrant' so before you read this you really ought to read that. The story works as a backstory to one of the novel's characters, The Hammer Who Walks, with The Goat...well, The Goat is just being The Goat really. If you've read The Vagrant you'll know what to expect I guess.

What this tale did for me, more than anything else, is remind me what a bloomin' good author Mr Newman is. The Vagrant had a lead character who doesn't speak, The Hammer and The Goat has a lead who mainly speaks in single syllable words but the power of Newman's storytelling is such that the speech (or lack of) makes the characters even more alive and believable.

If you haven't read this author before, you really ought to give him a try... and get ready to meet the coolest, most scene stealingest goat in fantasy fiction


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

I'll be honest, I've had my eye on this ever since I clapped eyes on the cover a few months ago... and I'm pleased to say it didn't disappoint.

As the story starts we meet our lead hero, Clay 'Slowhand' Cooper, former member of the titular Kings of the Wyld, the most feared and famous mercenary band of their time. That time is in the past though and he is now making his living as part of the Town Guard and spending the evenings with his wife and daughter. Retirement from The Kings is suiting Clay just fine... until the day he comes home to find Gabe, The Kings old gang leader on his doorstep, looking all the worse for wear and wanting to ask a favour.

As it turns out Gabe's daughter has taken up the role of mercenary, set up her own 'band' and ended up in a city under siege at the other end of land. Gabe is going to try and rescue her but he can't do it alone. He wants to reform The Kings of the Wyld for one last mission.*

It's time to get the band back together!

What follows from here is one of the craziest adventures it's been my pleasure to read in a long while. The world here is huge and populated with a vast array of races and creatures. The laughs come quick and often but it is not just a comedy novel, more an adventure with comedic elements.

The 'Kings' themselves (one of whom actually IS a king now) are a good fun bunch to spend time with, so much so that the nearly 500 pages flew past way too quickly. I'll be honest, I didn't want it to end.

How best to describe this book? I'd probably say Dungeons and Dragons meets Spinal Tap - and I guess that tells you all you need to know. The next time The Band reforms I promise you one thing - I'll be in the front row.

An excellent debut and a name to keep an eye out for in the future 5/5 stars

*Let's be honest though, this book is so damned good there's no way this will be the last mission.

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholas - A Review

So, this is what I have been dipping into for the last few weeks. The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen (subtitled 'Awesome Female Characters From Comic Book History') is one of those books that is exactly what the title says it is. What we have here is a decade by decade look at female comic book characters from the 1930's (with the likes of 'Sally the Sleuth' and 'Torchy Brown') right up to the present ('Deathface Ginny', 'Maika Halfwolf') with each decade getting a 'Hero Of The Decade', which gets, understandably, slightly more coverage.

To look at some of these 'comic heroines' you can't help but cringe at how bad some of them seem (Angel O'Day - A martial-arts trained detective who solves crime with her gorilla partner, being a prime example) but there are a lot that would be worth looking up at the next comic fair. There is, especially in the earlier decades a fair number of 'feisty female detectives' and 'heroine nurses' but these soon give way to more superhero types as time moves on.

Each Superwoman entry is accompanied by an illustration or comic panel (although, this being a preview copy, not all are available in my edition) which gives you an idea of the quality of artwork through the decades (and yes, a lot of them seem to be "how many curves can we give our heroine" and aimed as much at the titillation of male readers as anything).

I will admit that I didn't know of a lot of these Superwomen but I guess I can put that down to marketing and me not being 'target audience' I guess. I do. however, feel that this book has given me a better idea of the role of these heroes in the history of comics.

In short then, an interesting and informative look at the role of Superwomen in comic books, a very nicely put together volume and a must for those with an interest in the genre. More a book for dipping into than a cover to cover read but certainly one I am proud to have on my shelf.


Publication date May 2nd, 2017

Friday, 24 February 2017

Review Copies In The Post Today

 First up was this set of collectable cards that accompany the book (which is quite wonderful and be reviewed on here soon) from Quirk Books.
 Next through the letterbox was 'Hunger Makes The Wolf' from Angry Robot Books (which looks a whole lot of fun 😁)
And then came this pair from Gollancz - Sharp Ends is a collection of shorts from The World of the First Law and The Hatching is horror with spiders - what's not to love 😁

All will be reviewed on here in good time.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams - A Review

In the beginning was The Copper Cat, and it was good...very, very good. So good I wondered how Jen Williams could possibly improve on it.

And then The Ninth Rain landed on my doormat and my question was answered.

A new story, with new characters, in a new world and it is all good. There is history in this tale and it feels real.

There is a race of people, the Eborans, a kind of elf/vampire people who were the world's defenders until a disease depleted their numbers. The 'old enemy' is coming back though and who will save the day now?

One of the Eborans has left his city before the illness gets to him and he has teamed up with eccentric explorer and female Indiana Jones type Lady Vincenza ('Vintage' to her friends) to investigate Behemoths, mysterious artefacts left behind from previous invasions. The 'magic' side of the equation comes from Noon, a Fell-Witch, who can produce a magical fire. Unfortunately, Fell-Witches are despised so much they are hunted down and imprisoned in The Winnowry, from where non ever escape (except Noon, obviously, who flees on the back of a giant bat - I know, right, A Giant Bat!! How cool is that?!!).

Between the three of them they may be the only answer to the coming invasion.

As a novel The Ninth Rain is quite huge in scope. Both the world and the characters seem bigger than in The Copper Cat series and this only goes to show just how much Jen is growing as an author with every book she writes. Where she really stands out though, for me, is that she seems to put thought behind why things happen, it's never 'just because', so here are two examples.

In the Copper Cat series one of the main characters, Sebastian, was kicked out of the knighthood after being found to be having a relationship with a fellow knight. It is clear from the outset Sebastian is gay but when you consider that he joined the knights as a young boy and basically grew up in a male only environment it's not really that surprising. He doesn't come across as a 'token' figure.

The same thing happens in The Ninth Rain. Tormalin, the Eboran, as I've mentioned before is a kind of elf/vampire hybrid. His people live a long, long time (well, until the illness strikes). Now, Tor is by all accounts, a fine looking, hunky chap and one hell of a lover. You might think 'yeah, yeah, sexy vampire blah, blah, blah' but you'd be wrong, and it all comes down to the author putting in 'the reason'. And the reason is this - The Eborans are so long lived they dedicate a certain amount of their time (in Tor's case many years) studying the art of love making at The House of the Long Night. With this their transaction of awesome sex in exchange for blood makes a lot of sense.

It would be an understatement for me to say The Ninth Rain is a good book. It is better than anything Jen Williams has written before (and The Copper Cat books are among my favourites of all time). I cannot recommend this highly enough so go get yourself a copy and join Vintage, Tor and Noon in this exceptionally good adventure.

7/5 stars (my blog, my rules 😉)