Friday 30 December 2016

The BlogCave Best Of 2016 (shorter than planned version)

Right then, as another year draws to a close it's time for me to look back on my favourite books of the past twelve months. Due to 'stuff' this is probably going to be a fairly brief post (well briefer than I originally planned) but hopefully I may be able to expand it a little in the new year.

I'm going to start with  

Best Young Adult novel - Three favourites in this category and all came from David Fickling Books. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and The Call by Peadar O'Guilin would have both been good enough to take the title any other year but The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt just took the lead as it was the one that constantly had me thinking 'NO! He's not going to go there' (Spoiler Alert - He did)
 Reviews for all three can be found on the blog post list

Next up -

Best Collection

To be fair there was only one contender for this as this one blew all others out of the water - Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson. This is a collection of his shorter tales from The Cosmere with added extra bits. Some of these I'd read before but having them all in one edition really gives you an idea of the scope of the man's imagination.

And now for a bit that a lot of people will disagree with me about

Biggest Disappointment

This goes to Mr. King's little boy Joe Hill for The Fireman - started out really well but just tapered off and lost my attention. I'd really been looking forward to it too as I've really enjoyed his other stuff.

Right, back to the good stuff now.

Best Shorter Novel

Several were up for this, namely:

Bradley P Beaulieu - Of Sand And Malice Made
Paul Kane - Sherlock Holmes and The Servants of Hell
ClovenHoof and The Trump Of Doom

but appearing on tables in Waterstones already, Tad Williams scoops this one with 'The Heart of What Was Lost' a return to his land of Osten Ard.

Best Short Story In An Anthology

This one goes to KT Davies for 'The Devil's Spoke' which was in 'Eve of War', a cracking anthology from those lovely folks at Fox Spirit Books. Any of these stories could have come out on top but 'Spoke' was the one above them all that had me really wanting more, to see the short turned into a novel.

Best Horror

This one does go to Paul Kane - Sherlock Holmes v The Cenobites in 'Sherlock Holmes and The Servants of Hell' by an author who is pretty much an expert on both Holmes and all things Hellraiser. A corker of a read

Finally (for now)

Best Novel

Again many to choose from here but, narrowing it down

New Pompeii - Daniel Godfrey
The Tiger and The Wolf - Adrian Tchaikovsky
Spiderlight - Mr Tchaikovsky again
The Black River Chronicles - David Tallerman and Michael Wills
The Malice - Peter Newman
The High King's Vengeance (which I am 3/4s of the way through) - Steven Poore

All most excellent but there is one that stood out for me, and that is

                                                  DRUM ROLL.............

The Silver Tide by Jen Williams. This will probably not come as a surprise to many as I seem to have been 'bigging up' both this book and the Copper Cat series to all and sundry constantly.
 So, why this book? Well, it's the end of the series, ends needed tying up and they were. Once again the location, and thus the type of story changed (this was Pirates of The Caribbean ish with added time travel). The story has got better with each volume (and it started off at level AWESOME). And then there was the ending, oh my days the ending. The final scene is one of such cinematic beauty and wonder that, I'm not ashamed to say, I had a tear in my eye. THAT is how you finish a series.

And now, just because I can, I'm adding a final category

Best Debut

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey (review, as with most of the mentions on here on the blog list page) - Jurassic Park but with Romans instead of Dinosaurs. Epic Stuff

So, maybe not as brief as it was going to be but there you have it. 2016 has been a good year for books and I feel 2017 may well be even better

Have yourselves a Happy New Year and see you in the future

Monday 26 December 2016

Clovenhoof and the Trump of Doom by Heide Goody and Iain Grant - A Review

For those of you not familiar with the series Jeremy Clovenhoof is The Devil, Satan himself, kicked out of Hell and now living in a small flat in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. Also exiled, this time from Heaven, and also living in the suburbs of Birmingham is the former Archangel Michael, Clovenhoofs nemesis (although they do get on, to a point). Also, if you aren't familiar with the series do please go and look up the other books, you really are missing a treat.

Anyhow, back to business, as this chapter in the misadventures of Clovenhoof opens it is the last day of October 2016 and both himself and Michael, with the aid of Nostradamus' Apocalypse Bingo realise that the End Of The World could well be nigh. There are 16 signs on Nostradamus' Apocalypse Bingo and 15 of them have come to pass. If Donald Trump was to win the US Election in one weeks time that would (probably) be the 16th and final sign, the end of the world, and Clovenhoof hasn't finished watching Game of Thrones yet.

Between the two of the them Clovenhoof and Michael plan to disrupt things and postpone The End Of Days. Clovenhoof will go to America and do all he can to derail Trump's attempts to win the Race For The Whitehouse while Michael will attempt to reverse Brexit by reuniting Britain and Europe with the greatest Eurovision Song Contest entry ever.

As you would expect, nothing really goes completely to plan

Not even remotely close to plan

At times you forget there ever was a plan.

And that is where this book, like the others in the series, shines, The chaos that ensues is such that I often find myself thinking 'no, he isn't going to do that' but still laughing out loud when the inevitable happens.

I may have said in previous reviews that, although Jeremy Clovenhoof is Satan, he is more of a likeable rogue than the Ultimate Crown Prince of Evil. Any time spent with him In the works of Goody and Grant is something I look forward to and although I dread to think what he will be up to next I await further adventures eagerly.

5/5* and a bottle of Lambrini

The Black River Chronicles: Level One by David Tallerman and Michael Wills

If, like me, you are a fan of Dungeons and Dragons style 'quest' novels you'll be used to the idea of the 'quest party'. You know the kind of thing I mean - a collection of heroes, each with their own individual skills, i.e. a Mage, a Healer, a Warrior,  a Rogue, a Ranger. The thing is, each story seems to start with a fully formed party all ready for action. You may get a bit of origin story but, to be fair, nobody ever really asks the questions, how do you become a renowned Mage, Warrior or Ranger, how do you get yourself started on the path to becoming a questing hero.

Until now that is. The Black River Chronicles tells the story of four aspiring heroes, Areinelimus Ironheart Thundertree (Wizard), Hule Tremick (Fighter), Tia Locke (Rogue) and Durren Flintrand (Ranger) as they try to make their way through The Black River Academy for  Swordcraft and Spellcraft (a Hogwarts for the Questing world is probably the best comparison),

At the Academy all pupils are split into one of four groups (Wizard, Fighter, Rogue or Ranger) where they learn the tricks of the trade for their particular skillset. After a while they are put into 'parties' (one from each group) where they will have to learn to work together and complete quests set by the Academy with the aim of raising their capabilities and 'levelling up'. As you would expect, our four heroes don't get on particularly well at the start and when their first quest mission ends in spectacular failure all does not look good for the future. Thankfully they are saved when Storesmaster Cullglass takes a chance on them, setting them other quest missions which are slightly more successful but........don't things seem a little bit 'off''? What does Cullglass want with the artifacts our heroes retrieve? Will they ever reach Level Two?

What we have with this book is a great fun read where the pages just fly by, plenty of questing, adventuring, Dungeons, magic, battles and traps. The characters are interesting, each with their own little secrets and the world, as it opens out, is an adventurers dream, For me the pages just flew by and I won't lie, I was disappointed when it was all over. Here's hoping for more adventures with Durren, Areine, Tia and Hule - and the sooner the better for me


Wednesday 14 December 2016

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

The Hanging Tree is the 6th in the 'Peter Grant' series and follows on from Foxglove Summer. Whilst very much in the same vein as the previous 5 books (crime is committed, turns out to be magic related, PG gets out of his depth but wins through) it shows no sign of becoming tired (or of winding down any time soon)

This time around a young woman dies from an overdose at a party in one of the wealthier areas of London, which just happened to be attended by the daughter of Lady Ty and said daughter is claiming she supplied the pills. Lady Ty (one of the many Gods and Goddesses of the London rivers) asks Grant to prove her daughter is lying and clear her name. Throw into the mix a magical work by Sir Isaac Newton, an appearance by shady American 'special ops' types and the return (as expected) of Grant's nemesis The Faceless Man and his ex colleague Lesley and you have what could, in other hands, be a very 'busy' book.

And that is the one thing that always surprises me with these books - the pace always feels steady, even with the action scenes (and there are a good few of these), never seeming to get above a gentle trot.

Where did The Hanging Tree succeed? - well, in bringing Peter Grant back to The Capitol after 'Foxglove Summer' had taken him out into the wilds of the British countryside there was more vibrancy to the story for me. I enjoy seeing more of the mystical side of London, the supernatural folk and the history too.

The story kept me guessing for a good while and the supernatural elements seemed plausible and the story itself moved Grant's development as a character along nicely.

Where did it not succeed? - for me The Faceless Man thing needs either tying up or putting on the backburner for a while. He is starting to get like The Master in 70s Doctor Who, where you know he is going to make an appearance whatever the story event is and will outwit our hero enough to be back again in the next episode. I'm always hoping for resolution with the Lesley angle as well - I still can't believe she has gone over to Team Faceless but again The Hanging Tree hasn't really resolved anything there.

So, I guess the question is, did I enjoy The Hanging Tree?

Easy answer that one - YES!

Would I recommend it to others?

Most certainly, but I would advise reading the series in order.

3.9/5 stars

Friday 9 December 2016

Magician's End by Raymond E Feist (or, Time To Man Up and Get On With It 😉)

Back around the time I left school in 1983 I picked up a copy of Magician by (then) new author Raymond E Feist. I guess it was another of the books that started me on my fantasy reading path as it is still one of my 'go to' reads all these years on. Over the years I've picked up all his books and devoured each and every one. Admittedly some were better than others but all were of a decent standard and all were enjoyed.

Three years ago the series finished with Magician's End and although I have owned a signed copy since then I've never started it. I guess I don't want the journey to be over but now the time has come to turn the page and start the final journey.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Earlier this week I posted my review of Brandon Sanderson's 'Arcanum Unbounded'. As you may have guessed I am a big fan of Mr. Sanderson's work and at the same time I received my copy of AU I also got a copy of his debut novel 'Elantris'.

I first read 'Elantris' back probably sometime round 2008. I heard that Brandon was finishing Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' series after RJ's passing and wanted to see what he was like as an author so 'Elantris' was the book I chose. The story is one that pretty much stands fantasy tropes on their heads and I liked that. The idea of peasant turns out to be secret heir to the throne and hero in waiting has been much used, maybe overused at times so what BS did was to have the Prince become, more or less, a 'non-person'.

So, "Yay!" for something different but that wasn't, on it's own going to be enough. What about secondary characters, what about World building? Again, happy to be able to say both were competently handled. Brandon handles his characters well, keeping them interesting but fairly 'real'. As for world building - anyone who has read BS will know just how big his ideas are and I guess 'Elantris' was just the start of his plans for the Cosmere. The world feels solid and believable and stays in the memory long after the story is told. I was sold on Brandon Sanderson early on in 'Elantris' and still am.

Why did I want to go back and reread 'Elantris'? Well, it's long been a favourite of mine and this new copy is "published with 10,000 words of bonus content" (according to the back page blurb) so I was curious. Would the extra content improve the book? Would the story still hold up as well as I remember it? The first question I still don't know the answer to. The bonus content is a few deleted scenes added at the end of the story, which are interesting but do they improve the story? Probably not much but I enjoyed reading them and looking at the ideas of 'what could have been'

As for whether the story still holds up, well that I can answer with a resounding "YES!" I felt I picked up on things I may have missed first time around but whether this was because of the extra words or just because this is a story told by a first time author already on top of his game, well, I'm tempted to go with the latter.

In short then, an excellent debut with plenty of fresh ideas. A fine place to start your journey into the worlds of The Cosmere.


Just out of curiosity, if anyone feels like responding, what was your first experience of reading Brandon Sanderson and what brought you to his books?

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Defender by G X Todd

Earlier this year, while attending Edge-Lit in Derby, I was lucky enough to be introduced to new author G X Todd. In short, she had a forthcoming book to push and I'm a reviewer so it was to be expected. Ms. Todd had a pamphlet which contained the opening pages of Defender and some other promotional bits and bobs. On the way home I opened said pamphlet and started to read.

Then I read it again.

When I got up the next morning I read it again, just to be sure.

Sometimes you just know when something comes along that is a bit special, and trust me, Defender is more than a bit special. That same day I got in touch with the author and made sure I could get my hands on a review copy when one became available. In due time one arrived - time to see if the whole thing matched up to the teaser.

The story is set seven years after an 'event' which saw a lot of the people suddenly hear a voice in their head that encouraged them to kill either themselves or each other. As a result of this 'event' the America in which this story is set is a much emptier place. There is a lot of mistrust, for obvious reasons - you can't always know who hears the voices and who doesn't.

Our heroes are Lacey, a 16 year old with a likeable attitude and Pilgrim, a solitary biker (who I saw as a cross between Jason Statham and The Undertaker). Two total opposites who are forced to get along when Lacey convinces Pilgrim to help her get to her sister's house 600 miles away.

At first it seemed a very easy going journey while I got to know the characters and get used to the voice in Pilgrim's head but then, around the 50 page mark (of 450 pages) everything exploded in a wealth of violence and horror and the whole pace of the story changed. From there on in it was a race to the end while not wanting it to be over. A lot of the characters we meet later in the story carry their own woes and troubles, making for an uncomfortable read at times - but, hey, it's the end of the world as we know it and (no matter what REM tell us) we're not expected to feel fine.

It will be compared, I guess, to the likes of King's 'The Stand' but for me there is one major difference - as much as I have enjoyed what I read of The Stand I have yet to finish it. Defender I just devoured.

G X Todd has written something a bit special here and, trust me, you are going to be hearing a lot about her and about Defender in 2017. G X Todd is not just going to be 'The Next Big Thing', she's going to be the benchmark for other 'Next Big Things'

And she drives a massive mobile library - how cool is that?????

So, I'm giving Defender 5* and marking it as one to watch for 2017.

Release date for Defender is January 12th 2017

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio

Early in October this year I received a review package from Quirk Books which held 'Warren the 13th and The Whispering Wood' and a sampler of 'Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye'. 'Whispering Wood' is the second in the series so I started in on the sampler for 'Eye' - and I can say, quite confidently, that I enjoyed the three chapters provided. So much so that I requested the complete book.

It arrived and was just as much fun as I had hoped it would be.

Our Hero, Warren, is the latest in a long line of Warrens (hence 'the 13th') and, at only 12 years old is the bellhop, valet, groundskeeper and errand boy of the creepy family hotel, now run by his uncle and his uncle's new wife, Annaconda. As you would expect, Annaconda is very much the evil aunt, the uncle is pathetic and poor old Warren is very much put upon by her.

You see, there is a rumour that somewhere in the hotel is an artefact, the titular All-Seeing Eye and Annaconda wants it. She isn't going to do all the hard work herself though, oh no! That'll be for Warren to do.

This is a gorgeously put together book aimed, I would say, at readers between 8-15 yrs (but suitable for all really). The print is double columned on most pages and on those pages where it is only a single column that is only due to the glorious illustrations - and there are plenty of those (by Will Staehle). With puzzles and riddles to solve along the way and a cast of delightful (and dreadful) characters this is a really fun book. Imagine Harry Potter set in Gormenghast Castle and you won't go far wrong.

I'm going to put my copy to one side for my littlest niece, and I will pass it on to her when she is old enough to enjoy it - but I may just take it up for a reread or two before then

Highly Recommended

Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson - A Review

It would not be an understatement to say Brandon Sanderson is prolific. The scope of his imagination is unbelievable but the thing that stands out for me is that however much the guy writes the quality level never seems to drop.

Arcanum Unbounded is a collection of short(ish) fiction set in his Cosmere and encapsulating several of his series.

'What is the Cosmere?' I hear you ask.

Well, the best I can explain it is that The Cosmere is a series of different worlds and settings in which BS sets his stories and series. Somewhere along the line these stories and series are all going to come together to link all his worlds, making it into one epic universe (this is what I mean about Brandon's imagination!)

Over the past few years BS has published several of the stories included here either as e-book only versions or through his website. They are all stories that can be read separate from the main series. There are stories from his Elantris, Mistborn and Stormlight Archives series and, as all the different series vary in setting there is enough here to keep it fresh from story to story. Everybody who reads Sanderson will, I guess, have a different favourite series (for me it is Elantris - and yes, I know it is a single novel but as there are stories from that world included here I'm counting it as a series).

As for the book itself - well, what can I say, it is a really nicely put together volume. The stories have notes, appendixes (appendices?) and star maps for each system making it all so much more than just a rehash of his back catalogue with an extra story and part of a graphic novel thrown in.

So, in short, if you are new to Brandon Sanderson or have been thinking about trying out his books this is a good place to start. If, like me, you are a long time fan you'll want to own this anyway.

Unsurprisingly this gets 5* from me

And then there's the cover art. The copy I own is the UK version and the cover art would have been enough for me to want to own this.