Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Moxie's Problem, Hank Quense


Publishers: Strange World Publishing

Pages: 306

Main Characters:

Moxie, Perc, Artie, Lancelot, Merlin


Hank Quense is back with another hysterical Strange Worlds novel! In this latest addition, Hank uses his wit and humour to tell the story of some of England’s most famous folk tales. Stories such as the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood feature heavily in this very tongue-in-cheek parody.

The book follows three main stories which all become intertwined. The lead story is that of Moxie, a Princess of a minor Kingdom. Sadly unlike most fairy tale princesses, Moxie was not blessed with good looks or charm. Her father is desperate to get her married so she can produce an heir but because of her looks he is unable to find a suitor. Luckily, a petty Count from the north of England agrees to marry Moxie and her Father organises a patrol of Knights from the famous Knights of the Round Table (KRT) to accompany her on her travels.

The second tale is that of Percivale, Gareth and Bors. The trio have just graduated from the Heroes Guild and have landed their dream position of being apprentice Knights of the Round Table. They can’t wait to make their fortune by saving maidens and slaying dragons. However, to start with they must accompany Princess Moxie on her journey to her new husband. The Knights believe this task to be easy but the stubborn and unfriendly nature of Moxie means their work is cut out for them.

Finally, King Artie has managed to carve out a Kingdom for himself on the southern shores of England. After pushing marauding Saxons back into the sea, his small Kingdom of Camelot has become extremely prosperous and his Knights of the Round Table are renowned throughout Britain. However, Artie did not win his Kingdom through epic battles with the Saxons but instead through epic football games against them. Artie knows as spring approaches the Saxons will return for another go at the Brits. With his Knights drinking and sleeping most of the winter, Artie must come up with a new tactic to beat the Saxons once and for all on the football pitch!
 
King 'Artie'

I really enjoyed this novel. It was an extremely fun and tongue-in-cheek twist on many of England’s famous fairy-tales and folk stories. I loved the fact the armies didn’t fight battles against each other but played games of football instead on the ‘field of honour’. I thought this was a great twist Quense used to redefine these age old stories and fit them into the unusualness of his Strange World series.

Though I did enjoy the book, I did have one issue with it.  I thought that Hank switched between the stories a little too often. One example of this was that he tells the story of Artie and Lancelot in the present tense and then tells a very similar story about them from 435 C.E. (15 years before). I sometimes found it very confusing to distinguish which tale I was reading about!

All in all, I really liked this book and read it in a couple of days! If you like the Discworld novels by Terry Practhett I think you’d really like this novel and the others in Hank’s Strange World series. I think both authors get the same amount of silliness and strangeness in their books which for me makes them a joy to read!
For author's official website click here.


Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Blood Crows, Simon Scarrow


 
Publishers: Headline

Pages: 384

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato, Centurion Quertus

 
Marco and Cato are back in another epic adventure in The Blood Crows. The novel sees our heroes return to Britain after their secretive work in Rome and the Imperial Palace is completed. Both soldiers are looking forward to army life as they return to the province where they started to make a name for themselves. With their new promotions, the duo hope they can get back to some ‘proper soldiering’ and put the espionage of Roman politics behind them.

The province of Britannia hasn’t changed much since the two heroes were last there. Even though the Emperor has announced the province conquered and peaceful, both Marco and Cato know that they have some tough battles ahead of them. The Briton leader Caratacus has mustered a sizable army and has turned to guerrilla warfare in an attempt to humble the Roman war machine. The Roman army is too big and slow to catch the Briton’s hit-and-run troops which have started to use the mountains of modern day Wales as their base.

Marco and Cato’s task is to take charge of the small fort of Bruccium deep in the enemy territory. The Perfect of the fort has being killed in a suspicious way and Cato is tasked to take control of the fort and hassle the local population. However as Cato and Marco find out, not all is as it seems in Bruccium with its’ temporary leader (Centurion Quertus) ruling both his men and the local Britons with an iron fist.
The Blood Crows trailer

This is the twelfth book in the Eagles series and I’ve kind of put off reading it for a while because I thought the series was getting a little long in the tooth, especially when the duo returned to Britain. However, after reading The Blood Crows I was reminded just how great these novels are and how good the duo of Marco and Cato are.

The thing that really made this book for me was the dialogue between Marco, Cato and Centurion Quertus. Firstly I loved Quertus’s character, his ferocious nature and crazy streak reminds me of Jorg from Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns. Quertus’s challenge to Cato’s authority leads to great dialogue between the two soldier and builds so much tension in the novel, which I think hasn’t been there in other books in this series. Quertus also adds ruthlessness to Marco which we haven’t really seen before and I think these new influences on both characters makes the series a lot fresher.

Even though this is the twelfth book in the series I can honestly say it was my favourite and I’ve just downloaded Brothers in Blood and can’t wait to read it! I’d suggest this book to anyone who loves Ancient Roman fiction and of course to people who have already read any of the other Eagle novels. In addition if you’re a fan of author’s like Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, Gordon Doherty and Nick Brown you will love this series!

For author’s official website please click here.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

What Comes Next, John Katzenbach


Publishers: Head of Zeus

Pages: 426

Main Characters:

Adrian, Jennifer

 


I decided to read this book on the recommendation of my girlfriend whom loves John Katzenbach because of his descriptive writing style and the tension he builds in his novels. The fact that she has read most of his novels made me really excited to read this book as I’d never really read a psychological or crime novel before.

The novel is based around two main characters Jennifer and Adrian. They are two very different people whom live in the same small academic town in New England. Adrian is an aging psychology Professor who sadly and ironically is diagnosed with Dementia. Having spent his life studying how the mind works the Professor is rocked to the core when he finds out that in a short period of time he will lose his mind’s functions until eventually he passes away. Using the example of his brother and wife, Adrian decides to take his own life before he loses the thing that makes him who he is and decides to use his brother’s gun on himself. However, on the drive home from the hospital Adrian sees a young girl walking past his house and thinks he witnesses her been kidnapped. This event causes Adrian to have one last meaning in life and with the help of his loved ones’ illusions caused by his illness, Adrian must discover where Jennifer is.

Jennifer Riggins is a 16 year old girl who has become a social outcast with her friends and family. With an abusive step-father and deluded mother, Jennifer believes her only hope of salvation is to escape her boring old town and move to New York and hopes this time her escape will finally succeed. That is until a young couple approach her in a white van and ask her for directions. Jennifer is quickly assaulted and bundled into the van and taken to the couples’ secret location where she is imprisoned and broadcast to the internet on the website whatcomesnext.com. The couple play out their sick fantasies on Jennifer for thousands of people to watch. The couple know that their audience will only pay attention for so long and plan to make their finale of the programme something they'll never forget! Jennifer's time is running short and she only has one hope, but will Adrian solve the mystery of her disappearance or will his illness get the better of him?

This was a very interesting book to read. I thought the main plot idea of the girl been held against her will and the unlikely hero Adrian saving her. I thought he was going to struggle with his illness but ultimately overcome it to save Jennifer, which would make this book very entertaining because it caused a lot of suspense.

However, there were some points that I really didn’t like. Firstly, the pace of the book was quite slow and sometimes struggled to keep my attention. For instance, when the girl is captured nothing really happens to her. The author goes into some detail about the perversions of the sick couple who kidnap her, but they don’t seem to do anything to her. Plus Adrian’s visions and hallucinations seem a bit of a cheap way to help him solve the crime. Anytime he struggles in the mystery one of his allusions comes along and points him in the right direction and then everything is hunky-dory again. I just thought if there was more emphasis and urgency on finding Jennifer it would have made the book much more enjoyable to read.

As I said above, my girlfriend has read most of Katzenbach’s books and assures me his other ones are much more gripping. Having reread What Comes Next again, she also believes it was a little slow but I’m excited to try one of his other novels!
To discuss this novel head over to my Facebook page by clicking here.

 

 

Monday, 3 August 2015

American Sniper, Chris Kyle


Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 528

Main Characters:

Chris Kyle

 

American Sniper is the autobiography of America’s deadliest sniper Chris Kyle. As I’m sure everyone who’s seen the movie knows, the book is based around Kyle’s time as a US Navy Seal and his deployment to Iraq in 2003. During his time in Iraq, Kyle managed to gain over 160 confirmed kills and earn a number of different achievements including two Silver and five Bronze Star Medals.

Now I’m not going to waffle on about what happens in the book because most people will know Kyle’s story from Bradley Cooper’s performance in the movie American Sniper. Having seen the movie, it made me want to read Kyle’s own words on the Iraq War and see if he really did as many deeds and as much killing as Copper does in the movie.
 
American Sniper Movie Trailer

To be honest, the movie did exaggerate some of the stuff Kyle did in the war and managed to slot some other events into the plot to make Kyle seem more of a hero. Nevertheless as Kyle would say, he was a ‘bad-ass’ and some of his stories about the Iraq War are amazing and it made me realise how little I knew about a war that only ended a few years ago. I had no idea how ferocious the fighting was and how many people were killed in the battles raging on the streets of Baghdad. It gives me an even greater respect for the soldiers who put their lives on the line there every day and really makes me want to learn more about the conflict.

Nevertheless, there was one thing that really annoyed me about the book and Chris Kyle and that is his view of ‘patriotism’. In the book Kyle states that in order of loyalty God comes first, then your country and then your family. I have no problem with people being religious or patriotic (I think I’m quite patriotic myself) but Kyle’s very ‘American’ view to patriotism did really annoy me. For example he explains that when the national anthem is played, he wants to beat up the people who don’t take off their hats for it. Fair enough, he did fight for his country but taking that ‘merica Fuck Yeah approach just highlights the fact why America (and Britain) was so unpopular during the war.

In conclusion, this book is definitely worth a read because it gives you a soldier’s perspective of the Iraq War which I’d never really known about. Plus the book is a lot less Hollywood than the movie and paints Kyle as much more of a human being than I think the movie does. I can’t wait to check out The Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and see how it compares to the movie!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Lamentation, C. J. Sansom


Publisher: Pan

Pages: 706

Main Characters:

Mathew Shardlake, John Barak, Queen Catherine Parr

 
Lamentation is the long awaited sixth addition to C. J. Sansom's epic Shardlake series. The novel is set in 16th Century England at time when the country was going through numerous religious changes at the whim of King Henry VIII. The rich and powerful of the country are divided into two different sects, the Conservatives and Reformers, whom both wish to have the ear of the King and influence his religious doctrine. People are being declared heretics by the state and the most radical reformers are burnt at Tyburn, as the King seems to be retracing his steps to the Church of Rome. England and especially London is not a safe place to live for anyone who questions the Old Faith.

Trying to avoid the religious divide is lawyer Mathew Shardlake whom after helping the Queen of England a year ago, is trying to stay out of matters of state. However, when a knock on his door in the middle of night reveals a young lawyer named William Cecil, Shardlake is quickly drawn back into the intrigue of the Royal Court. Cecil takes him to Whitehall to meet with his Master- Lord Parr. Once again, Shardlake is thrown into the cut-throat world of the English Crown as it is revealed his old Mistress (Queen Catherine Parr) is in mortal danger because of a book she secretly wrote.

The book is called Lamentation of a Sinner in which the Queen confesses that she has sinned during her life but through studying the bible and prayer to Jesus, she has repented her sins and will try and live a virtuous life. Although the book is not technically heresy, the fact the Queen wrote it without telling the King could easily be declared treason and with Henry’s short temper and love of beheadings, it could end badly for the Queen. Especially when her unpublished manuscript is stolen from her chambers! Shardlake is tasked with finding out who stole the manuscript but is on limited time because if the book is published by the thieves ,it will be the end of the Queen, the reformers and Mathew Shardlake.

Once again C. J. Sansom does not fail to impress with his new novel. It seems like forever ago that his last novel in the series Heartstone came out and I actually didn’t realised he’d realised a new book until I bumped into this one in a book shop! The book was extremely tense and well written. I love how Sansom portrays 16th Century London. His research into the street layouts and how he describes them really makes you feel you’re walking the city with Shardlake and Barak.

In addition, the novel has so many different levels of intrigue to it. There’s the mystery behind the book theft, a murder and an old family quarrel which Shardlake tries to solve throughout the book. Sansom builds and builds the tension all the way through the book leading to a big reveal near the end. But for me, the reveal was a little disappointing and kind-of average. However, that is until you read a little further on and find out who the real puppet master is in the novel and his confrontation with Shardlake is awesome!

This series of books is one of my favourite and is easily on par with series like A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. There’s the same level of intrigue, back stabbing and murder which I think is great, so if you love watching and reading A Game of Thrones then definitely check out the first book in this series Dissolution.

For author’s website click here.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Down Under, Bill Bryson


Publisher: Black Swan

Pages: 394

Main Characters:

Bill Bryson

 

Down Under is the hilarious travel guide to Australia written by famous travel author Bill Bryson. The book is based around Bryson’s five different trips to the continent/country of Australia during the 1990’s, ending with his most recent trip in 1997.

Bryson tells his tale from every corner of Australia, from the baking heat of the Northern Territory’s Outback to the wet tropics of Queensland, Bryson has a humorous story and honest opinion on Australia its culture and its (sometimes) unusual people. To summarise his humour, I think a quote explaining one of New South Wales’ remotest towns (which I can’t remember the name of!) really shows how the book is written.

‘(the town) is a real Australian town, where the men are men and the sheep are scared!’

The book is full of these witty, sharp one liners, which I absolutely loved and they often had me bursting out with laughter, especially when he talks of the casualness Aussies have towards their dangerous animals. For me, the book was made even more enjoyable because I have visited a lot of the places Bryson writes about and pens these funny quotes about and for most of the time, I couldn’t agree with him more!

I originally meant to read this book before I set off for my travels to Australia but at the time the Kobo store didn’t actually sell it. I wanted to read it before Australia in the hopes it would give me some inspiration on where to go in the country and what sites I should go and see. However, I’m glad I read it afterwards because the book is not really a travel guide but more of a collection of funny stories. In addition, because I’d already visited most of the places Bryson goes to in the book, it gave me a lot of nostalgia and a longing to go back to Oz. On the other hand, I think that Bryson does over exaggerate some of Australia’s features, especially if you’re doing your travelling on a backpacker’s budget. One example of this is the Great Barrier Reef. Bryson calls it the most beautiful place on Earth and though it is an amazing place, the reef I visited wasn’t as spectacular as you imagine it to be. He also talks of the immense Outback as if it is something more than what it is. It is staggering how huge the Bush is and that much of it is still unexplored, but when you’re driving through it and know you have another twelve hours of driving to do, it soon gets very, very boring.

Down Under was a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone who plans to visit Australia or to anyone who’s already been there. I’m excited to check out Bryson’s other books, especially his book about Europe as that’s where I plan to travel next!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

It's Been A Long Time!


So it’s been almost a year and a half since I last posted on here and that to me is a little sad. Updating this blog was a huge part of my life for the first two years of my time at university, as it helped me mellow out from the drag of uni work! As most students will know, the third year of university is a whole other kettle of fish and really cut into my casual reading time as I was mostly reading about Winston Churchill and the Second World War, which to me is an amazing subject but to most, isn’t really what they want to read about in their spare time. Plus some events that happened in my personal life and starting a full time job really made me lose my love of fiction as I was usually too tired or too fed up to read or write about books. I think during this period I read one book and that was Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, which I thoroughly enjoy but never actually finished.
Jumping Crocodiles, Northern Territory, Australia
 

Not that I’m complaining, but the last ten months of my life have been spent travelling around the world. I’ve been to Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and the US and the last thing I wanted to do was spend time writing about books as I was too busy lying on beaches and drinking cocktails! However, all that time on the beach gave me a great opportunity to get back into reading, which I’d forgotten how much I loved. Reading casually is the best hobby or past time ever and meeting so many new people whilst travelling has also given me so many new book suggestions to read. As hard as it is lying on a beach all day, reading whilst travelling is great because it helps fill an amount of time where you would be otherwise sat staring at the back of an old Japanese man’s head on a bus, or listening to a family of Americans arguing on a trip to the Grand Canyon. Luckily, I’ve read some great books throughout my time travelling such as, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and its sequel Silkworm. Books I’d never thought I’d read such as Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones because I’d always thought it was a children’s novel.
 
Osaka Castle
 

With the joy of reading has come all the nostalgia of blogging and how happy I used to be when I’d post a book review and people would read it. That’s why I want to try and get the ball rolling and get this blog back on its feet! I’m hoping to post on here on a regular basis but don’t really want to put any time restraints on myself because then it becomes less of a hobby and more of a job (and I ain’t getting paid!). This is something I want to do professionally so writing this blog is a good form of practice and most importantly, it’s fun!
Queenstown, South Island NZ
 

So I plan to get my own domain name and make adam-p-reviews a website and not just a blog. I also want to re-format my blog so it’s easier and clearer to navigate and looks a whole lot more professional. Again, I don’t have a set time frame for this but hopefully it happens in the next few months! I’d also like to encourage any authors to get in contact with me about reviewing their books. I’m sorry to anyone who has already e-mailed me because I literally just checked my e-mails today and it’s the first time for about a year. But, if you’re reading this and still want a review please e-mail me again and I promise I’ll get back to you.

So I hope this post clears up where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to go with this blog. If you’ve got any questions please feel free to send me an e-mail or check out my Facebook page.

And for anyone who’s interested I’ll leave a list of some of the books I’ve been reading whilst I’ve been away and maybe you can send me some suggestions of similar books to read. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I hope you enjoyed!

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

Silkworm, Robert Galbraith

Emperor of Thorns, Mark Lawrence

Prince of Fools, Mark Lawrence

Legionary: Viper of the North, Gordon Doherty

The Maze Runner, James Dashner

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

The Empty Throne, Bernard Cornwell

Horns, Joe Hill

The Boys From Brazil, Ira Levin

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

Down Under, Bill Bryson

 
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