Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Stonehenge, A Novel of 2000 BC, Bernard Cornwell

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 558 (Paperback 1999)

Main Characters:

Saban, Camaban

Stonehenge, A Novel of 2000 BC is the pre-historic novel written by my favourite author Bernard Cornwell. The novel (as suggested in the title) is set around 2000 years before Christ. It tells the tale of a small pre-historic hunter gather village and the lives of three brothers there, Lengar, Saban and Camaban. The novel follows the brothers through their lives and their sibling rivalries after a strange occurrence happens in the village. This is when a stranger comes to the village with a horde of gold, after the brutal murder of the stranger the gold is seen as a sign from the Gods and their favour on the tribe. To please and honour the Gods the tribe decides to build a temple that will outlast and outshine any of the wooden temples in the area, if only they knew how long it would outlast them…
Another good read from Cornwell. I do prefer the novels he has written in the medieval period than ones set as early as this one, however Cornwell gives a very good account of how he thinks Stonehenge could have been built. You have to applaud Cornwell in his story telling. With a small amount to no evidence of how Stonehenge was built, it is possible to think that a novel about the building could be over exaggerated or maybe even quite dull. However Cornwell gives a fair account on the tools and techniques that were likely available at the time, making the story so much more realistic. Along with the great plot to the story, Stonehenge kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through as it was filled with action, romance and detail.
This was a good book, I would suggest it to anyone who is a fan of Bernard Cornwell or to anyone who enjoys a good historical novel.  
For author's offical website click here

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling

Publishers: Bloomsbury

Pages: 766 (Paperback 2004)

Main Characters:
Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger 

The novel follows Harry into his fifth year at Hogwarts. It sees the return of characters from the previous novels as the Order of the Phoenix is formed to combat the rising threat of Lord Voldemort. The book also sees Harry take his OWL exam, adding to further stresses as Hogwarts comes under the control of the Ministry of Magic’s representative Dolores Umbridge.
Another great read from Rowling. Again like Goblet of Fire, Rowling changes the plot and moves away from the usual story line as Dumbledore loses control of Hogwarts and Harry is no longer able to play Quidditch. The book also sees the start of the war between Harry and Voldemort, showing a slightly more ‘grown up’ aspect to the Potter novels as there are more sinister events such as murder and torture.
All in all this was another great book, and I can’t wait to start the next book, Half Blood Prince. Like I’ve said in my other reviews, the Harry Potter books are not just for children and if you have seen the films and enjoyed them you should definitely read the books.
For Link to author’s official web-site:

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Slam, Nick Hornby

Publishers: Penguin Books

Pages: 293

Main Characters:
Sam, Alicia, TH (Tony Hawkes)

This was possibly one of the weirdest books I have ever read, with talking posters of Tony Hawkes, time travel and the ramblings of a sixteen year old boy it was also probably one of the most interesting books I’ve read.
The story follows the life of Sam, a sixteen year old Skater (not the ice type the board type). Sam’s life seems to be going good, he is doing well at school, his parents have finally started to talk again after their messy divorce and Sam is learning new tricks on his skateboard. However Sam's life is turned upside down after he meets Alicia, after a world wind romance of a couple of weeks Sam finds out that Alicia is pregnant with his child. With this problem Sam turns to the only person who really listens to him, his poster of Skateboarding legend Tony Hawkes (TH).  TH then whizzes Sam forward in time to points after his child Roof is born to try and teach Sam that his future is not going to be as bad as it would seem for a sixteen year old father.
I thought this book was brilliant, and the only way to describe it is as the Guardian reviewer says, it is ‘touching’. Hornby does an excellent job of portraying the thoughts going through the mind of a sixteen year old boy who is going to become a father. And he does it in a way that is so believable! At times I thought Sam was been very childish and immature, but of course he is, because he’s only sixteen, Hornby makes it feel like the book was written by a sixteen year old and not him. The book is also extremely funny, especially the character Sam. Again Hornby gets the right balance of immatureness, nervousness and humour in Sam to make him feel like he is a real sixteen year old kid.
Like I said this was a weird but interesting book. I would suggest it to anyone who is into Nick Hornby, or anyone who enjoys a book that is a bit different. It was different for me since I usually read historical novels, but I found it brilliant.
For author’s official web-site:

Friday, 13 January 2012

Young Bloods, Simon Scarrow

Publisher: Headline Review

Pages: 594 (Paperback 2007)

Main Characters:
Napoleon Buona Parte, Arthur Wellesley

Young Bloods is an amazing book by Simon Scarrow. The first book of the Revolution Quartet, this book is set between the years 1769-1795 and follows the childhood and early lives of two of the best generals ever, Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington). Scarrow tells the story of the two young commanders who were both born in the same year and come from the same origins of wealthy fathers from provincial origins.
Both of Napoleon and Arthur have different paths, but have the same destiny. Napoleon is the best in his artillery class, at the Royal School in Paris but is discriminated against because of his Corsican origins. Whereas Wellesley is the third son of a powerful aristocrat and is overshadowed by his two older brothers, forcing him to try and start a career for himself in the army. Both lives look bleak for the two young officers as there is no apparent future for them, that is until the events in Paris on the 14th July 1789.
The events of the French Revolution open new doors for the two young officers. For Napoleon it sees the removal of the aristocrats from leading roles in the French army and gives him a chance to move up in the ranks of the army. For Wellesley it gives purpose to his life. The ideas of the Revolution risk everything his family has and forces him to take an active role in the army to try and win honour and prestige.
This was a great book. I am a massive fan of Simon Scarrow, especially his Marco and Cato series. I have had this book for a long time and have for some reason avoided reading it because I was not that interested in the Napoleonic era of history. But after some study at uni, and a certain Total War game, I decided to give it a chance, and from the first page I was hooked! It is brilliant, so exciting and you really feel for the two main characters because you know how good they are, but they are ignored by their superiors because of their backgrounds.
As I said, this was brilliant and I would recommend it to anyone who has read Scarrow’s Marco and Cato series, or to anyone who is a fan of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series. A great book and I can’t wait for the next one, The Generals.
For author’s official web-site:

The Generals, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline Review

Pages: 626 (Paperback 2008)

Main Characters:

Napoleon Bonaparte, Arthur Wellesley

The Generals, is the second book of Simon Scarrow’s Revolution Quartet. Based between the years 1799 and 1804, the book follows the life of two of history’s greatest Generals, Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley (future Duke of Wellington). The novel follows the development of the two men’s early military careers. It follows Napoleon through his campaign in Italy to his glorious invasion of Egypt as he fights off foes both at home and abroad. It follows Arthur half way across the world to India where he tries to expand British rule and influence in the subcontinent. Which sees him take on his first independent military command.
This was a good read. It took a lot longer for me to read this book than it usually does but that is because I read it over Christmas and New Year so I couldn’t read it as often as I would have liked. However it was still a good read building up the story started in Scarrow’s first book Young Bloods. Like Young Bloods, the detail in this book is brilliant really creating an atmosphere when describing the battles, making you feel like you are in the middle of one, trying to dodge lead bullets and round shot! The stories of the two young commanders is also gripping making you want to read on because these events really happened.
I would suggest this book to any Simon Scarrow fan or anyone interested in the Napoleonic Period and Wars. I would also suggest it to any fans of the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell as they are both set in the same time period.
For author’s official web-site:

Fire and Sword, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline Review

Pages: 657 (Paperback 2009)

Main Characters:
Napoleon Bonaparte, Arthur Wellesley

Fire and Sword is the third book of Simon Scarrow’s ‘Revolutionary Quartet’. The novel continues the story after the previous book The Generals in 1804 and follows the political and military careers of two of the best Generals ever, Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley (future Duke of Wellington), as both the British and the French Empires finally comes to clashes in Continental Europe.
The novel follows Napoleon as he tries to tighten his grip on the Continental Powers, Russia, Austria and Prussia. After a glorious victory at Austerlitz, Napoleon subdues the Austrians, whilst befriending Tsar Alexander of Russia and crushing Prussia.  After defeating his enemies in Europe it gives Napoleon a chance to turn his energies to defeating his greatest foes Britain and gaining peace throughout his Empire.
Meanwhile in Britain, Arthur Wellesley has returned from a triumphant campaign in Denmark where he has distinguished himself as a leader of men. Because of his efforts in Denmark, Arthur’s plan of the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula is put into action. After a failed attempt by his superiors, Arthur is given command of the Army of Portugal and starts his campaign against his greatest enemy the French.
Again like its prequels this was a great book. Full of action from battlefields, to conspiracies, to affairs this book keeps you totally entertained, making you just want to read on and on. It is also great at setting the scene for the next novel and the climax of the Battle of Waterloo.
As I said it was a great book and I would suggest it to any of you that is into the Napoleonic era. I would also suggest this book to any of you that is into the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell as they are both set in the same time period.
For author’s official web-site:

Fields of Death, Simon Scarrow

Publishers: Headline Review

Pages: 694 (Paperback 2010)

Main Characters:
Napoleon Bonaparte, Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington)

This is the final book in Simon Scarrow’s epic Revolution Quartet. The book follows the end of the rivalry between Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington, heading to the climax of the Battle of Waterloo. Finishing a war that has lasted over twenty years, whilst fulfilling the life time ambition of one of these two great men.
The novel picks up at the end of Fire and Sword and continues the struggle happening in Europe. Whilst Napoleon is falling back after his defeat in Russia, Wellesley is pushing his army up through the Spanish Peninsula and even contemplating the invasion of France itself. I won’t say too much about what happens in this book because I assume that some people may not know what historically happened. However for those of you that do know, the same happens in this book and is portrayed in a brilliant way by Scarrow, describing what both commanders were feeling whilst one leaders Empire was been destroyed and the others ambition of disposing a tyrant were coming true.
This was a good book, the only issue I had with this book is that it seemed every other chapter was a battle, which I felt was becoming a bit repetitive. Of course, Scarrow was portraying his novel in a way which was accurate to what happened in history, and in history there were many battles leading to the downfall of Napoleon. Perhaps it is because I am a historian and knew what the end result was made me think these battles were abit tedious, however for someone who does not know the history, they may enjoy all of the battles. To be fair to Scarrow, they were all well detailed and very exciting, filled with action and gore, but for me I just wanted to get to the end and see the demise of Napoleon.
All in all, this book and the series was brilliant. I am a massive fan of Scarrow and his books have kept me entertained for hours at a time. I would suggest this book and series to anyone who is interested in the Napoleonic era. Great series can’t wait to read Scarrow’s latest book, Praetorian
For author’s official web-site:

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Lord Of The Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 1000 (depends on edition)

Main Characters:
Frodo, Aragon, Gandalf, Sam, Gimli, Legolas

As I’ve said in many of my other reviews of books that have been adapted into films, I am always a fan of watching the film first and then reading the book. I prefer to do it in that order because I think that it helps me get an idea of what the characters look and sound like. As many of you will know, the three films by Peter Jackson are absolutely brilliant and for a long time I put off reading this book because I thought the films couldn’t be bested…. How wrong I was!!!
This book was epic in pretty much every aspect. The edition I read was all three of the books in one and has by far been the biggest book I’ve ever read. A lot of Tolkien’s language in the book was at first hard to grasp as it is written in the olde Englishe type of way. However when you first get over these initial problems that story is fantastic. It has so much more than any of the films and totally puts meat on the bones of the films and destroyed my prejudice that the films could not be beat. This is because of the extra aspects of the story which the films couldn’t make, such as the story of Tom Bombadil and the fight for the Shire at the end of the book.
I would still say the films are brilliant and if you haven’t seen them, get down to your nearest DVD shop and buy them! But the books are so much better, if you are a fan if the films you have to read the books, so you need to get down to your nearest book shop and buy them!
A great book, great series and great films, I love Lord of the Rings, I would suggest this book to any fans of the films or any fans of the Hobbit, but I would warn you that the language can be hard to understand at first. Nevertheless, read this book!
Link to author's offical web-site:

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Publishers: Quercus Publishing Plc.

Pages: 542 (Paperback 2008)

Main Characters:
Mikael Blomkvist, Lisbeth Salander

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the cult book sensation by the Swedish author Stieg Larsson. The first book of the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is set in modern day Sweden and follows Mikael Blomkvist, an edgy, controversial journalist who is co-owner of Millennium magazine.  Blomkvist has just been accused of libel for his report on the Industrial tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerstom.  Down on his luck and exiled from the world of journalism, Blomkvist takes an investigating job looking into the mysterious disappearance of a girl over 35 years earlier.
Whilst in his investigation for the missing girl Harriet Vagner, Blomkvist comes into contact with Lisbeth Salander, an anti-social computer genies. Working together, Blomkvist and Salander manage to look back into the Vagner family history and unearth truths about some family members which some people do not want to come to the surface, resulting in the capture of the murderer who made Harriet disappear all those years ago.
This was a very good book. Anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery will love this book. It is full of action from the very start with murder, controversy, sex and betrayal.   The book has very deep characters each with their own pasts, hope and goals. There is however some very sinister parts to the book. Larsson focuses on the issue of violence towards women in his book. The a-social Salander is the focus of this in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After watching her mother nearly getting beaten to death by her father at a young age. Salander ends up in a mental institution for children. After been released in her twenties, Salander is assigned a guardian by the name of Holger Palmgren. Palmgren is a sadist who exploits his role as Salander’s guardian. This is the sinister part of the book, as Salander’s savings and rights are taken away from her. This though does add a lot to Salander’s character setting up the story line for both of the following books in the trilogy.
As I said this was a great book, it kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through.  I would suggest this book to anyone who likes murder mysteries, is into journalism or is a fan of the Niels Arden Oplev film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
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