Saturday, 30 June 2012

And the Winner Is....

The winner of my June Book of the Month Competition for The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien is.... Laura Hartley!!! Weeeeewwww Congratulations Laura I hope you enjoy it! Thanks to everyone who entered, sorry to those that didn't win. Check out my blog tomorrow to find out what I'm giving away from my July Book of the Month, it's a right treat!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Spartacus the Gladiator, Ben Kane

Publishers: Arrow

Pages: 467

Main Characters:

Spartacus, Ariadne, Carbo

Recently the story of Spartacus and his rebellion against Rome has become very popular. With a TV series based on the life of the Gladiator, Spartacus has become a historical icon which many people want to know more about. However, where the TV series focuses more on the blood, guts and sex of Spartacus’ time as a Gladiator, Ben Kane's Spartacus The Gladiator focuses more on the man himself, and how he was able to lead a small group of ex-slaves against the might of Rome and become its’ worst threat since Hannibal!

This is what I found most exciting about this book. Kane does an excellent job of showing how Spartacus shaped eighty ex-gladiators into an army that eventually reached over fifty thousand men and were the equals to any force the Roman Senate could field against them! And Kane makes Spartacus so real! He is not just this blood-thirsty warrior out for revenge against Rome but a skilled tactician, forcing the Romans to fight on his terms and out smarting them each time with ambushes and traps! He is a man, just like any other with his own personal problems, which further makes Kane’s character of Spartacus seem much more believable!

I also found Kane’s side story of Carbo very interesting. A Roman fighting on the side of the slaves against his own people, Carbo faces many difficult decisions throughout the book on whether he will stay loyal to Spartacus or not. As usual, Kane does a brilliant job of telling the tale of Spartacus. He fills the book with battles, love, murder and betrayal which really make the book exciting to read!

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Ben Kane’s other novels, for example Hannibal: Enemy of Rome. I would also suggest this book to anyone who has read Conn Iggulden's Emperor Series. This is because during those novels Spartacus’ rebellion happens but Iggulden does not focus on it too much (because the novels are about Caesar in Gaul and Iberia). I think reading Spartacus The Gladiator would fill in the blanks that Iggulden left out, making both series even more exciting to read! Great book can’t wait for its’ sequel Spartacus Rebellion which comes out later this year!

For author’s official website click here

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my Book of the Month competition to win a FREE copy of The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien. To enter, follow the instructions on the widget below and for more info click here. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Wolf Sea, Robert Low

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 308

Main Characters:

Orm Ruriksson

The Wolf Sea is the second book in Robert Low's Oathsworn series. After barely escaping from Attila the Hun’s hoard with his life, Orm Ruriksson is nominated as the new leader of the Oathsworn. The first problem Orm faces is that the Oathsworn are divided, as half of them were lost when the Oathsworn’s nemesis Starkad attacked. The second problem is that Orm has become very vulnerable because he now has the Rune Serpent Sword and many rich and powerful people want it. Orm has to make a decision. Should he return to Attila’s horde with the remaining Oathsworn or should he travel East in search of the oar-mates who are lost? Orm chooses the latter and sails to Miklagard, the Great City (Constantinople). However once there, Orm is attack in a dark alley and the Rune Serpent is stolen, by as Orm later finds out, Starkad. With this humiliation from the hands of Starkad, Orm and the Oathsworn follow him further east to Cyprus where they hope they can retrieve the Rune Serpent and get some revenge. But they soon find that they have beaten Starkad there and can use this as an opportunity to tarnish his reputation by posing as his band.

However, during their mission to ruin Starkad’s reputation, Orm uncovers a secret that puts his and the Oathsworn’s life at risk and must flee further East out of the grasp of the Byzantine Emperor.  When they arrive in Antioch, they discover the whereabouts of their old oar-mates and set out towards Fatty Breeks or Fateh Baariq, a remote Mine in the scorching desert. On their journey to the mine the Oathsworn come across some terrible rumours of cannibalism and death in the area around Fateh Baariq and rush to save their comrades. But what they find when they get there is nothing compared to what the rumours said! Orm must keep the Oathsworn together with the promise of riches and fame if he will ever get the Rune Serpent back!

For me, this book went very slowly! I don’t know why because I did enjoy the story and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. However like The Whale Road, I did find this book to be confusing at times. The swapping between languages makes the book a little harder to read as one city has about three different names! As well as the names of some of the characters, which I thought were quite similar to each other. Also it seems that Low builds up supporting characters from the Oathsworn and then kills the off quite quickly! For me it made it harder to remember who’s who as many of Orm’s oar-mates kept dying! 

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this book! I would suggest it to anyone who is a Robert Low fan. I would also suggest it to any fans of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon series. Great book, looking forward to reading the next one!

For author’s official website click here

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my Book of the Month competition to win a FREE copy of The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien. To enter, follow the instructions on the widget below and for more info click here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 11 June 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith

Publishers: Grand Central Publishing

Pages: 368

Main Characters:

Abraham Lincoln, Henry Sturges

After reading the amazing Fevre Dream I decided that I wanted to continue down the ‘Vampire genre’ with the next book that I read. After seeing the trailer for the movie adaptation of this book I decided to give it a go. I had always thought that with a name like Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter this book was a sort of spoof a bit like Shaun of the Dead. But after seeing that it had been made into a movie directed by Tim Burton, I thought there might be a little bit more too this book. And there was! There are parts of this book that seem completely believable (even though they contain Vampires) and the author Seth Grahame-Smith is totally convinced Vampires are real, even going as far as saying that he has met one!

The novel is set in a sort of Biographical way, where Grahame-Smith retells the story of Lincoln’s youth, using his long lost journals (which existence has been debated by historians ever since Lincoln’s death!) The novel tells of how Lincoln was first introduced to Vampires at an early age after the death of his beloved mother. First believed to have died from milk poisoning, Lincoln later finds out from his father that she was murdered by a Vampire. This sends Lincoln down a path where he swears to ‘kill every Vampire in America’. However on his first attempt, Lincoln is nearly killed himself, believing that Garlic and Holy Water will repulse any of his foes! After receiving a broken leg (and other injuries!) Lincoln is saved from death by Henry Sturges, who as Lincoln later finds out is also a Vampire! Sturges introduces Lincoln to the correct way of Vampire hunting and tells him the secret that throughout history, Vampires have always been behind the world’s leader. Sturges tells Lincoln that in this part of time, it is the Vampires who are behind the slave trade in Southern America. That they use the slaves as a way to feed without the fear of been hunted by mortal men, because the white ruling classes in the South don’t care if a few worthless black slaves go missing!

This secret convinces Lincoln to become part of the underground group, The Union. A group of mortals and Vampires who want to see co-existence between the two different species. The Union convinces Lincoln to become President of the United States and helps him to achieve his aims. However when the Southern Vampires discover The Union has their man as the President, they decide to succeed, causing the Civil War. The book argues that the Civil War was not fought for state’s rights or the emancipation of slaves, but was a war between the two species Vampires and Humans. A war that if the South had won, the whole of the human race would become their ‘cattle’, only existing as a food supply for the Vampires.

I found this book very interesting and like I said above there are parts that seem very believable! I think this is because Grahame-Smith manages to coincide parts of Lincoln’s secret life with historical events. Events such as the death of Lincoln’s children.  This sickness that killed them was not a fever or illness but a poisoning from a Vampire’s bite. The events at the first battle of Bull Run and the South’s victory where not because of better tactics or the fact that the South fought back the North’s flank, but because the South had Vampires in its’ ranks and therefore couldn’t lose. These explanations from Lincoln’s journal and Grahame-Smith’s use of the historical events does suggest that history ‘could’ of happened the way Lincoln says in his journals and that Vampires do really exist.

However, been a history student and looking at this book from a historical point of view there are many flaws to Grahame-Smith’s argument. The first would be where are Lincoln’s journals now? In his introduction, Grahame-Smith says he was ‘loaned’ the journals by a 21st Century Henry Sturges and that when he completed his manuscript he had to return them. This seems a little too convenient. That he should have access to these legendary documents, write a novel that is the definition of the word ‘conspiracy’ and then say that the documents he based his entire argument on are no longer his (and that no one else has ever read them to back up his argument) is stupid! How can he expect people to believe him if he gave back all of his evidence?

The second flaw is that some of the quotes Grahame-Smith uses are too broad. As a historian, it is common to use quotes to back up you argument but it is also common to twist quotes to back up your argument! An example of this is that Lincoln says he wanted to ‘get rid of every Vampire in the U.S. government’. In this book Grahame-Smith twists the word ‘Vampire’ to literally mean the blood-sucking, sharp fanged creature of legend. However I could twist the word ‘Vampire’ in this sentence to mean someone who is sucking the life out of America, i.e. someone who is corrupt in government, someone who blocks new measures within government or someone who is hindering progress. Is does not mean that there is literally Vampires within the U.S. government!

And the third and final flaw in Grahame-Smith’s argument was the photo’s he uses for evidence. Some of the images (even from looking on my Kobo) look photo-shopped! Some are just pictures of normal people who Grahame-Smith says are ‘probably’ Vampires. Why? Why are they Vampires? They look like normal people to me! They don’t even have the resemblance to Vampires which Grahame-Smith gives in the book! Whilst some of the images used were painted after Lincoln’s death by people who had never met him and had never been at the events they were painting. I could paint a picture of Lincoln with an axe in his hand and a dead Vampire at his feet, but it does not mean he was a Vampire Hunter, it is just a picture!

I know I have been hard on this book (and my review is a little long!) but as a historian I have to look at the evidence Grahame-Smith gives for his argument and I find that evidence very weak. However it does not mean I didn’t enjoy this book, I loved it! I thought it was an interesting concept and as I have said, at times Grahame-Smith does a good job of making it believable by coinciding events in Lincoln’s journal with actual historical facts. All I would say is that as a piece of analytical, historical argument it is lacking, but as a novel it is great!

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of Vampire novels or is a fan of Abraham Lincoln, as the book does have an interesting concept!

For author’s official website click here

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my FREE Book of the Month Competition for your chance to win The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien. To enter just follow the widget bellow and for more info please click here. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Fevre Dream, George R. R. Martin

Publishers: Orion Books

Pages: 390

Main Characters:

Abner Marsh, Joshua York, Damon Julian
Fevre Dream is the amazing fantasy novel written by the amazing fantasy author George R. R. Martin. The novel is set in 1857 along the great Mississippi river and follows the tale of Abner Marsh and Joshua York. Marsh is a fiery steamboat captain who is down on his luck. His once great steamboat fleet was destroyed during the ‘ice jam’ of the previous winter. After receiving a mysterious letter from an unknown sender, Marsh’s luck returns as he is introduced to Joshua York, an aristocratic Englishman who wants to pay over the odds to become part of Marsh’s steamboat company. The deal sounds too good to be true to Marsh but there is one condition from York, that Marsh minds his own business and does not interfere with York’s work. Nonetheless, Marsh is more than happy to do this, as York gives him the means to create his perfect boat, the Fevre Dream.
However when the voyage of the Fevre Dream begins, Marsh finds keeping his promise to York hard to maintain. This is because of York’s eccentric behaviour. He sleeps throughout the day and lives through the night, his friends seem to come and go at odd hours of the day and York himself disappears for days at a time, slowing down the schedule of the Fevre Dream’s deliveries. Eventually Marsh forces a confession out of York and discovers the real aim behind the Fevre Dream’s voyage and York’s work. York is a Vampire who is on a mission to unite all Vampires under him. He believes himself to be their King, as he has created an elixir that stops them wanting to drink human blood. York believes the last few Vampires are somewhere along the Mississippi and therefore needs a steamboat and a steamboat Captain to find them. York convinces Marsh to keep his secret and help him find his fellow Vampires.
York finally manages to find the group of Vampires he has been tracking. He discovers that they are under the leadership of an old and powerful Vampire named Damon Julian. York needs to overpower Julian to unite all Vampires under him. But York misjudges the power of Julian and becomes his servant. Julian forces York to take the Fevre Dream on a killing spree further down the Mississippi. Meanwhile, Marsh manages to escape the grasp of Julian’s evil followers and must find a way to get back to York and retake his Fevre Dream whilst destroying Damon Julian.
I’m just going to come out and say it straight away… I loved this book! It is just another epic fantasy novel from an epic fantasy writer! Ever since Twilight I have been put off any book that has been advertised as a ‘Vampire novel’.  This is because many Vampire books since Twilight have just jumped on the ‘bandwagon’ and always seem to be aimed at teenagers and young adults. This book was so much different! I know it was written well before Twilight but I thought it was so unique when compared to other books in the Vampire fantasy genre. It mixed fantasy and historical fiction together (which I loved). Much like Martin’s Game of Thrones, it kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through and I just thought the character of Marsh was brilliant. He was the unlikely hero that I love so much! He is old, fat and ugly but he had so much heart and love for his boat, enough for him to take on Julian and all his followers.
This was a brilliant book! If think you liked Game of Thrones and want to read something a little different you should definitely read this book! I would also say that if you are like me and have lost faith in Vampire novels, this book will definitely bring you round! So give it a try.
For author’s official website click here
P.S. Don’t forget to enter my FREE Book of the Month Competition to win a copy of The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien. To enter click here and for more information click here.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Silmarillion, J. R. R. Tolkien

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 453

Main Characters:

Elrond, Feanor, Hurin, Turin

Based thousands of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion tells the tale of how Middle-Earth and the creatures that dwell upon it came to be. It tells how Elves, Men, Dwarves and Orcs came to exist in Middle-Earth. Through this history it also tells the tale of Feanor and his Silmaris, the three jewels that hold light from the two destroyed trees of Vailnor. The Silmaris are prized above all other things in Middle-Earth as the light that they hold was created by the Valar, the Gods of Middle-Earth.

The tale of the Silmaris stretches over generations and sees betrayal and murder used as means to try and gain them. The tale also sees the destruction of the House of Feanor as he and his seven sons swear an oath to the Silmaris, an oath which over time they cannot hold. The book also tells us how the situation of Sauron and the Rings of Power came to shape the world that exists in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, whilst also telling us how Sauron came to power after the fall of Morgoth.

I thought this was a great book and for any Tolkien fan it is a must read. It fills in so many gaps within the Tolkien world and really informs you why the events in The Lord of the Rings happened, whilst explaining how Middle-Earth was created. However, I would say that you have to be committed to this book! There are only about 360 pages to read (as the rest is taken up by Appendix) but it took all of my concentration to read them! This is because the language is so difficult and at times often confusing. For example, there are so many different names for the same thing in this book (Elfish, Dwarvan, and the many languages of Man!) and Tolkien does often switch between them, making it difficult to remember who’s who and what’s what! However when you get used to Tolkien’s style and language, the tale of the Silmaris becomes absolutely thrilling and is a great ‘prelude’ and context to The Lord of the Rings.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a Tolkien fan. I would say that you have to stick through the first fifty pages or so but after that, the language and the names are not as mind-boggling and the story is amazing!

For author's offical website click here

P.S. If you love Tolkien you should enter my FREE book giveaway to win The Children of Hurin. To enter just follow the widget below and for mor information click here a Rafflecopter giveaway
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