Thursday, 31 December 2015

Book Review: Mysterious Templar by Adriana Girolami


Synopsis: Dark forces and violence enters the European court of the Duke of Nemours in the year of our Lord 1480. The only hope remains in the hands of the Duke's daughter Polyxena—a stunning beauty, coveted by many men. 
As the princess bride, she arrives at the castle of the Duke of Lorengard-Lorraine only to find her arranged marriage has been foiled. Duke Arsinio has been murdered 
in a coup d'état and she is a virtual prisoner of an evil tyrant. A mysterious knight appears to challenge the power of the tyrant and bring hope to the people. The face of this enigmatic warrior is covered by a red mask and the cross on his chest defines him as a Knight Templar. 
Will Polyxena achieve freedom and find the love of her life? Is the identity of the Mysterious Templar discovered? 
Find out only in the first novel of the Templar Trilogy…MYSTERIOUS TEMPLAR

Review: Think back to the golden age of cinema. Rip-roaring historical blockbusters that combined action with a heart. Were Adriana Girolami's epic Mysterious Templar to make it to the big screen, I would expect some director and screen writer of weight and talent to bring this rich novel to a mass audience.

That said, the author's descriptive narrative and wonderful characters set this story above many 'adventure / quest' stories that go nowhere. In full disclosure, I must state that I read the original Revenge of the Knights Templar and approached this, wondering would it be more of the same.

If anything, this is the better, far more polished work (not that the other edition wasn't, it is just that time has passed) and the inclusion of the second story - a generous chapter to give you insight into where the tale is going, means that this edition is well worth your time and effort.

Never once dry, laced with humour, and always readable, one can only wait impatiently for the soon to be released sequel.

Wonderful story, perfect medieval romance. Loved it. 

Below is my review of the original story, Revenge of the Knights Templar

A tale of swords and superstitions, of passion and deception, of political machinations and posturing, Revenge of the Knights Templar is an exceptional debut novel by talented author Adriana Girolami.

This story has been on my to read list for most of 2014. Now, that I have finally completed reading it, I can say that the wait was worth it.

The ability of an author to transport the reader to a different time and place, and do it convincingly, is a task that perhaps only the most seasoned of authors would attempt. So it makes this story all the more remarkable that it sets itself up brilliantly, with the kind of prose I wish I could use in my writing.

After the initial few chapters, where most if not all of the main characters are introduced, the pace picks up and doesn't let go. In fact, I had to stop myself from finishing the novel too quickly.

It is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling read, set in the 1480s where, as always, who ever wields power can do so with a silken rose or an iron fist.

Our heroine, Polyxena, is destined to become a duchess, but not in the way she envisaged. Her love, the Duke Arsenio is brutally cast aside in a battle of wills and swords, seeing the repugnant Duke of Saxe-Hanover seizing power, with Polyxena, seemingly hapless to play anything but the dutiful wife.

Things can't go on like this forever, and with the tyrant becoming ever more tyrannical (as they do!) the evil Duke begins to make mistakes...the biggest of which seem his superstitions. The fate of one cat in the story was a pivotal moment for me.

Polyxena, as befits a great heroine, is anything but a housemaid and often voices her displeasure at the Duke's actions - especially with his joy at the arrangement of so many executions of his enemies. Polyxena, understandably, is horrified. One of the condemned is her new love, Duccio.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution. The characters are believeable, you feel hatred for the evil Duke, love and hope for the beautiful and intelligent Polyxena. I even found my distaste of Flavia coming around to better thoughts later on. Such is this beautifully woven tale.

The cover, though stunning, should not hide the fact that the sword fights are realistic in their description, and Miss Girolami places you as if you wielded the sword yourself! I was truly swept into the action of this story, which I will say is as well written as any part of the Lord of the Rings.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution.

The author's wordcraft is exciting and perfectly describes each scene. The characters are superbly drawn, and the detail of her vision leaves nothing to chance. You, dear reader, are transported to 1480s Europe, and can do nothing about it!

This story is a historical epic, a romance, a thriller, a mystery and is full of great lines, written beautifully and without any hint of pretence.

It's not without humour, with great lines such as:

"The erotic spectacle stimulated the drunken crowd, who quickly joined the royal pair in a sexually driven bacchanal. An orgiastic took over the room while everybody rubbed and caressed anything that wasn't theirs."

And stark, great authoritarian lines such as:-

"A river of blood will cleanse you of audacity!"


"It's easy to learn cruelty when you live with evil."

Truly, I can't wait to read this book again. It's been by far one of my favourite reads of 2014, and one can only wait for Miss Girolami's next book. As for Revenge of the Knights Templar, I thoroughly recommend you read it. Now.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Book Review: Eve of Tomorrow (Dawn of Rebellion, #3) by Michelle Lynn


Synopsis: The British are coming.

Eve of Tomorrow brings to a conclusion the story of Gabby and Dawn, two English sisters thrust into the forefront of rebellion in the new world. Set in a distant future laid waste by change and conflict, Gabby and Dawn discover their parents among the Americans and pledge to fight alongside their countrymen seeking safety and freedom.

The Republic of Texas has been defeated, but its doomsday weaponhas fallen into the wrong hands. At first, warriors by circumstance, but now warriors by choice, Gabby and Dawn have a new mission: to destroy the weapon before it can destroy their future.

Review: Now let's get something out there. For me, dystopian novels meant George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. There probably won't be a better novel released in that genre in my lifetime (or ever), and I was as surprised as anyone when I picked up a YA dystopian novel a few years ago, starring someone from District 12....

So with Michelle Lynn's series, it would be easy to be dismissive, to say 'this is a fluffy YA dystopian, no-one will care what happens.' Not true. And with each book, the story has evolved into something else entirely. Each book has had its own distinct theme, cleverly intertwining the key characters into those events.

The chapter focus where each character 'talks' is interesting and I never once felt lost, even with so much happening.

However, as it is the third and final book in the series, things need to be wrapped up. I wasn't expecting half the things that happened, to happen. The cover gives you the feeling this is for YA - but there is some truly jarring stuff in here, quite violent in parts that churned my stomach (and I write horror!)

Put simply, this is the best YA dystopian series I have started and finished since THG (you know what I am on about). It's not fair to compare it to that behemoth, merely saying that the Dawn of Rebellion series is truly remarkable storytelling and stands on its own.

As mentioned in my earlier reviews, Dawn and Gabby, the sisters, are not exactly two sides of the same coin. They have their own ideas and ways about things. Each character is well drawn, secondary characters like Lee, Drew and Shay play magnificent supporting roles.

I haven't read three books by a new author this quickly in years.

I just like the author's writing style, coupled with her engaging, thrilling storytelling. Give this a try, maybe you will too.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Book Review: Beyond the Law by Tom Benson


Synopsis: In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa. An assassin codenamed ‘Chameleon’ kills the Kentobi president, but it is Phil who is framed for murder. 

To appease the authorities he agrees to a brief secondment with the Metropolitan Police and then discharge from the Army. During his attachment to the 'Met', he sees how the hands of the authorities are tied. It reminds him that the teenager who murdered his parents in 1977 was never caught to face justice. 

Phil returns to his hometown in July 1996 as Hawk, a vigilante. The term ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld with his small and unique team. 

Review: Crime thrillers are ten a penny these days so finding a good one may take a while. With Beyond the Law, author Tom Benson has created quite the crime caper, and with the sequel recently released, it's likely to win the author a new generation of fans.

The story is slickly presented, stylish to a fault, and places you side by side with our 'hero' Phil McKenzie, also known as Hawk, as the former Special Ops soldier (who doesn't seem to have left the life behind) takes on the vicious underworld of Glasgow.

Now this city is a tough place to be, I know it quite well, and it was a joy to read some of the real places that are mentioned in the story. Realism is the order of the day here, and yet some readers may be surprised how this gritty thriller, a kind of Taggart on acid (1980s children will know what I mean) has a heart at its core, meaning that it is not just a thriller for the boys, as I believe women will enjoy it too.

There is a myriad of characters in the story, with Kirsten and Rachel amongst my favourites. All are fleshed out, detailed, and you care about them. This elegant writing style is evident in the author's other short stories, and it was a pleasure to delve into a much longer tale. Beyond the Law is a long book but never feels like that. 

It's an enjoyable, pulsating ride that is simply one of the best thrillers I have read in years.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Book Review: Hidden Truths by J Kahele (Violet Chain, #2)


Synopsis: Violet and Chain are trying to build a loving and trusting relationship, but life has a few more obstacles to throw at them. 
Violet wants to know more about Chain's rocky past with his father, whilst Chain is more interested in getting Violet to commit to their relationship in a more permanent way: marriage.
To complicate matters, Chain's past holds a secret that could tear them apart forever, and he will do whatever it takes to keep the secret hidden.

Review: "I don't care what it costs." - Chain Alexander, Hidden Truths

In the context of his statement, and the scene in which it takes place, our MC Chain Alexander is a man that I believe many men would like to be like. Powerful, rich, good looking, great taste in women...he would appear to have it all.

He is a confident man who knows what he wants. In book one he comes across a little bullish and possesses the kind of self belief that would make people shrink in his presence. 

What was clear that this high flyer has fallen completely for our other MC, Violet, and it's a roller coaster ride as the book reaches its close. 

I think the series has to been viewed in the context that book one is really part one, so I was more excited at the prospect of a second book in the series rather than think the ending of #1 left me hanging. It did - but in a good way. There is nothing wrong with that.

The revelations about Chain unravel in a paced and measured way, ensuring we are gripped until the very end of the tale. 

I would suggest that author Miss Kahele knows what her fans want, and she delivers here in spades.

I still find Violet a likeable, enjoyable character. She doesn't play hapless waif to Chain - she is a strong character, a woman that also knows what she wants.

The mature scenes are exactly that - from the opening pages Hidden Truths is brutal but utterly realistic.

Let's see where book three takes us!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Book Review: Day of Reckoning by Michelle Lynn (Dawn of Rebellion, #2)

Synopsis: Nothing is as it seems in the colonies. 
Sisters Gabby and Dawn have escaped British Floridaland and now find themselves under the "protection" of the Republic of Texas. 

But their supposed freedom and safety is a sham- trading one prison for another as they discover the secrets of those who supposedly rescued them. 

Sam is dead. But the fates of Drew, Jeremy, and Lee are unknown. 

Together, the sisters uncover the many truths and lies of this new world around them. 

Sides must be chosen. Bonds must be broken. Alliances forged... And the war begins.

Review: In Michelle Lynn's Dawn of Rebellion, we are introduced to a world where the rules, were we subject to them, would horrify us. Seemingly innocent actions take on a whole new meaning in this dystopian series and as I've now completed book two, I understand book one even more.

Day of Reckoning is far better than the original story. Everyone is in their own groove and the story moves along at a hell of a pace.

Before I knew it I was reaching the story's close, and yet again, what a cliffhanger.

Some readers won't like that. But the truth is, there is a full detailed story in each volume. The ending demands that you read the sequel. There are no filler chapters.

I'm a 'Brit' but I don't tend to use the specific profanity that is in this book, but it's a small gripe as the dialogue on the whole is gripping and engaging. 

Dawn and Gabby are sisters, but they have their own view about things. I root for one, only to be disappointed if she does something I didn't want her to do, or I am not feeling empathetic to the other sister, and then she does something that surprises me.

This is simply a must read dystopian series. I say that having been awash with a lot of YA dystopians that just did not cut it for me.

The ending links up extremely well with the opening pages of book one, so it is clear the author has a handle on her characters. She does not introduce anyone only to have them killed off for shock value. Everyone has their place and it is a more enjoyable read as a result.

There are different covers for these books. Don't dismiss them as part of just another YA story. The series has some really dark elements which are portrayed to a high and believable standard.

This is simply a must read dystopian series.

The real proof was how much I thought about this book even after I read it. Scenes kept coming back to me, even when I was reading something else! That's powerful writing that resonates.

I'm going to enjoy the final story now. I would bet you'll see it through to the end too.

Book Review: Danger at Thatcham Hall by Frances Evesham


Synopsis: Ambitious lawyer Nelson Roberts, embittered by war, jilted by his fiancée, and trusting no one, aims to make his name solving the mysterious thefts and violence at Thatcham Hall, a country house in Victorian England. 

Olivia Martin, headstrong and talented, will stop at nothing to overcome the conventions of the day, avoid a miserable fate as a governess and fulfill dreams of a musical future. 

The pair stumble on a body. Is the farmhand’s death a simple accident, or something more sinister? Who attacked the livestock at the Hall and why are the villagers so reluctant to talk? Can Nelson and Olivia overcome their differences and join forces to unravel the web of evil that imperils the Hall? 

Review: If An Independent Woman was an enjoyable debut, Danger at Thatcham Hall is the former's much improved sibling, with great character development and real sense of mystery and danger that elevated the book into something that Agatha Christie might have been proud of.

High praise, perhaps. But the setting of Victorian England can be mismanaged in some tales I have read. The author clearly knows the setting well and every little detail has been poured over, thought about, and included in the story for us to enjoy.

As a mystery (and I have a few of these coming up to read now), it works exceedingly well. The drama and suspense holds up throughout. It's the slow build up that I liked, and was the hallmark of An Independent Woman.

 "a real sense of mystery and danger that elevated the book into something that Agatha Christie might have been proud of."

Readers should probably read both in order, but if you catch this one first, it is well worth your time in reading.

If only we could go back to Victorian England. In this book, we can almost sense what that place and time was really like.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Book Review: Twe12ve by Ceri Bladen


Twelve keys, one secret. 
Synopsis: Odin and his twelve sons guard the secret to prolonging human life. The secret, kept deep in a vault in Ragnorok, can only be revealed when humans stop intentionally killing one another. 
Twelve humans hold the keys to open the vault, but during centuries of complacency, Odin has lost track of the keyholders. Two keyholders now remain, and Odin awakens to their existence. 
Can Odin and his sons protect the last two keyholders, or will Floki, Odin's greatest rival, destroy everything Odin holds dear and seize control of Ragnorok?

Review: In short: Ceri Bladen hits the bullseye again.

Whilst the cover and blurb are intriguing, the fact is that the author is one who grows in stature with each book she pens. I have not read all of hers (but most of them) and each has brought something new that I enjoyed. Twe12ve is no exception, but it may be Miss Bladen's best work to date.

I try to pin down what it is I love about her writing. I suppose it is the fact that one never really knows what will jump out on the pages. This story, though complex as an idea, actually reads extremely well as a story. I am not sure how many writers could have accomplished this as well as the author has, and for that, I give her much credit.

Sci-fi isn't a must read genre for me. I much prefer to see it on the big screen, but the sci-fi elements of this story were some of the best parts of the whole book. 

The thriller featuring many detectives (and yes, admittedly a lot of characters are thrown at you for a relatively short book) have witty banter that made the dialogue and the switch to narrative an easy to read story. I'm a huge fan of coffee too, so if you want to know the in-jokes in this story, you will simply have to read it.

As a tale, it is rather exceptional.

Having read the story, it is extremely packed for its length. I just wonder what a special edition volume would look like. I felt it could have been longer. But in essence, the 'keeper' of the keys to a long term existence, master Odin, and his bid to reunite with some of the other keyholders faces a seemingly simple task, until it is complicated by uber-baddie Floki, and it's here where most of the fun and action in the book takes place.

In some ways, two stories run parallel here...the detectives who are keeping busy but largely ignorant of the bigger picture, and the drama elements with Odin and Floki. Usually novels pick up a pace towards the end, and Twe12ve is no exception.

As a tale, it is rather exceptional. Maybe I am just a fan of this author's works. I believe anyone who can work so many elements into one story and have it come out as well as it does here, can only go from strength to strength.

A special mention must be given to this Kindle version as viewed on my iPad. It looks terrific, is well presented and easy to navigate.

For fans of sci-fi, fantasy, criminal investigation

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Book Review: Beneath the Rainbow by Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow

Review: "It's those silly dreams that keep us alive." 

Dreams define us, shape us and realise our potential...they make us who we are. 

Freya won't let death stand in her way. When she dies Freya knows she needs to move on, but is caught within her mother's grief and the discovery of terminally ill Old Thomas. Finding she can affect the lives of those beyond her heaven she fights to reach her mother and wants to help Thomas realise his final dream. Meanwhile, her family finds her own list of goals and soon discovers that Thomas has a burning desire to ride a motorbike.

Freya intends to create a rainbow, the last item on her list, to reach her mother, but her pale arcs won't achieve closure. She needs scarlet like remembrance poppies then sunset orange and sunflower yellow. She makes green like her willow and blue like daddy's t-shirt. Finally conjuring indigo, the shade of deepening night and violet to match Purple Ted... 

Beneath these colours will Freya reach her mother, wait for Old Thomas and be ready to move on? 

Discover the importance of dreams and fulfilment in Freya's heart-breaking and uplifting tale of grief, hope, triumph and joy.

Review: The first thing to say about a book review is that I believe the review is more important than the rating. However, I have given Beneath the Rainbow a strong four stars because I believe this book would reward us with repeat readings, so this four could easily become a five in due course.

As for the review of this dreamlike, spellbinding book that opens with a hell of a sequence, which I won't mention here (just read it and you will be hooked), the book moves onto a possible version of the afterlife, and I have to say that in order to remain connected to the story, it is best to read it in one go.

 The author has taken time to make it a stunning experience for the reader.

The book is not that long, so you should be able to do it. What author Lisa Shambrook has done so well is give us a convincing, well detailed version of an alternate reality; a state of being that we don't understand because our days are filled with finding the pounds to pay for stuff that society says we needs.

To hell with all that!

Sometimes, an author comes along with a rare and special talent. The author has also penned further books and it will be a treat to get around to them one day.

Another thing to mention is how beautifully the whole book is presented. The author has taken time to make it a stunning experience for the reader.

Bring Beneath the Rainbow to the top of your reading list.

Book Review: Eternal Infinite by Pam Kesterson

Synopsis: Eternal Infinīte is a heroic fantasy that combines romance and adventure in a supernatural setting. This is the first book in the Infinite Series.

The secret is not living forever. It's knowing you do. Changed from better to best.

Shenser brings Saidi back from another realm while she lies in a coma. He escorts her in to a new reality after her identity is taken away and she is left for dead.

While in a coma the Infinites are gathered up from around the world and thrown into prison camps. This group of people never die because they have accessed the secret of eternal life. 

Later Saidi becomes horrified to find the Infinītes enslaved in brutality. She unleashes their exposure and the motivation of their hostile and cruel captivity. 

Vampires move over. Finally there's a book that you don't have to suck blood to live forever.

Find out more in this gripping beginning of the Infinīte Series.

Review: Eternal Infinite may well go down in history as one of the most unique books ever written. It is a story that demands time, concentration and patience, but if you stick with it, just like panning for gold, the good stuff will come through. Whilst the story is lengthy, the thing I had to contend with was exactly where I was in the story. The first third seemed to be like a dream sequence, the middle part was where the story really kicked off, before the close of the final third.

This in itself is a good thing. The author has given readers a challenging tale whose protagonist, Saidi, is by far the stand out character. I felt less connected to the others.

 I could not deny the author's unique style of story telling, and I would go as far to say that Eternal Infinite follows a similar vein.

In terms of genre, Eternal Infinite defies straight forward classification in my view. It's a fantasy, a thriller, a horror, an epic and much more. And none of you will be able to say 'there's not enough story here' because the author created quite an epic with her debut novel.

I read a book earlier in the year that won major literary prizes. The establishment loved it, but normal readers like myself, not so much. That said, I could not deny the author's unique style of story telling, and I would go as far to say that Eternal Infinite follows a similar vein.

Some books are an easy throwaway read. Others need you to pay attention. If you give this book a try, you'll find your attention rewarded.

Book Review: A Dream Come True by Rishiraj Sen

Notes: This is a debut novel by a teenage author! So many established authors and publishing house can make an obscure book a great hit through clever marketing. This book gets 4 stars from me and deserves to do well.

Review: As a work of fiction this romance is readable and well written. The style is obviously more suited to an Asian audience - my wife is Asian and so I have been used to reading many Asian scripts. I just wonder if the planned for a wider audience to read it, as in my view it is very Indian - there's nothing wrong with that as they are many great Indian authors out there and a wider readership who will appreciate this novel.

"The story has a poetic quality to it"

Anyway, the story is well told. It has a real dreamlike quality to it which I really enjoyed. The characters are well drawn too (is Arjun a popular Indian name? Seems like every Indian book I read has an Arjun in it!). The story has a poetic quality to it - if the author wrote poetry, I think he would be especially good at it.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Book Review: Zodiac Lives by Rhoda D'Ettore


Synopsis: A child begins having dreams of things she could not possibly know. Things of another life. When her nightmares fail to subside, her mother researches the events and names the child keeps repeating. Unbeknownst to her, the daughter is remembering a past life. A life where she crossed paths with the infamous Zodiac Killer who terrorized San Francisco in the 1960s & 70s. 

The problem? The Zodiac was never caught, and he soon learns someone is online with intimate details about his identity. The Zodiac comes out of hiding to hunt down the mother and daughter who know too much.

Review: Well. Sit me down. In fact, pick me up off the floor. Before you think that's a bit over the top, let me just say that I do like serial killer stories, but they need to be clever, engaging, engrossing. Some go over the top with gore or other explicit details and it can spoil the enjoyment of the tale.

The author has crafted an excellent tale of the mysterious and very frightening Zodiac Killer. He reminds me a bit of BTK (Bind Torture Kill) a real murderer who killed many, and laid low for a while, until he was found out and after many years, prosecuted.

I have no interest in acting out what they do, in fact what they do repulses me, but in the world of fiction, a well drawn character like Z makes the story utterly enthralling.

It's hard not to rave about this book. I write as an honest reviewer and I can only say that each page was an utter joy to read. The characters are ones you feel for, even ones that are only in a few paragraphs (their existence cut short by Z). But the author pays attention to modern day ways in her tale too - the serial killer chat room for instance, where one of our heroines - Gail - may or may not be chatting to the actual Zodiac Killer. Even his online name - KillingIsFun, really creeped me out.

There's another story about the woman's young daughter inhabiting the soul of one of Z's victims. This is all plausible, well constructed and believable in its execution. I would argue that even if police / crime / serial killer mysteries aren't your typical genre, this could be the book to change your view.

Whilst reading this book (over two days - it's that readable) I felt I could guess who the killer really was. I will leave it to you to make your own discovery.

The story has its brutal and shocking moments, but it is always in context, and I loved that.

I've read some excellent books this year, but if you only have time / money to get a handful of books, make sure this is is amongst them. In short -I give this book SIX stars.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Book Review: Joshua's Island by Patrick Hodges


Synopsis: Joshua is small for his age. He has been bullied relentlessly for years, and all of his friends have drifted away from him. Eve is a pretty girl who has just been recruited into the popular girls’ clique. They couldn't be more different. But as they begin their final year of middle school, their lives intersect when they are paired together as lab partners in Science class.

At first reluctant to be near him, Eve soon realizes that not only is Joshua nothing like she’d been led to believe, but that their school hides a very nasty secret. The unlikely pair enter into a dangerous relationship that will teach them both the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, and most of all, love … a relationship that will not only change both of their lives forever, but the complexion of their entire school. 

Review: There's many reviews that talk about the story of Joshua's Island. I would like to offer my story, as well reviewing this one. You see, when a child is bullied - and this extends to both girls and boys (just it is more common with boys) it makes their life a total misery, to the point that they would rather kill themselves than go to school for one more day.

The fear of the 'school tough', and his horrid group of 'friends' who zero in on someone because they are quiet, or studious, or even popular ruined many a school education. For my own part, when I was bullied, I never understood their behaviour, nor the teachers inability to deal with them.

As I read this book, the line 'where are the teachers?' stood out for me. A young child is being attacked, and needs help. The adults have to come to their aid, surely?

Throughout Joshua's Island, this tells a story of a boy who is mercilessly bullied and is brutally beaten in one terrifying and yet very realistic scene.

You might be forgiven for thinking the tale is too dark, but help is at hand in the shape of beautiful, popular Eve, who becomes Joshua's girlfriend. This is where my experience was different - I was too busy focussing on how to get through the day without trying to get a girlfriend (though I did have some happy times in that regard so it's not all bad).

My first two years at senior school was hell for me. It wasn't until I discovered martial arts and a way to fight back that things change.

Joshua's Island provides a strong message about not giving up, knowing who cares about you, and staying the course. Some children will be going home tonight, slinking into their bedrooms without barely a word to their parents, because what can they do, really?

In the end, bullies need to be shown for what they are - cowardly little scumbags who deserve all that's coming to them. In this story, the retribution is handled well. My only small qualm was Eve's involvement in the key scene between Brent (the bully) and Joshua. But the story's overall message is strong, powerful and positive. It' an extremely well written tale that actually - bullies should be made to read too. When I was at school, we read the classics - Dickens, Austen, Orwell, as well as many American authors. I would like to see schools be braver with the curriculum and choose books like this one.

A teacher reading this book could end bullying in one day by getting the whole class to read this. There is no excuse - ever - for bullying, it's disgusting, distasteful and it must stop. Joshua's Island never makes a victim out of its MC, and the switching chapter focus between Joshua and Eve is again, well constructed.

A simple, straight forward 'must read' of a book.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book Review: Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn


Synopsis: Dawn of Rebellion is the first in a trilogy about two sisters, Dawn and Gabby, trying to find their way and their family in a desperate future. In this first book, they encounter the forces of British occupation and the seeds of a land formerly known as America.

With the final installment of a rather famous YA dystopian series about to hit our screens, you would forgive this reviewer for feeling a bit jaded with the genre. It's been about six months since I read one. I thought I could not take another. Then Dawn of Rebellion pops up and I try it. The cover looks intriguing - I'm British, and its a YA dystopian? Already, this story says 'hey, I'm different'.

And it certainly is. Sisters Gabby and Dawn are the focus of the book, and when one the siblings steals a bracelet as a super birthday present for her sister, she is promptly arrested and dispatched to an unknown location to face an uncertain fate. But it's going to be rough justice, whatever it is.

At this point in the story, I was thinking 'this is rather harsh, even by totalitarian government standards', but in the author's world, even the smallest infraction carries the heaviest price. Think about the simple themes of love in the greatest dystopian novel of them all, and yet Winston and Julia pay the ultimate price.

So whilst Dawn of Rebellion is not as dark as that particular tale, it is dark, brooding and yet at the same time, manages to work in an unforced love story between Dawn and the third biggest character in this story - Drew.

As Drew says, in one of my favourite lines from the story:-

"I have never met anyone like Dawn or Gabby. They are both strong, yet surprisingly vulnerable. Both of them will go to the ends of the earth for each other. I never knew bonds like that existed. They are the stuff of stories.In today's world, people don't just risk everything for each other."

Now here is another point of note - the POV changes per chapter. I know some readers dislike this, but I actually adore this writing style. Anyone who says 'I can't read a story shaped like this' will miss out. POV is important, but we shouldn't always expect a third person narrative. Let's change things up. And this book does.

The author gets many of the British slang right on the head of the nail,not an easy thing to achieve, so again, my respect for that.

The main thing that drove me to read this book in only three days, was the clear and strong bond between the sisters. Gabby is taken away, so Dawn hatches a plan for her rescue. Improbable chance of success? Yes. High chance of being killed? Tick. Hard to put this story down? Oh yes.

Let me just say that I loved THG - you know which series I am on about. After reading book one, I bought 2 and 3 straight away. I already purchased book two in this series. I simply have to know what happens. In my view, the story is stronger than many other YA / Dysts with its original setting, shifting POVs (that are per chapter, not per scene, so you won't get lost, I promise you) and thrilling story, and believable characters who make believable decisions, given the pressure they are under.

It's looking like a great series. Jump in.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book Review: Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (Donovan Sisters, #2) by Jennifer Haymore

Synopsis: With her pale hair and slim figure, Olivia Donovan looks as fragile as fine china, and has been treated as such by her sisters ever since a childhood bout with malaria. But beneath her delicate facade, Olivia guards a bold, independent spirit and the kind of passionate desires proper young ladies must never confess... 

It was a reckless wager, and one Max couldn't resist: seduce the alluring Olivia or forfeit part of his fortune. Yet the wild, soon-to-be Duke never imagined he'd fall in love with this innocent beauty. Nor could he have guessed that a dangerously unpredictable rival would set out to destroy them both. Now, Max must beat a Madman at his own twisted game-or forever lose the only woman to have ever won his heart.

Review: The follow up to Confessions of an Improper Bride, Jennifer Haymore once again unites us with the Donovan sisters from book one. Olivia is unknowingly caught up in a vicious wager between the wild, young, and rather reckless soon-to-be duke, Max Wakefield.

It's a rather ungentlemanly wager that both he and the odious Lord Fenwicke become involved in. And this is only the start of the book! Fenwicke is a bad seed, that much is certain. It's not a spoiler to say just how bad he can get before the end of the story.

This is why the author creates such a good story. Her characters are fully realised, and we feel like we know each one as they take their part in the book.

What slightly stops this from being a five star read is the length of the story. It could have been trimmed by 50 pages or so and been utterly amazing. But as it stands, it is a worthy successor to the first (and arguably better book).

As with most HR's, there's love, there's confusion, there's debts to be paid and waived, and somewhere along the line, something more deeper, and more meaningful. This is why the author is one of the best HR writers out there, in my view. Both books in the series so far have been solid and entertaining, but also have the capacity to surprise - this book certainly does that.

As with the first book, the descriptive narrative is excellent. Main Bad Guy truly is a horrendous creation by Miss Haymore. Does it matter that he seems to have no redeeming qualities? No. We want him to be bad, because he brings colour to the story that would otherwise be a will they or won't they get together romance. He brings a dangerous angle to the story, and it is not for certain that Olivia will live to see her sister from book one again, or to survive this actual tale.

Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, I will now be looking up the next in the series.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Book Review: Tabitha: Stone Magic Book Two by J New


Synopsis: When Tabitha Stone volunteers to teach music at a children’s summer camp, she has no idea that within days her life, as well as those of her friend Gil, and the children in their care, will be placed in mortal danger. 
Convinced a camp teacher is using questionable methods, they investigate only to discover he is not who he claims, and their snooping ends with Tabitha in the hospital. 
With the help of her sister and partner, Tabitha and Gil delve further into the investigation, only to have their plan derail, when the reliability of Tabitha’s magic is thrown into question, and they discover an old enemy is hot on their trail. 
With danger around every corner, and time running out, will they be captured by the witch hunters? Or against all the odds, will they win this battle, save the children and get out alive? 

Books in the series 
1 Sophia 
2 Tabitha 

Review: In Stone Magic Book One, we were introduced to the first of five sisters, namely Sophia. Now with the second book in the series, we get to know more about Tabitha.

And what a ride it is.

First off, I have to mention the beautiful cover, which is as appealing as Sophia: Stone Magic Book One.

It was always going to be an ambitious feat of storytelling to intricately weave the lives of five sibling witches, but Tabitha: Stone Magic Book Two is certainly a huge step in the right direction.

Despite its breeziness, Sophia tried to introduce too many characters at once. In Tabitha, I believe this has been resolved, there are fewer characters, and this makes the story all the more engaging.

The principal characters are Doctor Reed, Gil, and of course Tabitha. Doctor Reed has more than something of the night about him - could he be the sinister head of the La Divinitas, as mentioned in the first book?

What seems clear is that he is Bad Guy Number One, and he means our Tabitha (who possesses such terrific skills like time travel and dream walking) a lot of harm.

Gil, however, is a good guy who is looking out for her, though he has a questionable past of his own. This is what I mean - the characters are well drawn and clearly defined here. I am still having problems with the character of Fritz, who seems as blank to me as in book one. Perhaps that the author's intention, so that Fritz will play a larger, more significant role as the series powers up.

Another example of the author's clear defining of her main characters is the subtle inclusion of the other sisters, without taking the focus off Tabitha (who I have to say is much cooler than Sophia).

Elissa, for example, appears mainly in a phone conversation with Gil, who is at pains to explain exactly where Tabitha has gone to. It's a funny, clever, subtle scene that makes me want to know more about Elissa. It is really well done.

The key for the story appears to be Tabitha's yearning for growth as a witch whilst not being harmed. She's also feisty, but not in a whiny way - she gives her sisters as good as she gets. There appears to be some needle between Sophia and herself, but a middling respect for Elissa.

Then we will move onto book three - Ophelia. This was a name I used in a book of mine - I totally love this name, and well...we don't know too much about her at this juncture.

One thing is for sure, author J New improves with each book she pens.

I loved this book.

Book Review: Human (A Ghost Story) by Brian Rowe


Synopsis: Abigail has been stuck in the same room, in the same house, for twenty-two years, ever since the night her father drowned her in the tub. She wants nothing more than to escape the confines of her ghostly prison, but her dad, who committed suicide the same night, won't let her leave. Even though she's a ghost, she can't move past the upper staircase without choking, without feeling like she's going to die all over again.

But when a new family comes to stay at the house, and a troubled boy named Percy becomes her new best friend, Abigail finds the courage to finally face her hateful father, and discover a secret about her future that will change her life forever.

Review: Human: A Ghost Story is a very interesting story that has posed a great challenge for me - the whole review could end up being a spoiler, so what can I do? 

Here goes. Abby is a girl who, over the course of the pages, discovers things about herself that are rather shocking. When she befriend a boy who is being bullied at school, she feels protective over him and wants to help him.

The issue is, Abby is fighting her own demons and in one vivid and shocking scene, we learn that all is not well in the Abby household. 

The events that take place lead on to another big story reveal, and it is so good, I will just say 'please read the book', as it won't take you long, is FREE, for heaven's sake (!) and will have you thinking about it afterwards - now that is the sign of a great storyteller.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Book Review: Lost Girl (Book One of the Lost Trilogy) by Anne Francis Scott


Synopsis: Secrets can eat you up from the inside out, no matter what end of them you’re on . . .

Renowned sculptor Allison Weathers doesn’t believe in ghosts. But when a tragic twist of fate leads her to the small mountain town of Dawson Mills, Tennessee, she soon learns that the dead don't always stay silent. Shadows begin to shift in the rambling, old Victorian farmhouse she’s purchased. Voices come from nowhere. She can feel the eyes on her. Cold. Wicked.

Paul Bradford, a contractor who is bidding the renovation work on the house, believes it’s more than just Allison’s imagination conjuring up the paranormal activity. Toni Harper, a reporter for the local paper, concurs. She’s heard snippets of hand-over-the-mouth gossip from some of the town’s deputies who responded to calls in the middle of the night. Ghosts. Or so the former owner claimed in the few months before his death.

The secrets they unearth rock Allison right down to the core—a nightmare that’s just beginning. Thrust into a haunted world where the paranormal and evil collide, she has one hope of survival: unravel the sinister history buried for decades within the old farmhouse, and find the link to a muddled piece of her past.

Review: I absolutely adore horror stories with a creepy undertone. I also love well crafted horror stories that insert the shocks and gore cleverly. In many ways, Lost Girl elevates itself to something higher through its excellent telling of a paranormal mystery. The main character, Allison Weathers, is an artist practised in sculpture. The quiet town of Dawson Mills, wonderfully described amongst the real state of Tennessee, welcomes her, as does the house she moves into. But is there a reason why she ends up there?

Anne Francis Scott writes with a maturity that, amongst the deluge of YA/NA books out there, it would be easy to class this book along them. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but as I say, this is mature storytelling. 

It is just so obvious on every page, that the author has taken her time to really craft a creepy tale. You will feel sympathy with the other characters around Allison, who know of her history.

Yes, she hears voices. Yes, the pipes in the old house creak and rattle. It's played down by her acquaintances, because the author is letting our viewpoint play out in the statements of these characters. They like Allison, as do we. But they are just a bit concerned that she is reading more into things than see them for what they actually are.

Every time she tries to focus on her work, something happens to scare her. What is clever is that she is not always on her own when it happens, but many times, she is. Given the author's articulate writing style, we are still in the loop when the crazies turn up. The question is, are these ghosts in Allison's mind, remnants of her recent, psychotic past, or are the ghostly apparitions for real?

There's a ramp up in the creep factor when Allison finds an old book in the house. The character featured in this book is so good, I would rate her the best character in the book. It's hard to say more without giving the story away, but this find was a core piece of the story's first third.

The story loses pace, or maybe that is the intention of the author, about half way through. This in itself is not a bad thing, because we need to take a breath and understand the events of the first half of the book. By the story's end, it wraps up rather brilliantly with the terrific ending. It's wonderful to know that there will be another story in the series.

The dialogue between Allison and her tormentors (or her tormented mind) is really well done. It takes an author of great skill to do that.

Personally, I would have wanted more horror in the story. The eerie feel is great and kept up throughout - not an easy task for anyone, but the author managed this feat. But maybe I have read too many horror books so I am rather desensitised about it. There is a hint of romance in the story too, but it does't detract from the main story, otherwise it might have been an irritating side-show. Honestly? If I have ghosts in the house and / or demons in my head, the last thing I want is romance. I'd probably end up taking an axe to the head of she whoever would take a fancy to me.

I will certainly be reading book two, and of course I would like to read the final book in due course, so the rating of 4 is a strong one, but provisional.After the story has been read as a whole, I may come back and revise the rating upwards. 

Some great examples of the writing in this book:-

'Racked with shivers under her lightweight sleep-shirt, Allison wondered why her breath didn't frost in front of her.' 


'Going through the days, living life, because that's what time forced you to do. And somewhere in the middle of it, hanging onto a thin fragment of hope.'

I enjoyed this.

Well done, Anne Francis Scott.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Book Review: Das Vampir by Tom Reinhart


Synopsis: A short horror story from the author of Saint Monolith and Hegemonian, Das Vampir is an exciting tale with a different perspective on vampires. It's a dark and old school monster story; more akin to Bram Stoker or Nosferatu than the glitzy vampires so common today. It's told from two perspectives: The vampire's, with the loneliness of being undead, the fear of the sun, the hiding in nasty places, the uncontrollable need to feed on the living; and that of the victims, as they fall to a bloodthirsty predator. 
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For I have become evil, and I have become death, and I fear only the light of day." 

Review: Das Vampir is a welcome throwback to the true essence of the vampire. The author pays a generous homage to Bram Stoker, and you can see in his writing a real authority in understanding the vampire's true nature. 

The immortal existence is not played out for laughs, indeed Tom Reinhart makes us understand that it is not necessarily cool to be a vampire, and the story is all the better for it. The story is short but packs no less a punch of a full novel. I would have liked a little bit more character development of the non-vampire characters, but then again, the author makes no apology (nor should he) for the reason as to why they are there in the first place.

They merely serve the purpose of being fodder for this most evil creature. 

With this author's take on vampire lore, do not expect sparkles or seduction. It feeds, it kills, it yearns to, needs to do it all over again. In this respect, the character development is bang on. 

Mr Reinhart's vampire is a winner because it is a truly terrifying entity. And now onto the sequel!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Book Review: The Luck of the Weissensteiners (Three Nations Trilogy, Book One) by Christoph Fischer


Synopsis: In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles in with the Winkelmeier clan just as the developments in Germany start to make waves in Europe. The political climate in the multifaceted cultural jigsaw puzzle of disintegrating Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and the families.

The story follows their lot through the war with its predictable and also its unexpected turns and events and the equally hard times after.

Review: I like fiction books that can go outside of their basic remit to be a page turner, to excite and to thrill. In the case of Christoph Fischer's epic series, I can honestly say I was informed and educated also. The Luck of the Weissensteiners is a truly epic historical work of fiction. When you are going through the early pages, the author goes to great lengths to explain the historical accuracies, but also where it is based on pure storytelling.

Following the lives of the family, the stand-out characters for me are Greta and Wilma. As they make their journey from hell to safer parts of Europe, it is like we go on that journey with them. I was literally exhausted reading this book, but in a good way.

Not everything about the book is perfect, the pace is a little too slow at times, but when it picks up, boy does it. This is a tale that rewards the patient reader.

Having said that, the pace is fitting for the narrative. This is a long tale,indeed, a long journey. The group go through hell and I was stomach churned by some of the descriptions. If you are a little queasy about such things, get over it, because I think this marks out average story telling from great story telling.

I did not read this book quickly. Even with other demands on my time, it was quite something to finish this book. But the author has put his all into this, you can tell he is passionate about the story. I have tried in this review to talk about my feelings about the book, not so much the story itself, because this has been covered in the many good reviews already placed here.

I heartily recommend this book. Get a drink, a place by a warm fire, and get lost in this tale.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Film Review: Spectre (Bond 24)

Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Belluci, 
Ben Wishaw, Christoph Waltz

Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred. An Aston Martin. Beautiful girls. Amazing stunts. Great fist fights.

You could say that Spectre has it all. Opening up with a daring sequence in Mexico, celebrating the Day of the Dead, we see various figures wearing skeleton costumes. James Bond (Daniel Craig) is in one of those costumes, looking for his prey. Just before he manages to do that, there's time for a quick liaison with a Mexican beauty.

What follows is an extensive sequence with a helicopter, as 007 battles to stop the man, Sciarra, getting away. Bond eventually gets his man, and, as is customary with the franchise, we are treated to great visuals and a bombastic song.

Or are we? Any singer would have felt pressure to follow up Adele's Oscar winning Skyfall, but Sam Smith's Writing on the Wall is not just a bad Bond theme, it is a poor song in general. I have heard that people say it sounds like Michael Jackson's Earth Song. It doesn't.

What is it about the fourth film for an actor in the franchise? Pierce Brosnan's last outing as Bond was in 2002's Die Another Day. Madonna's theme song was awful - even though she is generally good, the song didn't fit, the film is generally considered the worst of the series, and in that I agree.

Fortunately, Daniel Craig's fourth turn as 007 is a great film, not hampered by a terrible song. Sam Smith became part of a select group of male singers to pen a Bond theme. He follows such luminaries as Matt Munro (From Russia With Love) and Tom Jones (Thunderball). The song, ultimately, was too big for Sam, and would have perhaps been better sung by a female vocalist. When the talk was about the song being about an emotional Bond, I didn't buy that at all.  Daniel Craig is a man's Bond, and women like him too.

If you can put the song out of your head, the next part of the film focusses on Bond being chastised for not being in Mexico on official government business. M (Ralph Fiennes) is even harder on Bond than his predecessor ( played by Judi Dench).

Not for the first time in the series, 007 is told to stand down, and worst of all, is told by Q (Ben Wishaw) that he cannot have the new super Aston Martin. That car is going to 009. 

It's not all bad. Bond is given a watch. When asked 'what does it do?' Q replies dryly, "It tells the time."

Spectre feels a lot like a pre-Christmas present to Bond fans. It cleverly links the three previous Craig movies, but there are generous nods to others in the series. So Spectre does not offer much in originality, but as a huge fan of the series, that hardly matters. 007 fans watch the movies to be entertained, and Bond 24 is a hugely entertaining movie.

Despite second billing, Monica Belluci doesn't have much screen time. But she is a stunning looking woman for 51, and the brief love scene with Bond is well done.

C is a new character and immediately locks horns with M. The idea is to link the Nine Eyes framework together so that it will be a kind of Bilderberg group for the digital age. Everyone in our world fears this kind of thing, and in Spectre it is used to chilling effect. The 'baddie', played by Christoph Waltz, is the mastermind of the organisation, and I really felt the initial scenes with him harkened back to the Sean Connery era Bond, with its Cold War overtones.

However, there is a problem with a number of post-Connery films. The movies all tend to lurch towards two and a half hours long. Even Skyfall (2012) suffered from a bloated final third. One wonders just how good a two hour Bond film would be.

Christoph Waltz plays Oberhauser, who is a whizz with a computer and uses one to inflict a lot of pain on 007. The scene isn't as intense as the 'rope' scene in Casino Royale, and again, there's a lot of deja vu about Spectre. It seems like it wants to please fans of the early movies with modern 21st century update.

There's nothing wrong with that. Spectre does what it does - entertains. Some reviews say that Daniel Craig has brought no humour to the series, but I disagree - some of his lines and situations are truly funny and enjoyable.

Better than Quantum of Solace, strong when compared to Skyfall, but way behind Casino Royale, Bond 24 can be considered a solid addition to the series.

If Spectre is to be Daniel Craig's swansong as 007, I think he is signing off the series on a high.

Previous review Crimson Peak Next A Hologram for the King

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Film Review: Crimson Peak

Director: Gulliermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain

Gulliermo del Toro had been the original director slated to helm The Hobbit. When that film series floundered, I was left with a feeling of what might have been. Gulliermo del Toro had previously directed a truly great film, Pan's Labyrinth, which consistently hits many a film fan's top 100 list. It is an even more impressive feat considering the film is not in English, but Spanish.

Since I first heard about Crimson Peak, I was excited for its release. Gothic horror? Yes. Haunted House? You bet. Great cast? Of course. What could go wrong?

Well, the first thing to say about the film is that it is a truly visual masterpiece. The attention to detail of Victorian England, and the same period in the US, was superbly executed. del Toro has a great eye for detail. The buildings, the street scenes, the costumes all deserve a special mention.

My bet is that Crimson Peak will score many an award next year for art direction, special effects, costume design and photography.

The overall story is about a warning from Edith Cushing's (Mia Wasikowska) dead mother, who in ghost form warns the girl not to visit Crimson Peak. She does not know what it means, but she never forgot the warning. The introduction of the ghost, through the jumpy scenes through a mirror, to a door banging shut, may seem formulaic, but they are not - it's well done and gets the audience jumping early!

Edith's father is a rich man, and when Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) approaches him for investment into a digging project, Mr Cushing (in a nod to horror great Peter Cushing) is less than impressed with the oh so English Baron.

Sharpe had previously failed to get investment for his project, and though Cushing doesn't know it, he really is the last chance for the young Baron.

Cushing promptly turns him down. Things are complicated further with Sharpe's interest in Edith, who is a writer of ghost stories, though yet to be a published one. When he suggests it is a good story, she becomes endeared to him, and he suggests to her father that he is in love with her.

Strike two for Sharpe. Cushing believes the young Baron to be a cad, a charlatan, and much worse.
He orders Sharpe to break his daughter's heart, and he will pay him to get out of her life. It's a rather sad scene when Sharpe tells Edith that her work is childish and amateur.

Of course, he really loves her, and the next day, when Mr Cushing is murdered (in a very brutal scene that will shock some viewers) attention moves to Sharpe, but by then, he has already returned to England, to his home at Crimson Peak.

Edith soon joins him, because she has no other family in the US. She believes he really loves her, but things are not quite right at the old house. Of course, when Edith learns of the house's name, she is reminded of her mother's warning.

Still, she wants to make it work with the Baron, and it is at this point we are introduced to his sinister sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). It's clear from early on that the two women are not destined to get on, with Thomas and Lucille appearing a little too close for a brother and sister to be.

Soon after, Sharpe marries Edith, much to the annoyance of Lucille, and when they stay away one night to consumate their marriage, the two women have a showdown, in which Edith shows her anger by saying 'Lucille - I am his wife.'

Lucille continues to act odd, barely holding back her contempt for Edith. When she sees ghosts in the house, her statements are dismissed as 'well, it's an old house'.

Edith is also warned not to go to certain parts of the house, but needs must, and as the story unfolds, we realise the Baron's true intent, and his sister's plan for Edith.

To say any more would reveal too many spoilers. Let's just cover off a few things where the film fails to deliver.

You see, I wanted to see a gothic horror film. Crimson Peak is more of a gothic romance - a bloody, brilliantly executed gothic romance, but as a horror, it misses a few targets.

The ghosts, for example, are wonderful to look at, rather than scary. But I don't want to deal the film down, because ultimately I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

All three leads give it their all. Jessica Chastain was especially wonderful for me, and Mia Wasikowska makes for an interesting heroine who has a spirit enough to give other modern heroines like Katniss Everdeen a run for their money.

The ending is great, but the story is always engaging. You will want to know what happens. Whilst the violence is sporadic, it is very strong when it happens. The implied theme of incest will turn off some viewers too. But I hope del Toro returns to the horror theme in the future.

Previous review: Macbeth Next: Spectre 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Film Review: Macbeth

Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, David Thewlis

This is the first of my film reviews for the blog. I hope to add more over time. I saw this film two weeks ago at the cinema.

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most infamous plays, often referred to as The Scottish Play so as not to add a curse to those talking about it. I read it many times as a child, but not had any interaction with it as an adult, so approaching this now was interesting. Would I still like it?

Perhaps 'like' is a strange word to use. It is recited in Shakespeare's English, of course, but spoken in a Scottish accent (Watch out for a turn by David Thewlis, Harry Potter's very own Professor Lupin, as King Duncan).

The story is well known but I will reiterate the film's take on it, which thankfully does not deviate much from the original script.

In essence, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is a great general in the King's army, and on completing a battle, he meets three witches who profess that it may be time for a new King to rise. It is all done through symbolism, for example, one of the witches holds a dagger covered in blood and infers that a time of change may be at hand.

Macbeth, like many of his men, is tired of an apparently weak King. Duncan leads by inertia rather than via strong command, and on discussing the strange events of the day with Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) 

he decides, or rather she does, that they should in fact murder the King. They have sex, and then plan to execute their plot the very next day. Sex and planning a coup does not a good combination make! Lady Macbeth wants to seize the opportunity, telling her husband that he can blame the murder on the King's incompetent men (they aren't, but he makes it so by getting them drunk).

Apart from the extremely violent opening battle scene, the murder of King Duncan, via a simple knife, is very bloody and dramatic. I saw some people looking away when the scene played out.

Lady Macbeth chastises her husband when he fails to leave the bloody knife at the scene. He goes back and plants it. The following day, when the King's body is discovered, no-one would consider blaming Macbeth. But there is no heir, no-one who could take over. 

Through careful and ruthless manipulation of the Court, Lady Macbeth ensures her husband in crowned King, with herself as his Queen.

As with many of Shakespeare's plays, the happiness cannot last, and Macbeth begins to rue what he has done, and slowly, both of them descend into madness.

So, is Macbeth any good? Does it work on the big screen? My answer would be a resounding yes. 

The direction is fantastic, creating a hellish version of Scotland with red fiery hues adorning the screen. Both leads are tremendous, and I say that without having seen the talented Michael Fassbender in any other film.

40 year old Marion Cotillard looks like she is in her late 20s, with her olive skin and elven looks, she was a treat for my eyes. Her obvious beauty takes nothing away from her considerable acting talent. I would like to see her amongst the names for an Oscar next year.

Macbeth is bloody, brutal and brilliant. Find the cinema with the biggest screen possible, and enjoy every moment.