Quick Review: BLOOD COMMUNION by Anne Rice (Chatto & Windus/Knopf)

RiceA-VC13-BloodCommunionUKHCLestat ushers in a new era for the world’s undead

From his meticulously restored ancestral chateau high up in the mountains of France, Prince Lestat grapples to instil a new ideology of peace and harmony among the blood-drinking community. Accustomed to welcoming the Undead from far and wide, one night he awakes to news of a ruthless attack by a group of maverick blood-drinkers.

After fleeing to investigate the terror, Lestat learns of several new enemies who despise his rule over the blood-drinking realm, and who are intent on disrupting the harmony he tries so hard to maintain. But is Lestat strong enough to take on such evil alone or will sacrifices have to be made? Will his cry for peace be heard in a world riddled with violence?

If you’ve been following CR for any amount of time, really, you’ll have noticed how much I like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series. The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned are, together, one of my favourite novels (I have to read them together, so they only count as one). In this, Rice’s thirteenth novel in the series, Lestat ushers in a new era for the world’s blood-drinkers as he takes the crown. Continue reading

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Quick Review: NEFERATA — MORTARCH OF BLOOD by David Annandale (Black Library)

AnnandaleD-Neferata1-MortarchOfBloodNeferata, queen of the vampires, shows her true colours…

When a threat to her realm of Nulahmia rises, the Mortarch Neferata must commit herself to a centuries-long battle if she is to save her kingdom and retain her position.

The Realm of Death convulses with the ravages of war, but Neferata continues to rule the city of Nulahmia with an iron will. Through guile and terror, she has destroyed all who would take her crown. But when a threat rises whose repercussions will stretch across the ages, Neferata must commit herself to a centuries-long battle and retain what is hers, no matter the cost.

This is the first full-length novel dedicated to the queen of vampires in the Age of Sigmar. Her origin story was first written about in Josh Reynolds’s novel, set before the history of the Old World, and also a bit in Mike Lee’s Nagash trilogy. Reynolds also wrote a short story featuring the character, Auction of Blood, which was an intriguing introduction to the character’s obsession with secrecy and scheming, always off-stage as others did her bidding. In Mortarch of Blood, Annandale gives us a much clearer picture of Neferata herself. She is presented as never before. Continue reading

Quick Review: I’LL BE THERE FOR YOUR by Kelsey Miller (Hanover Square Press/HQ)

MillerK-IllBeThereForYouUSA “definitive” history of the TV show Friends

I’ll Be There For You is the definitive retrospective of the classic TV phenomenon. From its low-profile debut in 1994, Friends grew over the next decade to be the must-watch prime-time hit of a generation, and a certified classic.

Join Kelsey Miller as she relives the show’s most iconic moments, examines some of its controversies, and shines a light on the many trends it inspired from oversized coffee cups to the much-copied 90s haircut, The Rachel’.

Weaving incisive commentary, revelatory interviews and behind-the-scenes anecdotes involving high-profile guest stars, I’ll Be There for You is the most comprehensive take on Friends yet, and the ultimate book for fans everywhere.

I have been a fan of Friends since, I think, the end of season one. It is a comfort watch, and a series I often have on in the background. When I still lived in the UK, it was almost impossible to go a day (an hour?) without being able to find an episode on one of the digital channels. It’s a huge show, and continues to be so even a decade-plus since it ended. I was very interested, therefore, when I heard that someone had written a book about the show, purporting to be the definitive story. I was lucky enough to get a review copy. I found it to be a mixed reading experience. Continue reading

Music: MURDER AND THE MOTIVE by Those Damn Crows

ThoseDamnCrows-MurderAndTheMotive

I feel like I’ve been waiting a long time for the debut album from Bridgend, South Wales five-piece Those Damn Crows. Thankfully, on October 5th, Earache Records released their album, Murder and the Motive. The delay was certainly worth the wait: this album is great. It’s interesting that it did take so long for the album to come out, though: the music video for “Fear of the Broken” (the final track on the album) was uploaded to YouTube on June 8th, 2015! “Blink of an Eye” (my favourite song on the album) got a video in September 2016.

My “review”, for want of a better word, is simply this: Those Damn Crows are damn good. If you’re a fan of any kind of rock music, then I think you’ll like this band. Loud guitars, great vocals and hooks, I’m really glad I stumbled across them. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE MAN BETWEEN by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins)

CummingC-ManBetweenUKA spy novelist finds himself recruited into the world of espionage…

He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price.

One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger.

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism.

Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West.

As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite thriller authors. It’s becoming almost cliché to compare him to le Carré, but he remains the best comparator. Cumming writes intelligent, engaging and interesting espionage thrillers. In his latest novel — The Man Between in the UK, and The Moroccan Girl in North America — he takes a premise that is very interesting and possibly something many thriller authors think/fantasize about frequently: what if an author of the genre was recruited by a secret service to aid them in an investigation? I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: A Pair of Emperor’s Children Novels by Josh Reynolds (Black Library)

A pair of novels that look at the Emperor’s Children Legion at two very different times in their history

Josh Reynolds, who must be Black Library’s hardest working author, recently wrote two novels about the Emperor’s Children Legion: one is part of the Horus Heresy: Primarchs series, and the other set during the ‘current’ WH40k era. Together, they offer a nice look at how far the Legion fell.

ReynoldsJ-HHP-FulgrimFULGRIM: THE PALATINE PHOENIX

Seeking a new challenge and a mighty triumph, Fulgrim – prideful primarch of the Emperor’s Children – sets out to conquer a world with just seven warriors by his side…

Lord of Chemos and bearer of the Palatine Aquila, Fulgrim, primarch of the Emperor’s Children, is determined to take his rightful place in the Great Crusade, whatever the cost. A swordsman without equal, the Phoenician has long studied the art of war and grows impatient to put his skills, and those of his loyal followers, to a true test. Now, accompanied by only seven of his finest warriors, he seeks to bring a rebellious world into compliance, by any means necessary. But Fulgrim soon learns that no victory comes without cost, and the greater the triumph, the greater the price one must pay…

In Fulgrim, the eponymous Primarch attempts to prove himself to his father and brothers, after he feels his reputation and stature threatened by his more-accomplished brothers. It is a story of arrogance, certainly, but also one that shows us how skilled Fulgrim actually is — long before his descent into Chaos and ultimate apotheosis. An interesting novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: LEADERSHIP by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster)

GoodwinDK-LeadershipUSAn excellent examination of four presidents, their development into leaders, and how they overcame the challenges they faced

Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights) — to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.

Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times.

No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.

This seminal work provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field. In today’s polarized world, these stories of authentic leadership in times of apprehension and fracture take on a singular urgency.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of the best presidential historians working today. Best known for her superb, exhaustive biography of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet and presidency, Team of Rivals, Goodwin has also written substantial biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson (who she worked for), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. In Leadership, she examines how Lincoln, Johnson, FDR and TR developed into the leadership roles they inhabited. It is an excellent distillation of her previous scholarship with that specific question in mind. Engaging, rigorous, and illuminating, this is an excellent history. Continue reading