Tuesday 24 August 2010

Book Reviews

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Jeff Kinney

Available Now - £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Greg Heffley – the eponymous Wimpy Kid - finds himself thrust into a new year and a new school where undersize weaklings share the corridors with kids who are taller, meaner and already shaving. Desperate to prove his new found maturity, which only going up a grade can bring, Greg is happy to have his not-quite-so-cool sidekick, Rowley, along for the ride.

But when Rowley's star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend's popularity to his own advantage. Recorded in his diary with comic pictures and his very own words, this test of Greg and Rowley's friendship unfolds.

Comparisons between this and Adrian Mole are almost inevitable, so let’s get them out of the way first. ...Wimpy Kid is much more cartoonish than Sue Townsend’s books, which are intended to be more realistic, and (dare I say it?) literary. ...Wimpy Kid by comparison is lighter, but the vibe of Adrian Mole remains, in a good way. From where I’m standing, it has to be said that Diary of a Wimpy Kid has probably got the edge over Adrian Mole in the plain-ole' “being funny” stakes. Adrian Mole is clever, but Diary of a Wimpy Kid actually made me laugh out loud. On the train.

Like all good books of this kind it makes you remember your own adolescence, including “meh” Christmases, petty rivalries and how important your best friend really was to you. Kids will (and do) love it, but it’s definitely worth a peek for adults too.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some playground scuffling and pranking.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A cartoonish Adrian Mole, brought up to date, with plenty of funny moments. Well worth checking out. 8/10

The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary
Jeff Kinney

Available Now - £9.99 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary goes behind the scenes to tell the story of Greg Heffley from cartoon character to a real live person on the big screen. This is a full-colour diary complete with photographs, script pages, storyboard sketches, costume designs, and more Wimpy Kid drawings by Kinney.

Sometimes, you need to not stretch too hard. What we have here is a relatively by-the-numbers, cash-in, making-of book. Unfortunately, all the attempts to make it not be that cliched and simple backfire and make it even more obvious that that's what it is. It’s the literary equivalent of pointing out how accurate your historical wargame is by highlighting the giant robot crab.

Some of the details – like highlighting how much work was put in by the prop department, and the preparation the cast put into making their roles – are informative and interesting. The rest of it though is pretty formulaic, and it all boils down into a collection of photos by the last few pages. Kids will probably find it interesting, but adults will probably know it all anyway.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: As an educational book for kids on the movie-making process it’s really good. There’s nothing here for adults, really, but fans of the series will no doubt find it cute. 6/10

Rumble Road
Jon Robinson
WWE Books

Available Now - £8.99 (Paperback)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Rumble Road is the follow up to Are We There Yet?, and is made up of a collection of road stories from various WWE Superstars. Having read Are We There Yet? a few years ago, I thought that Rumble Road would be a list of “runner up” stories.

I was incredibly wrong, and quite stupid for thinking that.

WWE wrestlers spend roughly two hundred days a year on the road or in planes. I know from experience that the travel can be mind-numbing. I also know from experience that wrestlers are masters at finding and making entertainment. And driving each other insane.

The book is split into several different sections, concentrating on things such as practical jokes (ribs), car crashes and dodgy hotel rooms. The stories are penned by the superstars themselves and are not written in character, which is a wonderfully refreshing change of pace from the usual kayfabe that the WWE throws at us.

Stars such as Randy Orton, Big Show and Rey Mysterio all share stories from their travels and some of them are truly priceless. It’s nice to see the humility of some of the newer talent such as Jack Swagger and Santino as they travel alongside the bigger stars of the roster, learning from them as they go.

The stories range from the hilarious to the quite touching, as the wrestlers really communicate how much of a family they are together.

The only things the collection could need are stories from the major stars of the WWE, such as Triple H, Undertaker and the like. Sure, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho, amongst others, are headliners, but it feels like more and more mid-carders are contributing, and the big boys didn’t want to play.

As a note, watch out for any stories by Hornswaggle, The Miz or Kofi Kingston. The three usually travel together and their constant rivalry is the highlight of the book.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Car crashes, blood stained hotel walls and more car crashes.
Sex/Nudity: A nude Cody Rhodes is said to be “at attention”, and one superstar starts “hanging out” with a girl in his hotel room before Hornswaggle pops out from under the bed.
Swearing: Its all f#*king censored.
Summary: A very good behind the scenes look at the world of wrestling. Recommended for fans, and double recommended for fellow wrestlers. 10/10

The King’s Bastard: Book One of the Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin
Rowena Cory Daniells

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Kelly Prior

Byren has never wanted to be king and is quite happy to allow his twin brother Lence the privilege. Having grown up together and always been close, Byren is appalled when a crazy old seer tells him he will kill his brother. Now, he also has to deal with the shocking revelation that his best friend and most trusted companion Orrade is a lover of men, and in love with him, while Byren loves Orrade’s sister Elina. As if Byren is not under enough pressure, he finds himself in the middle of a twisted plot to overthrow his father, the king. With untamed magic called “Affinity” taking over all the creatures of the forests and controlling the minds of men, Orrade and Byren don’t know who to trust.

From the front cover you would imagine that this book is going to be your run of the mill, generic fantasy epic. True to form, it does give us some incredible hunting and fighting scenes. However, The King’s Bastard also gives us a great deal more. It delves deep into the politics of war and the Royal court in a very imaginative way. It intertwines concepts of war, religion and monarchy into the precarious world of magic. Magic is outlawed and misunderstood but, most of all, it is feared.

Although the narration mostly tends to follow Byren, we are also given opportunities to follow the other characters and get to know them, presumably to prepare us for future installments, (this is the first book of The Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin). The writing style is quite laid back. Rowena Cory Daniells does not waste time with boring and pretentious paragraphs of incredible length. Instead, we rely on dialogue to give us key facts and to help us form opinions of the characters we meet.

Each character has their own unique personality and is struggling with their own issues alongside Byren’s. Brothers Orrade and Garzik are particularly enjoyable and entertaining characters, Garzik for his boyish immaturity and Orrade for his impeccable goodness and intriguing predicament. The story lacks conventional romance but still delivers some very convincing love stories. The female characters are just as impressive as the male characters, and in some cases are quit heroic and powerful. If this first book is anything to go by, The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin looks set to be a pretty good fantasy trilogy.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of fighting with both men and fantasy creatures.
Sex/Nudity: Some nakedness, making out etc, suggestion of more.
Swearing: None, except, y’know, “Bastard”.
Summary: Girls will enjoy this book more than boys, but it is good fun and very touching at times. It’s a bit too long, but it’s certainly not slow paced. 7/10

Carrion Comfort
Dan Simmons
Quercus Publishing

Available Now - £8.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

In the past, caught behind the lines of Hitler's Final Solution, Saul Laski was one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. But he soon soon fell into the clutches of an evil far older and greater than the Nazis themselves.

In the present, a rare few individuals have The Ability (the psychic power to influence the minds of others). Each year they meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of debauchery and slaughter. But this year things are not going according to plan.

The story that follows spans decades and continents and penetrates the darkest recesses of the 20th century, as one man seeks to justify his belief that a secret society of powerful beings is behind many of the world's most horrific catastrophes.

A horror story that is genuinely chilling – rather than just containing some serial killer or monster to make you jump – is a very rare thing indeed. Carrion Comfort is one of those rare things. The main fear comes from how those who possess the ability use it, and often to sanity damaging effect.

The tense, psychological horror is tempered by several scenes of balls-out explosions, punching and gunfire – but this never feels wrong. The story flows naturally along, and you’re in for the ride from start to finish. And believe me: it’s a hell of a ride.

Central characters can die without a moment’s warning. One minute you can be reading what seems like Dennis Wheatley, and the next it’s Ed McBain. If you’re looking for one of the truly great horror stories out there, then you owe it to yourself to check out Carrion Comfort.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Frequent and strong. Graphic depictions of blood, gore, punching, scuffling, shooting, large explosions, murder, infanticide. Contains several scenes in Nazi Concentration Camps.
Sex/Nudity: Some explicit nudity and sex scenes.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: A fanastic horror novel, full of genuinely horrifying moments and some great, explodey action sequences. 10/10

Main Battle Tank
Niall Edworthy
Michael Joseph

Available Now - £25.00 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The British Army’s Challenger II Main Battle Tank is one of the most awesome war machines ever built. In March 2003, three Squadrons of Challenger 2s from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, part of Britain’s 7th Armoured Brigade, the fabled Desert Rats, gathered in Southern Iraq to prepare for battle.

The Army’s newest Big Guns were going to war for the first time. But Operation TELIC was a war which the Challenger 2, designed to operate in the fog and mud of the Central European Plain, had never been expected to fight..and one that would quickly break every rule of tank warfare including the golden maxim: never take a tank into a town.

I was expecting (and maybe you are, too) for Main Battle Tank to be another heavy handed and hard-going slog through the details of modern warfare, bogged down by its own pedantry and jargon. However, let me assure that its not. If you’re looking for an “entry level” military book (especially one dealing with tanks), then I think you’ve found it. It’s presented as a collection of anecdotes, frequently genuinely funny, and this makes it very easy to get into.

This is not to say that it is not without gravitas, however. The harder side of warfare is fairly represented, and there are plenty of down moments, but the character of the troops is what carries it on.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Frequent, bloody and realistic warfare, including detailed descriptions of injuries and one memorable evisceration.
Sex/Nudity: Some full male nudity.
Swearing: Relatively frequent.
Summary: A very easily accessible – and sometimes even light-hearted – study of modern tank warfare. Perfect for beginners or those with a casual interest, but it will probably be a little too light for true tread-heads. 8/10



The first feature film from Sandy Collora, director of the awesome-tastic Batman: Dead End.

A group of intergalactic commandos crash-land on a desolate and hostile planet while transporting a deadly alien prisoner who escapes and goes on the run. The commandos report in to their home base to seek assistance but are told they must track down and recapture their alien alive, at all costs.

The surviving commandos play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with their former prisoner who is smart and not easily outwitted. But as the commandos are picked off one-by-one and the odds begin to turn, who is the real hunter and who is the real prey?

Thanks to our friends at Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, we've got three copies of Hunter Prey to give away! For your chance of winning, send us an e-mail to hunterpreygiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Tuesday 31st August (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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