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Monday, June 29, 2015

Nightmares & Dreamscapes (Stephen King)

A collection of short stories, several being published for the first time, offers a spine-tingling journey to the nightmare world created by a master of sheer terror and grotesque imagination.

Front Cover

Found this book at my family's home back when I went back for Raya last year and to be honest I'm not a great fan of Stephen King though I did read a few books from him. This book is a collection of short stories (some never published before) in 1983 and was even made into 8 episodes mini series for television. 

Below are the stories featured in this book:

1 Dolan's Cadillac   (Castle Rock, February—June 1985)
2 The End of the Whole Mess   (October 1986 issue of Omni)
3 Suffer the Little Children   (February 1972 issue of Cavalier)
4 The Night Flier   (Prime Evil - 1988)
5 Popsy (Masques II - 1987)
6 It Grows on You    (Fall 1973 issue of Marshroots)
7 Chattery Teeth    (Fall 1992 issue of Cemetery Dance)
8 Dedication  (Night Visions 5 - 1988)
9 The Moving Finger   (December 1990 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
10 Sneakers   (Night Visions 5 - 1988)
11 You Know They Got a Hell of a Band (Shock Rock - 1992)
12 Home Delivery (Book of the Dead -1989)
13 Rainy Season (Spring 1989 issue of Midnight Graffiti)
14 My Pretty Pony (My Pretty Pony limited edition coffee table book - 1989)
14 Sorry, Right Number (Previously unpublished)
15 The Ten O'Clock People (Previously unpublished)
16 Crouch End (New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos - 1980)
17 The House on Maple Street (Previously unpublished)
18 The Fifth Quarter (April 1972 issue of Cavalier)
19 The Doctor's Case (The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - 1987)
20 Umney's Last Case (Previously unpublished)
21 Head Down (April 16, 1990 issue of The New Yorker)
22 Brooklyn August (Io #10, 1971)
23 The Beggar and the Diamond (Previously unpublished)

As with all other Stephen King novels, these short stories are tales related to supernaturals and thriller, if not actually ghost stories and they are certainly interesting if you like the genre.

As for me, I have not read past 10 pages yet since I find them boring. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Blood Crows (The Eagle Series)

For nearly ten years, the Roman Empire has fought ceaselessly to strengthen its hold over Britannia. But opposition from native tribes led by the ruthless warrior Caratacus threatens to destroy everything. Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro are summoned by Governor Ostorius to Londinium. Tasked with leading a newly formed cavalry cohort into the heartland of Wales, they must destroy the growing resistance. But with Caratacus hatching increasingly ambitious plans and disorder threatening from within Macro and Cato's own ranks, this final test will push the soldiers to their limits. And if they do not emerge as victors, the Emperor Claudius's rule may be at stake, and the very foundations of the Roman Empire could be shattered irrevocably. 

Front Cover

The Blood Crows is the 12th book of the Eagle Series by Simon Scarrow originally published in 2013. Basically the Eagle Series (first book Under The Eagle published in 2000) is a historical fictional accounts of two officers of the Imperial Roman army, Lucius Cornelius Macro as the experience older born and bred centurion of the legion and Quintus Licinius Cato, born a slave in the imperial palace and gain freedom (and Roman citizenship) upon joining the legion. 

This book sees the return of Marco and Cato back to Britain (the first 5 books are sets in Britain while Book 6 until 11 are sets in Rome and other parts of the Roman Empire. Cato now commands an auxiliary cohort holding the rank of prefect and the first book where Cato officially outranked his friend, mentor and father figure. The Blood Crows also brings back the fighting part of the early series rather than political intrigue like the few before this.

A pretty straight forward 'return back to soldiering' on the outset, our heroes however must also fight the enemies within and not just various still hostile tribes in pacifying Britain under the command of Caratacus.

In this episode, both Cato and Marco were sent to the far out post in Britain as a reward for their services to Rome (or Narcissus to be exact) with the intention to get away from politics as far as possible. Cato finally got his commission and to command and auxiliary cohort from Thrace after the previous prefect died supposedly from accident. Marco was sent together to command a legionary cohort attached together with the auxiliary cohort by the governor. 

I like that while the book is basically about straight fights between the Roman army and Caratacus, there's also an element of political plays behind as not only Marco and Cato have to fight off the British, they are also fighting with the ranks on the Blood Crows itself, which is the nick name of the Thracian cohort under their own commander.

All in all, a pretty interesting read.

#TheEagleSeries #SimonScarrow

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Eagle Series (Simon Scarrow)

The Eagle series are collection of historical fiction novels set during the reign of Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) and we filled with real historical characters like Vespasian (future emperor of Rome) who happened to be a legate (commanding general) of the Second legion on the invasion of Britain (43 AD) when the series originally start. There are currently 13 novels published with another one scheduled for 2016. There's also a short story related to the series called Blood Debt which unfortunately I do not have in my collection.

Photo Credit: Google Images

The novels are as follows :
  • Under the Eagle (2000)
  • The Eagle's Conquest (2001)
  • When the Eagle Hunts (2002)
  • The Eagle and the Wolves (2003)
  • The Eagle's Prey (2004)
  • The Eagle's Prophecy (2005)
  • The Eagle in the Sand (2006)
  • Centurion (2008)
  • The Gladiator (2009)
  • The Legion (2010)
  • Praetorian (2011)
  • The Blood Crows (2013)
  • Brothers In Blood (2014)
  • Britannia (forthcoming 22 Oct 2015)

The first 5 books are sets in Britain during what historian called Roman Conquest of Britain, and the stories are told from the point of young Quintus Licinius Cato, a young boy born as a slave at the imperial palace and joined the legion as part of gaining his freedom though with his imperial connection he was promoted immediately to the rank of Optio and the task to guide his young boy fell into the hands of a new promoted Centurion, Lucius Cornelius Macro, a seasoned legionary who was recently promoted to the rank himself. Don't worry if you don't understand how the rank works as each book starts with details of the hierarchy of the Roman legions.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Not just regular fighting, which features actual historical battles like the Battle of the Medway, our heroes follows Legio II Augusta (Second Augustus Legion) under the command of Vespasian (he eventually became the Roman Emperor in 69 AD) and they also have to perform some task ordered by the Emperor's trusted adviser Narcissus (he's also an actual historical figure). 

The next book finally sees our hero back in Rome before being sent again as part of the imperial fleet sent to Illyria to fight of pirates before seeing our heroes went to the east to Syria and Palmyra to fight with the Parthians before coming back to Rome in Praetorian.

Photo Credit: Google Images

The Blood Crows is the latest book (that I have) and I will do more reviews (more like synopsis rather than actual review I think) as time goes by.

#TheEagleSeries #SimonScarrow

Monday, June 8, 2015

Away From The Keyboard

A room without books is like a body without a soul.” 

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Besides toys, my father used to buy me books too when I was a young child though I honestly can’t remember when I actually started reading. When I was growing up, besides television and playing outside with childhood friends, the other hobbies that were available to us from the Generation X was reading books and comics. My earlier novels were probably some translated to Malay novels and one book that I remember reading was the story about two brothers joining a ship that hunted whales. Can’t remember what’s the actual title of the book but the heroes were Hal and Roger Hunt.

During my boarding school days I was again introduce to book reading especially from my English class where our teacher gives us a book at the start of the week to read and then at the end of the week to summarize about what we have been reading. The books were given at random though I found out that I’m more interested in adventure type of books especially those set in historical period so I’m very much at that time finding myself enjoying the books by Alexandre Dumas like The Count of Monte Christo, The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask.

Photo credit: Google Images

I was also at that time introduced to Dickens and even Shakespeare (though I was not reading his actual plays) plus many other novels, both in Malay and English that I can get my hand of from the school library. One of the books that I still remember is called Isabella, a Malay translation (which I confess I do not know the original author or the original language) is about a story base on Islamic Spain setting about the daughter of a priest who became a Muslim and that book actually started my interest in comparative religious studies.

Other Malay language books that I was reading that time were from renowned Malay writers like Arena Wati, Usman Awang and  A. Samad Said. While my reading list are diverse, my interest lies in historical settings so Malay novels like Salina and Panglima Awang are those that really sparked my interest.

During the time I was working in a resort many years ago, my source of books at that time were those that were left by the hotel guests at the end of their stay and I’m very grateful since I can’t even remember if there’s a bookstore there that sells type of books that I like to read. I’ve got quite a lot of large collection that time though I had to leave most when I moved to KL.

Photo credit: Google Images

While I very much like history, I don’t really like to read the academic type history books so my interest is mostly historical fictions like The Eagle Series by Simon Scarrow and also The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. The books that I have read (and many times re-reading them) are what helped shape my interest and awareness of the real work and you can find that relation on my other blog called The Keyboard Warrior

The books that I have read also in many ways indirectly contributed towards the games that I like to play whenever I have the free times which I am also posting on another blog called The Keyboard Gamer.

With this blog I’m going to write my experiences, if not actual reviews regarding the books that I have in my possession especially those I enjoyed reading them again and again. After all, we must not always stay in front of the keyboard all the time!