Monday, 19 December 2016

Review: Rise of the Werewolf by Mike Tufo

It's been a while since I succumbed to the lure of werewolf stories, mainly because finding good ones is such a challenge. But when I saw a plethora of good reviews for Rise of the Werewolf (Lycan Fallout #1), I had to take a look. The author promised that although the novel stars the same protagonist as his earlier zombie novels, reading them would not be necessary to enjoy this werewolf storyline. To a degree, he was correct.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Honorary Award for My Co-Authored Werewolf Story: Musta Susi

I'm happy to announce that a short story, Musta Susi (Black Wolf), co-authored by me and my wife, Ulla Susimetsä, received an honorary award yesterday evening. Combining our shared love for historical fiction and my passion for werewolf stories (my wife's written a couple of those before this as well, so she's not completely passionless), we wrote a story set in the 1640's, in the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean and the New World colony of Sweden on the Delaware river.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Often called a cult-classic, [i]An American Werewolf in London[/i] was released in 1981 during a kind of a peak in werewolf films. It was praised for its special effects, which, I'm afraid, haven't really survived the test of time. I've watched it at least twice before and have not been very impressed by it - I've written before that I'm not really into the simple blood-hungry monster angle when it comes to werewolves - but decided to give it another go in order to write this review.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Review: Hakkapeliitat I-III by Artturi Leinonen

Artturi Leinonen's Hakkapeliitat series (originally released as three novels) relates the adventures of a group of (Finnish) cavalry (whom the author refers to as dragoons) serving under the rule of the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus during the 30 Years War. Written in 1932-1934, the storytelling style is old-fashioned: there's no strong overall plot and the story tends to get lost on tangents every now and then. Still, it is a fun read, overall, and deserving of a lot more attention than it has received in the recent years.

Review: The Wedding of Cyrano (D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled, #3) by Paul Féval, fils

In 1928 Paul Féval, fils' wrote a trilogy known as D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled, continuing an earlier series that he wrote with M. Lassez, called The Years Between. The stories are set after Alexandre Dumas' Twenty Years After and show d'Artagnan and some of the rest of the musketeers in various adventures with Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. I've read and reviewed all the other parts of the story and now it is time to tackle the last one: The Wedding of Cyrano. It should be noted that this review will likely spoil some of the events of the earlier parts of the story, but no more than the title of this novel itself already does.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Review: The Laughing Cavalier by Emmuska Orczy

Emmuska Orczy is best known for the The Scarlet Pimpernel novels (and plays and films) that are set in the 18th century Britain and France. However, she wrote two novels depicting an ancestor of her famous hero set in the 1624 Netherlands, the first of which is called The Laughing Cavalier - named after the famous painting by Frans Hals (see the title image) that Orczy claims depicts the hero himself. The hero goes around under the pseudonym of Diogones and is part of a group of three mercenaries who call themselves the Philosophers.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Review: The Escape of the Man in the Iron Mask (D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled, #2) by Paul Féval, fils

Paul Féval, fils' wrote a trilogy known as D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled. The story is set after Alexandre Dumas' Twenty Years After and spans the years between 1649 and 1655. I've previously reviewed the first part of the trilogy and was somewhat annoyed by the uneven plotting. The second part works much better, but takes a serious deviation of the Dumas' original story, introducing a plot with the Man in the Iron Mask much earlier than Dumas did and leading to a vastly different plot, cunningly mixed with actual historical details.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Review: The King's Passport by H. Bedford-Jones

I've previously reviewed H. Bedford-Jones' pastiche of Alexandre Dumas' classic work. Interestingly enough, his other story featuring the classic hero, d'Artagnan, The King's Passport, is not in any way connected with the longer work and is not really a pastiche at all: rather than being set in 1630 and featuring the Dumas version of d'Artagnan (who was born at least a decade before his historical counterpart), the story is set ten years later, in 1640, when d'Artagnan has only recently arrived to Paris and is serving in the Guard.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Review: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche: A Romance of the French Revolution from 1921 is perhaps the most acclaimed of Sabatini's works. However, before I finally read it, my only knowledge of it came from the 1952 film, which I liked but never enough to actually go and try the novel before now. It turns out that I had been missing one of the best historical fiction novels ever written.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: The Brethren Prince by Ira Smith

The Brethren Prince by Ira David Smith might well be one of the definitive novels of piracy and privateering in the Caribbean. Following the life of James Ketcham, it shows us historically accurate life among the buccaneers of Hispaniola, in the famous pirate haven of Tortuga and in several other historical locations on the islands and on the mainland. The novel certainly has some drawbacks, but they are outweighed by the good parts.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Review: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand and Charles Renauld

Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac from 1897 is one of the definitive plays set in the 17th century. Inspired by the life of the actual historical poet and duellist, the play introduces us to the tragic figure of Cyrano who is in love with a woman but never dares to tell her about it. The play has been adapted to film, radio, TV etc. so many times that it is doubtful that anyone might have missed it, but this was the first time that I went to the play itself to enjoy the original text (or as original as I can without learning French).

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Review: The Blast that Tears the Skies by J.D. Davies

The Blast that Tears the Skies is the third novel in J.D. Davies' The Journals of Matthew Quinton series. It is a historical naval fiction series set in the 17th century that has, until now, spent most of its time on land, dealing with the protagonist's family mysteries. The third part finally brings the family mystery to its conclusion and also describes one of the major naval battles of the era, the Battle of Lowestoft, where the Royal Navy have to forget their differences in order to beat the Dutch Navy.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Review: The Duel - A Military Tale by Joseph Conrad

The Duel - A Military Tale is the novella behind the esteemed film adaptation, The Duellists by Ridley Scott, which starred Keith Carradine as Armand d'Hubert and Harvey Keitel as Gabriel Féraud. The tale explores the concepts of honour and pride through the acts and lives of two men, d'Hubert and Féraud, who have very different ideas of what they mean. I reviewed the film in the previous post and now it is time to take a look at the novella.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Review: The Duellists (1977)

It often seems to me that The Duellists (or The Duelists for our friends across the pond) is one of the forgotten classics in historical fiction films. Quite surprisingly, it is directed by Ridley Scott, who is not known for any strive for historical accuracy and who has even stated that he willingly ignores historical details in order to tell a good story. Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that he did not see history and the story conflicting in this particular case.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Review: Long John Silver by Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Laufray

I must admit to not being a big fan of the Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The plot was perhaps a bit too simplistic - I found coming-of-age stories dull even as a child - and the characters uninteresting. The only potential character in the bunch was always the pirate Long John Silver and that potential has been over-used ever since then by many other authors and script-writers, either adapting the original story or revisiting the characters in some other way. Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Laufray's take in the four part graphic novel, Long John Silver, is unique enough, however, to make their story stand out from the rest.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Review: Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian

I'd better get this straight right from the start: Patrick O'Brian is my absolute favourite author. More specifically, I love his Aubrey/Maturin novels for how they transport me to another place and time so completely. I've read the series through twice and finished reading the first novel, Master and Commander, for the third time a few days ago, which led me to write this review love letter.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Attending the Opening Ceremony of the Heavy Metal exhibition

My wife and I were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Heavy Metal exhibition at the Häme Castle on the 21st April. First things first, the exhibition has next to nothing to do with certain genre of music, and a lot to do with heavy metal armour and weapons used in the 16th to 18th centuries. The arms and armour come from the Universalmuseum Joanneum in Graz, Austria and they are, therefore, historical equipment used by the soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire under the Hapsburg rule. These are displayed for the first time in Northern Europe, so it was simply a chance of a lifetime to be one of the first people to enjoy the exhibition.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Review: The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

Alexandre Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask storyline has been adapted to film several times. I previously reviewed the 1977 version and the 1979 version and noted how they had changed the original story to a large degree. That's no different with the 1998 version of the tale, starring Leonardo diCaprio, but the changes that have been made are very different from the previous versions.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Review: The Fifth Musketeer (1979)

1970's saw at least two film adaptations of The Man in the Iron Mask story by Alexandre Dumas. The first was the Richard Chamberlain starred version in the 1977 that we reviewed a short while ago and the second was The Fifth Musketeer in 1979. Both of them take only the basic idea from the original story and go on a completely different tangent from then on. However, although Chamberlain's version was originally "made for TV" only, it ends up being far superior - and even much more loyal to the original story - of these two adaptations.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review: The Wolves of Paris by Michael Wallace

I often complain that it is difficult to find good werewolf stories, especially among self-published titles, but sometimes you strike gold. Michael Wallace's The Wolves of Paris is based on a historical story of a pack of wolves that attacked people in and around Paris in 1450, but takes it into a new direction by turning it into a fantasy tale of werewolves and witchcraft.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Review: Honor Among Thieves by J.M. Aucoin

Honor Among Thieves is J.M. Aucoin's first novel in his self-published Hope & Steel series. It is set in 1609, before the time of the King's Musketeers and during the reign of Henry IV. Going by the author's own words, he lists his influences as "Alexandre Dumas, Rafael Sabatini, Arturo Perez-Reverte". Since these correspond with my favourite authors in swashbuckling fiction, there was no way I was going to miss this novel.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Review: The Man in the Iron Mask (1977)

The Man in the Iron Mask is a film adaptation of the story told by Alexandre Dumas in his d'Artagnan Romances. It takes portions of the story of King Louis XIV's love affair with Louise de la Vallière and combines it with a completely reworked plotline involving Louis' secret twin brother. Overall, I must say that the film manages to deliver a more interesting and involving story than the original novel did.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Review: Admiral (2015)

The Admiral (2015) tells a story of Michiel de Ruyter (1607-1676), a famous Dutch admiral who managed to put up a decent fight against the naval might of England during the Anglo-Dutch wars. Rather than telling the full story of his rise to fame in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the film focusses on the c. ten last years of de Ruyter's career when he was chosen to lead the confederate fleet. For me, this is a bit of an unknown topic - for some reason my knowledge of Dutch history and naval power has pretty much been limited to the powerful East India Company, so my commentary on historical accuracy is somewhat limited in this review.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Review: The Mountain of Gold by J.D. Davies

The Mountain of Gold is the second novel in the The Journals of Matthew Quinton series by J.D. Davies. It is historical naval fiction, but unlike most other novels set in the Age of Sail, Matthew Quinton lives in the 17th century, in post-Civil War era England where the king's power is still shaky and many wish that the Civil War had ended differently. The first novel was somewhat light on the naval adventure side, most action taking place on land, and the sequel has the same problem, if you wish to call it that. But, overall, it is rather a good read of the period.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Three Musketeers at the Lahti City Theatre

Last night, my wife and I attended the last performance of The Three Musketeers (Kolme Muskettisoturia) at the Lahti City Theatre (Lahden kaupunginteatteri). I'm not going to review it, as there is no sense in doing so for a play that no one can see anymore, but I wanted to bring up some of the highlights and some of what-one-might-call the low points in this interpretation of Alexandre Dumas' classic story. Let's begin with the trailer:

Friday, 19 February 2016

Review: Gentleman Captain by J.D. Davies

There have been numerous authors trying their hand in the same genre with Patrick O'Brian, but no one has truly been able to match the quality of his naval historical fiction. J.D. Davies' Gentleman Captain, is a fine entry to the genre, however, and manages to make itself different enough from those who have gone before. One of the main differences is the era. The novel is set in the latter half of the 17th century and offers a nice view of the post Civil War England.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Review: State Secret (D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled, #1) by Paul Féval, fils

I've previously reviewed Paul Féval, fils' and M. Lassez' The Years Between series that saw d'Artagnan meet up with Cyrano de Bergerac and go on adventures with each other. A few years later, Paul Féval decided to revisit the characters and wrote a trilogy that is known as D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled. The story is set after Alexandre Dumas' Twenty Years After and spans the years between 1649 and 1655.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Review: The Wolf Among Us, Vol. 1 by Matthew Sturges et al.

The Wolf Among Us is a bit of a surprise find for me, as I was first interested in a PC game of the same title and considered purchasing it before I saw that there was also a graphic novel available of the same story. I did not try to find out much more about the comic before I laid my hands on it. Imagine my surprise when I realised that the werewolf in the lead is actually the Big Bad Wolf - called Bigby Wolf here - who attempted to eat the Little Red Riding Hood and that he's secretly in love with Snow White with whom he is solving a murder mystery...

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My Top Five Reads of 2015

Last year, I looked back at my top five reads in 2014 and as it was a pretty fun experience to relive some of the highlights of that year, I see no reason not to try the same thing again. It was not easy this time either, since there were quite a few books that I had given the same ratings, but one must be ruthless sometimes and make decisions.