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ohthreeksixfour "serjeantaefre"

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River of Ink
River of Ink
Price: £7.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treat for the imagination, 17 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: River of Ink (Kindle Edition)
This book is a stunning addition to the historical fiction market. The prose flows like a dream, as the poet Asanka addresses his mistress; relating the narrative to her in his mind.

Asanka develops through the story - partly through being dragged along by the actions of others! - from a cowardly, pampered person into a man of cunning and desperate courage. He fights his battles with subversive literature, knowing that if caught he would face death just as much as an assassin or solider.

The narrator being a poet, the style of prose is very lyrical, though it is never excessively flowery. The pace is languorous in places, allowing the reader to absorb the setting with all the senses. We visit the dusty markets and verdant jungle; the ruins and palaces; the lakes shrinking from drought; and the foetid dungeons filled with dissenters. Cooper evokes the spirit of these locations with the knowledge of someone who knows these places first-hand, and imparts this through Asanka who of course lives them every day. This assumed knowledge allows him to describe without having to explain, giving the reader the joy of filling in the acute detail on the beautiful watercolour washes that bloom from each page.

Readers should appreciate the dream-like quality of writing and the attention to detail in the world-building, as found in books like Memoirs of a Geisha and The Handmaid's Tale. There are no big battles or sword-swinging barbarian champions in this book, though there is no shortage of violence. The adrenaline rush is of a very academic kind, though I see this a positive, being a bit academic myself.

El heraldo de la tormenta (Spanish Edition)
El heraldo de la tormenta (Spanish Edition)

5.0 out of 5 stars No se pierda este serie fenomenal, 29 May 2015
Es un serie de fantasía un poco diferente. Hay muchos personajes con historias distintas, pero se influyen, y se cambian. Cada paso hecho cambia el destino del reino. Las cuentas de los personajes nos muestran las vidas cotidianas de ciudadanos de todos caminos de la vida. Hay una princesa, un asesino, una bruja y su aprendiz, una niña abandonada, un antiguo soldado legendario que esconde como herrero y mucho más… y todos están al centro de una trama mala. Hay magia, peligro, esperanza y traición. Pero también hay el que mueve todos los hilos… y nadie sabe que cada paso hecho es una parte de su plan. Los personajes deben aunar esfuerzos, pero no se conocen. Como lector, ¡fue muy frustrante seguir un personaje y saber la solución de su problema! Quería tomar unos de ellos y trasplantarlos en otras partes. También me gustó mucho el humor negro del escritor. No es un serie demasiado sangriento pero si hay violencia. Si ha leído Joe Abercrombie, es probable que le gustare este libro.

Blue (Darkness falls Book 3)
Blue (Darkness falls Book 3)
Price: £2.87

5.0 out of 5 stars No diminishing returns!, 30 Aug. 2014
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Blue, and since he was my favourite bit of Redemption, I was eager to see what he’d been up to (and catch up with Noelle too, I suppose).

That massive lust-crush Blue developed on Red through Redemption hasn’t gone away, and he’s as protective as ever. I liked that Ivory Quinn moved the focus away from Noelle for this book, though of course she is still a main character. Noelle’s life had settled down for a while, but now there’s a film crew trying to make a documentary about BDSM! This adds another level of annoyance for everybody, because even though Noelle is keen to help people understand the realities of scenes and sessions, and the whole psychology of it, there are still secrets to be kept.

Blue and Cal really come into their own in this book. They were hardly 2D characters before, but the mentor-mentee/father-son relationship really comes to the fore. Cal isn’t just a boss and the troubleshooter; he has really done a lot for Blue and the emotional ties are strengthened as well as tested through this book.

The Darkness Falls musicians also feature, which links through from the earlier books, and I think Ivory is threatening to write a book about each and member, too, eventually, so it was nice to see that their friendships have lasted through the events of Redemption and beyond.

Of course, what a lot of people want to know about are the steamy bits. Ivory has pulled out the stops in this one. Her erotic scenes are not gratuitous; they feel like they are a natural part of the plot. There is a new power struggle in this book, and you will be dying to see who eventually comes out on top – if anyone does! – because we all know Ivory likes to surprise readers with where characters end up. The dynamic has shifted, partly because this book is through Blue’s perspective, so the energy of the narrative is different, too, and that affects the energy of the sexy bits. I felt more voyeuristic reading this book than I did with the previous two.

I don’t really want to spoil the plot, but rest assured there are a few twists and some emotional gut punches. I read through this book in one sitting. It will make you laugh and wince and huddle in close. There are different layers to pick through: Blue and Red, layered on Cal and House politics, layered on outsider scrutiny, layered on crisis and danger. Trying to keep different groups of characters apart as necessary and putting together deceptions and distractions nearly drives Blue crazy, but he has to keep it together!

We all know about the week of heartbroken weeping after the end of Obsession. This one might make you reach for the Kleenex as well. For the same reasons? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Conversations with Spirits
Conversations with Spirits
by E. O. Higgins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent vintage, 1 Mar. 2014
“You saw a medium?”
“Did she make contact?”
“My wife? Yes, once…” I replied, “with the aid of a Mrs. Trubshawe, when I visited her in her lodgings in Bow.”
“And what message did she have for you?”
“She advised me to pay Mrs. Trubshawe sixpence. And when I asked why her voice sounded so different, I was informed that in the afterlife everyone has a cockney accent.”
(Chapter II – The Redoubtable Harry Price)

I first read part of Conversations with Spirits on a website called where I used to be a member. It’s a site for writers to post their work and get comments and if they have finished stuff they could put it up for sale for ebooks and stuff. The author, E O Higgins, got the book picked up by Unbound and pushed for pledges. I pledged. I got a signed first edition.

I had been reading it in the bath. I consider such behaviour a little decadent. I never used to get the “reading in the bath” thing. But Spirits is a sumptuous book that deserves to be savoured. The opening line…

“I AWOKE IN the shadow of Sibella, the crumpled blackness of her crinoline dress hovering lightly before me…”
(Chapter I – A Working Man)

it’s going to be iconic. It rolls around your brain like the first mouthful of a delightful scotch tickles the tongue. I always say that Chocolat is the book I wish I’d written, and that’s still true, but Conversations with Spirits is the book I wish I could paint onto myself like a full bodystocking tattoo. That one sentence fits the tone of the whole book: Sibella hovers with a shadowy form (from Hart’s dishevelled perspective) like an impatient spirit.

Set in 1917, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Trelawney Hart is a drifting, cynical alcoholic with the brain of a cold hearted materialist. It is very easy to forget how young he actually is. I had a shock when I remembered Hart is only thirty-two, given his hard drinking and railroading speeches. He acts older than his years but then he has suffered: his upbringing was clinical and he has lost his wife (a large part of the need for drink). He lies and he bluffs and he stumbles (literally at times) from insult to injury to indignation in his quest to prove that there is nothing supernatural going on in Broadstairs. Hart has been engaged to witness and scrutinise a potential miracle: a man called J P Beasant walking through ten feet of solid brickwork.

The book involves the quite real personages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Price, the rise in popularity of mediums and spiritualists, and the academic conflict between the Materialist (realist/scientific) and the Spiritualist movements. Higgins wisely chooses to keep to the miracles end of things and steers clear of too much ghostly haunting of a sheets and chains kind. Those talkative spirits are both the liquor-induced whispers of memory and guilt that Hart is desperately trying to drown as well as the messages from beyond he delights in debunking. Hart scoffs at the supernatural and decries all mediums and psychics as being charlatans, but is (wilfully) ignorant that he is being haunted by his memories of Katherine. His refusal to acknowledge his turmoil does not make it any less real.

We know from the beginning, when Hart meets Price on the train, that of course it won’t be a miracle. There is a nice bit of foreshadowing where Hart demonstrates his powers of reasoning to explain a simple conjuring trick that Price performs that allows the reader to truly appreciate Hart’s disdain for anything irrational, including the behaviour of ordinary people. As the details of Hart’s education and upbringing splurge out in lumps when he’s feeling particularly callous or annoyed, we come to understand why Doyle compares him to Sherlock Holmes. There is no doubt that however carefully this spectacle is staged, Hart will figure it out and expose it. But it isn’t a straightforward journey.

The narrative is in the first person, making this fervent denial even more gripping. Going back to the opening, to Sibella, to the only woman in the book to have true substance, her concern (and affection) is seen from Hart’s perspective as nosiness and unwelcome interference. It is Sibella who arranges the first meeting with Doyle and who packs Hart’s luggage, though he is less than appreciative:

"SIBELLA, IN HER usual marmish fashion, had packed a carpet-bag for me containing some fresh linens and toilet equipment. For whatever reason, she likes to do these things, and I have realised— perhaps a little late in our association— that it was easier just to accept these foibles. Not requiring the extra burden, however, it was my plan to deposit the bag in the Left Luggage office at Victoria railway station, should time permit it."
(Chapter II – The Redoubtable Harry Price)

She responds to Hart with lashing sarcasm and it is only after “four days of feminine criticism” on her part that he emerges from the first chasm of his grief following his wife’s death. As the book unfolds, it becomes clear how dependant Hart is on her: she even helps to organise and write up his manuscripts when she’s not busy making him get off the floor and drink something other than brandy. Though Hart blearily dismisses her caretaking as “mawkish” and “sentimental”, it does seem to occur to him that he appreciates her in his own way. After all, for a woman he is constantly criticising, he thinks about her a lot during the weekend.
It is Hart’s interactions with others – seen from his own clearly superior perspective – that give the book its best moments. He matches wits with Conan Doyle, finally getting a puissant last word that led to a full on chortle (which I won’t spoil); toys with Horrocks the long-suffering Hyperborea Club barman in full abuse of his social standing; and generally bullies his way through any situation. Hart is infuriating at times in the best possible way. He made me smile and cringe and snicker and glower so if nothing else this book gives the face a full workout. He isn’t necessarily a likeable character, but you can’t dislike him either. He is a person suffusing pathos and bedraggled pride from every brandy-clogged pore.

"With a reluctant smile, Doyle added: “Between ourselves, I have always considered Knighthoods to be the badge of the provincial mayor.”
Nodding absently, I muttered: “I understand completely. I rarely ask people to use my title either.”
There was a moment’s pause within the carriage. Finally, Doyle leant forward in his chair: “Your title?”
“Oh? Didn’t you know?” I returned mildly. “I’m the eighth Duke of Roxburghe.”"
(Chapter X – A Departure)

Beasant himself, the miracle worker, is a slightly pathetic figure that seems uncomfortable with the glare of the spotlight in which he has found himself. He is not a charismatic and flamboyant showman who is going to perform a spectacle; he is reserved and self-deprecating. Hart is not impressed with him when they meet by chance, though he manages to wangle an invitation to a small private séance anyway. Beasant reminds me of Sybill Trelawney from Harry Potter, in that it seems he does have a hint of real talent, revealed only subtly at first as he makes claims of a spirit guide and disembodied voices that Hart dismisses as the usual spiel.

Events at the séance, however, unsettle even a dyed-in-the-wool realist like Hart, and he later dreams of his wife. He wakes after the dream ends with his teeth falling out. It is a common theme of dreams but I doubt Higgins chose it at random. Losing teeth in dreams apparently represents feelings of powerlessness and difficulty dealing with loss, telling lies, and possibly even that the dreamer places all their faith and belief in the tangible and rejects the spiritual. Sounds about right. Thought you could sneak that one in, Higgins? I’m onto you.

Hart’s companion for most of the narrative is the bedraggled Billy Crouse, Ramsgate native, who is pressed into becoming Hart’s local ‘guide’. The two of them spend a lot of time drinking, though Billy is more used to cheap and nasty concoctions than the good stuff Hart is fond of. Hart feels sympathy for Billy as he too has lost his wife, and really the only thing that separates them is social class: Billy was a joiner while Hart is the son of a Colonel and by his own admission doesn’t work. Hart has been sheltered in the Hyperborea Club while Billy has been reduced to a vagrant. Their paths intersect and while Hart’s influence appears to be doing Billy some good – he can afford to eat properly and he has new clothes – Hart deteriorates through the weekend in both health and spirit.

Billy has a quiet dignity and a firm moral compass – he doesn’t like Hart lying to Beasant – but he knuckles under to Hart’s upper class bluster and becomes a useful gofer. He is also more intelligent than people give him credit for, including a sharp sense of humour. And of course he gets the best line in the whole book:

"I blinked across at Billy, who was looking very intently at me. Finally, he broke the silence in the room and, in an anxious tone, uttered:
“You had your honeymoon en Basingstoke?”"
(Chapter VIII – Lost Souls)

I was in the bath for that one.

So why do I want this book to be tattooed on me forever? Well, the language and vocabulary are stunning. When I read the first chapters on jottify it was clear that this was Higgins’s soul between the lines. The pages are dense with detail including newspaper articles and the manuscript of Doyle’s draft report following the ‘miracle’. No one ejaculates, but there is some hallooing which is always welcome. The tone wavers between condescending and self-pitying, with brief stops in arch and wry. Each word has clearly been chosen with care and with an attention to register and structure that frankly beggars belief. It has been sculpted. It has been honed. It is so worth it. There is not one wasted syllable in this book. It’s the leanest sirloin you could hope for.

I’m a less than staunch supporter of Neil Gaiman and his works quite often have a similarly super-edited quality to them, but the difference for me is that Higgins doesn’t get pretentious about it. Or maybe the whole book is so damned pretentious it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. But I don’t think so. The strength of the character voice and the eloquent language reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha. The attention to period detail is luxuriant. From the brandy bottle bedecked endpapers to the excellent note about the font at the back of the print edition (I love this kind of education in my books) the only fault I can find is that it ends…

Sage (The Last Ancient Book 1)
Sage (The Last Ancient Book 1)
Price: £2.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Itching for book two!, 25 Feb. 2013
I read this book tonight in one sitting. I could not stop reading it.

Sage and her friends have the same problems as everyone else with the added hassle of being magic users in a world full of "norms". It is part Harry Potter, part Malory Towers and very easy to read.

The main characters are in their teens and I would recommend this book to people of a similar age and adults too! There is a bit of cheeky language and some teen lusting that might not be comfortable reading for anyone under fourteen but at twenty-six I had no problems with it!

I am totally hooked and cannot wait for book 2 because there are some mysteries to be resolved and there's more politics and drama to come. I like that the characters can develop and grow to match the mature and serious situations they will be in in book 2 (I assume).

I really don't want to say too much about the plot because I think it spoils the fun but you'll rip through it so quickly that you won't be waiting long to find out what happens next. I was glued to it by the end of chapter 1.

Thanks, Rivka! PLEASE bump book 2 to the top of the to-do list!!

Stoppit And Tidyup [DVD] [1988]
Stoppit And Tidyup [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ Terry Wogan

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I said NO!!!, 26 Oct. 2004
This was supposed to be a Christmas present for a friend of mine... but I kept it! Terry Wogan as the narrator really brings Stoppit and Tidyup to life - as well as Tidyup's many colourful ties! Buy this if you want to regress to being seven years old. Me and my dad watched in giggles as Wash your Face kept splashing Tidyup's freshly laundered ties with mud and the way Stoppit becomes a ball of red fluff with flailing arms when he runs. I love Stoppit and Tidyup - now I can force friends and family to love them too!

The Pyrates
The Pyrates
by George MacDonald Fraser
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - slap me with a marlinspike else!, 25 Oct. 2004
This review is from: The Pyrates (Paperback)
Oh how good is this book? I first read it after I caught my dad chortling away with his nose stuck into it and now we have two copies in the house (one each) so we don't fight over it any more! Yes, the dialogue may be corny but that's what makes it so good. The action speeds across the seven seas and the modern touches are perfect. It's entirely silly and over-the-top but on a rainy Saturday I suggest you curl up with a mug of sometihng hot and sweet (possibly with a tot of medicinal brandy) and follow Long Ben Avery et al from the Atlantic to the Caribbean and all over the oceans, wi' a wannion. If you like swash-buckling old-fashioned adventure with a sense of merciless glee please read this book.

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