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Sam Tyler "samueltyler" (Reading, Berkshire)

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Hitman: Damnation
Hitman: Damnation
by Raymond Benson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Killer's Heart, 9 Jun 2014
This review is from: Hitman: Damnation (Paperback)
The hero of the ‘Hitman’ games is simply known as Agent 47 and he has very little to say. This means that a reader should probably not have high hopes for any novel based on the game, but they may be wrong. ‘Hitman: Damnation’ by Raymond Benson is set before the events of the recent ‘Hitman: Absolution’ and although it has little impact on the events of the game it does give you a surprisingly deeper glimpse into 47’s psyche than you might think.

47 is sent into the compound of an increasingly successful new religion, his task is to integrate himself and wait for orders. As a cool customer, 47 is used to being professional at all times, but when he meets a fragile woman he starts to have new feelings. Is this the dawning of a new 47 or does he need to knock his addiction to painkillers on the head?

‘Damnation’ is by no means the greatest thriller that was ever written, but it is solid and in terms of game tie in novels this probably makes it an opus. Benson is able to explore 47 more than in the games by giving him a weakness in the form of chemical dependence. The painkillers cloud his ability to act and think, but also weakens his resolves to stay separate from people. The middle chunk of ‘Damnation’ is an intriguing character led thriller with 47 learning more about himself.

However, this section is bookended with some major action set pieces that are fun and well written, but also highlight what an absolute sociopath 47 is. It is hard to like a man who will kill a gardener just to get into a facility. By trying to flesh out 47, Benson actually shows the reader how absurd a character he is. Fans of the games will enjoy ‘Hitman: Damnation’ because it captures the feel of the game well, but general literature fans may be too disturbed by the anti-hero at its centre.


The Forever Watch
The Forever Watch
by David Ramirez
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Forever is Today, 9 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Forever Watch (Hardcover)
Great science fiction is made up of many parts, but three things are vital for it to become a classic; world building, story and character. If one of these three elements is slightly below the others, a great novel can be punished. In `The Forever Watch' by Daniel Ramirez we have a fantastic world in the form of the spaceship Noah, a great character in the form of Hana, but does the story quite match up to the rest?

The human race is dying, but before we are wiped out on Earth, we boarded the spaceship The Noah on a 1000 year journey to a new planet. The people on the ship have evolved from what we know today; they have enhanced powers that dictate their role in the society. Hana scored well whilst growing up so has become a manager in the Civil Engineering department, but when she meets Barrens she is plunged into the hidden side of The Noah, gaining glimpses of secrets that no one should see.

I love a good dystopian structure and that is exactly what you get with `Forever Watch', Ramirez has created in The Noah the perfect type of world on which to base a story. Although set hundreds of years in the future on a ship that cannot yet exist, it feels realistic. The politics of the ship are somewhat fascist, but perhaps this is needed to achieve the ultimate goal of creating a new Earth? Hana is also a great character to follow; she is a powerful woman, but still feminine. Some of the scenes between her and Barrens may make your eyes water, but they give a good reason for the characters to work for survival.

The one element that is not quite as strong is the story itself. The blurb will have you thinking this is a murder mystery based in a science fiction universe, but it is more than that - too much more at times. This is a book that opens small and grows, and grows, and grows. The concepts leap from a character study into epic proportions. Although the individual elements of the story work, the journey almost seems too much for one novel. However, what a story and what ideas.

Some of the concepts in `Forever Watch' work the brain, this is one book in which you need to read every sentence. The use of powers such as telekinesis, advanced strength etc. are only the start. Artificial Intelligence, politics, sexual awakenings and many other elements are also explored. This is a mixed bag of a novel that tries to fit it all in at once. The one thread that stays true throughout is Hana and her relationship with The Noah. It is these two elements that make the book a joy to read; witness as Hana evolves so much through the pages.

In a world of prolonged series, I am usually one to call for standalone titles, but in this rare case I would have preferred longer in each element of the book; it feels like it has three distinct sections. To criticise a book for being too good in places that it should have been longer is harsh, but still, the impulse of Ramirez to cram everything into his debut does mean that it feels overly complex at times. Still a very good book for fans of space based science fiction. Reviewed originally for bookbag.com.


Scaredy Cat (Tom Thorne Novels)
Scaredy Cat (Tom Thorne Novels)
by Mark Billingham
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Curiosity Bored the Cat, 6 Jun 2014
Crime fiction comes in various styles; some are just procedural, whilst others like to investigate the life of the officers as much as they do the crime. There is a thin line between going into enough depth to give a character meaning and making them seem like a wet lettuce. At times the various characters in Mark Billingham's Thorne series of books are not only wet lettuces, but an entire side salad covered in water. `Scaredy Cat' may just be the most extreme in the series for this.

After two women are strangled on the same day in slightly different ways Detective Thorne and company are put on the case of what appears to be a rare occurrence of two killers working together. Can Thorne and his crew get over their personal issues long enough to protect and serve the rest of us? This might be asking more than you think.

The USP for Thorne is that is unable to develop the hard outer shell that many police officers grow to protect themselves from the sick people they have to deal with. This means he is prone to outbursts of anger, but also makes him really want to catch the killer. For me, it is all little too much, especially with his inner gazing further compounded by his ailing father. It is not Thorne who is the major issue in `Scaredy Cat', but the relationship between the other characters. I would probably pick up an emotion led piece of straight fiction if I wanted to know this level of trials and tribulations.

You may wonder why I have spent so much of my review speaking about the characters and not the case. This is because it is exactly what the book does as well. The hideous case of two killers almost seems like a backdrop to a police melodrama. Thorne is a reasonable character, but Billingham needs to rein in the self-flagellation.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2014 11:59 PM BST


Ex-Purgatory (Ex-Heroes)
Ex-Purgatory (Ex-Heroes)
by Peter Clines
Edition: MP3 CD
Price: 10.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flat Novel, Let Down Further By Flat Narration, 6 Jun 2014
This review is from: Ex-Purgatory (Ex-Heroes) (MP3 CD)
A book in the Science fiction genre can easily get wrapped up inside itself if it not careful e.g. a dream on top of a vision, set in a future alternative world. Juggling all these concepts and creating a novel that is entertaining and at least in some way believable is not easy. This is proven in Peter Clines' `Ex-Purgatory', the fourth outing in the Ex series. Our heroes are used to being surrounded by the undead, but at the start of this novel they wake up in their old lives. What is a dream and what is a reality?

`Ex-Purgatory' is a slow burn of a book as Clines never reveals his cards too quickly. As someone who has not read the earlier books in the series I was unaware of the characters as they were introduced one by one. Fans will not have the same problem as me; why are we following a janitor around? However, they too may be a little put out by the pacing. The first half of the book is almost an awakening. George Bailey works as a handyman on a campus, but after meeting a strange student he starts to wonder if he has super strength. Over the next couple of hundred pages, he slowly realises that he may have links to someone called St George.

This part of `Ex-Purgatory' may be slow, but is well written. Clines jumps between George's seeing real life and one that is an apocalyptic future. Some of the best scenes are when an ordinary situation morphs into a horrific one, only to jump back again. Clines has a great way of writing zombie attacks, the way that their teeth crumble on super hard skin means that the fights are far more interesting than your average man versus deadite story.

Where I felt the story began to unravel coincided with the unravelling of the character's reality. I will not go into detail as it will spoil the plot. All I can say is that reality sits on top of reality too many times. You get the uneasy feeling that `it was all a dream' comes into play. The issue with this narrative mechanic is that you feel cheated as what happens does not really count. Coupled with this is the fact that the `twist' was visible from only a few chapters in. Clines gives too many clues to what is happening; making it obvious for any genre fan (and if you are planning to read a book about superheroes and zombies, my guess is you are a fan of genre books!)

`Ex-Purgatory' is not all bad. The action sequences are excellent and there is a lot of fun to be had, certainly at the start, as George and Co. jump from normality into a hellish alternative world. Fans of the series will get a lot from seeing the superheroes of earlier books as their alter egos. People new to the series don't miss out too much either as the reveals later in the book will come as more of a surprise.

I reviewed the unabridged audiobook version of `Ex-Purgatory' from Audible, narrated by Jay Snyder. Although the writing came through, at times the narration itself was a little deadpan for my taste; the characters rarely had the emotion the words suggested. Snyder was not always distinctive enough with the different characters, in particular the female roles. Earlier audio versions of the `Ex Series' have had a cast of several voice actors; I think this would have worked better in the scenes where dialogue bounced back and forth. Reviewed originally for bookbag.com.


Max the Brave
Max the Brave
by Ed Vere
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Curiosity Scared the Cat, 5 Jun 2014
This review is from: Max the Brave (Hardcover)
I can truly believe that Curiosity Killed the Cat, if the cat is anything like Max from ‘Max the Brave’ by Ed Vere. Thankfully, as well as being curious, cats are also known for having several lives, Max uses some of them up in this adventure. Being an cat of action Max wishes to go out in the big world and chase some mice, but he is also young so does not know what a mouse is. After asking several animals if they are a mouse (including one with big ears, whiskers and a penchant for cheese), Max is pointed in the direction of something a little larger and greener than your average rodent.

‘Max the Brave’ is a charming book that explores curiosity and also has a funny joke at the end. The use of mice and monsters does give it a slight ‘The Gruffalo’ feel, but apart from a sense of misdirection the two books are quite different. There is simplicity to ‘Max’ that I found drew me in. The illustrations are very basic, but Vere is able to achieve a lot with very little – seeing Max’s disgruntled face as he is forced to wear a ribbon is a particular treat.

The use of simplicity and bold colours is seen throughout; backgrounds are usually a striking colour choice that allows the words to stand out well. This does mean that there is not that much to see apart from the main story (no searching the background for fun little jokes). What you do gain is directness to the story that should keep your child’s attention. This is a very simple tale told in a couple of sentences a page; it is a perfect length for a toddler just starting to read some words for themselves.

The fact that there is not a huge amount going on in the book other than the story does mean that it is left to the narrative to will keep a child coming back again and again. The joke at the end is a funny one, which will tickle the first few times, but may not after a while. There is no ‘moral’ as, but the book will introduce your child to a few familiar animals. The important thing is that ‘Max the Brave’ is simple and charming, a great story for a little one just starting to want to read with their parent. Reviewed originally on bookbag.com.


Disney Frozen Castle and Ice Palace Playset
Disney Frozen Castle and Ice Palace Playset
Price: 124.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let it Go, Let it Go, 2 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I grew up knowing the real secret of gift giving; it is not the size of the thought that counts, but the size of the box the present comes in. In the case of the ‘Disney Frozen Castle and Ice Palace Playset’ this must mean that someone really likes you as the box is massive. Based on the most successful (in terms of money made at the cinema) animated film, the ‘Frozen Castle’ is a great gift for any child who loves that film. The castle itself is made of sturdy plastic that stands easily by itself, open it up to reveal too sides; one representing the traditional castle that Anna and Elsa grew up in, the other the ice palace formed by Elsa in the film.

The scale of the fixture and fittings are surprisingly large as they are designed for the 12 inch dolls that Disney also provides. This means that although the castle looks large from the outside, there is not as much going on in the centre as you may have hoped, just a sitting room and a loft annex that they won’t be able to fit on. Unfortunately, you may find it hard to discover this yourself as the dolls do not come with the castle, only a smaller Olaf who does actually fit to scale for the upstairs.

The ‘Frozen Castle’ is a nifty piece of kit that will get a Disney fan excited, but it comes as a cost. The various bits of furniture that come with it are very good, but do not justify the premium cost. If you can get the castle at a good price it will provide untold hours of joy to some little girl (or boy) between rewatching that blooming ‘Frozen’ film for the nteenth time this week.


In the Morning I'll be Gone: Sean Duffy 3
In the Morning I'll be Gone: Sean Duffy 3
by Adrian McKinty
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fight the Break of Dawn, 30 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Adrian McKinty is one of the best crime writers around and this is shown no better than in his Sean Duffy books. ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Morning’ is the third in the series and continues the story of a Northern Irish copper during the troubles who is trying to do real police work whilst bombs are going off. As in previous outings, Sean’s abrasive attitude gets him in as much trouble as it provides clues. Hired by MI5 he is on the lookout for escaped IRA bomber and former school pal Dermot McCann.

What makes McKinty such a great author is his balance of light and dark. Set during the mid-80s, this is some of the most turbulent time in recent Northern Irish history, but Duffy goes about his work in a glib fashion. This is because if he was to stop and think about things he may never leave the house again. Therefore, ‘Morning’ is a funny book, but also harrowing. Add to these features a great mystery and some brilliant action and you have perhaps the best book by McKinty yet (and the standard is high).

Large portions of the book are given over to a simple, but effective, locked room puzzle. This being McKinty, and in particular his Sean Duffy character, he not only solves a mystery, but explores the history of the locked room puzzle in an entertainingly funny way. The crime element of the book is fantastic, but there is more. McKinty balances light and dark, but also fact and fiction. The events in ‘Morning’ touch upon those in real life and lead to one of the tensest and exciting finales I have read in a long time.

Sammy Recommendation


Little Owl's Orange Scarf
Little Owl's Orange Scarf
by Tatyana Feeney
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.86

4.0 out of 5 stars Owl Will I Get Rid of this Scarf?, 30 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am rarely happy receiving clothes as a gift, one notable time was when I was given a mustard polo neck jumper; it did not take long for me to convince the cat to pluck that particular item. Little Owl has a similar opinion of his newly knitted orange scarf that his mother made him, but how can he get rid of it in a ‘natural’ way? Tatyana Feeney’s ‘Little Owl's Orange Scarf’ is a mischievous children’s book that explores what some little tykes will get up to when you are not looking.

The story of ‘Little Owl’ is a very good one; funny, kind hearted, with a nice twist at the end that will entertain a young reader. The paper is of a good quality and the book the perfect size for a night-time read, so it should be a shoe-in for a top recommendation. Unfortunately, the illustrations are just not as good as the story. There is a place in children’s books for nave art, but ‘Little Owl’ is not only nave, but also a little flat and lifeless at time. For a book that has such a fun story, the pictures feel a little disappointing. They almost feel like they have been photocopied and transferred to the page, or scanned in poorly.

Thankfully, I enjoyed the story enough that the lacklustre pictures do not take too much away from the experience. With a little more vibrancy in her images, Feeney is on the way to writing some excellent children’s books.


Tuff Turf [DVD] [1984]
Tuff Turf [DVD] [1984]
Dvd ~ James Spader
Offered by qualityfilmsfromuk
Price: 24.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tuff Watch, 29 May 2014
This review is from: Tuff Turf [DVD] [1984] (DVD)
Nostalgia is a powerful tool making you remember things far more fondly than they deserve to be. The 80s had some pretty poor teen movies, for every John Hughes classic there are ten also rans. One film that is certainly in the also ran pile if ‘Tuff Turf’, an awful rebel without a clue film that combines poor dancing with random street violence. As someone who had never heard of the film before sitting down to watch it, I came to it free of expectation. I wish someone had told me to expect the worst.

James Spader plays Morgan Hiller, a rich kid down on his luck who has moved with his family to the bad side of the city. He has already been expelled from his posh school so finds himself in an inner-city hell hole populated by the types of thug who would not look out of place playing the washboard in a ‘Dexi’s Midnight Runners’ video. He befriends Jimmy (Robert Downey Jr) and falls in love with the top bully’s girl (Kim Richards), what could possibly go wrong?

A lot it turns out. Director Fritz Kiersch has made a shambles of a movie, not only are the bullies about as fear inspiring as an elevator full of cushions, but the plot makes little, to no, sense. This film is an 18, but has no edge at all. It is embarrassing bad at times; the concert scenes with the band that never made it past 1985, the rubbish fights, the lack of chemistry. Spader always has a sleepy eyed quality to him, but here he needs matchsticks to keep his eyes open.

‘Tuff Turf’ is a mistake from its tragic name all the way to its poor script. By all means revel in some of the wonderful nonsense of the 80s, but choose ‘Mannequin’, ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’, ’16 Candles’, the list is endless. This just feels like a tragic attempt at the time to cash in on better films. It is a film so bad it is not even worth checking out for novelty appeal.
Sammy Stinker


Lagoon
Lagoon
by Nnedi Okorafor
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In Deep Water, 29 May 2014
This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are alien places to be found on Earth without having to leave the confines of our planet; the deep ocean is full of mysteries, there are cultures that are so different to my own, languages and slang that differs. Nnedi Okorafor combines all of these together with an alien threat in ‘Lagoon’, a book that had far too much confusion going on for me to enjoy.

The setting of Lagos in Nigeria initially filled me with a sense of excitement as it is not somewhere I know much about. However, rather than setting the reader into a rhythm and telling them about the place, Okorafor instead jumps straight into a fantastical story. This same issue happens with the characters; we meet, but never really get to know Adaora, Anthony and Agu. If learning 3 similar sounding characters was not hard enough, Okorafor then throws in an additional character called Ayodele. I find differentiating names hard at the best of times without them all starting with A.

The inability to decipher names must be placed at my feet, but many of the other issues are of Okorafor’s doing. Okorafor uses ‘Lagoon’ to not only tell a first contact story, but also comment on the environment, Nigeria’s standing in the world, politics, the role of women, religion, the military and many other areas. She throws in the whole lot and it all sticks together in one messy and unfathomable blob.

Things are not aided by the use of Pidgin English. Phonetics is always a bugbear of mine as I do not think they are needed in literature. Some of the characters in ‘Lagoon’ speak in Pidgin English and it is hard to read. Why say ‘Dey Spek in Pidgin’, when you can they ‘They Speak in Pidgin’, said the character in their Pidgin English. This has worked for centuries and I find using phonetics is rarely justified, and it is not here.

‘Lagoon’ was a hard book for me to enjoy as too much was going on, too many areas touched upon, but never explored. The setting of Laos remains an interesting one, just a setting that was not explored fully.


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