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J. A. Clement (UK)

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Florence and Giles
Florence and Giles
by John Harding
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Liked "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman? You'll love this then!, 22 Nov 2011
This review is from: Florence and Giles (Hardcover)
I was recommended this book by a friend, and having read the sample I was hooked immediately by the oddly discordant atmosphere evoked by a very particular use of language.

The intricate and clever way that Florence uses her words is always understandable but throws a nicely off-key tone into the narrative. We see everything through the lens of her language and it distorts people's actions and events just enough to make them seem strangely unnatural and stilted though the prose itself flows smoothly, having been put together with a beautifully Victorian eye for detail.

I won't go into the plot as there are plenty of reviews here that will tell you a bit about it; but this is a superbly uncanny piece with dark Gothic overtones and a finely-judged twist in the end. You might know that something is awry but the nature of the twist still comes as a surprise....

I really enjoyed this very unusual jaunt into Victorianesque unease. Fans of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman should love this - and if you haven't read either, I recommend you do so!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2011 1:55 PM GMT

Torbrek...and the Dragon Variation (The Torbrek Duology Book 1)
Torbrek...and the Dragon Variation (The Torbrek Duology Book 1)
Price: £1.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh, fun jaunt into fantasy, 23 Sep 2011
Having read and enjoyed Remix and Replica, I bought this immediately, as fantasy is my favourite genre.
It can be difficult to find a story of this type which isn't a big cliched and hasn't been done before, but Lexi is as original as always. It's very readable and accessible to older children as well as adults (there is some violence but not in graphic detail) and the only reason it's 4* rather than 5 is because despite the excellent edit there are a couple of moments that don't chime quite as genuinely with the characters as they would if Lexi was writing it today (though the third to be published, I'm led to believe this was her first novel). However, it's not anything that really intrudes, so don't be put off by that.

If you enjoyed her other books you should give this a go, even if fantasy is not necessarily your thing, as it's mostly a story of human relationships. If you do like fantasy, you'll enjoy this fresh, funny romp with dragons, battles - and human relationships!

In short: Torbrek is a fresh, fun adventure with sympathetic characters, rollicking action, a kick-ass heroine and a slightly grumpy and wilful dragon (as all the best ones are!) and frankly, if you don't go on from reading this to buying the sequel (as I did) I'll be pretty surprised.


Unlucky Dip or Prequel to Few Are Chosen, K'Barthan Trilogy 1 (The K'Barthan Trilogy)
Unlucky Dip or Prequel to Few Are Chosen, K'Barthan Trilogy 1 (The K'Barthan Trilogy)
Price: £0.77

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging little short, 8 Sep 2011
This is an engaging piece of short fiction from MTMaguire.

If you've read Few Are Chosen (The K'Barthan Trilogy) you'll enjoy this brief jaunt through the personal history of two of its main characters. Telling the tale of the first time the Pan of Hamgee crosses paths with Big Merv, the strangely orange gangster who strikes fear and trembling into all and sundry, it serves as a nice introduction to their world. If you haven't but liked this, be aware there are a whole gamut of amusing eccentrics that you haven't met yet... (Slightly sad that Gladys and Ada never quite got a walk-on though!)

An quick and easy read, including a really bad joke that made me laugh out loud on the train.

Price: £1.92

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another quality product from Ali Cooper., 26 July 2011
This review is from: Cave (Kindle Edition)
Firstly, a disclaimer; I have chatted to Ali Cooper on the forums. That has not affected my opinion of her book in any way but if you feel it invalidates my review, feel free to skip to the next.

= = = =

The review:

Cave is not an action-thriller; it won't make you claustrophobic or afraid. It doesn't blind you with the science and jargon of caving and nor is it anything like "The Descent" or other horror-type flicks. This is caving for people who love the thrill of discovery and finding new and strange wonders which may never have been seen by anyone ever before, and it is artfully depicted and explained. A nice touch is that each chapter is headed by a caving term and its definition, which simultaneously allows for enough jargon to flavour the conversation with authentic terms, while avoiding the need for a glossary.

For the most part, though, the cave itself is predominantly a strange and wonderful backdrop against which the characters play, highlighting their motivations and interactions in a way that would not have been possible (or half as interesting) if it was set up a mountain or on a hill somewhere.

And what about the characters? They're an interesting set; I recognised each of them, not as someone specific but for their similarity to character-types I have met.

Marty is the protagonist, rapidly approaching middle-age and blissfully unaware of how appalling he is with women; there is the apparently feisty Beth who seems to be moderately easily manipulated by the men around her. Rick and Joe, Fish and Taff, all of them strike a chord. They are an engaging gang who have matured into slightly more problematic circumstances than they hoped. I won't talk about plot here as it's probably covered by the other reviews and the blurb; but the interweaving of Marty's predicament and the gradually unravelling backstory was done with a deft hand, and although I disliked the main character for the damage he was doing those around him, I also felt engaged enough by his bafflement that I certainly didn't consider putting the book down. The timeline jumps around, but not to a confusing degree and the patchwork of memories slowly amalgamates until we see the shape of the whole story beginning to emerge. Details of character and plot seep out in a slow reveal that uncovers new questions as fast as it answers the old ones.

There are some very clever elements about this book. For a start, Ali Cooper has managed to write a character that I disliked from one end of the book to the other and yet still I enjoyed the book heartily; that takes no small amount of skill. I never noticed Marty not acting like a bloke, which is always a difficult trick for a female writer; and one of my favourite characters in the whole thing was Carole, who has virtually no "screen time" of her own, so to speak, but gradually grows to be a rounded character in her own right despite the fact that we only hear about what she is doing from the rather disenchanted point of view of her (soon to be ex-)husband.

If I *had* to find something to criticise (and it's taken a bit of thought to do so), the only possible quibble I have is that Ashley Roberts is not as rounded a character as some of the others; but then that is partly because that sort of character riles me in real life, so I have less patience for them in fiction; and that's not a comment so much on the writing as it is on my reading.

The formatting was impeccable and there were no typos or errors that I noticed, even with my pedantic head on. The characters were believable and engaging even when not being particularly likeable. The caving was fascinatingly written - I have been caving twice, enjoyed it both times but am too unfit for that sort of thing generally; that said, reading this almost tempted me to go back and try again! And the character Spratt is a lovely touch.

So to summarise; of the two, I personally enjoyed Girl on a Swing more, but it's pretty high praise to say that this is of a similar standard, and confirms me in the opinion that when a new book comes out with her name on the front, it's probably going to go straight onto my Kindle without further ditherment. I enjoyed Cave and can think of no reason to give it less than 5 stars.

Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? I would and already have!

Cave is not a happy book, but the twists and discoveries along the way will keep you hooked to the end, and fascinated along the way. If you like a well-written tale with an unusual, fresh perspective, a compelling plot and engaging characters, this is for you.

A Tail of Two SKittys (Shipscat Book 2)
A Tail of Two SKittys (Shipscat Book 2)
Price: £0.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining short story - sequel to sKitty, 16 Jun 2011
Another entertaining short, sequel to sKitty but more original and veering slightly from the Dick Whittington theme. I enjoyed and went on to the next one!

SKitty (Shipscat Book 1)
SKitty (Shipscat Book 1)
Price: £0.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining short - esp good for cat-lovers!, 16 Jun 2011
Entertaining take on the old Dick Whittington story, so you know what's going to happen but it's still a fairly fresh retelling. Short story only so a ten-minute read, maybe? Sequels will suggest themselves when you get to the end - I accidentally read 4 before remembering the dangers of the 1-click button!

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 1 and 2: Resurrection and Awakening
Spinward Fringe Broadcast 1 and 2: Resurrection and Awakening
Price: £1.81

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another cracking instalment - but with typos...., 5 Jun 2011
I bought this book immediately after finishing Origins because I was so gripped by the storyline (though slightly vexed by the typos and formatting errors). This second instalment is equally good and I would say slightly less typo-ridden - but still has a noticeable amount.

We are introduced to the Captain, Jacob Valence, who has no knowledge of his past except that he has a daughter. He is a ruthless bounty hunter, but as he interacts with his crew it is revealed that he is an excellent leader and engineer. His crew are a series of interesting and believable characters, and given that anyone who has read book 1 knows about the original Captain and the real identity of his "daughter", it is really interesting to see how the character differs in this book.

You can read about the plot above, so I won't duplicate it here, but suffice it to say that once again Lalonde has assembled a highly complex and believable cast of characters, put them in a series of exciting and suspenseful situations, and just at the end has thrown in a couple of real curve-balls. Just as the story arc appears to be coming to a conclusion, there is both a tantalising hook of new complexities, and a highly unexpected twist. So far so gripping; however on the down side, just like the first book, this superb story is once again larded with formatting issues and mistakes that let it down badly, and once again these are all that stand between it being on a par with a professionally published book.

So, that was my take on it; but should you read this book? Probably; depends on how much you care about the typos. If you won't notice them, then do so because it's a great story; but if that sort of thing knocks you out of your suspension of disbelief as badly as it does me, then be aware that the errors are plentiful. Still a good story, but it might spoil your enjoyment.

Will I go on to read book 3? Hmmm. I'll definitely download the sample and have a look, but all these typos irritate me because they break the spell of the story. If there comes a time when the series are proofed and corrected, I'll buy the lot in one go, but until that point I'm reading them and thinking how fabulous they could be, rather than are, and all for want of a little more accuracy.

Pity, really - they would be well worth the extra effort.

PS Update 16/06/2011 - From the Randolph Lalonde's blog:

"[New assistant] is currently assisting with proofing on Spinward Fringe: Expendable Few. She'll also be working on the rest of the books with me as we get closer to presenting final edits. The focus is on new work right now, so the earlier books will get more attention when the next two are out."

Looking fwd to the new edit! JAC

Price: £1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you liked 'Remix' you'll love this!, 20 May 2011
This review is from: Replica (Kindle Edition)
I'm always a little wary of having over-high expectations of a book on the grounds that I liked the author's other works because unless they involve the same characters in the same world, it doesn't always work that way; but having read and loved `Remix', I picked up `Replica' in the assumption that what I had before me would be as well-written, well-formatted and sharply edited as her first book. I was not disappointed.

`Replica' tells of Beth Chandler, who on finding that her planned evening with her feckless boyfriend has fallen apart, is persuaded to let herself be subjected to the trial-run of the replicating machine on which her boss, the Professor is working. Getting back out of the machine, she is told that it did not work and is only mildly dismayed at the loss of her evening; however, what she does not know is that in the receiving end of the replicating machine in the other lab lies Beth Two - a perfect, thinking, fully-functioning copy of herself.

Beth Two fairly quickly realises what has happened; but she also overhears the Professor arguing with his unscrupulous boss over the potential fate of the replica and whether she can really be said to be a person, and therefore possessed of basic human right. Being no fool, Beth Two flees; and Beth One, all unwitting, suddenly finds her life crumbling around her. Due to what she is told is a terrorist death-threat, she is moved to a safe-house, a new job, and watched around the clock by security men who are hoping that the replica Beth will come to the original for help.

This has the potential to be a very confusing book but due to the neat trick of telling Beth One's story in the third person and Beth Two's story in the first person, there is never any confusion as to who is saying what. Beth Two is thrown into a fugitive lifestyle while Beth One is protected and provided for, and the gradual difference made in their character by the circumstances is an interesting theme that emerges as the story develops. So too is the romance between Beth One and the hunky man from MI5 who she thinks has been set to protect her; he cannot tell her that his task is really to deal with the replica if she should appear, so while he is falling for the original Beth, all the time he must be prepared to "get rid of" Beth Two who is identical to Beth One in all respects; another intriguing ethical twist.

The development - or lack thereof - of the respective Beths is alternately exciting and full of suspense; the characters are engaging and believable; and all told, `Replica' is another sterling effort from Lexi, quite on a par with `Remix' and a lot of fun to read.

Should you buy it? Yep; no reservations. If you like this sort of story, you'll love this one!

Origins (Spinward Fringe Book 0)
Origins (Spinward Fringe Book 0)
Price: £0.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, engrossing and thoroughly entertaining - I bought book 2 as soon as I finished it!, 23 April 2011
I like sci-fi and had seen a lot of positive comments on Randolph Lalonde's work on several forums, so coming across this in the course of an idle browse, decided to have a look.

I loved it - for a start it's a long, character-driven story where we see the main character develop from an idle, unfulfilled worker in a fairly undemanding job into a new challenge where he has to suddenly take responsibility for a crew and negotiate them through a series of dangerous events.The ending is sudden and dramatic and leaves you with enough of a taste for the next bit that I clicked on the link and bought the sequel on the spot.

It has four stars because though it has been finely edited, it could do with a final proofing - there are only a couple of typos or spelling mistakes that I noticed (and I am something of a pedant for that sort of thing) - but given that I would consider it to be fully of professional standard on everything else, it seems a pity to leave those last couple in.

So, should you buy it? Yes, if you like sci-fi and probably if you're not read enough sci-fi to be sure (though in that case, read the sample first). The typos are rare (ie fewer than in some ebooks I've bought from traditional publishers), the character development is believable and interesting and the story gripping and pacey. I really enjoyed reading it - I'd guess you probably will too. Highly recommended.

Price: £4.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very surreal, quite exciting; I enjoyed., 4 Mar 2011
This review is from: Kraken (Kindle Edition)
I have been meaning to try China Mieville for a while now, so when I came across this book looking for the John Wyndham one, I decided to try it. I enjoyed the read; it's a little reminiscient of Gaiman's "American Gods" in subject matter and of "Neverwhere" in style, but I didn't think it was especially derivative.I liked the treatment of London and its theological underworld, and I took to the characters. I also really liked the style of writing which was very vivid visually, and in the newness of some of the concepts (ie the gunfarmers).

Billy, the protagonist, is catapulted into a weird and surreal world that he does not at first understand but gradually takes control of; Dane and Wati are nicely delineated; Marge is determined, Collingwood is excessively sweary but I quite liked her and particularly liked Perky! I must admit that a couple of the plot-points towards the end did not come as a total surprise - but then that's quite gratifying when it's done subtly enough.

I think overall I have only a couple of criticisms; firstly that some of the character development was a bit sudden, ie Billy's move from hapless tagger-along to suddenly taking control of the situation and Baron's move the other way; and the second one is that the book has a lot of typos and formatting errors throughout. I know a lot of the indie authors have been getting flak for this so it was interesting to find that a professionally published and edited book also had enough errors that first, I noticed and then became quite irritated by them.

It's really interesting looking at the other reviews here which seem to be fairly polarised. I shall be reading more Mieville as many of the other reviews imply that as far as his other works are concerned, this is a bit of a dud - and if this is him on a bad day, I still really enjoyed it.

Should you buy this book? For the writing, I'd say yes....but if typos and formatting mistakes vex you as much as they do me, I'd go check out the reviews for the print edition and if they've paid more attention to the editing, maybe try for that instead.

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