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J.I.S. (UK)

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The Great Train Robbery: The Untold Story from the Closed Investigation Files
The Great Train Robbery: The Untold Story from the Closed Investigation Files
by Andrew Cook
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dry as Dust, 23 Dec 2013
This is the first Andrew Cook I have read and I am very disappointed. His research is impeccable and extensive, but what he has singularly failed to do is to edit the primary sources into a readable form. From the very start there are huge chunks of verbatim witness statements, many of which contain totally irrelevant and deadly dull information. The reader is confronted with so much minute detail that it becomes difficult to follow, and unutterably uninteresting to read. Without a reasonable overall idea of what happened I would have found it very difficult to follow the investigation as detailed in the book.
As many readers may not be familiar with the 60s, a little bit more background and context from the author would be very useful. There is some attempt to put police actions into context of the times in that he explains that unauthorized house searches, fabrication of evidence, etc, were not at all unusual, but this is fed to the reader piecemeal fashion, rather than just setting the scene at the start. Similarly, things like "ticketed" phone calls are not explained yet they figure highly in the investigation. For anyone more familiar with the computer age, they may find it difficult to understand why things like fingerprint comparisons took so long in the 60s - again, there is nothing from the author to guide readers who weren't around in the 60s.
All in all, a little more from the author and fewer copies of witness statements would have gone a very long way.


Sword and Scimitar
Sword and Scimitar
by Simon Scarrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 25 Aug 2013
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
As an avid fan of this period of history, I was delighted to find a Simon Scarrow novel set around the Great Siege. However, I found the plot line very contrived. As a novel, it seemed to fall between two stools - neither a particularly engaging story with the siege as a backdrop nor a particularly engaging account of the siege. The true horror and barbarism of the events and the abject suffering of the local population didn't come across and I think the story is weakened as a result.

Overall, I far preferred David Ball's novel "The Sword and The Scimitar" which has characters from both sides and story lines involving knights, commoners and Turks and far more historical detail but presented in novel form.


The Monster's Lament
The Monster's Lament
by Robert Edric
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.94

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and tedious, 12 July 2013
This review is from: The Monster's Lament (Hardcover)
This is the first Robert Edric I've tried and it will be the last. After 50 pages of some of the most tedious and utterly pointless dialogue I have ever read, I knew next to nothing about the central characters and absolutely nothing about the main plot. The next few chapters showed no sign of improvement so I stopped reading.


Coupling: Filthy Erotica for Couples
Coupling: Filthy Erotica for Couples
by Sommer Marsden
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.15

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars About as erotic as a used condom!, 5 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Buyers beware - this book is not written by Sommer Marsden, it is edited by her, only 2 of the 13 stories are actually written by her. The standard of writing in this collection varies widely but much of it is very poor, bordering on dreadful. The stories all seem to follow the same pattern and after a short set-up they plunge into rampant sex/mild SM/light bondage with plenty of Anglo-Saxon vernacular to describe the action. It's rather like watching a badly made blue movie where the storyline is "Boy meets girl, boy screws girl" or a variation on that theme and where everything looks contrived and faked and not in the least erotic.

If you like in-your-face written pornography and aren't too fussed about style this is for you, if you prefer something a bit more subtle, which to me is what erotic implies, save your money and buy something by Anais Nin.


The Holy Assassin
The Holy Assassin
by Luis Miguel Rocha
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.94

1.0 out of 5 stars Awful book, 28 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Holy Assassin (Paperback)
I gave up after about 100 pages. The style is dreadful, with constant lecturing intrusions by the author, along the lines of "...we need not concern ourselves where the man had come from, suffice to say that he was there..." As for the plot, a Philadelphia lawyer would be hard pushed to unravel it.


Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
by Madeleine Albright
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.21

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over long with very narrow appeal, 17 May 2012
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The previous reviewer has made an excellent job of setting out the contents, so I will not repeat it here. I ordered this book expecting a first hand account of life in Prague under the Nazi occupation. Unfortunately the author was a child during the war and spent the war years in London. The writing is clear and cogent and although the content is well researched, it is a mish-mash of fairly basic European history, personal & family history and holocaust history and it is far too long. Other books give much greater detail of life in Czechoslovakia under Nazi occupation, such as "Tomorrow Will Be Better" by Zdena Kapral which is far more engaging and readable. The historical aspects of the occupation and the effects on the populace are also better covered in "Prague in Danger" by Peter Demetz.

I can't really see who the book would appeal to other than members of the author's family or close friends.


Looks and Smiles
Looks and Smiles
by Barry Hines
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of the times, 25 April 2012
This review is from: Looks and Smiles (Paperback)
I read "Kestrel for a Knave" many years ago and enjoyed it immensely, so I was wondering if "Looks and Smiles" could follow such a hard act: it did and in spades. Set in the years around 1980, it is wonderfully evocative of these hard times. We hear of austerity measures today, but sometimes forget that things were so bad around 1980 that street lighting was reduced and sometimes switched off after 1030pm, not to save energy but simnply because local authorities couldn't aford to pay for the electricity. The words "cut backs" applied to everything and affected every walk of life.

Hines manages to capture not just the history of these times, but the attitudes and thoughts of the people, without making it so depressing that you want to stop reading - quite the reverse, he engages the reader from the first word and pulls them along through the story with consummate ease. His ear for dialogue is finely tuned and his eye for detail is unerringly accurate. The characters are well-rounded and completely believable. My only criticism (and the reason for giving 4 instead of 5 stars) is the ending which is so abrupt that I kept turning over pages, expecting (and hoping for) more. Perhaps this was the effect he was looking for, but I found it disappointing and very frustrating.


Churchill's Secret Agent
Churchill's Secret Agent
by Linda Ciampoli Max Ciampoli
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.82

1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear!, 18 Mar 2012
Despite a passionate interest in WW2 and particularly that of secret operations, this book bored me rigid. Whether any of it is true, I have no idea, but I suspect a lot of the "special relationship" with Churchill is embellished. Even the author's own son says that his father had many stories about the war but he never heard him mention Churchill at any time. The book is marketed as "a novel based on a true story", so to be fair, there is a lot of scope for invention.

Apart from the veracity of the story, my main problem was with the style of writing. The author seems to be incapable of writing a sentence of more than about ten words, which gives the whole thing a very stilted feel. There were times when the writing was so basic it felt like a child's reading book. As far as the story goes, eveything seems to come very easily and our author styles himself as something of a super-hero capable of doing just about anything at the drop of a hat. I have no wish to denigrate Mr Ciampoli's war record as I'm sure he was extremely brave and had many talents, but writing novels is definitely not one of them.


The Broken Lands: A Novel of Arctic Disaster
The Broken Lands: A Novel of Arctic Disaster
by Robert Edric
Edition: Hardcover

2.0 out of 5 stars Tiring, 19 Feb 2012
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This is a novel of the ill-fated Franklin expedition in the 1940's which tried to find a North West Passage through the Arctic ice across the top of Canada. The story opens with both ships kitted out and fully crewed and ready to go, and I expected to be plunged straight into the expedition. Howerever the first 60 or so pages are dismally dull, being taken up with visits to various territories and minor officials, none of which has any bearing on the story whatsoever. During this interlude, although we are introduced to some of the major characters, other than their names and positions there is hardly any detail about them. Apart from a brief moment when the characters are brought to life at the start of Part 2, this total lack of empathy with the characters continues throughout the book and is its major failing. I was told so little about the men, their backgrounds and what really drove them that I found it virtually impossible to care about them. I expected some idea of what the men thought, the feel of the terrible cold, the conditions on board the ships, etc, but there is so very little. Instead there are almost daily reports in an abundance of detail on what the ice was doing. It almost seems as if someone has transcribed a ship's log book and added a few conversations and a bit of dressing.

With such a dramatic setting, the personalities involved, the endurance of the men and the constant fight against nature and the terribly sad outcome, there was ample scope for a powerful, engrossing tale which tugged at the heart strings, but the book failed to deliver any of those. In comparison to Robert Ryan's "Death on the Ice", this book is a non-starter.


AL CAPONE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A SELF-MADE MAN
AL CAPONE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A SELF-MADE MAN
by F.D. Introduction by Andrew Sinclair Pasley
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars Unutterably boring, 22 Jan 2012
Despite such a facinating subject, the author manages to stimulate the yawning reflex within a very short space of time. Following no apparent logic, the story leaps about in time and place making Capone's rise to infamy quite difficult to follow. The author pours forth an absolute deluge of names and details, until it feels like reading a telephone directory. As for writing style, it varies between none whatsoever and a poor imitation of 1930s American gangster novels.


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