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S. Bailey "will work for books" (London)
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The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle, Book 1) (Demon Trilogy 1)
The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle, Book 1) (Demon Trilogy 1)
by Peter V. Brett
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just for once, I'd like a complete fantasy story in one book, 24 May 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Yes, this is a super book. It's original - as far as anything so very firmly within a genre ever can be - it's fast-paced and its characters are well-drawn. The demonology is intriguing, and so perhaps are the politics of the cities.

But it's the first in a trilogy. Call me jaded, because I am: I've spent so long waiting for George R. R. Martin to ooze forth the next volume of his opus, I've watched Robin Hobb write "trilogies" that really only have one book's worth of story in them, and don't even let me get started on Robert Jordan, for whom even a lifetime wasn't enough to finish the story.

Why is this? Do we blame Tolkien and Unwin for publishing LotR in three volumes and making that the aboriginal standard for the whole genre? Or are book sales so dodgy these days that the only way to get your difficult second novel published is to make it the rest of the story from your first one?

How about, just for once, someone wrote a fantasy novel that was just a novel?
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2009 12:04 AM BST


Winter Song
Winter Song
by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to become a classic, 20 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Winter Song (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Milena and Helen are 17 year old orphans stuck in an oppressive boarding school for girls. When they meet Bart and Milos from the boys' school next door, they find the courage to run away.The four teenagers are drawn into the resistance against the dictatorial regime that controls their country, and a search for the truth about their own pasts. The resulting novel is a thrilling chase through snow and over mountains, fleeing from terrifying dog-men and fighting gladiatorial battles.

I found this literally unputdownable. The world Mourlevat creates is a fascinating mixture of fantasy and grey reality, painted with absolute confidence. He never stops to justify or explain its origins, which makes the repressive regime so much more menacing.

I could have done - as others have said - with more distinction between the four protagonists. As it is, they are defined more by their circumstances than their personalities. This is especially true of Bart and Milena who share their parent's chief talents for oratory and singing respectively: inherited talents do not a character make.

In the end though, this didn't really matter: this is essentially an action novel. It handles some adult themes - not least sex and death - with sensitivity, and well deserves to become a YA classic.


London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer
London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer
by Hugh Meller
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb update of an important book, 17 Aug. 2008
It's traditional to say that London's cemeteries are one of the more neglected areas of her history, the architectural delights and social history they contain being too often lost from the capital's tourist trail. I'm not convinced that this is true: in the decade or so I've been visiting and photographing London's cemeteries, there seems to have been a rise in interest in these wonderful places, with Friends' groups springing up to protect them, and really quite normal people confessing that yes, they too like to visit burial grounds.

This must be in no small part due to Hugh Meller's book 'London Cemeteries'. First published in 1981, it provided not only a history of burial practices in London, but a comprehensive guide to burial grounds, leading visitors not only to the famous Victorian sites like Highgate and Kensal Green, but also to the quirky and sometimes very personal monuments to be found in more out-of-the-way places.

Fourteen years after its last update, Meller's seminal work was due for a revision, and Brian Parsons has done a superb job. The text has been completely revised, taking more recent developments into account. The most important addition is that of dozens more photographs and illustrations, in many cases showing memorials which have been lost, stolen or vandalised and so can no longer be seen. The twelve new cemeteries added are mostly newer ones, and therefore perhaps not the most interesting when compared to the high Victorian delights of their forebears, but it is useful to have them listed for the sake of completeness.

This frankness about the more mundane elements of twentieth-century cemeteries was one of the things I loved most about Meller's original text: "There is little to be said for poor Eastcote Lane, it is small, modest and dull" and "[Chiswick New] is not one of London's most appealing cemeteries and must be the noisiest, set down in a water meadow sandwiched between an arterial road and a suburban railway line." Parsons continues this dryly humorous tradition, with such gems as Hatton Cemetery which occupies "a flat site beyond some enormous greenhouses", and Hillside which is "not a cemetery worth a detour".

If I have a complaint, it is about the physical book itself, which is quite incredibly heavy (my hardback copy is over 1.2kg). This is not a book to tuck into your pocket as you go exploring (get Darren Beach's guide for that), but it is a superb and complete encyclopaedia which no lover of cemeteries, London or history should be without.


The Inheritors
The Inheritors
by William Golding
Edition: Paperback

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, if at times bewildering, 17 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Inheritors (Paperback)
When Spring comes back, the people return to their cave. Incredibly, things have changed. A log that bridged a marsh has disappeared. Food, that was once plentiful, has become scarce. And then one by one, the people themselves begin to disappear.

The people are Neanderthal, about to have their first contact with Homo Sapiens who will destroy them. The story is told through Lok, who by his own admission, "has few pictures in his head"; Golding imagines the Neanderthals as both verbally very limited and extremely conservative in their mental abilities. Though it is testament to his skill as a writer that this does not render them unsympathetic to a modern reader, it does mean that it can be hard work to figure out exactly what is going on, particularly when we observe the 'new people' through the eyes of the Neanderthals, and see just how incomprehensible drinking from a wineskin, hunting ceremonies or just arguing can become.

This is probably a book that one will either love or hate. As I read it just after the insipid novels of Jean Auel, I loved it. The thrill of discovering a totally new world (mine of the Neanderthals, as well as theirs of the new people) at the same time as knowing that these beautiful people were doomed, was quite incredibly moving.

Not for those requiring a fast plot and lots of sex, but for anyone who has ever paused to think whilst reading a book, deeply recommended.


The Garden of the Stone
The Garden of the Stone
by Victoria Strauss
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully complex and superbly crafted, 6 April 2008
This is the sequel to The Arm of the Stone, which must be read first for The Garden to make any sense.

Cariad waits for the return of the father she has never met. It is prophesied that he will return from beyond the world, and restore the Stone to its rightful place, and overthrow the Guardians, the order of absolute rulers who have held the Stone and the world in thrall for centuries.

Just as Bron's return seems to be heralded by a weakening in the Guardians' power, and for the first time the existence of an organised resistance to them, comes the rise to great power of Jolyon, Bron's sworn enemy, who desires only his own supremacy. Cariad swears to overthrow Jolyon as her part towards restoring the balance of the world, yet while Jolyon has always been a master of intrigue, it seems now that he also found a way to greatly increase his power, which may yet prove to be the undoing of Cariad and all her dreams.

As ever, Strauss's world is stunning in the detail of its evocation; from the Gormenghast-like depths of the Fortress, to our own world, seen through the eyes of one who has no knowledge of technology, her sense of place is confident and accurate. The writing here is more mature than in her previous work, bolder both in terms of plot itself and the scale of the book. The human emotion, too, seems to be both deeper and more acutely portrayed than before; I didn't think that I would ever say this after I had read The Arm, but I found Cariad to be even more a real person than her mother. This bigger picture might occasionally spill over into too much exegesis, particularly in terms of the politics and interrelation of the various resistance groups, but if you have created a world as complex as Strauss has, I think you are entitled to revel in it a little.

Special praise must go to the ending of this book. Too many otherwise excellent writers cannot write endings, either just stopping the story like pressing a switch, or obviously feeling bereft by the potential loss of their own characters and continuing for fifty pages too many. This, by contrast, is a smooth and beautifully crafted glide to a halt, that left me feeling very satisfied indeed.


The Arm of the Stone
The Arm of the Stone
by Victoria Strauss
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and original : six stars, 6 April 2008
This is the story of Bron, the last scion of an ancient family, still telling the tale of its loss a thousand years ago, when its greatest treasure was taken from it and put to use to hold the human race in check. It's the story of Liliane, a woman seeking power in a world dominated by men. It's the story of an all-powerful Order, the Guardians who control minds and enforce their arbitrary laws absolutely. And above all, it's the story of the Stone, the heart of the world, Bron's desire, Liliane's master, the greatest prize there is.

Victoria Strauss has done something very rare here, taking a vast range of the conventions of fantasy literature, from Wolfram von Eschenbach's Grail to the 'avenging son of a dying house' theme, and achieving something totally new with them. Bron is no sword and sorcery hero; his childish vow, to regain the Stone his ancestor lost, is put aside in favour of something far more subtle, far more dangerous in its intent, taking him to the very heart of the regime he has sworn to overthrow.

Strauss's Mindpower is not the usual deus ex machina way to get oneself out of trouble, but an integral part of the plot, which she does not abandon when it might make life easier to do so. Liliane's heartsensing, the reading of emotion rather than conscious thought, makes this is a plausible world; we are dealing with real knowledge of how the human mind works, rather than just another fantasy convention.

The ultimate fascination for me was the Guardians themselves. Imagine the Spanish Inquisition with the power to read minds, to seek out heterodoxy not only in belief, but in thoughts and actions, down to making a plough of an incorrect length. At times, reading this made me feel physically sick with fear.

My only misgiving with the book is the ending. The Arm of the Stone just doesn't finish the story; it's not simply that there are a couple of loose ends left to tie a sequel to, but that you want to phone the publishers to make sure you're not missing some pages. Plan on buying the sequel, The Garden of the Stone, at the same time, because you won't want to delay finding out what happens next.


1000 Best Ebay Powerseller Secrets
1000 Best Ebay Powerseller Secrets
by Greg Holden
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 300 useful tips and a lot of filler, 5 April 2008
With 1000 tips from an experienced eBay PowerSeller, this book ought to be a great resource for existing and wannabe sellers alike. Unfortunately, it's marred for me by being completely US-centered, out of date, and in places, just plain wrong.

Greg Holden's tips are broadly grouped into four sections: before the sale, dealing with stock acquisition and creating your eBay listings; during the sale, dealing with buyer questions and tracking sales; after the sale, dealing with payments, packing and shipping, dealing with problems and increasing your sales; and expanding beyond eBay.

Though much of the material is common sense and will be very familiar to experienced sellers, the "1000 tips" format makes it easy to dip in and out of, and there are some sections which are genuinely very useful. I particularly liked the section on responding to customer email which had some very practical tips on keeping your temper, and "five ways to maintain a positive attitude" is something that every eBay seller ought to read.

Sadly, the good stuff is mostly overwhelmed with a lot of useless stuff. Though the book was published in 2007, some of it is out of date already. Sellers are no longer allowed to have private feedback, for example: in fact, almost everything said about the feedback system is now out of date and there is no mention of Detailed Seller Ratings. Elsewhere, tips on payment services and tax are useless to anyone outside the USA.

Then there are tips like #300: "if you have had problems with non-paying bidders, consider saying 'serious bidders only!" in your listings". Take it from me, this phrase will have no effect whatsoever on your non-paying bidder rate, and will in fact only make you look like a seller who doesn't know what they're doing.

In yet other places, Mr Holden seems to have just come to the end of his knowledge. The nine tips on making your own website, for example, are worse than useless: I don't think the author has ever made a website himself. This section should have been omitted altogether. So should tips like #653 "if someone uses an acronym like LOL or BTW, use one back". Perhaps "match your customer's level of formality when writing email" would have been a useful tip, so it's a shame he didn't write that.

Somewhere within 1000 Best eBay Success Secrets are around 300 useful tips for eBay sellers. It's a shame it comes with so much else that is so bad.


Hypnosis to Stop Nail Biting CD
Hypnosis to Stop Nail Biting CD
Offered by hypnosishealthcare
Price: £9.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miraculous, 1 Feb. 2008
Charles Vald is, not to put too fine a point on it, a miracle worker. At the age of 35, having bitten my nails longer than I or my mother can remember, he has cured me.

I've tried every stop nail-biting product on the market. When I'd bitten my way through a very expensive set of acrylic fake nails, I was ready to give up even trying. Trying this CD was a complete last resort. And after one listen, I knew I'd never bite my nails again.

To be really sure the habit is broken, you need to listen to the CD two or three times at the beginning, and keep it on hand for top-ups at danger times (when multiple nails break, or stressful times). Multiple listens is no hardship, however; Charles has a very easy voice to listen to, and his music is just beautiful.

Stop wasting money on nasty-tasting nail paint and buy this CD today. I wholeheartedly recommend it.


I SOLD MY SOUL ON E BAY
I SOLD MY SOUL ON E BAY
by Hemant Mehta
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading, 4 Sept. 2007
I picked this up in the bookshop at eBay Live, but it's actually got very little to do with eBay. Hemant Mehta is an atheist who sold not his soul, but his time in an online auction - and was bought by an open-minded pastor who set him to visiting a variety of churches and writing about his impressions of them.

The result is a book that everyone in the religion business ought to read, a friendly but direct report on what church looks like to a stranger walking in for the first time. Rituals and liturgy which churchgoers take for granted can be arcane, even alienating to those who encounter them for the first time: Hemant, always writing from a wish to engage in friendly dialogue, tells you exactly what that stranger might be thinking.

But the message of this book is bigger than just a call to better churches. Hemant's open-minded willingness to examine his own beliefs, to discover the faiths of other people and to engage in a frank but always respectful dialogue, should be an example to all of us, whatever our religious beliefs.


The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of the Planet Earth
The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of the Planet Earth
by Eric M. Jackson
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More exciting than you'd expect!, 22 Aug. 2007
Once upon a time there was a brave little start-up called PayPal. It fought many battles but the people loved it, until an evil giant ate it up...

I've seen this book described as "like a thriller", and while I think that's overstating the case rather, it's a lot more exciting than you'd imagine. What made it particularly interesting for me was that I remember most of this: the stunt where PayPal's initial funding was sent to it from a VC's phone, the fight with Billpoint, and the absolute shock when eBay finally bought them.

The author was the marketing guy, so anyone expecting much in the way of technical detail either on the engineering or finance side is going to be disappointed. What you get instead is an insider's view of the rollercoaster ride that was PayPal's first few years. Anyone used to the rather faceless corporation they've become might find it intriguing to find out that they were once just a bunch of guys, doing business off a ping-pong table, and how frequently they came so close to going under.


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