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Reviews Written by
Mr. A. I. Harrison "The Book troll"

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The Ace of Skulls (Tale of the Ketty Jay 4)
The Ace of Skulls (Tale of the Ketty Jay 4)
by Chris Wooding BA
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Series, 29 Jun. 2014
Well I have stopped reviewing books now but have come out of retirement temporarily having just reached the end of this series. One because I enjoyed them so much and wanted to share that with the author if he is looking and in and also I can't help but feel they do not get the attention and acclaim they deserve.

I don't think I have read any other writer who so successfully combines excitement and humour, Normally one takes from the other but not in this series. There is laugh out loud moments and yet sections where I could not put them down. Why?

Characterisation!!! It's the most important part of any book for me and where many writers fall at the first. You can be a poet, have a vivid imagination and great plot but if your world is peopled by manikins it just won't grab me. This was a whole crew full of oddbods and screwballs all evolving over four volumes of high adventure. Also supplemented by a sub series of characters just as colourful and interesting.

Wooding's world is a mix of sc-fi, steampunk, horror, cowboy, penny dreadfull and Captain Sparrow all melded into something with a unique style of it's own. You will be moved and amused in equal measure as the Ketty Jay and her rag tag crew rise from a bunch of losers to high notoriety.

It's heart warming 'feel good' stuff and I am very sorry to be at the end of the road instead of the beginning.
If you are reading Chris please consider more adventures in this world if not onboard the Ketty Jay.

Artis 120m Twin Mains Plug-in Wireless Cordless Doorbell Door Chime
Artis 120m Twin Mains Plug-in Wireless Cordless Doorbell Door Chime
Offered by Safield Dist. Ltd
Price: £29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Looks smart, good value., 29 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Received this wireless doorbell in good time and in good condition. It was easy to set up with clear directions. I am using it on the garden gate post so that delivery people can ring the bell and not have to negotiate our two rescue dogs by coming to the house. The receiver is in the hallway, with the other in the kitchen and both are working. Rain has so far not been a problem but it does need to be screwed on as the adhesive tape is not sufficient to hold it.

Death of Kings (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 6)
Death of Kings (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 6)
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Cornwell doing what he does, 25 April 2013
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Cornwell has to be admired as a writing (and no doubt money making) machine. He turns out these annual novels to his adoring fans with very little drop in quality. I have to say if this had been my first foray into his writing I would be giving this at least 4 stars. It's well written, it's well researched, it's very interesting but it is also so familiar. It is archytypical Cornwell writing writing Uhtrsharpe.

I suppose what frustrates me is we know he can really turn it on when he wants to the classic Arthurian trilogy and the first book in this series were quite special I think but this was Cornwell giving his wife a peck on the cheek and popping into work for the day.

A bit of Spoilering from here on -

There were other disappointments too the chapter in history chosen was not the most action packed, though of course the Death of Alfred the Great deserves attention but then the book covers three years of hesitancy from both the Saxon's and the Danes and as that other excellent review points out gives the book a 'waiting for the kettle' feel and when it did boil it was not quite with the big finish we are accustomed to.

Last time I read an Uhtred book I thought it would be my last but then I read this so who knows..but I am getting a bored of the ' I am Uhtred of Bebbanburg!!!' routine. Let him get his castle back and bring in some new blood to talk us through the Edward / Athelstan years I say Bernard.

The Lost City
The Lost City
by Henry Shukman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars vivid technicolour description and more atmosphere than an early U2 album, 12 April 2013
This review is from: The Lost City (Paperback)
This was a book you could completely lose yourself in, so vivid was the description of the topography. Also the events had a nice sort of mundane randomness that seemed so true to life.

The story - A young British ex-army officer sets off to Peru still in post traumatic shock and bereaving the loss of his best friend killed in action. Determined to find a lost civilization, he instead finds love, betrayal, responsibility, casual cruelty and and then kindness where he least expected it.

It's a strange but wonderful book that I very much enjoyed, written in a strange style without the usual speech punctuation (which could be a little confusing till I tuned in)

It is not really a story of high adventure, certainly Jackson is no Indiana Jones, but it is a book of almost 3D depth and texture with vivid characterisation, technicolour landscapes and truly unpredictable story lines.

Perhaps lacked that feverish 'grip' other books may create but quietley compelling non the less.

Among Thieves (A Tale of the Kin)
Among Thieves (A Tale of the Kin)
by Douglas Hulick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars excellent debut, 29 Mar. 2013
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What a great debut this was! Sharp, unpredictable, witty and very exciting. I very much enjoyed it, it put me in mind of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series without quite attaining that sort of dizzy height (yet) But I am very hopeful of future books in this series and have added the second, due out in June, to my wish list!

I won't give a plot synopsis because I am not sure I could. But this is pretty much what you expect from the cover, a fantasy crimelord type book where the top Don's wield magic rather than tommy guns.

I maybe would have wanted a few pauses in action where the author paints his background canvas a little more vividly and perhaps a bit more space for side characters to blossom. But that said I did enjoy the breathless relentlessness of the story too.

The author has left plenty of scope and untidied threads to pick up in the next book which I won't go into here.

In summary an excellent little adventure that I think lovers of the afore mentioned Lynch (may he get over his deppression soon) and perhaps early Abercrombie's will likewise enjoy. Top stuff and very nearly 5 stars.

After Rome (A Novel of Celtic Britain)
After Rome (A Novel of Celtic Britain)
by Morgan Llywelyn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Educational and worthwhile..., 24 Mar. 2013
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This was a very well written and well informed book. It took a time period which is really only ever normally looked at through an Arthurian lens or a dry academic one and crafted a little novel which captured the feelings and fears of the romanised Celts left behind in Britain when the Romans 400 year holiday came to an end.

Plot synoposis -Mild spoiling-

Llyweln illustrates the lives of two cousins. One the sensible type who were he living today would make regular over payments on his mortgage, have a solid pension scheme and drive a toyota and the other an impetious adventurer who would have a large overdraft, a criminal record and probably several sexually transmitted diseases.

When the Roman's finally prove they haven't really ever done anything for us and bugger off the two cousins take very different approaches to their change in lifestyle. The nerdy one finds himself in charge of a group refugees and the 'flash Harry' sets off to try and take advantage of the sudden new state of lawlessness.

This is a novel from I would guess a fairly serious historian who goes for a 'realistic' option rather than a high adventure one. So whilst our main protagonists both find themselves wielding a blade this is not a book about warfare and battle but much more about the way of life back then.

I have to be honest when I bought it I was hoping for a more action packed tale which kind of explains my luke warm star rating, but not quite enough happens for my tastes.
The other slightley odd thing is that the book sort of accelerates towards the end. I would guess the first 90% of the book is set over about a year but then it's as if the author suddenly thought of a much more interesting project and suddenly starts racing through the years and we kind of walk around a literary corner and are smacked in the face by the end of the story. Which did give the tale a bit of an imbalanced feel.

On the positive front the cast list is good, with each member having a realistic and seperate personality. The author also drops in some nice educational morsels without them being too contrived and events are believable if you like your historic fiction 'grounded'.

All in all not a bad book at all but I just wanted a bit more sex and violence I suppose. I am very shallow!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2013 10:41 PM BST

The Brutal Art
The Brutal Art
by Jesse Kellerman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Voyeuristic somehow.., 18 Mar. 2013
This review is from: The Brutal Art (Paperback)
Well I have never read any of this authors parents work so that wasn't a factor at all for me. Indeed I had already purchased the book based on the cover and blurb on the back before the penny dropped.

Non spoiling plot synopsis

Art dealler Ethan Muller is called out to some real estate belonging to his father to view some brilliant but grotesque art work left by a tenant. When he displays this art he is called by an ex-cop who thinks the art may connected to some murders...
Add to this a bit of parent/ child relationship dynamics. Some historical flashbacks and a bit of a love story and you have the main ingredients of a quirky little book which I actually rather enjoyed.

Synopsis end

There were some disappointments. In a book full of fascinating characters the actual hero was a little drab I thought and the detective elements were a fairly small slice of the pie.

But I think the main character (Ethan Muller) is essentially our consciousness and eyes moving through this intriguing little section of New York life and history. In fact so much so that I did feel a little voyeuristic at times. As I say above there were a lot of intricate character portrayels too, even for some relatively minor parts, which gave the story depth and texture.

Unlike the top 'critical' review I actually really enjoyed the flashback and though, yes it did become apparent these to time threads would jion, I didn't think the major plot twist was telegraphed at all.

I also thought the romantic elements were realistic and satisfyingly unslushy which may frustrate the more romantically minded but bothered me not one jot!

So all in all a good little book though not an action thriller and not a classic 'whodunnit' either, so if that is what you are after look elswhere. If you like to poke around in a bunch of strangers lives though like me, give it a whirl!

The Red Knight
The Red Knight
by Miles Cameron
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Rough diamond, 11 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: The Red Knight (Hardcover)
Well if you only read one book this year, then you are either working too hard or you're a very slow reader!

This was just a ruthless editor away from 5 stars. All the raw ingredients were there -

A great cast list

Great knowledge of armour and weapons which grounded the story.

For the most part great writing and a vivid imagination.

Where it fell down for me was the over writing, It was 200 pages too long. Firstly we built up to to two epic show downs (and both were a bit anti-climactic) Between the Red Knight and Thorn and then we had that strange last chapter where we were marched off to meet the Dragon. Why?

Then there were some really promising story lines that turned into a cul-de-sac and fizzled out. Such as Sir Gawin's run in with de Vrailly , that was shaping up beautifully - Gawin's humiliation followed by his heroics and magical blending with a creature of the wild then....he disappears for the pretty much the rest of the book!!?

There were a couple of other examples which I will not mention for spoiling reasons and fears my review will be as over written as the book!

Then there was simply too much monster slaying. For me monsters are for PC games or background texture. They don't make compelling bad guys because they generally run about shouting 'ggggrrr!!!' till they are despatched by a good guy and to honest, if I would have had to read another chapters of irks and Boglins being mashed by the hundred I may have just given up. Their number was seemingly so endless for their killing not to matter and they seemed to pose the same challenge as a cloud of gnats.

No for me the author needs to give center stage to de Vrailly and his arrogant bunch of Galles now there were some people we could really hate! or promote a few of the tribesmen.

My last moan / advice is 'less is more' By the end of this book I thought the only person who would not develop magic powers would be me! Everyone was a witch or wizard!

Anyway enough already. I really enjoyed this book and I think young Miles has huge potential. He can do charterisation which is a huge gift and so lacking in the fantasy writing world. And I was genuinley fond of Bad Tom, Ranald, Gawin, Michael et al by the end of this story and want to know what happens to them next. The action scenes were convincing. The dialogue excellent and the interaction between the protogonists unpredictable and interesting. Great work.

Back to work with you then, but less monsters and more human confrontation please!

The Hollow Man: Nick Belsey Book 1
The Hollow Man: Nick Belsey Book 1
by Oliver Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Shady dealings, 25 Feb. 2013
Well here is a twisted little tale of curruption and imorality!

Welcome to the shady and dodgy world of Nick Belsey. A talented and resourceful copper on the brink of throwing it all away.

Now I like hero who has a few flaws. But Nick Belsey is more of a flaw with a bit hero. He is self serving, currupt, deceitful and has an addictive personality. The start of the story sees him hit, well crash to rock bottom and then follow an ever downward spiralling crooked road to seeming spectacular self-destruction.
Except that for all his faults he is a very clever and as I say resourceful man with all the front of Blackpool pleasure Beach!

I won't give anything away other than the facts found on the dust jacket. Belsey knows he is about to be kicked out of the force and is just killing time when a call comes through that a wealthy individual has just gone missing from Billionaires row Bishops Avenue! And so unfolds a twisted tale of deceit, deception and murder!

It is a very good novel and could be the start of a great series. The hero is compelling if not loveable, and despite his antics you still find yourself shouting for him. There was a nice twist of black humour thrown in too (I do love a hero with a smart mouth)which has the potential to evolve with a series and for all it's more 'fantastic' elements it also had a ring of authenticity about some of less glossy elements of our Boys in blue.

On the negative side the pace was quite slow for the first half and maybe Belsey will need just a tad more nobleness to counter punch his 'badness', as though I was compelled to follow him, I'm not sure how upset I would have been at his death.

But this was a fine ultra modern crime noir and an excellent debut novel.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2013 3:48 PM BST

Winterbirth: Book One of the Godless World Series
Winterbirth: Book One of the Godless World Series
by Brian Ruckley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An elf by any other name..., 17 Feb. 2013
I like Brian Ruckley's writing style and I liked his last book 'The Edingurgh Dead' very much, so I was very much expecting to like this...and I did but I don't think I will be following the series to it's conclusion. From this you will gather I had a couple of problems with it which I shall explain.

Firstly Ruckley's world is completely bewildering as he invents it from the floor I admire the ambition in this but I am not sure it always helps. Lets take the Kyrinin. These are wood dwelling humanoids (though of a differing race to man)who are able to move silently, are very graceful and are experts with spear and bow..Look their elves! why not just call them elves and have done with it, we then have a reference point we know in place. I get the desire to build your own world and not be accused of borrowing from Tolkien, Fiest et al but when the world you then do create is essentially the universal D&D world we all know and love why bewilder us with a load of new names for things.

Likewise the names of the characters 'Gryvan oc Haig' 'Kanin nan Horin-Gyre' they don't exactly trip off the tongue and it was a good third in before I had sorted who was who and what sides they were on! Again I get that authors may have their little self created world in their heads but very few manage to make it a graphic and 3D landscape which you are able to immerse yourself in. That was what made LOTR so great. Likewise China Mielville's 'Perdido' world, reading those books was to leave planet earth for a while. For most authors I would rather they worry about plot, dialogue and character development. Get this right and the lead character can be called Tom, Dick. Bob or Harry and the quest take place in Croyden as far as I am concerned.

Also the aftermath of GRR Martin's 'Red Wedding' can be seen here, since that book it has become the norm to make fantasy saga's grim and tragedy filled and to have the reader waiting for their next favourite character to be killed horribly. But that shock tactic has now boarded the boat and gone, long gone! everyone is doing it and now it is just starting to get annoying. I like the tension of knowing an author will kill off a character and I want to feel moved when they do but Jees I want story continuation and something to smile at too! If I want pure grimness I'll watch Eastenders.

Now I have got that all off my chest.... Ruckley can write he really can and there was some cracking story lines here and a sense of complexity and world events that had huge promise and clearly some readers loved it. It may be now I am just a little jaded with the D&D format though I do still find some I love, but these are the ones where I feel I really know the characters and understand their motives and build a bond with them, this book did not quite get those 'bonding' juices flowing though and despite a great nail biting climax I am not going to buy the next two. Though definately would buy a sequal to 'Edinburh Dead'.

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