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A. Wealleans
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The Polish Officer
The Polish Officer
by Alan Furst
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable series of vignettes, 21 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
The Polish Officer follows Alexander de Milja, an officer in the cartography section of Polish Military Intelligence, for several years from the Nazi invasion of Poland. On the cover, there are quotes detailing it as ‘one of the best books of the year’. I don’t know if I’d assign it quite that level of quality, but I very much enjoyed it.

Other reviewers have praised this book for not being episodic - I thought it was. Rather than one over-arching storyline, which I was expecting, the book is really a series of little vignettes, each detailing a mission or space between missions. The women in the book, too, are just temporary characters, passing through for a while. It made the characters hard to care for, but perhaps the point of the book wasn't to engender too much empathy.

This was the first Alan Furst book that I have read – it only took me a day to finish. Despite the unexpected structure, it won’t be my last.


Flowertown
Flowertown
Price: £3.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and light conspiracy thriller, 27 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Flowertown (Kindle Edition)
Set in a town isolated by a toxic chemical spill, Flowertown is an interesting, enjoyable and easy-to-read conspiracy thriller. Ellie, the main character, was caught up in the disaster by chance as she holidayed with her boyfriend’s parents. Seven years on, boyfriend dead, living in a complete dystopia and given just months to live, she’s got a pretty understandable chip on her shoulder. Quickly, however, things begin to happen to her that shake the fragile balance of her life in Flowertown.

The characters are well drawn, although the ‘twist’ is perhaps a little heavily signalled. As with many action/thriller novels with an ‘everyman’ at the centre, the action scenes are less well done than the initial build up, as others here have said.

Overall, fuelled by its dystopian setting and a healthy distrust of big pharma, Flowertown is a debut definitely worth a look.


Red Dust Road
Red Dust Road
Price: £4.19

3.0 out of 5 stars Some elements of Star Dust Road..., 26 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Red Dust Road (Kindle Edition)
First of all, this was a very different type of autobiography; different culture, different times, and different lives. The setting and intensity of her adoption story was gripping enough to keep me reading. In addition, you really feel like you are put in Kay's shoes on her visits to Nigeria and the authenticity is second to none.

However, the lack of detail about the life surrounding the adoption story meant that there was just something missing within the book that could have made it outstanding. I would have liked to have seen some more about the other interesting parts of Jackie Kay's life (and I know there must be many). Despite this, Kay's story is unique and at points bizarre, which makes for an interesting read.

Certainly worth a look! (3.5 stars)


The Miseducation of Cameron Post
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Price: £3.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A super coming-out-and-of-age story, 13 Nov. 2013
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"The day my parents died I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson."

What an opening! The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a wonderful coming of age story, set in rural America in the recent past (think VHS/cassette recent). It follows Cameron Post, whose parents die the day she first kisses a girl, throughout her teens and coming-out.

Well written, with charming, cleverly realised characters, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an absolute gem of a book. Well above the level of many teen coming out books, and an instant recommendation.


The Viking's Witch
The Viking's Witch
Price: £1.97

3.0 out of 5 stars No awards, but a decent beach read., 13 Nov. 2013
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The Viking's Witch tells the story of Odaria, saved from being burnt at the stake by the timely arrival of some Vikings. Led by Rothgar, they're looking for the missing son of their king. Naturally, Odaria and Rothgar are pretty much instantly attracted to one another (despite her burning-at-the-stake trauma and a few rape threats) although their (fairly explicit) lovemaking is continuously interrupted throughout the story, prolonging the will-they-won't-they atmosphere.

The plot moves along easily, and - if you can get over the repeated references to Rothgar's swelling 'man-sword' etc - fairly well written. No awards, but a decent beach read.


Norwegian by Night
Norwegian by Night
Price: £4.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best thing I have read in ages, 13 Nov. 2013
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Norwegian by Night is the best thing I have read in ages. Sheldon Horowitz - former soldier, former watch-mender, former father, former husband - lives in Oslo with his grand-daughter and her too-nice Norwegian husband. He's still being tracked by the VietCong, but when he has to go on the run from some decidedly dodgy and less-than friendly Serbians, he realises his army days are longer ago than he can seem to remember.

Everything about this book is well done - the plot, the description, the characters: Sheldon himself is a fantastic creation. I can't wait to see more from Derek B. Miller!


Romanitas
Romanitas
Price: £4.31

4.0 out of 5 stars Great plot, shame about the scenery, 13 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Romanitas (Kindle Edition)
Romanitas follows (mainly) the story of Marcus, the Emperor's nephew, after his parents and friend are killed in a murderous and secret coup, and the siblings Una and Sulien, escaped British slaves. The three meet and end up travelling together, with Una and Marcus providing the obligatory romance. There are other characters who have a big impact on the story, and whose POV occasionally hijacks the narrative - a device I enjoyed, unlike some of the other reviewers.

The premise - a modern day Roman empire - was too intriguing to resist, especially having enjoyed Roma Eterna in the past. That was a collection of stories exploring how/if Rome could have survived. From what I understand, this version of Rome has just one change - the plot to assassinate an Emperor was foiled. Really, as other reviewers suggest, the backdrop of eternal Rome in this book is just that - a backdrop. Other than giving a different name to the phone and TV, this is a modern day setting with slaves and Roman place names.

Romanitas is well written, enjoyable, and easy to read. It's just a shame that more wasn't made of the setting.


Lunatic Fringe (Tales of the Pack Book 1)
Lunatic Fringe (Tales of the Pack Book 1)
Price: £2.24

3.0 out of 5 stars Not great art, but quite enjoyable, 13 Nov. 2013
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I bought Lunatic Fringe after reading a good review online, but was disappointingly underwhelmed. It tells the story of Lexie, a college freshman who finds out she's both a werewolf and a lesbian in the first semester.

While generally a decent read, parts of the writing seem clunky and heavy-handed: a lot of the description of Lexie's menstrual cycle, for instance, could probably have been skipped. Similarly, 'The Pack', the militant group of feminists that Lexie falls in with fairly early on, seem to speak almost entirely in transcribed soapbox rants. They are saved, however, by the humanness of one of their members, Mitch.

In the end, however, these things didn't stop me from reading this all in one go. If you're looking for a (mostly) lighthearted read that involves frat boys being ripped to shreds and eaten, doesn't require too much effort, Lunatic Fringe isn't a bad place to start.


This Shining Land (G. K. Hall Romance)
This Shining Land (G. K. Hall Romance)
by Rosalind Laker
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Good enough, if you've got the time, 11 Oct. 2013
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Johanna Ryen has moved from rural Norway to work in Oslo, and works in a fur shop. When we meet her, the Germans are just about to invade and she’s just about to fall madly in love with Steffen Larsen – the dashing half-British friend of her landlord. As soon as he’s waved goodbye to his British girlfriend, he and Johanna head down to the basement to avoid Nazi bombs. Sparks fly, and despite their immediate separation, this is obviously the romance of a lifetime for both. From there, the plot continues as Johanna gets drawn further and further into the Resistance.

I bought this book for its setting, really, having never heard of Rosalind Laker before. At the risk of offending her devotees (see reviews for this and her other books), the writing isn’t very good. It’s not bad, just a bit limp. Clearly the author doesn’t subscribe to the thought that writing should ‘show, not tell’.

I enjoyed the book: the characters were likeable, the plot moved along well, the story has been thoroughly researched (informed, I believe, by the author’s husband’s real life experiences in WWII Norway). Good enough, but not a great.


Amazons, Rebels & Spies?
Amazons, Rebels & Spies?
Price: £7.42

1.0 out of 5 stars Clunking and poorly formatted, main characters that leave a sour taste in the mouth, 10 Oct. 2013
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I downloaded this as it was free the other day when I was searching for something to read. However, it wasn't a good decision. The book is poorly proofread, with lots of typos (see: "I Can#t"), odd sentence and paragraph formatting, inconsistent spacing and use of quotation marks. The text clearly hasn't gone through a professional editor, or even a pre-publication read from the author's friends.

Poor proofreading could be forgiven, if the writing was good. It's not. There's a lot of heavy-handed exposition, and I'd like to point out that, in real life, people don't speak in whole paragraphs explaining the current political systems, even to their silly wives. It also feels like the author is trying to convey the time period through the dialogue, and over-use of clunking, awkward words like 'anon', 'protuberant' and having everything, and everyone, constantly described as 'sassy'. The description, however, doesn't fit with this attempt to shoehorn dialogue into and olde timey style - "Cassie had literally become the tormented Prince of Denmark".

There's also some very dodgy racial politics going on. The slaves are all given a patoire to speak in, with little characterization other than the colour of their skin. Now, I'm sure that this is a deliberate choice, pointing out how white southern Americans really would have thought, but it sits badly. Especially the discussion of how her half-white heritage was the only reason a maid had been interested in reading as a child.

I confess, I didn't finish Amazons, Rebels & Spies, and I'm not going to.


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