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Melissa "xenutia" (Robertsbridge, United Kingdom)
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A Dead Elf (Tales of Nicely Strongoak Book 1)
A Dead Elf (Tales of Nicely Strongoak Book 1)

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it., 3 Feb 2014
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My mum recommended this book to me because she knows that I love off-beat fantasy novels. I wasn't quite sure if it would be my cup of tea initially, but after two pages I was totally hooked.   

It's one of the most original fantasy books I've seen in a long while. There are surfing elves, private eye dwarves with attitude and gun-toting gangster goblins – something you don't get to read about every day! It's also very funny, with some great one-liners that had me laughing out loud. Unlike some off-beat fantasy novels it's not just a meandering through the scenery with no clear plot – there's a really good proper mystery/thriller storyline that kept me guessing – and I never worked out whodunnit. 

It does look from the book description that there are going to be more in this series. I really hope so, because I've unashamedly a Nicely Strongoak groupie.

Highly recommended.


Caranthus (Tamarei Book 3)
Caranthus (Tamarei Book 3)
Price: £1.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping up the Quest Tradition, 18 Nov 2012
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I'm afraid I have to disagree with the previous reviewer – I'm with Harriet-Jay on this one. I read the first of the series, Coming of Age, and although I enjoyed it a lot, I only gave it four stars because there was something about it that didn't quite gel with me. I know that when I read the first Anita Blake book, I felt the same; it was a good book, with lots of potential for a series, but didn't quite hit the five-star mark. Hamilton definitely got into her stride with the following books and built a world and characters that we could really invest in (although it seems to be going through a bit of a doldrum at the moment). I think that the Tamarei series promises to do much the same thing in building its readership around characters that you want to keep visiting with. I've come to really love some of these people and want to know what happens to them.

I think I said before that this series will probably appeal more to women than men, because of the emotional content and general feel of the book. In many ways the focus is more on the interpersonal relationships than plot. Although male-on-male sex scenes aren't really my thing, I must admit I found the sex scenes at the end of the book were touching and sensitively written. Better watch out before I change buses altogether, lol!

I'm a fan of quest narratives in general; partly because you never know what might be coming next, and partly because there's a certain satisfaction in seeing how the characters and their relationships develop as they overcome obstacles to reach their goal. When Shiri first discovered her heritage I had my doubts that she would be ready to face her father just yet, and it feels to me like the journey is to prepare her for the big show-down. The trials she goes through are making her draw on inner reserves she didn't know she had in order to fulfill her destiny. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is packed with adventures that aren't intrinsic to the plot, but they're there to show the development of the friendship between Sam and Frodo (or Legolas and Gimli), and to allow Aragorn time to accept his destiny, just as Shiri has to. The Dark Tower series rambles about all over the place, but it's a great quest narrative. I'm not comparing this series to either The Dark Tower or Lord of the Rings (!) – but I still think the Tamarei books are a good read if you like adult fantasy.


Dark Gods (Tamarei Book 2)
Dark Gods (Tamarei Book 2)
Price: £1.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Horror/Erotica Done Right, 14 Oct 2012
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If you've been a fan of Anita Blake or Merry Gentry in the past but, like me, found the recent offerings lacking in plot and getting repetitive, then I suspect you'll enjoy this. "Tamarei" manages to include a level of erotica that far surpasses the "Fifty Shades" standard but also, in terms of story, it's packed in tight as sardines and doesn't seem close to letting up.

Although there were notable "nearlys" in Book 1, particularly with main squeeze Craig, Shiri doesn't really get to actualise any of her relationships until this second book, which in a lot of ways has its advantages, plot-wise and character-development-wise. From about the middle onwards we're treated to some detailed sex scenes that neatly avoid the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trap of leaving an unpleasant taste in one's mouth. Not only is there not a "Holy Crap", "Oh My," lip-biting or eye-rolling in sight, but they read as something based far more solidly on the burgeoning relationships of the characters and not merely on the idea that sex sells so we'd better throw some in. I like a good sex scene when it feels like it's necessary to the plot - which these definitely are. In true Anita Blake fashion, Shiri strikes up a deal to keep both of her love interests happy (and prevent the more dangerous of the two from harming the other) which keeps her under the sheets for quite a while as a result!

This book ties up lots of loose ends from Book 1 - most notably evil sorcerer Alexander, and Shiri's mysterious "guardian angel", Abileck - although early on Shiri, bless her, is under the impression that he is more Amy Pond's Raggedy Doctor than a perverted all-powerful hell-god from another dimension.

I've also been waiting since Book 1, and Shiri's discovery that she isn't from Earth at all, for the action to head to her world - and although we only see them head for Taiu at the end, I'm looking forward to seeing it in the next one.


The Dark Story of Eminem
The Dark Story of Eminem
Price: £6.04

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving insight into a complex man, 21 Aug 2012
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I almost never read biographies, but something about Eminem made me want to know more. His public image as Slim Shady often incites anger and promotes the idea that he is without any moral compass - and yet in many interviews he comes across as a soft-spoken, intelligent, and honest man that is quite at odds with that public image.

This book is sympathetically yet even-handedly written: Nick Hasted is the first to admit those times that his subject overstepped the mark, and yet manages to show us the damage - partly caused by we, the public, in our often-invasive want for celebrity gossip - that has made Marshall Mathers into the man he is. I was honestly moved by the accounts of his early life, and later his life in the goldfish bowl, and came away with the impression that this was the story of a mostly good man turned borderline insane by the crazy media-led society we live in.

The middle portions of the book, detailing his many legal battles, home troubles, criminal convictions and inflamatory lyrics may turn many off him - I admit even I found some things distasteful, as I have some of his music, and I'm largely unshockable - but the latter chapters make up for that by showing us how those things can be overcome. Nick Hasted cleverly refuses to shy away from the more unsavoury parts of Em's story while somehow helping us to understand how culture, poverty, and issues of identity may have contributed to its happening.

Eminem's battle with prescription drugs, alcohol, and lethargy ultimately make for inspiring reading, as he comes out the other side to one of the most impressive comebacks in recent music history. Listening to Recovery and its uplifting messages of re-birth and renewal, it's hard to believe just how far he's come.

On a more personal level, I am myself on prescription painkillers for a long-standing condition, and have sleeping tablets likewise for when I need them. Reading this and watching Em's many candid interviews on drug use have made me think carefully every time I reach for the pills. I now stop to think "Do I need them at this moment? Am I actually in pain right now, or going by habit?" and it helps me make a more responsible decision on when to take them. So thank you, Marshall, and thank you, Nick, for this great story.


Vita Sciences B-12 Patch 4 patches
Vita Sciences B-12 Patch 4 patches
Offered by VitaSciences
Price: £12.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny twice over, 21 Aug 2012
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I've suffered from suspected Lupus since 14, and for a while an excellent GP gave me B12 injections and completely changed my life. Then she left and the new GP said she didn't think I needed them and refused to renew my prescription. Since then I've been treating myself for many symptoms - and honestly, without these patches I would be completely bed-ridden instead of partially. I tried cheaper brands but they didn't stay on - but these stay put even in water and seem to be stronger than others I've tried by quite a bit.

On the surface they may seem expensive compared to other options, but they are definitely worth it!


Coming of Age (Tamarei Book 1)
Coming of Age (Tamarei Book 1)
Price: £1.82

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy For Grown-Ups, 10 Aug 2012
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I was pleasantly surprised by this book; at first I took a peep primarily because I like series where you get to revisit characters over and over again, and I've always been a fan of those like "Anita Blake" and "Meredith Gentry". I'm also wary, though, with fantasy series, because so many of them are geared toward teen markets (Carrie Ryan's "Forest of Hands and Teeth" springs to mind) and potentially adult storylines are often buried in rampant teen-speak and the dumbing-down of action and relationships. I soon realised when reading the sample of "Coming of Age" that this wasn't going to be the case here - just the language alone and the depiction of Shiri getting drunk was most definitely adult, which I appreciate and which quite honestly was the deciding factor in making me want to buy the book.

I liked Shiri as a heroine - there is a fine line between a strong woman and a bitch, but she manages - sometimes barely, lol - to stay on the right side of it. I'm a tough cookie myself so I like to see some balls on a female character, but I also like some softness underneath. Thankfully Shiri had that, and sometimes you can almost see places where the spoiled brat routine is calculated to hide just how much she feels. Plus she loves my favourite band. That's got to make me like her!

I wasn't sure about Nathan, to begin with - he seemed far too sneaky and manipulative for my tastes, and I couldn't trust a word he said - but as most of these things are later proved to be true, after all, you have to wonder if my other impressions of him were wrong, too.

My runaway favourite was Braegor - I love contradictions, and the idea of this eight-foot demon munching popcorn cracked me up. I would actually love a book entirely of Braegor, maybe when he was on Earth as a scout party.

There is some very adult content (we're not talking "Fifty Shades" here, more "Anita Blake" level) but it is necessary to the plot and not particularly dwelt upon, so I had no problem with it. In the case of the child murders, they were quite sensitively handled.

People that have watched "Spaced" with the Homage-o-Metre switched on will like the "cult-references spotting" in here - there are enough to please any cult fantasy and sci-fi lovers.

It's great to see some blatantly British fantasy - the majority of series of this kind are American, and it's a shame because it's something we Brits have always done well ("Doctor Who", anyone?). It's also nice to see Egyptian mythology utilised for a change - there's a plethora of fantasy novels that use Greek mythology (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Percy Jackson), and a few that dip into Old Norse such as Joanne Harris' "Rune" series, but Egypt doesn't get a look in often (with the exception of Stargate and the Mummy films!), and I actually learnt something along the way.

In short, it looks as though this series is aimed squarely at adults - it has sex, action, violence, and rather dark humour, but if you're a fan of authors like Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton, you'll probably appreciate that as much as I did. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because I'm not over-fond of colloquialisms in narrative (dialogue is fine) and this is fairly informal in places. But I'm well aware that I'm the exception to the rule in this area!


Five Quarters Of The Orange
Five Quarters Of The Orange
Price: £3.59

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly one of the best books in print, 27 Nov 2011
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I will admit, right up front, to being slightly biased, because Joanne Harris is undoubtedly my favourite author and I haven't disliked a single thing she has written. However, I find "Five Quarters of the Orange" particularly special.

With her usual ability to evoke every taste, smell, touch, and sound of the landscape she wishes to show us, Harris plunges a reader eye-ball deep in sensation from the very first paragraph. Her writing is not so much storytelling as a kind of virtual reality, and as a result occupied France becomes a thing which feels both exciting and commonplace - I felt how normal it all seemed for the child Framboise even as I noted the alienness compared to our own, modern lives.

As always the descriptive passages of food and the land and the dull silver snail-trail of the Loire left me reeling and tasting the words - not just the things they call to mind, but the words themselves, like an aftertaste you can't quite name. This book leaves you with more ghosts than merely the obvious.

The characters, in particular, are wonderful examples of Harris' skill in creating not heroes, not villains, but real people that often teeter somewhere between. They are a breath of fresh air in today's often sentimental literary world, where the good guys are 'nice' and the villains 'nasty'. Each of these people, but particularly Framboise and her distant, impenetrable mother, have things to love and things to hate in their personalities - a certain hardness, an inability (or a refusal) to behave as society dictates. Maybe it is my own inate hardness, a certain emotional distance I share with them, that makes them so vivid and conspiratorially likeable to me - but more likely it is Harris's understanding of the human animal as a complex collection of greys with never a black or white in sight.

In short, the characters ARE the book; like any good drama, the events are direct consequences of the choices they make. They aren't simply mannequins walked through a plot, but one of the best studies of why we do what we do, and how little we really know about another person, that I've seen. I've read this book 5 or 6 times because even now, I feel there is more to understand.


Lost Voices (The Lost Voices Trilogy)
Lost Voices (The Lost Voices Trilogy)
Price: £3.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Instantly one of my favourites, 27 Nov 2011
Like the previous reviewer, I was genuinely excited by the prospect of a book about mermaids. I love fantasy, but find myself a little bored by the same old offerings of teen vampires and zombies, witches and werewolves. Mermaids, now - that was something I could get behind.

I was a little unsure in the first chapter, because I distrust things that try to cram an ostensibly adult genre into a teen's perspective, but within a few pages I was utterly delighted to find Luce a mature, deep-thinking girl that I could almost forget was only 14. By the time she was transformed into a Metascarsa - a 'fledgling' mermaid - I was hooked. Her moral compass, in particular, is a valuable guide through the often-complex tangle of murky situations that unfold throughout the book, such as the sinking of human ships and the near-irrational hatred that mermaids share for all things human. Even their own unwritten rules, the Timok, are often hard for a human reader to negotiate.

Sarah Porter is one of those authors that often seems to delight in words for their own sake, as well as for their ability to tell the story. I love that, and felt thoroughly immersed in the grey, cold, sweeping expanses of the Alaskan waters. I could see a white sky that reached up forever and foam-flecked waves the colour of lead. The sea-life, particularly the mermaids, are not portrayed as fairy-like Disney characters, but as slightly sinister, morally ambiguous, and often tortured creatures that feel both human and not, and this in particular delighted me - so many of the old creatures and monsters of legend have been sanitized in the modern day, but not, I am happy to say, Porter's mermaids.

The enigmatic Catarina is perhaps my favourite aspect; so much to dislike, but still she has a magnetic quality that I, as a reader, found myself drawn to as much as Luce is. I still feel we have more to learn about her, and I honestly can't wait for Book 2.

If, like me, you long for something different in the fantasy genre, give this one a go - I read it from beginning to end through one very sleepless night, because I couldn't put it down.


Doctor Who: The Glamour Chase
Doctor Who: The Glamour Chase
by Gary Russell
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 19 July 2010
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This is probably my favourite of the Eleventh Doctor books, although "Night of the Humans" isn't far behind. It has a suitably original alien race in the Weave, some clever little things to make you keep guessing along the way, and some wonderful background and insights into the newest recruit, Rory Williams. An absolute must for Nu NuWho fans!


Doctor Who: The King's Dragon
Doctor Who: The King's Dragon
by Una McCormack
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.99

0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea but badly executed, 19 July 2010
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I've really enjoyed most of the Eleventh Doctor books so far, but I'm afraid this one is just not up to scratch. The poor characterisation of Rory and Amy is starting to grate to the point when, halfway through the book, I'm about to abandon it as a lost cause and stop reading. If you only read for the Doctor you'll probably enjoy it, but fans of the companions will likely be disappointed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2011 3:12 PM BST


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