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Iset (London, UK)
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Rebel Queen
Rebel Queen
by Michelle Moran
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, solid, engrossing read, 13 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Rebel Queen (Hardcover)
Moran made an excellent decision to make her main character entirely fictional. Moran is totally free to create Sita Bhosale out of wholesale cloth and she spends a great deal of time weaving a background for her that feels plausible. Not only that but Moran’s attention to detail and skill at language has improved so much so that Sita’s fictional life came across as evocative and authentic. In the same breath, Moran is able to slip this character seamlessly into historical events because of the huge gaps in the historical record in this era, and Sita still comes off believable and doesn’t take over the story. This time round it really felt like Moran had a decent understanding of the social attitudes and inner thoughts of the historical figures.

The one big deviation Moran does make is including the Circular Memorandum in the events of the book – an event which actually took place in 1886. Also, I have to agree with a friend who said the blurb was misleading. The blurb gave me the impression that Rani Lakshmibai would be a perspective character and dominate the story, or at least share it equally with Sita, but really it’s Sita’s story throughout. The promised raising of armies and riding into battles actually doesn’t happen until about 90% of the way through the book, and in fact the line about raising one army of women and another of men – I never saw that mentioned once in the novel. What we get instead is a compelling story of Sita’s life struggles, which in its own way made for a good read – it just wasn’t what the blurb led me to expect I’d be getting. If I had a wishlist for this book it would be that it had been longer – that way the build-up of Sita’s story could still have been told, and then the military action could have formed the core and heart of the tale with all the lavish page space it deserves.

Some of Moran’s old bad writing habits remain, but the good news is she’s learnt how to disguise them now, and do it well. There is info dumping here – Sita on several occasions outright explains points about Indian culture and history direct to the reader – but Moran gets away with it completely because she’s framed the whole story with Sita being persuaded to write her memoirs. This framework also allows the first person narration to work well. The writing flowed smoothly and didn’t jar or write itself into any awkward corners at all, part of that being due to the historical gaps allowing Moran to place Sita ideally in the tale, at the rani’s right hand.

Whilst I had a couple of niggles here and there, and I definitely wished we’d spent more time with the rani and on the actual battles, I found this book enjoyable, engrossing, and a solid read. Rebel Queen definitely continues Moran’s upwards trend.


Spartacus: The Gladiator: (Spartacus 1)
Spartacus: The Gladiator: (Spartacus 1)
Price: £3.32

3.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus: The Gladiator, 13 April 2015
I have to say my favourite part of the story in this book was the first third of it. I enjoyed finding out the life Kane had created for Spartacus as a warrior returning home in Thrace, thought it was a little too short for my tastes. The chapters about life in the ludus also held my attention, as they contain a constant thread of tension as the characters go about their restricted lives, and you know the big event that’s coming. The early chapters with Carbo and Crassus taking centre stage were also interesting as they made a welcome change of pace and gave an interesting insight into different lives and perspectives.

It was after the breakout that I began to have problems with my interest level in this book. It began to blur into a morass of ambushes, brawls, and town sackings – although, I must say, the chapter in which Carbo meets Navio broke this up and held my attention. I began to care about Spartacus less too. Previously I’d felt at his shoulder through his struggles, but he felt inscrutable once he became a leader – I didn’t really feel motivated to support him anymore. He didn’t seem to have any further internal conflict, he was so inscrutable that I didn’t know what his motivation was and didn’t care, and I struggled to identify with him or find a reason why he needed me to root for him. His character arc seemed to stop. At that point in the story it was the secondary characters who held my interest far more than Spartacus. Characters like Carbo are still struggling, still going through their character arc, and this made them of infinitely more interest than the now one-note Spartacus.


Savage Eden
Savage Eden
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Savage Eden, 13 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Savage Eden (Kindle Edition)
Early on in the book we meet with several stock characters; the iron-willed handsome hunter, the plucky handmaiden, the aging benevolent chief, etc., but these initial presentations don’t last. In fact the author specifically goes out of his way to avert these stock characterisations, and subvert several stereotypical plot points that are telegraphed early on through prophecies and in the hands of a less skilled author would’ve been allowed to play out. Several times the author isn’t afraid to give us brutal plot twists, or at least very seriously threaten at them to the point where I genuinely didn’t know if the outcome would come good. This felt realistic, and ramped up both the tension and the level of investment one has in these characters. Credit to the author for that.

The author also recognises how to properly use the setting as a tool to drive the plot. A little time is spent in the beginning admiring and appreciating the beauty of the setting, but later the environment itself drives the plot by presenting the characters with the obstacles they must overcome. Instead of time being spent on describing in painstaking detail how a character might forage for food or treat a hide, these details are only presented when they are relevant and have purpose; when there is something to aim at or achieve that these details form the solution for. This is the way such historical settings should appear in a book, instead of being plonked down in great big info dumps with no relevance to the plot whatsoever.

The final point was that, for my opinion, the dialogue just felt a little lacking and formulaic. Together, this slight deficiency in characters, plot, and dialogue left me with a visceral sense that the story could’ve been better – but, I stress, the author tries to avert these issues, and overall the story was a fun and enjoyable read.


Tribune of Rome: VESPASIAN I
Tribune of Rome: VESPASIAN I
Price: £2.26

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good debut, 16 Feb. 2015
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I have to say straight off the bat that this book surprised me. Halfway through the book I was convinced this was a rollicking Roman adventure novel – secret agents, schemes, the odd fight and escape – all good fun but nothing I hadn’t seen before. And I was enjoying it, although Vespasian’s youthful naivety was just a touch grating. Then the book surprised me by turning around and pulling out a serious military novel instead. Vespasian grows up, and becomes a lot more likable and decisive in the process, and I took it seriously despite the fact that he was still by age a youth. The scope of the book feels like it widens, and the situations Vespasian finds himself in suddenly seem completely serious; fighting in battles, negotiating a way out of very difficult strategic positions, deep in hostile territory. The tension was really ratcheted up a notch.

The battles were really well described and realised, I have to say. Battles can be difficult things to write. Often chaotic, bloody messes, it can be tough to know what to write to make them in any way intelligible or follow a coherent sequence of events, and to avoid simply getting bogged down in hack and slash action scenes without any idea of how to resolve the battle. Some authors will avoiding writing battle scenes entirely, and who can blame them when it’s such a tricky task? Thankfully Robert Fabbri does know how to write battles, meaning not only are we treated to these scenes in their entirety, but also they’re totally coherent and intelligible. I never once got lost or confused reading those scenes, and enjoyed following their twists and turns. It’s quite obvious that Fabbri understands military strategy and tactics, and this I’m grateful for. Even when there are no battles going on, there’s always something happening. Every chapter progresses the plot and has something interesting going on to keep me reading. I stand by my assessment of the book as “moreish”.

The character stuff is, for the most part, done well also. There are some big characters here, from all sorts of backgrounds; Antonia, Gaius, Asinius, Tertulla, Corbulo – even bit parts like Tryphaena, and Sejanus who looms large over the entire tale even though he’s never seen. They were all unique and very much their own forceful, distinct personalities. I say mostly well done – I did laugh at Vespasian and Caenis professing some sort of deep love and expecting it to last over the next four years, after an acquaintance of a few weeks during which they never really had time to talk to each other or get to know each other, and both being just 16 thereabouts. But then, that’s not so much poor writing – it isn’t implausible, after all, how many of us as teenagers thought we were in love with someone? – it’s just that with the benefit of experience I found it difficult to empathise with or root for their relationship. Of course, history proves me wrong, but where and when they met is unknown.

So why not a higher rating? Two reasons. First, the language lacks that certain flair and style that really sweeps me off into a story so that I get lost in it and hours pass without notice. Fabbri’s writing style is skilled, judicious, and lucid – all of which drive a very good, compelling, and coherent plot. But it lacks a certain inventiveness, a certain evocativeness, which I look for in books that go above and beyond. To be fair, that may simply be a consequence of the genre; the Roman adventure/military novel is a genre that lends itself to a more direct, punchy, functional writing style. Second, the book failed to move me or to get me thinking; I didn’t get emotionally drawn in, nor did my brain reel from any revelations. This, along with creative flair, is something I would more expect to see in the epic historical fiction genre, which is why I’m more of a fan of that sub-genre than I am of the adventure/military sub-genre in historical fiction. But I still believe that those two qualities aren’t exclusive to the epic, and am looking for any book that stands out and can really draw me in; those are the stories that make it into my cream of the crop circle. Returning to the book at hand however, Fabbri’s got a darn good book here, and I must admit I am intrigued to see where the rest of the series would take and develop Vespasian. Definitely a book I would recommend.


Samsara Eau de Toilette - 30 ml
Samsara Eau de Toilette - 30 ml
Price: £24.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Epitome of orientals, 13 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In the initial burst the warmth and spices of this oriental come straight to the fore; musk and sandalwood, uplifted by bright citrus notes of lemon, and tempered into the soft florals of rose, jasmine and violet, with a hint of juicy, delicious peach. Straight away the multi-layered and beautiful nature of this oriental is striking. It is absolutely spot on. The perfume has an ever so slight sense of powderiness in the notes, which is mainly contained in the violet, but it’s not overwhelming. After about an hour the dominant note is definitely the spicy wood of sandalwood, with a sprinkling of powdery violets and a dash of smooth tonka bean, vanilla, musk, and amber. Samsara is sophisticated and sensual, but also beautiful, blending together rich florals but still making sure everything is underpinned by the intoxicating spices that make up the scent’s base notes. This is exactly the sort of oriental I adore.


Ghost Deep Night Eau de Toilette for Women - 30 ml
Ghost Deep Night Eau de Toilette for Women - 30 ml
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Romantic oriental, 13 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In the opening burst Deep Night practically oozes luscious orientals, with a gorgeous and absolutely dominant note of night blooming cereus. Just the barest hint of rose, apricot and peach are detectable behind it. This definitely lives up to its name; I have a definite evening vibe from it, and it feels floral and oriental enough to be sophisticated and sensual, but the fruity notes are soft enough also that it comes off as quite romantic. For such a simple fragrance, with so few notes, it’s surprisingly good. After an hour the blend does soften and becomes smoother. Some have complained that it loses the edge that most orientals have, and becomes something cosier and warmer. That’s true, and whilst I love my edgy orientals, I’ve completely fallen in love with Deep Night. I love the softly sensual drydown just as much as the sultrier, edgier opening.


Far Away Gold Eau de Parfum Spray - 50ml by Avon
Far Away Gold Eau de Parfum Spray - 50ml by Avon
Offered by Annes Beauty shop
Price: £7.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting floral oriental, 13 Feb. 2015
The initial burst is bright and fruity, with bright orange notes, and softened by the peach, but also a blend of juicy tropical notes that might just be pineapple, guava, passionfruit or similar. The citrus of these fruits is brought down to earth by the undertones of flowery heart notes and creamy base notes, giving the impression of stunningly bright, uplifting initial notes but none of the citrusy tang, and a certain level of delicious, sensual earthiness. After about half an hour the fruits have mellowed and now the jasmine in the heart notes comes to the fore, warm and golden, holding back the amber and vanilla in the base notes which give the beautiful jasmine a delicious, creamy, foody twist. After two to three hours the fragrance has melted into that creamy vanilla fully, with only the slightest trace of jasmine, and a dash of coconut and amber notes. Like the original, Far Away Gold is a lovely floral oriental, but this version is just a little more sophisticated and enchanting, a little more smooth and suave.


Avon Far Away Exotic for HER Eau de Perfume Spray, 50 ml
Avon Far Away Exotic for HER Eau de Perfume Spray, 50 ml
Offered by Annes Beauty shop
Price: £8.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Fruity oriental, 13 Feb. 2015
This perfume certainly lives up to its name. The initial spray is bursting with exotic fruits – mango, mandarin, pineapple, guava, passionfruit – juicy and rich, blended with a dash of warm spices, amongst which there is cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of black pepper. There is a trace of the coconut underlying the top notes, and dewy, pink roses which promise to bloom later. After over half an hour the fruity top notes have mellowed into a soft background, allowing the coconut and rose to come much more to the fore in a gentle waft of cream and florals. After almost two hours the fragrance has mellowed only slightly and become a little more creamy, revealing just a touch of amber and patchouli, but is still dominated by rose and coconut with undertones of exotic fruit. Well after three hours however, and the potency of the rose has dimmed somewhat, the scent now drifting into a creamy coconut, amber musk that is now only detectable on the skin, but just as delicious as the first burst. I really like this fragrance, and I didn’t expect to since my preferred fragrances are usually straight up orientals or at least soft orientals or floral orientals. With the notes of musk, sandalwood, amber, and jasmine, this perfume has a dash of oriental notes in it, but the lush rose, creamy coconut, and rich burst of exotic fruits makes it much more a fruity fragrance with a subtle creamy, spicy twist, but somehow it works for me, and it works very well.


Yves Saint Laurent Belle D'opium Eau De Parfum Spray for Her 30ml
Yves Saint Laurent Belle D'opium Eau De Parfum Spray for Her 30ml
Offered by Kt Cutprice Ltd
Price: £29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, 13 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The opening notes are replete with floral beauty – the Casablanca lily, jasmine, and gardenia, given all the richness and juiciness of mandarin oranges. There are hints of white pepper, the curl of tobacco and incense, but they linger in the background, overwhelmed by the perfume’s luscious opening. After a couple of hours have passed, the fruitiness has all but disappeared, and those opening floral notes softened into something barely detectable. The incense, tobacco, and white pepper are more present and to the fore, but still soft, and finished off by gentle amber and sandalwood – the patchouli is completely absent. This is a gorgeous oriental. It’s not quite what I was expecting – I favour complex orientals, where as this is lovely but straightforward with its burst of orange and florals with a curl of smoke; uncomplicated, honest, and gorgeous.


Vera Wang Princess Eau de Toilette for Women - 50 ml
Vera Wang Princess Eau de Toilette for Women - 50 ml
Offered by PerfumeShopping
Price: £17.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Daytime oriental, 13 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The initial spray is absolutely bursting with soft fruits and florals. The orange injects a bright note of citrus, but all bitterness is kept out of it by being tempered with delicious apple and the beautiful florals of the water lily. Hints of the tiare flower and dark chocolate underneath, with the vanilla and amber, threaten to unfold later as the scent evolves. After an hour or so, those initial fruity, citrusy notes soften, and the water lily and tiare flower really unfold into soft, beautiful florals, underpinned by delicious dark chocolate, vanilla, and amber. This is a gorgeous floral oriental. I would have to say it isn’t my favourite though; it lacks a dark edge that I usually go for in my favourite orientals. This is more of a soft, bright, flowery oriental, something I would wear in the daytime. It is however, beautiful, and a delicious scent.


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