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Castle in the Air
Castle in the Air
Price: £0.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amuse bouche of a story, told in perfect pitch., 14 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Castle in the Air (Kindle Edition)
Having been a fan of his work for years, it's always a pleasure to come across something I've not read before. Although short, this is a very evocative piece, displaying Bates ear for the language of the countryman of East Northamptonshire, in a tale reminiscent of his "Uncle Silas" stories. Hopefully, this short piece will whet your appetite for more, as Bloomsbury are planning to re-publish all of his short stories and novellas, and his work covers a much greater scope than just the Larkins.

Bavaria BVC 1815 S Wet / Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Bavaria BVC 1815 S Wet / Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Offered by edinger Lampertheim
Price: £34.70

3.0 out of 5 stars Good value, but let down by silly niggles., 28 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I would have given this machine a higher rating, as it is very good value for money, if it wasn't for a few little niggles with it... firstly that it came fitted with a two pin plug, necessitating buying an adapter, and the lead is very short, meaning that I'm unable to clean a whole room without having to plug it into two different sockets. Other than those niggles, it is, for the price, an excellent piece of kit - and it did come in very useful just a couple of days after purchase, when my boiler started leaking!

Old Yeller
Old Yeller
by Fred Gipson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.33

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 13 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Old Yeller (Paperback)
My cat want's to give this five stars....

Peritinkle: The Wrong Special Princess (Adventure/Fantasy 8-12 year olds)
Peritinkle: The Wrong Special Princess (Adventure/Fantasy 8-12 year olds)
Price: £1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The start of what looks to be an interesting series., 20 Sept. 2014
It's not often I dip my toes into the murky waters of childrens fiction, but I have to thank Catherine for allowing me an enjoyable swim. The Wrong Special Thing is a mixture of Enid Blyton style childrens adventure and Grimms fairy tale, with a dash of eco-activism and conspiracy theory thrown in (as well as a dollop of "Coming of Age" ), but all the while keeping it light enough to make it ideal bedtime reading for younger readers.

The story is enjoyable, with a few twists and turns thrown in to keep the older reader interested, but without making things too dark or distressing - and did bring in some concepts to pave the way for the rest of the series... The one thing that the book lacked, in my opinion, was illustrations - but I believe that Catherine is hoping to address this in a print version.

Overall, this is the sort of book I would recommend to mothers with young children, as it has enough in it to keep the mother interested when reading it to her children, without being so complicated that the child loses interest.

by Christos Tsiolkas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book... but could have been so much better., 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
Having heard many good reports about Christos Tsiolkas previous novel, "The Slap" I was looking forward to reading his newest work, "Barracuda", which is the story of a talented swimmer who is so totally focused on success that he doesn't even comprehend the possibility of failure, so that when it happens he is unable to cope.

This is a good story, struggling to be an excellent one, but it is not an easy read - primarily because the main character is such a self-centred and unlike-able person, but I also found that I was becoming irritated by the structure of the novel itself, along with the artifices employed in the story telling. It felt at times as if the author had taken the chapters and randomly shuffled them, which did make it hard to get a sense of where the story was going, or had been. The author also had the main character using different versions of his name at different stages of the story, as if he was trying to provide signposts.

I was also uncomfortable that the author had chosen to give his protagonist quite so many hurdles to overcome - it seemed at times that he had been given the chance to make a trolley dash around the oppressed minority storeroom and giving him as many obstacles as he could find and then throwing them all at him at once.

Overall, though, it is a good but disturbing story of a fractured life, and dealing with the many issues that the main character faces in a very realistic way, showing that there are no easy answers to some peoples problems, and that some issues cannot be resolved.

The ending, although initially feeling unsatisfactory because of the lack of resolution, could be seen as being absolutely right, in that it is asking a question that no one can truly answer for themselves.

Overall, this is an earnest and thought provoking book, but the pity is that, like the main character, it could have been so much more.

Sixty Plus
Sixty Plus
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Shows promise, 28 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Sixty Plus (Kindle Edition)
There are some interesting ideas within the stories in this book, unfortunately the treatment of them is very derivative, with much of the style being akin to early Robert Heinlein, with plot lines from Harry Harrison, Harlan Ellison and Carl Sagan. This work desperately calls out for the services of an editor, as the plot lines are hurried and the characters are not developed in any way that would lead us to care what happened to them. There are some interesting ideas here, but they suffer from being underdeveloped and lacking in exposition. The final work, "Signal" has an interesting premise, but needs a lot more work to make it into something fresh and original. I know it can be difficult to provide back-story in such a short extract but it did seem to have started halfway through, with no scene setting.
It will be interesting to see how the style develops with more work, as some of the ideas here are worthy of expansion and could be turned into some very good work, rather than just one with potential.

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
by Conn Iggulden
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shedding light on the origins of a turbulent period, 16 Oct. 2013
Conn Iggulden sheds light on a turbulent period of English history with a very readable work on the origins of one of the biggest power struggles in the history of the crown by focusing on the lesser characters and using their stories to illuminate the growing struggle between the descendents of Edward III.
Rather than telling the story from the viewpoint of either Henry VI or Richard, Duke of York, as most historical fiction seems to do, Iggulden focuses on the minor characters, showing their feelings and their struggles as they are caught up in the unfolding drama, and how their lives are drastically changed by their masters actions and inactions.
Much in the way the story unfolded at the time, you are slowly drawn into the lives of the disparate characters at the heart of the book, and given reasons to care what happens to them, with some beautifully drawn depictions of the turbulence of the time, and a real sense of what the events would mean to those caught up in them, as well as being shown how the characters were shaped and moulded by their participation.
There are also plenty of battle scenes in this book that will leave you with a good understanding of why the French hated to face English archers, and of just how much skill and training it took to be an archer ( although a true understanding only comes the first time you try and draw back a longbow! ).
The story of Jack Cade also provides you with an insight into the anger and fear felt by most of the population at the time, and their sense of injustice and betrayal, while at the same time leaving you fretting over the safety of the queen.
The author has done a wonderful job of weaving together the threads of the story to give a consistent whole, while drawing on so many viewpoints, while also allowing the characters to develop along with the plots - and there is a lot of plotting and scheming going on, from factions trying to protect the throne and from those trying to unseat its occupant. Obviously, as this is the first of an intended series, there is still a lot of the story to be told, but the finale does leave you wanting to read more.
This was one of those rare books that I was reluctant to finish, as doing so means having to leave the story only partly told, and I await the publication of the next volume eagerly, but it is also a book I would recommend to anyone with an interest in history, or someone who wants a cracking good read!

Others of My Kind
Others of My Kind
by James Sallis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A puzzling and thought provoking novella., 6 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Others of My Kind (Paperback)
When I received a review copy of this book as part of the "RealReaders" programme, I was quite intrigued by the blurb on the back - I had heard of James Sallis, and have had "Drive" on my "to-read " pile for quite a while. I should have taken more notice of the word "experimental" in the blurb, though, as that was quite significant.

I was expecting to encounter something along the lines of an Elmore Leonard, with a complex and unfolding plot, with twists and turns along the way, finishing with a surprising and satisfying twist at the end. If that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you. It is more along the lines of a written example of using negative space, as it is what is not talked about that is important.

It's very difficult to discuss the book without giving spoilers, as so much of the book is dependent on context and filling in the spaces that are left blank. If you don't want to read any spoilers, skip to the next review!

The subject matter of this novella is rather timely coming so soon after the release of the victims in Cleveland, and it seems to be the authors attempt at looking at the effect of abduction on the victims. We are told that the protagonist, Jenny Rowan, is one of the "good people" but we soon learn that she is also a very damaged person. There is an elephant in the room throughout this book, in that we are told very little of what she actually went through, apart from being kept in a box under her abductors bed - it was only after reading the book, and sitting down and thinking about it that I realised that Jenny has only moved through a succession of boxes. She is essentially a very closed off person, trying to please those around her, but keeping herself boxed up to avoid any hurt or damage. She makes a huge effort to trace her parents, but then makes no effort to re-establish any relationship with them. She never digs deeper than the surface with anyone, and never allows them to get too close to her - and much the same happens to the reader. There are also some very strange divergences within the plot - she manages to strike up a friendship with the (Female, black) President... and walks away from it - but the grounds for that friendship are never really established, nor her reasons for walking away. The whole book seems to be a collection of loose ends and divergences, loosely structured around a series of reminiscences that taken as a whole seem not to make much sense.

However... despite the drawbacks, along with the lack of depth and overall superficiality of the book, it's real genius lies in the attempt to show us that the "others of my kind" are all of us, in that we all suffer damage and hurt, yet we all show a face to the world that can be controlled by others.

Cold Fusion 2000
Cold Fusion 2000
by Karl Drinkwater
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chemical bonding!, 4 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Cold Fusion 2000 (Paperback)
I received this book from the author after a discussion about another book I reviewed - and the basic premise brought back some very embarrassing memories for me! I have to be very careful not to give away any spoilers, even for people who have read it, so I will just say that getting involved with identical twins can be very confusing! It also brought back happy memories of millenium era Manchester, and captures some of the joys and frustrations of the time beautifully - those of us old enough will probably still shudder at the thought of 56k dial-up, Pentium II PC's and Windows 98... and at how wonderful they seemed at the time!

The main character, Alex, is a thirty year old, still living at home with his Mum and his sister, Kelly, and seems to have been stuck in a groove ever since his girlfriend at university dumped him, until a chance encounter gives him a chance to get his life back on track.

The story is beautifully told, with multiple layers, while at the same time giving us a straightforward romance firmly rooted in family life, with all it's trials and tribulations - while also operating a shell game worthy of the late lamented Elmore Leonard, where not only does the story have a twist in the tail, but it has an entirely different story going on underneath, yet still in plain sight...

This is the type of book that rewards re-reading, as you begin to spot more depth, and notice the clues you missed the first time around - although in some cases, you may need to make good use of Google and Wikipedia ( and in one instance with me, XKCD - which I think is a website Alex would love!)

This is the first book I have read by Karl Drinkwater, but it will not be the last - if only I can get through my "to read" pile (although it now seems to be becoming a heap!)

Brother Kemal (Pi Kemal Kayankaya 5)
Brother Kemal (Pi Kemal Kayankaya 5)
by Jakob Arjouni
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An observant detective, 14 Aug. 2013
When I received a copy of this book from RealReaders I was wondering just what to expect between the covers, as this is the fifth book in the series. Fortunately, it works well as a stand-alone read, as the author provides enough background description to allow you to understand the relationships between characters that have obviously appeared in earlier volumes.

Kemal Kayankaya is a private detective in Frankfurt. His Turkish parents having died when he was young, he has been raised by his German adoptive parents and now lives with a former prostitute who owns a wine bar. He is almost the ultimate outsider, as he is seen as a Turk by the Germans, but he can't speak Turkish. His work in trying to find a missing sixteen year old girl brings him into conflict with the Muslim community, which he then makes worse by taking on a job protecting an author who has written a work about Muslim society where the main character is coming to terms with his homosexuality.

The book is written in the first person, which works well with the private detective persona, and the writing is very descriptive without being florid.

The story is well paced, and the characters well drawn, even if one or two border on becoming caricatures - but that is understandable in such a short, tightly paced book.

Although I did have problems at a couple of points in the plot, overall this was well written and enjoyable - and I will be looking out for the previous books in the series.

Regrettably, this was Jakob Arjouni's final work, as he died from pancreatic cancer after completing the book.

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