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Orkeny
Orkeny
Price: £4.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I didn't enjoy it, you might., 8 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Orkeny (Kindle Edition)
Orkney is the story of a married couple who arrive on an Orkney island for their honeymoon. They are a strange couple because there's forty years difference in their ages. He is an almost-retired English professor who expected to end his days single and not discontented among his books. She was a student and has some strange attraction to the north and the sea.

This is a short book - 61,000 words - and yet I struggled to finish it. In fact I put off reading other books because I was determined to finish it first but found it hard going.

So no, I didn't enjoy it. It's not that it's a bad book. I think that it does something I'm not that interested in. Despite the shortness of the book, the story is even shorter. The bulk of the book is about evoking a sense of place, a tone. There is a dreamy, ghostly, ethereal quality to the writing. I can imagine some people reading it and just soaking in the images the prose creates and loving it. For me it was just a book in which not much happens. And what does happens is rather melancholy.

If that sounds like your kind of book go for it.


A Working Theory of Love
A Working Theory of Love
Price: £3.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Can a computer help you with your love-life?, 8 Aug 2013
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Neill works for a tech start-up in Silicon Valley. But he's not a computer programmer. He was hired because the company is trying to create an AI - artificial intelligence - and to give them a head start and sound grounding information they're using the diaries of Neill's late father. As an `expert' in the material it's Neill's job to train the AI, `talk' to it and correct its missteps and stumbles on the road to self-awareness - if such a thing is possible.

Alongside this we get Neill's own story. How he's faring after his divorce. He's met a new woman, two in fact, but it's not all plain sailing and he needs help. That's when he hits on the idea of asking his "father" to help. Together they try to put together A Working Theory of Love.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I read this book. It's not overly fascinated by the AI technology although there's enough detail for that to seem plausible. There's more in it about Neill's past, his real father, his mother, his current life and loves than a purely SciFi story would have had. I found it an enjoyable, easy read. Some of the themes are relatively serious - his father is dead and he's trying to figure out `love' after all - but it was never weighed down by that. I suppose if I had a complaint it would be that there seemed to be a bit of meandering before the novel got to where it was going. However it wasn't an overly strenuous diversion so that wasn't a problem.

Overall some interesting musings, and some interesting computer-human conversations.


Started Early, Took My Dog: (Jackson Brodie)
Started Early, Took My Dog: (Jackson Brodie)
Price: £3.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A Tougher, but more Likeable Jackson Brodie than on TV, 8 Aug 2013
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The story starts in the 70s with a young policewoman witnessing the aftermath of a brutal killing. This is around the time of the Yorkshire Ripper and later this crime becomes part of that investigation although at this stage no-one's had the chance to make that connection yet. In the present day this woman is now retired from the police but making a living as a security guard. One day on a whim, she intervenes to help a small girl. The book is then the story of what happens next and how it connects back, through various characters, to what had happened in earlier times. Of course Jackson Brodie becomes involved too. He's travelling the country trying to find a place to settle and has landed briefly in Yorkshire, where the novel is set.

I enjoyed this book. My main impression of it is how different the Brodie in the book is the the one played by Jason Isaacs. He seems a little tougher. He may be a little older - his daughter is - and he's a little more damaged. He also becomes the custodian of a dog to which he becomes quite attached.

I enjoyed this book because I enjoyed Brodie. The writing was good but it was also unobtrusive.


Brave New World
Brave New World
Price: £3.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but dated, 21 May 2013
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This review is from: Brave New World (Kindle Edition)
Interesting to finally read this classic SciFi book.

I quite enjoyed it, although it did feel dated. It's interesting how often SciFi projects forward in a few limited ways but not in others. Here we have a world of genetic engineering of humans and personal helicopters, the ultimate happy-drug (with no apparent side-effects), "feely" movies, rejuvenation and several other technological wonders - but they still use pen and paper and the babies are gestated in "bottles". More problematically, there's the attitude to women. The author has imagined a world where promiscuous sex is considered a good thing and yet was unable to envisage gender equality - men still have the real jobs whilst women seem to be there to be "pneumatic" companions.


The Servants
The Servants
by M. M. Smith
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Story, Well Told, 26 April 2013
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This review is from: The Servants (Hardcover)
The Servants is the story of an 11-year-old boy, his mum and stepdad. They've moved from London to Brighton into a house with an old lady living in a tiny flat in the basement. Mark, the boy, accidentally befriends her and she shows him something quite amazing.

I love this book for two reasons. First it's a very simple tale told well. Most of the action concerns four characters and takes place in the house. It's told from Mark's pov so the writing is straightforward but that makes it clear, spare and elegant rather than simplistic. Second Smith does that thing of showing us things through the eyes of a character that the character himself does not see, at least at first.


Life After Life
Life After Life
Price: £3.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Sure I "Got" It, 25 April 2013
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This review is from: Life After Life (Kindle Edition)
I found this an odd book. If you're reading this then you probably at least know the premise - that someone is living their life over and over until they get it "right". Such a high concept inevitably leads me to think that there will be a point, a payoff at the end of the book. I think if there was I missed it. Except perhaps that what you might think is the "right" ending may not be.

I did enjoy this - there are some fun characters. There was quite a lot of suffering too. It's set in the period covering the two world wars and there are various versions of events as the life is re-lived, and in all of them there's some sadness and pain.

Worth a read, especially if you like that period


Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern Book 1)
Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern Book 1)
Price: £3.59

3.0 out of 5 stars A Little Dated but not without Charm, 25 April 2013
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So I read this for a bookclub and I'm not sure if I'd've finished it otherwise.

It's OK. I quite liked the almost 'puzzle' element of the way the plot is resolved. The descriptions of how the Dragon lore and traditions work were interesting too.

Some of the sexual politics are questionable - but then the book is dated I guess.

And even without that I felt like a lot of the dynamic between the main characters depended on them not communicating with each other. It was like bad sitcom plotting.

I suspect this book works best if you're youngish and just the idea of dragons is cool.


The World Of Ptavvs (Tales of known space)
The World Of Ptavvs (Tales of known space)
by Larry Niven
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

3.0 out of 5 stars A great SciFi romp - Don't look for great characterisation though, 31 Mar 2013
The World of Ptavvs concerns the re-awakening from stasis of an ancient alien who has the power of mind control, so when a human psychic tries to use a mind-to-mind contact machine to communicate it all goes a bit wrong. The alien escapes from stasis and goes on a chase across the solar system looking for something he left in his other stasis suit. That something, if he finds it, would spell enslavement for the population of earth.

Early Niven like this is big on ideas, big on science, full of plot and not so great with characters or the "human" side of the story. I think you either forgive the later because of the former or it bugs you. Fortunately I'm in the first camp and able to enjoy it.


The Wee Free Men: (Discworld Novel 30)
The Wee Free Men: (Discworld Novel 30)
Price: £3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good For a Younger Reader, 31 Mar 2013
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This is another Discworld YA novel and it's fair to say I only read it because it was next on the list and I wanted to have read them all. Which is not to say it's bad but it's aimed at a younger audience and probably a female one.

The protagonist is Tiffany Aching, a 9-year-old girl from The Chalk which is a part of the Disc where there are lots of sheep and not much else. A collision with another world is coming, a world where dreams and reality intermingle, and just because what you see and feel may not be real doesn't mean the danger isn't. Anyway someone needs to do something and Tiffany decides that someone is going to be her. Armed with only a frying pan and her wits... oh and some little blue friends.

I liked Tiffany and I especially liked her grandmother who was a sort of more taciturn, more sheep-obsessed version of Granny Weatherwax. I was less keen on the whole dreamworld aspect and the Nac Mac Feegle (the titular Wee Free Men) make me smile a little but they're not really that funny for me.

Nonetheless plenty to enjoy.


We Are Here
We Are Here
Price: £3.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book about Friendship, Regret and Really Living where you Live, 18 Mar 2013
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This review is from: We Are Here (Kindle Edition)
This is a hard book to review because it'd be so easy to spoil it and I don't want to do that.

We Are Here mostly centres around two couples. David and Dawn are a writer and his teacher wife who go into New York for the lunch that seals his first book deal. It's a big day for them but on the way home David accidentally bumps into someone in the street. Someone who then follows him to the station and asks him to "Remember me".

The other couple are John and Kristina. A waiter and bar-maid at an Italian restaurant who've been together about 6 months and are at the stage where they are about to either get more committed or possibly split up. Kristina's new friend from her book club has seemingly acquired a stalker and asks John and Kris for help.

Both these stories concern people who live in a kind of parallel world. They are there in the background of our lives but often go unseen or unnoticed. But something is changing. They are coming out of the shadows...

I could talk more - vaguely and circuitously so as not to spoil - about the plot but I won't. Let me talk instead about tone and themes. This is a book about regret, about loss of friendship and the way we forget people. It's also about what it means to really live in a place and be part of someone's life. In that sense it deals with some universal and weighty themes and does so well I think.

However it's not a ponderous literary novel. It's a thriller. It reminded me of Stephen King in places, which is a compliment. I enjoyed several of the characters. The author writes a middle-aged lady with nine cats who lives in a trailer - and he manages to make me really like her :)

It's not perfect. I think it could have been shorter. Particularly in the middle section where dramatic irony is stretched to the breaking point. Also, I was going to complain that there was an un-fired Chekov's Gun in the form of very significant events from one character's past which are mentioned more or less in passing but never really dealt with. However it turns out that this character, and these events, are from a previous book. Also they are mentioned because they affect who this person sees and interprets events in this story, so the gun is fired - it just has a quieter bang than you might think.

Anyway it all comes together in the final part of the book and we get a dramatic action-y ending. It left me feeling I'd enjoyed the ride.


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