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Kublai

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The Desert Spear
The Desert Spear
Price: £2.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Bad storytelling, 25 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Desert Spear (Kindle Edition)
Such a disappointing book. I bought this because I wanted to see how the story of the Painted Man continued. What I instead got was more than the first third telling the story of a Muslim-based tribe in the desert, their appalling behaviour, and the boring story of their leader from childhood to becoming emperor. I had skimmed over the tribe's brief appearance in the first book because it was so boring and unappealing, and in the second book the author wastes hundreds of pages on the same wholly unlikeable and distasteful character and culture.

What's more, the entire desert based narrative is back story, before the events which ended the first novel. So I knew everything that would ultimately happen. This is not good story telling; in fact the author clearly doesn't know what makes a good story worth reading.

I could have continued on to see what happened to the Painted Man and Leesha, but I didn't care anymore. I could see that there would be no hope of a decent story for their characters, so deleted the book.


The Painted Man
The Painted Man
Price: £1.99

2.0 out of 5 stars The making of a hero, 24 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Painted Man (Kindle Edition)
Note: I have just bought and read some of the sequel to this book - and it is truly dreadful! The Painted Man was quite good, but it is really not worth starting this series.

*********

This novel takes a long time to tell a fairly simple story, (spoilers) taking three characters, each in a different location, from childhood to adulthood - to inevitably meet and launch the series.

The author has a problem overusing the word 'succor' - sometimes it gets a bit ridiculous where it's there on every page.

There's also the same kind of twisted worldview that you get in Joseph Abercrombie, George R R Martin, etc etc, which rears its ugly head throughout the story - where 99% of men want to rape women. It's a shame because the honour and decency of the heroes gets submerged by this view of life.

But a good story, if a predictable one, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book.


Phases of Gravity
Phases of Gravity
Price: £6.02

2.0 out of 5 stars Before he wrote his sci-fi, 21 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Kindle Edition)
I was wondering when the sci-fi/mystery element was going to occur - and then realised it wasn't and this was a general fiction attempt by Simmons. You can see many of the same themes of his later works: travelling to utterly different locations; an older man with a younger girl - does happen a lot in his books; a misunderstanding of and obvious dislike for Christianity; and irritating, very empty pseudo-spiritual nonsense, which thinks it is deep and profound.

I wasn't impressed. However, it is interesting and quite on the money, the way he's portrayed an ex-astronaut having to deal with life in an America that's stopped trying to reach for the moon. When he returns to his old hometown it's quite well done - although descends into predictable cliche, as does most of the book. The way he portrays Christians and the comments about them are utterly superficial, show no insight, and don't do him any credit.

I've enjoyed some of his other books, but they all have these same failings - and this one doesn't have the great story telling of his science fiction to make it worthwhile reading.

Ultimately it has nothing to say


Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality
Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A culture that lost its way, 17 Jan. 2015
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An accurate account of modern western societies, and how they are lost in a splurge of anything but the truth. Dalrymple never quite gets to the central cause of secularism, cultural relativism and moral relativism - essentially the attempt to remove Christianity from the West - but he is still very perceptive about diagnosing the symptoms, which are eating away at civilisation.


The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die
The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die
Price: £4.68

4.0 out of 5 stars The Decline of Institutions, 14 Jan. 2015
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A very interesting book, which goes quite quickly through the collapse of Western institutions, but reveals perceptively and with ease just how badly modern elites and those they rule have got it wrong. The one big failing of the book is that Ferguson seems unwilling to consider the influence of Protestant Christianity upon Western history and culture. He abruptly loses his direct logic and reasoning whenever (very briefly) discussing the Protestant faith. It's as if he really doesn't want it to be the case that it was influential and thus he finds that it wasn't.

And yet the rise of the West happened when Protestant Christianity changed society; and the degeneration of the West happened when Protestant Christianity declined.

Ferguson diagnoses the symptoms of the declining West brilliantly, and yet never asks why the institutions have degenerated. The answer I would suggest is because minds were inspired by God to think differently and build a new kind of civilisation, and now minds no longer are.

A book full of concise interesting argument. One of the few historians to talk honestly about the state of things and the rise and fall of systems and processes throughout nations and civilisations - and yet he doesn't look at the minds and souls behind the institutions.


Wayward (The Wayward Pines Trilogy, Book 2)
Wayward (The Wayward Pines Trilogy, Book 2)
Price: £3.98

2.0 out of 5 stars Waste of a Story, 9 Jan. 2015
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A disappointing sequel. The first novel in the series was frustrating but did set up a great story world. This second novel could have done so much with it but the whole thing remains stuck in the one location and drags out one inevitable story line.

The characterisation is poor. The hero is an idiot, showing no kind of emotional depth, nor morality, nor any intellect whatsoever. He is supposed to be a trained soldier and secret service man, who has just been given access to a Sheriff's office full of weapons. He would never acquiesce with the plan of the insane scientist; he would start taking the lie apart from the beginning; take over the mountain base (all the other guards are simply homeless people who were offered a second chance); he certainly wouldn't go the risky, illogical way he ends up going. In the whole two books he didn't win one single fight. It was a challenge for him to land a punch; he got attacked and was severely injured in pretty much every other chapter; and he spent the whole second novel opting not to carry a gun.

It's all designed so the author can have the situation he wants to write about, rather than because it would actually happen, or makes any logical sense.

The writing, as with the first novel, is irritating - just a succession of abbreviated sentences that are skimmed past. They don't create excitement or an engaging sense of pace - just a shallowness and lack of reality.

I won't be reading the next in the series.


Pines (The Wayward Pines Trilogy, Book 1)
Pines (The Wayward Pines Trilogy, Book 1)
Price: £2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Inspired by TV shows and Films, 8 Jan. 2015
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Pines is a thriller with a lot of similarities to numerous other books, TV shows and films (as the author acknowledges at the end to be fair). For the majority of the book I wasn't really enjoying it; I was more irritated by the short, blunt sentences and too quick writing style, built on single lines which act as paragraphs. It's a page turner but it has no depth - I just wanted to see what the answer to the mystery was. Now I've finished it, I'm interested to read the next one, but put off by the thought of the writing.

You can tell the author had just finished studying creative writing and a couple of years later started getting his novels published. It's formulaic, written to hold attention rather than impart anything. The result is that it's quite soulless.

There are problems with the plot, which at the reveal, seems just ridiculous in places. Things don't add up. Also, the protagonist is injured so many times he could never keep going and accomplish what he does. But in other ways the whole thing is quite a clever idea. Perhaps after a break I'll see what the next book is like.


The Scribe
The Scribe
Price: £3.98

2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly Written Narration, 4 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Scribe (Kindle Edition)
Set in a fascinating time in history this could have been an engrossing novel. However, the writing is poor: it brushes over events, giving just brief descriptions, whether of scenery or action, and the result is that nothing comes alive. There are lots of details originally about scribes and parchments, but that's all, and as the plot begins the writer's narrative style fails to create a believable or interesting world. It has been translated into English but I think the fault lies in the original Spanish - because the content just isn't there.

The motivation behind events is also lacking. (Spoiler) When the major incident happens which sets the heroine on her journey, it simply isn't believable that she'd run off. She doesn't know that she's been blamed, and it's too convenient that she instantly supposes this. The writer has things happen because his story needs them to, not because they would actually have happened in the world of his story.

An interesting setting, but the story fails to convey it.


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Price: £2.69

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A bad con - activism posing as a novel, 31 Dec. 2014
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The first quarter is intriguing, gets your interest and keeps you reading. There's a mystery, and the writer keeps it back... After all the build up I was thinking this had better be some amazing UFO thing, or an Indiana Jones scale reveal!

But it was a kind of 'sigh,' let down reveal. And with the truth unveiled there was nothing of interest to read about further. The rest of the book is a slow tour of an 'issue' - which tries to push an activist message through unreasonable characters.

It was a waste of money to buy this book. And although some may argue that the author's technique was effective I would have to disagree. It feels more, dishonest. And it wasn't at all effective: because the animal-human rights campaign issue is such nonsense, and it inevitably stands out to be just that in this novel.


Knights: The Eye of Divinity (A Novel of Epic Fantasy) (The Knights Series Book 1)
Knights: The Eye of Divinity (A Novel of Epic Fantasy) (The Knights Series Book 1)
Price: £0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Harry Potter again - for Knights, 30 Dec. 2014
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This starts well, with fairly decent writing and characters. Yet when the future hero gets to Knight training school the plot establishes its tedious pace and confined setting. It's not as dull as Harry Potter, but it's basically exactly the same kids-very-slowly-learning-their-magical-skills genre - one of dozens of identikit, unoriginal stories of recent decades.

It's a shame because the fantasy world is quite well imagined and full of monsters; the author just didn't have a good plot in which to let his characters develop, and instead turned to the most boring trope. It also seems to change from a story of knights and danger, to once at the 'school' becoming instead a children's story. A disappointing read which I didn't continue with for long.


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