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R. M. Lindley
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The Earth Hums in B Flat
The Earth Hums in B Flat
by Mari Strachan
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but readable, 25 Oct. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Mari Strachan creates a loving and detailed recreation of 1950s Wales in The Earth Hums in B flat. The unreliable narrator, Gwenni, is a precocious peri-pubertal girl with magical realistic tendencies, an optimistic outlook and a fondness for interpreting things literally.

This last point was one of the two main failings of this book - the central murder mystery would surely be obvious from the start, even to a girl of Gwenni's age? The other weak point was Gwenni's father - I still have no idea as to his motivation and why he acted as he did. I appreciate that his actions are being filtered through the loving eyes of his daughter, but still...

So, despite the excellent writing and (semi) satisfying ending, only 3 stars. As a debut novel this shows promise, but it is not as good as some have said.


John the Revelator
John the Revelator
by Peter Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.10

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd. Short. Not a revelation., 19 Oct. 2009
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
John the Revelator is a coming of age story reminiscent of the Wasp Factory, right down to the insect obsession but without the tight plotting and satisfactory ending. The writing is good but disjointed, and feels more like a string of short stories that are loosely collected. How else to explain the church, rubbish dump and car tryst episodes? The two central characters, John and his mother, are well drawn, but I failed to understand the motivations of Mrs Nagle and John's friend, James. Likewise the "crow" passages between chapters are heavy on symbolism but are ultimately dragged down by their sheer pretentiousness. I kept reading at a rapid pace, which is always a plus, but ultimately the book fizzles out, and ends with a whimper. Good from the library for a beach holiday, but this not a book I would recommend buying.


Claymore Vol 1 & 2 [DVD]
Claymore Vol 1 & 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hiroyuki Tanaka

3.0 out of 5 stars Routine, 19 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Claymore Vol 1 & 2 [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Claymore is a routine anime. The plot is routine - demons that can only be fought by female half demons? Check. Really big sword? Check. Heroine slowly losing her humanity? Check. Irritating younger boy? Check. Competent but uninspiring visuals? Check.

Yawn.

If you have nothing else to do, Claymore will pass the time, but no more. Watch Afro Samurai instead.


Dust of Dreams (Book 9 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Dust of Dreams (Book 9 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A return to form, 6 Oct. 2009
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Dust of Dreams is a book to savour. Slowly open the cover, relish the prologue and do not hurry to a breathtaking climax. Perhaps it was because I promised myself DOD after a grueling exam, but I really, really liked the penultimate installment of the Book of the Fallen.

Gone are the irritating Kruppisms that plagued Toll the Hounds, and back are the Bonehunters, Tehol and Captain Kindly. Personally, I thought the squad based humour that has evolved throughout the series was perfectly judged, the escalating war between Captain Kindly and his Lieutenant a good counterpoint to the impending sense of doom building throughout the book. I also liked the Tehol beddict scenes, and I am unsure why some people have found them wanting. Yes, the dialogue is often obtuse - deliberately so - but there are some great moments, and his wife provers herself a worthy sparring partner. A suitable example would be "art object" from the Akrynnai emissary, but theer are many others.

Revelations abound (at one point Quick Ben _almost_ tells everyone what has been going on for the last 9 books) and the action sequences are as goos as one would expect from Erikson at this stage. Interestingly, in such a massive book, some of the best viginettes are those left unsaid and only alluded to, like the last battle of the Jaghut army.

The criticisms levelled at DOD seem to stem from its very nature, and Erikson is upfront in that this is the first part of one enormous novel. I strongly feel that if one could read both books back to back, many of the concerns over pacing and structure would be resolved. So, the on the basis of DOD, the Crippled God looks set to be a suitable conclusion to a truly epic series. If you think that the novel-cut-in-half format will put you off, go ahead and wait until next year if you truly can, and then finish in a suitably mammoth Malazan finale. Either way, I don't think fans will be disappointed.


Far North
Far North
by Marcel Theroux
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.22

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stark post apocalypse scifi, 1 July 2009
This review is from: Far North (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Far North is good, but not brilliant. Set in a future Siberia warmed and then cooled by man-made climate change, it details how society could crumble in the face of food shortages, and how people may deal with a world where suddenly survival is not taken for granted.

The central character, Makepiece, is well drawn and complex, but the others are sketchy at best. The final McGuffin (the blue flask) driving the plot forward is strange and does not fully make sense, and overall the book suffers in that it asks a lot of questions but provides no serious answers.

Even so, it is well written and the winter landscape is evocatively drawn, and despite what others have said, the plot does move forward at a good pace. Worth a read certainly.


Paediatric Surgery (Oxford Specialist Handbooks in Surgery)
Paediatric Surgery (Oxford Specialist Handbooks in Surgery)
by Mark Davenport
Edition: Vinyl Bound
Price: £44.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oxford Handbook of Misprints, 21 Jun. 2009
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The Oxford Handbook series is well known for being a concise source of up to date practical information. Sadly, this latest book is not.

Officially endorsed by the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons, I was hoping that it would be primarily a "how to" book, with good advice on how to manage ill children with surgical conditions in A+E, outpatients and on the wards. Given the specialist nature of paediatric surgery, and given the reduction in training opportunities in the UK, a book that covers common conditions, differential diagnoses and outlines a safe management strategy (if A, then do B, C and D, and think about E) would be very useful.

Unfortunately this handbook is more like an abbreviated standard textbook, with much less useful information and far more misprints. Some are irritating, others more worrying: in the trauma section for instance, a fluid bolus of 20ml/kg is advised, contradicting current APLS guidelines for smaller 10ml/kg boluses. The current guidelines were published in 2005.

There is a small section on common operations but these are oddly chosen and do not contain enough detail/diagrams to allow a relative novice to perform the operation.

Overall, some chapters are better then others, and there are some useful pearls of knowledge, but ultimately I am not sure who this book would suit. It is too sketchy for medical students (I always advise the excellent Jones' Clinical Paediatric Surgery: Diagnosis and Management), lacking in detail for specialty trainees in paediatric surgery and does not contain enough practical information for those 3am-what-do-I-do-now? moments. I would strongly advise skimming through a copy to evaluate it yourself before buying.


Divergence
Divergence
by Tony Ballantyne
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird. Recursion and Capacity are better., 23 May 2009
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This review is from: Divergence (Paperback)
Divergence in the final installment in Ballantyne's Watcher trilogy, which initially tells how an alien artifical intelligence (the Watcher) takes over the internet and becomes the benign dictator of a starfaring humanity.

In Capacity, the enigmatic but deadly Schrodinger Boxes are introduced, and the Watcher is seemingly helpless against this threat. Divergence resolves this story and has a couple of nice gags (although I kicked myself over the kittens).

One of the strengths of the series are the way it examines issues such as personality and reality, in a manner reminiscent of a tech-savvy Philip K Dick. The ending however is very bizarre, and the idea of a alien capitalist technological tyranny inspiring Christ is the icing on a very odd cake.

Worth reading, if only for the feeling as your jaw hits the floor at the end, but only 3 stars as a result.


Books of the South, the (Chronicles of the Black Company)
Books of the South, the (Chronicles of the Black Company)
by Glen Cook
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.67

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware - this is not the end of the Black Company!, 23 May 2009
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The Books of the South continues Glan Cook's chronicles of the Black Company, with the first two books in this compilation covering Croaker and co. as they travel south to Khatovar, to return the compamy chronicles to the birthplace of the Black Company.

Of course, things rapidly begin to go wrong, and several major villans from the North turn out to be not so dead after all...

The first two books are good and develop the relationship between Croaker and the Lady nicely. Cook's writing style does not change and is low on description but high on action. Some people like this, some people hate it. BE WARNED however - book two ends on a doozy of a cliffhanger and book three in this set is actually a standalone novel that does nothing to resolve it, instead concentrating on events in the north after Croaker departs.

At the time of writing, getting hold of the next set of books (Glittering Stone, starting with Bleak Seasons) is hard and expensive - hopefully they will also be reissued, and soon!


The Line War (Ian Cormac)
The Line War (Ian Cormac)
by Neal Asher
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying, not stunning, 23 May 2009
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The conclusion to the Cormac series is good, but not brilliant. It ties everything together nicely and explains the background to many plot threads sufficiently to leave the reader feeling satisfying.

I must admit however that I was rarely gripped in the manner of earlier Polity books. Perhaps it is the ennui that begins to infect all overblown space opera, a law of deminishing returns on the next mega-super-ultraweapon that comes along, or the ultimately mundane explanation of the origins of Jain technology and the behavior of Dragon. Compare and contrast the ultimately naff threat posed by Erebus with the Blight of A Fire Upon The Deep (Gollancz S.F.)...

Still, overall I am big Asher Fan and look forward to many other books in the Polity Universe. Not a bad ending for now.


The Tyranny of the Night (Instrumentalities of the Night)
The Tyranny of the Night (Instrumentalities of the Night)
by Glen Cook
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars curious - 3.5 stars, 25 April 2009
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Greg Cook can write excellent military fantasy - see The Chronicles of the Black Company - but this is not it.

The premise is certainly interesting and original. A slave warrior, Else Tage, loads a newly invented cannon with silver and fires it at an aggressive demigod. The God dies, and understandably the remaining supernatural entities are somewhat aggreived...

The setting for this tale is a complex world that seems to mirror 11th century Europe and Asia, complete with rival popes and crusades to the Holy Land. In addition, a subplot concerning religious heretics seems to be inspired by the Cathars of Southern France.

Unfortunately, the detail of this new world is overwhelming and there is no map, makign much of the political and military manouvering hard to follow. A large cast of characters introduced in rapid succession only adds to the confusion.

These problems could have been redeemed by good action sequences, but these are strangely lacking. I only experienced a couple of genuinely gripping page turning moments, whereas the Black COmpany was famous for them.

I was still compelled to read to the end, and I would hope future books will improve now that much of the establishing work has been done. Still, this is not Glen Cook's best.


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