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A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY)
A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY)
by Sarah Pinborough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good urban fantasy procedural crime novel - why the sci-fi?, 28 Jun 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In a Matter of Blood debut author Sarah Pinborough has written a very good police procedural with some urban fantasy overtones. It is a shame she spoils it with some ill-judged science fiction.

Our anti-hero is Cass Jones, murder squad detective, drug user, adulterer (with his brother's wife, no less) and with a HIDDEN DARK SECRET relating to a undercover job early in his career. So far, so cliched. But actually the cases he is involved in, the accidental murder of two children in a gangland shooting, a serial killer leaving fly eggs in the eyes of his victims and a familial murder-suicide, are all gripping and well thought out. Peripheral characters are also generally well judged and rounded. As the novel progresses, and things go from bad to worse for Cass, the cases appear connected, and come to satisfying conclusion.

This could have a been a straight up crime novel, but Pinborough includes allusions to Paradise Lost in the text, a Man of Flies and characters implicated in the killings appear to be far more than they appear. And Cass keeps on seeing a dead relative, and a funny glow coming from people's eyes....

And so we delve into urban fantasy (this is NOT horror). Darker than Dresden and more English than American Gods, the supernatural element here does look like it has a lot of milage, although one of the key mystery figures, "Mr Bright", does seem too obviously named. What spoiled the book for me was the unnecessary setting in the near future, making this a bizarre sci-fi hybrid. The world economy has collapsed, the welfare state has been dismantled, HIV has a new strain and the police are paid bonuses by gangsters not to catch them.

Oh,and the world finances are now run by The Bank, created by Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

Yes, that Richard Branson. It even has a branch called Virginity.

Why? The book did not need this. Even now, a few months after writing, it looks hopelessly out of date, and all the major plot elements function perfectly well without the near future described: policemen still take bribes, major banks still exert undue influence and people still get ill. For me, this spoilt an otherwise excellent book, and hence the 4 stars.

I would still recommend A Matter of Blood, and I'll certainly read the rest of the series, but hopefully Pinborough will be able to resist that kitchen sink impulse in the future...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2010 11:13 PM BST


Farlander
Farlander
by Col Buchanan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.70

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not gripping, 29 April 2010
This review is from: Farlander (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are a lot of good things in Col Buchanan's debut novel, but there are too many flaws.

The plot sounds like bog-standard Joseph Campbell fantasy fare - an aged assassin, Ash, recruits a young apprentice and trains him to be his successor, before setting out to kill the evil son due to inherit his mother's empire.

Good twists of a familiar theme include the assassin cult itself - the Roshun used paired seeds that bond with their wearer. Using these they are able to determine whether someone has been killed, and by whom. The rich can then buy protection, with the guarantee that should they be killed, the Roshun will in turn seek vengeance. This is a nice touch, as is the pseudo steampunk setting, complete with cannons and coin operated gaslights. A final plus is the ending, with a very good and unexpected demise.

But now for the bad points. The peripheral characters seem flat and poorly thought through. The action sags in too many places, and at one critical point in the finale jumps from an excellent assault sequence to meandering through a naming ceremony. This may have seemed like a clever juxtaposition, but merely destroys the meagre momentum that had taken hundreds of pages to actually develop. As a result, I was far from gripped.

For a debut like this, Amazon's star system is too limited. I think as he grows as a writer, Buchannan will improve and subsequent books may well do better. However, the poor pacing and characterisation compare badly to the Name of the Wind, or the Blade Itself, both of which I would rate as 4/5 stars.

So, only 3 stars. But I will look at the sequel.


Ghost Machine [DVD] [2009]
Ghost Machine [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Sean Faris
Price: £4.81

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average - rent. don't buy, 26 April 2010
This review is from: Ghost Machine [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Ghost machine tries to be cool and up-to-date with the premise that a victim of US rendition, tortured to death in a UK prison, can become a ghost infecting a military virtual reality simulator.

It sounds a lot better than it is. The acting is bad, it is never truly explained how the ghost gets into the machine and the ending (or is it?) is sadly far too predictable, not once but twice. There are better UK horrors around, like the Descent, with better acting and better shock endings.

Having said that, some of the action scenes are good and the special effects are not too bad. Just don't waste money actually buying the DVD - you will not want to watch this more than once.


Fall of Thanes (The Godless World)
Fall of Thanes (The Godless World)
by Brian Ruckley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.82

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and disappointing, 7 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I liked the first two books in Ruckley's Godless World setting. The concept of a world abandoned by the Gods isn't exactly new, but combined with the pseudo-Norse winter setting, gritty and realistic writing and a high mortality rate amongst the main characters it seemed to be building nicely to a conclusion.

I felt that Fall of Thanes pushed on relentlessly but with no real pace. Events grind on to an all too inevitable conclusion, like a Greek tragedy on ice. The ending is telegraphed from the first few pages and I had no sense of involvement, finding myself skipping paragraphs at a time to get to something worthwhile - because there are only so many times you can read about how the hero is being chased through a wintry forest by Kyrinin. Again.

I am sure Ruckley can do better than this, but I am not sure that I would want to return his Godless world settign again unless any further book are radically different. A disappointing end to a series that promised more.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2010 9:31 PM BST


Seeds Of Earth: Book One of Humanity's Fire
Seeds Of Earth: Book One of Humanity's Fire
by Michael Cobley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting!, 31 Mar 2010
I like Michael Cobley a lot - his Shadowkings trilogy was an interesting deconstruction of the fantasy trilogy, and sadly overlooked IMHO.

Seeds of Earth is more conventional space opera. Gutsy, outnumbered humanity - check. A multitude of vaguely humanoid aliens with all too familiar (ie human) motives and politics - check. AIs running amok - check. Early ancient aliens with forgotten technology left over from the War at the Beginning of Time (TM) - check.

But it reads well, is funny and has some excellent action scenes. It very much reminds me of David Brin's superb Uplift series, right down to the assortment of aliens and client species. All it needs is a bunch of dolphins and a really bad pun about guerilla warfare.... Which is by no means a criticism. If you like Brin, or Hamilton at a pinch, you will like this.


First Do No Harm: Being a Resilient Doctor in the 21st Century
First Do No Harm: Being a Resilient Doctor in the 21st Century
by Leanne Rowe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.83

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Trite self help manual, 31 Mar 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The intentions of this book are honorable, but it tries to do too much, offering advice on topics as diverse as stress management to successful parenting. It fails to do more than offer platitudes and trite advice (on parenting - don't smother your children, but don't be too remote either. Find a balance... etc, etc).

As a doctor with 10 years of experience, I cannot see how someone genuinely having problems could find this book useful.

It lacks detail.

Avoid.


The Left Hand of God
The Left Hand of God
by Paul Hoffman
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not quite good enough, 31 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Left Hand of God (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Left Hand of God is a book that I liked and would like to give more stars to, but when I think of other, better fantasy debuts that I have given four stars to (The Name of the Wind, for instance), I find myself unable to elevate it to that level.

The setting is part of the problem. Set in a presumable alternate history or future, familiar names abound but in a jarring context. The capital city is Memphis - are we in America? Then why the reference to Norsemen from Norway? And outposts of the empire in the Middle East and Jerusalem? Something does not feel right, which I will return to later.

The start of the book is well described, etailing the lives of a group of boys in a vaguely Gormengastly religious military training camp. How the leader, Cale, escapes, is very well told, and the amoral nature of teenagers raised solely to fight is handled well. Once we get into the outside world, things become unstuck.

The largest empire the world has ever seen, that apparently stretches from the American south (Memphis) to Norway and Jerusalem (see above) apparently tolerates a violent band of religious fanatics camping on its doorstep with a standing army of over 5000 troops. Said troops are also fighting a war with another bunch of fanatics to the east - surely they would have been conquered before northern Europe was invaded?

Of course, as there is no map the names we are given may bear no relation to our own world - but then why use them?

The characters are well drawn and there is a good strand of humour running through what is often a bleak book. Unfortunately the final battle, even though apparently drawing on true historical detail, feels flat, improbale and unrealistic. The Left Hand of God therefore ends with a whimper, a real let down after a promising start. I hope that the sequel shown improvement, otherwise this is not a series I will be reading.


Doctor Who: The Last Voyage
Doctor Who: The Last Voyage
by Dan Abnett
Edition: Audio CD

3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but I suspect short-lived, 28 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This audio book is read by David Tennant, who does a good job making the text interesting, and gives each character a distinct voice. There are problems with this approach however, which I will come to later.

The story itself, of the maiden voyage of a new starship where most of the crew and passangers myseriously disappear, is interesting, even though it does feel like a rejected script from the TV series. The explanations are sufficiently nonsensical (all quantum interpositions and the like) and the pace of the story is well done, breaking nicely over the 2 CD set with a suitable cliffhanger. I also like the initial descriptions and scene-setting, which are very well done.

I had two real problems with the audiobook. The first, as alluded to above, is the voice of Sugar, which Tennant does is a pseudo Scottish/American Widwest falsetto. An intersting choice. The other characters are sterotypical - the grumpy Lars Bortnik, the confused old granny, the bored teenager. I realise that this is intented for a young audience, but that should not excuse writers from such sloppy fictional shorthand.

My second issue is over audiobooks in general - this will fill a couple of hours in the car or train, but then what? Will you want to listen again, and again? At the price Amazon is asking, you may well decide this is good value for you, in which case I would up the rating to 4 stars.


Omron Sonic Style Electric Toothbrush 458 Black - Rechargeable Toothbrush
Omron Sonic Style Electric Toothbrush 458 Black - Rechargeable Toothbrush
Offered by Online4Perfume
Price: £87.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good sonic toothbrush but replacement heads a potential problem, 22 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Previously, I had used mechanical Braun toothbrushes for many years, so it was interesting to try a sonic toothbrush, with a much faster but lower amplitude of oscillation. As warned in the manual, this does create a distinct buzzing sensation in use, but it was easily tolerated, even at the highest settings.

I found that the trauma to my gums was less than with a mechanical toothbrush but the "clean feeling" just as good, so overall I was very impressed. This was with the standard brush head, although a softer one is apparently available for those with very sensitive gums.

In terms of styling the unit very neat, lighter and much less bulky than my old Braun toothbrush.

My only hesitation about this product is the lack of suitable replacement heads. 2 are supplied in the box but they will need changing every 3 months. Replacements are available from Amazon, but I was able to buy heads for my old Braun toothbrush in my local supermarket and big chemists - not so with Omron. If you order regularly from Amazon and do not mind this inconvenience, I would recommend the Omron, but otherwise it may be worth looking at more expensive but better established brand names.


Sixty-One Nails (Courts of the Feyre 1)
Sixty-One Nails (Courts of the Feyre 1)
by Mike Shevdon
Edition: Paperback

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good urban fantasy. Probably 3.5 stars really., 13 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sixty-one nails is a good debut into the urban fantasy genre. The tale of humdrum manager Niall as he is drawn in to a war between true-and half-blood faries is well told, strong on description, characterisation and pace.

But rates less than 3 stars - it is far inferior to the gripping Dresden Files, for instance. I was disappointed by the way Niall quite casually accepts the existance of a parallel world where magic creatures exist. Of course, Thomas Covenant style Unbelief is equally tedious but at the start of the novel I got the distinct impression the author wanted to skip on to the exciting magic bits.

The sense of geographical connection with London was also missing, and the central romance seemed forced. I was at a bit of a loss to understand why the centuries-old Blackbird found Niall attractive - surely she had seen better after several lifetimes of existence?

Despite this. the plot is gripping and moves along nicely. I was gripped enough to hunt down the sequel when it is published, and if Mike Shevdon develops as a writer he will certainly be worth watching out for.


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