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R. M. Lindley
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You Are Next: (Karin Schaeffer 1)
You Are Next: (Karin Schaeffer 1)
by Katia Lief
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars - average serial killer mystery; an airport book, 6 Feb. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It is always a mystery to me why crime/thriller writers fall back on the "damaged goods" stereotype for their heroes/heroines. As if somehow a serial killer basing his kills on a set of clues related to dominoes is not exciting enough - to make it REALLY interesting out heroine must have had her family murdered by said killer and therefore be suicidally depressed.

And so it goes. "You are next" takes this idea and build cleverly on the notion of a serial killer leaving a numeric clue to his next victim, and the plot moves along quickly. I did not however feel any real sense that our heroine is suicidally depressed by the murder of her family, and that detracts from the central core of the book.

As such it was an enjoyable read with some good plot twists (although the romance is telegraphed badly) but not involving. This would be an ideal airport novel, and perfect for unthinking consumption on the beach.


The Heroes
The Heroes
by Joe Abercrombie BA
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie..., 17 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Heroes (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
...he can't half write. It should be made clear that The Heroes is a continuation in the expanding First Law series, and as well as finishing that first trilogy you should also read Best Served Cold (BSC) before preceding. Minor spoilers therefore lie ahead if you haven't...

We are back in the North after the events detailed in BSC. Caul Shivers has returned and is working for Black Dow, who now rules as King of the North and is about to have a major fight with the Union army, at a site of standing stones called the Heroes.

This is of course a cheap ploy for some more exposition from Abercrombie about the the nature of war, bravery and heroism. Naturally all of his characters are venal and self-serving, and this is again a book in which no side is right. The manipulative Bayaz makes a welcome return and previously peripheral figures (Gorst in particular) become major characters. This is something I like about the series as it develops, although it was a shame that the Dogman plays a minor part here.

Essentially set over 4-5 days the book details one major battle in detail, with nice maps at the beginning of each day showing the state of play. Be warned however - this is an Abercrombie book, and anyone expecting a steady mounting of pace and tension, leading to a thrilling monumental decisive epic final battle, as per almost every other fantasy ever written, is going to be... challenged, but not too disappointed.

The characters are well drawn as ever and I was impressed by the detail given to even to the bit players. An interesting comparison is between the generally heroic squad based fantasy warfare of the Malazan series and the much more cynical view presented here. The flashes of comedy and occasional menace from Bayaz keep things moving along nicely however.

In all this is such a good read that it should not be criticised for concentrating on such a narrow focus - that is the whole point. I suspect that given hints of further campaigns a more "epic" focus is yet to come, along with a more decisive clash between Bayaz and the Gurkish.

Oh, and it also contains what is presumably the first description of the birth of the sandwich in an alternate world setting, unless I missed something from Terry Pratchett. And the invention of the cannon takes about 3 pages rather than the 10+ novels it does in the Wheel of Time.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 4, 2013 11:07 PM GMT


Veteran
Veteran
by Gavin G. Smith
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good debut, 21 Dec. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Veteran (Paperback)
Other reviews summarise the plot of Veteran well, so I will summarise and say that this is a good debut reminiscent of Neal Asher and Richard Morgan. The setting is evocative and deserved special mention for putting Hull firmly on the SF map. The book loses marks for sometimes reading like a Cyberpunk 2020 adventure and loses focus just before the penultimate battle, when the main character spends several pages having a heater philosophical debate with the villains beofre pulling out his railgun, but overall this is an enjoyable romp with some good ideas. An author to watch.


Empire of Light
Empire of Light
by Gary Gibson
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing end, 21 Dec. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Empire of Light (Hardcover)
I was a big fan os the first two books in the Shoal sequence, and I have to admit I found Empire of Light a bit of a let down. The first coupel of chapters can be summarised as follows:

Dakota - We need to find a big Deus ex machina to get us out of the nova war. I'll go and ask the Makers, who have been looking for it to destroy it for thousands of years. Oh, its called the Mos Hadroch.

Ty - I've heard of the Mos Hadroch and I know where it is. Lets go there.

And so a mystery that has defeated a galaxy spanning intelligence for milennia is solved in the time it takes to read a cup of tea.

That put a downer on the rest of the story for me, and although there are some very good action sequences and tense interstellar space opera scenes, it just never quite hangs together. The ending itself does not quite plumb the depths seen at the end of the Naked God, but it comes close in terms of mystical machines magically making things all better again. It is however redeemed by a much better epilogue.

In short, if you have read the rest of the Shoal books, you will want to read Empire of Light, but don't get your hopes up....
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2011 12:49 PM GMT


Twisted Metal (Penrose)
Twisted Metal (Penrose)
by Tony Ballantyne
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another interesting set of concepts from Ballantyne, 21 Dec. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Tony Ballantyne writes high concept SF with some knowing in-jokes thrown in to boot, and I was intrigued to see where he would go with this start to a new trilogy.

The setting, on a world called Penrose (more on that shortly) is one where robots seemingly eveolved spontaneously, and where there is no intelligent organic life. The robots have emotions and male and female genders, and produce children - the male supplying a special metal wire and the female "twisting" it to form a new robotic mind. The mind produced has its characteristics decided by the way the mother performs the twisting, therefore creating a manufactured personality and even belief system.

This is an intruiging idea and Ballantyne uses it to explore concepts such as free will and totalitarianism. There is a considerable degree of action and good characterisation throughout.

There are some knowing in jokes too - in order to be admitted to Turing city, new robots are questioned to see if they are able to think, and the world the intelligent robots live on is named after Roger Penrose, who famously argued that artificial intellgence is impossible.

It is true that the mechanism by which robots become self aware is ignored, and other reviewers have criticised the book because of this. This is irrelevant to the story itself and even if the matter is not addressed in future books, I wonder if the concept of a single strand of metal forming the robots programming is a veiled reference to the archetypal Turing machine - it may be that the "twisting" we see from the robot perspective is not the true cause of intelligence, but the instructions embedded in the metal.

I would thoroughly recommend Twisted Metal and suspect there are many more revelations in store in the books to come.


Temperature Control Eco Kettle - electronic, saves even more energy
Temperature Control Eco Kettle - electronic, saves even more energy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased with a good product, 21 Dec. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We were almost put off buying the Eco Kettle 3 after reading the negative reviews on amazon, but I'm glad we went ahead and bought one, partly on the basis of a positive Gadget Show review.

It looks good and hold a large amount of water in the reservoir.

It boils quickly (about twice as fast as our old kettle) and importantly we have found the plunger to work well and had no sign of leaking or steam escaping from the lid - closing the lid seems quite easy.

I do wonder if there were problems with earlier models and these have been quietly corrected, but regardless I would rate this as an excellent product that makes it easy to boil just the right amount of water.

Recommended.


The Ragged Man: Book Four of The Twilight Reign
The Ragged Man: Book Four of The Twilight Reign
by Tom Lloyd
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I was wrong! The Twilight realm series improves greatly..., 28 Nov. 2010
So, I was wrong. In the Grave Theif, Tom Lloyd seemed to me to have lost sight of his series, delivering sketchy characters and skipping over key events. Here, suddenly, the action, plotting and characterisation suddenly feel far tighter, and the level of detail and description is ratcheted up a notch.

From the beginning, the description of Mihn's descent into the underworld is tense and gripping, and the action continues with a lot of surprises, twists and very well done set pieces in terms of major battles and commando style raids. My only complaint is that the book lacks a central key figure - not unexpected given Isaac's death at the end of the Grave Theif, but his abscence is noticable.

Still, I was very impressed overall and I am now sure that the final book in the Twilight Realm series will be a good one. I now can't wait!


Braun Oral-B Pulsonic Smart Series Rechargeable Toothbrush with Smart Guide
Braun Oral-B Pulsonic Smart Series Rechargeable Toothbrush with Smart Guide

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pointless gimmick, 31 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very good sonic toothbrush, probably the best I've used, and certainly better than the older mechanical toothbrushes I was used to.

However, it comes with a costly and pointless gimmick which makes it very hard for me to recommend this product. The "Smartguide" is a wireless display which tells you when to change the teeth you are brushing, so that all areas of your mouth are cleaned evenly over a 2 minute (or longer) period. This is done by the display showing which bit of your mouth to clean, and showing a smiley face when you are done.

Unfortunately, the brush itself does this by emitting a noise, rendering the Smartguide useless.

I would only recommend getting this product if you (a) need a picture of a smiley face to get you brushing your teeth regularly or (b) need a waterproof click in your bathroom (the smartguide defaults to this when not in use).

Otherwise, buy another Braun sonic toothbrush without the Smartguide and save some money!


BRAINtastic Version 2 Word Skills Three
BRAINtastic Version 2 Word Skills Three

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended if you have learning difficulties, 22 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a tutor of children with specific learning difficulties I need to be able to target individual learning needs, have a means of diagnosing them, and customising activities for children.

It is important that the children can repeat these exercises many times as repetition and reinforcement are key to retention.

Whist I was attracted by the wide range and quality of things to do, I found that it would not suit my purposes for several reasons

Many questions required too much reading, especially for dyslexic children at early levels. It meant that an adult would have to support at all times rather than encouraging the child work independently. As many parents of dyslexic children also find reading a challenge, I felt I could not recommend this programme for families to use at home. A `read back' option would have made a great difference.

Whilst the support for the teacher is very good on this program, it could be very hard to follow for users with any literacy difficulties. Some instructions are complex and could overload working memory.

It is also confusing when sub-menus appear on top of other menus, and I found it wasn't always immediately obvious which is which, and that left me uncertain as to what to do next.

At times I found the screen visually confusing, and the screen could be filled with too many options. Probably familiarity with the programme would ease this, but it was discouraging on my first attempts.

Regretfully, therefore, this programme was not for me.


The Orphaned Worlds (Humanity's Fire, Book 2)
The Orphaned Worlds (Humanity's Fire, Book 2)
by Michael Cobley
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Probably 3.5 stars, but...., 13 Sept. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
...I have read a lot of bad books recently and this seems better in comparison. I would agree with a lot of other reviewer comments that in the second instalment of the Humanity's Fire trilogy, Cobley misjudges the plotting and fragments the action just that little bit too much, resulting in a series of plot threads that do not hang together coherently.

There are some more good set pieces and ideas however - I love the many levels of hyperspace and the descent to the mysterious Godhead - and the excellent surprise ending. Battles involving automated robot factories and gritty Scottish rebels are also always going to be good, although it was a shame that the Ewoks, sorry, Uvovo, didn't get to smash one up with a couple of trees banging together.

In all I will certainly look forward to the third book, which I am sure will improve as the plot threads come together, although in the (admittedly narrow) book-2-of-a-current-space-opera-trilogy-genre Gary Gibson's Nova War edges ahead.


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