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Snikt5 (Bromley, UK)

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Candle Holder - Red Rose Glow Candle Holder (2 Cup Glass Tealight Candle Holder)
Candle Holder - Red Rose Glow Candle Holder (2 Cup Glass Tealight Candle Holder)
Offered by Swift Stock
Price: £26.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor quality and faulty, 4 Dec. 2014
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The above item was delivered this morning and I am sorry to report that I was bitterly disappointed with the product. It is very poor quality especially for the price charged. The base is cheap looking and if you touch it your finger is instantly stained with silver. It was also scratched in several places. The petals look nothing like the vibrant ones showing in the photo and in many places the red colouring does not cover the area it should.

If I am honest, I would be embarrassed to give this as a gift to my mother for Christmas, even if I had paid a fraction of the cost. I can only assume I was sent a faulty product.

Valkwitch (The Valkwitch Saga Book 1)
Valkwitch (The Valkwitch Saga Book 1)
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Accomplished writing with some pace issues., 12 Sept. 2013
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I have mentioned it before in my review of Anthony Ryan's "Blood Song," there are some authors who you know you are just going to enjoy. Their style of writing just feels comfortable and effortless. I felt this with Robin Hobb and I felt it with George R R Martin.

The opening of Valkwitch gave me a very similar feeling. The prologue was good but it was the first chapter I loved. Michael does a great job of easing the reader into his world and introducing his main character Tyrissa along with her brothers. The dialogue feels organic and the story-telling natural.

It is something that is rare and I devoured the first few chapters eagerly.

Tyrissa is your standard fantasy character: She dreams of a better life and for adventure beyond the small town she lives in. She is also going through the motions in what is perceived to be a patriarchal society. Fortunately there is far more to Tyrissa than the standard setup. She is sure of herself but at the same time naive. One minute she speaks with authority on subjects and the next she is unsure and out of her depth. She s confident in her ability to fight but is also readily humbled. These are nice character traits as Tyrissa is neither arrogant nor condescending.

The supporting cast is more of a mixed bag. Many characters drift in an out of the story with no real resolution. One can only assume that they are set up for future books, but it is a shame as you are not too sure what to make of some of them.

Olivianna for example, is a good character. She is the first lady that Tyrissa is told to protect in her new job and instantly sets about antagonising Tyrissa. The reasons for this are unclear other than the simple explanation that from where Olivianna comes from it is considered "sport." It adds a nice layer of mystery to Olivianna and sets her apart from the other characters.

Kexan is also a prominent character. A skilled warrior he trains Tyrissa in becoming a more proficient fighter. Out of everyone (other than her family) he gets closest to Tyrissa, offering to train her and later working with her.
There is no antagonist as such. Tyrissa pursues Vralin but we never really get a sense of who he is, other than a puppet of the elements. Surprisingly, I did not mind this, in fact I found it refreshing.

Tyrissa's brother, Lirian is a constant, but he is reduced to a minor role in fairness. Only featuring at sporadic times to make sure his sister is alright. This proves as a useful anchor for the plot, refocusing it and reminding the reader of all that has gone on.

Speaking of the plot, I feel this is where the novel is a little weak. Once the incident that sets Tyrissa is underway the driving force behind the story is a little lost. There were times where I found myself wondering (particularly in the first half of the book) exactly what Tyrissa was supposed to be doing. Her journey is less of a quest but more of a travel log. Tyrissa has a mystery to solve, but she does not appear to be in any rush to achieve her goal. It is more of a "wait and see" what happens situation. Every now and then she gets the urge to be proactive but quickly gives up at the first hurdle. This all changes when she meets Giroon the bard where Tyrissa learns a little bit more about who she has become.

Don't get me wrong, Michael Watson's writing is highly accomplished. In parts it is baffling that this is a debut novel as the prose is so well written and descriptive, but there are pacing issues. Quite often the strongest element of the writing i.e, the descriptive passages are also the weakest. There are times when far too much times is spent on describing a market place or city. As a result, all momentum of the scene is lost. It never becomes a chore to read, but sometimes you wish the pace was a little more direct.

Once the plot becomes clearer however, the pace of the novel increases. The action scenes are extremely well handled and I loved the idea of the Pact with their special powers. These are used extensively but never feel over done. They are also never used as a deux ex machina which is nice as all the characters are vulnerable.

Michael unveils elements of the plot slowly and thoughtfully. There is a subtlety to his writing that even most established authors would be proud of. To achieve this so early on in his career makes me envious.

All of these builds to a huge climatic showdown. Michael does well to avoid rehashing earlier confrontations with Vralin and provide the reader with something new. Whilst the story line concludes in a satisfactory way, there is a real sense that the story is just beginning.

Overall then, I enjoyed Valkwitch. The writing is excellent and the idea fresh and original. Apart from the pacing issues early on in the novel and the seemingly constant merry-go-round of characters entering and departing the story with no real resolution I would be given Michael debut novel top marks. I am certainly looking forward to the second book.

My rating: 8.3

Scare Your Friends And Others
Scare Your Friends And Others
Price: £0.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Novelty, 11 Aug. 2013
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Okay for a novelty. Wouldn't pay for it. Not much that can be done with it and the picture of the app gives it away.

NFL Pro 2013
NFL Pro 2013
Price: £0.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great way to pass the time, 19 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: NFL Pro 2013 (App)
This is a great little game. Not too complicated and captures the spirit of the NFL well. Highly recommended on the Kindle Fire

When the Lion Feeds (The Courtneys)
When the Lion Feeds (The Courtneys)
by Wilbur Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Stunning, 10 Aug. 2012
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The previous two books I have read by Wilbur Smith have been part of the Ancient Eqyptian series. I have loved both of them and so I was really looking forward to the first book he ever wrote.

"When the lion feeds" is split into three parts and follows the life of Sean Courtney. Unlike many books I have read of this ilk, the excellent thing about the book is that each part is as strong as the last. Just when you think you know where the story is going, it moves off in a new direction.

Sean himself is a great character. Strong, moralistic, stoic, he is everything a leading man should be, but what makes him so great is that he is flawed to boot. Each decision he makes is not always the right decision and how he treats people is not always how they should be treated, but at his heart, his intentions are mostly for the good.
It is the secondary characters where this book excels however. Each time we are introduced to a new character Wilbur Smith immediately ingratiates them to the reader. They may be abhorrent but they are dam readable. When Sean leaves them behind, I genuinely lamented that I was no longer reading about them.

Special mention goes to Duff. Whose friendship with Sean is a good a pairing as I have read. Duff is a brilliant character and their partnership provides a level of trust and respect born out of mutual interest in life. This relationship is nearly equalled by that of Sean and Mbejane - his zulu friend and loyal follower. Their devotion to each other provides some of the most touching scenes in the book.

Wilbur Smith writes with such ease, his prose draws you in and it was incredibly hard to put the book down at some points. He brings Africa to life in a way that is both interesting and exciting. To be honest, I was searching for a decent western novel to read, but this adventure hit all the buttons I needed. In many ways it felt like a western.

I mentioned that each part was as strong as the last. However, it is the ending of the third part that really is touching. The ending is foreshadowed a mile off and normally when it is so obviously hinted at I despise it. However in this case, despite knowing what was going to happen, I felt an increasing sense of unease. I have my theories around certain plot elements but one thing for sure is that this is a tremendous book.
Overall, I loved the two other Wilbur Smith books I have read so far, but his first ever surpasses them. Easily one of my top five reads so far this year, if not my favourite.

My rating: 9.4

John Doe (A Rizzoli and Isles short story) (Rizzoli & Isles)
John Doe (A Rizzoli and Isles short story) (Rizzoli & Isles)
Price: £1.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I like these short stories., 10 Aug. 2012
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These short stories on the Kindle have been a bit of a mixture for me. Karin Slaughter's recent effort was excellent where as Tess Gerritsen's effort earlier this year was so short and silly that I didn't even bother to review it. That is not to say it was bad, it was just a bit tongue in cheek and passed 5 minutes nicely.
This effort is slightly longer at 42 pages so I was interested in how it turned out.

The actual premise of this story is really good. It could have easily been stretched out into a longer effort and to a certain extant I think Tess might have missed a trick here. Maura Isles is currently hated by the police force and so when there is the opportunity for them to treat her as a plausible suspect in a murder enquiry I thought more time should have been dedicated to this opportunity.

Having said that, the story is nice and intriguing. The usually unflappable Maura is completely out of her comfort zone, rendered out of control by the actions of a predator. Jane demonstrates her feelings for her friend, by going all out to prove her innocence.

The problem with these short stories is that due to their length, you know that any character introduced is going to be part of the resolution as there is simply not enough pages for anything else. This makes the end somewhat predictable.

That doesn't mean it is not a good story. Far from it, I really enjoyed this book and have decided to welcome these short visits to the characters between each book.

My rating: 7
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 19, 2012 8:03 PM BST

Dead Scared: Lacey Flint Series, Book 2
Dead Scared: Lacey Flint Series, Book 2
by Sharon Bolton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead scared, dead good, 1 Jun. 2012
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Dead Scared is Bolton's fifth book and the second in her new series featuring DC Lacey Flint. Her no nonsense female police officer. I was concerned when Bolton announced she was beginning a series but I loved, "Now you see me" so much I was looking forward to this entry.

The book opens with Flint accepting a simple undercover role of posing as a student at Cambridge University to investigate a series of suicides. Immediately the relationship she developed with DI Joesbury in the first book is reset as the two are forced to limit their contact. Their mutual feelings are still evident but Flint struggles with the fact that Joesbury is her senior officer.

The plot is the real winner here, as it soon becomes evident that there is more to the suicides then meets the eye. It appears that the victims are being encouraged to take their own lives as they slowly lose their mind.

Before long Flint herself is targeted. This makes for an interesting dynamic as Flint starts to experience various strange phenomena which play on her worst fears. It is good as the reader is kept in the dark as they are not sure what is real or not - much like Flint.

The only other person who is aware of Flint's task is Doctor Evi Oliver (in her second outing), a woman trapped in her own nightmare and confined to a wheelchair following an unfortunate ski accident. Evi is a good character and her own hallucinations add to the tensions.

The pace of the novel speeds up towards the end as Flint herself becomes slightly unhinged. I suppose this explains
some of the silly mistakes she makes, but I did find myself frustrated at some of the clues she missed.

Overall though, this is a very good addition to the series and Bolton continues to be one of the authors I buy as soon as she releases a new book.

My rating: 8.4

The Providence Rider
The Providence Rider
by Robert McCammon
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Matthew Corbett returns in style, 1 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: The Providence Rider (Hardcover)
The Providence Rider was one of my most anticipated novels this year. It is marks the 4th entry into the superb Matthew Corbett series and see Matthew finally meet the mysterious Professor Fell. As fans of the blog know, Robert McCammon is rapidly becoming one of (if not is) my favourite authors.

I read somewhere that Robert McCammon likes to have a different theme for each book which has been evident so far. If the last book was a psychological game of cat and mouse adventure, then I suppose, The Providence Rider is a crime mystery.

The story begins shortly after the events of, "Mister Slaughter" with Matthew and Hudson still trying to deal with their ordeal. Although Hudson Greathouse seems to have dealt with his issues a lot swifter. Matthew is no longer the innocent problem-solver we met in, "Speaks the Nightbird."

It is not long before someone wants Matthew's attention, setting off a series of explosions throughout New York and trying to frame him in the process. This inevitably leads to Matthew succumbing to Professor Fell's bribes and setting off the Pendulum island for a conference at the Professor's castle. He is accompanied by a host of unsavoury characters along with some familiar faces from the previous novels.

It is here the novel really begins as Matthew is forced to assume a new identity in order to fit in with the villains he finds himself amongst. This is intriguing as not only is Matthew a changed man, he is forced to become a character he is not comfortable with: Someone who is ruthless and heartless but at the same time trying to retain his sense of self.

The other villains on the island are not anything you haven't already seen, each repulsive in their own ways. However, McCammon's skill as an author is such that they all appear fresh and original creations. Each would make worthy antagonists to Matthew if they were alone with him in another novel and you find yourself wishing for each to have more screen time. Having said that I never felt cheated by the time I did share with them.

It is professor Fell though who is the real star. The anticipation has been building to meeting the crime Lord and when Matthew does stand before him, he does not disappoint. The professor oozes malevolence and McCammon does a great job of showing Matthew's unease around him.

The Providence Rider makes constant reference to the previous books and so the series is starting to fill more joined up rather than a series of standalone novels. This novel could still be read as such however and enjoyed just as much.

Despite the multi layered levels of intrigue, the novel hurtles along at a frantic pace. The conclusion is satisfying. McCammon's endings are always fulfilling without having to resort to cheap shock tactics.

It would be cliché to say that Robert McCammon gets better and better so I won't. Robert McCammon continues to improve on his legacy as a master author. The Matthew Corbett (aside from a Song of Ice and Fire - an unfair comparison I admit) is easily my favourite series right now.

My rating: 9.2

The Hanging Shed (Douglas Brodie)
The Hanging Shed (Douglas Brodie)
by Gordon Ferris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and cheap, 3 Feb. 2012
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It is impossible to own a Kindle and not have heard of the Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris. The book has been lingering the top 10 lists for ever. It is still one of the cheapest books you can get and receives copious amounts of praise.

Sucked in by the hype it was one of my first purchases but it is only now that I got round to reading it. The Hanging Shed is a plain old good book. That is not meant to be an insult, I really enjoyed it but it did not set my world on fire.
The story focuses on Douglas Brodie, an ex cop who is now back from the horrors of WWII and struggling to cope. Douglas receives a call from an estranged childhood friend who is on death row for the murder of a young boy - a crime he swears he did not commit.

The setting takes place largely in Scotland and whilst I admit I am completely ignorant to the geographical goings on in Scotland, Gordon seems to have captured the atmosphere perfectly. He really creates a bleak picture and at times uses authentic dialogue. This makes for some difficult reading as I struggled to understand what was being said, although I could always work it out in the end don't ya Ken?

Douglas Brodie is a good protagonist but not great. It seems that Gordon Ferris could not decide what he wanted him to be. On one hand he is the tragic war veteran, trying to make sense of the nightmare he has just endured and on the other he is delivering quick one liners in a devil may care attitude reminiscent of Coben's Myron Bolitar or Crais' Elvis Cole. Whilst this is not a problem, I found that the two traits did not mesh together as well as they could have.
The rest of the cast are solid, although sometimes it is hard to believe that everyone is as hard and nasty as they are.

The plot itself, it well thought out and complex enough to intrigue the reader. All in all, this is a good book and one that I would recommend. My Rating: 8.5

Gates Of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
Gates Of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
by Steven Pressfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to the hype, 3 Feb. 2012
This is one of those books that has received unanimous praise. Look on and out of 117 reviews it gets an average of 5 stars. So you could imagine my level of expectation before I started reading the book, especially considering it is based on a period of Ancient history I studied at university and loved.

It is fair to say then that I was initially disappointed. The opening couple of pages left me wondering what I had started reading. It felt like I was reading Herodotus all over again - whilst not a bad thing, it is not something I read for leisure.

As the book progressed though, the story settled into a rhythm. It focuses on the captured Xeo the sole surviving member of the Spartans. Xeo is forced to recount the tale of the battle of Thermopylae for the Persian king Xerxes.

Xeo starts his tale with his childhood and flashes to different key points in his life. Sometimes this happens chronologically and other times it shifts to the present battle. This can be confusing as Pressfield recounts the history as he goes along and it easy to get lost for a few paragraphs if you are not familiar with it.

I also wonder how someone who is not familiar with the Greek names would get on with the story as some of them are quite similar, but I guess the 5 star reviews suggest this is not a problem.

If I am honest, for the first two thirds of this novel although I was enjoying the story I struggled to see where all the 5 star reviews were coming from. The book although far more historically accurate did not set itself apart from anything I had read like Conn Iggulden's Genghis Khan's series. However, something happened over the final third of the book where my opinion towards the story changed from merely enjoying to the book to loving it.

I can't quite put my finger on why this was, especially as the final third consists almost entirely of the battle itself. Personally I do not like big battle scenes and much prefer character based novels. However, Pressfield really captures the imagination. The deeds of the Spartan's although glorified are not shown off to make each warrior look good. Instead Pressfield concentrates on the other side of war. The fact that the Spartan's were crawling about from exhaustion at the end of the first skirmish of the first day really brought home to me how gruelling an ordeal the battle was.

Without realising it, I had come to care for the characters. Dienekes in particular stands out. Despite his renown in battle, the battle commander shows a greater philosophical side, particularly in his pursuit to the answer, "what is the opposite of fear?"

Other stand outs are the conflicted Rooster and the coming of ages of heroes like Alexandros. Pressfield also does justice to the other allies who fought at the battle, in particular the Thespians whose deeds are often overlooked when this story is told.

Everyone of King Leonides speeches hits the spot and the indifference of Xerxes towards his conscripted army makes you route for the Spartans even more.

Away from the battle other characters are well developed. Unusually for ancient history the women are given high prominence and their importance is really highlighted by Pressfield.

This novel is faultlessly researched and does justice to the monumental struggle that occurred back in 480 BC. Despite the "good rather than great start," Gates of Fire is a tale of heroes, of love, of courage and the will to survive. One that is thoroughly recommended. My Rating: 8.9
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 7, 2012 1:42 PM GMT

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