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Snikt5 (Bromley, UK)

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Locke & Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows (Locke & Key Volume)
Locke & Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows (Locke & Key Volume)
Price: £7.12

5.0 out of 5 stars Remains consistently strong, 3 Jan. 2016
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This series continues to excel. Great characterisation and fantastic characters. The depiction of the main family is great especially in the way they all struggle with their grief. The introduction new keys just adds fresh ideas to the fun. Have bought the next volume already.

New Fire: Aztec Elements, Codex One
New Fire: Aztec Elements, Codex One
Price: £2.55

4.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished and engrossing debut, 11 Dec. 2015
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A colleague mentioned this book to me when I happened to mention I was going to read a Bernard Cornwell novel next. I confess I had never heard of Philip Dickinson but the idea of a book set in the Aztec reader appealed to me, so I purchased it on a whim.

If I am honest, after a great opening scene which follows a gang of street urchins roaming the streets to steal food, I found the opening 80 pages or so of the story a little overwhelming. The sheer volume and variety of characters is a tad confusing, especially giving the unfamiliarity of their names (which verge from the unpronounceable – Huitzilopochtli, to the more identifiable such as “Feathered Darkness” or “”Crocodile”). In fact the only character I could emphasise with is the main character “Jaguar.”

Having said that, I admired the author’s refusal to dumb down the narrative for the reader, I am no expert on this time period, but the story felt authentic. The setting oozes life as each scene is vividly created.

All of a sudden, the book seems to click into place and what follows is an excellent, fast paced yarn, where I came to appreciate and enjoy all of the characters. As I mentioned Jaguar is the stand out protagonist as the young man struggling to find his way. He has potential in his agility on the sporting field but in regards to being a warrior very much lives in the shadow of his best friend Crocodile. It is refreshing that this is never a source of contention between the two friends and both are proud of each other.

Cloud Face is a little less developed but manages to avoid the cartoonish villain tag by having suitable motivation behind his action, whereas characters like Two Sign are terrific in the supporting role, offering laconic one liners and a nobility to the story.

The action scenes are very well handled and for a first novel, Dickinson’s prose is extremely accomplished, pacing scenes perfectly and building tension and plot twists that are impactful. The novel was also fairly dark in places, which is something I always enjoy if it fits in with the story.
Whilst the ending is somewhat predictable in part of its outcome, with the writing so engrossing it really didn’t matter. Overall, this debut novel surprised and impressed me and I have already purchased the sequel

Frankie's Magic Football: 01: Frankie vs The Pirate Pillagers: Number 1 in series
Frankie's Magic Football: 01: Frankie vs The Pirate Pillagers: Number 1 in series
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic reading with my 6 year old, 27 Nov. 2015
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In the words of my eldest son "This is a really good book, good action and I really, really want you to buy the next one."

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)

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

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: £8.99

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

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

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