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Reviews Written by
Neil J. Pearson (London, UK)

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Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting first book in a series, 5 Nov. 2015
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I've heard many bill this as "up there with A song of Ice and Fire" so I gave it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised - I don't think it has much in common with GRRM's work at all other than they are both expertly written with strong world-building and characterisation. I think the difference is more in plot, GRRM has events throughout the book that shakes things up while Hobb seems to have quieter moments which makes things feel more grounded despite being much more like a traditional fantasy. The characterisation is excellent as well, a good example is that the reader should realise that one character loves the protagonist but the protagonist doesn't realise this - a tricky move considering the story is all from the protagonist's POV.
Minor complaints are that it really is just the start of a bigger story and that the character seemed to be indulging in some pretty dark activities without much thought on the matter. I also thought the names-as-a-characteristic was a bit on-the-nose and made it seem too much like a fairy tale.
I'll certainly be reading the next book.

Half a War (Shattered Sea, Book 3)
Half a War (Shattered Sea, Book 3)
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joe brings his "Shattered Sea" trilogy to an exciting, surprising and satisfying close, 18 Aug. 2015
. As has been the case with the earlier books the story wastes no time in getting started and introducing us to the new characters and conflicts. Joe switches POV characters again and while I didn't like them as much as the previous POVs they still get the story across and feel distinct. One thing Joe has excelled in with this series is making the previous POV characters shine brighter when we only observe their actions as opposed to their thoughts. This works best with Yarvi in the sense it is fascinating to wonder how his thought processes work from where we saw him in "half a king". Brand and Thorn don't feature heavily but have great moments too.
The plot works really well in that things never go entirely as expected and Joe does a good job of building up certain expectations only to shatter them in what almost seems anticlimactic but feels more honest because of it. There are also a few interesting revelations for the reader to uncover at the end and the level of surprise will depend on how familiar you are with Joe's other books.
The ending is satisfying but there's clearly room for further instalments should the author wish to revisit this setting. I certainly hope he does.
The series also deserves credit for telling the whole story in 3 relatively short books with a release schedule of a mere 12 months. In an age where a reader can wait 5 years for 1 book in a series to be released it really is a breath of fresh air and I think the story benefits from being told in such a short space.

Dangerous Women
Dangerous Women
by George R .R. Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A gold standard for anthologies - pointing me in the direction of several new authors., 17 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Dangerous Women (Hardcover)
Anthologies can usually be a bit of a risk (I've been burnt before) but this is one that shows the best elements of the "genre". There are several authors I will be checking out thanks to their samples presented here. I don't think there was a single "bad" story present although there were some that didn't gel with me eg Lev Grossman's tale and Carrie Vaughn. The most pleasant surprises for me were the non-fantasy (or low-key) stories eg Megan Abbot, Lawrence Block and Joe Lansdale. I also need to move Robin Hobb and Jim Butcher further up my reading list - although the Jim Butcher story should have come with a massive spoiler warning as it ruins what I'm sure would have been a massive development in the main series.
In terms of GRRM's instalment (which was the main draw besides the cheap price)it's "ok". It reads a bit more like a well put together wiki overview or a real history which is clearly the intention. While it's a great info dump I can't help but feel how powerful it could have been with GRRM's well known ability for drama. Obviously it'd never have been completed but it almost makes me wonder if some elements of ASOIF could be handed over to other authors in the same way of "wild cards". The book also provided my first taste of Wild Cards and I think that's another series I need to check in on.
The audiobook has to be one of the best produced I've encountered. There are some well known voice actors - some in roles I wouldn't have expected eg Jake Weber who I now would love to see in a noir role. All the narrators were really compelling and it reminds me of how lazy other audiobooks can be at times.

The Liar's Key (Red Queen's War, Book 2)
The Liar's Key (Red Queen's War, Book 2)
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ... second part of the "Red Queen" trilogy is another good instalment from Mark, 2 Aug. 2015
The second part of the "Red Queen" trilogy is another good instalment from Mark. We get a lot more background on the world and on Jalan and his family, thanks to a fun narrative trick employed by Mark to maintain the first person narrative. Jalan is as selfish as ever but it's becoming more apparent that heroes can (and maybe do) think exactly like him - it's the end results that are often important, not the motivation. The events in the present were a little less exciting and largely fell into the "wandering around" category of fantasy. The section regarding baking was interesting though as their interpretation of justice was different and fit in with their focus on money.
The characters were generally good although Snorri was somewhat subdued and not as fun as he was previously although there was a justified reason for that so it was actually good characterisation. Jalan is up there for the award of "Flashman of Fantasy" and I do find him more likeable than said character. Some of the new characters didn't really grab though "kara" and the majority of the antagonists. The Red Queen and her siblings become more interesting with every page Mark dedicates to them though.
It's a tricky one for me to score as it's harsh to judge the book as a victim of Mark's own success. Because of this, I'd say it was his "least great" rather than "weakest" book. I still wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to long-term readers of Mark's books and I'm certainly still urging new readers to try it out as there has yet to be anything approaching a bad book from this series.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things: A Kingkiller Chronicle Novella (Kingkiller Chonicles)
The Slow Regard of Silent Things: A Kingkiller Chronicle Novella (Kingkiller Chonicles)
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming way to look at the world., 17 July 2015
One of the best "fairy tales" I've read in a long while. It's a bit like reading a story from the POV of someone who sees and experiences the world in a completely different way (it's not autism but it's as different as that). To anyone else it Auri's actions would be mundane or crazy but through her eyes everything is magical and all her actions are with purpose. I have to admit it would be nice to occasional glimpse her world for myself.
There's not much there for those expecting new revelations to the main series (although I'm sure those who look hard enough have)and the only character featured is Auri, although you may feel as if some of the objects are characters too.
The writing is great, Rothfuss fully embraces the fairy tale format and I'm sure I'm not the only one who is chanting his repetitive sentences before the books end (she washed her face, her hands and feet).
The whole thing is just very charming and magical and sometimes that's enough.
I certainly have no problem with these side stories if this is the quality we can expect.

I listened to the audiobook version and I was really impressed that Rothfuss performed the reading. There's not many authors have that additional skill set but it's always a treat to hear the words from the Author's mouth.

Betron RK300 High Quality Earphones Headphones with Noise Isolating Technology and High Grade Reinforced Cable with Gold Plated Connection (Black)
Betron RK300 High Quality Earphones Headphones with Noise Isolating Technology and High Grade Reinforced Cable with Gold Plated Connection (Black)
Offered by Betron Limited ( VAT Registered)
Price: £29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They appear to be sturdy although time will tell and the clip is useful ..., 29 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
They appear to be sturdy although time will tell and the clip is useful as the heavier cable has a tendency to drag down. Sound quality is what you'd expect for the price (although it's better than similar priced earphones)

A History of Modern Britain
A History of Modern Britain
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars I had no idea modern History could be so interesting., 25 May 2015
I was somewhat wary that a history so close to my own life would really hit the mark - especially one focused solely on one country. How wrong I was! This book was fascinating from start to finish. Marr covers pretty much everything from the final days of World War 2 up until before Tony Blair stood down. What I probably enjoyed the most was how it added characters to all the events. Too often you hear about the change in education or the rise and fall of unions but this book makes a point of shining a light on the personalities of the politicians and people involved in these events. At times it reminds me of the political machinations of Rome at the end of the republic, which is probably how politics has always worked. It's not just about the movers and shakers though, we get to hear how the average brit changed over several decades in terms of health, wealth, appearance and attitudes.
Some may find certain parts less interesting (especially if they aren't bothered about fashion and music) but I'd be amazed if there wasn't something in the book that was of interest to most readers.
Marr has a great narrative style and his wit shines throughout. The narration by Toby Longworth is excellent - he really makes an effort to sound like Andrew Marr and does some pretty good impressions of historical figures too. Just be aware that there is an abridged version which is only 7 hours as opposed to 25 hours!

Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West
Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid "primer" book, 30 April 2015
Despite the title, the majority of the book is about the Greeks (which the author suggests is largely due to the amount of information available). Luckily, my knowledge of ancient Greece was clearly not so in-depth and I enjoyed the accounts of Athens and Sparta. When the book gets into the Persian invasion of Greece things become interesting and I appreciated that there was a lot more than 3 key battles occurring in this period. I wasn't aware of how long the war went on and just how close Persia was to succeeding throughout. There are some other nice little facts I enjoyed such as Persia high-speed communication lines and the derivation of words like "ostracise". I also noticed the author had reined in his clichés and penchant for droll "wit" which, on the whole suited my taste, better.
I feel like there could have been more on the Persians, given the title, but as my intention was to use the book as a primer for the culture/time-period, I'd say it fit bill.
The audiobook had a much better narrator/recording editor than "Rubicon"

Genghis Khan: And the Making of the Modern World
Genghis Khan: And the Making of the Modern World
by Jack Weatherford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An overly revisionist story as opposed to history., 16 April 2015
I didn't realise this was the work of an anthropologist as opposed to a historian but it makes a lot of sense. This is far more story than history and the author projects far too much onto Genghis and the Mongol empire. In fact I now know exactly who Dan Carlin was taking a shot at throughout his "wrath of the khans" podcast series (which I heartily recommend). Many of the benefits claimed by the author were still the result of millions (and haggling over millions does not make them less horrific) of deaths and the destruction of at least one cultural empire. I don't have a problem with there being long-term (many indirect) benefits of the mongol conquest but I was frustrated with the Author's insistence on how this was their goal all along and that they were enlightening conquests.
There are some interesting things presented in the story (origin of the word "assassin") but I was constantly under the impression that the author would censor elements that contradicted his theory (which he did unless more modern histories have new information.
The one aspect I found fascinating though was the final chapters discussing the portrayal of Mongols throughout history and the appalling use of the "mongoloid" theory for children with Downs syndrome. It's shocking to see how science can be influenced by public perception and in light of such defammation of the mongols I can somewhat understand the author's passionate attempt to redress the balance. In terms of balance though, there is clearly a place in between the pits of pre 20th century and the pedestal the author places the mongol empire upon.

Napoleon the Great
Napoleon the Great
by Andrew Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Napoleon made human through his own letters. Brilliant narration in the audiobook too., 10 April 2015
This review is from: Napoleon the Great (Hardcover)
I have to admit my knowledge of Napoleon was largely based on my secondary school education and this book highlights the British bias as far as my education was concerned. This book is a real eye opener and while it's clear Roberts is a fan of Napoleon he never really distorts facts but offers strong arguments or interpretations that clash with many popular perceptions. The best evidence is supplied by Napoleon himself in an amazing collection of letters charting his entire career. These really bring Napoleon to life and we see his wry humour, use of propaganda and obsession with soldier's boots. The way he chastises his family in personal letters also makes it easier to imagine his behaviour in famous meetings.
I have to say my preconceptions were of Napoleon as a 19th century Hitler but I was very mistaken (unless time causes a loss in perspective) - he was far more complicated than that. He certainly helped define that century though.
Roberts writes in a very entertaining way and there is never a dull moment or section where it feels like he's simply reciting a list. There's also a very dry humour throughout. Special mention has to go to narrator Stephen Thorne who delivers the book brilliantly. So good that I'm keeping an eye out for other books narrated by him.

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