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Neil J. Pearson (London, UK)
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Abaddon's Gate: Book Three of the Expanse series
Abaddon's Gate: Book Three of the Expanse series
Price: £6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Back on Track, 17 Sep 2014
I found the second installment merely "solid" but I'm pleased I eventually got around to part 3. It addresses all of the issues I had with the second book by having a plot that was unique and also opened the series up in ways I hadn't foreseen. The POV characters were all really strong and distinct this time too. My favourite aspect of the book (and something all the books in the series have been good at) is how it throws you into the action right away and continues to escalate throughout. By the half-way point I was almost out of breath and was concerned the story might run out of steam. I needn't have worried as this book doesn't let up until the end and when you get there you can't wait for the possibilities of what comes next. I'm glad the series is back on track and with the potential to go in many different directions. The authors have essentially created the "summer blockbuster" of the sci-fi novel without having to be dumb. Keep them coming.


Merrell Mens Rant Whip Shoes J41207 Dark Olive 8 UK, 42 EU
Merrell Mens Rant Whip Shoes J41207 Dark Olive 8 UK, 42 EU

5.0 out of 5 stars Great trainer, 26 Aug 2014
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I was a bit wary of the bright laces but I'm pleased I took the gamble. The trainer is very comfortable and great for moderate temperatures. They are also pretty durable as I wore them while walking around all kinds of terrain in a 5 day trip in San Francisco and the shoe, and my feet, were no worse for wear. I'll strongly consider buying a similar make when these ones are worn out.


Merrell Mens Rant Evo Shoes J41933 Potting Soil 42 EU/8 UK
Merrell Mens Rant Evo Shoes J41933 Potting Soil 42 EU/8 UK
Price: £57.60

3.0 out of 5 stars comfortable trainer with a poor finish, 26 Aug 2014
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The trainer is comfortable and looks good except for the finish where there appears to be glue around the upper and front foot of the shoe. This gives it a bit of a cheap look, up close. Otherwise I like them.


Flashman (The Flashman Papers, Book 1)
Flashman (The Flashman Papers, Book 1)
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyment largely depends on interest in that historical event, 26 Aug 2014
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I went into this with really high expectations based of several glowing reviews from friends, which is probably why I wasn't as blown away. I have clearly read the works of several authors who were inspired by this series meaning it's no longer that shocking an anti-hero. It didn't help that I'm just not interested in the particular setting (other books in the series seem more appealing). The nail in the coffin, which isn't the author's fault at all, is that I got the voice of Russel Brand in my head very early in my reading which was very distracting.
All these issues really aren't the fault of the book (moreso the fault of its success) so I do have to commend Flashman as being a character that is pretty repulsive but oddly like-able - probably in large part due to the excellent use of a first person narrative. It's also clear that Fraser has really done his homework on the period in question as it feels pretty real. Anyone familiar with the setting in history will probably enjoy the book far more which is why I may just skip to a book that covers an event that I'm interested in rather than sticking to a chronological order. I think my opinion would improve considerably in that case.
An annoying issue I found with my kindle copy is that I couldn't find a way to easily access the footnotes, littered throughout the book. In a real book, I'd just turn to the back but (for me) this is a lot more faff with an ebook so I missed out on the extra content at the time of reading.


Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War, Book 1)
Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War, Book 1)
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Improves once the new cast are broken in., 13 Aug 2014
Mark is back with a new set of characters in the same world as the "broken empire" series. In that sense we know what to expect and he delivers with a greater focus on the viking aspect of the world - which is great as they were interesting in the previous trilogy. The new POV character is probably a lot easier for most readers to like although I have to admit I was more comfortable inside of Jorg's head - I guess I prefer a confident anti-hero to a reluctant hero. I guess that's a pitfall of single POV stories. On the plus side Mark has crafted his strongest non-POV character yet in Snorri, who i preferred far more than Jalan as a fearsome yet sensitive warrior.
One minor problem with the new series is that it is set before the events in "emperor of thorns". This removes a certain level of tension as we ultimately know the fate of the world. This may be turned on its head of course as the series progresses and I suspect this series will improve with each book much like its predecessor did.


Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1)
Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1)
Price: £4.35

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different setting - same old Abercrombie., 10 Aug 2014
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Joe's new series, in a different world from his "first law" books, is still classic Abercrombie. The cynicism is there along with fun characters and lots of quotable catchphrases. Despite being aimed at YA readers there is little to separate it from his mature reader books except for the milder language and lack of sex scenes. Minor issues are that several characters feel a little bit like those from "the first law" (eg the pirate captain = Cosca) but his characters have always been plays on fantasy tropes. The highlight of the book for me is the pacing, a lot of ground is covered in little space and it is a relief to discover that Joe isn't falling victim to becoming long-winded like many authors tend to - if anything he's getting snappier with each book. The world building is strong even if it cashes in heavily on Viking lore but I do like how Joe is weaving his own mythology in such a way I had to check what was "real" and what was "invented".
For regular readers, the "twist" ending is relatively easy to spot although I was surprised by the ultimate conclusion and what it means for the rest of the series.
If this is a break from his main series of books then fans have little to complain about as it looks as if we have another setting in which to enjoy Joe's writing.


Shogun: The First Novel of the Asian saga
Shogun: The First Novel of the Asian saga
Price: £6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be immersed into a different time and culture!, 20 Jun 2014
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This is a truly epic work, thrusting the reader into an alien culture (if you are from the West) where the Japanese appear equal parts more barbaric and sophisticated than the protagonist John Blackthorne. What initially appears to be a "fish out of water" story quickly expands into a political thriller where everyone is planning several steps of everyone else. There are betrayals from within and without and Blackthorne is trapped between the machinations of Toranaga, Yabu and the Catholics who simply want him dead. Having known little about the era it was a joy to discover how connected Europe and Japan already were at this point in History and a relief to know Clavell had researched the era thoroughly. Midway through the book I was already using Japanese phrases!
The strength of the book for me though is how the author fully immerses us into this strange world and I was impressed how by the end of the books actions i once found deplorable or insane seemed reasonable within the context of the culture. Scenes that should be tragic or cathartic take on a sense of beauty that would be missing in other cultures playing things out in the same way. There is a scene involving a tea ritual that is possibly my favourite in the book - something I'd never have thought going into the book.
One of the strengths of historical fiction is providing an entertaining gateway into the time and place in question and this book does so effortlessly. Fans of historical fiction and political fantasies like "A song of ice and fire" should really give this book a try. It's also worth a try for sci-fi fans who like "first contact" stories as well. A great book on so many levels.pre


The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War Part 1 TP
The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War Part 1 TP
by Robert Kirkman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.11

4.0 out of 5 stars The pace picks up!, 29 Mar 2014
The war's finally started! This really does feel more like a war than the previous battles in the series so is an interesting change of pace. Both sides make good use of zombies in their tactics and there's a few surprises. Negan remains a compelling villain and is now sufficiently different from the Governor. I still haven't warmed up to Ezekiel though. The artwork is strong as usual with some nice action instead of just talking heads. The only real issue with this volume is that it's only the first part of a longer arc and as such there's a bit of a wait until the next installment.


Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search Part 3
Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search Part 3
by Gurihiru
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.95

4.0 out of 5 stars just like the show, 20 Mar 2014
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In the final part of the story we get some nice revelations and things are tied up pretty well. This is a must for fans of Zuko but it also has some nice moments for the other regulars. The dialogue captures the characters perfectly and the art is almost like stills from the show. I can't really fault these books other than having to wait the best part of a year to get "3 episodes" of the show is a long wait. Possibly better to wait until all 3 parts are done before starting.


The Air War (Shadows of the Apt)
The Air War (Shadows of the Apt)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Finishes far stronger than it starts, 20 Mar 2014
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This is a tricky one to comment on as I found the quality shifted quite a bit. Essentially I found the first act of the book to be an incredible drag. We were introduced to a new generation of collegiate students who felt partly redundant and had to endure Stenwold and co refusing to to prepare for the inevitable. At the same time we had a fairly tedious build-up of the wasps with an unexciting POV character. Lastly we had the fly spies which I could not get in to. The other weird problem was that I found the air battles boring and long-winded. In fairness I'm pretty sure the air battles are pretty authentic and well researched but for someone wanting entertainment I was lost. Sounds pretty negative?

The thing is once the second act kicks in the book is entertaining throughout (minus the fly spies and the aerial combat). It essentially feels like the series' "battle of britain" and the politics surrounding tactical decisions and war time behaviour are well played out. Those collegiate students that seemed redundant? All of a sudden I realised they were there to give weight to various stories set within a city under attack. The other thing that Tchaikovsky captures really well is the fact that soldiers on either side of the war are just people and the wasps often seem just like those on the side of Collegium. Case in point, a wasp general is likeable because he is competent at his job and never comes across as "evil". It's nice to see this world isn't black and white.
This book also maintains the seamless mix of steampunk tech, swords and magic that the series is renowned for.
So if the intro had maybe been streamlined and if I had a greater appreciation of aerial combat (it's probably a must for people who like that kind of thing), this would have been an excellent book. As it is the latter half of the book feels dragged down by the former. I'm still looking forward to reading the next installment though.


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