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Signalman (Amsterdam)

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The Last Templar (Knights Templar Mysteries (Simon & Schuster))
The Last Templar (Knights Templar Mysteries (Simon & Schuster))
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Simplistic, and poorly-written, 12 Aug 2013
It's amazing that there are more books to this series. This was far too long, very simple, mixed up morality-wise and just plain poorly written and edited. Throwing in the occasional anachronism ( "five and twenty years old " ) doesn't make anything authentic. It's barely about the Templars either. Ignore it, or if absolutely necessary buy it second-hand.


Warlord (Outlaw Chronicles)
Warlord (Outlaw Chronicles)
by Angus Donald
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent enough plot and characters, 10 Aug 2013
I had difficultly assessing this book.

In the end, I decided it was a "like", but it was close.

This is the third in the series, and I have not read the previous ones, so am not sure if it is typical or not.

Its an expansion and continuation of the story of Robin Hood ( now the Earl of Locksley ), and by this book, it is his loyal lieutenant Sir Alan Dale relating a latter-day part of his time serving with Robin and with King Richard I ( The Lionheart ) during the Anglo-French wars in the 1190s.

The good parts are the fine description of landscape and action, plus the fairly decent characterisation of all the major protagonists, as well as the plot in general.

The mixed parts, for me include the writing style. Generally, it is straightforward and easy, but I have never come across a book in which so many sentences start with "And ". Occasionally used, it can be a powerful addition to a style, but in this book it seems to occur on almost every page, and when it does, it never seems to be lonely, as if it needs a few "And"s around to help it out.

As you can tell, it irritated me a lot !

Another point was the use of the hackneyed phrase " the man you cannot refuse" when referring to Alan's father's murderer. There must be better ways to say this, or to vary the writing of it, or even to mention it less often !

The other irritation for me ( again, a personal thing ) was the introduction of the Grail legend. This book did not need it at all, its plot would have survived very happily without it, but it seems the author has been wanting to include this for some time, and has finally managed it. Perhaps its the overuse of the Grail in the Da Vinci books and its ilk in recent years that puts me off, but it really wasn't needed here. Now, of course, it leads into his next book where it seems the Grail will take centre stage !

There was also quite a long passage where Alan was at his home. This may have been a required part of the plot ( perhaps around the issues with his marriage ) but it really dragged for me, and could have been shelved or condensed. It added little as far as I could see, and seemed a poor device to use as a waiting move until the main plot moved forward.

Overall, I would say that this was an acceptable book, but has quite a few drawbacks in my eyes. I may look at an earlier book, but I'm fairly sure I'll leave the next book " Grail Knight" to its own devices !


A Place Called Armageddon
A Place Called Armageddon
by C. C. Humphreys
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and enjoyable historical novel, 10 Aug 2013
I bought this because I had previously read the Jack Absolute books ( well, at least one ) and thoroughly enjoyed them.

I was wary though, it was big book at 550 pages, and the publisher's blurb didn't really indicate fully to me, the style of the novel.

I had absolutely no need to be concerned. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, well-writtten, good plot, proper characters and a balance of well-written action scenes along with the plot-development sections.

What it isn't is a swashbuckling action/adventure, although the siege and fight scenes are well-written and properly integrated into the book. If you are after a battle scene every 5 pages, this isn't for you.

It does describe the Constantinople of 1453 very well for me, as well as describing the besieging Turks, and plays even-handedly with both : it is a story of the siege from both sides.

The characters are all believable, well-developed and their actions and lives made me want to care about them.

A great read.


Hart of Empire (George Hart)
Hart of Empire (George Hart)
by Saul David
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.03

3.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward adventure story, well-written, 9 Aug 2013
This is a an adventure story in the mould of Rider-Haggard, although probably with more basis in historical events.

Set in Afghanistan during the 1870s, our hero needs to accomplish a mission for the British Government, as well as try to meet the 3 tasks his unknown father has set him in life....

It is well-enough written, with a relatively believable plot line and some well-sketched character ( many typical of the adventure story : the loyal and dutiful Pathan guide, the exotic Princess, the Eton bully etc ).

The only places where it suffered, in my eyes, were those parts where the 20-year-old hero advises on military and government policy, and , of course, is correct !

That is what puts it in the adventure class, but taken as that, its an enjoyable read.


The Experiences of Loveday Brooke: Lady Detective (Illustrated Edition) (Dodo Press)
The Experiences of Loveday Brooke: Lady Detective (Illustrated Edition) (Dodo Press)
by Catherine Louisa Pirkis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward Victorian Detective fiction short stories : enjoyable, 1 Aug 2013
Title sums it up.

These are short stories, with relatively straightforward plots and themes ( similar to Doyle's more middle-class tales ) driven by a well-sketched, firm and unforgiving lady detective.

I bought this after hearing a radio dramatisation of the Redhill sisters on Radio 4. Enjoyed that a lot, and it can be found in here with 6 others.

Writing is a touch old-fashioned in sentence structure, but that doesn't detract from it as the stories are well-written.

The plots aren't going to challenge the reader significantly, but they are perfect for short journeys or bedtime reading, and you will probably guess a fair amount of the solution to satisfy you.

Loveday Brooke is a feisty, opinionated lady, working more with common-sense and experience than Holmes, but taking account of evidence when needed. She also doesn't hold back from telling the rather inadequate policemen tat are met on her cases what she thinks of them !

In later life the author help co-founded the National Canine Defence League, now known as the Dogs Trust ( slogan "A Dog is for Life, not just for Christmas" ).


Cheap Wine
Cheap Wine
Price: 9.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Quality music, pretty poor recording, 23 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cheap Wine (Audio CD)
You can't fault the authenticity and music on this CD, Charlie Parr is passionately connected to the roots of his music, wherever it comes from ( and it's clearly from American folk, gospel and blues).

Practically every track here is wonderfully played and sung and a real treasure....so for music 5 stars.

Unfortunately, what you can fault is the recording, since to my ears it sounds dull and, at times, lifeless.

I thought this could be the fact that I first heard it played via earphones on a laptop at work ( I was eager to listen :) but at home on a proper player and through speakers, although its marginally better it still sounds light years in quality behind Barnswallow, the other CD of his that I have, and also sounds nowhere near as exciting as when I saw him live playing a couple of these ( such as " God moves on the Water" ) unlike the sound on Barnswallow.

Maybe its the fact that this is actually a compilation from a UK company ( although nowhere is this mentioned on Amazon, nor on the CD, I only found this out from Parr's web site ), so perhaps the originals will retain a sparkling quality that this passionate acoustic music deserves.

I also feel that I am missing a booklet, since there is zero information on the CD. Its one of those cardboard triptychs, with CD on one side and a space for a booklet on the other, but it was empty : I will have to contact Amazon about that.

Overall, good to hear more of him, but a real disappointment in sound quality. A thought, maybe its a CD of MP3s that have been burned ? Anyone know more ?

Definitely worth seeking out original CDs and from his original releases.


Barnswallow
Barnswallow
Price: 10.10

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vibrant, enriching and perhaps just plain brilliant, 21 July 2013
This review is from: Barnswallow (Audio CD)
I bought this after taking a chance on seeing Charlie Parr live ( having realised that it was his song behind the vodafone adverts ( 1922 ) that I enjoyed so much).

He played a shortish set ( less than an hour ) but was so alive in his playing, singing and between-song commentary that buying his CD was an easy choice.

I admit, I bought it from him at the gig : seemed like the least I could do to give him some direct profit, and even then the CD ( at 10 euros ) cost more than I paid for the show !

But the plus side was that I talked to him ( & his washboard player ) and shook hands too. He's a genuinely "nice guy", with a passion for his music.

The songs on this CD I heard live first, but the recorded versions are still lively and vibrant, and match the vigour and interpretation of hi live performance. Its also a short CD ( time-wise about 40/45 minutes ) but the quality is superb, so much so that I have another on the way ( Cheap Wine, one of the few he performed live that were not on Barnswallow ).

Standout track for me is "True Friends" , plus "Groundhog Day Blues" [ love that line 'that mailman ain't no friend of mine at all' ], "Motorcycle Blues"....well, ever damned one of them to be honest.

Buy it, you won't be disappointed, but take any chance to see him play live : he's the real thing.


The Dead Place
The Dead Place
by Stephen Booth
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking, 28 May 2013
This review is from: The Dead Place (Paperback)
I came to this via a later book of his ( Dying to Sin ) which, in recollection, seemed faster paced, better written and shorter.

This book, the Dead Place, is none of those, especially the last. In length it is 600 pages, and frankly is far too long.

Cut down to 275/300 pages and tightened up, it may have a better life, but as it is, although adequately written , it just drags on, with little to inspire or encourage the reader.

The plot could have been interesting, but it gave nothing away in clues or hints to give me even a minor satisfaction.

It wasn't even the type of book that tells you the murderer and then explains everything as the police close in.

I can only assume the this was an early attempt and that the later book I read was the result of honing his writing craft.

If ( when ? ) transformed to TV, I am sure the Peak district landscape will add a valued dimension to the plot, and the right actors will bring the characters to life, but I think my advice to readers on this particular book, is to give it a miss.


Supping With Panthers
Supping With Panthers
by Tom Holland
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, well-written and exciting Gothic tale, 23 Feb 2013
This review is from: Supping With Panthers (Paperback)
Excellent Gothic tale.

If I mention characters such as Bram Stoker, Doctor Bell, Mary Kelly and the fact its set mainly in 1888 London, you can guess which direction it takes !

Taking in vampiric Indian cults and transporting them to Victorian London, the masterful writing sets us a fine tale, with plenty of twists, turns and 'Hammer horror' episodes to relish.

Tom Holland also wrote the excellent non-fiction Persian Fire and Rubicon., histories of, respectively the Persian Invasion of Greece, and the end of the Roman Republic : both superb.


Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
by Joshua Foer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and entertaining, 23 Feb 2013
Don't be fooled into thinking that this will teach in detail how to gain memory techniques that will enable you to emulate the author's success in memory championships.

It might kick-start you to find out more though, as it is a enjoyable and entertaining tale of how Foer was himself intrigued by the US Memory championships, then followed by his meeting with Ed Cooke ( a Grand Master of Memory no less :) this catalysed his trip into re-discovering classical memory techniques and finding out if he had what it takes. [ Ed comes across as a likeable 'jack-the-lad' rogue, but one with ambitions ! ]

Along the way to his participation in the US Memory Championships in the final chapters of the book, he discovers quite a few things related to memory, the brain, and our 21st Century attitudes to it.

There is never too much "heavy" science involved here, but certainly enough to pull you in and give appropriate explanation ( perhaps even to push you to find more ? ).

He writes well and has much sympathy for those who suffer memory loss ( in particular the man whose memory from everything post 1950-ish is limited to minutes : he makes an ideal scientific study subject, but Foer brings out the humanity of the person and those around him ).

Overall a book to be enjoyed as a good story with plenty of relevance to the modern world and its reliance on 'external' memory.

If you want to find out about those memory techniques, then you need to tread paths to the doors of Tony Buzan and the like, and could even get a quick start with Ed Cooke's memrise site. A new and "fun" learning experience !


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