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Ignite (East Yorkshire, UK)
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The Dragon Box
The Dragon Box
Price: £0.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid story, beautifully told, 24 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Dragon Box (Kindle Edition)
This is a children’s story about James, a boy who takes part in what seems to be an adventure game, conceived by and featuring his elderly neighbour Mack. In the game, he meets characters who very closely resemble people he knows in real life. Mack assures him that he is safe and he can quit and exit the game at any time. He carries a device with a red button in his pocket for this purpose. The story takes the form of the traditional ‘quest’ tale with James being sent to search for three seemingly impossible things to bring back to the witch, Khalana. Although Mack could tell him the answers, he encourages James to work things out for himself.

This is a lovely, fluent story which will appeal to the sense of adventure in all children. There is often a real sense of danger and we are relieved each time James succeeds. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who was enchanted with the little dragon on the cover, which James called Ben. A book for younger readers will often fail to keep an adult’s attention but this was a splendid story, beautifully told. What more do you need to encourage young readers to become old readers?


The Memory Box
The Memory Box
Price: £2.89

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good story, 20 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Memory Box (Kindle Edition)
I found this a compulsive read but I felt so annoyed with the main character, Caroline, for quite a lot of the time. It was a study in someone losing it – losing big chunks of memories and filling in the blanks by googling her name and those of family and friends. She finds out some starting and frightening facts about her family and begins to fray at the seams as she forgets to pick up her children and becomes rude and aggressive to her doctors. I wanted to smack her! The end twisted and turned in my grasp and was clever and unexpected.

I enjoyed the writing style and certainly enjoyed reading this book. It doesn’t quite make it as brilliant for me because of the difficulty I had in believing some of the plot. I wanted her, when she first felt threatened and afraid, to tell her husband – to get some help. We discover what was really going on – or was it – and I wasn’t entirely in the palm of the author’s hand. Nonetheless, a really good story.


Fingersmith
Fingersmith
Price: £3.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and surprising, 15 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Fingersmith (Kindle Edition)
I was introduced to this book as a monthly read for my Goodreads group followed by the recommendation of a friend who is a Sarah Waters fan. I can now see why! Sue has been brought up an orphan in a ‘den of thieves’ and in the 1860s as she nears the age of eighteen, she and a plausible man she knows as ‘Gentleman’ are sent by the matriarch of the group to Briar House, some forty miles from London, to dupe the young woman who lives there and will be an heiress on her marriage. Gentleman will make her fall in love, Sue will be her new maid and they plan to drive her mad and put her away, taking her money.

The story is a long one but never flags for a moment. It’s divided into parts which are told from different points of view and our own view of what is happening changes as we go through and are given extra snippets of information. The dialogue is reminiscent of Dickens’ writing and the characters come vividly to life. I was surprised to be so taken in by some of the turns and twists in the plot. It was very cleverly done and I enjoyed it hugely.


Out in the Army: My Life as a Gay Soldier
Out in the Army: My Life as a Gay Soldier
Price: £3.59

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it, 8 Nov. 2014
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This is the story of James Wharton who spent ten years in the army, only leaving recently to do some work for Stonewall. He was determined that his time in the services should be ‘authentic’ by which he meant that he should be there as himself – a gay man. He only came upon one serious homophobic episode, a horrific beating with an iron bar. His mates seemed to take his sexuality in their stride and it gives hope for the younger generation. He was a member of the Household Cavalry and took part in many state occasions. He was also posted to Basra and sadly lost colleagues there. Eventually, on training in Canada, he spent a month as gunner in Prince Harry’s tank and has evidently a great deal of respect and fondness for the prince.

The book taught me a great deal about the day-to-day operations of the army, particularly the Household Cavalry. It was told in a conversational, colloquial style which felt like someone telling his adventures to a friend. Whether you are gay or not, a member of the forces or not, this book has things to tell you. I enjoyed it a lot.


Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways
Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways
Price: £2.34

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bunch, 6 Nov. 2014
This is a collection of stories subtitled Last Days and Lost Ways. I received an Advanced Review Copy. It is not the final version. I don’t know if the stories will appear in this order but I found I didn’t really get on with most of those in the first half. The second half of the book picked up for me, but if I hadn’t been reading to review, I might easily have lost interest and abandoned it.

The writing was good. It was the definition of ‘story’ which didn’t click with me in some cases. To me, and I suspect, to many readers, a short story is a complete tale. Some of these read as, or maybe even were, excerpts from some longer work and I didn’t like that. I wanted closure.

The stories I liked best were Pearls, Home late, The Creator, Recipe for a Dinner Party, Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin; for the Devil to Show and A Matter of Trust. I enjoyed these stories and the feeling of having savoured a complete experience with them.


Sun Dragon
Sun Dragon
Price: £2.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good read, 5 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Sun Dragon (Kindle Edition)
This is the story of a visit to Mars in the near future and of the six astronauts who undertake the trip. The first half of the book is necessarily heavy on explanation but some of this is cleverly given in the form of press interviews with the crew. We are shown the ship and what it can do, and follow the crew to the International Space Station where their ship is launched. Apart from a couple of unexplained accidents which trigger the reader to expect further poblems, the first half of the book is uneventful. It was at just after the half way mark that the book suddenly took off for me and I found the rest of it very exciting, heart-hammering stuff. The crew went to Mars to find a small worm, evidence of life outside of earth. What they found was amazing. I love this premise and the uncompromising way it played out for the rest of the book.

I wish I could give four and a half stars because this is a stunning story but I really found the beginning a little slow. There’s no denying, however, that the impact of this ‘first contact’ story will stay with me for quite some time. A really good read.


A Reformed Character (Pitkirtly Mysteries Book 3)
A Reformed Character (Pitkirtly Mysteries Book 3)
Price: £0.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Altogether a great read, 4 Nov. 2014
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There are several people who could be fingered as the reformed character of the title. Christopher, in a new job, becomes dynamic. Darren, the not-quite-naughty boy, has an alibi though initially things look rather dark for him, Jock discovers an affinity with cats and even Amaryllis, ex-spy and hard woman, takes up knitting. This story has its twists and turns and surprised me on a few occasions.

This is another delightfully dotty and pleasurable read with characters I feel closer to in each book. It’s a cosy mystery in the sense that we don’t see too much of the blood and guts but there’s a definite sense of body-count here – it’s a nice story but it’s by no means bland. I really enjoy this style of humour and suspense. Altogether a great read.


Reunited in Death (Pitkirtly Mysteries Book 2)
Reunited in Death (Pitkirtly Mysteries Book 2)
Price: £0.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luscious writing, 29 Oct. 2014
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Who'd have thought researching your family history could be dangerous? Jemima Stevenson, a nice little old lady, organises a Homecoming Day in Pitkirtly and the bodies start piling up. Amaryllis is looking after three young Tibetans and everyone's looking for a mud-coloured man. It could only happen in Pitkirtly.

This second book set in a Scottish village benefits from the fact that the characters are now familiar friends. I love the strong and sassy Amaryllis, the supportive but self-effacing Christopher, the solid, dependable (but maybe a bit dodgy?) Dave and the dotty and surprising Jemima. I also very much enjoyed the humour again. There are some luscious phrases - I particularly enjoyed Amaryllis's 'expiatory attack of niceness'. This is a series that's so easy to sink yourself into. I've started the next!


K A R A
K A R A
Price: £3.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A jolly good read, 27 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: K A R A (Kindle Edition)
As a child, Kara Reyne is aware of having the memories of someone else – a man. As she grows she becomes aware that she has a special power and she meets a group of others, people who are outlawed, who also have banned powers. It’s her destiny to bring Universal Matter to the world. Her earlier incarnation, Ethan King, found it but it’s now hidden. It will bring down those who have an economic strangle-hold on a failing and increasingly brutal world. People are falling prey to lung and breathing problems and anyone exhibiting supernatural powers in public is put in a detention camp and left to rot. This has a huge impact upon Kara’s own childhood.

This is a story full of action, of good people and bad people who are not always all they seem. Kara is a classic case of someone who has destiny thrust upon her. I really enjoyed the scenes of people using their powers. It’s not easy to describe someone bending the laws of nature yet the author did this superbly in The Destiny of Ethan King too. Martin Cosgrove’s writing can take you to places as different as run-down inner cities and beautiful, unspoilt woodland. The characters are well drawn and three dimensional and I enjoyed and became really wrapped up in the story. A jolly good read.


Holding the Man: Popular Penguins
Holding the Man: Popular Penguins
Price: £3.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and sad, 25 Oct. 2014
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This is the true story of the author, Tim Conigrave and his partner John Caleo, two young Australian men. They met at school and became lovers. This was in the 1970s and 80s when AIDS struck the world and knocked it sideways. We see them, after a few false starts, set up in life together, only to have it all pulled apart by a diagnosis that they are both HIV positive. The beautiful John succumbs first and Tim has to watch his lover die. It's particularly affecting when John's father tries to push Tim out as John is dying, and immediately wants to reclaim his son's possessions in spite of the fact that John's will stipulates that they should go to Tim.

The writing style is simple and honest and there are some quite steamy sex scenes which to me grounded the narrative. This made the story ring true. It wasn't a poetic rendition of their early lives, it was young people excitedly discovering sex. The ending, with its tense and threatening inevitability, was deeply affecting. The product description tells us that Tim himself died just after the book was completed. Such a waste.


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