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J. Skaife
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Listening to Scrooge: Stories from an Examined Life
Listening to Scrooge: Stories from an Examined Life

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and informative, 12 Jan 2013
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This is a well written and informative gem giving both insight into the therapeutic process and some carefully crafted hooks that might permit one some insight into personal thought processes.

It doesn't have Irvin Yalom's poetic style but the clearer prose will perhaps be a strength for some readers.

There seems to be an urban myth that psychotherapy is a discredited process and it saddens me to know that people that could be helped are turning to unsupported drug therapy or narrow CBT not only because they fear change but because they believe that talk therapies are some sort of snake oil.

I only wish this (and the larger collection of stories that the author has recently published) success in promoting psychotherapy or, at the very least, in provoking some helpful personal thought patterns.


The Amber Rooms (The Saskia Brandt Series Book Three)
The Amber Rooms (The Saskia Brandt Series Book Three)

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Neither Sci-Fi nor sequel., 6 Jan 2013
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You will have arrived at this book having read the earlier two in the series. If you enjoyed those books and want to know what happens to Saskia next... do NOT buy this book.

I very much enjoyed the author's dancing prose, which has become looser and more elegant over the series of books, but this was the only thing that kept me reading to the end.

The setting seems to have invited the colouring of the 'great russian novel' with almost endless political discourse and an underlying sense of didactic.

Saskia's fickle attachments added (confused) romance and there was plenty of carefully researched historical fact to distance this book from the sci-fi genre by a good, hard throw.

As for the limited sci-fi elements - iCore was applied in an incoherent manner, sometimes working, sometimes not; the multi-dimensional gateway is just lazy compared to the careful time-travel plot of the earlier books: change universe and you can do anything but entirely destroy the plot because whatever went before doesn't matter. The iCore's allegorical communication method was interesting but not explored.

I did enjoy the amber-rooms scene because the writing was strong and engaging - but would have been happy for the book to end there.

Editing was greatly improved over the earlier books with less than a dozen errors spotted; but as most came towards the end when I was getting fed-up, they grated harder.

There is a tantalising glimpse of an idea at the end, that time-travellers can alter the past, refuted in the earlier books. But having lost my trust in this work, I'm unlikely to look at another Saskia Brandt novel.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2013 1:11 PM GMT


First Contact (The Last War Trilogy, Book 1) (In Her Name)
First Contact (The Last War Trilogy, Book 1) (In Her Name)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique, 23 Dec 2012
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I have never enjoyed the sort of blow-by-blow battle narrative that dominates this book but I was, for once, caught-up completely in this.

The battle descriptions are truly epic, without hint a desire hurry it along to an more timely end but what saves it is that one is routing for both sides. One feels both pain and elation in every loss and every victory.

There are poor aspects: even the sketchy human history feels like every word is wasted and the use of made-up alien words is annoying - but these a not reasons to dislike the whole.

It's hard to see how the writer could keep this up; I can't imagine putting up with another epic battle or caring for more characters (which are very well drawn but at some cost to pace).

This is a good read in itself and a unique phenomenon for creating deep but bilateral feelings of loyalty.


The Prophecy (Bakkian Chronicles)
The Prophecy (Bakkian Chronicles)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grown-up Narnia, 14 Dec 2012
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Light and nicely paced fantasy fiction with a Narnia feel to it. Not compelling and a little hackneyed but reasonably well edited. The adult elements could readily be removed for a more wholesome tale.


Neptune Crossing (The Chaos Chronicles)
Neptune Crossing (The Chaos Chronicles)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 28 Nov 2012
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An enjoyable story.

The pace is a little uneven but then I suppose that space travel is equally uneven and perhaps the author should really be congratulated on the sense of ennui in places.

The main character is a bit flat. He has a past but his feelings about that are obscure - it's fine for the character not to be self-aware but the reader needs hooks for empathy.

The science elements are the strongest aspects and the underlying propositions are attractive.

Not attractive enough to warrant buying a sequel though, so it is just as well this book ends at a satisfactory conclusion.


Dreamwalker (The Ballad of Sir Benfro)
Dreamwalker (The Ballad of Sir Benfro)

5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun, 5 Nov 2012
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As others, I came to this from other works by the author in a quite different genre but have found his writing consistently compelling.

This book is a great choice for an escape into a rich and engaging landscape with few demands - sometimes that's just what's needed!


Natural Causes (The Inspector McLean Mysteries)
Natural Causes (The Inspector McLean Mysteries)

4.0 out of 5 stars First Chapter unbalanced, 26 Oct 2012
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I really enjoyed this book. The author managed some interesting and deft character development despite details around several murders, police procedure and a main character with a complex personal life.

I especially liked the supernatural element and how the hard-nosed detective grew towards the idea. I would have liked to see a comprehensive alternative theory that he could have offered to his case write-up, but can't imagine how!

But, as others have said, the indulgent horror in the first chapter is a poor way to draw in a large readership. Had it not been for reviews discounting it here on Amazon, I would never have read beyond the first page and a paper copy would simply have been discarded onto the bookshop table without a second thought. It's not as if there is no other art to this book. The writing is sharp, especially in scene setting and the dynamics of interaction with others; it is half-way to being a screen-play already!

Yes, after reading, the purpose of the chapter can be seen, but there would surely be other ways to fill that tiny element without putting so many readers off! Think how many thousand more sales of the sequel there could have been! Leave the shock treatment to the movie and give readers better treatment.


Flashback (The Saskia Brandt Series Book Two)
Flashback (The Saskia Brandt Series Book Two)

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 18 Oct 2012
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This second book is absolutely compelling.

The character development is very much more thorough, within the confines of the story's mysteries but those mysteries are profound and I still don't feel I know Saskia.

The pace of the story changes abruptly at the half-way mark, almost to the point of being hurried and there is a feeling that some things have been left rather sketchy. There is some realism in not tying up every loose end - this isn't a holistic detective story - but some scenes feel truncated leaving stories that could be told. With a third book in the series this may be very unfair, but if they aren't completed, perhaps we could have a few short short stories later, like 'Cuentos de Eva Luna'?

I enjoyed the sprinkling of European languages as they spanned my own knowledge base, but wonder if they would annoy other readers as translation is seldom supplied.

The only criticism I do have is the device "smart matter". This is quite unnecessary to the story, even if it helps in some scenes, and stretches credulity around Newton's laws without the technical justifications usually peppering this genre. I liked little things that were done with it (like the hand) but the story would have been just as fascinating without it; I-Core would have demonstrated a sufficient technology leap for the time change. (I suppose Gough's iHole postdates I-Core but still made me smile).

No minor gripes could possibly knock a star from the rating though. This is a very enjoyable book with some interesting ideas, some small new twists on identity, congruent time-travel rationale, a gripping pace and a story that I am very glad has not yet ended!


Déjà Vu (The Saskia Brandt Series Book One)
Déjà Vu (The Saskia Brandt Series Book One)

5.0 out of 5 stars Crafted, 15 Oct 2012
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This is a very well written book with a lovely pace around the unique plot.

The character development is a little sparse, but with a sequel listed, we can expect fleshing out of the central character in due course.

The central proposition is well considered and much more consistent than others in the genre with delightful surprises slotting neatly in place rather than jarring against other facts.

This idea feels like it has plenty of energy to run other plots and intrigues both domestic and grand.


Enamelling on Precious Metals
Enamelling on Precious Metals
by Jeanne Werge-Hartley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Not for tutorial, 15 Oct 2012
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This rather beautiful book is packed with excellent photographs of many styles of enamel jewellery art.

There is, however, a real shortage of information on how to achieve these beautiful results.

The Plique a Jour section for example looks at first as if it has a tutorial, but leaves many questions unanswered with absolutely no pictures of the actual process.

There are more illustrations of soldering techniques than enamelling!

This is a lovely picture album but you'll need another volume if you want to learn how to execute them yourself.


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