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Mark Steel's In Town
Mark Steel's In Town
Price: £5.86

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genuine affection for the hidden heart of unloved places, 21 April 2012
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This book passed two of my personal acid tests with flying colours: Did I want to highlight whole paragraphs from almost every page? Yes. Did I embarrass myself by laughing on the train and have to pretend to be coughing? Yes, and more than once. So by that alone, I would recommend it to anyone.

That obvious comparison is to Bill Bryson, though this book is in the rougher pub down the street from Bryson, talking to a man with neck tattoos about the French Revolution. If I have one criticism, it's that by the last few chapters (each is on a particular town and quite short) I found myself thinking "I hope this one doesn't have any paragraphs about eighteenth-century radicalism", but then they all did. Just as this started to annoy me, I realised I was on the last page of the body text and had reached the epilogue. Odds are it would never have bothered me if I hadn't devoured it over the course of a weekend, and you can hardly fault the book on that score.

[Citation Needed]: The Best of Wikipedia's Worst Writing
[Citation Needed]: The Best of Wikipedia's Worst Writing
Price: £0.77

3.0 out of 5 stars For the fans, 21 April 2012
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Pro: It's funny, original, and will thoroughly entertain you on a train journey. Con: Only a medium-length train journey. There's not an awful lot here, and the concept isn't really developed beyond the original idea. I would say that it's OK for the price, but then it does feel very like you'e just reading excerpts from the blog- and that's because you are. At the end of the day, I would say that if you enjoy the blog, or other things the authors have done, and don't mind handing over some change for the feeling of having supported original writers, then pick it up and enjoy it for what it is.

by B. John Shaw Liddle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.05

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, original and deeply textured, 14 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Suncaller (Paperback)
Alright; here's the short version: I read this in great chunks, and when I had to stop to eat or sleep I kept on thinking about it. In my opinion, it is one of the best books I've read in the last year.

To be specific: this is a highly original fantasy adventure, merging a "real-world" storyline with a fantasy storyline that becomes increasingly real and interconnected. Although the structure and storytelling are innovative, in some ways it feels quite classic, with the protagonist staying in sharp detail (even as he grows and develops); it definitely has a solid grounding in monomyth, which makes it satisfying to read.

I said "Compelling", which is true in two ways; for one, the pacing clips along and the development of the plot keeps the excitement on a steady build. For another, the characters really stand out off the page. For a fairly short novel, it's impressive how the characters can be so well defined and believable early on, the grow and develop in a way that seems like a natural extension of their character. The evocation of being an awkward teenager left me outright nostalgic- if that's the right word. Although the protagonists are teenagers, there's a lot of maturity in it.

It's clear the author has gone deep into thinking up the backdrop, almost to an extent that reminds me of Tolkien- but thankfully he's had enough discipline to keep the setting supporting the story, and not the other way around. Clearly a lot of thought went into it, and the mythos really has a ring of authenticity to it.

The book starts on a sinister chord, and moves to grim reality- after the first chapter, I'd have provisionally given it three stars. Looking back, this feature is going to make the re-read much stronger, but it does also mean you need a little patience. I'm normally an advocate of abandoning books that don't grab you, but definitely don't be hasty. If you're like me, once you've read the third chapter you won't stop until your eyes dry out.

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